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

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Forgotten Finishes

How could I forget that I had made a series of little bags over the year?  Probably because it was some “secret sewing”, and posted out to friends as the year progressed.  They ended up in various sizes, depending how much fabric I had.  With a teddy bear stitchery panel, and made with sewing themed fabric, lined inside and a draw string top, I’m pleased with how they turned out. 

DSCF5613 Little bags looped over our side fence, all in a row

I stitched another little bag too during the year.  This was sent to my pen-friend Carol, who lives in South Dakota, USA, for Christmas. The stitchery panel has a little bird sitting on top of a Christmas Pudding, and I used a poinsettia fabric for the bag.

DSCF5614Made for Carol, USA,  for Christmas

When we return home next week, there should be a small parcel from Carol waiting for me.  Although we put in a request to get the mail stopped and held while we are away, parcels often come by courier.  Hopefully one of the neighbours will notice if we have any mail left on the doorstep and will gather it up and keep it safe for us.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Christmas Decorations – Caravan Style

Hand crafted Christmas always appeals, and it is nice to look around the caravan at this time of year and reminisce about the the things I have made over the years.  A trio of soft Santas sit on  the shelf above the door with their cotton beards hot glued in place.  Hot glue guns put terror in my heart (and hands) and I have suffered from blobs of burning hot glue landing on my fingers and hands instead of where they should be going.  I keep well clear of these torture implements these days!

PC270033 Three Santas on Christmas duty above the door

Our caravan club banner comes down to be replaced by my two little Christmas stitcheries.   Hand stitched and hand quilted, these were made these in 2004.  Goodness, they are almost 10 years old!

PC270032Hung up each Christmas

I have several Christmas cushion covers which get trotted out each year, and this is the last one made.  Poor Santa seems to have a bit of a crossed eyed look about him, and Muffy likes to cuddle up to this cushion so it tends to get covered in fine white fur.

PC270035 Merry Christmas cushion

We purchased this pretty candle in a Christmas Shop in Burton in the Water, Cotswolds, UK, a few years ago.  Can you make out the golden angel blowing the trumpet?  It is full of pretty baubles set in some sort of jelly substance, and was made in Germany.  The shop was full of all sorts of wonderful decorations.  But I had to chose something small enough to pop in the corner of an already full to overflowing suitcase after 3 months away overseas.

PC270038 Christmas candle from Germany

As usual, I have packed my hand stitching this trip, so must really get it out and do some more outside while the weather is nice.  Or perhaps I’ll just read my new book instead.  That’s what caravanning is all about – doing what takes your fancy.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Sewing completed just in time

It was touch and go if I would get the Christmas sewing completed in time, before we went away in the caravan.  But of course I did, and I even found time to shorten a casual top I had purchased a couple of months ago.  I was making the grand-daughters a tote bag each.  Emma is a real horse fanatic so hers was done in horsey fabric.  Megan’s bag was made with black fabric printed with hats, bags, high heels and cocktails.

PC230022 Two tote bags for Christmas

Anything to do with horses makes Emma happy.  She declared she is going to take it to work each day.  However, I’m not too sure what Megan felt about her bag, although she thanked me politely.  (If she doesn’t want it, perhaps I could take it back?)

Opening the presents elicited a lot of squealing from the two grand-daughters as they found things that they really, really wanted.  Megan is a keen cook and was thrilled with her little blow torch, just the thing to finish off a crème Brule, we were told.  So many presents were piled under the tree that it took quite some time to open them all.  Ours included a book each, (just what we wanted)  vouchers and a big haul of chocolates.  We don’t really need the choccies, do we, but no doubt they will get eaten.

PC250026_thumb[1] Just what Megan wanted

We’ve been eating all day, and the day is not over yet.  Breakfast was hot croissants filled with freshly glazed ham and cheese.  And for lunch I had prepared our well loved chicken roll-ups.  This is a Jo Segar recipe and is simply sliced chicken breast rolled around a “boozy” soaked dried apricot, rolled around again with streaky bacon, and held together with several toothpicks.

