Monthly Archives: January 2017


Way back in October I needed a simple piece so that I could demonstrate machine quilting at a home and garden show. The backstory is my guild was invited to spend time  stitching at a big exhibition covering everything from home decoration and cooking to pets and landscaping. The idea was to open the visitors up to the wonderful world of quilting. It was a marvellous success! So much interest, lots and lots of questions and all in all heaps of fun.img_3760Given the venue and space I thought that machine quilting would be interesting, but not of a large quilt as it would be to difficult to wrangle. I found a pretty pattern at Geta’s Quilting Studio, quickly fused the appliqué shapes, spray basted the sandwich and was ready to go. The highlight was when a passerby recognised the pattern – she came from Romania and follows Geta’s blog.

Since then I finished the pink cushion and have just completed the blue one. All made from scraps of six different hand dyes and some white on white from my stash. The pattern is adapted from a table runner called Flamenco, easy to see the inspiration


A name for a rose

Roses did exceptionally well in Melbourne this season, and my garden was no exception. I only have a few, and leave them to do their own thing apart from a bit of deadheading. img_3895With the plants doing their best to show off, I did take note of one standard that bloomed beautifully. It also had a stunning perfume, but as the label had become separated from the plant I had to appreciate it for what it was.

“Wot’s in a name?” she sez . . . An’ then she sighs,
An clasps ‘er little ‘ands, an’ rolls ‘er eyes.
“A rose ,” she sez, “be any other name
Would smell the same.
Oh, w’erefore art you Romeo, young sir?
Chuck yer ole pot, an’ change yer moniker!”

“Wot’s in a name?” she sez.  ‘Struth, I dunno.
Billo is jist as good as Romeo.
She may be Juli-er or Juli-et–
‘E loves ‘er yet.
If she’s the tart ‘e wants, then she’s ‘is queen,
Names never count . . .  But ar, I like “Doreen!”

“The Play”  The Songs of the Sentimental Bloke by C.J. Dennis first published in book form Sydney 1915

I couldn’t remember anything relevant about the rose’s purchase or planting and plants had been moved around a bit when a new deck was built. Did I replace one that hadn’t survived? This flower is a real stunner, long stemmed, long lasting as a cut flower and that beautiful spicy fragrance. Despite asking friends who know about roses, wandering around nurseries and searching online, no luck.

Then today, as I was doing some tidying around the daisies that are further down the slope from the roses, I found the label. Fortunately plasticised, and folded in two so although the outside was faded, inside – with a bit of a clean – was quite legible.


photographed on 7 December 2016

The mystery rose is Best Friend, a hybrid tea rose first registered as ‘Caprice de Meilland’ but when released in Australia in 2002 named by the RSPCA to honour the unconditional special friendship that comes from loving a pet. So perhaps a name does make it more special.

For those of you not familiar with The Sentimental Bloke – it is a classic of Australian literature, and much loved by the Diggers in WWI. My 1919 edition is the eighteenth, the pocket edition, first published in September 1916.

“The Play” is about Bill and his sweetheart (tart) Doreen visiting a production of Romeo and Juliet. Bill identifies with the lovesick Romeo who also loves a bit of a fight.

Wot’s in a name? Wot’s in a string o’ words?
They scraps in ole Verona wiv the’r swords,
An’ never give a bloke a stray dog’s chance,
An’ that’s Romance
But when they deals it out wive bricks an’ boots
In Little Lons., they’re low, degraded broots.

And every reader remembers the final line.

Then Juli-et wakes up an’ sees ‘im there,
Turns on the water-works an’ tears ‘er ‘air.
“Dear love,” she see, “I cannot live alone!”
An’ wiv a moan,
She grabs ‘is pocket knife, an’ ends ‘er cares . . .
Peanuts or lollies!” sez a boy upstairs.

Interesting flowers

A summer walk through the garden reveals some less typical flower forms and plant behaviours.

The buds on my miniature lotus have been very slowly growing in size over a number of weeks. Finally on a sunny morning the first one opened; by the end of the week the petals are ready to drop leaving the characteristic seed pod.

In just one day all the leaves from the Queensland Bottle Tree  Brachychiton rupestris had dropped, leaving just these vibrant bundles of new leaves at the branch tips. The first time this happened I was sure the tree was dying, but it is just part of its growth pattern. If it is to flower, all the leaves drop first, and it will loose leaves even if no flowers follow. This slow growing tree has flowered in the past, in late December.

The pink Jacobinia Justica carnea is flowering beautifully at the moment and my white one is covered in buds. The Pineapple Lilies have lots of flower stems about to open, I hope the weather will be kind to them as they shoot up and open into lovely fragrant flowers. Wind and rain can quickly knock them over.

I bought a pot of Ruscus acueatus at an open garden many years ago thinking it would be a good filler for a dry shady spot. It is still in the pot and doing really well so I should get on with planting it properly. It is a mediterranean plant known as Butchers Broom, and was used for sweeping tasks as it is really stiff. The “leaves” are broad, flat sections of stem that photosynthesise, so the tiny flowers are not in the middle of the leaf at all.

A lilly pilly Syzygium australe grown as a standard in a pot, has the most dainty of flowers and the Murraya paniculata has been filling the garden with its heady scent every evening for months.


Finally, a cutting I was given in early December has taken root and is now sending up its first new leaf. It is a geranium with very deep red flowers. Thank you Jenni.

