Category Archives: Quilty Trips

Practice Makes Perfect – Sort of;)

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I was in the unusual situation of not having any customer quilts waiting to be done so I decided to push on with what happens in my DWR borders. They have been keeping me awake at night, as I have trying and failing to figure out how to piece them. I guess I could work out the maths eventually but I think I will have to just cheat and wing it with invisible appliqué since I just don’t have acres of border fabric and I have already spent £150 on the materials for the top alone. I made 4 wiggly pieced borders, turned under the edges and will attempt to put the quilt top together next week. Any printing of iconic Russian women can either be added later or abandoned if necessary. I did a test-run with a paper print of Jimi Hendrix using Modge-Podge but it was a messy disaster so the only way forward will be thermofax screens or linocuts.

  

Since I had some down-time, I took the opportunity to do some practice ruler work on a simple quilt pattern by Iva Steiner that I got from Regina in Germany. I am always telling students to practise while never getting around to it myself. It was a fun project but it made me think that I really should use a much finer thread for back-tracking so I guess I will be placing an order from Madeira for the DWR quilt.

 

I gave a talk for Thistle Quilters in Edinburgh at the weekend and pulled out some quilts that have not seen the light of day for a while. It is always surprising to rediscover what is stored away in boxes. I did not take the Coracle as it is such a bulky item to cart around but I did take a large Totem and Purdah – and a bicycle that I had sold on Ebay! The audience always enjoys my invitation to rummage through the quilts when I give a talk so they can examine the stitching and actually feel the textures of the more unusual fabrics.

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Trials and Errors in my Studio

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I secretly relish when business is slack and I can spend time experimenting in my studio. The trouble with running a small business is that it is easy to get caught on a treadmill with customer quilting, leaving little time to create. I had a go at making a Fancy Forest fox double its original size but my maths was not up to the challenge the first time around so Mr Reject Fox will probably become a cushion. Before long I made 4 correct giant foxes which equals 16 of the mini foxes. Next I made a mutant bunny block and he is huge so I will only need 2 instead of 8. I am such a cheat!

I was going to say that I don’t really enjoy working with small pieces then I remembered my latest idea…

Bumble and I went on an expedition to Rainbow Fabrics in Old Meldrum so I could choose fabrics for my Russian Inspired Quilt Idea. The shop is quite small but jam-packed with sewing goodies. Bolts of fabric are stacked 3 high and a step ladder has to be used to pull out the top ones. I eventually picked out a good selection that I thought looked like lapis lazuli, malachite and amber and asked for long, skinny cuts. I hope the extremely helpful assistant went for a strong cup of coffee after she tidied up my mess.

  

I roughly chopped up a few pieces of the amber colours to see if I could produce something that reminded me of the Amber Room. I wanted to see what would happen if I applied a glaze or a sheer fabric using Misty Fuse. The prototypes came out quite well so the next move was to cut a few egg or nugget shapes out using the Sanncut machine. I did a very rough calculation and decided that I would need more than 1000 so having decided that the project could work, I spent a whole day fusing, cutting and scraping sticky stuff off the cutting mats.

I pieced two DWR arcs to see whether the blues and greens looked good with the amber and quickly dismissed the option of making the easy version.

  

The other thing I worked on a little was adding denim patches on the reverse of the denim quilt where the rivets had caused some damage. They were Bondawebbed on but I knew they would also have to be stitched otherwise they would eventually fall off. This was not as easy as I might have hoped. The denim quilt is far too big and heavy to make life easy so I came up with the idea of adding rustic sashiko stitching – sewing right to left is fine but going back the other way involves a bit of contortionism and my hand gets cramp. I will just have to do a couple of patches at a time.

My much abused iron took yet another tumble off the ironing board but because I was fiddling with tricky organza, I did not pick it up immediately and it melted the carpet. There was brown gloop all over the iron and a terrible smell. Amazingly, the melted nylon mostly scraped off quite easily so I may be able to resurrect it by scrubbing with bicarb. There is absolutely no non-stick surface left anyway but it is such a heavy, hot iron I would hate to try and replace it. I almost repeated the exact same accident with the backup iron so I will need to think of how to add a sturdier iron rest. I wonder whether I could use a slate roof tile and a couple of strips of elastic? Or maybe just move the ironing board out of an awkward corner, except that may lead to reorganising my whole workshop on a horrific scale!

Looking Back on 2017

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I’m glad that what goes on during the Christmas-New Year week is not a reflection on life as a whole. Otherwise nothing would ever get done, we would be constantly ill and not know what to eat, despite a fridge full of food. I had planned to make myself some kit blocks for the Fancy Forest quilt but did not get around to it.

