Saturday, 16 August 2014


I was just relaxing in my yard, drinking tea with a friend, hanging out the last of my washing, when suddenly, a lovely bunch of friends arrived with flowers and a birthday cake! What a lovely surprise when it happens that Tim's away skiing for the weekend, and I'd just started to grow bored of playing Hungry Hippos!
We sat around and sipped from delightful little teacups, and ate yummy fruit and cheese, and told stories about disastrous holidays. And then I remembered that this quilt needed photos! And while I don't have the loveliest yard at the moment, having 2 adults on quilt holding duty, one on baby holding duty, and the others listening to the big kids' constant chatter, made the shoot more than successful!

This lovely group of women are part of an intentional, urban community, that Tim and I have lead for almost 6 years. Half way through our degrees, we decided that university held the opportunity to be a rich time of community, discussion, creativity and thinking through our faith together. We set up a kind of 'home church' as part of Cornerstone Community here in Newcastle, with other student friends.

Six years is a long time in a family's life. Long enough for the first baby to be school aged, and for 2 sisters to come along. Long enough for routines and priorities to change. Long enough to see friends start and finish their degrees and move to new places. We are less involved these days than we used to be, less available for barbecues and concerts and craft afternoons. So it's a precious gift when a pre-prepared party arrives at our door, when these adults jump on the trampoline and hide in the cubby house, cuddle a baby, boil the kettle, hold a quilt. It's why I've started making these Graduation Quilts, for these friends that have moved on, or will finish up at the end of the year. I wanted to thank them for their generous gifts of time and friendship, washing the dishes, watching the kids so Tim and I can go out for dinner, bringing flowers and a meal when a new baby arrived, or when one was lost.

This 'Scrappy Trip' quilt is for Mandie, a sweet, happy girl, who moved last year to start teaching. I used small scale, fresh, and sometime novelty prints, strawberries, bikes, horses and butterflies because they remind me of her innocent and adventurous spirit. Until now, the Scrappy Trip around the World quilts hadn't really drawn me in, but I settled on the pattern while looking for ways to make an Irish Chain quilt. I was fussy about colour placement, had lots of fun making the blocks, and like the way the diagonal repetition draws attention to the little characters in the squares, compared to a randomly placed 'postage stamp' quilt. It was one of those few quilting experiences where I made the quilt bigger than intended, rather than running out of puff early and settling on a baby quilt!

Phew! Another quilt cut, sewn and photographed! I can't wait to post it off to you Mandie! xx

Monday, 11 August 2014

Quilts and their Stories

When blogging about a finished quilt, one has to decide between telling the story behind the quilt (this one is the first of a series of graduation quilts, for lovely friends in our home church, which has mostly uni students. I made this one for someone who loves the beach, because these colours remind me of the seaside), or the making of the quilt (this one was inspired by the one in Sunday Morning Quilts), or the photography adventure that follows.

I made a deal with a lovely new friend of mine that I would help her baste the quilt I've been teaching her to make, then I could drive her home, if on the way, we could photograph some long-finished quilts, child-free!. But then the baby refused to go to sleep before we left, so we decided to bring her along for the ride, assuming she'd just fall asleep in the car. WRONG!
We got the pram out, hoping she'd either doze off or enjoy the last of the daylight, and BROKE the pram as we got it out of the car. Checking that it could still hold her safely, we put her down in it and went for a walk. We got these two photos above (rescued by heavy editing) before deciding that the very unimpressed baby and the dark were clear signs that it just.wasn't.working...


Thank goodness for my neighbour's trusty grey house! I snagged Tim just before he left for work, but it turns out this quilt is slightly bigger that the baby quilts I usually make and I struggled to get the whole quilt in the shot, without the presence of weeds, or baby, or aerials or gas fixtures. And there's really only so much a poor husband can hold up a big quilt while his creatively fussy wife orders, "Put your left hand up a bit, no, your other left. Face me a bit more. Higher!" before, his arms nearly fall off...

...and he walks away, taking the baby inside out of the cold. Isn't he good to me?

 So, I'm not sure when we're going to master the art of either taking the whole family out when everyone's happy AND the lighting is good, or getting away on my own when everyone's happy and the lighting is good, but at least I'm getting time to sew, right?

 So what story do you tell when you finish a quilt? And which one do you like to hear?

Friday, 1 August 2014

a gift

I love handstitching. I love the time for thinking, processing, praying. I love it when Tim chooses scary movies and I have something to focus on apart from the film. I love it when visitors come, or when I have a meeting. When I want to be sewing but also need to listen to Evie's long and convoluted story about the princess and the power ranger. I'm sure I listen better when my hands are busy. :)

I started this quilt two years ago when my lovely friend was struggling to conceive. After a conversation where she had confessed that she couldn't wait till I could make something lovely for a future baby of hers, I thought it would be nice to make something sooner, something that would remind me, while stitching, to pray for health and peace and patience, and a new little one for them.

The pattern is Rachel's Modern Medallion, from Stitched in Color's Handstitched Class and each round of the medallion includes a different handstitching technique. I highly recommend Rachel's classes!

Well the more I stitched, the less I was convinced that it was my friend's style. Isn't it challenging making for others, without completely second guessing yourself? I replaced the centre with something different to my original choice, I chose brighter colours than the earlier rounds of Loulouthi which are very 'autumn'. Still, I was unsure. And then, miracle of all miracles, she fell pregnant! And slowly but surely, the quilt became neglected while I dreamed up fun and sweet baby gifts.

She had stayed in my "I don't know what to do with you" box for about a year, when I found out my cousin, another quilter and Anna Maria Horner appreciator (I like to think I introduced her), found out at her 20 week pregnancy scan that her baby was high risk, his organs weren't forming properly, and she needed to prepare for the worst. At the beginning of my own pregnancy with Finlay, I was devastated for her. I decided the best thing I could do was bring out the quilt again and keep praying.
Following surgery immediately after birth, Naomi's baby stayed in hospital for 2 months before, miraculously, wonderfully, she was able to take him home. You can read her honest and beautiful story here.

I've told a couple of people while showing them this quilt, that I was making this for my cousin.
"She must be a pretty special cousin!" has been the common reply.
And she is special, and I do like her a lot, but I don't think the recipient of a quilt can be valued by the time put into it. Sometimes it feels more like a gift to the quilter, wouldn't you agree? Thousands of kilometres away, little old me with my 3 kids and small house, can do this one thing that's extra special. I used to be the person wishing I knew how I could help, wishing I could do something. Now I can do this. Something that can hopefully, humbly, be a physical expression of all those hopes and prayers and tears, given for that precious little boy. And the much longed for little boy born to my friends last year. And for other dear friends and their wishes for babies and partners and other things that haven't come along as easily as they hoped.

Yes, I do love handstitching.