Monthly Archives: March 2009

Serial Killer


   imperfect flying geese

Just when you think things are ticking along nicely, even dully, events occur that remind you not to become complacent.

Wellington has recently started the annoying habit of making a detour at the end of the morning walk and not coming back when called. He doesn’t usually go far or stay long but it is still disobedient. On Friday I had to go out so Tania said she’d keep an eye out for him and put him back in the run when he reappeared. Trusting Welly’s good character, she popped out to have coffee with Mo mid morning. When she got back there was a scene of horror in her back yard. A large animal had wrenched away the side of their pet rabbit’s run and killed Thumper. Although we have had daytime fox and mink attacks here in the past, the prime suspect at the scene of the crime wasWellington. He would not have come under suspicion except for the casserole rabbit last week. Tania was understandably upset and I was angry. I even considered re-homing Welly for just being a dog that I can’t enjoy.

The next day, for Freya’s birthday, we went to see the movie, “Marley & Me” about a most unruly dog. It was quite an emotional film. Towards the end it was obvious that Marley was going to die but it was all about the trials and tribulations of a family living with a very bad dog. It made me rethink. I am now determined to do some serious retraining to remind Welly who is boss. I took both dogs out across the fields on leads today which I’m sure they found rather dull as Welly usually runs ten times further when loose but they were surprisingly well behaved. Maybe I will be able to let him off again eventually when I can trust him to come back. My Mother reminded me of all the badly behaved family dog incidents we had as children and I began to wonder if I should stick to a single cat in future!

Even my patchwork took an unexpected downturn. I have started 2 panels as part of the yurt series. They are very simple and bright (they might not be included at the end…) sort of to illustrate where I have started from. I was assembling some flying geese using a formula for units of 4 FG that I just used on “Chocks Away”. However, I had to cut them all down to size because I somehow got the proportions wrong, even though I followed what I had written in my notebook AND about half of them had mysterious flaps!

I have now decided that when I write a book it will be titled, “How NOT to do Patchwork and Quilting”. It will have anecdotes about sundry disasters and instructions on how to do the project the correct way. I will have to get these thoroughly tested just to check. It my even have some recipes for things like “Critter Casserole” and where to hide your stash of Cadbury’s chocolate. Ellen has already promised to help promote it atHouston…

My outing this week was to go and see an Aga. I have coveted one of these archaic cast iron cookers for years. I had hoped to swap it for a quilt but the owners want cash instead. My husband told me it was a daft purchase to make for a kitchen that will not be remodelled for at least 3 years but I couldn’t help thinking that I would be getting a bargain. I spoke to a couple of Aga experts who have said that it is, so I have decided to see if they will let me pay in instalments. I could even put it in the flat above the new studio (after reinforcing the floor). That would be the ultimate in Country Cottage accommodation – a casserole in the Aga and socks drying on the rail!

I had a really good tidy up in the workshop, gearing myself up to the next major projects. The owner of the ugly quilt came to collect it and was absolutely delighted so that makes it all worthwhile. I had great success with the borrowed OHP and managed to project the Buddha line drawing onto my piece of silk that was pinned to the wall. I used a pink Sewline pencil which probably won’t wipe off but by the time I have used miles of metallic thread, no-one will notice. I have also experimented with tea-dyeing the Chinese silk from Hong-Kong. It was a very bright white but is now a subtle creamy brown.

I realised that I had the perfect backing for the Hungarian blue and white project. It is a vintage linen toile. This was an acquisition from a basement in a castle. I had thought that it was badly water damaged down one side so I put it in the washing machine but I have since decided that it was more likely to be poodle-pee. The lady of the castle has a poodle with the unsavoury habit of piddling against things, even indoors. The linen washed beautifully and I even managed to work out the pattern repeat and join it reasonably accurately.

I’m not sure how much work I’ll get done this week as the workshop is being hired by a tutor for two days. Last week I painted Freya’s bedroom for the first time in 8 years. My husband foolishly said, “Now that we have got the decorating bug…”

I will feel pleased if at least I get the Broken Dishes quilt loaded and start cutting the Buddha’s courthouse steps; some of this is silk so that will cause a few headaches and fudging, no doubt.

From Fedex Fiasco to Firewalking


I took a parcel of Ferret’s quilts that have been awaiting dispatch since September to Fedex in Aberdeen. It wasn’t actually in Aberdeenbut on a farm off the A90. They could not sort out my international parcel – I would have to go toEdinburgh for that.

