31 December 2008

I got distracted

I was going to write one of those isn't-it-great-that-there-is-a-new year-starting type of posts, but I got distracted by a handful of back-to-school catalogues in my letter box.

The whole of Australia is on school holidays at present. The new school year starts at the end of January or early February, depending where you live, so there's at least a month's worth of holidays left. But that's not good enough for our retail industry. Oh no, now that the Christmas shopping is over, back to school is the next big thing.

I have to confess I love it. There is nothing more appealing than a stationery catalogue (except maybe an IKEA catalogue). All those pens and pencils to investigate and a multitude of notebooks with interesting covers. Do I like an A4 sized one better than an A3? Or what about a tiny pad with a spiral at the top? Do I like a rigid plastic cover or a paper-covered one? Too many decisions to make, but what a great time I have pondering.

The stock will be in stores later in the week. I know what I will be doing then, carefully considering the options and then buying notebooks I will probably not use. What a great time I'll have and how much pleasure it will give me - and the prices will be great!

30 December 2008

There would have been photos

except my camera's batteries are flat. And so are the spare ones. And the second spare ones.

Obviously I'm not meant to show you my blue and yellow curved star hexagons yet. You have to just trust me that there are three so far, they are gorgeous and I'm very happy (and easily pleased).

In the meantime, hand piecing continues...

28 December 2008

A favourite combination

Blue and yellow - one of my favourites.

I've been cutting pieces for more curved star hexagon blocks, this time with a particular colour layout in mind. This is the perfect activity in conjunction with an afternoon's cricket on the TV.

27 December 2008

Discount shopping

I took advantage of Spotlight's one-day 20% off sale today to restock my sewing supplies with such standards as fusible webbing, interfacing and thread. Of course, a few extra purchases found their way into my basket, including these two white-and-black fabrics.

I thought that, at $8.99 per metre less 20%, they would be handy additions to my stash. Amazingly, when the barcodes were scanned, the price turned out to be $3.00 less 20%, or $2.40 per metre. Made my day really.

26 December 2008

Grateful

Thankfully, I have made it through another Christmas season (which seems to have started in October, if you believe all the hype perpetrated by the retail industry) without going around screaming "bah, humbug!". For this I am relieved and grateful.

I am also grateful to all of you for reading my blog since it started in 2006, and especially grateful to those of you who leave comments or send me email. It is a much appreciated way you let me know that the tidbits I share with you aren't ending up in a big black hole. May it continue into 2009!

The heat has arrived with a vengeance. Today it was 35 degrees here (sorry to all you northern hemisphere readers who may be snowed in, but can you please send some cool air to my place?) and it looks as if the rest of the week will be similar. To cool down, I am just about to eat a chilled mango, which has to be one of life's great pleasures. See, another thing for which I am grateful!

24 December 2008

Tulip 2


Another little tulip quilt; this time with selvedges for binding. I like the light and summery effect this adds to the tulip.

Thank you to all my friends who donated their selvedges to me this year, especially Brenda and Kate, who gave colour coordinated ranges. (Brenda gave Kaffe Fassett and Kate gave Heather Bailey.) I have enough selvedges to last for a very long time!

23 December 2008

Tulips

I'm still interested in flower shapes, especially this simple tulip. This week, I've made a few into postcard-sized quilts. This size interests me at present, so I will experiment some more.

Sometimes I have to work an idea out of my system. I seem to have stopped my compulsion to make ATCs, but I am still fascinated by small textile pieces, rather than bed-sized quilts (although I do have a few on the go). I'm happy to see where that leads me.

22 December 2008

In the garden

I was shattered this morning to discover that last night the possum ate every single leaf and most of the flowers on my pumpkin vine. If you read this blog regularly, you will know that I am a tad obsessed with this !!%%***!! possum, since it seems to consider that my vegetable garden exists simply for its dinner. I had the plant in a cage while it was small, but the cage was removed two weeks ago so that the vine could spread out. It survived, untouched, until last night. This is war.

One of my successes is shown below. I planted two varieties of
Streptocarpus in a single hanging basket earlier this year and they are both flowering beautifully. The light pink is variety 'Laura', but I can't recall the name of the dark-flowered one. Aren't they gorgeous?

I spent today in the company of creative women, all of whom I met through Material Obsession. Sarah hosted a most wonderful meal at her home and we ate, talked and laughed all afternoon. Thank you Sarah - it was a stimulating day and good for the soul.

21 December 2008

Jewellery challenge

Deryn Mentock has created stunning jewellery, based on the techniques in the book I mentioned last week. I have drooled over what Deryn has created - you may want to pop over to see her photographs. Thanks to Erica, who referred me to this site!

20 December 2008

Blink

and half a week slips past! Aside from work and watching the cricket, I've spent time talking to friends, mostly bragging about my nephew. He received the results of his final high school exams this week and did extremely well, achieving first place in the state for one subject and second place in the state for three subjects. He was also included in the distinguished achievers list. Well deserved!

