I caught up with all of my customer quilts this week! My customer’s cheetah quilt looked amazing, just simply quilted with an all-over pattern called “Heatwave”. The pattern is by Violet Crafts and involves very intense paper foundation piecing. I was secretly relieved that I did not have to do custom quilting since it would have taken FOREVER to do stitch-in-the-ditch.
I spent an evening searching my computer’s external hard drive for files. Instead of the well organised files that used to be on my laptop there is just a random dump of files. Some go back years but I have lost all of my family photos, all of my blog back-ups, many projects and some accounts. It seems that there is absolutely nothing to be done. I will keep the faulty hard drive just in case but I am not hopeful. I spent a lot of time searching through notebooks and bank statements in order to re-enter all of last year’s accounts onto a fresh spreadsheet.
The new dehydrator was used several times to dry out mushrooms, rose petals and rather more stinkily – pieces of liver for Nessie. She knows perfectly well that she should “come” when called but if she fancies doing a bit of cat or hen chasing she goes into terrier mode. I decided that something more tempting than basic dog treats would be necessary. The dried liver is like billtong and she thinks it is amazing.
The dehydrator is bigger than a microwave and could not take up space on my work table forever so I ordered a meccano type of shelf for it and its accoutrements. This meant that I would have to shift my tea & coffee dresser which is too tall to fit in the yurt. All in all, it led to a major game of workshop tetris trying to make space where there is no more available.
This snowballed into a full-on “sort-out” where I realised that I had a ridiculous amount of wadding scraps that would take ages to sew into useful pieces. The mess that I made was quite stressful and it took two more days to get it back under control. I decided that I might as well go all-in and sort through everything. I have been ruthless with fabric, getting rid of project leftovers that I have not used in the past 10+ years so am unlikely to use in the future. I even ditched the dried up leather scraps that I once had in mind for a project. I am not sure what I will do with a very large amount of gold spandex but I will be hanging onto that for now.
I am determined that I will not deviate until everything is completely sorted. It is certainly a chore but so satisfying when everything looks neat and tidy. I cannot say the same for Nessie who somehow rubbed herself all over the wet white paint where I covered up a damp patch behind the dresser.
Nella and I watched several YouTube videos by “Preppers” in their Doom Rooms in a quest on how to use our new food dehydrator. I do not actually intend to lay down stores for the End of Time – I just want to dry some berries, dog treats and make crisps. The machine is bigger than I anticipated and I could do with some major Feng-Shui to create space in my workshop for this new “hobby” and the produce it creates. We practised on raspberries and thin slices of sweet potato and got good results. It can even help to rise bread which is a bonus because some on some wintry days we just don’t have enough warmth to get it going.
A strange childhood food favourite of mine is Sweetcorn Relish. We used to get a jar of Bick’s but I hardly ever see it in shops. Sainsbury have their own version but I have only found it once. I tried making it a couple of years ago but was not impressed by any of the recipes I found online. The kind I like is quite sweet and gloopy without additional unnecessary vegetables like cauliflower or cucumber. I found one recipe that looked basic, read the label of my empty jar, added more sugar, turmeric and used a small amount of arrowroot as a thickener. Success! – I have recreated my favourite pickle without making the whole house smell like boiled vinegar.
I had 3 customer quilts this week and after clearing off my table entirely I laid out the foam boards to block Rainbow Warriors, having attached the last few crystals. It was not the most thorough process, just enough to flatten it out for a photo so I could pack it away for a while. I have not even inspected it for loose threads and it needs a label but it is more or less there. Amazingly, for a quilt that was not that accurately measured or pressed, there was only 1.5” extra width down one side. None of the colours ran after a good spray with water – there was no way that I was going to attempt soaking it in the washing machine or bath. It is a bit odd that there was no feeling of triumph once the job was one. There are no shows to enter and no deadlines to meet this year. I suppose 2021 should be a good year for quilts as everyone shows off what they produced during Lockdown. I usually write about the process of making my grand projects so I ought to get on with that before I forget what I did;)
I dropped off my broken laptop to be fixed locally and was told that the hard drive was dead. The guy fitted a new one but was unable to retrieve any data. Because it was not working properly, it seems that even though I used an external back-up drive nothing was saved for over a year. I am trying not to get upset about the files that I have lost and I now have the crappiest chore of manually re-entering all of my accounts using notebooks and bank statements. I had planned to chill out at the weekend by making log cabin blocks but I need to get the boring stuff over with first.
