Hello 2017

I have come up with my word for 2017. It has taken a bit of pondering, a lot of dwelling on exactly what worked for me, or didn’t, during 2016.  This past year seemed to be a year dominated by things outside my control (politics, chronic health problems, the passing of so many childhood heroes). So, it feels right to refocus in 2017 on things closer to home. Things within my sphere of influence, pertaining to just little old me.

Without further ado, my word for 2017 is….”Language.”

I have been quilting now for a few years (3-4 years or so), and have been going through the motions of learning this fascinating craft/art. I can sew a pretty straight,  reasonably accurate, quarter inch seam. I can pick colours, mix fabrics, even dye my own. I can smell a quilt fabric sale a mile away, and have almost memorised my visa number for online purchases. All the necessary skills.

Recent Ice Dyeing experiments.

But I have struggled to find my voice, my language.

How I spent much of 2016, the 365 Challenge quilt.


In 2016 I committed to a block a day program that taught me that, while I love traditional quilts, I cannot make only small, accurately pieced quilts. I want to speak another quilt language. Something freer, and more colourful.

I ended 2016 watching some classes on CreativeLive by Cheryl Arkison. The first was on translating ideas into quilting, the second on improv. I think I will look back at these classes as a pivot on which I changed direction, perhaps permanently.


I have always done some Improv Quilting, but always felt it was the poor cousin in the Quilt Family. First comes the ‘Baltimore Quilters’ with their needle turn appliqué, then march in the ‘Serious Piecers’, with their exact points and tiny pieces. It has always felt to me like a cavalcade of skill, with the Improv Quilters doing their thing somewhere at the tail of the parade. Partly this is because Modern Quilting isn’t a “thing” where I live. There is plenty of Art Quilting going on, but the Modern Quilting I have seen locally is more about using modern fabrics in very simple quilts (e.g. jelly roll race quilts). Rather than using solid fabrics, lots of negative space, and ignoring the quilt police.

Old house, somewhere in Hawkes Bay. The lure of these places is very strong.

I have also been nursing a wish to incorporate my background in wetlands and botany in my work, but haven’t known how. Then there are a lot of buildings being torn down, as the Government’s new building codes kick in after the quakes. So much architectural heritage is being lost, and I want to capture it, somehow.

So, I am going to learn some new quilting languages. First I will finish my latest Jen Kingwell quilt, simply because it has been a WIP for too long. While I am doing so, I am going to enjoy colour again. Pure, saturated colour.

It’s moved on a little since this photo was taken, but Midnight at the Oasis is my longest standing WIP.

I am also starting another project. A stitch a day. I purchased some linen fabric from Spotlight this morning, and stuck it through the wash. I plan to stick it up somewhere where I will see it every day; then as I pass, I will stitch. Or attach. Or both. Maybe Boro style, but definitely without an end point, or a vision, in mind. Pure, unfettered, daily hand stitch. I am hoping that after a year I will find how I want to use the running stitch that I am so visually attracted to. I have also joined the local Embroiderers Guild, and taken up a committee role.

Once Midnight at the Oasis is finished, I am going to start learning more improv methods. Putting Cheryl’s classes into action. Moving past wonky log cabins into something scarier.

Roof line of the Cuba St Cafe building. All those HSQ’s.

And meanwhile, I have taken to wandering around with a camera in hand. Studying buildings, capturing details, textures, words….fodder for future quilts.

Meanwhile, I have enrolled for a Masterclass at the Christchurch Symposium on working in a series. If I get into the class, I will need to be fluent in my new language, so there is a bit of time pressure.

Have you chosen a word for 2017? Love to hear if you have.

Have a Happy New Year.





Dear Mother Nature…

…it’s time to stop!

One of the many slips covering State Highway 1 around Kaikoura (Reuters).

Okay, I think I can say I speak for the entire nation when I say, “Enough, already!”

If the ground isn’t moving, the wing is howling, or the heavens have opened and the rivers are overflowing.

A car come adrift in Kaikoura (Stuff.co.nz).

After 48 hours I am thankful we are no longer feeling the quakes here in Palmerston North, but am ever mindful of those caught up in this latest deadly quake.

