Category Archives: Adventures with Animals

Short but Productive Week

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After catching up on a whole heap of laundry including foosty sleeping bags, I had to tackle some long overdue paperwork. Even Bumble found this chore dull – I wondered where she had gone for a sulk then discovered she had gone into sleep mode under my desk, camouflaged on a black sheepskin rug.

Because I had spent weeks working on BzB, I had a few customer quilts to tackle before I got caught up in preparations for Festival of Quilts. Luckily they were all modesty sized so I managed to complete FOUR in the few days I had left in a short week. I successfully dealt with a couple of short backings, wavy borders and one or two burst seams.

I have two more large quilts to do before I can plan my FOQ demos and pack my bags, all still in the throes of the kids’ summer holidays, sleepovers and dietary requirements ranging from pescatarian and veggie to borderline vegan (don’t ask)!

Lazy Summer Days and Christmas in July

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Our second week in Norfolk was spent happily not doing anything in particular, apart from spending time with friends and family whom we generally only see once a year. We had a trip to Norwich which is almost completely pedestrianised in the centre and has a decidedly continental air, compared to Aberdeen. The kids bought some old vinyl records and even cassettes since the Landy has a very basic radio. They actually enjoyed rummaging in vintage shops this year!

Bumble got to know the neighbourhood dogs on her daily walk which is a novelty because we don’t meet anybody at home. The girls were fascinated by how passing dog owners chat to each other about their doggy friends.

We picked some delicious, jammy raspberries to make a summer pudding as a side order for Christmas pudding… My Dad had been in hospital over Christmas, following a serious car accident so the 19-pound turkey that he ordered was deposited into the freezer. The kids made paper hats from newspaper, hung some festive bunting and played a Christmas tunes playlist. My Mother, Sister, Freya and I prepared all the usual Christmas trimmings, including brussels sprouts. It was really good fun to have a turkey dinner in July without everything else going on that Christmas usually involves. Maybe we should make it a new family tradition.

Our last lazy day in Norfolk was spent loading up the camping gear and lashing 3 Persian carpets from my folks’ attic, wrapped in a tarpaulin onto the Landy’s roof rack. The kids were not enthused by the prospect of a long drive home but at least we had the “new” compilation tapes from 1988 to play in the Landy on the way home.

A Week in the North West Highlands

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I did not actually look at a map before getting off for somewhere in the North West Highlands so I was a little surprised by how far north it was. We took the scenic route to Inverness, followed a “normal” 2-lane road to Ullapool then a single track road with free-range sheep and passing places for more than 20 miles. Despite the wet weather, the scenery was breathtaking. The craggy mountains were obviously extinct volcanoes and there were many mini lochs on the way.

The super cottage that we rented from friends in Achiltibuie had stunning views over a sea-loch, the Summer Isles and the Isle of Lewis. We could walk down a track to a stony beach and spot seals bobbing about near the shore.

I spent a lazy week chilling out with my 3 kids and Bumble with no pressure to go anywhere or do anything in particular. We dabbled about on the beach, took a drive into town when it rained all day, had fish and chips, and a chilly boat trip to a small island which had a cafe in a shed. I took some paperwork which I ignored and a notebook which remained unopened. We read books, watched a couple of films and listened to music. Bumble enjoyed herself on the beach and was very happy to travel in the Landy as long as she could drink water out of a tin mug and get some dog snacks from my rucksack.

 

It did not quite rain all week, which was just as well after the Landy’s windscreen wipers conked out. I only had to wear shorts once (with a wool cardigan), spent most of the week wearing wellies yet still ended up with a sun/wind tanned face.

Everyone had a great time in the wilds with very little to do. There was actually more bickering during the one day at home when we had to do laundry and repack for our epic trip to England!

BzB is Done and Summer Hols Begin!

