Monthly Archives: October 2011

Trick or Treat


By now I should know better than to plan out my week. I received two phone calls from schools on Monday asking me to do some supply teaching. I had less than 12 hours to worry about my first morning of teaching children in eleven years. I jotted down a mini project on pets, put on a skirt, found my whistle and chose a story to read. I went straight back into teacher mode and I managed to keep the class busy and under control. I eventually worked out how to write on the electronic “Smartboard” but I confess that I missed the blackboard and teacher’s desk.  I even turned down more dates that I was offered by two more schools because they clashed with my forthcoming quilt classes. I have actually spent some of my wages already on a couple more teacher outfits, some new books and an impulse EBay purchase of a vintage thermos flask so that I can take my own coffee. I will have to work out a polite way of saying that I think I am “allergic” to staffroom instant coffee.

By midweek I still had not sewed a stitch so I was determined to get cracking on a couple of projects. I erred on the side of caution and ordered a colour swatch card from Cherrywood Fabrics rather than just choose off the internet. I cut out more strips for the Happy House blocks as a “just for fun in between” quilt. I have decided to mix my modern Aboriginal fabrics up with my subtle coloured Starr hand-dyes for a remake of Bewitched. I didn’t think I would want to make the same quilt twice but it was much admired before I sold it during NEOS week. Several people asked me to run a workshop or create a pattern so I might as well make a new one in different colours!

I washed and dried the ugly 1940’s quilt but to my alarm, due to the combination of a double wool and cotton wadding, it was all buckled and hairy when it came out of the dryer. There was nothing for it – I ironed it into shape before binding it. There was no way that I would be able to put it up for sale in my Etsy shop so my husband suggested that I just throw it on the bed. It has a certain old fashioned charm, I suppose, and it is definitely warm so it might as well make itself useful until it is time to get the Christmas one out.

I remade and photographed the Silent Movie Star block so that I could simplify and improve the instructions so it looks like there will be a new and improved version of that quilt too, although the interesting thing is that I have chosen to remake it in very similar fabrics.

I quilted one of three Hallowe’en tea towels from The Piggly Wiggly and felt decidedly rusty after not having done any serious longarming for a couple of weeks. It looks rather fun but the other two may have to wait be done in time for next year.

What’s Cooking?


Landrover dashboards were obviously designed to hold salt, vinegar and pots of mushy peas. We had an uneventful train trip back from Norfolk but really felt a chill when we got off at Stonehaven. The Landrover was filled with the steamy aroma of chips as we chomped our way through fish suppers, watching the crashing waves through a gap in the steamy windscreen.

Mo and I put some dates in our diaries for quilting & felting classes so now I just need to slot in a few more classes then let everyone know what will be on offer. I received an acceptance letter for supply teaching but already I think I may have to reduce the amount of time that I will be available to be on call as I hope to be busy running workshops. I kept getting sidetracked and not quite managing to finish that job by sorting out winter gear, ordering Lego lightsabres from ebay and taking Fenella clothes shopping for her birthday. I bought a great peaked hat with a fluffy green cap that made Freya laugh out loud when she saw it – I think it is pretty cool and it was a bargain – I just don’t know what will happen to it if it rains. My time was spent doing correspondence and planning a birthday party. Freya and I made a lemon sponge encased in a hard caramel case that was not as easy to handle as the demonstration on TV had led us to believe. It looked impressive and tasted great but I think I could do with a few days of vegetable broth to get all of that butter and sugar out of my system.

I quilted almost to the end of the ugly 1940’s quilt top but I am still not convinced that it will look much better when it is washed and bound. If I really can’t see it on my bed then it will have to go into the Etsy shop. I still have not decided which bed to put the Amish quilt on and I am running out of space in my quilt press.

I hope to quilt 3 Hallowe’en tea towels that I bought in The Piggly Wiggly as wall hangings to replace the one that I did about 7 years ago that still annoys me. I could requilt it but as it only hangs on the wall for about a week each year, I should probably get on and do something more useful instead.

