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

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Binding and Baking

I was pleased to have a day at home after all the rushing here and there lately to work on the Memory Quilt I’m making for a friend.  The machine quilting was finally completed, so it was time for the binding.  Looking through my stash earlier, I had selected some green batik for the binding, which would tone in nicely with the caravan print borders.  Sliced it into lengths which I stitched together, and pressed in half, I was good to go.

PB270048 The binding prepared

Using my walking foot, I soon had the binding stitched around most of the edge.  But then came the tricky part………..for the life of me I just couldn’t work out how to correctly measure and pin that last seam to finish off the binding.   I know, I know, I’ve done it before, but this technique always seems to fox me.  But Mr Google knows everything and after I had typed in “how to join quilt binding”  it all became clear again.  Will I remember next time?  Who knows – but I do know how to find the answer again.  Is it just me, or do others have this problem too?  I’m one step closer to completion.  Next job is to fold the binding over, and hand stitch it all in place.  Then I’ll just  need to make a hanging sleeve and a label.

PB270050 Binding stitched on

Don’t know what’s happening to the weather but today turned out to be cold, wet and windy, and we can hear the wind whistling around the front of the house.  Just the sort of weather that a nice warming steak and kidney casserole will be just right for our evening meal.  It just seems so strange to be cooking winter warming comfort food at this time of the year, after all, its practically summer.  While I was busy in the kitchen doing all that chopping, dicing and browning the meat as I prepared the casserole, I thought I might as well do some baking too.  There was a new lemon slice recipe  I’d been waiting to try, and I made a batch of afghan biscuits too.  When the afghans had cooled down it was a team effort - I slathered them with chocolate icing and Robin helped too as he  topped each one with a walnut half.  So that’s how I spent my day today.

PB270001 Chocolate afghan biscuits, yummy

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Ladies who Lunch

The Christmas break-ups are starting to come thick and fast – after all, it’s that time of the year.  Today was the turn of the Coffee Club, a ladies support group run by the Cancer Society.  I hadn’t been able to attend as many meetings as I would have liked this year, but was determined to go to this final meeting of the year, a lunch out at the Winemaker’s Daughter.  About 25 of us pooled cars and drove down SH1 to Te Horo.  We settled ourselves down at the tables and were kept busy pulling the Christmas Crackers, reading out the corny jokes, and making sure our Christmas hats were on straight.  Then we got down to the serious business of checking out the menu.

There was a surprise in store for us all when Anne, the leader of our group announced that the Coffee Club would cover the cost of the $10 main courses, with funds raised during the year.  Drinks, tea or coffee,  and dessert would be at our own cost.  The $10 menu had plenty for everyone to choose from, and I decided on corn fritters, potatoe  wedges and salad, as did several others on my table.

PB250007 Not bad for $10.00

We had all been asked to take along a wrapped gift and we chose one from the big green bag which was passed around the tables.  All sorts of interesting gifts were unwrapped.  I received a pretty candle, and I noticed others unwrapping chocolates, always well received, a lovely box of Turkish Delight, toiletries, notebooks and a Christmas tree decoration or two. 

After we had finished our meals, drunk a coffee or two, and caught up with what the other tables were getting up to, Anne had an announcement to make.  “My gift to you all”, she said, “is a mini Christmas Cake”  What a lovely thing to do.  She came around each table with her basket of beautifully wrapped, home baked mini cakes.

PB250008 Anne presenting us all with a mini Christmas cake

Just before we left, Margaret, one of the volunteer helpers  wanted Anne and the committee to be thanked before we all dispersed.  “Will you do it?”, she asked me.  Why not – guess I can be brave enough to stand up in front of everyone for a good cause.  So I grabbed a spoon and ding, ding, dinged on the water jug to get everyone to stop talking.  Then on behalf of everyone present  I thanked Anne and her helpers for all the work they had done for us during the year.  They put in many hours of voluntary work for the Cancer Society Coffee Club and it is most appreciated.  We ladies had a most enjoyable lunch.  

