Sunday, 3 July 2022

Full Steam Ahead


I seem to have had a very busy week! I completed the small Warli quilts, added some prairie points then blocked them all ready to be bound. At first I could not figure out how 4 quilts that all started off at 30” x 40” ended up at different sizes until I remembered that the quilting would make a difference, Doh! Hopefully the differences of up to 1” won’t be too obvious when they are hanging.

I had a hexie customer quilt with a too small back so I bought a large, flat sheet and dyed it bright yellow. Another odd job was to cut down and overlock a king-sized duvet for someone. Never let it be said that I am not an accommodating quilter;)

On my inaugural caravan trip I decided that my morning tea did not taste nice from melamine mugs so I ordered some jolly Cornishware ones. Obviously, they all needed a cute travelling bag so they do not get damaged in transit.

Nella helped me to screen-print a cheapo parasol that I bought in case it is ever scorching when we eat breakfast outside the caravan. It was a slightly tricky job, trying to hold the brolly flat on an ironing board outside.

A job that I kept shelving finally got done this week - after a Zoom lesson on Qmatic with a pupil I like to make a video summary of the lesson with screenshots and notes. Nella does the editing for me but the notes always seem to take me a while to get around to finishing.

I have been trying to get back into making videos, particularly showing off the Bernina L890 overlocker / coverstitch machine. Not only do I need to know what I am doing with the new machine but I also have to remember to charge the relevant camera batteries and use a wireless mic. I am thinking it may be time to resurrect my “Here’s the News from The Quilt Quine” short vlogs.

Sunday, 26 June 2022

St Andrews Graduation at last!

 After a delay of 2 years due to the pandemic, it was finally Freya’s graduation from St Andrews University, postponed since the summer of 2020. She and her friends caught up for a week of festivities in glorious summer weather. They had all just left quietly in March 2020 without a chance to say goodbye to each other or to the town where they had spent 4 years. 

With intrepidation, Nella and I set off on the caravan’s maiden voyage, hoping that the town centres would not be too busy. We made it in one piece and managed to park reasonably tidily on a slope at a campsite just outside of the town, overlooking the beach. Nessie felt obliged to bark at passers-by as she guarded our spot. 

Graduation day was lovely - the students all showed off in their academic dress and posed for photos at iconic landmarks. There was a parade afterwards and a garden party. Freya found a random student to dog-sit and Nessie trotted off without a backward glance to spend the afternoon with some undergrads. The evening was spent on the beach and for once, the summer solstice was celebrated without cold, Scottish rain. 

I was relieved that the caravan experience was positive - comfortable and not too stressful and we are looking forward to our next expedition in July to a music festival near Stirling.

This week 2 overlocker / coverlocker  machines were delivered for me to become familiar with. There is the top-of-the-range Bernina L890 which is super advanced and amazing. It will take me a while to get used to its capabilities and thankfully it has on-board help videos and automatic settings. The other one was purchased as a backup for my old Babylock which is apparently now scrap. I will probably just keep it set up for trimming the edges of quilts and do fancy stuff with the Bernina. 

I have now finished hand-sewing the binding onto Nella’s puff quilt which looks fab but weighs a ton - it feels more like a mattress than a quilt. It is a great quilt but I can’t see me making another one any time soon;)

Nella had a few days to make up at the Crathes Castle cafe so I got on with quilting the small Warli quilts using Qmatic. They all have some background quilting in silvery grey then there are a few Warli figures stitched on top here and there. The idea was to keep things simple-ish and not get involved in too many embellishments or add hand sewing kantha stitches. I hope to add a few prairie points and see if the coverstitch machine can add a decorative triple line of stitches along the bindings. 

Sunday, 19 June 2022

Midsummer (Supposedly)


I wish there was a happy medium of summer weather in the UK. England has been sweltering in a heatwave while Scotland has been coolish and grey. I don’t actually like to be hot so my ideal weather would be around 21C, sunny with no wind:) My garden roses look and smell fantastic and I have no idea how they do it. They get hacked back in winter, never get fed or debugged and their soil is poor. I can barely see out of my window because “Geoff Hamilton” is blocking the view. I really should get more roses and shove them everywhere to replace the nettle and willow-bay borders.

