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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Kiwi Royal Wedding Party

With two English Royalists (quilters too) staying here for the weekend, I was busy planning my version of a Kiwi Royal Party.  My friend Kathryn was invited to boost the numbers, a bottle of bubbly was chilling, and an elegant supper was planned.  As luck would have it, I just happened to have a tiara and a feather boa to wear, and Kathryn brought along her hat too.  I found a couple of hats for the visitors to don, and we were ready.  What fun, the excitement was mounting as we settled down to watch the live TV broadcast.

P4292187 Jenny, Sue, Glennis and Kathryn

Robin was doing a bit of “Bah, humbug”, as I placed his Scottish hat on his head.  “I’m not sitting here all night with that on my head”, he declared.

DSCF6053 Robin’s only  mildly interested in the wedding

We sat patiently and watched as the TV presenters walked around the streets interviewing the general public.  Then the important people started arriving in Westminster Abbey.  Politicians, including our own Prime Minister John Key, together with other heads of state and various film stars and singers.  Oh, the waiting, perhaps we will start on our supper. 

DSCF6057 Our Royal Wedding Supper

Finally the minor royals started to arrive, and we gave our opinion on their outfits.  Oh look, there’s William, doesn’t he look wonderful in that dashing uniform, we gushed to each other.  Then the moment we had been waiting for, when the bride started on her journey.  We watched the whole ceremony with  rapt attention and raised our glasses of bubbly to drink a toast to the young newlywed couple.  The royals ride back to the castle was a sight to behold.  Beautiful carriages pulled by well trained horses, and the mounted horse guards trotting along side, it was just magic.  No one does this sort of pageantry better than the British.  What a wonderful night we had.  Our cat Muffy decided it was all too much for her as we sat glued to the TV all evening and didn’t pay her any attention.  She sat firmly in the middle of the room and turned her back on us all!

DSCF6058 Muffy says, “I’ve had enough of this wedding business”

Friday, April 29, 2011

April Club Night

Our speaker at the April club night described himself as a lover of the written word.  Des Schollum owns a bookshop specialising in rare second hand books, and has a passion for collecting the handwritten notes and letters of famous people.  He then frames these fragments of handwriting, together with a picture of the person.  Florence Nightingale, Charles Dickens, Lord Nelson, Hardy, and Queen Victoria were some he brought along to speak about.  My personal favourite was a snippet of handwriting from Queen Elizabeth 1st, but then I am a real lover of the Tudor period.  It is wonderful to reflect that these famous people in history had sat down with pen and paper in hand, considered what to write, then put their thoughts on paper.  Then, so many years later, or centuries in this case, these historical fragments still survive. 
DSCF6047 Fragment of writing by Queen Elizabeth the 1st
Des Schollum greatly admires Odette, the war heroine who was captured and tortured, and spoke about her life.  He became very friendly with Odette’s family and after their parents had passed away, the daughters sent Odette’s French Legion of Honour scarf to him.  The family must have been very sure that he would honour this family treasure.
DSCF6045 Des with Odette’s Legion of Honour scarf
Show and Tell is always a highlight of our monthly meetings, where we get to see what everyone has completed during the month.  Sylvia endeavours  to have a neo-natal quilt finished each month for the hospital, and this one was so cute.  She found the red-work designs on the internet, and had fun stitching them.
DSCF6049   Red-work neo-natal quilt
Cathy hasn’t been quilting very long, she told us,  and and is justifiably proud of her sampler quilt in warm country colours.  She mastered all sorts of techniques on this quilt, such as  appliqué, paper piecing, crazy patch.  It then took her  five months working solidly each night doing hand quilting to complete her sampler quilt.
DSCF6050Cathy’s star sampler quilt
Margaret showed us a bright and happy charity quilt which will be given to the Hospice.  Club members stitched the four patch blocks, then assembled the quilt.  All fabric, batting, and the commercial quilting service was donated by our local shop, Thimbles and Threads.
DSCF6052 Quilt for the Hospice
With the wedding of her niece coming up, Jess stitched her a lovely little memory quilt as a gift.  The lace used is left over from her niece's Mum’s own wedding gown, and the little squares are the same fabric from the bridesmaid’s dresses from the long ago family wedding.  What a delightful little treasure so full of family history.
DSCF6051 Bridal party fabric in this little quilt
All in all, another very pleasant quilt club night, with a very interesting speaker, show and tell to inspire us, and good company.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Royal Wedding is coming

