This blog is a bit of a ramble through my life. There's a lot about quilting and textile arts, a sprinkle of my family life and some of my thoughts and ponderings. We currently live aboard an old wooden 1945 Navy boat, called MV Cerego, so you'll find me writing about that too. Welcome aboard!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

The New Zealand Quilt Show - Interview with Marge Hurst

Welcome to the show notes for episode 43 of The New Zealand Quilt Show.

Marge Hurst, quiltmaker, teacher, author and judge, has been quilting for nearly 35 years.  She began the craft while studying for her City and Guilds of London Embroidery Certificate as it was part of the curriculum.  Unfortunately for embroidery, quilting won out and once her certificate was completed (with distinction) embroidery was shown the door and patchwork became Marge’s first love.

Marge has had her quilts exhibited widely and won many awards, including having a quilt accepted for Quilt National 1995, winning the first ever best of show in the NZ National Quilt Symposium, and having three solo exhibitions.

Starlet by Marge Hurst

Marge has taught all around NZ and internationally, she is a respected quilt judge and she has also written numerous articles for NZ and international magazines.  Her quilts have been published in books and she recently starred in a NZ TV show, Hearts in Craft, where she talked about and showed her quilts.

Marge was awarded life membership of Aotearoa Quilters in 2009 recognising her contribution to quilting in NZ including being a founding member of AQ (then NANZQ), committee member for 6 years, 4 of those as president and newsletter editor.

Here's where you can find out more about Marge and see more of her work:

Marge and I talk about the history of quilting in NZ, the birth and growth of Aotearoa Quilters, and quilting groups on the internet and the influence they've had on the quilting community.

One of Marge's cosmic series
We discuss Marge's style of quilting, including how colour is her biggest motivation and she gives us some tips on how to develop colour confidence.  We also learn what colour puce really is!

Marge is teaching at this year's National Quilt Symposium in Christchurch.  Her two-day class 'Colour Your Craft', has a few vacancies left and if you would like to develop your colour theory and intuition, this would be the class for you.

Thanks for chatting with me Marge!

Thank you to everyone who supports this podcast and helps me tell the stories of our quiltmakers, artists and professionals.  If you would like to support me, head over to iTunes and leave a five star review, pop over to my podbeanhosting site and leave a donation, or consider advertising your business by sponsoring an episode.  Most importantly, tell a friend about The New Zealand Quilt Show and how to listen.  Email me at  Cheers!

Friday, July 7, 2017

Bernina Walking Foot Maintenance

Here's why I like social media - and in particular, Instagram!

A couple of days ago I noticed my walking foot was jamming up a little.  I've been entrusted with quilting the raffle quilt for our quilt guild and I want it to be as perfect as possible so I was watching carefully and I'd see and feel the stitches getting smaller as the foot struggled to pull the quilt through.  The grabby bits (real tech speak!) were getting stuck at the end of their grab and weren't releasing to come forward and make another grab.

I undid the foot and had a good look but I couldn't see anything obvious.  So I took some photographs so I could put the thing back together if it fell into a million pieces, grabbed my screwdriver and started to unwind the one screw I could see.

All that did was loosen the foot prongs so I could take the actual foot part off the foot.  But that allowed me to fiddle with the prongs and rollers a bit closer and I found that one of the rollers was seized.  I gave everything I could a clean and I oiled the rollers, but still no luck.  You can see me pointing to the roller in question in the photo below.

So I turned to Instagram and posted a little help me please video and tagged the good people at Bernina in.

Within a short while I had a suggestion about working the oil in by turning the roller with my finger or tweezers.  I tried it and it seems to have worked!  And Bernina even contacted me again to ask if I had had any luck.  How awesome!

I've had my Bernina Aurora 440 for at least 10 years and I use it constantly and I absolutely love it (I'm not being paid to say that, but hey Bernina if you're listening - I'm totally open to sponsorship!).  My walking foot has travelled so many miles that I thought there was a good chance that I'd worn it out.  But no, it just needed a bit of TLC and it keeps on trucking.

So my suggestion to those of you who have Bernina walking feet, is to oil the rollers regularly and then you'll avoid them seizing like mine did.  If it has seized, work the oil in by oiling and then turning the roller with your finger or tweezers.  Give the oil some time to soak in too.  I used my clear sewing machine oil, which should be fine enough for the job.  Wipe it well so you don't get oil on your precious quilt and then you are good to go.

So here's a big thank you to @berninanz on Instagram for responding so quickly, providing me with fantastic help and letting me carry on with quilting the guild's precious quilt.

