31 January 2007

Structured fabric comments

Thank you for all the comments on this fabric concoction I am constructing. It is fantastic to read your comments, so don't be shy about leaving your thoughts on the comments page! To recap (for those who have just joined in) I am in the last week of a three-week Quilt University course called Structured Fabrics. The tutor is Dena Crain and she has been terrific with feedback and suggestions.

In the first week we designed a quilt layout and made a check fabric. In the second week we made a plaid fabric. This week we are making stripes and assembling the quilt top.

The piece you have all been watching get built is the plaid piece. I feel as if I am telling you a bedside story, chapter by chapter! To answer some of the questions:
* The plaid piece is only about 13 inches square. It will be trimmed to make a 12 inch square which will be laid out on point.
* It is not heavy because most of the strips are only 1/4 inch wide.
* No way on earth would I make a full-sized quilt with the plaid technique. I think it is good for a feature section in a quilt, or for journal-sized quilts. I want to make a small-scale plaid for cutting up to use on ATCs.
* The course has been wonderful because it taught me an intriguing new technique and I have all sorts of ideas for adapting the method. You should see some of the pieces the other students have made!

On a different subject, I have been tagged by my friends Kathy and Sarah. They have asked me to confess six weird things about myself. So far I can only come up with three - I guess it depends on your definition of 'weird'. So don't despair Kathy and Sarah - I will put on my thinking cap. Please don't start your own list of why I'm weird - that would be way too confronting!

29 January 2007

Fifth step

I don't think I can bear to add anything else to this poor piece of structured fabric. Remember last week I added the wide red strips. After advice from Dena, the tutor, who suggested I consider toning down the red a little, I stitched 1/4 inch lime green strips. Now I love it - it has real interest and movement. Now, on to constructing the stripes...

28 January 2007

Progress in the garden

The first photo is of a bare area in my backyard. It used to be a garden. The hardy perennial basil bush is the sole survivor, but it is struggling to thrive. You can see how desolate the ground is and it is bone dry, the result of being on clay and becoming water-resistant. The plan is to build it into a productive garden bed.

This is the first stage. Yesterday I received a birthday gift from my Dad - wonderful sandstone-coloured edging blocks. Here they are arranged into a circular shape to form the bed. Next step is to build it up with compost from my compost tumbler and some manures. The poor basil is hanging on in hope of a better future.

27 January 2007

ATC swap

Here is my first set of six Artist Trading Cards (ATCs) that I have made for a new swap. Cecile Whatman has organised this swap to raise money for the Cancer Council in NSW. Her idea is that for every set of ATCs you contribute to the swap, you keep one for yourself and send in the other five to Cecile for swapping. You also send a $2 donation with each set you make - this money will go the the Cancer Council in NSW. In return, you receive five different ATCs from other swappers. What fun!

To see details of the swap, click here. I plan to make another few sets to support this great idea. It's win-win: you support a worthy cause and you also receive wonderful small textiles!

26 January 2007

Fourth step

Here is the next step of the plaid - different strips stitched diagonally on top. They are bias-cut strips so that they can easily curve. I think it is starting to look like snakes and ladders. It's becoming obvious to me at this stage that I should have cut gentler curves when I was making the check background so that there was a more regular grid to follow.

This is the final step in my plaid - wider strips sewn over the grid. Because my thinner strips are irregular, not all the crossings show in the 'windows' between the red print strips. I quite like this, but it wasn't the point of the exercise. I have named this my tipsy plaid.

The third and final lesson of this Structured Fabric class is available tomorrow. It is about stripes, and after that I will put my check, plaid and striped pieces together to make a small quilt.

24 January 2007


Look at this! Given to me by my friend Lisa, it is a piece of her hand-dyed fabric, painted with whorls of gold paint. How yummy is it? Surely Lisa doesn't actually expect me to cut it up? Maybe this is one of those pieces I have to save until my machine quilting skills can do it justice. What would you do with this fabric?

23 January 2007

A gift from over the sea

The most unlikely things happen when you blog. Before Christmas, I admired photos of fabrics that Helen had purchased. These are the two that I particularly liked.

Helen gave me a source for the fabrics and I put them on my very long list of things to do. Of course, time went by and it was still on my list. Imagine my surprise when a squishy package arrived from the other side of the world yesterday. Helen had sent me two pieces of fabric! They look even better in real life - the colour is richer and deeper. This would never had happened if I hadn't set up my blog and if Helen hadn't set up hers and if Brenda hadn't linked to Helen on her blog. The community of bloggers has something for everyone.