I had a large Storm-at-Sea customer quilt this week that took some time to be quilted with a modern Baptist Fan pattern called “Stacked Snails”. It is not always obvious to see the curved effect that the diamonds on the patchwork create unless you stand back. Maybe a high, mirrored ceiling over the bed would be the answer to admire the handiwork!

I managed to get all 4 Rainbow Warliors quilts to finish at 30” x 40” after some jiggery-pokery. I did not particularly want them to be uniformly symmetrical so there was a bit of measuring and adjusting to be done. I ordered multicoloured backing fabric like the big version of the quilt so I hope to start the quilting soon. 

But first - it will be Freya’s long postponed graduation from St Andrews next week and my maiden voyage in the caravan…

Sunday, 12 June 2022

Turning Tables

I did not set out to do a deep clean in my workshop when I shifted a table to fit in the new table. However, the much cleaner windows are very pleasing. I have attached a naff string curtain at the door to try and deter flies from entering since none of the windows inside open so they just buzz around until they die! The new, high table is amazing and will make any job that requires standing so much more comfortable. 

Nella and I had a trip to Edinburgh this week. She was actually there for a tattoo because she is 18 and can do what she likes - besides pretty artwork on skin is preferable to self-harm scars - always;) We were able to eat out in a restaurant and have a cocktail which is something that both of us thought would never happen. 

We went to an immersive / interactive van Gogh exhibition which was a great way to experience artwork. There were big screens showing the paintings, accompanied by music. There was a mock-up of the yellow bedroom and a mirrored room full of sunflowers. Van Gogh’s story is so sad - from barely earning any money while he was still alive to his grim experiences with mental illness that led to both his and his brother’s deaths.

I have been building up a collection of blocks to make the 4 Rainbow Warliors mini quilts. Either I will have far too many or too few. It will be a bit of a jigsaw putting them together which I think sort of counts as “improv” quilting. It will be a mathematical challenge (for me) getting them all to finish at the same size!

Sunday, 5 June 2022

Stuffing and Other Nonsense

Having a week without serious commitments is great for cracking on with projects. I heat-pressed the glitter-walris to their squares and made a batch of silver and plain hour-glass blocks. I am quite sure that I have got far more bits and pieces than I need for my 4 small Rainbow Warlior companion quilts;)

I decided that the puff quilt was not going to be a leisurely project and I was determined to get it done. I regretted ignoring advice to under-stuff, as I shoved in clumps of stuffing the size of tennis balls. When it came to quilting in between rows of puffs it was rather a squeeze getting that bulk to fit under the longarm roller. 

The finished quilt edges were quite uneven  and THICK so I chose to add a wide binding / facing that would only be sewn by machine to the front and then hand-stitched to the reverse.

The other day when I was cutting out a batch of fabric and getting back-ache I wondered why I still did not have a nice, high cutting surface. My almost-full-to-capacity workshop had to have some furniture Tetris moves applied before I could fit in another table. This meant selling a small sofa on Facebook Marketplace, followed by a lot of cobweb removal, resulting in some window washing. That is my most valid case for not completing any admin tasks;) Hey-ho - there’s always next week!

Sunday, 29 May 2022

An Epic Week


It has been a truly epic week, starting out in Glasgow where Nella and I went to stay with Freya to see a band which cancelled at the last minute. At any rate, we went out for tea, followed by ice cream and stayed the night so Nella could get a train the next day to stay with her lovely cousin in Exeter. This was a huge adventure for her, having not been anywhere unaccompanied since she was about 14. She managed the long journey and had a great week experiencing life as a student, partying, playing bingo and making new friends.

While she was a way I spent
  more time than usual in my workshop. I had 2 customer quilts on the go, one of which was huge at 3m square. While that was going on I prepared the 304 pleated squares for Nella’s puff quilt.

