Defying Gravity

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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

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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!

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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

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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

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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!

Fowl Playing

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I took advantage of a lull in customer quilts to make headway with my so-called “Magnus Opus” that does not have a fixed plan at this stage. I made a very rough calculation that if it was going to end up 80” square, which yet again is bigger than necessary, I will need around 173 x 6” blocks. Luckily, the large silver printed Warli spirals have the same area as 4x 6” blocks. I still don’t know whether there will also be a few star blocks or whether I will stick to Warlis and circles and I guess there will be some sashing to get everything to line up but that can be decided later. 

It would have been easy to stick bondaweb on the back of the glitter Warlis and raw-edge-applique them onto a background square but I decided to make life harder by making portholes where a circle is drawn onto a square on top of a second square then turned inside out. It was labour intensive as the seam allowance of the circle had to be clipped. The pressed porthole was then placed on top of a glitter Warli, blanket-stitched and THEN the original Warli square had to be trimmed back so it did not show through. 

The crochet / sequin blocks were easier. First the sequin was attached with invisible thread to an oversized coloured square, sandwiched with wadding and a backing so it can be trimmed back later making it trapuntoed. The crochet doilies were then laid on top of the sequins with a straight stitch and invisible thread.

The plain, giant sequin blocks also took a while – firstly they were triple-stitched upside down using the circular attachment with silver dazzle-dazzle thread in the bobbin. Even the big bobbins ran out of thick thread quickly and had to be changed after sewing 4 squares to be on the safe side. The giant sequins were then blanket-stitched to the right side, again using wadding and a backing which will have to be trimmed back. There was only one boo-boo where I accidentally sewed 2 squares on top of each other from my pile. I made all of the squares bigger than necessary so they can all be squared up to a neat, uniform 6 ½ inches. 

Towards the end of the week the floor in my workshop was strewn with rainbow coloured trimmings and lots of thread so it was actually very satisfying when I eventually got the hoover out. 

All of that activity kept me busy for 4 days and most evenings except for a midweek talk that I gave to the Aberdeen Patchwork and Quilting Group as a stand-in speaker. I rattled on for an hour about some of my show quilts and travels which the audience seemed to find amusing. It was lovely to receive compliments on my work after hearing that Iconoclast had not thrilled the judges at the Malvern Quilt Show. Unless I can find a show in Russia that might appreciate the St. Petersburg inspiration or get it into the World Quilt Show it will probably retire as yet another vanity project. 

I had one of my prolific DIY quilters in on Friday so we used the Q24 with Qmatic and the freehand Q24 to do one big quilt and 3 small ones! The last one of the day was a delightful baby quilt with two Elizabeth Hartman swans which looked super with a watery panto. 

My friend Mo “egged” me on to accompany her on an early Saturday morning jolly to the Rare Breeds Livestock and Poultry sale. We did not go too much over our budgets and resisted the urge to buy emus and peacocks. I took home 3 everyday brown pullets plus a light sussex and a bluebell. When I got home I was really disappointed to discover that someone (not me) had omitted to shut the henhouse up the night before so the long-lasting Maran hen had been the most recent victim of the F*****g Fox!! The new hens were securely shut in with food and water and I will personally endeavour to be more vigilant about night-time security. I could not resist downloading a PDF pattern for a chicken quilt from Cluck-Cluck-Sew which can be a new background slow-burn project:)

Shiny and Bright

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Having finally sewn on the very last glass bead to my Warli quilt, I decided to take photos outdoors with it hanging on a photographic / quilt stand. I don’t have enough room or light inside to do this so I have to put it up outside which means that the slightest puff of wind makes the quilt flap and causes the whole thing to topple over. Luckily, the quilt is not massive so it stayed upright just long enough for me to take a few quick shots.

 

I finished off a customer’s Christmas quilt. This was a pleasure to work on – the fabrics were fun, the piecing was perfect, the customer had requested wool wadding and it was custom. It was all done using rulers and freehand fillers, taking a total of 12 hours. The other customer quilt this week was a simple, scrappy bright batik quilt which I did with a simple honeycomb design using Qmatic.

