Monthly Archives: September 2013

Is there anything worse than a poke in the eye with a sharp pencil?




It has been a funny old week and I was not thrilled when I bent down to listen to an answer phone message and my eyeball was almost impaled on a newly sharpened pencil that was standing upright ready to take down messages. This incident was not quite as nasty as machine-sewing through my finger when not following my own sage advice about keeping fingers out of the danger zone.

After a rare trip to town on Monday I planned to launch the computerised system on a simple customer quilt. I got it to do basic customer stuff to save my back for the insane freehand quilting that I really enjoy but it has had a series of glitches that are not making it an enjoyable tool to employ. It required a software update and some technical help from Americans who are 6 hours behind the UK so all in all, it made for a stressful day off.

Tuesday was not a great day in school. I was “told-off” for not keeping a close eye on the children so they had the opportunity to scribble on the carpet during art. I received a life ban on glitter and crayons and was instructed to photocopy a picture that they could colour -in which would be more appropriate for an infant class. Apparently the parents would not want to buy Christmas cards of the artwork that my class produced. Feeling suitably chastised, like a struggling probationary teacher, I wondered what I was doing back in the classroom instead of creating quilts and writing books in my studio. It may be time to throw in the chalk…

The customer quilt had a tight deadline so I just got cracking on freehand Baptist Fan type swirls instead of getting frustrated with supposedly time-saving technology that is actually making life more complicated. I cheered myself up by ordering Pepper Cory’s fat-quarters in shot cottons and they are fabulous. I still have not completed 16 wonky berry strips but there are only two left so surely I can get them done next week?

My chaotic week was interrupted by the arrival of my parents who came to stay for a few days and we went for walks by the river with the dogs, picked brambles, shared meals and caught up. The children enjoyed spending time with them as they live 12 hours from us and we really don’t see them often enough. They came along to the Strathspey fiddle practice and were impressed that it looked like I was keeping up with the fast reels.

There was a bit of shouting and nagging about lack of homework and music practice on Sunday morning but I decided to take the kids along to a guitar jam session at the pub in Torphins in the afternoon. A pint of Guinness and some off-the-cuff Jimi Hendrix soon lifted the mood, making me look forward to a new week of trying to fit more than is advisable into 168 hours.




I was absolutely worn out after spending part of Sunday helping Nell to learn how to ride a bike. She is almost 10 and just never learned before because we don’t have any concrete or tarmac on which to practise. I bought a new red bike to encourage her because the  bikes that we already had were the wrong size or just old and rusty. It was quite hard work speed walking up and down the track, holding onto the handlebars explaining how to steer, turn and stop. Hopefully, she will soon get the hang of it as long as the fine autumn weather continues.

I taught for 3 days this week but one of them was a treat since it was at our local school where the children behave so respectfully and are keen to do their work. My other two days were more challenging and I did not see two kids using oil pastels to add colour to the classroom carpet until it was too late. I will take brown paper and an iron into school to see if I can get some of it off…

I crammed as much quilting as I could into my two other days in order to complete a customer quilt since I need to do another one this week in time for a wedding at the end of September. I probably did not need to spend several hours adding machine embroidery to enhance the ditch seams of the borders but I could not resist just “finishing it off”.

I managed to get two pricey quotes to repair the damage on the Landrover – I will have to claim on my insurance as it looks like that tiny knock will cost £1200+ to fix! Luckily, I used my wonky strip piecing exercise as a de-stressing technique and I now have 13 out of 16 sections done. I even managed to run up a new homework book cover for Nell who still appreciates my home-made stationery items.

Taking a leaf out of Judi’s book, I intend to make a purely-for-fun bed quilt using one of Bonnie Hunter’s designs. I am going to order fat quarters of the entire range of the new shot Peppered Cottons for this side-line project and maybe just quilt it using an old-fashioned Baptist Fan pattern. I am also tempted to have a go at making the simple dress pattern that I downloaded but I may need a friend to hold my hand when I do that because I tend to get fazed by words like “darts”, “facings” and “shirring elastic”. And keep writing chunks for the Ebook, of course!



rowanberries landybash

I enjoyed the two really good speakers at the QGBI Region 16 day in Perth on Saturday. Judi Mendelssohn gave an amusing talk on how she does not consider herself to be a championship quilter with many examples of how some projects did not quite turn out as originally planned. I was struck by her belief that the act of sewing and creating unravels any stress that she is experiencing. Lizzie Wall spoke about how her pictorial quilts led her into creating fantastic, contemporary ecclesiastical garments.

