Monday, May 24, 2010

Pastels and other things

The weekend came up trumps weather-wise; 16mls of rain fell, the winds blew strong, the grass is green, and the air smells clear and sweet. As is normal with all of life, while rain helped the growth of much, it was excessive for some of the older gum trees. This morning, as I wandered down The Avenue to switch on the water pump, fallen branches captured my attention. I pulled some to the wood-pile, others will need the extra strength of the tractor.

Last week I shopped [again], this time bringing home several Fat Quarters in shades of yellow, and a soft blue/green. Plus I managed to find a fabric with a white background and covered with the tiniest of spots in yellow, pale pink, and a deep pink; this provide the main piece on which to place the Dresden plates sitting awaiting a home.

But, first things first. Three or more months ago I began a throw for the couch, using a pattern that featured gum leaves. I chose a background in shades of brown with gum leaves in varying shades of green appliqued onto the browns. The first twenty squares went well! Then other projects captured my interest ... projects needing immediate attention! Against all my better judgements I left the gum leaves to wallow in a basket waiting for the time I would return.

Yesterday, the Dresden plate cushion complete, and only knitting staring me in the face, there was no option but to pick up the gum leaves and stitch some more onto their background. [I could have started another set of hearts, after all I do have all those Flat Quarters.] Amazingly the gum leaves are going well; perhaps it is wise to leave a project if interest wanes?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Books

I have a discussion whirling through my mind; books, wonderful books that take us to places unknown, books that explore emotions and ideas that flit through the mind; to information tomes that are weighty in size and words. How do we personally categorise books?

At a recent book sale I purchased almost thirty books, novels, biographies; all books that I thought I would enjoy, or would give me food for thought ... one, The Boy in Striped Pyjamas, a small volume in size, but huge in all other ways. The cover was drab, the scrip disturbing. A discussion appeared regarding this book. My comment ... "found it different. I won't say I enjoyed it, as it was such a sad tale. But extremely well written and very readable" ... Another commented that they loved the book, and it was that comment that sent me to search my mind.

I didn't love The Boy in Striped Pyjamas. The story was excellent, the writing impeccable; it built up to a climax, one that we expected, but hoped to be incorrect in our expectations. I would recommend that book to anyone, with the rider not to expect to laugh, or even smile.

In saying that I had to explore my reason for not loving the book. It was the sadness.

Today the media concentrates on calamity. Sadness permeates our very lives and if we are caring folk at all, it makes it extremely easy to drift into a pit of despair. While I agree that we must realise that there is sadness, there is uncontrolled anger, it is my considered opinion that a high diet of sad reading material has a similar effect on our soul as obesity does to heart attack. Oh, I do read sad books such as The Boy in Striped Pyjamas, and I do not dislike such books. I simply do not love them. Love is a word filled with kindness and gratitude and caring; and while there was indeed a wonderful display of such emotions in The Boy in Striped Pyjamas, the over-riding sadness and certainty of that sadness simply cancelled that emotion out. Read The Boy in Striped Pyjamas yourself ... do you love it, or simply enjoy the book for telling a tale overflowing with sadness?

Of course the above begs the question, "What type of book do I prefer?" Once upon a time, when my hair was golden, not silver brushed with gold, I read widely, though upon reflection the choice was narrow. I preferred books that told real tales, biographies of people who discovered marvellous things, be that thing be land, or a discovery of the personal nature, or an invention. I read books about places; places I would have loved to visit, but never did; places that I desired to learn more about for obscure unknown reasons.

Why do some places attract one more than others?

Why does one book jump off the library shelf and not its neighbours?

Questions and more questions that may or may not have answers in books; but do we not search for books that add to our knowledge of how we personally desire the world to be?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Winter

It has been a strange day. We had a quick trip into town for the usual weekend necessities ... newspaper, magazine and some meat. While in the supermarket the sky darkened, opened, and the rain poured down like all the buckets in heaven were being emptied at the same moment; the wind whirled the rain, the gutters overflowed; winter arrived in an instant. The greasy road and the buffeting winds made for a slower journey home.

A few kilometres from home we had to scoot to the other side of the highway as a huge gum-tree branch had fallen, blocking one lane rendering the road dangerous. For the final leg of our morning trip to town we had to avoid numerous small branches lying on the roadway. I wondered how many trees, or branches, had broken at home as it was obvious the wind was as violent there and the rain as torrential as in town.

The corner of our road was slippery, a common predicament for this country road. No trees appeared broken. We were lucky!

Hurriedly grabbing our shopping we hurried indoors, entering via the front door as the path was under water to the back door, our normal entry. The house was in darkness. No microwave clock showing its yellow time. The electricity was off. I walked down The Avenue checking that a branch hadn't fallen over our power line, but all was well. We telephoned the electricity company to be informed that electricity was off in our wider area; the estimation time of reconnection 2.30pm. Not a problem; we are used to electricity outages in the country. We have gas for cooking, and the lovely stove that burns wood for heating on these cooler days always has two kettles simmering; hot water for coffees. All is well.

