Author Archives: thequiltquine

About thequiltquine

Quirky Quilter in Scotland Creator of The Quilted Yurts, Patchwork Smart Car, Metallic Norse Wholecloths, Coracle, Quilted Henge, Quilting Tutor & Speaker, Occasional Pig-Keeper, Primary School Teacher, Mother, Writer, Landrover Enthusiast, Gin Connoisseur

Creativity at Last

Standard

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

Standard

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…

Lazing Around Over Christmas

Standard

I like to spend Christmas Eve cooking so there is not much preparation to do in between watching the kids open presents and trying not to eat a whole chocolate orange before breakfast. I discovered late in the day that everyone actually did want red cabbage so I had to make a list minute dash to the shop to hunt for a vegatable that will most probably end up as hen food before the holiday is finished.

We had a very lazy few days with leisurely walks, glasses of sherry at any time of day, and inventing ways of making vegan turkey into appetising leftovers. After 48 hours I felt guilty that I was not busy doing something, trying to avoid being anti-social out in my workshop. I kept finding myself pointless little tasks including stripping the flowers off a basket of dried lavender. I had hoped that I could just whizz the whole lot in the Magimix but it made a mess and the motor got rather warm. 

At least I managed to run up a couple of mini-makes for a workshop in February where I will have no access to sewing machines which I will find a major challenge. I downloaded an entry form for the Scottish Quilt Show competition but the maximum size permitted is 60” x 80” so Iconoclast is not eligible. 

  

I took my girls to see “Mary Poppins Returns” which we really enjoyed a it was a similar format to the original with some great songs and animated scenes. I admit that I did doze off at one stage but I will put that down to too many late nights. 

I obviously thrive on deadlines and a bit of stress so once we have sen in the New Year I need to write myself a great big list of things to do then worry about how I am going to achieve everything. Before that happens I guess I will have to finish off all of the sherry;)

Christmas Buildup

Standard

It has been a fast and festive week from the Banchory Academy Christmas concert to an impromptu show at the Deeside Dance Centre. My quest to find do last minute shopping was skewed by a puncture in the Landy on the same day that I collected it from the garage with a new starter motor and steering pump. To be fair, even a brand new car could have picked up a hefty nail.

I determined to complete the Fancy Forest quilt without doing any serious sums and ended up with a patchwork top that measured 72” x 109” so I pulled off the bottom row and reattached it to the side so it was 90” ish inches on all sides. Admittedly one corner was almost 3” wider than the top corner after the impromptu additional piecing but it will never hang on a wall so I decided that it was not important. I lined up lots of rows of the honeycomb pattern on Qmatic and let it run while I got on with the chore of wrapping presents. 

  

I used offcuts from the backing fabric for the binding so now it is complete and looks very bright and jolly even though it does not yet have an owner or bed. It may end up in the summerhouse for sleepovers when the kids push the 2 sofa-beds together. 

  

There have been a few late nights, waiting up to collect Fergus from the bus stop after the last bus home from Aberdeen and a great Christmas party/Housewarming at the newly completed barn conversion of one of Nell’s best friends. I had my annual festive coffee with Mo and Tania and loved my selection of personal gifts which included gin and Scottie dog gaffa tape. 

Bumble was not hugely impressed when the girls made her have a pre-Christmas bath to make her smell fresher but now any malordorous festive pongs can be blamed on sprouts or stilton. I have dreaded doing the final festive grocery haul and my strategy for avoiding crowds is to go late on Sunday evening when it will either be a feast or famine…

Mutant Creatures and Roadie Trials

Standard

I felt like the 1970’s Children’s TV character, Mr Benn this week as I took on many different personas – vegan chef, unsuccessful Landrover mechanic, Band Roadie, Quilt Whisperer and Chicken Keeper. 

I started the week helping a friend quilt radiating lines on a mini quilt for which I was paid in Gin. Next I loaded up my Unicorn mega block, having dithered about custom quilting for ages then deciding that an all-over tight honeycomb done by the Bernina Q24 Qmatic would be eminently suitable. 

  

Having made no early preparations for Christmas, I was happy to fill my virtual basket and order all sorts of items online – I just have to hope that they will arrive on time.

I took Fergus out for lunch on Tuesday to celebrate his 17th birthday, only ordering one course because we had a squidgy vegan chocolate cake to polish off later. He had his first driving lesson which he declared a great success, then asked when he attempt to could drive the Landrover. The Landy has been a bit of a drama queen of late, clunking, groaning and being reluctant to start. Landy-Man advised that it would need a power-steering pump, starter motor and a weld on the half-shaft which he could not do until next week. I managed to transport Fergus and his gear to a gig but when I tried to start it later to take Nell and her friends to watch it was dead as a dodo. I called Mo who came to the rescue with her car so we managed to get there on time and bring all of the gear home later.

