Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A fabulous Christmas

I was so glad I offered to host Christmas Day at our place this year. All the family were invited to come from about 3 pm and stay for a meal. The ladies all brought a contribution towards the meal with them so the menu comprised cold meats (turkey breast, leg ham, cold chicken cuts) and fresh king prawns. We had pasta salad, coleslaw, green salad, pineapple, tomatoes, beetroot slices, asparagus, sweet corn, cocktail onions and bread rolls for main course. Then for dessert... my daughter-in-law made a beautiful warm lemon and raspberry bread and butter pudding and mini cupcakes, my brother's partner made a gingerbread house for the kids and decorated mince pies and my oldest daughter brought the makings of mini pavlovas. I also bought a traditional Christmas pudding and a cake, but we didn't even cut them up on the night, there was so much other good food. So now the fridge is groaning with leftover food and hubby and I are finding it hard not to indulge ourselves a little. We won't mention all the chocolates and other food gifted to us, lucky they all have long use-by dates on the packages LOL. We had 19 adults and 6 children under 4 as well as my yet-to-be-born baby grandson. The day was intermittent cloud and sun, with a pleasant breeze in the afternoon. We assembled our blow up castle/slide in the backyard for the kids and so everyone sat on the ground on doonas or on the outdoor setting with nibbles and drinks watching the kids (including some "Big kids") play on the equipment. The littlies all got on well together with only minor skirmishes now and then. Christmas is such a big thing for the kids, they get over excited and tire quickly but it was a lovely family afternoon. My mother and father-in-law joined us. They are both widowed now and over 80, so they really enjoyed the time with the great grandchildren. It certainly reminded me of the great times I had as a child at my own grandmother's home sitting outside on the lawn with the family at Christmas. Hopefully we'll have many more such happy times in the future. On boxing day we delivered my little grandsons their cubby house gift as promised. Riley (3) helped unpack the box and found the instructions for the men and then didn't stop smiling the whole time he helped assemble the little house.
Riley was very quick to start "screwing together" the fence using only the picture on the box to guide him! Pop and Dad got busy screwing together the main parts of the house while Riley acted as Foreman of the site LOL
Here is the completed house being checked over, Riley couldn't wait to get inside and that big smile made it all worthwhile. Several family members contributed towards the purchase of this much loved cubby house for the boys. PS apologies for the set out of this post, Blogger won't let me put in paragraphs at the moment !!

"Alien" visitors

The weather has been so damp and humid in Sydney since late November that it was inevitable that some stinkhorn fungii would start to pop up in the garden. They really do look like an alien life form, so bizarre. Apparently there are over 77 varieties worldwide and the first one I've shown is indigenous to Australia. We've had about a dozen of the thin orange/pink variety called phallus rubicanus
popping up in the mulch in the garden next to the letter box (mailbox). The next one is the anenome or star stinkhorn and this is the largest I've ever seen in our garden, about 8 cm across the centre and can I say they REALLY live up to their names, peeeeuuuuuwwwww. There is a crop of about 10 next to our BBQ under a grevillea shrub.
So you can see why I'm very glad my little granddaughter Amelie (who loves digging in the garden) will not be visiting every Monday for a while. Her mum is on maternity leave waiting for the birth of our 4th grandchild and 3rd grandson in a week or so. Amelie would be so attracted to the bright red "flowers" and the smell is hard to get off your fingers if you are unfortunate enough to touch one.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

