Barking up the Wrong Tree?

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I confess that I may have spent more time experimenting with thread than preparing for 4 days in the classroom but everything worked out well and I enjoyed teaching an enthusiastic bunch of kids. The older members of their class were away on a residential trip so it gave me carte blanche to do fun stuff with them like make slime, introduce them to algorithms, Scottish monsters, make rocky road and fidget spinners using cardboard and 1p coins. It was nice to be met in the playground each morning and get reports on how their slime experiments were going but I was shattered after 4 days – goodness knows how teachers manage to keep going for 5 days, week after week!

I had 2 exhibition rejections this week. Unsurprisingly, “Shield Maiden” was not juried into Fine Art Masters at FOQ but it looks like I am in good company as several well known British art quilters also had their pieces turned down. I have decided to keep plugging away at that competition because I will take great pleasure spending that elusive £5000 prize one day. Touch the Pickle was not one of the 59 final pieces selected from 500 entries to go on tour in the USA but it will be in the Threads of Resistance online gallery. I keep telling myself that “You have to be in it to win it” but it does irk that you have to pay more than regular show entry fees to enter these competitions and there is no refund if you don’t make the grade. Sometimes I feel like it is almost like buying a raffle ticket – you win some, lose some.

I attended a fun Saturday workshop at Grays School of Art on screen printing to see if I would like to study textile printing in more depth. The art school had great facilities and the tutor was lovely but I already knew how to do what was covered in the class. To be honest, I would rather teach than be a student but since I do not have an Art or Textiles degree, that just won’t happen.

After the class I drove down to St Andrews to collect Freya, her friend and all of their worldly belongings for the summer break. I honestly could not believe how much stuff they had and was not convinced that even half of it would fit in the Landy. It took 2 hours to stow it, lash it onto the roof, stuff every crevice, and even then the girls were squashed into their seats with their feet on boxes and bags on their laps. All the extra gear made the Landy extra sound-proof so the journey home was quite pleasant (for the driver)!

The incentive for unloading the Landy on Sunday morning was that we had to pick up our new family member. Bumble the Scottie has come to live with us and she has made herself at home. She just likes to hang with whoever is around, does not bother cats (who are not best pleased so far), can manage to jump on the sofa but can’t be bothered to go upstairs and will even watch students play monopoly or strum guitars. After the summer when everyone goes back to school and uni, I expect she will even watch me quilt. I actually feel a bit like Doctor Who because she is exactly the same shape as his robot dog companion, K-9!

I am hoping to get most of the background quilting done on BzB this week as I have got the cotton thread for that but I still don’t have all of the Aurifil lana that I need to re-quilt the large motifs. A couple of quilting friends were on a mission to track it down at Malvern so in the end I should have enough. However, I will also be taxiing students around, chatting to my new hairy friend and gingerly testing the Furze Fizz;)

Bottling It

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I overcame my fear, plucked up some courage and began the outline quilting on BzB. I went VERY slowly in manual mode because that it simply the smoothest way to quilt around a drawn line. However, I must warn everyone – never, ever drop your bobbin case, even onto a carpet… I always try to be very careful not to do just that but sometimes it just bounces out of my hand and I am not quick enough to catch it which is what happened recently. Even though the bobbin case looks fine, it somehow got buggered up. I kept having to fiddle with the bobbin tension and eventually had to crank the top tension all the way up to 9. I don’t know how many times I rethreaded just to be sure but there are areas on the back of the quilt where the bobbin thread was not bedding in properly as the tension was not quite right.

 

I ordered a new bobbin case and decided to forge ahead anyway. Most of the back is OK – I wondered whether I could hide the dodgy sections by applying paint but I have since decided that I will quilt it all again using a thicker wool thread, even though it already took at least 30 hours and was pretty much all I did all week! I can’t do any more until the new bobbin case and threads arrive and I am teaching all of next week. I really wish I had allowed myself a year to work on this quilt, instead of a month as there is so much that I want to do and I can’t think how it will get done by my deadline on a quilt that is 94” square!

   

I have bottled up my Furze Fizz (gorse champagne) which was fizzing away and smelling quite floral. It is pretty cloudy but so is ginger beer and posh lemonade. I have applied proper health and safety techniques by putting the glass stoppered bottles in a sturdy cardboard box in the workshop loo with an upturned bucket on top. I will wear safety goggles and release the pressure after a week. If it is any good I may have to have a party as the Fizz will have to be consumed quickly;)

Relentless!