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Kirks Christmas Shop

It’s that time of year again for my big trip into Wellington City to see and enjoy the Kirks Christmas shop.  Kirkcaldie and Stains department store is a Wellington institution, and has been around since 1863.  The beautifully turned our doorman was on duty, as he has been for many years. He opened the door for me, and I walked inside, and up two flights of stairs to reach the Christmas shop.

PB220018 The doorman at Kirks

The Christmas shop was a riot of gold, silver, red and green, with people everywhere.  I heard one little poppet exclaim, “I can’t stop looking Mummy”.  I know how she felt, as I slowly walked around all the displays, I couldn’t stop looking either.  Here were some Santas, over there were reindeer, and further along were drummer boys, elves, fairies, and the popular New Zealand Christmas display showing Santa on his surfboard, kombi vans to hang on the tree, silver ferns and green koru fronds.

PB220005

PB220011 Lots of Santas everywhere

Youngsters were watching closely as the Christmas train went busily round and round the track.

PB220007Train set

As I  shuffled  slowly around all the displays, taking care not to trip over pushchairs or any small children who were beneath my field of vision, toys with motion sensors burst into life and sang their Christmas songs.  I was looking for a couple of Christmas decorations to buy for gifts, to take along to Christmas breakups which I will be attending shortly.  There was so much on offer, but I was  buying to a set price, not always easy at this exclusive department store.  But I finally found two items within my budget, so came away happy.

PB220008 Gold and silver baubles

Lunching at Kirks Cafe is always a highlight, with the lovely food, and friendly helpful service.  The trick, I’ve found, is to get there a little before the  mid-day rush, so it is easier to find a table. (I fear I’m turning into my Mother, as she liked to lunch at Kirks too).  I found a Christmas gift for the MIL in another department, not easy to choose something for her these days as she has just moved into a rest home.

Shopping done, and replete from lunch, I walked back down to the Railway Station.  What’s this on the footpath by the State Insurance building?  Looks like the aftermath of an earthquake.  But no, don’t worry.  It’s a bit of city art, showing what might just happen when we have a big shake.

PB220019 Art in the city, the broken pillars look so life like.

I didn’t get to ride in a train after all, as they had all been replaced by buses on the Kapiti line.  That’s a shame, I love train travel – there is no romance in riding a bus, is there?  I arrived at the bus with just a few minutes to spare, to find that there wasn’t a spare seat at all.  Bother!  After standing for a minute or two, a young man tapped me on the shoulder, and offered me a seat.  How kind of him, I really appreciated his offer.  Although I imagine that I looked as tired and footsore as I felt! 

PB220004 Trains replaced by buses today

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Quilts at the Library

Our local library is very special.  Librarian Linda Fletcher, who runs the monthly Book Club which I attend, has recently had a book launch there of her book “Horowhenua and the Great War 1914-1918”.   This is the culmination of a research project, begun in 2006, to identify all the casualties named on Horowhenua's war memorials.  The book details the lives of all 188 men from the district who died in the war, telling their stories through letters from the front and newspaper obituaries.

To complement Linda’s book launch, the library has been showing a marvellous  collection of quilts with a WW1 theme on loan from the very talented Erilyn McMillan of Palmerston North.  She has a particular interest WW1 through family connections and military service.  Erilyn feels that these stories need to be told, and has done this with her beautiful quilts.

“Dawn Service, Linton Military Camp, Anzac Day”.   The dawn breaks over the Tararua Ranges and lights up the sky.  The camp is portrayed by the iconic Phoenix Palms and a soldier in his lemon squeezer hat stands with his head bowed in contemplation. 

PB090007Dawn Service, Linton Military Camp, Anzac Day

“The Western Front – a snapshot of our darkest days”.  Made of of “postcards”, this quilt illustrates the use of tanks, gas, and the terrible knee high mud the soldiers had to live,  fight and die in.  Sadly, Erilyn discovered through her research that many of the soldiers died by “other causes”, by firing squad.  

