After about 6 months in the making, today I finally finished my first – and possibly last – quilt. This quilt was born out of an idea from Andrew: that we should make a quilt together.
He had his own ideas. A sea of aqua, turquoise, teal, blue and violet. A multitude of bright large format squares. I on the other hand wanted my usual earthy and autumnal tones. On the colour front, I’d say he got the lion’s share.
The construction didn’t quite take the format Andrew had expected. The pieces grew organically after the selection of the tree as the centre piece. We stencilled it with lumiere bronze paint together and I think at that point, he probably realised this wasn’t going to be a quick project. It was also not going to be without damage – at that particular stage, little flecks of bronze paint in his bathroom where I had washed out the stencil.
While he may have won on colour, I triumphed when it came to whimsy: the lizard in a teacup with a licorice allsort my favourite of the added amusements.
All cats feature: Saffron as a colour (poor Saff, it was the best I could do), Licorice as the aforementioned sweet, Pickle as his ginger self and Gesso as a purple squirrel. (The last act of the quilt was gluing on his eye today).
The black cat in the tree is the one Andrew wants that we don’t have.
Lizards also abound – some with functioning legs and some without. It is these unique references which make this truly one of a kind. A quilt that could only ever be the story of the two of us.
For those who have see my art over the years, this probably comes as no surprise. Anything I create is made for the purposes of self-expression rather than for it’s aesthetic qualities.
The idea of buying a quilting ‘kit’ holds no attraction at all – unless there’s someone out there selling Alice in Wonderland tribute meshed with wheels, cats, curly-ques and lizards?
As this is my first quilt I could hardly draw on any quilting skills as reference, so I instead returned to my mixed media toolkit.
On the white rabbit – which went purple – I had to turn to my long suffering sewing teacher for advice.
I stuffed him with toy fill, only he kept springing a leak. With some cajoling, he finally agreed to keep his innards, well… within.
I managed the white backstitch outline but the point of his umbrella had a distinct wonkiness. The umbrella you see in the finished product had some expert intervention to correct it’s trajectory!
I discovered that I had insufficient patience for large areas of hand-quilting – although I must admit it does have a strangely meditative quality. The small area of pink spiral patterned fabric on the top left is one of the few spots where I did try out the old fashioned way. While I could claim this was out of wanting to be traditional, in truth, it was just testament to my lack of free motion sewing skills. In the end the only area I was happy to free motion were the tree roots, for it mattered not how bumpy and gnarled they became as I covered up each of my mistakes.
This free motion incompetence meant that I completed around each branch of the tree using a walking foot and turning the fabric. It was slow work which at times had me cursing Stencil Kingdom for not selling the tree stencil in a smaller size!
Other features are tiny in comparison – like a small trio of playing cards, or a teapot in the bottom right hand corner. Still I think they add something to the quilt and when you view it in black and white, it only serves to emphasise that together with the tree it’s these little areas of ‘light’ that pop out from all that purple.
Andrew still protests that it wasn’t bright enough – he wanted more pink and more yellow and red gingham (yes, can you believe it?). I on the otherhand wanted something a little less vibrant. That neither of us felt the colour is quite right, just goes to show that we did achieve a representation of us. It is neither his bright bold cheeky self, or my more muted tones, but somewhere in the middle. Today I looked at the quilt with more than a dash of pride. I’m not quite sure how I got to this point… how those ideas tumbled out… but I do know that we’ve created something we will both cherish for a long time. I have to say that I thought Andrew was a little nuts when he suggested we make a quilt. I’m glad he did.
This quilt would not have been possible without the help of a special few and some amazing art suppliers out there.
I have to include a special thanks to The Stencil Kingdom, as without their business, that beautiful tree focal piece would not exist. Whoever was nutty enough to make a stencil with that many little twigs, I thank you. I’ve been buying stencils from this company in the UK for a number of years to use in my work. I don’t get them that often as postage from the UK is expensive however whenever I do, I add another tool to my art stash that’s definitely a keeper!
Fabric & Threads: Most of the fabrics have been sourced from Busy Bee Sewing, with just a couple of the Batiks from The Quilters’ Store. The stranded cottons and embroidery threads also came from Busy Bee and I just supplemented with a few special pieces from The Thread Studio in Western Australia (that gorgeous thick swirl at the bottom) and some I picked up from Room For Threads at the recent quilting show. (To the lady from this stall with the funky red glasses and clear passion for quilts, I assure you that both my and Andrew’s name and the date and the location are going on the quilt. Who knows where this quilt will end up after we are dead – hopefully not in the trash – but I agree it’s a lovely habit to get into signing and dating quilts just the same as we do other art forms).
