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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Now – where are the bicycle clips?

It was time to start machine quilting my burgundy and cream quilt in earnest.  I had done  the easy part when I stitched in the ditch around all the blocks with my walking foot.  No trouble at all, even though this quilt is huge, and probably much too big to be tackling on a domestic machine.  Exceedingly heavy too, especially with the added weight of all those safety pins.  Now, I know I’ve got some bicycle clips somewhere – where did I put them?  Out came all sorts of long forgotten bits and pieces as I searched through the drawers of my sewing cabinet, and wouldn’t you guess, they were in the very last place I looked.  I need them to fasten up the quilt when I roll it up.  Made sure I had lots of filled bobbins, threaded up my reel of variegated cotton, changed the needle and I was almost ready.  One more thing to do, and that was to fit my BSR foot, otherwise known as a “Bernina stitch regulator foot.”  And away I went, quilting freehand meander and swirls.
DSCF5794   Hard at work
I really struggled with the quilting.  The stitches were too big, and that *!#* quilt was so heavy it kept pulling.  The quilt didn’t seem to glide under the needle as it had when I quilted much smaller pieces.  I wasn’t doing very well at all.  What was I doing wrong?  I needed help, so I posted a message on the Southern Cross Quilters internet group and several ladies replied with advice.  It may seem simple, but what really worked for me was to “go slower”. I disengaged the foot pedal and used the stop/start button instead – this ensured I was quilting in much smaller bursts.  And I made extra sure that the bulk of the quilt was supported on the table, with the back not sliding down the wall over the edge of the cabinet.  The front I kept fluffed up on my lap.  These steps really made a big difference, and I am very grateful to all those who took the time to help me.  With the body of the quilt completed, it was quite an easy job to quilt around the borders.  Whew - it’s finally all quilted!  I only just had enough variegated thread on the reel to do the job.  That’s a 500mt reel and I was down to the last little bit.
DSCF5795 Only this much top thread remaining
I’ll never be a world famous machine quilter – not with the stitches sometimes skipping, the needle sometimes  jumping when I stopped and started, and the curves not always as smooth as I would like.  On reflection, I should have probably just quilted straight or slightly wavy  long lines over such a big quilt.  But I’m pleased with what I have done, and I’m sure my niece will be happy with her belated birthday gift. 
DSCF5796 All done
Of course, it’s not quite all finished, there is still the binding to machine on, and stitch down by hand.  I’ll enjoy sitting out on the back deck doing the hand stitching.  Then on to the label.  But I’m almost there, and it’s a really good feeling.  We will be taking a trip up to Hastings sometime in the near future to deliver the quilt.  Now, which UFO shall I tackle next?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

March Club Night

Pinestream Quilt Club night had rolled around again.  (I missed the previous month’s meeting as we were on our Wairarapa Safari caravan trip.)  Our speaker was Karen Johnston, a member who has recently  returned to New Zealand after living abroad for some years.  She spoke about the treasures she had purchased from exotic overseas markets.  Karen had brought wonderful textiles to show us, and passed them around so that we could touch them.  There were beautiful embroidered tablecloths and a length of shimmering brocade from Damascus, and shimmering fabrics from the souks of Israel and Palestine.  While living in USA, Karen bought a good selection of vintage feed sacks, some of the original sort with brand names, and some later floral feed sacks.     
DSCF5779 Exotic fabrics
Karen then went on to show us her Caribbean doll collection.  She is not really a doll person, she told us, but was drawn to these naive hand made dolls, and decided to collect only those with hand embroidered faces.  The topsy-turvy doll was the prettiest, with her full, flounced skirt.  The other dolls were much smaller, and one of Karen’s favourites was her ugly sack doll!
DSCF5778  Caribbean doll collection
Our club night show and tell is always interesting, and the highlight of the evening.  Sharon brought along a very striking black and white quilt which started life as a Block of the Month at another quilt club.  When the quilt was completed, it was presented to Sharon for her birthday, as she had told the maker she really, really liked it!  What a nice friend to give a quilt away.
DSCF5783 Sharon’s black and white quilt
Joyce has been busy stitching this train quilt for her Great-grandson Cody, and little boy would love a quilt like this.  He will know it is his very own quilt when he sees his name on it, won’t he?  
DSCF5780 Cody’s train quilt
Another very special quilt was the cross stitched ABC quilt made by Petronella for her grandson.  This is an ABC quilt with a difference, as the items all have Dutch names!  Such a lot of work went in to this.  It is beautifully stitched and was obviously a real labour of love.
DSCF5784  Petronella’s Dutch ABC quilt
Heather brought along her cat quilt.  I recall that this pattern was published in a Quilter’s Newsletter magazine many years ago.  Heather is generously donating this quilt to Haven Animal Rescue group for them to raffle for funds.
DSCF5785 Heather’s raffle quilt
Two charity quilts were brought along, made by club members for Te Omanga Hospice.  Both used the same design of four patch blocks, set with plain squares.  One was a soft cream quilt, and I rather liked the pretty shades in this purple quilt.  It is a simple design but very effective.
DSCF5782 Quilt for the Te Omanga Hospice
Once again, it was a very enjoyable club night.  There were lots of quilts to look at, and people to catch up with.  No luck with winning a raffle prize though, as per usual.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Yummy home made jam

