30 December 2007

Summer reading

Holidays provide the opportunity to indulge myself with more reading. Besides, it's too hot to do anything else!

This novel's been around since 2003, but I seem to sometimes miss new books in my favourite series. The main character in this series is Dido Hoare, an antiquarian bookseller who lives in London. She has a toddler and a father and, of course, is too inquisitive for her own good. Like most of my favourite characters in novels, Dido has a knack for solving mysteries involving dead bodies. Highly recommended - there have been two more books in this series since this one, so I'll be tracking them down soon.

Val McDermid writes terrific stories. She has written multiple series - this is the latest in the Tony Hill series. Earlier works were adapted for TV and resulted in Wire in the Blood, but I never found the TV series very appealing. Absorbing characters through words and carrying your own images of them in your head is infinitely more satisfying. I finished this one today and enjoyed it immensely.
This is the next book I will start. It was enthusiastically recommended to me by Sarah, so I expect it to be a good read. I love the way readers want to share their favourite stories with others, don't you?

What are your fiction recommendations? I plan heaps of reading time this year, so please leave a comment with your suggestions so I can get started!

28 December 2007

Cricket and sewing

There's something wonderful about the soothing sound of Test cricket droning on in the background while I sew. India is playing Australia in Melbourne this week and I have spent the first two days in front of the tv, hand piecing my Japanese quilt. Today, for variety, I spent the day at Jan's place, where we both spent the day in front of the tv, sewing, talking and drinking cups of tea and coffee. It was the most wonderful day. Thanks, Jan!

To answer Lisa: yes, I now have a Sydney swans garden gnome residing at my place. He is comfortably placed next to one of my indoor plants, since I wouldn't be able to see him as frequently if he was outside in the garden. To Helen: he is lining up the football to kick for goal - that's why the football is where it is!

23 December 2007

The summer garden

Lush. That's what my garden is at present; the result of some wonderful rain. The past few summers have been dry as the drought stretched across most of our country. It's been difficult to keep the water up to the plants and none of them have thrived. Until now.

This is a Hebe variation - one of many of the gorgeous plants from New Zealand in this family. Hebe, in Greek mythology, was the goddess of youth, so it's lovely to this represented in the garden. I love these plants because they are fairly hardy and have such gorgeous flowers. They brigten my spirits every time I see the glorious pink wands in bloom.

22 December 2007

Holidays!

Today is the first day of holidays - at last! I visited one of Sydney's Italian restaurant areas - Leichhardt - for lunch with a couple of family members and we indulged ourselves with wonderful food. Even though it was oppressively humid, we managed to consume an extremely tasty meal.

I discovered an extraordinary shop - The Merchant of Venice. This is a tiny shop in the Italian Forum walkway, which sells unique imported papier-mach
é masks. They have to be seen to be believed. Many are gilded in gold or silver; have feathers or ornate beading; and are simply sumptuous.The shop also sells a unique range of Venetian jewellery , which was quite tempting (but I resisted). I was reminded of the scene in The Phantom of the Opera - do you remember the masquerade ball and the costumes and masks that all the guests wore? If you are ever in Leichhardt, do visit this shop. It is so amazing.

15 December 2007

Playtime




How beautiful are these? I haven't played with ricrac braid since I left primary school, but these braids called to me in Lincraft last week and I couldn't resist. Perfect for ATCs - I feel a new series coming on.

12 December 2007

The big screen

Some movies are meant to be seen on the big screen. Elizabeth: the golden age is one of these - the glory of the patterns in the architecture, the scenery and the DIVINE costumes make this a fantastic visual feast.

I regularly go to the movies with my friend, Angela. We sometimes see movies that intrigue us (Snow Cake); movies that menace us (Michael Clayton); movies that make us cry (Brokeback Mountain) and movies that overwhelm our senses (The Phantom of the Opera). But I confess, dear reader, that last night it was the smouldering Clive Owen who was the attraction. Aaahhhh.

Honestly, this movie may be a little loose with the facts of history, but if you let all that go and ignore the schmaltz, it is a wonderful treat for the senses. There is even a wonderful sea-battle scene (it was meant to be the Spanish Armada being defeated by the English) - I do so love a good explosion, especially when it is the result of cannon-fire.

And did I mention Clive Owen?

09 December 2007

Saturday with Scquilters

Yesterday was the Sydney Scquilters Christmas party. Well, it was really just one of our regular monthly gtgs that happened to have a Christmas theme. It was a wonderful day of fun - you can read all about it on the Sydney Scquilters blog, which is maintained by Pennie. There is even a tastefully soft-focus photo of me with my recycled present (the less said about the present the better).

On the way to the Blue Gum hotel (if you are ever in Sydney on the first Saturday of the month, you are invited to join us at the Blue Gum, Waitara - we have a private room!), I stopped off at Craft Depot and ended up buying a couple of metres of this gorgeous Valori Wells print. Now I have to add 'Make a blue and green quilt' to my Things to Make List.

Now it's Sunday and a heavy thunderstorm has just finished pelting down. We've had thunderstorms most days this week and, compared to the others, this one was tame. It did have hail, though! The legacy of the storm is oppressive humidity. Welcome to a Sydney summer.

08 December 2007

Welcome the world

What a thrill - welcome to my first blog readers from Israel, Vanuatu and Iceland! I enjoy browsing the statistics that Site Meter provides and often see surprises. If you come back, dear readers, I'd love if you left a comment and tell me a little about yourselves?

06 December 2007

The Things to Make List

Here's the beginning of my Things to Make List (Does not include Things to Do - this is a totally different list!).

