Thursday, November 30, 2006

Through the Fog

Do not adjust your computer monitor, dear reader, for this is the view from my studio yesterday morning:

Who would believe that there is a beach out there? Here's how it should look:

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Better Late than Never

When I rocked up to the Post Office at Baltimore, Ohio with some 15 kilos (32 pounds) of surplus fabrics from my Nancy Crow workshop back in July, I said something along the lines of "I don't care how long it takes, I want to ship this at the cheapest rate". Another case of, be careful what you wish for. Seventeen weeks later, the relcalcitrant parcel has finally materialised (in every sense of the words). Now to find somewhere to store it!

I posted off my guild calendar challenge quilt today - very much in the spirit of participation rather than competition. Here is an image of Le Printemps (it looks better if you squint):

And here is the inspiration - some wildflowers from the French Pyrenees:

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Going dotty

I finished piecing my calendar challenge quilt but, despite adding extra for seam allowances, it has shrunk below the required size. I auditioned some borders but did not like the overall effect so it is staying like this for now:

Monday, November 27, 2006

Up a Creek

Be careful what you wish for. Here was I craving a return to piecing and then I remembered that I had promised to make a 12" Kayaks block for a friendship/farewell quilt:

As you can see, this block requires precision piecing and it's been a while since I have required sharp points. In the end, I decided to go the foundation piecing route so that I can withstand scrutiny from the quilt police.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Larch Shibori

As promised, here are my last two shibori style pieces (emphasis on last):

This one has 25 circles and was loosely intended for my challenge quilt for the guild's 25th anniversary. Once again, this photo does not do justice to the rich curry colour:

Saturday, November 25, 2006

I'm Over It

I declare my brief but intense infatuation with shibori resist dyeing is over. I spent several hours this week carefully stitching two larch pieces (see Erica's blog for some directions) and left them batching in dye while I travelled to the city today for a guild committee strategy meeting. Upon my return, I was eager to see whether the larch/circle pattern had taken. To make a proper assessment, I needed to loosen and remove the stitching and rinse the fabric. It took an age and, as I tugged in vain at the stitching thread, I felt all enthusiasm dissipate. It didn't help that I nicked a small hole with my embroidery scissors as I tried to snip the threads :-(

Both pieces turned out OKish (photos tomorrow) but I am ready to return to my first passion - piecing all the way!

Friday, November 24, 2006

A little mountain air

Today's destination was the re-fabricating difference textile exhibition at Springwood in the bushfire zone of the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney and some 2+ hours from Copacabana. There we found 30 quilts on display including impressive contributions by Alison Muir , Antonia Valentine and Sue Dennis. No photography was permitted although I did purchase a CD catalogue for $10. Not all of the exhibits were of the highest calibre but the standouts make the trip worthwhile and a variety of techniques were employed.

Many of the quilts were for sale and I was struck by the very modest pricing. Personally, if I was to put a quilt up for sale (and it's not something I am particularly inclined to do), I would prefer to put a higher price/value on my work and not sell it rather than undersell myself.

I have a number of projects under way at present but many are gifts and cannot be shown on my blog for fear of spoiling the surprise. I made a belated start on my guild calendar challenge quilt this afternoon - entries are due at the end of November. So far it looks something like this but I suspect it will morph into something else along the way:

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The long & the short of it

Thankfully the temperatures are cooler today as I wrestle with quilting a queen size quilt on my Bernina 150QE - the machine I use for all of my quilts including bed quilts such as Synchronicity (pattern available here):

I am often asked how I manage with such big quilts and a domestic sewing machine with a smallish throat. My short answer goes something like this:
  • practice and build confidence with smaller quilts;
  • create a flat sewing area to support the quilt - in my case, I stack plastic fabric bins to the left of my SewEzi table;
  • make sure the quilt is securely basted. I usually spray or fuse baste. Lisa Call offers an instructive basting tutorial but personally I've never had much success with pin basting. The pins are not compatible with my basting surfaces (polished hardwood floors or the dining table David made) and, too often, the pins wrangle with my free motion foot because I get too carried away quilting and forget to stop and pull the pins out;
  • work from the centre of the quilt outwards;
  • don't roll the quilt - turning your quilt into a telegraph pole is not the answer! instead pile your quilt wherever you can so that you have a flat area around the needle. Women with larger boobs often find their chests make a useful resting area but I have to throw the quilt over my shoulder; and
  • stretch beforehand and take regular breaks.

