Monthly Archives: April 2014

Japanese and Dutch



This week’s customer quilt featured striking Japanese fabric with and reminded me of paper screens in teahouses so it seemed obvious to have a go at sashiko style quilting. I found a pattern for a maze ball and decided that the border had to be pumpkin seeds which can also look very oriental. The formal quilting looked really good when it was done and my customer phoned me when she received her quilt in the post to say how delighted she was. I also quilted two pillow shams to match an earlier version of another magic spirals quilt so I have now caught up with all of my customer quilts! Although I do know of several quilts that are under construction so I don’t suppose it will be long before some more come along.


I worked on my Dutch quilt and make good use of the new pop-up design wall to ensure that all 30 of the fabrics got distributed fairly evenly. I ordered some Philip Jacobs “tulipmania” fabric from Doughty’s for the back and carefully matched up the large pattern repeat. I looked at several reference books then ignored them all as I couldn’t understand what they were getting at and successfully completed my ever mitred borders. I was impressed that they looked so neat but made no attempt to match up the chintz patterns in the corners, using the excuse that I did not have enough fabric to faff around. It is all ready to quilt and I am hoping to use the Quilt Path computer system to quilt canal houses and tulips onto the quilt top. Theo from Art & Stitch kindly sent the digital file for me to use on my quilt from Amsterdam.

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The Norway Cruise with Sew Many Places and P&Q Magazine is fast approaching so I have now cut out wadding squares and gold lamé strips for the Northern Lights cushions and sorted out an assortment of zips and bright embroidery threads. Crazy Catt Quilt Shop in Kingsbridge, Devon is providing me with all of the hand-dyed strips in kit form and while I was thinking about dyeing I may have had a new idea about how to display the Celtic Totem Henge…

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I sent most of a day fiddling around getting the Totem skins bound. The first one was a bit iffy in places but the third one was really good. I suppose I could take off the offending binding and start again but that would be crazy so I will just have to hope the judge is too busy admiring everything else to notice that the wavy leather edge does not completely fill the binding in some of the tight turns. I have officially entered the Totems into FOQ 2014 but may need to revise the overall size that I specified. I am working up the courage to manufacture the foam columns this week but may have to persuade Freya to stop revising  for exams to help me hold them in place while the spray glue works;)


Easter Eggs and Fiddling Around



After an early start on Monday when I had a slight panic that I did not have an E-ticket for my flight home, I arrived back home at lunchtime then headed straight out to Finzean for a fiddle workshop with Nell. We were surprised that only 6 people had turned up for a Masterclass with Alastair Savage and felt it would be rude not to agree to appear in the evening concert. Nerve-rackingly, this involved learning a couple of tricky new tunes, arranging some harmonies and being prepared to do a couple of little solos and duets. Luckily, the small audience was most impressed and we were pleased with our efforts.


I completed all of the stitch-in-the-ditch quilting on the turquoise magic-spirals customer quilt then attached the binding and finished it off with a touch of machine embroidery. Immediately afterwards I loaded another variation of the same quilt which I aim to start next week. The customer has requested sashiko-style quilting because she used a striking Japanese feature fabric.


I finished hand-sewing beads onto the fuchsia pink leather and later on will add a couple more rings which are close to the binding. Now I have started on the autumn coloured skin using amber, goldstone and tiger’s eye beads.



Fenella has decided that she is in charge of the new hens so she was delighted when we collected our first eggs in odd shapes and sizes, including a double-yolker. Fergus was not particularly impressed that I substituted chocolate eggs for a Lindt bunny each this year even though they are irresistibly delicious.

I found the box of Dutch chintzes too tempting and I just had to cut into them. Instead of cutting 384 triangles with a template, I cut a pile of 4” squares to make a batch of quick half-square triangles. It felt like “bunking off” with so many other projects that need to be done – maybe if I get this little project done quickly it simply won’t count;)

Fenella and I drove down to Fife to visit my uncle who is really poorly. She showed him the ropes on his new iPad which seemed to help distract him for a while. He also enjoyed the gingerbread that we took with us. My folks were also there to see him and they decided to come and stay with us over the weekend. We made the summerhouse into a luxury guest bedroom and planted some new solar-powered lights outside by the steps.


We had great fun waiting for Freya’s tall ship to arrive in Aberdeen, occasionally catching glimpses of harbour dolphins through the binoculars. She had a fantastic week with 11 other students from across Europe. She mucked in with chores, learned how to navigate, experienced sea-sickness, steered the ship at night, and took refuge from stormy weather  in Hartlepool.




We had such lovely weather on Easter Sunday that we had lunch outside. This does not happen very often here, even in high summer. The simnel cake that had been badly burnt by my oven tasted fine after extensive surgery and it even looked presentable after we covered it in marzipan and fluffy chicks. The wild cherry blossom appeared overnight and reminded me how fast this year is going by already. It should be business as usual this week once I have got a reluctant boy back to school on Monday morning…

Amsterdam Expedition




The school holidays always run at a slower pace so I tried not to feel too guilty about not working flat-out on the next phase of the totems. I kept adding a few beads to the fuchsia-pink leather, ordered some muted pastel fabrics for the bed version of “Dunes Duet” to check my pattern draft and worked on a second “Magic Spirals” customer quilt. This one was in vibrant turquoise and hot pink so it got some large swirly motifs, a loopy background, then piano keys and spiky borders.


