Nest Pillow Cover

This started about two months ago as a need to play and a desire to try out improv piecing in response to frustrations with exacting blocks. The pattern that is emerging is of planned, larger projects with clear intentions that get derailed by the boredom of repetition and longer time-line to fruition, interspersed by fast, fun, organic stuff that is in fact more satisfying.


Mug Rug Madness

I've been busy this week. The house is filthy, and there was one emergency take-out dinner. Toddlers were left to play alone as long as there was not crying or bashing. Now it's done, and I am glad, but it was great while it lasted.


Disappearing Hourglass

It's funny to me that my first post after such a long hiatus would carry such an appropriate title; I'm recording a quilt block pattern for myself, but the name of it coincidentally reflects the passed time since I last wrote in this space.

When I fell pregnant I was exhausted, so I didn't blog. Then, as I pointed out in my last post, content with scientifically sound content and moderate presentation became more common around the interwebs, so I didn't blog. Then we had a baby, and I think there's enough written about birth and milk and sleep and poop, so I didn't blog. Then we moved and I got all wrapped up in planning a kitchen, and I limited myself to telling everyone in a 100km radius about it, knowing that no one cared, so I didn't blog. And then I realised that the wind had changed, and I felt I'd given nutrition all the obsessive attention I was willing to, which left me with no burning opinions to be written about. My mother always said that if I didn't have anything helpful to say I should say nothing, so I didn't blog.

After a few months, it felt weird to even think of making my thoughts public. They were for me. That season was an inward-looking one. After a year I was embarrassed about having this space standing empty, a testament to my lack of attention.

Then something momentous happened.

All through my childhood I had hated it when my mother referred to my current passion as a "phase" which would run its course and I would "quit". How condescending! This is the MOST FASCINATING THING EVER! How could she imply that it was just a passing fancy?

Well, we were both right. I have come to understand that this is how I learn: all-encompassing interest until the well runs dry, then a while of Ordinary Time, so to speak, until the Next Big Thing comes along. During a Phase there is no dabbling, no dilettantism, but gripping, intense commitment. It's hard for those around me because the Phase leaves no room for dross such as housework. The challenge will always be how to keep the daily processes running while my brain is obsessing over something else. Once I've drunk my fill from that well of knowledge I do not forget, I simply close the book and integrate that learning into a new normal. I do not seek out these Phases, nor can I predict their arrival or departure. Attempting to continue when the interest is gone drains all joy out of the enquiry. The revolutionary realisation for me was that this is okay as long as it doesn't take over. My blog title is in the plural - passions - because I have always known myself as a generalist. When I worked professionally, it was on a project basis because I thought of myself as having a short but intense attention span. Not until recently have I accepted that without shame.

I have Phases. Seasons. Passions. I'm not a 9-to-5, meatloaf-on-Tuesdays kind of person.

Amazing how much time it takes to learn the curves of our own hearts, isn't it?

Currently quilting has recaptured my interest. (That's right, I first tried strip piecing 19 years ago (!) and now I'm picking up where I left off. I told you I don't forget when I move on.) If you have no interest in patchwork quilting, that's okay - few people do. I love indulging in the deluge of possibilities that a fabric store presents, the beauty and heft of the cloth, using math I haven't needed for decades, the sound of the rotary cutter, the precision of the piecing, the balance of line and pattern. It stretches me to be precise and consistent while rewarding me as only handicraft can. I love the layering of prints into blocks into a quilt with stitching that brings in another constellation of shapes altogether, and how this symphony of colour and shape becomes something 3-dimensional that can keep someone cozy. A perfect blend of art, engineering and caretaking.

This block came about when I miscut while trying to follow the Missouri Star Quilting Company's Disappearing Hourglass tutorial, and I liked the result so much that I'm making a quilt of it. Unfortunately I keep messing up the assembly of the hourglass, and then the whole thing doesn't work. I'm sick of ripping stitches, so I made myself a photo tutorial. You don't have to read it :)

Tell me, do you have Phases? What stretches your brain in a way that hurts so good? Have you ever thought of a quilt, or any other non-musical product, as a symphony?

Disappearing Hourglass Star (DHGS) Quilt Block Photo Tutorial

Pre-steps: Be prepared for the fact that you are about to buy perfectly good fabric (or a selection of dead cotton sheets and table cloths), wash and press* it, and cut it up in preparation for sewing it back together so you can cut it up again and sew it back together and then slice it into peices and sew them together one more time, in order to produce a small blanket that costs 87 times more than a chunk of polar fleece with a serged edge.
*I am a pre-washer, in large part because part of the point of quilting for me is the practicality of reusing fabrics retired from their intended use, and these are of course washed, so all new fabric must also be preshrunk to avoid nasty surprises right at the end of the project.

