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;)
The new-old sofa in the workshop has been a great success – I have been heading straight out to my workshop after a morning cuppa to get started on customer quilts for an hour or two then Nella can have an after breakfast snooze while I continue. That is how I got 5 customer quilts done this week, nothing custom – just utility but all very nice. Since it is officially half-term we have not felt obliged to keep up with school work but I will have to mug up on Hamlet before the new term.
I had a go at screen-printing foil glue and applied gold transfer foil to my doilies. One was a bit splodgey but the other was quite crisp. The gold foil is rather a yellow gold and would probably look better on hot pink fabric but I bought 6 metres so I will just have to use it somehow. I have decided to go with the doily theme now that I have started. A fellow student wondered why I did not just sew doilies onto cushions instead of printing them but I never actually said I was simply going to make cushions;) I do have another, separate idea in mind as well so we will see what happens. I invested in a few blank screens and one ridiculously large one so I really need to come up with a project to use them on.
I made a couple of bolster cushions from some African wax fabric that Freya brought from Tanzania. The Youtube videos on how to attach zips to bolster cushion covers were useless but I figured it out. I foolishly decided to ignore the advice about Pi when measuring up the cushion tube but I winged it and produced 2 piped cushions that look acceptable.
I took Nella for a pre-birthday hair colour and cut. We started off with the mirror covered but she managed to relax and enjoy the experience. I enjoyed a fringe benefit and persuaded the hairdresser to cut mine so I can actually see out.
Our week was generally mundane and of a strict routine but at present that is fine. Bumble is still my best canine pal, despite having lost a lot of weight due to cancer and she sleeps most of the time. Even the vet is amazed that she is still around and since she does not appear to be in any pain I hope that will be for a while longer!
Just when I thought things were going well with re-feeding Nella, I was told that she had lost another 1.2kg by secretly exercising, panicking that she was putting on weight. I was furious and told her that if I find out that it is continuing I will pack her bag and drive her straight to hospital. She was genuinely sorry and scared so I have had to be even more vigilant, stepping up the quantity of nuts and swapping low calorie almond milk for a fortified coconut milk. I read a book called “Brave Girl Eating” where the mother battled with her daughter’s anorexia for a year, somehow getting her to consume 4000 calories per day to restore health. I have no idea how I am even going to get close to that on a strict vegan regime.
By getting up earlier I managed to fit in 4 customer quilts in bursts before breakfast and during the afternoon while Nella worked on school assignments. I showed her how to do free motion stitching and she took to it straight away so she might put some examples into her Art portfolio.
Nella is utterly exhausted most of the time and struggles to sit at the table in my workshop for long so I decided to look for a second-hand, small sofa or a “fainting couch”. I found one on Facebook and collected it in the back of the Landy with the door open, strapping it in with ropey granny-knots. It fits perfectly and looks great covered in an old quilt so hopefully I will be able to get a bit more quilting done if she is warm and comfortable.
I went to my evening class on printed textiles and developed the acetate that I had drawn of a crochet doily onto a photo-emulsion screen. I really could not decide on a theme so I thought this could be a good starting point to get back into screen-printing. I was amazed at the detail of the print using opaque white printing ink on white cotton and rough, organic linen. It looks like this will definitely be the theme that I develop this term so I have drawn out 2 more doilies and plan to draw one that has a diameter of 28 inches. It will take ages – I have no idea what I will turn it into but I think it will work.
The grand tidy-up has now made its way out to the summerhouse which is now Fergus’ music studio. He is obviously incapable of organising it himself so Nella and I will supervise. The part we like the best is the IKEA pegboard with all of its neat accessories. I have put one up in the kitchen in an attempt to get clutter off my worktop. I think it is wonderful and would love to put it up everywhere there is a spare piece of wall!
It is unbelievable that we are already a week into October! I got into a new routine of getting up early and managed to complete 6 utility quilts during the week for a customer but forgot to take photos for my records. It is tricky to really get stuck into anything with all of our medical appointments and the meals regime but I gradually tackled all of the disordered downstairs cupboards, making a substantial mess before ruthlessly getting rid of cloudy glasses, chipped mugs and taking posh glasses out of boxes to be used. I rounded up DVDs from all over the house and put them all in one place which makes it look like I could own a video shop.
