Sunday, 26 March 2023

Tuition and Computer Updates

There was a major Bernina Q-matic update out this week so I sorted out the latest version onto my system as soon as it came out. I walked a pupil through the same process but we ran into some difficulties, despite following the instructions. The issue turned out to be that you have to use an under 8GB usb stick which nobody has these days. We figured it out in the end. It looks like there are quite a few changes which I will have to get to know and possibly make some instructional videos to explain them. 

I had a DIY Quilting pupil here midweek and we spent the day experimenting with computerised quilting, ruler-work and freehand. 

I seem to be developing a quilt idea without having worked out exactly where it is going (as usual). I ordered a rainbow collection of plain fabrics from Doughtys and a rainbow selection of flock vinyl for T-shirts also arrived. I got Nella to design me a set of SVG format concentric circles using Adobe Illustrator and I cut them out using the Brother Scan-n-Cut. I now have 7 sets of increasing sized circles without the maths-brain to work out quite what to do with them:)

Nella arrived home from Uni by train and we had to come up with an itinerary for our trip to Barcelona next week! It has been 4 years since I have travelled abroad so I feel like I have forgotten what to do. Annoyingly, the flights there and back are ridiculously early which is a tad stressful but hopefully we will pack a lot in without getting overwhelmed. To me this means we should aim to spend a lot of time in cafes…

Sunday, 19 March 2023

Compter Casualty

When I was editing my latest Q-matic videos last weekend my computer told me that its memory was full and so was its external hard drive. Immediately I started deleting stuff that I thought I did not need anymore but it made no difference so I contacted Apple support. After wasting several hours trouble-shooting it was deemed necessary to take it to the Genius Bar at the Apple Store. I spent 6 hours there on Monday! It turned out that it had got clogged up with too many backups so the computer got wiped then reinstalled. Hopefully everything was saved on iCloud or at least stored on the backup - I guess I won’t know until I am searching for something.

That stressful experience of the Mac Meltdown took me a while to reset the rest of my week. I eventually rescued and sorted out my videos which was a relief. I celebrated by making a couples of cakes - lemon drizzle and an everyday fruitcake:)

I got a customer quilt done and spent the rest of the week trying out some ideas for my possible quilt idea, including some couching with cord and different threads. I have a scrap of an antique Indian tribal bodice that I want to recreate in my own way. That piece of fabric is sort of what inspired Rainbow Warliors so we will see what happens next.

I ordered a disco-ball plant pot so felt the need to make it a macrame hanger which took about 2 hours more than it should have after I got the hank of yarn in an utter tangle. I need a plant for it but have an awful habit of letting plants die so maybe I will put an artificial one in it, especially if I mean to hang it up. 

I decided to have a relaxing Saturday making a By Annie gadget bag. Of course it would have been cheaper and easier to order one from Amazon;) Firstly I had to quilt a piece of Soft n Stable on the longarm the day before then figure out the under-illustrated instructions. They were not that complicated really - I just could not follow them! The finished bag is really nice but I would change a few things if I did it again. The main thing was that the layers were far too thick and I broke a few needles. Getting the binding on was really tricky - I think it could have been wider and I did not enjoy finishing it off by hand. We will see if I can face making any more as potential Christmas presents but now that I have worked it out I really should;)

Sunday, 12 March 2023

A Productive Week - Mostly!

 It has been a snowy week which is a bit of an affront for March but not unusual for NE Scotland. I wrapped up in thermals and woolies because we had no heating (again) at the start of the week and it was actually warmer in my fridge-like workshop. After all of the excitement of the Glasgow exhibition I made myself catch up on admin which I swear takes me 20 times longer than the average person;)

Suddenly, I found that some quilt ideas were bubbling to the surface. I wrote some notes about the ideas, realising that I probably have several options and don’t necessarily have to work on them all at once. I made a note that a quilt should not exceed 60” square but we’ll see how that pans out! I am trying to tell myself that I do not have to make a super complicated competition entry but I do need something to put in a show just so people know I have not “retired”. 