Work is finished for the year and Sydney is starting its slide into holiday mode. Summer holidays here mean most small businesses close down and everyone relaxes. Laid-back mode is the way to go!

16 December 2008

My list

is looking less imposing because I have completed another two items. Crossing out finished tasks is immensely satisfying, don't you think? One article written and submitted - tick! One quilt measured and layout diagram drawn - tick!

I think it probably shows me in a tangible way that I am making progress. It is easy to roam aimlessly around the house without my list to keep me focused. Even if I can achieve a couple of the items on my list each day, I feel positive. Tomorrow's tasks: return some quilts and start sorting through my stash for fabrics for a workshop next month. My personal challenge is to find 200, 4 1/2-inch squares in two colourways without buying any extra fabric. Hmm.

Lindi - I tried my new toy with corn fritters tonight. Excellent.

15 December 2008

Incidental shopping

I finished the Christmas shopping this morning. As is usually the way, I came across something so cute and unnecessary that I bought it. Here is my silicon heart-shaped egg ring. It has a handy lift up handle, just to make it easy to remove from the pan. I'll be trying it out very soon!

14 December 2008

Coming together

I've sewn some of my Curved Star Hexagon blocks together in a strippy layout, with diamonds to join them. This will form the centre of a small quilt, so I need to decide on the borders next. Hmmm.

11 December 2008

Accidental discovery

I came across this book at the library today. I think I am in love.

Many, many years ago, I had the most wonderful bracelet. It was made from hammered copper sections, joined with links. I loved that bracelet to death and I have adored copper jewellery ever since.

This book, Wrap, Stitch, Fold & Rivet: Making Designer Metal Jewelry by Mary Hettmansperger, has instructions to make stunning jewellery with copper and silver sheeting and wire. That's all I can tell you about the book now. I'm going to drool in private now.

Reminder: don't forget Material Obsession's swap day on Saturday. I'll be looking for you!

10 December 2008

Lifelong learning

I'm a committed believer of lifelong learning. There is so much to explore in this world and it always fascinates me how one thing leads to another (if you let it). The way we use technology has changed so much in my lifetime and it can be a challenge to find answers to our questions so we can keep the information that is relevant to us and throw out the rest.

My copy of Gloria Hansen's book, Digital Essentials, arrived today. I ordered it from The Craft Mailbox last Sunday - I think that's spectacular service during this busy period of the year.

Written specifically for quiltmakers, this book has plenty to teach me and I am looking forward to acquiring more
digital image skills.

09 December 2008

Three things that pleased me today

1. I've accomplished several items on my to-do list. It sure feels great crossing them out.
2. The plumber installed two new toilet cisterns in my house. No more ugly yellowing plastic and no more water wastage. (You may not share my pleasure about this event, but trust me on this.)

3. My hydrangea in the dappled shade (well, I don't think you'd want a photo of the toilet cisterns!).

08 December 2008

Next Saturday

is a big day at Material Obsession, 144 Pittwater Road Gladesville, between 9.30am-4.30pm. You can swap fabrics, see Kathy's and Sarah's new quilts, enjoy a quilt show in the garden, and enrol in 2009 classes. Oh, of course, you can SHOP!

So now that you know where to be on Saturday, I can tell you my exciting news. Remember these blocks I've been working on over the past few months? Well, starting next February I will offer Saturday classes, showing how to use the perspex templates to cut accurate pieces and how to hand piece them together. Come along and make a series of blocks, or make a quilt - it's your choice!

Hand piecing is so soothing - it is the perfect antidote to our busy lives. You know you need quiet me-time every so often. Why not join me for these classes?

But you need to enrol next Saturday at the shop. So, make a day of it - come early, enjoy the atmosphere, buy fabulous fabric and sign up to join me in 2009. All the shop's classes will fill quickly (they always do), so don't miss out. I'll be there on Saturday, so come and have a chat.




07 December 2008

I know I'm procrastinating when I

... spend an hour creating folders and organising my bookmarked websites into categories.
... wander aimlessly around in my garden, picking things up and putting them down.
... write lists.
... look at a pile of magazines that need to be shelved, but start reading them (again) instead.
... sit, gazing into the distance.

Obviously my subconscious is working through some ideas and requires extra brain processing power. I'm sure it will be revealed in due course. In the meantime, I think I'll go back into the garden where I'm sure my zucchini plants have grown since I looked at them this morning.

04 December 2008

French brocade

Nola travelled to Europe and look what she bought back for me! Simply stunning French brocade. This is one side...

and this is the other. How totally gorgeous is this piece of fabric?

03 December 2008

Prints Charming

How gorgeous are these fabrics? Designed by my friends Cath and Kirsten at Prints Charming, these fabrics practically jumped off the table and begged me to buy them this morning when I visited their shop. Since I don't like to see fabrics feel unwanted, I obliged by purchasing a piece of each print.