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Monday was the deadline for entering a handful of quilt shows that I had known about for months but had still not got around to entering. As usual, I did not have all of the necessary information for every entry so had to faff around finding or retaking photos and look for the blurbs lurking somewhere on my computer. I have even entered the very unfinished BzB into The Open European Championships as they allow pictures of work in progress and when I get it done they can have an updated photo. None of this scrabbling around at the last minute was helped by our pitiful Wifi connection which was so bad that I even tried to upload files from my phone in the supermarket carpark where there was at least some of the slowest ever 3G.

  

Having committed BzB to an actual show, I realised that it was definitely time to load it onto the longarm frame. I was beyond irritated to discover that I had not saved a whole pack of wool wadding and that the black wadding was not wide enough. Yet again, I questioned why I had made BzB so big. I phoned around several well known UK quilt shops but none were able to guarantee next day delivery or even had what I wanted in stock. There was only one solution which was to join all of the leftover bits of wadding together. The huge pieces that I reconstructed were then generously spritzed with water and laid out to relax because the wool that come in packs is always impossibly creased.

I have to admit that BzB is making me very nervous. It has been a long time stewing and has to be sewn upside down for me to be able to see the quilt markings. The back is pieced and I have to get perfect tension on both sides since I intend for it to be a double-sided quilt. I tried out different threads, including a wool blend which looked great on the top but was not so nice on the back because the colour was not right. I was faced with the choice of ordering some more thread, sight-unseen online or making do with something else. In the end I decided that since BzB is a bit anti-establishment then I will use a 30wt neon pink cotton because I have it on a huge spool. It is my plan to get most of the outline quilting done next week but we all know my plans are very subject to change.

Fergus has time off school for exam revision but he has a not-uncommon approach to that which involves worrying that he has not done enough work before proceeding not to do any actual work. He wastes as much time as I do doing avoidance jobs like tidying computer cables but he has not got enough self-discipline to avoid spending hours watching irrelevant videos on Youtube. I jollied him along and tested him on Music theory and I even bough a DVD of “Romeo and Juliet” with nude scenes but he does not yet seem any more enthusiastic about Shakespeare.

I happened to catch a re-run of the “River Cottage” cookery programme the other night and was reminded how I have always wanted to make a gorse version of elderflower champagne. The bright yellow gorse this May is incredibly abundant so it did not take me long to pick a bucketful of flowers without getting too scratched in the process. The last time I attempted to make a lightly alcoholic, foraged fizz I added too much yeast with explosive results. This time I am attempting to stick to a recipe and after 48 hours it is beginning to smell like fermentation is happening.

After all of that activity, I told myself I could have a relaxing weekend except for making a simple dress. The pattern from The Maker’s Atelier looked straightforward enough not to bother making a tester “toile” so I took my measurements and made the size that looked like it matched up the best. The result was that I made a great dress that was several sizes too big. At least it was not too small, like the oilcloth top that I could get on but struggled to get off. I might try to make it again one day in a smaller size but maybe I will take the trouble to make a rough version to check the size first. Not put off by this experience, and because I had some “spare” time, I decided to run up an apron-dress in the skeleton toile-de-jouy that I bought for the job at FOQ last year. It was actually very easy after I sussed how to make the pockets but I seem to have made another bigger than necessary item of what I would not call clothing. I have seen several textile artists swanning around in such garments, rocking the look but I think mine looks more like a 1940’s utility overall. If I had made it in denim it might have been sensible but at least I now know that I can make another one should I feel inclined.

Not content with making two “frocks”, I forged ahead with a huge customer quilt so I would have no distractions about tackling BzB, apart from my relentless To-Do list and motivating a teenage boy to get stuck into some exam revision…

Just another typical Quilt Quine week!

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Phew, no wonder I didn’t manage to write a Sunday night blogpost after another hectic week, ending with a fun trip to the Knitting & Stitching Show in Edinburgh. Although I feel that my tyrannical To Do list never lessens, I managed to supervise 2 DIY quilts and complete a simple customer quilt, publish a schedule of Quilt Quine classes onto my Facebook business page, and make daily hashtag-pointless newsflashes starting the week doing a weather post in the snow.

I was asked if I plan to offer online quilting classes which is something I need to investigate but in the meantime I need to promote my Ebook, “Deviant Quilting” which has lots of video clips.

I caused chaos in our cluttered Music room by playing furniture Tetris, which moving a full sized rock drum kit and shifting the sizeable electric piano upstairs, negotiating a tight dog-leg staircase.

I allowed myself some fun by stitching intensely onto the Dijanne Cevaal linocut print, reminding myself that it was an exercise, rather than a show-off piece. I would like to do more “longarm drawing” pieces but I need to remember that even though I think I will just do a little bit of stitching for a few minutes, I can easily still be there after 2 hours!

I received a super box full of Haribos from Maria in Germany as a swap for a piece of gold pleather that she made into a super tote bag. I have had to hide them in a safe place so I can’t scoff them all at once.