I have decided to make 4 small wall quilts to hang alongside Rainbow Warliors on the longarm stand at FoQ. They will all feature one of my large doily screen prints in silver. I got silver powder absolutely everywhere before I mixed it with binder to make silver ink. The screen that I made is really too big for one person to handle easily so some of the prints had bits missing - the best one was on blue fabric. I will add some simplified Rainbow Warriors blocks to each small quilt until they are 30” x 40”, trying not to get carried away with embellishments. 

I used another of my gadgets, the Brother Scan-Cut machine, to cut lots of tiny walri figures from glitter vinyl and I will heat-press them onto 2 ½” squares. The idea is to get Qmatic to do automated quilting to show off what it can do.

I caught up with Mo and her wire-haired dachshund puppies for coffee on Friday. I could be quite tempted to get Nessie a wee sister but I have to be sensible, especially as my newly mended overlocker has now seized up completely…

Sunday, 22 May 2022

Sometimes it is just Either / Or

 I have spent many hours this week trying to work out a definitive method of placing borders onto a quilt using Bernina Qmatic. In fact, I have been like a dog with a bone testing things out. This is because I want to be able to explain how it is done for one of my Zoom pupils and I always make a summarising video with notes after the lesson. I have figured out how to get the designs to line up beautifully and I have worked out how to place them accurately on a quilt. However, it is an either / or situation if the quilt is not absolutely accurate - you can either joint the designs up perfectly OR fit them within the borders perfectly. My videos try to explain this conundrum - accuracy of pattern or accuracy of placement, not both! It is not really an issue if you are working on a whole cloth without pieced borders. 

This is why almost all customer quilts are done with nice, straightforward all-over patterns such as the two I did this week - "Feather Flip” and “Camelia”.

Despite a mostly sunny week, as soon as we parked our deckchairs at Crathes Castle for an outdoor showing of “Mamma Mia 2”, it rained - a lot! No wonder it is so green here. There was not much crowd participation in such a downpour but it was still a fun evening out. I am so glad that I will be taking a caravan rather than a tent to a “Doune the Rabbit Hole” in July since the chance of rain during a Scottish festival is high!

I have cut out 306 x 4 ½” background squares and 306 x 5” squares to make Nella a puff quilt to take to Uni and I hope to get cracking on that this week when she visits her cousin in Exeter (all by herself!) I have also decided to make 4 small quilts to hang with “Rainbow Warliors” on the Bernina Q-series stand at FOQ. The plan is to do some screen-printing and keep things simple but honestly, I should just have decided to make a new show quilt! 

Sunday, 15 May 2022

Quilted Coat (and other stuff)


I have been trying to make wee videos to summarise Bernina Qmatic lessons that I have been teaching on Zoom. Nella makes a great job of editing them then I add notes and screenshots which I hope make some sort of sense. I don’t claim to have THE definitive method for doing things - just ways I have found that work for me.

Other time wasting exercises this week have included trying to track down lost Hermes parcels and chasing up my KLM cancelled flight expenses which still have not been processed.

I have been enjoying watching The Great British Sewing Bee on telly (except for the Transformation Challenge which I detest). The poor contestants get such a short time to rustle up wearable garments. I took the best part of 2 days to complete my quilted coat, previously having cut out all of the pieces. It looks impressive and is comfortable to wear, although perhaps a bit bulky. I have no idea where I should wear it - perhaps just to Tesco, why not?

One of my Facebook friends commented that my hair had grown so I got Nella to take a photo from the back. I was quite shocked! I never wear it down as it feels too hot, I am hopeless at hairstyles and don’t like having short hair because I think I look like a man. I could do with a Lady’s Maid to plait it for me every day because I just use a giant clip and look like I have a bird’s nest on my head.

My friend, Mel came over for help with laying out her Puff Quilt. I showed Nella a picture of the project - she loved it and asked for one of her own to take to Uni. I made a sample to see how footery it might be and gave Nella the go ahead to shop online for her choice of fabrics.

Nessie and I had a grand day out at a Scottie Dog meet-up. She met lots of dogs just like her which bamboozled her, declared she did not like her sisters but did not mind her brothers, and won a prize for having a waggy tail.