Pandora’s Box – a manly (and belated) Birthday Gift

This one has been a long time in the making, even by my standards. It was intended for a male friend’s fortieth birthday and that friend is now 42. It’s a good thing he got an interim gift to tide him over.

pandoras quilt make with a jelly roll of batik fabrics

Pandora’s Box

The quilt is made using a Robert Kaufman Roll-Up, comprising 40 strips and equivalent to 2.8 yards, according to the label. I was disappointed at how ‘thin’ the strips were – they barely measured 2 1/2″ wide even at the pointiest bit of the zig-zagged edge and I had to adjust my cutting to allow for this. I wasn’t happy about that.

I used the Mineral Mining Colorstory (RU-182-40) and feel happy that it looks manly. The blue is homespun from my stash, bought originally at Spotlight. Next time I’d make the blue frame a little narrower. The Pam & Nicky Lintott pattern didn’t call for a border but I wanted to make a visual separation between the batiks.

My friend has a black leather couch, which is why I chose the black batik border and used the same for the backing. I hope he likes it.

Wooden Boat Festival Hobart 2015

Moored boats at the 2015 Wooden Boat Festival in HobartNo crafting for us this weekend. Instead, we went to Hobart, Tasmania to admire the handiwork of a very large number of highly skilled boatbuilders and designers at the Australian Wooden Boat Festival. The festival was huge, drawing some 200,000 visitors and what felt like almost as many boats, ranging from tiny tenders to massive tall ships.

To keep the theme of textiles, the photo below shows one of the crew of the Yukon doing an emergency sail repair.

Sail Repair on the Yukon

Sail Repair on the Yukon

Weaving Summer School: Advanced Rug Weaving

Soumak, packed fleece, the Sehna knot and twill in opposites (also called shadow weave, I believe – leave a comment if I’m wrong) were the techniques presented in Advanced Rug Weaving workshop at the 2015 Handweavers and Spinners Guild of Victoria Summer School. We also learned a clever and speedy technique for making clasped weave. This two day workshop was led by the remarkable Gerlinde Binning, an experienced weaver with masses of in-depth knowledge of the craft and her highly skilled friend and assistant Pat Jones. Both women did an excellent job of explaining  and demonstrating the techniques and were available for questions and problem solving at all times.

Class sampler - soumak and plain weave.

Class sampler – day 1: Soumak. Sehna knot and clasped weave still to come.

Gerlinde told us that her objective for this year’s workshop was to have fun, and we did have fun. The pace of learning was just right with a couple of hours to learn and practise each technique but with the option of continuing working on any earlier technique that we particularly liked. Most of us had attended the rug weaving summer school last year so there were a few familiar faces.

I’m ashamed to say that I still had the warp on my table loom from last year’s class and I decided to press on with that, even though I didn’t have a long warp left. I’m a slow, deliberate learner so was pretty confident it wouldn’t run out. And it didn’t.

We covered a couple of finishing techniques and I’m hoping to practise those now that I’m back home from the workshop.

It’s a shame summer only comes around once a year.

Love, Desire and Riches at Rippon Lea House & Gardens

I spent a day volunteering at Rippon Lea House and Gardens in Melbourne recently, taking tickets, providing directions and chatting to visitors at the Love Desire and Riches exhibition.

The display of 50 famous and rarely seen wedding gowns and accessories was a popular one, with almost only women coming along. The house itself is magnificent, with beautiful polychrome brickwork and stunning stained glass. I love the way the veils appeared to float in the stairwell.


One room was dedicated to wedding gown design and construction. That was a disappointment with very few items on display and those seeming quite randomly selected, and a mixture of old and new. wedding gown at Rippon Lea House There’s an interesting story to be told about wedding gown construction and the many steps along the way but this room failed to tell it. That was particularly disappointing when you consider that one of Melbourne’s leading wedding couturiers was a major sponsor of the exhibition.

Of greatest interest to me was a mauve toned dress that is part of the Trust’s Costume Collection. I don’t have a photo unfortunately but it was a beautifully made Victorian gown and I learned that mauve, as the colour of mourning was often worn by a bride marrying a widower, though this did not apply to the bride in this particular case. Maybe she just liked mauve.

There was also a couture gown worn by Princess Marie Chantal of Greece on display. Apparently it’s a popular item because it was worn by a ‘real princess.’

