Sunday, 29 March 2015

Some Editing At Last




I can’t claim that I completed all that I had hoped to achieve last week but I did get a lot done - I did not start an irrelevant project and I even decided on the design of the quilt that I plan to make for the Bernina stand at FOQ.

In addition, I had a Longarm pupil one day, assisted Ann to quilt 4 “Eye-Spy” quilts using Quilt Path and I quilted a shot-cottons customer quilt in EVERY single ditch then every horizontal and vertical line. It had to be done just like the example in the book, which was very time consuming. There was also meant to be a ribbon motif in all of the navy squares but my mind wandered and instead I quilted weird shapes that look rather like lips and tongues!

Despite all of these goings-on, I managed to get some editing done on the Ebook. I decided on a fairly low-tech method. I have checked for typos and marked them in pencil on the draft print-outs. I have cut out thumbnail sized pictures and I am going to sellotape each one next to the relevant paragraph. This means that I can keep documents and pictures separately on a USB stick, yet show my editor where they belong on a hard copy. We still need to film the how-to video clips but the end may actually be in sight at last! 

Once again, I was asked to upload a lot of pictures into Dropbox and share them but my internet connection struggled. It took almost 2 whole days and I wondered whether to go to the public library to get faster broadband. I tried to watch “Outlander” via streaming with my 30 day free trial of Amazon Prime but it dropped out and got stuck after 5 minutes. It is frustrating when the internet chugs along or fails to load when we have all come to expect instant searches, uploads, downloads and streaming. If I can’t get the internet to go any faster I may not continue with Prime after the free trial, although Amazon’s free, fast postage is handy. 


One thing I did not manage to do was measure up for a new Garden Yurt cover. It would be great to get that job done over Easter so we can enjoy using it again. I have just one week to make sketches and talk to sail makers if that is going to happen…

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Linzi in London



Leaving home very early, I flew to London to launch the Bernina Q24 longarm machine to the UK dealers. It is always exciting to experience the hustle and bustle of the Capital. I love travelling on the Tube, even during rush hour. I chuckled and thought of Paddington Bear when I read a sign on the Underground, “Dogs Must Be Carried”. I don’t suppose I would actually want to live there though. Driving a Landrover and avoiding pedestrians, bikes and London cabbies on all sides would provide an adrenalin rush every day. 

The Q24 boxes were delivered to the basement of The Hilton at Woburn Place and immediately the Technician and I started to assemble the frame. We took our time, having never done this before and located all of the bits and pieces correctly. After tidying up the packing boxes and hanging some quilts, the machine looked splendid in the middle of the room. The rollers are configured differently to my APQS machine so I was a little worried at first that I had got things back to front. All was well and the red fabric looked really enticing. The machine was switched on, threaded up and stitched beautifully without the need for any adjustments. I got to grips with the functions quickly - it is possible to programme personal preferences into the toggle switches on the handles depending on whether you are left or right handed. 



I gave 4 presentations on the Q24 with a brief demonstration and then offered a hands-on session to a large number of UK Bernina dealers. I was so involved that I forgot to take any photos! They were very impressed with the handling of the machine so hopefully it will make good sales in the UK. I am now waiting impatiently for the machine that is coming to my studio so I can make something to show off at FOQ. It probably will not arrive in time to make a competition quilt but I can at least make something to display on the Bernina stand. If there is not enough room then I think I need to make something to wear;)

I am definitely experiencing sewing withdrawal symptoms. Apart from constantly being asked what I am working on, I feel the need to have some sewing on the go. I deliberately decided not to start any major pieces while the Ebook reaches the final editing stages and up until now have preoccupied myself with sorting beads, updating endless paperwork and reorganising computer folders. However, I think I might cut some large pieces of linen just in case the fancy takes me to rustle up an everyday sort of quilt. 


