Monday, July 30, 2007

I went down to my sewing room yesterday with the intention of tidying up a few containers, and then starting something with my nice new fabric. The weather is no longer freezing cold, so if I'm going to make a flannel quilt it had better be soon, or the winter weather will be over and I won't need flannel for another year. We really only get a few weeks of winter here, it's not enough for me.

In one of the containers I found a pile of 6" Shoofly bloks in blacks and shirtings. I dimly remember making these about 4 years ago, intending to set them with red squares. It was all a bit dramatic for me though, so I packed all the bits away and forgot about them. As I looked at them yesterday I thought, What if I used blue instead....Obviously that was a good idea, because I dropped all my other plans and sewed on this all day and into the night. I made the centre piece with the blocks, thinking I would be satisfied with a hired-man's-quilt arrangement, but it was just too long and skinny, so I added the Stacked Brick borders to widen it. It's still only large single bed size, but I really like it.
I concentrated on using blue fabrics that were scraps and needed to be culled from the FQ drawers. I totally used up most of them, and there is only a small amount of the shirting left that I used in the small border. Great Stashbusting Effort!! The border fabric is almost gone too, that will be shifted to the drawer for smaller lengths and cut up to go in the next blue scrap quilt. I do love whittling down those border lengths, sometimes it seems that they just won't go away, no matter how much you use them.

On some blogs people list the music they are listening to; this quilt was made entirely to the strains of Handel's Messiah, and Maddy Prior's album of hymns, Sing Lustily And With Good Courage. I like sacred music, anything from 13th Century Carols to early American folk hymns, and classical masses. I like the beautiful music and soaring voices, but I also love the down-to-earth voices of the folk singers, and the authenticity of them. One lifts me up, and the other keeps me grounded.


Monday, July 23, 2007

I was determined to finished this quilt before I left for Sydney 6 weeks ago, but it never happened. I finally cleared the sewing room up yesterday, put away my new fabric and sat down to do some sewing. I really want to work on a new project, so I made myself get this done first. The yellow and green setting fabrics help to tie all the scraps together. The colour in the third picture is the most accurate. Now I can clear away all the bits and pieces and leftovers that were ear-marked for this top. These are the last of my scraps that I cut into strips 3 years ago, so it's rather momentous. It used up three pieces of fabric entirely with the setting strips and borders, so it's been a good stashbuster project as well.There is a sense of achievement at having used up all this stuff, but I don't think I will ever do it again. Next time, if I ever accumulate fabric I don't love, I am going to give it all away rather than spend so much time using it up. I have wonderful material just begging to be used.
I am so ready to cut into my beautiful new fabric. I will work on more of the blocks I started in South Australia. I found a fabric I want to use as the border, so I will discard any blocks that don't work with it. I don't want to use a pillar print or a border stripe I decided, and I want to do something different from Kaye's quilt. It will evolve over time, and for now I'm just going to go on making blocks.

Mereth gave me a heap of strange reproduction fabrics, so I will cut some pieces to go in these blocks. I need to make an effort to work through these UFOs of mine. I am still down-sizing my possessions quite drastically, and I don't need to be adding baskets of lonely blocks and half-finished ideas to the workroom.

And you might like to see the flannel that came home with me from Bell; I intend to make a simple one-patch quilt, the pieces can be my leader-enders.What is the final picture?
It's my polar fleece covered design wall, waiting for the next lot of blocks.......


Saturday, July 21, 2007

Can't post.... reading!

DD Seonaid came into town to pick up her copy of the new Harry Potter, and we went a few doors down to the coffee shop and started in on Chapter 1. Good grief it's exciting.

A media blackout is now in place, in case we inadvertently see any mention of the plot, or worse still, the ending......


Some photos of my trip.....Sunrise from the cattle-yards

Sunset from the top of the hill behind the farmhouse

Sunrise in the pump shed

Frost on the ground by the cattle-yards. Every leaf was rimmed in silver-white frost

Catholic church in Bell, with amazing new murals

Water tank on it's final legs

Yesterday when I was at the supermarket I noticed a group of Japanese girls gathered around the Tea section. They were looking lost, and one of them approached me.

'Excuse me, but please to help us? We want traditional Australian tea. So many to choose from. We send as gift to parents at home. You choose most best.'

A lot of our tea is actually imported, so I read all the packets and found the ones grown in Australia, and then chose one from the Daintree Forest area in the north of Queensland. The girls were a lovely lot, and very relieved that they didn't have to decipher the packaging themselves. I hope I picked a good one.

