30 August 2010

Out and about

I walked too much today and now my already sore foot is very sore indeed.

Today's action:
- I stood in a queue for two-and-a-half hours to buy tickets to the Swans elimination final (curse you Ticketek)
- I met Brenda and we went to the Art Gallery
- We inspected the Paths to Abstraction exhibition (underwhelming)
- We looked at the Indian Empire, Multiple Realities exhibition (fabulous textiles)
- I caught up with the paintings of my fave John Olsen (no trip the gallery is complete for me without paying homage to his paintings)
- We met another quilter (from Adelaide! hi Jenny!).

Now, to prop my foot up for the night...

29 August 2010

More Pukka components

More of the textile delights from Fiona Wright. First, silk chenille kit - has base cloth, four layers of coordinating recycled sari fabric and a layer of hand-dyed silk or organza. Lush.

Then, a collection of recycled sari silk and hand-dyed organza plus fabulous Indian sparkles. I'm loving those colours.

Finally, button baubles.

Now, to ponder how I will use some of these tantalising textiles...

26 August 2010

Refelections on: fabric scraps

Fabric scraps are everywhere in my sewing studio. Boxes overflow with them. I am constantly trying to grapple with their storage and it has led me to this critical question – should I keep every scrap of fabric, no matter how small?

There are two eternal quilt making truths – cutting up fabric is addictive and as soon as you throw out a particular scrap of fabric, you will need it for your next project. Well, to be honest, there are probably many more truths, but these are the ones that are bugging me at present.

I already own more fabric than I will probably ever use, yet I still purchase additional stock when I see a print that calls out to me. They are seductive, those fabrics. They wait patiently on shelves until I pass by and then they sing their beguiling song – “buy me, I’m the fabric you want”. Mobile telephone companies that talk about sending messages to your phone when you walk pass products you’ve bought before have a lot to learn from the way fabrics entice you to their shelves. But I digress.

Once the fabrics are in my possession, I don’t want to squander them. When cutting out pieces for projects, I am fairly careful about wastage. I keep extra strips and odd-shaped pieces in my scrap pile so that I can easily find a snippet when required. Some of my friends organise their strips and scraps by size, but I can’t bring myself to be that systematic. There are only a certain number of hours in the day, after all.

The crux of my dilemma is: how small a scrap should I keep? One of my friends recently made a hexagon quilt by the English paper piecing method with each piece only three sixteenths of an inch. Imagine! Certainly tiny scraps are all she needs for this project, but would I ever want to make something that tiny? Having seen her sewing her quilt, I’d have to say no, but what it I change my mind in the future? Will I regret throwing away precious tiny fragments?

Scraps are also handy to add variety to appliqué, but since I rarely use these techniques in my quilts does that mean I shouldn’t bother with larger scraps either? I do dream of appliqué designs, though, and plan to use that method in the future. The dilemmas abound.

I try to analyse the types of projects I make. There really are two types – pieced contemporary quilts and small art quilts. My pieced quilts usually result in leftover pieces of fabric and these go into my scrap pile. I mostly love to make scrappy quilts and like combining many different fabrics to give a visually interesting effect. My philosophy here is that the more prints there are, the better I like it.

My art quilts are small and give me the opportunity to play with different effects and techniques. I use lots of fabric scraps in these, too, but often employ non-cotton fabrics to provide particular impacts. I include ATCs in this category and they certainly only require tiny fabric pieces. So I guess that no matter what I make, I tend to use scraps of all sizes.

Another of my friends often says that “it’s only fabric” when I hesitate about cutting a piece of a favourite print. While I know she’s absolutely correct, I sometimes have a fear that I might cut the fabric in a way that won’t result in my desired outcome and that my cutting would lead to wastage. Geez, I sound like a total ditherer.

I think I've reached some decisions. My stash holds enough fabric to make a multitude of quilts. I do not have to worry about ever running out of fabric. I do not have to worry about keeping absolutely every scrap of fabric. Finally, I know I will absolutely, positively, never make a quilt that uses three sixteenths of an inch hexagons - will I?

22 August 2010

Pukka components

Earlier in the week, I posted about a parcel of textiles I received from Fiona Wright. Today I can show you some of them (more to come in later posts). But first, a little about Fiona.

I first met Fiona some years ago when I approached her after seeing some of her felted textiles. I wrote an article about her and her works for Down Under Quilts magazine, because I thought it was important to show readers different types of textile work in the art quilt world. So often, we don't have the opportunity to see a variety of styles in real life and it was a privilege to mix up various types of quilts for the magazine's readers. Personally, I fell in love with her Earthskins series, which you can see here.

Since then, Fiona has moved to live in India and developed a whole range of creative activities, including textile tours, workshops in the Pukka Studio and setting up The Stitching Project. She's been fairly busy! All the pictures I show here are of textiles that are available from this Project and are called Pukka Components.

These fabrics are in a hand-made, block-printed fat quarter packs, with four fat quarters in a pack. They are hand printed by a local family on 100% cotton. Aren't they the most glorious shapes and colours?

To go with them are block-print co-ordinate packs, complete with a few pieces of Indian bling. Yummy.

