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!

Sunday, December 23, 2012


Here's a sequence of photographs showing what happened to one of my white fat quarters.  You can see the black lines drawn with a fabric marker in a rough grid pattern underneath.  Then I scraped on red fabric paint with a tiling tool.

I diluted some of the red paint with water and used a foam brush in another grid pattern.  I put it out to dry with bits and pieces on to try and get a sun print but that didn't work.  No matter.

A week or so later, my daughter was painting with acrylics and squeezed out way too much.  So I mixed her colours up with some textile medium, ironed down some leftover freezer paper shapes I had and rolled (using a brayer) the paint over the shapes.  

That technique wasn't so successful.  The brayer would catch the edge of the freezer paper and roll it up around itself and so I couldn't go back to cover the shape entirely.  

But I'm still really happy with it.  I like the ghostly image.  The not-quite-there glimpse, which is similar to the flash of bird you often see in real life.  Just an impression as it flits by.

What do you think?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Working Studio

School holidays are in full swing and yesterday and today were grey and rainy, so I did what I'd been thinking about for ages - rearranged my studio.  It's a good time to get things like that done.  The kids play and watch DVD's and I can take breaks to feed them and mediate or even read stories.  But I still get a lot of time because I don't have to interrupt to go pick them up from school or do mother help or any of those exciting things.  Anyway, here are some before and after pics.

This little nook used to be the kids play area.  I thought it was too small to use for me and it got even smaller when I jammed a couch in there.  You can see the freezer in the picture above that I had at a right angle out into the room .  I used it as a cutting table and had my machine table and trestle table backed up to it.  I decided that it really cut the room in half and wasn't nearly as user friendly as I thought it would be.  Best laid plans and all of that.

So I turned the freezer back against the wall (you can see my big cutting mat on top, I've used 3M command picture hanging strips to attach it to the top of the freezer so I can open the lid without taking the mat off).  I put my trestle table and sew-ezi machine table in an L shape in the nook and now I look out the window when I sew. 

Here's a view right into the nook (bit of a mess, I'm still slowing sorting it out).  I fitted a couple of bookshelves in beside me and these carry all my tools and pins etc that I use frequently while I'm at the machine.  You can see my design wall to the right above my ironing board.

See?  Here's the long view.  I fit nicely into the nook and the room seems so much larger now that the freezer and my trestle table aren't cutting it in half.  And look at all that floor space for laying out quilts!

Here's what it used to look like from the front door (which is next to the nook).  My trestle table with all it's junk underneath it was the central feature.

And here's the same view now.  I've shifted the couch against the wall into the space vacated by one of the bookshelves.  There's still a few baskets of toys that need to be sorted through and downsized (a constant job).  Even better, there's my eight year old boy who used to really struggle with reading.  Over the last school term, his reading age has taken leaps and bounds and is now more than a year ahead of his own age!  So relieved!  Now he's turning into a book worm.  He's read three whole chapter books over the last two days and is pestering me to go to the library to get more of his favourite - the BeastQuest series by Adam Blade.

I cleaned up a little more and took a longer view.  Looks good, huh?

And now the next sorting job on my radar.  Should I attempt it?

Friday, December 14, 2012

No more anon!

I'm sick of deleting spam, some of it funny, some of it not so funny.  And where do these people learn English?!  So I'm not allowing anonymous comments any more, and I don't think it should be a problem - I did a quick audit and all my legitimate comments come from named people.  I think I've clicked the right button but if anyone has terrible trouble commenting, can you email me?  My address is under my profile.  Cheers!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Double Dragons

I received a request from a buyer on Etsy for patterns for the other elements of my Dragon Quilt.  I've been planning to write these up for ages, but planning isn't doing!  So this morning I set to and I've got my Double Dragon Silhouette appliqué pattern up and ready to go on both Etsy and Felt.

It's always surprising how long something like that takes.  It's pretty simple, but I need to check and recheck (and unblock the jammed printer) before I'm satisfied.  Next I need to work on getting patterns for the sword, the sun and the moon written up.  I'm dreading the castle - that was horribly complicated when I did it myself and it'll take me a while to try and simplify the process, but I'll get there.

Other things occupying brain space at the moment is how to catch the bunny that I've spotted nibbling on my lettuces, or how to find the hole in the garden fence where it must be getting through.  And what classes to take at the Taupo Symposium in July next year.  The class booklet arrived about a week ago and they all look very enticing!

