Archive for February, 2011

Big ‘n’ Bizarre

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

A road trip of Australia’s roadside monuments

The Big Banana

Only three weeks into our epic tour of kitsch on a grand scale and we’ve arrived at the oldest and most famous Big Thing of all – Coffs Harbour’s Big Banana.

Without doubt, this iconic structure is the mid north coast town’s most famous tourist attraction. In fact, the Big Banana is so important it not only has its own theme park, but it’s also been commemorated on a postage stamp. These are two of the three surest signs of serious street cred (having your own reality TV show is the third).

In spite of its fame and monumental iconic status, the Big Banana has very humble and quiet origins. It was first erected merely as a way of attracting passing motorists to a small roadside banana stall. This may sound tacky, but consider these two points: it was modelled on an actual prize-winning banana, ensuring it would always look delicious, and the year was 1964, which was before Australia had any Big Things at all. The idea of a large fibreglass roadside monument shaped like a piece of fruit was therefore completely original. The Big Banana was a big hit from day one.

In its 47 years, the Banana has been transformed from educational centre to huge banana-themed fun park. Now in its middle age, the Banana seems to be having a bit of a mid-life crisis though, with lots of youth-oriented attractions being added to the park, like the inflatable water slide (the world’s largest), the Wild Toboggan Ride and the Big Banana Ice Rink. This may mean we can also expect to see the Big Banana driving around in a hotted-up sports car and dating much younger, prettier pieces of fruit.


Big ‘n’ Bizarre

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

A road trip of Australia’s roadside monuments

The Big Prawn

If you didn’t think Australia’s Big Things were ever capable of arousing equally big passion and emotions, then consider the story of this week’s guest of honour – The Big Prawn.

This oversized fiberglass crustacean was first erected in 1989 atop a service station in the northern NSW town of Ballina. For 20 years the Prawn enjoyed golden Big Thing status, loyally guarding the Pacific Highway and providing an iconic backdrop for thousands of tourist snaps. But then in 2009 its world was rocked forever when the service station was put on the market and Council approved plans for the Prawn’s demolition.

Suddenly the Prawn was the subject of passionate campaigns to save it. A local Councillor suggested it be relocated to the Ballina River where it could serve as a partly submerged dive attraction. There was even talk of it being moved to the Gold Coast, but as Big Things rivalry between the states is fierce, this plan was highly controversial. Immediately two Facebook pages were set up dedicated to the Prawn, one to save it and one to kill it. Was it an icon or an eyesore? The debate raged for months as the Prawn became homeless, faded and covered in graffiti.

Finally, redemption. In October 2010, a North Coast developer announced plans for a brand new Big Prawn at the site of his proposed service centre on the Teven Road Interchange of the Ballina bypass. Two local artists have since been contracted to be the creative brains behind the new Big Prawn, which will be “a triumphant combination of “kitsch and quality”. A split personality Prawn; by day, a shiny, ready-to-eat seafood giant and by night, a floodlit creature “rippling with coloured light”, thanks to high gloss orange automotive paint and coloured LED spotlights. The structure will be built in WA at a cost of $500,000 and installed early in 2012. He’ll even be given a name – Neville.

Okay, so technically Neville will be a completely different Big Prawn, but that will hardly seem to matter. Tourists passing through Ballina (or rather, bypassing Ballina) will still be able to uphold the great Aussie tradition of taking group photos in front of huge fiberglass structures at service stations, surely a fitting end to this epic tale of passion, betrayal and seafood.


Big ‘n’ Bizarre

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

A road trip of Australia’s roadside monuments

The Big Avocado

This six-metre high fiberglass structure, the first of our meandering journey, stands guard at the entrance of Tropical Fruit World in northern NSW and was first erected in 1983.

Tropical Fruit World is a 10-acre theme park in Duranbah, halfway between Tweed Heads and Byron Bay. It’s a celebration of mouth-watering goodies like avocados, mangoes, papaw, custard apples, macadamias, guavas, nectarines and lychees. It’s one giant fruit salad masquerading as a theme park.

So why the Big Avocado? Simple. The place used to be called Avocadoland, the site of the very first place in NSW where avocados were grown and marketed. It was the Dept of Agriculture that did this, but in 1967, after 30 years, the project was finally abandoned and went to seed. When the property was put on the market, local avocado fans Bob and Val Brinsmead bought it and transformed it into a theme park paying homage to their favourite fruit.