I was annoyed that an online order that I placed 10 days previously had still not materialised so I had to get in the car to go and buy some Stitch-n-Tear stabiliser. Since I finally had just about everything I made a couple of samples for my new project, which for now I am calling “Magnus Opus”. I sewed giant sequins onto beautifully bright squares of Indian cotton then placed a coloured crochet doily on top. For some reason I have decided that there will be some trapunto under the circles which I hope will puff up when it is quilted. I can finally use up the reject wool wadding for this as it cannot beard through the sequins. 

On Friday I had a one-to-one session at Peacock Visual Arts on trying to get to grips with vector drawing on my iPad. I had watched various Youtube tutorials but there is nothing like interacting with a real human to be able to ask questions. My tutor was an expert in Illustrator (not the iPad) but he was able to explain how nodes work. When I did Maths at school I thought that I would never, ever need to know about Vectors and Nodes so it is ironic that now I am now keen to know exactly how they work. I am hoping that I will be able to come up with designs that can be digitised to use with Qmatic. With a bit of digital fiddling about I discovered that I can use an app called Adobe Capture to smooth and clean up black and white images so I was able to tidy up my original Warli figure. 

I took a photo of my large Warli spiral that I had created by sticking hundreds of figures on a large piece of paper and managed to get rid of all of the shadow lines, making a clean copy that can be resized. This means that I can print directly onto fabric or have a Thermofax screen made. I wish I could find an evening class that would teach me all that I want to know as it would mean far less time spent watching online tutorials, avoiding the temptation to get side-tracked looking at Festival tents!

I cut into some of my vibrant Indian cottons so I can print glitter Warlis onto squares that I will cut into circles. My Scanncut was not altogether happy – I bought it as a well-used model and the rollers keep shifting. I will attempt to give it a really thorough clean but I have already started looking online for a replacement since it has proved to be so useful. I wonder if I can sell the old Scanncut at a nominal price except I would not want to think it might be temperamental for its new owner;) And if I thought it would sell for anything I would also sell my Accuquilt Go which I have not used for ages except to cut patchwork pieces for a customer.

Supply and Demand

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I was at a bit of a loose end on Monday morning because I could not get started on the next customer quilts until some wool wadding arrived by post and I could not launch into the Big Project because I was I did not have everything for that either. To make myself useful I cleared out the store cupboard in my kitchen, discovering several small packets of opened pearl barley and at least 2 kilner jars that might be semolina, chickpea flour or some other pale yellow powder that had been there far too long. 

With a clear conscience I stitched a couple of big sequin samples to see if Razzle-Dazzle thread in the bobbin looked good and I wondered whether to try trapunto using the reject wool wadding that beards but won’t be able to poke through the sequins. At the end of the exercise I had to go and order yet more supplies such as embroidery stabiliser, a clear Bernina foot, circular attachment, and yet more silver thread. 

Several packages arrived during the week and I amassed a colourful selection of doilies, pompoms and shisha mirrors. I had better make sure that I make use of every single one of them!

I got a customer quilt done by Qmatic but it took a while because halfway down the quilt the narrow outer borders started to ruffle so I had to stuff them with extra wadding and spray copiously with starch in an effort to shrink them down. 

The next customer quilt that I started is a Christmas one which I am doing totally freehand and with rulers. It is coming along slowly but I am enjoying it. It is one of those quilts that could be have been quilted with a panto but is really fun to do custom.

Over 2 nights we had foxes in the chicken run and lost 3 hens! That is relatively uncommon here as we have a walled garden and there are usually plenty of rabbits and pheasants to keep any foxes fed. With one old hen left to protect my kids were puzzled when I told them that I was going to use a tray and a fork as my last line of defence. A garden fork was used to wedge the rear hatch shut and a large tin tea tray was used to block up a gap at the front of the shed. I don’t tend to shut the hens in overnight because in summer it gets dark so late and light so early that there does not seem any point. I will reinforce the fence, wait until the fox has moved on then get some more hens because there is nothing like collecting eggs from your own hens. 

