Monthly Archives: April 2013




I have to admit that I was not actually looking forward to the Uttoxeter trip… It was the thought of all of the packing, organising, sorting, making lists and trying to get my FOQ entry almost finished that was putting me off. Once everything was done and I finally set off in the Landy listening to Radio 4, I became excited about my expedition. I collected Kay from her farm in the Scottish Borders and we trundled down to Staffordshire where Ani had a casserole ready in a quaint holiday cottage. For my driving I was rewarded with a large, refreshing G&T and we spent a few hours catching up as we had not seen each other since FOQ last year.

Uttoxeter Racecourse proved to be a very nice location for the British Quilt & Stitch Villlage, organised by Traplet Publications. The countryside was far greener than up here in Scotland; there were far more signs of Spring with hawthorn and magnolia blossom and far more substantial lambs. It was easy to find with plenty of parking and even spaces for caravans. The facilities are really good at racecourses since there are plenty of loos, cafes, lifts and all sorts of function suites. There were 190 or so quilts of a good standard, a separate embroidery exhibition, special exhibits including one of Kay’s stunning wholecloths & The Ostrych, and the incredible tentmakers of Cairo. There was even a guitarist playing relaxing acoustic melodies all day long which created a great atmosphere. The was a good range of traders selling everything from buttons, paints and fabric to longarm quilting machines, of course.


We had two APQS longarms on frames at the show – Millennium & Lenni and also the large throat sit-down version called George. Visitors were fascinated by our demonstrations and they were impressed by what they were able to achieve themselves. We met some old friends, internet friends and fellow longarmer, Janette stayed in our cottage for two nights.

You can watch a video of the show by cutting and pasting this link into your browser bar:

We enjoyed our pub suppers after the show each evening but I think I will avoid Frankie & Benny’s forever… There were a lot of noisy children’s birthday parties on Saturday night and I cringed every time the whole restaurant was expected to sing “Happy Birthday“ followed by “Congratulations”. My friends hatched a plan and secretly informed the waitress that it was my birthday, which was not actually the case. She duly arrived with a chocolate brownie, topped with lighted birthday candle, balloons, birthday greetings and led the raucous public singing. It was ridiculously humiliating and hilarious – we laughed so much that we ached and still could not stop chuckling for the rest of the evening.

I really enjoyed the Uttoxeter Experience in the end – partly because it was a most enjoyable show but mostly because I really enjoyed the Kay and Ani’s company. We got along really well, mucking in together at the show and cottage. We laughed endlessly at my inability to navigate without making odd detours and wondered why I could not concentrate on one topic for discussion at a time without going off at a random or irrelevant tangent.

Ani packed up her awesome, capacious, little camper van, a Bongo Friendee that Kay and I wish belonged to us, and set off back to Devon while we climbed into the Landy for the long drive North. We made such a great team that I am now really looking forward to FOQ!


Alter Ego



For most of the week, I was my school-teaching alter-ego; apart from Monday when my mobile phone rang just as I arrived at school to request that I go straight home to collect Fergus who had been travel-sick on his school bus! He recovered quickly so I was able to use the bonus time to catch up on boring paperwork. Later, we made a trip to the public library, discovering that their internet is far faster than ours; the documents that I had been uploading so painfully slowly for days all disappeared into cyberspace within minutes.

I was in school for 3 days, covering all sorts of classes from Nursery to P7 so that teachers could get some precious non-teaching time to do some report writing. There were lessons  on pie-charts, spellings, 3D island contours and equivalent fractions. I decided that it would be fun to explain these in the context of a gladiatorial contest, pitching different armoured combinations of “Numerator” and “Denominator” into a Roman amphitheatre. I may not be up to date with all of the latest teaching jargon but my class was of the opinion that this maths lesson had been  “Epic!”


I took my leather quilt to Mo’s workshop with the intention of borrowing an industrial eyelet setter to make holes for its corset strings but “Yurtman” Paul happened to be there and mentioned that he had a heavy-duty press-stud gadget. I decided that this would be an  even better method of attachment and I if I have time I can even sew tiny garnet chips around each giant press-stud. I always enjoy tossing ideas out with Mo and Paul – I drove away considering quilting a sheep-shaped piece of leather and displaying it stretched out in a collapsible frame looking as if it was being tanned…

I managed to squeeze in a patchwork pupil – we spent a couple of hours running up a large pieced back for a quilt and having a go at trying the skinny curved piecing that I have been doing lately. It was interesting to observe someone else learning a technique that I have picked up and evolved to suit myself. Beginner pupils often feel that they have to pull or stretch the fabrics as they feed through the sewing machine; in fact it is a case of allowing the machine to do all of that and simply using your fingers to guide or steer.


The Coracle is still waiting impatiently for me to tackle its cover and I was amused to notice that tiny green sprouts are appearing out of the green willow. Helen will attempt to create a wicker paddle and I will wrap offcuts of quilted leather around its shaft.

