Last, Last Chance

Standard

Earlier this year I bought an iPad thinking that it would take over from my 2012 MacBookPro but for some tasks it just does not perform the same way and I crank up the straining laptop to do spreadsheets, online banking or resize pictures for printing. I expect the iPad can do these things but I don’t know how to make it so I either have to figure that out or consider whether it is time to trade in the laptop.

Having become a bit of a Marie Kondo convert (Tidying Up and Spark Joy), I decided that it was time to let go of the old school desk that I have had for 30 years since rescuing it while on teaching practice. The school rabbit hutch had sat on top of it so it had been out of classroom use for years. It had inkwells and lift up lids but was designed for small children who only had minimal stationery and books. I decided to offer it free to a good home on a Facebook buy, swap, sell site and it was quickly snapped up by someone locally who has a small child, so far with minimal stationery. Nella and I took a similar approach to 2 bookcases of children’s books and donated 5 boxes to charity so others can enjoy them. Getting rid of stuff that is no longer being used or enjoyed is cathartic. I really must work through the entire house (at some unspecified future date!)

Keeping my youngest under close supervision has not been easy – she had to spend some time in my workshop this week while I worked on 4 customer quilts then I had to spend afternoons in her room working on Higher English. Luckily, it is Victorian melodrama which I studied at school and uni but my understanding of modern textual analysis and citing references is sketchy. Having rediscovered some of my cringe-worthy old essays, written in fountain pen I don’t think I would be awarded a degree today!

Freya returned home in one piece from her trip to Tanzania and Zanzibar, having had incredible experiences and adventures. She brought me some gorgeous fabrics which I have put away until I decide what sort of projects they are for. I made her a welcome-home vegan carrot cake with cashew “cream-cheese” icing – which was much better than I had expected. 

 

While she was home to help keep an eye on her sister I managed to fix the faulty needle threader on the Bernina 710 to stitch a few eyelets onto plain fabric so I can layer it up with silver lame to make mock shisha mirrors. The quilt that I am making of so far unspecified size either has far too many blocks or will need many more smaller units. I won’t know until I lay it all out and see.

Sadly, Freya was only home for a couple of days before packing up her plants and books to begin her final year at St. Andrews. We filled a surprise box with treats to start the year off and left her at her flat to cope with a washing machine which has duck tape to seal its door. 

Over the weekend we cajoled a little almond milk and pieces of tangerine into Nella to see if that is enough to stave off the threat of hospitalisation but this huge effort may just not be enough to avoid that fate. It really is a game of cat and mouse…

 

Positivity

Standard

The one thing that is essential when dealing with a child with Anorexia is maintaining a positive outlook. Even when it seems that there is no improvement, the only thing is to keep trying and keep hoping that the vicious cycle can be broken. On Thursday we were warned that a hospital admission is looking increasingly likely if the medical checks show up increasingly failing health and weight continues to drop. We were given the weekend to turn things around, even the tiniest amount. Her friends visited and gave her a brave and loving “talking to” which I hope struck a chord deep within. 

I now have to provide almost 24/7 supervision so there is no opportunity for her to exercise and I must insist that some food is at least tasted 3 times a day. Everything revolves around mealtimes and the issue of food, even though my daughter will only touch one piece of fruit and a few spoons of home-made soup each day. 

We kept ourselves occupied by building an IKEA desk and bookcase, getting started on some school-work and trying not get sick of each other’s company. She had to sit in my workshop while I had a DIY quilt customer for a morning. This new regime will curtail my DIY work since I usually work through lunch but I will have to figure a way of keeping going with some quilts otherwise the business will just disappear. I have not worked on my Rainbow Warli quilt at all and I really want to make some progress towards getting all of the pieces finished, even if I don’t know what sort of quilt it will become. I almost decided not to proceed with Year 2 of my textiles printing evening class but I will do it anyway as a lifeline for my sanity or at least a change of scene. 

 

I used the little Elna sewing machine that now lives on my daughter’s new desk and finished piecing the “Positivity” quilt. This is a pattern by Christa Watson using the fabric that I won as a door prize in her class in Florida, mixed with a few extra scraps and multi-coloured squares instead of neutrals. I got the Bernina Q-matic to quilt spirals all over it for texture and backed it with an Indian mandala cotton bedspread. While she made a short visit to her friend’s house I got the binding on and made up her bed. It is bright and cheerful – she loves it and IF she has to go into hospital this is something that she can take from home that I have created especially for her. 

