After the rain

Early morning light. Fruit and foliage hold on to the last of the overnight shower.

I used to think the lotus leaf showed off water droplets best.

But the tiny Lady’s Mantle Alchemilla mollis is better.


Mystery Maths

The size and colours I am using for the Bonnie Hunter Good Fortune Mystery are determined mathematically. I am using a precut strip roll which has four colourways in unequal proportions. This dictates everything  for my version of the quilt.

I added the quantities of all the fabrics from the requirements and made a pie chart having already decided to use a dark grey neutral. I then worked out which of my colours to use for each clue by comparing Bonnie’s colour proportions to the one on my roll. So far I have used pink for red, yellow for blue and now green for green.

My quilt will be smaller, to work out how many units to make I calculated how much of Bonnie’s fabric  was used in the first two clues. I then used the same fraction of the fabric that I had. This means I am making a quarter size quilt. Of course this is a mystery and my plans may all come undone and I will have to find some extra.

Clue three has the dreaded half chevron blocks. I am sewing with a hand crank machine and need to use a seam guide to keep everything straight. So no way was I going to use the technique as suggested. So more maths needed to work out the size of lozenge to cut. This did involve the square root of 2. Then I cut them and the triangles with my Easy Angle ruler.

In keeping with my vintage sewing machine I am using vintage scissors to snip my units apart. These were given to me by my grandmother, they were the ones she used all her life. They were given to her by her mother, not new, but from her own sewing basket. This is not a good story.  Nita needed scissors because she was going to work at the Pelaco shirt factory having reached the age when fees were needed to continue with school. She  was a diligent student who excelled at Maths. Her teachers pleaded with her father but to no avail, so off she went with the scissors newly engraved with her name because workers had to supply their own tools. Not for long though, after about a year she found herself a job as a bookkeeper.

I hadn’t noticed until I took the photo that as well as her name there is a date and place. 3 August 1922 Melbourne, almost worn away from regular sharpening. The day my grandmother ceased to learn mathematics.

It was a Thursday.

Here is the link to see the other Mystery makers progress.

Veg bed renewal

In between clearing space for new water tanks and working on the Bonnie Hunter mystery I have been digging out the first of the raised vegetable beds. I knew there was a problem last summer as things just didn’t grow so well. Despite putting in a barrier between the ground and the bed tree roots had got in. A story on Gardening Australia recommended using geotextile and after finally locating not only a retail supplier, a store that had it in stock and where in the megabarn it was located, I was ready.

Once the bed was emptied I lined it with the needle punched polyester.

Then returned the soil, sifting every spadeful to remove weed corms, stones and remaining roots before it went in.

A generous helping of sheep manure, compost and blood and bone and the bed was ready for some advanced plants. I figured it was a bit late for starting with seeds.

Yesterday evening the plants went in and today it rained. You can see the newly installed tanks getting their share of the downpour here 

Only three more beds to go. This new barrier product better work!


Two new tanks connected to the recently replaced gutters. Although some more work needs to be done, enough piping is in place to catch tonight’s forecast rain.

You can see at the lower right of the first picture it is a bit of a squeeze past the garden step, so more excavation is needed sometime in the future. The plumber appreciated the shade as the outside temperature was above 30 C before the job was done for the morning. 

The overflow looks complex, but if it rains so much that both tanks rapidly fill the excess has to get away somehow. The interconnecting pipe is only 25 mm and so an overflow is needed from the slightly higher tank too. There is an inlet pipe to go to the second tank from the upper storey roof but a longer ladder is needed for that.

I am really pleased with how well they blend in, and maybe one day all the pipes will be painted. But probably not.

A (small) excavation

In October I wrote about all the excavations that are currently underway in the city. I have just completed my own earthworks.

Two new water tanks are about to be installed against the house just where Tomkins is walking. So I can get around them a deviation to the path had to be dug. This involved cutting away an earth bank  approximately where the yellow lines indicate. Quite a few barrow loads of clay, and all done by hand as I have not got an excavator.

It became a small archaeological dig when I got down to the rock. It is mudstone, easily broken up with a mattock. There had been no digging this deep in this area in about 40 years, if ever.

If you didn’t spot my find, here is a closer look. Just as I split a rock this tiny kangaroo appeared among the stones. It is labelled Singapore and my guess it is from the 1960s. How did it get so far down? The property was an orchard and the family raised four daughters here from the early 1950s to 1978. It probably belonged to one of them.

Perfect seam allowance

As you read previously, I am making the Bonnie Hunter Good Fortune Mystery using a turn of last century hand crank machine. This week’s clue calls for sewing half square triangles which means a bias seam.

Not a problem you say. But when you have only one hand to guide the fabric under the needle because the other one is cranking the machine, then help is needed.

My machine despite its long life has all its accessories including the very important seam gauge. This is no flimsy strip but a solid piece of cast metal that is firmly held in place by an equally substantial screw that means it is not budging at all.

I have raised the presser foot so you can see I am heading straight to the nubbed corner meaning I will have made a perfect 1/4 ” seam.

Here is the proof. It is so hot here today (36.8 C outside) that I only turned the iron for long enough to press my first square to make sure it is the right size.

It is. So I will calmly and quietly crank out the rest of my yellow not blue squares. Pressing and trimming can happen tomorrow when it is supposed to be cooler.

This post is linked to other Good Fortune Mystery part 2 posts.

Damask rabbit

For the past two months I have been working on a damask sampler as part of the Certificate in 8 shaft weaving at the Handweavers and Spinners Guild. It is not a true damask as the satin and sateen created have a noticeable pattern across the surface. Damask needs more than 8 shafts to produce a really smooth satin. In case you are not familiar with this type of fabric, it is one where the design is revealed in the change of texture in the weave rather than change in colour. Light reflects differently giving the light and dark areas on the cloth. 

The only commercial example I have is this overprinted furnishing sample.

As well as the satin and sateen used in damask there are also hopsack and tabby combinations and some twill in my sample. There  is a second colour in the diaper twill, this was originally a luxury weave using gold and silver.

The second technique we studied was pickup damask. A figurative pattern can be created by using a pickup stick to select pairs of warp threads to lift before each throw of the shuttle resulting in a weft faced sateen on a warp faced satin background.

The flowers at the bottom of the sample are the pattern we were given. I thought it would be interesting to try a more complex design. This had to be marked out on gridded paper first, then for every square of the grid, warp threads are picked up and two threads woven – twice. A laborious process. The yarn is a fine mercerised cotton in grey which give a good sheen. If you look at the full samples closely you can see I also added a carnation at the top. Damask is very hard to photograph.

With the last part of the warp I had a go at doing some lettering inspired by filet crochet doilies like this one. But instead of a patriotic message my statement is about the humanitarian disaster currently taking place under Australia’s watch.

Because I wanted the lettering to be brown on the grey background I had to draft and weave in mirror writing, from the bottom up.