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, April 27, 2020

Last Day of Lockdown

So that's it. Today is our last day of Level 4 Lockdown. Not much will change much for many New Zealanders as we move into Level 3, but for our little family it means my husband goes back to work.

My kids will be back at school as of Wednesday. Their school kept to their normal holiday regime, so they've been on break for the last two weeks and Wednesday will see them resuming their distance learning. Neither of them are particularly enthused with the idea.

1 confirmed case today, 4 probables, 1 more death for a total of 19.

Let's hope we can keep it firmly contained and we can slowly move down the alert level scale.

Here's two photos for you.

One of Hubby's lockdown jobs was to build a frame around this old bath. We filled it and planted it with seeds and seedlings I had grown and this first photo was taken on the 4th April.

The second photo, for your comparison, was taken yesterday, just over three weeks later. From left to right we have frilly lettuce, pak choi, some younger cos lettuces, peas (we'll eat the shoots as this is to be a salad garden), rocket and radishes. There are a couple of tiny coriander seedlings and a couple of what I think are going to turn out to be self-sown silverbeet.

We're already taking the odd leaf off the pak choi and rocket and they are making a great addition to our salads. 

Very satisfying.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Lockdown Day 32

I didn't write yesterday. We had a deep shock here as a family. I don't know quite what to write or say about it, except that it was hard, and it will be hard for a while yet, and I never, ever want that to happen again, and if you are having a bad time, please, please reach out to someone.

Today is my blogversary. I started to write this blog, purely unplanned, on April 26th 2009. Thats....11 years! Whoa.

So for your nostagic pleasure, I give you my second ever blog post:

My New Mansion

My Dear Husband and I were having an argument a little while ago. Basically, the theme was me complaining that nothing gets done around here (we live in a half-renovated house) and that he always wants to go and work out at "the land" (we also own a block of land on which we planned to build our "dream" house on). 

To cut a long story short, we decided to move out into the shed. We hope that this will achieve a few things: we can finish renovating the place we are in when we move out (MUCH easier!); we can then rent this place out (always welcome a few extra $$); we will be where we really want to be; and when we do finally have enough money to build our house, we'll be right there to oversee it.

But I don't know if I'm excited or just plain scared. "Scared?" you ask. Well, moving out to the shed means moving out to a long drop loo*. Hubby promises to build me a floor and walls in the shed at least, but the long drop will have to stay for a wee (pardon the pun!) while. What am I letting myself in for?
*(For those of you who don't know what a long drop is, think toilet with a view, fresh air and no flush button! That's a picture of my very own long drop up there.)

And then, just for fun, here is a post I wrote a year or so later:

The Day the Dunny Died.

It's windy here today.  Real windy.  Like blow your house down windy.  Or, in actuality, blow your dunny down.

Yup.  That there is what greeted me last time I went out to sit on the throne.  

This is what it looked like last summer - the kids got muddy and decided to paint it (with mud - I guess they were going for the adobe look).

So, what's a girl to do when she's gotta go?  Well, I pushed it back up straight, used it, then got the hell out of there before it blew over again!

I rang Hubby at work.  He laughed.  But then he's at work - with a flushing loo to hand.  Huh.

I think it's time to get me one of those fancy indoor flushing loos at home.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Lockdown Day 30

Three little dickey birds. I'm wondering what to do with these? Should I turn them into applique designs? Or what about embroidery designs?

I'm considering putting together some sort of embroidery kit with my own drawings, my hand-dyed threads and hand-dyed background linen. It'll include simple instructions, a hoop and a needle. And maybe I'll put it all in a little bag made from my own hand-dyed thread.

What do you think?

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Lockdown Day 29

Today is the first 'bonus' day of lockdown. But it's a testament to NZ's commitment to the plan, and our good leaders making the right decisions, that we are only extending Level 4 lockdown for five days. Only three new cases of Covid-19 today. Sadly, another two deaths to add to our losses.

