Beware…woman on a mission

My Mum came for a sleepover last weekend. We went up to Kyneton to see my work in a group exhibition; we had lunch with a friend; we chatted; we ate yummy food; we had a lovely time.

My studio (aka the Playroom!) doubles as the guest room. So to have Mum stay, which I love, and is so important to me, I have to make space to unravel the sofa bed. That means packing up and moving my stuff out of the room, dumping it all somewhere else.

After the success of getting the hall sorted I am on an anti-mess campaign. I was determined to not just throw it all back into the room after Mum left. I was a woman on a clean-up mission!

The first step was to put up a window blind. I did this without killing myself or my Fella and only a truckload of swearing, especially after I realised I had screwed the attachments too far apart.

Next I sat and pondered how to organise the room better. The answer ~ that I needed shelves ~ binged into my brain. On to the computer, where I soon found the answer to my dreams. Clicked on “Buy me” and two hours later I had picked two of them up from the local branch of one of those global behemoths.

I love to jump into things and was on my way to assembling the first one. I had the pieces all laid out when we were offered an appointment at the Falls and Balance Clinic that day. The Fella is priority so there was no hesitation in saying yes.

Back to it the next day. The book cases came together easily ~ much less swearing than getting the blind up!

This was the some of my disorganised stuff


The work in progress (sorry if this photo gives you a touch of vertigo!)


Finished, but on the floor


Next came the fun part of deciding what to move into the little cubes.


My work table fits nicely up against the wall. However, it means I have to sit with my back to the widow. Firstly I don’t like working in my own shadow. Secondly, I don’t look at the treasured stained glass window that my Dad made for me. I wonder too whether having most of my art materials on my left side will be a problem. Anyway, I’ll try it.


There is still a lot of mess left, but I am determined that I will sort through each box and basket and messy pile.


For now I am basking in the delight of a very clean and very tidy work space. It’s amazing what a woman on a mission can achieve!



Some of you may not know that I write a fortnightly letter from my studio. Well, it has been rather erratic over the last months, but I am going to get back into the fortnightly schedule. i hope to write one this weekend. So, if you would like to know more about my art, you can sign up here. You even receive a free drawing of one of my ink feathers.

The bushfires and climate action

You know that there are mega-fires burning in Australia.

You know that fires have been burning for months now.

You know that lives have been lost, many houses burnt and huge areas of bush land scorched. If you would like to read more depth about the fires, including the background to the extended fire season and the extent of the fires and scary videos, read this article and/or this one. My heart goes out to those who have lost their loved ones and their worlds. And a huge amount of gratitude to the fire fighters who have done such an incredible job, sometimes sacrificing their lives.

You know too that the generosity of people from around the world has been overwhelming. More about donations later.

So, read elsewhere for the facts and figures; I want to give you my opinions.

There have been horrifying images of injured and dead wild life. Many of them are our iconic koalas, whose population is already stressed by land clearing and disease. The fires on Kangaroo Island have torn through a koala population that was healthier than many others on the mainland. It is tragic.

Australian flora has evolved with fire and many species need it to set seed and germinate. Once the fires are out it will not be long before we see the new growth sprouting out of the epicormic buds of the eucalypts. That will give us hope in the areas of East Gippsland and the Alps, home to the majestic mountain ash gums.

But these fires have been so intense and the land so dry  that they have burnt areas considered to be ‘unburnable’ ~ rainforests of Queensland, bogs in the Alpine areas. These habitats have not evolved with fire, and do not rely on it. It is quite possible that they will not regenerate.

We need to think beyond the fauna and the large swathes of flora. Let me give you two examples of how disrupted the environment will be.

There has been research into the amazing Mycorrhizal network under the forrest floor. It has been dubbed the Wood Wide Web, because it is thought to be, at the very basic level, a fungal system that allows the transference of nutrients, minerals, water etc between trees. It may be a system that is so much more than this. There is a short video here, or this TED talk.

Could that Mycorrhizal network have survived? I doubt it, and yet it is vital for the health of our forests.

The second example concerns orchids. Research by the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne has shown that our native orchids need two things to be successful ~ a specific pollinator, often a wasp, and the right fungi in the ground (yep fungi again). Again, I doubt whether these would have survived the fires.

It is important to care for our marsupials, our birds, our reptiles, but it is just as important to create an environment for the less glamorous, the unknown like  pollinators and fungi.

I started the post with things that we know. Here’s another one….we know that, while there are a number of factors contributing to this fire storm, the underlying one is climate inaction. Climate change is not something that will happen in 10, 20 years. It is happening now. A resident of the little coastal town of Mallacoota, which was cut off by the fires said it best ~ “Climate change, we are standing in it.”

