Monthly Archives: January 2011

Focus!

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I expect that I really do have plenty of time for writing a book except that I have a tendency to get a little side-tracked. I have just spent about an hour searching on the internet for a folk singer that I heard on the radio one evening. I memorised her name and meant to write it down but then forgot. After a circuitous trawl via Mike Harding and the Folk Awards, I remembered that I was looking for Emily Portman. Incredibly, when I asked Fenella who the singers were on Jools Holland’s Hootenany, she immediately reminded me that they were called “The Secret Sisters”. I am mentioning this because I have made a very simple gift quilt this week with large flying geese and rectangles. Surely nothing could go wrong? The thing is that when things are simple, I must let my mind wander and not concentrate fully. There was a good couple of inches difference between the two sides of the finished quilt top because I wasn’t accurate enough. I don’t know whether this was because the large triangles made things extra stretchy or whether I really should have used some pins to keep things together. I will tell the recipient that the quilt must absolutely never be hung on a wall as it has been specially designed to go on a spare bed.

I had similar lapses in attention when I made the effort to read through the Scottish primary curriculum guidelines that had supposedly been endorsed by the Plain English society. Either it has been deliberately written by a government quango in Gobbledegook or I am incapable of concentrating for long enough to reach the end of each flow diagram. However, while I was doing that I figured out how to draft some quilt blocks with curves, and even worked out the best construction method so it turned into a pretty useful multi-tasking exercise.

Something that preoccupied me greatly was whether we should consider putting in an offer on Durris Manse that came up for sale this week. It is a fantastic large Victorian house in wonderful grounds that requires substantial modernisation. It is also well out of our price range and doesn’t even have a workshop. Somehow it appealed to me and I could actually imagine myself living there but it would be far more sensible and much cheaper to extend the house we already have.

I intended to start on some new Yurt panels but I realised that I did not have sufficient yardage to do what I had planned. I ordered some super pieces of organic, fair-trade cotton from http://www.fairtradefabric.co.uk that I will incorporate the other shot cotton and dyed yurt scraps. I want to work on some more panels that involve circles so I spent an afternoon mass producing bias binding that will cover up some raw edge appliqué. I decided that the bias binding can include prints which did not appear in the other panels; the main fabrics will remain as earthy plains.

The patchwork Smart Car cover appeared in “Popular Patchwork” and “Patchwork & Quilting” magazines this month and got some very good coverage. Taking it to a couple of the Ribbon Walks is something else I have to organise soon. I also have to find out whether I will be allowed to display it on a car at Festival of Quilts… I have now booked the APQS stand at FOQ 2011 and my book-keeper ensured that my accounts were all in order in time to complete my online tax self-assessment. But I did not realise that I had to allow time to receive a code in the post before I can complete this. I decided to send in a cheque to show willing even though HMRC will probably end up refunding it later!

I had a look at the draft of the Yurt book and was pleased to see that I have written more than I remembered. I need to concentrate on getting the instructions done for another 10 projects then can spend more time waffling on about Yurts and the wonderful stunt quilters. I even made Carrot Cake #2 which was too fluffy, although technically still delicious. By the time I have made all 6 recipes that I want to trial, we will either be utterly fed up with carrot cake or will have decided on the ultimate combination and it will deserve a place in the Yurt book.

 

 

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Brringg, Brringg!!

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I had a birthday this week and celebrated in style with my friends and family, surrounded by pink balloons; the lucky recipient of a retro phone, books by Nigel Slater and peanut M&M’s. The 1960’s rotary dial phone is great fun – Tania gave it to me as I am always complaining that my cordless phones are defective. The children had absolutely no idea how to answer or dial; I deliberately let it ring a few more times than strictly necessary as its old-fashioned bell tone makes me laugh. I decided that I would make a carrot cake so asked for recipes on Facebook. I now have 6 variations to test thoroughly in my quest for the definitive carrot cake recipe. I am classifying this as research of sorts, since I would like to include a few essential Quilters’ recipes in the Yurt Book.

I have made a start on the Yurt tour plans, trying to work out dates, venues and logistics. I looked at the possibility of hiring an RV so that I could consider taking the children on tour to the USA for a few weeks but it looks pricey without even adding fuel, berths and food.  Perhaps I will need to think about making more than one trip across the Atlantic instead. Whatever I decide, my accounts show that I cannot guarantee making enough money for a grand Yurt tour based on quilting alone. This has prompted me to complete an application form for some work as a Primary relief teacher, hoping that I can save towards my air fare and Yurt shipping costs. I need to read up on the latest curriculum guidelines and spend some time in school as a volunteer. I am sure that will have to practise my patience skills considerably as they seem to have disappeared since I had children of my own!

