The week before Christmas went by in a blur. I quilted non-stop so that the African quilt would be ready for special delivery Christmas post. I am relieved to report that it made it on time and its new owner was delighted.
Banchory Academy put on a super musical concert on Monday to get everyone into the festive spirit. I filled in a form that I thought was for a prize draw, not realising that the compere would read out all of the anecdotes for the amusement of the audience in between numbers.
I taught all day on Wednesday after driving the Landy like a rally driver to arrive as the bell rang - again as it was pitch dark, lashing with rain and I had to follow a tractor for miles.
I stocked up on dog and hen food, finally got around to writing wrote some Christmas cards and eventually got most of the pressies wrapped up after I managed to track down the remaining rolls of wrapping paper available within a 10 mile radius.
Tania, Mo and I had a generous amount of Christmas coffee/sherry/treats together and exchanged gifts that sadly didn't include socks and that marked the official start of the festive period. The children were a bit disappointed that the first day of their holiday was Christmas Eve – there seemed to be very little time for anticipation before Santa's arrival. We did some cooking and preparation; gammon in cola worked surprisingly well and the black pig pancetta ham was excellent with Brussels sprouts. Fenella made Santa some chocolate truffles and she left out some porridge oats for the reindeer.
Christmas day started early but it gave us plenty of time for unwrapping and cooking. Nothing got burnt or forgotten and there were no tantrums. Everyone was delighted with their haul; I am planning to puree everything I can think of using my new Kitchenaid blender. I expect I will even be able to make Brussels sprouts soup without being discovered if I add enough ham stock. I managed to stay out of the workshop until Boxing Day when I felt compelled to go and make a quilted case for the kids' new mini netbook computer. I hope to potter away all week on small projects and eating up all of the goodies so that we can eat salad in the New Year... ;)
Monday, 26 December 2011
Sunday, 18 December 2011
I know there are 52 weeks in a year and I could plan early for Christmas but it never happens. Maybe one year it would be fun to do all of the buying and wrapping for the following year during the previous year's Christmas holidays. I cut and pieced the borders for the huge African customer quilt and prepared its binding but I had to wait all week for the postie to deliver the backing fabric as he was busy with other parcels, apparently.
I also joined the blue and orange quilt together but there is no way it will also be quilted in time for Christmas. The next project was an ipad cover but the thread had a tangle and upset the whole of the bobbin case mechanism. I stripped it all down, cleaned it out, replaced it all several times, tweaked a screw and got it stitching again but it is making a racket and really needs to go to Stirling to be fixed properly.
I taught in two different schools this week – both days were very icy and there was even an overturned Landrover on one of the back roads. Someone had jokingly turned a signpost around in an unfamiliar area so I made it to a new school just as the bell rang.
I decided to support my local High Street and did some Christmas shopping on Friday before returning to a long list of sewing items for gifts. I had to make another ipad cover, two ipod pouches, an iphone bag, three oilcloth homework folders and two cosmetic bags! I still had not written any Christmas cards or wrapped any of the parcels. Somehow I also had to fit all of the usual chores around all of these extra activities.
We collected a fabulous Christmas tree from the forester at the Glen Tanar estate near Aboyne and decorated it tastefully in silver and white with blue glass baubles that I managed to find in the Red Cross shop. The Farmers' Market was festive with carol singers, plenty of fresh Brussels sprouts and light snow flurries.
After a hearty venison curry, I settled down to watch the spectacular final of "Strictly Come Dancing" and ploughed my way through a pile of Christmas cards. We marvelled at the skill of the dancers and the frivolity of the frocks and thought that all of the finalists deserved to win the Glitter Ball trophy.
On Sunday I packaged up my parcels for posting, finally started quilting the African bedspread and went to the children's annual Christmas piano concert, where they all performed really well. The week ahead is looking a little hectic – more shopping and wrapping, customer quilt, two concerts, two parties, teaching at a school, longarming pupil, remembering to buy groceries, catching the last special delivery post and wondering when I will fit in any cooking. There are also emails that I must respond to and classes to organise so I hope there will be SOME time left to enjoy the run-up to the festive period and eat a couple of mince pies!
Sunday, 11 December 2011
I had originally planned to cut off the awkward edges of the African tumbler blocks but that would have been taking a shortcut and I conceded that they would look far better if they fitted together as zigzags. Set-in seams are not easy by machine and progress was a little slow; some hand stitching was necessary to fill in a couple of little gaps. It means that this quick quilt is far from finished and now I have a king-sized African quilt to create for a customer by Christmas (fingers crossed.)
I some work on the Yurt book by dictating some notes that I hope my speedy typist can turn into text. I never learned how to touch type and although a few of my fingers can go quite fast, I still have to spell out every single word.
During the week we had gale force winds - snow fell in many areas but missed us for a change. A few trees came down and blocked local roads for a while but there was surprisingly little damage here. The garden Yurt was unscathed but the roof of the henhouse blew away. The chooks were completely unruffled and are steadfastly continuing their egg laying strike.
I spent two fun days teaching in a country school and we went on a trip to a Curling Festival in Aberdeen. The children were a bit apprehensive when they first stepped onto the ice but they very quickly became confident and were soon tactically knocking each other's stones out of the target areas, whizzing up and down with their brushes. I had a go too and it is far trickier than it looks, getting the crouch and release right with a plastic bag on one foot while balancing using a broom. It is like a more exciting version of bowls with the addition of undignified wobbly sliding, although the pros made it look smooth and effortless.
I took Freya down to Glasgow on Saturday for her acoustic guitar exam. Road conditions and weather forecasts were predicted to be variable so I packed the Landy up with sleeping bags, blankets, coats, fluorescent jackets, torch, shovel and bucket. The motorway around Stirling was snowy and foggy but the traffic continued to speed past. We trundled along steadily, did a bit of Christmas shopping on the way and now just have to hope that she gets good results. Fenella remembered to record the semi-final show of "Strictly Come Dancing" and plenty of M&M's were bought for decorating Fergus's chocolate birthday cake. It looks like another week of cramming in as much as possible and I must do something about writing Christmas cards, shopping, wrapping. By Wednesday I should think I will deserve a mince-pie and a glass of sherry at coffee time!
