Welcome to tales of my stitching life, home, family and friends.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Finishing off the Christmas Baking

There are lovely homely baking smells in the kitchen – I’ve been busy lately.   I made a Christmas Cake a few weeks ago, and it is all packed away ready to go on holiday with us.   My Christmas Pudding has been bubbling away and looks and smells so nice.  This is my Carrot Plum Pudding recipe which I made when the kids were younger – without mentioning the carrots of course!  It is so nice and rich, with lots of fruit.  Just because we celebrate Christmas in the Summer season down here in New Zealand doesn’t mean we still don’t enjoy a a nice stodgy Christmas Pudding served with custard and whipped cream!   I’ll also be serving up a boysenberry trifle on the big day too as a lighter alternative.  We will probably have a bit of both.

PC160042 Christmas Pudding – all done

Christmas is all about tradition – and one of our family traditions is to have croissants with freshly cut ham off the bone and cheese for breakfast.  These get popped into the oven for a wee while to heat through, and are a delicious way to start Christmas Day.  Another tradition is to cook up a batch of decadent Chocolate Cherry Slice, which I did today.  With a layer of melted chocolate on the base, and a delicious topping combining (amongst other things) coconut and chopped glace cherries, it is simply divine.  It gets sprinkled with icing sugar when it cools down, and cut into squares, yummy.

PC210035 Chocolate Cherry Slice

I’ve also made a Carrot Cake for Robin’s Mum’s birthday today, and will be mixing up some cream cheese icing for it shortly.  Sadly, I don’t think that she will be trying any, as she is in hospital and not at all well.  But Robin’s siblings are getting together tomorrow to welcome their sister home from overseas so I’m sure they will appreciate a taste or two.

So that is all the Christmas baking done, thank goodness.  Of course, there will still be a bit of food prep to do later on, salads to make and another tradition – chicken and bacon roll-ups to prepare.  We cook these on the BBQ for Christmas lunch, and make lots, because they are just as tasty served cold in a salad or sandwich over the next day or two.  The baking is not quite finished – I’m cooking a homemade chicken pie for dinner tonight.  That smells good too, and it’s almost time to eat!

Hope everyone is getting through their own lists of “things to do before Christmas”.  It can get quite overwhelming at this time of year, so we need to pace ourselves, and try not to get stressed.

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Art of Patience

Good things come to those who wait and I’ve been waiting, and waiting, ever so patiently.    To be perfectly truthful, there has been the occasional “when are you going to get around to it?” comment to my other half.  And at long last –  I now have a hanging rod installed in the sitting room for whatever quilt I wish to hang.  It’s just as well the job wasn’t done earlier, as it happens.  After rearranging the furniture a while ago it would have ended up on the wrong wall.  But all’s well that ends well, and I finally have a (largish) quilt on show, hung on the wall over one of the couches.  It’s just in time for Christmas too.

I’ve shown it before, but not in this, our new home.  Here is my version of “All the Love of Christmas”, designed by Bronwyn Hayes, which I completed in 2007.  I altered some of the design elements as I preferred them to all be facing the right way up, and not going around the quilt as the original design showed.  This is a mixture of stitchery blocks, applique, machine piecing, and both hand and machine quilting, and I really enjoyed working on it.

PC190001 All the Love of Christmas hanging on the wall

PC190006Detail of one of the stitched blocks

Robin and I attended a Pot Luck Lunch with the Cancer Society Volunteers today – Robin is one of the volunteer drivers who take patients to and from the hospital at Palmerston North for treatment and appointments.  My quilt club, Town and Country Quilters, loans a variety of wall hangings to brighten up the local Cancer Society rooms, Winchester House.  Helen, one of the Sew Wot ladies,  has taken  responsibility for this task lately, and as a thank-you, both Helen and our President Sandra were invited along to share in the lunch.  It was lovely to see them both there, and as you can imagine, the talk changed to quilting matters for a while.

PC190009 Quilt Club President Sandra with Helen in front of Helen’s Christmas quilt

I attend the ladies Coffee Club mornings at Winchester House (when I can) so always like to check and admire the current quilt hanging up.  Helen’s work is lovely and always a treat to see and admire.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Home Grown Christmas Decorations

After a glimpse of some of my international Christmas treasures, I’ll show you some of my Kiwi decorations.  My daughter Nicky doesn’t do quilting, but in her younger years liked to try different crafts before moving on to the next one.  She made me this cute Crazy Patch Christmas Tree with ribbon tied gift boxes wall-hanging many years ago.  It fits in nicely on the wall by the front door in our sitting room.

