Category Archives: Quilt shows

Not Knowing

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One of the really hard things about living with my daughter’s Anorexia is the not knowing what will happen day to day, each week, months or even years ahead. I had to make the enormously difficult decision to cancel a planned teaching trip to Bernina India because  in January she could be at the same stage, in hospital or hopefully maybe in recovery but there is just no way of knowing. 

I have to confess that I am finding it difficult not to be “busy”, trying to fit as many multiple projects and thoughts into 24 hours as I possibly can. All of my work is suspended apart from customer quilts that I can fit in when convenient. I do not have the luxury of time to continue with my Rainbow Warli quilt at present but I am trying to do a few little sewing projects to retain my sanity. I made a small bag for the Elna Lotus plug, shortened some trousers, completed a small customer quilt and found myself becoming an Art Therapist rather than an Artist.

I have been providing opportunities for my daughter to create in my workshop as a distraction from her mental torment. We have had a go at soy wax candle making, vegan food covers, bunting and screen-printed a duvet cover. We also put together an IKEA Raskog trolley to organise some of her art materials as she hopes to be allowed to study Higher Art even though she is not well enough to attend school which resumes this week. 

The team at CAMHS (Child & Adult Mental Health Service) has insisted that she should be told her weight at every session twice a week but I think she should be weighed blind since this fixation is a major stumbling block in convincing her to eat to improve her health.  The CAMHS service does not provide any counselling until some weight gain has been achieved but she has started to see a private therapist just to help calm her mind and provide some relaxation techniques so she may be able to shut down some of the Anorexia some of the time. 

I suspended my daily vlog snippets because I did not have any work to report on and I found it difficult to come up with any silly or quirky comments of my day. Consequently I was spending less time checking in on social media so it was not until I received a message from my friend, Kay that I discovered that Iconoclast had won “Best in Country – UK” at the World Quilt Show. I was delighted and it was a lovely boost to my confidence, particularly when the quilt seemed to have underwhelmed judges in the UK. I had so many wonderful congratulatory messages and it reminded me that it is actually a very nice quilt that took me a long time to complete:)

 

By this time on a Sunday evening I would normally review what I hoped to achieve in the week ahead but in my new role the priority is to make a note of appointments and work out what sort of soup to attempt each evening. Thinking positively, at least she is still at home with me where I can only try my best to keep her going mentally and physically. 

Festival of Quilts 2019

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I set off from Norwich to Birmingham thinking that the trip would take 3 hours but roadworks and heavy rain delayed me. Notwithstanding, we cracked on with setting up 6 long-arm machines in a classroom and 4 more on the main stand. It was a huge job but the team worked really hard and I was ready to start teaching on Wednesday afternoon. 

My classes all went really well with just 6 students, each with their own machine. My classes were designed so that there was more than enough to do, even for the most capable pupil. It was an opportunity for the students to try out all sorts of templates, and experiment with stitch regulator or manual free-motion designs. There was not really any chance to add colour to the “How to Eat an Elephant” piece because there would not be time for paint to dry but at least the students could see the possibilities and learn some new tips. There was a bit of a panic for my twilight class when it was discovered that all of the master templates had been taken away by the morning pupils in error and I could not get any photocopies made. I had to think on my feet, give the pupils other exercises to do while each one traced the image straight off the sample quilt. 

I had to “wing-it” through a  Facebook-Live demo using a crackly headset microphone but I managed to keep quilting and talking for a good 40 minutes! This can be found on the Bernina UK Facebook page. Other demos were given by the talented, improv quilter, Nicholas Ball, (see his Judges’ Choice quilt below) Philippa Naylor, Sarah Ashford, Janice Gunner and Amanda Murphy.

I did not manage to find time for much of a look at the show other than to see the winners and whizz past the others. There were some beautiful quilts this year. My Warli quilt was on the end of a row in good light and looked respectable, especially as it was never designed as a competitive entry. I was fascinated by India Flint’s eco-dyeing exhibition. This collection was made using rusted, wrapped objects which were displayed alongside the finished textiles. 