Does any one else enjoy making jam, or is it just me?  Luscious Omega plums were on offer last week from the grower when we visited Greytown.  It was the last weekend they were on sale, so I am really pleased we were there at just the right time. 
DSCF5707 Last weekend for plum sales
My trusty preserving pan was tucked right in the back of the kitchen cupboards, and to reach it I had to take out piles of crockery.  Then of course put everything back again once I had  finally retrieved it.  The first step was to halve those juicy plums, and remove the stones.  I slipped on a pair of disposable gloves for this messy job and soon had plum juice all over them. (Perhaps I was someone rich and important in a former life, as I really hate getting my hands dirty.)  6 pounds of plums went into the pan, with a little water, to slowly cook and pulp down.
The next step was to sterilize the jam jars.  With that taken care of, I checked the plums to see if they were pulpy enough.  Then the heat was turned up to a rolling boil, and the sugar added.  Cook for 15 minutes, said the recipe, then test.  This is always the bit of jam making I find difficult, if the first little bit of jam doesn’t form a skin, what are you meant to do?  I just cook it a bit longer, and sometimes even add a little more sugar, then test again.  When I judged it “just right”, I ladled the hot jam into the jars, (overflow method) and screwed the lids on tight.
DSCF5767  Plenty of Omega plum jam
The kitchen smelt lovely and homely with the sweet smell of bubbling plums.  I love home made jam, and enjoy making it occasionally.  The time and effort spent in the kitchen is rewarded with all those jars full of beautiful deep rich red goodness.  Home made is certainly best, as far as jam is concerned, I always think.  There were enough plums left to cook up a bowl for the evening’s dessert – served with whipped cream, they were delicious!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Another Stonestead Stitchers Day

The day today may have been fine and sunny, but the wind had a definite Autumn chill to it.  So instead of stitching in the garden at Stonestead as we had been doing, we met upstairs in the Tea Shop.  Our nice freshly baked scones and hot drinks were duly delivered at lunch time.
DSCF5769 All ready for lunch
I was running a little late so had missed Cheryl’s show and tell.  But she had left it on the window ledge, so I went to admire her work.  There were two cushions, and a rather stately looking elephant.  Cheryl loves country colours and this appliquéd and embroidered cushion is very much in her style.
DSCF5776 Cheryl’s cushion
The elephant was quite spectacular.  This was done in a class some time ago, and the body is crazy patched in shades of purple, teal and terracotta.  The elephant was finished with gold thread embroidery, gold braid, bells, sequins and a cute little tassel for a tail.
DSCF5774 Cheryl’s elephant
Dorothy had brought in her lovely quilt top in shades of blue to show us.  This is a surprise for her son and daughter-in-law and when completed will be sent over to them in America.  As a reminder of her son’s Kiwi connection, Dorothy has used a pretty blue paua fabric in the quilt. 
DSCF5773 Blue wedding quilt with NZ inspired paua fabric
Ruth was working away on her candle-wicking panel, and is really on the home stretch with just a little to go now.  She purchased the cushion cover as a kit from Fox Collection. (This reminded me that I have a quilt load of candle-wick blocks waiting to be assembled into a top.  Oh dear, yet another UFO.)
DSCF5771 Candle-wick cushion cover
The knitting needles were clacking as Agnes worked on a cute little blue hooded jacket for her 4 month old grand-son.  It will certainly keep him cosy and warm when the winter chills arrive.
DSCF5770 Agnes with her knitting
I was doing some knitting too.  This is a “secret squirrel” present for a birthday gift, a scarf made using the Feathers yarn.
DSCF5777 My knitting
There is a huge range of craft magazines upstairs where we were stitching, and knitting, and some of us seemed to be doing more reading than working, myself included.  But that is all part of the creative fun, isn’t it, checking out magazines for inspiration and new ideas.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Parcel in the Mail

