Monday, March 27, 2006

I sewed most of today, and it was so relaxing. I finished another top from those scrap strips I did last year, I only have one more set of blocks to make, plus some more scrap strips to make up. I like the quilts, but I'm tired of working with the fabrics. I need to make something pretty and co-ordinated I think.

This top is huge, and I like the optical effects of all the triangles. I even have all the photos ready to put on the website, so I will have to be diligent and do that very soon.... It's like having a school project to finish up!

I'm looking for a car for my darling daughter; it should be more fun than it is, I'm sure. I get sick of traipsing from one car yard to the next and never finidng the right car. But I will perservere. Her requirements are simple; it must be purple and cute. I'm the one who thinks it should be reliable and low-mileage and good value.

They were throwing out the roses for half price when we went shopping on Saturday, so I treated myself to two bunches. They're looking lovely, I just wish I could have another rose garden, but it's not worth the work if we're going to move. I couldn't bear to leave it all behind. I'll have to be happy with my store-bought ones.

I seem to have run out of time tonight, and blogger is being annoyingly slow. Someone should write the quintessential novel of the century and call it Waiting For Blogger....


Friday, March 24, 2006

I was a knitter long before I was a quilter, but living in the tropics for 20 years means that I don't have much use for warm clothing. Just lately though, I've been knitting as a way of winding down at the end of the night. It's even better than patchwork . I can obsess and worry and fuzz-buzz even when I'm sewing. But if I'm trying to follow a lace pattern then there's no room for anything else in my tiny brain, and I'm forced to relax. I've finished a shawl and several pairs of socks, and there are plans for many more projects.

I had a huge clean-out about 5 years ago, and ruthlessly threw out nearly all my knitting stash and half-finished projects. (Dusts hands off grimly.) So imagine my surprise when I opened a trunk today, and found a lot of the things that I was convinced I had binned. How can this be??? Maybe I'm not as ruthless as I think I am. Maybe I just lie to myself all the time....

One of my favourite UFOs is this Fair Isle jumper, that I knitted one winter when I lived in Victor Harbour with Mereth. We were working on her husband's property, raising beef calves and looking after the lambs. It was a time of early mornings spent walking the lambing paddocks, checking that the ewes were alright, helping those in trouble and taking home the orphan lambs. It was bitterly cold; there is nothing between Victor and the South Pole except ocean, and the winds were like ice. One night we all camped out in a haybale shelter, so that we could ambush a family of foxes that were attacking the lambs. Oh the things you do when you're young! My bones hurt just thinking about it now.

I spun various fleeces on a borrowed wheel, and knitted windproof jumpers and hats from the raw wool. Mereth knitted cobweb lace shawls; one extreme to the other. And I knitted this jumper, happily working through the complexities, learning to knit with a strand of wool in each hand, and how to knit backwards so that I didn't have to turn the work at the end of the row.

Why on earth didn't I finish it?? There are three bands of pattern left to knit on one sleeve, and I packed it away. 25 years later I still love it, so I'm going to finish it. There's one night of knitting left to do. It will never fit anyone; I must have been the size of a child when I started it. But I'll never throw it away, so I may as well have it completed.

I have to respect the person I was when I was 22. Nothing daunted me. I would have serious doubts about my ability to knit something like this now, but back then I was fearless. And that was a good thing.


Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Today I had to drive to Yeppoon again to deliver some things to the quilt shop. Afterwards I drove to a lookout point called Wreck Point, to see how Cyclone Larry, 1000km to the north, was affecting the sea.

Wow!! The wind was enormous, I couldn't hold the camera steady long enough to get a decent picture. All the grass on the cliff was streaming in the wind, it looked amazing, as if it was all rushing uphill at me. But it didn't come out in the photos, it looked like a green lawn and showed nothing of the violence of the moment. And this was just a stiff breeze compared to the cyclone. The porcupine-ish thing in the photo is a little palm tree, trying to hang on to it's leaves in the blast.

The sea is normally blue and acquamarine, but today it was a leaden grey with lots of silt and sand and vegetable matter. The surfers were out, braving the wild wind and the waves; that sort of thing doesn't appeal to this little black duck. But I do love cliffs in bad weather; I come over all Heathecliff-y and Jamaica-Inn-ish.....

No quilting today; I had to share my office/sewing room with two men who proceeded to pull my printer to pieces and take up every inch of available space while they fixed it. I now have a working printer and a wrecked room again. Sigh.

