Monthly Archives: May 2009

Blog Off!



I have had a frustrating week with technology. The blog was suspended because I ran out of bandwidth again despite having upgraded recently. I tried calling to point this out but no-one answered the phone. I called again the next day but the person helping me did not speak great English and was unable to answer my questions without referring to a supervisor and putting me on hold. I eventually found a way of buying £1 worth of additional bandwidth but probably spent far more than that being on hold to the help-line!

My credit card company also called from a distant land to inform me that they had not authorised payments to The American Quilter’s Society or Ryan Air because they thought someone was making fraudulent use of my card. It has been very embarrassing for AQS to keep getting in touch, telling me that my credit card had not paid for myPaducahentry fees and return postage. I suggested that they set up Paypal and have now sent a cheque – which I could have done weeks ago! To add insult to injury, the computer decided to delete all booking references to flights that we booked to go toFrancein October so I will need to PHONE and probably pay to have all that sorted out…

I determined to catch up with a couple of customer quilts since I have not done any since March. After having worked on intensively quilted projects lately, I couldn’t get over the idea that I thought the customer quilts looked “under-done”. People do ask me not to go mad on their quilts but still, I like to give them plenty what they couldn’t achieve themselves. They seemed pleased with the results and I even managed to complete 2 tops and load the QGBI Region 16 raffle quilt. I decided to keep this simple too as it is not the sort of quilt that needs show-off quilting. I will ask them to say on the label that it was “Utility Quilted”.

I went off to the Loch Lomond Quilt Show on Friday and took Mo for her first proper quilt show. It took 3 hours to get there and we had to be pretty quick at each venue to fit it all in. One day there is a bit of a tall order but we just managed to fit all of the venues in by 5pm. We were very impressed by the diversity and organisation. Among the highlights for us this year were Rosie Furlong, French quilts, antique boutis quilts, and the competition quilts. It was very nice to see Ruth and Patricia who both admired my entry, “Chocks Away”. I was looking for tips on how to up my game since I had not been placed. It was suggested that I had the potential to win technically but for this competition I did not have quite the originality of the other winners. I found this advice very helpful to know. I do appreciate the concept that winning is not the be all and end all of quilt shows but I feel that I have to have a few awards under my belt to be taken seriously as a professional quilter whom people will want to book for retreats & workshops. To see the winners and for more information visit


The new yurt frame was delivered and assembled this week so I could see how to put it all together. I took lots of photos to remember what to do the next time. Mo and I thought about how to tackle the ceiling and it will not be as easy as we first thought… The plan was to piece panels out of tweed but we decided that it might be too stretchy and just look saggy. The new plan involves quilting separate triangular pieces that should overlap. It will involve far more work and materials; it is hard to imagine so I will make one and see how it looks, although I have now dismantled the yurt because I don’t want to leave it up without a waterproof cover. However, I am seriously wondering whether to spend lots of money on wadding and backing fabric for the ceiling. Perhaps I should just make a tight fitting canvas cover from army canvas (impenetrable to infra-red cameras, by the way!), so it is waterproof and then attach the tartan to it. This could then be decorative and functional and should eliminate the stretch. The ideas for this are all very fluid. Mo’s ideas were ingenious but I also have to create 60-odd feet of walls and this may also take a little time to complete!

Besides doing all this thinking, I have been working on the Silent Movie Star instructions. I have come to appreciate that this is a tricky task. I am very conscious of how difficult I find instructions so I am trying to make them super-clear. I had wondered how to draw the diagrams for the corner stars then had the brainwave of doing a photo-story. I hope the magazine also thinks that is a good idea!

I pieced these blocks again (in bright pinks and oranges) to check how they worked and will use them for the Longarm Challenge quilt for FOQ.

I wasted another 2 ½” hours on Thursday evening trying to improve the Dutch triangles. I eventually discovered that my original cutting would work but the edges have to be off-set when being joined. There was much muttering from my end of the table – why did the ruler instructions tell you how to cut equilateral triangle but not how to place the pieces to join them together? There was an exhibition by Gill Turley at LLQS with those very triangles so I may contact her to check exactly what to do. I was determined to work it out. I have now put the pieces into an envelope so I can get on with something more important on a Thursday evening and I will try not to let it become a long-term UFO.

