Sunday, 31 August 2014

Assembling



My main mission for the week was to find and book rooms in Paducah 2015. I emailed and phoned more than 20 hotels but was thwarted by being told that they were already fully booked or did not accept bookings until January. I appealed to one of the original Stunt Quilters who very kindly passed on the contact details of someone offering B&B who had not advertised anywhere else. I was relieved and excited to be able to report back to Kay and Ellen that the Paducah part of the trip was organised. We just have to co-ordinate the other internal flights and decide what to do in Chicago and Nashville. For an unplanned  trip that evolved out of the MQX cancellation, it looks like we will have a lot of fun!

After convincing myself that I did not have any more urgent organising to do, I assembled all of the bits and pieces to finish and photograph the final 4 book projects. I discovered that gold spandex does not make good bias binding. I needed a teflon piping foot as the metal one would not travel over the slippery surface. Rummaging around the local fabric shop, I discovered some lurex bias tape that may not be very durable but it looked perfect. 

Somehow I forgot that the instructions in my book were for vertical quilting lines for the circumference of the foam cylinder so now I can’t decide whether to cut and rejoin the piece of quilted spandex that I quilted with horizontal lines to make them go up and down instead. I suppose it depends on whether I want it to look like a Greek column or a walnut whip… I quilted the squares that will form the top and bottom circles and made the piped lurex binding so the next step will be to assemble and write comprehensible instructions for the project that I am calling “Spandex Pouffe - Not For Cats”.


I actually quilted a small customer Lonestar quilt this week. Since I had not really quilted anything since the end of June, I faffed around for a while while deciding what designs to use. I had intended to keep it simple but I got carried away as usual. I even added machine embroidery stitching around parts of the star and the inner border to add definition. I reminded myself that I have an unquilted Lonestar of my own tucked away - Silent Movie Star 2 was made as a class sample but I never liked the fabrics as much as the original version. However, since my quilting has improved since 2008 maybe I can make it look less brown with some funky designs. There are a few quilt tops that I have abandoned in a basket that I really ought to get done. They don’t need to be fancy - they just need to be finished;)

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Cyber Sorting



For once, I stuck determinedly to The Plan to make updates to my website. I set the laptop up in the kitchen to keep an eye on the kitten and started editing or updating pages for my website. This was a much larger undertaking than you might think since it led to updating my Flickr photo gallery then relocating files photos that seemed to have disappeared into The Mysterious Cloud. I can never quite work out what happens to some of my photos with the Mac but I think I have now got them all under control and filed in sensible places.

All of this prompted me to shape at least 3 old drafts of the Yurt Story into one article and produce blurbs about the Smart Car and the Norse quilts. I need to extend one on the Coracle and collate all of the research on Celtic seasons and customs into a coherent explanation about the Quilted Henge. It seemed like it would be a good idea to have pre-written basic articles about my large projects before the next time I am asked to do an interview or piece for a magazine.

Once I was in a sorting-out-zone, I got rather carried away and continued with lots of chores that I had been putting off. My business spreadsheets were given an overhaul and I even re-wrote the Constitution for the Parent Council that I had been meaning to do for well over a year. 

Freya worriedly enquired whether we were moving house when I started sorting out books, old school photos and DVD’s. I explained that I had just reached the point where I thought the house might burst if I did not do some serious clearing-out. I hate not being able to find something as soon as I think about it and I am sick of opening random cupboards and discovering a spaghetti of forgotten earphones and chargers that belong to various family members. There is a chest of drawers upstairs full of naked Barbie-dolls that I have earmarked to clear and re-home some of the offending electronics. 

In my workshop I emptied 8 folders of paperwork that were duplicates of instructions or filled with projects that were never going to get made. 

I sold the kids’ climbing frame on Ebay with the intention of moving and recovering the garden yurt which has not been used since we discovered an enormous wasp-nest. An exterminator dressed in a Ghostbusters outfit sprayed chemicals everywhere and everything inside is in a mess. 