Less than 4 weeks till I leave for America, and it's very bad planning of Bonnie's to be leaving the country just when I get there. We will have to consult with each other next time. I'm not really planning anything to do on the trip except to smile, be nice to people and show up in the right place at the right time. The way I feel now, that will be a major achievement all on it's own. I need a day off!


Sunday, March 19, 2006

Yesterday I heard the weather forecaster on the readio say "And next week there is every likelihood of a significant rain event...." Now what on earth is significant rain event? Rain with publicity?

Now however, the rain event has become a category 5 cyclone up north of us, and it promises to be memorable. We live 40k inland, behind a little range of hills that protect us from most of the wild weather, but the rain will sweep down over us like a grey waterfall. I don't like living in the Tropics...

Which I suppose is why I'm thinking longingly of the baked yellow wheatfields of my hometown area; Amy willl probably not see that sort of thing in Queensland, she will be visiting the green rainforest areas in Queensland when she comes in May, and down south around Melbourne the autumn rains will have turned the country green and growing. All of it's picturesque, but my heart belongs to the dry country.

Quilt piccie today is of a Milky Way quilt that I made a couple of years ago. I've wanted to make this pattern since the '70s, I just adore it. I finally made one to use up my large collection of '80s blue florals, which were boring me to tears every time I opened the blue drawer. Even the back is pieced from them, but it didn't use them all up. I ended up giving them away to a fellow blue-lover. I like the quilt, but I think I still have another Milky Way quilt or two in my system, maybe a blue and green one, and ....

I'm slowly digging my sewing room free of all the drifts of books and FQs and pieces of fabric that were stacked on every available surface. It's just hard work deciding what to do with every piece, and I have to take lots of coffee breaks so I can think it through. I should have a clear table soon, and be able to get back to finishing off a few projects.


Friday, March 17, 2006

I had a lovely day teaching on Wednesday, it was nice to drive to the coastal town of Yeppoon and spend the day with 12 enthusiastic quilters. It made a nice break from staring at a computer screen for 14 hours every day.

I have two more little jobs to do on the new releases and then I'm finished, praise be! I need some time to myself. I joined the gym recently, so now I can say "As my trainer said to me the other day...." or "My trainer says..." I also have an excuse to buy workout gear, a fancy towel, an MP3 player and a super-duper drink bottle. Must put all that on the shopping list.... Honestly, everyone else has those things! I'm the only one there in daggy track pants, Don's T-shirt, a recycled Pepsi-Max bottle and reading Harry Potter....

I'm scratching for photos to post, but there has been a rash of string-pieced stars on the blogs lately, so I will contribute another one. Just a little one, but it's cute. I made it at the same time as the Irish Star, I must have been completely obsessed with that pattern. The diamonds are about 3" along each side, and I printed the foundation pattern onto very light-weight interfacing. I fused it to freezer paper and ran it through my laser printer with no problems. It hardly added any bulk, and gave me a sewing line to join the units together. I would definitely use this method again on other small patterns.

My other picture is of a quilt that I hand-quilted over a period of 10 years. I just kept losing interest in it, and it's very rarely cool enough to hand quilt comfortably here. Even in winter I usually have to take my shoes off to cool down if I'm quilting. Our definition of cold weather means that I can wear my hair down and wear socks. Apart from that it's pretty much T-shirts all year round. And I don't like it.

This quilt was entered in an exhibition in 2001, so I had to finish it. Every morning I sat in my comfy chair with the fan on me, and quilted through an episode of the Golden Girls, and an Aussie drama called Country Practice. I didn't particularly like either to begin with, and I loathed them by the time the quilt was finished, but they got me through the boredom. I haven't quilted another quilt this heavily, but I'm about ready to have a go. It's been a while so the bad memories have dimmed, and with the DVD revolution I can watch anything I darn well please to keep me happy.

And because I'm feeling homesick today, I'm including a picture of a settlers cottage outside our home town. Mereth and I have always loved ruins and abandoned houses, and this little house out in the country always fired my imagination. I wondered at the lives of the people who built it and lived there in isolation, even though now its only 15 minutes out of town. A trip into town and back would have taken all day for them.

Over the years it has crumbled away, and last year I realised that if I didn't photgraph it I might find it just a pile of stones next time I go home. This picture is so quintessentially Australian; the stone cottage with the redbrick quoins, the scrubby trees and the combination of burnt yellow grass and brilliant sky. It spells home to me.


