Monday, December 15, 2014

Mother Nature Is One Fickle Dame

Saturday morning was fair but cool and Mr Shoestring and I sashayed forth to the monthly Matamata market where I was very satisfied with my purchases.  (One might also say smug and smirky.)  The deepest blood red/purple trailing geranium, not to mention various unusual perennials (I always love it when the vendor tells me I have made good selections, though to be honest why would they not say that?), and my very first Carlton wear piece.  I have always loved Carlton wear but as per usual a lot of other people seem to share my passion and it is ridiculously expensive.  This foxglove plate may be showing signs of wear but it was inexpensive, and as it had been languishing on the stallholder's table last time the market was held it was obviously in sore need of a good home, so it came away with me.

For months I have been idling around the stall where a man cunningly crafts cut outs in old coins into jewellery and torturing myself as to which piece I would choose.  This weekend I threw caution to the wind and snapped up this one, cleverly using two coins

and just as I was turning away with my purchase clamped in my hot paw I spied this very pretty enamelled spoon, transformed into a pendant.  The blue and pink shades in the sky are so intense and realistic, I couldn't resist it.  

Having happily dragged my treasures home to my lair I spent the afternoon tossing compost and coffee grounds about in the garden, murdering slugs and watering my new treasured plants.  I noticed with satisfaction that some lilies had already opened and a lot more were promising to do so any day. 

Imagine my horror when I woke up in the night to hear the wind howling and the rain lashing down on the roof.  In the morning most of the lilies were horizontal rather than vertical, the wind kept up its pace, and the rain continued to beat down upon us.  I could only be glad that I had planted my new plants while I had the chance and hope that they survived, and weren't ripped from the earth. Luckily I had picked the last of the roses and some fragrant pinks, but it wasn't much of a consolation.

 And true to my promise from last week, here is a picture of The Infinity Quilt in her glory, finally completed.  

She really isn't that bad and she did use up all the scraps from a favourite fabric I used to make dresses for my daughters all those years (decades) ago

Here is a the back, and you can see the way the edge is cunningly finished and the way I had to create miniscule triangles (and diamonds too, though they aren't in the photo) to complete it.  You have to be extremely dedicated and patient to accomplish this - I wouldn't recommend it to anybody unless they were making their master work.  

 I couldn't resist putting in a couple of pictures of this embroidery from an op shop which uses only the most simple of straight stitches but gives such a feeling of movement in the fabrics of garments, also in the trees and windmills.  Look at the little patch pocket on the brown trousers!  

Sunday, December 7, 2014

To Infinity And Beyond

Hoorah!  I can finally report that what became known as "The Infinity Quilt" because it seemed to on forever and I despaired of ever coming to the end of it, has been completed.  In fact it was completed on the first weekend I returned from my travels abroad - I decided that too much was enough and that come hell or high water, its time had come.  Needless to say there was a lot of stitching and a teeny tiny bit of swearing and cursing involved, but we got there in the end.  I am ashamed to say that it feels something like what I imagine not loving a baby would feel like - after that long gestation, all the blood sweat and tears which went into The Infinity Quilt, when it was finally completed I put it on a bed and secretly thought to myself that I wouldn't care if I never saw it again.  I do go and visit from time to time and I think gradually a glimmer of affection is developing, but it isn't my very favourite thing in all the world, which is usually the case with every new quilt I complete.  So onwards and upwards, I should have listened to a more experienced and expert quilter (Madame La Poste) when she recommended to me that if I really wanted to get on with other things, I should just square off Infinity and have done with it.  Oh no no no, I knew better and was determined to be all tricksy and have intricate finishing techniques (never before tried by me) and be so clever!  Sometimes it is better not to out-clever oneself it turns out.

The best part about having completed Infinity is that it has freed me up to turn my attention to completing other much neglected projects.  The current favourite (don't tell Infinity) is this one, which I work on in the week days in town.  For a long time she was innominate, but she has recently been known as Big Red because my enthusiasm was such that I cut far more hexies than will ever be needed and she is shaping up to be one substantial quilt.  Much better a too big quilt than a skimpy one though, I always think.

Big Red is a buxom creature who grows by the day

And then there is this woefully neglected piece of needlepoint which I estimate must have been lingering around for a good 25 years - fortunately no moths have attacked it and this weekend I hauled it out of exile and stitched away furiously on it.  I can't help but try to estimate how long it might take me to complete, because there are several others waiting in the wings for their turn and my fingers are itching to get onto them - several of them are far more beguiling and interesting to stitch.  It's funny how your tastes change over time, but since I am on this big using up old wools and materials project it's sensible to use everything up on these half done projects. 

