Monthly Archives: August 2009

My Head Might Burst


I kept waking up in the middle of the night thinking of something else that I might need to do. Last week I got the tapestry monster all bound and a colourful double-sided batik but then just as I think I’m catching up, more quilts come in! I now have 3 small Golden DWR’s, a Storm at Sea and 2 others in my workshop. That does not include anything of mine or quilts that I know are on their way. I MUST crack down and get some yurt piecing done so that I feel it is under control. I may even need to buy my roll of canvas and start on the mammoth task of quilting the tartan roof soon.

I have spent a lot of time on the phone and computer this week corresponding with APQS owners in the UK. I’m trying to get a good dialogue going between everyone so that there is more collaboration on technical help and we can arrange classes. I have been on the phone to APQS in the USA and a rep in Australia to get advice on servicing and the sort of events that Longarmers will find useful. There was a great debate on the Forum sparked by Ferret about how past customer service in the UK had been disappointing; everyone is keen to move on now and APQS in the USA has promised to send over a top technician to train us over here.

The quilts and judges’ comments came back from FOQ promptly. The comments are interesting and can vary tremendously. Freya had one judge that said she had excellent machine quilting yet another thought it could have been more imaginative. Bewitched had positive comments and many ticks in the Excellent column. I can look back on my original entry to FOQ in 2006 and see a great improvement so eventually I hope to see most of the ticks in the Excellent boxes!

I was delighted to receive an email from Ingrid Press who had a gallery at FOQ.  I explained to her that I had left my new camera in the car and she very kindly sent me some pictures of her quilts.

I have applied for a travel bursary to go abroad for advanced longarming lessons that will in turn benefit quilters in the UK when I pass on my expertise. I had to explain why I thought I need to go abroad to do this and give details on shows or classes for 2010. There are many to choose from ranging from Claudia Pfeil’s Open House in Germany to various big shows in the USA including MQS, Innovations, and Houston… All I need is time and money!

The other issue keeping me awake has been my workshop/studio conversion. The building quotes were double what we expected. I would like to have accommodation in order to hold retreats and to make a trip to Aberdeenshire more appealing. It is perceived to be a long way from England but Aberdeen has a major airport, good rail links and driving here is quiet and scenic. My parents have been staying here for a week in their caravan and have been very comfortable. I saw some fantastic log cabins that are far less expensive that the workshop conversion. I will still need planning permission in order to connect up plumbing but it is an option that we need to consider.

I organised a Young Quilters’ Day here on Saturday. There was only one visiting YQ with her Mother plus my own children and a neighbour. Freya was not in a good frame of mind in the morning as she told me that, “Quilting is boring and for old ladies!” That did not put me in a very good mood. However, they all had a great day and achieved a lot. They used fabric paints with stamps and stencils then sewed log cabin strips of African fabrics to their centre-piece and even quilted it by machine. The finished article is ready to turn into a cushion or wall-hanging. Fergus was particularly keen but tended to rush a bit, especially since the Featherweight only seems to sew fast. By the end of the day they all even told me that they had enjoyed themselves. It was hard work – a lot of paint got used up rather extravagantly but the fact that the YQ’s enjoyed the day made it worthwhile.

Festival of Quilts 2009


I decided to drive down to meet Ellen in Falkirk in the Landy and used a Google map for my route. I found the town centre easily but then got lost. I rummaged in my bag to get the mobile phone out to call Ellen for help and somehow took out the new camera then covered it up with my road atlas…

We flew from Edinburgh Airport with a pilot who seemed to think he should be a stand-up comedian over the intercom and had a pretty scary landing at Birmingham. It was windy and fast. I swear that the tyres were bald by the time we eventually stopped on the runway in a stunned silence. This gave us a good excuse to open a bottle of wine as soon as we got into our room.

Ellen and I attended the Gala Dinner at the Hilton on Thursday evening so we could see the prizes being awarded. There were some oddly inappropriate jokes. I think alcohol must have been freely consumed by some! It was noisy and quite difficult to chat across the large tables. We sat near an opinionated couple of “pros”. They started off interestingly enough but after a while it was all “Blah, blah…!” Anyway, it is always interesting to see what Quilters wear. I was NOT wearing the tweed waistcoat that I had commissioned as it turned out not to be quite what I had in mind. My new boots received many admiring looks (or maybe they were disbelieving looks).

