From little things, big things grow

2 06 2020

In this case, the title of this post reflects a tiny pinprick hole in a water pipe that resulted in a LOT of water damage in just a few hours. Who would’ve thought that such small thing would lead to repairs and remediation that took seven weeks to complete? Much of that time was drying time, but there was still a lot of work to do to get it back to normal. All this happened last October, but I haven’t written it up until now. Much of this is a record for me as to what happened and how long it took. NOTE: We work from home, so the leak would’ve only been going for a few hours before being noticed. Had we worked away from home, or been on holiday, this could have been MUCH worse.

So, what happened?

Wed 16 Oct 2019

  1. Approx 3:30pm: Discovered a large patch of wet carpet in the bedroom at the entrance to the en suite bathroom and on the other side of the wall from the walk-in-robe (WIR). Identified that the water had seeped through the wall from the WIR. The WIR ceiling had water coming down from it, via the cornices and wall, and the alarm system box above the top shelf of the WIR. The water was pooling on the top shelf of the WIR, then running down the wall that adjoins the en suite shower. The carpet in the WIR was soaked, the back wall of the WIR was soaked as were the skirting boards, and water was still running down. The carpet on the other side of the WIR was soaked, as were its skirting boards—there’s possibly damp in that wall too.

  2. Raced outside to turn off the water main as we suspected a pipe had burst in the roof space. Called the plumber to attend ASAP.
  3. Approx 4:30pm the plumber attended. He went into the roof space, and located the source of the leak, which was still running, though not as much. It was the hot water pipe from the hot water system (HWS) to the en suite shower. He got us to turn on the hot water tap in the shower to drain the rest of the water out. The cause of the leak was a very small hole/tear in the pipe. The plumber took photos, then cut the pipe and capped it as a temporary solution. The plumber identified only one insulation batt that was quite wet and removed it from the roof space; he put it in a large garbage bag and we put it in the bin.

    This pipe is only about 12 mm (half an inch) in diameter

  4. Meantime, we were running around madly trying to mop up the water from the carpet in the WIR and outside it, and remove clothes and shoes that had been wet by the leak, as well as storage boxes on the top shelf of the WIR.
  5. I emailed my handyman (away on holidays) to let him know that we would need him very soon. He gave me the contact details of a handyman friend of his (Eric).
  6. I emailed my insurance broker to let him know and ask what to do next. He told me that no insurance policy will pay for the plumbing repair, just for finding it and the damage caused by it. Go figure!
  7. I called the alarm system people to see if someone could come out to check that the alarm box and its contents had not sustained any damage.
  8. During the night, we continued to mop up water using old towels, using the washing machine to spin out the water every so often, then laying them down again to soak up more water.  We also ran a pedestal fan in the WIR to try to evaporate some of the moisture (not very successful).

Thu 17 Oct 2019

  1. I called three different carpet cleaners before I found one (Village Carpet Care, Bunbury, Western Australia) that had the equipment and knowledge to extract water from carpet in the hope of rescuing the carpet from potential mould and avoiding replacement. They came late in the afternoon. The carpet guy pulled back the carpet, cut out the wet underlay, extracted as much water as he could and left us with two floor-level fans (not heated—heated fans promote mould!) to help dry out the carpet and concrete slab. He will come back next week after everything is dry to re-lay the underlay and carpet and treat and steam clean the carpet. After the underlay was removed and the carpet peeled back, the extent of the water damage—both inside the WIR and outside it—was revealed. In addition to the carpet, the concrete slab in the WIR and outside it was wet, as was the wood holding the carpet in place, and very likely the skirting boards and wall between the WIR and the entrance to the en suite (still to see evidence of moisture—the handyman and the carpet cleaner both said it could takes weeks or even months to know the full extent of that damage). After extracting the water, peeling back the carpet, and cutting out the affected parts of the underlay, the carpet guy placed two powerful floor fans—one in the WIR (under the lifted carpet) and one at the entrance to the en suite—to dry out the carpets. We had these fans on constantly from 8am to 11pm for the next few days, and kept the windows in the bedroom and bathroom open for cross-ventilation, as well as running the exhaust fan in the WIR for those hours, and the air-conditioning. The aim was to extract as much moisture as possible from the carpets and save them from being replaced, if possible.

