Monthly Archives: June 2010

Missing the Boat


 Before setting out for School Sports Day, I painted the concrete workshop loo floor with tile red paint so it would be dry enough for a second coat in the afternoon. It was the usual medley of novelty races, long jumps, ball skills and relays. The field does not have loo facilities so I had to find a nice rhododendron bush during the afternoon. Mission accomplished and I came out of the undergrowth trying to look casual. I am convinced that wearing Doc Martens makes me saunter which is why I managed to trip over a branch and go flying headlong across a gritty path. I was lying stunned for a minute before I got up to survey the damage, hoping that no-one had noticed my clumsiness. I had grazed both hands, both knees were stinging under my jeans and my green Docs had also not fared well. I tried not to limp back to the sports field and opted out of the tug of war competition. Freya told me that I was far too old to be falling over and she was relieved that no-one had seen me. It was a bit painful when I reapplied the floor paint later on.  My knees got worse as the week progressed. One felt twisted and the other one was all scabby. After several days of hobbling along I even looked up the symptoms of tetanus and blood poisoning on Wikipedia. I think I have damaged a ligament – crawling under my longarm frame to check tension and make adjustments has been very uncomfortable.

 I saw the article “Meet a Quilter – Linzi Upton” in July’s P&Q magazine and was really pleased with it even though Mo tells me that I look blokey in the photo. I rather like the picture of me in the yurt casually drinking coffee while being interviewed and Judi has kindly agreed to let me have a copy of it for The Yurt Book.

 I have made many more phone calls and emails this week trying to raise the profile of the Yurt and ultimately find some sponsors to help with travel expenses. I contacted Aberdeenshire Council to request the logos that I am meant to attach to any literature that I produce about the Yurt as a condition of my initial grant. I felt somewhat chastised when asked why I had not attempted to take the Yurt to the Portsoy Boat Festival with 30 000 visitors, and extremely remiss when told that I had missed the deadline to register for North East Open Studios in September. I thought it would seem churlish to point out that the Yurt is neither a boat nor waterproof. Apparently it is part of the learning process that I should find out about these opportunities myself without having to be sent any helpful information by a mentor. I was advised to take time out to write a statement about my aspirations for professional development. This should not involve ideas for touring America, writing a book and working on Yurt2 but instead focus on my vision of being an arts practitioner. This was the point at which I stopped concentrating and felt like Charlie Brown from the “Peanuts” cartoon whose teacher’s voice droned, “Fwa, fwa, fwa, fwaaa…” I realise now that I have always wanted to be an intellectual but I don’t seem to have the academic stamina for in-depth discussions on symbolism and imagery. I always wrote too concisely when I studied English literature. I would argue that authors were not necessarily trying to convey hidden meanings but simply telling their story. That logic didn’t wash with my lecturers who always wanted me to elaborate. I’d rather get straight to the point. Will fewer people buy my book if there isn’t enough artyfarty flannel in it? Maybe the publishers won’t let me pad it out with recipes for roadkill stew.

 Andrew Salmon from Twisted Thread phoned to discuss how to squeeze the Yurt in at Festival of Quilts 2010 as they are already “full to the gunnels”. I offered to put the APQS stand inside it or even set the Yurt up in the cafe area as a way of saving space. They are still thinking about where it could fit – it would be really exciting to take the Yurt to a big show. I will worry about the logistics of being in two places at once later if the Yurt is allowed into the show. Yurtman says we could swap vehicles for the week so I could borrow his van.

 I have been trying to think of fund-raising ideas for getting the Yurt to America but my project is not classed as a charity therefore I can’t run a raffle. I think that it would be possible to embroider a sponsor’s name or logo onto fabric and turn the pieces into an advertising yurt panel.  Another idea involves staging a fire-walking event to paying guests. I wondered if I could set it up at a stone circle and hire it out as a wedding venue except that it could rain. The stone circle idea made me realise that this would be a good place to take outdoor photos for potential magazine articles and The Book. I have now approached the Forestry Commission for permission to do this as I need to drive the Landy up as close as I can. The Ancient Celts would have had more manpower for carrying gear up hills than I have at my disposal.

 My workshop needs to pay for its own running costs so I have approached some freelance tutors to see if they would like to hire the space for classes. It is clean, light, easy to find and I provide good coffee. Several quilters have expressed a keen interest in a “Strip Club”, making quilts using pre-cut jelly rolls. Some children from Durris Primary School were here this week to work on the class patchwork project. They made far better progress in the workshop than they had in their classroom with all of the right equipment and space. I was surprised at how difficult they found using the rotary cutter. It made me wonder if I should eventually invest in an Accuquilt cutting machine. Maybe then I could make my own jelly rolls from Hungarian dyed fabric.

