Slow-cooked pork

29 06 2014

I’ve made this several times now, and I keep changing the basic recipe 😉 This time, I brushed the boned leg of pork with smoky BBQ sauce before putting into the cooker, and during the cooking process. And on the advice of the butcher, I took off the skin before putting the pork in the cooker and cooked it separately in the oven for an hour and a half to make a wonderfully crisp crackling (olive oil and salt rubbed in to the skin first).

And this time, I also made jalapeno poppers (baked not fried) and baked some ready-to-bake baguettes to serve with the pork.

Instead of pulling it apart at the end, I sliced the pork quite thickly and we had it on the hot freshly baked baguettes, with extra smoky BBQ sauce and the jalapeno poppers on the side. The pork was unbelievably tender and delicious (the butcher also said he only ever gets pork from sows as it’s much tenderer and less ‘smelly’ than pork from boars).

The jalapeno poppers were good too — I didn’t make the ‘essence’ that’s in the recipe, just added cumin and a Cajun spice mix to the cheese mix. Interestingly, the jalapenos varied in heat — some were quite bland, others very bitey! Four jalapenos resulted in 8 halves — 3 for me and 5 for my DH, which was plenty.

The photo below is while the pork is cooking after a basting of BBQ sauce. It’s doesn’t look very appetising, but it sure tasted good!



Community Quilt 150

29 06 2014

I called this one ‘Quivering Butterflies’!

I started by stitching in the ditch around each butterfly block (inside and out), around the border, then around each appliqued butterfly to stabilise the quilt. Next, I echo quilted around each butterfly, giving a quivering, shaking, scared effect 😉

As the floral fabric was so ‘busy’, I just did a large meandering stipple in that area, followed by a simple straight line echoing the edge of the border.

It took about 3 hours to quilt this quilt — I was able to really speed along (70% speed on my Sweet Sixteen) in the meandering stipple as I have a lot of ‘muscle memory’ for this motif.

(Click on a photo to view it larger)




Threads used:

  • Top: Wonderfil Deco-Bob tan thread for stitching in the ditch (80 wt, colour DB 414); Fil-Tec Glide ‘Cornflower’ (40 wt, trilobal polyester, colour 80120)
  • Bottom: Fil-Tec Magna Glide Classic pre-wound bobbin (white)


Gwen’s quilt

29 06 2014

This was a BIG quilt (68 x 83 inches), and HEAVY (the batting, I suspect — see my notes on the batting below the main pictures). It was a bit of an effort to quilt it as the drag and weight of the quilt did their best to usurp my attempts! I had it attached to my bungee cord system, and while that helped, it only mitigated against the weight of this quilt, not eliminating it completely.

Gwen had made the quilt for a ‘traditional’ friend, and wanted me to do cathedral windows in the 9-patch on-point squares and just outside them, which I did, but only after I’d stitched in the ditch around all the blocks and along the strips — this was a puffy quilt. She had suggested an infinity rope design for the long dividing strips. I had an old stencil for that pattern, but I couldn’t find a single marker in my extensive collection that held the markings enough to quilt with, or that didn’t fade into the fabrics, or that I could quilt along with the puffiness without going off the markings. I attempted some markings and quilted them in small sections, but to be honest it would’ve taken about 20 hours just to do it that way — that’s just not cost-effective! So I unpicked the small section I’d done that way and went with more ‘traditional’ feathers in the striped sections — the feathers go up one strip and down the next strip, alternating across the quilt.

As Gwen didn’t want this quilt too heavily quilted, I didn’t do anymore quilting in the main top, and for the border I only did a large semi-circle motif, using a 4″ clam shell ruler.

Gwen had initially started quilting this beast on her domestic sewing machine — I’m surprised and impressed that she got as far as she did. But she had trouble not only with the sheer bulk and weight of the quilt, but also choosing a colour that blended well and didn’t stand out. I auditioned several threads, settling on a light tan 80 wt thread that would hardly show (the colour blended well, and 80 wt thread almost disappears into the fabric), thus letting the fabrics and the quilt top design take centre stage.

It took more than 10 hours to quilt this quilt.








Now, about that batting…

The batting used in this quilt seemed to be a high-loft polyester batting. It was very heavy, and as a result caused a lot of drag. It was also very puffy and the fabric slipped on it, so I had to stitch in the ditch around almost everything to stabilise the quilt and stop any potential pleats and puckers before they could occur. Gwen had already pin basted the quilt for me, so that at least was done. She’d also stitched in the ditch down some of the strip seams, so that helped too.

With flatter battings (e.g. cotton, bamboo, wool), the fabric will often stick to the batting easily, thus requiring fewer basting pins and possibly not even requiring stitch in the ditch (though for a quilt this size, I would have stitched in the ditch around the major areas anyway).

