Just as we were put into Corona Virus Lockdown in the UK we were very lucky that the Scottie breeders decided that all of the puppies could go to their new homes a few days early so we were able to dash to Dundee and collect Nessie. We were dreading not being able to get her so were delighted but totally unprepared and did not manage to borrow a puppy play pen. She is absolutely fantastic except when she tries to chew cables and nip our ankles. Nessie seems to be very clever and we have already taught her to SIT with the aid of tasty treats. House training is going fairly well most of the time. The cats are not impressed and have not yet put her in her place and she thinks it would be fun to chase the hens. I am so glad that we have such a lovely distraction in this awful time.
Life is ticking along here and we are coping well out in the countryside as long as we still have internet to keep in touch with friends and family. Nella and I finished off the homemade presents for Freya’s birthday. I made her a pair of PJ trousers from a Swedish pattern. I struggled to locate the pattern pieces on the print-out and tried to follow the instructions in English online except that these were for children’s trousers therefore not quite the same. She has not yet tried them on so I don’t know whether they are actually wearable.
I finished the final customer quilts in my workshop which will now sit on a shelf awaiting collection in who knows how many weeks time. It has not been easy to work on my quilt with a puppy to supervise but there is now no pressure to get it finished. I honestly don’t think FOQ will even go ahead this year. I think it would be foolish to run an international quilt show until we are certain the Pandemic is over, besides which the NEC is being prepared as an emergency hospital facility. It is strange to think that there are no deadlines to meet. I need to get over the feeling that I should be writing a novel or preparing for non-existent classes. I should just plan to do some simple, fun projects and wind right down if possible. At the very least I should keep practising German and work on some impressive small Scottie Dog training.
And in Other News (while the world deals with the Apocalpytic Coronavirus) – we are getting a puppy! Nella and I searched for a rescue dog locally and online but none of them were what we really wanted. I checked the Kennel Club website and found one litter of Scottie puppies in the whole of the UK, not that far from here in Dundee. We visited the breeders today and chose our little girl, “Nessie” who should be ready to move in with us at the end of this month. We are so excited and looking forward to a wonderful distraction during such troubled times.
I had a busy week working on 7 customer quilts from a Welsh quilter who visits her sister in Aberdeen twice a year. They were all super and ready for collection by Friday afternoon.
I set up my Doily exhibit at the end of session student show at Grays School of Art. I actually forgot to take the lamp as it was in our sitting room but we will take it along tomorrow and view all of the other students’ work.
There was not much time left to work on my Rainbow Warliors but even working on a little bit was some progress.
Freya is home for her Uni Spring Break and her birthday which is lovely for us but she is feeling down that all of her final year celebrations and social events have been cancelled. She was meant to go on a girls’ trip to Orkney but that is now off. All classes, lectures, libraries and the Student Union has been suspended. We are certainly living through unprecedented times. We will have to hunker down, be sensible and make plenty of quilts.
It was actually a bit of a bonus to discover that my customers were not coming until next week which gave me a whole week to crack on with the Rainbow Warliors. I was fortunate that Nella was perfectly contented to get on with her knitting projects so every spare minute was spent deciding on designs then stitching them out. At the start of a new quilt it is always making the decisions that seem to take longer than the actual sewing. The majority is ruler-work and I was not sure whether to allow myself any freehand areas at all.
I have probably only just completed a third of this bigger than intended project and once I have customer quilts to work on my time on it will be limited. It seems to be going well and I daresay I will get quicker. I plan to go back at the end and stitch-in-the-ditch everything with silver thread to cover up any backtracking. So far there has only been one dodgy “full” block, which is not bad considering that there was no pressing and some of the piecing was done by eye;)
I took the plunge and intrepidly started stitching my huge Rainbow Warli quilt. I was actually concerned whether it would even roll onto the quilt frame with 2 layers of wadding and multiple giant plastic sequins. It was a good job that I did not go ahead with my original idea to use glass mirrors. I used Qmatic to stitch large ⅛” spirals in the large spiral blocks and placed a large stitched Warli figure on top of each one. I was not able to use Qmatic to stitch ⅛” concentric circles around all of my circles because it turned out that some of my circles were not totally round or completely central. Plan B was to stitch one circle around all of the blocks to stabilise things, do some big stitch basting in empty spaces then shift the quilt to my other quilt fame which is totally freehand. It seems to be turning out that the majority of the quilting will be ruler work, rather than freestyle but things may evolve as I go along.
