Sunday, 18 February 2018

An Eggsellent Week



During a week of spells of heavy, wet snow and bright sunshine, my hens laid at least 50% of the time. There was even an unusually white speckled one. I decided that it was time to make lemon curd. I am pretty good at that these days, having made notes to myself in my hand-written recipe book that refer to past disasters and how to avoid them.



Much of the half-term week was filled with customer quilts, re-drafting the Fancy Forest blocks so I can make giant animals, and an outing to a junk shop where Nell convinced me that I did not have room for another cheap, beaten-up chest of drawers even though it was a bargain.






I listened to Carrie Fisher’s autobiography on Audible while I pieced together the lapis/malachite DWR arcs and by the time I cut out the amber coloured pinched squares I was onto Stephen Fry’s “Mythos” but I had to pay close attention to the complicated relationships between all of the Greek gods. I fused some of the 1500-odd egg shaped pieces of “amber” onto the skinny melons and realised that I would have to make yet more to be able to fill up all of the large pinched squares. I dread to think how long it will take to quilt around all of the amber pieces, at least 3 circuits each…!






I have restored the indestructible iron that fell onto the nylon carpet so I will use it to weld the misty-fuse and organza onto my DWR amber sections. The major challenge will be joining the curved arcs on without having a tantrum;)

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Bumble's Busy Week



With a mid term break looming I had to fit in lots of projects to get ahead of myself. I made a second Mutant Hot Cross Bunny and cut out all of the Russian DWR pieces out in kit form. 





Bumble had a very smart trim, not the traditional Scottie Dog style as all that hair just collects twigs. She was in and out of my workshop all week, snoozing while I completed 2 customer quilts, supervised 2 large DIY quilts and made a vegan avocado cake. I made the cake at Nell’s request - the texture was good but it needed far more sugar which I reckon defeats the object of it being a healthy option.



I ordered a cheap roll of orange organza from Ebay which I was annoyed to discover incurred an additional postage charge since the seller decided that my postcode was in The Highlands. When it eventually arrived it was not what I had hoped so I called Rainbow Fabrics in Old Meldrum where I got the burnt orange crystal organza for my practice piece. They posted my package first class and it arrived the next morning which I think is incredible!

I took Nell and Bumble to St Andrews for the day to catch up with Freya and we had a lovely time on the beach, meeting lots of friendly dogs, even another Scottie called Hamish. We took a drive out to the picturesque village of Crail, just along the coast and walked around the bay and harbour in bright, chilly sunshine. When we got back to St Andrews Bumble even managed to trot all the way to the Deli, deciding she might quite like to be a town dog as it was so exciting. No wonder she snored loudly all the way home. 







I randomly selected from my box of green/blue DWR pieces and constructed 48 basic arcs which will also need to have angled end pieces attached. My friend, Angelika, managed to find some of my favourite gold lamé which seems to have been discontinued so I should get the arcs completed next week then begin work on the amber sections. I am trying to persuade Freya to paint a custom back for it IF she can find the time while studying, kayaking and socialising;)




Sunday, 4 February 2018

Trials and Errors in the Studio



I secretly relish when business is slack and I can spend time experimenting in my studio. The trouble with running a small business is that it is easy to get caught on a treadmill with customer quilting, leaving little time to create. I had a go at making a Fancy Forest fox double its original size but my maths was not up to the challenge the first time around so Mr Reject Fox will probably become a cushion. Before long I made 4 correct giant foxes which equals 16 of the mini foxes. Next I made a mutant bunny block and he is huge so I will only need 2 instead of 8. I am such a cheat!




I was going to say that I don’t really enjoy working with small pieces then I remembered my latest idea…

Bumble and I went on an expedition to Rainbow Fabrics in Old Meldrum so I could choose fabrics for my Russian Inspired Quilt Idea. The shop is quite small but jam-packed with sewing goodies. Bolts of fabric are stacked 3 high and a step ladder has to be used to pull out the top ones. I eventually picked out a good selection that I thought looked like lapis lazuli, malachite and amber and asked for long, skinny cuts. I hope the extremely helpful assistant went for a strong cup of coffee after she tidied up my mess. 

I roughly chopped up a few pieces of the amber colours to see if I could produce something that reminded me of the Amber Room. I wanted to see what would happen if I applied a glaze or a sheer fabric using Misty Fuse. The prototypes came out quite well so the next move was to cut a few egg or nugget shapes out using the Sanncut machine. I did a very rough calculation and decided that I would need more than 1000 so having decided that the project could work, I spent a whole day fusing, cutting and scraping sticky stuff off the cutting mats. 






I pieced two DWR arcs to see whether the blues and greens looked good with the amber and quickly dismissed the option of making the easy version.






