Sunday, 8 December 2019

All I Want for Christmas



Freya asked what I would like for Christmas and I could think of absolutely nothing that I “need” or even want - except that I would love to have my life back! I cannot make any bookings to teach quilting away from home or even schedule classes here, I have no foreign trips or holidays planned and some days that simply gets to me. (Don’t feel sorry for me - I just have to sulk occasionally) I am grateful that I have been able to support Nella in long battle with Anorexia and things have improved but there are really no days off for either of us. Something that I struggle with in life is not having a plan for the day. I hate waking up and not knowing what I will make or do! 

I felt that I should be making hand-made gifts of some sort but could not decide on what or for whom so on a whim I rustled up a couple of sets of practical, padded microwave bowl cozies. They may sound naff but they are really handy and prevent scalds when serving individual portions of hot soup or porridge.



I decided that I need a ready-to-go project so I cut out some more hen blocks by “Cluck, Cluck Sew”. I hope I don’t run into trouble for not pre-washing the Indian indigo which left my hands blue after cutting;) 

Nella and I had a go at a Regan sweatshirt top from “Sew Me Something”. We used an interlock jersey and striped, stretchy ribbing for cuffs and collar. The jersey was a bargain so we could have a go and not worry about messing up. However, I did not expect it to be peppered with little holes so I have had to make a complaint to the supplier. We did the whole project using the overlocker and coverlocker. The instructions are clear and easy to follow - we added a turtle neck instead of a t-shirt neck and when we make another, will add pockets. I was impressed that we coped with the stretchy fabric and actually made a wearable garment. 



I received a lovely parcel from Germany this week - Regina sent me some vintage doilies that she came across when clearing her Mother-in-Law’s house, along with 2 big bags of Haribos (not part of the house clearance!) The doilies are great so I think I will have to draw them out on acetate in order to make screens - maybe these might replace one of those that I did before. I printed some of the screen-print doilies out onto IKEA cushions and they look like festive snowflakes on the pale blue or red cushions.

Nella and I went into Aberdeen for late-night shopping on Thursday evening. It was not a serious shopping trip and we only went to John Lewis. It was great because it was almost deserted which is just how I like it! The rest of my purchases will be made online and locally. Mind you, before the Christmas countdown totally takes over we have to celebrate Fergus’ 18th birthday so I have 2 lots of unique presents to source within 2 weeks;)


Sunday, 1 December 2019

Some Project Time



I can’t tell you how long it took me to browse images of clothes peg bag images before choosing the first one I found. I made my Mother a smart, new peg bag for Christmas since that is what she asked for. I could probably make more of those or cosmetics bags or some other complicated projects or actually nothing at all;)

I completed 3 blissfully straightforward customer quilts in short order, even though one had a back that was slightly too small. I simply advised the customer to apply extra wide binding. That left me the rest of my time to work on some of my remaining Rainbow Warli blocks. 



Obviously I had to fiddle with the perfectly good settings that I had previously settled on for making eyelets. Once the eyelets were made they were sewn onto squares of silver lame so they look like shisha mirrors. I added a touch of silver glitter paint to each one just to seal the thread ends. 



The organza Warli blocks were not as great as I had hoped because it would seem that not all organza is the same. Some did not burn right off with the soldering iron which was disappointing so I wondered whether to fill in the twin needle stripes with silver foil or glitter but it made the figures look they were in jail. Just to see what it would look like I tested out a sample of rustic Kantha stitching with razzle-dazzle thread in case I decide to add some insane stitching to the finished quilt. I am hoping that when Freya is home at Christmas I might get “free” time to lay the whole quilt out or at least work out what it could be - quilt, canopy or tent…




The thing I was most excited by this week was deciding to make a screen-print table top. I was lucky that a nice young man offered to help me get my MDF into the back of the Landy otherwise I would have had to go back into the shop to buy rope to strap it onto the roof. I stapled down 4 layers of quilt wadding plus a layer of heavyweight muslin and now have a padded printing surface the same size as my farmhouse table. I tested it out by printing some doilies onto plain cushions which I will give away as gifts.  




