A tale of two kittens

In January, back when the world was “normal”, I looked out the kitchen window one morning to see a wee scrap of ginger kitten holding a piece of stale sourdough bread,  frantically trying to eat it. Of course my heart melted, I was out in an instant, and introduced the wee thing to the wonders of meat and gravy in a can. Several meals later, an even smaller grey bundle joined it’s sibling under the house, and suddenly I was feeding two feral kittens.

It turned out that all the local Cat rescue organisations were full to the brim, and the SPCA would only accept the kittens if they were tamed, so I kept feeding them. I talked to them, touched them, and got them used to my presence. Eventually they played at the back porch, and peered in the door, so I let them in, and stayed frozen in place while they explored. Meanwhile, they were growing bigger of course.

Exhausted from playing, note the tangle of pink yarn in the foreground. Ozzie to the left, Harry to the right.

It turns out the best way to tame feral kittens is to feed them roast chicken, lots of it. Needless to say, we ate a lot of roast chicken last autumn. My family swear they got one meal, then the kittens got the rest, but I’m sure it wasn’t quite that bad.

They were about ready for desexing and rehoming when COVID hit. That’s when they moved in, and made themselves really at home.

So, it turns out that Ozzie likes sleeping on crochet blankets, preferably wool, and has claimed the bay window. Harry prefers chairs and pools of sunshine, though a lap is also good. They still like Roast chicken, though tinned cat food and biscats are now on offer. They are amazing hunters, and believe all mice are to be shared with the family, so we have a special “remove the live mouse from the house” glove next to the door. This is my daughter’s job, while I distract the cat.

Having never had cat siblings before, it has been a pleasure to see them groom each other, fight, play, and sleep snuggled up.

They bought us a lot of joy during lockdown, our little ferals.



Almost Spring

I rewarded myself today for undergoing a Covid test. It was unpleasant, but the Ministry of Health has asked for the public to come forward and be tested, to make certain we have no community transmission. So, in exchange for a swab induced migraine, I got flowers.

I also grabbed a Taranaki Rhododendron Festival Guide. New Zealand’s premier garden festival, and a source of much inspiration and dreams of horticultural splendour. My Mum lives in the region, and it is an annual event for us. We pore over the guide, discussing the gardens on offer. We select, compare, shortlist, rank and hoard loose change for cash plant sales and emergency cups of tea. We also visit many gardens in the Fringe Festival, smaller gardens not of the scale or age of the main festival offerings.


But best of all, I started a new quilt. I am repurposing some EPP shapes to make the Sweet Sunday Quilt by Treehouse Textiles.  My first EPP project was in William Morris fabrics, and was too dark in value and repetitive in block design. I shall donate the leftovers to Hospice , where they will hopefully find a home.

The wrinkled table runner is from a trip to Estonia. I am so grateful now for the travels I undertook during my graduate studies. The world has never seemed so far away from us, down here at the bottom of the globe.



12407071-2512-4f73-a7de-40bd867efe7e.jpegNearly two years into a new property in the country.

A new life.

A new job, then no job again, thanks to COVID-19.

New health challenges, but things are looking up.

Family moved to town, so new relationships beginning to replace those formed in childhood.

A child at Graduate School, so one less at home.

And everything in the shadow of Covid. The 1pm daily briefings are no longer a necessary part of life, but are still an often watched reminder that the virus is still out there in the world. A daily dose of anxiety, and then reassurance of no community transmission.

Meanwhile, life here continues in the space between what has been, and what we hope will return.

A Friday Flimsy finish

It suddenly struck me while I was waiting for The Hubbie to return from a walk last night, that is wasn’t windy. This might sound a minor thing to notice, so let me expound slightly as to why this was so significant.

The night before it had snowed on the hills, despite it being mid-January, and the middle of summer. We have had a howling gale of a wind for weeks now, with a weather bomb mid-week, and another storm coming. Flooding, landslides, all the usual winter stuff, but in summer instead.

Mid-summer snow on the Tararuas. Image from the Horowhenua Chronicle

There is a joke doing the rounds on FB that the Bible calls 40 days and nights of rain a biblical curse… whereas here in the Manawatu it’s just called Summer.

Daughter #1 stopped growing fairly early, so wasn’t quite tall enough as a quilt holder…

Anyway it wasn’t blowing, so I did what any sane person would do and grabbed a quilt top, a camera, and a person to hold the quilt aloft.

