Category Archives: Linzi’s Life

So Many People!

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I spent Monday morning shinning up and down a step ladder to tie lengths of string to my workshop strip lights so I could hang up a set of fairy lights to make the far room with fewer windows look more inviting. I had not noticed that the lights comprised multiple dangly strings of icicles or that they might flash. A certain amount of detangling went on and I managed to disable the annoying twinkling. After that was all sorted out I plugged in the new Q24 and gave it a quick test run and all seemed well, which was a relief since I built it by myself!

While I had a DIY quilter here a friend came over having suggested that my bookcase was inaccessible behind the ironing board. She gamely took all of the books off the shelf and we swapped the bookcase with an old kitchen dresser that stores stuff I rarely need (should chuck out). The books are now in the longarm room with non-flashing fairy lights and chairs that have been dug out and dusted off. I found a ricketty stool and mended it with a piece of wooden pallet, a couple of brass screws and a hammer, since I could not get the screws in far enough. I am going to invest in some ratcheting screwdrivers because my electric one is pathetic. I have no idea when I will sit calmly and read all of my books with a cup of coffee balanced on the now-steady stool but it all looks fantastic. 

I received a package from India containing wooden stamps that I felt would come in handy. I gave them a quick print on a scrap of linen and they worked well. I planned to use them on the Warli quilt to fill in the blanks where I have to add strips to make the blocks fit together.

  

A customer phoned in a panic because a quilt that she had pieced seemed to have got pressed out of shape. She had been aware that it had a lot of bias pieces which just stretched and distorted when ironed. I used steam and spray starch to get most of that under control then quilted it with the Timewarp pattern. Thankfully no pleats or tucks were necessary and it all finished up nice and flat. It might not hang straight on a wall but it will look lovely on a bed which is what it is for;)

At the screen printing class I printed off 8 large Warli spirals on a very thin piece of white Indian cotton. I decided not to bother measuring the spacing accurately and will fill in some of the gaps with a few more people and small spirals. I intend to wear it to the end of year student exhibition. I printed off a couple of discharge prints on black fabric then declared that I had enough samples to make the quilt. 

  

Piecing the Warli quilt was not very creative or scientific – I just joined strips on by eye until it all fitted together which took almost 2 days. Rather than print more blocks and take even longer to piece a reversible quilt back, I used Indian dye powder to dye a white piece of cotton as red as I could in the washing machine. I had to get my mop out when red dye started flowing over the rim of the defective workshop loo but the floor is concrete so no harm was done. The quilt back is a great colour but more under-ripe tomato red rather than ketchup red but I don’t mind because there are variations of red in the screen prints.

  

I decided to use the Qmatic to do basic background quilting in spirals then think about how to add interesting embellishments or additional stitching later. I was so pleased with the result that I forgot that I had intended to outline some of the figures. I carried on and attached the binding, complete with a fancy spiral stitch. I might pin the quilt back on later if I feel like attempting some freehand outlined Warlis in sparkly thread.  I hope to do some rustic kantha stitching in some of the blocks, add some block printing and sew on a few random pompoms so although it is technically finished it is not actually finished…

  

Superwoman Sometimes

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I completed 2 customer quilts this week using Bernina Qmatic. I am pleased to say that I have sussed how to realign the safe area which was a puzzle to me for a while. It is very accurate at matching where the next row of a design should be placed. An issue that I need to solve is when customer quilts are not totally square and the size of the borders varies throughout the quilt. 

  

In anticipation of the new Q24 being delivered I rearranged some stuff in my two rooms. Although I have a lot of space, it is not well designed with sloping ceilings, bits of wall that stick out, windows where blank walls would be more useful and a lack of wall sockets. I have to keep all of the Bernina boxes for the Q24 that is on loan and they used to be stuffed under the APQS machine. Since the new Q24 is a couple of feet shorter, I can store the boxes at one end of the room. I wanted to hide them behind a hanging quilt so I installed an IKEA curtain wire with a tension mechanism. The wood that I had to fix screws into was very hard so I found it difficult to get them in all the way and for some reason the tension mechanism wanted to unravel itself so my solution was to wrap that end in duck tape! Of course I could not find a quilt that was exactly the right size to hang so I folded over the top 6 inches of my Fancy Forest and attached curtain clips to hang  it from the curtain wire. 