  

To be fair, I have not been lazing around the whole time. There was a 2-day stovie-making frenzy for Freya’s fund raising ceilidh. Peeling, chopping and cooking 30 kg of spuds was no mean feat. Pulled beef, onions and black pepper were added and neatly ladled into 12 large foil trays. These had to be unceremoniously dumped back into whatever pots and pans we could find at the Scout Hut which did not in fact have an industrial-style oven. The ceilidh was a great success and the stovies were declared excellent, although we do have a few leftover portions in the freezer.

I spent one of my lethargic days putting dates into next year’s calendar/diary. It looks like there are not enough trips planned in 2018, unlike 2017, a very good year for quilty travels to St Petersburg, Savannah, Steckborn, Coburg and Ste Marie aux Mines.

 

I don’t feel that I actually sewed that much in 2017 apart from a major push to complete BzB in May/June. All of those insane hours paid off and it won Contemporary Quilts at FOQ, the premier quilt festival in Europe. It has now gone for an extended stay in the USA to see how it gets on over there. I do have a sort-of-plan for a new show quilt in 2018 but whether it works out or whether it gets shelved remains to be seen.

 

I made 2 new friends in Ste Marie aux Mines with whom I hope to collaborate in some form. I have sent some quilted faux leather to Christine Escanes to cut up and experiment on and I have made a denim word search quilt inspired by the work of denim artist, Ian Berry.

I met many new friends in the Quilt World and happily reconnected with old friends this year. One of the more unexpected non-quilting friends that I made was a hairy one – my new best friend, a 10 year old Scottie Dog called Bumble. We have become inseparable and miss each other when I am away. My cats were decidedly unimpressed by this new member of the family but if I light a fire they decide they can be pals.

I had 2 lovely holidays with my kids, getting away from it all in Achilitbuie then camping at the Latitude Festival. My old Landcover took us to all of those places, despite being long overdue for an overhaul. It was a little nerve-racking, hoping that it would not rain on the way home from the NW Highlands because the wipers had conked out.

 

In 2018 it will be 10 years since I won the Loch Lomond Quilt Show, became The Quilt Quine and started blogging. I have made a lot of quilts and travelled to many places since then. I wonder what will happen in the next 10 years?!

Auf Wiedersehen Coburg and Fitlike Crathes

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I spent my last full day in Coburg with Regina trying to learn all of the commands for Qmatic. We made good progress but did not conquer it completely, hoping that the forthcoming update will make it even more user friendly. We ventured into the city of Coburg to do some Christmas shopping which will have to remain a mystery for now;) And bought the most delicious Lebkuchen from the bakery, not at all like packaged gingerbread cookies. I only just managed to zip my purchases into my suitcase but decided that it would be safest to transport my glass “kugels” as hand luggage.

We made a detour to a Gudrun Sjoden clothing outlet but it was difficult to choose from so many lovely colours and sadly, after that it was time to head to the airport after an absolutely super trip.

I spent most of the next day unpacking, catching up on emails and attempting to add some  machine embroidery to the pleather piece. I abandoned that after a while as the piece was too big and too stiff to scrunch up under the domestic Bernina 710 so my collaborative friend, Christine, can chop it up and play with it when it arrives in Florida.

  

Light snow and ice cause a bit of disruption to the school bus and I was frustrated by a conference call to Switzerland when the wifi dropped out so I got on with an allover customer quilt then swiftly prepared the next one as I have 3 to finish before Christmas. In addition, I thought it was a good idea to cut out a little side project in case I run out of things to do…

  

Things are becoming festive here – On Friday evening I went to a very nice Christingle supper with friends then on Saturday morning Nella had her choir Christmas concert. Later we headed into Aberdeen to attempt some Christmas shopping. The so-called Christmas market was NOT at all like a German one:P We only bought a couple of things as it was too busy to bother but we did at least get Fergus a couple of birthday gifts. I am hoping that I will get the rest of my shopping online or locally.

Sunday was chilly and chilled out and Bumble seemed to enjoy her first outing in a smart, new fleece sweater. I even managed to write some Christmas cards which I must remember to post on time. I can forecast some multi-tasking in the week ahead!

Winter Wonderland in Coburg

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I worked on a piece of blank, cream pleather for almost 3 days and finished quilting it before I packed my bags for my German trip. There is still a little stitching to add before I send it off to my collaboration partner, Christine Escanes.

I did not anticipate the blizzard conditions on the way to the airport, early on Thursday,  before any other cars were on the road. The road was white with ice and snow and it took twice as long as normal with some scary junction approaches. Amazingly, the airport was clear and the journey to Nuremberg via Schipol went smoothly.

 

  

It was great to meet Regina and head straight to a lovely supermarket in Coburg. Not only is there is vast choice of everything but the choice of fresh veg and deli items is amazing. The next stop was a beer shop which only sold beer!

For the next 2 days I had 3 lovely students who worked hard on two projects. It was challenging to complete both of them but they worked as fast as they could and all had great results. In between the quilting there was delicious food, some wine and chocolate and much chat. The students and machines coped admirably with a range of materials, threads and needles.

