Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Resilience and hope ... after the wet

Roses and sheds
It may not look like much, but this is my lasting memory of the southern downs region this past week. The water came, the water went for the second time since Christmas ... and the City of Roses shines still. I got to work with some amazing people - charitable organisations, government agencies, volunteers and Council employees all doing their best to get "normal" happening again. I also met a man who waded out to his aviary as its door vanished under the rising brown. He went under and through the submerged doorway to access the last 30 cm of space left under the aviary roof. One by one, he rescued his birds. Feathered friends were plunged and pushed through the doorway into a waiting cage held by an equally wet wife.  The baby he cupped in his hands to make a watertight capsule. The love of a quietly spoken gentleman and a gentle man.

Flower power in rust

Rust and stainless steel
From last Wednesday ....
Near the office where I work are some beautiful pieces of public art - leaf over leaf rusting away with one, polished, stainless steel specimen in the midst of each panel. I did a SooDee. A SooDee is really a "Sue Dennis" or a "Sue D". A SooDee kit  comprises a smallish zippable bag, plastic and see through containing 1 x camera, various pieces of cotton or other fabrics on which to play, and a variety of shiva sticks, packing tape, a sheet of baking paper for wrapping and protecting finished rubbing when it is done ... and baby wipes).
Took out a piece of fabric ... affixed it (rather awkwardly) to said piece of public art and started shiva-ing away. It got a bit tricky around the leaf edges ... and as soon as I finish unpacking from my trip to Warwick I might be able to get the iron onto it ... .

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Storms and promise .. on Martin Luther King Day

About 65kms or 40 miles up the road where the rainbow points is Ipswich where I had left about 50 minutes earlier. I did wonder at the cheek of the rainbow - after driving home near blind through lightning flashes and wild windy rain to the last of the shredded sunlight. Then my favourite tree lit up - a Moreton Bay Ash that towers above all else with bark that turns purple and rust and blue just before Christmas. It sheds in enormous strips into the garden bed. Mulch. Each year the trunk and branches are left creamy white and smoothly pristine. Caught in the last burst of sun for the afternoon while the storm rumbled on to the north east. And I thought ... all this promise and hope and quiet reflection. I hope you feel it too. It is Martin Luther King Day and it is good.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Machine quilting Flood #1

Flood #1 got the treatment last evening. All the little soldiers keeping the layers from shifting. Harriet Hargrave's would be pleased at the level of commitment with the pins. Yes Maxine, I have read it cover to cover at least three times and love it.

A quiet moment

Then a very tranquil, almost Japanese moment as I folded it in preparation for quilting - again a la Harriet and it did look quite serene given the pounding it was about to receive.  The quilting pattern for the swirls of turbulent water are quilting in echo style only 1/8th inch apart. Too dense, even for me! So I'm travelling along quite well with about 1/4" and where it's wider, I am claiming artistic interpretation. (When I went to college to learn to cook the greatest lesson was "if it don't work then rename it" and we survived all manner of sugarless this,  flourless that, and charcoal crusted something else). If anyone asks, the quilting design will be renamed. A river runs through it now.
Reverse Flood #1 in progress

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Freemotion machine quilting - flood style

Wild waters
 This is not Flood #3 - rather practice for how I'll machine quilt  Flood #1. Black fabric combined with different top threads to see what would happen. Double threaded needle seemed to work well - three different threads not so well. Too much texture and that was a distraction from the overall sense of movement across the piece.
The turbulent swirls came from "365 Days of Freemotion Quilting Filler Designs" and they've been incorporated into my version of a flowing river. Shiva sticks have yet again transformed the entire look of the piece. Some important lessons for me are: (1) practice makes perfect (2) signing your name is not always a good idea; and  (3) remember what year it is!

Closer-up swirls and shivas

People power .... it's everywhere

While the flood of human goodwill is purging the mud from our hearts and streets in south-east Queensland, Stony Stratford in north Buckinghamshire in the UK is having a people power moment of its own. Posted  a short time ago on the Australian ABC news network - go you good things, and that's no "cock and bull".
The residents of a small town in Britain have borrowed every single book from their local library in an attempt to stop it from being closed. Until this week, the town of Stony Stratford, a constituent town of Milton Keynes in north Buckinghamshire, was notable only because its two pubs, The Cock and The Bull, were the likely origin of the phrase "a cock and bull story". But when the Milton Keynes Council decided to close Stony Stratford's library as part of budget cuts, 6,000 of the town's residents decided they had another story to tell. A week ago the library held 16,000 books but today the stunned librarians preside over bare shelves. The people of Stony Stratford have taken home their maximum allowance of 15 books, including dusty mechanics manuals and flimsy paperback novels. At one stage during the week, nearly 380 books were being stamped out on loan every hour. The campaign, called 'Wot No Books', was organised on Facebook by Friends of Stony Stratford Library. The group says the protest aims to show the void that would be left in the community if the library closed. The Stony Stratford Council has backed the campaign against the Milton Keynes Council, because like many of the town's groups, it holds its meetings in the library. The Milton Keynes Council says it will continue to consult with the community about the planned closure