I am irritated when the same items keep appearing on my To-Do List each week and really must do something about finishing those tasks. “Yurt canvas replacement” has been on there for months, I want to make a set of rip-stop nylon storage bags for the Totems and the overdue Ebook edits are beyond a joke. I took the printed draft to London to proof-read during the evening but brought it back to Scotland without having looked at it. The pages are now in a box file with scissors, pencil and sellotape so I will take it everywhere I go this week until I have read every line and checked the labels on every photo. I also have to fit in 2 quilting pupils and a customer quilt so I must try not to get distracted… 

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Mind Boggling




I was delighted to offer Tania a strong jug of coffee in exchange for help to wrap and store the Henge Totems. It took ages to put everything back where it belonged and to scrub the acrylic paint off the printing blocks that were used in my class at the SECC. Once the studio was squared up again I felt that I could get on with my List…

Deciding to take a break from quilting and catch up with myself this week, I plucked up the courage to cut out a simple dress using a cardboard pattern from Merchant & Mills. It took me a while to understand why facings are necessary and I actually cut out too many pattern pieces. As usual, I struggled to comprehend the instructions which I am sure were perfectly adequate. I made no attempt to pattern-match the funky fine needle-cord fabric and I added rectangular pockets which are just a little on the small size for my hands to rummage around but it fits! I am a little anxious that the fabric might shrink if I wash it because despite its generous cut, the sleeves are a bit “nippit”. I would like to have a crack at a tartan version and will need to try and match up the lines. It really made me appreciate how complex garment sewing really is - my dress was not even lined.

Almost a whole day was spent on my computer working on my presentation for the Bernina Q24 dealer launch in London next week and then converting all of my Ebook drafts into an old version of Microsoft Word. I had decided to get a local printer to run off all of the rough text and thumbnails of all of the pictures so I could proof-read and edit more easily. I had to wait a few days for the job to get done but it only cost me £11 which I reckon was cheaper than using my printer ink at home and besides, I don’t even know how to run off batches of thumbnails. 

I already wasted a lot of time trying to decide whether to install Windows onto my Macbook so I could access some sewing related software using Bootcamp. I showed my old Windows laptop to a computer expert who advised that if I just cleared the excess “junk”  files from it I would easily be able to use it to run the Bernina simulator program and access my Quilt Path files without any further faffing around with USB sticks, new software and hours spent on YouTube trying to follow geeky instructions. 

Feeling vaguely technologically-minded, I upgraded my mobile phone to an iPhone 6. The Apple Store staff thought my 4 year old phone was an antique. I found it amazing that all of the stuff on my original phone was on “The Cloud” so when I switched on the new phone EVERYTHING was there, like Magic. I have already noticed that it is much faster and hopefully I will benefit from a much improved signal. Sometimes the old phone would hold onto messages for days or just not ring at all. 

I started a fantastically boring but therapeutic job which was to sort out all of the beads that I had haphazardly chucked into plastic boxes while working on my Totems. I purchased a 60 compartment box at the SECC last week and it was oddly satisfying to segregate all of the different colours and sizes. 

On the way home from the girls’ piano lesson I spotted a large, empty cable reel in a ditch and to their horror I stopped to retrieve it. I had to climb a fence and roll it until I found a gate but with their help I loaded it into the Landy. I have always hankered after a cable reel as a garden table. I might even wrap some rope around it to make it look like a giant bobbin.

All in all, it was another week in which I dealt with “stuff”, grappled with mind boggling technology then started all over again making a new list for next week…

Monday, 9 March 2015

Glasgow 2015








Monday was spent figuratively girding my loins and preparing for the trip to SECC Glasgow with the Yurt, Coracle and Henge. Freya looked disgusted that the totems had all been taken off their shelves and she dreads putting them all back again next week. 

The whole family travelled to Dunfermline in Fife for my Uncle’s funeral on Tuesday. Despite it being a sad occasion, it was nice to reconnect with long-lost family and friends. My folks will be relieved to return to their own lives after a few difficult weeks.

Sat-Nav lady shouted at me after I had ignored her for several junctions and navigated me to the SECC via the East End of Glasgow in my huge white van. I was given 3 helpful but clueless guys to help me set up the Yurt. Two rafters got broken and mended but the structure was eventually made sound, although a touch wonky. No wonder it has only been erected a handful of times since 2010! 

