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

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Kowhai Circlet

I put the finishing stitches in my Kowhai Circlet block today.  This is number three of the nine botanical blocks I plan to make.  Designed as applique patterns by the very talented Jenny Hunter for the New Zealand Quilter magazine, I have decided to do my blocks as stitcheries.

Kowhai Circlet block

Regarded by most New Zealanders as our national flower, Kowhai are among the most beautiful of our flowering trees.   They produce tubular flowers that are around 3-5 cm long and are a favourite of tui, bellbirds and silvereyes who feed on the nectar. Once established, they flower over a long period in late winter and early spring. The flowers are bright gold yellow – hence the name, which means “yellow” in Maori.

Tui  in a kowhai tree

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Another Quilting Shop

Quite by accident, we stumbled across another quilt shop on our travels.  “June’s Room” has only been trading for about three years, so was not here when we last visited Nelson six years ago.  I had a look around while Robin sat on the handy seat outside on the verandah.


What a delight of colour inside the rather plain shop front.  Beautiful fabrics, knitting yarn,kits and patterns,  and I rather liked the embroidered “chocolate” tea towels with the cute sayings.  There was a gorgeous range of batiks, I’m always rather drawn to them, and lots of black and whites, which are always very popular.  June was a very elegant lady who told me she had taught sewing for many years.

June at June’s Room

So what else have we been up to on our holiday?  Before the storm arrived we enjoyed a week in Golden Bay, right at the top of the South Island, and traveled as far as the road would take us.  We had never been to Cape Farewell before, and  we trudged up the hill to the lookout point, joining the other tourists all looking over the rail at the  rather impressive sight in front of us.  The sea was surging in endless waves and over the rocks.  We looked down to the seals far below.  Some were sunning them selves on the rocks.  And another group were gently bobbing about in the waves, they didn’t seem to be feeding, just enjoying themselves and having fun.


Cape Farewell

On another unsealed road we traveled up hill and down dale, and over the multitude of causeways, finally arriving at the pretty little Kaihoka Lake.  There was a swimmer in the water, cooling off on another hot day, and kayakers paddling around.  It looked a lovely place to go for a picnic and enjoy playing around in the water.

Driving over yet another causeway, and Kaihoka Lake

Back in Nelson again, which is known as the “Sunshine Capital of New Zealand” because of all the hours of sunshine it enjoys.  Just up the road is the remains of a huge Tasmanian Blue Gum tree, known as the Otterson Gum.  Following a branch falling down, it was discovered that there were major structural problems and this notable tree was felled in 2005 at the age of 158 years.  It’s hard to imagine just how tall this mighty tree must have been before it was cut down, the stump itself is huge.

At the stump of the Tasmanian Blue Gum

With only a week of our holiday to go now, we are slowly making our way back to Picton to cross over on the ferry.  Returning to Nelson gives us the chance to catch up with Robin’s sister Kaye once again before we move on.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Stitching during the Storm

She may have been downgraded by the weather people, but Cyclone Gita still packed a punch.  To prepare for her arrival on Tuesday we moved from the Golden Bay area  to Marchwood Park camp in Motueka. and hunkered down.   The heavy  rain arrived on Tuesday morning, noisily beating down on the caravan roof.  The puddles started to join up into a rather large lake outside our van, across the roadway, and across the camping area to the side of us. Then the winds arrived, sudden gusts kept shaking the van, and I for one was certainly worried what the night would hold.  We cooked and ate the evening meal, watched the TV news, seeing the devastation which Gita had brought to some areas of the country.   Eventually as the evening drew on, the wind started to die down a bit, perhaps Gita was moving on?

Heavy rain all day

During our day tucked up inside the van we checked the news and weather reports on TV, read some blogs, flicked through a magazine,  and I did a bit more on my stitching.  My bits and pieces are tucked  away in my sewing pouch.  I diligently stitched on for a while, but I must admit it was hard to settle with worrying about the storm.


The following day we woke to sunshine and counted our blessings.  The lake of water had drained  away, none of the large trees on site came crashing down around us,  and the the strong winds hadn’t toppled any vans.  We had certainly escaped the worst of the weather.  But the news was grim – Ex Cyclone Gita had caused chaos across central New Zealand – roads closed, flights grounded and a state of emergency has been declared in Christchurch, Buller, Westland, Selwyn, Tasman, Taranaki, and Grey District.

We very fortunate to have  made the return journey from Golden Bay over the Takaka Hill in Monday, as it is now impassable, the road badly damaged and closed with 16 slips.  Helicopter footage showed the Takaka Hill road cluttered with mud, debris and fallen trees.  The damage will take several days to clear. Food supplies for Golden Bay's 5000 locals and 1000 stranded tourists will be delivered by sea tomorrow.