I have now ordered an unmarked heavy duty cutting mat that can sit on top when I am not printing so there will be no excuse for Nella and I not to become good at dressmaking - or at the very least we might get good at cutting the patterns out;)

Sunday, 24 November 2019

Feeling Blue and Willow Too


It was the last evening class of the year for Textile Printing so I had to really shift to get everything done. There were some successes and some minor disasters. My final acetate design did not quite fit onto its screen which was disappointing and I left a piece of polycotton devore in the oven for too long so it simply burned. However, the huge doily printed with navy blue procion dye paste onto calico worked beautifully. I took the smaller screens home to experiment with before the class restarts in January and I have already printed colour discharge paste onto Indian indigo fabric. It was done in a hurry without a decent printing surface in poor light onto creased fabric but it seemed to come out quite well all the same.




Nella and I managed to complete the fine corduroy dress and finished the hem on our new Bernette Funlock 42 coverstitch machine. The frock looks really cute and Christmassy and we feel inspired to have a go with some jersey fabric. I wasted a lot of time trying to find cheap jersey to practise with online. It would be far better to buy it from an actual shop but there is nowhere I can think of anywhere remotely local that would stock any. I have seen some lovely jersey knit on a Norwegian website but I want to feel confident that we can make something wearable before spending too much on nice fabric. 



I finally completed the Christmas Tree quilt that I had been working on for a customer. I thought the background quilting was never going to end! It does look good, even though I say so myself;) While I was busy doing that Nella made good progress on her first pair of knitted socks. I am very impressed that she can manage 3 knitting needles. Her physical health is getting better but she is still suffering mental anguish from anorexia. I keep hoping that as her nutrition improves her mental health will follow.





We both went to a willow weaving workshop with expert basket maker, Helen Jackson, to learn how to make deers and trees. The class was relaxed and easy - we came home thrilled with our very rustic Christmas decorations. 



Bumble the Scottie Dog stopped eating, became very frail and kept looking for a corner to hide in. We were with her when she died and even though it had been expected for a while we were devasted. I felt as though my shadow had disappeared and kept expecting her to be under my desk or in the workshop. Although I only had her for a couple of years in her old age she was my best furry friend ever and I will miss her dreadfully.






Sunday, 17 November 2019

Bumbling Along



Life is just bumbling along at present which is kind of fine in that it could be far worse. Nella is not in hospital and the feeding regime is slightly easier now that there is a pattern. She hates having to admit that she looks forward to porridge since Anorexics do not allow themselves to gain any pleasure from food. It is a very slow recovery, and I am definitely hopeful that it is a recovery, although she is still desperate to lose an extreme amount of weight and over exercise so the surveillance level is still high. I keep distracting her with projects and we will be attempting to make a corduroy dress even though I find dressmaking challenging. I would rather analyse Hamlet - one of the texts that she is meant to be studying for Higher English.

I honestly don’t know how much longer Bumble will bumble along for. She has done remarkably well for weeks despite her many tumours but lately she is hardly eating which means she is not taking any medicine. She would really just like to sleep under my desk without even having to go out for a pee. My shaggy pal is wobbly on her legs and deaf as a post  but in her usual fashion is not making a woof of complaint.

I spent the entire session of my evening class trying to wash out the photo emulsion from my giant doily screen-print. I only had time to rush off one quick print to see if it had all developed crisply but I used a squeegee that was too narrow, very thin fabric, runny ink and flooded the design so I am not sure yet if it is a good print or not. I really did wonder what possessed me to create such a large and complex design. If I cover a chair the design will be chopped off and the screen itself is challenging to handle. I have ordered some plain indigo fabric that I intend to treat with discharge paste and some poly-cotton to try out devoré. Unfortunately there is only one session left this term at the evening class so I won’t be able to continue with my experiments until the New Year. I will bring the smaller screens home and attempt some prints but the huge one will have to stay at the Art School. 






