Draconis orientalis

A small finish this Friday, since Brunhild is at the dealers awaiting surgery to remove the screw from her innards. My daughter has offered me access to her Bernina sewing machine, but I want to push on with the hand stitching on the Gypsy Wife.

Drago, or Draconis orientalis, with gold toe nails and a pearly smile.

My (our) finish this week has been named Drago, or Draconis orientalis, apparently the scientific epithet for an oriental or Chinese dragon. As mentioned in a previous post, my daughter did not record the source of the image, so my apologies to the original artist.

Drago started out as an abandoned UFO from my daughter’s stash of art quilting projects destined for the Arts Recycling Centre, but I managed to smuggle him out.

He was traced from an image found on the net, onto four samples she had dyed during a class on fabric dying and painting. The design was then traced using Superior polyester threads and a free motion quilting foot on her Bernina 550QE, with some lightweight stabiliser added to the back of the fabric. Colour was originally added using Faber-Castell watercolour pencils, and texture medium rather than water. This allows Drago to take a bath in the future, without his colours running.

After appropriating Drago, I started adding a bit more colour using the watercolour pencils. I asked her if it was possible to paint his toe nails gold, since she had her paints out, and next thing I know, she had kidnapped him back, and was adding the finishing touches to the design.

Lumiere paints, great for fabric painting.
Lumiere paints, great for fabric painting Dragon toenails.

She touched up his teeth, talons and scales, and then painted in the background design, mixing up a deep purple from her Lumiere paint collection. The paints are available from one of our local quilt shops,  Village Books and Crafts. Dianne the shop owner runs small night classes throughout the year, often showcasing a single, small art quilting technique. Daughter #2 has been taking the classes fairly regularly, for instance last night learning about putting text on quilts. Dianne stocks lots of art quilting supplies, and is very generous with her time in instructing in their use. Her classes are what has led to my daughter abandoning piecing, and embracing other textile arts.

Draconis orientalis in all his glory, but now destined to be placed in storage in an art portfolio. I shall have to find something else for my studio walls.

Now that Drago is finished, my daughter has reclaimed him, and he is destined to join her other finished projects in a file box awaiting a studio or art space of her own to display him. I enjoyed owning him, even if it was only for a day or two.

More importantly, I saved Drago from the indignity of a recycling bin. A job well done.

Linking up to Crazy Mom Quilts, TGIFF, and Link a Finish Friday.


Oh dear!

This morning I decided to start on a new quilt, placing the Fairy block at the centre of small Ohio stars. I got the idea for the quilt from a Sarah Fielke pattern called “Rocket Man”, from her book Material Obsession. I would like to make quite a few quilts from this book, and have considered working my way through it non-sequentially. I know I’ve come across a QAL suggesting this very activity, but can’t remember whose blog. Can anyone help me out?materialobsessionUSversion

My plan is to replace the central rocket panel in the pattern with the fairy, and change the colour palette to a yellow/green/hints of red theme.

A fairy, a free pattern from Tartan Kiwi.
The fairy, a free pattern from Tartan Kiwi.

I decided to dip into my beloved Art Gallery Fabrics for this project, making use of a citrus bundle I bought on sale last year. I keep my AGF collection in a separate box, as it is very precious. Almost all the fabrics have been ordered online, as my LQSs do not stock AGF. I keep dropping hints though, and if I give her a list, Dianne at Village Books and Crafts has kindly offered to hunt some down from her wholesaler. Persistence pays off! She has even offered to get in some Aurifil thread, another thing on my wish list.

At this stage things started unravelling. You might notice I am blogging, not sewing, as I had planned.

Having only just recently discovered that lint builds up inside a sewing machine with use (face-palm!), I thought I would be virtuous and clean my machine, wind my bobbins, change the needle etc before starting the new project.

