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!

Monday, December 14, 2015

A Day Sailing on the Bay

The R Tucker Thompson is a tall ship that works out of Opua, where I live.  During the summer season they take paying guests for day and evening sails and they use this money to help subsidise youth training trips the rest of the year.

I was lucky enough to have a voucher for a Day Sail for two adults and two children so last weekend my Mother in Law, myself and the two kids made sail!

What a fantastic day!  The crew gets the guests really involved in the sailing of the ship.  The kids hauled ropes, climbed rigging and sat out on the bowsprit like pros.  To give you a bit of perspective, the top of the mast is 20 metres from the waterline.

The morning was spent sailing out through the Bay of Islands.  They gave us yummy cream scones for morning tea and then we anchored in a little bay and spent some time on a beautiful beach.  

I've taken the photo above from the dinghy, the person halfway up the rigging is my 8 year old daughter and my son is up on the yardarm - but you can't really see him.  I had the other guests commenting how brave they were but the kids just thought it was fun!

The Bay of Islands at it's best.  The beaches out in the bay are just gorgeous.

The Tucker is a traditional gaff-rigged schooner.  She's so pretty when you see her sailing around and sitting at anchor.

There was swimming and swinging to be done before a wonderful barbeque lunch.  The fresh air gives you a great appetite.  And they have drinks available for purchase, so you can have a glass of wine if you wish.

I was intrigued by the 'boat bits' as I called them.  Lots of weathered wood and copper and complicated knots, pulleys and bits and pieces.

My son is particularly keen to get back on board and go for one of the youth training week-long trips.  He has to be at least two years older, and he can't wait!  After he's done a trip like that, he can be a volunteer crew.  Because the Tucker is run by a trust, they use volunteers when they can.  One of our crew this trip was a 15 year old that the kids knew from their school.  And he was confident and competent - great to see.

Oh yeah, did I mention we saw dolphins too?!  So lucky!  We had a good breeze that was great for sailing, we had nice weather which made it pleasant and everyone had a fabulous time.  What a perfect day.

So, if you are ever up this way, check out the R Tucker Thompson and book yourself a day sail.  I would thoroughly recommend it

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Interview with Mary Hawke - Best of Show Winner Auckland Festival of Quilts 2015

Mary Hawke was the proud winner of Best in Show at the Auckland Festival of Quilts 2015 with her quilt 'Dear Jane'.  A big thank you to Mary who spent half an hour of her time chatting to me about making 'Dear Jane', her love of small blocks, how she gets things done and lots of other quilty goodness.

'Dear Jane' was made from the book written by Brenda Manges Papadakis.  Brenda drafted the 225 block patterns from the original design of the 1863 Jane A. Stickle quilt and it has been immensely popular in the quilting world with hundreds of 'Baby Janes' being made in as many colour combinations and block arrangements as you can think of.

Mary stayed true to the original design of 'Dear Jane' and she also tried to keep the colours as close as possible to the original.  Her quilt was professionally quilted by her friend, Colleen Burr, who made a wonderful job of it.

Here is a link to the Dear Jane book on Amazon:

Here is a link to the Dear Jane website - there is so much information about making the quilt along with email lists for 'Janiacs', links to photographs of finished Dear Jane quilts and much, much more:

Here is a link to Linda Franz' instructions for scalloped borders and binding that Mary used to help her achieve such a perfect quilt:

This is Mary receiving her prize of a brand new Bernina sewing machine. Yay! Bernina!  Mary will make good use of this as her second machine, but she also loves her handwork.  Mary confesses to having made two Farmers Wife quilts from start to finish! 

The interview starts about half way through the audio.  To begin with I give you a run down on what's been happening in my quilting adventures, so if you are only interested in the interview with Mary, skip the first 30 minutes or so.

Here is the link to the tutorial on half-rectangle triangles that I talked about:

I hope you enjoy our interview and if you have made your own Dear Jane quilt, please give us a link in the comments so we can all admire your hard work. 

(I've been banging my head against the podcasting wall this week, and I can't get an audio player to embed and actually show up in my blog post - sorry!  So I've included links to listen in Podbean instead.)

For the love of books

I thought I'd share a few of the books that are gracing my bedside table at the moment.  

I've been searching for ways to capture light in my art and when I opened this book at my library I had to take it home.  Louis Comfort Tiffany - Masterpieces of Art, by Susie Hodge, describes the life and work of Louis Tiffany and then has pages and pages of images of his beautiful works in mainly stained glass.

