Sunday, 13 September 2020

The Unknown




 I had 2 customer big quilts this week that each required 2 days of automated quilting. One was a quilt that I have done before, UK part-work magazine quilt that takes 2 years,  almost £400.00 in subscription fees, without backing, wadding and finishing costs! It just goes to show how much money and time could be saved by joint a group or guild that could offer friendly advice to novice quilters.

The other project that I undertook was sewing up a boiled wool coat - I have had the fabric and pattern for a few years but always put it off out of fear of messing up. Inevitably, I did manage to get the pockets and collar inside out but I fixed it and am pleased with it.




Freya is excitedly preparing to move to Glasgow to start a 2 year Masters program at the University since taking a year out in 2020 to work and travel has proved to be a fruitless exercise. We have enjoyed taking time together to make sourdough bread, preserves and digging out quilts for her new flat.


Nella had a difficult online appointment with her doctors on Friday. They insisted that she should be told about her recent weight loss and her irrational anorexic logic has made her more determined to lose more weight, instead of being alarmed at her the damage to her health. She has now gone on hunger strike and it looks likely that she will be admitted to hospital. Despite my efforts to care for her at home for the past year to support her strong vegan views, the gradual improvements of the first six months were wiped out by a lack of appointments during lockdown. Hospitalisation looks like the only possible route now, which fills us both with dread for different reasons. What the future holds is simply unknown and will definitely not be simple.



Sunday, 6 September 2020

Exploration or Avoidance?

 I started the week all fired up to make short instructional videos, kicking off with showing how to make an elasticated bowl cover. I was just filming this on my own using my phone, using the Apple Watch as a remote control. I realised that things need to be recorded in several takes, possibly having done an entire project as a practice. I did not use any of the footage but put it down as a good dummy run. 

Logistically, if I don’t manage to teach online I wondered about a Plan B and made a list of things that I could potentially sell in an Etsy shop, trying to make use of my screen printing. I liked the idea of making a baker’s set, including a crossover apron, bread bag and bowl cover. I had a large piece of dyed linen curtain fabric but it was not wide enough so I had to cut and rejoin it. My conclusion is that I don’t think aprons are cost effective in terms of time and materials, especially when perfectly nice and ready-made ones can be ordered online. 





I finished off a macrame bag using pink, cotton cord, whereas the one in the book had used jute twine. I tried to follow the author’s instructions but as usual, some of it was just gobbledygook. I hid one or two minor errors and changed the way the bag got joined at the bottom but it looks pretty good all the same. I always wonder what to do with all of the bits of string that are left over so I decided to make a couple of rope bowls. 


It was a week of messing about experimenting with small projects. I decided to make some fresh ginger cordial by boiling up root ginger and a sugar syrup. Unfortunately, I forgot about it for 4 hours and when I returned I had made tar, not even treacle toffee. However, I did have success at making Bombay Mix noodles. It would seem that there is a secret ingredient that makes them go crispy - chickpea flour / gram PLUS rice or tapioca flour. I used the Sev maker that I bought from a street vendor in Jaipur and deep-fried them in hot oil over a camping gas stove. To get them extra crispy, I finished them off in the dehydrator. I know I can buy Bombay Mix cheaply but it was fun to make my own. 





One other domestic chore that I did was to restore some copper measuring cups that I bought on Ebay. They were tarnished so I cleaned them up with brown sauce, barkeeper’s friend and finally Brasso! They are probably not very practical but they look nice now.




There is no doubt that coming up with all of these distractions was because I am trying to process the news that Nella’s anorexia seems to be on the rise again. She went for her first physical checks since before lockdown and the results were disappointing. I have the challenge of getting her to eat more, especially protein, with her threatening to go on hunger strike if I try to change or increase her very restricted diet. Somehow I need to work out how to deal with that yet maintain a sense of balance, allowing myself some time to explore projects that might keep me sane in a topsy-turvy world.

Sunday, 30 August 2020

Some Productivity

 Another week has gone by and I wonder what I did to faff my way through it! There was one big, colourful customer quilt. I tried to quilt rainbows onto it but the pattern kept crashing the system so I used a substitute pattern called “Dizzy Izzy”.

Nessie tried out her new, fleece rain suit. She was not altogether pleased at putting it on and taking it off but once it was on she did not mind at all and it kept her clean on a muddy walk.





