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!

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.

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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.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

100 Days Project 2017

The 22 May was the first day of the NZ 100 Days Project.  Except it's not just NZ, there are plenty of people from around the world taking part too.  I did it last year and I'm doing it again.  This time with a side-kick, my own built-in accountability partner, my daughter.

We're both working on the idea of paper cutting.  I'm inspired by Matisse mainly, and trying to explore whether I can find my 'voice' or my 'hand' in free-hand paper cutting using scissors.  You can read more about my motivations and how I decided on my project here.

Day One is always exciting.  Will my idea work?  Will it look ok?  Am I going to come to loathe this after 100 days...or after 20?

But so far, so good.

I had absolutely no idea what my scissors would cut, but I always do gravitate towards birds.  So it wasn't much surprise when my finished work looked like this:

Day One was a beautiful day, sitting in the sun with my daughter, discovering with paper and scissors.  It was quick and easy because I'd set myself up for success.  Having a project that is quite specific helps (less choices to make), having a set size (I've decided to use sketchbook pages as my base), and having all the tools I need in one place (we've made a pack with card, scissors, zip-lock bags for small leftovers, storage for finished words and a glue stick) all contributed.  Day Two?  Well, that's today, so we'll see!

If you want to follow along with us, my project is:
My daughter's project is:

I'll also post now and again to Instagram, you can find my feed by clicking on the Instagram icon at the top left of this page.

Monday, May 22, 2017

The NZ Quilt Show - Interview with Diane Anderson

Diane Anderson is a New Zealand quilter who lives in beautiful Bream Bay, north of Auckland.  I first met Diane in person at a workshop with Jeanette DeNicolis Meyer and instantly warmed to her friendly, calm demeanour.   Diane is also a sought-after marriage celebrant, keen gardener, and likes to hike with friends in her spare time.  Diane is a mother of two children, a beloved retriever called Stella and a cat called Lola.  She will celebrate 40 years of marriage to Terry this year.

Diane specialises in hand work, including hand appliqué and Amish style hand-quilting.  I had a great chat with Diane about where she learnt her style of quilting, about her thoughts on keeping the skill and art alive and her top tips and ideas for learning and enjoying hand-quilting.

We talk about tools such as the long frames that Diane likes to use, and her favourite thimble, which is a Roxanne Thimble.  She also likes Roxanne needles for quilting and hand appliqué.  Diane recommends YLI thread for quilting and silk thread for hand appliqué.

Diane has travelled extensively, and it was on one of her travels to Houston, US, that she learnt the Amish influenced way she hand-quilts with Ester Miller.  She also loves antique quilts and owns two that she bought in the US and one she found in NZ.

Above is Lola the cat on one of Diane's beautiful antique quilts.

Diane only quilts for family and very close friends.  The amount of time she puts into each quilt means that she very rarely exhibits them and she confesses to often forgetting to photograph them too!  The quilt below is Diane's adaption of a Becky Goldsmith pattern that she made for her friend's 70th birthday.

Diane lists her influences as Gwen Marston, Pepper Cory, Barbara Chainey, Karen K Stone, Becky Goldsmith, Linda Seward, Jeanette DeNicolis Meyer and Mary Schaefer.

Diane can be reached through her celebrant site:

The sponsor for this episode is Carol’s Quilts.  Visit for innovative quilting templates and rulers.  I personally love Carol’s squares to triangles tool, which has helped me streamline my process for making ½ square triangles.  Thanks heaps Carol for supporting The New Zealand Quilt Show.

And if you would like to sponsor an episode of The New Zealand Quilt Show, email me now for details at

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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

My Quilt Cutting Station

I've been in my new quilting studio for about six months now and I finally feel like I'm getting some order to the chaos.

When I first moved in I immediately set up my Sew-ezi sewing machine table and the two trestles I use and got to work.  Then everything else moved in around me, clutter happened and chaos began.