I am probably going to sign up for Year 2 of the textile printing evening class so I can get access to the Art School equipment. However, that will not start until September and I wanted to screen-print silver foil onto fabric, maybe incorporate it into the new project. I had tried using an iron but found that the foil did not stick properly so I decided to order a budget heat press aimed T-shirt printing businesses. The other idea that I wanted to try was using heat transfer vinyl shapes that I could cut out using the Scanncut. I ordered 1m pieces of basic white, red flock and silver glitter in the colours of my Warli quilt. The heat press arrived and is a hefty item at 27kg which cannot be stored easily. The instructions were minimal but it was quite straightforward and I even managed to cut the vinyl without any problems. I cut and printed some 3” Warli figures as test pieces and I was really pleased how well they transferred onto fabric, especially as the shapes were so small and intricate. I think this new gadget has a lot of potential if only I can decide what to do with it;)

A Stitch Too Far

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The balmy late Easter weather allowed me to soak up some outdoor Vitamin D and hand-sew kantha stitches onto my quilt binding. Despite making an effort to pull the stitches fairly tight, because they were not anchored into the outer edge of the binding, I could see that the stitches might not all stay neatly in position. The long-winded solution would be to add a clear glass bead to every crossover of red and white thread. I underestimated how long this would take to anchor every single bead using beading thread and a very fine needle. There will be somewhere over 600 beads in total around the binding but it feels like thousands. So much for my disapproval of the current trend for over complicated bindings!

I was very pleased with the label that I made for the Warli quilt. I cut a piece of freezer paper to A4 size then starched a piece of red dyed fabric which measured half an inch less  all round then ironed it onto the freezer paper. I ran it through my printer on the basic settings, deciding that it did not need any extra ink that might bleed if I used photo settings.  Next I printed a Warli stamp into a gap that I had left. It took me a while to notice that I had printed 2018 instead of 2019 so I had to repeat the process to get it right. I stitched the label onto the back of the quilt by hand and even added a quilt show “modesty flap” to cover the label to obscure the details during judging. 

I had 2 nice crazy quilts to do for a customer this week – one in batiks and one in African fabrics. I used Qmatic to quilt circular patterns which I thought complimented the angular patchwork. The quilts were small wall hangings so I was able to get them back to the customer within a couple of days. 

I sold one of my utility quilts to a friend this week which felt a bit weird. She could sense that I was reluctant to let it go and I tried to explain that it is a difficult process to sell a quilt, even to a friend because coming up with a sensible price for the materials and time is so hard. At the same time it is better if the quilt goes to a loving new home instead of languishing in a cupboard.

Poor Bumble was poorly this week and had a visit to the vet. She had blood in her pee and was off her food. The vet had previously told me that Scotties are very prone to bladder cancer and she is 12 years old. However, antibiotics have worked wonders so hopefully it was just a simple urine infection. She was most impressed that I tempted her appetite back with some posh dog food so if that keeps her happy I will keep spoiling her. 

I have placed orders for all sorts of trimmings that I plan to use on my Next Big Project so once they all arrive there should be no more procrastinating. The trouble with allowing a long deadline on a quilt is that there is no urgency to begin, especially when the plan is not quite fully formed. However, I do hope to explore some ideas soon, even it is just to alleviate the boredom of hand-stitching umpteen beads.

Keeping On Top of Things

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If I did not have a notebook to hand to jot things down then cross them off then I would have no idea how I spend my time. It may seem that I have “produced” very little but there is always something going on. 

As a non mathematician I had to make a spreadsheet with all of the Q-series accessories that we will need to order for FOQ and I will have to do a similar thing to place a thread order. The Bernina UK Longarm Academy classes have been selling out quickly – the last time I looked there were only 5 places left out of a total of 48 which is terrific. 

Of the other minor but important tasks for the week I sent off an entry form for the World Quilt Show, tidied ONE teenager’s clothes that had been in a heap for months, had a few more bright ideas for my next Opus Magnus, sneaked in a few chapters of the epic novel  and did not deal with my paperwork;)

I had a huge customer quilt to do which was pretty challenging at 112” x 106”! For all the years that I had a 14ft quilt frame I rarely had to deal with anything that big. There was very little spare backing and I had a few issues sorting out some “bosomy” areas so I was relieved to get it finished. 

As a complete change of scene I produced 5 “Clam-Up” pouches to hold essential items at FOQ including thread snips, spare needles, tissues and mints. It was really good making the pouches in a batch because I could work on the same stage for each one, not muddling up the instruction pages and not having to continually swap threads or presser feet. Only one has a slightly wonky bottom for some unknown reason but on the whole I am really pleased by how smart they look. 

The 3 customer quilts that I did later in the week were far less stressful than the huge one in that each one was only 56” square and they were fabulously flat. I was even able to have a go at a hand-stitch experiment on the binding of my Warli quilt while I supervised Q-matic gliding along nicely. 