  

Rather unusually I had caught up with all of my customer quilts and did not need to “waste” time going to town for present shopping. I am still undecided what to work on for my next competition quilt but I needed to work on some sort of project. I dug out the random collection of Fancy Forest blocks and laid them all out on my table. They posed quite a puzzle since I had made some giant animals as well as a few of the fiddly smaller ones. The original pattern recommended that all of the plain background fabrics should be the same then sashing would be added to connect it all together. Obviously, I had used a variety of shot cotton background fabrics so had a collection of blocks that really did not want to fit together at all. Luckily, I found a large piece of a plain Oakshott Lipari so decided to add 2” strips around the creatures and fill in any gaps with some Gees-Bend/Improv style strip piecing. Eventually I ended up with 4 rows of varying widths which could be made to fit by adding more strips or squares until the shortest row was as wide as the longest one, not bad for someone who is not a maths genius;)

Easy-Peasy Japanesey

Standard

I spent most of Monday travelling back from Germany to find that it was much colder back in Scotland. I unpacked a lovely selection of threads, small longer rulers and white chocolate biscuits.

I don’t know how many layers I had to wear on Tuesday in my Arctic workshop to quilt a striking grey tree quilt. It was a very simple quilt with a few blocks around a large central panel but it looked really classy when finished. 

I made a flock of mini hens using a pattern that Regina gave me from a German gardening magazine. They were very easy – the longest part of the process was stuffing them. The tiny foot on my Singer Featherweight was ideal for stitching the opening shut. Some of the hens were lucky and got bells for feet. Some will be given away but I think I will keep a few in my workshop. Maybe I also need some blue ones? It would be fun to make a hen using leftover scraps from every finished quilt.

Funnily enough, I had a customer quilt this week with chicken fabrics so I got the Bernina Qmatic to quilt it with hexagons that looked like a chicken wire fence.

I have finished the antique quilt repairs by stitching new patches over the worn ones in the outer border. It took 16 ½ hours to fix 10 blocks and some of the border so I hope its owner will be pleased with the results.

I bought a couple of Japanese Tatami strip bag kits from Regina and had intended to give them to my Mother and Sister for Christmas. However, the instructions were in Japanese but with good diagrams. I decided that it would be better if I made the bags myself then gave them away. The first one was straightforward except that it was not easy to pull up a gathering thread with such stiff fabric. The backpack was more challenging as I could not quite work out what the diagrams were suggesting. There was a bit of guesswork and the fabrics were not really suitable for ripping out mistakes. In the end I got it sussed and was pleased with my attempts. 

  

Nell and I had a rummage in the charity shop over the weekend – she got some clothes to up-cycle while I found a set of Nigella Lawson mixing bowls and a small silk carpet that I might use to make a Mary Poppins bag. I will need to order a tubular frame and no doubt follow some challenging instructions but they are very expensive to buy ready made so I might as well have a go. 

I made myself catch up with paperwork before I get stuck into Christmas preparations. I absolutely hate doing it but I have to be prepared to get my tax return done by the end of January and that is one job that it is not worth doing at the last minute;)

Rickrack Und Wurst

Standard

I quite like it when I pack for a trip before the last minute, have time to decide if I have forgotten anything and can just get on with a couple of projects. 

  

I worked on the antique quilt, covering the worn patches with suitable new diamond templates. The old patches were rather oddly sized but the new patches were all regular so there were parts of the old fabrics showing underneath in places. I had the choice of making a new bespoke template for every single piece which would take rather more than the 6 hours already spent or figure out how to disguise the raggy edges. I made an executive decision to use vintage cotton rickrack around all of the repaired blocks. I did not have enough to put it around all of the old blocks as well but decided I liked the idea of the Japanese principle of Wabi-Sabi, “the acceptance of transience and imperfection… beauty that is imperfect, impermanent and incomplete”. Old textiles in Japan are repaired with visible, Boro stitching so the mend is obvious and not hidden. Attaching the rickrack on a heavy, old quilt took some time but I think it looks really good. I still have to sew new diamonds in the outer border but those ones are not part of a block so mismatched sizes should not be such a issue. 