  

After forcing myself to update my paperwork, I set off to meet Ellen and Kay with a side trip to IKEA. I should have considered that Saturday has to be one of the worst days to do this as the store was full of screaming kids who did not want to be there and other kids running around with mini trolleys. No wonder I was traumatised and left my phone in the ladies’ loo. I was extremely fortunate that I realised it was missing before I drove away and that a very kind citizen had handed it in.

Kay, Ellen and I enjoyed a catch-up over curry and alcohol then visited the K&S show on Sunday. I am pleased to say that it was busy, bigger than last year and that there were plenty of vendors. I was not impressed to pay £5 for parking in a field then being harangued at the door for opting out of a show guide for an additional £4! The K&S show does not have any competition entries and the exhibits were varied but I really think that there should be more of them than vendors to make the ticket price worthwhile. I bought a selection of heavier threads to experiment with on the Bernina Q24 and also yet another shift-dress pattern and fabric that will make me feel guilty unless I ditch all of my other projects and tackle it.

    

 

I was expecting to have 3 custom quilts to do in May but the makers have not quite finished them so I have no choice other than to load the rather large “BzB” (or whatever new name I decide) and make an attempt to get it done in time for FOQ. If I enter it into the show this week then I will just have to get it done;)

Video Bites with The Quilt Quine

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I made it my mission this week to figure out how to use the GoPro camera and to be able to make short video clips on my phone. I ended up making a daily Brigton Farm newsflash just so I could practise doing some off-the-cuff pieces to camera, building up to making longer quilting demos in the future. One of my children has told me to stop spamming Instagram with my clips and another says I should spend some time editing my videos and adding music. I think it is actually quite an achievement just to figure out how to start and stop the camera – faffing around doing editing can come later;)

I don’t know whether the newsflash spot was a spur for activity but I seemed to get quite a lot done this week. As well as supervising a DIY quilter and completing a customer quilt, I finished the other Tifafai thistle piece that I started in Germany. I worked out a really good combination of metallic threads and stitch size on my overlocker to finish off the edges without adding a binding.

  

While my DIY customer was engrossed with her quilting I reorganised my 2 IKEA trolleys so that each longarm machine could have a essentials kit ready to be wheeled up close. I was thrilled to discover how well the magnetic pin bowls stuck to the side of the trolleys.

  

My Postie delivered an assortment of parcels ranging from Kilner jars to be used for yogurt making to a budget version of a German folding shopping basket. I had intended to decorate it with something like free-motion stitched broderie-perse but it would have been tricky to avoid the pockets for the struts and the zipped side pocket. In the time that I could probably have done all that I decided to make quite a lot of pompoms to dangle from it instead.

I am coming up close to the deadlines for entering quilt shows so I dug out the long abandoned BzB anti-wholecloth project. I stared at it for a long time, jotting down a few notes on how it might be tackled. Its biggest problem seemed to be the vast amount of negative space which is traditionally filled with ½” diagonal lines. I hummed and hawed for ages, made some extra templates and decided to fill up that space since a) I am not making a modern quilt and b) I am not making a traditional quilt and c) because I felt like it!

Amazingly, my 15 year old, battered Landrover passed its MOT test, apart from needing a new tyre, which means I can once again look forward to trundling off to Quilt Shows, delivering kids to Guide Camps, Duke of Edinburgh Expeditions, Music Festivals, and eating Fish and Chips in the car:)

I am really enjoying working on a lino-print “Traveller’s Blanket” panel from Dijanne Cevaal using 30wt thread. It is challenging working on such a small scale with a large longarm machine – it is really embroidery rather than quilting. I am more fired up working on this small project than anything else I have done in a while and I will be looking for more heavy weight threads. Dijanne and I are hatching a plan to work collaboratively on “something” and I am very excited to see what we might come up with…

Quilt Travels – Using a Tour Company

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These days I am a seasoned, independent Quilt Traveller with friends all over the world and a desire to experience quilting across the globe. However, when I started out as a quilter 10 years ago I wanted to travel to a major American quilt show but did not feel confident enough to make all of the arrangements myself. I joined a tour party where the travel, accommodation and most of the activities had already been taken care of. The group included people of all ages and experiences yet from the beginning of the trip, it was clear that I was in good company with like minded people. We had the security of knowing that the organisers had done the trip before and knew the area well. I made great friends on that trip with whom I have since had many other adventures.

Many of my trips have been to the USA, where quilting is a major industry but political and economic issues have made me wonder why I am not exploring quilt shows here in Europe. There is a multi-venue quilt show in France that I have actually been meaning to attend for ages but for some reason have not done yet, maybe because I might have to hire a car or practise my rusty French. I have heard that the various exhibitions in Alsace villages are terrific so I must go and find out for myself.

