Monthly Archives: August 2015

Self Promotion



I feel quite uncomfortable about “showing off”. Kay and I have had many discussions and laughs about how our generation was not encouraged to blow our own trumpet. We send each other messages when a new quilter on the scene lands an incredible deal designing fabric or has a thread range named after them wondering how they got noticed. We reckon it is because they are good at self promotion. I argued with myself then finally plucked up the courage to send out messages to some Big Cheeses in the Quilt World to ask if they would do a short video introduction for my Ebook. Most of them ignored me but I was delighted that a generous handful agreed to endorse my book, even though they have not even received a review copy yet. I hope to have a few “Stunt Reviewers” who will introduce the book in their own unique ways, in different languages and accents using their phone cameras. I might even have another go at introducing it myself without fluffing up my lines. I asked Fergus whether it would be possible to lip-synch or subtitle Bluecat. I am keen to make sure that a bit of quirky self-promotion may actually sell this book which took so long to produce and that it does not need to be immediately discounted as a flop!

After checking that my ETSY shop was still open, despite all of the listings having elapsed, I managed to upload Tartan Tattoo as a PDF pattern for $10.00 – sales in the first 24 hours have not exactly been brisk;)

Maybe there will be a rush after TT has been exhibited at the Open European Quilt Show in Maastricht! A very nice acceptance letter from Ada Honders arrived this week so I will soon have to think about re-blocking it before packing it up to travel to Holland.



I used the Bernina Q24 to freehand some snail-spirals onto my nephew’s quilt and the Milliennium was used to quilt a honeycomb pattern all over Eleanor’s reversible quilt. Because she had added over-sized plain borders onto one of the quilts, it was easier than usual to make sure that the 2 quilts were properly centred. She asked me to complete the binding and I was really pleased with how it turned out.


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I completed another Merchant & Mills trapeze dress using the cardboard pattern. I added two simple pockets onto the front but I was annoyed that I while I was busy listening to The Archers on Radio 4, I forgot to pattern match the multi-coloured zebras and then discovered that the fabric did not fare well with unpicking so I just had to leave them alone.


Since I seemed to be ahead of myself and I was not ready to launch straight into one of my Big Projects, I experimented with couching threads on the Q24. Some of the yarn went through the couching foot and was attached successfully while other yarn did not get caught so easily. I spent most of an afternoon swapping threads and yarns so I know what to look for when I visit a specialist yarn shop. I also had a go with a twin needle which looked great on the top of the quilt but a bit messy on the back. I was curious to see how the Q24 would manage with quilting through some old leather that I have been “saving”. It stitched very nicely indeed and it looks like it will not be necessary to soften it first. Some other pieces of the vintage leather are quite brittle and dry so I soaked a sample in baby oil and hung it outside to dry. Several days later it was still slimey so I think a different moisturiser might be necessary.

I am pleased that I have got on top of my customer quilts so I can enjoy a 2-day course with Australian quilt teacher, Gloria Loughman this week. This time I intend to “stick to her script” and not go off and make a far larger piece involving fabrics that shred or melt…

Back to School and My Workshop!



FOQ seems like weeks ago but this week Luana Rubin posted a super picture on Facebook that was taken of Kay Bell, Luana, Me and Sarah Caldwell outside the NEC. This was quite an international line-up – Kay is English but lives in Scotland, Luana is American, I’m 50/50 English/Scots and live in Scotland and Sarah is a New-Zealander who lives in Switzerland!


Although I had not technically taken any time out of my workshop over the summer, when the kids went back to school I went back into “work” mode. I don’t really know what happened to our summer. The weather was not great yet despite not doing much, it seemed to fly past. Freya began her final year at school and Fenella joined her siblings at The Academy. It will be the last year that all 3 of my children will attend the same school. Nell had a great first week, apart from getting sore feet in brand new Doc Martens and she made lots of new friends. Freya said that she felt the holidays had never happened and Fergus just wished that it was not a legal requirement to attend school.