PC240007 Something I prepared earlier

With the rain coming down hard we decided to cook our special bacon wrapped chicken roll-ups in the kitchen instead of outside on the BBQ.  Robin took over this chore and stood diligently, turning the chicken pieces as they slowly browned.  The combination of bacon and chicken sizzling away smelt divine, yum, it was enough to make our mouths water!  These were served with green salad, potatoe salad, pasta salad, and kumara salad, washed down with sips of bubbly and grape-juice.  Dessert was Nicky’s speciality, a decadent home made chocolate cheesecake, piled high with strawberries and blueberries, and there was no space for Christmas Pudding and custard at all.  We will save that for another day.

PC250031 Our Christmas Feast

PC250032 The girls decorated Grand-dad’s beard

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas Greetings

Very warm Christmas greetings and may you all have a lovely Christmas Day with family or friends, whoever you chose to spend this special day with.  Many thanks to all readers, friends, followers, and fellow bloggers for your interest over the last year.  I am so pleased I had the chance to meet up with several bloggers this year and make your acquaintance. 

12 Days of Xmas Merry Christmas

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas in the Caravan

It’s almost Christmas, and that means special food.  You would think we were planning for a siege, so much “stuff” was taken from our kitchen and packed into the caravan.  In went the ham,  the Christmas cake and pudding, Christmas mince tarts, and the large containers of cream and custard.  Plus recipes and ingredients to make my contributions for Christmas Day.  And then there was a crate of gifts to pack, mustn’t forget those or we would be in trouble.  Something we did forget to pack were the potatoes, onions, and kumara.  I’m making my kumara salad for Christmas day, nice and tasty with bacon, nuts, dates and a little curry, so we stopped on our way up to Kiwitea to buy these missing items.

We will be staying in our caravan up here in rural Kiwitea for the next several days.  The caravan is looking quite festive with Christmas cushions on the couches, and my cute little red-work Santa hanging on the wall.  Santa’s over 10 years old now, but he still brings a smile to my face when I hang him up in the caravan each year.

PC230033 Red-work Santa in the caravan

And I’m rather fond of my pair of Rudolf brothers.  I hang these from the light fittings each side of our bed.  Robin wondered what on earth it was when I made the first one.  When I stitched the second one so we had one each he was speechless.  “Look at that knock kneed moose”, he says.  But I like them -  they are just so funny.

PC230032 These hang each side of the bed during Christmas.

I took the Christmas presents inside the house and added them to those already under the tree.  If I’m lucky there might be one or two for me under there.

PC230026  Lots of gifts under the tree

Daughter Nicky was busy in the kitchen working her way through a list of jobs.  Last one was to glaze the Christmas ham.  She removed the skin, scored the fat, basted it with a delicious smelling concoction and baked it in the oven.  It came out smelling wonderful and looking divine.   Can’t wait to try it on Christmas day.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Girls Day Out at the Christmas Shop

I just managed to find a spare day in the hurly-burly lead up to Christmas to travel into Wellington to view Kirkcaldie and Stains wonderful Christmas Shop.  My friend Dot was keen to come too, and we travelled into the big city by train, courtesy of our Gold Cards.  These handy little cards enable the oldies to travel free on non peak bus and train services.
The Christmas Shop is quite the Wellington institution at this time of year, and has been for many years.  I always like to go and have a look, and get immersed in all the Christmas decorations, singing Santas, colour coordinated decorated trees, and usually come away with a little something.

PC190009   Soldier on duty at the Christmas Shop

PC190010A corner full of gold decorations

The shop wasn’t too crowded, but there were still plenty of kids and their Mums having a good look at the the glittering baubles.  A train set was safely behind a glass barrier to keep the small fingers away.  The children’s little faces were pressed up to the glass watching as the train tootled around the track.

