Sunday, 10 October 2021

Back to Front Quilt Making

 I had so much fabric left over from Nella’s autumnal selection that it made sense to piece a back for her quilt, even though the top blocks were not all done. Instead of joining large chunks, I decided to make it a bit more interesting and unplanned so I cut up some strips and squares and started joining them together. I would call this method improvisational, even though there is nothing modern or wonky about it. I doubled up the measurements for a Goosey Guddle block so it ended up 4 times larger than the original, taking up a nice big space on the bonus, reverse quilt.

I even managed to do 2 automated customer quilts, one of which was a new pattern by Tracey Pereira called Loopy-Loops.

It felt like a hectic week, even though I hardly took any photos and have absolutely no recollection of what else I did…

Nella is already on a mid-term break from college so we hope to have a chilled week with a couple of outings. I also am determined to get her quilt done otherwise Halloween will have been and gone before I know it!

Sunday, 3 October 2021

Camera Capers


Several weeks after telling myself that I would be filming a How-To video on making zippered leaders for the Q24 have gone by and I
still have not done it. It turns out that making instructional videos is not as easy as it looks. I think I am actually good at delivering the demos on camera - it is the technical side that has been tricky. The camera angles have to be clear and in focus and it is important to have good quality sound. I have got so much gear now that I could probably rival a BBC documentary team. 

I bought a refurbished GoPro from a seller on Ebay. However, the battery door got jammed and bent and the outer case broke. Thankfully, the seller was one who accepted returns and they did not quibble. I was told that they could not fix it and did not have a replacement so they would refund me. Apart from issues with the outside of the camera, I liked it so I spent an entire afternoon trying to source and order another one. Later that evening, I received an email from the original seller informing me that they had managed to fix it and it was on its way back to me. Now I will have to return the replacement when it arrives since I have not managed to stop it from being dispatched!

It occurred to me that I could practise making videos by filming the stages of making a Goosey Guddle block and by doing a short film on how we make overnight “sourdough” bread. Nella became my untrained camera-person and editor-in-chief. She actually made a great job of stitching all of the scenes together and switching camera angles. I don’t know that I am yet You-Tube ready. I may have to get some beta-testers to see if my instructions make sense. 

I have almost made half of the Goosey Guddle blocks for Nella’s autumn quilt. I will have to get a move on as we are now into October and the leaves are starting to fall. I have so much spare fabric that it makes sense to use it on the back. I would like it to be more interesting than simply speedily joining large bits together so I would like it to be pieced in some way. I started by making a super-sized Goosey Guddle block. It is the size of a small quilt and I really had to watch out for bias stretch in the large triangles. 

Since I am teaching myself videography by watching You-Tube, my homework for the week is to learn about B-Roll - seamlessly blending in casual shots from a background camera. Luckily, I have a competent editor (Nella) but one day I will have to learn all this stuff myself…

Sunday, 26 September 2021

Why Do I Feel the Need to...?


There are many things that I do in Life that are not strictly necessary but somehow I feel the need to do them anyway. I wanted to make a couple of instructional videos this week that may benefit say, 2 people (max). As per usual, I wasted a lot of time fiddling around with cameras and mics. This time I would not be filming the quilting frame and instead wanted overhead shots at the cutting table or sewing machine. This is not as simple as it would seem. You-tubers must have all sorts of “rigs” that you can’t see to hold their gear. I have, ahem, quite a lot of gear but the cameras would droop or be shooting from a weird angle. If only I knew a friendly carpenter to build some sort of framework or ceiling rack.

As well as getting the view right, sound is important too. It took me ages to notice that I could not get my mic to pick up sound because I had not plugged it in correctly - I blame it on the lack of clearly written instructional manuals - ie. no manuals at all!

Of course, I had to practise what the video would be about before I could start filming. In the case of the Goosey Guddle block this meant taking step by step photos for reference. I used my phone, which has a good camera but the proper camera would have been better if I could have angled it correctly, sigh…

The case of the quilt machine zips was different. In the USA you can buy finished open-ended zips at exactly the right size. Here in the UK, I bought continuous zipper and could not source plastic end stops to stop the zip head from falling off. I had to faff around with a sample piece, working out an alternative which turned out to be inserting some spare teeth at the bottom end of the zip and melting them with a soldering iron. To be able to write clear instructions, I will have to know exactly how much zip tape to cut to get both sides to fit together nicely.

