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!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

We wish you.....

a Merry Christmas, a safe holiday, a happy and relaxed time.

It's the second day of school holidays for me and I have two kiddies at home.  The shed kit has arrived and we are waiting on builders to start.  It hasn't rained for six weeks or so and then yesterday it poured.....hmmmm, dust or mud, what a choice!  We're going camping soon and I'm totally unorganised.  And I still haven't finished my Father-in-Law's quilt.

But thank you all for your suggestions with layouts in my last post.  I changed a few things round again, and am much happier with it.  It's all sewn together and basted and now I need to quilt it.  I promise I'll show a picture of it when it's finished.

Apart from that picture though, I'm taking a bloggy break.  It's all a bit crazy here and I want to enjoy the Christmas period, not stress through it.  So lessening a few of my commitments makes sense.

I'll see you all again in January.

Please take care of yourselves.


Friday, December 10, 2010

This is on my mind...

The final layout of my Father in Law's quilt.  I get to stage sometimes where I can't see the wood for the trees, I've looked at a quilt so long that I can't see what I'm seeing anymore and one layout looks the same as another, nothing stands out as wrong or everything stands out as wrong.  Occasionally it makes me want to put the whole thing in a box and start over.  (I must have done that a few times, that's where WIP's come from!)

So which one do I choose?  And I must make up my mind soon because I've imposed a deadline on myself by deciding that this is going to be a Christmas present.

Do I choose this one?  Or this one?  What about this one?  Can anyone see the differences?

You can find out what's on other peoples minds over at Rhonda's blog, Down to Earth.
Now, I think there is an apostrophe missing in that sentence above - where are your high school english teachers when you need them?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

That's my boy

Yay!  The first visit from the tooth fairy.  I must admit; I was drifting off to sleep when I was suddenly snapped awake with the thought, "I FORGOT THE TOOTH FAIRY!"  Yoiks!  That was crushing disappointment narrowly avoided.

First handwritten Father Christmas letter.  He just kills me with his sweetness sometimes.  And makes me laugh at his very basic wants.  I'm sure we can organise some chocolate.

First portrait shot taken by his younger sister.  Not too bad - I think she catches his goofiness perfectly!

Monday, December 6, 2010


I've been trying to concentrate on my Father-in-Law's quilt that I'm making him for Christmas.  It's getting closer - but then so is Christmas!  I'm really pleased with how this Tui (a native New Zealand bird) block turned out.  Only one Tui will go on his quilt, so the other one will be used for something else.  I'm thinking wall hanging, bag panel, another quilt.....ok, maybe not another quilt just yet.

Click here to see images of real Tuis (but ignore the cheesy beer ads).

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


The holes are dug, the hole diggers gone.  It seemed like an easy mornings work for them.  The holes are so deep I've had to cover them all up with boards to save the kids (or me) from breaking our legs.  Hole inspection tomorrow and then the concrete footings can be poured.  It's really and truly happening.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Good Tidings

I've had two pieces of good news today.  First up was the word about about my Father in Law.  He was in surgery today to remove 'Bertie' - his not-so-fond nickname for his cancerous tumour.  Bertie is gone, and my FIL is awake, alert and doing well.  Phew.

Second was the very exciting news that my peace and quiet is about to be shattered.  By diggers and concrete trucks.  Finally, finally, finally, work is beginning on our shed extension and veranda.  Wednesday is the big day. 

This photo was taken way back in November last year - a whole year ago we were preparing the site for the new shed, it's been a long time coming and will be appreciated more because of it. 

And this junky cluttered space is out the front of my house.  I know I live in a converted shed, but I'm tired of it looking like a converted shed.  I want a nice space to come home to.  And finally there is light at the end of the tunnel!  There will be a five metre wide veranda roof all along this front.  That sounds wide but it will have clearlite (a clear roofing perspex) in it over the window and doors to let in light and it is also a really high roof line, so I don't think it will be dark and gloomy underneath.

