25 December 2017

Three things

Holiday time! We are half way through our two weeks away from work. The best part? No schedules! It's luxurious to do what we want, whenever we want. I hope you have a chance to relax at this time of year, as well.

1. Big Bash cricket

This was our annual outing to a Big Bash game, a tradition we started last year. It was the Sydney Derby, a game between the two Sydney teams, the Thunder and the Sixers. Such a thrilling game - the result wasn't decided until the last ball of the game! It was great fun (even though we sweltered in the oppressively hot weather). Fingers crossed that next year will be cooler. πŸ˜€

2. Murder on the Orient Express

Perhaps I'm one of the few people who hasn't read Agatha Christie's classic whodunnit? This probably worked in my favour when we went to see this new movie with Kenneth Branagh as Hercule Poirot, the famous detective. Fabulous scenery and over-the-top casting - so many top actors! 

Have you seen it? What did you think? I loved it (and didn't guess the murderer).

3. Day trip to Kiama

On a showery day, we drove south to Kiama to visit the famous blowhole. I hadn't been there since I was a child and we were fortunate to be there on a day when the wind was blowing from the right direction. 

Natural phenomena always fascinate people, don't they? There were lots of oohs and aahs when the 'whoosh' noise occurred as the water was forced through the cavity of volcanic rock. If the water spray wasn't high, we just had to wait a couple of minutes until it forced its way through again.

Kiama is a pretty seaside town and well worth a visit. The fish and chips at the wharf seafood cafe were great, too!

Are you having any holiday time? Have you had any fun excursions? I'd love to hear your stories.

11 December 2017

My book of the month: December

"Full disclosure: I am a weather tragic."
As soon as I read this first line, I knew this book was written for me.

My fascination with weather started when we lived in my childhood home. It was in an elevated position so we could see great Sydney southerly busters approaching and anticipate the coolness that was to come. I spent many hours drawing clouds with my precious pastels and consulting my father's barometer, tapping it gently and watching for the air pressure to drop.

Lawrie Zion's obsession started when he was five and he has written a fascinating and accessible book about his observations of how weather information has pervaded all our sources of news. It is thoroughly researched and documented, as befitting a Professor of Journalism (La Trobe University).

Sigh, I have found a kindred spirit who loves the Bureau of Meteorology as much as I do! 

27 November 2017

In praise of brunfelsia

I'm in favour of shrubs that simply go about their business with minimal attention from me, apart from the occasional watering if there hasn't been rain for a month or so. I'm even more fond of shrubs that live quietly in my garden for most of the year until the day they cover themselves with glorious blooms. That's why I love my brunfelsia.

You can see why this is also called 'yesterday, today and tomorrow'; the flowers bloom in a strong purple colour, then fade through lilac to white. Simply gorgeous.

My shrub is covered in flowers that contrast beautifully against the deep green foliage. Low maintenance and beautiful - what more can you want from a shrub?

(Note, all parts of brunfelsia are poisonous to dogs so take care if you have pets.)

13 November 2017

Of the seasons

I have many notebooks, tucked away in drawers and on shelves. They mostly contain my writing ideas and snippets of overheard conversations but occasionally I will jot down quotes from my reading.

I came across this quote I'd noted from Margaret Simons' book, Six square metres: reflections on a small garden this morning and immediately wanted to share it with you.

"Call it a cliche, or call it an archetype. The rounds of the seasons give us one of the reliable metaphors of human storytelling. We know the deal: hope comes in spring, ripeness in summer, sadness in autumn, and stoicism or death in winter. Yet these days, only gardeners and farmers are in touch with this pattern. The supermarket robs us of the rhythm of story."

It's easy to lose touch with the natural cycle of life when we live in densely built cities and most fruits and vegetables are available year-round in the shops. We get used to buying what we want, when we want it, regardless of how long the fruit has been in cold store or how far the vegetable has travelled around the world.

Working with nature's cycles rather than fighting them - that's a simple way to be grateful for all that our planet provides.  

16 October 2017

Songlines: tracking the seven sisters

Canberra is a comfortable drive from my home, so it's easy to visit there for a couple of days. We specifically went there this week to enjoy three places in our national capital: Floriade, Parliament House, and the National Museum of Australia. All enriched us.

At the Museum, we experienced the Songlines: tracking the Seven Sisters exhibition. It was powerful and dream-like in some places and outside any of my existing knowledge.