However our Liberal government, especially our Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, is wilfully ignoring the issue. Just a couple of examples:

  • Our previous Prime Minister, Malcom Turnbull, was deposed because he tried to get a National Energy Guarantee. Scott Morrison became the Prime Minister.
  • Morrison brought a lump of coal into the Parliament, waving it about, saying “It’s only coal, it’s nothing to be frightened of”. His government has always been a strong advocate for the Carmichael Mine, also infamously known as Adani, which will be one of the country’s largest thermal coal mines. The Coal Industry is a very powerful lobby group.
  • At the recent Paris meeting Australia argued that we should be able to use carry-over credits from over-achievement on the Kyoto Protocol as part of our emission reductions. This sleight of hand accountancy means the government can say “We are reducing emissions” while doing nothing of the sort. In fact our emission will probably increase.
  • While the country is burning, and in severe drought, we are told that now is not the time to talk about climate change. If not now, when?

This is Morrison’s statement today

“In the years ahead we are going to continue to evolve our policy in this area to reduce emissions even further and we’re going to do it without a carbon tax, without putting up electricity prices, and without shutting down traditional industries upon which regional Australians depend for their very livelihood,” he said.

In the years ahead? What? We don’t have years. But let’s leave that aside, because I want to give you an analogy that seems to make sense to me.

The economy changed drastically at the beginning of World War Two. What’s more it changed because of Government intervention. Manufacturing was turned from domestic to military armaments; fuel was rationed to make sure the bulk was available for the armed forces; clothing was in short supply as the industry turned to making uniforms; food was rationed. The British economy had an even shorter turn-around period.

If changing the economy can be vital to the war effort, why can’t it be vital to mobilise all necessary resources to prevent more global warming? Well the answer is because it is not seen to be in the national interest. As Morrison said above, traditional industries (ie coal) are far more important than the health of the planet.

With the right political will we could become a leader in renewable technologies, electric vehicles, habitat regeneration, innovative solutions to world problems. So, if we can’t rely on our ‘leaders’, we have to look for leadership elsewhere, to look for those willing to be innovative and be change makers.

We also have to listen to our Indigenous Elders. Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders People have been caring for our land for tens of thousands of years. They used fire to manage the land, not burn it to a crisp. Their grief at the harm done to Country is immense. We must listen and learn from them.

I mentioned above about the generosity of so many people around the world. It is truly moving to know that there is so much support and care. There are many worthy organisations to donate to ~ but be very wary of scammers ~ as money is what is needed now. The ABC, our national broadcaster, has an excellent list of links. As you can appreciate, my heart is looking to the environmental future, so I would add these organisations:

But your support doesn’t need to be here in Australia. Climate change is global, and needs a global response. Maybe the best international help is to focus on climate change action wherever you are. Whatever you can do ~ from contacting your local representative to planting more trees to attending rallies ~ helps. If our ‘leaders’ are talking about vague action in the years ahead, we need to take action now.

(BTW, the photo was taken from my local park. If you look closely you can just see a 30 story apartment block behind the spires of the church.)





Yes, it’s that time again, to report in my sewing progress. However I am rather distracted at the moment. As you know there are devastating bushfires in Victoria and New South Wales. It seems like the country has been aflame for many months. Add this to extreme drought and record high temperatures. I want to blog some about that soon, as there are ramifications for all of us; in the mean time Ardez’s words, “Loving a sunburnt country” are very powerful.

I am also distracted by another dash to Emergency, with my Fella and his cracked ribs. He is on the mend, but you know the time that caring takes.

Anyway, back to my work. You can catch up with the beginnings of the work here. I was able to make good headway and finished it.

Most of the stitching is couched threads. When I got close finishing those lines I realised that the work needed more variety. You can see the French knots, but may not be able to pick up some of the running stitches that are there too. It gave just a little more texture.

abstract textile work

I was pleased with it, and offered it for a group exhibition at the Old Auction House at Kyneton. Then I thought that one was a bit lonely, so I did another! Both were accepted and are currently hanging in the gallery.

The Old Auction House is a lovely place, and has kept my creative practice going over the past year. (There’s another post about that too.) Kyneton is a regional town about an hour out of Melbourne. As well as the gallery there are other things to do, and lots of cafes for yummy lunches and coffee. So, if you live in or close to Melbourne, head out there for a lovely drive and exhibition visit. It’s on until January 20th.

The dilemma to exhibit these works was how to mount them, until I had a flash of inspiration one night while I was unable to sleep ~ to mount them onto shop bought canvases. Unfortunately the only canvases I could get were bigger than the works, which lead to the blank edge. It needed the line of sewing to give it some edge, to give it a frame. I even considered some form of quilting on that blank space. That might make some of you, especially Kate, smile ~ am I gradually inching towards being a quilter?!

Last night I set up another  work, this time based on my on going love affair with the texture and rhythms of trees. More on that one next SAL


These SALs are organised by Avis. There is lots of lovely stitching to see on the following blogs, so do visit. And a warm welcome to our new member AJ.

