Sunday, 3 April 2011

Fabric postcards

Hmm, I see it is April already - where did March go?

Having cleared the deck of a number of fairly conventional quilts I needed to get done, I indulged myself doing what I really want to be doing - dyeing and printing my own fabric using a range of surface design techniques.  And just for fun, made up some fabric postcards - I like working small.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Some quilts finished - and some... almost!

I finished my first quilt for the year - the Ordinary Times quilt for my old parish church in Canberra - been dragging my heels on getting it done, so pleasaed that I can tick it off the list at last.
The colour for ordinary times is green - representing growth.  So I cut squares from as  many different greens as I had - which was quite a lot!  As always with a scrap quilt, I interpreted 'green' as widely as possible - not quite letting it go into blue -but definitely lots of olives and yellowy greens, shading down into some browny shades too.  And lots of soft grey greens representing eucalypts.  I wanted a sense of movement, and originally intended using Martha Thompson's Square Dance technique, where you arrange and sew together lots of squares then using a pinwheel template, cut new squares which have four different adjoining fabrics - its a good tessallating pattern, with lots of movement.  I even made a small sample just to remind myself how to do it.

But then I hit a snag.  First, I went ahead and cut out all the square the WRONG SIZE.  Failing to read the instructions properly (now that's never happened before!), I cut the finished size.  I did some quick maths and realised that while I could still go ahead with the technique, it was going to be very, very tedious indeed.  The quilt is big - 80 x 110 inches - 200cm x 275cm, and the thought of wrestling it on my cutting table cutting out new squares and sewing it all back together a second time made me feel faint. 

So, I looked at my pile of squares and thought - hmm, what to do.  In the end I settled for stacking four different fabrics and just free hand cutting to get a sort of pinwheel shape and sewing them back together.  I did think that I would put some autumn colours in a few to be highlights of swirling leaves, but I soon realised that it made the whole thing look spotty and disjointed - there was no focal point. 
Ordinary times goes for a total of 32 - 33 weeks of the year - although not continuously, but it is still a long time for people to be looking at this thing, so I wanted it to have movement and be interesting, but also to allow for quiet contemplation.

So, I decided it needed a focal point, and to make that a simple cross in the upper right.  I did a quick mock up in EQ7 and went from there.

I sorted out my fabrics into darks, med darks, mediums, medium lights and lights, and just started stacking, cutting, sewing and constructing blocks.  I ended up with a big pile - well, several piles.
Then I started laying them out on the design wall,  I started with the cross shape, using the lightest fabrics, then arranged stuff around them.  Once I had that big together, the rest just fell into place.

Here is the finished top, hung from the railing of our deck. It is the only place I had to hang something this big and stand back and get a photo.  I loaded it up on my quilting frame and did a leafy type pantograph design, whacked a facing and a hanging sleeve on it and now it has gone to its new home.  Hope they like it.  But its a gift, not a commission, so I guess I am not going to worry too much - someone will like it!  I have always found that when I give quilts, I never look back, wondering whaat happened to them.  My pleasure is in designing and making them - what happens to them after that doesn't really worry me too much.  Of course, I don't gift quilts to people who I think aren't going to appreciate them - if I thought there was a real chance a quilt I made was going to end up in the dog's basket, or being used to wrap furniture in a removal van, I would give that person something else that I thought they might value more.
Once I got that out of the way, I could get on and do something for myself - or more correctly for one of my grandsons.  Last year I started  making some letters but they got put away.  When I saw Tonya's book being advertised in the blogosphere, it prompted me to pull them out and get finished.

Making these letter is a lot of fun - no real rules, just a few simple guidelines and off you go.  I realised when I looked at the photo that I made a mistake putting that band of red white and black fabric under the date - it should have just gone straight to the spotty sashing, but by then I had the outer border on and really couldn't be fussed unpicking it all.  I am sure Leo won't mind.  I am binding it with the same black and white spots, and that will get done this afternoon, while watching some old episodes of Dr Who that I missed the first time around, then it is in the mail to Melbourne.  So, that will be two completed quilts so far this year.  I'm on a roll!