I made great progress on some customer quilts this week and have them all trimmed, ready for collection. I have had an enquiry about custom quilting a great quilt – I would love to do it but I know that it would take me well over 10 hours which puts it well above the customer’s budget. It will look perfectly nice with a suitable all-over pattern so I guess it comes down to whether it is to be used as an every day bed quilt or a pride-of-place wall hanging.
I have finally sewn on all of the tiny bells onto the Rainbow Warliors quilt! I applied all 600 more hot-fix crystals into the tiny squares but I was about 25 short so had to order yet more. That will make almost 1000 little sparkles. I also managed to attach a few mini hot-fix mirrors onto some 2” squares using an appliqué iron on a low heat setting. I have the label to do, threads to tidy, later on it will be blocked but for now it has been shelved until I get around to hanging it up for a photo.
During the week ECT Travel published a Zoom interview that Kristell did with memory Instagram. It came across better than I expected despite my dodgy lighting and scruffy, long hair. I have decided to sign up for some online classes and typically, instead of just seeing how it goes it has got me into researching equipment that might be useful for streaming future lessons. I have been watching YouTube demos on how piano teachers set up overhead cameras. I drove Freya mad asking her to practise Zoom with me. I wanted to sign in on a laptop and a phone to see how using different cameras might work but I got weird echoes, even when the device was meant to be muted. Apparently, using headphones might help.
I am quite “Techie” up to a point but wish I really knew what I was doing. I dropped my laptop off to be looked at and was told the hard-drive is dead. I have decided to get it fixed and use it if I venture into filming and recording. Otherwise, I have found that I can get by using my IPad and the old, family IMac.
I expect that when Freya comes home with her first car-load of stuff from her student flat she will think Nessie looks bigger. Nessie thinks she is pals with Thistle, who is amazingly tolerant but her idea of playing nicely is not really cat-friendly. She is now developing the Scottie characteristic of ignoring me calling her if she is having fun cat chasing. I need to work on that… maybe I can make some jerky using the food dehydrator that I have ordered. Nella and I thought that if Freya ever manages to grow excess cherry tomatoes in her long-awaited poly tunnel we can preserve them. Perhaps it will be a novelty item but if it can dry soft fruit that is in season locally now for winter then I think it is worth trying.
Freya went back to St Andrews this week to start packing up her student flat, having come home for a few days in March and staying with us throughout Lockdown. That is the longest we have seen her since before she started Uni and even then, she never spent 24 hours at home every single day. The house seems subdued without her. I miss discussing news and politics over breakfast, Nessie misses her extra morning walk and Nella misses her company. At least she managed to slap some red paint on the old yurt doors so now we don’t have to worry about gusty winds catching the tatty canvas and tarpaulin.
I have been working my way through half a dozen customer quilts. It is beginning to look like people are feeling braver about venturing out and have been asking me to quilt the projects that they have been working on at home. We do a weird exchange of bags and have a chat at a 2m distance outside my workshop.
It has been taking ages to sew all of the tiny bells onto my prairie points with ridiculously fine invisible thread. I have sewn in the thread ends as best as I can but I reckon they would all slither off if given a gentle tug. I am officially OVER sewing tiny bells on now – at least I am now half way through the 4th side:) There is still a bit to do before the Rainbow Warliors quilt is complete and I really don’t know what projects will come next. My screen-printing came to a grinding halt after the Grays Student Exhibition was suspended. In theory I could be printing tote bags or something useful for sale but really I have no idea.
I have been putting off worrying about what the future will bring because I think it is too early to decide. I might like to experiment with offering some patchwork and quilting tuition over Zoom. I intend to take some Advanced Qmatic classes with a tutor from Bernina of America so I will see how well that goes.