What will you be doing on the royal wedding day?  That is what several blogs are asking, as the excitement mounts.  I know what I will be doing.  Down Under here in New Zealand we are 12 hours or so ahead of UK, so we get to see the televised broadcast on Friday evening.  As it happens, I will be having two English ladies, both quilters, arriving on Friday afternoon to stay a couple of days before they head north to Auckland.  “Why don’t we have a royal wedding party while we watch the telly?”, I suggested to DH.  “The ladies will like that”.  He didn’t think too much of that idea.  “But what about the rugby?”, he asked, plaintively.  “Rugby will be banned on Friday night”, he was told firmly.  So far I’ve purchased a bottle or two of bubbly to toast the young couple, and I am now planning the supper.  I just hope my guests arrive, as I haven’t heard a peep from them while they have been travelling around the South Island – they are meant to be travelling tomorrow on the Interisland Ferry.  Otherwise I’ll be drinking a whole bottle of bubbles all by myself!  Watch this space.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Snip, snip, snip

That’s what I was doing over the Easter break.  We were away at a caravan rally at Poroutawhao School, Levin, and I took my black and white shaggy quilt away with me, and my pair of sharp scissors,  to snip away at all the seams.  I couldn’t do too much snipping at a time, as it was a bit hard on the hands, so spread the job out over the weekend.
DSCF5989 Snipping away at the seams
It is only a lap quilt, but it still took quite some time.  Finally I was on the last row, thank goodness.  The next step will be to wash the quilt, and dry it, to fluff up all those snipped seams. 
DSCF6031 All finally snipped
There was a Decorated Hat Competition in the weekend.  I decided to make use of my lilac sun hat and spent a little time adding decorations.  A length of lemon lace was tied around the hat, then I stitched tiny little yellow Easter chicks, purchased from the  $2 on top of the hat.  It was then finished off with a bunch of Easter Eggs (on wire) tucked jauntily through the lace, and I used another wired egg as a brooch.
DSCF6027 My Easter Bonnet
If you would like to see what other high-jinks we got up to over Easter, do check out our other blog on http://www.romanyrambler.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Another Black and White

When a friend is facing a major health crisis, what is a quilter to do?  That’s right, make a healing heart quilt, as quick as you can.   My friend wears a lot of black and red, I’ve noticed, and as it just happens, I had a whole pile of black and white four patch blocks left over from my daughter’s quilt.  It took me a whole afternoon with my handy unpicker to separate the blocks.  With the loose threads of cotton picked out, and a good press with the iron, those squares looked as good as new.  Now what else?  I cut  a pile of white cotton squares – they will go with it nicely,  and found some pretty red fabric in my stash to use as well.  Then I needed a trip to Spotlight for some backing.  Having decided on making a raggy quilt, I was looking for something soft, preferably red flannel.  Unfortunately the flannel supply was well picked over, and there was nothing remotely suitable.  In the end I purchased red polar fleece patterned with hearts, got it home and washed it.  Can’t help myself, I have to wash all fabrics before I work with them.  Then I cut some more squares and the whole pile looked like this.
DSCF5877 All cut and ready to sew
Healing hearts were next,   and these I machine appliquéd onto the white squares.  How many to make?  Who knows, sometimes these quilts just seem to evolve by themselves.  I just stitched what I thought was right, and if needs be, I will make some more later.
DSCF5942 Heart blocks all stitched
The next step was to stitch the black and whites onto the polar fleece squares and lay the whole lot out on the floor.  Then I rearranged them till I liked what I saw, and stitched then together in rows. Just as well Robin is a patient quilter’s husband, he is well used to stepping over partly made quilts lying all over the sitting room carpet.   Just a bit more to do, then with any luck I’ll soon be ready to sew the binding on.  I’ll bundle the whole quilt into the caravan over the Easter holidays and hand stitch the binding down, and hopefully get all that snipping done with my scissors to turn those seams into a “raggy” quilt.   