I have cut out an easy scrappy quilt project that I will make for my book-keeper as a Thank-You gift for sifting through my receipts and notebooks so that I can get my tax return done by the end of January. This will have to be the last non Yurt project before getting started on some new panels, the USA Yurt roof, and some serious book writing sessions. With this attitude of getting sorted out to concentrate on more important projects, I bound a large piece of quilted tweed because I decided that the Blue Cat shouldn’t really spend all day sleeping on my antique Welsh blanket. I also completed the quilting and binding on the Fresh Start spring quilt. It is wide enough to go right down to the floor and since it has been such a cold winter so far, I used a double layer of cotton and wool wadding. I tried Sew Simple waddings for the first time but they are flatter than I like so I think the quilt feels a bit rigid; hopefully it will soften up as it gets used. However, I decided that it was actually pretty warm and I could probably take off the other quilt and wool blanket that are usually on top of the duvet as it was quite becoming difficult to turn over in bed under all of that weight!

 

 

 

Ready 4 (x4) Adventure

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I really felt that I got some things done this week as I worked my way through TO DO lists. In between all of the admin tasks I worked on piecing my king-sized Spring quilt. Basic sewing seemed to help me come up with ideas and possibilities for how to organise the Yurt’s tour of America. It looks like I will need to travel around the USA for a few weeks or fly over more than once. Three fairly major snags in that plan are my children so I am even considering looking into RV hire and taking them with me. In order to save up enough money for this grand scheme I have investigated signing up as a primary school supply teacher. However, first I have to get references, attend an interview, refamiliarise myself with the curriculum and hope that enough teachers go sick that some nice jobs come up where and when I want them, despite Aberdeenshire Council making major cutbacks to their education budget!

I ordered 35 metres of fabric to dye for the USA Yurt roof and some procion dyes since I was inspired by pictures posted on Tamarack Shack’s BlogSpot about snow dyeing techniques. I have avoided the mix it yourself dyes before because I couldn’t quite figure out the recipe. The mention of potash, bicarb, salt, heat, differing amounts, calgon and synthrapol has previously put me off but the results look great. As soon as I placed my order, our lingering snow finally melted but I will at least be ready for the next lot. I have to decide whether to overdye coloured fabric or whether to see if I can get good results on white. It should give a crystalline-batik effect so it will be interesting to see what happens.

The result of the slow thaw was that our track turned into a lethal luge run of 4″ thick ice running with surface water. It became impossible to drive or walk on it until the Farmer came along and gritted it. Freya stood still and slid downhill for 150 yds to catch her school bus. Our new glass shower enclosure was delivered to the end of the track where the driver shoved it into the back of my Landrover and tied the door shut with rope. The missing roof-rack finally turned up on Friday and was also dropped off at the end of the track. I am disappointed that I paid £50 carriage to get it delivered but it took a month to get here, got lost and then I had to carry it up from the main road with Tania’s help.

I have handed over my accounts books to a friend who is putting everything all onto Excel. It is such a relief to hand it over to someone who seems to know how to organise it all properly so I should get the tax return sorted out by the end of January deadline.

I made enquiries into reserving a stall at Festival of Quilts – this year I hope to share the pitch and get something a bit bigger on a corner so I will complete the booking and tick that off a list as well.  I also booked flights to London to attend the APQS technical training day at the beginning of February. It is important that I spend a bit of time networking with some of the UK longarmers and I will be able refresh my knowledge so that I can run a technical class myself for APQS owners in the North.

There was a thought provoking series of documentaries on TV this week hosted by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall of River Cottage. He is campaigning for the wasteful practice of discard to be abolished, raising awareness of the impact of catching small fish from the other side of the world to make fish-food for farmed salmon, and exposing tuna fisheries that catch endangered marine animals as a by-catch. Hugh has become a most articulate environmental activist for sustainable fishing methods. The River Cottage team has tried introducing a tasty alternative to cod in UK Fish & Chip shops; we made battered mackerel in a bap for supper on Saturday and declared it delicious. I urge you to pledge your support at http://dev.fishfight.net so that Hugh F-W can go back to the European Parliament with a petition showing overwhelming public support for sensible and sustainable fishing, particularly in the North Sea.