I only went off on one mini tangent when I decided to see if my sewing machine could sew blanket stitch through a large mirror sequin. The plastic was thin so it worked beautifully. One of the ideas lying dormant in my head involves something to do with I median shisha mirrors so this could be an idea that I take forward. 

I flew to Nuremberg via Schipol early on Thursday morning. I had decided to dress festively in green trousers and a Christmas jumper and got some funny looks because it would seem that my outfit looked like I was dressed as an elf. When I arrived I discovered that half of the plan’s passengers had not received their luggage. It would delivered “later”… Regina phoned and explained the urgency because my suitcase contained all of my teaching materials. I could have improvised if necessary but luckily it turned up by taxi at 11pm.

  

Classes at Regina’s studio near Coburg are great because every student in my class gets to work all day on a longarm machine without sharing or having to wait their turn. My projects are never small so the whole of the first day was spent on cutting, printing and assembling a collection of kugels / baubles. The students enjoyed using the Scanncut so much that they ordered their own! 

  

The next day was spent deciding on the quilting and cracking on with some heavy stitching. The longarm machines purred away quietly in manual mode as the students, fuelled with coffee and cake, sewed for almost 10 hours. We enjoyed a wonderful selection of farm produced wurst (sausages), cheeses, bread and wine. 

We decided to put off Christmas market shopping in heavy rain first thing on Sunday morning so they continued quilting at a more relaxed pace while Regina and I exchanged ideas for mini projects. All of their projects looked fantastic and quite different to each other. 

  

Despite heavy rain in the afternoon we headed to the glass blowing village of Lauscha and blew our own kugels at the college. This was not nearly as easy as the experts made it look but my third attempt was good after a deflated kugel and another one where the top snapped off. I bought half a dozen student-blown kugels then we had a wander through the street, feeling sorry for the brass band and traders braving the rain. 

 

Photos were taken of the almost finished projects, we bid some farewells and ate our last lovely German supper. It was a great long weekend spent in good company. I will have to think of a new project for next time;)

Keeping Busy to Keep out the Cold

Standard

It was a wet, cold, wintry week where I just kept busy on several little projects, with a trip to the Post Office and eating far too many chocolate buttons. I felt that I deserved them for refereeing between 2 teenagers, one who wants quiet to concentrate homework and the other who wants to play electric guitar loudly.

Using all of my quilt clips and a tiny amount of PVA glue I finished making all of the diamond templates for the antique quilt restoration. 

I wrote out the instructions for my snowglobe and kugel projects then had a bit of a panic because I could not find the document on my laptop later, having named it something unexpected. 

Mo let me have a selection of mixed-fibre upholstery samples to experiment with devoré paste at the textiles printing evening class. I guess the fabrics were far too robust as absolutely nothing happened. I will have to get my hands some cheap poly cotton to see if I can get an interesting burn-out using my Warli figure stencils. 

After an extensive and fruitless hunt for Nell’s badge making mirrors, I ordered some more as well as replacement yoyo makers, another mystery lost item. I can’t understand how I can lose things in my workshop which has to be well organised to contain everything that it does. 

We had no mail for 3 days then the Postie delivered backing fabric so I could quilt the two shirt quilts for my commission. I bound them at the weekend and figured out the final bill. It was actually shocking how the hours and costs of such simple quilts had mounted up. There was a time when I would have felt bad and reduced the bill to pay myself well below the minimum wage but a business cannot be run on sentiment. I still charged far less than a mechanic, plumber or web designer. 

There were also half a dozen mini-makes that have to remain secret for now as they will be presents. I had to make 2 prototypes first because I had forgotten how I made them before so my next job is to write clear instructions that will make life easier next time;)

Quilter and Roadie

Standard

It’s a good job I don’t currently have any significant quilting projects of my own since it gave me time to catch up on mundane but essential tasks like buying chicken feed, getting my headlights fixed and dealing with software updates. My friend, Mo helped me out with a tricky and secret soft-furnishing commission, much to my relief since I would have made it far more complicated than it needed to be. 

It is great to get friends on board to help out and Catherine helped me to piece 2 customer quilts made from old shirts that would otherwise have taken me 22 hours to work on by myself. 

 

The textile printing class involved adding metallic foils to screenprints so I now have some silver Warli figures to add to my growing collection of patches. The last two sessions of the semester will allow the students to further explore the techniques covered so far so I will print and discharge more fabric that can be made into a Warli inspired quilt. 

