Category Archives: Quilty Trips

Business As Usual

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

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

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

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

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

  

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

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

Experiences, Palaces and Bazaars

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Monday morning started early with Yoga Mediation at 7.00am. The instructor told us to  Love Ourselves and relax every part of the body, including our ear lobes while we laid down on the floor. Mediation is really not in my psyche and I thought it was hilarious that she walked around the room with incredibly squeaky flip-flops, texting and posing for Instagram photos while everyone had their eyes closed. 

 

 

After breakfast a Henna artist expertly drew Mendhi paste designs on our arms and hands. I asked for a Lakshmi owl on the palm of my hand but I think she invented a new creature that was part monkey – to balance the chimera I had a fantastical peacock applied onto my left arm. 

Everyone spent the rest of the morning relaxing, hand-sewing and in my case, trying to write up a very long blog post about all of the sights and adventures.

It was Pam’s birthday and later that afternoon we boarded our little bus that had been garlanded with balloons and streamers by the driver and his assistant. Our mystery trip was a visit to an NGO orphanage for 25 girls, most of whom were affected by HIV. The matron gave us a tour then the beautifully behave children gave us a concert, showing off their dance routines – to a mix of Bollywood and Western pop music. They presented Pam with a flower garland, cake, home-made birthday card and sang “Happy Birthday” in English. Somehow, Pam persuaded me to perform a Scottish dance and from somewhere in the depths of my memory I did them a clumsy version of a Highland Fling. Afterwards we made friends with a few of the children who could understand some English. They attend a local school like “normal” children during the day and stay in the orphanage until they are 18, after which they are set up with jobs. There is still a stigma about HIV in India, often caused by prostitution, drug use and lack of medical care, so this can be difficult. The ladies in charge were called “Auntie” by the children and they seemed to have a positive, family-like relationship. I was told that my new friend, 10 year old Vashnavi, had lost both of her parents to HIV/Aids by the age of 3 but she is relatively fortunate since she has property to inherit when she becomes an adult. The matron was keen for us to share our encounter with the children on social media in order to raise awareness of the charity, The Aangan Care Home. www.nayasawera.org 

   

After our uplifting and humbling experience at the orphanage Govind invited us for snacks and drinks at his house where we met his family. His wife had been involved in a scooter accident and hurt her knee so his Mum had been busy in the kitchen preparing delicious pakoras. I think she probably had a wicked sense of humour and I wished I could invent an app for instant free-flowing translation. 

That evening the tailors returned with my new, improved trousers. The flowery velvet pair has one pink leg and one that is mostly lime green. I have no idea what I will wear with such flamboyant flares back in Scotland!

Our trip was accelerating to an end so on Tuesday we packed in a full morning of sightseeing. I was not sure what to expect at the Royal Observatory, but I was amazed. The Jantar Mantar monument in Jaipur, Rajasthan is a collection of nineteen architectural astronomical instruments built by the Rajput king Sawai Jai Singh II, and completed in 1734. It features the world’s largest stone sundial, which is pretty accurate by the way, and it is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The architecture was angular and looked incredibly modern – each sign of the zodiac had a viewing station and flights of steps enabled both astronomers and astrologers the ideal platform for studying the stars. I had no idea that astrology was so important in Indian culture. Our guide had explained during one of his many entertaining stories that if an astrologer came up with a mismatch during an arranged marriage proposal then everything would be called off. 

   

Despite the intense heat of the day our next stop was the nearby Royal City Palace complex, a vast collection of beautiful buildings, courtyards, gardens and museums, one of which contains a wide variety of textiles such as the royal formal costumes, sanganeri block prints, embroidered shawls, Kashmiri pashminas, silk saris and also the voluminous outfits worn by Sawai Madhosingh I, a large chap who was 1.2 metres wide and weighed 250 kilograms but nevertheless, had 108 wives.

   

In the Diwan-I-Khas or the “Hall of Private Audience”, a marble-floored chamber, are two huge sterling silver vessels called Gangajelies / Ganges-water urns, each standing 1.6 metres tall, with capacity of 4000 litres and weighing 340 kilograms. They were made from 14,000 melted silver coins and hold the Guinness World Record as the world’s largest sterling silver vessels. These enormous pots were specially made for Maharaja Sawai Madho Singh II, who was a highly pious Hindu, to carry the water of the Ganges to drink on his trip to England in 1901. He did not want to commit religious sin by consuming the English water, or indeed contract cholera from the polluted River Thames. Several magnificent Bohemian crystal chandeliers hung from the ceiling in an opulently decorated room with a Pashmina carpet so huge that it had to be folded to fit within the space.