Dropping In and Out

Standard

You hear about people dropping out of Uni or Life all the time but I have never thought about what that actually meant. I feel as though I have temporarily dropped out of Quilting, certainly when I look at social media and think that Everybody Else is beavering away, teaching, launching new patterns or inventing new techniques. I have barely had time to think about quilting, let alone actually do any. 

We waved Freya off on a Grand Adventure to Tanzania where she will be staying with a university lecturer whom she met on the way back from her trip to Egypt. Her journey of 24 hours ended up in Mwanza where passengers on the 8-seater planes can either carry hand-luggage or a bucket of fish. She will explore Dar Es Salaam and Zanzibar with her host and probably foster a desire to do an internship there in the future. 

I have been able to work on some basic customer quilts using Qmatic in between medical appointments and school meetings. I chose the same pattern, Flower Child, in various sizes because it was straightforward and suited several different quilts. 

I finally finished piecing the Positivity blocks over the weekend so it will be fun to put them all together with my youngest daughter. We have been spending a lot of time together, not only in the battle to get her to eat but also because she is currently unable to attend school. I persuaded her that it would be calming if I helped to sort out her messy room so we looked up how to fold clothes the Marie Kondo (Japanese) way so they take up less space and it led onto a major clean-up. She is actually thrilled with how ordered everything now is. 

The knock-on effect was that we moved the piano out of her room then shifted all of Fergus’ music gear out to the summerhouse so he has a space that is more of a studio. This involved moving a sofa-bed into the ex-music room via a tight front door and ridiculously small hallway – if I move from this house I swear most of the furniture will have to stay behind to avoid a repeat of those shenanigans. Hopefully those 2 siblings will now clash less over practise, noise and taste in music! The rest of the house would also benefit from a major declutter but really I would rather sew;)

Not Knowing

Standard

One of the really hard things about living with my daughter’s Anorexia is the not knowing what will happen day to day, each week, months or even years ahead. I had to make the enormously difficult decision to cancel a planned teaching trip to Bernina India because  in January she could be at the same stage, in hospital or hopefully maybe in recovery but there is just no way of knowing. 

I have to confess that I am finding it difficult not to be “busy”, trying to fit as many multiple projects and thoughts into 24 hours as I possibly can. All of my work is suspended apart from customer quilts that I can fit in when convenient. I do not have the luxury of time to continue with my Rainbow Warli quilt at present but I am trying to do a few little sewing projects to retain my sanity. I made a small bag for the Elna Lotus plug, shortened some trousers, completed a small customer quilt and found myself becoming an Art Therapist rather than an Artist.

I have been providing opportunities for my daughter to create in my workshop as a distraction from her mental torment. We have had a go at soy wax candle making, vegan food covers, bunting and screen-printed a duvet cover. We also put together an IKEA Raskog trolley to organise some of her art materials as she hopes to be allowed to study Higher Art even though she is not well enough to attend school which resumes this week. 

The team at CAMHS (Child & Adult Mental Health Service) has insisted that she should be told her weight at every session twice a week but I think she should be weighed blind since this fixation is a major stumbling block in convincing her to eat to improve her health.  The CAMHS service does not provide any counselling until some weight gain has been achieved but she has started to see a private therapist just to help calm her mind and provide some relaxation techniques so she may be able to shut down some of the Anorexia some of the time. 

I suspended my daily vlog snippets because I did not have any work to report on and I found it difficult to come up with any silly or quirky comments of my day. Consequently I was spending less time checking in on social media so it was not until I received a message from my friend, Kay that I discovered that Iconoclast had won “Best in Country – UK” at the World Quilt Show. I was delighted and it was a lovely boost to my confidence, particularly when the quilt seemed to have underwhelmed judges in the UK. I had so many wonderful congratulatory messages and it reminded me that it is actually a very nice quilt that took me a long time to complete:)

 

By this time on a Sunday evening I would normally review what I hoped to achieve in the week ahead but in my new role the priority is to make a note of appointments and work out what sort of soup to attempt each evening. Thinking positively, at least she is still at home with me where I can only try my best to keep her going mentally and physically. 

