31 December 2012

Looking forward

I don't worry about what has been, although I take careful note of what I can learn from past events. I prefer to enjoy each day as it comes and look forward to the next. So hello to 2013 - I love to see a whole new year stretched out ahead of me.

28 December 2012

City sun print

I started a new project today, with a stencil I'd been coveting for ages. It's a map of Paris, but I chose it simply because of the lines. Parts of them look straight and logical, while others are a bit squiggly - a favourite look of mine.

To start, I painted my fabric with violet sun dye fabric paint. I didn't want colour variation, although I was tempted to mix in some other shades (grevillea, I'm looking at you!).

Once that was done, I placed the stencil on the fabric and laid it in the sun.

Of course, I could have done this earlier today, but no. I waited until the afternoon when, as soon as I painted the fabric, a strong wind started. I had to weigh the fabric down and stand around to quickly remove every leaf that fell on the fabric. (Curse you eucalyptus tree!)

Once the fabric had dried, I removed the stencil and ironed the fabric.

This is to be a background, so I don't really need crisp lines, although I can see how beautifully clear they would be if I weighed the fabric and stencil down on a perfectly flat surface instead of the ground. In this case, I like the more subtle ghost effect in a lot of the piece. 

24 December 2012

Reflections on: making lists

After I’ve finished a major project, I lose focus. Pottering around, flitting from one task to another, I procrastinate the days away. I dabble here and there, not doing much of anything. Please tell me I’m not the only person to do this?

Long ago, I acknowledged that having to-do lists is the best way for me to operate. 

In order to achieve anything, all my tasks are written down on a great long paper list, with food shopping mixed up with deadlines for articles and reminders to plant garden seeds or cut out fabrics.

I prefer paper lists to electronic ones. There's something about writing it down with a pen that facilitates the flow of information from my brain to paper. Typing just doesn't have the same impact for me.

Having admired how some people can compartmentalise their different life roles into mental boxes, though, I thought I’d try a different technique. Perhaps it would be an easier way to organise myself and eliminate low-level anxieties about deadlines.

In an effort to separate work from the rest of my life, I started a work diary and a separate home diary. While the theory was logical, it didn’t last long because it hindered me rather than helped me.
So I reverted to my mega-list method of managing all my tasks. When a project appears totally overwhelming, I like to break it down into myriad smaller, more achievable items. It is fun to cross them off as they are done, even if it’s a one-line task as trivial as ‘buy white thread’. Perhaps it seems a little like micro-management, but the act of writing each task down makes them seem real, doable parts of my life.

Flexibility is still important, though. For 2013, I'm trying a book of lists plus a diary. Welcome to Vanessa, who will be my constant companion in 2013.

I understand that my extensive list may bring on an attack of the vapours in some people, so the technique isn’t for everyone. It doesn’t daunt me to have such a long list because it makes me feel as if I have some purpose. 

The single list works for me and putting a thick line through each item after I complete it is immensely satisfying. It proves that I don’t always drift around without focus; I actually do achieve some things after all.

We'll just have to wait to see how Vanessa copes with it all.

19 December 2012

Liberty circles

Preparing circles of my fave Liberty fabrics for applique. So excited to start a new project!

13 December 2012


The colours of my crochet rug are perfect against my new couch. Meant to be, I think.

07 December 2012

Gwen Marston in Australia!

In 2009, I posted this about Gwen Marston. I started by saying:

"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."

Over the years, I have avidly collected Gwen's books and followed everything about her quilts. I longed to take a class with her.

Now she's coming to teach in Australia in 2013!

Of course, I will be there and you can, too.

Gwen will be teaching at the following quilt stores:

103A Gardenvale Road
Gardenvale Victoria

Phone: 03 9596 7225

29 David Street
Toowoomba Queensland
Phone: 07 4633 4748

Building 4, Quattro Corporate
4 Daydream Street
Warriewood NSW
Phone: 02 9997 4661

75 Nelson Street
Annandale, NSW
Phone: 02 9550 4947

 And as if that wouldn't be enough, Gwen will also be presenting a lecture
in Sydney in the evening of 11 July,
 sponsored by The Cottage Quiltworks and Quiltsmith.

Don't miss this opportunity to take a class with Gwen - contact one of the shops for class details. Gwen's never been to Australia before and I'm hyperventilating with excitement here!

05 December 2012

Yay - it's finished!

I'm so happy to show you my finished blanket. Would you like me to unroll it?

Ta-da! My hydrangea wanted to be in the photo, too. 
I couldn't deny another beautiful object sharing this auspicious occasion.

Here's another view - flipped over to the other side. Still gorgeous!

A lovely close-up picture, full of colour and texture.

So now I'm ready to snuggle under it in the cooler months. 
Only six months to wait until winter's here!

04 December 2012

Just awesome

I am so lucky to have friends who think of me while they are travelling, and bring me gifts from their adventures. Just look at the stunning cover of this calendar from Japan.

Lisa visited the Itchiku Kubota Art Museum in Japan, where she was totally blown away by the textiles she saw. Looking at the cover of this calendar she bought me, I can certainly see why. Thanks Lisa! Maybe I'll see them myself one day.

