Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Start of Something New

As befits this time of year I've taken to new beginnings. I have been having what my family kindly call "a quilting frenzy" which means I've been enjoying my holiday at home by spending more time that I have in quite a while creating behind my sewing machine.

While I have a number of things I probably "should" be stitching instead, I've been having great fun building a quilt for a friend of mine who is facing more than her fair share of health challenges at the moment. So often I feel there is little that I can really do to help her out so I decided that what she and her five year old daughter really need is a quilt to cuddle under - and that is something that clearly I'm ideally suited to work on.

I'm quick to admit that I have had help - my cat Oscar has been keeping me company and giving me ideas for the quilt. This is the tidy corner of the sewing room!
I decided that I'd include on it all the things she loves and needs right now - friends to give her lots of hugs, the casting of magic spells to speed her full recovery, lots of cups of tea,
someone to help with the more mundane household chores, which don't stop just because you don't feel 100%,
and lots of friends, including a cheerleader to keep her spirits up and a coach to push her on.
There are also going to be lots of gardens that will never need weeding.
It's all coming together nicely - what I really need now is some more dodgy weather so I can stay behind the sewing machine without any guilt or feelings that I just might be missing summer. I hope that wherever you are, you are getting the time and weather to do just what you need to set you up for the new year.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Catching up for Chrsitmas

I've been increasing feeling like I'm running a very long race this year and it is only now that I can see my way through to the finish line. That's probably because a number of things are in the process of finishing up for the year and some time is actually opening up for other activities, such as getting organised for Christmas and updating this blog. Not before time, on both counts!

First up are the two companion pieces for the sneak piece that I showed last month - playing with curves and hand stitching. I'm not so enamoured with this one but this piece feels much more successful. I have used the curved crossing lines in quilts I have made in the past and it was nice to revisit them. They always remind me that we never know what might be around the corner in life - or as they put it in a chick flick movie I watched with my daughter a few nights ago - plan to be surprised in life.

I've had a few surprises this year, some good, some not so good and a few very good. I figure my ledger is definitely on the positive side this year - can't ask more than that! One of my most recent surprises was to open the latest edition of Selvedge and find myself quoted in it. I was somewhat speechless, while my daughter squealed (as teenagers do) to find her mother quoted in the finest textile magazine there is. They had picked up some comments from a post of mine back in April. Thanks for making my day Selvedge! It's another stunning edition.

And so the preparations for Christmas have finally begun in our house - the Christmas tree is up, the largest we have ever had.... It is filled with a combination of decorations the children have made over the years that I feel sentimental about, some beautiful handmade decorations that friends and my mother have made for me and others that I have picked up over time because of their special appeal. We have a tradition in the family that the children each get to pick one new decoration to buy from the biggest Christmas shop in town - there has been much laughter about how their tastes have changed over time. Overall we think it's a fine display.

Today a few presents found their way under the tree - wrapped by my daughter for the cousins, all labelled with Christmas angels and ready for giving.

One way or another the race is coming to its end - its starting to feel a lot like Christmas! Best wishes for a peaceful holiday to you all - may it provide plenty of opportunities for laughter, fun and the replenishment of creative batteries.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Sneak Peak

There's nothing like some new threads to get you inspired! This month the challenge with my small group of stitching friends was to do three variations of an image. I've stuck to something I love - the Andy Goldsworthy inspired river line that I seem to come back to so many times. This is the first of the triptych of pieces that I'm creating - my first variation on a theme. The background is a piece of old indigo cotton fabric which has a wonderful soft feel to it, while the foreground is a hand dye that I've been using up piece by small piece. Just love it.
But the star, in my mind anyway, are my new Stef Francis threads. Feast your eyes on these - nothing like a bit of fibre temptation.And then, for a bit of a giggle, I thought you might enjoy these. I found these with my friend who I stayed with recently in Auckland -they are baking measures with the top and bottom of each doll being a different measuring cup. We loved them so much we bought each other a set and had an early, impromptu Christmas together. Nothing like a little mutual indulgence! Such fun and having given mine a test run with the weekly biscuit baking I can give them the full stamp of approval - both beautiful and useful. A match made in heaven.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Monthly musings

There has been so little stitching going on in my life of late (apart from sewing scout badges onto vests - and yes, I know the boys are meant to do them themselves) that I've really struggled to post. That coupled with the odd computer glitch has left me absent for a long time.

