Sunday 18 February 2024

Brainpower Required

As a person who owns several cameras, these days I take very few photos which does not adequately document my week. I had a huge customer quilt that took 2 days and a DIY quilter who spent 2 days here custom quilting. 

I considered starting on my Tula Pink butterfly quilt kit but that would require my full attention so I decided to dip in and out of the Art & Stitch manual. I think I am absorbing it more easily and it was pointed out to me that I don’t actually need to know it off by heart - I can in fact, consult the manual if necessary. My nemesis seems to be drawing on the computer using the Bezier tool. I hate it but feel that I need to conquer it in order to explain how it works, even if I never put it to use. Concentrating does use up a lot of brain power and I was able to keep going with a date and nut snack boost mid-afternoon. 

Since my QGBI Zoom lecture is done and dusted my next milestone is to prepare for a teaching weekend at Quilt Direct in Devon, mid March. I re-wrote the Northern Lights notes and calculated how much fabric would be required to make the whole quilt. The original Bifrost was made in 2015 and it was interesting to look it up on my blog history to see what decisions I made during the construction. I have no idea why but the photos I took at the time were terrible - low resolution and blurry. I don’t know whether I took them with a small camera or an older iPhone but it has made coming up with a slideshow rather hard!

Freya was here for the week to continue her dentistry saga and it was lovely to have a companion for walks when she wasn’t working. Nessie was delighted to have someone else pay attention to her. 

This coming week is going to be a holiday week since my sister and her boys are coming to stay. They have not been to Scotland for a while and it has been ages since I had guests other than the kids’ sleepovers. I had to find quilts and towels, make a meal plan and activities list and hope they don’t mind cobwebs and clutter that we don’t see any more…

Sunday 11 February 2024

Triumphing over Tech (in the end)


I spent a lot of my week testing out the Tech that I needed to use to do my Zoom lecture and demo for the Scottish branch of the Quilters Guild of the British Isles. I was using the MacBook Air that I got from Music Magpie and a usbc hub since the MacAir hardly has any ports where you can plug in gadgets. It turns out that there is more than one version of a basic usb port! I wanted to use 2 Camlinks in order to livestream images from my 2 GoPro cameras but they needed a faster port than usual, 3.0 instead of 2.0. Having ordered a new usbc hub I had to return it because the ports were too close together and the 2 quite fat Camlinks could not both fit. Let’s just say, the Postie was kept busy with my Amazon exchanges until I got the right gadget;)

That was not the only stumbling block - I could not get a microphone to work reliably until I realised that I had one that could connect to the Mac via Bluetooth. Despite that, when I practise Zoom with my sister there was no sound. I was so paranoid that I also did a practise run with the Region co-ordinator and Nella. None of this was helped by the fact that the wifi was also being temperamental. To my horror, when I logged onto the meeting 15 minutes before the start there was again no sound but in the end it was suggested that I leave then rejoin the meeting and after that everything ran smoothly. I had a face camera, a slideshow and 2 work stations with day 2 other cameras. What a relief when I got through the whole presentation and people seemed to have enjoyed it:) 

That was my first big commitment of the year. The next one to concentrate on is a teaching weekend at Quilt Direct in Devon in mid March. I was asked by one of the Zoom participants if I was going to enter FOQ this year but I said that I was not going to push myself to a deadline when I need to concentrate on my teaching commitments without getting my knickers in a twist;)

In addition to all of my Tech trauma, I managed to get 3 smallish customer quilts done. The forthcoming one this week will be another big one at 100” square.

I had intended to make a short Art & Stitch video this week but I went a bit off-piste wondering if an old drawing tablet might be useful (it wasn’t) and I tried to get to grips with computer drawing using a Bezier arc/line tool which I found almost impossible. 

At least I have found my planner useful… it was really good having decided what to eat each night, even though I have a lot of risotto left over since Fergus decided McDonalds would be more appealing. Because it was scheduled in, I went swimming twice and things actually felt a little less chaotic. I need to keep up the good start;)

Sunday 4 February 2024

Time to Redeploy a Planner


While my kids were still at school, Life was pretty busy, getting them to where they needed to be, running a business and entering quilt competitions but at least there was a schedule. These days, I don’t have many time commitments so I can please myself how much work I do. The trouble is that I make myself try to get too much done, all at once, so I hardly ever allow myself any down-time. I felt so harassed that I dug out a planner that I used to have in 2019 up until Life came to a grinding halt when Nella was ill. I don’t know whether keeping a planner again will help but I think it is good to see what can be done realistically when it is written on paper. The thing is - I do keep a notebook where everything I think of gets jotted down but it is a bit messy and difficult to see what are appointments in amongst the scribbles.

