Sunday, 20 January 2019

I Ate an Elephant!






My Esoteric Elephant class sample quilt rampaged away with me. Partly this was because I had not really decided in advance what designs would be used. Mainly it was because I just could not stop adding details to the quilting which the students will not actually have time to do in class. 






I tried using an acetate sheet to audition the quilt designs but I did not notice that it did not cover the whole area that I wanted to doodle on and the bright green felt pen slipped, leaving a mark. This was was really prompted me to start colouring it after defining some of the edges with gold textile paint and a tiny brush.



I started off using Derwent Intense pencils and aloe vera gel but not all of the colours were vibrant enough. Sharpie pens were applied on top but they had a tendency to bleed so I had to be very careful. I found some Sakura jelly-roll pens so used them to colour around some smudges. In hindsight, I should have applied some sort of primer to the elephant then I could probably have used Sharpie pens without any bleeding. 




I could have continued colouring-in the whole elephant and adding definition with a fine black gel pen but there comes a point when a class sample has to stop, especially when I have one more class to plan by the end of January at the latest! Having spent far longer than planned on the project I finished it off by adding tiny blobs of 3D fabric paint in some of the circles, rather than start applying crystals and mirrors. 

The Bollywood Border class should have been drawn out ready to quilt by the weekend but I found it tricky to decide on the designs. I will quilt out a sample that will involve some ruler work and freehand detail but I will provide alternative designs on handouts because the class sample won’t be large so only a few motifs can be explored in the class. I have now sketched out the bare bones on paper and will get it quilted as fast as I can - maybe I could even leave some areas unfinished (As if!) 

Having been a bit concerned that I had a lull in customer work since Christmas, 5 quilts came in last week and I also hope to get something underway for the FOQ competition. 

My Warli screen-prints are building up - not all of them are suitable but it should not take me long to print off enough pieces to make some sort of quilt. I have not yet decided whether to do any piecing with shapes other than squares and rectangles. Obviously, that would be far more interesting but there is the issue of TIME. I would really like to figure out how to get Art&Stitch/Qmatic to stitch out some of the Warli figures but that is still beyond my capabilities with digital design at this stage.





I drove Freya back to St. Andrews after a long Christmas break. It was lovely to have her at home and she has been hugely supportive of Nell’s prelim exam revision. Before she starts the new term she is off on an adventure, hitch-hiking to Munich for charity in a team of 3 students, racing against 60 other trios. It is fun to track her progress on www.race2.org.uk (Team 58)

Sunday, 13 January 2019

Creativity at Last



I am frustrated that I am not good at drawing yet that I have plenty of technology to “cheat” although that technology can be a puzzling minefield. I watched Youtube tutorials on how to create a spiral design with repeating motifs but it was for a PC version of Adobe Illustrator which I don’t have. There are so many things I think I could do with an iPad so I will see about going to the Apple Store for some training sessions.

My printer only works to a maximum of A4 so creating a larger design is tricky. I dragged out my old Overhead Projector and sketched out a couple of designs onto pieces of paper taped together which was not a bad solution, albeit a bit wobbly. 

One of the things I wanted to draw out was a spiral of Warli figures for my screen-printing class. I drew a wiggly spiral with the OHP then printed several sheets of Warli figures, cut them out with scissors then glued them on individually. Next I had to trace over them with a light blocking felt pen without any smudges. It took hours! I was pleased to find out that I could use the Scanncut plotter machine to draw out a different design by fitting one of the Zig pens into the pen holder even though the machine did not initially recognise the pen holder. 




At the screen-printing class the acetate was burned onto a photo-emulsion screen using a UV light and it printed out amazingly crisply. This term we will print out various screen that we have made and work towards a final exhibition piece so the obvious project for me will be a Warli figures quilt.

I am working frantically on projects that I can teach at the Bernina Longarm Academy at FOQ this year. One is called “Modern Mystical Mandala”. The tricky thing is that using quilting templates to create a design will not be accurate since the hopping foot adds ¼” to every motif and I could not find one of those little discs that add the ¼”! I resized some concentric circles that I had designed for Qmatic and quilted them out onto white fabric. I drew on registration marks with a friction pen then added other circles and pointy shapes using longarm rulers. My design ended up rather messy as I scribbled ideas onto the piece with the friction pen whereas I should have overlaid a sheet of acetate and used OHP pens so it was quite difficult to see what I was doing towards the end. 







Quilting out the sample for a 3 hour class took me about 2 days, mostly due to designing as I went along. Students can use a choice of simpler fills if necessary. I resisted the urge to colour in the finished mandala with Inktense pencils but stitched through large mirror sequins instead. The hopping foot caused the plastic to crackle on the smaller sequins but I thought it was a funkier material to use rather than bonda-webbed silver lamé. This was a useful exercise because I want to attempt a mirror sequin quilt based on an antique scrap of clothing that I picked up in India;)




Sunday, 6 January 2019

Hogmanay Hiatus

Instead of moping in at home on New Year’s Eve we went to a ceilidh at Crathes Village Hall. The place was packed with people of all ages and we joined in most of the dances, our ineptitude no worse than anyone else’s. The band leader called the dances so there were not too many collisions or bruises. Afterwards we were invited for more drinks and board games at one of the “new” houses and all in all we had a jolly time.