Sunday, 4 December 2011
My whole schedule went by the wayside this week as I was under the weather for a couple of days. Being ill is such a waste of time so I after one day of taking it easy and guzzling ibuprofen I decided that I was better. However, I was not very productive, only managing to prepare a few zips for oilcloth bags - I even BOUGHT the fancies for my Coffee & Craft morning. A few folk came along and I managed to sign a handful up for one or two forthcoming classes. It was useful to discuss exactly what courses people would like to do and when they would find it most convenient. It looks like machine quilting and absolute basics could be popular. My friend, Miche, offered a present wrapping demonstration and she had wonderfully simple packages of pot-pourri and ribbons for sale.
I taught in a small country school during the week, basing my teaching around Elmer the Patchwork Elephant and some simple quilt block designs as a maths exercise for the older pupils. Deciding that supply teaching is so unpredictable, I have now officially applied for a part-time teaching job. The application was done electronically so I will just have to wait and see if I am offered an interview. The downside of actually getting a "proper" teaching job would be having to plan a major programme of work during the Christmas holidays when I would rather be drinking sherry and popping into the studio occasionally. I guess I will have to cross that bridge if and when it happens!
I took Fergus into Aberdeen for his Grade 1 Rockschool guitar exam. It was held in the basement of a slightly seedy building that bands can hire for jamming sessions. He seemed to think that it went well so we went for coffee afterwards and checked out the new music shop that has opened in the city centre. I was most impressed by the staff and the choice of instruments. I bought Fergus a fun travel sized banjo for his 10th birthday. After I delivered him back at school I spent the rest of the day making it a quilted bag. This involved quilting the fabric, working out the shape, deciding how to attach the handles, and even fitting a zip now that I think I have finally mastered that method of fastening. There was a certain amount of trial, error and remodelling involved but I was pleased with my invention. I think I will have to make another one for the kids' ukulele.
I ran part one of a class on the "Silent Movie Star" quilt on Sunday which went really well. By the end of the class everyone had completed a whole tricky corner block and cut all of the pieces for the other three. I have rewritten the original draft so that the instructions are easier to follow. I still prefer step by step photos for my instructions so I will have to work on the clearest way of setting these up so that they look professional in case I ever write a quilt book that is not about Yurts.
I will try to get what I had planned for last week done this week - then I will have to admit that Christmas is coming and I had better consider writing cards and maybe doing some shopping...
Sunday, 27 November 2011
It has been hard to tear myself away from my latest fiction addiction and concentrate on writing my book about a quilted Yurt while I have been greedily devouring novels featuring DS McRae, set in a grimmer than life version of Aberdeen. These books are full of murderous characters, criminal gangs and far more bodies than normal but they are gripping because all of the places and people seem so real and close to home. Maybe my book needs some more action or a mystery to solve.
I made an effort to spend some time on the Yurt book draft, fleshing it out a bit and deciding what was most relevant. I referred back through the blog to work out what I have been so busy doing since the Yurt debuted at Loch Lomond last year. It would seem that I constantly suffer from angst that I am not fitting enough into my week to create all that I would like. It is interesting to review just how much has been achieved. There was more decorating than I remembered, along with brewing, baking, homework and trips. During that same period I have made several attempts to get my teeth into the book or promote the Yurt before being overwhelmed by guilt that I have spent hours on the laptop with no evidence of activity. At least if I am making a quilt it is easier to see it growing.
I was amused to read in the blog archive that I had been bamboozled by some of the gadgets that I thought would save me time but that simple tasks actually took longer to achieve because I had forgotten how they worked. A prime example of this was my attempt to interview Yurtman for his chapter. I could have used the SmartPen with its recording facility or the handheld voice recorder when I thought I would have time to write podcasts. It is all very well practising with the tape recorder and pretending to be a reporter when no-one else is there but I felt slightly embarrassed to have so much technology at my disposal to interview someone who is interested in living as "off-grid" as possible. Instead, I just wrote garbled notes with a biro.
I decided that maybe I should dictate parts of the Yurt story onto the tape recorder and get my speed typing friend to turn it into text. Getting the hang of the gadget was the easy part. I discovered that it saves the files as WAV's which are too big to send by email so they would have to be shrunk. I spent an entire morning fumbling my way through cyber-babble trying to compress or zip or convert my recording into an mp3 file small enough to email to my friend. It would have been quicker and easier to a) type it myself, b) drive to her house with my notes or c) copy the file onto a usb stick and post it! I was annoyed at how much time I was wasting not quilting but determined to solve my techno-puzzle and I finally found a way to do it by sheer luck. Sadly my friend's computer was too elderly to open the file but at least I know it can be done in theory.
By the time I made it into the workshop to quilt a hessian coffee bean sack that I thought would make trendy gadget covers, my sewing skills had obviously deserted me. I think I should just have stuck to straight line quilting. I wondered if it would improve the look of the piece if it was washed as it was a bit grubby and the hessian had a loose weave. This was not a good decision as most of the ink washed out. I could have made further attempts to remedy the situation by adding embroidery but decided that it would be quicker to start again so Bloody Mabel got a new dog blanket. Next I quilted two small pieces of Aboriginal fabric and a piece of oilcloth so at least I would have something to show for my week's efforts.
Sunday, 20 November 2011
I made a trip down to Glasgow in the Landy to do a talk about my quilts and travels for "The Glasgow Gathering of Quilters". The satnav on my phone directed me straight into the heart of the city without getting lost – all I had to do was avoid all of the pedestrians and find a parking space. Margo and Bonnie took me out for supper in an Italian restaurant which was surprisingly busy for a Tuesday evening, proving that I lead a very different life out in the boonies. The Glasgow quilters were most welcoming and their warm reception gave my morale a much needed boost. I had even been toying with the idea of getting a proper job and returning to quilting as a hobby. It does me good to meet up with like minded folk every now and then to bounce around some ideas. They gave me renewed enthusiasm for some forthcoming projects and it was even suggested that could I produce some small, mounted pieces for sale.
Home again, I determined to get as much done as possible in a short week so: I painted my plaster deer head blue, drafted out a dozen mini classes that I could offer for craft evenings or demos at shows, used up an off-cut of yurt roof to make a zipped bag, told Blue Cat she is not allowed to sit on show quilts that are waiting to be put back in their cupboard, AND cut out lots more blue and orange African fabric tumbler blocks for Fergus's quilt. I think I have decided which "wholecloth" project to work on first but I need to figure out how on Earth I will mark it as I will not be using a sensible, pale coloured fabric...
