Sunday, 25 January 2015

An Excuse to use Neon Thread!

I was most impressed by the truck driver who managed to reverse halfway up our incredibly icy track on Monday. I thought he was going to inform me that he could not collect the pallet that would transport Lenni to France but he bravely used a small trolley to shift it and he even lifted the long boxes by himself. 

I tidied Fenella’s room so she could find all of the things that she claimed I had lost. Thistle proved that there was no room to swing a cat - she attempted to jump onto a chest of drawers but there was not even enough room for her small paws to land safely so she landed in a disgruntled heap, scattering pencils, nail polish and old Christmas cards. 

The notebook cover for my Book photos was finished off even though it needed an extension on one side so it would fit properly. I made a note to my readers that, unlike me, they should pay attention when cutting and assembling! A bulk order of spiral bound notebooks, wood block stamps and textile paints arrived. I will use these for my classes at the ICHF show in Glasgow in March so I will need to make a sample that fits ;) 

Having a ridiculously short time available to make the Northern Lights wobbly circles quilt made me slightly panicky and I spent an afternoon spent faffing around with different construction methods. I slept on it then decided to combine freeform curved piecing with some appliqué. I made my own bias tape to fit in between some of the wide “rings” then attached them very neatly with a machine blanket stitch. After applying fine interfacing to each wonky block, I selected a few reliable, non-puckering embroidery stitches and decorated the blocks with super-bright thread. The quilting will be very freestyle and will allow me to make good use of some reels of variegated neons. 

I ordered additional hand-dyed fabric from Farne Designs in Cornwall for the back and for the setting triangles. I have not quite worked out what size these will be since I will not trim the wonky blocks down until all of the distorting extra stitching is done.  I am enjoying working on a such a zingy project in the middle of winter and hope to have the top almost done by the end of next week.

Sunday, 18 January 2015


Sewing beads on may be a relaxing occupation but it does not feel like proper, productive sewing because it takes ages to see progress. My leather bags finally reached the stage where they could be photographed as book projects and I can continue to add extra beads later if I want. 

The next book project was quick to finish since it was a simple luggage label so I managed to run up a few of those and write the instructions before I forgot all about it. 

I could not find any trace of step-by-step pictures of how to make my fabric notebooks, even though I am convinced that I had already done it so I had to make a new cover from scratch, which will come in handy. The one that I use every day is now 10 years old and looking rather scruffy. 

A visiting DIY quilter visited and rattled off two lovely children’s quilts. I filed my online tax return, sourced a pallet to send Lenni to France and made around 16 trips in and out of Banchory, mostly to accommodate the kids at their various activities.

It is surprising how much can be achieved with a tight deadline. I discovered that I had 24 hours to enter the ICHF show in Glasgow. Luckily I was able to enter by email and instead of a photo, a sketch was allowed if the quilt was not actually finished. Technically, my quilt has not actually even been started yet but I managed to make up a rough draft of a possible quilt using EQ7. I started experimenting with a couple of different construction methods for improvisational circles using scrap fabric. The end result may not look quite the same as my “drawing” - it will probably evolve considerably, depending on time and how much fabric I have without having to resort to ordering any more!

I successfully completed a task that I had been dreading at the weekend when I cut up and reconstructed two tiny 2-piece Aladdin costumes to fit bigger girls at the forthcoming Deeside Dance Centre Show. Worried that I may not have the dress-making skills necessary, I spent some time online trying to source adult versions of the same costume but I kept being directed to sexy belly-dancing outfitters. I am pleased that I managed to sew everything back together and the new roomier pantaloons should stay up with the help of heavy-duty elastic. I am seriously contemplating applying my new-found tailoring confidence to making a frock for myself…

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Getting There in the End

I made a mental note never to sew thousands of beads onto leather ever again but obviously I did not actually mean it. After a while the projects started to look amazing and the temptation was to encrust them with as many beads as possible. When I nipped to the craft shop to buy another couple of yards of bias-binding, I spent quite a bit on yet more beads. 

The bags that I had planned in my head evolved a couple of times after I made calico mock-ups because the point of making them was actually to write clear instructions for a book project. I decided to make one of them very simple and the other one could be really fancy.  Typically, I thought of other ways that I would tackle the same project if I started it again but I don’t have time to make any more beaded, leather bags so I might just write a paragraph on “modifications”. 