Start with 2 squares @ 8". Sew a quarter inch from the edge, all around the outside. Slice on both diagonals to produce 4 quarter square triangles (QSTs) @ approximately 5.3".
Stages 2 to 4 of cut-n-sew, with Stage 1 (2@8", RST) not shown. Upper: 4 HSTs. Lower left: hourglass. Lower right: DHGS

Assemble into an hourglass bock, as follows:
First off, get your layout right! See those old seam lines? Yeah, there's a reason I need this tutorial

Pair 'em up

Stagger-stack with sew line towards the machine

Press to the dark, or the print if both fabrics are of a similar value

CHECK LAYOUT, assemble columns

The Tricky Part: Sew the long edge through the "plus" not the "x". In other words, DO NOT SEW THROUGH THE POINTS! That will product a pinwheel block. Which makes something else entirely

Press to the solid/light to allow the middle seam to spiral and lay flat. CHECK LAYOUT!

Hourglass blocks are cute, and you could make a stack of them and go ahead assembling a top from there. Or you could enter the land of disappearing blocks by moving on to stage 3 of cut-n-sew.
Cut @ 3.25" from centre line, horizontally and vertically. This just happens to be the width of my ruler. This only works if you started with 8" squares.

From your new 9-patch, rotate the corner squares (1, 3, 7 & 9) one corner to the right, or clockwise

Flip sidebars so the points point inwards, and rotate one station clockwise. Why are my photos un-fixed?

Where you started vs where you're going

Begin the final resewing: assemble rows

Press bars OUT and points IN or you will have lumpy seams that make quilting difficult later

Assemble columns. Seams will nest
Did I mention that the points must be pressed towards the centre of the block, ie "in"?

Stages 3 and 4 of cut-n-sew: hourglass on the left and DHGS on the right
Repeat 90 more times for a baby-sized (~150cm square) quilt.

Admittedly, a single block doesn't look like much. My first test run used thrift-shop bedding, but gives a good idea of how 4 blocks work together as a unit. This is of course with only two fabrics. I'm curious as to whether the effect will be ruined with my scrappy, rather low-volume, fabric selection.

Appropriate quilting designs can be adapted from bear's paw or Ohio star blocks.


Obey Your Mother

Dr. Masterjohn just put me out of blogging business with this post about the different justifications for the ancestral health dietary template and why they don't matter.

I'm sure I'll find other things to muse about but, until then, read that.

My approach is, in essence: eat only real food, make half your plate plants, include raw and cooked, fermented and seasonal, land and sea, muscles and organs, and all five tastes; and minimise sitting in front of a screen while maximising sunny walks and sleeping in quiet, cool darkness. Only if you have done that for 6 months and still have trouble should you start paleohacking, GAPSing or otherwise "tweaking". And no, 10 "extra" pounds do not count as trouble.

See? So much time, so many blogs encompassing so many arguments, and I'm done in under 50 words.

Want more? If you think your sunny walks are dialled in, check out my new fave lady, Katy Bowman, and her exceptionally qualified views on natural movement and alignment, especially of the pelvis. She'll get you walking like a human. And it will probably hurt. You're welcome.


Almond Tea Cookies

On my Facebook page recently I mentioned that I'm not much of a cookie person, though forces of the universe may conspire occasionally to convince me otherwise. Forces such as Sesame Street. And Pinterest.

So when the stars finally aligned for a moved-far-away friend and her chicklets to come and visit, I figured a little bite-sized treat snack was in order. Because I've been deluding myself about my tolerance for white foods like flour and sugar and need to get back to real stuff, and because there's no sense in training a child's palate to fake stuff when real is delicious, I went looking for a grain-free cookie recipe.

I found inspiration recipes at The Urban Poser and L.MichelleK. Sitting in my pyjamas with the baby sleeping is not the best time to run out and get groceries to fill in gaps in said recipes, but it is a great time to look up substitution guidelines and get busy.

The result is a light yet buttery jam sandwich cookie that isn't perfect paleo but is just right to go with a cup of tea for afternoon snack.


Ta-ta telephone

I'm going to whip one out - a post, that is, not a boob (at least not for another 45 minutes or so) - to address something I heard recently that's been driving me batty. A honest, earnest young woman of my acquaintance was told by her teacher that breast feeding was bad for babies after the first few weeks.

Do you get why I'm seething?


Imagining a New Normal

As I alluded to in my post about chauvinism in paleo, I'm not terribly hot on transformation stories from people who lost a ton of weight and now look like supermodels as incentive to clean up one's diet. There are other, more enduringly compelling reasons to do that, but they're not nearly so sexy - literally or conceptually - so they don't get told as much. Three blog posts in the last three days are different.