Thursday, November 26, 2015

A Little Bit of Green

A little bit of green is a good thing in most areas. But I've got to admit that green is not my favourite colour.
The only place I truly love green is in the garden.. There is nothing like natures green. So many shades that artists have tried for years to capture something that nature seems to do so well.
Animals love it, insects usually thrive in it, and somehow it seems to make people 'happier'.
Let's face it, if the lawn is green, the place looks better.
(Recently I saw a new business that had just started up and the sole purpose of the business was to paint your lawn green.)
Houses sell better when the lawn is green. Put in a good garden in a yard and watch the value of the property escalate.
But here I am again.. Raving on..
What I really want to talk about is Staghorns.... And especially saving old ones, or ones that have to be moved..Nothing crafty just good old gardening tips for those of us that like a bit of green in our more tropical gardens. 
Now I know this is more brown than green and that's my whole point.. These enormous Staghorns were passed onto me by some 'tree loppers'. Instead of putting them through the 'chipper' they know I will do just about anything to bring my beloved rainforest to Brisbane. So these poor dead looking mounds get dumped on my front verandah from time to time. (These ones are actually doing very well and in 12 months or so, will be spectacular.)

Every photo here is a different plant so please look closely so you can see the difference.
Staghorns are a plant that can grow on another plant, but these ones differ to a lot of other types of plants that do this. These plants don't actually take any nutrients from their hosts. Thus you will find them on rocks, timber, plastic, wire mesh and basically anywhere they can cling or be tied to. So they can grow anywhere that the conditions give them light, but not extra strong heat, nutrition from fallen litter or introduced by hand and water.

Mine are all tied to a wire mesh as I was doing these on my own and mesh is good as it's easy to tie the plants to. The other advantage is you can water an 'injured' one from the back, through the wire, to keep it moist as it recovers..
We also place a layer of some 'Sphagnum moss' on the wire first as the moss really holds the water and moisture.
I don't like to cut the 'matted root' section from the back of them as this also helps hold the moisture. (And my water bill is big enough) The plant doesn't need the 'root mass' to stay alive other than for moisture and nutrition so as you can see with the first picture, you can cut a fair bit off to make them flat if you need to. But remember if you do that, you have to watch the moisture etc.
With each plant you will notice there is a centre eye where all the leaves form from. This is known as the 'Meristem'. (Thanks to my son Mike for that bit of technical info) Providing this centre is in some way green, if only by a little bit, you have hope!
The Meristem has the root behind it so this part is the bit you need to protect. Don't cover it, don't cut it, and avoid damaging it in any way. (You can see how the string goes around the centre not across it)

As the plant recovers you will notice that 
there will be flat leaves that cover the 'root ball' (and will eventually hide all that brown dead leaves) and others are like horns and will grown out the centre and flop down. 
The 'spore' or seed grows like a very fine brown dust on the back of the horns. Don't breath this in. It's not good for you and whilst I don't think it's poisonous it isn't good, especially for your lungs. If you own a moist green house and spread the spore around like dust you will find little ones will start to grow. Spreading some on a moist section of moss is good fun to watch the tiny ones grow.
I feed my plants with an organic slow release fertiliser. ( I hear banana skins were good but I don't like the possums, ant, rats and numerous other creatures that like bananas)
Once you get them going, and they get stronger, you can then move them into a little bit more sun, until they get more hardy and can cope.
The Staghorn that is pictured at the start was strapped to a hard bark tree about 12 months ago. Brown and dead looking with my family wondering why I was hanging 'dead plants' in the trees. Now it's just Devine. And it's growing like a steam train..

Just a note.. Always save them from gardens if you see the trees being knocked down. But please don't ever ever take them out of the rainforests and national parks.
They may look like they will die if you don't, but that is natures way of giving nutrition to those that remain. We need to preserve our rainforests and we do that by leaving them to their own natural devices...
Happy Gardening
NB If you have any questions please just ask as my son Mike is studying Plant Science at University and is most happy to answer anything that is more technical.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

It's a bear kind of day

Today I played 'hookie' and went and visited my Bear Artist friend, Lisa Dopking of Megelle's.
I've had a kit in my cupboard for this very cute bear for about 16 years..
It's not one of Lisa's patterns but I knew she'd be able to help me and teach me what to do..

Isn't he a sweetie?
This of course is not my bear as it turns out they take a long time to make.. Well it felt like a long time as I'm so impatient. But after 16 years, at least we are getting closer.. (This is the photo of the front cover of the pattern.)