I am making slow progress on the background quilting of the Christmas customer quilt. I felt rusty to begin with but I soon became more fluid again. I cannot fit in more than an hour of quilting in a day so it is taking me far longer than usual and getting sidetracked with minor projects such as making flannel make-up removal pads is not helping;) I expect I will go off on a silly tangent to construct a dozen or more pattern weights if Nella wants to become a dressmaking pro;)

Sunday, 10 November 2019

Infinitesimal Progress




I completed all of the stitch in the ditch and clamshells on my customer quilt and decided that the freehand background quilting could be put off until later so I could attempt to draw out my large doily on acetate ready to print at the next evening class. 

At 28” diameter and ridiculously small doodling I felt that this could be an impossible task. I worked on it almost constantly and by Sunday evening, finished everything apart from where the two pieces of acetate join. I wish I had bought an A1 piece so there was no join but I hope that if I finish that part in class I may make it as seamless as possible.




I exposed and printed 3 new screens but I am not sure whether to ditch one of them since it is so dense that it is almost impossible to see the pattern. Leaving sufficient negative space is often my downfall!




Nella had a good week - she seems to be thinking of the future more positively and currently wants to study Fashion and Textiles at college. We had a good meeting at her school where it was decided that she should only attempt to sit one of her Highers this year so the pressure is off, allowing her to concentrate on recovery. She allowed herself to drink more than one cup of tea throughout each day this week and she actually requested porridge for breakfast. We had a short visit into town for the first time in ages, visited 4 shops and the whole trip was completed in less than 2 hours. This really seems like a move in the right direction but I know cannot relax at all in the battle to restore her health.


Sunday, 3 November 2019

Wild but Mild Weekend



Nella’s motivation for eating this week was the anticipation of an overnight stay with Freya in St Andrews to see the Rocky Horror Picture Show. I packaged up food with a military precision so I could be super organised in advance. We had a great visit - the show was raucous fun, we did a little frivolous shopping and spent time with a couple of Freya’s friends who came over to explain how to play old-school “Dungeons & Dragons”. Since the weather was unusually mild we even managed to go to the Banchory Bonfire and Fireworks on Saturday night for an hour. It all reminded her that her life could be so different if she can beat Anorexia but she did feel down afterwards, having no next big event to look forward to. We will plan small milestones such as a trip into Aberdeen or a visit to the cinema, things that we have not been able to do for months.






I started a Christmas customer quilt which I can work on for an hour at a time over the next week or so, deciding that for simplicity all of the trees will be quilted the same with small clamshells but the background quilting will be snowy and wild. 



I printed a pink screen-print doily onto the black camouflage fabric which looks really vibrant - maybe it could become a cushion or a funky cosmetics bag. The extra large doily is taking ages to draw out - after 4 hours I had not even completed the full outline so the detail will keep me busy for a while. I hope the crochet has not distorted too much from a circle into a sort-of squashed ellipse but then again maybe it will look more authentic if it is a bit wonky. 

The week ahead will include a couple of simple craft projects, the Christmas quilting and some school work - I have to brush up on Hamlet quotes!



Sunday, 27 October 2019

A Different Birthday



It was lovely to have Freya home during Reading Week. Not only did we enjoy her company but it was such a relief to have someone else here to supervise Nella and offer distractions at mealtimes. We did not go anywhere or do anything exciting but she got some Uni work done and enjoyed the luxury of a few home comforts. I made her a new make-up bag a a small thank you, accidentally making the base wider than I intended but she said that made the contents more accessible. 



Everyone was dreading a birthday without cake, food, a party or an outing but Nella’s 16th birthday was enjoyable in the end. I surprised her with a balloon banner and Freya helped to wake her up, singing “Happy Birthday” by Altered Images. She appreciated receiving lovely cruelty-free toiletries and cosy PJs. We went for a gentle walk at Crathes Castle in the autumn sunshine then her friends came over in the evening to carve pumpkins. She said afterwards that she had had a super day but realised that it could have been so much more without the pall of Anorexia so hopefully that gives me some hope for the future.




I quilted, bound and posted 2 customer quilts and got a Christmas custom job ready to go for next week. At least I have already done an identical Christmas quilt for the same customer so I should not take long deciding what patterns to choose. 