I've worked the last three days, doing 12 hour shifts. Today I had the day off, then I have another 12 hour shift tomorrow. So I felt pretty justified to start today off with a bit of a sleep-in! I went for a big walk, rinsed some of my dyed threads with rain water I've been catching, and then watched my buckets catch more rain. It feels like our drought is breaking, finally.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Lockdown Day 28

My third 12 hour shift in a row today. Feeling a bit mentally drained. So I trawled through my photos for inspiration and I found this set of pics taken in 2014, when I did a quilting retreat in One Tree Point with Kerry Glen of Tulis Textiles. I think the tutor was Jacqui Karl. It was a while ago so the memory is a bit vague. But the pictues of the sunrise are definitely not vague. I remember how stunning it was. Almost unbelievably red.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Lockdown Day 27

Are you a tea or coffee drinker?

Or neither?

I'm a confirmed tea drinker. When I was a child, my parents drunk black tea, no milk or sugar and I seem to remember some sort of coffee substitute that they drank at night. Tea drinking wasn't particularly encouraged and so it wasn't until I was a teenager that I had my first real go at forming a habit. I think it was when I worked at a rest home as the dinner girl. This job entailed giving everyone plates of food, making their hot drinks just the way they liked them, scooping up their spat out pills from the bottom of the cups and feeding them back to them (!), and cleaning up after dinner, including doing all the dishes.

My first cups were milky and sweet, but I soon cut out the sugar and from then on I've drunk it with just milk. Over the years I've come to love my cups of tea more and more and I'm pretty sure the strength of the brew has increased too. My Grandma used to joke she liked her tea strong enough to stand the spoon up in and I think I might be heading the same way! But still with a good splash of milk.

I have my favourite cups, and I think this is part of the ritual. The right shape and weight to hold in my hands, warming them and soothing me.

On the right is my favourite cup at work. A William Morris arts and crafts pattern. I've included the cup on the left just for giggles - it's the one we give to the visiting obstetricians to drink out of ;-)

Then I have my favourite cups at home. I love these ones from Briscoes - the birds caught my eye, but they are also nice and round and hold the perfect amount of tea.

When we started doing some more travel, I decided that my souvenirs would be cups. I'm not a knick-knack person, it's just more stuff to clean and organise, but I do like to have reminders of my travels. Mugs are perfect. Useful and pretty and I think about the places I visited and the people I met when I have my cup of tea.

This is one I bought in Ross on our first trip around the South Island in The Hippo. It's made by Pleasant Point Pottery.

This is a Temuka Pottery mug that we got on our second trip around the South Island. The handle broke off recently, but superglue has done it's job well!

I also like to have mugs made by people I know and this one is from the hands of my good friend Jane. I love it's shape and texture.

Even better is a mug from my travels made by someone I met. And this mug travelled with me from Ailsa Craig, Ontario, Canada. It's made by Marilyn Barbe, who was part of the Quilt Festival Committee and I love the colours, and my husband loves that he can get his big man fingers through the handle!

I also chose this mug from her pottery shop, not made by Marilyn, but I loved the colours on this too.

And then I found this mug in a Newfoundland quilting shop. I had to have it, sewists will understand why.

Who could forget the teapot? My husband bought me this as a birthday present and it's what prompted us to change from teabags to looseleaf tea. It fits enough in it for 3 cups and every morning we fight over that third cup! Conveniently, my husband likes weak tea, so we can often squeeze just enough tea out and water it down for him with hot water. It's had it's handle repaired too and I'll be very sad if it ever breaks again.

(I didn't crop the picture as it's kinda fitting that there is the man himself, having a cup of tea in the background.)

What are your rituals that soothe you? And are you a tea or coffee drinker?

Monday, April 20, 2020

Lockdown Day 26

Well, today it was announced by Jacinda Adern (our Prime Minister), that alert Level 4 (lockdown) would continue for another week and then we would go into alert Level 3 for another 2, with further review after that. Hey! I win a bet I had with my stitching buddies - and girls, I take payment in fabric!

I worked today and then had a zoom meeting (planning still goes on the The Great NZ Quilt Show next May - mark your diaries!) so you're not going to get an essay from me. But now you'll be getting an extended lockdown blog, does that make up for it?

So here's what's been brewing in our kitchen for the last week. We harvested my mother in law's olive tree (she's our neighbour and we used appropriate distancing as she's staying in her own bubble). They've soaked for a week with regular water changes and now they are in a brine. There are more steps to go and we are playing around really as we've never done this before. But hey, nothing ventured, nothing gained!

And they look pretty....

