Category Archives: Quilt Competitions

FOQ 2018

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Being a tutor or exhibitor at Festival of Quilts is hard work! There is the preparation, the set-up, getting up early, going to bed late, long days of standing and explaining, and much walking. There are times when you feel that you are not actually getting to see much of the show BUT it is great fun meeting new people, teaching people how to quilt, catching up with old friends and socialising afterwards.

There was the usual controversy over some of the judging decisions and much grumbling about the lighting. I was extremely disappointed that navy blue “Iconoclast” was in a dark spot and was not allowed to move to the brighter, empty wall opposite. Most viewers walked straight past without giving it a second glance. 2 out of 3 judges scored it highly and gave excellent comments but the third did not seem impressed. I absolutely did not expect to win a prize, I just wanted people to be able to see my quilts properly after I had worked so hard on them.

 

 

Sadly, my “Domestic” slideshow onto a white whole-cloth quilt was completely invisible under an overhead roof-light, bright spotlights and in a white-painted gallery while a few of the Fine Art Masters quilts were displayed on the outer walls in more subdued lighting. I was chatting to some guys as they dismantled the gallery after the show and told them all about “Domestic” being an ironic entry after several rejections in previous years with what I had considered to be among my best works. “Domestic” is not a fine piece of quilting but more of a concept. After telling them that I consider it patronising to Quilters that FAQM entries should “transcend craft and be worthy of hanging in an art gallery” one of the guys finally introduced himself as the co-ordinator of that competition – well, Oops! Sorry, not sorry;) I am glad I finally broke into the elite with my ironic art quilt but annoyed that there had been no effort to display it sympathetically – I even had to check that the projector was switched on each day.

 Domestic did NOT look like this!

I enjoyed teaching master classes in the Bernina Longarm Academy, also running demos in the classroom and on the stand. I even kept up a constant commentary for a 45 minute Youtube Livestream video, wearing a microphone headset like a popstar.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amazingly, I did not buy any quilting supplies at all! However, I bought some basic clothes patterns and boiled wool to make a coat. I hope it is not just a fantasy and I will actually MAKE something to wear that fits for a change.

 

 According to one of the judges, ” Quilting needs attention”…

I did not take many photos, probably because everyone else who visited the show had taken plenty of pictures and posted them on social media. And I confess that I never did find time to look at every single quilt. Some of the exhibition galleries were fantastic – I was impressed that Nancy Crow presented 75 almost identical monoprints. I could not make up my mind whether it was sheer genius or artistic audacity.

 Customer quilting by Kay Bell

 Model Ford H by Kay Bell

I really enjoyed the Ricky Tims concert/dinner. He is an entertaining speaker and also fantastic at playing a grand piano. I gave him a standing ovation, although other members of the audience were more British and clapped loudly but did not stand up. There was a rowdy taxi riot after the show at the Hilton where seemingly innocuous quilters elbowed each other to grab the unbooked rides back to their hotels.

The whole week flew by so quickly. It was great fun, sociable, hard work, inspiring and it won’t be long until plans get underway for next year;)

 Gin delivery

 Hauling everything back after the end of the show!

Unpacking and More Packing

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

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

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

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

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

Lack of Photographic Evidence

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According to my camera roll I did not do much this week because I forgot to take photos. However, I finished a customer quilt, taught a bag making class and had a DIY quilt customer.

I tidied up the Domestic slideshow captions then packed it all up ready to go in a giant box acquired from the local flower shop. The quilt, which is actually a projector screen, was rolled then the micro-projector, cables, tripod and set-up instructions were safely packaged and the box has been sealed. The other 2 quilts, Iconoclast and Denim Wordsearch will be checked and folded nearer the time, trying to avoid too many creases.

I ran up some samples for my FOQ classes which involved some badly behaved tissue lamé, printing and vintage doilies dyed a marvellous shade of blue. I hope to quilt one of them this week so I can hand sew on some extras while I am visiting Family in Norfolk.

The Deckchair stripes quilt was completed with the dense Waterdrops circles pattern but I need to buy some striped or spotty fabric to make the binding. 