I put out my rubbish, cleaned my workspace, and wound a bobbin. I dusted away merrily inside my machine, then thought I would remove the foot to allow me to clean out the feed dogs properly. The screw dropped out, bounced into the bobbin case, and fell through a hole into the bowels of my machine. Oh. Dear. My dealer has suggested a rescue may be possible, but I might have to send my machine off to get the screw surgically recovered. Poor Brunhild.

I am eating some Banana cake to get over my frustration.

I can’t even post a picture of my fabric pull for the quilt. Apparently I have Dropbox on my computer, and they will let me download my camera if I pay them US$9.99 per month, or US$99 per year. I have no idea how to make room for more photos, other than caving and sending money away to this mysterious Dropbox entity, as all IT problems in our family are handled by The Hubbie. As are installations and licensing of all mysterious computer programmes. Whenever he gets a certain gleam in his eye, we all know to hide our computers, or we will be running a new Linux version, in the twinkling of an eye. So, no photos of my gorgeous fabrics for now.

Trying to look on the plus side, my machine is probably due for a service, since I have had it for 18 months now. And the enforced break from sewing will make me concentrate on finishing the hand sewing on the Gypsy Wife.

The GW earlier in the year. Since then Mt Ruapehu (in the background) has had substantial snow accumulate, thanks to our El Nino winter.

The Dragon block I inherited from my daughter has also had some attention, and it now sports some fancy nail and spine polish in gold. He’s also had a trip to the dentist, and his teeth are now pearly white. More next time when the camera is sorted.

I just have to stay away from the Banana cake.

Linking up eventually with WIP Wednesday and Lets Bee Social.

Thar be dragons

Definitely keep your your dog on the leash when attempting this riverside walkway.

Since the rain continued pelting down over the weekend, and the Hubbie was away doing flood-emergency-type-activities, I decided to help Daughter #2 clean up her work space.

It was not before time. We eat off our laps in front of the tv at night, and breakfast every day in bed, as her work space was once our Dining Room. Starting the day tucked up in bed with coffee, reading online news and quilting blogs is no real hardship. As a family we are quite accustomed to this, but having a flood-stranded guest for a couple of days bought home the message that “this is not how things are done”.

There is no other space for her, but I thought we could at least tidy up, organise, and maybe donate a few items that she no longer needs. Maybe there would then be a little space available, just so future guests could sit at the table (while we ate in front of the tv as per usual).

Daughter #2's work space, formerly known as our dining table. Her latest project involving sticking stuff down, painting it, then sewing a complex bird design over the top. Note this is my description of her process, hers is far more technical.
Daughter #2’s work space, formerly known as our dining table. Her latest project involving sticking stuff down, painting it, then sewing a complex bird design over the top. Note this is my description of her process, her description is far more technical.

So far we have sorted a box of fabric for recycling, and I  have been donated her UFO’s. I’m not sure how that came about, but I admit I am loathe to let some of her work go by way of the recycling bin. So I may have volunteered for some it, my memories on the subject are vague.

The dragon.
The dragon.

As an avid reader of Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series for 30 years, I just couldn’t let her throw out the dragon. Unfortunately she has no idea where she got the image from, so my apologies to the artist. She dyed the fabric, pieced it, then traced and sewed the dragon image. Then came watercolour pencils, and textile medium. At that stage, she lost interest. I think the edges just need finishing, so this one won’t take long. I might grab it for my studio walls.

A fairy, a free pattern from Tartan Kiwi.
A fairy, a free pattern from Tartan Kiwi.

The fairy is just too pretty to throw out. This was made during her brief paper piecing stage, which lasted long enough to create two Christmas presents, and a bookshelf quilt (unfinished). It’s a free pattern from Tartan Kiwi, who does some amazing work. It was pieced on a mixture of Art Gallery and Cotton Couture fabric, and I have a fat quarter of the Art Gallery fabric (Bloomerie in Nectarine) myself. It is still available from Hawthorne Fabrics, so I have the option of getting more fabric if required. I could turn the fairy into a very cute NICU quilt for our guild, or do something bigger. Personally I couldn’t bear to see it spit up on, so I think it will go bigger. I have plenty of older nieces who would love it.