Things to be thankful for today….

More 365 Challenge blocks

Two days after the Kaikoura Earthquake and the evacuation of tourists is well underway. The Naval Celebrations in Auckland have been abandoned in favour of an international rescue effort, similar to what happened after the Christchurch earthquake. We are thankful for our American, Australian, Malaysian and Japanese friends for their support at this time.

While we are all saddened by the loss of two lives, we are also very thankful that the earthquake struck at a time when the roads were empty, or our losses would have been very much greater.

And most of all, I am thankful that Kiwis have swung into action again, supporting those who have lost much, or little. Maraes have been opened, food delivered, collection points for goods set up, and even our politicians have joined forces (temporarily).


As for me, now that the shaking underfoot has stopped, I am sewing. I have felt the need to stop for a few weeks now, and have finally given in. Slow quilting can be meditative (except for the unpicking bits), so I am slowly quilting, enjoying the picking of fabrics, and the completion of each block.


The 365 Challenge quilt blocks are not perfect, but I am so many months behind I am not re-doing them in order to achieve perfect points, or wrinkle free centres. Finished is better than perfect, as they say.

Oh, and I have given in and finally gotten an emergency kit ready with the kids. Just in case the Seismologists Option 3 occurs (Cook Strait fault ruptures), in which case it will be a doozy.

I spoke too soon, another aftershock. Sigh….and another. Off to check Geonet and see what is going on.

Have a great week.

Linking up with WIP Wednesday and Silly Mama Quilts.


Post Earthquake…

Its funny what a difference a day can make. Until two minutes after midnight last night, it seemed the American elections were the only topic of conversation. Our online newspaper feeds were cluttered with articles about “you know who”. Would he follow through on his policies, who was he appointing to his cabinet….

And then the earth moved again. And again. And now it is just trembling with non-stop aftershocks from Kaikoura, north to Whanganui. GeoNet is registering aftershocks every minute or so, which is just astonishing. And unsettling.

More blocks from the 365 Challenge Quilt.

Our hearts go out to those who have lost loved ones, homes and businesses. Those who are shaken up again, bringing back fears and anxiety from just too many quakes.

Using my stash of French General fabrics.

Here in Palmerston North we are merely shaken. Some power cuts, anxious children, and more than a little sleep deprived. But we are okay. One of my four brothers works down South for a large construction firm. I daresay they are scrambling to start the clean up, even while we wait to find out exactly how bad it is.

From the Josephine range, through to Madame Rouge.

To keep calm, I did a little quilting in between reassuring Mum down the phone after each large aftershock. She got no sleep after midnight. She made the mistake of turning on talkback radio, and listening to others fear and anxiety all through the wee hours of the night.

Another friend spent the night on the floor with her husband, the kids having taken over their bed.

A little poppy block for Armistice Day.

It is funny what a difference a day can make.

I hope you are safe wherever you are today.

Linking up with WIP Wednesday and various linky parties.




Quilts and Gardens in Taranaki

This Spring it has seemed like every weekend yet another Quilt Show was held in a nearby town, competing with the weekend jobs for my attention. The Quilt Shows won, of course.

Hikurangi Garden, Taranaki, NZ

The Taranaki Garden Festival coincided with the Taranaki Quilt Show this year, so I really had to down tools and wander off to see the sights. First the gardens….

I loved the use of ponga logs used as frames to hold Clematis, and covered by climbing native Metrosideros vines and Asplenium ferns.

My Mum and I share a love of large country gardens, and will happily spend days driving around Taranaki, ticking off each garden as we visit. She even goes so far as to write notes next to each garden in the catalogue, then save the catalogue to compare to the following years offerings.

Hikurangi was full of old established trees, plenty of Rhododendrons and Maples.

This year we were fortunate to visit a large garden that is currently being offered for sale, and so likely never to be seen again in the festival.


The garden, Hikurangi, comprises hectares of rhododendrons, candelabra primulas, perennials and native bush. I especially liked the tree fuchsia (Fuchsia excorticata) with its orange-brown peeling bark and tiny fuchsia flowers.

