30 March 2014

After the rain

We've enjoyed wonderful rain at my place over the past week. It hasn't been enough to fully satisfy the trees, but it has done wonders for all my shrubs. The grass has sprung back to life and is a deep green - you can see how much it has relished the moisture.

My garden is recovering from yet another hot and dry summer. Usually we have strings of storms here throughout the summer but that didn't happen this time. There have been two successive summers with multiple days of temperatures over 40 degrees. That's simply too hot for successful vegetable gardening becuase the poor plants get sunburnt!

I've decided I won't be growing veggies in summer next year (except maybe cucumbers). The plants don't thrive, they just focus on staying alive, poor things.

Now the summer's humidity is nearly gone (it usually disappears about the end of March but is still hanging on this year), I've planted some seeds for edible greens. Parsley, coriander, silverbeet, kale and, of course, snow peas. 

Last year's crop (above) was so bountiful that I gave away bags of snow peas and ate them with most meals for weeks. Wonderful, snappy veggies - they are my favourites!

Do you enjoy planting in autumn? Do you have favourites that you recommend? Please leave a comment so I can learn from your experiences.

27 March 2014

Hand stitched 3

This is my final post for the month's celebration of hand stitching on ...And Then We Set It On Fire. If you missed my other two posts, you can read them here and here.

This time I am sharing a couple of my small layered pieces from my Fragments series.

Last year, I started a Traveller's Blanket online course with Dijanne Cevaal. We were required to hand-dye three layers of fabric - light muslin for the top, cotton flannel for the centre and cotton for the backing. These pieces were then sandwiched and hand stitched.

Although I still haven't finished my blanket, I have taken some smaller pieces of my hand-dyed fabrics and created these two works. The three layers are so soft that my needle slips through easily.

For Fragments 1, I layered the cloth and cut a rough heart-shaped piece from the top layer. I tucked a small piece of a checked fabric into one side of the heart and secured it with cross stitches (kisses!) along the centre edge.

Using various threads, I used running stitch to sew through all layers. After fraying the edges of the muslin, I used a Derwent Inktense block with water to add some pink colour. (Have you tried these Inktense blocks? They are brilliant - it's just like using watercolours!)

Here's a closer photo of part of the piece. You can see the shadow that the tucked-under piece of checked fabric makes - it provides another subtle colour change.

I'm very comfortable with frayed edges - I love the extra texture they add to a textile work. Do you feel differently?

For Fragments 2, I added some freehand-cut, vertical strips of organza that I have screen printed with black and gold paint. Across the top, there's a strip of the plain organza.

There are a lot of subtle shadows on this piece. You can see through the organza, so the colours of the muslin come through. Sections of the muslin are only partially dyed, so more of the centre flannel layer (the green) shows through, too.

In this detail photo, you can see the effect of the variegated thread - stronger colour in some places but fading away in others. This is stitched with my favourite WonderFil Tutti 50wt variegated thread. 

Thank you for reading my guest posts. Hand stitching is an important part of my creative life. If you don't already hand stitch, I hope you might give it a go. You may become just as addicted to it as I am!

I'd love you to visit my Facebook pages - Creative Dabbling and Textile Tidings.
Please pop over and say hello.

25 March 2014

Textiles Tuesday

All is well in my world - how about yours? Let's make some time to explore this week's links.

* Exhibition by Felicity Clarke and Laziza Hawkins.

* Stunning wearable art by Robyn Woodrow.

* Scrappy Pinwheel tutorial from Berlin Quilter.

* Planning to visit the Festival of Quilts in the UK this August? Bookings are now open for workshops.

 * See Pat Sloan's tutorial for fast, fun and durable triangle quilt labels.

* Yesterday I was one of the judges for the AQC Challenge. I can't tell you which quilts are the winners, but you can have a peek at the finalists.There are some beauties there!

* Wollongong Modern Quilt Guild is having a show!

Free spreadsheet from Molli Sparkles to help you cost the construction of your quilt. You'll be surprised how it all adds up.

* Current EQ7 owners: find out how you can now use EQ7 on your Macs.

20 March 2014

Hand stitched 2

This is my second guest post from ...And Then We Set It On Fire. If you missed my first entry, you can read it here.

Like most hand stitchers, I love threads as much as cloth. Non-shiny threads are my preference, since bling doesn't appeal. I prefer cotton, though I will use other fibres if the colour is right. For me, it's all about how the thread feels in my hand.

 Reaching for Words started life as a piece of plain cotton fabric that I folded and then hand-dyed. The dyeing resulted in a partial grid, so I pulled out all the threads from my collection that seemed to be potentials for this piece.