  

  

  

On Saturday evening we headed into the centre of Coburg to experience the Christmas market and enjoy a well deserved mug of gluhwein. It was crowded with a great atmosphere but far too busy for shopping. The sights and smells were enough! This was followed by a late supper of traditional Bavarian food at a local brewery.

  

  

The students all headed home on Sunday despite the snow that had fallen overnight. Regina decided that it was still safe to travel to the village of Lauscha in her reliable, old Volvo with snow tyres. The last part of the journey was uphill on snow covered roads but the Swedish car did not find this a problem.

  

This rural town has been a centre of glass making for many years and there is even a series of novels in which it features. There were demos and sales at the glass blowing college then several shops, factories and stalls selling beautifully decorated artisan-blown ornaments (kugels). They were not nearly as expensive as one might imagine and the only thing stopping me from buying more was the challenge of getting them home in one piece.

  

It was very festive but cold up there with a jolly Santa and some stalls selling local produce. We drove carefully back down to the main road later in the evening and enjoyed another simple but delicious German supper of rye bread, wurst, cheese and assorted accompaniments while the snow continued to fall gently outside.

Ste Marie aux Mines 2017

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I flew into Strasbourg on Tuesday afternoon, found a train into the city centre then decided the easiest option was to hail a taxi to take me to my budget hotel. It was clean and convenient, in the Jewish quarter on Rue de Bitche. I tramped into the old city centre, admired the impressive cathedral and enjoyed a mini carafe of Muscat, watching the world go by from a side-street cafe. I had supper al fresco in the rain at a restaurant with red checked tablecloths and decided to have escargots – I can’t say that the snails were really a delicacy but dunking my bread into their residual herby, garlicky butter was most satisfying.

I intended to do some sightseeing the next morning, maybe visit the European Parliament but my feet were too sore so I was happy to sit around reading a book until Regina and Maria arrived to collect me and travel on to Ste Marie aux Mines by car.

This part of Alsace is beautiful and obviously a cross between German and French styles. It had been a mining area but now is mostly populated by elderly people – sadly many of the houses and businesses were up for sale. There were plenty of pots of red geraniums to brighten things up and it was nice to see so many traditional small shops selling bread and local produce.

Bernina Team GB and Germany took responsibility for setting up the Bernina Q24 longarm machine and the Q20 sit-down model while Team France organised the rest of the booth. After the set-up I travelled to stay with Bernina France on a gîte in Lièpvre. This was actually a large converted farmhouse with several additional cottages to let. We were surrounded by goats, deer, cats and a magnificent cart horse. It was certainly an immersive experience, surrounded by non-English speakers, apart from Christine Escanes www.creativetextilemastery.com whom is cleverly trilingual in English, French and Spanish. My school French was extremely rusty but I did pick some up and understood more as the week went on. It was fun to do some self-catering, the only downside being that we tended to eat late and stay up drinking wine even later;)

The show was busy despite the unseasonably cold, wet weather and we attempted to communicate with all sorts of nationalities – French, Belgian, Dutch, German, Hungarian, Polish, Spanish, Portuguese, Israeli, Korean – in German, English or my dodgy French. There was much mis-use of grammar and plenty of sign language. I mostly asked the visitors, “Vous aimerez à essayer la machine?” and I had a crib sheet for needle, up, down, stitches, free-hand etc. All would be fine until they launched into rapid French with  further questions and I would have to hand over to a French speaker.

There was a terrific selection of traders, many of whom were in market place tents but I only bought small pieces of cork, pleather and natty bag fasteners for some unplanned project or other.

I did attempt to catch the shuttle bus one day to visit some outlying exhibitions but it did not appear during heavy rain so I gave up. However, I did visit Number 3 which had superb collections by Ian Berry, Luke Haynes, Miriam Pet-Jacobs and Nancy Crow’s Dairy Barn. I was particularly struck by Ian Berry’s incredible artwork www.ianberry.org – an amalgam of photo-realism and denim. In fact, he was staying at the same gîte so we invited him to dinner and had really interesting conversations about art, textiles and the angst of artists.

On the last night, after the frenzy of packing up, I went to stay in the same family run hotel as Regina and Maria in Tannenkirch, since they were running me back to the airport in the morning. It was at an altitude of 500m in countryside where I am sure there are probably still wolves. We had a lovely quiet last evening, enjoying local wine and Alsace specialities in a little restaurant in the village.

The Val d”Argent area was attractive, the people were friendly, the food and drink was fantastic, the exhibitions were high calibre, and there were quilt/textile superstars to spot, so I would definitely visit the show again, either as a quilt tourist or exhibitor!

