Monthly Archives: October 2013

Let Them Eat Cake


There has been rather a lot of cake in my house this week. I was busy in my workshop for a couple of days so the children decided to have a go at baking which was great until they spilled a large bag of caster sugar on the kitchen floor. This took several attempts with the hoover and mop before all crunchy or sticky traces were removed. 


We threw away the silicone cake tins that seemed to taste soapy and bought some new heavy-duty traditional ones. These were well road tested after making blondies, flapjacks and chocolate cake. The whole family enjoyed watching the final of BBC’s “Great British Bake Off” and really admired what the contestants were able to produce in a limited time. We made a pink velvet cake for Fenella’s 10th birthday the day before so that it would cool down and could be sliced more easily to add jam and butter cream. She requested that it should look like a rose but Freya and I have limited sugar-craft skills so we simply covered it in LOTS of rich buttercream icing. It was delicious but made your teeth hurt!

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has been back on the telly with Channel 4‘s “River Cottage to the Core” and inspired me to have a go at traditional Cornish pasties. I don’t know why I had to make more than twice the recommended amount of pastry but they were pretty successful – it looks like this could be yet another recipe that I will need to tweak until it is perfect. 


I kept telling myself that I should be dutifully planning for the next term at school but the only school related activity that I did was to quilt and bind the 3 small quilts that my class sewed together. They turned out well; I managed to flatten the wonky seams and fix one obvious hole. I think they will be impressed with their efforts and want to make a few more Linus quilts this term. I tried to get a hand-crank Singer running for them and I had it stitching well for a while before the feed dogs just stopped moving. I now have three seized antique sewing machines that I would like to get working again. 


In complete contrast to those cranky old machines I have been lent a super Bernina 710 by Bogods of Bernina UK. I will use it for the video clips on my Ebook and so far I am really impressed. I love the fact that the whole foot detaches easily to be swapped for another one. It does all sorts of things that I don’t know about yet so sometime I hope to visit David Drummond’s shop in Edinburgh for a proper lesson. It did not come with a 1/4 inch foot but I adjusted the position of the needle and used it for the first two Beltane/Spring stripsets. I have not got used to the knee lifter yet but I daresay that will come with practice. 


I managed to complete a small customer quilt that I should have kept quick and simple but as it was for a friend I could not resist experimenting a little with leaving gaps in between more intense quilting. I also wanted to play with machine embroidery around the blocks after quilting. I really like this look, a little like crazy-quilting but it always takes far longer to do than planned. If I ever get around to tackling BzB I plan to add embroidery around some of the large quilting motifs. However, it is a huge quilt so could take quite some time!






We had a mini family holiday near Oban, on the West Coast of Scotland this week. Our holiday cottage looked like a traditional black-house with a reed thatched roof. There was a rowing boat that we could take out onto the loch and the scenery was breath-taking. Luckily we had two fine weather days so we took a short boat trip to see seals and we wandered around the town. There was not much to buy apart from mass produced knitwear but there were some excellent places to eat including a chocolate shop and several seafood restaurants.


After the weather turned wet and misty we enjoyed a visit to the whisky distillery and the friendly independent cinema where we saw “Sunshine on Leith”, a surprisingly enjoyable film with an unlikely soundtrack of songs by The Proclaimers.

The guidebook recommended a visit to the village of Easdale where we could catch a foot-ferry across to a small island to see an old slate quarry. The giftshop there was rather unusual with a major exhibition by an unusual artist, lots of out-of-date shortbread and a  real zebra skin rug. After seeing the other visitors putting on oilskins for the short boat trip across in low visibility, we decided to drive on down the coast.

museum coracle

We stumbled upon an archaeological museum in Kilmartin which was centred around many Ancient burial sites and standing stones. I was amazed to see a Celtic coracle just how I had imagined mine could be before I even did any research. This one was woven from wicker and covered with a cow hide that had been treated with seal oil. It really was a weird feeling to see something so similar!

I had intended to produce a lot of sketches of quilting designs but I found that I preferred to spend my evenings reading a book or watching a film with a bottle of wine. I did at least do quite a lot of thinking about the type of diagrams that I would like to include so I will just have to see whether it is possible to work on these during the rest of the October break. I think it is more likely that the time will fly past and I will struggle to fit in any quilting, especially as it will be Fenella’s 10th birthday and she wants me to make an amazing cake.


I completed 14 autumn stripsets then ran out of exciting colours so I decided that there should be enough to make a totem out of that lot. I will just have to see how many wonky blocks it yields then buy a sponge column of an appropriate size. My original idea had been to cover much cheaper tree trunks with quilted panels but I know from experience how difficult it is to ship wooden exhibits to the USA…!


Working Out



Judging from the state of my notebook, I spent the week making calls, notes and progress on The Book. There are several pages of scribbles, coffee stains and large ticks through checklists. I also completed and bound the customer quilt ready for it to be posted back to its maker.


I now have a weighty pile of 16 berry strips and even started the first of the autumn ones in gorgeous, rich colours. There is an assorted pile of strips waiting to be wonkily joined every time I have a spare half hour. The time that each one takes has almost halved since I started this project.


I have to admire quilting-friend, Ann’s determination to work on finishing all of her unfinished projects before she starts anything new. There are times when I try to follow this mantra but I am  currently breaking every rule on project management.

I figured out Bonnie Hunter’s “Patches and Pinwheels” quilt-recipe in several different sizes then decided that further shortcuts would really speed things up. I made a couple of mock-up blocks to have a look at what worked for the quick way of making a set of 4 half-square-triangles out of two squares that Ann had seen on Youtube and figured out the mathematics required for various sizes. This may not sound that impressive to someone who finds algebra easy but I was impressed at my tenacity.

The next challenge that kept me awake late one night was how to cut up my 25 Peppered Solids so that I would get all of the pieces that I needed for an 80” or thereabouts quilt with absolutely no waste or leftover pieces. Having solved the puzzle on paper, I felt obliged to get on with the cutting so I could have an easy, no-pressure type of fun project in the background.


I drafted two “chapters” for the Ebook then I researched how to make my sketchy pen diagrams look professionally drafted. I thought it might be something to do with vectors which is a just a posh name for a bendy line. I found a drawing app for my Ipad which can smooth out a jerky scrawl and even present it as a dotted line which looks like stitching. Instead of being content with that small triumph, I wondered if my sketches could be animated for the Ebook to show how they are done. I have not quite worked out whether I am capable of enough geekiness to make this latest idea work!


The whole family went for a hike around Loch Muick on Sunday and everyone except for Fergus enjoyed the wonderful scenery and looked forward to the reward of fish and chips for supper. No doubt he would rather have watched someone else doing something far more entertaining on Youtube but we kept telling him that the fresh air and exercise was far better for him 😉