One of my ideas is to make some sort of reverse appliqué with silver lamé underneath, like big shisha mirrors. I had to search for fabric backed lamé online and was concerned that it was no longer in existence - turns out it is called “Emperor Foil” and I found plenty. I have also ordered 25m of gold and silver rickrack braid - need I say more? Anyway, I made a couple of samples which also involve hand stitching. At its most basic a 60” square project requires 100 x 6” blocks so I will think about that a bit longer. 

I decided that I needed to make a couple of small things so I made a handful of USB key fobs because they are so quick and easy. I then felt the need to make another mini camera bag but could not remember how to attach the zip heads onto continuous zipper tape so I had to go away and investigate then make a youtube video all about it. I also made a video about using decorative thread in the Bernina L890 loopers after failing to understand the instructions in the manual. Because I was on a roll with filming, I made instructional videos all about the Bernina Q-matic Mask feature and how to design lettering. The issue with filming is that it can take ages to set up, remembering how everything works and charging plenty of batteries. Mind you, editing takes even longer because I just keep the camera running even if I fluff up or get into a muddle. I should do a blooper video one day with all of the huffs and swear words.

My entire weekend seems to have been taken up trying to sort out my computer. I know the videos take up a lot of space but I should have plenty of storage, yet my Mac Mini says it is full and so is its 2tb external hard-drive. I have trashed so many files that I have probably lost something important, cleared all cookies, attempted to upload everything onto iCloud, and run a first aid check but it is still full, grinding to a halt, cannot update and keeps crashing the wifi! I have wasted hours on this so will see if it is possible to take it to the Genius Bar at the Apple Store to sort it out. I had planned to simply do some stitching on my coat and finish editing my videos but that hasn’t happened - sigh…

Sunday, 5 March 2023

Scottish Quilting Show - Glasgow 2023

I have to admit that I was both excited but also dreading the Scottish Quilting Show at the SEC in Glasgow. It is a long time since I have had to set up a booth and do a talk. I had my checklist of things to take and felt very well prepared yet I managed to leave behind 2 big quilts! Luckily, I had spares so there were no gaps on the wall. I was glad that I had decided to take the old Mac computer with a rolling slideshow to let people see some of my other quilts and projects. 

It took me a sweary morning to hang my quilts and bunting* using a staple-gun and I was so pleased that Aberdeen Sewing Machines came and set up the Bernina Q20 on its 5ft frame. I can’t believe that I used to haul longarms to FoQ for several years and shudder when I remember the hassle of setting up the Yurt on several occasions!

Once my stand was organised I joined 3 other judges to select the best quilts out of 116 entries. It was an intense process that took us over 5 hours. It was like writing school reports at warp speed and by the end of the afternoon I doubt that my handwriting was legible. The judging team “clicked” and our choices all aligned so I think we selected well. There was a great variety of quilts, of differing standards and ideas but it was super to see so many entries. I took lots of photos but my internet connection is poor so I have not uploaded all of them, I’m afraid;)

I had not realised that I had to give my talk every day and to my disappointment the slideshow that I had made about competitive quilting and saved onto a USB stick got corrupted and would not play. In true primary school teacher mode, I just ad-libbed and felt like I was doing a stand-up comedy show. By day 3, Fergus managed to send me a new copy of the presentation. Despite the technical hitches, my audience was very appreciative. 

The show was a huge ego boost - it was fantastic to receive such positive feedback and admiration. I have never shown off a collection of my show quilts before and they were extremely well lit. For the first time ever, BzB was hung double-sided and many visitors actually thought they were looking at 2 entirely different quilts. I spoke to all sorts of people including some who had never made a quilt or even seen a longarm machine before. It was lovely to catch up and also make new friends in the quilting world. I was impressed by the dynamic representative of the Scottish Women’s Institute who was clearly not terribly into “Jam and Jerusalem”!

It was a most enjoyable 3 day show - friendly, accessible and fun. I stayed with my friend, Ellen and we had a great time chatting about all of the trips and shows we have done together over the past 15 years. It definitely gave me a much needed boost of confidence and reminded me why I am a Quilter and that I need to get on and make something new and exciting, even if it is not for a competition;)

*Either Pythagorus lied about hypotenuses or more likely, my maths is inadequate. I did not have enough bunting to create the 2 central swags that I had planned but at least nobody got tangled up in the end!

