Sunday, 19 December 2010

Shopping for a Fur Coat

I attended Freya's first secondary school Parents' Evening after she gave me a stern warning not to stand out too much; she even tried to convince me to wear a smart cardigan. The temperature outside was plummeting again so she had to suffer me wearing the tweed jacket, woolly scarf, pink ostrich leather handbag and red Docs. I felt quite smart compared to everyone in their fleeces and hiking boots, actually. The art teacher even told me that I looked "Arty", which I took as a compliment. I considered it polite to say "Bonjour" to the French teacher but had to admit that my French was pretty rudimentary – then I asked why the school did not offer Latin on its curriculum.
I placed orders for wadding and other essential supplies that I might need before the next lot of snow and was irritated when told that couriers in England were refusing to take any deliveries north of the border in case of a blizzard. This was during the thaw when all of the major roads were clear. Nationally there was great consternation that Christmas deliveries from Amazon might not arrive on time. I warned the children that Santa may have a few problems with his suppliers this year but Fenella was confident that he would manage perfectly well since he is Magic, after all.
By Thursday it started snowing again and I had to drive the children to school. I decided that I really ought to get into shape if I am going to have to make a habit of climbing into the Landy via the boot when all of the doors are frozen. It is not easy clambering over two rows of seats wearing wellies and several layers of winter clothing. I could not zip my jacket up because I was wearing a woolly vest, shirt, jumper, waistcoat and thick knitted cardigan underneath it. I decided to shop for a fur coat in the Red Cross shop but was disappointed to find that only mangy fake furs were on sale at £50. I daresay furs have become vintage and fashionable, although I don't imagine Freya would agree. I asked my Mother if she might have an antique fur coat but she admitted that this may have been a victim of her latest clear-out. I may have to settle for a Paddington Bear duffle coat or simply continue with my long waxed coat over some hideously unfashionable layering. I defy any fashion gurus to come to Aberdeenshire in the middle of winter and get me to wear flimsy items in my workshop!
I did some quilting this week, working fast to keep warm. I finished a customer quilt to add to the other one that has been awaiting collection for since the weather turned wintry. I quilted and bound two Christmas table runners then worked on a crazy sketchbook cover for Mo's sister. I love working on those as they are such fun. I am often asked why I don't sell them but an A3 piece takes around 10 hours to complete so they would be too expensive to produce except as presents. I made it a bit bigger than I needed so that there would be enough left over for an A5 book and a camera case.
We went to the Banchory Farmers' Markey on Saturday which was made festive by a stall selling mulled wine, snow falling and people wearing Santa hats. We bought local sausages, cheese, bread and cold pressed rapeseed oil. It was almost like being at a French market except that it was well below zero and we didn't have a basket. We went to choose our Christmas tree but the forester had not been able to cut any local trees and had resorted to buying some in. The children were not all that impressed with the modest tree that we chose but it still looks the part with its baubles and lights and at least it doesn't take up as much space.
Freya asked me to shorten the hem on her 1950's style prom dress because "only old people wear dresses down past their knees". This was quite a feat for a non-dressmaker as it was a completely circular skirt. I measured down from the waistline and marked points with a blue pen then used the overlocker to trim it down then finishing off a neat hem by machine. Then I had to cut down the circular underskirt with net frill and felt pretty pleased with my efforts. Unfortunately, the junior prom has now been cancelled because of the snow but she wore it to a friend's party where it was declared a success.
The week ahead is likely to be similarly affected by snow but at least I have ordered a local turkey and veg. In the hopefully very unlikely event of a power cut, I could cut it up and barbecue it or attempt to cook it on my Yurt's wood stove. I am fed up with seeing interviewees on the news saying " - the snow is such a nightmare!" It is just a bit inconvenient and the landscape looks wonderfully festive. We need to pay heed to the wartime reproduction posters and tea towels in all the shops declaring, "Keep Calm and Carry On!"
Wishing everyone a Calm Week Before and a very Happy Christmas! xx

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Wrapping Up

Despite there being no fresh snowfall, there was severe ice which meant that there was still no school on Monday. There were no mail deliveries and everyone was getting rather bored. I even edited my address book and diary before frittering away some time in a virtual cupcake shop on the internet. However, I also finished planning out 10 new Yurt panels and felt that I had achieved something worthwhile for the first time in days.
By Tuesday the school made the decision that parents with four-wheel drive could take children to school if they considered it safe to make the journey. The back roads were still treacherous with compacted snow and ice. Some vehicles did not crawl along slowly enough so ended up in a ditch or spinning on ice. I decided that the Landy is the BEST vehicle so I have ordered it a roof-rack as a Christmas treat. The school day was shortened so my time was limited for catching up with correspondence and dog walking was still quite an endurance test.
I went into Aberdeen on my own to crack my Christmas purchases and wished that I had an old-lady shopping trolley instead of struggling to carry all of my bags. Books, piggy banks and packets of natural liquorice are actually quite heavy!
I made stripey jelly and a Lego brick cake for Fergus' birthday party and had fun stabbing cubes of cheese, pineapple & raspberry onto cocktail sticks. The party was after an indoor football tournament, the hope being that the 9 year old boys would be worn out. They still managed to be excited and noisy after playing football afternoon, followed by a medley of old-fashioned party games that included charades, fan the fish, beetle drive, memory game, alphabet minute,and pass the parcel. The guests declared that the party was awesome and ace so I will take that as a successful outcome.
Blue Cat aka, Her Majesty the Pepperpot, has decided that she will deign to sit on laps occasionally. That is when she is not sitting on a shelf attempting to impersonate a rather large ornament. She has finally made herself at home. Bitzi MacBob can now tolerate to sit near her but still swears at the posh cat in Doric.
Due to telephone repairs in the local area, we have had problems with the internet connection. This is absolutely maddening. I can use my mifi modem to check messages but it is not nearly as convenient as instant access broadband. My laptop has still not got back online so I am blogging this week on the ipad. Typing is fine but I have not added any new photos yet.
I did a 6 hour marathon wrapping session on Sunday in order to clear the tables in my workshop as I am determined to get three quilting projects finished this week, Post Office done and get all of my materials ordered BEFORE getting snowed in again, possibly by the end of next week....

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Gauntlets & Gaiters

We had such a lot of snow and ice all week that there was no school, and according to the BBC News, the entire country ground to a standstill. It was bitterly cold and no-one really wanted to do much. I did not go anywhere all week as my husband was taking the Landy to work. The postie only came twice and I had to wade through knee-deep snow so I could defrost the hens, fetch logs and take the dogs out. I caught up with some correspondence, wrote Christmas cards and even worked on a few small projects. I won't post pictures of these since they are presents for friends. A left-over piece of quilted yurt roof was cut and bound to and make the cats a mat each to sit and look out of the window at the record breaking icicles. The children kept themselves occupied with some sledging, a little homework on the computer and some baking. I came in from the workshop one afternoon to discover grated chocolate all over the worktop and clouds of acrid smoke where attempts had been made to bake fairy cakes under the grill.

Tania and I walked to Mo's for coffee and mince-pies at the end of the week. We felt that we deserved two each with a liberal splash of Kirsch after stomping through the snow; Tania striding along in her walking boots with gaiters. Mo had been nursing a young buzzard back to health with raw eggs and sausages which was why the word, "Gauntlet" appears in the title! Apparently, the wild rabbit population has been decimated by a virus that rabbits take underground to infect the entire burrow so there is very little food available for birds of prey this winter.