  2. The plumber arrived to repair the pipe. He had to gouge out and ‘chase’ the hot water pipe in the area above the shower, replace the pipe and reconnect it to the HWS piping in the roof. When finished, he cemented in the hole he’d made, leaving enough room for the handyman to patch the hole at a later date.
  3. The alarm guy came in the afternoon and checked alarm control box at top of WIR—bone dry, so no water ingress..
  4. I received an insurance claim form from the insurance broker.
  5. Meantime, we identified all clothing that had got wet and needed to be washed (including many towels) and started doing laundry to prevent the clothes from going musty/mouldy.
  6. I called Eric (the handyman) to get him to check the damage and see what needed to be done, in preparation for a quote. He found no evidence of any bubbling or bulging in skirting boards or behind paint, but he said that wasn’t uncommon at this stage and could take weeks/months to become evident. He left us an industrial floor fan (not heated) to help circulate air to remove moisture. He’ll quote me on the work needing to be done, based on this initial inspection.
  7. Approx. 24 hours after discovering the leak and after mopping up as much moisture as we could from the carpet and having the pedestal fan blowing over it for at least 18 hours, it was still quite wet both inside the WIR and on the other side of the wall near the en suite.

Sun 20 Oct 2019

Eric (handyman) came to collect his blower fan and to discuss the next steps. He will likely return the week starting 28 Oct to:

  • replace the insulation batt(s) in the roof space
  • while in the roof space, check the attachment of the WIR ceiling/cornice to see if it has been damaged and will need replacing
  • patch, paint etc. the partially repaired hole in the wall above the shower where the plumber had to replace the pipe
  • replace some or all of the top shelf in the wardrobe.

After a few weeks/months, he will come back to fix any issues with bubbling paint, water damage to cornices/walls etc. that reveal themselves over time.

Mon 21 Oct 2019

The carpet guy returned and spent several hours reinstalling the underlay and the lifted carpet, treating the carpet, then steam cleaning the carpet.

Sat 26 Oct 2019

Received partial payment of insurance claim to cover things like the carpet remediation, alarm box check, plumber exploratory work (though NOT the plumbing repair).

Tue 29 Oct 2019

Insurance assessor arrived to assess damage and compare quote from Eric to what he thought needed doing:

  • Didn’t need to see my photos—his moisture meter clearly showed that water had penetrated the walls (some readings were >80%; normal is <15%). Took readings on red wall outside WIR and wall inside en suite near cornice just outside shower stall. Did not take readings of pillar on outside wall of WIR.
  • Advised that getting the paint off ASAP and drying out the walls with a fan was necessary to prevent further damage, mould, and a long-term wait before painting etc. can occur. Indicated it could be weeks before remediation work could happen.
  • Decided that the red wall and skirting board outside the WIR weren’t showing signs of water damage and so crossed that off the quote, for insurance purposes. (Ultimately, these DID need quite a bit of repair/remediation, but weren’t an allowable claim on the insurance policy because the assessor deemed that they weren’t an issue.)
  • Said that cornice and ceiling in the WIR didn’t appear to be structurally damaged, but didn’t go into the roof space to check.

After the insurance assessor left, I contacted Eric to arrange a time for him to start prep work

Thu 31 Oct 2019

Eric did these tasks:

  • Replaced insulation batt that was removed from the roof space by the plumber
  • Removed some of the melamine shelving from WIR to allow air flow (left the shelving framework for now—it will need replacing too)
  • Scraped all paintwork from back wall of WIR and partial areas of side walls to expose the plasterwork; marked with pencil the extent of the water ingress on the side walls
  • Provided an industrial floor fan to help dry out the walls; we left this on 24 hours a day for several days, along with the exhaust fan in the WIR.

Sat 2 Nov 2019

Received final insurance payment. Didn’t pay for everything, of course.

Mon 4 Nov 2019

Eric tested moisture in walls:

  • Moisture in walls in WIR down to <10%, so the fan has worked well
  • Moisture in walls on the other side of the WIR: approx. 25% on the red wall in the bedroom, and about 30% on the en suite wall, so still a way to go.

Eric’s advice: keep fans on and he’ll be back later in the week to take more measurements and plan from there.

Fri 8 Nov 2019

Plumbers here all day to replace the grey pipe in roof space with all copper. We decided to replace all plumbing inside the roof space with copper pipe—both the plumbers, the carpet guy, and the insurance assessor all said independently of each other that the grey pipe used 10–15 years ago was a bad batch. The carpet guy said he did water extraction and carpet remediation for about 300 houses a year just in the Bunbury area that had water damage from split pipes in the roof; the insurance assessor said similar, as did the plumbing company.

Mon 11 Nov 2019

  1. Eric tested moisture levels. Good in WIR, but still 20–35% on outside wall, pillar, and en suite shower wall.
  2. Eric stripped off paint in en suite to expose to fan air to dry out as much as possible.

Thu 14 Nov 2019

Eric tested moisture levels.

  • Almost all are <15% in the en suite, but the pillar outside was still registering ~20–25%, so he focused the fan on that area.
  • Moisture levels in the WIR are either the same or 1–2% higher than when the fan was on them, but still under 15%, with most under 10%.