I think a trail of stars across a background of yellow pieced squares might do the trick. I have checked out star tutorials, such as this one which gives instructions for a range of sizes, from On the Windy Side, but I think  appliqué might also work. Any suggestions?

There was some high-loft batting too, but the cats dragged that off the donation pile, and now fight for the privilege of sitting on it in front of the fire.

The final UFO’s are all bigger, and are finished tops that she has no interest in quilting herself. I don’t know whether to push her to complete them, or recognise that quilting a twin sized quilt on her domestic machine will probably set off her CFS/ME, so I might as well just resign myself to the task.

She offered to pay, so I might work for chocolate. Good, expensive, chocolate.

It has finished raining and we have two days of sunshine forecast, so I shall go forth and concentrate on laundry and Vitamin D acquisition. Have a good week.

What a week

What a week it’s been, and no end in sight at the moment.

On the plus side, I have a finish. The postage stamp quilt is bound and quilted, and is currently hanging on the back of my daughter’s chair. I put this one aside for a long time, so its good to have it finished, and off the WIP and UFO lists.

One finished quilt, with the purple backing made into binding visible around the edges.
One finished quilt, with the purple backing made into binding visible around the edges.

I raced outside straight after finishing it, as I knew the weather was about to pack up. I had to photograph the last couple of leaves on the flowering cherry, which won’t bloom now till October, given it’s a later flowering type. I’m always sad to see the last leaves go, since it’s what I stare out my bedroom window at.

The bad weather arriving, which has led to much strife since this shot taken on Thursday.
The bad weather arriving, which has led to much strife since this shot taken mid afternoon on Thursday.

I used an online tutorial from Made by Rae to shorten the binding process, using the excess backing as binding. The tutorial said it was a better technique for small or art quilts. I guess there are reasons for this, but I’m not sure what they are. Does this binding method not stand up to wear and tear on a bigger quilt? If anyone has the answer, please feel free to educate me.

The purple backing and binding material. This method seems to result in a neat, tidy, binding edge for me. So, what are the disadvantages?
The purple backing and binding material. This method seems to result in a neat, tidy, binding edge for me. So, what are the disadvantages?

Friday the weather really arrived. My builder said he would replace a set of louvre windows after a wait of several months, weather dependent. I’m not sure what weather conditions would have been inclement enough to put a halt to it, but they barrelled on in, and four hours later I had a new window….plus a flooded laundry.

Louvres gone, new aluminium window almost there. They also replaced the sill, since there was some rot.
Louvres gone, new aluminium window almost there. They also replaced the sill, since there was some rot.

Since then, it has kept raining. My brother arrived last night, just back from Georgia, USA. He regaled us with stories of skunks, snakes that chase you, and general farming talk this morning. Little did we realise he should have hit the road early, because we are now effectively cut off with flooding, and he has no way of getting to his destination.

I took shameless advantage of his time in the USA, or “the land of quilting” as I prefer to think of it. I ordered quilt fabric and had it shipped to him. When he decided to leave some of his old farming gear behind, I ordered even more. Apparently he was nowhere near his baggage limits, so I could have ordered even more again, but I do try to pretend it’s an interest, rather than an addiction, in front of my extended family. I think my husband is starting to cotton on though.

So, back to watching the road closures on the internet, and the rain falling down. Keep dry out there.

Linking up to Crazy Mom quilts, TGIFF and Link a Finish Friday.

