I made it my mission this week to figure out how to use the GoPro camera and to be able to make short video clips on my phone. I ended up making a daily Brigton Farm newsflash just so I could practise doing some off-the-cuff pieces to camera, building up to making longer quilting demos in the future. One of my children has told me to stop spamming Instagram with my clips and another says I should spend some time editing my videos and adding music. I think it is actually quite an achievement just to figure out how to start and stop the camera – faffing around doing editing can come later;)
I don’t know whether the newsflash spot was a spur for activity but I seemed to get quite a lot done this week. As well as supervising a DIY quilter and completing a customer quilt, I finished the other Tifafai thistle piece that I started in Germany. I worked out a really good combination of metallic threads and stitch size on my overlocker to finish off the edges without adding a binding.
While my DIY customer was engrossed with her quilting I reorganised my 2 IKEA trolleys so that each longarm machine could have a essentials kit ready to be wheeled up close. I was thrilled to discover how well the magnetic pin bowls stuck to the side of the trolleys.
My Postie delivered an assortment of parcels ranging from Kilner jars to be used for yogurt making to a budget version of a German folding shopping basket. I had intended to decorate it with something like free-motion stitched broderie-perse but it would have been tricky to avoid the pockets for the struts and the zipped side pocket. In the time that I could probably have done all that I decided to make quite a lot of pompoms to dangle from it instead.
I am coming up close to the deadlines for entering quilt shows so I dug out the long abandoned BzB anti-wholecloth project. I stared at it for a long time, jotting down a few notes on how it might be tackled. Its biggest problem seemed to be the vast amount of negative space which is traditionally filled with ½” diagonal lines. I hummed and hawed for ages, made some extra templates and decided to fill up that space since a) I am not making a modern quilt and b) I am not making a traditional quilt and c) because I felt like it!
Amazingly, my 15 year old, battered Landrover passed its MOT test, apart from needing a new tyre, which means I can once again look forward to trundling off to Quilt Shows, delivering kids to Guide Camps, Duke of Edinburgh Expeditions, Music Festivals, and eating Fish and Chips in the car:)
I am really enjoying working on a lino-print “Traveller’s Blanket” panel from Dijanne Cevaal using 30wt thread. It is challenging working on such a small scale with a large longarm machine – it is really embroidery rather than quilting. I am more fired up working on this small project than anything else I have done in a while and I will be looking for more heavy weight threads. Dijanne and I are hatching a plan to work collaboratively on “something” and I am very excited to see what we might come up with…
After our lazy day of sight-seeing and soaking up the sun, Dijanne Cevaal launched the students into intensive stitching projects. It was an absolute treat to quilt for fun all day long. I was slightly freaked out when she suggested that we draw a central vignette or motif so I cheated and found a woodcut drawing of a fish on Google that I developed. Dianne prefers to work with 30 weight cotton thread. I was impressed how the Bernina Q24s ran it without complaining and how the stitching really stood out. I decided to stick with the same blue thread for the whole piece so it was monochromatic. Dijanne declared that what we were doing was “Drawing with Longarms”.
It was very interesting to discuss methods of networking with an established travelling quilt tutor. I was encouraged to try using the social media platform, Instagram regularly, learning about hashtags and tagging people who might be interested. I now have followers who are into wood-carving and making sexy bread.
I started a threadwork piece using one of Dijanne’s lino-cut prints. It is not quite as easy to work that small using a longarm but I am having a good go at it. The thick thread looks amazing and I can add hand-stitching or beads later. The main challenge of the second day was to design and stitch a Tahitian style Tifaifai appliqué. I sketched out part of a spiky thistle using paper folded into a triangle. This was traced onto Bondaweb, ironed onto fabric then cut out with tiny scissors. The tricky thing was to free-motion quilt around the raw edge appliqué several times, building up a solid edge. One of the students had greater success using a longarm appliqué guide but I discovered that I could use manual mode fairly smoothly. I don’t think this is a technique that I would have chosen to do myself but I am really glad of the opportunity to try it as I really enjoyed the project. I was determined to complete the black background quilting all in the same day. I have the negative thistle still to complete which it will take most of a day to do.
I had a terrific time teaching and learning in Coburg. Regina and Dijanne were great to work with and I was very well looked after. I was actually rather sad to pack up to go home, even though I had extra goodies including thread, sweeties and projects to fit in. I am hoping to go back and teach workshops for Regina in the future and I intend to meet up with Dijanne again as we got along very well:) When I got home I went straight to the supermarket to buy food for a German style picnic tea!
