Sunday, 27 May 2018

Ask Me what I do NOT know about Chalk!




There should be a prize for quilting Stamina - I put in some long days at the quilt frame, sometimes 9+ hours and finally reached the point where I could unload and turn the quilt to tackle the remaining 2 borders on the horizontal. 




For some relief from quilting I made some binding/flange samples, the idea being that the edge looks a bit like military ribbons. The skinny ones looked very smart and I will save that method for a future quilt bu I decided that ¼” flanges suit this quilt best with a wide ½” binding. 

I finally completed the quilting after a lengthy 159 hours on the frame. The next challenge was removing all of my very boldly applied chalk marks. I had used Sewline, tailor’s chalk wheels, koh-i-noor chalk, General chalk pencils, school chalk, scrubbed lines out, reapplied them and generally scribbled liberally with chalk all over the quilt. I read up on chalk removal and the first suggestion was to wipe gently with dilute spirit vinegar. This did not prove effective so I diluted some Ace stain remover and started scrubbing the entire 8 foot square quilt with a soft toothbrush, thinking how tedious it must be to be an archaeologist. 




I kept the quilt on the frame in case I might have to do some stitching repairs but I think the tiny stitching has withstood the abuse. Amazingly, when dry it appears that the chalk disappears into the quilt except that I am feeling paranoid about ghost lines. I have collected an arsenal of other stain removers just in case I find any stubborn spots of chalk later. There is still a lot of work to do before it is finally finished then I will have to make a decision about the quilt’s name so I can make it a label and enter a show.

I was both astonished and delighted to hear that “Domestic” has been juried into the elusive Fine Art Quilt Masters at Festival of Quilts this year. Especially when I consider which of my previous attempts - Celtic Totems, Purdah, Shield Maiden did not make it. I must have got the arty blurb right for a change because I feel that this competition is as much about the concept as the actual quilt. Ridiculous as it may seem, I feel that this endorsement of my work finally allows me to call myself a “proper” Quilt Artist.




Sunday, 20 May 2018

Coffee, Quilt, Sleep, Repeat...



I have rediscovered my stove top coffee pot which makes coffee like rocket fuel, just what I have needed to kickstart every day that starts and ends with the Russian DWR quilt. Two days were slightly different. I had a DIY quilt customer in which gave me someone to talk to and I spent another day delivering a large canoe to St. Andrews for Freya that also involved collecting firewood for an end of term beach bonfire. 





I have now clocked up 123 hours on the Russian quilt! (I wish I had timed the piecing as well) It was exciting when the wadding left the floor and even better when the central area was completed. I rarely have to think about the quilting pathways now, except when I forget and end up unpicking ridiculously small stitches. 




Nell has gone off to Amsterdam on a school trip this week so there will be no school pickups or after school activities so I should really be able to power on if my aching wrist can keep going. 


Of course, completing the quilting will not be the end of the job, some of which will have to be done using a domestic machine. I am not looking forward to man-handling such a large quilt when I add gold trim and tackle the binding for which I have some simple but ambitious plans - but that will be at least another week away! It’s a good job I have taken up a new hobby in lino cutting for some light relief;)

Sunday, 13 May 2018

It All Adds Up



People often ask at quilt shows how long it has taken to complete the quilting so I have been keeping tabs on the Russian DWR, averaging 7 hours per day. Let’s just say that progress is slow - even the chalk marking takes forever. I would like to think that I am getting quicker now that I know what I am doing.



To my horror, I discovered that the underneath tension was not brilliant on the tiny ruler work and I will have to come up with a cunning plan to disguise it. Lowering the bobbin tension, increasing the top tension, checking carefully for microscopic fluff and changing to a gold needle designed for stitching through sticky stuff improved matters.





It was nerve-wracking and exciting to finally get to do some free motion stitching on manual in the amber sections. Each large pinched square takes 35 minutes, which is considerably faster than the equivalent area of ruler work. I am not quite on target for reaching halfway by mid May and I have not taken into account the chalk removal, blocking, binding and addition of amber chips and any other extras that spring to mind. Facebook sent me reminders that I have previously panicked over Tartan Tattoo and BzB in previous Mays. At least the longer daylight hours make the days seem longer.



I reached the point where I had spent so long in the workshop that I was hitting repeats of radio programmes so I found a good audio book to keep me going. My deadline is preventing me from getting bored but it is a bit daunting every day working on the same quilt and not rolling it on very often!

I finally got my Landy back after 3 weeks at the garage. It needed a new cross member, exhaust, prop shaft bearing and floor. It was VERY expensive. I was devastated to find steam coming out of the radiator, with water and anti-freeze pouring out of a hose the very next day. Luckily, a new jubilee clip, costing £1.67 fixed that. I will have to get a lot of customer quilts done after the DWR to fill up my piggy bank.