Following a stormy night, we had a power cut for most of the day on Friday so I could not do anything that involved sewing machines or required decent light. Luckily, my IKEA delivery arrived and I made a start on figuring out the assembly diagrams. The first item was a challenge but after I eventually got it sussed, I rattled off the others fairly quickly. It took all weekend before everything was finally constructed and tidied up. The totems were stored out of the way on high shelves and it feels great not to be climbing over obstacles in my workshop. There is no disputing that smaller projects like handbags take up far less space!

Sunday, 4 January 2015


Bank holidays within holidays make it difficult to work out what day of the week it really is. There is only one cure for this which is to potter away at sorting out drawers, cupboards and have a go at furniture rearranging. I had to pack Lenni up for his imminent move to a new home in France so it seemed like a good opportunity to sort out my workshop which was becoming full of “stuff”. 

To begin with I created more of a mess than the one I started with and I just stood and wondered how I was going to get things tidy again. I decided to part with the old, bouncy office desks and odd chests of drawers that were squeezed into awkward corners. I have ordered matching, low chests of drawers that will fit neatly under the long-arm, and a couple of sturdy, basic tables from IKEA, plus sturdy shelving to store the totems so I don’t have to keep falling over them.

I even cleared out my wardrobe so I would not be stalling at the beginning of the week when the kids go back to school. The loose plan is to tidy up my fabric stash and get back to some serious book editing. Although I am keen to start a new show quilt, I need to complete the evening-bag chapter first…

Monday, 29 December 2014

Lazy Christmas Holidays

Christmas started for me on December 23rd when Mo, Tania and I exchanged gifts that included socks, cushions, home-made damson gin and sketches. We always seem to choose perfect items for each other. I have a new set of little nesting boxes printed with London Underground stations…

Our family Christmas was relaxed and involved lots of cooking spread out so we could digest a new course every few hours. It created more washing up but at least we were not stuffed by gorging on all of the festive food in one sitting. Our days were slow and started off with frosty dog walks, followed by eating chocolate then watching utter rubbish on TV. We went to a family ceilidh to burn off a few calories except that stoves were served at 10.30pm. It was fun watching everyone get in a muddle on the dance floor and definitely more enjoyable than a disco. I was not at all co-ordinated and it made me realise how difficult it must be to be a contestant on “Strictly”!

I took the girls into Aberdeen to return a couple of things and browse the post-Christmas sales. We did not make any successful bargain purchases, deciding that the shops must have stored away all of the good stuff and dragged out unwanted stock. We really enjoyed the “Paddington” movie which did not veer too much from the original character of a marmalade-loving bear. Having worn our duffle coats to the cinema in Paddington’s honour, we loved the scene when the Browns present him with his own duffle coat with “sandwich compartments” (deep pockets). 

After a couple of days I was weary of doing nothing so decided to tackle last year’s business spreadsheets. It took me a while to get all of the columns to tally because I had not selected everything correctly but I am now virtuously ready to complete my tax return. I am keen to something useful next but can’t decide whether to make a frock, cull my wardrobe, reorganise my workshop or crack on with book edits. To decide where to start I had better make coffee and finish off my stash of chocolate…

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Party Frocks and Parcels

Radio 4 got me through the boredom of completing the unpicking and de-fluffing of the “Quilt that nearly stole Christmas”. There were still a good two days worth of quilting to complete and because I had been cursing it for so long I wondered if its maker would even be pleased in the end. There were hundreds of thread ends to tidy up and it had to be bound on both sides so I became irritated by all of the cheery enquiries as to whether I was “all organised for Christmas yet?” 

I wrote my Christmas cards very scruffily on the last second-class posting day and hurriedly sellotaped the parcels to Norfolk to get them sent away. I did not write an impressive end of the year family newsletter with colour photos and I did not create a hand-made holly wreath for my front door. The postie and various couriers delivered everything that I had ordered online and I wrapped all of the kids’ parcels in a slapdash style without bows or labels, simply using colour-coded paper for each recipient. Maybe a touch more sherry will give me some much needed Christmas spirit…

I decided to make a couple of last-minute gifts for friends so I have run up two cushions and quilted some fabric for notebooks - all I have to do is get them finished off on time!