There is one major downfall to power outages. We forget how much we rely on electricity. Thankfully there was no accumulation of clothes awaiting washing; the ironing was done. The activities one can undertake without electricity, on a wet and windy showering day diminish. Sewing on the machine was out; doing some hand appliquΓ© was out, as I hadn't ironed the pellon onto the fabric. I couldn't vacuum, not that I needed to as that chore was undertaken yesterday, but the thought was there, mainly because I knew it was out. I couldn't listen to the radio for the football as I had planned.

I started a Dresden plate cushion last week but put it aside to concentrate on some more hearts. Ah well, nothing would be lost with the inclement weather ... I completed that cushion, pushed its inner in ... and took a photo. The Suffolk Puffs add that little extra touch to the corners. I am keeping this cushion! It goes well on the plastic outdoor chair, but ... I won't be leaving it outside in this weather with wind-blown rain dampening everything on the patio.

The electricity came on around 4.00pm.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sunday Excursion into the Past

Today, Sunday, is National Motoring Heritage Day. An exhibition of cars of yester-year was held in brilliant sunshine on the Spalding Cricket Oval in Geraldton. We attended.

Row upon row of wonderfully aged motors stood side by side on the grounds where in summer cricket balls hit the bat resoundingly. Today Holdens, Fords, Buicks, Chryslers, Rovers, an Austin 7 sports, and Tractors, Trucks, and Motor bikes held the attention of those assembled. I took photos ... to keep the memories of the day, and the cars of my youth, alive.
After wandering around the area of parked vehicles, and after peering at the paintwork, the fluffy pair of dice dangling from the rear-view mirror of a chrome trimmed black Cadillac, 1958 Fleetwood Special, left-hand drive, and admiring the beautifully restored upholstery we ventured further afield ... there were eldery motor-bikes, one similar to what my Uncle owned more years ago than I care to recall; trucks small in comparision with the road trains of that make frequent pilgrimages up the Brand Highway; tractors that bear little resemblance to the machines that are this day spraying wheat paddocks ... and further afield to where a tent housed a display of eldery items that we have almost forgotten about.

There were kerosene refrigerators, washing machines that while saving the housewife a few hours and hard work on wash day are a far cry to the pristine white models that grace our laundries today.

Two steps inside this particular tent stood a circular display of sewing machines; vintage sewing machines. Not a treadle machine in sight! All were hand wheeled models, some almost 150 years old. They would have been innovative for the housewife towards the end of the 19th century when a needle and thread was the norm. I can imagine the enthusiasm these machines were greeted with by those charged with the task of sewing for the family.

I look at my modern Janome and marvel ... the difference between those elderly sewing machines painted black, with gold embossing, a shuttle in the place of our modern-day bobbins, is as striking as is the difference between an early model Massey Ferguson and a modern bright green and yellow John Deere of today guiding the giant sprayers that look like a praying mantis with arms outstretched.

Beyond the sewing machine display a collection of household items were protected from curious poking hands in a large wooden open-topped box sealed across the top with chicken wiring. Heirloom china and Grandma's doilies had pride of place. I tried to take a photo of just one of the doilies; it proved difficult as the closer I tried to reach the more precarious the box was, moving [it seemed] with me. I contented myself with the above photo. I pictured the maker sitting by a kerosene lamp stitching after the household chores were completed.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Present and Past project

The Dresden Plate exercise proved fruitful, and like the tube quilting, addictive. I find it unusual that none of the numerous magazine articles about addiction fail to mention craft addiction. Does that mean it is harmless?
Having sorted through my fabrics for colours that would be suitable on an indoor/outdoor chair as a cushion, I chose a golden yellow, a pale beige paisley, and a colourful blue/green for the dresden plate; and a simple square of calico for the background. In the beginning I had no idea what exactly I was making, nor how it would turn out. The dresden plate looked bare on the calico; needing some extra embellishment.

Over a period of three or four years I have attempted to make Suffolk Puffs. They look simple! No matter how many instructions I followed, or how careful I was, they were disasters; akin to my attempts at sponge cake making. [My first two sponges ended up in the bin, the next two were turned into a trifle, and no more have been made. I am speaking of those beautifully light and airy sponges consisting mainly of egg and sugar and a great quantity of air.]

Determined to not let a Suffolk Puff come between me and success I tried again. But this time I had back-up. I used Google! There were several postings on how to. One proved to be my saviour. One set of directions included the phrase, pull and twiggle it into the correct shape. Aha!! I had never attempted that! Before I had simply sewn, tried to tighten the cotton only to end up with a shapeless shape. This time it worked! Because? I pulled and twiggled it into shape. I made four Suffolk Puffs to represent flowers, and concocted eight leaves as colour and to accentuate the flower corners. The photo shows the partially completed cushion cover top, that I will get back to in the later part of next week.

While I have attached all the leaves, and one flower, I have been taken off that path for a couple of days, as I am making more hearts.

