Sunday, August 31, 2008

The spring is sprung....

A couple of my spring poppies, which are in pots onmy deck.
Like a mother watching her child....
This is a New Zealand native tree, the lovely kowhai (Sophora microphylla) which is our national flower. This small leaved variety is perfect for city gardens. (Read more here if you're interested). It attracts native birds who feed off the nectar in the flowers. We don't get many tui or bellbirds where I live, so the birds I usually see are these - this article (obviously written by an Australian) calls them silver eyes, but they are normally referred to in New Zealand as white eyes.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Art Trail

Today, as part of our celebration of having moved here 12 months ago, my friend Bronwen (who paints in her spare time) and I went on the local Art Trail. We met some very interesting people, and at the last house we visited, we saw some beautiful art by Domingo, an American artist. The owners of the property had about a dozen of his works, which appealed to me with their colours. Here are some examples that I've found on his website to give you an idea:

A few of Domingo's works are abstracts, like this, but mainly he paints women, like this one :

..and also horses.
I love his use of colour! If you want to see more of his work, his website is

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Others at the show

I'm a sucker for the Tumbling Blocks design, as I love geometric patterns. This one is by Rosemary Walmsley.
This quilt by Trish Strange was my Judges' Choice - I am drawn to very simple designs and great use of colour.
Wallhanging by Denise McDonnell.
Another Judges' Choice, made by Joy Judd.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Some Quilt Show prizewinners

Best In Show - Judith Ross.
Merit Award - Judith Ross
Merit Award - Lyn Winter. You may need to click on this to see the quilted design as it's very subtle.
Merit Award - Gilli Scott.

The next 2 quilts were part of the guild challenge - "blue and green should not together be seen"
Winner - Judith Ross
Second Place - Sally Martin.

More tomorrow.

Just call me Ma'am

The Canterbury Patchwork and Quilting Guild invited me to be one of the judges of their annual exhibition following my talk to them a few months ago. Clearly, they were desperate to make up the numbers.

Yesterday, I turned up for duty at the Horticultural hall in Christchurch, along with my fellow judges. One was the guest exhibitor, Helen Marshall, a quilter of considerable repute and experience; and the other was Mandy Adams, a local quilter with a background in making dolls and bears.

The show opens to the public today, so I won't post photos of the winning quilts yet. in the meantime, here are a couple of general shots of the hall. You can see how well lit and well laid out it is.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Kiwiquilters Challenge - from the archives

I run a quilting email list for NZ quilters called Kiwiquilters. It'll be 10 years this coming January since I started it, and there are now over 500 members. In the early days, there were far fewer of us, and I ran a couple of Challenges. This involved buying some really, really difficult fabric, and each participant received a fat quarter of it. They then had to produce a quilt that was A3 size or less. Below are the entries in the second challenge: "Time Dances On" by Lynda Brocklehurst; "This Challenge For Pisces Hangs In The Balance" by Avril Friend; "Spirals" by Brenda Webber.
"Ouroboros" by Julia Hall; "Magical Mister Mistoffelees" by Pauline Peters; unnamed by Desi van Zijl; "Imagination" by Ruth Blanchett.
"The Ship Drove Fast, Loud Roared The Blast, And Southward Aye We Fled from The Rime of The Ancient Mariner" by Beryl Elliott; "Stars In Mourning" by Clare Crosswell; "Bursts of Starlight" by Derryn Gargiulo.
"Out of Africa" by Roz Porter; "Angel Jade" by Debbie Pettinger; "The Heavens are Telling" by Maughan Davison; "Future Directions" by Lynette Bensdorp.
"Straight On Til Morning" by Debbie Swiatek; "Show Me The Way To Go Home, I'm Tired..." by Jenny Redmond; and unnamed by Jackie Geary.

Prizes were awarded in categories like "Most Interesting Quilting Design", "Best Quilt using Lots of Colours" and so on, so that even beginner quilters could compete against more experienced ones and win prizes.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Captivated by a design

Still on the Olympics theme, above is the Silver Fern logo that our New Zealand athletes are wearing to Beijing - which I just love as a design. The Silver Fern (Cyathea dealbata ), know here as the ponga (or punga), is a tree fern that grows all over New Zealand, and is our native emblem. I'm not sure who designed this stylized version but I think it's great. It's making me want to use this as a basis for a design.......

Sunday, August 17, 2008

And the gold (and silver and bronze)medal goes to...

Fortunately, some of them have gone to our athletes at last. It seems to take about a week before we get on the medal board. Well done, Valerie Vili (shotput) and the Evers-Swindell twins (rowing) and also to our silver medal cyclist and bronze medal rowers. A special mention goes to Mahe Drysdale, who managed to win bronze despite having a stomach bug all week, and requiring medical attention after the race.

