Saturday 31 March 2012

Something old, something new...

... something borrowed, something blue. That is the theme of the current Art Quilts Around the World challenge. I immediately thought of blue jeans - I have been saving old pairs of jeans for a few years now, thinking I would make a quilt with them someday.

So here it is, my quilt Something Blue. It's 12"/30 cm square. I used the fabric weaving technique that I tried first in April 2008 (to make a bookcover that is now for sale in my Etsy shop). Here is a close-up:

The flower on the first photo comes from a pair of flip flops that I bought last year. It came off a few weeks ago and I think it goes very well with the quilt. Just need to sew it on ;-).

For the stats:
Something old: blue jeans (and zip flower)
Something new: thread
Something borrowed: blue jeans from DH and my sons
Something blue: blue jeans


To see the other challenge quilts, please visit the AQATW blog.

Thursday 29 March 2012

Etsy Shop Feature: lily and gus

Rumble the Rhino

Today, in my Etsy Shop Feature Series, I have the pleasure to introduce Ashley from lily and gus. I absolutely adore her plush toys, made from repurposed fabrics - especially the whales! Here are her answers to the questions I asked:

Who is behind lily & gus?

I’m Ashley McCally, the crafty mama behind lily & gus. I’m a biologist by training but these days I spend more time coming up with ways to entertain Lily (my daughter) & Gus (our mini dachshund) than studying ecology. Although, we did recently have an impromptu lesson about pond ecosystems when Lily tipped headfirst into the turtle pond while trying to pet a turtle on one of our walks with Gus at the Houston Arboretum. In case you were wondering, turtles do not love having a toddler dive into their home.

Victor & Josie, Humpback Whale Mama and Baby

Tell us about your work process 

In our busy house I try to squeeze in time to create during naptime or after the pipsqueak has gone to sleep for the night. I design all of my plush animals from scratch starting with a line drawing that I make into a paper pattern. Next I make a “beta” animal out of an inexpensive broadcloth to see if the pattern needs any adjustments. Then it is full steam ahead and a new friend for Lily is created (although sometimes the broadcloth plushies get love from Lily too)! I use repurposed fabrics (from denim to wool) for all my plush creations to give them added character. I love giving new life to a much loved pair of jeans or a cozy sweater. Each plush toy is unique and often they have surprise embellishments taken from the original clothing items (beautiful stitching, a fun tag, a touch of suede).

For my clothing pieces I hand draw my original designs onto the clothes using a dye resist technique and then hand dye the piece using bright high quality fiber reactive dyes (this is my favorite part, Lily and I love watching the white shirt take on the color of the dye and stirring it with the big spoon!).

I love designing, drawing, sewing, scrapbooking, and crafting and I can't seem to stay away from the animal themes. Mostly I just love to make unique, high quality items that I think my family and friends will love, and I hope that others enjoy them too!

Hungry Hungry Hippo, hand dyed tee

Where do you get your ideas from? 

Most of my ideas come out of conversations with Lily. She is in love with animals of all kinds (not surprising as my husband is a veterinarian) and when she gets excited about a particular animal I end up with days on end of paging through picture books looking for elephants or “mommy draw rhino....peese”. Some of Lily’s first words were dog (pretty standard), whale, gorilla, rhino, polar bear, octopus, lion, tiger, and hippo (not so standard). When a particular obsession lasts long enough it usually leads to a new design for the shop. I always feel like I have captured the essence of an animal when Lily sees one of my new drawings and instantly identifies it. Who knew the approval of a one and a half year old could be so gratifying?

Peanut the Bunny

Apart from creating things, what do you do?
A little bit of everything! When the weather here in Houston isn’t too hot we love to get outside and garden or go for walks. Lily and I spend a ton of time at the zoo visiting with all our favorite animals. When the humidity chases us indoors we like to cook or curl up in the AC with some good books. Most of my days consist of trying to contain the whirlwind that is my daughter and dog while getting something productive done...some days are more successful than others!

Contoured Burp Cloths

lily and gus links:

Sunday 25 March 2012

A new quilt

After a busy week I had a lovely quiet day at home today. I made this quilt! (well, I started it sometime last week) Long time readers of this blog will know of my love for optical illusion quilts and yes, here is another one! This is the back:

It was going to be my SAQA 2012 Benefit Auction Quilt, but it is too big - 13 inches square, not 12 (and I didn't want to chop off the edges of the squares). So for now I will hang it somewhere in our house, or maybe at my workplace (once I have added a hangng sleeve).

The quilt hasn't got a name yet - any suggestions?

Today it is exactly five years ago that we first arrived in Australia!
Here is hubby with our boys on the plane from Kuala Lumpur to Brisbane that day - baby Robbie (or Koen, as he was called then), 2-year old Ernst and 4-year old Hugo:

Initially the plan was to stay here for four years, but it's been five now and we're not leaving anytime soon! (well, we are - but only for a 4-week holiday to the Netherlands in June!!)

Saturday 24 March 2012

Etsy Shop Feature: Boretto Art

One of the best things of selling on Etsy is that it gives you the chance to discover so many extraordinary shops! I have decided to feature one of my favourite shops every now and then on this blog, and today the very first one is Sydney-based Boretto Art. I love their colourful artworks - they remind me of one of my favourite artists, Raoul Dufy. I interviewed L&S from Boretto Art and here are their answers!