May I introduce my variation of the Midnight on the Oasis quilt by Jen Kingwell. It has one border less than the original pattern, and I took a few liberties with the other borders too, but otherwise it’s pretty much what the pattern ordered.

Wouldn’t you know it, a breeze had started up again by the time The Hubbie got home from his 7km walk. Note the fashionable summer footwear.

My plan is to ditch stitch around all the borders, and then attack with Perle 8. There is so much colour that nice big stitches will accentuate the folksy nature of the quilt. First comes basting of course, which I’m saving for tomorrow, when the next summer storm is set to arrive.

Today it’s lots of fun with fabric dyeing, which I’ll share next week. Here is a hint of what we are playing with. Colour swatches on art paper, from our experiments in fabric dyeing. I have been dyeing the greens and blues, while Daughter #1 loves the brights. Needless to say our hands are brightly multi-coloured despite wearing gloves.


Have a great weekend.

Linking up with Crazy Mom Quilts.

Improv in Green

I played around with the yesterday’s method to make another improv block, and learnt a few useful lessons today.

Once again I used a lot of fabric samples from the books that I purchased earlier…

…ripping them out of the book, and cutting off the bits of paper and glue to make small squares and rectangles.

Then I started adding them together, gradually increasing the small slabs in size.

This time, instead of making a block, I made a series of strips, then joined them together, eventually making one approximately 20 inch block.


I won’t use this method for future blocks, for a couple of reasons.

  1. I don’t like the way the block is dominated by strips, though I did try hiding this in one place by repeating a fabric, either side of the seam.
  2. It’s too easy to make too much fabric this way, which means I ended up with a whole pile of blocks left over. Bother, I’m trying really hard to get rid of scraps!

It may have worked better if I were able to use my design wall, but that is still covered in another project, which is waiting for pay day, and some fabric shopping. Please note my willpower. Very impressive, yes?


I have enjoyed reading the Sew Mama Sew series in my FB feed this last week. A series of designers have discussed, amongst other topics, the trends of 2016. One trend was that makers are increasingly trying to use their stash. I’m not sure if that is caused by the embarrassingly large size that a quilters stash can accumulate to, or simple economics.

For me, it’s been a little of both.

I started decreasing the number of fabric shops whose newsletters I received last year, in an effort to decrease my exposure to the constant feed of new fabric lines. There is just so much out there, and I can only sew so fast. It’s possible to lose quite a bit of time to social media in spending time drooling over new fabrics. Just saying.

In the end, I think it has been the exchange rate of our dollar against the US$, that has curbed my spending most. If The Hubbie goes to the USA this year I will certainly be making the most of the opportunity, and will ask him to take a second suitcase. How much Kona can you fit in a large suitcase I wonder?

From Spring in the garden, Nanus Gladioli.

Have a great day, and enjoy your sewing.



Improv fun and scraps

I finished off the last of the twelve blocks for Daughter #1’s Christmas Quilt this morning. Does that sound just a little too soon to you? It does to me too, but I plan to gift a lot of quilts this Christmas, and I want as many as possible to be quilts that I want to make, and that I enjoy making, so that means starting early. I will make as many as possible either playing with colour schemes (e.g. purple), or improv quilts.


There is no good way of getting a photo of these blocks at the moment, due to this….


…what my sewing room looks like from the other side of the cutting table. On the opposite side of the table I have a large ironing table, which I have to shift to reach my design wall.

The green door actually leads into the garage, but is never used, the door that is. The garage is used to store stuff. Our cars sit out in the elements, which might explain the rust, and lichen (no kidding, it rains here an awful lot).

My next task is to sort the pile of fabric and put it away. I do like a tidy work surface to play in.

Among the pile is the completed Midnight at the Oasis quilt, but it is far too windy for any outside shots today. The house is shuddering hard enough that it almost feels like small earthquakes. I’ve checked Geonet, but there haven’t been any recent earthquakes, so it’s just wind gusts.

I also started another longer term scrap project today, after taking Cheryl Arkison’s Improv Quilting class, which I mentioned in another post.

I gathered all my purple scraps from the above quilt and made a slab, which will end up as a rainbow scrap quilt for Daughter #2 for Christmas.


