Wednesday, 4 January 2017

New Year, new challenges

I cant believe it has been nearly 12 months since I wrote anything on this blog.... anyhow, I shall begin again, a new year and new dedication to at least writing now and again....

So much has happened - we brought  another house at the end of 2015 and moved in over Christmas 2015/2016, I then took on a new role at work from May which has basically kept me flat tack for the rest of 2016.  

Sewing madly for my markets has also kept me on my toes, but its been a good but hectic year.

My reading has gone downhill in 2016 but I do now have a garden, which is lovely but daunting - 2 acres of it actually - well 1 acre is reclaimned rainforest and the rest tropical gardens and lawn.  We now live in the hills around Cairns (Kuranda) and commute down the range each day to work.

Work has meant there has not been enough time in the day for too much gardening and planning but now we are settled in and generally the house sorted, 2017 is the year to really start planning our edible garden and get stuck into it.  I had some success in the dry season with beans and tomatoes but much else got eaten by birds or just failed to thrive.  I am not sure what I am doing wrong - this tropical gardening lark is testing my patience.  So need to source some good advice from locals about how I can tackle my gardening problems.

Here are some photos of the house and garden.  This is the vegetable garden once I had cleared it of weeds and planted out in pots - the soil is clay so I am trying to break it down before planting in it as things are just dying if I plant direct at the moment.  This patch is now overgrown again and needs clearing out and compost and mulch laid again.

 Enclosed vegetable garden with lemon tree (about March 2016). Unfortunately bandicoots still get in and dig things up - constant battle with wildlife here.
 Pineapple corner - I have a few more planted in this area now.

Luscious tomatoes until the sunbirds realised they could get tasty treats from the bushes.

I'll write more soon about my bookish aims for 2017 and more garden and creature encounters.


Monday, 25 January 2016

Our first pineapple from the garden

Our first pineapple from the garden... just a little one but very juicy and sweet.  The elderly lady we brought the property from has planted dozens of these around the place - all in different stages. It takes 2 years for a pineapple to grow and flower (fruit)... so if I plant about 500 each year I might just be able to keep up with Mr Macgregors demand for pineapple juice and for eating...

So lovely to pick and eat things from your garden... bring on the dry season so I can make a good start with my vegetable gardens...

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Book challenges for 2016 and beyond...

To help me get through my very large pile of to-be-read books and just for fun, I have signed up for a number of reading challenges for 2016

I love to read Historical Fiction so I am setting myself the challenge to read more from this genre this year.  I have loads on my pile as well as a list I want to borrow from the library.  I am going for the Renaissance Reader level - 10 books for this one.

The Read Scotland challenge is to read books: set in Scotland or written by a Scottish writer. I have chosen The Highlander level (6-10 books) which should be doable.  Having lived in Scotland for 4 years and married to a Scot for 22 years I have lots and lots fiction and non-fiction books on Scotland so have a good selection to choose from.

I read a lot of non-fiction books so thought this was a rather apt challenge for this year.  I want to concentrate on women's non-fiction (either by or about women), in particular a number of autobiographies that I have accumulating dust on my bookshelves.  I am going for the Master level (16-20 books) which I should be able make.

The Classics Club challenge is a more long term challenge.  I will list at least 50 classic books that I want to read and give myself 5 years to read my way through them. I will create a tab at the top of the blog with my list of books for this challenge.... I suspect the list will be more than 50 books long... there is alot to read out there!

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

A New Year

My aim in 2016 is to attempt to keep this blog alive by posting more and showing more of what I am working on, reading, listening to and watching.  Life just got in the way last year and I ended up taking on more than was reasonable.  I have a little more room now I have finished studying so I should be able to do more of the things I love and then post about them.

We have just moved house so things are in abit of a mess at present and the internet is not yet connected, but once I have my new dedicated craft room sorted and I can find things again,  I will give some updates as to where my projects are at.


Sunday, 18 January 2015

English Paper Piecing (EPP)

I started hand piecing a hexagon quilt about 10 years ago... I'm still doing it!  Its one of those long-term projects that gets picked up and put down regularly.  I was inspired by some Grandmother's Flower garden quilts I had seen online so the blocks are made up of a yellow center, a circle of 6 darker fabrics and another circle of 12 lighter fabrics.  These blocks are then to be separated by a row of white hexagons.  All of these have been hand tacked and hand pieced, the size of the hexagon is about 1 3/4" - this is likely to be the only quilt I make that is hand pieced. 

I am not sure how many flowers I have made so far... below are the finished flower blocks I have done - 1 with the white surround.

Complete hexagon flowers ready to piece together

I have many more in various stages of construction and lots of fabric cut and hexagons tacked.  No fabric has been repeated, so each flower is different.

