Sunday, 22 December 2013

De-Mob Happy!

I think that the Christmas term is a week too long! The final week is absolutely hectic when  most school children become over excited and over tired. My class party was an hour long sugar-rush of squealing and chasing until I made them do a ceilidh dance to my live fiddle playing medley that included The Dashing White Sergeant, Jingle Bells and something that I made up on the spot because I forgot what I was meant to be playing in 4/4 time. They fidgeted through their end of term carol service and could not sit still in the Muppets Christmas Carol DVD but they did seem genuinely sorry to say goodbye to me as I wished them all a Happy Christmas. 

The pupils at Banchory Academy gave a magnificent music concert on Monday evening - the choir sang Skyfall and Winter Wonderland beautifully. The weather has not been particularly festive with gales and rain. I keep hoping for frost or snow but it does not look likely and I may just clean the BBQ just in case high winds bring power cables down again.

I tried to complete my Christmas shopping in Banchory but was unsuccessful in my search for nice socks so I substituted them in the only possible way by purchasing mini bottles of Gin and Tonic instead. My week whizzed by as I made several trips to the parcel depot, used yards of sellotape for wrapping and finally scrawled the last of the Christmas cards. On Thursday evening I helped myself to the bottle of Chablis that I had earmarked for Friday. 

Mo, Tania spent a lovely evening together at the end of the week exchanging gifts and drinking plenty of Fizz. We had been so busy lately that we barely even caught up for a quick coffee in the past few weeks. 

There was not much sewing activity in my workshop which becomes an elves’ grotto and festive food cold store over Christmas. I bound a quilt that is a present and admired two packages of fabric that arrived. I ordered a fat-quarter selection from Anna Maria Horner and some deers, thinking that I might get around to making some new cushions for my scruffy old sofa. 

The other package came from Ani’s new shop in Kingsbridge, The Crazy Catt Quilt Shop. She put together a sample pack of hand dyed strips for me to try out for my Northern Lights project on the P&Q Magazine Cruise to Norway and the colours look perfect. I might have to sneak out to my grotto to see how it looks pieced together.

I hope all of you enjoy a Peaceful and Happy Christmas with plenty of mince pies and chocolate! xxx

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Best Laid Plans and All That

I often wonder why I bother to make plans when they so frequently change or go pear-shaped! On a whim I decided to rustle up a simple quilt for my mother-in-law using squares that I cut long ago. Th idea was to test out the new longarm machine with its on-board computer. I am not at all sure that this has been my wisest investment. I bought it to do some really basic bread + butter customer quilts and bedspreads but it has been a bit of a struggle getting the software and hardware all co-operating. I got it all updated remotely by the Grace Company in Utah over the internet and it seemed to be doing what it was meant to except when it did things differently. It is probably my fault for not bothering to study the instructions - in the end it quilted some big spirals over the quilt and I just freehanded some swirls in the gaps that should not have been there. 

My attempts at photography for a magazine article proved to be a bit of a disaster because I had inadvertently set the pictures to a low resolution so it looks like I will have to take most of them again. That is a bit of a pain but even worse is that I can’t go back in time and re-shoot some of the quilts that are no longer here or beautifully snowy scenes from 3 years ago. 

Fergus decided to buck the trend for becoming a terrible teenager and start a year earlier on his 12th birthday. He did not behave very nicely and it all ended in tears with “the worst birthday ever”. At least that means things can only improve next year! He was very disappointed that we had another storm/powercut just before his friends were due to visit and play on the Xbox on Saturday so I had a last minute, expensive trip to the cinema with mountains of junk food at TGI Friday!

I completed online applications to be a quilt tutor at MQX Midwest and I am excited to report that it looks like I will be a member of the teaching faculty for Springfield, IL in 2014. Fenella wonders if I will meet “The Simpsons”? Surely there will be a drive-thru-do-nut shop!

