Sunday, 19 October 2014

Holidays in my Workshop and Outings

As the kids get older they seem to be happy to spend a day at home doing homework, baking and creating then have a little jaunt to a coffee shop the next day. It does not need to be anything terribly exciting - buying pumpkins or getting a new bag of chicken food is enough to relieve the boredom or just spend time off the internet for a while in the case of Fergus. We even managed an amicable trip into Aberdeen by only visiting 3 shops to browse music, books and stationery. 

The girls made a couple of simple teddies from a pattern in “Love to Sew” magazine and Freya made great progress on her piece of quilted spandex for her Art and Design Higher project. I pretended to “help” with her French translation while I attached binding onto “Dunes 2”.

In spite of the holidays, I managed to get some quilting done. A scrappy Ebay quilt was quilted, washed and bound. An unfinished baby quilt was completed and I spent a considerable amount of time embroidering around the binding and round a couple of rings on the bed version of “Dunes”, although I’m sure no-one except for me will even notice. 

I cracked on with the in-between project that was meant to be a Tuesday night quilt and it went together very neatly using the integrated feed option on the Bernina 710. I was a bit irritated that the deer all ended up next to each other. I should have put the second deers in the middle of the row rather than at opposite ends!

I find it difficult to think about writing for the book or project instructions during the holidays so I found my mind wandering onto one or two potential projects. A friend nagged me that I should be offering some Christmas craft classes and I was thinking about the competition theme for a new Scottish spring show instead of planning how I should tackle “BzB”. I have also been looking for an excuse to start using a collection of bright pink Japanese linen prints. If I call it a holiday-sanity-saving exercise then I may be able to persuade myself to start something easy with big blocks;)

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Fingers in Pies

I am convinced that the heavy rain which made the internet slow down contributed to my week of flitting between tasks. All sorts of things were attended to but nothing was actually completed satisfactorily. Really, I should not have started Monday morning off by looking at drum-kits and loud-hailers online.

It always amazes me how long it can take to quilt a large piece of spandex. Even though I did a fair bit in the Lake District retreat, it took me most of the week to complete it. I want to replace the gold totem if the Henge is exhibited anywhere else because the original one has a few spots where the stitching has given way. 

Because I got a little bored working on the gold piece, I forged ahead with the simple trip/bargello quilt that is meant to be a minor distraction. I wasted a couple of hours trying to change the recommended layout using EQ7 software but I was frustrated by not being able to work out how to shunt the blocks along in each row and ended up by clicking every single one to vary the layout. There are definitely times when colouring pencils and squared paper may be quicker and simpler!

I worked on the “5 Bar Gate” wall hanging that I will send to Bernina for sponsoring the 710 machine. I fiddled around for a while reducing stitch widths and lengths. The 710 does super 9mm embroidery stitches but I only wanted tiny ones around the painted rings. I rediscovered a spool of Madeira FS 20 thread to add definition around some of the inner rings and had a go at couching a fine braid using a cording foot. I think this version of  “5Bar Gate” should look pretty fancy when it is eventually finished.

For some reason I volunteered to co-ordinate the school Hallowe’en Party and called a meeting with an organising committee. It has always “just happened” in the past but I wanted  to make it easier for a group of new parents to open up a file and follow some basic guidelines. Some of my ideas (like potion making) were thought to be over-ambitious for a 2-hour party but I intend to get some feedback afterwards to discuss how it all went. 

Tania and I had a rare day out… After dropping off some prints and a small quilt with a picture framer, we went to a posh fund-raising event at the Coo Cathedral. There was a great selection of stalls selling everything from Madagcasar vanilla, recycled cashmere sweaters and leather wellies to artisan gin. I chortled when a man asked very seriously, “Is this gin Vegan?”… 

Proof that I was dabbling with too many things at once came on Friday afternoon while I was still quilting the gold spandex and remembered that after making a quick phone-call I had wandered off and left the Kitchenaid kneading pizza dough for 45 minutes. Luckily, the mixer and dough survived their ordeal and the children declared that the results were delicious;)

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Quilting Therapy

Secretly, I enjoyed myself in a school classroom where I learned 24 names, kept the pupils busy, tidy, enthused and behaving themselves without any prior knowledge of the mixed age-range class. Admittedly, learning fractions with the aid of a giant melon and bars of chocolate was a blatant bribe, but the kids asked me when I would be coming back to teach them again.  Unfortunately, there always one who likes to tell tales about the supply teacher at home - the parents of an unco-operative pupil phoned to complain that they did not approve of me saying, “Tough!” when their child did not get its own way. Despite all of the successes of the week, that is what stayed with me and made me wonder why I continue to turn up in unfamiliar classrooms when I could be working on quilts instead. I have been asked to teach again this week. I will feel guilty if I say that I am busy but I feel am falling behind on my schedule; my kids will have their October Holidays soon and I certainly won’t get much done then!