I laid out all of my Warli screen prints and realised that I probably have more than enough to make a quilt – in fact I may even make a double-sided one if I have time. I was not thrilled with the quality of the print using my new screen so have decided to re-expose it so the images are crisper. I want to keep the Warli spiral design so I bought my own screen since the college ones will be wiped when the course finishes. I plan to print the Warli spirals onto some long cotton scarves when I make my mind up about whether to dye them or not. I ran off a few prints of the design that I drew based on circular mantra stitching and I love the way it turned out.

  

The Aberdeen delivery company commissioned to deliver the new Q24 phoned to enquire whether I had a forklift as it was all loaded on a hefty pallet. I explained that the usual procedure would be to take the plastic wrap off the pallet and carry the boxes separately. I was not impressed when one guy instead of two arrived with a truck that did not even have a lifting tailgate. Thanks to my porter’s trolley and some determination we managed to manhandle the boxes off the truck. 

I spent more than 2 days slowly assembling the new Q24 frame single-handed. If you don’t have to do it regularly it is easy to forget the easiest way of doing things and a few of the fixings are now different to the original installation manual. I got there in the end and I am looking forward to trying it out when I get a long enough extension cable. 

My kids have been mortified by the Landy’s latest anomaly which is that the alarm kept going off randomly every time the doors opened or closed and quite often while driving along. It turns out that the driver’s door lock is broken so I have temporarily had to tape it shut with pink Scottie dog duck tape until I can get it fixed. I have a nasty feeling I may have to get an entirely new door since the whole thing is rusty. 

Fergus refused to be taken to his first solo performance at a pub in Aberdeen in a car that gave the impression that it may have been stolen so we had to squeeze his gear into the Beetle. Quite a few of his college friends turned up and declared that he did a great set. He has since been booked as a support act for a few local gigs so it looks like I will be the “Roadie” until he passes his driving test and gets his own transport.

Quilting in a (not so) Polar Vortex

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It has been very cold here this week with temperatures rarely rising above zero celsius, even in bright sun. I cannot imagine what it must have been like in the USA where some places were colder than Antarctica! We had very little snow up here so everything ran as normal except for my Landrover which had ice on the inside of the windows, the alarm beeping as I was driving along due to some ice in the electrics and I had to use rope to tie the door shut when the rubber seals froze so that Bumble was not ejected. Twice a day I had to pour boiling water over the hens’ aluminium drinking trough because it kept freezing. While the prospect of summer seems like months away, I booked tickets to the Latitude Festival in July so I will have to organise some camping gear since my folks have sold their caravan. 

I managed to get my workshop up to a working temperature most days as long as I was also wearing thermals and at least 2 extra jumpers. I managed to finish off the quilt that the computer messed up while I was busy multi-tasking. I tightened up the belts and clamps  then had no more issues on the final quilt done by my trusty APQS Millennium. I advertised it for sale in the New Year, assuming that it would take a while to sell as it is the 14ft version. To my surprise it was snapped up within 24 hours! This week I packed it all up, with all sorts of accessories and spares then it was collected to go and work for a new owner in the south of England. I have owned an APQS machine since 2007, quilting ALL sorts of projects on it so it was quite a big decision to let it go and order a second Bernina Q24. However, I know that I love free-motion on the Bernina and the new frame will be a bit shorter so there will be a little extra storage space in my studio. 

Once everything was tidy I noticed how the longarm room could do with being brightened up. I will hang a quilt up to cover some boxes and invest in some fairy lights. I can’t do much to hide all of the quilts, totems, wadding and general “stuff” that I have to store other than keep it tidy. Imagine how amazing it would be to design a studio from scratch with cavernous hidden cupboards;)

  

I actually completed 3 other customer quilts, all done with computer pantographs. None of them were quick or easy and I had to keep a close eye on them. I downloaded a great pattern called “Steampunk Spokes”, perfect for an engineer / bike enthusiast whose mother made him a birthday quilt. Qmatic did a great job but each row took at least an hour to sew. 