The year in review

It's just over 2 weeks till Christmas Day and I've organised 1 gift so far! It's been a year of mixed blessings here. My husband has been diagnosed with bi-lateral peripheral neuropathy (tingling and numb feet) which has really impacted both our lives. He cannot drive very far these days but has started a Pilates therapy programme and hopes to get some relief. I've finally started seeing a therapist regularly so hope to get my anxiety disorder under a bit of control. We farewelled my step-father in late October and 2 days later our 3rd grandchild Aiden James was born to my son and his wife Bel, and in January (or sooner) we're welcoming another little grandson, a brother for Miss Amelie. So as you can see, we're living in a real soap opera here LOL I guess Life is like that don't they say Truth is stranger than Fiction? We had another family wedding in July and my 3rd daughter announced her engagement on her birthday in September so I suppose we'll be looking at wedding plans next year. I began the Intermediate Historical and Contemporary Embroidery Course in February at the Embroiderers' Guild NSW and attend once a month for 2 years. The homework has been challenging while I've been ill, but I think things will improve next year as my medication kicks in and I start to feel better. I'm booked to install another exhibition at Hambledon Cottage Parramatta in May, this time featuring infants wear from the Victorian and Edwardian era. I welcome your suggestions for a catchy title. I continue to do Guest Speaker gigs with my travelling trunk show of costumes and vintage underwear, and teach children textiles and fibre arts at the Embroiderers' Guild. Miss Amelie will not be coming on Mondays each week in 2012 as her Mum will be on maternity leave, but promises to bring her to visit frequently. We formed such a strong bond with my granddaughter over the 2 or so years I've been minding her and she has slept over successfully several times. I'm going to miss my Nana Naps with her LOL So to all regular readers and followers, I wish you all the Joy of the Season and a very happy and prosperous 2012.

I've joined TAST 2012 too

I'm really looking forward to Tuesday January 3rd 2012, because that's the day Sharon B starts TAST 2012. For those who don't know, Take a Stitch Tuesday is an online tutorial which Sharon share's with stitchers all around the world every Tuesday. There are over 500 participants signed up so far, so if you like the idea of stitching along with so many friends worldwide, and sharing triumphs and problems via your blog, pop over to Pintangle here and sign up. Follow Sharon's excellent directions and strap yourself in for a fabulous journey !

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Vintage cotton reel tassels - one method

Inspired by my friend Doreen's post about her cotton reel tassels here, I challenged my sewing group ladies to make some today. Doreen kindly sent basic directions and with those in hand we started scraping and soaking off the labels on the ends of the vintage wooden reels. When clean we dried them and used fine sandpaper to neaten the ends. Next we searched my stash for laces, braids etc for the body. We layered them to get a really luxurious look. As today was very hot in Sydney we mostly took the easy way out and used ready made tassels but one clever lady made a beaded multicoloured one. These were threaded onto a large wooden craft button which was then glued to the base of the reel. Next we made hanging loops which were glued into the top hole with clear craft glue through another large wooden button. The ladies all glued beads, sequins etc around the top to dress them up. I sewed some beads on one thin braid on top of another wider braid around the middle of my reel, the copper, gold and green one in the photo. Thanks for the great idea Doreen, we had so much fun with these today.

Friday, November 18, 2011

I need more discipline !

No, I don't mean I'm into S and M (not that there's anything wrong with that!) I just wish I had the discipline to blog more frequently LOL. I follow several people who blog DAILY and I really envy how organised they are! But then I haven't been doing much lately to blog about VBG

We welcomed our 3rd grandchild, a little boy named Aiden James, earlier than expected on 22nd October around 11 pm. Despite the shock Mum and Dad and big brother Riley are thrilled with their new addition to the family.

First photo, just born

black and white taken by a doting Auntie Amanda

I've been busy visiting lots of specialists lately, trying to get a diagnosis for my dizzy spells and extreme fatigue. So far they've excluded sleep apnoea and a brain tumour! Will be happy to find out what's been having such a debilitating effect on me. I haven't felt like doing any of my usual things apart from struggling through my Intermediate Historical and Contemporary Embroidery course homework each month. One specialist has diagnosed chronic anxiety disorder so I'm on medication for that now. I think I'm feeling a bit calmer about everything, I even forgot about the 3rd anniversary of our house fire until I got into bed last night and remembered the date. The events are still so clear in my mind and I still sleep with a night lite (at my age !!)

With Christmas just around the corner it's nearly time to put out my display of Santa figurines again. Just have to vacuum and dust the house first, so hopefully in the next week I can manage that. Of course that also means I'm turning another year older in 6 weeks, oh dear ! Will try to post more often, I like the connection you have with people when you blog frequently.

Monday, September 26, 2011

A long overdue post

It's been so long since I've posted here it's embarassing ! Hopefully the "quality" will make up for the lack of "quantity", LOL.

I've been as busy as ever in the past few months, with my usual committments with volunteering duties all over town and trying to keep up with the Intermediate Course homework at the Embroiderers' Guild NSW. This is the 2nd time I've taken this course which has been revised to look at the historical and contemporary aspects of many different techniques. And I'm still trying to fit in some theatrical costume making for an Illusionist and some reproduction costume making for historical houses. Phew, no wonder I'm tired !