Who is behind Boretto Art?
An artist in love with color (S) and an Italian dreamer in love with art (L).
Together we are a happy young couple who live of their passion in the land of kangaroos and koalas.

Magic Spring in Paris

Tell us about your work process
We like to imagine our artworks as a jungle were the viewer can easily get lost and dream.
Each of our artwork is a wordless poem of love.

S: Our original paintings are created with vibrant acrylic colours and a palette knife. This technique allows me to give a beautiful texture to my paintings and to transfer almost instantanly my emotions to the canvas.

L: I spend hours looking for the perfect image for my original collages.
Every piece of paper has to tell me a story, have something special.
I love creating beautiful and unique miniatures.

What makes us really happy is sharing our artwork with others.
Because at the end of the day, what is art if not sharing?


Where do you get your ideas from?
Most of our art is inspired by our daily life (Manly Beach painting), our surroundings (Blu Opera House print), our dreams (Rooster collage), our travels (Paris painting).

Apart from creating things, what do you do?
We love food! We love cooking, trying new recipes and surprising each other with new flavours.
But also travelling, discovering new cultures, getting lost in small streets, fishing with old fishermen, smelling new perfumes...
But our one and true passion is creating art.

Boretto Art Links:

Wednesday 21 March 2012

Another burlap project

Here is my latest burlap creation: a coffee cosy for my friend and colleague Yasmin. We always have a coffee together in the morning at the coffee shop next to our workplace. She usually asks for some extra hot milk in her coffee and then needs an extra cup because it is too hot to hold... Very eco-unfriendly, so I made her this cosy with a piece of coffee sack. She loved it :-).

Last Sunday she and I went on a shopping expedition to Paddington. We started at the Antique Centre, where I saw this gorgeous Singer (drool!):

My grandmother had a Singer, so I am quite partial to that brand... Unfortunately it was too expensive to take it home. They also had these beauties:

I bought a few vintage tea towels and some vintage bias binding. Then we walked all the way down Latrobe Terrace. Lots of lovely shops, many in beautiful old Queenslanders:

Paddington is very hilly, so you get lovely views:

Unfortunately it was a grey and rainy day, of which we have had quite a few lately... But we had a very good time.

Tomorrow I'm off to the Craft and Sewing Show here in Brisbane - looking forward to that!

PS Last Saturday my oldest son had his first gymnastics competition of the year; in Level 4 now. He did very well - won a bronze medal on high bar. Here he is on parallel bars:

There might be another gymnastics quilt in my future ;-).

Wednesday 14 March 2012

My Etsy purchases

My Etsy shop, Blue Jacaranda, is slowly taking over my life! I keep adding things, taking better photos, tweaking descriptions... and wishing I could devote all my time to my shop and my quilts... Oh well...

But I don't just sell on Etsy, I also love buying things there, and thought I would show you some of my purchases today. My absolute favourite is the Prism Necklace shown above, from Sage and Indie. I love it! I often wear black (black top and black pants) and that colourful necklace just looks great on black!

These Black Mobius Earrings from Marjon Scheffer are another favourite purchase - I wear them almost every day. The funny thing is that Marjon is a Dutch woman living here in Brisbane. We haven't met IRL yet but I'm sure that will happen someday soon!

Delft Blue items never meant much to me when I was still living in the Netherlands, but now I love them! I couldn't resist this little Mustard Jar from Vintage Seas - it took forever to arrive in Oz, but seller Jean was very helpful. Highly recommended for your vintage shopping! (she now has a lovely vintage wooden sewing box that I would love to have - my grandmother had one just like that. But the shipping costs to Australia are just too much...)

After booking our flights to Holland I made a 'Holland here we come' treasury to celebrate that fact and found this gorgeous reprint of a 1928 KLM poster that I just had to have... We are flighing KLM too this time! It's from sandmarg in Canada and arrived here in Brisbane very quickly in a mint condition.

I am a bit obsessed by Russian history at the moment - after reading War and Peace, Russka, and The Kitchen Boy, I am now reading Nicholas and Alexandra, a biography of the last tsar of Russia. Fascinating. I was thrilled to find lapinegr on Etsy - Polly and Joe from St Petersburg sell Russian art cards and antique cards. I bought a few - so much fun to receive that envelope from Russia with the lovely stamps!

And last but not least... I told you a while ago I wanted to learn to crochet to make one of these covered stones... Well, that is not going to happen, so I bought one from MonicaJ, for our caravan. It is gorgeous!

Friday 9 March 2012

Reverse Emporium

On Wednesday (my day off) after taking the boys to school I went to Reverse Garbage, a wonderful shop here in Brisbane that sells 'high-quality industrial discards'. They have a lovely gift shop, Reverse Emporium, where my Burlap Coffee Cards are now available for sale. I bought the coffee sacks at this shop and made the backing of these cards from a linen blouse found at the op shop. I also added a Dutch Houses card, screen printed on a piece of that same linen blouse, with a backing made from an old bed sheet. I plan to do more printing on salvaged materials as I really like the idea and might add a category of upcycled cards to my Etsy shop.

