31 January 2009

Action!

Overnight, all my cherry tomatoes, button squash and some strawberries were eaten by the local marauder. It also enjoyed nibbling on the leaves of various shrubs in the garden. I cursed it (yet again) and took myself off to work, plotting my revenge as I went. Obviously the possum has not yet dropped dead from lack of water, unlike some of my plants. (Just 25mm of rain fell on Sydney in January, down on the 103mm average. )

This evening, I read the day's newspaper, in which gardening writer Cheryl Maddocks describes how she stopped possums attacking her vegetable garden. Ah hah! Very explicit advice on how to enclose the vegetable patch with a possum-proof structure. Action stations! I will not be beaten.

29 January 2009

Stitching to dye

Here's a different take on dyeing that frankly scares me deeply. First make a quilt and THEN dye it. Even the author, C June Barnes, admits that this may not be for the faint-hearted, but after reading through the book and drooling over the photos, I am convinced to give it a go.

The book is called Stitching to dye in quilt art: colour, texture and distortion. It's a Batsford book, so the quality is excellent. The book has eight multi-page exercises that lead the novice through the process, starting with a simple design dyed with the simple immersion dyeing technique.

The basic process is to make a quilt from a variety of natural-fibre fabrics in white, cream or pale prints, then dye it. The dye reacts differently on the various fabrics (some have textures, some are coarse, fine, woven or knitted) and threads that are used for the stitching. The results shown in the book are stunning.

Of course, you can't exactly predict the result, so that's where the fear kicks in. Once you can let go of that, I imagine it would be quite liberating. This is something I will certainly be trying - on a series of small samples, of course! Thanks to my friend Deborah, who gave me this wonderfully inspiring book.

28 January 2009

So there I was

minding my own business as I talked to Kathy at Material Obsession today. Suddenly, these fabrics by Brandon Mably lept off the shelf and threw themselves at me. What else could I do but bring them home?

The pink/yellow spot design is called Dapple and the design in blue and green is called Tents.

27 January 2009

Magic

Last week, I discovered a novel that captivated me: Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen. I suppose it could be clasified as a romance, but it's more about the magical things that happen in everyday lives. I often marvel at circumstances that simply cannot be explained away by practical means - that sense of mystery and 'what if' that is part of all our lives.

I loved the idea that everyone has some magic about them - whether it is a knack for growing plants or cutting hair. I guess you could rename these things as skills, but don't you think magic sounds better?


Of course, I immediately wanted to read more by this author. I found her latest book, The Sugar Queen, and have just finished devouring it.

The title sounds twee, the blurb sounds twee, but the essence of the story is not. It's a simple tale that shows the enchanting possibilities of every day.

Sadly for me, these are the only two books Sarah Addison Allen has published yet. I await her next one impatiently. In the meantime, I will reread Garden Spells and revel in the wonder of everyday magic.

26 January 2009

Celebrating Australia

It's Australia Day - our national day, where we celebrate the fact that we live in this wonderful country. Here's a small section from my quilt, Girt, which I made with fabrics from a swap in 2001. (If you don't know what girt means, you're obviously not Australian and don't know our national anthem. You can hear Julie Anthony sing the first verse here.)

To Australia - my country, my place.

25 January 2009

More reorganising

I moved my computer again today and that required furniture reorganisation (of course). Next weekend, I can put out my unwanted pieces of furniture for the council collection and finally the living area will have free space again.

While I was moving books around, I discovered this little book on my shelves. Funny how I had forgotten it was in my collection. You know how much I love Gwen Marston's quilts, so it was a pleasant surprise. Now to sit a while with a cool drink and reaquaint myself with these quilts.

After a 43 degree day here yesterday, a fantastic southerly buster roared through last evening to drop the temperature. Sadly, though, not a single drop of rain here.

24 January 2009

Ice

Here I am, in a place and time of drought; of days of searing temperatures that drain my physical and mental energy. I constantly dream of ice - that wondrous frozen water that promises cold relief. This is the closest I can find. Gently rounded ice pieces to add to my constant glasses of cold water. Bliss.

22 January 2009

Fun with colour

I enjoy messing around with dyes and have been planning what I will do during my next dyeing session. I want to do some fabric folding so that some interesting patterns will appear and I want fabrics in the blue-green range.