Applique & Applicuts: To Kim Barter of Applicuts – a huge thank you. When I asked for a 3 inch squirrel as a special order, you obliged… the same with those doves! I know you weren’t sure what the hell I was going to do with them, or that they would become stencils in their own right, but I thank you for humouring me! (For anyone interested in the mileage I got out of a tool intended for applique: check out my earlier post).
Painting & Art Supplies: Thankfully, I really didn’t have to shop much – all the things I’ve accrued over the years came in handy. My old faithfuls – caran d’ache wax oil pastels – got a workout as well as the Golden Fluid Acrylics. Apart from some print paste, I really didn’t have to buy anything to paint that fabric. If anyone does need supplies, I get my Golden Fluid Acrylics from Alex at The Sydney Art Store. Actually, Andrew and I get almost everything art-wise there because it’s accessible (a rare thing for an art store) and Alex is just so helpful. I’ve even had times when Andrew has sent me in to buy a paintbrush and Alex has been happy for me to pluck a few out and go back out to the car so Andrew could choose for himself and then run back in to buy them.
To Bev Barter – dressmaking teacher extraordinaire. I’m not going to say that you are amazing woman, or a brilliant teacher, or an absolute hoot for company as I don’t want ANYONE else to want your teaching services for fear I will have to make way for new students! I want you to be stuck with me.
Seriously, thank you for fixing the licorice allsort, the rabbit’s umbrella, for teaching me french knots… oh… and how to quilt enough to get by on this project. Not that many people would have let a student do this as their first project. Which just goes to show you truly are one of a kind.
To Licorice, Saffron, Pickle and Gesso, thank you for all your assistance during the project. Sitting on the quilt was so helpful. Really.
Lastly, to Andrew for having the idea in the first place. For drawing that bloody woman, the white rabbit, helping to paint the tree, and all those little helpful comments along the way. Sorry about the pins I left in your couch, or all the threads that went into your vacuum cleaner! I know that you will forget all about these once you get to sleep under it and you are toasty and warm. You are a delight and a bugger at the same time. On this project I can truly say the idea was not mine alone, but mine.
Here’s the piece I started working on these last few days. I was having great fun with it too until I added the dodo bird. Unfortunately at that point I started to think too hard – what colour is a dodo bird? Given it’s Tenniel’s drawing of the bird and it is in wonderland, perhaps it could be purple? In wonderland do things really have to be their true ‘local colour?’
I know what you’re thinking – how can a girl who put a rhino on a tightrope be worried whether she is painting a bird the appropriate colour? Well, perhaps my left brain kicked in at that point.
So, I’m having a vote…
I can’t understand it! They both live in Redfern. They both frequent the park. They both have little bellies. Could it be the pig has more hair? The pig is more handsome?
I’m calling on all my friends to help end this injustice right now and like the Wheels on Wheels Project Page. At least help Andrew make it to triple figures and avoid the shame of being far less popular than a pig.
Hello Blog! Long time no see.
Blog: It’s long time no write actually, but ok.
Fine then Blog be a pedant.
Blog: Password please.
Of yes, of course. [@@@@@@@@@]
Darn. Must be with a capital letter [@@@@@@@@@0]
Blog: Incorrect again. :-p
Well would you mind telling me which part is incorrect?
Blog: Yes. I would mind.
Blog: Ok, I’ll ask you a secret question instead.
I don’t have a secret question set!
Blog: I know. So I can make it up.
U-huh. Alright. Hit me with it.
Blog: How many cats do you have?
Are you kidding? That’s the most pathetic secret question. Everyone knows the answer.
Blog: If you’d bothered to give me a secret question, I’d ask you a secret one. Since you didn’t, I’m calling the shots. Now shut up and answer me. How many cats?
2, 4, 5?
Blog: 245 is incorrect.
No, 2, 4 OR 5
Blog: This is question. It has one answer. Not three. Choose one.
But blog you know full well that your question has 3 answers. Would you care to rephrase to how many cats live with me? Then I can categorically answer 2.
Blog: Nope. Not rephrasing. I’m trying to annoy you as punishment for leaving me alone.
Ok, ok I get it blog. I know i’ve been a little lax.
Blog: A little?
Ok, a lot. It’s for a good reason I promise. I’ve been building a database which will make service better for deaf kids learning to speak
Blog: Well are you finished?