Fuchsia excorticata

The owner has reached the stage where her age is forcing her to relinquish the farm and garden, and retire to town. Unfortunately the farm is to be sold in two lots, so the garden will be split in two, unless someone very keen takes it on. Mum bought a ticket and tried to win Lotto so we could buy the farm, but alas…

Part of the lake at Hikurangi, dug by the owners late husband.

Gardens are ephemeral things, as was demonstrated by another we visited. Here the trees were full of dead branches, draped in lichen and moss. The canopy so thick, the understory had died. I admitted to being a little nervous walking under the canopy in the strong winds, the branches were creaking so heavily. The Lions Club had come in and “pruned” with their chainsaws, but I’m afraid they haven’t the finesse of a trained arborist.

Despite the decay, the garden was one of the most beautiful we visited, and I can recommend Ostlers Garden, if you visit Stratford and the festival next year.

My Mum’s favourite in the show was Night and Day Zee by Jacqui Hale

In contrast our quilts can live longer than we do, and I do like the way they require little maintenance once made. Wouldn’t it be annoying if we had to do the equivalent of weekly weeding to keep our quilts looking good?

Best in Show: Wildflowers by Jeanette Ansley

The Show was full of inspirational quilts, with Marilyn Reid’s Cathedral Window Quilt apparently taking many years of hand quilting to complete. I greatly admire quilters who stick with projects for such a long period.

Cathedral Square by Marilyn Reid

It was a great week, but I am glad to be back home. My garden is calling, and I have seedlings popping up I must protect from slugs, snails and inclement weather. And maybe it’s even time to plant out some tomatoes.

Have a great week.


The highs and lows of the last week

The week started on a high…

The Hand Stitching prize was for my first Gypsy Wife Quilt, the Jen Kingwell classic.

in the middle we successfully fought to save a historic neighbourhood tree…

and the week ended with our cars being broken into. Again. This time they helpfully smashed a window, so thanks to the staff at Smith & Smith, my car windows are now repaired, clean, and I can see through them. Note to self, clean car more frequently!


Anyway, I thought I’d put a “shout out” to the sponsor of one of my prizes from our recent exhibition, The Delbrook Quilt Company of Hastings. They are my go-to shop in the North Island for reproduction fabrics. While they are a couple of hours drive away for me, they are fortunately situated next to a major hardware chainstore. The Hubbie drops me at the gate, then goes gazing at power tools for a while. The longer he stays away, the more fabric I get to buy. Works for me! Once he went for a haircut, and the budget got well and truly hammered.

Delbrook often have a selection of FQ at $5, and always have a big range of fabric on the bolt. They stock modern fabrics, as well as the reproduction fabrics I am currently loving working with. They have regular drop in days, QAL’s, retreats, fabric clubs, and classes.

Unfortunately Delbrook don’t have all their fabric listed in their online shop, so it’s best to either contact them, or go for a drive. I prefer the drive, especially at fruit harvest time. Hawkes Bay Apricots, Figs, Apples…the list goes on. And if you go for a weekend, as we so often do, make sure you investigate the amazing Art Deco architecture of the region, and visit the Napier Museum.  Last time we visited, we got to see a Lalique collection that blew me away. And if your ancestors were present during the historic Napier earthquake, then the permanent exhibition gives insight into the event.

A wintery day at the beach, great for photos, not quite so good for swimming.

Plus there is the attraction of all those pebbly east coast beaches, so different from our west coast, black sand, windswept affairs.

Back to reality, and today is all about getting security lights upgraded, then going for a drive. Greenhaugh Gardens is a Garden of National Significance a few km away, and at this time of the year it is ablaze with Spring colour, including a large collection of Bearded Irises and Clematis. I’m off to have a peak, and get some motivation to carry on weeding my own garden.

Greenhaugh Gardens, Napier Road, Palmerston North.

Later in the week I am off to the Taranaki Garden Festival and the accompanying Quilt Show. Gardens and quilts, the perfect combination.

Have a great week.

WIP Wednesday, help needed.

Just a quick post, since it is really just an SOS in disguise.

Earlier this year I posted about my dissatisfaction with quilting the same old quilts, the “should” quilts. Well, I have made progress, albeit slow progress, in finding out exactly what I do want to quilt and make.

