Monthly Archives: October 2010

Out of Sorts so Sorting Out

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It has been an odd sort of week… I felt compelled to sort out my studio shelves, fabric baskets, drawers, files, boxes, scraps of wadding, tangles of rickrack and trimmings, and get rid of out of date catalogues. I couldn’t decide what to work on even though there are umpteen things that I could or should be doing. I was still painting the Purposeless room white and every time I opened a cupboard I wanted to tackle its contents. I think this was a classic case of avoiding starting anything new. I have lots of things that aren’t technically urgent and it made me realise how I get more done under pressure. In the end I started a Bonnie Hunter “Scrappy House” project so that I was actually making something. It is something that I can just do in between serious, challenging or boring tasks. I even made some calls to enquire about semi-industrial sewing machines including the Juki F600 and Janome Horizon but so far have not received any lucrative sponsorship deals apart from an offer of a £50 discount. I had promised to buy my children a digital piano before I invest in any more equipment. There was also an unexpected purchase at the end of the week which I will write about in another blog…

There was the added frustration of the telly not working and the usual saga of trying to call a help centre to work out how to fix it. We didn’t have to miss “Strictly Come Dancing” on Saturday evening as the TV got reconnected to its old freeview box. There was also a problem with the internet and it seemed that most of the East of Scotland’s connectivity had suffered after high winds but thankfully that soon got sorted out. At least I could use the mobile modem to check emails. I could really only go and live on a remote island if it had broadband for me to keep up to date with the online quilting world.

My outrageous Marimekko Finnish wallpaper arrived and my husband did a great job of sticking and lining it all up neatly. It looks fabulous but now I will have to make a new quilt for the day bed and co-ordinating curtains. Although I like eclectic and mis-matched furnishings, it would be really great to design a room properly instead of fitting all of the same old stuff back in after the walls have had a fresh coat of paint. I would dearly love to buy posh curtain fabric at £35 per metre but since I need at least 15m, will probably have to settle for something from IKEA. I am thinking of making qurtains – I could quilt some IKEA fabric or linen and bind them like a quilt. The Cat is impressed that I have decided to bring the sheepskin rugs in from the garden yurt for the winter as it makes all of the old chairs very luxurious. Now that my Studio is all tidy and the Purposeless room is looking better, I am hoping to get back on track with the projects that I should be doing with renewed vigour since I have a busy few weeks ahead.

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Getting Set for Winter

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We had a smooth train trip back North despite the mad dash to catch our connection at Edinburgh and the SNOW had all melted by the time we reached home! The wild cherry trees still have glorious orange leaves but the fields around the house are all very muddy. I brought a batch of sloes back from Norfolk so have prepared a large bottle of sloe gin for Christmas. Mo and I spotted a Liberty print sofa in the junk shop so after bouncing on it to test its springs, we shoved it into the car. I had decided that we would need enough places to sit and watch winter TV essentials such as “Strictly Come Dancing”. We have an awkward sitting room with too many doorways, bookcases and an old piano so we did some rudimentary rearranging to fit in the “new” sofa. My husband was not all that impressed by the new seating and grumbled a little that it was not all that comfortable so I reminded him that it cost £30 instead of more than £300 and I know an excellent upholsterer.

I had a flying visit from Linda and George who came to talk to me about longarming and various essential gadgets. They may have thought things were a little chaotic here as I had extra children visiting, crockery and books all over the place, and a half painted room. I really must get that room finished before I lose interest completely. I have ordered outrageous Marimekko wallpaper for one wall as a treat for painting everything else boringly white. Luckily, the workshop is civilised so visitors can have a sensible cup of coffee in there.

On Saturday I made 3 giant Birthday cupcakes for Fenella & Emma because the first looked great but was raw in the middle, the second burned and eventually after I turned the temperature down as far as possible, number 3 looked presentable. I wrote down the winning combo for future reference but if I ever get an Aga I will have to rewrite all of my recipes that have all been adjusted to suit the dodgy oven thermostat. The icing was a mixture of cream cheese, icing sugar, vanilla extract, grated white chocolate and cream; just heavenly! I had to drive very slowly to the party and it really was not a practical shape for serving. Normal cupcakes may have been a more sensible option.