The belief system of Indigenous Australians encompasses the faith that objects, places, and creatures possess spiritual essences. As part of that belief, songlines are the paths across the land (or sometimes the sky) that show the tracks of creator-beings during the Dreaming. 

Recorded in stories, dances, songs, and paintings and passed down from generation to generation, these paths include knowledge about landmarks, waterholes, and local animals. The Seven Sisters songlines are among the most significant of the extensive creation tracks that crisscross Australia. 

This special exhibition at the Museum runs until 25 February and it is fabulous. Make sure you download the app before you go so you can listen to the Seven Sisters guide you through the exhibit. (If you can't get there, listen to the app anyway. It's terrific.) 

Be uninhibited and lie down in the digital dome to immerse yourself in the only known Seven Sisters rock art site and see stunning vision of the sisters flying across the night sky. It's the best part of the exhibition, in my opinion.  

I don't know what to make of our Songlines experience. I'm not sure how to process what I learned but I do know that it's an exhibition that has broadened my thinking about a different belief system. 

Have you seen it? What is your reaction? 

09 October 2017

My book of the month: October

Reading is an intensely personal relationship between me and the book I hold in my hand. I immerse myself in the world an author has created as if the story was written solely for me. 

I've read all of Louise Penny's Inspector Gamache series and, after finishing each latest book in the series, I declare that it's her best book yet. You must be tired of me saying that!

In Glass Houses, though, Louise Penny has taken her storytelling to a higher level. 

I was about 80 pages from the end of the book and I knew I had to remove myself from all the domestic noises that were surrounding me. The suspense was intense and I needed to completely focus on where Louise Penny's words were taking me.

So I took myself upstairs and, after making a nest of pillows on my bed, curled up and fell again into the world of Three Pines. All external stimuli disappeared as I absorbed the action.  I was drained and awed after finishing the last word.

I'm not going to explain what happened in Glass Houses - you can read about that on Goodreads - but I will say how satisfying it was to read a story written by an author at her prime. Powerful.

02 October 2017

On being patient

Finding your own pace can take a lifetime or, if you are lucky, you can discover at a young age the speed at which you want to live your life. I now realise that I always knew, deep inside, that I wanted a slow life. The common culture around me thought differently. 

It's difficult to resist the pressures, real or perceived, that surround us. Aim for the sky, you can do anything, climb that career ladder, it's time you were settled down - this is not one-size-fits-all advice. All that rushing around simply makes me anxious. 

Slow down, be patient, and reap the rewards.

I prefer to nurture the nourishing activities and valued relationships in my life. It's satisfying to plant a seed and watch its whole life cycle take place. It's gratifying to share a secret smile and touch with the person I love. These are the moments that enrich my life and they are the rewards of patience.

25 September 2017

Three things I like this week

Hello everyone! It's lovely to share my week with you. Isn't it great that we can learn and experience new things every day? Some open new ways of thinking, while others simply make me gaze in awe.

1. Unfurling blooms

Last year, we bought a couple of pitcher plants (Nepenthes) home from the garden centre. We were attracted by the gorgeous markings on their leaves - veins and spots - and were happy to admire them each day. Imagine how thrilled we were to see a flower shoot up on each plant! 

I've been taking photos of the flowers every day as the petals open. They are so subtle and certainly an added bonus for us.

2. Guided meditation

Sure, I've read about this and heard many positive stories about the impact it can have but I'd never tried it. Several weeks ago, the Headspace app was recommended to me so I gave it a go.

I started with three-minute meditations (you can choose three, five or ten minutes) and completed ten consecutive days. They were a great introduction to the process and, after the first five days, I found I was keen for the next day's session. Now I'm doing the ten-minute ones and they are helping keep me calm and focused. 

Will I pay a subscription to access more of the meditations? I'm not sure about that yet; I may continue with the free basics for a while.

Have you tried guided meditation with an app? Let us know what app you use.

3. My Vegepod

Last year I purchased a small Vegepod raised garden bed, set it up, and planted a crop of summer vegetables. Soon after, I realised that I had put it in the wrong spot in my garden. It was too heavy to lift (it is filled with five bags of manure and potting mix) so I couldn't move it until the crops had finished and it could be temporarily emptied.

