Monthly Archives: February 2019

What is Black, White and Red All Over?


The warli quilt was not destined to become a show quilt but a few folk have asked if I intend for it to go to FOQ. I had planned to be working on something else for 2019 shows by now so maybe the warli quilt will be a contender after all. It is not that I have not made an effort with it, just that it was not exactly planned. It was only really originally made for the evening class exhibition. 

I did go around some of the figures with sparkly thread but not all of them as that would have been bonkers. It was tricky task since they are very angular so any freehand wobbles would be obvious and they are rather small for rulers. I wound quite a few pom-poms before deciding that I had been making the wrong size and maybe they were not strictly necessary. 


The thing that did get out of control was my decision to kantha stitch all of the unprinted sashings. I dislike thimbles, the eco wadding was a bit tough and the big needles required for thicker threads did not exactly go through the layers of the quilt willingly. Sometimes I found the task calming but at other times I was frustrated by tangling threads and before long I had bent several needles and worn away the top of my finger. My stitching looks decidedly rustic but it does add really nice texture. After some long hours of hand-sewing I can’t believe how many sashing strips there still are to finish!

Although it felt like most of my week was absorbed by the warli quilt I managed to fit in a customer quilt and I dyed some cotton pom-pom trim to attach to my as yet unfinished scarf. 

On Thursday I presented a trunk show and (ha-ha) hand-sewing workshop to a visiting group of American visitors in an Aberdeen hotel. Despite being near the end of their busy tour, they were an enthusiastic and appreciative group and everyone did a great job of simple stitching on a triskele “mug-rug”. Aberdeen’s mini IKEA is situated in the area where I was teaching so I nipped in for a wander and came out with 2 cheap red cushion covers, ideal for screen-printing. 

On Saturday morning I drove into Aberdeen to visit Peacock Visual Arts Studio where I had signed up for a class in using a Risograph copier. I was not sure how this could be applied to fabric printing but I used it as an opportunity to see what else went on. I was excited to discover that there is also a laser cutter and a suite of Mac computers running Adobe Illustrator and that the learning sessions are very reasonably priced. I am hoping to get some tuition in creating vector drawings that can be converted into stitch files on the Bernina Qmatic. 

During the workshop I added text to my warli spiral since I thought that a chorus from Blur’s Parklife seemed appropriate,“All the people, so many people, and they all go hand in hand…” I have no idea what I will do with my batch of warli posters yet but it gives me something else to exhibit at the art school show I a couple of weeks:)

So Many People!


I spent Monday morning shinning up and down a step ladder to tie lengths of string to my workshop strip lights so I could hang up a set of fairy lights to make the far room with fewer windows look more inviting. I had not noticed that the lights comprised multiple dangly strings of icicles or that they might flash. A certain amount of detangling went on and I managed to disable the annoying twinkling. After that was all sorted out I plugged in the new Q24 and gave it a quick test run and all seemed well, which was a relief since I built it by myself!

While I had a DIY quilter here a friend came over having suggested that my bookcase was inaccessible behind the ironing board. She gamely took all of the books off the shelf and we swapped the bookcase with an old kitchen dresser that stores stuff I rarely need (should chuck out). The books are now in the longarm room with non-flashing fairy lights and chairs that have been dug out and dusted off. I found a ricketty stool and mended it with a piece of wooden pallet, a couple of brass screws and a hammer, since I could not get the screws in far enough. I am going to invest in some ratcheting screwdrivers because my electric one is pathetic. I have no idea when I will sit calmly and read all of my books with a cup of coffee balanced on the now-steady stool but it all looks fantastic. 

I received a package from India containing wooden stamps that I felt would come in handy. I gave them a quick print on a scrap of linen and they worked well. I planned to use them on the Warli quilt to fill in the blanks where I have to add strips to make the blocks fit together.


A customer phoned in a panic because a quilt that she had pieced seemed to have got pressed out of shape. She had been aware that it had a lot of bias pieces which just stretched and distorted when ironed. I used steam and spray starch to get most of that under control then quilted it with the Timewarp pattern. Thankfully no pleats or tucks were necessary and it all finished up nice and flat. It might not hang straight on a wall but it will look lovely on a bed which is what it is for;)

At the screen printing class I printed off 8 large Warli spirals on a very thin piece of white Indian cotton. I decided not to bother measuring the spacing accurately and will fill in some of the gaps with a few more people and small spirals. I intend to wear it to the end of year student exhibition. I printed off a couple of discharge prints on black fabric then declared that I had enough samples to make the quilt. 


Piecing the Warli quilt was not very creative or scientific – I just joined strips on by eye until it all fitted together which took almost 2 days. Rather than print more blocks and take even longer to piece a reversible quilt back, I used Indian dye powder to dye a white piece of cotton as red as I could in the washing machine. I had to get my mop out when red dye started flowing over the rim of the defective workshop loo but the floor is concrete so no harm was done. The quilt back is a great colour but more under-ripe tomato red rather than ketchup red but I don’t mind because there are variations of red in the screen prints.


I decided to use the Qmatic to do basic background quilting in spirals then think about how to add interesting embellishments or additional stitching later. I was so pleased with the result that I forgot that I had intended to outline some of the figures. I carried on and attached the binding, complete with a fancy spiral stitch. I might pin the quilt back on later if I feel like attempting some freehand outlined Warlis in sparkly thread.  I hope to do some rustic kantha stitching in some of the blocks, add some block printing and sew on a few random pompoms so although it is technically finished it is not actually finished…


Superwoman Sometimes


I completed 2 customer quilts this week using Bernina Qmatic. I am pleased to say that I have sussed how to realign the safe area which was a puzzle to me for a while. It is very accurate at matching where the next row of a design should be placed. An issue that I need to solve is when customer quilts are not totally square and the size of the borders varies throughout the quilt. 