I have been collecting lime green, blue, white and aqua fabrics for a couple of months now. I don't have a firm design worked out for them yet, but I know that when I see them altogether, it will all become clear. The colours remind me of the sea, and since it is now officially summer (and it's well over 30 degrees here today) I know the quilt will cheer me.

While I was in the shop, Kirsten told me about their Market Day on 13 December. If you are in Sydney then, treat yourself and pop into the shop. If you're not in the market for fabric, there are many handmade items for sale as well. Don't forget to say you read about it here!

02 December 2008

Finished!

All finished, packed and ready to mail - my quilt, Enjoy Every Day, 12 inches x 12 inches, for the Unique Stitching Art Quilt Challenge.

Don't forget to visit the Twelve by Twelve blog where quilts on the theme 'Maths' have been revealed. I think these make most interesting collection yet.

01 December 2008

Erica goes to IKEA

and comes home exhausted. As is usual, I went to buy a particular item and came home with more, including this Fira small drawer unit. I want this to sit handy to my sewing machine, so I can store some of my threads.

I have assembled it already (note to self: a rechargable screwdriver needs to be charged after use so it is ready to be used next time) and painted it with primer. Unsurprisingly, I will paint my thread box in gorgeous blue.

30 November 2008

Hail storm

Yesterday evening, a huge hail storm hit our area. It only lasted about 15 minutes (although it was building for hours), yet it was quite dramatic. All the white stuff you can see in the first photo is hail stones. Not only did they cover the ground, but they shredded leaves from all the plants. (By the way, the strange shape in the first photo is my hessian bag full of potato plants. I have surrounded it in chicken wire so that the possum can't eat the foliage. Works a treat, but looks odd.)

This is a closeup of the hail and shredded leaves. I love the texture the storm created. Maybe I can use this image to print an interesting pattern on cloth? Must play around with it in Photoshop.

29 November 2008

Casting off and increasing

This has been a huge year for me. I decided to stop working full time in a paid job so that I could de-stress and spend more time doing a variety of activities. Of course, I still need to support myself, so it was challenging to work out a pattern of working part time that would allow me to do so. So far, so good.

I've also been enjoying using materials in my stash to make quilts. I have an awful lot of fabric, some of which I had even forgotten buying, and it has been very satisfying to use some of it in a creative manner.

I have focused on developing my EQ6 skills and have taken courses to facilitate that. Yesterday I enrolled for the Quilt University course EQ6 Advanced Layouts with Fran Gonzalez, which starts on 2 January. Fran was an excellent teacher in the previous course (EQ6 Building Blocks) so I am looking forward to practising in her lessons.

Finally, just this week, I have unsubscribed from a particular internet quilting list that had been wasting my time. I decided that the list provided so few messages to enrich my life - I had to stop.

So here's to casting off old habits and increasing the focus on the positives in life. Will you join me?

26 November 2008

EQ layouts

Thanks for the comments about my Garden of Stars layout. I enjoy the flexibility of using EQ to preview potential quilt layouts and to colour them with real fabrics. I am learning more about the flexibility of EQ and am slowly developing my skills (though I think the EQ forum is probably hoping I can acquire skills more quickly!)

I'd like to recommend you pop over to visit Judy Butcher's blog, Virtual Quilter. As she says on her site:
"The quilts featured on this site are virtual quilts, designed on Electric Quilt. No stash has been harmed in the process."
Judy has designed some fantastic quilts and it is an inspiration to me to see how she combines blocks. Hi Judy, and thanks!

25 November 2008

Challenge progress

Now I can show you detail of part of my challenge quilt. It needs hand sewing now, but I'm pleased it will make the deadline. Once I finish this quilt and send it off, I need to finish the labels and hanging sleeves for my journal quilts so they can be sent off in December.

I find all these finishing details tedious, but necessary. I'll feel pretty virtuous once they are done!

24 November 2008

Garden of Stars

Here's the Rose Star block in a virtual quilt, designed in EQ. What better name to give it than Garden of Stars?

Mmm, cherries

Anticipation highlights the pleasure to come. Cherries - so delicious.

23 November 2008

Words

Words can often change lives, sometimes for the better. Often they allow us to take a different direction in our lives as we encounter previously unknown circumstances. The power of words is obvious in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Words in books, words in letters and words in action.

You may have realised I love this book. I love the matter-of-fact way that the horrors of war are recounted. People just deal with their circumstances in the best way they can, no matter how horrible the times. Words forge a sense of connection.

This book is a gem. The words of the authors bring the characters to life; so much so that it makes us want to travel to Guernsey to meet them. Words, words, words - where would we be without them?

22 November 2008

Rose Star

I've finished hand piecing my Rose Star block and here it is in all its glory.

This is a one patch block - there is only one template needed. The outside edge of the hexagon is 8 1/2 inches (unfinished). You can buy the perspex template from Material Obsession or email them - tell them you saw the block here!