WIP Wednesday, post migraine

Well, so that last post was a little on the negative side. Not quite existential angst, but certainly not my most optimistic and sunny post. Who new that being “over” quilting was a sign another migraine was on the way. In deference to any followers, and in just in case another such post gets written again, I thought a quick explanation was in order. I have chronic migraines, i.e. more than 15 a month. More like about five days a week, without a preventer. Finding a preventer that works is a long process, involving trials, side effects and withdrawal when drugs don’t prove helpful. Take Topomax, or the “evil” drug, as most users call it. It is brilliant at getting rid of migraines and chronic pain, the main side effect is that as an anti-convulsant it takes about 20 IQ points off, though on the plus side it also makes you lose weight (hooray!). Turns out it also made me allergic to sunlight. While I could handle the zombie like effects on my brain, turning into a sunlight-avoiding vampire was one side effect too many. Since the sun doesn’t shine too much here on the west coast of New Zealand over winter, this took a while to manifest. Sandomigran has reduced my migraines to paltry affairs, a couple of times a week. Lots of disorientation, but not too much pain. I don’t drive at night any longer, since I have proven that I don’t see things like approaching cars, or pedestrians, which is a necessary and safe part of driving according to my passengers. In addition, my migraine aura, the bit that warns you a migraine is coming, has changed….and hence the earlier post. So, here’s a more upbeat version of my quilty progress of late.

A VW can only add to the summery theme of the GW.

The Gypsy Wife hand quilting is coming along. I have been concentrating on stitching around the individual blocks, since the ribbons running through are largely done. I took it along to my quilt group the other night, since they hadn’t seen it since it was a pile of blocks. There was a bit of oohing and arghing,  and a general consensus that none of them would ever attempt it. They are all appliqué experts, and tend to avoid piecing. I have finished cleaning and ironing all my free fabric, whoopee! And then Lois arrived with more. Quilters are very generous, but I shall have to step up production in order to keep up with incoming fabric. I have several quilts buzzing around my head at the moment, just waiting to get out.

Stash enhancement by adopting unwanted fabric, especially browns, is a public service to the quilting community.
Stash enhancement by adopting unwanted fabric, especially browns, is a public service to the quilting community.

The Postage Stamp is basted, quilted, and I have found a method for the using backing as binding technique. Today is the big day to get this one off my WIP list.

All quilted, and ready to bind.
All quilted, and ready to bind.

That will leave the Pansy Monstrosity, and the Crazy Log Cabin quilts. I am still in denial over the Pansy Monstrosity, but since feedback over the Log Cabin was overwhelmingly positive, this one will get finished, rather than given away.

The apparently not too bright log cabin quilt.
The apparently not too bright log cabin quilt.

So, thanks for hanging in, if you made it this far. Enjoy your week. Linking up with Lee at WIP Wednesday and Lets Bee Social.

It’s in the doing.

I know we are supposed to enjoy the  journey, rather than hanging out for the destination, but sometimes the journey seems a little long and tedious.

I’ve been dwelling on the past week, and it seems I’ve spent much of my time doing not very exciting things. And yet, without these processes, the end results  of gorgeous quilty things won’t happen.

For example, I have spent hours washing fabric, ironing it, and folding it into neat piles. Not something to write a blog post about, though leaning over a hot iron on a cold day is pleasant.

The postage stamp quilt for my daughter. We have two rain free days before the next southerlies blow through, so this may be the only photo of it for a while. Roll on spring!
So many different fabrics, most bought for the quilt in small strips to give it a sufficiently scrappy look. Look at those mismatched points! Oh well, it was my second ever quilt.

Quilting has begun to feel a bit like work. It may be because all my recent projects have been for other people, have been created under self-imposed deadlines, or have involved finishing, rather than the excitement of starting a new project.

The quilts I have been finishing also represent early experiments, which contain mistakes I wouldn’t make now. So I feel I have outgrown them, yet still have to quilt and bind them, so they aren’t wasted.

Take this Postage Stamp quilt for example. I sewed it before I had my new machine, or a quarter inch foot. I also mixed batiks, high and low quality fabrics. As a result, the squares do not line up due to inaccurate seam allowances and stretched fabric, and so I used an “organic” straight line approach when quilting. Things got pretty “organic” where squares and rows were offset the most.

It was a valuable experiment, but doesn’t represent where my quilting is now, or the direction I want to move in.

I quilted every second row in an organic straight line.
I quilted every second row in an organic straight line.

