Wednesday, 30 January 2008

January TIF #2 and my faithful companion

I've done a second piece for TIF - when I first gathered fabrics I thought they were potential colours for a landscape, so I thought I would try one. It is the usual journal size, and fabrics were fused, then machine appliqued and machine quilted. The only hand work is the field of lazy daisy stitching and the slip stitching of the binding. I was also practising using the QSR on my Bernina - something that I do not find as easy as I had expected and I need to do a lot more.

The snoozing pooch is my Blue Merle Collie Maggie who tends to stick by me at all times, and is never reluctant to make herself comfortable on whatever may be on the floor - in this case the cushion from my chair and a piece fabric that had failed audition for the piece and was thoughtlessly chucked out of the way.

Monday, 28 January 2008

Surprise socks

Today was the first time I have ventured into the garden to work and to gently test the shoulder that has been giving me grief, since before Christmas. I can report that the cortisone injection has been wonderfully successful, the effect seems to be lasting and I once more have full movement in my joint. I'm delighted to say the least. Anyway, I have tidied my vegetable patch, spread horse manure and mulch, consigned the dead plants in my nursery area to the compost heap, and poured water from my overflowing rainwater tank onto my struggling new trees. When will it rain again??

I had just come inside for lunch when I heard the loud throaty burble of big motor bikes coming along the dirt road and was about to mutter rude things about those who ride for hours in the nearby forests and disturb the residents, wildlife and quiet afternoons, when the bikes turned into my drive way and I realised it was my son and D-in-L.

A total surprise as they usually come by car bringing two more dogs, but had decided to enjoy the fine day and a gentle ride in the country. I had not seen them since the New Year as they have been on holiday in Tasmania, so it was great to catch up and hear of their adventures. They also brought me pressies - two pairs of super woollen socks and some leg/arm warmers in wonderful blended blues and greens, my favourite colours. A splendid gift considering my tendency to cold feet and chilblains during winter here. Aren't they beautiful?

Some will know I have a small collection of owls, and this is my latest addition. A sturdy fellow purchased at Fryerstown on Saturday. Now named Wilbur, he is about nine inches tall, probably made of plaster but he looks like he is made of limestone and has a date (1980) on his behind that indicates he may be quite a wise old bird. Bellardo is also etched into the base, so perhaps that was who made him. I guess I shall never know, and it doesn't really matter. Wilbur is currently guarding my front door, but might move to a better more appropriate spot if I think of one!

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Too busy for words....

When I moved to the country almost three years ago, friends expressed concern about how I might fill my time, and if I would make friends…. Let me reassure you, retirement and the quiet country life are a myth as far as I'm concerned - I am constantly busy and now relish the days when I stay at home and can be a hermit for a while. The past week has been very full, and I'm ready for a little down time again.

On Tuesday a friend and I took my car to Ballarat to be serviced, and had the pleasure of swanning round the town for the day in an almost brand new courtesy car from the Subaru dealer – of course we visited the quilt shops, Lincraft, and some book shops, coming home with fabrics to add to the stash and a couple of new art quilting books. Both of which I would recommend as a splendid source of technique and inspiration.

On Wednesday I had a day with my quilt guild, spent chatting and stitching a hand pieced hexagon quilt done in the Grandmother's flower garden style, over papers and with each piece fussy cut. It has been a work in progress for many years but the end is almost in sight – it will deserve a large photo and full blog entry to itself when that happens!

On Thursday after a 6 kilometre walk with my local walking group, I was taken out to lunch by friends in appreciation for helping them when they did the flowers for a very flash wedding held a week or two ago on a local property. It took two days with 5 of us, to decorate the marquee, the garden arbour where the ceremony was held, and tables inside the marquee, plus make all bouquets and the floral arrangements. Imagine 7-9 small vases of flowers, and the same number of candles on about 20 tables plus several huge urns 4-5 feet high on pedestals. It looked wonderful, and the whole shebang must have cost the lucky Father a small fortune.

We were chauffered in my friend's 1950's Daimler, to our luncheon destination, an 1850's colonial farm-house which is being lovingly restored from near derelict condition, and will function as a special guest house when completed. Currently the owner provides a private dining room, dinner or lunch with full silver service, using authentic 1850's recipes and local wines. It was a fabulous experience, and so good to see a historic building being sensitively restored and available for others to enjoy.

On Friday I spent some time with another old friend who has not been well, when we had coffee and chatted in a quaint tea shop in her thriving small town, then wandered the street to admire more old buildings hidden amongst the newer businesses.

