Monthly Archives: June 2009

Beam Me Up



This week’s coffee rendezvous was a morning trip to see “StarTrek”. We took coffee with us, got a cheap rate, sat at the back and enjoyed a very entertaining film. There were 3 other people in the cinema. It was action packed and the characters were just like the original TV series crew. After the film and some whizzing around the supermarket, pet shop and fabric wholesaler on the adjacent retail park, we got caught up in some roadworks. I had to phone the school to warn the bus driver that I would be a few minutes late for meeting Fergus and Fenella. The school secretary informed me that they had tried to phone me at home and on my mobile to ask if they could give Freya any more piriton for her hayfever so they had to call my husband at work; caught red-handed… gallivanting!

I had a fun little quilt to do for a 90th Birthday present. It was going to be taken fromScotland over toVirginia,USA so had a mixture of traditional blocks from both countries. There were lots of small fillers like pebbles, tartan, contours, mini feathers and Scotch Mist. The piecer was delighted.

On Thursday I felt as though I had hundreds of things to do. I did some joining on my pink and orange quilt and was amazed when it fitted together without any major complications since new bits were being added to an existing project. I went to check on my sick chicken – still paralysed but quite perky which is why we haven’t dispatched it yet. I got the summer house ready for a Jamie Oliver party for an unknown number of guests. (This is just like Tupperware but with rustic plates) The workshop had to be tidied up for the Thursday evening sewers. I had to prepare the vast cream and brown DULL log cabin quilt to ready to start next week. AND I had to pack for the QGBI Region 16 Residential Weekend atStirlingUniversity– plus ironing, livestock, children, bank, phone calls… In the end a handful of people came and the evening was lovely. It was warm and sunny; Mo brought strawberries, meringues and cream and we drank Earl Grey tea from the bone china teacups and saucers that we found in the junk shop.

On Friday afternoon I went toStirlingUniversityfor the quilt retreat. The whole weekend was most enjoyable. All of our meals were provided and we spent many long hours sewing in the company of quilters from all over the country. There were 5 well known tutors: Gail Lawther, Philippa Naylor, Maike Baaker, Sandie Lush and Helen Cowans. As usual people wondered why other people’s classes or fabrics seemed more interesting but it was all great fun. We were able to see the posh frocks, kilts and limousines on Graduation Ball Night and were roused at 4.00am by a fire alarm that had been triggered by students who were burning toast after a night out. Such a shame I can’t post a picture of me in my tartan pyjamas and green Doc Martens in the car-park at the crack of dawn.

Maike was a lovely tutor who got us all designing swooping, curvy flying geese. Since I am not suicidal, I did not do microscopic geese. In fact, I made sure they were quite large by helping myself to the dusty overhead-projector machine. I have decided that I can’t see the point of curved piecing – it’s too fiddly. I have been shown how dress-makers do their curve joining and will choose not to faff about with it. I prefer invisible machine appliqué where the curved edges are stuck onto freezer paper and clipped or how about ironing the folded edges onto ¼” fusible tape?! I think I will experiment with this when I put my giant seedpod- shield onto its background.

I was reminded yet again that I really don’t enjoy doing paper foundation piecing. Although the results are accurate, it is so slow and wasteful! By suppertime on Saturday I was a bit weary of PFP.

The evening lecture by Gail Lawther was splendid. She gave us a sneak preview of 35 long thin quilts based on her travels toNew Zealand. They were all fabulous and so different to each other. I should think that everyone in the lecture will have pre-ordered her new book. I was a bit embarrassed when the raffle quilt was held up and everyone was told that it would be raffled at next year’s QGBI AGM. I thought it would be staying inScotlandand offered for raffle at a Regional Day as I had really only done utility quilting on it. It was well admired but I wondered if I should have done a bit more show- off quilting.

It was interesting for me to note that most of the tutors had a background in tailoring or textiles – that will be how they manage all that amazingly tricky stuff. I have to remind myself again and again that I just have to work on my individual style and not worry about other quilters’ amazing curves, feathers and set-in seams. None of them are making a quilted yurt with a tartan roof after all. Maybe I should call it a “K(w)ilted Yurt”. I also wouldn’t mind betting that none of the quilters returning home after a weekend of sewing had to go straight out and fetch a livestock trailer to take the family pigs on a journey… (to be continued!)

