Saturday, September 30, 2006

By way of background

This afternoon I went through the painstaking process of foundation piecing this background for a not-to-be-disclosed applique (gasp!) project:

It seemed to take ages and I haven't finished yet. Maybe it was because I was distracted by a great SBS documentary on New Zealand artist Colin McCahon, closely followed by a riveting final quarter of the Aussie Rules grand final. The Sydney Swans lost by a mere point - oh no, Erica will be inconsolable!

Friday, September 29, 2006

Fun at School

Earlier this week I attended a local high school to give a quilt presentation to some textile and design students (13-14 year olds). Of course, I can talk about quilts all day but I thought it would be more fun for the students if I incorporated a design activity. Here is the resulting quilt top which I will quilt up and donate to the Starlight Foundation as my charity quilt for quilt camp next year:

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Autumn Splendour

Welcome to Autumn Splendour: When Nature Goes to Pieces - my 2006 guild challenge quilt. I completed it last night (apart from the label) but waited for daylight for better photography conditions to share it with you:

I can proudly declare that the top is made entirely from scraps. The 8-piece unit used is a variation of Tommy's "Falling Down" block which features in the Artful Quilters Tutorials See Tommy's 1 April post and 5 April post for other quilts incorporating this block.

Now I had better do that label and get this quilt into the post...

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Watching Brief

This is the status of my challenge quilt as at 6am...fortunately it only has to be 50 x 70 cm (20 x 27 inches or so). Check back later for progress as I try to get it completed, quilted, bound and a hanging sleeve and in the mail by 4pm...

Lunchtime Update: I have a reprieve. According to the challenge entry form, the deadline IS 29 September. I'm still trying to get as much done today as I can and here is a progress shot:

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Going to Pieces

No, I am not referring to ring-Mom Diane's blog. "Going to Pieces is the theme of this year's challenge of The Quilters' Guild of NSW. It is also a reflection of the my current state of organisation. Here was I thinking that the challenge deadline was 30 September. Then I checked the guild website and I see that the deadline was 23 September. Oh well. I may miss the closing date for judging purposes but I am sure it will still be accepted for the suitcase exhibition so I'm sewing madly...

Monday, September 25, 2006

Happy Birthday Chantel!

On this 25th day of September, I would like to wish the family snow boarding bunny Chantel a very happy 30th birthday. Tomorrow I am off to a local high school to make a presentation to some textile and design students so I will have more to report then. In the meantime, here is the start of my guild challenge quilt which is due in a couple of days...

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Happiness is..

Happiness is knowing that one of your baby quilts is getting a good workout. My sister Amy snapped this photo of Finn and his quilt in Ireland this weekend:

Finn is getting to know his new Buzzy Bee toy all the way from New Zealand.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

A Satisfying Saturday

It's been good to get back to the sewing machine. This is a teaching sample for my forthcoming workshop Serendipity Circles to be held at Terrigal Rotary Hall on Friday, 2 February 2007 (which isn't as far away as it sounds!):

Friday, September 22, 2006

It's All About Me

My first blog anniversary is coming up at the end of the month and so far I have eschewed memes. However, it has been such fun to read Kirsty and Nic's lists that it seems churlish not to join in. So here goes:

A) Four jobs I have had in my life:
Usherette - my parents ran the local picture theatre so I saw lots of films and patrolled the aisles with my three cell torch. For some reason, no one ever asked me on a movie date...
Bistro cook and waitress - the summer job combo from hell as I cooked at one establishment in town at lunchtimes and waitressed in another at nights. Some customers saw me at both places and got very confused.
Mail clerk (envelope stuffer) - my friend and I job-shared this position in a sharebroking house while studying at university in the heady, pre-crash late-80s (think Gordon Gekko). The job involved taking the contracts notes off the dot matrix printer; perforating them; putting them in envelopes; stamping the envelopes and posting them off. Diana is now a freelance journalist specialising in personal finance issues so I guess something rubbed off.
Commercial & regulatory lawyer - for 15+ years I had a corporate lawyer gig with a focus on infrastructure and public policy. I loved learning about different industry sectors - telecoms, electricity, gas, water, aviation, rail, buses, taxis and so on - and had some great clients. But I don't miss the killer hours, timesheets or other occupational hazards.

