Category Archives: Linzi’s Life

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.

 

Flitting About

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This week I had a guilty feeling like when I failed to hand in my homework at school. For ages I have been meaning to make samples for a class of mini Scottish themed projects which have to be sewn by hand, easy yet not naff. I could not get past the mental block that I am machine quilter who usually works on a large scale. I had a go at a tartan pin-cushion in the shape of a fish but heavy wool is not good for making small 3D items. I probably won’t take the tartan fish beyond the prototype stage;) Typically, I did not have the bits and bobs to hand that I needed, such as kilt pins but my friend, Mo, came up trumps and found me lots of lovely tweed scraps to experiment with. 

Since I want to be as economical as I can be with the tweed, I decided to paint some wadding offcuts and daubed on some runny fabric paint to look like a Scottish sky/landscape postcard. I plonked on some tweed pieces as standing stones then got carried away with thread and yarn. I went way over the top with the test piece, using the machine because I wanted to see if it would work. I had a “doh” moment, realising that the mini quilt should have been oriented landscape instead of portrait and it needs to be half the size but I now know it works in principle. And finally, I have other ideas taking shape for other mini-makes.

The school holidays are now beyond half way so I spent some time with my kids. We had a trip into town to buy Nell school Doc Martens and to drop Fergus off at an official band practice. All of us went to St Andrews to collect the keys to Freya’s new student flat, have a mooch around and see Mamma Mia 2. We made an epic trip to IKEA to buy a desk and nobody had meatballs because they are all Veggie/Vegan. Amazingly. I did not feel the need to purchase any fabric, not even linen. 

My “Did Not Hand In Homework” feeling was exacerbated by failing to pick buckets of cherries in order to make jam. In the end I realised that we already have a dozen jars of jam left from last year therefore it was an unnecessary chore. However, I did manage to spend most of a day catching up with loathsome paperwork so I felt I had achieved something. 

I have packed my gear for FOQ and don’t think I have forgotten anything crucial so I will have time on Monday morning to go and buy yet more groceries for the kids to eat on Day One or even potter about starting a new project.

Tinkering and Cherry Picking

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I decided that my workshop is tidy enough for now which let me off the hook from The Big Cull so after completing 4 nice and easy customer quilts I was at a slightly loose end.

  

There are plenty of worthwhile things I could have done but I went off on a bit of an exploration into which method I liked the best for making a curved-top zippy pouch. I have to say I have still not found the perfect construction method that pleases me aesthetically and for ease of construction. I like quilted fabric better than interfaced fabric because the pouches have more oomf and stand up better. I can confirm that I sewed plenty of pieces upside down or back to front! The quest is still on, rather like my mission to perfect the world’s best carrot cake. 

  

Because we have had the best summer in years, the wild cherry crop is amazing and even more impressive is that the trees have not been stripped bare by greedy birds before I could even grab a tupperware box. I was actually surprised to discover that I have red cherries as well as black ones. I easily picked over a kilo without having to get a ladder and brewed up some cordial that I will add to drinks, rather than make cherry vodka. I might put on surgical gloves to squish out the stones and make jam. I have to say there is something childish and satisfying about shoving a handful of cherries into my mouth then spitting out the stones.

Still avoiding my non-urgent admin tasks, I played with some magic foam to make stamps using 3-D objects. Obviously, I did not look up any instructions so I am not sure if I heated up the foam sufficiently. I found it tricky to make impressions of buttons because I did not have time to push all of the buttons in before the foam cooled but if I heated up the next small area the previous button stamp would disappear. I was quite impressed by the stamp made by swirling a glue gun over a piece of parchment paper. This reminded me that I had promised myself time to explore simple lino cutting in the summer hols. I had better get on with this since FOQ is coming up soon! 

Unpacking and More Packing

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I wonder why unpacking from a trip takes so much longer than packing it all up in the first place? In my case I always seem to think that there needs to be some major reorganisation when I return things to their original place. Particularly when this involves rehoming my family farmhouse table which is 10 inches wider than a standard table. 

I am poised to have a major declutter in my workshop but am reluctant to get started because I will have to be ruthless. I can’t decide whether to hang onto the leftovers from past projects, including the paper templates for a Smart Car cover. 

I decided to get all of my supplies ready for FOQ so I could work on a couple of customer quilts before I go or tackle a major clearout. First I had to finish off my teaching samples so I added some colour to the pink mini wholecloths. This allowed me a chance to see if the Intense pencils really are steam-proof after they have been set and dried with aloe vera gel. This was a necessary investigation because BzB looked travel weary at Quilt Odyssey with big creases right across its centre and since it has been juried into Houston, it will really need to hang flat there. 