In other techno news, the fancy clacketty computer keyboard that I use won’t light up any more. It is not that I need to light up - just that it should and I don’t see why I should put up with something that is only working 50%. To the list of gadgets that need fixing, I must work out why the washing machine is leaking, phone someone to mend the dishwasher and complain that my microphone’s fluffy “dead cat” windshield won’t stay on. 

All in all, it’s no wonder that I feel that I have gone around in circles all week!

Sunday, 19 September 2021

Overdue Upgrades

 Although I am a great fan of new gadgets, sometimes I just seem to keep clinging onto older, less efficient ones. I have a fabulous lapis-blue fridge that I have had for almost 25 years but the seals aren’t great so I have to constantly wipe down condensation on the door. I will be heart-broken when I eventually have to give up on my fridge because I can no longer source any parts. 

Our central heating boiler broke down in March but we still have not done anything about it. An old, granite house really needs some heating all year round to combat damp. This week I ordered a new printer to replace the old one that still works, except that it prints with added streaks and lines. The new printer is much bigger so I needed to make space in a tight corner of my room. When I shifted the bookcase and small table that housed the old printer, I discovered that everything behind them was foosty with black mould so some deep cleaning was required.

It seems that I have finally found a buyer for my 15 year old Landrover - an enthusiastic who will lovingly restore it. Landy’s replacement is a luxurious, 10 year old Volvo estate. I was very specific in my search so it is gold, with cream leather seats and a sunroof. I love the Volvo’s auto gearbox and secretly will not miss the Landy’s leaks, rattles and grouchy gear changes.

I made a few blocks for Nella’s autumn quilt and used the Bernina 1008 for one of them. It does not have a ¼” foot and its standard foot either does what I would call a generous ¼” seam or a scant one. I opted for the scant one but after I did a few more blocks on the Bernina 710, I noticed that the block done with the scanty seams was almost half an inch bigger so the lesson there is to stick to using the same machine throughout a project;)

Although I had planned on making another “movie” on how to construct zippered leaders for the Q24, time got away with me while I was sorting out all of my overdue upgrades. At least I managed to quilt one customer’s hexagon quilt with all-over camelia flowers so I felt that I had spent some useful time out in my workshop. 

Sunday, 12 September 2021

Technically Speaking

 I eased myself gently into the week by making Nella and Fergus each a key fob to attach to USB sticks. I had sort of forgotten how the ScannCut machine worked so there were a few abortive attempts before I got the fuzzy T-shirt vinyl to stick to the mat the right way up. In the end I remembered that I had to mirror the letters so they would be the right way round after they got stuck down by the heat press. It all takes so much time to remember how to use gadgets after not playing with them for a while. 

It took me the best part of 3 whole days to re-film an instructional video on how to set up a simple all-over pattern on a quilt using Q-matic. I was determined to stream 2 camera views and share my computer screen, recording the whole shebang into Zoom. For some reason I could not get my 2 cameras to behave in OBS (open broadcasting software) and by the time I worked out how to proceed the camera batteries were dead! I decided to order some fabric while I waited for them to recharge…

Eventually, I started to film my one-woman video - subsequently interrupted by the phone ringing, Nessie barking at the Postie and one or other camera randomly cutting out. If there were bloopers, viewers would witness a lot of swearing, muttering and huffing. Nella is managing to splice it all together in I-Movie which I should learn to do myself, I suppose. 