Since we have been enjoying great weather it was decided that we would move the old garden yurt to a new spot. Genghis Khan may have had the resources to move the whole thing on a specially adapted horse-drawn chariot but we had to take ours apart. It had been in a rather damp dip in the main garden, under trees for 11 years and was looking very much worse for wear. We have moved it into a sunnier spot behind my workshop which used to be a chicken run. We decided that since we won’t be going to any festivals this year it could be the site of our own mini version. The old chicken shed looks like a ticket office but it will eventually get shifted. Because it is a smaller area and has walls all around, this garden is much more sheltered. It is a scruffy area, rather overgrown so we are tarting it up by planting wild flowers, hanging dangly things from a chain strung from the building to a sturdy fence post. I had to climb over barbed wire to tie off some rope as quickly as I could without the cows in the neighbouring field spotting what I was up to. I bought a cheapo swing-seat online that made me resort to “Man-Help” as the crappy screw holes did not line up properly.
I could not afford to shell out £1500 for a new yurt cover so we had to be very careful to salvage the original, brittle canvas. We spent a day dismantling the frame and evicting giant spiders. We got everything back together except the door (which needs some fixing) the next day. Obviously, all of the experience I have had putting up my exhibition yurts was irrelevant as my advice on marking out a circle and tensioning the frame was initially ignored. I don’t usually ask for “Man-Help” with jobs like this but sometimes extra strength is useful;)
I spent a few days working on 4 customer quilts and 6 more arrived this week so that should keep me ticking over for a wee while.
I have sewn all of my Warli Quilt pom-poms on at last! I hope the ridiculously fine invisible thread won’t come undone. That is what I intend to use to sew on the miniature bells but it is tricky to finish the thread ends without knots.
I used up 300 sparkly crystals on the centres of the tiny filler squares and realised that I would need to order at least 600 more. At least they are hot-fix crystals and not sequins or beads.
I actually had two customer quilts to do this week, all dropped off and collected at a respectable social distance, of course! One was a large hexagon shaped Hexie quilt, all sewn by hand with edges that went off in all directions. I used a Honeycomb all-over pattern which I knew would incorporate all of the pieces and I think it set the piecing off nicely, without being busy.
The other quilt was for a young couple, made from a jelly roll so I used a spiral-ish design called Dizzy-Izzy which I have to say is another of my favourites on many different types of quilt.
In between supervising the computer stitching the customer quilts, I have sewn a few pom-poms onto the RainbowWarliors. It is a fiddly job using invisible thread doubled up, making sure they are secure. This is really not enjoyable with the rough, calloused fingers that I now have from hand-sewing without a thimble and seemingly, rather a lot of washing up. I have run out of decent hand cream so the thread keeps catching on my rough fingers – shiver!
The pom-poms look jolly so I wondered if the tiny prairie-points might also need some extra bling. For that reason I have ordered 200 tiny silver bells and if I later decide against them I will simply make Nessie a very annoying reindeer suit for Christmas!
I made myself sit and do some filing, a rather depressing task when I have virtually no income. I can’t add to my existing spreadsheets which are stuck inside my dead laptop but the figures have all been recorded on paper so that boring chore has been semi dealt-with.
While my girls have been fixed to Animal Crossing I have been addicted to Duolingo, trying to soak up as many German phrases as possible. I am not entirely sure that I will ever need to say “The boys eats 30 beetles” or “I want a horse for my birthday” but still, I am getting better at remembering some more useful vocabulary.
Another week has gone by in “Lockdown” where the days go quickly and I feel busy but am not actually busy at all. I actually did 2 customer quilts using the machine with the computer which felt productive. Mel delivered some jazzy prints that she had picked up from a bazaar in Myanmar so I decided to make a set of table napkins. I watched a long-winded YouTube tutorial on how to make perfectly mitred corners then figured out a much quicker, easier method myself. If I could work out how to make a good YouTube video single-handedly then I would upload it for others to try.
Most of the time that I spent in my workshop was just stitching-in-the-ditch with sparkly thread. I had to keep
dousing the cone with silicone and the hefty size 20 needle is not as accurate as I would like but once I step back a bit it looks pretty good. I still cannot decide if it needs or wants any hand sewing like I did on the red, black and white version.
Nessie went for a walk halfway around the field on her lead without complaining which is fantastic. I had a Westie years ago that would just refuse to budge on a lead and often had to be carried home!
I have sort of tried to be less busy at weekends but I never allow myself to simply read a book. I have been pottering away on the log cabin blocks because it is relaxing but also feels useful, getting annoyed learning German with the Duolingo app, and helping Nella make another very basic pair of PJ trousers. She was upset that the first set did not fit but I had stupidly cut out the small child size instead of small adult – not an ideal situation for a recovering Anorexic.
