Tuesday, April 15, 2014

April so far ...

 Yikes, it's the middle of April already - where has the time gone? This month has been a bit of a mixed bag so far - mostly good, I'm very glad to say.

The bad - my SIL died early in the month after losing her battle with stomach cancer. So sad. She was in her early 70s, the eldest of a family of four in which my husband is the youngest. Their younger sister died almost a year previously of brain and lung cancer. Life can be so cruel.

Daily (retired) life is good - long chats with the Mr, having fun with our dogs, pottering in the house and garden, coffee dates together or with friends; generally nothing remarkable but very pleasant. Uneventful life is often under-rated.

And last weekend was lots of fun. On Saturday I attended the first class offered at Cotton Factory, a gorgeous little patchwork shop recently opened in Ballarat. Claire Gee from Matching Pegs was the tutor and let me tell you there is nothing she doesn't know about needleturn applique. She showed us her method, we discussed other methods, we did a practice piece then set to work on the project, a cushion cover appliqued with 5 gorgeous butterflies (Claire's pattern). I achieved embarrassingly little (we all did) but learned such a lot so I was very satisfied (that feeling of satisfaction might also have had something to do with the good coffee and lovely lunch laid on by Alison, the owner).

After class I raced in to Melbourne by train, walked for what seemed like miles, hopped on a tram, worried about where to get off  (can't you tell I don't often venture into the big city) then found the hotel where I was staying the night with a group of lovely ladies from Launceston and Adelaide. It was great to catch up with Cathy and Leanne and Loz again and to meet Claire, Alex, Meredith and Kate. We all enjoyed our dinner in Lygon St and the icecreams afterwards were delicious. Being a bit of a mucky pup, I ended up dripping chocolate icecream all down the front of my cardigan. Next time I'll colour-match my clothing and chosen flavour (although I don't know if any flavour of icecream comes in a mustard shade!)  At home in Ballarat the Mr and I are real homebodies and hardly ever go out at night and to be walking around in Melbourne where the pavements and restaurants were crowded and everyone was friendly was refreshing and enjoyable.

We went our separate ways next morning, after a chatty breakfast - I headed off to AQS and the others were going shopping before catching their planes for home. And yes, there was lots to see at the quilt show and I did make a few purchases - more than I intended to, but at least I bought the applique paper I was interested in; the other things are for various projects and the table topper kit was a bonus (and a bargain). As for the quilts on display - colourful, quirky, inspiring and just plain wonderful. There is huge talent in the quilting community.
The exhibition building is beautiful inside and out and I spent quite a bit of time admiring it and the surrounding gardens.
Now back to stitching and sewing - I haven't finished anything this month so I'd better get my skates on (and learn how to place pictures properly in blog posts!)

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Little things

I LOVE little projects. Whether I'm making something for myself or for a gift, I'm more likely to finish what I've started if it's small. If it's big, or becomes a bit tricky, it's a UFO, likely to be shoved in a cupboard and ignored till the end of time. Naughty, naughty - and I know I'm not alone.
These are my latest little things.
 Little Bluebird Pincushion - designed by Leanne Knell of Petals and Patches. Sweet. It's stuffed with crushed walnut shells, my favourite pincushion filling.
 After making lots of these little bags from
  the Spoonful of Sugar tutorial as gifts, this one's for me.
And yes, I know what's below looks like a cover for a miniature hot water bottle - actually it's a jumper for a little penguin. It seems a bit quirky but it's useful - it stops penguins affected by oil spills preening their feathers and becoming more contaminated. Here's the link, if you're interested - click on the wildlife rehabilitation section. This morning I've been playing with selvedges, making a scarf from Jodie's pattern and loving sorting through the selvedge pile and reminiscing about where I bought some of the fabrics and what I made.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Lots of colour

