Monthly Archives: May 2019

Some Work, Some Play

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I tried to balance out the Work and Play this week, getting quite a bit done. I had 2 very large customer quilts, both of which were to be quilted with a dense pattern, “Raindrops on the Pond”. It is a super pattern with densely nestled spirals but it takes ages and there is quite a lot of back-tracking. It is definitely a pattern that I have to watch like a hawk. While the machine was occupied doing that, I trimmed back all of the wadding behind my giant sequins and doilies so now I have a cardboard box filling up with blocks for the M.O. quilt. I actually thought of a really good proper name for it the other day but before I remembered to write it down I forgot what it was!

I worked on a custom Christmas quilt, getting all of the S.I.D. and block detail done. That took some time and I still have to do snowballs and flurries in the background. The texture will be lovely because the wadding is wool and the quilt will be lightweight but warm/cool!

A brand new Scanncut machine arrived and I was keen to use it immediately. I was a little nervous since I had read online that the new model’s mats could be temperamental. The other new feature is that the cutting blade is automatic so theoretically no settings need to be changed when using different materials. I ironed Bondaweb onto my Indian cottons then put them onto the cutting mat with the Bondaweb facing up. My Warli figures were cut out beautifully except for the very fine cottons. I switched to the fine fabric blade and they were also cut cleanly. I ironed the figures onto contrasting coloured squares then wondered how on earth I would manage to stitch around the skinny arms and legs without causing damaging puncture wounds. 

Remembering the amber eggs that I made for Iconoclast, I ordered coloured organza for the Warlis. I could have used white organza but that would have paled the colours – the coloured organza matched the colour of the figure then made the contrasting colour look a bit like shot silk. I wondered whether it would be possible to remove some of the organza to reveal the bright colours underneath so I made a test block, quilted it with a twin needle then used a soldering iron to melt away some stripes. Considering that my soldering iron is a basic one with a screwdriver type end, the results were not bad, just a little gooey and scorched because there was a fine adhesive web (Mistyfuse) behind the organza. 

It was definitely a week for experimenting… I wanted to know whether I could sew shisha mirrors on using my longarm machine without a needle. I could but felt like I was living dangerously – I like to work with my fingers close the project AND the shisha mirrors have a metal ring inside so there is virtually nothing to stitch into. The other option would be to sew them on by hand either before or after quilting then add further stitching using the longarm. The other alternative will be to sew them on by hand after quilting if I also add pompoms;)

So far I have not had any success stamping clear wood block stamped images with silver paint, even using metallic screen print binder so I need to keep working with different formulae of paint mixtures to see if I can get that right. 

It turned out that I had falsely accused a fox of picking off my hens when a mink was spotted running up and down near the hen run, probably having snorted the chilli powder that I had sprinkled liberally. A humane trap has been set but so far it has avoided capture. Mink are not native to Scotland but were released after fur farms were closed so they are considered an invasive species, encroaching on the indigenous otters. In the meantime, I have to make sure that I round up the hens every night and shut them in to avoid providing free meals for mink. On a positive note – the new hens have produced one small egg so far:)

 

I collected my Landrover from the garage after extensive remedial work on the chassis for it to pass the MOT test. I was asked to sit down before being presented with the bill. It cost me the equivalent of 20 customer quilts so I had better keep very busy over the coming months to pay for it!

Fowl Playing

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I took advantage of a lull in customer quilts to make headway with my so-called “Magnus Opus” that does not have a fixed plan at this stage. I made a very rough calculation that if it was going to end up 80” square, which yet again is bigger than necessary, I will need around 173 x 6” blocks. Luckily, the large silver printed Warli spirals have the same area as 4x 6” blocks. I still don’t know whether there will also be a few star blocks or whether I will stick to Warlis and circles and I guess there will be some sashing to get everything to line up but that can be decided later. 

It would have been easy to stick bondaweb on the back of the glitter Warlis and raw-edge-applique them onto a background square but I decided to make life harder by making portholes where a circle is drawn onto a square on top of a second square then turned inside out. It was labour intensive as the seam allowance of the circle had to be clipped. The pressed porthole was then placed on top of a glitter Warli, blanket-stitched and THEN the original Warli square had to be trimmed back so it did not show through. 