During the entire time that I was there I had to mask how worried I was about my youngest daughter’s Anorexia which had escalated to a critical point where she refused to eat anything at all. My older daughter and dear friend tried very hard to keep her going but it was clear that I needed to head home to take over her care. Fortunately, my teaching commitments were complete by Friday night so I headed home on Saturday, feeling guilty that I was not working at the show and equally guilty for being away from home. 

I realised that I was totally naive when the illness was first diagnosed. I had no idea how quickly it would take hold and take over my daughter’s every decision regarding her well-being. I have heard horror stories from other parents on the type and duration of treatment and do not feel at all prepared for the struggle ahead which could even last years. I will have to become her full time carer and must hope that I will be able to quilt some of the time as my therapy.  We have an important appointment today which may determine whether she should be hospitalised so we are all on tenterhooks to see what happens next. 

Utter Clutter

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With 3 days to do packing for my mega-trip I avoided packing altogether and decided to do a little light pruning. I have an enormous Cotoneaster bush outside my workshop that has grown to the size of a really large tree. It was arching over so much that everyone had to duck to get past it. The last straw was when some of its branches got tangled up in my hair and snatched the specs off my head. I only meant to snip a few twigs but 3 hours and a blister later, I had cut down so much that I was trapped behind a huge mound of vegetation and had to get my kids to help clear it all away. 

 

I did eventually gather all of the stuff together for my trip and managed to fit all of it into the back of the Landy. I prefer to travel light if I am going away on my own but I had to include camping gear, deckchairs, a gas stove, teaching materials for Birmingham and a month’s worth of clothes for all occasions. The kids also had to pack stuff such as sleeping bags, funky outfits for a music festival and various vintage cameras. Even Bumble had luggage as she was going to spend the holiday firstly with a friend of Nella then later will go and stay with Mo. Typically, Fergus did not pack his gear until the last minute which was intensely irritating and I had to go and calm down by doing some easy-piecing.

We left on time at 8.00am on Thursday morning, drove 5 miles before we realised that nobody had loaded up the guitar so we turned around to fetch it. We completed the entire 540 mile trip in 10.5 hours, only making 2 brief stops which I would say is impressive for a noisy, old Landrover Defender!

 

We spent our first day in East Anglia mooching around in Beccles where we were disappointed to find that our favourite vintage junkyard was closed for the day. However, it was nice to buy some fresh, local tomatoes and I found a great second-hand rainbow raffia hat that will do nicely for Latitude. We may have overdosed on Vintage after a lengthy foray into Bungay and a fruitless trip to the old convent near Ditchingham where the goods really were just junk on this occasion. 

After a busy few days everyone was ready to settle down, read, make dreamcatchers and just laze about in cloudy weather that is at least a bit warmer than Aberdeenshire. The days are not action-packed and time just slides by without actually doing anything. I have a couple of hand stitching projects with me but I will be surprised if I actually get around to doing them;)

A No Sew Week

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In theory I am meant to be starting a family holiday on July 12th that will lead me straight into FOQ so I decided that it was time to make preparations as the end of the school year is looming. I prepared my teaching materials and notes and packed them into a suitcase. In reality, parts of the family holiday may have to be abandoned since my youngest daughter has developed an eating disorder and we had several medical appointments last week. I cannot say more about it here, other than it is extremely difficult to deal with.

I gave up on the idea that the kids would sort out the summerhouse which they had used for several parties and sleepovers so it was down to me to wash the bedding and clear away debris. They were also not thrilled that I dumped all of their items into their rooms instead of leaving them strewn around the house but there comes a point when a major tidy-up is good for the soul.

I waited all week for Amazon Prime to deliver packaging for my show quilts and I admit that they did not receive my usual scrutiny so I just hope they hang relatively straight. Iconoclast is being sent to the World Quilt Show with another 20 UK entries and So Many People is off to FOQ for an airing. 