It's rather grey and sort of blah in Ballarat today but there's been lots of colour in my life lately and lots of gorgeous fabrics and quilts to admire.
We spent the March long weekend at home and took in some of the activities on offer. Top of the list, and so close to home, was the annual Begonia Festival in the Botanical Gardens. Begonias aren't my favourite flower but the display was amazing - so many colours, sizes and shapes of blooms.
The gardens are among our favourite places in Ballarat and always look good but this time looked even better. There were special displays, stalls selling all manner of horticulture-related goodies, interesting talks from garden experts, entertainment and food stalls (alas, too few of the latter and we were too hungry to queue for long so ended up having ice cream for lunch, Life's tough). And people, people everywhere. It was lovely.
As was the Begonia Quilters' exhibition I'd gone to the previous afternoon with my friend Jeni. It's a fairly small group (22 members) but their output is phenomenal and so is their talent. There were some truly amazing quilts there. And the venue makes any exhibition attractive - Ballarat's Mining Exchange dates back to the late 1880s and during the gold rush, miners would go there to exchange their finds for cash. These transactions took place in the little booths on each side of the main open space and during quilt shows become little shops for patchwork supplies retailers and others. I went back on the Sunday to catch up with my friend Annie Flowergarden, who is a member of  the group and had several quilts on display as well as some lovely bags for sale.
Last Friday Jeni and I caught up with Annie and Jodie and others at the official opening of a lovely new quilt shop in town. Lovely fabrics, beautiful quilts and other projects on display makes this an inspiring space full of temptation. I'm planning to learn needleturn applique with Claire Gee of Matching Pegs (hi Claire, it was lovely to meet you properly) at a class there later this year. I had the camera in my bag but forgot to take photos.
On Saturday, Jeni and I went to GJs fabrics in Melbourne; she was hunting for fabric for a project and I was along for the ride. I did a little shopping - some linen-look cotton, a mini charm pack (Boho by Urban Chics, gorgeous) and a little pattern which I plan to use in the next few days (but don't hold me to that, okay?)
And yesterday my lovely patient husband and I went up to Castlemaine for an exhibition of appliqued quilts that was just oh so inspiring. There were a few colourful quilts but mainly they were in reproduction fabrics and I realised that despite my developing interest in modern styles and clear bright colours it's those muted tones that still capture my heart. So when we got home I pulled out a pattern I bought after seeing the quilt hanging at another quilt show in the same town a few years back and got the seal of approval to make it (I figure that since it's for our bed, the Mister should have some say.) The pattern is Old Glory by Bon Bon Designs and it's going to have to wait till I learn to needleturn but I'm happy the decision has been made - that bed has been waiting for a special quilt for a long time.

Sorry about the overload of words and pictures - now I need to press publish and go and make something (or at least pat fabric and dream.)

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Little gifts

My friend Nyssa in Tassie has just had her first baby, so these gifts were sent on their way yesterday.

Isn't that little boat cute! It's the first taggie I've made and I'm so pleased with it. Having not made a softie for ages, I'd forgotten just how much stuffing they take; thought I'd never finish filling it. It was a free pattern online; sorry, I don't remember what blog it was from, or when I found the shape for the bookmark (which I included just in case Nyssa ever has time to read, which is probably not at the top of her to-do list at the moment).

The little boots are a 3-6 month size (don't they look HUGE!) and are from  Hadley Fierlinger's fabulous book Vintage Knits for Modern Babies. And the bag is a  free pattern from Lisa and Sarah at Spoonful of Sugar Designs. This little bag is my favourite quick gift and with the addition of some nice smellies (Cath Kidston hand cream in this case) or other goodies it's a lovely present. I've made so many of these but still haven't made one for myself (or at least when I did I gave it away). The next one's definitely for me!

I love making and giving little gifts and these were all products of my wool and fabric stash, which made the process even more satisfying. I hope Nyssa and her precious little boy are as happy to receive them as I was to make them.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Doing it tough

I've always hated hot weather. My Celtic body thermometer insists that anything over 25 degrees is way too hot. And the high temperatures we've been consistently having here in Ballarat have been way way too hot for me - think up to 42 degrees some days.  Being retired, I can choose to stay inside in air-conditioned comfort. My garden is feeling it too and although no plants have been lost, all are wilting in the heat, just like me.
But while I love my garden, I don't rely on it to provide me with food. And with no current water restrictions, apart from being sensible and careful and not wasteful, I can still give plants a shower in the cool of the early morning or evening.
And there's the thing. We rely on our farmers to provide us with food - the beef and lamb for our roasts and barbecues, the grain for our cereals and breads, the wool that keeps us cosy. But with the long-term drought conditions being experienced in many parts of Australia, it's a struggle. You only have to listen to or watch the news to realise how dire the situation is.
Blogger Chookyblue  lives on a farm in NSW and her posts about lack of water, about having to handfeed stock because there has been no rain for a long time therefore no grass, about the increasing cost and decreasing availability of feed,  about handrearing newborn calves because their mothers simply cannot provide milk, about having to slaughter breeding stock, about dust and constant worry are heartbreaking. Her stories and photos give a personal slant to what we see/hear on the news.
Here, with her blessing, are a few of Chooky's photos.
Hand-feeding sheep
A bone-dry dam