Pizza and Custard


One of my children asked what was for tea the other day… I replied, “Pizza and Custard!” Fenella said, “Oh good – I love pizza and custard!” which is when it occurred to me that I didn’t mean custard ON the pizza. It was just a nice and easy supper after another busy day in the workshop. A couple of boxes of ready made pizza and Birds custard powder (as a separate pudding) was a very quick and easy meal! I do love River Cottage Style home-grown, home-made food – except when I am quilting flat out.

I finished a very large French Braid quilt with a close, contour type of meander but I decided that I wasn’t all that happy with the tension combination of a batik back and Aurifil thread. It was pretty good when finished, though. I think that French Braids need something soft that doesn’t compete with their geometric design. I have seen them done in clamshells too, which sets them off in an understated way.

I also completed a quilted bedspread made from 12 antique embroidered chair panels, some very substantial linen, and a roughish unknown backing. Hobbs Polydown was used as wadding and a neutral Isalon thread and it quilted up beautifully with a bog-standard stipple all over. I added some antique heavy cotton lace to the edges which was proving to be fiddly around the corners until I realised that the original joins on it had just been cut as a mitre and sewn back together. It is destined to go to a simple holiday lodge in Norway to a non-quilter so they should be fairly pleased with its rustic look!

I almost titled this week’s blog “Why I will probably be immune to bird/swine flu…” but thought it could get Googled by The Department of Animal Health so decided against it. I had a sick chook so took it with me when I went to Mo’s for coffee. I knew she would diagnose and look after it more patiently than I would. I had thought it had gone broody and a bit pathetic but the next morning when I went to feed the hens I found it outside the run just sitting in a heavy thunderstorm, unable to move. It either ate a poisonous plant or caught a chill. Mo put it on a sofa in her yurt under a blanket with a hot water bottle (as I knew she would) and has been nursing it back to health with special mashes and concoctions.

The pigs helped themselves to a tasty snack this week that I won’t be mentioning on their paperwork for the abattoir… a pigeon or possibly a seagull landed in their run to see what pellets it could snatch. Ginger and Splodge obviously fancied a bit of sport and managed to catch it. When I went to fill up their water trough in the afternoon there was a great pile of light grey breast feathers and a pair of meatless wings. I must make sure that I don’t fall over in the pig-run and knock myself unconscious so that the only trace left of me is my wellies!

I decided to make my sister some Cath Kidston wedding bunting but then I spotted the Amy Butler fabrics which are far funkier so I got 10 lengths of 8”. I may add a few more fabrics depending on what length I can be bothered to make. I may decide enough is enough after about 50 feet – about how much I have around my yurt!

I thought that I had all the pieces and blocks made for my pink and orange Log Cabin Lonestar until I laid it out and found that I still lacked 2 blocks. I have now finally made them and decided to add another narrow border of the fab Kaffe Fassett pink and brown planets. Unfortunately, I don’t have enough left to make yet another narrow border further out so I may have to settle for gold lame. I could make some more gold lame piping but it does go weirdly wavy when the surrounding areas are quilted. I had to admit to myself that all that strong pink and orange may be a bit “much”. I have to decide on some amazingly wacky quilting as it is for the Longarm Gallery at FOQ so it’s a chance to show off. I intended to use a nice variegated Aurifil but last week the tension wasn’t quite right with it. I think it needs some extra thread guides. When I loosened the tension to stop the bobbin thread pulling the top thread was too sloppy. When I ran Isalon and Bottom Line on the next quilt it was all smooth again. With a big show quilt and a close deadline maybe I should stick to a thread that I know will work. The Challenge provided a YLI reel of pinky-mango cotton but it didn’t actually say that you HAD to use it so I am feeling tempted to use neon colours…

