Monday, 28 December 2015

Christmas Cheers!

Because of mild weather and the kids breaking up late for the holidays, nobody here seemed to be feeling particularly festive. I completed my wrapping marathon and braved the supermarket. One of the things I enjoy the most about Christmas is meeting Mo and Tania for coffee, sherry and mince pies. We always choose each other little gifts that usually include novelty socks, nag champa incense sticks, mugs, chocolate and something home-made. They were pleased with their printed chiffon scarves and tie-dyed pillowcases so I will count those experiments as a success.

I felt that I did a good job of choosing an interesting selection of gifts for my children from Ebay, Etsy and other more obscure internet sites. They already seem have all of the gadgets anyone could ever need so it was a little challenging coming up with something that was a surprise. I tracked down some vintage guitar effects pedals for Fergus, Freya liked her vintage typewriter and Jane Austen temporary tattoos, and Fenella was impressed with her silver spandex leggings and waffle maker. 

I may have ruined or enhanced the black wool shawl for the top layer of the Purdah piece. I picked off as much of the grey interfacing as I could but there was a lot of powdery glue residue left so I decided to give it a soak in some washing soda before dyeing it with black Dylon, hoping that the interfacing would take up the dye. Despite setting the washing machine at 40 degrees, the shawl got well and truly felted and the grey interfacing remained its original colour but with a crinkly texture. I decided to work with the theme of Abuse and pegged it out to weather a storm in which it blew away and got caught up in some brambles. I have not quite decided whether to paint over the remaining grey bits with black fabric paint or even try some machine needle felting with some black sheep fleece. There will definitely be a need to come up with some sort of artistic flannel about this process.

There is only so much cooking, eating, drinking gin and watching action movies that I can cope with in 48 hours before I start to think what I could be doing instead. I bought myself an Appleton dress-making kit from so I might pluck up the courage to have a go at that. Something that keeps niggling away at the back of my mind is the desire to write a novel of sorts. If I used all of the time that I waste searching online for things I don’t need on Ebay and Gumtree I could probably get it done in a letter of weeks! My best ideas come to the fore on dog walks but Welly always knows when I am not paying attention and uses the opportunity to go off on one of his detours. It would be great if someone would invent an app that turned thoughts into text - then my drivel would soon evolve into pages and pages of stream of consciousness.

In the meantime, I will keep jotting down things I should be doing and think of creative ways to use up all of the leftover festive cheese…

Sunday, 20 December 2015

A Bit Festive

It has been one of those weeks when I have to rack my brains to remember what I was so busy doing. There were lots of little things to do from assembling the horse cushion, making more triangular pouches to give away, quilting the curved Christmas trees (presents - so no photos) and tie-dyeing something that I will keep quiet about until next week (if it rinses out OK.)

I spent two whole days triple stitching around the hexagonal grid on the black shawl for Purdah but you can’t see it! I was worried when it all buckled up but it looks as though it will steam flat with a hot iron. I am having great difficulty removing the fusible interfacing from the reverse which I put there to mark the grid with purple sharpie. Let’s just say that black dye MAY be used and if it works the reverse might become the front in a strangely distressed kind of way - it is meant to be an Art Quilt, after all…

I eventually purchased Christmas cards and wrapping paper before the shops ran out completely but I did not write a report of my family’s year. I decided that if the folk who I send cards to are my friend on Facebook they know everything anyway.

Freya looked lovely for her Senior Prom in a lilac dress that I am glad to say came from a shop. All of the girls were very glamorous and far more fancily attired than I have ever been in my life. 

I did put a frock on for a day trip to Edinburgh to meet Ellen. Since neither of us really enjoys shopping, other than in a quilt shop, I am pleased to say that we dropped into 3 different bars in the city for cocktails throughout the afternoon. It was very busy with pop-up markets all over the place, a skating rink and a maze of lit Christmas trees. I treated myself to a first class train ticket which was very civilised, starting with a smoked salmon breakfast and supper on the way home.

Mo, Tania and I met up for mulled wine and cake which is something we rarely do these days. I miss the times when we had coffee and sherry every other day during December.

Fenella and I went to an outdoor Nativity play. Despite the rain it was terrifically entertaining with live sheep and a donkey, wise men on quad bikes and a timely message about the plight of Middle-Eastern refugees. 