The only sewing that I did all week involved cutting a couple of inches off the bottom of Fergus’s new school shirts and making a slipcover for his French homework book. 


Once I have stopped myself from purging the contents of shelves and drawers, I should have a nice tidy space to concentrate on completing the final projects for The Book. I was delighted when a school secretary called to apologise that I was no longer required to teach during the coming week. I can do a customer quilt instead while thinking about what junk I can sell off or give away next;) 

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Thistles and Thorns






I mostly managed to dodge a storm on my journey back from Birmingham but it made me rethink how much I wanted to own a caravan. It took two days to unpack, find a space to store 12 totems, put everything away and catch up on a backlog of emails. I am pleased with the Bernina’s Sewezi table but I have not allowed myself to do any sewing as it is my mission to make major changes to my woefully outdated website before I do anything else. 

This type of task is worthwhile but I always feel that I have nothing to show for spending several hours in front of my laptop. In the process I have relocated “lost” pictures and found at least 3 different copies of the Yurt Story in various stages of editing. This work should also be relevant to the book that I am trying to complete and at the same time it will be useful to have updated information when I apply to teach at quilt shows. 

I was hugely disappointed to be informed by MQX that they had decided to cancel my workshops in September.  Unfortunately, Ellen and I only booked our flights to Chicago 3 weeks ago but we decided to make ticket changes in order to visit Paducah next spring, rather than cancel our trip altogether. 

Better news arrived when Ann Long and I were told that “Dunes Duet” had won 3rd place for the Innovative category at The World Quilt Show. She has agreed that we can squander our prize money on some celebratory bespoke gin;)

It was obvious that the summer holidays were coming to a close when the weather turned autumnal, school uniform needed to be sorted and replaced and we started picking prickly brambles. The freezer is full of bags of fruit waiting to be transformed into jars of jam. Once I worked out how to assemble my new jelly-bag contraption, I stewed up rowan berries and apples in an attempt to make a sauce that will go well with game.  


There has been a very entertaining distraction in my house this week since Thistle, the fluffy-tabby kitten has moved in. She is one of Mo’s kittens which was feared lost for a couple of weeks before turning up safe in an old barn. Bluecat is not impressed at the newcomer and is determined to sulk. The real reason for me turning down supply teaching next week is that I will be kitten-sitting for Fenella while continuing to edit my website and book. I daresay that resolve will last for approximately one day before I decide to start a new project…

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

FOQ 2014







FOQ gets bigger and better every year! Ani, Kay, Sally, Ellen and I set up the APQS long arms and dressed the stand knowing exactly what we were doing since this was the third year that we had worked as a team. We had fewer people who were amazed to see a long arm machine in action for the first time and more who were doing thorough research into all of the available brands and features. We were petty busy most of the time apart from a couple of afternoon lulls when I would scatter M&M’s onto the quilt top and chase them around for a while before eating them. 

I was disappointed that The Quilted Henge did not receive any judges’ accolades but it was greatly admired, although most people had not bought the expensive show catalogue that explained what it was all about. Kay Bell received 2 Highly Commended awards for her painted whole cloth and a customer quilt. A beautiful quilt that the judges over-looked was voted Viewers’ Choice by the public! 

As a quilter I can’t help myself muttering about a number of the entries not really being quilts or even quilted. This was not confined to the Art Quilts, some of which had minimal stitching and only 2 layers of chiffon. In the Quilt Creations category were 3D items that were felted or machine embroidered. These were all fabulous pieces of textile art but I wonder whether the Festival of Quilts should be rebranded.

Getting up early allowed us to have a look around the show quilts and exhibits before the crowds arrived. I was inspired to join SAQA after chatting to Sandy Snowden. It would be great if a museum or gallery would house some of my pieces for a while as it is getting tricky to navigate around my workshop.

