Category Archives: Linzi’s Life

Easy-Peasy Japanesey

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I spent most of Monday travelling back from Germany to find that it was much colder back in Scotland. I unpacked a lovely selection of threads, small longer rulers and white chocolate biscuits.

I don’t know how many layers I had to wear on Tuesday in my Arctic workshop to quilt a striking grey tree quilt. It was a very simple quilt with a few blocks around a large central panel but it looked really classy when finished. 

I made a flock of mini hens using a pattern that Regina gave me from a German gardening magazine. They were very easy – the longest part of the process was stuffing them. The tiny foot on my Singer Featherweight was ideal for stitching the opening shut. Some of the hens were lucky and got bells for feet. Some will be given away but I think I will keep a few in my workshop. Maybe I also need some blue ones? It would be fun to make a hen using leftover scraps from every finished quilt.

Funnily enough, I had a customer quilt this week with chicken fabrics so I got the Bernina Qmatic to quilt it with hexagons that looked like a chicken wire fence.

I have finished the antique quilt repairs by stitching new patches over the worn ones in the outer border. It took 16 ½ hours to fix 10 blocks and some of the border so I hope its owner will be pleased with the results.

I bought a couple of Japanese Tatami strip bag kits from Regina and had intended to give them to my Mother and Sister for Christmas. However, the instructions were in Japanese but with good diagrams. I decided that it would be better if I made the bags myself then gave them away. The first one was straightforward except that it was not easy to pull up a gathering thread with such stiff fabric. The backpack was more challenging as I could not quite work out what the diagrams were suggesting. There was a bit of guesswork and the fabrics were not really suitable for ripping out mistakes. In the end I got it sussed and was pleased with my attempts. 

  

Nell and I had a rummage in the charity shop over the weekend – she got some clothes to up-cycle while I found a set of Nigella Lawson mixing bowls and a small silk carpet that I might use to make a Mary Poppins bag. I will need to order a tubular frame and no doubt follow some challenging instructions but they are very expensive to buy ready made so I might as well have a go. 

I made myself catch up with paperwork before I get stuck into Christmas preparations. I absolutely hate doing it but I have to be prepared to get my tax return done by the end of January and that is one job that it is not worth doing at the last minute;)

Rickrack Und Wurst

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I quite like it when I pack for a trip before the last minute, have time to decide if I have forgotten anything and can just get on with a couple of projects. 

  

I worked on the antique quilt, covering the worn patches with suitable new diamond templates. The old patches were rather oddly sized but the new patches were all regular so there were parts of the old fabrics showing underneath in places. I had the choice of making a new bespoke template for every single piece which would take rather more than the 6 hours already spent or figure out how to disguise the raggy edges. I made an executive decision to use vintage cotton rickrack around all of the repaired blocks. I did not have enough to put it around all of the old blocks as well but decided I liked the idea of the Japanese principle of Wabi-Sabi, “the acceptance of transience and imperfection… beauty that is imperfect, impermanent and incomplete”. Old textiles in Japan are repaired with visible, Boro stitching so the mend is obvious and not hidden. Attaching the rickrack on a heavy, old quilt took some time but I think it looks really good. I still have to sew new diamonds in the outer border but those ones are not part of a block so mismatched sizes should not be such a issue. 

I only went off on one mini tangent when I decided to see if my sewing machine could sew blanket stitch through a large mirror sequin. The plastic was thin so it worked beautifully. One of the ideas lying dormant in my head involves something to do with I median shisha mirrors so this could be an idea that I take forward. 

I flew to Nuremberg via Schipol early on Thursday morning. I had decided to dress festively in green trousers and a Christmas jumper and got some funny looks because it would seem that my outfit looked like I was dressed as an elf. When I arrived I discovered that half of the plan’s passengers had not received their luggage. It would delivered “later”… Regina phoned and explained the urgency because my suitcase contained all of my teaching materials. I could have improvised if necessary but luckily it turned up by taxi at 11pm.

  

Classes at Regina’s studio near Coburg are great because every student in my class gets to work all day on a longarm machine without sharing or having to wait their turn. My projects are never small so the whole of the first day was spent on cutting, printing and assembling a collection of kugels / baubles. The students enjoyed using the Scanncut so much that they ordered their own! 

  

The next day was spent deciding on the quilting and cracking on with some heavy stitching. The longarm machines purred away quietly in manual mode as the students, fuelled with coffee and cake, sewed for almost 10 hours. We enjoyed a wonderful selection of farm produced wurst (sausages), cheeses, bread and wine. 

We decided to put off Christmas market shopping in heavy rain first thing on Sunday morning so they continued quilting at a more relaxed pace while Regina and I exchanged ideas for mini projects. All of their projects looked fantastic and quite different to each other. 