I was recently contacted by ECT, a niche travel company based in Bath, with information about a tour that they have organised to Alsace and I must say, I am very tempted to let someone else take care of the logistics.

“Working together with the Quilter’s Guild, ECT Travel have put together a fantastic 3 night package that gives textile enthusiasts the chance to explore the art trail at their own pace, whilst all the hassle of arranging their transport and accommodation has been taken care of.

 

Staying in the town of Colmar, where on Friday and Saturday evenings the buildings are illuminated by an award winning light show, guests will have free time to explore after being transferred back to their hotel from the event by executive coach.

Nestled deep in the enchanting French countryside, the region of Alsace is situated close to the border of Germany and Switzerland. It is here in mid-September, for 4 days only, that you will find 36 unique and quirky exhibition sites dotted amongst the villages of Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines, Sainte-Croix-aux-Mines, Liepvre and Rombach-Le-Franc.

 

As the cradle of the Amish movement, Alsace has been a hub for quilting and textile artists for over 300 years. In 1993 the European Patchwork Meeting was devised to celebrate the talents of traditional and modern patchworkers and quilters. With a huge range of activities such as workshops, conferences, specialist stalls and exhibitions, it is no surprise that over 22,000 international visitors flock to the event every year.”

 

For more information on this tour or to book, please visit ECT’s website

https://www.ecttravel.com/tours/quilting-tours/european-patchwork-meeting-alsace-air

Or contact Sofia Carosi by email on sofia@ecttravel.com

More Stitching in Germany

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After our lazy day of sight-seeing and soaking up the sun, Dijanne Cevaal launched the students into intensive stitching projects. It was an absolute treat to quilt for fun all day long. I was slightly freaked out when she suggested that we draw a central vignette or motif so I cheated and found a woodcut drawing of a fish on Google that I developed. Dianne prefers to work with 30 weight cotton thread. I was impressed how the Bernina Q24s ran it without complaining and how the stitching really stood out. I decided to stick with the same blue thread for the whole piece so it was monochromatic. Dijanne declared that what we were doing was “Drawing with Longarms”.

It was very interesting to discuss methods of networking with an established travelling quilt tutor. I was encouraged to try using the social media platform, Instagram regularly, learning about hashtags and tagging people who might be interested. I now have followers who are into wood-carving and making sexy bread.

I started a threadwork piece using one of Dijanne’s lino-cut prints. It is not quite as easy to work that small using a longarm but I am having a good go at it. The thick thread looks amazing and I can add hand-stitching or beads later. The main challenge of the second day was to design and stitch a Tahitian style Tifaifai appliqué. I sketched out part of a spiky thistle using paper folded into a triangle. This was traced onto Bondaweb, ironed onto fabric then cut out with tiny scissors. The tricky thing was to free-motion quilt around the raw edge appliqué several times, building up a solid edge. One of the students had greater success using a longarm appliqué guide but I discovered that I could use manual mode fairly smoothly. I don’t think this is a technique that I would have chosen to do myself but I am really glad of the opportunity to try it as I really enjoyed the project. I was determined to complete the black background quilting all in the same day. I have the negative thistle still to complete which it will take most of a day to do.

I had a terrific time teaching and learning in Coburg. Regina and Dijanne were great to work with and I was very well looked after. I was actually rather sad to pack up to go home, even though I had extra goodies including thread, sweeties and projects to fit in. I am hoping to go back and teach workshops for Regina in the future and I intend to meet up with Dijanne again as we got along very well:) When I got home I went straight to the supermarket to buy food for a German style picnic tea!

I went home with a German cold so I did not feel like sorting my stuff out until the weekend. Feeling guilty about my apathy, I made myself do boring admin first so I can do some more on my unfinished German projects later in the week. I did not exactly laze around – I managed to get a small customer quilt done, delivered Easter eggs to Freya in St Andrews on Good Friday and rustled up some basic cable-tidies that look nicer than strips of black velcro.

The Easter holidays end on Tuesday so Fergus needs to get into serious revision mode and tackle the maths questions that I downloaded – luckily for me I also downloaded the answers! I have quilt competition entry deadlines looming and I need to work out whether is feasible to make something new in time for FOQ… If only I could get up at 4am and not waste time on the internet:P

Longarm Quilting in Coburg

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Thanks to Regina’s detailed instructions, my journey from Frankfurt airport to Wurzburg by train was very smooth. We had a quick look around Coburg and ate a delicious traditional bratwurst with mustard. Her studio is super! I had three Q24 long arms and a sit down Q20 for my pupils. Regina’s lovely daughter, Laura did a marvellous job of the catering and taking official photos for her website.


