Monthly Archives: September 2009

Buying and Selling Commodities from Pigfood to Bobbins

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At the shop on Monday, Barbara and I had to advise 2 keen beginners who announced that they were hopeless at choosing colours and didn’t know how to do patchwork but wanted to make Christmas tablemats of an unspecified quantity and size. We tried to explain that a simple block or panel would be good but they argued that they didn’t want square ones. I explained that they would need to add side borders or strips to make them rectangular. We then had to decide how much fabric, backing and wadding to cut for the as yet undecided project. We did our best to steer them towards a book or magazine project, drew out some basic diagrams and encouraged them to come back for more help if necessary.

Since signing up to British Telecom’s “International Friends & Family” rate I have become blasé about making international calls. I have now ordered spare bobbins from APQS, a couple of R&S boards for DIY quilters and a Quiltazoid – by phone to the USA. Most of this was done via PayPal. Virtual buying and selling is quite surreal. You can even move the virtual money around and never touch any of it. I also chatted to a thread manufacturer who has promised to send me samples of their newest thread and magnetic core bobbins. While doing admin, I upgraded my blog to the professional level but still can’t exceed 5000 mb. I have received several Facebook invitations from quilters and suppliers this week. I have only had a quick look at it so far – I can imagine that will open a whole new can of internet addiction worms – I can only just keep up with my emails, blogs, forums and idle browsing as it is! Unfortunately I did not get all my important admin finished. I still don’t have a firm quote for the septic tank, workshop alterations or confirmation that the butcher can deal with Ginger soon. I’m going to have to buy more pig food if he doesn’t return my calls soon.

After successfully finding a buyer for my little used Hartley Fence, I had to package it up and post it to the USA. I did not have a suitable box so padded it out with bubble wrap and wadding then made a tartan bag for it to travel in. The Post Office quoted me £69.00 in postage but luckily the buyer was still satisfied with the HF’s price so off it went.

I spent some time working on the enormous Area Day mystery Christmas project. The project itself is not enormous – I just decided to make it bed sized. I started to piece the very long strips together but noticed that one of them was slightly out of sync. I took it to school football practice to unpick. It would be great if I could rig a Featherweight up in the Landy to get on with piecing at such times – but then I might need an iron and some other gear too…

I attended a 2-day workshop with renowned Australian quilter, Gloria Loughman. She was a terrific tutor. The class was relaxed, inspiring and I understood every single explanation. The class project was an A2 sized project using batiks. Gloria looked a little concerned when I stuck 6 sheets of large paper together and started to pull out plain shot cottons and gold lame so I had to explain the yurt project. I tried to work fast so that I could finish as much as possible of the basic piecing. I was asked what colour my next big section would be so I replied, “Whatever colour I have in another long piece!” It made me think how much yardage is used up in long, curvy pieces. I will have to consider this when ordering more fabric. I am wondering whether to have a go at dyeing some basic plain cotton with the soft, Hungarian powder dyes for backing and maybe if some of it works well, I could also include some of it. There were a couple of tiny pieces of Cherrywood fabric in the chequered section which looked good. I tidied up the box of yurt UFO’s so far and discovered that I have 6 panels in progress. I have decided to have a bit of a blitz on these to make some proper progress. The patchwork can be relatively simple in places as long as the quilting is interesting.

I had a great time on Friday night at a “Race Evening”. Mo has been planning this event for months to help raise funds for the local Ghillie’s sponsored bicycle ride in Jordan to raise funds for the Nazareth Hospital. Tania and Mo had spent several days collecting raffle prizes, preparing food, hanging bunting and setting up the hall for crowds of friends, farmers and local businesses. On the night I helped by serving the curry & stovies and rolling a giant dice for the hobby-horse races. The atmosphere was fantastic. There was lots of “gambling”, plenty of booze and an auction. Mo was thrilled that my husband bought her Swirling Salmon embroidery picture and relieved that we all helped to clear up at the end.

LSD was at the Scottish Quilt Championships. I heard from a friend that the judging was “…as idiosyncratic as usual and that my quilt was in Illustrious company for not winning a prize!” All I can comment is, “Hmm…” It will be interesting to see what photos the magazines publish as being interesting from the show.