And thank you to the other's who offered suggestions and even the loan of their walking foot!  What a fab community.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Slow down and smell the library books...

People often remark that I seem to fit a lot into life.  Maybe it looks that way from the outside - I write a blog, produce a podcast, write for a newsletter company, make art, make hand-made goods to sell, work as a midwife, raise two kids and run a houseboathold - but I always feel as if I could do more, be more efficient, stop sitting around, stop losing myself in social media...I'm sure you've had those feelings too at some point.

In an attempt to be the person I want to be, I can get really caught up in the 'busy' syndrome, and I realise that that has some big downfalls.  This was brought home to me the other day when I was in my local library.  

I'm a big fan of public libraries.  It starts with fond memories from when I was a kid.  The family loading into the van on Saturday mornings, going to the library and being allowed to browse and bring home five books each (there were six kids and two parents, that's a lot of books and I'm guessing we all had to carry our own!).

Photo from Pixabay
The library was a favourite place of mine in primary school too.  Mrs Hammond, the librarian, was a kind, gentle woman who let kids help with the library tasks and I enjoyed books so much that I was a librarian at high school for a year or two as well.  

The Wellington public library was an amazing place when I was working at my first job in the city.  It had a great cafe where I'd meet my sisters for a coffee and then find a couple of books to take home.  It was always a warm refuge from the sometimes vicious Wellington weather and I spent many happy hours among the shelves there.

Back to the present day, and busy Me makes use of the on-line library catalogue.  I'll search for the books I want for the kids or myself, request them and then run in and grab them when I'm in town checking off my errand list.  I use the audio book service to download and listen to audio books when I'm multitasking and I use the after hours return slot when I'm on my way to work.

But I don't 'enjoy' the library anymore.  I don't go in with time to spare and browse and sit and soak in the knowledge and run my finger along book spines and flick through a book at random.  And I realised how much I missed that when I did it the other day by accident.  I went in to find a couple of books for my son and then I looked at my watch, realised I had a spare 30 minutes and so headed upstairs to the non-fiction section with no set plan or checklist or even an idea of what I was looking for.

And here is what I came home with:

The Unburnt Egg by Brian Gill - stories from a museum curator, 

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman - fiction I had been recommended for my 12 year old son, 

Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson - more recommended fiction for my boy,

Living Wild by Bear Grylls - I thought this might appeal to my son, who is into hunting and sticks and fires and outdoors in a big way,

Dracopedia by William O'Connor - this one is for me!  A guide to drawing dragons.  I'm thinking of making another dragon quilt,

Making Pop-Ups and Novelty Cards by Trish Phillips and Ann Montanaro - one for my 9 year old daughter who loves crafty things,

Weta Workshop by Luke Hawker - Weta is New Zealand's amazing design and special effects studio and workshop that (among other achievements) did the costuming and digital characters for The Lord of the Rings movie.  My daughter thinks she might like to work there so this book seemed appropriate!

And lastly, Possum on a Cold Tin Roof by Charlie Janes - hunting and bushcraft adventures and mishaps written by a good keen kiwi bloke with a sense of humour.  This is for my husband who doesn't read much, but I think I picked right.....

I took this sneaky picture of him reading this afternoon. Don't tell him!
The other thing I came home with was satisfaction.  I had found books to appeal to everyone.  I had let the library work it's magic and turn up gems that I wouldn't have found electronically.  And I had enjoyed myself.  That's what the 'busy' syndrome can do if I let it take over.  It can suck the pleasure out of life because I'm so busy trying to cram in everything I 'should' be doing that I forget to have fun while I'm doing it.

So here's to libraries, and here's to slowing down and smelling the pages!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Hitting the Wall

I am so buggered.  Just mentally and physically exhausted.  Over the last few weeks I've finished four quilts to exhibition standard, the last one today.  I delivered that one to the exhibition this afternoon and then I suddenly felt deflated.

I didn't realise how much I had been running on adrenaline, but boy, I realise it now!

So what's been going on?  The NZ Quilt Symposium exhibition submission deadline was midnight Thursday (yesterday).  And Wednesday afternoon I got a call from my good friend asking me if I had anything for the Matariki (Maori New Year) exhibition they were holding at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds where she works.

A while ago I had agreed that I could probably have something for that exhibition and then promptly forgot all about it.  So I asked Monika when she needed the quilts by, and bless her heart, she said, "Friday!"

So not only was I hurriedly finishing, photographing and documenting symposium quilts, I also had to rustle up another quilt or two for the Matariki exhibition.