I finished the Artists Way, and picked up a book on colour to work through next. I have also been educating myself about the periods of art history I enjoy, namely the Arts and Crafts, Nouveau, and Bauhaus movements.

I have also started fabric painting, giving stamping, marbling and salt batik fabric painting a go. More to come on that later.


I decided to approach studying colour by tackling one colour at a time, first up being red. And so I made a little improv quilt, based on a  method I can remember seeing in the last couple of months. It involved making a wonky cross flimsy, then cutting blocks out of the top, to rejoin. But do you think I can find the original tutorial?


So, I am hoping someone can help me out. Can you remember the blogger, or the name of the pattern? If so, please drop me a line, so I can find it, and give credit where credit is due. I am also interested in how to quilt this top, either to add further wonkiness, or contrast with it. Ideas?


And in case you are wondering, yes, the borders are also trimmed to be wonky. Just to unsettle the piece a bit further. Only time will tell if this was a good idea.

Until I hear back I shall go forth and do some gardening, Spring is well and truly sprung here in New Zealand, with wild and woolly weather every day.


Linking up with Sew Fresh and Silly Mama Quilts.

A lick of paint…

I’ve been keeping busy, but not necessarily busy sewing.

I donated my sewing table to Daughter #2 in September. It was my suggestion, as she had purchased a Brother Scan and Cut machine, but had nowhere to put it.

My mood board, including lots of stitch ideas and clippings from old Country Living magazines. Note the yellows and greens popping through.

Of course, when you give away all the furniture in your sewing room, you have to replace it. But first I took the opportunity to do a little painting, just to cover over some of my earlier paint experiments. The studio was initially just concrete block construction, and in a fit or thesis avoidance I once spent a week painting every concrete block a different colour, with metallic highlights! Luckily that was covered in Gib boards and insulation a couple of years ago.

A fresh, spring, green, or as I think of it, “Country Living Magazine meets sewing room”. The other door is to a very petite bathroom.

The previous owners painted all the doors in our house and sheds a lovely (!) teal blue. We are still staring at the teal after almost nine years, along with the fluoro green hallway, and the bathroom whose colour is hard to describe. Why not repaint? On one income we have concentrated on getting the house maintenance back on schedule, repairing the roof, putting in ventilation, painting peeling windowsills, fencing, gardens etc. And we renovated the studio out the back of the garage, which I use almost every day now. I figure my studio brings me more pleasure than a repainted hallway ever would.

The outside door, a nice chalky yellow. Next to arrange is an insect screen to stop unwanted 6 footed critters that somehow get underneath. I have had two weta come in overnight this month alone.

But the time had come to get rid of the royal blue and teal doors, and to solve my storage issues. While I have been quilting for only a few years, I have accumulated a frightening amount of stuff. The NZ$ was pretty high against the US$ there for a while, plus two local fabric stores have gone under or shut due to retirement, offering a once in a lifetime opportunity to enhance my stash….how could I resist?

The new cutting table to the left is the perfect height. I am still looking for an anti-fatigue mat to put next to it. The pantry cupboards are older, and used to store all my PhD stuff. I had so much fun recycling it after I got my degree! 

I was alerted to a sell off of shop fittings which had turned up at the Salvation Army store, and these have proved a prefect fit for a cutting table. The surface is at bench height, so no more sore back from extended cutting sessions, and there are cupboards underneath to store my red, orange, yellow, black, grey and multi-coloured fabric bins. Blue and brown are still sitting on the floor, but I can work around them for the meantime.

Definitely too small, and I haven’t got the insert for the Horn desk, so have had to raise the bed and use my old extension table for now. The curtains were picked up second-hand in Helsinki.

I got my old Horn sewing desk back from  Daughter #2, but The Hubbie rightly pointed out it isn’t a great longterm solution. I quilt my own quilts, and it simply isn’t big enough. I went back to the Salvation Army store, but the desks were all too high (>70cm), so I will be patient and think on this one.

Next to go up, thread racks.

I had a home handyman pop in last week, and we put up some Ikea kitchen shelves I picked up in Brisbane last year. I must admit, I went a little loopy being let loose in an Ikea store for the first time. I’m not usually a person who enjoys shopping, but I could have happily filled a shipping crate and sent it over the sea to home. Please Ikea, come to New Zealand.