The ladies were enthusiastic and determined to quilt all day to try and finish their projects. Like a typical primary school teacher, I planned more work just in case somebody was a fast finisher so they could pick up any of the three projects over two days. They concentrated on quilting the fake leather which would made into a large tote bag. I did not tell my pupils that I had chosen fake leather deliberately so they would not be tempted to unpick any stitching they did not like. The idea was to experiment with rulers and free-flowing quilt designs. Two days of concentrated quilting is such a luxury for students as nothing beats uninterrupted practising!


Despite my attempts to learn a little German, my limited vocabulary was of no practical use. Regina did a great job of translating and there was a lot of bizarre sign language. I normally chatter all day in English so it was unusual for me not to have so much to say. Luckily, they seemed to get it and were keen to try as many motifs as they could. We enjoyed an evening meal at a Gasthaus with locally brewed beer and Bavarian potato dumplings, served by waitresses in traditional dirndl dresses.


The other textile tutor, Dijanne Cheval, from Australia, drove up from the south of France to join us on Saturday evening. Regina had kindly arranged for us to have a day of sightseeing on Sunday so we visited an impressive schloss, Veste Coburg which commands a impregnable elevation on Festungsberg hill. The views overlooking Coburg were spectacular on a glorious spring day with clear blue skies. There was an extensive collection by Renaissance artist, Lucas Cranach, and displays about Martin Luther as 2017 is the 500th anniversary of The Reformation. I was fascinated by the intricate wood carvings and inlaid panelling. I am sure I could get plenty of ideas for quilts from that;)


We enjoyed an alfresco lunch people-watching at Golden Kreuz in Coburg then a wonderfully lazy afternoon on the verandah at Regina’s house soaking up the sun.

Eine Kleine Quilten

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I have come to the conclusion that it would be simpler to write down all of the tasks that I do not have a hope of finishing, see how the week pans out then fill in my diary retrospectively. I was beginning to panic that I would not get my class samples ready in time for my German trip next week – then I started to worry that the projects were too big and the students would not finish them either. Of course, they do not need to be as intensively stitched as I did them!

The pink pleather piece did not “need” additional embroidery around each circle and the Spotty Sampler Quilt did not “need” more stitching or couching either;) It was actually quite hard to come up with 16 completely different ways of quilting a circle. It was not until afterwards that I remembered I had a file full of photos of examples of stitched circles that I did for the Bernina Q-Matic system.

  

I was relieved when both projects were completed. I have had months to prepare for these classes but School Stuff and Life just kept getting in the way. I have now written instructions for both of those projects in case there is some finishing off that students need to do after the classes. I actually wrote 888 words on how to make a simple tote bag with an internal zipped pocket because I take the view that every step should be crystal clear, making no assumptions that the maker already knows what he or she is doing. I can even let the maker know that they can fit at least 8 bottles of gin into it!

 

Fenella is off to Guide Camp this week and obviously, I could not manage to send her off with 2 cheap supermarket tea-towels… I had to dig around in my stash and make 2 fancy new ones from vintage linen with hanging loops and name tapes! No wonder I have not found time to practise my German conversation on the Duolingo app. I must do some cramming before I go because I cannot imagine I will have to ask for much “brot und wasser” from “der junge” – however, I expect I will use “Entschuldigen, mein Deutsch ist schrecklich!” (Sorry, my German is dreadful!)

A Much Appreciated Temporary P.A.

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It was an absolute boon to have Freya at home at a bit of a loose end for her Spring Break from Uni. Most of her friends were either away travelling or had different holidays. It was so helpful to be able to text her with instructions to switch the oven on or rustle up a batch of chocolate brownies. She even did the catering for a class of ladies who were here for a day of improv curved piecing.

I enjoyed her company for dog-walks and morning coffee, and she proved to be a very good chicken whisperer. Within 24 hours of asking if anyone had hens for sale on Facebook, we had 4 new layers, 2 of whom immediately tested the defences and worked out that they could easily escape using a vertical take-off method. We rounded them up and gave their wing feathers a trim, returning them to the chicken run so we don’t lose their eggs in hidden nests amongst the nettles.

  

I marked a piece of Bosal interfacing with a Frixion pen and quilted circles onto a piece of fuchsia fake leather. I used a small curved ruler to quilt inside the circles then “organically” freehanded the background. It is far too long since I did this type of quilting just for fun and I really enjoyed it, despite having to slow down after bending a needle that was too fine for the job. I should have used leather needles but I did not have any left so I used a metallic needle instead. It was tricky when using the acrylic ruler base because it kept sticking to the fake leather underneath – next time I will just use the Frixion pen on the “pleather” side, not the reverse. This piece will have some accent embroidery stitching around the circles then will be made into a simple leather tote. It is a sample for one of the classes that I will be teaching in Germany in a couple of weeks.