For ages I have been complaining that I don’t have a project so Nella suggested that I should make her an autumnal quilt since it is her favourite season. I decided that I could make another Goosey-Guddle quilt, based on a 30’s Feedsack quilt that I rescued from E-bay. I made the original GG quilt for Freya to go away to St. Andrews Uni 5 years ago. Of course, I could not find any written instructions on my computer but I did find some rough jottings in an old notebook so I decided to write them out properly and check that they actually worked. I ordered far too much fabric but in my defence, it is a quilt that needs to look you have rummaged through a scrap-bag. It’s not like I am spending any money on quilt trips these days so I don’t feel guilty. I am making myself 20 block kits and filing them into plastic pockets so I can easily take a couple into the house to sew if I find myself at a loose end;)

Sunday, 5 September 2021

A Big Week in Small Ways


As a consolation that there was no college for Nella on Monday, we went to the cinema in the afternoon and saw “Our Ladies” - a Scottish film about girls behaving badly on a school trip to Edinburgh. It was a great film actually, in a typically British understated way but with lots of swearing and drinking. The upshot was that it made Nella realise that she is missing having a fun, teenage life having no friends due to anorexia. She sees that she must try to recover, even though it is incredibly difficult to get her brain to agree. 

Nella was very nervous about her first day in education for 2 years but she really enjoyed it. She found it hard to get to know the other people on the course as there were strict social distancing rules, face-masks and no introductions. She did make a friend for the day but was unnerved when the girl did not have any lunch, realising that was not a good influence. Nella was thrilled to come home with homework, deadlines and a sense of purpose.

She is nowhere near ready to start eating freely but is willing to set herself more food challenges so we went out for brunch on Saturday, followed by a trip to Hobbycraft to buy sketchbooks. 

I managed to do a couple of simple customer quilts during the week and allowed myself to enjoy some late summer sun in the afternoon with a cup of tea. A fun job was to apply decals to the Bernina 710 to make it look like a special edition. I ordered them on Etsy and they were quite easy to fit - amazingly, there was only one small crinkle. 

We are still trying to perfect overnight sourdough bread in a dutch oven. This week the loaf looked fantastic but was the bread was quite wet so I will add less water and / or bake for longer. When (if) I get it right, I will jot down the definitive recipe;)

Sunday, 29 August 2021

Thistles on a Quilt and Thorny World Problems


I worked  on a custom quilt all week and finally finished it on Saturday. There were large rectangular blocks to fill and I could not find any suitable digital Celtic style blocks because they are all designed to be square. This quilt is going to Canada so I thought that it needed the most obvious Scottish motif - a thistle. It took quite some time to get all of the thistles done and then I decided to fill in some gappy areas with hearts. I had to do SID around the appliqué with invisible thread and also in the pictorial blocks. 

Nella has been psyching herself up for starting college but on Friday evening received an email to say that classes would only be held once a week due to Covid restrictions. She was devastated as this event has been motivating her to fight anorexia and nows she feels that there is little point. It is maddening that large football matches and concerts can take place, schools are back, but a supposedly full-time college course can only offer classes one day a week. I can feel a Cause coming on…

The major international news this week has been the chaos in Afghanistan as the Taliban took back power, to the surprise of the rest of the world (apparently). I am greatly saddened by the horrific stories of those who have safely been evacuated to the UK and of those who have been left to their fate. I do not profess to have any expert knowledge of foreign policy but I do know that Britain had military campaigns there in the 19th Century and it did not work out well then either. Clearly, there is no simple solution but just to retreat after 20 years of military occupation, abandoning the people of Afghanistan yet again, is madness.

Perhaps therein lies my lack of motivation - it is not just simple hubris, more a sense of general pointlessness. Or perhaps I am bored - I have all the distractions I could ever want but nothing is grabbing my attention. But after reading the relentlessly gloomy news, I have to remind myself that at least mundane is safe.

Sunday, 22 August 2021

More Gadget Fun

 I have always loved gadgets, even though I was the first person in my school to get an Ungraded mark for O-level Electronics. This week’s whim was to order a mini thermal printer with a teddy-bear face after seeing it on a Youtube vlog that Nella was watching. It does not use ink or batteries and the till-roll type paper is very cheap. The images are pretty good and it can also print sticky labels so I think it’s great. Since I love organising and labelling everything, I think I will have great fun with it:)

I now have 2 GoPro cameras so I can teach Qmatic techniques over Zoom. I have had the wifi boosted so I can try to get all of my camera angles into a program that will allow me to have several different views for teaching. The 2 cameras both have names - Cameron and Camilla - so I can distinguish between them. I made a little video after this week’s lesson, explaining how to download a design. Despite the boosted wifi, it still seemed to take about 18 hours for it to upload to Youtube. 