  

Despite heavy rain in the afternoon we headed to the glass blowing village of Lauscha and blew our own kugels at the college. This was not nearly as easy as the experts made it look but my third attempt was good after a deflated kugel and another one where the top snapped off. I bought half a dozen student-blown kugels then we had a wander through the street, feeling sorry for the brass band and traders braving the rain. 

 

Photos were taken of the almost finished projects, we bid some farewells and ate our last lovely German supper. It was a great long weekend spent in good company. I will have to think of a new project for next time;)

Keeping Busy to Keep out the Cold

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It was a wet, cold, wintry week where I just kept busy on several little projects, with a trip to the Post Office and eating far too many chocolate buttons. I felt that I deserved them for refereeing between 2 teenagers, one who wants quiet to concentrate homework and the other who wants to play electric guitar loudly.

Using all of my quilt clips and a tiny amount of PVA glue I finished making all of the diamond templates for the antique quilt restoration. 

I wrote out the instructions for my snowglobe and kugel projects then had a bit of a panic because I could not find the document on my laptop later, having named it something unexpected. 

Mo let me have a selection of mixed-fibre upholstery samples to experiment with devoré paste at the textiles printing evening class. I guess the fabrics were far too robust as absolutely nothing happened. I will have to get my hands some cheap poly cotton to see if I can get an interesting burn-out using my Warli figure stencils. 

After an extensive and fruitless hunt for Nell’s badge making mirrors, I ordered some more as well as replacement yoyo makers, another mystery lost item. I can’t understand how I can lose things in my workshop which has to be well organised to contain everything that it does. 

We had no mail for 3 days then the Postie delivered backing fabric so I could quilt the two shirt quilts for my commission. I bound them at the weekend and figured out the final bill. It was actually shocking how the hours and costs of such simple quilts had mounted up. There was a time when I would have felt bad and reduced the bill to pay myself well below the minimum wage but a business cannot be run on sentiment. I still charged far less than a mechanic, plumber or web designer. 

There were also half a dozen mini-makes that have to remain secret for now as they will be presents. I had to make 2 prototypes first because I had forgotten how I made them before so my next job is to write clear instructions that will make life easier next time;)

Quilter and Roadie

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It’s a good job I don’t currently have any significant quilting projects of my own since it gave me time to catch up on mundane but essential tasks like buying chicken feed, getting my headlights fixed and dealing with software updates. My friend, Mo helped me out with a tricky and secret soft-furnishing commission, much to my relief since I would have made it far more complicated than it needed to be. 

It is great to get friends on board to help out and Catherine helped me to piece 2 customer quilts made from old shirts that would otherwise have taken me 22 hours to work on by myself. 

 

The textile printing class involved adding metallic foils to screenprints so I now have some silver Warli figures to add to my growing collection of patches. The last two sessions of the semester will allow the students to further explore the techniques covered so far so I will print and discharge more fabric that can be made into a Warli inspired quilt. 

I decided to “risk” using Qmatic on a real quilt instead of a practice piece and I felt very pleased with myself when I managed to program in an edge-to-edge pattern and get everything to line up in the correct place, even fixing a broken thread. The Bernina Qmatic system is totally different to my more familiar APQS system and I am glad that I am working it out and becoming more confident since it has far more capabilities.

 

 

Fergus and his band, “Angry Man Carpark”, had a recording session here at the weekend so I used my time out in the workshop to make prototype templates for the antique quilt that I have been commissioned to restore. The original hand-appliqued diamonds vary considerably in size and it would be an endless task to make individual templates for every single patch. I have cut out freezer paper diamonds and ironed these onto starched fabric. These will be machine stitched down over the original pieces. 

I was the Chief Roadie for the band on Saturday night. The gear was loaded into the Landy and schlepped to Captain Tom’s Studios in Aberdeen. “Angry Man Carpark”, which styles itself as an Indie Rock band was supporting a series of heavy metal bands. Their set was cut short and some of the studio equipment malfunctioned but they rocked on anyway. I was relieved that the venue had areas outside the main performance room since I am not really into screaming grunge metal in the key of Drop C. Things got a bit rough later in the evening, someone even lost  tooth in the “mosh” and there was certainly a strong whiff of teen spirit. It was all very RocknRoll;)

I spend most of Sunday putting the music room back together to Bumble’s relief as the boys had pinned up blankets and sheepskin rugs from the sofa to deaden the sound and she had felt obliged to lie pathetically on the floor instead. She was not impressed by the hoovering that went along with the tidying process. When I eventually found my desk again I wrote out a fresh To Do list for next week and I can assure you there is not yet a line that mentions the dreaded “C” for winter festival word…

Variety is the Spice of a Quilter’s Life

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Variety really is the spice of a Quilter’s life and I have certainly done all sorts of things this week. I gave longarm tuition on Monday to a pupil who took to it like a duck to water and was soon whizzing away, quilting loops all over her quilt. 

