Welcome to tales of my stitching life, home, family and friends.

Friday, May 26, 2017

New Zealand Birds

My New Zealand Birds quilt top is finished, so that’s a big smile from me.  Mind you, it’s quite small, but even so, a small finish is still rather pleasing.  I’ve been carefully machine blanket stitching around each of these little birds during the week.  Then today I assembled the rows using a leafy green fabric.


The top row is the fantail (piwakawaka), followed by the tui, known as the parson bird by the early settlers because of the white feathers at the throat.  Row number three features the stitchbird (hihi), a rare honeyeater now only found in bird sanctuaries.  Followed by the intelligent and inquisitive kea, the world’s only alpine parrot.

In true “use it up” style, I’ve pieced the backing, and stitched two pieces of batting together to give me the correct size.  My little quilt is now layered and pinned, all ready to quilt.  It’s been a busy week socially with a coffee morning, and a ladies lunch later in the week, so I’m really pleased with what I have achieved so far.

Pinned up ready to quilt

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Chirpy chirpy, cheep, cheep

This week it’s all about birds.  New Zealand native birds, to be precise, as I’m starting work on my bird wall-hanging.  There has been a bit of fusing and stitching going on, and this is what I’ve got to show for it.   New Zealand has some very special birds, such as the kea,  the world's only alpine parrot, living amongst the tussock grasses on the mountain-side.  The kea is a large, strong-flying, olive-green parrot with scarlet underwings and a slender grey-black bill.

The kea

I’ve also stitched around some pretty little fantails.  Fantails use their broad tails to change direction quickly while hunting for insects, flitting from here to there at speed. They sometimes hop around upside-down amongst tree ferns and foliage to pick insects from the underside of leaves.


One thing I have learnt from stitching these birds down is that if you are not happy with how it is going – stop immediately.  Instead of plodding on to the end, as I did on some other birds.  I had used an older, thicker thread, which looked fine colourwise, but stitched up much too thick and looks ugly.  So I'll be spending some time with my unpicker, trying to gently remove the offending stitches without stretching the fabric.  Wish me luck on that job.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Roll the Dice – Pink or Blue?

In the weekend I did an unscientific experiment with my dice.  As you know, I like to give my pink dice a shake, rattle and roll on the carpet to determine which UFO I will be working on for the current week.  But I’ve long suspected that not all numbers are coming up regularly – in fact, I don’t remember number 6 being selected for many months.  So with Robin’s help as scribe, I rolled my pink dice, just as I usually do, ten times.  Interesting enough, two numbers did not get selected at all.  Perhaps that is what “the dice is loaded” means.  Mr Google tells me, that when  the dice are loaded, weight has been added  to one side or another of dice so that they will always come up with certain numbers facing upward.


Luckily the bag of dice I purchased from the $2 shop contained several more of different colours.  So I repeated the experiment with the blue dice, and this time all numbers came up.  Strange but true.  Robin doesn’t think this proves anything and tells I would be better off using a random number generator each week instead.  But I feel that’s a bit too new fangled for me and would take all the fun out of choosing a number.

My pink dice has been pensioned off, and it’s blue cousin had a turn.  It’s a new project, first time called up, and this week I’ll be working on my New Zealand native bird wall-hanging.  What's in the bag?  Let’s see how much of this I had actually started.  Lots of birds cut out with fusible attached, all ready to be appliqued.

Birds cut out ready to applique

I've had a busy morning out and about, doing a few quilty things, such as buying more batting, and some cord for a future project.  Did a little shopping, and went to the library – I just can’t live without a book or two to read.  And just look at this lovely sight I saw while I was driving around, the first sprinkle of snow on the Tararua Ranges.  In our part of New Zealand the snow seldom falls on the ground.

First snowfall of the season

So I didn’t really feel like sitting at the machine in the afternoon.  But at least I know where I’m up to,  and I’ve also prepared some “leader and ender” sewing as well, and hopefully can make a good start tomorrow.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Christmas Smorgasbord

Finished at last – and now officially called “Christmas Smorgasbord”.  And what a smorgasbord of colours and fabrics it is.  Red and green, of course, with white, cream, tan, yellow and a little blue.  Stars of all shapes, mostly pieced, with a few appliqued as well.  The prints feature Father Christmas in many variations,  reindeer and holly, angels, wrapped gifts, bells, and baubles, Christmas trees, stars and teddies, in fact, everything Christmassy.