Then I aim to landscape the area underneath - I'm thinking a deck and/or some pavers.  Then a little bit of lawn in front of that out to the tyre/plant pot line. (I've already been planning!  Those are my markers.)  Some herb planters along the edge.  A retaining wall on the bank to the right.  One day the last bay of the shed will be clad in and fitted out as a sewing room/office/spare room .

But we're doing it slowly, paying for it as we can.  It's hard sometimes not to feel a bit hard done by when I look around at some beautifully finished houses and gardens.  Then I think about the stress of a large mortgage and think I'd rather do it like I am (and anyway, you don't notice the mess after a while!).

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Another Finish.

I'm on a nightie roll.  This is my second one from the Sew Mama Sew! tutorial.  Another op-shop sheet and the purple fabric used to be a pair of pyjama pants that, er, split in an unfortunate manner.  I was even able to use the drawstring tie as the shoulder straps.  I think I'm almost ready to tackle a garment that gets worn in public.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Healing Hearts

These are my two Healing Hearts blocks.  I patched together some blue scraps of fabric then ironed on some fusible webbing with two hearts drawn on it.  Then I cut them out, ironed them to 6 1/2 inch calico squares and satin stitched around them with a tearaway stabiliser on the back.  I know that these quilts will never bring back the people that have been lost.  But I hope that in some little way, they make a difference to someone.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Pike River Mine.

I'm not feeling very festive today.  Yesterday New Zealand had a terrible tragedy.  There had been 29 mine workers trapped for six days in a mine after an explosion.  Nobody had been able to get in to attempt a rescue or even to see if there was any sign of life.  Yesterday afternoon there was another huge explosion and they believe nobody could possibly have survived it.  They have switched from rescue mode to recovery mode. 

My heart goes out to the families who have had the most unimaginable week. 

Please take care everyone.

Edited to Add:  If you would like to do something to show your feelings, Shirley Goodwin is receiving Healing Heart Blocks to be made into quilts for the families involved in this tragedy.  You can see here for instructions and an address.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Roar.

This is what I'm doing today.  I've already done another fish bin of weeds (only sixty thousand left to do), fed the animals and done some washing, but it's getting too hot to slog in the garden so it's time to work on my Father-in-Law's quilt.

When I'm building a background for an applique figure, I tend to work on a calico foundation to give me the size of the finished block and then I free cut shapes for the ground/hills/sky before pinning them and then sewing them down.

(Friends suggested I add a red nose to him, 'cause he looks like he's singing Christmas carols!  I probably won't.  But I will be adding an eye, an inner ear and inner mouth to give him a bit of definition.)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

This is a fish bin standing in as a wheeless wheelbarrow.  Fish bins are quite big (in case you were wondering about scale).  I could fill this six times over and not make a dent in the wilderness that is my vege garden.  In reality, I filled it once and then tipped that to the chickens and they didn't ask for more.

This is the wilderness that is my vege garden.  Buckwheat and cauliflower in the front, doing a sterling job of hiding the gone-to-seed kale, lettuce, swede.....well, gone-to-seed everything.

At least my slug patrol enjoys the wilderness - better habitat for all things slimy and crawly.

Ahhh!  A much more demure, restrained, orderly garden.  This one was my rooster pen.  They did a fine job of weed killing, fertilising and digging over.  I think I'll re-hire them next season.  They have a much better work ethic then I do.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Finish!

I've been working up to making some clothes for myself.  I'm not a sempstress.  I didn't take Home Ec. at school.  I took what I thought at the time were loftier subjects like art and graphics and design.  And here I am, neither an architect nor an artist, wishing that I'd had the foresight to learn some true sewing skills.

I've made a few garments before, but so few I can list them:
A dress for my daughter,
A pair of trousers for me,
A dress for me.

And all done long ago.

But I'm sick of buying clothes that I don't really like but can't afford the ones I do, or garments that don't fit or flatter, or tee-shirts that I know were probably made by some poor bugger in a sweatshop somewhere.

