Monday, 29 December 2014

Lazy Christmas Holidays

Christmas started for me on December 23rd when Mo, Tania and I exchanged gifts that included socks, cushions, home-made damson gin and sketches. We always seem to choose perfect items for each other. I have a new set of little nesting boxes printed with London Underground stations…

Our family Christmas was relaxed and involved lots of cooking spread out so we could digest a new course every few hours. It created more washing up but at least we were not stuffed by gorging on all of the festive food in one sitting. Our days were slow and started off with frosty dog walks, followed by eating chocolate then watching utter rubbish on TV. We went to a family ceilidh to burn off a few calories except that stoves were served at 10.30pm. It was fun watching everyone get in a muddle on the dance floor and definitely more enjoyable than a disco. I was not at all co-ordinated and it made me realise how difficult it must be to be a contestant on “Strictly”!

I took the girls into Aberdeen to return a couple of things and browse the post-Christmas sales. We did not make any successful bargain purchases, deciding that the shops must have stored away all of the good stuff and dragged out unwanted stock. We really enjoyed the “Paddington” movie which did not veer too much from the original character of a marmalade-loving bear. Having worn our duffle coats to the cinema in Paddington’s honour, we loved the scene when the Browns present him with his own duffle coat with “sandwich compartments” (deep pockets). 

After a couple of days I was weary of doing nothing so decided to tackle last year’s business spreadsheets. It took me a while to get all of the columns to tally because I had not selected everything correctly but I am now virtuously ready to complete my tax return. I am keen to something useful next but can’t decide whether to make a frock, cull my wardrobe, reorganise my workshop or crack on with book edits. To decide where to start I had better make coffee and finish off my stash of chocolate…

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Party Frocks and Parcels

Radio 4 got me through the boredom of completing the unpicking and de-fluffing of the “Quilt that nearly stole Christmas”. There were still a good two days worth of quilting to complete and because I had been cursing it for so long I wondered if its maker would even be pleased in the end. There were hundreds of thread ends to tidy up and it had to be bound on both sides so I became irritated by all of the cheery enquiries as to whether I was “all organised for Christmas yet?” 

I wrote my Christmas cards very scruffily on the last second-class posting day and hurriedly sellotaped the parcels to Norfolk to get them sent away. I did not write an impressive end of the year family newsletter with colour photos and I did not create a hand-made holly wreath for my front door. The postie and various couriers delivered everything that I had ordered online and I wrapped all of the kids’ parcels in a slapdash style without bows or labels, simply using colour-coded paper for each recipient. Maybe a touch more sherry will give me some much needed Christmas spirit…

I decided to make a couple of last-minute gifts for friends so I have run up two cushions and quilted some fabric for notebooks - all I have to do is get them finished off on time!

The most exciting event of the week was Freya’s much anticipated Senior Prom. Thankfully, Mo and her daughter took charge of the glamorising and Freya looked fabulous. She was astounded at all of the compliments that she received. Nobody could believe that her dress was home-made and they thought her gold Doc Martens were awesome. The boys all scrubbed up beautifully in their kilts. Parents watched as young ladies in fancy frocks and incredible shoes tottered their way to the buses that would ferry the kids to a posh hotel for Christmas dinner and ceilidh dancing. Most of them commented nostalgically that they had only gone to crummy school discos at that age where the only catering was a can of coke and a bag of crisps;)

I attended my 11th nativity service as a parent and was very proud as Fenella played violin in her last Christmas concert at primary school. I still need to run a few errands before Christmas arrives, sourcing a large roll of corrugated cardboard and brussel sprouts. There will also be some cooking to do, mince pies to eat and a festive catch up with my two best-friends. By the end of next week I will be dying to reorganise my workshop and itching to start some new projects!

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Festive Frustration

I could  no longer deny that Christmas is fast approaching so I decided to do as much shopping as possible in John Lewis, Aberdeen so I could make use of their “collect it later” service. This did not prove to be such a good idea as they lost half of my packages. I waited for over an hour along with several other irate customers who had missing or incorrect goods. Two days later the missing items arrived in the post after speaking to a clueless and rude person at customer services. 