I once had a woman approach me in the supermarket and ask me to help choose the knife to cut her wedding cake, and someone else wanted advice on whether they should split up with their boyfriend. 'Hey, you're a total stranger, what would you do in my situation...' I could cultivate the Sydney-sider approach, not make eye contact with anybody in public, but that's not the way we work out in the country. And I'm always generous with my advice, whether people want it or not....

I am trying really hard to get into my sewing room and actually take a few stitches in something, and at least unpack my new fabric. This afternoon, for sure!


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Meggie told a story on her blog about a piece of family jewellery, and if we had been sitting round the fireplace swapping stories, this is what I would have said.

Mum gave me my share of the family jewellery when I moved to Queensland to live. I kept it in the same jewel-box that she gave me, and it lived in my top drawer. When my daughter was born she turned out, shall we say, SuperActive. There was nothing abnormal about her energy and curiosity and capacity for trouble, it's just that by the time she could walk I had a hard time staying ahead of her, especially as I had a baby to deal with too. Mum came to visit, and was horrified to discover that Seonaid had raided the top drawer and one brooch was in her own jewel-box now. I received a stern lecture, and I put the brooch in a tin with a tight-fitting lid that had defeated Seonaid before, and thought no more about it.

Years later I went to the tin and the brooch was gone. I was sick at heart to think that I had lost it. I thought Seonaid must have found it again and taken it, and I searched the house from top to bottom trying to find it. I never blamed Seonaid, she was only four at this time, and she couldn't remember anything about it. I can't tell you how many nights I lay awake berating myself for my carelessness. Finally I had to let it all go; the brooch was gone, all the heritage of it lost, and I had to accept that. But it scarred me.

Five years ago I went home to visit Mum and, as she always did, she brought out family mementos to see if I wanted to take anything with me. I opened a little velvet case, and inside was the brooch I thought I'd lost. Mum said 'You might as well take that' but I couldn't. I just closed the box and gave it back to her. It was Mum, not Seonaid, who went through my things until she found the brooch and took it, because I wasn't to be trusted with it; I suffered all that anguish because she didn't even tell me what she'd done. I was horrified.

Of course the brooch is mine now; I brought it home after her funeral last year. I love it, but it's a reminder of how my Mum valued things above relationships sometimes. Even when I thought that Seonaid had been responsible for it's loss I knew that she was a child and more important to me than a gold brooch. And I had done nothing wrong either, I just had a highly inquisitive daughter. All that grief Mum put me through, and for what?

Having said all that, this is no ordinary brooch.

When my father's mother died her jewellery was divided between her daughters. Whatever they didn't want Mum was free to have. Luckily Mum's initials were the same as Nan's, so she inherited anything monogrammed with MR, and of course all that was earmarked to go to Meredith when Mum died because they were her initials too. I think Mum felt bad about that, because she let me choose whatever I wanted first.

I chose this brooch. It has seen better days. It was worn a lot, and handled and bent and broken and badly repaired, but it's still a beautiful piece. Mum got it because neither of the daughters gave it a second glance. However, it's story is remarkable.

On those rainy days when we needed to be entertained Mum would let us go through her jewellery and tell us the story of each piece. As Mum told it, this brooch was given to Nan as a thank you, for looking after a baby girl orphaned in a shipwreck, until her remaining family came to collect her. There are three pearls in the centre, one pink, one white and one black, and they were local pearls found at Thursday Island.

While I was home last month Mereth and I decided to google the facts, and see if the story was true.

My nan's name was Mary Wilkie. She was the daughter of the Harbour Master at Thursday Island, a remote island settlement off the coast of Queensland. There was a flourishing pearling industry there in the 1890's. The name Wilkie comes up on the shipping charts again and again, Wilkie Rocks, Wilkie Strait etc.

We don't know her exact age, but she must have been between 15 and 20 years old in 1890. One February night the steamship Quetta, bound for London, sank near Thursday Island, and 134 people died. A Captain Wilkie was on the boat sent to rescue the survivors. Among those saved was a small girl, aged between 18 months and 3 years old. None of her family survived. She was too small to tell anyone her name, and was given to a Thursday Island woman who cared for her for 6 months, until she was formally adopted by a Captain Brown and his wife, a local couple. She was always known as Quetta Brown.

It all fits in with Nan's story perfectly. The only thing Mum misunderstood was who had actually claimed the baby in the end. I rather think that Nan's mother, our great-grandmother, would have been given the baby, and Nan looked after her. She would have had more time to devote to an orphaned child than a busy mother with a family of her own.

