Category Archives: Adventures with Animals

Butter Definitely Would Not Melt

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It was a freezing cold week here and our central heating was on the blink. This meant that my workshop heaters got commandeered for the house so the workshop was probably colder than the temperature outside! 

I quilted Nella’s floral quilt with a traditional orange peel design and the computer was doing such a great job that I went off to get a hot Ribena. When I returned the foot had shattered, the belts of the automated system released themselves and stitched a solid, dense horizontal line of stitches. These were impossible to pick out and I considered hiding them with rickrack or lace but Nella declared it was not a problem so I just left it. I sewed the binding on by machine and tarted it up a bit by using the blanket stitch in a variegated thread. Nella and Freya have both decided that this very old-fashioned, simple quilt is one of their favourites out of all of my many creations. 

My other job for the week was to complete 3 more memory cushions using pieces of a man’s T-shirt’s and fleece jackets as requested by his widow. The T-shirt material was very stretchy and there were only a few fabrics to choose from in a similar colour range so it was quite a challenge. Fortunately, quilting stabilised everything and the customer was delighted.

One particularly cold afternoon, despite having various tasks to do, I found myself rather bored and started looking at second-hand pianos online for Freya in Glasgow. It is easy to acquire an old piano – free to a good home, but then you have to figure out how to transport it and heft it up 4 storeys, after which it will need to be tuned in a student flat, not known for ambient temperatures. A couple of hours later, I had read many reviews for digital pianos, similar to the one we have at home so I decided to buy one and get it delivered to Glasgow as an early birthday present for Freya. I figured that she might as well make use of one in the depths of winter during lockdown while she has very little else to do rather than wait until Spring.

Nella has realised that she hates being in hospital – she can’t bear the screaming and emergency alarms. Although she still does not want to let go of Anorexia, she has been prepared to eat and try to earn an overnight pass home. She has admitted that once home she might not be able to eat and could be readmitted but for now it is at least a shift in her thoughts so we will just have to see what happens.

The other day I left Nessie alone while I went into the shower and when I came downstairs I found her innocently sitting on the back of the sofa not bothering the cats. It was incredible that both cats let her sit there with them as she relishes in tormenting them. After breakfast she was back to normal, chasing them until they took refuge on the window sill,  upon which she does not dare cross.

2021 Not so Great So Far

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It has been very cold here this week with ice, snow showers, melting ice re-freezing! It has made walking or driving down our track treacherous. Freya has returned to Glasgow as she does not want to be paying rent on a flat that she is not living in. We both enjoyed each other’s company for 3 weeks over Christmas but she has her Masters degree and life as a grown-up to get on with. Nessie will just have get used to a more boring life with me again. At least she is getting used to going in the car and can come with me when I visit Nella. 

The News during the second week of the year has been gloomy. The Capitol building in he USA was stormed by protesters who did not accept the results of the presidential election. The rest of the world observed what appeared to be a breakdown of democracy. Depolarising the nation will be a huge challenge for the new regime.

Covid deaths in the UK have now reached 80 000 with infections still rising. Schools have closed at least until mid February and we are back into lockdown. Nella has been in hospital with anorexia for 4 months and shows no signs of improvement. I had to write another letter of suggestions to try and move her treatment plan forward. 

All in all, so far 2021 is not going terribly well…

   

I immersed myself in piecing Nella’s new quilt, trying not to muddle up the patches in the long, diagonal rows. I ordered a floral duvet cover from La Redoute to use as the backing and decided to keep things traditional with an orange peel-ish quilting design. 

In the week ahead I will ease myself back into customer quilting and deal with some admin that I have been postponing. I need to get back to my self-taught German lessons. I should also come up with a new quilting project to turn to when real life gets too much!

2021 is Underway

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We are now 3 days into 2021 and still at the height of a global pandemic, Nella is still not making any progress and I have not been struck by any exciting, creative ideas. The World has high hopes for this new year but I could have said the same in January 2020 before Covid took over all of our lives. When the big picture is too gloomy and overwhelming it is a good idea to be glad about the more everyday stuff.