As the children go back to school on Monday I hope to finish painting, catch up with my correspondence and get machine quilting samples ready for a forthcoming workshop. I daresay other projects and bright ideas will crop during the week up to put those good intentions astray…

 

 

Family Outings

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People probably don’t usually start decorating when they should be packing for a week away with 3 children. I bought a tin of light reflective white paint for the Purposeless Room and couldn’t wait to try it out on a dull gray day. I couldn’t actually see whether I had painted all over the ceiling or not and quickly realised that it would need at least 2 coats. Before I could stop myself, I decided to paint all of the skirting boards and the floorboards which meant that I now have a half finished room. The children were responsible for packing their own bags for the train journey to England to visit our folks which would explain why they didn’t include headphones or books. The 8 hour train trip was not as fraught as it could have been and was certainly quicker than going by Landrover.

Our trips to Norfolk are always great fun with leisurely family meals and puddings that my children claim they never get at home. We went on two proper outings – to Sutton Hoo where a Saxon king was buried with his treasure in a magnificent longboat, and Gressenhall Workhouse and Farm. The workhouse visit was absolutely fascinating and our interest was maintained for the entire day. It was a huge purpose-built complex for dealing with the Parish poor and really made the children think about living in Victorian times.

I have managed to sneak in a couple of quilt related trips to Quilters’ Haven in Wickham Market owned by Karin Hellaby. It was a super shop filled with a great range of fabrics and patterns. I couldn’t resist a bundle of 1940’s style cupcake fat quarters. I have no absolutely no idea what I will do with them! We paid a quick visit to the Assembly Rooms in Norwich for the 30th Anniversary Show by The Norfolk Quilters. We admired a tremendous variety of quilts then had a quick wander down Pottergate and St Benedict’s Street. This used to be a fairly seedy area but it is now really trendy and artsy with jazz cafes, wholefoods, music and vintage clothes shops. I had a brief look on my latest quest… for an ostrich skin handbag. I saw one of these lately and I now covet something made from this exotically bumpy leather.

I can’t believe how quickly time passes on our family trips. We never seem to fit everything in that we have planned but we really manage to enjoy ourselves!

 

Gallivanting Time Again

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 The Pink Project was completed last Sunday night, quality control checked for threads and wrapped up on Monday morning. There is always an anticlimax after such an intense period of activity. It took two days to sort out the workshop, sift through all of the bent pins, catch up on correspondence and wait for Fedex to collect the large package. I was disappointed that it was not released to the media on Friday as planned as I have been dying to post pictures of the finished article on the blog and Facebook.

I finally bound Buddug’s beautiful Baltimore quilt and sent it back to Wales as a special delivery parcel. I did a lot of tiny background quilting on it but because I had used wool wadding, it was still drapey and light. I think her hand appliqué is wonderful and love that she used so many different fabrics.

By Wednesday I was wondering what to do as the pressure was off and I had no definite deadlines to meet. It is not as if I have nothing to do… just that I could not decide what to tackle next. I quilted a small piece of fabric to turn into a notebook cover with pen pocket for the Echo Livescribe pen that I have been too busy to experiment with. As usual I have made myself a note to increase the sides on the quilted covers for spiral books by another quarter of an inch. I really must write down the instructions for the notebook cover as by now the original notes have so many crossings-out and post-it-notes attached.

Tania and I were driven down to St. Cyrus to see our neighbour’s new house with sea views. I was intensely jealous of her 1950’s cream Aga that made the empty house cosy and welcoming. We had a rake around the junkyard on the edge of the Nature Reserve. “Steptoe’s” has the most incredible quantity of stuff outside on tables and stacked high in a large barn. There was an odd system of pricing where we had to ask a woman with a notepad who went off to discuss terms with the boss and then some haggling could go on. Prices were not cheap; I bought a scruffy 201k Sinker hand-crank sewing machine for £20 but it is in a bit of a state. I had read that it has the reputation for being one of the strongest machines ever made. My Husqvarnas are great machines but they have really struggled with large, bulky projects this year.