It was great to have an able assistant to tackle the job of making 2 customer quilts from old shirts. We worked out a very simple layout, appliquéd some tartan hearts and prepared 126 x 8” blocks ready to stitch together next week. 

My computerised system quilted for me in the middle of the week but I could not leave it unsupervised in case it ran out of thread while back-tracking a dense design so I had to keep a close eye on it while completing the kantha stitching. It was a perfect size to make into a cushion. I debated whether to add piping or pompoms but let myself off lightly and just kept it simple. 

Pleased that my sewing machine seems able to stitch through sequins, I ordered a selection of large silver discs, some as big as 6” across. I am not entirely sure what I think I will make so maybe just a wee sample will amuse me for now. There is no way I can start a new major project before Christmas!

I made some posh tartan-lettered bunting as a leaving present for an old friend instead of contributing to a group cash kitty. That would have been the easy option but I thought a personal present was worth the effort.

My “expertise” was sought by a member of the school PTA – she wanted to know how to repurpose a vinyl banner for the school band to promote an event. I suggested that she might need help with such a large project then realised that I had inadvertently offered my services. All I had to do was offer advice on cleaning and using the blank reverse, suggest a layout for lettering and demonstrate how to apply textile paint using stencils.

I enjoyed the Printed Textiles evening class where we had a go at printing velvet with a paste that dissolves some of the pile fibres to make devoré. The rest of the time was spent working to a procion dye formula based on fabric weight which I found particularly useful because I have only ever used packaged dye or just guessed the quantities. I ordered a couple of Thermofax screens of my Warli figures to make printed fabric that can be used as a “filler” when I sew all of the class samples together to make a quilt for the final exhibition. I even printed onto organza which was not brilliant as it was so slippery – it would be better to simply layer organza over a print like I did with my Kugels. 

  

Beelzebub was at the IQA Houston show this week. There were some fabulous winners this year – they can be seen online at www.quilts.org

Fergus and Nell came for a wander around Aberdeen on Saturday then they came to see a film that I was excited about, “Thugs of Hindustan”. It was a 3 hour Bollywood action extravaganza with plenty of fights, explosions and dancing, with inspiration from “Pirates of the Caribbean” and  wicked baddies from the East India Company. I absolutely loved it but my kids told me it was one of the worst movies that I had ever made them go and see. I guess that means I will be watching it on my own when it comes out on DVD;)

Phew!

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Phew, what an incredible pace I kept up this week – I had two dedicated DIY quilters here over 3 days, using both longarm machines and 12 quilts were completed! We were so busy that I did not stop to take a single photo of their marvellous efforts. 

On the other two days it was my mission to master the basics of Qmatic, the Bernina Q24 automated system. I laid out 3 sets of instructions, watched corresponding Youtube videos, wondered why I just can’t comprehend written instructions, scrutinised Facebook Q24 group comments, made progress, and forgot how I got there then finally it just clicked. I am not claiming to be a Master of Qmatic yet but I now feel confident enough to experiment on a real quilt, rather than a practice piece. The stitch quality of Qmatic is excellent and the designs are great. My next learning curve will be to design some patterns and import them into the system. Then I really will be a clever clogs;)

In the Printed Textiles evening class we removed the colour from black fabric using a stinky paste. I stuck with my Warli figures as a motif so I can easily throw them all together as a quilt for the end of year exhibition. I am going to cheat and get some thermofax screen made so I can easily print more fabric quickly at home using screen printing inks and dyes. The Art School has plenty of amazing equipment and resources but I have more  individual working space and can do other things while I wait for the inks to dry. 

I do not have a quilt on the go because there are so many things that need to be done first but just to say I had done some sewing I added pompom trim and even bells onto an indigo dyed scarf. I think it could stand even more jingles and dangles if I have nothing better to do. 

Out of curiosity I had to find out if my sewing machine could stitch through sequins. I may just have a plan…

It took all weekend BUT I have finally finished drafting my website edits, found all of the corresponding pictures and uploaded everything into Dropbox. I hope the web designer can manage to do the job without too much hassle or expense. 

Since as my never-ending To Do list shrunk considerably by getting the long overdue website edits done, I decided to start a new one starting next week. I must have been a hamster in a previous life!

