My name is Charlotte, sometimes known as Ms Lottie, occasionally as The Slightly Mad Quilt Lady. This is my blog, where you'll find me writing a lot about my quilting and textile arts and a little about my family's life in a small seaside town in New Zealand. Haere mai!

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Cushion Love

Happy Christmas to you! Or Happy Holidays, or happy whatever (if anything) you celebrate. I hope you and your loved ones receive some of the peace and joy of the season.

I’m going to spend some of the Summer camping with my husband’s extended family, just as we’ve done for the last decade. It’s an unintentional tradition, but one that brings us all great enjoyment. Let’s hope we can keep doing it for another decade or so.

There is no power at the site where we camp, so it’s strictly hand sewing for me if I want to do any stitching. However, I did manage to sneak home on Christmas Eve and put the finishing touches on some handmade presents for my children and my nieces.

My eldest niece on my husband’s side was given the middle name Taraire, which is the name of a native New Zealand tree.

When our son was born, we gave him the middle name of Nikau, also a native NZ tree. And so another unintentional tradition was formed.

The next to be born, my twin nieces, received the middle names of Pohutu and Kawa, which together are Pohutukawa, another iconic NZ tree.

So, when my daughter was born, she in turn received a tree middle name, this time Kowhai, which has brilliant yellow flowers in Spring.

Seeing as I have made patterns for just about all those trees at one time or another, it follows that I could make cushions with those images on them. One for each child - the pohutukawa ones, getting a different stripe of black fabric and a different back. The fabrics all came from my stash as did the buttons. The embroidery is done once from the front then again from the back as bobbin embroidery with a heavy hand-dyed thread on the bobbin.

And they loved them! Or at least they said they did...

Have a safe and happy New Year!

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Five Years of Jade - a finish

My most recent traditional finish, titled "Five Years of Jade". And three of my good quilty friends helping me with photos!

Two posts ago I discussed a few of my thoughts about learning to talk about my work. Further to that there are some more points I'd like to add after I read Suz's comment, which was:

"Even non art quilts have a story... how the fabrics came to be... what sparked the interest in a pattern... who the quilt is for. I have always found these things to be interesting but it always seems like pulling teeth to get the back story... and although your wording is lovely, it doesn't always need to be a carefully curated set of words."

And she is right. Every quilt has a story and they are all interesting. But some people can tell their story more engagingly than others, and those are the skills I'd like to learn. By listening to others I hope to learn about how they make their words spark connections in my brain, or make me laugh, or draw me in.

My work is occasionally traditional quilts and more often figurative or narrative textile art, and I think it's important to be able to talk about both types of work. I think the skills are interchangeable, because, as Suz says, every quilt has a story.

And I think some of that is realising that others ARE interested in the story, so don't minimalise the journey - expand on the details instead!  If you are standing up at show and tell, don't forget the 'tell' part. Tell us how many fabrics you auditioned until you found the perfect one in your friend's scrap pile. Tell us that you made this for Aunty June's fifth wedding because you thought if you made her a special wedding quilt it might stop her getting divorced....again. Tell us that the sashing has those added blocks because you ran out of that one fabric and had to use two.

So in the spirit of 'tell', here's my quilt 'Five Years of Jade'. It is named thus because it took about five years to make, and Jade is a cool word for green ;-)

The quilt began from watching others completing Charlotte Hawke's mystery quilt called Scrapitude. I didn't join on the mystery because I don't like surprises when it comes to quilts, but I liked every one's finished quilts so much that I downloaded the pattern and instructions and started making it on my own.

Because of my previously noted dislike of surprises, I controlled my colours - rather than using whatever darks, mediums and lights that came out of my scrap bin, I chose bigger pieces with a controlled palette - no scrap vomits for me! But in keeping with the spirit of the project, the majority of fabrics came from my stash. I did a lot of piecing of this quilt on night shifts on and off for probably more than a year and then it sat for ages and ages as a flimsy.

I had the perfect border fabric in my stash, bought as an extra-wide backing for some or other project that I can't remember, but obviously never used. I wanted a wide border to help the quilt fit my bed and, as all the edge triangles were bias, it really needed something to stabilise it. 

When I got back from Canada I was looking for a quick finish, something to give me a sense of having 'done something', and whipping on some borders and bundling it off to the long-armer was the perfect fix!

This is the first quilt I've ever had long-arm quilted and my friend, Melissa Gelder of The Quilting Octopus, did a great job on it. She helped me find the perfect all-over pattern called Feather Swirls by Anne Bright and she also had the perfect grey-green backing fabric on hand. Sorted!

So there you have it. One completed traditional quilt, and the story that goes with it.

Today there are museums and study centres dedicated to learning the stories behind antique quilts. People want to know about quilters' work, even a hundred years after the last stitch was taken, so please don't underestimate the interest others have in your work.  And don't miss the opportunity to talk about your work in the present day! Share the love, share your knowledge, learn to talk about what you did and why you did it and the world will be a richer place for it.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Auckland Symposium 2019

I haven't written anything about symposium yet. Even though it was three weeks ago! It's such a 'big' experience that it's always hard to know where to begin.  So I'm going to start with Aotearoa Quilters, as I'm super passionate about the good work they are doing to support and encourage NZ quilters.