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It took a few hours to sew the reverse of BzB’s binding by hand as I had to make sure that the stitches did not show at all. I decided to make a top sleeve in the end so if quilt judges don’t think the back is up to scratch then it will have to come off at a later stage. I added a subtle label to the pieced side and blocked it to straighten out the edges. It was not measured scientifically so I hope its weight will make it hang well enough.

  

I remembered that Shield Maiden is also going to FOQ – it did not seem to have been blocked before and also required a label. After getting both of the quilts ready to pack I had that weird feeling that I experience after finishing every major project. It is a combination of not being able to believe it is complete and also wondering what I should be doing to fill my time. I even considered preparing some piecing to take on holiday but thankfully I decided that several bottles of wine and some good books would do just as well.

I loaded the kids, booze, festival trolley, bucket BBQ, and Bumble into the Landy late on Saturday morning and we set off on our road-trip to a cottage near Ullapool in North West Scotland. We took the scenic route, the last part of which was on single-track roads with sheep roaming freely. The cottage has magnificent views over Broom (sea) Loch and the Summer Isles. The weather forecast for the week is poor but we packed plenty of sensible clothing although Fergus may been seen wearing a floral raincoat because he decided against taking his own waterproof.

  

We spent Sunday pottering around on the rocky shore, glimpsing seals in the waves. Bumble was exhausted after scrambling gamely over the rocks. Surprisingly, nobody else wanted to sample limpets boiled in seawater and I have to report that my curiosity is now satisfied. Without any parsley, garlic or butter to hand, they are gross! We have no major plans for our week apart from some exploring, fish and chips, and contentedly watching rain stream down the windows. If the sun comes out it will be a bonus but not essential for  us to enjoy a fun holiday.

Phase 5 of BzB = DONE!

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I reckon you could say that so far BzB has had 5 main phases so far – the piecing, designing/drawing/tracing the whole cloth pattern, quilting the main motifs, quilting the background and finally, after a very long 2 weeks – the colouring/painting. I have to admit that this stage felt everlasting at times. I even got a blister on my pencil-gripping finger callous. I listened to repeats of repeats on the radio but I am now very up date with current affairs.

 

I ordered a battery operated pencil sharpener which is even more satisfying to use than my school-teacher hand crank one and I find that one pretty entertaining.

The next stage is to quilt around the main motifs again with wool thread which will be SCARY! I have even agreed with myself to do less stitching than I had originally considered but even so, it will probably take around 10 days if all goes well.

 

Bumble has been someone to talk to in my self-imposed exile, just making herself comfy on the floor nearby. Or even, making herself comfy on humans who happen to be lying on the floor, always keeping a weather eye out for grumpy, nose-out-of-joint cats;)

Beezlebub’s Endurance Test

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I can’t remember a quilt project being quite as all consuming as Beelzebub since the Yurt or The Smart Car. If anything, this quilt is even more intense as there is a tight deadline  to get it finished in time for FOQ, taking into account the school holidays, and I want it to be over and beyond a basic bastardisation of a whole cloth quilt. If I had more time I would probably even add even more extras such as beads.

   

My days have involved at least 9 hours scribbling away with Derwent Intense pencils, carefully adding aloe-vera gel without splurging any onto the quilt background and using the smallest possible paintbrushes to add metallic paint highlights. I have not been anywhere or seen anyone except for a mad dash to the grocery shop for essentials or walking the dogs in the persistent rain. My emails remain unanswered and a pile of unopened post is stacking up on my desk.

The General Election largely passed me by, apart from the incessant analysis on Radio 4. I am now convinced that one of the characters from farming soap, The Archers, will either die or run away at the Isle of Wight Festival just to spice the listeners’ lives up a bit. I think that most of the British Public will feel strike poses like Bumble if we are faced with yet another election in the near future…

If I manage to put in the same amount of time in the coming week I may just finish the colouring to allow a maximum of two weeks for the second quilting on the large motifs. That is actually beginning to worry me – do I honestly think I can stitch right on top of the previous stitching with wool thread, around the coloured or painted sections with absolutely nowhere to hide?