Freya and I both made new sourdough starters for bread making.  I was excited when my KitchenAid pasta press finally arrived after months of back order and I made some vegan macaroni, substituting egg for a paste of ground flaxseed. This dried successfully in the dehydrator which is more than I can say for my semi-dried tomatoes and blueberries which obviously should have been vacuum packed since both went horribly mouldy in their soft state. 





I made 2 wearable pyjama tops using the simple and voluminous Athina pattern. My overlocker decided that it did not want to sew properly so I spent most of a day servicing it, panicking that it might have to be sent away for weeks or be replaced. I tipped it upside down to clear out fluff, changed needles and the blade, before finally realising that a tiny spring had jumped out of place. That was enormously satisfying. My next challenge was remembering how to thread the cover-lock machine to finish the hems. It is not actually complicated, just fiddly and would not have taken so long if I had consulted the instruction manual sooner rather than later.


After months of procrastinating, I got Freya to film an off-the-cuff workshop/studio tour that I have uploaded to YouTube. It was really just to check that I could make a half decent video and see if it would spur me on to having a go at some instructional videos. I had forgotten how much I enjoy making informal, short clips so despite the dark clouds of Covid and Nella’s illness, I hope to go ahead and make some more. It is quite surprising what people watch on YouTube - this week (for research) we have watched videos on garden tours, grinding flour at home, macrame bags, spice jar organisation and even stationery shopping. 





There has been a nip of autumn in the air so I guess summer is “officially” over. I need to do what I have not done in months and make some To-Do lists. Apart from getting brave enough to make more videos I need a proper project of some sort as I have not quilted in earnest for ages.

Sunday, 23 August 2020

Cutting Some Slack

 

For some time on my blog there has been the theme of feeling of guilt at not being busy or creative enough. I keep telling myself that I will move forward when the summer is “officially” over. Well, schools in Scotland have gone back after a much longer than usual break. The nights are drawing in, the rowan berries are on the trees and there is a nip in the air but as far as I am concerned, it is still officially summer! I managed to quash most of my guilt and spend most of the week just pottering, getting some useful things done on the way.

I had to quilt the Postcard from Sweden quilt over 2 days because the pattern was intense but I saved the project and opened it up without any bother on day 2. I love the “Folk Flowers” pattern by Sunstone Quilting and I think it looks fab on the rainbow triangles. I made a scrappy binding and sewed the topside down by machine with a blanket stitch. The quilt has gone on my bed, even though it does not co-ordinate at all with anything else in the room. I don’t care - it is joyful:)




Having used a decorative stitch on my binding, I decided to use an obvious zigzag stitch on two customer bindings. It is actually much easier than keeping a straight line dead straight, especially if a customer happens to have provided one that varies in width throughout. 






Nessie was given a clean bill of health at her post-op checkup and is totally back to her usual naughty self:)


I made two macrame projects using green cord which was thinner than I had expected. It is a nice colour but not as chunky as I would have liked. That is the trouble with placing an online order. I have now cut a lot of pink cord for a bag but I can’t seem to understand step 1!





Over the course of the last week or so I have posted 10 days of quilt photos on social media. This was a really good exercise in reminding myself about how many interesting things I have made over the years. I was really hunting around for photos because my laptop had crashed and seemingly lost everything. I decided to try once more to see if anything useful had been stored on my external hard drive. After some serious rummaging, I was delighted to find files that were hiding deep inside other files and I now have all of my old stuff back, including my kids’ photos! Just that should go down as a major achievement of the week. 


My next mission is to make decent lasagne pasta using the KitchenAid. I have rolled out extremely rustic flat bits of dough that look nothing like the ones in the instruction book. I think mine may be a bit chewy. 


I still have not come up with a next major project but my kids suggested that I do a YouTube studio tour so maybe I will look into that. In the meantime, I have ordered some unicorn and hedgehog stretch jersey for PJ’s so that should keep me busy for now...

Sunday, 16 August 2020

Avoidance Tactics



I am a great one for finding alternative things to do when I am putting things off. I am not entirely sure what that might be - probably expenses, plucking up the courage to teach online, tackling the airing cupboard, planning a new show quilt...


I turned down 2 large commissions this week. One was a quilt to be made from scratch involving traditional appliqué, which is not my forte and the other was a rush custom quilting job. The customer had very specific design requests on a massive quilt to be completed in less than 2 weeks. I decided that I just did not need the stress of that demanding deadline and I felt relieved to have decided not to take it on.