It started out like this, Christmas stars and nine patch blocks received from a couple of internet block swaps I took part in ages ago.  One swap for the stars, and the other for the nine patches in Christmas colours.  Thinking they would go well together, I combined the blocks into one quilt top.  And of course I didn’t have quite enough so stitched up a few more blocks to make it even.  I made the quilt top square, with seven blocks across and seven blocks down.

Most of these blocks were received through internet block swaps

Once the top was assembled, I machine quilted through the nine patch blocks, and individually quilted through each star block.  Then I quilted gentle curves around the borders, and lastly, applied and then hand stitched down the binding.  Some quilters don’t like stitching the binding down, but I quite enjoy this step - with just the label to go,  it means I’m almost at the finish line.

Almost finished

Like most of my UFOs, this quilt has been hanging about for much too long.  But it’s finished now, in plenty of time for next Christmas.  Which is only 7 months away, for those who are counting.

Christmas Smorgasbord

Friday, May 19, 2017

Not all dyes are created equal

I’m rather fond of my New Zealand themed tablecloth.  After making several similar quilt tops to take to quilting friends on our trip to UK in 2008, on our return I sat down and stitched myself one as well.  The pattern is done “postcard style”  bordered in strips of black fabric.  This morning after I gave it a good press and laid it over the table I noticed that some of the black fabric strips had definitely faded much more than others.  Looks like I used up all my black scraps, purchased at different times from different shops.  On the table is with my still surviving Poinsettia plant, a Christmas gift and still going strong – I must be doing something right.

New Zealand Postcard tablecloth – some of the black is decidedly grey

New Zealand print in the blue Pacific

I’m still working away on UFO number 5, my Christmas Stars and Nine Patch quilt.  Now I’ve finished quilting the stars, the next step in this project is to machine quilt the border, and attach the binding.  With any luck I’ll get it finished tomorrow.

Christmas Stars and Nine Patches

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Sew Wot Tuesday

It was great to catch up with the Sew Wot ladies again on Tuesday, but sickness and medical appointments kept our numbers low this time.  Mary was our hostess, and provided a lovely morning tea, as usual.  No wonder one of the husbands call us the “Eat Alots”!

Both Mary and Heather B had been along recently to Fox’s Cottage quilt shop and taken a class making the popular jelly roll quilt.  Heather’s quilt top was dark blue, with a distinctly Japanese look to it.  She spent the rest of the morning cutting out some striking blue and orange fish - these will be placed randomly on the quilt and appliqued in place.

Heather peeping over the top of her Jelly Roll quilt

Mary’s quilt from the class was definitely scrappy,  and I liked the addition of the black corner stones.  It gave the design quite a different look.

Mary’s Jelly Roll quilt

Mary had another quilt top to show.  She had taken part in a nine patch swap with a friend and put her blocks together in this striking setting.

Mary’s nine patch swap blocks

We spent the morning looking at magazine – everyone swears these breed in the dark.  And chatting too, of course.  Moira was quietly stitching away, making an interesting looking doorstop.  No photos till it’s completed, I was told.  Heather E was working away on even more hexagons – something she likes to do as  they use up tiny bits of fabric.  And I was stitching the first of my four corner blocks for my Christmas ABC quilt.

Mary’s Zen-embroidery project is coming along well.  She has stitched around all the leaves, and is now adding colour with the flowers.  This is going to be a beautiful piece indeed when it is completed.

Mary’s Zen-embroidery

I had to leave a little early as I had a hospital appointment, but I couldn’t go without taking a photo of Mary’s lovely front garden.  Whatever the season, it is always a joy to behold.  Mary is an avid gardener, and it certainly shows.

Mary’s front garden, with the tiny citrus tree full of fruit

Monday, May 15, 2017

It’s Monday again

I’m home from a weekend away in the caravan – and as it’s Monday I get to roll the dice again.  What number will I get this week?.  After slaving away on my Christmas Stars and Nine Patch quilt last week, and not getting nearly enough accomplished, I was prepared to have to put it away and work on something else.  I’d decided when I first started with my dice rolling that there would be no cheating or manipulations of numbers, and the quilting angels must have been on my side this week as number 5 came up again, two weeks in a row. So I’m a happy quilter, and fingers crossed, will get to complete this project this time around.