It is so gratifying to hear the wonder and amazement of quilt show visitors who cannot believe the scale and audacity of The Quilted Yurt. It was wonderful to have enough space to display the Henge and Coracle next to it. I just wish that a museum would offer to curate the entire collection so it does not have to be stored in bubble-warp in my garage most of the time. 

I met up with Ellen and enjoyed a wonderful curry in Glasgow’s South Side. We had intended to trawl the sari shops but forget that they would close early for Friday prayers. I set her the task of tracking down some family history as she is a bit of a genealogy whizz. It was fascinating to find out more about my Grandfather who lived in the Gorbals of Glasgow in the 1920’s.

My non-machine quilting classes at the show seemed to go down well. They were more like a stand-up comedy routine. I kept telling my pupils that there are no rules and they could just do whatever took their fancy. This show looks like it could grow and develop at the SECC. It should double in size next year and I think it is a really good venue. My hotel overlooking the Clyde was lovely and if I had been more on the ball I could have booked tickets for all sorts of music events at The Hydro. 

“Bifrost” did not win a prize at the show. It was well lit and looked pretty good but was overlooked in favour of simpler, less complicated pieces. Ellen has given me “permission” not to work on a major project this year. I need to concentrate on completing the Ebook and work on some samples for Bernina. I had good intentions to work on book edits in the hotel each evening but I was so tired that I just watched a bit of inane telly then fell asleep. 


On a busy final day the visitors continued to be very complimentary about all of my pieces and wondered why I had not managed to find a museum home for them. I managed to tear down the yurt quickly with the help of a couple of porters and drove the van away at 6pm, completing my drive north in 3 hours. I spent the whole of the next day tidying everything away and was delighted to get help from Tania in exchange for a couple of strong mugs of coffee. Now to crack on with one of my lengthy To-Do lists…

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Good Enough to Go





With a postal deadline looming, I could only add glassy beads to the main circular section of “Bifrost Bridges”. I will decide later if it needs to be totally encrusted but the main thing was that it was finished, bound, blocked, labelled and therefore as good as it was going to get before being sent to Glasgow. 

Facebook notifications informed me that other quilters had received the good news that their entries had been successfully juried into AQS Paducah. I was disappointed that “Dunes Duet” was not selected - I know it has been successful elsewhere but I had really wanted to see it hanging there when I visit the show in April. Philosophically, I know that “you can’t win them all”. Now I feel that I need something bold and fresh to work on to rekindle my excitement. I have a few ideas but can’t decide which to run with. I am frustrated that I have all sorts of pieces just sitting bubble-wrapped up in my workshop because they are too bulky to ship or just don’t suit most quilt show categories. 

I travelled to Falkirk and back in one day to give a talk with a Powerpoint presentation  followed by Show & Tell. I could not remember whether I had ever properly tested the digital projector that I bought on Ebay and I faffed around all morning before I left trying to get it to connect to my laptop without any instructions. Luckily, I have another neat one that does the job but the higher-spec one was meant to provide a bigger picture and sound. I think I will challenge Fergus to see if he can get it to work;)

I cut out 40 kits for my classes at ICHF Glasgow then spent far more time than I should have making up a sample. The classes will only be around 1 hour long and the students will not have access to sewing machines so I doubt whether anyone will complete their project. The finished cover has a simple zigzagged outer edge that any basic sewing machine should manage to do. I wanted to check the fit because the Pink Pig notebooks have a much larger wire spiral binding than the Red and Blacks that I normally use. 

My Google history for last week informs me that I spent some time browsing goose-down jackets, violin cases, flights to London, electronic scanner/cutters, projector instructions, and that I took an online quiz confirming that my head is full of useless information. 

I spent a couple of days catching up with my folks. My Mother has been in Scotland for several weeks nursing her brother in the final stages of cancer. Sadly, he passed away last weekend so we will be attending his funeral next week. 


