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!

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Thoughts and Stitches from my Studio

Hello neglected blog readers! 

I have some big news that some of you may not have heard, the family and I are moving to the South Island. I wrote an email newsletter and in it I tell a bit more about what's happening.

If you'd like to read it, click here.

The reason this poor blog has been neglected for so long is many fold. One of them is that I intend to (finally! Talk about procrastination!) get my own website up and running, and then I'll have a blog on there. So anything I write here, I keep thinking I should save it and write there, it's just that there hasn't happened quite yet. So in the meantime, I'll be writing a monthly email newsletter with thoughts and stitches (rambling words and a few pretty pictures of my work) from my studio. I'd love you to join me in the conversation, you can sign up to receive my email newsletter by clicking here

The next big thing on my calendar is presenting at the SAQA virtual conference in about 10 days time.

I'm part of a panel presentation and discussion called 'Art from Oceania'. So if you are a SAQA member, and have signed up for the conference, I'd love to see you there!

And then the NEXT big thing for me is the Great New Zealand Quilt Show, being organised by Aotearoa Quilters. I'm on the committee so have been working away to help bring you this in-person, in-real-life, fingers-crossed-covid-stays-away, three day quilt show. If you are in NZ, you should try and get along, it'll be awesome!

 So that's it for me today. I better get back to packing up my studio. Happy stitching!

PS - Don't forget to sign up for my newsletter!

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Lint is a fact of life.

I've just come back from a quick tour of New Zealand with the BERNINA team, launching the new Q16 sit-down longarm quilting machine. One of our frequent topics of discussion was lint and machine cleaning.

Before we would run a class or a demo for the dealers, we would clean and oil the machines, change the needles, load full bobbins, and test sew the machines. I took a photo of the inside of the bobbin area just after doing that. Looks beautiful, right? Those two big white things are the double BERNINA stitch regulators.

Something I've heard are comments like, "Gosh that thread is linty, I'm not going to use it." Or, "Yuck, that batting is so linty." 

But lint is a fact of life! We are textile artists, we work with fibres, no matter what batting, what thread, what fabric we use, we are going to get lint! And yes, some are more linty than others, but that shouldn't stop us from using them if they are giving us the effect we want in our quilt.

So here's a picture of the inside of the bobbin area after a three hour class. The stitch plate isn't on, that's why it's brighter. But check out the lint! And we were using good quality batting, fabrics and threads.

Lint is a fact of life! When you sew with fibres, especially on a high-speed machine, you are going to get lint. Your job isn't to try and find the least linty products to use, your job to clean your machine.

Make it part of your sewing routine. Sit down to sew, pop open your machine and give it a quick swipe with your lint brush. The more often you do it, the less time it will take. And while you are there, give it a drop of oil as per your instruction manual. You really should be giving it an oil every 4-8 hours of sewing time. 

And I guess now is a good time to remind you to change your needle too. Every eight hours of sewing!

Your time is valuable, set yourself up for a good days sewing. You've spent plenty of money on your machine and on your fabrics, you've given up your valuable time to your project, so don't skimp on those couple of minutes it will take to clean and oil your machine so that you can have a well-running machine that will be a joy to sew with. 

Happy quilting!

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Whangarei Quilt Exhibition 2020

Whangarei holds a quilt exhibition every second year. Luckily, 2020's exhibition was scheduled for later in the year, and managed to avoid the worst of NZ's Covid lockdown. We were still in Level 2, which meant limiting the number of people in the hall at any one time, but everyone was just so happy to get out and see a quilt show, I don't think anyone minded.

The club held a Hundertwasser themed quilt challenge and here are two of my favourite quilts from that.

'The Letterbox' by Sheila Ujdur. Quilts had to be A3 size, portrait or landscape orientation was allowed, and the quilt had to be inspired by artist Friedrich Hundertwasser's work, without copying his work directly.

'Among Trees' by Helen Barron, which won a second place in the silver section (entered a challenge before but not had a placing.)

Unfortunately I didn't win the raffle quilt, but I loved the colours and the design, so I took a quick pic. Isn't it lovely? The winner would be very pleased to have that lovely quilt to snuggle under.

Rikki Going started this quilt, 'Stoned with Karen' in a Karen Stone workshop. I loved the colour combination and the regular grid work combined with these snippets of irregular colour. Very interesting to look at.

And another of Rikki Going's quilts. 'Desert Blooms' inspired by a Laura Heine design. It was just so different from anything else in the show. Full of life!

'Daisy, Daisy' by Maria New was made from a Deborah Louie pattern and the good use of black and white fabrics combined with the heavily petalled flowers worked really well. It won viewers choice from the club members and I can understand why.

I snapped a shot of this little house quilt by Jan Silvester because I have a thing for house quilts. I've never actually made one! Funnily enough, there seemed to be others who have the same feelings as you'll see several more house quilts as you read, the show was well populated with houses!