However having confessed my lack of activity had just the effect required and I did spent a couple of hours behind my beloved machine on Friday and will soon have something to show, once the hand stitching is complete. What really launched me into action was getting my hands on quite a number of hanks of Stef Francis mercerised cotton - my all time favourite thread for stitching with. It is hand dyed, variegated thread in a wide variety of rich colours. When I discovered that Jenny Hunter had imported it there was no option other than to have a spend up. Heaven!

While I haven't been stitching I have been thinking about it and about art - just loved this sign I found on my travels lately. An excellent expression of the importance of art to us all.
And then grazing just down the road were these zebras which are made of corrugated iron.
The biggest excitement for me was when I found this Rosalie Gascoigne painting for sale in Auckland. I stood and gazed at it for an unseemly amount of time. You just know that when that have Price on Application on the catalogue that you shouldn't even go there. It was very cheeky of me but I snuck this photo - and then wandered straight down the road to buy the catalogue of her recent retrospective in Melbourne. It is wonderful reading.

The greatest thing about Gascoigne is the hope she offers us all - an internationally renown artist who was untrained and didn't start making art until she was in her 50s. There is hope for us all (maybe)!

Just to prove there has been some textile related activity I did purchase this fabulous small quilt made by Norma Slabbert from the recent Quilt Show and Sale here in Wellington. It's beautifully framed and is
now hanging above my phone. It brings a smile to my face each time I see it - what more can you ask from art?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Monthly Miscellany

Well it seems such a long time between posts that a monthly round up is most appropriate. I'm pleased to say that I have finally properly finished my stones quilt - that is properly in terms of it now having a hanging sleeve and label, it has had a trip to show and tell at Guild and, today it moved to its new home. I gave this quilt to my friend Carol as it reminded her so strongly of the colours in the landscape from her childhood home in the Ohakune in the volcanic plateau. It's turned out to be the perfect gift for her as in the last week one of her sisters has died and I hope that this will be a reminder of the memories she holds of their childhood.
I find it a little strange that I intended the quilt to be about one thing and it so appropriately was really meant to be about something else altogether. Such is the nature of life sometimes. On the back of the quilt I have written:

Rarangi maunga, tu tonu, tu tonu.
Rarangi tangata, ngaro noa, ngaro noa.
You have gone, but your mountain is everlasting.
Haere ra Jan.

I've been doing a bit of tripping around the North Island over the last couple of weeks, since its been school holidays here. The prize textile find of the holidays was this wonderful tray cloth which has been exquisitely stitched to commemorate the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. Of course I immediately thought it would make a great cushion for my daughter's friend who we recently made the quilt for, given she refers to herself as Queen Elizabeth III.
I really loved the detail in it - you might just be able to make out the Queen in her carriage below.

Yesterday I went out to visit the Craft Fair at Pataka Museum and the Maori Art Market which was also being held out there. Lots of wonderful creativity on show at both events and it was particularly lovely to meet Rochelle there and her friend Cleo. They both have me very inspired to try the organic dying techniques of India Flint - I'm thinking it will be a perfect activity for post Christmas when I have three weeks at the beach with lots of time for experimentation and access to the materials needed. I have resisted getting into fabric dying and printing for a long time as it all felt so messy and difficult, but this feels different - like an adventure that I am on the edge of. At the same time I have a few ideas for discharge dying that I want to try and which will be a great partner to this new activity. It's always so good to have something to look forward to - I feel a trip to Minerva for India's book coming on... Roll on summer!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Best of Intentions

You might have thought from my last post that I swearing off bringing more things into my already crowded sewing room, but of course that isn't quite the way it tends to work. A couple of weeks ago I got a call from my sister in law to say that there was a garage sale close by that I needed to call into as there was lots of embroideries and linen there. I mean to say - what are you supposed to do when you get a call like that?

I must say I have never seen anything quite like it. The house was literally full up with treasures being sold and when I spoke to one of the men selling I heard more of the story - his mother-in-law had died 18 months ago and it has taken them that long to get to the stage they had. There were a number of rooms in the house at the time she died that couldn't even be entered as there was so much put into them - china, ornaments, dolls, records, books, toys, kitchen items, furniture, infact just about anything you can think of. He said that his mother-in-law had for many, many years visited all the local garage sales and without fail bought things that she then squeezed into her house until she could scarcely move around it.

I feel deeply for the family - what a burden to have to devote yourself to working through it all. And inspite of our recent experiences, which were nothing compared to this, I did the only thing I could and took some of the textiles off his hands and into my welcoming arms.