I have laid out my giant 28” doily under a large sheet of acetate to work on a bit at a time and I still have some smaller ones to draw. I now have an idea that I might print blue and white overlapping doilies onto rustic linen. I experimented with a print paste of procion dye and Manutex gel and love how it looks so much “inkier” than screenprint pigment which dries more like fabric paint. Just for fun I bought a piece of black camouflage cotton on Ebay that I may print with bright pink ink or gold foil - just because I can;)

Sunday, 20 October 2019

Sofa So Good



The new-old sofa in the workshop has been a great success - I have been heading straight out to my workshop after a morning cuppa to get started on customer quilts for an hour or two then Nella can have an after breakfast snooze while I continue. That is how I got 5 customer quilts done this week, nothing custom - just utility but all very nice. Since it is officially half-term we have not felt obliged to keep up with school work but I will have to mug up on Hamlet before the new term.







I had a go at screen-printing foil glue and applied gold transfer foil to my doilies. One was a bit splodgey but the other was quite crisp. The gold foil is rather a yellow gold and would probably look better on hot pink fabric but I bought 6 metres so I will just have to use it somehow. I have decided to go with the doily theme now that I have started. A fellow student wondered why I did not just sew doilies onto cushions instead of printing them but I never actually said I was simply going to make cushions;) I do have another, separate idea in mind as well so we will see what happens. I invested in a few blank screens and one ridiculously large one so I really need to come up with a project to use them on.




I made a couple of bolster cushions from some African wax fabric that Freya brought from Tanzania. The Youtube videos on how to attach zips to bolster cushion covers were useless but I figured it out. I foolishly decided to ignore the advice about Pi when measuring up the cushion tube but I winged it and produced 2 piped cushions that look acceptable. 

I took Nella for a pre-birthday hair colour and cut. We started off with the mirror covered but she managed to relax and enjoy the experience. I enjoyed a fringe benefit and persuaded the hairdresser to cut mine so I can actually see out. 



Our week was generally mundane and of a strict routine but at present that is fine. Bumble is still my best canine pal, despite having lost a lot of weight due to cancer and she sleeps most of the time. Even the vet is amazed that she is still around and since she does not appear to be in any pain I hope that will be for a while longer!


Sunday, 13 October 2019

Where Do We Go From Here?



Just when I thought things were going well with re-feeding Nella, I was told that she had lost another 1.2kg by secretly exercising, panicking that she was putting on weight. I was furious and told her that if I find out that it is continuing I will pack her bag and drive her straight to hospital. She was genuinely sorry and scared so I have had to be even more vigilant, stepping up the quantity of nuts and swapping low calorie almond milk for a fortified coconut milk. I read a book called “Brave Girl Eating” where the mother battled with her daughter’s anorexia for a year, somehow getting her to consume 4000 calories per day to restore health. I have no idea how I am even going to get close to that on a strict vegan regime.

By getting up earlier I managed to fit in 4 customer quilts in bursts before breakfast and during the afternoon while Nella worked on school assignments. I showed her how to do free motion stitching and she took to it straight away so she might put some examples into her Art portfolio.






Nella is utterly exhausted most of the time and struggles to sit at the table in my workshop for long so I decided to look for a second-hand, small sofa or a “fainting couch”. I found one on Facebook and collected it in the back of the Landy with the door open, strapping it in with ropey granny-knots. It fits perfectly and looks great covered in an old quilt so hopefully I will be able to get a bit more quilting done if she is warm and comfortable.




I went to my evening class on printed textiles and developed the acetate that I had drawn of a crochet doily onto a photo-emulsion screen.  I really could not decide on a theme so I thought this could be a good starting point to get back into screen-printing. I was amazed at the detail of the print using opaque white printing ink on white cotton and rough, organic linen. It looks like this will definitely be the theme that I develop this term so I have drawn out 2 more doilies and plan to draw one that has a diameter of 28 inches. It will take ages - I have no idea what I will turn it into but I think it will work.





The grand tidy-up has now made its way out to the summerhouse which is now Fergus’ music studio. He is obviously incapable of organising it himself so Nella and I will supervise. The part we like the best is the IKEA pegboard with all of its neat accessories. I have put one up in the kitchen in an attempt to get clutter off my worktop. I think it is wonderful and would love to put it up everywhere there is a spare piece of wall!