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

Friday, August 31, 2018

Doing a bit of Stitching

My aim this week is to get my Aussie bocks together.  Not quite there yet but it’s coming along.  We have a quiet weekend at home, so I’m looking forward to some more time at my sewing machine.  I needed to make some more of these, and get them assembled into sashing strips.


Then lay the blocks in rows and get stitching – I’ve got several rows done so far, draped over the back of the sofa.  There is all sorts of Australian themed fabric in this quilt top, lots of indigenous Aboriginal prints collected over the years together with some native trees and flowers.  I’m using two different prints for the small sashing squares, (because I ran out of choice number one) they both have small designs featuring wildlife.


Our new kitten Gemma likes to help me make the bed each day.  But really, she hinders more than helps, as she prances around, having a great time.

Helping me make the bed in the morning

Then after all these bursts of energy she takes herself off into the box on her cat tower for a little snooze for an hour or so.  Not for too long, there might be something going on that she really must investigate, then there are her little balls to play with, and windows to peer out of.  Life’s one long game when you are an energetic kitten.

Time for a snooze

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Home Again

It’s great being on holiday, but it’s always so nice to come back home again.  Our cases are unpacked, and the laundry up to date.  And talking of laundry, while walking through the busy concourse of Central Station at Sydney, people were giving away packets of Colour Catchers to the commuters.  They will be handy to use when I wash new patchwork fabric purchases, especially batiks which can bleed in the wash.


We went to collect our kitten Gemma from Yvonne, the breeder, who had been looking after her while we were away.  She was on the armchair with two other cats, looking quite at home, legs akimbo, as she busily got on with grooming duties.  We swear she has grown while we’ve been away.

That’s Gemma, bottom right, licking her fur

I bought her a little present from Sydney, a tiny soft toy, a kangaroo.  She has been patting it around the floor, and pouncing on it.


Gemma and her little kangaroo

I’ve decided not to “roll the dice” this week.  Instead, I want to work on my Aussie Adventure blocks.  Remember these from our earlier trip?  Hopefully, I’ll get them assembled into a top, that’s the plan.


And I’ll pass on a conversation we had at Sydney Airport.  We were sitting down quietly when another couple, from Malaysia as we found out,  came and sat down on the chairs across from us.  They were about our age and the man said “You two look lovely”.  Lovely, I thought, what on earth was he talking about?  We admitted that we were a bit tired, after getting up quite early, and traipsing all around the airport.  He wanted to know how long we had been married, and informed us he and his wife were 10 years more than us.  After that unusual opening sentence, we had an interesting conversation about Singapore, Malaysia, the war years, and New Zealand, where his son now lives. 

Thursday, August 23, 2018

The Train Trip that wasn’t

Don’t let this happy photo fool you.  Although we started off with happy anticipation, our long awaited four day trip on the Indian Pacific railway didn’t happen.  The Indian Pacific train pulled way from Perth Station bang on time at 10.00am, leaving Australia’s most remote capital city behind.  We went slowly through the suburbs, soon reaching the outskirts of Perth, and the countryside.  The train stopped for some time at Avon, full of huge wheat silos at the siding, and we were called into the Queen Adelaide restaurant car for a very enjoyable lunch.  Back in the Lounge Car for a coffee, we were starting to wonder why the train was still stationary.    Then it was finally announced that there had been a serious incident further up the line where a freight train of  two locos and four carriages had derailed, badly damaging the track.  As repairs to the track would take several days, or even longer, our journey was cancelled, and the train was returning to Perth.  What a disappointment, we could hardly believe what we were being told.

Looking forward to our trip

The train manager and all the staff were full of apologies as we all discussed what on earth we would do now.  During the afternoon further announcements were made – accommodation would be found for us all, plus the cost of an evening meal and breakfast.   Buses were waiting at Perth Station to take us to the hotel for the night, Pan Pacific.  During the night the management and staff of Indian Pacific were working hard trying to find a solution to the next part of the problem, how to get us to our destinations of the train trip, Adelaide or Sydney.  A letter was delivered to us all announcing that flights had been arranged and buses would be available to take us to the airport.  The following morning we were all given our final flight details, and it was announced that we would all get a full refund for the cost of our aborted rail trip.