Let's start with the things to which I have committed.
* Kambra challenge (due ?? theme ?? I forget - must check)
* Art brooch for Rhonda (recklessly promised last time I was on holiday)
* Cecile's art quilt challenge - due 8 February
* Art Quilt Workbook lessons (after many months, I have reached the end of chapter 1)
* Aus/NZ art quilters journal quilts (one a month in 2008)
* Rock-inspired quilt (ha! you thought I'd forgotten, didn't you Susan?)

Things I want to make but haven't told anyone yet (until now).
* Scquilters Cheer me Up ATC swap - at least 4 cards due 16 April. (Better sign up for it first).
* Baby quilt for a friend
* Applique quilt with linen
* Pink and yellow quilt
* Locker hooked rug (Lessa got me interested in this when I was in Adelaide - she even let me practise on her sample)
* Framed textile pieces
* More ATCs for swapping
* Seven Sisters quilt (I have the templates. Maybe this should be on the other part of the list - I think there are at least three people who know about this).
* Another blue quilt
* Japanese floral print quilt

When exactly do I imagine I will do these things?

03 December 2007

Lush

Being a gardener encourages patience and planning. Even when you don't feel like either, the rhythm of the seasons takes over and you soon learn that all things come in good time. You may recognise this photo from earlier in the year. It was taken just after I had laid out the edging for a new garden bed, one that I planned for vegetables. It looks pretty sad, doesn't it?

I dumped a whole compost bin's worth of compost on it; dug in bags of blood and bone and cow manure and then planted. Aided by the wonderful rain we have had over the past month, everything flourished.
The tallest plants are tomatoes - two different cherry tomato varieties. They are as tall as I am and laden with flowers. The other bush on the left is also a tomato; this time a Roma. You can see some of the fruit at the bottom. In between, I have climbing beans, four types of capsicums, three eggplant bushes, a rosemary, two clumps of chives and three basil plants. Not bad for a small bed!

02 December 2007

Matt Price: a man of words

Isn't it strange how someone you've never met can have such an influence on you? Australian journalist Matt Price died last week, only two months after being diagnosed with a brain tumour. He was only 46.

I first encountered Matt's writing through the sports pages of The Australian newspaper. He was a totally committed, hopelessly besotted fan of the Fremantle Dockers AFL team. Every week during the footy season, he would despair, rejoice (although there were usually few reasons for rejoicing) and basically torment himself about his team, all the time with a wry sense of humour. Although a totally committed, hopelessly besotted fan of a totally different team in the same competition, I felt his pain.

Soon I discovered that Matt wrote about politics with the same attitude. His observations were always acute and delved below the obvious. I listened to him on the radio and, sure enough, he sounded exactly as I would have expected him to sound. He made me laugh especially since his comments were so spot on.

The world is a poorer place now that he's gone. That a person I never knew could have such an impact. I shed a tear for a person I never met. Such is the power of words.

Matt Price's obituary is here. His blog is here.

Quiltland

Queen Helen has announced the formation of a new country - Quiltland - in response to a group called Stashbusters. You can read the court's judgement in the case of Stashbusters v Helen Conway here. Liberating quilters everywhere, Queen Helen has declared:

"Today the nation of Quiltland declared its independence. An archipelago of several million islands, ranging from tiny outcrops of sewing to spacious art studios, this brand new land is already struggling to survive. Surrounded by hostile nations who claim that Quiltland is occupying land promised to them by the founding fathers of Woodwork and Mechanics, this tiny country is bravely establishing its legitimacy in the international community."

Quilters unite! Pledge your allegiance to this new land now.

28 November 2007

Organising

I think I am going to have to make lists. This year has been unsatisfying for me, creatively, and I really don't want next year to be the same. Since I have so many lists at work, I am always reluctant to take the same type of organisational approach to my personal life but perhaps a few lists might assist. Sigh. Surely there has to be a better way?

26 November 2007

Weekend venue

While I was in Braidwood, I visited exhibitions in this building, Braidwood Townstay. Built for the Bank of NSW, it is a two story building now with accommodation upstairs (four bedrooms) and a large workshop space downstairs. The whole building is self-contained and available for hire.

Immediately, I could see that this is a wonderful venue for groups of quilting friends who want to treat themselves to a weekend away in this lovely town. I can imagine arriving on a Friday afternoon and sewing like crazy until Sunday afternoon (in between visits to the quilt shop and the bakery).

I don't mean to sound like an advertisement, but the costs are so reasonable! Check out the website.

25 November 2007

Braidwood quilt event

Yesterday I drove a 550 kilometre round trip to see the annual quilt event in Braidwood. This photo of the Royal Mail Hotel is typical of the way all the buildings in the town are decorated with quilts.

I love the way the complete town gets involved.

One of the highlights was the collection of 2006 Journal Quilts made by members of the Australia/New Zealand Art Quilters online group. Alas, I wasn't organised enough to make any last year, but I plan to do so in 2008. Each participant had five quilts displayed, and they were arranged in small batches. I liked this method of display - it wasn't overwhelming, as it often can be to see a wall of small quilts. Unfortunately. I couldn't get back far enough to include complete columns of quilts in my photos, but these will give a taste of what some members achieved. I'm sorry, but I didn't write down the names of the quilters.



The Braidwood quilt event is held the last weekend of November and is a terrific way to indulge yourself. Did I mention that there is an outdoor market with lots of goodies for sale? I bought fabric pieces (of course) and some homemade jams there. No trip to Braidwood is complete without a visit to the bakery, either!