I started a simple “Trip Around the World” type of quilt just so I could do some easy piecing and I drafted ideas for my next book despite not having finished the one that I am meant to be finishing. I received the first of 3 Ebay quilt tops and realised that I must buy a bolt of basic backing fabric and some white fabric for dyeing from Whaleys. I really want to sell off a few quilts to make my business look a little more profitable;)

“Dunes 2” was quilted using a computerised design that I downloaded from Sunstone Quilting. It was a bit tricky deliberately overlapping the rings and working out when the bobbin might run empty in such an intense all-over pattern. The plan is to embroider around a few of the circles and attach some sort of “fancy” binding.

Much of the weekend was taken up being a nagging Mother: sorting overdue laundry, nagging about homework, music practice and superficially tidying Nell’s disgraceful bedroom while she was out. Fergus and Freya both played in an informal guitar concert on Sunday afternoon which gave me time to reflect on whether to cave in to teaching guilt or selfishly work on a few of my quilt projects. I think I am going to choose quilting until I run out of backing fabric although I may have to reconsider those options because the kids have just asked me for a drum-kit!

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Comme ci Comme ça

This week was hectic after I reluctantly agreed to work 4 days in a school the following week and felt the pressure to get lots done while I could. I programmed a basic flower pantograph into the Quilt Path system and quilted the wonky house quilt which I hope to put up for sale and I ordered 3 unfinished quilt tops from Ebay to see if I can sell them too. I have not lined up a shop to sell them for me since they charge such a ridiculous commission so I will just see if anyone fancies them on Facebook. I am considering framing up the individual quilts in “The Ostrych”, hoping that they will look more arty/saleable. It would be great to make enough from a sideline such as this so I did not have to go into school at all. I seem to dread the classroom more each time these days. It is not that I cannot cope, it is simply that I much prefer working on quilts!

I tried to avoid working on the heavy silk and wool-crewel bedspread by getting in a muddle piecing the “Dunes” bedquilt on point. Despite using a design wall, I found that I was short of a diagonal row of blocks. I think there is a bit too much yellow in the new version but I could not get a wide range of subtle, coastal colours in the UK when I ordered those Kona cottons. I plan to quilt overlapping circles all over it like rain splashes in a pool. 
The bedspread was completed in the end even though the weight of it made it sag on the frame. Surprisingly, the thickness was not a huge problem but a few pleats did form in places, particularly around the most damaged areas of worn silk.

The unquilted 1950’s hexagon coverlet that I offered to wash for Mo did not fare so well. Several of the fabrics simply disintegrated and I wished that I had quilted the whole thing densely first. It was another hard textile lesson learned. It could possibly be rescued by bonda-webbing new hexagons on top of the worn ones but I have not got time to tackle such a restoration at the moment. As it is, I keep having the same elusive dream about patchwork blocks every night and one of my cast-iron cooking pots had to be soaked for days after I welded mince to the bottom of it. Fortunately, no-one was able to detect the unintended secret ingredient in the lasagne sauce where I mistakenly used a large spoonful of baking powder instead of cornflour. The clue was that when I mixed it in there was some unusual fizzing which would not normally happen…

Freya and I ordered a selection of books and DVD’s from Amazon France,  to help with her studies for Higher French hoping that “poche” means paperback. We tried taking turns to read Harry Potter in French out loud but I think we just sounded like malfunctioning robots. 

My hairdresser had fun colouring my hair purple with teal highlights. I have decided that purple is far too dark for me and look forward to it fading to a more respectable pink. At least I won’t have to make much effort to come up with a witchy hair-do for Halloween;)

As Nell and I drove home from Banchory one dark evening, I felt that the Landy had developed wobbly wheels. We crawled home cautiously and in the morning could see that one wheel had lost a big nut and the ball joint on the other side was oozing gunge. It is lucky that this did not happen at speed, particularly last week on my trip to the Lake District. I hope it won’t cost a fortune to fix but Landrover repairs don’t usually come cheap!
I was almost disappointed when the Landy garage loaned me a banger for the week so I could still go to school. 