Tomorrow is the last day of school for the year for my kids.  Eight weeks of summer holidays is looming!  Hopefully we'll fit in some relaxation, some swimming, some camping, a few barbecues,  good food and maybe a few glasses of cold white wine (must try and plant a grape vine next winter).  So I'll apologise in advance if transmission is patchy round here and I wish you all a very merry and safe Christmas and New Year's.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Rust dyeing 2

I thought I'd show you the results of a second round of rust dyeing.  I re-soaked and re-wrapped my two fat quarters round a big 'ol rusty piece of scrap and this time I was better pleased with the results, a little less 'nasty rag' and a little more 'rust-dyed fabric':

So then I thought I'd try my next experiment with one of the pieces.  I read on dip and stain that tannins will change your rust marks to black.  Tannins got me thinking about tea and so whilst I was having my morning brew, I pleated and folded and layered with round tea bags, poured on some boiling water and there you have it:

I have to say, I was much more impressed with the result of this than with just the rust.  And so easy to do.

I said I'd show you my next two base pieces.  And that's them above.  White fat quarter(ish) size and all I've done so far is draw straggly lines on one and write illegibly on the other with a fabric marker.  But it's the layering of different effects that counts in surface design, so this is just the first element to provide texture and interest.  

I'm having fun with this, it's neat to discover how much you can do really simply at home in five minute stretches.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Rust dyeing for distraction

At the moment (well, in the few moments I have squeezed around all the other things that seem to happen at this time of year) I'm trying out some surface design techniques to make some samples for a surface design round robin that I'm planning to run next year.

So when the kids came to me with a fight disagreement, I employed my favourite parenting trick - distraction.

"Muuuuum, she broke my spaceship!"
"But Muuuuuuum, he wouldn't give me back my battle droid!"
"Really?  Oh dear.  Well, how about you come outside with me and wrap vinegary fabric around this big rusty metal thing?"

So they did.  Then I wrapped plastic bags around the wet fabric to keep it wetter for longer and took a cheesy photo of the kids.  It took about five minutes and, what do you know, the fight was forgotten.

Two days later, this is what we had.  Nobody was particularly impressed.  I think it looks like they are rags I've used to wipe up something nasty!  So I soaked them and wrapped the whole thing up again.

But it is only the first layer of surface design after all.  I'm aiming to do another four layers/techniques so I'm sure it'll get better.  I have two other pieces of cloth which I'm twiddling around with too, guess I might have to show them to you tomorrow.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Wild Food Cook Off

Last weekend (nothing wrong with a time delay), we attended the annual Wild Food Cook Off.  It's the third time it's been held amongst a group of our extended friends and it's great light-hearted rivalry and lots of fun.  We have three judges who allocate points on taste, presentation, effort (hunting and gathering), expertise/skill, and originality.   

Rules:  Endangered animals not allowed, you lose points for cooking your neighbours pet or spilling the judges drinks, you're disqualified if you give anyone food poisoning..... ;)

We had roast wild pork with taro.

Possum stew.

Now this may look like seaweed, but it's actually woodsear fungi with sweet chilli.

Wild peacock - well they assured us it was wild!

These won second place.  Seafood skewers - scallop, paua, mussel, crayfish......mmmmmm!

Nasturtium leaves wrapped around a creamy filling I think was cream cheese and salmon.

You can read what this one was and it was quite yummy too.

Creamy Lemon Balm Pudding - sorry, it was getting dark by then!

I decided not to enter this year, but I encouraged the kids to enter instead, just to get them involved and interested.  We went for a foraging theme rather than a hunting one (considering they are 8 and 5) and so they foraged lemon balm from my garden (it was pretty wild - they had to avoid the stinging nettle I'd planted next to it and they also climbed their Grandmother's lime tree (wildness factor: mild, there were a few scratchy twigs).

Then they helped make Lemon Balm Cookies, Creamy Lemon Balm Pudding and LemonBalm Limeade.  I was really proud of how hard they worked and then they were great with the judges too, answering questions and mostly remembering how they made things.  

And they won first-equal in the hurriedly created junior category....there were only two entries, but the judges were so impressed to see kids entering that they wanted to give them some acknowledgement!  Both kids were ecstatic!

Next year I'm thinking they could get even with the nettles and make nettle soup.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

French Braid Finish

Finished!  And just in time to give as a gift at our quilting club Christmas lunch yesterday.  I ended up binding it in the same fabric that I used for the super simple centre appliqué.

Here's the back.  I used remnants of some of the front fabrics.  How lucky are you?  You get to see my toes AND my quilting.  Click for a close-up (of the quilting, not the toes!).

