Monthly Archives: March 2016

Pretty Random



The Postie brought me a copy of “Pretty Patches” magazine with a super article about The Quilt Quine and my Ebook, “Deviant Quilting”. Let’s just hope that helps to boost my sales because my first loyalty cheque was only just short of a fish supper!

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An irate customer phoned me to demand where I was because she was waiting for me at my studio while I was at school teaching mathematical Probability to some under 12’s. We both seemed to have different days marked on our calendars which was unfortunate. I had enjoyed my bonus “free” day to complete the appliqué on Purdah and decide whether to order a big bag of black beads when she didn’t show up as expected the day before;)

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One of my clients, who lives as an ex-pat in Nigeria, came back to Scotland for a brief visit and brought me an amazing bag full of African fabrics. I had told her that I wanted to have a go at a quilt that I had seen in an Amy Butler supplement which was a take on Japanese folded patchwork. It is a quilt as you go project so I immediately cut some large circles to have a go! I think it would be better to use a very thin wadding but I decided to use up some leftover pieces of 80/20 so it is a little bulky. I expect it will soften up with washing or general use. The magazine project was not actually quilted, except at the seam joins and where the flaps were sewn down but obviously, I thought it would look better with some quilting and machine embroidery. I was so enthusiastic about my new project that I went ahead and cut out enough fabric and wadding to make an entire single quilt, despite having one or two other projects to finish first…

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Inspired by having an entire quilt ready to construct in kit form, I went ahead and calculated the required number of pieces for 20 blocks of my 1930 reproduction quilt that I still don’t know whether to call “Grumpy Goose/Bloody Mabel”. It took a whole day to raid my stash of plaids, spots and vaguely feed-sack style prints plus whatever else might go. It will be a pretty random quilt, including all sorts of prints, checks and polka-dots. There is a possibility that it could be an ugly quilt but I am hoping that it will look charmingly scrappy. I intend to put the pieces for each block into 20 poly-pockets which will take a while to organise. The original quilt has some very co-ordinated blocks but also some garish ones that obviously used up the dregs of someone’s scrap bag. I wonder how long I can resist the temptation to work on one of my “kit” quilts while I still have to complete the black Purdah shawl?!

I am Not a Fabric Snob!



If you look at all of the fabrics in an old feed-sack quilt you will notice that the maker simply used a selection of whatever fabric they could lay her hands on. I have some old quilts that include pieces of shirting, linen and even crimpelene. When I decided to make Freya a quilt using my Grumpy Gertie/Bloody Mabel block I was getting all enthusiastic looking at bundles of lovely reproduction fabrics even though I already own all sorts of suitable materials. I reined myself in and made up my mind to use up stash fabric (mostly). I confess that I happened to find a bundle of rather nice plaids on Ebay which were very inexpensive because they are POLY-cotton. I was really pleased when they arrived as they are great colours and don’t feel horrible. I might wash them – but probably won’t – and I certainly won’t worry about the quilt disintegrating after I am dead because it is not meant to be an heirloom!


Black wool suiting arrived in the post which declared on its selvage that it had been “Woven in England Specially for the Ministry of the Interior of Kuwait”. This is an intriguing provenance – perhaps it was destined to be made into uniforms? It is very fine and silky; riskily, I decided to cut out the felted shawl and appliqué it onto the fine black wool. I attached tiny strips of bondaweb onto the reverse of the felted wool and used a lot of steam to try and get it to stick . Some of it adhered quite well but other areas just would not! The Bernina 710 did a great job of neatly machine blanket stitching the felted wool onto the suiting. It took many hours to stitch around all of the cut-out hexagons and triangles which I might embellish further with some simple hand stitching. There is also a possibility that I may attempt to print some black motifs down the edges to look like a sort of jacquard border.


I was invited by Aberdeen Patchwork & Quilting Group to a day class with Edwina Mackinnon to experiment with printing on fabric. We were generously provided with 2 metres of soda-ash treated fabric and guided through various processes. A day just was not long enough to try everything out! I decided that I was pretty useless at sticking pieces of masking tape to a screen to create a negative image for screen printing but at least I found out how to use a silk screen frame with stencils. I loved messing about with thickened dyes and thermofax screens and I could probably become as hooked on them as I seem to have become on Indian wood-blocks.


