Friday, June 4, 2010

Chapter three - (continued)

'Why, hello Amy and Nat! Lovely to meet you, I hope you enjoy my little show of trinkets and objects d'art, but you must excuse me, I have to go and greet the Mayor and VIP party, it looks like they have just arrived.  Tell me later what you think about these fascinating things we have here tonight!' 

And with a sashay of black spidery chiffon and a wave of scent straight from the orient, she was gone.

'Wow,' I said.  'We could use more of that in this dull old town, what?'

'Oh, I know exactly what you mean,' laughed Sue, 'But hey, let's see what she's on about shall we?'

And so we walked about the show, gazing at female domestic history on display.  You know, I hated history at school  It was all about explorers, and governors of New South Wales, and convicts, and sheep in vast quantities, and a thing called Federation, but to be honest, I don't remember much of it at all.  Of course I knew the obvious.  Australia began its life as a penal colony, and conditions on the First Fleet, the small group of sailing ships which came out from England, were indescribably horrendous.  I knew that as a nation we were tied to mother England's apron strings until the twentieth century and that many brave sons tragically lost their lives fighting in world wars to help defend her.  That was about the extent of my knowledge of history.

But this show was all about the female side of history, it was about real women and the little everyday objects that they used and made to try to make their domestic lives more comfortable, and more beautiful.  There were a couple of ornate 'crazy quilts', made with brocade, velvet and satin, with decorative stitching and all sorts of little beads and jewels.  The card attached explained that these were made by the wealthy squattters' and important officials' wives, and they were expensive materials, scraps perhaps from ball gowns and sumptuous curtaining.  The fancy needlework was to show off their skills.  I liked these quilts a lot, but the ones made by the ordinary ladies, the battlers, were more fascinating.

English paper pieced quilts were popular.  They were made exactly as they are today, but the fabrics were less 'contrived' in design, as they obviously just had to make do with what they had.  There was a mixture of tweed, twill, cotton print, the occasional fancy fabric, but much less adherence to a set 'design' than we would have in today's quilts. 

Some small objects caught my eye.  There were lovely little thimbles, some beat up and worn, and some exquisitely preserved china ones - from a collection no doubt.  There were a few kitchen items, too.  How hard they had to work to make just a basic meal for a family!  How would they ever had had time to sew anything!  I was amazed at how tiny the sewing needles were.  No wonder I couldn't get small stitches when I tried to hand-sew.

'Chat-el-aine', Nat was saying out loud. 'Isn't that a lovely word, Mum? Have you got one of those?'

'Hardly likely, if it is as old as they say, darling.' 

'An interesting piece, is it not?' 

We both jumped a little, as Alisha had soundlessly appeared behind us, smiling mysteriously.

'Chatelaine' I repeated. 'I've heard that word somewhere before, but I can't quite remember where.'

It was indeed a fascinating object.  Made entirely of metal, it resembled a little sort of cow bell thing, with chains attached to it.  On the end of one chain was an old rusted key, and another one had something that looked like a small letter opener.  Two other chains were bare of any objects; long lost, presumably.  It looked as if the object itself may have contained something, too, as it had a top section which looked like it might open up, as a lid. 

We learned from the printed information accompanying it that the lady of the house would have worn one of these around her waist so that she had the tools of housekeeping on her person to mend, darn, lock or open anything that needed attention. I guessed 'housekeeper' rather than 'house owner', but I wasn't sure.  It was a fascinating object though, and I spent some time gazing closely at it.

An then I remembered exactly where I had seen that word before, and I shuddered involuntarily.

'Amy, what's wrong!  You look as if you have seen a ghost!'

Why did Amy get such a creepy feeling when she remembered the word "chatelaine"?  All suggestions welcome.  To be continued.....

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Chateline - Chapter Three - a mystery object jogs the memory

Normally, I avoid these sorts of things like the plague.  I'm not comfortable in a crowd of people I don't know, especially at events which involve glasses of wine and greasy 'finger foods' eaten while standing up. 

Nat had, however, decided to come along, and I enjoyed standing next to her. Oh to be 18 again, the glamour radiated off her and I hoped a little might reflect back onto me.  The best part about Nat is that she is totally unaware of the effect she has on the young males of the species, whose glances and changes in body language as she walks through a crowd resemble a soft breeze blowing through a paddock of wheat.  In other words, she flattens them!

There weren't a great number of the afore-mentioned species at this event however.  Mainly there were middle-aged ladies, older husbands and the gallery familiars.  I used to call them 'rent-a'-çrowd', but to be fair they were pleasant people who remembered your name and something nice to say along the lines of "How are you Amy? How are the quilts going?  How is Pete, haven't seen him for a while, and so this is the beautiful Nat!  How's college going?"