It would be nice to think that the next project I do may be slightly easier or at least smaller;)

A Much Appreciated Temporary P.A.

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It was an absolute boon to have Freya at home at a bit of a loose end for her Spring Break from Uni. Most of her friends were either away travelling or had different holidays. It was so helpful to be able to text her with instructions to switch the oven on or rustle up a batch of chocolate brownies. She even did the catering for a class of ladies who were here for a day of improv curved piecing.

I enjoyed her company for dog-walks and morning coffee, and she proved to be a very good chicken whisperer. Within 24 hours of asking if anyone had hens for sale on Facebook, we had 4 new layers, 2 of whom immediately tested the defences and worked out that they could easily escape using a vertical take-off method. We rounded them up and gave their wing feathers a trim, returning them to the chicken run so we don’t lose their eggs in hidden nests amongst the nettles.

  

I marked a piece of Bosal interfacing with a Frixion pen and quilted circles onto a piece of fuchsia fake leather. I used a small curved ruler to quilt inside the circles then “organically” freehanded the background. It is far too long since I did this type of quilting just for fun and I really enjoyed it, despite having to slow down after bending a needle that was too fine for the job. I should have used leather needles but I did not have any left so I used a metallic needle instead. It was tricky when using the acrylic ruler base because it kept sticking to the fake leather underneath – next time I will just use the Frixion pen on the “pleather” side, not the reverse. This piece will have some accent embroidery stitching around the circles then will be made into a simple leather tote. It is a sample for one of the classes that I will be teaching in Germany in a couple of weeks.

The other project will be a sampler quilt of machine quilting. I have decided to quilt the background first on this occasion then add fancy circles afterwards. I don’t know how I came to order cotton sateen fabric with added spandex but I managed not to get any weird puckers in the automated curved line quilting.

I had a very cultured weekend starting with taking Nella to “Blood Brothers” at His Majesty’s Theatre in Aberdeen. The show was fantastic with amazing performances, clever scenery and it ended with a much deserved standing ovation. Freya and I went to see Nell in her choir concert on Saturday morning then we went off to see the new Disney version of “Beauty and the Beast”, starring Emma Watson at the cinema. We enjoyed it as a spectacle far more than “La La Land” and now want to dress like French peasant girls in long pantaloons, Provencal layered skirts and espadrilles;)

Tricky Custom

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I am very impressed with my new Swiss-Army style Bernina seam ripper. A DIY customer was using an automated quilt design on a Dresden Plate quilt that had fulness issues where it had been appliqued onto a large background square. I was able to release a few of the stitching lines then freehand the fullness in without so many puckers.

  

Something came up to scupper my plans for the rest of the week…

I should have had plenty of nice photos of a small custom quilt that came in as a rush job this week but it ended up biting me in the bum so I have decided not post photos of it. I should have known better than to agree to fit something as complex into a 4 day slot, especially as the new customer phoned 3 times and paid a visit before I even sewed a stitch. Her instructions were extremely specific – ditch and ruler work only. Since I have been longarm quilting for almost 10 years I should have been able to judge more accurately how long the job would take but I just told her my hourly rate and said I was not sure how long it would take to ditch all of the tiny pieces on the quilt until I got started. When I phoned to tell her that the job had taken 9 ½ hours she was horrified and sharply informed me that she did not intend to pay for that much quilting. Like a wimp, I met her halfway because I had not provided an accurate quote up front. Important lessons learned: be more realistic when estimating time that a custom quilt may take, stick to my guns on pricing, remember not to quilt for that customer in future!