It was fun to meet up with friends and colleagues from all over the world - apparently it is actually called “networking”. We were thrilled to meet Bonnie Hunter who had been on a tour around England with Jim West. I had one or two brainwaves and mad ideas at 3 am, one of which was a plan for my second book, even though technically the first one still needs to be completed;)

I had a super chat with Aggy and Sarah from Bernina and they helped me to make a list of  essential feet for the B710. I bought a large Sewezi table for it as I hate using a sewing machine that sits on top of the table, particularly for free-motion quilting. 


After a week of late nights, early mornings, rather a lot to drink and a couple of great curries, it was time to make the 11 hour drive home, unpack and decide what colour to dye the white shirt that I unwisely wore while eating a Balti with chilli and turmeric pickle. 











Sunday, 3 August 2014

Instructions for Dummies Like Me






It took me almost 3 hours to figure out how to assemble a garden cart using barely translated from Chinese instructions with a bizarre exploded diagram. I fared better with fixing the legs onto a mini BBQ and it got me thinking that if I ever had a stab at writing a school text book for primary school maths it would be a huge volume of blow-by-blow demonstrations and explanations. The garden cart and BBQ came with us to the beach laden with blankets, deck-chairs and sausages but the gale-force winds made it impossible for the kindling to catch fire then we ran out out lighter gas. I was chastised by my kids for not taking a backup box of matches as we valiantly tried and failed to use a jam-jar as a magnifying glass substitute in the brief snatches of sunshine.

Spurred on by my Book’s draft cover, I continued to number the many photos that I hope to include and I started to review the clarity of instructions for the completed projects. I  have written the instructions assuming that everybody is as hopeless at interpreting written procedures as me. Freya read the hand-out for the Festival of Quilts workshop on Mini Metallic Wholecloths and reckoned that she could follow it successfully. 

I decided that I needed to make a sample piece for the FOQ class from scratch using my small domestic machine. I discovered that the new gold spandex is rather challenging on a domestic machine but if it is very heavily stitched any imperfections should be impossible to detect. My quilting skills on a small domestic machine were rusty but I needed to experience any problems that my students may encounter. That included not being able to use a machine that was sunk flat into the table and my left shoulder certainly ached afterwards. Personally, I would far rather longarm-quilt even the smallest projects but there are more opportunities to teach domestic quilting, particularly in the UK. 


My workshop table gradually became cluttered with kits, gadgets, paperwork and supplies for FOQ next week to which I added several bottles of wine and some posh crisps for the APQS team to enjoy in the evening;) The progress of my preparations was impeded by a page-turning detective novel by Robert Galbraith aka JK Rowling. It is a good job that she has only written 2 of these novels so far otherwise I would get nothing done! 







Sunday, 27 July 2014

Jam Packed






The family holiday in Norfolk came to an end and we boarded the train north with an assortment of luggage including a guitar and ukulele. Despite each of the carriages being designed to hold 80 passengers, there was only space for half a dozen small cases at one end so we guiltily left our stuff piled up in the space outside the loo since there was not an old fashioned guard's van.

The east coast haar had rolled by the time we reached Stonehaven but it was sunny in Crathes. The next few days were incredibly hot - temperatures near 30 Celsius are rare in Scotland and it was difficult to do anything as mundane as unpacking. I bought a jelly bag in anticipation of making jars of wild cherry jam without pips but a flock of starlings was determined to strip the tree before I could even collect enough for a bottle of cherry vodka!

I bribed the children to help me deliver the Coracle and Betula Totems to the Speyside Quilters exhibition on Friday with the promise of afternoon tea in Elgin. It was really a thinly disguised ploy to visit Veronique’s super shop on Commerce Street. 
There was a great selection of fabrics and a wicked choice of French haberdashery trimmings. She provided Freya with the perfect fabric for the skirt of her Higher Art dress project and I foolishly bought enough Kaffe Fasset material to make myself a frock. I also came home with 10 metres of gold spandex in case I have to remake the gold totem and to make the kits for my Mini-Metallic-Wholecloth class at FOQ.

