Days of opportunity

It seems to me that for some, this world has taken a step backwards.

From the bright and hopeful start of women’s work towards social equality with men, I am seeing darkness creeping back. Abuse, sexual harassment, tacit approval of rape as a ‘weapon of correction’, violence towards women offered as entertainment, workplace bullying, suppression in the name of tradition and family pride, marginalisation and dismissal of our ideas and contributions in a way that men would not be expected to tolerate.

So when I hear of an organisation dedicated to opening horizons of opportunity for girls and women, even in a personal and private way, I’m interested. And when that contribution makes an unspoken but shattering difference to millions of lives over dozens of years, I want to know more.

If you’re a man, this may make uncomfortable reading. With all possible goodwill: Toughen up, princess. This is something every woman has to deal with, for most of her life.

The organisation is called Days for Girls, and its strapline is Every Girl, Everywhere. Period. It seeks to ensure that every girl and woman has access to adequate, healthy and sustainable sanitary protection. It offers dignity, hope, freedom from stigma and the ability to keep attending school and work instead of losing days, weeks and months of their lives, stuck at home and often ostracised as ‘unclean’ because it’s their time of the month and they have nothing to help them deal with that. From early beginnings in 2008, the organisation has become international, and to date it has helped over 1,000,000 women in more than 124 countries. That’s a lot of new freedom, a lot of new opportunity.

Yesterday, I joined my local branch, and came away with ‘homework’. Many volunteers work together once a week, others take work home and bring finished items back when they are done. I have piles of fabric to assemble into one element of the kit each girl and woman receives. Each kit is estimated to take 8 woman-hours: a gift from one woman to another, one day spent to give another woman days and days of a better, richer life. The design has been refined and re-refined in the 10 years it has been in use. A lot of thought has gone into creating something that is sensitive to the widest possible variety of local ideas, traditions and taboos. Girls receive a discreet bag filled with the sanitary necessities to take them through each month and to last for years to come. Some of the kits have been in use for more than 5 years already. I am incredibly proud to be a small part of this chain of hands held out to our sisters, who receive not only these necessities, but also basic instruction on their use, plus hygiene and sex education. Co-ordinators go in person to deliver hundreds of kits and the education. Where this is not possible, the kits are passed on to the volunteers on Mercy Ships to deliver together with education, where they are making port and offering medical care.

I think a lot of men are bored with hearing about ‘women’s issues’. When you’re at the top of the food chain, you maybe don’t feel the need to pay attention to those at the margins – and make no mistake, women as a whole are still at the margins despite decades of knocking at the door and banging our heads on the glass ceiling. We’ve come a long way, but there’s still such a long way to go… So it’s down to women to help each other. I am glad to help offer freedom and dignity to young women, so that they can enjoy as much opportunity as their circumstances permit, and travel in life as far as their imaginations will take them.

I expect some umbrage to be taken about my opinions. It is human to hold differing opinions and to believe different things, based on our experiences. If you wish to express your disagreement rationally and without abuse, your comments are welcome. Trolls and anyone using abuse to make their point will be deleted.

But nothing will convince me that this concept is not a shining light of compassion, rationality and sisterhood.


A sense of belonging

Today, it’s five years since I started blogging on WordPress.

And this is my 1,119th post.

Seriously? I can’t believe that I’ve been here that long. It seems such a short time ago that I made my first tentative steps into the blogging world. Prior to that, I’d sent out weekly newsletters of my doings to lots of friends and family far away. Blogging seemed like an easy next step that didn’t involve the occasional blocking of my emails by various servers, suspicious that I was spamming. And I could put in photos, and choose a format that looked nice.

By this point I was already following a few blogs, and dipped my toe into Blogger…. and hastily withdrew it, when I realised I hadn’t a clue how to make it work. WordPress was the next attempt, and I found it friendly, easy and accommodating. I’ve learned a few things since those first tentative steps, most important of which is that the world is filled with friends you haven’t met yet, that you can become close to people you’ve never seen and most likely never will, that you can care deeply about the doings of comparative strangers, and that you can belong to a community whose members stretch around the globe. Blogging is a journal, a place of friendship and support, a creative outlet and a never-ending source of interest, fun and delight. I know that its popularity is waning somewhat as people tend to the more instant and abbreviated pleasures of Instagram and its like, but I love words (no, really?) and for me, a blog post will always win over a photo and a hashtag.