Sylvania Families Invade My Workshop

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It would seem that the habit of putting things off until the last minute could be a family trait. Freya has been meaning to sort and sell her major Sylvanian Family collection for quite some time, probably since she grew out of it around 6 years ago. In the last couple of days of her holiday, when she she should have been packing for her return to Uni, she decided to have a bit of a sort out as they were all jumbled up in boxes. They were all spread out on my workshop table, organised, groomed, tiny pieces relocated, photographed and sold off, apart from some favourites. This was a huge task as the collection was quite record-breaking. By Sunday afternoon she was ready to go so we piled her belongings into the Landy and drove her down to St Andrews to begin 2nd Year in a flat with friends.

Once the Sylvanians took over the workshop, I decided that I would just have to wait until they were all gone before I did any sewing. The only stitching I did all week was to attach binding to the student-sofa quilts. I ran a Landrover taxi/delivery service, amassing stuff for the new Uni term, gathering supplies for Fergus’ forthcoming silver Duke of Edinburgh expedition and stocking the freezer for my trip to Alsace.

I got all sorts of major and minor jobs done, even printing 195 sheets of fiddle music that I have little hope of playing, having followed Fenella to the Senior section at the Banchory Strathspey and Reel Society.

At least I jotted down some French phrases that may come in handy next week. I know lots of words but am not good at the verbs that make them into comprehensible sentences.  At least I can introduce my vlog with, “Voici les nouvelles de…” (Here is the news from) or instruct people to “entrainez vous les tourbillons!” (practise the swirls) 

I just have to work out how to get from the airport in Strasbourg to my hotel before being rescued by Regina in her car the following day.

What Have I Forgotten?

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Just occasionally I am scarily efficient to the point where I am convinced that there is something major that has been overlooked. I worked on three large customer quilts with the help of Quiltpath, took the kids into Aberdeen, did a couple of mega grocery shops and checked things off on several lists. OK, so some items may just have said “worm cats” or “”buy stamps” but it still counts as a job done! I even made a new exhibition pass holder based on the one that Kay originally made for me.

I don’t have photographic evidence for any of this as I either forgot to take pictures or was too busy messing about with my GoPro camera. Because I got my act together and packed my gear for FOQ ahead of schedule, I had some spare time to “waste”. I finally got the GoPro to communicate with my phone and I am still not sure how that happened. I watched a guy on Youtube who gave an excellent tutorial for beginners so then I decided to have a go at making a Timpelapse.

The genie is certainly out of the bottle on that front – I made clips of me block printing some fabric then wondered what it would be like to record a car journey. I hope to fix it up on a tripod at FOQ and record a time-lapse of the Bernina Q24 being set up over several hours. High speed clips on social media seem to be very popular – maybe people will see those then want to watch something a little longer like a tutorial, something I have had in mind for ages.

Knowing that I will be assisting the Bernina Qmatic system set-up in Birmingham and that it will be coming home with me afterwards so I can get to know it inside and out, I nerdily decided that I needed to know how to convert an image into an SVG file. I am determined that I will become an expert in using and applying all of the capabilities of the software and I would like to design images for it. Somehow that led to me on a weird tangent of looking at tattoo artist thermal-imaging copiers but I think I have decided that basic screen printing is probably far more sensible (if I have any more spare time at some point in the future.)

Everything is ready to go for FOQ – I have packed a choice of quilts to hang at the Bernina stand and even a choice of outfits. I have bags of all sorts of thread, needles, rulers, and gadgets but I still think I might have forgotten something. Bumble is wondering when I will be putting her stuff into the Landy for my trip to Birmingham. I will have to sneak off on a really LONG trip to the supermarket so she does not realise I have gone off without her. I will try to take lots of photos at FOQ – of people as well as quilts!

Just another typical Quilt Quine week!

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Phew, no wonder I didn’t manage to write a Sunday night blogpost after another hectic week, ending with a fun trip to the Knitting & Stitching Show in Edinburgh. Although I feel that my tyrannical To Do list never lessens, I managed to supervise 2 DIY quilts and complete a simple customer quilt, publish a schedule of Quilt Quine classes onto my Facebook business page, and make daily hashtag-pointless newsflashes starting the week doing a weather post in the snow.

I was asked if I plan to offer online quilting classes which is something I need to investigate but in the meantime I need to promote my Ebook, “Deviant Quilting” which has lots of video clips.

I caused chaos in our cluttered Music room by playing furniture Tetris, which moving a full sized rock drum kit and shifting the sizeable electric piano upstairs, negotiating a tight dog-leg staircase.

I allowed myself some fun by stitching intensely onto the Dijanne Cevaal linocut print, reminding myself that it was an exercise, rather than a show-off piece. I would like to do more “longarm drawing” pieces but I need to remember that even though I think I will just do a little bit of stitching for a few minutes, I can easily still be there after 2 hours!

I received a super box full of Haribos from Maria in Germany as a swap for a piece of gold pleather that she made into a super tote bag. I have had to hide them in a safe place so I can’t scoff them all at once.

