Monthly Archives: March 2019

Springing Forth


There must be some truth in the idea that the busier a person is, the more productive they can be! Maybe it was the spring weather but I had 4 days worth of DIY quilters and also managed to do 2 other customer quilts which meant that I could justifiably turn down offers of supply teaching. It was great using the new zippers on the longarm machine and I wished that I had ordered a second set from the USA in the first place to avoid two lots of postage and customs but I no idea how successful they would be until I tried them.

The zippers needed to have somewhere to live near the longarm machine so I downloaded a pdf pattern for “The Hour Basket” that I had seen on Instagram. It is suggested that SoftnStable interfacing is used but I did not have any so I quilted up some scrap fabric to make 2 basic bucket bags. They were quick and easy to do so I should think about making some more although I have no idea where I will put them. 

On a roll with bag making, I also downloaded a pattern for a “Wee Braw Bag”, concluding that life can be much easier when using a pattern instead of figuring it out from scratch. The instructions were really easy to follow so I made 3. On the first one I did not deviate from the pattern and just fitted pockets on the front but I thought it looked unbalanced so made pockets on both sides for the others. The pattern is easily customisable so pockets inside could also be handy, especially if making a toiletries bag.

I ordered a box of cheap Perle cotton thread from Amazon because it was on offer and had a good selection of colours but there was no indication that they would arrive slowly in a parcel from India. Number 8 thread is possibly a bit thick but now that I have new sashiko needles and a leather thimble I can probably manage. I just have a few strips of kantha to complete on the Warli quilt and I have not punctured my fingers yet. 

I sewed a facing onto the Dream Big panel and got it done quite quickly I the knowledge that it did not have to be especially neat since it is not a show piece. 

Out of the blue I had a flash of inspiration about what I would like to attempt for my next show quilt. It is an amalgamation of various ideas and is rather ambitious so I am aware that it is unlikely to get made in time for FOQ 2019. I also have to consider how it can be hung. Even though it was never intended as a show quilt I will enter the Warli quilt this year just for an outing. 

My kids have a spring holiday for the next 2 weeks and are meant to be studying for exams and end of year assignments. They don’t need entertaining these days but I will have to feed them so I am not sure how much I will get done. Perhaps it will be an opportunity to at least plan my new Opus Magnus…

Getting It Right – Sort Of


The Dream Big panel was really pushing me to figure out how to quilt many designs that I have admired online but never attempted. I drew a rectangular grid out on paper and fiddled around with wavy rulers until I worked out how to make a shape like a squashed chinese lantern. I have also discovered that the Scanncut can cut stencils which would obviously be neat if I could work out how to design them on my iPad but in the meantime can be done by tracing a paper pattern using a broad Sharpie.

Eventually I only had two petals left to quilt so I decided to include a Warli figure and some triskeles. What little was left of the background was quilted with ⅛” lines and because I did not have another shade of pink thread left I used my favourite variegated neon. 

I was so engrossed in quilting that I failed to notice a strange, hot smell at first – a plastic wrapped roll of batting was sitting on top of the electric heater plug which overheated and started to smoulder. I caught it just in time and doused it with a powder fire extinguisher! Phew…

I completed 2 customer quilts and hosted 2 DIY quilters before starting on the Dream Big finishing touches – adding 2 coats of paint very carefully around each of the petals. This was a bit of a gamble since it already had a nice 3D effect and although it was time consuming and fiddly I think it really added to its depth. I decided to attach a facing instead of a binding and temporarily stuck the edges down with fusible tape so it looked respectable in my trunk show on Saturday.

I was the afternoon speaker at the QGBI Region 16 day in Perth, following the esteemed Lynne Edwards MBE! Her talk was great – she spoke about the quilts that she had collected from significant quilters over several years. We had a lovely chat, finding many things in common, particularly since she is completely down to earth and fame has not gone to her head;)

My talk was slightly chaotic – a minute before I was due to start I could not get the slideshow to display on the projector screen, the microphone kept cutting out and screaming feedback worthy of a heavy metal concert, I dropped all of my prompt cards and spilled the water. I suppose I was a bit of a comedy turn but it kept everyone awake. I have made mental notes on which parts of the talk to tweak and how to line the quilts up in the same order as the slides. 