Freya revealed her clever, secret surprise Christmas present to me which was a brazier made from a defunct washing machine drum. At night the fire shines through the holes and the BBQ grill / lid can sit on top if I want to cook baked potatoes. I have always wanted a street brazier, like protestors or strikers. I can now make placards and stage my own sit-in protests any time I like. 

We have had some wintry showers and bright sun so Freya and I have taken advantage of this to take Nessie on walks in our beautiful, local area. We went to Clune Wood in Durris where my kids all did Forest School years ago and visited the standing stones, not meeting anyone along the way. 

I am not ready to start customer quilts yet but I wanted to work on a mindless sewing project so I started a new quilt for Nella’s hospital room using the Rose & Hubble prints that I ordered from Doughtys. She wanted something traditional that the girls in “Little Women” might have had so I opted for 4-patches and squares on point. It is actually really nice to work on something easy and it is turning out even prettier than I had thought. The most complicated step will be not muddling up the pieces as they get joined together in diagonal rows!

Christmas 2020 is Done!

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Christmas 2020 has been a different experience for everyone around the world who writes letters to Santa. Nella was not here in the build up to Christmas so Freya and I did quite a lot of advance preparation so we would not need to spend much time in the kitchen when she was home. We made sure to watch a few trashy films with happy endings and reindeers. Nessie “wrote” her Christmas letter and we posted it to the North Pole via the fire. 

I left home early while it was still dark and snowing on Christmas Eve to collect Nella and we were back in time for morning coffee. I had hoped that she would attempt to eat some of the home cooked food I had made for her but as there were no nurses waiting to administer nasal-gastric feeds she did not eat or drink anything, apart from water, for 3 days. 

 

Despite the difficulties around food, she had a lovely family Christmas. Even Fergus emerged from his shed at a sensible time of day. Everyone enjoyed their presents – Nessie got most of what she had asked for, Nella got a sock knitting machine and Freya made me an outdoor brazier from a repurposed washing machine drum! We watched TV, did a quiz, read books and simply enjoyed being together.

Nella was sad to return to the hospital on Boxing Day evening and genuinely does not see why she needs to be there so the focus for next year has to be to figure out how to get her to engage with recovery. 

I plan on doing very little for the next week, apart from visiting Nella, lighting fires and deciding on which traditional quilt to make for Nella using Rose & Hubble prints (her request). Nessie is disappointed that she has run out of tasty parcels to unwrap and we have to finish re-watching “War and Peace”:)

Christmas Countdown

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It feels like I have had a hectic week but probably not by pre-Covid standards. There is nobody at school here anymore and of course, there have been no concerts, parties, Christmas craft fairs, trips to the cinema or in-person shopping. Just about all of my purchases were done online and I have now got everything wrapped. In order to put any parcels under the tree I will have to protect them within sturdy apple crates so Nessie does not attempt to unwrap them. 

Freya is home for a few weeks so we have been busy cooking, dog walking and watching Christmas movies. She made a super wreath all using foliage from the garden. 

I have made preparations for Nella coming home over Christmas so there will be minimal cooking to do while she is here. I have got stuff prepared for her in the freezer which I hope she will eat but there is every possibility that she will refuse it all. A strict lockdown in Scotland has been announced from Boxing Day so we will have to wait and see whether that will curtail my visits to her. 

I feel like I still have a lot to do, although my list says otherwise and I even got my paperwork up to date. Somehow, I don’t think actual Christmas will be very relaxing this year but I dare say many people would also say the same. I think I probably just need to watch more TV and make a good effort at polishing off my bottle of sherry;)

Rather Chilly

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It has been a woolly scarf and vintage Norwegian cardigan week, totally the wrong weather for Nessie to have a close shave. I took her to the dog groomer for a festive bath and trim but she came back almost bald. She was so cold and miserable that she had to wear a jumper! The Christmas elf jumper is cute but not warm and Bumble’s old fleeces are too big so I made her put on her pink dog onesie. We actually had wet snow overnight on Thursday which melted quickly. I was relieved because I would rather not have snow until Freya comes home for Christmas and even then, preferably not on the days when I need to visit Nella in Dundee. 

 

I took on a commission that I was not particularly enthused about – making patchwork cushions for a widow out of her husband’s polo shirts and fleece jackets. The fabrics were not easy to deal with as they were so stretchy but I managed to get two out of six cushions completed. She will get those 2 cushions before Christmas and the others afterwards as I have several other quilts to fit in before I finish for the holidays. 