Books still need to be sorted – I don’t think I need a 1999 road atlas or any decorating manuals from the 1980s. I was especially pleased with the curtains that I made for the TV cabinet to hide boxes of cables and Nintendo games. It is satisfying to know that everything is now better organised, rather than stashed in multiple locations. Next I have to deal with a disastrous linen closet which is probably home to mutant spiders;)
Nella has been getting anxious about how much school she is missing and we have been working on a little of each subject on most days. We had a go at making a PJ top using leftover stretch jersey. We did fairly well and produced a wearable item. It is definitely better on the seams where we used the overlocker but even after using a stretch stitch and dual feed, the stitching on the hems seemed a bit taut. I think the answer is to construct cuffs and attach them using the overlocker.
The homework for my screen-print class was to draw a design onto acetate that can be transferred onto a photo-emulsion screen. I just could not decide on a theme so I have a temporary one which is crochet doilies. I spent ages doodling out a lace effect which is probably far too intricate but perhaps I simply need to enjoy the process of the course without necessarily requiring a finished product!
I am a great believer in keeping busy and tidying up so it should be no surprise to discover that this can be a form of mindfulness, particularly if prepared to do a bit at a time rather than in one fell swoop. My workshop is very well organised, except when I have put something in a safe place that I can’t remember. However, I felt that my house had become a place of glory-holes and unnecessary clutter. I have a useful kitchen pantry but it had become impossible to find anything without all of the gadgets and bowls toppling over. It was surpassingly easy to sort everything into baskets, ditching quite a few spare jam-jars and plastic boxes without lids.
Of course, this had a knock-on effect to the other kitchen cupboards. I discovered several packets of opened or out-of-date nuts and seeds and found 28 missing clothes pegs. Reorganising is so oddly satisfying that it has spurred me on to tackle other dreadful cupboards. Just how many old teapots, DVDs and old road atlases do I really need?!
Nella’s blood results were not noticeably better and showed that she is lacking protein but we have been given a grace period to keep persevering. I have been getting her to eat lots of dried fruit, nuts and grains and I will have to think out of the box to find other sources of protein such as millet to add to lentils and quinoa. She saw a Reiki therapist which she found calming and I am looking into alternative medicine to deal with anxiety and low mood.
We had a lovely day visiting Freya in St Andrews on Saturday, just having a wee wander around the shops and chilling in her flat. She loved the Halloween box that we had made for her with seasonal bunting, vegan wax wraps and home-made almond Nutella. I could not resist a rather nice sewing box in a charity shop. Hopefully, Nella will be spurred on by the idea that if she can get a bit fitter she will be able to stay overnight with her student sister.
I have not worked on any of my own projects or decided what to work on in my screen printing evening class but I had 2 lovely, regular customers drop off half a dozen quilts which they helpfully labelled with measurements and even cut all of the wadding to save me some time. None of their quilts are huge so I should be able to work my way through them while Nella does artwork in my workshop.
Since I had I finished up the last 3 “easy”, all-over pattern customer quilts, I had to move onto a custom quilting job. It was not a major, over-the-top custom quilt, more like low-key custom. I find that deciding what to do in the first place takes a while then it is just a matter of getting on with it. The pattern is a Lynette Anderson seagull pattern but the gulls are not like great big “skerries” that steal sandwiches in Aberdeen – they are more petite and because of their colour sometimes reminded me of pigeons, except for the webbed feet.
Somehow, the cartoon adventures of Dastardly and Mutley come to mind when they repeatedly attempt and fail to catch the secret-agent pigeon that carries messages. I sympathise with their efforts. Despite making good progress with Nella eating just a little more, we were told that her health parameters remain poor and the weight loss is continuing. It was a hard week for both of us as I had to increase all of her intake in a last ditch attempt to avoid hospital admission. She felt very low as it feels like things will never get back to normal. Every meal and snack almost rolls into one and I am very aware that she is not taking in enough calories in her restricted vegan diet for her health to improve. She has become really bored with not going to school and finds it hard to find any joy in life.
In an attempt at another easy craft activity we have started a scrappy rag-rug which has got off to a promising start but will take ages to complete. However, we felt very pleased with ourselves when we managed to make a pair of pyjama trousers without making any boo-boos!
Against all the odds, Bumble is still just about in the land of the living. She is not eating much, sleeping most of the time but not complaining so has been keeping me company for a bit longer than I had expected.