Fearing that I would not have time to sew much of consequence next week, I cut out a set of strips from a collection of fat quarters to make a simple “just-because” type of quilt. Even if I don’t get anything else done, I can at least piece a few strips:)

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Quilt Retreat in the Lake District

I did not plan to follow a large pack of cyclists all the way over the Cairn O’Mount at the start of my journey to the Lake District which my shortcut far longer than necessary! It is a good job that I had packed as minimally as possible since Kay had lots of quilts for her talks to fit into the Landy. We arrived at Rydal Hall after dark and found it a little spooky at first since there seemed to be nobody else there. During the week all sorts of guests came and went from Church ministers on refresher courses to watercolour artists and hill walkers. 

We spent the following day setting up 2 long arm machines and getting our teaching rooms ready for 10 quilting ladies who arrived in time for afternoon tea. Later that evening everyone started their projects and chatted about where they had come from until about 11pm. We had guests from Scotland, The West Country, The Midlands and even Austria. One or two had brought their husbands who would occupy themselves by exploring the magnificent countryside and its quaint pubs.

Like everyone else I worked on several projects and demos during the week. I quickly and randomly joined my house blocks together then worked on quilting circles on a better quality piece of spandex to make a replacement Gold Totem. I bored myself by painting two coats of paint on the quilted rings of “5-Bar Gate 2” and I managed to assemble all of the simple blocks for the bed version of “Dunes Duet”. 

We could have done far more sightseeing since we were close to Beatrix Potter’s house, Wordsworth’s church and a flat-calm Lake Windermere but we were FAR too busy sewing to tear ourselves away. Kay and I wandered around Ambleside which was crawling with hikers and I have never seen so many outdoor-apparel shops. 

I made a point of wandering around the beautifully landscaped grounds where we were staying and was impressed to discover that a textile artist-in-residence had an Art Yurt in which she was spinning herdwick sheep wool. There were felted and crocheted objects hanging around the garden that looked like they had simply grown there. 

Ani,Kay and I all gave talks in the evenings and invited outsiders to attend. One visitor told  us that she had particularly enjoyed the comedy repartee when we tried to sort out a minor technical hitch at the start of my slideshow - I had grabbed the wrong bag of cables so we quickly made a copy from my Mac onto a USB stick and used Kay’s laptop instead.

One of the highlights of the week was a trip to the Derwent Pencil Museum which boasts that it has the largest colouring pencil in the world. I found out about the importance of graphite for cannon ball manufacture in the 1500’s and how its smugglers coined the phrase “the black market”. There were microscopic carvings on the tips of pencils and many other fascinating artefacts including WW2 maps concealed within pencils that would enable escaping POW’s to find their way back to Blighty. We had a bit of a spending spree in the shop and I bought a couple of tins of Inktense blocks to colour the plain side of the long-abandoned “BzB” after it has been quilted.

All too soon the end of the week approached. With some trepidation, I woke up on Friday morning and was quietly relieved that Scotland had voted to stay within the United Kingdom with a definite majority. It was quite odd to be staying somewhere without access to TV and decent wifi during such a momentous time of Scotland’s history but we had far too much stitching to do to worry about that;) 

We said our goodbyes, offered to hoover up the clumps of thread and repacked the Landy which was quite a feat since we were also taking the demo APQS Millennium and frame legs back to Scotland! As usual, we had fun hanging out with quilters, drank a fair amount of gin and the other guests seemed to enjoy our daft banter. We took a scenic road out of Ambleside and the laden Landy valiantly tackled the bends of a steep hill, appropriately called “The Struggle”. 