I wanted to make Fergus’ girlfriend a patchwork Christmas stocking from my scrap stash. I have made 2 L-shaped quilted pieces that I have to cut into stocking outlines. I have found all sorts of things to trim it with including bells, pom-poms and prairie points. My own children may be jealous as theirs are nothing as elaborate but they are attached to them out of nostalgia.

 

Poof – Another Week Gone!

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Here we are again – another week has gone by! I got a few customer quilts done, mostly small ones and one very large one. Just when it seems I have caught up, a few more come in which keep me occupied.

I have been putting my hen blocks together, sort of inspired by an 1980s checkered plate from Habitat. I could not figure out the maths required to get a certain number of squares to go onto two different sized blocks. Illogically and randomly I came up with squares cut out at 2.25”. After quite some time it dawned on me to trim some hen blocks and extend others so they all all ended up at roughly 12.5” square. Somehow, 7 of the 2.25” squares fitted along the 12.5” block edge. I don’t know about the accuracy of the maths for this, I just made it all fit;) Despite the plan to only use up blue and white fabrics from my stash, I had to buy more blue and white fabrics because I did not have enough. The local fabric shop told me they are having a difficult time getting hold of fabric and they have no black or white in stock. I bought some white-on-white, which I hate, and used the “wrong” side.

 

I upgraded my phone to get a better camera and faffed around transferring things over. It does take good pictures, particularly in low light but it is still hard to photograph a black dog. Mind you, you would probably be able to see her eyes if she got a haircut!

 

There is no improvement in Nella’s anorexia as she is still very much struggling to eat many of the foods on her meal plan. At this point I have no idea how much longer she will remain in hospital or even what will happen for Christmas if she is unable to eat anything at home. The biggest problem is that her illness has such a strong hold over her that she does not want to recover from it and so she has no motivation. I think a good start would be to get into the habit of regularly eating less scary foods and then build on that success but I am not a medical “expert” so my ideas are generally dismissed.

I have decided to have a go at making a reversible Wixsten Haori jacket but can’t make up my mind whether to quilt the outer layer and line it or whether to quilt all of the layers and leave it unlined with exposed seams. I am also debating whether to buy thin, cheap fabric from India or whether to spend more in the UK and then be scared to mess it up!

Counting My Chickens

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I suppose I could say that this has been a week of fits and starts where I feel that I have either been very busy or very indolent but I was actually more productive than I first thought. I have produced two alternative advent calendars which I have to keep secret from my girls and I ordered Fergus a Lego Starwars calendar from Ebay, the only place that does not already appear to have sold out. 

I rustled up the hedgehog cushion in time to take to Nella midweek, quilted a customer’s dragonfly quilt to look like ripples on a pond, sewed together 3 chicken blocks, each with 33 pieces, and started on my second box of customer quilts from Wales. 

A kantha dressing gown arrived from India that I planned to wear as an indoors coat but I have also worn it out in public because it makes me look “arty-farty”. 

I have “rewarded” myself for completing my daily tasks, including my obsessive Duolingo habit, by binge reading the latest Cormorant Strike novel, torn between making it last and by finding out Whoreallydunnit. 

Nessie could not care less about the results of the USA presidential election. The dramatic, close count seemed to take forever, from Tuesday right through into Saturday and I wondered how India, the largest democracy in the world managed to gather votes from a possible 900 million voters over six weeks in 2019, count them electronically and have the results ready within two hours. Now that is over, hopefully the dust will soon settle, the world will grind on and quilters will keep on quilting.

Keep the Quilts Coming

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The rate at which customer quilts are coming in proves that Christmas is looming! I am not doing any in-person tuition or DIY quilts but I am able to offer simple all-over quilting and binding if requested. This week I have managed to complete 4 quilts for a Welsh customer and have got a really big denim one ready to do for a new client. Nessie thinks she is being helpful by trying to attack any wadding that hangs down or by attempting to chew the zips while I try to attach the backing.

