Saturday, July 29, 2006

More fun and games here at Devon yesterday when the girls came to play with fabric and thread, under the supervision of a most inspiring lady, Holly Nuttley from Western Australia. I said "the girls", but Basil the cat decided to join in, although he was just a passive spectator for a while. Until he discovered the delights of Holly's stash - she brought a suitcase full all the way from Bunbury, W.A. Basil really loved the feel of her "scrumbling"(freeform knitting/crochet) and settled himself on top of it for a while.
This time everyone came armed with sewing machines, and with the help of an extension cord and powerboard or two, we found room for everyone to work. Except for poor Dawn and Joy, who have both recently got their machines back from servicing by a visiting mechanic in non-working order!! Never mind, we all shared!
Some of us made phone book covers, some bags, and I made a giant needlebook. We used felt, which we embellished with all sorts of dyed lace, fabric motifs and wonderful threads and charms.
Everone brought goodies for lunch, but we did not stop long, because we did not want to break the momentum.
We have been so fortunate to have this inspiring, encouraging and generous lady give her time and energies so freely to us. We know she has similarly inspired and helped thousands of women (and maybe a few men) to discover their creative selves during her lifetime.
Thank you Holly!!

Monday, July 24, 2006


Yesterday was the 40th anniversary of my arrival on Norfolk Island.

I remember that day so well. It was really a voyage into the unknown for someone who had grown up in an inner-city suburb and taught at an inner-city school. My notice of appointment to the Norfolk Island Central School had come just five days before. Those five days had been an absolute whirlwind of packing and saying hasty goodbyes, with only an hour off my normal teaching duties at Glenmore Road School in Paddington.

I had been invited into the cockpit as the old DC4 approached the island, and as the green speck came into view, there was an enormous feeling of stomach-turning excitement. I still feel it every time I see a plane land here. I was met by the headmaster, Don Lawler and his wife Winsome, and taken to the School residence, where in fact I stayed with them for six weeks until other accommodation could be found.

The day I arrived was one of misty rain. I still love the sight of the pines rising through the mist. I was taken for a drive up the mountain, where I was reminded of what my father said when he learned of my new appointment. "You lucky will be able to see the sun rise and set on the sea!" But it was somewhat daunting to realise these seas would be my boundaries for quite some period of time.

The next few weeks were a steep learning curve. I actually faced my first class...a year 4/5...on the Monday morning with no voice, because of a throat infection! Those boys and girls have nearly all turned 50 now!

Within a week I had bought a car....a little Fiat 500...and was learning to drive, something I had never thought I would do. In the days of unsealed roads, every journey was something of an adventure, especially in the wet weather!

One of the hardest adjustments was learning to slow down after a very busy life in Sydney, with teaching in the day and University at night, and numerous other activities. But I soon learned to fill in the hours, making and visiting new friends and taking part in local happenings and organisations. Before long, almost every evening was filled up just as it had been in Sydney!!!

I just loved this place right from the start, and felt proud and privileged to be living here. I still do!

It was hard finding photos of that period, because that was the days of taking slides! But I cannot resist this one someone took and gave me. I had an 'admirer' who painted my name on the back of the Administration bulldozer. There was usually quite a commotion of good-natured teasing and laughter whenever my pupils saw it drive by the school!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Living on an island does not mean you have to become "insular" and isolated from the sort of social and cultural activities that enhance your life and broaden your horizons.
Far from it.
This week we have had the pleasure of not one, but two very creative ladies sharing inspirations, techniques and expertise with us in the fields of mixed media art and textile art.
Last weekend, we did a workshop over four days with mixed media artist Carolyn Stephens from Wanganui in New Zealand. This was organised by our very active Community Arts Society and was held in the School Art room (while school was conveniently on vacation!)
About twelve of us had a real ball experimenting with paper, paint, beeswax, glues, and found objects. On the final day....a full Sunday...we actually produced a book, each choosing our own theme. What a great sense of achievement.
Typically, I chose to explore some family heritage stuff. I still have to produce the wording that will make it meaningful, but I am really pleased with most of my efforts, as well as admiring those of the other participants.
The best part about these workshops is the opportunity to forget the daily routine and cares, and just PLAY. In fact, I think that having a sense of fun and play really frees you up. Taking trying something new, when you are not sure how it will turn out....often enables you to produce your best work. The surprise results can be the best part. Although I must admit that a couple of my sample experiments will be ending up at Waste Management!
As I slapped on layer after layer of paint, tore into papers, and glued things into unlikely arrangements, I kept telling myself "It is only doesn't matter what happens."
As with all "play", one ends up feeling refreshed, stimulated and physically weary at the same time. And there are wonderful lessons to be learned for life....such as "Do not be afraid of the unpredictable" and "Take risks to get the best out of life" and "Learn to see the possibilities in unexpected things".
In the next posting I will tell you about the wonderful time some of us have had "playing" with Holly Nuttley, who is a textile artist from Western Australia.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

