Monthly Archives: August 2013

Back to School



For the first time in years I had to go to a school staff meeting before the start of term and I was horrified to discover that I would be expected to hand in my weekly plans and evaluations just like when I was still a student. Planning for a regular class is quite an undertaking since text books are definitely out of favour once more and it is really time consuming searching the internet for suitable and relevant teaching material. I was relieved to discover that I share a very nice class of 6-7 year olds and they seemed to enjoy their two days with me. I suspect that I have planned far too much as usual but I am determined to fit a little French, pancake making and sewing in somewhere. I did not actually need any new stationery but I could not resist ordering a mechanical pencil sharpener that should keep all of the classroom pencils nice and pointy!


Wednesday was a blissful day when my own children were in school and I did not have to be anywhere else except for my studio. I felt energised to launch myself into at least two new projects and prepare a customer quilt. I wasted a bit of time dyeing and piecing some wide strips of bamboo-silk to make a backing for BzB. I decided that they looked too pastelly and it seemed like it might be rather too slippery to attempt marking with a Durham wholecloth design. I opted for basic, dyed calico in the end and started tracing the design that I created several years ago in a class with Lilian Hedley. This was drawn onto greaseproof paper with a pencil and the pattern had become brittle with age. Now that I have seen a few feathers in quilt shows these ones seem rather big and ugly and I wonder if I will eventually add some swirly stuff inside them. My plan is to start with a very traditional wholecloth design but then make it rather unconventional. It could all go horribly wrong…


I selected a wide range of plain fabrics from my stash that would be suitable for the remaining 9 totems. There are fresh greens and yellows for Beltane, rich blackberry colours for Lughnasdh, and a range of russets for Samhain. I plan to dye some more background linen, track down more metallic spandex and source coloured leather hides. I need to work out how to make the foam columns more cheaply and pluck up the courage to sew yet more beads and gems onto the leather pieces. Because none of the pieces is particularly large, this can be a project that I can work at in fits and starts.

My plan for Monday morning this week is to stay off the internet and make some headway with planning an Ebook. It has taken a long time for me to accept that producing a book exclusively about the Quilted Yurt is probably too specialised; the processes of making the yurts and other 3D projects can fit into a book that is more technique based. My main problems are deciding what to leave out and concentrating on the task long enough to actually get it finished 😉


Forward Planning



It was to be expected that the past week would be a bit of an anti-climax after FOQ along with the feeling of dread as the new school term approached. Before I had even unpacked I went straight into town to buy new uniforms and school supplies to get it over and done with. I then proceeded to label, laminate or iron everything I could find to put off the tedious task of writing lessons and schemes of work for my temporary teaching post.

The entire week was spent making lists, emailing and “researching” important information on the internet. One useful search involved shortlisting USA quilt shows that I may like to enter or visit as a member of the teaching faculty. I had woken up in a slight panic when I realised that Odin’s Trilogy had not returned from its tour with IQA following its success at Houston. They replied to my email immediately, explaining that I had said that I would collect it in person after the Houston show on my original entry form then I forgot to amend those instructions after it won a prize. I decided that since it was already in the USA it might as well be entered into MQX West and possibly one or two other American shows next year.

It was probably not as essential to look up acoustic guitar pickups, Bernina sewing machines or the best pyrex casserole dishes for Fergus to take to his Home Economics lessons when he joins Banchory Academy. He was not at all impressed with the striped apron with funky skulls pocket that I ran up and he made it clear that he no longer wished to use the indestructible PE kit bag that I made when I started school at the age of 5.


 I caught up with Mo who was dog-sitting a cute, snorty Pug and we decided to have a last Friday of the Holidays Yurt Night which involved drinking lots of Cava and Gin, and discussing  what we want to do when we grow up 😉 I made my annual 4 tiered Victoria sponge for a friend’s birthday which was outrageously good and she has already requested that she should have an 8 layer masterpiece when she next celebrates her next decade.