  

After forcing myself to update my paperwork, I set off to meet Ellen and Kay with a side trip to IKEA. I should have considered that Saturday has to be one of the worst days to do this as the store was full of screaming kids who did not want to be there and other kids running around with mini trolleys. No wonder I was traumatised and left my phone in the ladies’ loo. I was extremely fortunate that I realised it was missing before I drove away and that a very kind citizen had handed it in.

Kay, Ellen and I enjoyed a catch-up over curry and alcohol then visited the K&S show on Sunday. I am pleased to say that it was busy, bigger than last year and that there were plenty of vendors. I was not impressed to pay £5 for parking in a field then being harangued at the door for opting out of a show guide for an additional £4! The K&S show does not have any competition entries and the exhibits were varied but I really think that there should be more of them than vendors to make the ticket price worthwhile. I bought a selection of heavier threads to experiment with on the Bernina Q24 and also yet another shift-dress pattern and fabric that will make me feel guilty unless I ditch all of my other projects and tackle it.

    

 

I was expecting to have 3 custom quilts to do in May but the makers have not quite finished them so I have no choice other than to load the rather large “BzB” (or whatever new name I decide) and make an attempt to get it done in time for FOQ. If I enter it into the show this week then I will just have to get it done;)

Quilt Travels – Using a Tour Company

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These days I am a seasoned, independent Quilt Traveller with friends all over the world and a desire to experience quilting across the globe. However, when I started out as a quilter 10 years ago I wanted to travel to a major American quilt show but did not feel confident enough to make all of the arrangements myself. I joined a tour party where the travel, accommodation and most of the activities had already been taken care of. The group included people of all ages and experiences yet from the beginning of the trip, it was clear that I was in good company with like minded people. We had the security of knowing that the organisers had done the trip before and knew the area well. I made great friends on that trip with whom I have since had many other adventures.

Many of my trips have been to the USA, where quilting is a major industry but political and economic issues have made me wonder why I am not exploring quilt shows here in Europe. There is a multi-venue quilt show in France that I have actually been meaning to attend for ages but for some reason have not done yet, maybe because I might have to hire a car or practise my rusty French. I have heard that the various exhibitions in Alsace villages are terrific so I must go and find out for myself.

I was recently contacted by ECT, a niche travel company based in Bath, with information about a tour that they have organised to Alsace and I must say, I am very tempted to let someone else take care of the logistics.

“Working together with the Quilter’s Guild, ECT Travel have put together a fantastic 3 night package that gives textile enthusiasts the chance to explore the art trail at their own pace, whilst all the hassle of arranging their transport and accommodation has been taken care of.

 

Staying in the town of Colmar, where on Friday and Saturday evenings the buildings are illuminated by an award winning light show, guests will have free time to explore after being transferred back to their hotel from the event by executive coach.

Nestled deep in the enchanting French countryside, the region of Alsace is situated close to the border of Germany and Switzerland. It is here in mid-September, for 4 days only, that you will find 36 unique and quirky exhibition sites dotted amongst the villages of Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines, Sainte-Croix-aux-Mines, Liepvre and Rombach-Le-Franc.

 

As the cradle of the Amish movement, Alsace has been a hub for quilting and textile artists for over 300 years. In 1993 the European Patchwork Meeting was devised to celebrate the talents of traditional and modern patchworkers and quilters. With a huge range of activities such as workshops, conferences, specialist stalls and exhibitions, it is no surprise that over 22,000 international visitors flock to the event every year.”

 

For more information on this tour or to book, please visit ECT’s website

https://www.ecttravel.com/tours/quilting-tours/european-patchwork-meeting-alsace-air

Or contact Sofia Carosi by email on sofia@ecttravel.com

More Stitching in Germany

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After our lazy day of sight-seeing and soaking up the sun, Dijanne Cevaal launched the students into intensive stitching projects. It was an absolute treat to quilt for fun all day long. I was slightly freaked out when she suggested that we draw a central vignette or motif so I cheated and found a woodcut drawing of a fish on Google that I developed. Dianne prefers to work with 30 weight cotton thread. I was impressed how the Bernina Q24s ran it without complaining and how the stitching really stood out. I decided to stick with the same blue thread for the whole piece so it was monochromatic. Dijanne declared that what we were doing was “Drawing with Longarms”.

It was very interesting to discuss methods of networking with an established travelling quilt tutor. I was encouraged to try using the social media platform, Instagram regularly, learning about hashtags and tagging people who might be interested. I now have followers who are into wood-carving and making sexy bread.