Monday, April 18, 2011

April Stitching Monday

Here we are in April already and this is the first Stitching Monday I had been able to get to this year.  Holidays away in the caravan had clashed with the earlier dates, and it was so nice to finally attend.    There was a really good crowd of about a dozen ladies all happily chatting, and stitching, walking around the hall to see what the others were doing, and even more chatting.  Many had their sewing machines busily whirring away, while the others were doing handwork.  Sylvia brought along two lovely little quilts she is making for the Neo Natal Unit.  Here she is hiding behind one of them, adorned with lots of lovely appliquéd animals
DSCF5971 Sylvia’s Neo Natal quilt
Each of Pamela’s children requested a black and white quilt so this is the third version of the popular pattern, Disappearing Nine Patch that she has made, this one as purple as an accent.  Several blocks were laid out on the floor all stitched, but not yet slashed and rearranged.  There are lots of interesting black and white fabrics in this quilt.
DSCF5973 Black and white quilt blocks
We all know that Heather has a real love of hexagon quilts and she was working on another, very pretty one.  She likes to have some hand work to take along to stitching groups, and finds that hexagons are so portable.  Wonder who this one is for?
DSCF5972 Heather and her Grand-Mothers Flower Garden
Joyce’s Mariner Compass blocks were amazing, especially when she told us that she didn’t take a class, but just followed the  magazine instructions.  The blocks are paper pieced, and Joyce spent some time during the day setting the circles inside the blue fabric.  Those colours look so good together, don’t they.
DSCF5974 Joyce’s mariner Compass blocks
Freedom Log Cabin was the name of the blocks that Margaret was stitching.  This design is from one of the  books in Pinestream Quilters library, called “Log Cabin Quilts with Attitude”.  Margaret is using all her little stitched bits and pieces in the middle, then adding the logs from other scraps. 
DSCF5975 Margaret trimming her log cabin blocks
How about this for a bright and happy child’s quilt?  Called “Kid’s Stuff”, a  mystery quilt by Susan Claire, and Christine is doing it with hand  buttonhole stitch.
DSCF5977 Such cute blocks
Karen was hand quilting her feed sack quilt.  She collected many vintage feed sacks while visiting USA.  It is a bit hard to see, but Karen is quilting around the partly faded words written on the feed sack.
DSCF5976 Karen’s feed sack quilt
I spent the morning stitching blocks for a memory quilt for a friend, then after lunch packed the sewing machine away.  Out came the hand work and I stitched away on one of the blocks from “”Under the Sea”, showing Mother and Baby whale.
DSCF5978 My whale block
It was a lovely day and so nice to catch up with everyone again.  The weather was not the best outside, but we didn’t mind, as it was nice and warm inside the hall.  A young man working on the grounds called in and asked what we were all doing.  “We are doing quilting”, was the answer.  “That’s so cool”, he replied.  Don’t know if he really understands about quilting, but what a nice young man!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

I’m not telling

“How many quilting projects do you have on the go at once?” That was a question asked recently on “Quilting Down Under”, an internet quilting group.  Members replied with all sorts of answers, some with only three or four, and others admitting to a dozen.  One quilter commented that she was too much of a control freak to ever have more than two at once!  Perhaps I’ll have a quick check around my sewing area and see what I’ve got on the go.  And this is what I found.
Burgundy and cream quilt for my niece – all complete except for the label.
Under the Sea stitchery blocks – ongoing take-along project.
12 Days of Redwork  stitched hearts – stitcheries completed and awaiting 9 patch blocks to complete quilt.
Stitchery Angel cot quilt – pinned up ready for quilting.
Healing Heart blocks received from  SCQ internet group several years ago when I was undergoing cancer treatment – started stitching sashing between blocks.
Roll, roll, cotton boll mystery quilt – stalled pending other projects deemed more urgent.
Signature quilt from 2008 UK trip – same reason as above.
Oh dear, look what I found in the basket, a pieced table topper I started, plus another Christmas wall-hanging, both half done.  I’m not even going to see what else there is in the basket.
Plus there is one single and one double bed quilt which I had previously started machine quilting (then stopped for whatever reason) lurking on my quilt rack.  And most importantly, a memory quilt, and a healing heart quilt that I am hurriedly working on right at the moment to give to friends in their time of need.
But…………I’m not telling how many other projects I have stashed away in the spare room in various bags and boxes.   Some time ago my pen-friend Carol from South Dakota wrote and told me she had counted up 81 UFOs!   I’m not counting mine because I really don’t want to know, but it can’t be anything like 81, surely?   Perish the thought!
DSCF5965 Appliquéd Angel quilt, ready for quilting

Friday, April 15, 2011

A nice little sleep-in

No one likes to get up out of a cosy bed on these chilly mornings.  Our Muffy is no exception.  While we are up, showered, breakfasted, and getting on with the day, Muffy is in no hurry to rise at all.  “I’ll just lie here a little bit longer”, she seems to be saying, “so don’t disturb me while I get some beauty sleep”.  Oh, to have the life of a pampered cat!
Made Bed Around Muffy enjoying a sleep-in

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Little Christmas Trees for birthdays