I must improve the corner block instructions for Silent Movie Star as I made an error in the middle of my photo story and after that I am keen to start work on a show quilt that I have been planning for a while. The children go back to school this week and I hope to fit in LOTS of overdue projects…


Quite a Haul


Norma made an excuse to take friends, Ina and Kay to Chicago IKEA so they very kindly took me to the airport afterwards. A cheeky person in airport security did not believe that I was cool enough to be the owner of the gold Doc Marten boots on the conveyor belt. I wondered about how nice it would be to fly first class as my TV monitor didn’t work; the woman in front of me vomited throughout the entire journey and a child kicked the back of my seat. The security staff at Heathrow made me unpack my carry-on bag as it was so tightly crammed that the spools of thread looked suspicious. They even thought my boots were cool and asked me why I had been on my travels. They were very impressed by my quilting adventures, having read about “textile bombers” in the weekend newspaper and were even happy to help me shove my belongings into the rather overstuffed holdall since I was already struggling to carry a laptop bag that had a raccoon puppet sticking out of the top, a tweed jacket and the orange wool blanket from the Des Moines goodwill store. Aberdeen was cool and grey; I was surprised to notice that the leaves on the trees were only just beginning to change colour. The cats were thrilled to see me and immediately demanded the highly addictive meat pouches that had been rationed while I was away.

Waking up refreshed the next morning, I caught up with Mo and Tania over coffee then tidied up my luggage before repacking a smaller bag for a train trip down to Norfolk to collect the children from their grandparents’ house.

The train journey to England was quite tedious and took longer than my transatlantic flight. I seemed to be plagued by grumpy old women – one claimed that I had taken her seat and the next one wondered nervously if my bag would fall from the luggage rack onto her head. At least I had the luxury of being able to read a book for the entire trip. It was great to be met at the station by my three kids who had apparently missed me and begged me to take them to America the next time.

The weather was beautiful on Sunday so we ate all of our meals outside. We caught up with my sister and my small nephew then went to visit the Other Granny in the afternoon. On the trip home I need to plan a Halloween birthday party for Fenella then start to make serious new TO DO lists leading up to Christmas!

Fall in Wisconsin



Friday was a busy teaching day at the Museum, spending time demonstrating and doing hands-on sessions with the APQS Lenni. There was a mini field trip outside to discuss a student’s piece based on the old stone walls of the barn and working out how to create quilted texture. There was a select audience for my evening lecture since it was a crucial game for the Milwaukee based baseball team, The Brewers, The opening evening of local Artists’ Gallery Tours and also German Fest. However, in the enthusiastic audience, was an online longarmer friend called Colleen who drove over in her Smart Car with a jar of fresh peach jam.

On Saturday there was a “Bling My Quilt” class interspersed with some more longarm demonstrations. There were many visitors to the museum that day including a Facebook friend who had come all the way from South of Chicago just to meet me! The weather was incredibly and unseasonably warm, even in the evening so we enjoyed a grilled steak from the barbecue before settling down to watch the local American football team, the Green Bay Packers battle it out with the Atlanta Falcons.

I had my Artist’s Reception on Sunday afternoon and entertained a troupe of keen Girl Scouts who were delighted to experiment with the longarm in contrast to their other hand stitching projects. There were visitors from The Netherlands who were in the area visiting relatives who had read about the museum and Yurt exhibition in American Quilter Magazine. It was great to meet APQS dealers Dave and Jane Bentheimer-Brown from Randolph, WI who brought quilting goodies for me to take home. After a long day meeting and greeting, Terri and I went to a Mexican Restaurant and enjoyed a large frozen lime Margarita before watching The Brewers and Packers in action once more.

