Monthly Archives: January 2012



  Norse helmet

For some reason I have had the word “discombobulated”, meaning confused or muddled, stuck in my head and it seems an appropriate description of my week. I went to see the magnificently moving film, “Warhorse”, with its stark reminder of the tragedy of war which was what probably led to me having one of my “What is the meaning of Life?” moments.

 I wondered whether to consider working towards a PhD. I even looked up the requirements on the Open University website where I was informed that a full time student would have to study for 16 hours per week. Surely I could fit that into my schedule? I could not actually understand any of the thesis titles so I decided that pursuing some kind of discourse on blogging and patchwork might be considered lightweight. Really, it would be better to be awarded an honorary professorship or just get on with the research required to finish off my Yurt book!

I attended an interview for a two day a week local teaching job and felt that I presented myself well so I was affronted to be informed that I had not been successful in securing the job. Apparently I had not given enough examples of the methods of formative assessment that I would use in the classroom. I sulked for a full two days as I was unable to accept that I might not have been the best candidate.

I eventually cheered myself up on one of my supply teaching days as I spontaneously planned 7 activities based on King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table for a class of more than thirty 9-10 year olds whom I had never met before. I kept them entertained and under control and decided that was a pretty good outcome.

I felt obliged to prove to myself that I had worthy IT skills and determined to solve two tasks that have had me puzzled for ages. Inspired by the endeavours of a couple of tech-savvy fellow bloggers, Kay and Kathy, I finally figured out how to create a colour palette from a photo and I managed to “slurp” part of my blog so that it could be published as a hard copy.

I quilted and bound a vibrant maple leaf quilt for Shona in simple swirls, put the main part of Silent Movie Star 2 together then gave myself permission to start another metallic wholecloth quilt. The Norse helmet carving started off well but the slippery silver tissue lame had been very difficult to mark clearly and the lights from the quilting machine caused such a glare that I felt like I had snow blindness. I reluctantly decided that there were too many wobbly areas and the tension was not at all good so it would actually be quicker to start again with a new piece of lame than fix the issues. I have drawn up the copper carving now but this time I have marked the design onto the cotton back of the quilt instead of wrestling with the lurex that I will be using. Thus, the back of quilt will be what I can see and the temperamental fabric will be underneath. I think it will be challenging…



It took me a whole day to do all of the sums required to complete the tax return that I could have done months ago. In theory a spreadsheet would work it all out for me… I bungled my way through the online questions and almost submitted a healthy profit until I found out how to put in the expenses. It was sobering to see my deficit in black and white. After clicking “submit” I felt pleased with my efforts for about 5 minutes until it dawned on me that I had gone beyond April up to September with my accounting, confusing the tax year end with my company’s year end! I daresay I will eventually be contacted by a representative from the Tax Department; they will demand to know why such an idiot can possibly hope to run a small business and recommend that I find a full time job instead.

I actually started the week as a stand-in specialist science teacher. I taught 5 classes of 11 and 12 year olds a lesson about solids, liquids, and gases including messing about with a non-Newtonian liquid made from cornflour and water. I mentioned molecules, alchemy and mercury induced madness in passing and a few students told me that it was “The coolest ever science lesson!” I must admit that it is really nice to hear comments like that from time to time, especially when so many pupils think that “Now, stop and listen…” does not apply to them thus wasting valuable lesson time. It is not the done thing to throw chalk at children in the 21st century – besides there isn’t any chalk anyway 😉

I was in school for three days this week so I was suffering withdrawal symptoms from my workshop. I made a few more apple core units for one of the scrappy Christmas quilts and I am going to smuggle a very small sewing machine back into the house to see if I can get a few more done each evening. In the depths of winter I spend most evenings on the computer, not necessarily working on my book (although this week I managed to get a few more paragraphs written – in case Ellen is reading this to check up on my progress with that project!)

