Category Archives: Quilt Competitions

All Systems Go

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Hopefully the reorganising bug that I caught seems to have subsided for now after I have rummaged in the depths of my pantry and even hoovered ancient cobwebs. The thing about my clear-outs is that it eventually makes way for more vintage finds and handy gadgets. I should really start my own junk shop…

BzB arrived back from FOQ so Freya and I inspected BzB for loose thread and fluff before it got sent to MQX. We made a very tentative attempt to block it to remove a slight bulge in the middle bottom that I noticed at FOQ after it had been flipped to show off its backside a few times. Realistically, it is impossible to block a quilt that should not get wet in case its colours run so all we could do was measure, pin and dampen the binding. As a thank you for her patience, I made Freya a cushion from a woolly jumper that I had accidentally washed too hot. I had to empty 2 silly triangular feather cushions to make a sensible square inner-pad so it looked like I had been plucking chooks for the pot outside my workshop!

Much to Freya’s chagrin, I determined that “we” would conquer the setup of Bernina Qmatic – she was just there for moral support while I figured out what to connect. It was hugely exciting to switch it all on for the first time and see if it worked. Fortunately, it was all systems go with lots to learn. It is quite different to the APQS Quilt Path. It is like switching between Windows and Mac – both equally powerful but different to operate. The Art and Stitch software looks challenging but it will enable me to have a go at proper digitising. I will have to schedule learning time for the new system and software. I spent an entire day just testing out the basic features and stitched out a few designs.

As a reward for all of Freya’s help this week I decided to use the large Qmatic sample from FOQ to make a couple of throws for her student flat. It was simply a quilt sandwich with lots of example stitch-outs so I added wavy cross-hatching to fill up the gaps. There was a spare piece that I cut off and Bumble seems to have decided that she would like to use it while she is in the workshop, mostly sleeping, because she does not find quilting the least bit interesting.

The only actual sewing I did all week was some mundane mending! I was all set to work on some ideas for future quilts, knowing that I had efficiently filed a document on my laptop. However, despite a lengthy search I discovered that it had completely disappeared. I was lucky that at least some of the ideas were in scribble form in my notebook. As usual, I am not short of ideas but I need to decide which ones might actually work;)

Meanwhile I have a packed week ahead to get ready for my trip to France, sending Freya back to Uni, and organising the other 2 kids during my absence.

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Beelzebub’s Long Story

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This was a quilt that had an usually long making process. It all began about 10 years ago when I attended a class on drafting a traditional Durham whole cloth with a well known British quilter from the north of England, Lilian Hedley. She provided some drawings of motifs from antique Durham quilts and showed the students how to draw large feathers using old English pennies onto baking paper. Lilian explained that Durham wholecloths were usually drawn onto cotton sateen fabric then hand quilted very simply with a cross-hatch background. I never intended my design to be quilted in this way as I am a longarm quilter and I wanted to use a non-traditional fabric, maybe even gold lamé.

In the end, I folded up the paper design and put it away in a box because I could not decide what to do with it. I thought about it every now and then but I was distracted by making other projects such as a Quilted Yurt, a Smart Car Cover, a series of Viking inspired wholecloths on metallic fabric and a Coracle. I kept thinking about the Durham wholecloth design and mentioned it on my blog several times over the years. It actually made me feel guilty that it was a long-abandoned project and I named it “Beezlebub” because it seemed like a demon of a quilt.

 

Eventually, I chose to use basic, wide calico that I dyed pink in the washing machine and I started tracing the wholecloth design using a Frixion pen and a light box. This was tricky since the baking paper had become brittle and fragile with age. Having now seen beautiful machine quilted feathers at quilt shows my Durham style feathers seemed rather big and ugly. My plan was to start with the very traditional wholecloth design then work out how to make it unconventional. I kept thinking that it could all go horribly wrong.

 

At some point I decided that my wholecloth design could become an anti-establishment wholecloth by giving it a pieced back which may end up being the front. There was no piecing plan – it was just a random selection of blocks in a colour palette from the Scottish landscape. Most of the colours I selected were harmoniously heathery but once those began to run short I simply used what I had managed to dye; not to mention an anarchic use of fine silk and heavy, rough linen.

The pieced BzB quilt ended up at almost 2.5m square and I felt like Dr. Frankenstein, spending several weeks creating a monster with its own agenda. It was a long way off what I had originally intended but I found it to be an interesting process.  I learned to enjoy freestyle curved piecing and appreciate that some forward planning may have been useful.

