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

Monday, May 30, 2011

All pinned up

Pinning quilts is never my favourite part of the quilt making process, especially as I usually do it on my hands and knees on the sitting room floor.  I don’t have one of those large handy fold up tables, so the floor it is. This quilt is only lap sized, and on reflection, I probably could have used the dining table.  But never mind, the job is now done and it means that I am one step closer to completion.  Not that I’m panicking yet, I still have several weeks till D Day.  I want to have it completed by the end of June.
DSCF6325 Memory quilt all pinned up
This memory quilt has been made with star blocks using items of clothing.  The star centre is part of a casual shirt, while the points have been made using a light jacket, and the pale blue sashing comes from a dress shirt.  The fabric for the background fabric and setting squares are from my stash.  My next job will be to do the straight line quilting around all the blocks, then decide what to do in the stars. Working with lots of different fabrics was certainly a challenge, and  I am rather pleased with how it all came together.  Now I just have to keep working steadily to get it finished in time. 

Saturday, May 28, 2011

May Quilt Club Night

Even though the weather was wet and wild, lots of members made it to the monthly meeting of the Pinestream Quilters.  Those who had attended the Quilt Symposium at Queenstown took the floor and spoke about their classes.  Several had taken various design classes, which involved drawing designs and refining them before moving on to stitching.  Sharon brought along a beautiful Rose Window quilt from her workshop with Gail Lawther; after seeing the real thing in cathedrals in England, this is certainly something I would like to try.  Others had taken classes in felting and working with silks, and Brenda had been working with a soldering iron burning layers out of her stunning Celtic design in orange and black.  Brenda also brought along two hand painted silk pieces from a workshop with Hollis Chatelaine, one of flags and the other a landscape piece, so we  look forward to seeing these when they are quilted.
Show and Tell was inspiring as usual.  Sharon brought along four quilts to show us, with two of them being special birthday quilts made for her by her quilting buddies.  Although she didn’t admit to us, we presume it was for one of those “major” birthdays.  This birthday quilt  featuring nine patches and a striking floral quilt was lovely.  What a wonderful group of friends!
DSCF6316Sharon’s birthday quilt
Sharon’s quilting group had taken part in a nine patch challenge some time ago and here is her finished quilt.  There were 248 of these little nine patches to work with so some of them ended up as a feature on the back. 
DSCF6317 Nine patch swap challenge quilt
Brenda had found this little quilt lurking in a cupboard so decided it was high time to get it finished.  Poppies are the flowers of Anzac Day and these flowers are accentuated with beads.  
DSCF6318 Brenda’s Anzac quilt
Next was a disappearing nine patch quilt with a difference.  Joy’s daughter and son-in-law had requested a blue quilt with a tennis theme.  Luckily she found some tennis fabric in a shop, and also used fabric from their tennis tournament uniforms.  This really makes the quilt personal and very special.
DSCF6319Disappearing nine patch tennis quilt
The New York Beauty block holds no fears for Linda as she has made several quilts using this pattern.  She made this pretty shaded version for her cousin’s 50th birthday.
DSCF6320 Linda’s New York Beauty quilt
New quilter Margaret has only made 3 quilts so far, she told us.  This bright and happy quilt is for her first grand child, and she has certainly done a great job.  She had also knitted a tiny woollen blanket to donate to the neo natal ward of Hutt Hospital.
DSCF6322 Margaret’s quilt for her first grand child
We have several Margaret's in our club, and this green and purple quilt was by Margaret R.  She used up some of her little scraps in the block centres, and the quilt is nicely finished with straight line quilting.
DSCF6321 Margaret’s green and purple quilt
It was another great meeting.  I was on supper duty so helped out behind the kitchen counter, then sneaked out to take these photos of the quilts hanging up on display, before rushing back to help with the dishes.  Then I helped my quilting buddy Jenni with her hall duties, and packed up a few folding tables with her. Show and Tell is always inspiring and I am sure we all go home with lots of ideas buzzing around in our heads.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Baking for my Quilt Club Meeting