Current: Quiltmaker, designer, teacher, blogger, web designer, Guild Exhibition Secretary, public speaker - welcome to "retirement"

B) Four movies you would watch over and over:
Moonstruck - because it reminds of the crazy American-Italian family that I have married into and because it has great skyline images of the World Trade Center before you know what.
Miracle on 34th Street & Holiday Inn - compulsory holiday viewing in David's family.
3. -
4. -
After years of watching movies over and over (see A1 above), I've drawn a blank. These days I only see movies on planes which never shows them to their best advantage.

C) Four places you have lived:
Warkworth (pre wineries), New Zealand - classic small town upbringing, surrounded by farms, close to multiple beaches and close enough to the big smoke to enjoy the services and cultural attractions of the city.
Sunnyside, Washington State, United States of America as a Rotary exchange student in 1983;
Auckland - Point Chevalier, Kingsland, Grey Lynn and Orakei. Same great university flatmates over several years; different locations and always with my very first quilt.
Balmain, Sydney - charming inner-city, harbourside living - I lived there for a very big chunk of my life but Casa da Praia at Copacabana called.

D) Four TV shows you love to watch:
. Grey's Anatomy - the Seattle backdrop reminds me of my friends in that great rainy city.
Doctor Who - a late convert but, like Nic, I love this latest reincarnation.
Sunday Arts on ABC.
4. The BBC series of
Pride & Prejudice - I could watch this over and over.

E) Four places you have been on vacation:
1. Noumea, New Caledonia - my first overseas trip in 1981 for a French class exchange. Twenty five years later and my billet, Fabienne, and I are still firm friends.
2. Axat in the French Pyrenees and Airton in the Yorkshire Dales in spring 2006 - two very agreeable home exchanges - see my May/June posts. Also, check out this new, free home exchange listing service:

3. All over New Zealand - any questions, just ask me, I think I was a travel agent in another life.
4. South America - Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay in 1993. Would love to return but in a season other than winter.
5. New Orleans for a deferred honeymoon in September 2001 immediately following 9/11 (and pre-Katrina), we had this wonderful city to ourselves - great food, architecture, music and memories.

F) Websites you visit daily
1. My collection of favourite blogs via bloglines.
2. My sitemeter and other stats collection sites for my blogs and website.
3. Southern Cross Quilters
4. Quiltart

G) Four of my favourite foods
1. Any fresh fruit, in-season from a New Zealand roadside stand.
2. Bread and cheese - especially when in Europe.
3. Oysters and Veuve Clicquot
4. Chocolate.

H) Four places I would rather be right now:
Frankly, after such a busy year of travelling, I am totally content to be in my studio at Copacabana

I) Four friends I think will respond:
Don't know - do tell!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Congratulations to the FMMQ Queen, Helen!

I have previously referred to the wondrous free motion machine quilting of Helen Godden. As you will see from Helen's blog, she has had an incrediblly exciting week learning that she has been awarded three prestigious quilting awards: a 2nd prize in the Husqvarna Viking International Masterpiece Exhibition; a top 7 award in the IQA 'World of Beauty" 2006; and another prize in the painted surface art category. What a talent! and an Australian too. Congratulations Helen.

PS: Don't miss Helen's very generous guide - The Secrets of FMMQ

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Back in the Picture Business

After further troubleshooting, and finding that my technology had not woken up with a better attitude, I could only conclude that my camera had developed some kind of short/fault causing it to draw more than the allowable limits for a USB port. So this morning I went shopping for a card reader device so that I can bring you the photos from yesterday.

Around Copacabana, we often awake to the distinctive cackle of the kookaburra. Kookaburras are territorial and familial birds that often travel in groups. You can see some in this Norfolk pine:

While their buddy is lording it across the road:

Meanwhile, back at the lagoon the herons were looking for breakfast:

And the pelicans were contemplating their next move:

For all their clumsy demeanour on land, pelicans are amazingly graceful when they fly:

Monday, September 18, 2006

Don't you hate it when...

Don't you hate it when a technology device stops working for no apparent reason? Today I took a few more photos of pelicans and herons down at the lagoon but I cannot download them from my camera. Every time I plug in the USB cable and turn on the camera, up pops an infuriating message that there has been a power surge on my USB hub and I should disconnect the device. This is the same camera, cable, computer combination that has been happily working for nearly two years! Why now? Why me?