To this end, I borrowed this book through the library. I love the cooperative nature of libraries, when books held by one library are shared with others. There are so many books published these days that no single library can buy everything.

Ann Johnston is probably known to most quilt makers because of her book The Quilter's Book of Design (which is now available in an expanded 2nd edition). You can see images of some of her work here.

Now I am absorbing some of Ann's ideas about dyeing and taking note of some of her recipes so that I can play with my fabric. I have five metres to dye and I will probably do that in half metre pieces in a couple of weeks. Come back and look for photos then!

20 January 2009

A very full day

Tonight I will sleep soundly. As a matter of fact, I may not even wait until the sun sets. Today I moved things - around downstairs and from upstairs to downstairs.

I've always enjoyed rearranging the furniture in my house. It allows me to see different perspectives as different angles of the room are revealed. But today I took it one step further and carried out the re-thinking of the spaces here.

Act 1 - painted the first coat on a downstairs wall. It was fiddly, because the wall has a door, a window, a light switch and two power outlets.
Act 2 - constructed two IKEA Billy bookcases. Deconstructed two
IKEA Billy bookcases because I'd reversed two pieces. Constructed two IKEA Billy bookcases. (I guess this could be counted as three steps because it took so long, but I'm over it now. They are very nice bookcases.)
Act 3 - painted the second coat of paint on the fiddly wall.
Act 4 - disconnected my computer, printer, modem, scanner and external drive. Kept my fingers crossed that I could reconnect everything.
Act 5 - moved all the equipment downstairs in several trips.
Act 6 - cleared all my sewing equipment onto the table formerly used for the computer.
Act 7 - carried the table formerly used for sewing plus a chair downstairs.
Act 8 - reconnected all the computer equipment.
Act 9 - collapsed on the couch with a cold drink.

Oh, and did I mention it is 38 degrees AGAIN?

18 January 2009

Squares of summer

Hooray! I hear you say. At last a photograph instead of all those words. This pile of 4 1/2-inch squares is the result of a couple of hours of cutting. Doesn't look very substantial, does it, but there are 200 squares here!

Today I made my first loaf of bread in my brand-new bread machine. Even though the dough rose too high and subsequently the top of the loaf did not brown, the bread tastes delicious. It is Barossa Sour Dough Rye and has the most wonderful flavour. I will try again after today's loaf has been eaten.

17 January 2009

Weather report

Most blogs I've read this week have commented on the local weather in one way or another. Either it has been swelteringly hot (42 degrees here on Thursday) or below freezing and with lots of snow. No blog I've read has commented that the weather is perfectly wonderful.

That's the thing about people. We focus on extremes. Extremely hot, extremely cold. Extremely rich, extremely poor. We don't seem to notice when we are simply paddling along, living our lives.

I've had a wonderful day today. The weather is cooler and I feel rejuvenated. I've eaten yum cha, received birthday greetings, both in person and via cyberspace, and simply felt happy to be here, living my life. Here's to seeing the whole picture and enjoying every moment.

16 January 2009

Ooh, a new blog

I suggest you hop over to the new blog of my friend, Pamela. You can see lots of her quilts, both traditional and contemporary, as well as the Flinders Ranges-themed art quilts she exhibited late last year. Well worth a look at her wonderful work.

Welcome to blogland Pamela!

15 January 2009

Gwen Marston

I first read about Gwen Marston's quilts back in the mid 1990s, through a series of articles she wrote in Lady's Circle Patchwork Quilts. Actually, it was two series - one called 'Quilting it Your Way' and the other called 'Folk Art Applique'. Both were equally interesting to me.

In the quilting series, Gwen explained how to design quilting patterns that would fit your quilt. She covered straight lines, curves, feathers and many other designs. She hand quilts and so do I, so the articles had much to engage me.

It was the folk art series, though, that appealed to me the most. Gwen studies old quilts and is inspired by what she finds there. She cuts a lot of pieces free-hand and has made hundreds of small applique quilts that definitely have character.

I have recently rediscovered these articles and am inspired to try some applique quilts of my own. I've never done applique before (apart from a few small fused pieces) and want to try to develop some needleturn skills. I love making small quilts - my journal quilts taught me that.