Of course I couldn't leave without buying something! These suede samples were irresistible:

... and how about these gorgeous fabrics?


Back at home (after doing the shopping and two loads of washing) I did a quick screen printing session, as I had a custom order for a Robot Calligram Print. I also printed this shirt as a birthday present for one of Hugo's gymnastics friends:

And then it was time to pick the boys up from school and take Hugo to gymnastics... Unfortunately there was no time for lunch, but I did have a lovely day! ;-)
Wish I could do this full-time... Maybe one day...

PS Thanks to everyone who commented on yesterday's blog posting, here or via email. Your comments were very useful!

Thursday 8 March 2012


This week I heard that of the two quilts I had entered for State of the Art quilt 12, one was selected (The Final Round). Hurray! I have been asked not to show that one here until the exhibition opens, on April 14 at Gallery 159 in The Gap, Brisbane. So here is the one that was not selected: Synchronicity.

I made this quilt in August 2011 (and showed a sneak peek here) and will confess now that I have tried to enter it in four (yes, 4) art quilt shows and it has been rejected every time! This time I was really surprised because of the two quilts I entered I was quite sure the other one would be rejected!

Luckily this time I finally got a juror's comment to shed some light on this issue. The juror for SotAq12 was Sharyn Hall and she wrote this about my quilts:

Synchronicity: An effective abstract work – though on initial viewing, I found it difficult to interpret the subject matter, the text was a necessity (for me anyway).
Comments: I feel the subject matter has been over stylised, though there is good dimension created with the 2 divers, but a strong singular focal point is missing. You are creating a good effect in stylising subject matter in your quilts – a different treatment of the background without detracting from these (stylised figures) might help to create more depth – in The Final Round, the use 5 figures of different shapes and size has created movement and dimension with the work, hence it’s selection.

(The text - the artist's statement - said something about the quilt being inspired by the sport of synchronised diving and trying to capture the gracious forms and movement of the divers in my quilt - I always forget to copy and save my Artist's Statement somewhere!)

So - my quilt is abstract and too stylised! I'm surprised, as I don't consider my Sports Quilts to be abstract. I use the silhouetted forms and try to let the quilting lines emphasize these forms. (see more Sports Quilts in my Gallery here) I do admit this quilt is more stylised than the other ones and personally I like this development in my work, but it seems to be an unsuccesfull one... Would love to hear your opinion!

In the meantime I have put this quilt up for sale in my Etsy shop - you can find it here. I really like it myself; it has been hanging in our living room since it was finished (and a number of visitors has said they liked it - maybe they were just being polite, haha!), but I am not emotionally attached to it the way I am to some of my other sports quilts (notably MAGnificence and Cycle of Life). And I as I have said before, I do not have room to hang all my quilts...

Speaking about my sports quilts, I have written a 'how-to' article about them which will be in the next issue (no. 8) of Down Under Textiles, so stay tuned for that!

Also very exciting: Cycle of Life will travel with Ali George to Philadelphia, USA, and together with some of the other SotAq11 quilts be shown at the SAQA/SDA Conference at the end of this month! Lucky quilt - wish I could come too!

Friday 2 March 2012

New print - and some happy news

Yesterday I made this screen print (on a gorgeous piece of Lisa Walton fabric) - during our Christmas holiday at the beach I often thought I would like to print some surfer images. Do you like it?

I have done a few and intend to use one of them for a 12" x 12" quilt for the 2012 SAQA Benefit Auction.

And finally, some happy news: we have just booked tickets for a trip to the Netherlands in June! It's been three years since we were there with our whole family (I was there for a few days in 2010 after a conference in Berlin and hubby has also visited a few times on business trips) and we are so looking forward to it!

The photo above was taken in Groningen in November 2010 - can't wait to visit my favourite city again and catch up with my BFF (the Apple Tart Queen)!

Thursday 1 March 2012


Yesterday I finished my last country quilt for the Aus/Nz Art Quilters group: Indonesia. Another country I haven't been to yet, but would love to visit one day.

As in my other country quilts, I have used the colours of the Indonesian flag (red and white) for the background, and appliqued a strip of burlap from a coffee sack on it that says Prod. of Indonesia. Indonesia is the fourth-largest producer of coffee in the word, but there is another reason why I have used a piece of coffee sack in this quilt.

As you probably know, Indonesia was a Dutch colony until it gained independence in 1949. One of the most famous books in Dutch literature is Max Havelaar: Or the Coffee Auctions of the Dutch Trading Company, written by Multatuli (Eduard Douwes Dekker). It was published in 1860 and contains a strong protest against the abuses of the colonial system of that time. The name Max Havelaar now lives on in the Max Havelaar Foundation, which launched the world's first Fairtrade Certification Mark.

Here are my four country quilts: the Netherlands, Russia, Japan and Indonesia. It wasn't until I made this photo that I discovered that Indonesia is quite a bit larger than the others... :-( Will have to trim it a little, hopefully tonight... and then send them all of so they can be part of the exhibition at the Australasian Quilt Convention!