Ann has almost finished piecing the Cherrywood quilt in pale tones that we are hoping to complete in time to enter into the two-person category at Festival of Quilts so this will be another project for me to do after I return from the British Quilt and Stitch Village Show at Uttoxeter Racecourse next week. And I really want some time to set up my quilt frame with its long-awaited upgrade, sigh…!




photo copy  photo copy 2

I have a very tight deadline to meet in order to complete and photograph the 3 Totems that I want to enter into a juried show. There was also the added pressure of school holidays, considering a full teaching week ahead and the prospect of packing longarm machines and driving to Uttoxeter the following week. This meant that the totems had to be almost finished by the weekend. Somehow, I managed to sew almost all day ALL week and amazed myself that by Saturday I had got as far as I could.

photo copy spandextotem

I have ordered the large upholstery foam columns which should arrive by Wednesday so the final challenge will be fitting everything together as neatly as possible. I made quilted ends to look like tree trunk cross sections, bottoms with velcro attached in case they need to be stuck down if it looks like they may topple over, and plenty of bias binding for piping. I have bought cording and ribbon that I hope will act like corset strings once I have punched eyelets into the leather quilt, and checked that all of the hand-sewn gems are securely attached.

photo copy totem3  photo

Over the course of the week I added a linen mid-section to the totem quilt that will be behind the goatskin one and quilted it with dead straight lines as a contrast to the swirly quilting on the leather. Next I drew out some circles onto calico for the back of the silver  spandex totem – some were roughly Celtic and others were just circles that I would fill in later. Finally, I manically pieced skinny curved strips with some inserts for the 3rd totem and quilted it with great restraint in simple verticals. This was done with considerable trepidation since I don’t usually go in for subtle quilting but I think it was a wise choice.

I could easily have been side-tracked by the arrival of the fabulous Coracle. Helen Jackson did an amazing job of weaving long willow wands into a proper little boat, complete with a neat wicker seat. I had to hang it straight up in my workshop so that I would not be tempted to start trying to fit its chamois skin before finishing the totems. This exciting and fiddly job will have to wait until I get back from Uttoxeter. I think it will take me a considerable while to sew on all of its amber and blue glass beads!

My longarm upgrade also arrived this week but so far I have just peeped inside the boxes as I would like a free weekend and a willing assistant to get it all set up. I will have new super smooth rails, a new machine and even a hydraulic lift which should mean that I can quilt more comfortably for even more hours at a time.

Mind you, I have to allow time to try and focus on the Ebook that is developing out of the original, neglected Yurt Book. The publisher has made helpful suggestions on how to cut out some of the vast quantity of slightly less relevant information, concentrating more on techniques and inspiration. If I ever did publish the original Yurt Book as planned, it would have several mighty volumes and may not appeal to everyone;)

Tricky Timetables



Our early Norfolk bound train to visit my family over Easter was cancelled without warning. We had to reschedule our entire journey using a complicated timetable, without the help of knowledgeable ticket man, invalidating our advance seat reservations. For part of our long trip we had to sit on our luggage in the corridor but it meant that we did not have to listen to inconsiderately loud DVD players and Ipods. I could not see why people could not wear headphones so that I could enjoy my book in peace.

Because we spent two whole days travelling there and back, we only had 3 days to catch up with the Grandparents and visit my sister’s new baby but we enjoyed ourselves all the same. There were delicious cakes to enjoy, a visit to a fascinating museum about herring fishing, and the best chips in the world from Yarmouth Market. We wandered aimlessly around the back streets Norwich which now has many trendy shops and cafes. I was sad to notice a music shop that had been in Norwich for generations being renovated into yet another bistro. Our journey back to Scotland went smoothly and we managed to catch all of our trains, despite the tight connection times. It is great now that all three of my children  are old enough to read or use an Ipad without getting bored.


I had to return home by Friday so that I could give a talk to the Aberdeen South branch of the Embroiderers’ Guild on Saturday afternoon. They told me that they enjoyed my anecdotes and quilts. I was congratulated me that my teacher voice was heard by everyone, even those sitting at the back. I took Fenella with me and she made herself useful selling postcards and helping one of the ladies spread jam onto scones.

totemtrunk spandexmarks

I woke up in the middle of the night realising that April does not have as many weeks as I had planned. My children will still be on their Easter holidays this week, I am teaching most of next week and I have to represent APQS at the new British Quilt & Stitch Village Show in Uttoxeter the following week. I do not have much time left to finish the Celtic Totems if I want to enter them into a juried show by the beginning of May. If necessary, I can enter One but I really want to make Three. I am no stranger to tight deadlines and I probably work more determinedly under pressure. I have drawn out lots of circles on a piece of calico for the spandex totem, joined the under-quilt for the leather totem, prepared it for quilting and pieced a few little bits for the patchwork one. The snag will be getting the foam columns here on time. Mo informs me that she can make these for me out of flat foam more economically but they need to be absolutely smooth with no bumps. I also have to make eyelets in the edges of the goatskin quilt and decide whether corset lacing is what will work to attach it onto its totem column. Nothing like a few major last-minute challenges…