Sunday, 23 April 2017

Video Bites with The Quilt Quine


I made it my mission this week to figure out how to use the GoPro camera and to be able to make short video clips on my phone, building up to longer quilting demos in the future. I ended up making a daily Brigton Farm newsflash just so I could practise doing some off-the-cuff pieces to camera. One of my children has told me to stop spamming Instagram with my clips and another says I should spend some time editing my videos and adding music. I think it is actually quite an achievement just to figure out how to start and stop the camera - faffing around doing editing can come later;)





I don’t know whether the newsflash spot was a spur for activity but I seemed to get quite a lot done this week. As well as supervising a DIY quilter and completing a customer quilt, I finished the other Tifafai thistle piece that I started in Germany. I worked out a really good combination of metallic threads and stitch size on my overlocker to finish off the edges without adding a binding. While my DIY customer was engrossed with her quilting I reorganised my 2 IKEA trolleys so that each longarm machine could have a essentials kit ready to be wheeled up close. I was thrilled to discover how well the magnetic pin bowls stuck to the side of the trolleys.




My Postie delivered an assortment of parcels ranging from Kilner jars to be used for yogurt making to a budget version of a German folding shopping basket. I had intended to decorate it with something like free-motion stitched broderie-perse but it would have been tricky to avoid the pockets for the struts and the zipped side pocket. In the time that I could probably have done all that I decided to make quite a lot of pompoms to dangle from it instead.

I am coming up close to the deadlines for entering quilt shows so I dug out the long abandoned BzB anti-wholecloth project. I stared at it for a long time, jotting down a few notes on how it might be tackled. Its biggest problem seemed to be the vast amount of negative space which is traditionally filled with ½” diagonal lines. I hummed and hawed for ages, made some extra templates and decided to fill up that space since a) I am not making a modern quilt and b) I am not making a traditional quilt and c) because I felt like it!



Amazingly, my 15 year old, battered Landrover passed its MOT test, apart from needing a new tyre, which means I can once again look forward to trundling off to Quilt Shows, delivering kids to Guide Camps, Duke of Edinburgh Expeditions, Music Festivals, and eating Fish and Chips in the car:)



I am really enjoying working on a lino-print “Traveller’s Blanket” panel from Dijanne Cevaal using 30wt thread. It is challenging working on such a small scale with a large longarm machine - it is really embroidery rather than quilting. I am more fired up working on this small project than anything else I have done in a while and I will be looking for more heavy weight threads. Dijanne and I are hatching a plan to work collaboratively on “something” and I am very excited to see what we might come up with… 





Friday, 21 April 2017

Quilt Travels



These days I am a seasoned, independent Quilt Traveller with friends all over the world and a desire to experience quilting across the globe. However, when I started out as a quilter 10 years ago I wanted to travel to a major American quilt show but did not feel confident enough to make all of the arrangements myself. I joined a tour party where the travel, accommodation and most of the activities had already been taken care of. The group included people of all ages and experiences yet from the beginning of the trip, it was clear that I was in good company with like minded people. We had the security of knowing that the organisers had done the trip before and knew the area well. I made great friends on that trip with whom I have since had many other adventures. 

Many of my trips have been to the USA, where quilting is a major industry but political and economic issues have made me wonder why I am not exploring quilt shows here in Europe. There is a multi-venue quilt show in France that I have actually been meaning to attend for ages but for some reason have not done yet, maybe because I might have to hire a car or practise my rusty French. I have heard that the various exhibitions in Alsace villages are terrific so I must go and find out for myself. 

I was recently contacted by ECT, a niche travel company based in Bath, with information about a tour that they have organised to Alsace and I must say, I am very tempted to let someone else take care of the logistics. 



“Working together with the Quilter’s Guild, ECT Travel have put together a fantastic 3 night package that gives textile enthusiasts the chance to explore the art trail at their own pace, whilst all the hassle of arranging their transport and accommodation has been taken care of.



Staying in the town of Colmar, where on Friday and Saturday evenings the buildings are illuminated by an award winning light show, guests will have free time to explore after being transferred back to their hotel from the event by executive coach.



Nestled deep in the enchanting French countryside, the region of Alsace is situated close to the border of Germany and Switzerland. It is here in mid-September, for 4 days only, that you will find 36 unique and quirky exhibition sites dotted amongst the villages of Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines, Sainte-Croix-aux-Mines, Liepvre and Rombach-Le-Franc.



