Monthly Archives: January 2014

All in a Day’s Work!



I must have brewed extra strong coffee on Monday because I managed to piece 2 large quilt backs, make 4 sets of double-fold binding, trim the edges of 3 quilts, and wash, dry and bind the tatty 1930’s quilt and even the fleecy practice one! This was obviously my most productive day of the week because there was quite a bit of faffing after that. I started to fill in a year-planner because I could not quite work out where I was meant to be on the iCloud calendar and I was convinced that I had lost a date or two.

I spent my birthday teaching at one of my favourite schools which was fine since all of the children behaved nicely and the teachers bought me birthday cakes. I was asked to throw together lessons on Fairtrade cotton and probability so I told them about child labour in India and may have casually mentioned gambling in a fun way when asking them to think of games of chance. A couple of boys were soon accumulating a pile of wooden beads as their winnings. On a more serious note, the children’s internet searches really made me question the ethics of the cotton that I buy for quilting and this is something that I will consider when I buy fabric and wadding from now on!

My husband surprised me by giving me vouchers for a day at River Cottage in Dorset with Freya – we can take a day’s class in bread making or learn how to cure our own bacon. I enjoyed coffee with Tania and Mo – they gave me lovely gifts that included candles, a funky scarf and a bottle of artisan gin.


I decided to quilt my Peppered Solids quilt before tackling the next huge customer commission. I had intended to keep it simple with wavy lines or baptist fans but I automatically started covering it in plumes and swirls. I was not sure about the silvery thread so I switched to a gold coloured one. There was no way that I intended to unpick the silver so I had to make it look like a design feature and quilt with silver in all 4 corners. I did have a few issues with the bottom border. The main body of the quilt was a bit stretchy because the loose weave fabric had plenty of “give” in it. It was tricky to ensure that the stiffer Cherrywood border did not distort the whole thing and I had to suffer a few nasty little puckers even though I padded it out with extra wadding. It does not really matter as it is not a show quilt but it annoyed me all the same.


My E-book got some attention too as I edited the projects and made lists of all of the photos that I want to accompany the writing. I hope that I will be able to resize and reuse some that I already have but I will have to make all of the projects from scratch just to ensure that I have all of the step-by-step pictures.


The autumn totem was yet another project that has been on hold for some time. I had to redo all of the calculations as I had no recollection of what I had originally intended. It looks like I made plenty of strip-sets and will have more than enough to use for the largest column that will be wrapped in a leather skin like the original Imbolc set of three.

I will have to keep up this pace if I stand any chance of completing the book projects AND the totems. I have already turned down several days of supply teaching in favour of quilting so I must try to make the most of my time 😉


Unplanned Forays



I don’t plan to get side-tracked but it just seems to happen anyway! As it turned out, the tasks that I did instead of what I was meant to be doing proved to be useful after all. Maybe I was preoccupied because my great friend, Tania, moved out of the house next door after 8 years of being my neighbour. She has not moved too far so we will still catch up for coffee but we won’t have daily dog-walks to set the world to right. It seemed to rain constantly all week so it is hardly surprising that I was easily distracted like when I collected an undelivered parcel from the post office depot and came home with another set of bargain kitchen chairs. I will soon be able to open a cafe with all of the seating and tables that I have stashed away…

I had slightly forgotten that I had two long-arming pupils in my studio this week but it was really nice to be teaching them one-to-one. It reminded me that I quilt automatically most of the time so I really had to break things down for them and encouragingly point out that they should not expect their quilting to look wonderful after just one lesson.


As soon as a new batch of 80/20 wadding was delivered, I loaded and quilted a lovely quilt for a Church raffle. There were lots of small pieces so it required a reasonably dense amount of freehand quilting to capture all of its seams. Plumes and swirls soon covered the entire quilt and I felt that I was doing some proper quilting at last. Without even advertising, another two customer quilts came in this week, proving that I should be able to manage without my teaching wages as long as I don’t spend too long writing a book and working on ridiculous self-imposed exhibition challenges.


The photos that I took are pretty good because I set up two IKEA floor lamps with massive photographic bulbs. My husband showed me how to adjust the camera tripod and self-timer so I can have a go at setting up some shots for my book projects without relying on a second person and getting frustrated by the lack of sun.


I thought I would finish off piecing my Peppered Solids blocks and put them away in a box but of course I carried on until I had completed the whole top. I don’t remember planning to make this quilt too large but it ended up at 78” square anyway. I love the colours of this shot-cotton range but because the fabric is a looser Indian weave, it tends to stretch and distort quite easily. I added a border of grey Cherrywood just because that it what I already had and simply made it long enough by adding a few simple strips.


This directly led to another unplanned foray into robot quilting. I knew that I wanted to quilt this with a very traditional Baptist Fan design and it seemed like a good reason to pluck up courage to use the computerised system for my long arm machine that I bought to do the very traditional or basic customer quilts. As with most software, there would appear to be several ways of achieving the same objective and it did not want to behave the way I thought it should. There was a fair bit of trial and plenty of operator error but I eventually managed to download a digital design, transfer it to the tablet, turn it into a pantograph design, set up the long arm to work remotely, then fumble and fudge the placement onto a mock quilt of fleece. I wanted to be sure that I had it all sussed before committing the design to my Peppered Solids quilt so I had another go with a raggy 1930’s quilt top. I am now optimistic that I know how to fit each line of quilting onto the quilt without crashing the system. Maybe I should go ahead and finish my solids quilt before I forget all of the tricks and shortcuts that I learned over two days by refusing to give up until I got it all working properly?!




