30 December 2011


You won't get one of those blog posts about what I've achieved (or not achieved) in 2011 from me. I prefer to look forward rather than back and listing what happened in the past year is of no use to my way of living.

Instead, I'd rather continue to enjoy life and savour the simple things. I'm easily pleased - by friends and family, by cheerful things (such as this shiny new set of drawers for my sewing room), by stories that take me into other people's lives, by pottering in my garden, by sewing by hand and by going to see the Swans.

If there's one thing that I'm trying to apply more, it's to be gentle on myself. (For someone who likes to control events as much as I do, that's a challenge!) At least I can try. Onwards!

28 December 2011

Big spender

While I don't get excited about the post-Christmas sales that all the shops around here seem to have, I do love a good bargain. This morning's purchase is this cute box, perfect for transporting my current hand sewing project.

The cost? $2 - bargain!

20 December 2011

Playing with stencils

I don't want you to think I'm just lounging around, not doing anything - although if you look to this blog regularly you may think that very thing! I find that I hang out more frequently on Facebook now and I'd love it if you would join me over there as well. Just click on the Facebook link on the left of this page and you'll be spirited over there. 

In the meantime, click here to see what Lisa and I got up to yesterday. Such fun trying out new stencils!

10 December 2011

Reflections on: technology

You may consider that volcanoes and communications technology have nothing in common, but events last year made me think otherwise. The control we have over our world is so tenuous and so fragile that it is only hanging on by a thread.

When the volcano in Iceland spewed out lava and ash last year, it was initially regarded as a wonder of nature. Vulcanologists and tourists were enthralled to see the power that forced so much molten matter from the centre of the earth to the surface. The results were admired and examined and many heads were shaken in amazement at the natural forces that we rarely see.

Soon, with the help of another natural occurrence - the wind - huge plumes of ash began to drift across Europe. Plane flights were cancelled for days and thousands of people were inconvenienced and disappointed. After a few days of this, people started to get frustrated and even angry that nature had interfered with the way they planned to live their lives.

Infrastructure that we take for granted is so fragile. My experience of this occurred when I upgraded my home internet access plan. As soon as the changeover happened, my internet connection no longer worked. After four phone calls and one visit from a technician, it was restored four days later. The problem? One tiny frayed wire at the telephone exchange.

During those four days without cyberspace communication, I felt as if my connection to the outside world had been lost. I craved my internet links and drove to libraries just to get my fix by using their free wifi. It was quite a ridiculous reaction, really, but was a classic withdrawal symptom from an addict.

After the third day, what I noticed most was that I had so much extra time to do the things I over which I did have power. Without so much trivia from blogs and mailing lists cluttering up my mind, I had time to think. I thought about future projects and jotted down some ideas. I sewed madly for long hours, loving the fact that I had total control over the stitches I made. This was the thread that kept me in touch with the real world – my stitch making.

We all share the illusion that the world’s perfectly assembled infrastructure is solid and reliable. It’s not. If a frayed wire can dislocate the rhythm of my life and a natural event like a volcano can disrupt so many other people, what other vulnerabilities are there? I’ve realised that the thread that holds my life together is my stitching. Even if I could never buy another piece of fabric, I would still sew and create. Somehow, that’s extremely reassuring to me in this uncertain world.

04 December 2011

Saturday sewing at the pub

Simple pleasures: friends, food and silly antics. Check out what we got up to at our Scquilters day at the pub yesterday.Thanks for maintaining our blog, Pennie!

27 November 2011

Starting at the beginning

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about my summer project. Today I dyed fabric for the base layers of my Travellers' Blanket.

I will be working through some ideas about growth and, in particular, growth in my garden. I wanted my middle layer - the flannelette layer that acts as a soft, drapey batting - to be a yellow-green shade to represent the colour of leaves. This is it, straight from drying and not yet ironed. It took the dye beautifully.

For my top layer, I chose cotton scrim because I wanted the green to show through. I dyed the top layer of scrim and the cotton backing turquoise, to represent the blue of the sky. This is the top (also not yet ironed), overlaying the middle layer. 

