Monthly Archives: August 2010




The Studio received a thorough sorting out after I unloaded all of the gear from FOQ and even the paperwork was filed neatly. I spent a lot of time emailing and phoning to follow up possible shipping quotes, technical queries and making notes on how the show went. It could take weeks or even months to see if people who looked at machines at FOQ become actual customers. 


I ordered wool wadding for an impressive appliqué quilt that is coming up and finally got to work on the long overdue workshop samples for the “Pimp My Quilt” class that may have to be subtitled, “Wild Wholecloth” for more sober types. I am fairly pleased with how it has turned out but feel that it could do with even more bling to live up to its reputation. Miniature crochet circles in fine gold thread would be great so I really must make an effort to conquer my crochet dyslexia.


I chased up arrangements for the Yurt Tour, very conscious that Des Moines in October is rapidly approaching. The Customs forms are long-winded and I was hugely disappointed when my tweed roof sponsors pulled out having shown a keen interest previously, citing cutbacks as the reason. It is too late to gain any grants at this stage. The USA Yurtman came up trumps and agreed to make the Vermont frame the same size as the original and AQS has been poised to put the Yurt in its show catalogue. I decided to wait until after the weekend to figure out whether it would still be possible to go ahead with Des Moines without one of the main sponsors or get a PA on board, have more funds in place and line everything up for a Spring tour that could involve more than one event. I also need time to work some more on the Yurt Book!


I have been collecting together ideas and mulling over all sorts of things since FOQ. If I am going to travel around the country doing workshops and selling machines then I may need to make the enormous sacrifice of trading in my beloved Landy for a more economical and practical estate car that could double up as a van. The Landy is my absolute most favourite vehicle and brilliant where I live in Scotland but it is not good for long distances. Maybe I can have one again when I retire!


Mo and I are going to try to work on a joint show quilt using lots of different materials and techniques. We are full of grand ideas but need to sketch these out on paper and work out when we are going to fit it in to our schedules. I have not actually worked on any show entries this year and the Yurt Project seems to be evolving into the Yurt 2 Project – with USA and Europe versions.


I was irritated to find that I could not pay for the bottle of supermarket wine at 9.50am as I dashed around doing some grocery shopping one busy morning. I was disappointed that the shop was not busy as I was in the mood to cause a Scene and protest at the Government’s stupid law that only really penalises housewives rather than teenaged binge drinkers who would actually still be in bed before 10.00am . I refused to move out of the automated checkout area where the assistant was getting agitated at the robotic voice proclaiming, “Please take the illegal item out of the bag!”

That same day a man arrived at the house asking if I could use any cheap, spare tarmac for cash as they had finished patching the potholes in the road. When I went out later on I noticed that they had only repaired one side of the road before trying to sell off their “surplus” materials. By the time Freya came home to tell me that her first Home Economics lesson at secondary school was “How to make Instant Coffee”, I was ready to storm Parliament, stage a coup and restore order. I think that teaching children who have cooked over a camp fire in primary school how to make instant coffee is absurd. I was expecting something more elaborate involving coffee beans and frothy milk.


Mo, Tania and I set the world to rights with a Yurt Night discussing politics, books, taxidermy and funeral arrangements. Our conversations are always irreverent and eclectic, accompanied by a delightful bottle of Rioja from the new wine shop in Banchory that also stocks 6 types of gin that we will be obliged to sample.

On Saturday we drove up to Strathdon on the edge of The Highlands to see the Lonach Gathering. This is quite a spectacle where Pipebands and Clansmen march around the neighbourhood from early in the morning, stopping off for several drams of whisky on the way. I filmed a short movie on my digital camera, forgetting that we have a Flip video camera at home. It was a wonderful, traditional event with everyone wearing tartan and wellies. The weather was beautifully sunny one minute then lashing with rain the next. Freya camped there overnight with friends and it was pretty stormy but they stayed cosy with plenty of extra layers and blankets. It is fascinating watching the field events that include caber tossing, hammer throwing and tug-o-war. We spent a pleasant afternoon wandering around chatting to friends and I chose a tartan hat with feathers for the Quilt Quine to wear at foreign events. I really hankered after a bright green tweed trilby but it was £55 and I wasn’t sure that I could really wear it while demonstrating longarming at quilt shows. It is about time for me to update my web avatar picture so I may model the new headgear for the photo.

