Friday, September 29, 2006

I spent my sewing time last night making these; 5 bindings for the quilts in the stack. That's at least 2 1/2 metres of fabric there, so I've certainly busted some stash in the last two weeks. It's a good feeling. I have yet to make the hanging sleeves, but that will take another 2 1/2 metres of fabric too. Sadly, there's never a dent in the stash, the rest of the fabric just breathes out and fills up the space.

I finished the blocks for the Grey Havens quilt, and set them all together. I'm really pleased with the way it looks, and I will put the border on some time today and get it finished. Then I'm going to baste it and machine quilt the main seams; that will stabilise it enough so that I can hand quilt the black blocks at my leisure. I haven't decided yet if I will do traditional handquilting, or a large stitch with black perle cotton. The quilting won't show up particularly well on such dark fabric, so it's no use putting my best stitches into it.

The materials I used to make this block were reeaally old. The centre block is a scrap from a dancing dress Meredith made when we were 16. We used to go to all the country dances, wearing floor length dresses with enormous flared skirts that floated out when we waltzed. This particular dress was divine, and I love that fabric so much. But Meredith chose it first, so I couldn't have it.

One of my dresses was 15' around the hem; I scandalised Mum and everyone else by hemming it on the machine. All hems were done by hand, thank you very much!! But I figured I'd just keep moving and no-one would be able to see what I'd done...

Another fabric in this block is from a dress I made when I went away to join the Royal Aust. Air Force in '77. The list of requirements stated that I needed 3 dresses for attending the Mess each evening. I duly purchased this material and made myself a dress; it came to a sticky end. In Darwin I left it hanging on the clothes line for a week, because I was rather distracted by a certain person (later to be my DH). By the time I remembered to do my chores the dress had faded to a pale rag in the tropical sun. So I'd better keep this block out of the sun.

The other block is made from a brown paisley that was popular in the early 80's. I used up every last scrap in this block, but I'm fine with that. There are other brown paisleys now, but for a long time there was no fabric to compare with it. I treasure it.

And then when I was cleaning out a cupboard I found this sampler, started when I was 15. I can't even remember where I got the quotation from, but it struck a chord with me then, and still does now. I'm trying to find the chart so I can finish it.

The quotation reads "Many a heartache has been buried in the growing petals of a silken rose, and the sharp edge of sorrow dulled by the sweet calm monotony of a shining bit of steel."

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Monday, September 25, 2006

I'm still feeling a little buzz of accomplishment at having done so much sewing last week. Probably some of you think that because I make my living from quilting I have loads of time to quilt. I don't. I spend a lot of time at the computer doing business stuff, filling digital orders, answering questions; then I also spend a lot of time mailing out orders, running to the post office and the bank, running my son around to where he needs to go. Right now I'm designing my catalogue, which is taking a lot of time and energy and isn't even near done.

I'm not complaining; it's what I love doing, but it adds up to more than an ordinary working day. I tend to fit the sewing into strange pockets of time like just before the evening meal, or early in the morning, or late at night. My DH goes to the pub for dinner twice a week, and I spend those nights at the machine, sometimes for 5 hours straight. I feed the boy, and then I'm free to do some intensive stitching.

I think my finishing jag last week was a result of frustration that I never get anywhere, never have anything to show for all my efforts. I was grimly determined to get those UFOs out of my sewing room and off the guilt list. And I did! But the 9-patch was the final flourish; I walked away from the machine thinking I'd rather clean the toilet than sew another border!

The eight 1" borders on the Roman Stripe were sewn together into one larger border, and then joined to the quilt and the corners mitred. That was the easiest way; I don't mind all the joining of strips, but I hate man-handling the whole quilt. I only had to do four seams with the whole quilt involved. Incidentally, that border used nearly 2 metres of fabric, which is quite astounding. There's a lot of fabric lost in the seam allowances; great stashbusting border.

I make a folded mitre and then handstitch the edge down later; can't be bothered trying to machine sew that pesky seam, and by handsewing it I can make all the seams match perfectly.

The Roman Stripe I will quilt on my Janome, just plain ditch-stitiching. I love plain quilting sometimes, and I just want that quilt textured with no quilting showing. It doesn't seem too big to do myself, so I will try to fit tht in sometime soon.

