Monthly Archives: December 2012

Christmas Boredom!




Christmas Week was so lazy and relaxing here that instead of appreciating the downtime, eating too much chocolate and watching TV, I have to admit that I was actually slightly bored. I don’t know why I can’t just switch off, think of all of the overly busy times and chill out. I loved the fact that I received very few emails and there were no deadlines. I could not really go off and spend hours in the workshop during a family holiday and besides it has become pretty chilly out there but I did sneak in a bit of dyeing while I was doing some laundry.

The summerhouse was all finished and wonderfully cosy when we used a cable to connect up fairy lights and the electric stove from my workshop. It was another beautiful space in which to escape and read a book. We have more lovely outdoor spaces than inside space here. I now have kitchen envy after visiting two friends who have glass links from their old stone cottages to new extensions.

The cotton rickrack has dyed very successfully and the silk bamboo has retained its sheen despite not being as deeply coloured as I had hoped. Tania brought me some nice silk from Singapore and I ordered a lot of Oakshott as they had a Boxing Day Sale. I now have  far more fabric than I need for this project so will have to consider making everyday quilts using up some of it.

The summerhouse was all finished and wonderfully cosy when we used a cable to connect up fairy lights and the electric stove from my workshop. It was another beautiful space in which to escape and read a book. We have more lovely outdoor spaces than inside space here. I now have kitchen envy after visiting two friends who have glass links from their old stone cottages to new extensions.

Plenty of baking went on despite the vagaries of my temperamental oven but then we had to EAT it! I began to look forward to emptying the fridge. Fenella wanted me to go shopping and buy some “normal” food as she was fed up with permutations of turkey leftovers!



I allowed myself a whole day to work on Be’elzebub and eventually completed one block that pleased me. I had forgotten how to join freehand cut curves so that took a little while to figure out. I added some fancy stitches and trim and was rather pleased with the effect. The finished blocks are likely to be curveaceously joined to another section. I ordered a lot of cotton rickrack from a shop in North Carolina that should dye nicely and I was thrilled that the cotton sateen that I dyed still retained its shine after being boil-washed. I started to piece a batch of half-square triangles that may become wonky blocks or maybe quarter squares but they are now buried under Christmas wrapping paper.


I have not yet managed to put firm dates into my quilting diary so I have a lot of emailing  and quilt teacher applications to do after the holidays are over. I was surprised when I realised that the IQA Chicago Festival in June does not run any classes so if I really want to attend that show I will have to investigate doing some other tuition in the area that could help to pay for my air-fare and accommodation.

It felt like a long week with school concerts and parties. My class was very excitable and really not in work mode but they enjoyed making festive bread and hand shaken butter. It barely seemed to become light as it rained almost non-stop all week. Roads were flooded and my children’s school carol service was cancelled. That was a shame since Fenella reported that Fergus sang a super solo in “Walking in the Air” that he had omitted to mention.

Freya and Sam put on their Christmas jumpers and had fun decorating a gingerbread house with caramel windows and a curly-wurly fence. I don’t suppose it will taste as good as it looks but that is probably not the point. The same goes for the gigantic gingerbread people that were blinged with every type of icing and sugar confection available to cake decorators.


gingerfolk More Christmas decorations were added to our family room and Bluecat seemed to enjoy knocking over the Nativity scene with a swish of her tail every time she walked past it. I expect she is looking forward to stealing cream and smoked salmon.

 Fenella and I enjoyed the razzmatazz of the Strictly Come Dancing Final and could not decide which of the dancers deserved to win as they were all so good.

It felt as though the parcel wrapping and food shopping would never end. I wasted a lot of time calling Amazon and the useless courier company, Yodel, tracking down a package that had taken over 3 weeks to arrive. Needless to say, I now have two packages the same and one lot will have to be returned, hopefully avoiding the aforementioned offending delivery company.