I have a real soft spot for breakfast tray clothes and was delighted to find this one. The woman carrying the coffee pot is so jaunty.
This lovely lady joins others that were already in my collection including this rooster, who is crowing - If you be wise 'tis time to rise. How irresistible!
And this dog who is ready to face the day.
Next time someone makes me breakfast in bed (or should that be next time I do it for myself) I really will have to use one of these. They bring such a smile to my face they would be a great addition to the pleasure of coffee and the paper in bed. And honestly - what more can we ask for at the start of the day?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Searching for Jewels in the Junk

A few months ago an elderly family friend passed away and my parents (who are almost 80, so hardly young themselves) were left as advisory trustees to her estate. Since Nola had no relatives what this meant in practice was that my parents and a few other friends were left with the task of largely cleaning out her house. This has had a big impact on all involved - we all now know where hoarding leads to and frankly it isn't pretty.

We all had some good laughs along the way (Why would anyone need to have 26 black skirts in her wardrobe? Is there any good reason to hold onto hats that have not been worn since WWII?) but without exception all of us who have worked on her home have come to look at our own with fresh eyes. There has been much intensive cleaning in my own home and many, many loads of things we no longer needed have been moved onto local charities in the hope that these items will be of use elsewhere.

For my parents they have taken to their lifetime of possessions and collections with unexpected vigour. I have long thought that I would have quite a job on my hands, in due course, but they have taken it as a challenge to deal to as much of it as they can now rather than leaving it for me. I have lost count of the number of times my mother has told me that she is determined not to leave me a mess like we were faced with earlier this year. We will see.

There has been a small downside to their activities - they seem to weekly turn up at my door with another box of "treasures" that they are planning to relocate from their house to mine. It's like a giant merry-go-round of "stuff". Many things I would have been happy to have never seen again. However there have also been some real treasures which I have been delighted to welcome into my life and home. I'm not sure my husband feels quite the same, but this is the real nub of the issue - one man's trash is truly anothers treasure.

One of the jewels I am delighted to be reunited with is the blanket that was knitted for me as a newborn my one of my aunts. It was knitted into squares so in no time at all I've been able to transform it into a new scarf for myself - aforementioned husband rolled his eyes, but my more textile inclined friends have been more impressed and not a little envious. I can still feel the love knitted into every stitch.
Having mentioned in my last post that the crocheted doilies appear to be breeding in my sewing room I can now offer potitive evidence, as this week my mother gave me every piece of crochet that her father had made. As you can see from the photo, he was reasonably prolific.
I'm trying to come up with a project to keep these all together so I know exactly which were his - perhaps stitched together to form a long table runner or maybe stitched onto a blanket. This would probably result in open rebellion from certain family members! But for me, it's lovely to have these links to my past - truly jewels to be treasured, hopefully for many years to come.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Poor neglected blog

It's been one bout of illness after another in our house - if it isn't bad enough looking after children getting ill in sequence I finally succumbed and this cold is a beast to shake. Its a true plague house here if it ever was one!

However I was very surprised when downloading the latest photos off the camera to discover that life over the last very weeks hasn't been completely full of bleakness and illness. I was reminded that at some point I found my way to the sewing machine and made this banner, inspired by much loveliness over at Ravenhill.

I made mine out out of old Japanese kimono fabric that I had and some of the many, many crochet doilies that appear to be breeding up in my sewing room. As I recall I'd gone to the sewing room with the intention of starting a new quilt but couldn't settle on what to do. So I decided that something small and easy would be the thing to get me stitching again. And it has worked as I now know what the next quilt will be... should I ever get shot of this cold enough to get cracking on it....

I also had a real flying visit to Christchurch which was a wonderful 20 hours of indulgence with fantastic food and wine and uninterrupted strolling in the Arts precinct, to be tempted by the creativity of others,and in the Christchurch Art Gallery, which is always full of interesting exhibitions. And even if the art isn't to your taste (not sure I will ever fully get my head around Et Al...) there is always the building to just marvel at and enjoy.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Best Present of All

That was the verdict from Elizabeth when she was finally given her birthday quilt. When she opened the parcel her jaw fell open and she was lost for words - and believe me, you don't often see that with any 14 year old, let alone this one! So we were well rewarded for our efforts. It will be a well loved quilt.

Meanwhile I've been doing more stitching around those pigeon holes and while I have been doing it they have changed in my mind to stones from the volcanic plateau. Must have been the influence of the few days up at the lake and the photo I posted of the lake shore.
I had the piece with me at my book group a few days ago and one of my friends who is from that part of the country was particularly taken with the quilt.