For a time I considered renaming the quilt, “Highland Fling”, thinking I could say that ceilidh dances and the Scottish landscape had been my influences all along as there was a combination of the constraints of traditional blocks and the wild abandon of how it all went together.

I still had not decided whether to continue with my original plan of quilting a very traditional wholecloth design onto a very unsymmetrical pieced quilt with no obvious centre. I had always intended to make the background of the wholecloth far more interesting than the main design but I was constantly arguing with myself on whether this quilt may need require far more contemporary quilting to pull it all together. Yet again I decided to put the quilt away until I had made up my mind. Quite simply, I found BzB intimidating and I was too scared to start something that had taken me so long.

I was coming up close to the deadlines for entering quilt shows earlier this year (2017) so I pulled out the long abandoned BzB anti-establishment 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 should traditionally be filled with ½” diagonal lines. I thought about it for ages then 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!

 

I was expecting to have 3 custom quilts to do in May but their makers did not finish them so I had no choice other than to load the rather large “BzB” onto the Q24 frame and make an attempt to get it done in time for FOQ. I decided that if I committed to enter it into the show then I would just have to get it done;)

  

I was irritated to discover that I had not saved a whole pack of wool wadding and that the under layer of black wadding was not wide enough. Yet again, I questioned why I had made BzB so big. I phoned several UK quilt shops but none were able to guarantee next day delivery or even had what I wanted in stock. There was only one solution which was to join all of the leftover bits of wadding together. The huge pieces that I reconstructed were then generously spritzed with water and laid out to relax because the wool wadding that come in packs is always impossibly creased.

I have to admit that BzB was making me very nervous. It had been waiting for a long time  and had to be sewn upside down with the piecing on the back for me to be able to see the quilt markings. I had to get perfect stitch tension on both sides since I intended for it to be displayed as a double-sided quilt. I tried out different threads, including a wool blend which looked great on the top but was not so nice on the back because the colour was not right. I was faced with the choice of ordering some more thread, sight-unseen online or making do with something else. In the end I decided that since BzB was a bit anti-establishment so I would start with a 30wt neon pink cotton just because I had it on a huge spool.

I overcame my fear, plucked up some courage and began the outline quilting on BzB. I went VERY slowly in manual mode because that it simply the smoothest way to quilt around a drawn line.

I really wished I had allowed myself a year to work on this large quilt, instead of a few weeks as there was so much that I wanted to do and I could not think how it would get done by the deadline.

Pretty much all I did for a full week was quilt with pink thread so it was a good job that some of it was variegated, just for the occasional surprise.

After a 10 second discussion with myself, I decided to quilt tiny spirals in the half-inch quilted piano keys because I knew I could not bear to leave them empty. Then I started on the marathon task of stitching small spirals and swirls in the background which was back-breaking because I like to have my nose as far over the quilt as I as I can and I don’t have a hydraulic lift on the Q24 table. Frankly, it was quite boring at times and progress seemed to be slow because it was so large. Even Bumble, my Scottie Dog, thought it was tedious and went outside to watch the grass grow.

It could be said that BzB had 5 main phases of construction – the designing/drawing/tracing the whole cloth pattern, piecing, quilting the main motifs, quilting the background and finally, after a very long 2 weeks – the colouring which was done with Derwent Intense pencils painted with aloe vera gel. I have to admit that this stage felt everlasting at times. I even got a blister on my finger by gripping the colouring pencils so tightly.

  

After the colouring was complete I began re-quilting all of the large motifs on BzB with wool thread to add definition. I only held my breath a few times and to my amazement, it went far better than expected. I ordered more 110 wool needles and I used every single one of them. Thick layers of batting, bulky seams and paint soon cause needles to go blunt.

The second round of quilting took another long time but I knew the way around the quilt this time. There were times when I became incredibly bored with the monotony but after I passed halfway in the middle of the week I was encouraged to get it finished. I had to remind myself not to get over excited for the last few feathers as it was so tempting to rush to the end.

 

It was such a relief to get the quilt off the frame at last. Squaring it up took me a few hours – I could not just measure out from the feather border all around as it turned out that I obviously had not drawn it squarely in the first place. I was amazed that the 2 opposite sides matched each other when I measured them. The outer edges were not too wavy and flattened down nicely after some serious dampening. I managed to get the quilt bound, labelled and packed up ready for FOQ in time for the school summer holidays, having worked non-stop for 6 weeks. It is impossible to say exactly how long BzB took but I would guess that it could have been well over 600 hours from start to finish!