A few stats… 1,119 posts, 830 followers, viewers from 142 countries, 131,647 views (46,727 from the US alone), 30,303 comments. One of the things I love about WP is the ease of accessing these figures. I do love a nice statistic…

Anyway, I just want to say thank you for following, sticking with me, commenting and liking. Thank you for being out there for me to talk to. Thank you for allowing me to belong in your lives in some sense ❤

Here’s to the next 5 years.

The Gardens of Chiconia 51

And now for something a little bit fruity. Again.

The Ducasse banana is looking a little bleary eyed and weary. We had a heavy rain shower the other night and the next couple of rows of flowers copped a bit of a beating. The green ants are all over the bunch as well, so I guess it’s not really a surprise. However, the bananas that have developed are looking good, as you can see.

I had a bit of a revelation the other day. Beside our front gate there is a tree that was attractive but not terribly interesting apart from its pretty leaves. The tops are dark green and glossy, and the underside is golden-amber and slightly felty-feeling. Pretty, eh? For the four years that we’ve lived in this house, said tree did precisely nothing apart from grown half a metre a year.

This year?  It’s covered in bright green golf-ball sized fruit that look like miniature Granny Smith apples. I cut one open to discover a star shaped pattern of seeds inside, but not much else. It wasn’t till the neighbour hung over the fence and asked if I minded him helping himself to some ripe ‘star apples’ from the branches overhanging his side that I got an insight. The green jobs are unripe. When ripe, the skins go a glossy dark reddish purple, as does the flesh inside. It’s sweet, custard-textured and delicious. Of course, none of the fruit on our side is ripe yet, but I tried a bit from Brian’s side…. Anyway, the thing’s called Chrysophyllum cainito, it originated in the West Indies and now grows in tropical regions around the world. The fruit, bark and leaves are supposed to have health benefits, but personally, I’ll be sticking to the fruit.

Assuming Brian Next Door and the hungry birds leave me any, that is… 

Becoming… something

Yes, OK, it’s a weird title, but all will be explained shortly.

I’m in a clearing out mood just now. I have recently sent for recycling several things which definitely fell into the “what was I thinking?” category. And then there was the old shopping bag. Here’s the deal.

Way, way back in the mists of time (oh, very well, about 14 years ago if you insist on accuracy), I was young(er), single and comparatively affluent. I certainly had disposable cash for pretty stuff. One day I fell in love with a bag. It was stiff white leather (what was I thinking?), tall, capacious and it had a beautiful piece of fabric set into the front. For all of three days I carried it around. And then I had to stop. The handles were excruciatingly uncomfortable. The straps that went over the top simply would not line up with their magnetic clips. It got dirty if you just looked at it. It became my magazine holder, so I could still look at that lovely fabric. But it fell over all the time.

Over the years, it migrated into my sewing area and then into the dark and cobwebby corners, holding abandoned attempts at knitting. It became the Bag of Shame. It was old, but virtually unused. And yesterday, enough was enough. I cut out that beautiful panel of fabric, and I consigned the rest of it to the outer darkness.

The fabric sang me a siren song yesterday morning, asking for attention, and this is what it has become. I have no idea what it’s for. The fabric panel (at top left) is stiff and heavy – visualise curtain fabric with triple-pass blackout coating on the back. It’s too stiff for any kind of furnishing item such as a cushion cover, or for a garment (although I suppose a panel on the back of a jacket might work). It’s 18 inches (46cm) high x 13 inches (33cm) wide.

I could just hang it on the wall and still be able to admire that piece of fabric I fell in love with all those years ago, but in my ideal world, things are useful as well as beautiful.