In August I finally got around to doing just that. It took two of us to position it correctly on the relocated stand and, once that was done, I refilled it and planted.

As I gather lettuce, spinach, spring onions, or chives from it now, I am grateful that the unit works so well in my garden. Our ground is parched because we haven't had rain for over a month but my Vegepod is easy to water and the veggies are thriving. They are protected from possums and insects by the cover and we are the only creatures munching on them now!

What's making you happy this week?  

18 September 2017

Monday motivation

I love Mondays because I try to be by myself, without commitments that take me away from home. Today's motivation is looking through my idea notebooks, where there are so many ideas waiting to be developed.

There is one problem, though. I flit from idea to idea and can't focus on a single one. Is this a form of procrastination or am I scared to start? Probably both in my case. Do you ever have this difficulty? 

Here's how I overcome it: simply make a choice, any choice, and then start writing.

As long as I'm not on a deadline (and I don't have any of those at present), it doesn't really matter what I write but just that I do write. Start and then the words will come.

You may not be a writer but there might be quilt pattern ideas in your notebook or a list of projects for your garden. It doesn't matter what your ideas are. Take the first step. Go on. That's all that's needed to make something happen.

Do you think this approach would work for you if you are overwhelmed by choices?  I'd love to know! 

11 September 2017

My book of the month: September

What if all your secrets were put online? This is the premise of the latest Jack Parlabane thriller (number eight in the series) by Chris Brookmyre.

I first came across this series when I read Black Widow, a ripper of a story that is number seven in the series. After that, I planned to start at the beginning with book one (Quite Ugly One Morning) but didn't get around to it before Want You Gone was published.

It's natural that a computer hacker and a journalist would have a mutual interest to obtain information but it's when they both realise they have a common enemy that they are thrown together. The story moves quickly and there are a few twists throughout the plot to keep the reader surprised. 

Now I WILL go back to start at book one! πŸ˜ƒ

Read more about Want You Gone on Goodreads.

04 September 2017

Spring flowers

David Jones department store is a Sydney institution. Stylish and elegant, the Elizabeth Street store beckons me each year to its spring flower show. It's always worth the trip to the city!

Seeing the arrangements by 30 specialist florists always lifts my spirits and ignites my enthusiasm for gorgeous colours and blooms. Don't miss it!

There really is "no other store like David Jones". 🌼🌼🌼

22 August 2017

It's the small things

It's such a lovely day here in Sydney; is it beautiful where you are, too? I'm at home today and feel extraordinarily at peace. Nothing major has happened but I've been pottering around my house, doing all those small things that make me feel good.

I've picked all the remaining blood oranges from my potted tree. It's been such a great crop this year! I'll be squeezing the gorgeous juice from these fruit and enjoying the sun-kissed dose of goodness.

The washing is hanging quietly on the line outside and I've just come back from inhaling the scent that it is giving off as it dries in the sun. I love that sun-fresh smell, don't you?

I bought myself a new garden rake and a reading lamp today. Small things in themselves but they'll make my life easier. It doesn't take much to make my nest more comfortable.

I even hosed out the wheelie bin! Perhaps I have gone all domestic because my bin hasn't been cleaned out like that for ages. It makes me content, though.

As you can see, it doesn't take much to make me happy. Does your happiness quota get topped up by simple actions, too?

14 August 2017

Digital protection

I have a LOT of digital files and photos. I am also slightly paranoid about losing them all in a digital catastrophe, which means I make multiple backups. It's my responsibility to look after all my digital records and I'll only have myself to blame if I lose them because my computer drives fail or I lose my tablet. 

Computer programs and apps can always be reinstalled if lost, but data can't be reinstated if I don't have copies. So what do I do?

1. External hard drive
I have two and they contain everything I value. One is permanently attached to my desktop computer and the other moves around, depending where I want it. Two external drives are better than one (it's that mild paranoia!).

2. USB drives
These are small, light and easy to carry around. I have several.

3. Email
I often email important documents to myself, which means they are stored in yet another place. After I spend hours editing or writing, the last thing I need is to lose all that work.

4. The "cloud"
I sometimes (but not always) save files this way. I think that what some people often forget is that the "cloud" is simply someone else's computer, usually belonging to a large company. No one values my files as much as I do, so I would never consider making my sole backup on someone else's computer. It is always possible that there could be hardware failures at their end or that staff could access my files. Told you I am paranoid! πŸ˜€

Really, though, we each need to decide how valuable our files and photos are to us and then back them up accordingly. What type of backup do you do?