As parcels continue to arrive or not be delivered on an almost daily basis in the run up to Christmas, I could not think what the enormous package was that was delivered by truck this week since most of the boxes contained books, slippers or music. Once I took off the outer cardboard, it was obvious that the coracle had been sent back from its UK tour. Now I just have to figure out how to store it tidily;)

Sunday, 8 December 2013


It was such a cold week - we had temperatures well below zero and a fierce storm that brought down lots of large trees. I also succumbed to a streaming cold and ended up with a chest infection which dampened my resolve to get things done. The storm knocked out our power supply for 18 hours and I was reminded how reliant on electricity we are. I could not sew, iron, cook, use the internet or recharge any of my gadgets. I lit the wood-burner and tackled the Christmas card writing marathon. I was able to make coffee and heat soup with my camping stove which my children found it quite exciting. Power-cuts are unusual for them but they were common when I was a child growing up in the strikes of the 1970’s.

I phoned in sick on Friday, feeling very guilty but I really could not teach while croaking and coughing. I attempted a festive stollen loaf that I decided was good enough to try again with a few modifications like not cutting it while it is still hot. I managed to join a few pinwheels for my shot-cotton quilt and I even remembered to take my camera out for a walk.

Freya helped me to set up a few photos of my home and studio for an article that Generation Q Magazine wants to run on “celebrity” quilter’s homes! I daresay my scruffy sofas covered in blankets and quilts will look quite quaint in a very up-cycled kind of way. I refuse to invest in new furniture in case my husband bans the cat from the lounge. She has a habit of sharpening her claws on my junk shop finds. 

There was a family debate about the type of Christmas tree we would have this year and the majority vote was for a real one. I decided that there are plenty of fallen or wonky trees in the scrubland near our house so Freya and I set off with a saw to see what we could find. We felt a bit like dwarves carrying it back over the fields but after giving it a trim, positioning its less attractive side next to the piano then be-decking it with silver and glass, we were absolutely delighted with our efforts.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Little to Show but Plans and Lists

It feels like I am not sewing enough but there is a lot going on - checking items off lists at least proves that some things have been dealt with, although a few of those seem to have  been on the list for rather a long time. I am really counting down the days in school, hoping to get SO much more done in the New Year. 

Something that I fiddled around with fruitlessly over the weekend was trying to plan a quilt design on the computer. I have a copy of EQ6 on my old laptop but it is not terribly user friendly when you want to do a custom layout. I am eagerly awaiting the Mac version of EQ7 which is due out in the New Year. There are other ways of drafting shapes of course but I am not a graphic designer so in the meantime I have bought a pad of graph paper and I will simply colour the blocks in with felt pens.

I finished a charming appliqué quilt for a customer. There was a lot of stitch-in-the-ditching   around rabbits and flower pots followed by tiny background fillers. Since there are no more urgent customer quilts waiting to be done, my very patient friend, Tania, helped me to swap the longarm machines over and box up the one that is being sent back to the USA. That was a big job that I was glad to get done so hopefully now I will “bond” with my new generation Millennium. Maybe the first quilt to be done on it will be the shot-cottons that I have been working on as a side project. 

I took the girls into Aberdeen for a completely frustrating trip. We were not allowed into my preferred carpark suitable for Landrovers as it was full so we had to drive around the city through manic traffic until we found another large, outdoor spot. The main reason for the trip was that we were meant to book train tickets to Norwich over the Christmas holidays but I discovered that I had left my family rail-card at home. The next stupid thing we did was to take Freya’s acoustic guitar to the music shop to get a new string fitted only to discover that the guitar teacher had already fixed it! After battling through the frenzied Christmas shoppers I most certainly do not intend to return to the City this year and I will complete my  gift buying in our small town or else courtesy of Amazon!

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Keep Calm - it's not real snow!

My Christmas Crafts class kept me on my toes since some of them asked to do a couple of patchwork projects that I had not actually planned in advance. In addition to bunting and a zigzag table runner I had to design a Christmas tree block and draw a stocking template on the fly. They seemed to have fun and even discussed coming back in the New Year to do a modern sampler quilt from start to finish. 

