Thursday, 27 September 2007

Today's tiny treasure and a bunch of gold

Anemone nemorosa. Another gorgeous tiny woodland perennial that is just beginning to flower. Three plants purchased two years ago have now spread to cover about a half metre square, they are only 15 cms tall and have the most beautiful feathery fern-like leaves that unfurl as the flowers begin to bloom.

A bunch of various daffodil varieties picked from my garden to be given to friends last night. The show this year has been spectacular and is now finishing - to be replaced by a gentle greening of the deciduous trees, frothy blossoms on the fruit trees and vigorous spring growth of perennials, roses and everything else. It is a constantly changing canvas - a joy to behold and a job forever!

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

A second time coming

I decided that having reached a significant milestone in 2006, this year was going to be the Year of the Quilt for me, a self indulgence of all things quilty in the hope that I would do some good work and produce some wonderful quilts. I have not produced anything as spectacular as I hoped, but the year ain't over yet and I have committed to making a quilt as a wedding gift, so perhaps that will be the one. None the less there have been a couple of quilts and other smaller works as I tried new ideas or techniques, so it has been very full so far.

It began in February with four days at the Australian Quilt Convention where I did classes with international tutors, learnt a lot, viewed fabulous quilts, made some new friends, spent a few dollars on essential fabrics and supplies for my stash (of course they were!) and did a special deal on the purchase of a wonderful Bernina Aurora. In April I attended the Southern Cross Quilters Retreat in Bendigo having been on the planning committee for a couple of years. It was fantastic to see all our work come together in a weekend that seems to have gone down in history as one of the best retreats ever. Add to that monthly meetings with my quilt guild, regular attendance at a historic quilt study group where we can admire and gently handle vintage quilts, the establishment of a sit and sew friendshop group locally, and membership of two online textile groups. This coming weekend will bring a weekend away with the Committee from the Bendigo Retreat so you can see I have been trying hard to achieve my goals!

The best thing is that it looks as if I might be doing it all again next year. Previous delegates to the AQC ( ) recieve the program for 2008 a week earlier than everyone else, and have priority in bookings for classes. I recieved mine last Thursday and sent my registration the following morning for the full four days and for classes with Lessa Segal and Gloria Loughman - I just hope I get my first preferences. Watch this space.

Saturday, 22 September 2007


Today is a Elephant Appreciation Day! I had never heard of such an event until I joined an online group for textile artists, and we swapped fabric post cards with this theme. This was one of the ones I made, and the others were received in return from Jenni in Oz and Lily in New York. Aren't they great?

Wednesday, 19 September 2007


Today is my birthday - it is not a significant one with a zero and I was planning to spend it quietly at home in front of my sewing machine - playing. It was not to be.....firstly the phone rang hot for a couple of hours as children, brothers and friends rang in to offer birthday salutations. Then I checked emails and found several from people all over the place. Next a neighbour rang and said she was coming over but would only stay a minute - she delivered an enormous sponge flan covered with peaches. When I went to the Post Office there were birthday cards and a gorgeous textile postcard from France, and on the way home I passed some other really good friends on their way back from the village so stopped with them for coffee. A plot was hatched to go and visit the nearby town of Romsey to see a particular shop that interested them, lunch in a restaurant near it and then home via a very special garden belonging to other friends to photograph their daffodils.

This magical place is a farm that is over 100 years old, set in a hidden valley with old orchards, buildings and a beautiful creek running through it. The previous owners had lived there for two generations and one had been a renowned breeder of daffodils so at this time of year it is unbelievably beautiful, carpeted with many many varieties of narcissus and daffodils in all colours and forms, as well as bluebells and wood hyacinth - all set against a backdrop of lush green grass and mature deciduous, ornamental and fruit trees.

Much to my surprised delight, the present very generous owners had made me a birthday cake! This splendid day is not finished yet - I'm off to dinner tonight with today's companions and will take my neighbours cake to share. I feel very spoilt and privileged to live the life I do, and to have such wonderful new friends.

Monday, 17 September 2007

Blue Geese

One of my new friends in this town is a woman called Jenny, who is several years older than I, well past retirement age, but who still works occasionally as a District Nurse when her old centre needs to cover for those on leave. She describes herself as an old hippy and has many stories to tell of various adventures in her younger days that would confirm this. She has a very strong social conscience and has always worked for the benefit of others in her professional life and in many other community activies in her spare time. Jenny still volunteers time at the local hospital on an almost daily basis - on top of a heap of various activities and the chores of looking after two acres of land on her own, where she built an environmentally friendly home a couple of years ago.