In the end I made myself knuckle down and do the teacher stuff so I could relax a bit on the final day of the summer holidays and prioritise what quilt projects I plan to work on over the next couple of months. These seem to fall into 3 main categories – Possibles, Maybes and Definites. I started by dyeing some bamboo-silk to make a strippy back for BzB which got sidelined earlier this year. The strippy back will actually be the front for the first part of the quilting process as it will be easier to trace the very traditional wholecloth design that I drew on baking-paper rather a long time ago. The Plan, which will inevitably be subject to multiple changes, is to stitch the wholecloth design onto the back of the quilt first then turn it over to work on some elaborate background quilting. I can’t decide whether The Other Project will be to work on 3 autumnal totems, work on a new leather/spandex idea or even do something useful with a set of wonky house blocks…


Festival of Quilts UK 2013


I seemed to be so organised with my packing for my trip to Birmingham that I decided that I had so much spare time that I might as well make a pair of velcroed curtains for my classroom sink. I set off early, taking the Cairn O’Mount road and enjoyed seeing the heather in full bloom. I made a leisurely trip, collecting Kay in the Scottish Borders, having supper at IKEA then having a well deserved G and T after my 12 hour drive.


The APQS stand was situated in HAll 9 at the NEC which was far more spacious and had plenty of natural light. We were able to drive our vehicles right inside and unload very close to where we needed to be. The blue and white quilts, bunting and flags looked very smart indeed. We had a bit of a technical hitch with our computerised quilting gadget – it was on loan from America and its connector did not match up with the rest of the bits that we had in the UK. We set off on a quest for a tiny electrical component, starting at Maplins in Edrington. A nice young man called Mammoud advised us to head for RS Components in Aston so we googled it and fed that info into the satnav. Satnav Lady had other plans for our afternoon, deciding that our destination was much further away on the other side of the sprawling city of Birmingham. We passed through the vibrant area of Soho past sari shops, Indian banks and mosques. Later we travelled through districts with a Caribbean flavour, wondering if we would ever reach our intended destination. We eventually found an electrical wholesaler but it did not have the required part. Luckily, the shop owner took pity and rewired the two bits of electrical cable for us instead.

Coracle at FOQ 2 Coracle at FOQ 1

Coracle Judges Comments

When I eventually checked my emails I was delighted to be informed that The Quilted Coracle was the winner of 3D Creations. I really had not expected that at all as I wondered if it had been too much like a novelty item. The Quilt Angels confessed that they unwrapped this huge package last, not knowing what to expect. On the way back to our stand I noticed that Dunes Duet was missing from its place which I found puzzling. I was stunned to discover that it had been taken to the photographer since it too had won a first place for the Two Person Quilts.  I was utterly thrilled to have received these two prizes at Europe’s premier quilt show.

dunes Dunes Duet Judges Comments

Kay had two gorgeous quilts in the show – Casaopoeia and Flower of Scotland. Both of these were worthy of prizes and she was pleased when the her thistle quilt received a Highly Commended award. You can see more of her beautiful work on her blog: kaythistle

I have to admit that despite my two wonderful wins, I was disappointed that the judges had not been blown away by the totems which I had considered my best work. Later on they were given a Judge’s Choice by Greta Fitchett and I was able to sneak a look at the judging sheets. One judge had ticked all of the Excellent boxes but the other one ticked Good or just Satisfactory, indicating that it should not have been entered into the Art Quilts category and that they were not particularly impressed by the choice of materials. This will not stop me from intending to make another 9 columns in this series so that I can exhibit a standing-stone circle of 12 symbolic tree columns!

TRIO Judges Choice Award for Imbolc Betula Trio

The Fine Art Masters finalists seemed to cause controversy amongst many quilters. There were some beautifully executed pieces but most were beyond the comprehension of most quilters. I wonder whether I should enter a facetiously arty entry next year just to see what might happen. Kay told me that she could hear my brain whirring with new ideas at 4.30 am so we just brewed some tea and ate shortbread with no prospect of going back to sleep.

There were a few criticisms about the presentation of prize-winning quilts this year. They were all moved to a winners’ wall in a tight corridor with poor lighting. Their labels were fixed to the wall around a corner so it was not clear which quilts had actually been chosen.  (Almost a week after the quilts were judged there were still no official photos from FOQ13 available online.) The awards ceremony had a few hiccups and I felt that my achievements were less valued than they had been at IQA Houston where every quilt was spotlit. There the winners wore badges with ribbons and were expected to proudly present their quilts to the show visitors. I received many lovely comments from quilters and I was delighted to know that a trendy art student wanted to know more about the Coracle.