The pink sari quilt that I bought in India has a zigzag of kantha stitches along its binding so I came up with a version of that. What I failed to notice was that the Indian version does not wrap right around the binding and is therefore more secure. It may mean that I need to add anchoring stitches or beads to be on the safe side…

The first thing I am going to do in the coming week is gather up materials for my next Big Project / Magnus Opus, based on some antique Indian textiles, and make some sort of start on producing samples. I am aiming to have it ready for FOQ 2020 rather than struggling to complete it for this year – Let’s just say, I think it may take some time!

Lost in Literature

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I took my 2 teenagers on an outing to the V&A Museum in Dundee, hoping that they would be blown away by masterpieces of British Design. The outside of the building, designed by Kengo Kuma, is magnificent. It looks like a cross between a futuristic ship and an Aztec temple and has a similarly impressive interior with giant wooden planks reflecting Dundee’s industrial heritage. However, there was actually only one rather small gallery that show-cased Scottish design, including a Charles Rennie Mackintosh panelled room. It was rather cramped and crowded, therefore difficult to see the exhibits. My kids were mortified that I asked a museum guide where the other galleries were. I was told that the other main gallery was closed (for up to 6 weeks) while they prepared it for the next temporary exhibition about computer gaming and would cost £12.00 per head. The £80 million pound building is large with plenty of room but in the style of many trendy museums has little substance. There were hands-on areas for young children to build structures and 2 cafes but I was disappointed that the Scottish branch of the V&A was not a patch on its London parent. After less than 30 minutes we had seen everything, went for lunch then headed home.

Years ago I read a novel called “The Far Pavilions” by M.M Kaye set in India with an impetuous hero and wonderful descriptions of 19th Century Indian palace life. I had completely forgotten the plot and found myself totally absorbed by a weighty, addictive novel. I don’t usually “allow” myself to read during the day so I found that I was sneaking in several chapters between what I was meant to be doing. Of course, it has made me yearn to return to India and explore more of a vast country that I merely glimpsed last year.

Eventually I finished all of the stitch-in-the-ditch on the house quilt and had to decide how much more quilting to do apart from some simple free-motion in large areas of sky or grass. It is not my quilt and the brief was to “keep it simple” so apart from some roof tiles and patterns on large areas of gable end I had to step away and declare it done. 

Freya came home for a visit over the weekend having been on a trip to Egypt with Uni friends to celebrate her 21st birthday. She seemed pleased with my present of a wee braw bag filled with goodies from Lush and a red metal tool box that I had stocked with everything from pliers and screwdrivers to plasters and chocolate. 

I prepared my next customer quilt which I had been told was 100” square but when I checked it was actually 106” x 112” so it was lucky that there is JUST enough backing fabric. I decided to wait until after the holidays are over before tackling it so I made a “Clam-Up” pouch by Annie, having coveted one that I had seen on Instagram by Norway’s Bernina Q24 Ambassador, Merete. I made the tiny one which was fiddly but it does look quite professional, especially since I decided to neaten up the inside of the zip by hand-sewing it inside. 

Exciting news is that I have booked up classes for myself at Bernina University in Florida this June, hoping to get to know the Qmatic system inside-out. Finding flights to Jacksonville was not easy and I explored many options of flying via Europe or going to Orlando then hiring a car. It was annoying that Virgin had good offers online but when I attempted to book the price went up by more than £200.00 In the end I used Expedia and have bookedFlybe flights to Manchester followed by JFK with Virgin. I just hope it all ties together!

Around the Houses

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It is rather annoying that some sellers on Ebay and Amazon claim to be from the UK when they are in fact based in China, so items take ages to arrive. A box of 60” tape measures finally arrived that looked positively vintage although the contents had never been used. I devised a way of sewing them onto my mini zipper canvases so both zeros met in the middle and I even wrote down detailed instructions in case I ever need to make 4 sets again. 