I ran a search for the Hungarian Quilt Exhibition winners and came across a blog entry by Tracey Pereira. She had longarmed the winning quilt and posted pictures of it. Her feathered quilting is absolutely stunning. I actually felt slightly despondent after looking at it, thinking that I could not have produced such a fabulous quilt. I began to question why I have been entering all of the shows and exhibitions that I have lately when they have not gained any awards or featured in magazines. Now, I know perfectly well that that is not the whole point of quilting but I feel the need to be recognised before I can confidently advertise a quilters’ retreat or think about writing a book. I sat for a while and wondered how much harder I would need to work in order to produce truly outstanding quilts. After a while I gave myself a kick up the backside and told myself to work on formulating my own style instead of trying so hard to do something like formal feathers. There are plenty of other people doing gorgeous classical quilts so I should just come up with something else that I can do well. I had an idea to take some of the Welsh quilting motifs but give them a freeform twist. These are all things that I can experiment with on the yurt panels. I think these can be really quite wild since the grant was awarded on the condition that I should produce “contemporary” work.

Here’s a link to the exhibition in Papa,

There are many super entries all using predominantly Kekfesto blue and white cotton. The morning that I looked it up, “Smashing Crockery” was the first to appear and it didn’t look too bad at all!

Buddha Bedecklered



That is what I wish I had called the Buddha quilt on the exhibition blurb… I remembered it was Ellen’s favourite Dutch word on our trip. We saw a sign for “Auto Bedeckler” which we think may have been something to do with car valet or paint jobs but that is just a guess. Anyway, it’s a great word. Buddha is finished apart from pinning it to the wall damp for a bit of a blocking session so it hangs straight. In the end I decided not to use the strung pearls or any beads and I even took some buttons off. I think I just got fed up with embellishing after a while! I must hang it outside for a photo but we keep having gray days or sharp showers. I need to get a really well lit studio and a camera that takes good indoor shots so I don’t have to put the quilt hanger up outside, wait for the wind to stop blowing and stop it from falling over in the lightest breeze!

Because I am well aware that there are only 3 weeks left until the school summer holidays, I have been determined to get all the customer quilts finished. If any others arrive I won’t guarantee to get them done before August so if I do any it will be a bonus. I did a feminine scrappy quilt and a very jazzy Christmas quilt so that was quite fun. I have a large French Braid to do this week. I can’t quite decide what to do with this. The request was for “flowing lines” – French braids are quite geometric and could be full custom or simpler. I almost wish I had the Circle Lord templates for clamshells. I am tempted to do a long, echoing meander. This would give the quilt texture without creating an obvious design statement that could compete with the piecing. This is the one that I have got Matilda’s washable wool wadding for. It feels lovely and I thought it would make a far more economical alternative to the Alpaca Blend which has almost doubled in price.

I had one of my “Doh!” moments when I read the section in a Fons & Porter book about Log Cabin. All the strips are cut from the width of the fabric and the building blocks are placed onto the strip and chain pieced. Surely I must have come across this method before? I had been following Marti Michell’s advice to cut all the strips in advance and now I really question WHY did I do that?! The Fons & Porter way is fantastic. I could get very fond of doing log cabin with all sorts of leftover strips, particularly when I become Prime Minister and have banned fat quarters from being sold.

If you ever work in a fabric shop you get to hate FQ’s. You have to cut a half yard/metre, and then cut it in half so it is roughly 50cm square. The customer gets that piece and you have to package the other bit up to sell. I don’t think FQ’s are all that useful. I much prefer long quarters or half yard/metres. I am convinced that people simply ask for a FQ because the pattern specifies them, not realising that you can get much more out of a nice, long piece! I think I will organise a Quilter’s Guild Area Day based on stash busting. We could pick a pattern from Bonnie Hunter’s website after doing some serious cutting and swapping and send her some blocks as a thank you.