I decided that the most efficient use of workshop time was to crack on with the last customer quilt. It was not a thrilling job since I had been asked to reproduce exactly the same quilting that was in the project photo in the book but it was enjoyably straight-forward. In between times I continued to unpick the top section of the other quilt, making painfully slow progress. There were many interruptions that kept eating away at my time such as a parents’ evening, Fergus’s birthday and cinema trip, Fenella’s school book launch, the girls’ piano concert, and being asked to whizz up 3 fabric notebook covers. 

Freya and I went foraging for our Christmas tree from some rough, boggy ground a couple of fields away from the house. We had to give it a bit of a trim but it looks quite forest-like in our family room. I let the girls have carte-blanche with the decorations since I was making gingerbread so Nell has dressed it with the pink tinsel that I had banished to her room.  

This week I MUST finish the last customer quilt and wrap the presents that I have stashed away before the kids finish school for the holidays. Then maybe I can rustle up one or two cushions as gifts before the festive catering frenzy begins…

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Pre-Christmas Custom Quilting

There are times, like in the run-up to Christmas when it would be advantageous to persuade customers that their quilts would look perfectly lovely with a simple all-over quilt design like Baptist Fan. I have two large customs quilts to complete by Christmas and I have not yet written a single greetings-card or ordered a turkey. 

I worked for 4 days solid on one quilt, putting flowers in every single small and tiny square then free-handing stitch-in-the-ditch around every single slightly wonky patch. The brief was to keep the quilt unfussy and simple but it has been tricky to execute. I decided that my freehand flowers and loopy lines in row one were not what the customer had in mind so they would have to be painstakingly ripped out - stitch by tiny stitch. I am in two minds whether to load the second quilt which is simpler before I have finished unpicking or whether to just sit with the seam ripper until the first quilt is ready to fix. 

At least I am pleased with a wonderfully simple customer’s baby quilt. It looks super with its appliquéd yo-yos although the gathered sections on some of them were bulky to quilt through. 

Things will be getting hectic in the next couple of weeks - we attended the girls’ choir concert - the first of several festive shows, parties and pantos. I could have done without an afternoon spent racing around trying to find someone to fix my Landy’s headlights before it got dark and I could definitely do without the constant battle of wills between Fergus and everyone else in the household/world! 

My plan is to go Christmas shopping at 9am on Monday morning. If I don’t fulfil my mission in John Lewis, Aberdeen then the rest of my Christmas purchases will have to be sourced online or bought locally. 

Apart from that, I will be spending some quality time with my seam ripper…

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Dress Stress!

Almost all I thought about this week was figuring out how to join the top and bottom halves of Freya’s frock and get the zip in, having deviated way off the original printed pattern’s instructions. It would have been FAR more sensible to put the zip into the entire back first before joining the sides but we were too worried about getting the fit right and attaching lurex binding to the neck and arm holes. The biggest worry was the strangely crinkly, flimsy fabric for the skirt which kept shifting, puckering and shredding thread. Getting the darts in at all was miraculous and then there was the challenge of distributing the skirt fabric around a piece of bias tape that served as a sort of waistband that tacked onto the bodice. 

We must have had 3 or 4 goes at getting the zip into the skirt, even resorting to sewing it by hand. It is just a little gappy so I have decided that when Freya wears it for her Prom I will put in a few little stitches after it is zipped up to keep everything tidy. Apart from that the zip is now nice and robust and the dress fits remarkably well. After experimenting with scraps of crinkly fabric to work out how to do the hem, I think we have decided not to sew it at all since it does not even fray and it will allow the skirt to drape better. I just hope that it won’t look too obviously ‘home-made”…

After a bit of a palaver, I managed to enter “Dunes” into Paducah. I could not upload photos from my Mac so I had to borrow Freya’s laptop. I had hoped to enter “Odin’s Trilogy” or even just one of the trio but they did not fit into any of the AQS size categories for small or large wall quilts. 

