Sunday, 26 June 2016

Goosey Guddle Quilt

Apart from going to school for 2 days and tutoring a quilt pupil, I made an effort to experiment with rulers on the Bernina 710 as a practice for demoing the Q20 at FOQ. This was not actually as tricky as I thought. I was impressed by some some Parrs Reel rulers that I had to test but decided that the Bernina 96 foot worked better on the 710 than the Parrs foot. Bernina is bringing out a modified 97 foot which should guarantee that there cannot be any user error when using thick rulers. 

I finally got around to quilting the Bernina fabric that has been designed for practising longarm quilting. I quilted around the main motifs then added a few fillers. I also wanted to show off the couching foot and twin needle then added a bit of sparkly cross hatching. I have to come up with a simple take-away project for FOQ for the sit-down Q20 so that fabric may be used there. 

I finished assembling Freya’s Uni Quilt and decided to call it “Goosey Guddle” because it features flying geese and really is a mishmash of fabrics and colours. Most but not all of the seams match and the blocks were assembled exactly as I tossed them onto the table. I made an effort to photograph every single step of the construction process but I will never be allowed to submit that many pictures to a magazine so I will have to persevere with figuring out how to draw up simple diagrams in EQ7 or Touchdraw. I asked Freya how she wants her quilt to be quilted and she has asked for my random swirly/plumey freehand so I will get around to that during the summer holidays. 

Photos of Tartan Tattoo has appeared in 2 magazines recently - Quilt Mania and Today’s Quilter so fingers crossed that it catches the judges’ eyes at FOQ;)

The coming week will be hectic as it is the last week of term. I am teaching 2 days, going to visit Bambers Sewing Machines in Manchester for 2 days, and attending school prize-giving. I have started to make notes for a special custom quilt that is coming my way and already worrying about making the right design choices in a rather limited time scale that includes the school holidays!

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Chasing Chevrons

The trouble with swivel chairs is that when you stand on one to take a photo of whatever is on the table you start to rotate before you can actually press the shutter on the camera. I amused myself doing a couple of spins before I managed to get a decent shot of the made-in-a-hurry chevron quilt. I made the blocks at such a speed that I ended up with ALL of the diamond units facing the same way thus I could not actually make zigzags. So I had to waste time unpicking and reassembling half of them, trying to maintain a random arrangement of fabrics. 

I laid all of the rows on the table to ensure that I would pick them up carefully and carry them to the sewing machine to get them together in the right order. Somehow, I managed to do a sleight of hand and switch things around so that the middle section started zigging and zagging differently. I decided to leave it in a muddle as time was limited but looking at the finished quilt, it would have been cool to have done the whole thing deliberately like that since it forms a 3D pattern!

Although custom quilting along the chevrons might have been fun, I stuck with an Anne Bright digital pantograph, “Monkey Business” for speed and because Miss M’s Monearn House sports day mascots are children in monkey suits waving inflatable bananas. 

I also pieced the rest of Freya’s Uni Quilt blocks, except the last one which I want to photograph to explain how it goes together slightly unmathematically. Because of my eclectic mix of fabrics - particularly the cheap tartan - when I tackle the quilting I will consider using a poly wadding or even a double wadding to help bulk out any slightly “busty” areas.

All in all, I achieved slightly more than 50% of my unrealistic weekly schedule which is impressive considering that Fenella has had 5 performances and a dress rehearsal for the Dance School show in Aboyne and I had to have a wisdom tooth removed with a local anaesthetic and pliers. She had a couple of singing solos to a packed theatre and was amazing. I did really not mind hanging around waiting as it gave me an excuse to read gory Scottish Noir detective novels on my Kindle:)

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Not Exactly Undercover

My accomplice and I decided to “rescue” the plants in pots that were left behind by the people who moved out of the rental property next door. It is tricky to undertake a covert operation in high summer here when it does not get dark until well after 11pm so we sneaked round with the wheelbarrow in broad daylight just after 10pm. The plants have survived their traumatic ordeal and are now being watered regularly outside my workshop  - only the Postie will have observed a change in their location.

I was parading around in my half-sewn prototype frock when 2 American visitors arrived looking for my quilt shop. I explained that I was not an actual shop, just a longarm quilting studio but I was happy to show them some quilts that I had lying around. With the help of some friends, I eventually got the sleeves inserted the right way round and decided on balance that it had been a relatively straight-forward pattern and I might even make another one. I thought it would be a good idea to add some “ethnic” accents by stamping some red motifs around the neckline which led to further embellishments elsewhere which I have not quite decided are excessive or simply not enough;)

Since the 2 customer raffle quilts got done and I had guided Lynette through the automated quilting of a huge appliquéd cot quilt, I made up my mind that I needed to start on Freya’s going-away-to-uni quilt AND run up a quilt for the kids’ Guidance Teacher who is leaving after many years at the school. Miss M will be getting a blue and white chevron quilt (in the colours of her school House) and I have already mass-cut the 168 x 7.5” squares using a giant June Tailor strip-cutting ruler. I will need to work fast to get that done within a fortnight!