Then I read this post by Chunkychooky and it motivated me so much that.....

I made me a nightie!  I am very impressed with myself.  I followed this tutorial from Sew Mama Sew!, used an op-shopped sheet and shirt, and I wore it to bed the same day I started it.

I was so chuffed with myself that it almost made up for the bad bad bikkies.

And thank you all for your suggestions about the disastrous biscuits.  I'm going to do a marathon bake tomorrow and freeze a whole lot of my good recipes so I have bikkies at a moments notice.  Then I'm going to dry out the yucky ones, crumble them and use them as muesli (granola), cheesecake base, and a slice base and maybe try a crumble topping too.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Save the Biscuits!

I constantly try out new recipes for biscuits (or cookies if you're from the USA!).  My son needs something in his lunchbox besides the staple fruit and sandwiches.  He'll get cold pasta, a slice of egg pie, maybe a scone or muffin every now and then, but when I'm in a hurry, a good hearty biscuit does the trick. 

I've got recipes that I loved as a kid - Rolled Oat Jumbles, Kiwi Crunchies, Chocolate Crunch, but Mr Fussy likes them for a short while and then goes off them. 

Today I tried Scroggin Lunch Biscuits.  I have it hand written down in my recipe book so heaven only knows where I got it from.  Peanut butter, butter, flour, sugar (I used rapadura, which is like brown sugar), eggs, vanilla, currants....sounds pretty good, but nope, they taste like sawdust.

Look good, smell good, taste.....blurk.

And I used lots of good ingredients that I don't want to 'waste'.  Waste in our house means feeding to the chooks - I'll get them back in eggs, but still.....

So, please, if you have any suggestions on how to rescue my bikkies, I will be eternally grateful!  I'm thinking of bashing them up (venting my frustration), adding a bit of butter and sugar and using as a Fruit Crumble topping?  What do you think?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Round Robin

A dear friend who is a kiwi living in Australia (there are a few too many of them for my liking - move back home you lot!!) has talked me into an international quilting Round Robin.

It's run by The Patchwork Studio in Australia.  My friend does a weekly class with them and loves it.

Welcome to the registration for The Patchwork Studio's

FREE international Round Robin!

How it works:

As a participant, you will be sent some guidelines and instructions from The Patchwork Studio as to creating your first piece. You will also be sent the name and postal address of another participant whom you will forward your piece to at the end of the first five (5) week stage

(please note that participants will need to pay for packaging and postage).

You will then receive the first piece from another participant in your group, and you will be given further instructions from The Patchwork Studio to add onto that piece. Everyone in the group is given the same instruction, and has a further five (5) weeks to complete the stage.

This process is repeated a further two (2) times. At the end, the quilt with your original starting piece is mailed back to you. You now have a beautiful quilt that has been worked on by at least three other participants in your group!

Registrations for the January 2011 Round Robin close on the 20th of December.

Registrations for the March 2011 Round Robin close on the 20th of February.

I lifted all the info above straight from their registration page, but I'm sure they won't mind a bit of free  advertising.  If you are interested in joining in, click here.  It's the first time I've participated in something like this so I'm excited to see how it pans out - I'll try anything once!

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Tonight I was having "uncharitable thoughts" about my children whilst cleaning up the interminable mess they make. 

Admittedly they have their 'awwwww' moments.  But in general, they are loud, annoying, they interrupt constantly, they take so much time, they are expensive, they are very, very messy, and they frequently cause me to clench my teeth.

But then a thought popped into my head that is going to make all you quilters giggle.  I have to thank my son for quilting.  My first ever quilt was started long before (like 5 years before) he was born.  But he was the reason I finished it.  That quilt was the reason I went to a quilting exhibition.  That exhibition was the reason I signed up for patchwork and quilting lessons.  And the rest, as they say, is history.

