Monday, January 30, 2006

We have started work replacing the ceiling of my office/sewing room, and I've been banished upstairs to my husband's office area. I'm suffering from fabric withdrawal, so I've been going through photos instead. Found this one of the Troy fabric warehouse in Chicago, which I visited in 2002. I could have stayed there all day.

This is me, at home on my verandah, with some of the fabric I bought at Troy. Aaaahhhh, fabric!

The quilt over the railing behind me is one I bought from Ebay for $17. It is a lovely blend of late 1800s fabrics. I intend to make my own version in reproduction fabrics; I bought the yellow and green, and several shirtings, and will have fun making the scrappy strips.

I've been collecting cadet blue FQs for years, and I will finally get to cut some up when I make this quilt. They've been on my too-good-to-cut-up list for all that time, but after I've made this quilt the leftovers will be relegated to scraps and they'll be fair game for my other projects.

I'm still doing designs, still not really enjoying it. I look at a lot of photos and books to get my ideas. I saw The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe recently and was blown away by the designs on the boys' armour. Which made me remember the armour display at the Chicago Art Museum, which I went to see with Meredith's son John. John is an incredible artist, but being a guy is also fascinated by weapons; I doubt if I would have gone to see it on my own, but it was fantastic. The level of ornamentation was unbelievable.

Look at this helmet, with a beautful clamshell design. Great quilting idea.

Unfortunately the lighting was so dim that my camera had trouble focusing, and no flash photography was allowed. It's a permanent exhibit, so we will definitely revisit next time we are in Chicago.


Thursday, January 26, 2006

About 10 years ago I went through a patchwork slump that lasted more than a year. I just couldn't sew on any of my quilt projects. Judy Martin caused it. I bought one of her block books, and the fabrics I saw in there were nothing like the ones I could buy here. If I couldn't make quilts with those gorgeous fabrics then I wouldn't make quilts at all.

I made smocked dresses instead. Hundreds of them, and sold them at markets. There was a lot of embroidery and stitching, and I became the queen of gathering. I could make a perfect piped colllar in minutes, my plackets were a work of art, I could make bullion roses by the dozen. And then I got bored of that too.

I knew I would have to start making quilts again, so I made myself start these Log Cabin blocks from my scraps. It only took a few days, and something happened about 20 blocks into it. I was hooked again, enthusiastic and eager to finish. Which is probably why I sewed the last two rows on upside down, creating the arrow effect. What the heck, it looked OK.

Two new fabric shops came to town, that wonderful American patchwork fabric arrived to tempt me. The top was put aside, while I made other quilts and amassed my considerable stash. But all the time, I was working on the border.

Every scrap from my other projects was cut into 1 1/2"strips and stored in a jar by my machine.
This is a Fowler's 3 pint milk billy, which I just love. It reminds me that even when I think life is the pits, at least I don't have to preserve milk to ensure a supply. (What can it have tasted like?) I do not wish for 'the old days'.

Whenever the billy was full I sewed all the strips into little 16-patches and stored them away, and after a year I had enough to do the border. It's my favourite part of this quilt, composed of the trimmings of a dozen other projects. I'm still saving the little bits and making 16-patches, and I'll build another quilt around them sometime soon.

I also love that this is the first quilt I ever quilted on a longarm machine, my friend Cathy's Gammil. It's not perfect quilting, but I'm very fond of all the mistakes. They are just the start of a tremendous learning curve, and I've loved every minute of it.


Saturday, January 21, 2006

I've been hearing all about Mile-a-Minute quilts lately, and I remembered an antique quilt I saw in a booth at a show; it's the same sort of concept, but a bit like an endless log cabin block. The size of the pieces is amazing. I love the colours, but I'm not sure I could re-create it without going for something a bit brighter.

And a close up... the strips were about 3/4"wide. I know I couldn'd do it randomly, I would try and make a pattern and that would destroy the effect. I think I'll just enjoy the picture.

I'm working hard on finalising new releases for this year, and I'm not enjoying it one bit. I don't know if I ever do. I hate deadlines and obligations, but there is no choice; other people are waiting for me to finish so that they can start their work on the designs, so I just have to be adult and work away. But my Inner Child is lying on the floor kicking her heels and screaming ""

I wish she'd shut up and let me get on with it..


Thursday, January 19, 2006

When I wrote the acknowledgements page for my book (Beautiful Quilts-As-You-Go) I thanked my Mum for teaching me the value of finishing what I start. I was being a bit rueful the other day, remembering that, as I recently found so many projects that I haven't finished, and may never finish. Maybe I should have learned the lesson better.Then it occured to me that the lesson my Dad taught me was to always start something, in hope. He had a serious heart problem from the time he was a small boy, and when WWII came he was rejected on medical grounds. But he finally managed to enlist in the Royal Australin AirForce, and was sent to the Goodenough Islands in the Pacific; here he contracted malaria and jaundice, and his heart problem worsened. He became seriously ill in the mid '60s, and was told to take up a sedentary hobby, instead of the woodworking and uphostery that he loved. So a set of paints and various canvases appeared, and after tea we would all sit around the kitchen table and watch him paint.