I used my favourite Aurifil 40wt cotton in plain colours, as well as WonderFil 12wt Fruiti and Spagetti threads. Fruiti is a beautiful variegated thread, while Spagetti is the same thread, but comes only in solid colours.

Mixing thread weights is a wonderful way to add variable texture.

I would like to try some of the beautiful colours in the Aurifil 12wt range once I can build a small collection. Linen is another thread I'd like to audition. What about you - what thread do you like to use for hand stitching?

The next piece in my Reaching series will be Reaching for Rain. I hand-dyed this piece of fabric and then coloured a section with Derwent Inktense sticks and then stamped and sponged it. The auditioned threads are a similar mix, with a few others thrown in. I haven't yet started stitching this piece.

The final quilt I'd like to show you is Windows. Again, this is a piece of fabric I folded and then dyed to create a grid. It was stitched with variegated Tutti 50wt cotton thread to create  windows of pattern.

I enjoy stitching on wholecloth, because then you can let the stitches make the pattern.

Sometimes, the fabric speaks to me and I find myself stitching the way it wants. That's the truly magical part!

Do you have recommendations for thread? What brands and weights do you prefer to use? When we stitch by hand, it really is personal preference because we handle the thread so much. I'd love to read your comments.
I'd love you to visit my Facebook pages, Creative Dabbling and Textile Tidings.
Please pop over and say hello.

18 March 2014

Textiles Tuesday

I have finally tweaked my computer the way I want it. Yay! It's amazing how many technological skills we all need these days, isn't it?

Eight links for you to explore this week:

* Neural Knitworks is a community art-science collaboration. Free pattern for ‘neurons’ that  you can donate. They will be pieced together with other textile ‘neurons’ to weave soft sculptural representations of the healthy brain. Launch: Hazelhurst Regional Gallery and Arts Centre,NSW, August 2014.

* Free quilt patterns from Modern Quilts Unimited magazine.

* My second guest post on ...And Now We Set It On Fire is now published! This time I talk about my fave threads and hand stitching on wholecloth.

* Barbara Brackman has another new blog. 'Austen Family Album' will provide 36 free weekly quilt blocks, with a guide to Jane Austen's England and posts about the people in her life. What a treat!

* Meroogal Women’s Art Prize is back! Entries close 8 August 2014. 

* Call for entries: Art on Legs 2014. Entries close 20 June 2014. 

* Want know how to dye threads? Laura Kemshall explains how on her blog. 

* There are 110 interviews with textile artists on the World of Threads Festival site. Grab a cuppa - you may be there for a while! 


17 March 2014


I'm sorry to everyone who has sent me an email in the past few days. I've deleted them! Accidentally, of course. 

While I've been setting up my new computer to get it exactly as I want it, I've been installing new software and changing settings. Sometimes there have been unexpected results, like deleted email. Oops!

Please send your email again if you haven't had a reply from me. 

I know what I'm doing now!

15 March 2014


One of the first things I planted in my garden 14 years ago was a rosemary. It was a tiny plant that I knew would spread and enhance my garden with its elegant shape.

I kept it trimmed and used the leaves to occasionally add flavour to my cooking. Other times, I deliberately would run my hands through the leaves just so I could release that wonderful scent.

Who could forget that memorable day I toppled over backwards into the bush, falling flat on my back among the foliage? The smell of the essential oil of the rosemary followed me around for the rest of that day and is captured in my sensual memories.

My rosemary bush started to die back over recent times and I saw the inevitable was happening. Clipping the tips, I potted those cuttings to create strong little plants. Offspring to replace the parent plant.

Today I removed the dead plant from its place in the ground. The cycle of life is complete.

My second guest post

on ...And Now We Set It On Fire is now published. This time I talk about my fave threads and hand stitching on wholecloth. Hop over there and let me know what you think!

11 March 2014

Textiles Tuesday

Most of my time over the past couple of days has been used tinkering with computers - setting up a new one and transferring all my data and programs. It takes a lot of time to get everything just the way I like it!

Here are some links for you to explore this week:

* Buy a Plank Quilt Auction goes live. Such an intruing name! Helen Conway auctioning 20 quilt 'planks' to benefit a clinic in Ghana.

* This is daily inspiration: 365 days of Japanese textiles for 2014.

* 6-16 March: Creative Dreaming Exhibtion by Shepparton Textile Artists Inc., Shepparton VIC.

* 25 March – 12 April: In the Garden exhibition by Beth Miller and Wilma Cawley, Queanbeyan, NSW. 

* 18 Things Highly Creative People Do Differently by Carolyn Gregoire. Can you relate to any of these? 

* Call for entries: National Wool Museum Scarf Festival 2014. Entries close 2 May 2014.