Freya’s flowery frock got finished after I applied the bias binding by machine just like when I make a quilt. It fits her perfectly and she even likes it. The next challenge will be to make a separate tulle underskirt. Hopefully we have now mastered some basics between us to figure out how to put her dress project together once she has planned it all. We might even make use of the tailoring dummy that I purchased so enthusiastically 4 years ago…

Nell and I visited the Banchory Show and admired all the spruced up ponies and cattle. Her schoolfriend, Erin won several rosettes with her lovely heifer. The produce tent was bursting with jam, prize-carrots, scones and knitted hot water bottle covers. Sadly, there did not appear to be a patchwork category apart from some appliquéd felt Christmas stockings. 

I sent Sunday in Fochabers with some wonderfully friendly quilters and tried to explain what had possessed me to construct a spandex covered boat. Inevitably, I was asked what challenge I aimed to tackle next. I told them that I have a few ideas rattling around but I really must get That Book finished first!




Monday, 21 July 2014

Sunburn and Lightning






We enjoyed a super, action packed yet chilled out weekend in Norfolk with my folks.  The weather was warm and sticky most of the time except when we went to the beach where there was a cool breeze and I burnt my white legs in under an hour while sitting reading a novel. Fenella was not impressed with crunching sand in her sandwiches and declared that she never wanted to go on a seaside holiday.

My children loved meeting up with their younger cousins, playing with water pistols and going on an adventure to a dinosaur park with life sized fibre-glass T-rexes. It was hot and steamy in the Norfolk woodland and we could almost imagine ourselves being stalked by velociraptors after our jeep had been swallowed by a swamp.

We ate outside in the garden under a pergola at every opportunity and enjoyed the rare treat of reading our books in a deckchair. In Beccles we bought dress fabric, locally grown tomatoes and famous Seppings sausages.

I met up with an old school friend in Norwich and could not believe that we had not seen each other for 28 years. It seemed like just last week that we were messing about in Physics and she had to lend me clothes when my suitcase went astray on the trip to Greece. I always enjoy wandering around the lanes and back streets of the medieval city and I was delighted to rediscover my favourite shoe shop. Amazingly, on sale were green Danish shoes that looked like they would probably fit a trolI. I owned and loved an identical pair when I was 18 until they fell apart so I just had to buy them.

At the weekend we visited the Latitude Festival near Southwold. It was not quite as big as Glastonbury but there were crowds of people enjoying a vast choice of theatre, dance, comedy and music on different stages in the woodlands and parkland around the Henham Estate which I remember from being a pony club member as a teenager. It was another incredibly hot day and it was fascinating to observe all of the outlandish festival outfits, even a stag party of young guys all dolled up in summer frocks. On the main stage Booker TJones was incredible, followed by First Aid Kit, The Bombay Bicycle Club and an awe-inspiring performance from Damon Allbarn who used to front Britpop band, Blur. As he reached the end of his set there were ominous rumbles, quickly followed by dramatic forks and flashes of lightning. The heavens opened and we were very glad that we would not be spending the night in a tent. The drive out of the field was slippery and the road home was awash with water. 


The storms continued for most of Sunday while Freya and I struggled to understand the instructions of her dress pattern. There seemed toy be rather a lot of gaps in the explanations, assuming that you knew exactly what to do. One of these days I might have to make a simple frock and write idiot-proof assembly instructions but in the meantime, dressmaking continues to be my sewing nemesis. Despite heavy rain and crashing thunder throughout the day, we packed up a picnic, umbrellas and raincoats to attend a small, outdoor pop-picnic. Many of the guests were dancing on puddle-soaked grass in summer dresses and wellies in a typically “never-mind-the-weather” British fashion. With only a couple of days left in Norfolk, we are under pressure to complete Freya’s frock, swim at the lido, have one last BBQ and try to fit in a final trip to the beach…

Monday, 14 July 2014

Cider with Linzi

We had a super week in Devon, travelling around sightseeing and tasting all sorts of wonderful, local produce, and fresh apple cider. Axminster offered an interesting selection of junk shops selling everything including vintage clothes and fossils. 