I think it may have a new name and a new owner who doesn't quite know what is coming her way yet....
I'll be spending the day at the Wellington Museum tomorrow with members of the Wellington Quilting Guild showing what can be done with fabric. They have invited out Guild to exhibit work for the day as part of their Sampler series which is focusing on the reuse of materials. A perfect fit for quilting really. I'll be taking along my two quilts with doilies and am looking forward to the day. If you are in the neighbourhood, do drop by. Photos are sure to follow.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Finding inspiration at your feet

We have been lucky to head away for a few days to Kuratau, on the shore of Lake Taupo, escaping the routines of home. It was great to have a change in pace and landscape, to spend time in the thermal pools so we could warm up in the afternoons before the temperature plummeted in the evening and the thick frost arrived. There was lots of snow on the surrounding hills but the rain held off and we could walk and enjoy the surroundings. On one walk through to Pukawa I was delighted to find inspiration right under my feet - the colours of the stones on the lake front so similar to the Pigeon Holes piece that I was working on in the evenings in front on the fire, while the children played yet another rowdy game of Monopoly.
I hadn't planned to stitch around every stone or block on the quilt but I am beginning to develop a rhythm to the stitching, so I'm not so sure now just when I will stop.

It's also fun to work though some of the threads that have been sitting around for a while waiting to be used - I've been amused to see how many I have that fit into the piece absolutely perfectly. It's either serendipity or I'm in a bit of a rut with the thread purchasing - I think I'll go with the former!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Desperately seeking escapism

Winter can be so bleak sometimes that I thought a pick me up was in order today, for me if no one else. Of course I'd like to show off something that I have been working on recently but illness has overtaken creativity of late.

However when browsing through the photos I realised I'd never shown this wool and felt work bag I made for myself some time ago after doing a class with Rosemary McLeod. Most of the other bags had a more distinctly 40s look to them, while mine was, well, different. I think someone told me they thought they looked liked prancing body builders....the things people think of!

After that analysis the more subdued back drew less spirited comment - just as well probably! I was reminded of the bag today as I discovered a long neglected project in it....just the thing for some therapy to recover from the colds and coughs that have invaded our house just in time for the school holidays...

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Great Breeze of Language

A couple of weeks ago I visited Te Papa and discovered that John Reynolds' work Cloud has been installed up in the top gallery. I'd read lots about the work but nothing compared with standing beneath the piece, looking at it swirling around the walls.

Just breath-taking. It did for me that day everything that great art should - took me out of my head and the worries that I had that day and into a totally different place where I was spell bound by the ideas and visual images in it.

The work is a series of small canvases which Reynolds has written words on from Harry Orsman's New Zealand Dictionary - all words that are a special part of our version of the English language - and then he has formed them into a enormous cloud of words. Our very own land of the long white cloud - a great breeze of our language.

See it
here on a blog announcement from Te Papa. It even has a short clip from You Tube of John Reynolds talking about the installation of the work.

Be warned though - this is only a pale introduction to the real thing - it really has to be seen! If you are in Wellington made sure you make a bee line there before it leaves at the end of August.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Happy endings and exciting beginnings

Now that I'm firmly focused on the To Do list I'm surprising myself with how productive I can be. Its strange, but I tend to not get to the last few things that will complete something - I guess its a form of procrastination, or maybe just a sign that I get another idea and find it hard to resist the temptation to move onto the next thing.

First up was the quilt I started at the Mini-symposium in Picton last Easter (I say this as a reminder to myself on the perils of procrastination). All that remained to be done was the binding on the top edge of the quilt, a label and hanging sleeve - not exactly a lot. I'd had it in my mind that I would finish the top edge with binding made of the blue linen - but when I finally tried it, it just didn't work. In fact a more honest quilter would say it looked awful! So after some pondering I finished it without a binding at all - it is turned to the back on the to edge and I really like the look of it. It's now hanging happily on the wall inside out back door and has been admired already - why did I wait so long to finish it? Who knows!

Next up was "Friday Morning Coffee". This has been waiting for me to find just the right pieces of tatting to finish the top off. I took it to our Quilting Guild several months ago and told people I was looking for some tatted pieces and have since been very kindly given a number of beautiful pieces, some of which are now on the top of this quilt. The beautiful piece above was given to me by a dear friend who was given it by a customer at the quilting shop she works at. The customer asked Marilyn if she knew someone who would appreciate it - and lucky, lucky me it rapidly found it's way to my house.