I took Freya Christmas shopping at the weekend where we managed to make a few purchases before we got fed up with the crowds and over-heated shops. Online shopping is great as long as you know what you are looking for and probably less distracting, although I do tend to get sidetracked by checking emails and looking at Landy roofrack configurations on the internet! Needless to say, my Christmas shopping is nowhere near finished but at least I remembered to email my order for local turkey, ham and veggies. This week I am going to stock up on Bondaweb, wadding, stabiliser and freezer paper in case this weather continues until the New Year. I have spent some time sketching out new ideas for more Yurt panels so I hope to get on with some fresh work soon.

Sunday, 28 November 2010



When snow is forecast before Christmas in Scotland we don't usually pay much attention since it is usually only a short-lived dusting, or so I kept telling Marjorie who came up to learn about longarm quilting. We had a busy couple of days looking at gadgets and techniques and I kept dismissing the flurries as being too early to take seriously. I had to take her to the airport on Wednesday evening while weather conditions became serious and none of the roads had been treated. It was an eventful journey on icy, white roads, with cars sliding off or getting stuck. The local radio news kept announcing fresh accidents and blocked roads so I had to make several detours. It took twice as long as it should have and the airport was even closed for a while to clear the runway.

Obviously, schools were closed for the rest of the week as we were hit by the worst pre-Christmas snowstorm for 17 years. We had pink sheet lightning, thunder, blizzards and the roads were unusually quiet. The children arranged a sledging party so I lit the Yurt stove and made a large flask of hot chocolate. Over the weekend we had a lengthy power-cut which meant that we had a full day without heat, hot water and worst of all, technology. Thankfully we were able to light the wood stove and warm up one room downstairs; it is amazing how reliant we are upon electricity even to make a cup of tea. We have got candles lined up and a flask of hot water ready in case we get cut off again since there is no sign of it thawing just yet. I could do some sewing using the hand crank machine but when the workshop heaters are not working I would rather do something else. I will make sure that the laptop and ipad is fully charged so I can do some writing at least. I could even write the dreaded Christmas cards if I get really desperate.

At least I have made up my mind that I will now be keeping my trusty Landy since it is definitely the only way to get about with caution in these conditions. I did some internet research on roof-racks and made some calls to find out what alternatives there are to the over-priced Landrover branded ones. I already have a ladder, so will have to practise standing on the wheels and doing lorry-driver knots to hold on my cargo. I will manufacture some sort of heavy-duty canvas bags to transport the Yurt roof poles. The other option is to get a trailer but if I get lost somewhere I don't fancy reversing more than is strictly necessary.


Sunday, 21 November 2010

Cats and Curtains

It was not until halfway through Monday morning that I finally realised that I was a week ahead of myself again and did not have a visitor coming to spend 2 days longarming in the studio. Instead of getting on with my customer quilt, I decided to spend two days making the curtains for my new room and remembered why it has been around 10 years since I last made a decent pair. Even though I now have large work table it was still a lot of fabric to measure, cut and sew straight. I am very pleased with how it is all turning out and glad to be finishing a room off properly for a change. I do still have to fit in the new digital piano as I can't bear to scrap the Victorian one and I can't find a grateful home for it either. I suppose that having two pianos should mean that that there is every opportunity for the children to do plenty of practice.

I heard one of the Monday Quilters say the words "Blue Cat" and happened to mention that I have wanted one for a very long time. She was very sad to be re-homing Pepper since her grand-daughter is so allergic to cats. I was completely amazed when my husband said we could take her on a trial basis as long as Bitzi wasn't too annoyed. Since then we have had an interesting few days as the cats get used to each other. On the first night there was much hissing and hiding from both of them and both hissed their disgust at me. The next day I was really worried that I may have lost both of them. The Blue Cat was shut in the kitchen but had completely disappeared and Bitzi seemed to have gone off into a wet and windy day and didn't look like she was coming back. This made me feel doubly guilty and wondered if I had done the right thing at all. Much later on Bitzi sauntered downstairs from having spent all day sleeping in someone's bed and Pepper's eyes gleamed out from a tiny space behind the microwave, much to my relief. Since then they have spent most of the week avoiding each other and generally being pretty huffy with the humans but overall, things are fairly settled.

Sheena Norquay came to the Aberdeen P&Q Group this week and gave an interesting talk on hidden images in her work. There are so many of her quilts that I have never seen and they are all terrifically symbolic with references to Norse folk-tales, cats and runes. I attended a workshop where we printed circles onto fabric using everyday objects. I foolishly decided to experiment with linen which did not absorb the paint as easily and I used two colours where everyone else sensibly stuck to one which I thought looked beautifully simple. I remembered how to free motion quilt on a DSM which was actually good fun on a small piece so I hope to finish it off as a cushion cover for a Christmas present. I was particularly interested in how many ways circles can be used in quilting since they seem to have been motifs that I have used many times on Yurt panels.

I eventually got the customer quilt done and binding cut just before we went to see the latest Harry Potter film on Sunday afternoon - it was deliciously dark; much closer to the book than previous films with plenty of action and tension. It is a thoroughly British film where London looks great and the heroes appear so ordinary. I hope we don't have to wait too long before Part 2 is released...




Sunday, 14 November 2010

Wet & Wild Week

I deliberately left the Landy encrusted with mud when I took it to the 4x4 garage to be valued for a possible sale. Despite it looking well used, the guy still commented that it had, "- a lovely clean axle!" He asked me why I wanted to sell it to which I replied that I did not want to sell it at all but thought I should go through the motions of looking for a roomy estate car such as a Volvo to shift Yurts or longarm equipment around. After checking the Yurt for storm damage at the beginning of the week, I drove to the west coast of Scotland to do a talk and workshop for Helensburgh & District Quilters and was delighted that I had a sturdy, dependable Landy as gale-force winds raged and the rain lashed relentlessly. And because I was on my own, I could turn Radio 4 up as loudly as I liked. I made a leisurely detour on the way via IKEA to get some rather unusual curtain fabric; the pattern is much bigger than I expected but the beetrooty-raspberry pink colour is good.  

My talk about my quilting adventures seemed to go down well and the workshop went without a hitch. It was a stress-free class on machine quilting where I tried to impart as much useful information as possible and still leave enough time for a project. The class was called "Wild Wholecloth" but I think it should really be entitled "Pimp My Quilt" as it involved random quilting followed by embellishing with paint and bling. The hospitality that I received was great and I was made very welcome. I'm not sure whether everyone believed the anecdote about me having coffee with Mo this week and observing casually that there was a duck with an injured wing swimming around in the bathtub. When I arrived home on Friday night, I unloaded one set of fabrics and quilting gear from the Landy and reloaded with stuff for the Aberdeenshire QGBI Area Day. This was officially my last one as area rep after 3 years in the post. I really have enjoyed the opportunity to meet many other quilters at meetings from all over Scotland. We had a relaxing day in good company with a mini Mola hand sewing project or easy-peasy machine projects at my end of the long table. Mo helped me out hugely by being the "caterer" for the day. She had made 2 delicious soups and a wicked selection of fancy-pieces.

On Saturday evening I went to a Ceilidh at the Scout Hut with Tania and some other friends. There was a really good band called "Celidh Stomp" with a caller who explained the dances such as "The Witches Reel" and "The Flying Scotsman" extremely well. I actually managed to figure out where I was meant to be most of the time and only had one major collision with a burly kilted man which is probably why I feel a bit stiff today. Supper was a hearty plate of stovies and pickled beetroot. It was super fun and I really hope that it is a tradition that will still be going strong in another 100 years.