  

On the day before FOQ opened I missed a call informing me that I was a winner so when I arrived at the show early on the day that it opened I was amazed and delighted to discover that it was the winner of the FOQ 2017 Contemporary Quilts category! It was the first time that I had even seen BzB hanging up and it was wonderful to receive congratulations from everyone. I had worked on this quilt for so long that I really was not sure if anyone else would like it. It was interesting that some people liked the pieced back even more than the coloured wholecloth front. BzB is a quilt that I am so happy to see finished after such a long time and many sleepless nights of wondering whether I should just abandon it because I could not decide what to do with it. Hopefully, this should encourage anyone with a long forgotten UFO that it might get finished one day.

 

Spring Cleaning in Autumn

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I don’t know why it always amazes me how much can be achieved with a good TO DO list.  All sorts of jobs got done including booking flights to Strasbourg for the show in Ste. Marie aux Mines and almost setting up the Bernina Qmatic system. There was a blip when I could not find the bracket for the PC monitor. A pair of glasses and my tripod were also missing but it took days for me to remember that they were all safely stashed in the suitcase full of quilts that I brought back from FOQ.

I wrote a lengthy blogpost for Bernina Germany on the story behind BzB which I will also publish in English. I had to trawl right back to the beginning of my blog for references to the project that never seemed to end. It looks like the original drawing was done in 2007 or even earlier and I kept having ideas or guiltily chickening out for the next 10 years!

Christine Porter kindly sent a couple of photos of TT from the World Quilt Show. It will continue on a USA tour with Manusco. BzB should have gone on display at the Knitting and Stitching show but I had to ask for it back to get it ready to go on to quilt shows in the USA. The competitive life of a quilt is usually 2 years within its completion so unfortunately I could not afford for it to be out of commission for 4 months.

  

I completed 3 customer/DIY quilts, even one with a too-short backing that I had foolishly not measured. I had to unload that one, cut strips off the side and sew these along the bottom, adding significantly to the time taken.

  

All summer I have been haranguing my kids to get rid of toys and books that they have outgrown. They have sold a few things on Ebay and they have now sorted out bags for the Red Cross Shop or the dump. Freya has gleefully put aside her maths jotters for a ceremonial bonfire. Over the weekend I managed to get rid of a shelf unit, Lego, a cycle trailer and a puppet theatre. The house that we rattled around in 17 years ago is bursting with things that we no longer need. Now that the school year has begun, I am in the mood for a major purge, tackling cupboards, even ditching out-of-date food colouring and bags of citric acid that I must have bought for some long-forgotten reason. My next task is to sort out electronics, in particular the charging cables for gadgets we probably don’t have any more.

My workshop also felt claustrophobically full of “stuff” so I had one of my ruthless clear-outs in there, ditching a pile of wadding scraps. There is already a tall pile of offcuts that could be sewn together which will probably still be in that state in 6 months time. It was definitely time to offer a box of quilt magazines a new home and to sort out the pile of cardboard boxes that might come in handy. My shelves may not be stacked with matching boxes but things are considerably tidier which clears the way for some new creativity.

Yet More Fizz!

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I had further cause for celebration this week when I received emails letting me know that “Tartan Tattoo” has won Best of the UK quilts at the World Quilt Show www.quiltfest.com and that BzB has been juried into MQX!

On opening a chilled bottle of Furze Fizz, I discovered that it does not improve with age. It tasted eggy and not in a delicious eggnog way. Sadly, I decided to dispose of the remaining bottles but I may have been too hasty because I decided to slurp some of the escaping fizz from the last one and found that it was just as delicious as the first one. If I make it again the solution will be to have a party and consume it all within a month;)

It always takes a while to come back down to earth after the frenzy of FOQ but this year it seemed to take me ages to finish unpacking and catch up on admin. My kids had a Yurt Nite Party in the middle of all of this, followed by me being on bacon roll and mugs of strong tea duty the next morning.

I spent an afternoon with a Bernina Q24 owner, experimenting with tricky threads, giving  her advice on how to fiddle with tension and use all sorts of specialist machine needles for best results.

Desperate to do some sewing, I quilted a wonky baby bunting quilt made from well-worn shirts and even performed a good deed by overlocking a pile of tatty chiffon scarves for the local dance school.

  

 

Freya, Bumble and I went on an expedition to St Andrews to deliver some of Freya’s stuff to her new Uni flat because I did not want to repeat the mammoth task of cramming masses of  her and her friend’s belongings plus 2 bikes into the Landy.  The new flat is in a central location and will be cosy when the girls have settled in but it is shocking what student landlords can get away with in their standard of furnishings despite charging high rents. I emptied a choked hoover that had obviously never been emptied before and threw a bag of rubbish into the car to dispose of later. We may need a trip to IKEA to purchase a few home comforts.