The single Irish Chain will be quilted with this pantograph, Clover Meadow; it's my favourite of all the new releases I did last year. It will live on our bed during the summer months.


The blue-green quilt will go on the panto pile for the next time I visit a friend with a longarm. I really like pantos, I like the overall texture and pattern.

The 9-patch one, who knows. I haven't even thought that far; it can just sit with the pile of other tops. There are about 15 of them, folded neatly with their backings and just waiting for me to get round to them.

And I think I need to turn my attention to the pile of quilts waiting to be bound. There's 9 of them at the last count. Even if I made all the binding it would be a huge step in the right direction.

First one will be this scrappy blue 4-patch that I made last year. I decimated my ho-hum blues with this one, really cleared out the pile. Which can only be a good thing.

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Saturday, September 23, 2006

Some strange madness overtook me yesterday, and I spent 8 hours sewing this together. It was a UFO from 4 years ago, and it suddenly seemed important to get it finished. So I went without meals or coffee, and stayed at the machine, sewing, sewing , sewing. Those strips for the border seemed endless.

I love it!! It was such a struggle to keep the colours dark and rich, the light fabrics kept wanting to creep in. But I persevered with it, ruthlessly rejecting all the pretty pale fabrics, and going for the darker ones. It's outside my normal colour range, but it looks antique and that's what I was aiming for.

Then, to fill in a few hours today, I put the borders on this, another UFO from 2 years ago. The borders in this are the only fabric I purchased; all the rest was made entirely from scraps from my friend's mammoth scrap box. It was a lot of fun going through all the bits and pieces to start with, and sorting out all the blues and pinks and shirtings. Most of them are scraps from the backs of quilts that she did for customers, so this actually represents dozens of quilts. Mind-blowing.

I'm pretty chuffed about finishing 4 UFOs in one week, that's probably some sort of record for me. I have 7 spare baskets in the sewing room now, and the clutter is gradually disappearing. I finally feel like I'm getting somewhere.

These are a little bonus from the single Irish Chain top that I finished; 77 4-patches, ready to be included in another set of blocks. I want to use them in a larger block, but I haven't decided what block yet, or what colouring. I'm just glad I got busy and sewed them together straight away; when inspiration strikes they will be ready to use. I will whip up another 3, and there will be enough to use in 20 blocks as corner units.

Maybe my next project will be to go on with this paper-pieced Square In A Square that I started last year. I'm using a lot of deep, dark blues and navies, and I like the idea of that green for a sashing. I think darks are becoming my 'thing', I keep getting drawn back to them in between other quilts.

I will have to tidy up the sewing area tonight, it's a bit messy after all the frantic sewing. Then I will leisurely choose the fabrics for the last blocks for the Grey Havens quilt, and sew them together in a more contemplative frame of mind. I've done enough speed sewing for one week.

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Thursday, September 21, 2006

It seems I only have time these days to either blog, or do something interesting to blog about. I need to find some more time in each day, or try to set a time each day to make a blog entry.

There has been sewing, much sewing, at my house. I made a supreme effort and finished another huge top that has been languishing in the sewing room for well over a year. I got sick of stumbling over the three boxes of fabric set aside for it, and the baskets of pieces already pieced and the drawer containing what I'd done. So, after three mighty sessions, it's in one piece and all those fabrics can be put away and the leftovers dealt with. And this top will join the pile waiting to be quilted.

I do love this; it's for our bed in the summer, so I wanted it to be light and pale and fresh. It's so pretty in real life, yellowy cream and rusty pink. I wanted it to be muted, because I plan on making a more strongly coloured quilt to keep folded on the foot of the bed, and I wanted this one to be like a backdrop for the other quilt. I haven't designed the other quilt yet, it's just an idea in the works.

The other picture is a quilt I was working on two years ago, a love affair with brown and pink. Don't know what will happen with the border yet, and I haven't got round to seriously considering it. But if it's hanging on the quilt rack where I see it every day then something is bound to occur to me.

I don't normally name quilts, but my mourning quilt is going to be referred to as Grey Havens from now on. (It's a Lord-Of-The-Rings thing....) I've had a lovely time digging out the old scraps I spoke of, and I'll work out the final three blocks over the weekend.