Freya has been home over the weekend and was most impressed by the height of our sunflowers.  It just proves that the summer has been hot and wet for it to reach the proportions of a magical beanstalk. She really came home to spend quality time with Pepper / Bluecat who at the grand old age of 17+ has developed Type 1 cat-diabetes. I don’t want her to suffer the trauma of twice daily insulin injections so I am keeping her fed little and often and she has a comfy nest on the kitchen window sill. 

Next week I should be working on a custom quilt and making sure that Nella has all of the stationery she might ever need to start college at the end of the month!

Tuesday, 17 August 2021

Up to Allsorts

 I decided to have another week of just “catching up” with odds and sods. This involved finishing my Wiksten Unfolding jacket which proved to be very successful, even though the reversible sleeves went in quite weirdly.

The week just filled up with random things like going with Nella to a piercing place in Aberdeen, taking about 30 seconds to get rid of cobwebs that have been hanging around for x-years, decluttering the kitchen drawers, tidying cables (again), and organising my sellotape collection. Yes, fine - it was a lot of procrastinating but that was entirely necessary.

We spent the weekend in Glasgow with Freya and without Nessie. It was a relief only to have to tackle the 77 steps once a day since we did not have to make multiple trips to find grass. The girls browsed a couple of vintage clothes shops and we visited a couple of nice cafes. They occupied themselves for a day while I went to teach a Q24 owner, who lived outside the city,  how to use her longarm machine. 

I was astounded to see a protest march in the city centre with a heavy police escort against Covid vaccinations. I simply don’t get why people would not want to vaccinate their way out of a pandemic!

We visited the Glasgow modern art museum which was illuminating. Don’t get me wrong - it was interesting in an intellectually pretentious way. There were amazing tapestries that had a complicated explanation to do with steel, Sikhs and some other stuff that went right over my head. The visit was quite an affirming experience for me. I came out and realised that my art is actually “worthy” of being displayed in such a space!

Sunday, 8 August 2021

A Slowish Catchup Week


There were no customer quilts waiting this week to make me feel guilty for not working on them. Instead, I have decided to spend the next couple of weeks pottering away at small things I have been putting off. I got through some admin, wormed the pets, had another go at making pumpernickel which was pretty good but rather sticky to cut, and filed all of my dress-making patterns into one drawer of the filing cabinet. My workshop still looks a bit cluttered and when Rainbows Warliors arrived back from the show, I decided to leave it wrapped up since I can’t now easily access the quilt cupboard. 

Having organised all of the patterns, I have now cut out the Wiksten jacket that I have been meaning to do for ages. I originally planned to make a quilted version but decided to hang fire on that until I could see if I actually liked the basic lined jacket. 

We are not quite in the middle of August but there is a late summer vibe here now. The evenings are getting darker, the poly-tunnel is yielding rosy tomatoes and there has been some heavy rain. Nella has been struggling a bit so we have been going out for coffee to remind her that Life is waiting for her. She is still motivated to go to college so I think we should go and buy some fresh stationery to enhance that “back to school” feeling;)

Wednesday, 4 August 2021

FoQ is Back in 2021!

 Nella and I drove down to Birmingham last Friday in Freya’s VW Beetle and it was probably the longest that trip has ever taken. There were roadworks, hold-ups for an accident and a ridiculous volume of traffic since many British holiday makers are staycationing in the UK. We made it in the end, picked Freya up from the train station and heated soup using the microwave that I took for Nella to be able to cope with the food situation. The girls explored Birmingham and visited the show, which they enjoyed.

It was a very different FOQ to normal. The traders and galleries had all been given extra space and there were far fewer visitors, almost none from outside the UK. The attendees enjoyed the more leisurely and spacious experience but it felt surreal without the usual busy-ness. I did not see many familiar faces, I did not go out to socialise in the evening but I enjoyed the show more than I thought I might. Face masks were worn and social distancing was observed, unlike in the hurly-burly of English service stations where it would seem the Pandemic is now a distant memory. 

My classes went well - it turned out that I had not completely forgotten how to teach;) The Sunday morning session only had 2 pupils so they had an almost one-to-one experience. 

