Saturday, April 26, 2008

It was Anzac day yesterday, and we'd planned to make our own little dawn ceremony out at the old air-base near Pirie. Matt had expressed an interest in coming too, so at 5.25 am we went out to pick him up from Bowman's park. It was still very dark and I could see Matt's torch bobbing down the track and the flash of Macca's white ruff. He was very excited to be going with us, and I hoped he'd behave himself later. (The dog, that is.) Our brother Doug and SIL Bev had already left and were waiting for us at the base, near this massive engine from an old plane that serves as a memorial.We set up Keryn's laptop which contained the appropriate recordings and waited in the dim light until the clouds announced the dawn.

Then we played The Last Post and stood in silence for two mins, each thinking our own thoughts. Keryn and I remembered Dad, and Mum's stories about the war and no doubt Doug was thinking of his time in Vietnam and the mates who didn't come back. Then he began to recite the Ode of Remembrance, and we all joined in:

They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old,
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Lest We Forget.

Reveille was played and the sun turned the clouds into fiery bands of rose and gold as the haunting notes of the bugle lingered in the air.
It was incredibly moving and I was so glad that Matt came because it meant a lot to him too. None of my boys ever knew our father, who died when we were children ourselves, but he's very real to them all the same. Matt has read the logbook of his flying hours more than once and heard our stories so many times that I'm sure he feels he knows him too.

And dear Macca, who was very busy and bouncy beforehand, stood through our little ceremony like a statue, head up and staring into the distance as if he too understood what we were feeling. I was very proud of him.
When I came home I wrote this...

Old Airbase, Anzac Day.

At dawn the airfield stretches out unseen,
dim and grey with the ghosts of long-dead men.
The hangers gone, machines all turned to rust
and skeletons of planes dumped in the fields.

From the darkness comes a lonely plover's cry
and in the east the clouds begin to pale.
Faint in the wind I hear the roar of planes
and sweeping over me I sense
the shadow of their wings.


Thursday, April 24, 2008

Keryn has been feeling the colder nights and decided she wanted a big bedspread type thing to go under her other quilts. We've got a roll of thicker poly batting, which should be nice and warm, and I wanted to practice my freehanding on the longarm ,so we loaded some wide calico and had at it. This was tremendous fun, and I was more confident knowing it was just for us and the mistakes weren't on a customer quilt. I suppose because we're designers we kept thinking "Oh, that's an ugly shape" and being picky, but if you just keep going it all gets swallowed up and looks great in the whole.
I've done freemotion for years on the domestic machine and feel at home with that, but the longarm needs a shift in thought processes and the pattern of movements need to be imprinted on my brain. I figure after two or three of these 'practice pieces' I might have served my apprenticeship!

Keryn said "Typical! We get a computerised machine, and all you want to do is take the belts off and freehand on it!" I can't help it, this is what I love doing, but the precision of the Statler is nice to have too. This turned out really nice, and because I concentrated on big feathers it went pretty quickly too. Keryn has her bedspread to keep out the chills and I've got a whack of practice under my belt. Now one of us just has to bind the thing!After all those non-colour photos, here is the project that's using all the triangles.Quite a few Christmases ago , Keryn gave me a "Pensylvania Dutch" kit, consisting of many, many 2 1/2" strips of red, green, yellow and blue.
I just couldn't decide what I wanted to do with them, and kept waiting for the right pattern. I saw a blue and white quilt recently that jumped out at me and suddenly I had the perfect pattern, easy to cut from the strips and really effective in this colourway.I think perhaps the blue will be used in the sashing, (two green strips with blue in the middle?)Not too sure if it looks so good in the block, but I'll make a few more before I decide.
I'd forgotten, but Keryn cut herself a kit too, and now I've got all the strips at my place, so instead of using up MY stuff, I somehow seem to have doubled the original lot. Keryn is gleefully counting this as stash reduction, which I don't really think is fair. Oh well, I guess the back will be Bars, with some Chinese Coins strips thrown in, just to use them all up.
I think the girl has a serious over-cutting issue, but it's not her problem anymore, is it?.....