So, I’d like your thoughts on what this might become. I simply cannot put it back into some dark corner and forget it. Again…

Scrappy follow-up

I finished it!

This ScrapHappy cushion cover is so cheery and bright, I just had to get it done. Just look at those colours, don’t they make you want to break out in a big grin? Even if these aren’t your colours, it’s like the sun came out.

The quilting sort of decided itself. I was going to do wavy lines, but then I thought, I always do wavy lines. How about cross-hatching? Nah, I do cross hatching when-ever I don’t do wavy lines. So I did half-hatching at 1½ inch intervals, but rotated it through 90° in each quadrant.

I really love how it looks, and I’ll use this again. Oh, and I quilted it in bright green, which really zings against the pink, yellow and orange!

I did my usual central zipper closure concealed by a flap, and bound it with a narrow quilt binding, which is a lovely quick finishing method and gives a crisper finish than turning the seam. It also means that there are no raw edges inside. Plus it gave me an excuse to squeeze a little bit more yellow into the job 😉

There you go then, Vera. Would you like me to send it on ahead, as a sort of deposit for the quilt?

Go Teal it on the Mountain #3

And the next one.

A bit of straightforward appliqué this time. The pieces are applied using blanket stitch, strengthened with an inner line of straight stitching. I lightly spray-basted the pieces to hold them in position while I stitched them down, rather than fusing them to the background. This allows me to trim away the excess fabric at the back, which prevents the block getting too thick and stiff. I used tear-away stabiliser behind the pieces to stop the blanket stitch ‘channelling’ and drawing up the background too much.

I like this one a lot. The moon is a white on cream brocade print which looks like the cratering on the surface of the moon. I blanket stitched down the edge with cream, and then used a silver metallic thread and cream in the bobbin to do the inner stitching line. It gives the moon just a tiny hint of sparkle. Doesn’t show up in the photo, of course, but you can see it in daylight.

I’ll also have to make the usual teal Ovarian Cancer ribbon block to go in the centre at the bottom of the quilt, but I might wait a bit and see how many blocks I get in before I make any more.

Perhaps I’ll go a bit more abstract next time…


Go Teal it on the Mountain #2

A little light relief from pink, then….

I’m really happy with the photos I’ve seen so far of the Ovarian Cancer team blocks for Go Teal it on the Mountain. (While I’m at it, shall we just shorten that to GTOM?) I’m not planning to show them till the blocks arrive, but I know some are on the way already, so you won’t have long to wait.

It was time to make a start on my own blocks. I like the crispness and accuracy of paper piecing, so that’s what I chose to start with.

A quick sketch of the idea, and then onto quilting graph paper. Designing a paper piecing pattern isn’t hard; the trick lies in deciding where the dividing lines between the sections need to go. One helpful point is that if you don’t make the block symmetrical, you won’t have a thousand seams all meeting in the same place, and your block will lie flatter. Anyway, I drew out the design, put in numbers to show assembly order and marks to ensure good alignment when the pieces are sewn together, and cut them out. Then I photocopied the pieces and added seam allowance around the outside. I always add more than ¼ inch, to allow me to trim out and to ensure the piece isn’t skimpy. You do need to remember that the finished design will be a mirror image of what you’ve drawn, since the fabric is stitched onto the back of your pieces. If you don’t want this, you have to trace all the lines and markings through onto the reverse, and make sure you work on the same side of each piece. It might help if you use a different colour on the reverse.

There are a thousand tutorials for assembling paper pieced blocks, so I won’t go there, except to say I like a dab of washable glue stick to hold the first piece in place rather than a pin, that I use an old, dull needle so I don’t spoil my good ones, and that tweezers are less dangerous than stitch rippers for fishing out those little elusive bits of paper in the corners 🙂

Here it is, assembled. The photo doesn’t give the true colour of the ‘sky’ so the contrast between it and the snow caps isn’t very clear. Three are darker and one is lighter than the sky. It’s the first of several different blocks – I have to wait and see how many I’m getting from the rest of the team, but I imagine I’ll be making at least three or four…

More soon.