Monday, March 28, 2011

New Norcia Inspiration

My DH and I went on a long country drive over the weekend and ended up in a very remote West Australian destination called New Norcia. New Norcia is an old yet still functioning Benedictine monastery located in the absolute middle of nowhere. The monastery IS the town.

We had a nice afternoon touring the historic buildings open to the public (there is a large section off limits as this is where the monks live and guest quarters are located) and taking lots of photographs. After a while we ended up in the one and only hotel which used to be part of the monastery at one time, to have a cold drink and some lunch. While DH went in to order, I sat on the large front portico relaxing in the cooling breeze that a perfectly situated veranda affords to travellers that even a very hot Australia day can’t penetrate.

I admired the building with its very solid and thick walls. A construction well suited to this harsh environment in keeping the heat out and the coolness in. After looking up at the exposed beams and around at the walls of thick stone on the outside and deep colored Jarrah wood on the inside, I looked down. On the veranda floor were the most beautiful pattern of tiles. Of course this being a former monastery building I’m certain it was build with function and durability in mind and ascetics as a secondary concern . But in the floors stark functionality is geometric beauty. The tiles are nothing special – just fired clay in reddish, brownish, colors. But the pattern it makes is a thing of splendour. I pulled out my camera and took a few snaps at two different tile patterns in two separate areas of the veranda. A few people sitting at their tables gave me a rather odd look. I was tempted to say ‘I’m a quilter’ to one of the women because if she were a quilter or had any understanding of textile art, she would understand. But I didn’t. Instead I just looked like a crazy American taking pictures of the floor.

I would like to create a quilt one day using these patterns and give it a name that would bring back the memory of this perfect day spent with someone I love admiring the beauty of the world around me. I bet the craftsmen who laid those tiles so many years ago had no idea the impact their work would have on the creative processes of a quilter stopping by for a cold beer before heading home.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

iPad Love - Take Two

As I posted a while back, I love my iPad. I use it for just about everything and that includes writing my blog and designing new quilt projects. I find it to be an invaluable tool in getting design ideas out of my head and into a digital format that I can play with endlessly until I'm ready to begin actual work in fabric. Adding to the list of apps I've already listed in my 'iPad Love' post that I use often, I need to add Blog Press as one of my must have apps for the modern quilter.

Until recently I wrote my blog posts on my iPad using the word processing app Pages. Pages is a great app and was more than adequate for my needs. However recently during a browse (that almost always turns into a purchase...) of the Apple App Store, I downloaded Blog Press. This app is designed for bloggers like me who want to take their writing on the road and away from the computer. It can be used for the iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad. Basically it's a word processing app that let's me type my blog entries, add photographs and/or edit previous posts immediately anywhere my iPad goes. This may not thrill some quilters but it does me. I do some of my best writing while having a coffee in a Gloria Jeans cafe or while waiting in my car for the DH to get off work. Of course if I didn't have Blog Press I could still write my blog on my iPad and post it after I got home. But I'm a modern day blogger as well as a modern day quilter. Sometimes I just want immediate satisfaction!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Excitement of a New Project....

I KNOW I don't need to start a new project but when has need ever really come into play when talking about a passion.

I have way too many projects on the go right now as it is. But yesterday I picked up a copy of one of my favourite quilt magazines, a French publication called Quiltmania and fell in love with one of the quilts shown in an article.

No, its not the cover photo - though that is a very attract project. Its the one inside they call Japanese Boxes - but really it's the attic window pattern with a twist.

I've always wanted to create a decadent velvet and silk quilt to hang on the wall - something that screams 'this is art'. Well, I think I've found it in this project. Though I've never really been one to copy a project from books or magazines, this one to me would be perfect in velvets and silks instead of what has been used in their example, which is cottons. And I think those luxurious fabric hanging on the wall would certainly give off a texture and sheen that flat cottons don't. Yes, this project is an inspiration for me to stretch my sewing skills and dive into new quilting territory - the non-cotton world.