I was suffering from guilt for most of Sunday because I kept thinking I should catch up and get on with a customer quilt that I really need to get done by early on Tuesday as I have a visitor coming for some longarming tuition.  However, I sorted out most of the stuff that I had taken to my various quilting activities, did some washing, accidentally felted my favourite rainbow striped woolly jumper, and pieced a very basic but satisfying window sill runner. I decided that paperwork could wait and I will either have to work flat out all of Monday or simply take the waiting quilt off to do later in the week; this is the sort of time when I could really do with two machines.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Back in the Groove

After another week of crossing things off a list that never actually gets torn up, I think I am finally getting back on track. The Purposeless Room feels full of potential so should be a nice place to write or research on winter evenings IF I can put a stop to internet browsing that is quilt related but not necessarily essential. After giving serious thought to making a new quilt for the daybed, I decided to save time and bought a vintage Welsh blanket instead. I have one that I acquired as a student that was at least 30 years old 25 years ago so I reckon they are made to last. This means that the curtain fabric will probably have to come from IKEA so hopefully that is another decision made. I even got my haircut since the fringe was so long that I had resorted to wearing a Minnie Mouse hairband. I think I am ready for a Talk & Workshop near Glasgow at the end of this week. I have all of the pre-quilted kits ready, a list of things to remember and a recently organised slideshow of quilts.

There were some of the usual frustrations that beset my quilting life these days. I have a parcel that I cannot retrieve from the depot after paying the Customs charges online and stupidly not printing out the evidence. The faulty Sky TV box was eventually replaced but not until making several time-wasting phone calls. I went to see my Business manager at the bank for a demonstration on online banking. I know it is meant to be easy but had never got around to setting it all up.  I made some half-hearted enquiries about estate cars to replace my beloved Landrover if I start having to travel more. I quilted a small, jolly quilt top for Joyce who helped on the Patchwork Car project. She had given it to me as a piece that could be cut up but I couldn't do it and it has now been given a second chance. I was reminded that I keep promising to run weekly beginner's patchwork classes so I really must just announce 3 taster sessions for December that could include a basic cushion, festive bunting and maybe a very basic set of tablemats using leftover Christmas scraps. A load of logs was delivered for the winter and that prompted me to remove all of the cobwebs in the Garden Yurt, light the stove and give it a good airing.

There has been a lot about the International Quilt Festival in Houston on Facebook this week that has made me determined to go and experience it for myself. I have made a new list of what I need to do to finally sort out the Yurt Tour of USA. Once a list gets made it means that action needs to be taken so that things can get scored off, as long as the list remains somewhere prominent and doesn't get filed away to be forgotten. I seem to have been volunteered to write letters to members of Parliament questioning the new 16+ exam system in Scotland in my capacity as Chairperson on the School Parent Council. I was only meant to be steering the meetings this year...!

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Out of Sorts so Sorting Out

It has been an odd sort of week... I felt compelled to sort out my studio shelves, fabric baskets, drawers, files, boxes, scraps of wadding, tangles of rickrack and trimmings, and get rid of out of date catalogues. I couldn't decide what to work on even though there are umpteen things that I could or should be doing. I was still painting the Purposeless room white and every time I opened a cupboard I wanted to tackle its contents. I think this was a classic case of avoiding starting anything new. I have lots of things that aren't technically urgent and it made me realise how I get more done under pressure. In the end I started a Bonnie Hunter "Scrappy House" project so that I was actually making something. It is something that I can just do in between serious, challenging or boring tasks. I even made some calls to enquire about semi-industrial sewing machines including the Juki F600 and Janome Horizon but so far have not received any lucrative sponsorship deals apart from an offer of a £50 discount. I had promised to buy my children a digital piano before I invest in any more equipment. There was also an unexpected purchase at the end of the week which I will write about in another blog...

There was the added frustration of the telly not working and the usual saga of trying to call a help centre to work out how to fix it. We didn't have to miss "Strictly Come Dancing" on Saturday evening as the TV got reconnected to its old freeview box. There was also a problem with the internet and it seemed that most of the East of Scotland's connectivity had suffered after high winds but thankfully that soon got sorted out. At least I could use the mobile modem to check emails. I could really only go and live on a remote island if it had broadband for me to keep up to date with the online quilting world.

My outrageous Marimekko Finnish wallpaper arrived and my husband did a great job of sticking and lining it all up neatly. It looks fabulous but now I will have to make a new quilt for the day bed and co-ordinating curtains. Although I like eclectic and mis-matched furnishings, it would be really great to design a room properly instead of fitting all of the same old stuff back in after the walls have had a fresh coat of paint. I would dearly love to buy posh curtain fabric at £35 per metre but since I need at least 15m, will probably have to settle for something from IKEA. I am thinking of making qurtains – I could quilt some IKEA fabric or linen and bind them like a quilt. The Cat is impressed that I have decided to bring the sheepskin rugs in from the garden yurt for the winter as it makes all of the old chairs very luxurious. Now that my Studio is all tidy and the Purposeless room is looking better, I am hoping to get back on track with the projects that I should be doing with renewed vigour since I have a busy few weeks ahead.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Getting Set for Winter

We had a smooth train trip back North despite the mad dash to catch our connection at Edinburgh and the SNOW had all melted by the time we reached home! The wild cherry trees still have glorious orange leaves but the fields around the house are all very muddy. I brought a batch of sloes back from Norfolk so have prepared a large bottle of sloe gin for Christmas. Mo and I spotted a Liberty print sofa in the junk shop so after bouncing on it to test its springs, we shoved it into the car. I had decided that we would need enough places to sit and watch winter TV essentials such as "Strictly Come Dancing". We have an awkward sitting room with too many doorways, bookcases and an old piano so we did some rudimentary rearranging to fit in the "new" sofa. My husband was not all that impressed by the new seating and grumbled a little that it was not all that comfortable so I reminded him that it cost £30 instead of more than £300 and I know an excellent upholsterer.

I had a flying visit from Linda and George who came to talk to me about longarming and various essential gadgets. They may have thought things were a little chaotic here as I had extra children visiting, crockery and books all over the place, and a half painted room. I really must get that room finished before I lose interest completely. I have ordered outrageous Marimekko wallpaper for one wall as a treat for painting everything else boringly white. Luckily, the workshop is civilised so visitors can have a sensible cup of coffee in there.

On Saturday I made 3 giant Birthday cupcakes for Fenella & Emma because the first looked great but was raw in the middle, the second burned and eventually after I turned the temperature down as far as possible, number 3 looked presentable. I wrote down the winning combo for future reference but if I ever get an Aga I will have to rewrite all of my recipes that have all been adjusted to suit the dodgy oven thermostat. The icing was a mixture of cream cheese, icing sugar, vanilla extract, grated white chocolate and cream; just heavenly! I had to drive very slowly to the party and it really was not a practical shape for serving. Normal cupcakes may have been a more sensible option.

As the children go back to school on Monday I hope to finish painting, catch up with my correspondence and get machine quilting samples ready for a forthcoming workshop. I daresay other projects and bright ideas will crop during the week up to put those good intentions astray...



Sunday, 17 October 2010

Family Outings

People probably don't usually start decorating when they should be packing for a week away with 3 children. I bought a tin of light reflective white paint for the Purposeless Room and couldn't wait to try it out on a dull gray day. I couldn't actually see whether I had painted all over the ceiling or not and quickly realised that it would need at least 2 coats. Before I could stop myself, I decided to paint all of the skirting boards and the floorboards which meant that I now have a half finished room. The children were responsible for packing their own bags for the train journey to England to visit our folks which would explain why they didn't include headphones or books. The 8 hour train trip was not as fraught as it could have been and was certainly quicker than going by Landrover.