I have friends with long arm machines but I've developed a good working relationship with my everyday machine. Find what works for you.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Where there's smoke...

there is sometimes fire. And although the bush fires are a long way from here, it's been a hazy, smoky day with layers of ash gathering on every surface in my studio. Add 38+ C (95-100 F) temperatures and it's not exactly optimum quilting weather. At least the beach is only a short walk away and I can go swimming to cool down :-)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Basking in the Sun

My Summer Meadow quilt has enjoyed more than 15 minutes of fame. First it was the cover quilt on Issue 94 of Down Under Quilts (which contains a profile of yours truly):

And now it features as a project in Issue 103 (December 2006) of Down Under Quilts :

And here's a detail shot:


Quilting can be a dangerous past time. My sewing came to an abrupt end yesterday as I managed to munch my index finger whilst free motion quilting. No nail or bone was involved. Just the flesh beside the nail. Accordingly, I decree that this Christmas quilt is finished:

Sunday, November 19, 2006

A Thanksgiving Feast

To help set the mood, this is what greeted our guests at the front door. But no, we didn't make our guests dress up as pilgrims:

I enjoy entertaining as it is an opportunity to use these beautiful pottery plates that David bought from a vendor at the Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival back in the early 80s:

He purchased a setting for eight people but there have been a few breakages along the way which is why there are no plates laid out in advance at David's and my seats (note to self, must buy sympathetic supplementary plates before my family descends at Christmas):

Let the feasting begin:

Pumpkin pie and Texas Corn Bread recipes can be found on Our Family Favourites.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Morning After Dyeing Day

While we didn't dye great meterage, Erica and I had such fun mucking around with the colours. We bypassed the primaries and concentrated on saturated secondaries. Here are some of my oranges, greens and purples (and a black, another "bright" for good measure):

For some reason, we both did a lot of orange:

And, of course, a little green:

I did three shibori pieces but the most effective was this larch design (the colour is much richer than either of these images would suggest):

Thank you to everyone who referred me to online tutorials. However, in the end, the best resource proved to be British quiltmaker, Janice Gunner's excellent book Shibori for Textile Artists:

And this was the serendipitous result of the dregs of the dyepots:

Erica sees cosmos flowers and I can too:

Today is Thanksgiving at Copacabana. The pumpkin pies are made (photos later) and I'm off to make cornbread before David hogs the oven with the turkey. But first I have to decide what recipe(s) to use. Thank you to everyone who sent recipes, I'll post my review tomorrow after my tasters give me a verdict!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Play Day

Today Erica is coming to my house to play. We have "booked" the wet area in David's workshop and plan on doing some shibori and other dyeing - who knows what havoc we can wreak. Here is the "before" shot:

And here are my pristine shibori-style pieces:

Thursday, November 16, 2006


It is said that the definition of insanity is to keep on doing things the same way and expecting them to turn out differently. How many insane quiltmakers do you know?!

Currently my insanity is manifesting itself on the culinary front. Due to other [quilting] commitments later in the month, David and I are celebrating Thanksgiving early with friends coming over for dinner on Saturday night. Thanksgiving is a distinctly American affair but this household embraces it wholeheartedly partly because of our shared American heritage (my grandfather was American; I was an exchange student for a year to Washington State and I travel there regularly) and partly because who needs an excuse to eat good food.

Anyway, I like to make corn bread for Thanksgiving dinner. Each year I search around for a recipe driving myself crazy as I try to recall the one I used the previous year. This year I will try a more sane approach. If you have a favourite corn bread recipe that is not too sweet, please e-mail it to me. Just remember, this is Australia not America so I am using raw ingredients not any proprietary, packaged product.

American readers will probably be aghast to learn that Libby's pumpkin is not to be found in our supermarkets. Accordingly, I've boiled and mashed some butternut and Jap/Kent pumpkins:

Now you'll think I really am insane...

Thanksgiving Update: Here is my recipe for pumpkin pie from scratch.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

SCQuilter Blog Listing

I belong to the online quilting group Southern Cross Quilters, aka "SCQuilters". An increasing number of SCQuilters have taken up blogging and there has been a call for a SCQuilter blog listing to be created. Pending any more elegant or integrated solution (and NO, I am not volunteering to set up a webring!), I have rustled up this preliminary listing with a live links. Let me know if you are a SCQuilter and would like your blog to be added to the list.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Group Blogging

Have you seen the new Art & Perception blog? Quite apart from the interesting core subject matter, I have been intrigued by the robust dialogue between the contributors regarding the administration and the look and feel of the blog. When we set up our own personal blogs, we consciously or subconsciously make all sorts of editorial decisions about formatting and content. When a group of contributors is involved, a different dynamic is at work.

I have a heightened awareness of the dynamics of group blogging as I have been closely involved with the establishment of a new blog for the Quilters' Guild of NSW Inc and setting up style and content guidelines for contributors. I am very excited about this initiative. The goal is not only to positively augment communication between the guild and its members but to promote the activities of the guild generally. The blog address is - check it out and let me know what you think. I'd also be interested to hear from other administrators of group blogs and issues that have arisen along the way.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Tossing and Turning

No time for blogging yesterday as I rustled up a bunch of blocks for a quilt gift (hence no photos on the blog). When I turned out the light in my studio last night, I surveyed the layout on my design wall and felt well-satisfied with my productivity.