As the entire construction is nothing but set-in seams its definitely a hand piecing project. And working with velvet, ultra suede and dupon silk, I wouldn't consider attempting those kind of seams on such fussy fabric on a machine. I've decide to use black velvet and taupe ultra-suede for the box construction and iridescent dupon silks for the inside of the boxes.

After constructing one 'box' I can see this project is going to be a challenge.

The velvet and ultra suede are very heavy, dense fabrics. Not at all easy to pierce with an ordinary sewing needle. And the dupon silk is pretty tuff too. Certainly not the delicate, flowing silk that comes to mind when you think of silk. I can see now how antique dresses made of this material has lasted for so long.

You can see my stitches are certainly bigger and more spread apart then how I normally sew. Its because of the fabrics density. Also I have to make sure I use a thimble when working with these textiles otherwise I'm going to pierce my finger accidentally. Another challenge is keeping the fabrics from unraveling (the velvet) or fraying (the silk). I'll have to cut as I go instead of cutting all the shapes at once. That way I'll minimise the possibility of damaging the edges. And I'll have to store the blocks (as seen above...) in a ridged container instead of my usual plastic baggie. Again, to minimise the edges from damaging. Also I won't be able to iron press the seams open as that will flatten the velvet. That's not really a problem though as I don't usually press as I go. I'll just use my Clover tool to crease the seams a bit.

Hum.....this IS going to be a challenging project. But I love anything that stretches my mind and abilities a bit. And just think how great it's going to look on my wall! (in about 10 years time....)

Stay tuned.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Woodbridge House Quilts

Today I had the rare privilege of seeing up close and then photographing three antique quilts.

Woodbridge House is a beautiful circa 1850's mansion located in a quiet and scenic bend of the Swan River in Guildford, Western Australia. The house is now a heritage listed building and beautifully cared for by the Australian National Trust. It's open to the public for tours and viewing at a very nominal costs per person.

While browsing earlier in the week (ok, let's be honest here - purchasing) some Civil War reproduction fabric to use in two separate projects I'm doing, I saw a flier saying Woodbridge would be displaying their antique quilts. I told DH I'd like to stop in this weekend and give them a look. Being the extremely tolerant and indulgent husband that he is, he said sure. It must be tuff sometimes for quilters husbands as we drag them along to exhibits and quilts shops almost against their will. However I like to think if his hobby were watching cars rust I'd put on a happy face and follow along with him.

So today we went to Woodbridge and were lucky enough to be the only people there (at the time) to give them a look. The two ladies conducting the tours were extremely helpful and happy we were there to see the houses treasures. They explained that at present only three quilts have been taken out of storage for viewing. Of course this being modern day we are used to quantity sometimes at the sacrifice of quality. With only three quilts to view and the luxury of time and space to view them in, I truly enjoyed the indulgence of seeing them not only up close and personal but also having the ability to photograph them at my leisure as well (no flash of course). Three worked out to be a perfect number.

All three quilts were placed on large fabric covered tables that were initially covered with heavy white cotton cloth. Two of the quilts were pieced tops only which I found really exciting because I got to see the back and examine the stitching. I was very surprised that one quilt was machine pieced. Why is it we assume something antique would be hand worked only? Women have always taken advantage of time saving devices and sewing would be no exception. Any woman at the turn of the last century that could afford a sewing machine would certainly want to piece her next quilt with it. This woman's machine piecing was exquisite and precise. Her machine piecing is certainly better then mine is today on a modern machine

My favorite quilt was pieced by Sara Evans in 1806. I know this because Sara cross stitched her name beautifully on the back of her quilt in blue embroderie thread. Much of Sara's quilt is reverse appliqué with numerous block motifs and pieced work around them. It's a scrap quilt, which is my absolute favorite. I love seeing the multitude of bits and pieces of colors and prints.

Unfortunately I wasn't able to get a complete photograph of any of the quilts as a whole as they were all displayed on tables much too small for their size. Their sides were folded up so as not to hang over the tables edge and pull on the delicate fibers. Also a fine netting was laid over the tops in a duel attempt to distribute the weight of the quilt evenly and lessen the pull on fibers and to keep soil off.