Try to Act Normal

Standard

Life is far from normal at present – it is challenging trying to not make everything about my daughter’s struggle with Anorexia. We are attending medical appointments at least twice a week in a desperate attempt to keep her out of hospital. Normally an ill child should be getting well in hospital but in the case of this illness that could be the worst thing. It could mean being sent to a secure unit away from home with limited family visits and fed forcibly under sedation without taking into account my daughter’s strict vegan diet. 

We had to attend a session where the family had to go through the motions of having a meal that she would not eat and became very distressed. The family based treatment is to make insist that the child eats 3 normal meals a day plus 3 snacks when they want to eat nothing at all. I am finding it frustrating that counselling is not recommended until weight is restored so we are unable to break the cycle of becoming increasingly unwell and the illness means that she cannot think rationally. She is freaked out every time she is told her weight and feels compelled to eat even less and exercise even more. 

It is emotionally exhausting watching a child suffer and knowing that the only medicine is food which she cannot allow herself to eat. She is suffering from fatigue, hypothermia, low blood sugar, low blood pressure, low white blood cell count and it is amazing that she is even able to function at all. 

I have been trying to make soup that she will eat and it is a triumph if she will eat a few teaspoons. My older daughter and I have been trying to distract her with activities including making a dress from an old shirt, wax food wraps, artwork and even patchwork. We have to approach each new day as a new one and hope that our strong will can break the deadlock. 

Life is a long way from normal – everything is on hold. My family and friends worry that they cannot do anything to help but just hearing that they care is enough to give me the strength and courage to keep going. I simply have no alternative.

Festival of Quilts 2019

Standard

I set off from Norwich to Birmingham thinking that the trip would take 3 hours but roadworks and heavy rain delayed me. Notwithstanding, we cracked on with setting up 6 long-arm machines in a classroom and 4 more on the main stand. It was a huge job but the team worked really hard and I was ready to start teaching on Wednesday afternoon. 

My classes all went really well with just 6 students, each with their own machine. My classes were designed so that there was more than enough to do, even for the most capable pupil. It was an opportunity for the students to try out all sorts of templates, and experiment with stitch regulator or manual free-motion designs. There was not really any chance to add colour to the “How to Eat an Elephant” piece because there would not be time for paint to dry but at least the students could see the possibilities and learn some new tips. There was a bit of a panic for my twilight class when it was discovered that all of the master templates had been taken away by the morning pupils in error and I could not get any photocopies made. I had to think on my feet, give the pupils other exercises to do while each one traced the image straight off the sample quilt. 

I had to “wing-it” through a  Facebook-Live demo using a crackly headset microphone but I managed to keep quilting and talking for a good 40 minutes! This can be found on the Bernina UK Facebook page. Other demos were given by the talented, improv quilter, Nicholas Ball, (see his Judges’ Choice quilt below) Philippa Naylor, Sarah Ashford, Janice Gunner and Amanda Murphy.

I did not manage to find time for much of a look at the show other than to see the winners and whizz past the others. There were some beautiful quilts this year. My Warli quilt was on the end of a row in good light and looked respectable, especially as it was never designed as a competitive entry. I was fascinated by India Flint’s eco-dyeing exhibition. This collection was made using rusted, wrapped objects which were displayed alongside the finished textiles. 

During the entire time that I was there I had to mask how worried I was about my youngest daughter’s Anorexia which had escalated to a critical point where she refused to eat anything at all. My older daughter and dear friend tried very hard to keep her going but it was clear that I needed to head home to take over her care. Fortunately, my teaching commitments were complete by Friday night so I headed home on Saturday, feeling guilty that I was not working at the show and equally guilty for being away from home. 

I realised that I was totally naive when the illness was first diagnosed. I had no idea how quickly it would take hold and take over my daughter’s every decision regarding her well-being. I have heard horror stories from other parents on the type and duration of treatment and do not feel at all prepared for the struggle ahead which could even last years. I will have to become her full time carer and must hope that I will be able to quilt some of the time as my therapy.  We have an important appointment today which may determine whether she should be hospitalised so we are all on tenterhooks to see what happens next. 

