Sunday, 22 March 2020

Living in Very Strange Times





On Monday Nella met with her English tutor in the morning then we visited the student show at Grays School of Art in the afternoon. However, the very next day the show was abruptly cancelled and shortly afterwards the Government announced that schools would close indefinitely and that all exams this year will be cancelled due to the world Coronavirus pandemic. 


In a strange way the fact that Nella and I have been living quiet lives for the past 6 months meant that we were slightly less stunned than many people by the advice to stay at home and cut ourselves off from everyone as much as possible.  My husband is now working from home, doing the grocery shopping - all activities and appointments have been suspended. Supermarket shelves have been emptying as fast as they can be restocked and the world news is bleak. We are incredibly fortunate to live in the countryside away from crowds and that we have the resources to keep ourselves occupied. Freya still has to finish her dissertation and her academic future is uncertain but she is also planning a vegetable garden.


I worked on a couple of customer quilts that I handed back to their owners at a safe distance and we are still hoping to collect Nessie, the Scottie Dog next weekend. As we prepare for a long period of isolation and uncertainty a puppy would provide a welcome distraction. We made cute matching quilts for Nessie and for her mum, Lady. I also made Nella an upcycled plant pot cover and a couple of prototype face-masks just in case. For the first time ever I can work on my quilt without any time pressure. I bet there will be some great quilts on display at future shows. I hope we can all weather out this global event and come out the other side with a different perspective. 

Stay well, fellow quilters! 



Sunday, 15 March 2020

And in Other News



And in Other News (while the world deals with the Apocalpytic Coronavirus) - we are getting a puppy! Nella and I searched for a rescue dog locally and online but none of them were what we really wanted. I checked the Kennel Club website and found one litter of Scottie puppies in the whole of the UK, not that far from here in Dundee. We visited the breeders today and chose our little girl, “Nessie” who should be ready to move in with us at the end of this month. We are so excited and looking forward to a wonderful distraction during such troubled times.



I had a busy week working on 7 customer quilts from a Welsh quilter who visits her sister in Aberdeen twice a year. They were all super and ready for collection by Friday afternoon. 




I set up my Doily exhibit at the end of session student show at Grays School of Art. I actually forgot to take the lamp as it was in our sitting room but we will take it along tomorrow and view all of the other students’ work. 



There was not much time left to work on my Rainbow Warliors but even working on a little bit was some progress. 


Freya is home for her Uni Spring Break and her birthday which is lovely for us but she is feeling down that all of her final year celebrations and social events have been cancelled. She was meant to go on a girls’ trip to Orkney but that is now off. All classes, lectures, libraries and the Student Union has been suspended. We are certainly living through unprecedented times. We will have to hunker down, be sensible and make plenty of quilts. 

Sunday, 8 March 2020

A Week of Warlis




It was actually a bit of a bonus to discover that my customers were not coming until next week which gave me a whole week to crack on with the Rainbow Warliors. I was fortunate that Nella was perfectly contented to get on with her knitting projects so every spare minute was spent deciding on designs then stitching them out. At the start of a new quilt it is always making the decisions that seem to take longer than the actual sewing. The majority is ruler-work and I was not sure whether to allow myself any freehand areas at all.




I have probably only just completed a third of this bigger than intended project and once I have customer quilts to work on my time on it will be limited. It seems to be going well and I daresay I will get quicker. I plan to go back at the end and stitch-in-the-ditch everything with silver thread to cover up any backtracking. So far there has only been one dodgy “full” block, which is not bad considering that there was no pressing and some of the piecing was done by eye;) 


Sunday, 1 March 2020

Warli Stitching has Started



I took the plunge and intrepidly started stitching my huge Rainbow Warli quilt. I was actually concerned whether it would even roll onto the quilt frame with 2 layers of wadding and multiple giant plastic sequins. It was a good job that I did not go ahead with my original idea to use glass mirrors. I used Qmatic to stitch large ⅛” spirals in the large spiral blocks and placed a large stitched Warli figure on top of each one. I was not able to use Qmatic to stitch ⅛” concentric circles around all of my circles because it turned out that some of my circles were not totally round or completely central. Plan B was to stitch one circle around all of the blocks to stabilise things, do some big stitch basting in empty spaces then shift the quilt to my other quilt fame which is totally freehand. It seems to be turning out that the majority of the quilting will be ruler work, rather than freestyle but things may evolve as I go along. 