 

The courtyard leading to the Chandra Mahal, was the most imposing of the palace buildings, where four small gates are elaborately adorned with motifs and carvings representing the four seasons and Hindu gods.

  

Escaping the heat we stopped for lunch at the very grand Samode Haveli, an oasis of richly decorated rooms and gardens. It was incredible that such a place, now a tenth of its original size was situated within the bustling city.

  

My fellow tourists decided that they would return to the hotel to snooze or swim but I persuaded Kathy from California to accompany me on an adventure to the bazaar. We were dropped off on the street and wandered into the narrow alleys in search of bargains. We did not exactly know where we were headed, it was a maze of tiny shops, some only 4 feet square. It was overwhelming and not easy to find the small items of haberdashery such as thread, mirrors and pompom trim which were on my shopping list. I did buy a couple of rolls of brocade ribbon that may come in handy one day. 

   

Taking our lives into our hands we managed to cross the street on at least 3 occasions. You just have to start walking, holding your arms out to slow down the relentless beeping scooters and tuktuks. I stopped at a shop that sold metal cookware and negotiated the purchase of a small tiffin tin, spice box, sev cutter and a heavy cooking wok but passed on a milk churn which I did not really “need”. We wandered up a secret alley of tailors and finally found a shop selling shot cottons which I had been looking for all through my trip but was now running short on funds and luggage space. Crossing the street again we found a shop that sold indigo prints and clothes. We hailed a tuktuk and made a chaotic 30 minute journey back to the hotel with purchases stuffed into a flour sack. 

Sadly, that evening was our farewell group dinner. Pam and Govind thanked us for being such a friendly, fun group of travellers and hoped we would be inspired by our trip and remain friends on social media. 

On Wednesday day morning I made an abortive attempt at packing. I wished I had not bought a large quilt since I was finding it tricky to pack up my metalware and fabric purchases. A brave few ventured back to the bazaar for a last rake around. Amazingly, I managed to relocate the tailors’ alley where more shot cotton was purchases and the indigo shopkeeper remembered me and asked where Kathy was that morning. 

   

We enjoyed a last lassi yogurt drink in a terracotta cup from a street vendor and I bought 2 large bags of henna, thinking that it would be interesting to try block printing with it. As we were loading up the bus with our luggage I realised that I would need an extra suitcase as I would not be able to fit all of my last minute purchases into my hand luggage. We flew from Jaipur to Delhi and from the air could see what a huge city it is. Most of the lights seen from above were from traffic. There were large dark spaces where it was either parkland or areas without electricity. Incredibly, the population of that one city equals the entire population of Scotland. At Dehli we said farewell to our American friends and the Antipodean contingent and myself stayed overnight at a posh hotel 10 minutes from Indira Ghandi International airport. It was a pity that I only had 6 hours to enjoy such luxury before flying out in the morning. Yet again, I was struck that foreign visitors have access to unlimited water for showers, swimming pools and air-conditioning while so many people live hand to mouth on the streets. 

 

It was a bit of a faff getting into the airport without a printed boarding pass but eventually I found myself wandering the airport shops, trying to blow the last of my rupees on a tin of masala chai and trinkets which were far more expensive than those “knack-knicks” dangled in from of us by street hawkers. During the crowded 9 hour flight to London I dozed and half watched 3 Bollywood movies. Even the comedies made reference to corruption and illiteracy. I had planned to sort out my photos on the flight but there was not really enough room in Economy to do that comfortably.

Aberdeen was wet and chilly when I arrived in the evening. Nella, Fergus and Bumble were pleased to see me and I loved the “Welcome Home “ banner that Nell had made with her friends, complete with cut-out paper monkeys, elephants and a Taj Mahal. 

On Friday I sorted through my exploded suitcases which took a considerable time. I was pleased with my fabric purchases but wished I had bought more little things. I cooked up a feast of pakoras and vegetable curries, just making up the recipes as I went along. The steel cooking pan worked a treat over my camping gas stove and I can’t wait to have a go at making sev / bombay mix.