* All about stranded thread article by Tonya Grant. 

* For Amy Butler lovers: issue 2 of her online Blossom magazine.

* Do you like red and white quilts? Here's a year of challenges for you from SewCalGirl.

09 March 2014

Hand stitched 1

This is the first of my guest posts on ...And Then We Set It On Fire last week. I am posting it here as well, for those of you who may not have read it.

Hello everyone! I am Erica Spinks from Sydney, Australia and I'm so happy to be able to talk to you about hand stitching - my favourite subject.

Back in the 1980s, I went to my first patchwork class. It was at a local quilt shop, a rareity in Australia in those days. As beginners, we were required to make either a sampler or a medallion quilt, of our own design.

We were guided through the process - selecting blocks from a book, drafting the shapes, making the templates from sandpaper, choosing fabric and then cutting it with scissors, stitching all the pieces together by hand, sandwiching it and hand quilting. Even my binding was applied by hand! This was the beginning of my love affair with hand stitching.

Quilting on my first quilt. I don't think my stitches have been so even since then!

Over the years since, I have made countless quilts and textile pieces, some sewn together by machine but most stitched by hand. New 'time-saving' tools have been invented during those years and 'quick' patterns have followed for people keen to produce as many quilts as possible within their limited sewing time.

This, however, has never been why I stitch.

My relationship with the cloth I use is important to me. I need to feel it in my hands, draped on my lap. I need to know that the needle, an extension of my own hands, is full of treasured thread. As it intersects the cloth and joins the pieces, I can feel that it is my own creative effort that is making an object that had not previously existed. With my own hands, and simple tools, I have made something tangible.

Stitching, for me, takes as long as it needs. I do not work to deadlines; I rarely work to themes set by other people.

I simply hand stitch for the sheer pleasure. My enjoyment is with the process.

Detail of Jetsam. Hand-dyed fabric, with knitted pieces and hand stitching.

I am not an embroiderer. You won't see complicated stitching in the pieces I've made so far, though I have ideas for future works that may include stitches of different shapes. I use simple straight stitches, sometimes in rows and sometimes scattered across the piece, as you can see in this detail of stitching in Jetsam.

Simple straight stitches can add a lot to a work. Here's my Watermelon Summer, a piece I made during a very hot February in Sydney. Lovely wonky stitching with hot pink crochet thread really symbolises how frazzled we were!

Watermelon Summer

In my next guest post, I will show you the threads I enjoy using and some examples of my wholecloth works. I look forward to sharing with you again.

08 March 2014

Here's to us!

It's International Women's Day, so let's celebrate ourselves. 

We are strong, we are capable, we are WOMEN. Yay for us!

06 March 2014


I'm so pleased to say hello to all the new readers of this blog. I hope you will find something that interests you here. Please leave a comment if you see something you like (or don't like) - I'd love to hear from you.

05 March 2014

Perfume in the garden

The gentle scent of Murraya is wafting in through my open doors and it provides a happy start to my Wednesday morning. 

After the past week's showers, flowers have appeared on all the plants planted along my neighbour's fence. I savour the perfume and, once again, give thanks for the magic of gardens.

04 March 2014

Textiles Tuesday

Hello and welcome to everyone who has popped over here from ...And Then We Set It On Fire. My first guest post on that blog will appear tomorrow, when I'll be talking about my fave subject - hand stitching!

Today, though, you'll probably be wanting your weekly fix of links to explore. Here's what I found since last Tuesday.

* Fairholme Quilters, Sydney NSW, have made not one, but two raffle quilts to support their upcoming exhibition on April 4 and 5. Full details on their blog. (Photographs used with permission.)

The Kensington Quilt - designed by Val Nadin.

Marmalade - designed by Elizabeth Hartman.

* Want to learn to knit? Start with Sheep and Stitch. Plenty of how-to information here!

* Do you like lozenge quilt blocks? Here are Bonnie Hunter's free instructions.

* Quilt show in Harvey, WA.

14 quilt-making tutorials from Martingale authors.

* If you organise entries for shows, you'll want to read this post by Brenda Gael Smith where she explains the benefits of online entry forms.

* Here's a comprehensive post by Sarah Ann Smith on photographing quilts.

03 March 2014

Colour of the day

Isn't this wonderful? I was so impressed with the different shades in I could see in this cabbage leaf. Every day, nature provides inspiration. 

And now I'll eat it. :-)

01 March 2014

Guest blogging

How exciting! At Beata's invitation, I will be guest blogging over on ...And Then We Set It On Fire a couple of times this month. 

Read her introduction to a month of hand stitching here, where she introduces the five guest bloggers. Woo hoo!