The worst part of returning from a great trip is putting everything back in its place at home. Freya helped me to perform brain-surgery on the Lenni machine while it was off its frame. New circuit boards will solve the repetitive needle up/down malfunction that used to occur in hot weather. I even loaded the house quilt ready to seat in the morning so I can do something easy before attempting to fix an ancient tapestry bedspread for a castle. I think it will be one of those weeks that disappears in a flash…

Monday, 15 September 2014

Loose Ends

I seem to have spent my week tying up loose ends, finishing things off or getting organised for the next project. I am teaching at a Quilt Retreat with Ani and Kay this week in the Lake District so I also wanted to pack plenty of things to show and do there. I completed the quilting on the Book version of “5 Bar Gate” so I should get its rings painted while I am away and finish it off with machine embroidery using the big Bernina when I get back.

I attached the binding onto the Vintage 50’s quilt and the Super Bright Starry one then swithered about whether to add a border to the remake of “Silent Movie Star”. In the end, I decided just to leave it since I did not really like it as much as the original version. I soon discovered how sloppily I had pieced it when I attempted to custom quilt it with feather motifs using the Quilt Path computer! Let’s just say that I learned several things at once. I would definitely have made a a far better job of it freehand. I wanted to see what formal feathers would look like on a quasi-lonestar quilt but the spaces were too large to fill with the basic designs. I discovered how to edit, copy and move blocks so it was not a waste of time at all and as long as I stand well back from “B-Movie Star”, it looks all right. It is another quilt that I hope to sell. 

Another decision was that I would not continue making long fence blocks as a border for the Happy House blocks as it was already quite large. This is another quilt which I will “allow” QP to do with an all-over pattern. I made an uncharacteristic decision to square up the blocks to a uniform size and was aghast when I realised that some were at least ¼” -½” inch bigger all round than others. 

Another job that had been waiting to be done forever was to make a new ironing board cover since the old once was brown with burnt starch and bits of sponge were poking through. It did not even take me very long to cut out a piece of wadding and make a channel for string in a very roughly shaped piece of linen curtain fabric. The Tuesday Night Quilters were most impressed by the improvement because I have probably been muttering about making a new cover for at least 3 years.

While I was rooting through the basket I came across an antique quilt that is really tatty but I need to find wide batiste with which to cover the ancient appliqué. There is also a lovely Indian bedspread that needs a simple all-over design but first I will actually need to order some new rolls of wadding! 

In amongst my time in the workshop, I met with the Estate Factor regarding a housing development behind Durris School, taught Primary 1 for a day, drove deep into the Highlands to drop off Freya’s D of E crowd and tried to watch out for the Northern Lights through a thick blanket of fog. Obviously not forgetting, also mopping up two washing-machine related floods in the workshop loo where the decrepit plumbing rain caused an overflow and attempting to prevent Thistle the Kitten from teasing Bluecat, the most disgruntled Older Cat. Everyone will just have to sort themselves out this week while I am away busily demonstrating longarming and finishing off one or two quilts;)

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Proof that Procrastination leads to Progress

Perhaps it is because people are constantly asking me if I am busy that I feel obliged to fill every available moment in my working day, particularly since I am not teaching much in school at present. Certainly, with everything lined up in kit form for the week, there was less opportunity for getting side-tracked.

Monday’s project was assembling the spandex pouffe Book Project which went well after a couple of attempts at attaching the lurex piping. I wanted to figure out how to explain the  neatest and most straight-forward method accompanied by step-by-step photos. Fitting the cylinder onto the circular ends also went without a hitch. The major problem that I had not foreseen was how to fit a firm foam cylinder with a 48” diameter into a 14” opening. I had imagined that I could just squash it all in but it proved to be impossible. I suddenly realised why most pouffes are filled with polystyrene beads or why they have a long zip around one end. I came up with a radical solution because I did not want to take it all to bits and start again. I used a bread-knife and cut the cylinder in half then I cut one half in half again. It was then far easier to shove the firm foam inside the cover, pat it all back into shape the sew up the back by hand like one of my totems. I have tried sitting on it and it survived, although I experienced a sinking feeling. Really, it is just a frivolous foot-stool or a place on which to  balance a tea tray. I don’t even know where I intend to put it since I can imagine Thistle shredding it with her claws. In my Book, this project will be titled  “Spandex Pouffe - Not For Cats”.

Since I don’t currently have a backlog of customer quilts, I decided to finish off a couple of tops that had been stashed in a basket for a fair while and try to sell them. There was an ancient one that was made from all sorts of worn and unusual fabrics that seemed impossibly skewed out of shape. Some of the fabrics looked like they could easily have been recycled from garments of the 1950’s. It could only be freehand quilted densely in order to fix some dodgy seams and deal with the fullness. When it was done, I chucked it in the washing machine with two colour-catchers which emerged later soaked a suspicious dark grey. The unloved vintage quilt now smells clean and feels softly worn - it just needs to be squared it up a bit before a gingham binding is attached. 