Amelie isn't sure about cream cheese !

Riley loves playing up to the camera

On the family front, I continue to look after Miss Amelie (3 in January) one day per week. We're expecting another grandson in November (a baby brother for Riley aged 3) and Amelie will have a baby brother in January on her birthday ! We had a great family wedding on July 2nd when my middle daughter Colleen (a high school TAS teacher) married Adam (an electrician). I'm afraid she's inherited some of my perfectionism and had all the arrangements made by late January when school commenced despite only becoming engaged in early December. The wedding gown was an American designer gown copy ordered online from a Chinese dressmaker and we were very lucky and happy with the results. To personalise it I removed a waistline beading treatment and replaced it with rhinestones as in the original design. The theme was black and white elegance so the bridesmaids wore short black dresses and I made small dove grey bolero jackets in case of cold weather.

These professional shots from Tindale Images were amazing

The bride went from no veil to a floor length concoction I made with rhinestone treatment on the hair comb pushed in under her up-do.

Then on 21st September my youngest daughter (on the right with darker hair in the photo above) turned 26 and received a proposal and engagement ring too, but they've decided not to marry at least until Andrew finishes his degree in 12 months or so. They've been together over 12 years so a little longer isn't a problem for them, or the poor (as in "broke") parents either LOL

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Are you a Planner or a Plunger ?

Today while catching up with my blog reading via my Google Reader I found this very enlightening post linked from Erica Spinks at Creative Dabbling. I've always had difficulty with planning, whether it's the day's activities, a piece of writing, sewing a garment or stitching. When any documentation, step by step photos taken or instructions need to be writen it's usually after at least one sample has been made up. When I try to slow down the creative process to sketch ideas etc. it usually stifles it completely. Perhaps I just enjoy the adrenaline rush of working fast without a clear idea of the end product? My 4 beautiful children who all arrived within 7 years are evidence that my efforts at family planning weren't so great as well, LOL. I don't write shopping lists either, my expeditions involve pushing the trolley up and down the aisles and grabbing the needed items. Lately however I've been buying my groceries online where I still browse the "catalogue" of store items and choose my purchases, my frequently purchased items" list isn't filled in.

So, it seems I'm not a terrible person after all, just a Plunger rather than a Planner. Which "club" do you belong to?

The photo above is a bodice detail of a recent serendipitous purchase on Ebay, taken from the vendor's listing. This 1820's babies long gown (not neccessarily a christening gown) is one of 2 that my dear husband bought on my behalf. I'm just thrilled with them both, bought for a modest amount since they are both quite old and not wearable due to some condition issues. I'm going to display them after some conservation. I've been buying quite a bit lately, thank goodness I'm not registered myself or I'd be spending even MORE time on ebay watching for rare and unusual pieces to add to my collection of vintage underwear or costume.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Pantaloons and Petticoats Exhibition

This is the publicity photo sent to my local newspaper by the President of Parramatta and District Historical Society for the current 3 month exhibition at Hambledon Cottage Museum at Parramatta. I do look a bit tired after working some crazy hours to get the exhibition mounted and ready to hang by 1st April. I'm yet to take some detailed photographs of the 30 textile items and 30 or so vintage corset advertisements and Fashion Plates from the Edwardian Era. Sydneysiders can see the Exhibition on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 11 am till 3.30pm at Hambledon Cottage Museum cnr Gregory Place and Hassall Street Parramatta, entry $4 and $3 concession. The Exhibition finishes on June 30th 2011.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Report on my recent trip to Canberra

Thanks to my online friend Doreen I DID manage that trip to Canberra to see the Exhibition of the Ballets Russes costumes at the National Gallery. I caught the 6.10 am train from my home to meet the CountryLink train at Strathfield station for the 4 hour 15 minute trip, arriving just after 11 am on the Thursday. My little portable DVD player with earphones came in very handy for a movie or 2 during the trip up and back.