We are now in Sydney, making the most of five days instead of the three originally booked.  So what have we been doing?  Seeing the sights, travelling on trains and ferries in the harbour.  Sydney is an amazing place, and this is our first time here.  The public transport is great, and we have been using pre-loaded Opal cards to get around, making city travel so easy.


Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House

Having a ride on the Manly Ferry was high on our list of things to do.  There they were, all yellow and pudgy just as we had imagined them, not at all like the sleek fast ferries docked beside them.  We climbed aboard, and headed over to Manly.  Manly Beach was perfect – golden sand and warm sun.  We sat in the sunshine watching the world go by, plus the joggers, the dog walkers, the young Mum’s with strollers, and all those tourists taking selfies.

Manly Ferry

Then we had a ride on the Light Rail, which turned out to be a bendy red train.

Took a trip on the Light Rail

I just had to buy a little memento for my ever so handy shaggy denim bag which travels with me, a koala and leather fringe key ring which I clipped on.  It had to be blue of course, it took me a while to look through the red, green and yellow ones until I finally found a blue one.

A memento of Sydney

We’re flying home again on Saturday, and collecting our kitten Gemma on Sunday, so we are really looking forward to that.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Cute little Quokka

When is a rat not a rat?  When it is a quokka.  And what is a quokka, you may well ask?  A quokka is a marsupial the size of a hare or domestic cat, and as with other marsupials, such as the kangaroo and wallaby, the females suckle their young in a pouch. Rottnest Island, off the coast of Perth, Australia, has quokkas galore.  Rottnest Island was named by Dutch explorer William de Vlamingh in 1696, meaning rats nest, mistaking the quokkas for huge rats.   It wasn’t long before we saw our first quokka, there were plenty around the small shopping area close by the wharf.  With their dark brown fur and long hairless tail, it was no wonder that they were confused for a large rat at first sight.

Hello, quokka

Overnighting on Rottnest Island gave us two days to have a good look around,  and we  were picked up bright and early from the hotel by the courtesy coach and taken down to the ferry terminal to board the Rottnest Express.

The Rottnest Island ferry

The island is 11km in length and 4.5km at the widest point.  No domestic cars are allowed, only service vehicles and a few tour buses.  It is a bikers paradise, and hundreds of tourists hire bikes and pedal around the island each day.

Map of the island

No biking for us, we took the easy way to explore and boarded the bus for our “Discover Rottnest” tour. Just look at this lovely coastline.  The island is rugged and windswept, with great fishing, we were told, and lovely clear water.  Dolphins live in the waters, and whales come by on their annual migration.


We stopped at the imposing Wadgemup Lighthouse was built in 1896, with a 45,000 candle power revolving dioptric light.  This was the last lighthouse in Australia to become fully automatic, in 1986.  Wadgemup is the old aboriginal name for the island and means “place across the water where the spirits dwell”

At Wadgemup Lighthouse

There is a quaint little museum on the island, and I always like to check these out for old textiles.  No luck with that, but I did find a little hand operated sewing machine on display dating from the 1860s and used by the daughters of the light house keeper.


Ready for more quokka pictures?  As we toured the island the bus came to a quick stop to show us this little cutie having a snooze.  Seems they go to sleep all curled over.

Sleepytime quokka

And later we came across this quokka family.  The baby was keeping quite close to Mum.

Quokka family

We have returned to Perth for a couple of days, before embarking on our epic train trip across the bottom of Australia, leaving on Sunday.  Can’t wait, we love trains.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Hello, Perth

Another adventure –we are now in Perth, Australia  – and the Indian Pacific train journey later in the week which has been on our bucket list for some time.  As it was a reasonably long seven and a half hour flight to Perth, we decided to treat ourselves and upgrade to Premium Economy.  A good decision we felt, a lot more legroom, comfy seats, beautifully presented meals chosen from the menu, hot towels, and great service.  If this is what they do in Premium Economy, goodness knows what Business Class passengers get. 