Our trips to Norfolk are always great fun with leisurely family meals and puddings that my children claim they never get at home. We went on two proper outings – to Sutton Hoo where a Saxon king was buried with his treasure in a magnificent longboat, and Gressenhall Workhouse and Farm. The workhouse visit was absolutely fascinating and our interest was maintained for the entire day. It was a huge purpose-built complex for dealing with the Parish poor and really made the children think about living in Victorian times.

I have managed to sneak in a couple of quilt related trips to Quilters' Haven in Wickham Market owned by Karin Hellaby. It was a super shop filled with a great range of fabrics and patterns. I couldn't resist a bundle of 1940's style cupcake fat quarters. I have no absolutely no idea what I will do with them! We paid a quick visit to the Assembly Rooms in Norwich for the 30th Anniversary Show by The Norfolk Quilters. We admired a tremendous variety of quilts then had a quick wander down Pottergate and St Benedict's Street. This used to be a fairly seedy area but it is now really trendy and artsy with jazz cafes, wholefoods, music and vintage clothes shops. I had a brief look on my latest quest... for an ostrich skin handbag. I saw one of these lately and I now covet something made from this exotically bumpy leather.

I can't believe how quickly time passes on our family trips. We never seem to fit everything in that we have planned but we really manage to enjoy ourselves!


Sunday, 10 October 2010

Gallivanting Time Again


The Pink Project was completed last Sunday night, quality control checked for threads and wrapped up on Monday morning. There is always an anticlimax after such an intense period of activity. It took two days to sort out the workshop, sift through all of the bent pins, catch up on correspondence and wait for Fedex to collect the large package. I was disappointed that it was not released to the media on Friday as planned as I have been dying to post pictures of the finished article on the blog and Facebook.

I finally bound Buddug's beautiful Baltimore quilt and sent it back to Wales as a special delivery parcel. I did a lot of tiny background quilting on it but because I had used wool wadding, it was still drapey and light. I think her hand appliqué is wonderful and love that she used so many different fabrics.

By Wednesday I was wondering what to do as the pressure was off and I had no definite deadlines to meet. It is not as if I have nothing to do... just that I could not decide what to tackle next. I quilted a small piece of fabric to turn into a notebook cover with pen pocket for the Echo Livescribe pen that I have been too busy to experiment with. As usual I have made myself a note to increase the sides on the quilted covers for spiral books by another quarter of an inch. I really must write down the instructions for the notebook cover as by now the original notes have so many crossings-out and post-it-notes attached.

Tania and I were driven down to St. Cyrus to see our neighbour's new house with sea views. I was intensely jealous of her 1950's cream Aga that made the empty house cosy and welcoming. We had a rake around the junkyard on the edge of the Nature Reserve. "Steptoe's" has the most incredible quantity of stuff outside on tables and stacked high in a large barn. There was an odd system of pricing where we had to ask a woman with a notepad who went off to discuss terms with the boss and then some haggling could go on. Prices were not cheap; I bought a scruffy 201k Sinker hand-crank sewing machine for £20 but it is in a bit of a state. I had read that it has the reputation for being one of the strongest machines ever made. My Husqvarnas are great machines but they have really struggled with large, bulky projects this year.

We had a second outing on Friday when I took one of my machines up to the shop in Keith to be fixed. I was rather taken with the Janome Horizon as I reckon I could do with a sturdy machine that can cope with big projects but can also do some decorative stitches. I have received many comments by email that it is a good machine but there seem to have been a few teething troubles according to some. It would be great if Husqvarna would bring out a similar machine in the same price range then I would have both value for money and the best Swedish build quality. It was a long drive to Keith in thick Scotch mist but fun to be away from the workshop and not at home doing overdue jobs like sorting out my wardrobe, paperwork or tidying children's bedrooms, which is what I ought to have been doing.

At Freya's request, I took her and Fenella into Aberdeen for a girls' day out on Saturday. We went to the music shop to look at pianos. Our free antique piano has a honky-tonk-pub-piano sound with some keys that stick occasionally so the teacher has recommended a digital version. I have now researched extensively on the internet and been to the music shop and the conclusion is that we should get the most expensive one that we can afford so that the children don't grow out of it as they progress. I like to encourage any interest in music so bought Freya some sheet music by Lady Gaga! We had a leisurely wander around in Aberdeen and stayed out in town all day, even visiting a tortoise shop. Fenella had said she would like a tortoise for her birthday but changed her mind when told that they don't do anything at all and can hardly ever go outside in Scotland. She thought the lizards looked cool but we agreed that the reptile shop was pretty odorous so thankfully she has gone off that idea.

Mo and I had permission to rummage through the skip behind a hotel that is being refurbished but we were disappointed to find that it had already been emptied. We decided to drive by a disused village hall that could make a great studio. It is right in the forest and would provide a terrific space for working on large projects. The landlord is apparently on the brink of turning off the services and using it as a storage shed so we are keen to find out if we can use it for a very modest rent. It would make a wonderful longarming space except that it is situated on its own and expensive equipment may not be secure, although it has obviously had no visitors other than swallows for years.

The children are now on holiday for two weeks so I am planning to fit too much in as usual - visiting family in England, reminding myself what my Yurt Book is about, quilting a few of my old quilts that have been sitting in a basket for a while, planning a talk & workshop, starting a couple of new Yurt panels for Yurt2, repainting the Purposeless Room white, considering a couple of new projects with Mo, making a huge cupcake for Fenella's birthday, and planning a Yurt Night which should keep me busy for a while...

Sunday, 3 October 2010


Sorry but there is no blog tonight as I have promised to say nothing at all about the large pink project until Friday. I even removed last week's post to keep up an aura of mystery!
Lots happened this week but I cannot spill the beans - yet...

Sunday, 19 September 2010

In the Pink


I have been beavering away on a Beautiful Baltimore all week, trying to get it done before starting the Smart Car project. Since all of the blocks have to be micro-filled it has taken quite a while and I confess that it is not quite finished. I have had more than the usual distractions to contend with. On Monday evening I was invited to attend the Durris WRI to listen to a talk about 30 years of taking proficiency tests in crafts. I think I'll just stick to quilting... Despite getting a good cup of tea with a "fancy piece" and winning a tin of soup in the raffle, I will remain as a Pay As You Go client for the foreseeable future.

I had to speak to a telephonist in India to complain about my crackly phone line and slow internet connection and was informed if anything was found defective with my phone equipment than I would have to pay, despite already paying line rental. I was very worried about the prospect of having no phone or internet so I ordered a mobile Mifi dongle just in case. The engineer arrived and did a whole series of diagnostic tests with his computer then eventually freed the wires that were tangled up in a tree but he couldn't sign the job off until the computer let him go.

Shona challenged me to another crochet learning session. With intense concentration, I managed to remember the sequence for trebles until starting the next round. I was told sternly that I would need to practice if I wanted to progress onto circles but I think I may have an excuse for not doing my homework this week.

A batch of pink fabric arrived in the post from Judi Mendelssohn for the car project, followed by a parcel of celebrity offerings. There was not much to work with there so it was a good job that I had plenty of other Pinks lined up to get started. Friday morning was more chaotic than usual as the Smart Car arrived just after 9am, having been driven overnight from Milton Keynes. The driver, who normally delivers luxury cars to motoring journalists, was irritated that my postcode mislead the Satnav system as usual so I felt obliged to drive him to the station in Stonehaven while Tania workshop-sat in case the lorry arrived to collect the Festival of Quilts Lenni for delivery to Simon in Derby. In the meantime the mobile dongle arrived, closely followed by members of the Smart Car Quilt Team in time for coffee. Work started immediately on measuring up templates using wallpaper that was obviously very dirt resistant since the sellotape would not stick it together. It was not great trying to draw around a car with templates that were flapping in the wind. We had been given permission to take the little car for a drive so Mo and I made a quick trip to her workshop in second gear since we hadn't a clue how to use a tiptronic gear box and didn't want the gearknob to come off again. After collecting more wallpaper, we had to keep swapping seats until one of us found Neutral and were able to restart the engine. It is surprisingly roomy for 2 people and even has a glass roof, ipod dock and Satnav; it's such a pity that we'll be too busy to go off on any jaunts.