21 November 2008

If the cricket's being played

it must be nearly summer. It is day two of Australia versus New Zealand in Brisbane. Considering the battering Brisbane and southern Queensland have taken from massive storms over the past few days, it's reassuring to know that life (and the cricket) still goes on. I hope that Brisbane-based readers are safe. My thoughts are with you.

19 November 2008

Embossing

Fun with glue and embossing powder on cardboard letters for my challenge quilt.
I love the shape of letters and want to include more fonts in my work. I planned to arrange them to spell three particular words, but now that I've seen them jumbled I think I like them better this way. Can you work out the three words?

18 November 2008

Potted delights

I have a row of potted African Violets on my kitchen windowsill. They cheer me every day as I fuss over their wellbeing. When I discover new flower buds developing, it thrills me as if I am personally responsible for their birth.

This is today's photo of one of these plants. This one is in full flower and is simply gorgeous. All my African Violets love the north-facing window and reward me with stunning flowers. It's a wonderful way to greet the morning and I feel happy whenever I see them.

17 November 2008

Self portrait

So here's the thing. I want to enter a challenge with a theme of self portrait. I don't make pictorial quilts or quilts with realistic images - that's not my style at all. So what to do?

This is a design I drew in EQ and will be my starting point for my small quilt. I have to include the challenge fabric (an old Jinny Beyer print) so I'm not yet sure how I will work it into the design. Stand by - I have my thinking cap on!

16 November 2008

Cut off

I love using the internet to stay in touch with what other people are creating. I read all my subscription blogs through Bloglines because it is an easy way to see who has posted recently. So, when Bloglines refused to provide me with feeds of any blogs for 24 hours, I felt cut off from my usual fix.

Things happen! People keep creating and I want to know about it! Thankfully, my feeds are now starting to come through so I can catch up. Whew.

One thing that has changed is that Sharon has moved her blog from In a Minute Ago to a new platform and given it a new name - Pin Tangle. Looks terribly swish!

15 November 2008

Passionfruit

Growth in the garden occurs whether I am looking or not. Today's discovery is flowers on the passionfruit vine - at last! This is the Nelly Kelly variety; a heavy cropping vine with black-skinned fruit. The flowers are stunning!

13 November 2008

If it's November

then it is jacaranda time in Sydney. It doesn't get better than this.

You can see more of my jacaranda photos here.

12 November 2008

Rose Star

I have spent ages this afternoon fussy cutting the pieces for this Rose Star block. It is an interesting one patch block (yes, there's only a single shape) and I have laid out the cut pieces so I can see the full impact of the design. I suspect this will be a challenge for me to draw in EQ6! Now the stitching begins.

10 November 2008

Regaining equilibrium

My favourite place in the whole world is my home. Over the past two weeks, I have spent way too much time away from home - mostly working, but also a flurry of other activities. It's not good for me, so today I tried to regain my sense of balance by doing simple things at home.

Now the washing is clean and fluttering outside in the sun on the clothesline. I have smoothed fresh sheets onto my bed. I have ironed a small bundle of new fabrics. Best of all, I have sown a multitude of vegetable seeds in my seedling tray and given them lifeblood - water. Watching the seedlings emerge will be one of my greatest pleasures over the next couple of weeks.

08 November 2008

The influence of others

We can never really know the impact our words and actions can have on other people. All we can do is be honest and open, and accept every person as they are.

I saw this in action today, at a talk by author Kate Forsyth as part of our library's writers' festival. The audience was composed of children and adults. Most children were there because of their love of Kate's stories, while most adults were there to glean knowledge about Kate's writing process.

Kate spoke for an hour or so, tailoring her talk to the audience. All were bewitched by her, as she produced the exercise books in which she, as an eight year old, had written her first books. They were hand written and illustrated; with a contents page and laid out in chapters. She told us stories about her writing; how she saw life and the moments that she gathered together to spin into novels.

Afterwards, she listened carefully to each person as she signed their books, and took care to engage with each person individually. I watched one young girl tell Kate about her own stories, written on lined pages, and listened as Kate gave encouragement and support to the girl's dreams.

These types of actions influence our lives in ways we can't always imagine. I think how lucky I was to have been there.

06 November 2008

Knitting fabric

Can't show a pic here, but if you hop over here, you'll see the cutest fabric for any knitters you know. I'm imagining a knitting needle roll, or a beautiful bag for carrying a current project. Hmm, and it's limited edition fabric printed in Australia. Tempting...

04 November 2008

Anticipation

Oh joy! This morning I received an email newsletter from Alexander McCall Smith. If you would like to subscribe to these, visit his website. They are beautifully written (just like his stories) and feel as if they are written by an old friend.

It contained two pieces of news that excited me. He's coming to Sydney in January! Didn't say where or when, but I must not miss his talk. If I can possibly be there, I will.