The big question as I started to quilt the remaining stars – will my roll of variegated thread last the distance?  Yes it did, with a little to spare.

Almost at the end of the roll

But I’m not finished yet -  I then decided that I needed to quilt in the ditch around each star.  So that’s my plan, and I’ll get to the finish line eventually, enjoying the journey as I go along.


Sunday, May 14, 2017

Happy Mother’s Day

Down here in New Zealand we celebrate Mothers Day on the 2nd Sunday of May.  Although I believe that Mother’s Day has different dates overseas.  My daughter posted me parcel which arrived just in time for me to pack it in the caravan for our weekend away at Carterton.  And what did she send me?  A beautiful card, and a packet of Spring bulbs – how lovely, they will soon get planted in a pot outside.  I just love the scent of freesias.

From my daughter
While away with our caravan club friends, there was a special Morning Tea today in honour of all the Mums amongst our members.  All the men had to do was prepare and bring over tea or coffee as their spouses preferred. 

Here comes Robin with  the coffee

And our Rally organizers for the weekend, Diane and Barry, prepared a scrumptious Morning Tea, although I suspect that Diane did most of the cooking.  The table was beautifully set, and we all tucked in to our home made morning tea.

Lots of home made goodies

So Happy Mother’s Day to all, wherever you may live.  Hope your Sunday was a great one.

Celebrating Mother’s Day at Carterton

Friday, May 12, 2017

Quilting and Cooking don’t always Mix

I’m trying hard but I don’t think I’m going to complete my Christmas Stars and Nine Patches this week.  Although I’ve been working away steadily quilting each and every star, I still haven’t finished.  It always seems to take a lot longer than I think it will.  All over meandering would have been a lot quicker, but I decided to quilt each star block individually instead.

Slowly getting there with the quilting

My time hasn’t really been my own as we are off again in the caravan for the weekend.  But I have been busy in the kitchen, whipping up culinary delights to take away.  I’ve prepared stuffed chicken breasts which I can pop into the oven for our Saturday night dinner.  Made some stuffed potatoes too, all ready to heat and eat, and cooked up some Scotch Eggs for a casual lunch.

Scotch Eggs – haven’t made these for a while

And then I had a kitchen disaster when I tried a new recipe for a fruit loaf – enough said about that, but I had to chuck it in the bin.  Guess I was doing too much at the same time, and must have left an important ingredient out.  Women CAN multi-task, I tell myself, but I must have got myself in a bit of a pickle, I think.

I was so looking forward to getting this UFO done and dusted and off my List of Six.  I’ll make sure  I take the quilt away with me on our caravan club weekend, and I’ll be able to sew the many ends in.  And next time when I decide to quilt stars or something similar, I should try to accomplish it in a continuous line without so many starts and stops (and ends) in each block.   But there’s always next week and another roll of the dice. 

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Town and Country Quilters Birthday

It’s our quilt club’s birthday, and we have now turned 30.  Of course we needed a cake to celebrate.

Our birthday cake

It was also our AGM night, the President’s Report was read, the accounts presented, and the Election of Officers took place.  With all this business taken care of, the meeting resorted back to it’s usual format, and Show and Tell took place.  Club members had been invited to bring along both their first quilts, and their latest quilts.  Most of the early quilts had quite a story attached, and the latest quilts showed just how the quilters had progressed.  There were some real beauties, and here are a few which took my fancy.

Crazy cats and mice by Greit

Kaffe Fasset beauty by Sheryl

Two quite different styles from Sew Wot member Helen

We enjoyed supper at the end of the meeting, including a slice of that delicious birthday cake.  The supper tables had been decorated with a birthday theme, raffles were drawn, sadly no, not me again, we mixed and mingled before heading home.

Happy 30th Birthday to us

Monday, May 8, 2017

Monday is Roll the Dice Day

After a two week holiday away in our caravan, which was wonderful, it’s nice to be back home again.  One thing I’ve been looking forward to while we were away is coming back home and getting on with my UFOs.  Hence – roll the dice to see which one I’m working on this week from my List of Six.  And I’m thrilled that the dice landed on number 5, which is my Christmas Stars and Nine Patches quilt. I’ve been wanting to get back to this one for ages.