I am relieved that the kids have two more days at school so I can get  my wrapping done in peace before getting stuck into Christmas food and drink;) I wish all of my Blog readers a relaxing and Merry Christmas - it won’t be long before I feel the need to tidy up my workshop after it has been a seasonal larder and wrapping zone and crack on with Quilting!

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Just Say Neigh!!!

I find it baffling that an item ordered on Ebay with free postage can arrive here in less than 24 hours yet items where I have paid extra can take more than a week. I was waiting impatiently for black thread to continue with Purdah so I felt obliged to fill my time with extra projects instead. I had to crack using the Bernina 2mm rolled hem foot so I spray starched the edge of some fine cotton and ticked that off my list. 

I made two more ladybird purses from quilted fabric which took far longer than the leather versions in red and now orange but at least I can say I did it. 

I meant to have a go at making ONE test block for SewWonderful’s curved Christmas tree project but I seemed to end up making two samples which will now need quilting before Christmas. It was a bit of a rush job so they are not perfect;)

The job that I was dreading took me 2 whole days…the horse cushion that I promised LandyMan was never going to be easy for someone who does not draw and does not ever consider making pictorial quilts. Using a basic photo that I printed, I traced the outlines onto acetate then moved an old overhead projector to create an image that was roughly 18” square. I sketched that image onto paper that I taped to the roller blinds in my workshop. If I knew more about appliqué then I may have cut out and attached the pieces in a different order. The legs were tricky because I sort of mislaid the pieces or maybe I just muddled them up. The photo was not detailed enough for me to work out how to make the eyes lifelike but apart from that I think the horse looks passably like the original image.

The horse then required quilting, machine embroidery and a tail made from tapestry wool, which turned out to be navy rather than black in daylight. I hand-printed a back, purchased a feather pad and just need to sew it all together before plucking a figure out of the air to charge for it. If I was a driving instructor then I would be demanding a cool £300 plus materials but no-one is likely to want to pay even a third of that figure for a cushion. So the next time I am asked whether I can run something like that up I need to say “Neighhh!!!”

Sunday, 6 December 2015

No Peeking!

I am sure that Fergus has been rooting around in my workshop to see what might have been stashed away for his birthday or Christmas. I think there is nothing more fun than surprise gifts so I hope he didn’t find any of my Ebay purchases! 

I have made a couple more triangular pouches, still trying to decide on the “perfect” construction method. The red ladybird was joined by a fatter, orange friend and I spent a day printing chiffon for gift scarves. I was enjoying messing about with a gelli plate, which I had forgotten about. It’s a good job that scarves are usually seen all scrunched up because my printing was a bit wonky and distinctly artisan looking.

There were 3 DIY Quilters here this week, two of whom finished off long overdue projects. Carol bravely chose to quilt her Di Ford Montmellick appliqué quilt herself. I daresay that most folk would choose to hand stitch quilts like that as they have so many small pieces. I insisted on whizzing some stitch-in-the-ditch around a few of the larger motifs. It was definitely a good plan to use a puffier poly wadding to fill out some of the inevitable fullness. Shona allowed the Quilt Path computer to quilt leaves onto her large flannel quilt. Despite being made from flannel on both sides, it felt so light after quilting because we chose Tuscany wool wadding. 

While other people were here I have made a little progress on the second Purdah quilt. Bernard, the Q24 proved to be excellent at ruler work. Having worked on a more intense project rather than just practice pieces, I realise that I have set the frame up too high so I will need to make some easy adjustments to its legs so it is more comfortable. An optional extra is a hydraulic lift system which would be great for different users or even for sitting on a stool to do intricate work.

I am trying not to panic that I have not bought any Christmas cards or started on the horse cushion, let alone get swept along with festive functions, last minute quilts or deciding to make more gifts from scratch. This week, in addition to my usual parental and pet duties, I am determined to master the rolled hem foot, write definitive instructions for the triangle pouches, make a quilted ladybird and finish quilting Purdah2…!

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Nothing to See Here!

I am currently being visited by 2 or 3 DIY Quilters a week as they are keen to finish their quilts off by Christmas. I like to be on hand if the thread runs out and to help them wind on the quilt so I don’t feel that I can concentrate on any of my own major projects. I have been using the time to fiddle about with small projects or testing new Bernina feet out. I have a stash of chiffon that I intend to print and make into scarves so I wanted to figure out the 2mm rolled hem foot. I think I may need an expert to stand over me while I do this - I have watched a Youtube video several times but my chiffon has not been co-operating. I may need to practice with a cotton lawn first. I remembered that my overlocker can do rolled hems so I found the instruction manual, relocated some freebie bulk nylon thread and was amazed at the snazzy, neat finished edge of the tricky chiffon. I have now placed an order for flossy thread that matches the chiffon so everyone I know should expect a scarf for Christmas!