Tania discovered that she can get a large Fedex discount as a British Airways employee so we decided to go down toEdinburghwith BK then make a trip to IKEA. We arrived after two and a half hours to discover that the office had closed down the previous week and that Central Fedex(in Mumbai – grr!) and Aberdeen Fedex had not told us this useful fact. However, a chirpy man with an armful of parcels went into the office next door and so Extra-Ordin-Air (in Scotland– hooray!) sorted BK out to go to theUSA. They were very helpful and gave me a discount but it still cost £111!! It just goes to show that probably plenty of British quilters could get work into the Paducah Show but don’t bother because of the cost.

I worked on “The Ugly Quilt” this week. This was the quilt that took 5 years to be hand pieced with curtain samples and thread that was like string; the backing provided was a poly-cotton sheet. There was plenty of cat fluff on it for additional warmth. I may not appreciate its beauty BUT a customer worked on it, finished it and obviously enjoyed making it enough to want to pay me to finish it off AND so it puts money in the bank.

I was out with the dogs and yelling at Wellington for taking a detour again when he came hurtling back with a large rabbit in his mouth. I was extremely surprised because I always think he charges around far too madly to concentrate on actually catching anything so I think this rabbit must have accidentally bumped into him. Much to Mabel’s annoyance, I retrieved the rabbit and decided to get Mo to give me a rabbit skinning lesson over coffee. She had 2 visitors and a garden full of escaped cows when I arrived. She shoved the coffee cups to one side and dealt with the rabbit for me. It really was like getting a jumper off but there is very little meat on a bunny. I decided that the rabbit wouldn’t go very far in a stew so she caught a spare cockerel and he suffered the same fate. We skinned it instead of plucking since it was for a stew. I thought this would make a great curry for Saturday night so she then produced a pheasant and a wild boar trotter from the freezer. I decided to make a Moroccan tagine type of thing with lime, chickpeas, spices and chutney in my new enormous IKEA soup pot, a bit like a cauldron really. Ferret phoned when I was still thinking aloud about what ingredients to throw in and was wondering about the addition of marmalade.

Fantastic news in the post on Saturday – I was awarded the £1000 grant by the Scottish Arts Council and Aberdeenshire Council for my exhibition yurt project. It just shows that you have to have a plan, decide that it will work and make it happen.

On Saturday night I went to Mo’s to have a go at Firewalking to celebrate the Spring Equinox. For a start we decided that we could not enter into such a venture without a glass or two of wine first so we sloped off with a nice bottle before the other guests arrived. They were not what I had expected. Mostly they had lots of “issues” and negative vibes to get rid of. I just thought it would all be a bit of a laugh and had been warned not to make faces or chortle. I was very respectful of the process. Around the circle in the yurt, the women had to tell the others what their problems were and some did this with a great outpouring of emotion. I just sat there thinking what the hell was I going to find to be negative about? In the end I managed to mutter about one sentence saying that I should try not to forget about my family when I am busy. There was drumming and singing in Sanskrit or something which was fun, before declaring what we wanted to be positive about so I managed to say I wanted to be successful in my craft. Someone thought I meant Witchcraft, not Quilting…Next there was the arrow breaking ceremony. Again, the others who had done this before were rather hyped up. You have to put a pointy archery arrow in the soft part of the throat and push against a piece of board until it snaps. There was much heavy breathing and hysteria from some. When it was my turn, I realised that you have to kind of nudge the arrow to make it flex then it just snaps. By now they are all thinking that I am a powerful Mystic whereas Sceptic would be more accurate. By this time I was losing all hope of getting any supper and tasting my Critter Casserole but finally it was time to walk on fire. The idea is that you can only do this if you are charged with positive power and you march across the embers in 3 steps. We were standing on dewy grass in Aberdeenshire that was so cold I could barely feel my feet at all. Walking on the fire is meant to feel like walking on hot sand. The contrast of hot and cold was quite tingly. It was a shame that I did not get the opportunity to take a photo. You have to look at your feet afterwards to check for “fire kisses” or small burns. I only had chicken poo on mine. I had fun and an interesting evening but no spiritual revelations.  I have decided that I am far too grounded to really appreciate the wonders of such experiences. The Critter Casserole was terrific though.

This week my task is to paint Freya’s bedroom and if I have any time left, decide whether to quilt the Hungarian Broken Dishes or possibly create a stitched Buddha. Perhaps I should meditate to decide… too busy – no time for that!