I’m on “supper duty” tonight at my monthly quilt club meeting so I’ve been busy baking today.  Those on supper each month are required to take along a plate of supper, make the tea and coffee and tidy up afterwards.  (Does your club have such duties, such as supper, hall, and library?) Home baking is always best, I think, and most of the offerings are delicious home cooked cakes or biscuits.  To tell the truth, I  always feel just a little bit short-changed when a packet of commercial biscuits appears on the supper table.  My contribution for tonight is “Oaty Lemon Slice”.  Here it is already iced, and ready to pop into the fridge for the icing to set, then I will cut it into pieces.  Want to give this easy recipe a try?  Do let me know what you think if you do make it.
DSCF6314 Oaty Lemon Slice
Oaty lemon Slice:  Place 1 cup flour, two thirds cup of sugar, 1 cup of desiccated coconut and 1 cup of rolled oats into a bowl and stir together.  Heat 100gr butter and 1 tablespoon of golden syrup in pan until just melted.  Stir in 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda and 2 tablespoons of boiling water.  Pour into dry ingredients and mix together.  Press mixture into tin lined with baking paper and bake 20-25 minutes at 180C till golden.
Lemon Icing:  Place 2 cups of icing sugar in bowl.  Mix through 50gr softened butter, juice and grated zest of lemon (or two).  Spread icing over cooled base, leave to set before cutting into squares.
As I started baking there was a plaintive little voice in my ear.  “Will you be leaving some of that for me when you go out tonight?”   So what could I do, but promise to do extra baking that would be remaining for home consumption.  I made a batch of cornflake and raisin biscuits (that’s cookies for those readers from USA), and a lemon loaf.  That should keep him happy, don’t you think?
DSCF6315  Cornflake biscuits and lemon loaf

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Surfing is hard on the Neck

I spent much too much time on the computer yesterday, surfing the net.  (You didn’t really think I go surfing in the waves now?)  It was the  “Sew Mama Sew Give-away Day” and I spent hours trawling through the lists of generous bloggers who participate.  There was a huge amount of goodies up for grabs, fabric, knitting wool, patterns and hand made items.  Most participants just required you to comment on their blog, some asked particular questions, and others required you to become a follower to take part.  Must have ticked the “follow all replies to this post”  when I entered some of my comments, as my “in box” has been inundated with absolutely hundreds of comments made by others.  That will teach me to be more careful next time!  My neck is still sore from all that sitting yesterday, so I will have to make sure I move around a bit more today.  And…… I have the chance to maybe win a goodie pack perhaps?  Don’t really know what my chances are though, it was like a shark feeding frenzy out in Bloggerland yesterday!
So there was no stitching done yesterday, but look what I found outside the back door.  These little lovelies must think it is Spring!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Grape Jelly on toast for Breakfast

Our grape vine had a bumper crop this season and the birds were making short work of them.  If we didn’t hurry up and pick some to make grape jelly, there would be none left.  I picked a whole preserving pan full and took them inside to wash and pick them off the bunches.  Making fruit jelly is quite a time consuming process.  Once the fruit had been washed and picked over to remove any yucky ones, it was put in the pan to simmer away and for the fruit to break down.  As grapes are so juicy, I didn’t need to add any water.
DSCF6205  Cooking the grapes
Then came the tricky part of the process.  The whole lot had to be placed in a sieve and the juice slowly drip though.  But…… we didn’t have anything big enough to use.  With a bit of lateral thinking, Robin solved the problem.  As it happened, we had one of those splatter guards which are used over frying pans and the metal gauze had previously been damaged  and removed.   Robin stitched some mutton cloth around the edge, then fashioned a wire handle around the top.  How I wish I had my camera was at the ready while he was busy with the needle. With some cord attached to the handles, to the bath tap, and a handy hook on the wall above the bath, the sieve was suspended in place.  Of course, the test came when the hot liquid was carefully poured into the suspended sieve, with the preserving pan in place to catch the grape juice.  I carefully placed  old towel under the pan in case of dark red juicy splashes all over the bath.  It all worked extremely well.
DSCF6207 Draining the fruit juice through the sieve
As anyone who has made fruit jelly knows, this is only half of the process.  The drained juice must then be boiled up, sugar and lemon juice added, then the testing begins.  This is where jam making becomes a bit of a trial for me, as I must test several times before it looks ready.  I usually get a bit fed up by this stage and add a bit more sugar to the pan of fruit in the hope that this will make all the difference!
DSCF6286 Boiling the juice and sugar
Success at last, it seems ready to pour into the hot sterilised jars.  And just look at what I made, jar after jar of luscious grape jelly.  It tastes so nice on a piece of toast at breakfast time.
DSCF6295Lots of grape jelly

