Sunday, 11 November 2018

Variety is the Spice of a Quilter's Life





Variety really is the spice of a Quilter’s life and I have certainly done all sorts of things this week. I gave longarm tuition on Monday to a pupil who took to it like a duck to water and was soon whizzing away, quilting loops all over her quilt. 



It was great to have an able assistant to tackle the job of making 2 customer quilts from old shirts. We worked out a very simple layout, appliquéd some tartan hearts and prepared 126 x 8” blocks ready to stitch together next week. 

My computerised system quilted for me in the middle of the week but I could not leave it unsupervised in case it ran out of thread while back-tracking a dense design so I had to keep a close eye on it while completing the kantha stitching. It was a perfect size to make into a cushion. I debated whether to add piping or pompoms but let myself off lightly and just kept it simple. 



Pleased that my sewing machine seems able to stitch through sequins, I ordered a selection of large silver discs, some as big as 6” across. I am not entirely sure what I think I will make so maybe just a wee sample will amuse me for now. There is no way I can start a new major project before Christmas!



I made some posh tartan-lettered bunting as a leaving present for an old friend instead of contributing to a group cash kitty. That would have been the easy option but I thought a personal present was worth the effort.



My “expertise” was sought by a member of the school PTA - she wanted to know how to repurpose a vinyl banner for the school band to promote an event. I suggested that she might need help with such a large project then realised that I had inadvertently offered my services. All I had to do was offer advice on cleaning and using the blank reverse, suggest a layout for lettering and demonstrate how to apply textile paint using stencils.

I enjoyed the Printed Textiles evening class where we had a go at printing velvet with a paste that dissolves some of the pile fibres to make devoré. The rest of the time was spent working to a procion dye formula based on fabric weight which I found particularly useful because I have only ever used packaged dye or just guessed the quantities. I ordered a couple of Thermofax screens of my Warli figures to make printed fabric that can be used as a “filler” when I sew all of the class samples together to make a quilt for the final exhibition. I even printed onto organza which was not brilliant as it was so slippery - it would be better to simply layer organza over a print like I did with my Kugels. 







Beelzebub was at the IQA Houston show this week. There were some fabulous winners this year - they can be seen online at www.quilts.org



Fergus and Nell came for a wander around Aberdeen on Saturday then they came to see a film that I was excited about, “Thugs of Hindustan”. It was a 3 hour Bollywood action extravaganza with plenty of fights, explosions and dancing, with inspiration from “Pirates of the Caribbean” and  wicked baddies from the East India Company. I absolutely loved it but my kids told me it was one of the worst movies that I had ever made them go and see. I guess that means I will be watching it on my own when it comes out on DVD;)




Sunday, 4 November 2018

Phew!





Phew, what an incredible pace I kept up this week - I had two dedicated DIY quilters here over 3 days, using both longarm machines and 12 quilts were completed! We were so busy that I did not stop to take a single photo of their marvellous efforts. 

On the other two days it was my mission to master the basics of Qmatic, the Bernina Q24 automated system. I laid out 3 sets of instructions, watched corresponding Youtube videos, wondered why I just can’t comprehend written instructions, scrutinised Facebook Q24 group comments, made progress, and forgot how I got there then finally it just clicked. I am not claiming to be a Master of Qmatic yet but I now feel confident enough to experiment on a real quilt, rather than a practice piece. The stitch quality of Qmatic is excellent and the designs are great. My next learning curve will be to design some patterns and import them into the system. Then I really will be a clever clogs;)

In the Printed Textiles evening class we removed the colour from black fabric using a stinky paste. I stuck with my Warli figures as a motif so I can easily throw them all together as a quilt for the end of year exhibition. I am going to cheat and get some thermofax screen made so I can easily print more fabric quickly at home using screen printing inks and dyes. The Art School has plenty of amazing equipment and resources but I have more  individual working space and can do other things while I wait for the inks to dry. 




I do not have a quilt on the go because there are so many things that need to be done first but just to say I had done some sewing I added pompom trim and even bells onto an indigo dyed scarf. I think it could stand even more jingles and dangles if I have nothing better to do. 