Getting back from our holiday I was thrilled to find not all the bargains had been snapped up in our absence.  My collection of priceless landscape paintings is ever-growing and this beauty only set me back $8 at the local annual church fair.  Mind you, I did have to go in a silent auction which was a bit nerve wracking as I was convinced I would be pipped at the post by another art lover.  
 Here is a close view and you can see the Turner-esque clouds, most attractive
Here is the whole scene, the colours are a bit brighter than in "real life" but you can get the general impression.  

At the local markets Mr Shoestring found this adorable little Hose Mending Pack (probably never to be used, but very picturesque) and odd but colourful little floral picture

I was very pleased to get back to the garden and surprisingly things had taken good care of themselves in my absence.  I think the secret is to pack in as many things as you possibly can, so that there is less space for weeds to get a toehold.  That's my philosophy anyway, and it is more fun than trying to plan too carefully because when you see something new which you MUST have, in it goes.  The fuchsias which I bought as tiny babies last year from Le Maison Rouge for $2.50 each have rewarded me by not only surviving, but thriving.  They were unexpected stand out successes, though I need to learn how to prune them as they are tending to have their ideas about shapeliness and height.  

I can only show you a few of them because that wretched Mr Shoestring had a new toy to play with this weekend, a powerful water blaster, which he used on pretty much everything in the confines of our garden as far as I can tell.  The end result is that most things in the garden are befurred with a fine layer of black sludge which gives them a spotty appearance which is less than satisfactory.  But don't tell him I am complaining or he may withdraw his labour and favours.  

Even along the front by the path things have thrived while I was away (it almost makes a poor gardener feel surplus to requirements) and the pinks have put on a wonderful display this year.  Also the rose which used to sulk by the front gate has finally decided it's time to prove itself and covered itself in pale pink blossoms.  (But I can't show you any of those because they too are affected by water blasting detritus.)  

Happy gardening/stitching/whatever warms the cockles of your heart.  Next time I will steel myself to take a photo of the completed Infinity Quilt, just to be fair.  Also the way it is finished around the edges is rather interesting, if a little tedious to do.  

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Barcelona, Paris and Rome via Brixton, Bermondsey, Bath and Brighton (Part One)

Greetings friends one and all, once again I must apologise for my long absence.  Mr Shoestring and I have been to London to visit our two wicked daughters who refuse to return to our fair shores and from thence travelled to parts unknown (or at least unknown to these colonials).

I know you will be interested to hear about all things pertaining to stitching experiences, so I will start off with the visit to the Kaffe Fassett 50 years retrospective exhibition at the American Museum in Bath.  When we planned our trip I was unaware of this exceptional event, but it came to my attention via that wonderful publication, Patchwork Mania, where I spied an advertisement one day.  What a wonderful experience that was!  All stitchers who remember the 1980s will recall how Kaffe burst onto the scene with his inspirational depictions of everyday objects such as cabbages and cauliflowers, and how that revolutionised the needlepoint genre at that time.  He has  also worked his magic upon knitting and patchwork and his use of colour, especially intense saturated colour, has inspired people the world over.  When we arrived at the American Museum the trees were festooned with knitted ornamentation and that was just a taste of things to come.

Another wonderful experience in England was the Burlington Arcade which was jam packed to the gunnels with vintage and antique jewellery, including one shop which displayed only old timepieces year by year.  Of special interest to me was all the art deco jewellery in this arcade.  Whatever your fancy, there was something to tempt you here.

In Brighton we looked at the pier, where even the toilets still have the original Victorian tiles and the stained glass windows are still in perfect condition,

but that faded into insignificance once we saw the Royal Pavilion.  What a magnificent treasure and how gratifying that so many treasures in England are still in the easy grasp of ordinary people.

When we visited many museums and art galleries there was no charge, for instance the National Portrait Gallery, which must make things a lot more accessible and encourage people to take advantage of the resources at their disposal.

One place we had badly wanted to see though was Eltham Palace which is an unusual amalgam of medieaval palace and art deco grand house (what more could one want), and is within an easy train trip of London.  On the day we visited the weather was beautiful, clear and sunny and we were impressed by the way the house and garden were presented.  When the family bought an restored the neglected property and added their own stamp on it with modern architecture and interior decoration the great Hall was about to collapse and had been used as a barn for housing farm animals and the sheer vision they displayed in melding ancient and modern was quite awe inspiring.