I used some scraps of leather to see if I could make a prototype oval bug purse. It was a bit fiddly as it was probably too small but I got a thrill from attaching the googly eyes. Having made notes of what not to do, I make a larger, rounder ladybird purse. Although I have a leather roller foot for the Bernina, I decided that everything would slide across the table better if I put Stitch-n-Tear underneath for good measure. Using a leather needle made a big difference as it pierced the fabric more effectively. Putting a leather tab on the zip end made the zip shut nicely but that was 4 layers to sew through so I might use grosgrain ribbon next time. I really enjoyed adding the popper spots;) 
I am pleased with Mrs Ladybird so I think I will make her an orange friend. I could easily get carried away and make all sorts of beetles… The leather versions are a bit expensive  to produce unless you already have a stash of the right coloured leather so I will probably have a go at quilted ones when I am next at a loose end.

In between 3 simple customer quilts that Quilt Path did for me I machine stitched around the Purdah screen design on the black shawl from the marked interfacing on the reverse. Because the wool is quite coarse, when you look at the front you can’t see anything whatsoever, which is why I did not even bother to take a photo. I am still trying to decide how much hand stitching is necessary or whether to machine sew a triple stitch on the front and add very little hand stitching. My original plan was to have NO additional stitching on the shawl at all since the concept of the project is that everything is hidden underneath but I chickened out and decided that the quilt show viewers may need a hint that something was happening with the piece. I have probably over-thought the whole thing and will be unable to impress any jurying panel that favours artistic minimalism! 

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Trials and Tweaks

The kids had two days off school at the beginning of the week so I decided to fiddle about experimenting with triangular shaped purses with zips that could hold coins, chargers or hang on the Christmas tree. They are really basic, using up quilted samples and offcuts. I made them in a couple of sizes, changing the way the zip went in and which way it unzipped. I wondered if they would look neater with tabs but the small ones just ended up looking bulky. I worked out how I might mass produce them as gifts. I also had a go at making small circular purses which I decided would look fun with googly eyes. I might have a go at making a ladybird coin purse if I can find some pieces of leather. Needless to say, I decided that I needed a few more coloured zips so I ended up buying a batch of 100 online while I was ordering 25 pairs of googly eyes… 

I visted Brian and Carole in Stirling to make a few minor tweaks to their Q24 machine so the very sensitive stitch regulators would stop more promptly. We made some minor adjustments to the frame and quilt sandwich and soon got it performing excellently. when I arrived home a parcel had arrived from Holland with a fun goody-bag from the OEQC show. These included some nice reels of thread, a Christmas panel and a very nice Bohin marking pencil. 


I juggled 2 DIY quilters and tried to work out how to mark the heavy wool shawl for the Purdah Project. Every time I tried to draw a pattern with chalk the fabric would shift. I thought about ironing on some stabiliser but I couldn’t get it to stick. The next idea was to iron on some freezer paper but it also kept coming off. I had wanted the whole thing to be hand stitched rather than longarmed but I worked out that the best plan would be to sew the pattern on through some sort of stabiliser using the domestic machine, then add hand stitching and possibly more machine stitching later. In the end I ironed some horrible grey industrial interfacing onto the reverse side of the shawl and drew out the pattern with a sharpie. I bet if I try to peel that stuff off later it will just decide that it is truly STUCK on! However, it will at least help it to hang straight if it won’t come off. I attempted to dye a skein of embroidery cotton black since I have not been able to buy any locally. It was a messy process and I ended up with stained hands. I was annoyed to find out the next morning that the red thread that I dyed black had dried brown. I think I will just log on to Ebay and mail order some black cotton yarn.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Quilting in German and Doric

Google Translate can be very hit or miss but it allowed me to get the gist of some lovely comments that had been left by quilters on the Bernina Germany Blog. Apparently it is even worse when an English article has been translated into German then back into English -  that is how I became a “long-sleeve” quilter! As a result of the German article, Bernina Netherlands got in touch with me to find out if I might teach patchwork and quilting over there. I think it must be time for me to plan some more classes and kits to add to my repertoire. 