Judi’s point about sewing being a stress reliever has never felt truer for me although some of my self-inflicted stress is actually caused by my desire to create huge projects while also trying to write, blog, teach and be a responsible parent. Fergus is currently very resentful of my efforts to make sure that he does his homework, pack his school bag and do some music practise. He is constantly telling me that he hates me which is rather trying!

I spend my time in school reminding the class to listen, to be attentive while I am explaining, pick up the pencils from the floor and hang their coats up so it is a drag to come home and not get a little co-operation.

I have been working frustratingly slowly on a customer quilt because I am still getting to grips with the tension settings using the new, jumbo bobbin. I simply don’t have enough hours in the week to keep up with my to-do list. On Thursday I sussed online banking, paid bills, posted a parcel, remembered to get my haircut and took my great friend, Mo, out for a birthday lunch.

It is hardly any wonder that after enjoying a fiddle session with new strings, my attention must have wandered for a split second and I stupidly managed to clip the back end of my Landy on a metal rail in a tight car-park space. Because the wings are made of aluminium, it just crushed and crumpled the rear section out of shape. I was really annoyed with myself and felt awful that a tiny bump has caused such expensive damage to my vehicular best friend.

Autumn blew in on Sunday morning so after a brisk dog walk it felt good to get laundry and school planning done so that I could do some more blackberry picking and piece one small section of the wonky berry strips. It seems to have taken ages to make 10 free-cut bits and I think a total of 16 will be necessary. I am looking forward to ordering a plum-coloured leather hide and dyeing some some more linen an interesting shade of pink. That could involve a trip to IKEA but on the other hand, it would probably be far more economical to order it online, not make a round trip of 250 miles and be tempted by Swedish flat-pack furniture!









Strung Out



It is all very well waking up at 4am with a whirl of things to be done on your mind but if you are too tired to get up and sort them out it is a bit pointless and very annoying! I may have to blame this nocturnal brain energy on my latest online purchase of very strong Arabic coffee laced with cardamon, providing me with highly addictive rocket fuel. All week I felt that I was not making visible progress but when I wrote a checklist that could be ticked off, I was reasonably pleased.

arabic coffee

I kept up the momentum with my Ebook material and drafted various rough sections that I can work on. My editor is trying to make me stay focussed on the type of book and engage with my audience. I will endeavour to follow her sage advice since no-one has ever made suggestions about my ramblings before. I have also made contact with two professional photographers to ensure that the close-up shots are crisp and well lit and it gives me a more definite deadline if I know that someone is being paid to come to take photos for a limited period of time.

My two school days were jam-packed with activities and I lost count of the number of times I heard my name being called. I am probably trying to cram far too much into my curriculum; it is tricky juggling keeping track of reading-books while teaching 6 year olds how to make soup and operate a sewing machine. I enjoyed playing fiddle with the Banchory Strathspey Society so much on Thursday evening that I decided to order a set of new strings for the first time in 25 years. I wonder if that will dramatically improve my performance?!

In my “spare” time I picked several bags of blackberries and put them straight into the freezer to be made into crumble, jam or liqueur later. I got rather annoyed with my new longarm machine as it is giving me a thread tension headache. I never had to think about that with my grumpy, old machine so we had a bit of a falling-out. It has a larger bobbin than before and a thread break sensor and seems to be far too posh and fussy for its own good. I will just have to show it who is the boss…


I have now made 8 wonky strip-sets for the berry and heather inspired trio of totems and think I need around 6 more. Although they do not look complicated, each one takes about an hour to construct. I am aiming to complete the whole Henge of Totems by next May so I can consider entering them into a show or two. I will need several very large boxes to ship this series!

yurtmadison  yurtatqexpo

 I received good news that Odin’s Trilogy has been juried into MQX West and Norma from Wisconsin sent me pictures from Quilt Expo in Madison of the USA Yurt attracting crowds of curious quilters. Suzanne Labry in Texas sent me a link to a super article on the Yurt that she wrote following its appearance in Houston last November.