24 November 2007

He's gone

The Howard government has been voted out of office. How sweet it is.

22 November 2007

Couldn't help myself

cash advance

Okay, after seeing Kirsty's blog level, I just had to try this out and look what happened! Obviously a totally undiscerning website.

The Almost Moon

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold was my favourite novel of the year when it was published several years ago. I was transported into the tale and literally put my life on hold until I finished reading it. It was poignant, uplifting and oh-so sad. Even now I can remember how it gripped me.

So you can imagine how eagerly I waited for this new novel - The Almost Moon. Second novels are often disappointments and, while I wouldn't say that this book falls into that category, it didn't compel me the way
The Lovely Bones did.

The human mind is incredibly complex. How people make decisions and how the behaviour of other people affects us is also challenging to unravel. That's what makes us and our stories endlessly fascinating. The Almost Moon offers some insight into a dysfunctional family and the effect that each member's actions have on others. It certainly made me consider how difficult it can be to extricate ourselves from dysfunctional ties. I suppose that's why I read novels - to think about the issues raised - so in that respect the story is worthwhile pondering some more.

20 November 2007

Enough!

Surely I can't be the only person in Australia who is well and truly OVER the upcoming Federal election? The electioneering has been going on for months and the way the mainstream media breathlessly cover every minute detail makes me want to say: get a life.

I guess it's particularly irritating for me this week because I voted last Saturday by lodging a pre-poll vote. Since I plan to enjoy myself in Braidwood on Saturday at the outdoor Airing of the Quilts, I wanted voting out of the way.

The Outdoor Airing of the Quilts is a wonderful event. Braidwood is the first entire town to be listed on the state's Heritage Register. The architecture is much-admired and the quilts look amazing when they are draped over the 19th century buildings. I look forward to taking many photos to share.

19 November 2007

Tile patterns






Just when I least expect to see quilt patterns, I spotted this! Beautiful tile patterns on the outside wall of a small neighbourhood grocery store - and it's blue.

18 November 2007

New art quilt challenge

Cecile, who earlier this year organised an ATC swap to raise money for the NSW Cancer Council, has announced a new challenge for the same purpose. On her website, she says:

"This Challenge will be a lot of fun. Make a small art quilt (between 10-12 inches square) and be in the running for some great prizes.

Download the details and the Registration forms from the link below and get involved. You will need to send for your 'Challenge Material' which must be visibly incorporated into the finished project. Registration forms must be accompanied by a non refundable donation of at least AU$5 per quilt entered. You can enter up to two quilts in the challenge."

This is a terrific way to enjoy creating a quilt and also raise funds for this worthy cause. Details of the entry requirements and registration forms are available from Unique Stitching and Designs. While you are there, check out the art quilt collection of products that Cecile sells - there are some yummy bits and pieces for purchase there! The due date for entries is 8 February, so I will have time over the holidays to get mine made. Good timing!

12 November 2007

More inspiration

It must be the week for new books. Here's great one that landed on my desk at work today. Between 1999 and 2005, Jeanne Williamson made one small quilt a week. She started the process as a way to give herself permission to play with ideas and different materials but found that, as a side effect, it also stimulated her creativity and allowed her ideas to be realised in her other textile work.

In this book, Jeanne has divided materials into chapters - plastic, paper, surface design and fibre. Using her own small quilts as examples, she shows how she used these materials and encourages us all to try them too.

It's quite a hefty book - 159 pages - and I am enjoying seeing how she uses found materials to express her thoughts. Stimulating! Check out Jeanne's website here.

10 November 2007

Great new books

Time to share these new(ish) books. I've been reading through them both over the past month so it's time to share.
The Painted Quilt has great credentials - it's written by Linda and Laura Kemshall. It brings together myriad techniques that can be used to add colour to quilts above and beyond the colour of the fabrics used. All the usual methods are included: paints, pens, pastels, dyes, image transfer etc. These were known to me, but what impressed was the glorious examples of how the authors have used the techniques in their work. The photographs are wonderful.

Fabric Art Workshop by Susan Stein takes a different approach. Each chapter presents a different technique and precise instructions about how to do it. There is a gallery of quilts at the back, but no details of the techniques used on the pieces.

The difference?
The Painted Quilt inspires with the design potential of various methods of colouring cloth, while Fabric Art Workshop is a handy book for reference but not overly inspirational. The Painted Quilt is sumptuous, while Fabric Art Workshop is handy for checking the specifics of using a technique.

09 November 2007

Travel!

Travelling back from Adelaide yesterday, I was reminded why I don't enjoy trips where I can't control the transportation. Considering that I don't know how to fly a 737 plane, I was dependent on others to bring me home.

Six-and-a-half hours it took. I left for the airport at 1.30pm and arrived home at my house at 8pm. The journey was tedious for me so I won't bore you with the details, suffice it to say that you know something is going pear-shaped when you watch the luggage and catering being unloaded from your plane, just before you are due to board. Sigh.

04 November 2007

Silver linings

Here's another of my 2004 journal quilts. Having lived in Sydney all my life, I always remember August as being cold and windy with beautiful blue skies, with huge black rain clouds blowing in. This quilt was made in August and represents my memories of that month.

For this quilt, I printed all the words for 'wind' that I could find onto blue mottled fabric to represent the sky. The clouds are made from fabric I created with yarn, pieces of felt and lots of shiny silver pieces such as sequins and chocolate wrappers. The clouds are dark, but have silver linings.

