Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Midnight Garden

This is my April journal quilt for Aust/Nz Art Quilters. The subject was to be dreams or impressions and suggested techniques to include painted Vliesofix. This was made by bonding the gold and scarlet painted Vliesofix to black felt, with some other fabrics added, covered with a piece of chiffon and the whole needled with the embellisher. Textures are not really obvious in the photo, and it might of benefited from some additional stitching, but at least it is finished before the end of the month. Now for April's TIF!

Monday, 28 April 2008

Book Cover #2

My son, his partner and their two dogs have been staying for the long weekend, and went home today after lunch, leaving the house feeling very empty and quiet. They made a couple of day trips on their own, and yesterday we went together to another local town for the Sunday market and to explore. One of the places we visited was a large antique market with many stalls full of all sorts of very tempting stuff, where I admired old china and textiles, and they purchased a 1940's timber sideboard for a very reasonable price. Not only was it a bargain, but it means they will need to come back next weekend with a trailer to collect it, and come here as well which is a bonus for me!

To fill the gap left by their going, this afternoon I completed another small book cover, made with the embellisher using felt, silk and wool, plus a small amount of hand embroidery. Photos are of the front and back, and it measures about 4.5 by 6 inches. Thankfully this one looks less like a series of dreadlocks - always a risk when one gets carried away with the embellishing machine. In the mail today I received a book by Jan Beaney and Jean Littlejohn called Embellish and Enrich that seems filled with great ideas and techniques that I shall soon be trying . The link is to their publishing company and will give a list of all their moderately priced booklets on various aspects of embroidery, surface design, colour and stitch.

Friday, 25 April 2008

Anzac Day

There was frost on the ground and smoke still in the air when I left home very early to attend the Dawn Service in this small country town this morning. My two dogs thought the early hour meant an exciting rabbit chasing walk in the dark, but they were to be sadly disappointed when left behind. Probably about two hundred people of all ages, including several babes in arms, were there at the small War Memorial outside the Post Office in the cold, to watch and listen and remember. The service focused not only on those who served and died for their countries during all the past major conflicts, but the importance of Anzac Day in contributing to the sense of community spirit and national identity. The fact that numbers attending this service and the march that will follow are increasing, seems to prove this as the younger generations become involved. We listened in the dark to speeches from servicemen of the past, and as daughters of a local farmer sang the National Anthem and "We are Australian". The Policeman's daughter sang Eric Bogle's haunting song "And the band played Waltzing Matilda", her voice echoing around the town in the early light, as a few tears were shed.

The service ended with traditional laying of wreaths at the foot of the memorial, and then those attending adjourned to the CFA buildings for breakfast of eggs and bacon around huge warming fires in 44 gallon drums and a chance to catch up with friends. Local identities, usually seen only in work clothes, were all scrubbed up and proudly wearing medals from their service years, and ready to take part in the march to be held later this morning. I have not been to a march in this town before, but plan to today - I expect I shall find it equally as moving as the service early this morning as it will stir memories of my own Father who spent almost thirty years of his life in the Royal Air Force before bringing us all to Australia.

Monday, 21 April 2008

At long last, my sewing room is in the process of being tidied, cupboards sorted, supplies organised and surplus stuff put aside for the local Op shop. In one of many bags these forgotten little treasures were found - made at the time I was besotted with needlepoint. The green and mauve needle case and pincushion are about three inches square, and were from an English kit worked on 14 count canvas.

The tiny house and beehive one measures 2 1/4 by almost 3 inches and is worked in crewel wool on 18 count canvas. It was my own design.

Last of today's photos is one of a Gazania splendens, self sown and growing valiantly in the middle of my gravel driveway. I'm surprised it has survived my car wheels and the heavy frost we had this morning. Can you believe the colours and pattern? As a volunteer, it deserves to be moved to a safer spot.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Impulse purchase.......