It started out like this, Christmas stars and nine patch blocks received from a couple a block swaps I took part in ages ago.  And of course I stitched more to give myself plenty of blocks to play with.

Christmas stars and nine patch blocks

Looking back, it seems that I hadn’t worked on this quilt for a while.  At my last sewing session I had completed “stitching in the ditch” around all the blocks to hold the quilt together, and also both sides along the inner border.  So that was a good start.  Today I’ve completed the straight line machine quilting through all the nine patch blocks, using a variegated thread I  found tucked away in Christmas colours of red, green and cream.  Guess I’ll be sewing in some ends tonight in front of the TV.

Starting the straight line quilting

Looks like I’ll need to brush those chalk lines away

With a couple of free afternoons this week, I should  be able to get some more machine quilting done.  Every little bit helps!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Home Again

After our two week trip we have made it home, safe and sound.  Always a bit of a worry with big trucks and crazy drivers on the road.  There were several scary moments – one was when a big truck came hurtling towards us, encroaching on our side of the road on a blind corner as we drove around a steep bluff.  And later, when the car behind us overtook us on a double yellow line, not knowing what was ahead. 

At Otorohanga we spotted this gorgeous Kiwi on the edge of the town.   Otorohanga is known as Kiwi Town and has been very successful in breeding our national bird in the Kiwi House and National Bird Centre.

Welcome to Otorohanga

It was rather special when we visited the Blue and Green Lakes at Rotorua.  Would you believe that we were last standing on the lookout on the narrow isthmus separating these  two lakes on our honeymoon, all those years ago, when we did an all day trip taking in some of Rotorua’s scenic delights.

On the isthmus – look this way for the Blue lake, and that way for the Green Lake

At the lookout

As we left Lake Taupo on our way home, we stopped at the top of the hill so I could take photograph Mt Ruapehu and Mt Ngauruhoe looking as picturesque as ever across Lake Taupo.  It’s no secret that I love looking at the mountains, and Robin often ask me just how many photos I need to take of them.  What a question – as many as I can!

Mt Ruapehu and Mt Ngauruhoe looking across Lake Taupo

I’m rather pleased that I found some spare time to stitch the last two blocks of my Christmas ABC blocks, designed by Michelle Ridgeway from her series Alphabet Noel.  I’ve stitched “Y is for Yule Log”, and “Z is for zzzing”.  I’ll be stitching four more blocks to give me a total of 30, then I can put my Christmas blocks together.  But as far as my knitting goes, I’m feeling a bit “bah humbug” about it.  After knitting away merrily as we traveled here and there, I discovered that I misread the shaping instructions.  All my own fault of course, but I’ll need to sit somewhere quiet and sort out what needs to be done.

Y and Z blocks completed

As to be expected, I did my fair share of visiting laundromats,  some commercial ones and others at Motor Camps.  In my scheme of things, holiday or not, the laundry must get done!

It’s laundry day again

Now we are home again, it’s time to catch up on things and reflect on our trip.  Actually, we will be away again before we know it, hitching up the van again next Friday.  Not a long trip this time, only for the weekend.  But before we go, I’m itching to “roll the dice” again on Monday morning, and get into some more sewing.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Two more Stitchery Blocks

I came across this great sign while tripping around our beautiful country in our caravan.  “Do more of  what makes you happy”, the sign read.  What makes me really happy is sitting outside under the shady umbrella on a glorious sunny day, working on my stitchery blocks.  It’s interesting how many ladies in the camp come and see what I’m doing, whether they are crafters or not.


While on our latest caravan trip,  I’ve completed the last two blocks of my Christmas ABC blocks, designed by Michelle Ridgeway from her series Alphabet Noel.  I’ve stitched “Y is for Yule Log”, and “Z is for zzzing”.

Y and Z Christmas stitchery blocks

But I’m not stopping here.  With the alphabet consisting of 26 letters, I’ve decided to stitch four more blocks to make the total of 30.  That way I can make my Christmas blocks into a quilt five blocks across and six blocks down.  So with the four extra blocks to stitch, I’m not quite finished yet.

With our time at Bowentown coming to a close, we will be moving on tomorrow.  We have been taking part in the inaugural Leisureline Caravan Owners Rally, and had a great time.

Leisurelines at Bowentown
View from the hill top looking over the camp at all our vans