I have in fact got all sorts of things done work-wise but I have not brushed Nessie every day, gone swimming, caught up with friends or done any fun sewing! That is not a good balance between Life and Work…

The BIG job that I had to do this week was a custom red and white quilt. The blocks were too big on-point to quilt in one go so I decided to use triangle blocks instead. These had to be precision placed so everything would line up. I also had to fit in a border and corners, do stitch-in-the-ditch and a million one-inch circles. It all took almost 20 hours!

It was a relief to go from that to all-over basting a quilt that a customer wants to tackle herself with straight line walking foot quilting on her domestic machine. 

I had to finish making and photographing samples for my Zoom lecture for the Scottish branch of the QGBI next weekend. I also had to write instructions in case anyone wants to make the whole quilt. This involved working out fabric quantities which I did not do in advance when I made it;) Two slideshows will accompany my lecture; one of step-by-step photos of the construction process, the other showing the development of the original ”Help ma Boab!” quilt.

The other major task was to sort out all of the “Tech" that I plan to use for my lecture. I have a lot of Tech but I needed to round it all up, charge it up and work out how to place it. My plan is to have a laptop so I can speak directly to it and show slides but also a wireless mic so I can move around and 2 other cameras (with lights) at my cutting table and sewing machine! The Go-Pro cameras also need battery packs because they use up their batteries too quickly. Of course, it should all be straightforward but isn’t - despite having the correct cables the laptop would not pick up the mic I wanted to use so that took a  lot of time faffing around until I found the solution. Afterwards I had a whole lot of reorganising to do. My plan is to practise on Tuesday so I can sort out any glitches.

I hope this week is less frenetic - I have even managed to write a meal plan to take out the stress of deciding what to cook at the last minute. One thing to be positive about is that we have now passed the darkest 10 weeks of the year and there are  signs of Spring:)

Sunday 28 January 2024

In the Pink

I was 56 on Monday which means it is almost 16 years since I started blogging! I have been thinking… do I have a good work / life balance? Am I creating enough? Am I having fun? Does any of it even matter?! I certainly don’t seem to travel as much, mostly due to Nessie, costs and probably the state of the world. I am trying to be more focussed as I am easily distracted and that can be overwhelming.

I “allowed” myself some time off for my birthday and had a lovely lunch out with a friend but I still felt guilty for not being busy all day.

I guess I made up for it for the rest of the week. I tentatively started the pink iris panel with its computerised designs. The advice had been not to move anything on screen and there was actually only one place where the designs overlapped a tiny bit. It was tricky, not placing the designs using markers and there were often undefined areas on the fabric where it was difficult to see if there was an actual petal. It does look good though and I would like to do it again if I can source the panel. It only seems to be available from the USA at huge shipping costs. Speaking of which - the Tula Pink butterfly quilt kit that I ordered from America cost me £68.00 in post followed by the same again in customs so I probably ended up paying the equivalent of the £300.00 that Cotton Patch UK charges for the kit!

I plan to make another short Art & Stitch video, mostly so it sinks into my own brain. I have read the manual and watched all of the available tutorials but the programme still confuses me sometimes. I am trying to learn it inside-out to become an expert well before my teaching retreat in June.

In February I am giving a Zoom lecture and demo about “Help ma Boab” to Region 16 (Scotland) of  the QGBI. Apart from checking that my tech all works, I need to write clear instructions on constructing a block. I had my usual rough notes and some photos but I had to start from scratch in order to write a pattern. I suppose I don’t know at the start of a quilt project that it might become one that I need to recreate;) I discovered that the blocks are far more complex that they seem at first. First there is the reverse appliqué hole, then the rickrack and silver lamé attached by tiny, accurate blanket stitches. Then there is the cutting and placing of the vinyl circles, decorative machine stitching where all of the thread tails need to be sewn in, followed by kantha-style hand stitching!

February starts next week - as well as keeping on top of the projects that I have started for Art and Stitch / Qmatic consolidation, I need to pick up the pace and get back onto customer quilts. No wonder I have to write basic things like, “Brush Nessie” on my do list or they just would not get done!