We had a second outing on Friday when I took one of my machines up to the shop in Keith to be fixed. I was rather taken with the Janome Horizon as I reckon I could do with a sturdy machine that can cope with big projects but can also do some decorative stitches. I have received many comments by email that it is a good machine but there seem to have been a few teething troubles according to some. It would be great if Husqvarna would bring out a similar machine in the same price range then I would have both value for money and the best Swedish build quality. It was a long drive to Keith in thick Scotch mist but fun to be away from the workshop and not at home doing overdue jobs like sorting out my wardrobe, paperwork or tidying children’s bedrooms, which is what I ought to have been doing.

At Freya’s request, I took her and Fenella into Aberdeen for a girls’ day out on Saturday. We went to the music shop to look at pianos. Our free antique piano has a honky-tonk-pub-piano sound with some keys that stick occasionally so the teacher has recommended a digital version. I have now researched extensively on the internet and been to the music shop and the conclusion is that we should get the most expensive one that we can afford so that the children don’t grow out of it as they progress. I like to encourage any interest in music so bought Freya some sheet music by Lady Gaga! We had a leisurely wander around in Aberdeen and stayed out in town all day, even visiting a tortoise shop. Fenella had said she would like a tortoise for her birthday but changed her mind when told that they don’t do anything at all and can hardly ever go outside in Scotland. She thought the lizards looked cool but we agreed that the reptile shop was pretty odorous so thankfully she has gone off that idea.

Mo and I had permission to rummage through the skip behind a hotel that is being refurbished but we were disappointed to find that it had already been emptied. We decided to drive by a disused village hall that could make a great studio. It is right in the forest and would provide a terrific space for working on large projects. The landlord is apparently on the brink of turning off the services and using it as a storage shed so we are keen to find out if we can use it for a very modest rent. It would make a wonderful longarming space except that it is situated on its own and expensive equipment may not be secure, although it has obviously had no visitors other than swallows for years.

The children are now on holiday for two weeks so I am planning to fit too much in as usual – visiting family in England, reminding myself what my Yurt Book is about, quilting a few of my old quilts that have been sitting in a basket for a while, planning a talk & workshop, starting a couple of new Yurt panels for Yurt2, repainting the Purposeless Room white, considering a couple of new projects with Mo, making a huge cupcake for Fenella’s birthday, and planning a Yurt Night which should keep me busy for a while…

Censorship

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Regular blog followers may have detected that my Blog has recently lacked lustre. I have felt utterly censored over the past few weeks. Writing a Blog is always a matter of balancing truth and tact; for instance it would be rude to write derogatively about a customer quilt that has issues. Recently I was encouraged to take down a Blog post by clients so that a project I was working on could be kept secret until being released to the media but it really did not feel right to hold back from my regular reports on a work in progress. I do not want to become embroiled in a wrangle over what information I can issue on my own Blog so will write about the experience in very general terms. The project had immense highs and lows that should have been documented at the time while they were still fresh. There was the hilarity of being filmed on a miserable and stormy day in Aberdeenshire and trying to find somewhere dry to work on a large piece. There was the disappointment of working flat out all weekend to be told on a Monday morning that huge changes would have to be made. There was the frustration of not being able to add personal touches in case the clients rejected them.

I experienced the elation of finishing a major piece of work in just over two weeks then having to send it away without having time to admire the results followed by an immense feeling of anti-climax. This explains why I have spent so much time decorating my Purposeless Room into a useful space where I can work on the laptop in the winter, hopefully doing more writing than mere idle internet browsing as of late! The anticipation gradually faded as the anticipated flurry of media attention did not happen. The low key internet publicity did not even reveal the makers of the project so with bittersweet relief I managed to win the bidding on Ebay to secure the return of my project.

Overall it was an enlightening experience. It proved that Mo and I could work together on a large project and put it together in an incredibly short time by working flat out. We came up with several ideas for future large and unusual joint projects. It made me realise the importance of agreeing a contract before starting on a major piece for a client in case of potential delays or changes. I look forward to working on other major challenges in future but I will make sure that I have clear procedures in place first from the planning stage to the eventual outcome.

TOP SECRET

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Sorry but there is no blog tonight as I have promised to say nothing at all about the large pink project until Friday.I even temporarily removed last week’s post to keep up an aura of mystery! Lots happened this week but I cannot spill the beans – yet…