Friday, 27 December 2013

Cambodia Revisited

We're very fortunate as a family to be travelling in Cambodia at the moment, so I'm taking a break from the usual sewing content to bring you some of our travels. Peter was working in Phnom Penh so the kids and I did a bit of exploring on our own, including the gruelling but necessary trip to the Killing Fields near Phnom Penh which you can read all about from my previous visit here.

Phnom Penh is a fascinating place to wander around and just soak up the sights and starting after a calm breakfast by the pool, prepared us well for the day!

 There's always something interesting to see at the market too:

The Royal Palace is a must

Then while Peter finished off his work we went away for a couple of nights to a rural home stay to get more of an idea of how people live in the country.

We slept in a simple hut next to the family home

 And ate delicious food under the covered verandah area, which serves as the family's living area

  Breakfast included sweetmeats from the local market-lots of bean curd sweetened with palm sugar

After breakfast our hostess took us for a bike ride about 20 kms around her local village area and we stopped to talk to people along the way. With the benefit of her translation we were able to ask lots of questions and chat. The villagers were also curious about us, so it felt a bit reciprocal which was great.

The rice had recently been harvested and was spread out to dry in the sun everywhere in front of people's houses.

We were shown how to cut the rice. Each farmer is a subsistence farmer, usually just growing enough for their own family and a bit to sell/trade for other necessities. Most of the work is back breakingly hard and done by hand.

Another family makes their living weaving

 As well as helping his wife prepare the cotton for weaving, this man is also a teacher in the village school

There were loads of engaging little kids everywhere. They are often looked after by farming grandparents; many of the parents seemed to be in Thailand where they were able to earn a little more money in construction or in garment factories.

 We also saw a rubber plantation. Channels are cut in the bark and the latex runs into little funnels and into buckets. These farmers are up early as the sap runs the fastest around 3 in the morning. When we arrived they were resting in hammocks strung between the trees waiting for the day's rubber to be collected.

 During our stay we also went on a four hour walk in another direction; partly this was across the land of our host's parents'. 

The previous evening we had met Kheang's mother who survived the Pol Pot era. 

Their experience in this rural area was a different one to those of the displaced city dwellers and it was eye opening to hear all about it. Amazingly she is not embittered, despite having suffered much. It was good to hear that for her, talking to visitors has been useful in helping her to process all that has occurred.
She is now 67 and very attached to the land she farms. Her living is meagre and she works very hard; growing rice, fruit trees, lotus and squash

We learnt a bit about the sugar palm, which is a staple crop in Cambodia. The male and female trees are separate and their flowers and fruit have different uses. It takes 15 years to determine whether a tree is male or female.

Some discs of palm sugar produced by boiling the sap and pouring it into bamboo rings to set.

This family were collecting their dried rice and storing it away for use over the year. This quantity is enough for a small family's needs.

Lotus fields

Rice of the second planting is intensely green.

Some families camp in their fields during the harvest.

Food of many kinds can be gleaned from the Mekong flood plains.

The boy's tractor is made out of palm fruit

Up next a post from an Eco lodge in the Cardamom Mountains in the South west of the country.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Busy Bee

If you're a regular reader you'll know we're on the brink of moving overseas, so our house is on the market and we're busy doing all the sorts of things one has to do to finish off life in one spot before taking it up again in another; so consequently I have little time to sew at the moment.

However I did finish off a few bee blocks lately for The Simply Solids and Do. Good Stitches groups I'm part of.

This was November's Simply Solids block. Everyone had been sent the same background fabric and added a coloured solid from our stash.

I was rushing to make a couple of wonky cross blocks in "manly solid colours" for Do Good Stitches November. I wanted to get them done and put the machine away and generally tidy up for our open home so I was doing these before breakfast, thinking Oh this'll be easy, just smash them out...

Never a good plan - ended up misaligning the block on the wrong line when trimming to 12 1/2" and suddenly it was 11 1/2"! ***# never mind sew it on again, by the time it's with the others and quilted no-one will notice...!??

then didn't quite have enough fabric for the other one so was a bit loose with instructions and ended up with this wonky cross interpretation.

The Anna Maria Horner feathers blocks for Sharon for October's Do. Good Stitches were a bit of a fiddle, but fun to do.  Quite happy with how they turned out; although there's always something... I didn't notice until I'd uploaded my photos that the filaments on one feather were upside-down!

Great to be able to use pieced trimmings from my Wrenly runner and my (so far) unresolved Oakshott experiment.

The last block was for Tracey for October's Simply Solids bee.
She asked for us each to choose a block from the Summer Sampler and make it up in summery colours. I chose this Rocky Road to Kansas which is a paper pieced block.  I quite enjoy paper piecing. I haven't done heaps, but I enjoy the precise results and have gradually evolved a way which works for me to minimise the fiddling.

I can't remember where I came across the various tips which make it easier but thought I'd share the one I find the most helpful tip:

When you've put your first two pieces right sides together behind the paper I like to trim my seam allowance first. So- find yourself a(n appropriate!) postcard and line it up with the seam line and fold the paper back along the seam line.

Trim 1/4" along the line.

This is how it looks from the other side.

 Then sew and do the same for the next side.

I find it makes it easier to neaten up and I can sort of see where I'm up to somehow.
Do you have any favourite paper piecing tips?

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