Friday, 2 December 2011

What we carry with us

We live in a wonderful street. Well we back onto a wonderful street. It is a tiny little Square accessed by an odd lane way. Most people don't know it is there and others who have taken a wrong turn stumble into it looking confused. The square is filled with an eccentric collection of houses and families to match. At the moment there must be at least 20 kids who live on the square and since Lewis was old enough to crawl he has loved pottering around the quiet cul de sac watching the big kids run, playing with the littlies or riding his bike. On sunny afternoons as I watch the kids run and play and I chat to the wonderful mums I often think 'bite me Ramsey St!'

Last night was the Gordon Sq Christmas party. Tables were dragged into the street and gradually filled with food, BBQ's were lit and most importantly, the jumping castle was inflated. As the sun set, the street filled. Drinks were drunk, food was eaten, tales were told, fun was had.

With Rowan asleep in the pouch I watched Lewis. He watched the jumping castle wide eyed. After some sweet encouragement from the big boys (and mummy who had to get on as well) he overcame his reservations and discovered the joy of jumping.

He jumped and jumped and jumped. He played, he ran, he ate (mostly chips), he soaked it all in. One of the fathers dressed up as Santa and gave out presents, the kids sang carols together.

As the evening settled in and bedtime came and went, Rich brought out a story book and a blanket and Lewis eventually fell asleep on a pile of cushions in the middle of the road, under the stars.

I turned to a neighbour as I watched Lewis sleep and said 'Will he remember this? I hope he remembers' and she said 'He might not remember but he will always have it in him'

I hope he does, I think he will.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Mac and me

The first computer that we ever had was a Mac. It was matte grey/cream and boxy with a non colour screen and a colourful apple logo.

I distinctly remember the Apple, etched into the grey and slightly embossed. The computer must have come with stickers because that Apple image was stuck on various things around our house for years. I can't remember the year when the first Mac arrived, it must have been around 1984 when my brother was born and my dad was writing his PhD. I remember the enthusiasm that my father had for this piece of technology and as a child (4?5?), the enthusiasm was infectious. My sister and I used to sit in the little study in our old house in Sydney and draw clunky pictures using the mouse and then print them out on the old dot matrix printer.

A few years later I made a plate at school. You know the kind that you draw and then they get laminated onto a plastic plate? I drew a futuristic looking punk sitting in front of a computer with a little coloured apple carefully drawn on it (good branding apple!!).

I was at the perfect age when the yummy looking imac G3s were released. A pink, blue, yellow or green computer? Yes please! A fashion statement and Internet access? Bring it on!

In 2002 I bought my very own ibook with my own money that I had made making documentaries. I was so proud of myself. My ibook was shiny white and I bought a cool backpack with a special laptop compartment that had a label on it that said I was now part of the global digirati. At 21, with my laptop on my back full of itunes music, iphoto pictures and film ideas, I thought I was the bees knees. My trusty ibook travelled to London with me, adorned with Emily Strange stickers and was soon joined by an ipod as I said 'see ya later' to my disc man (so 90s). I bought my ipod in the Apple store in Regent Street, oohing at the anachronism of the centuries old shop building adorned with huge glowing apples logos.

A few years later (with a little help from my dad) I upgraded my ibook to the one I sit typing on. A sleek black macbook full of pictures of my babies, my music and plans for the future. My dining room table always has at least two mac books on it and at times, usuallly when my family is in town, there can be four or five.

My latest addition is my beloved iphone 4. Rarely out of my hand, this device calls my friends, sends messages, checks my emails, takes my photos, browses the web and facebook, stops me from getting lost, stores several books I am reading and it even helped me time my contractions when I was in labour.

Oh I have had my fair share of foot stamping moments directed at the apple corporation. A soggy ipod, laptops with very short lives, hardware that is a bit crap, the spinning wheel of death and I just had a conversation with my partner about the greed of the corporation and its lack of corporate philanthropy. But. But... When I heard today that Steve Jobs was dead my mind cast back to that very first mac in 1984 (ish) and I realised that most of my life has been stored on an apple computer in some way. From childhood drawings to school assignments, music, films, letters, invoices, photos of my wedding, my children's quote Salman Rushdie 'He (Steve Jobs) was one of the great architects of the real'.

