Thursday, February 28, 2008

TIF February update

Some more progress on my postcard for the February TIF Challenge with Sharon B.

I've free motion embroidered over the background with rust coloured machine thread. Leaves of velvet in 3 colours, gold leather leaves, a couple of marbled quilting cotton leaves, some oganza leaves and some jute scrim are all trapped under marbled autumn coloured tulle. The threads shown around the rectangle are going to be stitched over the background in random stitches. They include DMC metallic gold stranded, perle threads, stranded DMC cotton and a great olive green rayon "perle" someone gave me. I also have some cute faceted olive beads which I think might work with this too, and a lovely dark olive tulle with a gold metallic diamond pattern which I also might use.

Unfortunately, a deadline I have for a costume job has just been moved forward so I now doubt I can finish this by tomorrow evening the 29th February (and stay sane!)
So if that happens, I apologise sincerely in advance, but I will certainly post the finished piece on this blog at the earliest possible. In the meantime, I'm sure you can imagine the finished piece.

I've definitely been challenged this time, in choosing the format of the piece and in allocating enough time to actually stitch it. I'm afraid I always underestimate how long things will take to accomplish, I forget I'm getting older and slower at nearly everything, VBG.

Monday, February 25, 2008

TIF February - light at the end of the tunnel

Tonight I've been watching the Oscars on the TV and playing with a background for a postcard for the TIF challenge, see sidebar link. I was in 2 minds about the size, but since there are only 4 days till the end of the month now, I thought I'd be sensible and work small. The song "Autumn Leaves" by Nat King Cole has been haunting me all month, I catch myself "singing" it out loud sometimes, and that's scary because I'm not a great singer, and sometimes I forget the words. Bob the quilting cat just looks bemused, and luckily the 2 Siamese fighting fish love me as long as I feed them every night ! I can't believe that I performed in 2 Australian musical plays when I was younger, though in the chorus no-one can hear you hit an occasional wrong note, VBG.

I plan to stitch on this background over the next few days, add some other embellishments and perhaps some words. I'm hoping that come the first of March, I'll be so occupied with the new TIF theme or colours that I'll forget Autumn Leaves for a while !!!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Progress on February TIF Challenge

I've finally found some time to pull out fabrics and a few embellishments for my February Challenge with Sharon B., see sidebar for link. I've decided on the actual theme, just not the format yet. I've printed out some words from the Nat King Cole song "Autumn Leaves" and these fabrics will be turned into a collage of some sort which pays tribute to a simpler, slower time. I'm old enough to remember when songs had words you could understand ! Can you tell I'm not a fan of Rap, LOL. I can't even call it music really, it's so alien to my ears.

My fabrics from my stash (see photo), some of which I intend to use, include hand dyed cotton muslin in orange, dyed jute scrim, a skeletonised leaf, velvet furnishing fabrics, some silk dress fabrics and a tea dyed (by me) lace motif. I'm thinking small this time too, perhaps a postcard, or a small A4 journal page. I'd like to do some free stitching, and some beading, so I don't think I'll have time to be too extravagant with the end of the month looming. It's my own fault of course, I spend too much time this month being Superwoman to the world, VBG. It's almost an addiction ! At least now I can recognise that, and start to take steps to fix it. Watch this space for more progress on both the Challenge, and my rehabilitation !!

P.S. I took the photo without flash to show the true colours, and have just noticed that I used my new leaf print tablecloth as the background. I'm very tempted to use that as the background in my project !!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

TIF February Challenge - gathering thoughts

I've re-read my previous posts where I just let the memories flood out. There seems to be one overwhelming theme, I'm old enough to remember when life was much "simpler", slower paced, less complicated. Girls were destined, mainly, for teaching, nursing or clerical occupations, and when they married, they didn't go out to "business" again unless in dire circumstances. This only started to change in the 70's with "female liberation" and the reported bra burning episodes. Now I don't recall seeing anyone actually do this, but it was reported on the TV so it must have happened, VBG !! Personally, I don't feel so liberated lately. There is always the obligation to DO something instead of sit and stitch, relax, sleep, daydream if you choose. You're expected to belong to groups who volunteer and do good deeds, cook fabulous meals for your family, earn an income, be a fabulous wife and lover, mother perfect children who never get into any trouble, have a fabulous slim figure, exercise and be super fit, have perfect white teeth (gosh I HATE Zoom Whitened teeth!!!!)......... phew, how can you call all that liberated?

