Sunday, 6 April 2014



My final science lesson at Nell's school was all about the digestive system, including a demonstration that involved cold porridge and an old pair of tights. After they made a fake stomach from a ziploc bag, oatcakes and orange juice her class told me that my lessons had been "awesome" so that was nice! Midweek it was their turn to impress me at their impressive school show where they sang a medley of at least 20 Scottish, Abba, and pop songs all learned off by heart.

Nell sat her Grade 2 piano exam and afterwards we went to our favourite music shop in Aberdeen to choose some new music. I asked the guys there how much it would be to purchase a proper xylophone with resonators (dangly tubes). They informed me that no-one had ever asked about that instrument in over 20 years. It turns out that you can buy a naff one or an orchestral version costing several thousand pounds so I don't think we will be adding that to our over-crowded music room!

My customer quilt this week was a "Northern Lights" pattern pieced by Trixie, who usually brings me double-wedding-rings. It was in super bright colours so I quilted a variety of background fillers using a selection of neon threads. 

I mass produced some bias-binding using Oakshott fabrics for the leather skins thinking that I could bind them first then bead them later if necessary. The small, green skin now has all of its embellishments. A nosy child at swimming who wanted to know what I was sewing while I waited for Nell observed that it "looked like a garden" so I must have captured the idea of Spring convincingly. 

I collected a couple of 14 ft long hefty cardboard tubes from the local carpet warehouse to try and figure out a way of covering them economically for the 9 remaining totems. I phoned a small company in the West Country called "Foam 4 Home" to discuss my requirements and a knowledgeable chap talked me through what I should really do to make fat tubes of differing diameters using sheets of foam, spray adhesive and an electric carving knife. The carpet tubes ended up as camp fire fuel. I am hoping that if I can assemble everything for the 9 columns in kit form than it might not seem like such a formidable task. 

Beginning to feel the pressure for completing the Ebook this year, I uploaded lots more photos of quilt sketches and prepared another "5 Bar Gate" wall-hanging so its progress can be properly photographed in stages. I also ordered a Mac version of EQ7 that is meant to help with diagrams and working out fabric quantities. I don't really feel that I used EQ6 successfully on my previous laptop so I need to be prepared to make this version work for me. 

We settled four new hybrid point-of-lay hens into their purple shack so we will wait with baited breath to see which one lays first. It definitely feels like spring now so I hope it is not too long before I am thinking up a variety of ways of how to use up a surplus of eggs. 

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Purple Haze


My list of things to do got worked on pretty methodically and I was very satisfied by what I managed to achieve this week. I attended to all sorts of things that I had been putting off and managed to book my travel to Southampton for the Norway cruise, update my dreaded business spreadsheets and order some new Quilt Quine postcards. 

I got a customer quilt done at the beginning of the week and then quilted the toffee coloured sheepskin leather. It behaved differently to the goatskin ones and seemed to want to tear or perforate but hopefully the dense stitching will hold it all together. The beading is coming along slowly on the other two despite Bluecat deciding to sit on the green skin if I leave it lying around. The weeks are whizzing by and I sometimes wonder whether my totems will be finished in time to enter any of this season's shows.

I let my hairdresser have carte-blanche so she dyed it purple for a change. It has been magenta before so my kids were not at all shocked. I take the attitude that hair just grows so I can do anything with it since it won't have to stay like that forever.

There were some successful attempts at creating quilt diagrams on the computer. I downloaded a simple app called Quiltography which helps to draw up simple layouts. It is a bit limiting as I have not been able to design a quilt with more than 10 vertical rows but it was only meant as a stopgap until I can get EQ7 for my Mac. I surprised myself by reading the instruction manual for the EQ6 program that is on my old laptop and managed to get basic diagrams drawn up for some of my book projects. 

For ages I have wanted to put several pictures onto a page to create a sort of photo-story of quilt instructions. I found a nice app that lets me put photos into hexagons so I gave it a dummy run with the pictures I used for the Generation Q article on "The Quilt Quine's Hoose". I think they look appropriately quilty but I think I may need to add some descriptive text or even some arrows. While I was in designer mode I arranged for a final-year media studies student to do the videography for the Ebook in the Easter holidays. Now that I have set a deadline I will need to make myself decide on a plan or script of what I will actually demonstrate.

The weekend was more than the usual whirlwind of activity as we also had to squeeze in Freya's birthday, a choir concert, and making a cherry-marzipan cake. Fenella and I felt pleased with ourselves after we managed to turn Mo's ex bunny hutch into a hen house by adding a different floor-plan-kit and reattaching the wire run that had been a bit squashed by a falling tree. All we need now for fresh eggs are some point-of-lay pullets and a new bag of layers' pellets. 

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Never Ever


I think I may have said, "Never, ever…" a few times this week. I left Fergus in charge of a slow baked rice pudding but he forgot to tell my husband that it was in the oven and 4 hours later it was welded to the dish and had dried to a brown paste. I made again the next day, leaving one of the girls in charge which was far more successful.

My other cooking foray this week was trying to replicate a 1950's style sweetcorn-relish. The recipe I found tasted pretty good after I added some chillies but the liquid was too runny whereas I wanted something more jammy. Everyone complained that the house smelled of boiling vinegar so I wondered if there is a way of making a corn relish conserve and adding the vinegar later. Perhaps I should have trained to be a Home Economics teacher. I am thinking adding some arrowroot to stop this batch of sweetcorn-relish falling off my sandwiches. Maybe if it was a stiffer mix I could stuff it into home-made ravioli?