Though I loved seeing these quilts up close, I'm sadden to think that their longevity is in question because of the less then optimum storage methods used. The ladies explained the quilts are normally stored folded in acid free paper and in drawers. Understandably the costs to keep these historical textiles in a more appropriate way such as in acid free, light free, and purpose built archiving units allowing storage without folding and in a temperature controlled environment would be extremely expensive therefore most likely not in the budget of The National Trust. I'm certain they are certainly cared for to the best of their charges abilities. I hope this is sufficient until the time their historical significance can be more fully appreciated and additional measures taken to ensure Sara Evans beautiful quilt and others like hers will be seen by admiring quilters for many, many years to come.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Things I Love....

My DH is amazing.  In so few words he has the ability to put clarity to my discontented brain.  In a fit of feeling sorry for myself, discontentment in my life and just plain unhappiness over nothing, he put everything in perspective.  And so I want to share so much of what I love in my life.....

My wonderful husband...

My friends...

My handsome grandson...

My beautiful and fashionable granddaughter...

A good cup of coffee...


My little dog...

My faith...

My Country by birth...

My Country by choice.

I have so much to be grateful for.

Saturday, March 12, 2011


So, what does a hand piece quilter do when waiting 3 hours for her car to have it's 110,000k service?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Sand Filled Shoes

The DH and I went to Cottesloe Beach over the weekend to view the ‘Art on the Beach’ exhibit they have there every year.  If you’ve never been and you live locally its really worth a visit.  Here are some photo’s:
I don’t have a favourite of these sculptures because I loved all of them.  I think the ‘red man’ that stood 10 feet tall probably drew the biggest crowd.  Not only because he was huge and bright red, but because he was completely nude and anatomically correct.  It was nice to see so many smiles on people’s faces when too often you see disapproving looks from the minority that ‘disapprove’ of nudity in art.  Personally I think the human body in all its forms is beautiful – especially when portrayed in art.  I suppose I’m more of a prude when it comes to live nudity.  I get really offended by people who dress inappropriately in shopping malls and on the street such as men without shirts or women in semi-bikini’s in the grocery store.  Come on people – get dressed!  There’s a time and place for showing some skin and while shopping for my broccoli to me is not one of them.  OK, I’m off my soap box now.
I loved the grouping of camels on the beach and the way their bodies were created to mimic wooden ships.  Because everyone knows that camels are the ships of the desert. 
The grouping of hands were fantastic too.  I don’t know their symbolism, if there was meant to be one at all.  I just liked the way they looked protruding on long metal polls from the beach gently waving in the wind.
My DH and I are going to make it a point to visit this exhibit again next year when it comes around.  What a lovely way to spend a Sunday in the sunshine, on the beach, looking at art. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