Since Terri was working at her “real” job I went back to spend my last few days in Cedarburg with Norma. Despite battling to fit everything into my one suitcase with a 23kg limit, I went on a trip to “Ivana Trunk’s” antiques consignment and came away with an authentic looking Amish quilt for $35… We were on a mission to find a toy raccoon for Fenella and searched in vain at various thrift stores and toy shops.  On the way back we stopped to take photos of some imaginative Hallowe’en displays and we called in to visit friends of Norma who live on a farm with a beautiful red barn that was built in 1848. During the evening a neighbour from across the street asked if her 8 year old son could come over and sweep up leaves as they did not have any trees in their yard. His reward would be to jump in the huge piles. I gave them a hand with a broom as it was so easy to sweep up such dry leaves. It seemed like such an idyllic all-American evening in suburbia as we could hear the marching band practising at the local high school football field two blocks away.

Tuesday was my last full day in the USA and Norma took me into Milwaukee to visit the Harley Davidson Motorcycle Museum. We had an interesting tour around a terrific industrial building and the company’s history was very well documented with artefacts and interactive displays. There was even an opportunity to sit on some real bikes to have photos taken. Afterwards we went to the Milwaukee Art Museum which is situated in the most incredible building that was designed by Spanish architect, Santiago Calatrava. The entire structure of the building was formed by huge white wishbones and had magnificent bow windows overlooking Lake Michigan where sailing boats were skimming across the bay. My gift shop purchase was a rubber tablemat that looked like it would make a rather interesting quilt stencil. On our way out of town we stopped at a toy and gift emporium called “Winkies” where I finally found a raccoon hand puppet which will have to travel in my handbag!

Cedarburg, Wisconsin



Sunday was yet another beautiful day when Norma and I set out on our drive to Wisconsin. We drove past traditional wooden farmsteads, red barns, grain silos and fields of corn and beans that were almost dry enough for harvest. There were huge pumpkins for sale at the side of the road. We stopped off in Conrad, Iowa to visit Heidi Kaisand’s new retreat and quilt shop, “Hens & Chicks”. She has converted an old general store and filled it with antique presses on which to display her fabrics. She still had a lot to do to get it ready for her grand opening but it will be a lovely place when it is complete.

We stopped for lunch at the Wisconsin state line for a lunch buffet. There was a strange jello confection in amongst the cold salad bar that I decided to avoid but I was impressed by the decor in the ladies loo that was decorated like horse stalls. The Wisconsin countryside is more like parts of England with rolling hills and smaller farms. The leaves on the trees were just turning to rich autumn colours. Cedarburg is a charming town with neatly mown lawns, pretty houses with porches and tree lined streets. We barely managed to stay awake until 9pm that evening and it was most comforting to sleep under a real quilt after a week in a hotel.

On Monday morning we arrived at the Wisconsin Museum of Quilts and Fiber Arts which is sited in renovated 1850’s barn with several other smaller farm buildings all awaiting their turn for conservation. I made myself useful by helping to dismantle the previous exhibit: there was a great selection of quilts on the walls and on an antique bed, crochet, macramé, knitting, baskets, vintage linens, and wool coverlets from Pennsylvania. There was also a Baltimore quilt from Mary Koval’s collection a WW2 wedding dress made from a parachute and a well stocked gift shop. The barn provides a perfect setting for such a diverse collection of textiles and it has large rooms available in the basement for classes, lectures and functions.

Norma and I took the carpet store by surprise when we asked if they had a remnant suitable for the yurt. I bought 50 samples at 25 cents each. We dropped the Des Moines butterfly chair off at the Goodwill Store near Port Washington and had a glimpse of Lake Michigan, shining flat calm on yet another beautiful autumn day.

Breakfast on Tuesday morning was fun when Norma and I met Luella for breakfast at George Webb’s Diner. A group of old timers sat at the long counter; I ordered sunnysideup fried eggs with hash-browns and an endless supply of coffee. I fulfilled a lifelong ambition to shop in a “Piggly Wiggly” grocery store; these are usually found in The South but there is also a small chain of them in Wisconsin. It was a lovely small supermarket so I bought some autumn coloured M&M’s and a canvas shopping bag with the legendary pig printed on the side.