Tania, Mo and I went on another trip to Glasgow on Saturday for the Country Living Christmas Fair followed by an obligatory trawl through IKEA. We did some festive shopping but also managed to buy a few things for ourselves. I bought a quirky tartan skirt to wear at Quilt Quine talks and a wicked pair of garden secateurs that I think I can use to mass produce wooden buttons. I resisted the urge to buy an ostrich leather pencil case and passed on purchasing a bottle of sloe gin since I already have several noxious, vintage bottles stashed away at home.
This week my priority is to do some drafting on The Book and fit in some piecing after I have done a bit of editing each day. I might also start drafting out one of the wholecloths, have a go at making some more zipped bags for Christmas and think about producing some works of "Art". Unless I get called on for supply teaching or another, better idea comes along!
Sunday, 13 November 2011
I paid the ransom in customs and received the Accuquilt GO cutter that I had ordered ages ago from the USA. I was really impressed at how neatly it cut out a stack of tumbler shapes and how nicely they all line up because of their little notches. I decided to make a quilt for Fergus using a collection of vibrant orange and blue African fabrics but I just did not have enough; despite telling myself that I should use up every available scrap of stash fabric before buying anything new, I ended up buying yet more from The African Fabric shop.
Mo ran a very successful needle felting class during the week in my workshop and provided her students with home-made soup and bread for lunch. They were all thrilled with their super little animals, including a couple of terriers and a polar bear. We think we may offer occasional drop-in days where folk can get a cup of coffee and see us demonstrating some sort of sewing or crafting technique. This would be less of a commitment than signing up for a whole course. People have been very keen for us to run classes but less enthusiastic about actually signing up. I know that the run up to Christmas is a busy time but I can't honestly work out when IS the best time?
Since I was not busy teaching, I decided to paint the sitting room for the first time in eleven years. It was really quite overdue as there were several old tester patches of paint that everyone had stopped noticing. It was not a thrilling job as I was not making a dramatic change from one shade of cream to another and the dreich weather made it difficult to see what I was doing in an old house with low ceilings. The only good thing about decorating is that I get to listen Radio 4 without a sewing machine drowning out part of The Archers.
Eventually the room started to look fresher but I was reminded that I have two very mismatched sofas and this room that is used by everyone in the family contains an awful lot of different "stuff". There is a glass cabinet that contains odd ornaments and an assortment of books so I made a pair of curtains that would hide it all away. I bought a white plaster deer head but I have decided to paint it blue to match my collection of vintage, cracked Cornishware crockery. Everything got a rare and thorough dusting and I was fairly pleased with my efforts. I will really have to psych myself up to tackle the marathon chore of repainting the hall, stairs and landings – but not yet...
Sunday, 6 November 2011
Things were not going according to plan on Thursday; maybe it was due to the tail end of Hallowe'en influences! First, three days' worth of supply teaching was cancelled as the school administrator had double booked relief teachers, then the sour dough rye bread that was proving gently in front of the electric heater in the workshop started to cook in its bowl, my spaghetti Bolognese was destined not to contain a single tomato and the expensive advert for Quilt Quine classes in the local newspaper yielded only two calls from people who could not manage any of the dates on offer. I was extremely annoyed when I received a letter from the UK Border Agency that stated it was going to destroy the counterfeit sheepskin boots that I had ordered online in good faith from an authentic looking website. This gives me something else to sort out and rant about!
My increasingly bad mood obviously did not help when I tried to line up points on the new version of "Bewitched" as the gold lame refused to be teased into shape. The original quilt was just made up as I went along but this time I wanted to teach it as a class or maybe include it in a future book. I simply could not figure out what size to cut the large corner triangles and thoroughly confused myself by looking up various formulae. In the end I cut and measured by trial and error which seems to be the way I usually work things out. I have made 4 blocks and I think the colour combinations are coming along rather nicely.
Despite wasting a considerable amount of time on Ebay looking at VW camper vans, xylophones and Tupperware mugs instead of sorting out the draft of the Yurt book, I made a few zip up oilcloth bags that I intend to give to all of my friends and family for Christmas. After ordering some rather nice thick PVC fabric I decided that I could do with a Teflon foot for my machine so it doesn't get stuck. I can see the potential for making all sorts of pencil cases, folders and wallets but I am not sure if I like the diary cover version yet.
I hosted a fun coffee morning in the Yurt in aid of Compassion in World Farming in conjunction with the local primary school's Fair Trade Committee. We served ethically sourced tea & coffee with home bakes made from organic local produce and everyone jokingly suggested that it should become a weekly event. My hens will have to make a much greater effort if they are to contribute to any future local baking ventures or they may just find themselves being put to better use as stock for soup...
Sunday, 30 October 2011
By now I should know better than to plan out my week. I received two phone calls from schools on Monday asking me to do some supply teaching. I had less than 12 hours to worry about my first morning of teaching children in eleven years. I jotted down a mini project on pets, put on a skirt, found my whistle and chose a story to read. I went straight back into teacher mode and I managed to keep the class busy and under control. I eventually worked out how to write on the electronic "Smartboard" but I confess that I missed the blackboard and teacher's desk. I even turned down more dates that I was offered by two more schools because they clashed with my forthcoming quilt classes. I have actually spent some of my wages already on a couple more teacher outfits, some new books and an impulse EBay purchase of a vintage thermos flask so that I can take my own coffee. I will have to work out a polite way of saying that I think I am "allergic" to staffroom instant coffee.
By midweek I still had not sewed a stitch so I was determined to get cracking on a couple of projects. I erred on the side of caution and ordered a colour swatch card from Cherrywood Fabrics rather than just choose off the internet. I cut out more strips for the Happy House blocks as a "just for fun in between" quilt. I have decided to mix my modern Aboriginal fabrics up with my subtle coloured Starr hand-dyes for a remake of Bewitched. I didn't think I would want to make the same quilt twice but it was much admired before I sold it during NEOS week. Several people asked me to run a workshop or create a pattern so I might as well make a new one in different colours!
I washed and dried the ugly 1940's quilt but to my alarm, due to the combination of a double wool and cotton wadding, it was all buckled and hairy when it came out of the dryer. There was nothing for it – I ironed it into shape before binding it. There was no way that I would be able to put it up for sale in my Etsy shop so my husband suggested that I just throw it on the bed. It has a certain old fashioned charm, I suppose, and it is definitely warm so it might as well make itself useful until it is time to get the Christmas one out.