After an early start, we joined the crowds waiting to rush in the doors at 10am on Friday morning. Some people were of the opinion that there were fewer quilts this year due to the new structure of the categories. There were many contemporary quilts and art quilts. There seemed to be a trend towards dark coloured quilts but the NEC is poorly lit so they do not show up so brightly. The Best in Show Award went to Sue Nickels and Pat Holly – it was a beautiful and delicate old-fashioned Baltimore. The winning art quilt was quilted very skilfully. The interesting thing was that I thought there were many wonderfully pieced OR quilted quilts but not many that had achieved both. There were also a lot of painted quilts. Sheena Norquay won 2 prizes for her marvellous quilts with circles in the competitions. Her gallery of work was gorgeous and she made an admiring comment about Buddha in return! The other galleries that I particularly loved were Jenny Bowker’s Eygptian tradesmen and the works of Ingrid Press. Without my camera, I could not take any photos!!

I always enjoy lurking near my own quilts. It gives me more of an idea about whether people actually like or admire them. I hate it when no-one seems to stop and look but quite a few passed good comments so occasionally I introduced myself so that I could tell them all about the quilt. People really love to know how the quilts come about. I heard a lady say that she didn’t see how you could put “Bewitched” on a bed because you could never wash it. I took great delight in telling her that I would just bung it in the machine. She looked horrified at this heresy until I told her that it was my quilt. Lots of people asked how long the quilts took. I always try to keep a tally of time but after a while I get so engrossed in the project that I forget to keep track.

I decided that I would make an effort to speak to anyone whom I recognised and a lot more besides. We saw lots of the people who we had met on the trip to Paducah last April. I also did a lot of “schmoozing”! I am trying to make people aware of the Yurt project so that it will get bookings after it has been to LLQS in May 2010. I spoke to Aurifil but typically, the handsome Italian men had gone for coffee when I arrived at their stand. I introduced myself to the Oakshotts as I will need quite a lot of their fabric for the yurt. Feeling conscious about the restrictions of the weight of hand luggage, I didn’t buy that much. I did buy some paints, stamps and stencils for the children (well – me actually). I still managed to spend more than I had hoped so I’ll just have to quilt faster to get some quilts for people finished.

“Silent Movie Star” was admired on PP’s stand and they checked the border instructions over with me. I admire their thoroughness. There was an error in my measurements for the border that was obvious once it was hanging so that will be correct for the next issue in October. Judi Mendelssohn bumped into me and said she might interview me for P&Q’s “Meet a Quilter” when she visits The Seattle Quilt Company in Aberdeen.

I managed to meet some of the UK Longarmers at Ferret’s fabulous gallery. There is never enough time to really get to know people other than a quick “hello” but at least you can then put a face to who is on the Forum. I hope that this will give the APQS gals the opportunity to join a UK specific Longarm Group, along with Gammill quilters. This would enable us to share expertise and be more likely to bring over longarmers from the USA. I shared out my cakes. I had teased that these were very low fat. They were actually knitted. I found them on Etsy. They were made in the UK by Lynne who is the talented lady who makes them and also designs patterns.  Look up cakesknitsandcosies on Etsy – they are very cute!

After a while at any large quilt show everything blurs a bit. I can never find the stall that I thought I would go back to and start to wonder if I can look at any more quilts. I think there should be more seating among the quilts so you can simply sit and admire in comfort like at an art gallery. I also think FOQ should set up a temporary Post Office like Paducah. It is also amazing that some stall-holders don’t take cards or ship. Ellen and I decided that FOQ and QGBI should introduce purchase prizes for the winning quilts for a National Quilt Collection. We are full of bright ideas…

I really enjoyed the show but now have to get back to the binding on that huge tapestry quilt. I really need to get stuck into the Yurt project soon too!

