Sunday, 14 July 2019

Utter Clutter



With 3 days to do packing for my mega-trip I avoided packing altogether and decided to do a little light pruning. I have an enormous Cotoneaster bush outside my workshop that has grown to the size of a really large tree. It was arching over so much that everyone had to duck to get past it. The last straw was when some of its branches got tangled up in my hair and snatched the specs off my head. I only meant to snip a few twigs but 3 hours and a blister later, I had cut down so much that I was trapped behind a huge mound of vegetation and had to get my kids to help clear it all away. 




I did eventually gather all of the stuff together for my trip and managed to fit all of it into the back of the Landy. I prefer to travel light if I am going away on my own but I had to include camping gear, deckchairs, a gas stove, teaching materials for Birmingham and a month’s worth of clothes for all occasions. The kids also had to pack stuff such as sleeping bags, funky outfits for a music festival and various vintage cameras. Even Bumble had luggage as she was going to spend the holiday firstly with a friend of Nella then later will go and stay with Mo. Typically, Fergus did not pack his gear until the last minute which was intensely irritating and I had to go and calm down by doing some easy-piecing.




We left on time at 8.00am on Thursday morning, drove 5 miles before we realised that nobody had loaded up the guitar so we turned around to fetch it. We completed the entire 540 mile trip in 10.5 hours, only making 2 brief stops which I would say is impressive for a noisy, old Landrover Defender! 



We spent our first day in East Anglia mooching around in Beccles where we were disappointed to find that our favourite vintage junkyard was closed for the day. However, it was nice to buy some fresh, local tomatoes and I found a great second-hand rainbow raffia hat that will do nicely for Latitude. We may have overdosed on Vintage after a lengthy foray into Bungay and a fruitless trip to the old convent near Ditchingham where the goods really were just junk on this occasion. 

After a busy few days everyone was ready to settle down, read, make dreamcatchers and just laze about in cloudy weather that is at least a bit warmer than Aberdeenshire. The days are not action-packed and time just slides by without actually doing anything. I have a couple of hand stitching projects with me but I will be surprised if I actually get around to doing them;)


Sunday, 7 July 2019

Patchwork Therapy



Life is not always a beach so it is good to have an interest such as patchwork and quilting that offers an escape from worry. We had our first Eating Disorder appointment which did not wave a magic wand but at least got my daughter accepting one tiny meal of vegetables per day. This is a small step in the right direction, mainly due to the threat that she will not be able to go to Latitude if she is not fit enough.



I took Bumble to the vet because one of her mammary tumours had opened up. She is not actually unwell but we were told that she had half a dozen tumours, some of which could be surgically removed but that they would come straight back. I decided that my beloved 12 year old dog would not be put through any further operations and just asked for antibiotics for the wound instead. I am sad that Bumble can’t come on holiday with us but I can’t leave her with my folks for too long and I would have to go back to Norfolk from Birmingham to collect her so I just have to hope that she is OK staying with friends for almost 3 weeks. 

One of my friends had a nasty road accident - she was badly shaken, bruised and her car was a wreck. I gave her a couple of lifts in Fergus’ little car which was making an alarming squeaky noise like a constipated hen. Hopefully it is just a dirty brake and won’t be another expensive fix. 




The last customer quilt before the summer holidays begin was a cream quilt for a Golden Wedding present. It was quilted with a Qmatic pattern then I had to attach a row of slippery bridal lace. I made a thin strip of folded bias to hide the raw edges then sewed it down with a decorative blanket stitch. 



A delivery van dropped off a package that I had forgotten about which was a Bernina eyelet kit. I spent a morning fiddling with settings and thread and was impressed at how well it performed. My plan is to make eyelets then layer them over silver lame fabric so they look like Indian mirrors to add to my rainbow Warli quilt. 

Another parcel contained my new Bernina style trolley-rucksack. I have designed a name badge so it looks like one of the bags that I coveted at BU and I need to find someone to embroider it for me. 





I decided that I needed a therapeutic “just because” patchwork project so I cut up the Christa Watson layer cake that I won as a door prize in her class. One of her patterns , “Positivity”, called for neutral greys in the background but I swapped that part for plain coloured fabrics from my stash. I really enjoyed some mindless patchwork where all I had to do was simple chain-piecing. I can just pick up around 5 blocks at a time and allow my brain to switch off. 






This week we will be working through my pre-holiday/packing lists and hoping that everything just ticks along without any drama.