I have officially finished all of my screen-printing projects for the Grays School of Art student show, although I may make a doily and macrame item just because I can. Out of curiosity I had a go at breakdown printing using a manutex dye paste. I now know that I may admire other people’s efforts at this kind of thing but I don’t think it is my style as I prefer crisp prints. 


I worked on 2 straightforward customer quilts over the weekend because I have a few more quilts coming soon and I want to be able to work on my own quilt without too much of a backlog to worry about. I honestly don’t know why people say, “No hurry…” because I would rather work on them as soon as they arrive to keep on top of things;) 





Sunday, 23 February 2020

The Warlis are Waiting



I spent more time than I should have filling in the gaps on the digitised Warli test piece just in case I decide to make something useful from it one day. Really I was just filling my time waiting for thread, needles and backing fabric to arrive for the main event. I placed an order and opted for more expensive first class post so was disappointed when the threads still had not arrived by the weekend. 

At least I have now made plenty of crispy starched prairie-points with a few spares ready for the binding. Using the mock border section I hand-sewed on a couple of mini pompoms to see if they would sit flat enough. 





Slightly at a loose end, I ran up 2 “Wee Braw Bags”.  One was made from a vintage embroidered tray cloth and will be used to keep home-made bread fresh, having got a second hand, small bread-maker last weekend (because I ditched mine last year in one of my clearouts). The other bag was made to contain a rainbow set of pattern weights that I took a notion for, even though I have no dressmaking projects in the pipeline. 



I have now loaded the Rainbow Warli quilt onto the quilt frame to at least get the bare bones done before I get any more customer quilts. There are 2 layers of wadding because I reckon there could well be some “pouffy” areas. I had a sudden panic that the giant plastic sequins might not roll up but I have not cracked any yet. My plan is to baste each area with big stitches then work on some more detailed quilting and because it is zipped onto the leaders it should be OK to take it off if I have to work on something else… theoretically;)




Sunday, 16 February 2020

Warlis Everywhere and Pompoms





I took a notion to making a small quilted throw out of the screen-print dyed, large doily on linen with mitred corners. It took me a while to remember how mitred corners work and they are not the most co-operative when using velvet and stretchy linen. I did not actually have enough decent linen left so I had to rummage around and find some some offcuts. This small quilt was literally thrown together and backed with some flimsy Indian indigo printed cotton. I thought it would be fun to add a pompom border under the binding so I ordered some from Ebay - the size of the poms was good, although the quality was naffly acrylic but it looked OK;) The final (or not quite)  item for my student exhibition was to print onto a ready made tote bag. The bag was not really big enough for the screen so the prints were not great. The answer was to sew on test prints and the best way to do this proved to be to unpick the bag which was what I should have done in the first place to get a nice, flat print surface.




I asked a Bernina UK colleague, Tracey Pereira, if she could help me out with digitising some Warli figures and spirals. She very kindly e-mailed over some DXF files but when I first stitched them out there were multiple stops and starts. She re-sent them as Illustrator files and I converted them into the Bernina format in the ArtnStitch program. This took me a while to figure out but all of the initial frustration was worth it as they all stitched out beautifully. I used a piece of hand-dyed yellow fabric that I did not especially like as I did not mind messing about on it but the test patterns looked great so I wished I had actually used a colour that I liked as I will probably make the quilted piece into something useful eventually. 


Finally, I got around to attaching the sparkly Warli border squares to the quilt top but it turned out that the quilt was not 80” square as I had calculated/imagined. It was more like 85” ish. I had to make a few more squares and fit them to the border by surreptitiously shaving ¼” off the odd square until it worked. The resulting quilt top is LARGE. No surprises there then - it just means that there will be a LOT of quilting to do!




Sunday, 9 February 2020

My Latest Obsession



My latest obsession is learning German… I have visited a few times to teach longarm quilting for my friend, Regina Klaus and I know lots of random vocabulary but absolutely no genders or grammar so I cannot have a conversation. I managed a find a tutor who would come to the house and teach Nella and me using the BBC “Talk German” course. We have been most attentive pupils, quite swotty in fact - doing lots of practice and revision in between lessons. In addition, I have become addicted to the Duolingo phone app and have been battling it out online for the top of the league spot with a Russian student. Nella and I do Duolingo at every meal or snack time now and this week alone we have clocked up over 1800 points - at least it is not gambling! We are both keen to put in a lot of effort and try to become more confident with attempting another language.