The other news is that this book, The Comfort of Saturdays (an Isobel Dalhousie novel) has been published. Naturally, I ran straight to the bookshop and purchased a copy.

I will not start reading it yet. Instead, I will touch it, read the back cover and simply admire its existence. I will wallow in anticipation of what will be yet another divinely satisfying episode in Isobel's life. Oh, the pleasure.

03 November 2008

Diamond hexagon

It's funny how one thing leads to another. This is my latest pieced block, using Matilda's Own templates. Called Diamond Hexagon, it has itty bitty triangles and diamonds, which I enjoyed hand piecing.

As I was pulling some pieces for this block from my stash, I realised I did not have a large collection of lime green fabrics. Then, when I liked the colour combination of blues and greens so much, it led me on a quest for those colours.

Now I badly want to make a quilt in this combination, simply because it brightens my day.

02 November 2008

Whew

I've been non-stop this week. It started with the opening talk of our library's writers' festival on Tuesday night (Di Morrissey - she was extremely engaging and generous with her stories) and finished with the quilt exhibition at the Quilt Indulgence Festival today, with four days at work in between!

The quilts were interesting and there were a variety of styles on display. I found many to admire for the skill shown with various techniques and some designs just blew me away. It's always interesting to attend a show with a friend, so to hear Lois's take on the quilts added value for me.

Part of the exhibition showed quilts from the Gee's Bend collective. Now, I've known about the Gee's Bend quilts for a long time now, and have followed the effusive praise that has been heaped upon them as they have toured from gallery to gallery. So it was an excellent opportunity to see them in real life on their first visit to Australia.

I also know that a lot of quilters simply don't 'get' the Gee's Bend quilts. They are often poorly stitched, with pieces that don't line up nicely. They are often made from fabrics that aren't purpose-made for quilt making; fabrics such as corduroy. They are rarely squared up and usually have wonky edges. They are what they are. Amongst the quilt making fraternity, Gee's Bend quilts are adored by some, while being totally unappealing to others.

I swear that if I was arranged to my best advantage, and well-lit from the right angles, I would look terrific too. Just shows what a bit of strategic, cosmetic arrangement can do. But I'd still be me.

To hear some people complain that these quilts should have been shown under gallery conditions, in an artificially 'arty' environment, belies the real nature of these quilts. They are what they are - real quilts made by real women with the resources available to hand.

The quilts weren't bought to Australia by a gallery - they were bought here, at enormous cost (you should have seen the price of the insurance) by a quilter, a woman who wanted to share them with other quilters. Yes, I used to work for her company, so you may think I have a vested interest in saying that. You'd be wrong.

It was her idea to ask for the quilts for display in Australia. She bore the risk of bringing the quilts here. She took the step of making something happen. Would you have done that?

Of course, these are all my opinions. If you disagree with me, I really don't want to hear it, so don't bother leaving a comment. I think we need to congratulate, support and applaud people who are willing to put their money and their time out there for the pleasure of others. What we don't need are petty whiners.

I am now ending the weekend with a sore throat and constant sneezing, so I'm going to retire to my bed for a snooze. Somewhere during the past busy week, I've picked up a cold so rest is in order. I have a lovely pieced block I finished on Thursday to show you - maybe tomorrow...

30 October 2008

Quilt exhibition starts tomorrow

Quilts from the Gee's Bend collective, along with a large collection of quilts featured in magazines in France, Japan, New Zealand and Australia, go on display tomorrow at Canterbury Racecourse in Sydney until Sunday. More details are here.

It's very exciting to have such a large quilt exhibition in Sydney at this time of the year. After the Sydney Quilt Show in June, we enjoy a variety of smaller, local shows, but not an exhibition of international quilts on this scale. I'll be wandering around the show on Sunday, feasting my eyes and being inspired. Oh, and did I mention there may be a little shopping involved?

29 October 2008

Clever!

I love having clever, creative friends. Helen has won big time in Houston. You can read all about it here!

28 October 2008

Knitting by Anne Bartlett

I have been working my way through a selection of novels about knitting. I've read novels about knitting shop owners, novels about knitters who solve murders and novels about women who knit as part of their everyday lives. When I finish compiling my list, I'll post it on my blog.

This morning, I finished re-reading one of my favourites, Knitting by Australian author Anne Bartlett. I recall reading it several years ago when it first published, but this re-reading has reinforced what a beautifully written story it is. A story about several women and the way they come to terms with their lives, it is not cloying nor trite. It is a glorious, life-affirming narrative that left me feeling soothed and positive. I highly recommend this wonderful story.

27 October 2008

Dyeing December journal quilt

Lisette asked whether I used indigo to dye the fabric I used in my December journal quilt.

I folded half a metre of fabric into a parcel and then immersed the piece in blue Procion dye. Please don't ask me which colour, because I can't remember and probably couldn't replicate it f I tried. I really should write these things down! I like the folded effect, so I plan to try it again next time I dye.

