15 May 2017

My book of the month: May

Real people are multi-layered, aren't they? I enjoy books that have characters so well formed that they appear real; they have so many layers of complexity that the reader can understand the characters' behaviour. The real Liddy James by Anne-Marie Casey is one of these stories.


It's not just about Liddy, though. As she forges her way through life at ferocious speed, with a ruthless reputation as a top divorce lawyer, we also see the impact she has on the other members of her family.

I thought this might be a predictable story about how a 'perfect' life falls to pieces and, in some ways, it may be read that way. But The real Liddy James is much more than that. It's about recognising our true selves and finding our place in relationships with others. 

Read more about The real Liddy James on Goodreads 

08 May 2017

On being a homebody

I've always needed solitude. There's nothing more soothing to me than simply being comfortable, maybe with a book or a hand sewing project to engage me. Even when I was growing up, I could spend hours alone on our front verandah, drawing clouds with creamy pastels, or in my bedroom, dreaming or reading.



Nothing's changed now that I'm older. I don't crave travel to foreign countries or being with large groups of people. That's not me. I am a homebody and that satisfies me.

I think that as you get older, you get to accept that your inner self is what makes you happy. It's what you are, deep inside, that defines the type of life you enjoy.

Making a comfortable home and pottering around it and my garden - these are the parts of my life that nurture me. Now, as I share that with another like-minded person, it is even more satisfying. And there can't be anything better than that.

17 April 2017

Three things I like this week

To choose only three things can sometimes be difficult. There are always so many small joyful moments in every day; we just need to recognise them!


1. New plants

I can't help but admire the gorgeous colours of the waterlily flowers in the top photo. I snapped this photo at The Collector's Plant Fair, a wonderful show where over 70 specialist nurseries gathered to sell their plants. I purchased only a few specimens but could definitely have brought many more! 

2. Seeing my writing online

Did you miss my Quilters Companion article about Sue Reid's quilt studio? You can now read it online for free!  I love seeing how other quilters arrange their creative spaces and how they make their work.


3. Hand stitching

I had an opportunity over the Easter long weekend to make progress with the applique on my BOM. Oh, how I am enjoying hand stitching these colourful blooms! Here's the pile of circles prepared for applique. Slowly sewing is so meditative. 


Do you have things that make you happy this week? Snippets of joy are all around us; we just have to look out for them.
 

10 April 2017

In the studio with Deirdre Bond-Abel

In the current issue of Quilters Companion, I have the privilege of sharing Deidre Bond-Abel's story of how her long-held dreams are coming to life.


Just look at the view through that window! Deirdre's business, Hat Creek Quilts, is based in Tasmania where she works while surrounded by inspirational countryside. 

Once again, I was fortunate to have a peep into the creative life of another talented Australian quilter. It was such a treat!

03 April 2017

My book of the month: April

I like stories set in Ireland. Having never been there, it seems like a fantasy land to me, with gorgeous landscapes and lovable characters. The library at the edge of the world by Felicity Hayes-McCoy does not disappoint in these respects.


At its core, this is a novel about community and family commitments. Each of these feeds into the other, of course, and make our small parts of the world better places. Lovely reading.

Visit Goodreads to read more about this book.

27 March 2017

The meditative effect of reverse sewing

Every day for the past few weeks, I've been unpicking the machine quilting on a friend's quilt. It was stitched so poorly by a commercial quilter that my friend knew she couldn't tolerate it. I offered to unpick it for her and so, armed with my trusty seam ripper and magnifying glasses, I started.


It is a huge quilt and it took many hours to separate the layers. It was fiddly work and yet strangely calming. I've found that I enjoyed the process while simultaneously feeling sad that it needed to be done. This quilt will be reborn later with my friend's beautiful hand quilting that will make it shine.

What have I cherished while unpicking the stitching on this quilt?


  • Quiet time with my partner. He's read a book or watched a television show with the volume turned down low. We've been in each other's company while doing separate activities.
  • Listening to podcasts to learn new things. The hours flew past while my mind was occupied with what I was hearing and my hands were busy with the seam ripper.
  • Thinking about ideas for novels. It's always fascinating how my mind roams as it considers what to write and how to plot the stories.
  • Simply listening to the noises around me. My neighbourhood has its own combination of silences and noises. It's comforting to know, just by the sounds, that I am home.
  • Making myself get up to move for ten minutes each hour. Thanks to the notifications on my Fitbit, I know when to walk each hour. Without these, I'm sure I would have stayed on my couch.
  • Catching up on the latest TV series of Vera, which I had recorded. Love these stories.
  • Knowing that my friend will be happy when she receives her beautiful quilt top back without all the ugly stitching.
  • Just being. This was the best of all; simply being, with the pile of black threads growing along side me as I rhythmically removed thread.
It's been meditative but I have to say I'm oh so glad it's over now!  

20 March 2017

Life observation: 1

I watched the woman from my window. She was carefully picking small flowers from a shrub in the park and I wondered; why? What was she planning to do with the large bag of blooms? I crossed the road to ask her.

I'm giving them to Buddha, she said. Do you know Buddha?

I nodded, of course.

I like to offer flowers regularly but the flowers you can buy in Australia are so large. Small ones are better; there are many small flowers in Burma, my native country. But here, they are too big so I pick these tiny ones for Buddha.

I thought you might be going to cook with them, I said.

She laughed. I've been asked that before; one man thought I would cook them into a soup. 

We laughed together and then I walked home, pondering her patience and the simple ritual she included in her life.



Curious, I wanted to find out why she might make this offering. I found ten reasons here. Rituals can be powerful, can't they?