Blog: From what I hear, there’s more finishes than Dame Nellie.
Yes, well, not my fault. I’ve given my all. Besides, that’s why I said ‘nearly’. I’m not saying I’m done until every document is signed and I can know they won’t come back. So, do you want to talk about you instead blog?
Blog: Me? Oh I haven’t been doing much. I’ve been sitting here waiting for you to return. It’s a boring life really. People visit me and because you aren’t here, I can’t reply.
Oh. Sorry to hear that blog. (Gulp. I’m really losing it. I’m starting to apologise to my computer). Would you like a jelly baby?
PS: I’ll be back. Shortly. I hope.
Gilly has put 11 random questions on her blog for anyone to answer. Here are my responses:
1. Is there an item that you never leave home without, if so what is it?
I was going to say something predictable like my keys. Wrong. I’ve locked myself out a few times in my life. My wallet? Um… done that maybe once. My mobile phone? Yup, forgotten that a few times too.
So I started thinking about what I absolutely never leave home without. The answer was obvious. Clothing. I’ve never walked out the door nude.
2. If you were given a free holiday is there a destination you would refuse to go to?
I think my worst nightmare would be a desert. Hot with no trees sounds like torture to me.
3. Did you have a school uniform? describe it!
I had not one but 5 school uniforms. There was the primary school one; and then in high school a summer and winter uniform for 3 years and then a different one for the next three years.
The worst of these was like a giant sack. Mine was a giant and very long sack as my mother, using her frugal wisdom, bought a large one so that I wouldn’t outgrow it in three years.
It came with a shirt and a tie you wore underneath. Halfway down it had two ‘pockets’ only they weren’t pockets. They were a bit of fabric which covered up the top of the pleat; disguised as pockets. So we called them ‘dag flaps’. There was one handy thing about the dag flags though. In mine at least, there was a small hole under the flap and above the pleat. I’d put my fingers through the holes and pull up my stockings discreetly in winter.
The fact that we had to wear stockings to keep our legs warm was because the school clung to its traditional uniform for a few decades too long. Finally several years after I left school, girls were at last permitted to wear trousers.
4. Do you still have friends from your school days?
A couple. A social butterfly I aint.
5. Have you ever tried any extreme sports?
Given my appalling athletic skills you could call riding a bicycle an extreme sport for me. The chances of my being able to do it with my uncoordinated ways are extreme.
6. Whats the longest you have slept in one go?
I’m sure I’ve gone at least 12 hours. Whatever it is, my cat beats me I’m sure.
7. From what you know about me is there a book you would recommend?
11 questions you must answer before you die?
8. Could you ride a skateboard for a hundred metres without falling off?
Refer to earlier answer about extreme sport ability. Absolutely not.
9. Favourite breakfast?
Poached eggs, crispy bacon and toast. It’s a favourite because I don’t have it often and when I do my partner cooks it for me. It also reminds me of being on holiday.
10. Can you navigate on a journey to a strange town a few hundred miles away?
Absolutely! I’m a woman who can read a map.
11. Is there something you cook really well?
Something that involves the instruction, insert in microwave for 5 minutes, then serve.
And now, predictably, I have 11 questions for you? There’s something fun about setting questions. That’s why I’m sure that people would rather be the people making the trivia night questions up than answering them. Anyway, here goes:
- You have won a competition which will supply you with clothes for the next year. The only catch is the clothes are in the style of one of the following ‘eras’. Which do you choose? 1920s? 1940s? 1950s? 1960s? 1970s? or 1980s?
- Do you eat olives?
- If you could have a superhero power (go invisible, fly etc), what power would you want?
- Your health is failing and you have to move into a nursing home. What 3 things can you not live without and you want to take with you?
- What’s the one thing which would make your job better?
- You get to build your dream house; unlimited money etc. What’s the quirkiest feature of your house?
- If you were on a limited income and you had $30 leftover this week, what would you spend it on? (Presuming you have already got enough food, paid the electricity bill etc).
- When did you stop believing in Santa Claus (if indeed you did)
- What household task / chore do you hate most and why?
- Do you nap during the daytime?
- When you pass away, after you have allowed for your family, which charity would you leave money to and why?
I took this photo today. Andrew is my unusual subject.
For starters, this is a man who loves shopping. Male of species = likes shopping centres. Weird, right? I know what your thinking, he must be gay. Well, no, although early on, the thought crossed my mind as he seemed overly tidy for a male. However, straight he is. The only straight man I know who is disappointed when he misses out on the soft furnishings department of IKEA.