I Love My Textile Life

This past weekend I attended to a sewing day in the country town of Pinjarra.  It was hosted by the WA Chapter of the Southern Cross Quilters in what used to be a one room schoolhouse that now houses the local quilters guild and accommodates a small shop as well to sell items created by the group.  It’s a lovely building with high ceiling, wood burning fireplaces, and jarrah wood floors throughout.  The building just screams nostalgia and was a wonderful place to spend the day quilting.  
In attendance were about 30-35 women all laden down with sewing machines and the like.  You know – the usual sewing group accumulation of stuff.  I met some lovely ladies I had previously only spoken to on-line through the groups Yahoo Group site.  A few of the ladies drove over two hours to attend.  If you have any familiarity with Western Australia at all, two hours isn’t that far away for country people to attend an event.  Perth, the capital of WA, has the interesting honour of being the most isolated capital city in the world, so those outside of the boundaries of the suburbs really do live in the country with large amounts of no-man’s-land in-between.  Until my conversation with these ladies I thought my little group of four drove a ways to get there and that was only an hour.  Though I’ve lived here in Australia for over 12 years now, its little things like this that my brain still has a hard time getting itself around. 
My goal for the day was to finish cutting out my newest project.  Yes, I know.  I can’t believe I’m beginning another project when I have so many already in progress.  I really have to put a stop on this behaviour.  I can’t have that much of an ADD quilting personality that I can’t at least get a few things finished before starting another.  I wonder if Ritalin can be prescribed for this?
I did get my fabric cut by mid-morning and then proceeded to hand piece.  The ladies next to me were very interested in my project as they do almost all their piecing on the machine – accept for what they brought with them that day which was exquisite appliqué.  It always surprises me when people wonder at hand work.  Often I’m asked how do I find the time to do it - which is really funny because I wonder how women who do almost all their piecing by machine find the dedicated time to sit in front of their machines to the exclusion of everything else to work.  As I always explain to the asking, my piecing can, and does, go everywhere with me.  Whenever I have stolen moments, waiting in the car, lunch time at work,  or waiting for appointments, I can pull out my little travel packet of piecing and time just fly’s by.  I actually get really cross with myself if I don’t plan ahead and make sure my travel kit is well stocked.  I hate it when I finish what I have available to sew.  I feel like I’m then wasting my time just waiting!
I think most of these women who are dedicated machine piecers believe it’s the fastest way to get the job done.  And for them perhaps it is.  But I’m not really a speed demon.   Yes, I want to finish a project before the fabric disintegrates from age.  But I’m pretty confident I’ll always meet my 10 year maximum on any one quilt. 
I love my textile life.  I love cutting the fabric.  I love piecing the fabric.  I love living with the fabric from room to room or under a tree or in the waiting room before it turns into a cherished bed quilt or throw or work of art.  Thank you Dad for giving me those years in my childhood to play among the test fabrics you would bring home.  That started - and continues - the longest love affair in my life.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Psycho 70's Apple Core

Like almost all quilters, I have numerous projects going on at once.  Below are some photos of what I’m calling my Psycho 70's Apple Core project. 
I’ve been collecting retro 70’s style fabric for a while with no purpose in mind for it other than I thought it was pretty cool and eventually I’d use it for something.  I even had a friend at quilting buy me some fat quarters as a gift when they were on sale because she knew I’ve kept my eye out for some (thanks Liz). 
While browsing one of the quilt shops recently I came across the apple core template – which is absolutely perfect for a hand piecer because there’s no straight line sewing at all.  It’s all curves and it can be a challenge to piece.  I like a challenge.  Looking at this template I knew right away I was going to dive into my retro collection.

From the back

4 in a line
I have to explain to you I’m cheap.  Actually I’m not cheap.  As my mother once explained to me there is a very real difference between ‘cheap’ and ‘inexpensive’.  Cheap is poor quality and never a bargain.  Inexpensive is good quality at a good price.  Anyway I’m getting off the point of the story.... Even though the templates were of good quality, I wasn’t prepared to pay the asking price because honestly I already spend too much money on my quilting habit.  So, I left the store with lots of plans in my head as to how to work this.
My DH is amazing.  He’s the kind of guy who can build a shopping mall with only toothpicks at his disposal.  I told him about the templates and what I was after and low and behold , a few days later I had a set of wonderful Plexiglass templates cut at numerous sizes at my disposal.  What a man!
I set about to cut, cut, and cut some more of my wonderful retro 70’s stuff.  As you can see it’s going to be a really out there quilt/throw when I’m done.  I don’t have any size in mind at the moment.  I’m just going to piece until I run out of pieces or until I’m happy with the size it develops into.  Initially I started piecing them in a line.  I did this up to two rows (hence the table runner looking thing...) but found it rather difficult to try and piece so much curvature in rows.  I’ve now moved to piecing a grouping of 4 to 6 and then putting them together that way to form a wonky block.  It becomes a bit confusing however with so much busy fabric because I’m trying not to have any two of the same pattern next to each other – not that anyone would really notice with so much going on!

Looking alot like a table runner
It’s a fun venture and one I keep coming back to in-between other things.  It’s my new ’10 year’ project.  Don’t laugh – the quilt that’s on my bed right now I started when I first came to Australia in 1997 and finally completed in 2008.  I love that quilt.  It’s seen me through a lot of events in my life.  Maybe my Psycho 70’s quilt will do that as well.