I've seen this tree design before and it always appeals. This was made by Rikki Going, it's called 'Forest from the Trees' and it's from a pattern in the Simply Moderne magazine.

What's not to love about a good plus quilt? This is 'Black and White Plus Colour' made by Rosslee Baker, quilted by KR Quilting. 

And equally, what's not to love about a good scrap quilt? I love stars too and I love the different blues around each star that then combine to make a quarter square triangle secondary block in the background. This is called 'Rikki's Stars' made by Maria New.

This is called 'Mini Sampler' by Sheila Ujdur and it was just a sweet little quilt. Something you'd find on a cozy log cabin wall. Nice workmanship too.

This quilt was called 'Autumn' and was made by Janet Greeks. I was excited to see this piece as Janet had taken part in the Aotearoa Quilters 100 Days Project that I had organised earlier this year and this was her project. She had made a study of using different embellishment techniques and the pieces looked fabulous up on the wall.

This was 'Bed Warmer' by Terri Mills. Unusual in shape, construction and colour, it would be sure to brighten up the foot of any bed! I just had to grab a shot. 

This was a true crowd pleaser! 'Bench Seat' by Donna Rowan was made as a block of the month project through Apple Basket Quilts and these are all Sue Spargo designs. Doesn't it look so tempting to sit on, despite the sign?!

Here's another of the house quilts. 'Hobsonville Point' was made by Anne Groufsky and quilted by Leanne Hopper. Anne made this from a quilt kit purchased from All Things Bernina. The sharp triangles in the second border give a lot of life and energy to this neighbourhood.

I don't think I'd ever have the patience or precision to make such a lovely job of sashiko so this also needed to be in my photo collection. 'Kiwi Sashiko' by Sheila Udjur. 

And one more for the house quilt collection. 'Houses for Kirstin and Rob' was made by Margo Wakelin from a book 'Quilt with Tula and Angela'. The quilt was quilted by Leeanne Hopper. I love the topsy turvy houses with the large fabric prints as feature walls.

'Stitching Bee' by Beryl McDowell. This was made as a block of the month project through The Country Yard shop. And it's a very sweet, subtle and homely quilt with the combination of small print fabrics and stitcheries.

The club also had the Aotearoa Quilters travelling exhibition 'Journey' on display. They made a great mini exhibition in the back room. And you can see my quilt, 'Soul Bird', in amongst them.

Had to get a pic standing next to it of course! And it was pointed out to me that I was awfully colour coordinated - not planned at all...

These are two of my favourites from the Journey collection. I think they look so good next to each other and the quilting on each is superb. Left is 'Journey to the Pyramids' by Margaret Rogerson and right is 'Road Trip' by Shirley Sparks.

In the back room there was also Aotearoa Quilter member Sonya Prchal with her solo exhibit. I couldn't get close to say hello to her as she had a mesmerised crowd watching her demo her thread painting techniques. But I did manage to get a snap of part of the display. These are some of her smaller works. Always such stunning work!

I thoroughly enjoyed the show, I helped support a few of the merchants by treating myself to a few goodies, and I drove home inspired and happy!

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Teaching Tour - the new BERNINA Q16

In my last blog post I hinted that there was an upcoming teaching tour with BERNINA. It's all confirmed so now I can give you all the deets and make it all official and stuff. 

BERNINA have released a brand new machine. It's another sit down long-arm with all the great features of the BERNINA Q20 but it's just a little smaller. Welcome to the new BERNINA Q16! This is perfect for those quilters who need more throat space than a domestic to make quilting their quilts a breeze, but don't have quite enough sewing room space for the larger machines. It's also just a bit easier on the budget. 

And I'm so excited to be able to help BERNINA introduce it to New Zealand!

BERNINA  asked me to design a fabric panel specifically for this class. I've used my own hand-dyed fabrics and put together a design that isn't too complicated but still has plenty of scope to get creative with the quilting designs. Rebecca Owen from BERNINA worked her digital magic and put the squared border around it and has got a panel printed for every workshop participant. 

You'll be able to try out free-motion and ruler quilting on the beautiful Q16 machine and will get to take your very own ruler home with you - as well as your quilted sample of course. The panel will be sandwiched, the machines will be threaded, all you have to do is sit down and have a creatively fun time with me and the BERNINA crew!

It's a great opportunity to have a really good try out session with the Q16. I know it can be a bit overwhelming at a show with everyone watching and other people waiting to have their turn too. At this workshop every class participant will have their own machine and during the three hours I'll be able to guide you through some beautiful free-motion and ruler quilting designs, which you can combine to really make the panel your own.

If you are interested in joining us, please get in touch with your local BERNINA dealer. I look forward to seeing you there, it's going to be so much fun!

Edited to add the timetable:

Monday, August 31, 2020

I'm a BERNINA Q 20 Ambassador for New Zealand!

It’s been seven weeks since my new baby came to live with me….my new BERNINA Q 20 sit down long-arm quilting machine!