The same guy decided that if he couldn’t have a dog, he’d have a cat that was like a dog. And so it was that Pickle learned how to play fetch. Not with a ball, but with a pistachio nut.
This is a boy who has gone beyond mis-matching socks, to mis-matching shoes. He has a habit of wearing one orange and one green converse shoe. It sparks comment wherever we go.
Little do they know that the shoes are even a different size. The green pair are actually a size too big. Andrew would go into the store time and time again and swoon over these green shoes always to be told they only had a size 11. After several months, we decided that Andrew’s walking is so infrequent that we might as well just get the size 11s.
Following this, Andrew has become convinced that one foot is bigger than the other anyway. So while he wears an orange and a green one, it’s always the same orange and green one. If he ever decides to wear two matching ones again, I fear he’ll have one ‘new green’ shoe and one sun-bleached one!
Lastly, Andrew thinks he’s a whale. (See, I warned you he was unusual). For the last month or so, Andrew has been dropping little snippets of whale song into our conversation. We are driving along and all of a sudden, the whale noise comes out. (Don’t panic mum, it’s usually at a red traffic light). The worst part is that he cocks his head to one side and, with whale song voicing, pushes his head toward you with one giant eye staring at you. It’s his impersonation of what it would be like if a whale came up right next to you.
I cannot recall what started him on this very peculiar behaviour, I just know that it seems here to stay. While I managed to get the one decent shot of him today at the top of this post without him being a fool, I couldn’t achieve the same when we were out and about. The last photo is one of him at the start of the whale manoeuvre. That one eye was headed for me.
Gilly has tagged me. Hmm… does this mean she is planning on selling me at a garage sale? I wonder how much I’m worth? Where will I get to sit? Next to the three legged chair or the discarded birdcage?
Oh, right, it’s not that kind of tag. Apparently I have to answer her 11 questions.
What was the last thing you had to drink?
Milo and milk. Boring, I know.
Do you have a plan for tomorrow?
Is this a metaphorical use of tomorrow as in future? or a literal use? I’ll go the literal. I have to go to work. Boring again!
Can you remember your first day at school and if you liked it?
No recollection whatsoever.
Have you overcome any phobias?
I’m not sure you could call them phobias. I used to have to be extra early to everything. I’ve now experienced late. I still prefer early!
Your favourite book, and why?
Easy! Alice in Wonderland. Why? I’ve loved it since I was a child and it is one of those children’s books that has so much to offer as an adult reader. It also has been interpreted by so many artists and illustrators over time that it’s like a story with sub-stories.
A link to your most popular blog post
By a long shot, it’s a nonsense one. Kind of fitting really?
Although the post on how my white cat got pink fur also rates well.
What made you laugh today?
My partner. He makes me laugh almost everyday. He sent me this photo.
Have you ever taken part in a protest?
A friend’s mum took me to one when I was in primary school. I can’t remember what it was for. I know what you’re thinking, I’m really quite dull.
Have your ever been really, REALLY scared?
Yes. A guy off his head on heroin threatened to break my jaw when I was on a train on the way to school when I was 15. He was bloody scary even though he just staggered around me and yelled a lot.
What is the strangest thing you have even eaten?
My friend who is Vietnamese once gave me soup that looked like it had floating eyeballs in it. They were a type of mushroom she said. I wasn’t convinced.
Will you go to heaven?
I’ve tried to believe as many as six impossible things before breakfast but the existence of an afterlife is not one of them. I’ll be fertiliser and my family know that they can donate any bits of me to others first if the situation suits.
For Andrew’s 40th birthday, I decided in my ubiquitous fashion to engage in a bit of nonsense. Last time I did this, it resulted in a rather eccentric story about a transsexual budgie who eventually married a moose in an Elvis style Las Vegas wedding. This time, I’ve promised a story about Andrew. Thankfully, our recent road-trip has given me an extraordinary amount of material – so no made-up stories about budgies necessary. Instead these are the annotations of our trip.
We left Sydney on Thursday 23rd for sunny Queensland. The state which claims to be ‘beautiful one day, perfect the next.’ It was a time for typical holiday fare: a shift to a more languid pace; to cold motel toast, long drives and casual comfy summer clothes – t-shirts and the like.
