Archive for the ‘quilts’ Category

June knitting

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

Hi Everyone,

I’ve had fun this week, and it’s all been about gloves. First, I made these for my friend Ingrids’ birthday. She’s the same dear friend who is the recipient of a pair of Shiraz slippers. Her style is not at all frilly, so I decided to make the July Gloves minus the lace panel. I kept the opening, and made just one line of bobbles. I hope she likes them. They’re in Koigu KPM shade 1110.

Here they are….

Do any of you have something like this lying around your house? Precious little leftover balls of yarn you just can’t bear to part with?

These are all Koigu kpm, collected over the 12 years I’ve been knitting with it. There is more, actually a large zipped plastic duvet bag, but shhhhh! I find it very hard to discard small bits of yarn, so I end up with a bin full of it. Not just Koigu. I find it hard to discard any yarn. It just seems wasteful and I always harbour a vague idea that I’ll find a use for it. So, this week, I did.

I’m sometimes asked where I get my inspiration, and I always give the usual list  (textiles, travel, museums, nature, etc ) which, without examples, can seem a bit dry. So let me show you what I found recently, and what it inspired.

It’s an Indian throw made of old saris, big and small pieces patched together and then quilted. I fell in love with it, so I bought it for myself as a reward for…well, do I really need an excuse? It must have been the inspiration for my current project, gloves made from my scraps.

Here they are

I’m using the July Gloves pattern for the fingers and making up the rest.

I’m going to continue for a few days on this quest to use up my stash and will report back with some more examples.

It’s SO much fun to do this. Next up, I think it’ll be fingerless gloves with stripes.


Isla Cape

Monday, December 12th, 2011

In response to quite a few people overseas who have asked me about my Baby Cape pattern and whether it can be emailed, here it is, as a PDF.

It will soon be in print form, too, along with all my other patterns, available for knitting stores to buy wholesale.

So, how cute is Isla? She’s the gorgoeus wee daughter of my photographer, Helen Bankers. Her full name is Isla Winchester which to me sounds like a movie star without even trying.

This is a pretty easy knit, worked from the top down so that you can customize the length. It’s the most divine thing to wrap a baby in, and a very cute jacket alternative for a toddler. Made in the ultra practical, soft and reasonably priced Cascade 220.



making tivaevae

Thursday, January 28th, 2010


One of my resolutions for 2010 was to have more fun, and what could possibly be more fun that a week of sewing?

So, with lunch and a bundle of fabric in my basket, I took myself off to summer school to begin the Tivaevae course I’d enrolled in at the Corban’s Estate Arts Centre.

The stars must have be in alignment, because our lovely tutor Mary Ama, had chosen to hold the class in this little church. What better place to camp out for a week?


It sits in a beautiful grassy field that had me wondering if I was in New England. An auspicious beginning.


To inspire us, Mary had decorated the church with her own works in various stages of completion.

My head was already bursting with all the possibilities for what I wanted to achieve in 5 days, but the sight of Mary’s masterful examples prompted a stern chat with myself:

Girl, refrain from being too ambitious and learn as much as you can in the presence of this marvellous artist.


We began with an explanation of Tivaevae:

they are usually made by a group of ladies who choose a pattern and make one quilt for each in turn. The word means “continual sewing”. They are not, as a rule, sold or even displayed in public, but are made for loved ones, mostly for glory boxes, special birthdays and weddings. They are often used to wrap the dead. In other words, they are made with love, for no commercial purpose.

This explains why there are so few for sale in Rarotonga.


It’s important to use suitable fabric. 100% cotton in best. Most tivaevae are dazzling, in bold beautiful colours.

Mary says that that every person’s tivaevae tells a personal story.

We all chose projects that seemed to reflect our personalities. Jude (below) lives next to a stream on a lush property in the Waitakeres.

Her acid green background and bold applique design suited her lively personality.[note the large basting stitches used to keep the design in place on the background while it’s embroidered]



Marian, my knitting colleague, chose a lei motif, with leaves and flowers placed in circle. It was a perfect blend of her English roots and the exoticism of her adopted homeland in the South Seas.

Her embroidery is as exquisite as her knitting and each new stitch she learned was executed to perfection.



As for my own tivaevae personality, Mary said my design was very “English”. I wasn’t sure what she meant until I began to embroider an anthurium design and realized that it reminded me of paisley, more Liberty of London than Cook Islands.  But then, James Cook, after whom the islands were named, was an Englishman and here we all are in a colourful blend of cultures and histories.

I arrived at the class with two muted shades of cotton I’d bought in New York. I wanted my tivaevae to remind me of my trip and the wonderful time I’d spent with India.

During the course of the week I came to regret my tame colour choices as I cast an envious eye over at my companions. But then, I am a Gemini after all.


In the course of the week I completed the blind stitching of the perimeter and the embroidery in one corner. Blind stitching isn’t always necessary but for a novice embroiderer like myself, it made for a more secure edging. Besides, my New York fabric frayed easily and would have been hard to fold and embroider simultaneously. Some Tivaevae, notably the ones made in Tahiti, are solely blind stitched. What sets the Cook Island tivaevae apart from other Pacific island quilts is the embroidery. It’s fantastically detailed.

Did I mention our fellow student, Isabella?


She required a very long leash and although she preferred custard pastries to needle and thread, she did have a few tricks up her sleeve, like this powhiri” [Maori welcome].


I wonder if Tivaevae also means “continual gossip”? As with any group of knitters or quilters, fascinating stories were told as we worked, and we discovered that just like in the Islands, we are all connected by one means or another. Amazingly, all three of my classmates are descended from Spanish Armada sailors shipwrecked on the coast of Wales and Scotland. I felt a little left out. My ancestors must have been too busy knitting.

Here’s the spacious covered verandah where we ate our lunch each day.