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, September 30, 2010

School Holidays

We apologise for this break in transmission.  We will return to normal programming once the school holidays are over. 

Meanwhile, the kids and I will get back to mess making, pizza and bread making, and having lava baths after we (they) explore under the house.

And for those not in the know, lava baths are baths with a few drops of red food colouring in the water!  Instant kid amusement.  Perfect.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Friday Fleashop Finds

I can't think of a word to alliterate with Op Shop so Friday Fleashop Finds it will have to stay for now. 

Friday is my quilting-in-the-morning with a friend day, errand day, grocery day, farm store day and, if I can squeeze it in, a browse around the Op Shops in our little rural town.

Again, I checked out the fabrics and remnants that they have, but nope, yucky polyester curtain linings for the most.  But then I walked past the men's shirts and found this little (x-large actually) beauty.  100% cotton and the cutest stripe.  And I can cut the buttons off for my button jar.

My man's a bit rough to wear this, although I did hint he might look nice in it! 

So I vowed not to buy any new fabric in 2010, but this doesn't count right?  The only problem is, if I really examine the concept behind ethical consuming, reuse is all very well, but I'm still reusing a non-organic, unsustainably grown and processed shirt.  Urggh, sometimes it all makes my head hurt.  So I'm going to ignore that thought for a while and just be happy that I found a nice piece of cotton fabric for cheap for my stash and saved it from being chucked in a landfill and supported a local charity, all at once.

I also found more 1 litre Agee jars (heavy preserving jars) to add to my collection and a medium sized ceramic casserole dish, complete with glass lid.  It'll replace the one that my darling hubby broke last week.  And a bag of lemons.  I feel a lemon meringue pie coming on.

Do you have days like that at Op Shops?  Where you walk in and come out loaded, even when there was nothing on your list? 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Finally something quilty (ish).

Look closer - there is a castle there I tell you!
I'm still working away on my son's quilt for his birthday (in 3 weeks - work harder!!).  But because I was a dope conscientious quilter and decided not to buy any new fabric in 2010, I was in a pickle.  One castle to cut out and applique, no grey fabric big enough.  In fact barely any grey fabric at all.  Really, nothing that remotely resembled stone of any colour in my stash.

So, one toddler in bed for afternoon nap, what did I do but break out the fabric paints.  I've had these sun reactive paints since Symposium 2007, they were only slightly gunky ;)

I mixed up some grey (black and white, mostly white) added a touch of purple and pink to warm it up a little and then watered it down heaps.  I sprayed my fabric with water then sponged, splatted and sploshed my way to stonework bliss.

This is before (yes, big piece of white fabric, how handy, but it WAS in my stash, I promise)
And this is after - it looks grey, right?
So then, remembering that these were sun reactive paints, I went and pinned it down outside with a piece of wire netting over it, hoping to get a grid effect on the cloth.

Yes that IS a dog bone pinning it down, I was working fast, afternoon naps don't last that long.

And blow me down if it didn't work!   I was over the moon!  You can see the paler, unpatterned bit to the left where the netting didn't cover to and it was flapping round in the gentle breeze howling gale we've been having lately.

That could pass for stone couldn't it?  Those sun-reactive paints are pretty cool.  Especially when they still work after three years.  So then I heat set it with the iron and it's waiting to be washed before I use it.

Truly, this vow not to buy any new fabric is both an utter pain and a creative stimulus, I curse it and thank it all at the same time.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

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.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Blue Eggs.

The blue eggs are from my Araucana chickens.  Unfortunately they are a light breed and so the roosters aren't much good for eating, but I'm still contemplating keeping them as a breed because the eggs are just so pretty.

Specially for Laura.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Build me a shed and paint it red.

I need a shed!  A great, big shed! 

Hubby needs a shed.  A great, big shed.

And I think it's finally going to happen.  I won't bore you with long complicated details about delayed building consents, held-up certificate's of acceptance, dastardly neighbours and shed building companies in receivership (gosh, it took so long to type that, the whole story would have put you to sleep), but finally it seems like the shed might be built by the end of summer. 

Why do we need a shed so bad?

If I step out my back door, I look straight at a bunny cage.  Top tier has Fluffy and her ten babies, bottom tier has four-week-old chicks.  If I look to the right, the pet lamb is penned here at night.  In my laundry/bathroom is a brooder with another 17 chicks in it, these ones are four days old.  And the incubator with another 29 eggs in it.  Animals poop, and poop smells - no matter how often you clean them out!

