Monday, September 23, 2013

Dyeing For The Weekend

Once Madame La Poste gave me detailed instructions on how to dye your own laces for decorating crazy quilts and so forth.  This weekend I decided it was time to have a try and of course I couldn’t immediately lay my hands on the papers she had carefully hand written and given to me which meticulously set out all the processes which needed to be followed.  Feeling the need to strike while the iron was hot I forged ahead regardless (probably doing the whole thing in a completely wrong way) and was quite pleased with the result.  If you are going to dye your own laces you need to use the shiny looking rayon ones and not nylon lace (which won’t take the dye and which isn’t anywhere near as nice anyway).  The fumes can be a bit overpowering so it is best to make sure you have good ventilation when you get out your dye pots, my eyes were streaming by the time I finished.  It is interesting experimenting with the colours, I obtained lots of different shades by just starting off with a red, blue and yellow dye and mixing them in small plastic containers to achieve different colours. Wet the laces first and then squeeze them to remove excess water so that they are just moist, and away you go.  The colours bleed into each other where they meet but this just adds to the effect and if you use very fine brushes to apply the dyes you can be reasonably accurate in placement – except when a big blob of the wrong colour drops into the middle of an otherwise perfect area of painted lace, of course!  After the laces had air dried I soaked them in water to prevent the likelihood of future colour run disasters and then hung them out to dry.  I was very pleased with the effect and can’t wait to have another try, this time increasing the number of shades used.  

Not wanting to be wasteful I used the remains of the dye to colour some wool scraps and now have a lovely soft mauve shade for wool appliqué projects.  Hopefully next week I can make a start, and instead of being too ambitious and setting about making a full sized quilt struck upon the idea of making a needle book or two to hone my skills. 

We had a good time in the garden this weekend.  Mr Shoestring was burying the cable for the “fountain” and I heard him use some very colourful language while he tried to sort that out.  Fortunately I was inside playing with my lace painting so a safe distance away.  Finally it was all buried (must remember not to be enthusiastic with my trowel and spade in that part of the garden in future), and he planted his box plants around the edge of the fountain to soften the effect.  It is going to look grand, how pleased with the result he is.  I put in this spectacular euphorbia – note how it has a red “eye”. 

Euphorbias are very rewarding, they thrive in hot dry conditions and once they are established most will send seed around the nearby garden and give you lots of babies.  In the back garden where I wanted to start a white garden I put in a lovely white azalea.  It is supposed to be scented and I remember once reading a book where the author described an overpowering scent from azaleas.  Scent is such a personal thing, I can never detect much perfume in azaleas which are described as being scented and sometimes suspect a fair bit of exaggeration when describing scented plants, in order to make them sound more desirable.  The lilies are coming ahead by leaps and bounds and I put in basil and lettuce seedlings also this weekend.  I was quite surprised to see people buying tomato plants also, this was traditionally a Labour weekend job so they are getting in early and I hope the warm weather holds so they can enjoy an early crop. 

A few of last year's tulips gave a repeat performance this season, though it isn't really cool enough for them in our conditions

A few months ago I picked up this lovely old picture of a World War II land girl from a market and have been pondering what to do with it.  I particularly like the fact that this winsome creature manages to look so fetching in her jodhpurs and thick knitted sweater, to be honest I can’t think of many ladies who could carry off this look successfully!

I have also come by these two posters and now am on the hunt for some old picture frames so they can all hang in the sewing room and inspire me as I toil away there with the recalcitrant overlocker and more even tempered sewing machine, putting together some dresses for summer. 

Embarrassingly the hexagon fever I have experienced of late has showed no signs of abating.  After working away diligently on the one with a garden theme I couldn’t resist the urge to fussy cut some pretty teacups with flowers with them and some hexies to go round them.  You can still see the tacking stitches holding the papers in place, they will be eventually removed but not until the quilt nears completion - a very long time in the future I predict.  A very pink/blue colour palette and not my usual style at all, but very enjoyable as a break from quilting the never ending tumbling blocks quilt (which I suspect is unquilting itself while my back is turned as progress is glacial now). 

All too soon the weekend was over and it was time to get back to work, very mystifying how the clock seems to speed up on Friday nights through to Monday morning!  Luckily this working week the week was broken up because Lord and Lady Raglan came to town to celebrate Lord Raglan’s birthday.  We took ourselves out and had a slap up feast and a good chin wag.  Thank you Lord Raglan for your treating us, and many happy returns. 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Spring Frolics

First of all I must apologise for having been a neglectful poster, I have been having too much of a good time to direct any attention to blog posting but now will make up for lost time with a hurried message. 

The first exciting thing of recent weeks was the two yearly trip to Tarnished Frocks and Divas in Tauranga with a dear friend who manages to whip us all into a frenzy of excitement and this year we all got dressed up in sixties gear because we could tell from advance publicity that there was a bit of a sixties look about the show. 

 I won’t embarrass any of my fellow attendees with a photo of us in case they don’t care to have their shenanigans made public, but I can tell you that we turned a few heads and made something of a spectacle of ourselves.  We had a couple of flower children and a couple of beatle boot wearers (and I sported a fantastical black beehive hairdo also which was surprisingly comfortable).  The event has various categories and the entrants use recycled fabrics and clothes for their garments.  