The other top was one that I bought as an unfinished project at a Guild sale some time ago. I could never decide whether to add borders or turn it into a sleeping bag so it kept getting put back into the basket. After the usual faff of forgetting how I last managed to programme my longarm to use Quilt Path, I supervised while the machine robotically quilted an allover honeycomb pattern. I should be able to go away and do something else while the machine is doing its own thing but I still don’t trust it to behave when I am not watching.  I am very pleased with the way it turned out and I think the hexagonal quilting design on top of the bright stars looks great. I posted a picture on Facebook and sold it within an hour!

Website Wonder, Helen Bantock, worked away at making all of my updated icons, pictures and text operate correctly and I am delighted at the fresh, new look of 
This more than made up for the chagrin that my FOQ results seem to have been lost in the post and that I cannot find a single haulage company in Aberdeen to work out a simple shipping quote to Germany. 

I wrote my final Parent Council Chairperson’s Report for Fenella’s school 3 days ahead of schedule and finished the week working on the Book version of “5 Bar Gate” since I did not take any quilting photos while I made the original yurt panel or even its spin-off, “Willowbay Herb”! It is one of several projects that I plan to take to a Quilting Retreat in the Lake District.  I am actually one of the tutors so it will remain to be seen how much sewing of my own I manage to get done. Still, I reckon it is better to take too many things to do than not enough;)

Sunday, 31 August 2014


My main mission for the week was to find and book rooms in Paducah 2015. I emailed and phoned more than 20 hotels but was thwarted by being told that they were already fully booked or did not accept bookings until January. I appealed to one of the original Stunt Quilters who very kindly passed on the contact details of someone offering B&B who had not advertised anywhere else. I was relieved and excited to be able to report back to Kay and Ellen that the Paducah part of the trip was organised. We just have to co-ordinate the other internal flights and decide what to do in Chicago and Nashville. For an unplanned  trip that evolved out of the MQX cancellation, it looks like we will have a lot of fun!

After convincing myself that I did not have any more urgent organising to do, I assembled all of the bits and pieces to finish and photograph the final 4 book projects. I discovered that gold spandex does not make good bias binding. I needed a teflon piping foot as the metal one would not travel over the slippery surface. Rummaging around the local fabric shop, I discovered some lurex bias tape that may not be very durable but it looked perfect. 

Somehow I forgot that the instructions in my book were for vertical quilting lines for the circumference of the foam cylinder so now I can’t decide whether to cut and rejoin the piece of quilted spandex that I quilted with horizontal lines to make them go up and down instead. I suppose it depends on whether I want it to look like a Greek column or a walnut whip… I quilted the squares that will form the top and bottom circles and made the piped lurex binding so the next step will be to assemble and write comprehensible instructions for the project that I am calling “Spandex Pouffe - Not For Cats”.

I actually quilted a small customer Lonestar quilt this week. Since I had not really quilted anything since the end of June, I faffed around for a while while deciding what designs to use. I had intended to keep it simple but I got carried away as usual. I even added machine embroidery stitching around parts of the star and the inner border to add definition. I reminded myself that I have an unquilted Lonestar of my own tucked away - Silent Movie Star 2 was made as a class sample but I never liked the fabrics as much as the original version. However, since my quilting has improved since 2008 maybe I can make it look less brown with some funky designs. There are a few quilt tops that I have abandoned in a basket that I really ought to get done. They don’t need to be fancy - they just need to be finished;)

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Cyber Sorting

For once, I stuck determinedly to The Plan to make updates to my website. I set the laptop up in the kitchen to keep an eye on the kitten and started editing or updating pages for my website. This was a much larger undertaking than you might think since it led to updating my Flickr photo gallery then relocating files photos that seemed to have disappeared into The Mysterious Cloud. I can never quite work out what happens to some of my photos with the Mac but I think I have now got them all under control and filed in sensible places.