So, the room is almost done, but I am happily sewing away again and enjoying the change of colours. I was going to paint the brown back wall, but that can wait until next summer. Instead I will sew some mini quilts for the walls, but more about that next time.

I even shouted myself a new, larger, ironing board.

Hope you are enjoying your weekend, especially here in NZ where we are celebrating Labour weekend. Next holiday is Christmas, not that we’re counting weeks or days right?

A catch up, and 3rd Quarter FAL

It’s been a while, but I have been otherwise occupied applying for jobs (unsuccessfully), nursing my Mum back to health (successfully), and helping run the local quilt club’s Celebration of Quilts (very successfully!).

Mum had a foot operation, which meant a few weeks of inactivity. To say she was a difficult patient is an understatement. As a normally active gardener, taking care of her garden, my sisters, and her neighbours either side, she did not take to sitting down very well. There were frequent cries of “I’m bored” from her recliner, much like those of a child by week 2 of the school holidays. Luckily for us both, she is back on her feet now. Another operation may be in the pipeline, but next time I will take more DVD’s for her, and my sewing machine for me.

The Rose City Quilters Celebration of Quilts was held over the weekend, and was the first time I had been involved, or shown a finished quilt. Since we thought numbers were going to be down this year, I entered both of my versions of Jen Kingwell’s Gypsy Wife Quilt.

Gypsy Wife (the Autumn version) hanging at the Celebration of Quilts 2016.


The “Summer version” was finished last year, while the darker “Autumn version” was finally bound and finished this quarter, as one of my third quarter goals.

2016 button 250 best

I was hoping to finish MY Small World in time, but embroidering the quilt is proving very slow. I have decided to aim for 2018 instead. Surely I can be finished by then!

I’m glad to say that I won a prize with the “Summer” Gypsy Wife Quilt, the Category for Best Hand Quilting.

Gypsy Wife (Summer version). Sorry about the photo quality, it was pretty dark inside the hall.

I also entered into the Club Challenge, “Through the Looking Glass”, with a small quilt addressing the recent water quality scares in the Hawkes Bay. This little quilt won a second place, but it was the only quilt in its class, so it sort of had to win something. I enjoyed making it, since it was my first art quilt. I have only pieced quilts up til now, whereas this one had embroidery (E. coli) and minimal quilting (agar plates), and a facing on the back made from the remnants of the tea towel.


Most entries kept to the Alice in Wonderland theme, but a few others also chose to interpret the theme in another way.

It was a pretty exhausting weekend, with set-up alone taking seven hours. I arrived early each day, and stayed until after closing time, along with the other organisers. I have slept extremely well the last few nights! The exhibition was held at the Huia Centre at PNGHS, and was a great venue. My job was to be the Merchant’s Rep, to hang out here….


…while trying not to get too tempted by all the fabric, thread and general quilty goodness on sale.


Some of my favourite North Island Quilt Shops were in attendance, but I held strong, and only gave in to some French General fabric and Aurifil thread….plus a bit of Allison Glass…and Lizzy House.

Okay, so I was only partly restrained! I do try to write a very short mental list of things to look for, but I can only withstand temptation for so long. As the rep, I had to keep visiting the stalls, which meant the temptation kept mounting.

We also had a de-stash table, where Club members could sell off bits of their stash they no longer wanted. There were some”vintage” fabrics from the 80’s, but a large part of the fabric found a new home.

The take-down went much faster than set-up, as we had more volunteers. Afterwards I staggered home, I badly needed to get off my feet for a while.

Today I re-acquainted myself with my sewing machine and sewed two more blocks for my 365 Challenge quilt. I am so far behind I have resigned myself to this being a two year project, but that’s okay.


In closing, while she didn’t win a prize, Daughter #2 entered five of her little art quilts in the exhibition, including the Scary Cheshire Cat, and the X-shaped piece next to it. They were all experiments in new techniques, playing with paint and thread. She received a lot of encouragement from more experienced art quilters at the show.

I hope you have a great week. I will stop eating Ferroro Roche chocolates (congratulations present from my Mum), and get on with the day.