So, I have decided after finishing the current quilt for my daughter, I am heading back to creating for myself for a while. Back to piecing lots of little bias triangles, playing with colour, and just enjoying myself. I’m even thinking of designing my first quilt.

My favourite square, added so there will always be a cat sitting on the quilt.
My favourite square, added so there will always be a cat sitting on the quilt.

In the meantime, I intend to bind this quilt using the purple backing fabric. I know its a “thing”, I just have to google it to find a tutorial.

And then, its back to my Gypsy Wife #2, and maybe a couple of new projects.


What was I thinking! After finding I used only 12 of the 28 wonky log cabin blocks I created for an earlier quilt, I followed Daughter #2’s advice and joined the remaining blocks together to make another top. After a brief look, Daughter #1 informed me the quilt made her eyes bleed, and could I please use it as a quilt back.

The offending quilt block.
The offending quilt top.

Okay, so its a little bright.

Unfortunately I now have the problem of having invested time and money in something, that on second thoughts, was not worthy of said time and money. What to do? I could give it away in the Orphan Quilt Adoption Event organised at Quilting is more fun than Housework. That would just be cruel though, as its new owner might just put it out of its misery. Presuming of course someone was mad enough to want it.

Meanwhile, it’s like a sore tooth, and I keep taking it out, looking at it, then putting it away again. I want to clear the decks before I start a new project, so I really need a solution. I’m not willing to throw too many more resources in this quilts direction, so I purchased a bit of blue homespun to see if framing the quilt might help. it worked with my postage stamp quilt, and that contained even more colour.

Meanwhile, progress on the Gypsy Wife #2  has stalled, due to time spent finishing other WIP’s. I have used most of the useable scraps from my Symposium scrap collection, so I am cutting into stash now. I placed an order with Southern Fabric for the fabric that runs like shawl tassels through the quilt. Hopefully I will get back to this soon.

The Gypsy Wife #2 abandoned on the design board.
The Gypsy Wife #2 abandoned on the design board.

In an effort to use up more scraps, I decided to join the Scrap Vortex QAL with Crazy Mom Quilts. I sat and sewed scraps together for an hour, then came to the conclusion I am so over these fabrics, I don’t think I can face sewing with them at the moment. So, I am thinking of binning these scraps and moving on. I will follow the QAL, and remember it for a future scrap quilt when my scrap pile gets refreshed.


The scrap project I’ve been spending most of my time on is still in the planning stage. I grabbed a heap of scraps from the Arts Recycling Centre last month, and have been ironing and cutting these into squares of various sizes. The plan is to combine them with some of the Thimbleberry blocks I also bought, and make my first row quilt. After umpteen hours of ironing and cutting, I have pathetic little piles of squares in my storage boxes. It takes sooo long, but since only a handful of pre-cuts are available in the five quilt shops in town, I will keep cutting.

My 2 1/2 inch square collection. There are so many hours invested in these square, they must be the most expensive mini-charms ever.
My 2 1/2 inch square collection. There are so many hours invested in these square, they must be the most expensive mini-charms ever.

After learning the acronym SABLE (Stash Accumulation Beyond Life Expectancy), my husband has dared me to only buy fabric once a month. I think this might work, so long as I get to buy more in each transaction, to make up for the lower frequency of acquisition. I will start next fortnight, since I needed some fabric scraps for flying geese for the row quilt this week.

Linking up to Scraptastic Tuesday, Lets Bee Social, and WIP Wednesday.

England’s watching

“England’s Watching” is one of the New Zealand composed songs celebrated at an exhibition at Te Manawa. The exhibition marks 100 years since the Gallipoli landings during WWI, dwelling on the composers of popular songs of the day. The songs celebrate everything from the awful stew the army served up each night at camp, to the courage of those leaving to fight.

The Farewell Zealandia exhibition at Te Manawa is housed in an historic cottage in the museum grounds. All it needed was some quilts…

The exhibition provided an interesting place to show off my latest finish, since the subdued colours of the quilt reminded me of quilts of earlier times.