One of my friends has suggested that I keep deviating into culinary experiments to avoid doing the work that I am really meant to be doing. However, I spent almost the entire week working on a double-wedding-ring quilt and swore that I would never, ever do one again with such a tiny background fill. After stitching traditional pumpkin seeds around all of the rings then surrounding them all with stitch-in-the-ditch quilting, I stood and quilted tiny plumes and swirls for 25 hours! I know this is what the customer really wanted but it was rather frustrating that it took so long when I have 4 other customer quilts and a myriad of other projects that need to be done within the next month. I didn't even waste time day-dreaming about my linen project even though some vintage strawberry printed fabric arrived in the post from Singapore;)

I took an afternoon off to make up a Northern Lights cushion so I could check the quantities and take step-by-step photos for The Book. I felt that it was done in rather a hurry but I am pretty pleased with the finished project. It will not be a class for slackers as I was hard pushed to complete the project by teatime. 

I hand-sewed a few beads onto the leather skins in my "spare" time but realised that I still did not have enough so I ordered even more from Ebay. It has been suggested by another of my friends that I use the random left-over beads to fill up one of my fancy empty gin bottles…

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Beads and Pirate Ships


(link above to vidcast)

Contrary to my decision to concentrate on quilting, I was in school for two days again. One day I was the visiting Science "expert", ad-libbing lessons on the human circulatory system, magnets and the senses. Two days later I was muddling along in an infant class, reading pirate stories. 

Freya successfully applied for a tall-ship expedition from Amsterdam to Aberdeen with deaf and hearing teenagers from UK, France, Germany and The Netherlands. Since the trip is only a month away, there has been a flurry of sourcing sailing gear and making travel arrangements. I decided that I will fly out with her and visit a few museums in Amsterdam before waving her off on her adventure. 

We visited the Great Tapestry of Scotland at the Art Gallery in Aberdeen after shopping for Freya's thermals and were very impressed by the interpretation of the drawings and skilled stitching. There were many other enthusiastic visitors and it would be well worth a second visit to notice more of the clever details. 

I spent much of the rest of my time quilting a large, modern customer quilt and getting the a large double-wedding-ring ready to start next week. I am getting a steady stream of quilts in at the moment without even doing any advertising. I could probably give up school-teaching altogether but it just seems a prudent idea to keep my teaching skills up to date.

I decided that I would need to sew beads onto the leather skins that I have quilted in odd gaps of time that I have. Some of the tiny stone chips take around an hour to sew onto relatively small circles!

Bonnie McCaffrey posted a link to a video-cast interview of me that she filmed at FOQ last year. I actually thought that she may have forgotten about it… I come across as quite bonkers, to be honest. My accent is a peculiar mix of posh Radio 4 with the odd very Scots word. 

A Facebook friend posted a picture of the front cover of Generation Q Magazine which mentions the article about "The Quilt Quine's Hoose". I hope that they send me a copy because this magazine is not available in a digital format and it is not currently on sale in the UK. 

I tried to crack on with my E-Book on Friday but I felt a bit like a headless chicken, having not looked at it properly for some time. I will try to do far more with it this week although I have an additional project to squeeze in for a ruby wedding table runner and I am being tempted by some very funky Japanese linen that I want to use in a quick and simple "just because" quilt. Although I have seen a very clever square-in-a-square layout online that creates a secondary star pattern, with no instructions or dimensions, of course;)

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Fish n Sheep


To add to the stress of a mid-term holiday, I also had to contend with new dog-owning neighbours, a flock of sheep in the field that was empty last week and a ban on walking down by the river since it is now the salmon fishing season. Wellington has never been terribly interested in dog biscuit bribes for coming back promptly and the increasingly geriatric Mabel gets lost in the undergrowth if we explore anywhere new. 

I knew that a planned quilting schedule was out of the question but nevertheless, I completed some useful tasks. I am mightily impressed to report that my business spreadsheet is up to date and I finally got around to adding some more photos to my Flickr photostream. I'm sure there are hundreds more photos hiding in my my computer somewhere but at least my Flickr page is a little more organised than it was;)

I worked on a log-cabin star medallion quilt for a customer who wanted me to "keep things simple" - it may look simple but stitch-in-the-ditch on a long arm is far from easy and Because I forgot to use invisible thread, I had to be extra careful not to wobble off-course. 

Rather than put away the leftover Drunkard's Path blocks in a drawer never to be seen again, I sewed them together, added some strips, quilted it with freehand lines and rustled up a quick cushion. Because I didn't bother with piping it was ridiculously easy and I wondered why I don't make cushions more often.

Fergus and I installed the Apple TV gadget without too much trouble then Fenella had great fun interrupting repeats of "Top Gear" with Youtube video clips of fluffy animal from her Ipad in a different room. Just to keep me grounded, I dutifully waited in the school car-park for Freya  to finish one of her mock-exams for half an hour before I realised that I had not read the clock correctly and had arrived over an hour too soon.

I spent an entire day and evening quilting the dark pink leather skin for one of the summer totems. The edges would not lie flat and where bulky wrinkles formed and I broke 3 industrial needles. I had to trim off the offending sides in the end and will just re-cut an approximate sheep outline when I am ready to bind it. Now I just have to patiently wait until all of the gems and crystals arrive in the post before I start sewing them all on with my bendy beading needle. 

Since my husband still had not got around to fixing my broken Kitchenaid mixer, I decided that I should just try and do it myself. The instructions were excellent except that they failed to mention how much brute strength and forceful hammering would be involved to take the body apart. It took me several hours to replace the chewed worm gear, repack it with grease and get the awkward little pin back in its correct place but I got there in the end and felt triumphant. It seems to work again but the true test will be kneading bread dough. I think if it goes wrong again I will simply order a new one!

Sunday, 16 February 2014