I finished the binding on the snowflake quilt with machine-sewn blanket stitch. It does not bother me that the stitching does not line up exactly on the back of the quilt because it is for a bed and just has to be robust. I could do with another new project to keep me happy. I really don’t “need” any more quilts but since when did that stop a quilter from starting something new?

 

I spent an afternoon cooking home-made soup and vegetarian cottage pie because Nella was given a 24 hour “pass” home to see how she would manage. She was very nervous to come home after nearly a month in hospital and she declared in advance that she would not eat here. She said it was not just a matter of sticking to that resolve, she just did not see why she should have to eat here without the threat of NG feeding if she did not finish meals. We had a nice visit, although she did not see friends and she was unable to go for any dog-walks. We simply spent time doing a puzzle, played scrabble and watched a film in front of the fire. Nella did not want to back to the hospital and really does not want to believe that she is too ill to be at home, refusing food. This aspect of anorexia is called “anosognosia”, yet another complicated word associated with Nella’s condition. Her initial 3-4 week admission looks likely to be extended for up to 6 months, or less if she makes significant progress. All I can do is keep doing research to see if I can come up with a more creative approach and keep believing that she will be able to recover eventually.

Sewing for Sanity

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I became totally engrossed in finishing the Snowflake quilt piecing. There is something very cheery about working with rainbow brights. There were 24 squares per block for 20 blocks so it went together relatively fast. I ordered a jazzy, wide backing fabric from Quilt Sandwich so the quilting could begin at the weekend. I decided to use the Bernina Qmatic to do an automated pattern called “Late Night” from urbanelementz.com and made it denser so it looks a bit like a modern snowflake design. It is a good job I have figured out how to stitch off the machine and realign between quilting sessions because it is quite a slow process.

Because I gave Freya some face masks to take with her to Glasgow, I decided I could do with a few more so I cut a few out using scraps. There are 3 layers and I use T-shirt jersey to make the ties. 

For the first time in a year I went for a proper haircut. I was told off for leaving it so long but I think I have a pretty good excuse. It was a weird experience going into a socially distanced salon with everyone in masks, separated by plastic screens. I had to lose 2 inches of length but at least my hair now does not feel quite so much like candy floss.

 

Nessie and Fizz declared a temporary truce the other night and sat near each other without starting a chase. I have no idea why my cats have never put Nessie in her place so she thinks she can torment them at every opportunity. Bumble was intimidated by the cats by Nessie thinks it is all a great game. 

It is a good thing I can lose myself in my workshop sometimes because it has been another stressful week with Nella in hospital. The medical team just will not listen to me. Nella is so gripped by anorexia that she says she does not want to recover. They are insisting on big portions of hospital food which if she does not finish within a strict time limit , she is topped up by a traumatic NG tube feed. She says she is only eating some of the time to avoid having to endure this procedure 6 times a day. I have suggested that they reduce the portions so she might experience some successful meals and also that they should re-examine her medication but they are refusing to try that. All I can do is read / record chapters of an anorexia recovery book and email them to Nella. I feel that if I do plenty of research then maybe one day I can come up with something that may help. She has been given a 24 hour pass home this week to see if she will eat here instead but she is already insisting that she will not try. It is hard not to have a bleak outlook and lecture her on every visit. I am investigating all sorts of alternative therapies to break the pattern of not eating. The only cure is food  but the key is getting her to eat it!

Fear, Guilt, Distraction

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It has been a very draining week. There is no doubt that distraction always helps in mentally challenging situations. I completed two customer quilts and took far longer than necessary to piece 2 customer quilt backs. 

 

I made an apron based on a large, ugly one that I bought on Ebay. Considering it was just one main piece, it was actually a pain to put together and I have decided that making aprons to sell is not viable. It takes far too much fabric and time. If I really want to sell screen printed aprons I would be better off buying ready made canvas ones and adding printed pockets.

Since I am not feeling at all inspired to start any new projects, I decided that the best thing to do would be to buy a quilt kit so I have something to sew that I don’t have to think much about. I ordered a Modern Snowflake kit from Purple Stitches and I look forward to doing something colourful and easy.

I asked on Facebook if anyone would like to send Nella postcards to brighten up her hospital room. There was an amazing response of good wishes from friends all over the world. Nella is actually feeling overwhelmed because she genuinely believes she does not deserve their concern. It is also tricky when people tell her she is being brave or doing well because instead of offering encouragement it triggers the anorexia even more.