Mon 18 Nov 2019

  1. Eric tested moisture levels: Readings on pillar still over 20%, so he stripped pillar and part of red wall in bedroom and put fan onto this area. Also, put initial patch on wall above shower in en suite.
  2. Air con serviceman here because no a/c going into the sewing room. Found a piece of ductwork had been dislodged fully from the unit!!! Only possibility was the plumbing team. I emailed the plumbers to let them know. A/c guy took photos and refitted the ductwork.

Tue 19 Nov 2019

Cleaner here; asked her to do 2nd shower as we had used it when the en suite shower was out of action a month ago. She discovered there was NO water to the shower taps. Called plumbers, who discovered that those taps had never been connected when they did the copper pipework! Added a T-piece in to pipe water to those taps.

Thu 21 Nov 2019

Eric tested moisture levels—all below 10%!!! Started work on sealing the walls.

Mon 25 and Thu 28 Nov 2019

Eric did main painting on walls, fitted WIR shelf etc.

Mon 2 Dec 2019

Eric finished off almost everything, including painting the feature wall in master bedroom.

Wed 4 Dec 2019

Eric painted last coat of red wall, final touch ups. DONE.

So, 16 October to 4 December—one tiny pinprick hole that spurted water and resulted in damage that took seven weeks to get back to normal. The insurance paid about 75% of the total cost of the repairs and remediation. Additional costs were for replacing the pipework in the roof with copper—that was always going to be our expense.





Community Quilts 477 to 483

2 06 2020

I’ve been a bit slow with the Community Quilts posts. First, there was a change of CQ coordinators in our state’s guild (that always delays things as new people coming into the role get familiar with what needs to be done), then there was a lack of prepped quilts (i.e. sandwiched, pin basted, bagged, ready to quilt), then there was the issue of getting the prepped quilts to me, and then me returning them (our state’s internal regional ‘borders’ were all closed for a month or so, and it was only 2 weeks ago that I could go to Perth from where I live). At a personal level was the discombobulation that I’m sure many have felt throughout March, April, and May as world and local events changed rapidly as a result of responses to COVID-19. I know that I couldn’t focus on many things I would normally do as a form of relaxation, such as quilting.

Anyhow, once my brain was in a better place, I knocked off these seven and was able to deliver them to Perth a week or so ago when I picked up my new sewing machine (a Pfaff Performance Icon). I also collected another two bags of quilts for quilting, so hopefully I won’t take so long with those.

Community Quilt 477

Community Quilt 478

Community Quilt 479

Community Quilt 480

Community Quilt 481

Community Quilt 482

Community Quilt 483





Commission for 20 luggage tags

2 06 2020

A travel company commissioned me to make 20 luggage tags for them, in green. The prep took nearly as long as sewing them! They are on their way to the US today.

I have others for sale in my Etsy store, for when you’re next ready to travel.

 

Cut pieces of fabric, plastic for pockets, inner stiffening fabric, and cotton webbing loops

Everything prepped for making the luggage tags

20 completed luggage tags, in green fabric with neon green loops

20 finished luggage tags





Bluprint: Getting your forever classes

25 05 2020

Sadly, Bluprint (ex Craftsy) is closing down! I’ve written up a set of instructions for downloading your Bluprint ‘forever’ classes here: https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2020/05/25/bluprint-getting-your-forever-classes/





Summer hailstorm

25 02 2020

Yesterday afternoon we got hit by a big summer thunderstorm—dense dark cloud, thunder, lightning… First came the rain (16 mm in about 10 mins), followed very closely by the most frightening hailstorm I’ve ever seen. Within minutes the ground was covered in what looked like snow but was hail the size of an Aussie 10 to 20c piece (about the size of a quarter for USians). The pounding on the metal roof sounded like a freight train was rolling over it. The gutters and soakwells couldn’t cope and all overflowed, creating some localised flooding and washing away part of the driveway’s blue metal. In 10 minutes it was all over and the hail started to melt—it was still 25C outside! I took some photos and videos (my first attempt at videos from my phone, so be kind) to show the ferocity of this hailstorm. And I felt really sorry for anyone out driving in this—it would have been the scariest 10 mins of their lives.

I’ve timestamped the photos and videos (to the hundredths of seconds) so you can see how quick this thing was. All the videos and most of the photos before you get to the videos were taken from inside the house—there was no way I was venturing out into that! (The videos are all less than 30 seconds each. Note: I have NO control over what videos YouTube promotes at the end of each one.)

Update: According to the weather bureau, the town 25 km from us had less than 2 mm of rain, which means this hailstorm was very localised. I’ve seen no reports of it in the media, at all.

2:52:37pm

The first hailstones

Oh, this is cool! We’ve got hail—wow!

