The brief we were given for the Sew a Row was ‘ice’. Now, I live in the subtropics in Australia and it’s a long, long time since I’ve been in the ice and snow. In fact the last time I was in the snow was …. around 1985. At the time I was flatting in Dunedin, New Zealand with a few friends at University and it was the day after a party. As I cleaned up the debris, my flatmate came out and said “Isn’t it wonderful”.

“What?” I replied, as I located plastic cups behind the couch.

“It’s snowing!” she said.

And it really was, snowflakes floated past our window. The washing on the line was neatly edged with snow and the socks were snap frozen. We headed off to church, going up the hill, the long way round, to enjoy the sights, (we got to church, but were somewhat late).

This is the inspiration for my ice row. The houses in my row are all student accommodation that I have lived in. The water tower and the church are both real buildings in the South Island of New Zealand.

Dunedin was settled early in New Zealand’s history, the region had a low Maōri population because it’s very far south, but it was settled very early by Pakeha (white people) because it had gold and later sheep farming. It has a real Scottish flavour about it because many Scots settled there. It has practically every type of Scottish Church (Knox, First Presbyterian etc), and is well known for having a statue of Robbie Burns in the city centre with his back to the cathedral and his face to the nearest pub.

I decided to celebrate Dunedin in the winter (brrrr). It’s a lovely city on a long thin estuary, with a peninsula where you can see albatrosses, seals and sea lions come in to rest up on the beaches. Dunedin has a fabulous climate for rhododendrons and azaleas, so for a keen gardener, spring in the botanical gardens is amazing.

My first step was to hunt out a few old photos and make a tracing in EQ8 of the buildings I wanted to use. Next step was sorting out colours and fabrics. I chose an icy cold pale winter sky contrasting with the warmth of the stone. We have a grey stone called Oamaru stone which is used in building. Wood is a preferred building medium because it is safer in earthquakes and houses are often painted white with grey rooves.

After choosing the fabric, I had to reverse all the templates and trace the patterns onto fusible webbing, iron the fusible onto fabric, cut out the pieces and place. I added the trees to break up the regularity of the lines of the buildings. Once I was happy with the placement of the applique pieces, I fused them into place. The next step was blanket stitching each piece down (by machine, of course). I did not want the stitching to be contrasting, so I matched the thread to each piece.

The snowflakes are simplifications of photos of real snowflakes magnified many times. I do find nature is so much more inventive than we are and it’s fun to see the different shapes that are created. Instead of adding the snowflakes to my row, I prepared them, cut them and sent them on so they could be added to the whole top at the end if desired. This was an awesome decision because I didn’t have to blanket stitch them down.

We had a really tight time frame so after some frantic weekends sewing, I was excited to drop my row in the mail and send it winging its way to the next pattern designer.


  1. Sue Griffiths Post author

    Thanks Jenny. I’m glad you like it. The universe can be a bit weird, can’t it, You never hear of something and then it crops up again and again. I never understood British row houses in children’s fiction – how you could see people on the street from inside the house, and talk to neighbours over the fence so easily. Postmen knocking and train carriages with lots of doors were also a bit of a mystery. Then, as an adult, when I visited my sister in London, a lot was explained!

  2. Jenny Marks

    This was an interesting read for me this morning. My daughter’s friend who moved from Northern Ireland many years ago to live in the South Island is currently holidaying here with us in Cornwall where we now live. We were talking last night about the type of houses in her area and to see photos of what she was describing this morning before I get out of bit is a bit freaky. Love your patchwork.