Friday, March 28, 2014

Palette Builder

Yesterday I discovered another new "toy"! A Palette Builder which creates swatches matched to the Kona Cotton fabric range! Brilliant for those interested in quilting or any sewing. 

You can find it here at Play Crafts, where you can use it online or choose to save your palettes to computer for further use. You can move the little circles around to hone in on the colours you are most interested in highlighting.

I've had such fun this afternoon with a little cross stitch, something which was once my go-to craft but which I haven't touched for years. Last weekend I drew up a design and chose colours from my extensive cottons collection. It feels so good to do a little stitching again.

We've had some very welcome autumn showers over the last few days. I had fun snapping a wet camellia flower using Waterlogue and couldn't resist creating a colour palette to match.

Early last Sunday we had an unusually thick mist/fog. This view of our church yard reminds me of scenes from far away countries.

Hoping this coming weekend entails a little fun in whatever your chosen activities may be!

Sharing at Friday Finds, Macro Monday, Do you Heart Kona.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Bottom Line Thread

 Let me begin by thanking so many of you who stopped by to offer suggestions a couple of weeks ago as I was pondering the colour and contrast balance of my Fresh Fields quilt. The general consensus was that a little more green as well as a greater sprinkling of navy would be beneficial - thank you!

In several places I had seen Bottom Line thread by Superior Threads recommended for the fine hand stitching of English Paper Piecing. I have been happy using Gutermann 100% polyester thread but my curiosity prompted me to order some Bottom Line thread - maybe it really is noticeably better - only one way to find out for myself.

I also ordered a Bottom Line thread colour chart for future reference - aren't the colours gorgeous!

Bottom Line thread on the left, Gutermann on the right, both 100% polyester. As promised, the Bottom Line is definitely finer, smoother, silkier and I really wanted to love it but I'm undecided. The Bottom Line is so fine and slippery that I find it a little more difficult to use - harder to thread the needle, comes unthreaded more easily and can fray into its two component strands at the ends and catches on rough skin. 

Another point which surprised me was that it isn't quite as strong as the Gutermann. Bottom Line thread is also slightly elastic/stretchy, in fact it reminds me a little of the clear nylon thread I have used for some sewing tasks, feeling like a cross between the nylon and a regular polyester thread.

Over the weekend I sewed a couple of my epp flowers together using Bottom Line and the stitches are slightly less visible than when using the Gutermann. I found the seams do however very slightly "give" if pulled due to the touch of elasticity in the thread.

 I also trialled two slightly different whip stitch techniques, one shown here by Lori Holt and another detailed here by John'aLee of The Scrappy Appleyard. Each of these techniques does produce a finish where the stitches are less visible from the top. However I found both techniques more time consuming and again the completed seams aren't quite as tight/firm as with traditional whip stitching.

In my online readings on Sunday I stumbled across a recommendation not to use a hot iron for an extended time on work made using Bottom Line thread as the heat can soften the thread. Now I know a quilt is unlikely to ever require extended hot ironing/pressing but it added to my uneasiness. I wonder about the longevity of Bottom Line thread*, especially in our harsh Australian climate.

In the end I've decided I quite like the charm of small, neat hand stitching and don't mind it being just visible, somehow it seems more authentic to me. I also prefer the tactile features of "real" Gutermann thread and the steadfastness of the completed work. It seems I shall return to using traditional whip stitching with a very fine needle and Gutermann polyester thread, just as I had been doing until my curiosity sent me on an adventurous detour.

Flowers from the last two weeks

If anyone has an experience to share of Bottom Line thread which can convince me to reconsider I'd love to hear from you. Otherwise, I may be looking for Australian or two who would like to be the new owners of some Bottom Line threads and a colourful thread chart.....

*** Since writing this post I have been made aware of, and am now very happily sewing my epp with, the new Gutermann Extra Fine thread which seems to me to be the perfect epp thread. It has all the qualities I appreciate about Gutermann Sew All thread but is finer - a brilliant thread. Here is my blog post comparing Gutermann Extra Fine, Bottom Line and regular Gutermann Sew All thread.

* Todd Purcell of Superior Threads reassures me that "since Bottom Line thread is a polyester thread (synthetic fibres) it will last a long, long time. Synthetic threads that aren't exposed to direct sunlight, or high levels of humidity don't experience degradation nearly as fast as natural fibres, such as cotton thread. We don't have a specific timeline such as 100 years, but we are confident that our synthetic threads will last generations."

Sharing at Work In Progress Wednesday, Fabric Frenzy Friday, In Hand ( an epp link up).

Friday, March 21, 2014

Changing Seasons

Pleasant days are accompanying the changing seasons. Our summer cricket is ending slowly with a mix of finals while the hockey season is just beginning.

Yesterday we had a nostalgic last visit to our old town library. Soon after moving to this town I began our homeschooling our eldest (Miss E, who was then 4) and regularly visiting the library. Tomorrow this library closes its doors to the public forever.

 A large new building is now complete, ready to house the town library. A building which includes stroller/pusher/wheelchair access to the children's section, a building with toilets/restrooms, car parking, a floor height above flood levels and room to hold more books, computers and study areas! Our current library has none of these, yet it does hold many good memories for us as a family. We love our library. In just over two weeks time the new library will open, we are looking forward to exploring all that it will have to offer.