I decided to “risk” using Qmatic on a real quilt instead of a practice piece and I felt very pleased with myself when I managed to program in an edge-to-edge pattern and get everything to line up in the correct place, even fixing a broken thread. The Bernina Qmatic system is totally different to my more familiar APQS system and I am glad that I am working it out and becoming more confident since it has far more capabilities.

 

 

Fergus and his band, “Angry Man Carpark”, had a recording session here at the weekend so I used my time out in the workshop to make prototype templates for the antique quilt that I have been commissioned to restore. The original hand-appliqued diamonds vary considerably in size and it would be an endless task to make individual templates for every single patch. I have cut out freezer paper diamonds and ironed these onto starched fabric. These will be machine stitched down over the original pieces. 

I was the Chief Roadie for the band on Saturday night. The gear was loaded into the Landy and schlepped to Captain Tom’s Studios in Aberdeen. “Angry Man Carpark”, which styles itself as an Indie Rock band was supporting a series of heavy metal bands. Their set was cut short and some of the studio equipment malfunctioned but they rocked on anyway. I was relieved that the venue had areas outside the main performance room since I am not really into screaming grunge metal in the key of Drop C. Things got a bit rough later in the evening, someone even lost  tooth in the “mosh” and there was certainly a strong whiff of teen spirit. It was all very RocknRoll;)

I spend most of Sunday putting the music room back together to Bumble’s relief as the boys had pinned up blankets and sheepskin rugs from the sofa to deaden the sound and she had felt obliged to lie pathetically on the floor instead. She was not impressed by the hoovering that went along with the tidying process. When I eventually found my desk again I wrote out a fresh To Do list for next week and I can assure you there is not yet a line that mentions the dreaded “C” for winter festival word…

Variety is the Spice of a Quilter’s Life

Standard

Variety really is the spice of a Quilter’s life and I have certainly done all sorts of things this week. I gave longarm tuition on Monday to a pupil who took to it like a duck to water and was soon whizzing away, quilting loops all over her quilt. 

It was great to have an able assistant to tackle the job of making 2 customer quilts from old shirts. We worked out a very simple layout, appliquéd some tartan hearts and prepared 126 x 8” blocks ready to stitch together next week. 

My computerised system quilted for me in the middle of the week but I could not leave it unsupervised in case it ran out of thread while back-tracking a dense design so I had to keep a close eye on it while completing the kantha stitching. It was a perfect size to make into a cushion. I debated whether to add piping or pompoms but let myself off lightly and just kept it simple. 

Pleased that my sewing machine seems able to stitch through sequins, I ordered a selection of large silver discs, some as big as 6” across. I am not entirely sure what I think I will make so maybe just a wee sample will amuse me for now. There is no way I can start a new major project before Christmas!

I made some posh tartan-lettered bunting as a leaving present for an old friend instead of contributing to a group cash kitty. That would have been the easy option but I thought a personal present was worth the effort.

My “expertise” was sought by a member of the school PTA – she wanted to know how to repurpose a vinyl banner for the school band to promote an event. I suggested that she might need help with such a large project then realised that I had inadvertently offered my services. All I had to do was offer advice on cleaning and using the blank reverse, suggest a layout for lettering and demonstrate how to apply textile paint using stencils.

I enjoyed the Printed Textiles evening class where we had a go at printing velvet with a paste that dissolves some of the pile fibres to make devoré. The rest of the time was spent working to a procion dye formula based on fabric weight which I found particularly useful because I have only ever used packaged dye or just guessed the quantities. I ordered a couple of Thermofax screens of my Warli figures to make printed fabric that can be used as a “filler” when I sew all of the class samples together to make a quilt for the final exhibition. I even printed onto organza which was not brilliant as it was so slippery – it would be better to simply layer organza over a print like I did with my Kugels. 

  

Beelzebub was at the IQA Houston show this week. There were some fabulous winners this year – they can be seen online at www.quilts.org

Fergus and Nell came for a wander around Aberdeen on Saturday then they came to see a film that I was excited about, “Thugs of Hindustan”. It was a 3 hour Bollywood action extravaganza with plenty of fights, explosions and dancing, with inspiration from “Pirates of the Caribbean” and  wicked baddies from the East India Company. I absolutely loved it but my kids told me it was one of the worst movies that I had ever made them go and see. I guess that means I will be watching it on my own when it comes out on DVD;)

Phew!

Standard

Phew, what an incredible pace I kept up this week – I had two dedicated DIY quilters here over 3 days, using both longarm machines and 12 quilts were completed! We were so busy that I did not stop to take a single photo of their marvellous efforts. 