I placed an online fabric order for some solids that I will use to make a project for my classes in Germany and as long as they arrive in good time I WILL be making samples up this week and hoping to make a “pleather” tote that I hope my students will also make. I have finished something for Freya’s birthday but I can’t show photos of that either;)

I have Freya home from Uni for a week which is lovely. She spent an exciting week in Marrakesh with friends having adventures and she brought me some fragrant spices.I was her sous-chef when she replicated a delicious Moroccan feast. Since we had some decent spring weather, she took charge of the operation of relocating the ramshackle hen run. We spent a couple of hours scrubbing the hen-house and detangling the fencing from nettles and itself before rounding up our one remaining “feral” chicken. We were rewarded with a lovely fresh egg! Now that we have an escape proof again run we can get a few more hens or even ducks to keep us supplied so we don’t have to go out and buy eggs:)

Flotsam

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It is unusual for Aberdeenshire to be featured on the BBC’s national news several days running but after 8 days of persistent rain, our area suffered its worst floods in almost 200 years. There was an unbelievable video of a static caravan being washed down the River Dee and shots of 400 year old Abergeldie Castle, near Braemar, perching precariously after 60 ft of riverbank was washed away.

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The local school was closed and many roads were awash with flood water and water running down off the land. I took my girls into Aberdeen for an orthodontist checkup but we had to figure out a route home that was mostly on higher ground as most of the bridges were closed to traffic. Despite its many rattles and clanks, the Landy did a sterling job of ploughing through deep water, even though it has a conventional exhaust rather than a snorkel.

Luckily, our house is several metres above the river so we were not at risk from flooding but many homes and businesses have been badly affected. The awful weather put me in a gloomy, sluggish mood and I found it difficult to get motivated when daylight was so sparse. Instead of getting back to normal in my workshop, I had to dig an emergency trench to stop water seeping in under the doorframe. There was no damage other than a soggy carpet that will eventually out.

Welly, the mad spaniel, decided to chase ducks in the raging torrent and was whooshed to the other side of the river. Not being a sensible dog, he attempted to swim back again and was swept along until he reached our side, much further downstream. He was not in the least bit bothered by his near death experience and was keen to give chase again so I will have to stick to walking the muddy fields beside my house for a while. Freya and I came across more flotsam after the river receded so we salvaged a garden chair and a large, very clean swede.

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The only really useful things I did during this rather uninspired week were to file my tax return, make some sourdough bread, reorganise my spice drawers, and finally finish quilting the Red and Black Purdah Quilt.

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I had hoped to love the long staple black cotton thread made in the UK by Empress Mills but even though I lowered the tension significantly and went VERY slowly, it kept breaking. I could not wait to order 50 wt cotton from Aurifil or Mettler so I used black Isacord instead. I can see why quilters are recommended to press seams to one side – I had used a pale grey piecing thread and pressed the bulky seams open but now I can see the seam stitches! I will either have to see if I can disguise them with a black gel pen or choose a dense machine embroidery stitch to cover them up, which will take ages.

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I am optimistic that I will achieve more in the coming week and maybe even start on the multi-coloured Purdah Quilt. Alternatively, I will procrastinate and start reorganising the kitchen cupboards…

Footling and Fixing

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I don’t know what it is about coming home after a trip – I always seem to footle about for days worrying about catching up with emails, phone calls and putting everything back in its correct place before I feel ready to get back to normal. The only sewing I did was to attach name labels to school uniform. I must have bought enough new stationery to open my own educational establishment.

I secretly welcomed the persistent rain which “allowed” me to make up flyers to advertise DIY quilting with The Quilt Quine and concentrate on writing the pattern for Tartan Tattoo. I could easily have made and photographed an entirely new quilt in the time it took me to relearn EQ7 and dismiss using the Paper 53 drawing app on the iPad. I have now made myself a crib sheet for the next time I forget how to use quilt design software. I plan to sell the pattern as a download somehow.

It was fun to be featured on the Oakshott blog

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and to see myself looking daft on the Bernina Nordic webinar at FOQ

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This went some way to make up for the disappointment that Bifrost was not placed at The World Quilt Show in the face of stiff competition.