Out of curiosity I had to find out if my sewing machine could stitch through sequins. I may just have a plan…



It took all weekend BUT I have finally finished drafting my website edits, found all of the corresponding pictures and uploaded everything into Dropbox. I hope the web designer can manage to do the job without too much hassle or expense. 

Since as my never-ending To Do list shrunk considerably by getting the long overdue website edits done, I decided to start a new one starting next week. I must have been a hamster in a previous life!


Sunday, 28 October 2018

Pottering Around in the October Hols




Holidays make for a very different week to normal. Nell and I went to see “A Star is Born”  at the cinema which we both enjoyed then we went to see Fergus’ band play for the second time in one weekend. It was a late and loud Sunday night as I tried to blend in with a student crowd, grateful that there was battered sofa at the back of the venue. 



I finished the DWR quilt after 20 hours of ruler work and freehand quilting and the customer was thrilled. 

Freya had Reading Week so she came home from Uni for a few days to celebrate Nell’s 15th birthday. The kids really get on well when they are all together - we made a birthday banner, carved pumpkins, cooked, made a vegan birthday cake, took Bumble for walks and went on little outings like rummaging in charity shops and buying unnecessary stationery items.





In my textile printing class I used a screen blocker and transfer dyes with silkscreens. I was not so keen on the more freeform results, preferring screen prints to be sharp and crisp. My attempts were no worse than anyone else’s and I am enjoying the opportunity to explore different techniques. I had probably hoped for a more technical course but there is only so much that can be covered in a 2-semester foundation class. I guess it is just as valuable to decide which methods to ignore as the ones which to explore further. 




I have not done any quilting projects apart from a few more rows on the small Kantha piece because I am forcing myself to face up to the chore of editing my website which I have not done for 5 years. It started off as a daunting task but just doing a bit at a time chipped away at it. I have many photos to add and lots of text to alter. It made me realise just how many competition quilts I have made in 10 years (21 I think) in addition to Yurts, the Smart Car, Coracle, Henge, HM The Queen’s Quilt, customer quilts, workshops and personal projects. 

We dropped Freya off at Stonehaven Station then the Landy just died. Luckily the Landy Man was still at work, diagnosed that the 16 year old battery was dead, towed us to his garage and lent us a Banger. This allowed us to go to Aberdeen and see the fantastic film about Queen, “Bohemian Rhapsody”. The songs were still echoing in my head the next morning and Fergus tried to work out the piano chords. 

I spent Sunday tapping away on my computer keyboard but in order to feel like I had also done something “useful” I mucked out the hens and unblocked my workshop sink. 


I have 3 DIY quilting days next week, must try to complete the website edits and have  challenged myself to work my way through the Qmatic Training manual. That should keep me busy but I also need to think of something to SEW!

Sunday, 21 October 2018

Getting Around To It





My To Do List seems to be running on repeat these days - the same things keep being added each week, either because they are are too big to tackle or because I just don’t seem to want to deal with them. I have been busy with customer quilts, catching up after my trip to India. This week I tackled the enormous hexagon quilt and bound it with an extra wide binding. There was also a DIY quilter and I made a good start on a very nice Double Wedding Ring quilt. But next time I do one of those I may set myself the challenge of quilting something different in every pinched square so I don’t get bored. I find that I am having to make myself do an hour or two at a time otherwise it feels that I am not getting anywhere. It is not complicated, just time consuming. One client dropped off shirting to be made into 2 memory quilts and someone else dropped off a 1920’s quilt that needs mending. I have plenty of work to keep me so busy that I resent having to nip out to the Post Office.




I started an evening class on printed textiles and took along some intricate stencils that I had cut out of Warli type figures. I wished I had cut them out of acetate since paper ones can only be used a couple of times then disintegrate when the ink is hosed off the screen. The Warli figures turned out really well but did not lend themselves to making a 2-colour print since they are usually only printed with one colour. I did enjoy the class and seeing what the other participants had come up with but in a couple of hours it was only possible to pull off a couple of prints then faff about waiting for the screen to dry before making the next one. Prior to the next class I will cut more acetates and a pile of my own fabric. I am not sure that I have a theme in mind yet, just eager to explore the techniques.



