Monday, 31 August 2009

Bag #1
I didn't mean this one to be anything more than an experiment. I wanted to try metallic thread and play around with my sewing machine tension. So I just started playing on a piece of old felt, doing zig-zags and applique with some squares cut from a fabric selvedge.
But then I thought I might as well finish it.
It's just a bit bigger than a paperback book; the sort of bag you'd take with you if you were going out for the night and wanted a small bag with just enough room for your mobile phone, keys, lipstick and cash.
The front's made from bits and pieces from things like a Thai cushion and an old kimono, and the back panel is just one rectangle of black silk from the lining of an old obi.
I lined it with two pieces of cotton from my stash, and put in a phone pocket on one side:

and a zippered pocket on the other.

The pocket lining is weird, huh? I like my zippered pockets to have a little surprise inside, as you can tell from this one:
When it was finished, I showed it to Will (my style counsel) who examined it closely and didn't like it at all. The felt was cheap-looking, the machine embroidery too irregular, the silver metallic thread too sparkly, the whole thing too wonky. Sigh ... he's right! But he liked the inside. And: "You've made better, Mum. Much better."
I enjoyed playing around with it, though, and making it has given me lots of ideas for bag #2 and #3.
Papercut today.
:: Just bragging. I got 140 points for this word, 'bleaters', in Scrabble (the facebook app one)!
Two triples and a seven-letter bingo with a 50-point bonus! However, my opponent, Yagya, from India, is still beating me in this game. She is GOOD!

Friday, 28 August 2009

Another week
They go so freaky fast.
The beautiful, beautiful flowers are Albany banksias, Banksia coccinea, and if you click here, and look at the map, you can see the teensy-tiny dots on the south-west coast of this massive old continent which are the only places in the whole world where they grow naturally.
Named and classified in 1810 — there are people who read this blog who have furniture, plates and even houses older than that.
The banksias were a present from my BFF Shelley and her daughter Isme, who arrived last night bearing not only this armful of russet gloriousness but an edition of a favourite Barbara Pym novel whose cover Shelley thought I'd like.
I do — and a big thank you! What a lovely surprise!
The girls arrived out of the blue yesterday, just in time to watch David experiment with his brand-new toy:
While I was working last week, David was on a one-day cookery course learning about Indochinese cuisine, and you can see how inspired he was! This is the steamer and basket that make perfect sticky rice — and last night's was exactly that.
We wolfed it down with a Thai fish curry (made by me and the slow cooker) and, with much lip-smacking, had a chuckle over our expanding dinner repertoire.
:: I've been toying and fiddling and experimenting with a heap of crafty things since my return to Australia. I've finally whittled it all down to two: papercutting and making bags. From now on, these are going to be more serious ventures, and I may even try to sell some work.
I have structured my week around my one day of work. So Monday and Tuesday will be paper days, Wednesday is work, and Thursday and Friday are fabric days.
Of course, I'm still prone to the odd whim, and will definitely be making at least two quilts: one for my grand-daughter who is on her way and whom I already adore, and another for my cousin's daughter's baby, who is also due in January and lives in Brighton, UK.
So one will be a summery baby quilt, and the other will be far more snuggly, for these two wee bairns waiting to be born on opposite sides of the world.
:: I'm also still desperate to make a doll or two — more so now I know there's a little girl on her way. And a lot of my inspiration will be drawn from the amazing creations of Jo and Dylan. These two live and work on the beautiful Oregon coast, and while their work is at the moment building up to all things Halloween, they make the most amazing folk-art and nursery-tale creatures and dollies I've seen. I never fail to be inspired whenever I visit their blog.
That's all for now. It's a fabric day; I have bags to make, and I'm off to Spotto for some Vylene and a zip or seven.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Time for another papercut, this time for my daughter-in-law, who has a big birthday approaching and — as I may, ahem, have already mentioned — is also pregnant (again with the yay!).
I love to draw, but designing is not my forte, and this poor little wren was subject to a lot of rubbing out and fiddling about.
Too finicky? With all that vegetation in her beak? It must weigh more than the bird does — and the border's getting a bit OTT ...

