Monthly Archives: December 2018

Lazing Around Over Christmas

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I like to spend Christmas Eve cooking so there is not much preparation to do in between watching the kids open presents and trying not to eat a whole chocolate orange before breakfast. I discovered late in the day that everyone actually did want red cabbage so I had to make a list minute dash to the shop to hunt for a vegatable that will most probably end up as hen food before the holiday is finished.

We had a very lazy few days with leisurely walks, glasses of sherry at any time of day, and inventing ways of making vegan turkey into appetising leftovers. After 48 hours I felt guilty that I was not busy doing something, trying to avoid being anti-social out in my workshop. I kept finding myself pointless little tasks including stripping the flowers off a basket of dried lavender. I had hoped that I could just whizz the whole lot in the Magimix but it made a mess and the motor got rather warm. 

At least I managed to run up a couple of mini-makes for a workshop in February where I will have no access to sewing machines which I will find a major challenge. I downloaded an entry form for the Scottish Quilt Show competition but the maximum size permitted is 60” x 80” so Iconoclast is not eligible. 

  

I took my girls to see “Mary Poppins Returns” which we really enjoyed a it was a similar format to the original with some great songs and animated scenes. I admit that I did doze off at one stage but I will put that down to too many late nights. 

I obviously thrive on deadlines and a bit of stress so once we have sen in the New Year I need to write myself a great big list of things to do then worry about how I am going to achieve everything. Before that happens I guess I will have to finish off all of the sherry;)

Christmas Buildup

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It has been a fast and festive week from the Banchory Academy Christmas concert to an impromptu show at the Deeside Dance Centre. My quest to find do last minute shopping was skewed by a puncture in the Landy on the same day that I collected it from the garage with a new starter motor and steering pump. To be fair, even a brand new car could have picked up a hefty nail.

I determined to complete the Fancy Forest quilt without doing any serious sums and ended up with a patchwork top that measured 72” x 109” so I pulled off the bottom row and reattached it to the side so it was 90” ish inches on all sides. Admittedly one corner was almost 3” wider than the top corner after the impromptu additional piecing but it will never hang on a wall so I decided that it was not important. I lined up lots of rows of the honeycomb pattern on Qmatic and let it run while I got on with the chore of wrapping presents. 

  

I used offcuts from the backing fabric for the binding so now it is complete and looks very bright and jolly even though it does not yet have an owner or bed. It may end up in the summerhouse for sleepovers when the kids push the 2 sofa-beds together. 

  

There have been a few late nights, waiting up to collect Fergus from the bus stop after the last bus home from Aberdeen and a great Christmas party/Housewarming at the newly completed barn conversion of one of Nell’s best friends. I had my annual festive coffee with Mo and Tania and loved my selection of personal gifts which included gin and Scottie dog gaffa tape. 

Bumble was not hugely impressed when the girls made her have a pre-Christmas bath to make her smell fresher but now any malordorous festive pongs can be blamed on sprouts or stilton. I have dreaded doing the final festive grocery haul and my strategy for avoiding crowds is to go late on Sunday evening when it will either be a feast or famine…

Mutant Creatures and Roadie Trials

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I felt like the 1970’s Children’s TV character, Mr Benn this week as I took on many different personas – vegan chef, unsuccessful Landrover mechanic, Band Roadie, Quilt Whisperer and Chicken Keeper. 

I started the week helping a friend quilt radiating lines on a mini quilt for which I was paid in Gin. Next I loaded up my Unicorn mega block, having dithered about custom quilting for ages then deciding that an all-over tight honeycomb done by the Bernina Q24 Qmatic would be eminently suitable. 

  

Having made no early preparations for Christmas, I was happy to fill my virtual basket and order all sorts of items online – I just have to hope that they will arrive on time.

I took Fergus out for lunch on Tuesday to celebrate his 17th birthday, only ordering one course because we had a squidgy vegan chocolate cake to polish off later. He had his first driving lesson which he declared a great success, then asked when he attempt to could drive the Landrover. The Landy has been a bit of a drama queen of late, clunking, groaning and being reluctant to start. Landy-Man advised that it would need a power-steering pump, starter motor and a weld on the half-shaft which he could not do until next week. I managed to transport Fergus and his gear to a gig but when I tried to start it later to take Nell and her friends to watch it was dead as a dodo. I called Mo who came to the rescue with her car so we managed to get there on time and bring all of the gear home later.

  

Rather unusually I had caught up with all of my customer quilts and did not need to “waste” time going to town for present shopping. I am still undecided what to work on for my next competition quilt but I needed to work on some sort of project. I dug out the random collection of Fancy Forest blocks and laid them all out on my table. They posed quite a puzzle since I had made some giant animals as well as a few of the fiddly smaller ones. The original pattern recommended that all of the plain background fabrics should be the same then sashing would be added to connect it all together. Obviously, I had used a variety of shot cotton background fabrics so had a collection of blocks that really did not want to fit together at all. Luckily, I found a large piece of a plain Oakshott Lipari so decided to add 2” strips around the creatures and fill in any gaps with some Gees-Bend/Improv style strip piecing. Eventually I ended up with 4 rows of varying widths which could be made to fit by adding more strips or squares until the shortest row was as wide as the longest one, not bad for someone who is not a maths genius;)

Easy-Peasy Japanesey

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I spent most of Monday travelling back from Germany to find that it was much colder back in Scotland. I unpacked a lovely selection of threads, small longer rulers and white chocolate biscuits.

