Category Archives: Quilting

Easy-Peasy Japanesey

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I spent most of Monday travelling back from Germany to find that it was much colder back in Scotland. I unpacked a lovely selection of threads, small longer rulers and white chocolate biscuits.

I don’t know how many layers I had to wear on Tuesday in my Arctic workshop to quilt a striking grey tree quilt. It was a very simple quilt with a few blocks around a large central panel but it looked really classy when finished. 

I made a flock of mini hens using a pattern that Regina gave me from a German gardening magazine. They were very easy – the longest part of the process was stuffing them. The tiny foot on my Singer Featherweight was ideal for stitching the opening shut. Some of the hens were lucky and got bells for feet. Some will be given away but I think I will keep a few in my workshop. Maybe I also need some blue ones? It would be fun to make a hen using leftover scraps from every finished quilt.

Funnily enough, I had a customer quilt this week with chicken fabrics so I got the Bernina Qmatic to quilt it with hexagons that looked like a chicken wire fence.

I have finished the antique quilt repairs by stitching new patches over the worn ones in the outer border. It took 16 ½ hours to fix 10 blocks and some of the border so I hope its owner will be pleased with the results.

I bought a couple of Japanese Tatami strip bag kits from Regina and had intended to give them to my Mother and Sister for Christmas. However, the instructions were in Japanese but with good diagrams. I decided that it would be better if I made the bags myself then gave them away. The first one was straightforward except that it was not easy to pull up a gathering thread with such stiff fabric. The backpack was more challenging as I could not quite work out what the diagrams were suggesting. There was a bit of guesswork and the fabrics were not really suitable for ripping out mistakes. In the end I got it sussed and was pleased with my attempts. 

  

Nell and I had a rummage in the charity shop over the weekend – she got some clothes to up-cycle while I found a set of Nigella Lawson mixing bowls and a small silk carpet that I might use to make a Mary Poppins bag. I will need to order a tubular frame and no doubt follow some challenging instructions but they are very expensive to buy ready made so I might as well have a go. 

I made myself catch up with paperwork before I get stuck into Christmas preparations. I absolutely hate doing it but I have to be prepared to get my tax return done by the end of January and that is one job that it is not worth doing at the last minute;)

Rickrack Und Wurst

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I quite like it when I pack for a trip before the last minute, have time to decide if I have forgotten anything and can just get on with a couple of projects. 

  

I worked on the antique quilt, covering the worn patches with suitable new diamond templates. The old patches were rather oddly sized but the new patches were all regular so there were parts of the old fabrics showing underneath in places. I had the choice of making a new bespoke template for every single piece which would take rather more than the 6 hours already spent or figure out how to disguise the raggy edges. I made an executive decision to use vintage cotton rickrack around all of the repaired blocks. I did not have enough to put it around all of the old blocks as well but decided I liked the idea of the Japanese principle of Wabi-Sabi, “the acceptance of transience and imperfection… beauty that is imperfect, impermanent and incomplete”. Old textiles in Japan are repaired with visible, Boro stitching so the mend is obvious and not hidden. Attaching the rickrack on a heavy, old quilt took some time but I think it looks really good. I still have to sew new diamonds in the outer border but those ones are not part of a block so mismatched sizes should not be such a issue. 

I only went off on one mini tangent when I decided to see if my sewing machine could sew blanket stitch through a large mirror sequin. The plastic was thin so it worked beautifully. One of the ideas lying dormant in my head involves something to do with I median shisha mirrors so this could be an idea that I take forward. 

I flew to Nuremberg via Schipol early on Thursday morning. I had decided to dress festively in green trousers and a Christmas jumper and got some funny looks because it would seem that my outfit looked like I was dressed as an elf. When I arrived I discovered that half of the plan’s passengers had not received their luggage. It would delivered “later”… Regina phoned and explained the urgency because my suitcase contained all of my teaching materials. I could have improvised if necessary but luckily it turned up by taxi at 11pm.