The River Cottage Canteen was super, combining a relaxed atmosphere in a semi industrial building with delicious, ethically sourced, seasonal food. We went there for a lunch and a dinner where I especially enjoyed their strawberry vodka bellinis and slow-roasted belly pork.

We explored the narrow, leafy, countryside lanes and coastline and exploited our National Trust membership to visit the quirky 16-sided house full of curiosities called A La Ronde near Exmouth. The house had been designed to enjoy the sun throughout the day before electric lights were invented. 

Castle Drogo, designed by Lutyens, was having an expensive renovation to replace the flat roof that had leaked since it was built in the 1920’s. I climbed the scaffolding to survey the huge site which will be completed in 2017. 

The most picturesque places that we visited were Budleigh-Salterton, Branscombe and Sidmouth. There was every kind of architecture from sagging thatched roofs to Regency elegance. 

A large market was in full swing in Dorchester where we visited Max Gate, the house owned by novelist, Thomas Hardy. Freya has been wading through “Tess of the D’Urbevilles”, not as enamoured by the style of the book as I had been. We had lunch in an oak panelled tearoom that had been used as a courtroom during the English Civil War.

The highlight of the week was the day that Freya and I spent at the River Cottage HQ cookery school. We did not actually meet my food hero, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall but everything was exactly as it appears on the TV programme. We were allowed to wander around and meet the pigs, poke our noses in the Yurt and see where some filming had been going on for the next series.

It was an intensive day of cookery lessons, guided by one of the River Cottage chefs who was passionate about using seasonal ingredients. We kneaded bread, made blackcurrant curd, rhubarb and lemon verbena tarts, chorizo meatballs with broad beans and learned how to fillet a flat fish. All of food had come from the fields and gardens of River Cottage HQ apart from the fish which had been landed at Lyme Regis earlier in the morning. 

We reluctantly climbed onto the tractor trailer at the end of the day with our freshly baked loaves and jars of curd after thanking all of the staff and apprentices. I certainly hope to go back another time to undertake another day of curing and smoking or maybe even bee-keeping;)

We spent our last day in Devon at Lyme sitting on the beach and finding out about Victorian fossil hunters in the museum. Since the weather was so lovely, we made ourselves a cream tea back at the cottage. Later in the evening we headed out for a pub supper which we ate outside and washed it down with yet more cider.

We set off towards Norfolk on Saturday morning with the intention of visiting Stonehenge en route. Google informed me that the carpark would cost £5 then the family ticket would be a further £36. We decided to simply drive along the A303 and spot it from the car window. There were hordes of people admiring it from a cordoned-off distance which I felt was rather a shame. I remember scrambling about on the stones as a child in the 1970’s before they became “fashionable” and I much prefer the unlimited access to stone circles that we have in Scotland.

We made a flying visit to the area of Suffolk where we lived when Freya was a baby and had a pint of Adnams Ale at the popular Butt and Oyster pub, overlooking old sailing barges. We were reminded how balmy and sociable summer evenings can be in East Anglia. We are hopeful that we will also get some sunny weather in Norfolk so we can go to the beach and have a couple of BBQs. There are also plans to visit Norwich, a dinosaur park, make a dress, go swimming at a lido and spend a day at a festival so the holiday will simply disappear in a flash!






















Monday, 7 July 2014

End of Term!

After spending Monday morning battling with a roll of bubble wrap, parcel tape and trying to fit 9 sponge columns into two agricultural feed sacks, I collected Freya and some of her friends from Ballater. They had completed an impressive 40 mile hilly hike for their silver Duke of Edinburgh expedition practice and were worn out, muddy and sunburnt. 