I started a threadwork piece using one of Dijanne’s lino-cut prints. It is not quite as easy to work that small using a longarm but I am having a good go at it. The thick thread looks amazing and I can add hand-stitching or beads later. The main challenge of the second day was to design and stitch a Tahitian style Tifaifai appliqué. I sketched out part of a spiky thistle using paper folded into a triangle. This was traced onto Bondaweb, ironed onto fabric then cut out with tiny scissors. The tricky thing was to free-motion quilt around the raw edge appliqué several times, building up a solid edge. One of the students had greater success using a longarm appliqué guide but I discovered that I could use manual mode fairly smoothly. I don’t think this is a technique that I would have chosen to do myself but I am really glad of the opportunity to try it as I really enjoyed the project. I was determined to complete the black background quilting all in the same day. I have the negative thistle still to complete which it will take most of a day to do.

I had a terrific time teaching and learning in Coburg. Regina and Dijanne were great to work with and I was very well looked after. I was actually rather sad to pack up to go home, even though I had extra goodies including thread, sweeties and projects to fit in. I am hoping to go back and teach workshops for Regina in the future and I intend to meet up with Dijanne again as we got along very well:) When I got home I went straight to the supermarket to buy food for a German style picnic tea!

I went home with a German cold so I did not feel like sorting my stuff out until the weekend. Feeling guilty about my apathy, I made myself do boring admin first so I can do some more on my unfinished German projects later in the week. I did not exactly laze around – I managed to get a small customer quilt done, delivered Easter eggs to Freya in St Andrews on Good Friday and rustled up some basic cable-tidies that look nicer than strips of black velcro.

The Easter holidays end on Tuesday so Fergus needs to get into serious revision mode and tackle the maths questions that I downloaded – luckily for me I also downloaded the answers! I have quilt competition entry deadlines looming and I need to work out whether is feasible to make something new in time for FOQ… If only I could get up at 4am and not waste time on the internet:P

Bernina Longarm Ambassador Meeting – Steckborn 2017

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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;)

Quiltcon Savannah 2017

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My Quilt-Show-Travel-Friend, Ellen and I decided that we need to attend Quiltcon East in Savannah to really get to the crux of “The Modern Quilt Movement” since the definition on the MQG website is wide open to interpretation. (Modern quilts are primarily functional and inspired by modern design. Modern quilters work in different styles and define modern quilting in different ways, but several characteristics often appear which may help identify a modern quilt. These include, but are not limited to: the use of bold colors and prints, high contrast and graphic areas of solid color, improvisational piecing, minimalism, expansive negative space, and alternate grid work. “Modern traditionalism” or the updating of classic quilt designs is also often seen in modern quilting.)

After journeying for 24 hours we arrived at out apartment in the Historic District of Savannah to a pleasant temperature in the high 20’s C (or well above 70 in F). The convention centre was across the wide Savannah river and was accessed by a free ferry ride.

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Savannah, a coastal Georgia city, is separated from South Carolina by the Savannah River. It’s known for its manicured squares, horse-drawn carriages and ornate antebellum architecture. Its cobble-stoned historic district is filled with squares and parks like Forsyth Park, shaded by magnolia blossoms and oak trees covered with Spanish moss. The historic district’s architectural landmarks include the Gothic-Revival Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist.

The best in show quilts were displayed prominently just inside the show hall and were very impressive with plenty of lines, solid colours and improvisational piecing.

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As we studied all of the quilts it was not always easy to work out why some of the entries were categorised as “Modern” quilts. Occasionally they seemed to address only one or two of the descriptors in the MQG statement. There were many that could have been influenced by the Gee’s Bend style, some that were traditional in all but colour and the majority were quilted with straight lines. I was particularly interested in the negative space category because that would be where I hoped to see some awesome quilting. I was surprised that some entries had taken the idea of negative space almost literally and had really gone for minimal quilting whereas others went to town showing off their motifs and fillers.

I enjoyed discussing the attributes of the Modern quilts with other visitors and I took lots of photos on my phone as my camera (and knickers!) were lost in transit. Sometimes you need to look at a photo of a quilt after the show to appreciate it fully because as with any large quilt show, visitors can be overloaded with visual information and stop looking properly.

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I was delighted by the visitors’ responses to my quilt, “Tartan Tattoo” which was in the Modern Traditionalism category. They enthused about the quilting and colours and many lovely people told me that they would vote for it as their Viewer’s Choice. The quilt angels were repeatedly asked to show off the back which is pale grey and every stitch is on show. I did an impromptu and very off the cuff video interview with Teri Lucas, a fellow Bernina ambassador and community editor at Generation Q Magazine.

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We interspersed our study of the quilts with forays around the vendor booths. Several fabric companies had big show-off areas but nothing to actually buy. There was plenty of fresh, modern fabric to choose from from shops and designers as well as plenty of solid ranges. Longarm machine companies were all well represented but I was unable to spend money on any gadgets or rulers that I do not already have;) I had to buy other things instead, including an Elizabeth Hartman “Forest Friends” pattern and fabric bundle, a couple of books/patterns that I fancied and another set of Double Wedding Ring templates to see which I like the best (in the manner of my extensive ultimate carrot cake recipe research). There were a few other bits and pieces and far less thread than I anticipated so it all fitted rather nicely into my suitcase, padded out with TT for its journey home.