Since I made this piece, some people have told me that the clouds look like islands floating in a sea. Definitely not my intention, but perhaps if I'd quilted it differently (with lines of stitching that 'blow' across the quilt) my intent would have been clearer.

Satin stitch update:
I have been having difficulty creating an even satin stitch finish around the edges of my ATCs, so I sought advice. Today I made a textile work to give as a thank-you to someone next week and I think I finally got the satin stitching right. Whew! Can't show a photo until next weekend. I'm going to Adelaide and will be at the South Australian Quilters' Guild's Festival of Quilts on Thursday. If you see me wandering around, come and say hello!

02 November 2007

Twelve by twelve

Have you seen this blog - Twelve by Twelve? To quote from the blog:

"We are quilt artists who are embarking on an art challenge together. The plan: periodically, we will each make a small quilted art piece -- 12 by 12 inches -- on a designated theme. We'll use this blog to post our process, progress, and results. We're from different places throughout the world and our artistic styles vary, but we share a love of art quilting and a desire to play, experiment, learn, and grow."

The results of the first challenge have just been posted on the blog and wow - they are fantastic. Brenda is one of the participants and I've been lucky enough to see private peeks of her quilt as it has progressed, so I've enjoyed being an observer of her creative process.

On the Twelve by Twelve blog, you can see not only the results of the challenges, but also comments by each participant and, of course, you can add your own comment. I'm entranced by how each person interprets the theme and I am already envious!

31 October 2007

Houston winners

The winning quilts from the quilt show in Houston have been announced and you can see photos here. They look sensational - I can only imagine what they look like in real life. I am in awe of the skill involved in making such amazing pieces.

I'm especially thrilled that so many Australians won prizes (yeah, I know that's my bias showing through, but hey - if we can't congratulate our own local talent...). I'm going to drool over the photos some more now.

29 October 2007

Leaves

Since I haven't made anything new this week, I'm going to revisit some of my earlier work that I don't think I've shown here.

In 2004, Nola and I decided to make journal quilts so that we could try out different techniques and just play with ideas. Our quilts were A3 size, because we wanted something smallish, but still big enough to show off whatever we chose to try.

This is my second journal quilt. It has fused leaves on a background fabric; it is hand stitched with perle thread and free-motion machine quilted. What did I learn from this quilt?

1. Don't hand quilt with perle thread through fused fabric. Extremely sore fingers will result.
2. This is the first time I tried free-motion quilting. That's why I'm not showing you a close-up photo.
3. This is the first time I sewed mitred binding. All the bindings on my other quilts are made with strips on top and bottom and then strips on the sides.
4. This was the beginning of my orange phase. I still don't know where that urge came from.
5. Orange and purple - oh yes!

Nola went on to make more journal quilts than I did. I started a new job and suddenly didn't have the brain power to be creative at home. I did, however, make three other journal quilts that year and will show you (as soon as I can find the photos). So I guess a total of four in the year isn't that bad after all?

27 October 2007

In praise of the jacaranda















These two trees are at the end of my street. Yesterday we had a fantastic thunderstorm and the effect of the rain is evident in the jacaranda flowers on the grass. Jacarandas grow brilliantly in Sydney and when they flower, it heralds the hot weather yet to come. Thunderstorm season is here and so, sadly, is the humidity, which won't leave now until March. I'm not a happy little vegemite in the humid Sydney summers.

But I digress. Jacarandas not only have glorious branch structure, but the haze that the flowers form is amazing to view from above. To fly over Sydney during this time is one of the world's best treats. I leave you with these photos of this stunning tree, taken about an hour ago.











































23 October 2007

My social life

Do events in your life cluster in groups? I go nowhere and do nothing for weeks and then suddenly I'm going out to dinner three times this week (with different friends) and seeing another couple on the weekend. I decide to go to Braidwood on 24 November to see the outdoor airing of the quilts and suddenly we are having a Federal election on the same day and I have to remember to vote (somewhere). Why can't everything be spaced out ?

Another one of my recent events: Brenda has a photo of some of my ATCs on her blog (and I didn't even think to take a photo!). Last Saturday, I talked about my collection at the NSW Quilters' Guild meeting. I think there may even be a few converts to swap cards at the December meeting, so my collection can grow some more. I think I have about 80 now, and I'd like it to reach 100 by the end of the year. Can it be done?

21 October 2007

Sprucing up

It must be a spring thing (although it was way too hot today for spring) that motivated me to change the look of my blog. I'm feeling a need for clean, crisp white and that ever-necessary colour - blue. But then again, it could be the IKEA catalogue I've been reading...

Does a tea towel make you buy a magazine?

If it does, please explain! I am a regular purchaser of Notebook magazine because I enjoy reading stories about other women's lives. Last week I bought the latest issue and it was, strangely, bundled with a Notebook tea towel.

Do these sort of things actually increase sales? A tea towel?

20 October 2007

Living the Creative Life

I always get excited when I hear of a book that explores the idea of creativity. It's an endlessly fascinating theme for me. For this book the author, Rice Freeman-Zachery, has chosen to interview 15 artists about their creative processes. One of these is Susan Shie, whose quilts have a style that has always attracted me.

There is a lot to find interesting in these stories. Thankfully, the word 'art' does not start with a capital A. It always makes me cringe when I read people saying 'I make Art' or "I do Art' - it seems so self-important.

The stories in the chapter about creative childhood were fascinating, with the suggestion of being a creative mentor to a child something to consider. Of course, my favourite chapter was about work spaces (I love seeing where people work).