 I have finally finished embellishing the Yurt panel called “Slinky” made by Corey from California. She had used invisible thread that didn’t show up much so I added additional quilting of her original designs using a more noticeable purple. I added a few subtle accents of gold Lumiere paint in the quilted curves. As an experiment I swirled round and round in a one inch spot and formed little peaks like volcanoes or limpets. They can be poked in or out and so appear concave or convex. When they stick up they look like the round rivets found on Celtic shields. I thought that I should use poetic license to describe this interesting imagery and include it in a paragraph about inspiration in The Book…


Midsummer Madness


Despite the cool weather and grey skies, it is Midsummer’s Day tomorrow. At least the sun made an appearance on Wednesday morning long enough so we could have coffee in the garden but despite wearing boots, fleece and long Drizabone coat to football training, I was still cold. Freya had 10 girls here for camping in the big tent on Saturday night. They had hot water bottles and thick socks to keep warm. Mind you, they didn’t go to sleep… they were bouncing on the trampoline all night, making plenty of noise and making popcorn at 4 am. I spent most of the next day wiping up spilled coke and nagging the girls to help tidy up the grassy bedding and sweet wrappers. Our walled garden is perfect for such occasions – they were able to play on the swings, hang out in the summer house and sit around a campfire. While I was in the mood I shook all the rugs out in the yurt and hoovered up the long winter’s creepy crawlies in case any of my longarm summer-camp visitors want to sleep in there with the wood-burner to keep them cosy.

I reminded myself how to use the Quiltazoid, made sure that I set it up correctly for each new block and used it to make spiros on a sampler quilt for a customer. With a quarter-inch piano key border and small loopy filler it looked very simple and smart when finished. Feeling virtuous about completing a customer quilt and supervising a DIY baby quilt, I loaded an unfinished Yurt panel and used the QZ for part and full concentric circles. I was really pleased with the accuracy and it felt good to be working on something Yurty again. I received several positive messages about my interview in July’s copy of Patchwork & Quilting magazine. I have not actually seen the article yet but the Yurt also had 3 pictures and mentions in the July edition of Popular Patchwork Magazine; a full feature is planned for September. I find it really thrilling when something that I have made appears in print so I felt inspired do some groundwork for the Yurt Book. I have archived all of the email comments by Stunt Quilters and all references to the Yurt project in the Blog. It was fun to go back and read old posts and see how much work I try to squeeze into every chaotic week. It looks like I need to aim for 10 or 12 Yurt panel projects in a book as well as interviews, anecdotes, information and lots of pictures. My next task is to draft out a set of clear instructions for the publishers to approve.

I had quite a bit of APQS business to attend to this week, chasing up niggles with the electronics, taking delivery of a bigger uninterrupted power supply and then I had a business meeting with myself to outline my strategy for UK’s Festival of Quilts in August. I had to call the Very Technical Department of the UPS system suppliers to ask for a much longer cable to suit an industrial sewing machine. They had no idea what I was trying to describe and in the end told me to do something very low-tech – cut off the socket that is designed for a computer system and fit a 3-pin GB power socket instead. I asked if it was OK to rewire a plug in this age of sealed unit plugs and was patronised by being asked if “someone” could wire a plug for me. HA! I do actually remember buying appliances in the olden days and being trusted by the Government to wire it up to a plug all by myself.

Angela Madden was the speaker at the Aberdeen P&Q Group on Wednesday evening and I was very impressed by the range of her quilts. She has come up with non-mathematical tools for marking Celtic designs and drafting blocks with perspective that look really clever but I will have to see if I can understand the instructions. She recommended that I should look at which is a British Internet-TV quilting site. It looks really interesting but I was amused by Jennie Rayment sounding very posh in the style of vintage cook, Fanny Craddock!

I have had no animal dramas lately, thank goodness. As the wheat field is now very lush and wet and the cows are in the other field behind the house, I have been taking the dogs for walks by the river. If there are no ghillies and fishermen about I let them off for a quick swim but Welly always manages to locate and chase the stupid ducks, drawing attention to himself with much splashing and quacking so he gets put straight back onto the stretchy lead. Mabel’s bald patches have grown back in since I cut all of her winter fur off so now she looks quite respectable and could pass for a proper terrier.

