Friday, November 25, 2016

Textile Commissions, earthquakes and travel

Its about 4 weeks since I got back to New Zealand from India. Its taken me a while to process everything and also to catch up on various projects which I couldn't work on while I was away.

Since I got back we have had a large earthquake. Our house has suffered a few cracks which weren't there before, and my husband has been working from home as his office is closed until they find new premises. The day after the earthquake we had heavy rain which followed a few weeks of steady rain. the ground was waterlogged and that meant we had water leaking through the back wall of our garage so we spent several hours sweeping water out of the garage and trying to get things dry. A lot of horrible fabric was thrown away that day. It was all stuff which should have been sorted and thrown away years ago.

It was lucky that we don't live near the coast of New Zealand. In what the newspapers called 'the perfect storm' we had a strong earthquake followed by heavy rain at the time of the Supermoon. There was a tsunami then high spring tides because of the superman and the heavy rain. No wonder the roads were flooded especially around the coasts and there were land slides, and fallen trees. Its taken a while to get back to normal, although there are still a lot of government and private buildings in Wellington closed due to earthquake damage. One of our friends has been evacuated from their apartment in central wellington and has been unable to get anything out of their home for nearly 2 weeks.

Bitter Harvest 3. This is a wallhanging currently hanging at Pataka. Water has been running down the front  from the cups to make the dye in the blue patches run. It looks quite blurry now.

This small quilt is travelling with the OzQuilt exhibition in Australia.

This life-size model of a weta (a New Zealand grasshopper)has been at the Knitting and Stitching Shows in London, Dublin and Harrogate this year with the BugLife exhibition curated by Ann Kelly.
Its not easy to make money as a textile artist in New Zealand. I am usually working on a lot of different things at once. As well as making quilts I also make their costumes, tech quilt making and surface design, do commissions and complete projects for people.
Before leaving for India I was making costumes for the show The Merry Widow almost up till the day I left. I still have a lot of the costumes in my garage , I brought them home to wash, and I haven't been able to take them back to the costume store because no one knows whether the building is safe. Luckily the costumes were up on a table or they would also be wet.

Most of the time I work from home and it can get a bit lonely. So I also do 'finishing' for a shop. People bring in their completed tapestries and I make them up into cushions. Sometimes I get to make up beautiful needle cases or quilt shop samples.  I get to have some social time with customers and staff at the shop and the bonus is that I get paid.

I have been working on several collage litter bins for a commission and I recently completed a Grandmothers Flower Garden quilt for an elderly lady who is in her 90's.
No sooner had I handed over the first quilt than I got another half finished hexagon quilt which is almost identical to the first one.
The Grandmothers Flower garden quilt top when it arrived

The quilt after I moved some of the rosettes around and turned it into a single bed sized quilt
Lastly, some pictures from India

Gorgeous step well near Jaipur

Woodblock printing at Anokhi Woodblock museum

Elephant near Jaipur

Traffic on the way back to Delhi

View from the hotel window in Delhi. Cows, ice-cream vendors, cars and chaos

Beautiful architecture in the Lodi Gardens, Delhi

Coloured chalk for making rangoli patterns for Diwali
India was inspiring as well as confronting. 2 days after I left, Delhi had some of the worst pollution days ever, caused by Diwali fireworks and farmers burning off stubble in the fields. Then the large bank notes 1000, and 500 rupee notes were withdrawn suddenly over night making it very hard for tourists and locals alike. At the end of my holiday I would have loved to have stayed in India for longer but now I am very glad I left when I did. Maybe I will get a chance to go again when things have settled down.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Summer Art School

I will be teaching an indigo dyeing workshop at the Hutt Art Society rooms in January 2017.

Thu 12 / Fri 13 January 2017 All levels
9.00 – 4.00
Painting Studio

Students should be able to dye several metres of fabric each and try it a range of different Shibori ( upmarket tie dye) techniques. The weather will be warm so we should be able to lay the fabric out on the grass around the rooms. 