Isn’t it exciting getting parcels in the mail?  Especially an unexpected parcel.  My pen friend Gail from Canada said the other week that she was sending me a little something in the mail, and it had been especially chosen for me by her young daughter Natalie.  And there it was, a neat little box, waiting patiently on the front doorstep for someone to notice and hurry it inside.  How exciting!  In no time at all the parcel was  inside the house, and the wrapping paper was removed to reveal – what’s this, it’s a Jim Shore box!
DSCF5758 Hope there’s a Jim Shore piece in this box
Quilters worldwide all know about Jim Shore and the wonderful decorated figurines he produces.  Taking authentic designs from quilting, rosemaling, appliqué and flat perspective folk art, Jim creates an intricate and colourful work of art that reflects shared cultural heritage yet is unmistakably Jim Shore.  I carefully opened the box, unwrapped the tissue paper and bubble wrap  and lifted out……
DSCF5759 Wrapped up in selvedges
Selvedges were wrapped all around as extra protection.  How kind – Gail knows I collect selvedges too.  There were this many, in all sorts of different colours to add to my collection.
DSCF5760 To add to my collection
So what did all the wrapping finally reveal?  It was this lovely little figurine of a brown bear with a Santa hat riding a polar bear, balancing on top of a globe of the world.  All beautifully decorated in the Jim Shore style, and is part of the “Bearstone Collection.”
DSCF5762 My gift from Gail
My beautiful Jim Shore ornament is safely wrapped up again and will come out at Christmas time.  Thanks so much Gail, and Natalie, for your lovely gift.
DSCF5763 Look what I got today!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

And the Winner is……

Many thanks to those of you who left me a comment for  my Belated 200th Quilt Blog Post – it was much appreciated.  My way to use a home grown random selector was to write everyone’s name on a piece of paper, put the papers in a glass, cover it with my hand and give it a good shake all around.  When Robin returned home from doing a few chores he was nominated to do the honours.  Another hearty shake to mix everything up again and in went those stubby fingers to draw out………oops, those fat fingers pulled out two folded yellow slips of paper, so back they both went.  Another good shake and the winner is Annette, congratulations.  Please contact me Annette, as I cannot find out to get in touch with you via your profile.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A new convert, perhaps?

My friend Kathryn is recovering from an operation on her ankle so is resting at home.  Her leg is well plastered and she needs to keep it elevated and well rested.  Grand-daughter Thea has written all over the plaster, writing her name, Mummy and Daddy’s names,  as well as “I  love you” on Nana’s leg.  A walker helps her get around the house, but she must be careful not to overdo things.  “Can you come and help get me started with some patchwork?”, she asked.  Of course I could – so I bought something tasty from a bakery for our lunches, and went to see what I could do to help.
DSCF5679 Kathryn is keen to start stitching
Over a period of time Kathryn had bought a dozen or so fat quarters, a few half yards, and a whole bunch of fabric squares.  That sounds suspiciously like the beginnings of a stash to me!  She also had several bag patterns that she was eager to stitch, and a set of four small stitcheries showing the seasons.  Where to start, she wanted to know.  Unfortunately, we wouldn’t be starting today, I told her.  The first thing to do, I told her, was to wash the fabric.  I know that opinions vary on this point, but I am definately in the “always wash first“ club. 
DSCF5680 Kathryn’s stash
So we bundled up the fabric and I took it home to wash and iron.  I certainly didn’t mind this little chore, especially as I get to cut off and keep the selvedges, as a bonus.  However, more than half of the fabrics were pre-cut and packaged fabric from USA, and these unfortunately all came without a printed selvedge edge.  Doesn’t it all look nice drying in the breeze?
DSCF5685Patchwork fabric hanging up to dry
I can help with the stitcheries too.  It will be just a quick job to trace them out on some cream homespun over my light box.  And I know I can spare a little pellon as well to place behind the stitching.
DSCF5681 Seasonal stitcheris
So next time I pop in to visit Kathryn, she will have her stitcheries traced, and her patchwork fabric all freshly washed and ironed.  I’ll take my board and cutter too, so that she can start sewing one of those bags.  How nice to have a new convert to P & Q.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Belated Blog Anniversary Giveaway