Until I quilted this quilt, I hadn’t realised how much difference the batting makes to the quilting… now I know — a lot.


Threads used:

  • Top: Wonderfil Deco-Bob (80 wt, colour DB 414)
  • Bottom: Fil-Tec Magna Glide pre-wound bobbin (60 wt, white)


23 06 2014

Back in February, I used a photo on fabric of my friend Char’s dog Cassie for one of my thread painting ‘portraits’ at Pam Holland’s class at Empty Spools, Asilomar (Pacific Grove, California). You can see the progress of this piece here:

I finished it off a few weeks go and sent it to Char, who lives near in Boston. A lot has happened since I made this piece — after many years of faithful companionship, Cassie has left Char’s family to play with all those dogs in the big dog park in the sky; Char has had a kidney transplant (within hours of notification, it was done and she’s healthier than she’s been in several decades); and she’s getting a new dog from her friend Sassie — the new dog was trained to be a guide dog for Sassie, but couldn’t cope with aircraft, so has had to be retired from that program.

I hope Char and her family like this memory of their beloved Cassie.




The back showing the thread stitching before I added some stiff interfacing and covered it with the same fabric as the background fabric


Quilting makes the quilt

22 06 2014

Because I was making two baby quilts basically the same, I decided to take some photos to show how quilting makes the quilt and brings it to life.

A bit of background for quilting newbies…

While the term ‘quilting’ covers the entire process of making a quilt, it also refers specifically to the stitching used to secure the three layers together (the quilt top, the batting, and the backing fabric). This stitching can be very simple (straight lines in the seam lines — also known as ‘stitching in the ditch’ or SID), or can be very elaborate, with lots of stitching motifs or patterns enhancing the design of the quilt top and/or its fabric.

Quilting can be done ‘free motion’ (no markings, no rulers, no pattern to follow except what’s in your head or how you guide the fabric under the needle — think of doodling with the needle being a static pen and the fabric sandwich being the paper that you move under the pen… try it with a real pen and paper to see how hard it is!), or can be done using markings, rulers, and other tools. I reckon life’s to short to mark quilts 😉 so I prefer free motion quilting (FMQ), which means not all my lines are perfectly straight, not all my circles are perfect circles etc. I’m looking for an overall ‘feel’, not perfection, so I’m OK with slightly wonky lines — in fact, in some quilts I’ve deliberately stitched wonky lines for effect (see this one:

Anyhow, back to the baby quilts…

In this first photo, I haven’t done any stitching to hold the layers together — I’ve only joined (basted) the layers together with pins, ready for stitching. If I only did SID, then those wrinkles and puffiness would remain with the quilt forever. You could iron them out to a degree, but essentially, what you see is what you’ll get once the quilt is finished. It doesn’t have a lot of ‘life’, in my opinion.


In the next photo (below), I’ve quilted the the three layers together quite densely, using a free motion spiral motif, with joining long U shapes (I was trying to emulate the hot sun on the African plains). The wrinkles and puffiness have been stitched out. While this quilting is quite dense (there’s not much more than a quarter inch gap between each stitching line), this quilt should hold up well to many years of laundering as the chance of the layers separating is pretty slim. You can still see puffiness in the cream band at the top — I deliberately didn’t quilt this area.


This final photo (below) shows both quilts on the line — the one on the left has no quilting, while the one on the right is quilted and is now ready for trimming and binding.


In my opinion, quilting makes the quilt, and brings it to life.

Baby elephants

22 06 2014

I have twin nieces in the US, both of whom are pregnant. No, they didn’t plan it that way! One is due in October; the other in December.

The one who is due in October has a thing for elephants for her nursery, so I decided to make a gender-neutral baby quilt for her in yellow, featuring elephants. And as I had enough fabric, I thought I’d make two at the same time, just in case the other twin got pregnant… And sure enough, she did! So now I’ll be taking two baby elephant quilts with me to the US in October.

I really enjoyed making these quilts — the pattern was super easy to put together (‘Little black quilt’ pattern available free from: Just 6.5 inch strips, with a reverse strip part way up, separated by two bands of sashing. I didn’t have quite enough of all the fabrics to use exactly the same in each quilt, so the fabric choices are slightly different in each. But that’s OK.

I also quilted them differently. For the first one, I made up a spiral motif with long U shapes, and outlined more elephants in the reversed panel; for the second I did all-over spirals, with bubbles/pebbles inside the reverse strip.

The charcoal grey elephants were fused on and then I blanket stitched around them in black. I stitched their ear shapes and toenails in yellow thread, and their eyes and tails in black thread.

Finally, I added a binding made up of multiple pieces of leftover yellow fabrics.

