Monthly Archives: January 2019

Older but not Wiser

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I became another year older this week but definitely not any wiser. I decided that the best way to celebrate my birthday was to work on the Bollywood Borders sample quilt while allowing the automated quilt system to work on a customer quilt. The first 2 rows were great then a belt clamp became loose, the whole design slipped and stitched over itself twice. This led to a pointless 4 hours of ripping out very small stitches! And I did not make the required progress on the Bollywood piece. 

Freya arrived in Munich just after midnight on Tuesday evening which was amazing progress made just by hitch-hiking. The entire group of students from St Andrews raised over £40 000 for local charities on this adventure. They also had great fun making new friends, drinking beer and enjoying Bavaria in the snow. 

  

Meanwhile, in my workshop – I decided that I would only work on Bollywood Borders and NOTHING else until it was finished. I lied when I said I might leave some of it unquilted. I could not leave more than half an inch of fabric unstitched. Maybe there is too much stitching but it is meant to be an aspirational piece for students to show them how far they can go if they want to. They can decide how little or how much to quilt. 

I started off by marking some border sections using a ruler and Frixion pen then marked in where the large shapes would fit. Some of these were drawn with a longarm ruler, using a ¼” spacer disc and others used a shape template that I had cut out of funky-foam. Paisleys had proved tricky to draw accurately. I could draw them using a combination of French curves but I was not sure how I would quilt them. The students will learn that they do not need an exact ruler for every shape. Basic rulers will guide them around odd shapes and at times they will have to be brave and go freehand. Of course, the Q24 is very well balanced so it is quite easy to freehand accurately. 

 

I had several reference books on Indian design on my table and had scoured through my Indian photos, looking for motifs. I hate that I doubt my drawing ability – little flowers should not be difficult! When I really started to analyse the shapes used in wood block prints and carvings I noticed that many of them were simple repeats of lines, lace and sprigs so all I had to do was vary where the fillers got used within the big shapes. 

I thought the whole project needed to be finished off with a touch of Bollywood Glamour so I spent an entire day filling some of the outlines with gold fabric paint and dotting on little blobs of pearlescent 3D paint like henna paste. 

Obviously, it took me far longer than 3 hours to complete the class sample quilt but the students should have enough time to learn how to quilt each section, even if they have to finish off the details at home. 

Just for fun, I bought myself a Polaroid Snap Touch camera for my birthday. I don’t “need” it, it just appealed to me and I like the idea that picture stickers can be printed straight out and put into a scrapbook. Suddenly, an idea that I had been mulling over for a while took shape and I realised that an effect that I want to explore is Double Exposure. I had a go at merging 2 photos from India – an elephant and a pattern. If I can find the right combinations of pictures this might be really interesting;)

I Ate an Elephant!

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My Esoteric Elephant class sample quilt rampaged away with me. Partly this was because I had not really decided in advance what designs would be used. Mainly it was because I just could not stop adding details to the quilting which the students will not actually have time to do in class. 

   

I tried using an acetate sheet to audition the quilt designs but I did not notice that it did not cover the whole area that I wanted to doodle on and the bright green felt pen slipped, leaving a mark. This was was really prompted me to start colouring it after defining some of the edges with gold textile paint and a tiny brush.

 

I started off using Derwent Intense pencils and aloe vera gel but not all of the colours were vibrant enough. Sharpie pens were applied on top but they had a tendency to bleed so I had to be very careful. I found some Sakura jelly-roll pens so used them to colour around some smudges. In hindsight, I should have applied some sort of primer to the elephant then I could probably have used Sharpie pens without any bleeding. 

I could have continued colouring-in the whole elephant and adding definition with a fine black gel pen but there comes a point when a class sample has to stop, especially when I have one more class to plan by the end of January at the latest! Having spent far longer than planned on the project I finished it off by adding tiny blobs of 3D fabric paint in some of the circles, rather than start applying crystals and mirrors. 

The Bollywood Border class should have been drawn out ready to quilt by the weekend but I found it tricky to decide on the designs. I will quilt out a sample that will involve some ruler work and freehand detail but I will provide alternative designs on handouts because the class sample won’t be large so only a few motifs can be explored in the class. I have now sketched out the bare bones on paper and will get it quilted as fast as I can – maybe I could even leave some areas unfinished (As if!) 

Having been a bit concerned that I had a lull in customer work since Christmas, 5 quilts came in last week and I also hope to get something underway for the FOQ competition. 

  

My Warli screen-prints are building up – not all of them are suitable but it should not take me long to print off enough pieces to make some sort of quilt. I have not yet decided whether to do any piecing with shapes other than squares and rectangles. Obviously, that would be far more interesting but there is the issue of TIME. I would really like to figure out how to get Art&Stitch/Qmatic to stitch out some of the Warli figures but that is still beyond my capabilities with digital design at this stage.