I remade and photographed the Silent Movie Star block so that I could simplify and improve the instructions so it looks like there will be a new and improved version of that quilt too, although the interesting thing is that I have chosen to remake it in very similar fabrics.
I quilted one of three Hallowe'en tea towels from The Piggly Wiggly and felt decidedly rusty after not having done any serious longarming for a couple of weeks. It looks rather fun but the other two may have to wait be done in time for next year.
Sunday, 23 October 2011
Landrover dashboards were obviously designed to hold salt, vinegar and pots of mushy peas. We had an uneventful train trip back from Norfolk but really felt a chill when we got off at Stonehaven. The Landrover was filled with the steamy aroma of chips as we chomped our way through fish suppers, watching the crashing waves through a gap in the steamy windscreen.
Mo and I put some dates in our diaries for quilting & felting classes so now I just need to slot in a few more classes then let everyone know what will be on offer. I received an acceptance letter for supply teaching but already I think I may have to reduce the amount of time that I will be available to be on call as I hope to be busy running workshops. I kept getting sidetracked and not quite managing to finish that job by sorting out winter gear, ordering Lego lightsabres from ebay and taking Fenella clothes shopping for her birthday. I bought a great peaked hat with a fluffy green cap that made Freya laugh out loud when she saw it – I think it is pretty cool and it was a bargain – I just don't know what will happen to it if it rains. My time was spent doing correspondence and planning a birthday party. Freya and I made a lemon sponge encased in a hard caramel case that was not as easy to handle as the demonstration on TV had led us to believe. It looked impressive and tasted great but I think I could do with a few days of vegetable broth to get all of that butter and sugar out of my system.
I quilted almost to the end of the ugly 1940's quilt top but I am still not convinced that it will look much better when it is washed and bound. If I really can't see it on my bed then it will have to go into the Etsy shop. I still have not decided which bed to put the Amish quilt on and I am running out of space in my quilt press.
I hope to quilt 3 Hallowe'en tea towels that I bought in The Piggly Wiggly as wall hangings to replace the one that I did about 7 years ago that still annoys me. I could requilt it but as it only hangs on the wall for about a week each year, I should probably get on and do something more useful instead.
I must improve the corner block instructions for Silent Movie Star as I made an error in the middle of my photo story and after that I am keen to start work on a show quilt that I have been planning for a while. The children go back to school this week and I hope to fit in LOTS of overdue projects...
Sunday, 16 October 2011
Norma made an excuse to take friends, Ina and Kay to Chicago IKEA so they very kindly took me to the airport afterwards. A cheeky person in airport security did not believe that I was cool enough to be the owner of the gold Doc Marten boots on the conveyor belt. I wondered about how nice it would be to fly first class as my TV monitor didn't work; the woman in front of me vomited throughout the entire journey and a child kicked the back of my seat. The security staff at Heathrow made me unpack my carry-on bag as it was so tightly crammed that the spools of thread looked suspicious. They even thought my boots were cool and asked me why I had been on my travels. They were very impressed by my quilting adventures, having read about "textile bombers" in the weekend newspaper and were even happy to help me shove my belongings into the rather overstuffed holdall since I was already struggling to carry a laptop bag that had a raccoon puppet sticking out of the top, a tweed jacket and the orange wool blanket from the Des Moines goodwill store. Aberdeen was cool and grey; I was surprised to notice that the leaves on the trees were only just beginning to change colour. The cats were thrilled to see me and immediately demanded the highly addictive meat pouches that had been rationed while I was away.
Waking up refreshed the next morning, I caught up with Mo and Tania over coffee then tidied up my luggage before repacking a smaller bag for a train trip down to Norfolk to collect the children from their grandparents' house.
The train journey to England was quite tedious and took longer than my transatlantic flight. I seemed to be plagued by grumpy old women – one claimed that I had taken her seat and the next one wondered nervously if my bag would fall from the luggage rack onto her head. At least I had the luxury of being able to read a book for the entire trip. It was great to be met at the station by my three kids who had apparently missed me and begged me to take them to America the next time.
The weather was beautiful on Sunday so we ate all of our meals outside. We caught up with my sister and my small nephew then went to visit the Other Granny in the afternoon. On the trip home I need to plan a Halloween birthday party for Fenella then start to make serious new TO DO lists leading up to Christmas!
Wednesday, 12 October 2011
Friday was a busy teaching day at the Museum, spending time demonstrating and doing hands-on sessions with the APQS Lenni. There was a mini field trip outside to discuss a student's piece based on the old stone walls of the barn and working out how to create quilted texture. There was a select audience for my evening lecture since it was a crucial game for the Milwaukee based baseball team, The Brewers, The opening evening of local Artists' Gallery Tours and also German Fest. However, in the enthusiastic audience, was an online longarmer friend called Colleen who drove over in her Smart Car with a jar of fresh peach jam.
On Saturday there was a "Bling My Quilt" class interspersed with some more longarm demonstrations. There were many visitors to the museum that day including a Facebook friend who had come all the way from South of Chicago just to meet me! The weather was incredibly and unseasonably warm, even in the evening so we enjoyed a grilled steak from the barbecue before settling down to watch the local American football team, the Green Bay Packers battle it out with the Atlanta Falcons.
I had my Artist's Reception on Sunday afternoon and entertained a troupe of keen Girl Scouts who were delighted to experiment with the longarm in contrast to their other hand stitching projects. There were visitors from The Netherlands who were in the area visiting relatives who had read about the museum and Yurt exhibition in American Quilter Magazine. It was great to meet APQS dealers Dave and Jane Bentheimer-Brown from Randolph, WI who brought quilting goodies for me to take home. After a long day meeting and greeting, Terri and I went to a Mexican Restaurant and enjoyed a large frozen lime Margarita before watching The Brewers and Packers in action once more.