Saturday, 25 February 2023

Why Would Anyone Paint a Ladder?

 I bought a cheap, short step-ladder which was white. It was important to me that it should co-ordinate with my newly painted trolley so I painted it matt black to match - 3 coats so far. The trolley will be on show at the exhibition (Scottish Quilt Show) whereas the ladder does not need to be. It will enable me to hang the quilts, after which I could put it in my car or I could use it as a chair. I think I have assembled everything that I need now and I have made prompt cards for my talk on competitive quilting. Remembering another time where I dropped them all and got them muddled up, I have actually connected them together with a spiral binding. 

I was undecided as to whether or not to take the quilted Henge Totems but I think I will leave them behind. They have been to that show before in 2015 and they are so bloomin’ big to shift. My 2023 exhibition will comprise show quilts, a Mac slideshow and a small longarm frame which I hope will be enough!

Since I managed to prepare for the show without leaving everything to the last minute, I managed to get a small customer quilt done. I generally like to be up to date before I go away on a trip.

I worked my way through a checklist and felt that it was keeping me focussed - apart from time spent doing obsessive internet research. Which is the best wireless microphone for vlogging? How do you make acrylic resin letter key-rings? Is a tripod better than a monopod? What happened to the Brinks Mat gold? Why is my wifi printer not working? 

I had 2 teaching days on the Bernina Q24  longarm system, one here in my studio for a potential buyer and the other continuing staff training at Aberdeen Sewing Machines. Tracey had been very diligent since my last visit, practising her free-motion quilting.

I have been trying to get Nessie into the habit of daily hair-brushing. She still hates it but we are persevering so she does not get matted in between her professional grooming sessions - I wear Kevlar gloves just in case;) 

This week will mostly be about exhibiting at the show but I hope to get a chance to look around and see what is “in”, possibly make a couple of modest purchases, and definitely take my host out for dinner!

Sunday, 19 February 2023

Ultra Bunting


What would you do with 2 weeks to go until an exhibition? Tackle the jobs that need doing OR suddenly decide that you need to make 12+m of over-the-top bunting to hang across the front of the stand? I had a few blocks left from Rainbow Warliors that I sewed together, some leftover squares that I screen-printed, some sequins and pompoms that I attached to bells nylon thread and then I “had to” make about 20 large pompoms from wool! The resulting bunting echoes the theme of Rainbow Warliors and is fabulous but worryingly heavy. I have visions of visitors to my exhibition being garrotted by low-hanging bunting.

Another part of my week was filled with doing a rush-job quilt for someone who wanted to take a quilt to friends in Australia. 

I also gave a Zoom lesson on how to quilt lettering using Q-matic. This is quite a tricky topic and I will need to make accompanying videos but won’t have time until the exhibition is done and dusted. I fully intend to work my way down a comprehensive to-do list;) 

One of the things that is taking a long time to achieve is putting together a slideshow to accompany a talk that I will be giving about competitive quilting. I have had to go back through 15 years of photos. I am appalled at how blurry some of these are - it could be that they have become compressed after being stored on 3 different computers, they were taken in low light indoors without a tripod, and the camera/ phone quality was not as good as the photography gear that I own now. I have had to search for images through obscure folders, assign titles and put them in order, which all takes ages. It has been fascinating to reflect on quilts that I thought were pretty good at the time and also to appreciate just how many quilts I have actually made!

Saturday, 11 February 2023

Mad Hatter in Norfolk

 I stayed on in Norfolk after my Mum’s 80th birthday and went on a couple of outings. Freya was also here for a few extra days but she was busy working online so could not come with me on junk shop jaunts and a trip to my favourite dungarees shop. 

I tried on a top hat in one vintage shop - it was too big for me and totally rigid but it is a fun look.

