Sunday, February 25, 2007

Stitching afternoon with Sare

Sarah and I had a stitching afternoon for Ben and Sunny's (unborn) baby today. As you can see, we made ourselves comfortable, setting ourselves up at the garden table with cold drinks, nibbles and watermelon chunks.

Sare made a start to sewing satin binding on a flannelette bunny rug, while I made some progress with hand quilting the pink baby quilt. She's convinced this bub will be a boy, so chose a predominantly blue froggy design for her rug, while I'm convinced it will be a girl. I do, however, have a baby boy's quilt in the early stages - just in case!

Stash expansion

I hadn't intended to buy anything at the Australasian Quilt Convention, but those fabric pheromones seduced me. Fortunately the new scrappy reproduction quilt I've just started needs small amounts of many different fabrics - so I have an excuse to pick up the odd fat quarter.

I was congratulating myself for only picking up half a dozen fat quarters and a bundle of charm squares - until I unpacked my bag. As you can see from the photo those pheromones deceived me again.

On the way to board my Virgin flight home I was stopped by a female inspector for a random explosives check. After I had passed the bag check as well as the wand-over-the clothing test, I smiled and quipped that I had only been to a quilt show. Oh dear, she was not amused.

By comparison, the two policemen who were peering into the hall when I arrived in the morning, and who asked me what was happening, were astonished at the eyecatching quilts displayed by stallholders and the steady stream of excited quilters passing through the doors.

"So, is this quilting popular?" one of them asked me. I educated him.

Friday, February 23, 2007

"Quilt Like an Egyptian"

17 months ago I was here in the 900 year old covered Tentmakers' Souk in Cairo, gobsmacked by the intricately appliqueed quilts hanging from every inch of wallspace inside the tiny shops, being introduced by Jenny Bowker ( to the men whose skilful hands create these intricate designs, men she has come to call her friends, and drinking cups of soothing mint tea.

Quilt after quilt was auditioned for me, until at last I decided on this burgundy-toned one, an elaborate symphony of lotus flowers, symbolising long life, which now hangs in my dining room, halfway across the world.

Inside, though, I felt wretched. Discharged from a Cairo private hospital only the night before, after spending 3 days in intensive care for a particularly nasty case of dysentery, I struggled with queasiness, and my body felt so weak that I could only walk a short distance before needing to rest.

So when I heard that Jenny was staging an exhibition of these spectacular quilts at the Australasian Quilt Convention in Melbourne, and had brought out two of the quilters as well, I simply had to go. I just had to see them again, this time without the fog of nausea.

That is why, for the second time this week, I left the house this morning at a time when I would normally still have been well and truly in the land of Nod. I flew to Melbourne just for the day, on my own, and had a wonderful adventure!

The photo below shows Ahmed Nagib, one of only around 40 quilters who still keep this traditional craft alive. Just as he would have done back home in Cairo, he sat all day stitching and trimming his appliquee pieces as curious visitors to the AQC's "Quilt Like an Egyptian" exhibition craned forward for a closer peek at his work.

[Update: Thank you to Helen who has pointed the way for me to Pam Holland's blog. Pam has made a lively video of the AQC in general, and Ahmed in particular, and here is the link . You can click on the link to her blog too, on the sidebar above, and there you'll find more of Pam's videos. They really bring the experience alive!]

Hovering nearby ready to translate was his nephew, the moustachioed Ayman Ahmed, who warmly greeted me with "I remember you!". Was this mere Egyptian charm, I wondered, or are all Jenny's friends so deeply embedded in his memory? (Please don't disillusion me)

In days gone by these quilts would have been made to hang from the sides of tents on celebratory occasions or during Ramadan at the end of the day when the faithful were permitted to break their fast. Instead these days fabric printed with these patterns is rolled out by the metre for such decoration, and Egyptians no longer aspire to cover their walls with quilts from the Tentmakers' Souk.

[Update: Also from Pam Holland's always entertaining and informative blog is this link to an interesting article on the tentmakers.]

The quilts were wonderful, and on this first day of the AQC almost every one bore a red "sold" sticker, bringing their makers more income than they would generally have earnt in a whole year, as Jenny remarked in her lecture "Egypt: From the Tentmakers' Souk to the City of the Dead".

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Making history

Early mornings and I enjoy but a nodding acquaintance. I'd vastly prefer to burn the midnight oil. So reach for your calendars, folks, mark them with Texta and celebrate this historic occasion. Let it be known that I threw off my quilt and rose from my comfortable bed at the uncivilised hour of 5.30am not once, but twice, this week!

Tuesday morning saw me striding down the road before 6am to our park by the water where I joined a couple of hundred neighbours in time to see the huge superstructure of the Queen Mary 2 looming out of the darkness, surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of small craft with their navigation lights winking as they escorted her into Sydney Harbour.