We had a light dusting of snow but it was not enough to cause any disruption and although I almost looked forward to a snow day, the reality was that I would rather not have to hang up wet snow gear and make hot chocolate quite so early in the winter. I made sure that I got a large load of dry logs delivered just in case ;)

I had two frenetic school days in a row, trying to help 24 children bake, spell, sew felt shapes, sing and listen in P.E. I woke up the next morning feeling relieved that I did not have to teach that day so I decided to forge ahead with some festive shopping in Aberdeen knowing that things will start to get very hectic towards the end of term. I found it easy to pick out gifts for my girls and wonder why it seems so tricky to shop for boys. 

I enjoyed visiting the pop-up French cafe for parents at Fenella’s school on Friday and dusted off “mon petit peu” rusty French to order a café au laît. Nell wore her beret and a striped t-shirt to be my waitress but she refused to fetch me a refill!

 Over the weekend I finally got to start on a customer appliqué quilt, using invisible thread to stitch-in-the-ditch around all of the motifs and blocks. I even managed to complete the  straight line stitching in the borders and some of the sashing blocks. I hope to get the little background fills done this week then I will decide if the large appliqués need any additional quilting. 

I have made no further plans for the week other than paperwork so I might work on the peppered solids or even try to swap over longarm machines since a replacement for the one that was giving me trouble has arrived. I also want to arrange to send Odin’s Trilogy back to the USA for Road to California before the Christmas post frenzy! 

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Moving On

I had pretty much made up my mind to hand in my notice at school to leave at Christmas   and sitting through the tedious In-Service-Training-Day made me pluck up the courage to inform the Head of my decision. I have decided that there is nothing new in Education, just new jargon! I thought I would feel guilty about moving on but in fact I feel relieved that I will be able to concentrate on quilting full time again. I plan to take at least the next term off to finish off The Book, crack on with my totems and do more customer quilts. I won't rule out doing the odd day of Supply Teaching for pocket money here and there if it is local and they pay me a decent rate ;)

I now have 14 strip-sets for the Beltane totems so I have started looking around for more leather hides. The Scottish tannery where I got a deerskin hide sounded a little bemused at my enquiry for dyed sheep-shaped skins but I would prefer them to be local if possible.
The chain-piecing is all done for my solids bed quilt so I can now work on the blocks if I fancy some easy sewing when I have just a little downtime. 

There is a group of ladies coming on Monday for a fun Christmas sewing workshop so I had to write down the instructions for an easy table runner and festive bunting. Space will be tight so I decided to make the "string" for the bunting in advance - all 40 metres of it! Halfway through the project I remembered that I had a Simplicity Bias Tape Maker so I fed the 2" wide by 20 metre length through the little machine so that I only had to press one ridiculously long crease with my iron. 

While I was in instruction writing mode I wrote out my version of machine-sewn utility binding. Because I have such difficulty understanding directions, I jotted down every detail that I could think of and ended up with a 1000-word essay on the subject. Next I have to take a series of photos then see if someone else can see what I am on about.

While my current Postie will not deliver anything larger than a standard envelope, I have to take umbrage with Fedex's more casual attitude. First they wanted me to pay customs duty on a warranty replacement then they just left the large, valuable item in the wood-shed and fraudulently signed that it had been safely delivered using my neighbour's signature so I won't be recommending their parcel delivery service!

With only a spare day and a half this week I doubt that I will be able to complete the customer quilt that requires invisible stitch-in-the-ditch around lots of applique and mini fillers in every block. Mind you - it might snow...

