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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Bunny Blanket Bunny

With some yarn left after finishing my little baby cardigan, I wondered what to do with it.  I just hate having those part balls hanging about, don’t you?  Then I remembered a free pattern I had downloaded on the internet, called Bunny Blanket Buddy.  I didn’t have the correct yarn, so mine is a lot smaller, though just as cute. 


This little bunny must be a girl, I’ve decided, and she is one of those “flat” toys.  When I find someone to gift my little baby cardy too, the bunny can go along too.  They look so nice together, I think. 


Monday, January 27, 2014

Changi Quilt Remembered

I didn’t really know what to expect from the movie “The Railway Man”, starring Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman and based on the autobiography written by Eric Lomax.  The film starts softly, and shows the meeting of Eric and Patti as they share a compartment during a train ride.  They soon marry, but Eric is tormented by flashbacks of his prisoner of war treatment.  His unit was defending Singapore when the country fell, and the soldiers were sent to work on the construction of the Thai / Burma railway (the Death Railway) during the second World War.  Decades later, Lomax discovers that the Japanese interpreter he holds responsible for much of his treatment is still alive.   He goes back to confront his former enemy and see again the place where he was brutally tortured. 

There is not a hint of the former Mr Darcy in this film.  I found it frightening and brutal, and spent most of the time trying to subdue sobs while wiping tears from my eyes.  Not a “feel good” movie, by any means, but I felt it told the story of this terrible time very well.

The film reminded me of that other hell-hole, Changi Prison in Singapore, where civilians were detained in atrocious conditions.  But out of this horror came the four Changi quilts, made block by block by the women prisoners out of whatever they could find.  Each woman was asked to put “something of herself” into the square, together with her signature.  The quilts were the idea of Mrs Ethel Mulvany. Supposedly made for the wounded in Changi hospitals, the quilts were actually meant to relieve boredom, to boost morale, and to pass information to other camps. 

 Prior to our trip to UK in 2008, I had found out that the British Red Cross in London holds one of the quilts, and arranged a private viewing with the Curator of Archives.  Sadly, it was kept down in the basement, and there wasn’t a lot of room around it with all the other things in storage.  But the quilt was beautiful, with heartfelt simple blocks, and I felt very honoured to have seen this wonderful piece of history.

P8141367 Changi Quilt in the London Red Cross Building

Sunday, January 26, 2014

First attempt at Smocking

At long last, I’ve finished another long drawn out project - my first attempt at smocking.   Actually, I completed the smocking several years ago, and have only got around to sewing it all together.  This dates back to those dark days when I was diagnosed with cancer, and had to stay in hospital for two weeks while hooked up to a chemo pump.  The oncologist told me that I wouldn’t feel too bad at all, and I wouldn’t lose my hair.  There was no need for me to stay in bed all day, and I was advised to bring day clothes in.  That sounded promising, I thought, so decided on what hand sewing project to take with me.  The back and front pieces of my pretty voile night-gown had been drawn up and was all ready for smocking, so I took that along to work on.

Life in the Cancer Ward was very sobering, and some people were very ill indeed.  At least I had the option of getting dressed each morning, and taking my chemo pump (on wheels) for a walk while I went down into the Day Room for a little stitching.  The nurses were quite interested in what I was doing, and most of the older ones had smocked for their babies and children many years ago. 

My night-gown was recently rediscovered, and the time felt right to finally complete it.  Just a matter of constructing the bodice, stitching the sleeves on, and sewing it all together.  And it was finally completed today, I’m happy to say.

P1260006 Long time in the making, my voile night-gown

P1260007Not perfect, but finished

I had to take a break from sewing yesterday while Muffy was snoozing on the chair by my machine.  After all – I can’t disturb the cat!  She had just been to the vets and had taken herself away for some “time out”.  The poor old girl had suffered all sorts of indignities and was most put out, so I just let her be.

P1260005No sewing today

Now that my first attempt at smocking is finally completed, I don’t think I’ll be doing any more.  I’ve since discovered counter-change smocking, and that seems to suit my abilities (or lack of them) better.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

And I’ve been doing???

