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

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Another Roll of the Dice

Here we go again, another week, and another dice roll.  Oops, don’t think it happened last week, but who’s counting these days?  This week I will be working on number one from my List of Six, my neutral strings blocks.  This was started quite some time ago, so I’m pleased to have it to the top of the list again.  I had stitched a whole pile of neutral string pieced blocks, made ages  ago when I started on “Roll, Roll, Cotton Boll”, a Bonnie Hunter mystery quilt.  This was as far as I got with the quilt, and last year I made a child’s donation quilt using some of these blocks.  This is number two using these squares, and believe it or not, there will still be enough for a third small quilt!

Put any quilting on the floor, and the cat comes to check it out!

I’m using a teal blue fabric for the sashing, and the rows are now being pieced together.  Let’s see how far I get this week.

Assembling the rows

We had a busy day yesterday when we had a tradesman in the house.  Finally, our heat pump was getting some attention, after weeks of being in Lockdown.  Now that New Zealand has dropped down to Alert Level 3, some businesses can now operate as long as they adhere to the strict rules now in place.  In these Covid 19 days, having a tradesman in the house takes some planning.   While the tradesman was working, for social distancing reasons, we were asked not to be in the same room as him.  I decided to distance myself in the caravan, taking Gemma with me. 


I had packed my library book and knitting and with the kettle on the gas hob, a cup of coffee or two, I was quite happy.  It was a lovely morning, the sunshine was streaming in the windows, and Gemma soon settled down for a snooze.

Relaxing in the caravan

We had decided to get a new replacement heat pump, rather than repair our existing unit.  Jonathan was busy outside at the back of the house replacing the outside unit, while Robin stayed inside.  These units have gas inside (I didn’t know that) which had to be sucked out and safely contained.  The new unit was installed, and as the unit is complete with new refrigerant gas, when the system is sealed the  gas is released, and that part of the job was completed.  After a socially distant lunch break (Jonathan solitary outside on the patio and us inside) the second phase was done, installing the interior unit.    Finally the job was complete after a satisfactory test run, and we were good to go again – ready and waiting for the next cold spell.

Installation complete

While Jonathan was busy working, with the company van parked outside, two neighbours came knocking on the door wanting some work done on their own heat pumps.  With two extra jobs to be logged, the company will be pleased with that, I’m sure.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Thank You Cynthia - More Lockdown Sewing

While browsing my favoutite blogs the other day, as you do, I came across this great idea from Cynthia, on her blog “Quilting is more fun than housework”.  It was all about how she made a cover to put on the handle of supermarket trollies - read about it here.  So practical, I just had to have a go myself.

Mine started with a small table topper made with New Zealand designs which I previously used in the caravan.  That will do, I thought.  Gemma decided that of course I wanted her too in the shot, isn’t that why I laid it on the carpet?

Mmm, I can see some kiwis here.

It was quite an easy make, what's a little more Lockdown sewing to fill in an afternoon?  First I chopped the black borders off, then sliced it in half, giving me two rectangles.  Sew some binding on, add some Velcro for closure, and here we go, all finished.  I wasn't quite sure how to judge the diameter of the handles, so used a roll of baking paper to give me some guidance.  I can always resew one side of the Velcro later on if its not quite right.

Two supermarket handle covers

So here they are, two supermarket trolley handle covers.  It seems a great idea to use these, take them home to wash, and pack away till the next visit.  (Perhaps using a terry hand towel would also work).  Mind you, it’s not only supermarkets which provide trollies is it, our local veggie shop, big stores like The Warehouse, Bunnings and Mitre 10, and that old favourite, Spotlight.  Once these stores open up again the covers will come in handy, not only protecting us from Covid 19 but also from coughs, colds and other germs.