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Fitting Things In


As well as the usual circus of after school activities, I also had to fit in a Halloween party, two parents' evenings, two meetings, give a talk and get Fenella to Brownie Camp on time. Everything was written down so that I would not forget where I was meant to be. I came across a fun quiz by the BBC on Facebook that would calculate how stressed the participant was. I answered very honestly but still scored very low for stress levels which  indicated that I must be totally chilled out - which is a relief ;)

I created two minor distractions from what I had planned to do in my workshop. Ann showed me a simple block that she had made years ago as a sample where a square was inserted into a fabric aperture and appeared to have no seams. She had forgotten how it was constructed so I challenged myself to work out the method using a hexagon. This proved to be a time-consuming challenge since machine sewn hexagons are tricky enough without trying to fit biased edges into a similarly stretchy opening. I eventually managed to get a tidy sample done using pen marks to line everything up. I suspect that pins may have come in handy but I was determined to come up with a hassle-free solution. I daresay I would become speedier with practice but I admit that it was really fiddly. I just wanted to  investigate how it might be to create an entire piece of patchwork with seemingly no seams in case I ever feel the need for a slightly difficult project.

I must have been in a figuring-it-out mood this week as I wrote some more project instructions for The Book. They are still not ready to share but I decided that if the text was drafted then it should only need tweaking after I am ready to get the photos done. "All" I have left to explain to myself and potential readers is binding, zips and bolster cushions with piped ends..!

It is an inescapable fact that Christmas is coming and I remembered that I had bought a simple fabric panel Advent Calendar that had lines of pockets to attach. I decided to get on with it before I go into panic mode at the prospect of fitting in Christmas shopping. I have now decided that these simple panels are meant to look rubbish. The pockets are apparently supposed to be sewn on first then a little minimal quilting should finish it all off. All I could see were puckers and lumpy bits so I added rickrack and embroidery before I was satisfied that it looked reasonable. Maybe one day I will get around to designing something neater where all of the background is quilted first before any pockets are applied - or I could just buy a chocolate one.

"Odin's Trilogy" has been juried into Road to California in January so I will have to think about sending that off in good time to avoid the Christmas post. I might even send it off to the WMQFA museum in Cedarburg so that it is in the correct country before January. 

I have still only reached 11 completed yellow/green wonky strip-sets despite feeling as though I have been working on them for ages. I have decided that 14 of these slightly wider units should be enough then it will be time to source some more coloured hides. I am not sure whether I can face sewing as many beads onto those as the original white goatskin that I used for "Imbolc" but I will worry about that later or even come up with an alternative plan.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Cooking Cures Writer's Block

My usual way of avoiding work that needs to be done is to do all of the tiny insignificant jobs that I think are holding me up. Getting the planning for the school week and battling with the online banking system that is meant to save time but mostly wastes it, meant that I had to get on with drawing quilting diagrams for my book. I doodled them out in ink then tried to replicate them using a graphics program. The problem is that I think my drawings are not very “arty” - they certainly seem to have been bogging me down. 

The next challenge will be to do actual quilting videos on both the domestic machine and a longarm. I had a sneaky look at some others on Youtube and noticed paper rustling, sniffs, bad lighting and skipped anything that lasted more than one minute. I wonder if it would work better to record the sound separately so you don’t even hear the machine competing with the explanation?

I decided to move on from worrying about how to present the quilting designs after having a bit of a Bake-Off morning. I made and sampled granary bread, sweet potato soup and pumpkin loaf before feeling ready to draft the text for some of the half-dozen simple book projects. I will probably have to make all of them from scratch in order to take high quality photos of each stage. 

Feeling that I had hardly done any sewing, I used the Bernina to do a few yellow and green wonky strip-sets for the Spring totems. I have refined this method now so I don’t bother to iron them until the whole “block” is complete. It was actually quite a keep-fit quilting process previously as I had to get up and walk round to the ironing board after joining every single strip.

I have a hectic week coming up with two parents’ evenings and two other meetings on top of the usual after-school activities. I will relish the days when I am home-alone even more and try to fill every spare moment with writing or sewing - apart from when I am making gingerbread biscuits, suppers made in advance or cutting out 48 felt stockings for my class to sew together...