I worked on the Postcard from Sweden quilt, telling myself that it is still technically the summer holidays so I can do what I like. I suppose at some point I will have to something that feels like actual work again. 




The quilt had to be sorted into piles so the colours stayed where they were meant to be according to the pattern. I may have muddled a few but it is pretty close to the original. I decided to press all of the seams open. Since I did not use pins or trim every block to an exact size, not every single point is perfect but that was not really what this project was about for me. It was simply to give myself some quilting “downtime”. I even quilted it using the Qmatic because I wanted to use the “Funky Flower” digital pattern by Natalia Majors. 


My time was also taken up with trying to decide what macrame project to tackle next. The instructions in my new books are all Greek to me or I have the wrong size of cord. Rather than master simple plant hangers I want to tackle the most complicated item, obviously! I am still obsessively ploughing my way through Duolingo, even some of its obscure phrases - “At this height agriculture is not possible”, not seeming like the handiest sentence I would ever need to know. Despite 6 months of learning this way I am still far from fluent, clueless in grammar or able to hold a conversation but I have a wider German vocabulary on the days that I can actually remember the new words.


I called the vet to enquire when I should book Nessie in to be spayed because I do not want her to end up with the same health issues that Bumble had later in life. Two days later she had the major operation. She was groggy and wobbly afterwards but amazingly, soon back to her usual self, chasing the cats and jumping onto the sofa. 




The weather forecast is for rain all of next week so maybe that would be a good time to do some forward planning - or alternatively, some macrame;)

Sunday, 9 August 2020

There are Bigger Things in Life



I have to keep telling myself that there are bigger things in Life than worrying that I may not have a useful “plan” of what I should be doing each day. The horrific explosion in Beirut and the ongoing Pandemic are sharp reminders that it does not matter one jot to humanity if I decide to spend hours knotting string or make a quilt just because I feel like it. I should stop feeling guilty about how I fill my days. I do not mean that to sound like I am belittling world events - it is just that in the grand scheme of things, my minor stresses are simply irrelevant. 


This week I had coffee at home with friends whom I had not seen in weeks, walked the dog, kept up with Nella’s routine, worked obsessively through Duolingo German quizzes and simply kept going with daily life.


I am still not an expert at using a narrow Hemmer foot, have not made any Youtube tutorials, have not shaved my legs and, have not picked every single cherry from the trees in the garden.


However, I did print out a free pattern from Tessuti to make the Athina top which was easy. I used a piece of African cotton which is a bit stiff, even after a hot wash but it is still a wearable garment. 




I tied many, many knots to make a short curtain for Nella’s cupboard. I am very good at some of the basic knots and just made it up as I went along.




My Postcards from Sweden kit arrived and I have made the first row. It is an easy quilt except you do have to keep track of the colours, some of which are very similar to each other. 




I keep saying I will take a few days holiday but that is easier said than done. Therefore, I must allow myself time to slow down. Perhaps I should carry on with a few low key projects for now and hope to have a re-boot in the autumn.

Sunday, 2 August 2020

Added Extras





Throwing caution to the wind, I “allowed” myself time to complete the Virtual log cabin quilt at the start of the week. I decided to do it all using the quilt computer so started with some tight spirals then quilted a large Warli pattern over the top of that with bold, yellow cotton thread. I bound it and put it straight onto our scruffy, family sofa, upon which pets are welcome to perch. I have not liked a quilt quite so much for ages. Firstly, it is getting seen every day and I love all of the random fabrics surrounding the cheerful yellow centres. I really like how a truly scrappy quilt which uses many different pieces is a surprise and how an “anything goes” approach makes it so much more interesting. 




I did actually do a couple of customer quilts and apart from expecting one or two to arrive by post, have caught up again for now.



This left me time to mess about with other projects. I actually made a lightweight tunic-dress using the Wiksten pattern. I applied my measurements to the size chart and made a very generous version. I am not sure whether it is actually too big - the danger of down-sizing would have been that it may have been too fitted. At any rate - it was easy! I added some top-stitching, learned what “under-stitching” means and went on to make a matching hair-band and face mask. Maybe I do look like a fancy surgeon;)





Because I don’t have any particular projects or deadlines I treated myself to a summer holiday book on macrame. It is jam packed with over ambitious items. I started with a covered jam jar, could not follow the secret code on how to end it so made it up until it looked finished. I really want to make the fabulous indoor tent but dread to think how much the frame and over 6000 feet of rope might cost.





