Sunday, 21 May 2017

Barking up the Wrong Tree?


I confess that I may have spent more time experimenting with thread than preparing for 4 days in the classroom but everything worked out well and I enjoyed teaching an enthusiastic bunch of kids. The older members of their class were away on a residential trip so it gave me carte blanche to do fun stuff with them like make slime, introduce them to algorithms, Scottish monsters, make rocky road and fidget spinners using cardboard and 1p coins. It was nice to be met in the playground each morning and get reports on how their slime experiments were going but I was shattered after 4 days - goodness knows how teachers manage to keep going for 5 days, week after week!




I had 2 exhibition rejections this week. Unsurprisingly, “Shield Maiden” was not juried into Fine Art Masters at FOQ but it looks like I am in good company as several well known British art quilters also had their pieces turned down. I have decided to keep plugging away at that competition because I will take great pleasure spending that elusive £5000 prize one day. Touch the Pickle was not one of the 59 final pieces selected from 500 entries to go on tour in the USA but it will be in the Threads of Resistance online gallery. I keep telling myself that “You have to be in it to win it” but it does irk that you have to pay more than regular show entry fees to enter these competitions and there is no refund if you don’t make the grade. Sometimes I feel like it is almost like buying a raffle ticket - you win some, lose some.

I attended a fun Saturday workshop at Grays School of Art on screen printing to see if I would like to study textile printing in more depth. The art school had great facilities and the tutor was lovely but I already knew how to do what was covered in the class. To be honest, I would rather teach than be a student but since I do not have an Art or Textiles degree, that just won’t happen. 



After the class I drove down to St Andrews to collect Freya, her friend and all of their worldly belongings for the summer break. I honestly could not believe how much stuff they had and was not convinced that even half of it would fit in the Landy. It took 2 hours to stow it, lash it onto the roof, stuff every crevice, and even then the girls were squashed into their seats with their feet on boxes and bags on their laps. All the extra gear made the Landy extra sound-proof so the journey home was quite pleasant (for the driver)!

The incentive for unloading the Landy on Sunday morning was that we had to pick up our new family member. Bumble the Scottie has come to live with us and she has made herself at home. She just likes to hang with whoever is around, does not bother cats (who are not best pleased so far), can manage to jump on the sofa but can’t be bothered to go upstairs and will even watch students play monopoly or strum guitars. After the summer when everyone goes back to school and uni, I expect she will even watch me quilt. I actually feel a bit like Doctor Who because she is exactly the same shape as his robot dog companion, K-9! 




I am hoping to get most of the background quilting done on BzB this week as I have got the cotton thread for that but I still don’t have all of the Aurifil lana that I need to re-quilt the large motifs. A couple of quilting friends were on a mission to track it down at Malvern so in the end I should have enough. However, I will also be taxiing students around, chatting to my new hairy friend and gingerly testing the Furze Fizz;) 

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Bottling It




I overcame my fear, plucked up some courage and began the outline quilting on BzB. I went VERY slowly in manual mode because that it simply the smoothest way to quilt around a drawn line. However, I must warn everyone - never, ever drop your bobbin case, even onto a carpet… I always try to be very careful not to do just that but sometimes it just bounces out of my hand and I am not quick enough to catch it which is what happened recently. Even though the bobbin case looks fine, it somehow got buggered up. I kept having to fiddle with the bobbin tension and eventually had to crank the top tension all the way up to 9. I don’t know how many times I rethreaded just to be sure but there are areas on the back of the quilt where the bobbin thread was not bedding in properly as the tension was not quite right. 





I ordered a new bobbin case and decided to forge ahead anyway. Most of the back is OK - I wondered whether I could hide the dodgy sections by applying paint but I have since decided that I will quilt it all again using a thicker wool thread, even though it already took at least 30 hours and was pretty much all I did all week! I can’t do any more until the new bobbin case and threads arrive and I am teaching all of next week. I really wish I had allowed myself a year to work on this quilt, instead of a month as there is so much that I want to do and I can’t think how it will get done by my deadline on a quilt that is 94” square!




I have bottled up my Furze Fizz (gorse champagne) which was fizzing away and smelling quite floral. It is pretty cloudy but so is ginger beer and posh lemonade. I have applied proper health and safety techniques by putting the glass stoppered bottles in a sturdy cardboard box in the workshop loo with an upturned bucket on top. I will wear safety goggles and release the pressure after a week. If it is any good I may have to have a party as the Fizz will have to be consumed quickly;)






Sunday, 7 May 2017

Relentless!