Despite having cut all of the pieces out for Freya’s quilt, I discovered that I had completely forgotten the way I made the first 2 blocks and that all of my rectangles were the wrong size - thankfully they were too big and could be trimmed down. The first block was a disaster because I forgot to trim down the deliberately over-sized flying geese blocks and I had no idea how I came up with the sizes of the setting triangles so it really did not fit together very neatly. It all came back to me after a while and the pile of large blocks slowly grew. When I write up the pattern I may not recommend that anyone else uses cotton lawn or poly-cotton tartan unless they are prepared to use a large can of spray starch. I wondered whether the scrappy fabrics that I had chosen were going to make a rather ugly quilt but I remembered that the original 1930’s quilt that I love has some hideous fabrics  yet the overall sum of their parts is fantastic. I ended the weekend with 11 out of 20 blocks and noticed that there is a lot of jolly, bright orange so far. At any rate, it will brighten up a student room rather nicely and its recipient, who is inter-railing in Europe, has approved of the progress so far:)

Sunday, 5 June 2016

On My High Horse

Towards the end of the week I finally received a notification email from FOQ that “Purdah” had not been juried into the Festival of Quilts Fine Art Quilt Masters competition. After about 5 seconds of consideration, I decided not to take the moral high ground and drafted a response. I messaged it to my Quilt Besties who immediately approved and sent back their opinion in capital letters - SEND IT!

Apart from this elusive competition I have previously suffered disappointment about quilt show judges’ decisions but never before felt the urge to have a strop about it. This, my second rejection for FAQM, - the first was for the Spring Totems - has made me question my ability and credibility as a quilt artist. Here is what I wrote… 

Thank you for letting me know that my quilt has not been shortlisted for FAQM at Festival of Quilts this year.

Obviously, I am disappointed that it was not selected. I understand that the judges had to make tough decisions. My work has been juried in and rejected from many such competitions around the world but I have never felt that I was being patronised by being told that “the standard of entries was extremely high”, making me feel that my quilt was not worthy of consideration. 

It is a shame that an elite competition such as FAQM does not allow the entrant to submit more than 2 photographs and a 50 word blurb. I did not feel that I was given the opportunity to demonstrate the months of research and construction that went into such a complex piece of textile art. “Purdah” is a multi-layered piece that conveys current political and feminist themes. 

I would welcome feedback from the selection jury on how I can develop my work to produce quilt art that “transcends craft and demands equal billing with work shown in an art gallery”. Perhaps it is naive of me to understand that FOQ is primarily an exhibition of Quilts with many superb and varied examples of that Craft. The wording that I have quoted from the entry form seems to suggest that most quilts are not worthy of this accolade.

So there - glad I got that off my chest! I have not yet received a reply. Either it will be ignored or I will be served with a life ban from FOQ;)

After diligently working on Paperwork I was going to allow myself time to work on the 30’s Revamp Quilt. However, I went off at a tangent, deciding to make some weights for placing on tissue paper dress-making patterns, as featured on BBC’s “Sewing Bee”. I made couple of prototypes using an equilateral triangle template but they were a pain when it came to getting the last corner neat. It may have helped if I had actually followed the instructions. I decided that it would be FAR easier to use 2 squares, like my triangular zipped pouches. Obviously, I could not just make 3 or 4… I cut out enough squares to take to school so my class could make 3 rice-filled bags each to use as juggling sacks then I went on to mass produce another 20, in case I want to give some away as Christmas gifts. I had not got around to finishing them when I decided to cut out a dress pattern and just used 5 beach stones instead!

I had a busy couple of days fitting in the DIY customers before the summer break and I had fun working on a small African wall-hanging. The borders and sashings are mostly geometric quilting patterns and there were a couple of simple fills around the scenes. I was pleased with the cross-hatch around Africa and I might consider adding some machine embroidery stitches around a few of the blocks. 

For the week ahead I have 2 simple customer quilts, a DIY quilter, and a school day so I had better not get my hopes up about what else I will manage to do. But at the very least I hope to run up a frock and stuff my large collection of pattern weights with special-offer rice.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

I feel a rant coming on...