It must have been nerve-wracking to put brush to canvas with so many eyes upon him, but he loved the attention; we thought he was a magician to conjure up landscapes upon the blank white page. He had three or four in various stages of completion, the same way he always had three or four woodwork projects on the go.

He died in 1967 when Meredith and I were 10. He was 47. His unfinished projects are still in the shed, still in various cupboards and drawers in my mother's house. But if he'd never started, if he'd laboured on one thing until it was done, I might never have known how much he loved to create. He might have died without ever having made a stoke of colour on the canvas, and we would never have known that he was an artist.

Finishing is to be commended, but starting is the real act of creation.


Wednesday, January 18, 2006

I could've done without this...

Yesterday I noticed the ceiling above my computer was discoloured and sagging; hmmmm. Whatever could it be? Oh, I know! It's a termite nest of course. We got the Pest Control man around straight away, and it's all taken care of, except that the nest has to be left for a week so the poison can kill all the little blighters.

So now my sewing room/office is a shambles of furniture shoved out of the way and tarpaulins and my beautiful ceiling ruined. I waited 15 years for that ceiling, and it's only been finished for 12 months and now it's going to have to be torn down and redone. DH and I put the sheeting
up and painted it ourselves, and it took me weeks to get over it, it was so exhausting in the heat. And now we'll have to do it again, except that this time the room is full of furniture and office equipment. AAARRRGGHHH!!

I was happily working on an old UFO, pinned to the noticeboard. It uses strips no wider than 1 1/4" and is about 5 years old; I abandoned it because I was convinced it was ugly. Then I became obsessed with scraps again, and started thinking it wasn't so bad. It's sort of like a glorified Hatchet block, or Kansas Dugout, and I'm string-piecing the centre bit onto a fine interfacing.

I'm finishing it so I can hang it on the big, bare wall behind the TV, so that when something boring is on I can muse upon my quilt instead.

I am so over TV. Or rather DH's taste in programs. I will scream if I have to sit through anything to do with the Hindenberg disaster again, or Hitler, or the land speed record, or monster machines, or rebuilding old cars. Please let's watch Antiques Roadshow, or Animal Rescue, or Herbie Goes To Holllywood, or anything!!!!

I'm stressed, and I can't even get near my machine to sew....sob

We had good news this week; both my kids have been offered Uni places; the bad news? Neither of them want to take them. I may have to bang my head or theirs against a wall....


Thursday, January 05, 2006

Ho boy!! Is it hot or what? We have had 4 days of temps over 38degrees (100degreesF), with 100% humidity and it doesn't look like geting any cooler. The only thing to do is to live in the A/c rooms and wait it out. So it wasn't any fun when we lost power on two circuits and DS couldn't run his A/c. But the sparky has fixed the problem and we all have our own areas back, and can aspire to harmony again. The heat frays tempers very quickly.

I strangely chose this time to wash and sort all my good china, which
eant pulling everything out of every deep, dark cupboard and piling it throughout the kitchen. It was therapeutic to reacquaint myself with my treasures, and also to decide that I could live without lots of it. We plan to move house this year, and I don't want to face dealing with all my stuff at the last moment.

I have been photographing all the pieces too, and then even when I sell them or give them to the op-shop I still have a record of the patterns as inspiration for applique or colourschemes. Which is why I bought most of them in the first place.

It's 104degrees in our bathroom; we have another 7 weeks of summer to endure....

I'm itching to go buy some fabric so I can start my new fabric book, but we don't have many stores in this town and I've bought just about everything that I like on offer. May have to visit some of my favourite sites, like or

I belong to a list that encourages members to use fabric from their stash (Stashbuster on yahoo) and spent a lot of time last year wondering what my views on fabric actaully are. One of my deepest pleasures is buying fabric, and I would hate to try and stop entirely. But I have so much already. I've decided the answer is to use it up at a faster rate, and to buy wisely in future. These are 10 points that I need to bear in mind next time I go shopping...

1. Dont re-buy what I have just got rid of. Florals are a good example. I used up all my florals last year on scrap quilts, because I don't particularly like working with them and wanted to get rid of them. Now I find myself drawn to buying them again.

2. Think carefully about how much I actually need; a FQ is often all I need, yet I buy yardage

3. Don't buy pattern, buy colour. So many patterned fabrics turn to muddy grey from a distance; I need to buy fabrics that read as true colours, not mauve or grey

4.Don't buy long lengths of ho-hum fabric just because it's cheap

5. Try to buy with projects in mind

6. Don't buy too many types of the same thing. 10 shirting prints work just as well as 20

7. If I need to stock up on creams, or double pinks or sky blues, stop buying when I have enough.

8. Say no to gifts of other peoples' scraps and projects unless this is something that I want to do. I lost weeks of productive sewing time last year because I was given a huge amount of scraps from a local shop and felt I had to do something with them

9. Keep track of what I buy, so I don't purchase multiples of the same fabric

10. If I bought it and I love it, I will allow myself to enjoy it guilt free. If I bought it and I regret it, I will learn a lesson and move on.