The crochet / sequin blocks were easier. First the sequin was attached with invisible thread to an oversized coloured square, sandwiched with wadding and a backing so it can be trimmed back later making it trapuntoed. The crochet doilies were then laid on top of the sequins with a straight stitch and invisible thread.

The plain, giant sequin blocks also took a while – firstly they were triple-stitched upside down using the circular attachment with silver dazzle-dazzle thread in the bobbin. Even the big bobbins ran out of thick thread quickly and had to be changed after sewing 4 squares to be on the safe side. The giant sequins were then blanket-stitched to the right side, again using wadding and a backing which will have to be trimmed back. There was only one boo-boo where I accidentally sewed 2 squares on top of each other from my pile. I made all of the squares bigger than necessary so they can all be squared up to a neat, uniform 6 ½ inches. 

Towards the end of the week the floor in my workshop was strewn with rainbow coloured trimmings and lots of thread so it was actually very satisfying when I eventually got the hoover out. 

All of that activity kept me busy for 4 days and most evenings except for a midweek talk that I gave to the Aberdeen Patchwork and Quilting Group as a stand-in speaker. I rattled on for an hour about some of my show quilts and travels which the audience seemed to find amusing. It was lovely to receive compliments on my work after hearing that Iconoclast had not thrilled the judges at the Malvern Quilt Show. Unless I can find a show in Russia that might appreciate the St. Petersburg inspiration or get it into the World Quilt Show it will probably retire as yet another vanity project. 

I had one of my prolific DIY quilters in on Friday so we used the Q24 with Qmatic and the freehand Q24 to do one big quilt and 3 small ones! The last one of the day was a delightful baby quilt with two Elizabeth Hartman swans which looked super with a watery panto. 

My friend Mo “egged” me on to accompany her on an early Saturday morning jolly to the Rare Breeds Livestock and Poultry sale. We did not go too much over our budgets and resisted the urge to buy emus and peacocks. I took home 3 everyday brown pullets plus a light sussex and a bluebell. When I got home I was really disappointed to discover that someone (not me) had omitted to shut the henhouse up the night before so the long-lasting Maran hen had been the most recent victim of the F*****g Fox!! The new hens were securely shut in with food and water and I will personally endeavour to be more vigilant about night-time security. I could not resist downloading a PDF pattern for a chicken quilt from Cluck-Cluck-Sew which can be a new background slow-burn project:)

Shiny and Bright

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Having finally sewn on the very last glass bead to my Warli quilt, I decided to take photos outdoors with it hanging on a photographic / quilt stand. I don’t have enough room or light inside to do this so I have to put it up outside which means that the slightest puff of wind makes the quilt flap and causes the whole thing to topple over. Luckily, the quilt is not massive so it stayed upright just long enough for me to take a few quick shots.

 

I finished off a customer’s Christmas quilt. This was a pleasure to work on – the fabrics were fun, the piecing was perfect, the customer had requested wool wadding and it was custom. It was all done using rulers and freehand fillers, taking a total of 12 hours. The other customer quilt this week was a simple, scrappy bright batik quilt which I did with a simple honeycomb design using Qmatic.

I was annoyed that an online order that I placed 10 days previously had still not materialised so I had to get in the car to go and buy some Stitch-n-Tear stabiliser. Since I finally had just about everything I made a couple of samples for my new project, which for now I am calling “Magnus Opus”. I sewed giant sequins onto beautifully bright squares of Indian cotton then placed a coloured crochet doily on top. For some reason I have decided that there will be some trapunto under the circles which I hope will puff up when it is quilted. I can finally use up the reject wool wadding for this as it cannot beard through the sequins. 