On the other two days it was my mission to master the basics of Qmatic, the Bernina Q24 automated system. I laid out 3 sets of instructions, watched corresponding Youtube videos, wondered why I just can’t comprehend written instructions, scrutinised Facebook Q24 group comments, made progress, and forgot how I got there then finally it just clicked. I am not claiming to be a Master of Qmatic yet but I now feel confident enough to experiment on a real quilt, rather than a practice piece. The stitch quality of Qmatic is excellent and the designs are great. My next learning curve will be to design some patterns and import them into the system. Then I really will be a clever clogs;)

In the Printed Textiles evening class we removed the colour from black fabric using a stinky paste. I stuck with my Warli figures as a motif so I can easily throw them all together as a quilt for the end of year exhibition. I am going to cheat and get some thermofax screen made so I can easily print more fabric quickly at home using screen printing inks and dyes. The Art School has plenty of amazing equipment and resources but I have more  individual working space and can do other things while I wait for the inks to dry. 

I do not have a quilt on the go because there are so many things that need to be done first but just to say I had done some sewing I added pompom trim and even bells onto an indigo dyed scarf. I think it could stand even more jingles and dangles if I have nothing better to do. 

Out of curiosity I had to find out if my sewing machine could stitch through sequins. I may just have a plan…

It took all weekend BUT I have finally finished drafting my website edits, found all of the corresponding pictures and uploaded everything into Dropbox. I hope the web designer can manage to do the job without too much hassle or expense. 

Since as my never-ending To Do list shrunk considerably by getting the long overdue website edits done, I decided to start a new one starting next week. I must have been a hamster in a previous life!

Pottering Around in the October Hols

Standard

Holidays make for a very different week to normal. Nell and I went to see “A Star is Born”  at the cinema which we both enjoyed then we went to see Fergus’ band play for the second time in one weekend. It was a late and loud Sunday night as I tried to blend in with a student crowd, grateful that there was battered sofa at the back of the venue. 

I finished the DWR quilt after 20 hours of ruler work and freehand quilting and the customer was thrilled. 

Freya had Reading Week so she came home from Uni for a few days to celebrate Nell’s 15th birthday. The kids really get on well when they are all together – we made a birthday banner, carved pumpkins, cooked, made a vegan birthday cake, took Bumble for walks and went on little outings like rummaging in charity shops and buying unnecessary stationery items.

  

In my textile printing class I used a screen blocker and transfer dyes with silkscreens. I was not so keen on the more freeform results, preferring screen prints to be sharp and crisp. My attempts were no worse than anyone else’s and I am enjoying the opportunity to explore different techniques. I had probably hoped for a more technical course but there is only so much that can be covered in a 2-semester foundation class. I guess it is just as valuable to decide which methods to ignore as the ones which to explore further. 

 

I have not done any quilting projects apart from a few more rows on the small Kantha piece because I am forcing myself to face up to the chore of editing my website which I have not done for 5 years. It started off as a daunting task but just doing a bit at a time chipped away at it. I have many photos to add and lots of text to alter. It made me realise just how many competition quilts I have made in 10 years (21 I think) in addition to Yurts, the Smart Car, Coracle, Henge, HM The Queen’s Quilt, customer quilts, workshops and personal projects. 

We dropped Freya off at Stonehaven Station then the Landy just died. Luckily the Landy Man was still at work, diagnosed that the 16 year old battery was dead, towed us to his garage and lent us a Banger. This allowed us to go to Aberdeen and see the fantastic film about Queen, “Bohemian Rhapsody”. The songs were still echoing in my head the next morning and Fergus tried to work out the piano chords. 

I spent Sunday tapping away on my computer keyboard but in order to feel like I had also done something “useful” I mucked out the hens and unblocked my workshop sink. 

I have 3 DIY quilting days next week, must try to complete the website edits and have  challenged myself to work my way through the Qmatic Training manual. That should keep me busy but I also need to think of something to SEW!

Getting Around To It

Standard

My To Do List seems to be running on repeat these days – the same things keep being added each week, either because they are are too big to tackle or because I just don’t seem to want to deal with them. I have been busy with customer quilts, catching up after my trip to India. This week I tackled the enormous hexagon quilt and bound it with an extra wide binding. There was also a DIY quilter and I made a good start on a very nice Double Wedding Ring quilt. But next time I do one of those I may set myself the challenge of quilting something different in every pinched square so I don’t get bored. I find that I am having to make myself do an hour or two at a time otherwise it feels that I am not getting anywhere. It is not complicated, just time consuming. One client dropped off shirting to be made into 2 memory quilts and someone else dropped off a 1920’s quilt that needs mending. I have plenty of work to keep me so busy that I resent having to nip out to the Post Office.