Over the course of the weekend we managed to draw and cut all of the templates, crazy piece and stitch 3 sections and make an incredible mess. Despite being such a tiny car, it is amazing how large the 5 flat patchwork sections are. I admit that I seriously underestimated the amount of fabric involved! We need to order thread, pink lining, a huge pink zip and lots of pompoms on Monday. I must finish off the Baltimore and start quilting as soon as I possibly can. We haven't even begun to add the embellishments yet. I will try to get the car for an extra week if possible as it will be needed for the fittings. I hope no-one has any homework or needs to eat supper next week. I think I'll even be hard pressed to answer emails!


Sunday, 12 September 2010

Crazy Castoffs

Patchwork used to mean using up scraps but these days Quilters generally buy fabulous fabrics especially for their projects. I had a customer quilt this week that was made entirely from curtain and dress-making leftovers. The fabrics were all different weights but the simply pieced top was absolutely charming; it became a lovely quilt once it was all finished. I thought it was appropriate to use recycled packaging to post this quilt back to its owner in Somerset. I turned a heavy duty plastic dog-food sack inside out, wiped off the crumbs, wrapped the quilt in the packaging it had arrived in, stuck it all up with silver tape and delivered it to the Post Office.

I have had several email and phone discussions this week from a PR company in London that has requested a quilted car cover made entirely from pink fabrics donated by celebrities in honour of Breast Cancer awareness. This will be a wacky challenge with an impossibly tight deadline. The fabric appeal was only put out last week, no-one has any idea how much will be donated or what the original garments might be. I have stressed that if it looks like nothing useful arrives next week we will have to buy quilt shop fabrics if we are to stand the slimmest chance of getting something presentable done on time. I was originally going to tackle the project myself but as the deadline looms closer I have enlisted the help of an expert upholsterer and a production team is standing by. We hope to put together a crazy patchwork top on some sort of foundation since the fabrics could be a weird combination. I am very concerned about finishing on time but I daresay it will all come together at the last minute. Just so long as I get the car and fabric next week...

I drove down to Perth for the QGBI Scottish Regional Day to listen to Fiona Diaper from the Quilters' Guild Museum in York and Tina Gravatt on miniature quilts. It was lashing with rain on the way down and I had to roll the Landy window down to clear the fug and wipe its mirrors before considering any over-taking. I adore my faithful Landrover Defender but I realise that the time has come to get a vehicle better suited to long distance driving. It was because I was browsing Volvo estate cars on the internet that I burnt the sausages again. I could quite fancy a gold one with sand coloured leather seats. My husband looked sceptical and wondered if I would soon take up smoking a pipe if I chose such a car. I was highly amused to find an old book about crochet on a sales table with just such a character on the front.

I was meant give longarm tuition on Friday using some long template boards but could not find the stylus anywhere at all. I had not actually seen it since FOQ, fearing the worst, that it had got lost. I had to apologise profusely and reschedule the lesson. I searched in every single box and bag that had gone to FOQ until I eventually found it wrapped up with the laser pointer.  Since I only had a short while left until the children came home from school I decided to paint one wall in the Purposeless Room. I really should have got a tester pot because it turned out to be a nice but uninteresting cream. I will save this huge tub of cream paint until I get around to repainting the family room that has had test patches on the walls for at least two years. I think I would like to choose a 1950's shrimp pink for the new room with mad wallpaper or even crazy-patch wallpaper samples on one wall. The trouble with this featureless room is that it's so easy to fill it with clutter from the rest of the house; maybe it will be easier to keep it junk free if it is decorated properly (in my spare time between projects!)

Sunday, 5 September 2010


I started the week by attempting to take my own photo one-handed wearing my tartan tam-o'shanter hat. After around 25 shots I selected a couple that looked OK apart from the double chin. It took far too long to affix my new avatar to all of the forums and I ended up getting side-tracked on the internet as usual by browsing dehumidifiers for the workshop, Volvo estates, pens that can upload your handwriting onto pen casts and choosing heritage paint online for the Purposeless Room. I used to have lots of paint colour charts but they seem to have been filed somewhere. The colours on the monitor are not the same as in the tin but I could not be bothered to drive 20 miles to look at paint charts so I phoned and asked the Farrow & Ball sales girl to pick me a warm pinkish-creamy old fashioned neutral. I expect it will be fine – nothing else in the Purposeless Room matches after all. It is really a small sitting room that has been a bedroom, playroom, sewing room, junk room and now houses a spare bed and guitars. I want it to be more purposeful so that I can type in there during winter nights and keep a closer eye on children doing their homework. Mo has given me the most amazing old armchair that was hanging from some rafters. Its horsehair stuffing is bursting out and it smells very mousy but it will look fantastic after she has worked her magic and we have used a lot of fabric freshener.

One of the Stunt Quilters told me that she thought my new avatar would be a good back cover author photo and reminded me that I should be pressing on with the Yurt book. I decided that I had lost the flow so will need to reorganise the bits that I have drafted so far and schedule designated writing time into each week. It was a kind of relief to postpone Des Moines in the end. I could not realistically have gone without enough sponsorship. I will recruit a PA whom I will pay with a quilt; she can crack the whip and make sure that I get sufficient sponsors and bookings in the Spring for the Yurt to start its USA tour properly. I am going to construct an entirely new roof for the USA Yurt that can be shipped permanently to avoid complicated Customs issues. That is possibly what I should aim to do with the wall panels too if I can get enough made over the winter to cover 2 Yurts. I actually quilted one this week with a linen back. The back looks great but using linen as binding is challenging.

I will try to do a simple customer quilt this week as I have to fit in a day of tuition and possibly leave room in my schedule for a large project with a ridiculously tight deadline. I have a conference call with a PR company on Monday that will decide if the next 3 weeks get devoted to a slightly unusual commission.

I was asked by P&Q Magazine if I would like to design a simple project. I made several sizes of "Gussetless Pouches" for slim gadgets such as laptops, ipads, cameras and phones. Fatter gadgets make the pouches bulge so strictly speaking those ought to have gussets... I took photos of each stage and I wrote some Linzi proof instructions, imagining that I was going to make it myself. I also managed to complete the class sample "Pimp My Quilt" (aka "Wild Wholecloth" in more circumspect parts of the country.) It is essentially a machine quilting tutorial that is enhanced with fabric paints and crystals.

I was invited to judge a Women's Rural Institute competition as a neutral outsider. I had to pick the most interesting and clearly presented schedule of events from each group for the forthcoming session. The programmes varied enormously with talks from the Air Ambulance Service to Head Gardeners and Sugar Craft Experts. I felt slightly under qualified for judging the efforts of ladies with more life experience than myself but they gave me a bottle of strawberry wine and sent me on my way. I made a mental note that if I want to fulfil my ambition of being in charge of a tea urn I should just buy one rather than join the ranks of the WRI, at least for another 30 years or so.

I had the Postie worried again one morning this week as Bloody Mabel shot past me out of the dog run before I managed to clip her lead on. She made a dash straight for Sooty the Rabbit with me sprinting after her in my wellies swearing profusely. Mabel doesn't respond to any commands given in a pleasant voice and after I had done several circuits of the rabbit run trying to out-dodge a determined terrier, I sounded deranged. The Postie waved politely, looking slightly perplexed and signalled that he had left me a parcel.