A bit of this and a bit of that lately.  A little knitting, and a little sewing.  I’ve worked on several projects, but true to my way of doing things, nothing is quite finished yet.  This is what is sitting on my sewing cabinet at the moment.  The floral fabric is another of my “dressmaking” projects which has been half completed for quite some time.  I’m working on it steadily so hopefully will have something to show before too long. 

P1230009 A bit of this and a bit of that

And I’m amazed at how quickly the pile of squares has grown.  This is a mindless leaders and enders project when the squares are stitched at the start and finish of each seam of whatever else you are sewing at the time.  It works like magic, without even trying.  And uses up some of those scraps in the box that are just lying about.  This technique has been around for ages, just wish I’d thought of it earlier!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Tapestry Treasures in Rangiatea Church, Otaki

We have had a very busy weekend away in the caravan - it was our caravan club’s turn to organise the two yearly Regional Rally.  So this weekend wasn’t quite as laid-back as our caravan weekends usually are.  One of the high-lights of the weekend was a visit to the historic Maori Rangiatea Church in Otaki.  It was originally built in 1851, but was destroyed by fire in 1995.  The rebuilt church was completed in 2003, do check it out here on our other blog if you are interested.  

There were beautifully stitched kneelers tucked under all the seats, all individual, and all quite different.  I don’t do this kind of needle work myself, but can certainly appreciate all the hard work which went into making each one.  I thought they were just so lovely I wanted to share.

P1180021 A selection of kneelers
 P1180025 Penguin parents and chick

P1180024Antarctic birds

P1180033A Welsh-New Zealand connection

The families designed and stitched their own kneeler, we were told, and they all have a Maori motif design around the edge.  It was hard to pick a favourite, but this one certainly made me smile.

P1180026 Noah’s Ark

Such a lot of thought and planning must have gone into each of these kneelers, and they all have a special connection to the makers. 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

For the Baby Box

Is it our destiny to turn into our Mothers?  My Mother liked to knit little baby jumpers, and these ended up in her baby box. All ready when someone produced a new baby.  Family members came first, of course, and she liked to have plenty on hand as the grand children came along, then her great-grand children.  But anyone at all qualified for an item out of her box.  Neighbours, friends who were having grand children, and local shop keepers too.

My knitting time tends to be in the car when we go away on trips, so things can take quite some time to finish.  Currently I’m using up  skeins of wool which were rediscovered when we packed up to shift house last year.  If the quantity was enough to make a small child’s jumper, I kept it, otherwise all those part balls were donated to the Op Shop.  My current project was finished over the New Year, then stitched together, the bands knitted, and I finally sewed the buttons on yesterday. 

P1150006 Waiting for a new baby

The finished item is tiny, and the pattern has a family history.  I made one just like it for my grand-daughter Emma quite some years ago, (she is now 24).  The pattern is Thoroughbred #1155, and it is knitted in 8 ply.  It’s going to be put away safe and sound in my baby box, waiting for my first great-grand child, perhaps?

Now – what shall I knit next?  I’m still using up wool from the old days.  I’m in no hurry to finish things, just like to have something on the go that I can pick up when I feel like it.

Monday, January 13, 2014

First finish of the New Year

I’ve got my first finish of the New Year all done.  No, not a quilt, but a simple summer skirt, as I wanted a change from wearing three quarter length summer trousers every day  Although I do have a couple of skirts, another one wouldn’t go amiss.  There is no surprise that my new skirt is “blue”, guess I’m just a creature of habit, but I do love wearing blue.  This particular skirt has been cut out ready to stitch together for the last couple of summers.  I found it languishing in a bag when I did the big sort out and pack up prior to moving.  So it’s been a long time in the making.  I won’t even hazard a guess how long I’ve had the fabric – but I know I purchased it way back in my Knit Wit sewing days.  Wonder how many of you can relate to that? 


I’ve been thinking what particular UFO I should work on next.  There are a couple of projects which really won’t  need that much sewing time to get to completion.  

Got busy with the rotary cutter the other day and cut up a whole lot of two and a half inch squares from my box of assorted strips.  This is for a “leaders and enders” project which has been on the back burner for ages.  So instead of using one of those horrible scrappy bits of fabric to sew over when I stop and start a seam, I can just sew one of my squares together.  And hopefully the pile of finished squares will grow like Tospy.  That’s the plan anyway, I’ll see how it works out in reality.  Does anyone else have a pile of squares ready while doing another project?