The School of Hard Knocks

The flexibility of fibre is one of the things I enjoy about sewing and weaving. While you do have to get it right, there is a degree of forgiveness in fibre-based craft, with the possibility of blocking, wet-finishing, steaming, pressing and so on, to iron out minor imperfections. Metal and wood are less forgiving. I know that from a short time spent learning the techniques of fine jewellery under the tutelage of a professional jeweller.

I learned a great deal in the couple of years I studied jewellery techniques. I learned to appreciate the mastery required to work on a tiny scale and I learned to distinguish between rubbish and well-made pieces. Mostly I learned how much practice and effort are required to achieve a professional standard.

When working with metal, two pieces fit together or they don’t. There’s no concept of bias to allow you to fit a curved edge to a straight one. Maybe it’s down to laziness, but my inclination is to stay with fibre and move away from metal. Besides, wood and metal are more my beloved’s domain.

However when I read glowing reviews in Trip Advisor about Royal Selangor’s School of Hard Knocks I immediately looked into how I could make a booking to participate. The idea of being able to bash at some pewter and bring home a hand-made souvenir was so appealing.

Molds and mallets at the Singapore School of Hard Knocks

Ready to make our pewter bowls

We both loved the experience. We were very surprised that the instruction was given by one of the delightful shop assistants rather than a metal-worker but the School of Hard Knocks is so well set up that all you do is get to work. They give you a circular pewter blank to work with, you stamp it with your name and date and then you use two different molds and a mallet to fashion your own bowl. The process gives the metal a beautiful worked finish.


Royal Selangor Visitor Centre
3A River Valley Rd #01-01
Clarke Quay

You can book for the School of Hard Knocks in advance via email. There’s no hard sell and no requirement to do a tour or watch a video or anything like that. You pay your money (S$40 per person if I remember rightly) and you make your bowl. It’s excellent fun.

Buying Craft Supplies in Singapore

Every holiday needs a quest, some kind of special challenge to make it even more interesting. One of my work buddies has just gone to Europe on a religious pilgrimage. I have set him the quest of bringing me back the tackiest fridge magnet he can find, and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with.

Since I’ve been writing this blog, the quests are easy to set. Seek out a craft or textile-related destination, visit it, take some photos and write a review. Buying is permitted but optional.

Our most recent holiday was to the tiny city-state of Singapore, a place that’s easy to reach from Australia, that has good infrastructure and enough sights to keep you entertained for up to a week.

The Entrance to the Golden Dragon Store in Sinpaore

The Entrance to the Golden Dragon Store

I did my research before we left and saw that the Golden Dragon Store was the most frequently recommended retailer to buy quilting and craft supplies. It’s located on level 2 of the People’s Park Centre in Chinatown, near the overhead bridge to Chinatown Point, which is another shopping centre. If using the excellent MTR underground rail system, use Chinatown Exit D.

Clover Fabric Clips

Clover Fabric Clips

When we visited there was a knitting workshop in progress so there was a bit of a buzz about the place. They had a good range of Clover products, yarn, Japanese crafting patterns, handbag handles, a small range of quilting fabrics (including Japanese fabrics) and lots of ribbons and laces.

My purchase was a set of Clover fabric clips or so-called wonder clips. They’re like small clothes pegs and look like they will be handy for attaching quilt bindings or bias binding. I try not to be too entranced by sewing notions as it’s very easy to collect a bunch of notions that seem appealing initially but that end up taking up storage space without being terribly useful. These clips look like they might help hold bias binding in place over curved edges and if I’m right about that I won’t regret the S$8.20 purchase price.

Store Details:

Golden Dragon Store
Centre for Handicraft and Needlework
101, Upper Cross St #02-51

Open Mon- Sat 10:00am – 8:30pm, Sunday and Public Holidays 12:30pm – 8:00pm

Making Time

egg timerJust a short post today, almost a ‘proof of life’ post.

Last weekend I finally managed to get some sewing done, something I hadn’t been able to do for several weeks. I’m working on another friendship braid quilt, using a Moda jelly roll. I spent two weekends cutting the pieces, aiming for accuracy rather than speed. Now that I’ve started sewing, the tempo is picking up, with two braids done and two more well on the way. In fact it’s coming along so well that I’ve already had a look through my stash for border and backing fabric.

I wish I had more time for craft, but right now I don’t. So I’ll just keep doing what I can, when I can, keeping in mind that this particular quilt is intended as a gift for a birthday in January. Seven months. Should be doable. I hope.