Sunday, 26 March 2017

A Much Appreciated Temporary P.A.




It was an absolute boon to have Freya at home at a bit of a loose end for her Spring Break from Uni. Most of her friends were either away travelling or had different holidays. It was so helpful to be able to text her with instructions to switch the oven on or rustle up a batch of chocolate brownies. She even did the catering for a class of ladies who were here for a day of improv curved piecing. 

I enjoyed her company for dog-walks and morning coffee, and she proved to be a very good chicken whisperer. Within 24 hours of asking if anyone had hens for sale on Facebook, we had 4 new layers, 2 of whom immediately tested the defences and worked out that they could easily escape using a vertical take-off method. We rounded them up and gave their wing feathers a trim, returning them to the chicken run so we don’t lose their eggs in hidden nests amongst the nettles. 





I marked a piece of Bosal interfacing with a Frixion pen and quilted circles onto a piece of fuchsia fake leather. I used a small curved ruler to quilt inside the circles then “organically” freehanded the background. It is far too long since I did this type of quilting just for fun and I really enjoyed it, despite having to slow down after bending a needle that was too fine for the job. I should have used leather needles but I did not have any left so I used a metallic needle instead. It was tricky when using the acrylic ruler base because it kept sticking to the fake leather underneath - next time I will just use the Frixion pen on the “pleather” side, not the reverse. This piece will have some accent embroidery stitching around the circles then will be made into a simple leather tote. It is a sample for one of the classes that I will be teaching in Germany in a couple of weeks. 



The other project will be a sampler quilt of machine quilting. I have decided to quilt the background first on this occasion then add fancy circles afterwards. I don’t know how I came to order cotton sateen fabric with added spandex but I managed not to get any weird puckers in the automated curved line quilting. 

I had a very cultured weekend starting with taking Nella to “Blood Brothers” at His Majesty’s Theatre in Aberdeen. The show was fantastic with amazing performances, clever scenery and it ended with a much deserved standing ovation. Freya and I went to see Nell in her choir concert on Saturday morning then we went off to see the new Disney version of “Beauty and the Beast”, starring Emma Watson at the cinema. We enjoyed it as a spectacle far more than “La La Land” and now want to dress like French peasant girls in long pantaloons, Provencal layered skirts and espadrilles;)





Sunday, 19 March 2017

Tricky Custom





I am very impressed with my new Swiss-Army style Bernina seam ripper. A DIY customer was using an automated quilt design on a Dresden Plate quilt that had fulness issues where it had been appliqued onto a large background square. I was able to release a few of the stitching lines then freehand the fullness in without as many puckers.



Something came up to scupper my plans for the rest of the week…

I should have had plenty of nice photos of a small custom quilt that came in as a rush job this week but it ended up biting me in the bum so I have decided not post photos of it. I should have known better than to agree to fit something as complex into a 4 day slot, especially as the new customer phoned 3 times and paid a visit before I even sewed a stitch. Her instructions were extremely specific - ditch and ruler work only. Since I have been longarm quilting for almost 10 years I should have been able to judge more accurately how long the job would take but I just told her my hourly rate and said I was not sure how long it would take to ditch all of the tiny pieces on the quilt until I got started. When I phoned to tell her that the job had taken 9 ½ hours she was horrified and sharply informed me that she did not intend to pay for that much quilting. Like a wimp, I met her halfway because I had not provided an accurate quote up front. Important lessons learned: be more realistic when estimating time that a custom quilt may take, stick to my guns on pricing, remember not to quilt for that customer in future!

I placed an online fabric order for some solids that I will use to make a project for my classes in Germany and as long as they arrive in good time I WILL be making samples up this week and hoping to make a “pleather” tote that I hope my students will also make. I have finished something for Freya’s birthday but I can’t show photos of that either;)

I have Freya home from Uni for a week which is lovely. She spent an exciting week in Marrakesh with friends having adventures and she brought me some fragrant spices.I was her sous-chef when she replicated a delicious Moroccan feast. Since we had some decent spring weather, she took charge of the operation of relocating the ramshackle hen run. We spent a couple of hours scrubbing the hen-house and detangling the fencing from nettles and itself before rounding up our one remaining “feral” chicken. We were rewarded with a lovely fresh egg! Now that we have an escape proof again run we can get a few more hens or even ducks to keep us supplied so we don’t have to go out and buy eggs:)



Sunday, 12 March 2017

Bernina Longarm Ambassador Meeting - Steckborn 2017


At the weekend, while catching up on the more mundane aspects of life, I met a friend in the supermarket who thought I had been Quilting Abroad for weeks. I had to correct her and let her know that I had actually been home for several days in between visiting the USA and Switzerland!