I plucked up the courage to add the pearlescent paint to Buddha. I spent Saturday afternoon layering up the colours, adding more, covering it up, painting over the bits that didn’t look right. I think it is now pretty good. Buddha stands out from a distance and looks quite “pearly”. I have even started putting on the buttons down the prairie points and on the eyes. I don’t want it to look like a Pearly Queen but I think lots of embellishments will be fun! I may need to get some more strung pearls to run some along the binding. If I only had one project to complete in a year I would sew on lots and lots of seed pearls but I may have to decide that enough is enough!

Wellington the Hero!



I am typing my blog this week feeling absolutely shattered! Quilting is supposed to be a relaxing pastime but I seem to have turned it into an extreme sport and my week has been really stressful. I have been working ridiculous hours on Buddha. I really could not decide if I thought it was going well or horribly wrong. The metallic thread on silk was probably not one of my better ideas as you would see if I showed you the back! In my usual gung-ho fashion, I dispensed with the notion of using a ruler to do all of the linear quilting so I developed a manic freehand scribble. I kept telling myself that I could always paint over it with pearlescent paint then wondered why I bothered with the fancy thread at all… I posted pics of the work in progress on the APQS forum to get some feedback and I got a tremendous boost by being told that they all thought it was terrific. I still think the photos look better than the real thing but then I have probably got sick of looking at it by now. I decided to take it off the frame today because there were probably sufficient miles of thread on it by now. Now I have to decide whether to add the paint then hundreds of buttons and pearly trimmings.

In between doing all of this I chaired the Parent Council meeting, spent an evening at the C-team primary school football match (Fergus’ team were beaten 7-1), worked hard on Freya’s project on Yurts and Mongolia (I should get a good mark for that), deciphered the incomprehensible school reports that they all received, and almost ruined my expensive Dutch chintz quilt kit.

The Disaster of the Dutch Quilt Kit will be another chapter for the “How NOT to Quilt” book. It came with a small, slippery plastic triangle template for cutting out all 300+ small triangles. I decided that I would use my far more professional 60* ruler with the neat, straight bit at the top because then I could be super accurate in my cutting. I need a little quilt fairy to prod me when I get bright ideas like this – when I started to join all of my small triangles together, I discovered that the quarter inch seam allowance appeared to be missing. This was on Thursday evening when the quilt group was here so a far more pragmatic quilter pointed out that it is necessary to have all 3 sharp points on 60* triangles. I could have screamed with frustration and thrown them all away but swallowed my humble pie and decided that I would just have to use the small, slippery plastic template to trim them all back even smaller so they have 3 sharp points!!!

I spent some time one wet and windy afternoon making modifications to the hen house. The hens have been sleeping and pooping in their nest boxes and eating the eggs. I took some advice from an Eggspert and stapled curtains across the nest boxes to make them darker and nailed on higher perches. It seems to have done the trick as I now have my eggs again and a much cleaner hen house.

I have had to spend time on the internet searching for obscure Landrover parts. I had ordered them from my local garage but they are so laid back that nothing arrives for months. I will be driving to Dumbarton this week for the Loch Lomond Quilt show so could do with a new mudflap, air filter cover and 80/90 axle oil. Just occasionally, my student-days job working for Halfords, comes in quite handy with the odd snippet of mechanical memory coming to the surface.

After wondering for several weeks whether my Hungarian quilt would be accepted for the Papa Textiles Museum exhibition, I received an email asking me to post it ASAP! I thought I still had a few weeks to add a few discreet yoyos down the scalloped edge so that is something else I need to fit it.

I seemed to spend all weekend doing shopping for Freya’s school trip, groceries, diesel, hen food, dog food and doing chores that got in the way of QUILTING! I was so annoyed about all of this by Sunday that I made the children help. They put up with my ranting and were actually pretty useful. I was in a particularly bad mood because we had been on a Family Outing on Saturday evening. We were invited by some parents from Freya’s school to their ski-club Ceilidh. It was truly awful. The Caller for the dances was short tempered and determined to make them all complicated. The people who invited us then proceeded to ignore us and then we couldn’t persuade Freya and her friends to join in the dancing. We should have just gone to the cinema to watch “Startrek”!

