Monthly Archives: March 2016

Easter bake off

It is probably a good idea to read through the whole of the recipe before launching into making a special cake. But all I did was check the ingredients – nothing too unusual and the picture – looked over the top but achievable.

First thing to go wrong was my minimalist red kitchen scales let me down –IMG_2570  the batteries needed replacing  and slim line scales means button batteries. No spares in the bottom drawer and this is on the only day of the year when all shops are shut.

Cake making needs correct measuring and I had to resort to my elegant but imperial Avery scales that have never been properly calibrated. This has to be combined with a conversion chart from a cook book published around the time metric measures were being introduced to home cooking. Not so bad but I miss the tare feature.

Then that not reading first came into play, cream the butter and sugar, fine, except that I realised too late it was not supposed to be all the sugar. Reading down I then had to sift things twice, beat egg whites to soft peaks, add stuff (that already used sugar) and beat again to firm and glossy peaks. You can guess what’s required next, gently folding so not to lose all the air. By this time I had used just about every bowl I own and washing up as I went was out the window.

However, the end result was much like the recipe picture sans food styling and mood lighting.

And the Easter Birthday afternoon tea was fabulous, son had made crispy chocolate an pistachio biscotti and daughter and grand daughter had baked very moorish hot cross buns. Yum!





Spent my first afternoon as a volunteer at the Public Records Office of Victoria in North Melbourne. It is the most amazing place, the archive for all government and semi-government records going back to the 1830’s. I found out about the program when doing some family history research there at the beginning of the year.

case book

While new volunteers were offered a choice of projects, the volunteer coordinator was keen that I worked on the Inquest files. This is a new project, indexing all the records so they can be searched online. It involved some basic entry in a spreadsheet; file box number, file number, name, date and place of inquest – all easy to find on the back sheet. Then came the tricky bit, the cause of death was generally added to the typed pro forma by hand. Sometimes very curly hand even though it was 1938. And I was suppose to put it in plain English. Fortunately there was no need to go into the file and read all the witness statements, although I did have to sometimes to make sense of the coroners’  finding.

Obviously this is the sort of stuff I like doing, as time flew and I was kicked out by the last staff member to leave!

Back to Colac

I lived in Colac over half a century ago, when bold young women (no such thing as teenagers) wore the a new garment called pedal pushers and my Grade 3 teacher lived by herself and drove a Morris Mini. A bit much for this conservative western district city – just proclaimed in 1960 perhaps due to my family’s arrival.

On my recent visit for the Colac Quilt Show I was surprised at how familiar the centre of town remained, although I was a bit thrown when the Baptist Church which was my navigation reference was no longer there. My father was the minister and we lived in the manse just around the corner. The house is still there but with a caravan parked out front I couldn’t get a picture, I found out later that the church is to be rebuilt. So thanks to Mr Google here is how they appeared not long ago.

It looked like the owners were at home, so with nothing to loose rang the bell. Ian and Judy have lived in what is now a beautifully restored late Victorian home for over 30 years. They love it and have made all sorts of improvements since I lived there. Hot running water, lino lifted and stunning floorboards revealed, efficient heating and cooling and plenty of living space added to the back. My enclosed verandah bedroom has become the laundry and toilet. The garden is now a delight; it was quite nice at the front and practical at the back in my time  and I remember a beautiful  lilac at the side. This had been there until it recently when it did not come back from a heavy prune.

Other than a change of colour the front is still the same, the iron lace and elegant front door survived the years of neglect from when the church sold the property not long after we left, until the current owners took possession in the early 80s.

As for those young people, not a bouffant hairstyle in sight, just as it should be.

Another very important building has also gone, the Municipal Library, my favourite place. It has been replaced by a cultural centre, but it’s not the same. Fortunately there is a picture of the old Arts and Crafts building in the archive of the State Library. This picture is dated 1908, but I think it is the same building, I remember it being in a park setting, and having to cross the road to be on the other side from the hotel on the walk down Gellibrand Street. Also a large, perhaps octagonal reading room, the lantern on the roof hints that there is something like this below.



The more recent photo from the National Trust shows a bland paint treatment concealing many of the original features, and looking a bit more how I remember it.



Maldon and Castlemaine

I hadn’t been back to the Maldon Cemetery since my father’s burial in February last year. It is a really beautiful place in the shadow of The Rock of Ages just off the Cairn Curren Road.  The hill is strewn with granite boulders, with some very large ones at the top, a local viewing point. Graves date back to the gold rush and a few of my early forebears are also here. Some of the maintenance is done by the women from the prison on the other side of the road, I hope they find pleasure in working in this special environment.

