Saturday, 15 September 2018

Snowflakes and Sunhats



I spent the entire week quilting snowflakes and flurries on both of my samples for classes in Germany. Both of them were intensely quilted which took ages but it was fun. I can’t believe that I thought pupils could work on both of the projects over 2 days. They will have to make a choice or do a lot of homework after the class! I avoided using metallic thread in the areas where there was Bondaweb and organza and opted for metallic-look poly threads instead. The Schmetz “gold stick” needles were great there instead. There was plenty of scope for embellishment and I really wanted to incorporate a string of pompoms but in the end I was restrained and just used a little rickrack and a few antique glass buttons. 











I am so relieved these small quilts are finished because customer quilts are coming in now and I am going away on a BIG TRIP for a couple of weeks until the beginning of October.  I have been busy printing documents and sorting travel accessories for a textile tour in India with Pam Holland!!! My Folks very generously sent me 50th birthday funds and a trip like this has been on my bucket list forever. I can’t believe it is finally happening. I have read the books, had the vaccinations, found my sunhat, and apart from charging up all of my gadgets and doing some grocery shopping for the kids I’m almost ready to go…

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Quilts, Kugels and Pompoms



Without a doubt - staying at home, not seeing anyone, sticking to a plan, really gets things done! I got 2 customer quilts and a cushion done before using the sometimes co-operative ScanCut machine to cut out shapes for my German class samples. The floor in my workshop was soon covered in bits of bondaweb, organza scraps and bits of wool. 








Metallic lamé on bondaweb is not an easy thing to cut as it does not seem to stick properly in small spots so some of the lettering got mashed up. Eventually, I cut out larger, separate letters but managed to mis-spell Frohe Weihnachten several times even though I had it written out correctly. I peeled the wrong ones off with tweezers and had to glue them back down. 



I have two small, German Christmas projects ready to quilt - one of strings of kugels with fairy lights and a snow globe of Coburg Castle. Hopefully, I will get them both done during the week as long as I don’t get too sidetracked.





A side project that I had going was to make a dozen tweed pouches to give to fellow travellers on an upcoming trip. I made them up in kit form so I could do all the zips at once. Each one was finished with a pompom but I cannot guarantee how robust they might be after a few zip pulls. 



Out of curiosity I made a properly squared off box pouch which did look nice but I was not keen on the exposed seams (not wanting to deal with the lining and outer part separately). I downloaded a LazyGirl pattern for a Bendy Bag and spent several hours following the instructions religiously, apart from using the recommended materials. I wanted mine to be made with quilted fabric but it really was too thick for finishing the exposed seams neatly - the overlocker was not up for the job. I want to modify how the zip finishes so obviously I felt the need to make a new prototype from double thickness tartan that does not involve a lining and a different way of attaching the zip. This is still a Work in Progress…






Apart from all of this impressive productivity, I also managed to hem a pair of jeans, complete a pointless online training course to remain eligible for supply teaching, make a key fob, and visit the Masters Degree show at Gray’s School of Art which showcased work that was refreshing, impressive and even bizarre. I am looking forward to starting my evening class on textile printing in October to add yet more ideas to my list of experimental  projects. If only I was as enthusiastic about paperwork;)





Monday, 3 September 2018

Christmas is Coming (in September)



I will be teaching a festive class in Germany at the beginning of December so I need to get the class samples made as soon as possible, even though it is still late summer. I had an idea of what I wanted to make and spent a day figuring out if the cutting and printing would work. 

It would be handy if the Scanncut could do the majority of any tricky cutting and resizing which means experimenting with different types of fabric and I can tell you that not all “Bondaweb” type products are the same. I learned how to scan in text and save it all as one piece, rather than its component letters so all of the experimenting was useful. However, I had to order lots more gold and silver printing ink, metallic lamés, Misty fuse and crystal organza which meant that I would have to wait for it all to arrive in the post since none of it could be bought locally.