At the part of Sunday when I was particularly frustrated about my lack of quilting time the children came to tell me that the pigs had gone missing. This is the point when you may well think that I just make my whole blog up. I have decided that things like this happen just so I can put them in the blog. I had told my husband that Ginger and Splodge were working away at a part of the fence but he said they were too big and too happy to bother escaping. There was a gap under the fence big enough to get a cow through!

I followed the trotter prints up the newly seeded field and it looked like they had gone off into the rough ground and bracken. I went back for a bucket of pig nuts, help from the neighbours and a daft spaniel which may just help to flush them out.

After tracking the dainty prints across the field for a while, two happy looking pigs were spotted two fields away near to the main road. I warned my helpers to stay back for a while so I could shake the bucket and hope for the best.Wellingtonfollowed and then proved to be the most amazing pig-dog. The pigs cheerily followed my bucket and were moved along by Welly who had developed a masterful herding instinct. I easily got them all the way back home and got help to fix the fence.

At 6 o’clock I enjoyed a very large and refreshing Gin & Tonic!

Note to Self…



It has occurred to me this week that I should pay far more attention to learning from past experiences and try to avoid repeating them. A prime example of this is attempting intense stitching with metallic thread on silk. I finally plucked up the courage to start work on Buddha. The border blocks are courthouse steps and on a Pearly Theme I have freehand quilted something oysterish and slightly sea-like. Then I moved to the inner border which was a geometric fabric so I felt it necessary to stitch some dense triangles. This border is now not so much quilted as flattened. I did a lot of prevaricating then took the plunge on Buddha’s face. I think it worked rather well but maybe I should not have used the metallic thread. There are dodgy birdsnests on the back in places but I have decided already that I will just trim them and paint gold paint on the back to make it all look deliberate. There is absolutely no turning back with intense stitching on silk.

If I really don’t like Buddha when it is finished then I can paint some Stewart Gill pearlescent paint over him to tone it down a bit (which defeats the object of using metallic thread in the first place). I have to admit that I didn’t think the stitching would have been quite so dense initially but in general I think “more is more!” The quilt is currently still in the Awful/Awesome category. It is meant for the QGBI “Pearls of Wisdom” special “In the Spotlight” exhibition at Festival of Quilts 2009. It was not necessarily a wise choice!

My quilt arrived back fromPaducahwith the judges’ comments and a colour catalogue. The other quilts were stunning, including some amazing ones from Japanese makers.My comments were made by judges, Libby Lehman, Mary Sorensen and Yvonne Porcella.Best feature:

Fun and playful, unusual design, inclusion of needlework elementsArea to improve:Zigzag – ragged and uneven

I was a bit peeved with the zigzag comment since I had chosen a stitch on my Husqvarna that is deliberately like that to look a bit folksy. But actually I have to remember that it was amazing that my quilt even went toPaducahat all!

I started 2 more projects this week since I obviously thought that would enable me to work more quickly. I now have 6 customer quilts lined up and waiting for me to finish with Buddha and the Longarm Challenge quilt for FOQ. I must find a way of getting them done soon. Most people don’t want my extreme quilting so it should be possible to catch up eventually! I started to cut up the Dutch chintz because that was a fun thing to do on Thursday evening.

Then I decided to make 2 trial blocks for the Longarm challenge quilt. The theme is log cabin but that is not the main feature of my quilt. I already have an unfinished Lonestar so I am making 9 chevron log cabin blocks to create a large border and 4 fake mini-lonestars for each corner.

As time is whizzing past I also made a serious start on the instructions for “Silent Movie Star” for Popular Patchwork magazine. I thought I had time to learn the advanced elements of EQ6 to present this article but have come to realise this may be a bit ambitious so hopefully the magazine’s in-house expert will be able to do my diagrams in the EQ6 format. The quilt is not a tricky layout; I just don’t know how to make the program do what I want yet.

Mo and I went off to Old Meldrum to have a look in the patchwork shop this week. We had to admit that there was nothing that we really needed! She bought a magazine and I found some sparkly trim that might come in handy. We had far more fun in the Farm Stores on the way home. We loved that the shelves were groaning with tractor couplings, rat poison, machetes and sheep castration equipment and decided that it would not be deemed safe to sell these items in other parts of the country. I bought some purple antiseptic spray for Mabel’s itchy skin (yes, she is now partially purple) and an old fashioned galvanised poultry drinker.

