Category Archives: Customer Quilts

Defying Gravity

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By the time I went to bed on Monday evening I had been on the go for 36 hours. Luckily, I don’t seem to be bothered with jet-lag after USA trips, maybe because I just need to keep going and get back to normal. It took some time to unpack, even though I had not bought much then I had to sort out my expenses and file paperwork which is a job that I loathe.

I had 2 DIY quilting customers this week – one was a long bed runner done using Qmatic but the other was a large Gravity Quilt which the customer bravely chose to do entirely with ruler work, never having done any before. It took her 2.5 days to “simple” designs on her quilt and it looked great when it was done. 

While she was busy I decided to make a couple of By Annie Clam-Up bags to control my ever increasing cables. I feel like I am always coming up with cable storage solutions yet every time I go on a trip I open up my bag to find a tangle of spaghetti wires. I can’t believe that I went to the trouble of cutting 2 pieces of quilted fabric which was directional then ended up with one half of the bags upside-down. I realised that I had flipped the template for the second half when I should have cut two pieces the right way up. I will just have to pretend that I am not an idiot and used a single piece of folded fabric. All of this was done on my Singer Featherweight because the Bernina is still in Cardiff. I have noticed that you don’t actually appreciate a machine until it is not available so I feel that I need to get a sturdy, back-up machine without any computerised parts. This might be the Elna Lotus after it has had a thorough service or maybe I need to find a mechanical Bernina 1008 before they are discontinued.

We went to see Fergus at a gig in Aberdeen in a post-punk, metal line-up. The crowd sang along to his lyrics and chanted his name which was great. I think some of the crowd wondered what I was doing there when the mosh-pit and feedback really got going but I have actually experienced the frenzy and noise of a live gig in similarly seedy venues, albeit 35 years ago!

 

I had a bit of a panic when I looked at the calendar and realised that there are only 3 weeks to go before I go to Norfolk with the kids and all of my FOQ stuff has to be ready as it is a week earlier. Once I go away I will stay away until after the show which means almost a month away from here. There is a lot to organise from sending off 2 show quilts, getting teaching materials sorted out and checking our camping gear. Things are going to be hectic…!

Normal4Me

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I might have known that Monday would turn out unexpectedly when a vole strolled across the kitchen floor, freaking Bumble out, before disappearing behind the dishwasher. It was tempted out briefly with a piece of vegan cheese but when Thistle appeared it went to ground, never to be seen again. My newly fixed Landy conked out and had to be towed back to the garage, requiring a new alternator and some other remedial work that had not been covered by its MOT. I might as well send all of my earnings straight to the Landy Man by direct debit!

I had a DIY quilter and a simple automated pattern then I spent far longer than I probably should have on a Christmas quilt for a customer. I seriously under-estimated the size and time that would be required for a dense snow flurry freehand and I quilted for a marathon 8 hours in one day, trying to get it finished. It does look great so I hope the customer will not mind that I went just a little overboard;)

 

I did all sorts of things in between such as having a crack at 2 test blocks for a charming hen quilt by CluckCluckSew.com – I would like to make a wall hanging in blue and white to co-ordinate with  my vintage Cornish striped crockery but it will be a long-term background project. There are quite a few pieces in each block and I am seriously tempted to enlarge the pieces to make a couple of mutant hens. 

 

I am still trying to find the perfect silver ink and sponge combo to print my mini Warli woodblocks. They print beautifully in black but I can’t get the silver to be both crisp and sparkly. 

I sketched a very rough diagram to figure out an approximate finished size and layout for the Rainbow Warli Quilt, trying to calculate how many small squares might make sashing to connect it all together. There is a set with small coloured circles, tiny thermofax print Warlis, 1” glitter circles, and I will keep some aside for my dodgy hand-sewn shishas and some blank so I can sew colourful pompoms on later (or not!) I still don’t know if I will make one conventional flat quilt or whether I can work out how to hang it as a canopy. The only difficulty is how an exhibition might cope with that…

 

 

I other news, Nella celebrated the end of her exams, Fergus released his first single and Freya accompanied me on a knicker buying trip to M&S so all in all, life here is completely “Normal” 🙂

Some Work, Some Play

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I tried to balance out the Work and Play this week, getting quite a bit done. I had 2 very large customer quilts, both of which were to be quilted with a dense pattern, “Raindrops on the Pond”. It is a super pattern with densely nestled spirals but it takes ages and there is quite a lot of back-tracking. It is definitely a pattern that I have to watch like a hawk. While the machine was occupied doing that, I trimmed back all of the wadding behind my giant sequins and doilies so now I have a cardboard box filling up with blocks for the M.O. quilt. I actually thought of a really good proper name for it the other day but before I remembered to write it down I forgot what it was!