Over the last year I have made several of these little Christmas Tree quilts.  They were fun and easy to make, and best of all, folded up flat enough to post overseas in a plastic postal bag.    They are made with strips of Christmas fabrics.  The first few I embellished with gold braid, and then found some green ric-rac which covered the edges just as well. They are machine quilted and each one has a gold star button on top of the tree.  Not made for Christmas though, but sent out during the year as birthday gifts.  No doubt the recipients will bring them out at Christmas time.
DSCF2647 Little Christmas Tree wall-hangings
All quilts need a label, even little quilts like these. Simple little appliquéd Christmas trees on the label worked well, I thought.  These were stitched on, all ready to be written on with the permanent pen.
DSCF4090 Labels on the back
I needed just a few more, so whipped up these final three.
The Christmas Tree birthday quilts have gone all over the world, to USA, England, Canada, Germany, Norway, and Australia.  The last one was posted away just last week to my pen friend Janet, in Australia.  It is her birthday today, so “Happy Birthday Janet”. 
DSCF5867 The last one posted was to Janet in Australia

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Refurbishing Government House

With a $40 million refurbishment programme just completed, Government House is looking magnificent.  Built in 1910, Government House is the official residence of the Governor General, the representative of Queen Elizabeth.  The Conservation Project involved seismic strengthening, removing and replacing the roof, repainting, and upgrading the power, gas, water and telecommunication services.  It was a makeover of epic proportions to our most nationally significant heritage building.  Government House was holding Open Days over the weekend for the public, and we joined the crowds to see the result of the two year refurbishment programme.
P4092081   Government House
There were plenty of staff to shepherd the queue through the security measures, and then it was “Welcome to Government House” by a dashing serviceman in blue uniform with gold braiding.  Look at that nice smile - that was a warm welcome indeed!
DSCF5884 Welcome to Government House
The Ballroom looked magnificent with two Czech crystal chandeliers hanging from the plaster ceiling, and tables heaped with all sorts of glittering treasures which had been gifted over the years.  There was a display under glass of medals and jewellery.  This wonderful gold collar was crafted in 1997.  It is “The New Zealand Order of Merit Collar”, and is worn by both the Queen and the Governor General, made with with gold koru motifs and enamelled discs.  All these types of items are kept well protected under lock and key in the Beehive (Parliament Buildings), I was told.
DSCF5888 NZ Order of Merit Collar
The Ballroom curtains were sumptuous, made from a deep rich red brocade with a raised flocked self pattern, and held back with beautiful curtain ties.  It was a look back in history when the new curtains were chosen, a staff member told me, as the replacements were replicas of what was hanging many years ago.   
DSCF5894 Ballroom curtains
The new carpet in the Drawing Room was designed to suit the room and had a New Zealand theme with blue/green tones and a fern pattern.  The patterned navy borders around the edge of the room added an extra attractive detail, and the drapes in this room were a deep navy taffeta, with gold cord tie backs.
DSCF5897 The Drawing Room
Many years ago the Country Women's Institute took on the huge task of producing embroidered chair seats and backs.  Thirty eight were stitched, from regions around the country.  Most of these chairs are set around the State Dining Room, with several others dotted along the hallway.  This one was done by the Wellington group.
DSCF5915 Embroidered chairs stitched by CWI members
I also came across some embroidered cushions featuring New Zealand native birds.  There was a Tui sitting on a Kowhai branch, and a Yellow Eyed Penguin. 
We were very impressed with what we saw on the Open Day.  The refurbishments have taken two years to complete and Government House is now open once again for official business.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Just a few Stonestead Stitchers this time

Wonder if it was the cold weather which kept some away this time?  Or maybe the ladies had things to do and just couldn’t make it to our fortnightly get-together.  Never mind, our small group of six had plenty to chat about upstairs at Stonestead on Thursday. As we settled down to our hand work the delicious smells of Kevin’s scones came wafting up the stairs.   Cheryl was finishing off her lovely Mariner's Compass, a large cushion for her daughter’s birthday gift and is made to go on the bed.  This was done with foundation piecing using freezer paper, and Cheryl is now considering doing a New York Beauty class using the same technique.
DSCF5870 Mariner’s Compass cushion cover
The cold weather has certainly brought out the knitting needles.  Dorothy is working on a pretty “Feathers” scarf in paua colours for her daughter-in-law Katy who lives in America.  The scarf seemed to be a little wide, so Dorothy quickly unravelled her knitting, cast on slightly less stitches, and started over again.  At this rate it will be finished in no time at all.
DSCF5871 Dorothy knitting a scarf.
Carol was knitting too, and had just  started on her striped tea cosy, in three shades of green.  The lime green really gives it a “zing”, and by the look of how much she has done, Carol is well on the way.
DSCF5874 Carol working on her tea cosy.
I took my knitting along too, and finished my black and white feathers scarf during the afternoon.  Once back home I sewed the ends in.  The knitting has certainly grown quickly as I had worked on it during our time away in the caravan last weekend.  I am really pleased to get this finished so quickly, as it is for a birthday gift and not required till early June.  So haven’t I done well.
DSCF5876 My “secret squirrel” birthday present scarf