Pottering Around in the October Hols

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Holidays make for a very different week to normal. Nell and I went to see “A Star is Born”  at the cinema which we both enjoyed then we went to see Fergus’ band play for the second time in one weekend. It was a late and loud Sunday night as I tried to blend in with a student crowd, grateful that there was battered sofa at the back of the venue. 

I finished the DWR quilt after 20 hours of ruler work and freehand quilting and the customer was thrilled. 

Freya had Reading Week so she came home from Uni for a few days to celebrate Nell’s 15th birthday. The kids really get on well when they are all together – we made a birthday banner, carved pumpkins, cooked, made a vegan birthday cake, took Bumble for walks and went on little outings like rummaging in charity shops and buying unnecessary stationery items.

  

In my textile printing class I used a screen blocker and transfer dyes with silkscreens. I was not so keen on the more freeform results, preferring screen prints to be sharp and crisp. My attempts were no worse than anyone else’s and I am enjoying the opportunity to explore different techniques. I had probably hoped for a more technical course but there is only so much that can be covered in a 2-semester foundation class. I guess it is just as valuable to decide which methods to ignore as the ones which to explore further. 

 

I have not done any quilting projects apart from a few more rows on the small Kantha piece because I am forcing myself to face up to the chore of editing my website which I have not done for 5 years. It started off as a daunting task but just doing a bit at a time chipped away at it. I have many photos to add and lots of text to alter. It made me realise just how many competition quilts I have made in 10 years (21 I think) in addition to Yurts, the Smart Car, Coracle, Henge, HM The Queen’s Quilt, customer quilts, workshops and personal projects. 

We dropped Freya off at Stonehaven Station then the Landy just died. Luckily the Landy Man was still at work, diagnosed that the 16 year old battery was dead, towed us to his garage and lent us a Banger. This allowed us to go to Aberdeen and see the fantastic film about Queen, “Bohemian Rhapsody”. The songs were still echoing in my head the next morning and Fergus tried to work out the piano chords. 

I spent Sunday tapping away on my computer keyboard but in order to feel like I had also done something “useful” I mucked out the hens and unblocked my workshop sink. 

I have 3 DIY quilting days next week, must try to complete the website edits and have  challenged myself to work my way through the Qmatic Training manual. That should keep me busy but I also need to think of something to SEW!

Getting Around To It

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My To Do List seems to be running on repeat these days – the same things keep being added each week, either because they are are too big to tackle or because I just don’t seem to want to deal with them. I have been busy with customer quilts, catching up after my trip to India. This week I tackled the enormous hexagon quilt and bound it with an extra wide binding. There was also a DIY quilter and I made a good start on a very nice Double Wedding Ring quilt. But next time I do one of those I may set myself the challenge of quilting something different in every pinched square so I don’t get bored. I find that I am having to make myself do an hour or two at a time otherwise it feels that I am not getting anywhere. It is not complicated, just time consuming. One client dropped off shirting to be made into 2 memory quilts and someone else dropped off a 1920’s quilt that needs mending. I have plenty of work to keep me so busy that I resent having to nip out to the Post Office.

  

I started an evening class on printed textiles and took along some intricate stencils that I had cut out of Warli type figures. I wished I had cut them out of acetate since paper ones can only be used a couple of times then disintegrate when the ink is hosed off the screen. The Warli figures turned out really well but did not lend themselves to making a 2-colour print since they are usually only printed with one colour. I did enjoy the class and seeing what the other participants had come up with but in a couple of hours it was only possible to pull off a couple of prints then faff about waiting for the screen to dry before making the next one. Prior to the next class I will cut more acetates and a pile of my own fabric. I am not sure that I have a theme in mind yet, just eager to explore the techniques.

Mysteriously, Fergus and his chum broke the glass in the summerhouse door which left lethal shards of glass hanging loose. I fixed it temporarily wearing gardening gloves and goggles with a judicious quantity of duct tape, a tarpaulin and staples. 

I have been on “Roadie” duty this weekend, taking Fergus to a couple of very loud gigs in a small cellar bar in Aberdeen. The up-and-coming bands were good, even better when earplugs were worn. 