And what should I put in the strange heart shape? Does it need anything at all? Why not just the heart shape?
Would the composition be better if the M was on the other side?
Could the bird hold Marnie's name in her beak?
Ugh — looks like she's eating a worm!
Time to stop faffing about and just start cutting, I think.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Onya, Barney!
Do you hate it when I post videos?
The following is an exchange between Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank, a Democrat and staunch advocate for human rights, and a young woman at a town-hall meeting who compares President Obama to Hitler because he wants to reform health care.

A lot of American people are terrified that universal health care, run by the government for the people, is Socialism writ large, and a goose-step on the slippery slide into Communism.
There are a lot of American people who like their country's health care system the way it is — run by big-profit insurance companies, big-profit doctors, big-profit drug companies and big-profit hospitals for only those who can afford it.
Half the bankruptcies in the US are caused by medical bills.
The US needs more politicians like Congressman Frank!

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Hyde Park
Hyde Park (the one in Perth, not the London one) has a particular beauty about it in winter, without all its foliage, the huge plane trees showing off their mottled grey bark, and the lake full of water.
This family of swans was out and about this morning.
They took the babies for a stroll before jumping into the water.
I've always been a bit wary of swans, and remember my grandmother telling me with relish, when used to take me to feed the (white) swans at Pulls Ferry in Norwich, that a blow from a swan's wing could break your leg.
I don't believe that, of course, but swans are pretty big and can be aggro when they want to be, especially when they're with cygnets, so I didn't get too near to this lot this morning.
How lucky we are in Perth, at least in these older parts, to have so many parks and gardens.
I've been walking with my best mate, Caroline, and we try to sally forth a couple of mornings a week.
Caroline and her family, like us, are new to this part of Perth, so when we set forth, alternating between her house and mine as our starting points, we go exploring and adventuring, and frequently get excited over coming upon an amazing old house, or a beautiful street, or an arty shop.
It really is a fabulous part of town.
:: I went to see the man who left yesterday's warning about the rat poison, and his dogs, two corgis, are doing okay but are still at the vet's. Fingers crossed.
:: I'm going to have a grand-daughter in January! Yay and double-yay! Now ... must get sewing and knitting ...

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

A couple of kookaburras live nearby and often sit in our tree or on the fence. It's a continuing thrill to see them.
But there's been another kind of visitor round here.
A letter in our mailbox this morning, from a resident of one of the houses on the other side of the park at the rear of our properties, warned us that some cowardly bastard had chucked a box of rat poison into his yard early this morning, and his two dogs were now fighting for their lives.
He was justly terrified by thinking that his grandson might have found the poison before his dogs did.
I'm always conscious, when Yoshi is in the yard, that he's a terrier cross with a propensity to yap, so we're all quick to call him in if he starts barking. I'll be even more worried now that this vindictive person has made his hideous presence felt.
:: I'm off to work this arvo. This is a new job that started last week, though with my former employer. As it involves working with whole pages rather than the words on them, it's all feeling a bit of a stretch for me at the mo. But I'll get there! Developing a system is paramount, then I'll be swinging.
It's fabulous to have a day's work a week — there'll be a bit more this week as a colleague is away and I'm filling in briefly after my job is done — and I love being back with old friends and colleagues.
It also adds some structure to the week, and even in this brief period I'm finding I'm using my time at home far more productively.
:: I just heard the secretary of the Australian Workers' Union, Paul Howes, talk of nuc-u-lah power. Shudder ...

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Under soft black stars ....
More gorgeousness from Antony and the Johnsons.
This lot is drying nicely and waiting for faces, features, colour, embellishment, wings ... and character.