I was telling her a while ago about quilts my guild regularly makes quilts for young people who are being cared for in a kid's home, as well as another person who works with female prisoners teaching them sewing skills and quilting. Jenny muttered that she had some old patchwork fabrics she had purchased years ago in the anticipation of one day having time to learn how to quilt herself, but that arthritis in her hands now prevented her from doing anything by the most basic of sewing repairs to her clothes, so that she would be happy to hand them over if they could be put to a good cause. I thanked her for her generosity and waited until she could unearth them from a shed, all the time thinking it would be just a few fat quarters or scraps of fabric. I was very wrong.

Jenny gave me a garbage bag full of fabrics, mostly in yard or metre lengths, mostly fine cottons of 70 - 80's vintage and mostly in shades of blue - a total of over 45 pieces. She told me that she would often walk past a certain large and well known discount shop in Richmond and would purchase bits of fabric that appealed to her, then put them away for future uses. While I knew that the groups to whom these would be given would appreciate the gift and make good use of it, I also felt that this woman's life-long generosity needed to be marked in some way. What better way than the quilt she would never make for herself, so I made her this. I barely made a dent in the big black garbage bag of fabrics.

Thursday, 13 September 2007

All in the line of business......

The lady at my small local Post office always shows great interest in my mail when it contains wonderful textile postcards received from members of an online group, or those being sent by me to far away places in return. She will have noted them as she sorts the mail and makes comments like a well informed art critic, or telling me which ones she prefers of those I am sending away. She loves to touch the fabrics and always asks about the theme or significance of what has been made and how it was achieved. I reckon there might be a potential quilter hidden inside her rather business like exterior! She certainly approved of this one that arrived this morning from Wanda in Canada.

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Soggy Fanatics

Having been cold and sunny for the last few weeks, yesterday thirty keen gardeners came to see my garden in all it's Spring glory - in the rain! No one complained though, so desperate is the country for water we were all happy to see it. Despite the damp conditions and continuous gentle drizzle they tramped around the place in raincoats and under multicoloured umbrellas, admiring the bulbs in flower, asking heaps of questions, listening to my ideas for future developments and congratulating me on the transformations that have been going on for a couple of years. I was really pleased with their response and it made me feel that all the hard work over the last few weeks in preparation for this visit was worthwhile. They also kindly gave me this in appreciation for the visit, a splendid camellia called 'Debbie' - about a metre tall and covered in these luscious blooms. It should do well in this cool climate and I know just where it will go.

Monday, 10 September 2007

The Pink Dog

In the absence of news of new quilting or other clever creations, and just to keep your interest - this is the other canine friend with whom I share my life. Bella came to live with me about six years ago when she was maybe twelve months old, after some time at the North Melbourne Lost Dogs Home. Her history and her antecedents are unknown but my guess is that she is a designer dog, perhaps a poodle crossed with a terrier of some sort and probably bought on a whim from a pet shop as she would have been a very cute puppy. She is a bolter and a wanderer who runs away if given half a chance, so I presume that is why she was lost in the first place and not claimed again by her previous owners. Although an affectionate, clever and very loyal hound, she still considers an open gate an invitation to head for the horizon, ignoring all instruction to come back while she chases the cats next door or kangaroos that may be browsing nearby. Kangaroos can kill dogs and she had one lucky escape shortly after we moved here, so she must be confined to the large fenced back yard, always exercised on a lead, and tethered on a line if I want her with me as I work around the property. Recently we visited friends who have a two acre block that has dog proof fencing so Bella and Maggie were able to run free while we were there. It was a joy to see.

Saturday, 8 September 2007

Down on my knees

Why do some of us seem to work better under pressure, as deadlines approach instead of working steadily towards whatever the goal may be? How many of us find ourselves doing the binding on a quilt or putting on the label the last minute before it is due to be submitted for exhibition or given as a gift? Have you ever worked until midnight before something is due the next morning? Usually the results are OK, but probably not as good as they might have been if done more slowly over time and usually I vow that next time will be different and I shall not procrastinate!

I have known for a couple of months that the members of two local garden clubs were coming to have a look at my garden on Tuesday, and I had plans to have it looking spectacular well before time. Now this is not such a big deal as being part of an Open Garden Scheme and having hoards of the general public traipse through, these people are friends but I still want them to go home feeling it was worth the visit. Hence the title of this entry - no, I have not been having a religious experience, but most of the last three days have been spent on my hands and knees weeding garden beds that had been overtaken by dandelions, thistles, grasses and sorrel and tonight I can hardly move. I am so looking forward to Tuesday afternoon when the garden clubs have been and gone - I intend to spend it playing with fabrics and not feeling guilty that I should be outside.