I went home with a German cold so I did not feel like sorting my stuff out until the weekend. Feeling guilty about my apathy, I made myself do boring admin first so I can do some more on my unfinished German projects later in the week. I did not exactly laze around – I managed to get a small customer quilt done, delivered Easter eggs to Freya in St Andrews on Good Friday and rustled up some basic cable-tidies that look nicer than strips of black velcro.
The Easter holidays end on Tuesday so Fergus needs to get into serious revision mode and tackle the maths questions that I downloaded – luckily for me I also downloaded the answers! I have quilt competition entry deadlines looming and I need to work out whether is feasible to make something new in time for FOQ… If only I could get up at 4am and not waste time on the internet:P
I have come to the conclusion that it would be simpler to write down all of the tasks that I do not have a hope of finishing, see how the week pans out then fill in my diary retrospectively. I was beginning to panic that I would not get my class samples ready in time for my German trip next week – then I started to worry that the projects were too big and the students would not finish them either. Of course, they do not need to be as intensively stitched as I did them!
The pink pleather piece did not “need” additional embroidery around each circle and the Spotty Sampler Quilt did not “need” more stitching or couching either;) It was actually quite hard to come up with 16 completely different ways of quilting a circle. It was not until afterwards that I remembered I had a file full of photos of examples of stitched circles that I did for the Bernina Q-Matic system.
I was relieved when both projects were completed. I have had months to prepare for these classes but School Stuff and Life just kept getting in the way. I have now written instructions for both of those projects in case there is some finishing off that students need to do after the classes. I actually wrote 888 words on how to make a simple tote bag with an internal zipped pocket because I take the view that every step should be crystal clear, making no assumptions that the maker already knows what he or she is doing. I can even let the maker know that they can fit at least 8 bottles of gin into it!
Fenella is off to Guide Camp this week and obviously, I could not manage to send her off with 2 cheap supermarket tea-towels… I had to dig around in my stash and make 2 fancy new ones from vintage linen with hanging loops and name tapes! No wonder I have not found time to practise my German conversation on the Duolingo app. I must do some cramming before I go because I cannot imagine I will have to ask for much “brot und wasser” from “der junge” – however, I expect I will use “Entschuldigen, mein Deutsch ist schrecklich!” (Sorry, my German is dreadful!)
It was an absolute boon to have Freya at home at a bit of a loose end for her Spring Break from Uni. Most of her friends were either away travelling or had different holidays. It was so helpful to be able to text her with instructions to switch the oven on or rustle up a batch of chocolate brownies. She even did the catering for a class of ladies who were here for a day of improv curved piecing.
I enjoyed her company for dog-walks and morning coffee, and she proved to be a very good chicken whisperer. Within 24 hours of asking if anyone had hens for sale on Facebook, we had 4 new layers, 2 of whom immediately tested the defences and worked out that they could easily escape using a vertical take-off method. We rounded them up and gave their wing feathers a trim, returning them to the chicken run so we don’t lose their eggs in hidden nests amongst the nettles.
I marked a piece of Bosal interfacing with a Frixion pen and quilted circles onto a piece of fuchsia fake leather. I used a small curved ruler to quilt inside the circles then “organically” freehanded the background. It is far too long since I did this type of quilting just for fun and I really enjoyed it, despite having to slow down after bending a needle that was too fine for the job. I should have used leather needles but I did not have any left so I used a metallic needle instead. It was tricky when using the acrylic ruler base because it kept sticking to the fake leather underneath – next time I will just use the Frixion pen on the “pleather” side, not the reverse. This piece will have some accent embroidery stitching around the circles then will be made into a simple leather tote. It is a sample for one of the classes that I will be teaching in Germany in a couple of weeks.
The other project will be a sampler quilt of machine quilting. I have decided to quilt the background first on this occasion then add fancy circles afterwards. I don’t know how I came to order cotton sateen fabric with added spandex but I managed not to get any weird puckers in the automated curved line quilting.