I must admit that I’m always happy to swap our caravan trips for a stay in a posh hotel.  It doesn’t happen very often, so I’m always more than ready to make the most of it.  So for  the next two weeks  there will be no more cooking meals, just sightseeing, and maybe just a tiny bit of shopping.  I made the bed in our room this morning before we went out for the day, but obviously I didn’t do a proper job, and came back to find the housemaids had remade it!  (I always feel guilty if I go out leaving the bed unmade).  


Our hotel in Perth

One of the best things to do when arriving in a new city, is to take a sightseeing bus tour, we think.  It’s a great way of getting an overview of the area, and these hop-on hop-off buses mean that you can get off to explore what takes your fancy.


We enjoyed the views from the top of the Perth Explorer bus, as we travelled around the city and to outer areas.

Explorer Bus
Enjoying our bus ride

Who would have known that a little piece of Tudor England was alive and well in the middle of Perth and tucked away between modern city buildings?  This was London Court.  Built in 1937 as a combination of residential and commercial premises for wealthy gold miner and financier Claude de Bernales, Perth’s London Court is designed using the architectural features present in Elizabethan times.  I love anything to do with this period in history and joined the other tourists and shoppers, all gazing at the shop fronts with awe and snapping photos.  Banners with the faces of notable people of the time were hung, the likes of Queen Elizabeth 1st, Mary Queen of Scots, William Shakespeare, and Henry 8th.  Certainly an amazing place to explore.


London Court

With this being a short trip away, just two weeks, I didn’t pack and hand stitching.  But I do have a new Jack Reacher book to keep me happy in my spare time.  And if you are wondering what has happened to our new kitten Gemma, she is back with her breeder getting bed and board.  We miss her happy little face and all her crazy antics, but this trip was planned before we knew we were getting a new kitty.  Hope she remembers us when we get back home.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Gemma goes Camping

Gemma’s first camping trip didn’t start out at all well while we were packing the van.  This was to be our new kitten Gemma’s first trip away in the caravan so we have been getting her used to wearing the little pink harness.  No problem there – until we attached the lead, she didn’t like that one little bit.  So to keep her safely out of the way while we were in and out the door carrying food and clothing to the van, we popped her into the the carry cage.  You can imagine our surprise when we found that she had escaped, how on earth did she get out?  As it turned out one of the metal wires was missing, and she must have squeezed through popping two others out of place.  Who would have thought that such a little kitten could be so determined?  Looks like we now need to purchase a new carry cage.

That’s one determined kitten to escape

Gemma tolerates car travel very well, and once safely on site, she was introduced to the caravan.  So many nooks and crannies to explore and sniff, but she settled down very well.  Basking in the afternoon sun which was streaming through the front window kept her happy and content.


With Gemma safely tucked up asleep inside the van I sat outside enjoying our mild winter weather and did some more stitching on one of my New Zealand botanical stitchery blocks. 

A little stitching time

Taking a lively kitten away in the caravan will be a steep learning curve for all of us.  But she is young enough to learn a few rules, we expect, and we look forward to many happy trips away. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Sew Wot Tuesday

It was great that all of the Sew Wot ladies gathered to meet at Helen’s home – so nice to have all hands on deck with no absences.  We welcomed Nan for the morning, who had brought around some “cut out and ready to make”  projects which were looking for a good home.  These were from a friend  who had sadly passed away, and were gratefully accepted.  Nan also demonstrated a Friskars Circle Cutter which she had recently purchased.  Most of us had a go to see how easy or not it was to master.