The other dead-end alley that I took myself up was trying to use special narrow hem feet to make a tiny napkin hem. Nella questioned why I was actually bothering because how many napkins and bandanas do I realistically need to make? However, it became a matter of principle. The long and the short of it is that there are many different variations of hem feet and several YouTube videos but I have still not sussed it. I already had one foot which must be for chiffon and I bought another one that seems to be for zigzagging but I think I want one in between, just in case I decide to srcreenprint and sell napkins at a Farmer’s Market... and who is to say that I might not?!




Sunday, 26 July 2020

A Few Stitches




I consider it a successful week if I manage to get 3 basic customer quilts done in one week. I know a longarm quilter who can turn out 3 a day using 3 machines and an assistant, which I think is an incredible rate. I downloaded a new digital pattern called “Folkart Flowers” by Natalia Majors of Sunstone Quilting because I plan to quilt my Swedish Postcards quilt with it (although the kit has not yet arrived). I had to convert the digital file into the Bernina format using ArtnStitch but after that it worked well and was not too slow for such a busy design. 




I treated myself to a couple of days off and made enough “ethnic” log cabin blocks for a quilt that will fit a single bed or the sofa - 70 blocks of roughly 7.5” square. I simply had a stack of yellow centre squares and a box full of 1.5” wide strips. The fabrics were Indian, African, Aboriginal and Indonesian, mixed in with shot cottons. Some of them frayed very badly but I just lined up the outer threads with the edge of the patchwork piece underneath my sewing machine and sewed with small stitches. The log cabin strip arrangement varied because it was intended as a scrappy quilt and I did not want it to look planned.




Most evenings I have watched YouTube demos on how Vloggers make quality “content”. Nella says I am over-thinking the process and just need to crack on with making some simple videos. Admittedly, I have got carried away by the technology. The original intention was to offer individual Zoom lessons with good audio and possibly 2 cameras so I need to stop thinking about it and just get on with it. I could have a practice with showing someone how to make hair scrunchies, as requested by Nella. I found so many demos on the internet but some of them are unnecessarily fiddly. The best method on YouTube, involving no hand sewing was by SewVeryEasy. We used organza - I am sure this can be done entirely on the overlocker with a rolled hem but I have not quite worked out what happens when the tube gets joined to make it as simple as possible. Obviously, to make life easier we could just buy scrunchies but there would be no challenge there;)

Nessie finally got a professional haircut this week. Bumble’s groomer had reopened after Lockdown. I warned her that Nessie thinks brushing is a naughty game. Let’s just say, I don’t think Nessie was very co-operative so it is a wonder that she came home looking so nicely trimmed. 

Whether she was in a grumpy mood after that or whether she she just got carried away I don’t really know but I went to pick up her ball that evening for one last throw and she bit my finger. Her puppy teeth were sharp enough but her adult teeth are fearsome. I got a deeply gashed puncture wound. Freya insisted that I should have it checked at A&E because I did not know if I had a lifetime dose of anti-tetanus.  I was examined by a triage nurse on arrival then I was sent to wait in a different area for the tetanus shot and sutures. There was nobody about and yet I waited... and waited. I became increasingly annoyed that half a dozen receptionists and security guards or porters seemed to be hanging around chatting, not making any efforts to maintain a social distance and not wearing face masks, despite multiple notices ordering all staff to do just that. I enquired how much longer I would have to wait for such a simple procedure but was told that the medical staff were really busy since each patient had to have their own examination room due to the risks of Covid-19. After 3 hours I left without treatment, absolutely fuming. If that is the situation on a quiet Tuesday night what happens on a boozy weekend night where there might also be a major traffic incident? I felt that some of the surplus and frankly, arsey admin staff could be swapped for First-Aiders. The next day I got patched up and dosed against tetanus by a nurse at the doctor’s surgery in under 3 minutes! It’s a good job I don’t need to do any hand sewing as it will be a while before it heals. I believe I will be watching dog training videos on Youtube this week...

Sunday, 19 July 2020

I Should be on Holiday

Holiday Snap from 2019


Under normal circumstances I would probably be on holiday at this time of year - usually visiting family in Norfolk, possibly a music festival, maybe a trip to the seaside, or rummaging in junk shops. A Pandemic and caring for a severely anorexic child has put the khybosh on all that this year. It is not that I need to be away somewhere, necessarily. I just want a mental break - from meal preparation, supervision, and carrying out the same routine every single day. In my head I want to have someone deliver snacks and drinks and I want to read a book all day. That is not actually what I would normally do on holiday - it is all a fantasy. I find it difficult to switch off and suffer from guilt if I am not constantly on the go or creating something. I have always had a project underway or an adventure planned. I have not even been bothering to post much on Facebook as everything seems  so mundane, even though I never used to post anything of national importance anyway.