The other project will be a sampler quilt of machine quilting. I have decided to quilt the background first on this occasion then add fancy circles afterwards. I don’t know how I came to order cotton sateen fabric with added spandex but I managed not to get any weird puckers in the automated curved line quilting.

I had a very cultured weekend starting with taking Nella to “Blood Brothers” at His Majesty’s Theatre in Aberdeen. The show was fantastic with amazing performances, clever scenery and it ended with a much deserved standing ovation. Freya and I went to see Nell in her choir concert on Saturday morning then we went off to see the new Disney version of “Beauty and the Beast”, starring Emma Watson at the cinema. We enjoyed it as a spectacle far more than “La La Land” and now want to dress like French peasant girls in long pantaloons, Provencal layered skirts and espadrilles;)

Tricky Custom

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I am very impressed with my new Swiss-Army style Bernina seam ripper. A DIY customer was using an automated quilt design on a Dresden Plate quilt that had fulness issues where it had been appliqued onto a large background square. I was able to release a few of the stitching lines then freehand the fullness in without so many puckers.

  

Something came up to scupper my plans for the rest of the week…

I should have had plenty of nice photos of a small custom quilt that came in as a rush job this week but it ended up biting me in the bum so I have decided not post photos of it. I should have known better than to agree to fit something as complex into a 4 day slot, especially as the new customer phoned 3 times and paid a visit before I even sewed a stitch. Her instructions were extremely specific – ditch and ruler work only. Since I have been longarm quilting for almost 10 years I should have been able to judge more accurately how long the job would take but I just told her my hourly rate and said I was not sure how long it would take to ditch all of the tiny pieces on the quilt until I got started. When I phoned to tell her that the job had taken 9 ½ hours she was horrified and sharply informed me that she did not intend to pay for that much quilting. Like a wimp, I met her halfway because I had not provided an accurate quote up front. Important lessons learned: be more realistic when estimating time that a custom quilt may take, stick to my guns on pricing, remember not to quilt for that customer in future!

I placed an online fabric order for some solids that I will use to make a project for my classes in Germany and as long as they arrive in good time I WILL be making samples up this week and hoping to make a “pleather” tote that I hope my students will also make. I have finished something for Freya’s birthday but I can’t show photos of that either;)

I have Freya home from Uni for a week which is lovely. She spent an exciting week in Marrakesh with friends having adventures and she brought me some fragrant spices.I was her sous-chef when she replicated a delicious Moroccan feast. Since we had some decent spring weather, she took charge of the operation of relocating the ramshackle hen run. We spent a couple of hours scrubbing the hen-house and detangling the fencing from nettles and itself before rounding up our one remaining “feral” chicken. We were rewarded with a lovely fresh egg! Now that we have an escape proof again run we can get a few more hens or even ducks to keep us supplied so we don’t have to go out and buy eggs:)

Bernina Longarm Ambassador Meeting – Steckborn 2017

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At the weekend, while catching up on the more mundane aspects of life, I met a friend in the supermarket who thought I had been Quilting Abroad for weeks. I had to correct her and let her know that I had actually been home for several days in between visiting the USA and Switzerland!

  

My 2-day seminar at the Bernina for European (and Korean) longarm ambassadors was terrific. It was definitely an international event with representatives from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Spain, UK and slightly further afield and not at all European – South Korea. Needless to say, not everyone spoke the same common language and we even had a couple of translators. By muddling along in English, French or German we were able to share experiences and learn new techniques from each other.

 

It is always exciting to visit the Bernina factory – there are areas with a particular mechanical aroma, boxes of sewing machine feet waiting to be finished and circuitous routes underground and up flights of stairs to avoid the highly top-secret research and development ares. We were kept very busy all day with lectures and discussion sessions but of course we very well fed at the Bernina canteen and the lovely hotel restaurant with  a stunning view of Lake Constance. We learned about new products and underwent some specialised Q-series training and were even involved in a discussion about what developments we may like to see in future. I took away some new ideas and things I want to experiment with. I also took away a stash of chocolate from the wee shop but it got scoffed before I remembered to take photographic evidence.

 

By the end of our time together we felt that we had made new friends and connections and my French gradually came back to me which was just as well because I needed to find my way to a hotel at Paris CDG Airport par Le Shuttle. My French actually improved so much in my search for a bus or train that I even managed to mutter “Zut Allors” every time I got sent off on a wild goose chase. By the time I found my hotel which was at a completely different airport terminal, I did not care that I had to drink my gin out of a glass “plastique”. It is a good job that I arrived super early for my Aberdeen flight the next morning because I have never encountered such queues or rudeness at bag drop, passport control and security. I will endeavour to avoid a connection via Paris in future!