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Lockdown Day 25

The first couple of weeks of Lockdown were sunny and hot and it felt like a bonus Summer. I was glad I took the opportunity to do some outside dyeing about three days in a row.

I haven't done much dyeing lately because we've been in a bad drought since November, eventually we were on Level 4 water restrictions, which means essential use only - drinking, cooking and hygiene. The garden went to seed except for what I could keep alive with grey water. And there was no way I was going to be able to justify using water to dye with. 

Then we had a little rain and I decided to start dyeing again, but not rinsing, as it's the rinsing process that takes the big whack of water with the way I dye.

This is part of the current stack waiting to be rinsed. I've let them dry so I can store them.
Thanks to Covid-19, very few tourists are in town and water usage has dropped markedly. We are now at Level 3 water restrictions, so still no rinsing of fabrics, but it really feels like we've turned the corner towards Autumn. Daylight savings is over, the light disappears quickly, and there is a chill in the morning air that makes my thoughts turn towards slippers and hot stews. And we've had more rain, enough to start planting the garden out.

Even without the sun I did a little dyeing today. Splashing colour around is so satisfying. And even better, I listened to a podcast with Carol Sodurland (fabric dyeing legend) being interviewed by Julie Fei-Fan Balzer (art journalling legend) while I played worked.

But she got me thinking. Carol is the queen of process. She teaches a system where her students come out with a book of more than 1000 (yes, ONE THOUSAND!) swatches and recipes how to repeat that colour. I used to keep swatches of almost everything I made so I would know how to do it again, but now that I know what I'm doing, dye all the time, and have my favourite techniques, I don't really bother. 

But I'm thinking maybe I need to update my swatch book. There are a couple of extra colours of dye I use now, and I never completed every gradation and greyed colour that I wanted to. Maybe I need to discipline myself to swatch up all my variegated colours that I do so I can repeat them exactly - or as exactly as dyeing gets. 

Or I could just take a class with Carol. One day, that would be my dream!

Who is your dream tutor? Who would you travel especially to learn from? 

My favourite recent piece. This is a big embroidered tablecloth and I can't wait to see how it looks rinsed and dried.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Lockdown Day 24

Aotearoa Quilters is the national quilting association of New Zealand and I've been a member for a while now. I was seconded to the committee last year as part of the group that was invited to the Canadian Ailsa Craig Quilt and Fibre Arts Festival, and although I haven't stayed on the committee, I'm running a speical project for them this year.

I pitched the idea that we could do a 100 days project for members as something to bring us together and give people something to do over Winter. The idea was warmly received and the committee kindly gave me the go ahead.

If you've read this blog for a while, you'll know I've been part of 100 days projects before. A 100 days project is where you do a creative thing every day for 100 days. As part of it, you're meant to record and share your process every day.

It began with a graphic design teacher called Michael Beirut and his class. It was such a cool concept that it soon jumped to Instagram and has slowly grown and taken root all around the world. Here are some links if you want to read more about the earlier years.

Michael Beirut and his original idea:
Elle Luna, who first brought it to Instagram:
Emma Rogan, who got it running in NZ:

My first project was 100 Days of Faces, where I drew/stitched/collaged/generally played around with faces every day.

My second project was 100 Days of Scissors, where I made collages with scissor cut shapes every day.

My third project was 100 Days of Reworked Cloth, where my intention was to rework, either with overdyeing or surface design, my previously hand-dyed fabrics.

And this year, I plan to do 100 Days of Horoeka (Lancewood). I'll be stitching, printing, collaging, sketching, whatevering on the theme of lancewood. I'll be using a long narrow swath of cloth and a sketchbook that I'm making specially for the project.

Attribution: Kahuroa / Public domain

If you want to read more about what a cool tree Lancewood is, head over to Sandra's Garden Blog.

In light of the current lockdown and scary stuff with Covid-19 happening, the committee decided to waive the joining fee for the project. So all you have to do to take part is be a member of Aotearoa Quilters. And now is the time to join, it's the beginning of the membership year. How convenient!

If you're already a member of AQ and you want to join in, head over to their website, log in and hit the 100 days project under the Activities tab. Then you'll get a welcome email and you'll be able to join our closed facebook group - which is the platform I'm using to run the project.