Three quilts

Today I finally got to see the other En Provence quilts that have been made by my little group this summer. We met with other quilting friends at Morris and Sons in Collins Street for our monthly get together. It is very hard to see where one quilt ends and the next one begins.


The one to the left belongs to Jenni, Vireya’s is in the middle and mine is on the right.

Don’t the fabrics make a lovely background? There is now a tempting range at the shop including a wonderful Kona Bay solids palette.

Vireya is well ahead on this mystery as she has started the quilting.


It was a wonderful day spent with quilty friends, and a new project was planned. Something nice and quick so there should be some photos by the end of February.


Gardening is for the birds

This rather plump Noisy Miner displays determination and acrobatic skill in plucking the last berry from a clump of Dianella caerulea. She carefully carries it in her beak to somewhere safer for immediate consumption. I had to photograph berries on another clump of this hardy and attractive native plant that I am happy to share with the birds.


Not so happy about a trio of Rainbow Lorikeets who have been raiding the apples each morning and evening. They are quick to move on when disturbed so you need to look carefully at the centre of the photo to see the flash of orange, violet and green. The damage done to the fruit is much easier to find, but as I hadn’t thinned them and they are still very small and hard maybe they are for the birds too.



Complete Mystery

After a few solid sewing sessions I am very pleased to have a finished top minus the final border. I stuck with Bonnie’s colour suggestions and design except for the magenta, where I used a number of fabrics instead of one. My neutrals were more limited, to greys only. And I changed the cornerstones. Hope you like it as much as I do.


Here in the Antipodes the seasons are the opposite to where Bonnie Hunter lives in North Carolina. Actually the opposite point to Warranwood, Australia is the middle of the North Atlantic. c389c58b8bb36ed078b1173c2dd234a0

So while most of the quilters joining in the fun are snowed in with nothing to do but throw another log on the fire, send out for nourishing comfort food and sew to keep warm, here in Australia the challenge is to keep your cool.

My tips for completing a Bonnie Hunter Winter Mystery Quilt in the summer.

  1. Keep up. This should be your major focus, if you slip behind, the beach will become a great temptation and all that fabric will be gathering dust.
  2. Clues are usually released in the early hours of Saturday morning on the eastern side of Australia not because  we are in another hemisphere, but Bonnie is on the other side of the International date line, many time zones away. So either stay up very late, or get up early to make a quick start, or at least see what you are in for. Best to keep the weekend clear, social commitments should be kept to outside the home, you have no time for hosting events and you will probably be using the dining table for fabric. Come up with some good leaving early excuses, a desperate need to sew will not go down well.
  3. Have lots of fabric. If you change the colours from Bonnie’s suggestions, come up with a really clear marking system. Instructions are given by colour names – and sometimes these vary during the mystery – so always check back to the intro clue where colours are listed.
  4. Organise a clear space to work. Floor should be pin free, you will be barefoot. Cutting and pressing are critical to success, so have these workstations in pristine condition. Keep the iron off until you have a stack of pressing to do. Get it done, call for a towel and switch off. At least you are not on centre court at the Australian Open.
  5. Keep finished units together in a container, there is no way you will finish if you let them get away. Those cute clips are nice but not essential.
  6. Read each clue then read again. Jot down the key points like number of units, what you are making, what rulers to use, width of strip to cut, colours and pressing tips. If using a different method from the one recommended, good luck.
  7. Be prepared to love the quilt no matter what. Once the final design is revealed, if you have doubts about what you have made, you will never finish. It will be very scrappy and best viewed from a long distance, if necessary view your work from the other side of the house after drinking something strong on ice. Don’t listen to non quilters who cannot make sense of what you are doing. Once it is finished and quilted it will be lovely, that is why so many quilters make the mystery quilt year after year.
  8. Keep hydrated. Once you start flagging, mistakes will be made, the wrong sides sewn together, the wrong fabric cut. If you do need to reverse sew, do it straight away – throwing it in the later basket means you are making a UFO.
  9. Be prepared to time shift. Sewing in the middle of the night when it is cooler can be fun. Have a couple of long playlists you can sing along to, hits of the 80s comes to mind. Then when you are exhausted in the middle of the day, binge watching something light hearted can get you through. My choice this year was the Gilmore Girls, there are seven seasons. Set in snowy Connecticut there are lots of home sewing situations, quilts to spot and Lorelei has a lovely Singer Model 12 treadle.
  10. Most important of all, do the mystery with friends. Having a group for sharing photos, moaning about lack of progress, testing colour ideas, double checking what the clue means, and making a commitment to them will get you through. No one else truely understands what it is that you are doing, and no one else will have as much fun with you.

Thank you to Vireya and Jenni, my fellow travellers en Provence, and in fond memory of Joy, a mystery master.

Here is the list of all my posts about this mystery, starting with the first one.

Another mystery
A neutral starting position
En Provence in the garden
Magenta magic
Violet, Lavender maybe Lilac
Why violet?
Cool change
A New Year a new colour
Ready to assemble
Sashing surprise
This or that

Hundreds of quilters have taken up this challenge and you can see lots of versions of the quilt at the Mystery Link Up.

This or that

Final decisions in making the En Provence mystery quilt involve the placement of blocks within the grid, and then arranging the sashing pieces to look their best.

img_4898Block sorting was not too hard, and the sashing fell into place without too much fuss. So now my last decision is about the cornerstones.

Left or right?