As the cradle of the Amish movement, Alsace has been a hub for quilting and textile artists for over 300 years. In 1993 the European Patchwork Meeting was devised to celebrate the talents of traditional and modern patchworkers and quilters. With a huge range of activities such as workshops, conferences, specialist stalls and exhibitions, it is no surprise that over 22,000 international visitors flock to the event every year.”


For more information on this tour or to book, please visit ECT’s website 



Or contact Sofia Carosi by email on sofia@ecttravel.com

Sunday, 16 April 2017

More Stitching in Germany


After our lazy day of sight-seeing and soaking up the sun, Dijanne Cevaal launched the students into intensive stitching projects. It was an absolute treat to quilt for fun all day long. I was slightly freaked out when she suggested that we draw a central vignette or motif so I cheated and found a woodcut drawing of a fish on Google that I developed. Dianne prefers to work with 30 weight cotton thread. I was impressed how the Bernina Q24s ran it without complaining and how the stitching really stood out. I decided to stick with the same blue thread for the whole piece so it was monochromatic. Dijanne declared that what we were doing was “Drawing with Longarms”. 



It was very interesting to discuss methods of networking with an established travelling quilt tutor. I was encouraged to try using the social media platform, Instagram regularly, learning about hashtags and tagging people who might be interested. I now have followers who are into wood-carving and making sexy bread.



I started a threadwork piece using one of Dijanne’s lino-cut prints. It is not quite as easy to work that small using a longarm but I am having a good go at it. The thick thread looks amazing and I can add hand-stitching or beads later. The main challenge of the second day was to design and stitch a Tahitian style Tifaifai appliqué. I sketched out part of a spiky thistle using paper folded into a triangle. This was traced onto Bondaweb, ironed onto fabric then cut out with tiny scissors. The tricky thing was to free-motion quilt around the raw edge appliqué several times, building up a solid edge. One of the students had greater success using a longarm appliqué guide but I discovered that I could use manual mode fairly smoothly. I don’t think this is a technique that I would have chosen to do myself but I am really glad of the opportunity to try it as I really enjoyed the project. I was determined to complete the black background quilting all in the same day. I have the negative thistle still to complete which it will take most of a day to do. 



I had a terrific time teaching and learning in Coburg. Regina and Dijanne were great to work with and I was very well looked after. I was actually rather sad to pack up to go home, even though I had extra goodies including thread, sweeties and projects to fit in. I am hoping to go back and teach workshops for Regina in the future and I intend to meet up with Dijanne again as we got along very well:) When I got back I went off to the supermarket to buy items for my version of a German picnic tea!



I went home with a German cold so I did not feel like sorting my stuff out until the weekend. Feeling guilty about my apathy, I made myself do boring admin first so I can do some more on my unfinished German projects later in the week. I did not exactly laze around - I managed to get a small customer quilt done, delivered Easter eggs to Freya in St Andrews on Good Friday and rustled up some basic cable-tidies that look nicer than strips of black velcro. 





The Easter holidays end on Tuesday so Fergus needs to get into serious revision mode and tackle the maths questions that I downloaded - luckily for me I also downloaded the answers! I have quilt competition entry deadlines looming and I need to work out whether is feasible to make something new in time for FOQ… If only I could get up at 4am and not waste time on the internet:P




Sunday, 9 April 2017

Longarm Quilting in Coburg


Thanks to Regina's detailed instructions, my journey from Frankfurt airport to Wurzburg by train was very smooth. We had a quick look around Coburg and ate a delicious traditional bratwurst with mustard. Her studio is super! I had three Q24 long arms and a sit down Q20 for my pupils. Regina's lovely daughter, Laura did a marvellous job of the catering and taking official photos for her website. 


The ladies were enthusiastic and determined to quilt all day to try and finish their projects. Like a typical primary school teacher, I planned more work just in case somebody was a fast finisher so they could pick up any of the three projects over two days. They concentrated on quilting the fake leather which would made into a large tote bag. I did not tell my pupils that I had chosen fake leather deliberately so they would not be tempted to unpick any stitching they did not like. The idea was to experiment with rulers and free-flowing quilt designs. Two days of concentrated quilting  is such a luxury for students as nothing beats uninterrupted practising!


Despite my attempts to learn a little German, my limited vocabulary was of no practical use. Regina did a great job of translating and there was a lot of bizarre sign language. I normally chatter all day in English so it was unusual for me not to have so much to say. Luckily, they seemed to get it and were keen to try as many motifs as they could. We enjoyed an evening meal at a Gasthaus with locally brewed beer and Bavarian potato dumplings, served by waitresses in traditional dirndl dresses.