I have a neatly written To-Do list ready for next week and the kids go back to school after their long summer break so maybe I stand a fair chance of getting 50% of that done and trying to get back into a routine…

Plenty of Posing at FOQ 2017

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I arrived in Birmingham on Tuesday afternoon then started to help with the monumental task of setting up the longarm machines. Wednesday was the main prep day, particularly sorting out the Qmatic system, and we were finished by 7pm. Obviously, we were there to work but after a long day it was nice to eat out and catch up with quilty friends, even when some of them think it is amusing to pull that old stunt of pretending it is my birthday and getting the restaurant to sing “HB to You”. I temporarily lost my phone (it was in the bathroom) so I missed a call letting me know that I was a prizewinner!

 

In the morning I was absolutely delighted to discover that Beelzebub had WON the category for contemporary quilts. It was then moved from its double-sided hanging pole to the single sided winners’ wall so the Quilt Angels got plenty of arm exercise showing off the pieced back/front. I was overwhelmed by all of the admiration for BzB after all of the time and trouble it took on and off over a few years. There were a few who asked about its name  – the simplest one is that it was a demon of a quilt!

 

The Bernina booth was buzzing with customers, visitors and demos by several of the international longarm ambassadors and experts: Aggy from Switzerland/Italy, Regina from Germany, Elly from Belgium and Merete from Norway. We even had British quilting superstars, Janice Gunner and Philippa Naylor, who won Best in Show with her exquisite miniature quilt. There are professional photos of all of the winners on www.thefestivalofquilts.co.uk

 

I jogged around all of the exhibits early each morning and ensured that I also stopped to look in all of the special galleries. It was inspiring to see a Nancy Crow and Students showcase. Another stunning gallery was a collection of amazingly tiny miniatures by Kumiko Frydl. I was excited to bump into quilting celebrities and take selfies with Luana Rubin, Victoria Findlay Wolf and Stuart Hilliard.

I put the GoPro to use making time lapses of the crowds, quilting action and I even attempted to capture every single quilt on a zoom around the entire show – a segway may have made that job easier.

 KayBell: “Face Off”

 “Shield Maiden”

I can hardly believe that FOQ is all over for another year. It was an action-packed week that flew by. There were times when my feet ached and I could not think straight but meeting all of the lovely quilters from all over the world made it all worthwhile:)

BzB is Done and Summer Hols Begin!

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It took a few hours to sew the reverse of BzB’s binding by hand as I had to make sure that the stitches did not show at all. I decided to make a top sleeve in the end so if quilt judges don’t think the back is up to scratch then it will have to come off at a later stage. I added a subtle label to the pieced side and blocked it to straighten out the edges. It was not measured scientifically so I hope its weight will make it hang well enough.

  

I remembered that Shield Maiden is also going to FOQ – it did not seem to have been blocked before and also required a label. After getting both of the quilts ready to pack I had that weird feeling that I experience after finishing every major project. It is a combination of not being able to believe it is complete and also wondering what I should be doing to fill my time. I even considered preparing some piecing to take on holiday but thankfully I decided that several bottles of wine and some good books would do just as well.

I loaded the kids, booze, festival trolley, bucket BBQ, and Bumble into the Landy late on Saturday morning and we set off on our road-trip to a cottage near Ullapool in North West Scotland. We took the scenic route, the last part of which was on single-track roads with sheep roaming freely. The cottage has magnificent views over Broom (sea) Loch and the Summer Isles. The weather forecast for the week is poor but we packed plenty of sensible clothing although Fergus may been seen wearing a floral raincoat because he decided against taking his own waterproof.

  

We spent Sunday pottering around on the rocky shore, glimpsing seals in the waves. Bumble was exhausted after scrambling gamely over the rocks. Surprisingly, nobody else wanted to sample limpets boiled in seawater and I have to report that my curiosity is now satisfied. Without any parsley, garlic or butter to hand, they are gross! We have no major plans for our week apart from some exploring, fish and chips, and contentedly watching rain stream down the windows. If the sun comes out it will be a bonus but not essential for  us to enjoy a fun holiday.

Major Progress with BzB!