Saturday was a glorious autumn day that I spent tidying up and ironing but really not wanting to do anything at all. I had a cup of coffee with Mo and we were stunned as we watched a sparrow-hawk pick off a good sized chicken before our very eyes! In the afternoon between chores, I spent some time browsing the Internet for a cheap starter sewing machine for Fenella. I know I have plenty of machines but she so desperately wants one for her 6th birthday. I would love to get her the “Hello Kitty” machine from Target USA but if it doesn’t work I’m buggered and I’d need a step-down transformer. I could get her one for £49 from John Lewis and put stickers all over it but I suspect it will be awful. I could get her a more expensive one but she IS only almost 6… Now I wish I’d kept the Janome Jem that I sold because I thought I had an excessive quantity of machines! It would have been perfect – compact, needle down, speed limiter. She is always cutting up scraps and trying to draw on them or rearrange them. I have high hopes that she will be my apprentice quilter. After spending some fruitless time looking, I decided it was time we had a BBQ and a campfire with marshmallows. The fire was wonderfully hot but the air was decidedly chilly. Quilting weather is definitely on its way!

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I started another project…

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I have finished 3 little Golden Double Wedding Ring mini quilts in different mini fills this week and almost finished shells and plumes on a Christmassy pineapple log-cabin. I also started to put together some flying geese blocks that I made ages ago for a yurt panel. So on balance, you would think that I had made good progress. However, in the odd quiet moment in the shop on Monday, I started planning a completely new project. I have organised an Aberdeenshire Area QGBI day in November and had decided to do a mystery strippy Christmas project. It occurred to me that I should complete an example to show the participants. That would have been fine but then I decided to make the project MUCH bigger as my husband recently commented that we never seemed to get a new quilt for our bed. This new, big Christmas project involved a lot of cutting that seemed to take over completely from the time that I had allocated to yurt panel making. This is another project also in addition to the Thursday evening relaxation jelly roll quilt and the growing collection of miscellaneous vintage quilt tops also belonging to me. I must take myself in hand and have a crackdown on yurt panel piecing!

I have continued to battle with Aurilux thread. It seems to quilt along beautifully but then just shreds or comes undone. I now have a horizontal thread holder but could not say it has improved matters much. My Stitch Regulator is playing up again so I will make some adjustments but I think it needs new rubber washers – it has probably had more than average wear. This has meant that I have been stitching in non SR mode which is faster so tricky thread becomes even more demanding. I want to try a large cone to see if it is simply the shape of the spool that is at fault but so far the UK distributor for Aurifil has been like one of my invisible builders. Although, a builder did appear in order to measure up for insulation and new windows in my workshop. I wonder what ridiculous cost that will be?

I was feeling pleased with myself that I had found a UK supplier of bobbin cases and aluminium bobbin cases that match my APQS machine. However, supporting the UK economy will be difficult as it costs less than half price to import the same parts from the USA.

I offered to pick up a big jubilee clip for Mo’s yurt stove pipe when I was in town this week. I’m sure the ironmonger thinks I deliberately try to think of unusual things that he does not stock because I always seem to ask for oddities like obscure fuses or zinc mesh. All the same, it’s a good place to go for mouse traps, fireworks and Jeyes fluid.

Even though I did not manage to find a 6” jubilee clip, Mo, Tania and I had a yurt night on Friday with curry and champagne. We rigged up a small TV and watched a DVD. “Mongol” was in Mongolian with subtitles and told the brutal story of the young Genghis Khan. There were plenty of battles, yurts and quilted coats. We had to move the small telly closer so we could read the tiny subtitles but it was a great film!

I gave my first ever talk and PowerPoint presentation at the Aberdeen P&Q group. I had not realised that the notes that I carefully added to the bottom of my slides would not appear on the screen once it was all connected to the projector. There probably was a way but no-one there knew how. Anyway, I ad-libbed my way through the 60 slides. The talk lasted approximately 30 minutes which was slightly brief but at least people didn’t have time to get bored. I was told that everyone could hear at the back and that it was amusing and interesting – phew! I have made myself some notes to add if I get asked to do it again and will add some more anecdotes about how I think I got started with gold lame in the first place. I should probably give them more about my background and offer a Q&A session afterwards. I was even asked where you can buy “Popular Patchwork” magazine locally as part 2 of “Silent Movie Star” is in the October edition.