The oh-so-helpful workaround on the Microsoft help site [Article ID 870893] is:
"... you must power the USB device by an external power source if one is available for the
Fortunately, none of my other USB connected devices and tools appear to be affected. So it looks like I will be buying a card reader or external device when I go shopping tomorrow. In the meantime, this post will be without pictures :-(

On a brighter note, between us Lisa Walton and I managed to make and insert a jazzy new header for Lisa's blog. Lisa created the image (complete with very cool rounded corners that blend with her blog background):

Inspirations: Lisa Walton's Blog
and I worked out the format tweaks required for the "Rounders" blogger template. Along the way, I learned a few tricks which I will add to my blog banner tutorial shortly.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Do [m]any men read your blog?

Given that I choose to keep quilting as the central focus of my blog, it is hardly surprising that it attracts the same diverse but overwhelmingly female demographic of the quilting community.

Off hand I cannot think of a single regular male reader of my blog. My mother reads my blog (hi Mum!) but my father doesn't (perhaps because he doesn't have regular access to a computer). My three sisters read my blog but my two brothers (as far as I know) don't. To be fair, my brother Rowan did join our family recipe blog Our Family Favourites and I live in hope that he will share his banana cake recipe one day. Then again, given the current post-cyclone astronomical price of bananas in Australia, he can probably take his time.

David definitely doesn't read my blog. His eyes roll into the back of his head whenever he receives a Christmas newsletter or lengthy e-mail from his friends and he usually asks me for an "executive summary". Against his better instincts, he did look at my blog when I was in America and his e-mail system was down. He didn't even know my blog address so he googled me!

Do [m]any men read your blog?

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Gone fishin'

In last week's geography lesson, I showed some images of our local lagoon in "open" mode with a deep torrent of water rushing out to sea. The flow has subsided to a gentle meander now:

And the pelicans have returned to the easy pickings of a drained lagoon:

The pelicans are not alone:

Actually, it was difficult to get decent pictures. Most of my shots turned out something like this with birds moving or heads under water:

Friday, September 15, 2006

Now I Can Tell All

When I mentioned earlier today that I was distracted from blogging, it didn't mean that I had strayed far from the computer. On the contrary, I have been having a great time rebuilding my main Serendipity Patchwork & Quilting website.

Some of the changes are deliberately subtle. Mostly I wanted to streamline the site navigation; showcase my range of patterns and quilts and sympathetically complement my contemporary quilts website. Have a look and let me know what you think.
As always, there are some refinements to be made and I value your feedback.

Parts of the "old" website is still on the system so any links to the former pages should generally still work but you will be gently nudged onto the "new" website if you click on any of the navigation bars on the "old" site. I also propose to progressively add "detail" quilt images to the "new" website but I reckon it's time to get back to doing some quilting...

September Scarlet

I am a little distracted from blogging at the moment but will be back soon. In the meantime, here's a photo of the neighbour's bottlebrush that is just coming into bloom:

And check out that blue sky!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Art of Making Comments

One of the beauties of blogging is that it need not be an imposition on the reader. That is to say, the reader can choose whether, when and for how long to delve into the blogosphere. Unlike a mass e-mail which seems to insist upon instant attention when it hits the "in" box (no matter how banal its content), blogs are happy to sit in the background and only step forward upon request. If I am in a hurry, I can simply skim through my bloglines feeds or ignore them completely (ha!) while I get on with other things. The posts will always be there later.

Yet if we are going to realise the full social and educative potential of the medium, blogging etiquette demands that from time to time we leave a comment. Blogging is meant to be an interactive experience and it can be disheartening for bloggers to put themselves out there, watch the sitemeter tick over and never hear boo from a soul. I, for one, have resolved to leave comments on other people's blogs more often. I will also endeavour to more faithfully adhere to the convention of responding to comments on the blog itself rather than sending individual e-mails. Hopefully these steps will help enrich the comments section and your reading pleasure.

Against this background, it is timely to highlight that many browsers allow you to insert html tags when you make comments. This can be very handy. For example, if you want to refer to another link, rather than typing the plain url, you could type the code:

<a href=""> <b> my website </b> </a>

And, voila, the link my website is magically embedded in bold in your comment.

16 September update: The code was faulty (I left out the http:// part!) but should work now. Apologies if I caused anyone to pull out their hair!

Monday, September 11, 2006

I do like to be beside the seaside...

