Friday, May 21, 2010


It was probably 25-30 years ago that someone gave me my first pieces of Liberty fabric. I was sewing items for the Church fete, and I was always looking for bits of fabric to use. In those days we just used to sew children's clothing and practical items like aprons. In those days my fabric stash was very limited and basic, and consisted of a few pieces of dressmaking material, and cheap cotton prints from chain stores.

This is my favourite Liberty fabric of all time - so pretty and romantic. How I would love to be able to buy more of this "vintage"

When I first handled this Liberty fabric, I was overwhelmed by the sheer fineness and luxury, and when I discovered the price, I was equally overcome. A recently opened shop on the island had begun stocking just a few bolts of this beautiful fabric, along with other special English products like Crabtree and Evelyn. And as dear as it was, I soon realised it was actually quite a bit cheaper than I would be paying in Australia or New Zealand.
The love affair began there.

Over the years, I acquired a number of pieces of Liberty. If I was down in the dumps, a trip to the store for a quarter of a metre of Liberty would soon cheer me up. If I was inspired to sew with it, every little leftover scrap was cherished and added to the ever-growing stash.

When I was sorting through the "Liberty" drawer, I pulled out this bundle of scraps because I decided they were too small to use. But I cannot part with them, and they will probably find their way into my planned Crazy "Silk and Liberty" quilt.

Sometimes, I would pick up a garment in an Op shop ....often unfinished garments donated by someone (like me) whose dressmaking skills were not quite as strong as their love for the appearance or feel of the fabric. A couple of times I have been fortunate to obtain a bundle of small sample pieces of Liberty fabric.

A few years ago, I sewed some handkerchiefs from some of the fabric. Some were sold at a fete, and the others went into my handkerchief drawer. What better use for a fabric with such a beautiful soft, fine feel?


  Last week, I was in one of those moods where I was contemplating the possibility that much of my beautiful collection of fabric would end up at the dump one day unless I made good use of it NOW. Upstairs I had a whole drawer full of Liberty. So I decided that another bunch of handkerchiefs was called for.

Over the weekend I cut out and hemmed (on the machine) about 40 hankies from the collection of fabrics.  It was a very soothing activity once I had come to terms with how to keep the corners neat.


          Handkerchiefs versus tissues? Now that could be the subject of a whole new blog!

Now you would think this would have reduced the pile considerably! But it only helped the remaining fabric pieces to breathe out a little, and they still absolutely fill the drawer!

As I sorted through and fondled the pieces, I had an inspiration. Perhaps I could make a Crazypatch quilt out of some of the pretty scraps and some very lovely pieces of silk, which I also collect. I can add some pretty pieces of lace and use some of my very special threads and beads and woven silk pictures.


And if I do proceed with this project, I will not need to spend a single penny, because I have everything here among my treasures which are spread throughout the house.
And I will not fool myself that I am actually reducing my stash. I will only be clearing the decks for more to take its place!

Today, the well-known textile designer Kaffe Fassett is designing prints for Liberty of London. What a fabulous combination!!


Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Yesterday would have been my mother's 99th Birthday.

My mother was one of those ladies who remqained "pretty" right into her later years.

Sadly she left us rather unexpectedly just on 14 years ago. Losing parents is something nearly all of have to face at some stage, but it is more life changing than most of us realise. You do, after all, lose access to a lifetime of memories that no one else shares. And you also lose the people who love you and believe in you so unconditionally.  Your parents have shaped you in so many ways - your physical characteristics, your values and attitudes, your talents.

Mum in the year she was "Queen of the May"

Doris Violet Castle was born on the Isle of Sheppey, Kent (near the mouth of the Thames). She was the second youngest of seven children.

Mum (centre) with her parents and a younger and older sister

David Winch was the love of her life, and he had his eyes on her when he was a young teenager, although she was five years his senior. They were permitted to begin "courting" when he was 16 and she was 21, and they wed five years later just after Dad's 21st birthday.

They would have two daughters - my sister Sally, and five years later, me!

My sister and me (centre) with a friend on a fishing expedition to the local pond. All our clothes, including my bonnet) would have been made by Mum. Note the big "ready-to-let-down hem on my coat!

In 1951 they made the brave decision to emigrate to Australia to make a better life for their family. It would have been difficult for my mother to leave her very close family, but as with everything else, she cheerfully made the best of it.

My parents dance together at my sister's wedding

The marriage lasted for 31 years. My mother fell ill with cancer, and my father was devastated, and feared the worst. My mother put their affairs in order, because she had the better business brain, and did not want my father to be burdened with this if she were to die.
On the morning that Mum was scheduled for surgery, my father stopped outside the hospital on his way to work. It was dark, but he flashed his car lights, and my mother waved from the hospital balcony. My father continued on to work, and was found a little later slumped over his desk, having suffered a massive heart attack.
My mother made a full recovery - physically, that is. But she sorely missed her mate. They had been a wonderful team.

I often think about what I may have inherited from my mother, especially in the creative areas of my life.

As with many women of her time, much of her creativity was chanelled into feeding and clothing her family and keeping  the home an attractive and comfortable place. She did not enjoy the luxury of craft groups, or lots of money to spend on craft materials. But she achieved some wonderful things using her resourcefulness and skills with improvisation. One of my earliest memories is of her handing me an old comb to make squiggly marks in the varnish she had just brushed onto the timber surround of our fireplace, to make it look like a woodgrain. She was a dab hand with a paint brush, and later became quite skilled with wallpapering too.