Over the weekend I tried not to spend so much time quilting so I fixed new perches up in the hen-house, added cider vinegar to the water, helped to tidy out the yurt which had got a bit cobwebby, and checked that bad pig’s fence. BUT, I did waste time trying to figure out why the Quilt Quine email has mysteriously stopped working. I also phoned my web provider to complain that I am still being billed for extra bandwidth or having my blog taken offline despite supposedly having unlimited bandwidth!

I even went on a family day out on Sunday to a vintage working horse transport demonstration day. It was overpriced and decidedly tame. A fake cowboy trotted after someone in a cow suit. I don’t suppose you would see that at a rodeo in Montana…

We went out for tea and I overindulged in a huge venison stew followed by a rich cinnamon rice pudding. It was absolutely delicious!

I don’t seem to have taken many quilty pictures this week but I photographed the bales in the field beside the house. The weather has been lovely – crisp in the morning and evening but still warm in the sun. The leaves are just starting to change colour and it’s getting dark earlier. There are still plenty of blackberries so I may have to spend some time picking and freezing them this week. I should think that bramble syrup would also go very nicely in vodka to be drunk in the yurt on a cold winter evening.

Lost and Found

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I wonder how many divorce cases would cite pig keeping or quilting as reasons to dissolve a marriage? My husband and I had a row the other night as we chased the pig around in the dark. Ginger had dug her way out of the garden. My husband was annoyed that I had been so busy quilting that I had not spent any time checking the perimeter of the pig fence. Freya had noticed the hole and reported that Ginger had taken a while to appear for her afternoon snack. The pig had not really run away – just gone on a temporary wander. I think she would have come back when she felt like it but I admit she should not actually have been on the loose. I set off with my bucket in the failing light and she came trotting over but then decided to lie down and not budge. There ensued quite a bit of chasing, choice words and sense of humour failure…

I had a bed-runner to do that was a bit odd since it didn’t have a back. I had to pin thin and stretchy black poly wadding to my canvas leaders and quilt wiggly lines along the central area of some black silk. This was Mo’s idea – she seemed to think it would be easier to finish off by folding in the unquilted top and bottom third than quilting 3 layers and binding the edges and since she is an experienced interior designer I didn’t argue. I will argue the next time.

We had a good look at some log-cabins that would be suitable for guest accommodation. There was a particularly nice German one with a few rooms and a sleeping loft. We need to upgrade the septic tank, reapply for planning permission then add up all of the costs. I asked 2 builders to come and look at the alterations that I have planned for the existing studio and neither one turned up to look at the job in order to give me a quote. I find this sort of thing is SO infuriating.

I managed to do a couple of sections on the paper foundation pieced spear that goes with the shield/seed pod. It is a very slow process and I just haven’t got the patience for it. I haven’t decided quite how to quilt it. It could be a bit tribal. I think I’d quite like to use a DSM to use the walking foot around the outside of the shield but I know the inner part is “full” due to the dress-making method of putting it together that I didn’t like so I expect that I’ll just wing it as usual.

I continued with the easy-peasy jelly roll on Thursday evening. It is nice to have a stress-free evening project although I do need to get on with some more yurt panels since the weeks are slipping away.

After school on Friday I drove down to Fife with Freya and Fenella in the Landy so that we could get to the Quilters’ Guild Regional Day on time the next morning. We sang along to “Mamma Mia” on the iPod, scoffed sweets and Freya did a great job of navigating as we did not get lost at all over the weekend. After staying overnight with my Uncle Peter we arrived at the venue before 9.00am but I was told that most of my duties had already been done as I had not arrived early enough. The traders had already been issued with their coffee vouchers and had their raffle prizes extracted so all I did was get in their way. I did try to be useful in other ways by minding people’s stalls so they could go to the loo and I also helped to clear up at the end despite having a 3 hour trip home still to do! It was great to meet up with quilting friends, Ellen, Angela and many others.

The speakers were good. Annette Morgan did a PowerPoint presentation on her work and inspirations. There was lots of photo manipulation, painting, burning and similar abstract stuff. It was very interesting but not something that I feel desperate to do myself. Gloria Loughman managed to bring more quilts with her due to her husband’s luggage allowance and her talk was more anecdotal. Her work is gorgeous in real life. I was taking note of both presentation techniques as I’m doing my first ever talk this week.