One of the many slips on the Takaka Hill

On a lighter note – let me tell you a family story.  This town has a historical connection to the maternal side of my family.  A young man on the Green side of the family jumped ship at Motueka and supposedly hid under the voluminous skirts of the publican’s wife while the search was on for the absconder.  Once the ship had set sail he was free to start a new life in the colonies and did quite well for himself in business, married and had quite a large number of children.  There is even a local street named after him.   And how about this blast from the past - this is a photo from our previous visit here six years ago when we tracked down my “family street sign”.  Do I look six years younger?

My “family” street sign, named for an early relative

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Stitching Kowhai Leaves and Road Trip Tales

I’ve been stitching away on the third of my New Zealand botanical bocks.  This one is called “Kowhai Circlet” with a whole lot of small kowhai leaves to be stitched.  So far  I’ve done half of them, together with the circlet, and the various stems.  Once all the leaves have been completed, I can start on the pretty bright yellow kowhai flowers.   But as I’ve said before, every little bit helps.

Weeks into our road trip, I’ve come to the conclusion that I get more stitching done if I leave my stitching bag out on the sofa, instead of putting it away in the cupboard each night.  Out of sight means out of mind, as it’s turned out.  Having my bag to hand, it is just so easy to pick it up on a sunny afternoon and start stitching, rather than to go looking for the bag when it has been put away.  Does that make sense to you?

As for holiday news – we are continuing to slowly move northwards.  The climb towing the van up the steep Takaka Hill (800m high) was slow and a little nerve-wracking, when we met a large truck coming around a tight corner straight towards us.  Some of those corners were real hair pins but the driver (if not the navigator) kept his cool, and kept on keeping on.  The views, as to be expected, were magnificent.  Mountain after mountain, one behind the other, as far as the eye could see.

Trip over the Takaka Hill

We went to visit a very special place, the Pupu Springs.  Te Waikoropupū Springs (their full name) are the largest freshwater springs in New Zealand, the largest cold water springs in the Southern Hemisphere and contain some of the clearest water ever measured.  The entrance way has carved posts, and information panels telling of the springs and their special meaning to the Maori people.  We walked along a track through native forest, along an easy path and boardwalk.  The bush ringed pool is absolutely beautiful, full of the clearest of water bubbling up to the surface.  A little further around the boardwalk was the Dancing Sands Spring, where the bubbling water moves the white sandy bottom of the pool around, making the sand really look like it is dancing.


Pupu Springs

There was a lot to explore in this area, places we hadn’t been before.  One day we decided to visit Totaranui, to see what was there.  Our trip started with driving through a hole hacked out of the rock,  and then we were on our way.  We reached the end of the sealed road and turned onto a 10km wiggly unsealed road to take us down to Totaranui on the coast.

On the way to Totaranui

There is a huge DOC campground at Totaranui, which is on the edge of the Abel Tasman National Park.   The place was teeming with walkers, all keen to walk the tracks throughout the park.   We watched as crowds of campers milled about down on the beach, getting off and on the water taxis, as they lugged heavy back packs.  We were surprised at just how many keen young people there were ready to tackle these tracks over the mountains.

Water taxis at Totaranui

The Abel Tasman National Park was named to honour Abel Tasman who visited New Zealand way back in 1642 but did not actually land here.  We stopped to view the imposing Abel Tasman Monument on the hillside, and were entertained by the antics of a cheeky weka, another flightless New Zealand native bird,  as we walked up the path.


Cheeky weka and the Abel Tasman Monument

Another interesting visit was to  Labyrinth Rocks.   The Labyrinth is a world class example of karst limestone topography, we read.  We walked along narrow passages, ducking under trees, with towering rocks all around us.  About 25 million years ago the land was lifted out of the sea, and the tremendous forces taking place caused a series of cracks through the rocks, allowing rainwater to enter.  After millions of years the small cracks have widened to become the canyons in the labyrinth.



Labyrinth Rocks

I’ll leave you with pictures of a memorial mosaic bench on the beach we found at a beach.  It seems to be made in the memory of a young woman who had passed away, by four friends.  It really was a work of art and incorporated commercial tiles, together with mosaics made from pottery, glass and beads.  You can imagine the time, effort, creative endeavor and love  these girls put in to making such a wonderful memory of their friend.

In memory of Kelly

The scenery is wonderful in this part of the country – we  are currently exploring the northern tip of the South Island, known as the Golden Bay area.  Have been here briefly some years ago, so it is great, this time, to take longer and have such a good look around.

Monday, February 12, 2018

More Holiday News

It’s hard to believe we have been traveling around the South Island for 2 months, with only a couple more weeks to go.  And so far we have towed our caravan close to 3000km.  So where have we been to lately?  We were interested to see how the town of Kaikoura was getting on.  Last year Kaikoura suffered a huge earthquake which did immense damage to the road and rail link, leaving this town cut off from some time.  The coastline was raised dramatically, and our stay here gave us the chance to see some of the changes.  South Bay now has a raised coastline, with rocks now lifted up, which were previously covered by sea water.