Now we are back from our holiday, it is time to consider my belated 200th blog post. we are now up to blog 206!  There was not a quilt shop shop to be found in the rural outposts of coastal Wairarapa, but we travelled to all sorts of places we had never been before.  So sadly no quilt related goodies were bought on our trip for a giveaway.  On a recent trip to Wellington I picked a bright and cheerful Kiwi Tea Towel from the Simply NZ shop, just the thing to brighten up your kitchen.  I’m adding a piece of hand dyed yellow fabric, measuring 11in X 24in, and two small pieces of jazzy pink and green floral fabric.  You have to be in to win, so please leave a comment if you would like this little parcel winging it’s way to you.
DSCF5671 Kiwi patterned tea-towel and fabrics

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Stonestead Thursday Stitchers

It was another lovely day joining the Thursday (fortnightly) stitchers in the beautiful grounds of Stonestead.  This was only my second time attending this group, and all the ladies are most welcoming and very pleasant.  I’m sure I’m going to enjoy their company and getting to know them a little better as time goes on.  We were making the most of the good weather and arranged ourselves under the sun umbrellas in the garden.  There was a lot going on an everyone was most industrious.  Mary was busy doing hand appliqué around her angel block, which featured a pieced plaid background.  This was purchased as a kit from Sawmiller’s Quiltery. she told me.
DSCF5654 Mary with her Angel block
Hexagon quilts are certainly very popular and Dorothy was busy hand quilting her pretty pink hexagon quilt.  That is a big quilt she seems to be hiding behind.  I really admire all the people who are on the hexagon revival – I’m sure I wouldn’t have the patience to cut, baste, then hand stitch all those hexagons together.
DSCF5656 Dorothy with her hexagon quilt
There was a bit of knitting going on too.  Carol was planning ahead for winter and had the knitting needles clacking away as she worked on a “feathers” hat for her daughter.
DSCF5655 Carol and her knitting
I admired the Hussif which Joyce had brought along, and she told me that she had made it many years ago.  It is made with the most beautiful wool tapestry showing all sorts of different stitches and has compartments inside to keep the sewing bits and bobs together. 
DSCF5659 Joyces’s pretty Hussif
Cheryl has a bit of a production line going making turtles.  She made the first one, now just can’t stop!  These cute little turtles open up to become a sewing kit, so they will make the ideal gift for friends, Cheryl told me.  The turtles have hexagons appliquéd onto their shells.  This one still needs the body stuffed.  Oh dear, I think he needs a head too.
DSCF5660 He’s nearly finished
The other two needed to walk on the stone footpath to smell the flowers for their photo shot, I decided.  Don’t they look cute?  You can just see the roll of thread peeking out  by the tail.
DSCF5661 Two cute turtle sewing kits
And what was I doing?  I started a new hand project but I’m not telling just yet.  More on that later.  We all enjoyed our Devonshire teas for lunch, hand delivered to our tables in the garden by chief scone maker Kevin – delicious as usual.  Thanks ladies, for your company and a great time stitching.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Stay and Stitch