After finishing dipping in and out of the book I realised that reading about other people's processes is really a form of procrastination for me. I need to stop doing this and start stitching. So if there is any value for me in Living the Creative Life it is the message to just do it.

18 October 2007

On the first Saturday of the month

I get together with my quilting friends at a hotel in Sydney's northern suburbs. We met through an online group called Southern Cross Quilters (aka Scquilters) and some of us have known each other for over 10 years now (I'm talking about you Jan!). We talk, eat and sew and, of course, have show and tell.

Now you can share the show and tell too! This week, Pennie decided to set up a blog for our group and added some photos she has taken over recent years. Here's the moral of the story - always smile for photos because you never know where they will turn up!

Check out the Sydney Scquilters blog here.

15 October 2007

Challenge results

Last March, I was given some materials for a challenge. It's taken me this long to decide what to do with them! Here's the original post, with a photo of the materials. And now, this is what I've made:

It's a small textile piece, with woven strips of homespun plus the strips of paper, all stitched. Stamped on some of the fabric. Metallic coils as tassels on the sides. It now has a place on my cork board in the sewing studio.

14 October 2007

Stitching

Just back from the NSW Embroiderers' Guild 50th anniversary exhibition, with many new ideas and a couple of skeins of gorgeous decorative threads. My goodness, there was a wealth of inspiration at that exhibition! Guild groups from around the state were represented at the show and there was a lot of really exciting textile work with intriguing hand stitching.

As I love the effect of hand stitching on my quilts, I now have a multitude of new ideas buzzing around in my head....

13 October 2007

Citrus fling

I'm still working the orange out of my system with this latest batch of ATCs. The base is my hand-dyed fabric, which has blotches of yellow and red dyes. Then pieces of a multicoloured yarn, encased under a layer of orange/pink organza to give a shimmer. I love these ones. The difference in the mottled effect on each piece of hand-dyed fabric makes each ATC look quite different.

12 October 2007

Looking for fabric

I am looking to buy some more of this fabric, preferably in Australia. It is called "Romance" by Patricia B Campbell for Timeless Treasures. I bought it years ago, so it may not be still around. The number on the selvedge is #PCAM-C-3828. I want a couple of metres, if anyone can help?

The result

Finished this batch this afternoon - 14 ATCs is the result!

Weaving therapy 2






I've finished weaving the 1/4-inch strips together to make this piece. I've started stitching along the strips - it sure takes a lot of thread!

Once the stitching is finished, I'll cut this up and make ATCs from the pieces. I am in love with this colour combination at the moment and want to use it in everything!

08 October 2007

Diary pleasures

Stationery excites me. The most exciting form is a diary and I have been on a life-long quest to find the perfect diary.

I usually buy a diary about September, for the next year. I like to have one week to a double page spread and, since I carry it everywhere, I like it to be a compact size. Not those teeny, weeny ones but about 15cm high. I like a spiral bound diary and I require it have essential information such as last year's and next year's calendars. Anything else is a bonus.

Last year, I discovered Debden's Swiss Cheese range and thought I would try one. Loved it instantly, because it had a blue cover (so superficial) but mainly because it has a double page monthly planner at the beginning of every month. Perfect for anyone who works to deadlines, like I do!

So, of course, September rolled around and I started looking for a 2008 diary in the same range. I automatically went back to the store where I purchased this year's diary.
"When will your diaries be in stock?" I asked.
"If we had any, they'd be over there," I was told.
"That's not what I asked," I said. "I can see there aren't any there. I'm asking when they will be here."
"If they're not on that shelf, we don't have any," came the reply.
"You mean you don't know the answer to my question," I said, quite nicely I thought.
"Umm, I suppose not."
Duh.

So I returned every Saturday during September and had exactly the same conversational exchange each time. October arrived and I started to worry. What if I couldn't buy one of the same type of diaries for 2008? I had important dates to note for 2008. I had things to plan; deadlines to record! How much longer would I have to wait; would I have to settle for an inferior diary?

You'll be pleased to know I purchased my
Debden's Swiss Cheese 2008 diary last weekend (this time with a lovely green cover). From a different store. All is well with the world.

07 October 2007

Lessons from a Campanula

This photo is for you, Michelle. It's amazing how many things I have learnt from this plant.

I bought this Campanula at least 10 years ago. I had it in a hanging basket on my balcony and the plant formed a tight, green mat of foliage for most of the year. Tiny, jagged leaves were all I saw most of the time until, once a year, it burst into glorious bloom.

Once had a proper garden, I divided up the plant and planted pieces of it in different pockets of the garden. Some pieces spread, while others withered. It rarely flowered. This year, my
various Campanula plants are covered in tiny, bell-shaped flowers. I love it more than ever.

So what lessons has it taught me?
1. How to focus my camera for close-up shots. I've only achieved that skill today.
2. How I adore blue flowers.
3. How to be patient and persistent.
4. How to appreciate what is here today.

02 October 2007

Combining two favourites

I love a dead body in my reading matter. Combine that with my interest in craft and this book is a perfect match. Murder Most Crafty is an anthology of 15 short stories all with a common element - mystery with a crafty angle.

Not usually fond of short stories (because they often start to get interesting just before they end) I will make an exception for this collection. Non-demanding reading, dead bodies galore and crafty women who have noses for sleuthing - it adds up to stories perfect for bedtime reading. Haven't come across a quilting-related story yet, though.

To AJ (who asked what an ATC is): ATC stands for Artist Trading Card. These cards are 2 1/2 inches x 3 1/2 inches and, if made by textile artists, they are constructed with fabric and other embellishments. You can see some examples of my last ATC swap here.