I made this quilt from donated scraps, and should probably have given them all to the local kindy instead. All of the scraps were strips from the selvedge after swatches had been cut from the fabric. Sometimes there's only 1/4" fabric showing after being sewn. I only did it to prove it could be done. Still, it will be a nice quilt to donate to someone. It's not that crooked, we just couldn't get a photo of it straight on.

This is a photo of a quilt I made from donated scraps, but it was one I wanted to make. In the photo it's being quilted on my friend Joanne's Statler; took me most of a day, but I had such fun. The fabric came from my friend Kaye, and the block pattern is Bonnie Hunter's Chunky Churndash. ( Half the bl
ocks have the colour placement reversed, and the blocks are set on point with some infill triangles around the edge.

Don't think I will be cooking dinner tonight; might have a glass on wine while I sew some blocks together and get another quilt top nearer to completion.


Monday, January 02, 2006

quilting twin: January 2006
It's been a warm day here in tropical Queensland, but I stayed indoors in my air-conditioned sewing room for most of it. I was busy getting my fabric book up to date, so that whatever fabric I buy this year will go into my nice new book.

Mereth and I have kept fabric books for 6 years now. Every time we acquire fabric we cut off a small swatch and glue it into our books, along with details of the date and where it came from. I find I use mine constantly; to check what materials I have without pulling out every drawer in the sewing room, to see where I bought a particular fabric when I want more of it, to reminisce about the good times I had buying it all.

In 2002 I went to America to attend three major quilt shows. The highlight was going to Hancock's at Paducah, and filling up a trolley with cheap fabric. Well, two trolleys, because I went back for more.

Took some photos of DS and Squeak; she had a sophisticated name for all of two days when we got her. But everytime someone goes near her she squeaks, without fail, so she just became Squeak. She's a cat of pure instinct, the killer queen. In one afternoon she caught 7 lizards, took them into the kitchen and frightened the tail off them. I know, because I found the tails under the kitchen table, plus a few bodies. She can also swallow moths without chewing; amazing to watch.

This is Lily, a cat I bought as a kitten from a petshop, where she had been marked down to $2. With good reason. She is the witch queen, the most unreservedly bad-tempered cat we have ever owned. Even the vet is scared of her. She hates Squeak with a vengeance. She's 7 years old and not getting any nicer in her old age.

This is Bob when he arrived at our place, nearly starved to death. I can't believe how thin he was. In the 10 months since he has been here he has dedicated himself to eating. No-one can eat like Bob. There are four people in our household. Bob waylays each of us in turn, being miserably hungry. 'Good grief' we exclain, 'has nobody fed him today...!!!' So he gets quadruple rations. He is now on Chunky-Cat food, what all the big-boned cats are eating these days. He weighs 7 kilos, or 15 pounds. We love him to bits; never had a Manx cat before and he is just exceptional.
Bob is best mates with Squeak, and hates Lily beyond belief. Oh the fights they have!!
And finally Max; we adopted him when he was taken to the vet to be put down. His eyes are the same blue as the coffee cup, very intense. He has issues; we all have scars from him, but he is very affectionate. Right up to the moment he buries his teeth in whatever bit of us he can reach. We are working through it, he has hardly attacked anyone for months now.....
I'm off to watch more TV, and sew some more. It's a relaxing end to the day, and a nice way to feel that something has actually been achieved.


Sunday, January 01, 2006

The end of the first day of 2006 is coming to a close, and I have been productive. I have made 120 half-square triangles, tidied up my magazines, treated myself to afternoon tea with my good china and created a blog. I have been meaning to for ages, as so many of my talented friends are dedicated bloggers and it looks like fun. I'm hoping it will make me a bit more disciplined in recording my days, and keep me in contact with the world out there.

I am an identical twin; my sister Meredith lives 2200 km away. We are both completely dedicated to quilting, which is a great thing to share. We shop for each other's stashes, share plans for all our projects and often make the same pattern at the same time, just to see how different the quilts turn out. And whenever someone in our family tries to make us see that quilting isn't everything we commiserate with each other. It's not everything, but it certainly makes life more fun.

I have been with my DH for 28 years, have an 18yo daughter and a 17yo son. We have 4 cats, who will show up in future posts. With all the wonders of digital photography it seems the only subject the whole family likes is the cats; we must have a thousand photos of them being adorable or dreadfully bad. Or yawning or sleeping or hiding or breathing. One day we'll move on to actually photographing humans...

Time to shut down the computer and go upstairs to do some hand sewing and watch TV. My DH is away, and the remote is Mine!! That never happens, so I intend to make the most of it. Watched 3 Harry Potter DVDs last night while counting down to midnight and the start of 2006.

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