Monday, 17 August 2009

To Albany
We had wild weather and heavy, indigo skies, hailstorms and violent wind gusts that rocked us as we drove to Albany on Saturday morning.
And lots of wonderful rain.
There were trees down here there and everywhere, and the country looked spectacular, particularly the vivid apple green of the paddocks.
There were electric-yellow flashes of wattle as well as lightning.
This massive rainbow made us stop and take a few photos and a quick run with the dog.
It was the first time David and I had been on a road trip with Lily and Will since we drove to Phoenix last year to see Tom Waits in concert.
Remembering this, and what an amazing trip it had been — Lily had continued east to New Mexico with an old friend while David, Will and I headed north to San Francisco via Las Vegas, the Nevada Desert, Mammoth Lake and Yosemite — we wondered if there was any part of America that we had seen that looked anything like this Great Southern landscape we were crossing.
Nowhere looks like this. To a North American, or a European, used to prairies, fertile valleys, great, lush broadleaf forests, or mountains of evergreens, our nuggety, scratchy grey-green bush would surely look bedraggled and only half alive.
Whereas we know differently, and our eyes are accustomed to its sparse beauty.
On Saturday night we had a massive party for my mother's eightieth birthday (yes, she loved her picture, thank you!), and on Sunday morning we braved elements almost as rough as Saturday's
to drive back up to Perth.
And more rainbows.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Finished and framed and off to Albany tomorrow for my mum's eightieth birthday.
Now I can see how wonky the tree trunk is, and all sorts of other dodgy bits ... oh well!
Back soon.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

In stitches
My best mate Jane invited me over to play with her and her brand-new quilting machine today.
Oh yay!
We had hours of fun quilting a cute little lap quilt that Jane had made earlier. I even had a go — very exciting!
Jane is a fantastic softie-maker
and a fab quilter, and has a confident eye when it comes to colour and design.
I love that she uses chenille in some of them — so homely and comforting.
All her quilts — which she keeps one on top of the other on the bed in a spare room — are absolutely gorgeous, and she has over 20 of them. I tell her she should sell them or at least show them, but she's way too modest.
So far, they've all been quilted in the ditch, or close to the borders of the component pieces, but now she can go mad!
I was amazed at how easy her new machine makes it to stipple quilt, which is something I simply cannot get my head and hands round when I'm using my own machine at home.
Jane also has this beautiful old wedding ring quilt, made probably in the 1930s. I love its gentle muted colours and red ties.
I've brought it home with me to restore, as some of the pieces are disintegrating.
I can't wait to get started — this is the sort of project that I really love.
:: That note I've added about the V&A quilt show over there on the right is a link to a fascinating blog all about this huge show that will be on from next March. Take a look!

Monday, 10 August 2009

Can't find my camera. For a few days now. Please offer up prayers, invocations and whatever to St Anthony or St Jude ...
Edited to add later: Thank you, Frances, for suggesting my coat pockets — but I have just found it down behind and under the cushion at the back of the sofa near my desk. Oddly enough, I uncovered it while I was talking on the phone to Lily, who gave me the little Mexican tin-framed picture of St Anthony that is hanging over my desk ... (cue Twilight Zone theme).
I am SO relieved!

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Getting there
This is the side I'm cutting ...
... and this is how it will look.
I have to be careful not to prune as I go. Or clip wings — as I think I may have done to the topmost bird. .. oh well!
Listening to One Giant Leap — and finding it hard to keep still to some of the tracks.
Reading, after hearing Shelley talk about it, The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet (A Novel), by Reif Larsen. And loving it so far.
Watching 30 Rock, Time Team, and the DVD set of the entire BBC adaptation of Mrs Gaskell's North and South, bought for me by my excellent husband.
Off now to cook a Thai fish curry. Or at least, a Thai-style fish curry.
:: Why are so few of you blogging (ignoring that this is a case of the pot calling the kettle black)? Are you all bloody well twittering?
Snap out of it!