2:52:40pm

3 seconds later - more hail

Wow, that hail is coming down quick (3 secs after first photo)

2:52:46pm

9 seconds after the first photo - the hail is coming down even more. Time to go inside as the lightning strikes seem close

9 seconds after the first photo – the hail is coming down even more. Time to go inside as the lightning strikes seem close.

2:52:55pm

18 seconds after the first photo -- now that hail is getting a little bit scary

18 seconds after the first photo — now that hail is getting a little bit scary

2:52:58pm (video)

From inside the front door, looking over the front lawn

2:53:48pm (video)

From inside the front door, looking over the front lawn

2:54:47pm (video)

From the side door, looking out over the driveway to the house across the road

2:55:26pm (video)

From the back door, looking over the back lawn and raised garden beds—the hail looks like snow

2:55:51pm (video)

The gutters and soakwells were not coping with the deluge of so much rain and hail in such a short time—this was getting a little bit scary…

2:57:11pm (video)

The soakwells were full and the water and hailstones had nowhere to go so they just pooled around on the concrete

2:57:36pm (video)

The soakwells were full and the water and hailstones had nowhere to go so they just pooled around on the concrete (apologies for the change of orientation of this video, but it shows the pooling water really well, so I didn’t want to delete it)

3:03:23pm

Five minutes later, the worst of it was over. The rain and hail stopped and I ventured outside to check for damage and to take photos. Already the ice was melting fast (it was still 25C—the temperature hadn’t dropped with the hail as usually happens), but I needed to record as much as possible in case there were damages that we needed to claim on insurance. Fortunately, I think we dodged a bullet on that! My “he’s a keeper” handyman will check the roof, gutters, solar panels etc. later this week to make sure everything is still OK.

Minor flooding on the back verandah---the water near the back lawn was about 4 cm deep, the skies had gone from dark grey to medium grey. We NEVER get water coming in past the line of the pillars.

Minor flooding on the back veranda—the water near the back lawn was about 4 cm deep, the skies had gone from dark grey to medium grey. We NEVER get water coming in past the line of the pillars.

3:03:33pm

More flooding at the back veranda. The ice is disappearing fast.

More flooding at the back veranda. The ice is disappearing fast.

3:03:40pm

This soakwell just couldn't cope with the deluge, so the water and hailstones pooled there for several minutes. The water here was about 6 cm deep.

This soakwell just couldn’t cope with the deluge, so the water and hailstones pooled there for several minutes. The water here was about 6 cm deep.

3:03:49pm

This soakwell just couldn't cope with the deluge, so the water and hailstones pooled there for several minutes. The water here was about 6 cm deep.

This soakwell just couldn’t cope with the deluge, so the water and hailstones pooled there for several minutes. The water here was about 6 cm deep.

3:04:03pm

This soakwell just couldn't cope with the deluge, so the water and hailstones pooled there for several minutes. The water here was about 6 cm deep.

This soakwell just couldn’t cope with the deluge, so the water and hailstones pooled there for several minutes. The water here was about 6 cm deep.

3:04:55pm

15 minutes after it started, it was all over. All the hail was melting fast and the sun was out.

15 minutes after it started, it was all over. All the hail was melting fast and the sun was out.

3:05:19pm

15 minutes after it started, it was all over. All the hail was melting fast and the sun was out. Steam was coming off the metal roof and the land as the sun started to work its magic.

15 minutes after it started, it was all over. All the hail was melting fast and the sun was out. Steam was coming off the metal roof and the land as the sun started to work its magic.

3:05:32pm

Some small pockets of hail took longer to melt than others

Some small pockets of hail took longer to melt than others

3:04:45pm

Side year. Hail is melting fast.

Side year. Hail is melting fast.

3:06:43pm

The water sloughing off the land and the gardens had to go somewhere, so down the driveway it went

The water sloughing off the land and the gardens had to go somewhere, so down the driveway it went

3:06:50pm

The water sloughing off the land and the gardens had to go somewhere, so down the driveway it went, creating big gouges and carrying the blue metal to the lowest point (the kerb in the picture is about 10-15cm deep)

The water sloughing off the land and the gardens had to go somewhere, so down the driveway it went, creating big gouges and carrying the blue metal to the lowest point (the kerb in the picture is about 10-15cm deep)

 

A day later, and the lawns and gardens are positively SMILING with relief at getting some rain. We haven’t had rain for months, so even though this was scary, the benefit to the garden is immense.





Finishing the Iggy Marley art quilt

27 01 2020

Another art quilt I started in 2018 is now finished! I did Susan Carlson’s workshop in May 2018 and created Iggy Marley, a Jamaican iguana, from fabric scraps. His body was pretty much finished by the time I finished the workshop, but it took a long time to get the inspiration for how to do the background. Iggy sat on my design wall for ages, waiting for the inspiration to come.