Because she was continuing her hunger strike and getting weaker, she was detained under the mental health act and given a nasal-gastric tube, essentially being force fed. It is a brutal procedure and she cannot talk about how awful it was. For now she is so terrified of that process being repeated that she is eating again. She feels incredibly guilty at eating, not protesting, giving up on veganism, being in hospital and even not being the worst patient. There is a full team of experts at the hospital but she often needs to talk to me on the phone to calm her strong feelings of guilt and fear.

The plan is to discharge her as soon as possible. She will be nowhere near cured or better, just medically stable. We are both feeling terrified that at home there is only me to get her to eat and keep her under constant supervision so she cannot exercise. 

The best I can do for now is visit twice a week, be on the end of the phone for her and just stay sane by pottering about with Nessie before dealing with what will happen when she is ready to come home.

The Point of No Return

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Not a stitch was sewn this week for very valid reasons! Nella’s health was checked on Monday and it was decided by her medics in Aberdeen that she would have to be hospitalised into a specialist eating disorders unit in Dundee. She could not go that day since they were short staffed so I had to keep a close eye on her at home until Wednesday. 

There were moments when she had the insight to wonder how things had got this bad, yet also believing that it simply would not happen. We sent a lot of time just being with each other, watching Freya pack up for her move to Glasgow. 

Wednesday was pretty grim. The admin at check-in was unbelievable. Although they were expecting Nella, they seemed to have no information about her from Aberdeen. The form filling took over an hour before she even saw a doctor. I was told that due to Covid restrictions, I would not be allowed to settle her into her room. I almost lost the plot at that point and said that simply would NOT be happening to a girl who hated being away from home for Guide Camps and School Trips.

It was heartbreaking to leave her there but we were both resigned to the fact that it was the only option. Her hospital meal plan is based on cows milk and cheese which is impossible for a strict vegan. She has continued to refuse food so a nasal-gastric feeding tube looks increasingly likely.

Fortunately, she is allowed to use her mobile phone during the day so we can keep in touch and I plan to visit her twice a week unless new quarantine restrictions are put in place.

Freya tried to get on with her packing with Nessie getting in her way and the next day she set off to start the next phase of her life as a student in Glasgow. The house is very quiet without my girls and I have not got used to it yet. Nessie has no clue what has happened except that now she only has me to entertain her. I mended the trampoline net for her to play on with her football but she ripped it to shreds within minutes. 

I will crack on with a couple of customer quilts next week, make a few new face masks and scrunchies but have no creative projects lined up. Otherwise, I will keep practising German, enjoy the last days of good weather, make bread and just hope that Nella can inch her way back to health.

 

The Unknown

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I had 2 customer big quilts this week that each required 2 days of automated quilting. One was a quilt that I have done before, UK part-work magazine quilt that takes 2 years,  almost £400.00 in subscription fees, without backing, wadding and finishing costs! It just goes to show how much money and time could be saved by joint a group or guild that could offer friendly advice to novice quilters.

The other project that I undertook was sewing up a boiled wool coat – I have had the fabric and pattern for a few years but always put it off out of fear of messing up. Inevitably, I did manage to get the pockets and collar inside out but I fixed it and am pleased with it.

 

Freya is excitedly preparing to move to Glasgow to start a 2 year Masters program at the University since taking a year out in 2020 to work and travel has proved to be a fruitless exercise. We have enjoyed taking time together to make sourdough bread, preserves and digging out quilts for her new flat.

Nella had a difficult online appointment with her doctors on Friday. They insisted that she should be told about her recent weight loss and her irrational anorexic logic has made her more determined to lose more weight, instead of being alarmed at her the damage to her health. She has now gone on hunger strike and it looks likely that she will be admitted to hospital. Despite my efforts to care for her at home for the past year to support her strong vegan views, the gradual improvements of the first six months were wiped out by a lack of appointments during lockdown. Hospitalisation looks like the only possible route now, which fills us both with dread for different reasons. What the future holds is simply unknown and will definitely not be simple.

