Sunday, December 16, 2007


I have finally finished the beading on Nic's pages and they have finally been posted off. Her theme was 'Pathways and Passages'. This started out as a path along a contour map of Mt Warning, but I got just a bit carried away with the beading.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

My Ugly Fat Quarter Quilt

I started out with these fabrics first posted to my blog on 14 December, 2006, ...

... and was allowed to throw away the blue dolphins because it was pure polyester. Phew! One down, 4 to go ...

I added a fat quarter of each of these (plus another dark green that I can't find anywhere) ...

... and used these for the sashing, cornerstones and border ...

... and ended up with this quilt, the second in my I Wish I Had A Dog quilt collection.

And my uglies for next year's Sydney SCQuilters Christmas Party? Who'da thought that a piece of Debbie Mum fabric would ever be in my stash?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Patchwork Shopping in Fiji

If patchwork shopping in Australia or New Zealand is a bit different (see my blog entry for yesterday) than patchwork shopping in America, then patchwork shopping in Fiji is an entirely different kettle of fish.

Fiji is a tropical paradise, with the weather you'd associate with a tropical paradise so quilts as they are known in other places are not going to be very common. There are other Pacific Islands that have a tradition of making tiafaifai, applique quilts without wadding used for bed covers, but I didn't see any evidence of that when I was in Fiji.

What to Buy
  • Bula shirt fabric
  • Silk saris
  • Clothing you can cut up to use in a quilt
  • Bracelets and necklaces that you can take apart and use to embellish a quilt
Where to Shop
  • Fabric shops: I never found a proper patchwork shop when I was in Fiji but did find some fabric shops. They mainly have fabrics for making clothes, especially bula shirts, similar to aloha shirts in Hawaii, which isn't a surprise since 'bula' means about the same thing as 'aloha'. Bula fabric comes in both cotton and poly-cotton.
  • Local markets: Most of the hand-dyed or hand-painted fabric I saw in the local markets was polyester or poly-cotton. But there are great bracelets and necklaces that can be taken apart and used for embellishing quilts. Best of all, the larger pieces from the jewellery already has a hole or holes drilled in them, making it easier to sew them on.
  • Sari shops: There are sometimes local stores that sell saris, some of them quite up-market. A sari is a great source for silks in meterage (4 to 9 metres), great patterns and fantastic colours, but you'll be buying clothing as opposed to fabric on the bolt.
  • Tacky tourist shops: I also found some dressing gowns/bathrobes, 100% cotton or 100% silk (according to the label) in a touristy Tshirt shop, printed in the same type of patterns as they use in stenciled bark cloth. But, again, you'll be shopping for clothing instead of fabric on the bolt.
How Much to Pay?
If you find a fabric that you like, you need to be prepared to haggle and bargain over the price. It is common local practice and is expected. Be aggressive. Be ruthless. Be prepared to walk away empty handed or you will end up paying heaps more for things than you should.

What to Watch Out For
As with most tourist destinations, the locals in Fiji are all too happy to sell you souvenirs and promise faithfully that you will be able to get them back into your home country. If you are going to buy anything made from plant or animal products, you need to be aware that it is likely to be confiscated by the Customs Service of the next country you travel to.

Be sure to declare any souvenirs made from plant or animal products, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, including food products like honey. In Australia, our Customs Service takes their job seriously and they look forward to flights of full of tourists from places like Fiji bringing home sea shells and drums and wood carvings.

Declare everything, even if you aren't sure.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Patchwork Shopping Down Under

I belong to a couple of overseas patchwork internet lists and, every once in a while, someone posts that they (or a friend) are coming to Australia or New Zealand and want to find out about patchwork shopping. I have some small experience with fabric shopping in both Australia and New Zealand, so here's what I have found.

What to Buy
  • Aboriginal-inspired or -designed fabrics in Australia
  • Maori or Pacific Island designs in New Zealand
  • Hand-dyed fabrics
  • Hand-dyed wool or silk tops
  • Wool for knitting (although I prefer it in jumper-form myself)
  • Charms of native flora or fauna
  • Greenstone earrings from New Zealand make excellent quilt embellishments
  • Wooden buttons, crochet hooks and knitting needles from native timbers
The Fabrics
There is something you should know about Aboriginal-inspired or -designed fabrics. The colour palette and scale of these fabrics can be a bit different from what you are used to wherever you came here from. Try to keep an open mind. They grow on you and can make even the most average quilt just sizzle with excitement.

