London and the Whirlwind.

Three and a half weeks ago I flew into London to visit my grandaughter – henceforth known as “the whirlwind”.

Silly me, I had forgotten about two year olds and their constant activity, I thought I could sew, sketch, draw, paint, stitch, write, blog, get places quickly.  But sadly no!

This is a blurry picture of the whirlwind, not that it is easy to get her to stand still long enough to take an un-blurry picture.  Here we are getting ready to go for a walk, I made the bag, under instructions, for her last year and it still goes nearly everywhere.

This tangle of trunks is a secret place in the garden that the whirlwind has been going to on Wednesdays for noisy activity and socialisation!  Texturally I thought it was lovely.  Overhead it is a mass of green leaves and mauve rhododendron flowers!

When I was a child, my maternal grandparents had a picture almost exactly like this in their large, book lined hall.  Then, I thought it was quite dreary.  I thought this photo, that I had taken, was glorious, it had been raining and it really looked as though Nelson had commanded a break in the clouds.  The photo is taken from the steps of the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square.  I loved the gallery, it is inspiring to sit in front of Leonardo’s “Madonna on the Rocks” – an unfinished work!  Especially knowing that it is over 500 years old and the original.

These are some rusty metal shapes that I picked up in ‘Liberty’ of all places.  They are flat and I am hoping to get some nice rusty imprints from them when I get home.  The paper underneath is some anaglypta I managed to get for free, as a sample.  We can use it for texture on fabric with dyes or paint,  it would also be a great quilting design.

Spring is such a lovely time to visit England, everyone has a little bit of cottage garden somewhere around their house, some times is is just in a pot.  This is an aquilegia, we grew them in our tiny garden in Auckland but not this colourful or perfect.  As per usual I have taken lots of photos of flowers and also some moss and lichen and doors, and of course many of “the whirlwind”!

Last weekend was Person’s first in England so to keep him awake we took him to some National Trust Sites for a bit of fresh air body clock adjusting.  One of these was Batemans, which was the English home of Rudyard Kipling, and the other was Scotney Castle.

Old Scotney Castle - the ruin!

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Quilt close-ups, Old men and their birthdays, May flowering Trees.

This is a collection of close-ups I have taken over the last few years of quilts that intrigued me for some reason.  If you see your quilt here, I hope you feel honoured because I have been to quilt shows where I have not taken one photo.  I have also been to shows where I have felt that it was time for me to hang up my needle!  Shows where I have decided to start collecting BAD quilt photos.  These are not politically correct things to say, but sometimes there just is not any thing positive to say about a quilt!  This is where properly curated quilt shows are required, so that some one less harsh than me can gently let the maker know that her quilt does not meet the required standards.  In many cases, its just a matter of the ‘being self taught’ thing just not working and some serious quilt making lessons are required.

My father is 92 today, he is in hospital and does not really feel well enough for partying, but mentally he is sharp as a tack. Having him in hospital is a good opportunity for me to do some unsupervised cleaning and organising at his place, hence the lateness of the blog and the lack of experimentation.  He should be home again soon.

Pindara, the hospital Dad is in, is having a revamp. This is a window insert in one of the hallways that has been added to get to one place from another without having to go through wards.  There are several of these windows along the hall making it bright and fresh.

This is a small tree which is in flower at the moment here on the Gold Coast.  It starts with these chartreuse pin cushion flowers then the flowers turn into clumps of berries in the same colour which then become purple empty seed pods.  I have no idea what sort of tree this is, if any one can tell me I would love to know.


Purple, Sandra Meech workshop, Macbooks

The colour for this month’s 9 x 12 challenge with my Tuesday sewing group is purple.  Even though I had a bit of a say in the recipe for the challenges I still find there are colours which I find difficult to work with, purple is one of them. I thought making a collage with my purple textures might help all of us find some inspiration. You will notice there are some fruit and vegetables missing – aubergines, red cabbage, plums, dragon fruit, grapes, tamarillos (which make all fruit salads turn purple!). I looked around for some purple buildings but we are just not that architecturally colourful here.  I think the collage looks quite inviting, I hope you do too.

Sandra Meech

I was lucky enough to get a place in a two day workshop with Sandra Meech last week .  Here is a photo of her demonstrating. The workshop was entitled ‘Stitched Sketchbooks’ and we learned many skills during the class including how to ultimately find inspiration within the sketchbook to eventually make a quilt.  Sandra was a very giving, and gentle teacher and had all of us using artistic skills some of us didn’t know we had!

This is the sum total of the class works after two solid days!  Like many of our pieces many of these will take a long time to complete.

I have a new computer, it is a Macbook pro, so I have been madly trying to get all of my files transferred over as well as learn the new operating system.  Today I transferred all 5,000 odd photos!   I have to say it is all much simpler than I thought, and it is lovely to have a computer that feels as though it is on my side!.  My rule has been that Perse is not allowed to lay a finger on it so that I will learn.  In the past he has done everything and so I have not learned the procedure.  We have discovered that he finds it difficult to explain without actually pressing the keys!  However so far so good and I have had one group lesson at the Apple shop and have another one on one lesson booked for Wednesday.