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Blushes at the Book Club

I just love a good book, and call in regularly to our local library.  Going along to the monthly Book Club is a real bonus that I enjoy now I have stopped work.  Themes are set each month to take us out of our comfort reading zones.  This month the theme was “Books that make you Blush”.  Now that was certainly different from my more usual James Patterson type novels.  What to choose, that was the question.  The librarian had given me a list of authors to check out and I finally made my selection from the shelves, choosing “Her Secret Fantasy”.  This told the story of an beautiful young lady of impeccable breeding.  Her family had fallen on hard times due to the early death of her father who met an untimely death seeking riches in India.  The young lady’s god-mother helps her in her quest to find a wealthy but slow witted husband during the London Season to restore the family fortunes.  My book had a happy ending when the heroine finally found true love with a dashing major, although there were only a couple of passages in the whole book where I felt a blush coming on.  Not so the other ladies who attended, there were some rather saucy books discovered on the library shelves.  “That was absolute salacious twaddle”, one of the ladies commented, “and my digestive juices wouldn’t let me finish it”.  The theme for next month is “Modern Classics, post 2nd World War”.  Wonder what that means?  I may have to ask a librarian.
DSCF5869 Just bought today
Although most of my reading is done with library books, now and again we purchase very special books which we intend to keep.  We have all the Jean Auel books in the bookcase so were delighted to see that she has a new book out.  Today I bought “The Land of Painted Caves”, a real bargain at The Warehouse.  I can hardly wait to start it, and  I’ll let you know what I think of it.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Pushing down harder does not make it go faster

Don’t you think it should?  There I was, stitching on the binding of the burgundy and cream quilt.  I had the walking foot on, and try as I might, the machine was going ever so slowly.  No matter how hard I pushed the foot pedal down, the machine just wouldn’t speed up.  Chug, chug, chug, it went, as slow as a wet week!  It must be something to do with just having used my BSR (Bernina Stitch Regulator) foot, I thought.  Maybe I forgot to raise the feed dogs?  Or some other crucial step I had forgotten when switching back to “normal” sewing?  No, everything seems alright.  I know, I’ll turn the power on and off again, that sometimes works when computers misbehave.  That didn’t make any difference either.  Still as slow as before.  At this rate it will take me hours to stitch the binding on.  Just what is the matter with my machine?  Then………I noticed that one of the knobs was right over at the minus sign.  I moved it to the middle of the slot and then, wouldn’t you know it, the speed increased dramatically.  Success at last  I whizzed through stitching the binding down in  no time at all.  On reflection, I did feel a bit of a dummy though!  Guess I knocked the knob along to the left and didn’t realise it.  For those who want to know, this function is called the “Slide Speed Control” – I didn’t know that before.

DSCF5823 Slide speed control on slow
The quilt has now been trimmed, the binding pinned in place, and I’ve started hand stitching it down.  The weather has turned rather chilly here today, so I’ll settle down in my comfy chair with the quilt on my lap and continue with the binding.  It’s a big quilt, so that should keep me quiet for some time.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Something new

It is so nice to start a new project, isn’t it?   I needed something new as a “take-away” project.    A bit of  time spent in preparation and my new stitchery project was all ready.  The top fabric had been cut to size, and the designs traced, with pellon all ready to place behind the stitching. I had bought the necessary threads and I was raring to go.
DSCF5376 My new stitchery project
I am doing “Under the Sea”, which is a free download from Willowberry Designs.  I enlarged the designs as I like to stitch using Perle No. 5 thread.  Linda of Flourishing Palms stitched her version of this design a while ago, and it looked so nice I decided to do one too.  It will make a lovely little girl’s quilt, with delightful fishy designs highlighted with fabric pencils.  So far I have only done one block, but I am not in any hurry to complete the blocks, so it will presumably be a slow project.
DSCF5674  Frances the Fish
Hand stitching is great to take to a stitching group afternoon, or when we go away in the caravan.  But what about those heart blocks I have just finished stitching?  They are “on hold” at the moment – and when I get a chance I will make some toning 9 patch blocks to put with them.  That’s the plan, anyway.