I have a nearly completed top on my design wall.  Lots of white, which isn't normally my thing, but during the fund raising that went on around a number of blogs following the floods in Queensland, I came across this designer who was offering to donate the sales from her patterns to the flood appeal.  Well that sounded like a pretty good deal to me, so I bought a couple of her patterns.  Kate is obviously part of what I believe is christened the "modern' quilt movement!  Lots of white, bright fresh fabrics and free cutting.  Her quilts and others in that style certainly do look bright and fresh, and if is attracting a whole new generation to quilting, then it is a damn good thing, I say.

Anyway, I whipped this up - not quite following the pattern (sorry Kate) with some brights that I bought at the end of 2009, while suffering cabin fever in the apartment.  Don't know what possessed me, as they aren't really me, but what the heck.  This will go to Canberra Quilters Quilts for Others program, once I get it finished.

I just noticed a dark rectangle shape shadowing behind this quilt.  Canberra Quilters has an annual challenge, which is always 70cm by 50cm.  I am not good at visualing space, so I arranged some leftover strips on my design wall to mark out that area so I could get my head around how big this needed to be.  I just plopped the quilt top over it.

The theme for the challenge this year is "HOME".  I have been thinking about how to represent that.  I could of course use my new found letter-making skills too make a HOME SWEET HOME quilt, with a couple of wonky houses, but that is a) a bit obvious, b) a bit naff, and c) not really me.  So, what else? 
Homes and the loss of them is very much to the forefront of peoples' minds here.  With the floods/cyclone in Qld and fires in Perth, many people are homeless.  We have just marked the second anniversary of the terrible fires in Victoria which killed over 170 people and destroyed many homes - almost entire villages.  Some of those people are still homeless, too traumatised, emotionallly or financially to think of rebuilding.

In Qld, there are seven people still missing when a fllash flood swept through a small farming community, tearing houses from their foundations and washing away the occupants within.  We think of homes as our sanctuary, our safe place.  But for some it is anything but.  There was an article in the paper this weekend about some adults who had been sentenced to jail for systematically abusing and starving a number of children, supposedly in their care.  For these children, 'home' was a hell from which they have now been rescued, but the physical and phsychogical scars will remain with them for life.  A few years ago, the state government ran a campaign called 'home is where the heart hurt is', highlighting domestic abuse. 

Lots to think about there - I had better get cracking.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Colours of summer

On my trips to the local shops I always pass these wonderful displays of red hot pokers and agapanthus - they are growing wild on the reserve above one of the local coves.  I keep meaning to stop and photograph them, so on my way back from the hairdresser this morning, I did just that. 

I love the colour of agapanthus - in Victoria they are a declared noxious weed - but here, they seem to be everywhere (I guess that is what noxious weeds do!). Shame to call something so pretty noxious.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

This and that

This is the time of year when I would normally take down the Christmas decorations - but as I didn't put any up, I am saved that chore!  I have always made a big thing about our christmas tree - but for Christmas 2009, we were in the apartment, so had nowhere to put it, so I gave it to daughter number 2, as we were having Christmas at her house.  And there it stayed - I didn't feel the need to bring it down to the coast - firstly I don't have anywhere to put it up without moving a large piece of furniture, and secondly, it just doesn't seem to fit.  All that northern hemisphere emphasis on mid-winter looks a bit silly against the deep blue backdrop of the Australian summer sky and the Pacific.  My girls weren't too impressed at the lack of a tree - it was obviously part of their childhood memory of christmas, so they were a bit put out.  Never mind, they'll get over it.

One concession I did make was to make stockings for the two grandbabies.  The girls have had stockings since they were little, and over the years, I have made extras for special people who have spent Christmas with us.  I can just about get away without having a tree, but would have a full scale riot on my hands if I dispensed with the stocking tradition.  This was Leo's first Christmas, so in the few days I had after starting leave before they all arrived, I made this for him. 