The girls decided to make ice cream with our wild cherries but they did not want to bother me when I was typing away so they used the wrong paddle in the Kitchenaid and sheared one of the internal gears. I tried not to be annoyed and ordered the necessary spare parts from Ebay. As I had already completed this major operation previously, it took me a fraction of the time, less hammering and minimal swearing to get it working again. The repair cost me £10, as opposed to an unknown bill from a repair man or buying a new mixer for over £400! I made a huge chocolate and cherry cake for a friend’s birthday using a 40+ year old Kenwood Chefette, substituting several of the ingredients in my usual fashion. It would not have won any prizes for finesse but it tasted great and we struggled to finish our generous slices.

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I phoned Farmer Raymond to let him know that a spirited young heifer had escaped from the field and it was making the rest of the herd panic. It turned out that he was enjoying himself in a pub on holiday so I pulled my wellies on and chased it through wet, waist-high barley until it jumped back over the dry stone dyke. I mended the live electric fence that had been pulled down and sternly told the cows to calm down.

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At least it did not take me long to dry out, unlike Freya’s Gold D of E team who canoed 60 miles in 4 days from Fort William to Inverness on their qualifying expedition. They have benefitted enormously from their D of E adventures, gaining independence, determinedly battling some challenging conditions and making  lasting friendships.

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I have 2 customer quilts to crack on with this week and I want some time to experiment  with some new techniques on my Bernina longarm so I can get going on the long-abandoned BzB project over the winter…

Between the Lines

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Most of my week was spent in my workshop or making official complaints of some sort. I really had to give a courier company based in the south of England “what for” when they failed to deliver the Bernina Q24 yet again. They wanted to deliver it next week while I am in Cardiff so I need to get a babysitter in otherwise I will have to rejoin the queue and may have to wait up to 3 more weeks. I don’t believe they will be asked to transport to the wilds of Scotland again. I called Fedex to arrange for the Quilted Yurt to be sent to Paducah and they picked it up the very next day. So it is on to its way to a deserving new home in the USA, complete with its textile visa. I would love to visit it there and tell its story!

Without the Q24, I had to carry on doing some quilting on the Tartan quilt with Millie otherwise it will never be done in time for FOQ or for OEQC. Obviously, I must leave a good proportion so that the Q24 can do a fair chunk. I will certainly let it do all of the lines – my clumsy longarm brake kept slipping and the woven shot-cotton fabrics were nowhere near as taut as they could be so I spent a frustratingly long time unpicking some of the unsatisfactory, wobbly lines.

I came across a couple of creative writing journals from College. It was funny to come across a script and some short stories written longhand in fountain pen well before the days of word-processing. I had completely forgotten the doomed play and the dysfunctional cast members. Some of it was obviously written in a hurry the night before the deadline but some showed promise – the tutor’s comments were either full of praise or downright offensive;)

In my capacity as Chairperson of the Parent Council, I attended a meeting with a representative of the local education authority to put forward my objections about cutting a teacher from Durris Primary because the school roll has dropped slightly, particularly when a new Headteacher has not yet been appointed. Our concerns were duly noted and ignored despite my attempts to bamboozle her with some impressive big words. I think she may have been slightly intimidated by my Paddington stares.

Thistle has been busy murdering creatures and is obviously so satiated that she can’t be bothered to eat most of her victims. The canny cows escaped a few more times but we managed to alert the farmer before they wandered onto the main road. Freya enjoyed her first driving lesson and impressed herself by driving along the High Street in Banchory. Less impressive was my made-from-scratch custard which may have curdled just a little. By the time I added more cream and rhubarb and churned it in the ice-cream maker the slightly grainy texture was almost imperceptible.

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I took the female half of Freya’s D of E team to another canoe practice on the River Dee and the Canoe Guru was most impressed with the girls. She is now fully kitted out with neoprene trousers, thermals, a handful of carabiners and a 122 decibel rescue whistle, ready for an expedition on Loch Tay next weekend.