I'm digressing....last night my son and his wife visited for a meal, and I mentioned that I remembered "Autumn Leaves" by Nat King Cole being played on a wind-up gramophone at home when I was a child. I was obsessed with finding out what tune was on the reverse of the record, so he offerred to check an online music dictionary he uses. Did I mention previously that he was an amateur DJ and has played at large parties at Luna Park in Sydney? Very prestigious!! Anyway, in no time at all I had my answer. "Love is a Many Splendored Thing" was on the reverse of "Autumn Leaves" and apparently we had been looking on the wrong list, it was a 7 inch record not an LP. For some reason Autumn Leaves is my favourite, I just can't stop humming it!!
Here is a photo of the lovely man on a more modern album cover, our version of Autumn leaves was a bakelite record in a brown paper sleeve with a hole in the centre to show the label on the record, no fancy printed glossy album covers in those days !!

So it looks like that will be my focus for the February TIF. Not sure how it will be interpreted just yet, still working on that one, but at least now I think I have narrowed it down. You see, even the holder of a Black Belt in Procrastination can make snap decisions sometimes, LOL.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Growing up in Australia pt 3

I have to begin this next episode by saying that although we were pretty poor in monetary terms, I think I had a fairly happy childhood in retrospect. We had regular visits to our grandmother at Neutral Bay by train and ferry, and Dad drove us to Rockdale to the other side of the family too. We had picnics and sports clubs for the boys and I went to church youth groups and Girls' Friendship Society. All 4 kids managed to stay out of serious trouble for most of the time, VBG.

I remember in the early 60's how the milko delivered our milk in glass bottles with foil caps, by horse and cart in the early hours of the morning. He'd run between the houses with a little wire carrier with the bottles in it, and whistle for the horse to move along a couple of houses. There was one problem though, around puberty I started sleep walking. After a famous episode where I fetched in the emtpy milk bottles left out for the milko, filled them with water then replaced them, Mum had to put a slide bolt up high on the front door to stop me doing it again. My bedroom was the closest one to the front verandah and I used to have nightmares about prowlers climbing in through my window in the Summer. I still can't sleep with the window open without a sturdy window screen.

In the early 60's we still had daily bread deliveries, with the uncut square or tank loaf wrapped in white tissue paper. It was quite remarkable a few years later when the bread began to be packaged in a bag, and then it came pre-sliced. Don't we take these things for granted?

Any male readers are excused from reading the next bit.
I can recall when we girls had to endure being trussed up with belts, pins and layers of thick padding once a month. No thin, self adhesive sanitary products then, just one or two products at the chemist, usually Modess pads and belts to hold them up. You couldn't wear trousers, you couldn't swim, you felt "indisposed" even if you felt well. We've come a long way, girls.

The boys will WANT to read the next bit, the subject is ladies underwear, VBG. Modern girls think stockings and suspender belts are sexy, but I'm here to tell you that in the 60's they were anything but that. I recall going to church on Sunday wearing my newest bri-nylon paisley baby doll dress, in pinks and yellow and white swirl fabric. In the photo see some of the fabrics typical in that period. The quilt top was made by my paternal grandmother from scraps donated from the Osti dress factory, used for fete items for the church. She never wasted the leftovers though. For church I wore new nylon stockings held up with a suspender belt. It kept slipping down my hips, and then you had to get in and out of the car without flashing your legs and suspenders, I mean real ladies just didn't do that!! Whenever I wear real stockings I think of those funny times. I can also remember the trauma of being fitted for my first bra at 13, it was a monstrous all cotton affair, with 1cm wide cotton straps and it was uncomfortable. Years later when I wore cotton maternity bras I had flashbacks to those first bras.

I mentioned in a previous post that Australia was welcoming many immigrants in the 1950's and 60's from post war Europe. They were setting up Greek fish and chip shops, Italian green grocers and Chinese restaurants in larger numbers and we loved it. Our first take-away fast food outlet in Sydney was Kentucky Fried Chicken. As most Australian families had a baked dinner for Sunday lunch in those days, a leg of lamb or cooked chook, this was a real bonus. Mum could have a break from cooking and buy a full chicken, and possibly some potatoes and corn as well. She only had to put on the green vegies to cook while Dad drove up to the shop. This late 60's and early 70's period also saw a huge influence from ethnic cooking. Up till this time we mostly enjoyed English style cooking, meat and 3 vegies for tea followed by apple pie and icecream for instance. Now we were cooking Greek, Italian and Chinese at home, not just in the restaurants. And they were real restaurants, not little cafes. Recently my DH and I took a trip to Melbourne by car and we stopped at Gundagai overnight in southern NSW. The local cafe is still run in the old style, with wooden booths to sit in, bevelled mirrors on the walls and a mixed grill on the menu. It's been in the same family for over 50 years, and still going strong.

