Sunday, 20 August 2017

Yet More Fizz!



It always takes a while to come back down to earth after the frenzy of FOQ but this year it seemed to take me ages to finish unpacking and catch up on admin. My kids had a Yurt Nite Party in the middle of all of this, followed by me being on bacon roll and mugs of strong tea duty the next morning. 



I spent an afternoon with a Bernina Q24 owner, experimenting with tricky threads, giving  her advice on how to fiddle with tension and use all sorts of specialist machine needles for best results. 

Desperate to do some sewing, I quilted a wonky baby bunting quilt made from well-worn shirts and even performed a good deed by overlocking a pile of tatty chiffon scarves for the local dance school. 




I had further cause for celebration this week when I received emails letting me know that “Tartan Tattoo” has won Best of the UK quilts at the World Quilt Show www.quiltfest.com and that BzB has been juried into MQX!

On opening a chilled bottle of Furze Fizz, I discovered that it does not improve with age. It tasted eggy and not in a delicious eggnog way. Sadly, I decided to dispose of the remaining bottles but I may have been too hasty because I decided to slurp some of the escaping fizz from the last one and found that it was just as delicious as the first one. If I make it again the solution will be to have a party and consume it all within a month;)

Freya, Bumble and I went on an expedition to St Andrews to deliver some of Freya’s stuff to her new Uni flat because I did not want to repeat the mammoth task of cramming masses of  her and her friend’s belongings plus 2 bikes into the Landy.  The new flat is in a central location and will be cosy when the girls have settled in but it is shocking what student landlords can get away with in their standard of furnishings despite charging high rents. I emptied a choked hoover that had obviously never been emptied before and threw a bag of rubbish into the car to dispose of later. We may need a trip to IKEA to purchase a few home comforts.



I have a neatly written To-Do list ready for next week and the kids go back to school after their long summer break so maybe I stand a fair chance of getting 50% of that done and trying to get back into a routine…






Monday, 14 August 2017

Plenty of Posing at FOQ 2017





I arrived in Birmingham on Tuesday afternoon then started to help with the monumental task of setting up the longarm machines. Wednesday was the main prep day, particularly sorting out the Qmatic system, and we were finished by 7pm. Obviously, we were there to work but after a long day it was nice to eat out and catch up with quilty friends, even when some of them think it is amusing to pull that old stunt of pretending it is my birthday and getting the restaurant to sing “HB to You”. I temporarily lost my phone (it was in the bathroom) so I missed a call letting me know that I was a prizewinner!





In the morning I was absolutely delighted to discover that Beelzebub had WON the category for contemporary quilts. It was then moved from its double-sided hanging pole to the single sided winners’ wall so the Quilt Angels got plenty of arm exercise showing off the pieced back/front. I was overwhelmed by all of the admiration for BzB after all of the time and trouble it took on and off over a few years. There were a few who asked about its name  - the simplest one is that it was a demon of a quilt!



The Bernina booth was buzzing with customers, visitors and demos by several of the international longarm ambassadors and experts: Aggy from Switzerland/Italy, Regina from Germany, Elly from Belgium and Merete from Norway. We even had British quilting superstars, Janice Gunner and Philippa Naylor, who won Best in Show with her exquisite miniature quilt. There are professional photos of all of the winners on www.thefestivalofquilts.co.uk

I jogged around all of the exhibits early each morning and ensured that I also stopped to look in all of the special galleries. It was inspiring to see a Nancy Crow and Students showcase. Another stunning gallery was a collection of amazingly tiny miniatures by Kumiko Frydl. I was excited to bump into quilting celebrities and take selfies with Luana Rubin, Victoria Findlay Wolf and Stuart Hilliard. 






Kay's Quilt, "Face Off" (Singer sewing machine face plates)


"Shield Maiden"

I put the GoPro to use making time lapses of the crowds, quilting action and I even attempted to capture every single quilt on a zoom around the entire show - a segway may have made that job easier. 

I can hardly believe that FOQ is all over for another year. It was an action-packed week that flew by. There were times when my feet ached and I could not think straight but meeting all of the lovely quilters from all over the world made it all worthwhile:)




Sunday, 6 August 2017

What Have I Forgotten?