I found myself enjoying the simple task of Kantha stitching a chevron print square that I was given in India. It is not complicated, no design decisions have to be made, thinking is not necessary and the stitches do not even have to be particularly neat. Eventually I will decide whether to complete something I have already started or go off on a new tangent – my money is on the latter;)

Business As Usual

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I was all set to start a mammoth customer quilt made entirely from hand pieced hexagons first thing on Monday morning, starting by removing all of the papers from the outer border. That job took over an hour then I measured up the top and quilt back just to check and found that the back was far too small. I did not even have enough back to cut strips off and make joins elsewhere so I had to order a 120” back and discovered that the only suitable fabric was basic calico from The Cotton Patch which is a bit drab. Stymied with that quilt, I began another one with differently sized top and side borders, some of which were 13” wide. The brief was to do a custom job but on a budget which was a challenge. Hopefully the customer will be pleased with the results which include a wide satin blanket-style binding. I’m just going to mention that I have realised that I don’t actually particularly like purple quilts. I am going to have to start wearing tinted glasses because I get quite a few of them:P

I spent 2 days giving one-to-one longarm tuition to a pupil who has visited me before and we had a great time, working on simple designs that could be made more fancy for custom work and trying out some tricky threads on the Q24. I really enjoy offering personal tuition which gives the pupil time to ask as many questions as they like and they have the opportunity of completing an entire quilt with sample designs. 

The “working” week ended with a DIY customer who worked on a super quilt – a bookshelf design featuring family photos and book titles. She was very independent which gave me time to wrestle with a tangled mess of yarn that had been sitting in an abandoned heap. I was on hand to assist with advancing the quilt, change bobbins and make cups of tea. 

I crossed off all sorts of admin tasks on my list and added many more but still have not got around to booking a haircut or trip to the optician. I expect Bumble will probably get her  winter hairdo well before I get around to booking mine. 

Nell and Fergus went off to stay with Freya in St Andrews for the weekend so I was able to spend a day making stencils for the evening class that I am starting on printed textiles. I have no idea whether I have done the right homework but I have a choice of paper cuts. I had a go at cutting Warli figures that I had seen painted on a wall at the Craft Museum in Delhi. They are like stick figures with triangular bodies, often dancing around in circle. I saw so many inspiring textiles and designs in India but I have no idea yet how I will work them into a quilt. I spent hours looking up various Indian folk art styles as I would like to make a quilt inspired by a painting that I did not buy because it was too expensive. What I really need to do is learn a mantra such as, “Keep it Small and Simple!”

  

One thing I did allow myself to do for fun was some really uneven Kantha stitching on a chevron print that was started in an introductory workshop in Jaipur. I find this type of hand sewing therapeutic since it does not have to be particularly neat and judging by the stitching on the reverse of my pink sari quilt, ends are just knotted with no fancy nonsense of sewing in ends. I am unlikely to become a hand sewing convert but I rather like the excuse of keeping my supplies in my Indian tiffin tin just in case I need to take it out with me.

My final job of the week was to transfer my little packets of Indian dye into jars. I wore surgical gloves because one of the packets had a puncture. I have no idea of the exact colours, strength or recipe to use so the results will be interesting and hopefully intense. 

Not Exactly Slumming It

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With less than 48 hours to go until my Big Trip, I decided to fit in a small customer quilt which was not as straightforward as it could have been since I had to make its back bigger by using scraps.

I tried to think what Veggie kids would cook while I was away and got them supplies. Since Freya was home to get her broken front teeth fixed (kayak accident!), she supervised my packing and we whittled everything down to a minimum. She and Bumble drove me to the airport and I flew to London in stormy conditions. There was a 5 hour wait which was good from the point of being in plenty of time but I was not in the market for a designer handbag so I wandered a bit and read a book.

The Delhi flight was full – I watched a couple of films, had a mini doze and glimpsed rugged mountains at dawn flying over Afghanistan. We landed early in the morning and immediately felt a humid heat as we left the plane.

 

I was responsible for getting myself to the hotel so I found a pre-paid taxi stand and was ushered outside to my driver. He skilfully wove in and out of manic traffic. If there were 2 or 3 marked lanes there would be at least 5 actual lines of traffic. The vehicles all jostled for position, squeezing motorbikes, tuk-tuks and bicycles, honking constantly even if there was nowhere to move. Every car was scarred with dents but amazingly the traffic kept flowing all the way into the city. I noticed that Delhi was very green with trees and lush vegetation on every street. I was grateful that my taxi had air-con since the outside temperature was 36 celsius. The Taj Mahal hotel was very grand with a luxurious colonial style foyer. The doormen and staff were all very smart , polite and helpful. After checking in I met 3 Antipodean ladies who had arrived the day before and we got to know each other over a leisurely lunch. It was lovely to unwind after a long journey and I was glad I had taken a swimming costume so I could have a refreshing dip in the outdoor pool. The Americans in the tour group arrived later in the afternoon. We all met at dinner, just 11 of us plus tour leader, Pam Holland and Govind, our very knowledgeable guide. They seemed pleased with the tweed pouches that I had and I was delighted to have made a space in my suitcase.

On our first morning we were presented with marigold necklaces and were driven to India Gate, a war memorial based on the Arc de Triumph, dedicated to Indian soldiers who fought in WW1. We had our first taste of persistent hawkers selling bangles and gifts. Many of them were children under the age of 10. There were also pitiful beggars living under tarpaulins. Our guide advised us to give them snacks and toiletries rather than cash. 