The BERNINA Q 20 is a quilting machine with a 20 inch throat. You sit on a chair to use it and guide the fabric under the needle, just like free-motion quilting on a small domestic machine. You can also put the Q 20 on a frame and use it like a stand up long-arm, where you guide the machine over the fabric. BERNINA also makes a Q 24 (with a 24" throat) that is specifically designed to be used in a stand up frame.


I have been a BERNINA convert since I bought my first ‘real’ sewing machine 15 years ago – a BERNINA Aurora 440. BERNINA stole my heart with the quality of their machines, the beauty of the stitches and the ease of use. So when the lovely crew at BERNINA NZ contacted me and asked if I’d consider becoming a BERNINA Ambassador for them, you can guess what the answer was…hellooooooo dream role!


My role as an ambassador is to share my experiences using the machine, to publicise any neat and unique features that I particularly love and to basically 'share the love' by showing you all what I create with the machine. You might also see me sometimes at shows where BERNINA has a stand (cool! I love demoing) and perhaps even doing a teaching tour or two.

*Sneaky advance notice - teaching tour coming up in October - watch this space!*


So here’s me sharing the love with pictures of the day she arrived.


Nick and Sandy came up from BERNINA Sewing Centre in Whangarei to deliver and install the machine for me. They were equally excited for me, and so helpful, with lots of tips.


My Q 20 sits in a Horn table. These tables have been designed particularly for this machine as an option for smaller spaces; they are large and pretty robust tables, but foldaway (with the machine still on them) for effective space saving. Nick tells me that most people opt for these tables now, but there is also the choice of a Koala table; a very solid table that has the option to expand larger than the Horn.


Apparently in the U.S. you can get fancy electric tables that lift up and convert from seated height to standing height. I’ll keep my eyes peeled to see if they ever come to NZ.


Anyhoo. Back to installation day. I was shown how to use the machine, how to set my bobbin tension with the nifty little tension gadget, how to oil and clean her (super easy), and how to use the fancy-pants needle threader. Then it was practice time. 


With any new machine it takes time to get to know it. For example, it took me a little while to get my movements coordinated with using the kickback on the foot pedal to lift the needle and then the button on the screen to lift the foot because it’s a different set of movements from my other machine. But once you get quilting, the free-motion movements are all the same and it just flows like silk!


It has also taken me a little while to get used to the BSR – the BERNINA stitch regulator function. My BERNINA Aurora 440 has a BSR, but I never really use it. When I first bought that machine, I was just learning to free-motion quilt and it felt like learning to use the BSR was just as much effort as learning to free-motion without it. Over the years I have mastered free-motion quilting and can easily regulate my stitch length without needing a BSR. But I was determined to try it and get to know it well on the Q 20 – if I’m ever going to be demoing the machine I have to know what I’m talking about, right?!


And now I LUUUUURVE it! She has three BSR modes. BSR 1 regulates your stitch length to the speed you move the fabric but also stitches in place when you stop moving the fabric. BSR 2 is the same as BSR 1 but with no idling stitching. BSR 3 is a basting stitch, which you can set to do one, two or four stitches per inch. I’m looking forward to trying the four stitches per inch with a heavy thread to imitate big-stitch hand quilting.


The BSR helps with keeping the quality of my stitches beautiful. It really helps with ruler quilting, which I’m just starting to explore, and it just makes life a little bit easier, giving you more energy to spend on creating beautiful quilts rather than worrying about stitch length. 


If you follow me on Instagram, you will have seen many of my practice pieces. I’ve made several bassinet quilts, as they are a good size for practice sandwiches, and then I can donate them to the maternity unit once they are finished. I've also been working on some smaller projects with intensive quilting, like the swallow below.


But yesterday I finished a little sample that I made entirely on the BERNINA Q 20. It’s a wholecloth quilt, thread sketched, then coloured with water soluble pencils, and fixed with a textile medium. I call it Dragon Moon.


Size is 18 1/2 inches wide by 20 inches tall. It's intensively stitched, but the BERNINA Q 20 handled that with ease. 

Here's the back. I thought it would be interesting to use black fabric to give it a totally different look. I usually use the same colour threads top and bobbin so I almost get a two-sided quilt.

And a couple of detail shots for you. My meandering on the moon looks a little odd closeup, but I was trying to go for an irregular pocked moon surface, rather than a beautifully even meander, not quite sure I achieved it! I'm super happy with the scaling pattern on the body, and the pattern I used on the wings (although I didn't get much of a closeup of that.)

In conclusion, I'm delighted with the machine. She is lovely to use and creates a lovely stitch, just like I've come to expect from BERNINA. I'm really excited to be able to be part of the BERNINA family and I look forward to being able to show you all the projects I create with the Q 20. 

P.S. Next time I'm asked to fill in my occupation on a form, do you think I could get away with writing 'Ambassador'?!