Monthly Archives: June 2013

In Between Sports and Fetes



I knew I should not have allowed myself to start an epic novel series such as “Game of Thrones” – it proved to be highly addictive and I was in danger of becoming so engrossed that I did not want to do anything else, rather like when I never got around to my Latin homework as a teenager because I had my head stuck into a good read!

We enjoyed a blustery and damp school sports day on Monday. I was prepared for Scottish June weather in my well-worn drizabone coat, scarf, woolly blanket, and flask of coffee. The children insisted on ice-cream afterwards even though hot chocolate may have been more welcome.

I cracked the whip and made myself get on with the stitch-in-the-ditch quilt that I had been putting off for some time. I used Superior monolon thread on top to minimise the effect of any wobbly lines. The trouble with SID quilting is that it is very unforgiving if the piecing is even just a tiny bit off kilter. I made use of a tiny ruler but much of the quilting was done freehand going around lots of tiny triangles. The customer requested minimal additional quilting in the background and no other quilting in the blocks so I had to restrain myself  to some basic swirls and plumes, although I would have liked to added some custom work if I had been given carte blanche.


I allowed myself a few hours to add dome subtle machine embroidery around some of the circles and arcs on Dunes Duet. It was a repetitive task but quite enjoyable as it was easier to hear the radio when using the domestic sewing machine. I enjoyed catching up with “The Archers” and current affairs on Radio 4.

I went on a Mums’ Night Out on Friday and realised how much of a music square I have become over the years. We had a meal followed by a Jessie J and Rihanna Tribute Act… I hardly recognised any of the songs, words or dance actions. And it was far too loud – it was impossible to chat to the person next to me so I resorted to communicating by texting.    I will take earplugs if I ever get invited along again.

I enjoyed watching the Glastonbury Festival on Saturday evening from the comfort of my sofa with Bluecat and a bottle of wine that Fenella won for baking one of the best cakes at the school fete. It is wonderful what a liberal dose of icing sugar can do to disguise slightly crispy edges. Our ever-defective oven tried to sabotage my damp lemon loaf but I rescued Fergus’s Aztec chocolate cake just in time. Once it was covered in frosting and edible glitter it looked pretty good – it tasted even better. I have suggested that I might take Freya to Glastonbury in 2015 but only if Glamping and sitting on a comfy deckchair with a flask of coffee and splendid homemade cake in a tin!






Camping in the Rain



Apart from teaching pretty demanding infant classes this week, I seemed to pick long overdue tasks such as sorting out Fenella’s bedroom and the family towel cupboard in order to avoid starting on the stitch-in-the-ditch customer quilt. I have been prevaricating because I have been asked to quilt as little as possible in the background. This concept seems to have stumped me completely because I just don’t do that sort of quilting. Perhaps this type of quilt is why I really should get to grips with using a computerised system where I can program in a simple, repetitive block design. I can’t put it off forever – I have folk coming for longarm tuition in a fortnight so it needs to be done by then!


I finished all of the quilting on Dunes Duet and created a huge pile of discarded thread on the floor because I had problems with tension. I am not entirely sure why things were so tricky. Maybe I had a bad reel of thread or perhaps it was the dyed flannel that I unwisely used as a backing. There was some boring unpicking but otherwise I hope to get away with a little painting on the reverse to stop the loose bits from coming unravelled. Trimming all of the threads will take several attempts. I admire the fortitude of quilters who sew all of those tails in so neatly but I do not have the patience for such a malarkey. I randomly painted some gold rings on the front and now want to add some subtle machine embroidery around some of the other circles.

I have been reading the first book in the “A Game of Thrones” series on my Ipad. After battling through the first couple of chapters getting to grips with the world of fantasy and peculiar names, I am completely addicted to the twists, turns and intrigue of an epic story. It is too tempting to read a couple of chapters at coffee time or while supposedly cooking supper. I was glad that I had such an engrossing novel to take on my weekend camping trip…


I took Freya and her friend, Millie, to a small midsummer festival near Breemie, Kintore that was last held 8 years ago. It is on top of a hill with spectacular panoramic mountain views when not obscured by angry rain clouds. I cannot remember the last time we had a hot and sunny summer solstice in Aberdeenshire. It was chilly and pretty wet for most of the time. I was jealous of the owners of small touring caravans that arrived, unhitched, levelled their legs then made a cup of tea. Our little igloo tent was fine and did not leak or blow away but it was quite a challenge poking the tent pegs into such rocky soil. We now only have about 3 straight ones left! I was glad that it had a tiny porch so I could sit on my folding chair to use the primus stove while the girls played guitar inside the tent.

