Category Archives: Adventures with Animals

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 😦

Easter Hols in Edinburgh and More Norse Quilting

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We had a great family holiday in Edinburgh, travelling by train from Stonehaven. There were times when the children wished we had taken the car as they are not used to walking for long distances on pavements. We stayed in a new Premier Inn on Princes Street with a fantastic view of the Castle and of the chaotic roadworks in the street that represent the controversial and hugely expensive Edinburgh Tram Project. We visited the revitalised National Museum of Scotland with its amazing Natural History gallery. Everyone reached knowledge saturation point after a while so we left without having seen absolutely everything. We made a fleeting visit to the National Gallery before the children had a cultural meltdown. They were not particularly impressed by the sculptures at Contemporary Art Gallery which did not have any of its famous paintings on display. Freya even muttered that she wished she had chosen Biology instead of Art when we tried to understand the significance of what looked like worktop samples from a DIY shop.

The Camera Obscura Museum was great fun: there were optical illusions, crazy mirrors and weird holograms. This was followed by a visit to the Museum of Childhood which housed a huge collection of evil looking dolls. I think we found them more disturbing than a trip to the Edinburgh Dungeons where actors recreated scenes from a medieval cannibal cave and the dastardly deeds of notorious body-snatchers, Burke & Hare.

A day at the Zoo was obligatory as we wanted to see the new Pandas. The male one was not on show and the female one was fast asleep. She was cute but not as entertaining as the Penguin Parade which has sadly been suspended while their pool is being repaired. The family consensus was that we have officially now made our last zoo visit since we agreed that we don’t really like looking at animals through glass or rather, not seeing the animals because they are hiding.

We enjoyed some great cafes and restaurants in Edinburgh. The Dome was delightfully opulent, Browns had wonderful polished brass tables, the mussels were superb at the Mussel Inn and the Hard Rock Cafe was simply cool. The Georgian architecture and cosmopolitan, busy streets certainly made a change from our usual surroundings.

I have searched my computer and all backups to try to find all of the Word documents that I have ever written for my blog. I will slowly restore it back as far as late 2008 when my old laptop crashed and lost everything. This is a shame and I wish I had at least printed the old website blog out while I still had it as I had intended L

I had a productive weekend in my workshop. I utility-quilted a triangular quilt for a project that will feature in a forthcoming edition of P&Q Magazine, painted the reverse of the Norse bird with a roller to hide the fact that I drew the pattern out on an old sheet using a black biro and I have quilted two thirds of a new piece onto shot brown and orange taffeta that looks rather like Viking seaweed. There only remains one more piece until the “Ostrych” is complete yet I have two more shiny pieces of fabric and I have found a great source for plenty more. I think I may have missed the point of creating a series – perhaps all of the pieces should have been the same size or even the same pattern although I am sure that I would have become bored with the repetition. Maybe the next time I decide to tackle something like this I should PLAN to make a set of matching, small quilts!

Catastrophe

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When I attempted to upload my weekly blog onto my website earlier this week I was horrified to discover that Blogware had ceased to exist and I no longer had access to any of my archives from the past four years. I frantically contacted Helen Bantock, my web-mistress, who had a long and fruitless discussion with the web provider, Fasthosts. They claimed that they had sent several warning emails advising me to move the blog to WordPress before Blogware became unavailable. Needless to say, they were unsympathetic when I informed them that I had no knowledge of any such correspondence so I made the decision to close my account with them. I probably should have done this some time ago since there have been several other occasions when blogs and emails have gone missing and the customer service team was not helpful.

It is just as well that I had kept a dual blog for the past couple of years, obviously not quite trusting my web provider and publishing simultaneously via Blogger. Helen was able to put a link straight to this and replace the web-based version but I was afraid that I had probably lost the first two years of my online journal. She now thinks she has managed to gain access to them but we haven’t figured out how to republish them yet. Luckily, I always wrote and saved the blog entries in Word so I have copies of the text but not the pictures that were pasted in separately. If necessary, I can eventually repost everything manually but it could take some time as there are over 100 missing entries! For peace of mind I have decided to continue publishing my blog in two places: www.thequiltquine.blogspot.com and www.thequiltquine.wordpress.com

This all made me think quite profoundly of how transient our 21st Century civilisation could be to the archaeologists of the future. It just shows that we need to keep hard copies of what is important to us. We only know so much about Humanity’s recent past due to scrolls, parchments, stone carvings and works of art. I have hundreds of photographs stored digitally but very few have been printed and displayed in an album. I love the power and scope of digital communication but I think I will invest in an archival box and fill it with old-fashioned paper documents.