  

I started an evening class on printed textiles and took along some intricate stencils that I had cut out of Warli type figures. I wished I had cut them out of acetate since paper ones can only be used a couple of times then disintegrate when the ink is hosed off the screen. The Warli figures turned out really well but did not lend themselves to making a 2-colour print since they are usually only printed with one colour. I did enjoy the class and seeing what the other participants had come up with but in a couple of hours it was only possible to pull off a couple of prints then faff about waiting for the screen to dry before making the next one. Prior to the next class I will cut more acetates and a pile of my own fabric. I am not sure that I have a theme in mind yet, just eager to explore the techniques.

Mysteriously, Fergus and his chum broke the glass in the summerhouse door which left lethal shards of glass hanging loose. I fixed it temporarily wearing gardening gloves and goggles with a judicious quantity of duct tape, a tarpaulin and staples. 

I have been on “Roadie” duty this weekend, taking Fergus to a couple of very loud gigs in a small cellar bar in Aberdeen. The up-and-coming bands were good, even better when earplugs were worn. 

I found myself enjoying the simple task of Kantha stitching a chevron print square that I was given in India. It is not complicated, no design decisions have to be made, thinking is not necessary and the stitches do not even have to be particularly neat. Eventually I will decide whether to complete something I have already started or go off on a new tangent – my money is on the latter;)

Business As Usual

Standard

I was all set to start a mammoth customer quilt made entirely from hand pieced hexagons first thing on Monday morning, starting by removing all of the papers from the outer border. That job took over an hour then I measured up the top and quilt back just to check and found that the back was far too small. I did not even have enough back to cut strips off and make joins elsewhere so I had to order a 120” back and discovered that the only suitable fabric was basic calico from The Cotton Patch which is a bit drab. Stymied with that quilt, I began another one with differently sized top and side borders, some of which were 13” wide. The brief was to do a custom job but on a budget which was a challenge. Hopefully the customer will be pleased with the results which include a wide satin blanket-style binding. I’m just going to mention that I have realised that I don’t actually particularly like purple quilts. I am going to have to start wearing tinted glasses because I get quite a few of them:P

I spent 2 days giving one-to-one longarm tuition to a pupil who has visited me before and we had a great time, working on simple designs that could be made more fancy for custom work and trying out some tricky threads on the Q24. I really enjoy offering personal tuition which gives the pupil time to ask as many questions as they like and they have the opportunity of completing an entire quilt with sample designs. 

The “working” week ended with a DIY customer who worked on a super quilt – a bookshelf design featuring family photos and book titles. She was very independent which gave me time to wrestle with a tangled mess of yarn that had been sitting in an abandoned heap. I was on hand to assist with advancing the quilt, change bobbins and make cups of tea. 

I crossed off all sorts of admin tasks on my list and added many more but still have not got around to booking a haircut or trip to the optician. I expect Bumble will probably get her  winter hairdo well before I get around to booking mine. 

Nell and Fergus went off to stay with Freya in St Andrews for the weekend so I was able to spend a day making stencils for the evening class that I am starting on printed textiles. I have no idea whether I have done the right homework but I have a choice of paper cuts. I had a go at cutting Warli figures that I had seen painted on a wall at the Craft Museum in Delhi. They are like stick figures with triangular bodies, often dancing around in circle. I saw so many inspiring textiles and designs in India but I have no idea yet how I will work them into a quilt. I spent hours looking up various Indian folk art styles as I would like to make a quilt inspired by a painting that I did not buy because it was too expensive. What I really need to do is learn a mantra such as, “Keep it Small and Simple!”

  

One thing I did allow myself to do for fun was some really uneven Kantha stitching on a chevron print that was started in an introductory workshop in Jaipur. I find this type of hand sewing therapeutic since it does not have to be particularly neat and judging by the stitching on the reverse of my pink sari quilt, ends are just knotted with no fancy nonsense of sewing in ends. I am unlikely to become a hand sewing convert but I rather like the excuse of keeping my supplies in my Indian tiffin tin just in case I need to take it out with me.

My final job of the week was to transfer my little packets of Indian dye into jars. I wore surgical gloves because one of the packets had a puncture. I have no idea of the exact colours, strength or recipe to use so the results will be interesting and hopefully intense. 

