She Came in Like a Wrecking Ball…..

2020 saw it’s fair share of challenges, something we thought we would and could handle, and for the most part Australia was no different. We began with a great deal of our country suffering crippling drought and monster wildfires which devastated homes and wildlife habitats, including the wildlife themselves. From there we had been exposed to the Pandemic – taking hold of the population by fear, and losing some of our most vulnerable members of our society. Tragedy followed, and so far 2021 hasn’t been much different. While some places are still in drought, we also had some massive floods and now a large rural disaster is unfolding in the shape of a mouse plague. Life here, whilst hard, breeds tough, resilient and tenacious people.

Aussies pick themselves up, dust off the dirt, put our big girl undies on, and deal with whatever life throws our way, so when others are finding it tough, we always get stuck in and help out, give as much of ourselves as we can, even if it’s our very last resources.

As Covid-19 ravages the world over, wiping the earth with an insidiousness, Aussies stopped. We lost a lot of jobs, but faith in ourselves and our abilities grew as we paused. We worked to help keep ourselves and others the world over safer.

While my job was considered “essential”, I remained working as well as making masks for my fellow workmates, and a beautiful nurse friend of mine in the USA, where they were only allowed ONE paper mask per week! To fight off a pandemic, only having access to LIMITED PPE to help keep THEM safe, was just absolutely plain LUDICROUS! Whilst my country paused, theirs continued to forge ahead, not worrying about the devastating loss it would encounter along the way. So, I got stuck in here, and belted out 55 masks in a weekend and posted those off to my friend for herself and her work mates – and then followed again with another 26. By this time, she was set, and so was her family and all her co-workers. Then Imade them for myself and my family and all those I held dear, and then for MY work colleagues and their families. A few of us at work were making them.

With all these masks, came a ton of tiny scraps. So.. what to do with those? Well, into a ziplock bag they went because most were approx 2” wide. Scrappy for sure, but what do you do with those?

On my stash busting mission, I decided to use an old register receipt roll I was given, and began sewing all those little scraps to it – making one V E R Y long strip. I cut 1 metre strips of paper and then sewed all the scraps together. After almost emptying the bag of scraps, I then cut another strip of white to add to the cross section edge of my paper strip, leaving the paper intact so as to keep the fabric from stretching out of place. Now comes the fun bit. 🙂

Paper piano keys sewn to white homespun strips, paper removed afterward.

Once the strip was joined, I began pulling out the papers. Laying this flat on my cutting board, I took my 60° ruler and began cutting wedge shaped pieces. I was going to create a hexagon of colour with either a white centre, or with a small coloured hexagon, and a lot of white surrounding it.

Measuring wedge shapes with a 60° ruler.
Wedge shapes cut from assembled strips of white and coloured piano key paper strips.

Having the pieces cut, I continued until I had enough for my quilt top. I then began to assemble the “wedge” pieces to make half a hexie shape. These later on, will be put together with some single white wedge shaped pieces of fabric.

One fun thing I had to keep in my mind a LOT when I began sewing was to be very careful NOT to stretch the fabric. Being cut on a bias made that naughty stretch entirely possible, even though I didn’t want it to happen. However, I managed it quite well – so far so good. 🙂

Half Hexie with coloured outside
Half Hexie with white outside, and small coloured inner hexagon.

Sewing these together in a strip with a white triangle, made for the easiest assemblage of the pieces. And so, I repeated this and added my borders and voila.. a finished quilt top. I love this top so much, and have called it “Group Hugs in Isolation”. It was a reminder of all those people that I have helped to keep safe, some I knew, others I didn’t.

Strip piecing.
Strip pieces joined.

The charity of helping others is what we should strive for in our daily doings and beings. It’s a “pay it forward” opportunity, or a feel good moment. Like carrying someone’s groceries to their car when they’re struggling or checking on elderly neighbours. All the things you can help with during a pandemic that make life tolerable. That small amount of human touch to one another without actually coming into close contact. Sending messages and pictures of love and hope to another who is far away, or just smiling at someone walking towards you. Gifting without rewards, donating to charities that help others and getting the vaccination against Covid to protect yourself AND your communities.

Almost finished, just needs borders.

So, 2020 AND 2021 came in like a wrecking ball, but we don’t have to allow it to destroy our sense of belonging or closeness. We just have to be mindful, thoughtful, and build our relationships on totally new levels.

~ Rails.

Dyeing is a Slow Process

“Morning has spoken…”

It’s 6:00am, and the birds outside are singing in a new day. Clouds from the drizzly day of yesterday are clearing, allowing slivers of the sun to peek through. Although Aussie seasons are mild here on the east coast, it’s still cool in the morning The chilly winds, they never stop me from dreaming of ice – lots of it – not snow, as it doesn’t snow this close to the coastline, but ICE! Big chunks like you’d float in a glass in the heat of summer.

Most of my life I have dabbled in art, having received my very first set of oil paints from my grandparents as a very young girl. I love nature, and in another life, am a fully qualified florist. I have a natural ability to ‘wing it’ and come out with great ideas and compositions. So when I look at nature, I see that there are no two colours the same. Mother Nature, with all her fury, also gently surprises us at every turn with colour combinations fit to burst the soul with delight and the heart with joy! With gay abandon she paints the air, the sea, and the lands with all the spectrum of light refracted and then blows us away with hues, tints, tones, shapes and textures. From a subtle leaf blowing in the breeze, jittering at the end of a knobby branch, to the delicate capillaries within the petals of your favourite flowers. Nature really is a miraculous source of inspiration.

