Sunday, 24 July 2016

Knowing When to Stop


We finished off our trip to Norfolk with very hot weather then came home to damp and muggy weather that made the weeds and grass grow exponentially. I purchased a second-hand ride-on mower but it could not cope with the long, wet grass so I will have to get a guy in with an industrial grass machine. The shrubs beside my workshop must have sprouted 2 feet of growth since I was away so I had to hack them back before I could get  on with any quilting.

I had a couple of DIY quilters in, one of whom requested the computerised system then generously offered to help me label and pack my FOQ entries while she was waiting for her quilt to be completed. This was an absolute boon as it meant an extra pair of eyes to check for fluff and to ensure that I pinned on the correct labels. I scavenged 2 tall lily boxes from the florist shop and arranged an online courier pickup so as long as that goes according to plan, everything should reach its destination in good time.



I got back to HM The Queen’s 90th Birthday Quilt and completed the borders then went back to the blocks to add some background fillers. I am finding it difficult not to add tiny quilting patterns to every single block! Some have lots of empty space whereas others are too embellished or busy to need much at all. My problem is that I see the un-quilted blocks as looking “naked” next to the ones that I have filled in. I will have to be strong and resist the urge to fill up every gap as I still have the sashing to quilt and I have a notion to surround all of the blocks with triple-stitch embroidery or even couching;) I have prepared some skinny bias to insert a red, white and blue checked flange under the red binding so I am feeling virtuous that the binding is all ready to apply.

I dragged Fergus along to help me shift some large items of furniture at the school where I will have a temporary 2-day-a-week job from August. It has had a succession of temporary teachers over the past year and needs a good sort-out. It is one of those jobs that could potentially take a least a full week of reorganising but I will have to rein myself in from wanting to tidy every single drawer and cupboard if I am to have any holiday time left in which to finish my royal commission!



Sunday, 17 July 2016

Intermission


There has been no quilting at all this week as I am in Norfolk with my kids staying with my folks. We have been to junk shops, gone crabbing and eaten loads of strawberries. I am just writing a brief post from the eclectic and chilled out Latitude Festival, actually hoping it might rain as it is so hot! We are enjoying the sights, great music, world food and even a rather nice beer:)




Sunday, 10 July 2016

Rather Royal Week




 







I had to wear a posh frock and even posher shoes to attend the presentation of Freya’s Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award at Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh. The Earl of Wessex, Prince Edward, chatted briefly to each group of youngsters about their adventures and experiences.  A military band played on despite the rain and we especially enjoyed their rendition of the “Game of Thrones” theme tune. It was a truly memorable occasion, particularly as the entire palace gardens fell silent as the Earl appeared following the National Anthem. Her Majesty the Queen and Prince Phillip arrived by helicopter and waved as they whizzed away in a Range Rover. They had been on an official visit to Dundee and we wondered if they would kick off their shoes and have a cup of tea when they were off duty. We rounded off the day with a splendid afternoon tea and champagne at “The Dome”.

By complete contrast, the next day I drove Freya and a couple of chums down to the “T in the Park” festival. The drop-off car-park was already strewn with bottles and rubbish just minutes after the main gates opened. I suppose the DofE expeditions will have come in handy for preparing them for a weekend camping out in the open with plenty of mud and no showers;)

A box from Bernina in London arrived containing my special commission. I am honoured to be the quilter who completes the competition quilt in time for Festival of Quilts which is only 4 weeks from now (and I will be away in Norfolk with family for just over a week)!



Quilt for a Queen

To mark Her Majesty the Queen’s 90th birthday in 2016, we're inviting you to contribute to a special “Quilt For A Queen”. This project will create a unique gift to mark this special occasion while raising funds for Friends of the Elderly, one of the charities of which the Queen is patron. 

For a charitable donation of £15 or above, we will send you a fabric square (and a spare one to practise on) which you can sew, embroider or decorate with your own birthday design. Your square will contribute to a virtual online quilt, which will include your name. In addition, 60 squares will be selected by an invited panel of judges, including world-renowned quilter Philippa Naylor, to create the quilt that will given to Her Majesty

On Friday morning I faffed around for ages, looking at the quilt, measuring it, making sketches and taking deep breaths. Eventually I just loaded it and started the stitch-in-the-ditch around all of the blocks and around as many of the motifs as I could, allowing for ribbons, beads and other hazardous embellishments. The “winning” blocks have been made by individuals, groups, beginners and talented seamstresses/seamchaps. Once I got going the hours passed quickly and I made good progress. I am glad that there is not a spy-cam in my studio as I stuck my tongue out with concentration and nearly turned blue from asphyxiation when I plucked up the courage to freehand the lettering that I had traced with chalk. By the end of the weekend all of the SID was done and I had quilted the bones of the borders which actually beat the target that I had set myself before I go away next week. I will not show pictures of any of the blocks but I can show glimpses of the borders so far. 









Some of the blocks will need additional filler quilting and I intend to add to add twin-needle stitching and couching to show what the Q24 can do. This project is really putting it through its paces and it is great being able to switch easily from a deep ruler foot to a dainty cut-away embroidery foot.  The Q24 is performing beautifully so far but I will probably wish for a motorised fabric advance after I have wound the quilt backwards and forwards a few more times…

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Are You Sitting Comfortably?


I was in Manchester this week to demo and teach on the Bernina Q20. Although I know how the machine works, I am not a terribly competent sit-down quilter so it was a good opportunity to practise. Most of the machine quilting tuition that I do in the UK is on domestic machines so I really need to knuckle down and improve! The Q20 is the machine that I will probably use the most at FOQ this year for demos and hands-on sessions as the folks from Bernina Switzerland will be showing off the Q24. The Q20 has excellent BSR’s (stitch regulators) but on a sit-down machine my free-motion quilting is far smoother when running in manual. The Q24 frame machine that I usually use is completely different as pushing the machine around is more intuitive, just like drawing with a giant pen. At least I have worked out how to use rulers on the sit-down machine and it was not as tricky as I expected. 

The staff and visitors at Bambers Sewing Machines were all very friendly and really looked after me. After work I even visited the vast Trafford Centre on a mission to find a posh frock and shoes for Freya’s  DofE Gold presentation. After wandering around in a daze for a bit, a helpful assistant in Debenhams suggested an outfit that I hope won’t be too frumpy. I am planning to travel on the train in everyday clothes and shoes then get changed just before the “Do”.


Miss M loved her blue and white quilt and cried, as did all of her pupils;)
I received another stitched parcel from India containing a vintage woodblock stamp that might spark another evolving quilt idea. 



I had a fantastic day with one of my DIY quilters who knows everything about dyeing with natural dyes. Her scullery was like an old apothecary shop with all sorts of jars and potions. Carole has volumes of notes and samples on different dyes, mordants and fabrics and I quizzed her all day on what could be a new diversion for me. Wool is best for the efficacy of natural dyes so I may come up with a project that involves dyestuffs that were historically produced in Scotland. The fabric that I threw into a bucket for the day was not ideal, being white-on-white cotton but a cream canvas bag that I had took along turned a strong yellow after being boiled up with dried Buddleia flowers without requiring any mordant. 




Although I would like to experiment with my new interest, I need to focus all of my time on the quilt that should arrive this week in between days out at palaces and driving Freya and Co. to “T in the Park”, Scotland’s biggest, rowdiest festival. I should think I deserve a large bottle of gin to keep calm this week!

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 appliqu├ęd 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…