Kaikoura coastline

While at Kaikoura we called in to visit Fyffe House, an historic property administered by Heritage New Zealand.  This historic house is built on the “bones of whales” and is all that remains of Waiopuka Whaling Station.  It really is built on top of whale bones, and we were shown where vertebrae bones were laid as a foundation to support the house.  There were tiny bedrooms on the top floor and I rather hoped that I would find an old quilt or two gracing the beds.  But no, in the later years the house was owned by a crusty old bachelor, whose housekeeping  habits were rather questionable, we were told.  But he did donate the historic old house to Heritage New Zealand, so the history can be kept alive for all to enjoy.

Fyffe House

Then we moved on to ticked another item ticked off the Bucket List – the Pelorus Mail Boat Cruise.  And what a day we had. The Marlborough Sounds is a system of drowned river valleys, which were formed after the last ice age around 10,000 years ago.   Our trip took us in and out of these tranquil waterways, surrounded by endless tree covered hills, with the boat dropping off mail along the way.  Delivering the mail meant chugging slowly into the bays, nudging up to the jetty, leaning precariously out, and swapping mail bags with the customer.


Sometimes the customers brought their pets along to meet the mail boat, so we got to meet them too.  This is Paul the pig, who was practically climbing into the skipper’s window, drooling and grunting,  while he was fed biscuits.   Then at another stop, we admired two rather cute Kune Kune pigs who came to meet everyone on the boat.

The scenery was gorgeous, there are no roads so it is boat access only.


We cruised past a tiny island, home of the King Shags with their pink feet, and these birds are only found in the Marlborough Sounds.  King shags are deep divers, feeding on bottom-dwelling fish species, and have been recorded foraging in water depths down to 50 m.

King shags on their tiny island home

We had a great day out cruising

Moving on to Nelson, and after a warm and cloudy day, the weather has changed dramatically.  But we mustn't grumble – as everyone says,  the farmers need the rain after all those weeks of over the top temperatures.  Robin’s sister Kaye and her hubby Jan live close to where we were camping, and invited us around for a Sunday roast dinner.  It was great to catch up with them, and in my book, nothing beats a leg of roast lamb, although roast pork would be a close second.  It was a wonderful meal, and we appreciated their kindness.

Jan and Kaye

Currently we are staying at Nelson, and today took a trip out to Mapua Wharf.  Once a busy coastal freight wharf during the orchard heyday, Mapua Wharf is now a trendy restaurant, bar, café and arts and crafts precinct.   But the remnants of it’s early history still remain in the buildings. The apples may be long gone, but the old buildings remain, chock full of trendy stores.


We had the very best lunch available at Mapua Wharf (in our view) and ordered fish and chips from The Smokehouse, seated outside in the sunshine – a “must do” Mapua experience.  This was followed by an ice-cream for him and a coffee for her.

Lunching at Mapua Wharf

And what’s this I found?  Another quilt shop – that wasn’t there on our previous visit six years ago.  Cushla’s Village Fabrics is well known in Auckland, and I didn’t know that they now have a shop on Mapua, Nelson.  They have been here about four years, I was told.


Robin waited patiently outside while I had a look around.  Inside was lovely, full of colour, fabrics, quilts, I could have spent ages there, just pottering about.  It made me realise that I’m getting withdrawal symptoms from my sewing machine! 

Inside Cushla’s Patchwork and Quilting

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Visit to The Quilters Barn, Blenheim

There we were, driving happily along, checking out Blenheim, when we came across a shopping complex known as The Vines Village.  So named, no doubt, because it was surrounded by grape vines, as far as the eye could see.  There are more vineyards around here than you could shake a stick at.   This  is New Zealand’s largest winemaking region with around 65 wineries and 290 grape growers and over 4000 hectares planted in grapes, mainly Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer.  Enough to keep any wine drinker happy.


Tucked inside the Vines Village was The Quilters Barn, a shop I had visited before on our previous South Island trip, but well worth another visit.  I had to smile at the message on the black board – my sewing room is never as tidy as I would like, either!


The friendly owner gave me permission to take some photos of her lovely shop.  There were all sorts of wonderful things, shelves full of fabrics, knitting wool, haberdashery, patterns, and a great assortment of beautiful quilts lining the walls.  In the classroom I could hear a group of ladies talking about the charity quilts they were stitching, for good causes.  It seemed a very happy place indeed.


Inside The Quilters Barn

I was after a skein of Perle No5 in dark purple for one of my stitchery blocks, and found a rather nice variegated one.  And when I spotted two more skeins of the dark green I’m using in all the blocks, I happily gathered them up too. 

My purchases for the day

While I was happily pottering around the shop, looking at this and that, admiring the batiks, and checking out the various patterns, Robin was outside devouring an ice-cream before it melted in the hot sun.  So we were both having a great time at the Vines Village!