Monday was the deadline for entering a handful of quilt shows that I had known about for months but had still not got around to entering. As usual, I did not have all of the necessary information for every entry so had to faff around finding or retaking photos and look for the blurbs lurking somewhere on my computer. I have even entered the very unfinished BzB into The Open European Championships as they allow pictures of work in progress and when I get it done they can have an updated photo. None of this scrabbling around at the last minute was helped by our pitiful Wifi connection which was so bad that I even tried to upload files from my phone in the supermarket carpark where there was at least some of the slowest ever 3G.

Having committed BzB to an actual show, I realised that it was definitely time to load it onto the longarm frame. I was beyond irritated to discover that I had not saved a whole pack of wool wadding and that the black wadding was not wide enough. Yet again, I questioned why I had made BzB so big. I phoned around several well known UK quilt shops but none were able to guarantee next day delivery or even had what I wanted in stock. There was only one solution which was to join all of the leftover bits of wadding together. The huge pieces that I reconstructed were then generously spritzed with water and laid out to relax because the wool that come in packs is always impossibly creased. 




I have to admit that BzB is making me very nervous. It has been a long time stewing and has to be sewn upside down for me to be able to see the quilt markings. The back is pieced and I have to get perfect tension on both sides since I intend for it to be a double-sided quilt. I tried out different threads, including a wool blend which looked great on the top but was not so nice on the back because the colour was not right. I was faced with the choice of ordering some more thread, sight-unseen online or making do with something else. In the end I decided that since BzB is a bit anti-establishment then I will use a 30wt neon pink cotton because I have it on a huge spool. It is my plan to get most of the outline quilting done next week but we all know my plans are very subject to change. 

Fergus has time off school for exam revision but he has a not-uncommon approach to that which involves worrying that he has not done enough work before proceeding not to do any actual work. He wastes as much time as I do doing avoidance jobs like tidying computer cables but he has not got enough self-discipline to avoid spending hours watching irrelevant videos on Youtube. I jollied him along and tested him on Music theory and I even bough a DVD of “Romeo and Juliet” with nude scenes but he does not yet seem any more enthusiastic about Shakespeare.

I happened to catch a re-run of the “River Cottage” cookery programme the other night and was reminded how I have always wanted to make a gorse version of elderflower champagne. The bright yellow gorse this May is incredibly abundant so it did not take me long to pick a bucketful of flowers without getting too scratched in the process. The last time I attempted to make a lightly alcoholic, foraged fizz I added too much yeast with explosive results. This time I am attempting to stick to a recipe and after 48 hours it is beginning to smell like fermentation is happening.



After all of that activity, I told myself I could have a relaxing weekend except for making a simple dress. The pattern from The Maker’s Atelier looked straightforward enough not to bother making a tester “toile” so I took my measurements and made the size that looked like it matched up the best. The result was that I made a great dress that was several sizes too big. At least it was not too small, like the oilcloth top that I could get on but struggled to get off. I might try to make it again one day in a smaller size but maybe I will take the trouble to make a rough version to check the size first. Not put off by this experience, and because I had some “spare” time, I decided to run up an apron-dress in the skeleton toile-de-jouy that I bought for the job at FOQ last year. It was actually very easy after I sussed how to make the pockets but I seem to have made another bigger than necessary item of what I would not call clothing. I have seen several textile artists swanning around in such garments, rocking the look but I think mine looks more like a 1940’s utility overall. If I had made it in denim it might have been sensible but at least I now know that I can make another one should I feel inclined. 





Not content with making two “frocks”, I forged ahead with a huge customer quilt so I would have no distractions about tackling BzB, apart from my relentless To-Do list and motivating a teenage boy to get stuck into some exam revision…


Monday, 1 May 2017

Just another typical Quilt Quine week!


Phew, no wonder I didn’t manage to write a Sunday night blogpost after another hectic week, ending with a fun trip to the Knitting & Stitching Show in Edinburgh. Although I feel that my tyrannical To Do list never lessens, I managed to supervise 2 DIY quilts and complete a simple customer quilt, publish a schedule of Quilt Quine classes onto my Facebook business page, and make daily hashtag-pointless newsflashes starting the week doing a weather post in the snow.

I was asked if I plan to offer online quilting classes which is something I need to investigate but in the meantime I need to promote my Ebook, “Deviant Quilting” which has lots of video clips.

I caused chaos in our cluttered Music room by playing furniture Tetris, which moving a full sized rock drum kit and shifting the sizeable electric piano upstairs, negotiating a tight dog-leg staircase. 



I allowed myself some fun by stitching intensely onto the Dijanne Cevaal linocut print, reminding myself that it was an exercise, rather than a show-off piece. I would like to do more “longarm drawing” pieces but I need to remember that even though I think I will just do a little bit of stitching for a few minutes, I can easily still be there after 2 hours!