I'm also sick of the junk.  I have a seriously dilapidated caravan out my front window.  It stores things like camping gear, surfboards, and home brew kegs.  It's not the nicest view and I want it gone (can you hear my foot stomping?).  And an ugly tarpaulin covered wood working machine (don't ask me what it does).  A tractor, a ride on lawn mower, tools, buckets....

My fugly bits - ugh.
Also, with the shed will come the veranda.  A five metre wide roof out the front of my house to give us shade in summer and rain protection in winter.  Very badly needed.  And of course, once that is built, then I can landscape under and around it.

Please, please - I have been very patient, but I WANT MY SHED!!!!!!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

We spent most of the day today down in our bush gully hiding from the howling gale that was trying to blow our house away.  It is so sheltered down there that when the sun was out, the kids were getting too hot for shirts.

Hubby went exploring last time he was down there and found a flattish spot near the boundary of our property.  It was were a slip came down a couple of years ago and has been colonised by Tobacco weed (don't know it's correct name, but it's horribly stinky - like diesel).  So we wanted to start clearing it off and we plan to use the spot for summer picnics.   A flat, grassy, sunny space, the rocky bottom stream just there, cool bush to retreat into if it gets too hot, and lots of trees to climb and nooks to explore for the kids.

After we had cut down a huge pile of weeds, we lit a little fire and cooked some fried toast for the kids.  And they loved it.  Nothing tastes as good as food cooked over an open fire - especially seasoned with hunger.

We found interesting fungi to look at and teach about poisonous things.  And we let a little jumping spider crawl over our hands.  The kids climbed and played and played and played.

Then they nicked off with the camera and took a hundred photos of interesting things; the sky, close-ups of hands and butts and pictures of the ground!

And we made nests and curled up for pretend naps. 

I'm hoping that days like these will form lasting memories for my kids. 

Friday, September 17, 2010

Mystery in the Vege Garden.

They are all so beautiful (if a little holey).  Jewels in the garden crown. 

So which one will I choose?  Whose life do I end today?

I feel like a murderer.  I'm stalking my victim.

Ahh, the knife slips in.  One good hack and it's all over.  No one will ever know it was me.


No one except the cat.

Don't forget who feeds you, Wild Puss!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

How to joint a rabbit (chopping up dead animals - vegetarians beware)

When I searched my recipe books for a 'how to' on jointing a rabbit I came up with a blank.  Similarly, I couldn't find much on the web.  So I thought I'd do my own little tutorial, photos included.  There is a recipe for my favourite rabbit stew at the end of this, so if you want, you can flick past the fleshy bits and get to the recipe at the end. 

Take your rabbit carcass and lay it on it's back.  Start on the hind legs.  Bend one backwards towards your chopping board until you are dislocating the hip joint.  Cut through the flesh (a good narrow sharp knife helps a lot) where the top of the leg joins the abdomen until you reach the joint.  Carefully cut through any last cartilage holding the joint together.

Then slice through the rest of the meat, heading down towards the tail (I'm not a professional butcher so forgive me it my meat looks a little hacked).  Do the same with the other hind leg. 

Then move onto the front legs.  Pull the leg away from the body and start slicing in the armpit area.  It will then separate and fold away from the body more like in the picture below (that's the other side leg from the last picture).

It will then slice off quite easily but you have to either slice through the itty bitty collar bone or find a joint and cut through that.  Do the same with the other side.  Then you are left with a legless body.

Cut through the flappy abdomen flesh heading back towards the spine and around the back of the lowest rib.  Once you reach the spine then bend the carcass in half backwards and dislocate the joints where you want to cut through and then carefully cut through.  If you can't work through a joint then get a big ol' blunt cleaver and just hack through.

Finito!  You have six nice joints instead of a carcass that resembles a boiled baby.  Much more aesthetically pleasing.  I practiced on chickens first and adapted the instructions I had for them (thanks Alison Holst!).

Onto the recipe.  My favourite rabbit stew.  (Those are nettles in the background NOT anything illegal!  I can post a recipe for nettle soup if you like.)

Chop an onion and fry gently in butter. Chuck into a slow cooker.  Season about half a cup of plain flour with salt and pepper and mixed herbs (dry or fresh, oregano, sage, rosemary etc).

