Detail from Analgous

Detail from Analgous

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Skydiving: 14,000 feet of AMAZING!

Its been far too long, I know…life has been interesting, at times frantically busy, and I have enjoyed every second of it. And blogged none of it. The biggest thing lately for me is pretty huge: 
I jumped out of a more or less perfectly good airplane!! And I loved it! I'm seriously thinking about options of where I might head with it. 
Discovered a really awesome Dropzone within easy drive, set in beautiful countryside, 
Adrenalin Skydive Goulburn  They have skilled, friendly staff who know their business, well maintained modern gear,  spectacular views to enjoy on the way down, a purpose built facility with the only twin turboprop aircraft used for skydiving in this country.  I jumped out of their shiny Embraer Bandeirante, its stripped of the usual passenger seating, and remodelled for skydiving with bench seating.  Its affectionate name is the bandit, and I have a huge soft spot for this aircraft, because I used to fly in one quite often when I was younger. It was comfortingly familiar.  They have smaller Cessnas too.  What more could you possibly ask for ask for?  A cuppa? Maybe some Icecream? Yep, they have that too.
When I decided I should go skydiving for deeply personal reasons, in conjunction with an upcoming birthday, I invited a bunch of my friends along. What resulted was a VERY good time! Images are from Adrenalin Skydive Goulburn in a package I purchased.

 (We were missing one of our friends in the above photo. She did jump though.)
 Check out his fingers!!!!

My first jump was a tandem jump with a highly skilled instructor, who made it really easy to experience skydiving and took care of all the crucial stuff so I could just enjoy it. On the ground, you meet your instructor, get briefed, geared up, hop on the plane, have your harness tightened down very firmly a few minutes before you jump so there is no way you're able to fall out of it, are attached to your instructor.They wear the rig containing all the useful stuff that'll get you down to the ground in one piece. Then before you know it, you're at jump altitude. In the bandit, that was only 15-20 minutes to 14,000 feet.

Exit was interesting, my instructor manoeuvred me till I was completely hanging in the harness against the OUTSIDE of the aircraft (I know, right??) for no more than a couple of seconds, whilst he positioned himself holding onto the aircraft behind me. He checked my body position for exit whilst I got my first taste of -5C rapidly moving air in the face…which you see in the photo with my mouth open! Not more than a few seconds from when the instructor dangled me out the aircraft, with no messing around, he pushed off and we were gone!  Head first, feet to the sky, falling.  Ooooh yeah!! 
I wasn't frightened in the least about hanging out the door. You know that's going to happen because they tell you in the briefing.  Not all aircraft or centres exit tandems the same way though.  I''d really looked forward to this so much. Sharing it with friends was just wonderful.  

I'm still there… just tucked out of sight under my new best buddy.  
 After a few seconds, when we'd cleared the aircraft, my cool-as-a-cucumber instructor tapped me on the arm to tell me to open my arms out.  It feels like flying. Its the most incredible, confronting, amazing experience.  You cannot come close to even imagine what it is like, until you experience it for yourself. 
I'm sorry, but there it is. I don't have the words to properly describe it.  
I've been asked by lots of people to try to describe how it feels. Its hard to do that partly because the memories I have of some of my first freefall are a little patchy.  I felt the world flipped then it was both blurred and rotating.  I had some tunnel vision, felt some unfamiliar sensations and extremely loud sound of air moving over my body. I was completely overwhelmed and disoriented for a few seconds.  That felt brutal. But I  am told this sensory overload disappears quickly with subsequent jumps as the body adjusts. Its different for everyone. Some of my friends had none whatsoever. 
Freefall was intense. Freefall is FAST. And it is LOUD.  Pervasively so. Far, far louder than anything I've ever been exposed to until then.  As you start to fall, you accelerate rapidly, and within around 12 seconds you reach about 200km/ hr in a belly to earth position.  I think that's amazing.  You'd go faster still again if you fall head to earth. 
When I looked out  as I exited the plane,  I saw green where there is usually blue, and blue where there is usually green. There is nothing around you except a whole lot of air, your trusty instructor, and the system you're in.  Its total freedom. I have never felt a closer connection to the earth than when I was so far above it, without an aircraft around me.
It did not feel so much like falling through the air, but like a lot of air movement around the body, like floating or balancing on air.   You work up there, to keep your body arched in a good position. Muscles get a stretch. Jumping tandem is not a passive thing. You'll work, but your instructor will be working harder. I have huge  respect for them.
You feel the air mushing your face around. Pushing against your body. You feel pressure changes in your ears. Air going right up into your sinus. Air up the nose to that extent  feels…odd.  I saw LOTS of blue, in all its glorious colours, and an incredibly beautiful pale horizon. That green stuff way below?  That stuff gets bigger with every second. 
My instructor was as cool as a cucumber, a really nice guy, and from the video, it was obvious he was loving every second of it from the huge grin on his face. He has well over 5,500 jumps in his log book, knows his business, has been at it a while.