Just occasionally I am scarily efficient to the point where I am convinced that there is something major that has been overlooked. I worked on three large customer quilts with the help of Quiltpath, took the kids into Aberdeen, did a couple of mega grocery shops and checked things off on several lists. OK, so some items may just have said “worm cats” or “”buy stamps” but it still counts as a job done! I even made a new exhibition pass holder based on the one that Kay originally made for me.



I don’t have photographic evidence for any of this as I either forgot to take pictures or was too busy messing about with my GoPro camera. Because I got my act together and packed my gear for FOQ ahead of schedule, I had some spare time to “waste”. I finally got the GoPro to communicate with my phone and I am still not sure how that happened. I watched a guy on Youtube who gave an excellent tutorial for beginners so then I decided to have a go at making a Timpelapse. 

The genie is certainly out of the bottle on that front - I made clips of me block printing some fabric then wondered what it would be like to record a car journey. I hope to fix it up on a tripod at FOQ and record a time-lapse of the Bernina Q24 being set up over several hours. High speed clips on social media seem to be very popular - maybe people will see those then want to watch something a little longer like a tutorial, something I have had in mind for ages.

Knowing that I will be assisting the Bernina Qmatic system set-up in Birmingham and that it will be coming home with me afterwards so I can get to know it inside and out, I nerdily decided that I needed to know how to convert an image into an SVG file. I am determined that I will become an expert in using and applying all of the capabilities of the software and I would like to design images for it. Somehow that led to me on a weird tangent of looking at tattoo artist thermal-imaging copiers but I think I have decided that basic screen printing is probably far more sensible (if I have any more spare time at some point in the future.)


Everything is ready to go for FOQ - I have packed a choice of quilts to hang at the Bernina stand and even a choice of outfits. I have bags of all sorts of thread, needles, rulers, and gadgets but I still think I might have forgotten something. Bumble is wondering when I will be putting her stuff into the Landy for my trip to Birmingham. I will have to sneak off on a really LONG trip to the supermarket so she does not realise I have gone off without her. I will try to take lots of photos at FOQ - of people as well as quilts!

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Short but Productive Week



After catching up on a whole heap of laundry including foosty sleeping bags, I had to tackle some long overdue paperwork. Even Bumble found this chore dull - I wondered where she had gone for a sulk then discovered she had gone into sleep mode under my desk, camouflaged on a black sheepskin rug.



Because I had spent weeks working on BzB, I had a few customer quilts to tackle before I got caught up in preparations for Festival of Quilts. Luckily they were all modesty sized so I managed to complete FOUR in the few days I had left in a short week. I successfully dealt with a couple of short backings, wavy borders and one or two burst seams. 

I have two more large quilts to do before I can plan my FOQ demos and pack my bags, all still in the throes of the kids’ summer holidays, sleepovers and dietary requirements ranging from pescatarian and veggie to borderline vegan (don’t ask)!


Lazy Summer Days and Christmas in July



Our second week in Norfolk was spent happily not doing anything in particular, apart from spending time with friends and family whom we generally only see once a year. We had a trip to Norwich which is almost completely pedestrianised in the centre and has a decidedly continental air, compared to Aberdeen. The kids bought some old vinyl records and even cassettes since the Landy has a very basic radio. They actually enjoyed rummaging in vintage shops this year!

Bumble got to know the neighbourhood dogs on her daily walk which is a novelty because we don’t meet anybody at home. The girls were fascinated by how passing dog owners chat to each other about their doggy friends. 



We picked some delicious, jammy raspberries to make a summer pudding as a side order for Christmas pudding… My Dad had been in hospital over Christmas, following a serious car accident so the 19-pound turkey that he ordered was deposited into the freezer. The kids made paper hats from newspaper, hung some festive bunting and played a Christmas tunes playlist. My Mother, Sister, Freya and I prepared all the usual Christmas trimmings, including brussels sprouts. It was really good fun to have a turkey dinner in July without everything else going on that Christmas usually involves. Maybe we should make it a new family tradition.