There were other interruptions such as a trip to the orthodontist to get Nell’s first set of braces and helping Mo to shift the last of her stuff from her upholstery workshop back to a workroom at her house. I also collected “Copper Capercaillie” from the picture framer who had cleverly managed to leave the back exposed and I dropped it off at a gallery to see if a buyer could be found. 

My Millie machine with QP did a great job of quilting poinsettias across a Christmas quilt and I managed to give the Lenni longarm a service in between commands since he might soon be on his way to a new owner in France. 

While not worrying about the Prom Frock I have been worrying about getting the E-book finished so I devoted some time to editing photos and instructions for 3 projects. If I can get the next two large custom quilts completed the next thing I want to do is take step-by-step pictures of the leather evening bags which should be the final book project.  Unfortunately, my plans could be scuppered when I have to face the fact that Christmas is coming and I have not yet done anything about it ;) 

Monday, 24 November 2014

To-ing and Fro-ing

This week was spent dashing around as the kids had 3 days off because of teacher training. Some days we were in and out of town 3 or 4 times, being unable to co-ordinate the various activities and appointments. Thistle went to the vet to be neutered and bounced back to torment Bluecat within hours, although there there seems to have been a bit of a truce since the weather turned wetter and colder.  

On Tuesday I left home at 5.30am to catch the “redeye” Flybe flight to London for a meeting at Bernina UK in my capacity as an ambassador for the B710. All of the other passengers were soberly attired geologists on their way to an oil and gas conference so my purple and green clashy outfit made me really stand out from the crowd. I was disappointed to be offered wishy-washy tea and a chocolate biscuit for breakfast and decided that if I repeated this trip I would definitely fly with British Airways. The Bernina UK team admired “5BarGate2” and will hang it on one of the office walls unless it is required as a  demo quilt at a show. I dashed back across London to get the afternoon flight home, wondering at the strange life of people who regularly commute up and down the country.

I finally got started on a customer quilt on Thursday, working on it solidly for two days. Since the blocks were large, there was a lot of rolling back and forth to work on filler and stitch-in-the-ditch and I was eternally grateful for my powered fabric-advance motor.

I helped Freya work on her gold dress-bodice over the weekend, trying to get the fit right and attaching lurex binding around the raw edges. The dress is being tackled like a quilt instead of adding a conventional dress-making lining. I thought it would be a good idea to sew down the bulky seams inside by hand so they would sit flat but the final fit showed that there was tiny bit of extra space in the bust. I decided that it would be easier to buy bulkier underwear than unpick all of that out for an alteration. Another lesson learned was that putting a zip into the quilted bodice only meant that every time the dress had to be tried on it was in danger of bursting at the seams so a zip that extends into the tricky skirt fabric will have to be used after all. However, the only foot that can cope with the crinkly fabric is the teflon one so I have no idea how we will get the zip on by machine. 

On Sunday evening we went to an independent cinema in Aberdeen to see the “Imitation Game” about Alan Turing, the mathematician at Bletchley Park in WW2. The film was really good but shocking how his life and career after the war were ruined by revelations that he was a homosexual: he was not granted a posthumous royal-pardon until 2013. We drove home just after the official switch-on of the city’s Christmas lights. I am not  at all impressed by how quickly Christmas is approaching this year..!

Sunday, 16 November 2014


Just about the ONLY thing I have done this week is work on “5BarGate2”. The quilting and painting was already done and only one of the half circles had been fancified. It takes a really, really long time to add machine embroidery stitches, couching and rickrack to a quilt… I was not quite happy with the consistency of the satin stitch in the central smallest circles so I decided to hand-sew some beads to hide the sewing underneath. 

When I had finished sewing I was disappointed by how wavy the quilt’s edges were. This was the result of the half circles being heavily stitched whereas the diagonals were not. I pinned it all to the carpet and steamed like mad before and after trimming. The long edges were still ruffled so I decided to attempt an undetectable bit of gathering in the less densely quilted areas. There was an improvement but it was still not completely flat! 