After visiting the bank on Friday and trying in vain to get access to my money because it hadn’t been sitting in the bank’s accounts gathering dust long enough, I marched into the sweet shop demanding 3 Crunchies in a Bank Robber tone of voice. The sweetshop lady, who drives a tiny pink car, querulously pointed me in the direction of the much more up-market Lindt version. I have to report that it was quite pleasant but nothing can actually beat that “Crunchie Feeling!”

I made myself give the nuclear-bunker-loo a second coat of paint in anticipation of the arrival of my longarm summer-camp visitors. One of my children looked fairly horrified when they saw my paint spattered painting gear and hoped that I would not be going out dressed like that, particularly as the old jeans also had serious holes in them. Since I have made it my mission in life to cause them maximum embarrassment, I decided not to get changed before taking them to their swimming lessons and I don’t actually think anyone really noticed. I have to paint the floor before Sports Day tomorrow so must try to leave time to change before that.

Multiple Personalities


For the record – I hate painting concrete blocks and ceilings. I have now forced myself to do 2 coats of masonry paint in the workshop loo before I stop noticing the bare walls and forget to finish the job. I listened to BBC Radio 4 with interest but also let my imagination drift and decided that if ever there is a post apocalyptic situation where I am forced to paint a nuclear bunker at gunpoint, I will demand that my captors shoot me. This bizarre thought must have stemmed from subconscious memory of public service adverts in the 1970’s that explained that you would need to create a makeshift shelter under the kitchen table if the 4-minute warning sounded.

I used to be a primary school teacher and occasionally wonder whether I could manage to do that as a career again. I attended a presentation at my children’s school on the new Scottish Curriculum for Excellence and came to the conclusion that I would prefer not to substitute traditional spelling tests with writing words in shaving foam and continually be organising group activities in the forest. It is true that I like to go off at a tangent but I don’t particularly enjoy trying to concentrate when so much is going on at once. This is ironic since I am currently trying to assimilate all sorts of unfamiliar information while multi-tasking. I have been chasing up the local council about the parking at school as Chairperson of the Parent Council, reminding longarmers to sign up for the teaching weekend with Ferret at the beginning of July, approaching potential sponsors for the Yurt, and following up calls with all sorts of people about shipping, insurance, grants and trying to write anything useful down.

I have been trying to guesstimate the volumetric weight of the Yurt in an as yet unspecified plywood box in order to get an approximate shipping cost. This also depends on the insurance value so I have to complete a lengthy proposal for bespoke cover from an insurer that deals with artwork. I have had serious discussions with APQS this week about some electronic faults on machines that they believe may have something to do with stabilising the power supply. I was advised to invest in an uninterrupted power supply/surge protection system but the one that I bought did not mention sine waves. This involved a very complicated technical discussion with a boffin at an electronics company in the UK. Since I actually failed O-level Electronics at school, I was impressed that I managed to get the gist of what he was trying to explain.

I took Freya into Aberdeen to buy some new school shoes and made a detour into the phone shop that sells the Mifi modems for mobile internet suitable for ipads. I asked about coverage, download speeds and gigabytes in an attempt to appear knowledgeable. The sales assistant assumed that Freya was the owner of the ipad and she retorted, “Of course not – my Mother is the geek!”

The customer quilt that I was working on ended up taking me a full week to complete. I was not really asked to do a custom job on it but it was crying out for some special treatment. What I did was not tricky but it was a lot of tiny fillers in small spaces, all using thread that just disappeared into the dark Jinny Beyer fabrics. As I approached the bottom of the quilt the tension went awry unexpectedly and looked horrible on the back so I had to unpick part of the border for 4 hours. The photo does not show much of the detail of the quilting at all but I am pleased with the resulting texture. I MUST improve my quoting for jobs like this up front so that I can start to charge properly for this intensity of quilting. I simply cannot afford to be working so hard on quilts that don’t earn me enough. It also eats into the time that I have available for completing the unfinished Yurt panels and simply sewing for pleasure.

The Yurt still has not been photographed outside a castle in beautiful sunshine. It is Midsummer next weekend but we have had nothing but glowering grey skies for weeks. There is no sign of any roses, just rampantly lush weeds. I would like to hoover the garden Yurt out in case I decide to sleep out in it soon but I would rather not be electrocuted by trailing an extension lead across the wet grass. Freya went to the outdoor seawater pool at Stonehaven on a trip with the Girl Guides last week but they didn’t dare get out of the water to go on the slides as it was so wintry. She was impressed that the snack bar sold hot chocolate and chips instead of ice-creams. I would like to think that summer will arrive at the beginning of the school holidays and my husband has put up a large tent in anticipation of camping out. He and the children slept out last night despite the rain and were fairly cosy bundled up with jumpers, duvets and quilts.