Great Quilters don’t necessarily make great teachers…


I spent quite a few hours on the phone to couriers and customs officers about my quilt going off to Paducah. Fedex Aberdeen advised me to speak to their central telephone number – in India. The first person thought I said that I was sending a leather coat. DHL quoted £139. Parcel Force advised me to call the American Embassy. I called HM Customs which now includes tax, benefits and money laundering activities. I got bogged down in customs forms until 3 calls later I was finally told that the courier would sort that out. I will need commercial Invoice and Textiles form (4 copies each) and ensure that the courier completes an RGR so that I am not charged customs fees to receive my own quilt back!

I had a much more productive trip to a packaging company where I bamboozled the man and his minions by asking for bubble wrap and acid free tissue paper. He was a wide boy called Ronnie in a warehouse under some old railway arches and not many quilters drop in – it’s mostly burger van drivers who buy polystyrene food containers so we made his day more interesting.

I did at least manage to complete a customer Lonestar Quilt. I actually kept it quite simple and did quite a lot of small stipple to flatten out some wavy bits since I have given up feathers for Lent. I decided that stipple is underrated – it looks rather nice. I could have gone on and done more embellishment but decided that customer jobs should be kept simple and 2 days’ work is enough since none of them are technically custom jobs.

I spent some time with a friend teaching her the basics of Longarming so she could tackle a large star quilt herself. We had an interesting discussion that there are some really good quilters who can’t necessarily teach their technique clearly. She enjoyed herself but did not find it as to get consistent shapes with the Milli. She has now decided to get me to finish the quilt as she wants an even overall pattern on the quilt.

I went off to the QGBI Regional Day on Saturday and relished a day out without being responsible for any organising. Freya and Fergus enjoyed their afternoon workshop and made super fabric pictures using disperse dyed papers. Again I noted how a really talented quilter did not come across so well as a public speaker – there were big pauses in the talk although what she said was interesting. In the afternoon the talk was great but plagued by technical difficulties with the slide projector. I seem to be mentally storing away these points for further consideration in case I’m asked to do a lecture. The Aberdeen Patchwork and Quilting Group has asked me to talk about my travels in September so I can use that as a test. I would like to suss PowerPoint because that seems to be the most accepted way of talking about quilt images if the quilts are not there in person. I had to retrieve my notebook from underneath the projector at the end of the day and was very excited to meet the editor of “Popular Patchwork” who asked if I would like to design a project or be interviewed. I was so enthusiastic telling her about all of my projects that I reckon she thinks I’m quite barmy.

I spent Sunday reapplying the hanging sleeve on BK to Paducah’s specifications. It is closer to the top now and the prairie points actually stand a chance of staying upright. I have wrapped in tissue and shrunk it into a vacuum-pack bag. Hopefully it will be released from the bag in KY and breathe out nicely into shape. I had forgotten how big it is. “Chocks Away” had a turn on the rail to see how it looked. It hung really badly as there is denser quilting in the middle so it all bowed out. I have pinned it to the wall, dampened it and stretched it out. I’ll just have to hope that serious blocking sorts it out and remember to check that the pins don’t rust from all the water I’m spraying on.

Why is it so difficult to charge for quilting?



I did a small quilt this week that is for a hospice and was feeling guilty about charging my customer for it. However, I did spend 2 days working on it to give it a variety of textures to make it stable for washing and interesting too. I had to remind myself that that I do a lot of other freebie stuff by helping people out and giving off the cuff lessons. It is so difficult to tell people who ask for help that you will give it but at £10 to £15 per hour of consultation! In fact, I have not managed to do this at all yet… Similarly, I could decide not to charge for Linus quilts BUT I have all this equipment and have to make it earn its keep – so in other words, just because it is someone else’s charity project, does not mean that it has to be mine too. I don’t mean to sound begrudging but my trips and materials are not provided free.

A quilt top came in this week that I did not think would be coming back. It is a long term hand quilted top made from early 1980’s furnishing fabrics. It was originally too small for a double bed so it has now had an extension of curtain samples around the outside. There is a poly-cotton sheet for the back. I know of quilters who refuse such projects but I am not famous enough or rich enough to follow suit. I also think that if someone values their work enough to want it professionally finished then I should be gracious enough to do it without making any rude comments. By the time it has had an all-over shelling it will look quite different, just like some of the unpromising 1930’s tops. I even have to attach binding when it is done. How much do you want to bet that I won’t charge the full amount?!