For a change I hand sewed the binding onto the back because I wanted a narrow binding on the front as my rings were so close to the edge that I lost some of the outer ones when I trimmed the quilt. To disguise this, I added a thin, gold crochet cord into the ditch of the binding of the front and THEN went round the binding again with a slow-moving triple stitch. I began to wonder if I would ever finish and trim all of the loose threads. After skooshing yet more steam along the edges, it looks like it should hang flat :)

After attaching a label and a sleeve, I decided that the quilt would also need a denim tube-bag to travel in while it is on tour as part of the Bernina collection. I just need some bright sunlight to take better pictures so I can finish editing it as a book project.

A couple more customer quilts arrived this week but almost all of them want custom-quilting to be completed before Christmas. This is to be done as well as trying to make the two leather evening bags for the book, being courageous enough to work out the next step on the prom dress and taking out the satin Aladdin pants for Fenella’s dance show.

I had a few techie moments working out how to get my Mac and the old projector to communicate. I do not understand any of the instructions that I downloaded from a Mac forum but everything seems to work perfectly. I wasted more time trying to draw quilting ideas onto quilt diagrams using various apps and had limited success with my lack of graphics expertise. I might just do something low-tech instead and photocopy some design ideas onto acetate then try to figure out how to include that in an E-book!

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Flying Blind

My week started and ended faffing around with the gadgets and software that I have purchased without devoting enough time learning how to use them efficiently. I could not send a Powerpoint presentation to my oldish iPhone so it could connect to a mini projector. I could upgrade the phone OR buy a better projector. I managed to get hold of a projector then frustratingly, could not find the connecting cables! My talk in Cullen went very well without the aid of any technology and the ladies told me they would definitely look out for my forthcoming book.

Spurred on to finish off the diagrams for the book I fumbled around with EQ7 to draw diagrams of the “Dunes2” and “5Bar” quilts but was unable to understand why the software told me the quilt would end up a different size to the quilt that I have already made and measured! If I ever attempt to write another book, maybe I should write the instructions first…(yeah, right!)

I cracked on with two customer quilts then quilted the two small pieces of leather to make the evening bag bag book projects. It was intense, eye-straining work, punctuated with sweeties and painkillers. The leather pieces still need to have some machine embroidery and beading - then I need to figure out some sort of smart bag design.

Another two customer quilts came along, giving me a good excuse not to accept any supply teaching offers. One afternoon was particularly chaotic since some ladies appeared thinking that I ran a fabric shop from my workshop. They persuaded me to sell them some wadding and a few fat quarters that I had lying around. At the same time, a digital-piano repair man was trying in vain to discover the source of the annoying buzz on the kids’ Clavinova. It was embarrassing to admit that the problem was caused by a large stack of music books adding too much weight to the top but at least it was cheap to fix;)

As part of my final Halloween Party duty, I helped to tidy up the boxes of props and thought it would be a good idea to make a waterproof broomstick storage bag. I used some tablecloth PVC and added an essential carry-handle. It did not occur to me until much later that they could just as daily have been thrown onto a sack that tied at the top with string. 

Freya and I plucked up the courage to cut out the pieces of quilted gold spandex for her art project/prom dress. I was totally bamboozled by the instructions for selecting size. Freya’s measurements for the Burda pattern did not correspond to the dress size that she would normally wear so we erred on the side of caution and cut out a bigger size than necessary. We were pleased that it joined together neatly but it was far too large. Rather than attempt to take everything in, we decided that it would be better to recut all of the pattern pieces smaller. The skirt fabric is alarmingly stretchy so I have no idea how that will attach nicely. It has been pretty nerve-racking for me to advise Freya on how to construct the dress because I really have no idea what I am meant to be doing!! At least it gives me an excuse to order a new pair of gold Dr Martens in a size that fits us both…

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Party Planner?