PC150024 Crazy Patch Christmas Tree

The rest on show were all made by me over the years.  Unlike my daughter, I haven’t had nearly enough of P&Q yet.  There are so many more things to make, going by my UFO collection and wish list!   On the coffee table is one of my really early Christmas quilts with a snow globe on top.  In fact I’m rather proud of my early attempt of log cabin blocks.  I spotted a version of this hanging up somewhere or other and decided “I can make that”, went home and got started.  Christmas Log Cabin was made back in 1992.  The red has faded over the years, the quilting is minimal, but I still enjoy getting it out each year.

PC150035Christmas Log Cabin

I enjoyed hand stitching my little Christmassy swag some years ago, and it is currently hanging off the CD rack.  I used to attend a monthly friendship stitching group and this was one of the designs we were offered – there was no pressure to make each item, the choice was ours.  As I enjoy doing stitcheries, I was rather keen to do this simple little design.   Sadly, I didn’t label it so I’m not sure of the date. Presumably the pattern was printed in one of the Aussie craft magazines – if anyone can tell me the name of the pattern and designer I would like to know please as I am slowly trying to document my early work.

PC150027 Christmas Swag

The design for my Burgundy Pedestal Santa was published in Homespun magazine and was completed in 2010 in time for Christmas.  This Santa doesn’t have any legs, just a solid squat body underneath his coat.  The original Santa was clothed in blue denim, but that wouldn’t do for me - not nearly Christmassy enough!  I made his outfit from a burgundy check jacket I purchased from the Op Shop.  Here he is standing guard in front of the dresser. 

PC150036  Burgundy Pedestal Santa

And yet another Santa completed the same year.  Jingle Bells Santa was purchased as a kit and was designed by Judy Golder of Simply Country Crafts.  I had made his body quite some time before he was finally decently clothed in his felt jacket and toning cotton trousers, and a bell on his hat, fetchingly finished off with white bobbles.  He has a loop stitched to the back of his neck and is currently hanging about on top of our Milford Track walking stick.

PC150037 Jingle Bells Santa

My Tree of Christmas Cheer was designed by Ami Downs and completed in 2011.  I deviated from the suggested design of a pieced tree using multiple fabrics, and decided my tree just had to be green with a touch of gold!  With the naive stitchery in front, and finished with a yellow star button, this was a fun and easy make
PC150034 Tree of Christmas Cheer

And here is Muffy doing what she does best, curled up fast asleep.  Folded on the back of the  couch is Christmas Stars from Around the World, which was finally completed after a long hiatus last  year.  This quilt  is full of memories and is  very dear to me as I have used Christmas fabrics sent to me by my overseas pen friends over the years.

PC060004Muffy under Christmas Stars from Around the World

I am still patiently waiting for a hanging rod to be installed in both the sitting room and my sewing room, then I can hang a couple of larger quilts up.  It just might be happening any day now – I’ll be sure to let you know.

Monday, December 15, 2014

It's a little bit International

Our new home is delightful, well insulated and cosy, but when it comes to hanging things on the wall, I have to admit that there is a lot less wall space to play with.  I have not been able to hang up all of my Christmas things, so guess I will have to bring some of them out on rotation every couple of years.  I have some of my overseas items on show this year, sent to me over the years by my lovely quilting pen friends – would you like to see them?  Apologies to long term readers if you have seen them before.

This pretty little quilt “Christmas Baubles”,  was sent to me by Diane in 2009.  Diane lives in Oregon, USA, and we have been fortunate to have met up with her twice, once when she travelled out here to New Zealand, and later on we went to stay with her for a week when she lived in Alaska.

PC150023 Christmas Baubles

“Robin Redbreast” comes from the New Forest area of England, and the Christmas lights flash over it in the evenings.  My pen friend Rose made this for me in 2002, and I love it, all those little Robins amongst the trees.  We have been very lucky to have taken two extended trips to the UK, and have met up with Rose both times.

PC150026Robin Redbreast

My pen friend Janet from South Australia sent me a pretty little Christmas wall-hanging made with yo yos, and beautifully decorated with stars and tiny beads for my birthday last year.  It is currently hanging in the hall way over the Christmas season.  I haven’t had the chance to meet up with Janet so far, perhaps one day.

PC150028 Yo-yo Christmas tree

As well as wall-hangings, I have been very lucky to receive several exciting international Christmas parcels over the years.  I have been corresponding with Carol from South Dakota for quite some time now and she has sent me some lovely gifts over the years.  “A Stitch in Time”  shows Santa getting ready for his night of travels, doing some sewing repairs to his Santa hat.   His grey tabby cat is curled up fast asleep in the sewing basket on top of fabric and threads.