Monday, May 23, 2011

A helping hand from Muffy

I’m working hard on the Memory Quilt I’m making for a friend who lost her partner last year, and I want to get it completed (and quilted) by the end of June.  Today I spent a little time pinning the borders on before sewing the last few seams.  Then I will have to decide if I want to make the quilt any larger.  Muffy obviously thought I was spending much too much time at my sewing and not enough time paying her attention.  “If you cant beat them, join them”, seems to be her motto as she jumped up onto the dining chair and climbed onto the sewing cabinet to see what I am doing.
Then she walked right around the back of the cabinet and sat on the other side to watch what was happening.
A little time later the last border was sewn on, and the whole quilt pressed.  And no, I decided not to add any more borders, the quilt looks fine as it is.  Next job is to piece the backing, then pin the three layers together, all ready for machine quilting.
DSCF6303 Muffy watching over the Memory quilt
It is rather unusual for Muffy to sit up so close to me when I’m at the sewing machine.  If she is not curled up somewhere comfy having a snooze, she is close by on the floor by my feet.  Our late friend Graeme was very fond of cats and used to pay Muffy a lot of attention when he called around to see us.  Perhaps she knows the quilt is all about him?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Back with the Stonestead Stitchers

After missing two consecutive fortnightly get-togethers with the Stonestead Stitchers because we were travelling around in the caravan, it was nice to finally get back with the ladies again.  There was lots of “Show and Tell”, obviously some of the ladies had been busy finishing off their projects.  Kevin had put the heating on for us upstairs in the Tea House, so what started out as a chilly morning soon warmed up.  Dorothy is getting excited about her upcoming trip to California in two weeks time to deliver the Wedding Quilt to her son and daughter-in-law.  This is in different shades of blues and is sashed in New Zealand Paua fabric.
DSCF6276 Wedding Quilt
Two Christmas Runners are also going over with Dorothy.  Not quite finished yet, they will be taken over as gifts for the people they will staying with.  Dorothy has used the same pattern for each of the runners but with different fabrics to give them a different look.
DSCF6279One of Dorothy’s Christmas Table Runners
Mary brought along her lovely Christmas Tree quilt to show us.  This was a kit set and used New Zealand fabrics.  The appliqué is done using  hand-buttonholed stitch, and we all thought it was such a lovely pattern with the pretty curved branches of the tree.  Colourful wrapped gifts under the tree finish it off very nicely. 
DSCF6275 Mary’s New Zealand Christmas Tree
Ruth has started a long term project with her large white Mountmellick embroidery piece.  This type of embroidery started in Ireland in the late 1700s and the designs are based on nature.  We will certainly watch the progress of this piece of work with interest.
DSCF6281 Mountmellick Embroidery
Joyce was doing hand stitching too.  Her grand-daughter loves owls so this felt appliqué owl cushion will be for her.  The owl will be getting some embellishment Joyce said, once it is appliquéd in place, to add some more interest.
DSCF6283 Owl cushion for Joyce’s grand-daughter
I noticed a lovely little tapestry pin cushion and tassel attached to the pair of scissors which Joyce was using.  She brought this as a kit during a visit to England, she told me.  It is certainly a lovely little keepsake of a trip.  I rather like those embroidery scissors too.
DSCF6274 Joyce’s scissors with tassel
I”m rather partial to Shaggy Quilts, they are so quick to make and look so nice and cosy.  Liz brought along one she had just made for her daughter.  This is made up using Aboriginal fabrics her daughter had purchased when she was working in Australia.  It utilises colourful fabrics with the golds, browns  and ochres of the Australian outback on one side and black and white prints on the other.
DSCF6280 Aboriginal prints in this Shaggy quilt
And now for something completely different which I haven’t seen before…..Vicki-Ann was making a necklace.  She is obviously an expert on this and brought along her equipment which she set up on the table.
DSCF6273 Vicki-Ann with her beads, wire and pliers
And what was I doing?  A little knitting, then I moved on to my latest “Under the Sea” block.  Didn’t get it finished though, so there is no photo of my work this time.  I’ll just have to work harder, I think.  It was another lovely day, spent with like minded ladies. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Out to Lunch

