Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Quilted tea cozy for a cause

The lovely ladies of the Northern Artery Arts Collective have a wonderful fundraiser planned for next month. The group is putting on a tea party event on 17 May and will be auctioning off tea cozies made by local artisans to raise funds and awareness for the Otago Community Hospice.

My contribution to the auction should stand out - I hope! Who doesn't love a little bright neon pink?!?! I used a soft grey oakshott cotton on the outside and lined it in a fairly heavy weight neon pink fabric. The original plan was to do a little freestyle cross-stitch design on one side, but I had to abandon that idea when I couldn't find the right colour of embroidery floss. It totally turned out to be a good thing, because I am in love with plan B! I marked out a few random straight lines in chalk and stitched over them in neon pink thread. I love, love, love the finished look even though it wasn't at all what I was aiming for when I started.

I don't know the exact when and where of the auction next month, but I'll surely post the info on the Milkybeer Handmade Facebook page once I get the details.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

WIP Wednesday: Custom cross quilt


Such a simple design. Such satisfying progress. It feels so good to be on here happily settled into our new home with the move behind us and this pretty little project already well on its way to a finish.

This quilt is a custom order that came in...ahem...quite some time ago. It's been a while since I've worked up this particular design - one I first whipped up way back in 2011! This time around the colour scheme is quite different, but I did use the same iron-on interfacing technique that I first experimented with on the original quilt.

The customer and I hashed out our fabric choices weeks ago and came up with this classic combo of red, green, blue, grey and white. The backing will be a beautiful blue linen - a first for me! I certainly do love linen so I'm sure it's going to look beautiful but fingers crossed that it doesn't cause me any unexpected headaches!

Oh, and in case you didn't hear my squeal of delight the other day, the tutorial I wrote for imagine gnats was featured on the DMC Threads blog. Happy, happy, joy, joy!

Friday, 7 March 2014

Tutorial: patchwork doorstop

Today I'm sharing a sweet little patchwork doorstop tutorial over on imagine gnats as one of Rachael's new contributors.

I am loving how these turned out and think you should all give the tutorial a try. You'll learn a handy technique for piecing small squares and it's probably the only time you'll get to make a trip to the pet store to finish a sewing project. [Read the tutorial - it will all make sense. Trust me.]

Seriously, aren't those colourful little x's just too cute for words? The monogrammed version I made for Abner is doing its thing holding our lounge door open as I write [and doing a mighty fine job I might add.] The little heart one was made specifically for the wee little girls who live across the road from us. I'm told the younger of the two has taken to sleeping with it each night. Say it with me now....awwww!

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Garden porn and another move

Our first summer in Dunedin wasn't exactly a warm one, but it was good enough to allow us to successfully grow our very first vegetable garden.

We planted some things from seed but most were small seedlings that we did our best to situate in our tiny little raised bed and a few pots. Since the garden went in in early November, we've enjoyed peas, cauliflower, lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, raspberries, cucumbers and carrots. Our only major failures were peppers and strawberries. Sadly, we won't get to enjoy all the beautiful  leeks which are still on their way. Why not? Well, because we're moving. Again.

That's four moves in four years for those of you who are keeping score. Thankfully, this one has us moving just a few blocks away. We've found a lovely little house that gets better sun, has better heating and a bit more outdoor space for us to enjoy. There's also a sleep-out in the backyard where I will get to set up my sewing workroom - there's even a toilet out there! Luxury!

I'm glad we got a chance to try our hand at gardening in our current home because the new place has some pretty impressive raised beds that I can't wait to get my hands into. Apparently the landlord is quite the gardener, so hopefully we don't disappoint him with our lets-just-see-what-happens-if-we-plant-this-here approach.

After all the moves we've done over the past few years, this one feels about as monumental as a trip to the grocery store. We shift in less than two weeks and I haven't even picked up any boxes yet. What's a couple of blocks after having moved 12,500km last year, and 1715 the year before, and 1715 the year before that?!

Even though his move wasn't really planned, I think it will be a very good one for us. Here's hoping that we somehow manage to make it through at least one calendar year without upping stakes! Keep your fingers crossed for us in 2015...it could be the year!

Monday, 10 February 2014

imagine gnats indiegogo campaign and giveaway

Earlier this year, I set myself a few unofficial goals to work toward this year. I did the whole goal-setting thing a few years back when we moved to the Prairies and can proudly tell you I achieved every one of them.On my list this year:

engage more with the online sewing community    |    blog more regularly (I used to be so good at that one!)
update my shop more frequently    |    finish all the projects I've started
make (not just ogle) the stuff I see on Pinterest    |    sell my wares in some shops

In the spirit of that first one on the list, I've been making a few new internet friends lately. One of them is Rachael from over at imagine gnats. If you're into reading sewing/crafting/stitching blogs, chances are good that you've stumbled across Rachael's work already. She's well known for creating amazing patterns that are easy to sew and can help even novice sewers learn some new tricks. Personally, I've had my eye on her bess top pattern for ages and I can't wait to make the meridian cardigan. Her blog has some pretty fantastic tutorials and DIYs on it if you'd like to get a taste of her awesomeness. I highly recommend her infinity scarf DIY...I may have made one (or six) myself.