PC150033 A Stitch in Time

And two more from Carol.  I received the cute little “Jim Shore”  snowman with his broom in 2004, and the larger snowman ringing his bell came out in 2003.  They are both gorgeous, aren’t they?  I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Carol yet, but who knows, perhaps one day.

PC150032 Two little snowmen

I have met my pen friend Gail, who hails from Ontario, Canada, about 5 years ago.  We were on a bus tour to Niagara Falls, and we were thrilled when Gail and her husband drove up to meet us.  I remember her saying it was no trouble at all, people are used to driving long distances in Canada!  Gail’s daughter Natalie helped choose this, my other wonderful “Jim Shore”  piece of a teddy riding a polar bear on top of a globe of the world.

PC150031 Peace on Earth

I treasure each and every one of these beautiful pieces I have received over the years, and love receiving letters from my pen friends.  There is nothing quite like a “real” letter, is there?

So that is a few of my international items – I’ll show you some of my own creations which are currently out of their crate for Christmas tomorrow. 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Meeting up with a Beefeater

I’m almost an official member of the Ladies Probus, after attending three meetings, so I was more than welcome to attend the Christmas Lunch celebrations.  (I understand that I will be officially inducted at the first meeting in the New Year).  We had a short meeting, and our speaker was former Beefeater, Patrick Nolan.  He kept us entertained as he told us told us how a colonial boy from Marton became a Beefeater in the Tower of London.  Patrick joined the army at the tender age of 15, and had a long career, serving in Vietman and other overseas postings.  On a trip to the UK, Patrick and his wife took a tour around the Tower of London.  Listening the the Beefeater talk to his tour group, Patrick decided that was the job for him.  Some years later after a lot of correspondence to and fro, he was accepted as a probationer, buddied with a mentor, and the intensive training started.

PC110030 Mixing and mingling with the ladies

The Yeomen Warders of Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress the Tower of London, and Members of the Sovereign's Body Guard of the Yeoman Guard Extraordinary, popularly known as the Beefeaters, are ceremonial guardians of the Tower of London. In principle they are responsible for looking after any prisoners in the Tower and safeguarding the British crown jewels, but in practice they act as tour guides and are a tourist attraction in their own right, working 7 days on and 2 days off.  The very first yeoman was appointed way back on 15th August 1100. 

After completing his training and learning the stories word for word, Patrick was finally ready to be let loose on the paying public.  He was sworn in at St James Palace, becoming Yeoman number 351, and worked for 16 years on the job.

The beautiful ceremonial  red State Dress uniform is worn on special occasions.  The embroidery was done at the Royal College of Needleworkers who use silk thread wrapped with 24 ct gold thread, and the outfit costs upwards of a whopping 13,000 pounds.  It is worn with red tights, red breeches, rosettes, a white pleated neck ruff, and topped with a black hat.

PC110025  The State Dress Tunic

PC110029 Embroidery details

I sweet talked Patrick into coming over to our table and having his photo taken with us.  In fact, he didn’t take too much persuading at all.

PC110032Dot, Patrick, Julie and Jenny

After all that excitement it was time to move into the restaurant for our lunch.  The tables were  beautifully decorated, and the food was great - hot ham, chicken and plenty of vegetables.  And for dessert there was a choice of pavlova and fruit salad, or Christmas pudding and custard.  I’m a Chrissie pudding sort of girl, so it was an easy choice for me.

PC110035 Time for lunch

A cup of coffee and a slice of Christmas cake later, we were full to the brim.  It was a very enjoyable day indeed.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Town and Country Quilters Christmas Club Night

It was an earlier start than usual for our last Town and Country Quilters club night of the year, as there was a lot happening.  First there was a presentation to Margaret of the Pink Ladies Support Group, who support local women diagnosed with breast cancer.  You may remember when we had a sewing night late last month stitching and stuffing lots of heart shaped cushions, (read about it here.)  About 70 of these pretty pink cushions have now been completed and our organiser Yvonne presented them to the Pink Ladies who will be distributing to patients in need.  The cushions are tucked under the arm to take pressure off tender areas after surgery, radiation  and chemo.

PC100010 A whole lot of pink heart cushions

After a few messages including an update on the upcoming Quilt Symposium, it was time for Show and Tell. ( I had taken my recently completed Memory Quilt along for Show and Tell, but it will have to be a secret on the blog until I have given it to my friend.)  Luchelle had made a Santa Advent Calendar which made everyone smile, especially with his extra long skinny legs.

PC100014  Advent Calendar

Another finish for Luchelle was this cute little quilt for her young grand-son.  He is sure to love all those mobile tortoises.