In each of the squarish shapes I'll applique, stitch and embellish. It will take a summer full of stitches, or perhaps even a few seasons to grow.

23 November 2011


I took this photo in my garden a couple of days ago, because it has been raining solidly for the past 24 hours. This plant doesn't bloom very often but it's worth the wait!

21 November 2011

Worth the wait

Quiet contemplation of this glorious book by my quilting idol is in progress here. My copy was handed to me today and I was immediately excited. Opened the cover and discovered it is signed by the author. Oh my.

13 November 2011


For me, it will be a summer of staying cool indoors and hand stitching. I've enrolled in this fantastic online course - Travellers' Blanket with Dijanne Cevaal. It will a slow journey, using soft fabrics in glorious colours, all joined and embellished with hand stitching. Can't think of a better way to create a meaningful piece of textile art. 

It starts next week (19 November) if you want to play, too.

11 November 2011

It's all about the garden

Lately, it's all been about gardening for me. It's spring and that means it's a pleasant time to be outside and all my plants are sending out new growth. Soon it will be too hot (we've already had two 35 degree plus days in the past week) and high temperatures take a toll, not only on the plants but on the gardener as well!

There are also fabulous new books being published at this time of year. Indira Naidoo's is my current favourite.

I'm lucky to have my own little patch of earth, but Indira lives in a Sydney apartment that is 13 stories up. Yet, she still has a productive balcony garden! I enjoyed her stories about getting the garden established and how she overcame problems along the way. There are yummy recipes, too.

These small peat pots were on my laundry window sill recently, as I sprouted cucumber and basil seeds in them. My own little nursery! I've since planted out a couple, only to find that snails devoured my babies overnight. They had a brief life, but they were well loved. I was shattered (as are the snails, I must say. Squashed by me.) Oh well, I'll just have to sprout some more seeds and start the miracle of life again.

06 November 2011

Spring quilt

See the pretty quilt that's on the cover of the current issue of Down Under Quilts? It is the perfect spring project to start now.

No, it's not my quilt, but it was made by my friend Deborah. I've watched her assemble it by hand piecing over the past few years (she machine pieced the Nine Patch blocks). It's been a slow and rewarding process!

As I look closely at the photographs, I can spot various pieces of purple fabric I contributed from my stash. I love making scrap quilts and it was great to liberate some fabrics from my collection of purple prints. I love to think that they have a place in a friend's quilt.

I think this may be another design I want to make. I'll add it to my very long list! If you want to make it, too, the pattern is in issue 150. The layout of the magazine has been changed to celebrate the 150th issue - what a great milestone for our first Australian patchwork and quilting magazine!

03 November 2011


This glorious sculpture by Col Henry is called Fiddlesticks, and is installed at Eden Gardens, North Ryde. I love the way the coloured stems reach out to the sky, as if they are growing towards the sun. They look so cheerful and energetic.

From a different angle, though, they appear menacing - a little triffid-like - as if they are reaching to take over the world.

01 November 2011


After lunch with friends at Eden Gardens yesterday, we encountered these friendly animals hiding amongst the plants. They are made from recycled pieces of metal (including bottle tops). A few would be welcome in my garden, but they were way too expensive for my budget!

They make me smile every time I see their funny faces.

31 October 2011

Apple Core dilemma

There are many different types of quilt on my to-do list, and Apple Core is one of them. I love to use perspex templates for cutting fabric, but my dilemma has always been: what size block to make? Problem solved. I now have this set of templates, so I can make four different sizes!

29 October 2011

More colour palettes from the garden

I took these photos in my garden this morning and I've been having more fun generating colour palettes from their colours.  It's really interesting to see the shades that are selected from my photos.

Blueberry flowers


Duranta and star jasmine

To make these palettes, I've been using Color Palette FX. Very addictive. Have you tried it? I'd love to see your colour palettes!

22 October 2011

Well, that was fun

It was the first meeting of the Sydney Modern Quilt Guild today, held at the pub where one of my other quilt groups meet. This was great for me because I was familiar with the space and only had to worry about talking to strangers. (I'm not good with that - shyness overcomes me!)