Tuesday, March 14, 2006

I never had a Barbie as a child (insert sobbing violins here). No, Mereth and I had to make do with cheap Barbie knock-offs called Fifi. Let me tell you, Fifi was one hard-faced dolly. She had a mean look that could split stone. It wasn't a lot of fun to play with a doll that looked as if she was going to give you what-for any minute. Which is probably why she ended up full of pin-holes and missing the tops of her fingers; I just never felt much of a connection with her.

We made both Fifis endless collections of clothing, and set them up in their own one-bedroom apartments, and generally enjoyed playing with them. But they weren't like real Barbies....

When my daughter came to Barbiedom, I just had to have one of my own too. A sweetly smiling brunette, the type of girl you'd like to have as a best friend. Called Phillipa. And then Phillipa's little sister Erica had to come home with me, because she was fully poseable. If you don't understand any of this, you never will. But if you do understand, you know why I had to have them as an adult. If anyone asks, it was so that my daughter and I had a common interest.....

Our Barbies had to have quilts to go along with the clothes, and Don built them a 5 bedroom mansion with attic, kitchen and living room. They had a sportscar, and a caravan, several dogs and cats and a pushbike. They even had horses! They lived the high life allright. Until that fateful day when they were packed away in boxes, 7 years ago.

I found Erica's little quilt, so here she is holding it up. You can see she's thrilled with it, even after all these years. Those hexagons measure 1/4"along each side, and were made from tiny shop samples.

Phillipa's quilt is made of 1/2"hexagons, also made from shop samples. Alas, it was never quilted, but she's so lovely, she doesn't hold that against me. I just may finish it for her this week....

I must have a word with her about those purple earings; sooo last century. We may have to go shopping for some new gear.


Monday, March 13, 2006

Don and I had a holiday this weekend, just staying at home and relaxing. Only went to two open houses; alas, one was perfect but beyond the budget right now. Isn't that always the way?

We've had rain for nearly a week, and in the tropics that means one thing - Mosquitos!! We can't go outside without being attacked by droves of the little horrors. So no yard work for a while. Fortunately these mozzies late in the season tend to be dopey little sods, they just sit there and let you swat them; I hate the ones that bite and run. They spread several nasty diseases, so they're not a trivial menace at all.

I worked on my Christmas quilt, and the outer border surprised me. It was meant to be tan-brown, but the pink just threw itself in front of the rotary cutter. I had to fiddle with the little border of vining leaves, because I didn't want to turn the 45 degree corner with 60 degree diamonds. I'm pleased with how I dealt with the corner, and I'll be using this decorative border again; it's one of my favourite designs in marquetry too. And the instructions will end up on the website as soon as I get a chance to update it. I have the photos already, how's that for Boy Scout thinking?

I had to brave the mozzies for this picture, and I couldn't stand them long enough to get a good shot. This is the best I could do.

I'm starting to think luxuriously of the next project, and it may be something quilted and little. I'm thinking of this cot-size quilt that I made last year. I saw the original on Ebay, and thought it was a dear little pattern to use up odds and sods. I'd like to do a bed-sized one with less contast in the background triangles. How come every quilt I make spawns another variation? I'm going to have to satisfy myself with virtual quilts in future.

I have a workshop to teach in a neighbouring town on Wednesday, which I'm looking forward to. It's nice to get out of town and meet new people and talk patchwork to like-minded souls. I love teaching machine quilting, because I show people how to finish their UFOs; my workshop doesn't create another one, as so many do.

I realised a while ago that I am not good at doing workshops as a student. I cannot make decisions in a hurry, I never bring the right material and I simple cannot use the wrong material, and I nearly always question the methods and technique. Several tutors have become exasperated with me over the years. It's kinder to everyone if I don't go. I love to learn from books anyway, with all my stuff spread around.

I went to a LQS that is having a sale last week, and Miss Bonnie came with me, as a voice in my head saying, "Only buy for the quilts that you are making Now!" Alas, it didn't work. I think she's going to have to reach out and slap me next time. I have 7 metres of fabric that I didn't have before.....


Friday, March 10, 2006

Darcie made a comment that it's a wonder I could lock myself away from Meredith while I was making my first quilt. It wasn't that hard. When we were young we dealt with the 'competition' thing by not doing the same things. She wrote poetry, I wrote prose. She knit lace, I crocheted lace. (One of my boyfriends had the temerity to call my lacemaking 'old-maidery'- he was an ex-boyfriend shortly thereafter.) I embroidered and Meredith painted. We very deliberately chose to do certain thngs and not others, and we were quite happy like that. We both knitted and sewed for clothing, but we made way different things. So while I was in the bedroom sewing, she was in the studio, painting.