Later that evening, I will pick up a hired van to load it up with the Yurt, Coracle and Totems ready for the exhibition at the SECC in Glasgow. I dread the exhibition setup and tear-down afterwards but I always enjoy talking to the visitors. In the evenings I hope to catch up with Ellen and get on with some more of my Ebook edits. I am keen to reach the point where the only part left to complete is the videography…

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Nearly Finished;)



The Aurora Borealis quilt that I had casually named “Spinners” has a new name - I decided on “Bifrost Bridges” because in Norse mythology, Bifrost is a burning rainbow bridge that links the human world with the realm of the Gods. Obviously, I did not include any of that information on my show entry because I have only just thought of it!

It has felt like I have been working on a never-ending project this week. First I spent half a day experimenting with couching threads on scrap fabric before couching on some odd bobbly yarn that I was worried might run out. For some nonsensical idea, I decided to couch sparkly thread on top of that. 

The plan was to face this quilt instead of adding a conventional binding but I decided that its edges were too bulky to turn back neatly. Instead I went for a single binding, hand-sewn to the back and I have the finger callouses to prove it. I loathe sewing on sleeves and labels but decided to get that out of the way before adding any beads and sparkles. 

Somehow there is something bothering me about this quilt, probably to do with how much time I have spent on it yet am am not entirely sure that it has worked. Quilting friends who have seen it in person were not exactly blown away by it. I can’t decide if it is too simplistic or too fussy or even whether it is a worthy “show standard” quilt. The trouble with having instant access to images of amazing quilts via social media is that I begin to question whether I can come up with anything that is more original, more technical or more unique. 


I really am running out of time and patience with “Bifrost” - ideally I would like to encrust it with tiny glass beads but I will have to content myself with a feature area for now so it can get posted to its first show on time. I can always go back and add more later…

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Flying Visit to Switzerland





This week I was in Switzerland for 2 days at Bernina International, Steckborn. It was a little like a top secret visit to a (sewing machine) factory in a James Bond film. I was impressed to meet many wonderful, creative people involved with design, manufacture and training. I was there to receive instruction using the exciting new Q24 Bernina Longarm machine which I cannot say too much about at present as it has not yet been launched in the UK. All I can say is that I had a wonderful time, enjoyed good coffee,  excellent chocolate and I am really looking forward to representing Bernina. I just hope they don’t commission me to make another Smart Car Cover!

























After catching up on emails back home, I held my breath standing at the quilt frame and braved the zany Northern Lights quilt. Having adjusted the hopping foot I only broke one needle but that upset the tension and resulted in some tedious unpicking. Some intersections are a bit thready but I am planning to do a bit of couching or beading over those. I did not risk using a ruler so it is all freehand and although it does not look like it, I restrained myself from quilting the whole thing with a variety of tiny fillers. Mentally, I am referring to it as “The Marmite Quilt” as I am unsure whether people will love it or hate it…



I am trying not to panic about how quickly the year is unfolding. I have to complete this quilt and get the Book into a near finished state by the end of this month. Although I am not teaching in schools, my kids are on a mid-term break so my time is not really my own. As they get older they get busier so I really need to keep track of who needs to be where and attempt to co-ordinate trips. When I take them to the cinema this week I will go via a wool shop to see if I can pick up some interesting yarn. If the “Marmite” quilt gets finished and bound for its first show I will be happy - then maybe I can add a few more embellishments before entering it into another one;)

Sunday, 8 February 2015

A Bit Thick





There are often times when I wonder what I was thinking…
I sewed all of the blocks together on the zany Aurora quilt and they matched up almost perfectly, except for two of the over-sized quarter square blocks that I seem to have trimmed oddly. I wanted to use a double layer of wadding to get a high loft and normally I would use a layer of cotton and a layer of wool. However, I had been put off wool after I had a batch of wadding that was ‘beardy”. I just knew that it ought to be cotton so it would be easy to block while damp so it would hang square. I could easily have used two sensible, thin layers of cotton but I chose to double-up with extra dense Warm Plush. 

I started dutifully stitching-in-the-ditch with invisible thread and immediately broke a needle. I broke a whole packet of needles and was quilting like a nervous wreck, holding my breath the entire time. It was good job I was wearing specs as the needle tips were shattering and pinging randomly. Fed up with seeing nasty little needle rips in the quilt, I finished off the SID on the domestic machine, sewing very slowly. 

