Sunday, November 30, 2008

I'm far too easily distracted !

Here is my cloth doll for a recent Show Business Cloth Doll swap on Stitchin Fingers. I should be finishing the costumes for the Dancing Studio show, due next week. However, having committed to making this doll I felt the need to take a break from the costumes and finish her, after all she was naked for nearly 2 weeks while I procrastinated about which character to dress her in. I had several ideas, but for some reason Dorothy won the day. So of course, I had to make a very quick brown felt Toto to go in her basket. I made him a Scotty terrier shape, and the basket was made from a cardboard inner layer painted cream and covered with buckram pieces and a straw braid handle. Dorothy's arms have pipe cleaners inserted so they are bendy. I sealed the face and feet with a Doll Art Face Sealer medium which I bought at a doll show, then drew on the face with fine fiber pens. The ruby slippers are a gloss folk art paint in red then overpainted with a clear glitter paint. I made the blouse and dress from stash fabrics, and the braid on the neck and arms is finger crochet chain in suitable colour. I used a colour photo of a paper doll printed from Google as my reference.

The face is still quite basic, haven't mastered them yet, LOL, need a LOT more practice. I just admire those artists who can get great faces all the time, like my friend Erica P. who has faces to die for on her character dolls.

I hope my swap partner likes her dolly, and that she makes her smile when she opens the little box.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Warning !! Cuteness ahead !!

This year has certainly been eventful, with one very important milestone in my life happening on 29th August. I became a Nan to this little chap, Riley John. He's growing up too fast, at 12 weeks old already.

It's a pity we don't hold traditional Baby Shows anymore here in Australia. In the 1960's and 70's you'd take along your freshly washed and groomed baby to be weighed and examined by a group of nurses and judges, usually from the local Council and sponsors' reps. My mother used to enter my brother's Warren and Anthony in them, they were both bonnie babies. The judges looked for healthy, alert, active and yes, cute, babies who were weight for age and looked like the "ideal" baby, whatever that was. Both of them won small prizes, usually baby clothes or photo albums or such things.

The Shows were sponsored by baby product companies and there was a token entry fee paid by the doting mums which went to a charity. All a lot of fun, and I suppose it did encourage the young mums to take pride in their cute offspring. Australia never took it as seriously as they do now in the US though. We still have competitions but they are photography based and are usually talent spotting for advertisers.

Mum couldn't afford to put me in baby shows when I was little, as I was her first child. Anyway, I'd already won one title, Miss Royal North Shore Hospital 1954. I was the first baby born in that year, at 12.40 pm on 1st January. I received a certificate and a small gift.

Riley could certainly win a prize with his cheeky smiles, and now he's starting to gurgle and giggle when you play with him. Definitely tugs at the heart strings to hear him vocalise, takes me back to his Daddy doing it, 30 years ago.

No good me getting all clucky though, will have to give Riley extra cuddles when I see him. Looking forward to meeting my little granddaughter who is due in February too, I'll have 2 littlies to play with then, LOL.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I'm Celebrating !!

My 2 year Blogiversary slipped by in September without me even realising. Wow, time flies when you're doing something you enjoy. So after being on the receiving end of a lucky draw from Mary Anne at Magpies Mumblings recently, I thought I'd celebrate my 150th post instead with a Lucky Draw.

So, if you commented on post 150 (The Payten Bed) and comment through to post 155 (whatever that may be) I'll collect your names and conduct a lucky draw before Christmas to receive a small parcel of goodies from my stash. International posts are fine, but I'm not accepting anonymous posts for this draw.

My New Year's resolution is to dig deeper into my stash before buying more material for ATCs, postcards and other textiley works so this little competition will hopefully make a start in the stash busting !!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Counting our blessings today

I have huge empathy for those folks in Los Angeles that have been burnt out today, because we had a house fire ourselves at 1 a.m. this morning. Luckily we are all safe and well, apart from a huge blister on DH's numb foot from fighting the fire with the garden hose. We called the ambulance to check us out for some smoke inhalation and shock just in case.

We had gone to bed late and I couldn't get comfortable. I thought I smelled smoke, but the SES has been doing hazard reduction (burning off) lately so I wasn't overly alarmed. Then I heard a few strange sounds and got up to investigate. We had lost power, though we had lights but as soon as I went into the kitchen I could see smoke haze and an orange glow through the window. I thought my DH's car was on fire but it was the back of the house. I called his name and shouted Fire! which brought everyone running outside. DH ran out and played the hose on the fire under the back of the house while I called 000 for the fire brigade.