I anticipate the the coming week will be much the same – maybe the Rainbow Warlior SID will get finished, maybe not;)
On Monday Nella met with her English tutor in the morning then we visited the student show at Grays School of Art in the afternoon. However, the very next day the show was abruptly cancelled and shortly afterwards the Government announced that schools would close indefinitely and that all exams this year will be cancelled due to the world Coronavirus pandemic.
In a strange way the fact that Nella and I have been living quiet lives for the past 6 months meant that we were slightly less stunned than many people by the advice to stay at home and cut ourselves off from everyone as much as possible. My husband is now working from home, doing the grocery shopping – all activities and appointments have been suspended. Supermarket shelves have been emptying as fast as they can be restocked and the world news is bleak. We are incredibly fortunate to live in the countryside away from crowds and that we have the resources to keep ourselves occupied. Freya still has to finish her dissertation and her academic future is uncertain but she is also planning a vegetable garden.
I worked on a couple of customer quilts that I handed back to their owners at a safe distance and we are still hoping to collect Nessie, the Scottie Dog next weekend. As we prepare for a long period of isolation and uncertainty a puppy would provide a welcome distraction. We made cute matching quilts for Nessie and for her mum, Lady. I also made Nella an upcycled plant pot cover and a couple of prototype face-masks just in case. For the first time ever I can work on my quilt without any time pressure. I bet there will be some great quilts on display at future shows. I hope we can all weather out this global event and come out the other side with a different perspective.
Stay well, fellow quilters!
And in Other News (while the world deals with the Apocalpytic Coronavirus) – we are getting a puppy! Nella and I searched for a rescue dog locally and online but none of them were what we really wanted. I checked the Kennel Club website and found one litter of Scottie puppies in the whole of the UK, not that far from here in Dundee. We visited the breeders today and chose our little girl, “Nessie” who should be ready to move in with us at the end of this month. We are so excited and looking forward to a wonderful distraction during such troubled times.
I had a busy week working on 7 customer quilts from a Welsh quilter who visits her sister in Aberdeen twice a year. They were all super and ready for collection by Friday afternoon.
I set up my Doily exhibit at the end of session student show at Grays School of Art. I actually forgot to take the lamp as it was in our sitting room but we will take it along tomorrow and view all of the other students’ work.
There was not much time left to work on my Rainbow Warliors but even working on a little bit was some progress.
Freya is home for her Uni Spring Break and her birthday which is lovely for us but she is feeling down that all of her final year celebrations and social events have been cancelled. She was meant to go on a girls’ trip to Orkney but that is now off. All classes, lectures, libraries and the Student Union has been suspended. We are certainly living through unprecedented times. We will have to hunker down, be sensible and make plenty of quilts.
I took the plunge and intrepidly started stitching my huge Rainbow Warli quilt. I was actually concerned whether it would even roll onto the quilt frame with 2 layers of wadding and multiple giant plastic sequins. It was a good job that I did not go ahead with my original idea to use glass mirrors. I used Qmatic to stitch large ⅛” spirals in the large spiral blocks and placed a large stitched Warli figure on top of each one. I was not able to use Qmatic to stitch ⅛” concentric circles around all of my circles because it turned out that some of my circles were not totally round or completely central. Plan B was to stitch one circle around all of the blocks to stabilise things, do some big stitch basting in empty spaces then shift the quilt to my other quilt fame which is totally freehand. It seems to be turning out that the majority of the quilting will be ruler work, rather than freestyle but things may evolve as I go along.
I have officially finished all of my screen-printing projects for the Grays School of Art student show, although I may make a doily and macrame item just because I can. Out of curiosity I had a go at breakdown printing using a manutex dye paste. I now know that I may admire other people’s efforts at this kind of thing but I don’t think it is my style as I prefer crisp prints.
I worked on 2 straightforward customer quilts over the weekend because I have a few more quilts coming soon and I want to be able to work on my own quilt without too much of a backlog to worry about. I honestly don’t know why people say, “No hurry…” because I would rather work on them as soon as they arrive to keep on top of things;)
I felt like I spent my entire week rushing to fit in meals and appointments, getting unnecessarily stressed by trivia. Despite that, I fitted in 3 simple customer quilts and celebrated my birthday. Even though I was not in India as planned, my girls made it special with lovely cards and gifts. The next day we drove Freya down to St Andrews to begin her final semester of 4th year. It is incredible how quickly her time at Uni has gone.