I decided not to go on a jaunt this week since I was busy but after reading “Country Living” over coffee, felt the need to go and buy some junk furniture to titivate. I confess I don’t actually read CL anymore, just look at the pictures. I have decided that you could get one year’s worth and read January 2009 every January thereafter as it would be the same! I think I must have taken out a subscription on direct debit and just forgotten about it. Tania and I set off to the Boxroom to rummage through the tat. She came across 4 respectable solid wood chairs with a good farmhouse look about them. I decided to go for 4 Polish bentwood chairs for £10. They might come in handy. They have Krakow stamped underneath and probably date from the Cold War before our cheap goods came fromChina. They look like village hall chairs and someone has badly painted them poo-brown. I really don’t know when I think I will have time to paint them a subtle shade of green or pale blue like in the magazine so I just put my red cushions straight on them as I already have 3 half stripped chairs hanging in the garage that have been hanging on a rafter for at least 5 years. There are only so many unfinished projects that can be tackled at once… despite this we think we might have a go at brewing wine and candle making – it looks fun!

Coffee with a Goose


After having a whole day of quilting on Tuesday I was looking forward to my Wednesday coffee with friends, Tania and Mo. As I walked into Mo’s kitchen I was not actually surprised to see a large gosling flip-flopping around the kitchen. Mo is babysitting her for another friend. The gosling is called Cara and apparently was the only egg to hatch from an incubator clutch so she was lonely! The little goose waddled along behind whatever human was going anywhere and kept tripping over her flippers. She was very sweet but growing at the most incredible speed. I wonder if she will be as cute in another week’s time…

I worked madly on the customer quilt and was able to finish it by Friday. It was for Barbara at Milton Studio who pretty much lets me have free rein so there were lots of colours and patterns used. It’s a super quilt, loosely based on “Scattered Garden Quilts”. There is a central bright Hidden Wells area then lots of large appliqué flowers. Barbara made it much larger with the addition of huge additional diamond areas. I did not manage to photograph it before I took it back as we have been having dramatic downpours and hail this week.

I collected a neglected treadle machine this week as it was rumoured that I collect them… well I guess that is how you get started on collecting! This had been sitting in a polytunnel on a seed potato grower’s farm and they were delighted that I might offer it an appreciative retirement home. It is a 1937 Singer model 201K and apparently one of the sturdiest models ever made. So far I have given it a cursory clean but it will need to have its cabinet stripped down and revarnished. I expect it will be happy to work after a bit of oiling but I haven’t had time to play with it yet. It even has a proper bobbin instead of one of those fiddly boat shuttles. At the moment it is sitting in the middle of my workshop but I will eventually find a place for it.

We finally received the building quotes for the new studio – they were 2-3 times more than we expected! Now I really have to look at a business plan to see if we can get a mortgage and if I seriously think it can pay one back. I am disappointed that it was so unexpectedly high because this will require some creative thinking to proceed and push ahead with the project. I will have to come up with a cunning plan…

I visited the “Taste of Grampian” food fair at the weekend. It was a huge local produce market with lots of delicious free samples including some fabulous honey whisky liqueur. Funny that Tania, Mo and I all independently sampled that one and all bought a bottle! It has been going down a treat in the yurt with the fire lit and a couple of chapters of my book have even been drafted in the evening… it IS chilly in Scotland in June, after all.

By Sunday I still had not done any of my quilting projects. I seemed to be catching up on washing, emails, printing the QGBI new membership list, writing a report on the meeting that I attended on behalf of the Parent Council etc, etc. I did manage to go and see another longarmer in the area and buy some lovely Aurifil from her in the evening though.

I decided to be a nice Mummy and take the children to the cinema on Monday since they had the day off. We went to see “Coraline” which was a brilliantly dark animation. I recognised myself in the self-absorbed and impatient mother so treated them to lunch afterwards and a campfire with soup, hot chocolate and marshmallows! That has increased  my kudos level  with them for a while. I even tidied spring-cleaned the yurt and think I might move the daybed into it for the summer holidays. Now it’s Tuesday tomorrow so I have another customer quilt waiting and MUST work on Buddha this week. The school holidays are only a few weeks away and that means the deadline for FOQ is looming… but I am  just going to go back out to the yurt first!

Wonky Tartan?!