  

Classes at Regina’s studio near Coburg are great because every student in my class gets to work all day on a longarm machine without sharing or having to wait their turn. My projects are never small so the whole of the first day was spent on cutting, printing and assembling a collection of kugels / baubles. The students enjoyed using the Scanncut so much that they ordered their own! 

  

The next day was spent deciding on the quilting and cracking on with some heavy stitching. The longarm machines purred away quietly in manual mode as the students, fuelled with coffee and cake, sewed for almost 10 hours. We enjoyed a wonderful selection of farm produced wurst (sausages), cheeses, bread and wine. 

We decided to put off Christmas market shopping in heavy rain first thing on Sunday morning so they continued quilting at a more relaxed pace while Regina and I exchanged ideas for mini projects. All of their projects looked fantastic and quite different to each other. 

  

Despite heavy rain in the afternoon we headed to the glass blowing village of Lauscha and blew our own kugels at the college. This was not nearly as easy as the experts made it look but my third attempt was good after a deflated kugel and another one where the top snapped off. I bought half a dozen student-blown kugels then we had a wander through the street, feeling sorry for the brass band and traders braving the rain. 

 

Photos were taken of the almost finished projects, we bid some farewells and ate our last lovely German supper. It was a great long weekend spent in good company. I will have to think of a new project for next time;)

Keeping Busy to Keep out the Cold

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It was a wet, cold, wintry week where I just kept busy on several little projects, with a trip to the Post Office and eating far too many chocolate buttons. I felt that I deserved them for refereeing between 2 teenagers, one who wants quiet to concentrate homework and the other who wants to play electric guitar loudly.

Using all of my quilt clips and a tiny amount of PVA glue I finished making all of the diamond templates for the antique quilt restoration. 

I wrote out the instructions for my snowglobe and kugel projects then had a bit of a panic because I could not find the document on my laptop later, having named it something unexpected. 

Mo let me have a selection of mixed-fibre upholstery samples to experiment with devoré paste at the textiles printing evening class. I guess the fabrics were far too robust as absolutely nothing happened. I will have to get my hands some cheap poly cotton to see if I can get an interesting burn-out using my Warli figure stencils. 

After an extensive and fruitless hunt for Nell’s badge making mirrors, I ordered some more as well as replacement yoyo makers, another mystery lost item. I can’t understand how I can lose things in my workshop which has to be well organised to contain everything that it does. 

We had no mail for 3 days then the Postie delivered backing fabric so I could quilt the two shirt quilts for my commission. I bound them at the weekend and figured out the final bill. It was actually shocking how the hours and costs of such simple quilts had mounted up. There was a time when I would have felt bad and reduced the bill to pay myself well below the minimum wage but a business cannot be run on sentiment. I still charged far less than a mechanic, plumber or web designer. 

There were also half a dozen mini-makes that have to remain secret for now as they will be presents. I had to make 2 prototypes first because I had forgotten how I made them before so my next job is to write clear instructions that will make life easier next time;)

Quilter and Roadie

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It’s a good job I don’t currently have any significant quilting projects of my own since it gave me time to catch up on mundane but essential tasks like buying chicken feed, getting my headlights fixed and dealing with software updates. My friend, Mo helped me out with a tricky and secret soft-furnishing commission, much to my relief since I would have made it far more complicated than it needed to be. 

It is great to get friends on board to help out and Catherine helped me to piece 2 customer quilts made from old shirts that would otherwise have taken me 22 hours to work on by myself. 

 

The textile printing class involved adding metallic foils to screenprints so I now have some silver Warli figures to add to my growing collection of patches. The last two sessions of the semester will allow the students to further explore the techniques covered so far so I will print and discharge more fabric that can be made into a Warli inspired quilt. 

I decided to “risk” using Qmatic on a real quilt instead of a practice piece and I felt very pleased with myself when I managed to program in an edge-to-edge pattern and get everything to line up in the correct place, even fixing a broken thread. The Bernina Qmatic system is totally different to my more familiar APQS system and I am glad that I am working it out and becoming more confident since it has far more capabilities.