After a frenzied weekend of entertaining children, I am not seriously considering becoming a professional party planner;) I had a great team of helpers for the school Halloween party to get the hall decorated and food sorted. I begged a favour and got someone else to make the pots of striped jelly in case the sickness bug from our house was still lingering. Freya’s ceilidh band dressed up especially and Nella looked just like Velma from “Scooby-Doo”. The party ran to a strict time-schedule and despite using a loud hailer I found myself hoarse towards the end. The children seemed to enjoy the new activities such as wand-making, broomstick races and dancing to “The Timewarp”. Next year’s organisers can either use my format or ignore it entirely since Nell will have moved on to secondary school. This Halloween party marked the end of a decade of school parties!

Several customer quilts arrived during the week so they can get quilted in time for Christmas but the only quilting that got done this week was a pile of computerised stockings. I made enough for a Wednesday morning craft class and for Nell’s birthday party. Most parents would opt to take their children to the cinema and a pizza but I decided it would be a good idea to have an arty-crafty party instead with food and cake-pop making halfway through. It was actually quite fun and the girls really enjoyed themselves - there was even a chicken-feeding, kitten-chasing and trampoline interlude;) 

The list for the week ahead includes preparation for a talk, starting on the customer quilts, rediscovering the bottom of my handbag, getting ready for a craft class that technically nobody has signed up for and solving the mystery of the catapulting bobbin…

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Tattie Hols Week 2

I spent a whole day restocking, revamping and blowing away the cobwebs in my virtual Etsy shop then I made a new Quilt Quine Facebook page with the intention of selling dome of my everyday quilts. Freya's Ebay shop did a little steady trade but much of her profit was wiped out in postage fees. I would love to clear all sorts of junk and tat out of the house but it might be better to hold an old fashioned "roup", the Scottish version of a yard sale. 

I drafted flyers for a series of pre-Christmas craft classes but I am not holding my breath that I will fill them. Just when I was beginning to think I would have to accept lots of teacher supply days leading up to Christmas, 6 customer quilts got booked in. 

The second week of the holidays was spent on little jaunts including Fenella's 11th birthday. Freya and I saw techno-pro-rock band,"Mogwai" at the Music Hall in Aberdeen. We recklessly stood right at the front, beside the speakers, noticing later that everyone else was wearing ear plugs. I could hardly hear a thing for days afterwards, rather like being underwater. I rustled up an alternative toddler highchair from quilted scraps in readiness for my little nephews coming to stay. It held the naked cabbage-patch doll in place so I think it should do the job…

Freya worked on the gold spandex for her Higher Art project and decided to make some bunting for a charity stall at school. Visiting small cousins arrived over the weekend and we visited castles and play parks in the rain. Unfortunately, a vomiting bug claimed some victims from the family. Freya was desperate to get back to school whereas Fergus hoped to prolong his illness and avoid school altogether.  

It is a pity that the sun did not shine for our visitors as the autumn leaves were glorious. I had planned a scenic trip to Ballater, following the River Dee but it was really dreich. It is also typical that we had a good forecast of seeing the northern lights but it was far too cloudy! Luckily, they were happy to look around Crathes Castle, go out for coffee and play with our naughty kitten;)

I will need to get the school Hallowe'en party and Fenella's birthday tea with friends out of the way before I can really continue with projects, book and customer quilts. Now that the clocks have gone back for the winter, the days seem even shorter. The shops are full of Christmas stuff and to quote "Game of Thrones" character, Ned Stark..."Winter is Coming!"

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Holidays in my Workshop and Outings

As the kids get older they seem to be happy to spend a day at home doing homework, baking and creating then have a little jaunt to a coffee shop the next day. It does not need to be anything terribly exciting - buying pumpkins or getting a new bag of chicken food is enough to relieve the boredom or just spend time off the internet for a while in the case of Fergus. We even managed an amicable trip into Aberdeen by only visiting 3 shops to browse music, books and stationery. 

The girls made a couple of simple teddies from a pattern in “Love to Sew” magazine and Freya made great progress on her piece of quilted spandex for her Art and Design Higher project. I pretended to “help” with her French translation while I attached binding onto “Dunes 2”.