Mysteriously, Fergus and his chum broke the glass in the summerhouse door which left lethal shards of glass hanging loose. I fixed it temporarily wearing gardening gloves and goggles with a judicious quantity of duct tape, a tarpaulin and staples. 



I have been on “Roadie” duty this weekend, taking Fergus to a couple of very loud gigs in a small cellar bar in Aberdeen. The up-and-coming bands were good, even better when earplugs were worn. 




I found myself enjoying the simple task of Kantha stitching a chevron print square that I was given in India. It is not complicated, no design decisions have to be made, thinking is not necessary and the stitches do not even have to be particularly neat. Eventually I will decide whether to complete something I have already started or go off on a new tangent - my money is on the latter;)


Sunday, 14 October 2018

Business As Usual




I was all set to start a mammoth customer quilt made entirely from hand pieced hexagons first thing on Monday morning, starting by removing all of the papers from the outer border. That job took over an hour then I measured up the top and quilt back just to check and found that the back was far too small. I did not even have enough back to cut strips off and make joins elsewhere so I had to order a 120” back and discovered that the only suitable fabric was basic calico from The Cotton Patch which is a bit drab. Stymied with that quilt, I began another one with differently sized top and side borders, some of which were 13” wide. The brief was to do a custom job but on a budget which was a challenge. Hopefully the customer will be pleased with the results which include a wide satin blanket-style binding. I’m just going to mention that I have realised that I don’t actually particularly like purple quilts. I am going to have to start wearing tinted glasses because I get quite a few of them:P




I spent 2 days giving one-to-one longarm tuition to a pupil who has visited me before and we had a great time, working on simple designs that could be made more fancy for custom work and trying out some tricky threads on the Q24. I really enjoy offering personal tuition which gives the pupil time to ask as many questions as they like and they have the opportunity of completing an entire quilt with sample designs. 

The “working” week ended with a DIY customer who worked on a super quilt - a bookshelf design featuring family photos and book titles. She was very independent which gave me time to wrestle with a tangled mess of yarn that had been sitting in an abandoned heap. I was on hand to assist with advancing the quilt, change bobbins and make cups of tea. 

I crossed off all sorts of admin tasks on my list and added many more but still have not got around to booking a haircut or trip to the optician. I expect Bumble will probably get her  winter hairdo well before I get around to booking mine. 

Nell and Fergus went off to stay with Freya in St Andrews for the weekend so I was able to spend a day making stencils for the evening class that I am starting on printed textiles. I have no idea whether I have done the right homework but I have a choice of paper cuts. I had a go at cutting Warli figures that I had seen painted on a wall at the Craft Museum in Delhi. They are like stick figures with triangular bodies, often dancing around in circle. I saw so many inspiring textiles and designs in India but I have no idea yet how I will work them into a quilt. I spent hours looking up various Indian folk art styles as I would like to make a quilt inspired by a painting that I did not buy because it was too expensive. What I really need to do is learn a mantra such as, “Keep it Small and Simple!”



One thing I did allow myself to do for fun was some really uneven Kantha stitching on a chevron print that was started in an introductory workshop in Jaipur. I find this type of hand sewing therapeutic since it does not have to be particularly neat and judging by the stitching on the reverse of my pink sari quilt, ends are just knotted with no fancy nonsense of sewing in ends. I am unlikely to become a hand sewing convert but I rather like the excuse of keeping my supplies in my Indian tiffin tin just in case I need to take it out with me.



My final job of the week was to transfer my little packets of Indian dye into jars. I wore surgical gloves because one of the packets had a puncture. I have no idea of the exact colours, strength or recipe to use so the results will be interesting and hopefully intense. 



Sunday, 7 October 2018

Experiences, Palaces and Bazaars



Monday morning started early with Yoga Mediation at 7.00am. The instructor told us to  Love Ourselves and relax every part of the body, including our ear lobes while we laid down on the floor. Mediation is really not in my psyche and I thought it was hilarious that she walked around the room with incredibly squeaky flip-flops, texting and posing for Instagram photos while everyone had their eyes closed. 




After breakfast a Henna artist expertly drew Mendhi paste designs on our arms and hands. I asked for a Lakshmi owl on the palm of my hand but I think she invented a new creature that was part monkey - to balance the chimera I had a fantastical peacock applied onto my left arm. 

