I am very impressed with my new Swiss-Army style Bernina seam ripper. A DIY customer was using an automated quilt design on a Dresden Plate quilt that had fulness issues where it had been appliqued onto a large background square. I was able to release a few of the stitching lines then freehand the fullness in without so many puckers.
Something came up to scupper my plans for the rest of the week…
I should have had plenty of nice photos of a small custom quilt that came in as a rush job this week but it ended up biting me in the bum so I have decided not post photos of it. I should have known better than to agree to fit something as complex into a 4 day slot, especially as the new customer phoned 3 times and paid a visit before I even sewed a stitch. Her instructions were extremely specific – ditch and ruler work only. Since I have been longarm quilting for almost 10 years I should have been able to judge more accurately how long the job would take but I just told her my hourly rate and said I was not sure how long it would take to ditch all of the tiny pieces on the quilt until I got started. When I phoned to tell her that the job had taken 9 ½ hours she was horrified and sharply informed me that she did not intend to pay for that much quilting. Like a wimp, I met her halfway because I had not provided an accurate quote up front. Important lessons learned: be more realistic when estimating time that a custom quilt may take, stick to my guns on pricing, remember not to quilt for that customer in future!
I placed an online fabric order for some solids that I will use to make a project for my classes in Germany and as long as they arrive in good time I WILL be making samples up this week and hoping to make a “pleather” tote that I hope my students will also make. I have finished something for Freya’s birthday but I can’t show photos of that either;)
I have Freya home from Uni for a week which is lovely. She spent an exciting week in Marrakesh with friends having adventures and she brought me some fragrant spices.I was her sous-chef when she replicated a delicious Moroccan feast. Since we had some decent spring weather, she took charge of the operation of relocating the ramshackle hen run. We spent a couple of hours scrubbing the hen-house and detangling the fencing from nettles and itself before rounding up our one remaining “feral” chicken. We were rewarded with a lovely fresh egg! Now that we have an escape proof again run we can get a few more hens or even ducks to keep us supplied so we don’t have to go out and buy eggs:)
At the weekend, while catching up on the more mundane aspects of life, I met a friend in the supermarket who thought I had been Quilting Abroad for weeks. I had to correct her and let her know that I had actually been home for several days in between visiting the USA and Switzerland!
My 2-day seminar at the Bernina for European (and Korean) longarm ambassadors was terrific. It was definitely an international event with representatives from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Spain, UK and slightly further afield and not at all European – South Korea. Needless to say, not everyone spoke the same common language and we even had a couple of translators. By muddling along in English, French or German we were able to share experiences and learn new techniques from each other.
It is always exciting to visit the Bernina factory – there are areas with a particular mechanical aroma, boxes of sewing machine feet waiting to be finished and circuitous routes underground and up flights of stairs to avoid the highly top-secret research and development ares. We were kept very busy all day with lectures and discussion sessions but of course we very well fed at the Bernina canteen and the lovely hotel restaurant with a stunning view of Lake Constance. We learned about new products and underwent some specialised Q-series training and were even involved in a discussion about what developments we may like to see in future. I took away some new ideas and things I want to experiment with. I also took away a stash of chocolate from the wee shop but it got scoffed before I remembered to take photographic evidence.
By the end of our time together we felt that we had made new friends and connections and my French gradually came back to me which was just as well because I needed to find my way to a hotel at Paris CDG Airport par Le Shuttle. My French actually improved so much in my search for a bus or train that I even managed to mutter “Zut Allors” every time I got sent off on a wild goose chase. By the time I found my hotel which was at a completely different airport terminal, I did not care that I had to drink my gin out of a glass “plastique”. It is a good job that I arrived super early for my Aberdeen flight the next morning because I have never encountered such queues or rudeness at bag drop, passport control and security. I will endeavour to avoid a connection via Paris in future!
I felt so abashed by my lack of comprehensible foreign languages that I downloaded a phone App called Duolingo to see if I can learn some useful German phrases in 3 weeks. I know that my students and hostess speak English but I would at least like to make basic polite conversation. My favourite word so far is “Entschuldigung”, which means sorry! I also hope to be able to mention sewing machine feed-dogs which is something to do with Unter-Transport.