Lisbon

Standard

I don’t know what possessed me to leave my “good” camera out of my hand luggage and take a sewing project instead. I did not touch the sewing and regretted not having a camera around my neck in a really photographic city. The kids and I flew from Norwich via Schipol then called for an Uber taxi to take us to an apartment in the Bairro Alto (high town) area of Lisbon. The streets were narrow, cobbled and on steep hills. We settled in for the afternoon on our little patio-balcony after a visit to the mini-mercado for ripe peaches and beer. 

The week was spent wandering the streets of Lisbon and I reckon my legs were far stronger by the end of the week. It was hot but not sticky and I always wore my hat. There was so much to do but we only did a fraction of it. It would have been easy to have spent the entire time in museums, finding out about Portugal’s history of exploration and colonisation. One evening we went to a lovely, old cinema to watch a strange French film with Portuguese subtitles which would have been difficult enough without a surreal plot. 

The city was mostly rebuilt after a huge earthquake in 1755 and the neo-classical buildings were all crammed in, some now painted and many covered in a facade of tiles. I have never been in a city where there was so much graffiti but nobody seemed to be bothered by it and it certainly added character. The city felt multi-cultural and welcoming, teeming with tourists. 

We did not rush around and used fun local transport such as the tram for a leisurely city  tour, a funicular tram down a steep slope, a train to get out to the impressive contemporary Art Gallery, and even an electric Tuk-Tuk. 

We had Tapas snacks a couple of times and bony sardines at a family street-side cafe but mostly we enjoyed the fresh fruit and veg. There were many shops full of tourist-tat and handicrafts but with hand-luggage only we had to be careful. I was interested to see so many bags made from cork fabric and I liked the fabric sardines that hung from balconies. The girls each bought an up-cycled lamp from the Thieves Market, a huge Saturday market selling everything from ceramics, Catholic icons, half-used bottles of perfume, old shoes, to gas stoves and table-cloths. 

It was a really nice week spent exploring Lisbon, not being in any hurry, people-watching, enjoying the balcony and drinking cheap wine. I left a day before the kids to get back to Norwich where I had left my car full of camping gear and everything necessary for the next phase of my Summer Tour, Festival of Quilts in Birmingham!

Utter Clutter

Standard

With 3 days to do packing for my mega-trip I avoided packing altogether and decided to do a little light pruning. I have an enormous Cotoneaster bush outside my workshop that has grown to the size of a really large tree. It was arching over so much that everyone had to duck to get past it. The last straw was when some of its branches got tangled up in my hair and snatched the specs off my head. I only meant to snip a few twigs but 3 hours and a blister later, I had cut down so much that I was trapped behind a huge mound of vegetation and had to get my kids to help clear it all away. 

 

I did eventually gather all of the stuff together for my trip and managed to fit all of it into the back of the Landy. I prefer to travel light if I am going away on my own but I had to include camping gear, deckchairs, a gas stove, teaching materials for Birmingham and a month’s worth of clothes for all occasions. The kids also had to pack stuff such as sleeping bags, funky outfits for a music festival and various vintage cameras. Even Bumble had luggage as she was going to spend the holiday firstly with a friend of Nella then later will go and stay with Mo. Typically, Fergus did not pack his gear until the last minute which was intensely irritating and I had to go and calm down by doing some easy-piecing.

We left on time at 8.00am on Thursday morning, drove 5 miles before we realised that nobody had loaded up the guitar so we turned around to fetch it. We completed the entire 540 mile trip in 10.5 hours, only making 2 brief stops which I would say is impressive for a noisy, old Landrover Defender!

 

We spent our first day in East Anglia mooching around in Beccles where we were disappointed to find that our favourite vintage junkyard was closed for the day. However, it was nice to buy some fresh, local tomatoes and I found a great second-hand rainbow raffia hat that will do nicely for Latitude. We may have overdosed on Vintage after a lengthy foray into Bungay and a fruitless trip to the old convent near Ditchingham where the goods really were just junk on this occasion. 

After a busy few days everyone was ready to settle down, read, make dreamcatchers and just laze about in cloudy weather that is at least a bit warmer than Aberdeenshire. The days are not action-packed and time just slides by without actually doing anything. I have a couple of hand stitching projects with me but I will be surprised if I actually get around to doing them;)

Patchwork Therapy

Standard

Life is not always a beach so it is good to have an interest such as patchwork and quilting that offers an escape from worry. We had our first Eating Disorder appointment which did not wave a magic wand but at least got my daughter accepting one tiny meal of vegetables per day. This is a small step in the right direction, mainly due to the threat that she will not be able to go to Latitude if she is not fit enough.