I am rostered at the Op Shop on Tuesday mornings. Iwas just checking round to make sure everything was OK before I closed it this morning, when I spied this among the linen. At first I thought it was just a sheet printed with this pattern, but when I investigated closer, I realised it has been appliqued onto a double bed sheet.
My friend May, who lived and worked with the Adventist Missions in the Cook Islands for many years, says it is probably from there, because it is the sort of style and pattern they use there. I know they do them in Hawaii and Tahiti too, and probably other places in Polynesia.
This has simply been appliqued onto an ordinary cotton bed sheet....but you should see the neat and very tiny handstitching! It is just incredible. I would say it has been appears to have been laundered a few times, but is still in great condition.
We were given a couple of similar bedspreads by the Tahitians when they were here, with matching pillow shams, but those ones were backed and lined.
I will probably use this one as a tablecoth, but the colour of the pink is a really lovely one, and it looks so good in the spare bedroom!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

This is my hundredth posting since I started my Devonhouse Blog, and I had hoped to write something positive.
However, it is a rather sad day because this morning we said goodbye to our old cat Flynn.
Flynn was born on 29th September 1994. His mother Ethel gave birth to 4 kittens in the cupboard where Bernie kept the alcohol! My nephew-in-law Mark, when told that she was making a nest in the grog cupboard exclaimed: "But I thought Ethel 'ated spirits" (rhymes with methylated spirits.) Flynn is the tabby and white kitten.
Although he was born in our house, Flynn has actually had three other owners in his lifetime...and each time, for various reasons, he ended up back with us. We had named him Errol, but his first new owner christened him Flynn. I often called him Fearless Flynn, because he was an adventurous animal in his youth. He would sit on the fence and reach his paws out to pat the cows as they walked past.
Each summer, terns come and nest in the trees in front of our house. Terns do not come down to the ground, but each year, there would be two or three occasions when we found a pile of white feathers on the lawn...and Flynn would have a telltale feather still around his mouth, or a guilty look on his face. I do not know if he jumped after them as they swooped close to the ground, or if he climbed the trees.
Because he did not always live with us, and because he was a bit of a loner and an outside cat (by choice) I had a job finding a picture of him in his heyday, but finally came across just one. But for some reason Blogger will not let me download it today, so I will try in a future posting.
The past month or two, he has been staying closer to home and even sleeping on the bed. He was obviously not himself. When he started to lose interest in his food, we knew something was wrong. He spent several nights at the vet last week, and we were hopeful he would recover, but it was not to be.
Funnily enough, it is Bernie, who is not a catlover, who has been his nursemaid during these last days. He prepared a comfortable basket for him in front of the of the laundry baskets, because Flynn was rather fond of sleeping on top of clean and ironed clothes! He would get up several times a night to try and entice him to sip some warm milk/water or specially prepared egg flip.
His last resting place is under the big White Oak in the woodland in front of the house. The terns will now nest there unthreatened, but perhaps he will hear their twittering above him.
Nearby are other departed felines....Tiger, Nigel, Cyril, Roxy and Keith. Each has a palm planted above the burial plot.
We only have two cats is about thirty years since we had so few! There are not so many kittens round nowadays. The Parks and Wildlife people run a subsidised de-sexing program twice a year, and the vets and the Cat Welfare Society will not give away a cat unless it is neutered. But if the opportunity should present itself to provide a home for another puss, I am sure I would not be able to resist it!