In the meantime, I still have not decided on simple hand-sewing projects for a potential batch of American visitors to Scotland next Spring. I wanted to make a few more mini things, mostly in tweed, so I have a choice of projects. I had been given a basket full of lavender so I decided to make a simple tweed heart, stuffed with wool and lavender. Tweed is tricky to work with since a generous seam allowance is necessary, yet mini projects are actually meant to be petite;)




A quilting friend, who knows that the construction of wee bags fascinates me, showed me a tweed wash-bag lined in oilcloth that appeared to have no internal seams and a very neatly finished zip. That led to a whole investigating and making session until I had worked it out. I was not sure if I liked the squashy style first of all but the insides do look very nice. Tweed is rather thick but not impossible to work with on the little bags and now that I have a dozen more zips I will just keep making them until I have made up my mind. 



I did actually do SOME work and completed a computerised customer quilt. It was not one of those patterns where I could potter and do something else because I had to know exactly which direction the pattern was going in if there was a thread break, otherwise it might go off in the wrong direction after I fixed it. Because I was supervising closely, the thread did not break and the pattern worked out beautifully.




Family-wise, Fergus started an HND music course in Aberdeen this week and so far seems to even enjoy it, which is amazing for a child who hated school. Freya spent her week trying to get rid of stuff so she does not have to take it back to Uni but the Landy is still fully loaded for her return this weekend. She bought a Swiss cheese plant which definitely grows every day! I daresay she can put fairy lights on it at Christmas time;)


Sunday, 26 August 2018

Back to School Sort Out



It’s always a bit of a shame when the summer holidays come to an end but sometimes it is nice to get back into a routine. I did a lot of printing, filing, ordered school stuff online then decided to go ahead with my Big Sort Out. 

I did not actually switch any furniture around but I went through every single drawer and shelf like a dose of salts. I made the decision not to keep Smart Car templates and got rid of project leftovers. I even put labels on my drawers so I don’t have to open every single one until I find what I am looking for. My quilt books got sorted out and I dumped old files onto a bonfire. It took a day and a half but I felt satisfied that I could get down to work with a tidy workshop. 




One of the jobs that I had been meaning to do for a while was change the Q24 thread tension spring. The old one was full of fluff and sticky stuff, probably from when I quilted BzB. No wonder I had been tinkering with the top tension unnecessarily. 





I quilted a customer’s New York Beauty quilt after a false start where I quilted spikes in the border which I thought were upside down. I unpicked the first border then re-did it before realising that spikes cannot actually go upside down! My idea of simple quilting was to do a combination of straight and curved lines with some spikes and pebbles. It took me longer than it might have done but I am rather pleased with it.






I gave a lesson in how to tackle a DWR block and the pupil was delighted at how nicely her first arcs and melons joined together. I really must write down the combination of techniques used to get everything to line up that is often skimmed over in books. 

Having worn my home-made trousers all week, I decided to have a go at making a simple sailor-style top. The instructions were good but for some reason the sleeves were too tight. The pattern pieces were cut correctly and the seam allowance was accurate so I can’t quite work out what went wrong except that I did not use stretchy cotton jersey or my arms are abnormally fat. At least I did not use expensive fabric and I now know what to do but I wish I had made something immediately wearable, not just a prototype!




Monday, 20 August 2018

Post Quilt Show Recovery



It takes a while to settle back down to “normal” after an event like FOQ. It was almost a week of activity, excitement, late nights and early mornings. I stayed with Kay in the Scottish Borders overnight on Monday so did not make it home until Tuesday afternoon. It took me all of Wednesday to return everything to its place in my workshop and have decided that a ruthless cull is looming. I feel that I am running out of space for show quilts and dress dummies that can’t stand up by themselves due to an accident involving  a giant roll of corrugated cardboard. When my work area is annoying me I just cannot do anything until it has been sorted out - obviously due to a severe case of procrastination.

Despite having an extensive list of projects that need to be done, I filled my time with catching up with emails, making trips into town to get school supplies, paying bills and fixing the tumble dryer.





