Monthly Archives: January 2016

Daily Bread

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Despite my good intentions to live on veggie smoothies (I tried it once), I have started making bread on a daily basis. I have phases of home made bread baking and this usually means that I cultivate a batch of lively sourdough, buy every type of unusual flour that I can find and bake relentlessly for weeks before slipping back to shop-bought bread. It is very easy to get into a bread making habit with the help of the Kitchenaid stand mixer and before long I don’t even need to consult the recipe book. This week we have enjoyed white farmhouse, seedy half and half, light rye, sourdough, ciabatta, and focaccia! The leftover crusts are stored in a bag until I whizz then bake rustic breadcrumbs. I even fruitlessly wasted an hour late one night trying to find a personalised loaf tin like an old Hovis tin. I have resisted joining any bakery forums because I could easily spend a lot of time trawling through recipes and learning new words such as “autolysing”.

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I decided that I could not possibly begin the custom Civil War Sampler quilt until I had finished with Purdah 3 so I spent almost 2 days doing precisely that after adding far more woodblock prints. Some of them did not show up as well as I imagined but I decided simply to print other designs on top. Gaps inside hexagons were quilted with a subtly variegated pink thread then any remaining unstitched areas were filled in with my  favourite multi-fluorescent thread.  I decided that if this was the final quilt under all of the sombre Purdah layers then it might as well be outrageous. It took a while to hand stitch on the shisha-mirror-style crocheted rings and sequins with impossible to see invisible thread but I am pleased with the effect. The whole quilt is very distorted by all of its stitching so I think it might be a good idea to dampen and block it before I add painted highlights and crystals.

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While I was waiting for more fabric paint to arrive by post, I had to face up to the Civil War Sampler and make a start. I don’t often do much traditional quilting so I had to mess up and unpick the corners before I really decided where I was going. The mistake was silly – I quilted right into the corners forgetting that the binding would chop off my motifs. The first day was slow while I worked out how to get from one side to the other with minimal stop-starts. It is hard to know where to draw the line with a quilt like this – I decided not to stitch down every single ditch since some of the squares are only 1” across. Many quilters would choose custom feathers for this type of quilt but I have convinced myself that I suffer from Pteronophobia (ha-ha!) so I only quilt individual down feathers, not great big wing feathers;) At least I have now overcome my fear of this quilt, made a start, regained my confidence and set myself up for a marathon of quilting in the week ahead, slightly regretting the natty but labour intensive border…

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Channelling Jaipur

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I loaded up the Civil War customer quilt but I have not yet decided how to tackle it as some of the squares are only 1”. I jotted down a few ideas but kept thinking of other things to finish off first! It is one of those quilts that is rather intimidating but once there is a plan it will be fine…

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I had a vague plan for the last Purdah quilt in that I wanted it to be busy and riotous in comparison to the other, more subtle ones in the upper layers. However, I could not decide whether it was lacking in sparkle or suffering from too much. I guess it will be one of those pieces that just needs MORE embellishment until it is absolutely saturated with colour and texture.

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I printed with woodblocks around the hexagon motifs and left some areas “clean” but I think I will go back after the background quilting is complete and print over the block seams to see if that ties it all together. There are disturbingly baggy areas in the middle of the triple-stitched large hexagons which may require some sort of crochet disguise.

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I have reached the point where I am worried that the quilting is too chaotic and yet I want to add more stitching with neon coloured thread! Part of the problem is that there is not really much background to fill in with paisley-style motifs so I expect it will all be a bit random. I am ever hopeful that by the time I have attached the little mirrors I will like this quilt again! My mission for the week ahead is to get it to that point and to make progress  on the scary quilt with lots and lots of tiny patches;)

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Every Stitch Counts

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With a lack of urgent deadlines in January, it seemed like a good idea to work on the colourful Purdah quilt, the one that is behind ALL of the layers. I had a vague idea that I wanted hexagonal and pumpkin seed motifs like the carved stone Purdah screens from the Amber Fort in Jaipur. After the outlines were sewn on the longarm, I decided to use a decorative triple stitch on the Bernina 710 to highlight the motifs. In case you ever need to know, Bernina stitch 1353 makes 7 back and forth movements which you need to count carefully as you near each corner to ensure that you get neat turns!

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It is a pity that I am not good at hand embroidery since that was kind of the look I was after. In future, I will consider using a thicker thread and try quilting twice around the drawn lines. I spent a very long time triple stitching, listening to several radio plays, and still have not entirely decided what additional quilting will fill in the gaps between hexagons. It gave me time to think that this bold quilt in the Purdah series will also need some woodblock stamps, shisha mirrors, probably more embroidery and possibly even some sparkles.

I am wondering how much longer I can indulge myself working exclusively on a whimsical show piece before I feel obliged to make a start on a customer quilt. Considering my dwindling bank balance, I would guess around the middle of next week…!