Just under a minute after leaving the plane, I get another firm tap on the arm to let me know he's about to release the canopy.  Its a big canopy for two people, rectangular in shape, with cells that inflate. It takes a few seconds to open, and mine was a nice soft opening.  

Skydiving was 14,000 feet of AMAZING! We had almost a full minute in free fall. And then 5 or maybe 7 minutes under canopy, an astonishing contrast of quiet after the noise level of freefall. Its the most incredible experience. Wish we had stayed up there longer than we did.  The level of joy, peace and magic I felt under canopy - there are truly no words for that. It's fun on an epic scale. 

Its cool being able to pull the toggles, get a taste of what its like to turn and fly the canopy.   I really enjoyed that for quite a while. 
When we came in to land, at Goulburn they slide you in to land on your butt, with your knees and legs well up.  You're not going to trip or fall. They supply pants with a reinforced seat that you slide in on, so your clothes don't get trashed.  If you're anything like me, you'll be squealing in delight and laughing your head off, feeling awesome!  There's definitely going to be more of this in my future.

  I would strongly encourage everyone who is medically fit for it, to do a tandem skydive at least once in their life. Its was a profoundly beautiful experience. 
My face best describes how I feel about skydiving.  

If you think you'd like to skydive, do your due diligence - research your Dropzone options, find out as much as you can about them, their background and history, the background of the instructors, ask around about them, ask whatever questions of them that you need to feel comfortable. You don't want any reservations about their professionalism or competency when you're about to exit the plane. Adrenalin Skydive Goulburn rocked. All of my friends had a great experience and most of us are itching to jump again.
The Australian Parachute Federation has links to affiliated drop zones around the country, and some resources and  interesting things to see on their site. Check them out too.

Back on the ground, on the sewing front my current project is refashioning a Victorian styled silk skirt into a distressed silk Steampunk style skirt.  For a costumed party next weekend. Have a little more to do on that before its finished,  but I think its going to work really rather well. Photos to come. 
Most of my sewing in past weeks has been of this nature, refashioning interesting finds and improving the shape of them for events with a costumed theme. Along with more laundry bags for a good cause, and in the past few months, a couple of bed quilts for others too. 
Next weekend I'm at Addicted to Fabric teaching Freemotion Machine Quilting. Its a delight delivering my favourite workshop and seeing the excitement on the faces of Quilters discovering it.


Friday, 21 March 2014

Still here! And Aussie Heroes...

Hi everyone!
I'm still here, since I've had a few enquiries.
All is well- just have been extremely busy with moving house, settling in (which involves me pretty much solo unpacking the entire household. We are not finished yet but not far off it!) , the start of the new school year with additional commitments with the children, who are learning trumpet and percussion (imagine our homes at practice times, which is most days for a good 20 minutes!) and into soccer in a huge way.  Plus  getting my sewing room up and running more or less. Still a few more boxes left to unpack.  I have been  whipping up a bunch of bags and currently, a quilt for Aussie Heroes Quilts and Laundry Bags to support those serving in the ADF.  I'm very happy to contribute to this project for personal reasons but also because it is a very practical way to say thankyou to those who serve this country. It has also served to keep me sane during the move from one place to another. Some days whipping up a laundry bag has saved my sanity!
You can check out photos of some of the work I've contributed plus from the volunteers and recipients on the website, and read about just what these laundry bags and quilts mean to those who receive them.  Check it all out:
Scroll back a few posts and also check out the galleries at the top banner- you will probably be amazed at just how many bags and quilts have been made.  I know the project can always do with more helpers so if this interests you or you want to support it in other ways apart from sewing, contact Jan-Maree through the contacts button on her site.

