Nella and I watched several YouTube videos by “Preppers” in their Doom Rooms in a quest on how to use our new food dehydrator. I do not actually intend to lay down stores for the End of Time – I just want to dry some berries, dog treats and make crisps. The machine is bigger than I anticipated and I could do with some major Feng-Shui to create space in my workshop for this new “hobby” and the produce it creates. We practised on raspberries and thin slices of sweet potato and got good results. It can even help to rise bread which is a bonus because some on some wintry days we just don’t have enough warmth to get it going.
A strange childhood food favourite of mine is Sweetcorn Relish. We used to get a jar of Bick’s but I hardly ever see it in shops. Sainsbury have their own version but I have only found it once. I tried making it a couple of years ago but was not impressed by any of the recipes I found online. The kind I like is quite sweet and gloopy without additional unnecessary vegetables like cauliflower or cucumber. I found one recipe that looked basic, read the label of my empty jar, added more sugar, turmeric and used a small amount of arrowroot as a thickener. Success! – I have recreated my favourite pickle without making the whole house smell like boiled vinegar.
I had 3 customer quilts this week and after clearing off my table entirely I laid out the foam boards to block Rainbow Warriors, having attached the last few crystals. It was not the most thorough process, just enough to flatten it out for a photo so I could pack it away for a while. I have not even inspected it for loose threads and it needs a label but it is more or less there. Amazingly, for a quilt that was not that accurately measured or pressed, there was only 1.5” extra width down one side. None of the colours ran after a good spray with water – there was no way that I was going to attempt soaking it in the washing machine or bath. It is a bit odd that there was no feeling of triumph once the job was one. There are no shows to enter and no deadlines to meet this year. I suppose 2021 should be a good year for quilts as everyone shows off what they produced during Lockdown. I usually write about the process of making my grand projects so I ought to get on with that before I forget what I did;)
I dropped off my broken laptop to be fixed locally and was told that the hard drive was dead. The guy fitted a new one but was unable to retrieve any data. Because it was not working properly, it seems that even though I used an external back-up drive nothing was saved for over a year. I am trying not to get upset about the files that I have lost and I now have the crappiest chore of manually re-entering all of my accounts using notebooks and bank statements. I had planned to chill out at the weekend by making log cabin blocks but I need to get the boring stuff over with first.
Freya went back to St Andrews this week to start packing up her student flat, having come home for a few days in March and staying with us throughout Lockdown. That is the longest we have seen her since before she started Uni and even then, she never spent 24 hours at home every single day. The house seems subdued without her. I miss discussing news and politics over breakfast, Nessie misses her extra morning walk and Nella misses her company. At least she managed to slap some red paint on the old yurt doors so now we don’t have to worry about gusty winds catching the tatty canvas and tarpaulin.
I have been working my way through half a dozen customer quilts. It is beginning to look like people are feeling braver about venturing out and have been asking me to quilt the projects that they have been working on at home. We do a weird exchange of bags and have a chat at a 2m distance outside my workshop.
It has been taking ages to sew all of the tiny bells onto my prairie points with ridiculously fine invisible thread. I have sewn in the thread ends as best as I can but I reckon they would all slither off if given a gentle tug. I am officially OVER sewing tiny bells on now – at least I am now half way through the 4th side:) There is still a bit to do before the Rainbow Warliors quilt is complete and I really don’t know what projects will come next. My screen-printing came to a grinding halt after the Grays Student Exhibition was suspended. In theory I could be printing tote bags or something useful for sale but really I have no idea.
I have been putting off worrying about what the future will bring because I think it is too early to decide. I might like to experiment with offering some patchwork and quilting tuition over Zoom. I intend to take some Advanced Qmatic classes with a tutor from Bernina of America so I will see how well that goes.
Honestly, all of the days are exactly the same these days. There are no appointments or commitments to distinguish between them but I do have a bit of a routine. All meals and snacks are scheduled, of course and I make bread most days, particularly now that I have half a kilo of yeast that I ordered online. I have to do some Duolingo German quizzes since I now have a 102 day streak, even though it can be extremely frustrating as nothing is ever really explained in depth.