01 October 2007

Weaving therapy

It's a ghastly day, weather-wise, here in Sydney. Over 30 degrees, wild gusty westerly winds and low humidity - we all know those conditions result in bushfires. Sure enough, fires have broken out on the northern and southern outskirts of the suburbs. If this is spring, I'm not looking forward to summer.

To escape the weather (and to ease the accompanying hay fever), I've spent the day sewing. My first batch of ATCs is completed and I've started to weave fabric strips for the next.

This is a very time-consuming process, but I also find it quite soothing. Therapeutic, really. The act of weaving quarter-inch strips allows my hands to do the work while my mind wanders. As you can see, there's a long way to go before I've finished these strips. Then I'll fuse them to the interfacing and start the stitching along every strip - horizontally and vertically. So it will take a while, but eventually this piece will end up as another set of ATCs.

Thanks to everyone who looked at my blog yesterday. I've changed the type of counter that's on my blog so you can see how many visitors (scroll down and look at the right-hand side of the screen). Next time it gets near a number with a zero, we can count up together!

I get so excited when people leave comments on my blog. Assuming that other bloggers might feel the same, my new aim is to leave more messages. Imagine the fun if we all did this!

30 September 2007

The letter E

I glad to admit I don't have an obsession for buttons. I have enough obsessions already. However, I do have a small collection of buttons with the letter E on them. I haven't seen that many letter buttons around, so my collection only numbers about six, but I have just added to that with these little beauties.

I purchased them in Mittagong a couple of weeks ago - don't you find things in the most unlikely places? They are made from wood and are wonderfully light.

Thanks for the comments on my previous post. Now I don't feel unloved!

10,000 is creeping closer....

Added: 8.02pm 30 September:
I've had several enquiries about the source of these buttons.
I bought them from Applicuts, who had a stall at the Quilt Indulgence Festival in Mittagong. I'm not sure if the buttons are on the website yet - they were very new at the time - but you could probably email them and ask!

29 September 2007

All those zeros

Interesting how we all celebrate numbers with zeros. Milestone birthdays end in zeros, significant anniversaries end in zeros. I have two lots of numbers ending in zeros coming up very soon - my 10,000th blog visitor and my 200th blog post. The first should be reached withing the next few days and the second depends on how many posts I make this week!

So please leave a comment. I want to send some of my artist trading cards on journeys - tell me why you'd like one of my ATCs and you might end up with one. Be the 10,000th visitor and you can have one too! Please prove to me that someone actually reads this blog instead of just stumbling over it accidentally.

28 September 2007

Transformation

Cruising blogs, as you do, I read Sarah London's latest entry tonight. Look at this and admire what she's done to her computer table. Fabric plus spray paint - what a combination. Love it!

24 September 2007

Now I understand

why I start collecting fabrics in a particular colourway. It is always due to a subconscious thought I have for a new quilt.

The two fabrics in the background are the linen/cotton blends I bought on Saturday. They cried out to be purchased because I already had the fabrics shown on top in my stash (purchased last year). I still need a rose-coloured print - I'm thinking maybe spots. No definite design yet, but I feel a need for half-square triangle borders...

23 September 2007

Colour in the garden

It's a glorious spring day here and I've enjoyed cleaning up a couple of garden beds and spreading around cow manure and mulch - yes, really! The colours of nasturtium flowers and leaves in this blue ceramic pot were a pleasure to see. My nasturtiums are scattered around the garden, but I like to have this pot near the back door where I can see it without having to go outside. For a long time, the plants have flourished, but there haven't been flowers until recently. I just love the colours and the shapes of the flowers. The leaves are interesting - after rain, tiny balls of water sit on top of them, like drops of dew. Gorgeous.

I washed my linen/cotton fabrics today and now they are beautifully soft after the sizing has gone. Definitely they need applique. Something naive, I think...

22 September 2007

Aimless

Having been at work for the past 12 consecutive days, I am particularly aimless today. Plenty of things I could do and plenty of things I want to do, but no desire to actually start any of them. Having slept for 10 hours last night, I still feel as if I need a nap now.

This morning I bought some beautiful linen/cotton blend fabric. I didn't plan to - I went to the shop to buy a spool of thread. The fabrics are two plain colours - a creamy colour and a blue. Gorgeous. I feel that they need applique so I want to work out a motif that isn't too difficult so that I can consider using needle turn. I also feel the fabric needs stitching in perle thread, so that has to be factored in as well - when my brain starts functioning again. Has anyone else used linen in their quilts?

18 September 2007

The pursuit of excellence

Now I've seen everything. If you think quilters can be obsessed, you should see the series currently being shown on ABC TV here in Australia. Tonight was the turn of pumpkin growers in the USA - the lords of the gourd. Many of them treat their pumpkins as pets.

I was riveted as I watched the compulsion of these people, whose aim is to grow the largest pumpkin in the world. There are some absolute whoppers here! I was particularly taken by the pumpkin that grew supported on a small trampoline so that it could grow a rounded bottom instead of a flat one. Who'd have thought?

Check out this link to The Sydney Morning Herald review. Next week it's ferrets. Not sure about watching that one.

12 September 2007

Mittagong, NSW

Mittagong is a lovely town in the Southern Highlands of NSW. There are two patchwork shops, with another one in nearby Berrima, plus an embroidery shop. Of course, there are interesting gardens to see and antique shops to visit. And did I mention the yummy food?