Doreen met me at the station and we drove to the National Botanical Gardens to see an exhibition of large scale lace that had been recommended to me, called "Rhythm Interrupted - Life Redirected" by Jenny Rees and Vicki Taylor. 15 large panels 1.22 metre x 80 cm were worked in linen and raffia thread in bobbin lace with non-traditional plastics and chunky materials as embellishments to depict the progression of life before, during and after a bushfire. The girls used Jenny's experience of losing her home in the January 2003 Canberra bushfires and the more recent Victorian bushfires as their inspiration for the works.

Doreen and her lovely husband Stephen fed and watered me and gave me a much appreciated comfortable room for the night. That night after dinner Doreen showed me all her wonderful textile work and we talked and talked like we'd known each other for years. We even chose a similar friendship gift for each other, crazy quilted 3D hearts. On Sunday afternoon after a leisurely lunch we visited the Ballets Russes exhibition, and I ran into 2 fellow Embroiderers' Guild members also visiting the Gallery, what a small world! Fabulous exhibition, can't believe the costumes were largely trompe l'oeil effect with paint and cheap fabric. Finally Doreen delivered me to the return train in ample time for a fellow traveller to take a photo of us on the station seat. What a great trip, thanks Doreen and Stephen for your hospitality and friendship, must do it again some time.

Beginning a new course - Intermediate Historical and Contemporary Embroidery

HUGE apologies for such a long break between blog posts ! Finally the Sydney night time temps have started to fall which means easier, more restful sleeping and I'm starting to get my energy back a little. Also I've started my Intermediate Historical and Contemporary Embroidery Certificate Course at the Embroiderers' Guild NSW and everyone knows that the time alloted for homework assignments is NEVER enough, no matter how organised you are, LOL. Our class meets a different tutor each month over 2 years to study a different subject.

In February we looked at how to research Embroidery using the Guild and outside resources. We each chose a different piece of work from the Guild's extensive archives and studied it, then worked a sample from the piece. Finally we designed a contemporary version of that sample. Fitting the whole assignment on the set A3 page (equal to 2 A4 or standard pages) was the hardest part, but I succeeded eventually after much editing then trimming and gluing printed pages.

This was my chosen piece, an embroidered sage green wool jacket by Beatrice Russell from our Collection, featuring 12 graduated needlewoven motifs in silk thread on front, back and sleeves. Stunning !!

Above is my historical sample being set up. I hooped up a piece of hand dyed felted wool fabric in a similar colour to the jacket which I was lucky enough to find at the CraftExpo in Sydney the week before. Then I threaded my warps through a central point (Stef Francis variegated silk perle) and anchored them in the binding of the hoop for some tension.

I chose to work just one small segment of a motif, which I called coral or anenomes rather than stars as the catalogue card stated.
Although I couldn't hope to match the beautiful colours Beatrice had hand dyed for her original piece, I chose some colours similar to hers in perle cotton and silk threads. I anchored my thread on the back then started needleweaving using a back stitch, graduating to over one thread/under one weaving when I divided off, then wrapping towards the end of each warp. Luckily I choose a technique I have done before for my first assignment, no use re-inventing the wheel as they say. However I'd forgotten how long this technique takes and how fiddly, but the results were quite good. I wish I had time to work more of the motif, but the aim was to show an understanding of the technique used, and I did that. Here is the weaving completed, and below the finished motif segment after all the ends were plunged through the wool and secured with small stitches in machine thread on the rear, as in goldwork embroidery.

Then came my contemporary version of the motif, with gold beading wire warps and variegated knitted tubular rayon ribbon as the back stitched filling. Cute !

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Trip to Canberra to see Ballets Russes costumes

Photo from National Gallery website, see below

I've decided to take matters into my own hands and have arranged a trip in 2 weeks to Canberra on the train to see the Ballets Russes costumes at the National Gallery of Australia. I had been hoping to go during the holidays with my husband, but alas the result from his recent back surgery hasn't been all we had hoped for and he's not up to the 4 1/2 hour trip. So I'm hoping to meet my friend Doreen of Creative Meanderings and see the exhibition with her. I always think it's much more meaningful to go with a fellow enthusiast to an exhibition, don't you?

Hot, hot, hot !