My daughter Nicky sent me a Mother’s Day card recently with $20.00 tucked inside.  The message read:
“I’m not sending you money for Mother’s Day, I’m sending you out to lunch.  Have a nice time”.
So that is what I did today, lunched out with a group of ladies from our caravan club, and cashed in my $20.00.  With a lovely wrap of smoked salmon and cream cheese, followed by a piece of lemon cake, and washed down with a large latte, all enjoyed with nice group of friends, I had a great time.  Thanks, Nicky, my lunch was great.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

May Stitching Monday

I love our monthly Stitching Mondays and really appreciate my quilt club making them available at low cost to members.  (I used to take the day off work (with no pay) each month so that I could attend).  Now that my time is my own, it is no less special.  I thought it might be a very quiet day as there were only two ladies in the hall when I arrived.  Before too long others arrived and the place was humming with conversation.  Christine, Faye, Sylvia and Gaye sat together at one of the tables with their hand stitching.  Gaye told us that she has just enrolled in a “City and Guilds” Embroidery course.  That certainly sounds like a lot of hard work to me.
DSCF6252 Christine, Faye, Sylvia and Gaye stitching away
Christine and Sylvia are both working on “Kid’s Stuff”, a mystery quilt designed by Susan Claire.  It is interesting how different the same blocks look when made in a different colour choice.  Those coloured pencils look great and were fun to do, they said.
DSCF6253 Sylvia’s blocks
DSCF6254Christine’s blocks
Faye was busy stitching the binding down on her very pretty 1930s fabric quilt.  This had been commercially quilted by Sue B’s Quilting Service and Faye was very pleased with the results.
DSCF6260 Faye’s 1930’s quilt
Margaret was another busy bee and was stitching blocks together into four patches that she had made in Ronnie Rutter’s Scrappy Stripper class from many years ago.  This quilt will be donated to a good cause when it is completed.
DSCF6257 Margaret and her Scrappy Stripper blocks
We were all very interested in the eye-catching quilt Petronella was working on.  This was started at the Queenstown Symposium and was a design class run by Clare Smith.  The idea was to do a series of drawings, then merge them together to get a design, which didn’t have to mean anything, Petronella said.  Those shapes and colours makes for quite an interesting design, don’t you think? 
I had a productive day too. Another shaggy quilt is in progress, this one is for my sister and her husband who will be celebrating their 50th Wedding Anniversary early next year.  I am using florals and green for an overall garden look.  When I had stitched all the blocks I had prepared, I then moved on to my blue  healing hearts blocks.  Packed the sewing machine away after lunch and for the last hour I did hand stitching on my “Under the Sea” blocks.
DSCF6251 Floral blocks prepared for another shaggy quilt
Another day spent together with members from my quilt club.  Stitching done, advice given, and we all like to see what everyone is getting up to in their stitching lives.  Thanks again, ladies.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Sultans of String

Sultans of String is an exhibition of five local creative men who make hand crafted string instruments.  Expressions Gallery showed a range of guitars, mandolins, bouzouki, violins, violas, ukulele, and cellos lovingly made by these craftsmen. 
“Once you make the first one, and get a sound out of it, you can’t wait to make another one”, states Frank McLoughlin.  After purchasing an electric guitar three years ago, Frank credits his neighbour Bernie for getting him started on his guitar making journey.  He had seven sleek and stylish Electric Guitars exhibited, made utilising local timber. 
DSCF6198Hand crafted guitars by Frank McLoughlin
Bernie Breslin has similar sentiments.  “Once I got started, the passion was so great that I had to carry on”, he said.  Such workmanship runs in the family, as Bernie’s grand-father made a violin in 1910, which Bernie viewed on a trip back home to Ireland in 2003.  He collected as much information as possible and made his first violin in 2004.  To date he has made 17 instruments, violins, bouzoukis, mandolins and guitars.
DSCF6197 An assortment of instruments made by Bernie Breslin
While Frank and Bernie keep busy in their workshops, their womenfolk are busy stitching.  Christine and Faye are both keen quilters and enjoy stitching their own original works of art.  Their respective households are full of creativity, the men make wonderful musical instruments while the ladies sew warmth and love with every stitch..
DSCF6200 Christine and Faye