That's where I'm headed tomorrow for work. We sponsor the Quilt Indulgence Festival, which starts on Friday, and I'll be surrounded by quilts, quilts and more quilts. Haven't heard of the Festival? See this website for details.

If you visit the Festival, please come and say hello. Did I mention I'll be the one surrounded by quilts?

11 September 2007

More AMS

Helen commented the other week that she had met Alexander McCall Smith (AMS). Green with envy, that's what I was. That very same day I discovered he was here in Australia! Sadly in Melbourne (well, not so sad for Melbournians, I suppose) but since that's not where I am, he may as well be on the other side of the world.

So here I am, instead, reading the latest in the 44 Scotland Street series. It's astonishing how quickly you can pick up the threads of the characters' lives, even if the previous book was a year ago. Poor Bertie. What an eye-opener to see the world from the perspective of a six year old. This book is quite wicked as it lulls you along and then suddenly you find yourself chuckling.

AMS has single-handedly made me long to visit Edinburgh.

09 September 2007

Disappointment and optimism

The footy season came to abrupt end for us Swans supporters last night when the team was totally outplayed and will therefore proceed no further this season. They don't call it an elimination final for nothing. Extremely disappointing but they just didn't play as well as we know they can. I will now have my ritual end-of-year washing of the footy scarf; the formal end to each season.

The rain eased off today so I was able to venture into the garden and continue to cut up pieces of bougainvillea and cram them into the recycling bin. As I looked around, I saw a miracle:


yes - it's lavender in bloom! You may remember that I have killed seven lavender plants in six years, so this is cause for celebration. I rushed to take photos because the plant may drop dead tomorrow, given my record so far. Beautiful flower buds - I am too scared to even touch them.

When flowers like this emerge, I feel optimistic that other things will work out too.

07 September 2007

Shopping

A quilter's thoughts turn to the sewing room when a spare day presents itself. Since it was raining, today seemed to be a day for nesting at home, but something kept irritating me about my work space - the mess.

Well, maybe that's not the correct term. Perhaps untidiness would be more accurate. The thing that has bugged me the most for ages is that my cutting mat suffers from fabric-creep - where piles of fabrics seem to accumulate on the sewing table and slowly encroach on my cutting mat so that every time I want to cut, I have to sweep piles away. (Yes, I know I could put things away after I use them, but where's the fun in that?)

So, after perusing my favourite reading matter - the IKEA catalogue - I took myself off to the store. I measured and thought it through carefully - I would buy the Antonius system of baskets, with a solid top. Cutting surface and storage in one! How ingenious.

This is what I returned with instead:
I present the Forhoja - my new cutting table with two handy drawers for rotary cutters, small rulers, templates and the like. My cutting mat fits beautifully on top. I envisage the two shelves with baskets of fabric and I plan to attach cuphooks at one end to hang large rulers. And it moves! This is one of the attractions - I can roll it into a convenient position for cutting and push it back against the wall when I'm not using it. I so love IKEA.

And yes, Helen, I love snooping at other quilters' sewing areas, too!

06 September 2007

Fine line

Tomorrow is a public holiday in Sydney because our government doesn't want us in our own city. APEC is in town and we have all been told to go away and come back on Monday. In addition to extraordinary levels of bowing and scraping to the leaders of other countries, there have been special laws passed, an exclusion zone defined and an enormous fence built through the city to keep the VIPs separate.

There's a fine line between security and paranoia but the distinction appears to have been lost here.

In the meantime, most of us plan to ignore it all and enjoy the sleep-in - that's what I'll be doing!

04 September 2007

Simple pleasure

Here's another sign that I am easily pleased. There I was, innocently having fun stacking my perle threads in different colour configurations. I enjoy stitching on my ATCs with these glorious colours so much that I wonder why I even own a sewing machine.

02 September 2007

Here they are

Totally individual ATCs, swapped yesterday at our Sydney Scquilters get together. Lucky me!

I am pooped after a day of jumping, screaming and applauding at the footy. The Swans thrashed the opposition and a good time was had by all. Now for the finals...

Note added 4 September:
Lissa wants to know who made the ATCs. Doh! I should have included this in the first place. Top row from left: Lisa, Liz, Lissa and Sue. Bottom row from left: Dianne, Pennie (well spotted Lissa!) and Maggie.

01 September 2007

Oh no,

not more ATCs!

Yes, it's true. A woman can never have too many ATCs. Today we swapped and tomorrow I will take photos. We were supposed to make two - one to swap and one to keep - but I was wildly giving them out like, well, like trading cards. They were supposed to be samples for a demonstration I am presenting but they were eager to be liberated. Must make more...

28 August 2007

Blood moon

I've been popping in and out of the house all night to watch the lunar eclipse and finally the moon turned red (just as promised)! Caity has a great photo of the blood moon on her blog if you want a look. Very spooky.

26 August 2007

One thing leads to another

So here's the thing - put a pair of secateurs in my hand and an urge to prune overtakes me. Give me a pruning saw and it becomes the urge to destroy. Who knows what would happen if I had access to a chain saw?

I have a bougainvillea growing against my side fence. In late winter, I prune it back to thicken up the growth. It then rewards me with masses and masses of flowers all summer long. Yesterday I did the pruning and filled my recycling bin with the thorny cuttings.

But then, last night, I saw on Gardening Australia on TV that they visited a bougainvillea specialist and he described how he cut his plants back very hard every six months. So you can guess what happened today - I now have a stump. It has a diameter wider than my arm and is about a foot tall. Oh dear, what have I done? I will report back in a month or so whether it has sprouted new growth or curled up its toes.