Like me, Rachael has been setting herself some goals lately. One of them is to see her beautiful patterns in print. She's recently launched an indiegogo campaign to help raise funds to make it happen.

Here’s what Rachael has to say about her business and campaign:
imagine gnats started as a little etsy shop, selling small sewn items to help support my family and also to give me a creative outlet in a corporate world. it’s come a long way in just five years… from a hobby to a full-time job. my love of sewing and design has grown as well, and now my own sewing patterns help and inspire others to create.

i am proud to have created patterns for garments that are easy to sew and easy to wear. imagine gnats patterns feature classic silhouettes with a modern twist that incorporate clever details and practical techniques.

currently, my patterns are all offered as printable pdfs. the money raised on indiegogo will help cover the costs of an initial run of paper patterns, which means sharing my designs with even more sewists and inspiring more people.

for the cost of one pattern, you can help me reach my goal AND be one of the first to get the printed pattern of your choice. for a little bit more, you can get a full set of imagine gnats printed patterns. plus, early bird specials offer even better deals for the first contributors!

my initial print run will include 500 each of my existing five garment patterns. all of the money raised will go directly to that effort. once patterns are printed, i begin the selling and distribution phase.
If you like the idea of helping someone achieve their goals and would like to contribute to Rachael's campaign, you can do so at the bottom of this post.

But wait! Not so fast there, clicky finger...there's more!

Rachael has kindly donated a complete set of her five garment PDF patterns for me to give away! How awesome is that?!?! To enter, just leave a comment here on this blog post or on the Milkybeer Handmade Facebook page telling me about the first thing you ever sewed (feel free to make something up if you've never sewed a day in your life - be creative). Any and everyone is welcome to enter. I'll pick a random winner from all entries at noon on Monday, 17 February (that's NZ time, so a day earlier for most of you). The winner will be announced here on the blog and on Facebook.

-- The giveaway is now closed. Thanks to all who entered. The winner was AngieB who has been contacted and is hopefully happily sewing her new patterns by now.  --

OK, now you can go ahead and contribute to Rachael's campaign.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

One year in...

One year ago today (Feb 8) my little family and I arrived in New Zealand. Happy immigration anniversary to us! A little over a year ago I hadn't even heard of Dunedin let alone entertained the thought of moving here. Other than a short stint in South Africa, I'd never lived anywhere outside of Canada before. I had no particular desire to visit New Zealand let alone move there for Pete's sake. To mark the occasion, why don't I share a few of the many, many pictures we've taken over the year and just a few thoughts on the many ways in which life is just a little different down here.


Took a few months, but I am totally used to driving on the wrong side of the road. It still stuns me to think that we got our NZ drivers licenses without any testing - the road signs are different, a few rules are a bit different, not to mention we drive on the OTHER FREAKIN' SIDE OF THE ROAD! The Dear Sweet Husband still hits the wipers when he means to use the turn signal and I am forever going to the wrong side of the car to get in, but at least we keep it straight once we're on the roads!


Dear Canada, don't complain about your grocery bill. Ever. I remember the days a few years back when TDSH and I could get by on less than $100/week. True, we have a third family member now, but our shopping bills are disturbingly higher than that. We only have a wee bar fridge in our house which means we have to grocery shop nearly every day which probably doesn't help much...neither does that pricey proscuitto that somehow made it into my cart the other day. Oh, and fruit and veg are way more seasonal here (this is not a bad thing...not at all). I can't remember the last time I went to a Canadian grocery store and couldn't get any and all produce at any time of year. Here certain items either go through the roof price-wise or disappear from the shelves altogether in winter. I'm going to have to learn to plan for this a bit better next year - hopefully that will help get those grocery bills under control!

Getting around

Dunedin is a great city to get around in. We managed for over two months without a car at all (except for that Porsche our friends loaned us to help with our house hunt in the beginning). We walked EVERYWHERE and it was fantastic. For a town with an insane amount of hills, you can still pretty much manage to get most places without getting off the flat too much. With a car, we've been able to get around so easily. Traffic jams...bridge traffic...tunnel traffic...they don't exist down here. Jealous?


