Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas 2007

Well, Christmas Day passed quietly enough. I spent the last few days before Christmas Eve shopping for food, and as usual overcatered for the 16 guests who eventually sat down for tea on Christmas Day.I managed some last minute gift shopping with my DD3, then on Christmas Eve I sat down to sew up a shirt for a regular client (her last minute decision) while I watched some Christmas movies on the TV. This is not the first time this has happened, LOL, but I think it will be the last. Too stressful when visitors have to entertain themselves while you stitch in another room!

While putting up the last of the Christmas decorations I found some handmade ones my kids made years ago. The Santa face was her own design, while the peg Rudolph was made at school by DD3. Not sure about the others, think they were made at home with leftovers from my kids' class one year.

Here also is my Embroiderers' Guild group Secret Santa gifts. The pincushion and tape measure are my gift to Jennie, while the stitching kit, emery board and lovely button are from my Secret Santa.

We also had a strange visitor in the garden this week. This alien looking "creature" was discovered one morning, and since it's been so wet in Sydney lately, we Googled fungus images, and eventually found it was a stinkhorn fungus. Looks a bit like a sea-anemone, apparently they smell vile, I didn't get close enough to find out!

Lastly, I can reveal the Bog, see previous post under Christmas traditions. I photographed Bog Santa with glasses and a lei and my DS photoshopped him onto a Hawaiian beach. An accompanying letter stated that "during a break in Santa Photo duties at the Mall.. I scratched $10,000 on a Scratchie (an instant lottery ticket) and so....a few days R and R.... to let my knees dry out, if you know what I mean" and signed by Bog Santa.
There were a few days lull, then my DD1 sprayed red Santa Snow on their front windows on Christmas Eve. BUT they must have been planning there "revenge" for a while because on Chrismtas morning, 14 pages of Bog posters where taped all over the yard. On the rubbish bin, the hot water tank, under car wipers, under the front door mat, on the letter box. You get the picture, and some of them were really clever. They must have been up at the crack of dawn, or perhaps returning after their night out. Then we got an SMS message, D = one, K = 14 !! Now to start thinking up next year's BOG. They say you're only a kid once, but we think it should last a lifetime!!

Monday, December 17, 2007

"All About Olive" on the television

Some people will know about Olive, the lovely 108 year old lady living on the New South Wales Central Coast whose friend Mike helps her with her "blob" as she calls it. The movie Mike and his friends made called "All About Olive" will be screening in Sydney at 12.30 AEDST in the afternoon on Tuesday 18th December on the ABC. Check your TV guide to see if it's showing in other regions, I hope it is. I haven't seen it myself yet, only little excerpts that have been on her "blob", see my sidebar. I'm staying home from Christmas shopping especially to see it, can't work my video recorder, technologically challenged in some areas you know!!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Christmas Traditions

I'm in a very strange mood today, might have something to do with it being my oldest brothers' birthday today, but alas he died 2 years ago. And possibly the fact that I have another birthday just around the corner myself, on New Year's Day actually, I'm suddenly feeling very "old" . So sing Auld Lang Syne then think of me.

I've started thinking about traditions and celebrations, especially Christmas ones, and so thought I'd share a few of our family's. Growing up in western Sydney meant that Christmas time involved travelling to the North shore to visit one set of relatives, then the inner Southern suburbs to visit the other side. This was often done on the same day, and if we happened to be on the Northside at night time, we'd detour through the city to visit the major Department store Christmas windows, at Mark Foys and David Jones in Sydney for those who remember them. They were usually animated, well clockwork in the early days, and brightly decorated and lit. You'd see many youngsters in their pyjamas standing with noses pressed up to the glass to catch a glimpse of Santa and the elves in the workshop, and the traditional and Disney stories all laid out and beautifully dressed. I think I decided one year that I wanted to be a window dresser when I grew up, so I could do those windows each year!!