I actually did the background some time back—painting direct onto the duck/canvas fabric. But then I was faced with the dilemma of ‘how to quilt it?’, so he sat on the design wall for many more months. Eventually I decided to do stitch a jumble of leaves in the green background and perhaps pebbles in the brown dirt. To give a lot of body and texture to the quilt, I had already put batting behind him and quilted the major parts of the body, the tree trunk, and around the leaves. To add even more body—and to stabilise the quilt—I added a large piece of foam stabiliser (such as ‘Soft and Stable’) and backing fabric, then quilted over it all again, making sure everything that needed to be stitched down, was. I was still in a dilemma regarding the quilting for the background.

Some weeks later, I bit the bullet and stitched a heap of small leaves in the green background. And I hated them! They were SO busy, and detracted from Iggy, who needed to be the star of the show. So I unpicked those 10,000-plus stitches… watching two movies and a 4-part TV series in the process (the dark but compelling ‘Lambs of God’). Fortunately, fabric is pretty forgiving, so with some shaking, gentle patting, some water and some steam, all the needle holes from that stitching eventually covered over. And there he sat on my design wall, again. Waiting for inspiration. Again.

Finally the inspiration came when I saw one of Pam Holland‘s art quilts on Facebook—she had done very narrow vertical stitching, and that inspired me to do the same on Iggy. But I didn’t want to use vertical stitching for the entire green background so I decided to stitch some more large leaves, echoing the size and shapes of the painted leaves. Then I stitched all the vertical lines, nice and close together. I decided to do the same for the foreground, this time stitching horizontal lines in a soft brown. Now he was done!

Except for how to finish him off—do I add a binding? (no, too traditional), or do I add a facing? I’d never done a faced quilt before, so I experimented first on the vintage doily quilt, then once I had the technique down, I experimented on a scrap piece of foam, with batting, backing and the same duck/canvas I used for the top, and stitched with similar quilting. I wanted to make sure that I could turn a facing over all that thickness and not mess it up. I certainly didn’t have a lot of extra space at the top and bottom of Iggy to work with, so messing it up wasn’t an option. It worked, so I got to and finished him off with facing.

He’s going into a local art exhibition next month (textile category), and then I might put him up for sale in my Etsy store. His finished dimensions are 85 x 57 cm (33.5 x 22.5 inches). My Mum REALLY likes him 🙂

 





Finishing a vintage doily art quilt

27 01 2020

Back in April 2018, I attended Empty Spools at Asilomar (Pacific Grove, California), and was part of the 5-day class run by Cindy Needham. One of the small pieces I worked on in that class was a vintage doily on a soft taupe background. I did most of the quilting on it in class, but it has sat in my sewing room, incomplete, since I returned. Well, I finally decided to finish it off. There was only a small amount of cross-hatch stitching to do on the background, plus trimming it square and facing it (I didn’t want a binding on it, so I used this excellent facing method from Robbi Joy Ecklow: https://weallsew.com/make-quilt-facing/). Then I hand stitched down the loose edges of the doily.

I’ve called it ‘Enter the peacock’. I might put it up for sale in my Etsy store after it’s been exhibited next month in a local art exhibition (textile category). Final dimensions are approximately 50 x 50 cm (about 19 inches square)

One issue I had—and it was a major one—was that I’d used a blue Clover chaco chalk wheelie thing to mark the layout of the quilt in preparation for squaring it up and facing it. Then I’d sprayed a lot of water and used a hot iron to press down those facings so they weren’t going to move. What I didn’t realise was that the blue chalk was now EMBEDDED in the taupe fabric and it just wouldn’t come out. Normally, quilting gets rid of it, but this piece was already quilted, and by me using water and then IRONING the piece before getting the chalk out, I’d ‘set’ the chalk.

I spent hours testing various methods to get it out. Some of the things I tried based on some Googling (from least intrusive to most intrusive, testing small parts of the chalk-marked fabric at a time):

  • magic eraser (no effect)
  • fabric eraser (no effect)
  • eraser end of a Frizion gel pen (yes, it has an eraser!) (no effect)
  • vinegar/water mix (no effect)
  • dishwashing detergent (no effect)
  • hand washing detergent (no effect)
  • carpet cleaner (some effect)
  • CLR remover (no effect)
  • pre-wash laundry stain remover (Sard Degreaser Pre-Wash in Australia) (some effect).

What eventually worked (well, for 90% of it) was soaking the chalk lines with a pre-wash stain remover, then while it was still wet with that, making a think slurry/paste of Napisan and water and rubbing that into the marks as well. The quilt was really quite wet by now, but I left it for a good 30 minutes, then rinsed it out numerous times in cold water, giving the chalk areas a good rub with my knuckles to add the element of friction. Then I blocked it on the design wall and left it for a day to dry. There are still some residual blue marks, but they’re much harder to see now.