The workmanship on the brooch is superb, so much fine detail, some that I didn't even see until I had the photos on the computer. I think the scallops around the centre circle are meant to be oyster shells, with a gold bead 'pearl' in each one. The gold beading around the edge of the scallops is tiny, and it's edged by an even tinier gold rope. The back has a lovely glass circle, so it would have contained a photo once, but it's been repaired so horribly that it can't be opened any more. Maybe it once held a photograph of Quetta Brown.If you're interested you can read the story of the wreck of the Quetta here

Story of the Quetta


Thursday, July 12, 2007

This will be a potst without pictures, as I am away from home again. I got into Rocky at 10.40 Tuesday night, and I left the next morning to drive 6 hours to the little town of Bell, on the Darling Downs. I had a lovely drive, and managed to avoid several suicidal kangaroos that launched themselves across the road in front of the car. I passed many bodies of the less fortunate ones.

I am teaching two workshops here, and we had a grand day today. The patchwork shop is also a cafe, so there was plenty of good coffee and wonderful food, which is always a bonus. It is SO cold here, even colder than Sydney or Adelaide. Makes me wish for gloves and a fur coat.

I am staying on a property about 6k out of town, and it's lovely. This evening we went for a brisk waalk up on the ridge to see the sunset, and were followed part of the way by a tribe of young cattle. They were fascinated by us, and thundered up behind regularly; it sounded quite menacing, but all it took was a look in their direction and they skidded to a halt and looked aghast. I took some photos, but the light was pretty dim by this stage, so I'll go for a walk earlier tomorrow and see what I can see.

I do love teaching beginner machine quilting, and seeing people gain confidence in themselves and their machines. I hope there's a spate of finished quilts in Bell after my visit.

Oh horror, there is a flannel sale at the shop! I don't have a flannel stash, and in this grim weather I can feel a need for cuddly, flannel quilts. I may succumb......


Saturday, July 07, 2007

While I was at the show I bought a new fusible stabiliser that Mariya Waters recommended for applique. This morning I thought that I should sew a block and try out the technique. I was hurrying a little, I admit, but got a bit of a shock when I turned the piece over. Maybe I should have thoroughly cleared away the previous project? I have also quilted credit card receipts to the back of a quilt in a white hot flurry of sewing, but I think you're not a true quilter until you've done this at least once.
I am amusing myself by looking at a bound collection of women's magazines from the years just after WW2. Mereth and I bought these in 1980, at an auction. We just about died of fright at having to bid for them, but no-one else stood a chance of getting them. We wanted them so badly, paid two weeks rent for them. Never regretted it either.Everything was depicted as so gracious and ordered and pretty; I guess that's the way everyone wanted to see the world, after what they had just been through during the war. The dresses are divine, the shoes are gorgeous, the knitted clothing so elegant. Small wonder our Mum never stopped loving those styles and those times.

However, there was this....
And the ads for cigarettes, and the deoderant that you painted on your armpits once a week for dainty freshness, and the liversalts to get rid of the indigestion that seemed to plague the nation, if the number of ads are to be believed. And to be gross, the sanitary towels that included a 'waterproof container' and loops; I know what the loops were for, but the container has me beat.


Sheesh Meggie, what's your definition of 'no pressure'?

Here you go.....

1.My favourite sandwich is Vegemite and Peanut Paste

2.I like rainy days better than sunny ones

3.I once thought Rowan Atkinson in Blackadder the II was attractive

4.I would have liked Clive James as a blind date ( I just love the way the man constructs a sentence)

5.In the animal world I would be a Shetland pony

6.I have a deep fear of being re-incarnated as a penguin (it's the thought of living life with no hands and tiny legs that I hate)

7.If I'd grown two inches taller I would have become an airhostess and my whole life would have been different.

8.I can write legibly backwards, like Leonardo. I had far too much time on my hands at school.

Nowadays my time is filled with this.....


Friday, July 06, 2007

Today was a typical wet winter day, and we decided a trip out in the country would be the ideal way to pass the time. We packed a thermos of coffee and some dark chocolate for a picnic, and set off eastwards over the hills. The sky was full of racing clouds, with the wind pushing them along. I adore the clouds here, they are like another world. I seldom see clouds like this in Queensland.