It was a relief when the haulier finally picked up the ridiculously large package of totems, especially as they were taking up rather a lot of space. It was a particularly busy week since the school holidays were due to begin and we were heading off straight away. I had to sort out arrangements for the dogs, cat and hens to be looked after by Mo and try to organise packing lists. Inevitably, I forgot to include a couple of things that may have been useful such as my pocket-rocket gas stove for impromptu cups of tea on the beach and suncream.

I made an effort to complete all of the pending customer quilts. One was a customer’s labour of love that had been a part-work magazine project with less than perfect instructions. She had found it both challenging and frustrating but the quilt looked great when it was all done. I turned my thoughts to how I could make a luxury patchwork sleeping bag and ordered a striped flannel sheet from Ebay to go on the back of an unfinished quilt top. I need a heavy duty zip then want to fiddle about with the design to see if I think it needs a hood or a pillow section. It all depends whether it is for “glamping” or taking on a hardcore D of E trek… My Mother requested a quilted ceramic hob cover so I rustled one up quickly in a couple of hours to shove at the bottom of my suitcase. I even cut out fabric for the draft bed version of Dunes Duet just in case I get a chance to whip it up while visiting my folks in Norfolk.

I attended two end of term celebrations - Fenella played violin and sang at the Durris Primary Church service on Thursday morning then in the afternoon, Freya was awarded with prizes for being the top student in her year for English and Modern Studies. 

My husband hired a car for our long drive to Devon instead of putting up with the dependable but rather utilitarian Landrover. With just a couple of brief stops, we finally reached the village of Kilmington, near Axminster after 11 hours. The back lanes leading to the cottage were only 6 feet wide but the holiday cottage was a delight. It is listed in the Domesday Book and the original part is thought to date back to the twelfth century. The children loved the low beams, wonky floors, warped bookshelves and sagging thatched roof. 


We enjoyed traipsing around Lyme Regis on Sunday and because the English schools are not yet on holiday, it was not too busy. I asked the rest of the family to look for flint stones with holes all the way through on the beach. I could have spent a small fortune on nautical style clothes in the Seasalt shop. We stumbled upon a charming vintage inspired dress-making studio and bought two dress patterns for Freya to experiment with in preparation for her Higher Art dress design project. It was very pleasant to eat a simple supper in the garden at our cottage and plan outings for the week ahead. 

Sunday, 29 June 2014

What happens after you finish making a Henge?





With a successful and mostly dry School Sports Day out of the way, I managed to sew shut the final seam on the last totem then fiddle about with eyelets and corset strings. It felt strange to decide that such a long running project was finished. I keep looking at it and wavering between feeling proud of my efforts while wondering if anyone else at a Festival of Quilts will appreciate my creation. Maybe they will find it too simplistic and not arty enough but I don’t care if anyone thinks it is just weird.

Having got The Henge finished I was anxious to work out how it would actually get to FOQ. I soon discovered that if I mentioned the words, “textile art”, couriers would not touch it. Next I was told that it would have to travel in custom-made boxes and could cost between £200-£400! I decided to be more cunning and asked a more basic transport haulier if they could shift “cushions” that were bubble wrapped and shoved into a giant fertiliser bag. They agreed to stick it on a pallet, shrink-wrap it in clingfilm and get it there without a fuss, far more economically.

Frustratingly, I discovered that my Windows Live email account had been hacked and then shut down. Luckily, no data appears to have gone astray so after changing passwords on all of my devices, I eventually got everything restored. 