Plum Jam or Monster Quilt Avoidance Tactics


I decided to get the massive quilt for one of Mo’s stately home customers out of the way so I can get back to “proper” quilts after FOQ. I kept putting it off but it just wouldn’t go away.

I did all sorts of things to avoid facing up to this project. I made jam, cherry liqueur, bread, cheesy biscuits, yogurt, did the ironing, spent hours on the computer answering every post on the APQS forum, looked up wireless headphones on Amazon, looked up decals to see if my machine would like “tattoos”, tidied out my wardrobe, watched quilting clips on U-tube, cleaned out the chickens, and even wondered whether to approach Channel 4 to see if they would like to do a Docu-Soap about my life but eventually I had to tackle it.

It is 126” square, made of heavy tapestry curtain fabric, with brown raw silk on the back. I had to measure and join carefully to make it so large. I would normally use poly wadding but this was extra large so I opted for extra wide Warm & Natural. I wish I had investigated wide wool or silk instead because this combination has meant that the back is speckled with cotton pokies. I expect some of them might steam or rub off but they look a bit fuzzy right now.

It was thrilling to open “Popular Patchwork” Magazine on Saturday to see my first project in print on p.40. “Silent Movie Star” will be published in 2 parts for September and October. Milton Studio has already had phone calls asking whether it is possible to buy a kit of the fabric! Barbara has not got all of the original fabrics but I’m going to help her pull out a range of close substitutes. My original article was very long so that the step-by-step instructions were idiot proof (myself being the most idiotic where instructions are concerned) so it has been edited. It looks very professional and even has colour photos!

Jenny, a friend/computer guru, came to show me how to do a PowerPoint presentation. I am giving my first ever talk to the Aberdeen P&Q Group on September 16th at 7.30pm in the Rubislaw Church Centre. I have 60 slides about “My Quilts & their Travels”. I had wondered how I could talk for more than 5 minutes but I may even have to shorten it. My husband showed me a PowerPoint presentation from work that was all flow diagrams and bullet points but mine is pretty basic – pictures and captions. After compiling all 60 slides I wanted to change the background and add my logo but I seemed to do it in the most long-winded and complicated way possible.

Despite all the cooking and baking that got done this week, I am quite possibly going to shelve the Aga  project for the time being. I really want to invest in a Quiltazoid and start saving for an overseas trip to get some advanced Longarming lessons. I have lots of ideas to think about. My studio renovation project is not going ahead at the moment because the quotes were over budget so I need to reconsider alternative plans. I would also like to seriously consider adding a Lenni to my studio to be able to offer DIY quilting, classes and take it along to do demos with the Yurt exhibition.

This week I would like to get the Monster quilt done, see what progress the dress-maker has made, get the children back to school, enter LSD for “Road 2 California” and draft out my proposal for a travel bursary and finally, pack my bag for FOQ!

For anyone who is avoiding doing what they should be doing, I have included a few recipes. They are quite flexible – feel free to substitute brown flour, chilli, different plums or whatever as appropriate…!


Plum Jam (makes about 6 jars)

4lb Victoria plums – cut in half and remove stones

3lb sugar

14 fl oz water

A few cloves

Put plums, cloves and water into large pan and cook gently for about 20 mins

Add sugar; boil rapidly for about 15 mins. Drop a little onto a cold saucer. If it wrinkles when pushed with your fingertip, it will set. Plum jam sets easily so it should be OK.

Pour into clean jars.

Cheesy Feet Biscuits (makes about 2 dozen)

8 oz plain flour

6 oz soft marg or butter

6 oz cheddar cheese

Big pinch mustard or chilli powder

Mix flour and marg with a fork in a bowl

Add mustard and grated cheese and squish into dough by hand

Sprinkle worktop and rolling pin with flour; roll dough out to ¼” thick; cut with foot shaped cutter; space out on flat tin covered with baking parchment; bake at around 160 dg Celsius for 12 mins

Cherry Syrup for Vodka

Use around 2lb wild black cherries or brambles

Juice of one lemon

Enough water to cover the fruit in the pan

2lb sugar

Boil up cherries, lemon juice and water for about 5 minutes. Mash up well and squash through a metal sieve. Add sugar to liquid and bring to a simmer for about 5 more minutes. Pour this into bottles. Add this to vodka for a lovely liqueur. (Give the squashed cherry mush to Pig in Garden!)