The most exciting event of the week was Freya’s much anticipated Senior Prom. Thankfully, Mo and her daughter took charge of the glamorising and Freya looked fabulous. She was astounded at all of the compliments that she received. Nobody could believe that her dress was home-made and they thought her gold Doc Martens were awesome. The boys all scrubbed up beautifully in their kilts. Parents watched as young ladies in fancy frocks and incredible shoes tottered their way to the buses that would ferry the kids to a posh hotel for Christmas dinner and ceilidh dancing. Most of them commented nostalgically that they had only gone to crummy school discos at that age where the only catering was a can of coke and a bag of crisps;)

I attended my 11th nativity service as a parent and was very proud as Fenella played violin in her last Christmas concert at primary school. I still need to run a few errands before Christmas arrives, sourcing a large roll of corrugated cardboard and brussel sprouts. There will also be some cooking to do, mince pies to eat and a festive catch up with my two best-friends. By the end of next week I will be dying to reorganise my workshop and itching to start some new projects!

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Festive Frustration

I could  no longer deny that Christmas is fast approaching so I decided to do as much shopping as possible in John Lewis, Aberdeen so I could make use of their “collect it later” service. This did not prove to be such a good idea as they lost half of my packages. I waited for over an hour along with several other irate customers who had missing or incorrect goods. Two days later the missing items arrived in the post after speaking to a clueless and rude person at customer services. 

I decided that the most efficient use of workshop time was to crack on with the last customer quilt. It was not a thrilling job since I had been asked to reproduce exactly the same quilting that was in the project photo in the book but it was enjoyably straight-forward. In between times I continued to unpick the top section of the other quilt, making painfully slow progress. There were many interruptions that kept eating away at my time such as a parents’ evening, Fergus’s birthday and cinema trip, Fenella’s school book launch, the girls’ piano concert, and being asked to whizz up 3 fabric notebook covers. 

Freya and I went foraging for our Christmas tree from some rough, boggy ground a couple of fields away from the house. We had to give it a bit of a trim but it looks quite forest-like in our family room. I let the girls have carte-blanche with the decorations since I was making gingerbread so Nell has dressed it with the pink tinsel that I had banished to her room.  

This week I MUST finish the last customer quilt and wrap the presents that I have stashed away before the kids finish school for the holidays. Then maybe I can rustle up one or two cushions as gifts before the festive catering frenzy begins…

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Pre-Christmas Custom Quilting

There are times, like in the run-up to Christmas when it would be advantageous to persuade customers that their quilts would look perfectly lovely with a simple all-over quilt design like Baptist Fan. I have two large customs quilts to complete by Christmas and I have not yet written a single greetings-card or ordered a turkey. 

I worked for 4 days solid on one quilt, putting flowers in every single small and tiny square then free-handing stitch-in-the-ditch around every single slightly wonky patch. The brief was to keep the quilt unfussy and simple but it has been tricky to execute. I decided that my freehand flowers and loopy lines in row one were not what the customer had in mind so they would have to be painstakingly ripped out - stitch by tiny stitch. I am in two minds whether to load the second quilt which is simpler before I have finished unpicking or whether to just sit with the seam ripper until the first quilt is ready to fix. 

At least I am pleased with a wonderfully simple customer’s baby quilt. It looks super with its appliquéd yo-yos although the gathered sections on some of them were bulky to quilt through. 

Things will be getting hectic in the next couple of weeks - we attended the girls’ choir concert - the first of several festive shows, parties and pantos. I could have done without an afternoon spent racing around trying to find someone to fix my Landy’s headlights before it got dark and I could definitely do without the constant battle of wills between Fergus and everyone else in the household/world! 

My plan is to go Christmas shopping at 9am on Monday morning. If I don’t fulfil my mission in John Lewis, Aberdeen then the rest of my Christmas purchases will have to be sourced online or bought locally. 

Apart from that, I will be spending some quality time with my seam ripper…

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Dress Stress!