 

Since I did not feel I could go away and leave the machine quilting completely by itself, I decided to titivate the sketchbook that will accompany my screen printed Warli figures at the Gray’s School of Art evening class exhibition. I confess that I did not create the sketchbook THEN create the artwork. I actually created the artwork with what was inside my head then put the ideas onto paper afterwards. I printed out examples of Warli artwork, stuck in some photos that I took in India, added a few fabric samples, decorated some of the pages with wooden stamps then decided that the outside would be more fun if the spiral binder was festooned with pompoms. 

 

 

I ran off a few more prints at the class, including some foil transfers. I discovered that they do not work with a hot domestic iron at home. I only need one or two weeks more at the class to create prints so I leave enough time to sew all of the samples together as a quilt, particularly if I am considering adding a couple of blocks of pompoms / yo-yos, because – why not?!

 

Older but not Wiser

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I became another year older this week but definitely not any wiser. I decided that the best way to celebrate my birthday was to work on the Bollywood Borders sample quilt while allowing the automated quilt system to work on a customer quilt. The first 2 rows were great then a belt clamp became loose, the whole design slipped and stitched over itself twice. This led to a pointless 4 hours of ripping out very small stitches! And I did not make the required progress on the Bollywood piece. 

Freya arrived in Munich just after midnight on Tuesday evening which was amazing progress made just by hitch-hiking. The entire group of students from St Andrews raised over £40 000 for local charities on this adventure. They also had great fun making new friends, drinking beer and enjoying Bavaria in the snow. 

  

Meanwhile, in my workshop – I decided that I would only work on Bollywood Borders and NOTHING else until it was finished. I lied when I said I might leave some of it unquilted. I could not leave more than half an inch of fabric unstitched. Maybe there is too much stitching but it is meant to be an aspirational piece for students to show them how far they can go if they want to. They can decide how little or how much to quilt. 

I started off by marking some border sections using a ruler and Frixion pen then marked in where the large shapes would fit. Some of these were drawn with a longarm ruler, using a ¼” spacer disc and others used a shape template that I had cut out of funky-foam. Paisleys had proved tricky to draw accurately. I could draw them using a combination of French curves but I was not sure how I would quilt them. The students will learn that they do not need an exact ruler for every shape. Basic rulers will guide them around odd shapes and at times they will have to be brave and go freehand. Of course, the Q24 is very well balanced so it is quite easy to freehand accurately. 

 

I had several reference books on Indian design on my table and had scoured through my Indian photos, looking for motifs. I hate that I doubt my drawing ability – little flowers should not be difficult! When I really started to analyse the shapes used in wood block prints and carvings I noticed that many of them were simple repeats of lines, lace and sprigs so all I had to do was vary where the fillers got used within the big shapes. 

I thought the whole project needed to be finished off with a touch of Bollywood Glamour so I spent an entire day filling some of the outlines with gold fabric paint and dotting on little blobs of pearlescent 3D paint like henna paste. 

Obviously, it took me far longer than 3 hours to complete the class sample quilt but the students should have enough time to learn how to quilt each section, even if they have to finish off the details at home. 

Just for fun, I bought myself a Polaroid Snap Touch camera for my birthday. I don’t “need” it, it just appealed to me and I like the idea that picture stickers can be printed straight out and put into a scrapbook. Suddenly, an idea that I had been mulling over for a while took shape and I realised that an effect that I want to explore is Double Exposure. I had a go at merging 2 photos from India – an elephant and a pattern. If I can find the right combinations of pictures this might be really interesting;)

I Ate an Elephant!

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My Esoteric Elephant class sample quilt rampaged away with me. Partly this was because I had not really decided in advance what designs would be used. Mainly it was because I just could not stop adding details to the quilting which the students will not actually have time to do in class. 

   

I tried using an acetate sheet to audition the quilt designs but I did not notice that it did not cover the whole area that I wanted to doodle on and the bright green felt pen slipped, leaving a mark. This was was really prompted me to start colouring it after defining some of the edges with gold textile paint and a tiny brush.