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Let Them Eat Cake

There has been rather a lot of cake in my house this week. I was busy in my workshop for a couple of days so the children decided to have a go at baking which was great until they spilled a large bag of caster sugar on the kitchen floor. This took several attempts with the hoover and mop before all crunchy or sticky traces were removed. 

We threw away the silicone cake tins that seemed to taste soapy and bought some new heavy-duty traditional ones. These were well road tested after making blondies, flapjacks and chocolate cake. The whole family enjoyed watching the final of BBC’s “Great British Bake Off” and really admired what the contestants were able to produce in a limited time. We made a pink velvet cake for Fenella’s 10th birthday the day before so that it would cool down and could be sliced more easily to add jam and butter cream. She requested that it should look like a rose but Freya and I have limited sugar-craft skills so we simply covered it in LOTS of rich buttercream icing. It was delicious but made your teeth hurt!

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has been back on the telly with Channel 4‘s “River Cottage to the Core” and inspired me to have a go at traditional Cornish pasties. I don’t know why I had to make more than twice the recommended amount of pastry but they were pretty successful - it looks like this could be yet another recipe that I will need to tweak until it is perfect. 

I kept telling myself that I should be dutifully planning for the next term at school but the only school related activity that I did was to quilt and bind the 3 small quilts that my class sewed together. They turned out well; I managed to flatten the wonky seams and fix one obvious hole. I think they will be impressed with their efforts and want to make a few more Linus quilts this term. I tried to get a hand-crank Singer running for them and I had it stitching well for a while before the feed dogs just stopped moving. I now have three seized antique sewing machines that I would like to get working again. 

In complete contrast to those cranky old machines I have been lent a super Bernina 710 by Bogods of Bernina UK. I will use it for the video clips on my Ebook and so far I am really impressed. I love the fact that the whole foot detaches easily to be swapped for another one. It does all sorts of things that I don’t know about yet so sometime I hope to visit David Drummond’s shop in Edinburgh for a proper lesson. It did not come with a 1/4 inch foot but I adjusted the position of the needle and used it for the first two Beltane/Spring stripsets. I have not got used to the knee lifter yet but I daresay that will come with practice. 

I managed to complete a small customer quilt that I should have kept quick and simple but as it was for a friend I could not resist experimenting a little with leaving gaps in between more intense quilting. I also wanted to play with machine embroidery around the blocks after quilting. I really like this look, a little like crazy-quilting but it always takes far longer to do than planned. If I ever get around to tackling BzB I plan to add embroidery around some of the large quilting motifs. However, it is a huge quilt so could take quite some time!

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Infinity and Beyond


The week started off mundanely enough with bill paying and getting the bump in the Landy straightened out. On Tuesday my class of 6 year olds made pizzas in two mini ovens in between reading, PE and Music. They even managed to keep the dough off the carpet!

The school where I have been doing long term supply cover asked me to stay on until at least Easter. I said that I would stay until Christmas then decide, depending on how my other projects are getting on. They are even willing to accommodate my trips next year if necessary. I feel like this is a commitment that seems to be stretching out indefinitely. On one hand it is good to know that a regular income is coming in but the school days are getting in the way of quilting and writing.

Late on Tuesday night I was delighted to receive an email from MQX Pacific North West Quilt Show which informed me that "Odin's Trilogy" had won a prize. I had to wait until after the awards ceremony on Wednesday evening, Oregon time, to discover that it was awarded 2nd place in the Solo Artist category. 

It is thrilling to receive an award from a prestigious American show and read complimentary comments on Facebook. The organisers of MQX are so professional that the results were posted on their website immediately after the prize-giving dinner and they even managed to send out the judging sheets as PDF documents while the show was still running. The kudos of winning that prize has really encouraged me to keep going with my ambitious henge project and keep on track with the Ebook.

I always try to make the most of the two days in the middle of the week that I can devote to quilting. I managed to piece 9 autumn strip-sets and also made a start on the Peppered Solids scrappy side project. I re-worded my book's preface and crossed a few topics off my list. The main things to tackle next are projects and diagrams. 