Experiences, Palaces and Bazaars

Standard

Monday morning started early with Yoga Mediation at 7.00am. The instructor told us to  Love Ourselves and relax every part of the body, including our ear lobes while we laid down on the floor. Mediation is really not in my psyche and I thought it was hilarious that she walked around the room with incredibly squeaky flip-flops, texting and posing for Instagram photos while everyone had their eyes closed. 

 

 

After breakfast a Henna artist expertly drew Mendhi paste designs on our arms and hands. I asked for a Lakshmi owl on the palm of my hand but I think she invented a new creature that was part monkey – to balance the chimera I had a fantastical peacock applied onto my left arm. 

Everyone spent the rest of the morning relaxing, hand-sewing and in my case, trying to write up a very long blog post about all of the sights and adventures.

It was Pam’s birthday and later that afternoon we boarded our little bus that had been garlanded with balloons and streamers by the driver and his assistant. Our mystery trip was a visit to an NGO orphanage for 25 girls, most of whom were affected by HIV. The matron gave us a tour then the beautifully behave children gave us a concert, showing off their dance routines – to a mix of Bollywood and Western pop music. They presented Pam with a flower garland, cake, home-made birthday card and sang “Happy Birthday” in English. Somehow, Pam persuaded me to perform a Scottish dance and from somewhere in the depths of my memory I did them a clumsy version of a Highland Fling. Afterwards we made friends with a few of the children who could understand some English. They attend a local school like “normal” children during the day and stay in the orphanage until they are 18, after which they are set up with jobs. There is still a stigma about HIV in India, often caused by prostitution, drug use and lack of medical care, so this can be difficult. The ladies in charge were called “Auntie” by the children and they seemed to have a positive, family-like relationship. I was told that my new friend, 10 year old Vashnavi, had lost both of her parents to HIV/Aids by the age of 3 but she is relatively fortunate since she has property to inherit when she becomes an adult. The matron was keen for us to share our encounter with the children on social media in order to raise awareness of the charity, The Aangan Care Home. www.nayasawera.org 

   

After our uplifting and humbling experience at the orphanage Govind invited us for snacks and drinks at his house where we met his family. His wife had been involved in a scooter accident and hurt her knee so his Mum had been busy in the kitchen preparing delicious pakoras. I think she probably had a wicked sense of humour and I wished I could invent an app for instant free-flowing translation. 

That evening the tailors returned with my new, improved trousers. The flowery velvet pair has one pink leg and one that is mostly lime green. I have no idea what I will wear with such flamboyant flares back in Scotland!

Our trip was accelerating to an end so on Tuesday we packed in a full morning of sightseeing. I was not sure what to expect at the Royal Observatory, but I was amazed. The Jantar Mantar monument in Jaipur, Rajasthan is a collection of nineteen architectural astronomical instruments built by the Rajput king Sawai Jai Singh II, and completed in 1734. It features the world’s largest stone sundial, which is pretty accurate by the way, and it is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The architecture was angular and looked incredibly modern – each sign of the zodiac had a viewing station and flights of steps enabled both astronomers and astrologers the ideal platform for studying the stars. I had no idea that astrology was so important in Indian culture. Our guide had explained during one of his many entertaining stories that if an astrologer came up with a mismatch during an arranged marriage proposal then everything would be called off. 

   

Despite the intense heat of the day our next stop was the nearby Royal City Palace complex, a vast collection of beautiful buildings, courtyards, gardens and museums, one of which contains a wide variety of textiles such as the royal formal costumes, sanganeri block prints, embroidered shawls, Kashmiri pashminas, silk saris and also the voluminous outfits worn by Sawai Madhosingh I, a large chap who was 1.2 metres wide and weighed 250 kilograms but nevertheless, had 108 wives.

   

In the Diwan-I-Khas or the “Hall of Private Audience”, a marble-floored chamber, are two huge sterling silver vessels called Gangajelies / Ganges-water urns, each standing 1.6 metres tall, with capacity of 4000 litres and weighing 340 kilograms. They were made from 14,000 melted silver coins and hold the Guinness World Record as the world’s largest sterling silver vessels. These enormous pots were specially made for Maharaja Sawai Madho Singh II, who was a highly pious Hindu, to carry the water of the Ganges to drink on his trip to England in 1901. He did not want to commit religious sin by consuming the English water, or indeed contract cholera from the polluted River Thames. Several magnificent Bohemian crystal chandeliers hung from the ceiling in an opulently decorated room with a Pashmina carpet so huge that it had to be folded to fit within the space.