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I will be in Cardiff most of this week, doing Q24 training with some of the UK Bernina dealers. Luckily, I will have a whole day to familiarise myself with the machine before they arrive and when I get home my Q24 should be waiting for me. However, I’m not sure whether I will manage to unpack it before returning to Cardiff the following week since I have to take the D of E team to Perthshire and drag Fergus to his guitar exam!

True to Form

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Despite telling myself that the Tartan quilt should have simple and minimal quilting, typically and as expected, I seem to have let myself get carried away with rather a lot of ruler work and tiny, tiny spirals. I decided that I needed to continue quilting on my Millie until the Bernina Q24 arrives and I can swap the quilt over onto the new machine otherwise it would never be anywhere near ready to exhibit at FOQ in August. This was the only project that I worked on all week yet I only managed to complete 8 inches across the quilt! There was an element of changing my mind as I went along and some time-consuming unpicking so maybe I will get faster now that I have decided what I am doing.

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There are a few small rectangles that I am not happy with but picking out the offending micro stitching is not feasible. I have to confess that I am not always successful at quilting truly straight lines. Mind you, I really wanted to quilt lines that were ⅓” apart but the hopping foot and rulers are marked in ¼” increments. I tried to mark a ¾” grid but this did not fit nicely into the blocks. I don’t know why I always seem to want to over complicated the maths! The thing that I found most annoying was that my ruler base does not feel big or stable enough for long diagonals and curves. I also wish I had chosen a printed fabric for the back rather than plain, pale grey because every snaggy thread and wobbly line will show unless I have time to disguise them with paint.

Fergus has been warned by his guitar teacher that unless he concentrated on playing scales and working on technique, he will not pass his forthcoming exam. Instead, he downloaded the latest Muse album and played for 6 hours solid until he had worked out all of the riffs. I don’t suppose I can blame him for inheriting a lack of concentration. I looked at some old blog posts to remind myself about the inspiration and techniques used for some of the Yurt panels in order to complete their descriptions and I kept coming across myself going off at tangents and never getting to the end of my endless To Do lists…

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We had a few days of glorious summer weather that I missed by stitching away in my workshop but one evening I drove Freya’s D of E team up to Aboyne to do some more paddling practice for their Gold Expedition. It is unusual for us to be able to sit outside in shirt-sleeves beside the river in the evening but the weather was perfect and the kids were even getting sunburned after 8pm.

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The next morning was typically grey and foggy. While the kids waited for the school bus, they spotted escaped cows wandering towards the main road. Some of the calves had jumped over a tumble-down dyke so the whole herd followed and tramped around the gateless barley field. I shooed them back in the right direction and just as the farmer arrived to sort them out, they trotted back off back to their own field pretending that nothing untoward had happened. It was rather nice to pretend to be a Lady Farmer for 10 minutes without any of the responsibility;)

Tubular

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My final science lesson at Nell’s school was all about the digestive system, including a demonstration that involved cold porridge and an old pair of tights. After they made a fake stomach from a ziploc bag, oatcakes and orange juice her class told me that my lessons had been “awesome” so that was nice! Midweek it was their turn to impress me at their impressive school show where they sang a medley of at least 20 Scottish, Abba, and pop songs all learned off by heart.

Nell sat her Grade 2 piano exam and afterwards we went to our favourite music shop in Aberdeen to choose some new music. I asked the guys there how much it would be to purchase a proper xylophone with resonators (dangly tubes). They informed me that no-one had ever asked about that instrument in over 20 years. It turns out that you can buy a naff one or an orchestral version costing several thousand pounds so I don’t think we will be adding that to our over-crowded music room!

My customer quilt this week was a “Northern Lights” pattern pieced by Trixie, who usually brings me double-wedding-rings. It was in super bright colours so I quilted a variety of background fillers using a selection of neon threads.

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I mass produced some bias-binding using Oakshott fabrics for the leather skins thinking that I could bind them first then bead them later if necessary. The small, green skin now has all of its embellishments. A nosy child at swimming who wanted to know what I was sewing while I waited for Nell observed that it “looked like a garden” so I must have captured the idea of Spring convincingly.