Lincoln's was the same style, but I had to make a thermofax screen to fit his name on - too many letters to applique in a reasonable size - couldn't the girls thing of these things before choosing names for their children??!  Here is Leo enjoying his first visit to Nanny and Poppy's place for Christmas and visiting the beach.  I guess for my grandkids, memories of Christmas will be of sea and sand, not evergreen trees decked in lights - and that's ok!
Here is a clever shot of Lincoln in a typically thoughtful pose.  My eldest daughter took this using my new camera - I don't know how she managed to get this two shots combined - I must read the instruction manual and find out - apparently you can take videos too - not sure I am up to that yet.
We have been doing quite a bit of kayaking over the holidays.  Trouble is the waterways are very crowded at this time of year with all the holiday makers - some of our favourite spots are completely ruined by the arrival of skiers and jet skis - I really can't see why people have to tear around churning up the water, creating pollution and noise and spoiling a beautiful spot for every other user.  Completely inconsiderate.  We even heard someone yesterday complaining that they had to slow down, because the damn kayakers were in their way!   I had a birthday just before Christmas (as I usually do!) and Karl got me a new camera that can tolerate getting wet - I was a bit worried about using my normal camera with wet hands and water sloshing about while kayaking.  But there are so many wonderful things to photograph.  One of the delights of being on the water is that you get to see things from a completely different perspective, and you get to see things you normally would never see at all.

These lines are the ripples caused by a fishing boat going by.  Interesting lines! 
There is a sea eagle nest at Lake Corunna, about 10 minutes from home.  This was the first day I had my new camera, so didn't get the zoom right - although you can click for a bigger version.  Shortly after I took this, the other one (don't know if it was male of female) came to join its partner on the branch.  Very majestic and beautiful birds.

This is an old jetty on Wagonga inlet.
 Lots of oyster farms in the inlet.  I can safely paddle about in these areas without fear of speedboats mowing me down, as it is too shallow for them.
 And finally - to show that the investment in the paddle kayak for fishing was worthwhile - Karl's first big catch - a flathead from the Tuross River.  We had it for dinner last night - yum!

Sunday, 2 January 2011

New Year catch up

Hmm, I have been a bit slack in the blogging department - so thought I had better catch up - start off the New year as I mean to go, etc.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and New Year celebration.  From reading blogs and watching the news, it is obvious that many people didn't.  The heavy snow in Europe/UK and US obviously caused havoc - I can't think of anything worse than being stuck sleeping on an airport floor (or indeed, any floor) for days - good reason to stay home, I reckon!  Which is what we did. 

Daughters, partners and the two grandsons came down for their first Christmas with us in our new house.  It was noisy, hectic and fun - mostly!

I did a bit of sewing here and there.  I saw Maria Elkins work in QA and decided to give her method of fabric portraits a go.  This was my first attempt, with the source photo below - actually I am not sure it is exactly that photo, but it was one taken at the same time. 

 My second attempt, with daughter number two.  Thank goodness she wasn't wearing her glasses, which would have made it more difficult!

It is a very simple, and very effective technique, which depends on using double sided, sticky webbing - Steam a seam Lite2, I think it is called.  Trouble is, it isn't readily available here in Oz, so I had to mail order some.  By the time I added in postage, it worked out at around $13 a meter!!!  So next time Hancocks of Paducah had their terrific, free postage (yes, even to the other side of the world!) deal on, I ordered some from there - less than $5 a metre!

There is a big debate going on here at the moment about people ordering things online and avoiding GST (the national sales tax) - retailers want the $1000 limit (under which, you don't have to pay GST on goods ordered from overseas online) scrapped.  But they really don't get it - even if I paid an extra 10% to bring the stuff in from the US, I would still be miles ahead. 

Yes, I know businesses have overheads, and Australia is a small market in a big country a long way from everywhere, so we don't have economies of scale etc etc.  BUT, businesses are just that - not charitites - and if I have a $ to spend and I can get nearly three times the value by shopping online/overseas, then I will.
I also made a quilt late last year, quite a large one.  It was an advent quilt for my previous parish church - I first made  Lent and Easter quilts about ten years ago and had intended to follow up with others for the main liturgical seasons - but life got in the way, and I didn't get around to  it.  So late last year (as in 2010!) I started putting together an Advent quilt - in many different mauvey blues, with the starts of the southern cross in rose - the colours reflect the Advent colours used in Australia, and the southern cross is a far more relevant emblem of light in our southern summer skies than the candles traditionally housed within an evergreen wreath - light in the winter darkness is fine for the northern hemisphere at this time of year, but doesn't quite work for us!

Unfortunately, I don't have a photo,as it was too big to hang anywhere here - but I have asked that they take a photo in situ and send it to me -I'll post it when it arrives.

I am working on an Ordinary times quilt now - the last one - lots of greens - lots of sewing - I worked out yesterday that it will have 1,280 pieces! Yikes, better get back to sewing.