Distracted by Jam


I should have been quilting all day but jam–making took over. I now have 6 jars of Victoria Plum and a large bottle of cherry syrup for vodka. We have a great crop of wild black cherries but most of them are well out of reach. I might make some wild rowan jelly but I need to find some crab apples to add. The only thing stopping me from brewing, boiling, bottling and labelling will be when I run out of jars. Freya has requisitioned quite a few to fill with Harry Potter potions of food colouring and herbs.

I also had several phone calls and a day of e-mails so it’s a wonder that I managed not to spill or burn any of the molten berry and sugar mixtures.

I had to attach new straps to the yurt crown cover as the B&Q stuff had rotted in the sun. I started the job with the hand crank machine outside. It stitched through the sailcloth beautifully but I could not reduce the stitch size or go backwards so I ended up dragging it inside complete with squashed cherries, bird poo and earwigs. I have rigged up a temporary plastic tarpaulin so that some of the acidic mess does not go all over the canvas – I think it could shorten the lifespan of the roof cover.

I rattled off a pretty squares quilt made from Fabric Freedom William Morris prints for my Mother-in Law’s birthday but haven’t quilted it yet. It is only a single size so should be done quite quickly when I stop making jam and checking e-mails.

I put on all of the hotfix crystals on LSD and got the label ready…LSD is the pink and orange quilt! The most popular name chosen for it by the APQS forum was “Linzi in the Sky with Diamondz”.

I finally managed to get in touch with Beryl Cadman, the European Gammill distributor as she had organised the challenge and was going to hang it all at FOQ. She informed me that she had only just found out that she would be charged a large fee to have the gallery at FOQ so would now only be able to display one or two quilts in her booth. I spoke to someone today who informed me that the layout for FOQ was confirmed with all exhibitors in May. I have now decided to enter it into a couple of shows. Funny, really… it was not made for a competition so lacks some finesse but often these are the quilts that are freer so you never know. I have asked Grosvenor Exhibitions if they will accept it at the Scottish Quilt Championships even though today was the deadline for entries. Ferret suggested that I send it to the USA so I might just look into Road to California and there is always MQS 2010.

Don’t tell my husband, but I went to Costco and paid cash for a new camera! It’s a Panasonic Lumix TZ6 and I know several people who are delighted with what it can do. I have never been satisfied with the sharpness and colour of quilts, especially indoors. I decided that I need a really good camera for shows and for the yurt in progress project.

Popular Patchwork called today to check some of the details of the “Silent Movie Star” instructions. They have given it a 5-star difficulty rating! The inner part is really easy but the corners and borders are fiddly to describe. A tester has tried it out and it all seems to work. It will be a 2-part project in September and October 2009. I’m so excited!

I have ordered some special cakes to take to FOQ to share with the longarmers I meet there. I can’t post pics of them yet because I want it to be a yummy surprise – they are definitely low fat!

Norfolk Holiday and Wedding



I’m back in Scotlandafter almost 2 weeks in Norfolk for my sister’s wedding:

The children and I travelled down by train, cutting at least 3 hours off our journey. We had 3 trains to catch; the 3 F’s had their own picnic in their backpacks and plenty to keep them occupied. I finished a book and we did the whole trip door to door in less than10 hours. I was converted back to train travel and had visions of us all going back-packing inEuropeby train. The journey home was more typical… With the threat of strikes the following day, the trains were crowded, every one was delayed, we had no booked seats because we missed our connections, the loos were out of order but I didn’t have to drive, the children did not really complain and I had a G&T atEdinburgh.