This is the block that my leftover half-square triangles will go towards. It's super simple, and will allow me to use some of my divine mid-tone reproduction fabrics. I'm going to have fun with this one. And I am going to make sure it is only single bed size, I have had enough of giant quilts. I'll make two smaller ones rather than another big one! I have to learn when to stop.

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Sunday, September 17, 2006


I had a lovely productive day today, sewing on my quilt blocks. I have all the half-square triangle units done, and the centres pieced. Tomorrow I will start putting the units together into blocks. I have 11 cut out, and once they're finished I will lay out the 22 blocks I've done and see if I need another colour to make it come alive. I'd like to do some red ones too, but I'll wait and see what the overall effect is like. I'm enjoying the blocks so much though, I don't think I'd mind if I made a few extra.

I have the setting squares cut, and some of the setting triangles. The grey fabric I bought on Friday is just perfect, so I need to go back and get another metre. The border fabric is one I"ve been resisting for ages, telling myself I didn't need another black print. But as soon as I thought of using it in this quilt it became acceptable to buy it. I just love the way the triangle fabric and the border look together.

The black setting squares are a fabric I purchased on my honeymoon 20 years ago. We stayed at a little town called Childers, and I wandered into the general store and found this print. It was most unusual to find nice fabric suitable for patchwork back then, and it was only $1.95 a metre, so I bought it all. This is the last of it, but what a significant quilt to use it in; I'll be thinking of lots of things as I quilt this one.

I have a little stash of very precious scraps, some as old as 25 years. I will find them tomorrow and see if I can use any of them in this quilt. They are from the days when Mereth and I used to trek to a neighbouring town to the only patchwork shop in the district, where for 20 cents you could fill a bag from their scrap bin. We treasured every bit of fabric we could find then, and sewed everything by hand. Times have changed.

One piece I'd like to include is a shirting we bought the day before my wedding. We were in Brisbane , and had gone to the city centre to collect a hoop skirt from the wedding shop. It was an essential item, as I was wearing my friend's wedding dress, and she's 6'1". I'm 5', and the dress was lace, so all we could do was run vertical gathering threads at intervals around the hem. That shortened it considerably, but the hoop skirt was needed to lift the dress up to clear the ground.

Of course Mereth and I went to Gardam's , a famous fabric shop, first. We were in heaven, choosing a dozen patchwork fabrics to buy. Then we both realised at the same time that it was 15 minutes till the shops closed, so we had to run all the way to the wedding place to get the hoop skirt, clutching our bags of fabric. But it was worth it.

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Friday, September 15, 2006


I actually finished a top today, first one for months. It just needed borders, and I was sick of moving it and the border fabric from place to place in the sewing room. Now it can be folded up and stored with all the other completed tops. It was meant to be a large single bed size, and the thing grew until it fits my QS bed easily. I still can't work out how it expanded to such a size without me realising it. I've had quilts do that before, but I had an inkling that they were larger than I planned. I guess I just got enthusiastic on this one, and didn't add up any of the measurements. I was trying to use up a swag of blue and green prints that I didn't want in the stash anymore, but liked too much to throw away; I must have just kept cutting until the fabric was gone. But I like it, and it will go nicely in our blue spare room.

The pink quilt is one I gave to Mum for her 80th birthday 4 years ago, and was on her bed until she went to hospital in July. Mum really felt the cold, so I made the quilt out of vintage flannel, with a wool batting. The flannel came from her dressmaking stash, and included some strange 70's fabric called Cesarella, which had an open weave. The batting doesn't seem to be migrating through, which is good. The colours are a bit garish, but that's what we wore back then, and Mum couldn't complain since she'd bought it all originally! If the fabric had been made into clothing back then, it would all have been worn out and thrown away by now; this quilt will last another 50 years, and keep me warm with memories too. Oh the struggle I had getting her to part with that material!!! But it was worth it.

I quilted it with freehand feathers and fillers, and it was great fun. The flannel material shows the stitches beautifully and it's very rich and tactile. I had a lot of fun with the quilting, and used variegated threads to add more interest. I'd recommend every beginner machine quilter do a small flannel quilt. The flannel is forgiving of crooked and uneven stitches, and the end result is so cuddly that no-one notices that the quilting may not be perfect.