After being paid for the maple leaf quilt, I went straight to the Bring & Buy table and bought a quilt top. It is in lovely simple, bright colours, measuring 81” square. It had been pieced by a Guild member who died and it just spoke to me. I hope to place an order for a Quiltazoid gadget soon (once I get paid for the tapestry monster) and this would be a great quilt to experiment on. I also bought a super journal quilt by Jan Watson but it got lost. I think that it somehow did not go in the bag with the quilt top and perhaps was resold by mistake.

Freya and Fenella did a full day Young Quilters’ workshop on crazy patchwork. They both produced tea-cosies and all of the YQ’s wore them on their heads when they paraded onto the stage for “Show & Tell”. Both girls really enjoyed their day and Freya now feels that she knows the other YQ’s from around Scotland pretty well. Fenella just fitted straight in, as usual!

Lessons Learned

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Some of the Mothers from school had arranged to meet for an end of term lunch. They sent me a text to remind me but my text reply said,” Still got a pig to catch!”

The pig operation did not run as smoothly as hoped and hindsight is always a wonderful thing. I should have parked the trailer in their pen and used it as a feeding hut for several days but my husband did not want me to take down the fence to gain access. The plan was to entice the pigs across the garden with a bucket of pellets. If that plan failed we would get Welly to help again. “We” means Tania and me… I lowered the electric wire to the ground but they would not cross it. I had to CUT the wire and then they ventured over. Now it was a very, very hot day. These pigs thought a trot around the garden might be fun. The last time they followed a bucket was after a whole, tiring afternoon of being out but this time they wanted to explore. They were especially impressed by the area of garden where the septic tank overflow needs to be repaired and so they were quickly wallowing in smelly sludge. They also decided to start rooting up the turf with their plough-like noses. Ginger decided that it might be fun to attempt to tip over the henhouse or hide under the trampoline. The dog got grunted at and ran away to cower. I tried calling almost every farmer and friend but no-one was answering their phone. After a while Splodge decided to co-operate and climb on board the trailer. Once inside she was not too impressed and crashed about a bit. We ran around for a little while longer trying to corner Ginger too but soon realised that we would face an impossible task of lowering the tailgate long enough to get the second pig on board. I had to make the hard decision of just taking one pig to the abattoir now that we were running a bit late. Tania and I were now pretty red in the face and smelly. There was a 45 minute drive to the abattoir in Inverurie and via the town centre. The next nightmare was pulling into the wrong entrance and havening to back the trailer up 100 yards without jack-knifing. Since I was not a member of the Young Farmers, I had not learned this skill. We drove around the block, missed the unmarked gates and had to back up again. When we got into the compound I had to reverse again. The heat was unbelievable. There were forklifts driving around with unmentionable loads. I was glad that we were the only people delivering any animals. The worst part now was that poor Splodge had become rather overcome by heat and had to be man-handled out of the trailer and into the big shed. I felt that it was a traumatic end to a wonderful life. It is a criminal shame that Government regulations have closed down small abattoirs closer to home. I could have made 2 short trips. I had assumed that this one would be all super modern and clean but it was just like a scruffy farmyard from the outside – we did not go in.

At home we had some strong coffee, crisps and cake before going to tidy up. Ginger came snorting over all indignant because her friend had gone. I managed to fix the fence and get her back in. Farmer Raymond called by and said there was no way he would take any of his beasts to the abattoir in person – he gets a haulier in to do the job for him. I felt that if I was going to rear animals for meat than I should not just play at it but follow the whole process through to the bitter end – but what a traumatic end… I have decided to keep Ginger until after the school holidays, by which time she will be the size of a hippo!

I was making good progress on the large, ugly quilt so decided to keep going in the evening. The light was not so good so it took me a while to notice that the tension had gone haywire. After making many adjustments, I decided that the holey bobbins were to blame. I had to unpick and redo quite a large area which took far longer than if I had noticed that there was a problem in the first place.