I have now put the quilt back onto the Longarm and raised the hopping foot which I HOPE will make a difference so I can tackle some free-motion quilting. Currently, my show quilt for 2015 looks like a baggy, beginner’s project! 



Another bad habit that I have is trawling for junk on Ebay and Gumtree. I managed not buy a tiny camper van or sweet shop scales but I did go and see a bargain oil-fired Rayburn cooker. It will probably be 100 years before my husband agrees to have it installed in our kitchen and I have a nasty feeling that it may be too small to heat all of the radiators but I daresay I can always trade it in for a bigger model when the time comes. Meanwhile, it can replace the obsolete chest freezer in the garage as a place to store camping gear!

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Working it Out








All week I mass produced bias strips, pressed and fancy-stitched until I finally had enough oversized wonky squares to trim down into blocks and setting triangles. I did not actually know what size I was aiming for until I could figure out the largest square I could make from the ones that were destined to be setting triangles. I had started off with 20” square pieces of fabric that were eventually trimmed to a mere 12.5” then I worked out the other sizes accordingly in a backwards, roundabout way. By the time the quilt top is all connected I might even have to add an outer border to make sure its overall size fits certain competition categories. This maths may have been a bit challenging but not nearly so grim as Freya’s Higher Maths Prelim exam;)

There are lots of large offcuts from this quilt that might come in handy for some sort of project later on. I could use them for notebook covers or employ them more purposefully as crazy scraps in another freeform quilt.

The pieced blocks are bulky - they all have a layer of fusible interfacing, loads of stitching and thick bias strips. I will use a skinny needle and a straight stitch plate to sew them all together. The quilting looks like it could be fiddly - I don’t have a firm plan yet, just some scribbly sketches which are likely to morph. I have a pile of paperwork to attend to before I start on the next phase.

I have resigned my role as the UK’s rep for APQS after 5 years. I would like to be clear that I have parted on good terms with APQS and handed over to Ani and Kay. I do have other irons in the fire, as well as that Unfinished Book and all will be revealed before too long…


Excitingly, the trip that Ellen, Kay and I will make to Paducah in April is shaping up nicely. Almost all of the arrangements for flights, hotels and car-hire are sorted. We just need to book a couple of classes and decide which quilt shops to visit. I think we are all looking forward to a trip in the Spring that is just for fun:)

Sunday, 25 January 2015

An Excuse to use Neon Thread!







I was most impressed by the truck driver who managed to reverse halfway up our incredibly icy track on Monday. I thought he was going to inform me that he could not collect the pallet that would transport Lenni to France but he bravely used a small trolley to shift it and he even lifted the long boxes by himself. 

I tidied Fenella’s room so she could find all of the things that she claimed I had lost. Thistle proved that there was no room to swing a cat - she attempted to jump onto a chest of drawers but there was not even enough room for her small paws to land safely so she landed in a disgruntled heap, scattering pencils, nail polish and old Christmas cards. 

The notebook cover for my Book photos was finished off even though it needed an extension on one side so it would fit properly. I made a note to my readers that, unlike me, they should pay attention when cutting and assembling! A bulk order of spiral bound notebooks, wood block stamps and textile paints arrived. I will use these for my classes at the ICHF show in Glasgow in March so I will need to make a sample that fits ;) 

Having a ridiculously short time available to make the Northern Lights wobbly circles quilt made me slightly panicky and I spent an afternoon spent faffing around with different construction methods. I slept on it then decided to combine freeform curved piecing with some appliqué. I made my own bias tape to fit in between some of the wide “rings” then attached them very neatly with a machine blanket stitch. After applying fine interfacing to each wonky block, I selected a few reliable, non-puckering embroidery stitches and decorated the blocks with super-bright thread. The quilting will be very freestyle and will allow me to make good use of some reels of variegated neons. 