Disclosure, I am relatively new to the quilting world, but my Mother and my dear friend Julie introduced me to this craft, and have encouraged me to expand my creativity and get on board. Knowing the amount of fabric I have collected over the years, I seem to have accepted the challenge of ‘Those with the most fabrics upon death, wins!’ I’m trying.. really I am! But I’ve always been horrified at the idea of cutting into beautiful fabric for making quilts, and yet, never had the same aversion when I made clothes from equally lovely fabric for my children and myself, and now, my granddaughter.

So, as I stumbled through the idea of paying large sums for a small piece of fabric, I have discovered that ice and dyes are another art form that allows me to create. It keeps my artistic side happy, and allows fellow quilters access to unique, one of a kind pieces that they can cut up… and I won’t have to apply scissors to beauty (*editor: yes she will, I’m going to challenge her with a purchased panel and her one-of-a-kind fabrics)!

Ice atop a piece of damp fabric, and delicately sprinkled with dyes, makes for a wonderfully serendipitous outcome but it can also go horribly wrong when colours you hope will look sensational together, in fact, split into their base compositions, mingle together and look downright awful. But, these fabrics also have a place, and nothing really is bin-worthy. It just requires a fresh set of eyes and an art quilt instead!

Ice, Ice Baby!

Some of the fabric pieces I have created have been just for fun and experimentation, and others have been a deliberate manipulation of colours, blending and fracturing the pigments using the ice dye method. I have seen first hand that dyeing with snow and larger chunks of ice, makes no real noticeable difference in the end product. What Variations occur, comes down to type of fabrics, and the actual dyes themselves. But either way, I’m in love with the journey my Mum and beloved friend Julie, have led me down. I like this garden path, and I think I would like to stay here on it, treading softly over the cracks of chartreuse weeds poking up in between, and the edges of sweet peas, daffodils, and bluebells.. and of sweet William of my grandmothers day. Dyeing of fabrics lends to wonderful shapes, textures, and hues, tints and tones! All the things Mother Nature is showing us, every day. And if the result isn’t what I like.. I can over dye, or paint, or apply textures, or cut it into shapes for a part of an art quilt. So.. dyeing is not final.. it’s just the very beginning!
~ Rails

* (editor of this piece is Julie)

2020: Off The Rails!

Case in point. a few days ago I had written a wonderful blog post. I’m not familiar with the blogger yet, and went to find a method of changing text colors. Tried to go back to post and it had disappeared. The days have been very angsty since then. My inner child reappearing, and pitching a fit.

I’ve always thought myself a phlegmatic, relatively peaceable, calm-in-a-crisis person. 2020 had made me face the fact that I’ve been fooling myself for a number of years.

However, every hour, every day, every month, every year we can have a do-over. I’m not sure anyone wants a 2020 do-over though. Just that it would be over and done with so we can start again next year.

Let me introduce myself and my co-conspirator in this venture. Rails has been my dearest friend for a LONG time. I’m afraid to calculate how long. Her son was in nappies and bottle when I first met her. He’s now taller than both of us, has a deep voice and facial hair. Our daughters were friends in school, they’re now married and we both have grandchildren.

I’m older than her, but she’s often wiser than me. I’ve traveled significantly more than she has, but we both have wide world-views. She doesn’t get podcasts, I adore them and my favourite way of sewing is with a podcast in the background. When I figure out how, I will be listing links to those I like best.

Rails is far more creative than I am in real life, but I’ve got a very vivid imagination and amazing google-fu (though I use DuckDuckGo, never Google!) which is a good substitute for hands on creativity. Links to her exquisite hand-dyed fabrics will soon be provided, and will probably feature in their own post!

We both love bright colors, though oddly enough I often find myself dressed in dark and plain block colours. Rails likes orange, I’ve long since forgiven her for that flaw.

We both love our children, and wildly adore our grandchildren (all girls).

We both love quilting, colour, patterns, egging each other on in evolving ideas. We will eventually post some of those ideas in the form of quilt patterns. Rails is enthusiastically dyeing fabric not only for these patterns but because it brings her enormous joy to see what happens when she mixes this with that, ties this way and twists that way and finally hangs it out and we both cheer at the beauty that she produces.

Though we are currently separated by a bazillion miles, give or take a few hundred thousand, Rails and I support each other through thick and thin. We dream of someday retiring to Tasmania with a little quilting/tea shop business. Wisteria , quail and timtams are part of my plan, Rails will have to pipe up with her own.

Plans for the future? Rails is going to be putting her fabrics up for sale soon. She’s been experimenting and taking notes. Fat quarters, fat quarter bundles, mandala panels, and Shibori panels are on the current short list. We’re still working on quilt patterns. Some of those will feature the panels and hand dye’s as examples of how her lovely fabric can be utilised. And FUN, after this year, we girls, JUST WANT TO HAVE FUN!

Signing off,


postscript: I am bilingual with Australian and American slang. If you are not and are confused with the occasional comment, noun or spelling, feel free to ask! My mother often says she feels she has to come behind me with a translation dictionary, when I visit her and talk to her friends.