22 January 2007

Third step

Tracey, you are correct - the check in yesterday's post IS woven! There is one warp fabric and two weft fabrics (or is that the other way around? I always get that confused.).

Yesterday it hit 41 degrees at my place (outside, but it felt pretty stifling inside as well), so I decided I would have to carry the sewing machine downstairs where it was cooler. I got inspired again and added my first lot of strips to start my plaid. Here it is! More strips to come once I can decide on the fabrics to use...

21 January 2007

Second step

Remember last week I selected the fabrics for the Structured Fabrics online course I am doing? Well here is what I have done with three of them - I have made a piece of check fabric (lesson 1). The green is actually a lime green, but doesn't show as very bright here. It is stitched with a yellow/green/orange variegated thread, but I'm not sure that you can see it in this photo. Lesson 2 is plaid fabric, so I'll get started on that later in the week.

It is nudging 40 degrees celsius here and that is waaay to hot for sewing (or doing much of anything really!). Think I might have to watch the cricket on TV in front of the air conditioner.

20 January 2007

Textile treasures in New Zealand

Remember this little quilt made by my friend Chrissy Sheed? Well, Chrissy has an exhibition of her other textile works as part of the NZ Symposium in Palmerston North. If you are in the area, I urge you to go along and view them up close. They are on display at Trumps Fashions, Coleman Mall between 15 to 27 January, 9am - 5:30pm Mon - Thurs, 9am - 6pm Fri, 9am - 4pm Sat. Entry is free. You won't regret it because her works are multi-layered and you will find unexpected pleasures in the fine detail.

Thanks for all the birthday wishes I received. I had a great birthday and it has been a very busy week. I am quite relieved the weekend is here so I can catch my breath!

17 January 2007

It's my birthday!

Here I am, another year older again. Sometimes these milestones make me pause to reflect on what has occurred since the last one, while other times I am so eager to look forward that I barely notice the time flying past. Regardless of how I feel, I still celebrate my day. Happy birthday to all January babies!

14 January 2007

Small treasure

Treasures do not need to be large to be precious. I was given this wonderful textile gift last week. It is made by Jan Irvine-Nealie, an Australian art quilter and although it is tiny it has a powerful impact. If you don't know Jan's work, see her page on the Ozquilt Network website or read the article about her in the January issue of Down Under Quilts magazine. Her stitchery is very dense and quite stunning.

13 January 2007

I couldn't resist

Before Christmas, I enrolled in an online Quilt University course that doesn't start until 27 January. I didn't want to miss out, so I was terribly well organised. Of course, that meant that I have been dying to get started on it since then, but have had to be patient.

I went browsing this morning on the website to see if the course was full yet. Simply idle curiosity - it's not as if I expected that they would have moved the start date earlier for me. Before I knew it, I had enrolled in another course that starts today! Hooray!

I love Quilt University courses. I have done two before: Filament Fantasy with Linda Schmidt (all about using metallic threads) and To Bead or not to Bead with Susan Brittingham (about beaded embellishments on fabric). The prices are extremely reasonable, the tutors were great, the feedback was useful, the discussion with other students was fun, and the notes were wonderful.

The course I started today is Structured Fabrics with Dena Crain. It is about creating stripes, checks and plaids from fabrics already in your stash. I certainly have enough of those! I have just finished printing out the notes for lesson one, so I'm off to read them and get started on my homework. How exciting!

11 January 2007

A strange start to the day

When I opened my front door this morning, the first thing I saw was this huge balloon, which was grounded in the park across the road. I have to ask myself; why? The Sky Orchestra finished last weekend. There were no other balloons in the sky. Is there a deep meaning - am I haunted by balloons because I want to fly away from everything? Deciding that it was simply a strange start to my day, I got in my car and drove to work, puzzling all the way.

10 January 2007

Back to work

Today was my first day back at work after the holidays. It was interesting to catch up with all my co-workers and share the stories of their holidays. Plenty of emails and packages were waiting for my attention, so the day passed very quickly but I still remembered to look for the things that made me happy.

Helen Conway left an interesting comment on yesterday's blog entry. She says: Did you know that research shows that people who keep a 'gratitude journal' (In which they write down each day 5 or so things they are grateful for) are happier than control groups who do not? It seems that those who do the journal actively look for good things to record and therefore focus on seeing the good in their day not the bad. I am grateful that you wrote your blog piece and reminded me of that.

Thanks Helen, I haven't heard about this before but it makes a lot of sense to me. I think it has to do with keeping a sense of perspective and not allowing the negative trivial things to rise to the surface and swamp the good things. Hmmm... I think I'll research this a bit further.