I am a Mac.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Happy Birthday Quilt

Not too long ago my fantastic mother turned 60.

My Mum

I wanted to make something really special for her birthday that she could keep and cherish. I have been planning this quilt for about 9 months. The morning sickness and exhaustion of early pregnancy put a major hold on any creative endeavours and then a Christmas trip to the UK and a post Christmas trip to a flooded Brisbane increased my delay in actually choosing a quilt to make let alone buying fabric and actually starting. In January I browsed through my friend Melissa Fox's quilting books and magazines trying to choose a pattern. Nothing felt right and eventually I settled on a Japanese style pattern with large applique circles on it. I then spent months browsing for fabric and found some great options but I just never committed to actually buying. In the end I decided that the pattern was just wrong for Mum. So, on the spur of the moment I went to my trusty fall back fabric store Bird Textile. I was so lucky, in the remnants packs I happened to find some AMAZING large prints that were too beautiful to pass up. I walked out with three beautiful large 'blocks' in blue and a few packs of green and brown remnants to make up the rest of the quilt. Next step, design a quilt.

Two of the three main 'blocks' that I feel in love with at Bird

I browsed online quilt blogs for HOURS and stared at the fabric I had for HOURS and then I asked pretty much everyone around me for advice (even my midwife during an antenatal check up!!). I just didn't 'feel' how the quilt was supposed to look and I was unsure how to best feature and integrate the three main blocks that I had my heart set on. I started making Flying Geese from this great tutorial and the quilt started to feel a bit more focused. I then saw some great traditional Japanese blocks online and decided that they fit in the style of the bird textile prints.

These blocks were a challenge I can tell you! I had seen a picture but had no pattern or measurements so I made them up. I have a full page of scrawled maths in my notebook from trying to figure out how big to cut every strip so that, after the seam allowance was taken into consideration, they would end up being the 12" I needed to fit with my other blocks. Yeah that kinda worked... I then decided that they needed to be 'on point' to really work. This involved yet more maths, thank god for the Internet that helped me work out the formula to come up with the correct size corner triangles. whew. I am not 100% happy with these blocks. They look a bit like something else to me (even though they are not) I won't bias your opinion by telling you but see if you see it for yourselves...

The quilt came together over months of bits of sewing here and bits of sewing there and bits of sewing done by the marvellous Sarah Mac (she made a lot of Geese for me). I knew I had to finish the quilt before the baby was born or Mum would be 70 before it was ever gifted to her. After a few whole weekend sewing efforts I hand stitched the last stitch last night...4 days after my due date. My husband thinks that I haven't been able to give birth until the quilt is finished...I guess we shall see now :)

Gift wrapped at last

The full quilt

oooh draped :)

close up detail

Lovely Bird Textile binding

A happy Mum with her new quilt

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Little Birds

It has been a long time between posts. it has also been a long time between projects. Between blizzards, floods, birthdays and growing babies (inside babies and outside ones) I haven't had much time to spend in my spare room or in the blogsphere. I have also felt decidedly uncreative...until this little man arrived in the world.

Hugo Gilbert Tomkins

If that fresh little being wasn't going to get me back in a sewing mood then nothing was. I was given this book for my birthday in December and the quilt I made is from it. I changed the dimensions to make it bigger but generally I stuck to the pattern. Here it is...

The fabric is mostly a Bird Textile scrap pack with a few scraps of Anna Maria Horner (the deep blue) and Tula Pink (the deep red) thrown in. The binding is also Bird Textile who now sell pre made binding (yay).

This was a quilt of firsts for me. Most importantly it is the first time I have tried applique and free motion quilting

Each little bird's body is appliqued on to the fabric with a fusible papery thingy then I free motion quilted around each body (to help secure it) and then added plumes and tail feathers etc. The style is supposed to be 'sketchy' looking and let me tell you there is no way it wasn't going to look sketchy!!! It is going to be a while before I try to free motion quilt a whole quilt.