Rainbow Warriors did not win anything but Kaffe Fassett was spotted filming it, possibly for a lecture, so that was cool. There was the usual discussion between friends about whether some of the winners were the absolute best out of all of the quilts. There were many that were terrific. I think the current trend with judges is that they favour simplicity. The winner of the contemporary category was a subtle double wedding ring in hand-dyed fabrics, quilted simply with one-inch horizontal lines. My quilt had so much more going on because I don’t believe in “less is more”! I am always baffled by the judging comments. It is interesting that one judge might award me “Excellent” in all tick boxes, whereas another judge won’t award any higher than “Good”. I freely admit that I don’t enter just for the pleasure of taking part… I want to win;) Mixed judging comments make me question my ability since I feel that if I am not now getting “Excellent” as a matter of course then I must be going wrong somewhere. 

As usual, visitors to the Fine Art Masters gallery were heard to utter, “Oh?!” as they observed more conceptual pieces of textile art. Too be fair, some of the stuff was really interesting but let’s be honest - the only time I was ever juried in was when I came up with something quirkily ironic, rather than my finest work:P

Sunday, 25 July 2021



I reorganised a corner of my workshop to accommodate the new filing cabinets, instead of figuring out how to make trolleys for them so they could be shifted about. Obviously, this led to a game of furniture Tetris to try and fit everything back in. There was a filing cabinet sized gap that was too tight by a few mm so I chiselled some lumps of concrete off the wall and prised off a section of skirting board. This was quite a feat for a muggy Monday afternoon but hopefully there won’t be any more rearranging to do for a while.

Another time-wasting activity for me currently is perfecting the ingredients and cooking time for no-knead overnight bread. I have a new cast-iron tin with a lid, as well as a ridiculously over-sized Dutch oven for a goose. I feel that I have to get good use out of the baking gear or else find somewhere to store it other than inside the oven where I tend to forget about it until I need to cook something.

Apart from a couple of dodgy offers from Facebook Marketplace on my Landy that seem to involve cash and blurry photos of obviously stolen cars, I currently have an interested party who is a Landrover enthusiast. The major stumbling block is that as usual, it needs work for its MOT, which could prove costly. In the meantime I have been boring myself looking  online for a Volvo estate car that is affordable, reliable and not ancient. 

I plan to get 2 customer quilts done at the start of the week then concentrate on packing for FOQ. So far I have printed out all of my paperwork, gathered together all of my threads and gadgets, and got a face-visor. Freya is travelling to Birmingham by train to be Nella’s chaperone and I need to take some supplies plus a microwave. I can see myself making a few checklists lists in the week ahead!

Sunday, 18 July 2021

Poo Brown to Pretty Pink Transformation


Ages ago I bought a set of old, Polish bentwood chairs for £2.00 each. I like to imagine they were made in pre-war or Cold War era Krakow;) Somebody had painted over the original wood in what can only be described as poo-brown gloss. I kept meaning to repaint them but never got around to it until this week. It has been very hot here and we really had to be outside in the shade so I decided to start on a couple of the chairs. I used a pale pink chalk paint which did not require any prep since I hate sanding. The paint dried extremely quickly and is not the neatest finish by any stretch of the imagination but since the old poo-brown gloss was already drippy, I think the end result is an improvement. It is funny how painted or stripped furniture goes in and out of fashion. As a student I painted some hideous Victorian furniture with yellow gloss. I daresay someone has now covered it all up with ubiquitous French grey chalk paint by now. 

I finally finished all of the ruler lines on the cat quilt which looked very smart when it was all done. 

I got a small all-over quilt done and thought I had caught up with everything in time to get super-organised for FOQ when 5 more quilts got dropped off - I am certainly not complaining! 

I gave another Zoom lesson on Friday which worked fairly well but I am still not happy with my camera setup so I spent a long time on Youtube trying to figure out how to get 3 camera views showing at once with only one audio source. It is not easy to find the exact information that I want. I hope to get it sussed so that every time I arrange a lesson the sound and video works seamlessly from the beginning - no camera dropping out. I had previously managed to add an extra camera by joining my own meeting by phone but for some reason this time that mucked everything up. I intend to spend a whole day on this until I get it to work consistently.