 

 

Fergus and his band, “Angry Man Carpark”, had a recording session here at the weekend so I used my time out in the workshop to make prototype templates for the antique quilt that I have been commissioned to restore. The original hand-appliqued diamonds vary considerably in size and it would be an endless task to make individual templates for every single patch. I have cut out freezer paper diamonds and ironed these onto starched fabric. These will be machine stitched down over the original pieces. 

I was the Chief Roadie for the band on Saturday night. The gear was loaded into the Landy and schlepped to Captain Tom’s Studios in Aberdeen. “Angry Man Carpark”, which styles itself as an Indie Rock band was supporting a series of heavy metal bands. Their set was cut short and some of the studio equipment malfunctioned but they rocked on anyway. I was relieved that the venue had areas outside the main performance room since I am not really into screaming grunge metal in the key of Drop C. Things got a bit rough later in the evening, someone even lost  tooth in the “mosh” and there was certainly a strong whiff of teen spirit. It was all very RocknRoll;)

I spend most of Sunday putting the music room back together to Bumble’s relief as the boys had pinned up blankets and sheepskin rugs from the sofa to deaden the sound and she had felt obliged to lie pathetically on the floor instead. She was not impressed by the hoovering that went along with the tidying process. When I eventually found my desk again I wrote out a fresh To Do list for next week and I can assure you there is not yet a line that mentions the dreaded “C” for winter festival word…

Variety is the Spice of a Quilter’s Life

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Variety really is the spice of a Quilter’s life and I have certainly done all sorts of things this week. I gave longarm tuition on Monday to a pupil who took to it like a duck to water and was soon whizzing away, quilting loops all over her quilt. 

It was great to have an able assistant to tackle the job of making 2 customer quilts from old shirts. We worked out a very simple layout, appliquéd some tartan hearts and prepared 126 x 8” blocks ready to stitch together next week. 

My computerised system quilted for me in the middle of the week but I could not leave it unsupervised in case it ran out of thread while back-tracking a dense design so I had to keep a close eye on it while completing the kantha stitching. It was a perfect size to make into a cushion. I debated whether to add piping or pompoms but let myself off lightly and just kept it simple. 

Pleased that my sewing machine seems able to stitch through sequins, I ordered a selection of large silver discs, some as big as 6” across. I am not entirely sure what I think I will make so maybe just a wee sample will amuse me for now. There is no way I can start a new major project before Christmas!

I made some posh tartan-lettered bunting as a leaving present for an old friend instead of contributing to a group cash kitty. That would have been the easy option but I thought a personal present was worth the effort.

My “expertise” was sought by a member of the school PTA – she wanted to know how to repurpose a vinyl banner for the school band to promote an event. I suggested that she might need help with such a large project then realised that I had inadvertently offered my services. All I had to do was offer advice on cleaning and using the blank reverse, suggest a layout for lettering and demonstrate how to apply textile paint using stencils.

I enjoyed the Printed Textiles evening class where we had a go at printing velvet with a paste that dissolves some of the pile fibres to make devoré. The rest of the time was spent working to a procion dye formula based on fabric weight which I found particularly useful because I have only ever used packaged dye or just guessed the quantities. I ordered a couple of Thermofax screens of my Warli figures to make printed fabric that can be used as a “filler” when I sew all of the class samples together to make a quilt for the final exhibition. I even printed onto organza which was not brilliant as it was so slippery – it would be better to simply layer organza over a print like I did with my Kugels. 

  

Beelzebub was at the IQA Houston show this week. There were some fabulous winners this year – they can be seen online at www.quilts.org

Fergus and Nell came for a wander around Aberdeen on Saturday then they came to see a film that I was excited about, “Thugs of Hindustan”. It was a 3 hour Bollywood action extravaganza with plenty of fights, explosions and dancing, with inspiration from “Pirates of the Caribbean” and  wicked baddies from the East India Company. I absolutely loved it but my kids told me it was one of the worst movies that I had ever made them go and see. I guess that means I will be watching it on my own when it comes out on DVD;)

Pottering Around in the October Hols

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Holidays make for a very different week to normal. Nell and I went to see “A Star is Born”  at the cinema which we both enjoyed then we went to see Fergus’ band play for the second time in one weekend. It was a late and loud Sunday night as I tried to blend in with a student crowd, grateful that there was battered sofa at the back of the venue. 