I need another new project like the proverbial hole in the head, but today on the way home I called into Purl's Palace in Daylesford hoping to find some silk tops of a particular colour for something I'm doing. I found the silk I was seeking, but also succumbed to the temptation of wonderful wools, and bought this in my favourite dirty denim blue colour to knit a big woolly wrap. It is a mixture of New Zealand merino wool and mohair so is beautifully soft and snuggly. The speckled ball is wool and alpaca boucle and will be used in the fringe to give a bit more shine and texture. This I shall do in the evenings when glued to the box and unmotivated to work on anything more challenging. Big needles, thick yarn........should not take too long.

Friday, 18 April 2008


Sadly I have to report that Duchess the Aruacuna chicken has been returned and tonight will be roosting happily with all her sisters in a warm and cosy house. She has had a terrible time for the last four days as my older and more established chickens gave her hell. She was pecked, chased, bullied and frightened so much she cowed in a corner whenever possible. She probably did not get much food and for the first two nights stayed outside in the cold and rain, too afraid to enter the hen house because of the other aggressive girls. She coped only by staying as far away from the others as possible, and this meant staying inside in the murky gloom of the hen house by day - it did not seem like much of a life. Chickens are so cruel to each other and the pecking order is very real. Had she stayed, the Duchess may not have survived the violent onslaught, and would probably never have been accepted and so I decided to return her to the farm and a more enjoyable free range life with her original flock. She will have the honour of being the only one with a name - thanks Marcie for the suggestion - my more pragmatic farming friend does not name his chickens, even though he knows them all individually.

When the water tank was overflowing recently, I pumped masses of water onto an area underneath some drought stressed Silver Birch trees. They look a whole lot better, but these red toadstools are now popping up everywhere. Elsewhere in the garden where they in Autumn grow is still too dry for them appear. They are called Amanita muscaria or Fly Agaric as once they were used to kill flies when mixed with milk and sugar. To me they look like the stuff of fairy tales.

Monday, 14 April 2008

Monday? No - Bird day.

This funny looking chook is the latest addition to my hen house. She is an Araucana cross and hopefully will lay blue eggs. A farming friend incubated more eggs than he needed chickens and is about to sell the eight month old pullets. Lucky me had first choice of those he did not want, and as this one looks most like an Araucana and has blue/grey legs, then she probably has the blue egg gene. Currently she is sitting on the high perch in the run, out of reach of the other girls who have not been at all welcoming, in fact there have been several altercations with feathers flying as they firmly put her in her place at the bottom of the pecking order. The nastiest one so far has been young Delores, the now grown up baby chicken who arrived at Christmas. I think she is getting her revenge having been abused by her elders over the past four months. I hope this new one will be settle and be accepted over the next few days and there is not murder in the chook yard.

The new one needs a name, so any suggestions will be considered.

Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos are not common around here, instead we have hundreds of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos and Galahs that fly in huge noisy flocks or cause havoc destroying tree, gardens and crops, so I was surprised to see a pair of them sitting in the big pine tree behind my house on my way inside after taking the chicken shot above. I did not take the photo below, but the cockies looked exactly like this but shinier and more glossy. I wonder if they are going to stay in the area, or are just passing through to more pleasant climes?

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Fabulous colours

Today I helped a friend who was having a sale at her advanced tree farm. An ideal day, sunny warm and the mostly deciduous trees all wearing their splendid Autumn colours so people could actually see the individual colour change on their chosen tree. Customers bought anything from one single specimen tree for a small suburban garden to over 40 trees for mass plantings, or to create a spectacular driveway on their property and everything in between. A couple of shots to show the glorious colours - the first is one of the many rows of trees, in this case Claret Ash or Fraxinus raywoodii, and the second a close up of the leaves of Manchurian Pear or Pyrus ussurensis.

Some time was spent yesterday using my new embellisher, and for the first time I actually made something with the result. These are the front and back of a book cover, and for a first effort it actually looks quite good. The base fabric was a piece of navy blue acrylic felt, embellished with merino wool and silk tops, and then finished with lengths of variagated embroidery threads. It is lined and measures about 5.5 by 7.5 inches. I think this machine has a lot of potential for creating interesting textures and surfaces, but one to learn a few techniques or else everything runs the risk of looking like coloured dreadlocks!