I have officially finished all of my screen-printing projects for the Grays School of Art student show, although I may make a doily and macrame item just because I can. Out of curiosity I had a go at breakdown printing using a manutex dye paste. I now know that I may admire other people’s efforts at this kind of thing but I don’t think it is my style as I prefer crisp prints.
I worked on 2 straightforward customer quilts over the weekend because I have a few more quilts coming soon and I want to be able to work on my own quilt without too much of a backlog to worry about. I honestly don’t know why people say, “No hurry…” because I would rather work on them as soon as they arrive to keep on top of things;)
I spent more time than I should have filling in the gaps on the digitised Warli test piece just in case I decide to make something useful from it one day. Really I was just filling my time waiting for thread, needles and backing fabric to arrive for the main event. I placed an order and opted for more expensive first class post so was disappointed when the threads still had not arrived by the weekend.
At least I have now made plenty of crispy starched prairie-points with a few spares ready for the binding. Using the mock border section I hand-sewed on a couple of mini pompoms to see if they would sit flat enough.
Slightly at a loose end, I ran up 2 “Wee Braw Bags”. One was made from a vintage embroidered tray cloth and will be used to keep home-made bread fresh, having got a second hand, small bread-maker last weekend (because I ditched mine last year in one of my clearouts). The other bag was made to contain a rainbow set of pattern weights that I took a notion for, even though I have no dressmaking projects in the pipeline.
I have now loaded the Rainbow Warli quilt onto the quilt frame to at least get the bare bones done before I get any more customer quilts. There are 2 layers of wadding because I reckon there could well be some “pouffy” areas. I had a sudden panic that the giant plastic sequins might not roll up but I have not cracked any yet. My plan is to baste each area with big stitches then work on some more detailed quilting and because it is zipped onto the leaders it should be OK to take it off if I have to work on something else… theoretically;)
I took a notion to making a small quilted throw out of the screen-print dyed, large doily on linen with mitred corners. It took me a while to remember how mitred corners work and they are not the most co-operative when using velvet and stretchy linen. I did not actually have enough decent linen left so I had to rummage around and find some some offcuts. This small quilt was literally thrown together and backed with some flimsy Indian indigo printed cotton. I thought it would be fun to add a pompom border under the binding so I ordered some from Ebay – the size of the poms was good, although the quality was naffly acrylic but it looked OK;) The final (or not quite) item for my student exhibition was to print onto a ready made tote bag. The bag was not really big enough for the screen so the prints were not great. The answer was to sew on test prints and the best way to do this proved to be to unpick the bag which was what I should have done in the first place to get a nice, flat print surface.
I asked a Bernina UK colleague, Tracey Pereira, if she could help me out with digitising some Warli figures and spirals. She very kindly e-mailed over some DXF files but when I first stitched them out there were multiple stops and starts. She re-sent them as Illustrator files and I converted them into the Bernina format in the ArtnStitch program. This took me a while to figure out but all of the initial frustration was worth it as they all stitched out beautifully. I used a piece of hand-dyed yellow fabric that I did not especially like as I did not mind messing about on it but the test patterns looked great so I wished I had actually used a colour that I liked as I will probably make the quilted piece into something useful eventually.
Finally, I got around to attaching the sparkly Warli border squares to the quilt top but it turned out that the quilt was not 80” square as I had calculated/imagined. It was more like 85” ish. I had to make a few more squares and fit them to the border by surreptitiously shaving ¼” off the odd square until it worked. The resulting quilt top is LARGE. No surprises there then – it just means that there will be a LOT of quilting to do!
My latest obsession is learning German… I have visited a few times to teach longarm quilting for my friend, Regina Klaus and I know lots of random vocabulary but absolutely no genders or grammar so I cannot have a conversation. I managed a find a tutor who would come to the house and teach Nella and me using the BBC “Talk German” course. We have been most attentive pupils, quite swotty in fact – doing lots of practice and revision in between lessons. In addition, I have become addicted to the Duolingo phone app and have been battling it out online for the top of the league spot with a Russian student. Nella and I do Duolingo at every meal or snack time now and this week alone we have clocked up over 1800 points – at least it is not gambling! We are both keen to put in a lot of effort and try to become more confident with attempting another language.
When I was not conjugating German verbs I managed to complete 3 customer quilts, finished off the footstool and made a fabric basket from printed doily fabric to contain my business cards.