I finished the DWR quilt after 20 hours of ruler work and freehand quilting and the customer was thrilled. 

Freya had Reading Week so she came home from Uni for a few days to celebrate Nell’s 15th birthday. The kids really get on well when they are all together – we made a birthday banner, carved pumpkins, cooked, made a vegan birthday cake, took Bumble for walks and went on little outings like rummaging in charity shops and buying unnecessary stationery items.

  

In my textile printing class I used a screen blocker and transfer dyes with silkscreens. I was not so keen on the more freeform results, preferring screen prints to be sharp and crisp. My attempts were no worse than anyone else’s and I am enjoying the opportunity to explore different techniques. I had probably hoped for a more technical course but there is only so much that can be covered in a 2-semester foundation class. I guess it is just as valuable to decide which methods to ignore as the ones which to explore further. 

 

I have not done any quilting projects apart from a few more rows on the small Kantha piece because I am forcing myself to face up to the chore of editing my website which I have not done for 5 years. It started off as a daunting task but just doing a bit at a time chipped away at it. I have many photos to add and lots of text to alter. It made me realise just how many competition quilts I have made in 10 years (21 I think) in addition to Yurts, the Smart Car, Coracle, Henge, HM The Queen’s Quilt, customer quilts, workshops and personal projects. 

We dropped Freya off at Stonehaven Station then the Landy just died. Luckily the Landy Man was still at work, diagnosed that the 16 year old battery was dead, towed us to his garage and lent us a Banger. This allowed us to go to Aberdeen and see the fantastic film about Queen, “Bohemian Rhapsody”. The songs were still echoing in my head the next morning and Fergus tried to work out the piano chords. 

I spent Sunday tapping away on my computer keyboard but in order to feel like I had also done something “useful” I mucked out the hens and unblocked my workshop sink. 

I have 3 DIY quilting days next week, must try to complete the website edits and have  challenged myself to work my way through the Qmatic Training manual. That should keep me busy but I also need to think of something to SEW!

Getting Around To It

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My To Do List seems to be running on repeat these days – the same things keep being added each week, either because they are are too big to tackle or because I just don’t seem to want to deal with them. I have been busy with customer quilts, catching up after my trip to India. This week I tackled the enormous hexagon quilt and bound it with an extra wide binding. There was also a DIY quilter and I made a good start on a very nice Double Wedding Ring quilt. But next time I do one of those I may set myself the challenge of quilting something different in every pinched square so I don’t get bored. I find that I am having to make myself do an hour or two at a time otherwise it feels that I am not getting anywhere. It is not complicated, just time consuming. One client dropped off shirting to be made into 2 memory quilts and someone else dropped off a 1920’s quilt that needs mending. I have plenty of work to keep me so busy that I resent having to nip out to the Post Office.

  

I started an evening class on printed textiles and took along some intricate stencils that I had cut out of Warli type figures. I wished I had cut them out of acetate since paper ones can only be used a couple of times then disintegrate when the ink is hosed off the screen. The Warli figures turned out really well but did not lend themselves to making a 2-colour print since they are usually only printed with one colour. I did enjoy the class and seeing what the other participants had come up with but in a couple of hours it was only possible to pull off a couple of prints then faff about waiting for the screen to dry before making the next one. Prior to the next class I will cut more acetates and a pile of my own fabric. I am not sure that I have a theme in mind yet, just eager to explore the techniques.

Mysteriously, Fergus and his chum broke the glass in the summerhouse door which left lethal shards of glass hanging loose. I fixed it temporarily wearing gardening gloves and goggles with a judicious quantity of duct tape, a tarpaulin and staples. 

I have been on “Roadie” duty this weekend, taking Fergus to a couple of very loud gigs in a small cellar bar in Aberdeen. The up-and-coming bands were good, even better when earplugs were worn. 