We had a rare and unusual live creature on the doorstep where Bitzi usually leaves her disembodied mice. There was a little Common Lizard just sitting there. They are extremely unusual in this part of Scotland and I don't know why it was there on such a chilly evening. Stunt Quilter, Terri from Wisconsin informed me that they are lucky! I decided that it meant that I should create another Yurt panel with a brownish tartan lizard to celebrate his appearance. A friend of mine spotted an adder when she walked her dog this week, another very rare occurrence. In fact, she sees lots of unusual things on her walks in the remote countryside. Last week it was a man jogging in the nude!

David and Fergus were away for the weekend spectating at a motor-racing event. The girls and I lit a camp fire, pulled up some old armchairs from the summer house, burnt some sausages and ate beans straight out of the pan with a wooden spoon. It was lovely watching the sun go down with a last of the summer Gin & Tonic until clouds of midges arrived. We went inside, sang along to DVD's of "Mamma Mia" & "Hairspray" and shared a big bag of M&M's  - it was a fun evening!



Sunday, 29 August 2010


The Studio received a thorough sorting out after I unloaded all of the gear from FOQ and even the paperwork was filed neatly. I spent a lot of time emailing and phoning to follow up possible shipping quotes, technical queries and making notes on how the show went. It could take weeks or even months to see if people who looked at machines at FOQ become actual customers. 


I ordered wool wadding for an impressive appliqué quilt that is coming up and finally got to work on the long overdue workshop samples for the "Pimp My Quilt" class that may have to be subtitled, "Wild Wholecloth" for more sober types. I am fairly pleased with how it has turned out but feel that it could do with even more bling to live up to its reputation. Miniature crochet circles in fine gold thread would be great so I really must make an effort to conquer my crochet dyslexia.


I chased up arrangements for the Yurt Tour, very conscious that Des Moines in October is rapidly approaching. The Customs forms are long-winded and I was hugely disappointed when my tweed roof sponsors pulled out having shown a keen interest previously, citing cutbacks as the reason. It is too late to gain any grants at this stage. The USA Yurtman came up trumps and agreed to make the Vermont frame the same size as the original and AQS has been poised to put the Yurt in its show catalogue. I decided to wait until after the weekend to figure out whether it would still be possible to go ahead with Des Moines without one of the main sponsors or get a PA on board, have more funds in place and line everything up for a Spring tour that could involve more than one event. I also need time to work some more on the Yurt Book!


I have been collecting together ideas and mulling over all sorts of things since FOQ. If I am going to travel around the country doing workshops and selling machines then I may need to make the enormous sacrifice of trading in my beloved Landy for a more economical and practical estate car that could double up as a van. The Landy is my absolute most favourite vehicle and brilliant where I live in Scotland but it is not good for long distances. Maybe I can have one again when I retire!


Mo and I are going to try to work on a joint show quilt using lots of different materials and techniques. We are full of grand ideas but need to sketch these out on paper and work out when we are going to fit it in to our schedules. I have not actually worked on any show entries this year and the Yurt Project seems to be evolving into the Yurt 2 Project – with USA and Europe versions.


I was irritated to find that I could not pay for the bottle of supermarket wine at 9.50am as I dashed around doing some grocery shopping one busy morning. I was disappointed that the shop was not busy as I was in the mood to cause a Scene and protest at the Government's stupid law that only really penalises housewives rather than teenaged binge drinkers who would actually still be in bed before 10.00am . I refused to move out of the automated checkout area where the assistant was getting agitated at the robotic voice proclaiming, "Please take the illegal item out of the bag!"

That same day a man arrived at the house asking if I could use any cheap, spare tarmac for cash as they had finished patching the potholes in the road. When I went out later on I noticed that they had only repaired one side of the road before trying to sell off their "surplus" materials. By the time Freya came home to tell me that her first Home Economics lesson at secondary school was "How to make Instant Coffee", I was ready to storm Parliament, stage a coup and restore order. I think that teaching children who have cooked over a camp fire in primary school how to make instant coffee is absurd. I was expecting something more elaborate involving coffee beans and frothy milk.


Mo, Tania and I set the world to rights with a Yurt Night discussing politics, books, taxidermy and funeral arrangements. Our conversations are always irreverent and eclectic, accompanied by a delightful bottle of Rioja from the new wine shop in Banchory that also stocks 6 types of gin that we will be obliged to sample.

On Saturday we drove up to Strathdon on the edge of The Highlands to see the Lonach Gathering. This is quite a spectacle where Pipebands and Clansmen march around the neighbourhood from early in the morning, stopping off for several drams of whisky on the way. I filmed a short movie on my digital camera, forgetting that we have a Flip video camera at home. It was a wonderful, traditional event with everyone wearing tartan and wellies. The weather was beautifully sunny one minute then lashing with rain the next. Freya camped there overnight with friends and it was pretty stormy but they stayed cosy with plenty of extra layers and blankets. It is fascinating watching the field events that include caber tossing, hammer throwing and tug-o-war. We spent a pleasant afternoon wandering around chatting to friends and I chose a tartan hat with feathers for the Quilt Quine to wear at foreign events. I really hankered after a bright green tweed trilby but it was £55 and I wasn't sure that I could really wear it while demonstrating longarming at quilt shows. It is about time for me to update my web avatar picture so I may model the new headgear for the photo.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Fantastic Festival of Quilts UK 2010


I packed up the twin Lennis, all their attachments and half of my studio and optimistically went to fetch my hired van. Despite being only two years old it has obviously seen active service. Unfortunately, it was the only one available so I could not quibble. It had barely legal tyres, was full of pie crumbs and sawdust, many sticky areas, filthy seats, and the side door even had a large dent. I will demand some money back when I return it to the depot! It made me behave like a White Van driver. The gears are designed to be crunched with brute force and it made me swear constantly. I was not paying attention as I went through Glasgow's chaotic roadworks and missed the turning to go South towards England. After I realised I was hurtling towards the west coast of Scotland, I swore a lot more. I eventually crossed the Erskine Bridge, crawled through the city centre and found the correct road over an hour later, still cursing and crunching gears. The rest of my journey was uneventful except that the Van obviously was not used to highbrow BBC Radio 4 but I eventually found myself near to me destination. I got lost again and asked a traffic patrol car for help, thus getting a police escort to my hotel 10 hours after I left home.

On set up day I was met by Yvette and Alison who were my right hand women for the entire Festival. We unloaded and set up a very attractive looking mini longarm studio. Unable to face the budget option of instant Pot Noodle for a second night, we drove into Birmingham for a real curry where the locals were celebrating Ramadan.

Once the show opened the next few days were a blur of talking, demonstrating, explaining and meeting new and old quilting friends from Scotland and all over the world. I will not mention them all because I am bound to forget someone. It was lovely to catch up with everyone and meet some people for the first time with whom I have only previously communicated by email. My parents visited FOQ for the first time and were staggered at the size of the show. Somehow, there was never time for a proper lunch and much chocolate was eaten. The aisles were chock full of people, scooters and trolleys. The queue for the ladies was pretty long one day so I dashed into the men's. There wasn't a soul in there apart from a gentleman enjoying a bit of loud farting as he thought no-one was listening and the other foreign chap whom I met at the sink was worried that he had gone into the wrong bathroom.

