Monthly Archives: August 2016

Getting Stuff Done

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Before Freya leaves home next weekend to study at St. Andrews I enlisted her help as chief engineer to lower the Q24 table which I had set up 6 inches too high. I was having to stand on tiptoes while quilting but had just not got around to making any adjustments. It seemed like a good opportunity to sort out scrap wadding, unpack quilts that were still in transit boxes and try to work out what the “useful” pile of interfacings were meant to be. I was also reminded of a few projects that had been temporarily suspended…

Part of the clutter in my workshop is Freya’s stuff for going away to Uni – everything from a bicycle pump to emergency milk sachets with bedding, stationery and cake tins in between.

Despite the muddle, I managed to work on 3 simple customer quilts, edit an article about the “Purdah” quilts and plan a fun maths lesson involving mixing magic potions to explore measuring by volume.

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I ordered a book on the history behind natural dyes for one of my latest quilt ideas and Helen personally delivered several dress lengths of African fabric from Nigeria in case I find any spare time in which to have a go at dress-making. I was fairly pleased with the “Kate” dress prototype from Sew Me Something so you never know;)

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As usual, I have lots on my To Do list but I have told myself that it does not all have to be done in just one week but after Freya has gone away the gloves are off and I have to seriously find some extra hours!

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Back to School 2016

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I finally arrived home from FOQ around 10pm on Monday night after delays on the road and a detour to a fabric outlet in Lancaster.

I left all of my luggage in the Landy and went to school the next morning without unpacking to give the new teacher some moral support on the first day of term. We are job-sharing in a very small school where it is pretty challenging to have pupils aged 5-12 in one class. I will be working on Thursdays and Fridays covering more hands-on activities such as baking, making and practical maths. I had a slight technical hitch with the stupid interactive board which was projecting everything upside down. I flooded the classroom floor when I went off for my break-time coffee leaving the slow draining water-play tank unattended. The children had been used investigating capacity and volume so it was quite amusing to work out how many buckets were needed to empty it. They all managed to use the sewing machine to hem some simple cushions printed with super-hero fabric for the school library and I helped them to apply popper-snap closures instead of zips.

By Friday night I felt that my GandT was well deserved, having caught up on emails, taken Freya to do some Uni shopping and got back into the routine of after school activities and kids’ social lives. When my customer quilting gets going again goodness knows when I will be able to fit in my plans for show quilts. As usual, I have a few ideas on the back burner but there are two that I hope to tackle for next year…

Freya and I ran up 2 very snazzy, roomy laundry bags for lights and darks. They have a drawstring and a carry handle so the Student can easily take them to the launderette instead of coming home for the weekend with an enormous pile of washing;)

FOQ 2016

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It is a fair indication that if I go to bed without reading a couple of chapters then I am really tired! This year FOQ felt incredibly busy – there was an energy about the show, with more quilts than I have seen in a while, many of which were of an incredible standard. It took a good two days to set up the imposing Bernina stand which was bigger and grander than ever in order to accommodate 2 full sized Q24 longarm frames and 3 Q20 sit-down tables. Machines had arrived from London, Cardiff, Steckborn and New Orleans so there were many boxes to unpack amidst electricians, carpenters and a guy with a paint roller. In addition to UK chief technician, Alan and his willing helper, Chris, we had Aggy from Switzerland and Regina from Germany in the set-up team to make sure that everything was done perfectly.

I was timetabled to teach up to 10 x 40 minute slots of sit-down quilting each day to a pair of students. Most of those sessions were fully booked and I barely had a chance to look up and wave at passers-by. My teaching background came in handy as my pupils were of all ranges of ability, age, nationality and character and I had to put all of them at ease with free-motion quilting, ensure they had fun and maintain a jolly demeanour throughout. After a while I decided that I could easily apply for a job on a shopping channel and talk enthusiastically for hours about any kind of gadget until the producer switched off the cameras.

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Her Majesty’s quilt looked fantastic under the spotlights and it was great to hear more about the block makers and their inspiration. I was complimented on my quilting, particularly the border and binding so I was both relieved and delighted. My Mother came to visit for the day on Saturday so I was able to give her a brief tour of the show between my classes. She was impressed to see so many incredible quilts and enjoyed meeting all of my international friends.

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Before the show opened I had a gloomy feeling that my quilts did not stand up to some of amazing entries. “Touch the Pickle” obviously did not belong in the Contemporary category but I had deliberately put it there to cause more discussion than it would have in Quilted Creations where the audience expects the unusual. There were viewers who did not realise that it was a series of washable sanitary pads, some looked affronted but it got many people discussing the issue of how lack of sanitary provision affects the lives and education of girls and women in other countries. “Tartan Tattoo” seemed to have been hung too high so its centre was above eye-level and it did not look as good as it should under the NEC’s orange-tinted sodium lighting. “Pretty Hippy” really only went for an outing  as it was never intended to be a competition quilt.