I sewed some beads onto the Dreamcatcher sample and added one or two crystals to finish it off. When that was finally finished I made a list of the accessories and threads I would need at FOQ and bagged them all up. The challenge now will be to leave everything alone and not be tempted to use what I have put aside;)

My Go-Pro camera was dusted off and since I had almost forgotten how to use it so I challenged myself to figure out how to control it from my phone. That is handier than you might imagine because the camera can be set up on a tripod or pole to get wider shots. I am a great one for owning under-used gadgets so I am determined to use it more!

Costa del Norfolk

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Packing for a trip is always quick and easy, especially if taking the car to a family house. It left me plenty of time to drink what was left of the explosive ginger beer then rustle up 4 mini versions of BzB in case my FOQ pupils prefer to work on that rather than a Dreamcatcher. I used wood-block stamps to create most of the motifs, some fancy fabric paint and will add some Derwent Inktense pencils when I have 5 minutes to spare.

All 3 of my children came along for the 550 mile drive south in a noisy Landrover Defender. They counteracted this by playing “Bangin’Tunes” all of the way and I had some of them stuck in my head for most of the next day. I hope Bumble is as deaf as she sometimes pretends to be.

I felt a bit guilty that the kids were not getting an exotic holiday or going to a festival but they all decided to make the most of what we could find to do in Norfolk. It was actually a pretty packed week. We caught up with old friends in Suffolk and watched England get knocked out of the World Cup at their house. Obviously, we trawled through as many junk shops as we could find. I had to find a replacement coffee pot after I accidentally melted  the entire handle all over my camping gas stove. Fergus was keen for me to buy a 1970’s electric organ with many amazing special effects but I was not sure that it would actually fit in the back of the Landy. 

 

We visited Great Yarmouth (which I reckon can only be done every 5 years or so) and bought hideous sticks of rock, ate chips on the market and the kids gambled a pile of 2p coins in arcade machines. This was followed by sand-castle building, swimming in the sea and ice-cream cones.

We had a lovely wander around the alleys and back streets of Norwich and a super lunch at the Waffle House which was a pleasant blast from the past. The rest of our time was spent going to the pub, visiting an outdoor swimming pool and eating outside with Family in the almost tropical heat. Our short week was soon over, everyone had a good time – we made some new memories and even got a little bit of a suntan:)

Bubble Fun

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I always experience a mild sense of panic in the week before school holidays start, even though I only have one child still in school. I try to catch up on customer quilts and make sure FOQ preparations are well under way. I also had to fit in 3 days of supervised DIY quilters and school prize-giving.

Obviously I thought I had time to experiment with Ginger Beer, using glass spring top bottles. After just 48 hours it was lively – around half spurted out when I released the top which was not ideal inside the kitchen. I must make sure it all gets drunk quickly;) 

For my FOQ masterclasses I decided to print up six small quilts around the theme of a dream-catcher. I used thermofax screens, Indian wood blocks, circles of silver tissue lamé and various shades of blue fabric paint. Some of the motifs were later filled in with Pebeo suede effect paint to add texture and I will add dots of 3D paint later. I wondered whether I would be able to use a bubble-gun or party bubbles to drop delicate bubble shapes onto the quilts but the paint rendered the wands and bubble mix useless. I tried fountain pen ink instead which did allow me to blow bubbles but they simply burst in little blobs so I need to keep experimenting…

      

I quilted one of the quilts as the teaching sample, using a variety of threads, couching, freehand and ruler work, stitch-regulated and manual, making a note of the tension settings and speed for my pupils. My first attempt at the dream-catcher centre did not look good with thick, sparkly yarn so it took a while to pick it all out and redo it using a denim yarn. I did the background quilting with a twin needle so that pretty much covers most techniques! I could have added more stitching but it would never have been completed  this week and it has to be vaguely achievable for a half-day class. Of course, I remembered that the photo that I had originally submitted to FOQ for my class spec was of a mini version of Beezlezebub so I will also have to dye and print 4 pink mini quilts just in case my pupils would prefer to work on that version;)

 

The Answer to Everything is Usually 42

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Faced with a long list of admin tasks I did everything I could to avoid them, dabbling and experimenting before finally facing them head-on at the weekend. 

I completed a simple customer quilt, hosted 2 DIY quilters and threw a crappy piece of practice quilting into the washing machine with some blue dye. It was a piece that I had used with students learning long-arming so some was stitched with doodling and some was computerised therefore not evenly quilted. I added some more quilting in the empty parts and decided that after it was dyed and printed randomly it would make a useful piece for chopping up and using for my wee bag class.