I found myself enjoying the simple task of Kantha stitching a chevron print square that I was given in India. It is not complicated, no design decisions have to be made, thinking is not necessary and the stitches do not even have to be particularly neat. Eventually I will decide whether to complete something I have already started or go off on a new tangent – my money is on the latter;)

Business As Usual

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I was all set to start a mammoth customer quilt made entirely from hand pieced hexagons first thing on Monday morning, starting by removing all of the papers from the outer border. That job took over an hour then I measured up the top and quilt back just to check and found that the back was far too small. I did not even have enough back to cut strips off and make joins elsewhere so I had to order a 120” back and discovered that the only suitable fabric was basic calico from The Cotton Patch which is a bit drab. Stymied with that quilt, I began another one with differently sized top and side borders, some of which were 13” wide. The brief was to do a custom job but on a budget which was a challenge. Hopefully the customer will be pleased with the results which include a wide satin blanket-style binding. I’m just going to mention that I have realised that I don’t actually particularly like purple quilts. I am going to have to start wearing tinted glasses because I get quite a few of them:P

I spent 2 days giving one-to-one longarm tuition to a pupil who has visited me before and we had a great time, working on simple designs that could be made more fancy for custom work and trying out some tricky threads on the Q24. I really enjoy offering personal tuition which gives the pupil time to ask as many questions as they like and they have the opportunity of completing an entire quilt with sample designs. 

The “working” week ended with a DIY customer who worked on a super quilt – a bookshelf design featuring family photos and book titles. She was very independent which gave me time to wrestle with a tangled mess of yarn that had been sitting in an abandoned heap. I was on hand to assist with advancing the quilt, change bobbins and make cups of tea. 

I crossed off all sorts of admin tasks on my list and added many more but still have not got around to booking a haircut or trip to the optician. I expect Bumble will probably get her  winter hairdo well before I get around to booking mine. 

Nell and Fergus went off to stay with Freya in St Andrews for the weekend so I was able to spend a day making stencils for the evening class that I am starting on printed textiles. I have no idea whether I have done the right homework but I have a choice of paper cuts. I had a go at cutting Warli figures that I had seen painted on a wall at the Craft Museum in Delhi. They are like stick figures with triangular bodies, often dancing around in circle. I saw so many inspiring textiles and designs in India but I have no idea yet how I will work them into a quilt. I spent hours looking up various Indian folk art styles as I would like to make a quilt inspired by a painting that I did not buy because it was too expensive. What I really need to do is learn a mantra such as, “Keep it Small and Simple!”

  

One thing I did allow myself to do for fun was some really uneven Kantha stitching on a chevron print that was started in an introductory workshop in Jaipur. I find this type of hand sewing therapeutic since it does not have to be particularly neat and judging by the stitching on the reverse of my pink sari quilt, ends are just knotted with no fancy nonsense of sewing in ends. I am unlikely to become a hand sewing convert but I rather like the excuse of keeping my supplies in my Indian tiffin tin just in case I need to take it out with me.

My final job of the week was to transfer my little packets of Indian dye into jars. I wore surgical gloves because one of the packets had a puncture. I have no idea of the exact colours, strength or recipe to use so the results will be interesting and hopefully intense. 

Snowflakes and Sunhats

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I spent the entire week quilting snowflakes and flurries on both of my samples for classes in Germany. Both of them were intensely quilted which took ages but it was fun. I can’t believe that I thought pupils could work on both of the projects over 2 days. They will have to make a choice or do a lot of homework after the class! I avoided using metallic thread in the areas where there was Bondaweb and organza and opted for metallic-look poly threads instead. The Schmetz “gold stick” needles were great there instead. There was plenty of scope for embellishment and I really wanted to incorporate a string of pompoms but in the end I was restrained and just used a little rickrack and a few antique glass buttons. 