And oh yes on top of all that, I've been working around that, writing for Australian Patchwork and Quilting magazine with my regular monthly column and out teaching.  Tomorrow is the second installement of a two day workshop I run at Rosemont The Patchwork Shop in Canberra.
Will see if I can grab some photos during class, its always a busy time and often I simply forget!

Happy Quilting!


Friday, 29 November 2013

Kiwi trails

Hi all!
Nope,  I haven't fallen off the face of the Earth, although I did leave the country for a while to visit Middle Earth,  on the most amazing trip to North Island of New Zealand in late Sept.and early Oct. It was beyond fabulous. I attended the Australasian Sewing Guild convention and had a couple of free days to explore a very beautiful country filled with friendly people and strikingly beautiful natural features. My only complaint is that I did not have enough time to see even a tenth of everything I would liked to have seen.
I visited Auckland for the most part, staying one block from the water front before my convention began.
I jumped onto a bus tour for 13 hours and covered over 620km of road, taking in parts of Rotorua, Te Puia and Waitomo Caves and the stunning greenery between those places. People say Ireland is green, but check out the lush green here!


 Happy, happy dairy cows! The very definition of content.  There are a vast number of animals and food being farmed in the fertile land, from Alpacas to Cows, sheep to Kiwi Fruit, wine to Possums, Fish to Deer, with a lot of ingenuity evident in the way the land is used to support communities.
Also visited Matakana and Pui Hoi Valley.  The ASG tour I took during convention included lovely villages with a focus on Textiles including possum wool silk blended garments, fabulous cheese making facility with associated yummy dairy offerings. I had booked a whale and dolphin watching tour out in the gulf near Auckland but high winds scuttled those plans, no boat tours operating on the only free day I had in my schedule and no change to reschedule whilst I was in the country. So that goes onto the list for next time.

 One word describes New Zealand for me, and that is Impressive.
My travel involved lots of textile based explorations and getting out into nature or into nature. Into caves filled with glow worms and thermal springs heated by volcanoes with stunning vies right onto the beach of Lake Rotorua. I soaked for an hour and half in some rather stinky (think sulphur rotten egg gas)  thermal springs but my skin felt so soft after showering, it was amazing. There were different temperature springs from quite cool to very hot, light head inducing temperatures. So relaxing.

And I found everywhere I went, Australians by the plane load. I could quite easily immigrate to New Zealand, I loved it so much.

Volcanic landscapes dominated, with dramatic geysers, fumaroles, the odd shaped conical little hills that pop up around the rim of the crater's edge near Rotorua often covered in trees or greenery.


 See the rainbow?

Nature has a way of reminding you just how tiny and insignificant you are compared to her. You get a sense here that the Earth is cross.  Speaking to a Maori Guide when I mentioned this to him he said it was an astute observation, and that is exactly what his family believe. They are very connected to the earth and show much respect for what it provides them with, living in harmony with nature.
I loved a Maori cultural performance with stunning art and carving in their meeting hall.

and seeing a Kiwi House. Kiwis now are so endangered due to introduced species that few are ever spotted in the wild. It was great to learn about their life cycle but no photos were allowed inside the viewing area- but I saw a pair of Kiwis. And they did not disappoint.
Neither did the beautiful countryside, the plants, the food (and the wine!) or the people. The locals I found to be incredibly friendly, helpful and relaxed.   I hope to return there sooner than later with the rest of the family...

 I should add that the photos taken have not been processed or enhanced in any way, the colours are exactly as close as my digital Canon camera could replicate as they were in nature at the time and place in which they were taken.  Truly a stunning country.

After that there was a little short trip to Tasmania to retreat with and catch up with some of my old quilting friends and see a couple of old college mates and their families. It was refreshing and restful, and always amazingly good fun.

Between those trips there was fairly frantic packing. And now I'm unpacking box after box after box.
We bought our own place and moved in mid Nov to one of the very lovely suburbs of Canberra, very convenient, very leafy and quiet.  Lovely neighbours.  Its going well but we have some things to do to the house such as installing an oven that works, and an induction cook top (oh happy day, we cannot wait for those) plus a split converter heating/ cooling unit to control the raging heat that Canberra sees in summer.  Hoping for this all by Christmas. House has a great North/ North East perfect orientation for the Southern Hemisphere, and is the most energy efficient home we have ever bought.  So far in the 33 degree C warm days we have had its been pleasantly cool, unlike the last house. But we'll need to be able to cool it when the temperatures are well over 40 degrees C.
Our energies have been concentrated on the house and the prep for moving when it hasn't been devoted to exciting travels interstate and overseas. Which is why you haven't heard from me in quite a while.