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Pointy bits
These are my papercutting knives, and the new swivel-headed one is the tiny one in the centre.
It cuts like a dream, though you have to control it so you don't just woosh off the line.
The orange one fits over the index finger — as you can see on the wrinkly old lady's hand in this pic! — so you get a good grip. It feels quite comfortable and secure, but takes some getting used to when you're cutting.
And this is a picture of winter in Perth!
Thought I'd try my hand at some more papercut pictures.
Working in black this time, as you can see, so I have to sit outside where the light is sunny and warm. It's a slightly bigger version of this one that I made last year. Only without the name.
I made a pact with myself that I'd never do anything that featured owls, bambi-deer, or robots, as they are everywhere at the moment. There are lots of birdies, too, but at least mine are up a tree!
At the art store yesterday, I found a fantastic knife that has a tiny blade that swivels, making it a lot easier to cut accurate and smooth curves and circles.
I also found a two-kilo pack of paper clay, so when the light's not so good, I can get cracking with more angels. At long last!

Saturday, 1 August 2009

My sunny daze
These are flars from my garden. Already.
Here in Perth, the sun seems reluctant to let us have winter.
It can be cold and wet, the nights long and dark, and we can get those windy storms that uproot trees and rip off roofs, but none of it lasts very long. The sun is simply holding its fire, hanging back, letting the other elements have a tanty.
Just when you think the bleak midwinter has got a grip, you'll wake up to the most glorious sunny day with birdsong from the bare branches and the air full of the smell of blossom and greenstuff.
It's the first day of August today, and being a winter-lover who dreads summer, I got up in the not-too-chilly morning and, looking at the perfect blue sky, asked David if winter was over.
But he reassured me that no: August is the dead of winter.
So I can enjoy it all for a little longer before the sun gets on its power trip.

:: I went along to a craft fair last weekend with my best mate Shelley and her amazingly well-read and crafty daughter, Isme. And afterwards, out of the blue, Shelley gave me the most beautiful present (above): a page by the eminent British papercut artist, Rob Ryan.
I can't believe it is mine! I have put it on my desk where I can look at it constantly, and where, for a brief period, the sun shines through it, casting wonderful shadows on the wall behind.
Thank you so much, Shelley! I treasure it.
:: Just watching old Bob Hawke get his federal ALP life membership, and wondering if he'll weep. He does look amazing for his age, as Big Kev remarked. But as Dave — who has a similarly fine head of thick white hair — says, imagine if Hawkey had a few wispy tufts on that wrinkly old head and you'd think he looked every bit his age.
:: Lunch last week with our old Subi playgroup members. Lots of laughs as we remembered how desperate we all were for Friday to come round so we could bundle up the kids and head off for coffee and cake and — far more importantly — adult female company! And amazement at how those babies have all grown up and how most of the older ones are now out in the world seeking lives and pathways of their own.
I miss my kids being little.
Exactly like that exquisite little Yeats poem:
I sigh that kiss you,
For I must own
That I shall miss you
When you are grown.
:: Dinner, chat and tarot (a fab French card game, not fortune telling!) last night with best mates. I cooked up a chili that was so ridiculously hot that we all got rather red in the face and runny of nose. I misjudged how very hot chili powder is here — woops!
:: More dinner tonight with more best friends — making a curry tonight and will be careful! Why am I so spicy right now?
:: Simon, Marnie and Mack are in Bali for a couple of weeks' R&R ... and there's another grandchild heading my way in January — YAY!
We bumped into Simon's dad, Mark, in the supermarket the other day and he and his wife, Lee, are coming to dinner in the week.
:: This week, I thought I had landed the absolute gift of a job, handed to me on a fine porcelain plate, with sauces, sides and all the trimmings. Alas, it was too good to be true, as I should have realised. It's not that I didn't get it, but that the keepers of the job have decided to vaporise the position and it has disappeared into the ether like a puff of mist that dries up in a lovely Perth sunny morning. Poof!
:: But life, she is being grand and I am loving him.