Almost all I thought about this week was figuring out how to join the top and bottom halves of Freya’s frock and get the zip in, having deviated way off the original printed pattern’s instructions. It would have been FAR more sensible to put the zip into the entire back first before joining the sides but we were too worried about getting the fit right and attaching lurex binding to the neck and arm holes. The biggest worry was the strangely crinkly, flimsy fabric for the skirt which kept shifting, puckering and shredding thread. Getting the darts in at all was miraculous and then there was the challenge of distributing the skirt fabric around a piece of bias tape that served as a sort of waistband that tacked onto the bodice. 

We must have had 3 or 4 goes at getting the zip into the skirt, even resorting to sewing it by hand. It is just a little gappy so I have decided that when Freya wears it for her Prom I will put in a few little stitches after it is zipped up to keep everything tidy. Apart from that the zip is now nice and robust and the dress fits remarkably well. After experimenting with scraps of crinkly fabric to work out how to do the hem, I think we have decided not to sew it at all since it does not even fray and it will allow the skirt to drape better. I just hope that it won’t look too obviously ‘home-made”…

After a bit of a palaver, I managed to enter “Dunes” into Paducah. I could not upload photos from my Mac so I had to borrow Freya’s laptop. I had hoped to enter “Odin’s Trilogy” or even just one of the trio but they did not fit into any of the AQS size categories for small or large wall quilts. 

There were other interruptions such as a trip to the orthodontist to get Nell’s first set of braces and helping Mo to shift the last of her stuff from her upholstery workshop back to a workroom at her house. I also collected “Copper Capercaillie” from the picture framer who had cleverly managed to leave the back exposed and I dropped it off at a gallery to see if a buyer could be found. 

My Millie machine with QP did a great job of quilting poinsettias across a Christmas quilt and I managed to give the Lenni longarm a service in between commands since he might soon be on his way to a new owner in France. 

While not worrying about the Prom Frock I have been worrying about getting the E-book finished so I devoted some time to editing photos and instructions for 3 projects. If I can get the next two large custom quilts completed the next thing I want to do is take step-by-step pictures of the leather evening bags which should be the final book project.  Unfortunately, my plans could be scuppered when I have to face the fact that Christmas is coming and I have not yet done anything about it ;) 

Monday, 24 November 2014

To-ing and Fro-ing

This week was spent dashing around as the kids had 3 days off because of teacher training. Some days we were in and out of town 3 or 4 times, being unable to co-ordinate the various activities and appointments. Thistle went to the vet to be neutered and bounced back to torment Bluecat within hours, although there there seems to have been a bit of a truce since the weather turned wetter and colder.  

On Tuesday I left home at 5.30am to catch the “redeye” Flybe flight to London for a meeting at Bernina UK in my capacity as an ambassador for the B710. All of the other passengers were soberly attired geologists on their way to an oil and gas conference so my purple and green clashy outfit made me really stand out from the crowd. I was disappointed to be offered wishy-washy tea and a chocolate biscuit for breakfast and decided that if I repeated this trip I would definitely fly with British Airways. The Bernina UK team admired “5BarGate2” and will hang it on one of the office walls unless it is required as a  demo quilt at a show. I dashed back across London to get the afternoon flight home, wondering at the strange life of people who regularly commute up and down the country.

I finally got started on a customer quilt on Thursday, working on it solidly for two days. Since the blocks were large, there was a lot of rolling back and forth to work on filler and stitch-in-the-ditch and I was eternally grateful for my powered fabric-advance motor.

I helped Freya work on her gold dress-bodice over the weekend, trying to get the fit right and attaching lurex binding around the raw edges. The dress is being tackled like a quilt instead of adding a conventional dress-making lining. I thought it would be a good idea to sew down the bulky seams inside by hand so they would sit flat but the final fit showed that there was tiny bit of extra space in the bust. I decided that it would be easier to buy bulkier underwear than unpick all of that out for an alteration. Another lesson learned was that putting a zip into the quilted bodice only meant that every time the dress had to be tried on it was in danger of bursting at the seams so a zip that extends into the tricky skirt fabric will have to be used after all. However, the only foot that can cope with the crinkly fabric is the teflon one so I have no idea how we will get the zip on by machine. 