Thursday, 6 September 2007

Another Tiny Treasure

This is another tiny early flowering spring bulb called Chionodoxa sardensis, it is only about 10 cms tall and the vivid blue flower is 1.5 - 2 cms wide. I have a small patch of them that is slowly spreading and the colour is as bright as the photo. They are related to Scilla (Bluebells) and their common name is Glory-of-the -snow. Can you just imagine how gorgeous they would look popping up in a snow covered woodland?

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Girl's Day Out

When I moved to this lovely place a couple of years ago one of the things I missed most was my regular sit and sew days with other quilters. We were a group of about eight women who met through a quilt guild as strangers living in the same area, and over a period of years became firm friends who shared ideas and creations, crises and joys. They continue to meet and I see them occasionally but I now live too far away to join them as I did before, and I miss those special friendships and shared interests.

Some months ago I tentatively suggested to some new friends here that we could do a similar thing with each person doing whatever was they wanted, one morning a month in each others homes. We made a rule that there was to be no competetive catering, that we would bring our own lunch, and the hostess would provide tea and coffee only. We are a quilter, one who does tapestry or knits and two embroiders - it does not matter one bit that we do different things and each is interested in the work of the others. We have now met about four times, and each time have had a great day away from our usual chores , demands of families and partners and I'm delighted that the idea is working so well.

Today it was the turn of one of us who actually lives in Melbourne during the week, but is here most weekends, so we three locals decided to visit her in Melbourne. As well as being a skilled needlewoman, this friend is also an avid collector of old linen, vintage embroideries, buttons, old haberdashery, needlework tools, and antique china. We had a wonderful time exploring her city terrace house and her extensive collections, and then headed out to do some retail therapy of our own.

A visit to an importer of Japanese furniture, kimonos and vintage kimono fabrics scored some hanks of silk and a couple of old kimono pieces, then to a specialist stationery shop for archive boxes in which to store textiles and Journal quilts, to a discount fabric shop for some necessary stash additions, lunch in a great Lygon Street bakery called 'Sugadough' and then a visit to an antique shop where we admired the beautiful but very expensive vintage monogrammed French linens and other imported French homewares. None of us made any major purchases, but it was a fun day made so much more enjoyable as it was shared with like minded people who understand a common passion for fabrics and other textiles. Long may these friendships and such adventures continue!

Monday, 3 September 2007

Hunting and Gathering.

Like most quilters I have a stash of fabrics and other supplies that never seems to get any smaller no matter how many scrap or so called "stash buster" quilts I might make. I probably made my first serious quilt about 1980, so my stash of contemporary and vintage fabrics is fairly large. I have always loved cottons made by Liberty of London, occasionally I might buy a special piece, but for many years I have also hunted for shirts and dresses made from these fine cottons in any Op Shop or Thrift Store I can find. Although both my daughter and I can spot a Liberty fabric from metres away, they are getting more difficult to find. Sometimes one can be lucky - a recent Saturday morning trip to a local charity shop resulted in two lovely long-sleeved shirts in a smallish size and fabric design no longer available. The sad part for me was that I think they were probably from someone's estate - they had been carefully labled with a woven name tag, a sure sign that the owner had been living in some sort of residential facility, and now no longer needed them at all. Whatever the story, I imagined her looking silver haired and lovely in her pale blue shirts, wished her well, and knew I would think of her whenever I used some of the fabric. Some bits went into this simple quilt made entirely from Liberty fabrics, made a little while ago for close friends as a birthday and thank-you gift.

Saturday, 1 September 2007

Spring is sprung, the grass is riz....

My Father used to quote this little poem frequently when the season was apt. We lived in the USA when I was a child, and this was always spoken with an absurd parody of a New York twang.....the remainder of the poem goes:-
I wonder where them boidies is?
The boids is on the wing.....but that's absoid,
the wing is on the boid.
Another little seasonal quote:-
Sitting quietly, doing nothing, Spring comes, and the grass grows by itself.
The Gospel According To Zen
and this:-
The grass may be greener on the other side of the fence, but you still have to mow it.- Anonymous
Both true! So that is what I did today - mowed my grass for the first time this season - it smells delicious and looks like the green felt on a billiard table.