I wasn’t a model doctoral student.

Me, during the fun experimental stage of the thesis. Trying new things, loving the travel.

A good student not only undertakes their experimental work, but writes it up in a timely fashion, publishing in good journals along the way. I loved  the experimental work, but faltered during the write-up. It took a change in supervisor for me to get it all done, and was helped by tackling the writing itself as a research subject.

I read books on how to manage my supervisory relationship. How to write. Which chapters to tackle in what order. And I wrote lists, many lists. I also collected beautiful paper to write my lists on, some of which was too nice to use.

So, to help me along through my current quilting quandary, I have decided a list might help. I have decided to divide up my mental list of projects into several categories. Hopefully by writing them down, I can look at the list a little more objectively. My categories are:

  1. The “Should” projects. Things I ought to do, or feel I should do;
  2. The “oh my gosh, that is so cool, I must make one” projects.
  3. The slightly scary creative projects, that excite me deep down inside.

Here goes:

The “Should’s” include two quilts for nephews and three more for my Daughters, only one of which is started. Some of these are promised to the recipients, others not and could be taken off the list.

The original Glitter from Jen Kingwell. Mine is going to have country meets grunge feel.

The “Musts” include all the Jen Kingwell quilts under construction (Gypsy Wife #3, Midnight at the Oasis, Small World, and Glitter). There are also a couple of Kathy Doughty quilts in here which I bought the book for, but haven’t started. Then there is the 365 day Challenge quilt that I am months behind on.

My Small World. It’s getting closer, but still a lot of embroidery to go.

The scary projects include a Chris Jurd pattern involving lots of foundation piecing, and a concept for some fusible quilts based on midcentury book illustrations.

An illustration from “The story of evolution” by Sir Julian Huxley.


Another illustration from “The story of evolution” by Sir Julian Huxley.


Making some of these illustrations into art quilts would mean learning a whole new skill set. But that’s what excites me. I like learning for the sake of learning, but I’m not so good at staying put. I suspect my frustration at the moment has a lot to do with getting stuck repeating the same old piecing skills to make quilts.

Iron, cut, sew, repeat.

It’s a bit like being a science technician, as opposed to a research scientist. Both positions need the skills of accuracy, precision and repeatability, but one gets to push boundaries while the other gets to stay put in the lab. Both positions are vital, however. Note: I made a very, bad technician.

So, my conclusion is that I need to do a lot more of what pushes my buttons (the scary, new stuff), and a lot less of the projects I feel I should (quilts for extended family).

I think this is going to be a slow transition. The first step is going to be outsourcing the final quilting on a “should” project, a first for me.

Wish me luck.



Pattern, project or person?

How do you start a new quilt?

Are you led by the fabric pattern and colour inspiring ideas? Do you have a kit or magazine clipping filed away, that finally gets to the top of the pile? Or do you have a person in mind, a new baby on the way, that niggles away, saying “Me. Me.”

Definitely inspired by quilt envy. My Small World by Jen Kingwell.

I tend to be led by projects I see online. Or by the pile of fabric, sitting, accusing me of neglect, after such excitement during the initial purchase at the fabric store.

So, I guess you could say my quilting is driven in part by envy, and the rest by guilt. Hmmmm. As a creative individual, this probably isn’t the best conclusion to come too. I have been doing Julia Cameron‘s course on creativity, starting the day by writing three pages of random thoughts, and just occasionally I come to a conclusion that is worth thinking about a bit more. The reasons driving my quilt making are something I need to think about, in order to push some creative boundaries.

Definitely driven by guilt, this one. The Hubbies lap quilt for late night tv watching.

I’ve been thinking about this after yesterdays finish. For once I made a quilt that was determined entirely by how I wanted it to finish. There was no thought given to what the Prayer Quilt co-ordinator might think of my binding style, or whether the thread colour, or fabric choice was “right”. I liked it, and therefore it was what was going to happen. To that end I even used a backing fabric covered in religious icons that I love. Everyone else seems to think it “weird”.

Love this fabric, and I have a few meters more stashed away for quilt backing.

And it felt good, and I wrapped myself in the quilt all evening, as winter visited us again.

And yet today I started the day by identifying yet another “should” project.


I have three sets of manufacturers samples, bought in Stratford in April. It’s gorgeous fabric, and the quilt will be loved by its recipient. And yet, it will probably be another easily constructed quilt, and during its construction I will learn little, making it feel like work, rather than creating.

So I have delayed starting while I think about what I want to happen with this quilt. What can I achieve? Can I incorporate something new, have some fun, and still make a sturdy quilt, big on dinosaurs and whales for a seven year old boy?  Does it have to feel like work, and how can it not feel like work?