Vivienne has been posting videoclips on Facebook to promote the Ebook. I enlisted the help of Mo to film local River Dee Ghillie, Robbie to endorse the book in Doric, the local accent of North East Scotland. It was very low budget, filmed on my phone in one of the fishing huts but Robbie did a great job. Maybe I should actually teach him to quilt so we can make another “fillum” of him using a sewing machine…

Linzi Upton's Deviant approach to Quilting
Linzi Upton
My mission in Deviant Modern Machine Quilting is to make you believe that there are no hard and fast rules in quilting.  Any rules you have learnt can be bent or broken! Quilting should give the freedom to express your creativity using whatever ideas or materials take your fancy.

It should be possible to take your inspiration from anywhere, mull over an idea for a while, then adapt or personalise it to suit your capabilities and choice of fabrics.

The Deviant Quilting approach should give you the confidence to be inspired by the colours and texture of your local landscape, for instance, rather than being confined to following a prescriptive pattern. You can make anything as off-the-wall as you please or just make a book cover if that is what you want to do.

I was visited by 3 DIY quilters this week who wanted to get their quilts finished in time for Christmas. I like to load the quilts for them, wind bobbins and be on hand if the thread breaks. They had all done some long-arming before elsewhere so they were fairly proficient but they all said that they enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere, having someone on hand who would give assistance, and the coffee. I did a few little jobs that had been annoying me like re-sorting and folding my fabric drawers. I get really irritated with myself if the contents are all in muddle. My workshop is generally tidy but every now and then I can’t remember what safe place I have used to stash things. Maybe I should keep a list of what I have mislaid and make a note of where it turned up.

I did eventually complete all of the ruler work and freehand spikes on the large customer quilt. It took a really long time to complete but I think it looked modern and fresh when it was finished. I have posted it back to its owner so it will be a few days before I hear whether she is pleased with it. 

The first Purdah quilt was quilted using half-inch straight lines and variegated black and red thread. I had to adjust the lighting of the photo but it still appears much lighter than it is in real life. I told Freya that I was considering adding more black stitching and beads but she has reminded me that this piece is meant to be minimal;) I have been making sketches for the other quilts and gathering images from Indian architecture which may or may not eventually come in handy.  

At the back of my mind is the dreaded winter festival that starts with a “C”. In my opinion, nobody should be allowed to mention it before December 1st, let alone advertise or shop for it! Ideally, I would like to make some small gifts and I have rashly promised the Landy Man an appliquéd horse cushion for his daughter…

Sunday, 8 November 2015


At long last - exciting news - I am a Published Author!! “Deviant Quilting” was released this week as an Ebook, available as a download or as a CD-ROM from
I am very proud of how the books looks on screen. It is easy to download onto a laptop; then it can be synced to a tablet such as an iPad. It is possible to download straight onto an iPad but you may need an app for that. Vivienne’s download instructions are clear but if you prefer a hard copy on a disk then it is the same price including postage. She has been posting on Facebook to promote the book and a couple of Big Names in quilting have offered to review it to spread the word:) 

The popular Bernina Germany blog has invited me to to write an article as a guest author all about Tartan Tattoo, 1st place winner for Longarm Quilts at OEQC and I will be allowed to plug my book.

It must have been the fantasy of being a “proper writer” that inspired me to bid on two vintage typewriters on Ebay. Maybe I had visions of myself tapping away like Martha Gellhorn but the reality was that neither of them were in great condition. I am considering getting them repaired if it is not too costly or possibly trading them in for one decent model. I can see how addictive collecting these could be, just like vintage sewing machines. Speaking of which, I have one or two of those which really ought to be repaired or sold!

I am keen to keep up with pre-Christmas customer quilts so I can make a start on some quilting for “Purdah”. I managed to fit in 2 lovely small quilts before tackling a large one that will take some time. It is paper foundation pieced very nicely but where the blocks join there are lumpy seams so the SID that I had planned proved impossible. This also ruled out using the Quilt Path to do any automated quilting. I have been using rulers which looks good but takes forever. It has been one of those jobs where I have to make myself do a certain amount of time then go and do something else. 