For a change of scene we drove down to St Cyrus on Saturday for a rummage around the junk-yard. It has always been scruffy but on this occasion it seemed particularly derelict. There were smashed LPs, broken shards of mirrors, headless figurines and I was convinced that there could be funeral urns full of ashes somewhere amongst the bric-a-brac. 

We went for a wander along the stunning beach afterwards and encountered a weird atmosphere. Crackling static electricity made our hair stand on end! The light was ethereal, the sea calm and the air still until we heard rumbles of thunder and flashes of lightning. A storm rolled in and we decided that it was best to head back across the dunes. Bumble seemed confused – she was either fazed by the size of the beach or knew that a storm was on its way. I am actually worried that she is becoming too frail to enjoy such trips. She seems fine most of the time, bumbling along in her usual fashion but it is either time to consider having yet another operation to remove tumours from her under-carriage or leave them alone and let nature take its course. 

I really have no idea what to expect from the week ahead. My Bernina 710 arrived back from Cardiff with a new CPU unit/brain so maybe I should cut out a mindless patchwork project to work on in order to keep myself preoccupied. 

Fowl Playing

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I took advantage of a lull in customer quilts to make headway with my so-called “Magnus Opus” that does not have a fixed plan at this stage. I made a very rough calculation that if it was going to end up 80” square, which yet again is bigger than necessary, I will need around 173 x 6” blocks. Luckily, the large silver printed Warli spirals have the same area as 4x 6” blocks. I still don’t know whether there will also be a few star blocks or whether I will stick to Warlis and circles and I guess there will be some sashing to get everything to line up but that can be decided later. 

It would have been easy to stick bondaweb on the back of the glitter Warlis and raw-edge-applique them onto a background square but I decided to make life harder by making portholes where a circle is drawn onto a square on top of a second square then turned inside out. It was labour intensive as the seam allowance of the circle had to be clipped. The pressed porthole was then placed on top of a glitter Warli, blanket-stitched and THEN the original Warli square had to be trimmed back so it did not show through. 

The crochet / sequin blocks were easier. First the sequin was attached with invisible thread to an oversized coloured square, sandwiched with wadding and a backing so it can be trimmed back later making it trapuntoed. The crochet doilies were then laid on top of the sequins with a straight stitch and invisible thread.

The plain, giant sequin blocks also took a while – firstly they were triple-stitched upside down using the circular attachment with silver dazzle-dazzle thread in the bobbin. Even the big bobbins ran out of thick thread quickly and had to be changed after sewing 4 squares to be on the safe side. The giant sequins were then blanket-stitched to the right side, again using wadding and a backing which will have to be trimmed back. There was only one boo-boo where I accidentally sewed 2 squares on top of each other from my pile. I made all of the squares bigger than necessary so they can all be squared up to a neat, uniform 6 ½ inches. 

Towards the end of the week the floor in my workshop was strewn with rainbow coloured trimmings and lots of thread so it was actually very satisfying when I eventually got the hoover out. 

All of that activity kept me busy for 4 days and most evenings except for a midweek talk that I gave to the Aberdeen Patchwork and Quilting Group as a stand-in speaker. I rattled on for an hour about some of my show quilts and travels which the audience seemed to find amusing. It was lovely to receive compliments on my work after hearing that Iconoclast had not thrilled the judges at the Malvern Quilt Show. Unless I can find a show in Russia that might appreciate the St. Petersburg inspiration or get it into the World Quilt Show it will probably retire as yet another vanity project. 

I had one of my prolific DIY quilters in on Friday so we used the Q24 with Qmatic and the freehand Q24 to do one big quilt and 3 small ones! The last one of the day was a delightful baby quilt with two Elizabeth Hartman swans which looked super with a watery panto. 