Thanks so much Cynthia for sharing such a great idea, much appreciated.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Blue Selvedge Sewing, and Anzac Day

The month is rolling on and I’ve completed my last lot of blocks for the Rainbow Scrap Challenge.  This month the colour is light/bright blue and I've been working on my two selvedge projects.  Quite simple sewing, I’ve made a blue selvedge block which will join the other colours to eventually become a bag.  And another little selvedge spool block – I’m making this to hang in my sewing room (spare bedroom in reality).

Last blue blocks for the month

Wonder what colour will be chosen for May?  Guess we will just have to wait and see.

Here in New Zealand and over in Australia our countries have  just celebrated Anzac Day. ANZAC is an acronym for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, a grouping of several divisions created early in the Great War of 1914–18.  The Anzacs first saw action at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915. The small cove where the Australian and New Zealand troops landed was quickly dubbed Anzac Cove. Soon the word was being used to describe all the Australian and New Zealand soldiers fighting on the Gallipoli Peninsula. Later it came to mean any Australian or New Zealand soldier.

This year, because of Covid 19 Lockdown, the first time in more than a century, there'll be no dawn services to commemorate ANZAC Day.  People are encouraged to mark it in their own way, perhaps placing poppies in their letter boxes, or in windows. We have our hand crafted ceramic poppy outside our kitchen window.  This was purchased three years ago when we visited the Great War Exhibition at the historic Dominion Museum in Wellington -   read about our visit here.  And the New Zealand flag is proudly flying from our flagpole.

Our poppy and flag

Giving thanks to all our Anzac heroes, past and present.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Christmas Coins

I blame Jocelyn who writes as Canadian Needle Nana for this, check out her version of Christmas Coins here.  Such a great idea, I thought, so why not make something similar for myself.  All the Christmas coins were small scraps and strips hanging around, some longer than others, wider strips, and narrow ones too, so nothing Christmassy was cut from stash at this stage.  I’ve never been what you would call a scrappy quilter, so with mixing up all sorts of colours and designs, and different widths too, this project was a real adventure for me.  Originally this started as a leader and ender project, just sewing strips together while I was working on something else.

Lots of various strips

With all the pieces stitched, and trimmed to a uniform size, I then worked out how to assemble it, deciding on four rows of coins separated by strips of a green and white festive print.  I’ve no idea where this print came from, not something I purchased, so I must have picked it up somewhere as a give-away.  I finished it with a Christmassy border.  This little project was always going to be a Christmas tablecloth, I decided, so it is quilted with just two layers.  Here it is on the caravan table to see how it fits, not too bad, really.

Christmas tablecloth in the caravan

And talking of caravans, we are not sure when we will finally get away for our next trip.  With being in the Covid 19 Lockdown, non essential travel is not permitted, which means holidays of course.  Here in New Zealand, at this stage, we are only to travel locally for food or medical supplies.

Here’s an outdoor shot, to show it a bit better.  I used up most of my Christmassy scraps, but there are lots of other strips hanging about.   Maybe I’ll make something similar for a donation quilt one day.

Outdoors photo shoot

How about a “Blast from the Past”?  I remember using that Christmas print on an apron some years ago, so I’ve had that fabric for a long time.  I rummaged around looking for the apron, and also looking back through the blog to get the date.  This was made for the  Christmas Apron Challenge for my club, Pinestream Quilters of Upper Hutt at the time,  way back in November 2009. The challenge was to make a Christmas themed apron, of our own design. I am definitely a wearer of aprons, so this challenge certainly took my fancy. I used a commercial apron pattern (tissue paper) that I knew I had from years gone by, (Butterick 4066). I decided to stitch the selvage from the Christmas fabric across the apron bib. The print was used for the straps, pockets and the apron hem, teamed with cream homespun. It didn’t turn out too bad, if I do say so myself.  Although I didn't win a prize for my apron that night, I was thrilled when it was shown on the Selvedge blog, read about it here.   https://romanyquilting.blogspot.com/2009/12/im-so-excited.html


Robin took a photo of me wearing the apron, and his comment was “You look like you are in the Sound of Music”.  Goodness me, I think I do – such a shame I’m not much of a singer!