A major distraction has been reacquainting myself with my Smartpen since I had completely forgotten how to use it. The Smartpen can record sound - if the reader has Adobe Reader then they can click on any part of the diagram and the audio description will correspond with what has been drawn. I am still messing about with the type of diagram that I want to include in the Ebook. The easiest thing to do would be to draw everything in ink and scan it in but I am keen to animate the diagrams if possible. I have determined that I will need to do lots of examples then see what format my quilty friends prefer...

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Working Out

Judging from the state of my notebook, I spent the week making calls, notes and progress on The Book. There are several pages of scribbles, coffee stains and large ticks through checklists. I also completed and bound the customer quilt ready for it to be posted back to its maker. 

I now have a weighty pile of 16 berry strips and even started the first of the autumn ones in gorgeous, rich colours. There is an assorted pile of strips waiting to be wonkily joined every time I have a spare half hour. The time that each one takes has almost halved since I started this project. 

I have to admire quilting-friend, Ann’s determination to work on finishing all of her unfinished projects before she starts anything new. There are times when I try to follow this mantra but I am  currently breaking every rule on project management. 

I figured out Bonnie Hunter’s “Patches and Pinwheels” quilt-recipe in several different sizes then decided that further shortcuts would really speed things up. I made a couple of mock-up blocks to have a look at what worked for the quick way of making a set of 4 half-square-triangles out of two squares that Ann had seen on Youtube and figured out the mathematics required for various sizes. This may not sound that impressive to someone who finds algebra easy but I was impressed at my tenacity. 

The next challenge that kept me awake late one night was how to cut up my 25 Peppered Solids so that I would get all of the pieces that I needed for an 80” or thereabouts quilt with absolutely no waste or leftover pieces. Having solved the puzzle on paper, I felt obliged to get on with the cutting so I could have an easy, no-pressure type of fun project in the background.

I drafted two “chapters” for the Ebook then I researched how to make my sketchy pen diagrams look professionally drafted. I thought it might be something to do with vectors which is a just a posh name for a bendy line. I found a drawing app for my Ipad which can smooth out a jerky scrawl and even present it as a dotted line which looks like stitching. Instead of being content with that small triumph, I wondered if my sketches could be animated for the Ebook to show how they are done. I have not quite worked out whether I am capable of enough geekiness to make this latest idea work!

The whole family went for a hike around Loch Muick on Sunday and everyone except for Fergus enjoyed the wonderful scenery and looked forward to the reward of fish and chips for supper. No doubt he would rather have watched someone else doing something far more entertaining on Youtube but we kept telling him that the fresh air and exercise was far better for him ;)

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Is there anything worse than poke in the eye with a sharp pencil?

It has been a funny old week and I was not thrilled when I bent down to listen to an answer phone message and my eyeball was almost impaled on a newly sharpened pencil that was standing upright ready to take down messages. This incident was not quite as nasty as machine-sewing through my finger when not following my own sage advice about keeping fingers out of the danger zone.

After a rare trip to town on Monday I planned to launch the computerised system on a simple customer quilt. I got it to do basic customer stuff to save my back for the insane freehand quilting that I really enjoy but it has had a series of glitches that are not making it an enjoyable tool to employ. It required a software update and some technical help from Americans who are 6 hours behind the UK so all in all, it made for a stressful day off. 

Tuesday was not a great day in school. I was “told-off” for not keeping a close eye on the children so they had the opportunity to scribble on the carpet during art. I received a life ban on glitter and crayons and was instructed to photocopy a picture that they could colour -in which would be more appropriate for an infant class. Apparently the parents would not want to buy Christmas cards of the artwork that my class produced. Feeling suitably chastised, like a struggling probationary teacher, I wondered what I was doing back in the classroom instead of creating quilts and writing books in my studio. It may be time to throw in the chalk...