Our last lazy day in Norfolk was spent loading up the camping gear and lashing 3 Persian carpets from my folks’ attic, wrapped in a tarpaulin onto the Landy’s roof rack. The kids were not enthused by the prospect of a long drive home but at least we had the “new” compilation tapes from 1988 to play in the Landy on the way home.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Latitude 2017



There was only one day at home to do some laundry and find summer clothes and camping gear to add to the wellies already in the car before setting out on the epic 500+ mile journey to Norfolk in the Landy. Bumble sat on Fergus’ lap the whole way and was not in the least phased by such a long trip with only a couple of brief stops. 

I acquired 3 extra teenagers in addition to my own and we loaded up oodles of gear, fairy-lights, instant noodles and a fair supply of booze. I intrepidly towed my folks’ 20-odd foot caravan down some narrow country lanes and arrived at Henham Park without any hassles. 



The 3 older kids had volunteered to be fire-watchers in return for free tickets so we did not see that much of them except for when we met up to see certain bands or decide what exotic street food stall to sample. 

We had fun living like gypsies for a few days - the showers were a long way off, I could not work out how to make the caravan water pump function and there was no electricity. Camping gas for fried eggs, freshly brewed coffee and candles for ambient lighting were perfectly sufficient. 

The weather was fair, not too hot or wet; we walked miles, saw an eclectic mix of bands, met up with old friends from Suffolk, and pretended to be hippies for the weekend. Mumford & Sons were tremendous on Saturday night and we saw some terrific emerging talent. 






I managed to get everyone back in one piece, apart from a few blisters and sunburn. Thank goodness for Doc Martens when we stupidly dropped the caravan on Freya’s foot while attempting to hitch it up ineptly. 


Bumble was pleased to see us despite having a very nice time with my sister’s little boys. Everyone reluctantly showered off the festival dirt and glitter and agreed that they had had a great time and would love to do it all again next year!

Sunday, 9 July 2017

A Week in the North West Highlands



I did not actually look at a map before getting off for somewhere in the North West Highlands so I was a little surprised by how far north it was. We took the scenic route to Inverness, followed a “normal” 2-lane road to Ullapool then a single track road with free-range sheep and passing places for more than 20 miles. Despite the wet weather, the scenery was breathtaking. The craggy mountains were obviously extinct volcanoes and there were many mini lochs on the way.

The super cottage that we rented from friends in Achiltibuie had stunning views over a sea-loch, the Summer Isles and the Isle of Lewis. We could walk down a track to a stony beach and spot seals bobbing about near the shore. 



I spent a lazy week chilling out with my 3 kids and Bumble with no pressure to go anywhere or do anything in particular. We dabbled about on the beach, took a drive into town when it rained all day, had fish and chips, and a chilly boat trip to a small island which had a cafe in a shed. I took some paperwork which I ignored and a notebook which remained unopened. We read books, watched a couple of films and listened to music. Bumble enjoyed herself on the beach and was very happy to travel in the Landy as long as she could drink water out of a tin mug and get some dog snacks from my rucksack. 

It did not quite rain all week, which was just as well after the Landy’s windscreen wipers conked out. I only had to wear shorts once (with a wool cardigan), spent most of the week wearing wellies yet still ended up with a sun/wind tanned face. 


Everyone had a great time in the wilds with very little to do. There was actually more bickering during the one day at home when we had to do laundry and repack for our epic trip to England!

Sunday, 2 July 2017

BzB is Done and Summer Hols Begin!



It took a few hours to sew the reverse of BzB’s binding by hand as I had to make sure that the stitches did not show at all. I decided to make a top sleeve in the end so if quilt judges don’t think the back is up to scratch then it will have to come off at a later stage. I added a subtle label to the pieced side and blocked it to straighten out the edges. It was not measured scientifically so I hope its weight will make it hang well enough.


I remembered that Shield Maiden is also going to FOQ - it did not seem to have been blocked before and also required a label. After getting both of the quilts ready to pack I had that weird feeling that I experience after finishing every major project. It is a combination of not being able to believe it is complete and also wondering what I should be doing to fill my time. I even considered preparing some piecing to take on holiday but thankfully I decided that several bottles of wine and some good books would do just as well. 