As we are using it as storage for furniture that can't go on the boat, it filled up pretty quickly and I've been sorting and shifting things around ever since.  The flat has two poles in the main room, which really annoy me effect the possible furniture configurations (see here for photos of the empty studio).

But I think I've finally sorted out a layout that is working.   I can see it staying this way for a little while and today I'm going to show you my cutting station part of the set up.

We don't have Ikea in NZ so there was no melding together several kitset units or anything fancy.  In my art gallery/studio I had a display table made of an old boat door, painted white and laid across two  huge chunky bits of wood.  So I set it up in my new studio as my cutting station, but it was too low.

I had a brainwave (probably from seeing all those cutting stations set up on the top of Ikea drawer units) to use a couple of old sets of drawers that I was already using for notions and paint etc.  It makes it quite tall, almost 98 cm, but a good height for me at 168 cm tall, especially if I wear shoes!  I also slipped another desk unit underneath for extra storage.  That consolidated some of the furniture that was taking up valuable floor space in my studio too, an added bonus.

*Hey Dad?  Recognise that drawer unit?!  It's one you made - was it the old telephone desk when we were kids?*

The table top is slightly wider at one end than the other, which is why I have the end unit below turned around and facing out - it gives the table better support.

I have my cutting mat on top at one end, and it's a really sunny spot (as you can see by the difficult photography), so when I leave I always shut the curtains so I don't get a warped cutting mat or faded fabrics if I leave them out.

I've put some 3M hooks on the other end unit for my most used rulers and my large rotary cutter.

I use the top of the table for holding all the necessary junk that collects when I'm cutting a quilt - patterns and notes, fabrics, pins, pencil case - it can become a bit of a mountain of junk but I cleaned it up specially to take photos!

The chunky bits of wood went outside onto the deck.  They were all natural to begin with so a bit of weathering won't hurt them if I want to use them again.  And I think I'll add some more 3M hooks to the other side of the smaller end unit for a few more rulers, a tape measure and my scissors.  I'm always doing the 'scissor pat', you know - when you pat down the fabric laying all over the table to find your scissors?

Yes, I'd love for it to be bigger.  I'd love to have two cutting mats end to end.  I'd love to have a table that I could adjust the height of with the push of a button.  But until I win Lotto, this is working well.  And heck, it's better than using the dining room table!

What's your cutting station like?

Sunday, May 14, 2017

The NZ Quilt Show - Interview with Clare Smith

Clare Smith is a textile artist living and working in Tawa, a suburb of the capital city, Wellington.  Clare began teaching adult education classes in surface design, applique and Japanese bookmaking at the beginning of 1998, and has now taught at many NZ quilt symposiums, all over New Zealand and internationally including the UK and South Africa.  Clare is a talented fabric dyer, including the art of indigo dyeing, she is also widely skilled in other facets of textile arts including machine quilting, applique, pojagi, sashiko, costume design, and pretty much anything else she turns her hand to.

This is the link to Through Our Hands, which is an online magazine based in the UK that Clare is affiliated with

The above photograph is Clare's piece called 'Bitter Harvest', which we discuss in the interview.  We also talk about Clare's skills and interest in boro, sashiko, pojagi and costume design.  Clare recently made seagull costumes and showed these on her blog for our amusement!

Clare's steampunk sparrow quilt (below) was accepted into the Aotearoa Quilters's travelling exhibition called Flight.

You can find Clare at

and here at her blog

These are the other textile art links that we talked about too:

Thanks for chatting with me Clare!

This episode was sponsored by Kerry Glen of Tulis Textiles.  Visit Tulis Textiles for high quality batik fabrics, surface design tools and supplies, speciality rulers and great customer service!  Kerry also has a Breast Cancer Foundation donation project running at the moment, where she is donating a portion of every 15 degree squedge tool purchased to the foundation to honour her sister and her friend and all other women who have been affected by this disease.  Click here to see the quilt made with the free pattern and to purchase the tool.