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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Post Card from V & A

This lovely post card arrived in the mail today from my Aussie friend Elaine, currently in London. The message was “Thinking of you, just seen the most magnificent display of antique quilts here in London”. It’s certainly a case of wishing I was there too. I am to blame for Elaine taking up quilting – and she is a real quilting addict now.


The magnificent quilt on the postcard was made in 1820 by Ann West. It is covered in appliqué figures of birds and animals and figures of many people. I can only imagine how wonderful it would be to see it hanging with all the others on display in the Victoria and Albert Museum, in London.

We visited the V & A during our UK trip in 2008 with the express purpose of looking through the Textile Room. Examples are displayed in glass covered pull out slides, enabling the public to really study the pieces of cloth. There are woven, printed and embroidered examples on display. I was particularly interested in the medieval fabric and marvelled that such examples have been preserved and are able to be viewed by anyone with an interest in textiles.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Button Lady

We had a very interesting speaker last week at the Pinestream Quilters club night - Mary Brito, also known as the “Button Lady”. This lovely English lady had us in stitches when she related living at the back of the family haberdashery shop as a young girl. She was fascinated by the beautiful buttons in the shop, in particular the lovely glass buttons from Czechoslovakia. So she snipped the threads holding three cards of buttons, put them in a jar so that she could admire the pretty colours, and hid the incriminating cards (minus their expensive buttons) under the carpet. Her secret was soon found out, and she was in disgrace!


Mary told us about the history of buttons, from the hand made Dorset buttons, shell buttons, metal buttons, and on to the machine produced varieties. She brought along many examples to show us. The mention of rubber buttons on those Liberty bodices some of us had to wear as a child certainly brought back many memories. “You must keep your kidneys warm”, my Mother used to tell me. And didn’t those suspender belts from long ago have rubber buttons on them too? When Mary emigrated out to New Zealand, she became a button wholesaler, and travelled around the lower part of the North Island calling on department stores and the many haberdashery shops that were part of the local shops at that time. Mary was a delightful speaker, and so enthusiastic in her love of buttons.

DSCF3762 Mary Brito – the Button Lady

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Something I prepared earlier

Not so many ladies made it to our sewing group this month, but never mind, we still had a busy day. My first job of the day was to do some mending. This was the mending that I really should have done on Sunday, but never got around to it. Robin’s work shorts now no longer have holes in the pockets – he told me his pens kept falling out. I have put patches over the previously patched pockets. With any luck these shorts will last the distance then when he stops work they can be discarded. Or maybe we will light a bonfire and throw them on to burn. He has certainly had his money’s worth out of these work shorts, and he has my patched pockets to thank for that!

That little job out of the way, I then got on to some interesting sewing. No, I didn’t take any of the many UFOs I have in various stages of completion, I felt like starting something new. So I took along a kit that which was a gift from Carol of South Dakota. Inside the kit was the pattern, and a whole bunch of five inch squares in country colours. Prior to attending my sewing group, I prepared all the pieces, cutting the necessary number of squares and rectangles, and put them all into their individual labelled bags. So everything was ready to sew. I stitched away making small and large half square triangles, then sewed squares on to the ends of rectangles, cut and pressed. The pieces were quite fiddly, so it all took ages. Then everything got put back into the little plastic bags again, till the next time.

DSCF3753 All pieces cut and labelled

Joyce spent most of the day at her sewing machine doing freehand machine quilting. She was working on a 21st birthday quilt for her grand-daughter composed of half square triangles in such a lovely colour range. With the quilting finally finished, Joyce then spent the rest of the day sewing them the ends in.

DSCF3754 21st birthday quilt

Margaret was finishing off a quilt for her grand-daughter,too, and just had the binding to sew down on this pretty pastel quilt. The centre appliqué block is of angels growing out of a flower pot. This is surrounded by pastel checkerboards, such a pretty quilt for a little girl.

DSCF3755 Angel quilt for a little girl

There is a bit of a story about the quilt Heather is holding up. Heather was at the recent Capital Quilters quilt show, demonstrating hand quilting, when she was approached by a visitor, Sister Marion. One of the Sisters had started a hexagon quilt some years ago, but had since passed away. Did Heather know anyone who could help finish the quilt? Heather replied that she would be delighted to help, so went and collected a chocolate box full of hexagons. This is the finished result – didn’t she do well! The Sisters will be thrilled, I’m sure.

DSCF3751 Heather with the hexagon quilt

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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Hancock’s Half-hour

“Would you like to have a look through this?”, Christine asked me as she handed over her Hancock’s catalogue. No time to read it at work, so she suggested I take it home to look through it at my leisure. Christine is a good overseas customer and often places orders with this company.