I made a start on the first of my 3 planned metallic wholecloth pieces based on Norse carvings. The first one is in shiny gold lame and the definition created by the quilting is fantastic. There are a couple of slightly iffy areas of tension on the back because the combination of lame and cheap IKEA cotton is not ideal. I may have to paint over the offending areas on the back if I decide to enter it into a competition. I am not sure yet whether to give the quilt a rustic looking edge like a slab of broken metal or whether to take the easy way out and keep it straight. The next two may be more challenging since I have not got silver and copper in the same fabric and I have had to settle for lurex instead. These fabrics are very difficult to mark and every wobbly pen line is there forever. I will do a bit of cosmetic stitching to finish off the gold panel then see if I manage to complete the set. Hopefully I will allow myself more sewing time in the coming week to work on those and get the next part of SMS2 done before the final class. I also need to schedule kit making time for my classes in Newcastle and continue with “that other previously mentioned project” which seems to be taking rather a long time!




The week got the off to a gentle start when the children returned to school without a single flake of snow scuppering my plans but I stocked up on sacks of dog and chicken food just in case. It gave me time to consider a much needed new TO DO list. The WRI ladies came for an outing to my workshop where I gave them a talk and showed them some of my quilts. I had the delicious honour of judging the Shortbread Competition which was hard as their standard of baking was so high. It reminded me that a couple of my Yurt Book recipes need tweaking – I have to decide whether to recommend serving the venison casserole with mash or a concoction of pearl barley.

I chose Norse and Celtic designs to enlarge at the photocopy shop for a set of 3 metallic wholecloths. I had enough gold lame and a piece of shredding tissue lame in silver but I had to send away to an American pageant shop to find shiny copper spandex. It will either be a quite interesting miniseries of pieces that look like carved metal-work or simply a disaster in lurex…

On Wednesday I was kept busy teaching a class that involves free motion quilting into small sections of a pre-quilted Celtic spiro. It is interesting working with beginners; I can remember clearly the frustrations of being a novice. There are students who get rather annoyed with themselves if they don’t produce flowing designs straight away and I remind them gently that it is a bit like learning how to write – you would not expect beautifully flowing cursive script on the first day at school. It is always interesting that thread choices and the individual style of each student leads to entirely different looking projects that started off from exactly the same point. While they worked away on their fillers I polished the flute that had arrived from Ebay. It was a little more “vintage” and grubbier than expected but it soon polished up and Freya managed to get all of the keys to work so it will do until she decides whether to resume lessons or not.

I made a start on the first of 3 Christmas quilts that I plan to make for each of my children. I thought I had far more Christmas fabric in my stash so I ended up rummaging around pulling out what might pass for Christmassy colours instead. I used the Go Cutter to cut out apple core shapes then had to work out how to sew them without having a trauma about using PINS. I had bought a Curvemaster sewing machine foot which worked reasonably well at easing the fabric in from one curve to another but despite watching a YouTube video I don’t think I quite had the hang of it. I came across a blog where it was suggested that the middles and outer edges should be stuck in place with a tiny dab of Sewline fabric glue. This seemed to work a treat so I have made a good start. There was a time when I would never have attempted anything as tricky as curved seams but I seem to have overcome my fears and I think the blocks I have made so far look really fun.

I made a tentative start on the Norse gold lame wholecloth and so far it seems to be going accordingly to plan. I have not yet worked out what I want in the background. The easy option would be swirls and plumes but I think it needs some tricky lines.

I taught a class of lively 6 year olds on Friday and I managed to keep them fairly under control for the day but I did pour myself a large sherry when I got home 😉 My next assignment is teaching Science classes for a day so I have been trying to think of cool experiments that will grab their attention and keep them engaged for a whole hour.

During the evenings after supervising homework I have been on the internet looking at Hebridean holiday cottages, trying to find accommodation and parking for the Landy in central London, figuring out the logistics of being a tour guide for the 2012 Irish International Quilting Festival, and learning how to tune up a banjo and ukulele from a YouTube clip. I finally succeeded in submitting the winning bid on a Le Creuset fondue set so I am now looking forward to the next time I have a surplus of cheese or chocolate!



