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Monday, April 30, 2012

Any guesses?

Any guesses of what I am doing?  I’ll give you a clue – pegs clipped on to the bottom of my tee-shirt, and my pink bucket firmly clasped in my hand.  That’s right – I’m doing even more holiday washing by hand.  After hanging it outside in the sunshine on the handy camp clothesline, the sky clouded over and down came the rain.  There was only one thing to do, gather the washing up, visit the laundrette up town and spend a little while reading out of dates magazines while the washing tumbled around in the big commercial drier.
DSCF1264    It’s wash day once more

Sunday, April 29, 2012

I’m glad I’m not a miner’s wife

“The Bearded Miners” – now, how could I resist checking them out at Reefton?  A group of men calling themselves the Bearded Miners, entertain visitors at the replica 1800s miners hut in the main street of Reefton.  They are full of interesting stories, but oh, that hut!  A dirt floor, daylight coming in through the chinks of the timber, it must have been a tough old life indeed high up on the hills as the men fossiked for gold.  The only covering over the windows was a couple of sacks nailed up over the opening.  Cooking was done on a pot hanging over the open fire, which would be the only way to keep the cold at bay, and probably most of the heat would escape up the chimney, and through the holes in the walls.  I’m glad I was not a miner’s wife back in the old days.
DSCF1228 Here I am with two of the “Bearded Miners of Reefton”
So after my chat with the miners and a good look around their drafty wooden hut, my own bearded fellow and I went across the road for a tasty lunch, wild pork and bacon pies.  Wonder if one of those miners had been out shooting the wild pork for the cafe?

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Hello Reefton Quilters

It just goes to show that “Quilters are Everywhere”.  Sitting outside on the main street in Reefton on a cold and wet afternoon I came across two ladies.  They were selling raffle tickets for their members, “The Grey Valley Patchwork and Quilting Group”.  Many of them had worked sewing blocks for the raffle quilt, stitching it together, then doing the quilting.  The Drunkard’s Path blocks were stitched in various greys and the border was a horse print in shades of grey, black and burgundy.  The cushions piled on top were also raffle prizes.   
DSCF1221 Quilters in Reefton
So of course I stopped to chat and buy a couple of raffle tickets.  The ladies told me that their members come from quite a wide area of the region, and that the nearest shop selling patchwork fabric was many miles away.  I was surprised to find out that they knew (and had visited) my “local” shop, Thimbles and Threads.  And also the last shop I had visited, By Hoki Quilt shop in Hokitika.  It was lovely to be able to have a bit of quilty talk with fellow stitchers, and who knows, I just might strike it lucky with those raffle tickets!
And did you know that Reefton’s claim to fame is that is was the first town in New Zealand  to produce it’s own electricity. I’m not sure if the vintage looking street lights are original, but don’t they look lovely and old fashioned? 
DSCF1243 Street light in Reefton, first place in NZ to get electricity

Friday, April 20, 2012

To the Wives and Mothers of Denniston

I just can’t help myself as far as laundry goes – it’s something I just have to do regularly, even while on holiday.  While travelling around the South Island with our caravan companions I mentioned jokingly that “doing the washing was my hobby”.  The look on one of the men’s faces was priceless! 

A visit to the old coal mining town atop the Denniston Plateau showed just how hard life was for the families up there.  While the men laboured long and hard working in dirty and dangerous conditions, the lives of the women folk were not much easier.  At 2000ft atop a cold, wet, windswept plateau, life was difficult, to say the least.

Former resident Abbie related:  “We had to boil up the copper and then rub the clothes on a wash board with a bar of soap that we had usually made ourselves.  The clothes were rinsed twice in double tubs and then put through the mangle.  In winter it was so cold the clothes were freezing before we finished pegging them out.  Ironing took a long time as everything was starched in those days.  To make sure the washing did not have any soot on it we rubbed it with salt. I usually had to iron 20 or more shirts a week and I dared not get any soot on them from the iron or else they would have to go back in the wash”.