The only piece I have put on it that isn't tatting is the piece above which my mother gave to me and told me was called hairpin lace as it was made on (you guessed it) hairpins.I'm now in the process of putting the finishing touches on this quilt and then only have the label to - more photos and the full story to follow in due course.

Of course temptation (and ideas) got the better of me and I also started something new - it grew out of an idea I had having pondered the odd combination of those photos of the heat mats from my daughter's science class and the amazing work of Rex Ray. It has a tentative title of "Pigeon Holes" to remind of a previous life of mine as a recruitment consultant. I'm thinking its going to be part of a triptych, as I still have other ideas I want to play with.

Here's a detail of it.... it was so much fun
and so satisfying to not only finish things, but to start something new as well. Here's to many more happy endings and exciting beginnings!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Getting to the 'To Do' List

I've given myself a good talking to over the last week and got cracking again behind the sewing machine - and not before time! First off the list was the collaborative quilt that I had started with my daughter. I'm pleased to say that it is now finished
and only waiting for the label to be written on by my daughter so it can be sewn onto the quilt.

Naturally the birthday girl it has been made for hasn't seen it, but both her parents have and they are certain it's going to be a complete hit. Funnily enough my daughter came home from school this week and told me that she and her friend had been talking about the impending birthday and what sort of present she would like. The birthday girl had told her that all she knew was that she didn't want any store vouchers from people, as no thought at all had to be put into these, and she would far rather have a gift from the heart, even if it only cost $1. From this we concluded that our gift would qualify.

I'm rather looking forward to seeing her face when she opens it up.

On a completely different note, I've just been listening to an item on National Radio about choreographer Ann Dewey who is developing a new dance work on why people knit. All the costumes and even the set have been knitted by 25 people spread across the world and Ann has also taught all the dancers to knit as part of the process. Unfortunately it looks like the it is only be performed in Auckland, at the moment. It sounds like a marvel and just the thing to lift us from the gloom of a cold winter. Perhaps a trip to Auckland is in order....

Saturday, May 30, 2009

A little bit of something I fancy

It's a long weekend here (always a favourite) and while I'm sitting here waiting for my daughter to arrive home from babysitting, I thought I'd pop up a couple of shots of some inspiration from Symposium - soon to feature in my neglected sketchbook I suspect.
Of course they did cause some concern with the aforementioned daughter - she thought they looked just like the heat diffusers they use in science (which of ocurse they are). I on the other hand saw great texture and shape that I want to get into textiles.
As I always try to tell the kids, its just all in the way you look at things.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Sensational Symposium - Onto the Classes

Welcome to neglected blog - life had been a whirlwind of bad weather, sick children, distractions and very little stitching..... But enough.... as promised more on Symposium

So after two days of being an angel it was time for me to get my sleeves rolled up and get going myself.
The first class I did was a one day class with Merrilyn George. I really had a hard time deciding what classes to enrol for at Symposium but I knew I really wanted to do a class with Merrilyn - it was just that I didn't think I could fit in her two day class on Patterns of Polynesia, which one of my friends did and loved. So the class I did with Merrilyn was 'Sacred Art in a Secular Country' which focused on the painting of icons. I wanted to learn Merrilyn's technique for transferring images from the computer to fabric. Then we painted the icons directly onto the fabric. The icon I choose is revered in Russia and Merrilyn told us that she is worshipped as part of the preparation on Friday for the sabbath. She is also regarded as a saint for all things womanly. I was instantly entranced with her, given Friday is the day I try to keep aside for coffee with close friends and then as many dedicated hours in my sewing room as I can squeeze in before the kids get home from school.
I decided that my icon needed to be enhanced with the womanly skill of embroidery to properly play homage to her status - and that's why mine (the icon on the right in the photo above) is still a work in progress..... She will be the patron saint of my sewing room - who could want more?

Next up was two days with Sandra Meech who was over from the UK to teach. I felt very lucky to be in her class - 'Inspired Sketch and Stitch Books'. We were flat out right from the moment we started painting papers and into our sketch books to create surfaces to work on.
We went through most of the exercises that Sandra has in her book, Creative Quilts. The exercises were based on materials that we had to bring to class that we were interested to develop up into textile pieces. It was great fun and gave me tons of ideas - you can see that the curves attracted me, as ever

It was great - and utterly exhausting, and now I just need to get back into that sewing room and get onto it before it all disappears from my grasp