There were some people doing serious longarm shopping research and they said that the APQS  Lennis were their favourite machines at the show. There were also some odd questions and amazed visitors who had never seen a longarm before. Someone asked if I had to quilt halfway along my quilt and then swap to the second machine. One elderly lady asked for my business card then said "I won't ever use it, mind you." A Gammill owner came to ask me about thread tension after announcing that she was having awful trouble with her bottom. Many of the visitors did not speak any English so we talked by sign language and quilting. I was asked if I would consider going to Latvia, South Africa, Denmark and Dubai! I sold one lot of dyed fabrics to a friend and one packet of postcards so I won't bother to take them again but I was asked about thread constantly.

The Lenni twins behaved beautifully and sewed politely through several layers of glazed chintz backing fabric, second grade wadding and IKEA black calico. We had the brilliant idea of recycling the practice piece of the previous day as the wadding and just sewed on top with a new piece of black. Ferret and I even had a quilting race on video for P&Q Magazine. An over enthusiastic child derailed one of the Lennis by pulling down on the handles and quilting in a scribble at top speed as her father watched with pride. It was soon all sorted out and there were no other near dramas. Many people said they would never have anywhere enough space to put a longarm in their homes so I was glad that I had not brought my bigger Millennium as most of the visitors would have found the size of its frame intimidating. I really liked using the smaller machines - they were easy to set up and really responsive. As I always quilt freehand from the front I did not pay much attention to the handles at the back until an existing Lenni owner pointed out that they were actually the wrong way round.

I attended the International Evening Fashion Show with Ellen where the outfits made by teams of Russian and British quilters were absolutely stunning and Ferret's work was particularly impressive. However, the organisation and scoring of the event were painfully reminiscent of the worst aspects of the Eurovision Song Contest.

Every now and then people would glance at my gold Doc Martens and nudge their friends, maybe having read about their wearer in P&Q Magazine. As the week wore on it became increasingly difficult to look cool as I had stupidly worn fishnets with them on the first day of the show and got a nasty blister that made me hobble. I was really not pleased when I decided to walk to the NEC after being told that it was a mere 5 minutes away and 45 minutes later seemed to have taken the most circuitous route possible. I started to use White Van language again as I had planned to look at the show quilts in a leisurely manner before the show opened.

Once I eventually looked at the show quilts I decided that my taste has changed dramatically since I first attended. I was admiring more abstract pieces because of the quilting. I was asked why I had not entered the competions with any of the Yurt Panels or LSD and my pathetic excuse was that I had been a bit busy. This was the first year that I have felt that my work is now on a par with some of the good stuff so I really will have to make more effort to enter next year.

The show was great fun but exhausting. Whenever I am in Quilt Show mode I go to bed late and wake up around 5.30am. I have received invitations to go to shows in Europe if I can afford the time and expense. I will really need to see if the enthusiastic quilters from the show go ahead and place machine orders. The costs of attending events such as this are substantial and need to be profitable to make it all worthwhile. My stand was very well received and many people complained bitterly that the Yurt was absent from the show. This makes me even more determined to take one to America AND exhibit one in Europe. I can see a busy spell coming up after I get back home on Monday night!

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Double Trouble


I finished quilting the dyed fabrics quilt with some big wonky swirls that I really didn't like at first. I had decided that it had to be utility sized quilting to make it look like an everyday sort of quilt showcasing the dye colours. As usual, once the binding was on, it looked fine. I also completed and bound the Yurt panel that Yvette pieced for me – at last! I have four left to quilt, bind or embellish. I heard from Becky Kemery who has the Yurtlady Facebook page. I have some very nice comments via her website so that is encouraging. She has appealed to American yurt makers that I am still looking for a USA frame sponsor.

After worrying that the Lenni machine for Festival of Quilts would not arrive on time, I managed to get it through Customs on Wednesday after paying a ransom of over £1500. They tried to get me to become A VAT registered business despite me trying to explain that my turnover is too small. Apparently there may be a tiny business tax loophole but it can take weeks to process and I did not have that length of time. A most disgruntled delivery man phoned on Thursday morning several hours before I expected him to arrive, complaining that my postcode must be wrong because his brand new £500 TomTom sat-nav system had taken him on the wrong road. I told him that my postcode covers a wide rural area and he should have checked on a real map. He then moaned about the 6 boxes that I had to help him carry so I don't think I will be using "Freight 2 the Point" if I need a courier. I unpacked it and set it all up with Freya's help and was impressed at how easily we managed it. We put Tracy's ex Lenni on the frame too and both of them stitched and ran beautifully. I packed up all of the gear that I think I will need at FOQ and hope I have remembered everything. There seems to be a lot of stuff to fit within a 2m x 4m show booth... I hope I sell all of my fabric and postcards at the show because after paying all that money to Customs I may have to sleep in the van and eat pot noodles all week.

I went to look for fruit at the bottom of the garden to make some jam but discovered that the orchard area is completely overgrown by enormous weeds. The only answer is probably to get some more pigs. I ended up making a few pots of last year's plum and bramble jam from the freezer but the blackberries need to be picked out as they have gone hard. We seem to have missed our chance for wild cherry picking this summer - the birds got them all while it was damp and grey for so long. I even bought a bag of burning peat when it rained non-stop one day as it felt chilly. The weather is bound to improve just as the children return to school next week.

I received an interesting phone call from a PR company that wanted to know if I might be interested in making a quilted tea-cosy for a pink Smart car. At first I thought it was a hoax but when I checked and found that it was a genuine request I was quite excited at the prospect of a funky challenge. If they go ahead with the project the deadline is tight but where would the fun be if there was plenty of time?

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Getting Geared Up

Getting Geared Up

I felt like a hamster in a ball this week as my "to do" list kept expanding and it seemed as though nothing was getting finished. It started on Monday when I tackled buying school shoes and new uniform. The shoe shop was packed the sales girls were pretty efficient. My method of purchasing children's shoes is to buy the first pair that fit without getting sidetracked by style.

We just happened to be next door to The Seattle Quilt Co. in Aberdeen so I bought an extra large rotary cutter for fabric jelly roll production. The June Tailor Shape Pro cutter is great and I sliced through a lot of fabric in a relatively short time.

Producing packages of fabric to sell is not nearly as lucrative as I had thought. The whole process involves cutting fabric from the bolt, pre-washing and dyeing it, drying and ironing, cutting into straight strips or accurate squares, sorting, organising, rolling or folding, tying the bundles, attaching labels and packaging attractively. The time taken to do 20 metres was considerable. In addition, I decided that it would be a good selling point if I made a small and simple quilt from the dyed fabrics so that customers could see how nice the colours look. That took another whole day and the small project grew into a single-bed sized quilt with a pieced back that I will need to quilt and bind this week.

After repeatedly measuring the interior of the Landy for space I decided that I would need to hire a transit van to take all of the gear down to Birmingham. I looked at the Ford website to see if I could get 10 foot poles diagonally into a standard 8 foot van and even called some van hire companies pretending to be a builder since talking about timber lengths is less complicated than describing what a longarm frame involves. Several phone calls later I booked a suitable vehicle. IF I sell all of my dyed fabric packages then I will just about cover the van's costs. It's a shame transit vans are not better equipped to sleep and wash in so that I could also save a week's worth of hotel bills.

I started waking up worrying about whether the show Lenni and frame would arrive in the UK and clear HM Customs on time. There was also a flurry of customers ordering spares to collect from me at FOQ but on Friday I received the email that assured me that Lenni has been shipped air freight. To add to my stress level, two major Yurt companies that had shown an interest in sponsoring a frame in the USA declined so I need to see if I can get enough funds to have one made by a specialist carpenter. As it is still the summer holidays, I really had not realised how soon the Des Moines show in October is approaching. Some serious sponsors need to commit in the next few weeks as complying with US customs will be tricky for such a large collection of quilts. I was both relieved and disgruntled when Twisted Threads finally let me know that they don't have room for the Yurt at FOQ without paying for extra exhibition space. Running the APQS booth and Yurt would have been a juggling act but at the same time would have been a great chance to promote a Yurt tour. I got a super Yurt collage poster printed at Costco so will have that and some Yurt panels on show at the APQS booth which will look great.