Nella has made her area in the workshop her own by decorating with paper leaves, fairy lights and pompoms. She now enjoys reading or crafting in her space which allows me to get on with some of my projects. I cut out 80-odd border squares from plain coloured fabric and all of the pieces for the fancy prairie points that I want to include under the binding. The T-shirt heat press machine came in handy for ironing a whole lot of small pieces in one go. I used the digital cutting machine to cut out 90 x 2 ½” tall Warli figures from glitter vinyl so I should be able to get the borders onto the Rainbow Warli Quilt soon. My next challenge will be how to quilt it?!
I felt like I spent my entire week rushing to fit in meals and appointments, getting unnecessarily stressed by trivia. Despite that, I fitted in 3 simple customer quilts and celebrated my birthday. Even though I was not in India as planned, my girls made it special with lovely cards and gifts. The next day we drove Freya down to St Andrews to begin her final semester of 4th year. It is incredible how quickly her time at Uni has gone.
It was a relief that Saturday was a day that I did not have to be anywhere and since it was dry I decided that the Ercol rocking chair would be sanded down for the last time. I did not have any wood oil or wax polish handy so I rubbed it over with the stuff that is meant for re-treating wax jackets and it looks fine. It is not a professional job by any means but it looks serviceable and will have cushions on it which will hide the tiny areas of dark stain that I could not completely remove. I have to decide whether it has white or navy screen-printed cushions – my preference is for blue but Mo, the upholstery expert disagrees;) I have bought a cheapo-nasty roller blind and a basic lamp because I plan to make a mini room set of screen-printed fabrics to display at the end of year Grays student show.
Bit by bit, I constructed all 20 Rainbow Warli blocks but they are not all exactly the same size. My large table is not big enough to lay them all out so I need a still, dry day to lay them on the grass to decide what order they should go in. I intend to fill the gaps with skinny pieced strips until it all more or less fits together, which will be a bit of a jigsaw. Why I can’t work to an exact size is beyond me…
I can’t tell you how long it took me to browse images of clothes peg bag images before choosing the first one I found. I made my Mother a smart, new peg bag for Christmas since that is what she asked for. I could probably make more of those or cosmetics bags or some other complicated projects or actually nothing at all;)
I completed 3 blissfully straightforward customer quilts in short order, even though one had a back that was slightly too small. I simply advised the customer to apply extra wide binding. That left me the rest of my time to work on some of my remaining Rainbow Warli blocks.
Obviously I had to fiddle with the perfectly good settings that I had previously settled on for making eyelets. Once the eyelets were made they were sewn onto squares of silver lame so they look like shisha mirrors. I added a touch of silver glitter paint to each one just to seal the thread ends.
The organza Warli blocks were not as great as I had hoped because it would seem that not all organza is the same. Some did not burn right off with the soldering iron which was disappointing so I wondered whether to fill in the twin needle stripes with silver foil or glitter but it made the figures look they were in jail. Just to see what it would look like I tested out a sample of rustic Kantha stitching with razzle-dazzle thread in case I decide to add some insane stitching to the finished quilt. I am hoping that when Freya is home at Christmas I might get “free” time to lay the whole quilt out or at least work out what it could be – quilt, canopy or tent…
The thing I was most excited by this week was deciding to make a screen-print table top. I was lucky that a nice young man offered to help me get my MDF into the back of the Landy otherwise I would have had to go back into the shop to buy rope to strap it onto the roof. I stapled down 4 layers of quilt wadding plus a layer of heavyweight muslin and now have a padded printing surface the same size as my farmhouse table. I tested it out by printing some doilies onto plain cushions which I will give away as gifts.
I have now ordered an unmarked heavy duty cutting mat that can sit on top when I am not printing so there will be no excuse for Nella and I not to become good at dressmaking – or at the very least we might get good at cutting the patterns out;)
It was the last evening class of the year for Textile Printing so I had to really shift to get everything done. There were some successes and some minor disasters. My final acetate design did not quite fit onto its screen which was disappointing and I left a piece of polycotton devore in the oven for too long so it simply burned. However, the huge doily printed with navy blue procion dye paste onto calico worked beautifully. I took the smaller screens home to experiment with before the class restarts in January and I have already printed colour discharge paste onto Indian indigo fabric. It was done in a hurry without a decent printing surface in poor light onto creased fabric but it seemed to come out quite well all the same.
