Monthly Archives: September 2012

Christmas is Coming!



I made the most of time in the workshop to work on my 3 children’s Christmas quilts. I impressed myself by making bias binding and kept the curved edges on the apple core quilt and the wedge shapes on the tumbler quilt. I added a fancy embroidery stitch all the way around the binding which really made it look festive. I used a simple template of ripples on Fergus’s tumbler quilt but I could not resist filling in every other row with ribbon candy loops. I had intended to use the new feather template on Freya’s giant hexagon quilt so that I could show how it looked to folk who may like to use them on DIY quilts but there were too many iffy inset seams that I wanted to stitch down firmly so it got swirled all over instead. The wool wadding and dyed flannelette sheeting on the back should make these quilts really cosy.

It was definitely a productive week here as I sewed wide borders around all of the house blocks so that they can later be cut wonkily and I worked steadily on a 36 page brochure on the USA Yurt that I would like to publish in time for Houston. It will be a stand-in until the real book is completed and it made me work on all sorts of sections that were previously half finished. The only sticking point will be finding a printer in the USA that can make a booklet cheaply enough so that I can sell them for a sensible amount. I spent some time trying to upload my PDF onto one or two online publishers but it was not as straightforward as I hoped and yet again I found myself switching between the new Macbook and the cranky old PC.

After much deliberation, I applied for one of the primary school teaching jobs. One minute I felt pleased by my decision then the next I felt sheer panic. Mo did a tarot card reading over coffee on Wednesday morning which was uncannily apt: it suggested that I should not worry about making a career change as everything would just work out how it was meant to be. Obviously, I don’t intend to plan my life around a light-hearted tarot reading but it was a relief to be “told” to just relax and see what pans out.

My latest quest is to invent a recipe for crunchy, cheesy, seeded crackers. I have become fond of gourmet crispbreads that are delicious but expensive. My first attempt looked like overdone pitta-bread, tasting rather like dog biscuits so for my next batch I may just use a recipe that I have for canine treats and see if that works out better. If that fails then I will have to accept that the shop ones are perfect as they are and simply get on with the mass-production of bias binding to keep myself busy.




With rather a lot of time on my hands in between visitors to my studio for NEOS, I kept thinking about Hamlet, Prince of Denmark questioning his place in the Universe. In the dull moments I debated with myself about the pressure of a small business having to make money versus the desire to simply indulge my creativity.  The silk Copper Capercaillie Norse wholecloth was overlooked by the judges at the Scottish Quilt Championships and if it was not for the much needed confidence boost from the forthcoming Houston award, I would be seriously considering selling everything in my studio.


I am wrestling with the decision on whether to apply for a permanent part time teaching job or even a temporary full time teaching job. Obviously the part time one sounds better on paper but it is “forever” and I may not be able to persuade the Boss to let me go on the odd quilt trip. I would also have to share the classroom and children with another teacher. The temporary full time one would give me my own teaching space and a chance to see if I can balance a teaching job with quilting. The financial pressure would be eased but studio time would be limited. However, I definitely produce better work under pressure and I certainly could not become bored or distracted. Perhaps that is the only way to ever get “The Book” done!


I found North East Open Studios quieter this year but I convinced myself that I could not concentrate on serious projects or writing because visitors would turn up at odd times throughout the day. Maybe they all called in on the 2 days out of 9 that I had to close because I was in school? My family called in on a golf holiday to Scotland on the busiest day of all but it was great to spend some time with them in between tours of my studio.


I worked on an easy project to keep me occupied so I finally put together 25 little house blocks. I do not plan to purchase any more fabric for this so I am adding various strips out of my stash. I wonder whether I should make each one into a cushion instead of a quilt that someone is unlikely to buy? Mind you, that means quilting, piping, adding zips, backs and buying cushion pads. Perhaps I will consult Mo, the Cushion Guru…


I finished Fenella’s Christmas apple core quilt so that visitors could see me quilting “live”. So many people admired its curved edges that I talked myself into keeping them instead of slicing them off after quilting. I have now made about 20 yards of bias binding so I will pluck up the courage to have a go at that next week when I have my studio cleared and back to “normal”.


What a Thrill!!




My week was chugging along in a satisfactory manner – teaching locally and managing to spend all day on Tuesday writing articles and emails on the new Macbook without incident when I received the following amazing and thrilling message by email…


On behalf of Stevii Graves and the entire IQA Board of Directors, I would like to congratulate you! Your entry, Odin’s Trilogy, has won an award in this year’s Judged Show! It will be hanging in the Merit Quilting Machine category. Due to the efforts of our talented members, the 2012 IQA Judged Show promises to be beautiful! It’s great to know that all the time and hard work you’ve put into your piece has been rewarded.”

I am delighted, elated, stunned and absolutely thrilled!!! It’s a good job that I had already booked a flight and made plans to visit Houston for the first time this year. It will be a really busy week fitting in extra events for prize winners, talking about the Quilted Yurt which will be in the special exhibition, “Tactile Architecture”, viewing wonderful quilts, doing a little shopping and maybe even making a trip to NASA!