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I would like to have attended some of the lectures but demand had been so high that the website crashed and everyone we wanted to listen was sold out.

Although I had taken along my new selfie-stick, I found myself too embarrassed to actually use it and I hate going up to folk and asking them to be in my photo. I met some younger quilters – Emily, Snaleeleena, Shruti and Jen – who gave me a spontaneous tutorial on Instagram while we waited to collect our quilts at the end of the show. Typing #quiltcon2017 into Instagram shows well over 9000 photos from the show, the visitors and what they got up to.

It was lovely to meet so many enthusiastic quilters including Ellen’s delightful Twilter (Facebook) friends. I also ran into British and German friends who were attending Quiltcon for the first time. The people of Savannah were so pleasant. Many of the waiting staff were students at the huge art SCAD Arts College. We also had a most memorable and informative trolley bus tour with Denise who reminded me of the sassy character, Minnie from “The Help”.

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It is a good thing that we walked so much around the easily navigable streets and squares because the food was incredible. I ordered delicious shrimp at every opportunity but I had less success with snow crab legs which were long, skinny and difficult to extract. Whenever we got hot and had achy feet we stopped for beer, margarita or ice cream!

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The town of Savannah was beautiful and historically very interesting. The architecture was amazing and since the 1950’s efforts have been made to ensure that new buildings are sympathetic to the colonial style. We wandered around the graveyard where soldiers had camped during the Civil War. The prolific Spanish moss hanging from the trees was atmospheric, which is more than I can say about the night-time ghost tour:P It was interesting to hear the story of Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of the Girl Scouts of America. (Juliette Gordon Low, 1860-1927, was the founder of Girl Scouts of the USA with help from Sir Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Scouting Movement. Low and Baden-Powell both shared a love of travel and support of the Girl Guides. Juliette Low joined the Girl Guide movement, forming a group of Girl Guides in Scotland in 1911.

In 1912 she returned to the United States and established the first American Girl Guide troop in Savannah, Georgia that year. In 1915 the United States’ Girl Guides became known as the Girl Scouts, and Juliette Gordon Low was the first president. She stayed active until the time of her death.

Her birthday, October 31, is commemorated by the Girl Scouts as “Founder’s Day”.)

Although we did a lot of travelling in one our shortest trips to the USA, we really enjoyed the whole experience. I like the concept that Quiltcon moves around the USA – I think I would quite like to teach at a future Quiltcon, maybe I should aim for Nashville in 2019?

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FOQ 2016

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It is a fair indication that if I go to bed without reading a couple of chapters then I am really tired! This year FOQ felt incredibly busy – there was an energy about the show, with more quilts than I have seen in a while, many of which were of an incredible standard. It took a good two days to set up the imposing Bernina stand which was bigger and grander than ever in order to accommodate 2 full sized Q24 longarm frames and 3 Q20 sit-down tables. Machines had arrived from London, Cardiff, Steckborn and New Orleans so there were many boxes to unpack amidst electricians, carpenters and a guy with a paint roller. In addition to UK chief technician, Alan and his willing helper, Chris, we had Aggy from Switzerland and Regina from Germany in the set-up team to make sure that everything was done perfectly.

I was timetabled to teach up to 10 x 40 minute slots of sit-down quilting each day to a pair of students. Most of those sessions were fully booked and I barely had a chance to look up and wave at passers-by. My teaching background came in handy as my pupils were of all ranges of ability, age, nationality and character and I had to put all of them at ease with free-motion quilting, ensure they had fun and maintain a jolly demeanour throughout. After a while I decided that I could easily apply for a job on a shopping channel and talk enthusiastically for hours about any kind of gadget until the producer switched off the cameras.

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Her Majesty’s quilt looked fantastic under the spotlights and it was great to hear more about the block makers and their inspiration. I was complimented on my quilting, particularly the border and binding so I was both relieved and delighted. My Mother came to visit for the day on Saturday so I was able to give her a brief tour of the show between my classes. She was impressed to see so many incredible quilts and enjoyed meeting all of my international friends.

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Before the show opened I had a gloomy feeling that my quilts did not stand up to some of amazing entries. “Touch the Pickle” obviously did not belong in the Contemporary category but I had deliberately put it there to cause more discussion than it would have in Quilted Creations where the audience expects the unusual. There were viewers who did not realise that it was a series of washable sanitary pads, some looked affronted but it got many people discussing the issue of how lack of sanitary provision affects the lives and education of girls and women in other countries. “Tartan Tattoo” seemed to have been hung too high so its centre was above eye-level and it did not look as good as it should under the NEC’s orange-tinted sodium lighting. “Pretty Hippy” really only went for an outing  as it was never intended to be a competition quilt.