I sat down and took stock.  First up, did I have anything in my collection that would fit the bill?  And actually I did.

Matariki occurs when the Pleiades star cluster rises above the Eastern horizon.  There are lots of stories associated with Matariki and it is a time of year for reflection and celebration.  One of the Maori myths is about how the Matariki cluster was formed.  When Ranginui (sky father) and Papatuanuku (earth mother) were torn asunder, Tawhirimatea (one of their sons, the god of winds) was so angry that he tore his eyes out and cast them into the sky where they formed the Matariki stars.  Cool story, huh?

And I happen to have a quilt that has Ranginui and Papatuanuku featured as a subtle quilting design.  It's called "I don't feel lonely".

Phew, so that was one quilt, and it was completely finished with hanging sleeve and all.

Then I looked over everything I was working on.  I had four quilts lined up for symposium exhibition, and one that I had decided not to finish for symposium.  But now that I looked at it with Matariki eyes, I could see it would be perfect.  Matariki is a time when people say goodbye to the loved ones passed away the previous year.  It's a time of renewal, a time of remembrance and a celebration of the harvest along with holding portents for the coming growing season.

Here's my artist's comments that I wrote for the quilt:
Matariki reappears, Whanui starts it's flight.  We say goodbye to those we lost in the year gone.  We look towards the new season and send our hopes flying to the stars.

In the close up you can see the star cluster that I hand embroidered (with metallic thread - never again!).  Maori often flew kites at Matariki, so the birds are a fitting symbol of that, along with being symbols of remembrance as well as hopes and dreams for the year to come.

So everything got finished, photographed, documented, uploaded, delivered - whatever had to happen to each quilt happened and now I'm done.  I'm sitting here, writing to you, drinking a comforting hot chocolate (it would have been wine, but I forgot to put some in the fridge) and thinking that I could easily not sew another stitch for at least a week.  My brain hurts, my shoulders hurt, and my hand-sewing finger has holes in it.

I was listening to a podcast by Tucker Harley the other day and he said something that resonates with me today.  Creativity can be like breathing.  Sometimes you are breathing out, creating, giving, making, sharing.  And then sometimes you have to stop, and breath back it.  That's what I feel like today.  I've breathed every last drop of air out of my creativity lungs and now I need to pause, and take a big breath in.

So I'm going to go relax and breath and when I next write I'm sure I'll be feeling more alive!

PS - I feel like I never share photos of my boat, so here's the wheelhouse/office where I'm sitting right now.  It's full of boat thingies but my computer, printer and paperwork crams in too.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The NZ Quilt Show - Cait McLennan Whyte, Editor of Fabricate Magazine

In September 2016, a brand new magazine was launched in New Zealand.  Titled Fabricate, it showcases the textile arts scene in NZ.  There is news of upcoming events, profiles of artists and artisans, reviews of exhibitions – anything to do with textiles and stitch.  The creator and editor of the magazine is Cait McLennan Whyte and I was super excited to have her on the show so we could learn more about her, her story and the story of Fabricate and what we might see from Fabricate in the future.    

Photo credit: Ponsonby News

Cait gives us the story of Fabricate - from an idea that she ruminated on for quite a while to the beautiful magazine that has now had three issues published, with another heading to the printers any day.

We discuss how textile arts fit into the world of fine arts, how much there is to discover about the textile arts scene in New Zealand and how Cait wants her magazine to 'join the dots' for people interested in fibre and textile arts across the whole scene.

Cait gives us her thoughts on why she went with a print only (at this stage) magazine in what some may consider a brave move in the digital focused publishing world, and how she plans to be a sustainable business.

We mention The New Zealand Fashion Museum and you can see the dress Cait 'lent' to them here.

Cait also mentions an upcoming exhibition of Maureen Lander's work at the Dowse, find info here

Please take the time to listen to this chat, I found it a really interesting conversation and I think you will too.  You can get podcast listening apps for both Android and Apple phones and tablets, and then in the apps you search for The New Zealand Quilt Show or The Slightly Mad Quilt Lady and hit subscribe.  Once you've done that, every new episode will automatically turn up in your app without you having to search for it.

Fabricate on Facebook:
Fabricate email:

If you'd like to subscribe to Fabricate and you haven't seen it in your local magazine stand, send Cait an email at the email address above.

This episode was sponsored by Kerry Glen of Tulis Textiles.  Visit for beautiful batik fabrics, rulers, tools, stencils, stamps and a wide range of fabric paints for surface design.  