Roll rabbit joints (I used two smaller rabbits) in the flour then brown them in butter.  Layer them into the slow cooker with sultanas that you've plumped up with boiling water.    Fry some chopped carrot and chuck that in the cooker too. 

Deglaze your pan with a good splash of your favourite dark beer.  Throw that and the rest of the beer (300 ml can of Double Brown worked for me) on top of everything else in the cooker and cook for about six hours.  I stirred it once 'cause I just can't resist!

Serve it up with homegrown broccoli and cauliflower and some spud and enjoy!  Yes, even the kids ate it.

Recipe adapted from my sister-in-law's NZ Country Women's Institute Cookery Book Reprint 1964 (she even scanned the recipe and the cover for me and emailed it to me but blogger won't upload that pic for me).

Edited to add:  This is a really good video of how to joint a rabbit that I've found since writing this

And I'll take pictures of the new lamb when it stands still!  (His name is Minty or Woolly depending who you talk to.)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Smuggling a noxious species into Australia.

Just a couple of little rabbity artist trading cards that took a wee trip on an aeroplane to Faye of fayesplace.  I think they'll be there by now so I'm posting these pics.

I know artist trading cards are meant to be cards not hanging ornaments, but I figure you can fold or snip off (gasp!) the hanging loop if you don't want it.  And if you do want to hang them on your Christmas tree, then you can!

These were lots of fun to create.  If you've never given a technique a go, then these 3 1/2 by 2 1/2 inch cards are the perfect size to have a little try.  I was practicing my free motion zig-zag.  That's what made the grass (you can click on the pic to have a closer look).


(and I'm off to pick up an orphan lamb!  I'm gonna be a lamb maaaama!)

Friday, September 10, 2010

Sustainable Quilting Update.

So I've found one (yes, ONE) New Zealand shop that will sell me organic woven cotton fabric for quilting.  Keep in mind that I'm searching on-line because I live in a rural area with limited shopping options.

They kindly sent me swatches so I could check weights and the feel of the fabric and see the colours first hand.

But as you can see, the range is somewhat limited.  And only three fabrics with any pattern at all, and not really my kind of patterns (maybe the stripe).  But the price is really reasonable at $14 - $16 per metre (don't know if GST is included in that).  For those of you overseas, in NZ we pay around $15-$20 per metre for quilting cottons in large department style fabric stores, $25-$30 per metre in quilting stores and up to $35 for a designer label.  Of course you can always get them on sale if you're prepared to wait!

I like these together.  I could see some sort of Amish design. 

I've emailed Grandmother's Garden, one of the 'big' little exclusively quilting stores in NZ to ask for their thoughts on carrying an organic line of fabrics (and I told them WHY they should be carrying these kinds of fabrics)  - no reply as of yet.

And I've found a wholesaler who does stretch organic cottons and will hopefully be adding a line of wovens in 3-6 months. 

So not much yet.  Maybe I'll just have to start importing fabrics myself.  Would anyone buy them?  Is there a market for them besides myself?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Work in Progress Wednesday

My mother-in-law's quilt.  Almost done. (You can see the completed top here.)

Ahh, the ugly duckling phase.  It's all quilted but there are threads hanging off it every which way that I have to tie off and bury and there is fluff everywhere from the cotton batting.  (I could have cropped out the mess in the background, but hey, what's another sword or two?!)

The backing was also another challenge in my 'not buying any new fabric in 2010' journey.  I didn't have any large pieces in the right colours so I had to piece one.  A nifty trick to centre the backing and the top when you are basting is to tape a cross of matchsticks or kebab sticks to your basting surface, then you can feel them through the layers to make sure you are all lined up.

I marked a big swirling pattern on the back in chalk and quilted it from the back. 

Just the binding and labelling to go! 

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Flea Market Finds

Okay, so we're kiwis here and it's more of an op shop find.

The hard work that someone put into all that stitching!  It's about the size of a placemat and I'm thinking it would make a very cute bag.  I had a look for pieces of fabric (research only!) but there were only nasty polyesters and some really, really ugly nylons.  So my plan to make quilts out of only thrifted materials is not really a goer.  I'll carry on looking though, you never know what you might these!

What funky cutlery!!  There were only a few pieces, but I thought they would make great additions to my camping cutlery box - too distinctive to get mixed up with the mother-in-laws.  But my kids dived on them with glee and have been using the 'pretty forks' for every meal since I brought them home.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Looking forward to Summer.