Since Terri was working at her "real" job I went back to spend my last few days in Cedarburg with Norma. Despite battling to fit everything into my one suitcase with a 23kg limit, I went on a trip to "Ivana Trunk's" antiques consignment and came away with an authentic looking Amish quilt for $35... We were on a mission to find a toy raccoon for Fenella and searched in vain at various thrift stores and toy shops. On the way back we stopped to take photos of some imaginative Hallowe'en displays and we called in to visit friends of Norma who live on a farm with a beautiful red barn that was built in 1848. During the evening a neighbour from across the street asked if her 8 year old son could come over and sweep up leaves as they did not have any trees in their yard. His reward would be to jump in the huge piles. I gave them a hand with a broom as it was so easy to sweep up such dry leaves. It seemed like such an idyllic all-American evening in suburbia as we could hear the marching band practising at the local high school football field two blocks away.
Tuesday was my last full day in the USA and Norma took me into Milwaukee to visit the Harley Davidson Motorcycle Museum. We had an interesting tour around a terrific industrial building and the company's history was very well documented with artefacts and interactive displays. There was even an opportunity to sit on some real bikes to have photos taken. Afterwards we went to the Milwaukee Art Museum which is situated in the most incredible building that was designed by Spanish architect, Santiago Calatrava. The entire structure of the building was formed by huge white wishbones and had magnificent bow windows overlooking Lake Michigan where sailing boats were skimming across the bay. My gift shop purchase was a rubber tablemat that looked like it would make a rather interesting quilt stencil. On our way out of town we stopped at a toy and gift emporium called "Winkies" where I finally found a raccoon hand puppet which will have to travel in my handbag!
Friday, 7 October 2011
Sunday was yet another beautiful day when Norma and I set out on our drive to Wisconsin. We drove past traditional wooden farmsteads, red barns, grain silos and fields of corn and beans that were almost dry enough for harvest. There were huge pumpkins for sale at the side of the road. We stopped off in Conrad, Iowa to visit Heidi Kaisand's new retreat and quilt shop, "Hens & Chicks". She has converted an old general store and filled it with antique presses on which to display her fabrics. She still had a lot to do to get it ready for her grand opening but it will be a lovely place when it is complete.
We stopped for lunch at the Wisconsin state line for a lunch buffet. There was a strange jello confection in amongst the cold salad bar that I decided to avoid but I was impressed by the decor in the ladies loo that was decorated like horse stalls. The Wisconsin countryside is more like parts of England with rolling hills and smaller farms. The leaves on the trees were just turning to rich autumn colours. Cedarburg is a charming town with neatly mown lawns, pretty houses with porches and tree lined streets. We barely managed to stay awake until 9pm that evening and it was most comforting to sleep under a real quilt after a week in a hotel.
On Monday morning we arrived at the Wisconsin Museum of Quilts and Fiber Arts which is sited in renovated 1850's barn with several other smaller farm buildings all awaiting their turn for conservation. I made myself useful by helping to dismantle the previous exhibit: there was a great selection of quilts on the walls and on an antique bed, crochet, macramé, knitting, baskets, vintage linens, and wool coverlets from Pennsylvania. There was also a Baltimore quilt from Mary Koval's collection a WW2 wedding dress made from a parachute and a well stocked gift shop. The barn provides a perfect setting for such a diverse collection of textiles and it has large rooms available in the basement for classes, lectures and functions.
Norma and I took the carpet store by surprise when we asked if they had a remnant suitable for the yurt. I bought 50 samples at 25 cents each. We dropped the Des Moines butterfly chair off at the Goodwill Store near Port Washington and had a glimpse of Lake Michigan, shining flat calm on yet another beautiful autumn day.
Breakfast on Tuesday morning was fun when Norma and I met Luella for breakfast at George Webb's Diner. A group of old timers sat at the long counter; I ordered sunnysideup fried eggs with hash-browns and an endless supply of coffee. I fulfilled a lifelong ambition to shop in a "Piggly Wiggly" grocery store; these are usually found in The South but there is also a small chain of them in Wisconsin. It was a lovely small supermarket so I bought some autumn coloured M&M's and a canvas shopping bag with the legendary pig printed on the side.
There was a big team of helpers to get the yurt frame up in the centre of the barn which was good as wooden floors are always a bit of a challenge. Even the reporter from Ozaukee County News Graphic helped to attach the roof in between taking photos. The rest of the day was spent tidying up and sorting out a publicity poster. Norma and I visited Luella's house which is full of interesting antique collections of quilts and kitchenware. Our reward for working so hard was to have a burger & fries supper at Culver's, followed by ice-cream topped with pecans and butterscotch sauce shared three ways!
Wednesday at the museum involved making calls to the UPS depot, demanding why they had decided to split up the shipment from APQS of a longarm machine for teaching and demonstrations. They refused to admit that they had mistyped a label so we ended up driving to Milwaukee to collect the final box. There was a side trip to Joann's to get some gold lame type fabrics for one of my classes. I wish we had places like that in the UK... the selection of fake fur, vinyl and dress fabrics is amazing and I think I could have such fun with some of that. We toured along Lakeshore Drive in Milwaukee which is an exclusive area of very fancy mansions close to Lake Michigan. Joggers, dog walkers and Harley Davidson bikers were making the most of the weather on the lakeside, making it all look like an idyllic place to live. I have been reliably informed that this weather could break at any time and temperatures could plummet any day. We got the APQS Lenni all set up for classes without the help of a paper manual and learnt that referring to PDF instructions by phone and using borrowed tools is not easy... Terri Kirchner, the President of WMQFA, arrived back from New York where she had been on a tour with a group of quilters. She is one of the original Yurt "Stunt Quilters". She had plenty of correspondence to catch up with during the day and in the evening I moved my out of Norma's house with my expanding luggage to stay with Terri for the rest of my stay.
I worked on the longarm on Thursday morning then had a jaunt out to buy some prewound bobbins and look in the tempting window of the toffee-apple shop. I accompanied Terri on a wild goose chase to collect a donation of fabric from the estate of a deceased quilter. There were many rubbish bags full of musty smelling fabric awaiting collection on the front lawn. The first warning signs were people wearing Tyvek suits and respirator masks. The hoarder's family called to demand that the clearance company did not give away the fabric in case it might be valuable. Terri was most relieved at that decision, particularly after being informed that the original elderly house owner had died 6 years ago; her infirm son then moved in before kicking the bucket himself on a small patch of rotting carpet. Five enormous containers had already been filled with junk for the dump. We returned to the Museum for me to give an evening talk to the volunteers about the Yurt so that they would know how to explain it all to visitors. Afterwards there was coffee with the sweetest and stickiest frosted carrot cake that I have ever tasted – it actually gave me a bit of a headache!