I don’t know how many layers I had to wear on Tuesday in my Arctic workshop to quilt a striking grey tree quilt. It was a very simple quilt with a few blocks around a large central panel but it looked really classy when finished. 

I made a flock of mini hens using a pattern that Regina gave me from a German gardening magazine. They were very easy – the longest part of the process was stuffing them. The tiny foot on my Singer Featherweight was ideal for stitching the opening shut. Some of the hens were lucky and got bells for feet. Some will be given away but I think I will keep a few in my workshop. Maybe I also need some blue ones? It would be fun to make a hen using leftover scraps from every finished quilt.

Funnily enough, I had a customer quilt this week with chicken fabrics so I got the Bernina Qmatic to quilt it with hexagons that looked like a chicken wire fence.

I have finished the antique quilt repairs by stitching new patches over the worn ones in the outer border. It took 16 ½ hours to fix 10 blocks and some of the border so I hope its owner will be pleased with the results.

I bought a couple of Japanese Tatami strip bag kits from Regina and had intended to give them to my Mother and Sister for Christmas. However, the instructions were in Japanese but with good diagrams. I decided that it would be better if I made the bags myself then gave them away. The first one was straightforward except that it was not easy to pull up a gathering thread with such stiff fabric. The backpack was more challenging as I could not quite work out what the diagrams were suggesting. There was a bit of guesswork and the fabrics were not really suitable for ripping out mistakes. In the end I got it sussed and was pleased with my attempts. 

  

Nell and I had a rummage in the charity shop over the weekend – she got some clothes to up-cycle while I found a set of Nigella Lawson mixing bowls and a small silk carpet that I might use to make a Mary Poppins bag. I will need to order a tubular frame and no doubt follow some challenging instructions but they are very expensive to buy ready made so I might as well have a go. 

I made myself catch up with paperwork before I get stuck into Christmas preparations. I absolutely hate doing it but I have to be prepared to get my tax return done by the end of January and that is one job that it is not worth doing at the last minute;)

Rickrack Und Wurst

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I quite like it when I pack for a trip before the last minute, have time to decide if I have forgotten anything and can just get on with a couple of projects. 

  

I worked on the antique quilt, covering the worn patches with suitable new diamond templates. The old patches were rather oddly sized but the new patches were all regular so there were parts of the old fabrics showing underneath in places. I had the choice of making a new bespoke template for every single piece which would take rather more than the 6 hours already spent or figure out how to disguise the raggy edges. I made an executive decision to use vintage cotton rickrack around all of the repaired blocks. I did not have enough to put it around all of the old blocks as well but decided I liked the idea of the Japanese principle of Wabi-Sabi, “the acceptance of transience and imperfection… beauty that is imperfect, impermanent and incomplete”. Old textiles in Japan are repaired with visible, Boro stitching so the mend is obvious and not hidden. Attaching the rickrack on a heavy, old quilt took some time but I think it looks really good. I still have to sew new diamonds in the outer border but those ones are not part of a block so mismatched sizes should not be such a issue. 

I only went off on one mini tangent when I decided to see if my sewing machine could sew blanket stitch through a large mirror sequin. The plastic was thin so it worked beautifully. One of the ideas lying dormant in my head involves something to do with I median shisha mirrors so this could be an idea that I take forward. 

I flew to Nuremberg via Schipol early on Thursday morning. I had decided to dress festively in green trousers and a Christmas jumper and got some funny looks because it would seem that my outfit looked like I was dressed as an elf. When I arrived I discovered that half of the plan’s passengers had not received their luggage. It would delivered “later”… Regina phoned and explained the urgency because my suitcase contained all of my teaching materials. I could have improvised if necessary but luckily it turned up by taxi at 11pm.

  

Classes at Regina’s studio near Coburg are great because every student in my class gets to work all day on a longarm machine without sharing or having to wait their turn. My projects are never small so the whole of the first day was spent on cutting, printing and assembling a collection of kugels / baubles. The students enjoyed using the Scanncut so much that they ordered their own! 

  

The next day was spent deciding on the quilting and cracking on with some heavy stitching. The longarm machines purred away quietly in manual mode as the students, fuelled with coffee and cake, sewed for almost 10 hours. We enjoyed a wonderful selection of farm produced wurst (sausages), cheeses, bread and wine. 

We decided to put off Christmas market shopping in heavy rain first thing on Sunday morning so they continued quilting at a more relaxed pace while Regina and I exchanged ideas for mini projects. All of their projects looked fantastic and quite different to each other. 

  

Despite heavy rain in the afternoon we headed to the glass blowing village of Lauscha and blew our own kugels at the college. This was not nearly as easy as the experts made it look but my third attempt was good after a deflated kugel and another one where the top snapped off. I bought half a dozen student-blown kugels then we had a wander through the street, feeling sorry for the brass band and traders braving the rain. 

 

Photos were taken of the almost finished projects, we bid some farewells and ate our last lovely German supper. It was a great long weekend spent in good company. I will have to think of a new project for next time;)