I’ve been wondering why the design Chinese Coins is so named?  Did they really stack lots of colourful coins one on top of each other in a big pile?  Someone is sure to know.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Tane Mahuta

Inspired by the Tiny Tree stitch-along by Temecula Quilt Co  the idea for this project evolved and grew.  Using two New Zealand batik designs, kowhai tree and ferns, I decided to make the blocks a little bigger.  And instead of stitching the multiple block designs which were offered in the stitch-along, I decided on pinwheel blocks only.

Tane Mahuta

The tree section was free motion quilted in large stipple, and what a time I had.  Because I do FMQ irregularly, it takes me a while to work out what to do, usually after a spate of nothing much happening because the BSR foot was not correctly fitted, and I’m wondering why oh why isn’t this working.  Eventually I got it going, but I have to say, I’m never very happy attempting FMQ - it always looks so easy when the experts do it.

My little tree is a tribute  to Tane Mahuta, Lord of the Forest, which is New Zealand’s largest known living kauri tree. It is thought the first encounter of the tree by Westerners was in the 1920s, by contractors surveying the present SH12 through the forest. In 1928, Nicholas Yakas and other bushmen who were building the road, also came across the big tree Tane Mahuta.

  Visit the famous Tāne Mahuta | AA New Zealand

According to Maori mythology Tane is the son of Ranginui the sky father and Papatuanuku the earth mother. Tane was the child that tore his parents' parental embrace and once done set about clothing his mother in the forest we have here today. All living creatures of the forest are regarded as Tane's children.

This magnificent giant kauri tree in found in the Waipoua Forest of Northland, New Zealand and is  estimated to be between 1,250 and 2,500 years old.  It is the largest kauri known still standing today.

It is an easy walk through the forest to view this tree, and many others.  Not far into the walk, a sweeping corner of the track suddenly brings you face to face with the ‘Lord of the Forest’  Tane Mahuta’s strength and ancient presence, and its overwhelming size makes visitors look like dwarfs. This is a huge tree, and it’s not until you wend your way along the path and get closer that you realise it’s size.  The measurements are:
  • Trunk girth: 13.77 m
  • Trunk height: 17.68 m
  • Total height: 51.2 m
  • Trunk volume: 244.5 m³
We have been lucky to visit the Waipoua Forest a couple of times, and it will be on our “must do” list when we travel that way again.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Happy Birthday Gemma

It’s our beautiful Birman Gemma’s birthday and she has turned two.  I had originally planned a little afternoon tea with a few friends here at home to celebrate, but that of course can’t happen during these Lockdown times.


She’s grown from this little cutie…..

To this grown up cat

We had a bit of extra excitement when we took delivery of our first foray into Lockdown shopping.  This took us a while to organise,  lots of time on the lap top,  and we finally found a spare delivery spot, a week later than when we placed the order.

Home delivery

It was all very well done, we thought.  The delivery man dropped a carton at the door, then went back for the perishables, milk, cheese, fresh meat and frozen items.  These were transported in chilly bags and packed with ice bags, we were assured.  That’s good, I did wonder how these items would be dealt with.  Everything was soon unpacked and put away, and Gemma decided to check to make sure that we hadn't forgotten anything.

Anything left behind?

Happy Birthday Gemma - it’s been a fun two years. 

Sunday, April 19, 2020

More Blue Blocks

I always enjoy linking up with Angela of So Scrappy for organising all the RSC sewers, the colour this month is light and/or bright blue.  I’ve been busy stitching a few more blue blocks to add to my Rainbow Scrap Challenge collection.  First to be done were three pretty blue butterflies, complete with embroidered feelers.  I don’t know what I was thinking as I had cut some of these pieces incorrectly, so that needed fixing.  I’m wondering is there is a little “low level anxiety” hanging about, with being bombarded every day with all the Covid virus news.  Carry on stitching, stopping for a cup of tea or coffee  every now and then seems a good response, for me anyway.