PC190020 Trains are always fascinating to young and old alike

The talking toys were a real hit, and it wasn’t just the youngsters who couldn’t get enough.  Christmas Ted was doing a great job of reading out his story – we had to press the button on one foot, and then the other to get him started.

PC190016 Christmas Ted read to us

There was a group of kids clustered around a small Santa, having the time of their lives.  Turned out he was a Chatter Santa, and he repeated everything that was said to him, even the giggles.  Once the kids had moved on and left the way clear, we could have our own turn.  Dot bent down low so she could have a conversation with Chatter Santa.  I was smitten too – I just had to purchase one to take home.

PC190014 Dot having a conversation with Chatter Santa

With so much to see, we had to walk around the shop several times.  There is always a selection of New Zealand inspired ornaments, from koru, silver ferns, and pohutakawa blossoms to hang on the tree.  Then there are surfing Santas, bungy jumping sheep, and such-like, just the sort of thing to send to a home sick Kiwi living overseas.

PC190025Santa riding a motor bike

I love to have lunch at Kirk’s cafe, and I suggested to Dot that we beat the lunch time crowd and get there early.  Everyone else obviously had the same idea, as the place was packed.  Luckily we found a table and ate our nicely presented lunches as we watched the never ending stream of customers file through the cafe.  It always is a busy place, and the Santas hanging from the ceiling gave it a nice festive feel as the chattering customers ate their lunches.

PC190030 Hanging from the ceiling of Kirk’s cafe

With our shopping done, we slowly walked back down to the station, stopping off at John’s Kitchen in Lambton Quay for some of their delicious Baklava for dessert.  That should sweeten Robin up when I show him what I had purchased. 

PC190037Look dear, just what we need, a Chatter Santa

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

One down, one to go

A couple of tote bags shouldn’t be too hard to make for Christmas, should they?  I was well on the way to completion, or so I thought.  The pieces were cut out, the outsides had been quilted, the inside linings complete with pockets were made, as were the straps and the outside pockets.  All I had to do was put all the pieces together, easy peasy, wouldn’t you think?

But according to the pattern, the outside and the lining seemed to be put together in quite a strange way – bag and lining sewn together, then the side seams stitched up.  This left a seam visible inside the bag, which I didn’t think was very good at all.  So out came the seam ripper once again, and I assembled the first bag the usual way with the bag and lining right sides together, stitch around the top, and pull it out.  I’m certainly no expert, but this seemed a much better way to do it.

PC180001 I hate unpicking!

Even though I’ve been working away at the sewing machine for ages, only the first bag is done so far.   So that is one down, one to go.  I need to unpick the second bag, then get stitching.   Of course it will get finished in time, (she says, hopefully).

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Christmas Quilt Story

My Christmas quilt has been a long time in the making.  You have seen various photos of the quilt over the last few months, and heard of my frustrations with machine quilting.  I always like to stitch in the ditch between each block, and had already done straight line stitching through each star, so it was already half quilted.  But then I got a bit too clever and used a lovely red and green variegated thread for the meandering quilting, While the colours in this thread looked lovely, they showed up every little imperfection, skipped stitch, and wobble on the cream background fabric.  So I ripped all the stitches out, and re-quilted using cream thread.  Much better – my quilting hadn’t really improved, but all those little mistakes didn’t jump out and poke me in the eye.

With just the borders to quilt, you would think I would have learnt my lesson.  But no, I wanted to quilt around those lovely poinsettias in the border fabric.  But then I found I hadn’t pinned the borders enough and the top fabric wasn’t lying flat by the time I got to the end of the border.  Oh no, another job with my quick-unpick outside on the picnic table.  With the borders finally unpicked of my pathetic attempts of free motion quilting, I gave them all a good press, safety pinned the life out of them, and stitched rows of simple wavy lines.  I still had to be very careful in some places where the fabric seemed to have stretched and taken on a life of its own.  But at last it was completed, and I subscribe to the “Finished is better than Perfect” view!  It may not be prize winning perfect, but it is good enough for me.