By taking time to think “What is in this for me“, creatively speaking, I hope to breathe some life into this project and have some fun. Find some joy.

Any suggestions?

And if anyone has a need of three sample sized pieces of the butterfly fabric from this range, drop me a line and they might come your way.

Linking up with Sew Fresh Quilts.


I have applied for a job. And now I am waiting.

I basted the pansy quilt, while watching the Olympics Final ceremony. An efficient multi-tasker, did I mention that in my application?

It’s not like this is something I haven’t done before, but this time it feels different. Not different because I know, deep in my knower, that I will get an interview, or the job itself. But different, in that I feel like a transition has occurred. I made the decision to apply while riding the train to Wellington a couple of weeks ago.

I am applying because I want to work, and despite the fact that it might be easier for my family if I didn’t.

A field of pansies, set in green. The blocks were all leftovers from the first quilt I ever started. The original quilt is about Queen sized. Somewhere along the way I leant about Quilt math.

I didn’t originally set out to be a stay-at-home caregiver and parent. In fact, once the reality of parenting an ASD kid set in, I would gladly have gone back to work.

And while homeschooling two sick teenagers through NCEA, I longed desperately every morning for a coffee break, some smalltalk over the water cooler, fewer dramas, and a regular salary.

This one is a keeper! Big enough for a generous lap quilt, each pansy block being 6 inches finished. Can you see the oops?

But things just didn’t work out that way, and now I am feeling restless.

As a family, it feels like we have the hardest years behind us. Please let it be so!

In addition, I have a PhD and I would really, really like to use it! So, I have sent in the first application, and rescued the automated reply from my spam folder.

Spring is on the way.

Now, all I need is for a whole truckload of Science jobs to become vacant in my neck of the woods.

While I wait, there is always more quilting to be done….

I’m watching my Magnolias every day, waiting for the first peek at their flowers. I could weed around them, but we are babysitting a beehive at the moment, and the bees get a bit agitated when we spend too much time near the hive.

…and time spent quilting is never wasted.

2016 button 250 best

The Pansy Quilt, (or, Damn, how did I miss that? quilt), is another finish from my  third quarter list in the 2016 FAL.

Also linking up with Sew Fresh Quilts.


Happiness is….

Happiness is finishing a quilt, while watching the Gymnastics Gala at the Olympics.

Like a lot of people I know, I love watching the Gymnastics. I can’t even do a graceful somersault, so I love watching the skill, grace and strength of the gymnasts. It’s like going to the ballet, but a lot shorter.

Anyway, the quilt I was finishing was number two for Femke. I had a set of appliquéd letters spelling her name, that hadn’t made it onto the first quilt. They were taunting me, and so I gave in and made another quick quilt. Done and dusted in a day, since I used some charm squares I had purchased last year. I don’t know the range, but they were perfect for a happy little girls quilt.

Basted, and ready to go.

In retrospect I should have appliquéd the letters on to a different coloured background, but it’s a lesson I will remember next time. It was my first time using a raw edge appliqué, and sewing around the letters was easier than I imagined. I put off making the quilt for weeks, just because of the appliqué. No excuses now I know how easy it is.

I was going to cheat and use the backing fabric as binding, right up until I cut a hole in it, while trimming the batting to size.


I chose the fabric a couple of months ago, since both parents speak English as a second or third language. It seemed fitting.

I chose to quilt it quickly, just running a serpentine stitch along each seam.


I sent this one to it’s forever home by afternoon tea. Then went shopping for some new batting at Spotlight.


Next up are some 17 inch Neonate quilts, to use up all the batting scraps from my recent efforts.

Linking up with Sew Fresh quilts.

Femke’s quilt

2016 button 250 best

I have another finish, motivated by the safe arrival home of a wee babe, born too early. I put the block from this quilt in my FAL list for the quarter, after I rescued it from Daughter #2’s recycling pile.

The paper pieced pattern was a designed by The Tartan Kiwi, and was available from her site. I just had a quick look at her etsy shop though. and the pattern is not listed. If you are interested though, there is no harm in asking if she would make the pattern available again. She has an amazing range of patterns, and I love her latest barn owl pattern. She also has an interesting take on the current discussion of copyright issues within our craft.

This block was created by my Daughter, but I rescued it from being recycled.

My original idea was to float the block on a background of wonky stars, but one Sunday I just grabbed some fabric and turned it into a quick quilt.

Now, here’s where it gets tricky. I’ve finished the quilt, but wrapped it up for delivery, without taking a photo of the finished quilt. I knew there was a reason it was sitting on the sofa, unwrapped, but got busy with the sellotape and last piece of wrapping paper, before it occurred to me to take a photo.