We were glad to get inside, as the nights had decided to get chilly - summer was gone.  I spotted my friend Sue across the way, as she sipped a glass of white.  She was talking animatedly to a woman I did not recognise.  Someone from out of town, possibly.

'Hi Amy! Hi Nat, how's it going?  Amy and Nat, allow me to introduce you to Alisha, who is the curator of this exhibition.  This is a travelling show, and we were lucky to get it here.  Alisha doesn't normally travel with the show, but she was visiting a relative in town for the weekend, so she popped in to see how it was going.  She might also be persuaded to say a few words during the official opening."

Alisha turned to smile at us, and I was immediately taken with an odd feeling about this woman.  She was tall, slim, dark and wearing all black.  Quite beautiful, but very strong, with piercing eyes.  Her gaze was perhaps a little too intense.
For some reason, I thought 'Morticia Addams!'

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Chalelaine - Chapter 2 (continued)

After lunch I resumed making the flying geese borders of the blue and white quilt.  'Start with the end in mind' I thought.

That means, I have a border which needs to be a certain length, and I want to use flying geese blocks.  I could divide the measurement by the number of blocks, but that gave me an awkward measurement, so I decided to put a little spacer in the middle of each row, and a cornerstone at each corner.  So I joined pairs of flying geese blocks, then measured the results, and made up the difference with the plain block.  I was just surveying my work when a tousled head appeared in the doorway.
"Whatchyadoin Mum?"  Nat, clad in flannelette pyjamas, an old jumper and sheepskin lined boots was leaning against the door jamb, looking very 'morning afterish'
"Oh, not much, just putting this row of flying geese around the blue and white quilt top."
"Looks good, but aren't the colours a bit boring?  I liked the other one you made better, the one with all the kaleidoscope colours."
"Yeah, I know", I sighed, I'm getting a bit bored with it myself,  "but it's traditional, I suppose.  Everyone should make at least one traditional quilt.  What are you doing today, anyhow?"
"I'm going to go and see if John's home, and then do a bit of study tonight, probably, unless something else comes up."
Pure Gen Y.  Keep the options open, I thought.  However, I had to admit she was studying pretty hard, doing the preferred night shift.  I could usually hear the tap tap of the computer keyboard as I went down the hall to the loo in the middle of the night.  It sounded like study, but it could also be a long dose of on-line chat.
She departed for the kitchen and I head the fridge opening and kettle going on.  "Hey Mum! What's this?" she called out from the kitchen.
"What's what?"
"The funky card, I like it, did you make it?"
"No, it's an invitation to a gallery opening tomorrow night.  Want to come along?"
"Hmmn, might do..."  I know, depends what comes up!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Chalelaine - Chapter Two

Thank you so much for the wonderful ideas. I loved one so much I used the whole thing but I just changed one word, from ''hand made'' to ''domestic''. There is reason for this and you will soon see why! To the others, be patient, there is, in fact an aunt - you'll meet her later!

CHAPTER TWO - Flying Geese

Soaring Compliments - by Carol Bryer Fallert

I slit it open and took out the sheet of paper. All it said was "Flying Geese go round in circles". What the... I thought. But then something else dropped out of the envelope. It was a ticket to the opening night of a new private art gallery in town. The exhibition was titled "Art in utilitarian objects". The blurb underneath mentioned, rag rugs, quilts and other "domestic artifacts".

I sat and stared, first at the ticket and then at the cryptic note. It was a no contest really, I was going to go. I mean I had to didn't I?

I look a closer look at the invitation. Someone had gone to a lot of trouble to make this; there were small pieces of actual fabric which had been fused onto the cardboard into the familiar shape of flying geese. Only instead of going up or down or right to left as they usually do, these ones did, in fact, form a circle.

It reminded me of the work of one of my favourite quilt artists, Carol Bryer Fallert, now a resident of Paducah, Kentucky. Now that was definitely a place on my travel wish list if ever there was one! I could just imagine myself walking down a historic street, lined with quilts hanging from upstairs railings, passing cute coffee shops with enticing iced buns in the windows, and the smell of autumn (fall) in the air, leaves crunching underfoot.

But, back to the invitation, it was for tomorrow night, Friday, and as there wasn't an rsvp I decided I would just turn up at the New Art Space on Palm Street at 8pm tomorrow night for drinks, nibbles and culture. Why not?