Sunday, 30 June 2019

A No Sew Week



In theory I am meant to be starting a family holiday on July 12th that will lead me straight into FOQ so I decided that it was time to make preparations as the end of the school year is looming. I prepared my teaching materials and notes and packed them into a suitcase. In reality, parts of the family holiday may have to be abandoned since my youngest daughter has developed an eating disorder and we had several medical appointments last week. I cannot say more about it here, other than it is extremely difficult to deal with.

I gave up on the idea that the kids would sort out the summerhouse which they had used for several parties and sleepovers so it was down to me to wash the bedding and clear away debris. They were also not thrilled that I dumped all of their items into their rooms instead of leaving them strewn around the house but there comes a point when a major tidy-up is good for the soul.

I waited all week for Amazon Prime to deliver packaging for my show quilts and I admit that they did not receive my usual scrutiny so I just hope they hang relatively straight. Iconoclast is being sent to the World Quilt Show with another 20 UK entries and So Many People is off to FOQ for an airing. 



For a change of scene we drove down to St Cyrus on Saturday for a rummage around the junk-yard. It has always been scruffy but on this occasion it seemed particularly derelict. There were smashed LPs, broken shards of mirrors, headless figurines and I was convinced that there could be funeral urns full of ashes somewhere amongst the bric-a-brac. 



We went for a wander along the stunning beach afterwards and encountered a weird atmosphere. Crackling static electricity made our hair stand on end! The light was ethereal, the sea calm and the air still until we heard rumbles of thunder and flashes of lightning. A storm rolled in and we decided that it was best to head back across the dunes. Bumble seemed confused - she was either fazed by the size of the beach or knew that a storm was on its way. I am actually worried that she is becoming too frail to enjoy such trips. She seems fine most of the time, bumbling along in her usual fashion but it is either time to consider having yet another operation to remove tumours from her under-carriage or leave them alone and let nature take its course. 





I really have no idea what to expect from the week ahead. My Bernina 710 arrived back from Cardiff with a new CPU unit/brain so maybe I should cut out a mindless patchwork project to work on in order to keep myself preoccupied. 




Sunday, 23 June 2019

Defying Gravity



By the time I went to bed on Monday evening I had been on the go for 36 hours. Luckily, I don’t seem to be bothered with jet-lag after USA trips, maybe because I just need to keep going and get back to normal. It took some time to unpack, even though I had not bought much then I had to sort out my expenses and file paperwork which is a job that I loathe.

I had 2 DIY quilting customers this week - one was a long bed runner done using Qmatic but the other was a large Gravity Quilt which the customer bravely chose to do entirely with ruler work, never having done any before. It took her 2.5 days to “simple” designs on her quilt and it looked great when it was done. 




While she was busy I decided to make a couple of By Annie Clam-Up bags to control my ever increasing cables. I feel like I am always coming up with cable storage solutions yet every time I go on a trip I open up my bag to find a tangle of spaghetti wires. I can’t believe that I went to the trouble of cutting 2 pieces of quilted fabric which was directional then ended up with one half of the bags upside-down. I realised that I had flipped the template for the second half when I should have cut two pieces the right way up. I will just have to pretend that I am not an idiot and used a single piece of folded fabric. All of this was done on my Singer Featherweight because the Bernina is still in Cardiff. I have noticed that you don’t actually appreciate a machine until it is not available so I feel that I need to get a sturdy, back-up machine without any computerised parts. This might be the Elna Lotus after it has had a thorough service or maybe I need to find a mechanical Bernina 1008 before they are discontinued.

We went to see Fergus at a gig in Aberdeen in a post-punk, metal line-up. The crowd sang along to his lyrics and chanted his name which was great. I think some of the crowd wondered what I was doing there when the mosh-pit and feedback really got going but I have actually experienced the frenzy and noise of a live gig in similarly seedy venues, albeit 35 years ago!




I had a bit of a panic when I looked at the calendar and realised that there are only 3 weeks to go before I go to Norfolk with the kids and all of my FOQ stuff has to be ready as it is a week earlier. Once I go away I will stay away until after the show which means almost a month away from here. There is a lot to organise from sending off 2 show quilts, getting teaching materials sorted out and checking our camping gear. Things are going to be hectic…!


Monday, 17 June 2019

Bernina University 2019 - Jax to the Max




I had a 3 flight journey to Jacksonville, Florida from Aberdeen - Manchester - JFK New York, arriving at the hotel just before midnight. All went fairly smoothly despite my trans-Atlantic seat neighbour man-spreading, gripping the seat arms and trying to persuade me to love Jesus. Clearing passport control and customs took forever at JFK, possibly even longer than I have experienced at Paris Charles de Gaulle!