Friday, May 13, 2011

Barbara’s Treasures

Our friend Barbara is recuperating from a reconstructed shoulder operation so we called over to give her a “Get Well” gift on behalf of the  Caravan Club.  No doubt Bill will be under instruction to plant the pretty cascading rose bush in the garden as soon as possible.
DSCF6192 Get Well gift for Barbara
Barbara loves all sorts of handwork and she had been very lucky to receive some craft items as gifts recently.  Daughter Jacqui had been attending craft classes and working in felted wool.  She had made these lovely felted wool flowers and gave them to her Mum.  Felting wool is quite slow and labour intensive so making these large flowers would have taken some time to make.  The flowers are gorgeous and full of colour and Jacqui did a wonderful job in creating them.
DSCF6189 Felt flowers
Another of Jacqui’s creations was this lovely little framed picture featuring tiny felt flowers.  There are lots of lovely colours in this selection too.
Barbara told us how she arrived home one day to find a surprise package waiting on the doorstep.  Her friend Margaret had packed an Easter Basket with Mother Hen and lots of colourful little chickens.  What a wonderful Easter gift to receive.
DSCF6194  Easter Basket
Cup Cakes are all the rage these days and Barbara has made her own calorie free selection of these little goodies. Don’t they look sweet?
DSCF6187 Knitted Cup Cakes
It was great to catch up with Barbara again, and see her new craft treasures.   We wish her a speedy recovery and hope she gets back to her own craft work once that shoulder is healed and fully operational again.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Pussy Cats and Bunnies

The resident cat at my sister’s home at Hastings was not at all impressed when Muffy arrived with us for the weekend.  We kept Muffy safely contained in the caravan for the most part, but even a caravan cat needs a breath of fresh air sometimes.  Muffy enjoyed rolling on the nice warm concrete and Lily hunkered down and hissed and growled at the interloper.  There was no chance of Muffy running away in fright at this display of bad manners as she had her harness on and the attached lead was safely in my hand.  Lily peeped around the doorway while trying to stare Muffy down.
The Lily got braver and moved out in front of the bike, still staring intently at our cat.
Both of them finally moved onto the deck and the staring game went on.  I was a little concerned that Lily might rush at Muffy and bite her, so I kept the lead short so that I could pull her back to safety.  Luckily, this didn’t happen.  Lily and Muffy kept up the focused staring at each other.  In all honestly we can’t blame Lily for feeling this way.  It is her home after all, and we are the ones who brought the strange cat on her property.  We have seen our Muffy chase away a few strange cats from our backyard, mind you, she waits until we are outside watching to get a bit of moral support, I think.
DSCF6170Getting closer
The resident bunnies were rather laid back and not at all concerned by these goings on.  Muffy didn’t want to go and say hello to them, and by the look of it, the bunnies were all much bigger than her.  They were happy to come to the front of their cage to greet me and accept some breakfast nibbles through the wire mesh.
DSCF6173 Where’s my breakfast?
After all this excitement Muffy was tuckered out on the trip back home and snuggled up on my lap for a quiet snooze.  We attached her lead through the back seat belt and just give her just enough length to move comfortably around, but short enough to prevent her being flung through the front window in case we stop suddenly.  When we arrived home, she couldn’t wait to jump up on our bed and sleep, no doubt dreaming of ginger cats and large bunnies.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Lisa’s 40th Birthday Quilt

Completed a few weeks ago, the birthday quilt was waiting quietly at home until  it was time to travel up to Hastings.  This followed on from a weekend caravan trip to Pahiatua, it was not too much further north to Hastings so that I could deliver my niece’s 40th birthday quilt.  When Lisa turned 40 a couple of years ago, I asked her if she would like a quilt.  “Yes please”, was the answer, “a burgundy one”.  It had been a long time in the making, and I felt bad about that.  Lisa didn’t know it was finally finished, so it was a real surprise when I gave the rolled up quilt to her.
DSCF6148 My quilt, at last!
The quilt started as a pile of cobblestone blocks in burgundy and cream, with the colour placement alternated for a positive/negative effect.  That looked good, I thought, so I kept making more and more, till finally I had more than enough.  Muffy liked to help as I laid it on our bed as I sewed all the blocks together to see how big I needed to make it.
DSCF4831 Muffy is helping, so she thinks
Lisa looked at the different fabrics I had used and seemed very pleased with her new quilt.  I used a photo label for the quilt, the photo was taken at Lisa’s 40th birthday party.  It can just be seen on the turned over edge of quilt in this photo.
The new quilt goes nicely in her room and tones in well with the burgundy curtains.  Thank goodness, that’s another one off my list.  Now, what shall I do next?
DSCF6175 On the bed