09 January 2007

Tomatoes make me happy

I'm no Pollyanna, but I am choosing to be happy. Even though I can't control what other people do, I can try to be the happy person I want to be. There are many simple things that please me and here is a photo of one of them: home-grown tomatoes from my garden.

Don't they look delicious? Small cherry tomatoes that grow on plants that I have planted in a huge terracotta pot. They delight me for so many reasons - the joy in growing wholesome food; their colour; the way they look on my plate; and, of course, the way they provide a spurt of flavour when I pop one in my mouth. Today let's celebrate my tomatoes.

07 January 2007

Five Bells

While visiting the Art Gallery of NSW a couple of years ago, I fell in love with a John Olsen painting. I was physically drawn to it and pored over every line. (If you'd like to see it, click here.) I couldn't understand why I was so strongly attracted to it until I saw the name - Five Bells. Immediately I understood - somehow my subconscious knew that this painting is a reaction to one of my all-time favourite poems - the Kenneth Slessor poem of the same name (see here for the poem). How amazing is that?

Anyway, I was lucky enough to buy a huge print of the painting that day and it has been languishing, rolled up, until today. Determined to frame it and hang it where it could continue to inspire me, I visited IKEA today and purchased a frame. (Well, okay, I also bought a few other bits and pieces - IKEA has a fabulous range of box frames perfect for small textile work!)

Unrolling the print and placing it in the frame made me shiver. The painting still had the power to draw me in and make me think of that place way beneath the waters of Sydney Harbour and the powerful imagery of the poem. My day has been enriched beyond measure.

06 January 2007

Sky orchestra

About 6.30 this morning, I was awakened by gentle melodies that drifted in through the open bedroom window. Thinking I was dreaming, I rolled over in bed but the music persisted. Then I heard the whoosh of gas and I sat up, thinking "what on earth is happening?". Of course, it was a fleet of hot air balloons that was drifting gently over my house - the Sky Orchestra!

The Sydney Festival was launched today - literally - with this lilting celestial music treat. As soon as I realised what was happening, I jumped up, grabbed my camera and ran outside to capture the scene. If I'd been thinking clearly, I would have videoed the event so I could play back the sound, but I was still half asleep. There's a review of the Sky Orchestra on the Sydney Morning Herald site. It's on again tomorrow morning, so I might try to capture it again. It was quite a magical way to start the day!

05 January 2007


I could get used to not going to work. Today I had a lovely lunch at Irene's home and met four other creative people. Embroiderers and quilters, they bought along show and tell and we had a wonderful time oohing and aahing each others' quilts. There is something very indulgent about catching up with friends and making new ones over a delicious meal and a glass of wine. I feel so relaxed and I always wonder - why don't I do this more often?

04 January 2007

Ooh - a new toy!

So what do you think it is? Hint: I love gadgets; I love my computer; I love tinkering with things that bring out my inner geek. Give up? It's my brand new, teeny-weeny USB flash drive for data storage. Measuring only 6cm from top to bottom, storing 1GB of data and in my favourite colour of blue, it is my new friend. The top comes off and there is a plug, ready to connect directly to my USB port. Oh joy. Now to decide what to back up first...

03 January 2007


For most of today I enjoyed playing with a friend's toddler and catching up. About 11 months ago, my friend Fiona gave birth to John and Nola and I made him a quilt. Fiona sent me this photo of John with his quilt last year.

They live interstate, so it wasn't until today that I had the pleasure of meeting John in the flesh. What a lovely little boy he is (but I am a softy for cuddles). Fiona, Nola and I enjoyed chatting and playing today and I know the quilt went to a little boy who enjoys it!

01 January 2007

One step at a time

I haven't felt this relaxed for a very long time and part of the reason is that I've applied one of my goals for 2007 - do not get overwhelmed by the size of a task. This is what usually stops me in my tracks. I see a job as being too complex or too difficult, so I run away from starting it at all.

Today I painted a door. Not a huge job, but one step towards the greater objective of finishing the painting of my kitchen. The door looks beautiful and I have a sense of achievement. Tomorrow, I may paint a cupboard.

I've been breaking down my current quilt into steps too. Today I did masses of cutting and stitching of fabric strips to make more pieces for my scrap quilt. Here's a photo of the first rows.

I want to make a bed size quilt from these strips and put a border around it. It is the simplest design, but I am having so much fun. I think I might make another one in blue, white and yellow - there is probably enough fabric in my stash to do that!