It was a manic but fun trip. My parents had 13 people staying at their house from Scotland and the South of England. We had guests in spare rooms, a caravan and a VW camper. It was all hands on deck to do potatoes, beans, and huge marrows for the suppers. There were various barbecues. My Dad had a new one made from an oil drum and some sort of metal cage. It had a spit attached that was powered by a battery pack. We did a test run on a chicken which twirled and cooked beautifully. It was intended for a post wedding Barbie with a large loin of pork. Things are never straightforward in my family. My Dad decided that the spit system need to be modified so he cut it down with an angle grinder and somehow the battery pack had to be turned upside down which meant that the batteries fell out. He had omitted to ask the butcher to bone and tie the 22” joint that arrived frozen solid. He proceeded to saw a bit off and tied it up with string. I slashed the fat with a Stanley knife for crackling. The new joint was not symmetrical and quite a lot larger than the chicken. The batteries were unable to turn the meat which got stuck and burned my crackling. There was a bit of a kerfuffle and eventually the meat had to simply be turned over manually periodically. Great entertainment, though…

We borrowed a garden marquee in case of thundery showers but it was a flimsy model so it kept trying to take off like a kite. Fergus grabbed a corner and was lifted off the ground. After half of the tent straddled the high hedge, it got dismantled. Luckily, the marquees at my sister’s house were more substantial as we had torrential rain during the meal. Fortunately, it was dry and sunny up until then so the photographs and dresses survived the downpours. Hayley and Andy’s garden looked magnificent. The tables had lovely, cottagey jugs of flowers and the whole tent was filled with bunting and fairy lights. There was even a ping-pong table. Someone asked if that was how people danced these days as all they could see was leaping at the far end of the tent.

As my sister is expecting a baby in November, there were alterations to be made to her slim fitting satin dress. My Mother had struggled with 3 layers of petticoat and inserted extra pieces but it all had to be finished off by hand to get the zip back in. I was roped in to help but my dress-making skills are poor and my hand sewing is not much better. There was an incident a bit like the trapunto trimming on Buddha but I managed to fix it without anyone finding out.

The wedding at St. Giles Registry Office in Norwichwas lovely. There was even a piper a couple of doors down at another wedding so it looked as though we had arranged it ourselves. Freya and Andy’s niece, Maddie, read a poem in unison without having met or practised previously. Freya was a bit put out that she was not allowed to wear her new, blue converse boots when one of Andy’s work colleagues from work had a red pair on with his suit. I was glad when the photos were finally over as it meant that I could discard my high heels and put on a pair of crocs. The food was magnificent – Fergus enjoyed several pieces of pork pie and ham without salad and even 2 puddings. He kept taking my camera to make mini movies about ladybirds and stunt falling-out-of-hammock routines so the memory soon became full. There were diverse conversations around the table ranging from quilting to ipods, unco-operative satellite TV systems and well digging.

Over the holiday there were many late nights and bottles of wine. Freya trained a ladybird to sit up on its hind legs. She kept a super holiday diary with illustrations. Fenella and Fergus bickered over building a Lego camper van and who was allowed in the hammock. We all went to Southwold one day and enjoyed ice-cream cones in front of the beach huts. I read 2 thought provoking books. Victoria Hislop’s was based on the Spanish Civil War (I can’t remember the title because I have returned it to Tania) and Malorie Blackman’s “Noughts and Crosses” where society is truly black and white and the two are forbidden to mix. I have to admit that I am intrigued by the Amazon Kindle that is now available in theUSA. I first saw it on Bonnie Hunter’s website. It is an electronic book that can store and download hundreds of books to save you carrying a great pile on holiday. If you get tired, it will even read out loud. It sounds fun and super-techie but I do love real books.

I did manage to fit 2 quilt related trips in as well. I met Helen Howes who is a kite maker and textile artist working in a barn in Raveningham. I was most impressed by her pieces on trees. She gave me a teaching programme in case I would like to invite her to Scotland. Her website is very nice indeed

I also wandered around a strange collection of antique rugs and textiles all piled higgledy-piggeldy in part of the old farmhouse at Raveningham. There was one that really intrigued me. It had locks of hair attached to a central area and individual quiltlets around the edges. They were all in a scruffy state but they could provide some inspiration. After I have finished the washing and blogging, I had better get on with some work to help fund my trip to FOQ in a fortnight. And buy gear for Freya’s Girl Guide camp, school uniform, sort out new chicken fencing, decide on Ginger’s fate, write a PowerPoint presentation, apply for another grant … the usual!