New England and Canada Quilting Cruise

I was delighted when Deb Luttrell, owner of Stitchin Heaven asked me if I would like to teach on this cruise. Planning takes place a couple of years before the cruise and she asked me for a quilt design with a Canadian theme. Instantly, I thought migrating geese and mountains set in rows, using my Sew a Row book, in the red and white Canadian colours. The fabrics were chosen from a range that reflected the theme and incorporated into my design.

The quilt, which I had named ‘Alluring Canada’ (I thought that I was going to be travelling on ‘Allure of the Seas”!!!) was made by one of Deb’s staff and quilted with a maple leaf design. I loved it! And now have one of Deb’s beautifully cut kits ready to make my own quilt. I have always been impressed with these kits that are offered on all the Stitch Heaven cruises. Students can then immediately start to stitch as all the cutting has been done, expertly.

We were on the Royal Caribbean ship, ‘Anthem of the Seas” and our sewing room was on the 13th deck with an incredible view. Here, the Bernina machines are set up as we leave New York.

Classes are taught only, when we are at sea, although students had the opportunity to sew whenever they felt like it. Most preferred to take advantage of the places we stopped at either by booking tours or just wandering around with friends. And yes! Friends are like fabric, you can never have enough of them! Note the red T shirts given to each student.

Our first stop was Bar Harbour in Maine. Just beautiful! My new American friends asked me to join them as we visited a quilt and yarn shop, ate lobster rolls and had a free trip into Acadia National Park.

Next, we stopped in Boston, a city I had visited several times, so I booked a tour to Salem to see the witches!

Portland, Maine was our third port of call. I love eating lobster and here I had my third lobster roll. After wandering around the town with more cool American quilters it was time to try out the wind tunnel on the ship. This gave me a free sky diving experience, but NO I am not planning to jump out of a plane! I preferred going up in the North Star, which floated me high above the ship to give me a bird’s eye view as we left Portland.

The next day we arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. It was appropriate that we were piped ashore by a kilted man as we had arrived in ‘New Scotland’.
I was keen to see as much as possible and had pre-booked a 7 hour tour of the highlights of Halifax. The coach was full, with 60 Americans and me, but the guide came from Saxmundham, just a few miles away from my home town in Suffolk. His knowledge, fondness for history and British cynicism was much appreciated by us all as he took us through the Titanic cemetery, a maple syrup centre, Peggy’s Cove and Halifax City.

Our final destination St. John, New Brunswick in the Bay of Fundy was a place I remember from geography lessons at school, as it has the highest tidal range in the world. Here, I saw the reversing rapids, twice! Once as the tide flowed in and a few hours as it flowed back out over a 30 foot difference. We ate a chowder lunch in St Martins, a pretty scenic place known for its sea caves and two covered bridges. Again, a great guide, this time dressed up in 19th century costume.

In the evenings, I really loved the ship’s shows. The highlight was seeing’ School of Rock, straight from the West End. The female lead, Scaramouch, was broad Essex, and hearing Bohemian Rhapsody was just thrilling. So much so that I sneaked in 15 minutes before the final show, just to hear it again.

My final tour was around Manhattan, before catching a flight back to London. Visiting Ground Zero bought back memories of my first trip to New York in 1979 when I went to the top of The Twin Towers. The memorial is very moving.

A big thank you to Deb for inviting me to teach on her wonderfully organised cruises (at least 12 each year), and to the quilters (all American with a couple of Canadians) that I taught, many of whom had been with me before. I love their friendliness, willingness to learn and the way they are so complimentary. It is not often I am asked to explain ‘Bubble and Squeak’ and what does going for a ‘constitutional’ actually mean?

Please can I join you again?

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Our week in The Chateau

Our visit is coming to an end in the beautiful Savoie region of France.
We have been well looked after by the family who own this lovely chateau and their friendly staff.

As well as four days of machine sewing there have been visits: to Lyon to see the history of silk weaving; Annecy for its beauty; and Chambery for its fascinating history and Trompe l’oeil (painted illusions).

A hot and fascinating day in Lyon


Love the colours of the silk threads

Entering The Chateau des ducks de Savoie in Chambery


Outside the castle in Chambery

The weather has been glorious with swims after class and alfresco dining. Each night our sommelier has matched the wine to the food, usually a white/rose and a red, all from the cellars below the chateau. With four bottles on each of the two tables, the conversation flowed as well as the wine!

After dinner, some quilters retired to the bar or beds and others returned to the sewing room for late night seaming. Straight lines were sometimes a problem, depending on the wine intake. Lots of giggles emanated from the room!

Late night sewing meant several completed two projects.

During the week, the sixteen quilters of varying abilities produced lots of gorgeous work, some of which can be seen below. Bargello wall hangings, bell pulls, lap and bed size quilts, red work embroidery, and several own projects.

Bed size quilt made by Ginnie

Pineapple Plus blocks made by Beryl

Klokkestreng made by Maggie

Redwork sewn by Marie

Bargello sewn by Pamela

Mary is a Kaffe fan!


Some Bargello Babes!

Thank you for being a brilliant group. Thank you to Arena Travel. for organising this super retreat.

A few comments…….

“My second trip with Karin and my first on a retreat. Loved the projects, really enjoyed the company and the Chateau was beautiful. I’d definitely recommend it.” Ginnie Willis.

Lovely week made more special the wonderful company and food! Judi

Well arena came up trumps again! Pam H

Brilliant location. Great Arena staff. Great find. Friendly and helpful hotel staff. Marie and Jill.

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First day at The Chateau

We arrived at The Chateau de Comtes des Challes, in the Savoie region of France, late Sunday afternoon. What an interesting place, with beautiful views and quirky decor including suits of armour, as the buildings date back to the 15th century.

