Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Kaffe Snowballs for an Archbishop's Wife - Beautiful Beginnings

This is the story of the creation of a very special quilt. I project managed it, but the heavy lifting was done by dozens of women working together, designing, shopping for fabric, stitching, and contributing financially towards the batting and backing fabric, the big ticket items. 

Then there's the most generous contribution of all, that of our amazingly gifted long arm quilter, Linda Billett (Artisan Quilting)who took our cobbled together collection of blocks and made them into a stunning quilt, fit for an Archbishop's wife.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. 

A little less than two years before our Anglican (Episcopal) Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen, was due to retire, the Sydney ministry wives decided to make a quilt as a retirement gift for his wife, Christine.

Whether it was because I'd played a part in the making of farewell gifts from the ministry wives for the three previous Archbishops, or whether it was obvious that, when it comes to making quilts together, 'I'm just a gal who can't say no', I quickly found myself heading up a small but enthusiastic committee of women whose husbands, like mine, were Anglican ministers in Sydney.

We began by meeting for coffee at my home to toss around design ideas. 

Our quilt needed to -

* Reflect Christine's love of the colour blue, and her interests which range from children's literature to grandchildren, flowers and gardens, hospitality, travel, reading, and of course the friends she and Peter have made over the years in their various parishes. 

* Consist of parts that could be easily separated for many stitchers to work on independently.

* Be an easily achievable pattern for stitchers of any skill level.

Finally we agreed our inspiration would be the Wedding Snowball Quilt from Kaffe Fassett's V & A Quilts.

We bought a selection of navy fabrics for the corner triangles of our (6.5in unfinished) snowball blocks, cut them into 2.5in strips, and sent these to our volunteers with instructions to make the blocks. We asked them to use fabrics from their own stashes as the feature fabrics, only specifying that these should be predominantly blue.

What a wonderful assortment of blocks came back to us after 6 months! Butterflies, maps of the world, teacups and teapots, children, tiny footprints, lots of flowers, and a handful of these exquisitely hand embroidered blocks featuring churches where Peter and Christine served.

The real excitement came when we laid the blocks out and saw how well such a diverse collection played together.

Tweaking the layout, swapping and reswapping to get the balance just right, took some time, and this was where it was valuable having many eyes to spot the problem areas.

Finally we were happy with the layout.

Working on the assembly as a team, it was vital that we sewed the blocks together exactly as planned, so every block was labelled with a letter and a number on a tiny scrap of masking tape, and the blocks were stacked in rows ready for machining.

We made great progress.

And by the end of the day we had an almost-complete queen sized quilt top!

The paparazzi were keen to capture the moment.

Some were a tad keener than others 😊

Our top just needed a border, and we found the perfect French stripe in Les Olivades, but with life taking an unexpected turn it was to be a few months before I added a thin strip of navy and then the wide mitred border to finish our quilt in style.

Next time I'll show you our fabulous finish!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A little bit of fun

When I arrived home from visiting Sarah in Botswana earlier this year I sorted through my thousands of photos, chose just a few (yes, I can hear your sighs of relief!), and created this video/slideshow of our happiest times together.

I've only now discovered how to share this little 3 minute show on YouTube, and consequently here on my blog. 

The sound track I chose was a no-brainer for me, Pharrell Williams' Happy. I love that song, but if you're over it you might want to step away from that Play button right now.

If not, I think you're in for a happiness overload. Enjoy!

Bound together

With winter finally upon us, last Saturday morning was so chilly you might have been forgiven for dubbing our depleted St Mark's Quilters 'the frozen few'.

But hot coffee, Michelle's yummy chocolate Florentines, and a cosy heated hall soon had us properly warmed up. It was just the weather for sitting with cosy quilts over our knees, the conversation flowing freely while we carefully hand stitched the bindings on our Blankets of Love and kindy quilts for The Marcia, a kindy for autistic children.

Susie was binding this kindy quilt.

Margaret was binding another kindy quilt in similar bright fabrics. 

Di B was a step behind, machining the binding onto a baby quilt in her favourite colour combination of blue, yellow and white.

Gail had a sweet Blanket of Love warming her lap. Dots, chevrons and gingham checks in aqua create such a fresh, clean look, and she has the skill it takes to use a check for the binding, keeping it accurately lined up.

Gillian (left) and Michelle (right) sat together.

Gillian finished off the binding on two Blankets of Love, one for a boy and one for a girl....

...while Michelle made progress with her doggy-themed strippy quilt.