 With all the discussion of the pros and cons of industry assistance at present, it's to be hoped the Government will take quick action to help out, because this vital sector is doing it very, very tough.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

This and that

I don't know where January went - oh yes I do, I was having fun hanging out with my girl Rosy, who was visiting from China. She's lived there for nearly 8 years, teaching English to little Chinese children at various kindergartens in Shekou, which is in Shenzhen, near Hong Kong. She loves it.

We all loved being together, having meals out or cooking at home, watching telly, chatting, you know, just normal everyday family stuff, which was very special because we don't get to do it very often.

It was great to have her here during her Chinese New Year break, which is our summer, because apart from the hideously hot first week it was good to be out and about in the sunshine. Other times she has been back in winter  and we have all stayed inside and moaned about the cold (winters in Ballarat are long and chilly).

I was really keen to take Rosy to see the film Saving Mr Banks because she loved the Mary Poppins books when she was young and worked as a nanny for several years (minus Mary P's parrot-headed umbrella and carpetbag, of course). We enjoyed it. She made a gorgeous button bracelet from some very smart black and silver buttons purchased from Spotlight, which is always one of her must-visit places. I think that Millrose Cottage at Ballan has been added to that list following a breakfast catch-up with my friends Jodie and Annie and Maria and a forage around the gorgeous patchwork shop. Some nifty last-minute sewing by her wonderful mother LOL added three cushion covers to her luggage.

She and her dad talked about cricket and footy (I was very happy to dip out of those conversations, being generally uninterested in sport) and she spent lots of time with our dogs.

We were all sorry when she flew back to the country she now calls home;  it was such a happy, relaxing time for all of us.

I handed over my Initial Heart Swap goodies to Shez this morning when we met for coffee at the Upholstery Gallery in Ballarat, one of my favourite places for coffee and browsing, so now I can show what we made for each other.

Shez made me this gorgeous cushion.
And after spending quite a while wondering what to make and changing my mind umpteen times, I decided on these smaller  items. I really enjoyed making them and enjoyed being able to hand them over in person. Many thanks to Shez for the appreciative response, and for the lovely gift she made for me, and to
Cheryll for organising such a fun swap.

Thursday, January 16, 2014


After a quiet Christmas and New Year, it's been a week of socialising.
Firstly with the lady on the right  - Shez and I met for the first time last week after being blogging and FB friends for a while. It was good to meet her at last - and to discover that I'm her partner in Cheryll's Initial Heart Swap. Which was pretty funny, because guess what - she's MY partner. And yes, it's a secret swap! She handed over a big bag of goodies which I  haven't opened because I haven't finished her gift/s yet. What fun! And who says the camera never lies - Shez is really MUCH taller than I am!
My new friend came with me to meet my old blogging and real life friend Cathy the next day. Cathy and her daughter Georgia were having a few days in Melbourne and had decided to come up to Ballarat and visit Sovereign Hill. It was terrific to see Cathy again; she's lots of fun (and rather cheeky LOL) and to meet Georgia.
And I've been spending lots of time with this girl - my daughter Rosy (our only child) back from China for a short visit during her Chinese New Year break. Unlike me, she's enjoying our heatwave (and so is her dad). Lots of relaxing, lots of chats, lots of laughs; it's great as of course we don't get to see each other very often.
We'll probably be a bit more active next week. And I must take the Christmas decorations down; they were left  up for atmosphere as she doesn't get to celebrate Christmas in China. We exchanged gifts - I made a huge stocking from a Spotlight panel and crammed in two Christmasses worth of gifts and presents for Rosy's last birthday too. Postal arrangements to China can be a bit dodgy; in fact the first lot of Christmas presents in the stocking had been posted to her and not received and finally made its way back to us. My husband and I enjoyed our  usual quiet  Christmas - but Christmas in January 2014 has been REALLY special!