There was a big team of helpers to get the yurt frame up in the centre of the barn which was good as wooden floors are always a bit of a challenge. Even the reporter from Ozaukee County News Graphic helped to attach the roof in between taking photos. The rest of the day was spent tidying up and sorting out a publicity poster. Norma and I visited Luella’s house which is full of interesting antique collections of quilts and kitchenware. Our reward for working so hard was to have a burger & fries supper at Culver’s, followed by ice-cream topped with pecans and butterscotch sauce shared three ways!

Wednesday at the museum involved making calls to the UPS depot, demanding why they had decided to split up the shipment from APQS of a longarm machine for teaching and demonstrations. They refused to admit that they had mistyped a label so we ended up driving to Milwaukee to collect the final box. There was a side trip to Joann’s to get some gold lame type fabrics for one of my classes. I wish we had places like that in the UK… the selection of fake fur, vinyl and dress fabrics is amazing and I think I could have such fun with some of that. We toured along Lakeshore Drive in Milwaukee which is an exclusive area of very fancy mansions close to Lake Michigan. Joggers, dog walkers and Harley Davidson bikers were making the most of the weather on the lakeside, making it all look like an idyllic place to live. I have been reliably informed that this weather could break at any time and temperatures could plummet any day. We got the APQS Lenni all set up for classes without the help of a paper manual and learnt that referring to PDF instructions by phone and using borrowed tools is not easy…  Terri Kirchner, the President of WMQFA, arrived back from New York where she had been on a tour with a group of quilters. She is one of the original Yurt “Stunt Quilters”. She had plenty of correspondence to catch up with during the day and in the evening I moved my out of Norma’s house with my expanding luggage to stay with Terri for the rest of my stay.

I worked on the longarm on Thursday morning then had a jaunt out to buy some prewound bobbins and look in the tempting window of the toffee-apple shop. I accompanied Terri on a wild goose chase to collect a donation of fabric from the estate of a deceased quilter. There were many rubbish bags full of musty smelling fabric awaiting collection on the front lawn. The first warning signs were people wearing Tyvek suits and respirator masks. The hoarder’s family called to demand that the clearance company did not give away the fabric in case it might be valuable. Terri was most relieved at that decision, particularly after being informed that the original elderly house owner had died 6 years ago; her infirm son then moved in before kicking the bucket himself on a small patch of rotting carpet. Five enormous containers had already been filled with junk for the dump. We returned to the Museum for me to give an evening talk to the volunteers about the Yurt so that they would know how to explain it all to visitors. Afterwards there was coffee with the sweetest and stickiest frosted carrot cake that I have ever tasted – it actually gave me a bit of a headache!


AQS Show in Des Moines


On Monday I did a little exploring around Des Moines on my own as I would be waiting until the afternoon for the Yurt to arrive from Wisconsin. I took the Skywalk downtown to see what little shops I could find. (It seems that the Skywalk was partly responsible for the downtown shops closing down as it meant that no-one had a reason to walk at street level any more.) I had coffee at Java Joes but did not see many interesting people downtown apart from office workers and a few stray hobos. Next I walked up to the East Village where there is a scattering of trendy boutiques and a couple of large thrift stores where I felt obliged to have a good rummage. I checked back at the convention centre where stallholders were beginning to unload and get set up for the show. There had been very heavy rain in the north so Norma did not make it down from Wisconsin until late in the afternoon but it was a great feeling to unload the USA yurt from her car at last and lay it down in the space where it would be displayed.

Arriving early on Tuesday morning, we were assigned two very helpful members of AQS staff, Melissa and Barry to help get the frame assembled. It was useful that they are both tall as this yurt frame is 2 feet higher than the original Scottish version. The new yurt frame also has a smaller diameter so the two lattices meet more tightly at the back. This took a little persuasion to get all lined up but in no time we had figured it all out and I was impressed at how easily it all went from there. Before long the hanging rope and wall skirts were on and finally the roof that I had made from a sketch diagram with Mo’s help.  Thankfully and impressively it fitted perfectly! The wall panels all lined up nicely so there was plenty of time to add the pompom trim and bunting. The electricians agreed to run a cable under the carpet so that I could plug in the fairy lights and we still had time left to go on an expedition to see if we could find any interesting items to add to the yurt’s cosy atmosphere. Enthused by what might be uncovered in junk shops we set off for a good rake around some of the goodwill stores and Dollar Trees. I have never seen so many jeans all in one place amongst discarded Christmas decorations and novelty mugs. I managed to find a dangly plastic mobile that looked funky, a 1960’s style butterfly chair and an interesting wool blanket. Just for fun, I added a set of imitation antlers that were probably designed as a coat rack that would hang above the door. I was made very welcome at the evening Teacher meeting by Bonnie Browning and Andi Reynolds from AQS, before returning to my room to eat a leftover salad and a large G&T.