I almost did not know how to get started with the New Year as it felt like there was so much to be done so I just had to make several lists and work my way through. It was a great feeling not to have to get ready to teach in school. I felt like I needed to get all of the boring chores out of the way before I could engross myself in any sewing projects so I gritted my teeth and started with my tax return. This job almost took 3 whole days because I finally plucked up the courage to put it all on a spreadsheet. I have never really understood how they work but after watching Youtube explanations and my husband drawing out a rough layout, I began entering all of my income and expenses and was amazed when the computer added up all of the resulting columns. It was a pretty sobering sight to see what I had really spent my hard-earned cash on!

Completing the online tax form was frustrating because the format seemed to have changed. It is impossible to get through to any human on the helpline so I just had to muddle through, mucking it up the first time by somehow entering zero into income AND earnings. I was hugely relieved when it was all over for another year and now I can get on top of keeping the expenses up to date electronically. I even remembered to back everything up onto an external hard-drive.

I could not get started on my customer quilt because I was waiting for a delivery of wadding. I had a disaster with wool wadding bearding drastically after washing in some family quilts so I dared not use any more in customer quilts. I may be able to use it up for exhibition items as long as I never intend to wash them. I decided to clear out all of the wadding offcuts and put them into a recycling bag and this whetted my appetite to ruthlessly cull any fabric that I do not intend to use and refold the rest. Just creating a little space in the stash allowed me to move things around so I could store the coracle and totems tidily under the long arm frame. I felt like I needed to get all of this sorting out done before getting into the right frame of mind to start sewing in 2014.

I spent a day revisiting the progress on my Ebook since it is a while since that got any attention. I cleared out all of the earlier drafts and pictures that won’t be used and generally tried to reacquaint myself with what I thought I was doing before I got distracted by school. Another task off my conscience was to email off some report comments about my class before I forgot all about them.


I had intended to make new cushions for my scruffy sofa but I saw some perfectly good, inexpensive, ready-made tweed ones that meant I could spend my time on more “worthwhile” activities. I felt rather guilty about this for a while but decided to forgive myself in the end! I did make a cushion for Freya out of a wool jumper that I accidentally felted and it took me a while to remember how to attach the zip and piping. It was not a perfect specimen but she likes it anyway.


I enjoyed making a new batch of sourdough bread and that seemed to spur me onto spring-cleaning the kitchen cupboards as part of my resolution to do domestic stuff at weekends instead of wishing I was in my workshop. It was mostly a matter of tidying – I did not go so far as pouring away the home-made pear cordial that had a tiny bit of harmless mould floating on top.


There was some fun at the weekend as local band, Victoria Sponge asked me to pose as their fiddler so I may appear for a few fleeting seconds in their new music video. This was good for my musical ego which had been bruised by my first attempt to play with the Seniors at the Banchory Strathspey and Reel Society – I did not do too well at sight-reading more than a dozen brand new tunes at top speed so I will really have to see how that goes next time!

Family Christmas


We had a quiet Christmas, did a bit of festive cooking, watched a couple of TV movies and walked the dogs. The only time I went into the workshop was to fetch more food supplies from my makeshift larder. The kids were pleased with their gadgets that included an Ipad mini for Nell, Nintendo DS with Pokemon for Fergus and an old fashioned record turntable for Freya.


Before we got too used to being lazy we packed up and caught a train to Norfolk to visit my family. I am pleased to report that there were no hold ups or hassles on our 3 connections and I enjoyed the opportunity to read a gripping thriller called “The Goldfinch” for almost 8 hours.

Five grandchildren together Dec 2013

It was lovely to catch up with everyone and see how the little boy cousins have grown. There were more presents and yet more wonderful food! We collected a fresh turkey from the butcher in Beccles so we could have a full-blown Christmas Dinner on New Year’s Day and we also enjoyed a mooch around Norwich. Even the kids noticed how time passes differently in Norfolk as our days simply flew by. Too soon, we were back on the train back to Scotland and the journey seemed even longer on the way home.


After such a long break I did not feel inclined to tackle my expanding TO DO list straightaway so I decided that laundry and taking down the Christmas decorations should suffice until school starts on Monday. I am tempted to start a completely irrelevant small sewing project just to get myself back in the workshop and to stop myself from undertaking a mega-spring-clean to avoid going in the workshop which has become very cold over the holidays. It will take a few days to get back up to a bearable working temperature.

The house always feels like it might burst after Christmas until I find somewhere to stash the new stuff and we will have to polish off all of the cheese, biscuits and chocolate before we can possibly consider any new healthy eating regimes which is why my New Year’s resolutions will start a bit late – and I may just need a little sustenance to help get the dreaded annual tax return out of the way!