Freya persuaded me to go with her to the Grays School of Art degree show in Aberdeen. It was great fun with such diverse work from squirty foam and cement blocks to concepts, fashion and even what looked like a concrete quilt. 

I managed to scrape together enough strips to make 42 striped blocks for the Deckchair Stripes quilt but could not rustle up any backing fabric – I have no wide backing left, no sheets to dye, nothing suitable for piecing on the back so I have ordered an old fashioned candy striped bed sheet.

  

Still avoiding my paperwork, I tested the Bernina couching inserts for Foot 72. They were really successful and because they now have much smaller holes than Foot 43 I can use far more yarns. I just gave a selection of yarns a quick test but next I need to come up with an actual project. I have been thinking of what to prepare for my FOQ Masterclasses and what I hope to offer in Germany in November so I have been looking into doing more work with organza and special effect paints, incorporating fancy yarns and threads.

  

Instead of knuckling down to that I decided that Bumble would like a quilt made from charm squares so I went right back to basics, completing an easy-peasy quilt in less than a day start to finish. It was a lot of fun to do that, with no thinking required!

Iconoclast is DONE!

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Apart from a day with a DIY quilter, a customer quilt, teaching a free motion quilting class and a day spent on longarm tuition this week, Iconoclast  actually got finished! 

I sponge painted the reverse with gold fabric paint so the navy fabric looks like lapis-lazuli and checked for loose threads and basting stitches that I may have missed on the last inspection. 

It took some time to attach all of the oddly shaped amber beads using impossible-to-see invisible thread. 

I took photos of it hanging outside on a quilt stand and it hangs reasonably straight but it will get blocked and checked for fluff again before I finally package it up ready for FOQ. I am going to fold it on the bias to see if that minimises creasing but for now it is rolled up in a sheet under the quilt frame because I don’t have space for it to just hang around. 

I made a list of things that I need to catch up on, giving myself strict instructions to get them done at the weekend but I didn’t fancy any of them so I decided to make a very basic “just because” quilt. Nothing challenging, no fancy piecing, just a kind of rail fence.

It turns out that my stash is running low on decent sized pieces of fabric. I ran what I had through the Accuquilt strip cutter then had a rummage, found some white cotton sheeting and dyed a few more lengths. It is amazing how much fabric a quilt requires, especially when some of the strips are only 1” wide. I just wanted to sew something mindless and not-perfect that was not for a competition, class or purpose. It is certainly a relaxing process but needless to say, the “real” jobs are still waiting…

Finishing Faults

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The Russian quilt was finally released from the quilt frame on Monday and pinned out damp and flat to dry on a fortuitously hot day. This flagged up the first flaw. The chalk grid that had started so accurately clearly went a bit wonky in the end since one of the sides measured a tad longer than the other 3. Hopefully the quilt is so big that it will not be too obvious when it hangs. I entered it for FOQ and so had to make a decision on its title, ICONOCLAST, a pun on Russian Icons and a dictionary definition – “a person who attacks cherished beliefs, traditional institutions, etc., as being based on error or superstition”.

I did not have a full week to continue finishing the quilt since I had to collect Freya from Uni for the summer with a mountain of stuff, including a canoe and a bike. Fortunately members of the canoe club were roped in to lash it to the Landy roof. 

I taught in a school for the first time in ages, filling the morning with artwork and “supervising” during their sports day afternoon. They were a very nice bunch of kids so it was not really a chore.

I sewed the flanges and wide binding for Iconoclast and applied them fairly neatly, a miracle considering the size and weight of the quilt. I did not enjoy sewing the 32 feet of binding onto the back by hand and had to re-do one corner because I was having issues with bulk, especially since I had used 2 layers of wadding.

There was an additional remedial action that had to be taken because the stain removal  process had caused some of the blue and green dyes to leak into the orange bias strips around the DWR. The solution was to mix fabric paints to and take a tiny brush to cover up the bleed. Applying two coats took almost an entire day, sigh!

My plan to couch on metallic braid did not go smoothly and I unpicked a few successful first attempts. I realised that I would need to stitch around all of the orange bias in order for it to sit flat since it had not actually been quilted. It was very tricky to keep the fine gold braid absolutely in line with the orange strip and I am not entirely happy with it. It looks great from a distance but anyone inspecting it with a magnifying glass might be critical. I may have to add yet more gold stitching to make it look really tidy and I have now reached the point where I cannot wait to be finished, although frustratingly it is now June and I have to crack on with some actual work…