In anticipation of the new Q24 being delivered I rearranged some stuff in my two rooms. Although I have a lot of space, it is not well designed with sloping ceilings, bits of wall that stick out, windows where blank walls would be more useful and a lack of wall sockets. I have to keep all of the Bernina boxes for the Q24 that is on loan and they used to be stuffed under the APQS machine. Since the new Q24 is a couple of feet shorter, I can store the boxes at one end of the room. I wanted to hide them behind a hanging quilt so I installed an IKEA curtain wire with a tension mechanism. The wood that I had to fix screws into was very hard so I found it difficult to get them in all the way and for some reason the tension mechanism wanted to unravel itself so my solution was to wrap that end in duck tape! Of course I could not find a quilt that was exactly the right size to hang so I folded over the top 6 inches of my Fancy Forest and attached curtain clips to hang  it from the curtain wire. 

I laid out all of my Warli screen prints and realised that I probably have more than enough to make a quilt – in fact I may even make a double-sided one if I have time. I was not thrilled with the quality of the print using my new screen so have decided to re-expose it so the images are crisper. I want to keep the Warli spiral design so I bought my own screen since the college ones will be wiped when the course finishes. I plan to print the Warli spirals onto some long cotton scarves when I make my mind up about whether to dye them or not. I ran off a few prints of the design that I drew based on circular mantra stitching and I love the way it turned out.


The Aberdeen delivery company commissioned to deliver the new Q24 phoned to enquire whether I had a forklift as it was all loaded on a hefty pallet. I explained that the usual procedure would be to take the plastic wrap off the pallet and carry the boxes separately. I was not impressed when one guy instead of two arrived with a truck that did not even have a lifting tailgate. Thanks to my porter’s trolley and some determination we managed to manhandle the boxes off the truck. 

I spent more than 2 days slowly assembling the new Q24 frame single-handed. If you don’t have to do it regularly it is easy to forget the easiest way of doing things and a few of the fixings are now different to the original installation manual. I got there in the end and I am looking forward to trying it out when I get a long enough extension cable. 

My kids have been mortified by the Landy’s latest anomaly which is that the alarm kept going off randomly every time the doors opened or closed and quite often while driving along. It turns out that the driver’s door lock is broken so I have temporarily had to tape it shut with pink Scottie dog duck tape until I can get it fixed. I have a nasty feeling I may have to get an entirely new door since the whole thing is rusty. 

Fergus refused to be taken to his first solo performance at a pub in Aberdeen in a car that gave the impression that it may have been stolen so we had to squeeze his gear into the Beetle. Quite a few of his college friends turned up and declared that he did a great set. He has since been booked as a support act for a few local gigs so it looks like I will be the “Roadie” until he passes his driving test and gets his own transport.

Quilting in a (not so) Polar Vortex


It has been very cold here this week with temperatures rarely rising above zero celsius, even in bright sun. I cannot imagine what it must have been like in the USA where some places were colder than Antarctica! We had very little snow up here so everything ran as normal except for my Landrover which had ice on the inside of the windows, the alarm beeping as I was driving along due to some ice in the electrics and I had to use rope to tie the door shut when the rubber seals froze so that Bumble was not ejected. Twice a day I had to pour boiling water over the hens’ aluminium drinking trough because it kept freezing. While the prospect of summer seems like months away, I booked tickets to the Latitude Festival in July so I will have to organise some camping gear since my folks have sold their caravan. 

I managed to get my workshop up to a working temperature most days as long as I was also wearing thermals and at least 2 extra jumpers. I managed to finish off the quilt that the computer messed up while I was busy multi-tasking. I tightened up the belts and clamps  then had no more issues on the final quilt done by my trusty APQS Millennium. I advertised it for sale in the New Year, assuming that it would take a while to sell as it is the 14ft version. To my surprise it was snapped up within 24 hours! This week I packed it all up, with all sorts of accessories and spares then it was collected to go and work for a new owner in the south of England. I have owned an APQS machine since 2007, quilting ALL sorts of projects on it so it was quite a big decision to let it go and order a second Bernina Q24. However, I know that I love free-motion on the Bernina and the new frame will be a bit shorter so there will be a little extra storage space in my studio. 

Once everything was tidy I noticed how the longarm room could do with being brightened up. I will hang a quilt up to cover some boxes and invest in some fairy lights. I can’t do much to hide all of the quilts, totems, wadding and general “stuff” that I have to store other than keep it tidy. Imagine how amazing it would be to design a studio from scratch with cavernous hidden cupboards;)


I actually completed 3 other customer quilts, all done with computer pantographs. None of them were quick or easy and I had to keep a close eye on them. I downloaded a great pattern called “Steampunk Spokes”, perfect for an engineer / bike enthusiast whose mother made him a birthday quilt. Qmatic did a great job but each row took at least an hour to sew. 


Since I did not feel I could go away and leave the machine quilting completely by itself, I decided to titivate the sketchbook that will accompany my screen printed Warli figures at the Gray’s School of Art evening class exhibition. I confess that I did not create the sketchbook THEN create the artwork. I actually created the artwork with what was inside my head then put the ideas onto paper afterwards. I printed out examples of Warli artwork, stuck in some photos that I took in India, added a few fabric samples, decorated some of the pages with wooden stamps then decided that the outside would be more fun if the spiral binder was festooned with pompoms. 



I ran off a few more prints at the class, including some foil transfers. I discovered that they do not work with a hot domestic iron at home. I only need one or two weeks more at the class to create prints so I leave enough time to sew all of the samples together as a quilt, particularly if I am considering adding a couple of blocks of pompoms / yo-yos, because – why not?!