On Friday I had a one-to-one session at Peacock Visual Arts on trying to get to grips with vector drawing on my iPad. I had watched various Youtube tutorials but there is nothing like interacting with a real human to be able to ask questions. My tutor was an expert in Illustrator (not the iPad) but he was able to explain how nodes work. When I did Maths at school I thought that I would never, ever need to know about Vectors and Nodes so it is ironic that now I am now keen to know exactly how they work. I am hoping that I will be able to come up with designs that can be digitised to use with Qmatic. With a bit of digital fiddling about I discovered that I can use an app called Adobe Capture to smooth and clean up black and white images so I was able to tidy up my original Warli figure. 

I took a photo of my large Warli spiral that I had created by sticking hundreds of figures on a large piece of paper and managed to get rid of all of the shadow lines, making a clean copy that can be resized. This means that I can print directly onto fabric or have a Thermofax screen made. I wish I could find an evening class that would teach me all that I want to know as it would mean far less time spent watching online tutorials, avoiding the temptation to get side-tracked looking at Festival tents!

I cut into some of my vibrant Indian cottons so I can print glitter Warlis onto squares that I will cut into circles. My Scanncut was not altogether happy – I bought it as a well-used model and the rollers keep shifting. I will attempt to give it a really thorough clean but I have already started looking online for a replacement since it has proved to be so useful. I wonder if I can sell the old Scanncut at a nominal price except I would not want to think it might be temperamental for its new owner;) And if I thought it would sell for anything I would also sell my Accuquilt Go which I have not used for ages except to cut patchwork pieces for a customer.

Supply and Demand

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I was at a bit of a loose end on Monday morning because I could not get started on the next customer quilts until some wool wadding arrived by post and I could not launch into the Big Project because I was I did not have everything for that either. To make myself useful I cleared out the store cupboard in my kitchen, discovering several small packets of opened pearl barley and at least 2 kilner jars that might be semolina, chickpea flour or some other pale yellow powder that had been there far too long. 

With a clear conscience I stitched a couple of big sequin samples to see if Razzle-Dazzle thread in the bobbin looked good and I wondered whether to try trapunto using the reject wool wadding that beards but won’t be able to poke through the sequins. At the end of the exercise I had to go and order yet more supplies such as embroidery stabiliser, a clear Bernina foot, circular attachment, and yet more silver thread. 

Several packages arrived during the week and I amassed a colourful selection of doilies, pompoms and shisha mirrors. I had better make sure that I make use of every single one of them!

I got a customer quilt done by Qmatic but it took a while because halfway down the quilt the narrow outer borders started to ruffle so I had to stuff them with extra wadding and spray copiously with starch in an effort to shrink them down. 

The next customer quilt that I started is a Christmas one which I am doing totally freehand and with rulers. It is coming along slowly but I am enjoying it. It is one of those quilts that could be have been quilted with a panto but is really fun to do custom.

Over 2 nights we had foxes in the chicken run and lost 3 hens! That is relatively uncommon here as we have a walled garden and there are usually plenty of rabbits and pheasants to keep any foxes fed. With one old hen left to protect my kids were puzzled when I told them that I was going to use a tray and a fork as my last line of defence. A garden fork was used to wedge the rear hatch shut and a large tin tea tray was used to block up a gap at the front of the shed. I don’t tend to shut the hens in overnight because in summer it gets dark so late and light so early that there does not seem any point. I will reinforce the fence, wait until the fox has moved on then get some more hens because there is nothing like collecting eggs from your own hens. 

I am probably going to sign up for Year 2 of the textile printing evening class so I can get access to the Art School equipment. However, that will not start until September and I wanted to screen-print silver foil onto fabric, maybe incorporate it into the new project. I had tried using an iron but found that the foil did not stick properly so I decided to order a budget heat press aimed T-shirt printing businesses. The other idea that I wanted to try was using heat transfer vinyl shapes that I could cut out using the Scanncut. I ordered 1m pieces of basic white, red flock and silver glitter in the colours of my Warli quilt. The heat press arrived and is a hefty item at 27kg which cannot be stored easily. The instructions were minimal but it was quite straightforward and I even managed to cut the vinyl without any problems. I cut and printed some 3” Warli figures as test pieces and I was really pleased how well they transferred onto fabric, especially as the shapes were so small and intricate. I think this new gadget has a lot of potential if only I can decide what to do with it;)