I spent a day doing videography for my Ebook with a media studies student. At first I was a little disappointed that some of the clips were a bit shaky and I certainly did not look at all glamorous. I needed a “director” to order me to do retakes, use a tripod and stop me from rambling. However, it was a valuable exercise in fine tuning what to include and making sure that all of the gadgets and aerials for each “scene” are properly organised. It has now been decided to aim for a Christmas publication date, with promotion to be done at FOQ. I am secretly relieved about the new deadline since it allows me to concentrate on the totems during May while continuing with editing and making up the last few projects.

Suddenly, it was Friday and I was chasing around buying Euros, ordering last minute travel insurance, making cakes and buying chocolate for Freya’s trip on a tall ship. She kept asking me, “Have I got everything?” We flew to Amsterdam on Saturday morning and Schipol Airport lost her luggage for an hour. Finally we made our way by train to the central station, figured out how to buy 48 hour tram tickets and successfully located our little hotel on a quiet street overlooking the Bloemgracht canal. I insisted on heading straight to Amsterdam’s premier patchwork shop, Den Haan & Wagenmakers where I amazed myself by buying a gorgeous quilt kit. After supper at the Hard Rock Cafe, we wandered around for hours just loving the feel of a city with cobbled streets, flower pots of tulips, canals and thousands of bicycles.

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I did not sleep terribly well, partly because the Westerkerk clock tower did a little tune every quarter of an hour but we were determined to get up early and head straight to the Anne Frank House just around the corner. The queue was impressive an hour before opening time but we waited patiently and were very moved by the experience. The warehouse and attics are almost exactly as described in Anne’s Diary except that the rooms have been deliberately unfurnished to reflect the sense of loss following WW2.


We took a tram to the other side of the city and waited in another LONG queue to visit the Van Gogh Museum. It was pretty busy but we saw most of Vincent’s paintings. Freya was fascinated and made a great tour guide since she has studied him in art at school. It is ironic that he was so unsuccessful as an artist while he was alive yet Amsterdam celebrates him posthumously with a state of the art museum and commercial gift shop.


Although we would have loved to visit more museums and shops, we only had time for Dutch apple cake in a cafe before going to collect Freya’s bulky sailing bag so we could catch a ferry to the docks where the Gulden Leeuw was berthed. She was apprehensive about meeting her fellow sailors for the first time but they all seemed friendly and we had a little tour around the 1930’s 3-masted yacht. The central mast is 40m/131 feet high and I would not fancy climbing up it to be the look-out! I wished her a “Bon Voyage” at 5pm then made my way back to the hotel. She would be given some training then sail from Amsterdam back to Aberdeen on Tuesday. I picked up a takeaway from a Moroccan deli and sat at my hotel little table overlooking the canal. A black cat casually wandered on and off the boats below and I decided that I would love to visit this atmospheric city again before too long…






My final science lesson at Nell’s school was all about the digestive system, including a demonstration that involved cold porridge and an old pair of tights. After they made a fake stomach from a ziploc bag, oatcakes and orange juice her class told me that my lessons had been “awesome” so that was nice! Midweek it was their turn to impress me at their impressive school show where they sang a medley of at least 20 Scottish, Abba, and pop songs all learned off by heart.

Nell sat her Grade 2 piano exam and afterwards we went to our favourite music shop in Aberdeen to choose some new music. I asked the guys there how much it would be to purchase a proper xylophone with resonators (dangly tubes). They informed me that no-one had ever asked about that instrument in over 20 years. It turns out that you can buy a naff one or an orchestral version costing several thousand pounds so I don’t think we will be adding that to our over-crowded music room!

My customer quilt this week was a “Northern Lights” pattern pieced by Trixie, who usually brings me double-wedding-rings. It was in super bright colours so I quilted a variety of background fillers using a selection of neon threads.


I mass produced some bias-binding using Oakshott fabrics for the leather skins thinking that I could bind them first then bead them later if necessary. The small, green skin now has all of its embellishments. A nosy child at swimming who wanted to know what I was sewing while I waited for Nell observed that it “looked like a garden” so I must have captured the idea of Spring convincingly.

I collected a couple of 14 ft long hefty cardboard tubes from the local carpet warehouse to try and figure out a way of covering them economically for the 9 remaining totems. I phoned a small company in the West Country called “Foam 4 Home” to discuss my requirements and a knowledgeable chap talked me through what I should really do to make fat tubes of differing diameters using sheets of foam, spray adhesive and an electric carving knife. The carpet tubes ended up as camp fire fuel. I am hoping that if I can assemble everything for the 9 columns in kit form than it might not seem like such a formidable task.

Beginning to feel the pressure for completing the Ebook this year, I uploaded lots more photos of quilt sketches and prepared another “5 Bar Gate” wall-hanging so its progress can be properly photographed in stages. I also ordered a Mac version of EQ7 that is meant to help with diagrams and working out fabric quantities. I don’t really feel that I used EQ6 successfully on my previous laptop so I need to be prepared to make this version work for me.


We settled four new hybrid point-of-lay hens into their purple shack so we will wait with baited breath to see which one lays first. It definitely feels like spring now so I hope it is not too long before I am thinking up a variety of ways of how to use up a surplus of eggs.