My 2-day seminar at the Bernina for European (and Korean) longarm ambassadors was terrific. It was definitely an international event with representatives from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Spain, UK and slightly further afield and not at all European - South Korea. Needless to say, not everyone spoke the same common language and we even had a couple of translators. By muddling along in English, French or German we were able to share experiences and learn new techniques from each other. 






It is always exciting to visit the Bernina factory - there are areas with a particular mechanical aroma, boxes of sewing machine feet waiting to be finished and circuitous routes underground and up flights of stairs to avoid the highly top-secret research and development ares. We were kept very busy all day with lectures and discussion sessions but of course we very well fed at the Bernina canteen and the lovely hotel restaurant with  a stunning view of Lake Constance. We learned about new products and underwent some specialised Q-series training and were even involved in a discussion about what developments we may like to see in future. I took away some new ideas and things I want to experiment with. I also took away a stash of chocolate from the wee shop but it got scoffed before I remembered to take photographic evidence. 





By the end of our time together we felt that we had made new friends and connections and my French gradually came back to me which was just as well because I needed to find my way to a hotel at Paris CDG Airport par Le Shuttle. My French actually improved so much in my search for a bus or train that I even managed to mutter “Zut Allors” every time I got sent off on a wild goose chase. By the time I found my hotel which was at a completely different airport terminal, I did not care that I had to drink my gin out of a glass “plastique”. It is a good job that I arrived super early for my Aberdeen flight the next morning because I have never encountered such queues or rudeness at bag drop, passport control and security. I will endeavour to avoid a connection via Paris in future!


I felt so abashed by my lack of comprehensible foreign languages that I downloaded a phone App called Duolingo to see if I can learn some useful German phrases in 3 weeks. I know that my students and hostess speak English but I would at least like to make basic polite conversation. My favourite word so far is “Entschuldigung”, which means sorry! I also hope to be able to mention sewing machine feed-dogs which is something to do with Unter-Transport.




I was glad that I had set up a customer quilt to do when I got back because I spent most of the weekend in my workshop trying to catch up on some customer jobs. By the middle of this week I will try to make myself a shortlist of what I intend to work on for FOQ - after I have made some samples for teaching in Germany and chosen a new “for fun” project;)

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Getting Ready for the Off Again





It took 2 whole days plus the weekend for me to unpack from my Quiltcon trip, fight with my laptop and phone to upload photos, restock the freezer, post random cr*p on Ebay that Fergus had sold, and do laundry - working from a list that seemed to get longer rather than shorter. Perhaps my new notepad will help. The pages are separated into “what I must do/ what I should do/what I probably won’t do!”



Bluecat got so bored waiting for my full attention that she eventually sat on top of the keyboard and would not budge. Thistle got my attention by murdering one of the friendly robins…



I kept hoping that I would have time to quilt a length of very fake leather/vinyl to make a sample tote bag for classes or play with the adjustable ruler foot for my Bernina 710 but I spent so long on catching up with admin, learning how to use Instagram and helping Fergus to cut thick cardboard for his art project with a rotary cutter that I will only just have enough time to repack my suitcase before I head off to Switzerland for a Bernina Q-series seminar on Tuesday. I have at least loaded up a customer quilt so I can crack on with it as soon as I get back.



I LOVE travelling but would like a little bit of planning time to finalise what classes I am intending to teach and what competition quilt I want to make in time for FOQ. I have in mind a potential series of quilts related to “Shield Maiden” but “BzB” is long overdue or maybe I could go all improvisational;) 




Friday, 3 March 2017

Quiltcon Savannah 2017



My Quilt-Show-Travel-Friend, Ellen and I decided that we need to attend Quiltcon East in Savannah to really get to the crux of “The Modern Quilt Movement” since the definition on the MQG website is wide open to interpretation. (Modern quilts are primarily functional and inspired by modern design. Modern quilters work in different styles and define modern quilting in different ways, but several characteristics often appear which may help identify a modern quilt. These include, but are not limited to: the use of bold colors and prints, high contrast and graphic areas of solid color, improvisational piecing, minimalism, expansive negative space, and alternate grid work. "Modern traditionalism" or the updating of classic quilt designs is also often seen in modern quilting.)

