26 September 2010

Sunday snapshot

Brilliant spring day in Sydney. Interesting series of talks about various aspects of textile design at Mosman Art Gallery. Great exhibition of Sydney textiles from the 1940s and 50s by Annan Fabrics at the same gallery (it's on until 10 October). Good company (thanks Sarah) and a lovely surprise gift - a bundle of eight pieces from Sarah's new fabric line, From Little Things, in my fave colourway. (Jump over here for your chance to win a bundle of this fabric - it's not in the shops yet!)

Sigh...such a relaxing day.

23 September 2010

Little piles

of half-square triangles are appearing on my sewing table. All hand stitched with pleasure.

21 September 2010

Reflections on: quiltmaking and shopping

Imagine a world without rotary cutters, special rulers and convenient quilt shops full of fabric. Twenty five years ago, the Australian quilting world was exactly like this. Would you still enjoy making quilts without all these modern conveniences?

Sometimes I am in two minds about all the tools and notions available for quilt makers today. Sure, it is handy to have a ruler that makes it straightforward to cut tricky shapes with a rotary cutter and it certainly saves time that can be used for stitching the fabric pieces together. It is very satisfying to be able to purchase exactly the desired shade of thread to perfectly match a particular printed fabric, but if you had to use a different coloured thread, would it stop you in your tracks?

Do we really need all the notions we buy? Do we enjoy the act of shopping for the requirements to make a quilt more than the actual making of the quilt? It has long been recognised that shopping makes us feel good. I have lost track of the number of times I have asked quilters who have recently visited a quilt show to tell me about the show. Inevitably, most of them start listing all the things they bought there. Rarely do they talk unprompted about the quilts in the exhibition – it is always the shopping experience they describe first.

According to an article by Willow Lawson in Psychology Today magazine (March/April 2006), when a person is faced with something new, thrilling or challenging, such as shopping, dopamine floods the brain’s pleasure centres. This produces an agreeable feeling and contributes to the act of buying. I think we often shop to enjoy the overall sensory experience as much as to actually purchase goods we need.

Consider how many times we visit a craft show or a quilt shop, not really planning to purchase anything specific, but just to look. In how many of those instances do we leave the venue with a clutch of bags containing interesting new acquisitions? It is very rare that a person does not come away with at least a fat quarter.

Think about all the quilt making tools and gizmos, patterns and fabrics we buy. Do we use most of them straight away to make quilts, or do most of them end up stored safely in our sewing rooms? Do we really need all that stuff, or do we just buy it because we enjoy shopping and the social activity with our friends?

Pared back to the essentials, quilt making only requires fabric, thread, scissors and needle. Many people still make quilts using these basic ingredients. They continue to enjoy the act of creating a quilt and they are satisfied with the pleasure and warmth the quilt provides. Their need to create is fulfilled without having to outlay a huge expense.

In fact, many quilters make gorgeous quilts from the off casts of others. Many groups that make quilts for giving away to members of the community work in this way – using donations from other quilters. They use the fabric that is given to them to make interesting designs that are gratefully received and enjoyed by the recipients.       

I'm not immune to the charms of shopping at a well-stocked quilt shop. I often splurge on must-have items, even though it wasn't planned. Sometimes an item catches my eye and after I buy it and use it, I wonder how I managed to sew without it. I am only human, after all.

It just gives me pause for thought. Are we so caught up in consumerism that we buy the latest ‘must-have item’ automatically before thinking through whether we will really use it? Or do we consider carefully before adding another tool to our sewing room or another fabric to our stash? In my case, I would like to think the latter is true, but I am sure it is probably mostly the former. Perhaps this is also true for you?

17 September 2010

Ooh, ooh! A giveaway

My very talented friend Sarah Fielke is giving away bundles of her very own fabric. This is Sarah's first fabric line, From Little Things (but I'm sure it will not be her last fabric design!)

This fabric is not yet available in the shops, so hop over here for your chance to win!

15 September 2010

Moving forward

We said farewell to Wally today, so I am ready to start a new quilt in colours that will cheer me, using this block.

11 September 2010


It's been a mixture of excitement and sadness in my red-and-white life this week. There's the high of watching our team face elimination each week in the finals. Exciting and exhausting. So far, so good.

The low came with the news of a sudden death. For the past eight or so years, Wally has occupied the seat next to me at all our home games. He has made our life all the richer. We miss you already from our red-and-white tribe, Wally.

08 September 2010

Binding tips

Issue 143 of Down Under Quilts magazine is out this week. It includes an article of mine, providing the lowdown on quilt binding options. Enjoy!

07 September 2010

Oh to be in Perth

Thanks to my friend Stephanie, I now have a copy of the catalogue for stitched and bound 2010, an exhibition of contemporary quilts organised by the West Australian Quilters' Association Inc. It's a pity, then, that I am on the other side of the country!

(The cover shot is detail of He Reached for the Hem of Heaven and Chose by Margaret Ruane.)

05 September 2010


I've been the lucky recipient of two gifts this week. The first is a set of postcards featuring some of the fabulous Twelve by Twelve quilts. I doubt that I'll be able to send them anywhere, though. I suspect they'll end up adorning my sewing studio.I won these in a giveaway from Brenda, but if you'd like to buy your own set (or a set for a friend), you can do so here.

My second gift is from Kate. She enjoyed playing with dye and fabric last week (you can read about her experiments here). Yesterday, at our scquilters' day at the pub, she gave me this fat quarter. This is the front - a dyed piece of white fabric that has a white-on-white pattern. The colour has a subtle effect.

When you turn it to the back, though - wow! I love the spiral effect that Kate has made. I will definitely try this particular folding method next time.

What a lucky week I've had. Fingers crossed the luck extends to the Swans winning the first elimination final this afternoon. It is not good footy weather. There are wild westerly winds here and it will be a real challenge kicking for goal (and keeping our caps on at the game!).

02 September 2010

Textile design

There's an interesting article in today's Sydney Morning Herald about Nance Mackenzie and Anne Outlaw, two designers who started their textile business, Annan Fabrics, in Sydney in 1941. Using Australian motifs, they screen printed their designs - up to 36 metres of fabric a day. Wow.

Mosman Art Gallery has an exhibition that includes examples of their textiles. It is on until 10 October. While I was clicking around on their website, I also saw that the gallery is presenting a Textile Design Symposium on 26 September. Put this one in your diary, because it is a fabulous programme of specialist speakers!