Thursday, May 31, 2012


Just a couple of pictures from today. Firstly, my quilt sandwich and enormous hoop that I'm taking down to Wellington tomorrow. I am so giddy with excitement when I look at this piece of fabric and think of all the rows of bright hand-stitches that will eventually decorate it! This is for the hand-quilting class I'm doing on Sunday morning with Kathy Doughty.

A little pile of lucky travelers who will be making the journey with me. These girls will be my models for one of the workshops I'm teaching, 'Make your own doll'.  I've also made some super-cute pillowcase dresses which I'll post if I have time tomorrow.  They are for my 'Take one pillowcase' workshop, all hosted at Te Papa this weekend for Handmade 2012.  I can't wait for a whole weekend of crafting and socializing with creative friends; come and say hi if you're there :)

Monday, May 21, 2012


I've been working on the quilt top on and off all week since Wednesday, and it's almost finished! As expected, I've had to unpick a few seams (mostly because of issues with wonkiness, but I've also had to rethink some colour placements). Apart from that though, it's been much more straightforward than I thought it might be. Hopefully the squaring-off process is just as trouble-free! 

Not having made anything like this before, I totally improvised.  If you're an experienced quilter, you may want to look away now.  This was my process: I sketched it out based on the lines on an aerial photo, then taped lengths of brown paper together to the actual size I wanted the quilt to be.  I drew the lines onto the paper, then cut it out in about 6 sections.  I cut out the blocks in each section and placed that on the fabric and just added seam allowances as I cut. Everything was cut out with scissors and when I needed to make corrections,  I drew on the fabric with my boys' Twistable crayons.  Since there are no straight lines, I didn't see the need for a rotary cutter. It's quite flat, surprisingly, but we'll see how flat when I start quilting.  And if it's not flat, I don't care too much. This is fabric after all, not paper.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


My current obsession with colour started on Mothers' Day, when I sat down with Daniel and Joshua to play around with my box of watercolour paints. We decided to just fill some blocks and see what happens, and this was the lovely result: 
Daniel's blocks, full of saturated colour.  I really like the fearless way he used all his colours. 
Joshua's ambitious number of blocks, with some more subtle colours.
My blocks.  I tried to use colours I don't normally like, for example orange and purple. 

That was fun, and planted the seed for a plan for my quilt. All those blocks of solid colour appeal to me, and I think the simplicity would be a great way to show off some hand-quiting. While I adore prints, I'd like to experiment with how some colours and lines work together to create new patterns. 

Then I discovered a book by Nancy Crow in the library.  I can't believe I've never heard of this prolific and talented textile artist before! She creates very strong, linear quilts with fabrics that she dyes herself.  Here are some images from the book:

I was inspired, and had a good look through my stash. I was surprised to see this small collection in amongst all my prints:
And here is what I achieved this afternoon, after a lot of sketching and a trip to my family farm courtesy of Google Earth:
The start of a very improvisational and wonky lap quilt. The grey is a road, the blocks vineyards and farm paddocks.  I can't wait to work on it again tomorrow, although I expect a fair amount of time will be spent unpicking!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


A couple of weeks ago I found this little stool in an op shop for $8.  I'm a sucker for those tapering legs, plus Craig still needs to elevate his foot, so I killed two birds with one stone and brought it home.  The wool was falling out and had bugs living in it, so that went immediately.

Look what it had underneath though: it says NZ Lambs Wool stool, made in Howick.  

I decided to reupholster it with my limited knowledge of upholstery (picked up from Sally Ridge in an ancient home do-up TV show, I kid you not!). I went to Para Rubber, got a small piece of upholstery foam and some batting for about $15, took that and our staple gun to Lucky Penny and hoped for the best.  First I cut the foam to the exact shape of the seat, then covered it with batting, which I stapled to the underside of the seat. Then, with a bit of wrangling and stretching, I covered it with a piece of fabric, which I also stapled and then trimmed, like so:

After this I unscrewed the legs, stapled some vinyl to the bottom to hide the mess, cut crosses for the legs and screwed them back on. 

This beautiful fabric is 'Autumn Leaf' by Holli Zollinger, and you can find it here on Spoonflower.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Handmade 2012

I am so excited to be teaching at Handmade again this year.  In 3 weeks I fly to Wellington for Queens' Birthday weekend to teach two classes, catch up with other creative friends and get new inspiration.  I will be teaching the same workshops as last year, 'Take one pillowcase' and 'Make your own cloth doll'.  

As you can see, I  have a stack of pillowcases and will be making some up into packs to sell on the day, or students can bring their own materials.  I will show how to make a tote bag in class and give ideas about how to make many other items from a humble pillowcase. You can find more information on the 'Remade' page.

I will also be teaching how to make a cloth doll using my original fabric, which is printed with two dolls: one to make in class and one to do at home.  More information on the 'Stitch' page.

I really enjoyed teaching these classes last year and met some amazing people, including Kathy Doughty from Material Obsession in Sydney. I was happy to see a gap in my time-table big enough to fit in a hand-quilting class with Kathy, which should be very interesting.  I have to make time for a (very simple) small quilt top this month, as I need to have something to quilt for the class.  Nothing like a bit of last-minute pressure to get the adrenaline pumping!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Birthdays and marrows

Since I've been the main gardener for the last 6 weeks or so, things have gone to ruin.  Or seed.  Some things have even died.  What is one day a little marrow,  just a bit too small to pick, seemed to turn into a bommy-knocker overnight.  That's the boys' term for it, and as you can see, it can pack a punch:

The boys turned 7 and 5 in the last week, and of course that means a bit of baking.  It also means Joshua will be off to school on Monday, but that's a whole different post...

So to kill two birds with one stone yesterday, I baked my favourite courgette cake. I originally found the recipe here, but have made so many changes that I'll put it up here.  As you can see, it doesn't look very green and nobody even has to know there's a vegetable in there if they don't need to :)  It's a nice dense cake and is best just slightly undercooked so it doesn't dry out.

2 c self-raising flour
2/3 c cocoa
1 tsp salt
just over 1/2 c oil (I use rice bran oil)
2 c brown sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla flavour
2 c grated courgettes* 

(*Peeled too if they're marrows. Grate and put in a colander.  Sprinkle with salt and let it sit for a while, rinse and wring dry in clean tea towel. If you don't do this, the cake might be too moist and will need to bake for much longer than 50 min.)

Combine oil, sugar, eggs, vanilla and courgettes in a large bowl. Sift flour, cocoa and salt over wet ingredients and mix until just combined. Bake in large cake tin in 180 C oven for 40-50 min. 

Ice with ganache made with 200g chocolate and 100ml cream.  If the ganache is too runny, let it cool down a bit before icing.