After journeying for 24 hours we arrived at out apartment in the Historic District of Savannah to a pleasant temperature in the high 20’s C (or well above 70 in F). The convention centre was across the wide Savannah river and was accessed by a free ferry ride. 



Savannah, a coastal Georgia city, is separated from South Carolina by the Savannah River. It’s known for its manicured squares, horse-drawn carriages and ornate antebellum architecture. Its cobble-stoned historic district is filled with squares and parks like Forsyth Park, shaded by magnolia blossoms and oak trees covered with Spanish moss. The historic district’s architectural landmarks include the Gothic-Revival Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist.



The best in show quilts were displayed prominently just inside the show hall and were very impressive with plenty of lines, solid colours and improvisational piecing. 
As we studied all of the quilts it was not always easy to work out why some of the entries were categorised as “Modern” quilts. Occasionally they seemed to address only one or two of the descriptors in the MQG statement. There were many that could have been influenced by the Gee’s Bend style, some that were traditional in all but colour and the majority were quilted with straight lines. I was particularly interested in the negative space category because that would be where I hoped to see some awesome quilting. I was surprised that some entries had taken the idea of negative space almost literally and had really gone for minimal quilting whereas others went to town showing off their motifs and fillers.

I enjoyed discussing the attributes of the Modern quilts with other visitors and I took lots of photos on my phone as my camera (and knickers!) were lost in transit. Sometimes you need to look at a photo of a quilt after the show to appreciate it fully because as with any large quilt show, visitors can be overloaded with visual information and stop looking properly.  

I was delighted by the visitors’ responses to my quilt, “Tartan Tattoo” which was in the Modern Traditionalism category. They enthused about the quilting and colours and many lovely people told me that they would vote for it as their Viewer’s Choice. The quilt angels were repeatedly asked to show off the back which is pale grey and every stitch is on show. I did an impromptu and very off the cuff video interview with Teri Lucas, a fellow Bernina ambassador and community editor at Generation Q Magazine. 



We interspersed our study of the quilts with forays around the vendor booths. Several fabric companies had big show-off areas but nothing to actually buy. There was plenty of fresh, modern fabric to choose from from shops and designers as well as plenty of solid ranges. Longarm machine companies were all well represented but I was unable to spend money on any gadgets or rulers that I do not already have;) I had to buy other things instead, including an Elizabeth Hartman “Forest Friends” pattern and fabric bundle, a couple of books/patterns that I fancied and another set of Double Wedding Ring templates to see which I like the best (in the manner of my extensive ultimate carrot cake recipe research). There were a few other bits and pieces and far less thread than I anticipated so it all fitted rather nicely into my suitcase, padded out with TT for its journey home.



I would like to have attended some of the lectures but demand had been so high that the website crashed and everyone we wanted to listen was sold out. 

Although I had taken along my new selfie-stick, I found myself too embarrassed to actually use it and I hate going up to folk and asking them to be in my photo. I met some younger quilters - Emily, Snaleeleena, Shruti and Jen - who gave me a spontaneous tutorial on Instagram while we waited to collect our quilts at the end of the show. Typing #quiltcon2017 into Instagram shows well over 9000 photos from the show, the visitors and what they got up to. 



It was lovely to meet so many enthusiastic quilters including Ellen’s delightful Twilter (Facebook) friends. I also ran into British and German friends who were attending Quiltcon for the first time. The people of Savannah were so pleasant. Many of the waiting staff were students at the huge art SCAD Arts College. We also had a most memorable and informative trolley bus tour with Denise who reminded me of the sassy character, Minnie from “The Help”. 



It is a good thing that we walked so much around the easily navigable streets and squares because the food was incredible. I ordered delicious shrimp at every opportunity but I had less success with snow crab legs which were long, skinny and difficult to extract. Whenever we got hot and had achy feet we stopped for beer, margarita or ice cream!