On Saturday my daughter and I went to Fryerstown Antique market, and even though we were there before 9 am, it was already buzzing with treasure hunters. I was tempted by many lovely old things, and succumbed to the call of this quilt, and a largish owl (since named Wilbur), who will probably guard my front door. The quilt is double bed size, hand pieced, the quilting stitches are large and uneven, and it is probably no more than 30-40 years old – but I love it. It is soft and worn, bright and cheerful and shall have a special place in my collection of quilts. We then went on to lunch in Castlemaine, visited a couple of op shops and of course, Threadbear the quilt shop. I will not list my daughter's booty from the market, she has eyes like a hawk and finds the most amazing stuff. Suffice to say she also did well! Today I drove her home to Melbourne, and after a quick change into some more glam gear, went on to a 60th birthday party of a very good friend, being held at a restaurant in Camberwell. Home by about 6.00 pm to a wonderful greeting by my poor neglected hounds! Hopefully they will have a long walk tomorrow, and the coming week will be a little less hectic.

Monday, 21 January 2008

Monday, Monday.....

Monday again after a very quiet weekend - no sewing, no gardening, and still nursing the slowly resolving frozen shoulder. A cortisone injection has given me movement again, but it is sore and I'm being cautious. It is most frustrating not to be able to physically do what one wants or needs to do, so I watch the weeds growing, browse my library of quilting books, fondle fabric and think about future textile projects. Today I plan to tidy my sewing room and organise some paperwork - boring, undemanding but necessary.

A request from my daughter for an update on Delores means I have just spent a while in the chook yard trying to take a photo of the fastest moving baby chicken in the world. After about 25 photos, most of which have been discarded, I end up with a couple that show how much she has grown. My father always said that the secret of being a good photographer is you never show the duds!

Delores and her Mother Dorothea

A worm's eye view of Delores. Please note the gorgeous feather fluff developing at her rear end!

Finally, this fine girl is Edith, a Gold Campine which is an old Belgian breed of chicken - quite flighty, and a great scavenger but not very friendly. The one in front is Celine. Both are very noisy, and the ones I hear first in the mornings - so go figure the names!

Friday, 18 January 2008


Two nights ago there were ferocious winds in this area and many trees came down, while others dropped large limbs across roads and into paddocks. I was lucky, nothing major happened on this property, although some parts are littered with bark and small branches - but this will be easy to clean up. My friends down the road were not so fortunate.

On the nature strip, one of the huge trunks of an enormous Eucalyptus obliqua or Messmate stringybark fell during the night and she woke to see her front drive blocked with masses of timber and her gate and front fencing smashed. On closer inspection it was apparent that there was a large crack in the remaining trunk and the whole tree was unstable and unsafe - if it fell on its own, then it could fall across the power lines. The Council were prompt in sending workers, trucks, a huge crane and a front-end loader to clean it all up, but Police closed the road for the duration and I was caught on the wrong side. By the time traffic could again use the road the devastation was obvious.

Trees previously protected by the bigger ones are now vulnerable to the extreme winds we can experience and may have to be removed. Others have been nudged by the falling one and are leaning precariously from a loosened root ball. Many of my friend's small native trees that have been tended carefully for the last two years are gone as well, while several have been snapped in half and will not recover. Felling the remainder of the tree brought down another large one on the nature strip of the next property, and many smaller self sown seedlings have been squashed. As I walked home from the Post Office this morning, the council workers were there again, and my friend was also cleaning up - she was close to tears as she surveyed the damage.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Roses for Mary Margaret Quinn

Christina Henri is a Tasmanian artist who is coordinating a project called 'Roses from the Heart' that pays tribute to the 25,566 convict women transported from Great Britain to Australia in the early nineteenth century. Interested people have been invited to make a simple calico bonnet, based on a contemporary pattern, to represent each of these women, and the first major exhibition is to be in Hobart on May 9th 2008. After that initial exhibition, it will be seen in Sydney, Adelaide and Canberra before being taken to the British Isles, Ireland, Denmark, Canada, America and New Zealand. Eventually the bonnets will be on permanent display in Hobart.

Irishwoman Mary Margaret Quinn received a life sentence for highway robbery at her trial in 1800 in Newry, County Down. There are few detailed records of women in the early days of transportation, and some records have been lost, so I do not know her age, but she is listed as having had two children. She was one of 37 women on the ship Rolla that sailed from Cork on November 4th 1802, arriving in Sydney 189 days later on May 12th 1803. I have no ancestral link with Mary, but she was the only woman on that transport who came from what is now Northern Ireland, just near Belfast from where my Mother came, and that seemed to be reason enough to choose to make a bonnet for her. This is it.

Sunday, 13 January 2008

TIF # 1

Even though the shoulder is improving, there is still no gardening happening - but I have been stitching most of the day and have finished the first of Sharon B's Take it Further challenge. In all further posts to be referred to as TIF.