13 March 2017

My book of the month: March

I enjoy books with happy endings. They make me appreciate that life is not all gloom and doom and that people can live fulfilling lives and enjoy nurturing relationships. Why wouldn't you want that?

Josephine Moon writes great stories with food-related themes and I've recommended another book by her before (here). I was fully committed to this story by the end of the first chapter. Great characters, interesting settings and a relationship that was meant to be - what more could I want from a story? Excellent read.


Read more about this novel on Goodreads.

06 March 2017

Three things I like this week

Recognising the positive things in my life opens my eyes to the good all around. They're not always big things; the small moments can light up my days.


1. Rain

We've enjoyed so much rain over the past week and there's more forecast for the coming days. My parched garden has soaked it up and everything is so green! Thank you to all the clouds that released their loads of water around my suburb.

2. Walking

I'm endeavouring to move more. Sitting at a computer or sitting with my sewing encourages the hours to fly past without me walking around. Conscious movement is the key for me, I've found, and alerts from my Fitbit remind me to walk. I'm becoming competitve with myself!

3. Stitching

Oh how I love hand stitching! My current project is a BOM pattern designed by my friend Sarah. It's gorgeous and I'm enjoying selecting my own fabrics and colours to make my version unique. 



What are you enjoying this week? 

27 February 2017

Exploding quilt block diagrams

When I've been writing patterns for my quilts, I've often thought it would be useful to include diagrams that show how the pieces of a block join. I have low-level skills with graphics programs and I don't have expensive software. I use EQ7 for my diagrams but never knew a way to explode those diagrams.

Until now.

Those clever people at EQ have provided tutorials for using two different programs to explode EQ blocks. The first tutorial is for use with Adobe Illustrator, a software program available for purchase.

The second tutorial is for use with Inkscape, a free software program. This is the option I'll be using and I'll download Inkscape to play with its possibilities.

What do you use to explode block diagrams? Do you have a different method?

13 February 2017

In the studio with Ali George

It's always a privilege to write about quilters' studios. I think we can learn from the ways other creative people set up their work spaces; we can see how they organise their materials and consider whether some of their ideas may suit our own studios.


For issue 83 of Quilters Companion magazine, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ali George, who lives on a five-acre property in Queensland. Her descriptions of her two studios (yes, two! How jealous does that make me?) and the surrounding landscape tempted me to move there immediately.

This is part of the joy of writing about creative studios and their owners - it allows me (and eventually you, the readers) to learn about places we may never visit in real life.

Last week I discovered that Ali and her husband are selling their property in Tarome so, if you are tempted, you can move there and allow the stunning scenery inform your textile work, too!

30 January 2017

Three things I like this week

I haven't written one of these posts for a while but it's a regular subject I want to revive. Staying positive and looking for the good things in our lives can be challenging sometimes, can't it? 


1. Being Australian

Australia's not a perfect place but I'm thankful I was born here. With all the scary things going on around the world, I'm so glad to live here in our small part of the planet.

2.  Technology

It allows me to stay in touch with you all; to have electricity and all the benefits that brings with it; and to learn from the collective wisdom of others. For that, I am thankful.

3. My garden

It's nothing special, just my own little patch of earth. Currently struggling in the summer heat, it needs a lot of tidying and maintenance but every time I potter around in it I am happy.

What do you like this week?

23 January 2017

My book of the month: January

My favourite novel this month is The Woman Next Door. I cherish Liz Byrski's novels because she shows the rich lives of older women. There's so much to learn about how to live a fulfilling life from her characters and I can imagine them living next door to me. That's a sign of a good writer - creating believable and likeable characters - isn't it?

It's not all beautiful sunsets and happy days, either. That's another aspect of Byrski's novels that draws me in - these could be real people. The characters are so well-drawn and the author's empathy is evident as she portrays their feelings, frustrations, disappointments and loves.

Read more about The Woman Next Door on Goodreads.

09 January 2017

So much advice!

The beginning of a new calendar year brings a flood of articles and blog posts offering (mostly unsolicited) advice. Do this, don't do that, set goals, choose a word, make lists.

So much busyness!

Does anyone take any notice of these things? Are they written simply because someone, somewhere, decreed that, while in the midst of holiday lethargy (a period that bears no resemblance whatsoever to the real life we lead for most of the year) people want to hear how to organise their lives?


In the meantime, I'll continue to meander through my life in my own way, enjoying the moments along the way, adopting the philosophy of this Tibetan proverb:

"The secret of living well and longer is: eat half, walk double, laugh triple, and love without measure." 

Sounds perfect.

02 January 2017

Playing with Prisma

If you follow me on my Facebook pages (Erica Spinks and Creative Dabbling), you may have seen that I've been having fun on my tablet with an app called Prisma. I've shared some of the altered images I've made on those pages but here I want to show how different a single photograph can appear once it's been processed with various filters.



This is my original photograph. I took this picture last January at a workshop with Sophie Munns, held at the Australian PlantBank at The Australian Botanic Gardens, Mt Annan. I love the shape of the seedpod, as well as the textures - smooth on the inside and rough on the outside. I wondered how the Prisma filters would alter the colours and look?


This is the 'Illegal Beauty' filter. I like the subtle colours - a pink and yellow combination is one of my favourites.



This filter is 'Composition'. It makes the photo graphic and dramatic. Quite striking, don't you think?


'Mosaic' is one of my favourite filters. Not all photos translate well with this filter because some of shapes fragment into too many pieces but I like this result.


This is the 'Electric' filter, where the waving lines add an element of movement to the seedpod shape and background.

Prisma is available for Android and for iOS, so you can download it from the usual places. The filters are fabulous and the app is free! Have you tried it yet?