The stormy weather continues but it is great for staying inside doing stuff. I have been working on my "Seaside Treasures" quilt and today completed the final border of starfish:

I made the centre bucket and spade panel about a year ago. It was inspired by Robbi Eklow's "puzzle quilts" but, as you can see, my preference for piecing prevailed...

Saturday, September 09, 2006

A Blog Milestone - 9997 Visitors and counting

A quick look at my sitemeter stats tells me that a whopping 9997 visitors have stopped by and had a look around since I added the counter back in January. I've been holding off posting until I hit the magic 10,000 but it's been a slow blog day and I won't be around to report on the spot tomorrow. (I'm teaching a Making Waves workshop to a local group of quilters - two of whom have recently broken their arms, which will make it slightly challenging!)

Incidentally, for fellow bloggers with sitemeter counters, did you know that the "Manager" function lets you ignore visits from yourself so that your stats are not inflated by your own curiosity about how your blog is looking? You can ignore visits by browser or IP address. For my settings, I ignore by IP address and have to refresh it periodically as my IP address rolls over. All pretty nifty.

9.22pm Update: Visitor No 10,000 has just clocked on - somebody with a account from Pittsfield, Massachusetts who subscribes to the quiltart list. If you are still around, do leave a message and tell us about your quilts!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Today's Geography Lesson

One of my favourite subjects in high school was geography and today I share with you a little local geography...

Cochrone Lagoon is nestled halfway along the beach between the communities of Copacabana and MacMasters Beach. It is home to black swans, ducks, herons, swamp hens, the occasional pelican and other water birds. This is a photo from last year:

In geography-speak, the lagoon is an "ICOLL" - an intermittant closed and open lagoon lake. There are ICOLLs dotted all along the Central Coast. Sometimes they are breached by ocean storms and other times the authorities intervene. Such was the case yesterday when a grader dug a trench from the lagoon to the ocean to release rapidly rising water levels from the torrential rains we experienced. The gash to the ocean is very dramatic:

The great divide means that the people who live at "Macs" will not be able to walk up to the shops at Copacabana for their milk and papers for a while. And a few fishy casualties are left high and dry:

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Stormy Weather

It's a wild, wild day of buffeting winds and torrential rain. We've already lost power for 90 minutes this morning (during which time I sorted through another pile of gumpf) and I wouldn't be surprised if we lose it again. In the meantime, Im gonna grab some time at my sewing machine:

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

A Peek in My Studio

In response to popular demand, I give you a peek into my studio - the good, the bad and the ugly. But first an exterior view, looking up from the beach - my studio is the big glass window in the top left hand corner (David's workshop is underneath):

Here is the entrance from the driveway. David made me a beautiful sign with my logo (and killed his printer in the process) but the serendipity raindow has faded:

David also made the bookshelves. Alas, they are overflowing with magazines that had to be relocated following the purchase of my new colour laser printer (see below). The TV gets listened to more than watched but at least I can operate the remote control (unlike the set-up in the "media room" in the main house.) The artwork is a painting by my yougest sister Delia when she was six year's old:

Continuing clockwise, here is the start of the view. In the bottom centre, you will see my machine nestled into a Sew-Ezi table which I bought as a portable sewing area for classes but is proving to be a much loved permanent fixture:

And the view continues:

and continues:

The design wall is a Blockbutler which works pretty well for unsewn blocks but requires pins for heavier quilt tops. The pile in the corner is a mixture of documents, overflowing stash and equipment:

Because, needless to say, this cupboard was never going to be big enough:

Here is my cutting surface and computer desk. I used to have another Blockbutler above the desk but it refused to re-adhere to the wall one time after I took it to a workshop one day (grr!). Fortunately, the alcove is big enough to house my new colour laser printer that I use to self-publish my patterns, workshop notes, flyers:

So, it is not an enormous area but it is my own dedicated creative space and I love being here.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

For the Love of Lime

Many a quilt of mine has been enhanced by a touch (or more!) of lime. For example, Firefly Fancy (based on a Ricky Tims design):

Or Technicolour Dreaming:

Or Pacifica (a Donna Ward design):

I could go on - just look at my gallery of baby quilts! I am also partial to limes in cooking and spent this morning slaving over a hot stove making marmalade from the bucket of sour limes given to us by our neighbours last week:

My previous jam-making efforts have not been entirely successful but David has pronounced this batch very yummy AND it spreads on toast without sticking to everything else in the process.