This is the statue that serves as the memorial to Australian Vietnam Veterans.  It lives on the new foreshore right in Surfers Paradise.  I had an idea that it would be easier to draw a carved face than a real one.  Hmmm!  I will let you know!

The final photo is one from the collage.  I took it at my friend’s house last week and it is in this final position as an experiment.  Because of the way fb loads the text and photo!


Beaded Purses, the beach on Labour Day, The GOMA and cycads.

the purses, finally completed.

Here are the two purses finally completed and ready for sale.  I have been doing a lot of tidying, cleaning up, and finishing things off ready to go away.  There is still a lot to do plus kits to make up to take with me to complete while I am away.  This week I have the Sandra Meech class and I think I am ready to go to that, then right before I fly I have my sewing group retreat and there are a few things to get ready for that.  Today I used up the old dyes on paper using monoprints, the dyes are too old for fabric, they wont be light fast but they were fun to play with on paper and I had a really good play at the monoprinting  Next thing to do will be a Collagraph.  Maybe when I get back!

These two photos are the beach near our apartment.   I was playing with the ‘thirds’ rule, putting the horizon line in different spots.  We were walking back from a lovely lunch with friends at the Northcliff surf club.  How vivid is that blue in the sky?

Here is a screen print using the tree stencil that I have used in different ways before.  This time with dyes thickened with sodium alginate.  I quite like this piece and will probably call it finished but I do have lots of other pieces that are going to need more work.

Last week Perse and I went to the 21st century modern art exhibition at the GOMA.  This is one of the art pieces – a collection of painted vases, there is lots of deep thought and statement behind this work but I just like the colours!

This vase display was beautifully lit and the high lights formed these lovely shadows,  I also really liked the yellow with the blue vases.

These weird red seed pods (I think) are in a large cycad at our building.  I thought they looked quite lovely and will add them to my textures file.


Anzac Day, Screen Printing, first art work and blue flowers.

My maternal grandfather was at Gallipoli and survived to fight other WWI battles, then lived to be over 80.  My father served in WWII with the RAAF and RAF and is still alive and nearly 92.  Neither of them were big on marching at Anzac day parades.  Weird huh!  To all of my friends who have husbands, brother and sons still serving in hot spots throughout the world, this is your day as well.  You should know that this is not the only day I think about your loved ones away protecting our way of life.

I had a lovely day today.  These two photos are screen printing using paper shred as a resist.  I started this morning with a couple of monoprints on perspex using my rubber combs.  I have had these combs for years, I used to use them to make wood look like timber! using acrylic paint.  The monoprints were similar to the gelatin prints I did in January and February in result.  I have been putting off the whole screen printing thing for ages, mainly because I have never done it before or even seen it done in real life.  It was so much fun! I had a ball and have lots of ideas for new print stencils.  It takes me a while to set up and I have to be really organised to do it in the apartment, but great fun and well worth the effort.  I used procion mx dyes mixed into extra thick sodium alginate.

Yesterday we took dad down to Bangalow for lunch.  Never got there!  Too much traffic but made it into Byron Bay, also too much traffic but at least moving!   Then home via Murwillumbah, and the Numinbah Valley.  We stopped at a garden centre near Chillingham for afternoon tea and found some more nice flowers.  But still haven’t found a theme for my Sandra Meech class!

I like these blue flowers, I think I will start a collection of blues.  I did notice that on the Robina Parkway there were some of the African Tulip trees with yellow flowers as well as some with orange flowers.  But Perse was driving so no chance of stopping.

A friend asked me to see if I could dye Dr’s Flannel,  The dye has to be sort of mashed into the fabric but it turned out quite well.  I have also dyed some wool batting today to see how it turns out.

I tried making a copper solution with soda ash, and then with urea water.  There was not even the glimmer of a change, however I have added all of the extra copper to my original jar.  I tried dipping a piece of fabric that had been soaked in soda ash, dried and then pressed.  The solution was already the same colour, but the soda ash seemed to stop the copper colour from forming well so the sample was very pale.  I also splashed some of the solution onto a small piece which had been rust dyed and had tea spilled on.  The rust and tea made no change to the colour of the copper solution.

Although you can’t really see in the photo, the copper soln has made a nice blue in amongst the rust and tea dye and I might rust a piece of fabric especially for the copper solution.

This is the first drawing I have received from my granddaughter.   It is now framed and hanging on the wall!


Embellishing machines, Altered Books, PhD’s and New Stamps.

This is the right eye of a confirmed PhD candidate.

Last Friday we went to watch our eldest daughter present for her confirmation of candidature for her phD.  Of course she got it and is now a student again.  I think it will take her about 3 years or so.  She took this photograph and it is one of the more serious pictures that I have of her.  Congratulations Eldest Daughter,  we are all very proud of you!