There was also quite a bit of time spent doing internet research on textile printing which prompted me to order some PFD white fabric. I actually got a very good deal because I was told that it was marked which I don’t mind since it will be dyed and printed anyway so now I have to store 24 metres of it. Sometime over the summer I will need to I have a jolly good sort-out in my workshop as it seems to be getting a little short of space;)

Iconoclast is DONE!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Iconoclast is STILL a WIP!

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I really could not pretend that it was still May so I had to get on with some actual work in the form of basting a large customer quilt and supervising 6 DIY quilts. This did not leave much time to continue working on Iconoclast which I had hoped would be finished by now. 

I made a label and hanging sleeve and tacked them to the quilt using an extra large straight stitch in bright orange thread. This proved to be far more stable than using pins so nothing could slip out of place and end up wonky. 

Eventually I decided to check for stray threads and fluff and deal with that. I have a useless fluff removing sticky roller. When I roll it over the quilt the head falls off and it is tricky to remove the fluffy layer of sticky paper to get to a clean piece. I settled on the idea of vacuuming it with a small brush head instead. This is when it dawned on me that there was an issue with the wool wadding. The quilt was covered in woolly fibres, some of which it had picked up on the way, but many more were poking out of the good quality blue dyed top. I know I had the wadding the right way up so this is really annoying. I had issues with EQS wadding a few years back but I put that down to being a bad batch after being told by the company that they had not had any issues when they tested it. It is difficult to get hold of rolls of wool wadding in the UK so I did not have much choice. I hoovered away for 2 hours, picking out fuzzy fibres. This will need to be done again before it is packed up for a show. I did wonder whether a solution might be to spray the whole thing with cheap hairspray!

  

Another time consuming finishing touch is sewing on chips of amber in the empty diamonds with invisible thread. I could be tempted to add amber beads elsewhere except that even I don’t have that much patience. A big job that I want to do when I next have a full free day will be to sponge the entire navy reverse with gold fabric paint so it looks like lapis lazuli and also just because;)

Finishing Faults

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ask Me what I do NOT know about Chalk!

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There should be a prize for quilting Stamina – I put in some long days at the quilt frame, sometimes 9+ hours and finally reached the point where I could unload and turn the quilt to tackle the remaining 2 borders on the horizontal. 

For some relief from quilting I made some binding/flange samples, the idea being that the edge looks a bit like military ribbons. The skinny ones looked very smart and I will save that method for a future quilt bu I decided that ¼” flanges suit this quilt best with a wide ½” binding. 

  

I finally completed the quilting after a lengthy 159 hours on the frame. The next challenge was removing all of my very boldly applied chalk marks. I had used Sewline, tailor’s chalk wheels, koh-i-noor chalk, General chalk pencils, school chalk, scrubbed lines out, reapplied them and generally scribbled liberally with chalk all over the quilt. I read up on chalk removal and the first suggestion was to wipe gently with dilute spirit vinegar. This did not prove effective so I diluted some Ace stain remover and started scrubbing the entire 8 foot square quilt with a soft toothbrush, thinking how tedious it must be to be an archaeologist. 

I kept the quilt on the frame in case I might have to do some stitching repairs but I think the tiny stitching has withstood the abuse. Amazingly, when dry it appears that the chalk disappears into the quilt except that I am feeling paranoid about ghost lines. I have collected an arsenal of other stain removers just in case I find any stubborn spots of chalk later. There is still a lot of work to do before it is finally finished then I will have to make a decision about the quilt’s name so I can make it a label and enter a show.

I was both astonished and delighted to hear that “Domestic” has been juried into the elusive Fine Art Quilt Masters at Festival of Quilts this year. Especially when I consider which of my previous attempts – Celtic Totems, Purdah, Shield Maiden did not make it. I must have got the arty blurb right for a change because I feel that this competition is as much about the concept as the actual quilt. Ridiculous as it may seem, I feel that this endorsement of my work finally allows me to call myself a “proper” Quilt Artist.

Coffee, Quilt, Sleep, Repeat…

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I have rediscovered my stove top coffee pot which makes coffee like rocket fuel, just what I have needed to kickstart every day that starts and ends with the Russian DWR quilt. Two days were slightly different. I had a DIY quilt customer in which gave me someone to talk to and I spent another day delivering a large canoe to St. Andrews for Freya that also involved collecting firewood for an end of term beach bonfire. 