I have to sew something every day – sometimes I can make it more exciting by allowing myself to work on 3 or 4 log cabin blocks.
I finished the triple line of rustic kantha stitching all the way around the Warli Quilt binding so now I am back to the random seed stitching inside the glitter warli circles. Each one takes me around two hours as involves a lot more stitches than is immediately obvious.
I made a few fabric face masks to send by post for my folks and threaded them with cording made from a T-shirt, which are adjustable with a toggle.
After months of research, Freya completed her Uni dissertation and so she is finally able to enjoy some down time, apart from one final exam. She and Nella have since been engrossed setting up idyllic world on the Nintendo Switch “Animal Crossing New Horizons” game. I can see why so many people have become addicted to their lovely virtual lives, building cute houses and growing trees. At least they don’t have all of the seasons in one day of May in Scotland where today we have seen snow, sunshine, hail and wind!
Most days I wake up and have no idea what day it actually is. I only knew it was Tuesday because I had to take Nessie for a rendezvous in the Vet carpark for her puppy booster so now she is all clear to go out in public whenever that might be.
I spent most of the week completing the sparkly stitching-in-the-ditch then simply wondered for a while whether the machine quilting was actually complete. The blue marking pen came out easily with a spray of water and none of the Indian fabrics bled any dye which was a relief.
I decided to crack straight on with attaching the prairie points which was not an easy task with Nessie around. I had to keep a large and heavy quilt off the floor as she kept trying to eat the wonder clips that were holding the PPs in place. My plan is to add the binding so the edges don’t get tatty and leave the blocking until much later. It seems fairly square. At least the two sides both measure 90” but admittedly the top and bottom are 1.5” different which is not a massive problem;)
I have reined back a bit on my plan to add a lot of kantha stitching on the quilt. I decided that the circular, glittery Warlis were a bit saggy so I am adding rustic seed stitching in their backgrounds. I don’t have all of the right colours of perle cotton so I am just using what I have and I think it will look OK in the grand scheme of things. I may add some sort of kantha onto the binding. I have decided to use plain blue and orange for the binding instead of the psychaledic backing fabric or black which does not appear anywhere else. Other than that I pottered away at somelog cabin blocks, made a couple of hairbands, one face mask, bread – some good loaves, some like bricks, and just taking each day as it comesThis despite my MacBook dying without having done a recent backup. Hey-ho, what can I do at present? I have an IPad and a very old IMac so all is not completely lost for now.
Another week has gone by in “Lockdown” where the days go quickly and I feel busy but am not actually busy at all. I actually did 2 customer quilts using the machine with the computer which felt productive. Mel delivered some jazzy prints that she had picked up from a bazaar in Myanmar so I decided to make a set of table napkins. I watched a long-winded YouTube tutorial on how to make perfectly mitred corners then figured out a much quicker, easier method myself. If I could work out how to make a good YouTube video single-handedly then I would upload it for others to try.
Most of the time that I spent in my workshop was just stitching-in-the-ditch with sparkly thread. I had to keep
dousing the cone with silicone and the hefty size 20 needle is not as accurate as I would like but once I step back a bit it looks pretty good. I still cannot decide if it needs or wants any hand sewing like I did on the red, black and white version.
Nessie went for a walk halfway around the field on her lead without complaining which is fantastic. I had a Westie years ago that would just refuse to budge on a lead and often had to be carried home!
I have sort of tried to be less busy at weekends but I never allow myself to simply read a book. I have been pottering away on the log cabin blocks because it is relaxing but also feels useful, getting annoyed learning German with the Duolingo app, and helping Nella make another very basic pair of PJ trousers. She was upset that the first set did not fit but I had stupidly cut out the small child size instead of small adult – not an ideal situation for a recovering Anorexic.