So tonight whilst I am grumpy and sighing and carrying on like a toddler, I was snapped out of it by that thought.

Thanks kids.

I found this when I went to bed last night.  Those are her grubby cuddlies on my bedside table (which I really must repaint - brown is soooo yesterday).  An 'awww' moment, until I had to heave her into her own bed - she's heavy!

A real 'awww' moment.

When they were cuddlier and didn't talk back so much!

My first ever quilt. (And my first ever baby wrapped up in it).

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


I made soap!

 (And I found my camera, but not until after making the soap, which is why you have shots of the finished product and not the process.)

And it wasn't that hard.  The hardest bit was getting around to doing it.  It's not a very kid-friendly activity, what with the caustic soda and all, so I needed to fit it into a kid-free slot.  So yesterday I put off the thrilling job of house cleaning and instead, I made soap! 

And this morning I unwrapped the towels and voila!  (Can you tell I'm just a little bit chuffed?)

I used a recipe from Frugal Kiwi's blog here.  Except I substituted 100ml of coconut oil and 100ml of ricebran oil for 200ml of the olive oil.  I also added some lavender essential oil - Frugal Kiwi says about 30ml, and I added about 20ml and unless you are a real perfumey person, even that might have been a bit much.  Smells a little like Granny's linen closet round here this morning!  But then again, that might wear off a bit once it's cured. 

So now I wait for about a month.  Then I'll test the bars with some pH test paper to make sure it's not caustic anymore.  And then.....I get to have a shower with my very own homemade soap!! (Yes, very chuffed!)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Calico Christmas

I need a medal.  I visited Calico Christmas, the exhibition of the Auckland Patchworkers and Quilters Guild with many, many merchant stalls and I did not come home with a single skerrick of fabric...but I did come home with this book.  (And if anyone knows where my camera is, please let me know.  So image borrowed from Amazon!  And no you can't click to look inside.)

I've seen it advertised in a magazine before and thought I'd like to have it as my interest in eco-friendly quilting grows.  Then after I flicked through it at the Minerva stall, I just couldn't leave without it.  The most vibrant and luscious photography adorns its pages and it's full of ideas and recipes for natural dyes.  I can't wait to get started. 

I forgot to take my camera to Calico Christmas (and now it's MIA) so used my cell phone instead.  Problem:  I can't get the pics from camera to computer.  So if you want to have a lookey at some, go here to Leann's blog.  She's a little more organised than me!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Happiness is......

 This makes me happy, excited, relieved (in more ways than one!), ecstatic even!!  One of the reasons I was a little concerned about moving out to our block of land was because I didn't have one of these.

My new sewerage system and grey water system.  If you're new to this blog you may not know that here on Windyhill Farm we are a little bit primitive.  Or I like to think of it as extremely low impact.  We have a longdrop for a loo, and if you don't know what a longdrop is, well basically we poop in a hole in the ground.

(See this post for a pic of the day the dunny blew over)

But not any longer!! (Well actually, for a few more days at least).

The system above is a Natural Flow System.  It uses worms to eat the solid bits, lets the black water flow down into our bush and puts the grey water through an irrigation hose that I can place where I please.

So I get a flush toilet in my bathroom and an irrigation system for my garden in one fell swoop. 


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Quilting in Queenstown

Yesterday I had a flash of horror!  I was musing about it being the first of November when I realised I hadn't sent off my Remarkable Symposium class registrations that are due on the eighth!  I dropped everything and sat down to it. 

Ready to Send - that's a wild pig ready to cut out in the background for my FIL's quilt.
 Symposium is a bi-annual quilting event in New Zealand where they gather national and international tutors for a week of classes and lectures, they have huge exhibitions, lots of fun happy hours and gala dinners and, of course, a merchant's mall.  I'm sure it doesn't rival the huge events in the USA but for little 'ol NZ, it's a big deal.

I missed out two years ago, but circumstances are more conducive this time around and I'm off to Queenstown in April!!