My other reason for heading up the Calder Highway was to visit the second exhibition by the Threadbear Appliqué Group at the old Castlemaine Market Building. Not the sort of exhibition you can rush around despite the heat, as each quilt deserved close viewing. Only a few were hand quilted, perhaps all energy was spent on the hand appliqué. I learn a lot by viewing other people’s quilts; new ideas for layering elements, the effect of background pattern, colour and quilting, and appropriate choice of appliqué technique for the work.

It was also interesting to see the same pattern worked by two different quilters, especially as I am halfway through the first of these.

Dresses and Quilts

Plans for my excursion to Winchelsea and Colac changed when I saw how popular the exhibition of fashions from the Dressmaker at Barwon Park was.


Instead of viewing this first and then going on to the Quilt Show I did a flip. This also meant I could catch up with Vireya who was already in Colac.

Colac Quilters have between 40 and 50 members and they did themselves proud.The display of quilts was delightful, beautifully staged and some really pretty pieces.  One friendship group were making quilts to celebrate the 70th birthday of each member until they realised the younger ones would have to wait too long and may miss out altogether. So they got one at a less auspicious birthday. I was taken by some clever piecing using a flower fabric on one quilt and the charming embroidered gate on the row by row year quilt.

After lunch and some time visiting old haunts in Colac it was back to Barwon Park.

The exhibition will go to Ripponlea at the end of April, it is well worth a visit if you are a fan of Marion Boyce’s costume making. Each character has their own look, which then undergoes a transformation. The dull hues in Molly’s outfits required significant distressing of fabrics. The faded beauty in the wool shawl has been achieved by blending the wool threads. There are no short cuts at all in the dresses, each one is carefully constructed for the actor, who had to wear heavy duty corsetry to achieve the silhouette. This was fine in the fitting room, but challenging in the heat on location.

Tilly Dunnage’s Singer Sewing machine is a 201k2, the one on display is from 1938 – yes I checked the serial number!

Barwon Park is a beautiful National Trust property, it has been open to the public for about 10 years, I intend to return to see it as a furnished house.  The beautiful carpets give a small hint to how it looks without the tableaux and imagery from the film.

Appliqué design challenge

plum and bush bananaThis fabric has been chosen for the Waverley Appliqué SIG display at the upcoming Quilt Show. It is Plum and BushBanana by Laurel Taniels for M&S Textiles and as I chose it I have to make an item. The only requirement is that appliqué is used.

When looking through the book of the Tokyo Quilt Show recently I had an inspiration. There is a framed quilt section in that exhibition, so that is what I will make.

First step was to find a suitable frame which meant visiting antique centres in my area. It was while on this task that I found my very Lovely Pony sewing machine. After rejecting moulded gilt and distressed pokerwork frames and not being able to afford a beautiful small but substantial oak one that was mostly frame I found the perfect piece for my quilt.

picture frameIt is wire work of unknown vintage, possibly modern shabby chic, with an anonymous London couple on their wedding day probably in the late 40’s.

Next step is a design. I had birds in mind, and when I found my quinces being consumed not by possums but by a King Parrot I had a plan. Birds in a fruit tree, but finch like rather than parrots because of the patterning on the fabric.

Using a silver eye picture as a reference I sketched up the design and checked it in the frame. I only have a small piece of the fabric, so instead of cutting straight away I made a photocopy of the fabric and planned the fussy cutting using that instead.

This is a bit of a backward way of doing things as I had not chosen a background fabric. I wanted it to be quite busy, to give a sense of a tree with lots of foliage and the birds hard to find.

So to audition fabric I copied my pasted up design onto a transparency, stuck white paper behind the coloured shapes to give the necessary depth and tried it on fabrics from my stash. At first I had thought I would stitch leaves when quilting to give the busyness then I tried some prints both front and back.

fabric test
But I think I found the perfect fabric from the Magnolia Lane Collection by Laura Gunn for Michael Miller – it even has a branch in the right place so I won’t have to appliqué that part! As the paper is not as bright as the print fabric, I am sure the birds will be visible. And it is a fantasy piece, so fruit and flowers at the same time is not a problem.

magnolia branch

I feel like I have finished, but really I haven’t yet picked up needle and thread.