So Hancock’s came home with me and I spent a happy half hour flicking through the many colourful pages. There was everything from Halloween fabrics, Japanese designs, lovely florals of every hue, black and whites, Civil War reproductions, French country, Americana and Christmas designs. My favourites would have to be all those beautiful Hoffman Batiks.

DSCF3732 Pages of beautiful Batik fabrics to drool over

Perhaps one day I just might make it to Paducah, to see the American Quilter's Society Annual Quilt Show. Then I could stop off and visit Hancock’s as well. However, I would probably be overwhelmed with so much choice and wouldn’t be able to decide what to buy. I could just imagine it – shall I have some of this, or this, or what about that one? I’m sad to say that this has happened to me before when I’ve been in a quilt fabric shop overseas, I am such a procrastinator. Perhaps I’ll just make do with looking through the catalogue. As I won’t be buying anything, I won’t have the agony of making any choices. Oh, I feel better already!

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Friday, June 18, 2010

Thank you for Daisy

Joy just loves turtles, and has a collection of hundreds of them at home. Not real ones, of course, but toy turtles in all shapes and sizes. I made her a soft cuddly green turtle a while ago which she promptly named Daisy. As soon as I saw the pattern in a craft magazine, I knew I had to make it for Joy.


“Do you like cheesecake?”, Joy asked me during the week. Of course I do! She then presented me with a lovely home made cheesecake to take home for dessert. “Thank you for making me Daisy”, she said. What a lovely surprise that was. We made short work of the cheesecake, it was delicious. Thanks, Joy.


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Don’t you love books too?

Aaah, a good book when you are tucked up somewhere warm on a cold night, what could be nicer? I’ve just finished reading “A Quilters Holiday”, another in the Elm Creek Quilts series by Jennifer Chiaverini. And just today, I’ve picked up “The Aloha Quilt” by this author from our public library. I enjoy these quilt novels, with their gentle twists and turns, telling of the ups and downs of the characters lives. I certainly feel I know all these people in the quilt novels, as I have followed their stories from the very first novel.

I love other books too. Anything about the Tudor royals is pounced on and devoured. There is something about that period in history that I just can’t get enough of, with the lives of Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn entwined with Henry. And not forgetting Bloody Mary and Elizabeth, and their love/hate relationship.

But…… to tell the truth, I really love to read books about serial killers. Books by the likes of James Patterson, Karen Rose, and Mo Hayder. I love the twists and turns of psychological thrillers, the dastardly deeds, with the detectives and the profilers working against the clock to stop these monsters from striking again. Wonder what my reading preference says about me? I wrote a poem about this subject a wee while ago. Do tell me what you think.

There's a killer in the moonlight, ties a cord of silk around

A slim young neck and then, pulls tight, without a sound

There’s a killer in the moonlight, with a knife he cuts and thrusts

The victim falls down bleeding, all his dreams have turned to dust

The killer trains in moonlight, when blue skies turn to dark

He’s waiting for his next one, to come walking through the park

So be careful in the moonlight, when you're out there all alone

You don’t know who is watching, keeping silent as a stone

But if I seem obsessed, with the killer and his deed

Just blame the public library, and all the books I read!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Beyond Meander

The rain was falling, the temperatures were dropping, no doubt there was snow on the hills, it was an all out rotten day. But did I care? No way - I was a happy little camper attending a machine quilting class at my local quilt shop, Thimbles and Threads, of Upper Hutt. Our tutor was Chris Kenna, an award winning quilter. There were just three of us in the class, weren’t we lucky. So were were ensured of plenty of individual attention with such a small number.

The class was called “Beyond Meander”, and was aimed at teaching us what else we could do other than stipple. After we had assembled a quilt sandwich, marked it into a grid, it was time to try tried out lots of these new designs. Our class notes were excellent, and Chris explained each new design to us. We were encouraged to draw it on paper first, to “set it in our minds”, so to speak. I must admit that I found this tip very helpful.


DSCF3728 Class samples of machine quilting designs

We tried straight lines, curvy lines, and a very effective pattern that resembled rippling water. We practiced sewing vines with leaves, and strawberries, and tendrils. Then there were shells and pebbles. Stitching spirals was a bit difficult for me, obviously I need to practice that pattern a lot more. And I think I failed to master the free motion fan design. Never mind, I was getting a bit tired by then.

DSCF3725 We are all concentrating hard

Chris had brought along several of her beautiful quilts, and pointed out where in the quilt she had used the design we were currently working on. She was very encouraging as she walked around, checking our work, and offered help when things went wrong. As anyone who has tried free motion quilting knows, it is not always easy to get the effect you are aiming for!