(PS - if your club is looking for a great teacher consider Kerry.  I just did a class with her and she was fabulous!  See her classes list here

If you're interested in sponsoring an episode of the podcast, please email me for details.

Download this episode (right click and save)

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Bits and Bobs

The NZ National Quilt Symposium exhibition deadline is looming.  I'm sewing in threads and sewing down facings and hanging sleeves and I'm confident I'll finish up the quilts I'm working on in time.  But that work is all hand sewing and I'm keeping it for evenings on the boat with my family, or for snatches of time in between dinner cooking and homework.

So in the studio this past weekend (it was Queen's Birthday weekend here in NZ so we got Monday off too) I've been doing little catchup jobs.  Bits and bobs.

I put together two bassinet quilt tops and spray basted them.  A friend is running a free-motion quilting class soon and instead of practice quilt sandwiches, she suggests we use bassinet quilts made from orphan blocks.  They are a good size to practice, the orphan blocks give the feeling of working on actual blocks, and they can be donated to the maternity unit after we are done to brighten up the postnatal ward.

I really like the one above.  Very modern.  Made from half-rectangle units that I was practicing technique with (and I've put fun crocodile fabric on the back!).

I have a bit of a pink overload in my stash and some of them are really old-fashioned.  But they look sweet in a simple little quilt like this.  Must make more and use them up!

Then I used my new big pressing surface to fuse down this dragon that has been waiting in the wings.    I sell the appliqué pattern for this panel on Etsy (both PDF downloads and paper copies), but I've been wanting to update my samples for a while.  This is the second dragon I'm doing.

Here's the first updated one I did.  I can't remember whether I showed you or not, so I'll show it again just in case.  She's made from my hand-dyed fabrics and I love how she glows!

Then I found some positive/negative blocks that I had put together as samples for my Aotearoa Tote bag class but never finished into the final bag, so I finished up the free-motion quilting on them and I've sewed them together ready for straps and binding.

I chose a random wood grain pattern to quilt them with.  It's a very 'zen' pattern to quilt.  And one you can do with your walking foot too.

It's very satisfying to make progress on a whole pile of jobs.  I'm not one of those quilters who work exclusively on one or two projects until they are completely finished, but lately, with the symposium deadline coming up fast, that's what I've been doing.  It feels restricting in a way, so to rebel and take steps on a stack of different projects has soothed my spirit a bit.

In fact, I've made such good progress on all my symposium entries that I've decided to make a stab at my unrealistic symposium project.  Do you do that?  A few weeks out, decide on a project that you know will be perfect and start work on it even though you also know it will be totally unrealistic to get it finished?

Here's an Instagram pic of that project I posted a couple of days ago.  It's a little further on than that now, but still in the piecing stage.  Do you think I can do it?!  The race is on!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

My Pressing Station - Quilt Studio Tour

Following on from showing you my quilt cutting station, I'm going to show off my new pressing station.  I had been using my ironing board in this location, but Suz's comment on my last studio tour post made me think.

"I've still got my main cutting station set up on top of our large chest freezer... stole that idea off you before :o) but I changed the ironing board area, removing the legs and attaching the top onto a shelving unit. Makes it a bit taller, which is more comfortable to use, and I have useful storage space underneath!"

I've always wanted to set up a better pressing station because an ironing board just isn't big enough for big flat pieces of fabric.  And I don't iron clothes, so I don't need the tapering bit of a board.....

So I assessed what furniture I had around, and here's what I came up with.  A small fold up trestle table that we use for camping (not any more!), those big chunks of wood designed for my door table (see the blog post on my cutting station), three layers of cotton batting, a white sheet, a piece of fabric for a cover and I'm good to go!

When I stand at the pressing station there is a large white cupboard to my left - that holds the majority of my fabric stash.  To the right is a passageway to the laundry, bathroom and the only bedroom.

The chunks of wood stick out a bit at the foot and I thought I might catch my feet, but I haven't yet so they are staying that way for now.

They also sit on carpet and, from experience, the natural wood will leave marks.  I don't know whether it's leaching or perhaps dampness from such a large chunk of wood, but either way, I've cut two pieces of plastic drop sheet the same size as the wood and placed them underneath to protect the carpet.

I hide the ugly trestle legs under a white sheet, and I've got storage of a sorts underneath.  I can fit one more of the larger tubs under there too, and until now those tubs were just kicking around making a nuisance of themselves, so it's good to get them out of the way.