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I loaded up a brand new, shiny bobbin case with wool thread and went to Radio Silence for the first couple of hours re-quilting all of the large motifs on BzB. I only held my breath a few times and to my amazement, it went far better than expected. Early on I decided to order ten more 110 wool needles to add to the three I already had and I used every single one of them. Let’s just say that thick layers of batting, seams involving linen and paint soon dull needles. The quilting took a long time but I knew the way around the quilt this time. There were times when I was bored to tears with the monotony but after I passed halfway in the middle of the week I was encouraged to get it finished. I had to remind myself not to get over excited for the last few feathers as it was so tempting to romp to the end.

 

It was such a relief to get the quilt off the frame at last. I did a quick tidy of stray threads and will do a thorough check later. The back looks good but I still don’t know whether the judges will pick me up on the little knots that have built up here and there. I love the look of the wool thread so I think I am OK with a few little blips.

 

BzB is a monstrously heavy quilt and takes some man-handling. Squaring up took me a few hours – I could not just measure out from the feather border all around as it turned out that I obviously had not drawn it squarely in the first place. There was some creative fudging so I was amazed that the 2 opposite sides matched each other when I measured them. The outer edges are not too wavy and should flatten down after some serious dampening.

I decided to go for a top hanging sleeve even if the quilt does not get shown double-sided but I am not sure if it will look as neat as I would like yet. Mind you, when it is hanging up over 90” from the floor, it will be difficult to scrutinise. I attached the shot cotton binding by machine on the front and will try to get most of the finger-puncturing hand finishing done during the week so I might not have to take it away on holiday! There is a fair bit of titivating still to do – checking to see if that the painted bits need touching up, deciding whether to add a few sparkly crystals, re-colouring the spirals inside the flat-iron shapes that look like a cartoon character has been knocked unconscious, reattaching the label that I sewed on wonkily, and finally – BLOCKING!

Phase 5 of BzB = DONE!

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I reckon you could say that so far BzB has had 5 main phases so far – the piecing, designing/drawing/tracing the whole cloth pattern, quilting the main motifs, quilting the background and finally, after a very long 2 weeks – the colouring/painting. I have to admit that this stage felt everlasting at times. I even got a blister on my pencil-gripping finger callous. I listened to repeats of repeats on the radio but I am now very up date with current affairs.

 

I ordered a battery operated pencil sharpener which is even more satisfying to use than my school-teacher hand crank one and I find that one pretty entertaining.

The next stage is to quilt around the main motifs again with wool thread which will be SCARY! I have even agreed with myself to do less stitching than I had originally considered but even so, it will probably take around 10 days if all goes well.

 

Bumble has been someone to talk to in my self-imposed exile, just making herself comfy on the floor nearby. Or even, making herself comfy on humans who happen to be lying on the floor, always keeping a weather eye out for grumpy, nose-out-of-joint cats;)

Beezlebub’s Endurance Test

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I can’t remember a quilt project being quite as all consuming as Beelzebub since the Yurt or The Smart Car. If anything, this quilt is even more intense as there is a tight deadline  to get it finished in time for FOQ, taking into account the school holidays, and I want it to be over and beyond a basic bastardisation of a whole cloth quilt. If I had more time I would probably even add even more extras such as beads.

   

My days have involved at least 9 hours scribbling away with Derwent Intense pencils, carefully adding aloe-vera gel without splurging any onto the quilt background and using the smallest possible paintbrushes to add metallic paint highlights. I have not been anywhere or seen anyone except for a mad dash to the grocery shop for essentials or walking the dogs in the persistent rain. My emails remain unanswered and a pile of unopened post is stacking up on my desk.

The General Election largely passed me by, apart from the incessant analysis on Radio 4. I am now convinced that one of the characters from farming soap, The Archers, will either die or run away at the Isle of Wight Festival just to spice the listeners’ lives up a bit. I think that most of the British Public will feel strike poses like Bumble if we are faced with yet another election in the near future…

If I manage to put in the same amount of time in the coming week I may just finish the colouring to allow a maximum of two weeks for the second quilting on the large motifs. That is actually beginning to worry me – do I honestly think I can stitch right on top of the previous stitching with wool thread, around the coloured or painted sections with absolutely nowhere to hide?

It would be nice to think that the next project I do may be slightly easier or at least smaller;)

Missing in Action

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There almost was no blogpost this evening as I have been totally absorbed with adding colour to Beelzebub with Derwent Intense pencils and a gel to blend them in. I feel that I have bitten off far more than I can chew as just doing the bottom row of feathers took 3 days and I am not entirely happy with how they look in real life. I reckon coloring the entire quilt could take 2 weeks and I still have to requilt and add longarm embroidery to the large motifs. It really will be down to the wire with this quilt to get it done by the end of the school year! This is possibly one of my most stressful projects to date. At least I am up to date with current affairs by listening to Radio 4 for hours on end…

Barking up the Wrong Tree?

