Monthly Archives: November 2013

Keep Calm – it’s not real snow!



My Christmas Crafts class kept me on my toes since some of them asked to do a couple of patchwork projects that I had not actually planned in advance. In addition to bunting and a zigzag table runner I had to design a Christmas tree block and draw a stocking template on the fly. They seemed to have fun and even discussed coming back in the New Year to do a modern sampler quilt from start to finish.

We had a light dusting of snow but it was not enough to cause any disruption and although I almost looked forward to a snow day, the reality was that I would rather not have to hang up wet snow gear and make hot chocolate quite so early in the winter. I made sure that I got a large load of dry logs delivered just in case 😉

I had two frenetic school days in a row, trying to help 24 children bake, spell, sew felt shapes, sing and listen in P.E. I woke up the next morning feeling relieved that I did not have to teach that day so I decided to forge ahead with some festive shopping in Aberdeen knowing that things will start to get very hectic towards the end of term. I found it easy to pick out gifts for my girls and wonder why it seems so tricky to shop for boys.


I enjoyed visiting the pop-up French cafe for parents at Fenella’s school on Friday and dusted off “mon petit peu” rusty French to order a café au laît. Nell wore her beret and a striped t-shirt to be my waitress but she refused to fetch me a refill!


Over the weekend I finally got to start on a customer appliqué quilt, using invisible thread to stitch-in-the-ditch around all of the motifs and blocks. I even managed to complete the  straight line stitching in the borders and some of the sashing blocks. I hope to get the little background fills done this week then I will decide if the large appliqués need any additional quilting.


I have made no further plans for the week other than paperwork so I might work on the peppered solids or even try to swap over longarm machines since a replacement for the one that was giving me trouble has arrived. I also want to arrange to send Odin’s Trilogy back to the USA for Road to California before the Christmas post frenzy!

Moving On



I had pretty much made up my mind to hand in my notice at school to leave at Christmas – sitting through the tedious In-Service-Training-Day made me pluck up the courage to inform the Head of my decision. I have decided that there is nothing new in Education, just new jargon! I thought I would feel guilty about moving on but in fact I feel relieved that I will be able to concentrate on quilting full time again. I plan to take at least the next term off to finish off The Book, crack on with my totems and do more customer quilts. I won’t rule out doing the odd day of Supply Teaching for pocket money here and there if it is local and they pay me a decent rate 😉

I now have 14 strip-sets for the Beltane totems so I have started looking around for more leather hides. The Scottish tannery where I got a deerskin hide sounded a little bemused at my enquiry for dyed sheep-shaped skins but I would prefer them to be local if possible.

The chain-piecing is all done for my solids bed quilt so I can now work on the blocks if I fancy some easy sewing when I have just a little downtime.

There is a group of ladies coming on Monday for a fun Christmas sewing workshop so I had to write down the instructions for an easy table runner and festive bunting. Space will be tight so I decided to make the “string” for the bunting in advance – all 40 metres of it! Halfway through the project I remembered that I had a Simplicity Bias Tape Maker so I fed the 2” wide by 20 metre length through the little machine so that I only had to press one ridiculously long crease with my iron.


While I was in instruction writing mode I wrote out my version of machine-sewn utility binding. Because I have such difficulty understanding directions, I jotted down every detail that I could think of and ended up with a 1000-word essay on the subject. Next I have to take a series of photos then see if someone else can see what I am on about.

While my current Postie will not deliver anything larger than a standard envelope, I have to take umbrage with Fedex’s more casual attitude. First they wanted me to pay customs duty on a warranty replacement then they just left the large, valuable item in the wood-shed and fraudulently signed that it had been safely delivered using my neighbour’s signature so I won’t be recommending their parcel delivery service!