The back of the quilt and a close up of the little owl

Hugo is a Brisbane baby and I wanted to be able to give the quilt to his Mum in person during my recent trip. I was no where near finished when I boarded the plane in Sydney but the amazing Melissa Fox lent me her machine and expertise for a day in Brisbane to finish it off. I have known Melissa for about 10 years now and we had a big laugh about the fact that 10 years ago we could never have imagined that our kids would be playing together while we sat and quilted together!! Melissa taught me how to machine bind the quilt which I have never done before and also lent me some lovely multi coloured thread (it is a special kind with a special name but I have forgotten, I'll find out if anyone is interested).

The binding and our kids having a stand off over pink luggage

I hope Hugo likes his little quilt as he grows up, in this picture he is a little preoccupied to notice...

Katie, Hugo's mum made this amazing mobile for his room and I think the quilt fits in quite well...

Sunday, 7 November 2010


In my last post I promised pictures of the Indian patchwork that I made for Parramasala so here they are.

getting rigged into position

hung during the bump in

and finally in all its lit glory with performers on stage.

Well done to my friend Jenn for conceptualising such a great backdrop. I think it looks wonderful, it is so rewarding to see my work in such a practical application (and to actually see it all laid out for the first time!)

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Pinwheel for giants

Ever since I started quilting I have wanted to make some pinwheel blocks. I just never thought that I would end up making one as big as my house.

My friend is working on an upcoming festival called Parramasala. In order to dress one of the performance spaces she had ordered 20 2meter x 2meter pieces of Indian fabric. She asked me if I would be interested in sewing the pieces together into a patchwork backdrop of sorts. My first paid sewing work!

I knew that the area that needed to be covered by fabric was about 14meters wide by 6 meters long but apart from that when a huge box packed full of fabric arrived at my door I pretty much had free rein. I wanted to do SOMETHING a little creative with the fabric but at the same time I was quaking at the thought of wrangling 14 meters of fabric through my grandmothers old sewing machine. 14 meters is BIG people. My solution was to create a simple pinwheel in the center.

Laying out folded squares of fabric to check colours

My numbering system

The real challenge of the project was not being able to look at anything that I had sewn together because of the size of the fabric. I literally didn't have enough room in my house to lay things out to see if the seams were in the right places. I had to draw a pattern on paper and devise a numbering system for each piece of fabric to try to keep track of what went where. How organised of me!

Fist pinwheel block sewn together

Still I really wanted to look at the pinwheel when it was done so I channeled Christo tried hanging it over my back upstairs veranda. Turns out just half the pinwheel was bigger than my house.

My pattern

R and L coming to find out why the living room had just been plunged into darkness

After a few mishaps and a few unpicked (very long) seams I THINK the final product is correct. I still haven't seen it all laid out. My creation has made its way to the Stud Factory (best name ever) to get eyelets along to top so that it can be rigged. I will post pictures of it in all its festival glory soon!

Monday, 11 October 2010

Sleep 'til you're hungry, eat 'til you're sleepy

When it is Sunday and outside it looks like this:

There is no choice but to do this:


Two lovely friends live a convenient 10 meters, if that, from my front door (in a house, they don't sort of camp at my front door, we just have a skinny street, an alley really). So when the rain was whipping the spring jasmine outside we both expressed our desire to bake and more importantly eat, baked goods. A few hours later I was lucky enough to open the front door and be met by these:

I made this:

There was supposed to be an element of competition to the Bake Off but seeing as I was instructed 'not to win' by my opponent, I don't think we were taking the competitive side very seriously.

But to give credit where credit is due my pecan pie was slightly undercooked and some of the oozey (but yummy) pie filling had oozed under the pastry as it cooked (how? I have no idea). On the other hand, Jenn's chocolate and salted caramel biscuits were LUSH. Plus, they were not made from a recipe, they were invented in Jenn's ( i do believe that 2 batches had to be made though before they were deemed edible). So I declare the winner of the Rainy Sunday Bake Off Round 1 to be Jenn Blake!!

Who wants to join us for round 2??