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Pete’s at Porirua

With an appointment to keep in the Big City, we stopped off at Porirua for lunch.  But the real reason was to call into the wonderful shop that is Pete’s Emporium.  They sell all sorts of things, something for everyone really, from dress up items and wigs, to hardware, flags, and all sorts of interesting low priced items.  But the draw card for me was the amazing range of haberdashery, laces, trims, buttons, plus fabric too.


Robin was happy checking out all the blokey stuff, and I made my way to the haberdashery.  There were all sorts of interesting items in jars to look at, from bells, beads, and motifs, and all so very reasonably priced.


P1100008 Jars and jars on interesting items

But it was the trims I had really come for.  There was lace, and fringing, elastics and ribbons.  Sparkly stuff glimmered and glistened under the lights, and I could have been there for hours, slowly going along the rows, inspecting it all.  But I’d really come in for something quite ordinary, some ric rac, and a few buttons.  Robin started hovering as I was getting served so I had to leave all these delights behind.  This is the sort of place to come without the husband, by yourself, or perhaps with a quilting buddy so that you have all the time in the world to check everything out.

P1100010 Ribbons of all colours

We planned to have an early lunch in the nearby North City Plaza Food Hall, before travelling on into Wellington.    The place was really crowded, it’s still the Christmas school holidays here so there were family groups everywhere.  The three older ladies servicing the large Food Hall were really earning their wages, clearing tables, wiping them down, stacking plates and cutlery, and tying up and removing rubbish bags.  They never stopped moving, but did their work quietly and efficiently.

After checking out what was on offer, we decided to eat Chinese, making our way around the buffet taking a bit of this, some of that, adding a few “crunchies”  to the top of our plates, such as tiny spring rolls, a wonton or two, and how about one of those delicious stuffed and battered mushrooms.  Sadly, our stuffed mushroom wasn’t a mushroom at all – instead we found a ball of rice with a few bits and pieces mixed it, then battered and fried.  But this disappointment soon vanished when I sipped my decadent cup of Hot Chocolate from Butlers Chocolate Cafe.  So rich and yummy, and I was invited to chose a chocolate (free of charge) to accompany my drink.   What luxury!

P1100017 Enjoying my Butlers

Travelling on to Wellington for my appointment with the Eye Specialist, I was put through a battery of tests, had bright lights shone in my eyes, and photographs taken of the retina.  While on holiday over the New Year, I had experienced flashing lights in one eye, and was quite concerned as I had previously suffered from a detached retina.  Luckily this recent incident seems to have righted itself, and no damage has been done.  Thank goodness for that, eyes are so precious, aren’t they. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Muffy does Christmas

All the Christmas lights, decorations, wall-hangings and assorted Santa's have been put away.  Packed into plastic crates and hauled up the steep and narrow drop-down ladder into the loft.  The house has been cleared of everything Christmassy except for my newly finished Christmas quilt, which is still draped over the back of the sofa.  Muffy decided that, as far as she was concerned, she didn’t want Christmas to end.  So she artistically draped herself along the top of the sofa and had another snooze.  Never mind Muffy, it’s only 357 days till next Christmas!

P1080007 Muffy on the couch

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Easing into the New Year

I’ve eased into sewing today, just taking things quietly.  No sewing on my million and one UFOs, I’m sad to say, but I’ve done a little mending.  Then altered the legs on a pair of light trousers from full length to three quarters – so much cooler to wear in the summer.  Then I prepared and stitched on the label for my Christmas quilt, so it’s good to get that completed.

I’ve also been busy at the computer, and I’ve just completed my “quilt documentation” for the projects I completed in 2013.  Such as the tote bags I made for the grand-daughters, small gift bags I sent out during the year, and my Christmas quilt.  (Why I don't do each one as soon as I've finished each project is beyond me).  It’s no good me feeling too smug, as although I’m up to date with the current projects, I still have to document some of my older quilts.  Carefully tucked away in various envelopes are samples of the fabrics used for each project, when and where made, if in a class perhaps, who it was made for, and other necessary information.   Photos too of course, and it is easy these days to print a photo onto the page.  I slip each page with their fabric samples (and sometimes sewing notes) into a plastic pocket, and then into a ring binder.  I’m slowly working through this backlog, and when I finally finish, I really will be up to date. 