Monday, April 21, 2008

How does this....... turn into This?!

Middle son Rob graduated on Friday, so of course the proud Momma and Auntie had to go to Adelaide and witness the event. He now has a degree in Analytical and Forensic Chemistry, pretty impressive, what? I wish his Nan could have seen him too, she would have been as proud as punch.This was a photo that Keryn took, and wouldn't you know it, I had my eyes shut so I've been cropped out. And Elisa ( the lovely in the second photo) informed us on Friday that it was exactly a year till the wedding. Better start looking after the nails and worrying about what to wear!

This is all the sewing I've managed to do lately , a pile of HST for a newish project. Oh, for a whole day in the sewing room.....


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

I hate it when you walk into your sewing room, look at the projects that haven't been touched for so long you can't remember where you were and say to them "Do I know you? Do we mean something to each other?" I need to spend a few hours reacquainting myself with the blocks in progress, or I'm going to make mistakes, so I turned to one of the old completed sets of album blocks. This is the variation I mentioned and was based on a very tattered ebay quilt from many years ago. It was in such bad shape I don't even think it could still exist, so I feel like I'm preserving it. I've sewed all the brown triangles to turn the blocks on point, and later today I'll start on the pieced sashing. I know exactly where I'm going with this, so I don't have to agonise about choices.

I have to go and concentrate on customer quilts now, but I thought I'd show you what I turn to when I'm too busy to get into my own sewing. Last thing before I turn the lights out at night I spend a half hour drawing- anything that takes my fancy. Which is usually animals or faces. I have to do something creative for myself every day or I'd go nuts, and if there isn't time for anything else, there's always my trusty pen and sketchbook, just before I go to sleep.
I used to use pencil, but I've learnt that a pen makes me think about exactly what marks I'm making. I used to worry about mistakes, but now I just draw over the top of them. It's like machine quilting, there is no substitute for Practice, Practice, Practice! I use photos at night, because I don't want to share my bed with dogs, no matter how cute, but I like to draw from life even better.

This is a page of Jessie drawings, nothing finished, nothing perfect, but invaluable in learning about her anatomy and the poses she naturally falls into.

I think we all worry about perfection too much, we should shift the aim to Learning. Knowledge is the true benefit, even if things don't quite work out- the next project will be a little better, and the one after that. Practice is the foundation of Skill.

(Gee, it's too early in the day to be Profound, I'd better drink more coffee and get to work!)


Monday, April 14, 2008

Here are the cutting dimensions for anyone interested in the Album block.

8 x 2 1/2" squares of main colour

4 rectangles 2 1/2" by 6 1/2"

1 red centre square 2 1/2"

6 x 2 1/2" squares of background cream ( I made the centre four a different print, just for a bit of variety)

3 x 4 1/8" squares of background cream
Cut the 4 1/8" squares twice on the diagonal. Cut two of the cream 2 1/2" squares once on the diagonal.Make the centre nine patch and press the seams like this.
(Forgot to take a picture of this step, so here's one I didn't prepare ealier) Sew the quarter square triangles to TWO of the rectangles. When I first made this block I efficiently sewed them to all four and then had to unpick two. Just warning you. Press the seams towards the dark material.Sew the remaining triangles to the dark squares and add the half square triangles to make corners for the block. You can make four of these.
I used to trim the corners of these triangles, but now I just make sure I always line up the 90 degree corners and sew downwards. The extra fabric at the point just hangs over and is trimmed off later.
When I sew the other side the dark fabric is on top and I'm still sewing from the 90 degree corner.