Mabel and I both had very short haircuts this week. I took Mabel to Mo’s to be clippered as she has started pulling her fur out again so now she looks neat and tidy but with bald patches. (She seems to get itchy when her coat is left too long – it is wiry and curly and looks great so it is a shame to see it go.) Mabel had her hairdo on Mo’s kitchen table but I had mine done at the hairdresser. My hairdresser has cut it very short like Audrey Hepburn to get it all to match up again but I will let it grow some bits a bit more so I don’t look too “blokey.”

I received a fab parcel from Mary Shea in Virginia this week. I was annoyed that I had to pay a customs charge but the contents were fantastic. She has sent me lots of different packs of wadding to try out including bamboo and Dream Puff. There was also a selection of Bottom Line thread which I like to use. I will put together a parcel for her that includes tea, shortbread and other very British things – I just have to collect a few bits and pieces together.

This weekend I have been feeling a bit of an anti-climax regarding my Paducah entry… I have not heard anything which is not a good sign. Successful entrants were to be informed on Friday and last year there was quite a lot of chat on the APQS forum about who had been successful but so far – nothing. I now have to decide whether to enter Botannica Kentuckii for MQS in Kansas instead. It is all fairly expensive but the exposure from magazine appearances is worthwhile. After all, I need to be well known in USA if I am ever going to be booked for a “Quilt Quine Road-Trip”!

Lastly, I’m considering acquiring a hand crank sewing machine to add to my collection. It would be nice to have one in the Yurt and Fergus actually had fun using one that I bought for Barbara’s shop. There is a lovely one on eBay that I’m watching…

Lucky Breaks


I was supposed to have coffee with Mo on Wednesday but had unintentionally volunteered to drive school children to the local nursery for a little concert. She couldn’t’ wait for me to return as she had to go north to measure a four poster bed in a castle. As I had no-one to have a strong cup of coffee with, I decided to call in at the junk shop. It was closed. Outside in the to be dumped area there was an old cooker, a commode and a trunk… fair game – so it came home with me.

I went back there on Friday with Mo to get rid of her old TV. Another nice trunk that we chose was gazumped by another browser but we weren’t too upset since we were checking over an old Singer sewing machine in a neat little cabinet. Two very “jobs-worthy” women were on duty and would not let us plug it in to see if it worked since it had a “Sold as Seen” sticker on it. However, the much more helpful electrical testing man plugged it in and it seemed OK. He offered to put a modern plug on but the two biddies wouldn’t let him! We bought it for £12.00

I looked it up on the internet and discovered that it is a really sought after model in theUSA. It is a 1954 Slantomatic 401! In the States they sell for over $300 but I expect it would cost rather a lot to post it…maybe I should find out.

Ginger and Splodge have been rooting around happily but are still very jumpy. Splodge was brave enough to take a crust from Freya but Ginger tried to bite instead. There is a part of the garden where the old wall has fallen down and if pigs were climbers they could hop up and run along the top and ultimately get out. My husband did not think pigs would be any good at climbing so he had not put up a barrier to stop them from doing this. So – the pigs easily hopped onto the top of the wall and trotted up and down. I was told to go and shoo them back. They did not want to go back – they were amazing climbing stunt pigs until Ginger slipped and held on for dear life with her trotters with an 8ft drop below. In a movie she would either be rescued by Splodge or clamber back up… she fell down. She was so startled that instead of running wildly around the garden or escaping, she forced herself back through the electric wire into her sty. There is now an extra piece of fence to prevent climbing.

I have been frustrated to discover that my embroidery software is not working properly. I called Husqvarna Notts, who said it was my computer and I should uninstall then reinstall the program. Now it’s even worse so I need to somehow sort that out by telephone – grr!

I was working on RWB this week. I had planned it on paper very carefully – lots of feathers to tie in with the flying theme. I thought I would use rulers and have a go at geometric Trapunto.

Nothing went according to plan at all. I realised that I could not easily use rulers since I took off the thread cutter so my extended base would not fit now. I decided to fake the Trapunto effect with 2 layers of Hobbs Polydown wadding but then “forgot” that Trapunto detail is often found in the central area whereas my centre got densely quilted.

My feathers were the worst EVER and I could not face the thought of unpicking so decided to disguise the wavery stems with gold rick-rack like on “Silent Movie Star”.