So it was lucky that I went along with a friend and we were greeted by a friendly face - Claire, who cheerfully organised all of us for the next few hours. It was lovely to meet new people - after the initial awkwardness, we had a chatfest. 

Show and tell was fun and many photos were taken. I'm guessing they may appear on the blog at some stage. I took my sewing along, but not a stitch was taken! Ah well.

19 October 2011

I love it when

the postie delivers a new book. Speedy delivery from The Book Depository, as usual!

It may be some time until I can read this properly (too much work to do!) but, after a quick flick through, I can say I'm eager to dive in.

18 October 2011

Today in the garden

It's lovely here in Sydney today - sunny, spring weather. So, of course, the garden called to me! I planted three tomato plants, two capsicums, one chili and scattered many, many seeds.

I also took some time to photograph two plants that are in glorious flower. Once I saw the colours through the eye of my camera, I wanted colour palettes straight away. Imagine quilts in these two colour combinations!

I love blue, so this is my favourite combination.

Yesterday, today and tomorrow (Brunfelsia) 

Or perhaps you prefer pink?

Spring cactus (Rhipsalidopsis)

Which is your favourite?

17 October 2011

What do you do

when you already have four projects waiting to be finished? Make Log Cabin blocks for a new quilt, of course!

10 October 2011

It's good to be busy

but I know that some of my friends get concerned if posts don't appear here fairly often. I'm pleased about that because it means they check I haven't dropped off this earth.  We all need someone to ask us if we are ok.

So a week or so has passed since I last posted and that's because my days are filled with working, gardening, sewing, working, looking after three blogs and two facebook pages, reading, talking, working and sleeping! (Notice there's nothing in there about housework. Hmm, better do something about that soon.) 

It's no wonder, then, that the days have flown past. As your reward for reading this post (about nothing, really), I have a photo of one of my salvia plants to show. These plants have formed a large clump in my garden and the flowers have started to open. Gorgeous.

30 September 2011

On my fantasy itinerary

I've been fascinated by Welsh quilts for many years, but have just discovered the website for the Jen Jones Welsh Quilt Centre in Lampeter, Wales. This is definitely on my fantasy itinerary (a list of places in Britain that I long to visit). I love the intricate quilting patterns on Welsh quilts and the striking use of colour and design.

I'm also a keen follower of Mary Jenkins' blog, Little Welsh Quilts and Other Traditions.
Mary has written several books on Welsh quilts and if you look at the first photo on her blog, you will see what inspires me. Gorgeous.

Perhaps you will want to join me on my imaginary travels?

29 September 2011

Oh, the inspiration!

During the past couple of weeks, I have been gorging myself with Design Matters TV, the online videos by Linda and Laura Kemshall. If you don't know about these, do yourself a favour and go here. There are some tasters that you can view for free and they are sure to seduce you, as they did me!

20 September 2011

Exciting news

I'm going to be busier than usual as I have taken on a new role as Editor of Down Under Textiles magazine (DUT). Very exciting!

Do you know this magazine? It's an Australian publication that is published by the same company as Down Under Quilts, where I was previously Editor for four years. DUT was started by my friend Deborah Segaert a couple of years ago. The cover shown here is issue 5, which is currently on sale (you can buy it here).

I have started a facebook page for Down Under Textiles and I'd love if you could join us there.  Oh, we are going to have fun!

19 September 2011


My friend Janine is one of the artists displaying her work at this exhibition. It should include an intriguing variety of works.

13 September 2011

Making colour

Last Saturday, Sarah and I joined three other students at the home of our friend, Lisa Walton to hand-dye sewing threads. It turned out that we had a metre of beautiful cotton sateen each as well. Bonus fun! From the threads Lisa provided, I chose cotton perle thread, 40 weight cotton thread, sashiko thread and an interesting rayon thread (the shiny one). As you can see, some were white, while the others were an unbleached colour.

We tore our fabric into fat quarters and scrunched them into containers, divided the threads and added soda ash solution.

Then the fun began - squirting lucsious colours!