I have now clocked up 123 hours on the Russian quilt! (I wish I had timed the piecing as well) It was exciting when the wadding left the floor and even better when the central area was completed. I rarely have to think about the quilting pathways now, except when I forget and end up unpicking ridiculously small stitches. 

  

Nell has gone off to Amsterdam on a school trip this week so there will be no school pickups or after school activities so I should really be able to power on if my aching wrist can keep going. 

  

Of course, completing the quilting will not be the end of the job, some of which will have to be done using a domestic machine. I am not looking forward to man-handling such a large quilt when I add gold trim and tackle the binding for which I have some simple but ambitious plans – but that will be at least another week away! It’s a good job I have taken up a new hobby in lino cutting for some light relief;)

It All Adds Up

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People often ask at quilt shows how long it has taken to complete the quilting so I have been keeping tabs on the Russian DWR, averaging 7 hours per day. Let’s just say that progress is slow – even the chalk marking takes forever. I would like to think that I am getting quicker now that I know what I am doing.

To my horror, I discovered that the underneath tension was not brilliant on the tiny ruler work and I will have to come up with a cunning plan to disguise it. Lowering the bobbin tension, increasing the top tension, checking carefully for microscopic fluff and changing to a gold needle designed for stitching through sticky stuff improved matters.

 

It was nerve-wracking and exciting to finally get to do some free motion stitching on manual in the amber sections. Each large pinched square takes 35 minutes, which is considerably faster than the equivalent area of ruler work. I am not quite on target for reaching halfway by mid May and I have not taken into account the chalk removal, blocking, binding and addition of amber chips and any other extras that spring to mind. Facebook sent me reminders that I have previously panicked over Tartan Tattoo and BzB in previous Mays. At least the longer daylight hours make the days seem longer.

I reached the point where I had spent so long in the workshop that I was hitting repeats of radio programmes so I found a good audio book to keep me going. My deadline is preventing me from getting bored but it is a bit daunting every day working on the same quilt and not rolling it on very often!

I finally got my Landy back after 3 weeks at the garage. It needed a new cross member, exhaust, prop shaft bearing and floor. It was VERY expensive. I was devastated to find steam coming out of the radiator, with water and anti-freeze pouring out of a hose the very next day. Luckily, a new jubilee clip, costing £1.67 fixed that. I will have to get a lot of customer quilts done after the DWR to fill up my piggy bank.

Hopefully by this time next week the bottom end of the Russian DWR quilt will be in sight…

When Doubting Thomas Met Peter and Paul

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My “Russian” DWR quilt still does not have a name or even an abbreviation although in a way it has tenuous links to Peter the Great, the Peter and Paul fortress, and The Amber Room with an homage to the Robbing Peter to Pay Paul patchwork pattern. My current favourite might be “Iconoclast”, obviously subject to change.

  

I finally got it loaded and have spent a total 45 hours working on it so far, not even reaching a quarter of the way through yet. To be fair there was a lot of thinking time, redesigning and working out the most efficient quilting path. 

  

I don’t think I have ever done such a lot of intense ruler work where lines must match up exactly. I have had so many doubts about it – is it too big, will I get it finished in a sensible amount of time (hopefully a month), have I chosen the right thread, is my back-tracking accurate, is it fancy enough, how will I bind it, will it measure up against the insanely high quality of other show quilts???

All I know is that it is coming along slowly and I will just have to keep chipping away at the enormous task until it is finished. Then I will have the worry of removing all of the chalk marks from dark fabric!

The Trouble with Time Travel

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Knowing that I had a custom quilt job to deal with before I would allow myself to work on my DWR project, I decided to swap Monday and Tuesday around, pretending that I had already made some progress. This idea backfired slightly when I got around to actually checking the measurements on the customer quilt and discovered that it was too small on the back and I would have to buy more fabric to give it wider borders so in the end I did not actually start on it until almost the end of the week.

At least I made progress, albeit rather slow progress on the DWR pieces. I cut all of the melons and pinched squares carefully with sharp scissors then added a stay-stitch around all of their edges to prevent the organza coming unstuck or fraying.