PC120058 Finished at last

This quilt started life as a “Block of the Month” presented by the committee members of my former quilt club, Pinestream Quilters, quite some time ago.  I seem to recall that I was on the committee way back then, so one of the star blocks (can’t remember which one) was my choice.  With several quilting pen-friends from overseas, I decided to make my blocks up in the various Christmas fabrics they had sent me over the years.  It was assembled on point, and the alternate blocks came  Traditional Quiltworks magazine, issue 46.

The quilt was all pinned out and 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.  Needless to say, all quilting went on the back burner, as I grappled with getting through each day.  Although my outcome was good, and I finally returned to P&Q, this quilt held too many memories of this scary time and I couldn’t bear to touch it back then.  But I decided I would try to finish it up for this Christmas, and I’m so pleased it is now done.  It is over the back of the couch in the lounge looking very Christmassy indeed.

Still need to complete a label and stitch it on.  But what to call it?    Perhaps something like “Christmas Stars from Around the World”.  Any further ideas?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Santa came to Town and Country Club-night

Our last quilt club night of the year was quite a busy affair.  Chattering members filed into the hall and dropped off donations for Ronald McDonald House.  Then into the supper room with plates of home made goodies for our special Christmas Supper.  Our President Leigh looked the part with her Christmas hat firmly on her head as she started the meeting.

PC110039 Leigh – looking rather like Mother Christmas

The group of stitching friends who call themselves the “Evening Bags” got up on stage.  They had set themselves a challenge to finish up a UFO that they had hanging around.  These really came out of the woodwork and and dated back to 1995, 2001 and 2007.  The ladies did very well to finally complete these projects.

PC110040 Evening Bags and their finally completed UFOs

The Show and Tell was full of lovely items, as usual.  I had taken my just completed Christmas quilt along – more about that in the next blog.  I had seen Jan’s black, white and red quilt at a couple of Friday stitching nights, and she brought it along to show us before it was given away.  Constructed of pieced blocks and alternate log cabin  blocks, this striking quilt is a Christmas gift for her son and his wife.

PC110051 Jan’s black, white and red quilt

This lovely quilt was made by a first time quilter from a pattern in Homespun magazine.  Sadly I didn’t catch the name of the quilter, who chose to do buttonhole appliqué for her very first quilt, featuring owls and birds in a tree.
PC110052 First time quilter made this

Sadly another name I missed was that of the proud grandmother who made this music quilt.  Her granddaughter plays the cello in the Brisbane Youth Orchestra.  She will surely love this quilt made with all sorts of music inspired fabrics.
PC110055 Musical quilt going to Brisbane

Who wouldn’t love this cheeky fellow?  Kaye made her Father Christmas Hat wall-hanging from a kit from Grand Mother’s Garden shop.  I’d love to make one of these too!

PC110049 So cute

Then Rona and her troupe of “Ukaladies” entertained us.  We didn’t know there were so many different types of ukuleles around, there was a banjo ukulele, an eight string, and an electric base, together with plenty of the standard type.  The ladies sang a variety of songs, finishing up with a Christmas selection, and we all sang along too.  Don’t know who was having the most fun, the performers on stage, or the audience.

PC110043 The Ukeladies performing on stage

The with a “ho, ho, ho” Santa and his elf arrived with a big bag of gifts, one for each club member.  That was a surprise.  We all lined up for our gift, and those who wanted could sit on Santa’s knee.  I didn’t need to be asked twice, and poor Santa bravely gritted his teeth while I perched on his knee.  Good on you, Santa!