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I scrutinised the quilts in the Fine Art Masters gallery to see what qualities they had that “Purdah” may have lacked. The entries were interesting – some simple, some weird and certainly “arty” but I felt that Purdah really could have fitted in there and nobody would have questioned its provenance. It was actually hanging on a white wall in an area of the Art Quilts without good lighting and the first time I walked by someone screwed their face up and simply said, “Why?” All I could think was that I had wasted months of my time creating something that had no appeal to the public. However, later on I was told that an amazing steward had started to give “guided tours” of Purdah that were pulling in crowds of people. Before long, the stewards were timetabling themselves 15 minute slots to take it in turns to reveal the hidden layers. When they were asked why it had not been displayed to show all of the layers separately, they explained that the POINT of “Purdah” was that the chador shawl was designed to make you consider what could be underneath. I was delighted that so many visitors the grasped what it was all about. They were able to interpret it in different ways, some thinking that what was hidden was about women’s oppression while others considered that the chador could be providing a type of protective liberation. This was exactly the kind of thinking that I had hoped to provoke. Some viewers were emotional as they told me about their responses and said that they had put “Purdah” forward for the Visitors’ Choice Award. I took a wee video on my phone of one steward and love hearing, “Oh, Wow!”

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On the whole, everyone was pleased with the selection of FOQ winners this year although there was some discussion about whether quilts using non-original patterns should be “allowed” to win prizes. The best in show was a fantastic cream whole cloth by longarm quilter, Sandy Chandler. As usual I found that judges’ comments on my quilts were incredibly varied despite supposedly having the same criteria applied. One judge noted that “Tartan Tattoo” had superb and skilful quilting but only scored that element as “good”. One of “Purdah’s” judges advised me to improve my piecing and scored it as “satisfactory” which just made me laugh. Because the scoresheets were so inconsistent and thanks to the wonderful reactions of visitors to the show, I have finally decided to stop worrying about how the judges see my quilts!

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Of course, in the evenings it was great to eat out with friends and unwind. The international ambassadors for Bernina came out for a Balti at my favourite authentic Indian restaurant house and enjoyed a selection of curries and poppadums. One evening I was given a lift back from the pub in the cargo section of a van which only had 3 cab seats and we just laughed about the silliest things. Kay is a great room-mate because I can be angst ridden one minute then excitedly coming up with obscure ideas on how to win that elusive Fine Art Masters the next. We stayed up far too late drinking wine or gin then woke up for tea and shortbread around 6am ready to start another day. Even though it is mentally and physically hard work to be on a booth at a major quilt show, we are always sad when it is all packed up and time to go home so she has already booked our room for next year!

Are You Sitting Comfortably?

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I was in Manchester this week to demo and teach on the Bernina Q20. Although I know how the machine works, I am not a terribly competent sit-down quilter so it was a good opportunity to practise. Most of the machine quilting tuition that I do in the UK is on domestic machines so I really need to knuckle down and improve! The Q20 is the machine that I will probably use the most at FOQ this year for demos and hands-on sessions as the folks from Bernina Switzerland will be showing off the Q24. The Q20 has excellent BSR’s (stitch regulators) but on a sit-down machine my free-motion quilting is far smoother when running in manual. The Q24 frame machine that I usually use is completely different as pushing the machine around is more intuitive, just like drawing with a giant pen. At least I have worked out how to use rulers on the sit-down machine and it was not as tricky as I expected.

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The staff and visitors at Bambers Sewing Machines were all very friendly and really looked after me. After work I even visited the vast Trafford Centre on a mission to find a posh frock and shoes for Freya’s  DofE Gold presentation. After wandering around in a daze for a bit, a helpful assistant in Debenhams suggested an outfit that I hope won’t be too frumpy. I am planning to travel on the train in everyday clothes and shoes then get changed just before the “Do”.

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Miss M loved her blue and white quilt and cried, as did all of her pupils;)

I received another stitched parcel from India containing a vintage woodblock stamp that might spark another evolving quilt idea.

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I had a fantastic day with one of my DIY quilters who knows everything about dyeing with natural dyes. Her scullery was like an old apothecary shop with all sorts of jars and potions. Carole has volumes of notes and samples on different dyes, mordants and fabrics and I quizzed her all day on what could be a new diversion for me. Wool is best for the efficacy of natural dyes so I may come up with a project that involves dyestuffs that were historically produced in Scotland. The fabric that I threw into a bucket for the day was not ideal, being white-on-white cotton but a cream canvas bag that I had took along turned a strong yellow after being boiled up with dried Buddleia flowers without requiring any mordant.

Although I would like to experiment with my new interest, I need to focus all of my time on the quilt that should arrive this week in between days out at palaces and driving Freya and Co. to “T in the Park”, Scotland’s biggest, rowdiest festival. I should think I deserve a large bottle of gin to keep calm this week!