One of those other things was to attach all of the pieces together for “Touch the Pickle”. This was actually quite fiddly as I hand-sewed them together vertically to tiny crochet flowers with invisible thread. As I went along I discovered that some of the cheap 3mm poppers were coming off so I had to use pliers to remove them all and replace them with more substantial 5mm Kams Snaps. Once they were attached to their striped hanging sleeve, they looked like a  colourful Indian door curtain. I forgot to photograph them before I carefully folded them all together for storage. It behaves like a set of Christmas lights and gets all tangled up so I daresay some Quilt Angels will curse me next year;)

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Tartan Tattoo is a Winner!

The gloomy weather, sewing withdrawal symptoms and no exciting trips planned were making me feel rather like I was in the doldrums. An unexpected Facebook message from Andrea Stracke changed all that when she let me know that Tartan Tattoo had won 1st place for Longarm Quilts at The Open European Quilt Championships at Maastricht in The Netherlands! I waited impatiently until I could see “proof” online with photos of the red rosette. It is a show that hangs the quilts well with plenty of light and space and it was even displayed so the back could be seen. I was thrilled to receive congratulations from friends on Facebook from family to quilting friends and even some quilt “Legends.”

This good news really cheered me up and spurred me on to finish the piecing for the other 2 Purdah quilts. The red and black one was tricky. I had not pieced it using paper foundation piecing so the quarter inch seams were a little variable. I managed not to knock too many points off in the end and I love the rather Welsh/Amish red and black simple look.I have been swithering about the quilting but I think that pumpkin seeds of some sort will cross cultures. There may also be some woodblock stamps with a seeded theme. The black and black one was a bit dreary to work on. Despite having a reference book out to calculate the size of squares needed for corners and setting triangles, I ended up making a few test squares from scraps until I decided that the measurements would work. This one is going to be quilted in regimented straight lines but I have “found” some variegated red and black thread that should add interest. The thing that is still eluding me about this project is what to add to the plain black shawl that will hide everything. I want it to be extremely subtle, almost non existent, somehow conveying a strong message about Purdah. I expect inspiration will come along eventually, inevitably around 4am one morning. 

Typically, just as I was thinking that I did not have a backlog of customer quilts to worry about while I worked on my own projects, 6 quilts arrived within 24 hours. This is a good thing as it keeps my business afloat and a bit of pressure always makes me more productive. I am looking forward to getting some quilting practice - I feel that I have done more than enough piecing for a while and it is time to do what I enjoy most.

Vivienne sent me the final proofs for “Deviant Quilting” so I could look for any last minute typos and corrections. We are both really proud of how it looks. The pictures are fantastic and I actually enjoyed re-reading my text. It is just about ready to launch forth and I really hope that it is a success that will lead to more books in the future. I am hopeful that it will get a few good reviews and that people spread the word so I can earn enough to take my long-suffering kids on a trip to the USA. Disneyland is unlikely to be one of the destinations - Paducah and Nashville are more what I had in mind but long as I take them to some old-fashioned diners I’m sure they will have a great time:)

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Meanwhile, not in Houston...

Quilt Market and the IQA show in Houston is the USA equivalent to our UK show, FOQ Birmingham in that many American quilters make their pilgrimage there every year while the international quilters only visit every few years. I have been jealous of all the Facebook status updates of the preparations, journeys and meetings of old friends. The weather over there is wet and windy while we have had a mixture of glorious sunshine, gales, rain and frost. 

In between taxiing the kids around and getting spare beds ready for visitors, I put together the bright log-cabin style top for the Purdah quilt and make very some progress on the red and black section. I upcycled Nell’s fairisle sweater into 2 hot water bottle covers in case it was going to be chilly for the visitors.

The Landy is in desperate need of a new clutch - it can be embarrassing at traffic lights when I just can’t get into gear and have to switch off the engine to fumble around with the gearbox. I was on my way to pick up my guests from the station in Stonehaven when I found that just 10 minutes away in an area with no phone signal the twisty road was blocked by several stationary vehicles. A lorry driver took charge of the situation and decided that the Landy would have to tow the the car that had crashed into a stone wall off the road with the aid of a 100ft long rope. Obviously, this was a daft idea as towing is done best on a shortish rope but I let him work that out for himself. There was a worrying burning smell until I put the Landy into a low-diff gear and he heroically cleared the road until the Police arrived. My visitors were wondering whether I had forgotten to collect them and my two little nephews were jumping around like grasshoppers by the time the rescue was complete. 

We spent the next few days visiting castles, parks, the seaside and making constant pots of tea. The kids carved some mushy pumpkins and the cats kept a very low profile. The dust may have resettled by the middle of next week;)