In spite of the holidays, I managed to get some quilting done. A scrappy Ebay quilt was quilted, washed and bound. An unfinished baby quilt was completed and I spent a considerable amount of time embroidering around the binding and round a couple of rings on the bed version of “Dunes”, although I’m sure no-one except for me will even notice. 

I cracked on with the in-between project that was meant to be a Tuesday night quilt and it went together very neatly using the integrated feed option on the Bernina 710. I was a bit irritated that the deer all ended up next to each other. I should have put the second deers in the middle of the row rather than at opposite ends!

I find it difficult to think about writing for the book or project instructions during the holidays so I found my mind wandering onto one or two potential projects. A friend nagged me that I should be offering some Christmas craft classes and I was thinking about the competition theme for a new Scottish spring show instead of planning how I should tackle “BzB”. I have also been looking for an excuse to start using a collection of bright pink Japanese linen prints. If I call it a holiday-sanity-saving exercise then I may be able to persuade myself to start something easy with big blocks;)

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Fingers in Pies

I am convinced that the heavy rain which made the internet slow down contributed to my week of flitting between tasks. All sorts of things were attended to but nothing was actually completed satisfactorily. Really, I should not have started Monday morning off by looking at drum-kits and loud-hailers online.

It always amazes me how long it can take to quilt a large piece of spandex. Even though I did a fair bit in the Lake District retreat, it took me most of the week to complete it. I want to replace the gold totem if the Henge is exhibited anywhere else because the original one has a few spots where the stitching has given way. 

Because I got a little bored working on the gold piece, I forged ahead with the simple trip/bargello quilt that is meant to be a minor distraction. I wasted a couple of hours trying to change the recommended layout using EQ7 software but I was frustrated by not being able to work out how to shunt the blocks along in each row and ended up by clicking every single one to vary the layout. There are definitely times when colouring pencils and squared paper may be quicker and simpler!

I worked on the “5 Bar Gate” wall hanging that I will send to Bernina for sponsoring the 710 machine. I fiddled around for a while reducing stitch widths and lengths. The 710 does super 9mm embroidery stitches but I only wanted tiny ones around the painted rings. I rediscovered a spool of Madeira FS 20 thread to add definition around some of the inner rings and had a go at couching a fine braid using a cording foot. I think this version of  “5Bar Gate” should look pretty fancy when it is eventually finished.

For some reason I volunteered to co-ordinate the school Hallowe’en Party and called a meeting with an organising committee. It has always “just happened” in the past but I wanted  to make it easier for a group of new parents to open up a file and follow some basic guidelines. Some of my ideas (like potion making) were thought to be over-ambitious for a 2-hour party but I intend to get some feedback afterwards to discuss how it all went. 

Tania and I had a rare day out… After dropping off some prints and a small quilt with a picture framer, we went to a posh fund-raising event at the Coo Cathedral. There was a great selection of stalls selling everything from Madagcasar vanilla, recycled cashmere sweaters and leather wellies to artisan gin. I chortled when a man asked very seriously, “Is this gin Vegan?”… 

Proof that I was dabbling with too many things at once came on Friday afternoon while I was still quilting the gold spandex and remembered that after making a quick phone-call I had wandered off and left the Kitchenaid kneading pizza dough for 45 minutes. Luckily, the mixer and dough survived their ordeal and the children declared that the results were delicious;)

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Quilting Therapy

Secretly, I enjoyed myself in a school classroom where I learned 24 names, kept the pupils busy, tidy, enthused and behaving themselves without any prior knowledge of the mixed age-range class. Admittedly, learning fractions with the aid of a giant melon and bars of chocolate was a blatant bribe, but the kids asked me when I would be coming back to teach them again.  Unfortunately, there always one who likes to tell tales about the supply teacher at home - the parents of an unco-operative pupil phoned to complain that they did not approve of me saying, “Tough!” when their child did not get its own way. Despite all of the successes of the week, that is what stayed with me and made me wonder why I continue to turn up in unfamiliar classrooms when I could be working on quilts instead. I have been asked to teach again this week. I will feel guilty if I say that I am busy but I feel am falling behind on my schedule; my kids will have their October Holidays soon and I certainly won’t get much done then!