I took Bumble to the vet because one of her mammary tumours had opened up. She is not actually unwell but we were told that she had half a dozen tumours, some of which could be surgically removed but that they would come straight back. I decided that my beloved 12 year old dog would not be put through any further operations and just asked for antibiotics for the wound instead. I am sad that Bumble can’t come on holiday with us but I can’t leave her with my folks for too long and I would have to go back to Norfolk from Birmingham to collect her so I just have to hope that she is OK staying with friends for almost 3 weeks. 

One of my friends had a nasty road accident – she was badly shaken, bruised and her car was a wreck. I gave her a couple of lifts in Fergus’ little car which was making an alarming squeaky noise like a constipated hen. Hopefully it is just a dirty brake and won’t be another expensive fix. 

 

 

The last customer quilt before the summer holidays begin was a cream quilt for a Golden Wedding present. It was quilted with a Qmatic pattern then I had to attach a row of slippery bridal lace. I made a thin strip of folded bias to hide the raw edges then sewed it down with a decorative blanket stitch. 

A delivery van dropped off a package that I had forgotten about which was a Bernina eyelet kit. I spent a morning fiddling with settings and thread and was impressed at how well it performed. My plan is to make eyelets then layer them over silver lame fabric so they look like Indian mirrors to add to my rainbow Warli quilt. 

Another parcel contained my new Bernina style trolley-rucksack. I have designed a name badge so it looks like one of the bags that I coveted at BU and I need to find someone to embroider it for me. 

I decided that I needed a therapeutic “just because” patchwork project so I cut up the Christa Watson layer cake that I won as a door prize in her class. One of her patterns , “Positivity”, called for neutral greys in the background but I swapped that part for plain coloured fabrics from my stash. I really enjoyed some mindless patchwork where all I had to do was simple chain-piecing. I can just pick up around 5 blocks at a time and allow my brain to switch off. 

 

This week we will be working through my pre-holiday/packing lists and hoping that everything just ticks along without any drama.

A No Sew Week

Standard

In theory I am meant to be starting a family holiday on July 12th that will lead me straight into FOQ so I decided that it was time to make preparations as the end of the school year is looming. I prepared my teaching materials and notes and packed them into a suitcase. In reality, parts of the family holiday may have to be abandoned since my youngest daughter has developed an eating disorder and we had several medical appointments last week. I cannot say more about it here, other than it is extremely difficult to deal with.

I gave up on the idea that the kids would sort out the summerhouse which they had used for several parties and sleepovers so it was down to me to wash the bedding and clear away debris. They were also not thrilled that I dumped all of their items into their rooms instead of leaving them strewn around the house but there comes a point when a major tidy-up is good for the soul.

I waited all week for Amazon Prime to deliver packaging for my show quilts and I admit that they did not receive my usual scrutiny so I just hope they hang relatively straight. Iconoclast is being sent to the World Quilt Show with another 20 UK entries and So Many People is off to FOQ for an airing. 

For a change of scene we drove down to St Cyrus on Saturday for a rummage around the junk-yard. It has always been scruffy but on this occasion it seemed particularly derelict. There were smashed LPs, broken shards of mirrors, headless figurines and I was convinced that there could be funeral urns full of ashes somewhere amongst the bric-a-brac. 

We went for a wander along the stunning beach afterwards and encountered a weird atmosphere. Crackling static electricity made our hair stand on end! The light was ethereal, the sea calm and the air still until we heard rumbles of thunder and flashes of lightning. A storm rolled in and we decided that it was best to head back across the dunes. Bumble seemed confused – she was either fazed by the size of the beach or knew that a storm was on its way. I am actually worried that she is becoming too frail to enjoy such trips. She seems fine most of the time, bumbling along in her usual fashion but it is either time to consider having yet another operation to remove tumours from her under-carriage or leave them alone and let nature take its course. 

I really have no idea what to expect from the week ahead. My Bernina 710 arrived back from Cardiff with a new CPU unit/brain so maybe I should cut out a mindless patchwork project to work on in order to keep myself preoccupied. 