I went to a circle-piecing class one evening. Dressmaking was mentioned again. Large curves were cut from a stack of squares, shuffled and pieced together even tough the edges overlapped. I kept asking questions – would this work with Drunkard’s Path? No-one could explain why not. I eventually realised that you need an additional seam allowance for the edges of curves to meet up again. There was a lot of pinning involved which is not what I usually bother to do. Most people had avoided fabric that slithers and frays. I ended up with 6 wonky, retro circles. I have to make 9 more before the next class. This will be a yurt panel, not a bed quilt!

Having wrestled with the dread of dealing with a large area of curved piecing on my giant flying geese seed pod, I settled on a variation of invisible machine appliqué. I spray glued the paper pattern onto the backing fabric, drew on a generous seam allowance and registration marks then stitched right along the edge of the paper. I clipped the seam allowance and ironed it right under the stitch line (this is where you need a series of photos…). This got pinned onto the seed pod and sewn with a small zigzag stitch using invisible thread – a pretty good result.

Since we were having a heat wave I decided to make iced tea because I thought that might be refreshing. I couldn’t find a recipe so decided to make one up. It worked well:

Make a strong pot of tea with 2 builder’s teabags and 2 mint teabags – brew for 5 mins

Simmer sprigs of mint, the juice of a lemon and half of its zest, half a cup of sugar and a couple of pints or so of water for 5 mins

Let tea and concoction cool a bit before pouring everything into a very large jug with more mint sprigs and lemon zest – when it eventually chilled, it was delicious.

I had a surge of production before school broke up on Friday and finished piecing the orange and pink quilt. There was some fiddling and cheating to get the piano keys to look good at the top corner then I had a brainwave of running a stay-stitch all around the outside edge to stop it from stretching or falling apart – I don’t know why I never thought of it before! I decided that the central Lonestar section looked a bit full and I am far too lazy to attempt trapunto so I have rashly set up 2 layers of the new Quilter’s Dream Puff on the quilt frame – it looks very puffy.

After my frenzy of quilt finishing and tension troubles I treated the machine to a really good clean. The penny dropped that the rubbing alcohol the Americans talk about for cleaning the rails must be surgical spirit. The workshop got a good clear-out too so now I’m ready to have some fun on the pink and orange “duvet”.

I spent the day helping Fergus to work on his Birmingham quilt. Working with my children is very frustrating – they do not work as fast or efficiently as I do, especially when I have a million things to do. They also get bored. I know I am a compete slave driver but I can’t afford for the project to be put on one side and forgotten about.

We had to print and trace the famous wave painting then colour it in. The first paddy involved felt pens that had dried up so we switched to watercolour pencils. We thought that the picture would have to be a mirror image but if I had read the T-shirt transfer instructions properly, I would have seen that this does not work like that and may have avoided wasting 2 sheets. The drawing had to be scanned in and printed onto transfer paper the right way round. Leftover log cabin strips were added and soon the mini quilt was made – A2 is definitely big enough for a child to tackle. We decided to draw some curves on the back with a bendy ruler and fill them in with the DSM using the foot as a guide. This took some time and steering – Fergus likes using the sewing machine but also likes to fiddle with the settings and the height adjustable chair. It is looking really good but now he has some hand-sewing to do with tiny pearls. I wonder how long it will be before he gets bored – a bribe may have to be used at some point!

Just don’t ask a busy person…

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That saying, “if you want something done, ask a busy person…” really should be banned. It is true that busy people do seem to get things done but that is only so they can get things out of the way to move onto the next thing that they have to do! I seem to done quite a lot this week as well as spending more time than is probably healthy on the computer. I think it was because it rained heavily. I stayed at home and just got on with things.

After completing my application for the QGBI’s first travel bursary I joined IMQA so that I can apply for a scholarship to classes at MQS. I have to submit a 1500 word essay for that but I’m sure I can manage to fit that in. I remembered to book the village hall in Echt for an Aberdeenshire Area Day on November 21st so now I need to remember to tell Guild members about it. I’m going to do a Christmas swap and mystery project.

The Headteacher of the children’s school reminded me that I had offered to run a quilting project so I will be going in to work with groups of children at the end of October. I’m going to get them to do something for the FOQ School Competition in 2010 on “Cityscapes”. Of course, speaking to the Head reminded me that I had to write a Parent Council Chairperson’s report for the School AGM on Monday.