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I confess that I may have spent more time experimenting with thread than preparing for 4 days in the classroom but everything worked out well and I enjoyed teaching an enthusiastic bunch of kids. The older members of their class were away on a residential trip so it gave me carte blanche to do fun stuff with them like make slime, introduce them to algorithms, Scottish monsters, make rocky road and fidget spinners using cardboard and 1p coins. It was nice to be met in the playground each morning and get reports on how their slime experiments were going but I was shattered after 4 days – goodness knows how teachers manage to keep going for 5 days, week after week!

I had 2 exhibition rejections this week. Unsurprisingly, “Shield Maiden” was not juried into Fine Art Masters at FOQ but it looks like I am in good company as several well known British art quilters also had their pieces turned down. I have decided to keep plugging away at that competition because I will take great pleasure spending that elusive £5000 prize one day. Touch the Pickle was not one of the 59 final pieces selected from 500 entries to go on tour in the USA but it will be in the Threads of Resistance online gallery. I keep telling myself that “You have to be in it to win it” but it does irk that you have to pay more than regular show entry fees to enter these competitions and there is no refund if you don’t make the grade. Sometimes I feel like it is almost like buying a raffle ticket – you win some, lose some.

I attended a fun Saturday workshop at Grays School of Art on screen printing to see if I would like to study textile printing in more depth. The art school had great facilities and the tutor was lovely but I already knew how to do what was covered in the class. To be honest, I would rather teach than be a student but since I do not have an Art or Textiles degree, that just won’t happen.

After the class I drove down to St Andrews to collect Freya, her friend and all of their worldly belongings for the summer break. I honestly could not believe how much stuff they had and was not convinced that even half of it would fit in the Landy. It took 2 hours to stow it, lash it onto the roof, stuff every crevice, and even then the girls were squashed into their seats with their feet on boxes and bags on their laps. All the extra gear made the Landy extra sound-proof so the journey home was quite pleasant (for the driver)!

The incentive for unloading the Landy on Sunday morning was that we had to pick up our new family member. Bumble the Scottie has come to live with us and she has made herself at home. She just likes to hang with whoever is around, does not bother cats (who are not best pleased so far), can manage to jump on the sofa but can’t be bothered to go upstairs and will even watch students play monopoly or strum guitars. After the summer when everyone goes back to school and uni, I expect she will even watch me quilt. I actually feel a bit like Doctor Who because she is exactly the same shape as his robot dog companion, K-9!

I am hoping to get most of the background quilting done on BzB this week as I have got the cotton thread for that but I still don’t have all of the Aurifil lana that I need to re-quilt the large motifs. A couple of quilting friends were on a mission to track it down at Malvern so in the end I should have enough. However, I will also be taxiing students around, chatting to my new hairy friend and gingerly testing the Furze Fizz;)

Quiltcon Savannah 2017

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My Quilt-Show-Travel-Friend, Ellen and I decided that we need to attend Quiltcon East in Savannah to really get to the crux of “The Modern Quilt Movement” since the definition on the MQG website is wide open to interpretation. (Modern quilts are primarily functional and inspired by modern design. Modern quilters work in different styles and define modern quilting in different ways, but several characteristics often appear which may help identify a modern quilt. These include, but are not limited to: the use of bold colors and prints, high contrast and graphic areas of solid color, improvisational piecing, minimalism, expansive negative space, and alternate grid work. “Modern traditionalism” or the updating of classic quilt designs is also often seen in modern quilting.)

After journeying for 24 hours we arrived at out apartment in the Historic District of Savannah to a pleasant temperature in the high 20’s C (or well above 70 in F). The convention centre was across the wide Savannah river and was accessed by a free ferry ride.

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Savannah, a coastal Georgia city, is separated from South Carolina by the Savannah River. It’s known for its manicured squares, horse-drawn carriages and ornate antebellum architecture. Its cobble-stoned historic district is filled with squares and parks like Forsyth Park, shaded by magnolia blossoms and oak trees covered with Spanish moss. The historic district’s architectural landmarks include the Gothic-Revival Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist.

The best in show quilts were displayed prominently just inside the show hall and were very impressive with plenty of lines, solid colours and improvisational piecing.

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As we studied all of the quilts it was not always easy to work out why some of the entries were categorised as “Modern” quilts. Occasionally they seemed to address only one or two of the descriptors in the MQG statement. There were many that could have been influenced by the Gee’s Bend style, some that were traditional in all but colour and the majority were quilted with straight lines. I was particularly interested in the negative space category because that would be where I hoped to see some awesome quilting. I was surprised that some entries had taken the idea of negative space almost literally and had really gone for minimal quilting whereas others went to town showing off their motifs and fillers.