Some people don't like pressing these triangles because of the bias edge. Just don't go near it; press from the top of the corner right along the seam - the rest of the fabric doesn't even need to be ironed.
Here are the bits laid out ready to be joined. The corners and the rectangle pieces will have no nice matching 90 degree corners to line up but you can either find the centre of each piece and pin, or do what I do, make sure there is an equal little background triangle sticking out at either end and sew.
Join the centre strip like this, press seams towards the rectangles.Sew the other corners and join (forgot pictures of that too, sorry)
And this is a simpler album block which results if you leave out the rectangle pieces. This variation is so easy I've made three sets and I still want to make more, I think I'm addicted to it.Here is the pressing scheme I use, this all lays nice and flat and unlumpy.
The block finishes at about 11 1/4" . It always looks clean and sharp, and there's so many variations I just love it.

Two more things I love.... We're thinking of making a sitcom called "Everyone Loves Curtis", but on the other hand it could also be titled "Curtis Loves Everyone". Aw.


Wednesday, April 09, 2008

This is the longest I've been without sewing my own projects for quite a while and I'm going crazy, peoples!! We've been in socialising, business, family mode and while those are all good things, I need the balance of personal time in the sewing room or I start feeling really Deprived. And I have nothing to show here either which makes me feel really guilty. What a bad blogger, but I don't mean to be!
Keryn mentioned the dust storm we had last week, it was a doozy. The wind was horrible, and when I saw the racing clouds of dirt in the sky I had to go outside and take a picture. The camera had better visibility than I did, it was all just brown fog to me. Yuck.

I've been knitting because that's portable and easy, and I'm really entertained by knitting green wool on red needles. Shallow, yes?
It's acrylic/nylon because I can't handle wool or mohair next to my skin, but it's working up nicely and is very soft.
I took the following photos last year, and I said to Keryn "If I ever use these on the blog, you'll know I'm absolutely desperate!" Well that time is here, I've got nothing else to show you lot, so here goes......
A funny Fruit picture for your enjoyment.
Conjoined bananas....
And look what was inside! Like they're tucked up in a little sleeping bag.
What? You don't buy mutated fruit so you can take Emergency Blog photos? Well you should!


Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Judy asked what pattern source I'm using for my album blocks. I never use patterns, I seem to be most inspired by photos of antique quilts, and out comes the graph paper so I can calculate my own size and cutting requirements. I actually love this process and look forward to getting it all nailed down and ready to start cutting. I never have to wonder where I can find a pattern or be at a standstill while I wait to find what I want.

I guess this attitude came from the fact that Keryn and I started doing patchwork in the seventies, and there was nothing to buy in Australia, precious little patchwork fabric, a few magazines and no patterns at all. So we just learnt to draft our own, and make the templates for handpiecing from scratch. You young-uns have it so easy!!

My paisley album is round at Keryns, but I thought I had another block to illustrate this post, so I went hunting. I seem to have been enamored of the album block and one of it's variations for a while. I found these two orphan blocks; the grey one is just like Bonnies and was made by Keryn many years ago and donated to me.
These blocks (there are six of them)were made from the scrap drawer as an ongoing project which has been forgotten for a while. But I adore the scrap look and might resurrect them now. This is a smaller variation and I went through a stage of obsession with this pattern. I was working and the whole family had to be out the door by 7.30 in the morning, at the very latest. I began getting up at 5, just so I could have an hour or so of piecing time every morning. Without that sewing time I would have been very grumpy, because sometimes I was far too tired to machine sew at night and often fell asleep over my handpiecing.

I made this set of blocks, a variation with less peices, from a photo of a tattered ebay quilt
this set to use up pink and blues...
and this set from another ebay quilt.
My early morning sewing sessions were great for feeding the pieces through the machine and building the blocks, but I felt too rushed when it came to setting them, so I'd just start another set. And they're still here, all those years later. But as I keep telling people, they don't eat much.

Now, if I could get organised I might post some cutting requirements, I'll see what I can do. And by the way, back in the seventies this block was more often referred to as Chimney Sweep and sometimes Courthouse Steps.

I've got a nagging feeling that there's another blue set somewhere, I might have to start thinking about finishing these up. Thanks for the motivation Judy.


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