There was an email from Generation Q magazine to let me know that there will be a feature about the Coracle in November and that they will send me a copy.

 quilterdunes quiltercoraclepic

I was not quite as impressed with the official photos that FOQ finally posted on the Press section of their website this week. The colours were definitely not right and the pictures did not do any of the pieces justice. These photos were reproduced in QGBI’s rather serious journal, The Quilter. I am hopeful that the other independent quilt magazines in the UK will publish better ones.

On Sunday evening as I write a new list for the forthcoming week I am gearing myself up to go to a gig in a pub for the first time in a few years. Freya and I are off to see local band, Victoria Sponge, in action. I should think I will probably need a pint of that new coffee tomorrow morning 😉





Determinedly, I sat in front of my laptop on Monday and made a start on my Ebook. I drafted an overview and then fleshed out what chapters there might be. Although I maintain that my projects just seem to crop up and develop organically, a book on my work needs to have more substance. Inspiration, even the unconscious sort, comes from all sorts of places. Articulating those random and changing ideas into cohesive text proved to be a tricky. In order to explain to readers what to do, I had to try to figure out and describe my process of design. Obviously there must be one but my thoughts tend to leap around and they don’t often flow logically.

I have told myself to keep the main points of each chapter brief but I reckon I can always add little asides later in text boxes. Becoming side-tracked halfway through is my nemesis.  I need to assault this task using the “New Linzi and Ellen Quilt-Show-Method” – where we systematically go up and down every single aisle with the catalogue not deviating from the floorplan or getting distracted by retail therapy.

I thought it would be a major chore searching my computer files for relevant high quality digital photos but in fact I will need to take new shots with the help of a professional photographer for better lit and close-ups. Making decent video clips and diagrams will be yet another challenge.

I finished marking the BzB anti-wholecloth which seemed to take ages but all the time I was doing that I was making a mental note of which quilting designs to include in the book. This  unintentionally solved the problem of what to do with the pastel silk strippy that was not right for the back of BzB – I could use it as a sampler for the Ebook.


Finally, I had time to piece some wonky strips for the summer totems. These are meant to be berry and heather colours. I was mostly using up leftover pieces from other projects like BzB and Willowbay Herb or pieces that I had dyed. I was surprised at how quickly I used the heap of strips that I had cut and realised that I probably did not have enough. My smallest pile was green and yellow because they are colours that I rarely use. To solve the problem I ordered 15 half yards of plain fabrics online from “Simply Solids”. It is risky buying fabric or paint online as you cannot see the true colours but I was pleased with my selection. Some of the colours were not quite how I imagined them but they will blend in with all of the others, even the juicy tomato red.


There is a great crop of brambles, blackcurrants and purple gooseberries this year. Picking them is hazardous since stinging nettles are guarding the fruits and the thorns are pretty fierce. I made a crumble and a large jar of slightly tart jam. Battling just a few prickles each day and freezing small quantities should provide enough to make sauce for ice-cream or a handful of purple fruit to add to a plain apple pie.

Most of Saturday was spent on planning and evaluating for school. I am not paid to do that amount of extra work as a supply teacher but for a regular class it needs to be done. As quilting commitments build up for next year I am reminded that it would be difficult to commit myself to a permanent position unless I was able to work for a very accommodating Headteacher.

In an effort to make time spent on business more efficient I attempted to set up online banking. This is because it is no longer possible to phone my local bank direct with a simple query without first being diverted through a series of call centre operators all of whom demand answers for the security questions that I have forgotten. The system crashed before my registration was complete so I was told that I would have to be sent an activation code in the post! There is no doubt that it would be less stressful to keep cash in a biscuit tin.