I had a very cultured weekend starting with taking Nella to “Blood Brothers” at His Majesty’s Theatre in Aberdeen. The show was fantastic with amazing performances, clever scenery and it ended with a much deserved standing ovation. Freya and I went to see Nell in her choir concert on Saturday morning then we went off to see the new Disney version of “Beauty and the Beast”, starring Emma Watson at the cinema. We enjoyed it as a spectacle far more than “La La Land” and now want to dress like French peasant girls in long pantaloons, Provencal layered skirts and espadrilles;)
I am very impressed with my new Swiss-Army style Bernina seam ripper. A DIY customer was using an automated quilt design on a Dresden Plate quilt that had fulness issues where it had been appliqued onto a large background square. I was able to release a few of the stitching lines then freehand the fullness in without so many puckers.
Something came up to scupper my plans for the rest of the week…
I should have had plenty of nice photos of a small custom quilt that came in as a rush job this week but it ended up biting me in the bum so I have decided not post photos of it. I should have known better than to agree to fit something as complex into a 4 day slot, especially as the new customer phoned 3 times and paid a visit before I even sewed a stitch. Her instructions were extremely specific – ditch and ruler work only. Since I have been longarm quilting for almost 10 years I should have been able to judge more accurately how long the job would take but I just told her my hourly rate and said I was not sure how long it would take to ditch all of the tiny pieces on the quilt until I got started. When I phoned to tell her that the job had taken 9 ½ hours she was horrified and sharply informed me that she did not intend to pay for that much quilting. Like a wimp, I met her halfway because I had not provided an accurate quote up front. Important lessons learned: be more realistic when estimating time that a custom quilt may take, stick to my guns on pricing, remember not to quilt for that customer in future!
I placed an online fabric order for some solids that I will use to make a project for my classes in Germany and as long as they arrive in good time I WILL be making samples up this week and hoping to make a “pleather” tote that I hope my students will also make. I have finished something for Freya’s birthday but I can’t show photos of that either;)
I have Freya home from Uni for a week which is lovely. She spent an exciting week in Marrakesh with friends having adventures and she brought me some fragrant spices.I was her sous-chef when she replicated a delicious Moroccan feast. Since we had some decent spring weather, she took charge of the operation of relocating the ramshackle hen run. We spent a couple of hours scrubbing the hen-house and detangling the fencing from nettles and itself before rounding up our one remaining “feral” chicken. We were rewarded with a lovely fresh egg! Now that we have an escape proof again run we can get a few more hens or even ducks to keep us supplied so we don’t have to go out and buy eggs:)
It took 2 whole days plus the weekend for me to unpack from my Quiltcon trip, fight with my laptop and phone to upload photos, restock the freezer, post random cr*p on Ebay that Fergus had sold, and do laundry – working from a list that seemed to get longer rather than shorter. Perhaps my new notepad will help. The pages are separated into “what I must do/ what I should do/what I probably won’t do!”
Bluecat got so bored waiting for my full attention that she eventually sat on top of the keyboard and would not budge. Thistle got my attention by murdering one of the friendly robins…
I kept hoping that I would have time to quilt a length of very fake leather/vinyl to make a sample tote bag for classes or play with the adjustable ruler foot for my Bernina 710 but I spent so long on catching up with admin, learning how to use Instagram and helping Fergus to cut thick cardboard for his art project with a rotary cutter that I will only just have enough time to repack my suitcase before I head off to Switzerland for a Bernina Q-series seminar on Tuesday. I have at least loaded up a customer quilt so I can crack on with it as soon as I get back.
I LOVE travelling but would like a little bit of planning time to finalise what classes I am intending to teach and what competition quilt I want to make in time for FOQ. I have in mind a potential series of quilts related to “Shield Maiden” but “BzB” is long overdue or maybe I could go all improvisational;)
On Monday morning I had to jump out of bed and fling my clothes on as a DIY quilter arrived sharpish while I was lazily reading in bed, celebrating the mid-term holidays. I thought I knew better than my calendar and decided that it was weird that she had scheduled the 13th of February and also 13th of March when it was just a weird quirk of the calendar.
I managed to fit in a nice wee quilt for a customer but the only other sewing was a zippy bag for my new selfie stick, purchased specially for my forthcoming trip to Quiltcon;)
I can prove that I have not been time wasting because I have filled up 7 whole pages of ideas and things to do in my notebook, as well as a random list of tasks for Thursday and Friday. I did just about everything on it, even coaxing the hibernating lawn-mower into life and persuading Fergus to help dig up a tree that self-seeded itself right outside a window about 7 years ago.
I also had a productive brainstorming session with Tania, attempting to work out a schedule of workshops from my studio, hoping to replace the classroom teaching. It was great to have another person come up with helpful suggestions on dates and general logistics.
