Detail from Analgous

Detail from Analgous

Friday, 14 November 2014

Blue skies

Last weekend was huge. On Saturday I was out teaching beginner free motion machine quilting students at Addicted to Fabric, in Canberra.  Every now and then, you meet a bunch of lovely people who just click together.  It was great seeing new friendships beginning and some great work achieved.  Always puts a huge smile on my face.

After work, I whizzed home for  a quick change of clothes, then whipping across the city to a  terrific birthday party at the National Dinosaur Museum. For adults. With children permitted.  Friends hired the outdoor park area, and we gathered with friends to party, to meet new people, to eat delicious morsels served off the verandah of the Museum, in the park surrounded by life sized model dinosaurs. It was a themed party so there were fantastic steampunk, and dinosaur/ dinosaur hunting/ adventure themed costumes on nearly every attendant. Really good fun! Met some great people there.  We enjoyed a private tour of the museum, which houses far more than dinosaur fossils- all sorts of animals and plants.

Sunday morning: Rolled out of bed at yawn o'clock well before dawn, and with hubby and the kiddies, drove through  beautiful early morning light out to Adrenalin Skydive Goulburn in NSW. 
Hopped onto the first  plane load of skydivers for the day.  With a really awesome instructor, then fell out of it together, at about over 11, 500 Feet. As you do.  

Yes I know...a second jump soon after my first. I had a couple of very good reasons, apart from the fact skydiving is great fun.
My memory of my first freefall is patchy. I remembered only snatches of moments, sounds and sensations. I had big issues breathing up there and far from a great freefall experience, though the canopy ride down was awesome. I spoke with the owner of my DZ about addressing these things with another jump, because I  wanted to  see whether the sensory overload would lessen to a point that I might become teachable, because I had absolutely loved being under canopy and was very interested in taking skydiving further than tandem jumps if my body would learnt to adapt. The owner said he'd assign me a great instructor to help sort me out.  
 Apparently the two of them talked, and both thought if my brain was occupied in freefall, I might well do better up there. I had no idea what they had planned, I figured if the next jump resulted in me being able to breathe properly up there, anything else would be a huge bonus.  And its not that breathing up there is hard. Least not if you leave the plane with empty lungs.  From the photos and video its clear I held my breath going out the door without being aware,  so when I tried to breathe in during the first few seconds of freefall, my brain being totally overwhelmed in a new environment, didn't think to breathe out first before breathing in. Infact, my brain didn't think much at all.  I hadn't screamed or yelled going out the door because at that point I simply wasn't scared. I suspect what happened was that I just shut my mouth at the door because its windy there, as a newbie a big mouthful of air had surprised me. Logic dictates you shut your mouth to keep stuff out, right? 
But what happens if you try to breathe in when your lungs are already full, is that no more air can go in.  So I was in freefall for the first time, really struggling to get air, at which point a fair amount of terror kicked in. On top of the effects of some heavy sensory overload. I don't remember feeling like I had enough  air until the canopy opened about a minute after exit from 14, 000 feet.  Yep, that was less fun and I really wanted to sort it out.

I was briefed for a tandem jump along with other tandem skydivers on the same load, and then met my instructor who filled me in on the extras planned for me.  He showed me an altimeter and explained how it worked, walked me through what he'd have me do up there to start developing altitude awareness, told me I'd be pulling to deploy the canopy, showed me the handle on his rig,  ran over the order we'd do things in up there.  Cool!  On the ride up to jump altitude he recapped what I'd do again and had me practice.

And then the most unexpected thing happened. Once we moved toward the open door I was hit with an absolutely massive wave of nausea and what I can only describe as primal fear.  Total flight or fight response. That door suddenly looked like an insanely bad option. I was stressed out of my ever loving mind,  and tried really hard not to vomit on our feet! I had not expected this, because last time exit was extremely easy for me. I didn't know at the time why I felt fear, because I'm actually not afraid of skydiving, the open air, heights or falling. It did occur to me what I was about to do was totally unnatural, but that doesn't make it bad.
 I think in hindsight, the cause of the fear was the inability to breathe last time in freefall and worry it might repeat. I know I'd previously thought about it and rationally decided even if I got another bad freefall, that was still a fair price to pay in order to access the totally awesome time under canopy. But yes,  I really wasn't at all happy at that point,  so my instructor had the door closed, we did a quick lap around back over the DZ, whilst I  breathed to chill out a bit, and he talked to me. No pressure, he would have respected whatever choice I came to. Gave me a small amount of time to get my head in a better place.  I remembered why I was there, why I wanted to skydive.  Told him even if I had another freefall from hell, I still wanted time under that canopy! He told me not to worry about anything else he'd briefed me on, we could do a normal tandem jump, was really reassuring.  I pushed my fear aside and walked to the door, and  I can tell you, those few steps were about the hardest I've ever taken in my life!  We sat there for a few seconds at the door with our legs dangling out, the fear dropped back to apprehension, he took some photos, we let out a couple of huge woo hoo's then fell into freefall. The way he handled my hesitation was awesome, and he told me exactly what I needed to hear, which was that I would regret it for the rest of my life if I didn't jump, but that it was totally my choice.  I am so glad I experienced conquering such intense fear, because I know now what I'm capable of. And I'm proud of what I was able to do, despite feeling intense fear, to learn to manage it.