Click a photo to show it larger.





Finishing off an art quilt started in NZ

27 01 2020

Last October (2019) I attended the Quilt Symposium in Auckland, and one of the classes I took was a 2-day whole cloth mosaic class with Chris Kenna, a NZ quilt artist. I got the top completed in the two days, but it’s taken until now to finish the quilt ready for exhibiting in a local art awards (textile category) and then perhaps putting it up for sale in my Etsy store. The final dimensions are approx 1 m x 1m, so it’s fairly big! I’ve called it ‘We need the bees’.

Some of the things I did to complete it:

  • Made the quilt sandwich. I used a large piece of handbag foam (I don’t know what else you call it; an example is ‘Soft and Stable’) as the wadding and plain black fabric for the backing. The foam added a lot of stability to the quilt, stopping it from curling with the density of the quilting, yet keeping the whole piece light and tactile.
  • Free-motion quilted (FMQ’d) over the existing design on the top in matching threads.
  • FMQ’d more petals in between the appliqued petals, using threads that matched the colours in the appliqued petals.
  • FMQ’d the bee, using silver thread for its wings.
  • FMQ’d the black background, leaving an area immediately around the bee unquilted.
  • Squared up the quilt, and added a black binding in the same fabric as the top and back.

Click on a photo to view it larger.





I have called her ‘Christine’

23 01 2020

Warning—long!

I bought my current car (2008 model) in 2012 from my parents when they upgraded to an SUV around the time my Dad had a hip replacement and needed a car that was easier to get into and out of. It’s served me well and has given me almost no bother (except a couple of small light globes going out) in the 9 years I’ve had it. Until now. Now I think she’s slightly possessed, so I’ve called her ‘Christine’.

It all started when I went on a quilting retreat at the beginning of this month. This retreat is some 3 hours’ drive from where I live. I parked my car in their car park and except for the first night when I drove it into town, didn’t go near the car the four days I was there. When I went to pack the car at 6am to leave later that morning, I couldn’t open the car with the key fob. Nothing. My first thought was the battery in the key fob was dead, or the car battery was dead. I remembered there was an emergency key in the fob, so pulled that out and opened the driver’s door. I put my fob in the ignition and turned it on. Nothing. Not even the ‘whrr’ sound of a dead battery.

At 7am I called the RAC (I’m a member, but as I found out, not a ‘high enough’ member, despite some <mumble> decades since I joined at age 17). They said someone from a nearby country town would be out in about 90 minutes. Two hours later and no-one had arrived, so I called them again. They told me the guy was sick and couldn’t come until at least the afternoon, but I could pay an extra $130 for someone to come from another town, and it would be another 2 hours at least before they got there (where I was staying is only an hour from Perth, so these times seemed a bit odd). I said I’d wait for the local guy, but in the meantime would call my dealership.

I described the symptoms to the service manager, and she said it may not be battery at all, but possibly the steering system, in which case a battery recharge from the RAC may not even work, and if it did, I’d have to drive straight to the dealership with NO stops along the way. So now the question was how to get the car to the dealership (remember, it’s 3 hours’ drive away) so they could assess it. Yes, there are some dealerships in Perth, but then I’d still have to get the car to Perth and then collect it from Perth at a later date. Having it local was really the only way to go.

Back on the phone to the RAC to change my request from roadside assistance (for a battery kickstart) to towing. The RAC person was most helpful and gave me quotes for getting the car to Perth (around $300) and to the dealership close to home ($800). And told me that my membership level meant I was only eligible for a free tow in the Perth metro area for up to 80 km round trip. (One reason I haven’t gone to a higher level is their restriction on towing to the metro area only—it’s useless if you’re outside Perth). My service manager said if I got the car to the dealership in Perth, then they could get it from there for $160 on a car carrier, for a total of around $460. But all this was a lot of running around and having to be picked up by my other half (OH), who already had a 6-hour round trip in front of him to collect me from the retreat location. Extra trips back and forth to Perth weren’t really practical.

Did I mention that phone reception at the retreat is poor, which meant going outside to make/take calls, and it was 42C that day, and I was in semi-panic mode?

I bit the bullet and decided to go with the tow direct to my local dealership. The towing guy from the nearby town called me shortly after and we got that all sorted—he would pick up the car the next morning (it was already 1:30pm by now and too late for him to get it to the dealership before they closed). I waited for my OH to get to me (that was an exercise in itself, as he’d never been there before), and we drove back home.