Fabric shopping in New Zealand can be different again, but while we have Aboriginal-inspired fabrics or ones with wallabies and waratahs on them, theirs have Maori-inspired fabrics and kiwis and silver ferns and pohutukawas on them. I know, because I've walked out of shops there with armfuls of the stuff. And it has pride of place in my stash and are simply too precious to cut into.

Hand-dyed and painted fabrics will be different again, partly because we are inspired by the natural environment around us and this place is different than just about anywhere else. And New Zealand is different yet again, in terms of the landscape, flora and fauna that is found there.

The Shopping
One thing to remember about Australia is that we have the population of Los Angeles proper and the country is about the size of the continental US. So we do pay more per metre for fabric than you would in the US per yard ... fewer shoppers, higher transport and petrol costs, wages for shop workers are higher than in the US, different tax structure and lots of other reasons that it costs more. Or maybe costs in the US are artificially low ...

And our shops are usually much smaller than in the US and have a much more limited selection, partly due to the price of fabric and partly because some distributors don't make all lines or all fabrics within a line available to shops here. One of my favourite fabric shops is actually in the converted garage behind the owner's house smack dab in the middle of a residential area. So if you are used to Wal-Mart style shopping, you will have to shift gears a bit.

Think of fabric shopping in Australia as more of a treasure hunt. You will find fabrics here that you simply won't see anywhere else. But you are going to have to work to find those treasures ... they won't just fall into your lap or jump out at you. And as your reward, you will prize each one that you find. And none of your friends will have it or anything close to it unless they are shadow shopping you.

Good Sources of Information
  • Southern Cross Quilters (SCQuilters) is an internet group for Australian and New Zealand quilters and they have a site of shop info that I use when I travel.
  • Every country has its own yellow pages. For Australia, it's at For New Zealand, check out Try searching for patchwork, quilting, sewing, needlework, embroidery, craft, art supplies or anything along these lines. It can be expensive to advertise in a lot of categories so a bit of lateral thinking will come in handy.
  • Most shops will have a link to where they are and can give directions if you call them. For Sydney, I use to find out exactly where they are (which works for the entire country I'm guessing) but I don't know what the equivalent for New Zealand would be.
Major Quilt Shows
This is, of course, subject to change, but, in 2007 in Australia, this is when the big quilt shows were held in the various capital cities:
And for New Zealand:
My Personal Favourites for Shopping
Here are the places that I shop in Sydney. No brown bags have changed hands ... just speaking as a satisfied customer.
  • Dyed and Gone to Heaven is worth checking out if you love hand-dyed and hand-painted fabrics or beads. I have done exhaustive research into Lisa's stock over the years and have been a very satisfied customer.
  • Logan's Patchwork is in Balmain. I often take my American friends and family shopping there and they usually walk out with armloads of Australian fabrics.
  • Material Obsession in Hunters Hill has lots of fresh and exciting fabrics.
  • Buttons, Buttons, Buttons in Nurses Walk in The Rocks has the most amazing collection of buttons, especially antique and period buttons. I love this shop.
  • Tapestry Craft on York Street. They have some wonderful Australian needlework and embroidery kits as well as threads, beads and knitting yarn.
  • The Bead Bar in The Rocks, is small but packed full of beading treasures waiting to be discovered.
  • Virginia Farm Woolworks is a great place to find a wide range of dyed wool and silk tops, mainly catering for spinners and weavers.
  • The Thread Studio. OK, this one is in Perth, way on the other side of the continent, but let's not quibble. I've shopped here via the internet for a couple of years and Dale has the best stuff for art quilters that normal patchwork shops usually don't carry.
And my favourites in New Zealand:
For those of you who were wondering:
  • Wallabies are a species of small kangaroo and the name of the Australian national rugby team
  • Waratahs are a native Australia flower and the state flower of New South Wales (and the name of the NSW rugby team)
  • Kiwis are small nocturnal birds in New Zealand, one of the few flightless birds in the world which makes them vulnerable to feral cats and other introduced species. It is also someone from New Zealand
  • Pohutukawa is the New Zealand Christmas tree
  • Silver tree fern is a native New Zealand plant and the symbol for the All Blacks, the New Zealand national rugby team
  • Wool is another name for knitting yarn
  • Jumper is another name for a sweater
  • Wool tops, also known as wool roving, are wool fibres that have been cleaned and dyed but not yet spun
Update 10 December 2007: Just for fun, I've also posted information about patchwork shopping in Fiji.