 Freefall was nothing short of amazing. It was bright, beautiful and glorious! An absolutely massive reward for a little courage at that doorway. This time rocked, with no tunnel vision, no darkness, the wind wasn't overwhelmingly loud or shocking to me, rather than being completely overwhelmed and shutting down, there was only a couple of seconds of disorientation, and no nausea in freefall- Bonus! The air in my face didn't feel nearly so odd.  I let out a few huge Woo Hooo's and squeals of total delight, and grinned madly once we'd cleared the plane. 
My instructor gave me huge thumbs up and pointed at my alti, which I read. When I looked at the horizon during my first circle of awareness, and the pale horizon and colours of the sky just blew me away. It was breathtakingly beautiful. Looked for a second then kept doing what I'd been told to do, to see if I could.  Noticed when checking the ground it had dried off a bit from my previous jump 3 weeks ago.  The canola crops had finished flowering. Was aware we dropped through a couple of thousand feet before we did a practice pull,  and then I watched my alti like a hawk between 7000 and 6000 feet. Its kinda hard to see well,  because there's some movement up there, and my body was stressed. Plus I swear those alti's shrink,  the moment you're into freefall.  What covered most of the back of my hand and looked super sized when we were on the ground or in the plane, suddenly looked about  the size of a 50 cent piece in the air.  Big is good.  

The requirement for a student at my DZ  is to pull at 6,000 Feet. My instructor tapped my alti as a prompt for me to pull, I reached back for the handle on his rig with help, fished around for it, but couldn't feel it quickly.  I'd been tense in the arm apparently when he'd guided my hand further back onto to the handle,  and being tense makes it harder to do anything when you're in freefall. I felt his hand beneath mine at the same time I grabbed the handle, and we pulled together. That was incredibly satisfying.  Looking up and seeing a beautiful shaped canopy above my head made me grin and yell in delight. I was told as we descended further that I could be heard making happy sounds from the ground!
 I flew us some of the way down and loved it just as much, if not more than before. Felt what its like to fly in some rather persistent wind. I learnt how to orient the canopy into the wind as we got close to the landing area - and then my instructor landed us.  He really went above and beyond. It was a taste of some of the things I'll learn in the  AFF course.  The jump was so helpful to see my body begin to adjust up to the environment up there. Some way to go yet, but it was a big improvement.  I am so appreciative of the opportunity my instructor and the owner gave me.

Lots of people have said to me they'd never jump because they think they'd be too scared. Here's the thing: People who skydive are not devoid of fear. Or apprehension, or whatever else you want to call it.   Its not that they are some special breed who can skydive because they feel no fear.  They do it despite of that,  because they realise that the rewards of skydiving far, far outstrip any feeling of fear or apprehension they experience on the plane or at the door.  I talked to some guys at my DZ and some of them play mind games or use strategies to take themselves to the doorway and negotiate their way out.  Some don't madly love freefall, but they love being under canopy so much that they keep going back for more. 
So I think that the difference between skydivers and people who say they would like to try it but won't because they might be scared, is that skydivers don't allow their lives to be ruled by fear.  Having experienced how that feels first hand myself, there is an enormous sense of freedom in choosing that path. Its a good way to live. 
I am beyond impressed with  my instructor for the way he handled the entire skydive.   Skydiving really challenges me on a personal level beyond any other sport I've ever done, and I love that. 

So folks, who has jumped? How did you like it? Who wants to try it? This curious quilter wants to know.


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 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.

I'm still there… just tucked out of sight under my new best buddy.  
It feels like flying. Its the most incredible, confronting, amazing experience.  You cannot come close to even imagine what it is really 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 fair bit of freefall.  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. We'll see how I do on the next jump.
Freefall was intense. Freefall is FAST. And it is LOUD.  It felt 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.  
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.

About a minute after leaving the aircraft,  I got another firm tap on the arm to let me know m instructor's about to release the canopy.  Its a big canopy for two people, rectangular in shape, with cells that inflate as air moves into them. All I felt was a couple of small bumps and then I was hanging vertically.  

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.  The level of joy, peace and magic I felt under canopy - there are truly no words for that. Ooh yes, 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 it. 
When we came in to land, 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!  

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  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, I've been finishing a skirt off for a friend's  themed birthday party, its steampunk inspired. A skirt found at an op shop made of silk I'm refashioning.
Most of my sewing in past weeks has been of this nature, working with 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...