The area that has probably changed the most in my lifetime has been technology in the home. We didn't have a TV till we arrived at Lurnea in 1962. At the old house we had a radio in the kitchen, and I think Auntie Win had a TV in her room, but that was always locked. Our first TV was bought from Waltons at Liverpool, and paid off once a week when the Waltons man came around to collect the payment. Lots of families paid off furniture and appliances that way, but in the neighbouring estate in Green Valley there were lots of repossessions as people overcommitted and then defaulted on their payments. We didn't have a telephone, there was a red wooden phone box on the corner of our street though. When mum was expecting my 2 youngest brothers Dad rigged up an emergency buzzer to the next door neighbours' house so Mum could call her in the night if needed, while he was out playing the piano at a supper club. We did have an electric refrigerator and Mum only used the copper supplied with the house a few times. She preferred an electric washing machine, so the Waltons man called at our house for many more years to collect his payments.

We had black and white television of course till 1975, and I can recall watching our favourite shows in the loungeroom with the kids being told to sit further away so as not to ruin their eyes. Dad loved World Championship Wrestling and the televised golf programs. I can remember visiting my maternal Grandpa and seeing the cricket being played on the TV there. We kids loved "The Big Top" with Don Ameche, a circus show with fabulous acts including trapeze artists and lion tamers, plate twirlers and acrobats. "I Dream of Jeanie" and "Get Smart" were American shows which were warmly received by us in Australia and of course as a girl I started to watch "Days of Our Lives" the long running American soap opera which is still airing in Australia every weekday (when the cricket isn't on that is!) Of course the only way to learn to type was on a manual typewriter, with carbon paper for copies and a rubber to make corrections. Word processing on a computer was unimagineable back then, as were fancy phones. We had a beige plastic rotary phone installed after Dad left in 1972 as by then most families were getting the phone and the phone box at the end of the street was removed. Mum cooked on an electric stove with rings on top or in an electric frypan. She only got a microwave oven after I left home to be married in 1974.
And audio technology has made rapid advances too. In 1962 we brought a wind-up gramophone from Bexley with 10 thick hard plastic records, I think they were bakelite actually. My favourite was by Nat King Cole, called Autumn Leaves released in 1955. Recently I Googled it and heard an original record playing on a collectors' YouTube site. I cried!! I was instantly tranpsorted back to the front porch of the Lurnea house, with my baby brother Warren laying on an eiderdown in his play pen while I played the record at 78 rpm. The first portable music recording devices were 8 track reel to reel players, and in fact at high school the seniors recorded a mock radio broadcast on my DHs reel to reel player to be played over the PA system at school and we still have it in the cupboard. Not game to play it though in case we damage the old tape, must investigate having it tranferred to a CD for fun ! Cassette cartridges were soon all the rage, but they broke quite easily and you'd often see discarded tape littering the country roadside from an irate driver when the tape broke on a long journey. Cars only had a very basic radio until the first cassette players were availabe to go in the dashboard, no 6 stacker CD systems back then, or Ipods or MP3 players. Another area where technology has boomed.

I'm also old enough to remember when you didn't have to take a second mortgage on your home to pay for your daughter's wedding. When my DH asked Mum for my hand in marriage (because Dad had left us) she apologised that she couldn't afford a large wedding. We sat and planned every little detail and decided my DH and I could do it for a reasonable sum. I made my wedding gown and veil, 2 bridesmaids dresses and a flower girl's dress. I think my white hail spot cotton fabric cost $1.29 per metre and the bridesmaid's fabric was 79c per metre. My Nana paid for silk flower arrangements from a city florist and a head piece for me from my gown fabric. DH supplied the buttonholes and corsages, and for the transport ee borrowed his father's car and hired a Mercedes for the bride and groom. Our reception was held at the local community hall and we got in caterers, and if I recall the wedding breakfast was $3.50 per head including drinks. Friends who had a professional band entertained our 90 or so guests, and everyone agreed it was a lovely wedding. We honeymooned in Queensland and came home to sleep on my grandmothers' loungeroom floor until we could find a flat to rent. Contrast this to the average price for a wedding in Australia now, some $25,000 for a pretty basic wedding.