Sunday, 2 October 2011
On Monday I did a little exploring around Des Moines on my own as I would be waiting until the afternoon for the Yurt to arrive from Wisconsin. I took the Skywalk downtown to see what little shops I could find. (It seems that the Skywalk was partly responsible for the downtown shops closing down as it meant that no-one had a reason to walk at street level any more.) I had coffee at Java Joes but did not see many interesting people downtown apart from office workers and a few stray hobos. Next I walked up to the East Village where there is a scattering of trendy boutiques and a couple of large thrift stores where I felt obliged to have a good rummage. I checked back at the convention centre where stallholders were beginning to unload and get set up for the show. There had been very heavy rain in the north so Norma did not make it down from Wisconsin until late in the afternoon but it was a great feeling to unload the USA yurt from her car at last and lay it down in the space where it would be displayed.
Arriving early on Tuesday morning, we were assigned two very helpful members of AQS staff, Melissa and Barry to help get the frame assembled. It was useful that they are both tall as this yurt frame is 2 feet higher than the original Scottish version. The new yurt frame also has a smaller diameter so the two lattices meet more tightly at the back. This took a little persuasion to get all lined up but in no time we had figured it all out and I was impressed at how easily it all went from there. Before long the hanging rope and wall skirts were on and finally the roof that I had made from a sketch diagram with Mo's help. Thankfully and impressively it fitted perfectly! The wall panels all lined up nicely so there was plenty of time to add the pompom trim and bunting. The electricians agreed to run a cable under the carpet so that I could plug in the fairy lights and we still had time left to go on an expedition to see if we could find any interesting items to add to the yurt's cosy atmosphere. Enthused by what might be uncovered in junk shops we set off for a good rake around some of the goodwill stores and Dollar Trees. I have never seen so many jeans all in one place amongst discarded Christmas decorations and novelty mugs. I managed to find a dangly plastic mobile that looked funky, a 1960's style butterfly chair and an interesting wool blanket. Just for fun, I added a set of imitation antlers that were probably designed as a coat rack that would hang above the door. I was made very welcome at the evening Teacher meeting by Bonnie Browning and Andi Reynolds from AQS, before returning to my room to eat a leftover salad and a large G&T.
The show opened on Wednesday and the visitors were amazed and most complimentary when they saw the yurt in person, after having read about it in American Quilter magazine. There were many questions to answer about yurts, why I had decided to make a quilted version, and where I got my gold Doc Marten boots. It was great to have Norma Klimpke on hand to talk about the USA yurt frame from Yurts of America www.yurtsofamerica.com and the background of the Cedarburg, Wisconsin Museum of Fiberarts www.wiquiltmuseum.com I gave my first class that evening, "Bling My Quilt" and the students seemed to enjoy themselves despite everyone being tired after a long day at the show.
Thursday was a busier day at the show as we headed towards the weekend. I made a point of going to see all of the super show quilts and had a brief look at some of the vendor stalls. It was fun to spend time talking to the APQS team and their booth looked great set up with all of the machines in the range on show. I bought some thread, glittery spray and some stencils one just one trip back from the ladies' loo. I met lots of people from the APQS forum and Facebook; it was lovely to meet the real people at last instead of their virtual personas. It seems that Norma and I are both curious people because we quizzed everybody about where they had travelled from and they in turn asked me about Yurts and Scotland. I was interviewed on video by Bonnie Browning of AQS and had fun pretending to be on the news. It was exciting to meet quilt teachers whom I had read about on the Internet; we had a great laugh with Ellen Anne Eddy over breakfast and supper a couple of times and Heather Thomas gave me some helpful book publishing information. I had a worthwhile meeting with AQS publishing editor, Andi Reynolds who encouraged me to look for an alternative publisher that would let me have free rein to put together a book about the yurt that goes beyond patterns and tells the richer story of the collaboration of women quilters who helped to create the Quilted Yurt. I appreciate her insight and this should give me a better sense of direction to the way I put the chapters together.
On Friday I gave my "Silent Movie Star" piecing class which went really well until we realised that I had missed out a crucial photo. Luckily, there were a couple of clever students who helped to find the missing piece of the puzzle and we soon put it all back on track. I promised that I would make the quilt again, photograph every stage and email new improved instructions once I get home. I should probably stick to teaching longarm quilting...! The afternoon lecture on the story of the Quilted Yurt went down very well. The audience listened attentively and laughed in all of the right places, apart from a couple of people who had forty winks because the quilt show had obviously worn them out. The talk ran to schedule then many members of the audience came back to look around the yurt again to examine the structure in more detail. Even vendors made a special point of coming to see what everyone was talking about and ask about the project. I am thrilled at how well received the yurt has been. People are also enquiring which longarm machine I would recommend and asking for more information about the WI Fiberarts Museum. I have certainly been made to feel most welcome in Des Moines!
The Saturday morning crazy notebook class was fun as it was relaxing and not at all complicated. Everyone had a good time but wished it was a couple of hours longer. I went back to the Yurt where Norma K (from the Wisconsin museum) reported that the morning had brought many excited visitors. So many people were amazed by the use of gold lame and fabric paint on many of the Yurt quilts. The time passed quickly, chatting to all of the crowds then I had a last look around the vendors, making the decision not to buy a couple of large and heavy items such as a metal barn quilt sign. Sadly, it was time to pack up and with the help of members of the AQS team, the whole Yurt was packed up and ready to load into the car in less than an hour. Norma and I had a very good burger with beer in the Raccoon River Brewing Co. where we had quite a laugh at some of the shiny, tight Homecoming frocks and high heels.
We will leave for Wisconsin in the morning and I hope to have the chance to take far more photos...
Monday, 26 September 2011
After I battled my way through half of a giant waffle that I made myself at the hotel breakfast buffet, Norma collected me and we went off exploring again. I was beginning to get my bearings and recognise landmarks. We wandered around the Botanic Gardens where inventive gardeners had painted quilt blocks to hang amongst the foliage in honour of the forthcoming quilt show. Our next stop was a Target superstore so that I could buy some fairy lights for the inside of the Quilted Yurt. We found these in the impressive Christmas/Halloween department. My next assignment was to find a pair of Converse shoes for Freya and the reward for completing that mission was coffee and a muffin in Barnes & Noble. If I was a homeless intellectual I think I would try to live in there. I rashly purchased some attachments for my Kitchenaid mixer because they were on special offer but they are quite heavy – however, I brought some longarm machine parts into the USA so it should be a straight swap of weight in my luggage.
