Thursday, 29 May 2008

Felting workshop

Today I attended a workshop run by the Embroiderer's Guild and learnt a method of making felt using Felbi wool batts to make the design, and then wet felting it. The result was so much better that anything I have tried before, it was hard work rolling the fibres, and then thumping them around to felt it, but a lot of fun and a pleasing outcome. This will be a small folded bag and will have some further surface embroidery on it, I shall post a photo of the finished article in due course. For a first attempt which evolved as I went along, I'm quite pleased with it.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Inspiration for a quilt block?

I was given a tightly closed bunch of lovely tulips at the weekend by a charming young man who came to stay. Little did he know they are among my favourite flowers and were very much appreciated. When I looked at them this morning, they had mostly opened and started to go a bit all over the place as tulips are wont to do. I was reminded of the many tulip quilt blocks that exist, particularly those that look like this:-

Monday, 26 May 2008

Spud Fest

A very pleasant weekend was spent with visitors from Melbourne who came to attend the inaugural Spud Fest – a local celebration for the International Year of the Potato, because this area was once famous for growing them. There were displays of more than 20 varieties of potatoes, old photographs showing farming with horse drawn ploughs, vintage machinery, cooking competitions and potato themed food prepared by the town’s eateries. The acres given over to the humble spud, in its many varieties, are fewer now, but the locals still grow them and are proud of their Irish heritage.

After the gold rushes, and in the early 20th century this town and the surrounding area supported as many as 70 thousand people with many small villages, schools, businesses , numerous pubs, and a large mobile workforce of timber cutters and potato diggers. The resident population now is about 700 people. A highlight of the weekend was a tour organised by the Historical Society where we were taken to see the few remaining potato digger’s huts on private farms, which are usually not accessible – small timber or brick single roomed huts used by the itinerant diggers as they moved from farm to farm to dig the potatoes by hand. Most have now disintergrated or been burnt down, but once there were more than 80 around the town. It would have been a cold and lonely life, and we were told many were heavy drinkers, perhaps to help cope with their hardships.

I am without my sewing machine for at least a week – it went today to be serviced, and to have a small electronic glitch sorted out. I guess I can cope without it for that time, as I have a couple of old ones – an Elna Lotus and a Featherweight if I really need to sew something, but the sewing room still looks very empty without it. While in Bendigo I went to see the exhibition of
Fashion in the Age of Queen Victoria at the Art Gallery, a collection of about 27 dresses and accessories from the Darnell Collection which is open until July 20th. It is well worth seeing for anyone interested in textiles or sewing. The dresses are exquisite and beautifully made with extraordinary embellishments. The other thing is they are tiny; my estimate would be that none of the women who wore these garments would have been over five feet tall, and had waist measurements that are hard to believe. My favourite piece was a mourning mantle, black and heavily embellished with fine black braid, embroidery, beads and fringing.

Saturday, 24 May 2008

TIF for May - Needlewoman

This is what I have done for this month's TIF. If you recall, the question was "What do you call yourself?" My thoughts about this were blogged at the beginning of the May, and my decision was that I am most comfortable describing myself as a Needlewoman and certainly not as an Artist. This then is my piece.
It is the usual journal size and depicts a needle and two thimbles. I have a favourite antique silver thimble without which I cannot stitch, and a small collection of others. The fabrics are two of my absolute favourites, the red one is by Jinny Beyer and the blue butterflies came from some long forgotten shop several years ago. It appears in many of my creations. The star blocks represent my love of traditional quilting, and the background to the redwork has a very fine network of leaves, so represents my love of gardens.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Stash enhancement

I'm home again from the SCQ Retreat in Perth, a lovely city in a beautiful spot, where the weather Gods were kind to us providing sunshine and blue skies for our stay. It was good - to meet old friends, make some new ones, do a little stitching, eat too much, drink a little wine, laugh a lot, watch some demonstrations, learn some techniques, be inspired by other's work, ride a train, see some sights, cruise the Swan River, relax, chat, and go shopping.

I can report that three buses of quilting women did much to help the local economy, however I was reasonably self controlled and did not shop like those who needed to post their many purchases ahead of them because they would not fit in their case, but this pile of lovely stuff is the booty with which I came home. There are about 30 fat quarters in that lot, plus some yardage, and some hand dyed felt as well as wonderful Oliver Twist embroidery threads. Some were gifts from suppliers or the retreat organisers and the remainder purchased at very reduced costs - for example with the spools of threads, it was buy one get one free and most of the fabric was great value at $2 a fat quarter for a bundle of ten. The book called Textile Artistry came from a second hand book shop in Fremantle and cost $10 - edited by the late Valerie Campbell-Harding, it was produced by the British Embroiderer's Guild in 1996 and is full of useful information and great ideas. It was a very lucky find amongst some very ordinary craft books on a shelf in the back corner of the shop.

Now to put it all to good use........

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Nearly, almost........