When I was not conjugating German verbs I managed to complete 3 customer quilts, finished off the footstool and made a fabric basket from printed doily fabric to contain my business cards. 





Nella has made her area in the workshop her own by decorating with paper leaves, fairy lights and pompoms. She now enjoys reading or crafting in her space which allows me to get on with some of my projects. I cut out 80-odd border squares from plain coloured fabric and all of the pieces for the fancy prairie points that I want to include under the binding. The T-shirt heat press machine came in handy for ironing a whole lot of small pieces in one go. I used the digital cutting machine to cut out 90 x 2 ½” tall Warli figures from glitter vinyl so I should be able to get the borders onto the Rainbow Warli Quilt soon. My next challenge will be how to quilt it?!



Sunday, 2 February 2020

A Good Week for Making Things



It is amazing what you can achieve in a week where you don’t have to be anywhere in a hurry. I dug out a pop-up design wall, pinned up the Warli blocks and labelled them once I had decided on a random arrangement. The tricky thing was to add side strips in order to get the blocks to fit together since each varied slightly in height and width. After considerable fiddling and fudging I had a quilt top measuring (more or less) 79” square. Yes, it IS another large quilt, especially since I have decided that it will probably be a quilt rather than a canopy AND it will have an additional outer border of squares and fancy prairie points.





I decided to crack on and start putting together my screen-printed pieces ready for the end of semester student show at Grays. I was originally going to chicken out and ask Mo to tackle the upholstery for me but it struck me that I should have a go myself if it is to be a showcase of my own work. I stripped the Ercol chair covers down and used the pieces as templates. I re-used the piping cord and the back cushion but the seat cushion was disintegrating into toxic dust so she found me some replacement foam in her shed. There was nothing too tricky to tackle and I even managed to paint and re-cover the popper straps that hold the cushions onto the chair. The original chair did not have zips in its cushions so I just made it exactly the same and sewed up the openings for cushion pads by hand. The chair is really just a prop to show off the screen-printing and the thin indigo screen-printed fabric is not at all practical for upholstery so if I decide to sit on it I will probably cover it with a sheepskin rug. 




With some trepidation I screen-printed the giant doily onto a plasticky fake linen roller blind using opaque white ink. I would only have one shot at not smudging or flooding the print and to my relief it worked perfectly. 



I had run out of linen (having made a few too many mistakes) to make a lampshade and re-cover a shabby foot-stool so I had to settle for heavy calico instead. The lampshade kit that I had bought drowned the small, cheap table lamp that I had bought for the purpose so I painted an IKEA pine standard lamp. I was impressed by how easy that project was! 



The footstool was more fiddly as my side panel measurements were wrong and I had allowed extra fabric for the top since it was padded. My solution was to staple the top piece on and hand sew the sides onto that - pompom trim will finish that off nicely;) Now that my main exhibition pieces are done I might think of some smaller accessories. Should I make a chicken-shaped doorstop?!




Sunday, 26 January 2020

Sweating the Small Stuff



I felt like I spent my entire week rushing to fit in meals and appointments, getting unnecessarily stressed by trivia. Despite that, I fitted in 3 simple customer quilts and celebrated my birthday. Even though I was not in India as planned, my girls made it special with lovely cards and gifts. The next day we drove Freya down to St Andrews to begin her final semester of 4th year. It is incredible how quickly her time at Uni has gone. 





It was a relief that Saturday was a day that I did not have to be anywhere and since it was dry I decided that the Ercol rocking chair would be sanded down for the last time. I did not have any wood oil or wax polish handy so I rubbed it over with the stuff that is meant for re-treating wax jackets and it looks fine. It is not a professional job by any means but it looks serviceable and will have cushions on it which will hide the tiny areas of dark stain that I could not completely remove. I have to decide whether it has white or navy screen-printed cushions - my preference is for blue but Mo, the upholstery expert disagrees;) I have bought a cheapo-nasty roller blind and a basic lamp because I plan to make a mini room set of screen-printed fabrics to display at the end of year Grays student show.





Bit by bit, I constructed all 20 Rainbow Warli blocks but they are not all exactly the same size. My large table is not big enough to lay them all out so I need a still, dry day to lay them on the grass to decide what order they should go in. I intend to fill the gaps with skinny pieced strips until it all more or less fits together, which will be a bit of a jigsaw. Why I can’t work to an exact size is beyond me…