Fantastic Festival of Quilts UK 2010



 I packed up the twin Lennis, all their attachments and half of my studio and optimistically went to fetch my hired van. Despite being only two years old it has obviously seen active service. Unfortunately, it was the only one available so I could not quibble. It had barely legal tyres, was full of pie crumbs and sawdust, many sticky areas, filthy seats, and the side door even had a large dent. I will demand some money back when I return it to the depot! It made me behave like a White Van driver. The gears are designed to be crunched with brute force and it made me swear constantly. I was not paying attention as I went through Glasgow’s chaotic roadworks and missed the turning to go South towards England. After I realised I was hurtling towards the west coast of Scotland, I swore a lot more. I eventually crossed the Erskine Bridge, crawled through the city centre and found the correct road over an hour later, still cursing and crunching gears. The rest of my journey was uneventful except that the Van obviously was not used to highbrow BBC Radio 4 but I eventually found myself near to me destination. I got lost again and asked a traffic patrol car for help, thus getting a police escort to my hotel 10 hours after I left home.

On set up day I was met by Yvette and Alison who were my right hand women for the entire Festival. We unloaded and set up a very attractive looking mini longarm studio. Unable to face the budget option of instant Pot Noodle for a second night, we drove into Birmingham for a real curry where the locals were celebrating Ramadan.

Once the show opened the next few days were a blur of talking, demonstrating, explaining and meeting new and old quilting friends from Scotland and all over the world. I will not mention them all because I am bound to forget someone. It was lovely to catch up with everyone and meet some people for the first time with whom I have only previously communicated by email. My parents visited FOQ for the first time and were staggered at the size of the show. Somehow, there was never time for a proper lunch and much chocolate was eaten. The aisles were chock full of people, scooters and trolleys. The queue for the ladies was pretty long one day so I dashed into the men’s. There wasn’t a soul in there apart from a gentleman enjoying a bit of loud farting as he thought no-one was listening and the other foreign chap whom I met at the sink was worried that he had gone into the wrong bathroom.

There were some people doing serious longarm shopping research and they said that the APQS  Lennis were their favourite machines at the show. There were also some odd questions and amazed visitors who had never seen a longarm before. Someone asked if I had to quilt halfway along my quilt and then swap to the second machine. One elderly lady asked for my business card then said “I won’t ever use it, mind you.” A Gammill owner came to ask me about thread tension after announcing that she was having awful trouble with her bottom. Many of the visitors did not speak any English so we talked by sign language and quilting. I was asked if I would consider going to Latvia, South Africa, Denmark and Dubai! I sold one lot of dyed fabrics to a friend and one packet of postcards so I won’t bother to take them again but I was asked about thread constantly.

The Lenni twins behaved beautifully and sewed politely through several layers of glazed chintz backing fabric, second grade wadding and IKEA black calico. We had the brilliant idea of recycling the practice piece of the previous day as the wadding and just sewed on top with a new piece of black. Ferret and I even had a quilting race on video for P&Q Magazine. An over enthusiastic child derailed one of the Lennis by pulling down on the handles and quilting in a scribble at top speed as her father watched with pride. It was soon all sorted out and there were no other near dramas. Many people said they would never have anywhere enough space to put a longarm in their homes so I was glad that I had not brought my bigger Millennium as most of the visitors would have found the size of its frame intimidating. I really liked using the smaller machines – they were easy to set up and really responsive. As I always quilt freehand from the front I did not pay much attention to the handles at the back until an existing Lenni owner pointed out that they were actually the wrong way round.

I attended the International Evening Fashion Show with Ellen where the outfits made by teams of Russian and British quilters were absolutely stunning and Ferret’s work was particularly impressive. However, the organisation and scoring of the event were painfully reminiscent of the worst aspects of the Eurovision Song Contest.

Every now and then people would glance at my gold Doc Martens and nudge their friends, maybe having read about their wearer in P&Q Magazine. As the week wore on it became increasingly difficult to look cool as I had stupidly worn fishnets with them on the first day of the show and got a nasty blister that made me hobble. I was really not pleased when I decided to walk to the NEC after being told that it was a mere 5 minutes away and 45 minutes later seemed to have taken the most circuitous route possible. I started to use White Van language again as I had planned to look at the show quilts in a leisurely manner before the show opened.

Once I eventually looked at the show quilts I decided that my taste has changed dramatically since I first attended. I was admiring more abstract pieces because of the quilting. I was asked why I had not entered the competions with any of the Yurt Panels or LSD and my pathetic excuse was that I had been a bit busy. This was the first year that I have felt that my work is now on a par with some of the good stuff so I really will have to make more effort to enter next year.

The show was great fun but exhausting. Whenever I am in Quilt Show mode I go to bed late and wake up around 5.30am. I have received invitations to go to shows in Europe if I can afford the time and expense. I will really need to see if the enthusiastic quilters from the show go ahead and place machine orders. The costs of attending events such as this are substantial and need to be profitable to make it all worthwhile. My stand was very well received and many people complained bitterly that the Yurt was absent from the show. This makes me even more determined to take one to America AND exhibit one in Europe. I can see a busy spell coming up after I get back home on Monday night!