Three blue butterflies

I wish I could say that I whipped through these nice easy checkerboard blocks but once again, there was a small error.  Nothing that couldn’t be easily rectified, it’s just that I had only cut three blue squares for each block instead of four.  So it was back to the bags of scraps looking for a few more blue bits.  For these RSC blocks I always like to investigate the bags of small scraps first, rather than cutting into larger pieces.

Checkerboard blocks

Both of these projects will be eventually made into donation quilts, butterflies for a girl and checkerboard for a boy.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

The Tiny Tree is Growing

Its now Week Four of Lockdown and I'm still keeping myself busy, pottering around.  Lately I’ve been working on assembling my blocks from the Temecula Tiny Tree stitch-along from late last year.  As already mentioned, I’m doing my version a little differently, mainly because I really didn’t want to stitch tiny blocks of 2 3/4in unfinished!  So my tiny tree is already growing.

Of course Gemma wanted to help, jumping up on the bed as soon as I laid the quilt top out to see how it was looking.  I don’t have a design wall so have to use the top of the bed or the floor.  Mind you, in our small home there’s not a great deal  of spare floor space either.

Am I a big help, Mum?

It’s not been a nice day here at all today, heavy rain and then the thunder was booming overhead.  Gemma didn’t like the loud noises at all, and buried herself under the batting which I had laid over the quilt top to see if it was big enough.  Here she is with her tail hanging out, hoping that big noisy monster doesn’t get her!

Hiding from the thunder

With such nasty weather it was lucky that I had some tasty French Onion soup bubbling away for lunch.  I had also made some keto cheesy bread rolls, not terribly successful as they ended up more like cheese scones, but still tasty with a warming bowl of soup.   I love making home made soup, such a great comfort food in the cold weather, and there is plenty left over for tomorrow’s lunch too.

French Onion soup for lunch

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Easter has been and gone

Easter 2020 has been and gone, and it was quite a different experience for all of us in Lockdown.  A few Easter buns were eaten but there was a mild panic when I couldn’t find where I had put the peppermint marshmallow Easter Eggs.  After looking through the pantry a couple of times, they were finally tracked down.  What bliss, an Easter Egg to nibble on after dinner.  It doesn’t take much to make us happy these days, does it?

Easter Saturday was a different day, as we had to drive up to Palmerston North Hospital (50km each way so out of our local area)  for an MRI appointment.  The normally busy roads were practically empty, so everyone was heeding the advice to stay at home .  I made sure I had my hospital documents tucked safely away, as we were sure we would be stopped at a police checkpoint, which didn’t happen, as it turned out.  Robin had to remain in the car, and I answered health questions, sanitized my hands, and was sent on my way for my appointment.

Early morning and not another car in sight

Walking down the empty hospital corridors was a bit eerie, usually it is such a busy, bustling place.  Those who have had an MRI know what it’s all about – lie absolutely still  for half an hour, earmuffs on, face down and arms straight out over my head, in my case,  while the machine makes an absolute din, sounding rather like a jack hammer.  I did enquire why my appointment was going ahead at this time, as I had heard that some MRI procedures had been deferred.  The answer was that because I was a breast cancer patient, although my treatment was completed, it was considered essential to have these annual checks – I haven’t quite reached the 5 year stage yet.  So it’s good to know that I am being so well looked after.

MRI machine

So now its time to “roll the dice” again.  I did briefly consider working on my Under the Sea quilt again this week, shall I , shan’t I?  I’m the Queen of Procrastination and that's why I now do my regular roll the dice trick with six projects on my list at a time.  Robin had commented that he had never seen this rolling the dice business, well, he wouldn’t as it usually happens on a Monday morning after he has left for his day down at the local Menz Shed.  So I made him guest roll the dicer for the day and he brought up number 6, Tiny Tree project.  This was a free stitch-along offered by Temecula Quilt Co late last year.