07 August 2017

Three things I like this week

Whew! Things sometimes happen when you least expect them, while other actions are carefully planned. Balancing everything going on in your life can be a challenge, which is why I try to focus on the positives.

1. Winter in Sydney

We are having the most glorious sunny days this week. The wind has quite a chill factor, so it's not as warm outside as it looks from behind my window, but the sun lifts my spirits and makes everything seem better.

I tag my winter seasonal photos on Instagram (I'm @ericaspinks) with the hashtag #winterinsydney and it's fun to look back at moments I've captured with my camera.

2. Knitting

Picking up a knitting project I started over 10 years ago (I know - how slack!), I'm wondering if I will finish it this season. I've already knitted the front and back of the jumper, joined them at the shoulders, and finished the neckline so that just leaves the sleeves for me to make. Keep your fingers crossed that I have enough yarn to complete it because I doubt I'd find any more now.

Do you like my knitting bag? It was a birthday gift from my friend Sarah. Gorgeous Liberty fabrics! (You can buy the pattern for her bag here, if you want to make one yourself. It's amazingly spacious.)

3. Sorting electronic clutter

I enjoy using my electronic devices - computer, tablet and phone - but regularly I need to tame the data they contain. Purging apps, leaving email lists, deleting photos, unfollowing people and pages, and organising files - it all soothes me and makes me feel that I control a tiny space in the universe. So satisfying.

What has made you happy this week? 

17 July 2017

My book of the month: July

Here's my confession up front: I usually steer clear of books set in World War II Britain because I tire of the stiff upper lip attitude that seems prevalent in most of the stories set in this time. It may have been true but I don't want to read any more about it.

This novel is different. It charmed me with its story lines about relationships and the natural inclination of people to support each other during terrible events. It could really have been set in any society during war.

The characters are different ages and react in different ways to the bombing of the town of Chilbury in 1940. Portrayed through letters written by various characters, the story shows how human resilience can shine to make life worthwhile, even in difficult times.

You can read more about The Chilbury Ladies Choir on Goodreads.

11 July 2017

Making your life the way you want it

A few months ago, I shared with you that I enjoy being a homebody. I cherish being in my nest, in the calm and nurturing environment I have created. I'm exhausted by people who always want more - more travel, more goals, more of this, more of that.

Did you read this article by Wendy Squires in the weekend papers? I felt such relief that someone else feels the same as I do. As Wendy says, "Your life and goals don't happen to look better to me. I don't necessarily want what you want."

And that's the key, I think. We are all different and we make our way in life as best we can, in line with our own priorities. So next time you look at a friend and think, 'she could achieve so much more', just stop. Don't project your personal outlook and goals on to her. 

As Wendy says, "What I will say to those of you who worry about me, who are always asking me what next, who next, or urging me to go harder and faster, is: slow down. I understand you are coming from a good place but it is your place, not mine." 

Yes, indeed.

26 June 2017

In the Studio with Megan Manwaring

Did you miss my article about QuiltNSW President, Megan Manwaring? Now you can read it online for free!

19 June 2017

My book of the month: June

Do you know that feeling when you eagerly anticipate the new novel in a favourite series? I have several of these faves and the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths is probably my number one!

Dr Ruth Galloway is an English forensic archaeologist who, it must be said, has a complicated life. I always find myself drawn into the stories in this series, with their mix of archaeology, police procedural plots and, above all, the personal lives of Ruth and all who enter her life. 

I read this novel in one day, while waiting at a hospital (long story). Sadly, I have to wait until 2018 for the next instalment!

The Chalk Pit is the ninth in the series. You can read more about the book on Goodreads

05 June 2017

Quilt stories

I was fortunate to interview two quilters for issue 85 of Quilters Companion magazine. Two - double the fun!

Christine Lethlean has a fabulous studio in rural Victoria, where she is creatively resourceful. I am always thrilled to peek into another quilter's creative space - it's that inner sticky-beak in me!

My second article is about Rachaeldaisy, an award-winning quilt maker with a playful name. Rachael won Best of Show at the Sydney Quilt Show in 2016 and I enjoyed discovering how she developed her colourful style. You can read this article online now!