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Flood #2

Flood #2
This morning I've been playing with free motion rotary cutting - direct from Alison Schwabe's website - click on "blog" and scroll down to her Lines and Edges entry from 3 November 2010 for full instructions.
Instead of using two layers of fabric I started with the piece of practice machine quilting from last week (in readiness for the Civil War Vicksburg quilt) and coloured it in with gold shiva. It was then cut into 3" squares. A piece of complementary fabric was then quilted in long river-like runs and also cut into 3" squares. Using Alison Schwabe's technique different free-motion pieces were cut and restitched. I used a narrow satin stitch to rejoin the squares (which is quite different from the way Alison S instructs on joining fabric pieces). I liked the rawness of the edges and finished these with several rounds of wider satin stitch. I've included a few of the "as it happened" pictures below. A great exercise, a new technique, loads of fun and thanks Alison Schwabe for sharing.

In the beginning ...

Coloured with gold shiva stick
Cut into 3" squares
Complementary 3" squares

The fun part ...

Shards of silk

Progress is being made! "Shards" is how I've reconstructed the hand-dyed silk piece made with Ankie last year. I wondered how silk could be cutting and sharp? Shards ...
The stained glass look of the pieces is being quilted in mini-shards with gold shiva used to show the passage of light across the quilt face. Haven't decided on a binding - most likely some of the indigo fabrics, again dyed with Ankie.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Flood #1

Pieced and pristine
SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Association) wisdom is sent to my inbox every other day and one of the recent posts involving Australian textile and fibre artists Alison Schwabe and Jenny Bowker has become the basis of Flood #1.  They did the thinking. I got to read it and ended up in the studio. The images of dirty brown absorbing everything in its path will stay with many of us for a long time. I can remember the floods of '74 and many of the natural disasters that have occurred across the globe in the years since. I know that eventually this too will also pass.
Shiva silt
I wanted to convey an aerial and expansive view of the very beautiful Lockyer Valley area not so far from where I live - prairie points now mountains, tubes of  railways and bridges; patches of blue for the inexplicably untouched areas and everything else under the spread of mud. Small communities, towns and localities sprinkled across the landscape - represented by the smaller half-square triangles - mostly aligned and then some not.  Images also of soiled things - again the muddy silt. I've played with the quilting lines in my journal -  they are sharp and urgent, swirling around fixed objects but ever so straight and unstoppable. It's one of the great things about being a SAQA member. Thanks to Sue Dennis and her never waning encouragement, SAQA membership has provided me with exposure to many artists and ideas, lively debate, and the opportunity to grow.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Flood update and thanks for your calls / emails / wishes

Just a very quick thank you to everyone who has rung, emailed, sent wishes our way - we are high and mostly dry in the midst of all this devastation. We are feeling very blessed and lucky - and thinking of those nearby who have not been so fortunate. Thanks again for your care and love.
Update: this is where I work - the blue glass building upper right hand side and the flood level earlier this morning @ Limestone Street, Ipswich.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Highways and Byways for SotAQ11 and 2QAQ

The highways and byways are now being added to my State of the Art Quilt 2011 entry -  Journal to Quilt - from a drawing / doodle I did  on a flight from Nashville to Chicago last September. Deadline approaches so it will be all needles to the pump. Details of the SotAQ11 can be found on the Queensland Quilters website or at the 2QAQ blogsite (Queensland Quilters Art Quilt) - lovingly referred to (by me) as the "two quackers" .. a fabulous bunch of talented art quilters who share everything art quilty on the last Saturday of most months. So looking forward to catching up at our next meeting.

Vicksburg Victory

It has been a thoroughly wonderful wet day - incessant patter on the roof - sometimes screaming tears of rain - but for the most part moderate and constant and in harmony with the Bernina. The Vicksburg Civil War quilt top for WMBM is officially pieced and the WMBM has stood back and he is pleased.  Last night we debated the smaller first border - compared so many different options and finally WMBM exclaimed "it needs something gold" - so we found  a mustard kind of gold from the pile of Paducahs - it also features in the blocks - and voila! - inner piece. The second border has been mitred - because I absolutely cannot do a good mitre and decided that after almost 25 years of quilting it was time. To think of all those years worrying about something that was easier than a packet mix ... perhaps not a good comparison as I cannot yet make a packet mix cake.
And there was a moment of enlightenment today ....  for the first time since Graham and WMBM put Graham's beautiful table in the studio - it occurred to me that if I only shifted the sewing machine along to one end and butted 2 cutting boards together (imagine light going on at this very point) I could cut really long bits with the rotary cutter ... in one not-so-foul swoop.  Where has my brain been?