Much to her disgust our little black & white cat, Bitzi MacBob had to see the vet after regurgitating disgusting lumps of undigested rabbit. He was initially concerned that it might have been a tumour but luckily concluded she was suffering from an impacted colon. The solution was to squirt laxative solution into her tightly closed, hissing mouth. She looked a sorry sight with grubby, sticky fur all down her chin and she could have done with a bath but we were not going to add insult to injury.

I attached bindings to the Norse Metallurgy quilts that have been completed so far. I added a fifth one in dark grey satin to the collection. I followed this with purple silk lurex that is meant to be titanium and quilted a fantastical bird that seems to be some sort of Viking swan without webbed feet or a peacock minus a fancy tail.  I need to try to decide when to end this series – I am a little concerned that I won’t know when to stop… perhaps I will feel the need to create Norse wholecloths celebrating the entire Periodic table using as many theatrical and shiny fabrics that I can find. I did not used to be able to figure out how or why some quilters and textiles artists produced an extended body of work but after working on two quilted Yurts, I seem to be developing an obsessive habit of making several related pieces. I am not sure yet how it will be displayed: Triptychs seem to be a popular idea so I wonder whether a series of 8 quilts might be an Octoptych or possibly an Ostrych?

Parcels

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Despite there being no fresh snowfall, there was severe ice which meant that there was still no school on Monday. There were no mail deliveries and everyone was getting rather bored. I even edited my address book and diary before frittering away some time in a virtual cupcake shop on the internet. However, I also finished planning out 10 new Yurt panels and felt that I had achieved something worthwhile for the first time in days.

By Tuesday the school made the decision that parents with four-wheel drive could take children to school if they considered it safe to make the journey. The back roads were still treacherous with compacted snow and ice. Some vehicles did not crawl along slowly enough so ended up in a ditch or spinning on ice. I decided that the Landy is the BEST vehicle so I have ordered it a roof-rack as a Christmas treat. The school day was shortened so my time was limited for catching up with correspondence and dog walking was still quite an endurance test.

I went into Aberdeen on my own to crack my Christmas purchases and wished that I had an old-lady shopping trolley instead of struggling to carry all of my bags. Books, piggy banks and packets of natural liquorice are actually quite heavy!

I made stripey jelly and a Lego brick cake for Fergus’ birthday party and had fun stabbing cubes of cheese, pineapple & raspberry onto cocktail sticks. The party was after an indoor football tournament, the hope being that the 9 year old boys would be worn out. They still managed to be excited and noisy after playing football afternoon, followed by a medley of old-fashioned party games that included charades, fan the fish, beetle drive, memory game, alphabet minute,and pass the parcel. The guests declared that the party was awesome and ace so I will take that as a successful outcome.

Blue Cat aka, Her Majesty the Pepperpot, has decided that she will deign to sit on laps occasionally. That is when she is not sitting on a shelf attempting to impersonate a rather large ornament. She has finally made herself at home. Bitzi MacBob can now tolerate to sit near her but still swears at the posh cat in Doric.
Due to telephone repairs in the local area, we have had problems with the internet connection. This is absolutely maddening. I can use my mifi modem to check messages but it is not nearly as convenient as instant access broadband. My laptop has still not got back online so I am blogging this week on the ipad. Typing is fine but I have not added any new photos yet.

I did a 6 hour marathon wrapping session on Sunday in order to clear the tables in my workshop as I am determined to get three quilting projects finished this week, Post Office done and get all of my materials ordered BEFORE getting snowed in again, possibly by the end of next week….

Gauntlets and Gaiters

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We had such a lot of snow and ice all week that there was no school, and according to the BBC News, the entire country ground to a standstill. It was bitterly cold and no-one really wanted to do much. I did not go anywhere all week as my husband was taking the Landy to work. The postie only came twice and I had to wade through knee-deep snow so I could defrost the hens, fetch logs and take the dogs out. I caught up with some correspondence, wrote Christmas cards and even worked on a few small projects. I won’t post pictures of these since they are presents for friends. A left-over piece of quilted yurt roof was cut and bound to and make the cats a mat each to sit and look out of the window at the record breaking icicles. The children kept themselves occupied with some sledging, a little homework on the computer and some baking. I came in from the workshop one afternoon to discover grated chocolate all over the worktop and clouds of acrid smoke where attempts had been made to bake fairy cakes under the grill.