The email from Houston made me take The Ostrych series out of its shameful brown paper sack provided by FOQ and hang it all up in my studio. I had been a bit worried about the gold snakeskin snakeskin panel that went to Houston as I felt that the quilting did not show up as well as on the original plain lame but it obviously impressed the judging panel well enough.  This result means so much to me since I now feel like I have been validated as a bona fide quilter at the world’s biggest and best quilt show.

My enthusiasm for quilting returned at last so I was keen to finish and attach the borders to Oz Bewitched. I even scribbled out some preliminary sketches for quilting designs that are influenced by Aboriginal art. I wished I had made the outer borders wider to show off the chrysanthemum fabric as I had been considering adding prairie points along the binding. I even enjoyed piecing a couple of the house blocks that live in a shoe box as an in-between project.

North East Open Studios began at the weekend and got off to a sunny start so everyone wanted to know why The Quilt Quine had not bothered to put the Yurt up. I was able to hang quilts outside on the washing line and on a ladder but the next day the weather changed back to normal so everything had to be brought inside. I took the laptop out with me and made an effort to write a small blurb about all of the Yurt panels that will be displayed at Houston. I struggled to embellish my brief descriptions with arty-farty phrases so it looks like I may have to work on that skill. I really ought to make a note about my inspiration every time I have a bright idea just in case I ever have to explain myself. Visitors to the studio keep asking me how I first got into quilting and I flounder a bit saying it just sort of crept up on me – I will have to come up with something more exciting than that!

Computer Rage


My excitement about my new MacBook soon turned to frustration as I could not seem to make a smooth transfer of data from my old laptop to the new one. It took a few phone calls to Apple Support until I found a technician who was able to explain the “migration assistant” procedure clearly. Having copied everything over, I realised that I was not familiar enough with the Mac to do some of my everyday tasks quickly and easily. On the day that I set aside for emails and writing I had both laptops and the ipad running on my kitchen table. The plan had been to reformat the old laptop and give it to one of the children but it may be while until I am confident enough to use I-work instead of Microsoft Office.



I created a Powerpoint step by step photo slideshow to demonstrate how to assemble the USA Yurt. I won’t arrive in Houston until Quilt Festival but the special exhibits also appear at Quilt Market so a team will have to put it up without me.

I had a diverse week in school as usual, teaching sex education, hockey, RE and finally being presented with a new Primary One class with no warning on Friday morning. I deliberately avoided teaching infants when I was a full time teacher but I managed to muddle through the day with the help of a patient classroom assistant who knew the words for the “Welcome Song” and password for the electronic Smartboard.

I did eventually manage to piece the Oz Bewitched blocks together: some seams lined up beautifully whereas others are decidedly offset, which is a little puzzling, but this often happens when using gold lame so I am not going to be doing any unpicking. I have to contribute to an online article about Feedsack quilts and the Willowbay Herb yurt panel will make an appearance in “Machine Quilting Unlimited” so I decided to take a couple of new pictures as it was so sunny on Saturday morning. I confess that I did not take advantage of the glimpse of summer and sit in a deckchair with a book as I felt that I would rather try to make progress on the condensed Yurt brochure that I hope to produce for Houston. However, I discovered that I had not actually written as much as I thought I had since the last time I worked on it so I have got rather a lot to crack on with…!

Jill of All Trades


This week I taught in school every day and hardly touched fabric at all. Despite being so busy, I found that I was forced to focus, working concertedly and ticking items off lists. My teaching was varied and very off the cuff. It covered almost every age range and involved just about everything from adding 10 000 and Vikings to The Paralympics and World War II. One morning I was given 5 minutes notice that I would be the French specialist for the morning without the aid of dictionaries or any other teaching material. I decided to wing it, put on a French accent and say, “Bonjour La Classe!” authoritatively. After doing a bit of counting and revision of greetings we did comic strips of a French folk tale and I seemed to get away with it quite convincingly. I secretly enjoyed flitting in and out of all of the different classes but I have decided that the maximum that I want to spend in classrooms is more like two and a half days each week.

I eventually found half an hour to cut fabric for the remaining 2 borders on the Oz version of Bewitched and I even sewed a few seams in between answering calls about longarm machines and planning for next week’s primary school sex education lessons. My reward at the end of such a busy week was to book my flights to Houston and share a glass or two of wine with Tania.

I intended to do some piecing at the weekend but I immersed myself in a side project, painting an old, brown varnished cupboard. There was a time when I would have sanded it all down and used eggshell paint but I decided to use chalky “Annie Sloan” paint that has been specially formulated to use straight onto any old wood without any preparation. I was amazed at how well it turned out and made my ugly Edwardian piece look elegantly French. I ran up simple grey gingham curtains to hide the children’s art stuff inside the cupboard then got completely carried away and also painted the ancient hostess trolley that can be used if I ever decide to have a dinner party but in reality is where Blue Cat keeps a spare box of cat biscuits.

Instead of sitting at my sewing machine on Sunday I found myself in Aberdeen again since the bus that Freya wanted to catch into the city failed to appear. We collected her new ukelele then I plucked up the courage to go into the Apple Store and I bought a Mac Book Pro! My Windows laptop has been driving me crazy so I am hopeful that once I have got all of the new commands sussed and moved over all of my documents and contacts, I will not keep mysteriously losing documents. I have a few articles to write and I plan to produce a simple Yurt brochure for Houston so my fingers should be kept busy clicking!