The town of Savannah was beautiful and historically very interesting. The architecture was amazing and since the 1950’s efforts have been made to ensure that new buildings are sympathetic to the colonial style. We wandered around the graveyard where soldiers had camped during the Civil War. The prolific Spanish moss hanging from the trees was atmospheric, which is more than I can say about the night-time ghost tour:P 


It was interesting to hear the story of Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of the Girl Scouts of America. (Juliette Gordon Low, 1860-1927, was the founder of Girl Scouts of the USA with help from Sir Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Scouting Movement. Low and Baden-Powell both shared a love of travel and support of the Girl Guides. Juliette Low joined the Girl Guide movement, forming a group of Girl Guides in Scotland in 1911.
In 1912 she returned to the United States and established the first American Girl Guide troop in Savannah, Georgia that year. In 1915 the United States' Girl Guides became known as the Girl Scouts, and Juliette Gordon Low was the first president. She stayed active until the time of her death.
Her birthday, October 31, is commemorated by the Girl Scouts as "Founder's Day”.)

Although we did a lot of travelling in one our shortest trips to the USA, we really enjoyed the whole experience. I like the concept that Quiltcon moves around the USA - I think I would quite like to teach at a future Quiltcon, maybe I should aim for Nashville in 2019?





Sunday, 19 February 2017

Best Laid Plans







On Monday morning I had to jump out of bed and fling my clothes on as a DIY quilter arrived sharpish while I was lazily reading in bed, celebrating the mid-term holidays. I thought I knew better than my calendar and decided that it was weird that she had scheduled the 13th of February and also 13th of March when it was just a weird quirk of the calendar.

I managed to fit in a nice wee quilt for a customer but the only other sewing was a zippy bag for my new selfie stick, purchased specially for my forthcoming trip to Quiltcon;) 



I can prove that I have not been time wasting because I have filled up 7 whole pages of ideas and things to do in my notebook, as well as a random list of tasks for Thursday and Friday. I did just about everything on it, even coaxing the hibernating lawn-mower into life and persuading Fergus to help dig up a tree that self-seeded itself right outside a window about 7 years ago. 



I also had a productive brainstorming session with Tania, attempting to work out a schedule of workshops from my studio, hoping to replace the classroom teaching. It was great to have another person come up with helpful suggestions on dates and general logistics. 

It would appear that I have prepared for a siege, having cooked and frozen a selection of ready made meals for my veggie teens for when I am away. The store cupboard is full of emergency rations, including 9 tins of baked beans and spare Nutella. There is enough pet food for at least a month and everyone’s schedule is on the noticeboard. I am only off to the USA for a week but a few days after I get back I will be heading off to Switzerland for a Bernina Q-Series seminar, followed by a trip to Germany a month later! 

I have actually typed up a list of potential projects for consideration - I know I must make up some quilting class samples fairly urgently but I really feel the need to be working on something else instead of constantly “dabbling”…


Sunday, 12 February 2017

Budgies Don't Fly Upside Down



It was midweek by the time I had written yet more lists, helped a DIY quilter, did a cute customer quilt, tried to help Fergus tackle last minute revision for his Music Prelim, and managed not to sort out the kitchen cupboard that is full of spilled sugar. After all of this industry and to stop myself from getting sucked into reading an epic trilogy non-stop, I decided to have a go at Sara Lawson’s “Aeroplane Bag that I had purchased as a PDF. 



I already had fabric and some interfacing but by the time I had been to the craft shop to get a chunky zip, more specialist bag-making interfacing and some more pompom wool, I reckoned it would have been cheaper to have bought a bag in Cath Kidston’s very jolly shop. 

It took me some time to prepare all of the pieces and because the pattern did not actually say to check that my fabric should be the right way up, despite the many photos, I managed to cut out my budgies upside down! The only solution was to add a panel of co-ordinating fabric and pretend that I was doing patchwork. The instructions were very good and I managed not to get lost. The only hiccup I had was getting the ends of the chunky zip to line up exactly despite being very careful with that step. I need to give myself a zip masterclass to figure out how to improve that.



There is an iffy bumfle inside the lining that only I need to know about but overall it looks quite professional. I decided to make a false bottom to make it sit up even more like a carpet bag. If I could get my hands on a piece of sewable carpet I would love to make a Mary Poppins bag for under £400, although the metal clasp could prove even more unco-operative than a zip!