I worked on a custom Christmas quilt, getting all of the S.I.D. and block detail done. That took some time and I still have to do snowballs and flurries in the background. The texture will be lovely because the wadding is wool and the quilt will be lightweight but warm/cool!

A brand new Scanncut machine arrived and I was keen to use it immediately. I was a little nervous since I had read online that the new model’s mats could be temperamental. The other new feature is that the cutting blade is automatic so theoretically no settings need to be changed when using different materials. I ironed Bondaweb onto my Indian cottons then put them onto the cutting mat with the Bondaweb facing up. My Warli figures were cut out beautifully except for the very fine cottons. I switched to the fine fabric blade and they were also cut cleanly. I ironed the figures onto contrasting coloured squares then wondered how on earth I would manage to stitch around the skinny arms and legs without causing damaging puncture wounds. 

Remembering the amber eggs that I made for Iconoclast, I ordered coloured organza for the Warlis. I could have used white organza but that would have paled the colours – the coloured organza matched the colour of the figure then made the contrasting colour look a bit like shot silk. I wondered whether it would be possible to remove some of the organza to reveal the bright colours underneath so I made a test block, quilted it with a twin needle then used a soldering iron to melt away some stripes. Considering that my soldering iron is a basic one with a screwdriver type end, the results were not bad, just a little gooey and scorched because there was a fine adhesive web (Mistyfuse) behind the organza. 

It was definitely a week for experimenting… I wanted to know whether I could sew shisha mirrors on using my longarm machine without a needle. I could but felt like I was living dangerously – I like to work with my fingers close the project AND the shisha mirrors have a metal ring inside so there is virtually nothing to stitch into. The other option would be to sew them on by hand either before or after quilting then add further stitching using the longarm. The other alternative will be to sew them on by hand after quilting if I also add pompoms;)

So far I have not had any success stamping clear wood block stamped images with silver paint, even using metallic screen print binder so I need to keep working with different formulae of paint mixtures to see if I can get that right. 

It turned out that I had falsely accused a fox of picking off my hens when a mink was spotted running up and down near the hen run, probably having snorted the chilli powder that I had sprinkled liberally. A humane trap has been set but so far it has avoided capture. Mink are not native to Scotland but were released after fur farms were closed so they are considered an invasive species, encroaching on the indigenous otters. In the meantime, I have to make sure that I round up the hens every night and shut them in to avoid providing free meals for mink. On a positive note – the new hens have produced one small egg so far:)

 

I collected my Landrover from the garage after extensive remedial work on the chassis for it to pass the MOT test. I was asked to sit down before being presented with the bill. It cost me the equivalent of 20 customer quilts so I had better keep very busy over the coming months to pay for it!

Fowl Playing

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I took advantage of a lull in customer quilts to make headway with my so-called “Magnus Opus” that does not have a fixed plan at this stage. I made a very rough calculation that if it was going to end up 80” square, which yet again is bigger than necessary, I will need around 173 x 6” blocks. Luckily, the large silver printed Warli spirals have the same area as 4x 6” blocks. I still don’t know whether there will also be a few star blocks or whether I will stick to Warlis and circles and I guess there will be some sashing to get everything to line up but that can be decided later. 

It would have been easy to stick bondaweb on the back of the glitter Warlis and raw-edge-applique them onto a background square but I decided to make life harder by making portholes where a circle is drawn onto a square on top of a second square then turned inside out. It was labour intensive as the seam allowance of the circle had to be clipped. The pressed porthole was then placed on top of a glitter Warli, blanket-stitched and THEN the original Warli square had to be trimmed back so it did not show through. 

The crochet / sequin blocks were easier. First the sequin was attached with invisible thread to an oversized coloured square, sandwiched with wadding and a backing so it can be trimmed back later making it trapuntoed. The crochet doilies were then laid on top of the sequins with a straight stitch and invisible thread.

The plain, giant sequin blocks also took a while – firstly they were triple-stitched upside down using the circular attachment with silver dazzle-dazzle thread in the bobbin. Even the big bobbins ran out of thick thread quickly and had to be changed after sewing 4 squares to be on the safe side. The giant sequins were then blanket-stitched to the right side, again using wadding and a backing which will have to be trimmed back. There was only one boo-boo where I accidentally sewed 2 squares on top of each other from my pile. I made all of the squares bigger than necessary so they can all be squared up to a neat, uniform 6 ½ inches. 