Everyone evacuated safely, and luckily the hose was connected to the tap and not burnt through. The fire was brief but intense, and as you can see from this photo, the fibro sheeting is cracked as well as several windows. The worst part is that the fire was in a newer section of our home where the plumbing fittings were PVC above ground pipes through to the sewer line, and of course are all melted and no longer working. We have to use the old original bathroom and toilet, and this close to Christmas we aren't confident of having them fixed quickly.

I'd like to make these suggestions and urge everyone to take them seriously.

1. Make sure you have a hose handy in the yard at all times close to the tap, this definitely saved our home as the Fire Brigade was 10 minutes arriving

2. Be vigilant with worn electrical cords, overloading power points, and old appliances. We haven't established the cause of the fire but presume it was accidental.

3. Smoke alarms only work if the fire is IN the house, not under it until it is VERY well established. Ours only went off after we opened the doors. Your nose is the best detector. If you suspect a fire, investigate thoroughly.

4. Don't store wood, plastics or anything flammable close to the house or under it. We were lucky that the house was fairly clear underneath, but dry grass and few old plastic toys were enough to fuel the fire.

5. Talk through an emergency plan with the family. We were all adults and acted instinctively but children may not and a tragedy could result. The only thing we did wrong was to leave the doors open when we left, resulting in a smoke filled, smelly house.

This last picture shows the smoke damage from the flames around the back door where everyone rushed out, including Bob the studio cat. She was unhurt, but very frightened and had to be given pussy valium today to calm her down.

The smell is still pretty awful as we wait for the insurance assessor tomorrow, but the power is restored so at least I have the computer and TV back, I'm a creature of habit you see, VBG.

We are counting our blessings tonight and although I'm not religious I do believe in Karma. I must have done something right recently, VBG.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Payten Bed

I've been working 2 large projects together this year, the Women Transported Exhibition at Parramatta Heritage Centre which opened in August (warning this link is to my costume blog!) , and the refurbishment of the Payten Bed

We dedicated the new bed, and launched a reproduction quilt made by another group of volunteers, on Sunday 2nd November which was also Parramatta's Foundation Day. If you want to see what is UNDER the new quilt, click on the link to the Payten Bed above. The new upper valances, head curtains, headcloth, tester and lower valances were all sewn by hand by volunteers for this 1840's bed; after all the sewing machine wasn't invented till 1856 and then not widely available in Australia till a little later!

The burgandy hand knitted ravelled fringe took 6 knitters over 48 hours to knit then it was hand stitched over the hems of the valances and head curtains. The bed took about 8 hours to "hang" involving 4 volunteers including myself climbing up and down the ladders many many times. We spent over an hour just getting the box pleats on the inside of the inner upper valance to sit correctly, getting more and more overheated up close to the ceiling on the ladders!! I was certainly glad to see the bed assembled by the end of the day. On Dedication Day, I put the final touches in place, 2 embroidered watch pockets. I finished making them about 10pm on the Saturday night then made 3 Story Boards to display with photos and fabric samples on them.

Watch pockets were a chance to show off the lady of the household's embroidery skills on a practical project, a place to put small items (including your pocket watch) during the night at a time when bedside tables were not usually used. The fabric I used was a furnishing sample in burgandy and cream printed linen and I designed the shape myself based on descriptions in The Workwoman's Guide of 1838. I padded and stretched the fabric over card shapes, then knitted a little ravelled fringe in ecru 8 ply knitting cotton to trim the bottom. I appliqued a small wool embroidered flower medallion on each pocket flap, then stitched a blanket stitched chainstitch "braid" trim along the top of the knitted fringe. They are attached to the watch pocket strips with a hand made Dorset button. My forte is in the detail, and as you can see I really enjoyed this project.

It was a daunting prospect in the beginning. I couldn't imagine how we'd manage to make a feather bed, blanket, bed linen, bolster, and all the hangings from scratch and come in under budget. Well, the bed linen was donated by a Hambledon Guide who inherited them from her mother (probably late 1800's) and I managed to find a new cream woollen blanket reduced considerably at a sale event. We removed the modern binding and stitched around it in red embroidery wool. The bolster only needed some repairs done, and well, we did make a feather mattress, even though the yard at Hambledon looked like there'd been a duck massacre afterwards! The rose pink valances and head curtains were made from Indian cotton furnishing fabric bought at a furnishing wholesaler on the north side of Sydney at a good price, while the wool for the fringeing was bought online from Bendigo Woollen Mills in bulk.

The Parramatta and District Historical Society who manage Hambledon was very pleased to come in under budget thanks to some canny buying. We also stabilised and "retired" the 1860's Wood's patchwork quilt which was necessary to preserve it for future study and it will be brought out on special occasions to grace the bed once more after 30 years of being on display on the Payten Bed.