DSCF3730 Chris Kenna with her House Quilt

At the end of our class we laid our sample pieces out to see the variations in our individual styles. Chris then asked us what designs we found easy and which were more difficult. This was a very interesting discussion. For myself, I found that I preferred stitching bigger designs rather than the tiny ones, and had real trouble trying to stitch points. Seems I am more attuned to doing rounded flowing designs. Chris was a marvellous teacher, so kind and giving, and we all certainly enjoyed our class with her. Practise, practise, practice, but make sure you practice on something “good”. Then we will do our best work, we were told. I had a marvellous day, and came home buzzing with excitement of all the future possibilities I could achieve.

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Friday, June 11, 2010

An angel amongst us

It’s amazing what you can find when you while away a few minutes looking through discarded magazines. There I was, idly flicking through an extremely old Reader’s Digest (June 1998) in the lunch room at work, when I came across an article about quilting. The words jumped out at me. “Even convicts are joyfully stitching”, it said. The article went on to describe how members of the Wellington Quilt Guild were teaching patchwork and quilting to women behind the bars at Wellington’s Arohata Women’s Prison.

Our club member June is the angel who initiated this programme , way back in October 1993. That’s five years before the Reader’s Digest article was written. June and three others started the ball rolling, and every Saturday since then June and her volunteers give up their time to help the prisoners. A few years later the volunteers were also asked to teach in the Drug Treatment Unit, so that means two programmes are run each Saturday. The new quilters are known as the “Shut-In Stitchers”.

Most of them had not sewn before and they usually start out with a basic design of squares. As they progress, some of them produce quite stunning an innovative quilts. The three local quilt clubs help out with donations of fabric, which is held in storage off site. They can request a particular colour to complete their quilts, and June and her helpers do their best to meet this need. From time to time June proudly brings in a selection of completed quilts to club meetings to show off the work of her “girls”. Their quilts brighten up their cell rooms, they stitch quilts for their children, and quilts for their Mums. They stitch their quilts with pride, and they are given away to their family members with much love.


DSCF3589 Quilts made by the Shut-In Stitchers

June has given seventeen years to this cause, which is very dear to her heart. We applaud her dedication, and commitment, and wonder just how many women she has helped express their creativity with our wonderful craft. June, you and your helpers certainly are angels, and we are proud to know you.

DSCF3587 Colour wash quilt

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Krazy Cow

Certainly an unusual name for a quilt shop, isn’t it? I came across this quaint shop during our weekend trip to Levin. It is situated in the former Levin Railway Station at the southern end of town. This certainly needed checking out. One of the joys of travelling is visiting out of town quilt shops. There is sure to be something inside that you really must take home.

DSCF3664 The Krazy Cow quilt shop in Levin

The shop was light and airy with classroom facilities at the far end. There was a good range of fabric on the shelves and quilts adorned the walls. Lots of stock to look at and ponder over. The friendly owner was quite happy for me to take a few photos and took my details to put me on her newsletter list. I purchased a pattern, and just a little fabric, after all, I really couldn’t help myself! This is a lovely shop to visit if you are passing through Levin.



Fancy a coffee on your visit? No problem – there is a “coffee shack” on the premises and you can relax on one of the comfy couches while you sip your latte.

DSCF3662Fancy a coffee?

Jigger the parakeet keeps his eye on the customers. He is such a colourful pretty little bird, and so friendly.

DSCF3658 Hello, my name is Jigger

If you love parrots you will be interested in our visit to the Parrot Ranch during our weekend at Levin. Check out our other blog www.romanyrambler.blogspot.com for more parrot pictures.

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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Dolls Houses for Grown-ups

The Chestnut Gallery in Greytown specialise in dolls houses and made to scale miniature furniture. A group of us went to visit in the weekend and check it all out. The business is situated in a pretty little cottage which is full to overflowing with dolls houses and accessories of all types and styles.


Many of the dolls houses are obviously made for the serious adult collector who has an interest in miniatures. This wonderfully ornate old style American house had tiny individual shingles fixed to the roof. Period style furniture is displayed in lovely glass cases, including tiny little dinner sets. Tiny light fittings are there to add to the house of your dreams to illuminate it in the evenings. And to add just the right finishing touch, small sheets of wallpaper are available to decorate the rooms in your preferred style.


DSCF3616Just for grown ups, a beautiful period dolls house

There were more robust dolls houses on display that little girls could quite happily while away many a happy hour rearranging all the little items of furniture inside them. All this made me feel quite deprived and rather envious, as I’m sure that I never had a dolls house when I was a little girl.


DSCF3627 Especially for little girls

There was a small selection of quilts on display too. Someone has been busy stitching these.

DSCF3617I even found something for Robin to play with. Do you think he would like this toy caravan and green convertible car for Christmas? With the lift up top, hinged front, and all the caravan fittings he could have hours of fun, don’t you think?

DSCF3614Toy caravan and car