The first adventure was a bicycle rickshaw ride through the market in Old Delhi dodging scooters and hand wagons laden with huge bundles. Monkeys clambered on the overhanging electric cables and our eyes goggled at glimpses of trimmings in small shop fronts. Our skinny driver must have been immensely strong to drive two Western ladies along the rough streets, weaving in and out of marketeers and vehicles.

We had a fascinating trip to a Sikh temple where we had to wear shawls and remove our shoes. We were able to look around the kitchens where vast pots of dahl were being made for the thousands of people who can have a free meal every day. There was even a roti rolling machine to provide all of the flatbreads for the crowds. The diners sat in rows in a large hall and were served a sustaining meal on metal canteen trays. 

  

Our guide arranged for a currency dealer to come to the bus on a scooter. It made me think of the shady characters in the novel, “Shantaram”…

The final trip of the day was to a Craft museum where there was an extensive collection of antique shawls, wall-paintings, pottery and metal work. I rather fancied an artisan oil painting of a wacky pink panther but I declined at £150.00 after bartering the original price down. The hotel was hosting a very fancy engagement party and all of the guests were photographed as they descended the grand staircase like celebrities. 

My high strength mosquito repellent was useless at keeping insects away as I had quite a few bites but it was obviously rather a strong solvent as it dissolved the gold leather on my sandals. 

Our bus took a toll road Agra without too many crazy drivers. As we approached the city we saw many more beggars, cows wandering along the road and goats being transported by motorbike. 

 

In the late afternoon we visited the Taj Mahal which really is an impressive sight. It is a mausoleum made from white marble flanked by 2 red sandstone gate houses. The white marble was inlaid with black marble calligraphy as well as semi precious stones such as cornelian and malachite. There were thousands of people visiting and it was joyous to see so many ladies wearing traditional series instead of Western clothing. Many of them wanted to take selfies with us just as much as we wanted to take photos of them. One of the elderly gardeners showed us where to stand to take photos of the central line of the Taj Mahal. It’s a bit weird optically because its towers lean outward slightly but from a distance this makes them appear perfectly straight. 

 

 

I went for an evening dip in the rooftop pool with a view of the Taj Mahal trying to ignore the thumping dance music that the DJ was aiming at the non-existent trendy, young crowd. On the streets below the luxury hotel could be seen people working and living in very poor conditions, reminding me that India has extremes of wealth and poverty. I felt grateful that I had opted to join an organised tour rather than attempting to travel solo without an expert guide. 

 

On Sunday our main expedition was to the Red Fort, an enormous military fortification built in the 17th Century by Mughal Emperor, Shah Jahan. There were many intricate Persian style carvings and it was originally decorated extensively with white marble and precious stones. The British Army used it as a garrison during Queen Victoria’s reign. Pam (Holland) was really helpful in suggesting ways to improve our photography and how to compose more artful pictures. 

  

Later we had a private viewing at a museum specialising in the Zardosi embroidery of master craftsman, Sheikh Shams Uddin. We were shown how he built up a 3D structure into his pictures using thick white cotton thread underneath then stitched to vibrant colours with silk threads. His pieces took years to complete and were encrusted with precious stones. This makes the little bit of glitz that I add to quilts with gold lame and paint look understated! The museum also housed a very nice jewellery shop where it would have been possible to spend a lot of money. I bought a simple pair of turquoise and silver earrings that did not break the bank. The next stop was a shop that made inlaid marble like we had seen at the Taj Mahal. Apprentices demonstrated how they cut and polished tiny pieces of semi precious stones that they set into indentations that they made with a small, pointy tool, all done by hand. I could have shipped home a magnificent marble dining table if I had felt inclined. 

After lunch and a leisurely swim we took a hair-raising evening rickshaw ride into the bazaar to see if we could find sewing supplies. This market was really scruffy, past slum housing and we had to battle our way through holiday crowds all honking their horns. We saw several trucks with loud speakers and plaster deities, all covered in coloured powder paint.

 

I was excited to see market stalls with huge piles of my favourite snack, Bombay Mix. The market stalls were tiny and mainly sold one type of thing like incense or cheap metal bracelets for wholesalers. The alleys were narrow and the path uneven so we had to walk single file yet motorbikes still zoomed through – it was not a straightforward shopping experience. It was easier for Pam and Govind to buy a batch of fabrics and embroidery hoops for everyone rather than figure out what we wanted and bartering for everything.