Defying Gravity

Standard

By the time I went to bed on Monday evening I had been on the go for 36 hours. Luckily, I don’t seem to be bothered with jet-lag after USA trips, maybe because I just need to keep going and get back to normal. It took some time to unpack, even though I had not bought much then I had to sort out my expenses and file paperwork which is a job that I loathe.

I had 2 DIY quilting customers this week – one was a long bed runner done using Qmatic but the other was a large Gravity Quilt which the customer bravely chose to do entirely with ruler work, never having done any before. It took her 2.5 days to “simple” designs on her quilt and it looked great when it was done. 

While she was busy I decided to make a couple of By Annie Clam-Up bags to control my ever increasing cables. I feel like I am always coming up with cable storage solutions yet every time I go on a trip I open up my bag to find a tangle of spaghetti wires. I can’t believe that I went to the trouble of cutting 2 pieces of quilted fabric which was directional then ended up with one half of the bags upside-down. I realised that I had flipped the template for the second half when I should have cut two pieces the right way up. I will just have to pretend that I am not an idiot and used a single piece of folded fabric. All of this was done on my Singer Featherweight because the Bernina is still in Cardiff. I have noticed that you don’t actually appreciate a machine until it is not available so I feel that I need to get a sturdy, back-up machine without any computerised parts. This might be the Elna Lotus after it has had a thorough service or maybe I need to find a mechanical Bernina 1008 before they are discontinued.

We went to see Fergus at a gig in Aberdeen in a post-punk, metal line-up. The crowd sang along to his lyrics and chanted his name which was great. I think some of the crowd wondered what I was doing there when the mosh-pit and feedback really got going but I have actually experienced the frenzy and noise of a live gig in similarly seedy venues, albeit 35 years ago!

 

I had a bit of a panic when I looked at the calendar and realised that there are only 3 weeks to go before I go to Norfolk with the kids and all of my FOQ stuff has to be ready as it is a week earlier. Once I go away I will stay away until after the show which means almost a month away from here. There is a lot to organise from sending off 2 show quilts, getting teaching materials sorted out and checking our camping gear. Things are going to be hectic…!

Bernina University – Jax to the Max

Standard

 

I had a 3 flight journey to Jacksonville, Florida from Aberdeen – Manchester – JFK New York, arriving at the hotel just before midnight. All went fairly smoothly despite my trans-Atlantic seat neighbour man-spreading, gripping the seat arms and trying to persuade me to love Jesus. Clearing passport control and customs took forever at JFK, possibly even longer than I have experienced at Paris Charles de Gaulle!

We had an early start on Monday morning at the opening launch of Bernina University. It was a huge event with hundreds of dealers and educators from Bernina of America. There was a lot of razzmatazz loud music and disco lights, followed by announcements of forthcoming new Bernina machines and accessories. I was surprised to see a large contingent of Mennonite attendees who had travelled from Pennsylvania by bus. Apparently, they are among the most successful dealers of Bernina sewing machines in the whole of the USA.

Classes started later that day and continued through to Thursday. It was a tremendous opportunity to take lectures and hands-on classes ranging from technical training, getting to grips with Qmatic and using social media to promote business. There was the opportunity to meet with Bernina brand ambassadors and teachers such as Christa Watson and Tula Pink. It was a very busy time and with the chilly air-con, easy to forget that there was hot weather outside. The hotel was situated downtown which really means within an area of offices so not much else to see in the immediate vicinity.

We found a quaint Italian restaurant a couple of blocks away which could easily have been featured on the TV show, “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” but the service, wine and food was excellent.

 

The closing dinner was a glitzy affair with a Caribbean band, disco and dealership awards. There was great anticipation of where BU would take place in 2020 and great excitement when Palm Springs, California was revealed as the destination. My room-mate, Merete Ellingsen, from Norway and I are both very keen to attend again to take more classes or even offer project based classes on the Q24/Qmatic. We will have to come up with something unusual and fun.

 

We had 2 free days after the convention so decided to use Uber cabs to visit Jacksonville Beach and an outdoor shopping mall, both approximately 30 minutes away. Merete could easily cope with lying out in the sun all day but I bought a brolly with SPF50 because otherwise I would have fried. Even when there was a thunderstorm it was still far warmer than a really hot day in Scotland. 

