Monthly Archives: November 2009

Sunshine and Showers


This week’s weather is a mirror of my fortunes. Beautifully still and sunny one minute but torrential rain and gloomy the next. That’s a bit melodramatic but this week has brought several ups and downs! I have obviously been preoccupied since I haven’t taken any photos. I’ll have to go and find something on the web for this week’s photo…

I finally finished the Kaleido quilt with spirographs and it looks great. Some of the designs are not absolutely central but it’s hardly noticeable. I even made full use of my channel locks to do piano key quilting; I only had to listen for the magnets to click into place for horizontal or vertical. I also worked away on the Bloody Bargello and have half of it all sewn together, the other panels are ready to attach and I really can’t see the mistakes now. So that was all good progress BUT still no sign of George the Builder, the Boiler Man or the Butcher.

I finally made up my mind to purchase a second laptop, small enough to take on my travels. I had hankered after a netbook but they don’t have DVD drives. I made some calls for advice, posted a query on the APQS forum about what everybody likes, talked myself out of a Macbook and settled on a red Dell. I purchased it online with my credit card BUT the cash that I had put onto it at the bank had not cleared so it was declined. I decided to use my brand new Business card but it was refused too. This is the card that I can’t read the PIN number on because it is a scratch and reveal system so sensitive that every time I get one I scratch it off completely. The bank said the card was fine and I had funds so then I called Dell back. After I had been put on hold, transferred several times and been cut off, I wondered if I had made a good choice. It got ordered and paid for in the end.

I was feeling great that I had been paid commission for my APQS sale and would be able to pay for the flights down to England on my credit card BUT then I received a bill from the architect who drew up the plans for the workshop conversion.  He wants 6% of the lowest tender which is £10 000!!  I had to call him and say that since the work wasn’t going ahead on this over-priced project, £10K seems a bit steep. I reminded him that the original brief was for accommodation costing £80 000 max, that would give me an income to pay off the ensuing mortgage and now that I can’t afford to get the work done I have no income. I explained all this calmly despite feeling hysterical and he said he would draw up a fee based on the time spent working on the plans. I daresay he will still manage to charge £5000…

On Friday I gave 2 ladies a thorough Longarm Demo. They wanted to figure out whether they should invest in one to start their own quilting business. They had a long list of questions about cost, reliability, VAT, insurance, what sort of a market there is for longarming, extras, and techniques. They were very impressed by the R&S boards and the Quiltazoid as an economical alternative to a computerised system. They went away seeming very enthusiastic with plenty to think about and discuss.

I handed Tania a vast pot containing a bacon hock, lentils and veg and asked her if she would turn it into soup for the Quilters coming to the Area Day on Saturday. She made a wonderful vat of soup; I decided to forget about home-bakes and get Mr Kipling to make some “exceedingly good cakes” for me. The Area Day went well and I didn’t forget anything crucial. There were only 15 quilters there, including 2 very enthusiastic Young Quilters, aged 6 and 8 but they all enjoyed the project , admired my half finished Bloody Bargello, produced some wonderful quilts at “Show & Tell” , and proclaimed Tania’s soup delicious.

Operator Error and Mechanical Malfunctions


In a week where I lost 2 whole quilting days to working in the shop, attending meetings about forthcoming meetings and a school project it was obvious that the remaining time would be taken up by things not running as smoothly as they should. The boiler repair man failed to appear because he went to the wrong house, the dishwasher blew up with a bang and I spent 3 hours unpicking 3 minutes worth of longarming. I thought I had the sequence for setting up Quiltazoid spiro designs off pat; I had read the instructions several times, after all. I stitched a super spiro design but it was decidedly off centre. I looked at the DVD again over a cup of coffee and realised that I had not completed the set-up properly. I started all over again, checking that everything was in place but still the design was not as central as expected. It was at this point when it dawned on me that I have been working on a very wonky quilt. The blocks are not equal in size and the whole thing is skewed. I decided that this piecer would not notice what I was noticing at close range so stippled around the spiros and used my channel locks for some rather nice piano key quilting.

I had 2 new enquiries about APQS machines this week. I am delighted to be able to offer detailed and helpful advice but there are still details that I need to check and lots of emails or phone calls to the USA or Australia for advice. I had hoped to get 2 customer quilts done but that didn’t happen so the yurt project has gone untouched for another week!