I taught my last half day of the term then loaded up an overdue customer quilt. I decided to “let” the computerised system do this one as it was so big and the customer wanted something simple. I swore at the computer a few times because it seemed to ignore what I was trying to tell it to do but in the end it quilted a modern version of pumpkin seeds really well. When I was sure that it was not going to muck-up, I was able to sort through some of the photos for my E-book. I even had a cup of tea with a visiting American quilter while it sewed away in the background. I still don’t actually LIKE the computerised system and much prefer to freehand just about everything but I acknowledge that not all quilts require fancy or dense stitching. It was rather boring supervising while the machine did its own thing but I have a large customer quilt coming up next that needs a lot of freehand taming.

Mo, Nell and I went on a bit of a jaunt on Saturday and ended up “raking” at a car-boot sale, a vintage-style craft fair and a lovely tea-shop. We came home with all sorts of treasures including blue and white napkins and retro saucepans. 

I took Nell up to the Portsoy Boat Festival on Sunday and insisted that she have a go at paddling a coracle in the sheltered harbour. I showed photos of my coracle to the Coracle Society experts who pointed out that I should have fitted my cover over the top edges of the wicker frame. I tried to explain that it was purely decorative and I wanted to show off the wicker and beading but they were more interested in practicalities. One cocky teenager discovered how unstable coracles really are and he was tipped out into the harbour. There was a great atmosphere with craft stalls, food stalls, buskers and antique sailing boats all over the fishing village and we agreed that it could be fun to stay for the whole weekend to see more live music and take part in coracle racing. I was even moderately tempted to join the Coracle Society and consider making another coracle…




Sunday, 22 June 2014

The Devil in the Detail







It is amazing what I can get done in an almost uninterrupted week in the workshop. I even have achy arms, sore hands and punctured fingers to prove it. I thought I would never complete the irregular grey pebbles and had to force myself to sew a whole bobbin at a time non-stop and not allow myself any breaks until at least four bobbins were emptied. I used chalk and string to mark out a circle then trimmed and bound it as soon as it came off the frame. I still have a lot of thread tails to tidy up but it is more or less done and ready to stand the totems on. 

Yurtman sent the plywood circular bases which added an inch of height to each totem so I used my electric carving knife to trim down all of the columns. I had to wrestle the foam columns into their tight covers by squashing them into banana shapes, discovering that the only way to get them to fit was to put slippery plastic bin-bags onto the ends. 

Hand-sewing them shut neatly proved to be a major challenge and I unpicked several attempts before managing to do an invisible ladder stitch as tidily as Mo had demonstrated. I should probably have attempted to tear the plastic bags out because one or two of them are not yet sitting as flat on top as I would like.

After checking that my hand punch was cutting holes in scrap leather nicely and deciding that they were not, I ordered a more industrial press punch for 5mm eyelets. This is much easier to use and does not make my hands hurt after just 2 or 3 holes have been made. I discovered that the latest beaded skins must be a fair bit smaller than the white Imbolc one because I was woefully short of cord for lacing up the backs on the largest columns. 

I have reached the point now where the project is almost complete but I am looking hyper-critically at the quality of the finish. Some of the binding on the awkwardly shaped skins looks a little loose so I am wondering how to fix it without cutting it all off and starting again. The cheap gold lamé is a nightmare because some of the quilted stitching has burst and wadding is poking through in places. I hope that adding a little gold paint will solve that problem but at the back of my mind is the thought that I should make an entirely new gold totem!

I did emerge from the workshop occasionally to enjoy snatches of midsummer sun and do battle with the idiots at the Planning Department over their crass objections to the School’s application to build a small parking bay because the site-diagram did not have red pen around the outside. This saga has been going on for nearly 9 years and the Parent Council won’t let me resign until I cut the ribbon on the parking spaces.


Freya and I celebrated the Solstice with friends at the top of Scotly Hill. There was a bonfire, jamming guitars, midges and a typically damp, glowering sky. I took a photo as the light faded and used an app on the Ipad to create a watercolour scene. There are just two weeks left to the end of term so the pressure is on to attend to the final details of the Totem Henge and get them wrapped up ready to send to FOQ!