She made such a slow and stately progress that by the time she had berthed at Garden Island the sun was well and truly up, shimmering off the city skyscrapers, and as I strolled back home for breakfast I found myself actually enjoying this early morning caper and wishing I could do it more often. Alas! the spirit is willing, but the body is just plain slothful.

The Royal Prince Edward Yacht Club at Point Piper (see photo below) was an excellent vantage point from which to watch The Queen Mary 2's little sister, the QE2, arrive later in the day.

Like many Sydneysiders we saw the visit of the two Queens as an excuse to get together with good friends and celebrate by the harbour on what was a quintessentially Sydney summer day - balmy and clear, but with a light zephyr blowing over the water.

However, unlike many who flocked in their thousands to the city to see the fireworks and gasp over these two reminders of a more elegant age, we were fortunate enough to make it home after our barbecue tea without becoming stuck in the gridlocked traffic that took much of the gloss off the experience (if talk-back radio is to be believed) and saw our Premier apologising the next day for being "caught by surprise".

The QE2 off Point Piper as she makes her progress towards Circular Quay.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Happy Birthday, Gail!

Gail is a special quilting buddy who picks me up every Monday morning and makes sure I arrive at Paddington Quilters on time. Sometimes we talk so much that we miss the turn off, so we just go via "the scenic route". Who cares!

She always looks glamorous, and especially so in this photo taken on her (Big "0") birthday.

Happy birthday, Gail!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Valentine's Day

This was the message stamped on the tablecloth at the restaurant - cute!

I spent today with two of my loves!

This afternoon I started a new quilt, in a class with a bunch of my dearest quilting buddies. Now, don't try to tell me I still have (at least) two unfinished projects because I simply won't listen. This quilt is gorgeous - a scrappy reproduction medallion quilt which will take as many varied pieces of fabric as I can collect. The photo below is my central medallion piece, from Julie Wallace's Saint Croix Collection for Yuwa Fabrics. I love its dusty pinks - and I'm even warming to the rusty browns.

The top photo is my first love, though - my darling husband, Boak. I snapped him while we were sitting in the garden sipping champagne and nibbling pate in the cool of the early evening, before he took me out to dinner at a little local eatery. A heavenly way to finish the day!

Feeling good!

Knowing where to find exquisite African Violets (see previous post) isn't my friend Jan's only skill. She also runs exercise classes for "mature" ladies, and I never fail to walk out of there on Tuesday mornings with a spring in my step, and feeling as if all those sluggish blood cells have been given a good move along. Life feels good, and I have a smile on my face. We all do!

Some mornings, though, the sun glinting off Sydney Harbour , and the serenity of the beachside scene, just adds to the feeling of well-being, and this morning was one of those days.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Do you like my finished quilt?

No, I'm not referring to this beautiful creation in aqua, teal and white, carefully hand appliqueed by my friend Gay and machine quilted by Nic Bridges Gay brought it to Paddington Quilters this morning for "Show and Tell" and we all agreed that it has prize-winning potential! Nic and Gay won first prize for a collaborative quilt at Birmingham the year before last, and the girls at Paddingtom Quilters will be watching to see if this stunner repeats that success.

If you look carefully, though, you'll see a tiny part of the border of Lachy and Merry's wedding quilt, "Alhambra Romance" which I've finally finished quilting - 4 months after their wedding day.
Later note: I've just posted a photo of Lachy and Merry (above) with their quilt the day before their wedding, just after I had given it to them. Yes, I know it appears finished - but I had actually just quilted it lightly all over, as well as around the borders so that I could bind it. It hung in the marquee at their wedding reception, then I whisked it away so that I could finish quilting around every "tile". It was inspired by the tiles on a wall of the Alhambra in Spain, which they visited on the overseas holiday when Lachy proposed to Merry. They were married on the 10th day of the 10th month, exactly 10 years after their first date! You can't rush these things....

It's the little things

Two reasons for joy last night!

Firstly, I discovered that an African Violet, a birthday gift from my dear friend Jan last year, has re-flowered. Most houseplants at "Chez Jobbins" survive under a policy of benign neglect, and all I've been doing is giving this little plant, on the bathroom window sill, a drink of water every time I brush my teeth. No fertiliser, just water. Isn't it gorgeous?

Then the rain came down. Torrential, pounding, drenching delicious rain! It was so exciting to lie in bed listening to it drumming on the copper roof below the bedroom windows. I can't remember when I last fell asleep to the sound of rain.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Weeding and Feeding

One of the joys of belonging to St Mark's is that the church building and its surrounding gardens look so loved. It's in a prominent position, at a busy roundabout, and the message it sends, to the people who drive past every day, is that here is a place people really care about.

And the reason they care about it because their Christian faith is important to them.