I was glad that I had set up a customer quilt to do when I got back because I spent most of the weekend in my workshop trying to catch up on some customer jobs. By the middle of this week I will try to make myself a shortlist of what I intend to work on for FOQ – after I have made some samples for teaching in Germany and chosen a new “for fun” project;)
To remind myself not to take life too seriously now that my Planner gives me no excuse for forgetting ANYTHING, I thought it would be appropriate to make some pompom page markers so I know what day it is;)
I went off on a bit of a tangent one morning when I sorted out a box of quilt magazines, cataloguing and photographing them in case I ever get around to listing them on Ebay. This led to reorganising another box which contained all of the publications in which my quilts have appeared. It was uplifting to look back at all sorts of projects and it made me realise that I want to produce more work that can go into print in future.
I had to take BlueCat to the Vet, rather worried by a hard lump that had appeared on her undercarriage. She was not impressed to be bundled into a cat carrier. The vet was incredulous as he explained that she simply had an unusually protruding piece of cartilage on her ribcage that must have changed shape. I was too relieved to feel silly but I did feel obliged to purchase a 6 month supply of wormer to make the visit worthwhile.
When I had finally caught up with all of my self imposed tasks, including a few useful ones, I started on a customer quilt that took 3 days of background and SID. It was not full-blown heirloom quilting but it was fairly intricate with lots of stops and starts. The on-point squares were too big to go all the way around using the ruler base without rolling the quilt on so they had to be done in 2 halves.
Theoretically I have 6 days to quilt in the next 2 weeks including 2 simple customer quilts and 2 DIY clients and my Planner goal for February says that I should be making a start on monstrous “BzB” which has been waiting for 4+ years. Alternatively, it might be wiser to plan more quilt classes and make samples. If only the Planner would implement a ban on deviation and work avoidance!
I know folk are only trying to be festive when they ask, “Are you all set for Christmas?” but it drives me mad! I would like to have made a pile of beautiful home-made presents but to date I have not written any cards, wrapped any gifts or purchased any Christmas food. By Sunday afternoon each week I wonder what I have been actually been doing frittering away my time then I jot down a few reminders for my blog and realise I have really managed to fit quite a lot in;)
I did semi-custom quilting on a customer’s “Silent Movie Star” and my free-handing felt seriously rusty after doing mainly computer pantos and lots of lines lately. I was reminded why I have a thing about gold lamé as the quilting on it positively glittered!
I met Freya on the train to Edinburgh for our trip to the Russian Consulate to obtain our visas. I was concerned when the very plain building in which it was located looked deserted apart from a tiny hand-written note advising visitors to turn left, go through a car-park and enter from the rear of the property. We had to have our fingerprints digitally recorded then handed over forms, passports and the pricey fee but we still won’t know for another week whether we have been successful.
We spent the rest of the day wandering around the Christmas market. By chance I spotted a poster for “The Goldfinch” which was on loan to the National Gallery of Scotland. It was thrilling to see the real painting on which Donna Tartt’s fictional novel about its theft was based. The exquisite, small bird’s portrait was painted in 1654 by Dutch painter, Carel Fabritius.
It was lovely to catch up with Freya as I had not seen her since October and we were both very excited to discuss plans for our weekend in St Petersburg. It is a good job we had lots to say to each other as our train home was delayed by almost 3 hours.
I received a surprising email from The Modern Quilt Guild about my QuiltCon entries. “Tartan Tattoo” has been accepted for the modern traditional category but “Shield Maiden” was rejected from the show. I was so sure that the SM quilt was just the sort of thing that QuiltCon would be looking for. I am in “good company” as far as rejections go – there were many amazing rejects on Facebook and Instagram so it will be very interesting to see what quilts have actually been selected. There were some good social media posts about why entrants should not get so het up about rejections and I will certainly enter “Shield Maiden” elsewhere but it is always disappointing to make a quilt specially for a particular contest then it does not make it.
My week ahead is likely to involve a last minute attempt at making something Christmassy, sellotape, glitter, a frantic scramble for the last mailing dates, wishing I had bought wrapping paper in July and hunting for Brussels sprouts!