I knew about Tiffany glass and lamps of course, but to see a whole collection of them in one book was eye-opening and inspiring.  If I can do just a little of what he does I'll be happy.

Te Hao Nui - The Great Catch.  Edited by Fiona McKergow and Kerry Taylor with photography by Michael Hall.   This is an intriguing book about the museum collection at Te Manawa, Palmerston North.  There are some delightful objects that have a history you'd never guess at.

And this pendant is just so beautiful.

This book was another in my search for light in my own work.  Light and Landscape, the New Zealand photographs of Andris Apse.  It is just glorious, page after page of wonderful photographs - sigh.  

Do you use books like these for inspiration?  

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

How to square up an art quilt

I had finished the quilting on this art quilt the other day, done my little happy dance and begun squaring it up when I thought I should record the steps to show you how I do it.

With a traditional quilt you usually have blocks or sashing to line up your edges with.  With an art quilt you may not have any straight lines at all.  But I usually have a horizon line, or a flying bird shape, or a vertical line that I can get my horizontal line from.  Luckily with this one I have a horizon line.  It is crucial that the horizon line is parallel to the top and bottom straight edges or it will look 'wrong' on the wall.

Of course, if you want your audience to feel unstable and unsettled when viewing your quilt then go for wonky horizons - but that's a whole 'nother post on how to convey emotions with art quilting!

Take your longest ruler and lay it so the edge lines up along your horizon line or another line that is meant to be horizontal. 

Use another ruler (I like my 12 inch square) to slide along your first ruler until you get to where you want your right hand vertical edge.  Hold it really steady and make your first vertical cut.  Now you have a straight edge to work off.

To get your bottom right corner, take your first ruler away, then slide your square up along your vertical straight edge, until you reach where you want to cut your bottom horizontal edge.  I put my large ruler back on top and realigned it with the horizon as a double check.  Cut your corner.  Now you have two straight edges and a 90 degree to work from.

Slide your square ruler left along your long ruler until you reach where you want to cut your second corner.  Hold firm and steady (this is no time to get ruler slippage) and cut again.  Now you a nice square bottom (ha!).

Working with your square ruler in the bottom right hand corner, use it and your long ruler to continue the right hand vertical edge.

Continue working your way around the quilt using both rulers to achieve square and straight edges and corners.  Use your horizon line, or whatever line on the quilt you first started with, to double check the everything is looking good.

And while you've been merrily cutting away, thinking you'd finished your quilt, keep an eye out for that one thread you missed when you were tying your ends in....there's always one more you didn't find!

And then once it's straight and square and looking pretty, it's time to put it back on the design wall and start auditioning for binding or a facing, or whatever you are using to finish your raw edge.

I hope that was useful and if you have any tips of your own to add I'd love to hear them.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Auckland Festival of Quilts 2015 - Instalment 2

Here is another lot of quilts from the Auckland Festival of Quilts.  This is a bit of an eclectic bunch, but once again, they caught my eye and I'll share why as we go. 

'Phoenix Rising' by Dianne Dowd, was made from a pattern by Cheryl Phillips.  Dianne made a stunning, very eye catching quilt with her fabric choices.  Her quilting, done on a domestic machine was very well done and she won Second Prize, Amateur Wall Quilt, sponsored by Fabric by Three.  

What also struck me about this quilt was the clever hanging mechanism that allowed a circular quilt to hang straight and flat.  You can see below that there is a piece of calico fabric attached to the back of the quilt.  The calico is then cut square at the top and has the hanging sleeve and velcro attached to it, making it easy to hang.  Brilliant!

'Old Library Door' by Ngaire Fleming.  Started in a class with Gloria Loughman.  This little wall hanging was just so nicely done.  There was attention to detail, a great use of perspective and perfect colour choices.  The quilt was square, it was just hung fairly high up and tricky for me to capture a good photograph.  It won Highly Commended, Amateur Wall Quilt, sponsored by Minerva and Auckland Quilt Guild.

This small quilt was made by Heather Bassett and began life as a curved piecing exercise.  I liked the use of solid coloured fabrics and, if you stood and looked at it for a while, the very subtle shift towards darker colours at the bottom of the quilt, which suggested a landscape to me.  The organic straight line quilting complemented the piecing well.  I've serendipitously found Heather's Instagram feed a day or two ago.  She is @hezbez13 if you want to see more of her work.