I must produce some structured lesson plans for some quilting classes so that I can make the workshop earn its keep and so that I have a syllabus that I can offer to show organisers or Guild secretaries. I have determined that I will make a formal start on The Yurt Book this week so that I can just work away at each chapter a bit at a time until I have something substantial for publishers to edit and polish. I need to get tough and write myself a strict timetable for the week so that I don’t spend too much time on one thing. I have been asked to run up strings of bunting with names and occasions for friends. The problem is that I like the letters all to be embroidered on for a more professional finish which makes them commercially far less viable. It is very easy to spend a whole day on the computer researching and writing but that doesn’t directly earn me money to replenish my empty bank account. I aim to do a customer quilt next week that is on the frame for 2 days at most so that I can get a Yurt panel done too, otherwise “Potential Yurt 2” will be naked!

Information Overload


I have had so much information to deal with this week that I wonder if my brain can actually manage to process any more “stuff”. I was even told that Gin can cause depression and maybe that was why I was feeling so over whelmed but I refuse to believe that. I have been making lists and researching all sorts of things while trying to get everything else done as usual. As light relief, it was fun to get a couple of cool apps for my ipad such as Wickipanion and Wolfram Alpha. I can find out all sorts of really obscure and useless information that might just come in handy, including how candy floss is made. Scrabble for the ipad is fun too but the computer cheats; it gets to choose whatever letters it likes and it uses American spellings. I also downloaded an ibook that is the sequel to “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”. After a slow and slightly confusing start, I became absolutely enthralled by this complex thriller so I look forward to finding out what reading a whole electronic book will really be like.


I read all of the reviews and decided which battery back-up pack to order for my longarm machine to see if I can eradicate unexpected power surges and then I set off on a mission to discover how to get mobile wifi. I have discovered that it is possible to get a mini modem that provides “Mifi” but the sole UK provider has patchy connections around the country. This would have been really useful when Judi at British P&Q Magazine phoned to ask if I could proofread my interview and send high resolution pictures just as I was leaving to take the children to their after school swimming club.


I have been chasing up queries regarding Yurt shipping and waiting for quotes. I need to have a list of potential expenses to decide whether it is the most cost effective to ship the original Yurt with a customs carnet and unknown insurance costs or get another American frame under sponsorship and transport the coverings vacuum packed in suitcases as my baggage. Figuring out the costs will be the key to deciding what to do. Can I afford to take off and tour America? How will I generate an income? My husband is not convinced that my business will ever make money. He is not happy that we have to spend a large sum of money on pipes and stone to fix a broken soakaway when he would rather be saving up for a sports car. I have been lining up some Yurt sponsors and so far have promises of some fabric that I could use for Yurt 2 but sadly no hard cash as yet. My next mission is to find out whether any grants are available for people who would promote Scotland abroad. I want to get permission to put the Yurt up outside a picturesque Scottish castle as that would make a terrific photo shoot. It may be hard to choose a day when it will actually be bright. I am typing this sitting in a deckchair at a school football tournament wearing a long raincoat and boots. It is like a fete with candy floss and pony rides but everyone is wearing wellies and gloves. Yesterday was beautifully warm and sunny – midsummer in Scotland is extremely unpredictable!


I went back to the children’s school to continue with their patchwork project but it has not progressed as much as I had hoped. They were meant to do some finishing off but other things had cropped up on their timetable. I also have calls to make on behalf of the Parent Council and correspondence and events to sort out as Aberdeenshire rep for the Quilters’ Guild of the British Isles. I also started a long overdue customer quilt but instead of keeping things plain and simple, I have managed to overdo it so that after 3 long days standing at the machine, I have only just passed the half way point. I really do annoy myself sometimes. I would rather get back to the unfinished Yurt panels or simply make something quick and easy to remind myself that quilting is actually meant to be fun and not an endurance test.


My frustrated mood lifted a bit after I completed a big tidying session in Fenella’s bedroom but she wasn’t speaking to me after she discovered that I had recycled some of her cardboard junk models. I need to balance all of my chores next week so that I don’t get so bogged down. It would actually be quite satisfying to get some mundane tasks done so I may even paint the loo in the workshop at last. Painting and listening to podcasts is usually good thinking time. I was also wondering whether to tackle DIY tongue and groove boards in the sitting room. After all, I just need to cut the pieces to the right length then nail them or use extra strong glue to attach them to the plaster board… what could possibly go wrong?