Monday, September 04, 2006


A high voltage feeder to our area went down this morning which meant that we were without electricity for almost three hours. Fortunately I had already checked e-mails and blog updates but any other computer activity was out of the question, as was vacuuming, sewing or ironing fabric. In this lull, I took the opportunity to tackle the pile of papers that had mounted up at the end of the counter in my studio. An indicative sample of its contents included:
  • recipe clippings from magazines and newspapers and a yummy biscotti recipe from my quilting buddy Kay Haerland which I have since posted on Our Family Favourites;
  • two letters from the NSW Pap Test Register, each with a different reference number - a hangover from moving house two years ago. I finally got around to contacting the Register to let them know that I am one and the same person and they should merge their records accordingly;
  • offers of you-beaut deals from various sewing machine dealers and manufacturers - no thanks, a new sewing machine is not in the budget. So why was I keeping the brochures?!;
  • entry forms and details for miscellaneous challenges and exhibitions prompting renewed resolutions of spending more time actually sewing (when the power comes back on);
  • sudoku puzzles tantalisingly close to completion - duly filed in the bin; and
  • a Gardening Australia Factsheet with Jerry's recipe for a weed free lawn - a concoction that apparently is best applied in mid-winter. Oh well, maybe next year. In the meantime, I daresay the dandelions will assert their presence in our backyard yet again.
Which reminds me of a poem by kiwi Sam Hunt, What dandelions think:
It's still only early,
just three o'clock a hot
December day
and the dandelions
already asleep, you say.

Not surprising, I suggest.
If you'd been throwing
a yellow out like that
since early this morning
you'd need an early night.

Because that what
dandelions do: think yellow. Yellow.
Nothing else. Lose it,
they run the risk of turning
blue, say; God help me, pink.

Yellow is what dandelions think.
Thanks to Robin of Beadlust for her thought-provoking blog including a great post on YELLOW. Robin attracts real dialogue in her comments sections. See what you think.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

New Zealand Art

For my 40th birthday, my Dad and his wife gave me a print by New Zealand artist, Grahame Sydney, of Boundary Road, Ida Valley. Just look at that South Island sky! and that yellow road sign brings back memories of childhood road trips:

I don't know much about New Zealand art but when I was a student at the University of Auckland, I would often stop by at the Auckland Art Gallery. After all, the gallery adjoins the campus and was on my route from Grey Lynn and Point Chevalier. Furthermore, there was no entry charge which afforded me the luxury of multiple entries to take in as much as I could absorb at any one time and return visits for extra appreciation.

I especially recall various works by Colin McCahon. Actually, come to think of it, the green palette of my crop circles quilt top is quite reminiscent of McCahon. Maybe I am channelling my New Zealand heritage.

I am not up with the contemporary art scene in New Zealand but here are some classic kiwi artists that might capture your imagination: the graphic korus of Gordon Walters; the abstract shapes of John Drawbridge; Frances Hodgkins; Rita Angus; the architectural lines of Robin White; and Toss Woollaston.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

The Balance Restored

First of all, thank you to Helen for bringing my Bloglines subscription back up to 24. Helen recently joined the Artful Quilters Web Ring and I encourage you to check out her blog and the blogs of the other "noobles".

I made a few more circles from a selection of my own hand dyed fabrics, batiks, and other hand dyes. Then I conjured up this pleasing arrangement which used most of the units:

In real life, the quilt top sits flat - honestly!

I was very happy to find a layout that fitted together since the freecut circle units are irregular sizes; different colour/value combinations and I did not plan the arrangement in advance. I currently prefer the horizontal orientation to the vertical but will decide after quilting:

The two or three circle units that I have left over will be useful for auditioning quilting motifs.

Now to clean up my studio so that it is presentable to visitors, maybe even virtual guests.

Friday, September 01, 2006

I lost one...

For a while now, in the interests of time management, I have been a subscriber to Bloglines. This service lets me know whenever one of my blog friends has added something new. Then I followed Deb's tip and subscribed to myself via Bloglines to see how many people have signed up to be notified of updates to my blog. As at today, I have a modest 23 Bloglines subscribers but before that I had 24. I wonder what happened to that reader. Did they find my blog boring? have they found some other non-textile interest? Or have they found that blogs are utterly addictive and decided to go cold turkey to pursue a life away from the computer? Whatever way, there's no hard feelings.