Monthly Archives: August 2011

Fun in the Forest


My sewing machine ploughed admirably through yards and yards of industrial Velcro and eventually all of the new USA Yurt quilted roof sections, skirts and hanging junctions were complete. It took some determination to keep going but with a deadline looming there was to be no slacking. I packed up all of the USA Stunt Quilter panels, along with a wide selection of mine and I managed to cram everything into two very large suitcases ready for shipping. I delivered them to the depot after driving around several industrial estates near Aberdeen airport so hopefully they will be sent out as soon as Hurricane Irene calms down. They are heading for the Fiber Arts Museum in Wisconsin, where the new yurt frame has already been delivered. I expect Terri and her team will have a dress rehearsal once everything clears customs.

Having completed the very last Yurt panel ever, I decided that I had to do just one more in case the 18 panels that I have kept in the UK did not quite fit together. It will be a sort of strippy a bit like Five Bar Gate, inspired by the magenta of the willow bay herb, the lilac coloured heather that is in full bloom, and the deep purple brambles. Some of the wide strips are not quite long enough so there will be a few sections of golden flying geese as they will soon be heading south as summer draws to a chilly close.

I spent a couple of days planning some child friendly hand sewing and packed up the Quilted Yurt for an educational event in Durris Forest over the weekend. There is a wood in the forest where local children can take part in Forest School activities. They can work on environmental tasks and spend whole days outside, walking from the village school up the long forest track to a clearing near the top of a hill. Over the weekend there was a bodger helping them to saw logs by hand and make a wooden xylophone, bows and arrows, and play games using sticks and willow hoops. A story-teller with a lyre narrated scary folk tales and a forest ranger led nature trails, identifying bugs and fungi. A team of volunteers worked on a dry stone dyke while children worked on craft activities and everyone was amazed that the weather stayed dry enough for picnics. Despite the merciless midges and the uneven ground, the Yurt looked terrific in its woodland setting. It would be great if a permanent yurt with a wood stove could be put up there for outdoor education.

Sewing Stamina


Adrenaline seems to have kicked in for the run up to my USA trip. Instead of my usual 500 word weekly ramble, you will be lucky to get a few coherent sentences strung together. I washed and ironed my new fabric then made myself put it away so that I could not be tempted to start playing with it. The Yurt panels that were quilted while I demonstrated Lenni at FOQ were painted and bound and even the final one has been quilted this week at high speed. I even managed to complete a customer quilt; the last one that I will do until October.

There were quite a few emails between myself, the museum in Wisconsin and the new Yurt frame makers, Yurts of America to sort out photos, drawings and dimensions. I worked out the maths and sketched the measurements of the roof for Yurt2. Mo was my right hand woman for one full day so we figured out some modifications to the design, cut all of the pieces then started overlocking, hemming and attaching industrial Velcro. The progress that we made was astonishing and I have now completed the junctions, joined the roof sections and made additional wall bands as the shape is slightly different to the original. We have to hold our breath that it will fit snugly when it meets the frame in the USA for the first time. However, I have several cunning tricks worked out in case it doesn’t quite marry up that involve pins, Velcro and bunting. Mo tells me that it WILL fit – we are the team that made a fitted car cover and plan to construct an armoured horse after all!

I still have to wage war with the rest of the roof Velcro and attach the wretched stuff to my newer Yurt panels but I plan to get it all packed up and shipped by the middle of the week. I have chosen which panels will be sent to the USA; all of the original USA Stunt Quilter panels and a generous selection of mine, leaving me with another complete Yurt to remain in the UK. I wonder what I can make out of the surplus quilted material that is left over from the new roof?

Festival of Quilts 2011




On Tuesday I drove around the countryside dropping my children off at their various billets on my way to Birmingham with the Landy full of quilting gear and the APQS Lenni strapped to the roofrack. I think I may have to admit defeat and invest in a satnav system after making a very roundabout yet scenic trip through the Scottish Borders to stay overnight with Kay. I drove for miles without meeting another car with sheep on the roads, rattling over cattle grids, wondering if I was anywhere near where I was meant to be since I had forgotten to pack the map. My detour was definitely picturesque and took me to places that I had never previously visited. We set off the next morning through torrential rain and arrived in Birmingham in good time to set the Lenni up for longarm demonstrations.