Back to work! Awaiting me downstairs was a pile of fabric in blue and white, with a very subtle print in each. What to do, what to do... I needed a border for the classic quilt I was working on, something not too busy, but directional. What about piano keys - no, too strong. I know, flying geese, but only going in straight lines. I could, however, make them go 'around', by pointing them around the quilt one way. I turned the telly on for some background distraction and got to work slicing and dicing, the way you do. Soon the machine was humming and I was still thinking "Flying geese go round in circles".

OK - Help me here! I need some ideas about what might happen at the opening night of this exhibition! All suggestions welcome!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Chatelaine - a Quilting Journey

''The Chatelaine''

a novel

by Roberta Burgess

Chatelaine (chain)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Chatelaine, 1765-1775 V&A Museum no. C.492:1 to 7-1914

Chatelaine is a decorative belt hook or clasp worn at the waist with a series of chains suspended from it. Each chain is mounted with a useful household appendage such as scissors, thimble, watch, key, vinaigrette, household seal, etc.

Chatelaines were worn by many housekeepers in the 19th century. They were also worn by Anglo Saxon women, as seen from the burial record.

The name chatelaine derives from the same term used to mean the female owner, or husband of the owner, of a large house. The chatelaine was designed to have all the tools necessary for the woman of the household to sort out any problem she may encounter in her day, like a fraying curtain.

CHAPTER ONE - How it Started

They say that sudden wealth brings unhappiness to the ones who get it, but I can tell you now I am not one of those people. The way it happened was a bit unusual, not like a Lotto Win, or a distant aunt falling off the perch or anything like that - it was, well...a bit spooky, really. But I'll go into that later.

Thursday morning, early May 1999, and everybody was banging on about some millennium bug which was going to worm its way into everybody's computer and bring down all the airline companies. Yaddah yaddah yaddah - turned out to be a whole lot of rubbish. However, it make people think about how much control computers (and their programmers) might have over ordinary people, and how we were depending on technology way too much.

After the mail came that day, I sat down rather slowly at the table in the kitchen. I preferred that one to the vast one in the dining room. The light was better, for one thing. Old houses are charming, but dark, draughty and some of the spaces are too big to feel comfortable in. Pierrot and Columbine were snaking around my legs as usual, hoping for a chance to settle in my lap. Heat-seeking missiles, that's what cats are. We tell ourselves that they are being affectionate, but when it's hot, mid-summer, where are they to be found? Out by the pool, stretched out under the shade of a shrub, lazily watching the dragonflies skimming across the water's surface. "Go away you smooches!" I laughed, kicking them gently with one foot, as I sorted through the mail.

There was a free newspaper, the sort that has snippets of news and is paid for through the advertising content. This particular newspaper, I decided that I liked. It had some real journalism in it, it even dared to be critical of the powers that be in the town occasionally, not that that did any good. Things would not change in a hurry in this place, and neither would the power hierarchy. You must be thinking by now that I am cynical, and I guess I am at times, or maybe just realistic. There was a card from my friend in the city. Gorgeous girl. We had been at college together, and kept in touch. She made these lovely hand-made cards, it was a great creative outlet for her. this one had a drawing of a cat on it. Not like my skinny possums, but a huge, hairy Persian type cat, the sort that really knows how to occupy a rug. I smiled at the card, read the brief inscription, birthday wishes for a few days' time.

"May all your wishes come true" it said. That could be dangerous. I decided to have a little day-dream about that while I put the kettle on. There were lots of good wishes of course. The obvious ones about health and well-being for all my family, of course, and Pete being able to get a better job, one that didn't wear him down so much emotionally. I would love to somehow become one of those creative quilters who travels the world, exhibiting my prize winning quilts, and being invited to open and judge quilt shows. The best part would be the ability to travel. To spend days and days in place like the Victoria and Albert Museum, in London, gazing at the work of people like William Morris. Paul, my brother-in-law keeps saying that when (read if) he wins Lotto that the first thing I will know is 'custard pies'! What? I said to him. What will happen is that I will go out the front door and there will be someone there to throw custard pies to celebrate. This event will take place simultaneously at various places around the countryside as everyone near and dear to him ventures out for the day. 'I can't wait', I responded unenthusiastically. "But I will also pay out your mortgage" he said. "Now you're talking!"

Underneath the card, there were one or two bills, groan. Electricity, up again. More hot water being used by Nat, obviously, since she'd come home from college. A bill for the papers, annoying, since we can never find most of them. The paper boy shoots them under the house more often than not, and I'm not inclined to crawl around in the dirt among the spiders to find them.

And then there was the letter.

End of Chapter One

What was in the letter? Give me some help, please!