Flute and Fondues



Despite my good intentions, things are not yet back to “normal” after the festive season. It has been all too easy to get up late, pootle around, drink sherry (even though I optimistically bought vegetable juice) and read a book in the afternoon. Nevertheless, I achieved a reasonable amount in the workshop. Because I had a deadline, I had to make 3 class sample journal quilts and photograph them. I also agreed to take the Yurt down to a large show in London in March so IF I get offered any part-time teaching interviews I will tell them that they will have to let me go off on my travels…

I had to construct the other corner blocks for Silent Movie Star 2 since part two of that class is next week and I gave some serious thought to a possible set of three Celtic wholecloths. I have a notion to make each of my 3 children a simple Christmas bed quilt for next year so I may have to order festive fabrics since my Christmas stash has run right down.

One afternoon I decided that as the log pile was depleted I would have a go at slicing up a seasoned fallen tree that I have had my eye on for some time. I don’t have a chainsaw so I used a big bow saw and discovered that it was really good exercise. I soon had a reasonable pile of rowan logs. Since I don’t have a Highland pony to help me drag branches I will attempt to attach the ropey trailer and use my Landy to transport my firewood. I carried one impressive log back but it refused to burn so I daresay I will have to order a load from a local forester – after all, my small damp tree won’t provide much worthy fuel.

I have to admit that I became a little obsessed with Ebay auctions this week. I had decided that I wanted to acquire a Le Creuset fondue set following the success of borrowing Tania’s to try and use up some of the Christmas chocolate and cheese. My other quest was to find Freya a second-hand flute as she had expressed regret that she had returned her school owned instrument when she gave up having lessons. I didn’t want to spend too much but also did not want one that was so cheap that it failed to function correctly. It is really annoying to be beaten in the last moments of an auction by £1. We successfully bid for an Italian flute without a case so we will have to wait and see whether it is any good or not. I am already sketching ideas for a quilted flute bag – maybe it could have sections like a cosmetic bag or be one long thin tube with a carry strap…

The internet was down for a couple of days locally causing much frustration. I was obsessed with the thought that I might be missing important emails and Facebook gossip but very little had actually happened in the virtual world by the time it was restored. In fact, something happened this week that served to remind me that even here the real world can affect my rural sanctuary and I should never presume to take my idyllic country life for granted.


Happy New Year 2012!


Starting a New Year feels rather like the end of a party; there is a certain amount of tidying up to do before gearing up to new projects. I will have to sort out paperwork, clear out my wardrobe and refold all of my fabric before I feel ready to decide what to work on next.

I managed to find time to finish Fergus’s blue and orange African quilt and I was really pleased with the formal wavy lines that I quilted using a curved ruler. The back of the quilt is also rather nice as I used up odd pieces of African-ish fabrics instead of buying something new. It was difficult to get the light right for clear photographs that showed the strong colours and texture properly.

My rattling sewing machine managed to sew decorative stitches in some of the long seam “ditches”: now I want a machine manufacturer to develop an open-toed walking foot to improve accuracy and make it easier to steer straight. The quilt ended up slightly smaller than I planned, mostly because I didn’t have a plan at the outset as usual, simply sewing pieces together until I ran out of fabric.

As a consequence I bought a vintage Welsh tapestry blanket in a vibrant combination of mustard, royal blue and magenta on Ebay that could go underneath the short quilt. It arrived in pristine condition but it proved to be far too big for a single bed so now I have a rather wacky blanket on my bed. Fortunately, it is mostly hidden under the Christmas quilt. Maybe I will have to embrace its weirdness and make a clashing complementary quilt.

I have nearly finished my peanut M&M’s and a bottle of sherry but there is still an awful lot of cheese to eat. I rather enjoyed a week of indolence, reading a book in the afternoon while sipping Baileys but I have lots to do so will have to get back into a routine and prioritise – tomorrow, maybe…