All that remains is to do last, last minute shopping, have a cooking frenzy, rearrange the summerhouse furniture and do the ironing. I think I will start by pouring a small sherry…





It took me a little while to round up photos and quotes from the Yurt stunt quilters and send them to Lynn Krawczck who is working on a series of articles on collaborative quilting projects for Quilting Arts Magazine. The pictures had to be very high resolution which not many of mine were and then they were too big to send by email so they had to go to a “dropbox”. I had a panic when I accidentally deleted all of my answers an interview. Fortunately, I eventually discovered that the Macbook could restore something that I had written earlier before I mucked it all up.


It was bitterly cold this week and I bought two vintage Norwegian wool cardigans from Ebay for myself and Freya. I wore one as a student when I had an unheated flat but I must have foolishly passed it on to someone else. After spending all day wearing my wool tea-cosy hat and several bulky layers in my chilly workshop, I decided that only thick wool cardis would do and temperatures have not really dipped down as far as they could go just yet.


When I finally got around to doing some piecing I was not altogether satisfied by how things were going. My unco-operative fabrics were not all lining up nicely so I decided that I would incorporate lots of tiny rickrack and ribbon to disguise the dodgy seams. A box full of my favourite dyes arrived from Hungary and I discovered that white poly rickrack simply will not absorb dye – I could not believe it when it came out completely unaffected. However, the linen and cotton sateen looks wonderful so I look forward to some more fabric dyeing when I can get my hands on a sufficient quantity of white cotton rickrack. The B’elzebub project is far more colourful than I had planned, although I use “planned” in a very loose way. It is really more an idea that will evolve, depending on how things turn out. I think the russet version that I may make as a less chaotic alternative may just use one basic block type…

undyed rickrack

I was in school for two days this week and most of the time was taken up with the Christmas Show and trying to keep the children calm in between times. They are a little excitable at this time of year!


The weekend flew by as I tried to fit in cookie making and the annual family squabble about the Christmas tree. They chose a monster tree then argued about whether tinsel would be allowed. Since it was dark when they hung just about every bauble we own I have no idea whether it looks good in daylight. My cookies looked very unprofessional – the TV chefs always manage to pipe the icing so beautifully but mine definitely looked rustic. That posh edible glitter is a waste of time. It came in a silly pot like eyeshadow and didn’t even have holes in the top for sprinkling. Once the cookies were wrapped up in cellophane with a ribbon they looked fine and anyway, they tasted great!




Winter is Here – Brr!!!


coracle owls

newsnow newwelsh

I had an impromptu and exciting visit from local willow weaver, Helen Jackson, who called in to discuss the design of my Coracle Project. We had both done some research on the construction of a simple Spey Currach, a very small, round fishing boat that would have been used by Ancient Celts. This is the structure that I want to cover in quilted chamois skins with bronze spandex on the reverse. We braved the icy wind and rain to see if I had any suitable long willow wands in the garden that could be woven in to the coracle then we sketched out rough ideas. It will be life sized but not intended for sea travel as I don’t want to cover it in tar – instead, it can be hung on a wall for display. I want to sew on amber beads and shells and treat it more like some sort of a ceremonial Viking vessel. The concept is still evolving at this stage. Meanwhile I quilted a small owl fabric quilt for a customer to get bound and wrapped in good time for Christmas. I received my latest Welsh quilt from Ebay, soaked it in distilled vinegar and gave it a gentle wash. Although I like the idea of subtle, neutral throws, I love these huge, bright retro tapestries that don’t match any decor and there simply is NO warmer blanket; essential when the temperatures plummet.

Be’elzebub is also slowly unfolding organically. I am constructing large chunks of blocks that I hope will all fit together randomly when I have enough. The blocks that I like best are the rounded ones so I am thinking about making another bracken coloured version just using those blocks. If I make two earthy “non-wholecloths” then I can choose the one that appeals the most for the traditional-ish design and the other can be more modern and simple, like two companion quilts that are very similar in some ways but also very different to each other.