Tiny Tree

I’ll be stitching my version a little differently and using two New Zealand inspired batiks I had tucked away.  The lighter one features kowhai tree, and the dark green is covered in ferns.  My first bit of stitching was a disaster, goodness knows what I was thinking!  While making a bunch of HSTs  I sewed merrily along the marked line, instead of either side of it - must have been having a senior moment I think. 

All stitched incorrectly

Out came my trusty quick-unpick to the rescue and they were finally done the correct way, cut in half, pressed, ready to go on with the next step.  Let’s hope I do better in my next stitching session.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Under the Sea

There’s quite a bit of “slow stitching” on this project, all stitched some time ago now.  I’ve spent the last few days putting it all together, using a pastel stripe for the sashing strips.  “Under the Sea” was a Block of the Month stitchery designed by Willowberry Designs in 2010.

Under the Sea

The blocks contain all sorts of whimsical sea creatures.  I rather like Josephine Jellyfish with her pink bow and purple tendrils.

Josephine Jellyfish

Another hour or so over the long weekend and I had the small quilt layered and pinned.  Plus the binding prepared.  It’s always good to progress further a step or two, so I’ll put it away till the next roll of the dice brings up number five again.

Pinned and ready for machine quilting

It’s certainly been a completely different Easter holiday this year.  Here in New Zealand we are in Level Four State of Emergency and halfway through a 4 week lockdown, with the message being “stay safe, stay home and save lives”.  Non essential travel is not permitted, and we must stay local.  So instead of packing the caravan and heading away for the Easter weekend, as we usually do, we are all listening to the rules, staying home and having a “Staycation”.

Staying home for Easter

I’ve been busy in the kitchen doing some baking.  Used the last cup of my meager supply of flour, then gratefully started on the bag which my daughter Nicky kindly sent to me by courier a couple of days ago.  What to bake was the question.  I decided on a date loaf and some shortbread.  Half of the shortbread are now put away in the freezer to use later on, and I’m sure we will have enough for our immediate wants and needs.  Straight out of the oven, it smelt wonderful!  It’s certainly a strange new world when a gift of a bag of flour  can bring such joy!

Baking afternoon

Wishing everyone Happy Easter holidays, and may you all keep safe and secure at home in your own bubbles.  Doing some stitching keeps us calm and happy, and baking fills the need to nurture our loved ones.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Start of Blue Stitching

The Rainbow Scrap Challenge colour for April is blue, light or bright, but leaving the darks behind for another month.   This time, I decided to do my more time consuming block first, and looked through my blues for something suitable for my blue colourpoint cat block.  Once I had done the paper pieced arc, and matched the dots on the curved pieces, the rest of the block went together quite easily.  Mind you, it took me several hours to get this block done, I’m pleased I’m only stitching one of these blocks a month!  And here she is, a beautiful blue Birman.

My blue block for April

It was time for her to meet the other cats, but before they all mixed and mingled, I sat and added buttons for eyes and a nose, and stitched whiskers to each cat.  That’s so much better, I think.  With their pretty pussy cat faces, they now have their own personalities.

Four colourpoint cats

That’s four cats stitched so far, teal, orange, green and blue.  Not sure how many cats I will end up with in my cattery,  I’ll see what they all look like together as the months progress.  Now, I’m sure I’ve got some other blue RSC blocks to stitch.

Many thanks to Angela of So Scrappy for organising all the RSC sewers with her link-up each week.  It’s always a treat to see what the other participants have produced.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Worth it’s Weight in Gold

What a surprise to get an unexpected parcel delivered by the courier.  He quite correctly placed the parcel by the door after ringing the bell, then stood back a safe distance to while confirming he was at the correct address.