Fortunately, it dried up a bit in the evening while the bands were playing and I even took my full length drizabone coat off for the duration of one dance. We joined Mo, Willow, Yurtman and some other friends to sit around their firepit and had fun with djembe drumming, while admiring the fire-dancer who fluidly spun her lighted hula-hoop. We actually had great fun despite the damp weather but I am glad that I have booked a yurt rather than a small tent for the WOMAD festival in July.

After we arrived home and aired out our soggy gear, Freya and I lit the stove in our garden yurt and cooked sausages for lunch since the grey morning had dampened our enthusiasm for a cooked camping breakfast. I was unpopular for having forgotten to take milk with which to make hot chocolate so we enjoyed that at home and even had to open up the yurt doors because it became far too hot inside. It was a much nicer place to sit and listen to midsummer sleet and hail lashing on the canvas roof 🙂



IMBOLC trio   dunesduetwspirals

With 4 days in school I did not have much time to work on anything at all which is why my single day off on Friday that did not progress well was especially disappointing. It proved to be a very frustrating day and a large gin was most welcome in the evening.

The Landy was collected at 7am so that it could have its faltering turbo fixed but the Garage Man phoned at 4.30pm to say that he had not been able to fix it, there were lots of other problems that the recent, costly service at a different garage had not diagnosed and in fact, he strongly advised that I should not drive it all since it had a dodgy wheel bearing. He was unable to re-book it in for more work for another week but at least he managed to bolt on the shiny new roof-rack ladder.

I was waiting with baited breath for an email from FOQ, hoping that the Betula Trio of Totems would have been short-listed for the new Fine Art Quilt Masters category. As the end of the day was approaching, I sent a message to see when the emails should be expected to arrive. I was informed that successful candidates had already received their news so by default, I realised that my pieces had not been selected. I felt bitterly disappointed and actually quite annoyed. Then I felt guilty for not accepting the news graciously. There follows a paragraph or two of sour grapes ranting…

The thing is that the original entry form simply said that the jurying would be confirmed by May 31st but when this date arrived, the judging panel announced that there would be a further selection down to just 20 pieces. I feel obliged to write to the organisers and point out that IQA Houston makes one juried selection on one specified date and all of those pieces go on to be judged and exhibited together, not relegated to a minor category. FOQ has obviously missed the point about the jurying process being used to raise the standard of quilts and judging for the entire show. Instead, they seem to have reverted to the single elitist category, judged by a panel from the “art world” that was so unpopular in previous years.

The real reason of why I am so upset is that I spent months on those totems and really think that they are amongst my best work yet. I believe they are interesting, involve challenging fabrics and techniques, and even have an arty-farty connection with Ancient Celts. In all of that time I did not work on customer quilts or my book or any other sensible business expanding plans. The bottom line was that I had to question WHY I continue to enter a show that does not appear to value my work. If I still cannot get a piece into that top 20 of the best European quilts then where am I going wrong?

I received many wonderful and encouraging comments from Facebook friends. Many suggested that I simply exhibit elsewhere or even start up a Fringe Festival of my own but I crave recognition from the British quilt establishment. I felt despondent for a couple of days and wondered whether to bother going to the expense of sending the Totems at all, as they will now have to go into the 3D Creations class along with the Coracle. However, I hope that many quilters will still enjoy seeing them and encourage me to complete the planned series of 12 totems.

I was far from disappointed with Freya who received a Merit from school for working particularly hard in at least 3 subjects. She even came third in her year group in a short-story competition so I was glad that she had received recognition from her teachers for her efforts at school this year.

Despite feeling slightly guilty that I have not actually started the time consuming SID customer quilt, I fitted in some evening quilting on Dunes Duet. Typically, I have been unable to keep things simple so I have lots of tiny spirals randomly fitting into some of the concentric circles. I intend to use gold paint, machine embroidery and tiny shells to finish it off, just to make sure it is unlike anything else in the Two-Person category at FOQ. I daresay I just answered my previous questions – I simply am incapable of just doing what is expected 😉





Because I eventually managed to book up overnight accommodation in Bath and the Yurt for the WOMAD festival, I thought it might be time to invest in some new camping equipment. I bought a couple of sleeping mats, a “pocket-rocket” mini primus stove and a cute, red whistling kettle. I decided I could not postpone the inevitable any longer – it was time to spring clean the garden yurt. This task took me most of two days as we had a really wet winter and the yurt was sadly neglected. I hauled out the carpet which was wringing wet and sprouting mushrooms. The kids helped me to hang it out to dry on the climbing frame while I mopped up the puddles of murky water, wiped the mildew off the furniture, swept up dead bugs, live worms, got rid of a wasp nest and discovered 3 deceased sparrows inside the wood-stove.