It would appear that I have prepared for a siege, having cooked and frozen a selection of ready made meals for my veggie teens for when I am away. The store cupboard is full of emergency rations, including 9 tins of baked beans and spare Nutella. There is enough pet food for at least a month and everyone’s schedule is on the noticeboard. I am only off to the USA for a week but a few days after I get back I will be heading off to Switzerland for a Bernina Q-Series seminar, followed by a trip to Germany a month later!
I have actually typed up a list of potential projects for consideration – I know I must make up some quilting class samples fairly urgently but I really feel the need to be working on something else instead of constantly “dabbling”…
It was midweek by the time I had written yet more lists, helped a DIY quilter, did a cute customer quilt, tried to help Fergus tackle last minute revision for his Music Prelim, and managed not to sort out the kitchen cupboard that is full of spilled sugar. After all of this industry and to stop myself from getting sucked into reading an epic trilogy non-stop, I decided to have a go at Sara Lawson’s “Aeroplane Bag that I had purchased as a PDF.
customer quilt – Candyland computer pantograph
I already had fabric and some interfacing but by the time I had been to the craft shop to get a chunky zip, more specialist bag-making interfacing and some more pompom wool, I reckoned it would have been cheaper to have bought a bag in Cath Kidston’s very jolly shop.
It took me some time to prepare all of the pieces and because the pattern did not actually say to check that my fabric should be the right way up, despite the many photos, I managed to cut out my budgies upside down! The only solution was to add a panel of co-ordinating fabric and pretend that I was doing patchwork. The instructions were very good and I managed not to get lost. The only hiccup I had was getting the ends of the chunky zip to line up exactly despite being very careful with that step. I need to give myself a zip masterclass to figure out how to improve that.
There is an iffy bumfle inside the lining that only I need to know about but overall it looks quite professional. I decided to make a false bottom to make it sit up even more like a carpet bag. If I could get my hands on a piece of sewable carpet I would love to make a Mary Poppins bag for under £400, although the metal clasp could prove even more unco-operative than a zip!
Truthfully, I don’t waste time at all – I just don’t fill it with meaningful activities at every opportunity. I could watch daytime TV or read novels all day if I owned a chaise longue but according to my many lists, I have productively done some pointless filing, written my first pupil reports in 17 years, made bramble jelly, listed loads of old magazines for sale on Ebay, changed a lightbulb, completed and bound two customer quilts, and even planned what we were going to eat each evening!
The trouble is, I don’t actually have any projects on the go. I have PLENTY of ideas, and even a quilt top or two lying around. I have been trying to get all of my outstanding jobs done first but I never feel I have achieved in a week anything unless I have sewn something to prove it. So… I absolutely have to get my brain in gear, finish that big job hanging over me which is updating the list of Patchwork and Quilting classes that I can offer so I can finally knuckle down and create something!!
To remind myself not to take life too seriously now that my Planner gives me no excuse for forgetting ANYTHING, I thought it would be appropriate to make some pompom page markers so I know what day it is;)
I went off on a bit of a tangent one morning when I sorted out a box of quilt magazines, cataloguing and photographing them in case I ever get around to listing them on Ebay. This led to reorganising another box which contained all of the publications in which my quilts have appeared. It was uplifting to look back at all sorts of projects and it made me realise that I want to produce more work that can go into print in future.
I had to take BlueCat to the Vet, rather worried by a hard lump that had appeared on her undercarriage. She was not impressed to be bundled into a cat carrier. The vet was incredulous as he explained that she simply had an unusually protruding piece of cartilage on her ribcage that must have changed shape. I was too relieved to feel silly but I did feel obliged to purchase a 6 month supply of wormer to make the visit worthwhile.
When I had finally caught up with all of my self imposed tasks, including a few useful ones, I started on a customer quilt that took 3 days of background and SID. It was not full-blown heirloom quilting but it was fairly intricate with lots of stops and starts. The on-point squares were too big to go all the way around using the ruler base without rolling the quilt on so they had to be done in 2 halves.
Theoretically I have 6 days to quilt in the next 2 weeks including 2 simple customer quilts and 2 DIY clients and my Planner goal for February says that I should be making a start on monstrous “BzB” which has been waiting for 4+ years. Alternatively, it might be wiser to plan more quilt classes and make samples. If only the Planner would implement a ban on deviation and work avoidance!