This week has been a blur – again! I had several different projects going on. It’s a shame that doesn’t help you to lose weight. It should but I daresay that chocolate must cancel it out. Buddha has been getting mother of pearl buttons in increasing numbers. He started off with a few beside the prairie points but then I thought they looked quite good all over, without going too Pearly King  & Queen, that is… It is quite difficult getting them to stay in place. The tacking gun didn’t hold them so I have stuck them down with masking tape so they are roughly in the right place. It is a pain to move the quilt and all the carefully positioned embellishments just fall off! The original plan was to run a string of pearls around the border too but now it doesn’t look right. I even bought a foot for the machine to sew on strung pearls so may justify it by putting them next to the binding later.

I got the Region 16 QGBI raffle quilt done. This was a slightly odd job. A lot of people don’t like intense quilting and it is a fairly everyday sort of quilt. I thought about lots of ideas that might appeal to a wide audience and came up with the idea of swirls that I thought were slightly Pictish. I also did my casual cross-hatch because it reminds me of thistle tops and has a wonky tartan effect. I kept it simple and just shrunk the patterns in the middle. I want people to see that this is what I might call “utility” quilting. The Region 16 Committee seemed to like the photos so I hope they like the real thing too!

I decided that since June was fast approaching, I had better hurry up with my “Popular Patchwork” instructions for “Silent Movie Star” so I worked for ages on getting the text and pictures in the right order. I decided to do a photo-step-by-step set of instructions for the corner stars. This meant that I had to make a whole block specially but at least I know it works. I am going to make 4 more of these anyway for the Longarm Challenge quilt at FOQ (I must remember to confirm that I am entering!)

Jenny came over to help me get to grips with EQ6. She had done a couple of classes and wanted an actual project to test out all the theory. She had got the basic layout all set up by using the custom setting. I had read that chapter but my mind glazed over. She made me realise that there are several different ways of achieving the same goal in EQ6 and none of it was as complicated as it first seemed. Together we scanned in the actual fabrics. We even got the film strip border into the plan. I still think these programs like to get one-up on the operator though. Every now and then it would do odd things like put a rogue block into the line drawings that was not there on the colour version. The other weird thing is that EQ6 has “decided” that the finished quilt is 63” square, despite putting all the correct measurements in. The real thing is 58” square… The magazine staff will wonder why on earth they agreed to let me write a project for them when such a fat envelope arrives at their office. I even drew up fabric cutting plans. They will probably have to edit at least half of it out but at least I know that an idiot quilter like me should be able to complete the project from start to finish!

I took time off on Wednesday to go into Aberdeen where I bought very little at the very nice bead shop. I have so much to do at the moment that I almost can’t think about buying stuff unless it is for a project that is underway. The other purchase was a set of 3 enormous mugs for coffee with friends. They are so big that a top-up would not be necessary but since a top-up is actually part of the coffee drinking ritual, we will probably just drink twice as much.

At the weekend I went down to Edinburgh with my husband, Fergus and Fenella. Freya was away on a school activity weekend so it was interesting to see what it was like to have 2 children. There was a third less moaning about having sore feet, needing a drink or being bored! The weather was abnormally hot for Scotland in the high 20’s Celsius. We went to the zoo which I enjoyed more than I thought I would. I felt really slim at the zoo since quite a lot of the rest of the population there seemed to be quite a lot larger than me. There were some very sunburnt people wandering around without their shirts on… when I become Prime Minister I will ban people wandering around in public half naked! Edinburgh was very lively by comparison to Aberdeenshire. We saw the world’s most pierced and tattooed woman and the children were amazed at the number of people picnicking in the park. We enjoyed the National Gallery and Museum of Scotland despite looking around the exhibits with the low boredom threshold of the under 8’s! We had a great supper at Wagamamas which was the first time we have been anywhere a bit “exotic” that the children have also enjoyed.

Tania had been very kindly looking after the livestock for me. The pigs had kept tipping out their water to make a wallow. David said he hoped I had not intended to enter them into a show since they were so filthy!

Monday came around again with lots of washing to do and I was left in charge of the quilt shop. Four very nice ladies came on an outing from Blairgowrie and kept me busy for a while cutting fat quarters and chatting about projects. One of them said she thought I might be Linzi but wasn’t sure as was not wearing my bright green boots. It was actually too hot for Doc Martens again but our lovely spell of weather is due to break and snow is forecast on high ground later in the week – that is absolutely typical of Scotland in high summer!