But what made me in thrall with Gwen Marston was when I read an article in the April/May 1996 issue, called 'At Home with Gwen Marston'. It described her home on Beaver Island in Lake Michigan in the USA. As I live in a large city in a hot country, it was a novelty for me to read about a quilter who lives in a remote country environment where there are snowy winters. When I read that Gwen offers an annual retreat on the island, attending one of the retreats became a favourite daydream.

Well I haven't been to one of her retreats but I have followed her work over the years and you may like see some, too. Gwen's website is here. Details of the retreat are here. You can see some of her quilts on her workshop page, and you can read about her books here.

Gwen is definitely one quilter who has inspired me over the years. Who are your inspirations and why? I'd love to hear about the quilters you follow and what it is about their work that you love. Please leave a comment!

14 January 2009

Heat

I have a fabulous room that I use for my studio. It has two large windows, a design wall and plenty of storage. In it, I have all my sewing equipment and my computer. One day I will take some photos to show you. I am usually very happy pottering around in my studio.

There is one problem - it is upstairs. Upstairs is hot, very hot and I am cranky when I am hot. I can't think straight and I'm sure dripping perspiration on my sewing machine will upset the circuitry. I hate summer in Sydney.

Thank you to Judy for your kind wishes about my knee. I feel like an old lady, hobbling around in the heat and whining.
I hope you will all forgive me for inflicting this on you. Back to focusing on the postive tomorrow (I promise!).

13 January 2009

Clarity from the muddle

My head is full of other people's quilts as I write instructions. My knee is aching as if I have injured it in some mysterious way. It's hot again.

BUT I FOUND THE CALENDAR!

12 January 2009

Calendar

Here it is - the 12th of January - and my 2008 calendar is still hanging in the studio. It's not that I can't let go of last year, it's just that I can't find the new calendar. No, I can't! It is a very attractive calendar too, but unless I can find it soon January will be over and that's not at all desirable because January is my birth month. (Hint, hint: 17th is the day in case you are planning to send me unsolicited birthday greetings.)

This is the problem with organising things. I file them so cleverly, so beautifully, that they may as well have disappeared. Perhaps I should just let things sit around in piles? (Oops, that is exactly what I do. I organise piles.) The hunt continues...

09 January 2009

Quilty networking

I love the way our networks of quilters nuture our creativity. Let me tell you a story about my latest acquisition - I think it illustrates what I mean very clearly.

Last year I bought the book Collaborative Quilting by Gwen Marston and Freddy Moran, mainly because I have admired Gwen Marston's work for many, many years (more about Gwen to come in a later post). This book exposed me, for the first time, to Freddy's quilts, in which she combines fabrics in an extraordinary way. It is a stunning book and I look at it most weeks.

A couple of months ago, Sarah showed me her copy of Freddy's House, a book about Freddy's home and her quilts featuring house blocks, published in 1999. Sarah had been tracking down a copy for ages and had finally acquired it. Drool.

I decided that I had to have the book, but it was very elusive, until I finally posted a message to my online quilt group, Scquilters, asking if anyone had a copy and was willing to sell. Kate in Queensland replied, saying she didn't have one herself, but the shop where she worked had a single copy in stock and would I like it? Would I! Thanks to Kate at Patches Indooroopilly, it arrived today and I am a happy woman.

See what I mean? How good is it that, through my network of quilting friends, I heard about this book (which is old in publishing terms) and then was able to acquire my own copy? Now I am poring over
Freddy's House and absorbing every page. I am so lucky.

(Gwen and Freddy have collaborated to produce another book, Freddy and Gwen collaborate again: freewheeling
twists on traditional quilt designs, which will be available about July - can't miss that one!)

08 January 2009

The previously-mentioned new project


Hooray! Blogger likes my photo now.

These are some of the fabrics I have been collecting for the new quilt. There are more, but I couldn't round them all up for the pic. You'll just have to wait...

Do I really need a new project?

Yes I do! My new quilt project has been brewing in my mind for months and I have finally settled on a design I like. I've drawn it in EQ, and I've sorted all the fabrics ready to be cut. Sadly, Blogger's not playing nicely this morning so I can't show you the pic of the fabrics. Trust me though - they are all gorgeous!

06 January 2009

From 1993

One of the interesting threads I found while re-reading my old copies of Lady's Circle Patchwork Quilts magazines is that of computer use in quilt making. In the July 1993 issue, there is an article by Penny McMorris (of Electric Quilt fame) explaining how computers can help quilters.