Freya and I arrived back in Scotland late on Monday night form our amazing trip to St Petersburg then I had a DIY quilt customer here on Tuesday so that left me just one day to catch up and unpack before my 2 days in school. I keep having the guilty feeling that I have not achieved anything in January 2017, apart from a superficial tidy-up in the workshop and a terrific 3-day trip to Russia;)
I rashly decided to clear out a couple of boxes of quilt magazines that have not been opened in several years. If I can be bothered I will try Ebay, otherwise will have to give them away or just recycle them to make space as I can’t keep putting stuff into my workshop without taking some other stuff out!
I got a bee in my bonnet about making a bag for the vintage Elna Lotus sewing machine as I was worried that it could get rust spots on its metal case from the cold air on days when my workshop is not heated. I quilted a linen fabric with Bosal interfacing which is spongy and helps bags stand upright. I did not have enough quilted fabric to make shoulder straps but decided that I only needed small handles anyway. There were no pockets but I came a bit unstuck when I had to put in the zip panel as it meant that the opening was not wide enough for the sewing machine. I had to take the zip panel apart and use a longer zip that overhangs at each end to overcome that issue.
I have made lots of notes thinking that I could probably come up with either a generic sewing machine bag or a handy shopper tote pattern. There are already many of these online but many seem to have vague instructions. There is probably no point in writing a whole book on alternative pockets/zips because this has already been done but I would like to come up with a bag that could be made as a gift that has a neat finish and is practical.
My new desk planner now has dates and I have written up a wall calendar so there should be no excuse for forgetting appointments or not tackling admin tasks in a timely fashion in the coming months…;)
I am not usually lost for words but my trip to St Petersburg, Russia with Freya was so amazing that it is almost impossible to describe it. There was simply so much to see and do to stop and write a travel journal at the end of each day in which we walked for miles on snowy pavements, marvelling at spectacular architecture and absorbing all of the history from Peter the Great to the demise of the Romanovs and the Siege of Leningrad.
The scale of imperial wealth was so vast that it seemed inevitable that a revolution should eventually take place. There were enormous palaces on every street. At the time of “War and Peace” it would certainly have been a place to see and be seen. We could imagine the swaggering cavalry officers parading across the Winter Palace Square.
Three days were not nearly enough to experience all of the incredible sights and museums. We found the people welcoming and the city was buzzing with families still on their Christmas holidays. We chose to eat Russian food – the Soviet style canteen was an interesting experience but we made up for it the next evening by sampling vodka and caviar! I was embarrassed that I only knew about 4 words in Russian but at least I could make out some of the cyrillic words and Freya could understand a lot of what was said.
I think the city would be crowded with tourists in summer so we probably chose a good time of year to visit. It was around -2 degrees but did not feel as cold as a damp day in Scotland. We were well wrapped up and all of the buildings were extremely well heated. Out little apartment in an old courtyard just 200 yards from the Winter Palace was so cosy that we had to sleep with the window open even though it was snowing. I would love to revisit St Petersburg in the future – it was truly an awe-inspiring experience!
I always have to start the New Year with a big tidy up. No matter how much stuff I think I may have got rid of on Ebay, more stuff seems to arrive to take its place. My workshop becomes Santa’s grotto before Christmas then it doubles up as a cold food store over the holidays so there were many cardboard boxes to squash, invoices to file and much glitter to vacuum. I will re-fold all of my fabric stash in due course but at least I have managed to stop the IKEA basket-drawers from collapsing further for the time being.
My tidying extended to completing my tax return, writing school lesson plans, and tackling the music room cupboard that was bursting with bits of drum-kit, kazoos and random cables. I need to get rid of some instruments that the kids have outgrown and have failed to sell!
I have ordered a fancy new planner which I hope will make me become a Super-Organiser. I write everything down in two A5 spiral notebooks but I have a nasty habit of using post-it notes that don’t always make it into the “Mother-Notebook”. I have tried a Filofax Planner in the past but it was too small so I the A5 size should work better. I just hope I don’t waste more time organising my new planner than I might actually gain in being more organised;)
Here is my simple plan for 2017…
Far more quilts, teaching quilt classes, travels, writing, fun!
And a little less angst, school teaching, gin;)
I have spent the week wrapping, buying food, struggling to make Scandi fabric stars, cooking, and making giant white, fluffy pom-poms and swapping surprises with friends and family… Merry Christmas, Everyone!