This week I finished a fascinating book called “The 19th Wife” by David Ebershoff. It is a parallel story of nineteenth century Mormons and modern-day Utah polygamists. It was a work of fiction but based on fact. I found it quite un-put-downable.

There was a brilliant TV arts documentary of a conversation between crime writer, Iain Rankin and popular painter, Jack Vetriano. Both of these Scotsmen are successful and famous but are not properly acknowledged by the “Critics”. They spoke frankly about their inspiration and drive. One point that they made was that their early work was a copy or exploration of an existing genre but gradually they developed their own unique style. I found that most encouraging. Perhaps I will eventually create a particular type of quilt…

Before you all think I have gone all highbrow, I must mention my midweek trip to the theatre. I went to see “The Vagina Monologues” with a friend who had booked the tickets. Most people would have got a clue about the content from the title. I had decided that it was probably some comediennes telling funny anecdotes about life, work and children. I got that wrong! It actually WAS about vaginas… Everyone seemed to be laughing hysterically but I think I must have missed the point. I decided that I was not repressed, perverse or crude enough to really appreciate it fully. I daresay if Julie Walters or Whoopi Goldberg had delivered the lines it would have been different. The best bits were the tragic stories of abuse because they delivered a powerful message. I did notice some men in the audience who were either very submissive or totally pervy. To top it all, my friend did not have any chocolate with her so she offered me healthy raisins in the interval. I told her it could possibly be the last time I went to the theatre with her!

Open European Quilt Championships



I have arrived home from a fantastic trip to Hollandwith my quilt-travel friend, Ellen.

We had a thoroughly enjoyable few days and picked up from where we left off on the trip toPaducahlast year. We spent our time yacking about quilting, people watching and wandering off the beaten track to get a real feel for the area.

We flew from Edinburgh to Schipol on Thursday 29th May, then caught the train to Eindhoven despite being warned by a nosy biddy that there would be no public transport on Queen’s Day. This is a major public holiday in Holland but this year a madman attempted to drive his car into the Royal family’s bus, killing several pedestrians. The celebrations were curtailed throughout Holland apart fromEindhoven which was hosting a crowd of 200 000 people for an acid-house-rave street party. We had to trundle our suitcases through this crowd, trying to get to our hotel on foot. We did eventually fight our way through and were relieved to find that our hotel was just out of reach of the main city centre event. The Park Plaza Hotel proved to be a very pleasant place to stay and gave us more opportunity to explore the area than if we were based in Veldhoven, a smaller hamlet.

After a couple of glasses of wine to recover from the street rave, we took a taxi out to NH Koningshof for the Gala Dinner. This was different to what we expected… somehow the PowerPoint presentation and the prize-giving got in a muddle so we were a little confused even though it was all in English. There were entrants from The Netherlands, Germany, Poland, France,UK, Israel and Brazil.

On the judging panel were Claudia Pfeil fromGermany, Joen Wolfrom from USA and Lia Flemings from Holland. One of the judges’ comments was that not all of the contestants in the Magic category had made quilts that were in any way connected with the theme. The quilts seemed to be really diverse and it looked as though it would be a fairly contemporary exhibition. We had a posh and pleasant dinner, despite the local delicacy of albino asparagus. The prizes were very good… packages of Aurifil thread, Madeira thread, mini irons, packs of fabric and a Bernina. I cheered up considerably when it was announced that all entrants will receive a goody bag!

The next morning we walked through the quiet streets, picking our way over debris from the street party and abandoned bicycles, and caught a bus to the show. It was all very straightforward as everyone we spoke to was friendly and spoke impeccable English.

NH Koningshof is a large conference hotel on the site of an old seminary. It is quiet and attractive. The vendors had plenty of space; the quilts were all beautifully hung and well lit. It is probably the most pleasant and relaxed show that I have been to. The café area was lovely with an amazing post modern stained glass window and it was also possible to sit outside in a sunny courtyard. The coffee and Dutch apple cake was delicious.

We decided to buy the photo CD to get even clearer photos. There were guest collections from Joen Wolfrom, Priscilla Bianchi, Mc Kenna Ryan, Elly de Vries, Duikflucht and Den Haan & Wagnenmakers. The show catalogue had pictures and descriptions of each entry in Dutch and English although I think some resumes were a little fanciful or lost in translation!