 Purchases from Gillian Cooper’s Textile Studio

I intended to have a slow day on Sunday just putting the quilts away then started on a mission to improve the zipper system that I have installed on one of the Q24s. I made 2 mini canvas leaders with zips so the quilt back can be basted onto the canvas rather than the zip. The idea is that it should cause less wear and tear on the zip and also have idiot-proof instructions (for me) printed on using T-shirt transfer paper. It was one of those jobs that I obviously had to over-think because I have deviated from the original instructions, delusional that I may have invented an easier method of attachment. 

Although I would like to start a new project soon I will hand-stitch the facing and the rest of the Warli quilt kantha sections in between customers next week. If I manage to do anything else I will count it as a bonus!

I Can See Clearly Now


My intention to start the week with a customer quilt at 8.30am on Monday was temporarily halted by the arrival of 2 packages from overseas. 

The first contained my bulk order of custom carved waril figure wood block stamps from India (I could only order them in batches of 10!) which arrived too late to be printed on the front of my Warli quilt but may yet appear on the reverse. 

The other package was zippers for the longarm machine to allow quilts to be loaded or swapped easily. I had to really pay attention to get them on in the right orientation but they were helpfully printed with text for people like me who get things the wrong way round. These zippers could have grosgrain ribbon or canvas strips attached in case the quilter wants to attach the quilt back with safety pins but I have no idea why they would want to do that. The zips get attached to the quilt back top and bottom using a large stitch on the domestic machine then get zipped onto the canvases on the frame. It is not a major time saver but the biggest advantage is not having to deal with big stabby pins;)

The beach themed quilt was completed with a seaside panto which looked really fun!

I spent FAR more time than I planned working on my Dream Big dahlia panel. The biggest issue was deciding which pattern to place in each petal and swapping threads so the colours were evenly distributed. There was much angst wasted comparing my efforts to already completed panels that I had seen online, especially when I made myself tackle patterns that I had never quilted before. However, I treated it as a useful practise exercise, even if I only quilted 2 or 3 petals a day. My greatest interruption was cracking the whip so that Fergus would hand his essay on Rap-Rock music in on time.

I spent ages preparing a new slideshow for my forthcoming talk at the QGBI Region 16 (Scotland). I last gave that Region a talk in 2014 and my blog informed me that I had been on my travels and made all sorts of projects that I had forgotten about in the interim. It also reminded me that I should have a piece for FOQ well underway by now but whatever it is going to be remains at the undecided stage. Every week planning a potential 2019 competition quilt just keeps getting put back on my To Do list;) 

For the slideshow I had to find and select a series of photos then remember how to get them into a Keynote/Powerpoint presentation. My unco-operative laptop kept displaying the “spinning rainbow ball of doom” then told me that I did not have permission to save my work. The simplest solution was to make a duplicate copy and save that version. 

I was surprised when I booked an eye test to discover that I last got new glasses for close work 4 years ago. One pair of specs was particularly wonky, scratched and was missing a nose clip. I picked up 2 sparkling new pairs and was amazed at how I could see everything clearly again.

I hope to complete the Dream Big panel in the coming week – it has certainly taken more than the couple of days that I intended and that is without taking background quilting and the probability of adding fabric paint into account…

Too Many Choices


I had a varied selection of tasks to choose to work on this week, starting with encouraging Fergus to knuckle down with his essay on Rap-Metal music. Let’s just say that I now consider myself an expert on the politics and angst of the genre from Rage Against the Machine to Lil Peep;)

Since I have done no free-motion quilting since I stitched my FOQ samples, I decided that I needed some practice so I loaded the Dream Big panel that so many longarm quilters have been using to showcase their fillers. It took a while to stitch around the petals of the giant dahlia but even longer to decide what patterns to choose. I wish I had chosen to use 2 layers of wadding to add definition and I was not happy with my first petal but I expect it will look fine once I get into it.