Because I have been busy in my workshop, I have neglected to sort out the Sylvanian Family collection that Fenella inherited from her older sister. It was almost impossible to walk across her bedroom floor so we embarked on a major Reorganisation Plan. This involved dismantling a spare bed, rearranging all of her furniture, putting art materials in the summer house, decluttering my ex- sewing room and then rearranging my workshop to accommodate the Lenni frame when it arrives for me to partially assemble and test prior to FOQ. It took a while to achieve all of this but at least there is less junk on show. I now have a beyond-repair treadle sewing machine outside my workshop as a bird table. I have a lovely one in the house but this one is all gunked up and full of woodworm. I agreed to adopt it rather than take it to the dump and it looks rather picturesque. Another acquisition that I could not pass up this week was a large fake coal stove from the second hand shop. This can go into the ex-sewing room that hasn't yet got a new use. I hate "spare" rooms that have no particular purpose and are full of stuff that doesn't belong anywhere else. Mo gave me some surplus fabric for demonstrating at FOQ. She rediscovered some odd bits of flowery chintz that would make lovely cushions. I also spotted a very scruffy antique armchair hanging upside down in a barn that she offered to re-upholster for me. Quaint and untidy drawing rooms in "County Living" magazine always look amazing so it will be a challenge to create a stylish room from all of my old junk.

I took my camera out one morning and took some photos of Scottish wild-flowers as it is so easy to get caught up and stop noticing the beautiful scenery just outside my door. We never did take the Yurt to Aboyne Castle this week as the weather continued to be wet but we went to the Aboyne Highland Games where we watched some caber tossing and took some pictures of pipers in full tartan regalia. Pictures like these should look good in the to-be-completed Yurt book. I may have to get some tartan wellies and pose pensively in a stone circle for the back cover.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Making Grey Days More Colourful


After returning from cloudy France, North East Scotland was even damper and far more grey. We put the Yurt frame up but could not find a dry spell or a patch of blue sky for any outdoor photos all week. Mo, Tania & I pretended that it was summer and drank a couple of bottles of pink fizz in the Yurt on Friday night with the wood stove keeping us warm. Everyone seemed a bit gloomy so we took the children to the Banchory Show on Saturday. We ate hog roast on a ringside bench watching the pipe band and parade of prize winning cattle in the pouring rain until the kids begged to go home. On Sunday I took a chance and put the quilts onto the frame despite the heavy black clouds and poor forecast. I just about had long enough to take a good selection of outdoor shots. At least I now have permission to raise the Yurt at Aboyne Castle, where I first encountered Yurts. Mo and I may take it there in time for the Aboyne Games and if it is likely to be wet it can go up in the old barn called the Coo Cathedral.

I completed dyeing all of the white glazed chintz. They look like a proper faded seashore palette and I may try to whizz together a simple quilt in time for FOQ. Some of the fabric has been cut into jelly roll strips and some is 12" squares. I looked on YouTube to see if I could get a demonstration on how to roll the fabric strips professionally. There was a video by Nancy's Notions showing a cutting mat called the June Tailor Shape Cut Pro that interested me. Instead of investing a lot of money importing the Accuquilt Studio cutting system and then finding that no-one wants to buy my jelly rolls, I decided to spend £50 in the UK and cut enough dyed fabric to use in workshops. I remembered that I had bought a crimped blade for my rotary cutter and wondered if I might get a smart pinked edge on my cut pieces.

I received a promising reply from the Colorado Yurt Company when I asked if they would consider sponsoring a USA made frame but a decision has not yet been made. I spent a long time catching up on computer correspondence at the beginning of the week but I was frustrated by not receiving all of the replies that I had hoped for. I am starting to make checklists for FOQ and need to work out the size of van that I will have to hire. A straightforward customer quilt got done so I stared quilting overlapping circles onto a Yurt panel to make a pumpkin seed effect to be in-filled in places. At first I got myself in a muddle and made too many overlaps so I decided to make a feature of that corner and say that I designed it deliberately. I have got it sussed now and written myself some instructions for the next time. I have been drafting a list of workshops as I have started to get enquiries from Quilt Groups. I need to plan classes that are challenging but also achievable AND make up some samples. If I keep writing lists and ticking things off then I must be making progress!



Sunday, 25 July 2010

Vive La France!


1.30am and 10 miles down the road on the way to the airport is not a great time to realise that one of your children has developed travel sickness. After such an early start we arrived in Languedoc at midday. You know when you have arrived in the South of France when you can smell mimosa and the chirps of cicadas or crickets. It was nice to be staying in the same area as we did last October because we knew the way to the house, picking up "le stinky cheese", juicily ripe peaches and some wine on the way.

The first two days and nights were very hot and I spent most of my time in the shade, even drafting out a couple of patterns for the Yurt Book before settling down with delicious rose wine around 4 o'clock. We drove up to a farmhouse that allowed "Degustation" and sampled some Malpere wines that were grown and bottled on the premises. It seemed a pity to have to spit out the delicious wine after a tiny sip...

During the week we went for a wander around the Cite Medievale and had lunch on the square. It was much busier than it had been in October and still not yet the height of the tourist season. We bought some soap from Marseille (in Carcassonne) but never saw any genuine Provencal fabric – I need to go nearer to Avignon for that apparently.

We visited the dinosaur museum at Esperaza which also housed a museum about hat making but the children complained that it was boring. That was the day we also drove through dramatic gorges while Fenella was slightly sick  with  concussion after falling out of bed, hitting her head on a tiled floor; finding places to pull off the twisty road was not easy. She perked up in the afternoon after some Coca-Cola at a quaint cafe and we wondered if a creperie-studio would be successful in Scotland. We hung around in Quillan, dodging thunderstorms, waiting for the evening market but it looked like a jewellery stall and someone selling frites was about the sum of it so we just headed home for pasta and wine instead.

After visiting the "Coffre Geant a Caprespine", a cathedral like cave full of amazing stalactites, we drove across country to Castelnaudary. We were hoping for a hearty and authentic lunch of white beans, sausage and duck at the home of cassoulet, but all of the cafes had finished serving lunch. We were rather disappointed with the down-at-heel town where it seemed that the legendary dish was only available in tins. Cassoulet from this area actually seems to be a bit bland; I always thought it contained rich tomatoes, lots of garlic and herbs but it is far simpler here and only has a handful of ingredients.

The Saturday Market in Carcassonne made up for the lack of flavours the day before. We were encouraged to taste saucisse sec and goats cheese. The fresh salads and vegetables looked incredible. We bought some ridiculously crusty bread, a plait of purple garlic and some strong salami. It was great fun drinking espresso at an outside cafe, watching everyone stocking up on fresh produce for le weekend.

We set off for a picnic at Lac Cavayere on our last day with promises of a pedallo ride and ice-cream. The children were not impressed with their lunch of bread so chewy that it makes your jaws ache and were even less pleased when we were informed that the lake was closed for all activities. My French is pretty lacking but I think it may have had something to do with algae in the water. We couldn't even buy ice cream on the way back to the house because even more shutters were closed than usual. It seems like everyone in France is permanently sleeping or away en vacances. The only thing left to do on a Sunday afternoon was read another book and finish off another bottle of light rose wine – it's such shame we have to leave tomorrow..!


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