I was thrilled to notice a dress (complete with bustle) made out of an old blanket and festooned with doilies.  All the models have to be over 40 which was very refreshing and dare I say inspirational, and the audience thoroughly enjoyed the whole show which included a lot of singing and dancing and told a story of its own. 

The next morning (after a very late night and a lot of carousing by us all) we discovered that the local embroiderers guild was hosting a show of their work, which we attended on the spur of the moment.  The work was of a very high quality and wide variety but what really thrilled me was that there was included a crazy quilt from 1880s which completely transfixed me.  (I suspect my friends were ready to leave long before I finally trailed out of the building glassy eyed and sighing.)  It was created by Euphemia Ballingall Maxwell, who was born in Scotland in 1929 and was such an accomplished needlewoman that she made her father's shirts for him when she was only nine years old.  I was so pleased with my last rainbow crazy quilt but the workmanship in this old beauty put me to shame.  The pieces were so tiny and the workmanship so fine.  Included were a wide variety of simple hand embroidered pieces including some very curious subjects which presumably must have had special significance for the worker of this wonderful crazy quilt.

 In this photo you can make out a boot, an elephant and part of a pair of scissors
 A magnificent green beetle
 A bright yellow crab - and notice the fabric with swastikas printed into the silk.  This was before swastikas came to have the present connotations, and were a symbol of good luck or good fortune in many cultures.

 A very healthy rat
Caterpillars, or possibly centipedes - and note the swastika motif reversed to give another colour effect.

 Upside down, black embroidery on yellow silk, a very grumpy looking man.

There was also one of a grumpy faced man, a rat, a pig, a couple of guitars, a harp and so on.  The border was a beautiful moss green velvet which set the whole thing off to perfection.  (Madame La Poste and I have divergent ideas about colour and I know she would disagree with me here.)  For me this was the icing on the cake of a wonderful weekend and I came home vowing to be more creative and use more techniques in my next crazy quilt.  What an inspiration.  I was allowed to take some photos so I have included some for you to see.  What small pieces and what attention to detail.  Every person has their own technique and approach to crazy quilting, which is one of the things I find so interesting about it.  Probably everybody has their own unique style which would make it relatively easy to recognise the work of different crazy quilters but it is good to try to keep developing and adding new techniques and try different effects on each quilt.  You might be able to see that this quilt includes a fabric with swastikas, which were a symbol of good luck in ancient cultures and did not have the connotations we ascribe to them now.  In fact the fabric has been used in several different places in the quilt, reversed for a different effect at times, so we obviously weren’t the first generation of crazy quilters to think of this trick.  I know I have included an awful lot of photos of this quilt but it is worth poring over to see the use of stitches and colour.  It is quite well preserved but the backing is deteriorating quite badly, fortunately the front shows less sign of the ravages of passing time.

In the same exhibition was displayed another "crazy".  This one appears to be a runner, perhaps for the top of a piano.  The colours are more subdued and it includes a lot of beading which has withstood the ravages of time remarkably well. 

When I returned exhausted but happy to Shoestring Cottage, Mr Shoestring had had the honour of being promoted to the exalted position of going out in one of the boats for the annual opening of scallop season and was thrilled when the effort entered by Farmer Peaceable won!  It was scallop on black pudding, with a bed of potato/pea/spinach mass and a garnish of lime mayonnaise.  Astonishingly we had a repeat of last year's events, where a very similar recipe was entered by another team.  You can imagine how proud Farmer Peaceable was when presented with the trophy.  This year the silver cup has been embellished further by the addition of a handsome wooden base and back board, and the addition of a magnificent scallop shell.  We all had such a feast that even the poor unfortunates who have yet to win the cup must have been happy.  (I hope so, or they may have gone to plot our downfall next year.  I can imagine that the cookbooks and knives are already out.  Gulp.)  

Last weekend there was another highlight in store for me.  By chance the local Anglican Church was displaying a collection of dresses and hats , particularly wedding gowns, from the 1880s until the 1970s.  The proud owner had divested herself of most of her extensive collection of clothing and accessories but put the remaining ones on display as a fund raiser.  Yet again it was an inspiration.  The workmanship in these garments was mind boggling.  Included were some fans from the 1920s, an ostrich feather one with mother of pearl "ribs"

 and one with ebony ribs which were most intricately carved or
possibly machine turned.

  The lace in particular in the gowns was beautiful and in very good repair.  

This hat was of a later vintage, possibly 1950s, but I thought it was heavenly and wish I could wear such a confection on a daily basis.  Bring back hats I say, we would all be in a better way!  

Also last weekend Madame La Poste called around for a visit.  I hadn't seen her for weeks and she treated me to some more treasures from her collection, including a book about pansy crafts - heaven. There was the most fetching tin with swallows on it, a pretty glass bowl with painted pansies and turned wooden container with pansies painted on the lid.  A veritable cache of treasure, and I am still trying what to do with the canvaswork vase of flowers.  I think they would make an excellent pocket on the side of a tote for marketing, or perhaps adorn the back of a jacket.  The possibilities are endless really!   

Despite neglect the garden is thriving.  After all this socialising and gadding about some serious work will have to be done there in the next little while.  Here's hoping all is good in your patch of the universe!