I felt that my trip was really worthwhile and I did not add significantly to my luggage apart from Amanda Murphy’s ruler collection. It was great to spend time with the BoA educators to revise and learn techniques that I will be able to pass on with renewed confidence to Qseries users in the UK, Germany and India. 

Truly Thwarted!

Standard

There was much that did not go according to plan this week! I downloaded a pattern for a pair of dungarees/overalls from Helen’s Closet and set to making a toile to check that I had picked suitable size. I traced off the pattern a size bigger than my dress size but the fit was too small. Rather depressed by my measurements I then made a much larger size to accommodate my hip measurements but found that this time the fit was enormous. I will have to either make a size in between or work out how to adjust the pattern. It feels like a job  beyond my dress-making capabilities, particularly when it is meant to be a simple unstructured garment.

I decided to twin-needle stitch the organza Warli figures prior to quilting so I could burn away some of the organza with a soldering iron. The next day when I went to finish the job my Bernina 710 would not start up as normal. It came on, then switched itself off then attempted to restart. I tried updating the firmware but the problem continued. After calling Bernina UK for advice, it was decided that it had to be sent to Cardiff for a fix, potentially having suffered a CPU failure. I wanted to finish off the twin-needle stitching but was hit by the realisation that I had recently sold my solid Husqvarna and Freya’s Brother is away at Uni. I had a go with my vintage Elna lotus but it looks like the tension spring needs replacing and the Singer Featherweight only has a straight stitch plate. I felt bereft without the Bernina that is normally so reliable and copes with everything. I now see the need for an emergency machine that will do basic sewing but has no electronics to go wrong so I am watching several mechanical 1000 series mechanical Berninas on Ebay.

I had the bright idea of personalising my luggage for my forthcoming trip to the USA for Bernina University so I used the Scanncut to cut out my name onto heat transfer glitter vinyl. I balanced my big suitcase from India under the heat press and successfully printed my name but I had more trouble with my trusty Kipling cabin bag with bulky zips. To my horror I discovered that the metal zips must be coated in plastic because I completely melted them and have now ruined the capacious, sturdy, small bag that has been all over the place since 2008. An identical model is no longer made and they are rather expensive so I wasted much time on Amazon choosing a new cabin bag which I hope will arrive on time.

I was beginning to think that the whole week was a write off. I was struggling to hand-stitch the shisha mirrors onto small squares of fabric but in the end I found that perseverance pays off and I have now worked out how to build up a couple of layers of stitching so I can get up close to the mirror with the longarm without hitting the metal ring. Spurred on by that small success, I had one more attempt at woodblock printing with silver ink. I mixed silver powder and metallic binder with opaque silver Speedball ink and spread it into a dense sponge. I coated some of the fabric squares with Odicoat gel to create an impermeable, waxy barrier and found that folded kitchen paper was better than a foam pad underneath when pressing the stamps down. Finally, I had some prints that were crisp and now I am impatient to start joining the blocks together just as soon as I can decide how the finished quilt should be displayed. 

 

My suitcase is packed, complete with travel kettle and gin, I have made an instructional video on to to use the washing machine, there is plenty of pet-food and once I have printed off my tickets I will be all set for my next adventure to… Florida!

Normal4Me

Standard

I might have known that Monday would turn out unexpectedly when a vole strolled across the kitchen floor, freaking Bumble out, before disappearing behind the dishwasher. It was tempted out briefly with a piece of vegan cheese but when Thistle appeared it went to ground, never to be seen again. My newly fixed Landy conked out and had to be towed back to the garage, requiring a new alternator and some other remedial work that had not been covered by its MOT. I might as well send all of my earnings straight to the Landy Man by direct debit!

I had a DIY quilter and a simple automated pattern then I spent far longer than I probably should have on a Christmas quilt for a customer. I seriously under-estimated the size and time that would be required for a dense snow flurry freehand and I quilted for a marathon 8 hours in one day, trying to get it finished. It does look great so I hope the customer will not mind that I went just a little overboard;)

 

I did all sorts of things in between such as having a crack at 2 test blocks for a charming hen quilt by CluckCluckSew.com – I would like to make a wall hanging in blue and white to co-ordinate with  my vintage Cornish striped crockery but it will be a long-term background project. There are quite a few pieces in each block and I am seriously tempted to enlarge the pieces to make a couple of mutant hens. 