Finally this week, I even tackled one disorganised kitchen cupboard. It was only a small cull from the recipe book shelves. I threw away all of the unused free leaflets from the supermarket and jotted down the scribbled post-it-note recipes that actually work into a proper notebook with alterations in temperature to accommodate my oven that burns everything. I removed the bag full of cookie cutters that fell out every time I opened the door and stashed them in the pantry. That is also due for an overhaul because I can’t fit any more stuff on the shelves. There are flowerpots on the top shelf just in case I ever decide to make a Barbie-doll cake and about a dozen ice-cube trays from the era when I mistakenly believed that my babies would eat frozen vegetable puree, so that should create a bit more space…

Fresh Start

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As the holidays drew to a close, I felt compelled to reorganise everything that I could think of that required sorting. Shelves went up in the workshop and Music Room and the decorations were tidied and put away until next Christmas. I made an effort to be a “Yummy Mummy” a couple of times and involved the children in some cooking or baking; I even let Fenella have a sleepover that involved making decorated gingerbread men and popcorn. I bought a trendy skirt in the sale when I went to get more hen food at the Farm Supply Store and wore it with smart leather boots to go out for coffee with friends. My children thought that I looked unusually smart so just to reassure them that I was just the same, I took them into Banchory wearing my old green Doc Martens and ancient multicoloured patchwork knitted cardigan so that Freya felt obliged to walk behind me and pretend that I was not her Mother.

One of my greatest bugbears is all of the wire spaghetti hidden in drawers that belong to gadgets and chargers. I am convinced that we have a collection of cables that belong to cameras or mobile phones that are now obsolete but no-one even knows what they are. I have kept all of my cables in labelled sandwich bags but whenever I go on a trip they get all muddled up and I am sure that one day I will be stopped by Security, questioning why I may need to travel with all of that wiring. I decided to make a few small drawstring bags with embroidered labels but when I laid all of the cables out separately on the table it became obvious that I would have to make at least a dozen just for my own stuff – the house is still full of many more cables for IPods, Nintendo DS, headphones and cameras!

I cut out 3 sizes of squares for a large, everyday bed quilt so that I can put the Christmas quilt away. I pieced a small section but wonder if it is a bit too girlie for me. I wanted something light and fresh for Spring but it feels odd to be using pretty prints after working with plain fabrics so much last year.

Despite endeavouring to crack on with my book-keeping and prioritising my projects, I got bogged down in making phone calls to chase up the long overdue heating oil delivery and trying to find out why my LandRover roofrack had still not been delivered. The roofrack seemed to have disappeared entirely between couriers and will need to be tracked down again this week. I felt that all of these mundane tasks had to be done in order to clear the way for greater focus during the coming week, as long as school transport is running since we have now had more fresh snow…

Glad it’s all over?

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I cannot believe that it is now 2011 and that two weeks of holiday have sped by…

 The week before Christmas was hectic with snow and ice continuing. The children’s piano concert was the only event that was not cancelled; there was no end of term carol service or party. My husband thought it might be fun to take his lowered Golf GTi for a drive in the snow one evening but then could not get back up our track. Even the Landy couldn’t pull it out on solid ice so it had to stay there until the farmer arrived the next morning. He has been terrific at clearing our track of snow as usual so I left a few bottles and chocolate on his doorstep on one of the festive supermarket runs. I made an effort to buy plenty of local produce from a farm shop this year despite it being more expensive.

Mo, Tania and I exchanged gifts with Christmas cake, truffles, salmon pate, champagne and coffee. We had chosen each other exactly what we would have picked ourselves, such as scented candles, home-made cushions, incense and in my case, a ceramic book that actually hides a secret gin stash! The children were delighted with their haul of presents that included a violin, camera, Xbox, Lego and hair gadgets. We spent a lot more time than usual preparing, cooking, eating and washing up. We ploughed our way steadily through gammon, turkey, smoked salmon, pate, cheese, nuts, cake, chocolate, relishes and other tasty treats until I began to dream of enjoying a more frugal diet.

I was amazed to be offered a vintage fur coat that had previously belonged to a friend’s Great Aunt. It is very heavy but incredibly warm, ideal for watching a Hogmanay firework display. I think it will be well used this winter. I had to splint one of the garden Yurt roof spars that snapped due to the weight of wet snow. I lit the wood stove to dry the canvas out but the damp logs just spluttered – I need to get some peat to get it to burn hotter.

Every now and then I thought about clearing out some junk and old clothes before deciding it could turn into a much bigger chore. I deliberately put off making any To Do lists for the coming year as I didn’t want to start worrying during the holidays. I can wait until the children return to school, then panic. I hope to make an everyday bed quilt in frivolous fabrics while working on mundane January tasks like book-keeping. Instead of using up leftover Yurt fabrics or existing stash fabrics, I ordered a Heather Bailey selection just for fun. I have made a few New Year resolutions that I hope to keep… I will try to be better organised, waste less time on the computer, make more use of the gadgets and software that I thought would be so useful, eat less chocolate and dress smartly on occasion – hmm, Good Luck for 2011!!