PC100011 For a little boy

Yvonne has been making 21st birthday quilts for each of her grand-children as they come of age.  This is the latest one for her grand-daughter, a very graphic design  featuring a tiger.  It comes with two matching tiger cushions too.

PC100013 21st Birthday quilt

Members had been asked to bring in something for the Food Bank to help those in need.  There was a good assortment of tins and packets for the committee to drop off with the good wishes of our club members.

PC100020 For the Food Bank

There was an extra festive flavour to the supper room.  The tables were decorated and we were entertained by the Treetop Flyers, a musical duo made up of Kevin Watson on guitar, bass, banjo, harmonica and vocals, and Gill Allen on acoustic guitar and vocals.  Sadly, there was too much chatter going on in the supper room which rather drowned out the lovely music, it would have been better if the duo had performed on stage in the hall, I felt. 

PC100017 Treetop Flyers

There was supper galore as everyone had taken a plate of food to this, the last club night of the year.  After supper we said our goodbyes and wished each other Merry Christmas as we started on our way home.  Thanks to the committee for a fun evening. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Sew Wots Christmas Lunch

What nicer way for the Sew Wots to finish off our fortnightly meetings for the year enjoying a nice lunch out together.  We met at the Salt and Pepper Cafe and looked around the garden gift shop before going into the cafe and sit down at our table.  There was plenty of choice on the menu and after a bit of indecision on my part, I finally made up my mind.  How does  “Black Pudding Stack” sound?  It was so tasty – layers of crisply cooked black pudding and bacon on a layer of sautéed potatoes, and topped with an egg and hollandaise sauce! 

PC080009 The Sew Wots ready to eat their lunches

Earlier in the year Mary had set everyone a challenge. We drew a name out of the hat and had to make a little something for our person.  The criteria was that it had to have a straight edge at the top, be about twelve inches wide, and be embellished with a little bling.  And of course, we had to keep our creations secret till the end of the year.  Mary gathered up the Christmas gifts and proceeded to give them out, one by one.

PC080013 Mary with all the goodies

And one by one, we opened our parcels, exclaiming in delight, before passing each gift around the table so that everyone could have a closer look.  It was exciting to see all the different ideas that everyone came up with.  A few had strayed a little from the instructions, but that didn’t matter in the least, all the gifts were just stunning.  It shows what a lot of thought and effort had gone into these gifts.  Want to see what we all received?

The pretty floral and butterfly appliqué wall-hanging was my gift, made by Pam.  I love it -  it is so pretty!  Pam added an organza overlay over the appliqué, and two sparkly butterflies on the top panel for a bit of bling.  Rae made the yo-yo Christmas Tree for Mary, adding lots of gold beads and sequins.  Just love those rich dark shades of red and green fabrics she used.

PC080016 My gift and Mary’s

Next were  these two beautiful little works of art.  Moira’s gift made by Paula featured fabric paints and Paula’s trademark exquisite machine embroidery.  Moira’s choice for Paula was in a similar style of “soft and pretty”.  Moira stitched an assortment of lace fabrics around the picture of the vintage lady.   Both are really lovely and we looked carefully at all the details as we passed them around the table.

PC080017 For Moira and Paula

Such a lot of variety in the next three gifts.  Helen’s gift made by Heather was a cute little “Retro Chic” handbag wall-hanging, embellished with gold beads and buttons and finished off with tiny little prairie points around the edges.  The colours all work so well together.  Pam’s gift from Mary was a pretty little stocking – embroidered with the words “Gems are precious but friends are priceless“.  Mary added pretty lace to the heel and toe, lace flowers and beads.  Heather loves her cups of coffee so now she has her very own coffee mug rug to rest her beverage on, or she may prefer to hang it on the kitchen wall to admire while she is brewing up her coffee pot.  This clever little design was made by Helen, and she even added in some steam.

PC080018For Helen, Mary and Heather

I got to make something for Rae, who kindly introduced me to the Sew Wot girls.  After putting my thinking cap on for a while, I decided to make a line of sewing inspired bunting for Rae to hang in her sewing room.  Based on the designs from “Stitching Alphabet” by the very talented Michelle Ridgeway, I added some sewing charms such as scissors, a needle, buttons and tape measure bow.  I’ll let you into a secret – I’d never made bunting before, so I made it up as I went along!

PC080019 My gift to Rae

Didn’t we all do well?  The ideas and variety was just amazing, so we can all feel very pleased with ourselves.  A special thank you must go to Mary for setting us the challenge, and thanks also for all the Sew Wot members for a year of stitching and friendship.  And not forgetting  those wonderful morning teas that we have all enjoyed over the year too!