Nella and I managed to complete the fine corduroy dress and finished the hem on our new Bernette Funlock 42 coverstitch machine. The frock looks really cute and Christmassy and we feel inspired to have a go with some jersey fabric. I wasted a lot of time trying to find cheap jersey to practise with online. It would be far better to buy it from an actual shop but there is nowhere I can think of anywhere remotely local that would stock any. I have seen some lovely jersey knit on a Norwegian website but I want to feel confident that we can make something wearable before spending too much on nice fabric.
I finally completed the Christmas Tree quilt that I had been working on for a customer. I thought the background quilting was never going to end! It does look good, even though I say so myself;) While I was busy doing that Nella made good progress on her first pair of knitted socks. I am very impressed that she can manage 3 knitting needles. Her physical health is getting better but she is still suffering mental anguish from anorexia. I keep hoping that as her nutrition improves her mental health will follow.
We both went to a willow weaving workshop with expert basket maker, Helen Jackson, to learn how to make deers and trees. The class was relaxed and easy – we came home thrilled with our very rustic Christmas decorations.
Bumble the Scottie Dog stopped eating, became very frail and kept looking for a corner to hide in. We were with her when she died and even though it had been expected for a while we were devasted. I felt as though my shadow had disappeared and kept expecting her to be under my desk or in the workshop. Although I only had her for a couple of years in her old age she was my best furry friend ever and I will miss her dreadfully.
Nella’s motivation for eating this week was the anticipation of an overnight stay with Freya in St Andrews to see the Rocky Horror Picture Show. I packaged up food with a military precision so I could be super organised in advance. We had a great visit – the show was raucous fun, we did a little frivolous shopping and spent time with a couple of Freya’s friends who came over to explain how to play old-school “Dungeons & Dragons”. Since the weather was unusually mild we even managed to go to the Banchory Bonfire and Fireworks on Saturday night for an hour. It all reminded her that her life could be so different if she can beat Anorexia but she did feel down afterwards, having no next big event to look forward to. We will plan small milestones such as a trip into Aberdeen or a visit to the cinema, things that we have not been able to do for months.
I started a Christmas customer quilt which I can work on for an hour at a time over the next week or so, deciding that for simplicity all of the trees will be quilted the same with small clamshells but the background quilting will be snowy and wild.
I printed a pink screen-print doily onto the black camouflage fabric which looks really vibrant – maybe it could become a cushion or a funky cosmetics bag. The extra large doily is taking ages to draw out – after 4 hours I had not even completed the full outline so the detail will keep me busy for a while. I hope the crochet has not distorted too much from a circle into a sort-of squashed ellipse but then again maybe it will look more authentic if it is a bit wonky.
The week ahead will include a couple of simple craft projects, the Christmas quilting and some school work – I have to brush up on Hamlet quotes!
The one thing that is essential when dealing with a child with Anorexia is maintaining a positive outlook. Even when it seems that there is no improvement, the only thing is to keep trying and keep hoping that the vicious cycle can be broken. On Thursday we were warned that a hospital admission is looking increasingly likely if the medical checks show up increasingly failing health and weight continues to drop. We were given the weekend to turn things around, even the tiniest amount. Her friends visited and gave her a brave and loving “talking to” which I hope struck a chord deep within.
I now have to provide almost 24/7 supervision so there is no opportunity for her to exercise and I must insist that some food is at least tasted 3 times a day. Everything revolves around mealtimes and the issue of food, even though my daughter will only touch one piece of fruit and a few spoons of home-made soup each day.
We kept ourselves occupied by building an IKEA desk and bookcase, getting started on some school-work and trying not get sick of each other’s company. She had to sit in my workshop while I had a DIY quilt customer for a morning. This new regime will curtail my DIY work since I usually work through lunch but I will have to figure a way of keeping going with some quilts otherwise the business will just disappear. I have not worked on my Rainbow Warli quilt at all and I really want to make some progress towards getting all of the pieces finished, even if I don’t know what sort of quilt it will become. I almost decided not to proceed with Year 2 of my textiles printing evening class but I will do it anyway as a lifeline for my sanity or at least a change of scene.