I started a simple “Trip Around the World” type of quilt just so I could do some easy piecing and I drafted ideas for my next book despite not having finished the one that I am meant to be finishing. I received the first of 3 Ebay quilt tops and realised that I must buy a bolt of basic backing fabric and some white fabric for dyeing from Whaleys. I really want to sell off a few quilts to make my business look a little more profitable;)

“Dunes 2” was quilted using a computerised design that I downloaded from Sunstone Quilting. It was a bit tricky deliberately overlapping the rings and working out when the bobbin might run empty in such an intense all-over pattern. The plan is to embroider around a few of the circles and attach some sort of “fancy” binding.

Much of the weekend was taken up being a nagging Mother: sorting overdue laundry, nagging about homework, music practice and superficially tidying Nell’s disgraceful bedroom while she was out. Fergus and Freya both played in an informal guitar concert on Sunday afternoon which gave me time to reflect on whether to cave in to teaching guilt or selfishly work on a few of my quilt projects. I think I am going to choose quilting until I run out of backing fabric although I may have to reconsider those options because the kids have just asked me for a drum-kit!

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Comme ci Comme ça

This week was hectic after I reluctantly agreed to work 4 days in a school the following week and felt the pressure to get lots done while I could. I programmed a basic flower pantograph into the Quilt Path system and quilted the wonky house quilt which I hope to put up for sale and I ordered 3 unfinished quilt tops from Ebay to see if I can sell them too. I have not lined up a shop to sell them for me since they charge such a ridiculous commission so I will just see if anyone fancies them on Facebook. I am considering framing up the individual quilts in “The Ostrych”, hoping that they will look more arty/saleable. It would be great to make enough from a sideline such as this so I did not have to go into school at all. I seem to dread the classroom more each time these days. It is not that I cannot cope, it is simply that I much prefer working on quilts!

I tried to avoid working on the heavy silk and wool-crewel bedspread by getting in a muddle piecing the “Dunes” bedquilt on point. Despite using a design wall, I found that I was short of a diagonal row of blocks. I think there is a bit too much yellow in the new version but I could not get a wide range of subtle, coastal colours in the UK when I ordered those Kona cottons. I plan to quilt overlapping circles all over it like rain splashes in a pool. 
The bedspread was completed in the end even though the weight of it made it sag on the frame. Surprisingly, the thickness was not a huge problem but a few pleats did form in places, particularly around the most damaged areas of worn silk.

The unquilted 1950’s hexagon coverlet that I offered to wash for Mo did not fare so well. Several of the fabrics simply disintegrated and I wished that I had quilted the whole thing densely first. It was another hard textile lesson learned. It could possibly be rescued by bonda-webbing new hexagons on top of the worn ones but I have not got time to tackle such a restoration at the moment. As it is, I keep having the same elusive dream about patchwork blocks every night and one of my cast-iron cooking pots had to be soaked for days after I welded mince to the bottom of it. Fortunately, no-one was able to detect the unintended secret ingredient in the lasagne sauce where I mistakenly used a large spoonful of baking powder instead of cornflour. The clue was that when I mixed it in there was some unusual fizzing which would not normally happen…

Freya and I ordered a selection of books and DVD’s from Amazon France,  to help with her studies for Higher French hoping that “poche” means paperback. We tried taking turns to read Harry Potter in French out loud but I think we just sounded like malfunctioning robots. 

My hairdresser had fun colouring my hair purple with teal highlights. I have decided that purple is far too dark for me and look forward to it fading to a more respectable pink. At least I won’t have to make much effort to come up with a witchy hair-do for Halloween;)

As Nell and I drove home from Banchory one dark evening, I felt that the Landy had developed wobbly wheels. We crawled home cautiously and in the morning could see that one wheel had lost a big nut and the ball joint on the other side was oozing gunge. It is lucky that this did not happen at speed, particularly last week on my trip to the Lake District. I hope it won’t cost a fortune to fix but Landrover repairs don’t usually come cheap!
I was almost disappointed when the Landy garage loaned me a banger for the week so I could still go to school. 