I am never sure how much work I will get done during school holidays but I loaded a sweet customer quilt called “Welcome Home in Spring” and started off with a basic bead-board border. The plan is to stitch-in-the-ditch around all of the applique, add some detail on roofs, some free-motion in large areas of sky or grass then decide if it needs any more quilting after that. It is one of those projects where I could just keep going – adding chimney smoke, paw prints, flower pots…

I was required to be a Roadie for Fergus for a band rehearsal then I detoured to IKEA to collect a Raskog trolley so each Q24 can have its own set of kit parked nearby. Since I had now made 4 sets of zippered leaders I decided to make 2 more one-hour baskets. As I could not find the fabric that I quilted before, I used off-cuts from the vintage kantha jacket that I had tailored for me in India. I have really enjoyed making these baskets as they are so easy and useful so next I made 2 smaller ones to hold Q24 cleaning kits. I even had to buy mini tins of WD40 that would fit nicely in each basket!

 

Much time was wasted online and on the phone trying to line up Young Driver insurance in the event that Fergus might pass his driving test. Because he is 17 and a boy the prices were shocking and some companies would not insure him at all. His lesson and test began at 7am on Friday morning and I was so pleased for him when he sent a text with good news. 

We went to collect a pre-loved VW Polo from one of my quilting friends and he drove it back home sedately following my Landrover. He gave it a quick wash and then spent much of the weekend driving around on little jaunts to the shop, beach, around the block, and even to Aberdeen city centre. It will be very handy to have an extra driver and vehicle – I just have to hope he continues to be a sensible motorist.

Springing Forth

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There must be some truth in the idea that the busier a person is, the more productive they can be! Maybe it was the spring weather but I had 4 days worth of DIY quilters and also managed to do 2 other customer quilts which meant that I could justifiably turn down offers of supply teaching. It was great using the new zippers on the longarm machine and I wished that I had ordered a second set from the USA in the first place to avoid two lots of postage and customs but I no idea how successful they would be until I tried them.

The zippers needed to have somewhere to live near the longarm machine so I downloaded a pdf pattern for “The Hour Basket” that I had seen on Instagram. It is suggested that SoftnStable interfacing is used but I did not have any so I quilted up some scrap fabric to make 2 basic bucket bags. They were quick and easy to do so I should think about making some more although I have no idea where I will put them. 

On a roll with bag making, I also downloaded a pattern for a “Wee Braw Bag”, concluding that life can be much easier when using a pattern instead of figuring it out from scratch. The instructions were really easy to follow so I made 3. On the first one I did not deviate from the pattern and just fitted pockets on the front but I thought it looked unbalanced so made pockets on both sides for the others. The pattern is easily customisable so pockets inside could also be handy, especially if making a toiletries bag.

I ordered a box of cheap Perle cotton thread from Amazon because it was on offer and had a good selection of colours but there was no indication that they would arrive slowly in a parcel from India. Number 8 thread is possibly a bit thick but now that I have new sashiko needles and a leather thimble I can probably manage. I just have a few strips of kantha to complete on the Warli quilt and I have not punctured my fingers yet. 

I sewed a facing onto the Dream Big panel and got it done quite quickly I the knowledge that it did not have to be especially neat since it is not a show piece. 

Out of the blue I had a flash of inspiration about what I would like to attempt for my next show quilt. It is an amalgamation of various ideas and is rather ambitious so I am aware that it is unlikely to get made in time for FOQ 2019. I also have to consider how it can be hung. Even though it was never intended as a show quilt I will enter the Warli quilt this year just for an outing. 

My kids have a spring holiday for the next 2 weeks and are meant to be studying for exams and end of year assignments. They don’t need entertaining these days but I will have to feed them so I am not sure how much I will get done. Perhaps it will be an opportunity to at least plan my new Opus Magnus…

Getting It Right – Sort Of

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The Dream Big panel was really pushing me to figure out how to quilt many designs that I have admired online but never attempted. I drew a rectangular grid out on paper and fiddled around with wavy rulers until I worked out how to make a shape like a squashed chinese lantern. I have also discovered that the Scanncut can cut stencils which would obviously be neat if I could work out how to design them on my iPad but in the meantime can be done by tracing a paper pattern using a broad Sharpie.

Eventually I only had two petals left to quilt so I decided to include a Warli figure and some triskeles. What little was left of the background was quilted with ⅛” lines and because I did not have another shade of pink thread left I used my favourite variegated neon. 