This quilt was based around one of the blocks I rescued from the Arts Recycling Centre. I surrounded the block with a piece of linen from my stash, and backed it with a remnant of blue and white spot cotton from Spotlight. I know some quilters like to co-ordinate their backing fabric with the quilt front, but my stash isn’t yet big enough for that to happen. Sigh. When I started quilting I bought half metres of everything, at most. It just never occurred to me that quilts need a back.

My lack of backing fabric sounds like a good reason for some internet shopping, especially since Hancocks of Paducah have sent me a new voucher to use.

The rescued block, now surrounded by a linen remnant from my stash.
The rescued block, now surrounded by a linen remnant from my stash (to the left).

The cottage is full of old furniture perfect for showing off quilts.


I bound the quilt with some binding I found in the sales bin at Spotlight, and undertook some slightly more adventurous quilting than I would usually attempt. This was because the quilt was small enough to turn repeatedly as I quilted.

I enjoyed the quilting process, and am starting to think the day of unpacking the free motion foot might be approaching. No need to rush, its only been 4 months since I bought it, so I might try matchstick quilting first.

Every scrap is precious….

Living at the bottom of the globe as I do, I pay a fairly high price for my quilt fabric ($28-32/m). It’s called the tyranny of distance. Every bolt of fabric travels a long journey across the planet to get to me, and I must pay for the long ocean cruises they enjoy. The cost means that every fabric scrap is precious. Forget Gollem’s ring, we kiwi quilters hoard fabric by the bolt, fat quarter and scrap.

Daughter #2 was recently sorting fabric at the Arts Recycling Centre when 5 bags of quilt fabric arrived. Since I have trained her well, she put some aside, and alerted me as soon as I entered the building. The fabric included some completed blocks (e.g. 12 inch star and thimbleberry blocks), as well as scraps of every colour.  This got me very excited, because the next day our Quilt Guild was producing quilts for our local hospice. I gathered up all the blocks, paid $5 for the armful, then tried not to break the speed limit racing to the shop of a local Guild committee member.

Unfortunately she broke out in laughter, informing me that the committee members had just cleaned out the back room, and all the blocks I had just paid for had been discarded and sent off for recycling.

Feeling a bit of a fool, I gave some blocks to a friend to make quilts for the local NICU, and took the rest home (along with the fabric scraps).

A discarded block, quilted but in need of binding.
A discarded block with a linen border added, quilted, but in need of binding.

I have almost finished a lap quilt from one block, adding a linen border to a completed block. I did a bit of straight line and echo quilting, since I am still afraid of my free motion foot.

The remaining scraps are all washed and ironed, and I have started cutting them into squares.

Scraps, scraps, glorious scraps...
Scraps, scraps, glorious scraps…

Another trip to a thrift shop yielded 4 small unused boxes ($2 each), in which I plan to stack my squares once cut.

Using recycled scraps and supplies is certainly cheaper, but I must admit the time required to wash, iron and cut scraps does make me yearn for access to cheap pre-cuts.

Linking up to WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced and Lets Bee Social.

Zaden’s quilt

This was a hard quilt to design, not because of the lack of good quilt designs out there, but simply because of some complicating factors around the recipient and her specific needs.


I needed a quilt suitable for a child who would be entering respite care on occasion, and so the quilt would potentially have a very hard life.

I won’t go into the details of the recipients health, but in the end I settled on a heavy duty quilt with a denim back, and some cotton drill on the front. I used as little quilt weight fabric as possible, so it won’t suffer going through the wash. I used some Dr Suess name blocks to spell out her name, and used up scraps to form log cabin blocks.

I used her name on the front, since I wanted something for her, and for which there would never be any argument about to whom it belonged.

Lots of quilting to make sure it doesn't come apart in the wash.
Lots of quilting to make sure it doesn’t come apart in the wash.

I will put it in the post this morning, with chocolate and coffee for her stepmom. Maybe something for her siblings too…..more chocolate?