I had a busy weekend with a fabric painting workshop on Saturday (lots of fun, click here for my other blog to see pics 'cause that'll save me from downloading them here too) and then Father's Day on Sunday.  We spent the day out on the launch just for a bit of fun.

We didn't fish and Hubby chickened out of a scallop dive - too cold he said!  So we just lounged around on Roberton Island beach for a while.  The kids played trolls and sneaked up on seagulls.  Then the wind got up a bit earlier than we thought it would, so me motored off home. 

Spring has sprung and for me, yesterday was the first taste of Summer on the way too.

I love how a life jacket has a built in sword holder!
We are planning another summer camping trip over Christmas.  In the same place we camped last year and hopefully with many of the same people.  Except we'll have a few extras too.  Namely my next eldest sister and her partner, and my littlest brother!  All will be travelling from Australia and I haven't seen them for several years so I'm more than a little excited!!!  Then we'll also have my next youngest brother and his wife and my youngest nephew.  I can't wait for Summer!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Tentative steps.

Last night I read Julie's (from Towards Sustainability) parting post.  It made an impact.  She talked about how she loses readers every time she blogs about the hard issues - peak oil and the like.  She is saddened by it and wonders why.

I think I know a little bit of why.  Because I'm one of the guilty ones.  I'm guilty of ignoring those hard issues and hoping they will go away.  Also, blogging is a little bit of escapism for me.  In the evening, when the kids are in bed, I can zoom around the world learning interesting and useful things, looking at beautiful work and peeking into other's lives.  After a hard day's work, the last thing I want to do is be scared, depressed and overwhelmed by reading about global warming and the oil crisis.  But can I really afford to be so ostrich-like?

From Julie's blog, I jumped to Causabon's Book and I watched this clip.  Go watch it for a little humorous but serious de-ostriching.

One big reason I know I've been ignoring the issues lately is quilting....

Quilting.  My obsession, my love, my sanity, my work (maybe one day).  Quilting is not generally an environmentally friendly hobby.  It has it's roots in thrift and recycling, but not any more.  The vast majority of quilters, me included, buy new fabric to add to our stashes whenever we can.  And our preferred fabric is cotton. 

Cotton growers traditionally use a hideous amount of synthetic fertilisers, insecticides and herbicides to grow their crop.  And when it is grown in a developing country, like India, safety practices with these chemicals can be severely lacking, leading to human poisoning.  Then, of course, is the genetic modification issue - another thorny one.  If you want to read some more scary facts, click here for Organic Trade Association's Summary of Cotton and the Environment.  Shall we talk about dyes?  Let's not, we might all end up naked for fear of poisoning ourselves.

If I acknowledge that we have a real environmental crisis on our hands and that I really need to keep making changes in my life, then I can't go on blissfully ignoring my quilting and fabric addiction.  My conscience just won't let me.

So where does that leave me?  I've had a little look around in the past and organic fabric is not readily available and is very expensive in New Zealand.  I could source only thrift store fabrics fabrics and cut up old clothes etc, but that limits me with colours and patterns.  I could try dying my own colours with vegetable dyes, but I know they are not that stable.  All my immediate options that spring to mind all have drawbacks that makes me want to dismiss them.

Maybe this issue was a subconscious factor in my recent vow not to buy any more fabric this year.  I don't know.  But I do know that I can't really ignore the elephant in the room anymore.

I have made plenty of other steps in my life to live a little lighter on the land.  I compost.  I grow my own veges.  I raise my own meat and have chooks for scrap disposal and egg production.  I'm mindful of food miles and try and buy local and organic when I can.  I reduce, reuse and recycle.  I combine outings to save gas....the list goes on.

But fabric is what is niggling in the back of my mind every time I quilt.  And I don't want to feel guilty and sad about my most favourite past time. 

So it is with some trepidation and some excitement that I'm going to take some steps  in what I hope will be a journey towards more sustainable quilting.  I am going to seriously investigate organic fabric supplies and eco-dying.  I am going to add fabric to my shopping list when I visit thrift stores and I am going to restrain myself from buying new fabrics 'just because'.  And I'm going to regularly post about what I've learnt and where I'm going on my little journey.

I'm going to stick to my pledge not to buy any new fabric this year, however I'm not going to turn my back entirely on commercial fabrics.  Quilting is my art as well and I don't want to stifle myself so much that I begrudge the whole journey.

What a challenge!  Environmentally friendly, sustainable and, hopefully, beautiful quilts!

Wish me luck!