Mum was pretty competent on her old Singer sewing machine, bought second hand around the time of her wedding in 1937. It is still in fine working order, although the external electric motor she had fitted later is a little fragile.

In her young days she worked for Mr Jennings, who had a haberdashery, furnishing and clothing store. Here Mum learned many millinery skills, and she turned her hand to producing many hats for me to wear to Sunday school. Sometimes she would crochet a beret for me. She enjoyed crocheting, although she could not follow a pattern.

When "Shabby Chic" became the fashion, I realised this was what had characterised my mother's style for decades. She would do up pre-loved furniture, find new uses for old things, incorporate family treasures and individual creative efforts into her decor, and create lovely household environments in soft and gentle colours and textures.

Mum had owned a faux fur coat in her young days. This was turned into a blanket, and was christened "Horsie", and it was truly loved by her grandchildren. I do not know who actually inherited "Horsie", but I am sure it is still treasured by one of her ten grandchildren.

Although I have her sewing machine, I do not think I still have anything my mother actually made, except for a skimpy little crocheted rug at the bottom of some trunk - and something that is my pride and joy, a Suffolk Puff quilt.

My sister had inherited a similar quilt from great-aunt Sally, and Mum decided to make a similar one for me. She used discarded white cotton sheets from Fletcher Christian Apartments.

I think you can see why my father found my Mum attractive!

I think most of you know how it is. You grow into adulthood, and start your own families, and for a while you congratulate yourself on being more up-to-date than Mum. One day you listen to yourself, and realise you sound just like your mother, and have even started copying some of her habits and ways of doing things.

Today, I wish I was just half the person my mother was. She was compassionate and fair, and loved to be of service to anyone who needed her help. Sometimes her family felt that people took advantage of her selflessness, but she would not have had it any other way.

Mum is pictured with our "guide" in Cetlon (Sri Lanka) when our ship stopped there on our way to Australia in 1951

She had a strong sense of duty, first and foremost to her family. But she was also a wonderful Nana, neighbour and served her community too, helping those less fortunate than herself.

There is a story I love to tell about her. One day she was on the sun lounge on her back verandah, reading a novel. Now the lounge was old, and it started to give way at one end. But Mum was engrossed in her book, and stayed put. Now someone called to see her, and when she didn't answer the door, they came around the back, and found her on this collapsed lounge bed reading. She was highly embarrassed, but always insisted she was far less embarrassed about being found in this strange position than she was about being discovered indulging in reading a book in the daytime, when she should have been doing something useful!

Mum had many lovely memories, including those of the years when she and Dad used to set off on adventures on their tandem bicycle. I have a small diary they used to keep of these adventures, and I will share it with you one of these days.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010


And that includes the Norfolkers of more mature years, who like to get out and about and see all the latest happenings on Norfolk Island.
Each year, on behalf of Rotary, Bernie organises a Mystery Bus Tour for the senior citizens of the island. Now Norfolk Island is only 5 miles by 3 (or 8 km by 5), and you would think there would be a limit to the number of new things to be discovered by a local. But we always manage to find something.

As usual, we assembled in Foodies carpark after lunch, and Bernie checked off the names. There was great camaraderie right from the start, as always happens when a group of Norfolkers get together.

First stop was the airport, where "Coop", who has worked there most of his working life, hopped aboard.

Now everyone on Norfolk Island is pretty familiar with the airport, because we always seem to be welcoming people or seeing them off there. The planes from Australia and New Zealand are pretty much a lifeline for us in this day and age.

But this time, the bus took us through the narrow driveway right out onto the tarmac itself.

And then out onto the strip. Coop had arranged it that we would be just like a plane, with all the usual runway lights and signals operating! We quickly found out that we were flying too low!!

I did not know that the planes left so much rubber on the strip!

Our driver/pilot Ray took us right up to the new RESA (Runway End Safety Area) at the Headstone end of the runway. This has been a big project, involving many tonnes of dirt moving - but it does bring our airport up to international standards.

Next we inspected the "shed" - a huge building that has recently been erected within the airport, housing the fire trucks and Fire Services, Emergency Services and the Volunteer Rescue Services, among other things. In the event of a disaster, this building could even be used to house a large number of people on a temporary basis. Now all this new infrastructure has been very costly, but I believe it is a great investment in the future for a little island which depends so heavily on efficient transport and communications.

This room is designed to give an unobstructured view of all the take-offs and landings
Next stop was Matt's garden, and many were amazed to see the extent of it all, and the variety of what was being grown.

After this we went on something of a scenic drive - and every outlook on Norfolk Island is picturesque!!

We ended up at Kingston Pier, and disembarked for afternoon tea in the REO Cafe. This is the old Royal Engineer's Office from the Penal Settlement days.

Behind Edie, Maeve, Dolly and Marion is a reproduction of the famous Bounty Mutiny picture, showing Bligh and his supporters being set adrift by Fletcher Christian and his mates.

There was a delicious afternoon tea, provided by Rotary, and served by some of the Rotary ladies.

The afternoon was late, and it was time to go back on board and head back to Foodlands.
Big thanks to everyone who helped make the afternoon such a success. Thanks to the generosity of people in this community with their time and resources, it was all free, and absolutely no overheads.
Next year's trip is already in the planning!

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