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I scrutinised the quilts in the Fine Art Masters gallery to see what qualities they had that “Purdah” may have lacked. The entries were interesting – some simple, some weird and certainly “arty” but I felt that Purdah really could have fitted in there and nobody would have questioned its provenance. It was actually hanging on a white wall in an area of the Art Quilts without good lighting and the first time I walked by someone screwed their face up and simply said, “Why?” All I could think was that I had wasted months of my time creating something that had no appeal to the public. However, later on I was told that an amazing steward had started to give “guided tours” of Purdah that were pulling in crowds of people. Before long, the stewards were timetabling themselves 15 minute slots to take it in turns to reveal the hidden layers. When they were asked why it had not been displayed to show all of the layers separately, they explained that the POINT of “Purdah” was that the chador shawl was designed to make you consider what could be underneath. I was delighted that so many visitors the grasped what it was all about. They were able to interpret it in different ways, some thinking that what was hidden was about women’s oppression while others considered that the chador could be providing a type of protective liberation. This was exactly the kind of thinking that I had hoped to provoke. Some viewers were emotional as they told me about their responses and said that they had put “Purdah” forward for the Visitors’ Choice Award. I took a wee video on my phone of one steward and love hearing, “Oh, Wow!”

https://www.facebook.com/linzi.upton/videos/1415135988503581/?l=559833344829126489

On the whole, everyone was pleased with the selection of FOQ winners this year although there was some discussion about whether quilts using non-original patterns should be “allowed” to win prizes. The best in show was a fantastic cream whole cloth by longarm quilter, Sandy Chandler. As usual I found that judges’ comments on my quilts were incredibly varied despite supposedly having the same criteria applied. One judge noted that “Tartan Tattoo” had superb and skilful quilting but only scored that element as “good”. One of “Purdah’s” judges advised me to improve my piecing and scored it as “satisfactory” which just made me laugh. Because the scoresheets were so inconsistent and thanks to the wonderful reactions of visitors to the show, I have finally decided to stop worrying about how the judges see my quilts!

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Of course, in the evenings it was great to eat out with friends and unwind. The international ambassadors for Bernina came out for a Balti at my favourite authentic Indian restaurant house and enjoyed a selection of curries and poppadums. One evening I was given a lift back from the pub in the cargo section of a van which only had 3 cab seats and we just laughed about the silliest things. Kay is a great room-mate because I can be angst ridden one minute then excitedly coming up with obscure ideas on how to win that elusive Fine Art Masters the next. We stayed up far too late drinking wine or gin then woke up for tea and shortbread around 6am ready to start another day. Even though it is mentally and physically hard work to be on a booth at a major quilt show, we are always sad when it is all packed up and time to go home so she has already booked our room for next year!

All Geared Up

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I finished Freya’s 1930’s inspired quilt and added a pieced tartan binding so it should brighten up her student room. I expect her room will be very colourful after we have made a couple of laundry bags and cushions and she has garlanded it with fairy lights. We made a start on collecting household goods for her Off-to-Uni list, agreeing that it is a good job we have the Landy to shift all of her gear and a bicycle!

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Freya suggested that it would be a great idea to use the modern-vintage dress pattern that we bought 2 years ago to run up a party-frock with a large Amy Butler print. There were rather a lot of pieces and even though we had cut out the paper pattern ages ago, it took a whole day to match the large-scale pattern and cut out the fabric. This left one day to create a dress that would be ready by 6.30pm latest.

I know I am a bit Pattern Phobic but she is normally pretty good at working out instructions and we have to say that they were abysmal! There was a lot of information missing and pieces of fabric that were not actually required in the end as if they had just recycled the instructions from a different dress pattern. Some grayscale photos were the only clues we had on how to construct pleats. We did not do it correctly but they actually worked out OK. I changed the way the invisible zip went in and messed up turning the bodice magically through the shoulders. My workshop was as messy as it has ever been and it was very stressful keeping an eye on the time. I am in awe of the “Sewing Bee” contestants – I am surprised that nobody has dropped dead during filming;) In the end, with minutes to spare, I released the pleats, overlocked the hem and Freya wore it to the party with a safety pin tuck at the back and a belt to pull it in a touch. It was admired by her friends enough that we think we will finish the hem off properly and make a couple of darts in the back some day.

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I spent another half day in school discussing the timetable with the other part-time teacher, simultaneously rearranging the staff kitchen cupboards and rummaging for maths books. At least everything looks organised which we hope will provide a calm atmosphere when term starts.

Despite waking up at 4am because of a weird dream that FOQ was being held in confusing, voluminous tents and the quilt angels could not be bothered to hang “Touch the Pickle”, I think I have actually packed everything for my week away. Considering that I have been going to FOQ for 10 years now I should feel pretty laid back about my preparations. I have checked everything off my list, ensured that I have included teabags and Schweppes tonic, packed too many outfits but still can’t shake off the nagging feeling that I might have forgotten something. I daresay that once I have filled up with diesel, tuned into Radio 4 and headed south, I will look forward to spending a week away with quilters from around the world!