Hopefully by this time next week the bottom end of the Russian DWR quilt will be in sight…





Sunday, 6 May 2018

When Doubting Thomas Met Peter and Paul



My “Russian” DWR quilt still does not have a name or even an abbreviation although in a way it has tenuous links to Peter the Great, the Peter and Paul fortress, and The Amber Room with an homage to the Robbing Peter to Pay Paul patchwork pattern. My current favourite might be “Iconoclast”, obviously subject to change.

I finally got it loaded and have spent a total 45 hours working on it so far, not even reaching a quarter of the way through yet. To be fair there was a lot of thinking time, redesigning and working out the most efficient quilting path. 




I don’t think I have ever done such a lot of intense ruler work where lines must match up exactly. I have had so many doubts about it - is it too big, will I get it finished in a sensible amount of time (hopefully a month), have I chosen the right thread, is my back-tracking accurate, is it fancy enough, how will I bind it, will it measure up against the insanely high quality of other show quilts???





All I know is that it is coming along slowly and I will just have to keep chipping away at the enormous task until it is finished. Then I will have the worry of removing all of the chalk marks from dark fabric!


Sunday, 29 April 2018

Chalking it up to Inexperience




I spent NO LESS than 3 days marking my DWR quilt with chalk I am not convinced will ever rub/wash off. It should have been simple to mark a 2 inch grid all over but when it came to adding in some more information, it was obvious that a couple of the diagonals were not where they should be. A job that started off so neatly looked like a child had been playing on the pavement with a box of IKEA chalk and a wet sponge. I just hope I can actually quilt what I have scribbled! Of course, the quilt is now far bigger than it was meant to be therefore I had to sew extensions onto the 90” wadding and order more backing fabric since I no longer had enough, sigh:(

A simple customer quilt and a DIY customer alleviated the boredom and I spent many hours scouring the internet for images for the Domestic slideshow, ensuring that I would not be infringing any copyright rules. I have some great pictures so far, enough to take photos in order to meet a competition deadline. 



My weekend was beyond frustrating technology-wise. Whoever used my decent camera last (and I’m sure that was not me) mislaid the charger so I had to take photos using my phone. The phone takes great photos but when they are uploaded to the computer the quality is seriously reduced. I cannot fathom this at all. I have changed the settings on my phone but when you zoom in to inspect the images on the computer they are not at all sharp. 

Obviously, taking the photos in the first place was not going to be easy. The background quilt is white (ish). I hung it on a quilt stand with a black cloth behind it but inside photos of the quilt were too dark and outside photos would not show the projected images, even in cloudy light. The other weird discovery is that when you try to take photos of digitally projected images they show up as strips of red, blue and green. Then it started to rain… 





In rooting around for my camera charger I realised that I own a digital projector, overhead projector and pocket projector. The only way I could get a realistic photo of the quilt plus slideshow was to print a slide onto an acetate sheet and use the old fashioned OHP. If the piece is accepted into the competition I want to use the pocket projector mounted on a tripod but it won’t yet recognise the photos that I copied onto the micro SD card that I have now accidentally trashed while attempting to reformat it - ARGHHH - Seriously, I could have been quilting for hours in all of that time!

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Putting in the Hours



There has been no slacking this week in my workshop! I quilted the table linen project in straight-ish lines and loved the texture that the rope added. There were a few problem creases that appeared which prompted me to run over them repeatedly with matchstick lines which I can attest was quite boring. There were 2 old stains on the linen which I should have left alone but I decided to peg it out on the washing line and throw a couple of buckets of water over it. When the quilt dried the stains had spread and multiplied and the quilt would not bend enough to go in the washing machine so I decided to soak it in the bath with some stain remover. While it was under water the central doily went completely blue so I fished it out, dripped it back outside, rinsed it with a watering can and hung it to dry on a farm gate. 






I left the two horizontal edges unbound to give them a rustic look but I added binding made from a ripped linen pillowcase to the top and bottom then added lengths of clothes line as an embellishment on all 4 sides. 

The idea is to project a slideshow of images onto the quilt on the theme of “Domestic”. I want to include old photos of women in domestic service, ladies having afternoon tea, cotton pickers, textile weavers, factory workers, makers and crafters. This is proving difficult since people did not own cameras and take selfies in those days and pictures on the internet are rarely copyright free. I want to include as much detail as I can about the subjects, dates, places and photographers. If any blog readers have any pictures the vaguest bit relevant hidden away in photo albums then I would love to include them. I reckon I need at least 60 which would make a slide per second one minute presentation. It would be great to include audio in this project in the future.