I collected a couple of 14 ft long hefty cardboard tubes from the local carpet warehouse to try and figure out a way of covering them economically for the 9 remaining totems. I phoned a small company in the West Country called “Foam 4 Home” to discuss my requirements and a knowledgeable chap talked me through what I should really do to make fat tubes of differing diameters using sheets of foam, spray adhesive and an electric carving knife. The carpet tubes ended up as camp fire fuel. I am hoping that if I can assemble everything for the 9 columns in kit form than it might not seem like such a formidable task.

Beginning to feel the pressure for completing the Ebook this year, I uploaded lots more photos of quilt sketches and prepared another “5 Bar Gate” wall-hanging so its progress can be properly photographed in stages. I also ordered a Mac version of EQ7 that is meant to help with diagrams and working out fabric quantities. I don’t really feel that I used EQ6 successfully on my previous laptop so I need to be prepared to make this version work for me.

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We settled four new hybrid point-of-lay hens into their purple shack so we will wait with baited breath to see which one lays first. It definitely feels like spring now so I hope it is not too long before I am thinking up a variety of ways of how to use up a surplus of eggs.

 

Volcanoes, Moquette and Invisible Mice

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I had a busy and varied week. I was booked to teach in school on 4 days and give two talks/demos but wintry weather threw in a couple of diversions to this plan. I gave a talk to a local WRI which seemed to go down well. I was expected to judge the competitions for “best hyacinth bulb” and “vegetarian supper for one”. I was the lucky recipient of two raffle prizes, comprising a set of ladies’ embroidered hankies and a rubber ball on a keyring that would hold spare carrier bags for emergency shopping. It is a good job that I found my evening so entertaining since they were not actually joking when they said that my Speaker’s Fee would be the delicious Refreshments. I was a little surprised: at least, the meringues were delicious.

We have been trying hard not to hurt Bluecat’s feelings by laughing at her clumsy attempts to catch the invisible mice that live deep inside the walls of our old farmhouse. She has a habit of not paying attention and frequently falls straight off the end of the windowsill. The other day she tried out a proper cat stunt of taking a running jump from kitchen stool to table but the stool slipped and she went flying off in a very uncool move which she was unable to make look deliberate. She glared grumpily and stalked off for a sulk in her shopping basket.

I had an enjoyable week in school with a Primary 6 class that was half its usual size since all of the P7’s were away on a residential trip. Without the aid of any special training courses, we had fun building volcanic islands out of snow which erupted with a mixture of vinegar, bicarb and food colouring. The class carried out research on 3 tropical islands and   found out all sorts of fascinating facts about komodo dragons, vanilla, tomato frogs and maps. We all learned how to sing two songs in sign language as we had a very talented signing expert who supports a profoundly deaf child.

I was meant to teach a workshop on Wednesday so I turned down a day of teaching in school. In the end, the workshop was also cancelled due to snow so I gained a day in my workshop, albeit unpaid. I expect that it was due to having bonus time that I made two disastrous attempts at bias binding. The first time round I did not have enough of a particular fabric and the next time I cut a perfectly good piece of fabric into too many triangles for some bizarre reason. I ditched the “clever” method in the end and simply cut off 45 degree strips and sewed them together.

I had been cold in bed the night before so instead of going to look for an extra quilt I thought I might like to make a new one. I spent some time browsing at fabric online before telling myself that I could use up leftover Aboriginal prints. I tried out a new-to-me simple method of making half square triangles and decided that the next time I am bored I will  simply piece odds and ends until I have a bed quilt sized project. Obviously, I already have unquilted projects that I could quite easily turn into a new quilt for my bed but I had a passing fancy to start something new.

I managed to sew a few more gemstones onto the white leather piece and I joined sections of the freestyle pieced curvy strips together. All I need now is the extra large foam bolster that I will turn into the first Celtic totem post.