The hedges and ornamental beds are always bright with colour, and the bank of agapanthus, planted in memory of a very loved past rector who was fond of preaching on "agape" (Greek for "selfless love"), is just spectacular with splashes of purple-blue in December.

So well tended is the garden that you'd think that the planting, clipping, weeding and cultivating was done by a garden service - but no. Every Friday morning a small band of around six volunteers from our congregation cheerfully turns up do whatever is needed, undeterred by heat, wind, drizzling rain, or cold. Di, in the photo above, is the "Head Gardener".

But the most wonderful thing for us is that once a month they come along here to the rectory and help us to keep the garden ship-shape. We all work together, and for 2 hours the garden is weeded, pruned, landscaped and whipped back into shape. It's positively unbelievable what is achieved in such a short time. I call them the "garden fairies" (though some of them might protest loudly at this!)

Today they came to us for the first time this year, and we really needed the reinforcements!While the men pruned the dead branches from a tree that had fallen victim to the dry conditions, Moo tidied up the mondo grass border, the others weeded and clipped and raked, Boak got covered in "cobblers pegs" clearing the undergrowth from a forgotten area down the side of the house, and I tackled the horrid creeper that is threatening to cascade down from the wall into our topiaried lillypillies.

Of course, after all that expenditure of energy, a healthy morning tea is called for!

Friday, February 9, 2007

Liccy's Special Day

Some colours and some people just seem to go together, and if I had to name the colour that my friend Liccy loves best it would definitely be PINK. Bright or pale, shocking or coral, PINK is her colour.

So for her birthday on Wednesday I cut PINK dipladenias to create a centrepiece on the dining table, I arranged bright PINK serviettes in the empty wine glasses to look festive and PINK balloons on the mantelpiece, the guests arrived to a front gate festooned with PINK balloons, while she blew out a PINK candle on her birthday strudel.

And what colour did the Birthday Girl wear to her party?


[But doesn't that new necklace and earring ensemble, a special birthday gift, look stunning with her dress?]

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Back to work

It's official. My lazy days of summer are over, and it's time to get back to the normal routine. That was the shortest January I can remember!

Yesterday was a huge day for both of us, beginning with 8am church. All the children's activities during the 10am service started up again, including the Creche which I look after, and the children seemed to enjoy themselves. I had washed all the toys on Friday, made a fresh batch of play dough, and bought a new table for the little ones to sit at.

In the evening we hosted a BBQ for the 5.30pm congregation (around 40 folk) in our garden and it looked so pretty when we'd set up that I had to take a photo of part of it. By the time they all arrived after church, with the citronella flares lit, it resembled the set of "Survivor" - except that there were no mozzies, we ate a delicious meal (roast pork), there was no grumbling and when the time came they all left voluntarily. Just in time for us to watch the last few exciting deliveries in the one-day cricket.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Woo hoo! Another quilt finished!

Once upon a time, back in the days when I was new to both quilting and eBay, I bought a bundle of gorgeous charm squares in floral pinks and greens, my very favourite colour combination for quilts. I stitched them together, alternating with white-on-white squares, and even added setting triangles along the side and a border.
However I came seriously unstuck when I began to machine quilt it. In a moment of madness I chose to use a variegated quilting thread in pastel shades, but after several passes across the quilt I realised I had made a serious mistake. The beige and pink shades looked passable, but every now and then a blue length would show up in a totally inappropriate area of the pattern.

A more dedicated quilter would have unpicked the machine stitching, but not me - life's too short to unpick metres and metres of machine quilting. I folded it up and hid it in the cupboard where it has languished ever since. Until last week when I decided to have another go at finishing it, using the variegated pastel thread again, and discovered that the more I quilted, the less noticeable the variegated thread became.

This will never be an heirloom quilt. It's destined to be draped over a couch in my pink and green lounge room where it looks quite pretty. However I've finished another quilt, and that's a great feeling!

Friday, February 2, 2007

A day at the Golf Championships

Today I went to the Australian Women's Open Golf Championships with two lovely friends - and realised why I'll never be a proper golfer. These beautiful, fit and dedicated young women not only played eighteen holes under extraordinarily challenging conditions, but then wound down by retiring to the driving range to whack away at more than a few more buckets of balls. I would have been up in the clubhouse relaxing with a long, cool gin and tonic!

Much to my disappointment cameras were not allowed, but I still wanted to bring you a taste of this exciting event. So I offer this photo ... The ball here is not unlike one of the balls used by the players - it's white, round, and has dimples. The grass, too, bears a striking resemblance to the grass at Royal Sydney - it's green. But that's where the similarity ends. Those beautiful, undulating fairways, which we were permitted to cross at certain points, were so clipped and finely groomed I just wanted to lie down on their cool green carpet. I've never seen grass like it!