Sunday 21 January 2024

Allsorts Achieved

It was a snowy week - not that much snow to be honest, although the roads were bad but it was COLD in my workshop. I have just got a digital thermometer out there and yesterday when it was beginning to warm back up it was only 5 Celsius! I was not out there very much unless dressed like an Arctic explorer. I managed to quilt a second sofa cover from fluffy fleece and anti-slip-rug-stuff. I had a bit of a panic when I got an error message that the Q-matic system was not recognising its motors but I discovered that cables had got dislodged by accident when I left a drawer open underneath so it was easily fixed.

I have loaded a digitally printed panel to practise using complex Q-matic designs. I am following the advice of a closed Facebook group and have basted it with a million pins which took me hours. I have even ordered a suede welding apron so I don’t snag my clothes on the offending stabby pins every time I lean over it.

I spent a lot of time on my computer this week which always feels a bit of a skive because it is so easy to get side-tracked by Youtube and online shopping. However, I did reorganise lots of documents, sent some files off tho Quilt Direct relating to the Art & Stich retreat in June and I made a video explaining how the backdrop tool works:) I “wasted” some time figuring out how to customise the boring blue folders on my Mac desktop but now I can easily find the folders I want. I admit to doing some procrastinating as I actually sorted out the pantry where everything just gets piled on top of each other (by other members of the household).

I had a blustery but lovely day in St Andrews with Freya. It is such a nice small town which even has a seaside and she enjoyed reminiscing about her Uni days there. I left early to beat yet another storm home. Hopefully it will not be too bad this far north - fingers crossed that any rain gets dried up quickly by wind because I can’t stand the thought of mopping up yet again.

Sunday 14 January 2024

Crunch Time

I drove back from Norfolk listening to an audiobook which passed the time easily - Kate Atkinson’s “Normal Rules Don’t Apply”. Even though I had taken some craft projects with me I did not even look at them. I made a slightly rash purchase of the Tula Pink butterfly quilt kit and companion digital designs. I think it was due to a combination of not having a planned project and feeling that working with the digital patterns would be a good learning curve. 

Freya was home when I got back to get her broken front teeth fixed (again). I had been meaning to book a dental appointment myself as I have not been since 2019 and one of my molars has been bothering me. I was angrily crunching breakfast cereal and thought there was something hard in the mix. A large chunk of tooth had broken off! Fortunately, the dentist was able to mend it the next day. My hideous 1970’s metal fillings were the culprit. These were liberally used as a preventative measure if any sign of decay was spotted in children’s teeth but they expand and contract, causing cracks. It is a crying shame that there are so few NHS dentists these days as it is so expensive to get check ups and treatment.

I used the excuse of having a visitor for not getting back into my workshop which feels COLD. I eventually gave it a surface-level tidy and plan to get back in on Monday, starting with an easy second sofa cover. My main focus is to put together course-work for my classes and retreat at Quilt Direct in March and June and promote it on social media. Firstly though, I have an online talk and demo on Zoom in February so I need to practise setting up all of my Tech. It feels like a lot to get done but if there is a List then I can work through it;)

Sunday 7 January 2024

The Year is Still New!

 This winter holiday seems to have gone on for while! I wonder if it is because the main holidays were on Mondays. I kept meaning to give my workshop a really good tidy and clean but the wet weather has gone on and on so there did not seem to be any point. I did eventually do some of my new 100-piece puzzle which seems to be quite tricky. It is funny how I can decide I will do it for an hour but still be fiddling with it 3 hours later. 

Nella crocheted at light-speed and rattled out a couple of hair scrunchies and even a granny-square balaclava. 

We binge-watched The Buccaneers (an Apple TV adaptation of Edith Wharton’s novel) and loved it. Nella and I drove to Norfolk mid-week and enjoyed listening to its audio book but the reader’s accents were really weird. 

It was nice to see my sister on her birthday and the next day Nella and I visited Oxburgh Hall near Swaffham. We have both really enjoyed using our National Trust memberships for outings such as these and will definitely renew them when the time comes. 

I don’t plan to stay long as I really need to get properly started with the New Year - I feel like I have been “on holiday” for weeks!

Sunday 31 December 2023

Christmas Chaos


Christmas with one extra person and a dog seemed more chaotic than usual. I did not get to do my jigsaw puzzle much because there was nowhere safe to leave it out. I have often accused Nessie of eating one piece so leaving set up with a curious puppy did not seem like a good idea. Nessie ended up mostly opting out of the sitting room - she and Fizzle kept out of the way, probably hatching plans for revenge.