So from the humble avocado, many things grow. Although the park is now Tropical Fruit World, the avocado still reigns supreme. As well as the Big Avocado standing guard like a huge green bouncer, the gift shop sells such wonders as avocado skin care products, avocado soap, avocado mustard and avocado flavoured ice cream. It’s almost worth driving all the way to Duranbah just to check them out.


Looking for Elizabeth Jefferson

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

That’s what Blueberries tutor Anne Sommerlad has been doing for the last couple of months. Anne has been growing more and more intrigued about the elusive and enigmatic creator of what’s now known as Elizabeth Jefferson’s Coverlet (pictured below), with every dead end her enquiries have lead her to.

Anne first stumbled across this stunning 96” square quilt’s existence when she picked up an old 1958 quilting book called Patchwork by Avril Colby and saw a photo of it. Even though the photo was very small, in black and white and of poor quality, Anne immediately saw what a masterpiece the quilt was.

“I wanted to know more about the quilt and who made it and even get my hands on the pattern so I could make one for myself,” Anne says. “But I quickly found that there’s almost no information available anywhere. The only thing written about the quilt was that it was made in 1811 by Elizabeth Jefferson who, astonishingly, was only 10 years old when she completed it! That amazing fact only increased my determination to find out more.”

After finding nothing online, Anne contacted the British Quilters Guild where a historian fossicked around for her and discovered a Manchester Gallery catalogue number for the quilt. The gallery’s website had no image of the quilt, so Anne contacted the gallery herself, but her efforts were met with indifference.

“It’s probably packed away in a back room somewhere, which is such a shame,” says Anne. “It mustn’t be a priority for the gallery at the moment, even though there’s been a resurgence in fabric art.”

Undeterred, Anne stuck to her original plan of creating the quilt herself. You may be wondering how this could be possible without the pattern.

“I sat for two weeks with a magnifying glass and a scale ruler and then I drew every bit of it myself, using my EQ7 Quilting Program,” explains Anne. “I painstakingly figured it out and drew every single block. It was such a difficult feat that when I finished drawing it, I felt a real affinity with it, even though I hadn’t even made it yet.”

The best news is that Anne is sharing Elizabeth Jefferson’s Coverlet with a limited number of people in monthly classes at Blueberries. The classes are starting next week and running through to December. There are still some vacancies available, so make the most of this truly unique opportunity to have your own version of the mysterious Elizabeth Jefferson’s famous coverlet. Click here for more info on the classes or to register.


Material Girl

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

Jackie’s tips, hints, advice and info on fabrics and products

Lots of gorgeous new stock has recently arrived at Blueberries, so I’d like to use this week’s column to let you know about some of the new fabric ranges that are now available.

Check out Antique Fair, Ballerina Fairies, Charlevoix, Dominique II, Brights & Pastels and Whittier Crossing. They’re all produced by Moda and all have a beautiful autumn feel, which means they’re perfect for any cooler weather projects you’ve been thinking of. And of course, now’s the perfect time to start thinking about them.

Class Report

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

Where the pupil writes the report card for the class and tutor

Pupil: Joyce Oxley
Tutor: Monica Poole
Class: Peacocks Garden Class, Tuesday 18th January 2011

What did you do in the class?

We made a block keeper, which is a padded briefcase-like thing for keeping partially completed blocks together and transporting them to and from classes. The design has the peacock symbol on it which is a reference to Monica’s peacock quilt.

How was the tutor?

Monica was fabulous. She was always very calm, gave all instructions clearly, demonstrated beautifully and made time to come around to each person in the class and make sure they were doing okay. I never felt under any pressure during the class, Monica was always there quietly in the background. I hadn’t done a class of Monica’s before and that was partially why I did this class.

What was the best part of the day?

Sharing it with the other people in the class. There was such a lovely feeling of camaraderie, which is what you get whenever you go to Blueberries anyway.

Did the class meet your expectations?


Would you encourage others to do it, and why?

Definitely. Everything that Monica provided was very clear and easy to follow. Plus, you end up with a beautiful and practical item that you’ve made yourself.

class-report-981Some members of the class showing their new block keepers. Joyce is on the far right.