I used the little Elna sewing machine that now lives on my daughter’s new desk and finished piecing the “Positivity” quilt. This is a pattern by Christa Watson using the fabric that I won as a door prize in her class in Florida, mixed with a few extra scraps and multi-coloured squares instead of neutrals. I got the Bernina Q-matic to quilt spirals all over it for texture and backed it with an Indian mandala cotton bedspread. While she made a short visit to her friend’s house I got the binding on and made up her bed. It is bright and cheerful – she loves it and IF she has to go into hospital this is something that she can take from home that I have created especially for her.
You hear about people dropping out of Uni or Life all the time but I have never thought about what that actually meant. I feel as though I have temporarily dropped out of Quilting, certainly when I look at social media and think that Everybody Else is beavering away, teaching, launching new patterns or inventing new techniques. I have barely had time to think about quilting, let alone actually do any.
We waved Freya off on a Grand Adventure to Tanzania where she will be staying with a university lecturer whom she met on the way back from her trip to Egypt. Her journey of 24 hours ended up in Mwanza where passengers on the 8-seater planes can either carry hand-luggage or a bucket of fish. She will explore Dar Es Salaam and Zanzibar with her host and probably foster a desire to do an internship there in the future.
I have been able to work on some basic customer quilts using Qmatic in between medical appointments and school meetings. I chose the same pattern, Flower Child, in various sizes because it was straightforward and suited several different quilts.
I finally finished piecing the Positivity blocks over the weekend so it will be fun to put them all together with my youngest daughter. We have been spending a lot of time together, not only in the battle to get her to eat but also because she is currently unable to attend school. I persuaded her that it would be calming if I helped to sort out her messy room so we looked up how to fold clothes the Marie Kondo (Japanese) way so they take up less space and it led onto a major clean-up. She is actually thrilled with how ordered everything now is.
The knock-on effect was that we moved the piano out of her room then shifted all of Fergus’ music gear out to the summerhouse so he has a space that is more of a studio. This involved moving a sofa-bed into the ex-music room via a tight front door and ridiculously small hallway – if I move from this house I swear most of the furniture will have to stay behind to avoid a repeat of those shenanigans. Hopefully those 2 siblings will now clash less over practise, noise and taste in music! The rest of the house would also benefit from a major declutter but really I would rather sew;)
Life is not always a beach so it is good to have an interest such as patchwork and quilting that offers an escape from worry. We had our first Eating Disorder appointment which did not wave a magic wand but at least got my daughter accepting one tiny meal of vegetables per day. This is a small step in the right direction, mainly due to the threat that she will not be able to go to Latitude if she is not fit enough.
I took Bumble to the vet because one of her mammary tumours had opened up. She is not actually unwell but we were told that she had half a dozen tumours, some of which could be surgically removed but that they would come straight back. I decided that my beloved 12 year old dog would not be put through any further operations and just asked for antibiotics for the wound instead. I am sad that Bumble can’t come on holiday with us but I can’t leave her with my folks for too long and I would have to go back to Norfolk from Birmingham to collect her so I just have to hope that she is OK staying with friends for almost 3 weeks.
One of my friends had a nasty road accident – she was badly shaken, bruised and her car was a wreck. I gave her a couple of lifts in Fergus’ little car which was making an alarming squeaky noise like a constipated hen. Hopefully it is just a dirty brake and won’t be another expensive fix.
The last customer quilt before the summer holidays begin was a cream quilt for a Golden Wedding present. It was quilted with a Qmatic pattern then I had to attach a row of slippery bridal lace. I made a thin strip of folded bias to hide the raw edges then sewed it down with a decorative blanket stitch.
A delivery van dropped off a package that I had forgotten about which was a Bernina eyelet kit. I spent a morning fiddling with settings and thread and was impressed at how well it performed. My plan is to make eyelets then layer them over silver lame fabric so they look like Indian mirrors to add to my rainbow Warli quilt.
Another parcel contained my new Bernina style trolley-rucksack. I have designed a name badge so it looks like one of the bags that I coveted at BU and I need to find someone to embroider it for me.
I decided that I needed a therapeutic “just because” patchwork project so I cut up the Christa Watson layer cake that I won as a door prize in her class. One of her patterns , “Positivity”, called for neutral greys in the background but I swapped that part for plain coloured fabrics from my stash. I really enjoyed some mindless patchwork where all I had to do was simple chain-piecing. I can just pick up around 5 blocks at a time and allow my brain to switch off.
This week we will be working through my pre-holiday/packing lists and hoping that everything just ticks along without any drama.
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.