The other textile tutor, Dijanne Cheval, from Australia, drove up from the south of France to join us on Saturday evening. Regina had kindly arranged for us to have a day of sightseeing on Sunday so we visited an impressive schloss, Veste Coburg which commands a impregnable elevation on Festungsberg hill. The views overlooking Coburg were spectacular on a glorious spring day with clear blue skies. There was an extensive collection by Renaissance artist, Lucas Cranach, and displays about Martin Luther as 2017 is the 500th anniversary of The Reformation. I was fascinated by the intricate wood carvings and inlaid panelling. I am sure I could get plenty of ideas for quilts from that;)


We enjoyed an alfresco lunch people-watching at Golden Kreuz in Coburg then a wonderfully lazy afternoon on the verandah at Regina's house soaking up the sun.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Eine Kleine Quilten



I have come to the conclusion that it would be simpler to write down all of the tasks that I do not have a hope of finishing, see how the week pans out then fill in my diary retrospectively. I was beginning to panic that I would not get my class samples ready in time for my German trip next week - then I started to worry that the projects were too big and the students would not finish them either. Of course, they do not need to be as intensively stitched as I did them!




The pink pleather piece did not “need” additional embroidery around each circle and the Spotty Sampler Quilt did not “need” more stitching or couching either;) It was actually quite hard to come up with 16 completely different ways of quilting a circle. It was not until afterwards that I remembered I had a file full of photos of examples of stitched circles that I did for the Bernina Q-Matic system. 






I was relieved when both projects were completed. I have had months to prepare for these classes but School Stuff and Life just kept getting in the way. I have now written instructions for both of those projects in case there is some finishing off that students need to do after the classes. I actually wrote 888 words on how to make a simple tote bag with an internal zipped pocket because I take the view that every step should be crystal clear, making no assumptions that the maker already knows what he or she is doing. I can even let the maker know that they can fit at least 8 bottles of gin into it!





Fenella is off to Guide Camp this week and obviously, I could not manage to send her off with 2 cheap supermarket tea-towels… I had to dig around in my stash and make 2 fancy new ones from vintage linen with hanging loops and name tapes! No wonder I have not found time to practise my German conversation on the Duolingo app. I must do some cramming before I go because I cannot imagine I will have to ask for much “brot und wasser" from “der junge" - however, I expect I will use “Entschuldigen, mein Deutsch ist schrecklich!” (Sorry, my German is dreadful!)


Sunday, 26 March 2017

A Much Appreciated Temporary P.A.




It was an absolute boon to have Freya at home at a bit of a loose end for her Spring Break from Uni. Most of her friends were either away travelling or had different holidays. It was so helpful to be able to text her with instructions to switch the oven on or rustle up a batch of chocolate brownies. She even did the catering for a class of ladies who were here for a day of improv curved piecing. 

I enjoyed her company for dog-walks and morning coffee, and she proved to be a very good chicken whisperer. Within 24 hours of asking if anyone had hens for sale on Facebook, we had 4 new layers, 2 of whom immediately tested the defences and worked out that they could easily escape using a vertical take-off method. We rounded them up and gave their wing feathers a trim, returning them to the chicken run so we don’t lose their eggs in hidden nests amongst the nettles. 





I marked a piece of Bosal interfacing with a Frixion pen and quilted circles onto a piece of fuchsia fake leather. I used a small curved ruler to quilt inside the circles then “organically” freehanded the background. It is far too long since I did this type of quilting just for fun and I really enjoyed it, despite having to slow down after bending a needle that was too fine for the job. I should have used leather needles but I did not have any left so I used a metallic needle instead. It was tricky when using the acrylic ruler base because it kept sticking to the fake leather underneath - next time I will just use the Frixion pen on the “pleather” side, not the reverse. This piece will have some accent embroidery stitching around the circles then will be made into a simple leather tote. It is a sample for one of the classes that I will be teaching in Germany in a couple of weeks. 



The other project will be a sampler quilt of machine quilting. I have decided to quilt the background first on this occasion then add fancy circles afterwards. I don’t know how I came to order cotton sateen fabric with added spandex but I managed not to get any weird puckers in the automated curved line quilting. 

I had a very cultured weekend starting with taking Nella to “Blood Brothers” at His Majesty’s Theatre in Aberdeen. The show was fantastic with amazing performances, clever scenery and it ended with a much deserved standing ovation. Freya and I went to see Nell in her choir concert on Saturday morning then we went off to see the new Disney version of “Beauty and the Beast”, starring Emma Watson at the cinema. We enjoyed it as a spectacle far more than “La La Land” and now want to dress like French peasant girls in long pantaloons, Provencal layered skirts and espadrilles;)





Sunday, 19 March 2017

Tricky Custom





I am very impressed with my new Swiss-Army style Bernina seam ripper. A DIY customer was using an automated quilt design on a Dresden Plate quilt that had fulness issues where it had been appliqued onto a large background square. I was able to release a few of the stitching lines then freehand the fullness in without as many puckers.