I loaded the kids, booze, festival trolley, bucket BBQ, and Bumble into the Landy late on Saturday morning and we set off on our road-trip to a cottage near Ullapool in North West Scotland. We took the scenic route, the last part of which was on single-track roads with sheep roaming freely. The cottage has magnificent views over Broom (sea) Loch and the Summer Isles. The weather forecast for the week is poor but we packed plenty of sensible clothing although Fergus may been seen wearing a floral raincoat because he decided against taking his own waterproof. 




We spent Sunday pottering around on the rocky shore, glimpsing seals in the waves. Bumble was exhausted after scrambling gamely over the rocks. Surprisingly, nobody else wanted to sample limpets boiled in seawater and I have to report that my curiosity is now satisfied. Without any parsley, garlic or butter to hand, they are gross! We have no major plans for our week apart from some exploring, fish and chips, and contentedly watching rain stream down the windows. If the sun comes out it will be a bonus but not essential for  us to enjoy a fun holiday.




Sunday, 25 June 2017

Major Progress with BzB!



I loaded up a brand new, shiny bobbin case with wool thread and went to Radio Silence for the first couple of hours re-quilting all of the large motifs on BzB. I only held my breath a few times and to my amazement, it went far better than expected. Early on I decided to order ten more 110 wool needles to add to the three I already had and I used every single one of them. Let’s just say that thick layers of batting, seams involving linen and paint soon dull needles. The quilting took a long time but I knew the way around the quilt this time. There were times when I was bored to tears with the monotony but after I passed halfway in the middle of the week I was encouraged to get it finished. I had to remind myself not to get over excited for the last few feathers as it was so tempting to romp to the end. 






It was such a relief to get the quilt off the frame at last. I did a quick tidy of stray threads and will do a thorough check later. The back looks good but I still don’t know whether the judges will pick me up on the little knots that have built up here and there. I love the look of the wool thread so I think I am OK with a few little blips.  

BzB is a monstrously heavy quilt and takes some man-handling. Squaring up took me a few hours - I could not just measure out from the feather border all around as it turned out that I obviously had not drawn it squarely in the first place. There was some creative fudging so I was amazed that the 2 opposite sides matched each other when I measured them. The outer edges are not too wavy and should flatten down after some serious dampening. 



I decided to go for a top hanging sleeve even if the quilt does not get shown double-sided but I am not sure if it will look as neat as I would like yet. Mind you, when it is hanging up over 90” from the floor, it will be difficult to scrutinise. I attached the shot cotton binding by machine on the front and will try to get most of the finger-puncturing hand finishing done during the week so I might not have to take it away on holiday! There is a fair bit of titivating still to do - checking to see if that the painted bits need touching up, deciding whether to add a few sparkly crystals, re-colouring the spirals inside the flat-iron shapes that look like a cartoon character has been knocked unconscious, reattaching the label that I sewed on wonkily, and finally - BLOCKING!


Sunday, 18 June 2017

Phase 5 of BzB = DONE!



I reckon you could say that so far BzB has had 5 main phases so far - the piecing, designing/drawing/tracing the whole cloth pattern, quilting the main motifs, quilting the background and finally, after a very long 2 weeks - the colouring/painting. I have to admit that this stage felt everlasting at times. I even got a blister on my pencil-gripping finger callous. I listened to repeats of repeats on the radio but I am now very up date with current affairs. 






I ordered a battery operated pencil sharpener which is even more satisfying to use than my school-teacher hand crank one and I find that one pretty entertaining. 

The next stage is to quilt around the main motifs again with wool thread which will be SCARY! I have even agreed with myself to do less stitching than I had originally considered but even so, it will probably take around 10 days if all goes well. 





Bumble has been someone to talk to in my self-imposed exile, just making herself comfy on the floor nearby. Or even, making herself comfy on humans who happen to be lying on the floor, always keeping a weather eye out for grumpy, nose-out-of-joint cats;)