 

 

I am so relieved these small quilts are finished because customer quilts are coming in now and I am going away on a BIG TRIP for a couple of weeks until the beginning of October.  I have been busy printing documents and sorting travel accessories for a textile tour in India with Pam Holland!!! My Folks very generously sent me 50th birthday funds and a trip like this has been on my bucket list forever. I can’t believe it is finally happening. I have read the books, had the vaccinations, found my sunhat, and apart from charging up all of my gadgets and doing some grocery shopping for the kids I’m almost ready to go…

Quilts, Kugels and Pompoms

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Without a doubt – staying at home, not seeing anyone, sticking to a plan, really gets things done! I got 2 customer quilts and a cushion done before using the sometimes co-operative ScanCut machine to cut out shapes for my German class samples. The floor in my workshop was soon covered in bits of bondaweb, organza scraps and bits of wool. 

  

 

Metallic lamé on bondaweb is not an easy thing to cut as it does not seem to stick properly in small spots so some of the lettering got mashed up. Eventually, I cut out larger, separate letters but managed to mis-spell Frohe Weihnachten several times even though I had it written out correctly. I peeled the wrong ones off with tweezers and had to glue them back down. 

 

I have two small, German Christmas projects ready to quilt – one of strings of kugels with fairy lights and a snow globe of Coburg Castle. Hopefully, I will get them both done during the week as long as I don’t get too sidetracked.

A side project that I had going was to make a dozen tweed pouches to give to fellow travellers on an upcoming trip. I made them up in kit form so I could do all the zips at once. Each one was finished with a pompom but I cannot guarantee how robust they might be after a few zip pulls. 

Out of curiosity I made a properly squared off box pouch which did look nice but I was not keen on the exposed seams (not wanting to deal with the lining and outer part separately). I downloaded a LazyGirl pattern for a Bendy Bag and spent several hours following the instructions religiously, apart from using the recommended materials. I wanted mine to be made with quilted fabric but it really was too thick for finishing the exposed seams neatly – the overlocker was not up for the job. I want to modify how the zip finishes so obviously I felt the need to make a new prototype from double thickness tartan that does not involve a lining and a different way of attaching the zip. This is still a Work in Progress…

 

Apart from all of this impressive productivity, I also managed to hem a pair of jeans, complete a pointless online training course to remain eligible for supply teaching, make a key fob, and visit the Masters Degree show at Gray’s School of Art which showcased work that was refreshing, impressive and even bizarre. I am looking forward to starting my evening class on textile printing in October to add yet more ideas to my list of experimental  projects. If only I was as enthusiastic about paperwork;)

Christmas is Coming (in September)

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I will be teaching a festive class in Germany at the beginning of December so I need to get the class samples made as soon as possible, even though it is still late summer. I had an idea of what I wanted to make and spent a day figuring out if the cutting and printing would work. 

It would be handy if the Scanncut could do the majority of any tricky cutting and resizing which means experimenting with different types of fabric and I can tell you that not all “Bondaweb” type products are the same. I learned how to scan in text and save it all as one piece, rather than its component letters so all of the experimenting was useful. However, I had to order lots more gold and silver printing ink, metallic lamés, Misty fuse and crystal organza which meant that I would have to wait for it all to arrive in the post since none of it could be bought locally.

 

In the meantime, I still have not decided on simple hand-sewing projects for a potential batch of American visitors to Scotland next Spring. I wanted to make a few more mini things, mostly in tweed, so I have a choice of projects. I had been given a basket full of lavender so I decided to make a simple tweed heart, stuffed with wool and lavender. Tweed is tricky to work with since a generous seam allowance is necessary, yet mini projects are actually meant to be petite;)

A quilting friend, who knows that the construction of wee bags fascinates me, showed me a tweed wash-bag lined in oilcloth that appeared to have no internal seams and a very neatly finished zip. That led to a whole investigating and making session until I had worked it out. I was not sure if I liked the squashy style first of all but the insides do look very nice. Tweed is rather thick but not impossible to work with on the little bags and now that I have a dozen more zips I will just keep making them until I have made up my mind. 