I spent the night tossing and turning. For no apparent reason, I've been pondering about returning to legal or policy work of some description and this has had an unsettling effect. Anyway, when I returned to my studio this morning, I found that my blocks had been engaging in a little acrobatics of their own. I had left the windows open and the southerly buster had churned up overlight leaving my blocks in a mess all over the floor. Fortunately I had taken a photo for reference purposes so I am about to go and pick up the pieces...

By the way, I've posted my classic masala curry recipe on Our Family Favourites.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Smells Like Christmas

Today I have been baking up a storm and the smell of fruit cakes has permeated the house. I haven't always been a devotee of the old-fashioned Christmas cake. However, when the house is full of people wandering backwards and forwards to the beach, it makes the perfect satisfying between-meal snack. This year, a number of my family are joining us for Christmas so one or two extra Christmas cakes will not go astray (the square one is for a friend):

And here is the one that I made last month, aging beautifully:

And I promise that I won't give up my day job to become a food stylist. (Whoops, I forgot I don't have a day job anymore...)

Friday, November 10, 2006

The Season Has Begun..

My mother-in-law put in an order for a Christmas quilt so my Single Star Wreath design seemed the way to go:

I am "back to front" quilting using the backing fabric as my quilting guide to create a poinsettia and holly motif. I'll post some images when I am a little further along and have sewn all my tails in. As I quilt, I am listening to the ABC call of today's big cricket game (Prime Minister's XI v England) on the radio. Summer cricket has begun - yippee!

PS: In the spirit of the season, if you purchase a Christmas Star Wreaths pattern or kit from my website, you will receive a bonus Single Star Wreath pattern at no extra charge.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Vale John Coburn

One of my favourite Australian artists, John Coburn, died on Tuesday aged 81. Coburn was one of the country's most recognisable artists with a love of vivid colours and abstract shapes. His style lent itself to tapestries and I was fortunate to be able to often view some of his original works at close range as part of a corporate collection with one of my employers. You can see other images HERE.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A More Subdued Palette

Today's damp and cool weather was not very conducive for dyeing. Instead I continued to do some office admin and then made a start on a new quilt. I've decided to try my Synchronicity pattern in a more subdued palette. I'm quite pleased with the way it is coming together:

I've only made 24 blocks so far. Obviously the finished quilt will have more variety. In a similar (but lighter) palette, see my sister Amy's latest painting - I think it is great!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Odds & Ends

I'm still in tidy-up mode. Trying to get everything unpacked, put away and generally in order so that I can treat myself to a dyeing day with a clear conscience. While I was in Canberra, I purchased some more dyes from one of my students (Annie of Annie's Dye Pot) and I'm looking forward to having a play. Annie also generously gave me some fabrics which I am sure will make it into a quilt at some stage:

Today I also prepared an abridged version of my presentation to Canberra Quilters to be included in their next newsletter. The sentiments contained in my talk on serendipity and the art of the quilt will be familiar to those who know me or read my blog but here is a pdf version of the article if you are interested.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Paws for Effect

As foreshadowed, my life has been a blog-free zone for the past few days as I traveled to the nation's capital to honour a teaching and speaking invitation kindly extended by Canberra Quilters.

I had a wonderful time meeting a series of delightful quilters at the Thursday meeting and in my three days of classes. I also had fun "after hours" making a field trip to Lark Hill Winery (home of the sublime "Exaltation" Pinot Noir) and admiring the stylish wood art, sculpture, craft and contemporary furniture on exhibition at the Woodworks in Bungendore. As it happened, I didn't make it to the National Gallery, opting instead to linger at Addicted to Fabric selecting fabrics for the wedding quilt for my brother who got married last year.

Excuse me as I catch up with e-mails, bills and other chores. I leave you with a photo of the kangaroo paws just coming into bloom in our garden:

Note also our water tank and compost bin.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Setting off

I am about to hit the road for my adventure to Canberra. I do not expect to be able to post anything until my return on Sunday evening. By then I'll probably be suffering major blogging withdrawal symptoms. Fortunately, I have been able to check the results from Houston. Congratulations to the Aussie quilters including Helen Godden, Liuxin Newman and Margery Goodall. And congratulations also to the "other" Brenda Smith on her Houston success.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

More Unplugged!

These photos are not much better but they will have to do for now. Besides, as David helpfully pointed out, I still have to do some "quilting do-dads" in the purple centre of the light turquoise block so more photos will be required later:

For those of you who are new to my blog, this quilt was started in my July workshop with Nancy Crow. The hatch quilting is done using the darning foot but still with the feed dogs up:

Because of the quilt's irregular size and style, I opted for facing rather than binding and used a technique kindly sent to me by Kathy Loomis.