Tania and I walked to Mo’s for coffee and mince-pies at the end of the week. We felt that we deserved two each with a liberal splash of Kirsch after stomping through the snow; Tania striding along in her walking boots with gaiters. Mo had been nursing a young buzzard back to health with raw eggs and sausages which was why the word, “Gauntlet” appears in the title! Apparently, the wild rabbit population has been decimated by a virus that rabbits take underground to infect the entire burrow so there is very little food available for birds of prey this winter.

I took Freya Christmas shopping at the weekend where we managed to make a few purchases before we got fed up with the crowds and over-heated shops. Online shopping is great as long as you know what you are looking for and probably less distracting, although I do tend to get sidetracked by checking emails and looking at Landy roofrack configurations on the internet! Needless to say, my Christmas shopping is nowhere near finished but at least I remembered to email my order for local turkey, ham and veggies. This week I am going to stock up on Bondaweb, wadding, stabiliser and freezer paper in case this weather continues until the New Year. I have spent some time sketching out new ideas for more Yurt panels so I hope to get on with some fresh work soon.

Cats and Curtains

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It was not until halfway through Monday morning that I finally realised that I was a week ahead of myself again and did not have a visitor coming to spend 2 days longarming in the studio. Instead of getting on with my customer quilt, I decided to spend two days making the curtains for my new room and remembered why it has been around 10 years since I last made a decent pair. Even though I now have large work table it was still a lot of fabric to measure, cut and sew straight. I am very pleased with how it is all turning out and glad to be finishing a room off properly for a change. I do still have to fit in the new digital piano as I can’t bear to scrap the Victorian one and I can’t find a grateful home for it either. I suppose that having two pianos should mean that that there is every opportunity for the children to do plenty of practice.

I heard one of the Monday Quilters say the words “Blue Cat” and happened to mention that I have wanted one for a very long time. She was very sad to be re-homing Pepper since her grand-daughter is so allergic to cats. I was completely amazed when my husband said we could take her on a trial basis as long as Bitzi wasn’t too annoyed. Since then we have had an interesting few days as the cats get used to each other. On the first night there was much hissing and hiding from both of them and both hissed their disgust at me. The next day I was really worried that I may have lost both of them. The Blue Cat was shut in the kitchen but had completely disappeared and Bitzi seemed to have gone off into a wet and windy day and didn’t look like she was coming back. This made me feel doubly guilty and wondered if I had done the right thing at all. Much later on Bitzi sauntered downstairs from having spent all day sleeping in someone’s bed and Pepper’s eyes gleamed out from a tiny space behind the microwave, much to my relief. Since then they have spent most of the week avoiding each other and generally being pretty huffy with the humans but overall, things are fairly settled.

Sheena Norquay came to the Aberdeen P&Q Group this week and gave an interesting talk on hidden images in her work. There are so many of her quilts that I have never seen and they are all terrifically symbolic with references to Norse folk-tales, cats and runes. I attended a workshop where we printed circles onto fabric using everyday objects. I foolishly decided to experiment with linen which did not absorb the paint as easily and I used two colours where everyone else sensibly stuck to one which I thought looked beautifully simple. I remembered how to free motion quilt on a DSM which was actually good fun on a small piece so I hope to finish it off as a cushion cover for a Christmas present. I was particularly interested in how many ways circles can be used in quilting since they seem to have been motifs that I have used many times on Yurt panels.

I eventually got the customer quilt done and binding cut just before we went to see the latest Harry Potter film on Sunday afternoon – it was deliciously dark; much closer to the book than previous films with plenty of action and tension. It is a thoroughly British film where London looks great and the heroes appear so ordinary. I hope we don’t have to wait too long before Part 2 is released…

 