My four containers looked very appealing.

Here are the results - how gorgeous are they?

The next time Lisa will be teaching this class is at the International Quilt Festival in Houston, USA, so here's your chance. Class information and enrolment details are here. You could have as much fun as we did!

12 September 2011

You know it's spring when

the azalea is in full bloom....

the dendrobium shows its delicate flowers...

the crop of snow peas multiplies overnight...

and the flowering nasturtiums and thyme intermingle happily.

11 September 2011

Sydney Modern Quilt Guild - update

Remember that I posted about the formation of the Sydney Modern Quilt Guild? Well, now Suzanne and Claire have set up a survey to gauge interest for the first face-to-face meeting of the guild.

Here's some more information from an email I received this week:

"We just wanted to send out a quick email to you all to let you know what a great response we’ve had so far: 45 people have filled out our call for interest form which is fantastic!  Suzanne and I had talked about what we would think a “successful” call for interest would be, and I think we concluded that if 20 people filled out the form, and 10 people could make it to the first meeting, then we would be off to a good start!  Well, we’ve certainly hit that target!

Up next we are going to organise a first meeting.  It’s at this point that we really want to get all of you involved in everything, we would like to talk about things like: how often should the group meet? What kind of formats should those meetings take? Where should the group meet? Will there be group dues (and if so, how much)?

We’d also like to get a couple of other people on board to help us with the “setting up process” too, at the moment it’s just Suzanne and I, but if the group is going to be large-ish, then it would be great to have an extra couple of people to help, and that way we can divide the work up a bit more.   
Over on the website we’ve set up a little mini survey to try and find the best dates for the first meeting, we’re avoiding all first Saturdays of the Month (as that is when the Sydney Scquilters group meets) and also 15th October this is the date that the NSW Guild has a meeting listed.   We’re also looking for suggestions about WHERE this first meeting might be able to take place – once we have an idea about the numbers that might be able to attend then we should be able to narrow it down a bit!  So please hop on over and let us know your preferences for meeting dates.   Probably the best way to go about it is to select all the possible dates that you can attend and let us know whether you'd prefer the morning or afternoon.  Just to gauge the interest, we'll include the Sundays as well as the Saturdays and we'll see what gets the most attention.  We will go with the date that the most people can attend.  We will leave the survey open until Friday 16 September, so please jump over and fill it out before then.

To get everyone inspired we’re also going to start an “Inspiration of the week” post over on the blog featuring a modern quilt that has caught our attention over recent times so make sure you check in each week and if you see something fantastic that you think should be featured, let us know!

Finally, in other exciting news, we’ve been contacted by the Central Coast Modern Quilt Guild who have suggested that once we get up and running we might be able to have a quilt challenge with them!  So, that’s really good inspiration for us to try and get up and running soon."

So, here's your chance to get involved with a new group, Sydney quilters!

05 September 2011

At last!

Whew! Here's my completed quilt, Back to the Beginning, (48 inches x 44 inches). It is machine pieced from cotton fabric I have hand printed, screen printed and stencilled.

I have hand quilted it all over with cotton threads of various weights. Here's a couple of close-up pics, so you can understand why it took me so long to complete!

I am thrilled that Back to the Beginning will be on display at the International Quilt Festival in Houston, USA in November, as part of Lisa Walton's Textured Treasures exhibition. How exciting!

30 August 2011

In which much stitching is done

I have lost track of the weeks I have spent hand stitching this quilt. It's a difficult one to photograph because the metallic paint reflects the camera's flash, but no matter. I really need to show this as evidence that the stitching is FINISHED. This is part of the centre section of my quilt, Back to the Beginning.

Next is binding, a label and a sleeve. Will this quilt never be finished?

28 August 2011

Let's visit Twitter

I have finally succumbed to the lure of Twitter. If you'd like to inhabit another part of the online universe with me, go here. Who knows what we will discover there?

24 August 2011

Thread dyeing

The promise of spring is in the air here in Sydney. I know the season hasn't changed yet, but the plants in my garden are showing signs of growth and colour. I thought I need this too - to grow my skills and add more colour to my life!