The customer quilt had a tight deadline so I just got cracking on freehand Baptist Fan type swirls instead of getting frustrated with supposedly time-saving technology that is actually making life more complicated. I cheered myself up by ordering Pepper Cory’s fat-quarters in shot cottons and they are fabulous. I still have not completed 16 wonky berry strips but there are only two left so surely I can get them done next week?

My chaotic week was interrupted by the arrival of my parents who came to stay for a few days and we went for walks by the river with the dogs, picked brambles, shared meals and caught up. The children enjoyed spending time with them as they live 12 hours from us and we really don’t see them often enough. They came along to the Strathspey fiddle practice and were impressed that it looked like I was keeping up with the fast reels.

There was a bit of shouting and nagging about lack of homework and music practice on Sunday morning but I decided to take the kids along to a guitar jam session at the pub in Torphins in the afternoon. A pint of Guinness and some off-the-cuff Jimi Hendrix soon lifted the mood, making me look forward to a new week of trying to fit more than is advisable into 168 hours.

Sunday, 22 September 2013


I was absolutely worn out after spending part of Sunday helping Nell to learn how to ride a bike. She is almost 10 and just never learned before because we don’t have any concrete or tarmac on which to practise. I bought a new red bike to encourage her because the  bikes that we already had were the wrong size or just old and rusty. It was quite hard work speed walking up and down the track, holding onto the handlebars explaining how to steer, turn and stop. Hopefully, she will soon get the hang of it as long as the fine autumn weather continues.

I taught for 3 days this week but one of them was a treat since it was at our local school where the children behave so respectfully and are keen to do their work. My other two days were more challenging and I did not see two kids using oil pastels to add colour to the classroom carpet until it was too late. I will take brown paper and an iron into school to see if I can get some of it off... 

I crammed as much quilting as I could into my two other days in order to complete a customer quilt since I need to do another one this week in time for a wedding at the end of September. I probably did not need to spend several hours adding machine embroidery to enhance the ditch seams of the borders but I could not resist just “finishing it off”.

I managed to get two pricey quotes to repair the damage on the Landrover - I will have to claim on my insurance as it looks like that tiny knock will cost £1200+ to fix! Luckily, I used my wonky strip piecing exercise as a de-stressing technique and I now have 13 out of 16 sections done. I even managed to run up a new homework book cover for Nell who still appreciates my home-made stationery items. 

Taking a leaf out of Judi’s book, I intend to make a purely-for-fun bed quilt using one of Bonnie Hunter’s designs. I am going to order fat quarters of the entire range of the new shot Peppered Cottons for this side-line project and maybe just quilt it using an old-fashioned Baptist Fan pattern. I am also tempted to have a go at making the simple dress pattern that I downloaded but I may need a friend to hold my hand when I do that because I tend to get fazed by words like “darts”, “facings” and “shirring elastic”. And keep writing chunks for the Ebook, of course!

Sunday, 15 September 2013


I enjoyed the two really good speakers at the QGBI Region 16 day in Perth on Saturday. Judi Mendelssohn gave an amusing talk on how she does not consider herself to be a championship quilter with many examples of how some projects did not quite turn out as originally planned. I was struck by her belief that the act of sewing and creating unravels any stress that she is experiencing. Lizzie Wall spoke about how her pictorial quilts led her into creating fantastic, contemporary ecclesiastical garments.

Judi’s point about sewing being a stress reliever has never felt truer for me although some of my self-inflicted stress is actually caused by my desire to create huge projects while also trying to write, blog, teach and be a responsible parent. Fergus is currently very resentful of my efforts to make sure that he does his homework, pack his school bag and do some music practise. He is constantly telling me that he hates me which is rather trying!
I spend my time in school reminding the class to listen, to be attentive while I am explaining, pick up the pencils from the floor and hang their coats up so it is a drag to come home and not get a little co-operation. 