I wandered into a sewing shop this afternoon and found that they now stock hundreds of bolts of fabrics, some as cheap as $7 a metre, which is amazing . Of course I had to buy a few pieces, especially my favourite madder print. I think I will go back next week and see what else they have; there were tables full of bolts that hadn't been priced yet. How callous of them to make it so affordable; there goes my resolve to not buy anything more. It was never going to be a no-buy month, but I have a feeling that I will be bringing home a lot more of that fabric before the end of September.

I have12 blocks made for my mourning quilt; I can't find the name of that block, but there is a similar one called Lost Ships. I know I've seen it in a magazine, so I will go through my collection and see if I can identify it. It's nice to piece, and I'm enjoying the way they come together. I cut out another 12, and I think 25 blocks will make a useful size quilt. I don't want to end up with another monster quilt that's too big, because I'd like to hand quilt this one.

Hopefully the next post will show a few blocks put together with the plain alternate blocks; I enjoy the process of joining the blocks into a top, very satisfying.

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Sunday, September 10, 2006

It's good to be home again, after all the travelling I've done this year. I need to stay put for a little while and get myself organised. The whole year has just raced by in a flash, and I want things to slow down so I can catch up.

Mereth and I took the opportunity to do a little tourist drive on the way to dropping me off at the airport. We stayed the night in a town where we used to live, and went to all our old haunts. Everything has changed so much; I feel quite old. This photo is two seals chasing each other across Encounter Bay, at Victor Harbor. We were thrilled to be able to watch them playing. We lived at Encounter Bay 25 years ago, and it was a freezing place. There is nothing between it and Antartica except lots of ocean.

The picture of the wall is a building in the railway yards at Victor. I love that brown stone, and the design just cries out to be a wool quilt. Another picture to add to my Stone Wall collection.

The landscape is on the way to Murray Bridge, with the sun setting on a rain-drenched countryside. I love the clouds in South Australia; the skyscape is often more interesting than the landscape.

I will have to spend a lot of time catching up on business stuff, but I desperately want to do some sewing as well. I will put out my blocks that I was working on before and see what I think of those. On a subconcious level I think I was making a mourning quilt, with the black setting squares, so I will work on it through the next few months. I will think of happier times with Mum, and make it a quilt of love, not grief.

Mereth's house was full of flowers, and they were such a comfort after the funeral. Every room was full of their perfume, and it was such a positive thing. I can't wait till I can have a proper garden, instead of growing eveything in pots. The photos are of a succulent that is flowering on my deck at the moment. I can see applique possibilities in the shapes and the beautiful colours.

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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Her greatest gift was her skill in raising flowers and children. She cared for so many children throughout her life; her brothers and sister, her cousins and their children, her own children and grandchildren and then the myriad of little ones she babysat. She had incredible patience with them, and they loved her in return. Every Christmas brought cards and gifts from all the other families she had cared for.

In the garden she was happiest, planning and planting and caring for all that grew. She was in her element outside amongst her flowers.

It was a struggle to convince her to move from her family home, where she had seen 44 summers come and go. But she was getting frail, and she finally agreed to move and live with Mereth. And there we at last discovered that she had hidden her final illness from us all, preferring to deal with it in silence and solitude. She was so intensely proud and independent, she didn't want anyone to know about her cancer.

She was in hospital for 10 weeks, too long from her point of view, but such a short time for us to deal with what was happening. But we all said our goodbyes, and that was a good thing.

She died alone, peacefully and in no pain, as she had wanted. Her face was beautiful, all the lines of worry smoothed out, all the pain and unhappiness of the past years washed away. This was the face she would have had, if life hadn't been so hard for her.

What an amazing woman she was, so stubborn and proud and strong, such an incredible fighter. Fiercely loyal to all her family and difficult at times, but in the end, staring at her peaceful face all I could remember was that she loved us, that we'd never doubted for a minute of our lives that we were the most important people to her. A wonderful gift, to know you are wanted and loved and cared for. I hope she knew how much she was loved in return.

Mereth's blog

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