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Bandhani / tie dye

Today we did a workshop on Indian tie dye. Mr Jakob showed us how to tie tiny circles, then to make a heart and a star. Colour choices were pink and orange or pink and black. Some fairly loud scarves were completed on very thin loose weave cotton. 
While we were making our masterpieces the rest of the family were continuing the family business by blockprinting previously tied and dyed fabric lengths and pulling the fabric diagonally to pop off the ties.
Tieing circles
Dyeing pink
 Taking off the ties
 Finished scarves

Bandhani / tie dye

Today we did a workshop on Indian tie dye. Mr Jakob showed us how to tie tiny circles, then to make a heart and a star. Colour choices were pink and orange or pink and black. Some fairly loud scarves were completed on very thin loose weave cotton. 
While we were making our masterpieces the rest of the family were continuing the family business by blockprinting previously tied and dyed fabric lengths and pulling the fabric diagonally to pop off the ties.
Tieing circles
Dyeing pink
 Taking off the ties
 Finished scarves

Thursday, October 13, 2016


We went to a woodblock printing and dyeing workshop today just outside of Jaipur. We printed fabric using a mud mixture which was then sprinkled with sawdust to help dry it. When fully dry it was put in the indigo bath. We also printed with black ink made using natural black ink made from lumps of rusting iron fermented with sugar cake for 8 weeks in a black pot in a hot place. The fabric had to be ore mordanted with myrobolan which is a strong tannin.

Woodblocks for mudprinting. The recipe for the mix is mud, gum acacia, flour made from spoiled wheat.
The indigo vat is 10 ft deep. 

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Cow parking

Our hotel is down a side alley full of cows, ice cream vendors trolleys and the milk station. 
The veggie market, unusually quiet because it's Sunday.

Khan Market

Yesterday I went to khan Market in Delhi. It's where the ex pats shop. It's quite nice and calm. I bought a very simple but nicely made top in Fabindia. From the Fabindia website.
Fabindia is India's largest private platform for products that are made from traditional techniques, skills and hand-based processes. At Fabindia we celebrate India, and endeavour to bring all that we love about India to customers around the world.' They also support a school with over 1000 students.

Unfortunately I got a warning about watching what I eat and drink. I let my guard down in a restaurant that said they use filtered water. I'm now recovering from a mild bug. Fortunately it's on a day that we aren't travelling. Unfortunately it's the day the rest of the group are going to the Craft Museum. Oh well- another time.

Yesterday I also discovered how cheap books are here. I bought about 5 books all about $8 each including
I don't seem to be able to turn it sideways 

Friday, October 7, 2016


I've been wanting to go to Rajasthan for years and when I saw that a tour I had heard about had some spaces, I signed up. I have been in New Delhi for 4 days having a look around by myself and the tour officially starts today but we are just waiting for two more people.
In the last 4 days I have learned about tourist touts, been to a shopping mall with a family from a small village who had never been in an escalator, been to a children's home/educational project for girls, been in some hair raising traffic jams with cars, rickshaws and tuktuks driving all over the place, and bought a few bits which I probably should have paid less for, but were still cheap.

A cheap form of transport which can be exciting driving. More like bumper cars at the fair.
Shopping for bling with the kids.

Now that I have found an app to use with blogger I might be able to update more easily. My 2 favourite apps are no longer available and I hadn't used them for so long i didn't know why they were crashing.

This app is much easier to use.

So today I'm off to the Khan market then tomorrow the tour starts properly.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Catching up with paperwork and future classes

Every now and then I feel overwhelmed with paperwork. I feel like I get less and less made and spend more and more time sending off CV's, sending photos, sending needs lists and arranging dates for classes. Today I am catching up with all that stuff at once rather than spreading it out. So in all likelihood I will send the needs lists for Quilter Lane in Masterton to Christchurch and the needs list for Kapiti Quilters to the lawyer, while the lawyer will get an article on the Aotearoa Quilters show in Rotorua instead of the tax return from my mothers estate.

I have updated my booked classes list (see the right hand side of my blog) to show some new classes. It seems that Sashiko is the new black. Everyone wants Sashiko so I'm teaching it in three places around the Wellington region this year. Some groups may have spaces for non-members. Its a good class to take because you don't have to lug a sewing machine around if you don't want to.

The first class is  Wellington Quilters Solstice Weekend in Karori Arts and Crafts society rooms.
26th June. I also have a machine quilting class (Quilt Doodling) on the 25th. I know there are a few spaces so let me know and I will pass on the details of the organiser. It costs $20 for members and $40 for non-members.

Coastal Quilters has booked a sashiko class for 2nd July

Kapiti Quilters for the 6th of August.

I might have to make more class samples as they need to be in three places at once. In these classes you can stitch by hand or machine depending on what you prefer.

In January I've been invited to teach Indigo Dyeing and Shibori at the Lower Hutt Arts Society Summer School.

Indigo dyed fabrics from my class at Quilt Symposium 2015

This should be fun as indigo and warm weather go nicely together. More information and enrolment forms should go up on the website in the next few weeks.

