Don’t get me wrong – I do actually enjoy the ritual of making braised cabbage and bread sauce plus other trimmings on Christmas Eve but I think I will try to get more ready made stuff next year so I can just eat mince-pies and watch films all day. The idea is meant to be that there are plenty of leftovers for the next few days but with a vegan roast instead of turkey and having to go traipsing to and from the garage because my fridge is not very big, I don’t tend to over cater.
Christmas itself was low key and minimal – we hardly even watched any telly. Despite the dreich weather we had a couple of short walks down by the river. I received some lovely gifts from my girls such as a felted Bumble (made by Mo) and an Indian cushion. I am glad to report that I was not given any chilli sauce, bath salts or toffees and I treated myself to a huge reel of macrame cord.
So far I have managed to make a couple of star decorations and 3 successful plant hangers. I have no idea how I can work out how to tie specific knots into a pattern yet I cannot conquer simple crochet.
I pulled out my Rainbow Warli quilt blocks to see if I can work out what to do next. I think I need to put it together spontaneously like the red, black and white version with filler strips where the blocks don’t match up perfectly in size. I examined some antique textile scraps that I got in Jaipur and decided that I will piece skinny strips to punctuate the larger blocks.
Since I may want to add borders using some sort of bunting/flaps I will not have enough of the original fabrics from the bazaar. I wasted time online looking for Rubia/Running-Cloth/plain fabrics but cannot find exactly what I am looking for in such vibrant colours and at a sensible price. There is one colour which I think of as Jaipur pink that I can’t see online so I will attempt to mix up some Hungarian dyes to see if I can make something close. I realised that I have no idea what strength and type the powder dye that bought in India actually is and the one that was labelled blue turned out purple!
One of the things that I intend to do before the New Year comes and goes is to have a mini-sort-out in my workshop. I just want to go through all of the drawers and boxes to see what I actually have before I think I have lost things and feel the need to repurchase duplicates;)
I always enjoy the time before Christmas far more than Christmas itself. It is probably because it is a busy time and I don’t cope well with nothing to do. It is great having Freya home as it means another person can keep Nella company. The girls helped me write Christmas cards which is a job I think takes ages but in fact is perfectly easy once you get started. They have made Christmas wreaths, built a bonfire and watched corny Christmas films. We had an outing to the cinema one evening to see “Last Christmas”, a typically British feel-good film with music by George Michael as the soundtrack. We have seen little of Fergus as he has been out partying with pals most nights – until the novelty of being 18 wears off or he runs out of funds.
I was desperate to make something but feel that cannot spread my Warli quilt blocks out until after Christmas so I made up a big batch of manutex paste to mix with procion dye. I did not have a measuring jug so I had to work out how many empty gin bottles worth of hot water were in 4 litres and because I could not be bothered to go and fetch the kitchen scales, I had to measure 24 dessert spoons of soda ash, having made a rough conversion of the tablespoon equivalent.
I really do need to get some basic dyeing equipment to save myself much time and overcomplicated sums. I soaked linen in a soda ash water bath, rescued just in time from being washed out in a downpour when I hung it outside to dry. I decided to test the process thoroughly and found that the dye ran a bit when rinsed in cold water so something needs to improve the fixing of the colour. Mind you, I don’t actually know what the efficacy of the dye is, having mixed together turquoise and black powders that I bought from the bazaar in Jaipur.
I was not joking last week about wanting to have a go at Macramé. I made a prototype shelf hanger using washing line and a clementine box. It was easier than learning crochet and quite addictive so I ordered myself a Christmas treat of a big reel of macrame cord and will go and get knotted!
Ever since I first became a Quilter I have been active on social media – first it was for information or advice on quilting forums then Facebook and Instagram came along. I posted something or made comments almost every day and for a while I did my 30 seconds max daily vlog, either about a project, my travels or something daft that I had done. My laptop tells me I have written over 11 000 emails since I got it in 2012! My weekly blog is really just an electronic journal for myself which some people happen to see sometimes. Recently, I have posted very little and I have felt increasingly like a quilting recluse with very little to show off about and currently I feel like I am not actively involved in the quilting world.
This week I kept thinking I should at least be running up a batch of home-made Christmas presents as I was not busy quilting. As parcels arrived from the Postie and I kept track of my festive spending, I realised that my business has suffered. I may not be able to travel or teach at present but I can still undertake customer quilts so I will need to promote that service in the New Year.
Freya came home for a couple of days to celebrate Fergus 18th birthday. It was a bit of a low key affair as we did not go out to celebrate but he made up for it after his gig on Friday night, going out to a nightclub (legally!) with his pals. Of course he did not actually feel any different to being 17 but the very next day he cast his vote for the first time in a momentous UK general election.