 

I enjoyed another excellent evening meal, sticking to delicious Veggie curry options. I was being careful to avoid any salad, meat, ice cream, rice, ice or fruit, hoping to avoid the dreaded “Delhi-Belly” that some of the other ladies had suffered. I don’t want to miss a single moment of such an exciting trip. Next stop – Jaipur in Rajasthan…

 

Snowflakes and Sunhats

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I spent the entire week quilting snowflakes and flurries on both of my samples for classes in Germany. Both of them were intensely quilted which took ages but it was fun. I can’t believe that I thought pupils could work on both of the projects over 2 days. They will have to make a choice or do a lot of homework after the class! I avoided using metallic thread in the areas where there was Bondaweb and organza and opted for metallic-look poly threads instead. The Schmetz “gold stick” needles were great there instead. There was plenty of scope for embellishment and I really wanted to incorporate a string of pompoms but in the end I was restrained and just used a little rickrack and a few antique glass buttons. 

 

 

I am so relieved these small quilts are finished because customer quilts are coming in now and I am going away on a BIG TRIP for a couple of weeks until the beginning of October.  I have been busy printing documents and sorting travel accessories for a textile tour in India with Pam Holland!!! My Folks very generously sent me 50th birthday funds and a trip like this has been on my bucket list forever. I can’t believe it is finally happening. I have read the books, had the vaccinations, found my sunhat, and apart from charging up all of my gadgets and doing some grocery shopping for the kids I’m almost ready to go…

Quilts, Kugels and Pompoms

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Without a doubt – staying at home, not seeing anyone, sticking to a plan, really gets things done! I got 2 customer quilts and a cushion done before using the sometimes co-operative ScanCut machine to cut out shapes for my German class samples. The floor in my workshop was soon covered in bits of bondaweb, organza scraps and bits of wool. 

  

 

Metallic lamé on bondaweb is not an easy thing to cut as it does not seem to stick properly in small spots so some of the lettering got mashed up. Eventually, I cut out larger, separate letters but managed to mis-spell Frohe Weihnachten several times even though I had it written out correctly. I peeled the wrong ones off with tweezers and had to glue them back down. 

 

I have two small, German Christmas projects ready to quilt – one of strings of kugels with fairy lights and a snow globe of Coburg Castle. Hopefully, I will get them both done during the week as long as I don’t get too sidetracked.

A side project that I had going was to make a dozen tweed pouches to give to fellow travellers on an upcoming trip. I made them up in kit form so I could do all the zips at once. Each one was finished with a pompom but I cannot guarantee how robust they might be after a few zip pulls. 

Out of curiosity I made a properly squared off box pouch which did look nice but I was not keen on the exposed seams (not wanting to deal with the lining and outer part separately). I downloaded a LazyGirl pattern for a Bendy Bag and spent several hours following the instructions religiously, apart from using the recommended materials. I wanted mine to be made with quilted fabric but it really was too thick for finishing the exposed seams neatly – the overlocker was not up for the job. I want to modify how the zip finishes so obviously I felt the need to make a new prototype from double thickness tartan that does not involve a lining and a different way of attaching the zip. This is still a Work in Progress…

 

Apart from all of this impressive productivity, I also managed to hem a pair of jeans, complete a pointless online training course to remain eligible for supply teaching, make a key fob, and visit the Masters Degree show at Gray’s School of Art which showcased work that was refreshing, impressive and even bizarre. I am looking forward to starting my evening class on textile printing in October to add yet more ideas to my list of experimental  projects. If only I was as enthusiastic about paperwork;)

Christmas is Coming (in September)

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I will be teaching a festive class in Germany at the beginning of December so I need to get the class samples made as soon as possible, even though it is still late summer. I had an idea of what I wanted to make and spent a day figuring out if the cutting and printing would work. 

It would be handy if the Scanncut could do the majority of any tricky cutting and resizing which means experimenting with different types of fabric and I can tell you that not all “Bondaweb” type products are the same. I learned how to scan in text and save it all as one piece, rather than its component letters so all of the experimenting was useful. However, I had to order lots more gold and silver printing ink, metallic lamés, Misty fuse and crystal organza which meant that I would have to wait for it all to arrive in the post since none of it could be bought locally.

 

In the meantime, I still have not decided on simple hand-sewing projects for a potential batch of American visitors to Scotland next Spring. I wanted to make a few more mini things, mostly in tweed, so I have a choice of projects. I had been given a basket full of lavender so I decided to make a simple tweed heart, stuffed with wool and lavender. Tweed is tricky to work with since a generous seam allowance is necessary, yet mini projects are actually meant to be petite;)

A quilting friend, who knows that the construction of wee bags fascinates me, showed me a tweed wash-bag lined in oilcloth that appeared to have no internal seams and a very neatly finished zip. That led to a whole investigating and making session until I had worked it out. I was not sure if I liked the squashy style first of all but the insides do look very nice. Tweed is rather thick but not impossible to work with on the little bags and now that I have a dozen more zips I will just keep making them until I have made up my mind. 