Everyone spent the rest of the morning relaxing, hand-sewing and in my case, trying to write up a very long blog post about all of the sights and adventures.



It was Pam’s birthday and later that afternoon we boarded our little bus that had been garlanded with balloons and streamers by the driver and his assistant. Our mystery trip was a visit to an NGO orphanage for 25 girls, most of whom were affected by HIV. The matron gave us a tour then the beautifully behave children gave us a concert, showing off their dance routines - to a mix of Bollywood and Western pop music. They presented Pam with a flower garland, cake, home-made birthday card and sang “Happy Birthday” in English. Somehow, Pam persuaded me to perform a Scottish dance and from somewhere in the depths of my memory I did them a clumsy version of a Highland Fling. Afterwards we made friends with a few of the children who could understand some English. They attend a local school like “normal” children during the day and stay in the orphanage until they are 18, after which they are set up with jobs. There is still a stigma about HIV in India, often caused by prostitution, drug use and lack of medical care, so this can be difficult. The ladies in charge were called “Auntie” by the children and they seemed to have a positive, family-like relationship. I was told that my new friend, 10 year old Vashnavi, had lost both of her parents to HIV/Aids by the age of 3 but she is relatively fortunate since she has property to inherit when she becomes an adult. The matron was keen for us to share our encounter with the children on social media in order to raise awareness of the charity, The Aangan Care Home. www.nayasawera.org 






After our uplifting and humbling experience at the orphanage Govind invited us for snacks and drinks at his house where we met his family. His wife had been involved in a scooter accident and hurt her knee so his Mum had been busy in the kitchen preparing delicious pakoras. I think she probably had a wicked sense of humour and I wished I could invent an app for instant free-flowing translation. 



That evening the tailors returned with my new, improved trousers. The flowery velvet pair has one pink leg and one that is mostly lime green. I have no idea what I will wear with such flamboyant flares back in Scotland!



Our trip was accelerating to an end so on Tuesday we packed in a full morning of sightseeing. I was not sure what to expect at the Royal Observatory, but I was amazed. The Jantar Mantar monument in Jaipur, Rajasthan is a collection of nineteen architectural astronomical instruments built by the Rajput king Sawai Jai Singh II, and completed in 1734. It features the world's largest stone sundial, which is pretty accurate by the way, and it is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The architecture was angular and looked incredibly modern - each sign of the zodiac had a viewing station and flights of steps enabled both astronomers and astrologers the ideal platform for studying the stars. I had no idea that astrology was so important in Indian culture. Our guide had explained during one of his many entertaining stories that if an astrologer came up with a mismatch during an arranged marriage proposal then everything would be called off. 






Despite the intense heat of the day our next stop was the nearby Royal City Palace complex, a vast collection of beautiful buildings, courtyards, gardens and museums, one of which contains a wide variety of textiles such as the royal formal costumes, sanganeri block prints, embroidered shawls, Kashmiri pashminas, silk saris and also the voluminous outfits worn by Sawai Madhosingh I, a large chap who was 1.2 metres wide and weighed 250 kilograms but nevertheless, had 108 wives







In the Diwan-I-Khas or the “Hall of Private Audience”, a marble-floored chamber, are two huge sterling silver vessels called Gangajelies / Ganges-water urns, each standing 1.6 metres tall, with capacity of 4000 litres and weighing 340 kilograms. They were made from 14,000 melted silver coins and hold the Guinness World Record as the world's largest sterling silver vessels. These enormous pots were specially made for Maharaja Sawai Madho Singh II, who was a highly pious Hindu, to carry the water of the Ganges to drink on his trip to England in 1901. He did not want to commit religious sin by consuming the English water, or indeed contract cholera from the polluted River Thames. Several magnificent Bohemian crystal chandeliers hung from the ceiling in an opulently decorated room with a Pashmina carpet so huge that it had to be folded to fit within the space.



The courtyard leading to the Chandra Mahal, was the most imposing of the palace buildings, where four small gates are elaborately adorned with motifs and carvings representing the four seasons and Hindu gods.





Escaping the heat we stopped for lunch at the very grand Samode Haveli, an oasis of richly decorated rooms and gardens. It was incredible that such a place, now a tenth of its original size was situated within the bustling city.