Avis, Claire, Gun, Carole, Sue, Constanze, Christina, Kathy, Margaret, Cindy, Linda, Heidi,Jackie, Sunny, Hayley, Megan, Deborah, Mary Margaret, Renee, Jenny, Carmela, Jocelyn,Sharon, Daisy, Anne, Connie, AJ


A special gift

It is a busy time, but I just had to drop in…..

We know there are deep divisions in the world, and we despair over what we are doing to the world. We feel anxious. It is easy to succumb to the negativity.

But then along comes the postie, with a special gift made by a special person, to remind me that for all that is wrong with the world, there is an awful lot that is right.

The gift was from my friend Kate, who blogs at Tall Tales from Chiconia. I know that many of you follow, read and comment on her blog (and if you don’t, you should). You will know her as a very generous soul. I know her too as a dear friend, even though we have only met a couple of times ~ the distance between McKay, where she lives in tropical Queensland, and my home in Melbourne is huge.

These last six months for me have been full of medical matters for my partner and my Mum. Both are on the mend, but everything has been a distraction from my artistic work. Kate has picked up on this, and sent me a beautifully quilted brush roll. She hopes that it will help me get my creative mojo back, and I am sure it will.


Kate has not only made something special for me, but her extra layer of thoughtfulness is that the pattern of the material is watercolour feathers. It was a special piece of material from her stash.  She knows that feathers are important  to me. How special is that!

I have often admired the brush rolls of other painters, but none compares to mine, because theirs have not been made by a thoughtful and insightful friend. Their’s don’t have feather fabric nor custom made pockets to hold a variety of things.


So thank you Kate, for reminding me of all the good there is in this world. Enjoy your Christmas with those you love! 💕

Have a lovely festive time. I hope you spend it doing the things you love with the people you love. And that Father Christmas brings you an extra special something.

SAL ~ starting on the next cliff

Welcome to this Stitch-A-Long, hosted by Avis. At the end of this post there are links to wonderful stitchers, who all do such amazing work. Do have a look.

You may remember that I had almost finished my work on the cliff at Portsea. I say almost, because the trunk was annoying me ~ it wasn’t quite right. I got lots of good advice, which would solve the problem. Unfortunately, I haven’t done anything about it, except think “I must finish that off”! Once something is finished it is hard to go back to. I think it is the process I love rather than the finished product. Do you find that?

So, in case you missed it, here is the cliff, almost finished.

Contemporary textile

Now, let’s move onto the next one.

But first, some background for newcomers. In June I was lucky enough to have a month as an artist-in-residence at Portsea, a small holiday town right down on the tip of Port Phillip Bay. You can read about my first week, and see some of the art ideas I played with. 

I came across the most wonderful cliffs that glowed in the afternoon light. They inspired me down there, and now, through the tapestry and embroidery work, are my way back into a creative practice. These are some of the little studies I did while I was at Portsea.

I have always been fascinated, if not slightly obsessed with rocks and cliffs, and it is good to be finally creating works based on them. This time I am using material, poplin, as background, rather than tapestry canvas.

The first step was to mark out the 20 x 20 cm square, and roughly stitch where the main crevices are going to go.


Then the fun begins! I have couched along the yarns, following the direction of the marks, but also adding in random waves to create the look of the crevices. The colour of this material is awfully difficult to photograph correctly. The first photo shows the true colour.


A close up. The colours of the threads are rather washed out too. They are more vivid in real life.


I hope you can tell that the effect I am after is to show the dark and light striations with the different coloured yarns.


I must give a shout out to Margaret. She has so many delightful stitching projects on the go that she blogged about how she organises her materials for each creation. She inspired me to put all my threads and bibs and bobs for this piece in a box! How sensible! You can also see that I have added quite a few more layers, and the colours are more accurate.


Thanks for dropping by. I hope to see you in a couple of weeks with the next instalment.

Lots of lovely work to see at these blogs. Be inspired!

AvisClaireGunCaroleSueConstanzeChristinaKathyMargaretCindyLindaHeidiJackieSunnyHayleyMeganDeborahMary MargaretReneeJennyCarmelaJocelynSharonDaisyAnneConnie


Even more reason to love books

I hope that when you visit my blog it doesn’t take you long to realise that books are an integral part of my life. I love my local library, and the Little Free Library just down the road (but the Little Free Pantry next to it has won my heart!). However, I also have many shelves of books.

As a child I fancied myself as an architect and still love plans of houses. My dream houses I created always included a library. While I don’t have a separate room, I did get bespoke bookshelves made in the lounge. After 20 years I still love them, and get great joy from seeing the books there.