All of this prompted me to shape at least 3 old drafts of the Yurt Story into one article and produce blurbs about the Smart Car and the Norse quilts. I need to extend one on the Coracle and collate all of the research on Celtic seasons and customs into a coherent explanation about the Quilted Henge. It seemed like it would be a good idea to have pre-written basic articles about my large projects before the next time I am asked to do an interview or piece for a magazine.

Once I was in a sorting-out-zone, I got rather carried away and continued with lots of chores that I had been putting off. My business spreadsheets were given an overhaul and I even re-wrote the Constitution for the Parent Council that I had been meaning to do for well over a year. 

Freya worriedly enquired whether we were moving house when I started sorting out books, old school photos and DVD’s. I explained that I had just reached the point where I thought the house might burst if I did not do some serious clearing-out. I hate not being able to find something as soon as I think about it and I am sick of opening random cupboards and discovering a spaghetti of forgotten earphones and chargers that belong to various family members. There is a chest of drawers upstairs full of naked Barbie-dolls that I have earmarked to clear and re-home some of the offending electronics. 

In my workshop I emptied 8 folders of paperwork that were duplicates of instructions or filled with projects that were never going to get made. 

I sold the kids’ climbing frame on Ebay with the intention of moving and recovering the garden yurt which has not been used since we discovered an enormous wasp-nest. An exterminator dressed in a Ghostbusters outfit sprayed chemicals everywhere and everything inside is in a mess. 

The only sewing that I did all week involved cutting a couple of inches off the bottom of Fergus’s new school shirts and making a slipcover for his French homework book. 

Once I have stopped myself from purging the contents of shelves and drawers, I should have a nice tidy space to concentrate on completing the final projects for The Book. I was delighted when a school secretary called to apologise that I was no longer required to teach during the coming week. I can do a customer quilt instead while thinking about what junk I can sell off or give away next;) 

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Thistles and Thorns

I mostly managed to dodge a storm on my journey back from Birmingham but it made me rethink how much I wanted to own a caravan. It took two days to unpack, find a space to store 12 totems, put everything away and catch up on a backlog of emails. I am pleased with the Bernina’s Sewezi table but I have not allowed myself to do any sewing as it is my mission to make major changes to my woefully outdated website before I do anything else. 

This type of task is worthwhile but I always feel that I have nothing to show for spending several hours in front of my laptop. In the process I have relocated “lost” pictures and found at least 3 different copies of the Yurt Story in various stages of editing. This work should also be relevant to the book that I am trying to complete and at the same time it will be useful to have updated information when I apply to teach at quilt shows. 

I was hugely disappointed to be informed by MQX that they had decided to cancel my workshops in September.  Unfortunately, Ellen and I only booked our flights to Chicago 3 weeks ago but we decided to make ticket changes in order to visit Paducah next spring, rather than cancel our trip altogether. 

Better news arrived when Ann Long and I were told that “Dunes Duet” had won 3rd place for the Innovative category at The World Quilt Show. She has agreed that we can squander our prize money on some celebratory bespoke gin;)

It was obvious that the summer holidays were coming to a close when the weather turned autumnal, school uniform needed to be sorted and replaced and we started picking prickly brambles. The freezer is full of bags of fruit waiting to be transformed into jars of jam. Once I worked out how to assemble my new jelly-bag contraption, I stewed up rowan berries and apples in an attempt to make a sauce that will go well with game.  

There has been a very entertaining distraction in my house this week since Thistle, the fluffy-tabby kitten has moved in. She is one of Mo’s kittens which was feared lost for a couple of weeks before turning up safe in an old barn. Bluecat is not impressed at the newcomer and is determined to sulk. The real reason for me turning down supply teaching next week is that I will be kitten-sitting for Fenella while continuing to edit my website and book. I daresay that resolve will last for approximately one day before I decide to start a new project…

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

FOQ 2014

FOQ gets bigger and better every year! Ani, Kay, Sally, Ellen and I set up the APQS long arms and dressed the stand knowing exactly what we were doing since this was the third year that we had worked as a team. We had fewer people who were amazed to see a long arm machine in action for the first time and more who were doing thorough research into all of the available brands and features. We were petty busy most of the time apart from a couple of afternoon lulls when I would scatter M&M’s onto the quilt top and chase them around for a while before eating them. 