Half finished hexagon flowers
Box of hexagons in various stages
Close up of a complete hexagon
I have also been working on some smaller hexagons over the weekend.  These are for a small round-robin I have been involved it.  These measure about 1/2-3/4" - so quite small.  I now have to sew these onto the next boarder and do some embroidery... I think they are looking great - love the colours of these small flowers.

I have been thinking of doing some different types of EPP - I am particularly inspired by the fussy cutting of fabrics for the Lucy Boston blocks that are quite popular at the moment. Think I might have a go at these sometime soon... but back to some of these unfinished BOM.  2015 is the year of trying to complete some of these... 

Friday, 16 January 2015

Convicts, Quilts and bonnets

This year I am going to study a unit on Australian Convict history.  I have always been very interested in the early European settlement of Australia and in particular the women convicts that were sent out to Tasmania and New South Wales.  There have been a number of wonderful books written about this subject and on some of the women - Babette Smith's a Cargo of Women; Sian Rees' The Floating Brothel and Lucy Frost's Abandoned Women.  I can recommend all of these books for anyone interested in Australian women's history or convict history.

In November last year I was fortunate enough to visit Hobart, my first visit to Tasmania.  While there I made a journey out to the Cascades Female Factory. What a wonderful few hours I spent taking the tour as well as the Her Story tour with the wonderful two actors who represented a female convict and the Superintendent/Physician.  Whilst there is little left in the way of the buildings on the site (the Superintendents house still remains and some of it has been restored), it is a fascinating insight into the lives of the convict women that lived and worked in this facility.  What hard work they had to do and the conditions they had to live in were ghastly and inhumane.

In the small museum they have in the Superintendents house there was a display of some of the bonnets made for the Roses from the Heart exhibition some years ago.  25,266 bonnets were made by the public to represent the convict women sent out to Australia.  See below for a picture of one of the bonnets on display.

Following on this theme, in 2013 I visited the "Quilts 1700-1945" Exhibition at the Queensland Art Gallery and in a rare outing they showed the Rajah Quilt.  The Rajah Quilt is the only known surviving transportation patchwork quilt made by convict women.  It was created on their voyage to Van Diemen's Land onboard the 'Rajah' in 1841. There is an excellent book published in 2013 about
the Rajah Quilt and the convict women who were thought to have worked on it.  'Patchwork Prisoners: The Rajah Quilt and the Women Who Made It' by Trudy Cowley.

Elizabeth Fry an English Quaker and prison reformer, founded the British Ladies Society for Promoting the Reformation of Female Prisoners and it was under these auspices that convict women on board ships bound for the colonies were given needles, thread, fabric, bibles and other sewing tools.  The idea being to keep them occupied during the long voyage and to also allow them the opportunity to gain sewing skills that they might use once in the colonies. Elizabeth Fry was a very interesting lady and a number of biographies have been written about her life (see Elizabeth Fry by June Rose).  On arriving in Van Diemans Land the Rajah Quilt was presented to Lady Jane Franklin the wife of the Lieutenant-Govenor of the colony with the following incription.

of the
Convict Ship Committee
This quilt worked by the Convicts
of the Ship Rajah during their voyage
to van Diemans land is presented as a
testimony of the gratitude with which
they remember their exertions for their
welfare while in England and during
their passage and also a proof that
they have not neglected the Ladies
kind admonitions of being industrious.
June 1841

The quilt found its way back to the UK and was discovered in a Scottish attic in the 1980's and purchased by the National Gallery of Australia.  Its truly remarkable that it has survived so intact.  I have recently read a book about Lady Jane Franklin (The Ambitions of Jane Franklin by Alison Alexander), another interesting women of the same era.
So much history to be explored and its fantastic when this history collides with my other great interest - quilting and quilting and textile history.

Rajah Quilt - National Gallery of Australia

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Welcome and hello....

This is a new venture for me in 2015.  I have been thinking about setting up a blog for some time and decided that this year was my year to do something new.  So here we are...

This blog will be about the things that are happening in my life, things I am stitching away at, books I am reading, trips I am taking, movies that I am watching, homemaking that I am doing.

Jenny from Elefantz inspired me to take this on (  She is having a Year of Gentle Domesticity and I thought that summed up what I would like to do... go back to basics and start to do and enjoy all those home centered projects again.  The past few years have been abit crazy and I would now like to start to refocus my life on some new and some old adventures.  And in doing this to try and bring back some positivity into my life and reignite some long lost dreams and aspirations.

I dont promise to be posting here lots and lots but I do hope to be able to share photos and ideas and thoughts with you all... if you choose to follow along.

I am looking forward to the challenge..