So, a few in-progress shots will have to suffice.P1080154

I surrounded the panel with some more of the Dreamin Vintage fabric my Daughter had used, then added some Art Gallery and  Japanese floral fabric to increase it to a generous cot size. Lastly, a final border of Kona Snow, since I had some scraps left over from another project.


What you can’t see is the quilting and the scrappy binding, made from leftover fabrics and a little pink spot on cream. It was super cute, believe me! I quilted around the fairy, and ditch stitched the main seams. Since I imagine it will be used on the floor, I didn’t want to compress the quilt by adding dense quilting.

I will get The Hubbie to deliver it to his workmate this afternoon. I hope little Femke enjoys her quilt.P1080160

Linking up eventually with the 2016 FAL, Sew Fresh Quilts, and Scraptastic Tuesday.


Finding my sewing mojo

I lost my sewing mojo for a fair while this year. Productivity was near zilch, my enthusiasm waned, and I just read blogs, and entered competitions. Not much luck there either! Not that I need any more fabric. Except Kona solids, I always need more Kona solids.


So, last week I threw myself into an activity I find fires up the creative juices. Making 12 1/2 inch wonky log cabin blocks.


I find it a Zen-like process. Very deliberate, and time consuming. It usually takes me over an hour to complete a single block, and I deliberately avoid techniques like chain piecing, which are designed to speed up the process.

I limit myself to a single block a day, carefully choosing each strip of fabric, remembering where it came from. Once finished, I mentally pat myself on the back, then move on with the day.

This time I had a finished quilt in mind, having mentioned in passing to someone I could deliver them a quilt in the near future.


The quilt will hopefully be thrown over a table at Club Day at Massey University tomorrow, then used to keep kids warm at meetings. I say “hopefully” only because the rain has started, thunderstorms are forecast, and I need Daughter #2 to deliver it tonight. If the weather is too atrocious, it might have to wait a week.

As it is, I will be running outside to the drier in between showers to get it ready in time. I threw two colour catchers in the wash with this one! Hopefully it will be a bit more crinkly in texture after a wash and dry.

I did just a bit of ditch stitching, and a simple “U” was quilted into each block, the club’s name starting with “U”. The batting was a scrap leftover from another project, and the backing a couple of pieces of orange floral fabric from my stash. It’s a Blue Hill fabric I love, and bought many, many meters of.

And just a quick shot showing the value changes, which help make the blocks pop.


Next it is back to a baby quilt, which I am psyching myself up to appliqué the baby’s name on. A first for me.

This is Finish #2 for the third quarter of the 2016 FAL.

2016 button 250 best

Linking up eventually with Sew Fresh and Crazy Mom Quilts.

A day for charity quilting

On a day like today, reeling from seeing a familiar place impacted by terrorism, it felt right to be doing some charity sewing. Sometimes it seems the only thing we can do in the face of hatred, is to love our neighbour, follow the Golden Rule. Make a quilt, and gift it.


This lap-sized quilt is destined to be a Prayer Quilt. My job was simply to baste and quilt, then hand back to my friend for binding. I replaced the old-fashioned floral backing fabric with some minky I had in my stash. Nice and cuddly, given our current appalling weather.

I basted the quilt more densely than usual, simply because I didn’t want to take the time to go out and buy some interfacing to reinforce the minky. Believe me, it was pelting down outside. I had read various accounts of how best to quilt it, but decided to just take my time. Thankfully there were no tucks or puckers evident at the end. The stitches appear to just melt into the back of the quilt.


I simply stitched in the ditch, then ran around the inside of the border. Normally I would add some hand stitching, but speed is of the essence for this one.

The quilt was actually gifted to the local Prayer Quilt Ministry from an Australian Chapter. Excuse the photo quality, there is little light making  it through the mid-winter cloud cover today.

It took one full day, from basting to finishing quilting. Of course prior to that I procrastinated about doing anything for a full fortnight!

This quilt does reinforce how much I need to get organised and start practising some free-motion quilting, as it would have benefited greatly from it. So much so, that I feel it is unfinished. The question is what to give up, in order to make time to learn it. I’m sure the family won’t mind if I give up cooking, or housework.Right?

Tomorrow is our Mid-Winter Christmas Party at our Saturday Sewing group. Having spent all day sewing, I might just aim to cut fabric for my Glitter Quilt.

This quilt is the first finish on my Q3 list for the 2016 FAL.

2016 button 250 best


Linking up eventually with Crazy Mom Quilts.