We visited the Historical Building in downtown Des Moines which was a terrific free museum that contained a variety of fascinating artefacts from Iowa and neighbouring Native American People. There was hardly anyone else there so we could browse and read the labels at our leisure. Our next stop was to the sculpture park where there is a significant collection of modernist works, some impressive and some just weird. We drove past the Governor's Mansion and some other lovely old houses off Grand Avenue. It has been a privilege to be shown around by a Des Moines local. Norma even took me past the Iowa State Fairground because one of the buildings has been decorated with a frieze of ceramic quilt blocks. We drove around the beautiful man-made lake and she answered all of my questions tirelessly. She had brought with her the brand new copy of "American Quilter" magazine in which there was a good article about the Wisconsin Fiber Arts Museum – I was thrilled that the Yurt and I were mentioned! I returned to the hotel, planning on working on the Yurt Book draft but I ended up reading a novel accompanied by a refreshing G&T. I will definitely deal with the draft before I start reading anything new...
Sunday, 25 September 2011
Monday, 19 September 2011
I joined North East Open Studios way back in the spring and really did not know what to expect. I lined myself up with some projects to keep me busy during what I thought would be a quiet week with possibly a handful of visitors dropping in from time to time. I dug out some of my 1940's quilt tops, expecting to finish a couple of them. The Yurt frame was set up in the garden in case of good weather; I cleared the camping gear out of the garden yurt, filled up its log basket and put a sign up on the gate.
I was completely overwhelmed by the number and enthusiasm of my visitors for the following 7 days. I reckon that 20-30 people called in every day and some called in for second visits to bring their friends. There were people who had looked me up in the NEOS catalogue, folk who had seen the Patchwork Smart Car parked outside the sweetie shop in Banchory, artisans who had the sense to book themselves a day out to see other studios, tourists who had seen the studio trail advertised and then people who came because they had heard from others that my place was worth a visit. There was even a bit of traffic chaos as several visitors arrived at the same time as the guitar teacher and a fully laden tractor & trailer.
There were locals who were curious to see what I do, people on touring holidays and even a visitor from Australia who was staying with family in the area. The weather was decidedly unreliable and I only managed to display the Quilted Yurt's covers once but the sun shone on the gold lame and looked fantastic. During the rest of the wet and windy week, I showed visitors into the cosy garden yurt where some of the panels were hung on the inside. The workshop/studio was festooned with bunting and a collection of bed quilts, show quilts and antique quilts, all of which I encouraged people to handle.
Many signed up for classes which I now need to put on the calendar and Mo came up for a day to run a needle felting demo on making felt animals. Yurtman called in and discussed frame modifications, the Art Department from the local Academy enthused about potential projects, and textile artists & quilters were all gratifyingly complimentary. I talked non-stop about the quilts, my inspiration, forthcoming projects and travels and why on earth I decided to make a quilted yurt in the first place. It was actually a good rehearsal for my forthcoming visit to the AQS Des Moines Show as an exhibitor/teacher.
I sold a few postcards, took a commission and ran up a few quilted Iphone cases in between visitors. One of the 1940's quilts had a mere 12 inches of quilting completed in one corner. Somehow the children got fed on dwindling rations after the studio closed at 6pm each evening and I wondered how artists would manage to do any creating if they had to run a shop on a regular basis. On Monday morning as I type this, I have a long list of things to tidy and sort out before I allow myself to think about packing for my USA trip. This week I also happen to have the supply teaching interview that I have been waiting for since January – I guess it keeps my options open...!
Sunday, 11 September 2011
Sunday, 4 September 2011
My main task for the week was to produce the handouts and patterns for my forthcoming USA trip. I had to run up a string of bunting to check the fabric quantities, figure out how to draw a simple circular design using compasses, sew a notebook cover to ensure that the instructions worked and read through all of the other patterns to see if they made sense. I got Tania to proof read them and she thought they seemed straightforward. The photocopy shop ran off pages of pictures and text for me and I laminated the patterns so that they look like recipe cards. There are no diagrams since I can't figure out how to draw them neatly but the patterns that I have chosen are very simple so it should be easy to follow by referring to the photo. The Silent Movie Star pattern is 6 pages long as it is set out like a step by step photo-story! I have a nasty feeling that my parcel will weigh far more than 2kg so I expect that I will have to pack some of it in my suitcase. I have to leave room for some Quilt Quine "door prizes" – American quilt teachers all seem to offer tombola prizes to members of the class chosen at random. I might take tea bags and digestives to offer to my students at Elevenses instead of coffee.
I have to admit that I became rather bored sitting in front of the computer and I kept going off on online tangents, wondering whether to get a coffee pod machine for the workshop and I also ordered myself some new everyday green Doc Martens. I was very disappointed to find that the foreign manufacturers of this iconic British shoe have altered the fit so that my normal size was too big. I even went to a shoe shop in Aberdeen to try a smaller size but found that they were too tight. This means that I will have to carry on wearing my favourite green patent ones even though they are now looking very scruffy. At the back of my mind I have always wanted to make a quilt that somehow involves Docs...
As a reward for completing my Des Moines paperwork, I pieced a very simple strippy quilt with a few flying geese that should be "absolutely the last ever yurt panel" and I intend to quilt it like 5 Bar Gate. I completed a small African wall hanging and started a mini project using the offcuts from the easy flying geese. I have now jotted down some ideas for new sewing projects. I hate not having something new lined up ready to sew. I am turning over a few ideas for potential show quilts as I haven't seriously done one for quite a while. There may be a rather different wholecloth and possibly a spinoff of Silent Movie Star that could make good use of the exciting collection of Australian fabrics. I have a few other things to fit in first such as taking the Yurt to Perth, North East Open Studio week, a big USA trip and a book draft - but at least I have a plan or two in mind so that I am not at a loose end after all that!