I read the instructions in Cheryl’s book very carefully, at least until step 2, then just started joining fabric scraps together. As a result, my finished product looks nothing like hers does. Never mind, I got rid of some scraps, which was the point of the exercise. At the moment the slab is about 19 inches, but I have room to trim, if need be.

Next is putting away that pile of fabric, and fossicking around for some black fabric to use as sashing on the purple quilts. I received some useful comments after the last post, that black would make the purples “sing”, so it’s advice I shall follow.

Linking up with Mrs Sew and Sow for Scraptastic Tuesday

Scrap Happy for January


Amongst the languages I want to learn to “speak” this year (quilting-wise), is Colour. With a capital C.

I love looking at reproduction quilts, and French General fabrics, but at heart I am more of a Kaffe enthusiast. It’s like careful colour co-ordination is eating your veggies first, and blinding colour is dessert, plus sprinkles.

So, 2017 is going to be the year when the brakes come off, and I let loose with some blindingly colourful quilts.

Scrappy log cabin 2016

They have always snuck in, but I’ve been a little apologetic for throwing in so many colours. As if being able to blend a dozen shades of taupe in a quilt is somehow a measure of your quilting abilities.

Not this year.

Leftover 4 inch squares and some Kaffe fabrics to match.

To start off the year I am sewing up scraps dating back to my first attempted quilt. It ended up a WIP (after about 5 years), finished by Amiee of Amiee’s Homestead Quilts, and gifted to my baby sister for her 30th birthday. Believe it or not, I used sweat shirting as the batting. I just didn’t know any better…it seemed warm! Anyway, my sister loves it.

Since it was my initial foray into quilting, many of the blocks are inaccurately cut, and the fabric quality is somewhat lower than what I would buy now. All I was after at the time was colourful fabric, thread count did not concern me.

I am throwing in some Kaffe fabrics to provide some oomph, and having fun with the scraps.

A simple 5 x 3 layout of four inch blocks.

I managed to sew six blocks today, and am thinking about whether to keep going. Daughter #1 has already approved of the colours, and she is notoriously hard to buy gifts for, so this might end up a birthday present if I keep going.

The six finished blocks, eventually black sashing will separate them all.

It’s a simple quilt design, but it was stunning done as a rainbow in a king size.

Have a great week.

Linking up with So Scrappy and Sew Fresh Quilts.

2017 Finish-A-Long Q1


2017 FAL BUTTON 300.jpg

I will attempt to polish off a few finishes this quarter, but only a few.

Since I want to find time to play with improv, I figure it’s best to schedule only those WIP’s that are annoying me by hanging around, taunting me with their stray threads and creases.

The really big WIP’s, with lots still to do…. well, they can wait a bit longer. That’s what big closets with closing doors were invented for.

So, drumroll please….

  1. First up is the Midnight at the Oasis quilt. I finished the top today (woohoo!), so this one (just) needs basting, quilting and binding.p1090006
  2. My third Gypsy Wife quilt. This one is going to be re-purposed as something, maybe a baby quilt. I made the economy squares, and a couple of the sections, but lost the urge to complete it after that. I didn’t like one of the blocks, but had already sewn that section together. So, it got put in a box… in a closet…..P1070934
  3. Lastly, a little improv quilt from a QAL last year. This one needs basting, quilting and binding, but it isn’t too big, so shouldn’t take too long. I’m not sure what will happen to this one, as it was an experiment. Maybe it will be my first mini quilt, hopefully the first of many. After watching a crafty class on walking foot quilting, I’m thinking of tackling this one with matchstick quilting. Being on the small size means I shouldn’t give up, before getting to a 1/8 inch quilting distance. All that dense quilting will probably mean grey thread, with the odd line of red running through.p1080322

And that is it. If I can finish these three, I will be a very, very, happy quilter indeed.

Hoping you are having a great week.

Linking up to the Ist Quarter FAL.


Midnight at the Oasis update


This quilt is taking just a little longer than I thought to finish. Mainly because I’m spending more time enjoying summer than quilting. Mind you, I had to leave town and drive to the other side of New Zealand to enjoy summer. Here on the west coast, it is little warmer than winter temperatures so far this summer.

I may have also visited a couple of new quilt shops and bought fabric.

My lone tomato ripening. Sad, but true. I shall eat it very slowly.