PC110046I’m getting a cuddle from Santa

After that excitement we all gathered in the supper room for a lovely spread.  There were plates of food galore, enough to feed a hungry army.  It was a lovely finish to a great evening.  Many thanks to the committee for organising such a wonderful finale to the quilting year.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Next step - the Binding

After admitting defeat when I worked out I hadn’t actually put away any fabric after all for the binding of my Christmas quilt, I braved the rain and went shopping.  “I want something squidgy”, I told Kathy in the Krazy Cow quilt shop.  She knew exactly what I wanted and showed me the range of Moda Marbles.  Now, shall I get red or green?  I finally settled on a dark green with splashes of a lighter green.  As it’s only for the binding, there wont be much on show.  With the fabric washed, ironed, cut into strips and joined, I was all set to go.  It didn’t actually take too long at all to machine stitch it on the quilt.

PC080012Nearly finished - hand stitching the binding down

I’m a real “pinner” and like to have it all pinned down before I do the hand stitching at the back.  It’s quite satisfying doing this step, I always think.  I’m not quite finished yet, but I’m sure to reach my goal of having it all done in time for Wednesday evening.  That will be the last quilt club meeting of the year, and my long winded Christmas quilt will be finished in time for the final Show and Tell.  It sounds like a fun evening, a special supper, a bit of a sing-along, and no doubt a few high-jinks from the committee as well.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Another Christmas peek

Christmas seems to be bursting out all over – things have been added, and rearranged.  Tucked away in a big cardboard box was our pretty little snow scene.  Nothing at all like the summery Christmas we enjoy here in New Zealand of course.  Perhaps it just reminds me of earlier forebears from Scotland and England who did indeed celebrate Christmas in the snow.

PC060063 Northern Christmas snow scene

My missing Christmas Wreath was found safe and sound in another box, and I pondered where it should go.  It wouldn’t work on the front door, as we have a security screen door fitted as well.  It finally found its place, attached to the small dining room window, where it gives a cheery welcome to neighbours passing by.  It is protected by the eaves so shouldn’t be affected by any rain.   I made this wreath in a class so long ago I can’t remember when, and had to replace the polystyrene wreath when it snapped a year or so ago
PC080003Christmas Wreath on the window 

What else can I show you all?  How about “A Stitch in Time”.  Here is Santa getting ready for his night of travels, doing some sewing repairs to his Santa hat.   His grey tabby cat is curled up fast asleep in the sewing basket on top of fabric and threads.  This was a gift from my pen-friend Carol in South Dakota quite some years ago now.

PC050025 A Stitch in Time

And a pretty quilt to finish off.  Another reminder of the cold English Christmas season is my pretty little Robin Redbreast wall-hanging, a gift from Rose in UK.  I just love the cheery little birds out in the forest.

PC050020 Robins from Rose

No doubt everyone else has been getting into the Christmas spirit, hanging those Christmas quilts on the wall, and getting the decorations out.  How about showing us a peek into your home?

Friday, December 6, 2013

I’ve been looking everywhere

Now I’m finally at the stage of putting the binding on my Christmas quilt, I’ve been hunting high and low looking for the binding fabric.  I’m sure I had it tucked away in a bag somewhere, together with the leftover scraps from the quilt blocks.

PC060096 Ready for the binding

Where would it be?   First of all I looked through all the bags of UFOs hanging from my coat rack.  No, not in any of those bags, but I did reacquaint myself what is still waiting to be completed.

PC060094  Didn’t find it here

I know, I thought, I’ll check out the basket by my sewing cabinet, perhaps I put the fabric there? .  No again, not there either.  Perhaps I put it in one of those plastic crates (even more UFO’s) stacked up in the wardrobe.  While it may have been interesting looking though the crates, opening up bags, and finding all sorts of things I had forgotten about, I still drew a blank.  But I did find the pattern for the quilt, so that was something.

