Monday, 30 June 2008

Winter is here

It's been a dismal weekend weather-wise for the last of the financial year. I've started stitching for my long anticipated solo exhibition but I guess I can't show you what I'm making. Got to leave the surprises till the unveiling!

However, the sun made a futile attempt to break through this morning and I took its photograph. It was only a fleeting moment though and it has been murky ever since. It's not an omen - and I'm not superstitious! My exhibition will happen!

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Masked Owls

School holidays have come and gone, but for the two rather dismal winter weeks I was beavering away on this piece, created for a friend. She wanted a sculptural piece that was a native Tasmanian creature, so what better than an owl? I'd had enough of stitching Boobook owls so I wanted to try the Masked Owl (Tyto novaehollandae). The Tasmanian sub species is interesting because the female is larger and darker than the male, and is in fact the largest Tyto (masked) owl in the world! So here was scope indeed. I envisaged the larger female posturing on the top of a stump, accompanied by her quieter consort.

Technically the work is supported on a hidden satin-covered box (Apost mailing tube) and mounted on a handmade felt "cosy." I adapted the pattern I'd created for the Boobook owls: Masked Owls have different proportions - shorter bodies, longer legs and larger wings. And, of course, the mask face is fascinating to embroider. Most of the work is stitched on the Thug, my trusty Bernina 950, which had recently been serviced making it a learning curve all over again, trying to get the tension variations I was used to! The stump is stitched over two layers of woven interfacing and took two days to work. When I finally pinned it in place, it was obvious that I'd gone overboard on the colour blending and the whole effect was distractingly stripey! I had to go over the entire surface with a blending colour to tone it down enough.

Assembling the work took a whole day. The legs and wings are supported with tie wire armatures and the finished piece is surprisingly sturdy. The open wings of the female posed many challenges; I would, if I'd had more tome, have stitched a line of fuse wire down the leading feather to stiffen it a little as it's sure to curl over time.

It was such a challenging piece to work that it is now difficult for me to appreciate it fully as a finished sculpture, especially as I finished it only the night before delivery. Sound familiar, Tara?

Saturday, 14 June 2008

The road to Hobart

Yesterday, Friday the 13th, we drove to Hobart. Far from experiencing any sort of bad luck, we had a most enjoyable day. We took the Xtrail (together with its expensive new radiator) and drove over what is now designated as the Highland Lakes road - the Lake Highway for all diehards!

It was a delightful drive and it was snowing very gently and magically at Miena at the southern end of the Great Lake. So when we stopped for a wee moment, I took these photos.

Further on, as we left the alpine country, the road was blanketed by a woolly carpet. Thousands of sheep - Cormos just like we used to have- returning from their summer grazing and covering the bitumen with a continually moving and bleating ebb and flow. I wished I could have taken the definitive photo but it wasn't to be.

Monday, 9 June 2008

Finished at last

About a month ago Tara brought home an Afghan rug she had found at an Op Shop. She said that as she'd missed out on laying claim to one of the two Afghan rugs I'd crocheted in my prime, she had to get one for herself. If I repaired and restored it for her it would have my input as well as the unknown hand/s who had made it. Sound reasoning, I thought! I can never resist a challenge.

The rug was in a somewhat sorry state. The squares were joined on the diagonal and there had never been a stabilising border crocheted around the outside. Whether it was sun damage, old age or insects, (though I suspect it was mainly the first) it would require much unpicking and reworking. She also brought me a bag of left over wools she'd got from the Tip Shop. The black edging on the quilt was crocheted in what appeared to be Bluebell 5 ply which is rather thin on the ground these days.

The problem with the unpicking was that the very neat lady who'd done the bulk of the crochet had carefully and thoroughly sewn in all the ends of each colour round instead of just crocheting over them like a nice sensible woman. When it wasn't necessary to hoard a particular colour, I just had to carefully cut it away instead of unpicking. Certain wools were very fragile - what looked like 4 ply crepes in pale pink, blue, lemon and mauve. I had very limited colour to replace them - a red, a blue which was rather too bright, a tealy colour and a saxe blue tweedy mix. The centre and one side were particularly rotten. I repaired nearly 40 squares and then crocheted two rounds around the outside in black 8 ply (one ball of which turned out to be indigo - colour blind in my old age!)

Then I carefully washed it.

Alas, more squares collapsed and the edge waved and lumped. I set about unpicking and repairing again. Twelve squares later I set off around the outside again. but it was no good - the 8 ply was too thick. Then in Devonport I found a bin with some odd 5 ply wools - and there was definitely some black. So I unpicked the border on did it properly this time. Above is the finished result!
And to finish, here's Shannon's cat Leon, making use of one of my creations!

Monday, 2 June 2008

Farewell to an old friend

It's been a delightful tree, one of the first I planted when I started gardening. This Malus floribunda was showing signs of distress when this photo was taken a few years ago. When I embarked on a major overhaul of this bed last year, I lavished a lot of attention on it, removing huge suckers and pruning and reshaping. The bay tree on the right of the picture had blown down so I removed roots, masses of bluebells, lily-of-the-valley, rose suckers and prairie grass and created a Japanese style area with azaleas, small Miscanthus grasses and small conifers. And the crab apple was the main feature. This last spring it flowered magnificently and looked a picture.

And Miki loved it!

The other day, as autumn took its grip and moved inexorably towards winter, the base of the tree suddenly sprouted fungus. Now I'd seen the program on root rot fungi on Gardening Australia and recognised it immediately as the dreaded Armillaria or Honey Fungus. My tree was doomed.
So we spent the Sunday afternoon chopping down and poisoning the stump and now I shal have to cross my fingers that the other plantings don't succumb to the fungus' dreaded creeping underground fingers. According to my garden encyclopaedia, Armillaris is a native fungus with only limited effect on native plants but is very potent on the apple family. I had planted Malus "Ionensis" nearby. Is that too doomed?

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Marcel takes on the world!

While Tara is abroad, I'm minding her bantam rooster, Marcel. He's some fancy breed which I can't quite remember (Belgian?) and he's very personable. However, he has spent most of the past two weeks up in the rafters of the chook pen, keeping out of the way of the other roosters. Yesterday I was trying to set up a temporary fence to keep the chooks out of my garden, when who should appear to watch the process but Marcel. And he was in no hurry to return the way he had come.

But then Miki materialised and even a cocky little rooster was prepared to beat a dignified retreat!