I anticipate the the coming week will be much the same – maybe the Rainbow Warlior SID will get finished, maybe not;)
A sure way to beat the Blues is to play with as many colours as possible. My friend, Mel brought me a selection of rich, shot cottons that she had brought back from Myanmar and left them in a bag at a safe distance. I wanted to start using them straight away but could not decide what sort of project, other than a nice, easy one. There is currently a virtual log cabin quilt online, curated by www.theafricanfabricshop.co.uk so I made a test block for that, followed by random selection of “ethnic” prints that I had stashed away combined with the shot cottons. I did not want a tricky project that involved fiddly bits, paper piecing or improvisation, so a plain and simple, old-school log cabin fits the bill perfectly. A couple of blocks can be made in a short time, in between other things, and they are a great stress reliever.
Nessie got her smart made to measure harness this week but it took 2 weeks to get here and she is growing so fast that it probably won’t last long. We decided on green since she is named after the Loch Ness Monster and I attached a couple of bells so I can hear her when she is hiding. One of the local vet practices agreed to administer her with puppy vaccinations. I handed her over in a pet-carrier in the car-park to avoid any human contact with the Vet. I decided go ahead with the vaccinations in case Lockdown is lifted by the summer so she can safely socialise with other dogs.
It was a shock when it was announced that UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, had been taken into intensive care and I think it made people realise that nobody is invincible from Coronavirus. Festival of Quilts sensibly announced that the 2020 show has been cancelled. Even if it had gone ahead later in the year I don’t think many people would have attended, particularly since the NEC is currently being used as a field hospital. Without being over pessimistic, I can’t see this crisis being over for a long time yet.
Bit by bit I finally reached the bottom of the Rainbow Warlior quilt! I could not quite believe it to be honest as it seemed to take forever. The next phase is to add a defined sparkly line of stitch-in-the-ditch to every single seam. I had a bit of a tussle with the Madeira Supertwist 12 thread to start with until I got the right tension/needle combination. The 120 needle is FAR bigger than is ideal but is the only one that I can use without the sparkly thread shredding every couple of inches. The SID is not quite as time consuming as I had expected so my next decision will be whether to commit to any kantha-style hand quilting in addition. To look authentic there would have to be a lot of it and it is a very large quilt. I also want to attach almost 200 tiny pompoms to each of the prairie-points in the binding and that is possibly already fiddly enough;)
I have been trying not to get a tiny bit frustrated at not feeling purposeful and I feel that I must make something every day and that is not so easy with a puppy to entertain. An old friend sent me some Scottie Dog fabric so I made Nessie a smart cover for the pillow that we keep in the kitchen. I thought she would look cute in a bandana and that led to make some elasticated hairbands. This in turn reminded me that I had a pattern for making knickers so I decided to have a go using the remains of the PJ fabric. I forgot that the outer gusset usually matches the main fabric of the knickers. The knickers looked generous enough to suit Bridget Jones but after I added the leg bands only someone with skinny legs and a big bum would be able to wear them. Oh well, at least I know I can make knickers if Marks and Spencer closes down;)
I have made slow but steady progress on the Rainbow Warriors quilt, just doing a couple of blocks a day. The ruler work is slow but I am pleased with the texture. I have now rolled it all the way down so I can actually see the bottom of the quilt which is quite exciting and will spur me on. Then I will start at the top all over again to do something about highlighting all of the seams. I will probably make a scrap sample to decide whether that will mean using a thicker metallic thread or a freehand “embroidery” stitch. The antique Indian tunic scraps that I used as inspiration have SO much stitching and it is not like I am working to any kind of deadline.
We have managed to teach Nessie a few simple commands which is important because she is a terrier and they like to be the Boss. She can SIT, COME and does understand NO but thinks it does not apply to cats, hens and people’s ankles. She is great fun, follows me around but we have to keep her occupied so she does not try to chew cables which is a challenge in the workshop. She has a ridiculous, new toy that might distract her – a squeaky rubber chicken. It is amazing how much she has grown in just a week. We can already see that her nose is stretching into the distinctive Scottie snout and her floppy ears are already perkier. I am so glad she has joined our household and stops me worrying about when I might be able to find the next bag of flour in the supermarket. The empty shelves actually remind me of news reports about life in Soviet Russia of the 1980s. Our lives are certainly very different these days but for now I can try to keep calm and carry on quilting.
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…