Fearing that I would not have time to sew much of consequence next week, I cut out a set of strips from a collection of fat quarters to make a simple “just-because” type of quilt. Even if I don’t get anything else done, I can at least piece a few strips:)

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Quilt Retreat in the Lake District

I did not plan to follow a large pack of cyclists all the way over the Cairn O’Mount at the start of my journey to the Lake District which my shortcut far longer than necessary! It is a good job that I had packed as minimally as possible since Kay had lots of quilts for her talks to fit into the Landy. We arrived at Rydal Hall after dark and found it a little spooky at first since there seemed to be nobody else there. During the week all sorts of guests came and went from Church ministers on refresher courses to watercolour artists and hill walkers. 

We spent the following day setting up 2 long arm machines and getting our teaching rooms ready for 10 quilting ladies who arrived in time for afternoon tea. Later that evening everyone started their projects and chatted about where they had come from until about 11pm. We had guests from Scotland, The West Country, The Midlands and even Austria. One or two had brought their husbands who would occupy themselves by exploring the magnificent countryside and its quaint pubs.

Like everyone else I worked on several projects and demos during the week. I quickly and randomly joined my house blocks together then worked on quilting circles on a better quality piece of spandex to make a replacement Gold Totem. I bored myself by painting two coats of paint on the quilted rings of “5-Bar Gate 2” and I managed to assemble all of the simple blocks for the bed version of “Dunes Duet”. 

We could have done far more sightseeing since we were close to Beatrix Potter’s house, Wordsworth’s church and a flat-calm Lake Windermere but we were FAR too busy sewing to tear ourselves away. Kay and I wandered around Ambleside which was crawling with hikers and I have never seen so many outdoor-apparel shops. 

I made a point of wandering around the beautifully landscaped grounds where we were staying and was impressed to discover that a textile artist-in-residence had an Art Yurt in which she was spinning herdwick sheep wool. There were felted and crocheted objects hanging around the garden that looked like they had simply grown there. 

Ani,Kay and I all gave talks in the evenings and invited outsiders to attend. One visitor told  us that she had particularly enjoyed the comedy repartee when we tried to sort out a minor technical hitch at the start of my slideshow - I had grabbed the wrong bag of cables so we quickly made a copy from my Mac onto a USB stick and used Kay’s laptop instead.

One of the highlights of the week was a trip to the Derwent Pencil Museum which boasts that it has the largest colouring pencil in the world. I found out about the importance of graphite for cannon ball manufacture in the 1500’s and how its smugglers coined the phrase “the black market”. There were microscopic carvings on the tips of pencils and many other fascinating artefacts including WW2 maps concealed within pencils that would enable escaping POW’s to find their way back to Blighty. We had a bit of a spending spree in the shop and I bought a couple of tins of Inktense blocks to colour the plain side of the long-abandoned “BzB” after it has been quilted.

All too soon the end of the week approached. With some trepidation, I woke up on Friday morning and was quietly relieved that Scotland had voted to stay within the United Kingdom with a definite majority. It was quite odd to be staying somewhere without access to TV and decent wifi during such a momentous time of Scotland’s history but we had far too much stitching to do to worry about that;) 

We said our goodbyes, offered to hoover up the clumps of thread and repacked the Landy which was quite a feat since we were also taking the demo APQS Millennium and frame legs back to Scotland! As usual, we had fun hanging out with quilters, drank a fair amount of gin and the other guests seemed to enjoy our daft banter. We took a scenic road out of Ambleside and the laden Landy valiantly tackled the bends of a steep hill, appropriately called “The Struggle”. 

The worst part of returning from a great trip is putting everything back in its place at home. Freya helped me to perform brain-surgery on the Lenni machine while it was off its frame. New circuit boards will solve the repetitive needle up/down malfunction that used to occur in hot weather. I even loaded the house quilt ready to seat in the morning so I can do something easy before attempting to fix an ancient tapestry bedspread for a castle. I think it will be one of those weeks that disappears in a flash…