I always feel that New Year’s Day really is the end of the festive period and I like to put the Christmas decorations away before Twelfth Night. The house looked a bit bare without its extra glitz and I decided to fill some of the space with a new wall calendar. I made my own version of pages for my Planner, even though I only used it up until April last year before resorting to scrawled lists in notebooks. I can at least start the year off feeling organised;)

On Thursday I took my girls to the cinema to see “The Favourite”, a bizarre dark comedy about Queen Anne which was really good but also bonkers and tragic.



There were many things that filled my days last week and kept me out of my workshop. Bumble had to go to the vet and have a lump removed and we were amazed at how perky she was after a general anaesthetic, most annoyed that she had missed breakfast. We had a go at making Tofu with soya milk which is a similar process to making yogurt but not as tasty in my opinion. I am not entirely sure why but I decided to soak and cook a one-pound bag of chickpeas to recreate a salad that I had had bought in M&S to eat in the cinema. I had enough chickpeas to make a large salad, a sizeable batch of hummus and enough spare chickpeas to make at least 3 more meals, thus proving that dried chickpeas are more economical than tinned ones and can be used sparingly!



Nella roped Freya and I into helping her work on her part for her drama exam. She is a main character in a play called “Tally’s Blood” about a Glaswegian-Italian family during and after WW2. Some characters are Scottish, some Italian and some are hybrids so figuring out how to do the accents is a challenge. We will record it to help her learn it off by heart but I don’t believe we would blend in at all in Glasgow’s Italian Quarter, Merchant City!

I found myself editing Fergus’s music essay on a Metal band. He is an excellent guitarist and knows all sorts of stuff about music but writing it down is a chore. I untangled it, advised on presentation and learned a lot about Math Rock, just in case I should ever get asked about it in a quiz.



I was determined to tackle at least a couple of tasks on my To Do list so I decided what I will teach at the Bernina Longarm Academy FOQ in August - I “just” have to whip up the samples. I also watched some Youtube clips on how to use “ArtAndStitch” software. I felt brave enough to have a go at some exercises but discovered that my version of the software needed an update because I have had it for ages without using it. In the meantime I printed off all 200 pages of the manual because quite honestly I find it easier to flick through file than search for help online. 




It will be a hard slog getting up early every day next week but good to get back into a routine of sorts. I will probably soon look back at the lazy holidays with longing…

Sunday, 30 December 2018

Lazing Around Over Christmas





I like to spend Christmas Eve cooking so there is not much preparation to do in between watching the kids open presents and trying not to eat a whole chocolate orange before breakfast. I discovered late in the day that everyone actually did want red cabbage so I had to make a list minute dash to the shop to hunt for a vegatable that will most probably end up as hen food before the holiday is finished.



We had a very lazy few days with leisurely walks, glasses of sherry at any time of day, and inventing ways of making vegan turkey into appetising leftovers. After 48 hours I felt guilty that I was not busy doing something, trying to avoid being anti-social out in my workshop. I kept finding myself pointless little tasks including stripping the flowers off a basket of dried lavender. I had hoped that I could just whizz the whole lot in the Magimix but it made a mess and the motor got rather warm. 



At least I managed to run up a couple of mini-makes for a workshop in February where I will have no access to sewing machines which I will find a major challenge. I downloaded an entry form for the Scottish Quilt Show competition but the maximum size permitted is 60” x 80” so Iconoclast is not eligible. 




I took my girls to see “Mary Poppins Returns” which we really enjoyed a it was a similar format to the original with some great songs and animated scenes. I admit that I did doze off at one stage but I will put that down to too many late nights. 


I obviously thrive on deadlines and a bit of stress so once we have sen in the New Year I need to write myself a great big list of things to do then worry about how I am going to achieve everything. Before that happens I guess I will have to finish off all of the sherry;)

Sunday, 23 December 2018

Christmas Buildup



It has been a fast and festive week from the Banchory Academy Christmas concert to an impromptu show at the Deeside Dance Centre. My quest to find do last minute shopping was skewed by a puncture in the Landy on the same day that I collected it from the garage with a new starter motor and steering pump. To be fair, even a brand new car could have picked up a hefty nail.



I determined to complete the Fancy Forest quilt without doing any serious sums and ended up with a patchwork top that measured 72” x 109” so I pulled off the bottom row and reattached it to the side so it was 90” ish inches on all sides. Admittedly one corner was almost 3” wider than the top corner after the impromptu additional piecing but it will never hang on a wall so I decided that it was not important. I lined up lots of rows of the honeycomb pattern on Qmatic and let it run while I got on with the chore of wrapping presents. 




I used offcuts from the backing fabric for the binding so now it is complete and looks very bright and jolly even though it does not yet have an owner or bed. It may end up in the summerhouse for sleepovers when the kids push the 2 sofa-beds together. 