Flotsam

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It is unusual for Aberdeenshire to be featured on the BBC’s national news several days running but after 8 days of persistent rain, our area suffered its worst floods in almost 200 years. There was an unbelievable video of a static caravan being washed down the River Dee and shots of 400 year old Abergeldie Castle, near Braemar, perching precariously after 60 ft of riverbank was washed away.

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The local school was closed and many roads were awash with flood water and water running down off the land. I took my girls into Aberdeen for an orthodontist checkup but we had to figure out a route home that was mostly on higher ground as most of the bridges were closed to traffic. Despite its many rattles and clanks, the Landy did a sterling job of ploughing through deep water, even though it has a conventional exhaust rather than a snorkel.

Luckily, our house is several metres above the river so we were not at risk from flooding but many homes and businesses have been badly affected. The awful weather put me in a gloomy, sluggish mood and I found it difficult to get motivated when daylight was so sparse. Instead of getting back to normal in my workshop, I had to dig an emergency trench to stop water seeping in under the doorframe. There was no damage other than a soggy carpet that will eventually out.

Welly, the mad spaniel, decided to chase ducks in the raging torrent and was whooshed to the other side of the river. Not being a sensible dog, he attempted to swim back again and was swept along until he reached our side, much further downstream. He was not in the least bit bothered by his near death experience and was keen to give chase again so I will have to stick to walking the muddy fields beside my house for a while. Freya and I came across more flotsam after the river receded so we salvaged a garden chair and a large, very clean swede.

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The only really useful things I did during this rather uninspired week were to file my tax return, make some sourdough bread, reorganise my spice drawers, and finally finish quilting the Red and Black Purdah Quilt.

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I had hoped to love the long staple black cotton thread made in the UK by Empress Mills but even though I lowered the tension significantly and went VERY slowly, it kept breaking. I could not wait to order 50 wt cotton from Aurifil or Mettler so I used black Isacord instead. I can see why quilters are recommended to press seams to one side – I had used a pale grey piecing thread and pressed the bulky seams open but now I can see the seam stitches! I will either have to see if I can disguise them with a black gel pen or choose a dense machine embroidery stitch to cover them up, which will take ages.

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I am optimistic that I will achieve more in the coming week and maybe even start on the multi-coloured Purdah Quilt. Alternatively, I will procrastinate and start reorganising the kitchen cupboards…

Daphne’s New Frock

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I would love to brag about the lovely wrap dress that I spent 3 days making from the kit that I bought myself for Christmas but as per usual, Daphne the mannequin is more likely to wear it out in public than I am. There is really nothing wrong with the pattern – in fact I managed to follow it reasonably well but I was reminded yet again that I should have spent the past few rainy days doing some colouring-in, mindless patchwork piecing or doing a jigsaw puzzle instead. I almost threw the part-made frock in the bin but I was determined to get it finished, even if it will only ever be worn by Daphne.

The first hurdle was choosing the correct size. My measurements gave me several options and I just could not decide how to redraft it so I opted for a kind of average, hoping for the best. My fatal error was cutting the length at the point where it could be lengthened or shortened. My finished frock only just covers my bum instead of reaching my knees.

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The silky jersey fabric was an absolute swine to sew. Despite using a fine microtex needle, dual feed and a straight stitch plate, it really did not want to cooperate. I wanted to use the overlocker but one of its air-threading loopers is not functioning so I need to find some thin wire or sturdy fishing line to attempt to fix it.

I’m sure that I cut out all of the correct sized pieces yet the neckband which was meant to stretch a little had to really, really stretch to fit into the correct place. I am not going to say which pattern I used since the designer helpfully answered an email query from me and everyone else who posted pictures of their frocks online seemed to manage perfectly well. Maybe if I invest in an industrial set of foundation undergarments the frock will fit me better around the middle but even Daphne had to breathe in a bit to get it to hang properly at the bottom.

I should have taken the time to make a muslin to check the fit and learn how to follow the instructions but I was too impatient. I wished I had just bought myself a nice frock from a shop for Christmas. This is now the second item I have made a garment for myself that only fits Daphne on her slim setting which is telling me that I should either stop wasting my time with dressmaking OR try harder next time!

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I painted the fuzzy, grey interfacing on the black wool shawl with fabric paint that was as black as possible but it still was not as black as the wool and there were annoying splodges of sticky stuff here and there. There other major issue was that when I measured the width of the shawl after its dyeing and shrinking experience it was actually 10 inches narrower than it had been which means that it would no longer cover the quilts underneath. I decided that the only way forward would be to layer it on top the other black wool shawl that I have and that it might as well have holes cut into the grid in an attempt to look like the perforated stonework found on some Indian palaces. I used very sharp embroidery scissors with my fingers underneath so I did not snip the wrong bits. I have ordered some black organza which might also come in handy.

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Coming up with something that is allegedly “Arty” without being rubbish seems to be rather challenging. The underneath quilts may well look good but I am convinced that the piece will be judged on the oddity of the outside. And I still don’t know how I will attach them all to each other for display. In the hanging instructions I will have to request the presence of a permanent Quilt Angel to flip the shawls back to reveal the hidden layers;)