 

The courtyard leading to the Chandra Mahal, was the most imposing of the palace buildings, where four small gates are elaborately adorned with motifs and carvings representing the four seasons and Hindu gods.

  

Escaping the heat we stopped for lunch at the very grand Samode Haveli, an oasis of richly decorated rooms and gardens. It was incredible that such a place, now a tenth of its original size was situated within the bustling city.

  

My fellow tourists decided that they would return to the hotel to snooze or swim but I persuaded Kathy from California to accompany me on an adventure to the bazaar. We were dropped off on the street and wandered into the narrow alleys in search of bargains. We did not exactly know where we were headed, it was a maze of tiny shops, some only 4 feet square. It was overwhelming and not easy to find the small items of haberdashery such as thread, mirrors and pompom trim which were on my shopping list. I did buy a couple of rolls of brocade ribbon that may come in handy one day. 

   

Taking our lives into our hands we managed to cross the street on at least 3 occasions. You just have to start walking, holding your arms out to slow down the relentless beeping scooters and tuktuks. I stopped at a shop that sold metal cookware and negotiated the purchase of a small tiffin tin, spice box, sev cutter and a heavy cooking wok but passed on a milk churn which I did not really “need”. We wandered up a secret alley of tailors and finally found a shop selling shot cottons which I had been looking for all through my trip but was now running short on funds and luggage space. Crossing the street again we found a shop that sold indigo prints and clothes. We hailed a tuktuk and made a chaotic 30 minute journey back to the hotel with purchases stuffed into a flour sack. 

Sadly, that evening was our farewell group dinner. Pam and Govind thanked us for being such a friendly, fun group of travellers and hoped we would be inspired by our trip and remain friends on social media. 

On Wednesday day morning I made an abortive attempt at packing. I wished I had not bought a large quilt since I was finding it tricky to pack up my metalware and fabric purchases. A brave few ventured back to the bazaar for a last rake around. Amazingly, I managed to relocate the tailors’ alley where more shot cotton was purchases and the indigo shopkeeper remembered me and asked where Kathy was that morning. 

   

We enjoyed a last lassi yogurt drink in a terracotta cup from a street vendor and I bought 2 large bags of henna, thinking that it would be interesting to try block printing with it. As we were loading up the bus with our luggage I realised that I would need an extra suitcase as I would not be able to fit all of my last minute purchases into my hand luggage. We flew from Jaipur to Delhi and from the air could see what a huge city it is. Most of the lights seen from above were from traffic. There were large dark spaces where it was either parkland or areas without electricity. Incredibly, the population of that one city equals the entire population of Scotland. At Dehli we said farewell to our American friends and the Antipodean contingent and myself stayed overnight at a posh hotel 10 minutes from Indira Ghandi International airport. It was a pity that I only had 6 hours to enjoy such luxury before flying out in the morning. Yet again, I was struck that foreign visitors have access to unlimited water for showers, swimming pools and air-conditioning while so many people live hand to mouth on the streets. 

 

It was a bit of a faff getting into the airport without a printed boarding pass but eventually I found myself wandering the airport shops, trying to blow the last of my rupees on a tin of masala chai and trinkets which were far more expensive than those “knack-knicks” dangled in from of us by street hawkers. During the crowded 9 hour flight to London I dozed and half watched 3 Bollywood movies. Even the comedies made reference to corruption and illiteracy. I had planned to sort out my photos on the flight but there was not really enough room in Economy to do that comfortably.

Aberdeen was wet and chilly when I arrived in the evening. Nella, Fergus and Bumble were pleased to see me and I loved the “Welcome Home “ banner that Nell had made with her friends, complete with cut-out paper monkeys, elephants and a Taj Mahal. 

On Friday I sorted through my exploded suitcases which took a considerable time. I was pleased with my fabric purchases but wished I had bought more little things. I cooked up a feast of pakoras and vegetable curries, just making up the recipes as I went along. The steel cooking pan worked a treat over my camping gas stove and I can’t wait to have a go at making sev / bombay mix.

All weekend I tried to finish writing up my blog and upload photos of which there are more than 1000. It was difficult to keep up with the blog while in India because we did so much and I was glad that I had at least scribbled down rough notes to remind myself what we did each day. I think I did not really want to finish writing my India blog because that would mean that my wonderful trip had come to an end. I loved every minute of my experience and hope I can return to explore the richness of India in future. 

In the meantime, I have unavoidably started a new To Do list, starting with some customer quilting in an attempt to boost my dwindling bank account so I can fund further adventures!