We were headed to a neighbouring town where there is a secondhand bookstore. We spent a while in there, combing through the stacks of books. I was particularly taken with the magazine series, in 75 parts, called SuperWife. It showed The Little Woman how to do everything, from finding a surveyor to wiring her own electrical equipment. Install a Stove? No worries. Wallpaper the guestroom? Here's how. Change the oil in the car? Simple!

What intrigued me was, where is SuperWife's husband while she is doing all this? If she is capable of these amazing feats, what is left for FeebleHusband to do? Why should she even need him? Is there a similar series showing him how to change a nappy and colour co-ordinate his socks and hanky? I think not.

From there we bumped down a dirt track in the country to a huddle of sheds, housing a huge collection of antiques and pure junk, all jumbled together and draped in cobwebs. It's not a place for the faint of heart, those afraid of dirt or anyone with white clothing. It's a place to ferret for treasure and worry about scrubbing your hands later. I personally liked this cupboard that Mereth is standing in front of, but it would need a special room, one with 16' ceilings for a start. What a great quilt cupboard!

Where to start?

I took a lot of photos of the decoration on iron fireplaces, bits of wrought iron lace, carved furniture, book covers, picture frames, anything that caught my eye. Often times I just held the camera up to the gloom and took the picture. There was always something interesting in shot.

The rusted machine is a press used to make corrugated iron for roofing and fences; it was a massive lump of metal. Even supposing I had several hundred dollars to buy it, how on earth could it be moved?

It was so cold I ended up dancing around on the spot trying to keep some feeling in my feet. It was bliss to get in the car and go off to have our picnic in a nice spot by the road. Coffee Good!

Seeing we were only 35k away from a patchwork shop we detoured for a visit, and a few pieces had to come home with me. We drove through a tremendous rainstorm, with practically zero visibility. It was all very exciting.

I have begun to make quilt blocks like the quilt that was on my bed at Kaye's. They are so much fun to piece, and don't take very long. I am thinking of making an applique block for the centre, and maybe some applique on the border. I will decide as I go along.

I didn't really buy much.......


Wednesday, July 04, 2007

We arrived here in Crystal Brook late Monday night, to find no internet connection yet again. The last two days have been spent on the phone trying to get the problem sorted once again. It's thoroughly infuriating, as no-one wants to actually take responsibility for the whole mess. Mereth was upgraded to be dealt with by a Level 3 Troubleshooter, who amazingly was Australian. He did something, because we are communicating with the wide world again, but who knows how long it will last.

We had to complete the last leg of the journey home by bus, because Mereth's No.2 son needed to borrow the car while his is being repaired. I think my least favourite place on earth is the Adelaide bus station, which is firmly grounded in the last century and refusing to join the rest of us. Plus all the clientele have chest-wracking coughs that make me wish for white gloves and a surgical mask and a pomade on a stick such as the Elizabethans used to hold under their noses to ward off ill humours and vapours.

We sat in the cafe long enough to find out the waitress's first name; the coffee was diabolical, but better than nothing. I noticed two African men come in and order tea; I think they were two of Adelaide's many Somalian refugees. One was very unfamiliar with the whole ceremony, and his companion instructed him on the right way to do everything. When they were finished the friend motioned that he should take the saucer full of paper wrappings and put the rubbish in the bin. Cautiously, and uncertainly, the man walked over to the bin and dropped the whole saucer in. His friend came rushing over to fish the saucer out and place it back on the counter. It was quite touching to watch someone so completely unaware of what he should do in such a strange and outlandish situation. And to think that the Adelaide bus station was his introduction to life here in Australia! It makes me shudder.

I took a brisk walk in the light rain, and was daring enough to take photos of odd things that amused me, like the varied metal plates in the footpath that mark the service access sites for the phonelines and electricity and gas. People stared. Honestly, I was just being a Tourist! Get over it.

I liked the ceiling in the Post Office, beautiful mouldings and colours. More things to go in the Ideas File.
This sandstone rose was quite delightful, part of a large swag on another building.
People continually ask where our design ideas come from. The answer is from everywhere. We collect any image that interests us, and when we have to design a pattern there is usually something that we feel drawn to develop further. Without the bank of images we'd run out of ideas eventually, but there is always a new path to follow.
The patchwork block is one that Mereth made years ago for a project of mine, but then didn't give to me. She does that all the time. She showed me several
beautiful cards that she'd bought to send to her friends, and then couldn't bear to part with. (I was put in mind of the grandmother in Malcolm In The Middle). We just may give this block a few siblings while I'm down here, and turn it into a new project.....

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