When my own children started to come along, we started our own traditions. These included inviting the paternal grandparents and sister to sleep over on Christmas Eve. After a sumptuous dinner we'd all sit down to watch the televised Carols by Candlelight, then the kids would be bundelled off to bed. We'd all wait with baited breath to make sure they were asleep so we could play Santa and put all the presents under the tree. Of course SIL made it worse by buying knitted Christmas stockings, which stretched A LOT, requiring beach balls (blown up of course) and lots of large plastic bath toys and such to fill them. Even today the now adult kids insist on the stockings being draped over their wrapped gifts under the tree.

As they all grew up and the magic of a childs' Christmas dimmed a little, we still kept the traditional Christmas Eve, but sometimes work committments meant they couldn't come to dinner, or they got invited to their partner's family for a meal. When my MIL died suddenly, it just didn't feel the same and the meal got simpler, although we still sat up to watch the Carols. This year we might go to the neighbourhood church Carols by Glow Stick (doesn't sound the same does it!) which is only a short walk away, if the weather is kind. A new tradition in the making.

The other great traditions in our family include Christmas breakfast, which has long been warm butter croissants with jam and cream, orange juice and Champagne. Now the adult kids will drop everything to come along to this event, LOL, and we have been known to wait for a latecomer before starting on Christmas morning. A few years ago we started lighting up the house too, with many power boards and extension leads required to fit all the sets in. With only one young person living at home at the moment, we haven't put up lights this year, but I have put out my santa figurine collection, see photo.

There is one more that I'll mention before finishing this post. My kids were fortunate to grow up in a lower middle class neighbourhood, with the same kids going to Primary and High School with them and staying friends. One family lost their Mum suddenly a few years ago, and she had helped them with a silly Knock and Run Christmas trick we call The BOG. Not really sure what it stands for, not sure I want to know, LOL, but it has been a great source of silliness and fun over the years. We have done some really bizarre things in the name of The BOG, including filling a life size Santa Suit with air filled balloons and putting him on a garden chair on their front door step. One year they sent a music book of Christmas Carols with BOG inserted in the appropriate places in all the lyrics. We had Santa Snow all over our front garden at 4 a.m. one year, we almost caught them in the act! Last year one of the girls was overseas, and it seemed a shame not to BOG, but no-one really felt like it. Well, 2 nights ago I put the cat out, and we'd been BOGGED. Now to think up a diabolical revenge.. you can imagine how this will pan out, can't you... back and forth, when you least expect it, right up till Christmas morning. Stay tuned, I'll post my BOG in due course, after it's been done of course, in case they read my blog!!

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Hand Crafted Object

Today's posting by Sharon B. on her blog In a Minute Ago, see sidebar link, talks about the possible need for a philosophy of celebrating the hand crafted object. This is very thought provoking. I had always thought that "hand crafted" had a place in the scheme of things. Painting, drawing, sculpture and handmade pottery and ceramics are looked upon as "art" whereas embroidery, lace making, knitting, beading and associated needle arts are always considered "craft". Where does paper tole, cardmaking, collage (ooh, that one can be either, can't it?) fit in? Then there is free machine embroidery, computer embroidery, quilting (hand and machine) and patchwork (again hand and machine)? What about costuming, my area of particular interest, it is art AND craft at the same time?

I think I should elaborate a little on my own celebration of "hand made". I started sewing in the 1960's at a time when the Australian primary school system still taught sewing and embroidery. In kindergarten I did a canvas embroidered teapot stand, which I still have. My first sewing project was a pair of handsewn baby doll pyjamas, I can still picture them. They were made from a white glazed cotton fabric with a small flower print, Mum must have had it in her stash because she was also a dressmaker, as were both my Grandmothers. I distinctly remember having to model the bloomer pants to the class, they were very stiff and stuck out like a pair of Tudor mens breeches, and I don't think I ever actually wore them. We also made a traycloth from head cloth, a bit like homespun but a lower thread count, and an apron.

Fast forward to year 10, or 4th form as it was known. I took Needlework as my elective and learnt patternmaking, embroidery and dressmaking. My major work was an Assissi embroidered mat, I still have it somewhere, and a needlework bag with butterflies embroidered in satin stitch. If I recall, I chose a mauve colour scheme even then, my taste hasn't changed one bit!!