There have been a few late nights, waiting up to collect Fergus from the bus stop after the last bus home from Aberdeen and a great Christmas party/Housewarming at the newly completed barn conversion of one of Nell’s best friends. I had my annual festive coffee with Mo and Tania and loved my selection of personal gifts which included gin and Scottie dog gaffa tape. 


Bumble was not hugely impressed when the girls made her have a pre-Christmas bath to make her smell fresher but now any malordorous festive pongs can be blamed on sprouts or stilton. I have dreaded doing the final festive grocery haul and my strategy for avoiding crowds is to go late on Sunday evening when it will either be a feast or famine…


Sunday, 16 December 2018

Mutant Creatures and Roadie Trials



I felt like the 1970’s Children’s TV character, Mr Benn this week as I took on many different personas - vegan chef, unsuccessful Landrover mechanic, Band Roadie, Quilt Whisperer and Chicken Keeper. 



I started the week helping a friend quilt radiating lines on a mini quilt for which I was paid in Gin. Next I loaded up my Unicorn mega block, having dithered about custom quilting for ages then deciding that an all-over tight honeycomb done by the Bernina Q24 Qmatic would be eminently suitable. 



Having made no early preparations for Christmas, I was happy to fill my virtual basket and order all sorts of items online - I just have to hope that they will arrive on time.

I took Fergus out for lunch on Tuesday to celebrate his 17th birthday, only ordering one course because we had a squidgy vegan chocolate cake to polish off later. He had his first driving lesson which he declared a great success, then asked when he attempt to could drive the Landrover. The Landy has been a bit of a drama queen of late, clunking, groaning and being reluctant to start. Landy-Man advised that it would need a power-steering pump, starter motor and a weld on the half-shaft which he could not do until next week. I managed to transport Fergus and his gear to a gig but when I tried to start it later to take Nell and her friends to watch it was dead as a dodo. I called Mo who came to the rescue with her car so we managed to get there on time and bring all of the gear home later.




Rather unusually I had caught up with all of my customer quilts and did not need to “waste” time going to town for present shopping. I am still undecided what to work on for my next competition quilt but I needed to work on some sort of project. I dug out the random collection of Fancy Forest blocks and laid them all out on my table. They posed quite a puzzle since I had made some giant animals as well as a few of the fiddly smaller ones. The original pattern recommended that all of the plain background fabrics should be the same then sashing would be added to connect it all together. Obviously, I had used a variety of shot cotton background fabrics so had a collection of blocks that really did not want to fit together at all. Luckily, I found a large piece of a plain Oakshott Lipari so decided to add 2” strips around the creatures and fill in any gaps with some Gees-Bend/Improv style strip piecing. Eventually I ended up with 4 rows of varying widths which could be made to fit by adding more strips or squares until the shortest row was as wide as the longest one, not bad for someone who is not a maths genius;)






Sunday, 9 December 2018

Easy-Peasy Japanesy

I spent most of Monday travelling back from Germany to find that it was much colder back in Scotland. I unpacked a lovely selection of threads, small longer rulers and white chocolate biscuits.




I don’t know how many layers I had to wear on Tuesday in my Arctic workshop to quilt a striking grey tree quilt. It was a very simple quilt with a few blocks around a large central panel but it looked really classy when finished. 



I made a flock of mini hens using a pattern that Regina gave me from a German gardening magazine. They were very easy - the longest part of the process was stuffing them. The tiny foot on my Singer Featherweight was ideal for stitching the opening shut. Some of the hens were lucky and got bells for feet. Some will be given away but I think I will keep a few in my workshop. Maybe I also need some blue ones? It would be fun to make a hen using leftover scraps from every finished quilt.



Funnily enough, I had a customer quilt this week with chicken fabrics so I got the Bernina Qmatic to quilt it with hexagons that looked like a chicken wire fence.



I have finished the antique quilt repairs by stitching new patches over the worn ones in the outer border. It took 16 ½ hours to fix 10 blocks and some of the border so I hope its owner will be pleased with the results.

I bought a couple of Japanese Tatami strip bag kits from Regina and had intended to give them to my Mother and Sister for Christmas. However, the instructions were in Japanese but with good diagrams. I decided that it would be better if I made the bags myself then gave them away. The first one was straightforward except that it was not easy to pull up a gathering thread with such stiff fabric. The backpack was more challenging as I could not quite work out what the diagrams were suggesting. There was a bit of guesswork and the fabrics were not really suitable for ripping out mistakes. In the end I got it sussed and was pleased with my attempts. 




Nell and I had a rummage in the charity shop over the weekend - she got some clothes to up-cycle while I found a set of Nigella Lawson mixing bowls and a small silk carpet that I might use to make a Mary Poppins bag. I will need to order a tubular frame and no doubt follow some challenging instructions but they are very expensive to buy ready made so I might as well have a go. 



I made myself catch up with paperwork before I get stuck into Christmas preparations. I absolutely hate doing it but I have to be prepared to get my tax return done by the end of January and that is one job that it is not worth doing at the last minute;)