Towards the end of the week the floor in my workshop was strewn with rainbow coloured trimmings and lots of thread so it was actually very satisfying when I eventually got the hoover out. 

All of that activity kept me busy for 4 days and most evenings except for a midweek talk that I gave to the Aberdeen Patchwork and Quilting Group as a stand-in speaker. I rattled on for an hour about some of my show quilts and travels which the audience seemed to find amusing. It was lovely to receive compliments on my work after hearing that Iconoclast had not thrilled the judges at the Malvern Quilt Show. Unless I can find a show in Russia that might appreciate the St. Petersburg inspiration or get it into the World Quilt Show it will probably retire as yet another vanity project. 

I had one of my prolific DIY quilters in on Friday so we used the Q24 with Qmatic and the freehand Q24 to do one big quilt and 3 small ones! The last one of the day was a delightful baby quilt with two Elizabeth Hartman swans which looked super with a watery panto. 

My friend Mo “egged” me on to accompany her on an early Saturday morning jolly to the Rare Breeds Livestock and Poultry sale. We did not go too much over our budgets and resisted the urge to buy emus and peacocks. I took home 3 everyday brown pullets plus a light sussex and a bluebell. When I got home I was really disappointed to discover that someone (not me) had omitted to shut the henhouse up the night before so the long-lasting Maran hen had been the most recent victim of the F*****g Fox!! The new hens were securely shut in with food and water and I will personally endeavour to be more vigilant about night-time security. I could not resist downloading a PDF pattern for a chicken quilt from Cluck-Cluck-Sew which can be a new background slow-burn project:)

Shiny and Bright

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Having finally sewn on the very last glass bead to my Warli quilt, I decided to take photos outdoors with it hanging on a photographic / quilt stand. I don’t have enough room or light inside to do this so I have to put it up outside which means that the slightest puff of wind makes the quilt flap and causes the whole thing to topple over. Luckily, the quilt is not massive so it stayed upright just long enough for me to take a few quick shots.

 

I finished off a customer’s Christmas quilt. This was a pleasure to work on – the fabrics were fun, the piecing was perfect, the customer had requested wool wadding and it was custom. It was all done using rulers and freehand fillers, taking a total of 12 hours. The other customer quilt this week was a simple, scrappy bright batik quilt which I did with a simple honeycomb design using Qmatic.

I was annoyed that an online order that I placed 10 days previously had still not materialised so I had to get in the car to go and buy some Stitch-n-Tear stabiliser. Since I finally had just about everything I made a couple of samples for my new project, which for now I am calling “Magnus Opus”. I sewed giant sequins onto beautifully bright squares of Indian cotton then placed a coloured crochet doily on top. For some reason I have decided that there will be some trapunto under the circles which I hope will puff up when it is quilted. I can finally use up the reject wool wadding for this as it cannot beard through the sequins. 

On Friday I had a one-to-one session at Peacock Visual Arts on trying to get to grips with vector drawing on my iPad. I had watched various Youtube tutorials but there is nothing like interacting with a real human to be able to ask questions. My tutor was an expert in Illustrator (not the iPad) but he was able to explain how nodes work. When I did Maths at school I thought that I would never, ever need to know about Vectors and Nodes so it is ironic that now I am now keen to know exactly how they work. I am hoping that I will be able to come up with designs that can be digitised to use with Qmatic. With a bit of digital fiddling about I discovered that I can use an app called Adobe Capture to smooth and clean up black and white images so I was able to tidy up my original Warli figure. 

I took a photo of my large Warli spiral that I had created by sticking hundreds of figures on a large piece of paper and managed to get rid of all of the shadow lines, making a clean copy that can be resized. This means that I can print directly onto fabric or have a Thermofax screen made. I wish I could find an evening class that would teach me all that I want to know as it would mean far less time spent watching online tutorials, avoiding the temptation to get side-tracked looking at Festival tents!

I cut into some of my vibrant Indian cottons so I can print glitter Warlis onto squares that I will cut into circles. My Scanncut was not altogether happy – I bought it as a well-used model and the rollers keep shifting. I will attempt to give it a really thorough clean but I have already started looking online for a replacement since it has proved to be so useful. I wonder if I can sell the old Scanncut at a nominal price except I would not want to think it might be temperamental for its new owner;) And if I thought it would sell for anything I would also sell my Accuquilt Go which I have not used for ages except to cut patchwork pieces for a customer.