I don't have any more articles planned at present so, if you need a writer for craft-related articles or a technical editor for quilt patterns, I'd be happy to discuss how I can help you. Email me and let's talk!

Meanwhile, I'll go back to plotting my novels....

29 May 2017

Three things I like this week

Right now, the sun is shining and the temperature is cool. I'm sipping green tea while composing this post and life feels good. What better time to list three things I like this week?

1. This book about creative studios

Working in an organised and comfortable environment at home is important to me and I love snooping into the creative spaces of other people. That's why I was excited to finally devour Studio: creative spaces for creative people by Sally Coulthard.

The studio on the cover is too dark for my liking but the book shows studios of all styles, shapes and colours. It certainly satisfied the sticky-beak in me!

2. Flat pack achievements

I was thankful for my Black & Decker rechargeable screwdriver as I assembled three pieces of flat-pack furniture - two bedside tables and an entertainment unit. They all have drawers (six in total) and I managed to put only two sets of drawer tracks in the wrong way. Yay me! 

I may retire from assembling furniture for a while now; I think those pieces are this year's quota.

3. Seeing Ian Rankin

The Sydney Writers' Festival wrapped up on the weekend and we attended one of the sessions on Saturday. What a thrill to hear Scottish writer Ian Rankin in conversation with Candice FoxIt was an entertaining chat and he recounted some funny and fascinating stories. 

I always like to learn more about authors who write my favourite books and this session did not disappoint. How fortunate we were that he travelled from the other side of the world to engage us.

How is your week? Have you had any positive experiences? Share them in the comments so we can all enjoy them, too.

15 May 2017

My book of the month: May

Real people are multi-layered, aren't they? I enjoy books that have characters so well formed that they appear real; they have so many layers of complexity that the reader can understand the characters' behaviour. The real Liddy James by Anne-Marie Casey is one of these stories.

It's not just about Liddy, though. As she forges her way through life at ferocious speed, with a ruthless reputation as a top divorce lawyer, we also see the impact she has on the other members of her family.

I thought this might be a predictable story about how a 'perfect' life falls to pieces and, in some ways, it may be read that way. But The real Liddy James is much more than that. It's about recognising our true selves and finding our place in relationships with others. 

Read more about The real Liddy James on Goodreads 

08 May 2017

On being a homebody

I've always needed solitude. There's nothing more soothing to me than simply being comfortable, maybe with a book or a hand sewing project to engage me. Even when I was growing up, I could spend hours alone on our front verandah, drawing clouds with creamy pastels, or in my bedroom, dreaming or reading.

Nothing's changed now that I'm older. I don't crave travel to foreign countries or being with large groups of people. That's not me. I am a homebody and that satisfies me.

I think that as you get older, you get to accept that your inner self is what makes you happy. It's what you are, deep inside, that defines the type of life you enjoy.

Making a comfortable home and pottering around it and my garden - these are the parts of my life that nurture me. Now, as I share that with another like-minded person, it is even more satisfying. And there can't be anything better than that.

17 April 2017

Three things I like this week

To choose only three things can sometimes be difficult. There are always so many small joyful moments in every day; we just need to recognise them!

1. New plants

I can't help but admire the gorgeous colours of the waterlily flowers in the top photo. I snapped this photo at The Collector's Plant Fair, a wonderful show where over 70 specialist nurseries gathered to sell their plants. I purchased only a few specimens but could definitely have brought many more! 

2. Seeing my writing online

Did you miss my Quilters Companion article about Sue Reid's quilt studio? You can now read it online for free!  I love seeing how other quilters arrange their creative spaces and how they make their work.

3. Hand stitching

I had an opportunity over the Easter long weekend to make progress with the applique on my BOM. Oh, how I am enjoying hand stitching these colourful blooms! Here's the pile of circles prepared for applique. Slowly sewing is so meditative. 

Do you have things that make you happy this week? Snippets of joy are all around us; we just have to look out for them.

10 April 2017

In the studio with Deirdre Bond-Abel

In the current issue of Quilters Companion, I have the privilege of sharing Deidre Bond-Abel's story of how her long-held dreams are coming to life.

Just look at the view through that window! Deirdre's business, Hat Creek Quilts, is based in Tasmania where she works while surrounded by inspirational countryside. 