Triumph!

I have to confess that drawing pieced hexagon blocks in EQ6 has been a challenge for me. The hexagon blocks that are in the EQ library all have a strip at opposite sides to make the block fit into a square. I didn't want these strips in my designs and have struggled to draw a block without distorting the pieces. At last, I have drawn an accurate pieced hexagon block using EasyPatch.

This is a Pinwheel Hexagon, based on block number 264 from BlockBase. The block is 8 inches high and 7 inches wide - obviously not a square. To draw it, I printed an outline drawing of block 264 on paper. I cut off the side strips, which made the block the shape I wanted. Then I scanned the drawing and saved it as an image.

In EQ6, I set up a drawing board 8 inches by 7 inches and then imported the image for tracing. It was simple to trace the drawing to create a block with the correct proportions. I coloured it and this is the result.

Now I am able to use this block in a variety of quilt layouts, so that I can audition the designs before I start sewing. I love EQ6, and I'm so pleased I persevered. It is enormously satisfying to learn how to draw what I want and not just take the blocks that are in the EQ6 and BlockBase libraries.

Now I will use the same approach to get the correct proportions in the Curved Star
Hexagon that I have, so far, been unable to draw correctly. Fingers crossed that it works.

25 October 2008

Laying out the blocks

I have made 16 blocks now. After taking out the blue and yellow ones because I have decided that a second quilt, in those colours, would be divine, I am left with these 12. They are on my design wall and I like the diamonds that are formed where the blocks touch. A fabric for these shapes is yet to be found (although I have been drooling over a suitable fabric at Material Obsession for two weeks now. Maybe if it is still there on Wednesday, I will have to acquire some.)

I've played around in EQ6 with this and have mocked up this layout for the quilt. I still haven't managed to draw the blocks correctly (they have an elongated look), but at least it's an idea.

24 October 2008

Statistics

Why oh why did four times the usual number of readers visit my blog yesterday? Was it something I said? Most of you were from the USA. If you've made a return visit since Thursday, please say hi in a comment - I'd love to hear from you!

23 October 2008

December journal quilt

My final journal quilt for exhibition at the Australasian Quilt Convention in February is complete. Desert Windows was inspired by a dot painting called Possum Men of Yirtjurunya by Anatjari Tjakamarra, which I saw at the Australian Museum earlier this year.

My quilt is made from a piece of my hand-dyed fabric, which was folded while dyeing. This resulted in the square-ish dye pattern, which reminded me of the painting. I dyed this piece many months before seeing the painting, so it was really meant to be, I think.
I machine stitched square-ish shapes with Madeira Black Jewel thread. This has a metallic tinge, but is an absolutely delightful thread to use because it doesn't snap. The close up photo below shows that I have hand stitched in some areas with irregular stitches. I used Superior Threads King Tut cotton variegated thread for this. Lovely thread - I must buy some different colours.

Now I have to finish the labels and hanging sleeves on the quilts and then prepare a description of each one. I'm really pleased I committed to this project. Making small quilts (they are the size of an A4 sheet of paper) has been very enjoyable and allowed me to play with ideas that may not have worked on a larger scale.

22 October 2008

Learning from the experts

I've just discovered a wonderful resource that will surely help me improve my machine quilting. I was browsing through the current issue of Sew Inspirational, the online sewing newsletter from Bernina Australia and New Zealand when I saw an article by the wonderfully talented Kim Bradley. If you don't know her work, I highly recommend a visit to her site. I first met Kim several years ago and immediately recognised that she has extraordinary talent and has worked hard to develop her skills.

But back to my inadequate machine quilting expertise. Kim has developed four pages of quilting exercises that I am keen to practise. Maybe you'd like to try them too?

21 October 2008

The quest for Timtex

Sometimes it's easy to lose sight of the fact that real people run companies and are employed by them. It annoys me when some people think companies employ 'faceless' staff who don't care about what they are doing. This is rarely the case.

I'm also annoyed by rumours and assumptions. Why believe a third or fourth hand story when you can ask the right person and get the correct answer?

Why am I telling you this? Recently there have been vague posts on an overseas internet list about Timtex
(a stiff interfacing, often used by crafters to give body to items such as fabric bowls). Now I've discovered this blog post, which explains why production of Timtex was ceased. It also explains the quest for a substitute and how dogged searching resulted in a suitable manufacturing source being found. It's an interesting story, written by the person who did the work.

While you are on that blog, check out the other posts. It is the blog of C&T Publishing, which most quilters would recognise as a major player in the quilt book publishing field. I'm looking forward to many other interesting stories there in the future.

19 October 2008

That which is old becomes new again

Back in the 1970s, I was a nifty macrame crafter. I made the obligatory owl to hang on the wall (what was I thinking??), but I also made many extremely useful plant hangers. Several of these hangers are still in existence (I only do quality work!) and I still like them.