Di C machined the binding to her quilt, but then (like most of us) couldn't resist playing with a new selection of fabrics and sketching and planning her next quilt. 

She and likes to plan her quilts thoroughly, and has a wonderful feel for colour.

Liz was also enjoying the excitement of starting on a new quilt, opening up and ironing a stack of Japanese style fat quarters ready for cutting. I can't wait to see what she does with these😊.

And apart from floating around taking photos I (finally!) started stitching down the binding on my Economy Blockalong Quilt that's been lurking in the background for a few months. It's an I Spy quilt with novelty fabrics fussy cut for the centre of each block, and will go to a little person at The Marcia once we have enough quilts to warrant a delivery.

Di B and I were delighted to report to the ladies that we'd recently delivered 46 Blankets of Love and several dozen knitted beanies to our other mission, the Royal Prince Alfred Newborn Intensive Care Nursery.

I've updated our Blankets of Love and Kindy Quilts galleries too, if you have a few spare minutes to take a look.

Back in the hall we were feeling more comfortable as the day went on, stitching, nibbling and chatting. 

Outside it was warming up too. 

By the time we closed the doors and headed for home the sky was blue, the few remaining leaves on the trees shone like little gold flakes, and our band of happy quilters had earnt the description, 'golden girls'!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Happy Birthday, Chester

Chester, you turned 5 yesterday!
Your breeders, Matthew and Danielle Venables at AlpyneAir, told us you were born during a snow storm, and you've been meeting life's challenges with bounce and optimism ever since.
You were the cutest puppy. We always thought you'd grow into those big paws but it didn't happen and now you use those big furry paws to comfort and console, and to ask for what you need in a most eloquent way.
Your kennel name is AlpyneAir Secret Agent but Matthew and Danielle named you Eli. Your Papa had other ideas. So we searched dog and baby name websites before settling on Chester, meaning "a protector", 
You came to church with us on the first Sunday after we brought you home, and looking at this photo I think you knew, even then, that your job would one day be to protect and take care of me.
Your Papa had always dreamed of owning a black Labrador, and was so proud of you!
I could tell you loved your Papa too, because you were never further than a couple of steps behind him.
When your first Christmas came you were so patient, allowing us to dress you in reindeer antlers and photograph you for our Christmas letter.
However the first tragedy of your life was to strike you soon after, on Christmas Eve, when you went on a 'secret agent mission' out through a gate left ajar and onto the road where you were hit by a car.
Fortunately it was a very slow-moving Mercedes driven by a little old lady, and while you were clearly shaken and limping, an emergency vet examination and x-Ray showed you had no obvious injuries.
The week after Christmas, though, you began to limp badly, and on a follow up vet visit we received the devastating news that you had irreparable damage to one hip.
Our only choice was between amputating your leg or having a total hip replacement, and your Papa couldn't bear to have his baby lose his leg.
Dr David (Lidbetter) agreed to do your hip replacement, even though you were just 7 months old, and you were just the best patient over those many weeks of recovery spent confined to a crate in the laundry. Do you remember all those hours where I would sit beside you on the floor, with the door of the crate open, and you'd place a large paw gently on my leg to be stroked?
You've always been a handsome boy!
Once better, you often made passers-by smile as you hung over the sandstone wall.
And you and Papa loved going to the park together.
Then along came Mr J and you had another playmate.
Papa always put you to bed at night with a hug and a bikkie, and he was always first downstairs in the morning to let you out. I know the two of you loved that early morning interlude before anyone else was out of bed, when Papa would drink his coffee and you would sit at his feet leaning in for pats and cuddles, just the two of you.
Then one morning Papa was late. I came to let you out instead, and for a time you were confused and sad. There were lots of people coming into your house for weeks, but no Papa. And there was lots of crying, and people hugging you, because that's what people like to do when they're very sad.
It didn't take you long to understand that you wouldn't see Papa any more, and you seemed to grow in stature as Chester, my Protector. 
You give me a reason to get out of bed every morning, my precious boy, and you've been key to helping me adjust to a new life without our darling Papa.
Splashing in the fountain in the park, you teach me to take joy in the little things.
Even little children stop and hug you. Everyone wants a little Chester love!
You're my number one pin-up boy, confirmed recently when my photo portrait of you was accepted into the Photostart Exhibition at the Australian Centre for Photography.
And now you''ve turned 5, 35 in human years, the prime of your life.
Happy birthday, my darling Chester. God has blessed us both and I couldn't ask for a more beautiful, sensitive and loving companion and protector.