I have made some progress with the “Bloody Christmas Bargello.” Something got out of sync in one of the first 2 sections despite keeping very orderly piles of strips. Perhaps I should have tackled this project all at once and not moved until it was done. No-one apart from me will be able to see the mistake and it is not destined for a show BUT that is not the point and I expect it will annoy me for some time to come!

My bank account is in serious need of funds. This week I have ordered Claudia Pfeil’s new Feather DVD, 5 sets of Darlene Epp Pocket Guides for Freehand Quilting, and plane tickets to Birmingham with a rail detour to Shropshire for a weekend of tuition at the end of November. I also phoned the Westin Inn, Rhode Island and made a booking for MQX since there was no availability on the Internet.

I can always spend quilting money without a qualm but I had to do some other shopping for a posh Carol Service that my husband’s company is hosting. After unsuccessfully trying to get a frock on in M&S, I dashed into Phase Eight where I instructed the assistant to locate a little black dress with sleeves that would last me forever so that I would never have to buy one ever in my life again – I gave her 20 minutes…she did it! I informed the shoe shop assistant that I needed black evening shoes that were wide and comfy, didn’t look like old lady shoes and would do for every posh occasion that I am ever invited to in the future. She had a sense of humour and that mission was also accomplished.

George the Builder managed to fit 2 new windows in the workshop and I have compromised on the stopcock issue. The new door will go where the old door was so we don’t have to dig up pipes and can get on with the job.

I had a near disaster when I attempted to take Fenella to a pony-riding birthday party but didn’t actually have any directions. I thought it was somewhere on the way to Stonehaven, realised it wasn’t, texted a friend who believed it was near a garden centre, flagged down a cyclist and a dog-walker and discovered that it was somewhere entirely different. In the end I found it, off the dual carriageway near Dunnotar Castle and was only 15 minutes late. I apologised profusely, the lesson was still getting underway and Fenella has been sworn to secrecy not to tell anyone at home how lost we were!

Water Witching



Aberdeenshire has had an incredible amount of rain. Water just runs off the fields. Our garden usually drains away pretty well but it is so waterlogged that a vast puddle is lapping up to the door of the yurt. I think sandbags might be a good idea. Despite the rain, I had a go at dowsing for the lost stopcock. I can’t plumb in the sink in my workshop or move the door until we find the tap to turn off the water and it is hidden somewhere deep in the shrubbery. I was delighted that Mo and I both managed to pinpoint the same area with our divining rods. One set even spun around wildly. We have followed a line from the outside tap to an area where I need to persuade my husband to dig to see if we have dowsed correctly.

The other magic involving water has been dyeing with the Columbus powder from Hungary. I want to dye larger pieces than is actually recommended so I decided to compare boiling in a large pot on the cooker and using the washing machine. The colours are fantastic. I have used white cotton prepared for dyeing from Whaleys just to see how true the colours are. They are very close to the colour card. In future I may use unbleached cotton for an even subtler effect. The dyeing can also be done in a jug in the microwave but obviously only with smaller pieces. My first attempt on the cooker was a little patchy but only because my piece of fabric was far too big to mix properly. I decided that I love using the washing machine. It was all rinsed properly and no dye residue was left behind in the machine. I bought 15 colours but there are actually 58 altogether. I think I will definitely invest in this product to resell in the UK.

I spent a whole day doing admin; emails, phone calls, filing and accounts. I began to get withdrawal symptoms from my workshop but I did get a lot done. I have persuaded Aurifil to allow me to order wholesale direct from Italy, The Edgerider Wheels company is keen for me to become a UK agent and I completed my first order form as the UK Sales Rep for APQS. I have been asked to do a talk and workshop in October next year by a quilting group and I will feature in a book on contemporary Scottish quilters published by Loch Lomond Quilt Show! I still don’t know where I will be going for Advanced Longarming classes next year. The QGBI has not yet announced who will be awarded the travel bursary – it would be fantastic to receive it. I spent an afternoon at Durris School launching a sewing project for Festival of Quilts 2010. I decided that they should enter the School Competition on the theme of “Cityscapes”. I actually offered to do a project last year when I was slightly less busy but my offer was only taken up recently by the school staff and I could hardly refuse…