With only a spare day and a half this week I doubt that I will be able to complete the customer quilt that requires invisible stitch-in-the-ditch around lots of applique and mini fillers in every block. Mind you – it might snow…




Fitting Things In…



As well as the usual circus of after school activities, I also had to fit in a Halloween party, two parents’ evenings, two meetings, give a talk and get Fenella to Brownie Camp on time. Everything was written down so that I would not forget where I was meant to be. I came across a fun quiz by the BBC on Facebook that would calculate how stressed the participant was. I answered very honestly but still scored very low for stress levels which  indicated that I must be totally chilled out – which is a relief 😉


I created two minor distractions from what I had planned to do in my workshop. Ann showed me a simple block that she had made years ago as a sample where a square was inserted into a fabric aperture and appeared to have no seams. She had forgotten how it was constructed so I challenged myself to work out the method using a hexagon. This proved to be a time-consuming challenge since machine sewn hexagons are tricky enough without trying to fit biased edges into a similarly stretchy opening. I eventually managed to get a tidy sample done using pen marks to line everything up. I suspect that pins may have come in handy but I was determined to come up with a hassle-free solution. I daresay I would become speedier with practice but I admit that it was really fiddly. I just wanted to  investigate how it might be to create an entire piece of patchwork with seemingly no seams in case I ever feel the need for a slightly difficult project.

I must have been in a figuring-it-out mood this week as I wrote some more project instructions for The Book. They are still not ready to share but I decided that if the text was drafted then it should only need tweaking after I am ready to get the photos done. “All” I have left to explain to myself and potential readers is binding, zips and bolster cushions with piped ends..!


It is an inescapable fact that Christmas is coming and I remembered that I had bought a simple fabric panel Advent Calendar that had lines of pockets to attach. I decided to get on with it before I go into panic mode at the prospect of fitting in Christmas shopping. I have now decided that these simple panels are meant to look rubbish. The pockets are apparently supposed to be sewn on first then a little minimal quilting should finish it all off. All I could see were puckers and lumpy bits so I added rickrack and embroidery before I was satisfied that it looked reasonable. Maybe one day I will get around to designing something neater where all of the background is quilted first before any pockets are applied – or I could just buy a chocolate one.

“Odin’s Trilogy” has been juried into Road to California in January so I will have to think about sending that off in good time to avoid the Christmas post. I might even send it off to the WMQFA museum in Cedarburg so that it is in the correct country before January.

I have still only reached 11 completed yellow/green wonky strip-sets despite feeling as though I have been working on them for ages. I have decided that 14 of these slightly wider units should be enough then it will be time to source some more coloured hides. I am not sure whether I can face sewing as many beads onto those as the original white goatskin that I used for “Imbolc” but I will worry about that later or even come up with an alternative plan.









Cooking Cures Writer’s Block


My usual way of avoiding work that needs to be done is to do all of the tiny insignificant jobs that I think are holding me up. Getting the planning for the school week and battling with the online banking system that is meant to save time but mostly wastes it, meant that I had to get on with drawing quilting diagrams for my book. I doodled them out in ink then tried to replicate them using a graphics program. The problem is that I think my drawings are not very “arty” – they certainly seem to have been bogging me down.


The next challenge will be to do actual quilting videos on both the domestic machine and a longarm. I had a sneaky look at some others on Youtube and noticed paper rustling, sniffs, bad lighting and skipped anything that lasted more than one minute. I wonder if it would work better to record the sound separately so you don’t even hear the machine competing with the explanation?


I decided to move on from worrying about how to present the quilting designs after having a bit of a Bake-Off morning. I made and sampled granary bread, sweet potato soup and pumpkin loaf before feeling ready to draft the text for some of the half-dozen simple book projects. I will probably have to make all of them from scratch in order to take high quality photos of each stage.


Feeling that I had hardly done any sewing, I used the Bernina to do a few yellow and green wonky strip-sets for the Spring totems. I have refined this method now so I don’t bother to iron them until the whole “block” is complete. It was actually quite a keep-fit quilting process previously as I had to get up and walk round to the ironing board after joining every single strip.

I have a hectic week coming up with two parents’ evenings and two other meetings on top of the usual after-school activities. I will relish the days when I am home-alone even more and try to fill every spare moment with writing or sewing – apart from when I am making gingerbread biscuits, suppers made in advance or cutting out 48 felt stockings for my class to sew together…