The mystery parcel

This rather heavy parcel was from my daughter Nicky.  Was it an early delivery for Mother’s Day next month, I wondered?  Should I save it, or open in now, I enquired.  Open it, was the firm response, so I did.  And what's this I found inside?  A bag of flour, about 3kg or so, I reckon!

Inside was a big bag of flour

The note read:  (abbreviated)
“Dear Nana, here’s some flour for you, we ended up getting a 20kg bag yesterday at the supermarket.  We hope you are doing well in Lockdown, and will enjoy doing baking with the flour.  Love from Emma and Nicky.”

With flour missing from our local supermarket shelves over the last few weeks, I’m extremely grateful, and can’t wait to get on with some baking.  It certainly is worth it’s weight in gold these days!

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Roll the Dice Again

Today is Day 15 of our Lockdown, staying home as we should, and keeping ourselves occupied.   It was time to roll the dice again, bringing up number 5.  Which is a bag of stitchery blocks which I did some years ago, and they have been residing in a bag all this time.  “Under the Sea” was a Block of the Month stitchery designed by Willowberry Designs in 2010.  I had the patterns enlarged at the copy shop, and used Perle No 5 threads.  After stitching, the designs were highlighted with fabric pens. 

Nine stitchery blocks

Gemma is helping

The first job was to trim the blocks up, and cut the sashing strips.  Then decide how to arrange them, laying the blocks across the top of the bed.  Once again, Gemma came to help by holding the blocks down.  After all, what if those fish try to escape?  She’s keeping an eye on them for me, she thinks.

Helping some more

Hopefully I’ll assemble the top in the next day or two, so that will be a job well done. Perhaps I’ll be able to layer and pin the quilt together this week too, I’ll see how it goes.  Must allow a bit of time to work on my blue Rainbow Scrap Challenge blocks too.

Do hope everyone is staying inside, keeping safe, and enjoying their stitching time.  Without any social engagements the days just run into each other, don’t they?  But we will be patient, making the most of this extra time at home.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Finished – Caravan Stitching

It’s Sunday, and I’m so pleased I finished my “roll the dice no 4” this week, which were a couple of items for the caravan, using caravan themed fabric.  I had been gifted two lengths of fabric a birthday or two ago, so was happy to finally get on and use them.   I’d decided to make placemats with the grey, and an apron with the blue.  Messy cooks like me need aprons, even away on caravan trips!


I had to piece the blue fabric to get the length I needed, and couldn’t match the pattern, but I’m OK with that.  It was soon cut out and I added some plain blue down both sides and also for the straps.  And here it is, all finished, having a photo opportunity out in the warm Autumn sunshine.


This fabric is covered with lots of colourful patchwork caravans (trailers) with the owners stitching away and exploring.  It is a happy looking print and I’ll certainly enjoy wearing my apron when we get away – whenever our Lockdown period ends.


The placemats were next, and took a little longer.  I had just enough of this piece of burgundy for the border, and used a plain grey for the binding.

Stitching the binding

Robin and Gemma joined me outside on the patio as I hand stitched the binding down.  It may be Autumn and the mornings can be a little chilly, but usually the afternoons are nice and warm, just right to sit outside if the weather is not too windy.

Keeping me company while I’m stitching

I had a small piece of fabric left to make a little bag for 4zees, other wise known as Happy Hour.  These small bags are just the right size for Robin when we are away at a caravan club rally.  Fitting in a couple of stubby size beer bottles, plus his glass,  it will be just the thing for joining our caravan buddies at our next rally.

Placemats and small bag

Actually, I made another set of placemats too, but these are for a gift later in the year so I won’t show them now.  Suffice to say they feature New Zealand Rainbow Trout -  my penfriend has a lakeside cabin and her hubby is a keen hunter and fisherman, so I'm hoping they will be well received when sent overseas later on.  All in all I’m quite pleased with my efforts this last week.  Wonder what number and project the dice will bring up next week?