I continued working on my Tartan Tattoo pattern so it can be uploaded onto Easy for sale as a downloadable PDF pattern. There are so many step-by-step diagrams that it is now an epic 20 pages long. I decided against shrinking it because I have always struggled to follow sparse instructions. Besides, since it will be sold in an electronic form, it is not actually necessary to print any of the pages;)

Catherine brought me a very hairy baby quilt that had been in a mild wash. I could not believe that a quilt had suffered such severe “bearding”. I researched remedies online and tried re-washing with lots of fabric softener then drying it with anti-static sheets. If anything, it became worse. It took me a while to realise that I had used a leftover piece of the rogue wool wadding from Sew-Simple. I will offer to remake the quilt because I feel so badly about the outcome. I was tempted to dump the rest of the roll but I may keep it and use it solely in a leather project that will never get washed. I looked into buying a roll of better quality wool wadding and discovered that it is like hen’s teeth in the UK. Matilda’s Own from Australia is no longer available and the cheapest alternative by Hobbs would cost £312. It might be more sensible to buy packs of wool wadding if I happen to want to use it for a show quilt. From now on, I will not even offer the option of wool to customers.


I enjoyed working on a small African themed quilt, using a mixture of fillers and geometric quilting in some of the colourful blocks. Stitch-in-the-ditch through the continent was a bit nerve-racking as the seams were so bulky. The maker has left me with another fun quilt made from many fabric that she purchased in Nigeria.


The other customer job this week was to make a piece of furnishing fabric into a quilted wall hanging. I decided not to make it too fussy so I chose a simple design that was like the feathery fabric on the reverse. The cotton duck fabric was quite hefty so it should hang nice and straight!

In addition to an old idea that is lurking in the background for some type of arty-farty quilt, I have a bit of an odd one currently rattling around. I confess that it started as a reactionary idea to some of the more obscure entries in the Fine Art Quilt Masters at FOQ. However, my idea is developing into something that could convey a powerful message if I can figure out how best to interpret it in textiles. The winning entries to date have been minimal and that is an approach that baffles me. As a quilter I want to stitch and embellish with abandon but to think like an artist I need to concentrate on the concept. Time will tell whether I take this forward but I can say that I have ordered something unusual from India as inspiration…

Footling and Fixing



I don’t know what it is about coming home after a trip – I always seem to footle about for days worrying about catching up with emails, phone calls and putting everything back in its correct place before I feel ready to get back to normal. The only sewing I did was to attach name labels to school uniform. I must have bought enough new stationery to open my own educational establishment.

I secretly welcomed the persistent rain which “allowed” me to make up flyers to advertise DIY quilting with The Quilt Quine and concentrate on writing the pattern for Tartan Tattoo. I could easily have made and photographed an entirely new quilt in the time it took me to relearn EQ7 and dismiss using the Paper 53 drawing app on the iPad. I have now made myself a crib sheet for the next time I forget how to use quilt design software. I plan to sell the pattern as a download somehow.

It was fun to be featured on the Oakshott blog

and to see myself looking daft on the Bernina Nordic webinar at FOQ

This went some way to make up for the disappointment that Bifrost was not placed at The World Quilt Show in the face of stiff competition.

The girls decided to make ice cream with our wild cherries but they did not want to bother me when I was typing away so they used the wrong paddle in the Kitchenaid and sheared one of the internal gears. I tried not to be annoyed and ordered the necessary spare parts from Ebay. As I had already completed this major operation previously, it took me a fraction of the time, less hammering and minimal swearing to get it working again. The repair cost me £10, as opposed to an unknown bill from a repair man or buying a new mixer for over £400! I made a huge chocolate and cherry cake for a friend’s birthday using a 40+ year old Kenwood Chefette, substituting several of the ingredients in my usual fashion. It would not have won any prizes for finesse but it tasted great and we struggled to finish our generous slices.


I phoned Farmer Raymond to let him know that a spirited young heifer had escaped from the field and it was making the rest of the herd panic. It turned out that he was enjoying himself in a pub on holiday so I pulled my wellies on and chased it through wet, waist-high barley until it jumped back over the dry stone dyke. I mended the live electric fence that had been pulled down and sternly told the cows to calm down.


At least it did not take me long to dry out, unlike Freya’s Gold D of E team who canoed 60 miles in 4 days from Fort William to Inverness on their qualifying expedition. They have benefitted enormously from their D of E adventures, gaining independence, determinedly battling some challenging conditions and making  lasting friendships.