This is the website of the museum. This is a link to a pdf (in English) about the museum. If you want more of a visual treat, do a Google image search on "Itchiku Kubota" - the images you will see are so intricate that you'll be entranced for hours.

29 November 2012

Silk shibori

Look at these stunning pieces of silk shibori! 
Can you imagine tying all those patterns into the cloth?

I love that the pattern in this piece is not completely regular. There is a repeated pattern, but the number of circles in each shape is slightly different.

This piece is even more interesting.
To keep a stylised pattern constant over a large area is such a challenge!

Aren't I lucky to have friends who bring me gifts from their travels? 
Thanks Deborah (who is back from a quilters' tour of Japan)!

19 November 2012

Artichoke in bloom

This is how it starts.

This is how it develops.

This is full glory.

Who wouldn't want to grow artichokes just for the flowers
when they look as stunning as this?

13 November 2012

The pleasure of finishing

There's great satisfaction to be had when finishing a quilt. Stitching that last section of binding becomes an act to savour, especially when it's made of delicious striped fabric like this (part of the DS Quilts range for Spotlight).

This is Sea Glass, a simple quilt I have made for my own bed. Instructions to make it will be published next year, so a photo of the whole quilt will have to stay a secret until then!

10 November 2012

Join me on Facebook

These days, I spend a lot more time on Facebook than on the blog.
It's mainly because it's a quick and easy way for me to link
to interesting tutorials and other inspiration for creativity.

 There are a lot of fun ideas and craft projects to be found on various internet sites.
 I'm always interested in seeing what other people make - you may be, too!

Please consider liking the
I'd love to hear from you over there!


29 October 2012

Revealed: my first crochet rug

I'm so pleased to be able to show you my first completed crochet project - 
a rug for my lap. Learning to crochet has been a long-held ambition of mine
(you can read the story here).

It's a simple striped wool rug, made with trebles.

I trebled two rows each of a selection of pretty colours, just randomly combined.

Not every loop is perfect, but I'm happy. 
It makes me smile and keeps me warm - that makes it a success!

27 October 2012

Thistle flower emerging

I love thistle flowers. Last week, I carefully photographed this flower head. 
Can't get too close to this prickly plant.

Today, the flower petals are emerging. The promise of prettiness.


24 October 2012

Hello Babbla

I went to IKEA and Babbla came home with me. It was love at first sight.

15 October 2012

Bloomsbury Gardens

Making me smile today: Bloomsbury Gardens fabric by Liberty of London. 

Purchased from Kate Quilts and now in my sewing room.

09 October 2012

Reflections on: size

The challenge was to make a quilt that measured 50 inches square. Sounds straightforward, right? No such luck – my quilt had other ideas. It simply did not want to be that size and fought me all the way. The quilt won.

It has always been difficult for me to make a quilt to a specific size, mainly because I don’t plan the design. I usually have a vague idea of what I want to do and how I will start but after that… well anything could happen. Often I run out of a particular fabric or don’t like the way it looks so take it all out. Or I cut pieces the wrong size and have to ad-lib to make them fit. Other times, the quilt top just screams at me to stop at a certain stage.

That’s what happened in this instance. The quilt needed to be 50 inches so it would be part of a cohesive display of other 50-inch quilts. That made perfect sense to me. I imagined them all hanging in a row, attracting viewers’ eyes. It would look odd to have one stand out just because the maker (that would be me) couldn’t follow the rules.
Of course, that is the essence of my problem. I’ve never been very good at following rules. I always want to tweak here and there or change interpretations. Considering how many pattern instructions I’ve written over the years, you’d think I’d know how to respect a directive. There is no evidence of this in my sewing room,  though.

So I started off ok, cutting strips and stitching them together. As I arranged them on the wall, I liked what I saw. I cut and stitched some more and rearranged things to make them fit. Lovely. After a while I thought I should measure the top to see how close I was to 50 inches.

It was only 30 inches!
I kept plugging away, thinking it would be easy to finish the top that day. I cut and sewed busily and finally had everything arranged on the wall to make a quilt the required size.

I hated it.

Rather than take action, I closed the door on my sewing room and tried to forget about it. I left it to ‘mature’ on the wall, but I still didn’t think it worked. I started on another potential 50-inch quilt instead.

It was a couple of weeks later that I accepted I had to let the quilt be what it wanted to be. I rearranged pieces to form a 25-inch quilt instead. My design worked on that scale just as I imagined it would. I took a deep breath, cut pieces for the batting and backing and started to stitch the layers.

This quilt told me the size it wanted to be and all I had to do was to listen.

03 October 2012

New Facebook page

Woo hoo! Now Creative Dabbling has its own Facebook page. I've set it up so we can inspire each other, share links to crafty ideas and textile shows and just have some fun! 

Why don't you pop over there and 'like' it? Go on, it will be fun!

01 October 2012

My tribe

Most of us yearn to belong - to a group, to a community.
We crave the sense that together we are stronger than we are as individuals - 
that the whole can achieve what its components cannot.