DSCF1009-001 Wash day at Denniston

A memorial to honour the wives and mothers of Denniston stands high on the windswept plateau.  It says:

“In honour of the wives and mothers of the hill.  They endured atrocious weather, hard work, economic hardship and isolation.  Few women have been asked to do more and none could have given more for husband and children.  From the children.”

DSCF1011Honouring the wives and mothers of Denniston

Life is relatively easy for most of us these days, with plenty of labour saving devices and especially washing machines.  To all those hard working wives and mothers from Denniston, I salute you.  They just got on with their lives and made the best of it.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Singer - I grew up with one of these

We visited the Coaltown Museum in Westport, and as usual, I looked around for any old textiles hidden away.  The first thing I saw was a display of old sewing machines.  I just love this old Singer.  Like so many of my generation, I grew up with one of these in the household.  I can remember treadling away as I stitched many a dress in my early teenage years.  Sadly, the family didn’t think our lovely old Singer had any value, and it was replaced  by one of those more modern electric sewing machines.  What a shame we didn’t appreciate what we had back then.
DSCF0940 So many of us learnt on a machine like this
Vintage quilts were no where to be seen in a museum that tells the story of West Coast coal mines, but I did spot some pretty vintage underwear, lengths of lace, and a dolls dress tucked away in a cabinet.
DSCF0942 Pretty vintage lace items
You have to wonder what sort of story these items could tell.  Did the articles survive because they wear only worn for “best” and were therefore tucked carefully away most of the time? 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Wearable Art in the Blackball Hilton

You just never know what you will find as you travel around.  Here I was, miles away from anywhere, in the famous “Formerly the Blackball Hilton Hotel”?  I’m not really one to frequent pubs, I hasten to add, but this wonderful old historic hotel was at the heart of the Blackball Mine Strike, and the Labour political party started here, quite possibly planned in the very bar we were sitting in.  Hanging in an adjacent room were several garments from a recent wearable art competition.  The garments seem to have been made from recycled materials.
DSCF0812 Wearable Art – Blackball style
DSCF0814Pretty in pink
DSCF0816Made from a dress pattern
As I sipped my latte and Robin enjoyed his handle of beer, I looked around at all the memorabilia on the walls.  The Blackball Mine strike lasted for three long months, and was over the right to take a 30 minute lunch break, instead of just 15 minutes which the company insisted on. This brought about the start of Trade Unions, and the birth of the Labour political party, so history was made in this little mining town.   
But what’s this I see hanging on the wall?  It looks rather like a quilt to me.  Closer inspection showed that it was not a quilt as it did not contain any batting, but a very pretty coverlet made from strips of silk and satin.  Although the bar maid could tell me it was made by a local stitcher, she did not know how or why it was hanging in the bar.  Mmmm, a bit of a mystery, but a very pretty item indeed.
DSCF0809 Hanging in the bar
DSCF0806(Formerly) The Blackball Hilton Hotel

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Old Textiles at Hokitika

It’s no secret I love to visit museums, especially if they have displays of textiles, or if I’m really lucky, perhaps a quilt draped over a bed for me to admire.  Our recent visit to the Hokitika Museum did not disappoint.  There were rooms from a “settlers house” and there on the bed was a red and white quilt embellished with cross stitch embroidery.  Lovely old lace trimmed pillowcases adorned the bed.  
DSCF0768 Quilt on display at Hokitika Museum
I checked at the reception desk to see if they could provide any information on the quilt – and the young lady sent me in search of the Archivist, who was very helpful.  Ushering me into to office, she sat me down, fired up her computer, and found the file on the quilt.  Called the “Ecclesfield Quilt” it is apparent that several people have worked on it over the years, perhaps different family members, as the sewing skills are quite different in various areas of the quilt.  Although the quilt was not labelled, it is presumed to have been completed by Edith Ecclesfield in the late 1880s, who came from a prominent business family.  I was really pleased that the Archivist took the time to answer my query, but then again, she is a quilter too, she told me.
Beautiful embroidered underwear was displayed on a rack  beside the bed – so gorgeous, and I could just imagine a young lady patiently stitching such items for her trousseau in years gone by.
DSCF0767 Hand stitched underwear
Hokitika Museum had wonderful displays of the region’s rich heritage, from gold mining, shipping, white baiting, and greenstone, well worth a visit if you are passing by.