It is interesting now to think of quilt making without computers, let alone without the internet. Obviously, I wouldn't be blogging about this at all in 1993 - after all, that's 16 years ago. How many of us used the internet for personal reasons then?

This article marked the beginning of a regular series of articles by Penny. I enjoyed reading the ones in my magazines this week and I recall how much I enjoyed them at the time. I have used personal computers for work since 1982 (librarians are early adopters of technology), but I remember that the idea of using one for quilt design was mind boggling then. Articles like Penny's opened my mind to the possibilities.

One more thing: how weird it is now, seeing the picture of an EQ screen (version 1, I assume) on a DOS-based computer monitor. How far has this product come!

05 January 2009

Childhood

I've been thinking about childhood this week, because that is the theme of the Unique Stitching 2009 Art Quilt Challenge. The challenge is a fun one because this time we are being challenged to create a triptych on that theme. If you'd like to enter, full details are here. Enrolment forms must be received by 14 February, but the quilts are not due until 15 May.

Another reason childhood entered my mind today is that the weather is incredibly hot. Today it reached 38 degrees and tomorrow the forecast says we will go past 40 degrees. When we were children, my sister and I would enjoy the hot weather because it meant icy treats and frolicking under the water sprinkler in the backyard.

Well, the icy treats are still achievable, but we haven't been allowed to use water sprinklers in Sydney for years. Some of the simple pleasures in life have been removed because of the scarcity of that precious resource - water. I'll just have to remember my childhood instead.

04 January 2009

Revisiting the past

Last night I spent a couple of hours re-reading some of my old copies of Lady's Circle Patchwork Quilts magazine. Do you remember this quilt magazine from the USA? I have most copies from 1992 to 1996, when the magazine became unavailable in Australia (Did they cease publication then? If you know anything about the publication, please leave a comment. I note that there are issues available on eBAY for very high prices.)

I remember I made a couple of mystery quilts from instructions in those magazines. Both were designed by Judy Hopkins. I progressed to the second-last step of my second mystery quilt when suddenly the magazine was not available. What to do?

Remember, this was in the days before the widespread use of email and the internet. I wrote a letter to Judy Hopkins in Alaska (luckily, her address was in the magazine) and posted it off. How brave I felt, writing to a famous quilter in a foreign country! Some weeks later, Judy kindly wrote back with the instructions for the final part. I was so relieved. I gave that quilt away to a friend many years ago, so I can't even show you the results of my labour.

I am half-way through my pile of magazines now. I have some other interesting stories that have emerged from my revisiting the past and will share them in future posts.

Welcome!

Hello to visitors who are visiting from Karen's Selvage Blog. If you'd like to see more of my selvedge pieces, click on the subject Selvedges on the right-hand side of this blog. I hope you enjoy your visit - I'd love it if you left a comment.

03 January 2009

A day at the pub

Since this is the first Saturday of the month, I travelled north to join my Southern Cross Quilters friends at the pub for a day of sewing, talking and eating. Pennie is our recorder of events, so if you pop over to the Sydney Scquilters blog, you will see Pennie's photos of today's projects. You MUST look at Cate's piecing - that girl is mad!

You'll be pleased to see that I now have charged batteries in my camera. Earlier this week I cut out pieces for these blocks, intending to sew them today. However, since I finished them on Thursday, I had to cut out a new batch for today's meeting. The photo shows six completed (but not yet pressed) blocks, all made from fabrics in my stash.

02 January 2009

Onwards with EQ6

Over the past year, I have acquired more information about EQ6 and tried to practise my skills so that I can do more than the basics. Like any skill, the more you do, the more you learn and, hopefully, the better you get.

To this end, today I start another Quilt University course; this time it is EQ6 Advanced Layouts. Fran Gonzalez is the teacher - she also taught the EQ6 Building Blocks course I completed last year. Great teacher and fantastic class notes - all I need now is to focus and practice!

01 January 2009

We love our fireworks

Imagine this: a balmy summer's night in Sydney, spent near the city's spectacular harbour. Local landmark, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, is the focal point for a stunning display (as always) of New Years Eve fireworks. We love our fireworks in Sydney and they are the best in the world. To see why I say that, see photos from The Sydney Morning Herald here. Now don't you wish you'd been here too?