This is the picture of all the bits being traced and cut out. I learnt a few things about bears today..
1/ If they are under $100 then buy it as it's worth the money.
2/ Never try to cut corners by trying to make them faster. There is an art to bear making.
3/Always stick you pattern pieces onto cardboard before you trace out the pieces.
4/ most fabrics need to be pulled into 'square' before you start.
5/ Bear fabric has a direction so make sure all your bits are facing the correct way.. (A bit like dressmaking)
6/ Always read the instructions about 20 times before you start the next step.. If it says to use small scissors then use small scissors!

Hopefully you can see in this photo above the difference a pair of scissors makes. The top most piece, I used large scissors and went about cutting out the pieces.. Why not I thought?? It's quicker with big scissors. I can get round tiny corners...
Turns out NO!!!
You need tiny scissors so you can cut the fabric and not the fur. You need the fur long so it will hide the seams!

And you need a thousand pins! Each section as you sew two bits together, you have to tuck the 'fluffy fur' inside and then pin. I never use pins so you can imagine my fascination with this bit...

My bear is at least stitched or tacked in all his funny little body parts and Lisa will be taking me on my journey next, on how to put the 'joints' in the bear.
I'm excited!
My first bear and it even is starting to look like a bear.
Lisa was very patient and quite 'firm' that I had to stitch it all myself so I learnt heaps and heaps!!
Next year Lisa will be coming to our side of town to teach bear making. She will be in my shop one day per month. More info on that will come through as we set dates.

Below is a picture of Lisa's latest gorgeous girl. We had to go take her for her 'photo shoot' this afternoon as she is going to be entered in a worldwide bear show..

Isn't she just gorgeous?! Yet to be named but I believe already heading to Tasmania, after the show, she was just beautiful.

This little 'Hobbo' is called Ted. He was a gift from Lisa this year and has had many a mauling whilst I was at the doctors etc. Such a lovely comfort and he fits in my pocket.
So if you like bears, come join us, if you have an old kit then get it out and let's get it started. If you want to make one then Lisa has everything in stock that you will need and kits available.
I loved my day making my bear and will keep you up to date on his progress.
You can find Megelle's on Facebook if you wish to see more of her bears.
Lisa is a fantastic teacher. Hard to bribe.. But fantastic..
Happy Stitching

Location:Brandy Gully Patchwork

Monday, November 23, 2015

Looking back

As promised, a blog a day..
Today wasn't a great one in the 'scheme of things'..
This sign sums up my life really..

For those who don't know, I have a mission in life to make people aware of PTSD (Post Trauma Stress Disorder).
The main reason is because 21 years ago it was still under the covers, in the cupboard, or ignored, maybe never even heard of..
And sadly, like most things, it only becomes truly important when it affects a loved one, friend or yourself.

Weirdly enough if it wasn't for PTSD, I would never have started making buttons.. Sadly it's an illness that rocks me and my world on a daily basis.

Today, I copped a few unexpected 'rocks' being flung my way.. ('Triggers' are the medical term for any one who is interested.)

But on the up side, I try my hardest to use humour to pull myself through these sorts of days..

The buttons only came about after I suffered an industrial accident involving my hair. My pony tail on the top of my head, was caught on a machine. The end result being that I was nearly scalped.
( I honestly am getting a bit tired of telling the story as the accident happened 21 years ago..but I think it's important for others to know. It's important for people who suffer PTSD to know you can still have a life)

Only last week, a very caring and lovely friend, suggested that perhaps being in therapy was not a good thing. That I needed to start looking forward instead of constantly looking back.
Oh how I wish that could be done!
What an amazing weight off my shoulders and most of all from my family.
Sadly PTSD just doesn't let you do that.. No matter how hard you try..

While I would sooner have lived my life without PTSD and all its crazy symptoms, at the same time, I just wonder where my life would have been had I not suffered the trauma.

It's a good thing and a healing thing if over time, positives can be found from any difficult time.

I took up quilting as a rehab program, which introduced me to crazy patch, where I saw some ceramic buttons at a craft show.
(I'm a potter by 'trade' as I studied for three years doing a 'Diploma in Art'- majoring in Ceramics.)
I thought if I could make a few buttons then perhaps I could swap them for fabric..
My gran knew how sick I was so leant me some money to get started.
I battled my illness and found purpose in making buttons.
I started out trading for fabric, then sold enough to buy Miranda a pair of shoes. ($10 was a big deal back then)
And for the last 15 years I've been a major source of income for the family.. For ten of those years, the buttons and patterns were the only income our family had..