I feel a rant coming on but it will have to wait until I have my facts straight. As some folk may guess, it is to do with Purdah - probably as expected…

I managed to get out of a day in the classroom this week as I had to collect Fergus from the airport and I have to say that I did not miss it;) On Monday I went shopping with Freya and was put down by the teeny-tiny assistant who informed me that their clothes were designed for younger shoppers when I asked how accurate their sizes were. To make up for a lack of purchases, I procured some goodies in the M&S food-hall to eat in the independent cinema where Freya and I frittered away an afternoon with two other members of the audience. The film was “Mustang” in Turkish and it was brilliant. The story of 5 sisters whose family attempted to tame them by arranging their marriages was heart-breaking, funny and stayed with us for days afterwards. 

While Freya tried to motivate herself to revise for her last exam which technically she does not even need to pass as she already has her Uni place confirmed, I cracked on with at the semi-custom Dresden quilt. Although I am describing it as semi custom, it still took ages to get the “simple” ruler work and not-so-tiny fillers all done. 

In between making a custom guitar pedal-board with Fergus (with the help of Mo and her jigsaw), rearranging the music room again to make more room for the drum-kit and constantly washing up because the dishwasher has broken down, I finished the African pancake quilt! It could do with having another row and column added to make it a more practical size for a bed but it would certainly make an indestructible picnic or beach blanket. It was pretty bulky at the intersections but definitely fun and colourful. It would be a good project to teach with beginners as it could grow to almost any size from table-mats to a bed quilt, depending on how much fabric and patience the participants have. 

I have had to close down my DIY and customer quilting diary for June as there is so much “stuff” happening on my calendar. My plan for the week ahead is to deal with my notebook which is bursting with paperwork, get on with the last customer quilts for the time being and possibly make a start on piecing Freya’s Uni quilt, which if I remember to take photos, could even be submitted as a magazine project… and just try to remember to turn up at all of the places I am meant to be!

Sunday, 22 May 2016

On Your Bike!

I decided that after spending a morning virtuously catching up on emails and booking flights to Manchester to do some Bernina Q24 training, I deserved time to mess about in my workshop! The African pancake quilt is now taking shape and if I decide to make it larger I now have even more fabrics from Nigeria, hand delivered by Helene, who almost came straight off the plane to pick up her quilts. 

I sliced the squares in my kit for the Feedsack Remake project into the required setting triangles, noting with trepidation that the cheap tartan frayed and stretched considerably. 

On my “fun” day I also had a go at designing a possible layout for a basic quilt that could have fish prints stamped onto it, although the colours are not at all fishy, just using random scraps to see if it would all fit together. 

A casual remark by a friend about Ebikes made me think how handy it would be to have a bicycle that gave me a boost on inclines. Weirdly, there was one that had just been posted for sale on a local buy/swap/sell website so I snapped it up before anyone else thought they might fancy it. It is in pristine condition, although when I took it for a spin, I realised that the tyres were as flat as pancakes. I have hardly ridden a bike in years as it is too hilly in Aberdeenshire for me to find it a pleasurable experience. The electric booster worked a treat so I may just make an effort to tootle around the countryside on rare sunny days which is better than no tootling at all;) 

I had 2 ridiculously early starts over the weekend, dropping off the younger two kids at their school trip rendezvoux. They are so different to each other - one will have a miserable, character-building experience whereas the other one would happily go on tour with friends indefinitely. Freya and I decided that 4am was an ideal opportunity to drive around practicing her parking skills as there were absolutely no other cars driving around, or parked in the carpark or even on the streets in Banchory at that time of day! Our day was so much longer because we did not go back to bed. By 7.00am we had enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and also taken the dog for a long walk.

Freya was getting rather bored with her study leave as she only has one exam to go so I bought her a tin of cream paint to revamp the garden Yurt. Obviously, it has not stopped raining since. It will probably be brilliantly sunny tomorrow when we have planned to go into town with no schedule to return since we don’t have the other kids to pick up or transport until Wednesday. I don’t know when my next “fun” day or foray into dress-making will be - for much of the coming week I will be busy teaching and I have to tackle a customer quilt with significant bottom border issues…

Sunday, 15 May 2016


To be perfectly honest I had no idea of the purpose of FIRMware as opposed to SOFTware until this week when both of my longarm machines had separate hissy-fits. The Q24 just decided to go on strike but after I downloaded an update and fed the new information into it via a USB it was as right as rain. The tablet attached to the QuiltPath on Millie randomly upgraded itself to Windows 10 while I was in the middle of a customer quilt, even though I was convinced it wasn’t even connected to the internet. Nothing worked after that until I was given excellent instructions by Angela Hugli Clark on how to update the “drivers”. I was thrilled when they both got sorted out so easily as it was all a bit Greek to me even though I like to think I can usually muddle my way along with computers.