Happier news was that I was informed that a member of the QGBI, London Region, Jaclyn Horton, had award me an alternative prize at FOQ – “I Want That Fabric!” I was particularly thrilled because the fabric she meant was the Warli figure fabric that I designed and screen-printed for “So Many People”. The write-up that she gave the quilt was really complimentary which made me feel proud of my work:)
I have to keep a food diary for Nella, adding a range and quantity of foods each day if possible. She has so many fear foods that this is a difficult task. I blended together dates, coconut and walnuts to make energy balls and introduced some weird grains such as freekeh and red quinoa to try and increase her protein. This weeks blood results were marginally improved so she had another stay of execution from hospital admission. She feels like a fake anorexic for eating anything at all but I keep telling her to repeat the mantra, “I am doing this to stay out of hospital!”
Poor Bumble is not doing too well and had a visit to the Vet this week. I know she is not herself when she is not eating. He could not pinpoint a particular problem but thinks her mammary tumours have probably spread to her lungs. She has been put on a course of antibiotics but to be honest, I think her time will be limited. She does not seem to be in pain but her back legs are wobbly, she sleeps most of the time and only eats little bits of chicken if I feed her by hand. I have to remember that 12 years is a good, old age for a Scottie but I will be heart broken when she pops her clogs.
Food preparation and the painfully long time that every meal takes use up most of my days but I have managed to fit in one or two crafty projects to keep us both occupied. Over the weekend we have tried out rag-rug making, shrink plastic and printing notebooks with a gelli plate. On weekdays when we are not attending appointments, Nella works on school stuff in my workshop while I try to carry on with customer quilts.
I even managed to stitch a few eyelets and sort though the rainbow warily blocks that I have already got to see how many more are required. I think I probably have enough to make a double sided project except that I can’t actually stitch through the large mirror sequins. I still don’t know whether I am aiming to make a tent, a canopy or more sensibly, a one-sided quilt – it will be a while before that becomes clear.
Earlier this year I bought an iPad thinking that it would take over from my 2012 MacBookPro but for some tasks it just does not perform the same way and I crank up the straining laptop to do spreadsheets, online banking or resize pictures for printing. I expect the iPad can do these things but I don’t know how to make it so I either have to figure that out or consider whether it is time to trade in the laptop.
Having become a bit of a Marie Kondo convert (Tidying Up and Spark Joy), I decided that it was time to let go of the old school desk that I have had for 30 years since rescuing it while on teaching practice. The school rabbit hutch had sat on top of it so it had been out of classroom use for years. It had inkwells and lift up lids but was designed for small children who only had minimal stationery and books. I decided to offer it free to a good home on a Facebook buy, swap, sell site and it was quickly snapped up by someone locally who has a small child, so far with minimal stationery. Nella and I took a similar approach to 2 bookcases of children’s books and donated 5 boxes to charity so others can enjoy them. Getting rid of stuff that is no longer being used or enjoyed is cathartic. I really must work through the entire house (at some unspecified future date!)
Keeping my youngest under close supervision has not been easy – she had to spend some time in my workshop this week while I worked on 4 customer quilts then I had to spend afternoons in her room working on Higher English. Luckily, it is Victorian melodrama which I studied at school and uni but my understanding of modern textual analysis and citing references is sketchy. Having rediscovered some of my cringe-worthy old essays, written in fountain pen I don’t think I would be awarded a degree today!
Freya returned home in one piece from her trip to Tanzania and Zanzibar, having had incredible experiences and adventures. She brought me some gorgeous fabrics which I have put away until I decide what sort of projects they are for. I made her a welcome-home vegan carrot cake with cashew “cream-cheese” icing – which was much better than I had expected.
While she was home to help keep an eye on her sister I managed to fix the faulty needle threader on the Bernina 710 to stitch a few eyelets onto plain fabric so I can layer it up with silver lame to make mock shisha mirrors. The quilt that I am making of so far unspecified size either has far too many blocks or will need many more smaller units. I won’t know until I lay it all out and see.
Sadly, Freya was only home for a couple of days before packing up her plants and books to begin her final year at St. Andrews. We filled a surprise box with treats to start the year off and left her at her flat to cope with a washing machine which has duck tape to seal its door.
Over the weekend we cajoled a little almond milk and pieces of tangerine into Nella to see if that is enough to stave off the threat of hospitalisation but this huge effort may just not be enough to avoid that fate. It really is a game of cat and mouse…