I felt so abashed by my lack of comprehensible foreign languages that I downloaded a phone App called Duolingo to see if I can learn some useful German phrases in 3 weeks. I know that my students and hostess speak English but I would at least like to make basic polite conversation. My favourite word so far is “Entschuldigung”, which means sorry! I also hope to be able to mention sewing machine feed-dogs which is something to do with Unter-Transport.

I was glad that I had set up a customer quilt to do when I got back because I spent most of the weekend in my workshop trying to catch up on some customer jobs. By the middle of this week I will try to make myself a shortlist of what I intend to work on for FOQ – after I have made some samples for teaching in Germany and chosen a new “for fun” project;)

Getting Ready for the Off Again

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It took 2 whole days plus the weekend for me to unpack from my Quiltcon trip, fight with my laptop and phone to upload photos, restock the freezer, post random cr*p on Ebay that Fergus had sold, and do laundry – working from a list that seemed to get longer rather than shorter. Perhaps my new notepad will help. The pages are separated into “what I must do/ what I should do/what I probably won’t do!”

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Bluecat got so bored waiting for my full attention that she eventually sat on top of the keyboard and would not budge. Thistle got my attention by murdering one of the friendly robins…

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I kept hoping that I would have time to quilt a length of very fake leather/vinyl to make a sample tote bag for classes or play with the adjustable ruler foot for my Bernina 710 but I spent so long on catching up with admin, learning how to use Instagram and helping Fergus to cut thick cardboard for his art project with a rotary cutter that I will only just have enough time to repack my suitcase before I head off to Switzerland for a Bernina Q-series seminar on Tuesday. I have at least loaded up a customer quilt so I can crack on with it as soon as I get back.

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I LOVE travelling but would like a little bit of planning time to finalise what classes I am intending to teach and what competition quilt I want to make in time for FOQ. I have in mind a potential series of quilts related to “Shield Maiden” but “BzB” is long overdue or maybe I could go all improvisational;)

Quiltcon Savannah 2017

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My Quilt-Show-Travel-Friend, Ellen and I decided that we need to attend Quiltcon East in Savannah to really get to the crux of “The Modern Quilt Movement” since the definition on the MQG website is wide open to interpretation. (Modern quilts are primarily functional and inspired by modern design. Modern quilters work in different styles and define modern quilting in different ways, but several characteristics often appear which may help identify a modern quilt. These include, but are not limited to: the use of bold colors and prints, high contrast and graphic areas of solid color, improvisational piecing, minimalism, expansive negative space, and alternate grid work. “Modern traditionalism” or the updating of classic quilt designs is also often seen in modern quilting.)

After journeying for 24 hours we arrived at out apartment in the Historic District of Savannah to a pleasant temperature in the high 20’s C (or well above 70 in F). The convention centre was across the wide Savannah river and was accessed by a free ferry ride.

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Savannah, a coastal Georgia city, is separated from South Carolina by the Savannah River. It’s known for its manicured squares, horse-drawn carriages and ornate antebellum architecture. Its cobble-stoned historic district is filled with squares and parks like Forsyth Park, shaded by magnolia blossoms and oak trees covered with Spanish moss. The historic district’s architectural landmarks include the Gothic-Revival Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist.

The best in show quilts were displayed prominently just inside the show hall and were very impressive with plenty of lines, solid colours and improvisational piecing.

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As we studied all of the quilts it was not always easy to work out why some of the entries were categorised as “Modern” quilts. Occasionally they seemed to address only one or two of the descriptors in the MQG statement. There were many that could have been influenced by the Gee’s Bend style, some that were traditional in all but colour and the majority were quilted with straight lines. I was particularly interested in the negative space category because that would be where I hoped to see some awesome quilting. I was surprised that some entries had taken the idea of negative space almost literally and had really gone for minimal quilting whereas others went to town showing off their motifs and fillers.

I enjoyed discussing the attributes of the Modern quilts with other visitors and I took lots of photos on my phone as my camera (and knickers!) were lost in transit. Sometimes you need to look at a photo of a quilt after the show to appreciate it fully because as with any large quilt show, visitors can be overloaded with visual information and stop looking properly.

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I was delighted by the visitors’ responses to my quilt, “Tartan Tattoo” which was in the Modern Traditionalism category. They enthused about the quilting and colours and many lovely people told me that they would vote for it as their Viewer’s Choice. The quilt angels were repeatedly asked to show off the back which is pale grey and every stitch is on show. I did an impromptu and very off the cuff video interview with Teri Lucas, a fellow Bernina ambassador and community editor at Generation Q Magazine.