When talking with our fellow expats here in Dunedin, the conversation invariably turns to the Dunedin housing stock and it's rather unique characteristics that add a certain charm, if nothing else: drafts, condensation, lack of insulation, tin roofs, single-glaze windows, lean-tos, etc. Our rental home is cute and lovely, but it has its quirks. There are drafts like you wouldn't believe. All three fireplaces are blocked up. What little insulation we do have (which is heaps by Dunedin standards) is no more than R1.6 (the maximum insulating value I've seen here). I just did a quick check on Home Depot's website back home and found R38 (I started drooling with envy). Basically, there's not a heap of difference between the building practices behind the typical 100-year-old Dunedin villa and your average garden shed. So far the record temperatures we've hit in our house are a whopping 5 degrees Celcius in the toilet and over 40 in the lounge while basking in the sun. Try and dress for that now, why don't you.


This is not an unsafe country, but there's definitely less of the over-protection you can see in Canada at times. A 70 metre drop to the ocean? A sign'll do, we don't need a fence. Playground zip line 15 feet in the air? No worries. It's a difference I find rather refreshing. It's great to see kids getting to be kids here without all the warnings/prevention/etc. I was seeing more and more of in Canada. We let Abner roam far and wide with her friends when we're in parks, even *GASP* out of our sight! It's not unheard of for kids to play unsupervised in the playground before and after school. I'm pretty sure that's not happening of back home.


TDSH and I both enjoyed camping back in Canada. We got our first taste of camping in NZ just last month as we headed to a DOC (Department of Conservation) campsite south of Dunedin. As we pulled into the site, it felt like we had arrived at a wizarding campsite to attend the Quidditch World Cup. Our little three-person dome tent was absolutely dwarfed by the massive canvas tents around us that each looked like they could surely house the entire Weasley family plus the entire Order of Phoenix comfortably. Indeed, we've camped at other sites as well now (bought ourselves a larger tent in the meantime so we'd blend in better) and some of these tents do indeed come with a kitchen sink and bunk beds! We also found it totally bizarre to camp without a fire. Yes, there are sometimes fire bans back home in Canada, but at those times, I'm certain we all still put our feet up on the provided fire ring and there's always the ashes in there still so you get the smokey effect. Here, when it gets dark, people just go to bed. That's it. No staying up telling ghost stories and roasting marshmallows around the campfire. Weird. On the plus side, our camping clothes didn't smell nearly as bad as usual!

Kiwi English

Yes, Canada and New Zealand are both English-speaking countries. However, this does not mean we speak the same language. Here is just a short list of the many Kiwi words we've had to pick up if we have any hope of being understood here (accents aside).

supermarket = grocery store
footpath = sidewalk
underbridge/overbridge = underpass/overpass
batch/crib (which term you use depends on where you are in NZ) = cottage/summer home/cabin
bickie = cookie
lounge = living room
boy racer = street racer
sparkie = electrician
capsicum = pepper
chilly bin = cooler
tomato sauce = ketchup
dairy = convenience store
petrol = gas (for your car, not the other kind)
dressing gown = housecoat
flash = pretty fancy/new
kumara = yam/sweet potato
flat = apartment
fortnight = two weeks
what do you fancy = what do you feel like?
hottie = hot waterbottle
heaps = lots
wee = small (used often)
jandal = flip flop
jersey = sweatshirt
jumper = sweater
ice block = popsicle
toilet = bathroom/washroom
mum = mom
motorway = freeway
buttie = sandwich
full stop = period (punctuation, not the other kind)
panel beater = autobody shop
plaster = band-aid
slip = landslide
flying fox = zip line
spider = float (ice cream and pop)
fizzy drink = pop
lolly = candy
pottle = container for fries
punnet = container for fruit (think strawberries)
rubber = eraser (I still do a doubletake when hearing Abner ask for a rubber)
ta = thanks
torch = flashlight
tea = dinner (to invite someone to share a cup of tea, you ask them to join you for a cuppa)
singlet = undershirt
whinge = complain/whine
wop-wops = boonies
littlies = very young children
section = property
bench = countertop
American = anyone from North America (this drives me nuts)
cheerio = cocktail sausage (I find this one particularly bizarre)
fringe = bangs
judder bar = speed bump
long drop = outhouse/biffy
mince = ground beef
morning tea = mid-morning break (at school it's the same as recess)
note = paper money
op shop = thrift store
paddock = field where animals graze
rock melon = cantaloup
she'll be right = it'll be okay
sleepout = A small shed in the yard for extra accommodation
fluffy = warm, foamed milk served only to kids with chocolate powder on top
flat white = most popular coffee option

As we head into our second year in New Zealand, we've started the process to get residence status. It's going to take a while, but it'll be good to be that much closer to not having to fill out another immigration form in our lives. Our criminal record checks just arrived from Canada so once we get those up to Christchurch, we should have everything sorted within the next six months or so (fingers crossed). Yes, folks, that means we're staying. I still stop in my tracks on a regular basis and pinch myself because I can't believe I actually live here. Anyone want to come visit?
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