I came up with a novel firmware solution of my own when forced to wear leggings while my only pair of jeans was in the wash. I loathe wearing leggings as I always feel like I am wearing tights and forgot to put on the rest of my outfit, unless I am wearing a frock and trying to look trendy. I was attempting to go about my daily business but the dreaded leggings kept falling down as there was obviously not enough spandex involved. Fed up with hoicking them up, I attached them to the underwires of my bra with bulldog clips,  wondering what had possessed me to donate my dungarees to the charity shop. The bulldog clips were not uncomfortable and certainly could not be seen so I think I should just keep a couple in my handbag just in case.

The upshot of all of this jiggery-pokery with firmware and time spent teaching was that I did not “make” much. At least the custom quilt was completed and Fergus hung out in the workshop with me while I printed some seaside themed fabric with which to make some class samples. He sewed some scraps together which he has not done since he was about 5, broke 2 needles, and roped me in to customise his drum kit. This entailed me removing the plastic wraps, cleaning off the incredibly sticky residue then supervising the sanding and varnishing. There seems to be nothing that I won’t try and fix these days!

Sunday, 8 May 2016


Because of the Mayday Holiday I had a 4 day week that felt as if everything was packed into 2 days. In addition to, a day in school, a DIY quilter and the usual kids’ activities,  I also had to attend evening meetings for their forthcoming school trips to London and Frankfurt. I have been trying to keep Fergus busy so he does not get so bored and fed up. We washed old bikes and advertised them for sale, stoked an impressive bonfire and attempted to cut back some brambles behind my workshop. He has been getting involved in the kitchen and taking Welly for extra walks and is definitely in a better mood having spent less time vegging out watching Youtube;)

I have not tinkered with anything of my own this week and have been working on a customer quilt. I don’t know what possessed me to quilt a LOT of half-inch grids but it does look really good. I need to finish it off then concentrate on making up samples for a series of requested classes with a fishy theme. Actually, updating my class-list has now been on my TO DO list for weeks and I feel guilty that this has not already been done but my calendar is becoming increasingly hectic which is good for business but not for my sanity!

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Not the End of the Road

I spent almost an entire day completing entry forms for Festival of Quilts, UK. It made me think how useful it would be in future to measure a quilt as soon as it is finished and enter that information onto a spreadsheet. The biggest challenge was writing the blurb for each quilt in a mere 50 words and considering that I had written an essay on Purdah, this was not easy! Only 2 images are allowed for the Fine Art Masters entries - one of the main quilt and ONE showing a detail. This is impossible for a multi-layered piece like Purdah so I sent a photo of the quilts being pulled back. I honestly don’t know whether potential judges will be able to understand what a complex piece I have created just by reading a 50 word blurb and looking at 2 photos.

Amazingly, “Tartan Tattoo” and a colour brochure from Paducah arrived back here only 4 days after being dispatched from Kentucky. The $20 show catalogue was packed full of colour photos of all of the entries, their sizes and makers. If FOQ entrants had to submit a good photo in plenty of time then I can’t see why we could not have a similar, high quality show guide in the UK for Europe’s premier quilt festival.

The rest of my week was filled with DIY quilters, teaching, making another cube bag using the excellent instructions by Hunters Design Studio and starting to sew the African pancake quilt together. It is not large enough to be a bed quilt but it can easily be extended later.

Freya and her chums painted a huge banner for their last day as Banchory Academy pupils dressed up as festival goers, partying and having a BBQ in between late April snow showers. They celebrated the end of their school-days with some high-jinx followed by a ceilidh. After exams and summer travels most of them will be off to University to study all sorts of cool subjects. 

I was very pleasantly surprised when the Landy Man called to say that it had scraped through its annual MOT test. It does need a new prop shaft and more baler twine to hold the mudflats on but I had really wondered if my Defender was rattling towards the end of its road.

I met up with Ellen and Kay at the new Knitting and Stitching Show in Edinburgh. We were obviously too busy yacking to remember to take a group-shot-selfie. It was a lovely day out. There were a few really good exhibitions and plenty of interesting traders. The show felt spacious and there were even spare seats in the cafe area. I made a few unnecessary purchases including a multi pompom maker for Fenella, dress patterns that will be lucky to be taken out of the packet, and some fancy interfacing for all of the pouches that I seem to be manufacturing. I should hide my new purchases from myself until I have finished all outstanding customer quilts and ongoing projects…

Sunday, 24 April 2016

An Honourable Mention!