I have also been invited to teach bookmaking at the Embroiderers Great Escape in Auckland from 24-26th of March next year. Since I'm going to be up in Auckland anyway,  I could move on to teach somewhere else in the North and make a bit of a holiday of it in between 'gigs'. Any suggestions? Its still lovely and warm in March for organic indigo dyeing.
Indigo turning from green to blue

Indigo fabrics changing to blue

Ta da!

Monday, May 16, 2016

The New Zealand Quilt Symposium 2017

At last I can let people know that I will be teaching at the next NZ Symposium in Christchurch

I have 5 separate one day classes. 

Hope to see some of you there.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Aotearoa quilters flight challenge

I'm In Rotorua where Aotearoa Quilters exhibition , The Great New Zealand Quilt Show is on at the events Centre until tomorrow.
My quilt was accepted as one of 20 quilts in the Flight Challenge exhibition. I thought I would I might talk about how this quilt was made and how accidents change how a quilt ends up.

The green fabric was hand painted and screen printed by me many years ago. This was the last bit left and it wasn't really big enough so is pieced together from scraps. The join is under the point of the tablecloth. The tablecloth was in my airing cupboard so I either found it at an op shop or it's a family heirloom ( oops!)
I took a photo of a willow pattern plate I own, the willow pattern design is hundreds of years old so I felt it would be long out of copyright and therefore ok to use. I reversed the image and had it transferred onto the centre of the tablecloth but didn't get the plate at the right angle so had to cut it out and reapplique it into the middle. Unfortunately that meant that the hole in the centre was bigger than the plate being appliquéd so the doily under the plate hides the gap.
I machine quilted the top before adding the sparrows. I used a feather quilting stencil to mark the pattern for the plate shapes, I'd never tried to follow a drawn pattern using machine quilting before. Usually I just machine quilt freestyle.

I threw bits of lamington ( a New Zealand style of coconut and jelly covered sponge cake) and bread on the driveway and took loads of photos of sparrows using a telephoto lens by hiding in my garage with the roller door nearly closed. It's really hard to take photos of sparrows- they move so fast and having 2 cats probably makes them jittery.
I used the photos to draw sparrows and then made them In fabric and machine embroidered on top before attaching them
To the quilt.
Finally I added watch parts to the sparrows to give them a Steam Punk look. I was challenged to use the watch parts by Debby Williams. I'm
Looking forwarded to seeing what she does with her set.

Anyway that's the story of the steampunk sparrows quilt. 

Monday, February 22, 2016


Wellington Quilters Guild has asked me to teach a Sashiko class and a machine quilting class at their winter solstice quilting weekend in June. I am ashamed to say that my website is now so out of date that those classes aren't even on it. My husband constructed my website so long ago that we have long forgotten how to change anything and it wasn't ever at all easy. I was one of the first quilters in New Zealand to get a website but now I'm one of the people with the most out of date website in New Zealand.

Here is the information for the Wellington Quilt Guild classes.

One day classes

Quilt-doodling and colouring-in for machine quilters
Spend a day honing your machine quilting skills by doodling using the sewing machine then  colour in your patterns using fabric markers. Colouring-in is optional! 
Black thread on white fabric


Sashiko is a traditional Japanese way of patching and strengthening old fabrics using running stitch in decorative patterns.  In this class students will look at photographic examples of Japanese boro (patched) textiles as well as examples of more modern styles of sashiko stitching. Students will then learn how to mark out a grid on fabric and then stitch Japanese Sashiko patterns either by hand or by machine. 
Sashiko is traditionally done using cream or white thread on a navy (indigo) background but students are encouraged to try different colour combinations or create their own stitching patterns for a different look. 

Machine stitched sashiko patterns on a bag

2 placemats.  Left -  sashiko by machine. Right - sashiko by hand

Sashiko stitching over recycled indigo fabrics to make a placemat

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

My new studio!

I have a new sewing room/studio in my house. Its really nice to have the extra space as a lot of my 'stuff' has been left stored in the little room I had previously. Hopefully both sons won't want to come home to live at the same time as we now only have one spare room.

Anyway, to celebrate the new room I have started teaching private beginners patchwork, collage/ appliqué and machine quilting classes. I also hope to run some very small classes during the week and some play days for small groups who want to try out different techniques. I'm also happy for people to do 'studio visits' (just ring first) or can arrange a short private class for overseas visitors who want to make a memento of New Zealand. Just get in touch to let me know what you would like.

The first small group play day is Indigo dyeing and shibori.