Once again, I was fortunate to have a peep into the creative life of another talented Australian quilter. It was such a treat!

03 April 2017

My book of the month: April

I like stories set in Ireland. Having never been there, it seems like a fantasy land to me, with gorgeous landscapes and lovable characters. The library at the edge of the world by Felicity Hayes-McCoy does not disappoint in these respects.

At its core, this is a novel about community and family commitments. Each of these feeds into the other, of course, and make our small parts of the world better places. Lovely reading.

Visit Goodreads to read more about this book.

27 March 2017

The meditative effect of reverse sewing

Every day for the past few weeks, I've been unpicking the machine quilting on a friend's quilt. It was stitched so poorly by a commercial quilter that my friend knew she couldn't tolerate it. I offered to unpick it for her and so, armed with my trusty seam ripper and magnifying glasses, I started.

It is a huge quilt and it took many hours to separate the layers. It was fiddly work and yet strangely calming. I've found that I enjoyed the process while simultaneously feeling sad that it needed to be done. This quilt will be reborn later with my friend's beautiful hand quilting that will make it shine.

What have I cherished while unpicking the stitching on this quilt?

  • Quiet time with my partner. He's read a book or watched a television show with the volume turned down low. We've been in each other's company while doing separate activities.
  • Listening to podcasts to learn new things. The hours flew past while my mind was occupied with what I was hearing and my hands were busy with the seam ripper.
  • Thinking about ideas for novels. It's always fascinating how my mind roams as it considers what to write and how to plot the stories.
  • Simply listening to the noises around me. My neighbourhood has its own combination of silences and noises. It's comforting to know, just by the sounds, that I am home.
  • Making myself get up to move for ten minutes each hour. Thanks to the notifications on my Fitbit, I know when to walk each hour. Without these, I'm sure I would have stayed on my couch.
  • Catching up on the latest TV series of Vera, which I had recorded. Love these stories.
  • Knowing that my friend will be happy when she receives her beautiful quilt top back without all the ugly stitching.
  • Just being. This was the best of all; simply being, with the pile of black threads growing along side me as I rhythmically removed thread.
It's been meditative but I have to say I'm oh so glad it's over now!  

20 March 2017

Life observation: 1

I watched the woman from my window. She was carefully picking small flowers from a shrub in the park and I wondered; why? What was she planning to do with the large bag of blooms? I crossed the road to ask her.

I'm giving them to Buddha, she said. Do you know Buddha?

I nodded, of course.

I like to offer flowers regularly but the flowers you can buy in Australia are so large. Small ones are better; there are many small flowers in Burma, my native country. But here, they are too big so I pick these tiny ones for Buddha.

I thought you might be going to cook with them, I said.

She laughed. I've been asked that before; one man thought I would cook them into a soup. 

We laughed together and then I walked home, pondering her patience and the simple ritual she included in her life.

Curious, I wanted to find out why she might make this offering. I found ten reasons here. Rituals can be powerful, can't they?

13 March 2017

My book of the month: March

I enjoy books with happy endings. They make me appreciate that life is not all gloom and doom and that people can live fulfilling lives and enjoy nurturing relationships. Why wouldn't you want that?

Josephine Moon writes great stories with food-related themes and I've recommended another book by her before (here). I was fully committed to this story by the end of the first chapter. Great characters, interesting settings and a relationship that was meant to be - what more could I want from a story? Excellent read.

Read more about this novel on Goodreads.

06 March 2017

Three things I like this week

Recognising the positive things in my life opens my eyes to the good all around. They're not always big things; the small moments can light up my days.

1. Rain

We've enjoyed so much rain over the past week and there's more forecast for the coming days. My parched garden has soaked it up and everything is so green! Thank you to all the clouds that released their loads of water around my suburb.

2. Walking

I'm endeavouring to move more. Sitting at a computer or sitting with my sewing encourages the hours to fly past without me walking around. Conscious movement is the key for me, I've found, and alerts from my Fitbit remind me to walk. I'm becoming competitve with myself!

3. Stitching

Oh how I love hand stitching! My current project is a BOM pattern designed by my friend Sarah. It's gorgeous and I'm enjoying selecting my own fabrics and colours to make my version unique. 

What are you enjoying this week? 