However, once I became obsessed with patchwork and quilting I wanted her to share it. How could she miss out on something that was so satisfying and wonderful. It had all our favourite elements; material, colour, drama, drafting tools, office supplies! So I began to nag and nag her.
She was unmoved, watching impassively as over the next few years I made a Cathedral Window, several hexagon tops, appliqued pillows and a satin monstrosity that I threw out before it was half-done.

When we were 22 I began a Double Irish Chain in red, black and white solids. My mother was appalled at the colours, but it was certainly dramatic. Mereth would sit and watch me sew on it, but was in no way inclined to help, until I laid on a sob-story. I would never get it finished unless I had some help!! Finally she agreed to piece a block or two. Then came the quilting, a major affair with a frame balanced on chair backs taking up the whole of our lounge room for an entire winter. Every afternoon we would sit and quilt, mincing our fingertips because we were just learning, and drinking pots of tea. Several chocolate biscuits might have been consumed too. Somewhere along the way Meredith stopped mumbling 'This is Stupid" and fell in love with it.

What kept us going was a British soap opera called Coronation Street. It's still around, but not near as good as it was in 1980. It was a whole hour of drivel and minor crises, and we loved it. But then I used to love Starsky and Hutch too; how incomprehensible.

When that quilt was unpinned from the frame and hung on the clothesline for all to admire we were both utterly hooked; there was no doubt in our minds that this was one thing we had to do together.


I can't imagine the dedication needed to blog every single day. I just get bowled over by all the stuff I have to do. Oh well, every few days is better than every few weeks...

I've been sewing on my Christmas quilt, but the borders are being difficult so I don't have a picture to post just yet. I will instead show you some blocks from a series of quilts I made last summer.

I had a huge pile of fabric that I just wanted to use up, so I cut it all into 2 1/2"strips. I spent days and days just cutting, until it was all gone. Major stashbusting! I felt so reckless, especially as I'd hoarded some of this fabric for 15 years.

The fabrics were nice but a bit boring, so I bought some aqua and apricot prints to liven them up. I think it worked. I sewed them into sets of strips and then subcut them into the blocks I wanted. It was a bit complicated, so I will be putting the instructions on the website, rather than going into it here.

I ended up with blocks for 4 different quilts, and two are done but I don't have good photos of them yet. We have bunkbeds in our spare bedroom, and I like the idea of making quilts in pairs, same fabrics but different patterns. Even when there's only one bed in the room I like to see a quilt covering the bed and one folded at the foot. I think that's so that I have an excuse to make twice as many quilts as we need.

These strips are made from the leftovers, so they go together, but they were all varying sizes so I had to use different patterns for them.

I have more of the squares, so I think I'll make another strip of 4-patches on point with some bigger setting triangles, also made out of scraps. And I want to separate each pieced strip with a different fabric, so it will be a super scrappy quilt.

I may have hung onto these fabrics far too long, but I had a lot of fun finally using them.


Wednesday, March 08, 2006

In my sorting frenzy I also found this: my very first ever quilt. I made it for Mum when I was 14, and hadn't a clue what I was doing. I had very basic instructions on how to make a Log-Cabin block and a pile of dress-making scraps and away I went.

This was made as a surprise for Mum's b'day, and I locked myself in my bedroom to sew on it; no-one was allowed to come in un-announced. Seeing it was Mereth's bedroom too it put a strain on the relationship. She thought I was mad. I probably was. I played two Olivia Newton John tapes over and over again for the several weeks it took to finish the top. Even now, if I hear a song from one of those tapes I feel slightly nauseated; too much of a good thing....

The quilting of this was a farce, as I had no idea what to do. We shall draw a veil over the proceedings. Suffice to say there were two layers of batting involved. Mum loves it, and it was on her bed every winter until last year, when Mereth persuaded her to let me have it back so I can quilt it properly. Mereth unpicked the dreadful quilting, and now I have to finish the thing nicely. It's as heavy as lead, because I pieced the blocks onto old sheets, but it's also very warm.

Every material is a dressmaking scrap, and holds wonderful memories. It's eye-poppingly bright, but that was the '70s. Mini-skirts, floor length dancing dresses, swirly 8-gored skirts, shirts with puffy sleeves....

This was the start of our family quilting heritage. (And I'd kill for a length of that gold and pink paisley now....)


It's raining at the moment, which is a good thing as we need the rain badly. It's just the sort of day to sit and handquilt something, but I have nothing prepared. So I will have to sit and sew instead.