You can get a sense of the size by knowing those are fat quarters of my hand-dyed fabrics.  Loving the size!!  All that room feels luxurious.  There is an electrical plug just behind the table at floor height, so no problems with the iron cord.  The trestle table top is made of heavy duty plastic, but I've stuck my hand underneath the three layers of batting after doing a session of pressing and it's warm but not hot, so I'm not worried about nasty, melty, plastic messes.

And on the wall above the pressing station I have a contraption that my Grandfather made.  He was an artist and iron worker in his spare time and I have a couple of chandeliers he made, a door knocker and this thing, which might be made to hang a light off?  Anyway, it's now hanging my teflon and cotton pressing sheets.  Very handy.  

Here's another view.  I'm standing just at the entrance to the passage way to the laundry etc.  To the left of the dryer is a door and then my cutting station is to the left of the door.  The dryer is temporary (remember, the studio also serves as our storage unit).  I do use it occasionally but have to pull it over so the vent sticks out the open door!

That's a small design board above the dryer and then sets of storage shelves in the far corner and end of the room.

I'm super happy with my new pressing station.  Once again, nothing flash, but it gives me a chance to see if I really like the size and height and then maybe one day I'll invest in something a bit more classy!

What do you use as a pressing station?

Monday, May 29, 2017

Hey, I made something I can wear!!

I always have good intentions of making clothes.  I have several lengths of fabric stashed away, a stack of patterns, lots of links to inspirational podcasts and bloggers who sew beautiful things for themselves. I just never get to it!  I'd so much rather sew in two dimensions.  I think the other reason is that I just don't know enough about garment sewing and I don't get a great fit the first time so then I give up.

But scarves!  They are kinda three dimensional but mostly sewn in two dimensions.  I can handle that.  And they feel good, are an easy way to add an individual touch to an outfit and they always fit perfectly.

I whipped one up (really, truly, including hand sewing the tiny bit at the end it took me about 20 minutes) the other day out of a soft Stoff knit fabric.  The fabric is very slightly pink and it's got birds on it.  How could it not come home with me?

Do you know what I love most about this photo?  Not that I don't look like a total goober, not that it captures both my wedding present mirror and my first ceramic purchase that I bought 'just because', but also because it shows me next to my kids height marks that we've been marking on the doorway since we moved on board the boat.  My 12 year old son is only about 10 cm shorter than me!

I didn't use a pattern or tutorial because I've sewed a couple now and have it down pat.

To sew an infinity scarf, you get a long narrow length of fabric, fold it wrong sides together lengthwise and sew those long edges together to get a narrow tube.  Then you turn it rights sides out, slip one end back over the tube (right sides facing), until you reach the other end.  Sew the two ends together, leaving a small gap for turning.  Turn it inside out and then slip stitch the opening together.

When you are slipping one end back down over the tube, you can choose to put a twist in it, which is what I did on this scarf.


Here are some tutorials that seem to have good diagrams: (great diagrams, shows the twist off well) (a downloadable PDF but without the twist and made of fat quarters) (very simple, without the twist)

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

A great interview you should listen to.

Lisa Walton, a guest on my podcast a few weeks ago, took the plunge and has started podcasting herself.  Being administration vice president of SAQA (studio art quilt associates) and a travelling textile teacher, Lisa has access to some very interesting textile art professionals.

Her first interview is with Martha Sielman, executive director of SAQA, textile artist and author.  It was a great interview and well worth listening to if you have any interest in art quilts.

I stole this bio about Martha off the SAQA website (which is well worth a visit, even if you aren't a member, there are lots of resources available):

Martha Sielman has been Executive Director of Studio Art Quilt Associates, Inc. (SAQA) since 2004. Her career in art quilts began in 1988, when she learned to quilt, and has included more than 20 years of work as a professional artist, author, lecturer, curator, juror, and arts administrator.  She is the author of Masters: Art Quilts (Lark Books 2008), Masters: Art Quilts, Volume 2 (Lark Books 2011), and Art Quilt Portfolio: The Natural World (Lark Books 2012).

Sielman has written articles about art quilts for The Crafts Report and SAQA Journal, and has appeared on the HGTV show Simply Quilts. She was curator for the exhibit Masters Art Quilts: 1, which travelled to the International Quilt Festivals in Houston, Chicago, and Long Beach, the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Kentucky and the New England Quilt Museum in Lowell, Massachusetts; and she served as a juror for “Pushing the Limits: New Expressions in Hooked Art” and “Niche Awards 2008.” 

Sielman lives in Storrs, Connecticut, with her husband, five children and two cats.

Photo credit to SAQA

You can find Lisa's podcast here:
or search for Lisa Walton Chats on iTunes.