So along comes Lisa Walton's Threads to Dye For workshop - perfect! It's on 10 September at Lisa's home studio and if I can walk away with threads like these, I'll be a happy person. If you'd like to come too, you can book here.  I don't want to keep all the fun to myself!

21 August 2011

Reflections on: finding the spark

Creativity is hard to pin down. It can be an elusive spark but when it flares, small embers of ideas scatter widely and can ignite later, quite unexpectedly. Just as well, because when I’m bereft of ideas, I count on external inspiration to get me going.

Sometimes I endure periods when nothing goes right with my sewing. On a single day last year, I was trying to join pieces of a mystery quilt and nothing was going right. It was a really hot day with high humidity and my sweaty hands were not gripping the fabric easily. I stitched 36 squares along the wrong diagonal line and then stabbed my finger with the unpicker while trying to remove the thread from those squares. While stitching along the correct diagonal line, the sewing machine needle broke. After replacing the needle, the bobbin ran out of thread. I spilled water on the instructions and, to top it off, I dropped the scissors on my foot.

That was enough for me. The quilting gods had sent me a message and I needed to take notice. I turned off the machine, left the fabric pieces exactly where they landed and then spent the rest of the afternoon watching movies. Some days, it is much safer to stop trying to sew!

The next day, I found I had lost interest in doing anything creative. I mooched around the house, picking up various projects and putting them down again without making a stitch. I flicked through the channels on the television and then switched it off without watching anything. I wandered around the garden, tugging out a weed here and there, but not really enjoying it. I had totally lost my creative spark.

Usually, the more I struggle to get going again, the more difficult it is. So I decided to ignore all the projects waiting to be finished and pulled out a pile of quilting magazines and books. Yes, I’d read them all before, but this time I just grazed – browsing and reading about anything that grabbed my attention.

I have never doubted that creativity can be contagious. We see it in every workshop and at every quilt group meeting. Works in progress are shown, techniques are demonstrated and new ideas are shared. We pore over the newest fabrics and look for tools that will make our quilt making more fun. We spark off each other and go home enthused.

My afternoon of absorbing inspiration from magazines and books reinvigorated me. Suddenly, the urge to sew had returned. I sat at the sewing machine and started feeding the fabric pieces through. All my seams were straight, there was need to use the unpicker – even the temperature had dropped. All was well in my sewing world as I continued to stitch for hours. An ember of creativity had flared to life and I was content.

17 August 2011

Thimble love

I've been a hand stitcher for at least 25 years, but I've never found a comfortable and functional thimble that works for me. Thimbles either get in my way or fall off. I've lost track of the number of thimbles I've hurled across the room! 

Consequently, I have a hole in my finger. It comes and goes, depending on how long I stitch before it hurts too much and I, reluctantly, give my skin time to heal. 

That was before I was given a Clover adjustable thimble to try. It was love at first stitch. Having hand quilted for more than a dozen hours since Monday, I can happily say that my new thimble is now my constant companion. Thanks to my friend Sarah, the hole in my finger will be no more!

16 August 2011

Sydney Modern Quilt Guild

Since I first heard of Modern Quilt Guilds in different parts of the world, I have grappled with the concept. What's 'modern' about them? How are they different to other quilt guilds? Is it a style of quilting or are they groups that target younger quilters? I still don't have it clear in my mind.

One of my quilting friends, Claire, is very clear about what it means to her. Along with Suzanne, she has started a Sydney chapter of the Modern Quilt Guild. They know exactly what they hope to achieve - you can read all about it here

I encourage Sydney quilters to hop over to their blog. Read what they've written and, if you are intrigued, fill out their 'call for interest' form (I already have!). I like that their emphasis is on inclusion - just because you may belong to other quilt groups, it doesn't mean you won't be welcome! Good luck with the Sydney Modern Quilt Guild, Claire and Suzanne!

13 August 2011

It's still winter

but in today's sunshine, you can nearly believe spring is just around the corner.

Snowpeas climbing, iris thriving, rosemary blooming, blueberries unfurling.

Pretty primula in flower.