I began my symposium week by arriving the day before it officially opened. My aim was to help out the Aotearoa Quilters committee hang the silver colour challenge quilts and the New Zealand through our eyes challenge quilts. It took me a while to navigate scary Auckland traffic (remember, in my town there is only one set of traffic lights and they are for a pedestrian crossing!) but I made it in time to help Shirley get everything sorted and hung to the best advantage.

From left to right: Donna, myself, Shirley and Mary. I'm not on the committee anymore, but these other women are and they work so hard as volunteers to run AQ, think up challenges, organise the Great NZ Quilt Show, support regional groups, and promote and support NZ quilters in as many ways as they can.

Here's the wall of the silver colour challenges. This year, being AQ's 25th anniversary, the colour was silver. The hexagon shape was to shake it up a bit as some folks were getting bored of the 12" square. We thought there may be a few less entries because of the changes, but happily there were just as many as usual, so good to see NZ's aren't scared of a challenge!

The winners and merit quilts nicely displayed in the centre. Thanks to Mallee Textiles and Cottage Flair for the sponsorship of the awards.

And better shots of the winner, by Kat Martin.

Merit for Fyvie Murray.

Merit for Caro Stewart. 

And Merit for Mary Metcalf.

Here's my entry. I decided to have a bit of fun with this one. I hate working with metallic thread and I'm pretty sure there are many others who share my feelings! So I let my frustrations run riot, illustrating what happens to my rolls of metallic thread when my back is turned.

I'm really excited to let you know that we signed up HEAPS of new members at symposium (here's Flicity and Kerry at the AQ table waiting to tell you how awesome the organisation is), which means NZ's are getting behind the spirit of the organisation. AQ's mission is: to provide New Zealand quilters the opportunity to expand horizons, to share work, and to learn. We do this by supporting quilters and textile artists at all levels through offering a variety of classes, exhibitions, regional meetings and professional development opportunities.

Of course, the more members we have, the better we can do that, so it's great to see the organisation growing and thriving.

There was also a short and sweet AQ breakfast to give out the prizes for the suitcase exhibition winners - this is a travelling exhibition of small quilts picked from the main symposium exhibition and supported by Aotearoa Quilters - to meet and greet and to hear some of our life members talk about the history of the organisation. We were encouraged to dress up in silver, and above you can see my scary silver mask I found at the $2 shop!

If you'd like to hear more about what Aotearoa Quilters is up to you can follow their page on Facebook, or their Instagram feed, or even better, become a member and get their newsletter and access to the members only FB page.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Learning to talk about your work

I believe that learning to talk engagingly and intelligently about your work is one of the most important skills an artist can develop.

How many times have you listened to someone talk about their piece and gained a whole new appreciation for it? And how many times have you heard people point out flaws, put themselves down, or say a variation of, “I just liked those fabrics so I made it.” Hmmm. 

And it’s FINE if you DID just 'like' the fabrics! But perhaps you could say, “I liked the way these fabrics worked together and I wanted to play with the proportions and see how it altered the conversation between them.” Same thing really, but just said with a little more agility.

I'm making this blue quilt at the moment because I liked the indigo-dyed napkin that I printed with fern fronds, and I found some other blue leftovers. But instead of saying that, how about, "I wanted to see if I could compose a successful composition using a limited palette."

I do not claim to be that great at speaking about my work, but it’s something I’m aware of and I’m striving to get better at. 

I’ve recently been watching the videos of the Quilt National ‘19 exhibitors. These are short videos of makers talking about their quilts. And it’s been a great learning experience (besides also being able to enjoy the beautiful works.) I try and think when I’m listening:

Are they making sense?
Are they adding to the story I see visually?
Have I learnt something?

Here’s the link if you want to listen and watch too.

Sunday, September 22, 2019


I finished this piece a few days ago. Although I haven't put a hanging sleeve on it yet, so I guess it's not 100% finished. Do you count your finishes from when you've put the last stitch in the binding, or from when they are labelled, sleeved, photographed, documented....etc. etc?

This quilt is 18 1/4 inches by 18 3/4 inches. A very inconvenient size really, but that's just how it ended up.

I began this piece because I needed some more organza quilts for a class I was running. At that time my other samples were in the middle of the ocean, being posted back from when I was teaching in Canada (they arrived just the other day). When it started, it looked like this:

It's three layers of fabric. There is a salmon-coloured hand-dye underneath a layer of multicoloured silk organza.  The bird is cut out of the salmon fabric, as are the unfolding fern fronds, and there is a yellow fabric under the bird and white fabric under the fronds. 

The cut out bird ended up on another composition.

But I wasn't happy with the dominance of the bright fern fronds. So I took the yellow fabric away from behind the bird and replaced it with white. Then I replaced the white that was behind the fern fronds with a dark, rich purple (and got rid of the flax stalk).

I really liked the way the purple fabric extended the composition beyond the edges of the salmon fabric, so I cut them in a hill shape and included it in the design.

The feathers came last.  And I played around with different layouts to get the feel that I was going for.

For me, this quilt is about the spirituality of dawn, that beautiful, sacred, quiet time. When we can look at the sun rise and be thankful for a new day with all its potential. The feathers are a symbol of what the bird is leaving behind to rise towards and celebrate that new day.

I added a little red hill off to the left for balance, some paint to define the main hill and highlight the bird, and then quilted the whole thing. You may notice the peaked window shape quilted in, which is another nod to the spiritual feel of the quilt.

It's finished with a facing so there are no edges to confine the bird.