My nephew celebrated his 10th birthday and my sister had sent me into Norwich to pick up some pass-the-parcel prizes. I bought a farting Ninja toy which then farted noisily in my bag all the way around the city, including as I went into the ladies loo and while I queued up at the cash desk. 

Nella and I went on a National Trust day out to Blickling Hall near Aylsham. It is a lovely Jacobean mansion in landscaped grounds. There were some amazing old trees which would be brilliant for climbing if they were not roped off. There was an impressive portrait collection but it was difficult to work out who was who. I had not bought a guide book and the volunteers were not as well informed as I had hoped. I would probably be a complete pain if I became an NTS tour guide and visitors would not be able to escape from my vast mine of nerdy knowledge.

Once I make my 500+ mile trip back to Scotland I will have a week of catching up and I must get on top of the upcoming exhibition, Creative Craft and Scottish Quilt Show at the SEC in Glasgow at the beginning of March…

Monday, 6 February 2023

Norfolk in February

 Looking back I had a pretty productive week, fitting in 2 customer quilts using Qmatic. While it was quilting away I cut down some scrap binding that I will feed into the L890 binder to make more strips to weave. 

I started to compile a slideshow for the upcoming exhibition trawling through so many old photos, some of which are regrettably blurry. Probably, indoor quilt photos need to be taken using a tripod.

I made another trip to Norfolk with Freya to celebrate my Mother’s birthday. She is certainly fit and healthy and does not look 80! We had a lovely day with coffee and cake in the morning then a family dinner and games later in the day. 

I will be spending the rest of the week in Norfolk with Nella and even celebrating my 10 year old nephew’s birthday. I don’t think we have ever been in Norfolk at this time of year before because we only ever came down for a week or so in the school summer holidays. So far, the weather has been spring-like, sunny and almost warm (for someone who lives more than 500 miles further north!)

Sunday, 29 January 2023

Tinkering with Tech

I probably spend as much, if not more time, researching and messing about with Tech than I actually DO anything with it. I have become a serious Nerd about tripod ball heads, cold shoe mounts and “overhead rigs”. What this really means is suspending a camera above a table in order to get a birds-eye view of a project. The main issue is that even small cameras will weigh down articulated camera arms. My solution was to attach a straight arm to a pole clamped onto the table and use a tripod ball head to change the camera angle. 

I made 2 videos this week that I have yet to edit on sewing scrap strips with the Bernina L890 to make new patchwork “fabric”. It all takes longer than you would imagine to make a short instructional video - to practise the technique, make sure the film and sound gear is working, then edit out the pauses and bloopers.

I also had a haphazard list of things to do at some point this week, some of which actually got done. I had bought a mini Dyson second-hand to hoover up fluff around my sewing machines but it did not have a charger. I got a non-branded one from Ebay but the battery kept dying, I was ready to chuck it out when I came across a Youtube video advising me to wash and dry all of the filters. So far, the issue is resolved! 

I have an exhibition coming up in March - The Creative Craft / Scottish Quilt Show in Glasgow. I have a generously sized space but the quilts that I want to take are all large and will soon fill up the wall space. I wondered whether I could make a slideshow of the rest of my quilts and play it on a digital photo-frame. Most of those have small screens which would not have much of an impact. I was rooting around in cupboards upstairs looking for a backpack when I came across the old family iMac computer. It had become very slow and semi obsolete but I wondered if I could use it for a slideshow. I fired it up and experimented with moving some photos into an album and as long as I can find something to balance it on at the show I will be able to show my quilts off on a big screen. I have already googled vintage tea trolleys, antique plant stands, bar stools and fake Greek columns…

When I managed to avoid spending hours pointlessly researching on the internet, I have done some stitching on the crazy coat. I have got the pockets done, even though the prairie points are not facing the way that they were in my head. I made a bit of a hash of trying to do lazy-daisy stitch until I watched a tutorial where the Stitcher used an embroidery hoop, After quite a while my “daisies” became a bit more uniform. For me hand-sewing is awkward and anyone watching would wonder how I could be so cack-handed. Some of the stitching looks awful but I am working on the premise that nobody will squat down to peer at the bottom of the back of my coat to scrutinise;)