Now that we are back from the Hawkes Bay, I am aiming to finish this quilt top in the next couple of days.

I started about a year ago, using fabrics from a shop which has since closed. I still miss The Cloth Shop whenever I drive past its old site. Sniff!

Anyway, MATO represents the sixth Jen Kingwell quilt I have started, but will hopefully be the third finished. I have My Small World languishing in a pile of hand quilting, and Glitter hasn’t gotten much further than the cutting out stage.

My secret weapon for aligning all those one inch squares is glue.

I have made a few changes to the pattern. I quite like floating the striped border inside the spot fabric which is the main background fabric. In reality, it happened because of slight less accurate quarter inch seams than usual. Somebody forgot to trim their blocks!

When faced with undoing 50 odd churn dash blocks and re-sewing them, I decided to opt for re-jigging the pattern. I will leave the final border out though, as I am about finished with this quilt. It will be big enough to be useful, but not big enough for a bed. Maybe a sofa quilt?


The quilt is too big for my design wall, so hopefully these photos give a hint of how it is coming together.

I am planning to ditch stitch this one, then attack it with some Perle 8 in a variety of colours.

I am finishing it off on my new toy….


A Christmas present to take to classes, avoiding the need to pack up my bigger machine.

Hope you had a great weekend. Back to work for many here in NZ.

Ice dyeing fun in the New Year.

It’s raining very hard here, and a shallow lake has formed between the back door of the house, and my quilt studio. Wimp that I am, I have decided to stay inside with a hot drink and write a blog post, rather than swim to my quilting.

I mentioned in my last post some Ice Dyeing I had done a couple of months ago, but never blogged. I had time on New Years day to play again, so thought I had better document the process, for myself as well as any interested parties.

I took the initial class at Village Books and Crafts, and Dianne taught us the basics, spread out over a couple of days. Setting it all up one evening, then the big reveal the following afternoon. As per usual, I liked my daughters efforts more than my own, as we played with different colour ways to avoid our fabrics getting mixed up.

The process involved scrunching, pleating, or folding our soda ash soaked fabric, then covering with ice, then sprinkled dye powder. After the ice had melted, we rinsed out the excess dye, then washed the fabrics in hot water to remove further dye. Fairly simple sounding, but in reality, there is a real art to it.

We both enjoyed the class, a lot! Which led to asking, “What can we do to get better results?”

The first step was a Google search, which ended in extreme fabric envy. There are some talented artists out there.

If you want the basics, then the Dharma Trading Company has a basic tutorial here.

We also found a book, which was recommended to newbies like us, which we went halves on, and ordered through Book Depository.

The book is called “Having a meltdown“, by Sandra L. Millard.


It was a wise decision to buy this book. It is aimed towards quilters, so there was less content than we expected on folding techniques such as shibori. Luckily our library has plenty of books to fill that niche. What it does include is more detail on how to achieve bright, vibrant colours, by doing the basics well. Sondra suggests soaking the fabric in soda ash for more than a day longer than we were initially taught, and the same goes with the dye application. Sondra also recommends sprinkling the dye directly onto the fabric, rather than on top of the ice. Then letting it sit for longer.

It draws out the process from a simple 24 hour, to a several day process, but I am waiting (impatiently) to see if the depth of colour achieved is worth the wait. Judging by the little excess dye  removed during rinsing, I think her methods work. I recommend the book, if you are interested in giving this a go.

One tip I picked up from Dianne was not to waste the water that accumulates in the bucket at the end of the process. At the moment I have it in the garage, with some more fabric soaking in it. It gives what she called “mud” fabric. Colours never able to be repeated, but useful never the same.

After the class, another quilter at the shop asked me how I would use the fabric. Improv! The fabrics are all quite muted after washing, so I look forward to seeing what will happen when I cut it all up, and sew it back together. I think my daughter intends using hers for a whole cloth quilt or two.

Another useful link is here, to an article written in Threads Magazine. It has a list of colour combinations of Procion Dyes, which will give nice patterning in your ice dyed fabric. The trick is to use secondary and tertiary colours, so they split and give more variety in the patterns created. These weren’t available to us during our initial class, but luckily Dianne will order in anything we need.

So, if you are sick of your snow and ice, or have an excess of party ice left over from your Christmas BBQ, I can recommend Ice Dyeing to spice up your New Year. Have fun.