I have 2 customer quilts to crack on with this week and I want some time to experiment  with some new techniques on my Bernina longarm so I can get going on the long-abandoned BzB project over the winter…

A Different FOQ for Quilt Quine in 2015



FOQ felt completely different for me this year in many  ways. Instead of loading the Landy with gear and driving all the way down I flew in and “supervised” the Bernina guys putting the longarm frame together. I loved being part of the professional and friendly  Bernina team which included representatives from Switzerland and Scandinavia. It was great to have the chance to discuss techniques and projects that they have tried out on the Q24. I was thrilled that everyone loved the brand and that the new Bernina Longarms proved very popular with the visitors to the show. They were all so impressed with the quality of the stitches how I could easily swap feet to add couching or twin needle stitching.

The centrally located stand was incredibly busy and I did not have any time to wander off or stand idly chatting. I dashed around the show quilts first thing in the morning, not really giving the quilt galleries the time that they deserved.  Even my shopping was done in less than half an hour on Sunday afternoon;) I demonstrated and explained longarming non-stop to all sorts of quilters from all over the world.


My Tartan Tattoo quilt looked good even if I say so myself – nobody spotted the disaster area or commented on the wobbly lines that only I know about. I wished that I had entered it into the competition after all so I definitely want to enter it elsewhere to see how it gets on. Michael Oakshott was impressed with the use of his fabrics which made me think that I ought to publish a pattern and offer it for sale.

Vivienne and I were privileged to sit with Luana Rubin at the Gala Dinner and we spoke about all sorts of topics including how Amazon gives authors such a poor deal. Luana and I realised that we have a mutual friend in Wisconsin and our conversation seemed to flow naturally without any heirs or graces from such a well known quilting personality.

I took very few photos at the show and since there are plenty of pictures of the winners online, I decided just to show a few unusual quilts on my blog that made me look twice as I passed them at a trot. I am always entertained by the 3D category and often baffled by the Fine Art Masters.

Fanny Fishy ArtShit Elly BlackDollyLegs

Kay’s double-sided quilt looked splendid and is bound to win prizes in other places. (I am delighted that she shared the Visitors’ Choice award with Dutch piecer, Coriene for “Stonefields”.)


I felt guilty about leaving the show just before it closed on Sunday in order to catch my flight home but I was not sorry about missing the melee of teardown and van jostling. At least one FOQ tradition was maintained – the annual trip to Shabar for a Balti with old friends! I am already looking forward to next year and I am determined to enter at least one new quilt…;)

Norfolk – Here Be Dragons



Our week on the Norfolk/Suffolk border with family was low-key and relaxing despite the unseasonal damp weather. It is normally the driest part of the UK but we were accused of taking Scottish rain with us. We mooched around Beccles and Bungay, amazed by the number of vintage shops, some of which were retro and trendy whilst others were struggling to sell utter junk.

We had lunch at a beachside cafe in Gorleston after visiting several hardware stores in search of hooks, which reminded me of family shopping trips from the 1970’s when we would wait for ages in the car while my Dad tracked down elusive industrial bits and pieces.


There was a fun excursion on the River Waveney on a family friend’s boat that was unfortunately cut short by a leaking petrol hose. This was reminiscent of similar expeditions in my childhood when boat engines would conk out or sailing boats would run aground on mud so we shrugged off the melodramatic warning by the boatyard that the Broads cruiser could have exploded at any time.


Freya spent the week on a Tallship racing from Norway to Denmark but the winds were so light that the race was abandoned. She was happy to report that nobody suffered from seasickness and there was plenty of time to learn new card games and enjoy the harbour festivals.


Nell and Fergus managed not to bicker too much while we wandered around the quaint alleyways of Norwich, impressed by the number of street cafes and by how I can still just about find my way around. The city is full of dragons this summer and I managed to find one with a patchwork theme. When I was not busy doing very little on holiday I even managed to run up the small quilt that my sister had cut out using my Mother’s “vintage” Bernina which I will quilt on the very modern Q24.


After arriving home, to even grimmer non-August weather, I blocked the Tartan quilt again before bundling it into my suitcase ready for FOQ later this week…