Freya has been valiantly studying Russian as one of her minor courses at Uni. It has been an intense language course, taught in fast Russian by Russian natives with fancy cyrillic handwriting. She has been wondering whether to continue with it because she has to spend so much time learning tricky grammar and vocabulary that she is worried that her other subjects might not get so much attention. Rather on a whim, I suggested that we set off on a brief expedition to St Petersburg during her Christmas holiday. Growing up in the Cold War, I never thought that a trip to Russia would ever have been possible. I only know a handful of words including “perestroika”, “vodka” and “Dostoyevsky” but I have read all sorts of wonderful Russian novels in my time and Mo has lent me a fur hat. As you can see in this week’s blog title, I have used Google Translate to ask how to find the Quilt Shop.
It would have been fun to have kept the trip as a surprise but I had to tell her as we both had to complete a lengthy online visa application and will have to attend the Russian Consulate in Edinburgh to have our fingerprints taken. We had to declare every foreign visit for the past 10 years. My passport had been date stamped for the USA but EU countries have not done that in years so I used my blog to approximate my other travel dates. Fingers crossed that we actually get the visas because I had to book flights and accommodation first in order to say where and when the trip would be!
I am in between major quilt projects so I had two DIY quilt ladies here this week. One of them had been given inaccurate advice on measuring fabric for her quilt back so it was too small. It was not possible to attach side clamps so there may be the odd tiny bumfle. We used a computerised pattern called “Candyland” and I trimmed both ends of the quilt afterwards so nobody will be able to tell it was not quite the right size.
I have now made a dozen mini purses as stocking fillers but I still have around 20 short zips left so maybe I will make some more for Fenella to sell in aid of her Girl Guides trip to Norway;)
This week I hope to get some of a customer’s “Silent Movie Star” quilt done, meet Freya in Edinburgh for our assignation and think about buying myself some thermals!
For months I had planned to quilt the Civil War tumbler quilt with close wavy lines but at the last minute I wavered and chose a pantograph pattern called “Turkish Tiles”. I worried that I should have chosen the version where the tiles change direction and got frustrated when Quilt Path randomly crashed twice. I had to restart the quilting and there was some unintended crossing over of lines BUT it is finished and it is for me so it does the job perfectly well. It is a pretty large quilt with over 1100 tumblers but I used a wool wadding so it is as light as a feather.
I had a bee in my bonnet about perfecting the measurements and method for making lined tartan zip-up purses. The reason for this project is that I seem to have a large quantity of annoyingly short zips and before I can justify ordering some more longer ones I “need” to use those up! After faffing around with zips that are positioned part of the way down one side, I decided that going back to Plan A of a top opening zip was the most practical as it does not matter which side the zip head is inserted. I have made copious notes that suggest cutting the lining bigger so there is plenty of room to turn the zip opening then everything gets trimmed to match later;) I have sent Freya the prototypes to give to her Foreign Friends as stocking fillers. The wool tartan is really nice but I might rustle up a few more purses from brightly coloured African fabrics.
I did use the wavy line quilting on a customer quilt that will raffled in aid of polio research. The customer requested something different in the borders to the body of the quilt but I did not trust QP to be accurate enough so the wavy lines went all of the way across then I added some freehand small spirals in the outer borders for interest.
The rest of my week was taken up with teaching and trawling the internet for quirky Christmas presents and how to apply for a Russian visa – just in case;)
Monday morning was bitterly cold and I wished I had fingerless gloves because my hands were so cold I could not feel them. After a hot, strong cup of coffee, I plucked up the courage to stitch words written in Viking runes onto Shield Maiden. Runes are just an alphabet system, not an actual language, so I just had to write out the words that I wanted on the quilt into their runic form. They are quite hidden and you really have to look for them!
The next adventure was to use a test piece of linen to see if the “blood” spattered effect would work. I used watered down fabric paint in a spray bottle, toothbrush and pastry brush to apply my Jackson Pollock style artistry. Because it was raining heavily outside, I had to fling the paint onto the quilt while it was on my workshop table. Afterwards it looked like I had been butchering something – there was red-brown paint on my sewing machine, carpet and table which took some time to scrub off. It just shows how difficult it must be to get away with murder;)
I co-opted Tania into helping me block the probably finished quilt then hang it outside for photos. I had a choice of full sun or very dark shade because I don’t have any blank walls where I can take uncluttered photos inside. I have been warned by my friends to step away from the quilt now and not be tempted to add any further embellishment, not even pieces of antler…
As usual, after an intense project, I was a bit lost so I decided to finish piecing my tumbler quilt which I may give to myself for Christmas.