I enjoyed discussing the attributes of the Modern quilts with other visitors and I took lots of photos on my phone as my camera (and knickers!) were lost in transit. Sometimes you need to look at a photo of a quilt after the show to appreciate it fully because as with any large quilt show, visitors can be overloaded with visual information and stop looking properly.

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I was delighted by the visitors’ responses to my quilt, “Tartan Tattoo” which was in the Modern Traditionalism category. They enthused about the quilting and colours and many lovely people told me that they would vote for it as their Viewer’s Choice. The quilt angels were repeatedly asked to show off the back which is pale grey and every stitch is on show. I did an impromptu and very off the cuff video interview with Teri Lucas, a fellow Bernina ambassador and community editor at Generation Q Magazine.

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We interspersed our study of the quilts with forays around the vendor booths. Several fabric companies had big show-off areas but nothing to actually buy. There was plenty of fresh, modern fabric to choose from from shops and designers as well as plenty of solid ranges. Longarm machine companies were all well represented but I was unable to spend money on any gadgets or rulers that I do not already have;) I had to buy other things instead, including an Elizabeth Hartman “Forest Friends” pattern and fabric bundle, a couple of books/patterns that I fancied and another set of Double Wedding Ring templates to see which I like the best (in the manner of my extensive ultimate carrot cake recipe research). There were a few other bits and pieces and far less thread than I anticipated so it all fitted rather nicely into my suitcase, padded out with TT for its journey home.

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I would like to have attended some of the lectures but demand had been so high that the website crashed and everyone we wanted to listen was sold out.

Although I had taken along my new selfie-stick, I found myself too embarrassed to actually use it and I hate going up to folk and asking them to be in my photo. I met some younger quilters – Emily, Snaleeleena, Shruti and Jen – who gave me a spontaneous tutorial on Instagram while we waited to collect our quilts at the end of the show. Typing #quiltcon2017 into Instagram shows well over 9000 photos from the show, the visitors and what they got up to.

It was lovely to meet so many enthusiastic quilters including Ellen’s delightful Twilter (Facebook) friends. I also ran into British and German friends who were attending Quiltcon for the first time. The people of Savannah were so pleasant. Many of the waiting staff were students at the huge art SCAD Arts College. We also had a most memorable and informative trolley bus tour with Denise who reminded me of the sassy character, Minnie from “The Help”.

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It is a good thing that we walked so much around the easily navigable streets and squares because the food was incredible. I ordered delicious shrimp at every opportunity but I had less success with snow crab legs which were long, skinny and difficult to extract. Whenever we got hot and had achy feet we stopped for beer, margarita or ice cream!

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The town of Savannah was beautiful and historically very interesting. The architecture was amazing and since the 1950’s efforts have been made to ensure that new buildings are sympathetic to the colonial style. We wandered around the graveyard where soldiers had camped during the Civil War. The prolific Spanish moss hanging from the trees was atmospheric, which is more than I can say about the night-time ghost tour:P It was interesting to hear the story of Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of the Girl Scouts of America. (Juliette Gordon Low, 1860-1927, was the founder of Girl Scouts of the USA with help from Sir Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Scouting Movement. Low and Baden-Powell both shared a love of travel and support of the Girl Guides. Juliette Low joined the Girl Guide movement, forming a group of Girl Guides in Scotland in 1911.

In 1912 she returned to the United States and established the first American Girl Guide troop in Savannah, Georgia that year. In 1915 the United States’ Girl Guides became known as the Girl Scouts, and Juliette Gordon Low was the first president. She stayed active until the time of her death.

Her birthday, October 31, is commemorated by the Girl Scouts as “Founder’s Day”.)

Although we did a lot of travelling in one our shortest trips to the USA, we really enjoyed the whole experience. I like the concept that Quiltcon moves around the USA – I think I would quite like to teach at a future Quiltcon, maybe I should aim for Nashville in 2019?

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Are You All Set for Christmas? (- Grr!)

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I know folk are only trying to be festive when they ask, “Are you all set for Christmas?” but it drives me mad! I would like to have made a pile of beautiful home-made presents but to date I have not written any cards, wrapped any gifts or purchased any Christmas food. By Sunday afternoon each week I wonder what I have been actually been doing frittering away my time then I jot down a few reminders for my blog and realise I have really managed to fit quite a lot in;)

I did semi-custom quilting on a customer’s “Silent Movie Star” and my free-handing felt seriously rusty after doing mainly computer pantos and lots of lines lately. I was reminded why I have a thing about gold lamé as the quilting on it positively glittered!