We made a point of arriving early for the show each day to get an opportunity to look at the quilts and exhibitions before the general public was given access as it got very busy later on and even making a quick trip to the loo involved battling through crowds. There were some super quilts on display from all over the world. I think one of my favourites was a prehistoric dinosaur by Pam Holland. There was a wonderful exhibition by the Cairo tentmakers who create intricate hand appliqués using enormous scissors, seemingly without plans or diagrams. There were several interesting galleries and collections featuring antique quilts, concept art, costumes and installations. I met many international visitors, catching up with old quilting friends and meeting new ones, even resorting to sign language at times as I don’t speak Italian or Russian.  Every now and then I would make a foray away from my stall to acquire some fabric paints and I also bought a couple of bundles of coloured schwe-schwe fabrics from South Africa, having told myself beforehand that I did not need any new material, especially since an exciting surprise package from Christine in Australia had arrived on Monday containing a delicious selection of Aboriginal designs that are begging to be made into a new project.

My 3 Yurt panels, hanging as a triptych, received favourable comments from the judges and the public and I was delighted that The Hare received a Highly Commended award. I was thrilled that one judge had given me a perfect score card. It seemed to prove popular with the crowds that I was working on real projects at one end of the frame but it was not actually easy to concentrate while stopping to explain how the machine works and help novices use a longarm machine for the first time. Several longarmers gathered at the stall periodically to chat and share information; there is nothing like a lively gaggle of quilters to draw more crowds over. Yvette from Needle & Threads in Surrey was selling fabrics on the other half of the stall so it felt like we were constantly busy during the entire show. 

The Landy seemed to enjoy bullying his way through the city traffic and guys loading vans after the show were suitably impressed that I could actually manoeuvre it in a tight spot fully loaded with gear and a ladder. We went out for a genuine Birmingham balti curry twice during the show, stayed up late looking at quilt photos while sipping gin, discussed the designs of the show quilts, outfits of the quilters and examined the purchases of the day. We stayed one more night in Birmingham after the show in order to head back up north to Scotland early as my children go back to school on Tuesday. It was enjoyable and exhausting but I will have to unpack as soon as I get home and crack straight on with the modified roof for Yurt2 so that it can be shipped to the USA in good time…


Keep Calm and Carry On!


In order to stop myself from panicking that my Yurt Tour of America’s plan had gone awry, I made some lists then started phoning and emailing anyone who might have a bright idea or two on how to get a replacement frame to Des Moines on time. I gradually whittled through the suggestions and possible scenarios and came to the conclusion that it would not be economical or practical to ship the original Scottish frame. I have had a great deal of support and practical advice from Terri Kirchner, who is the curator of the Wisconsin Fiber Arts Museum and Scott Figved, the son of one of the Stunt Quilters. Other possibilities involved contacting Amish carpenters or shipping my Yurt crown as the most difficult element of the construction. The most daunting problem is lack of time and it is essential that the Quilted Yurt is exhibited on an authentic frame; otherwise my credibility and the potential for the Yurt to travel elsewhere in the USA would be compromised. It looks like the problem is solved and this week a replacement frame will be commissioned.

I have decided that I want to try to sell some quilts in order to help finance the USA trip. I am very proud of them but they spend most of their time in a linen press, occasionally being aired at trunk shows or lectures. They may as well earn their keep and I can always make new ones…! They are for sale in my virtual shop I am also going to get some Yurt panels and quilt patterns printed out for sale. It confirms that I need a tight schedule to get me galvanised into action. I finally booked my flights to the USA for the Des Moines and Wisconsin trip. It was a little tricky working out the route and dates but I am relieved that I have got it all sorted out now.

I finished quilting one of the African Fabric Shop mudcloth panels so that I can display it at FOQ along with three of the most recent Yurt panels. I have packed 3 more panels that I hope to quilt while I am there, although it would be great if I was too busy selling longarm machines to have time to quilt. I pieced another African Yurt panel which might even be the last one. I do have other ideas to explore but perhaps I will have to redirect these into a new series of quilts that are influenced by the Scottish countryside.

I spent almost two days packing up part of my studio for Festival of Quilts, including dismantling one of the longarm frames. The long boxes containing poles and rails will have to travel on the roofrack of the Landy. I seem to have crossed everything off the list so I hope I have not forgotten anything important. Freya has been sorting out camping gear for a Girl Guide camp and the other two are packed up and ready to be “evacuated” to stay with friends at the seaside on Tuesday. The dog-sitter is booked, the hens have been cleaned out and I have bought plenty of cat food…