PB090009 The Western Front

“Lest We Forget”.  Memorials arouse deep motions, and the local war memorial says much about the beliefs and values of New Zealanders.  Figures of soldiers, arches, gates, obelisks and clock towers, even clock towers, all play their part in remembering the fallen.  With touches of green leaves and the fallen red poppies, this lovely quilt in tones of grey is a lovely memorial indeed.  
 PB090011 Lest we forget

“The Nation’s Most Gallant Sons”.  The starting point was making the face of Victoria Cross recipient, Cpl Willie Apiata, the only living member, using just four fabrics.  Erilyn then decided to honour all of the VC recipients.  The first to receive this award was Charles Heaphy, the only VC awarded to a member  of the Colonial Forces during the New Zealand Wars.  Erilyn printed the faces of the other recipients onto paper towels, encased with netting, and the Victoria Cross was printed on organza, all stitched over a pieced background.

PB090013 The Nation’s most Gallant Sons

“Gallipoli”, the title of this quilt is made up of daisy fabric, and represents the “Daisy Patch” on the peninsula.  As the New Zealanders prepared to charge, fellow soldiers asked, “You’re not going to charge across the daisy patch, are you?”    “Of course we are”, the Aucklanders answered.  “God help you”, was the reply.  Erilyn machine stitched barbed wire, sand bags, stones and wind, all part of everyday life for the men.

PB090015 Gallipoli

“Private James Duncan”.  This quilt is made to honour Eriyn’s grandfather, who served on the Western Front in the Medical Corps.  His military story is pictured on body tags, and the medal ribbons are the original silks from his ribbons, which have been replaced with new ribbons.  This very personal piece of work features photos, badges, and buttons, and a copy of the Certificate of Service.  What a wonderful family heirloom.

PB090018Private James Duncan

The Last Post”  is a military bugle or trumpet call to signal the end of the day.  It is also played at ANZAC services and at military funerals.  The raw edges of the fabric were left frayed to convey the feeling of edginess, a shiver down the spine, and a tear in the eye, just as it can do at the Dawn Service on Anzac Day.  Erilyn made the bugler small we often only hear the music, and not see the musician.

PB090020 The Last Post

“In Flanders Field” – what is more iconic than the images of poppies?  Erilyn depicts this so beautifully with her quilt.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below

PB090022 In Flanders Field

Erilyn likes to work in this one particular size for her WW1 quilts and they are full of details and exquisite quilting.  She has ideas for a few more stories to be told in this series of WW1 quilts, she told me.  Then she will probably start on a WW2 series – there are many stories to tell from this time in history too.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Sewing keeps me Happy

I’ve enjoyed watching the Great British Sewing Bee, Series one, on TV lately.  I realise that this show was shown some time ago in UK, but it has only just reached TV down here in New Zealand.  In fact, I think Series two has already been aired in UK, so hopefully will hit our shores next year.  This show has been responsible for an increase in home sewing, I believe, which can only be a good thing.

Who can remember taking sewing classes at school?  In fact, are they even taught these days?  I can remember making an oven cloth out of plain brown hessian – there was none of the fancy coloured hessian back in those days.  This would have been about Standard 3 or 4 at Primary School.  We carefully pulled a couple of threads in from the edges of our hessian piece, and did rows of large cross stitches between the drawn threads using brightly coloured knitting wool.  Then our creation was backed and bound, with a brass curtain ring added so it could be hung up.

We graduated to using sewing machines at Intermediate School, and I remember making a white cotton apron and matching head band to wear to cooking classes, but first we had to hand embroider our names on them.  Then there was the ghastly pair of baggy pleated shorts with leg bands we had to whip up – required to wear in our Phys ED classes.

Once we were grown up and left school, we could make what we wanted, such as a full skirted dress to wear over voluminous stiff petticoats to the Saturday evening Rock and Roll dances.  Shirt-maker dresses were another favourite.  My sewing changed dramatically a few years later once marriage and babies changed my life.  Then it was all about pretty little dresses, boys shirts and shorts, and multiple pairs of pyjamas for them both.