I've been mulling over which classes to take for ages but in the end I put my name down for:

Celtic Cutwork with Yvonne Brown
Art Quilt - Line Dancing with Jeanette Deniicolis Meyer
Pattern Play with Jane Sassaman

Please, oh please may I get my first choices!!!!

And just because I got round to it, here is the piggy block from the first pic all fused up.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Mama Bunny Mischief

I planned well.  I planned not to have any extra bunnies bouncing around at Christmas time.  So when I go away camping there is less to organise, less responsibility for whoever we get to housesit/animalsit (anyone keen by the way?!).

But I didn't plan on Mama Bunny.

This particular Mama's name is Tweedle Dum.  And Tweedle Dum took a midnight wander a while ago (well, a month ago to be precise, that's how long rabbits gestate for).  And now I know what she got up to on her big night out!

This litter of ten little wrigglers have a distinct 'wild' bunny look to them. 

Well, I guess I need to have a little talk to Tweedle Dum - you know, that motherly talk about "it only takes once" and "he might say he loves you but..." 

Sigh.  Rabbits have no sense of decorum.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Scrappy Crumb Quilts

My scraps are getting out of hand.  But it's hard to throw them away.  As a wise lady recently said to me,"I paid the same amount per metre for that teeny scrap as I did for that fat quarter!"  And when you've collected a few kilos of teeny scraps, you wonder how much meterage there actually is in the pile.  So I pulled them all out (actually my daughter did - the picture above is her 'nest for birdies'), and decided to do something useful with them.

I'd never really heard of the name 'crumb quilts' until I read about them here, on the lovely Raewyn's blog.  I knew about the concept (sewing any scrap bigger than 1/2 inch into a bigger block, then sewing it all in together), but now they have a delicious name to go with them.  But I'm regimented kinda girl (really!).  I like order to my colours.  I also love rainbows and colourwash.  Soooo, my first step is to sort my scraps.

Then I plan to make my crumb blocks all one colour, with maybe a few flecks of a complimentary colour to make them sparkle.  So I'll have a blue block made up of little crumbs of my different blue scraps with maybe a scrap or two of orange.  A purple block with a spark of orange, a green block with pink.  Sashing?  A cream perhaps, maybe black.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.  First I have to go pick up my leftovers!

Anyone else doing a crumb quilt at the moment?  Or tell me what you are doing with your scraps - I'd love some more inspiration to use them up.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


Gosh, the weekend is almost here and I haven't even written about last weekend!  Labour weekend was a full-on one for us.  Being a long weekend, my brother and his wife took the opportunity to visit us and they brought their gorgeous son with them.  I could wax lyrical all day about how perfectly delicious he is!  Four months old and just starting to get interesting.  My little Miss with smitten!

Then we had a lovely day relaxing on the beachside whilst hubby took the kids fishing.  We caught up with my hubby's cousin and all her family too.  A real family picnic.  Sunday was another family picnic with different cousins and aunties and uncles and the kids got to swim in the creek where we'll be camping at Christmas time.  But the highlight of their day was horse riding with their Great Uncle M!  Now both of them want a horse for Christmas.  Hmmm, we'll think about that.  And of course I forgot my camera so I don't have a picture of their delighted faces when they were jumping a wee ditch!  (Let's not mention that I was made to get on that horse too....did you know how unstable those things are?!)

This is a pic from last Christmas - high tide in the creek.

Tuesday was a busy day at the Quilting Guild and then Wednesday - yesterday- was the first day I had to sit down and just be.  So I whipped up a couple of grocery bags from upholstery fabric swatches.  I say 'whipped up' because that was how it felt.  Really!  I just sat down and sewed while my girl was napping.  I listened to an audio book and before you know it, I had two bags.  I love it when projects just 'work' - so often they don't so I'm bragging while I can!

So today I'm just pottering.  What are you up to?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Yummiest Mud Cake...