More to follow, I just wanted to let you know I'm alive and kicking!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Garden Envy

This week I called in to see my mum on the way to Shoestring Cottage and I couldn't quite suppress a teeny tiny attack of that old foe of all gardeners, Garden Envy.  Of course I wouldn't like to visit my mum's garden and find the spring growth infested with white fly and aphids but ... there are always things to be seen in other people's gardens which one might wish to have for one's own!  For instance, my garden is so microscopic that there isn't space for areas with different types of plantings, because it can be seen almost all at once.  Because Bobby has a villa the front of her garden is very traditional and pretty and just what one would hope for in a charming old well established garden

 But around the back there are areas with a definite subtropical feel, you could wouldn't be much surprised to see some monkeys or brightly coloured parrots in the upper reaches of the trees sometimes.

And then my spring blossoms look so sharp and garish compared to some of these more subtle beauties.

 The latest addition to the garden, a sumptuous apricot and pink shaded magnolia the likes of which I have never seen before.  (I think she would suspect me though if it mysteriously vanished one day.)
And a new camellia called Pink Lace, enormous blossoms and so tenderly shaded.

 No space at my place for a darling little gazebo draped with climbing roses,

 and my cats never pose obligingly either.

But we have to suppress these feelings in our gardening bosoms and press on and make the most of what we have or we would give up the fight altogether, so I tried to look for positives in my patch despite the fact that the flowers have to grow cheek by jowl with the vegetables because space is so short.  I will just call it companion planting and pretend that silver beet and parsley benefit from the close proximity of bluebells.  

 And this subtropical beauty did survive the frosts of winter and is putting on a very brave show already.
The miniature cyclamen are multiplying too.  
The lilies are forging ahead but I am a bit concerned about this one which seems to have some kind of mutant flower stem growing, perhaps two stems have fused together because it looks as though there will be one bumper crop of flowers on one single stem - as long as the slugs and snails don't triumph, of course.

We discovered a new op shop this weekend and I have added two more priceless treasures to my art collection.  (I am thinking of leaving it to the country as a national treasure when I die, I am sure the curator of the national art gallery will be overjoyed.)  

This reminds me of summer holidays on the Coromandel peninsula, the sun bleached grass in the foreground and the coast are just perfect.  It was $3.00 which seems a fair price considering there was no frame. 

I thought this one had some kind of interesting seedheads growing in the foreground but eventually realised that it had pieces of tissue paper stuck all over it, which I have picked off as much as possible but still a few remain.  $3.00 also and no frame, tsk tsk tsk.  

Bobby was having another one of her seasonal fevers where she feels the need to divest herself of possessions and I was the grateful recipient of a dainty little white chair which is very useful in the bathroom at Shoestring Cottage. (Looking at this picture I realise she also donated the vanity, which was immediately painted white, and the wooden screen which may well become white any day now too).  

I have heard from the Southern Sisters that they have been living the art deco life down there, and have completed replica nurses' uniforms from World War I for an event they are attending.  This of course had the effect of focusing the little grey cells (as beloved Hercule Poirot would say) once more upon the need to get up to speed for art deco weekend next year and not let time go past without making any effort, which is what usually happens.  I dragged out these likely contenders which will hopefully be able to be modified and fit for purpose. 

This dress is silk so should be comfortable for summer deco.  I very much like the slightly drab deco colours of the fabric.  When I located it languishing and unloved I also bought the scarf draped around the neckline, which hopefully can be used to make some kind of floating panels for the back or some other deco accouterments.  

This combo has a distinctly Miss Marple feel about it and I realised afterwards that it has no suitable hat, which could prove to be a big challenge.  As The Dancing Queen has frequently remarked, and as the Southern Sisters may well agree, the hat and accessories can make or break your outfit so I had better get to work in this.  A natural coloured straw with some lavender blooms on it might be just the ticket - just a question of finding such a thing, of course.  

 Here is a detail of the crochet in the jacket, which features a very tricky interlocking circle design.
 And I can just picture Miss Marple in a floral print along these lines.  

It was yet another weekend of torrential rain at Shoestring Cottage so I could turn these problems over in my mind and not feel badly to be indoors - this was the third rainy weekend in a row so there must surely be some respite soon!