Next day, my car got delivered to the dealership by noon, and the service manager called me later that afternoon to say it was ready to pick up the next day. The steering system wasn’t at fault (thank goodness as that would’ve cost an arm and a leg), but the battery was severely compromised and they had to put their super-duper charger on it to get any response. They were all gobsmacked that the battery was dated 2008, and was the original one! It lasted 12 years, which was amazing. They replaced the old battery with a new one, and I drove the car home.

The service manager also told me that someone had very slightly touched my car’s front bumper with theirs and that the dealership would pay for it to be repainted. She showed me the damage, and it was a minor paint scrape at worst. But she insisted that they would get it fixed for me and we arranged for me to bring the car in the following Wednesday afternoon. I went about my normal business, going to the shops on Friday and again on Monday, with nothing untoward.

Late Tuesday afternoon, my OH went into the garage to get some drinks from the fridge and didn’t turn on the light. This was a blessing in hindsight, as he noticed that my car’s right rear tail light was reflecting back from the closed garage door. He called me and we noticed that the front right parking light was also on. I locked the car, unlocked it, relocked it, but no matter what I did those lights would come back on and start flashing intermittently. The service department at the dealership was about to close for the day, so I called the service manager right away. She got me to try some stuff with the headlamp switch but that made no difference, so she said to bring the car in straight away and hand it off to one of the other staff. Fortunately, she had a loan car available for me, so I was able to get home. Remember, I’d already booked the car in to go to the panel shop late Wednesday.

On Wednesday she called and said they were able to get the car into the panel shop right then, and had figured out that the light controller was faulting, causing the brand new battery to drain. After it had been to the panel shop, they got it back to the dealership, and had to wait on a replacement light controller part to arrive from Melbourne (by air to Perth, then road to the dealership some 2 hours’ south of Perth). Once they got that all installed and recharged the battery, I went back in to pay yet another bill (ugh!) and pick up my car on the Thursday.

You’d think that would be the end of it, but not quite yet…

Either later that day or the next day, I decided to put all my stuff back into the car that I’d taken out when it went in to the dealership for the panel work etc. (maps, phone chargers etc.). One of the things I do is keep a mini pack of tissues under a flap in the dashboard where there’s a screen for the audio system etc. I rarely open this flap, and have only done so when I’ve been driving. This is significant. I repack my car with the bits and bobs, including the tissues, then close the car and lock it. The keys are in my hand, and this is a 2008 car, so there’s no ‘talking’ between the fob and the car as there is on more recent vehicles. I turn to go back into the house when I hear music. And it’s coming from inside the car! The CD (yes, this is an older car) that was playing when I last drove it, is now playing again. OK, so that’s weird. And creepy! I call my OH, and we try various things—start the car and move it out of the garage then back in again to see what happens, then turn it off. All is OK. Then I explain to him what I did when I repacked the car, moving the flap open as I do so (the car is off at this point). I lock the car and turn away and the CD starts playing again! At this point, the car becomes ‘Christine’!!!

I call the dealership in a panic fearing that the entire electrical system is out to get me. The assistant service manager answers (my main person is out). She has no idea what’s happening either, so I tell her I’m bringing it in to be checked. Off we go, me in my ‘Christine’ and my OH in his car. I get to the dealership and the service manager is back—she knows exactly what it is, as it happened to her in a similar model car just the day before. It seems if you open the screen flap when the car is off, the auxiliary entertainment system comes on—this allows a passenger waiting in the car to listen to music etc. when the driver is away and has the key fob. And it’s ‘by design’. Who knew?? Certainly not me, even after 9 years owning the car, and when I asked my Dad about it, he said he never knew either. So that was a wasted hour-long round trip for the two of us, but at least we knew the car wasn’t possessed!

While I write this, she’s being a good girl in the garage—no disco lights and music. I’m still calling her ‘Christine’ though.





Busy weekend sewing joey and other wildlife pouches

14 01 2020

The call went out for people to make items for the wildlife carer groups who are trying desperately to save wildlife injured in the devastating bushfires that have claimed so much land and bush on the eastern side of Australia in the past few months. I heeded the call last weekend, as did many many others from within Australia and around the world. So many heeded the call, in fact, that the coordinating group of volunteers had to press ‘pause’ during the weekend to take stock of what they had received and still needed. One Facebook group went from 20,000 members to more than 200,000 members in a matter of days. Even if each person only made 5 items, that’s 1 MILLION items that have to be transported, cleared through Customs (if from outside Australia), checked for correct materials, sized, labelled, sorted, stored, and distributed. And that takes a LOT of storage space (which has to be paid for), and enormous time and energy from a small group of volunteers. I’ll talk about how best you can contribute—if you feel the need to do so—below.

Meantime, I was already well into finishing a 3-day sewing binge converting 15 m of flannelette and 10 to 15 m of fabric from my stash into nearly 20 day and night time joey pouches, and about 10 wildlife pouches in various sizes. I delivered these to my local hub yesterday, and won’t make any more unless there’s another call out for these types of goods.