Oh, and the backing fabric was an alphabet print from the dressmaking poplins in Spotlight — it even has E for Elephant!

(Click on a photo to view it larger)

Auditioning fabrics

Interestingly, almost every yellow fabric I had had dots, spots, or circles of some sort!


Quilt 1









Quilt 2









The back on both


Threads used:

  • Top: Isacord (trilobal polyester, 40 wt, colour 0640 [a soft buttery yellow]); Robison-Anton (rayon, 40 wt, black)
  • Bobbin: Fil-Tec Magna Glide pre-wound bobbin (white)

Community Quilt 149

22 06 2014

Every appliqued centre of this quilt was a ‘B’ word. My favourite was the banksia; I wasn’t quite sure about the very hairy baby in the bathtub!

How to quilt it? I started by stitching in the ditch around all the blocks, then around the appliqued pieces, then echo stitched about a quarter inch around each appliqued object/set.

I decided to do largish motifs in each block — I still wanted this quilt to have some puffiness. Finally, I switched to a blue thread and stitched deliberately wobbly lines along the sashing, with spirals in the corners and joins.

For this one I used quite fine thread — an 80 wt and a 100 wt in the top (with a 70 needle), and a 60 wt in the bobbin.

(Click on a photo to view it larger)












Threads used:

  • Top: Wonderfil Deco Bob (80 wt, colour DB112); Wonderfil Invisifil (100 wt, colour IF311)
  • Bottom: Fil-Tec Magna Glide pre-wound bobbin (white)


Vale: William E Bracey (1923-2014)

9 06 2014

I heard the sad news last night that my ‘uncle’ Bill had passed away (10:20pm 7 June 2014). We met through genealogical research and although he always referred to me as his ‘cousin’, out of respect I referred to him as my ‘uncle’. Our common ancestor (my 5th great grandfather and Bill’s 4th great grandfather) lived from 1749 to 1824. So that’s how Bill and I were connected. But that connection went much deeper than mere names and links on a family tree can state.

Bill Bracey, 19 Jan 2005

Bill Bracey, 19 Jan 2005


I ‘met’ Bill online in 1994, when I got my first computer and internet connection. I was doing some research into the Bracey name and came across a chap in Albuquerque, New Mexico, who was pretty certain I wasn’t related to his line but was equally certain I was related to Bill’s line. It took a while for Bill (who lived in California) and I to find the common connection. Our respective sides of the family came from the same area in Bristol, England, in some cases from the same street. We were certain we were related but we didn’t have the evidence. However, a particular UK Census record gave us the evidence and so I brought some 50 names into Bill’s family tree; in turn, he added about 5000 names to my tree! We corresponded via email and mail for a couple of years, then at the end of 1997, we met. My husband and I were on our way to Chicago and had a long layover at LAX, so Bill met us in person at the American Airlines lounge there.

I’ll never forget that meeting. My husband and I came into the lounge area strung out from 20+ hours of flying and layovers, and this imposing man with cropped grey/white hair rose up from a seat in the reception area, held out his hand, and said ‘I’m Bill’. I don’t think we’d even seen photos of each other at that stage — he just knew who we were, and equally, I knew who he was. His handshake was firm and he stood militarily erect, all 6 feet 4 (?) of him. He would have been 71 years of age then.

We got on immediately. I don’t know whether it was the family connection — some part of the ancient ancestral brain — or the fact that he was such a nice man, even without that connection. He thought I was wonderful for bringing him so many Western Australians to his tree, and I thought he was wonderful for all the mountains of research he had done long before the days of the internet, when he had travelled extensively in the UK ferretting out records and people, and paying quite a bit of money I expect for copies of legal documents such as birth, death and marriage certificates. So much of this is now available freely or for a small fee online, we forget that only 20 years ago you had to write letters, pay by money order, and wait weeks to get copies of documents (in the hope that you had the right person), or you had to go to the places and hunt out parish records or haunt the Public Records Office in London, looking for those elusive bits of information that tie one person’s family tree to another’s. Bill did much of that legwork research to compile the family tree, and likely spent thousands of dollars in pursuit of documentary evidence to verify connections.

In July 1998 Bill came to Australia and New Zealand to meet his Bracey relatives in the various branches. I organised a big lunch at a riverside cafe in Perth for all my Western Australian relatives and Bill papered two entire walls with his printout scroll of our family tree. For many, this was the first time they saw how they were connected to others who were still living and who had gone before them. I still have that scroll. We all had a lovely time.