I was surprised to wake up on Monday morning and see that I had been sent an email from AQS congratulating me on receiving some sort of award at Paducah for “Tartan Tattoo”! I had to stay up late on Tuesday night and watch the awards ceremony live to find out what sort of rosette that might be. My name was announced as one of the Honourable Mentions chosen by the 3 judges: Ricky Tims, Karen Kay Buckley and Donna Wilder.

LARGE WALL QUILTS: Longarm Machine Quilted sponsored by Nolting® Longarm Quilting Machines
1ST #625 JUDGEMENT OF OSIRIS, Georgia Spalding Pierce, Seattle, WA
2ND #624 ‘TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS, Linda Neal and Jackie Brown, McKinney, TX
3RD #636 A QUILTER’S GARDEN, Kristin Vierra, Lincoln, NE
HM #634 TARTAN TATTOO, Linzi Upton, Banchory, Aberdeenshire, United Kingdom 

Andrea Brokenshire kindly send me photos of TT hanging very nicely. It was well lit and the colours looked bold. I think it is a fairly understated quilt with no paint, sparkles or clever binding so I am really pleased that the judges decided it was worthy of the HM ribbon.

I loved seeing all of the Quilters’ Facebook posts from spring-like Paducah and will certainly make a return visit there some time, hopefully when the Quilted Yurt is ready for display.

I had a pretty busy week with DIY quilters, private tuition and a day in school but I was determined to have a go at making a cube shaped zippy bag. It is a fun shape but could do with being made of stiffer stuff so it holds its shape better. I learnt a new way of making neater box corners courtesy of Hunters Design Studio’s blog so I might have to buy some more long zips and play around with those. A fun workshop could be to use woodblock stamps to decorate the fabric then turn them into zippy bags. Obviously on a bit of a mission with zips, I watched a Youtube video on making a zip with lining, which I thought was quite impressive. When I have time I may have to invent a new version of my wee bag project.

I roped Mo into helping me come up with a hanging system for the Purdah series. We were going to cut down an existing curtain pelmet but decided to go to B&Q and custom make one instead. Due to Health and Safety nonsense they would not cut the plank of wood so I could fit it into the VW Beetle. We bought a cheap saw and hacked a bit off in the carpark. I should have taken a photo for the comedy value of using a shopping trolley as a saw-horse in the rain. A tin of black spray paint made the net-curtain-rod-contraption look quite professional. Now that it has been strung up with a bunch of IKEA curtain clips, it will only need a couple of screws to hold it to a display batten, making it relatively easy to hang at a show (with the help of an annotated hanging digram).

I spent some time at the weekend hashing around with Purdah’s artistic blurb. The FOQ entry form only allows 50 words of description so I will have to précis my essay considerably. The other tricky matter is that I can only submit 2 entry photos so I will have to think creatively how to send in a detailed picture that somehow shows off the hidden layers. I took the photos outside in good light but I am worried that the shawl looked a bit wrinkly. I just need to complete the entry form, post it then wait and see whether the FOQ FineArtMasters judges “get” it.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

The Impact of Moving Just ONE Piece of Furniture!

The impact of moving just ONE piece of furniture was not foreseen by me when I decided to swap a redundant chest of drawers in my workshop to make a space for my quilt cupboard which in turn would give Fergus more room for his drum kit. The cupboards had to be emptied to be shifted and their contents sorted and reorganised. It became an opportunity to tidy up shelves and make a new space for my wadding so the whole operation took longer than anticipated. 

I made a pleated potential pelmet for Purdah which I might not use and I made the skinny inner sleeve so the next task will be to trim and paint the wooden pelmet hanger.

An oversized circle of life stamp arrived from India which spurred a desire to make a circular purse with a zip around the edge. My initial attempts were not great and I realised that the neatest way to make a round purse would be to treat it like a biscuit tin but I would still like to make a zipped pancake shaped purse just for my own satisfaction. My next challenge will be to figure out cube shaped purse. I have absolutely no idea what I intend to do with all of my perfectly functional purse prototypes.

Considering that it was still the Easter hols and we had a day in St Andrews for Freya to ask students whether she would need a bike, I still managed to fit it a couple of DIY quilters and a small customer quilt made from a great selection of African fabrics. The automated quilt program that I sometimes use for simple quilts had gone a bit haywire so I had stern words with it and quilted several pantographs on top of each other until it got the bug out of its system. I did not like the twee turquoise backing fabric that I used for the sample so I dyed it arsenic green and decided that it could be used to manufacture a multitude of pouch prototypes;)

As a reward for getting things done, I allowed myself to sew up my “quilt as you go” African circles. I don’t suppose I will be able to leave them alone now that the whole pile is ready to quilt and attach…