I've been having a bit of a marathon myself this week, in the form of my shrug.It's kni all in one, with a sleeve (opened out), the fronts at the bottom of the photo (curving around to the back of the neck), and the curved back at the top. Currently, I'm coming down sleeve 2. I've dyed some ordinary wool to knit the ribbing that will go all around the fronts and back. I may finish the body of this tonight as I watch some more Olympics.
Soon it'll be spring, my favourite season. I've started growing seeds in my living room - because it's warm and sunny.
These cucumbers were sown just 7 days ago.
And here is Sophie's friend Deney (pronounced Dih-nay). You don't want to mess with Deney, as she's an Oceania judo champion. The girls have been staying with me (when not partying with their friends in the city) since Wednesday, and are flying out tomorrow morning. Sophie refused to be photographed. They are both working on their studies while here.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The morning after and some dye porn

While I was on a roll, I decide to dye some of the bouclé wool in Sapphire Blue. I have this earmarked for a simple shrug. Interestingly, there is considerable difference in the depth of colour that has resulted although I used the dye at full strength. I'm not concerned about it, it makes it more interesting than a plain flat colour.
Today is beautiful. Here's the foothills of the Southern Alps that I can see from upstairs.
This is the fingering wool I dyed yesterday. The bits that didn't dye properly have just added a bit of colour difference to the mix. The wool was quite old and had been in its hanks for a lonnnnngggg time so it all stuck together. Normally this wouldn't happen with hanks that you wind yourself. I'm pleased with the result, but spent hours last night winding some of the first hank into balls as I watched our Olympic rowers do exceptionally well in their heats, with most coming first.
I've been waiting more than 10 days to get this book, which only had to come from the North Island. I could have got it faster from Amazon. I am just drooling over what's in it. Yes, this is the dye porn.....

India Flint, who is an Australian, has been doing some wonderful dyeing with plants.
Wonderful stuff...and she has a great name too! Perhaps I should change mine? How about China Goodwin?

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Wool dyeing - a mini tutorial in photos

I invited my friend Jill over to have a wool dyeing session. She hasn't done this before, so we photographed it for our blogs. Starting with a ghastly photo of me mixing the dyes. I'm using about 1/4 teaspoon of dye powder to a plastic cup of hot water, with a slosh (that's a technical dyeing term, you understand) of white vinegar as the fixative. We are in my kitchen, hence all the pot plants.
Jill had some lovely softly felted merino wool that she wanted to dye. We soaked it briefly in warm water and detergent. This allows the dye to penetrate more easily - it's very hard to hand paint dry wool.
The hanks were gently squeezed, then laid out on a towel to drain for a few minutes while we organised everything.
The skeins are then laid out on plastic wrap, and the dye is painted on with foam brushes. Jill is using Salmon, Cherry Red, Golden Yellow and Rose Pink. She's not sure if she likes the result. You can see some more photos on Jill's blog.
After all the dye is on, the hanks are wrapped up and put in the microwave. I have a dye microwave especially for this purpose. These hanks are around 100 grams so get zapped for 3 minutes, then rested for 2 minutes, then zapped for a further 3 minutes. Smaller hanks only get 2 minutes each time.
I bought 2 hanks of grey fingering wool for $2 each at the Salvation Army store. I decided to use a dark mix of Cherry Red (shown here) and Sangria which is a very deep brownish-red. I found it hard to get the colour right through the hanks so there'll still be some grey in it. These are drying by the fire and I'll post a photo of them when they're dry.
I also test dyed a ball of 80% wool 20% nylon bouclé yarn that I bought for $1.97 at The Warehouse (the NZ equivalent of Wal Mart) just to see how it would take the dye. I mixed a bit of Terracotta into Lemon Drop and came up with this.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Winter reading

It is, of course, the middle of winter here in New Zealand. Although the days are noticeably longer now that the shortest day has passed, we've still got quite a bit of cold weather ahead of us. September is spring, but where I now live, there can still be frosts in October and even early November.

These are the 3 latest knitting books I've acquired, and you can see I'm focusing on technique. While I started knitting many years ago, I've seldom knitted for myself until last year when my interest in wool and knitting revived. I've discovered that I really knew very little, so some reference books were called for.
While I know quite a lot about dyeing, I haven't dabbled in natural dyes before. A friend kindly gave me some madder, cochineal and logwood which I've sat and looked at for a few months. I have always steered away from plant dyes because of the need for heavy metal mordants (setting agents). Then I read an article in an Australian magazine about a woman who did wonderful dyeing (on mainly wool) using plants and no mordants. Her stuff was wonderful, and I'll show you the book when I get it next week. In the meantime, I bought the above books, again as reference. They're a mix of the traditional recipes and factual information, and the mainly photographic.

Which leads me to my latest interest - the no-dig garden. I am a great fan of gardening, and love my trees and flowers. Lately I've become very interested in the concept of growing all my own fruit and vegetables (you know, like our ancestors used to?) for health reasons. I'm reading these books:

Verrrrrrrrrrrrry thought provoking! I'm also reading this book by Barbara Kingsolver (don't you love that name?), author of "The Poisonwood Bible" (which I didn't like) which is about the year she and her family spent raising all their own food:
And you can see that I don't just sit around and read about, I've been out buying heirloom and organic vegetable seeds in preparation for MY foray into self-sufficiency.

I've also ordered the timber to make 3 no-dig gardens; bought most of the ingredients for the mix to go in them; bought a kitset greenhouse to start my seedlings off in and to grow tender plants (not erected yet due to aforementioned wet weather); and also bought a raised garden for crops that need more depth than the wee no-dig gardens provide. The no-digs are sited on top of existing ground with weedmat underneath, and as they're only 6 inches high, they're not suitable for carrots, parsnips etc. I'll also grow flowering plants in the raised garden, to use for dyeing.

Incidentally, I read extensively and as a result I can speed read, if you're wondering how I get the time to read all this stuff!

Lastly, here's the first of my little Australian orchids to flower - this one has been living indoors. The outside ones will flower later.