I drove Freya back to St. Andrews after a long Christmas break. It was lovely to have her at home and she has been hugely supportive of Nell’s prelim exam revision. Before she starts the new term she is off on an adventure, hitch-hiking to Munich for charity in a team of 3 students, racing against 60 other trios. It is fun to track her progress on www.race2.org.uk (Team 58)

Creativity at Last

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I am frustrated that I am not good at drawing yet that I have plenty of technology to “cheat” although that technology can be a puzzling minefield. I watched Youtube tutorials on how to create a spiral design with repeating motifs but it was for a PC version of Adobe Illustrator which I don’t have. There are so many things I think I could do with an iPad so I will see about going to the Apple Store for some training sessions.

My printer only works to a maximum of A4 so creating a larger design is tricky. I dragged out my old Overhead Projector and sketched out a couple of designs onto pieces of paper taped together which was not a bad solution, albeit a bit wobbly. 

One of the things I wanted to draw out was a spiral of Warli figures for my screen-printing class. I drew a wiggly spiral with the OHP then printed several sheets of Warli figures, cut them out with scissors then glued them on individually. Next I had to trace over them with a light blocking felt pen without any smudges. It took hours! I was pleased to find out that I could use the Scanncut plotter machine to draw out a different design by fitting one of the Zig pens into the pen holder even though the machine did not initially recognise the pen holder. 

At the screen-printing class the acetate was burned onto a photo-emulsion screen using a UV light and it printed out amazingly crisply. This term we will print out various screen that we have made and work towards a final exhibition piece so the obvious project for me will be a Warli figures quilt.

I am working frantically on projects that I can teach at the Bernina Longarm Academy at FOQ this year. One is called “Modern Mystical Mandala”. The tricky thing is that using quilting templates to create a design will not be accurate since the hopping foot adds ¼” to every motif and I could not find one of those little discs that add the ¼”! I resized some concentric circles that I had designed for Qmatic and quilted them out onto white fabric. I drew on registration marks with a friction pen then added other circles and pointy shapes using longarm rulers. My design ended up rather messy as I scribbled ideas onto the piece with the friction pen whereas I should have overlaid a sheet of acetate and used OHP pens so it was quite difficult to see what I was doing towards the end. 

  

Quilting out the sample for a 3 hour class took me about 2 days, mostly due to designing as I went along. Students can use a choice of simpler fills if necessary. I resisted the urge to colour in the finished mandala with Inktense pencils but stitched through large mirror sequins instead. The hopping foot caused the plastic to crackle on the smaller sequins but I thought it was a funkier material to use rather than bonda-webbed silver lamé. This was a useful exercise because I want to attempt a mirror sequin quilt based on an antique scrap of clothing that I picked up in India;)

  

Hogmanay Hiatus

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Instead of moping in at home on New Year’s Eve we went to a ceilidh at Crathes Village Hall. The place was packed with people of all ages and we joined in most of the dances, our ineptitude no worse than anyone else’s. The band leader called the dances so there were not too many collisions or bruises. Afterwards we were invited for more drinks and board games at one of the “new” houses and all in all we had a jolly time.

I always feel that New Year’s Day really is the end of the festive period and I like to put the Christmas decorations away before Twelfth Night. The house looked a bit bare without its extra glitz and I decided to fill some of the space with a new wall calendar. I made my own version of pages for my Planner, even though I only used it up until April last year before resorting to scrawled lists in notebooks. I can at least start the year off feeling organised;)

On Thursday I took my girls to the cinema to see “The Favourite”, a bizarre dark comedy about Queen Anne which was really good but also bonkers and tragic.

There were many things that filled my days last week and kept me out of my workshop. Bumble had to go to the vet and have a lump removed and we were amazed at how perky she was after a general anaesthetic, most annoyed that she had missed breakfast. We had a go at making Tofu with soya milk which is a similar process to making yogurt but not as tasty in my opinion. I am not entirely sure why but I decided to soak and cook a one-pound bag of chickpeas to recreate a salad that I had had bought in M&S to eat in the cinema. I had enough chickpeas to make a large salad, a sizeable batch of hummus and enough spare chickpeas to make at least 3 more meals, thus proving that dried chickpeas are more economical than tinned ones and can be used sparingly!

Nella roped Freya and I into helping her work on her part for her drama exam. She is a main character in a play called “Tally’s Blood” about a Glaswegian-Italian family during and after WW2. Some characters are Scottish, some Italian and some are hybrids so figuring out how to do the accents is a challenge. We will record it to help her learn it off by heart but I don’t believe we would blend in at all in Glasgow’s Italian Quarter, Merchant City!

I found myself editing Fergus’s music essay on a Metal band. He is an excellent guitarist and knows all sorts of stuff about music but writing it down is a chore. I untangled it, advised on presentation and learned a lot about Math Rock, just in case I should ever get asked about it in a quiz.

I was determined to tackle at least a couple of tasks on my To Do list so I decided what I will teach at the Bernina Longarm Academy FOQ in August – I “just” have to whip up the samples. I also watched some Youtube clips on how to use “ArtAndStitch” software. I felt brave enough to have a go at some exercises but discovered that my version of the software needed an update because I have had it for ages without using it. In the meantime I printed off all 200 pages of the manual because quite honestly I find it easier to flick through file than search for help online. 

It will be a hard slog getting up early every day next week but good to get back into a routine of sorts. I will probably soon look back at the lazy holidays with longing…