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I met Freya on the train to Edinburgh for our trip to the Russian Consulate to obtain our visas. I was concerned when the very plain building in which it was located looked deserted apart from a tiny hand-written note advising visitors to turn left, go through a car-park and enter from the rear of the property. We had to have our fingerprints digitally recorded then handed over forms, passports and the pricey fee but we still won’t know for another week whether we have been successful.

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We spent the rest of the day wandering around the Christmas market. By chance I spotted a poster for “The Goldfinch” which was on loan to the National Gallery of Scotland. It was  thrilling to see the real painting on which Donna Tartt’s fictional novel about its theft was based. The exquisite, small bird’s portrait was painted in 1654 by Dutch painter, Carel Fabritius.

It was lovely to catch up with Freya as I had not seen her since October and we were both very excited to discuss plans for our weekend in St Petersburg. It is a good job we had lots to say to each other as our train home was delayed by almost 3 hours.

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I received a surprising email from The Modern Quilt Guild about my QuiltCon entries. “Tartan Tattoo” has been accepted for the modern traditional category but “Shield Maiden” was rejected from the show. I was so sure that the SM quilt was just the sort of thing that QuiltCon would be looking for. I am in “good company” as far as rejections go – there were many amazing rejects on Facebook and Instagram so it will be very interesting to see what quilts have actually been selected. There were some good social media posts about why entrants should not get so het up about rejections and I will certainly enter “Shield Maiden” elsewhere but it is always disappointing to make a quilt specially for a particular contest then it does not make it.

My week ahead is likely to involve a last minute attempt at making something Christmassy, sellotape, glitter, a frantic scramble for the last mailing dates, wishing I had bought wrapping paper in July and hunting for Brussels sprouts!

I Can’t Seem To Do Subtle

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Now that it is on Freya’s bed in Uni Halls, I can post photos of her “away” Christmas quilt. It is a Betty Quilt pattern that I downloaded from Erica Jackman on Craftsy. It was quick and easy to piece and I used a computer panto called “ Let it Snow” by Natalia Majors at http://www.sunstonequilting.com The fabrics have a fun Scandi look but I will have to warn her to use a load of colour catchers if she ever washes it since red dye was obviously coming out while I ironed the binding!

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I have got Shield Maiden to a point where it could be hung (on a sturdy batten as it is so heavy!) Hand sewing linen is seriously heavy duty, especially when the edges have been overlocked to stop them unravelling. The deadline for Quilt Con is in 10 days so it at least needs to be finished looking for photos. I can add some stitched runes if I think they will work. I want to paint the trickles gold then experiment on a piece of sacrificial linen to see if a radical idea might work… The quilt is subtle but in my opinion it currently lacks “Oomph”.

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Purdah was rejected from the SAQA Layered Voices exhibition with a very professional let-down informing me that only 23 out of 535 made the cut. Those were high odds but I had hoped that Purdah was relevant to that sort of exhibition. I don’t know where Purdah can be exhibited. It clearly is more of a statement than a competition piece, like so many other things I have made. I wonder whether some quilters win consistently in competitions because they aim to perfect a particular style of quilt. I am obviously still busy experimenting, trying to find “my” style;)

RandR with TT and Friends

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After yet another hectic week working on customer quilts and being at school it was great to stay with Ellen overnight then meet Kay for brunch in IKEA near Edinburgh before visiting the Scottish Quilt Championships. Kay had several customer quilts in the show as well as a super new kaleidoscope quilt, “Brewster’s Reflections”. For some daft reason my camera battery was dead so I have posted Facebook photos of the quilts but I’m sure Kay will have some good ones on her blog www.borderlinequilter.blogspot

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Tartan Tattoo came 2nd in large wall quilts and was awarded a judge’s choice certificate by Susan Briscoe! It seemed to be a popular quilt with the visitors which is hardy surprising at a Scottish show;)

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I finally found a day in which to iron Vilene onto my piece of linen and the woad dyed shawl. Drawing out the shield maiden motif onto freezer paper and cutting it out neatly was tricky but it is now ready to attempt the reverse appliqué which I hope to do in a few spare hours before my first classroom observation in 20+ years. I am telling myself not to get in a pickle over the latest teacherish jargon and just carry on regardless. If it all goes pear-shaped I will just have to carve out a career as a quilt artist:P

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