Sunday, 28 August 2011
My sewing machine ploughed admirably through yards and yards of industrial Velcro and eventually all of the new USA Yurt quilted roof sections, skirts and hanging junctions were complete. It took some determination to keep going but with a deadline looming there was to be no slacking. I packed up all of the USA Stunt Quilter panels, along with a wide selection of mine and I managed to cram everything into two very large suitcases ready for shipping. I delivered them to the depot after driving around several industrial estates near Aberdeen airport so hopefully they will be sent out as soon as Hurricane Irene calms down. They are heading for the Fiber Arts Museum in Wisconsin, where the new yurt frame has already been delivered. I expect Terri and her team will have a dress rehearsal once everything clears customs.
Having completed the very last Yurt panel ever, I decided that I had to do just one more in case the 18 panels that I have kept in the UK did not quite fit together. It will be a sort of strippy a bit like Five Bar Gate, inspired by the magenta of the willow bay herb, the lilac coloured heather that is in full bloom, and the deep purple brambles. Some of the wide strips are not quite long enough so there will be a few sections of golden flying geese as they will soon be heading south as summer draws to a chilly close.
I spent a couple of days planning some child friendly hand sewing and packed up the Quilted Yurt for an educational event in Durris Forest over the weekend. There is a wood in the forest where local children can take part in Forest School activities. They can work on environmental tasks and spend whole days outside, walking from the village school up the long forest track to a clearing near the top of a hill. Over the weekend there was a bodger helping them to saw logs by hand and make a wooden xylophone, bows and arrows, and play games using sticks and willow hoops. A story-teller with a lyre narrated scary folk tales and a forest ranger led nature trails, identifying bugs and fungi. A team of volunteers worked on a dry stone dyke while children worked on craft activities and everyone was amazed that the weather stayed dry enough for picnics. Despite the merciless midges and the uneven ground, the Yurt looked terrific in its woodland setting. It would be great if a permanent yurt with a wood stove could be put up there for outdoor education.
Sunday, 21 August 2011
Adrenaline seems to have kicked in for the run up to my USA trip. Instead of my usual 500 word weekly ramble, you will be lucky to get a few coherent sentences strung together. I washed and ironed my new fabric then made myself put it away so that I could not be tempted to start playing with it. The Yurt panels that were quilted while I demonstrated Lenni at FOQ were painted and bound and even the final one has been quilted this week at high speed. I even managed to complete a customer quilt; the last one that I will do until October.
There were quite a few emails between myself, the museum in Wisconsin and the new Yurt frame makers, Yurts of America to sort out photos, drawings and dimensions. I worked out the maths and sketched the measurements of the roof for Yurt2. Mo was my right hand woman for one full day so we figured out some modifications to the design, cut all of the pieces then started overlocking, hemming and attaching industrial Velcro. The progress that we made was astonishing and I have now completed the junctions, joined the roof sections and made additional wall bands as the shape is slightly different to the original. We have to hold our breath that it will fit snugly when it meets the frame in the USA for the first time. However, I have several cunning tricks worked out in case it doesn't quite marry up that involve pins, Velcro and bunting. Mo tells me that it WILL fit – we are the team that made a fitted car cover and plan to construct an armoured horse after all!
I still have to wage war with the rest of the roof Velcro and attach the wretched stuff to my newer Yurt panels but I plan to get it all packed up and shipped by the middle of the week. I have chosen which panels will be sent to the USA; all of the original USA Stunt Quilter panels and a generous selection of mine, leaving me with another complete Yurt to remain in the UK. I wonder what I can make out of the surplus quilted material that is left over from the new roof?
Monday, 15 August 2011
On Tuesday I drove around the countryside dropping my children off at their various billets on my way to Birmingham with the Landy full of quilting gear and the APQS Lenni strapped to the roofrack. I think I may have to admit defeat and invest in a satnav system after making a very roundabout yet scenic trip through the Scottish Borders to stay overnight with Kay. I drove for miles without meeting another car with sheep on the roads, rattling over cattle grids, wondering if I was anywhere near where I was meant to be since I had forgotten to pack the map. My detour was definitely picturesque and took me to places that I had never previously visited. We set off the next morning through torrential rain and arrived in Birmingham in good time to set the Lenni up for longarm demonstrations.
We made a point of arriving early for the show each day to get an opportunity to look at the quilts and exhibitions before the general public was given access as it got very busy later on and even making a quick trip to the loo involved battling through crowds. There were some super quilts on display from all over the world. I think one of my favourites was a prehistoric dinosaur by Pam Holland. There was a wonderful exhibition by the Cairo tentmakers who create intricate hand appliqués using enormous scissors, seemingly without plans or diagrams. There were several interesting galleries and collections featuring antique quilts, concept art, costumes and installations. I met many international visitors, catching up with old quilting friends and meeting new ones, even resorting to sign language at times as I don't speak Italian or Russian. Every now and then I would make a foray away from my stall to acquire some fabric paints and I also bought a couple of bundles of coloured schwe-schwe fabrics from South Africa, having told myself beforehand that I did not need any new material, especially since an exciting surprise package from Christine in Australia had arrived on Monday containing a delicious selection of Aboriginal designs that are begging to be made into a new project.
My 3 Yurt panels, hanging as a triptych, received favourable comments from the judges and the public and I was delighted that The Hare received a Highly Commended award. I was thrilled that one judge had given me a perfect score card. It seemed to prove popular with the crowds that I was working on real projects at one end of the frame but it was not actually easy to concentrate while stopping to explain how the machine works and help novices use a longarm machine for the first time. Several longarmers gathered at the stall periodically to chat and share information; there is nothing like a lively gaggle of quilters to draw more crowds over. Yvette from Needle & Threads in Surrey was selling fabrics on the other half of the stall so it felt like we were constantly busy during the entire show.
The Landy seemed to enjoy bullying his way through the city traffic and guys loading vans after the show were suitably impressed that I could actually manoeuvre it in a tight spot fully loaded with gear and a ladder. We went out for a genuine Birmingham balti curry twice during the show, stayed up late looking at quilt photos while sipping gin, discussed the designs of the show quilts, outfits of the quilters and examined the purchases of the day. We stayed one more night in Birmingham after the show in order to head back up north to Scotland early as my children go back to school on Tuesday. It was enjoyable and exhausting but I will have to unpack as soon as I get home and crack straight on with the modified roof for Yurt2 so that it can be shipped to the USA in good time...
(Apologies that the blog is a day late but my modem ran out of power last night, also there very few FOQ photos; however, Kay took lots so when she emails a couple through, I will post some more!)