The weird thing was that the small arcs were way too small for the melons. The test block had worked pretty well but after at least 3 undos I knew that I had a problem. It also occurred to me that the melons had absolutely no give. I fiddled with the arcs and worked out that I would have to add an extra wedge to the middle of each arc with ⅛” shaved off each side. If I had attempted something like this even a couple of years ago I would have tossed the entire project away in disgust but I have determined that it will not defeat me – although I have not yet tried to join any melons to any pinched squares so that still might happen!

  

I have been giving some thought on what to do once I have got 9 rings done. I originally planned that would be it but I am aware that a potential show quilt needs more impact like fancy borders. Some DWR quilts are appliquéd onto backgrounds but that would either be too easy or a recipe for disaster. I think I may have to add some half-melons and half squares to to make a quilt with a straight outer edge to which fancy borders might be added. But I dread the thought of cutting out another 1000 or so mini eggs.

One idea that I have been toying with is using Decolourant paste to remove the dye from fabric, leaving a ghost image. I spent quite some time online looking for images of significant historical Russian women and trawling second-hand sites in the vain hope of finding a reasonably priced thermal copier, wondering whether I should invest in a tattoo stencil making machine. There are companies in the UK that make excellent thermofax screens but they are quite expensive and I would love to be able to make my own. I had a go at using decolourant on a photo screen from Freya’s school art project but the effect is not subtle enough so I need to go back to the drawing board.

No wonder a week goes by so quickly here. The customer quilt got started in the end and so far I have the outer borders done and appliqués outlined. BzB has been juried into Paducah and I am thrilled that it is the third of my quilts to have been shown there in the past 10 years. I will be giving a talk at Thistle Quilters in Edinburgh in a couple of weeks so it will be time to revisit some of the show quilts that are packed away and give some of them an airing:)

Looking Back on 2017

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I’m glad that what goes on during the Christmas-New Year week is not a reflection on life as a whole. Otherwise nothing would ever get done, we would be constantly ill and not know what to eat, despite a fridge full of food. I had planned to make myself some kit blocks for the Fancy Forest quilt but did not get around to it.

  

To be fair, I have not been lazing around the whole time. There was a 2-day stovie-making frenzy for Freya’s fund raising ceilidh. Peeling, chopping and cooking 30 kg of spuds was no mean feat. Pulled beef, onions and black pepper were added and neatly ladled into 12 large foil trays. These had to be unceremoniously dumped back into whatever pots and pans we could find at the Scout Hut which did not in fact have an industrial-style oven. The ceilidh was a great success and the stovies were declared excellent, although we do have a few leftover portions in the freezer.

I spent one of my lethargic days putting dates into next year’s calendar/diary. It looks like there are not enough trips planned in 2018, unlike 2017, a very good year for quilty travels to St Petersburg, Savannah, Steckborn, Coburg and Ste Marie aux Mines.

 

I don’t feel that I actually sewed that much in 2017 apart from a major push to complete BzB in May/June. All of those insane hours paid off and it won Contemporary Quilts at FOQ, the premier quilt festival in Europe. It has now gone for an extended stay in the USA to see how it gets on over there. I do have a sort-of-plan for a new show quilt in 2018 but whether it works out or whether it gets shelved remains to be seen.

 

I made 2 new friends in Ste Marie aux Mines with whom I hope to collaborate in some form. I have sent some quilted faux leather to Christine Escanes to cut up and experiment on and I have made a denim word search quilt inspired by the work of denim artist, Ian Berry.

I met many new friends in the Quilt World and happily reconnected with old friends this year. One of the more unexpected non-quilting friends that I made was a hairy one – my new best friend, a 10 year old Scottie Dog called Bumble. We have become inseparable and miss each other when I am away. My cats were decidedly unimpressed by this new member of the family but if I light a fire they decide they can be pals.

I had 2 lovely holidays with my kids, getting away from it all in Achilitbuie then camping at the Latitude Festival. My old Landcover took us to all of those places, despite being long overdue for an overhaul. It was a little nerve-racking, hoping that it would not rain on the way home from the NW Highlands because the wipers had conked out.

 

In 2018 it will be 10 years since I won the Loch Lomond Quilt Show, became The Quilt Quine and started blogging. I have made a lot of quilts and travelled to many places since then. I wonder what will happen in the next 10 years?!

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.

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.