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Edwina had to step in and command me to stop printing more detail on my blue fish  which everyone found highly amusing. It would seem that I have a reputation for not knowing when to stop;)

I must say that I really enjoyed a day out experimenting with new-to-me creative techniques and learning how to use some of the dyes and kits that I may have purchased at at show and have not looked at since. It could easily lead to a new idea…

Beetle Mania



A smug week in my workshop is inevitably followed by an interrupted week where almost nothing gets stitched at all. In my defence, I have several good excuses including trips into town for Nell’s violin exam, an orthodontist visit, a driving lesson and a day in the classroom. Fergus was lying around with tonsillitis and I had to find the best insurance quote for a learner driver as well as making multiple trips to the Post Office with my eBay packages.

I hand stitched the voile overlays onto the Purdah quilts and hoped to assemble the entire piece but hit a major snag. The original black wool shawl was wide enough to cover everything up before I accidentally felted it. The backup shawl proved to be a smidgen too narrow and the whole thing did not look very arty. I considered buying a replacement black wool shawl and wondered how my internet history must look after searching for burqua, hijab, dupatti, and various other garments that I did not know about before. They were all too fancy or too narrow so I came up with a plan B. I found some ex-military, black wool, uniform suiting on Ebay which I will use as the shawl/dupatti and then I will appliqué on the almost ruined, original shawl into which I have cut out Purdah screen hexagonal holes. This will need to be hand embroidered onto the new “shawl”, which is not my forté. Just as I had thought I was on the home stretch, this project looks like it will involve a lot more time.

The ONLY other sewing that got done was making 2 very basic ladybird cushions for the back seat of Freya’s new car, a modern VW Beetle, that would match the tartan travel rug and ladybird key-ring.


Freya was delighted to receive an unconditional offer to study International Relations at St Andrews University! I am very proud of all of her hard work and immediately offered to make her a “Going to Uni” quilt. Interestingly, she told me that her favourite quilts are those made from random, vintage feed-sack prints that I purchased on Ebay. This looks like a good excuse to order some retro prints and spots to recreate my favourite feed-sack quilt using my rehashed 30’s block. Studying the original quilt, it is obvious that I will need dozens of different fabrics, including some ugly ones! I have even sourced some 1930’s style ladybirds. It will be fun to make a quilt that is not for a competition or book project;) Although I do have one or two other projects that ought be finished first… (Ha-Ha-Ha!)


A Gin Worthy Week



Sticking to my plan for a change, I completed the 4-patch version of the 1930’s block then immediately re-made it in feedback prints. Amazingly, it finished at 15.5” after squaring up both times! The trick was to make sure to sew exactly ON the seam crossover to get the points looking good. I have even made a note of the correct sizes of squares to crosscut for the setting triangles. I asked for suggested names on Facebook – Susan Briscoe thought it could be “Grumpy Gertie” as a homage to a feral goose that was dispatched by vandals and Ellen wondered if “Bloody Mabel” would like to be memorialised in patchwork.


I secretly enjoyed sewing large sequins onto organza. It was a slow task to avoid getting tangled up but it gave me a chance to sit and listen to plays on Radio 4, knowing that I was scheduled to be in a classroom for 3 days.


I let my classes loose with woodblock printing on paper and fabric which they enjoyed and they started wonky hand-stitching their pieces which can be made into mats or book covers.

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Two magazines arrived this week which had great reviews for “Deviant Quilting” – it was featured in The Quilter and Today’s Quilter so hopefully that may lead to a few sales.

My other vintage typewriter was sold on Ebay. I did not make a profit on the original purchase but at least I got rid of it without taking it to the dump. According to the postal address, it will end up as a film prop at Pinewood Studios.


Freya had a good week… she received another Uni offer, enjoyed showing off her portfolio at her school’s Advanced Higher Art exhibition and went shopping for a VW Beetle with her Dad. I have already sourced ladybird fabric to make a pair of fun cushions but I’m not sure whether she will want to kit it out with outrageous rubber eyelashes. I have the chore of finding a competitive insurance quote for a young driver so we can collect it next weekend.


I was thrilled to receive an email from AQS late on Thursday night informing me that “Tartan Tattoo” has been juried into the Paducah show in April. I just need to get it back from its travels in Holland in order to send it to Kentucky. I would dearly love to go to the  show, especially if the Quilted Yurt might be launched but I will have to make a LOT more Ebay sales to fund my trip…

I decided to treat myself to a rather nice bottle of gin on Friday to celebrate a pretty successful week;)