So, are any of you joining in this year? Have you done a 100 days project before? Are you doing one with another group? I'd love to hear your top tips so I can share them with the AQ group, lots of them are 100 day newbies, so all help appreciated.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Lockdown Day 23

I think I should draw more often. Because when I do, I find those drawings have a place somewhere in my art. 

Like these thorns. I drew them on the back of scrap paper at work one night. And here they are, almost catching that bird in my quilt (that is ready for basting, finally).

So maybe I should revisit the idea of a regular sketchbook habit?

I'll sleep on it.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Lockdown Day 22

Those of you with eagle eyes might notice that there was no day 21. Shock and horror, I totally forgot! I've been slowly falling down the rabbit holes of indie pattern designs, body shape websites, style for over 40's, capsule wardrobe....and the fall got faster, and faster, and faster till my head was spinning and I went to bed!

I think I've learnt a bit though and might have to tackle a bit of editing on my wardrobe soon. Once that's done I'll be able to confidentally evaluate what direction I need to focus on with my garment sewing endeavours. Fun and games and NOT what I thought I'd be doing in lockdown.

Peacefrog. In all her glory.

Today I went down another rabbit hole, or rather a little memory lane, when a friend posted a photo of her fishing on my husband's old boat. When I first met him, he lived aboard a 34 foot steel-hulled yacht he had built himself. He bought the deck paint on special. It was on special because it was very, very bright green. Conseqently, the boat was named Peacefrog, in reference to the colour and to the song by The Doors.

So from there, that led us to talking about New Zealand music artists. I don't know why exactly, but then Hubby got all excited about teaching the kids who Paul Ubana Jones is. We went to see him live about 17 years ago and he was amazing! Watch one of his videos on his website, a guitaring legend.

And then I introduced the family to Tami Neilson, who I've just found. She's Canadian born, but calls NZ home now, so can we claim her? 

Ok, that was a bit different. No sewing involved. But when I'm writing everyday, some of it's going to get a little eclectic.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Lockdown Day 20

Is it really day 20? It seems like that time has flown by. Unfortunately we've had another four deaths today. Covid-19 got into a dementia ward at a rest home and has taken it's toll on the frail and elderly.  I listen to the 1pm update with trepidation. But we also continue to have good news, such as only 17 new cases today. The numbers drop and drop.

Today I finished my Purl Soho Boxy Tee. I tried it on when the side seams were done and thought I might have to undo them and insert the ties that are suggested in version C to give it more shape, but now that it's all put together, I think I love it how it is.

Here's the photo shoot:

The instructions were easy to follow. I'm an almost beginner garment sewer and I had no trouble.

I probably would use a slightly more drapey fabric in future (when the fabric shops open), but needs must and I'll give it a good hot wash to try and soften the quilting cottons so it sits softer at the back.

And, once again, I could probably have made the size smaller as there is a little too much bulk at the side seams. Drapier fabric would probably take care of that though.

I continued to wear it after these photos and it was super comfy. Lots of ease in the armholes, no riding up or anything funky happening with the drape. I wouldn't want it any shorter, and, if I made it again, I might add another inch to the length.

I'm really pleased with my neckline. This was the bit I thought I might have trouble with. It's finished with a bias strip, which folds to the inside. But I got it first try and it lies flat and beautiful. I added another line of top stitching along the shoulder seam and the along the bottom colour block, just because I could.

Look at the finishing details! That side split is just cool! If you were thinking of purchasing any of Purl Soho's patterns, you won't be disappointed with the finishing or the instructions. 

I broke out my blind hem foot (and sewing machine instruction book!) for the hem. Not that the instructions say to finish it like that, but I wanted to give blind hemming a go, since I've never done it. Actually, it was easy, but hemming it like the pattern suggests would have given the top a cleaner finish.

Thanks to my darling daughter for taking the photos - she had fun! And made me ham it up, as you can see...

Monday, April 13, 2020

Lockdown Day 19

I was so encouraged by my garment sewing foray a couple posts back, that I've decided to dive into my next make.

I don't have any more stretch fabric (or not enough for anything significant) so I needed something that used a woven. I'm also a little bit hesitant to buy patterns until I'm more skilled in assessing what will work for me, and I need beginner friendly. Stalking round the interwebs found me the Purl Soho Boxy Tee. There were some good reviews and nice examples of tees that sewists had made up, so I decided it was something I could try my hand at.

