Luke Campbell and Clare Metcalf – married 21 February 2009
Well, it was worth all the effort, of course. The Wedding was wonderful – very emotional and just lovely. My three girls.
This shot is a bit far away, but the wind blew Clare’s dress out just as I snapped it – I like the effect! – click on photos to enlarge

I have lots of other photos from the trip, including the Rosalie Gascoigne exhibition, which was great. But now I am tired and want to sleep in my own bed, so will post more tomorrow.



A while ago I had a play with my embellisher and various materials, trying to create an image of a fire. I was reminded of it today while following the harrowing news reports of deaths from so many fires burning throughout the southern states, particularly Victoria. I was six months pregnant with my first child in 1983, and living in Queenscliff in Victoria when the Ash Wednesday bushfires went through the State. I was one of many army wives left alone while our husbands were away somewhere – I remember lying awake at 2 o’clock in the morning, following the news reports as the fires worked their way relentlessly east. They were stopped well before reaching us – not that we knew that would happen. In 2003, the dreadful Canberra fires burned. I was hanging out washing and turned around to see an evil, great billowing cloud of dirty grey suffused with an ominious orange – it was over 400 houses burning on the other side of the city from me. Four people died. We were in shock that this could happen in the heart of the nation’s capital. My brother phoned from Queensland that night – he heard on the news that over 400 houses had burned and he thought there must be a mistake – that couldn’t possibly be right.

And now Victoria is suffering again – each hour the news reports increase the number dead – I was horrified when I woke up this morning to read that 14 people had died – the 5pm news has just reported the death toll at 49, and warning to expect it to rise as fire crews manage to get into townships that have been cut off.

After the Canberra fires, quilters all over Australia made quilts to donate to everyone who had lost their homes. I am sure that people everywhere will rally around to help those who have lost everything. Homes can be rebuilt, possessions replaced…but nothing can replace those 49 loved ones – Monday morning, and the toll has grown to nearly 100. Wednesday – 181.


(click on any image to enlarge)

Not long after Christmas, we took a whole pile of boxes and wrapping down to the local recycling place. While my husband was unloading, Iwas idly glancing around at all the packaging and general detritus from the festive season, when my eye fell on an old brown suitcase. Now you can’t actually recycle suitcases at this place, just the usual paper, cardboard, bottles, cans etc. I opened it up and it was stuffed with old notebooks and papers. On closer inspection, it was the notes from someone’s entire university course in economics, from the late 1960s. I was sorely tempted to grab large handfuls and bring home for collage etc. but we are starting to declutter our house in preparation to sell it and move down to the coast. So I walked away, but at the last minute, knew I just had to bring home one notebook

Last time we went down to the coast, we stopped, as usual in Braidwood and there was a book sale on at the local church hall. I just had to duck in and see what was there. I couldn’t resist this Enid Gilchrist classic on making your own maternity wear. All the patterns are shown in diagrams with hundreds of markings and numbers – obviously in those days, people thought nothing of drafting up their own slopers. I guess in those days they still taught dressmaking at school! It isn’t dated, but the price is four shillings, so it predates the introduction of decimal currency on 14 February 1966 – probably about 1963 or 64, I’d guess. On the back is an advert for the latest Bernina – the 730 – its most outstanding features are proudly announced as ‘portable’ and ‘electric’. So are the latest models, but we don’t seem to need to advertise those features anymore – now it is more likely to be ‘connects to the internet and downloads bazillions of patterns’.

Those were the days.

Bridesmaid dresses

My youngest daughter is getting married in three weeks at St Patrick’s cathedral in Melbourne, pictured above. She lives in Melbourne and has organised the whole wedding, down to every tiny detail, all by herself. All I have to do is turn up. Well, that was the plan, anyway. She bought her dress on special – fell in love with it and it fitted, and it was on sale, so way to go. The bridesmaids were a bit trickier. Finding a dress which suits very different figure shapes, and in the colour way the bride has her heart set on is no easy feat.

She saw this dress and decided it was just the thing, only she wanted the dress in navy and the sash in cream. No, I don’t know why the model is draped painfully backwards over a big brown box, nor what the hell she is made up like a vampire for – maybe trying out for a role in that Twilight movie?

Anyway, the deal at the dress shop is that they have one example of each style, you try it on, and try and guess which is the actual size that would fit you, then you order it in your colour-way, wait three months, pick it up, having parted with a large amount of money, then, no doubt, pay out a whole lot more to have the thing altered, because of course, it isn’t going to be a perfect fit.
Well, I decided that was not going to work, so I would make them (okay, it seemed like a good idea at the time). As it happens, I am a perfectly competent dress maker and can knock out a boned, strapless bodice with the best of them. However, the tricky bit is a) adapting the pattern to fit the different figure types, and b) fitting it perfectly to each girl.

The dress shown was perfect for one of the girls – tall, athletic, long body, fine waist – it looks great on her. One of the others is a similar shape (well, they are sisters, after all) but will be six months pregnant by the date of the wedding – there goes the fine waist, and the third is unrelated and a competely different shape, and let’s just say the chosen design would not be flattering.

I got a basic pattern for a fitted bodice with a gathered skirt and proceeded to turn it into an empire line bodice with a fitted band around the middle for bridesmaid number 1 and a basic empire line with skirt falling from under the bust for the other two – with generous baby bump allowance where needed.

The bride had provided samples of the fabrics she wanted – nothing too complicated, and readily available at our local fabric store, Lincraft (don’t get me going on the way that store has slid into poor service, crappy merchandise and shabby presentation – since Home Yardage closed there isn’t much to choose from in Canberra – and as I live on the north side, a trip to Spotlight involves a packed lunch and a compass, and chances are they won’t have what I want, assuming I can manage to shift the huge piles of rolls of fabric haphazardly piled on top of each other, with no rhyme and reason about what is where) close brackets, end of rant about poor choice of fabric stores in the National Capital.

I managed to get what I needed by a combination of ordering online and ringing around other Lincraft stores in the Sydney area and they mailed it to me. Navy (I think they call it Ink, or Midnight, or something) satin backed something for the underskirt and bodice, with the same colour georgette for the shirred outer bodice and overskirt. Cream georgette for the sashes.
I will skim over the weeks of measuring, making, fitting remaking and hair tearing to the point where the dresses are done and now all they need is hemming. I do have to add here that I got through those weeks with my sanity intact despite having a stress fracture in my back and being sleep deprived as I couldn’t lie down and had to sleep sitting up for about six weeks, entirely due to my wonderful neighbour who is a qualified dressmaking and pattern making teacher who is quite brilliant and who regularly came down to cast her eye over the various versions and show me how to fix the problems and get a perfect fit. Thank you Maree, you are a saint.
Now all I have to do is the hems. I don’t know about you, but crawling around on the floor to level a hem (well, two actually for each dress, as I have to do the underskirt, then the georgette), is not my idea of fun, and downright impossible with a bung back.
So, my brilliant idea – well, my husband’s actually – use a laser light to get the level! He got me one of those little hand held laser pointers from somewhere or other, to use with my domestic home quilter – I tape it to the stylus and it is great for following pantograph patterns. Of course that was before they banned them because idiots started pointing them at aircraft trying to blind the pilot – (the lasers, I mean, not the stylus on home quilting machines) I am not sure my little one is powerful enough to do that, and have no intention of trying to find out – it is strictly for textile applications only.

Just a couple of hooks and eyes and some carrier loops to hold the sashes in place at the sides and back and I am done. Having observed the stress and trauma of the whole thing, one of my other daughters declared that she didn’t think she would bother getting married – I said that was fine – just elope to Fiji and send me a postcard.