Double Trouble



 I finished quilting the dyed fabrics quilt with some big wonky swirls that I really didn’t like at first. I had decided that it had to be utility sized quilting to make it look like an everyday sort of quilt showcasing the dye colours. As usual, once the binding was on, it looked fine. I also completed and bound the Yurt panel that Yvette pieced for me – at last! I have four left to quilt, bind or embellish. I heard from Becky Kemery who has the Yurtlady Facebook page. I have some very nice comments via her website so that is encouraging. She has appealed to American yurt makers that I am still looking for a USA frame sponsor.

After worrying that the Lenni machine for Festival of Quilts would not arrive on time, I managed to get it through Customs on Wednesday after paying a ransom of over £1500. They tried to get me to become A VAT registered business despite me trying to explain that my turnover is too small. Apparently there may be a tiny business tax loophole but it can take weeks to process and I did not have that length of time. A most disgruntled delivery man phoned on Thursday morning several hours before I expected him to arrive, complaining that my postcode must be wrong because his brand new £500 TomTom sat-nav system had taken him on the wrong road. I told him that my postcode covers a wide rural area and he should have checked on a real map. He then moaned about the 6 boxes that I had to help him carry so I don’t think I will be using “Freight 2 the Point” if I need a courier. I unpacked it and set it all up with Freya’s help and was impressed at how easily we managed it. We put Tracy’s ex Lenni on the frame too and both of them stitched and ran beautifully. I packed up all of the gear that I think I will need at FOQ and hope I have remembered everything. There seems to be a lot of stuff to fit within a 2m x 4m show booth… I hope I sell all of my fabric and postcards at the show because after paying all that money to Customs I may have to sleep in the van and eat pot noodles all week.

I went to look for fruit at the bottom of the garden to make some jam but discovered that the orchard area is completely overgrown by enormous weeds. The only answer is probably to get some more pigs. I ended up making a few pots of last year’s plum and bramble jam from the freezer but the blackberries need to be picked out as they have gone hard. We seem to have missed our chance for wild cherry picking this summer – the birds got them all while it was damp and grey for so long. I even bought a bag of burning peat when it rained non-stop one day as it felt chilly. The weather is bound to improve just as the children return to school next week.

I received an interesting phone call from a PR company that wanted to know if I might be interested in making a quilted tea-cosy for a pink Smart car. At first I thought it was a hoax but when I checked and found that it was a genuine request I was quite excited at the prospect of a funky challenge. If they go ahead with the project the deadline is tight but where would the fun be if there was plenty of time?

Getting Geared Up



I felt like a hamster in a ball this week as my “to do” list kept expanding and it seemed as though nothing was getting finished. It started on Monday when I tackled buying school shoes and new uniform. The shoe shop was packed the sales girls were pretty efficient. My method of purchasing children’s shoes is to buy the first pair that fit without getting sidetracked by style.

We just happened to be next door to The Seattle Quilt Co. in Aberdeen so I bought an extra large rotary cutter for fabric jelly roll production. The June Tailor Shape Pro cutter is great and I sliced through a lot of fabric in a relatively short time.

Producing packages of fabric to sell is not nearly as lucrative as I had thought. The whole process involves cutting fabric from the bolt, pre-washing and dyeing it, drying and ironing, cutting into straight strips or accurate squares, sorting, organising, rolling or folding, tying the bundles, attaching labels and packaging attractively. The time taken to do 20 metres was considerable. In addition, I decided that it would be a good selling point if I made a small and simple quilt from the dyed fabrics so that customers could see how nice the colours look. That took another whole day and the small project grew into a single-bed sized quilt with a pieced back that I will need to quilt and bind this week.

After repeatedly measuring the interior of the Landy for space I decided that I would need to hire a transit van to take all of the gear down to Birmingham. I looked at the Ford website to see if I could get 10 foot poles diagonally into a standard 8 foot van and even called some van hire companies pretending to be a builder since talking about timber lengths is less complicated than describing what a longarm frame involves. Several phone calls later I booked a suitable vehicle. IF I sell all of my dyed fabric packages then I will just about cover the van’s costs. It’s a shame transit vans are not better equipped to sleep and wash in so that I could also save a week’s worth of hotel bills.