These days it’s all about patchwork and quilting, with a little household sewing such as aprons, tablemats, bags, cushions and tablecloths still getting done.  I stitch away at home, and enjoy attending my local Quilt Club meetings.  And I really appreciate the smaller groups related to the quilt club, such as my Sew Wot fortnightly group of ladies, and the monthly Remnants stitching group.  Even after all these years, I’m not an expert, award winning quilter.  But that’s not the point, I sew because I enjoy it, and I love getting together with other like minded people.  That’s what it is all about, wouldn’t you say?

DSCF4832

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Town and Country Quilters November Club Night

It was another quite low attendance again this month, maybe those torrential downpours in the early evening put some members off attending.  A shame really, as we had a very interesting night. The Challenge quilts were on display, and they all looked wonderful.  The brief was to make a quilt in shades of black, white and yellow, showing something of the area we live in.  These were judged by Camilla Watson, who explained the judging criteria she used.  First place went to Lyn Burnham, whose little quilt showed the market gardening side of our region.

PB120005  Challenge quilts on display

PB1200041st place went to Horowhenua – a growing community

Then the members got a chance to vote, with the top three quilts being shown at Symposium in January, together with three challenge quilts selected by the other participating clubs.  These three quilts are:  Lyn Burnham’s, as shown above, Balloons over Levin, by Luchelle Cotterell, and the fun and quirky Smoochie No 1 Cow by Helen Cole.  Congratulations to everyone who took part, the quilts were amazing.

PB120003 Smoochie No 1 Cow by Helen Cole

Show and Tell was a little light this time around, although Heather’s quilts for Ronald McDonald House made quite an impact as they were held up on stage.

PB120006 Heather’s quilts for Ronald McDonald House

And another group offering was bags made at a recent class with Luchelle Cotterell – every one different, and don’t they look nice!

PB120008 From a recent bag class

A request was made for our members to help with making soft  heart shaped cushions for patients to use under their arm after undergoing breast surgery.  Patterns were provided, and we were asked to use only pink fabric.  Many of us decided to help out for this excellent cause, and collected the pattern to take home.  Another bit of homework was to take  home a couple of Christmas tree decorations, all cut out so we just need to stitch them together, and not to forget to bring the finished items back next month.

Another interesting club night, just one more to go this year.  Thanks to Leigh for bringing along her surplus lemons to share, I took some home and I’m sure other ladies did too.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Sew Wot Tuesday

Our little Sew Wot stitching group met at Mary’s home today.  I was running a little late as the phone rang just as I was heading out the door, so things were well underway when I arrived.

Helen and Mary are devoted sewing Grandmothers and had whipped up a whole heap of lovely small garments for their respective little darlings.  They proudly displayed little dresses, and the cutest denim skirts.  Helen had made some tough wearing boys shorts in camouflage design denim.   I felt quite envious - it’s been a long time since my own little darlings were small enough to sew for.

PB110004

PB110002 Pretty summer dresses stitched by Helen and Mary

Heather had also been sewing up a storm and had completed several bright and cheerful quilts for Ronald McDonald house.

PB110005 Three of Heather’s Ronald McDonald quilts

Moira had recently purchased a template set and brought it along to show us, together with four small blocks stitched together.  Called “Scrap Crazy” it looks very interesting, and has all sorts of possibilities.

PB110009 Scrap Crazy template set

Most of us busily worked on our hand stitching projects, while we chatted away.  After a delicious morning tea we gathered up our bags of stitching and said our goodbyes.  But we didn’t leave empty handed.  Mary is a gardening goddess and had prepared bundles of Night Scented Stock seedlings for us all to take home.   Gardening Guru Yates New Zealand says:  “The glorious scent that permeates the Spring evening from these flowers is truly one of nature’s precious gems. Barely detectable by day, it dominates and transforms the whole garden by night”.  Doesn’t that sound delightful?  Possessing less than green thumbs myself, I certainly hope that  my plants grow and flourish.

PB110012 My bundle of plants ready to go in the ground