Something came up to scupper my plans for the rest of the week…

I should have had plenty of nice photos of a small custom quilt that came in as a rush job this week but it ended up biting me in the bum so I have decided not post photos of it. I should have known better than to agree to fit something as complex into a 4 day slot, especially as the new customer phoned 3 times and paid a visit before I even sewed a stitch. Her instructions were extremely specific - ditch and ruler work only. Since I have been longarm quilting for almost 10 years I should have been able to judge more accurately how long the job would take but I just told her my hourly rate and said I was not sure how long it would take to ditch all of the tiny pieces on the quilt until I got started. When I phoned to tell her that the job had taken 9 ½ hours she was horrified and sharply informed me that she did not intend to pay for that much quilting. Like a wimp, I met her halfway because I had not provided an accurate quote up front. Important lessons learned: be more realistic when estimating time that a custom quilt may take, stick to my guns on pricing, remember not to quilt for that customer in future!

I placed an online fabric order for some solids that I will use to make a project for my classes in Germany and as long as they arrive in good time I WILL be making samples up this week and hoping to make a “pleather” tote that I hope my students will also make. I have finished something for Freya’s birthday but I can’t show photos of that either;)

I have Freya home from Uni for a week which is lovely. She spent an exciting week in Marrakesh with friends having adventures and she brought me some fragrant spices.I was her sous-chef when she replicated a delicious Moroccan feast. Since we had some decent spring weather, she took charge of the operation of relocating the ramshackle hen run. We spent a couple of hours scrubbing the hen-house and detangling the fencing from nettles and itself before rounding up our one remaining “feral” chicken. We were rewarded with a lovely fresh egg! Now that we have an escape proof again run we can get a few more hens or even ducks to keep us supplied so we don’t have to go out and buy eggs:)



Sunday, 12 March 2017

Bernina Longarm Ambassador Meeting - Steckborn 2017


At the weekend, while catching up on the more mundane aspects of life, I met a friend in the supermarket who thought I had been Quilting Abroad for weeks. I had to correct her and let her know that I had actually been home for several days in between visiting the USA and Switzerland!



My 2-day seminar at the Bernina for European (and Korean) longarm ambassadors was terrific. It was definitely an international event with representatives from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Spain, UK and slightly further afield and not at all European - South Korea. Needless to say, not everyone spoke the same common language and we even had a couple of translators. By muddling along in English, French or German we were able to share experiences and learn new techniques from each other. 






It is always exciting to visit the Bernina factory - there are areas with a particular mechanical aroma, boxes of sewing machine feet waiting to be finished and circuitous routes underground and up flights of stairs to avoid the highly top-secret research and development ares. We were kept very busy all day with lectures and discussion sessions but of course we very well fed at the Bernina canteen and the lovely hotel restaurant with  a stunning view of Lake Constance. We learned about new products and underwent some specialised Q-series training and were even involved in a discussion about what developments we may like to see in future. I took away some new ideas and things I want to experiment with. I also took away a stash of chocolate from the wee shop but it got scoffed before I remembered to take photographic evidence. 





By the end of our time together we felt that we had made new friends and connections and my French gradually came back to me which was just as well because I needed to find my way to a hotel at Paris CDG Airport par Le Shuttle. My French actually improved so much in my search for a bus or train that I even managed to mutter “Zut Allors” every time I got sent off on a wild goose chase. By the time I found my hotel which was at a completely different airport terminal, I did not care that I had to drink my gin out of a glass “plastique”. It is a good job that I arrived super early for my Aberdeen flight the next morning because I have never encountered such queues or rudeness at bag drop, passport control and security. I will endeavour to avoid a connection via Paris in future!


I felt so abashed by my lack of comprehensible foreign languages that I downloaded a phone App called Duolingo to see if I can learn some useful German phrases in 3 weeks. I know that my students and hostess speak English but I would at least like to make basic polite conversation. My favourite word so far is “Entschuldigung”, which means sorry! I also hope to be able to mention sewing machine feed-dogs which is something to do with Unter-Transport.




I was glad that I had set up a customer quilt to do when I got back because I spent most of the weekend in my workshop trying to catch up on some customer jobs. By the middle of this week I will try to make myself a shortlist of what I intend to work on for FOQ - after I have made some samples for teaching in Germany and chosen a new “for fun” project;)