I was really pleased with how it turned out.  In fact I wouldn't have minded winning it back as my own present, but I got yummy home pressed olive oil instead.  The pattern is super simple and I think I'll have to remember it and use it again.  How about browns shading to creams with red accent squares?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Old Maid's Puzzle

A while back I finished this quilt.  Then more recently I was looking for a picture of it in my 'finished quilts' folder to show someone and couldn't find it, leading to the conclusion that I hadn't taken any photos of it finished. So here goes.  

It was a hot, sunny day and it's a pretty big quilt.  I hauled it into my garden and used a couple of trusty bulldog clips to string it up on an old climbing frame.....

But I think I like the distance shot more.  It shows the light-to-dark effect better.  Shame it shows all the junk in my yard at the same time.....

Then I took a shot of the back, because if you're any sort of quilter at all, you always want to see the back...

And here's a close up of the back so you can scrutinise my quilting.  It was machine quilted on my domestic machine, by me and my trusty machingers gloves....

Then I tried an arty shot, draped over a old wooden ladder propped up against a poplar tree.  I think the sun was gently frying my brain by then.....

So I gave it up and went inside for a cold drink....

Hope you like it.

Monday, November 19, 2012

French braids on a Sunday

Sunday (yesterday for us), was awfully windy.  I stood for ages trying to catch a picture of the gusts visible in the trees outside my lounge window.  Eventually I caught a shot that almost shows how breezy it was.  We did manage to get out and plant another forty odd kanuka trees without getting blown away.  The ground is getting dry now so that will be the last tree planting before Summer and hopefully these will survive - kanuka are pretty tough.

I spent most of the day pottering around in my studio.  I was having a play making a french braid table runner.  The instructions are from a book I borrowed from my guild library, "French Braid Quilts" by Jane Hardy Miller with Arlene Netten.  I made my strips half an inch narrower and now I feel the centre square is a little big in proportion.  I think it's calling for a simple appliqué motif.  The points along the edge will all get trimmed straight and I'm undecided whether to bind it in the deep red or the dark blue?  Any suggestions?

For lunch we had green slime soup for kids, pea and asparagus soup for adults.  Isn't it a glorious colour!  Very yummy too and the kids have no idea they are chowing down on asparagus (they won't touch it in it's recognisable form).

Then keeping with the green theme, I ran the kids a bath.  If you have reluctant bathers like me, a splash of food colouring can be a good motivator.  It's probably a better use for food colouring than actually in food!  It doesn't stain the bath (it might if you have old porcelain or deep scratches) and it only stains the kids if you use too much.  Of course, once my kids are in, they never want to get out....

It's nice to have a normal weekend.  No obligations, no visitors staying, nobody to cook for except your own family.  Hope you had a good one too.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A brewing storm

For once I had my camera in my bag on the drive home and this is what I got to capture.  That's my house way up on those hills under those beautiful, ominous clouds.  And when we got home we did have impressive thunder and a heavy shower.

Thank you all for your kind words and thoughts about my Father in Law.  He passed away peacefully last week and we held a wonderful funeral and fantastic party on the weekend, just as he wanted.  We had a band, a spit roast, dancing and fireworks!  When I go, I want a send off like his.

There are moments of sadness, but plenty of good memories and stories.  My husband seems to be coping well and the kids are doing ok too.  I guess it's just going to take a time of adjustment and who knows how long that time will be.

Hug your loved ones, call up the ones you haven't seen for a while and have a catch up.  I hope to be back blogging with increasing regularity soon.

Monday, October 29, 2012

My Father in Law is dying.  I've been hesitant to blog about this as it seems such a personal subject.  I didn't want to seem to be gossiping, or fishing for sympathy, or taking a morbid interest in someone else's passing.  But now I feel that if I don't acknowledge what is happening, then I am just contributing to that 'ignoring' or 'hiding' of death that we seem to do so well in our society.

I want to honour him.  I want to honour death as a part of life.  I want to recognise him as an important part of my life, a part of my children's heritage.

Last night I stayed with him to nurse him through the night.  The family and a few friends are taking turns at this.  It's hard work.  He has been very confused, he battles mobility problems and now he is beginning to be in pain from the cancer that is killing him.  But is is also a special time.  It feels almost sacred.  How many other people in the world are watching through the night with me?  How many millions of people before me have done the duty of helping someone embark on the last great adventure in peace and comfort?  I felt a connection though the ages.  I could imagine a woman in a tent crouching next to a fire, holding an elder's hand.  Maybe it was fatigue induced, but it helped me.

The children are aware in their own way of what is happening.  We don't hide it from them.  We were discussing how sick 'Arparp' was and how he would die soon, but we didn't know when.  My little girl said softly, "I like Arparp.  My boy added, "I'll miss Arparp."  Such simple, truthful words.  And about all there is to say.