I use two folders for this, one for quilts, and the second for other stuff such as bags, cushions, table runners, Santas, or anything else.  I love to flick through my folders occasionally, look back at what I’ve made, and check the dates of some of the early quilts – “I made it that long ago”.   Does anyone else keep a record of all their completed work?  And in what format?  Do tell!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Christmas Parcel

Arrived back home yesterday after a couple of weeks away in the caravan to a nice surprise.  The neighbours had kindly rescued a courier parcel for me.  Although we put a “Hold” on the mail this service doesn’t extend to parcels which seem to be delivered by couriers – or junk mail, for that matter.  The rest of our mail will be delivered tomorrow – wonder if there will be any other little quilty surprises waiting there for me?

My pen-friend Carol from South Dakota had stitched a panel featuring a quilt shop – with the suggestion to make it up into a bag.  As every quilter knows, you can never have enough bags to store your projects in.  I’ll have to look around for something suitable for the back and lining.

P1050013 Christmas gift from Carol

For Christmas both Robin and I received a voucher from the wonderful Herb Farm Cafe in the Manawatu.  We have been there before and they have great food, so that is two lunch outings we can plan for a little later.  Grand-daughter Megan gave me a cute little gift, a pretty key ring with silver coloured charms and pieces of tape measures.  It’s quite small and dainty so  I’m going to clip it on to my scissors – then they will be easily recognisable at any classes or quilty get-togethers.

P1050014 Pretty gift from grand-daughter Megan

Now we are home from our Christmas trip away, I’m not even thinking of what’s hiding away in my sewing room.  There’s Christmas wall-hangings and decorations to pack away first, and the “normal” things to put back in place.  Robin has to climb back up the ladder and unhook the Christmas lights which are strung up outside, but the heavy rain has put paid to that job at the moment. 

Friday, January 3, 2014

Last day of the Holiday

It’s the last day of our Foxton holiday, and we are sitting inside the caravan with the rain is pouring down outside.  But I’ve put the afternoon down-time to good use.  Out came my knitting bag, my box of pins and the large  bodkin.  I’ve been industriously sewing up the shoulder seams of my current knitting project, and knitted the neck band.  These things always take way longer than you would think, don’t they?  But I’m one step closer to completion, and pleased with my couple of hours of work tucked up inside the caravan. 

There’s no chance of sitting outside today, in fact the weather hasn’t been as good as we had expected.  Although we’ve had a reasonable amount of sunshine, this has been accompanied by strong winds, more often than not, and passing showers.  Just as well we are returning home tomorrow, some of the food in the fridge is getting low.  Except for the ham – that will last for ages, I expect.  And we finished off the last of the Christmas Cake, that must be a sign to return home. 

We are having a “Farewell Dinner” down at the local Boat Club tonight - they have a great little restaurant there.  A night off from cooking duties is always a bonus!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Reflecting Back on the Year that was

What a year it has been, our lives have certainly changed.  Not quite as much P&Q was completed during 2013 but….. After we sold our house in Upper Hutt we spent three months living in our caravan while the builders got busy, and I made the decision not to take my sewing machine along in the caravan too.  With travelling up to Levin several times a week to check on the house building project, there wasn’t much time for stitching, although I had some hand sewing and knitting to do when time allowed.  My one and only finish to show for our 3 months of living in the caravan was a little toddlers jumper.  Knitting this little jumper really brought back memories.  I remember knitting this same pattern in light blue for my little toddler Michael many years ago.  My little boy is now, I can hardly believe it, 49!  The old pattern is Patons 1845, and is knitted in double knit wool. Perhaps we’ll  have another little boy in the family one day?  Then I will prepared for him.

DSCF4506 First finish of 2013

We moved into our new home in March 2013 and had curtains to order, furniture to arrange, pictures to be hung, and a million boxes to open!  My sewing room is still not organised exactly as I want it, and I am contemplating buying a bed settee for this room.  Or not – perhaps it will be too big and over powering?  So I’m dithering a bit on this decision.  Sewing took a back seat for a while, and then I felt motivated to make a few things for our new house.  Such as a new bag to store all those plastic grocery bags in.  I made it from a tea towel showing pictures of New Zealand flowers and flowering  native trees,  and it now hangs nice and tidy from a hook in the pantry.