Well, I've enjoyed reminiscing about what I'm old enough to remember, a few ideas have begun to form in my head about a project for the February TIF. The problem will be which memory or memories to use..... I think I mentioned at the beginning of this year that I intended to try to F O C U S this year..... now seems like a very good time, LOL.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Growing up in Australia Pt 2.

I've decided to just let the memories flow, hoping that an idea for Sharon's TIF Challenge for February, see sidebar link, will crystalize.

Mum and Dad had applied for a NSW Housing Commission house and eventually in 1962 around Easter we moved to Lurnea, a south western suburb of Sydney near Liverpool. The new estate had few facilities to speak of. There was a brand new primary school, a red wooden telephone box on the corner of our street called Bare Avenue and a general store not far away. The major shopping centre, if you could call it that, was at Liverpool, a 30 minute bus ride away. We had an old Volkswagen car for Dad to drive so Mum and the kids went anywhere by bus. I started the new school in year 3 and it was a culture shock. The school at Bexley had old fashioned wooden forms with a seat that lifted up attached to a desk with a hinged lid and old smelly inkwells. The new school had seperate tables and chairs, and the plastic inkwells were all new. I remember struggling to write neatly with pen and ink, and using a blotter to avoid smudging your writing with your hand.

Our new house was fibro cement with a fibro cement corrugated roof. There were 3 bedrooms, a lounge room, kitchen and dining room combined, laundry with a copper, bathroom with a gas heater and wonder of wonders, a shower over the bath. The dunny was still up the yard though, but at least here it was a neat metal pan with a cover and a seat on a neat concrete floor in a fibro cement toilet building. Our old loo at Bexley had a wooden seat, and splinters were quite common. There we had a vertical plank toilet building with cracks which you could peek through if you wanted to spy on someone. The new loo had a solid wooden door with a lock and key. In the photo I'm in our bare backyard in 1963 with my brother Glenn, we were 9 and 4.
The "Sani Man" or night soil man, used to visit once a week and take away the full removeable pan, leaving a fresh empty one under the cover. They wore special leather capes with a cap attached as they hoisted the cans on their shoulders, I hope they got danger money because if you had guests or a party, those cans got quite full sometimes. Dad sometimes had to dig a hole in the backyard to siphon out the dunny can if that happened, it was a health hazard! I always dreaded going out to the loo in the night on Sunday in case the Sani Man came while I was enthroned. And we'd leave a bottle of beer out for him at Christmas and in exchange he'd leave a humorous printed seasonal poem, I wonder if anyone still has some in an album somewhere? Eventually the sewerage line came through our street, and we had a really deep pit in our yard as the junction and inspection pit was on our property. We could only afford to have one toilet though, so it was put in the out building.

We didn't have much of a garden in the beginning, when the estate was established they just threw the clay from the road up onto the footpath and front yards. Some people got in the rotary hoe man to dig it under, but Mum did it by hand so she could plant a few things. We never had a lawn like some people, just what grew when someone gave us a few runners of grass. Sometimes neighbours shared cuttings, we were all uprooted from inner Sydney and shipped out West so we were in a similar situation. Mum had 2 more boys, the last when I was 12 years old. By then Dad was spending pretty heavily on drinking, so Mum had to go out to work to help support us. The boys were looked after by neighbours until I got home from school when I'd take over. I learned to iron, cook simple snacks and clean the house to help mum out.

I remember when the Beatles came to Sydney in June 1964, I was in 5th class and had to make the decision whether to be a Rolling Stones fan or a Beatles fan, you couldn't be both, LOL. I still like their music, while the Stones never quite did it for me.

On the 14th of February 1966 Australia changed to decimal currency. Long gone were our farthings (1/4 of a penny) and florins (2 shillings) but now also the ha'penny (half a penny) penny, shillings and pounds. Instead of 24 shillings to a pound and having to work out complicated sums, everything was in multiples of 10. It did take quite some time to get used to, and shop signs, newspaper advertisements and eventually TV advertisments all continued to show prices in both currencies for quite a while.

I started at the one year old local high school in 1966, about 2 miles away. In the early days I'd catch the school bus, but by fourth form (year 10) I was walking with friends to school. Most of my friends went from my primary school to the local high school although quite a few others also came from surrounding areas. My husband was at primary school a year ahead of me, I was aware of him as he famously dressed up as a flapper girl once in a school fete parade. His mother made a wig from a dyed cotton mop head, and put fringeing on a black shift. He fooled his male classmates for quite a while, VBG. There are no photos, unfortunately.