I started waking up worrying about whether the show Lenni and frame would arrive in the UK and clear HM Customs on time. There was also a flurry of customers ordering spares to collect from me at FOQ but on Friday I received the email that assured me that Lenni has been shipped air freight. To add to my stress level, two major Yurt companies that had shown an interest in sponsoring a frame in the USA declined so I need to see if I can get enough funds to have one made by a specialist carpenter. As it is still the summer holidays, I really had not realised how soon the Des Moines show in October is approaching. Some serious sponsors need to commit in the next few weeks as complying with US customs will be tricky for such a large collection of quilts. I was both relieved and disgruntled when Twisted Threads finally let me know that they don’t have room for the Yurt at FOQ without paying for extra exhibition space. Running the APQS booth and Yurt would have been a juggling act but at the same time would have been a great chance to promote a Yurt tour. I got a super Yurt collage poster printed at Costco so will have that and some Yurt panels on show at the APQS booth which will look great.

Because I have been busy in my workshop, I have neglected to sort out the Sylvanian Family collection that Fenella inherited from her older sister. It was almost impossible to walk across her bedroom floor so we embarked on a major Reorganisation Plan. This involved dismantling a spare bed, rearranging all of her furniture, putting art materials in the summer house, decluttering my ex- sewing room and then rearranging my workshop to accommodate the Lenni frame when it arrives for me to partially assemble and test prior to FOQ. It took a while to achieve all of this but at least there is less junk on show. I now have a beyond-repair treadle sewing machine outside my workshop as a bird table. I have a lovely one in the house but this one is all gunked up and full of woodworm. I agreed to adopt it rather than take it to the dump and it looks rather picturesque. Another acquisition that I could not pass up this week was a large fake coal stove from the second hand shop. This can go into the ex-sewing room that hasn’t yet got a new use. I hate “spare” rooms that have no particular purpose and are full of stuff that doesn’t belong anywhere else. Mo gave me some surplus fabric for demonstrating at FOQ. She rediscovered some odd bits of flowery chintz that would make lovely cushions. I also spotted a very scruffy antique armchair hanging upside down in a barn that she offered to re-upholster for me. Quaint and untidy drawing rooms in “County Living” magazine always look amazing so it will be a challenge to create a stylish room from all of my old junk.

I took my camera out one morning and took some photos of Scottish wild-flowers as it is so easy to get caught up and stop noticing the beautiful scenery just outside my door. We never did take the Yurt to Aboyne Castle this week as the weather continued to be wet but we went to the Aboyne Highland Games where we watched some caber tossing and took some pictures of pipers in full tartan regalia. Pictures like these should look good in the to-be-completed Yurt book. I may have to get some tartan wellies and pose pensively in a stone circle for the back cover.

Making Grey Days More Colourful



 After returning from cloudy France, North East Scotland was even damper and far more grey. We put the Yurt frame up but could not find a dry spell or a patch of blue sky for any outdoor photos all week. Mo, Tania & I pretended that it was summer and drank a couple of bottles of pink fizz in the Yurt on Friday night with the wood stove keeping us warm. Everyone seemed a bit gloomy so we took the children to the Banchory Show on Saturday. We ate hog roast on a ringside bench watching the pipe band and parade of prize winning cattle in the pouring rain until the kids begged to go home. On Sunday I took a chance and put the quilts onto the frame despite the heavy black clouds and poor forecast. I just about had long enough to take a good selection of outdoor shots. At least I now have permission to raise the Yurt at Aboyne Castle, where I first encountered Yurts. Mo and I may take it there in time for the Aboyne Games and if it is likely to be wet it can go up in the old barn called the Coo Cathedral.

I completed dyeing all of the white glazed chintz. They look like a proper faded seashore palette and I may try to whizz together a simple quilt in time for FOQ. Some of the fabric has been cut into jelly roll strips and some is 12″ squares. I looked on YouTube to see if I could get a demonstration on how to roll the fabric strips professionally. There was a video by Nancy’s Notions showing a cutting mat called the June Tailor Shape Cut Pro that interested me. Instead of investing a lot of money importing the Accuquilt Studio cutting system and then finding that no-one wants to buy my jelly rolls, I decided to spend £50 in the UK and cut enough dyed fabric to use in workshops. I remembered that I had bought a crimped blade for my rotary cutter and wondered if I might get a smart pinked edge on my cut pieces.

I received a promising reply from the Colorado Yurt Company when I asked if they would consider sponsoring a USA made frame but a decision has not yet been made. I spent a long time catching up on computer correspondence at the beginning of the week but I was frustrated by not receiving all of the replies that I had hoped for. I am starting to make checklists for FOQ and need to work out the size of van that I will have to hire. A straightforward customer quilt got done so I stared quilting overlapping circles onto a Yurt panel to make a pumpkin seed effect to be in-filled in places. At first I got myself in a muddle and made too many overlaps so I decided to make a feature of that corner and say that I designed it deliberately. I have got it sussed now and written myself some instructions for the next time. I have been drafting a list of workshops as I have started to get enquiries from Quilt Groups. I need to plan classes that are challenging but also achievable AND make up some samples. If I keep writing lists and ticking things off then I must be making progress!