If anyone is interested in indigo dyeing while the weather is warm ( indigo likes warm weather) . Possible dates are
Saturday 20th February
Friday 18th March
Saturday 19th March (nearly full)

Email me at smith_c* for further details or reply to this post.
Note to Chyfly who commented on my previous blog post, I'm sorry I don't seem to be able to answer your comment so I left a message in the previous post! Thanks for letting me know about the tatters in relation to the barge-man's clothes, that was very interesting and I'd love to know more but couldn't find anything on Google.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Using Fabric Scraps

Todays project makes good use of strips and scraps of fabric but it isn't 'string piecing' or 'quilt as you go', or foundation piecing. Instead I have used up all those strips and small pieces to make Morris Dancing tatters.

Tatters are part of the costume for Morris dancers who dance Border Morris. The strips of fabric are attached to a coat or shirt. I have used an old and tatty lab coat with the sleeves removed. The aim is to use enough fabric to cover the white background but not so much that it gets too heavy and hot to move around in.

NB. Thankyou Chyfly for your comment, see below. For some reason I haven't been able to answer your comment but if you ever find any photos or information about the Barge tatters coats I would be very interested in seeing them. I  have tried googling it but nothing so far.

sewing on 10 inch long fabric strips in rows

The finished Tatters
There is a lot of African Fabric on this set of tatters. It's left over from an African fabric quilt I made about 7 years ago for our bed. There is also poly cotton fabric from Samoa where I was Artist-in-Residence at an art workshop in 2014, there is left-over quilting fabric and bits of old kimono. Each piece of fabric has its own story and I'm the only one who knows it - a bit like a scrap- quilt really.

detail of African Fabric quilt
The fabrics on this quilt are a mixture of fabrics collected when I taught at a Quilt Festival in South Africa,  scavenged from clothing which we wore back in the 1970's when we lived in Kenya, and fabric bought here or donated by an African friend who lives in Auckland. This quilt has been on our bed for quite a few years now and the fabrics are starting to fade.  In the detail shot there is one splotchy fabric which has really changed color. Considering the high UV levels in New Zealand, it is not looking too bad.

At the end of the day yesterday I had completed 4 doorstops as examples for my beginners sewing - doorstop class. I think I like the green and the photo transfer one the best.
My next job is to make a fabric covered book as a sample for the Visual Diary book-making class.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Photo Transfers, commissions and door stops!

I have got out of the habit of writing on my blog, mainly because I started it as a quilting blog and as I began to diversify I wasn't sure whether people would be interested in the wider range of creative things that I do which range from theatre costumes, quilts and embroidery to paper collage, hand made books and occasionally basket making, painting and other stuff I can't think of right now!

So I thought maybe I would write about some of the other things I do which aren't always strictly textiles. Each year I do an annual commission as a Christmas gift from a private client. One year I made wool felt embroidered flowery cushions, another year I made a collage picture frame.

This is the fourth year that I have done this commission and this year I made a 2 metre long table runner and incorporated photo transfers of greetings cards (as requested by the client).

detail to show photo transfers of cards
The good thing about doing this commission is that each year I get to try out something new. This year is the first time I have made a quilt.

I wanted to make the whole table runner in linen but at short notice, I could only get the type of photo transfer paper which works on white fabrics. I had to transfer the images onto white cotton then piece the images into the linen. I also didn't want to put the heat-set images too close to the centre of the table runner in case they could be damaged by hot dishes. I'd hate the images to get stuck on the bottom of plates. I did warn the client not to put really hot dishes on the images.

When the project was finished I had a lot of cut out images left over from the cards. I'm currently working on a 'complete beginners' sewing project for a shop in Wellington called Nancy's Stitch Studio. I have been making class samples for a class to make a simple triangular doorstop using some of the lovely new heavy weight linen fabrics that are available right now.

The date set for the class is   August 14. 1.30-3.30pm Triangle Doorstop

After that I decided I would make a doorstop using the left-over photo collage paper and the already cut out card images.

cut outs from greetings cards

placed on white sheet to be scanned and printed onto photo transfer paper

Images are cut from the background and collaged onto doorstop piece

The backing is peeled from the images , here are 2 sides of the doorstop

Students in the two hour beginners class at Nancy's Stitch studio will make the initial doorstop out of a heavy linen fabric similar to the doorstop in the first image, but I wanted to show them that they could do something a little different with the pattern later. I'm quite proud of the photo transfer doorstop and I liked the way that the drill fabric accepted the photo transfers without feeling too plasticky. The only problem I had was that the white drill scorched slightly while I was transferring the images which might have been due to the dressing in the fabric.

If you have any suggestions for websites with interesting use of photo transfer images please leave a comment. Thanks, Clare