I have the urge to make more and to incorporate lovely large glass beads in them. Of course, I no longer have my basic patterns (cheap paper disintegrates over 30 years - who knew?) so I was sad I couldn't recreate the styles I have.

However, the internet didn't exist in my life in the 1970s. Now it does, and I have located several nifty patterns that I can adapt to make my new batch of plant hangers. I'm extremely excited about this and will go shopping for cord and beads tomorrow.

As if I need a new hobby!

18 October 2008

More quilts are coming to town

I love a good quilt show with plenty of diverse work to see. Even though I am drawn to certain styles of quilt, I am often taken unawares by other quilts that call to me. Sometimes I don't know what I like until I see it!

That's why I am so excited about the big exhibition that will be in Sydney at the end of this month. It will will have quilts from the Gee's Bend Collective, which is reason enough to visit. The Gee's Bend quilts are for sale, too. But there are also masses more quilts, including 30 from each from Quilt Mania (France), Patchwork Tsushin (Japan), New Zealand Quilter (New Zealand) and Down Under Quilts (Australia) magazines.

Deborah is one of the organisers of the event and she sent me these photos from last weekend, where the exhibition was shown in Brisbane. The photos don't show the full show, but they have given me a taste of what I will be able to savour.

The exhibition is called the Quilt Indulgence Festival and it will be held at Canterbury Racecourse in Sydney on 31 October and 1 and 2 November. If you're in Sydney, why not pop in for a visit?

16 October 2008

Selvedge extravaganza

This has been the talk of the craft blogs this week, but in case you haven't seen it, go there straight away! Jodie has made the most amazing frock (not a dress - this deserves a much classier name) from selvedges. Hop over there now!

15 October 2008

Queen of the May

I'm becoming just a teeny bit addicted to using Matilda's Own perspex templates to cut pieces for traditional blocks. You all know about my adventures with the Curved Star Hexagon (I've made ten blocks now). Well, now I've discovered the Queen of the May templates. Look what I made with them!

There are only four templates in this set, but don't they make the most gorgeous block? (Yes, I know it's blue. Just can't help myself.) Hand piecing the block was very relaxing.

When I stopped by the shop this afternoon, Kathy showed me the quilt top she had made with these blocks. So beautiful. You can see some of Kathy's blocks here at the design wall stage. Don't they look totally different in bright colours? Love the ric rac.

Anyway, back to the Queen of May templates.
You can buy them from Material Obsession, of course!

14 October 2008

Celebrating Australian fabric designers

Over at Meet Me At Mike's, this is the week of interviews with Australian fabric designers. So far, there have been interesting insights into Lara Cameron, Tiel Seivl-Keevers, Prints Charming and Pippijoe, as well as glimpses of their fabrics and crafts.

I'm enjoying these interviews - you may too? All the links are on the Meet Me At Mike's blog, so I won't repeat them here. This is one shop that I must visit if I'm ever in Melbourne - have any of you been there? Tell me your experiences so I can drool vicariously!

13 October 2008

Gold

Lunch with Lisa today was a great opportunity to hear stories of her travels in Europe (the stories that aren't on her blog, that is!) and to see some show and tell. Especially interesting were catalogues from a couple of exhibitions she visited in England.

Lisa gave me this spool of metallic gold thread. While staying with a quilter and former knitter in England, she was given a pack of these spools of very old thread. Wound onto large wooden spools, each nearly nine centimetres high, the thread is easily broken and may not be suitable for stitching. It will be great for using in small pieces in embellishments, though, and the spool is an interesting ornament in itself.

12 October 2008

Crochet - here I come

Yesterday I attended a beginners' crochet class and after four hours this is what I had to show for it.
This C-shaped piece of work was supposed to be a straight line, not curved. It was supposed to have the same number of stitches in each row, not vary up and down each time. It was not supposed to take four hours.

In other words, my crochet skills leave a lot to be desired. One problem was that I kept trying to use my hook (see Lindi - I used the right word!) like a knitting needle and the other problem was that I should have been using a larger hook to get correct tension. Now I know the problems and how to fix them I am motivated to persevere. Today I bought two larger hooks and a how-to-learn-crochet book, complete with large diagrams of each stitch, stage-by-stage. The adventure continues.

After the class, I spent a lovely afternoon with Fiona. We had a leisurely lunch, where we each displayed show-and-tell and caught up with each other's news. Fiona's latest news is that she is featured in the current October issue of Down Under Quilts magazine, where you can see photographs of her quilts and read her story. How exciting!

11 October 2008

Amy Butler's coming to town

Sydney and Melbourne, that is. Amy will be here in November and you can book tickets now.

When I first discovered this, thanks to Real Living magazine, I got terribly excited, but now I'm thinking I might keep my $45 in my pocket for other purposes. However, I may change my mind again...