Freya came home from Girl Guide with an old wooden ammunitions box covered in about 20 years’ worth of paint. Apparently, my task is to strip off all the old paint so the Guides can start again with some new paint. I have spent 3 hours so far with a scraper and a heat gun and will have to use paint stripper and coarse sand paper to get the rest off. It would have been far more cost effective to get a new box. They’d better do a good job of repainting it.

I have received several different requests to run classes this week so I really need to sort something out. Mo and I are going to run a block of 4 cushion making classes to start with but I have also been asked to run weekly project classes, Saturday projects with soup and Longarming weekends. This forced me to discuss What Happens Next with the Studio plans with my husband. Everything had fizzled out when we realised that the project was going to cost twice what we imagined. I have asked him to consider a simpler plan to improve the workshop that I already have and think about a log cabin for guests to stay in overnight. He has agreed that I can get a builder in to quote for moving a wall and a few other jobs and get a quote for a new septic tank; he is even going to take a look at the log cabin shop with me – so finally I can start to plan again. I even mentioned that I would like to invest in an overseas trip and possibly a second Longarm machine for teaching. He really wants to get a Lotus sports car but said he’d consider it. All I need to do is generate an income to show that all this investment is worthwhile!

However, I have done a lot of spending this week. There was nothing very expensive – just lots of small things that all add up. I sourced fuses and needles for the longarm machine in the UK so bought some. I ordered Superior thread from Barnyarns, a small amount of Oakshott for my forthcoming class with Gloria Loughman, ordered a thread guide and spool holder for the longarm AND some knitting needles and wool. I decided that I should have a project that was easy to pick up if there are quiet moments at the shop on Mondays after I have rearranged the bolts of fabric. Now, my knitting is only marginally better than my crochet. I have chosen a yarn with big fluffy lumps in order to make a scarf. I hope short scarves are fashionable.

I had two small customer quilts to do this week. The first was a Maple Leaf quilt which cooperated nicely. I just did some simple swirls on it. After I had finished I experimented with some Aurifil cotton and poly samples down the spare bit at the edge and was impressed that it worked well after creating a looser thread path. The Storm at Sea quilt was more challenging. I don’t know precisely what it was but I had so much trouble with the tension being variable and the stitch regulator also started forgetting to do its job. There were a few things that could have caused difficulties: many loose threads and overlarge seams, incredibly fluffy cotton wadding that gave off puffs of lint while I was quilting and the backing was a white on cream which felt slightly plasticky. The colours were very dark and cream so the choice of thread colour was tricky. I chose King Tut variegated cotton in greens and purple – it would quilt along nicely then throw out a little loop on the back so I would have to stop and make adjustments. Then I ran out of thread on the last border, having wasted a fair amount when fiddling about but luckily I had some Rainbows thread that was similar enough to finish the job. I read all the advice and pages on tension about speed, tautness of the quilt sandwich, needle size but still couldn’t decide exactly what the problem was. If I loosened the tension the top thread was too loose…urgh! I think that it would have helped to have different thread underneath but on this project it just didn’t want to work. I’m not convinced that I actually like working with King Tut so I need to get some bigger reels to really decide if I like Aurifil. The 50wt variegated cotton looks really promising.

This week I decided to make sure that I did some sewing for the yurt project. It wasn’t much but I pieced together the flying geese that went awry so now I can join them somehow and I plucked up the courage to do the paper foundation piecing on the last part of the Stirling project. After about 3 hours I’m still only halfway along the strip and yet again, reminded why I don’t do much of this type of piecing. I know the results are accurate but I find it so slow and wasteful!

On Thursday evening when the quilting ladies come round I thought I would do something uncomplicated for a change so I took a jelly roll that I got nearly 2 years ago and a simple purchased pattern for jelly rolls and was reminded how patchwork is supposed to be relaxing and not necessarily challenging – I really enjoyed it. I might even stick to the pattern and not make it bigger or trickier at all!

Some of the tasks for the coming week are to post LSD for the Scottish Quilt Championships after remembering to photograph the back for the Road 2 California entry form, putting up a new chicken run, write notes to go with the PowerPoint presentation, print off directions to get to Fife for an overnight stop and Livingston for the Autumn Regional Day without getting too lost, and adding more bandwidth to the blog as it is running low already. I hope that actual quilters read it and not just Spammers!