Fortunately, we had no rain all week so everything had a chance to dry out. Tania helped me to haul a couple of tarpaulins onto the yurt roof to keep it water-tight until I save up enough to commission a new canvas cover. The old sofa-bed was particularly disgusting so I decided to leave it outside all summer. The bottom of the garden now looks like a gypsy camp or a set from Country Living Magazine.

I finally made a start on the stitch-in-the-ditch quilt that will take forever and “Dunes Duet”, an entry for the two-person category at FOQ. It will have LOTS of concentric quilted circles all butted closely together then I will have to decide how to fill the tiny gaps. I am aiming for a modern look but it will be hard for me to keep it simple. I may be compelled to make it really complicated as it will obviously have to have some gold paint, embroidery and possibly even some tiny shells.

One of my Facebook friends in America told me that the June/July copy of QuiltingArts Magazine has a 5 page feature on the Yurt and its Stunt Quilters. I downloaded it onto my Ipad rather than wait for a paper copy. It is a beautifully presented article so hopefully it will help to raise my teaching profile in the USA.


We delivered the Coracle to the local Orvis fishing shop where it was to be featured for the Banchory River Festival. They did a great job of displaying it by tipping it up onto its end and staging it with bunches of reeds. Helen wove some wicker fish and a paddle; I used up the rest of the leftover quilted spandex to make a second cushion.

I attended the junior session of the Strathspey and Reel Society with Fenella for the second time and managed to keep up with most of the tunes on my fiddle. The teacher kept asking questions about the key signatures and told the players to sit up straight and hold their bows correctly. I have so many old bad habits that I look like a hill-billy when I hold a violin so I should probably just put on my dungarees to go and practice on the tatty sofa that I have parked beside my fire-pit.


Imaginary Celt



Three days of teaching does not allow much time for quilting projects but the schools are desperate for relief cover and the funds will all go towards my epic trip with kids to Bath and WOMAD. I found the process of booking up accommodation quite tiresome – I had to do an internet search, read the reviews, check availability, price and enquire if they had a large enough parking space for my Landrover. I decided to book a one-night farm stay on the way down to England, a small house in Bath for one night then treat ourselves to a hired yurt at the music festival. Then I felt obliged to browse the internet for new sleeping mats and a small tent for a local festival that will take place at the weekend of the summer solstice. This led to a search for solar powered fairy lights and a phone charger, wasting the time I had set aside to work on my Ebook!

I caught up with Helen Jackson, the willow weaver who made the coracle shell. She has also got the bit between her teeth on this project as she has already made a second coracle and considered modifications for a third version. We discussed the various accessories that an imaginary Celt may carry in their little boat. The idea is to be fanciful without being “twee”. Helen is weaving a wicker paddle and a fishing creel; I decided to make a round cushion and a general purpose bag using the spandex/chamois scraps.


I was unable to find round cushion pads in Banchory so I just made a round cover with suede fringing and stuffed it as full as I could so that it would not look too much like a whoopee-cushion. I could not decide what the Celt would keep in his patchwork bag so I made a piece of fishing net by knotting jute string and hanging flints off the bottom end. A few feathers and a couple of porcupine quills sticking out of the top make it look almost like a tool bag. I am still trying to work out how to include a sheepskin and a deer antler in the coracle. These accessories will look fine in the fishing tackle shop window for the Banchory River Festival but I am not sure how they will go down with the judges at Festival of Quilts.

celtbag  fishnet

It seems that the totem trio has been juried into the Fine Art Quilt Masters BUT there is to be a further round of judging in a couple of weeks. I was surprised to hear about this secondary phase since this was not mentioned on the entry form. This forced me to punch the eyelet holes into the back of the goatskin piece and lace it onto the large totem. Next I need to consider what sort of box I can use to send these pieces to FOQ – I may enquire at the Florist to see if they have cartons for long blooms!