I received a super box full of Haribos from Maria in Germany as a swap for a piece of gold pleather that she made into a super tote bag. I have had to hide them in a safe place so I can’t scoff them all at once.



After forcing myself to update my paperwork, I set off to meet Ellen and Kay with a side trip to IKEA. I should have considered that Saturday has to be one of the worst days to do this as the store was full of screaming kids who did not want to be there and other kids running around with mini trolleys. No wonder I was traumatised and left my phone in the ladies’ loo. I was extremely fortunate that I realised it was missing before I drove away and that a very kind citizen had handed it in. 

Kay, Ellen and I enjoyed a catch-up over curry and alcohol then visited the K&S show on Sunday. I am pleased to say that it was busy, bigger than last year and that there were plenty of vendors. I was not impressed to pay £5 for parking in a field then being harangued at the door for opting out of a show guide for an additional £4! The K&S show does not have any competition entries and the exhibits were varied but I really think that there should be more of them than vendors to make the ticket price worthwhile. I bought a selection of heavier threads to experiment with on the Bernina Q24 and also yet another shift-dress pattern and fabric that will make me feel guilty unless I ditch all of my other projects and tackle it. 








I was expecting to have 3 custom quilts to do in May but the makers have not quite finished them so I have no choice other than to load the rather large “BzB” (or whatever new name I decide) and make an attempt to get it done in time for FOQ. If I enter it into the show this week then I will just have to get it done;)




Sunday, 23 April 2017

Video Bites with The Quilt Quine


I made it my mission this week to figure out how to use the GoPro camera and to be able to make short video clips on my phone, building up to longer quilting demos in the future. I ended up making a daily Brigton Farm newsflash just so I could practise doing some off-the-cuff pieces to camera. One of my children has told me to stop spamming Instagram with my clips and another says I should spend some time editing my videos and adding music. I think it is actually quite an achievement just to figure out how to start and stop the camera - faffing around doing editing can come later;)





I don’t know whether the newsflash spot was a spur for activity but I seemed to get quite a lot done this week. As well as supervising a DIY quilter and completing a customer quilt, I finished the other Tifafai thistle piece that I started in Germany. I worked out a really good combination of metallic threads and stitch size on my overlocker to finish off the edges without adding a binding. While my DIY customer was engrossed with her quilting I reorganised my 2 IKEA trolleys so that each longarm machine could have a essentials kit ready to be wheeled up close. I was thrilled to discover how well the magnetic pin bowls stuck to the side of the trolleys.




My Postie delivered an assortment of parcels ranging from Kilner jars to be used for yogurt making to a budget version of a German folding shopping basket. I had intended to decorate it with something like free-motion stitched broderie-perse but it would have been tricky to avoid the pockets for the struts and the zipped side pocket. In the time that I could probably have done all that I decided to make quite a lot of pompoms to dangle from it instead.

I am coming up close to the deadlines for entering quilt shows so I dug out the long abandoned BzB anti-wholecloth project. I stared at it for a long time, jotting down a few notes on how it might be tackled. Its biggest problem seemed to be the vast amount of negative space which is traditionally filled with ½” diagonal lines. I hummed and hawed for ages, made some extra templates and decided to fill up that space since a) I am not making a modern quilt and b) I am not making a traditional quilt and c) because I felt like it!



Amazingly, my 15 year old, battered Landrover passed its MOT test, apart from needing a new tyre, which means I can once again look forward to trundling off to Quilt Shows, delivering kids to Guide Camps, Duke of Edinburgh Expeditions, Music Festivals, and eating Fish and Chips in the car:)



I am really enjoying working on a lino-print “Traveller’s Blanket” panel from Dijanne Cevaal using 30wt thread. It is challenging working on such a small scale with a large longarm machine - it is really embroidery rather than quilting. I am more fired up working on this small project than anything else I have done in a while and I will be looking for more heavy weight threads. Dijanne and I are hatching a plan to work collaboratively on “something” and I am very excited to see what we might come up with… 





Friday, 21 April 2017

Quilt Travels



These days I am a seasoned, independent Quilt Traveller with friends all over the world and a desire to experience quilting across the globe. However, when I started out as a quilter 10 years ago I wanted to travel to a major American quilt show but did not feel confident enough to make all of the arrangements myself. I joined a tour party where the travel, accommodation and most of the activities had already been taken care of. The group included people of all ages and experiences yet from the beginning of the trip, it was clear that I was in good company with like minded people. We had the security of knowing that the organisers had done the trip before and knew the area well. I made great friends on that trip with whom I have since had many other adventures. 