Finally, I came to the conclusion that maybe I didn’t have any fabric left to do the binding after all, and that is why it just couldn’t be found.  After all the time I’d spent looking here, there, and everywhere,  getting hot and bothered, it all seemed a bit of a let down.  There’s only one thing for it, I’ll just have to visit the quilt shop tomorrow and buy some fabric to make the binding.  Problem solved. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

First Christmas Season in our New Home

Decorating for Christmas is a whole new ball game now we have moved to our new home.  In our former home I knew exactly where each wall hanging and Christmassy item went.  Down came this picture, to be replaced by that wall-hanging, and so on.  The small hall table was cleared and replaced with my collection of gold coloured Christmas trees, and a couple of treasured Jim Shore ornaments sent to me by overseas pen friends.  And the brass ornaments came off the top of the fireplace and were replaced by even more Christmassy things.  Living in a Lockwood home, we could bang small nails and hooks in just about anywhere.  But our new house is smaller, without a long hall, no fireplace, and less wall space to hang pictures and quilts.  So I had to make different decisions this year.

But I’m pleased with how it looks. The gold Christmas trees look good arranged on the dining room window sill, and I’ve got a few wall-hangings up in the lounge, although there isn't room to hang them all.. 

PC050039 Selvedge Christmas Tree
PC050027Crazy patch Christmas Tree made by my daughter many years ago

Two shelves were cleared in the wall unit, and I arranged things to my heart’s delight.  In went my Jim Shore’s, flanked by an Olde Worlde Santa and a small tree.  And my pretty little Christmas mice were arranged just above them.

PC050017 Christmas things on the wall unit

PC050034Christmas Mice, all gifts from pen friend Carol of South Dakota

Mind you, I had to climb up the narrow ladder into the loft to get my  Christmas things out.  They have been packed away in Christmas crates, so first I had to find which particular crates I needed, then get Robin to help get them down the stairs.  I’m always careful up there, with visions of falling and breaking a leg.

PC030015 Extra storage space up in the loft

Wonder where my large Christmas Wreath is?  Haven’t come across it yet.  And Robin will be stringing some fairy lights outside shortly, he told me.  So we are just about organised for Christmas.  I’m in the process of baking my first ever Christmas Cake – let’s hope it will be a success.  Then I’ll have to get busy and write a few more Christmas cards.  And I still haven’t finished my Christmas sewing.  Whew…… it’s certainly busy this time of year. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

I Remember Making Those!

It was time to decorate the Christmas Tree, the grand-daughters informed us when we visited for lunch on Sunday.  Out came various cartons and the tree was assembled, and all the precious ornaments unwrapped.  Like most families, these ornaments had been collected over many years, and there was lots of discussion where they came from.  When the girls were younger, they had an annual trip down to the Kirks Christmas Shop in Wellington to meet up with their other grand-father, and they each got to choose an ornament.  With so many on display, that must have been a very difficult decision for them.

Out of hiding came a little Santa that I had made several years ago – in fact I’ve got several other versions of this design which get an annual outing in our caravan at this time of year.

PC010050 Hello Santa

Then there was the “Counting Down to Christmas” wall-hanging I made for the girls way back in December 2000.  They still like to hang it up each year, and it is so nice to see that it is still appreciated.  This was a panel, and I quilted around each motif.

PC010059 Made in December 2000

This one was too ugly to go on the tree, it was decided.  It has flashing eyes and talks too, so weird.  Nevertheless, it is still quite a favourite with Megan.
PC010038 This one is spooky

As further ornaments were unwrapped, we came across several I had bought for the grand-daughters, and a very special one I remember purchasing for my daughter, Nicky, my very special daughter.

PC010045 Bought for my daughter some time ago

Emma was in her element placing the decorations “just-so” until she was satisfied with her work.  Then a whole heap of wrapped gifts came out and were placed under the tree.  Younger grand-daughter Megan told me that she has finished all her Christmas shopping – this family must be much more organised than us.

PC010030 Emma trimming the tree

I’m not nearly that organised, still got to do the decorating here at home, make a Christmas Cake, write out some letters to go in the cards.  Plus I’ve still got sewing to do for Christmas too – oh dear, hope I get everything done in time!