But what really made me drool is this hand-stitched square. It is made of recycled sari silk, stitched onto a cotton backing fabric with hundreds of running stitches. Here's a closeup.

I guess I could incorporate this into a cushion cover, but I think I might frame it and hang it on the wall where I can admire those deep hues and beautiful texture. 

There are other textiles in my package from Fiona and I'll show them later. But if you want some for yourself, hop over here for hand-stitched squares and here for the block printed fabrics. Enjoy!

18 August 2010

Reflections on: dyeing

Although I have been trying to use only fabric from my stash instead of buying new pieces, I have just realised a collection of a different nature has been quietly building in my sewing studio. It is multihued and, just like new fabric, I can’t resist its call.

One of the benefits of good storage is that everything has a secure place. All similar items are placed together so that they can easily be located, instead of tucked away in different, often-forgotten, positions. If you are particularly well organised, you can even label the various drawers, shelves, boxes and cupboards so that every creative tool can be easily found.

Nobody ever tells you that good organisation has a dark side, probably because it is too frightening to speak out loud. Since I know that we are among friends here, I am prepared to share this secret with you. Here is the scary truth – once you gather your supplies in one place, you will see how much of everything you own.

There, it is out in the open now. As long as spools of thread are stored in a multitude of boxes and as long as bags of pretty buttons are kept in different parts of the sewing box, they don’t look like they add up to much. Is this a deliberate strategy or do you think we are just deluding ourselves?

My revelation came after I had gathered my packs of dye powder together. I thought they could all be stored in a shallow drawer, but found that I needed a deeper space for them. If you are just an occasional hand-dyeing dabbler, like I am, you will know that it doesn’t take much dye powder to make a batch of liquid dye. I don’t dye regularly, so I have no need for large containers of powder. This means that all my packs are small and individually don’t take up much space. However, I have plenty of them just in case I feel an urgent need to dye fabric or threads in a hurry. Well, you never know!

Once I had all my dyes together, I started to organise them in colour groups. Then I arranged them in the form of a colour wheel, so I could see if there were any gaps in my collection. Of course, there were more shades of blue than any other colour. (Who’d have thought that?) Ideas for colour combinations started to emerge as I played with the packs. I started to make a list of the colours I had, as if that action would justify my play. In fact, I was just enjoying the pretty colours.

I felt a little guilty at that stage. I realised I had not dyed any fabric this year, although I could do with some more of certain colours in my stash. I’ve used a lot of lime green in the past 12 months (mostly on the backs of Artist Trading Cards), so could do with more of that shade. Hot pink and saturated orange are always useful too, so I set about dyeing some of those as well.

Hand dyeing fabric is quite mysterious. Watching a white fabric turn into fabulous colours with irregular patterns is a joy, especially when there are sometimes accidental effects. Seeing the resulting fabric drying on the clothesline is a colourful delight, especially when I arrange the pieces so that they complement each other. Ironing the newly dyed fabric is a pleasure, as the heat from the iron makes the colours more intense. Fancy all that pleasure resulting from a tiny pack of coloured powder!

It’s a magical process, creating colour. If you haven’t tried it, I suggest you give it a go. I realised that I don’t mind owning so many packs of dye powder after all. The power of making an ordinary piece of cloth into something that glows with a vibrant shade or has a barely-there wash of colour is awesome. I am grateful that I can so easily fill my life with all the colours of the rainbow. 

16 August 2010

Textile excitement

I picked up this parcel from the post office today - a calico envelope full of textile excitement sent to me by Fiona Wright. Fiona now lives in Pushkar, Rajasthan,  India, where she and her partner operate Creative Arts Safaris. They also have several other exciting projects underway.

But back to my parcel. You can see I've unpicked the stitching along the bottom of the envelope and there is a small piece of deliciousness peeking out the bottom. Later in the week, I'll take photos of the textiles and tell you a little about Fiona's other creative pursuits. In the meantime, I'll start dreaming about how these textile treasures could be incorporated into projects.

15 August 2010

As usual

I have started another project with only a vague idea of how it will end up. I was staring at the bathroom floor the other night (not for any reason, but just because I was zoning out) and suddenly I had an idea for a quilt. And, before you ask, I do not have orange and purple tiles on my bathroom floor.

It's handwork, which I love most, and features colours quite different to the larger quilt I am also stitching. Let the stitching begin.


10 August 2010


So there I was, reading a book about writing; one of those how-to books that always provide me with new ways of thinking about the process. I hadn't noticed how old the book was until I read the first chapter, in which the author described the best type of pen to use and then suggested that I could even use a typewriter. No mention of computers.

It's easy to get distracted by the tools. I often have to remind myself to concentrate on what I am doing and keep focused.
(That's not to say I don't get distracted by stationery. Look at my pretty new pens with coloured inks. Yum!)

08 August 2010

A perfect winter's day

When the air is chilly, the sun is shining and we are at our beloved Sydney Cricket Ground, the only thing that makes it better is when our team wins. As they did.

04 August 2010

01 August 2010


Sometimes it's the small triumphs that bring pleasure. In this case, it is successfully growing parsley in a different spot without the possums discovering it. (Hope they don't read my blog!).