I did not do any significant Black Friday shopping apart from a vintage wool tartan dressing gown from Ebay. I have visions of me wearing it to quilt with my wellies and thick socks in the depths of winter!
Now that it is on Freya’s bed in Uni Halls, I can post photos of her “away” Christmas quilt. It is a Betty Quilt pattern that I downloaded from Erica Jackman on Craftsy. It was quick and easy to piece and I used a computer panto called “ Let it Snow” by Natalia Majors at http://www.sunstonequilting.com The fabrics have a fun Scandi look but I will have to warn her to use a load of colour catchers if she ever washes it since red dye was obviously coming out while I ironed the binding!
I have got Shield Maiden to a point where it could be hung (on a sturdy batten as it is so heavy!) Hand sewing linen is seriously heavy duty, especially when the edges have been overlocked to stop them unravelling. The deadline for Quilt Con is in 10 days so it at least needs to be finished looking for photos. I can add some stitched runes if I think they will work. I want to paint the trickles gold then experiment on a piece of sacrificial linen to see if a radical idea might work… The quilt is subtle but in my opinion it currently lacks “Oomph”.
Purdah was rejected from the SAQA Layered Voices exhibition with a very professional let-down informing me that only 23 out of 535 made the cut. Those were high odds but I had hoped that Purdah was relevant to that sort of exhibition. I don’t know where Purdah can be exhibited. It clearly is more of a statement than a competition piece, like so many other things I have made. I wonder whether some quilters win consistently in competitions because they aim to perfect a particular style of quilt. I am obviously still busy experimenting, trying to find “my” style;)
I gave Shield Maiden my full attention for 2 whole days and completed the basic quilting. I have decided that I will face its edges and add the hanging sleeve then decide whether to add more quilting or embroidered runes IF there is still time to meet the QuiltCon competition deadline.
I had hoped that the felt-pen guidelines that I drew on with a so-called washable marker would just wipe off but they did not! Next I tried rubbing them quite vigorously with a bar of soap and wet sponge to no avail. Feeling slightly panicky, I purchased an armoury of stain removers. Shield Maiden is already a heavy quilt as it has a layer of cotton and a layer of wool wadding, a wool scarf and front and back of coarse linen. By the time it got plunged into a bath of cold water with a splash of Fairy liquid and vinegar, it weighed a ton! I transported it back to my workshop in a large bucket for a spin in the washing machine.
The pen marks had all gone but the quilt looked worrying “antiqued”. This can be a good look for a quilt but I had rather liked the smooth finish on the coarse linen before washing. I laid it out to dry on the table, hoping that would recover.
48 hours later it was still damp and still looked decidedly crinkly so I threw it into the tumble dryer with tennis balls for a rumble, not daring to give it any heat. When it emerged it was dry but not flat and still wrinkled…
The next remedy was to block it by dampening it and pinning it out. At least it is now flat enough to add the few lines of stitching that I want to highlight around the motif. After that I may coerce Tania into helping me to give it a bit of a stretch since two people pulling might help. The stitching has held up remarkably well considering its harsh treatment.
The photos don’t actually look too bad and I am probably over-reacting but I am already drafting a blurb that includes the words “weather-beaten” when describing Shield Maiden. Meanwhile I have wondered how to incorporate a subtle length of leather thong somewhere and have decided to buy lookalike Dremel drill-bits to bore holes into antler pieces. I should probably just take up LARPing as a hobby – it would be a good excuse to create quilted costumes out of fur and other unusual found objects.