Trying out the Friskars cutter

After all this excitement, followed by a lovely morning tea, only a little stitching seemed to get done.  Mary was working on her stitchery “Quilts in the Garden” – it looks pretty with the quilts strung between the fruit trees.  And Moira was  working on stitching her ladies.

Mary’s stitchery

And Moira’s

And I finally got back to my New Zealand Botanical stitcheries, which travelled all around the South Island with me earlier in the year.  This one is the Alpine Buttercup.

My NZ botanical stitchery

There was lots of Show and Tell to admire – everyone must have been busy finishing up their projects.  Heather E showed us a little boy’s quilt she is making for when she becomes a great-grandma, sometime in the future.  She spent the morning stitching the binding down on this delightful little quilt.

Heather E with her baby quilt for the next generation

Our hostess Helen had recently attended a class at Fox’s Cottage to make this lovely paper pieced tree table runner.  It has turned out beautifully, machine quilted with Helen’s skill and flair.

Helen and her table runner

And Heather B won the prize today for “Good things take Time” category.  These hand embroidered placemats and napkins were a gift from her brother when he travelled to Vietnam about 30 years ago.  After being tucked away somewhere safe all this time, Heather decided to repurpose them into a tablecloth, inserting beautiful lace between each block.  Now completed, this will be gifted to a niece and her husband, keeping this work of art in the family.


Hand embroideries from Vietnam

I’ll be missing the next get-together as we will be on holiday in Australia, and they all wished me “Safe Travels” as we departed.  Many thanks to Helen for hosting our morning, and to Nan, who donated some of her friend’s stash to our group.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

How many more blocks do I need?

It’s been a busy few days, making the most of having a weekend at home, and working on Horse Quilt No 2.  I’ve been stitching blocks together and working out how to get them to fit around the horse element of this quilt.  Here’s a sneak peek with Gemma helping my design decisions by jumping all over the quilt blocks laid out on our bed.  I’m sure she thinks she is helping me, but this little ball of energy leaps here, leaps there, bounces all over the bed, having a high old time.


Once I worked our the maths of how to attach the blocks to the central area the rest will go together so much easier.  I decided to have a count and see if I have enough blocks to complete this quilt top.  This is what I have left.


Not quite enough – I need to stitch another 13 nine patch blocks, I’ll be able to make a good start on them this afternoon, and hopefully get them finished.  That will be another step closer. 

I’m working under pressure here – Gemma has decided that jumping up on my knees while I’m sitting at the computer writing a blog is a great thing to do.  Here she is, all squashed up next to the table but happy to be close by.  She is trialing her little pink harness today, all ready for her first trip away in the caravan next weekend – it doesn’t seem to worry her one little bit.

Helping with the blogging

Thursday, August 2, 2018

It’s been So Long…..

Its been so long since the dice rolled 1, which is for Horse Quilt Number 2 on my list.  I’m really pleased to be working on it again this week.  When I last left this project, I was making extra black and grey blocks to add to the pile left over from Horse Quilt Number 1.


So that’s why these blocks may look familiar.  I hade previously stitched a whole lot more than was required for this quilt, which I made for grand-daughter Emma.

Horse Quilt Number 1

So Horse Quilt Number 2 will be similar, but different.  I’m using light blue/aqua for the sashing strips.  And as for the horse content, Plan A was a dismal failure, so I’m going with Plan B.  More about that later as the quilt top progresses.

Putting the blocks together

Are you ready for a few more kitten photos?  Gemma decided to attack my apron, pull it down from the hook, and proceeded to drag it around the floor with it in her mouth.  Perhaps the apron strings remind her of snakes which need to be dealt with?

Fighting the apron

And when she is good, she is very, very, good.  She loves climbing all over her car tower, then takes herself off to have a snooze in the box in the middle of the tower every now and again.

Just laying about

I’m trying to limit my time sitting at the sewing machine these last few days, as I seem to have pulled a muscle in my back, which is letting me know all about it.  With our trip to Oz fast approaching, I really don’t want to have a sore back while on holiday.