Many of my trips have been to the USA, where quilting is a major industry but political and economic issues have made me wonder why I am not exploring quilt shows here in Europe. There is a multi-venue quilt show in France that I have actually been meaning to attend for ages but for some reason have not done yet, maybe because I might have to hire a car or practise my rusty French. I have heard that the various exhibitions in Alsace villages are terrific so I must go and find out for myself. 

I was recently contacted by ECT, a niche travel company based in Bath, with information about a tour that they have organised to Alsace and I must say, I am very tempted to let someone else take care of the logistics. 



“Working together with the Quilter’s Guild, ECT Travel have put together a fantastic 3 night package that gives textile enthusiasts the chance to explore the art trail at their own pace, whilst all the hassle of arranging their transport and accommodation has been taken care of.



Staying in the town of Colmar, where on Friday and Saturday evenings the buildings are illuminated by an award winning light show, guests will have free time to explore after being transferred back to their hotel from the event by executive coach.



Nestled deep in the enchanting French countryside, the region of Alsace is situated close to the border of Germany and Switzerland. It is here in mid-September, for 4 days only, that you will find 36 unique and quirky exhibition sites dotted amongst the villages of Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines, Sainte-Croix-aux-Mines, Liepvre and Rombach-Le-Franc.



As the cradle of the Amish movement, Alsace has been a hub for quilting and textile artists for over 300 years. In 1993 the European Patchwork Meeting was devised to celebrate the talents of traditional and modern patchworkers and quilters. With a huge range of activities such as workshops, conferences, specialist stalls and exhibitions, it is no surprise that over 22,000 international visitors flock to the event every year.”


For more information on this tour or to book, please visit ECT’s website 



Or contact Sofia Carosi by email on sofia@ecttravel.com

Sunday, 16 April 2017

More Stitching in Germany


After our lazy day of sight-seeing and soaking up the sun, Dijanne Cevaal launched the students into intensive stitching projects. It was an absolute treat to quilt for fun all day long. I was slightly freaked out when she suggested that we draw a central vignette or motif so I cheated and found a woodcut drawing of a fish on Google that I developed. Dianne prefers to work with 30 weight cotton thread. I was impressed how the Bernina Q24s ran it without complaining and how the stitching really stood out. I decided to stick with the same blue thread for the whole piece so it was monochromatic. Dijanne declared that what we were doing was “Drawing with Longarms”. 



It was very interesting to discuss methods of networking with an established travelling quilt tutor. I was encouraged to try using the social media platform, Instagram regularly, learning about hashtags and tagging people who might be interested. I now have followers who are into wood-carving and making sexy bread.



I started a threadwork piece using one of Dijanne’s lino-cut prints. It is not quite as easy to work that small using a longarm but I am having a good go at it. The thick thread looks amazing and I can add hand-stitching or beads later. The main challenge of the second day was to design and stitch a Tahitian style Tifaifai appliqué. I sketched out part of a spiky thistle using paper folded into a triangle. This was traced onto Bondaweb, ironed onto fabric then cut out with tiny scissors. The tricky thing was to free-motion quilt around the raw edge appliqué several times, building up a solid edge. One of the students had greater success using a longarm appliqué guide but I discovered that I could use manual mode fairly smoothly. I don’t think this is a technique that I would have chosen to do myself but I am really glad of the opportunity to try it as I really enjoyed the project. I was determined to complete the black background quilting all in the same day. I have the negative thistle still to complete which it will take most of a day to do. 



I had a terrific time teaching and learning in Coburg. Regina and Dijanne were great to work with and I was very well looked after. I was actually rather sad to pack up to go home, even though I had extra goodies including thread, sweeties and projects to fit in. I am hoping to go back and teach workshops for Regina in the future and I intend to meet up with Dijanne again as we got along very well:) When I got back I went off to the supermarket to buy items for my version of a German picnic tea!



I went home with a German cold so I did not feel like sorting my stuff out until the weekend. Feeling guilty about my apathy, I made myself do boring admin first so I can do some more on my unfinished German projects later in the week. I did not exactly laze around - I managed to get a small customer quilt done, delivered Easter eggs to Freya in St Andrews on Good Friday and rustled up some basic cable-tidies that look nicer than strips of black velcro. 





The Easter holidays end on Tuesday so Fergus needs to get into serious revision mode and tackle the maths questions that I downloaded - luckily for me I also downloaded the answers! I have quilt competition entry deadlines looming and I need to work out whether is feasible to make something new in time for FOQ… If only I could get up at 4am and not waste time on the internet:P