I have been working frustratingly slowly on a customer quilt because I am still getting to grips with the tension settings using the new, jumbo bobbin. I simply don’t have enough hours in the week to keep up with my to-do list. On Thursday I sussed online banking, paid bills, posted a parcel, remembered to get my haircut and took my great friend, Mo, out for a birthday lunch. 

It is hardly any wonder that after enjoying a fiddle session with new strings, my attention must have wandered for a split second and I stupidly managed to clip the back end of my Landy on a metal rail in a tight car-park space. Because the wings are made of aluminium, it just crushed and crumpled the rear section out of shape. I was really annoyed with myself and felt awful that a tiny bump has caused such expensive damage to my vehicular best friend. 

Autumn blew in on Sunday morning so after a brisk dog walk it felt good to get laundry and school planning done so that I could do some more blackberry picking and piece one small section of the wonky berry strips. It seems to have taken ages to make 10 free-cut bits and I think a total of 16 will be necessary. I am looking forward to ordering a plum-coloured leather hide and dyeing some some more linen an interesting shade of pink. That could involve a trip to IKEA but on the other hand, it would probably be far more economical to order it online, not make a round trip of 250 miles and be tempted by Swedish flat-pack furniture!

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Strung Out

It is all very well waking up at 4am with a whirl of things to be done on your mind but if you are too tired to get up and sort them out it is a bit pointless and very annoying! I may have to blame this nocturnal brain energy on my latest online purchase of very strong Arabic coffee laced with cardamon, providing me with highly addictive rocket fuel. All week I felt that I was not making visible progress but when I wrote a checklist that could be ticked off, I was reasonably pleased. 

I kept up the momentum with my Ebook material and drafted various rough sections that I can work on. My editor is trying to make me stay focussed on the type of book and engage with my audience. I will endeavour to follow her sage advice since no-one has ever made suggestions about my ramblings before. I have also made contact with two professional photographers to ensure that the close-up shots are crisp and well lit and it gives me a more definite deadline if I know that someone is being paid to come to take photos for a limited period of time.

My two school days were jam-packed with activities and I lost count of the number of times I heard my name being called. I am probably trying to cram far too much into my curriculum; it is tricky juggling keeping track of reading-books while teaching 6 year olds how to make soup and operate a sewing machine. I enjoyed playing fiddle with the Banchory Strathspey Society so much on Thursday evening that I decided to order a set of new strings for the first time in 25 years. I wonder if that will dramatically improve my performance?!

In my “spare” time I picked several bags of blackberries and put them straight into the freezer to be made into crumble, jam or liqueur later. I got rather annoyed with my new longarm machine as it is giving me a thread tension headache. I never had to think about that with my grumpy, old machine so we had a bit of a falling-out. It has a larger bobbin than before and a thread break sensor and seems to be far too posh and fussy for its own good. I will just have to show it who is the boss...

I have now made 8 wonky strip-sets for the berry and heather inspired trio of totems and think I need around 6 more. Although they do not look complicated, each one takes about an hour to construct. I am aiming to complete the whole Henge of Totems by next May so I can consider entering them into a show or two. I will need several very large boxes to ship this series!

I received good news that Odin’s Trilogy has been juried into MQX West and Norma from Wisconsin sent me pictures from Quilt Expo in Madison of the USA Yurt attracting crowds of curious quilters. Suzanne Labry in Texas sent me a link to a super article on the Yurt that she wrote following its appearance in Houston last November. 

There was an email from Generation Q magazine to let me know that there will be a feature about the Coracle in November and that they will send me a copy.

I was not quite as impressed with the official photos that FOQ finally posted on the Press section of their website this week. The colours were definitely not right and the pictures did not do any of the pieces justice. These photos were reproduced in QGBI’s rather serious journal, The Quilter. I am hopeful that the other independent quilt magazines in the UK will publish better ones. 

On Sunday evening as I write a new list for the forthcoming week I am gearing myself up to go to a gig in a pub for the first time in a few years. Freya and I are off to see local band, Victoria Sponge, in action. I should think I will probably need a pint of that new coffee tomorrow morning ;)