09 October 2008

Hello selvedge lovers

Welcome to all readers who have visited my blog after reading Karen Griska's Selvage Blog! I'm pleased you have found the time to visit and I hope you will make my blog a regular stop on your list of blogs. As you can see (below right), Karen is a follower of my blog and I invite you to join her.

Earlier this week, Karen featured my selvedge tulips on her blog - thanks Karen! Although I have many more ideas for my selvedges (many friends have passed on bags of the lovely things), I have been busy with other projects since I made my tulips. I plan to get back to sewing with them soon.

08 October 2008

Gee's Bend quilts in Australia

If you are in Brisbane, you will be able to see an exhibition of quilts from Gee's Bend, USA this week at the Quilt Indulgence Festival. This is one of the few times these quilts have travelled outside the USA and the first time they have visited Australia, so it's a great opportunity to see some of these vibrant works.

Don't know about these quilts? You can click here to read about the Quilts of Gee's Bend and see photos of some of the quilts. There will be 40 of these quilts on display. In addition, there will be exhibitions of quilts from four international magazines - Quilt Mania (France), Patchwork Tsushin (Japan), New Zealand Quilter (New Zealand) and Down Under Quilts (Australia).

The Quilt Indulgence Festival is on 10-12 October (that's Friday, Saturday and Sunday) at the RNA Showgrounds, Fortitude Valley. The entry fee is $10 for an adult. More information can be found here.

As for me, I will am waiting until the quilts come to Sydney at the end of October (31 October to 2 November). I have reserved a whole day to soak up the details of the quilts, so that maybe I will be motivated to finish off my Gee's Bend-inspired quilt, which is still waiting to be quilted!

07 October 2008

Great progress

It was one of those days when lots of small tasks were achieved.

Four more curved star hexagon blocks cut out for hand piecing. Now I can settle in front of the TV tonight and enjoy the process.

Finished my tax return. They owe me!

Bought a crochet needle (is that what they are called?) in preparation for a beginners' class on Saturday. I'm the beginner.

Finished hand piecing my Japanese scrap quilt - finally. Bet you've forgotten about this quilt.

Machine pieced the backing for that quilt. Confirmed that I hate the process of manipulating large pieces of fabric through the sewing machine. I will never machine quilt a large quilt because there are too many more satisfying things to do instead.

Oh, and I broke a sewing machine needle on my finger. Ouch.

06 October 2008

How to waste an afternoon

This curved star hexagon block is driving me crazy and making me wonder why I am attempting to use EQ to draw it when I have perfectly good templates that fit together well. Of course, I can answer my own question by saying that I don't want to draw the block in EQ for the templates or the fabric yardage or any of those other wonderful functions that EQ has to offer. I just want to be able to place the block the way I want it in a variety of quilt layouts on the screen.

This is how the people at the EQ forum drew the block for me.
EQ sees this as a square block and I want to eliminate the top and bottom pieces. I traced my templates, scanned them, imported them and traced the shapes using EasyDraw. The block is still not right - I have distorted the angles of the cones and the triangles between them - they should all be the same size but in my drawing they are not.
I have had enough. Some things are not meant to be. I will just have to play with the actual blocks I have sewn on the design wall until I find a layout I like and until I have developed my EQ skills further. So frustrating!

05 October 2008

Read Write Ryde

The library where I work in the City of Ryde has an annual writers' festival, where published authors are invited to give talks about their books and run workshops. This is the third year of the festival and the first opportunity I have to be involved.

The first talk is by Di Morrissey on 28 October, with other talks by Paul Brunton, David Levell, Kate Forsyth, Jon Drane, Neil Cadigan, Michael and Christine Morton-Evans and Anita Heiss. Workshops are with Irina Dunn, Robin Morrow, Greg Bastian and Patti Miller.
If you'd like to see the full program, click here for a pdf file. The activities are free to anyone who wants to make a booking.

The program is very exciting and now all I have to do is work out which sessions I can attend!

04 October 2008

Current inspiration

So many interesting inspirations abound at present. I am absorbed in this new book from Wakefield Press - One magic square: grow your own food on one square metre. I have a copy from the library, but as soon as I started reading it, I knew I had to have my own copy. Neither my local Borders nor Dymocks had it in stock this morning, so perhaps I'll order it direct from the publishers.

What's so inspiring? Well, it's practical and realistic. No glossy photos of the ideal vegetable garden, with rows and rows of lush green vegetation. The author knows that local wildlife loves to eat vegetables and she has practical advice on how to stop it happening. (If you are a regular reader of this blog you will know that I am competing in my garden with a possum, so I hope some of the advice works. Sadly, they are protected animals in Australia - don't know why, they are real nuisances. Just ask New Zealanders how they feel about Aussie possums!)

Anyway, contributing to your own food supply by growing it in your own backyard is becoming more important. You can grow without pesticides and poisons and stagger the sowing to avoid gluts. Eating food grown a few metres from your kitchen is incredibly satisfying. If only I can beat the possum to it...