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!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Machine Sketching (again)

Just a quick note and pic.  I'm happy with this machine sketch, my perspective is a little better.  But check out my signature!  I guess marking a straight line might help that.  And practicing some copperplate handwriting too.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Sewing Machine Sketching

A friend was recently writing about keeping a sketchbook and it got me thinking.  I do keep sketchbooks, and I have a few for different purposes - utilitarian working out of ideas, decorated journal pages and true sketchbooks for drawing what I see.  But I don't use any of them on a schedule, and I probably should.  We all know that regular practice improves a skill.

My free-motion quilting skills have been languishing a little and I need to quilt some work that I don't want to stuff up.  I also want to improve my skills of drawing with the machine, not just doing pretty patterns.  Practice is needed.  So I've made up some fabric sketchbook pages, just 8 inch x 11 inch spray basted sandwiches, and I intend to use one every day to draw something.

I don't have one of those teflon slider mats (they are rather pricey and I'm trying to give the credit card a little rest) so I cut a tiny hole in one of my silicone pressing sheets and taped it down over the bed of my machine table. It made it noticeably easier to move my work, so a proper slider sheet is now on my 'when I'm feeling rich' list.

It's not bad for a first effort.  My teapot is not quite the right shape, but it least it's recognisable!  It's tricky when the picture disappears behind your presser foot and I'm not sure if I can turn the work and sketch upside down like you can when you are just making patterns.

I'll try and be regular about this practice and hopefully I'll see an improvement as I go.

Are there any skills you are using regularly to try and gain an improvement with?

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Podcast - Interview with Helen Pedersen, Tutor Convenor, Manawatu Quilt Symposium 2015

Helen Pedersen was the brave lady who put her hand up to organise the tutors for Quilt Symposium Manawatu 2015.  I wanted to chat with her about how you go about finding, contracting and organising about 40 national and international tutors for five days of classes.  Helen was generous with her time and knowledge and I think you'll find it interesting to listen to how it all worked.

Helen and myself at Symposium
Helen can be found at, although she hasn't been very active on her blog lately, and I think I have a fairly good idea of why!  But it's still worth having a look, Helen has some nice quilts on display, including a couple of prize winners.

My audio player is orange today in recognition that orange was the theme colour of the Manawatu Quilt Symposium.  See Helen's vest?  Every committee member wore a variation of an orange vest so they were visible and recognisable - and they certainly were!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

What's on Your Design Wall Wednesday

I'm trying to modify my working habits.  Usually I would flit from project to project.  If I get a bit stuck or frustrated, I'd put down whatever it was I was working on and start or work on something else.  I don't have the room to keep lots of projects spread out here and I know that if I put them away, a lot of them wouldn't surface again!

So I'm trying to stick one thing through until the bitter end.  With a bit of hand work when I'm out and about and a fairly simple piecing project for quiet times at work, I think I might be able to make it work.

The project I'm currently working on is one I started in my class with Sue Benner.  I made the background panel in class and then played around with different ways of constructing the shags/cormorants.  I was trying for a sketchy or loose look and the first two weren't right.  The last one was, but was too big for the panel.

Once home, I constructed more background panels to enlarge the quilt to fit the first bird.  I constructed two more birds, loosely working from photos I had taken out at Urupukapuka Island.

I played around with balancing the layout of the birds.  I'm trying to convey how I feel when I watch these birds - peaceful and calm and enjoying of the beauty of the scene.  So I want a balanced, tranquil feel to the quilt.  This means getting the layout right so nothing feels 'odd' or 'unsettled'.

Next I worked on the poles that the shags are standing on.  The mix of fabrics I used was too contrasting and too red to start with, so I used a bit of coloured pencil and a bit textile paint to tone the colours down and blend them together more.  These little changes can make a big difference.

More playing around with the layout of the birds.  Now that I have it up on a design wall I can use white cropping strips to see how it will looks once trimmed.  And that changes how the birds sit in the space.

Lastly, the reflections of the poles in the water.  The poles need to be placed in space with relation to their surroundings or they just look like they are 'plonked' there.  A few ripply reflections is giving them a relation to the water.

I think it's slowly coming together.  And I'm enjoying just keeping with one project and seeing it through the little sticking points.

So what's on your design wall?

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Gentlewomen, start your engines!

February is when my year really gets going.  Our summer break seems to have gone on and on this year, but it's finally drawing to a close and the kids start back at school tomorrow.  I do get some quilting work done when they are around, but my concentration is constantly interrupted and it's just not the same as having unbroken hours to absorb myself in my work.

Summer in the Bay of Islands.
It seemed like 2014 was a year of major upheaval.  I'm hoping 2015 will be slower, with less excitement.  I've told my husband - no buying boats, no moving house, no expanding the business.

I didn't think I was going to have a word for this year, but one seems to have found me anyway and it's been floating round in my head unbidden....consolidate.

According to, consolidate is a verb that means to make something physically stronger or more solid; strengthen one's position or power; or combine a number of things into a single more effective or coherent whole.

And I think it suits what I want for this year.

I want to settle into this boat life and make it work for us.  I want to strengthen my quilt making and further develop my own style and way of working.  I want to gather my far-flung quilting supplies and fabrics and make an effective working space here on MV Cerego.  I just want to settle in and stabilise ourselves in all respects before we stretch our wings any further.  

So no goals or resolutions for me.  Just a word to remember (before I get excited and hare brained about anything new and shiny).

With this is mind, I've been working on organising my sewing corner in the boat.

I've had some fabric here and some at my Mother in Law's and the fabric that I did have here has been spread around in several drawers and cupboards, interspersed with batting and notions and everything else a quilter needs. (There is another cupboard identical to the one in the picture on the opposite wall, plus a small set of three drawers.)  I consolidated (sorry, couldn't resist!) the fabrics into the plastic containers that slide nicely under my Sew-Ezi table and now have all my sewing notions, sketchbooks, threads, iron, UFO's etc sorted and in order in the cupboards and drawers.  I've put my batting down below in a big plastic tub and eventually I'll get more of those shallow plastic tubs and move the rest of my fabric here to the boat too.  They will go down below in the kid's playroom on wide storage shelves.

I cut and iron and draw and work at the dining table.  The cutting mat and rulers slide nicely under the couch.  I have a small heat resistant pad for ironing that slides away behind the set of drawers, but need to make a bigger, sturdier one at some stage.

The major flaw in the plan is a design wall.  I've got a small portable board (you can see it in the photo above, beside the sewing machine table) but it's too small really.  I've been using the floor, but that's a pain when I want to slide out my fabric containers and sit at my machine.  And the cat likes to sit on my work and donate fur or rearrange my layouts.

That's Wild Puss helping me cut batting for the design wall.
So I've taken down my Swallow quilt and tacked up a length of cotton batting instead.  That wall slopes gently inwards so I had to tack it at the bottom too or it floated out and swung around.  I usually have polystyrene behind my batting so I can pin straight in, but this works for now, and is a huge improvement on the floor.

Step one in consolidation, done.

PS - Note to my Stepmother:  That is the wonderful sewing machine cover you made for me, it's just inside out!  I'll explain why another time xxx