Once the house is unpacked I can start on the sewing room unpack and set up. The new room is delightfully well lit and I am so, so happy about this, I can barely wait to get in there and start creating.  I may just have a few new quilts brewing that were inspired by my recent travels...


Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Fault Lines II: SAQA Auction benefit quilt

I'm a member of SAQA (Studio Art Quilts Associates) and its auction benefit time!
Our Oceania SAQA group thought it might be fun to have a blog tour,  to show the range of work our members create.  Here you can see my approach for constructing my donation auction quilt, Fault Lines II.  You might like to pop over to the SAQA page and take a look- and feel free to make a bid on my quilt if it takes your fancy. Click on the SAQA button on my side bar to take you there.  The blog for the SAQA Oceania members is Here

 Colours below of the work in progress are more accurate. The above was snapped in my horribly dark studio where I quilted. The colours are much brighter than they seem in that photo.   Observant quilters might even recognise some beautiful fabrics from Lisa Walton Dyed  of
Dyed and Gone to Heaven along with some batiks, some of my own hand dyed fabric, and commercial prints.

A bit of background: For years I've enjoyed seeing the power of nature evident in the natural world, whether it is the ocean or land, or space.  Several of my earlier quilts use my improvisational piecing technique in two main ways, as either backgrounds for applique as you see here in detail from The Secret Life of Ice

 or as in the case of other pieces as the main design element next to colour.

Analogous above was made for the Canberra Quilters Red Plus One challenge last year.
 Then I made Fault Lines I with some lovely fabrics picked up on a trip to Tasmania

 I love to move seams around to reflect movement in the earth's crust.  Maybe the devastating images of earth quakes across the globe of the last few years prompted my brain to go there, with amazing yet shocking images of the earth being torn apart.  I have always loved patchwork and appreciate that the therapeutic effects of pushing fabric towards a machine needle can so easily be adapted to different styles of quilts.


 Making these quilts is a spontaneous process of growth, by first constructing  sections  to join together, varying the size of the units I make and incorporating  curves or straight lines in a way that I fancy.
 I've become especially interested in the effects of inserting skinny curves with contrasting colour and value of fabric to build additional movement into my work, and of adding spikes at the same time creating what I call "shark's teeth".  I enjoy the interplay of sharp points with undulating curves just as there is so often in the natural world.
Technically these seams are more difficult to sew and  maintain a lovely flat finish, and I enjoy the process of bending fabric to my will.   All seams have a shorter than average stitch length and are very skinny in width.
 I can only imagine this will not be the last quilt I make that incorporates improvisational piecing somewhere into the quilt.

When it came to the quilting, I used the walking foot and a mix of Cotton, poly, metallic, Rayon- its all there! Batting is a beautiful Australian Product, a wool/ poly batting from Mathilda's Own, helping to support the Aussie Wool Industry.
I quilted using both bobbin quilting upside down for heavier couching threads, and quilting right side up as quilters usually do.

The edges are finished with a facing technique I like to use that uses some dressmaking techniques to achieve a beautiful flat finish with minimal bulk at the corners and edges, due to some careful grading of layers before turning the facing to the back. Above you can see the backing fabric and facing edge, about to be finished by hand. The raw edge remaining was needle turn appliqued in place by hand.  The facing is the same colour as the back so it blends in beautifully. 

I hope you have enjoyed these insights into Fault Lines II
Next up on the Oceania SAQA blog tour we have Hilary Metcalf See here  
If you've just tuned in now nearing the end of our tour, you can see all participating members work by clicking on the button on the top right side bar  that will take you straight to the SAQA Oceania group blog page Here
There is some really fantastic work in our collection that reflects a nice diversity of style and technique.  Enjoy!


That's the guided tour of making Fault Lines II.  Let's see how much can be raised with the auction quilts! I would love to hear in a comment your views on my work- all comments are moderated so don't panic if your comment doesn't pop up immediately.  Thanks for visiting!