I was disappointed that The Quilted Henge did not receive any judges’ accolades but it was greatly admired, although most people had not bought the expensive show catalogue that explained what it was all about. Kay Bell received 2 Highly Commended awards for her painted whole cloth and a customer quilt. A beautiful quilt that the judges over-looked was voted Viewers’ Choice by the public! 

As a quilter I can’t help myself muttering about a number of the entries not really being quilts or even quilted. This was not confined to the Art Quilts, some of which had minimal stitching and only 2 layers of chiffon. In the Quilt Creations category were 3D items that were felted or machine embroidered. These were all fabulous pieces of textile art but I wonder whether the Festival of Quilts should be rebranded.

Getting up early allowed us to have a look around the show quilts and exhibits before the crowds arrived. I was inspired to join SAQA after chatting to Sandy Snowden. It would be great if a museum or gallery would house some of my pieces for a while as it is getting tricky to navigate around my workshop.

It was fun to meet up with friends and colleagues from all over the world - apparently it is actually called “networking”. We were thrilled to meet Bonnie Hunter who had been on a tour around England with Jim West. I had one or two brainwaves and mad ideas at 3 am, one of which was a plan for my second book, even though technically the first one still needs to be completed;)

I had a super chat with Aggy and Sarah from Bernina and they helped me to make a list of  essential feet for the B710. I bought a large Sewezi table for it as I hate using a sewing machine that sits on top of the table, particularly for free-motion quilting. 

After a week of late nights, early mornings, rather a lot to drink and a couple of great curries, it was time to make the 11 hour drive home, unpack and decide what colour to dye the white shirt that I unwisely wore while eating a Balti with chilli and turmeric pickle. 

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Instructions for Dummies Like Me

It took me almost 3 hours to figure out how to assemble a garden cart using barely translated from Chinese instructions with a bizarre exploded diagram. I fared better with fixing the legs onto a mini BBQ and it got me thinking that if I ever had a stab at writing a school text book for primary school maths it would be a huge volume of blow-by-blow demonstrations and explanations. The garden cart and BBQ came with us to the beach laden with blankets, deck-chairs and sausages but the gale-force winds made it impossible for the kindling to catch fire then we ran out out lighter gas. I was chastised by my kids for not taking a backup box of matches as we valiantly tried and failed to use a jam-jar as a magnifying glass substitute in the brief snatches of sunshine.

Spurred on by my Book’s draft cover, I continued to number the many photos that I hope to include and I started to review the clarity of instructions for the completed projects. I  have written the instructions assuming that everybody is as hopeless at interpreting written procedures as me. Freya read the hand-out for the Festival of Quilts workshop on Mini Metallic Wholecloths and reckoned that she could follow it successfully. 

I decided that I needed to make a sample piece for the FOQ class from scratch using my small domestic machine. I discovered that the new gold spandex is rather challenging on a domestic machine but if it is very heavily stitched any imperfections should be impossible to detect. My quilting skills on a small domestic machine were rusty but I needed to experience any problems that my students may encounter. That included not being able to use a machine that was sunk flat into the table and my left shoulder certainly ached afterwards. Personally, I would far rather longarm-quilt even the smallest projects but there are more opportunities to teach domestic quilting, particularly in the UK. 

My workshop table gradually became cluttered with kits, gadgets, paperwork and supplies for FOQ next week to which I added several bottles of wine and some posh crisps for the APQS team to enjoy in the evening;) The progress of my preparations was impeded by a page-turning detective novel by Robert Galbraith aka JK Rowling. It is a good job that she has only written 2 of these novels so far otherwise I would get nothing done! 

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Jam Packed

The family holiday in Norfolk came to an end and we boarded the train north with an assortment of luggage including a guitar and ukulele. Despite each of the carriages being designed to hold 80 passengers, there was only space for half a dozen small cases at one end so we guiltily left our stuff piled up in the space outside the loo since there was not an old fashioned guard's van.

The east coast haar had rolled by the time we reached Stonehaven but it was sunny in Crathes. The next few days were incredibly hot - temperatures near 30 Celsius are rare in Scotland and it was difficult to do anything as mundane as unpacking. I bought a jelly bag in anticipation of making jars of wild cherry jam without pips but a flock of starlings was determined to strip the tree before I could even collect enough for a bottle of cherry vodka!