Almost packed and organised, and almost ready to go. I'm leaving on a jet plane in the morning - off to Perth, Western Australia for a few days to attend the Southern Cross Quilters Retreat - an annual event when those of the online group get together for mischief and some sewing. Should be fun, and I hope to do a little sightseeing as well. Probably no more posts until I return.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Colourful cherries.

It was very cold and frosty here this morning, but a glorious warm and sunny day. Just
a few photos for today.........these are leaves from ornamental cherry trees in my back garden, the colours are absolutely spectacular at the moment.

Monday, 12 May 2008

The weekend's sewing......

Having described myself as a needlewoman in the previous post, I'm almost ashamed to show this tatty piece of mending that was achieved last night as I watched the amazing ABC program about Tim Jarvis following in the footsteps of Douglas Mawson. I think I must have been feeling the cold in my toe in sympathy, as I suddenly decided to fix the longstanding hole in my most loved and disreputable Ugg boot - made by my collie Maggie when she was feeling frisky one day while I was out - maybe payback for being left at home? Now it just makes me smile whenever I look down!

The other is the result of a workshop held at my quilt guild. Yes, I know it is another bag, this time to be used to hold my knitting because it is quite tall, and rather stiff - it might have been softer with a lighter batting and less quilting, but it is a design that is likely to be made again. It was a good class, with a helpful teacher and lots of laughs with a bunch of fellow sewers.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Who or what am I ? May TIF

Sharon B’s May challenge relates to the question of what we, who work with textiles, call ourselves and why. Are we artists, craft makers, quilters or something entirely different? This is a vexed and thought provoking question, open to individual interpretation – so here goes....

I have never been comfortable calling myself an artist of any sort – to me the term implies possessing a natural talent and the ability to produce a real piece of visual art; skills can be taught and one can learn to make items that follow design principals and are pleasing, but it is a sometimes a struggle for those with less ability. Despite coming from a family rich in this natural artistic talent, I’m sorry to say it missed me entirely but has surfaced again in the next generation. I may be creative, but I have to work hard at it.

I’m also hesitant to call the sort of textile work I do “craft”, as that term reminds me of the fabric covered tissue boxes and similar things I used to make a million years ago, and I now consider crass. According to one definition I found, a craftsman is an artisan who practices a handicraft or trade, often in the field of decorative arts, using natural materials such as wood, clay, glass, textiles or metal and his work exhibits craftsmanship – that is, made to a high standard and highly valued.

Over the years I have made clothes, learnt tailoring, embroidery, cross stitch, crewel work, canvas work, machine embroidery, patchwork, and quilting. I guess if I had to use one word, my preferred description of myself would be as a needlewoman because my current textile work involves so many of these different (learnt) skills and relies on attention to detail to produce a good result than the artistic talent I envy in others.

I look forward to see how people interpret this challenge, or whether they use the colour palette below instead. At this stage I do not have any great ideas, and these pastel colours are not those I might normally use, except maybe the blues.............

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

April TIF a bit late, but done at last!

The theme for April’s TIF was change, and for the past month I have been thinking about the idea of change, what it could mean and how one might interpret this subject for the challenge. I thought of change as opportunity, I thought of seeds changing as they grow into something quite different, I thought of how we change raw materials into quilts and textile art, how metamorphosis occurs and how caterpillars become beautiful butterflies and ugly ducklings elegant swans. I considered the lifestyle changes people make – the sea change or tree change as they move to new and different areas. I thought of change being constant, how some are resistant to change, about organisational change, how things often go in circles, and the saying about things that go around, come around again. I thought about climate change, the warming of earth, the rising sea levels, the lack of water in Australia, and the worldwide shortage of food supplies and other resources as our global population continues to increase. I also thought about the changes that happen as one ages, not only the loss visual acuity, increasing aches and pains but the supposed wisdom one that comes with life’s experience.

I gave up trying to figure out a clever textile interpretation for change, and decided in the end to use the colours – lovely earthy browns and creams – the colour of owls. I have always had a soft spot for these birds; in fact I have a small collection of owl ornaments collected on my travels here and overseas. This is the piece I made, very simple and although he looks a bit fierce, I rather like him. As owls are often spoken of possessing wisdom, he suddenly seemed an appropriate symbol, and I was reminded of the Serenity prayer – “...Grant me the serenity to accept those things I cannot change, the strength to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

I hope you like him.

Friday, 2 May 2008

Friendly Warmth

Winter in this neck of the woods is very cold, and although it is still Autumn, there have been many frosty nights already. This is what will keep me warm this winter - six tonnes of red gum firewood, delivered this morning and needing to be stacked in the woodshed. Five minutes after the truck left, my good friend Helen rang, alerted by another neighbour who had seen the truck coming up the road and guessed it was coming here. She had rung to tell me they would all be up tomorrow afternoon to help shift it under cover, and I was not to touch it in the meantime. A prime example of the lovely friends I have made in this place, and the sense of community that exists. A scrumptious sponge cake afterwards will be insufficient reward for such kindness.