The other project that I have been working on is an ancient bedcover that Mo asked me to quilt for a client. It is made from some sort of cotton fabric that is very fragile and crewel work that seems to be made from moquette or jute. I am simply stippling the background down onto calico, wool wadding and backing but it did not take long for me to realise that most of the embroidery was no longer firmly attached. I am quilting slowly right over all of it and it is rather like quilting a carpet. It is really amazing what my APQS longarm machine can cope with – silk, spandex, leather, carpetty stuff… This project has not been fun so I confess that I have been stopping frequently to look up fountain pens, beads, ex London Underground moquette cushions, and sealing wax on Ebay.

 

A Difficult Week

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An irate school secretary phoned on Monday morning to find out why I had not turned up at school. I was mortified until I checked that it was not on any of my calendars so I suspected that it was most likely not my error since I write teaching commitments down while I am still on the phone! As I felt that my Houston entry was under control, I nipped into town to buy some summer shoes. On the way home the North Sea haar came rolling in and the temperature dropped by 10 degrees.

I stapled a sheet to the summerhouse then pinned the Norse Trilogy up for clear, bright photos:  a flat-shot of the whole piece and also close-up of the quilting detail. Next I printed out the entry forms and read to my horror that the entries MUST be submitted on a CD, accompanied by a printed photo. This contradicted the information elsewhere on the website that stated that pictures could be submitted via email. I soon discovered that overseas courier services are not as efficient as they claim to be if you live in North East Scotland. I was granted a one day extension to get my CD to Houston and UPS promised to deliver it on time. It was nerve-racking tracking the package as it hung around somewhere else in Texas for a while but it looks like it made it eventually. I learned an expensive lesson that I should become more organised with quilt show entries and there is no guarantee that it will even make it into the show.

My pride was injured this week when I studied the judging sheet from the Loch Lomond Show and I noted that I did not achieve “Excellent” for quilting technique, tension and construction.  I honestly wondered how it could have been improved!

After all of that stress, I decided to clear my in-tray of paperwork and discovered that I had forgotten to send in the information on my entry for FOQ so I quickly measured it up, wrote the blurb and rushed to buy first class stamps. This all seems to indicate that I am trying to do too much or that I really do need a personal assistant.

I was surprised to see a man peel the lids off butter in the local supermarket, dip his finger in and check the taste. He saw me watching him then turned around to open up another tub. It was revolting but sometimes I wonder if I will behave like that when I am old?

I made a start on an unusual customer quilt: it was a hand pieced hexagon quilt that is only 32 inches wide but 96 inches long, backed with a jacquard ready-made curtain. Its owner does not actually have a plan for it as she says that it does not match anything in her house. My machine can sew through army canvas, tweed, lame, and oilcloth but it really hated the jacquard so I had to quilt slowly. Several of the seams started opening up so I had to be very careful. Now that it has its glazed chintz binding it looks quite cute so maybe it will get taken on a picnic or laid at the end of a bed if it is lucky 😉

For two days I taught the class that the rest of the teaching staff dreads. It would be an understatement to say that several of the children had issues with behaviour… Frankly, it was a gruelling teaching experience and I was glad when I made it to 3.15pm on Friday.

When I got home I could see that our little black & white cat, Bitzi was not all well. She had been suffering with some sort of digestive problem for a while, not helped by consuming whole rabbits, fur and all. Over the past week she just started looking thin and scruffy so we took her to the vet surgery. They told us that she was very sick and the prognosis did not look good. It was upsetting that she was so weak that they found it difficult to take blood samples and set up a drip. We left her in intensive care and just had to hope that she would improve. Unfortunately, she did not pull through and we were all sad at her funeral in the garden. We remembered when she used to sit on the back of the sofa for family movie nights, the time that she accidentally got taken to work with my husband and how she could open doors by jumping up onto the handle. She was a wonderful, sweet natured family pet and we will really miss her 😦