The rest of my week was spent on custom quilting a lovely New York Beauty customer quilt. It was entirely stitch-in-the-ditch and curved longarm ruler work which took a while but I am very pleased with how it turned out. 






I was sent photos of Beezlebub hanging at Paducah by Mark Caraher and Donna Hartford.  The quilt will now go back to Bonnie in Oklahoma to relax its creases while it waits for its next outing. At least while it’s away I don’t have to store it;)





Next week, apart from customer quilts and my usual malarkey, I must get “Domestic” ready to photograph (which means finding at least one good still antique photo) and mark out the DWR with a chalk grid. It is far easier to mark a quilt before it goes on the frame. I will worry about how to get the marks off later because I suspect that this will be another one that can’t go into the washing machine…

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Down a Rabbit Hole



It can be difficult to get work done during school holidays but I do not really need to entertain my kids much these days. Nell and I went to St Andrews to see a magnificent student production of Sweeney Todd because Freya had been the costume designer. She had sourced authentic Victorian outfits and accessories and we were impressed by what a professional job the whole company had done with the show. We did not get home until 1.30 am so did not feel at all guilty about getting up late the next morning!





I managed to complete 2 simple customer quilts (forgot to take photos) and supervised 2 DIY quilts. I was honoured to make a Golden Wedding cushion for a lovely quilter with failing health. She has been a regular customer over my 10 years as a longarm quilter and it was sad to be told that this will probably be her final project. 



The DWR is always on my mind and very soon I will have to tackle some serious marking, once I have a clue how I will quilt it. I have made some very rough notes and I think I am probably (well, not definitely) going to give up on the idea of printed Russian women. 

It is the time of year to decide whether to have yet another crack at FOQ’s Fine Art Quilt Masters so I decided to try out something that I had filed under “Ideas”. This has taken me down a new rabbit hole The basic quilt top is old table linens but the quilting is something that I have wondered about since seeing an antique Indonesian rug. It was not made with wadding but with strips of rope - a lot of rope! I ordered 5 metres of soft cotton rope online to see how far it would go and was a little surprised to find that some people use it for Bondage! Luckily, my friend, Mo had a big unwanted reel of piping cord, like old-fashioned clothes-line, although thinner than I originally planned. 



The question was how would it be put together? It would be a pain to attach it on the longarm as I would have to keep lifting the quilt top to add the next strip. I experimented with trying to sew each strip on with the domestic machine using a zip or piping foot but it was very awkward and kept puckering up underneath. 






In the end I decided to use a piece of backing fabric and cotton wadding without the quilt top and sew each strip of rope on with the longarm trying to keep the lines as straight as possible, spaced ½” apart. It took most of 2 days to prepare the piped wadding and used up 500ft of rope!! The backing was not pretty because I stitched right through the rope and it wriggled around a bit. The next part of the process will be to use a new backing, more wadding, then the bumpy wadding, lay the linens on top and hope to feel the channels like Braille and stitch in reasonably straight freehand lines. We will just have to see how that pans out. If it works then I plan to add something extra that is still swirling around in in my head;)

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Junketting Around



It’s a jolly good job that I travelled to Norfolk by train to visit family rather than driving the Landy, otherwise I would have come back with so much junk! I was accompanied on this trip by Nella, Fergus and Bumble and we spent so much time raking through vintage, charity or bric-a-brac shops that by the end of the week, even I had seen enough “brocante” to last for quite some time. I could have bought a Cornishware flour crock, yet more chairs or even an antique set of dentistry equipment. In fact, all I actually purchased was a wool beret and a very cheap guitar. 




The weather was foul over the Easter weekend and our trip to the seaside was very brief since the beach cafe did not cater for dogs. After the sun came out we enjoyed some pleasant riverside strolls and the kids had fun on their grandparents’ bikes on nice flat, empty roads. 

Bumble was not in the least bit phased by her train journeys. in fact, she was quite an attraction as Scottie dogs seem to be quite unusual in England. She has now travelled by car, boat and train so she only has a few other modes of transport to try before she can call herself a professional canine tourist.  



I was excited to open a couple of packages when I got home. I had won a unicorn quilt kit from Purple Stitches by posting photos of my Fancy Forest creature blocks on Instagram. I was so desperate to sew after a week away that I spent all of Saturday carefully following the instructions to make a Lisa the Unicorn mini quilt. The instructions are really good - I did not muck up at all and she looks great, especially since she has a gold lamé horn;) 






She will have to wait to be quilted because I currently have 3 customer quilts to do and must get on with the DWR unless I decide to rustle something up for my nemesis competition, the Fine Art Quilt Masters at FOQ…