I've ever made.  This isn't saying that much, 'cause I've never really made a mudcake before.  But I tell you, I'll be making a few more now.

This cake is so good that it gets better over time.  Seriously!  Most cakes get drier and you end up feeding the dregs to the chooks or serving it up with custard.  But we've just finished this one four days after making it and the last of it was like eating chocolate fudge.

Chocolate Mud Cake
250g chopped butter
 170g chopped dark chocolate
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/3 cups water
2 cups plain flour
1 heaped tsp baking powder
1/4 cup cocoa powder
3 duck eggs (hen would be fine) lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract

In a large saucepan melt the first five ingredients and stir over a low heat until the sugar is dissolved.  Then cool down for a short while.

Sift in the plain flour, baking powder and cocoa, add the eggs and vanilla and beat gently till combined.

Pour into a well lined cake tin about 20 cms square.

Bake for 1 to 1 & 1/2 hours on 150 Celsius.

I doubled this recipe and poured it into two cake tins.  Then I made a frosting recipe and layered the cake with it in between and covered the whole cake with a thin layer of the frosting.  Then I made a ganache recipe and covered the top of the cake thickly.  I melted some white chocolate and poured it on top of the ganache and artfully swirled it with a fork (looks real fancy!) into the ganache.  Then I shaved bits of white choc with a potato peeler onto the edge of the cake and added a sliced strawberry for colour.


1/2 cup of cream
1/4 cup of brown sugar
1/2 tsp of vanilla extract
3 tbsps of cocoa powder

Whip the cream then beat in the sugar, vanilla and cocoa until stiff.  Done.


8 ounces of dark chocolate, chopped
1 cup of cream

Heat cream until it just boils.  Pour over the chocolate and whisk until smooth.  I wanted a much thicker brew than this as I knew I was transporting the cake and it would be warm so I added about a cup and a half of icing sugar and beat until thick and smooth.

These recipes were all taken from the net, unfortunately I can't remember exactly where from as I wasn't planning to post them here.  So apologies to the original chefs - you have my undying thanks for the best birthday cake ever!  I have altered the recipes here and there to suit me and what I had available at the time.  

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Next Deadline

One more self-imposed deadline to meet.  This is the beginning of the quilt I am making for my Father-in-Law for Christmas.  This is the easy bit - drawing, cutting and ironing the shapes.  Now I have to make a start on appliqueing the shapes on or I end up with a pile at the end and it becomes just a little monotonous.

Today is one of my kid-free days.  I planted tomato, lettuce, silverbeet, cabbage and onion seedlings in my garden and seeds of salsify, onions, yarrow and dandelions (great chook and rabbit fodder).  I manged to climb to the summit of Mt. Washmore and do a load or two and the weather obliged by being sunny and drying it for me.  I can see my lounge floor again.  I finally feel like I'm catching up after my week on non-housework.  Funny how these little things are so fulfilling.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Windyhill Farm Animals.

 Minty the lamb.  He is slowly being weaned and he has an appointment with a couple of rubber rings shortly.  He is boisterous and bouncy and would dearly love a playmate, but orphan lambs have been a little scarcer this year.

 These are the calves that I bottle-reared last year.  Growing fat and sassy on spring grass.

 This is Gloria - I still have hopes about her becoming my housecow.  I should have de-horned her when she was a baby but I didn't get around to it.  She lets me scratch her butt (and if I have bit of chow with molasses, well, she'll let me touch her anywhere!)

 This was Gloria when we first got her.  Ouch, painfully skinny.

And that's her in the middle.  She'll never be a fat cow after her underfed start, but for her she is nicely rounded around the rump.  Isn't it amazing how much darker she's gotten as she's grown?

And would a post about my animals be complete without a chook photo?  These are some eight week old chicks that I'm going to sell.  Two Light Sussex roosters (they'll probably end up in the pot) and three Light Sussex pullets.  Anyone need an egg factory?  $12 each. Cluck, cluck!