Monday, July 10, 2006

In the weekend, I went upstairs and finished putting together the Crazy Patch tote bag. What a great feeling to have something finished..but there are still lots of UFO's (Unfinished Objects) for me to tackle before my conscience really lets me get started on too many new projects!

I found a wonderful cotton print for the can just see a glimpse of it on the handle. The sewing then went fairly smoothly...until I got to the handle/strap. I attached one end O.K., and then had four attempts at attaching the other end. The first time I attached it back to front, with the lining on the outside. The second time I attached it to the wrong part of the bag. The third time I managed to sew it on with a complete twist in the middle. The fourth time it went on perfectly..hooray!

In the picture above, you can just see a bit of my Crazy Fruit and Vege Quilt which is draped over the back of the settee.

I have enrolled in a Multimedia Collage Workshop at the end of this week, with Carolyn Stephens from New Zealand. So I am off to gather some bits and pieces, and try to think of a theme to work on.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


I thought I would show you progress on a Crazy patch block I have been working on.

It is nearly finished.....just one or two bits and pieces to attach. I am planning on making it into a tote bag for myself, the sort of bag you take out when you want a bit of colour and excitement in your life, or when you want to be noticed.

Mind you there was a time when I did not want to be noticed, at least not unless it was for the right things. Nowadays, I just don't care. That is one of the nice compensations for getting just doesn't matter what people think any more!

What is the first thing you see when you look at the first picture? I bet it is the sunglasses. Actually they are a little plastic brooch. A friend has pleaded with me not to leave them on the block. They are a bit out of character with the rest of the embellishments and I have considered replacing them with an old-fashioned brooch that reads "MOTHER".

On the other hand, if the sunglasses say "Hey, look at me!" then perhaps they should stay."

After all, life should be fun, as long as it is not at someone else's expense.

I realise the bag is in a similar colour palette to many of my recent projects, because I keep taking my fabric scraps from the same pile. Perhaps it is time I did a big "tidy and sort" of some of my fabric stash, and start a new pile of fabrics for inspiration. I have a couple of bags and baskets of stuff I have not been through for a year or two. It gets harder to kneel down on the floor and pull it all out nowadays. Hope no creepy crawlies or other nasties have been making their nests in it.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

The other day, I decided to claim a couple of hours for myself upstairs at my sewing machine, just "playing" with fabric and thread.
Although I have fabric stashed all over the house, I have a special box of pieces up beside my machine. These are fabrics that really zing and sing. Lovely brights...limes, purples, golds, deep reds, oranges, royal blues etc, and a few intense blacks to balance them. I always know that anything I pull from this box will go with any other piece, because they are all of a similar saturation and intensity. I do not need to worry about colours matching or harmonising...all they need are some little bits of neutrals, even just neutral embellishments, to pull them all together.
Anyway, this day I decided to do a couple of simple little bags.
I got my backing, which is a length of cotton waste that I was given in large quantities years ago.
Then I covered it with random scraps of fabrics. In this case, my "neutral" was some pieces of a cotton fabric I bought in Honolulu 10 years ago, which has a print from old vegetable catalogues. I also added some small pieces from a black silk shirt I bought at the Op shop a few weeks has silvery Chinese characters on it. (I love fabric with writing on it.)
Next I laid down some swirls of threads and yarns, then some glittery shreds of packing material that had come from the perfume shop where Kim works. I overlaid some black tulle, and then went to town with the sewing machine, going in all directions with black stitching to hold all the layers together.
I prepared the handles by plaiting some black rat's tail cord.
Then I made a very rash decision which I deeply regret.
I decided to put zippers in the top.
Zippers are a bit technical for me, but I know you really do need them if you want to be sure your "stuff"will not fall out of the bag.
I found out (the hard way) you need a zipper that is at least an inch or so shorter than the finished width of the top. I also found that you really need one of those more modern zippers that are very light.
I corrected some of my mistakes on the second bag, and the zipper sit much more easily in that one. But I think I will stick with loops and buttons in future.
To finish off the embellishment, I sewed on some shell discs from some cheap necklaces I bought at the toy shop.
Finally I inserted a lining of bright pink taffeta - by hand.
After that exercise, I feel I am ready to play with some soft pastels and laces next time!!
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