27 February 2017

Exploding quilt block diagrams

When I've been writing patterns for my quilts, I've often thought it would be useful to include diagrams that show how the pieces of a block join. I have low-level skills with graphics programs and I don't have expensive software. I use EQ7 for my diagrams but never knew a way to explode those diagrams.

Until now.

Those clever people at EQ have provided tutorials for using two different programs to explode EQ blocks. The first tutorial is for use with Adobe Illustrator, a software program available for purchase.

The second tutorial is for use with Inkscape, a free software program. This is the option I'll be using and I'll download Inkscape to play with its possibilities.

What do you use to explode block diagrams? Do you have a different method?

13 February 2017

In the studio with Ali George

It's always a privilege to write about quilters' studios. I think we can learn from the ways other creative people set up their work spaces; we can see how they organise their materials and consider whether some of their ideas may suit our own studios.

For issue 83 of Quilters Companion magazine, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ali George, who lives on a five-acre property in Queensland. Her descriptions of her two studios (yes, two! How jealous does that make me?) and the surrounding landscape tempted me to move there immediately.

This is part of the joy of writing about creative studios and their owners - it allows me (and eventually you, the readers) to learn about places we may never visit in real life.

Last week I discovered that Ali and her husband are selling their property in Tarome so, if you are tempted, you can move there and allow the stunning scenery inform your textile work, too!

30 January 2017

Three things I like this week

I haven't written one of these posts for a while but it's a regular subject I want to revive. Staying positive and looking for the good things in our lives can be challenging sometimes, can't it? 

1. Being Australian

Australia's not a perfect place but I'm thankful I was born here. With all the scary things going on around the world, I'm so glad to live here in our small part of the planet.

2.  Technology

It allows me to stay in touch with you all; to have electricity and all the benefits that brings with it; and to learn from the collective wisdom of others. For that, I am thankful.

3. My garden

It's nothing special, just my own little patch of earth. Currently struggling in the summer heat, it needs a lot of tidying and maintenance but every time I potter around in it I am happy.

What do you like this week?

23 January 2017

My book of the month: January

My favourite novel this month is The Woman Next Door. I cherish Liz Byrski's novels because she shows the rich lives of older women. There's so much to learn about how to live a fulfilling life from her characters and I can imagine them living next door to me. That's a sign of a good writer - creating believable and likeable characters - isn't it?

It's not all beautiful sunsets and happy days, either. That's another aspect of Byrski's novels that draws me in - these could be real people. The characters are so well-drawn and the author's empathy is evident as she portrays their feelings, frustrations, disappointments and loves.

Read more about The Woman Next Door on Goodreads.

09 January 2017

So much advice!

The beginning of a new calendar year brings a flood of articles and blog posts offering (mostly unsolicited) advice. Do this, don't do that, set goals, choose a word, make lists.

So much busyness!

Does anyone take any notice of these things? Are they written simply because someone, somewhere, decreed that, while in the midst of holiday lethargy (a period that bears no resemblance whatsoever to the real life we lead for most of the year) people want to hear how to organise their lives?

In the meantime, I'll continue to meander through my life in my own way, enjoying the moments along the way, adopting the philosophy of this Tibetan proverb:

"The secret of living well and longer is: eat half, walk double, laugh triple, and love without measure." 

Sounds perfect.

02 January 2017

Playing with Prisma

If you follow me on my Facebook pages (Erica Spinks and Creative Dabbling), you may have seen that I've been having fun on my tablet with an app called Prisma. I've shared some of the altered images I've made on those pages but here I want to show how different a single photograph can appear once it's been processed with various filters.

This is my original photograph. I took this picture last January at a workshop with Sophie Munns, held at the Australian PlantBank at The Australian Botanic Gardens, Mt Annan. I love the shape of the seedpod, as well as the textures - smooth on the inside and rough on the outside. I wondered how the Prisma filters would alter the colours and look?

This is the 'Illegal Beauty' filter. I like the subtle colours - a pink and yellow combination is one of my favourites.

This filter is 'Composition'. It makes the photo graphic and dramatic. Quite striking, don't you think?

'Mosaic' is one of my favourite filters. Not all photos translate well with this filter because some of shapes fragment into too many pieces but I like this result.

This is the 'Electric' filter, where the waving lines add an element of movement to the seedpod shape and background.

Prisma is available for Android and for iOS, so you can download it from the usual places. The filters are fabulous and the app is free! Have you tried it yet?