Readers will be aware that quilting and caravanning are both big things in my life.  So when I read an article in a UK caravan magazine recently which combined both interests, I was intrigued. 
DSCF5651 Quilting workshop at a UK caravan park
The article went on to say:  “Are you a keen quilter?  If so, why not combine your hobby with a caravan holiday on the glorious Berkshire Downs.  We have our very own quilting and craft workshop right on site.  Popular with caravanners are the regular “Pitch and Stitch” events, which are open to anyone who fancies bringing their sewing, knitting or other craft along and working in company”.
Doesn’t that sound like a great place to take the caravan for a few weeks?  I haven’t heard of anyone here in New Zealand offering this kind of thing at a motor camp yet.  Thanks to Dot and Derek of Gypsy Rover for posting us a copy of the UK Caravan Magazine.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Meeting up with a cyber friend

Roz reads our blogs and she had commented previously that perhaps we could meet up next time we called in to her home town.  We were staying overnight in her part of New Zealand during our “Wairarapa Safari”, and made contact.  Yes, she would love to have us visit.  So we popped round to see her.  Roz remarked that she had the advantage of knowing what we looked like, from our photos on the blogs.  Over a cup of tea we got to know each other.  You know what quilters are like, they can’t stop talking!  “Would you like to come and see my play room?”, she asked.  Of course I would.  Being a true quilter, Roz had quilts all through the house.  This cute chicken quilt was on a rail in the hall way.
Roz has a lovely light and airy room in which to stitch away to her heart’s content.  Her DH has fitted out an existing wardrobe so that she can store away her fabric stash.  And what a good job he has done.  I wish my fabric collection was half as tidy!
DSCF5604 All nicely stacked away
The Sano Diyo quilt project is dear to Roz’s heart, and her aim is to complete 50 quilts to send over to be distributed to the orphanages in Nepal.  A little girl would just love this quilt, wouldn’t she?  Another colourful border will be added to make it a bit bigger.
DSCF5605 A quilt for Nepal
Roz sometimes purchases part projects online, then adds to them to make them single bed size.  She showed me a lovely pansy quilt which fell into this category.  She is happy to accept orphan blocks from friends, and quilt panels make a good starting point too.  It is a learning process to take what someone else has started, Roz says, and expand on their colour and fabric choices.  I think it is a wonderful thing to do, to make such a commitment.  In between times Roz does stitching for herself, and is taking part in an on-line quilt challenge.  Such rich colours in this appliqué centre, and I understand the next step is to surround it with pieced blocks.
DSCF5603 On-line challenge quilt
It was so nice to finally catch up with Roz after exchanging the occasional e-mail.  Thanks for your hospitality, and giving me a peep inside your sewing room.
If readers would like to see where we have travelled to over the last two weeks, check out our other blog on www.romanyrambler.blogspot.com   We had a great time and travelled to all sorts of places we hadn’t been before.  I never found a quilt shop though!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The week that was

We have been travelling around exploring coastal and southern Wairarapa last week, when we heard the news of the terrible earthquake that struck Christchurch.  The rural areas we were travelling do not have internet connections and cell phone coverage was very patchy.  Luckily a quick phone call to son Michael who lives in Christchurch assured us that he was unharmed, but very understandably suffering from frayed nerves.  TV reception was also hard to get at times, so we had to rely on the radio to keep up with the terrible news.  Our hearts go out to all in Christchurch, as they slowly try to get their lives back to some sort of normality.  It will be a long slow job, I imagine.
On a lighter note, I have been doing a little stitching on my redwork heart blocks during the last week.  We are currently at Waipawa and visited the Central Hawke’s Bay Settler’s Museum.  The mangles, concrete tubs, washboards  and butter churns on display all spoke of the hard physical labour require to run a household in those early days.
DSCF5568  Women’s work is never done
I am always drawn to the old textiles and linens and the museum showed several room settings.  The master bedroom had a lovely assortment of fine hand stitched underwear and nightgowns. 
Next was the nursery with the single bed, cot and bassinet made up with lovely old linen.  There were so many beautiful items but the photo does not do them justice.
Here is a close up of the hand made doll in the bassinette, surely some little girl’s much loved dolly.  Pinky the rag doll appears to me made from a loose woven cotton and has details marked with pen.
DSCF5566 Pinky the rag doll
And then I found the quilt.  It may be old, ripped and stained, but it looked so beautiful folded up on the old wheel chair,  just waiting to keep a patient warm and cosy.  That is what quilting is all a bout, isn't it?
DSCF5570 The cosy old quilt