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, June 29, 2020

Merit Award in the Aotearoa Quilters Aqua Challenge

Aotearoa Quilters runs a colour challenge every year or so, and this time around the theme colour was aqua. They also changed up the size (usually a 12" x 12" square) this time they chose a 12" x 16" rectangle in a portrait orientation. I confess to enjoying the rectangular shape more than the square, it's easier to work with design-wise. But I know squares fit together beautifully on an exhibition wall, so it's swings and roundabouts.

And I was delighted to win a merit prize! Those are the good emails to open. The unexpected ones that tell you you've won something (and not $7.3 billion from a nice man in Nigeria!)

All the entered quilts will be on show at the Taupo Quiltmakers exhibition called Pearls and Water. This is on at the Great Lake Centre, Taupo, October 2nd till October 4th and would be well worth a visit. 

When you think of aqua, what colour do you think of? Greeny-blue? Bluey-green? Teal? Kingfisher? Here's a screenshot of when I search for images of aqua colour - what a variation! 

So I did a colour pull of all my 'aqua-ish' fabrics to get more of an idea of what I had, and to see if anything sparked my ideas button.

As you may know if you've been reading my blog for any length of time, birds feature heavily in my quilts. I have been working with birds in flight recently so I decided to downsize the shapes I'd been working with and play with them on the surface of a piece of aqua hand-dyed fabric I found.

They fell into place so nicely, with such a great sense of movement, that the design didn't take long to finalise at all. The colours of each bird travels from dark teal to lightest sea foam, with a dark purple for some visual interest.

I know this is an absolutely terrible photo, but it gives you an idea of how I sometimes plan quilting lines. This is a photo of the quilt top, placed in a page protector and then drawn on with a dry erase marker.

I finished the quilt with a facing as I felt a binding would constrain the birds and you would lose the sense of them flying off into the distance. I named the quilt "Let Your Spirit Fly Free" in dedication to the first Covid-19 victim in New Zealand, who passed away around the time I was making the quilt.

I quilted it using my trusty domestic BERNINA Aurora 440 as the quilt was nice and small and this machine gives me great control over my free motion quilting. The threads are tied and buried. 

All the quilts will be for sale for $150, and I'd be pleased if it went to a new home. But I'd also be secretly pleased if it came back home after touring New Zealand, as it's one I'm really pleased with and it reminds me of the strange and difficult, but weirdly beautiful time that NZ's Covid-19 lockdown was for me.

The winning quilt and the other merit prizes can be seen on the Aotearoa Quilters Facebook page. I'd like to thank the sponsors who make the prizes possible, especially Quiltique who sponsored my prize. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Skulls and Thorns

When I last spent some time writing in my blog, we were moving out of Level 4 lockdown for the Covid-19 pandemic, so it's quite fitting that now, when I've taken up my pen keyboard again, it is the first day of Level 1. New Zealand has NO active cases!

My desktop died a sad and sudden death a few weeks ago and that really put a halt to my intended regular blogging activity. I can do it on my other devices but it just isn't fun.

Anyhoo, here I am once again.

I have a video for you today. A little free-motion quilting video that I shot yesterday. It's fun videoing myself quilting, I like watching myself and figuring out how I could improve my own skills, or how I could better teach others from what I'm saying and pointing out.

The quilt I'm quilting is one I've been working on off and on for a little while. It started as a hand-stitching project and has evolved slowly as I've thought about it and come across images and symbolism that I've wanted to use.

I had a long narrow piece of my hand-dyed fabric and I fused down the leaf shapes into a circle shape. I like circles, they are very feminine and I find they relate heavily to my profession as a midwife - moons, cycles, pregnancy etc etc.  

The leaves are made of hand-dyed silk organza - scraps from larger pieces that I've used in other quilts.

I was also playing around with some off-cuts of a hand-dyed linen table cloth, those are the funky shapes under the circle, but they didn't make the cut and got put back in the scrap bin.

I spent the Christmas holidays doing embroidery using my hand-dyed threads. I tried to use a different stitch for every type of leaf just to up the interest factor, but also to add some cohesion between the groups. I still had no idea what I was going to do with the panel, but ideas started flowing as I sat and stitched.

I cut a large piece of hand-dyed cotton in half and sewed one half to each side of my middle panel. I wanted to increase the size because I'd finally had an idea of what I wanted to add.

This beastie hangs on a wall under my house where I used to dye my fabrics. My husband is very proud of his 12 point red stag, and skulls have a lot of symbolism for me too. I particularly like the way the antlers curve back towards each other - what could they be circling and holding within them?

To offset the grimness of the skull and to constrast masculine and feminine ideas, I fussy cut a preloved tea cloth for the bone.

It looked very flat until I began adding the highlight stitching. I use my quarter inch foot on my Bernina 440 when I'm doing detail stitching and raw-edge applique, as it's nice and narrow and I can use the inside of the foot to help me eyeball where the line of stitching should go in relation to the edge of the fabric. 

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Before I stitched the skull, I used paint and stencils to add vines, then I used silk organza to add another layer of vines, some with vicious thorns. Vines for the curves, thorns for the contrast.

I also used paint and stencils to add a flight of birds curving up and around, another circle.

And now I'm up to the quilting. You may have noticed that I haven't shown an image of the whole flimsy before quilting. I've decided that I want to keep in secret and not show the whole until I'm done. I'm not sure why but bear with me!

You can see a little more in the video of me quilting one of my thorny vines.

Happy stitching everyone!

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

100 days of Horoeka/Lancewood

This will be my fourth 100 days project. I'm not sure what draws me to doing these. I know I'll get frustrated at some point. I know I'll 'cheat' at some point (cheating is irrelevant when it's my project and I can do it how I like). I know I'll think what I'm doing is dumb and want to change it. But here I am, doing it anyway even though I know all of that.

Because I also know that there will be times I really enjoy it, and there'll be times when I love what I've done, and times when a flash of inspiration or a new idea makes it all worth it.

And besides, I'm the one running it for Aotearoa Quilters, so I kinda have to do it now!

So what is my project this time around? 100 days of Horoeka, which is te reo for the lancewood tree. Or Pseudopanax crassifolia if you want Latin. I'm also including Pseudopanax ferox, also known as the savage or fierce lancewood. How could you not be fascinated by a tree named savage?

The lancewood is a funky NZ native that completely changes it's appearance between juvenile and adult forms. So much so that at one time they were thought to be a separate species. Juveniles have long, strap like toothed leaves that hang downwards, usually dark in colour with a thick yellow/orange midrib. Once they get above moa browsing height, about 3 metres, the tree begins to branch, and the leaves become shorter, rounder, less toothed and lose the coloured midrib.

Here's my first three days:

I wrote text about lancewoods onto my base fabric the first day, cut out an organza lancewood the second day and sketched a lancewood onto my base fabric the third day.

I'll also be working in a sketchbook for when life doesn't accommodate fabric work. Here's day 4 (today) where I worked in my book that I made specifically for this project. I haven't attached the covers yet, that'll probably come as one of my days of the project.

I've already discovered that I have quite wide parameters for this project. Yes, I'll be working with some aspect of lancewoods everyday, but that leaves it really open and sometimes I have difficulty deciding what exactly to do. I might need to brainstorm a list so I can refer to it when I'm trying to narrow my choices.

Sunday, May 3, 2020


I had occasion to read this poem out at a ceremony the other day. It's always spoken to me and I thought it might speak to you too.

The Peace of Wild Things 
by Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

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.