From 2001, I started travelling to the US each year to attend conferences. At that time, Qantas only flew from Australia to the US via Los Angeles (we can now fly direct to Dallas), and so I started staying with Bill for a few days on arrival before heading off to wherever the conference was — his house was about a 45-minute drive from LAX. It was an opportunity for me to get over jet lag, but most importantly, it was an opportunity for me to spend time with Bill. We’d talk about the family tree research, I’d help him do stuff on the computer (and often fix issues — he always had a list of things for me to fix/explain!), we’d go out for meals, I met some of his friends, and he’d let me sleep off the jet lag as I needed to. I stayed with Bill for a few days each year for most years from 2001 to 2014, visiting and spending time with him for the last time in February/March this year.

He would often lament how much he missed ‘his Joanie’, his beloved wife of 43 years, who passed away in 1993, before I met Bill. He spoke so well of her that I felt I knew her.

I knew that he’d served in World War Two, but he never spoke about that time with me. I expect he only spoke about it with his fellow Veterans, when they had their annual get together on the east coast.

What about Bill, the person? Well, he had a very sharp mind, even in February 2014 (when I last saw him) when his body was failing. He didn’t suffer fools gladly, he was methodical, meticulous, and precise in everything he did (that engineering and military training, I expect, but did he go into engineering because he was methodical or did he become methodical as part of his training?), and he was ‘ornery’, blunt, and stubborn at times. He hated the frailty that came with his aging body.

He was such a strong, athletic man when we first met, but gradually injuries started to affect his prowess on the tennis court and the ski fields and he had to give those loves away.

I met his son Tom both at Bill’s house and in Texas, where Tom lives, and met his grandson James at least once. I never met his daughter Lisa or his other grandchildren or great grandchildren, though I feel I know them as Bill proudly showed off their photos to me and talked about their lives and how they were all doing.

He was very proud of his family and loved them dearly, although perhaps he didn’t say so often enough.

We will miss you, Bill. We’ll miss your sharp mind, your welcoming arms, your HUGE hugs, and your love. You treated us as your own, and I’m forever grateful that we got to meet you and to know you.




7 06 2014

For Community Quilt #148, I decided to use white Magna Glide pre-wound bobbin thread for the top AND the bottom thread. Why? because the colour match was perfect. So I slipped the bobbin onto a hacked thread holder and started.

What I didn’t realise was how much static there was on the machine, which picked up the tiniest bits of polyester ‘lint’ from this thread and deposited it on the metal bits of my Handi Quilter Sweet Sixteen! I’ve never noticed any issue with this sort of static buildup in the bobbin housing, but it was very prevalent in the top thread path.

I wonder if it’s due to the continual up and down motion of the thread before it finally gets to the eye of the needle and into the quilt? The bobbin thread, on the other hand, just loops off the bobbin in one continuous motion, as far as I’m aware.

Whatever the reason, I had to clean the tension disks and other parts of the upper thread path several times while quilting this quilt.

Here are some pictures to show that static build up at the tension disk area and near the needle.




Community Quilt 148

7 06 2014

I thought Quilt #146 was my challenge quilt in the latest bunch. Not so. It was this one!!

Why was it such a challenge? Well, it was FULL of bias edges, very thick seam joins, and lots of puffiness as a result of those bias edges. I had to do a LOT of quilting on it to try to flatten it, and I think I succeeded, for the most part. However, there are still parts of this quilt that have pleats and folds that I just couldn’t get out. And where the big circular blocks join, there are masses of seams that come together to form a big lump — having already snapped a needle off in the bobbin case before (which cost me $$ to have fixed as well as a trip to the city), I wasn’t going to attempt to sew through those. Someone has carefully appliqued on little circular disks into the centres of the other seam joins, and I’ll be suggesting that they add more where those horrible lumpy seam joins are.

I started by stitching in the ditch are all the circles and the borders to stabilise the quilt as far as possible. Then I tackled the centres of each circle inside a larger circle by curving out to a point and back in, making flower petals. For the larger circles, I did the same, dividing (with my eye) each inner area into thirds, stitching up to an outer point then back down then up to the centre point of the curve, then down and back up to a seam point.

After stitching the big flower petals like this, they were still too puffy, so I stitched some inner ‘flame’ sort of thing inside each one, then did some echo stitching around the big petals. That squashed them for the most part.

For the areas outside the circles, I just did some echo stitching in a continuous-line spiral. I left the pink borders unstitched. For the main white border, I continued the theme of the curved petals (no markings or rulers — just eyeballed them) then echo stitched around each one.

The first set of pictures below show the finished quilt, followed by pictures showing the puffiness I had to deal with in this quilt. Yes, it WAS a challenge and half!

(Click on a photo to view it larger)








Puffy, puffy, puffy…


Seam join with about 8 seams coming together. Very lumpy.


Stitching some puffiness into submission, but some of these folds were just unavoidable

Threads used:

  • Top: Fil-Tec Magna Glide pre-wound bobbin (white)
  • Bottom: Fil-Tec Magna Glide pre-wound bobbin (white)