Second to last….

I have the second to last “should” quilt up on the design board. Boy, is this one going to be bright.


I am converting a pile of 2 x 7 inch strips into a quilt, throwing in a few meters of a bright yellow solid as the background fabric. I know this sounds like a disaster in the making, but it’s for Daughter #2, for whom nothing can ever be too bright. Instead, she calls it “happy”.


Cutting the strips was done earlier in the year, and now the challenge is to convert them into something other than a straight coin quilt.

For the first row I constructed rainbow stacks, separated by two inch strips of yellow.


Next up, I am repeating the method I used a few years ago to construct a postage stamp quilt, ala Red Pepper Quilts tutorial. I am using only blue, orange and low volume strips in this row. Some order amongst the chaos is called for.

I’m not going to sew the rows together until the end, as I want to play around a bit with this quilt. Meanwhile I am having fun looking at ideas of what I can create from the strips. Any ideas would be gratefully received.

Now it’s off to the dentist. No worries though, since my dentist believes in giving you all the painkillers you need to avoid feeling anything! The down side is it takes hours for the effect to wear off, so I won’t be having a cup of tea for quite a few hours. Or food.

Have a great week, I’m enjoying seeing the blossoms, on this first day of Spring.

My Plum tree in blossom.

Linking up with Sew Fresh Quilts.

Eat your veggies first!

Sound familiar? As a kid, vegetables were a punishment I endured before getting to eat the good stuff, dessert! We had a house cow, so we ate a lot of desserts, usually milk based. As a Jersey cow, she produced up to 22 bottles of milk a day, which we had to get through. Of course I never connected these yummy puddings with the symptoms of lactose intolerance, but how could sago or semolina custard ever be bad for you?

Anyway, this way of thinking has remained with me. The veggies first mentality. So when faced with trying to do more of the sewing I actually wanted to do, I found I couldn’t do it unless I had cleared my plate of “veggies”, the “should” projects.


The complete list was a little longer than I had initially thought. Two quilts for nephews, and three for my Daughters. But just as I used to throw myself reluctantly into eating the gritty, sand enhanced silverbeet my Mother dished up at night (it grew next to our sandpit), so I have thrown myself into getting rid of these projects. (NB: I did draw a line at eating silverbeet when I found spiders and earwigs on my plate as well).


First up was a quilt for Cooper. Done. Nothing fancy, just squares of various sizes, til I had used up all the fabric. I even used the leftover backing fabric to make binding. He loves dinosaurs, and as long as nobody calls the rocks and minerals “Jewels”, it should be a hit.


Next up was a quilt for Daughter #1. I found a length of “One Piece” fabric at Morelands Fabric and was instructed that cutting it up would ruin it. That turned the project into a simple “blankie” style quilt. I even used the backing as binding. Done and dusted in a few hours.

I don’t usually quilt fabric with people and animals on it. I don’t like cutting into the images, dissecting them. Can you tell I’m a reluctant meat eater? I found myself quilting in rather crooked lines to avoid sewing through the heads.

One Piece characters on top, and a Riley Blake fabric on the back.

Next up is the quilt for nephew #2. He has requested “masculine” colours. Blue, dark blue, black, and green. No yellow, please! I found a deer fabric which I thought might appeal to him, given how he loves going shooting with his Dad. It’s not my cup of tea, but I am prepared to put aside my own liberal, lefty, pacifistic principles for one quilt.

Make quilts, not war!

I will go through my stash and find some deep blues and greens. Still mulling over quite how to put it together though.


After this quilt I have two projects for Daughter #2. One I will send off to be finished, because of its sheer size. I got halfway through the quilting then discovered a tuck in the back, which I had repeatedly sewn over. It is currently sitting on the naughty step.

The second is a coin quilt, which I find fun and fast to make.  They are fun, bright, and I enjoy revisiting the scraps they use up. I think another week and a half should see me clear of these projects, and then I can have dessert again (my Jen Kingwell quilts).

The trick is then to take on no more “should” projects. With this held firmly in mind, I have already turned down a hint for a super king-size quilt by my SIL. Think she was only kidding?

Linking up eventually with WIP Wednesday.