(Over the weekend I finished off a project for Freya but I will not post any spoiler pics until she has seen it;))
I finally made a start on quilting Shield Maiden! As it is saggy, crumpled mess of linen when not stretched out tight, I decided that it would be impossible to pre-mark any lines so I blithely relied on using a quilting ruler with registration lines. It worked reasonably well but there was a bit of unpicking as a couple of lines in the middle seemed to be wandering off course. I used a Friction pen and a Crayola felt-tip to mark the rest of the lines. Obviously, I did not bother to test whether these would be easily removable so I will need to soak it later and hope for the best.
The diagonal lines at each side are too long to do in one pass on the Q24 longarm so each line stops then restarts after the quilt is rolled on. It is entirely possible that I may quilt it all again using metallic thread on the domestic machine if I can see where those joins are. My fingers and wrist ached after negotiating all of the small curves with a 2.5” circle template and I still have not decided what will happen around the triskeles but various crossings-out in my notebook may be considered.
I hope to complete the basic long arming this week then try to reign myself in from adding too much more to what is currently a minimalist project…
I expect that I broke health and safety guidelines when I made Bonfire Night toffee apples at school but they were absolutely perfect – so perfect that I had to take the pan home to give it a really good, hot soak to get rid of the “hard crack” toffee that set instantly.
I made two trips to Stirling over the weekend to deliver and collect Fenella from a Girl Guiding event that focuses on community projects, leading to an international trip. She had a great time with Guides from all over Scotland whom she had never met before. She enjoyed watching Guy Fawkes fireworks over the city from her room at the Youth Hostel near the castle. The drive home on Sunday was glorious as there are still gorgeous autumn colours and now fresh snow on the hills.
blurry on the move pic that is meant to show a cloud snowing on top of a hill!
I had a house full of visitors this week and I entertained them with hot soup at a waterfall, visits to my local junkshops and a trip to the Bird of Prey Centre near Huntly. We were the only visitors right at the end of the tourist season so we had a great time pretending to be owl and eagle handlers. The birds are all hand-reared and some have even gone on to starring roles in Harry Potter films. I really think I should get a pet owl…;)
My 2 days in school had a Hallowe’en theme which involved some research, artwork and maths with a seasonal theme. The children scooped out pumpkins then made soup and roasted the seeds in the oven. They had a go at carving jack o’lantern faces or decorating them with glitter and feathers in a homage to “Day of the Dead” masks.
The weekend got off to a cracking start when Tania and I went to a tiny, wooden village hall to see 3 modern Scottish folk bands jam with each other. The next time they are on tour up here I will be the first to book tickets! Not only was the music fantastic but they were all great story-tellers – some funny, others tragic – explaining the inspiration for their tunes and songs.
It was time to do some serious catching up with customer quilts at the weekend, while Nell’s 13th birthday/Hallowe’en sleepover was going on. She had a delightful group of girls here in fancy dress and they organised all of their own entertainment. All I had to do was cook for them – I think they enjoyed their breakfast waffles:)
I managed to do a quilt binding, baste a shot-cottons quilt for a hand quilter (pity the stitches are half an inch long because it looks fantastic), and fit in a rush job using a digital pantograph and deal with/fix an unscheduled Windows restart right in the middle of the quilt. Theoretically I should have cleared the decks enough to start quilting “Shield Maiden” at last…
It has rained almost constantly during the first week of the Tattie Holidays but my kids have kept themselves reasonable busy. There has been some baking, making, music and an unenthusiastic trip into town. Fergus even helped me to fix the spooky bathroom ceiling. He scraped off the loose bits, sanded off the flaky stuff, swept it up and helped me to paint, splashing even less than I did myself. It is not a very professional job but the bathroom no longer looks haunted. I paid Fergus for his efforts with a new crash cymbal so now he is actively seeking out jobs to do!
I got 2 customer quilts done using Quilt Path and have set up a custom job. My plan is to get all caught up so I can crack on with Shield Maiden after the holidays…
I decided to give Nell the Drunkard’s Path quilt for her birthday which is on the 24th. As she loves Hallowe’en, I used sugar skull fabric for the backing and used the QP to quilt the “Charlotte’s Web” panto by Anne Bright. I could not decide which colour to go for with the binding – cactus green or magenta – so I used them both by inserting a skinny flange! Nell has only glimpsed the quilt in passing so I have warned her not to read my blog until after her birthday;)
I have been frustrated that I have not yet started on Shield Maiden but at least now I have all of the materials ready. There is an inviting piece of natural linen, a wool shawl, woad powder, alum all waiting patiently on my worktable. I am still tempted to ferment a bucket of urine for two weeks to dye the wool “authentically”.