I bribed the children to help me deliver the Coracle and Betula Totems to the Speyside Quilters exhibition on Friday with the promise of afternoon tea in Elgin. It was really a thinly disguised ploy to visit Veronique’s super shop on Commerce Street. 
There was a great selection of fabrics and a wicked choice of French haberdashery trimmings. She provided Freya with the perfect fabric for the skirt of her Higher Art dress project and I foolishly bought enough Kaffe Fasset material to make myself a frock. I also came home with 10 metres of gold spandex in case I have to remake the gold totem and to make the kits for my Mini-Metallic-Wholecloth class at FOQ.

Freya’s flowery frock got finished after I applied the bias binding by machine just like when I make a quilt. It fits her perfectly and she even likes it. The next challenge will be to make a separate tulle underskirt. Hopefully we have now mastered some basics between us to figure out how to put her dress project together once she has planned it all. We might even make use of the tailoring dummy that I purchased so enthusiastically 4 years ago…

Nell and I visited the Banchory Show and admired all the spruced up ponies and cattle. Her schoolfriend, Erin won several rosettes with her lovely heifer. The produce tent was bursting with jam, prize-carrots, scones and knitted hot water bottle covers. Sadly, there did not appear to be a patchwork category apart from some appliquéd felt Christmas stockings. 

I sent Sunday in Fochabers with some wonderfully friendly quilters and tried to explain what had possessed me to construct a spandex covered boat. Inevitably, I was asked what challenge I aimed to tackle next. I told them that I have a few ideas rattling around but I really must get That Book finished first!

Monday, 21 July 2014

Sunburn and Lightning

We enjoyed a super, action packed yet chilled out weekend in Norfolk with my folks.  The weather was warm and sticky most of the time except when we went to the beach where there was a cool breeze and I burnt my white legs in under an hour while sitting reading a novel. Fenella was not impressed with crunching sand in her sandwiches and declared that she never wanted to go on a seaside holiday.

My children loved meeting up with their younger cousins, playing with water pistols and going on an adventure to a dinosaur park with life sized fibre-glass T-rexes. It was hot and steamy in the Norfolk woodland and we could almost imagine ourselves being stalked by velociraptors after our jeep had been swallowed by a swamp.

We ate outside in the garden under a pergola at every opportunity and enjoyed the rare treat of reading our books in a deckchair. In Beccles we bought dress fabric, locally grown tomatoes and famous Seppings sausages.

I met up with an old school friend in Norwich and could not believe that we had not seen each other for 28 years. It seemed like just last week that we were messing about in Physics and she had to lend me clothes when my suitcase went astray on the trip to Greece. I always enjoy wandering around the lanes and back streets of the medieval city and I was delighted to rediscover my favourite shoe shop. Amazingly, on sale were green Danish shoes that looked like they would probably fit a trolI. I owned and loved an identical pair when I was 18 until they fell apart so I just had to buy them.

At the weekend we visited the Latitude Festival near Southwold. It was not quite as big as Glastonbury but there were crowds of people enjoying a vast choice of theatre, dance, comedy and music on different stages in the woodlands and parkland around the Henham Estate which I remember from being a pony club member as a teenager. It was another incredibly hot day and it was fascinating to observe all of the outlandish festival outfits, even a stag party of young guys all dolled up in summer frocks. On the main stage Booker TJones was incredible, followed by First Aid Kit, The Bombay Bicycle Club and an awe-inspiring performance from Damon Allbarn who used to front Britpop band, Blur. As he reached the end of his set there were ominous rumbles, quickly followed by dramatic forks and flashes of lightning. The heavens opened and we were very glad that we would not be spending the night in a tent. The drive out of the field was slippery and the road home was awash with water. 

The storms continued for most of Sunday while Freya and I struggled to understand the instructions of her dress pattern. There seemed toy be rather a lot of gaps in the explanations, assuming that you knew exactly what to do. One of these days I might have to make a simple frock and write idiot-proof assembly instructions but in the meantime, dressmaking continues to be my sewing nemesis. Despite heavy rain and crashing thunder throughout the day, we packed up a picnic, umbrellas and raincoats to attend a small, outdoor pop-picnic. Many of the guests were dancing on puddle-soaked grass in summer dresses and wellies in a typically “never-mind-the-weather” British fashion. With only a couple of days left in Norfolk, we are under pressure to complete Freya’s frock, swim at the lido, have one last BBQ and try to fit in a final trip to the beach…