On Sunday evening we went to an independent cinema in Aberdeen to see the “Imitation Game” about Alan Turing, the mathematician at Bletchley Park in WW2. The film was really good but shocking how his life and career after the war were ruined by revelations that he was a homosexual: he was not granted a posthumous royal-pardon until 2013. We drove home just after the official switch-on of the city’s Christmas lights. I am not  at all impressed by how quickly Christmas is approaching this year..!

Sunday, 16 November 2014


Just about the ONLY thing I have done this week is work on “5BarGate2”. The quilting and painting was already done and only one of the half circles had been fancified. It takes a really, really long time to add machine embroidery stitches, couching and rickrack to a quilt… I was not quite happy with the consistency of the satin stitch in the central smallest circles so I decided to hand-sew some beads to hide the sewing underneath. 

When I had finished sewing I was disappointed by how wavy the quilt’s edges were. This was the result of the half circles being heavily stitched whereas the diagonals were not. I pinned it all to the carpet and steamed like mad before and after trimming. The long edges were still ruffled so I decided to attempt an undetectable bit of gathering in the less densely quilted areas. There was an improvement but it was still not completely flat! 

For a change I hand sewed the binding onto the back because I wanted a narrow binding on the front as my rings were so close to the edge that I lost some of the outer ones when I trimmed the quilt. To disguise this, I added a thin, gold crochet cord into the ditch of the binding of the front and THEN went round the binding again with a slow-moving triple stitch. I began to wonder if I would ever finish and trim all of the loose threads. After skooshing yet more steam along the edges, it looks like it should hang flat :)

After attaching a label and a sleeve, I decided that the quilt would also need a denim tube-bag to travel in while it is on tour as part of the Bernina collection. I just need some bright sunlight to take better pictures so I can finish editing it as a book project.

A couple more customer quilts arrived this week but almost all of them want custom-quilting to be completed before Christmas. This is to be done as well as trying to make the two leather evening bags for the book, being courageous enough to work out the next step on the prom dress and taking out the satin Aladdin pants for Fenella’s dance show.

I had a few techie moments working out how to get my Mac and the old projector to communicate. I do not understand any of the instructions that I downloaded from a Mac forum but everything seems to work perfectly. I wasted more time trying to draw quilting ideas onto quilt diagrams using various apps and had limited success with my lack of graphics expertise. I might just do something low-tech instead and photocopy some design ideas onto acetate then try to figure out how to include that in an E-book!

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Flying Blind

My week started and ended faffing around with the gadgets and software that I have purchased without devoting enough time learning how to use them efficiently. I could not send a Powerpoint presentation to my oldish iPhone so it could connect to a mini projector. I could upgrade the phone OR buy a better projector. I managed to get hold of a projector then frustratingly, could not find the connecting cables! My talk in Cullen went very well without the aid of any technology and the ladies told me they would definitely look out for my forthcoming book.

Spurred on to finish off the diagrams for the book I fumbled around with EQ7 to draw diagrams of the “Dunes2” and “5Bar” quilts but was unable to understand why the software told me the quilt would end up a different size to the quilt that I have already made and measured! If I ever attempt to write another book, maybe I should write the instructions first…(yeah, right!)

I cracked on with two customer quilts then quilted the two small pieces of leather to make the evening bag bag book projects. It was intense, eye-straining work, punctuated with sweeties and painkillers. The leather pieces still need to have some machine embroidery and beading - then I need to figure out some sort of smart bag design.

Another two customer quilts came along, giving me a good excuse not to accept any supply teaching offers. One afternoon was particularly chaotic since some ladies appeared thinking that I ran a fabric shop from my workshop. They persuaded me to sell them some wadding and a few fat quarters that I had lying around. At the same time, a digital-piano repair man was trying in vain to discover the source of the annoying buzz on the kids’ Clavinova. It was embarrassing to admit that the problem was caused by a large stack of music books adding too much weight to the top but at least it was cheap to fix;)

As part of my final Halloween Party duty, I helped to tidy up the boxes of props and thought it would be a good idea to make a waterproof broomstick storage bag. I used some tablecloth PVC and added an essential carry-handle. It did not occur to me until much later that they could just as daily have been thrown onto a sack that tied at the top with string. 