My friend Mo “egged” me on to accompany her on an early Saturday morning jolly to the Rare Breeds Livestock and Poultry sale. We did not go too much over our budgets and resisted the urge to buy emus and peacocks. I took home 3 everyday brown pullets plus a light sussex and a bluebell. When I got home I was really disappointed to discover that someone (not me) had omitted to shut the henhouse up the night before so the long-lasting Maran hen had been the most recent victim of the F*****g Fox!! The new hens were securely shut in with food and water and I will personally endeavour to be more vigilant about night-time security. I could not resist downloading a PDF pattern for a chicken quilt from Cluck-Cluck-Sew which can be a new background slow-burn project:)

I Can See Clearly Now

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My intention to start the week with a customer quilt at 8.30am on Monday was temporarily halted by the arrival of 2 packages from overseas. 

The first contained my bulk order of custom carved waril figure wood block stamps from India (I could only order them in batches of 10!) which arrived too late to be printed on the front of my Warli quilt but may yet appear on the reverse. 

The other package was zippers for the longarm machine to allow quilts to be loaded or swapped easily. I had to really pay attention to get them on in the right orientation but they were helpfully printed with text for people like me who get things the wrong way round. These zippers could have grosgrain ribbon or canvas strips attached in case the quilter wants to attach the quilt back with safety pins but I have no idea why they would want to do that. The zips get attached to the quilt back top and bottom using a large stitch on the domestic machine then get zipped onto the canvases on the frame. It is not a major time saver but the biggest advantage is not having to deal with big stabby pins;)

The beach themed quilt was completed with a seaside panto which looked really fun!

I spent FAR more time than I planned working on my Dream Big dahlia panel. The biggest issue was deciding which pattern to place in each petal and swapping threads so the colours were evenly distributed. There was much angst wasted comparing my efforts to already completed panels that I had seen online, especially when I made myself tackle patterns that I had never quilted before. However, I treated it as a useful practise exercise, even if I only quilted 2 or 3 petals a day. My greatest interruption was cracking the whip so that Fergus would hand his essay on Rap-Rock music in on time.

I spent ages preparing a new slideshow for my forthcoming talk at the QGBI Region 16 (Scotland). I last gave that Region a talk in 2014 and my blog informed me that I had been on my travels and made all sorts of projects that I had forgotten about in the interim. It also reminded me that I should have a piece for FOQ well underway by now but whatever it is going to be remains at the undecided stage. Every week planning a potential 2019 competition quilt just keeps getting put back on my To Do list;) 

For the slideshow I had to find and select a series of photos then remember how to get them into a Keynote/Powerpoint presentation. My unco-operative laptop kept displaying the “spinning rainbow ball of doom” then told me that I did not have permission to save my work. The simplest solution was to make a duplicate copy and save that version. 

I was surprised when I booked an eye test to discover that I last got new glasses for close work 4 years ago. One pair of specs was particularly wonky, scratched and was missing a nose clip. I picked up 2 sparkling new pairs and was amazed at how I could see everything clearly again.

I hope to complete the Dream Big panel in the coming week – it has certainly taken more than the couple of days that I intended and that is without taking background quilting and the probability of adding fabric paint into account…

Too Many Choices

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I had a varied selection of tasks to choose to work on this week, starting with encouraging Fergus to knuckle down with his essay on Rap-Metal music. Let’s just say that I now consider myself an expert on the politics and angst of the genre from Rage Against the Machine to Lil Peep;)

Since I have done no free-motion quilting since I stitched my FOQ samples, I decided that I needed some practice so I loaded the Dream Big panel that so many longarm quilters have been using to showcase their fillers. It took a while to stitch around the petals of the giant dahlia but even longer to decide what patterns to choose. I wish I had chosen to use 2 layers of wadding to add definition and I was not happy with my first petal but I expect it will look fine once I get into it.

I was invited to be on the judging panel at the Scottish Quilt Show in Glasgow (ICHF Events Craft Show). It was a very enlightening experience being on the other side of judging to being a competitor. The checklist was similar to the one used at FOQ. It can be really tricky deciding whether a quilt is excellent/good or satisfactory/needs attention. I would hate to put anyone off entering a quilt into a show by being negative! It is a shame that the process has to be done in a hurry. There is the opportunity for the judges to make comments on each quilt but after 100+ it is a bit like writing school reports and my handwriting became progressive scrawled. Overall, the judges reached consensus on the quilts that were placed. One thing that struck me was that a few quilts could have been entered into a different category. There were several that I would have said should have been contemporary rather than traditional. There was a strict size restriction, apparently due to a lack of space. I am not the only Scottish quilter who would have competed if larger quilts had been accepted. It is important to support the show since it is now offers the only opportunity for quilts to be exhibited in Scotland. 