We long to find our tribe, that place where we are accepted and cherished.

This is my tribe - the Sydney Swans.

To some, it may be only a football team. For those of you who don't like sport,
 or don't like this particular sport, you may struggle to understand my feelings. 
It takes a while, but if you opt into the culture, you will be richly rewarded.

First, a brief history lesson. This club has its roots in Melbourne. Formerly the South Melbourne Football Club, it was ailing and was moved to Sydney in 1982. 
It floundered in its new home for years but, regardless, many of us in Sydney adopted it as our own. I've been a supporter for all of those past 30 years.

This club cherishes its supporters. We are embraced as family. We suffer the lows - the number of losing games I've seen! Too many to count. We glow in the wins. We love the players in our teams as if they are our sons, brothers, grandsons.
 Their pain is our pain, their triumph is our triumph.

As we sit in the stands, we scream our support and groan our disappointment. 
We cheer and we cry. We wear the colours and make noise. There's not much certainty in professional sport but we have utter faith that the Sydney Swans players will not give up, no matter how hopeless the situation may seem.
They have opted in and it shows every time they play.

The Sydney Swans is my tribe. I am part of it and it is part of me. 

Now I'm counting the days until our first game next season...

26 September 2012


Spring hooky fever! Balls of gorgeous Poems wool 
are being combined into a rainbow striped blanket.

Starting with this

and turning it into this.

25 September 2012


Started yesterday with the gift of chocolate brownies from a friend - yum! Followed by visits to three quilt stores, a Thai lunch to energise ourselves and some sale bargains in other shops. A lovely way to spend a day with a friend.


17 September 2012

Latest ATC swap

I haven't made ATCs for a few years. After feverishly making and swapping, my collection grew to be large and I found my attention diverted to other projects. That's what happens with me - there's always something interesting to make me change direction.

Still, when Jane proposed an ATC swap on Facebook, I signed up straight away. These are the ATCs I received last week. Lovely!

Top: Handspun and crocheted by Marlene Answer-Lewis.

Middle row: Summer by Sally Westcott (left), Feather Me by Kim Bradley (right).

Bottom row: Mars by Andrea Carew (left), Ocean Tracks by Jane Monk (right).

15 September 2012

Poppy power

Today's poppies.
 I can't feel down about anything with these glorious colours around me.

13 September 2012

Two sides of spring

Outside, in the garden, exuberant colour has exploded. Pink rock orchid in flower.

Inside, in the sewing room, gentle hand applique is growing.

04 September 2012

Liberty love

Like many other quilters, I have long had a love of Liberty of London Tana lawn. The softness of the cotton and the beautiful prints are irresistible. However, local prices are not. Paying $52+ per metre is just not going to happen for me (nor do I think the fabric is worth that much).

Luckily, I've discovered a source where I can buy Liberty of London Tana lawn for less than half my local price. A friend and I placed a joint order on 20 August, split the cost of the postage and the parcel arrived ten days later. These are the four prints I bought - a total of 2.5 metres + postage for $67. Now I can happily continue to add to my Liberty collection at prices I'm prepared to pay. Deciding what to stitch with them will be a harder decision!

The website is Shaukat and Company in London. There is a minimum 1 metre cut, which is why it is good to place an order with a friend (if you can agree on the prints!). 

27 August 2012


I'm excited. August is nearly over and spring is officially starting at the end of this week. We've had a taste of warmer weather in Sydney and the plants in my garden are starting to wake from their winter slumber.

The National Year of Reading theme for September is GROW, so in honour of that and the approaching season, I'm sharing my fave gardening books with you.They are all written by Australians.

Shirley Stackhouse's My Gardening Year is a classic. I have the old edition, but this is the cover of the updated edition, with two of my favourite flowers on the cover. Love aqueligias and nigellas! The book is arranged month-by-month, with lists of what to plant and what is in flower or fruit, as well as suggestions for tasks to be carried out in each month. Invaluable.

The Ross family is my fave gardening family. Such a wealth of information that has been passed on! I used to love watching husband and wife Sandra and Graham Ross when they had a TV gardening show. Their daughter Linda has joined them in the garden writing field. From the Ground Up is a wonderful local guide - the subtitle says it all.

Meredith Kirton is another wonderful garden writer. Her Harvest: a complete guide to the edible garden is a thorough guide to starting and maintaining a vegetable gardening. Meredith's other books, Dig, An Hour in the Garden and Plot are equally useful and enjoyable.

Totally drool-worthy is Kitchen Gardens of Australia by Kate Herd. This is a book that shows how gorgeous vegetable, fruit and herb gardens can be. I lost myself in this one for days! Photography has captured these gardens at their very best.

Now, this book is for dreaming. Graham, Sandra and Linda Ross are back again to show us some of the most inspirational gardens they have seen. If you love the way a beautifully-designed and maintained garden can soothe, this is the book for you.

I've read many other great gardening books and probably don't know about many more. Tell me about the ones you love so we can all GROW together!