I think the colour scheme of this quilt caught my eye at first.  I'm partial towards pinks used in a darker way, rather than a 'little girl sweet' colour scheme.  'Butterflies' by Chris Behersing had a slightly chaotic feel that intrigued me and the use of many different prints and checks and all sorts of interesting fabrics all together made it feel as if it should have been a hot mess, but somehow it worked!

Alison Laurence is an accomplished art quilter and her clean style is once again evident in this piece,  titled 'Focus'.  The unusual viewpoint was fascinating, particularly when taking a photograph of the quilt.  The quilt was fairly large too, making the subject oversized and Alison's award, Judges Choice, sponsored by House of Patchwork, was well deserved.

I took a photo of these two quilts side by side to illustrate how a pattern can really be made your own by fabric choice and quilting design.  Both were titled 'The Caswell Quilt' and made from a pattern by Corliss Searcey.  The quilt on the left was made by Ann Gregory with needle turn appliqué and quilted by Jacqui Karl.  The quilt on the right was made with raw-edge appliqué by Betty McLean and quilted by Linda Young with embroidery by Heather Clark.

This is a closeup of the quilt on the right.  It won First Prize, Small Quilt Multiple Makers, sponsored by Quilt Shop Papamoa and Best Machine Appliqué or Embellishment, sponsored by Cottage Flair.

Here is a closeup of the quilt on the left.  It won the Best Amateur award.

And here's me!  With a cheesy grin next to my quilt 'Memories of Flight', which won a Highly Commended, Professional Wall Quilt, sponsored by Minerva and Auckland Quilt Guild.

Minerva is a textile bookshop that is on my bucket-list of places to visit.  Here's the link to check them out

Thanks Minerva and thanks Auckland Quilt Guild!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Auckland Festival of Quilts 2015 - instalment one

I visited the Festival of Quilts, run by the Auckland Quilt Guild, on Friday - opening day.  It's one of the quieter days, as all the full time job holders wait till the weekend, but it was still busy with enthusiastic viewers.

It's Sunday today - the last day of the show.  I thought I'd be considerate and wait to share my pictures and thoughts until everyone had had a chance to view and experience for themselves.

These photos are a few of the quilts I admired and I'll be sharing why I admired them in particular.  I have some more photos to share later.

Above is 'Korowai Ma' (which roughly translates to white cloak in Maori).  Made by Annie White, it won first prize in Amateur Wall Quilt (sponsored by Sewing Machine World).

Annie's quilt was original and unique, exquisitely made and had wonderful touches that elevated it to something special.  The top band is woven.  Every petal is backed with colourful fabric which gives a faint blush of colour to the petal underneath.  There is cording underneath each row, along the top of each petal, which finishes it nicely and also lifts them slightly.

Just stunning.

The quilt above is called 'Seasonal Stereotype' and is by Robyn Rognstad.  This is Robyn's own design and I admired it for the clever construction of the Turkey and the subtle use of colour.  I like to see completely different, original work, and this was one.  

My next quilt to share is called 'Circles 'N Squares' and is by Judi Schon.  Judi won Best Commercial Machine Quilting (computer guided), sponsored by Quiltique.  Judi made this pattern by Debby Maddy and quilted it with patterns from Sharon Perry and Nancy Haacke.  What really caught my eye with this quilt was Judi's masterful eye for appropriate fabrics that really complemented the quilt design and then even more masterful selection of quilting designs.

The photo below shows a closeup of just how well the quilting designs worked.

Here's something a little different, it's only a small quilt, but it stood out in the crowd.
The quilt is called 'Frida' and is made by Ngaire Fleming and quilted by Leonie Wihongi.  It won a highly commended in Wall Quilts, Multiple Makers - sponsored by Auckland Quilt Guild.  Frida Kahlo is instantly recognisable even when constructed with this fractured style.  There was nothing else quite like it in the show.

This next quilt struck me as masterfully capturing the feelings behind the making of it.  On first view, it is frenetic, chaotic and a little disturbing.  When reading the artist's statement, all becomes clear.  "This quilt started as therapy when dementia started affecting my life.  It has caused a great deal of stress and damage to sibling relationships."  The quilt is called 'Dementia: The holes in the story" and is by Chris Behersing.

So.  There you have a few of the quilts that for one reason or another made me stop and look again.  I hope you enjoyed them and stay tuned for some more another day.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Tuesday Tip - using up bobbins

What's wrong with this picture?  