My fellow tourists decided that they would return to the hotel to snooze or swim but I persuaded Kathy from California to accompany me on an adventure to the bazaar. We were dropped off on the street and wandered into the narrow alleys in search of bargains. We did not exactly know where we were headed, it was a maze of tiny shops, some only 4 feet square. It was overwhelming and not easy to find the small items of haberdashery such as thread, mirrors and pompom trim which were on my shopping list. I did buy a couple of rolls of brocade ribbon that may come in handy one day. 





Taking our lives into our hands we managed to cross the street on at least 3 occasions. You just have to start walking, holding your arms out to slow down the relentless beeping scooters and tuktuks. I stopped at a shop that sold metal cookware and negotiated the purchase of a small tiffin tin, spice box, sev cutter and a heavy cooking wok but passed on a milk churn which I did not really “need”. We wandered up a secret alley of tailors and finally found a shop selling shot cottons which I had been looking for all through my trip but was now running short on funds and luggage space. Crossing the street again we found a shop that sold indigo prints and clothes. We hailed a tuktuk and made a chaotic 30 minute journey back to the hotel with purchases stuffed into a flour sack. 







Sadly, that evening was our farewell group dinner. Pam and Govind thanked us for being such a friendly, fun group of travellers and hoped we would be inspired by our trip and remain friends on social media. 

On Wednesday day morning I made an abortive attempt at packing. I wished I had not bought a large quilt since I was finding it tricky to pack up my metalware and fabric purchases. A brave few ventured back to the bazaar for a last rake around. Amazingly, I managed to relocate the tailors’ alley where more shot cotton was purchases and the indigo shopkeeper remembered me and asked where Kathy was that morning. 




We enjoyed a last lassi yogurt drink in a terracotta cup from a street vendor and I bought 2 large bags of henna, thinking that it would be interesting to try block printing with it. As we were loading up the bus with our luggage I realised that I would need an extra suitcase as I would not be able to fit all of my last minute purchases into my hand luggage. We flew from Jaipur to Delhi and from the air could see what a huge city it is. Most of the lights seen from above were from traffic. There were large dark spaces where it was either parkland or areas without electricity. Incredibly, the population of that one city equals the entire population of Scotland. At Dehli we said farewell to our American friends and the Antipodean contingent and myself stayed overnight at a posh hotel 10 minutes from Indira Ghandi International airport. It was a pity that I only had 6 hours to enjoy such luxury before flying out in the morning. Yet again, I was struck that foreign visitors have access to unlimited water for showers, swimming pools and air-conditioning while so many people live hand to mouth on the streets. 

It was a bit of a faff getting into the airport without a printed boarding pass but eventually I found myself wandering the airport shops, trying to blow the last of my rupees on a tin of masala chai and trinkets which were far more expensive than those “knack-knicks” dangled in from of us by street hawkers. During the crowded 9 hour flight to London I dozed and half watched 3 Bollywood movies. Even the comedies made reference to corruption and illiteracy. I had planned to sort out my photos on the flight but there was not really enough room in Economy to do that comfortably.




Aberdeen was wet and chilly when I arrived in the evening. Nella, Fergus and Bumble were pleased to see me and I loved the “Welcome Home “ banner that Nell had made with her friends, complete with cut-out paper monkeys, elephants and a Taj Mahal. 



On Friday I sorted through my exploded suitcases which took a considerable time. I was pleased with my fabric purchases but wished I had bought more little things. I cooked up a feast of pakoras and vegetable curries, just making up the recipes as I went along. The steel cooking pan worked a treat over my camping gas stove and I can’t wait to have a go at making sev / bombay mix.

All weekend I tried to finish writing up my blog and upload photos of which there are more than 1000. It was difficult to keep up with the blog while in India because we did so much and I was glad that I had at least scribbled down rough notes to remind myself what we did each day. I think I did not really want to finish writing my India blog because that would mean that my wonderful trip had come to an end. I loved every minute of my experience and hope I can return to explore the richness of India in future. 

In the meantime, I have unavoidably started a new To Do list, starting with some customer quilting in an attempt to boost my dwindling bank account so I can fund further adventures!