I have been kept busy with my 2 days per week at school but more annoying and time sappingly, doing paperwork for school. At least I unwound for a while by returning to a long abandoned “in the background” quilt…
A customer was here DIY quilting two of four large Harris Tweed quilts which will look fantastic in her Highland holiday cottage and most certainly keep the draughts out in winter.
As the weather gradually turns more autumnal I decided to make Freya a hot water bottle cover using the scraps from her “Goosey Guddle” quilt. I have pieced and quilted it now need to decide whether to make it hot water bottle shaped and whether to add bias binding around the outside. Obviously, I am incapable of making the simplest option!
I had a great meeting over coffee at Buchanans Bistro with a small Craft Collective from my local area. We already had a Facebook Page @CreativeCrathes as a means of advertising our small businesses but other than that we did not exactly have a purpose. In fact, we don’t really need any justification. It is quite simply nice to meet up for coffee without an agenda which can lead to sharing ideas or mentioning other contacts or organisations which could prove useful. Since then I have signed up to an online network called Craft Scotland, www.craftscotland.org added new posts to the Creative Creathes FB page and agreed to meet again in 6 weeks. And it is is nice to know that other Makers suffer the same self-doubts and pressures of time;)
Before Freya leaves home next weekend to study at St. Andrews I enlisted her help as chief engineer to lower the Q24 table which I had set up 6 inches too high. I was having to stand on tiptoes while quilting but had just not got around to making any adjustments. It seemed like a good opportunity to sort out scrap wadding, unpack quilts that were still in transit boxes and try to work out what the “useful” pile of interfacings were meant to be. I was also reminded of a few projects that had been temporarily suspended…
Part of the clutter in my workshop is Freya’s stuff for going away to Uni – everything from a bicycle pump to emergency milk sachets with bedding, stationery and cake tins in between.
Despite the muddle, I managed to work on 3 simple customer quilts, edit an article about the “Purdah” quilts and plan a fun maths lesson involving mixing magic potions to explore measuring by volume.
I ordered a book on the history behind natural dyes for one of my latest quilt ideas and Helen personally delivered several dress lengths of African fabric from Nigeria in case I find any spare time in which to have a go at dress-making. I was fairly pleased with the “Kate” dress prototype from Sew Me Something so you never know;)
As usual, I have lots on my To Do list but I have told myself that it does not all have to be done in just one week but after Freya has gone away the gloves are off and I have to seriously find some extra hours!
Despite not receiving any assistance from magic elves, I worked hard to finish off HM The Queen’s 90th Birthday Quilt so it could be sent to London to be photographed by Bernina UK, prior to being displayed at FOQ. I clocked up a total of 88 hours and many of them were just last week! I had to abandon the idea of wishbone twin needle sashing after hours of unpicking. It worked beautifully off the edge of the quilt but the thread kept breaking on the royal blue fabric, the un-sewing was starting to show and I just did not have time to persevere.
It took a really long time to triple stitch around the scallops and blocks but I think it made them “pop”. The thin gold braid adds just a hint of bling and the tiny checked flange under the red binding looks like the edge of an airmail letter. I spent hours hand-sewing the binding to the back and by the time I sewed on the hanging sleeve, my fingers were numb. I would probably have to make royal quilts regularly for 10 years before I could apply to display a Royal Warrant so my blog is unlikely to display any official lion/unicorn logos.
It was an enormous relief to have finished in good time and to discover that the entire quilt lies flat on the table so should hang nicely without too much persuasion. I only dislodged one tiny embellishment while working on the quilt but I have sewn it back on and no-one will ever know;)
Rather than hoover up after the marathon Royal project, I loaded up Freya’s Going-to-Uni quilt and cracked on with it. There is not much holiday left, including FOQ and she goes away at the beginning of September! I have made a multi strip binding of tartan offcuts, having decided that it feels super organised to make the binding before the quilting is even finished. Maybe I will get that done AND have a trip to the beach next week, even if it is raining…