I've made some great friends, I've learnt a lot, I've taught a lot.. But for me the most important part.. I survived and I'm grateful for a lot!

I know these photos were taken about three years ago.. But here are my four most important people in my life.. And why I do what I do.
Watching them being born (Michael was born after I started the buttons), seeing them grow into fabulous people, all who make me so proud to say they are my family. And for the love of my beautiful husband who has stuck with me through some very rough and some very fantastic times.

I've added this photo of Matt (pink glasses) and Mike, for me, this photo says a thousand words!

It will remain my absolute favourite until a better one comes along..

To you who read this blog, please listen closely..' THANKYOU!' My life would never have been able to follow this path, if you hadn't been a part of it. Friend or foe, customer or competitor. I am very grateful for all of those who are a part of my world and I mean that sincerely!

Location:Brandy Gully Patchwork

Sunday, November 22, 2015

20 years of Buttons

It only occurred to me this week that we passed our 20 year anniversary of making ceramic buttons this year.

I certainly would never have dreamed that was an even possibility when I first started.
After buying a kiln second hand through the news paper, a bag of clay, some ceramic paints and some glaze, who would have thought 20 years later I would still be making buttons.

With only a range of about 10 different buttons, I am now up to over 500 different ones and some of those come in up to 15 different colours. Tiny little ones that are smaller than your little finger nail to others that are about 3" across.. Some come in plain colours and some are heavily hand painted. But every one, I love to make.. That's the funny weird bit.

Every one I always wonder where they will end up and what they will end up decorating. I have been told I'm strange if I let people know I think about those sorts of things, but everyone is like a little art work, for me.

Sometimes it's nice just to make the plain hearts and stars and they are certainly loved very much when I need to get a kiln on in a hurry.
Either way they take a lot of work just to get them ready for painting.

People just don't seem to 'get it' that each one is made by hand and now I'm the only one making them. At one stage through the past 20 years, I did have up to 5 ladies helping me, but even then it would have been rare if I didn't touch each button at least once during that time.

My favourite part of the process is the painting. Watching each little button coming to life is still something that even today, when I'm making buttons, is my favourite part. No matter how hard I try to make them identical, there is always a difference.
The animals are the funniest. I can remember one day about ten years ago, I was unpacking a kiln. There was a whole lot of cats in the kiln. I was taking the buttons out, and for some reason my eye caught this particular button. It's face was so hilarious. I kept that one. I still have it. I still laugh when I see it. It is a special button for me.. So when people 'hunt' through the buttons to get 'just the one', I certainly understand.

Not long after I started making the buttons, it became quite obvious that we needed to make the buttons face both ways.. Sometimes it's important that the animal is walking into the picture, not walking out of it..
So on the web site we give you the choice of which way your button is walking.
We did however have to remember that some things just can't face both ways.. We found this out, when we made the shape of 'Australia' both ways.. And can you believe they even went through the spraying, painting, glazing and kiln phases and we only picked up our error as I unpacked the kiln. It was a funny moment to suddenly realise why Australia looked 'odd'.
(Obviously I didn't do geography at school)

This last photo was only taken a week ago at the Wholesale Quilt Market in Melbourne.. I've added it here on the end of the post because it just reminds me that 'Yes, I'm still making them'
If you would like to see more of the buttons then please go to the web site and have a look around.

If you have one of the 'million' that I have made, then I hope it has given you as much joy, owning it as what it gave me, making it.

Happy buttons

Saturday, November 21, 2015

The great Blog challenge.

I came across a 'challenge' on Facebook that was to 'blog every day for 30 days'. So I figured why not??
Then yesterday, which was meant to be my first day, I wrote this great blog all about the buttons, went to post the blog and there was no way it would load..
So I guess for my first day of 'blogging' it was 'fixing my blog'..

So I hope you will come with me on a journey of craft, buttons, sewing, gardening, quilting and general mayhem over the next month..

This is a photo of one of my dearest Friends, Jen, (who is always there through thick and thin) and myself. Jen had just helped John and I pack down our stand at the wholesale quilt show in Melbourne..
Don't we just look the best in our glow vests?

Onwards and upwards and I hope you enjoy the next month with me..
Please feel free to leave comments or ask any questions..
Happy Sunny Day

Location:Brandy Gully Patchwork