 

I started off using Derwent Intense pencils and aloe vera gel but not all of the colours were vibrant enough. Sharpie pens were applied on top but they had a tendency to bleed so I had to be very careful. I found some Sakura jelly-roll pens so used them to colour around some smudges. In hindsight, I should have applied some sort of primer to the elephant then I could probably have used Sharpie pens without any bleeding. 

I could have continued colouring-in the whole elephant and adding definition with a fine black gel pen but there comes a point when a class sample has to stop, especially when I have one more class to plan by the end of January at the latest! Having spent far longer than planned on the project I finished it off by adding tiny blobs of 3D fabric paint in some of the circles, rather than start applying crystals and mirrors. 

The Bollywood Border class should have been drawn out ready to quilt by the weekend but I found it tricky to decide on the designs. I will quilt out a sample that will involve some ruler work and freehand detail but I will provide alternative designs on handouts because the class sample won’t be large so only a few motifs can be explored in the class. I have now sketched out the bare bones on paper and will get it quilted as fast as I can – maybe I could even leave some areas unfinished (As if!) 

Having been a bit concerned that I had a lull in customer work since Christmas, 5 quilts came in last week and I also hope to get something underway for the FOQ competition. 

  

My Warli screen-prints are building up – not all of them are suitable but it should not take me long to print off enough pieces to make some sort of quilt. I have not yet decided whether to do any piecing with shapes other than squares and rectangles. Obviously, that would be far more interesting but there is the issue of TIME. I would really like to figure out how to get Art&Stitch/Qmatic to stitch out some of the Warli figures but that is still beyond my capabilities with digital design at this stage.

I drove Freya back to St. Andrews after a long Christmas break. It was lovely to have her at home and she has been hugely supportive of Nell’s prelim exam revision. Before she starts the new term she is off on an adventure, hitch-hiking to Munich for charity in a team of 3 students, racing against 60 other trios. It is fun to track her progress on www.race2.org.uk (Team 58)

Creativity at Last

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I am frustrated that I am not good at drawing yet that I have plenty of technology to “cheat” although that technology can be a puzzling minefield. I watched Youtube tutorials on how to create a spiral design with repeating motifs but it was for a PC version of Adobe Illustrator which I don’t have. There are so many things I think I could do with an iPad so I will see about going to the Apple Store for some training sessions.

My printer only works to a maximum of A4 so creating a larger design is tricky. I dragged out my old Overhead Projector and sketched out a couple of designs onto pieces of paper taped together which was not a bad solution, albeit a bit wobbly. 

One of the things I wanted to draw out was a spiral of Warli figures for my screen-printing class. I drew a wiggly spiral with the OHP then printed several sheets of Warli figures, cut them out with scissors then glued them on individually. Next I had to trace over them with a light blocking felt pen without any smudges. It took hours! I was pleased to find out that I could use the Scanncut plotter machine to draw out a different design by fitting one of the Zig pens into the pen holder even though the machine did not initially recognise the pen holder. 

At the screen-printing class the acetate was burned onto a photo-emulsion screen using a UV light and it printed out amazingly crisply. This term we will print out various screen that we have made and work towards a final exhibition piece so the obvious project for me will be a Warli figures quilt.

I am working frantically on projects that I can teach at the Bernina Longarm Academy at FOQ this year. One is called “Modern Mystical Mandala”. The tricky thing is that using quilting templates to create a design will not be accurate since the hopping foot adds ¼” to every motif and I could not find one of those little discs that add the ¼”! I resized some concentric circles that I had designed for Qmatic and quilted them out onto white fabric. I drew on registration marks with a friction pen then added other circles and pointy shapes using longarm rulers. My design ended up rather messy as I scribbled ideas onto the piece with the friction pen whereas I should have overlaid a sheet of acetate and used OHP pens so it was quite difficult to see what I was doing towards the end. 