I buzzed about over the next few days spending most of the day demonstrating on the APQS stand. I gave two lectures about The Quilted Yurts and did some vid-cast filming with Bonnie McCaffrey which was terrific fun. I caught up with a few folk, discussed the possibility of doing a longarm quilting cruise and knuckling down to sorting out my long overdue book. Each evening the “Team” went out for supper and laughed a lot about the silliest things. We discussed business periodically but mostly came up with ideas for quilts or making quilting demos fun.

The after-show pull down was far less stressful this year as we decided to pack everything before going to fetch the vehicles, thus avoiding a long and pointless wait in traffic. The Landy was full to bursting point and I had to lock the back doors to stop them from popping open. At least I did not have to take the Coracle away on the roof-rack since it will now travel to the Knitting and Stitching Shows in London, Harrogate and Dublin.

It seems such a pity that I have to come back down to earth and think about starting school next week. At least I am all fired up with enthusiasm to work on some unfinished and new projects, feeling validated in the UK quilting world at last 🙂

Summer Daze



The most boring part of a holiday must be sorting out the laundry and putting away all of the camping gear. No-one felt like doing much so I sneaked in a few more chapters of the last book of “Game of Thrones”. I felt flat after I finished that novel as the story is not complete and there is no firm publication date for the next instalment. I could not even try out my new hammock because it kept on raining.

I spent another full day in school discussing the timetable, covering an enormous wall in backing paper – cutting around the whiteboard, door and plug sockets. Later, I cleared out an substantial accumulation of mis-matched ice-cream cartons and bald paintbrushes from underneath the sink. The furniture got rearranged, the teacher’s desk drawer was sorted out and the bookcase was tidied. The rest of the school may be totally disorganised in the wake of renovations but our classroom looks ready to go. I have even printed out plenty of sticky labels for pegs and made a new sign for the classroom door.

By Thursday I was in full-on-faff mode. It was too early to pack for Festival of Quilts and I did not have a quilt project to work on. I decided to have a go at tie-dyeing T-shirts rather than knuckle down and do something useful like work on my book, sort out my paperwork. or waste time looking at cheap caravans on Ebay. The procion dyes always look fantastic while they are developing but then seem to wash away to nothing. I must have added far too much synthrapol rinsing-agent to the washing machine as it started oozing soap suds out of all of its openings!


I received lots of helpful tips regarding procion dye from Facebook friends but I decided to try again using some of my Hungarian dye. I heated the dye solution first then squirted it onto a scrunched-up damp cotton T-shirt. I then “cooked” the bundle in the microwave for 5 minutes before rinsing. I decided to microwave  it a second time, rinsed it in the washing machine, dried it outside and finally ironed the dyed shirt. I will have to wash it carefully but it looks like this method could work well and it does not involve a long wait for results.

I ferried children around on Friday and bought yet another giant jar of Nutella from Costco. In the evening I took Freya out for supper before we went to see “The World’s End” movie by Simon Pegg. As avid “Hot Fuzz” fans, we thought it was hilarious. The soundtrack was cool, the acting was superb and there was a subtle reference to Cornettos as in two of his other films.

A student who wanted to learn how to do free-motion quilting came to visit and spent the day building up her confidence and skill. I explained that it is a combination of a little technique and a LOT of practice. I usually tell pupils that free-motion quilting is like learning how to do joined-up-handwriting and that everyone will eventually develop their own individual style.

The phone rang as I was making a list of what to take to FOQ – local band, Victoria Sponge, wanted a fiddle player to go straight to the recording studio to play a few bars on   the backing track for their forthcoming EP. I was obviously the only violin owner in the vicinity who happened to be available so after a very scratchy practice I had to put on big headphones and try to look as though I could actually read music. I don’t usually play slowly or soulfully and there were 4 sharps in the key signature but the Magic Mixing Man seemed to have enough technology to meld my squeaky tones into the rest of the instruments. It was great fun but I wish I had practised a bit more or had time to get changed into dungarees like the fiddler from Dexy’s Midnight Runners…