On the subject of hearts, just before last Christmas I made felt hearts, which were effective as decorations for the tree.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Dresden Plate

Mother's Day has been and gone; I had two parcels to open, and some lovely gifts ... Rod Stewart's 'Soul Book', choccies, a winning scratchie [$5] and a X-word puzzle book; plus a lovely warm cardigan for the winter. As well the phone rang with well wishes from the family. I slept in, which is a real plus as sometimes I am up before the birds and that makes for a long day, breakfasted leisurely, wandered around outside chopping back persistent weeds before coming indoors to tackle a new project.
When in the city a week ago I splashed out on what was really an extravaganza! I had noticed a Dresden plate template in my favourite shop, but the price was too steep. I know my limits! However, when a few days later I received vouchers in the mail, one offering a 25% discount, I decided that while the template was still more expensive than I would normally consider paying for one item, its purchase could be justified by the discount offered. Before I could talk myself out of the 'bargain' the template was mine.

What to make from it? I took it out, turned it over, wondered exactly how it worked as the instructions were basic ... too basic for me ... a half a dozen words is not an instruction! On Saturday evening, my last project complete, and nothing too pressing on the agenda, I decided to try ... 'if at first you do not succeed, try, try again'; so I was brought up to believe.

I cut blades out ... the template is so simple to work! And the rotary cutter behaved itself confined as it was between two hard pieces of plastic. I cut and I sewed the pieces together, after sewing across the top to give a cute wee peak. At bedtime my eyes were becoming weary, my patience running thin, and the Dresden Plate was not coming together. I went to bed.

Next morning I wrote of my dilemma in The Forum. Aha ... shortly afterwards a kind lady told me of a web site that helped immensely.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lcy_p4pryE4&feature=related
I had thought I had included too many 'blades'; in actual fact I hadn't enough. I cut and sewed again. By early afternoon one Dresden Plate was complete.

There is one downside to this tale ... this type of craft is terribly addictive, almost on a par with coffee! Feeling emboldened I cut out enough blades for two more Dresden plates, though had to manipulate the fabric for one colour that was on the short side. The marvellous thing about these templates is that you can pile the number of different coloured fabrics you require, on top of each other, place the template on top, and cut. All come out exactly the same size.

As well the centre circles are a breeze ... in fact I am exceptionally well pleased with my purchase of the Dresden Plate Template.

The variety of fabrics in my stash is short of what I require to complete the project, which might be a good thing as I think that I need to just look at the completed plates and decide what colour will go best with them. Then again it might be a better idea to take one to the fabric shop and hold it against rolls of fabric ... there is no haste!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Baby jacket completed!

Two weeks after embarking on a knitting spree such as I haven't started for several years; a baby jacket is small and pretty; a pleasure to begin and finish.

The jacket with matching bootees is a pale lemon in colour [doesn't show up all that well in the photo] is now ready for the post ... which means that I can now begin another project! I am well pleased with the final result.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sunday Morning

On a beautiful, cool, calm Sunday morning, with no pressing chores waiting to be tackled, what better way to fill in an idle moment that take a walk? Walking for pleasure in summer is impossible; flies and the sap destroying heat combine, making a walk the last thought on the mind.

Not to waste time completely I set out, hoe under one arm as the never-ending fight against melons is a daily task, and now Three Corner Jacks, a menace of a plant that sticks to tyres and rubber soled shoes as they hitch a lift to a new area to put down root and reproduce in their hundreds. I circled the western boundary, cut across The Park, which is in reality a large paddock but with intermittent stands of gum trees does resemble a park, especially as the numerous bare branches provide a resting place for the myriad of birds that flock to this area, digging out several melons and one three corner jack. However this was not my main reason for taking a walk. Chores are for weekdays. Sundays should be relaxing, and as I fully intend sitting on my posterior, knitting so as not to be completely lazy, to listen to the football this afternoon, a walk is one way of compensating with a clear conscience.

I left the hoe near the back door, and set off once again down The Avenue where my eyes were drawn to the varying types of bark on the different species of gum trees. Such colour and texture! If one stops to give nature a second thought surely amazement is the forefront thought. All over Australia gum trees take root, send up saplings that sometimes grow into huge trees. That there are so many species is incredible. They are easily identified, so I have been told, and have scientific names that I do not know. I simply call them by what I observe.

Hence there is the rough barked gum tree in which 'my' tawny frog-mouths perch, and there are the white barked gum trees that have a wonderful silver/white bark. Once I made a wall hanging and not having a 'proper' hanger on which to attach it, and not having the patience to wait until we went to the city where I could purchase one, I wandered down The Avenue, found a suitable white branch, and attached the wall hanging, which incidentally was my first foray into this type of work.

This morning the sun was shining on the tall ancient overhanging rough barked tree at a corner of The Avenue ... what a superb picture just waiting to be captured! Barely three metres further on the silver/white bark of a different species called to me, 'Take my photo too!" I obliged.

I walked reasonably quickly as this little excursion was to regain fitness lost during the summer, and once out onto the lane beyond our boundary I couldn't resist taking a photo to the west, and to the east.

If it wasn't for the gum trees and wattles one could almost imagine wandering down an English country lane ... except of course this is Western Australia, where the skies are nearly always blue.