I ordered additional hand-dyed fabric from Farne Designs in Cornwall for the back and for the setting triangles. I have not quite worked out what size these will be since I will not trim the wonky blocks down until all of the distorting extra stitching is done.  I am enjoying working on a such a zingy project in the middle of winter and hope to have the top almost done by the end of next week.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Momentum






Sewing beads on may be a relaxing occupation but it does not feel like proper, productive sewing because it takes ages to see progress. My leather bags finally reached the stage where they could be photographed as book projects and I can continue to add extra beads later if I want. 

The next book project was quick to finish since it was a simple luggage label so I managed to run up a few of those and write the instructions before I forgot all about it. 

I could not find any trace of step-by-step pictures of how to make my fabric notebooks, even though I am convinced that I had already done it so I had to make a new cover from scratch, which will come in handy. The one that I use every day is now 10 years old and looking rather scruffy. 

A visiting DIY quilter visited and rattled off two lovely children’s quilts. I filed my online tax return, sourced a pallet to send Lenni to France and made around 16 trips in and out of Banchory, mostly to accommodate the kids at their various activities.

It is surprising how much can be achieved with a tight deadline. I discovered that I had 24 hours to enter the ICHF show in Glasgow. Luckily I was able to enter by email and instead of a photo, a sketch was allowed if the quilt was not actually finished. Technically, my quilt has not actually even been started yet but I managed to make up a rough draft of a possible quilt using EQ7. I started experimenting with a couple of different construction methods for improvisational circles using scrap fabric. The end result may not look quite the same as my “drawing” - it will probably evolve considerably, depending on time and how much fabric I have without having to resort to ordering any more!


I successfully completed a task that I had been dreading at the weekend when I cut up and reconstructed two tiny 2-piece Aladdin costumes to fit bigger girls at the forthcoming Deeside Dance Centre Show. Worried that I may not have the dress-making skills necessary, I spent some time online trying to source adult versions of the same costume but I kept being directed to sexy belly-dancing outfitters. I am pleased that I managed to sew everything back together and the new roomier pantaloons should stay up with the help of heavy-duty elastic. I am seriously contemplating applying my new-found tailoring confidence to making a frock for myself…

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Getting There in the End



I made a mental note never to sew thousands of beads onto leather ever again but obviously I did not actually mean it. After a while the projects started to look amazing and the temptation was to encrust them with as many beads as possible. When I nipped to the craft shop to buy another couple of yards of bias-binding, I spent quite a bit on yet more beads. 

The bags that I had planned in my head evolved a couple of times after I made calico mock-ups because the point of making them was actually to write clear instructions for a book project. I decided to make one of them very simple and the other one could be really fancy.  Typically, I thought of other ways that I would tackle the same project if I started it again but I don’t have time to make any more beaded, leather bags so I might just write a paragraph on “modifications”. 


Following a stormy night, we had a power cut for most of the day on Friday so I could not do anything that involved sewing machines or required decent light. Luckily, my IKEA delivery arrived and I made a start on figuring out the assembly diagrams. The first item was a challenge but after I eventually got it sussed, I rattled off the others fairly quickly. It took all weekend before everything was finally constructed and tidied up. The totems were stored out of the way on high shelves and it feels great not to be climbing over obstacles in my workshop. There is no disputing that smaller projects like handbags take up far less space!






Sunday, 4 January 2015

Decluttering






Bank holidays within holidays make it difficult to work out what day of the week it really is. There is only one cure for this which is to potter away at sorting out drawers, cupboards and have a go at furniture rearranging. I had to pack Lenni up for his imminent move to a new home in France so it seemed like a good opportunity to sort out my workshop which was becoming full of “stuff”. 

To begin with I created more of a mess than the one I started with and I just stood and wondered how I was going to get things tidy again. I decided to part with the old, bouncy office desks and odd chests of drawers that were squeezed into awkward corners. I have ordered matching, low chests of drawers that will fit neatly under the long-arm, and a couple of sturdy, basic tables from IKEA, plus sturdy shelving to store the totems so I don’t have to keep falling over them.


I even cleared out my wardrobe so I would not be stalling at the beginning of the week when the kids go back to school. The loose plan is to tidy up my fabric stash and get back to some serious book editing. Although I am keen to start a new show quilt, I need to complete the evening-bag chapter first…