I needed a bobbin in a particular colour for my quilting, and I have none spare to wind.  Ug.  I don't like winding a different colour over the top of a half-full bobbin because inevitably I'll need the colour underneath, and that's just a straight path to frustration-ville. 

So what I usually try to do is keep plenty of empty bobbins.  But how do I do that without wasting thread?  Well, I use my bobbins as thread spools when I'm piecing or sewing something that doesn't need a particular colour. 

You just pop your bobbin onto your thread spool holder and use as usual.  Easy!  

I try and kind of match my colours to my piecing, like darks for darks and lights for lights, because you will see bright yellow piecing thread if you use it for midnight blue fabric.  But I seem to use an awful lot of beige, grey, taupe and cream threads in my bobbins.  And sage green, lavender and medium blue are pretty neutral too.

And have you ever made 'frankenbatting'?  That's a term coined by (I'm pretty sure, correct me if I'm wrong) Pam from Hip to be a Square.  It's where you piece together lots of random batting leftovers to make one bigger bit.  And ain't nobody going to know if you did that with leftover lavender thread from your bobbin!

I don't use my bobbins when I'm quilting, because a) I'm going to run out of thread too quick and b) I don't know if having unwound from a spool and re-wound onto a bobbin would mess with my tension.  But I've never had any problems using it for piecing, so give it a try.

And while we are on the topic of bobbins.  I wanted to tell you about the best bobbin cases I've found.  One of mine is a Sew Mate Bobbin Box, the other is exactly the same but unbranded.  The inner is closed cell foam and the bobbins kind of squash in.  They never fall out, they never unravel, the lid has a good catch and the hinge has never broken on me.  The plastic is the same as plastic food storage containers, which means it doesn't smash if you drop it (ask me how I know).  

Whenever I see them, which is infrequently in New Zealand for some reason, I buy them because people always want them when they see mine!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

How I store my quilting fabric

Now that I work in an 'open to the public' studio, and my space is smack bang in the middle of an art gallery, I need to keep it tidy and attractive.  Back on the boat, my creative space could sometimes end up looking like below!  Not a good look when I'm trying to look organised and professional.

I have an upstairs, which I term my workroom, and it is a little bit more 'lived in' looking.  I have a plastic sheet on the floor with some dye pots, a kitchen bench with more dye pots, a collection of chairs and a coffee table for stitch and bitch nights (Tuesdays 7pm, all makers welcome!), and a few other odds and ends, but I keep it clean and tidy.

Downstairs is the main gallery space, but it is also where I have my sewing machine and design wall and where I do most of my work.  I can't really be hidden away upstairs if there are people looking through the gallery.

And I need to keep that working space downstairs clean and clear to the eye so that it doesn't distract from what is on the walls.  But where to put all my fabric?  I do have an under-stairs cupboard, but it has threads, UFO's, packing material, the rubbish bin and other essential supplies.

I have a trestle table that has my ironing surface on one end and my cutting mat on the other.  My sewing machine is set up on my sew-ezi table and is behind the trestle.  I covered the top of my table with a white cloth and then to hide the underside, I draped a length of white fabric around three sides of the table, tucking it under the white cloth at the top.  The ironing surface and the cutting mat are heavy enough to keep it it place without having to secure it.

If I lift up the draped fabric I can easily access the underneath of my trestle table and that is how I store my fabric. 

I have eight Sistema plastic tubs.  They are 49 cm x 63 cm and 15 cm high.  They stack nicely and are fairly easy to manoeuvre.  If I fold my fabrics into the size that fat quarters are usually folded to, I can slot these in on their ends and I can easily see all the colours at the same time.  This works for fat quarter to half-metre sized cuts  The tub above is filled with some of my hand-dyes.

I can also fit larger cuts of fabric folded the same height as the fat quarters but double the length.  These slot in on their sides and I can see all the colours I have of these too.  So many blues! (And just between you and me, all my Japanese indigos are kept in a special place upstairs, or there would be double the number of blues.)

I have to have one tub on the top of the stack turned sideways to accommodate the trestle a-frame legs, but that's no big deal.  The best system to store my quilting fabric would be to have some permanent shelves built in the cupboard under the stairs, but I don't have a long-term lease so I don't want to go permanent.  And I don't want to have these tubs in the cupboard because I can't easily stack and unstack them in there.  So, this is the next best thing and I'm really happy with how it's working.

How do you store your fabric?  Leave me a comment, I'd love to know!