Purposeful

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I started the week by attempting to take my own photo one-handed wearing my tartan tam-o’shanter hat. After around 25 shots I selected a couple that looked OK apart from the double chin. It took far too long to affix my new avatar to all of the forums and I ended up getting side-tracked on the internet as usual by browsing dehumidifiers for the workshop, Volvo estates, pens that can upload your handwriting onto pen casts and choosing heritage paint online for the Purposeless Room. I used to have lots of paint colour charts but they seem to have been filed somewhere. The colours on the monitor are not the same as in the tin but I could not be bothered to drive 20 miles to look at paint charts so I phoned and asked the Farrow & Ball sales girl to pick me a warm pinkish-creamy old fashioned neutral. I expect it will be fine – nothing else in the Purposeless Room matches after all. It is really a small sitting room that has been a bedroom, playroom, sewing room, junk room and now houses a spare bed and guitars. I want it to be more purposeful so that I can type in there during winter nights and keep a closer eye on children doing their homework. Mo has given me the most amazing old armchair that was hanging from some rafters. Its horsehair stuffing is bursting out and it smells very mousy but it will look fantastic after she has worked her magic and we have used a lot of fabric freshener.

One of the Stunt Quilters told me that she thought my new avatar would be a good back cover author photo and reminded me that I should be pressing on with the Yurt book. I decided that I had lost the flow so will need to reorganise the bits that I have drafted so far and schedule designated writing time into each week. It was a kind of relief to postpone Des Moines in the end. I could not realistically have gone without enough sponsorship. I will recruit a PA whom I will pay with a quilt; she can crack the whip and make sure that I get sufficient sponsors and bookings in the Spring for the Yurt to start its USA tour properly. I am going to construct an entirely new roof for the USA Yurt that can be shipped permanently to avoid complicated Customs issues. That is possibly what I should aim to do with the wall panels too if I can get enough made over the winter to cover 2 Yurts. I actually quilted one this week with a linen back. The back looks great but using linen as binding is challenging.

I will try to do a simple customer quilt this week as I have to fit in a day of tuition and possibly leave room in my schedule for a large project with a ridiculously tight deadline. I have a conference call with a PR company on Monday that will decide if the next 3 weeks get devoted to a slightly unusual commission.

I was asked by P&Q Magazine if I would like to design a simple project. I made several sizes of “Gussetless Pouches” for slim gadgets such as laptops, ipads, cameras and phones. Fatter gadgets make the pouches bulge so strictly speaking those ought to have gussets… I took photos of each stage and I wrote some Linzi proof instructions, imagining that I was going to make it myself. I also managed to complete the class sample “Pimp My Quilt” (aka “Wild Wholecloth” in more circumspect parts of the country.) It is essentially a machine quilting tutorial that is enhanced with fabric paints and crystals.

I was invited to judge a Women’s Rural Institute competition as a neutral outsider. I had to pick the most interesting and clearly presented schedule of events from each group for the forthcoming session. The programmes varied enormously with talks from the Air Ambulance Service to Head Gardeners and Sugar Craft Experts. I felt slightly under qualified for judging the efforts of ladies with more life experience than myself but they gave me a bottle of strawberry wine and sent me on my way. I made a mental note that if I want to fulfil my ambition of being in charge of a tea urn I should just buy one rather than join the ranks of the WRI, at least for another 30 years or so.

I had the Postie worried again one morning this week as Bloody Mabel shot past me out of the dog run before I managed to clip her lead on. She made a dash straight for Sooty the Rabbit with me sprinting after her in my wellies swearing profusely. Mabel doesn’t respond to any commands given in a pleasant voice and after I had done several circuits of the rabbit run trying to out-dodge a determined terrier, I sounded deranged. The Postie waved politely, looking slightly perplexed and signalled that he had left me a parcel.

We had a rare and unusual live creature on the doorstep where Bitzi usually leaves her disembodied mice. There was a little Common Lizard just sitting there. They are extremely unusual in this part of Scotland and I don’t know why it was there on such a chilly evening. Stunt Quilter, Terri from Wisconsin informed me that they are lucky! I decided that it meant that I should create another Yurt panel with a brownish tartan lizard to celebrate his appearance. A friend of mine spotted an adder when she walked her dog this week, another very rare occurrence. In fact, she sees lots of unusual things on her walks in the remote countryside. Last week it was a man jogging in the nude!

David and Fergus were away for the weekend spectating at a motor-racing event. The girls and I lit a camp fire, pulled up some old armchairs from the summer house, burnt some sausages and ate beans straight out of the pan with a wooden spoon. It was lovely watching the sun go down with a last of the summer Gin & Tonic until clouds of midges arrived. We went inside, sang along to DVD’s of “Mamma Mia” & “Hairspray” and shared a big bag of M&M’s  – it was a fun evening!