When my children were growing up I continued to sew for them until "homemade" wasn't cool anymore. I continued to sew for clients to earn a little "pin money" and took TAFE courses to update my skills. I also learnt floral art which has come in very handy over the years, especially when I decided to specialise in wedding and formal wear for 15 years. I could provide a total wedding package except the cake and cars! Then I decided to concentrate on costuming and that is where my attention to detail and handwork skills really bore fruit. All the while I was handknitting, crocheting and dabbling in a little embroidery.

Then in 1998 I finally decided to join the Embroiderers' Guild of NSW and quickly signed up for Basic and then the Intermediate Embroidery Courses. I also took a Home Study course in Traditional Embroidery, and did lots of workshops. So I have always appreciated the "hand crafted" and since I joined the Lace Guild a while ago even more so. Lacemaking is a SLOW process, best not hurried as "reverse lace making" is not simple, but the finished article is worth the wait. I also have many WISP's ("work in slow progress")at home at present. One particular item is worth mentioning in detail.

The photo shows my hand pieced quilt top, at least it will be a quilt top when I make another 100 stars from little diamonds, and then the hexagons from plain fabrics which surround the stars. The stars are hand pieced over papers, well old greeting cards and pages from pattern catalogues, and there should be 200 different fabrics all told. The main problem now is that I've been making it since 2002 and I'm not sure I like it anymore. I think it's a bit "wishy washy", now that's a great technical term isn't it, it lacks pizzaz. I think I'll need to find a few stronger colours to scatter among the lighter florals. I've been collecting the fabrics at craft shows, shops and from friends for a very long time, trying to keep to the old fashioned florals, and avoiding stripes. Perhaps I need to rethink the colour scheme a bit, because the Pioneer Braid, see post below, I started from some of the leftover scraps has more life in it than this Starry Starry Night from APQ V. 9 no. 4

Since I joined Yahoo groups, I've become more aware of the worldwide community of needle workers and other hand crafters. I think there has always been a "hand made movement", remember Tonia Todman's segments on TV where she showed us how to make Chrismtas bon bon's from cardboard tubes and fancy paper? Well on TV this week there was another girl doing exactly that, so it seems "hand made" is trendy again. There are nearly 1000 members of the Australian Lace Guild and around 2000 in the NSW Embroiderers' Guild including around 230 children so the future of hand made lace and needle work is looking pretty bright. I think that some people have always celebrated the hand made, it's just that the pace of modern life sometimes obscures the fact.

I find it quite interesting in the fashion world that the "haute couture" garment, which is often handsewn and certainly hand finished and often features hand made trims, is so widely coveted and celebrated. In the film and theatre scene, hand made is also celebrated. You only have to look at the accolades and even Oscars given to Lord of the Rings, Priscilla and Strictly Ballroom to name a few. These films all featured unique costume creations, often hand assembled and finished and real works of art in their own right. Then there is the reproduction historical costume fraternity, both for re-enactment and historic house guides, as well as for personal adornment. There is also quite a large "fan" area, for want of a better word, where fans of a particular show or story make a costume and wear it. Whether it's a fur clad Wookie going to a Star Wars screening, a Gothic Lolita going to a picnic, or a Pirate Wench going to Pirates of the Caribbean screening by public transport (alright, confession time, I really did that!) it is yet more evidence of the creative mind at work. And look at the accolades that claymation movies get, remember Wallace and Grommit, and Chicken Run? These movies featured hand made clay figures which were filmed one step at a time over several years!!

Sharon's post certainly made my think today, as she does everyday, but this topic is especially relevant to me, so if you have read this far, well done, and I'd like to hear your thoughts too.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The year in review

At this time of year I tend to look back on the year and take stock of my achievements and shortfalls, hopefully not too many of the latter.