I did actually do SOME work and completed a computerised customer quilt. It was not one of those patterns where I could potter and do something else because I had to know exactly which direction the pattern was going in if there was a thread break, otherwise it might go off in the wrong direction after I fixed it. Because I was supervising closely, the thread did not break and the pattern worked out beautifully.

 

Family-wise, Fergus started an HND music course in Aberdeen this week and so far seems to even enjoy it, which is amazing for a child who hated school. Freya spent her week trying to get rid of stuff so she does not have to take it back to Uni but the Landy is still fully loaded for her return this weekend. She bought a Swiss cheese plant which definitely grows every day! I daresay she can put fairy lights on it at Christmas time;)

Back to School Sort Out

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It’s always a bit of a shame when the summer holidays come to an end but sometimes it is nice to get back into a routine. I did a lot of printing, filing, ordered school stuff online then decided to go ahead with my Big Sort Out. 

I did not actually switch any furniture around but I went through every single drawer and shelf like a dose of salts. I made the decision not to keep Smart Car templates and got rid of project leftovers. I even put labels on my drawers so I don’t have to open every single one until I find what I am looking for. My quilt books got sorted out and I dumped old files onto a bonfire. It took a day and a half but I felt satisfied that I could get down to work with a tidy workshop.

  

One of the jobs that I had been meaning to do for a while was change the Q24 thread tension spring. The old one was full of fluff and sticky stuff, probably from when I quilted BzB. No wonder I had been tinkering with the top tension unnecessarily. 

I quilted a customer’s New York Beauty quilt after a false start where I quilted spikes in the border which I thought were upside down. I unpicked the first border then re-did it before realising that spikes cannot actually go upside down! My idea of simple quilting was to do a combination of straight and curved lines with some spikes and pebbles. It took me longer than it might have done but I am rather pleased with it.

  

I gave a lesson in how to tackle a DWR block and the pupil was delighted at how nicely her first arcs and melons joined together. I really must write down the combination of techniques used to get everything to line up that is often skimmed over in books. 

Having worn my home-made trousers all week, I decided to have a go at making a simple sailor-style top. The instructions were good but for some reason the sleeves were too tight. The pattern pieces were cut correctly and the seam allowance was accurate so I can’t quite work out what went wrong except that I did not use stretchy cotton jersey or my arms are abnormally fat. At least I did not use expensive fabric and I now know what to do but I wish I had made something immediately wearable, not just a prototype!

Post Quilt Show Recovery

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It takes a while to settle back down to “normal” after an event like FOQ. It was almost a week of activity, excitement, late nights and early mornings. I stayed with Kay in the Scottish Borders overnight on Monday so did not make it home until Tuesday afternoon. It took me all of Wednesday to return everything to its place in my workshop and have decided that a ruthless cull is looming. I feel that I am running out of space for show quilts and dress dummies that can’t stand up by themselves due to an accident involving  a giant roll of corrugated cardboard. When my work area is annoying me I just cannot do anything until it has been sorted out – obviously due to a severe case of procrastination.

Despite having an extensive list of projects that need to be done, I filled my time with catching up with emails, making trips into town to get school supplies, paying bills and fixing the tumble dryer.

I had an afternoon off to do a gelli-printing course with Lucy Brydon at Tangletree Studio in Aboyne. The studio/shop is well situated on the town square and is a great, light space offering a range of workshops and selling artisan crafts. Apparently I own several gel plates that I have obviously bought, thinking they would prove useful but are still pristine in their packaging. We explored texture, layering, stencils, colour mixing during an afternoon that flew by. I signed up for the class because I thought the techniques might come in handy when I start the Printed Textiles foundation evening course at Grays School of Art in the autumn. You never know, maybe one day I will actually produce something that is commercially viable;)

  

Having decided that quilting will not happen until I have reorganised my studio, I decided to have a go at making a nice, easy pair of trousers. Let’s just say that it was not a relaxing or fun experience. The so-called “Easy” pattern was awful. The pattern pieces did not match the sparse diagrams, there were virtually no actual instructions and it’s a good job my fabric was a batik that was the same on both sides. I persevered and learned a lot, such as, I like the idea of dress-making but hate the frustrating experience of not having a clue what I am doing. Someone needs to come up with patterns that actually explain what to do and don’t assume you are already an accomplished couturier! There’s another goal for me – write about dress-making for the of us who are Instructionally Challenged.