I found a large piece of patterned quilting cotton (funnily enough that's 98% of what my fabric cupboard holds) with some matching solids for the sleeves and the colour block on the bottom of the shirt. Yesterday I cut the pieces and read the pattern thoroughly to make sure I understood it.

Today I began putting it together inbetween planting seedlings and working on an applique design I've got on the go. And here's where I'm up to. I decided to let this photo glow in all it's terrible glory. It's night time so it's horrible lighting, and I'm using the floor so you get to see my burgeoning corner scrap pile as well as where I hide things - under the drawers! But it's the only photo I've got...

The top is beautifully constructed with french seams so I'm not using my overlocker and all I have left to do is the side seams and the neck binding. The neck binding uses a bias strip, so this is the bit I might find tricky, everything else has been straightforward so far.

All going to plan, I'll have it finished tomorrow.

On the lockdown front, NZ continues to show signs that our restrictions are working. Only 19 new cases of Covid-19 today, and 75 people recovered, which means that our total number of active cases continues to drop. Unfortunately there was another death, bringing our toll to five souls. We have 15 in hospital, four of those people in ICU and one of them in a critical condition. We hope for their recovery.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Lockdown Day 18

Such is my commitment to blogging every day that I just got out of bed to write. I realised that I'd been distracted by watching a movie with the kids (The Avengers - lots of special effects, a few funny bits, not bad for a teenage family flick) and forgotten to blog. But once I'd remembered, I knew I wouldn't drop off to sleep easily, so here I am.

I'm just going to share a picture of something that is brought me joy today.

My planter box, cheerily greeting me in the morning sunlight. I planted this with seedlings a few days before lockdown and I'm so glad I have something bright to look at. I'm also glad that the weather forcaster promises us rain tonight - our garden desperately needs some.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Lockdown Day 17

Garment sewing has never been my thing. I didn't take sewing in school, I never paid attention when Mum, or my garment sewing older sister sewed, and I've never been a huge fashion follower either, so haven't had a burning desire to make what I couldn't get or afford.

I have tried over the years. I remember taking a night class in my late teens, which taught me a bit. And I've made very simple kids dresses, an apron etc etc. But I'd like to be more confident to make more of my own clothes, especially as we all become more aware of what fast fashion is doing to our environment.

So a couple posts back I said I wanted to make at least one garment before lockdown was over. Well I did!

My friend Jaye pointed me in the direction of a sewalong and free pattern by The Crafty Gemini. It was for a dolman sleeved knit top. Just the kind of thing I was thinking of. I like dolman sleeves, I wanted to try sewing with knits (seeing as I've bought myself an overlocker), and I liked the idea of someone walking me through it all.

If you're interested in the videos, click here for the first in the series, you're looking for the Westchester Dolman Top.

I thought my knit wasn't stretchy enough (she shows you how to measure) so I sized generously, and I graded my hip area up to the next size. She shows you how to do that too, she's very thorough. But it turned out I was too cautious and should have stuck with the size for my measurements, and I definitely shouldn't have graded up for my hips - I should have taken a before photo show the sticky out hip bits!

Although Crafty Gemini shows you how to make this with a standard sewing machine, I was making it with my overlocker, so it was really easy for me to mark smaller once I'd tried it on and then run it through the machine again to take it in where I needed too. It's still generous, but I didn't want it form fitting so I'm happy.

My one big goof up was sewing the neckband on inside out. And because I was using my overlocker (and I'd made a really nice job of it, it sat perfectly!) I didn't want to unpick it - it really wouldn't have worked. So I decided that it was a design feature and I sewed the armbands on and hemmed it inside out too. 

I might sew the outside seam flat so it looks more like a cover stitched seam (is that what you call it?) rather than just inside out. But this was never meant to be a runway-ready piece so then again I might not bother.

I wanted slightly longer sleeves, so I added two inches and I used the wide arm band even though my size used a slimmer band. I also added an inch to the bottom length and only used a 3/4 inch hem. 

I made it in white because that was the only piece of knit fabric that I had that was big enough. So my next make (if I'm motivated) will have to be out of a woven.

So I'm wearing something I made and I'm really rather proud of myself!