I was invited to be on the judging panel at the Scottish Quilt Show in Glasgow (ICHF Events Craft Show). It was a very enlightening experience being on the other side of judging to being a competitor. The checklist was similar to the one used at FOQ. It can be really tricky deciding whether a quilt is excellent/good or satisfactory/needs attention. I would hate to put anyone off entering a quilt into a show by being negative! It is a shame that the process has to be done in a hurry. There is the opportunity for the judges to make comments on each quilt but after 100+ it is a bit like writing school reports and my handwriting became progressive scrawled. Overall, the judges reached consensus on the quilts that were placed. One thing that struck me was that a few quilts could have been entered into a different category. There were several that I would have said should have been contemporary rather than traditional. There was a strict size restriction, apparently due to a lack of space. I am not the only Scottish quilter who would have competed if larger quilts had been accepted. It is important to support the show since it is now offers the only opportunity for quilts to be exhibited in Scotland. 

 Sheena Norquay – winner of theme category Colour of the Isles


After a very pleasant overnight stay with Bonnie McKerracher I went back to the show as a visitor and I enjoyed having time to look at the excellent exhibits by quilt groups from Scotland and further afield. There was a good selection of fabric on sale but I was hunting around fruitlessly for thread which was disappointing. I only managed to spend 50p on a silicone thimble!

Despite being away for less than  48 hours, I had so many emails to answer on Friday morning that I never got back to the Dream Big panel. There were exciting messages from Bernina International wondering how we can co-ordinate me to teach longarm quilting in Mumbai, Dubai and Seoul!!! I am so excited to be offered such an opportunity to teach and travel. I expect I will have to think of some more new classes…

After I got some of my admin under control I did a little more hand-stitching on the Warli quilt. There are half a dozen blocks still to go but it had to be hung at the Grays School of Art Short Courses Exhibition on Saturday morning. Considering that it was not blocked and there is a mixture of hand / machine sewing, it hung reasonably flat.  Noticing that some fellow students had left business cards I rustled up a quilted pouch that can hang beside the quilt. I really ought to have printed some with images of the Warli people quilt.

I was impressed by the superb work that the other students had produced in all sorts of media in addition to textile screen printing there was photography, kilt making, ceramics, jewellery and fine art. It really was a diverse collection of talent!

All About Time



This week I was either zooming around like a headless chicken or sitting very still, concentrating. I made multiple trips to Stonehaven station as my kids went down to Edinburgh for a gig then Freya came up for a flying visit to see Fergus perform at Drummonds Bar in Aberdeen. 

Fergus and I blitzed driving theory revision on Tuesday morning and he passed the test in the afternoon. My knowledge of road signs and pedestrian crossings is now far superior to when I sat my driving test in 1986;) He will sit the practical driving test in April and it would be great if he could manage to pass first time so I don’t have to pay for any more lessons!


I supervised 3 large customer DIY quilts where we made good use of Qmatic automated designs. I have decided that the next quilt I do freehand will be a Hoffmann Fabrics “Dream Big” panel so I can brush up my quilting skills and showcase many designs on one piece. 

I spent my final week at the screen printing class using the large table to block-print wooden stamps randomly around my Warli circles. I attached pompom trim and red bells to each end of the scarf which I wear to the student exhibition opening next weekend. 


I continued my slow and rustic hand-stitching on the quilt but decided to attach the quilt hanging sleeve before completing the hand sewing just in case I do not finish on time. I must investigate some sort of thimble alternative because I have holes or callouses on my fingers and a nasty split in my thumb which I have now repaired with super-glue. I made an effort to reinforce the ends of the hanging sleeve with really tight stitching because I find that tends to unravel after the quilt has been loaded on and off a batten a few times. 

I bought a timber batten for the Grays Art School student show and decided to paint it white to match the wall upon which it will be hung. I was delighted to find a small can of white enamel fast-dry spray paint when I was rummaging for sand-paper so I simply sprayed the ends of the batten that will poke out.

After waking up in the middle of the night panicking that I had not turned up at an important appointment I decided that it was time to tidy my desk and check my multiple notebooks for things I have forgotten to do. I was almost caught out by February ending abruptly with a quilt show entry form that I had to email instead of sending by post, even though it had been completed in what I had thought was plenty of time. 

The spring-like weather should be making me feel like having a good clear-out but as long as my workshop is organised and I have projects to do I will choose to ignore any junk and chaos in my house.