It was a relief that Saturday was a day that I did not have to be anywhere and since it was dry I decided that the Ercol rocking chair would be sanded down for the last time. I did not have any wood oil or wax polish handy so I rubbed it over with the stuff that is meant for re-treating wax jackets and it looks fine. It is not a professional job by any means but it looks serviceable and will have cushions on it which will hide the tiny areas of dark stain that I could not completely remove. I have to decide whether it has white or navy screen-printed cushions – my preference is for blue but Mo, the upholstery expert disagrees;) I have bought a cheapo-nasty roller blind and a basic lamp because I plan to make a mini room set of screen-printed fabrics to display at the end of year Grays student show.
Bit by bit, I constructed all 20 Rainbow Warli blocks but they are not all exactly the same size. My large table is not big enough to lay them all out so I need a still, dry day to lay them on the grass to decide what order they should go in. I intend to fill the gaps with skinny pieced strips until it all more or less fits together, which will be a bit of a jigsaw. Why I can’t work to an exact size is beyond me…
I can’t tell you how long it took me to browse images of clothes peg bag images before choosing the first one I found. I made my Mother a smart, new peg bag for Christmas since that is what she asked for. I could probably make more of those or cosmetics bags or some other complicated projects or actually nothing at all;)
I completed 3 blissfully straightforward customer quilts in short order, even though one had a back that was slightly too small. I simply advised the customer to apply extra wide binding. That left me the rest of my time to work on some of my remaining Rainbow Warli blocks.
Obviously I had to fiddle with the perfectly good settings that I had previously settled on for making eyelets. Once the eyelets were made they were sewn onto squares of silver lame so they look like shisha mirrors. I added a touch of silver glitter paint to each one just to seal the thread ends.
The organza Warli blocks were not as great as I had hoped because it would seem that not all organza is the same. Some did not burn right off with the soldering iron which was disappointing so I wondered whether to fill in the twin needle stripes with silver foil or glitter but it made the figures look they were in jail. Just to see what it would look like I tested out a sample of rustic Kantha stitching with razzle-dazzle thread in case I decide to add some insane stitching to the finished quilt. I am hoping that when Freya is home at Christmas I might get “free” time to lay the whole quilt out or at least work out what it could be – quilt, canopy or tent…
The thing I was most excited by this week was deciding to make a screen-print table top. I was lucky that a nice young man offered to help me get my MDF into the back of the Landy otherwise I would have had to go back into the shop to buy rope to strap it onto the roof. I stapled down 4 layers of quilt wadding plus a layer of heavyweight muslin and now have a padded printing surface the same size as my farmhouse table. I tested it out by printing some doilies onto plain cushions which I will give away as gifts.
I have now ordered an unmarked heavy duty cutting mat that can sit on top when I am not printing so there will be no excuse for Nella and I not to become good at dressmaking – or at the very least we might get good at cutting the patterns out;)
It was the last evening class of the year for Textile Printing so I had to really shift to get everything done. There were some successes and some minor disasters. My final acetate design did not quite fit onto its screen which was disappointing and I left a piece of polycotton devore in the oven for too long so it simply burned. However, the huge doily printed with navy blue procion dye paste onto calico worked beautifully. I took the smaller screens home to experiment with before the class restarts in January and I have already printed colour discharge paste onto Indian indigo fabric. It was done in a hurry without a decent printing surface in poor light onto creased fabric but it seemed to come out quite well all the same.
Nella and I managed to complete the fine corduroy dress and finished the hem on our new Bernette Funlock 42 coverstitch machine. The frock looks really cute and Christmassy and we feel inspired to have a go with some jersey fabric. I wasted a lot of time trying to find cheap jersey to practise with online. It would be far better to buy it from an actual shop but there is nowhere I can think of anywhere remotely local that would stock any. I have seen some lovely jersey knit on a Norwegian website but I want to feel confident that we can make something wearable before spending too much on nice fabric.