DSCF4790 Every kitchen needs one of these

Next on the list was sewing for our lounge:  a pair of green cushions using the left over fabric curtain fabric, and not one, but two table runners for our new coffee table.  Making the cushions was quite straight forward, but the table runners got put aside for a while and took a little time to complete.  The saw tooth stars were made from some of the extra curtain fabric, using a cream patterned fabric for the background, and plain green for the borders.  The second table runner was a bit more challenging to make.  Now I have two for the coffee table, to ring the changes.  I used some of the left over curtain fabric in both, the same green for the borders, but different neutral fabrics and both are made in different styles. 

DSCF5478 Muffy on the couch with the new cushions

DSCF5707First runner made with Saw Tooth Stars

P9070002 Second table runner

Then it was time to make a few gifts.  My old school friend Merilyn loves gardening.  I had been busy doing the stitchery off and on to make her cushion for ages, and luckily completed the project in time for her birthday.  The pattern is “Bless my Knees”, designed by Mulberry Street, USA.  I used No 5 Perle cotton for the stitchery, and added highlights with fabric pens. The body of the cushion is a pale green cotton fabric.  It fits in well with the decor, I was told, and has pride of place on one of the couches.

DSCF5496 Made for Merilyn

Another gift was for my friend Dot, a belated 65th birthday present.  Two oven mitts, the green one is for Derek and Dot’s kitchen in their new house, and the lilac one will tone in  nicely with the colours of their motor-home.

DSCF5209Gift for Dot

Dot’s son Brent  has a real affinity with the American Bald Eagle and has quite a collection of eagle related items.   Tucked away in my sewing room was a piece of eagle fabric, eagles soaring against a blue sky.  It didn’t take too long to stitch up a pair of simple cushion covers.

DSCF6224 For Brent

More sewing for me was next, my old peg apron was ripped so I stitched myself a new one.  Plus a Givenchy apron (sounds so posh, doesn’t it?)  This was was a panel purchased from an Op Shop for a mere $2!  I always wear aprons in the kitchen as I’m such a messy cook!

DSCF5812 Blue Peg Apron

DSCF5327 Purple Givenchy Apron

Not forgetting my ever so handy block roll which started life as a “quilting” tea towel, sent to me by my UK pen-friend a while ago. I backed it with calico, added a light wadding, and stipple quilted the layers together, then added the red binding and ties.  I use this to store my stitcheries in, keeps them nice and flat. 
DSCF5686 Block Roll

We are getting near the end of my stitching year now.  And I have only one finished quilt for the year.  What a mammoth task this has been, machine quilting and unpicking time and again.  You are all probably heartily sick and tired of reading about the trials and tribulations of me and this quilt!  This quilt was a long time in the making,  I was working on the straight line machine quilting about seven years ago when I was diagnosed with cancer and underwent many long tiring weeks of radiation and chemo.  I couldn’t physically cope with it back then and when I finally returned to P&Q, this quilt held too many memories of this scary time.  But here it is, finished at last, over the back of the couch in the lounge looking very Christmassy indeed.

PC120058 My Christmas quilt

Looking back over the year, although I have only finished one quilt, I’m surprised how many other smaller items I have made.  And it hasn’t really been a quilt free year, I’ve been spending time working on a couple of other UFOs during the year.  It’s just that they are not yet up to that all important finished stage.

Another thing I’ve noticed, is that I’ve done a lot more cooking and baking in my lovely new kitchen, with friends popping in for lunch, and afternoon tea, which is nice.  I’m also pleased with my jam making during the year – I made batches of feijoa and kiwifruit jam, plus marmalade.  And not forgetting making my first ever Christmas Cake, so yummy!  Wonder why it took me so long to finally make one of these?

I'm also so very pleased to have joined the local quilt club, Town and Country Quilters.  And been invited to join the Sew Wot ladies for their fortnighly get togethers in each other's homes.  Yes indeed, this has certainly been a good year!