 Sheena Norquay – winner of theme category Colour of the Isles

 

After a very pleasant overnight stay with Bonnie McKerracher I went back to the show as a visitor and I enjoyed having time to look at the excellent exhibits by quilt groups from Scotland and further afield. There was a good selection of fabric on sale but I was hunting around fruitlessly for thread which was disappointing. I only managed to spend 50p on a silicone thimble!

Despite being away for less than  48 hours, I had so many emails to answer on Friday morning that I never got back to the Dream Big panel. There were exciting messages from Bernina International wondering how we can co-ordinate me to teach longarm quilting in Mumbai, Dubai and Seoul!!! I am so excited to be offered such an opportunity to teach and travel. I expect I will have to think of some more new classes…

After I got some of my admin under control I did a little more hand-stitching on the Warli quilt. There are half a dozen blocks still to go but it had to be hung at the Grays School of Art Short Courses Exhibition on Saturday morning. Considering that it was not blocked and there is a mixture of hand / machine sewing, it hung reasonably flat.  Noticing that some fellow students had left business cards I rustled up a quilted pouch that can hang beside the quilt. I really ought to have printed some with images of the Warli people quilt.

I was impressed by the superb work that the other students had produced in all sorts of media in addition to textile screen printing there was photography, kilt making, ceramics, jewellery and fine art. It really was a diverse collection of talent!

Older but not Wiser

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

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

  

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

I Ate an Elephant!

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

   

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

 

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

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

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

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

  

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

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

Lazing Around Over Christmas

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

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

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

  

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

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

Post Quilt Show Recovery

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It takes a while to settle back down to “normal” after an event like FOQ. It was almost a week of activity, excitement, late nights and early mornings. I stayed with Kay in the Scottish Borders overnight on Monday so did not make it home until Tuesday afternoon. It took me all of Wednesday to return everything to its place in my workshop and have decided that a ruthless cull is looming. I feel that I am running out of space for show quilts and dress dummies that can’t stand up by themselves due to an accident involving  a giant roll of corrugated cardboard. When my work area is annoying me I just cannot do anything until it has been sorted out – obviously due to a severe case of procrastination.

Despite having an extensive list of projects that need to be done, I filled my time with catching up with emails, making trips into town to get school supplies, paying bills and fixing the tumble dryer.

I had an afternoon off to do a gelli-printing course with Lucy Brydon at Tangletree Studio in Aboyne. The studio/shop is well situated on the town square and is a great, light space offering a range of workshops and selling artisan crafts. Apparently I own several gel plates that I have obviously bought, thinking they would prove useful but are still pristine in their packaging. We explored texture, layering, stencils, colour mixing during an afternoon that flew by. I signed up for the class because I thought the techniques might come in handy when I start the Printed Textiles foundation evening course at Grays School of Art in the autumn. You never know, maybe one day I will actually produce something that is commercially viable;)

  

Having decided that quilting will not happen until I have reorganised my studio, I decided to have a go at making a nice, easy pair of trousers. Let’s just say that it was not a relaxing or fun experience. The so-called “Easy” pattern was awful. The pattern pieces did not match the sparse diagrams, there were virtually no actual instructions and it’s a good job my fabric was a batik that was the same on both sides. I persevered and learned a lot, such as, I like the idea of dress-making but hate the frustrating experience of not having a clue what I am doing. Someone needs to come up with patterns that actually explain what to do and don’t assume you are already an accomplished couturier! There’s another goal for me – write about dress-making for the of us who are Instructionally Challenged.

 

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!

Costa del Norfolk

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

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

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

 

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

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

Bubble Fun

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

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

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

      

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