 

Some Productivity

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Another week has gone by and I wonder what I did to faff my way through it! There was one big, colourful customer quilt. I tried to quilt rainbows onto it but the pattern kept crashing the system so I used a substitute pattern called “Dizzy Izzy”.

Nessie tried out her new, fleece rain suit. She was not altogether pleased at putting it on and taking it off but once it was on she did not mind at all and it kept her clean on a muddy walk.

Freya and I both made new sourdough starters for bread making.  I was excited when my KitchenAid pasta press finally arrived after months of back order and I made some vegan macaroni, substituting egg for a paste of ground flaxseed. This dried successfully in the dehydrator which is more than I can say for my semi-dried tomatoes and blueberries which obviously should have been vacuum packed since both went horribly mouldy in their soft state. 

I made 2 wearable pyjama tops using the simple and voluminous Athina pattern. My overlocker decided that it did not want to sew properly so I spent most of a day servicing it, panicking that it might have to be sent away for weeks

or be replaced. I tipped it upside down to clear out fluff, changed needles and the blade, before finally realising that

a tiny spring had jumped out of place. That was enormously satisfying. My next challenge was remembering how to thread the cover-lock machine to finish the hems. It is not actually complicated, just fiddly and would not have taken so long if I had consulted the instruction manual sooner rather than later.

After months of procrastinating, I got Freya to film an off-the-cuff workshop/studio tour that I have uploaded to YouTube. It was really just to check that I could make a half decent video and see if it would spur me on to having a go at some instructional videos. I had forgotten how much I enjoy making informal, short clips so despite the dark clouds of Covid and Nella’s illness, I hope to go ahead and make some more. It is quite surprising what people watch on YouTube – this week (for research) we have watched videos on garden tours, grinding flour at home, macrame bags, spice jar organisation and even stationery shopping. 

There has been a nip of autumn in the air so I guess summer is “officially” over. I need to do what I have not done in months and make some To-Do lists. Apart from getting brave enough to make more videos I need a proper project of some sort as I have not quilted in earnest for ages.

Cutting Some Slack

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For some time on my blog there has been the theme of feeling of guilt at not being busy or creative enough. I keep telling myself that I will move forward when the summer is “officially” over. Well, schools in Scotland have gone back after a much longer than usual break. The nights are drawing in, the rowan berries are on the trees and there is a nip in the air but as far as I am concerned, it is still officially summer! I managed to quash most of my guilt and spend most of the week just pottering, getting some useful things done on the way.

I had to quilt the Postcard from Sweden quilt over 2 days because the pattern was intense but I saved the project and opened it up without any bother on day 2. I love the “Folk Flowers” pattern by Sunstone Quilting and I think it looks fab on the rainbow triangles. I made a scrappy binding and sewed the topside down by machine with a blanket stitch. The quilt has gone on my bed, even though it does not co-ordinate at all with anything else in the room. I don’t care – it is joyful:)

Having used a decorative stitch on my binding, I decided to use an obvious zigzag stitch on two customer bindings. It is actually much easier than keeping a straight line dead straight, especially if a customer happens to have provided one that varies in width throughout. 

Nessie was given a clean bill of health at her post-op checkup and is totally back to her usual naughty self:)

I made two macrame projects using green cord which was thinner than I had expected. It is a nice colour but not as chunky as I would have liked. That is the trouble with placing an online order. I have now cut a lot of pink cord for a bag but I can’t seem to understand step 1!

 

Over the course of the last week or so I have posted 10 days of quilt photos on social media. This was a really good exercise in reminding myself about how many interesting things I have made over the years. I was really hunting around for photos because my laptop had crashed and seemingly lost everything. I decided to try once more to see if anything useful had been stored on my external hard drive. After some serious rummaging, I was delighted to find files that were hiding deep inside other files and I now have all of my old stuff back, including my kids’ photos! Just that should go down as a major achievement of the week. 

My next mission is to make decent lasagne pasta using the KitchenAid. I have rolled out extremely rustic flat bits of dough that look nothing like the ones in the instruction book. I think mine may be a bit chewy. 

I still have not come up with a next major project but my kids suggested that I do a YouTube studio tour so maybe I will look into that. In the meantime, I have ordered some unicorn and hedgehog stretch jersey for PJ’s so that should keep me busy for now…