Our family had an "eventful" year, with my son getting married in February, see pictures of us dressed in our best on the happy occassion! Unfortunately my estranged father passed away, my mother became less mobile and had to cope with her 2nd husband in full time care, and 2 more of my offspring moved out of home. DH had a 3rd back surgery and we still await results from the specialist. My husband and I both volunteered more, I joined another couple of groups and served on more Committees, and took on more (unpaid) consultancy work than ever. I was able to do less paid work, however, due mainly to an arthritic neck slowing me down. Don't they say that "retirement" can be the busiest time of your life? Gosh, I couldn't get any busier and I've still got several years before the "official" retirement age, LOL.

I researched and archived a lot of creative ideas for future stitching projects during this year, and I plan to do more recreational costuming in 2008. I've even toyed (briefly) with doing a Uni course in Museum Studies. I enjoy working with the Young Textile and Fibre Group, see sidebar link, and think that may be enough for the present. It would be nice to get some compensation for all the hours I put into volunteer teaching though, so am considering formalising that area.

I've signed up for Sharon B.'s Take It Further Challenge in 2008, see sidebar link, which will be running over a month, with weekly updates on my thoughts and development. At the end of each month Sharon suggests we show our progress. There are about 150 plus people "signed" up at the moment, with a few stragglers still to confirm. "Take a Stitch Tuesday" which Sharon ran in 2007 (2 weeks to go!) was a weekly challenge with a specific stitch whereas TIF is open to individual interpretation. This could mean working in any media, your usual one/s or something new. Sharon might suggest a colour, size, shape, or just a word to get the creative juices flowing. It will be very exciting to see how all the participants interpret the theme for the month, and I'm really looking forward to it.

Now, does anyone know of a good Personal Time Management Consultant, cheap?

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Bob the Studio Cat

I've signed up for the "Take if Further" Challenge in 2008 with Sharon B., see link on sidebar, and today she has published a list of the proposed participants. This of course tempted me to start looking at EVERY blog on the list, some are new to me and some are "old friends" from TAST this year. This led to Vivian and her posts about studio cats. Which brings me to the subject of the photos, Bob my studio cat. Well, not exactly studio, more "former-nursery-converted-to-sewing-room" but larger than some people have. This is very lucky, as I am a horder of sewing notions, trims, fabrics, craft fabrics, patterns, books, magazines, cottons, embroidery threads.... you get the idea. I have commandeered 3 bookshelves in the hallway outside the room for storage as well as several plastic lidded bins under the custom made by DH cutting table. I have 3 sewing machines including an industrial Singer 591, 2 overlockers, an Elna press for fusing, a TV and sound system in the room and the ironing board permanently set up. Bob, who is a female puss by the way (daughter's idea of a joke) loves to sleep on the ironing board, the office chair on wheels, and is often also found asleep on (or should that be guarding) fabrics and patterns on the cutting table too. Recently she was advising me on the pinning of some pioneer braid strips on a sheet which was going along to show and tell at our quilting class. She just loves playing with pins and safety pins so I have to be especially carefull when I leave the room if she is in residence.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Thunderstorms in Sydney

We've been having some really tropical weather in Sydney recently, so that we have come to expect a thunderstorm most afternoons lately. We weren't quite prepared for the "mini cyclone" that hit western Sydney on Friday, with huge winds blowing and swirling every which way, and lots of heavy rain, so our street flooded outside our house. This hasn't happened in years! No major damage done thankfully, although our neighbour was a bit worried that it would all run down his driveway into the garage and then into his in-ground pool. It hung around for about 3 hours, until a Council pumper truck came and pumped out the drains and then most of it got away. We even had a "flood damage" sign up for a while, most exciting.Can you tell it was a quiet day Friday with not much else happening, hee hee? All the neighbours came out to see the damage and wade (!!) and we all talked for a while. I risked being struck by lightning to get the first photo while the storm was still passing, but I had on rubber sandals so I supposed I would be safe enough. The second photo shows the water just before the pumper arrived, receeded slightly, but still mid calf deep at the kerb.
Doesn't the street look lovely and green after all the rain over the last fortnight? But the humidity has been horrendous!! And the yard looks like a jungle already despite being mowed 10 days ago.