Update 6 October 2008: I added the links to Jennifer Pudney's site. Can't believe I left it off the first time.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Serious Religion

Sometimes I see a particularly flamboyant church building and wonder if God sort of smiles and shakes his Head ...

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Scatterday Challenge - T

This week's Scatterday Challenge post is brought to you by the letter T and the categories Clothing, Purple and Hot Things.
For Clothing, I give you Thongs. Now, this is one of those words that means something different depending on the country of the speaker. But, in keeping with my on-going attempts to keep my Scatterday Challenges rated G but not too boring, I've decided to go with the Australian version, which is footwear, instead of the American version, which is underwear.

For Purple, I give you a Tile Mosaic from outside the local post office.

And, for Hot Things, I give you my small bottle of Tabasco sauce as I've just finished off the large one. The bottle of beer is just for comparison and, even though it is considered a breakfast food in some places, certainly not for consumption. G rating, remember?

Next week is brought to you by the letter M and the categories Textures, Weapons and Hobby.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

'The Uncommon Quilter' by Jeanne Williamson

If you believe that quilts have to be planned out in detail and each and every one an heirloom, then this book isn't for you.

Jeanne made a quilt a week for 7 years from almost everything you could think of. This book shows some of her quilts grouped into Plastic, Paper, Surface Design and Fibre.

This book is like a quilter's playground. Jeanne encourages you to make quilts in a very quick and relaxed way. Some of her quilts took a couple of hours; some took a couple of days. But when you are aiming for a quilt a week, you can't agonise over things ... just do it! She included examples of a couple of techniques that were so simple and accessible that you want to give it a go.

For me, this book suffers a bit from bad editing. But the ideas and variety of quilts more than make up for that.

Now, where do I find some orange construction fencing ...

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Scatterday Challenge - H

This very tardy Scatterday Challenge is brought to you by the letter 'H' and the categories Human, Soft and Toys.
For Human, I give you a photo of HRH. I have it on very good authority that she is human, but since she's hit puberty and started high school, I am beginning to have my doubts.

For Soft, I give you my all time favourite gum in the whole world, Hubba Bubba. It doesn't taste that good, but smells just divine.

And for Toy, I give you our beloved Henry. For more information about Henry, check out HRH's blog.

And my next rather tardy Scatterday Challenge post will be brought to you by the letter T and the categories Clothing, Purple and Hot Things.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Joie de Vivre -- My Houston Journal Quilt

Journal quilts have been very popular in recent years and this was the last year they were going to be exhibited at the 2007 International Quilt Festival in Houston so I decided to give it a go.

First, I made my quilt sandwich with two layers of felt instead of batting, and started laying out some wool fibres. This was definitely a false start. Let me try again.
Now, this shows more promise.
Time to audition silk tops for the centre and it was a real Goldilocks dilemma. This one was too blue ...
... and this one was too pale ...
... and this one was too green ...
... but this one was just right.
Next, I started to add threads and novelty yarns.
Some closeup shots
Instead of using Solvy, I used one of the hot water bags that hospitals use to sterilise laundry. I cut it open and it fit perfectly over the top. And then the machine quilting started. First I did the green/blue section.
Then the purple star section.
But when I dunked it into a sink of hot water to dissolve the plastic on the top and pulled it out, I had a heart attack. The water had turned blue! Solvy doesn't do that. But it was OK because the colour was just in the water and didn't transfer to the quilt.
And here is the finished journal quilt.
And a closeup of one corner.
I don't have a photo of it actually hanging in Houston with the rest of the Journal Quilts yet, but I'll post it when I get it.