As far as house-hunting goes, nothing has been interesting enough to make us want to take things further. While I'm waiting for the right house to present itself, I'm going through all our possessions and having a bit of a throw-out. We have lived in our present house for 21 years, and have accumulated a lot of stuff. A Lot!! So I'm patiently weeding out kid's school books from 1998, and tangled embroidery floss from 1969, and old papers and magazines and doll's heads. I try to keep something significant from each year, but the rest just has to go. It's a good feeling to just throw it all away, or take it to GoodWill.

I'm finding lots of treasured things I packed away years ago, and it's nice to visit with them again. Bits of lace I crocheted as a teenager, newspaper cuttings that I should put into a scrapbook one day, old letters and cards. Everytime I open a drawer I'm not sure what I'll find, and that makes it fun.

I found this in an envelope; it's a metal quilting template that my wonderful friend gave me.

It folds out to make a pretty 6-petal flower. I love the wear marks on it; someone used it a lot in the past. I'd love to know what quilts it was used on. I have a tiny collection of antique sewing paraphernalia, and I would love a collectors cabinet to store them in. One day...

And for a quilt photo, this is a small quilt I made about 10 years ago. The squares are folded, 3-D patches, and I thought it up all by myself; I felt pretty clever until I found a Jackie Robinson book years later, and the method was in there. The little square-in-square blocks are 2", and the folding was tricky but not impossible. I do like a challenge.


Friday, March 03, 2006

My computer work is done, except for updating the websites and that will be a pleasure after the hassles I've just worked through. So now I have a free weekend, before I have to buckle down and finish up the taxes and other accounting work. I need an assistant. My kids have helped in my office since they were 4 & 5, and they are heartily sick of it by now. They regularly quit, and I regularly fire them, but they are cheap available labour so I keep asking them back!

The image is one of Mereth's new designs, from a pattern pack that will be released in May at the Machine Quilters Showcase. Wonderful patterns.

I'm looking forward to the weekend; we are scouting around for a new house, and Saturdays we make a list of the Open Houses, rough out a plan of attack so that we can visit them without back-tracking all over town, pack drinks and snacks and take off. It's been interesting, but I'm starting to realise how much space we need for a family of four packrats plus an office and workroom. We may have to build something suitable.

After the drive-around I will be free to sew, yippee! Can't wait.

Here is a picture that proves I can quilt, I used to quilt and I will quilt again. It's a Quilt-As-You-Go Welsh Strippy quilt, that I made last year for my book. The photo isn't wonderful, but the quilt had to go to America and I didn't have enough time to get decent pictures. It was a whole lot of fun to quilt, and we need several big table runners, so I will pull out some solid coloured fabric and quilt up a storm. Soon.

And just because more pictures are more fun, here's a quilt I finished last year that hangs above our bed. It was soo easy to make, and I really tried to make the colouring intense. My natural instinct is to use cream backgrounds to tie things together, so I had to keep restricting my colour choices to warm pinks, ochres, rusts and reds. I'm glad I did, I really enjoy this quilt.


Wednesday, March 01, 2006

I've had a horrible day, fighting with software and computer settings and such rubbish, and I'm thoroughly sick of it all. Dang technology!! Curses!! I am going to turn it all off (I still have the ultimate upper hand on the power switch) and go upstairs to do something completely low-tech. I'm going to knit the pair to this sock, which I finished last week. So there.

Mum taught us to knit when we were six, she must have been a patient woman. We began asking when we were five, and Mum put us off by promising that when we were six we would be old enough to learn, figuring we would have forgotten by then. Hah! I remember following her around the garden, the only place where she was truly happy, and pestering her. "But you promised!!" Finally she got sick of it and gave us needles and wool and showed us what to do. Bliss!

She was the fastest knitter I've ever known, her fingers flew and whatever she was knitting grew at a great pace. I loved the sound of her needles clicking as she sat by the fire, and the murmur of her counting stitches. If we tried to interrupt, the counting GOT VERY LOUD until we stopped and waited for her to be finished.

Meredith should photograph the blue knitted lace dress Mum finished as a young woman; she was sooo slim that it never fitted either of us, even when we were tiny slim things ourselves. Mum's 1940s kitting books are a treasure, full of memories for her and for us. I knitted many an item from them and they were fashionable in the 70s. Now they are all back in style.

Mum has arthritis now, so no more knitting. She would be amazed to know of the huge knitting revival that's happening now. If I wasn't a mad keen quilter I'd be a mad keen knitter....

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