TIF Challenge for February - first thoughts

Well, I'm a bit late blogging my thoughts about the February TIF Challenge as posed by Sharon B. at

The colour palette this month is "interesting" while the concept is very thought provoking. I started scribbling random thoughts on a foolscap notebook on the topic "What are you old enough to remember?" and 3 pages later I'm still coming up with memories. Some of the other participants have already blogged their memories, and a lot of them are political and significant events in America and the UK. So I thought I'd try and record my Australian childhood memories and see where that leads.

I was born in the early 1950's when Australia was just starting to accept migrants from the war torn countries of Europe. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second of Britain visited an Australia with just 9 million people the year I was born. My family lived in half a house at Epping shared with my godparents for several years after I was born. Vivid memories include the neighbours rose gardens and their children picking wattle (a small native bush with fluffy yellow flowers) to take to school for Wattle Day on August 1st. I must have been about 3 years old. The kids carried Australian made Globite school cases, which were made from pressed cardboard and could be shined up with shoe polish when they got dingey.

Our next house was at Arncliffe, again rented, as Dad had lost a business before I was born and money was tight. We boarded a disabled relation who helped a little around the house, Mum was having a difficult pregnancy with my oldest brother. I remember Maureen as a big girl who was intellectually delayed, but good at heart. It was sad when Mum had to send her on to a group home when my brother was born, Mum just couldn't cope. I can remember a group of kids setting fire to a palm tree in the park next door with fireworks, and the red fire engine racing up. We also had a grandfather clock in the house, it chimed all night.

In 1959 we moved to a rented house in Bexley. It was an old horizontal weatherboard one with a wooden plank verandah, 2 large bedrooms and a kitchen/ dining room. The landlady lived in the former lounge room. There was a back verandah closed in to make another room for me as I got a bit older, and a bathroom with a chip heater for the hot water. There was no shower, and the worst bit was the dunny (lavatory) up the path in the back yard. We had a very deep yard, with a chook shed down the back. I never realised it at the time, but we were pretty poor. We called the landlady Auntie Win (I guess Winifred) and she worked at Benson and Hedges cigarette factory and smoked like a chimney herself. She was very good to Mum, and often brought home little treats of food and sweets for me and my little brother. I used to run around bare foot all the time (still don't like to wear shoes, although I love them on other people!) so I was always treading on nails in pieces of broken down fencing, and we'd walk down the road to the doctor for a Tetanus injection AGAIN. I earned 3 permanent scars at that house. The first one was on my forehead where my best friend (?) threw a lump of concrete at my head after an argument. I remember the look on Mum's face when I ran screaming down the yard with blood pouring out of my face, she didn't know what had happened. Then my Dad made me a wooden swing to hang in the doorway of my room, and you guessed it, the silly think hit me in the mouth, scarring my bottom lip permanently. Lipstick still won't stick there. The third one I haven't seen myself, let's just say I climbed through a window where a nail was sticking up and scarred my groin.

I started school at Bexley in 1959. In the photo I'm the very serious little blonde girl in the second row from the bottom 4th from the right (marked with a spot)I think my dressmaker Mum sewed my fashionable jacket, you'll notice there wasn't an official school uniform back then. I did my first needlework in K2, where I made a woollen canvas work teapot shaped trivet (see photo). Mum put on the binding and a label for the Education Week display. Then an elderly neighbour taught me how to crochet. She did the little ring in the centre and then I crocheted around them to make squares for a rug but I don't recall making it.

I began my long history of "dressing up in public" at Bexley. My maternal grandparents attended West Botany Methodist church where there were regular fetes and parades. See the photo of me dressed as the Princess of Spring and my brother Glenn dressed as an old fashioned swaggie with my girlfriend Margaret beside us on the f ront verandah at Bexley. Dad found a little plastic pipe which had an insert not unlike incense which burned in the pipe bowl for Glenn. Another year my Papa found a hessian bag on Tempe tip full of flat pearl buttons, so mum covered black serge school uniforms with thousands of buttons and made Glenn and me into the Pearlie King and Queen for the church fete parade. We were too poor to afford a camera, the photos were taken by our grandparents. When my father left Mum years later, he took a lot of family photos away with him, so our remaining photos are few and far between unfortunately.