  

Quilting out the sample for a 3 hour class took me about 2 days, mostly due to designing as I went along. Students can use a choice of simpler fills if necessary. I resisted the urge to colour in the finished mandala with Inktense pencils but stitched through large mirror sequins instead. The hopping foot caused the plastic to crackle on the smaller sequins but I thought it was a funkier material to use rather than bonda-webbed silver lamé. This was a useful exercise because I want to attempt a mirror sequin quilt based on an antique scrap of clothing that I picked up in India;)

  

Hogmanay Hiatus

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Instead of moping in at home on New Year’s Eve we went to a ceilidh at Crathes Village Hall. The place was packed with people of all ages and we joined in most of the dances, our ineptitude no worse than anyone else’s. The band leader called the dances so there were not too many collisions or bruises. Afterwards we were invited for more drinks and board games at one of the “new” houses and all in all we had a jolly time.

I always feel that New Year’s Day really is the end of the festive period and I like to put the Christmas decorations away before Twelfth Night. The house looked a bit bare without its extra glitz and I decided to fill some of the space with a new wall calendar. I made my own version of pages for my Planner, even though I only used it up until April last year before resorting to scrawled lists in notebooks. I can at least start the year off feeling organised;)

On Thursday I took my girls to the cinema to see “The Favourite”, a bizarre dark comedy about Queen Anne which was really good but also bonkers and tragic.

There were many things that filled my days last week and kept me out of my workshop. Bumble had to go to the vet and have a lump removed and we were amazed at how perky she was after a general anaesthetic, most annoyed that she had missed breakfast. We had a go at making Tofu with soya milk which is a similar process to making yogurt but not as tasty in my opinion. I am not entirely sure why but I decided to soak and cook a one-pound bag of chickpeas to recreate a salad that I had had bought in M&S to eat in the cinema. I had enough chickpeas to make a large salad, a sizeable batch of hummus and enough spare chickpeas to make at least 3 more meals, thus proving that dried chickpeas are more economical than tinned ones and can be used sparingly!

Nella roped Freya and I into helping her work on her part for her drama exam. She is a main character in a play called “Tally’s Blood” about a Glaswegian-Italian family during and after WW2. Some characters are Scottish, some Italian and some are hybrids so figuring out how to do the accents is a challenge. We will record it to help her learn it off by heart but I don’t believe we would blend in at all in Glasgow’s Italian Quarter, Merchant City!

I found myself editing Fergus’s music essay on a Metal band. He is an excellent guitarist and knows all sorts of stuff about music but writing it down is a chore. I untangled it, advised on presentation and learned a lot about Math Rock, just in case I should ever get asked about it in a quiz.

I was determined to tackle at least a couple of tasks on my To Do list so I decided what I will teach at the Bernina Longarm Academy FOQ in August – I “just” have to whip up the samples. I also watched some Youtube clips on how to use “ArtAndStitch” software. I felt brave enough to have a go at some exercises but discovered that my version of the software needed an update because I have had it for ages without using it. In the meantime I printed off all 200 pages of the manual because quite honestly I find it easier to flick through file than search for help online. 

It will be a hard slog getting up early every day next week but good to get back into a routine of sorts. I will probably soon look back at the lazy holidays with longing…

Lazing Around Over Christmas

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I like to spend Christmas Eve cooking so there is not much preparation to do in between watching the kids open presents and trying not to eat a whole chocolate orange before breakfast. I discovered late in the day that everyone actually did want red cabbage so I had to make a list minute dash to the shop to hunt for a vegatable that will most probably end up as hen food before the holiday is finished.

We had a very lazy few days with leisurely walks, glasses of sherry at any time of day, and inventing ways of making vegan turkey into appetising leftovers. After 48 hours I felt guilty that I was not busy doing something, trying to avoid being anti-social out in my workshop. I kept finding myself pointless little tasks including stripping the flowers off a basket of dried lavender. I had hoped that I could just whizz the whole lot in the Magimix but it made a mess and the motor got rather warm. 

At least I managed to run up a couple of mini-makes for a workshop in February where I will have no access to sewing machines which I will find a major challenge. I downloaded an entry form for the Scottish Quilt Show competition but the maximum size permitted is 60” x 80” so Iconoclast is not eligible. 

  

I took my girls to see “Mary Poppins Returns” which we really enjoyed a it was a similar format to the original with some great songs and animated scenes. I admit that I did doze off at one stage but I will put that down to too many late nights. 