The rest of my week was disrupted by snow. Durris School was cancelled on one of the days but the school where I was meant to be teaching remained open. On this occasion I stayed at home and achieved very little but I have been told that if this situation arises again then I should take my kids to school with me. They are not impressed with this idea as they had fun playing in the snow but if the winter is as bad as predicted then that is what will have to happen since the country roads that lead to their school can be icily treacherous, even for 4-wheel-drive vehicles.

End of term activities are really gathering pace now. There will be a flurry of concerts, carol services, parties, secret santa gifts to find, cookies to make, presents to buy & wrap, tests to revise for, and colds to avoid. And in between all this, Fergus’s birthday, some Christmas baking, school, and MAYBE even a little bit of sewing?

Furniture Fixation


BzBcurvz bentwdchrs

On Monday I drove down to Livingston and met Ellen for a very nice supper where she reminded me to try and get some of my quilt trips and shows for next year booked into the calendar, trying to avoid any last minute panics;) My Satnav Lady kept telling me that I had reached my destination for North Barn Quilters despite leading the Landy into impossibly tight cul-de-sacs. The room was crowded and my last trunkshow of the year went down well. Yet again, I was humbled by how complimentary other quilters are when I empty out three suitcases that contain a selection of the pieces that I have created over the last 6 years. I did not leave until after 9.30pm but the roads were dry and deserted so with Jools Holland on the radio, I made it home in 3 hours, preferring to get back late so that I could be busy in the workshop for as long as possible the next day.

I got the tedious paperwork out of the way then became very frustrated with my 3.5” Drunkard’s Path blocks. I wanted to use the Curvemaster foot that had sewn the Apple Core blocks so beautifully but despite using the Elna, a Brother and the Featherweight, they just would not go together nicely at all. I even made some more Apple Cores, just to see if I was using the foot correctly. I think the curve was just too tight and too short for that method to work well. In the end I ate some chocolate, complained to my cyber friends on Facebook and Leonore in Wisconsin volunteered to piece a few DP blocks by hand as she actually enjoys doing that sort of project. I happily shoved the cut blocks and a tin of shortbread into a package and was able to get on with piecing a few more blocks for B’elzebub. I have decided that it has already evolved from my original concept so I may even have to enigmatically rename it, “Chimera”. Some of my new blocks joined together very successfully but others were a tiny bit off. I guess that is why some wonderful American show quilts are created by a partnership, one of whom is an expert piecer. I am loathe to discard the off pieces so will probably try make use of them. I still have not decided whether there will be plain areas in the quilt or whether the whole thing will be pieced like the “Mad Muddle” Yurt panel that is in the USA collection.

I am still gathering materials and ideas for another 3D project. I bought 9 chamois skins from a local tannery and have been corresponding with a basket weaver for a fairly off-the-wall idea. I really ought to have a go at sketching some of my plans onto paper instead of carrying them all around in my forgetful head.

Our local Posties have been told that they are not allowed to leave packages in safe places any more due to the increase in doorstep thefts – not that any have actually taken place near here. An unexpected consequence of this was that I had to pass the charity furniture shop that annoys me on my way to the parcel depot. This junk shop is stocked with donated furniture and items that it collects from the local dump and then charges more than is strictly necessary. I came across two bentwood chairs that were like Ercol pieces but they were £25 each so I walked away and left them there. After mulling it over, I regretted that decision so I texted my great friend, Tania from school and asked her to see if they were still there the next day. She really is a super friend because they were waiting for me outside my workshop when I got home. They are really nice chairs and have been put in the summerhouse for now because I do not really have a place to put them. I just can’t seem to help buying old chairs and tables are yet another larger weakness. Maybe I should replace the ugly but functional office chairs in my workshop with my junkshop finds. When we moved to this farmhouse we had hardly any furniture and the rooms were almost empty but now we have filled them all to capacity and beyond since now there is also a yurt, summerhouse and workshop! Added to which, all of the old chairs are covered with rugs, quilts and cushions. I can see that there may soon have to be a ruthless clearout to make way for interesting new junk and irresistible vintage textiles…