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Journal for March

The challenge for March (A-NZ Art Quilters) was to create a Journal quilt in the style of an abstract, using a photograph for inspiration. As I am still waiting for all my photos to be retrieved from the old hard drive, yesterday I went looking for something interesting around the garden. Having recently done something with an Autumn theme, I didn't want to go down the track of falling leaves or autumn colours so took a series of photos of odd things thinking there would be some detail that I could use..

None of these appealed, although I tried tracing bits of the tow bar to create a repeating design, but it did not look great! Oh for a snappy photo editing program to enable that sort of photo manipulation.

This is the photo I eventually chose - a small pile of cypress pine post ends, and an empty terracotta pot popped beside them. Not posed, but just sitting in a corner with the compost heaps and other essential bits of things for which I am yet to find a purpose!

This is the quilt that I made - batik and hand dyed fabrics, machine applique and quilting, with a tiny bit of additional pattern marking with a Pigma pen on the terracotta pots because I felt the hand dyed fabric was too plain.

Monday, 7 April 2008

Woolly Rainbow

Like many I find it difficult to pass a charity op shop without going to see what treasures may lurk within, and there are many preloved items that grace my home, or fill my stash cupboard waiting to be transformed into something else.

This was one find on Saturday - a dollar for a supermarket bag stuffed with small amounts of tangled knitting yarns in a multitude of colours, textures and thickness. Thinking of my latest toy, and need for fibres to use when embellishing, I could not resist. Careful unravelling and rewinding while watching the ABC last night resulted in this lovely pile, and I only had to discard a very small amount that was tangled beyond redemption.

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Never too late

Computer experts may laugh at my ignorance, but I was absolutely delighted to learn today of a small piece of computer technology called a Card Reader. This little gizmo lets one download photographs directly from a camera to a computer without using any other software. Previously I have always used the software that came with my digital camera, and hence a problem because the software was not compatible with the new Vista operating system on the new computer. I did not know such a gadget existed, and am delighted as I thought I might need to purchase a more up to date digital camera. Thanks a heap to the pleasant young man in the camera shop who saved me unnecessary expense and told me about this amazing little thing. It simple, inexpensive and it works.

Just to prove it, this is a picture of the embroidered basket liner I have been working on for the last couple of weeks. The pattern is by Leanne Beasley and was in Australian Country Stitchery, Vol 4 No 8, published in November 2004. My basket was a different size which meant a lot of extra fiddling to make it fit, and I changed a couple of colours in the embroidery - I love the funky flowers and the pockets will make it a useful work basket.

Friday, 4 April 2008

Catch up.........

The new computer is great - love the big screen, it is fast, and I'm learning the different way Vista does things. It is not without some hassles though, my relatively new printer was not new enough to be compliant with Vista and so needed to download various drivers and utilities from the Epson site to make it all work - which it now does. Unfortunately my digital camera will also not talk to Vista, and I'm waiting to hear from Nikon if appropiate downloads are available, but am not too hopeful as this is several years old and may just be too ancient! Fingers crossed.

I have been thinking about doing this for a while, but when in Melbourne yesterday for some face numbing dental work, I gave myself another treat and purchased a Pfaff Embellisher at my favourite sewing machine store. I have had a wonderful time experimenting with what it can do, and have only broken one needle so far! I'm amazed at the way one can meld fabric and fibres, make different surface textures, trap textiles and couch cords, yarns and ribbons. My night time reading will no longer be blood curdling mysteries about serial killers, but Val Campbell-Harding and Maggie Grey's wonderful books - Embellish and Stitch and Stitch Dissolve and Distort and others.

The April TIF challenge has been set. The theme is to be based on the question "How do you see change?" It reminds me of staff development meetings in the large organisation for which I used to work, where change was constant and much resisted........The optional colours are these:-

Even though the dark red ochre at the end is the exact colour of the soil where I live, these do not appeal to me at all, so I have no idea what I shall do, but I think I shall be using my new toy!