This is an old quilt I made  for this daughter which came back to me last week to have hanging sleeves put on it as it is to be hung in the Cherbourg State School Library.  It has hand prints of all of the children in her first class in Cherbourg and they used it to sit on during story time.  The turtle is made from a really lovely batik fabric that I have run out of and cannot find again!

At the last Craft show I made the great purchase of a new machine.  It is an embellishing machine, although on the box it says “punching Machine” what it really does is needle-felt with five needles at once –  quickly!  The Picture on the right is of some of my experimentation with some wool roving and pre-felt cut into shapes and a bit of yarn on a dyed batting base.  Eventually I will make this into a little bag, but it will have quite a lot of stitching on it first.

This wine glass I drew then painted quickly into my altered book the other morning.  I spent years in the 1990’s trying to learn how to paint glass and the other day after  very little painting in the last decade, it just came to me.  Although its not perfect I am quite pleased.  The spine of the book is a piece of fabric glued down with acrylic matte gel.  I can’t remember where I picked up this technique but you stick down some flat alphabet stickers and then iron them (under some baking paper) then using a stencil type of process you paint over the stickers with some fabric paint, I used Pebeo Setacolour.  When dry you just remove the stickers and heat set from the back with an iron.  I then cut the strip to measure and glued it down.  I had already  changed the colour of the cover to match the fabric.

On the weekend I saw this wooden block stamp from India in a shop called “Tree of Life”  This is not a shop I usually go into, it looks a bit like the old hippy shops, although in the 1970’s you might have found fruit flavoured “cigarette” papers under the glass of the counter!   The painted yellow and blue piece of paper is painted vliesofix, and the gold is fabric foil.  I am very taken by these old hieroglyphs that make you think the ancient greeks had mechanical implements with gauges and steam pouring out etc.  I have stamped with fabric paint onto some decorator weight 100%wool felt.  eventually I will cut it up and weave it back together with some other stuff and punch it all together with my new machine!

This picture of the tree trunk was taken at UQ St Lucia.  I think it is some sort of pepper tree.  Usually when I take this sort of textural photo I have no idea of how I would translate it onto some fabric.  But this time I do!


Dyeing Batting, Making a dye with Copper,New paint and Cappuccino.

Dyed Batting

I had an unusual experience last week.  I was asked why I dyed batting!  Actually the questioner did not know what batting was, so if you don’t know, it is the stuff you put in between the two layers of a quilt.  It can be wool, polyester, cotton, bamboo, I have even heard of a batting made from seaweed!  Also it can be called different things for example wadding, stuffing, or padding.  Interestingly Google does not seem to recognize wadding and has a problem with batting!  Luckily someone came to my rescue and answered for me, however having thought about it I know that I dyed the batting to see how it reacted. Also because it was there!  I have had varied results and so did some research into the different battings I had been using, and found that the one I thought was pure cotton was actually 13%’ something else’ This is why the back of the fabric did not dye well.  Where it had been needle-punched had caused the 13% to show through and the ‘something else’ did not take up the procion mx dye, this is the piece on the left hand side of the above photo. The piece of  batting on the right had side is also showing the needle-punched side but is either 100% cotton or 100% bamboo.  I love stitching with the dyed batting  it is soft and easy to sew through and of course does not fray.

Dyed batting flowers and leavesThis picture is showing dyed batting flowers and leaves which have been whipstitched down but still not embellished.  This is the front and back of an unfinished sewing roll.

These two photos show a jar containing Cloudy Ammonia and copper.  In the beginning, a week ago, I put a roll of copper wire into a 750 ml bottle of cloudy ammonia,  a couple of days later I decided this would not be enough copper and so added a few copper plumbing fittings!   The photo on the right shows the ammonia a week later.  I have not managed to find any sites that have dyed fabric this way and only one that dyes yarn. This site has no instructions so this is truly an experiment out on  my own.  My very limited knowledge of chemistry tells me that some sort of gas will be forming between the copper and the ammonia so I have the lid on tightly and will release some gas on the balcony each week.  My idea is to wait until the liquid is a very coppery blue/green shade and then try dipping fabric into it.  The yarn dyer thought it would take four weeks to get the right shade for dyeing.  As soon as I can get to a compounding chemist I will get some copper sulphate crystals, you know the sort you make large crystals on  thread for your kids, and try using those as well.  If anyone finds any references to dying fabric by either of these methods could you please let me know or send a link.  My lightfast test is going to be hanging a square for 6 months on my North facing balcony!   I will also do a washing test by having a piece to just throw in the wash every time I put a load on.

For those of you who don’t know we had to send Molly to a better place last Wednesday.  Her cancer had spread to her lungs and she could barely breathe.  We were devastated and are still very sad but we have a lot of very nice friends giving us love and support.  Here she is on the day before.

New water colour paints.

Here are the new set of water colours I ordered from the UK a week ago! they are from DMTV and made by Kohinoor, sold as “intensely pigmented”.  They are intensely bright and lovely to use.  I will end with a texture photo.  Guess what it is!