Some examples of what I made, ably modelled by my teddy and other soft toys:

Daytime hanging pouch for a joey -- the scooped side allows joey to poke out its head to observe the world around it

Daytime hanging pouch for a joey — the scooped side allows joey to poke out its head to observe the world around it

Small wildlife pouch, with 3 removable liners (spares for when others are being washed -- frightened little animals poop... a lot)

Small wildlife pouch, with 3 removable liners (spares for when others are being washed — frightened little animals poop… a lot)

Night-time hanging pouch -- this time there's no scoop. Joey needs to sleep undisturbed and not be tempted to look out into the world.

Night-time hanging pouch — this time there’s no scoop. Joey needs to sleep undisturbed and not be tempted to look out into the world.

The items I made, ready to be bundled, labelled, and given to my local collection hub

The items I made, ready to be bundled, labelled, and given to my local collection hub

YouTube video of how these pouches are used: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UNNt8ssoTvE

How to contribute if you are outside Australia

NOTE: These are my personal opinions and not any official stance, though I believe they reflect the position of the many groups and charities that have been inundated with donations.

My message to crafters outside Australia:

We love and appreciate the need you have to ‘do something’, but there are some not-so-small logistical and biosecurity issues that could mean all your efforts could end up being wasted. Sending unwashed items, items washed in perfumed detergent, items not made of natural fibres, items with pet hair on them could mean rejection of a whole shipment. We don’t have rabies in Australia nor many insects, lice, ticks, etc. that live in other parts of the world—and we don’t want to introduce any pest to the Australian environment that could severely damage our wildlife and agricultural industries (we haven’t got a good track record with introduced pests… just Google ‘cane toad’).

Although it doesn’t feel like you’re ‘doing something’, money is what’s needed for the ongoing support of human and animal communities that have been devastated by fire. As an example, food needs to be supplied to surviving animals in burnt areas, and this need will continue for many months—this food has to be purchased (if not this week because someone donated it for free, then next week and onwards), transported (often by helicopter because roads are impassable, or the terrain is impenetrable), and put in places of need. That takes MONEY, not craft donations from overseas. We have many many crafters in Australia who are meeting the immediate need for animal pouches etc.

So while we are honoured and humbled that you are all feeling so helpless about the plight of the animals etc. that can’t help themselves, money is a far better contribution you can make. Consider how much you would have spent purchasing the fabric/yarn (or how much you’ve already spent on fabric/yarn in your stash) and the cost of sending the goods to Australia (it’s not cheap!), and donate the monetary value of that instead, if you feel the need to ‘do something’. Or make pet beds, nests, or similar and donate them to your local wildlife carer groups—they also have ongoing needs to help them care for animals, but without any of the recent media coverage.

Money is portable and can be given where it’s most needed based on conditions on the ground, noting that these conditions are changing daily. (For people, some want clothing, some want accommodation and food expenses, some want agistment and feed for their horses, cattle etc.; for animals, some carers need pouches, others need food, water, and/or medical supplies, or industrial washing machines to clean the pouches, carry baskets and containers to allow animals to be transported or to sleep without being disturbed etc.).

Money will be spent in the local communities that are hurting the most, helping their economies get back off the ground. Money can buy food for animals, helping the communities and farmers who have produce that they may not be able to sell otherwise (e.g. fruit and vegetables with smoke taint).

Donated goods of any type have to be stored (requiring massive storage space requirements), and have to be appropriate to needs (e.g. no perishables, ‘as new’ not cast-offs/discards/unwanted clothing or furniture), and then have to be sorted and allocated (a LOT of people and coordination is needed to make that happen) (see here: https://www.sbs.com.au/news/daniel-andrews-tells-people-to-stop-donating-food-and-clothes-for-bushfire-crisis). Consider the situation where someone’s house has burnt to the ground in your neighbourhood—someone says the family needs toys, so hundreds of (used, discarded) toys are donated. But the family is living in a single hotel room with no storage for toys, and don’t have a home where they can store the toys. At that point, toys, especially in large quantities, are next to useless for that family, when they are trying to survive by paying for the hotel room (remember, the parents may have lost their jobs because their place of work has burnt down too or because they can’t turn up to work while they’re trying to deal with this crisis), for food for their family, for clothing to replace what they’e lost, etc. Hundreds of toys are the last thing they need.

If you’re outside Australia, especially if you’re in the US, your dollar will likely buy far more than you expect. Currently (14 Jan 2020), US$100 will buy $144 worth of goods in Australian dollars, so you’re getting a good ‘bang for your buck’.

Here are some lists of registered charities that are accepting donations:

Links last checked 14 Jan 2020