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We interspersed our study of the quilts with forays around the vendor booths. Several fabric companies had big show-off areas but nothing to actually buy. There was plenty of fresh, modern fabric to choose from from shops and designers as well as plenty of solid ranges. Longarm machine companies were all well represented but I was unable to spend money on any gadgets or rulers that I do not already have;) I had to buy other things instead, including an Elizabeth Hartman “Forest Friends” pattern and fabric bundle, a couple of books/patterns that I fancied and another set of Double Wedding Ring templates to see which I like the best (in the manner of my extensive ultimate carrot cake recipe research). There were a few other bits and pieces and far less thread than I anticipated so it all fitted rather nicely into my suitcase, padded out with TT for its journey home.

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I would like to have attended some of the lectures but demand had been so high that the website crashed and everyone we wanted to listen was sold out.

Although I had taken along my new selfie-stick, I found myself too embarrassed to actually use it and I hate going up to folk and asking them to be in my photo. I met some younger quilters – Emily, Snaleeleena, Shruti and Jen – who gave me a spontaneous tutorial on Instagram while we waited to collect our quilts at the end of the show. Typing #quiltcon2017 into Instagram shows well over 9000 photos from the show, the visitors and what they got up to.

It was lovely to meet so many enthusiastic quilters including Ellen’s delightful Twilter (Facebook) friends. I also ran into British and German friends who were attending Quiltcon for the first time. The people of Savannah were so pleasant. Many of the waiting staff were students at the huge art SCAD Arts College. We also had a most memorable and informative trolley bus tour with Denise who reminded me of the sassy character, Minnie from “The Help”.

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It is a good thing that we walked so much around the easily navigable streets and squares because the food was incredible. I ordered delicious shrimp at every opportunity but I had less success with snow crab legs which were long, skinny and difficult to extract. Whenever we got hot and had achy feet we stopped for beer, margarita or ice cream!

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The town of Savannah was beautiful and historically very interesting. The architecture was amazing and since the 1950’s efforts have been made to ensure that new buildings are sympathetic to the colonial style. We wandered around the graveyard where soldiers had camped during the Civil War. The prolific Spanish moss hanging from the trees was atmospheric, which is more than I can say about the night-time ghost tour:P It was interesting to hear the story of Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of the Girl Scouts of America. (Juliette Gordon Low, 1860-1927, was the founder of Girl Scouts of the USA with help from Sir Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Scouting Movement. Low and Baden-Powell both shared a love of travel and support of the Girl Guides. Juliette Low joined the Girl Guide movement, forming a group of Girl Guides in Scotland in 1911.

In 1912 she returned to the United States and established the first American Girl Guide troop in Savannah, Georgia that year. In 1915 the United States’ Girl Guides became known as the Girl Scouts, and Juliette Gordon Low was the first president. She stayed active until the time of her death.

Her birthday, October 31, is commemorated by the Girl Scouts as “Founder’s Day”.)

Although we did a lot of travelling in one our shortest trips to the USA, we really enjoyed the whole experience. I like the concept that Quiltcon moves around the USA – I think I would quite like to teach at a future Quiltcon, maybe I should aim for Nashville in 2019?

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Best Laid Plans

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On Monday morning I had to jump out of bed and fling my clothes on as a DIY quilter arrived sharpish while I was lazily reading in bed, celebrating the mid-term holidays. I thought I knew better than my calendar and decided that it was weird that she had scheduled the 13th of February and also 13th of March when it was just a weird quirk of the calendar.

I managed to fit in a nice wee quilt for a customer but the only other sewing was a zippy bag for my new selfie stick, purchased specially for my forthcoming trip to Quiltcon;)

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I can prove that I have not been time wasting because I have filled up 7 whole pages of ideas and things to do in my notebook, as well as a random list of tasks for Thursday and Friday. I did just about everything on it, even coaxing the hibernating lawn-mower into life and persuading Fergus to help dig up a tree that self-seeded itself right outside a window about 7 years ago.

I also had a productive brainstorming session with Tania, attempting to work out a schedule of workshops from my studio, hoping to replace the classroom teaching. It was great to have another person come up with helpful suggestions on dates and general logistics.

It would appear that I have prepared for a siege, having cooked and frozen a selection of ready made meals for my veggie teens for when I am away. The store cupboard is full of emergency rations, including 9 tins of baked beans and spare Nutella. There is enough pet food for at least a month and everyone’s schedule is on the noticeboard. I am only off to the USA for a week but a few days after I get back I will be heading off to Switzerland for a Bernina Q-Series seminar, followed by a trip to Germany a month later!

I have actually typed up a list of potential projects for consideration – I know I must make up some quilting class samples fairly urgently but I really feel the need to be working on something else instead of constantly “dabbling”…

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