I was so engrossed in quilting that I failed to notice a strange, hot smell at first – a plastic wrapped roll of batting was sitting on top of the electric heater plug which overheated and started to smoulder. I caught it just in time and doused it with a powder fire extinguisher! Phew…

I completed 2 customer quilts and hosted 2 DIY quilters before starting on the Dream Big finishing touches – adding 2 coats of paint very carefully around each of the petals. This was a bit of a gamble since it already had a nice 3D effect and although it was time consuming and fiddly I think it really added to its depth. I decided to attach a facing instead of a binding and temporarily stuck the edges down with fusible tape so it looked respectable in my trunk show on Saturday.

I was the afternoon speaker at the QGBI Region 16 day in Perth, following the esteemed Lynne Edwards MBE! Her talk was great – she spoke about the quilts that she had collected from significant quilters over several years. We had a lovely chat, finding many things in common, particularly since she is completely down to earth and fame has not gone to her head;)

My talk was slightly chaotic – a minute before I was due to start I could not get the slideshow to display on the projector screen, the microphone kept cutting out and screaming feedback worthy of a heavy metal concert, I dropped all of my prompt cards and spilled the water. I suppose I was a bit of a comedy turn but it kept everyone awake. I have made mental notes on which parts of the talk to tweak and how to line the quilts up in the same order as the slides. 

 Purchases from Gillian Cooper’s Textile Studio

I intended to have a slow day on Sunday just putting the quilts away then started on a mission to improve the zipper system that I have installed on one of the Q24s. I made 2 mini canvas leaders with zips so the quilt back can be basted onto the canvas rather than the zip. The idea is that it should cause less wear and tear on the zip and also have idiot-proof instructions (for me) printed on using T-shirt transfer paper. It was one of those jobs that I obviously had to over-think because I have deviated from the original instructions, delusional that I may have invented an easier method of attachment. 

Although I would like to start a new project soon I will hand-stitch the facing and the rest of the Warli quilt kantha sections in between customers next week. If I manage to do anything else I will count it as a bonus!

I Can See Clearly Now

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My intention to start the week with a customer quilt at 8.30am on Monday was temporarily halted by the arrival of 2 packages from overseas. 

The first contained my bulk order of custom carved waril figure wood block stamps from India (I could only order them in batches of 10!) which arrived too late to be printed on the front of my Warli quilt but may yet appear on the reverse. 

The other package was zippers for the longarm machine to allow quilts to be loaded or swapped easily. I had to really pay attention to get them on in the right orientation but they were helpfully printed with text for people like me who get things the wrong way round. These zippers could have grosgrain ribbon or canvas strips attached in case the quilter wants to attach the quilt back with safety pins but I have no idea why they would want to do that. The zips get attached to the quilt back top and bottom using a large stitch on the domestic machine then get zipped onto the canvases on the frame. It is not a major time saver but the biggest advantage is not having to deal with big stabby pins;)

The beach themed quilt was completed with a seaside panto which looked really fun!

I spent FAR more time than I planned working on my Dream Big dahlia panel. The biggest issue was deciding which pattern to place in each petal and swapping threads so the colours were evenly distributed. There was much angst wasted comparing my efforts to already completed panels that I had seen online, especially when I made myself tackle patterns that I had never quilted before. However, I treated it as a useful practise exercise, even if I only quilted 2 or 3 petals a day. My greatest interruption was cracking the whip so that Fergus would hand his essay on Rap-Rock music in on time.

I spent ages preparing a new slideshow for my forthcoming talk at the QGBI Region 16 (Scotland). I last gave that Region a talk in 2014 and my blog informed me that I had been on my travels and made all sorts of projects that I had forgotten about in the interim. It also reminded me that I should have a piece for FOQ well underway by now but whatever it is going to be remains at the undecided stage. Every week planning a potential 2019 competition quilt just keeps getting put back on my To Do list;) 

For the slideshow I had to find and select a series of photos then remember how to get them into a Keynote/Powerpoint presentation. My unco-operative laptop kept displaying the “spinning rainbow ball of doom” then told me that I did not have permission to save my work. The simplest solution was to make a duplicate copy and save that version. 

I was surprised when I booked an eye test to discover that I last got new glasses for close work 4 years ago. One pair of specs was particularly wonky, scratched and was missing a nose clip. I picked up 2 sparkling new pairs and was amazed at how I could see everything clearly again.

I hope to complete the Dream Big panel in the coming week – it has certainly taken more than the couple of days that I intended and that is without taking background quilting and the probability of adding fabric paint into account…