I have had to hand over the reins of organising Bernina longarm quilting classes at FOQ 2020 but I hope to be able to take Nella with me to Birmingham for a couple of days instead of a whole week and teach one of the classes that I have offered previously. To be honest, nobody knows what life will be like by next summer but I hope it will at least be more predictable.
At least I managed to screen-print a few cushion covers and a couple of birthday T-shirts for Fergus, despite breaking the on-off switch on my workshop water heater. The worst part of screen-printing is actually cleaning off the equipment afterwards. I can temporarily use the tap with the aid of a screwdriver or hope the garden hose is not frozen. I can cope with up to A3 sized screens in my old Belfast sink but I would only be able to deal with the giant doily screen at the art school as they have a huge washing trough. I am really enjoying screen-printing and would like to see where it takes me, unless I get into another new hobby such as Macramé…!
Freya asked what I would like for Christmas and I could think of absolutely nothing that I “need” or even want – except that I would love to have my life back! I cannot make any bookings to teach quilting away from home or even schedule classes here, I have no foreign trips or holidays planned and some days that simply gets to me. (Don’t feel sorry for me – I just have to sulk occasionally) I am grateful that I have been able to support Nella in long battle with Anorexia and things have improved but there are really no days off for either of us. Something that I struggle with in life is not having a plan for the day. I hate waking up and not knowing what I will make or do!
I felt that I should be making hand-made gifts of some sort but could not decide on what or for whom so on a whim I rustled up a couple of sets of practical, padded microwave bowl cozies. They may sound naff but they are really handy and prevent scalds when serving individual portions of hot soup or porridge.
I decided that I need a ready-to-go project so I cut out some more hen blocks by “Cluck, Cluck Sew”. I hope I don’t run into trouble for not pre-washing the Indian indigo which left my hands blue after cutting;)
Nella and I had a go at a Regan sweatshirt top from “Sew Me Something”. We used an interlock jersey and striped, stretchy ribbing for cuffs and collar. The jersey was a bargain so we could have a go and not worry about messing up. However, I did not expect it to be peppered with little holes so I have had to make a complaint to the supplier. We did the whole project using the overlocker and coverlocker. The instructions are clear and easy to follow – we added a turtle neck instead of a t-shirt neck and when we make another, will add pockets. I was impressed that we coped with the stretchy fabric and actually made a wearable garment.
I received a lovely parcel from Germany this week – Regina sent me some vintage doilies that she came across when clearing her Mother-in-Law’s house, along with 2 big bags of Haribos (not part of the house clearance!) The doilies are great so I think I will have to draw them out on acetate in order to make screens – maybe these might replace one of those that I did before. I printed some of the screen-print doilies out onto IKEA cushions and they look like festive snowflakes on the pale blue or red cushions.
Nella and I went into Aberdeen for late-night shopping on Thursday evening. It was not a serious shopping trip and we only went to John Lewis. It was great because it was almost deserted which is just how I like it! The rest of my purchases will be made online and locally. Mind you, before the Christmas countdown totally takes over we have to celebrate Fergus’ 18th birthday so I have 2 lots of unique presents to source within 2 weeks;)
I can’t tell you how long it took me to browse images of clothes peg bag images before choosing the first one I found. I made my Mother a smart, new peg bag for Christmas since that is what she asked for. I could probably make more of those or cosmetics bags or some other complicated projects or actually nothing at all;)
I completed 3 blissfully straightforward customer quilts in short order, even though one had a back that was slightly too small. I simply advised the customer to apply extra wide binding. That left me the rest of my time to work on some of my remaining Rainbow Warli blocks.
Obviously I had to fiddle with the perfectly good settings that I had previously settled on for making eyelets. Once the eyelets were made they were sewn onto squares of silver lame so they look like shisha mirrors. I added a touch of silver glitter paint to each one just to seal the thread ends.
The organza Warli blocks were not as great as I had hoped because it would seem that not all organza is the same. Some did not burn right off with the soldering iron which was disappointing so I wondered whether to fill in the twin needle stripes with silver foil or glitter but it made the figures look they were in jail. Just to see what it would look like I tested out a sample of rustic Kantha stitching with razzle-dazzle thread in case I decide to add some insane stitching to the finished quilt. I am hoping that when Freya is home at Christmas I might get “free” time to lay the whole quilt out or at least work out what it could be – quilt, canopy or tent…
The thing I was most excited by this week was deciding to make a screen-print table top. I was lucky that a nice young man offered to help me get my MDF into the back of the Landy otherwise I would have had to go back into the shop to buy rope to strap it onto the roof. I stapled down 4 layers of quilt wadding plus a layer of heavyweight muslin and now have a padded printing surface the same size as my farmhouse table. I tested it out by printing some doilies onto plain cushions which I will give away as gifts.
I have now ordered an unmarked heavy duty cutting mat that can sit on top when I am not printing so there will be no excuse for Nella and I not to become good at dressmaking – or at the very least we might get good at cutting the patterns out;)