The other thing I worked on a little was adding denim patches on the reverse of the denim quilt where the rivets had caused some damage. They were Bondawebbed on but I knew they would also have to be stitched otherwise they would eventually fall off. This was not as easy as I might have hoped. The denim quilt is far too big and heavy to make life easy so I came up with the idea of adding rustic sashiko stitching - sewing right to left is fine but going back the other way involves a bit of contortionism and my hand gets cramp. I will just have to do a couple of patches at a time. 



My much abused iron took yet another tumble off the ironing board but because I was fiddling with tricky organza, I did not pick it up immediately and it melted the carpet. There was brown gloop all over the iron and a terrible smell. Amazingly, the melted nylon mostly scraped off quite easily so I may be able to resurrect it by scrubbing with bicarb. There is absolutely no non-stick surface left anyway but it is such a heavy, hot iron I would hate to try and replace it. I almost repeated the exact same accident with the backup iron so I will need to think of how to add a sturdier iron rest. I wonder whether I could use a slate roof tile and a couple of strips of elastic? Or maybe just move the ironing board out of an awkward corner, except that may lead to reorganising my whole workshop on a horrific scale!








Sunday, 28 January 2018

Blooming Birthday



My week started off with my Bloomin’ 50th Birthday! My kids made a great effort with balloons and flowers and a some very special gifts, including a black Scottie dog lamp which looks like Bumble is sitting on top of a chest of drawers. My two BFFs were away but sent a helium balloon in the post. I am not into parties but hope to plan some kind of special trip later in  the year.



Freya ran a taxi service in her Beetle, getting plenty of driving practice clocking up miles by ferrying her siblings around. It was the last week of her long Christmas holiday so for fun we went out for lunch a couple of times and decided to unscrew the filthy glass lampshades in the kitchen and run them through the dishwasher. It was amazing how dazzling the lights were when they were clean so we decided to clean the oven as well. There is plenty of other Spring Cleaning to do but there is no point in doing it all at once:P



I squeezed in 2 customer quilts - a lovely log cabin and a baby quilt with boats. Feeling virtuous, I completed the blasted rivets on the denim word search quilt and discovered that jeans buttons are far easier to attach. The hanging sleeve was sewn on securely and I even sewed the corners of the binding shut. The only job left to do is some mending on the reverse where some of the rivets have caused a little damage. 





I decided that I was allowed to spend Saturday afternoon and evening making 8 thistle blocks for the Fancy Forest quilt. I realised that it it is easy to put the stalk in the wrong way around which made the leaves look completely different. After that I made 4 correct blocks and 4 deliberately wrong blocks to make it look like that was what I intended all along. 




Before Freya left for the new semester at Uni I discussed ideas with her for my next Big Project. I need to do a bit of experimenting before I launch into it and will actually need to buy some fabric unless I decide to do something completely different. I saw something the other day that I want to figure out which could be interesting…

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Rivetting!



I decided to try and finish off the denim quilt before starting on anything new so I trimmed and blocked it, made binding, a label embroidered onto a jeans pocket and a hanging sleeve. There were several jeans pockets left over from making the blocks so I was able to have a practice run using the Bernina 710 alphabet and some thick yellow thread. 

It is a very heavy quilt to deal with so I shifted my sewing machine table to join up with the big table, supporting the weight while the binding was being sewn onto the front side of the quilt. I find sewing binding onto the back by hand very tedious but it is necessary if considering entering a show.

I abandoned the idea of highlighting one or two words with yellow thread. It would have been very difficult to make a neat job on such a bulky quilt and I reckon it will be more fun to search for all of the words without any clues. 



A test-run of hammering in a rivet was pretty easy so I hoped that adding rivets to all of the block corners would be a quick job. Let’s just say it was a good job that I ordered far more rivets than I needed because quite a lot of them failed. I decided that it was better if I hammered the seam flat first then poked a hole with an awl. Some of the rivet tacks were a tad shorter than others so they were hopeless, simply getting squashed. I broke a couple of finger nails trying to extract the reject rivets (should have used pliers). I even made a sizeable hole in the quilt where one rivet not only failed but also cut right through so I patched it with denim and ordered some larger jeans buttons to deal with such disaster areas. Bumble was not impressed by all of the banging and swearing. That job is yet to be finished as I am waiting for more rivets and buttons to arrive from Ebay.

The middle of the week proved to be lucky - BzB was awarded 3rd place at Road to California, Fergus was offered an audition for Music College and Freya passed her driving test!!!