I finally completed the Christmas Tree quilt that I had been working on for a customer. I thought the background quilting was never going to end! It does look good, even though I say so myself;) While I was busy doing that Nella made good progress on her first pair of knitted socks. I am very impressed that she can manage 3 knitting needles. Her physical health is getting better but she is still suffering mental anguish from anorexia. I keep hoping that as her nutrition improves her mental health will follow.
We both went to a willow weaving workshop with expert basket maker, Helen Jackson, to learn how to make deers and trees. The class was relaxed and easy – we came home thrilled with our very rustic Christmas decorations.
Bumble the Scottie Dog stopped eating, became very frail and kept looking for a corner to hide in. We were with her when she died and even though it had been expected for a while we were devasted. I felt as though my shadow had disappeared and kept expecting her to be under my desk or in the workshop. Although I only had her for a couple of years in her old age she was my best furry friend ever and I will miss her dreadfully.
Life is just bumbling along at present which is kind of fine in that it could be far worse. Nella is not in hospital and the feeding regime is slightly easier now that there is a pattern. She hates having to admit that she looks forward to porridge since Anorexics do not allow themselves to gain any pleasure from food. It is a very slow recovery, and I am definitely hopeful that it is a recovery, although she is still desperate to lose an extreme amount of weight and over exercise so the surveillance level is still high. I keep distracting her with projects and we will be attempting to make a corduroy dress even though I find dressmaking challenging. I would rather analyse Hamlet – one of the texts that she is meant to be studying for Higher English.
I honestly don’t know how much longer Bumble will bumble along for. She has done remarkably well for weeks despite her many tumours but lately she is hardly eating which means she is not taking any medicine. She would really just like to sleep under my desk without even having to go out for a pee. My shaggy pal is wobbly on her legs and deaf as a post but in her usual fashion is not making a woof of complaint.
I spent the entire session of my evening class trying to wash out the photo emulsion from my giant doily screen-print. I only had time to rush off one quick print to see if it had all developed crisply but I used a squeegee that was too narrow, very thin fabric, runny ink and flooded the design so I am not sure yet if it is a good print or not. I really did wonder what possessed me to create such a large and complex design. If I cover a chair the design will be chopped off and the screen itself is challenging to handle. I have ordered some plain indigo fabric that I intend to treat with discharge paste and some poly-cotton to try out devoré. Unfortunately there is only one session left this term at the evening class so I won’t be able to continue with my experiments until the New Year. I will bring the smaller screens home and attempt some prints but the huge one will have to stay at the Art School.
I am making slow progress on the background quilting of the Christmas customer quilt. I felt rusty to begin with but I soon became more fluid again. I cannot fit in more than an hour of quilting in a day so it is taking me far longer than usual and getting sidetracked with minor projects such as making flannel make-up removal pads is not helping;) I expect I will go off on a silly tangent to construct a dozen or more pattern weights if Nella wants to become a dressmaking pro;)
It was lovely to have Freya home during Reading Week. Not only did we enjoy her company but it was such a relief to have someone else here to supervise Nella and offer distractions at mealtimes. We did not go anywhere or do anything exciting but she got some Uni work done and enjoyed the luxury of a few home comforts. I made her a new make-up bag a a small thank you, accidentally making the base wider than I intended but she said that made the contents more accessible.
Everyone was dreading a birthday without cake, food, a party or an outing but Nella’s 16th birthday was enjoyable in the end. I surprised her with a balloon banner and Freya helped to wake her up, singing “Happy Birthday” by Altered Images. She appreciated receiving lovely cruelty-free toiletries and cosy PJs. We went for a gentle walk at Crathes Castle in the autumn sunshine then her friends came over in the evening to carve pumpkins. She said afterwards that she had had a super day but realised that it could have been so much more without the pall of Anorexia so hopefully that gives me some hope for the future.
I quilted, bound and posted 2 customer quilts and got a Christmas custom job ready to go for next week. At least I have already done an identical Christmas quilt for the same customer so I should not take long deciding what patterns to choose.
I have laid out my giant 28” doily under a large sheet of acetate to work on a bit at a time and I still have some smaller ones to draw. I now have an idea that I might print blue and white overlapping doilies onto rustic linen. I experimented with a print paste of procion dye and Manutex gel and love how it looks so much “inkier” than screenprint pigment which dries more like fabric paint. Just for fun I bought a piece of black camouflage cotton on Ebay that I may print with bright pink ink or gold foil – just because I can;)