Our first destination was Coffs Harbour, the town I selected as it was in the middle of the Sydney to Brisbane route, not because it had a giant banana. In fact, we didn’t even see the rotund banana; the closest we came were some banana trees, although I didn’t spy any fruit hanging from them. In contrast, we did get to see the big prawn in Ballina. Apparently there has been much debate about the future of the prawn with a campaign to move it to the Gold Coast; and another to retain it in Ballina. Either way, the prawn has suffered from a lack of maintenance over the past few years and has become a sun-bleached albino prawn. Perhaps they should have made it out of metal so even without maintenance it would have maintained a rusty orange appearance. Andrew was so disappointed he didn’t bother taking a photograph. I did.
From Coffs Harbour we made our way up to Uki, at the foot of Mount Warning and on to Brisbane to meet Andrew’s parents for the first time. Moments after arriving, Andrew’s mother inspected his attire and with a look of disappointment said:
‘Andrew, are you still wearing mismatching shoes?’
I had to tell her that far from being embarrassing, people seem to rejoice in the one orange and one green shoe. Perhaps people look at Andrew and think – I wish I could be that mischievous. They certainly don’t whisper as he passes by; they stop us and say ‘cool shoes’, or ‘you got another pair like that?’
When we went to the Art Gallery in Brisbane, I couldn’t resist taking a photo of the shoes with the large geometric rainbow installation.
While in Brisbane, I met some of Andrew’s cousins, one of whom came bearing a cake complete with blue bear and cake pops. (If you’ve never had a cake pop, you’re missing out. These are filled with soft mellifluous chocolate. Delicious!)
Of course, I also had the obligatory tour of all the places Andrew used to haunt. For the most part I enjoyed the drive, except when Andrew made some unsuitable singing choices including yodeling ‘high on a hill with a lonely goat herd’. Marginally better than bagpipes, but only just!
The other part I didn’t enjoy was the 3 kilometre bridge joining Sandgate to Redcliffe. I don’t like being high up on a ladder and I certainly don’t like long bridges! This is a bridge Andrew has driven many times in his life. In more recent times they’ve changed it so pelicans can no longer perch on the street lights. As we were driving across Andrew was reflecting on one of his trips across this bridge with his dog, Boof, in the back of his old ute. Boof was a brindle dog. Somewhere along the bridge, a pelican did a poop and Boof turned into a dog covered in splodges; he was a Dalmation for the day. I imagine Pelican’s sitting on the electric lamp posts releasing poo whenever they feel like it, is not conducive to safe driving and that’s why the changed the posts to stop them resting there. Andrew seemed a bit disappointed. Approaching the bridge he told me there was going to be a great photo opportunity coming up. In the end it was ok, I’d already got the following photo of a gliding pelican at Bombah Point.
From Brisbane we made our way back to Uki; went swimming and had a candlelight dinner on his actual 40th birthday. The trip had been fantastic. I was grinning from ear to ear, delighting in every day.
Then things took a bit of a turn: the effervescence went out of our trip to put it mildly. I had to go to a work conference on the Gold Coast for a day and therefore Andrew had the day to kill time. I’d given him some money for his 40th birthday and he used some of it to buy clothes and pay a bill. With the remainder he decided to get a tattoo. He had joked he wanted a tattoo of a whale the day before. I voiced my usual objections. I thought he understood how strongly I felt about them that he would never use money I had given him to acquire a new one. I was wrong.
When I arrived back from the conference, he confessed his latest ‘dermagraphic’ indulgence – which, I must point out Andrew, is not actually a word.
‘Where is it?’ ‘What is it?’ I asked horrified.
He revealed the lotus flower on his wrist.
A bitter, acerbic, almost hostile, exchanged followed. I was shocked and later, just plain miserable. I felt he had made me complicit in damaging his body. From his perspective, I’d given him the opportunity to make a permanent memory of his 40th birthday trip; a lovely work of art he could see each and every day.
For the last few days of the trip, every time he applied lotion to the tattoo I felt sad. It took a while before we could even begin to joke about it. At least it wasn’t a blonde mermaid or an aardvark; given Andrew’s already eclectic collection of body art, it could have been far worse.
In keeping with the change in our moods, the weather worsened on the way home. It rained for the last 400km, so our stops were few and far between. One of our last was to acquire a hamburger. Andrew had a craving for a burger – not a McDonalds one – a traditional road house style burger. We found it at Kew, in a slightly dodgy looking petrol station including a ‘dining lounge.’ Inside it sold not just burgers but very tasteful licence plates with words like porn star and V8brute. This sense of style continued to the toilet where there was a vending machine for prophylactic devices called ‘the screamer’ and ‘the french tickler’
Andrew assures me the burger was tasty. Well, at least that was something.