Press 'n Seal machine quilting

Maxine sent me a box of this "stuff" and last evening I started the practice sessions for how the Vicksburg Civil War Quilt might be quilted. I love the speed of machine quilting but am challenged with heirloom patterns - the free motion funky modern is like drawing with thread and comes far more easily than the accuracy I so admire in others.

PNS drawn pattern (left)  from Harriet's book
 Maxine again to the rescue - with a book lent to me some time years ago - Harriet Hargrave's Heirloom Quilting. Press 'n Seal wasn't around when this book was published - that doesn't stop it being a great help to me! I drew a pattern onto the PNS and literally smoothed it over some folded cotton and batting. It certainly didn't shift and at the end I was left with even more evidence that practice makes perfect - and I need much more practice. Any feedback on how I can improve using PNS would be greatly appreciated - and in the interim I'm off to google it.

Update: Apart from the BSR throwing a hissy fit and having to scrape gum off the needle - not sure about whether this leaves a residue on fabric? Think I'll put it back in the kitchen drawer until I find out how to use it "properly".

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Vicksburg blocks

Some of the blocks in the Vicksburg Quilt  - and the different iterations of dark, medium and light fabrics.

Old Coats Cottons

There's a little antique-cum-collectables store in the historic precinct of Brisbane Street, Ipswich (SE Queensland). That's where I found these boxes of J&P Coats Super Sheen. Each box has 12 spools of "Cotton Thread Made in Great Britain" and each junior spool is cocooned in 80 yards of sumptuous colour.

J&P Coats Super Sheen Fast Colour 80 yards

Friday, 7 January 2011

Silk Dyed scarf - chop chop

The first of the hand dyed silk scarves I did using gutta resist and procion dyes was with my friend Ankie. The scarf has been bonded to vliesofix and cut into smaller sections, pieces and individual triangles and is now being fused, bit by bit, onto hand dyed ingido fabric - again from a session with Ankie. I'm still fusing - and am wondering why I cut it up and repieced it when it doesn't look substantially different from the original. The end plan is to hand stitch  and embroider, in a similar fashion to Dreams Debris. I love smaller, and therefore really portable projects and am happy for them to be UFOs for as many train trips to meetings, waiting room visits and anything else that gives me 5 or 50 minute blocks of time to do "something".

Monday, 3 January 2011

Vicksburg blocks completed

Completed the remaining blocks for our Civil War quilt "Vicksburg"  this afternoon while the thunder rolled up and down the range much like cannon fire.
There are 25 blocks set on point and two borders yet to be cut out - it will lay perfectly on the bed so tonight's mission is to start piecing the rows and move it to a safer place than our bed!

Rugly grows to 25"

Rugly is progressing well and is now 25" in diameter - still nowhere near big enough but good, relaxing, mind-stilling kind of work. Productive meditation of sorts.

'round and 'round

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Copper thread

Copper thread is absolutely gorgeous. I purchased a 1000m reel of it from a "closing down sale but still open" shop last year ...
Getting the thread wound onto the bobbin - that was challenging. Being able to stitch onto the black netting ... that was a thrill. Another exercise from Playways - it will be a while before I finish this one.

Civil War Quilt progress

Twenty blocks have now been completed with plenty more required to finish the quilt top. Although the pattern suggests 16 blocks, our version requires some overhang on the bed and around 30 blocks should do it. The construction is fiddly and simply takes time to ensure accurate piecing of each component of the 9-patch. The corner pieces each comprise 4 small triangles and 2 squares. I am really enjoying working through the various fabric combinations and as usual, cannot get a picture in my head of what the finished quilt top will look like. This is the first quilt pattern I've ever purchased - and when completed will be a lasting memory of and tribute to our trip to Paducah and Bardstown, KY.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Welcome 2011

Now that was the best and easiest NYE ever - it started with a few margaritas after lunch and slinging the hammock between two posts on the front verandah followed by a lovely doze caressed by a south-easterly breeze. Miss Midget had a bath and was then allowed to relax in said hammock.  Long after I decided to get on with a few things she was still on her back, all four paws pointing skywards, gently swinging.
A glass of wine with dinner and a 9.30 pm bedtime was how we saw the last of 2010 - an incredible year for us and our families - and we are looking forward to 2011 - spending even more time with family and the important people in our lives. I'm sure there should be a reference to eating lots in there too ... sharing more good times food with our friends.  In the words of Jessica Anderson (The Commandant) whose thoughts on the writing process are relevant here " ...imagination is the primary necessity.  It's not a process of reasoning, but letting one set of words fire off another, and another, and another ... like improvising a dance". May your hearts, art and threads fire off something special and keep you dancing in 2011.