The quilts were a mixture of traditional and modern and there were many very skilful pieces of work.

I was thrilled to meet Claudia Pfeil, a German Longarm quilter and APQS representative. She even gave us a sneak preview of her quilt for MQS inKansas Cityon her digital camera. It looks sensational! We managed to have a cup of coffee with Claudia and also Loes & Theo who are expert embroidery and quilting pattern digitizers. It was marvellous to hear what Claudia thought of my quilt. She said she really liked it but Joen Wolfrom thought my prairie points simply disappeared into my wacky border (that is the whole point of “Bewitched”…) Claudia offered me a lesson on the Longarm but it was tricky to fit it into the trip. I decided that I will figure out a way of going to see her in Krefeldfor a proper lesson to expel my feather allergy!

Because we had plenty of time to browse the vendors and were not crowded, we managed not to panic buy. Ellen was delighted with her selection of fabric from Claudia’s shop, Quilt und Co. We both bought beautiful reproduction Dutch chintzes from Den Haan & Wagnenmakers (which I kept referring to as Hagen-Daz). We could have done workshops with some of the featured artists but had decided to make this a very relaxing weekend without any schedule.

We enjoyed an Indonesian buffet in the evening back in Eindhoven and wandered around the pedestrian streets, keeping an eye out for cyclists who did not always ring their bells as they approached.

On Saturday morning I used my Ipod to Google quilt shops in the area and got directions from the VVV Tourist Office. After a short bus trip and walk we came across Quilt Puzzel, a small quilt shop filled with fabric and yarn. Nearby, we were delighted to find that a Saturday street market was going on. There were wonderful flowers, fresh produce, some market tat AND an old fashioned haberdashery stall selling buttons and zips… they handed us a leaflet saying that they had a bigger shop in Eindhoven. After having lunch of beer and a raw meat paste sandwich (mistake) and watching the people pass by, we got out the map and headed off to the zip man’s shop. Smilje Kreatief on Kleineberg was the most amazing haberdashery shop that I have ever entered. Ellen and I walked in and simply gawped. We could hardly speak. We just looked and looked in a daze, unable to choose anything because there was so much to take in. Buttons, lace, trimmings, rickrack, fabric, bridal supplies, coloured velcro, craft supplies and even polystyrene pigs filled every inch of the shop. I actually thought that I had died and gone to Haberdashery Heaven. I think we may have lost about 2 hours in that shop and were so overwhelmed that we still did not manage to buy much. I don’t think I have ever come out of a shop feeling quite so dazed. We ignored Eindhoven’s many other trendy shops on our way back to the hotel that afternoon.

We had to drink quite a lot of wine to revive ourselves after that experience before going out for a marvellous meal on Antonio’s Italian terrace. There were plenty of places to eat in Eindhoven from Asian Cuisine to Chips with Mayo! Sitting outside gave us another opportunity to marvel at the various fashions, including drainpipe jeans tucked into white boots, and watch Dutch people going out for the night on their bicycles.

Bicycles really are popular! There are special cycle lanes and traffic lights. People of all ages ride them and they all look very fit. The cycles look comfortable with large wheels for speeding along the flat terrain. Children and pets are often carried along with groceries and anything else you could imagine. The streets were really not that busy with motor traffic. I have never seen so many bikes parked outside a railway station before.

On Sunday we took a double-decker train back toAmsterdamand left the luggage in a locker at the station so we could walk around and see a bit of the city. It was far busier with tourists. We found a great coffee shop where we had warm apple-strudel near Wagenmakers which was closed. It is a great city to walk around and very interesting to see all of the tall, narrow buildings overlooking the canals. We stopped for a beer in the afternoon in the old Stock Exchange building which is now a concert hall. I wished I had bought a couple of souvenirs in Eindhoven as Amsterdam souvenir shops were quite tacky. I bought my children clog keyrings and was amused to discover that the Dutch word for clog is “klomp”. There was a great clothes shop selling colourful boots but I decided that E200 was out of budget.

We made our way back to the airport in good time, agreeing what a thoroughly enjoyable few days we had experienced. The weather was great, public transport was easy, the people were helpful and the OEQC was excellent. We booked our flights down to Birmingham that evening on our return and we have already started planning our next trip after that… Europe or the USA?