PS. As a result of this extreme gardening, several long, strong thorns inserted themselves in the pads of my fingers (yes, I had gloves on). This makes it extremely painful to type. Should be interesting at work this week...

23 August 2007

Sydney through Cliff's eyes

For over 25 years, I have been engaged by a fictional character, Cliff Hardy. Cliff is the protagonist in Peter Corris' series of novels and he is a private investigator, based in Sydney. Since The Dying Trade was first published in 1980, I have followed Cliff's investigations and life adventures through these stories.

Kerry Greenwood, another wonderful Australian novelist says:
"I don't know how many Cliff Hardy novels there are, but there aren't enough."
and I have to agree with her. In fact, there are 31 in the series so far.

Cliff has not had an easy life. He has been bashed so many times; has had many relationships with women, some happy and some not so happy; has solved cases; has taught PI skills at college to eager students - all the while living in a shabby terrace in Glebe. In the most recent book, Cliff tries to deal with being stripped of his investigator's licence while at the same time seeking revenge for his lover's death.


Over the years, Cliff has found crime in practically all the suburbs of Sydney. Corris' descriptions of place are so spot-on and he is the quintessentially Sydney bloke. Peter Corris says of Cliff:

"He
has a love-hate relationship with his time and place. He embraces the best aspects of Australian life - the tolerance, the classlessness, the vigorous urban and rural culture - while despising the greed and the conservatism that are constantly threatening to undercut what he sees as "real Australia".
 
I have been a Cliff groupie for a long time now and have enjoyed meeting Peter Corris several times at book readings during the years I worked in a library. To hear Corris read from a Cliff book is the ultimate thrill for such a groupie and his skill as a writer has ensured that Cliff is revered as the most famous Australian hard-boiled detective. Bring on the next book - soon!

20 August 2007

Aaahh

Don't you wish the author of your favourite books would write more quickly? This is one of my common dilemmas - when a long-awaited new title arrives, should I start reading straight away, devouring the story, or should I savour each chapter, reading it slowly?

Sometimes I rush out and buy the book, and then look at it and fondle it for ages before I start reading. This is because I know that once it is finished, there will be another long wait until the next one arrives.

This is what happened with the latest novel in the Isabel Dalhousie series of books by Alexander McCall Smith. This series is simply lovely. Sounds like a wussy description, but it's not. The novels celebrate thinking - thinking about one's effect on other people; thinking about consequences; and thinking about kindness.

My favourite sentence from this novel:
"Do not act meanly, do not be unkind, because the time for setting things right may pass before your heart changes course."
How true is that?

I finished the novel last night and immediately felt sad it was over. According to the author, he will be starting work on the next in the series in December so I guess there will be no more until late next year. Sigh.

(Which reminds me, the funniest book I have read recently is also by
Alexander McCall Smith. It is called The 2 1/2 Pillars of Wisdom and is screamingly funny, once you get into the rhythm of the story. Laugh out loud!)

19 August 2007

Surfacing

You've probably been wondering where I've been, but I can assure you I haven't been flitting around on some exotic holiday. It's been a week of focusing on all the commitments I have and mostly that means work.

After a soothing afternoon last Sunday spent in the company of Nola and Carol, it seemed as if I would ease on into the working week. Indeed, this is what happened and before I knew it, suddenly it was Friday and I had plans to meet up with friends for dinner. I try to avoid going out on Friday nights because usually I'm brain dead but I rallied and we had a fun time catching up.

Yesterday was market day at the NSW Quilters' Guild meeting, where members could sell their wares. For the grand sum of $1.60, I purchased four pieces of blue fabric (of course, I can never had enough blue fabrics) from Kay. I also purchased a pack of Brenda's notecards, each one featuring one of her quilts. She still has some for sale if you are interested. One of my great plans is to produce such cards with photos of my own quilts but since I haven't done that yet I thought using Brenda's was the next-best thing.

During the week I discovered I have been nominated by two people (Susan and Nola) for the
for this blog. Thanks! It's one of those pass-it-on awards; this one is for being friendly and creative, I guess. I think the word 'nice' is under-rated. Some people think it is a trite and overused adjective but it has positive overtones to me. If you think you deserve this award, consider yourself nominated!

It's been raining since late last night and my garden is soaking up the precious drops. It's a perfect day to stay inside (perhaps with a short nap later) and try to overcome my disappointment with the draw we had at the footy last night. A draw. Can you believe that? It was such a tense game that I was quite exhausted afterwards so maybe that nap would help.

12 August 2007

Remembering

Last night, I went to the footy. Before the game, there was the most extraordinary event - the Field of Women. Over 13,000 women, all wearing pink ponchos, and 500 men, wearing blue ones, filed onto the stadium to fill out the shape of a Pink Lady. This is the symbol of Breast Cancer Network Australia, the national organisation for Australians personally affected by breast cancer.

13,000 Australian women and 500 Australian men are diagnosed with breast cancer EVERY year. Did you realise that? To see so many people on the field last night was the most life-affirming experience. I cried. It was an extraordinary symbol of support for any Australian touched in any way by breast cancer.

I remembered you, Chris Seccombe.

11 August 2007

ATC session

I am presenting a session on Artist Trading Cards at the Quilt Indulgence Festival on 15 and 16 September. This will include a guided tour through my collection of ATCs that I have swapped over the past few years. Each person in the session will have the opportunity to make an ATC or two , so I've been trying out simple new designs that can be stitched by hand. These are my first two, but I have several others in mind. I am enjoying the hand stitching and look forward to doing more of it.