After welcome drinks, sitting under the trees and then enjoying a delicious dinner on the open terrace, we set up the 15 new Bernina machines in our designated sewing room.

At 10 am this morning, 16 eager quilters were ready to start sewing. Fourteen had chosen Bargello as one of their chosen projects so the day was spent learning this technique.

Our sewing room opens out onto a terrace with lovely mountains views. An ideal place for morning coffee and afternoon tea. Let me tell you about our Americano order. Some of us thought we were ordering a large coffee, but here in France it is a Campari type drink! Not a good idea when you need to continue sewing straight lines.

Two hours was allocated for lunch, time for a swim in the pool as well as lunch. Some walked around the beautiful grounds and others just relaxed with a book.

This evening, we had a wine tasting in the cellars below the chateau. Very atmospheric, with a good sommelier who explained in detail how we should taste the three wines. The canapés that were served with the wines were delicious.

And finally, a beautifully presented dinner, outside in perfect temperatures, and no mosquitoes, just like all our meals here so far!

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Tilda’s World

After the excitement of 17 Mai Norway Day, in Oslo we were again on the move, this time to Tjome.

Lunch was pre booked at Verdens Ende (Worlds End) Spisereit. This was literally the end of the road and we had amazing views and superb food.

The picture below shows the old lighthouse. The basket was filled with burning hot coals.


At 2.30 we arrived at Tilda’s World to be welcomed by Tone Finnegar, the designer, we had not expected this. Tone then went onto teaching a lovely workshop using her fabrics to make birds. Here we have a short video of the project.

This was held in a old Norwegian house which they had recently converted into meeting and display rooms. It was very tastefully decorated and showed off her products beautifully. For obvious reasons we cannot display photos as we saw many future fabric designs and patterns. However, Tone has approved the following photos from the house for me to show you.

They also provided refreshments, goodie bags for each of us and there was a sales table to further entice the group. This visit exceeded all our expectations and the group are all inspired and buzzing with enthusiasm.

Thank you Tone, Torje and Anne for our amazing experience. We are the first group to visit Tilda’s World and it was a real privilege. You made us sew welcome and we have many wonderful memories!

This is the view as I am writing this blog at 9.15pm.

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Hardanger Embroidery

Another beautiful sunny stunning Norwegian morning. A ferry took us to Utne where we were visiting the Hardanger Folk Museum.

First we had a talk and guided tour of the traditional Norwegian costumes, The Bunad.

Just opened was a fantastic display of over 1000 bodice inserts some dating back to the 1700’s. Some were cross stitch, others beaded and some displayed other embroidery techniques. Can you see patchwork designs?

We were introduced to the history of Hardanger embroidery also dating back to the 1700’s. We saw aprons, table runners, shirts, bed linen and cushion covers all featuring variations of this beautiful embroidery.

Following this tour we went up the light workroom with gorgeous scenic views, which proved to be quite distracting. Our eyes soon focused on the small but intricate project that we were stitching for the next few hours.

We had a lunch break, eating outside on the verandah. Then, back to work, but if our eyes got tired there was plenty to explore in this museum including old houses, carved and painted chairs, sculptures and fiddles.

Walking back to the ferry we saw dolphins frolicking in the fjord. Another spectacular ferry and coach ride back to Eidfjord.

Tonight after dinner we are starting work on a klokkestreng, entirely voluntary!

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Bergen to Eidfjord!

We woke up to a second fabulous sunny warm morning in Bergen. Breakfast was eaten in the hotel restaurant where we felt we were on the water, with boats gliding past the windows.

Passing through the fish market our group got to taste caviar and whale meat before taking the funicular railway up Mount Floyan.

From there we had wonderful views of Bergen and got to meet a few goats.

Then it was some serious shopping in the Hanseatic area down below before enjoying some seafood lunches.

A short distance from Bergen is the Salhus Tricotagefabric (1859-1989). Here, we learnt about the history and importance of the textile industry in Norway. We found it amazing that the guide switched on old carding, spinning, and a variety of knitting machines so that we could see how they all worked.

Our drive to Eidfjord, an arm of the Hardanger fjord for our overnight stop was beautiful with amazing views around each corner – waterfalls bursting with spring melted snow, hytte with grass roofs, dramatic snow topped mountains and so much more. We had an unexpected stop when the road was closed for an hour. It was 6pm and 21C so we enjoyed the sun and views.

And some one or two chose to paddle in the fjord.

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A quilt shop in Torquay – Australia

We have been driving along the Ocean Road from Adelaide to Melbourne taking in fabulous views, interesting places and coming across a couple of quilt shops. Today’s visit to Amitie Quilt shop was on my ‘hit’ list as I knew it belonged to Jen Kingwell, whom I have long admired. Jen designs the most gorgeously busy fabrics for Moda and her pattern books reflect her style.

The front of the shop looks like a big modern warehouse with a large opening, so that you could see straight into the huge shop and teaching area. You walk into a cafe, a great place for a non quilting partner. Can you see Bean catching up with his emails? Here we enjoyed a delicious smoked salmon quiche with a quinoa and green salad, served by Mr Kingwell.

Jen just happened to be in the store today, hand sewing. It was great to have a catch up with her about the latest news from the quilting scene.

After a long chat I was itching to take a closer look at her quilts hanging high up above all the fabulous selection of fabrics. All of them have patterns or booklets so that you can make your own version. Here is the latest.

There was also a class going on, making a Totes Amazeballs bag. The students were using large prints and bright unusual coordinates. As you can see plenty of space to work and fabrics all around for inspiration.

I bought one of Jen’s books which she signed for me.

I could have stayed all day but we were due in Melbourne that afternoon. Goodbye Jen and see you in Houston.

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