Sydneysiders trying to cool down on Bondi beach - photo by Brett Parkes, Tourism Australia

The weather here in Sydney at the moment is just terrible! Too hot to do anything except sit in the coolest rooms in the house and complain that it's too HOT to go out. Seriously it's been 41 degrees C (thats 105 degrees F) today, it was nearly as hot yesterday and will be around this temperature till Sunday. Nighttime temps. are hovering around the 20 degrees mark outside, but the indoors don't get a chance to cool down much before the next hot day comes along. Sleeping is optional. I've been gathering all the materials for a few small stitching projects in the cool room and have finished a few this week. As soon as it cools down enough, I'll share some photos !!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Floods and searching for perfection

A snake clings to a post in a flooded paddock

Apologies in advance for a long post

We've had a terrible week here in Australia, torrential rain, flash flooding and rising rivers up and down the east coast and fires on the west coast. Brisbane CBD, the 3rd largest city in Australia, was flooded for the first time in 36 years. Lives were lost in inland Queensland and thousands of families face financial ruin with flooded homes and most if not all of their worldly possessions ruined. The people are very stoic though with most pledging to clean up and rebuild. Today on the TV we're seeing huge bands of volunteers registering to help with the cleanup and the Army sent in to re-establish major infrastructure. Apparently they are comparing the damage to Hurricane Katrina in the US, it'll take years to recover, if ever. I'm very lucky to live in the outer suburbs of Sydney in New South Wales, well away from the immediate danger although we have had some very poor weather due to La Nina patterns in the Pacific. The TV footage has been graphic and appeals for donations are running, if you would like to contribute, thankyou so much on behalf of all those affected.

I've been trying to escape now and then through the internet. One of my favourite webfriends Patricia Eaton Birds Nest on the Ground posted a photo of one of her collection of vintage quilts, a wonderful old log cabin design. The quilt isn't perfect and is falling apart in a lot of places but Pat wishes she knew its story. Recently I added some pieces to my collection of Victorian/Edwardian underwear which need repairs. I wish I knew the story behind those pieces, who wore them and when, and why were they pulled apart / damaged as they are now? Did they belong to a large family where they were handed down till they fell apart but escaped the "rag bag", did the owner outgrow them and was getting ready to alter them when circumstances changed through illness/ death / marriage? Don't you wish textiles could talk, VBG?

It got me thinking about our modern quest for the perfect stitch, the beautifully made garments and quilts, the exhibition quality embroideries. Some of my most treasured things are embroideries done by my grandmothers, who were good needlewomen but not experts. There is a certain charm in the stitching, little imperfections that speak of working in poor light without the benefit of modern magnification devices and stitched after a long day keeping house. Some of them are stamped linen pieces which were widely available for the needlewoman to buy and stitch up to decorate her home. Should we dismiss them as not worthy of our admiration or collecting? Some examples will be re-purposed for other crafts which is good if it saves them from bin, but I hope some are preserved in their original state too. Then there are the utility quilts, made for the original purpose of keeping warm and adding some cheer to austere surroundings. They were often assembled by amateur needlewomen too, using magazines and books to learn how to do it. The publications of early 1800s to 1920's did not have glossy photos to guide the makers, and offered very basic instructions. In my 1920's copy of the "Big Book of Needlework" by Odhams there is one page of text describing the types of patchwork (crazy, geometrical and American) and one of line illustrations. In the next chapter there are 10 pages devoted to quilting including 3 pages of line drawings showing suggested designs. Despite having no glossy magazines, patterns, BOM services or the internet to help the makers, books of vintage quilts are illustrated with wonderful examples of colourful quilts worked by needlewomen who shared their knowledge while around the quilting frame, at social gatherings, or with their neighbours and friends. Think of the quilting scenes in "How to make an American Quilt".

How then did we arrive at the current trend for perfection in all the needle arts? Why do we so frequently unpick (or frog as our US friends call it) our work because we aren't happy with it? Should we leave our imperfections alone and learn from any mistakes so that they're not repeated? Isn't the joy supposed to be IN the making, not the result? Or have we evolved to the stage that we HAVE to have an exhibition quality piece everytime we pick up a needle? I consider myself a reasonably good technician, I can do lots of different techniques, some better than others, and I often wish I could do better. It frustrates me, spoiling my enjoyment. Lately I've been re-thinking why this can be. Shouldn't I enjoy the process (I hate the term JOURNEY) rather than the end result? Is that what the Slow Cloth movement is all about?

So, I ask you these questions and look forward to your comments.