We had an early start on Monday morning at the opening launch of Bernina University. It was a huge event with hundreds of dealers and educators from Bernina of America. There was a lot of razzmatazz loud music and disco lights, followed by announcements of forthcoming new Bernina machines and accessories. I was surprised to see a large contingent of Mennonite attendees who had travelled from Pennsylvania by bus. Apparently, they are among the most successful dealers of Bernina sewing machines in the whole of the USA.

Classes started later that day and continued through to Thursday. It was a tremendous opportunity to take lectures and hands-on classes ranging from technical training, getting to grips with Qmatic and using social media to promote business. It was a very busy time and with the chilly air-con, easy to forget that there was hot weather outside. The hotel was situated downtown which really means within an area of offices so not much else to see in the immediate vicinity.

We found a quaint Italian restaurant a couple of blocks away which could easily have been featured on the TV show, “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” but the service, wine and food was excellent.




The closing dinner was a glitzy affair with a Caribbean band, disco and dealership awards. There was great anticipation of where BU would take place in 2020 and great excitement when Palm Springs, California was revealed as the destination. My room-mate, Merete Ellingsen, from Norway and I are both very keen to attend again to take more classes or even offer project based classes on the Q24/Qmatic. We will have to come up with something unusual and fun.









We had 2 free days after the convention so decided to use Uber cabs to visit Jacksonville Beach and an outdoor shopping mall, both approximately 30 minutes away. Merete could easily cope with lying out in the sun all day but I bought a brolly with SPF50 because otherwise I would have fried. Even when there was a thunderstorm it was still far warmer than a really hot day in Scotland. 




I felt that my trip was really worthwhile and I did not add significantly to my luggage apart from Amanda Murphy’s ruler collection. It was great to spend time with the BoA educators to revise and learn techniques that I will be able to pass on with renewed confidence to Qseries users in the UK, Germany and India. 











Saturday, 8 June 2019

Truly Thwarted!




There was much that did not go according to plan this week! I downloaded a pattern for a pair of dungarees/overalls from Helen’s Closet and set to making a toile to check that I had picked suitable size. I traced off the pattern a size bigger than my dress size but the fit was too small. Rather depressed by my measurements I then made a much larger size to accommodate my hip measurements but found that this time the fit was enormous. I will have to either make a size in between or work out how to adjust the pattern. It feels like a job  beyond my dress-making capabilities, particularly when it is meant to be a simple unstructured garment.



I decided to twin-needle stitch the organza Warli figures prior to quilting so I could burn away some of the organza with a soldering iron. The next day when I went to finish the job my Bernina 710 would not start up as normal. It came on, then switched itself off then attempted to restart. I tried updating the firmware but the problem continued. After calling Bernina UK for advice, it was decided that it had to be sent to Cardiff for a fix, potentially having suffered a CPU failure. I wanted to finish off the twin-needle stitching but was hit by the realisation that I had recently sold my solid Husqvarna and Freya’s Brother is away at Uni. I had a go with my vintage Elna lotus but it looks like the tension spring needs replacing and the Singer Featherweight only has a straight stitch plate. I felt bereft without the Bernina that is normally so reliable and copes with everything. I now see the need for an emergency machine that will do basic sewing but has no electronics to go wrong so I am watching several mechanical 1000 series mechanical Berninas on Ebay.

I had the bright idea of personalising my luggage for my forthcoming trip to the USA for Bernina University so I used the Scanncut to cut out my name onto heat transfer glitter vinyl. I balanced my big suitcase from India under the heat press and successfully printed my name but I had more trouble with my trusty Kipling cabin bag with bulky zips. To my horror I discovered that the metal zips must be coated in plastic because I completely melted them and have now ruined the capacious, sturdy, small bag that has been all over the place since 2008. An identical model is no longer made and they are rather expensive so I wasted much time on Amazon choosing a new cabin bag which I hope will arrive on time.



I was beginning to think that the whole week was a write off. I was struggling to hand-stitch the shisha mirrors onto small squares of fabric but in the end I found that perseverance pays off and I have now worked out how to build up a couple of layers of stitching so I can get up close to the mirror with the longarm without hitting the metal ring. Spurred on by that small success, I had one more attempt at woodblock printing with silver ink. I mixed silver powder and metallic binder with opaque silver Speedball ink and spread it into a dense sponge. I coated some of the fabric squares with Odicoat gel to create an impermeable, waxy barrier and found that folded kitchen paper was better than a foam pad underneath when pressing the stamps down. Finally, I had some prints that were crisp and now I am impatient to start joining the blocks together just as soon as I can decide how the finished quilt should be displayed. 




My suitcase is packed, complete with travel kettle and gin, I have made an instructional video on to to use the washing machine, there is plenty of pet-food and once I have printed off my tickets I will be all set for my next adventure to… Florida!