Freya and I plucked up the courage to cut out the pieces of quilted gold spandex for her art project/prom dress. I was totally bamboozled by the instructions for selecting size. Freya’s measurements for the Burda pattern did not correspond to the dress size that she would normally wear so we erred on the side of caution and cut out a bigger size than necessary. We were pleased that it joined together neatly but it was far too large. Rather than attempt to take everything in, we decided that it would be better to recut all of the pattern pieces smaller. The skirt fabric is alarmingly stretchy so I have no idea how that will attach nicely. It has been pretty nerve-racking for me to advise Freya on how to construct the dress because I really have no idea what I am meant to be doing!! At least it gives me an excuse to order a new pair of gold Dr Martens in a size that fits us both…

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Party Planner?

After a frenzied weekend of entertaining children, I am not seriously considering becoming a professional party planner;) I had a great team of helpers for the school Halloween party to get the hall decorated and food sorted. I begged a favour and got someone else to make the pots of striped jelly in case the sickness bug from our house was still lingering. Freya’s ceilidh band dressed up especially and Nella looked just like Velma from “Scooby-Doo”. The party ran to a strict time-schedule and despite using a loud hailer I found myself hoarse towards the end. The children seemed to enjoy the new activities such as wand-making, broomstick races and dancing to “The Timewarp”. Next year’s organisers can either use my format or ignore it entirely since Nell will have moved on to secondary school. This Halloween party marked the end of a decade of school parties!

Several customer quilts arrived during the week so they can get quilted in time for Christmas but the only quilting that got done this week was a pile of computerised stockings. I made enough for a Wednesday morning craft class and for Nell’s birthday party. Most parents would opt to take their children to the cinema and a pizza but I decided it would be a good idea to have an arty-crafty party instead with food and cake-pop making halfway through. It was actually quite fun and the girls really enjoyed themselves - there was even a chicken-feeding, kitten-chasing and trampoline interlude;) 

The list for the week ahead includes preparation for a talk, starting on the customer quilts, rediscovering the bottom of my handbag, getting ready for a craft class that technically nobody has signed up for and solving the mystery of the catapulting bobbin…

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Tattie Hols Week 2

I spent a whole day restocking, revamping and blowing away the cobwebs in my virtual Etsy shop then I made a new Quilt Quine Facebook page with the intention of selling dome of my everyday quilts. Freya's Ebay shop did a little steady trade but much of her profit was wiped out in postage fees. I would love to clear all sorts of junk and tat out of the house but it might be better to hold an old fashioned "roup", the Scottish version of a yard sale. 

I drafted flyers for a series of pre-Christmas craft classes but I am not holding my breath that I will fill them. Just when I was beginning to think I would have to accept lots of teacher supply days leading up to Christmas, 6 customer quilts got booked in. 

The second week of the holidays was spent on little jaunts including Fenella's 11th birthday. Freya and I saw techno-pro-rock band,"Mogwai" at the Music Hall in Aberdeen. We recklessly stood right at the front, beside the speakers, noticing later that everyone else was wearing ear plugs. I could hardly hear a thing for days afterwards, rather like being underwater. I rustled up an alternative toddler highchair from quilted scraps in readiness for my little nephews coming to stay. It held the naked cabbage-patch doll in place so I think it should do the job…

Freya worked on the gold spandex for her Higher Art project and decided to make some bunting for a charity stall at school. Visiting small cousins arrived over the weekend and we visited castles and play parks in the rain. Unfortunately, a vomiting bug claimed some victims from the family. Freya was desperate to get back to school whereas Fergus hoped to prolong his illness and avoid school altogether.  

It is a pity that the sun did not shine for our visitors as the autumn leaves were glorious. I had planned a scenic trip to Ballater, following the River Dee but it was really dreich. It is also typical that we had a good forecast of seeing the northern lights but it was far too cloudy! Luckily, they were happy to look around Crathes Castle, go out for coffee and play with our naughty kitten;)

I will need to get the school Hallowe'en party and Fenella's birthday tea with friends out of the way before I can really continue with projects, book and customer quilts. Now that the clocks have gone back for the winter, the days seem even shorter. The shops are full of Christmas stuff and to quote "Game of Thrones" character, Ned Stark..."Winter is Coming!"