The show opened on Wednesday and the visitors were amazed and most complimentary when they saw the yurt in person, after having read about it in American Quilter magazine. There were many questions to answer about yurts, why I had decided to make a quilted version, and where I got my gold Doc Marten boots. It was great to have Norma Klimpke on hand to talk about the USA yurt frame from Yurts of America and the background of the Cedarburg, Wisconsin Museum of Fiberarts I gave my first class that evening, “Bling My Quilt” and the students seemed to enjoy themselves despite everyone being tired after a long day at the show.

Thursday was a busier day at the show as we headed towards the weekend. I made a point of going to see all of the super show quilts and had a brief look at some of the vendor stalls. It was fun to spend time talking to the APQS team and their booth looked great set up with all of the machines in the range on show. I bought some thread, glittery spray and some stencils one just one trip back from the ladies’ loo. I met lots of people from the APQS forum and Facebook; it was lovely to meet the real people at last instead of their virtual personas. It seems that Norma and I are both curious people because we quizzed everybody about where they had travelled from and they in turn asked me about Yurts and Scotland. I was interviewed on video by Bonnie Browning of AQS and had fun pretending to be on the news. It was exciting to meet quilt teachers whom I had read about on the Internet; we had a great laugh with Ellen Anne Eddy over breakfast and supper a couple of times and Heather Thomas gave me some helpful book publishing information. I had a worthwhile meeting with AQS publishing editor, Andi Reynolds who encouraged me to look for an alternative publisher that would let me have free rein to put together a book about the yurt that goes beyond patterns and tells the richer story of the collaboration of women quilters who helped to create the Quilted Yurt. I appreciate her insight and this should give me a better sense of direction to the way I put the chapters together.

On Friday I gave my “Silent Movie Star” piecing class which went really well until we realised that I had missed out a crucial photo. Luckily, there were a couple of clever students who helped to find the missing piece of the puzzle and we soon put it all back on track. I promised that I would make the quilt again, photograph every stage and email new improved instructions once I get home. I should probably stick to teaching longarm quilting…! The afternoon lecture on the story of the Quilted Yurt went down very well. The audience listened attentively and laughed in all of the right places, apart from a couple of people who had forty winks because the quilt show had obviously worn them out. The talk ran to schedule then many members of the audience came back to look around the yurt again to examine the structure in more detail. Even vendors made a special point of coming to see what everyone was talking about and ask about the project. I am thrilled at how well received the yurt has been. People are also enquiring which longarm machine I would recommend and asking for more information about the WI Fiberarts Museum. I have certainly been made to feel most welcome in Des Moines!

The Saturday morning crazy notebook class was fun as it was relaxing and not at all complicated. Everyone had a good time but wished it was a couple of hours longer. I went back to the Yurt where Norma K (from the Wisconsin museum) reported that the morning had brought many excited visitors. So many people were amazed by the use of gold lame and fabric paint on many of the Yurt quilts. The time passed quickly, chatting to all of the crowds then I had a last look around the vendors, making the decision not to buy a couple of large and heavy items such as a metal barn quilt sign. Sadly, it was time to pack up and with the help of members of the AQS team, the whole Yurt was packed up and ready to load into the car in less than an hour. Norma and I had a very good burger with beer in the Raccoon River Brewing Co. where we had quite a laugh at some of the shiny, tight Homecoming frocks and high heels.

We will leave for Wisconsin in the morning and I hope to have the chance to take far more photos…