I had an afternoon off to do a gelli-printing course with Lucy Brydon at Tangletree Studio in Aboyne. The studio/shop is well situated on the town square and is a great, light space offering a range of workshops and selling artisan crafts. Apparently I own several gel plates that I have obviously bought, thinking they would prove useful but are still pristine in their packaging. We explored texture, layering, stencils, colour mixing during an afternoon that flew by. I signed up for the class because I thought the techniques might come in handy when I start the Printed Textiles foundation evening course at Grays School of Art in the autumn. You never know, maybe one day I will actually produce something that is commercially viable;)



Having decided that quilting will not happen until I have reorganised my studio, I decided to have a go at making a nice, easy pair of trousers. Let’s just say that it was not a relaxing or fun experience. The so-called “Easy” pattern was awful. The pattern pieces did not match the sparse diagrams, there were virtually no actual instructions and it’s a good job my fabric was a batik that was the same on both sides. I persevered and learned a lot, such as, I like the idea of dress-making but hate the frustrating experience of not having a clue what I am doing. Someone needs to come up with patterns that actually explain what to do and don’t assume you are already an accomplished couturier! There’s another goal for me - write about dress-making for the of us who are Instructionally Challenged.



Wednesday, 15 August 2018

FOQ 2018



Being a tutor or exhibitor at Festival of Quilts is hard work! There is the preparation, the set-up, getting up early, going to bed late, long days of standing and explaining, and much walking. There are times when you feel that you are not actually getting to see much of the show BUT it is great fun meeting new people, teaching people how to quilt, catching up with old friends and socialising afterwards. 





There was the usual controversy over some of the judging decisions and much grumbling about the lighting. I was extremely disappointed that navy blue “Iconoclast” was in a dark spot and was not allowed to move to the brighter, empty wall opposite. Most viewers walked straight past without giving it a second glance. 2 out of 3 judges scored it highly and gave excellent comments but the third did not seem impressed. I absolutely did not expect to win a prize, I just wanted people to be able to see my quilts properly after I had worked so hard on them.

Sadly, my “Domestic” slideshow onto a white whole-cloth quilt was completely invisible under an overhead roof-light, bright spotlights and in a white-painted gallery while a few of the Fine Art Masters quilts were displayed on the outer walls in more subdued lighting. I was chatting to some guys as they dismantled the gallery after the show and told them all about “Domestic” being an ironic entry after several rejections in previous years with what I had considered to be among my best works. “Domestic” is not a fine piece of quilting but more of a concept. After telling them that I consider it patronising to Quilters that FAQM entries should “transcend craft and be worthy of hanging in an art gallery” one of the guys finally introduced himself as the co-ordinator of that competition - well, Oops! Sorry, not sorry;) I am glad I finally broke into the elite with my ironic art quilt but annoyed that there had been no effort to display it sympathetically - I even had to check that the projector was switched on each day. 




I enjoyed teaching master classes in the Bernina Longarm Academy, also running demos in the classroom and on the stand. I even kept up a constant commentary for a 45 minute Youtube Livestream video, wearing a microphone headset like a popstar. 



Amazingly, I did not buy any quilting supplies at all! However, I bought some basic clothes patterns and boiled wool to make a coat. I hope it is not just a fantasy and I will actually MAKE something to wear that fits for a change.

I did not take many photos, probably because everyone else who visited the show had taken plenty of pictures and posted them on social media. And I confess that I never did find time to look at every single quilt. Some of the exhibition galleries were fantastic - I was impressed that Nancy Crow presented 75 almost identical monoprints. I could not make up my mind whether it was sheer genius or artistic audacity.





I really enjoyed the Ricky Tims concert/dinner. He is an entertaining speaker and also fantastic at playing a grand piano. I gave him a standing ovation, although other members of the audience were more British and clapped loudly but did not stand up. There was a rowdy taxi riot after the show at the Hilton where seemingly innocuous quilters elbowed each other to grab the unbooked rides back to their hotels. 




The whole week flew by so quickly. It was great fun, sociable, hard work, inspiring and it won’t be long until plans get underway for next year;)