Photo from Miss E's College's Facebook page

Our elder Miss E has certainly grown up, in fact she will celebrate her 22nd birthday very soon, her first birthday away from family. She is loving her new stage of life, busy enjoying a wonderful college experience amongst a very small, friendly and caring campus community. Her first day of lectures (late Feb.) included a Matriculation ceremony - here she is being welcomed by the President of the College. Have a very special birthday Miss E!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Appreciating the Details

I love the details of life which macro photography yields to me. As one walks around looking for possible points of interest to photograph, your eyes seem to become open to treasures which have previously lain undiscovered. 

For the first time in several months, I attached my clip-on macro lens to my fixed zoom Lumix super zoom (no, you don't need a DSLR, although I use it on my DSLR too) and went searching for macro finds around our backyard early this morning. The first creature at top, which is longer than the yellow ladybug above, is indeed the ladybug larvae of this variety. Through my interest in macro work I have previously had the joy of witnessing ladybug larvae hatching.

The heart of this zinnia flower had some tiny yellow buds.

Two hours later, if you look carefully you can see that they have popped open! Digital photography is a wonderful way to notice and record changes, even over the short term.

The very heart of an small orange zinnia.

Tightly clenched fists of a parsley flower/seed head.

And to my delight I discovered some tiny buds on our newest Australian native plant, the Black Magic Banksia. The tag says "long bud anticipation" - I'll have the pleasure of watching the "candle-like golden flowers, with maroon styles maturing to black-purple" develop for the first time over the coming weeks and months. 

When I take the time to look more closely at what lies before my eyes I am rewarded with not only a greater awareness but a deeper appreciation too.

Photographic note: All photos taken in our backyard this morning with my small clip-on Raynox Macro Conversion lens DCR-250 (less than $100) and my fixed lens Lumix super zoom FZ35. I don't own a tripod.

Sharing at Sarah's Macro Monday.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Beautiful Reasons

This Red Intuition rose, gifted to me last year by my mother-in-law, is hardy enough to thrive with minimal care - suiting my style of gardening perfectly. 

In this morning's early light three beautiful long stemmed blooms glistened with dew. A hot autumn day of 38C/100+ F is forecast for tomorrow so I decided to cut all three and bring them inside for safe keeping and to fill our home with more Beautiful Reasons to be Happy. I trust you also will find some beautiful reasons to be happy this weekend.

Sharing at Today's Flowers.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Court House

"I need to work until 6" my wonderful hubby said yesterday. 
I arrived to pick him up a few minutes early. The late afternoon sun shed it's end of summer glow across the side and rear of the buildings. No more do I need to think "I wish I'd brought my camera". With the street mostly empty of cars I could really appreciate the stately beauty of out town Court House. Too shady for a regular photo, I was keen to see what Waterlogue would create from the scene. Wow! I love what it's done.

Maybe I need to take a wander around town and play tourist, some of the older buildings have lovely details which we rush past in our daily lives moving from A to B. I'll have to make a time, for otherwise it never seems to happen.....

Sharing at Weekly Top Shot.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

More White?

So why do you think - do I need more white? More green? More navy? The colours are actually a little lighter and brighter than they appear here and I'm generally happy with how things are coming together but as I lay them out together for the first time today I'm not quite sure about the balance and contrast. I'm guessing I may be about a quarter of the way through making flowers for my Fresh Fields quilt so there's plenty of room for changes and adjustment.

What would you do? Please share......

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Thoroughly Waterlogued

Fun, fun, fun! I've never tried textures, Photoshop or any apps for photos but in recent days I've been accidentally introduced to a great little app for iPhones called Waterlogue through Barb's blog. (My wonderful Hubby gifted me an iPhone for Christmas as he couldn't stand my 10 year old, hand-me-down clamshell any longer.)

The photos above were taken around our backyard this morning - frangipani, zinnia, passionfruit - all look much more artistic in Waterlogue. Below I have included a beautiful zinnia in Waterlogue and also the original iPhone image - doesn't it work wonders!

And one last sunny frangipani from our back steps!  I'm looking forward to experimenting with landscapes, portraits and much more. I can see my phone camera will be my camera of choice on many occasions from now on. By the way, Waterlogue has various settings and adjustment (these are all in "Natural") and only costs $2.99.

NB PicMonkey is a free online editing site which has great editing tools and various effects. 
I use it to watermark, adjust and resize images, particularly for blogging:

Friday, March 7, 2014

Stillness and Peace

As the heat of summer abates the desire to linger in the garden, to water and tame it, is slowly returning. The grevilleas are still flowering despite being totally neglected, the potted succulents continue to grow well. A second batch of Purple King climbing beans are just beginning to produce baby beans. 

It will soon be time to prepare to plant some peas and poppies and maybe more. I tend to lose touch with the garden during our long, exhausting, hot, busy summers - I feel the need to reconnect, to nurture both garden and soul.

Whatever your plans for this weekend, I hope you take time for some stillness and peace, for we all needs times of refreshing don't we.

Photographic Note for Erin: All photos above were taken with my Canon 600D DSLR with 50mm prime lens plus my clip-on Raynox macro attachment, with focus set to manual. The camera was on Aperture priority setting with aperture between f/4.5 (softest background) and f/13 (more distinct background). No tripod.

I’m not able to achieve such variety of aperture with my compact super zoom. This was one of the reasons I bought a DSLR a couple of years ago. I still use my super zoom for most photos as it’s smaller and lighter, quick and quiet to use.

Sharing at Reconnect with Nature, Macro Monday.

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