You can keep up with our adventures as we travel around the South Island on our Travel Blog on


Thursday, April 12, 2012

By Hoki Quilts

It was so nice to meet up with Miche’le today, owner of the lovely shop  By Hoki Quilts, and fellow blogger.  “Come in, I’ll put the kettle on”, she said, as she ushered us inside.  As well as a cuppa, we were warmly welcomed with home made scones too.  We sat and chatted, as is often the case with quilters who have only met over the internet, felt as though we had known each other for ages.  Miche’le specialises in tone on tone prints, and has a wonderful selection, together with all sorts of interesting bits and pieces.  Lovely little quilts are on display, stitcheries, and I’m sure that I noticed some toys and teddies there too.
DSCF0748 Views of the shop
Miche’le showed me her latest hand quilting project, a Sunbonnet Sue quilt made in soft toned Japanese taupes.  All beautifully needle turned appliqué, this quilt definitely will be staying with Miche’le and not be given away.  She was hiding away when I took this photo, but as I warned her, she would have to be in one sooner or later!
DSCF0744 Sunbonnet Sue in Japanese taupes
This one was a “stitch-along quilt” designed by Chooky Blue.  Lots of lovely stitchery blocks and pretty summer garden colours.
DSCF0746Stitch-along Garden quilt
I already knew that Miche’le rather liked little embroidered tuffets (or tiny pillows) and she had a big basket full in her workroom.  All sorts of colours and designs, some were gifts and some she had made herself.
DSCF0747 A basket of tuffets
DSCF0750Coffee time
There is a nice comfy sofa in the shop, piled with cushions to snuggle in to.  I just loved this pretty little crazy patch cushion.
DSCF0751  Crazy patch cushion
Thank you so much for your hospitality and friendship, Miche’le.   I’ve said it before, quilters are such friendly caring people, and it was lovely to meet you at last.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Quilts at Franz Josef

Down a leafy path off the main road in the township of Franz Josef is the pretty little St James Anglican Church, built in the black and white Tudor timbered style.  The doors were open, so we went in to have a look.
P4061898 St James Anglican Church
The interior was light and airy.  Years ago, the Franz Josef glacier could be seen through the  windows over the Alter of the church, but it has receded so much that it can no longer be seen from this viewpoint.
P4061893 Interior of the church
That looked suspiciously like a quilt draped over the alter, so of course I had to go and check it out.  It was a quilt, made with eight pointed stars in shades of purple and lilac, and a silver cross.   This part of the panel was machine quilted with straight lines.
DSCF0567 Stars and a cross on the front
Panels were attached at each side, which also featured a silver cross, and meander style machine quilting.
DSCF0568 Side panels
A peep around the back showed another quilt made up of red and green crosses on a pale green background, looking like flowering rata in the green bush.  The photo does not do it justice but I had a very small space to manoeuvre in.
DSCF0569 Back panel
Carefully lifting up the corners of the panels, I could not find out who the maker was.  If any local quilters know who did this lovely piece of work, please let me know.  The alter quilt seems to be very new and is so lovely in this setting.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Looking over Lake Hawea

Life can’t get much better than this.  Here we are, sitting outside the caravan in the brilliant sunshine.  The view over Lake Hawea is breathtaking – we feel that we could well be in heaven!
DSCF0411 Looking from our camp site over Lake Hawea
It’s time to get on with my stitching, I decided, while I’ve been relaxing in the sun.  The herb cushion for my daughter is coming along slowly.  Now I’ve finished stitching the words in black, and the herb planter box in timber brown, I’m all ready to start on the various herbs, all in various colours of green. 
DSCF0414 Getting on with my stitching
The scenery in this part of New Zealand is amazing, the mountains and lakes are on such a grand scale.  We are enjoying our time here at Lake Hawea and will shortly be travelling over to the wild West Coast area.  If you are interested, please do pop over to our travel blog on
www.romanyrambler.blogspot.com   to catch up with our travels.