Freya made me a cute little sconce from clay, Nella gifted me a non-alcoholic blood orange cordial and Fergus got me edibles (chocolate - not magic mushrooms!) My sister gave me a fabulous swimming hat with rubber petals because I expressed a desire to try out the local pool. 

We had 2 bouts of very heavy rain which caused more flooding hereabouts so I have not bothered to give my workshop a pre-New Year tidy as I still have sandbags and towels by the door. 

The kitchen was a bit chaotic - George brought a haunch of venison that did not fit in the oven and he was not accustomed to our casual approach to oven temperatures or timings. I got a bit flustered and accidentally turned the top oven onto the grill function so my hot oil for spuds created one or two slightly alarming flames. 

It was lovely to have guests for the holidays but I think we all (especially Nessie) secretly heaved a sigh of relief when they departed. I will be heading to Norfolk with Nella so it will feel like an extended holiday but at some point January will hit me hard and I will have to get stuck into lists/projects/quilts!

Sunday 24 December 2023

Festive Drama

I had to collect Nella from Aberdeen bus station so went for a wee wander around Union Square shopping centre while I waited. I went into the new Seasalt shop which already had a sale on. I stroked the velvet dresses to see if they were as wrong as the ones I had seen in Norwich and to my horror, I discovered that all of the nap was running in the wrong direction. When I helpfully informed the sales assistant, she insisted snippily that the designers would have requested that. It made me shudder to think that if I ran my hands down my imaginary party frock, the fabric would feel bristly!

The week was spent endlessly making grocery lists, trying not to eat the food that I was stock-piling for Actual Christmas. In between hot chocolates and schmaltzy Christmas films, I did at least some “Art and Stitch” practice.

Freya arrived with boyfriend, George and his rather scatty young collie, Poppy. Poppy has made it her mission to terrorise Nessie. Freya unwisely got in the middle of a dog fracas and got hit in the face which broke off her front tooth crown (that she smashed when canoeing at Uni). Obviously, dentists are all closed for the hols… Poppy has also decided that it is a good idea to poop under the Christmas tree even after she has been outside to go to the toilet. The seagrass matting that we have is not the ideal type of flooring from which to remove squashed-in poop. Nessie and Fizz have decided to spend Christmas together in my room, minding their own business. On Christmas Eve morning everyone is walking on eggshells, hoping there won’t be any more drama. I honestly think I should write a sit-com. I am almost tempted to pour a large gin and cranberry, despite having been teetotal for almost a year;)

Sunday 17 December 2023

Only a Week to Go!

When my children were younger Christmas did not begin until after Fergus’ birthday on December 11th. We have an artificial tree now so it has been up with only its lights on, waiting for Nella to “dress” it when she arrives home. I must admit that I sort of miss the frantic round of Christmas concerts and performances. The trouble is that since the festive season starts so early nowadays, the whole thing is spread out and there seems to be no definite Christmas period (for me, at least).  All of the Christmas Fayres are over already and I never go into Aberdeen where there probably are not any jolly carollers anyway;)

Fergus was 22 this week and I made him a semi festive cake. It was gingerbread with cream cheese frosting and cranberry sauce in between the layers. It was meant to be one of those “naked” cakes ie. inexpertly iced. I had a shortage of plain cream cheese so mine was a bit bald. I had bought 3 cartons of the stuff but had not checked the labels and discovered that they were the garlic and herb version! It tasted great - the sharp cranberry sauce helped to cut through the super-sweet frosting. I put together a fancy breakfast box as he is a bit of a foodie. I was going to order it online but the company did not deliver here. He was very pleased and gets to keep the IKEA crate.

I finished the bunny cushion but forgot to take a photo before I wrapped it. A DIY customer who has been waiting a while came and completed her grand-daughter’s quilt. I continued to work my way through digitising tutorials for Art and Stitch. There is a lot that I don’t feel I would ever want to bother with but I need to know how it all works. I have also signed up for a pricey digital Quilt-a-Long but I am treating it as a learning experience. 

Other than that, I have tried to wrap some gifts, scrawled a few cards, done some grocery shopping, and cleared the junk out of Nella’s room that had been dumped by other members of the household who did not want it in their rooms! Nessie had a pre-Christmas trim and was not impressed while Fizz remains oblivious to everything.