Material Girl

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

Jackie’s tips, hints, advice and info on fabrics and products

Okay ladies, something a bit different for this week’s column. Due to the overwhelming success of last weekend’s Gidday Quilters Sale, Blueberries is extending the joy until this Saturday 19th February.

If you couldn’t make it to Blueberries last weekend, you now have another couple of days to snap up a bargain. During the sale we had 500 fabrics at 50% off and although we sold quite a lot, there are still some left over goodies available at the sale prices. The minimum cut is half a metre.

Come along and help us clear some space for a whole stack of gorgeous new stock due in autumn.

Click here to see some of the bargains currently available.

Click here to find out more about the Gidday Quilters Great Aussie Shop Hop.

Tutor Profile

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

Learning a bit about the teacher

Name: Michelle Yeo

How long have you been quilting and what got you started?
I started quilting back in 1984 when I was engaged. My fiancée said he hated doonas and wanted quilts instead. (He probably regrets those words now). I went down to a shop and made my very first quilt from a book. I cringe when I look at it now, but after that I was just hooked.

How long have you been teaching and what do you specialise in?

I’ve been teaching for about 11 years now. I specialise in reproduction quilts inspired by antique quilts from the 19th century, usually American or English. The shops that I first went to used to do those kinds of quilts and I loved the look of them.

What inspires your creative ideas and/or projects?

With the antique quilts, it’s mainly the Reproduction fabric ranges. I suppose part of it is the designs that they used and the way they put the fabrics together. The quirkyness of them.

Do you have a favourite colour or design style you like to work with?

It probably used to be more murky colours but now I’m using clearer, sharper colours. I’m a bit stuck on red at the moment. I quite like those turkey reds, chrome yellows and poison greens (so named because the green dyes were toxic).

What have you learnt from your students?

Students teach you so much, it’s hard to begin to explain. Sometimes it’s things like the colours and fabrics they put together which are combinations I’d never think of using but look great. Lots of little tricks they seem to come up with intuitively.

Michelle will be teaching Giant Dahlia on Friday 18 March and Georgetown Circle on Saturday 19 and 20 March. Click here to see the stunning quilts and to register for the class.

Visit Michelle’s website at


Go-Go-Gadget Girl

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

She loves her quilting toys

What: Stack n’ Stitch Thread Tower (with Nancy Zieman)

Made by: Clover

Retail price: $35.00

Rachael says:

Hooray! No more rummaging through a box of threads. Now you can organize up to 30 spools right next to your machine, all neat and tidy. The Stack n’ Stitch guides the thread directly to your sewing machine and also is designed to hold a variety of spool styles, making it quite a versatile little storage number. It’s like one of those coffee mugs trees for spools.

The product also has the endorsement of American TV sewing icon, Nancy Zieman, so you can be sure that this nifty little gadget is worth its salt (and the $35.00 investment). Here’s Nancy describing just one way in which the Stack n’ Stitch has helped make her sewing experiences even more seamless;

“For projects using multiple thread colours, such as machine embroidery, I sequentially number the space below the spool peg with a permanent marker. Then, I arrange the spools in stitching order. What a convenience.”

Click here to order the Stack n’ Stitch Thread Tower


Tutor Profile

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

Getting to know a bit about the teacher

Name:  Irene Blanck

How long have you been quilting and what got you started?
I started quilting about 18 years ago after seeing a quilt in a magazine.  I tackled my first quilt on my own and made every mistake in the book!!  I enjoyed machine piecing for a long time until I got the taste for needleturn appliqué.

What do you specialise in?

I mostly teach needleturn appliqué, reverse appliqué, the use of glue (no pins), and preparing and making hexagons. I encourage women to prepare a complete block so that it’s portable and can be completed anywhere, any time.

What’s your teaching style? How would you describe the feel of your classes?

I like to think of my classes as “sit and sew” sessions – or “mini quilt-ins” – where we have a fun and relaxing day, chatting to friends as well as learning a new technique or perfecting existing techniques.

What’s one thing that fuels your creativity?

Since I started designing my own quilts, I’ve found that there are so many quilts “in my head” that need to come out that I don’t have time for anything else but designing and making class samples.  Now if only I could give up my day job!

What’s one of the main things you’ve learnt as a tutor?

One of the main things I’ve found when teaching is that women are very hesitant about choosing fabric. I enjoy this aspect of my designing and try and instil confidence in my students about choosing colour – and particularly not stressing out with this process.


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