I obviously thrive on deadlines and a bit of stress so once we have sen in the New Year I need to write myself a great big list of things to do then worry about how I am going to achieve everything. Before that happens I guess I will have to finish off all of the sherry;)

Christmas Buildup

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It has been a fast and festive week from the Banchory Academy Christmas concert to an impromptu show at the Deeside Dance Centre. My quest to find do last minute shopping was skewed by a puncture in the Landy on the same day that I collected it from the garage with a new starter motor and steering pump. To be fair, even a brand new car could have picked up a hefty nail.

I determined to complete the Fancy Forest quilt without doing any serious sums and ended up with a patchwork top that measured 72” x 109” so I pulled off the bottom row and reattached it to the side so it was 90” ish inches on all sides. Admittedly one corner was almost 3” wider than the top corner after the impromptu additional piecing but it will never hang on a wall so I decided that it was not important. I lined up lots of rows of the honeycomb pattern on Qmatic and let it run while I got on with the chore of wrapping presents. 

  

I used offcuts from the backing fabric for the binding so now it is complete and looks very bright and jolly even though it does not yet have an owner or bed. It may end up in the summerhouse for sleepovers when the kids push the 2 sofa-beds together. 

  

There have been a few late nights, waiting up to collect Fergus from the bus stop after the last bus home from Aberdeen and a great Christmas party/Housewarming at the newly completed barn conversion of one of Nell’s best friends. I had my annual festive coffee with Mo and Tania and loved my selection of personal gifts which included gin and Scottie dog gaffa tape. 

Bumble was not hugely impressed when the girls made her have a pre-Christmas bath to make her smell fresher but now any malordorous festive pongs can be blamed on sprouts or stilton. I have dreaded doing the final festive grocery haul and my strategy for avoiding crowds is to go late on Sunday evening when it will either be a feast or famine…

Mutant Creatures and Roadie Trials

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I felt like the 1970’s Children’s TV character, Mr Benn this week as I took on many different personas – vegan chef, unsuccessful Landrover mechanic, Band Roadie, Quilt Whisperer and Chicken Keeper. 

I started the week helping a friend quilt radiating lines on a mini quilt for which I was paid in Gin. Next I loaded up my Unicorn mega block, having dithered about custom quilting for ages then deciding that an all-over tight honeycomb done by the Bernina Q24 Qmatic would be eminently suitable. 

  

Having made no early preparations for Christmas, I was happy to fill my virtual basket and order all sorts of items online – I just have to hope that they will arrive on time.

I took Fergus out for lunch on Tuesday to celebrate his 17th birthday, only ordering one course because we had a squidgy vegan chocolate cake to polish off later. He had his first driving lesson which he declared a great success, then asked when he attempt to could drive the Landrover. The Landy has been a bit of a drama queen of late, clunking, groaning and being reluctant to start. Landy-Man advised that it would need a power-steering pump, starter motor and a weld on the half-shaft which he could not do until next week. I managed to transport Fergus and his gear to a gig but when I tried to start it later to take Nell and her friends to watch it was dead as a dodo. I called Mo who came to the rescue with her car so we managed to get there on time and bring all of the gear home later.

  

Rather unusually I had caught up with all of my customer quilts and did not need to “waste” time going to town for present shopping. I am still undecided what to work on for my next competition quilt but I needed to work on some sort of project. I dug out the random collection of Fancy Forest blocks and laid them all out on my table. They posed quite a puzzle since I had made some giant animals as well as a few of the fiddly smaller ones. The original pattern recommended that all of the plain background fabrics should be the same then sashing would be added to connect it all together. Obviously, I had used a variety of shot cotton background fabrics so had a collection of blocks that really did not want to fit together at all. Luckily, I found a large piece of a plain Oakshott Lipari so decided to add 2” strips around the creatures and fill in any gaps with some Gees-Bend/Improv style strip piecing. Eventually I ended up with 4 rows of varying widths which could be made to fit by adding more strips or squares until the shortest row was as wide as the longest one, not bad for someone who is not a maths genius;)

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;)