Determined to only use supplies from my stash, these are what I had to start with, and my first idea. The colours are pretty close to those set by Sharon, but my photos make it all look a bit blue.

These fabrics could have made landscape...

After a bit more thought this is what I finished up stitching, a journal sized quilt I'm calling Fantasy Flowers. It is made with raw edged appliqued leaves on a pieced background. The flowers are strip pieced and appliqued with buttonhole stitch. Other stitches are chain stitch, French knots and simple running stitch with pearl #5, Broder cotton and stranded DMC cotton. My embroidery skills are a bit rusty, and stitching through several layers of fabric plus batting make for sore fingers, but I enjoyed the process. Oddly the more I stitched, the more it seemed to need and the better it looked. Anyway - this is it - finished I think...

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Saturday Snaps

This is what happens when you don't cut your grass! All it needs is Julie Andrews running through it in full song. Pretty, but not wise - you can't see snakes and it would be a fire hazard when it dries out.

Gorgeous Delores is growing up. Now beginning to look like a gawky teenager, she still chirps constantly at her adopted Mother but is venturing further on her own and is less afraid of the other chooks. Behaving more like a grown up, she no longer needs Chicken Crumbles (baby chook food - but sounds like something from a fast food place) and is eating grain, bugs and veggies like a big girl. Her real feathers are coming through, and she is going to be a fine looking red head.

Friday, 11 January 2008

Almost sewing again

Things have been a bit quiet round here for the last week or so - no sewing of note, no action in the garden, no painting of the new pergola and no strenuous activity of any sort. I'm dealing with a frozen shoulder and have very limited movement in it, and pain when I forget it hurts if I try to reach for, or lift, something. My grass is now about a foot long and covered with yellow dandelion flowers just like an English meadow, the weeds are out of control and my frustration at having to be so inactive enormous. Today the shoulder feels slightly better, having had a cortisone injection yesterday and I'm hoping for a small miracle that will mean it resolves quickly and I can return to my usual activites.

In the meantime, I'm doing physio and popping pills as required, I have watched enough DVDs to cure me of the desire to do so again, read a few novels, and enjoyed this wonderful book that arrived in the mail - ordered just before Christmas as a self indulgence, little knowing that I would actually have time to study it. It covers almost every technique for adding or removing colour from fabric before or after making a quilt, and shall be a great reference and source of ideas.

Talking of colour, these are the colours to be used in the first Take it Further challenge, and I have fabric and threads spread on my floor as I think about what I might do with them. The colours are among the shades I favour in my garden and I'm thinking lavender and penstemons or distant hills in a muted landscape......we shall see what eventuates.

Sunday, 6 January 2008


No - this is not my bee hive, but I think the old straw skeps look great, and would add character to the corner of any garden, even if they would not be as easy to use as my modern one. It seems these skeps are still being made in the UK as I found this fascinating website when looking for photo to include in this post.

Anyway, today I had a visit from the good friends who gave me my bees a few months ago, as it was time to check what had been happening inside and to assess when will be the best time to harvest the honey. I knew the girls had been working hard as the fragrance of honey wafts from the hive when it is warm, and they have been very visible on any flowers (particularly blue ones) or blossoms in the garden. I'm also sure the bees contributed to the very successful raspberry crop I am now enjoying by ensuring a high level of pollination when the canes were in flower. We were delighted to see the girls had been very productive, the frames are filling well so that honey harvest is likely to be at the end of next month and could provide as much as 15 kgs of the sticky stuff. Place your orders!

I was very pleased to send my friends home with some current garden bounty - a 2 litre ice cream carton full of freshly picked raspberries. I hope they enjoyed them.

Saturday, 5 January 2008

My Autumn Piece

I mentioned earlier that I was submitting a piece to the challenge being run by Unique Stitching in ACT - the theme was to be 'Australian Autumn'.
Where I live in Central Victoria is known locally as "the Cool Country" where deciduous trees of all sorts thrive, along with dense Eucalupt forests. My own garden is full of Silver Birch, Liquid Amber, Oaks, Dogwoods, Cherries, Claret Ash and numerous Maple species, the leaves of which all change to vivid colours of red and gold in Autumn before they fall to carpet the ground, and this is what I have tried to portray in this small art quilt.

The background is hand painted cotton damask to give texture, and the tree trunks are made from fabric that was marked with fabric paint sticks over a red gum log. Machine appliqué and free machine quilting were used to complete the picture. Small amounts of the challenge material, Angelina fibres, were added in the fallen leaves to indicate early frosts.
Apologies for the poor photo - it is square and the colours are richer.