During the time the hallway was in a state of disrepair, many of my books ended up in boxes and languished in storage for too many years. Then the boxes came home and piled up around the place until the carpet went down. (I didn’t want to put them in the bookcases before the carpet went down because I knew we would never get the hall finished. You know how these things go.)

So, recently, not only have I had the pleasure of new carpet, I have also had the joy of putting my books onto the bookshelves, two which are in the ‘new’ hall.

I have sorted and categorised ~ I was a librarian! ~ art books, history books, 20th Century novels, novels from earlier times, 21st Century novels, science books, crime novels, sci fi, travel, memoirs, and children’s books. It makes my heart sing to see that they have space, that they are organised, that they are not higgly piggly in random piles and boxes, and that I have room for more!

I have room because I have removed books from the collection. As many of you would appreciate, this was hard. I have donated some to the Little Free Library and lots to the op shop. However, some have gone to recycling. It makes me sad to think of these authors and their work just tossed away. A number of you are authors and I know how much love and care you put into every word you write. It is such a shame to toss these books, but I need the space. (Please, no comments about digital books needing less space; they are just not the same!)

But some of them haven’t made it to the recycling bin just yet. More on that in a moment…..

You may not know that I volunteer once a week in the library of the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne, housed in the National Herbarium of Victoria. As you can imagine the library is an extensive collection of books and journals related to botany and botanical history. It also houses collections of botanical art works, photographs and slides, maps and so on.

Recently I have been barcoding the bound journals, where some series reach back into the 1800s.


It is very mindless ~ take the journal off the shelf, open the back cover, add the barcode, close the book, place it on the shelf, repeat over 1000 times more! However its mindlessness is very soothing, and just what I have been needing.

Which brings me to what I recently learnt about books. I have always known that books take me away to unexpected worlds. They have a therapeutic effect. I remember surviving heart-break as a young thing by devouring Zane Grey novels. They were the perfect escape route and quickly took me away from my pain, but I have never read another since!

By barcoding the journals and sorting my books I learnt another life lesson from books ~ that their very presence soothes me, and handling them, sorting them, looking at them, brings me a great sense of calm. ~Sigh~

And I haven’t quite let go of those recycled books, because I am turning them into Christmas trees!

My book themed Christmas trees began after Dale posted about her recycled tree. A comment she made about trees created with books caught my eye. After about an hour I had created my own…..out of books. My brother cleverly called it the Tree of Knowledge!


Down in the rabbit hole created by a search of “Christmas trees books” I came across folded trees. Paper, books, origami ~ what’s not to love? I rummaged in the recycle box, found a couple of paperbacks and tore them apart. Yep, that was hard to do too, as I find turning down a corner of the page as a book mark difficult! But I loved the result, especially of the first one.



Then I made a larger one from an old magazine. The coloured pages gave a really good effect.


Even the stars are made from pages. This website has all you need to know to make the stars, including how to make a square into a pentagon, which you need as a starter shape. This video will show you how to fold the basic trees.

So, the perfect Christmas trees ~ no messy needles, no watering, no plastic, easy to pack away as they are recyclable and certainly, for the pile of books, reusable…. simply put them back on the shelf!

How have books been integrated into your Christmas this year?

BTW, in the new year I will post about my favourite books of 2019, but I know that Insomniac City by Bill Hayes will be on the list.



Reference photo for tapestry

SAL #5 ~ Portsea Cliff

This is where I got to last time…


Now I can reveal the finished work!


As you can see I worked on the sand and cliff. I wanted the sand to be unobtrusive, so I chose to do it in a simple half stitch, which linked it into the sky. The cliff, however, needed to be more wild, to create the texture that I love.

(The yarn is another merino wool yarn from Fibreworks. This one was specially dyed for me. It is a colour that, surprisingly, occurs in Australian landscapes. It is wonderful for eucalyptus bark.)

Progress photo…


The next stage ~ the trunk ~ was trickier, and to be honest, I am not sure it works quite as I wanted it to. I am not sure how the branches merge into the canopy. Any thoughts?


I tried to include the background colours too. I suspect my problem is that I hadn’t thought it through ~ the original planning was incomplete. That area may well come out. However, I value your thoughts.

One of the things that I do love about this work is that it has brought be back to being creative after many months of obstacles. It has helped me realise that while I am not ready to get back to paint, pencils and paper, I am ready to solve creative problems (which I love doing!) with something that I can pick up and put down with ease.

In fact I have already begun my next SAL project. More of that next time.

There is a great group of creative stitchers involved in this SAL group, organised by Avis. Do drop into their blogs for their latest SAL posts. Prepare to be amazed!

Avis, Claire, Gun, Carole, Sue, Constanze, Christina, Kathy, Margaret, Cindy, Linda, Heidi, Jackie, Sunny,Hayley, Megan, Deborah, Mary Margaret, Renee, Jenny, Carmela, Jocelyn, Sharon, Daisy, Anne, Connie