In the meantime, apart from working on customer quilts I have occupied myself by... re-covering my 2 disgusting ironing boards, made an elasticated fruit bowl cover, completed rewriting my lost spreadsheets, obsessively done Duolingo German and EVEN washed the glass lampshades in the kitchen which I can only face doing once in a blue moon! 

 Customer Quilt



 Updated ironing boards


I got a bit carried away with the idea of teaching online so I have ordered all sorts of amateur videography gear that will allow me to deliver good quality sound and audio. I am having a bit of a funk about what I can actually teach as it seems that the internet is awash with expert tutorials so what could I possibly add that might be of interest?

 Quilt Kit from Tartan Reel


I have ordered a “Postcards from Sweden” quilt kit - I don’t have to come up with a plan, just sew together some pre-selected fabric and simply enjoy the process. Hopefully, that will give me a boost to come up with some new ideas.

Sunday, 12 July 2020

Dressmaking is Like Pregnancy!



I had one of those weeks that felt really busy and quite stressful but I can hardly remember what I actually did. There were 3 customer quilts and I ran up a few more face-masks. It rained a lot, I practised my German and I did not catch up with any paperwork. I spent far more time than was necessary researching microphones for teaching over Zoom - apparently people can put up with a dodgy camera but not poor quality sound. 

On Saturday I tackled sewing up the Collins Top. I swear that every time I attempt dressmaking I vow never to do it again. Like being pregnant, the mind forgets the agonies and persuades you that this time round everything will be easy. There really was nothing wrong with the pattern. On the whole I understood it except when it explained how to attach the sleeves. The problems were entirely of my own making. I was not sure if I had lengthened the pattern pieces correctly and soon discovered that some bits needed to be chopped off. I cut a notch right in the middle of the front panel so had to make a kantha stitched repair patch. I used the overlocker to construct the whole thing, deciding that if it went wrong I would just chuck it and I attached the neck binding as if it was a quilt. Nella reminded me that I always get totally stressed out by dressmaking and I really should not waste my time but by then I was already looking at kimono style jacket patterns and admiring the French seams inside a tunic top that a street tailor made for me in India. 

Much to my surprise, it is actually a wearable garment. The 16 pieces went together well, although none of my pattern notches matched or they got sliced off by the overlocker. I might make it again under supervision or I could simply give the pattern to a friend so I don’t feel so guilty!

Sunday, 5 July 2020

Why did I buy...?


I spent almost all week continuing to sort through my workshop. It often seems to happen when I have finished a major project. It is not as if it was very untidy - it just felt a bit crammed and there were quite a few cobwebs. I was ruthless with scraps, particularly small, plain pieces. I have plenty of larger, plain pieces and could not face fiddling about with a huge box of little bits. I got rid of dried up leather that came off old armchairs and discovered over 10 metres of brassy, gold stretch spandex. Why did I buy all that? I know I used bronze spandex for the coracle and some gold lame for my totems but I cannot think what I intended to do with so much stretchy gold!

The more I tidied, the more obsessive I became about getting everything look neat. It is not exactly a working environment having an immaculate space but psychologically it clears the decks to think about what the next project might become. Since the dump had opened I was able to get rid of a cardboard mountain that had taken over the garage. I offered the defunct Scanncut machine free for spares/repairs on Facebook and it got collected the same day.






In between the house-keeping I attached the binding to a customer quilt and had my first online Zoom session with Bernina colleagues. The sound and camera was better than any Skype call I have ever had. It was good to know that virtual teaching is entirely possible, although not absolutely perfect.



The last time we had decent weather I ordered a pattern from The Fold Line for a “Collins Top”. There are something like 16 pieces and then I realised that it was a fairly short top so I would prefer to lengthen it. Contrary to what I thought, garments are lengthened somewhere in the middle, rather than at the bottom. I followed the instructions on The Fold Line blog but so far I have not plucked up the courage to sew it together in case it is yet another home-made garment that does not fit. Face masks will be mandatory in Scotland so I feel obliged to make some more, even though I have not really been anywhere since March. Maybe I should not have been so hasty to get rid of my scraps!