Sunday, 5 February 2017

How I "Waste" my Time...



Truthfully, I don’t waste time at all - I just don’t fill it with meaningful activities at every opportunity. I could watch daytime TV or read novels all day if I owned a chaise longue but according to my many lists, I have productively done some pointless filing, written my first pupil reports in 17 years, made bramble jelly, listed loads of old magazines for sale on Ebay, completed and bound two customer quilts, made a virtual me, and even planned what we were going to eat each evening! 

The trouble is, I don’t actually have any projects on the go. I have PLENTY of ideas, and even a quilt top or two lying around. I have been trying to get all of my outstanding jobs done first but I never feel I have achieved in a week anything unless I have sewn something to prove it. So… I absolutely have to get my brain in gear, finish that big job hanging over me which is updating the list of Patchwork and Quilting classes that I can offer so I can finally knuckle down and create something!!


CREATE 

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Pom Diddly Pom!



To remind myself not to take life too seriously now that my Planner gives me no excuse for forgetting ANYTHING, I thought it would be appropriate to make some pompom page markers so I know what day it is;)

I went off on a bit of a tangent one morning when I sorted out a box of quilt magazines, cataloguing and photographing them in case I ever get around to listing them on Ebay. This led to reorganising another box which contained all of the publications in which my quilts have appeared. It was uplifting to look back at all sorts of projects and it made me realise that I want to produce more work that can go into print in future.

I had to take BlueCat to the Vet, rather worried by a hard lump that had appeared on her undercarriage. She was not impressed to be bundled into a cat carrier. The vet was incredulous as he explained that she simply had an unusually protruding piece of cartilage on her ribcage that must have changed shape. I was too relieved to feel silly but I did feel obliged to purchase a 6 month supply of wormer to make the visit worthwhile.





When I had finally caught up with all of my self imposed tasks, including a few useful ones, I started on a customer quilt that took 3 days of background and SID. It was not full-blown heirloom quilting but it was fairly intricate with lots of stops and starts. The on-point squares were too big to go all the way around using the ruler base without rolling the quilt on so they had to be done in 2 halves. 


Theoretically I have 6 days to quilt in the next 2 weeks including 2 simple customer quilts and 2 DIY clients and my Planner goal for February says that I should be making a start on monstrous “BzB” which has been waiting for 4+ years. Alternatively, it might be wiser to plan more quilt classes and make samples. If only the Planner would implement a ban on deviation and work avoidance!

Sunday, 22 January 2017

I need an extra week in January!



Freya and I arrived back in Scotland late on Monday night form our amazing trip to St Petersburg then I had a DIY quilt customer here on Tuesday so that left me just one day to catch up and unpack before my 2 days in school. I keep having the guilty feeling that I have not achieved anything in January 2017, apart from a superficial tidy-up in the workshop and a terrific 3-day trip to Russia;) 



I rashly decided to clear out a couple of boxes of quilt magazines that have not been opened in several years. If I can be bothered I will try Ebay, otherwise will have to give them away or just recycle them to make space as I can’t keep putting stuff into my workshop without taking some other stuff out!



I got a bee in my bonnet about making a bag for the vintage Elna Lotus sewing machine as I was worried that it could get rust spots on its metal case from the cold air on days when my workshop is not heated. I quilted a linen fabric with Bosal interfacing which is spongy and helps bags stand upright. I did not have enough quilted fabric to make shoulder straps but decided that I only needed small handles anyway. There were no pockets but I came a bit unstuck when I had to put in the zip panel as it meant that the opening was not wide enough for the sewing machine. I had to take the zip panel apart and use a longer zip that overhangs at each end to overcome that issue. 





I have made lots of notes thinking that I could probably come up with either a generic sewing machine bag or a handy shopper tote pattern. There are already many of these online but many seem to have vague instructions. There is probably no point in writing a whole book on alternative pockets/zips because this has already been done but I would like to come up with a bag that could be made as a gift that has a neat finish and is practical.


My new desk planner now has dates and I have written up a wall calendar so there should be no excuse for forgetting appointments or not tackling admin tasks in a timely fashion in the coming months…;)