I did actually do SOME work and completed a computerised customer quilt. It was not one of those patterns where I could potter and do something else because I had to know exactly which direction the pattern was going in if there was a thread break, otherwise it might go off in the wrong direction after I fixed it. Because I was supervising closely, the thread did not break and the pattern worked out beautifully.

 

Family-wise, Fergus started an HND music course in Aberdeen this week and so far seems to even enjoy it, which is amazing for a child who hated school. Freya spent her week trying to get rid of stuff so she does not have to take it back to Uni but the Landy is still fully loaded for her return this weekend. She bought a Swiss cheese plant which definitely grows every day! I daresay she can put fairy lights on it at Christmas time;)

Back to School Sort Out

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It’s always a bit of a shame when the summer holidays come to an end but sometimes it is nice to get back into a routine. I did a lot of printing, filing, ordered school stuff online then decided to go ahead with my Big Sort Out. 

I did not actually switch any furniture around but I went through every single drawer and shelf like a dose of salts. I made the decision not to keep Smart Car templates and got rid of project leftovers. I even put labels on my drawers so I don’t have to open every single one until I find what I am looking for. My quilt books got sorted out and I dumped old files onto a bonfire. It took a day and a half but I felt satisfied that I could get down to work with a tidy workshop.

  

One of the jobs that I had been meaning to do for a while was change the Q24 thread tension spring. The old one was full of fluff and sticky stuff, probably from when I quilted BzB. No wonder I had been tinkering with the top tension unnecessarily. 

I quilted a customer’s New York Beauty quilt after a false start where I quilted spikes in the border which I thought were upside down. I unpicked the first border then re-did it before realising that spikes cannot actually go upside down! My idea of simple quilting was to do a combination of straight and curved lines with some spikes and pebbles. It took me longer than it might have done but I am rather pleased with it.

  

I gave a lesson in how to tackle a DWR block and the pupil was delighted at how nicely her first arcs and melons joined together. I really must write down the combination of techniques used to get everything to line up that is often skimmed over in books. 

Having worn my home-made trousers all week, I decided to have a go at making a simple sailor-style top. The instructions were good but for some reason the sleeves were too tight. The pattern pieces were cut correctly and the seam allowance was accurate so I can’t quite work out what went wrong except that I did not use stretchy cotton jersey or my arms are abnormally fat. At least I did not use expensive fabric and I now know what to do but I wish I had made something immediately wearable, not just a prototype!

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!

Tinkering and Cherry Picking

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I decided that my workshop is tidy enough for now which let me off the hook from The Big Cull so after completing 4 nice and easy customer quilts I was at a slightly loose end.

  

There are plenty of worthwhile things I could have done but I went off on a bit of an exploration into which method I liked the best for making a curved-top zippy pouch. I have to say I have still not found the perfect construction method that pleases me aesthetically and for ease of construction. I like quilted fabric better than interfaced fabric because the pouches have more oomf and stand up better. I can confirm that I sewed plenty of pieces upside down or back to front! The quest is still on, rather like my mission to perfect the world’s best carrot cake. 

  

Because we have had the best summer in years, the wild cherry crop is amazing and even more impressive is that the trees have not been stripped bare by greedy birds before I could even grab a tupperware box. I was actually surprised to discover that I have red cherries as well as black ones. I easily picked over a kilo without having to get a ladder and brewed up some cordial that I will add to drinks, rather than make cherry vodka. I might put on surgical gloves to squish out the stones and make jam. I have to say there is something childish and satisfying about shoving a handful of cherries into my mouth then spitting out the stones.

Still avoiding my non-urgent admin tasks, I played with some magic foam to make stamps using 3-D objects. Obviously, I did not look up any instructions so I am not sure if I heated up the foam sufficiently. I found it tricky to make impressions of buttons because I did not have time to push all of the buttons in before the foam cooled but if I heated up the next small area the previous button stamp would disappear. I was quite impressed by the stamp made by swirling a glue gun over a piece of parchment paper. This reminded me that I had promised myself time to explore simple lino cutting in the summer hols. I had better get on with this since FOQ is coming up soon! 

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;)