I put up a super sturdy shelf unit from Costco. Once I finally worked out what the instructions were getting at it was really easy. My piles of tweed and other stuff look really professional now so feeling all organised, I finally felt ready to do some quilting. It took me a while to get started. I really felt rusty and lacking in imagination at first. I did a simple Christmas tree log cabin mini quilt then got started on a funky cat quilt with 3D parts. I was torn between doing simple quilting and doing my usual of “less is not more.” Now that I have decided, it is going well and Aurifil Mako 50 cotton is my new favourite thread. The tension has been absolutely perfect (sshh!)

HM Customs received £118 from me so that I could redeem my new Quiltazoid from their care. When I unpacked and saw all the bits involved I wondered if I would be able to understand how it all works. The instructional DVD is so clear that it looks like it will be a great tool. It is one of those gadgets that needs me to spend time to familiarising and practising all the functions – and some imagination to make the designs look really unusual. I want to make up some Celtic designs but I will want to fill in all the spaces, no doubt. It will be interesting to see if I can use thicker thread for the motifs and maybe paint…

New Gadgets



I was determined to learn how to operate my 2 new gadgets. Typically, I expect to attach the gadget and produce perfect results without practice. The reality is that it all takes a little getting used to. I bought some long template boards for quick and easy customer quilts and to show beginners how quickly they can get going. These were easy to set up but I had the occasional wobble and being a bit of a perfectionist, was a bit put out. I decided that if I was a complete beginner I would have been quite happy and on a busy quilt this would be completely unnoticeable. I decided to get a shorter stylus to eliminate any “play”. The other contraption that I played with was the Quiltazoid. At first I felt like I was learning how to drive and wondered if I would be able to remember all the steps of putting it all together but after a few spirographs, I was having great fun. The designs are fast and accurate. I especially want to produce Celtic looking patterns. I have even ordered a Spirograph kit from Amazon to fiddle about with some doodles.

I am irritated that new licensing laws in Scotland mean that I can no longer go shopping before 10am. Well, I can go shopping but I can’t buy any wine.  I really feel that this is a penalty that the Government is imposing on housewives in particular. I want to go for groceries first thing then get on with all of my other activities. Hardened alcoholics won’t be up and about at that time of day…!

The registration opened for classes at MQX in Rhode Island on Monday. I sort of knew it was coming but hadn’t really been thinking about it. When I received the email notification I felt like a rabbit caught in headlights – what decision to make? MQX or elsewhere or Houston? If I did decide to go how on Earth would I decide which longarm classes to book? Several emails flew between Ellen until we decided that Boston or New York should be the easier and cheaper flight from Scotland. I asked my husband if he would mind me going to USA for 2 weeks next April and before he had time to really consider it, booked 4 classes. We only have to sort out the accommodation, flights and the rest of the trip! It will be great fun. We are wondering whether to make a mini trip to New York while we are at it.

My first longarm pupil came to stay this week. Breda arrived from Ireland and we got along very well for her 2 day visit. She wanted to see if she should invest in a longarm machine for her small business making baby quilts. We discussed business strategies, suppliers, varieties of thread, techniques, gadgets and everything else under the sun. We went to visit a George machine in a table and she established that it would not be a realistic solution for a quilting business. It was a very packed couple of days. I was a bit of a slave driver and kept Breda practising so that she began to feel more confident with the machine. I have officially sold a Millennium on behalf of APQS this week so now anxiously await its safe arrival in the UK and need to schedule in a teaching weekend before Christmas.

It must be a sign that I have been rather busy and have not taken any pictures this week apart from Breda’s cat quilt. I managed to get it done on time so that she could see how various different patterns can be used.

I did some more piecing on the enormous Christmas mystery bargello for the Aberdeenshire Area Day but it is still a long way off being finished. Another week has gone by without any yurt progress and the forthcoming week is filling up with commitments, meetings and distractions. If I don’t make any significant progress by Christmas, I will have to batten down the hatches in January – refuse all customer quilts, not switch on the computer and stay in the workshop until I have used up every spool of thread and piece of tweed!