One of Freya’s first trips in the car as a driver was to go and collect 3 ex-battery hens that she had decided to rescue. The hens are 18 months old when “retired” and are either adopted by a charity or slaughtered. They are in a dreadful state - almost bald with no idea how to drink or forage. Sadly, one died overnight but the other 2 have lasted 24 hours with the help of encouragement, a hot water bottle, porridge and fleece jumpers that I made for them. If we can keep them hydrated and warm over the next few days they stand a chance of a far better life…





Just when I was on the point of caving in to supply-teaching offers, the first customer quilt of the year came in. I had to piece together some small, embroidered squares and add  spotty fabrics until it was big enough to become a cot quilt, hopefully without having to purchase much additional fabric. It is now ready to quilt and another 2 customer quilts are on their way so I should be able to stay out of school for a wee bit longer;)





Sunday, 14 January 2018

Just Jeans



I worked on the denim word-search quilt for the entire week! Firstly, I had to complete the vertical lines with the Bernina 710 using a walking foot, going cautiously over the ridiculously thick seams. When that hefty job was done I put the quilt back onto the Q24 longarm to stitch around all of the letters.



I decided that each letter should be outlined 3 times with thick cotton thread, freehanded with no rulers and in manual mode which gives me greater control. Once I had found the best speed and tension for the denim I programmed it into the Q24 to remember the next time it was switched on. (The machine wants to run in BSR mode by default but once I clicked the manual button it also remembered that I like to stitch at 350 which is 30% slower than the default manual speed.) 



Some letters were faster to outline than others but it still took quite some time - 121 letters x 3 outlines = 363 outlines and quite a few of the letters had insides too.

I was not happy with how some of the seams looked really bulky so I couched over all of the vertical and horizontal seams with a denim-look yarn to help flatten them. By Saturday afternoon I could not listen to anymore political analysis on Radio 4 so I downloaded an audio book instead which seemed to pass the time very well. 





I am trying to decide whether it would be a wise decision to wash the finished quilt or not. Some of the denim is from well-worn jeans but some was crispy and new so it could shrink at very different rates. I wonder whether a wash would give it a good scruffy look or just make it look scruffy?

My plan was to highlight a couple of the word-search “answers” with thick yellow thread but that will mean more wrestling with the domestic machine/walking foot so I may drop that notion. The quilt is very large, stiff and heavy - so I could easily talk myself out of that. 



However, I am keen to add rivets to all of the block corners so I have ordered some (maybe a hundred or so!) from Ebay, which will all have to be hammered on. I wonder if that will be enough?! Apparently you can get a hand-held rivet gun but I don’t know how often I will actually need to apply rivets to any future quilts. This denim word-search quilt could well be a one-off;)



I hope to get the entire project finished next week. I had intended to apply a facing but the quilt is far too thick to turn and get a neat knife edge so a conventional binding will have to suffice. It will also need blocking, a hanging sleeve in case it is ever exhibited and a label which I plan to make from a jeans pocket. Then I will have to decide what to do with it…



Sunday, 7 January 2018

2018 - A Slow Start



I always find the first week of January a bit of a drag - I feel that I should be zooming around productively yet it is still the Christmas holidays. It would probably be better if I was away from home so the guilt could not set in and I would not have to contend with a fridge full of uneaten cheese.

I did manage to get some boring admin out of the way such as my tax return for the previous year but I was peeved to find that the school teaching that I had done to prop up my quilting business took me over the tax threshold so that was a bit of a nasty sting.

I occupied myself by completing next year’s diary with dates on my phone, 2 paper calendars and a planner so there will be no excuse for being disorganised;) 

I received great news that BzB has been accepted into the AQS Lancaster Show but there was a minor panic when I realised how tight the shipping deadlines were following Road to California. Both shows were very helpful at changes to my shipping preferences meaning the quilt will not be going back and forth to Bonnie in Oklahoma for TLC so I hope it does not start to look crumpled!

We had fun at an open-mike night to end the holidays when Freya and Fergus both performed on guitar and piano with a super group of their friends. 



I may have met my match with my denim quilt. I had it all ready to longarm in neat lines but the seams were so hopelessly thick that the foot could not get over the bumps. In the end I stitched in the ditch, missing out the worst seams then had to resort to using the Bernina 710 with a walking foot. It is doing a great job but the quilt is really big and heavy so it is an incredibly slow job, with needles dulling quickly. There are a few wrinkles here and there but I hope to disguise those later with some couching and long-arming. I still plan to freehand around the letters with the longarm since there won’t be any lumpy seams to contend with in the centre of the blocks. 



As usual, it is a more complicated job than planned and I had hoped to make a start on some sort of Russian inspired project during January. I expect that will also become something I regret. So much for telling myself after every major quilt that the next one will be simpler. Who am I kidding?!