 

I am still trying to find the perfect silver ink and sponge combo to print my mini Warli woodblocks. They print beautifully in black but I can’t get the silver to be both crisp and sparkly. 

I sketched a very rough diagram to figure out an approximate finished size and layout for the Rainbow Warli Quilt, trying to calculate how many small squares might make sashing to connect it all together. There is a set with small coloured circles, tiny thermofax print Warlis, 1” glitter circles, and I will keep some aside for my dodgy hand-sewn shishas and some blank so I can sew colourful pompoms on later (or not!) I still don’t know if I will make one conventional flat quilt or whether I can work out how to hang it as a canopy. The only difficulty is how an exhibition might cope with that…

 

 

I other news, Nella celebrated the end of her exams, Fergus released his first single and Freya accompanied me on a knicker buying trip to M&S so all in all, life here is completely “Normal” 🙂

Some Work, Some Play

Standard

I tried to balance out the Work and Play this week, getting quite a bit done. I had 2 very large customer quilts, both of which were to be quilted with a dense pattern, “Raindrops on the Pond”. It is a super pattern with densely nestled spirals but it takes ages and there is quite a lot of back-tracking. It is definitely a pattern that I have to watch like a hawk. While the machine was occupied doing that, I trimmed back all of the wadding behind my giant sequins and doilies so now I have a cardboard box filling up with blocks for the M.O. quilt. I actually thought of a really good proper name for it the other day but before I remembered to write it down I forgot what it was!

I worked on a custom Christmas quilt, getting all of the S.I.D. and block detail done. That took some time and I still have to do snowballs and flurries in the background. The texture will be lovely because the wadding is wool and the quilt will be lightweight but warm/cool!

A brand new Scanncut machine arrived and I was keen to use it immediately. I was a little nervous since I had read online that the new model’s mats could be temperamental. The other new feature is that the cutting blade is automatic so theoretically no settings need to be changed when using different materials. I ironed Bondaweb onto my Indian cottons then put them onto the cutting mat with the Bondaweb facing up. My Warli figures were cut out beautifully except for the very fine cottons. I switched to the fine fabric blade and they were also cut cleanly. I ironed the figures onto contrasting coloured squares then wondered how on earth I would manage to stitch around the skinny arms and legs without causing damaging puncture wounds. 

Remembering the amber eggs that I made for Iconoclast, I ordered coloured organza for the Warlis. I could have used white organza but that would have paled the colours – the coloured organza matched the colour of the figure then made the contrasting colour look a bit like shot silk. I wondered whether it would be possible to remove some of the organza to reveal the bright colours underneath so I made a test block, quilted it with a twin needle then used a soldering iron to melt away some stripes. Considering that my soldering iron is a basic one with a screwdriver type end, the results were not bad, just a little gooey and scorched because there was a fine adhesive web (Mistyfuse) behind the organza. 

It was definitely a week for experimenting… I wanted to know whether I could sew shisha mirrors on using my longarm machine without a needle. I could but felt like I was living dangerously – I like to work with my fingers close the project AND the shisha mirrors have a metal ring inside so there is virtually nothing to stitch into. The other option would be to sew them on by hand either before or after quilting then add further stitching using the longarm. The other alternative will be to sew them on by hand after quilting if I also add pompoms;)

So far I have not had any success stamping clear wood block stamped images with silver paint, even using metallic screen print binder so I need to keep working with different formulae of paint mixtures to see if I can get that right. 

It turned out that I had falsely accused a fox of picking off my hens when a mink was spotted running up and down near the hen run, probably having snorted the chilli powder that I had sprinkled liberally. A humane trap has been set but so far it has avoided capture. Mink are not native to Scotland but were released after fur farms were closed so they are considered an invasive species, encroaching on the indigenous otters. In the meantime, I have to make sure that I round up the hens every night and shut them in to avoid providing free meals for mink. On a positive note – the new hens have produced one small egg so far:)

 

I collected my Landrover from the garage after extensive remedial work on the chassis for it to pass the MOT test. I was asked to sit down before being presented with the bill. It cost me the equivalent of 20 customer quilts so I had better keep very busy over the coming months to pay for it!