All weekend I tried to finish writing up my blog and upload photos of which there are more than 1000. It was difficult to keep up with the blog while in India because we did so much and I was glad that I had at least scribbled down rough notes to remind myself what we did each day. I think I did not really want to finish writing my India blog because that would mean that my wonderful trip had come to an end. I loved every minute of my experience and hope I can return to explore the richness of India in future. 

In the meantime, I have unavoidably started a new To Do list, starting with some customer quilting in an attempt to boost my dwindling bank account so I can fund further adventures!

Exotic Marigold Style

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On Monday we had a long bus ride to Jaipur in Rajasthan and on the way we saw a lot of bright, marigold coloured saris. Even the women working in the fields wore saris and colourful scarves. There were ladies in traditional outfits perched precariously side-saddle on scooters, usually sitting behind men, only some of whom wore helmets. There were plenty of cows wandering or sleeping on the highway. As we got nearer to the Pink City of Jaipur, we could see jagged, rocky hills. Rajasthan is an area larger than the UK, known for mining of minerals and textiles. We stopped at a countryside palace undergoing extensive restoration for a lunch of mixed dahls and rotis, sitting outside under a wide verandah. 

As we entered the outer limits of the city we saw many makeshift shelters inhabited by Bangladeshi refugees but our guide, Govind told us that Jaipur is a mainly wealthy city which has an unbelievable number of school, colleges and universities. We settled into another plush, international hotel with a magnificent outdoor pool with squirting elephant statues. My 7th storey room overlooked a builders’ shanty settlement which highlighted the contrast of wealth and poverty in India.

Pam gave an introductory presentation on the techniques of kantha quilting where old saris are cut up and repurposed into quilts, several layers thick and sewn together with large running stitches. 

Noticing that there was a beautiful full moon, I decided to see if I could get onto the rooftop to take a photo. The lift did not go any higher than our floor but I found the staircase. Unfortunately, the door to the roof was padlocked and the door back to the staircase had shut behind me. I had to go all the way down to the ground floor using the back stairs, getting closer to Indian pop music and shouting in Hindi until I surprised the kitchen staff by arriving unannounced in the staff area. I travelled back up to the lobby with food trolleys in the service elevator. An elderly man wearing a tribal outfit invited me to see a traditional puppet show. It was a short show, rather bizarre where he played the tabla drums, sang a folk song and then ran over to make the marionettes perform. A Maharani puppet did suggestive dance moves, a baddie somersaulted and removed his head, a king was attacked by a snake and an elephant cavorted. It was weird but entertaining. 

On Tuesday we had our first visit to the manufacturing area for a short kantha workshop with local ladies who spoke no English. They showed us how to make lines of running stitches using a needle at least 2 inches long. This was followed by a visit to a showroom full of antique kantha quilts. I spent more than I planned to on a glitzy pink quilt made from highly embroidered pieces salvaged from saris and kurtha tunics as well as an older quilt in indigo and pink which I wanted to be made into a tailored jacket. 

The final excursion of the day was to visit a handmade paper factory. Waste cotton trimmings from T-shirt factories is finely cut then pulped and dyed, sieved through fine screens and pressed using antiquated presses. The shop sold wrapping paper and small sketchbooks, perfect for gifts. I asked the owner what dyes they used and he kindly gave me half a dozen small packets of powder dye to take away.

We had an evening workshop session with Pam auditioning scraps of kantha onto a plain background to produce a small art quilt but did not get much further than selecting some colours that worked well together and laying them out roughly. I had a cooling dip in the pool then enjoyed a simple supper of samosas and masala chai tea at a small, trendy teahouse next door to the hotel. It had some quirky translations in its menu, including instructions to clients, from asking them not to be too over enthusiastic at kitty parties and requesting that paper serviettes should be used judiciously.

On Wednesday our little bus drove us through Old Jaipur, The Pink City. All of the buildings were painted a pink-terracotta colour when the Prince Regent visited during Queen Victoria’s reign. The small shops, raised above street level and sheltered from the sun with a covered walkway all looked attractive and stocked with all manner of wares. We passed two impressive military forts commanding strategic positions on the surrounding hills to the Amber Fort, the original fortified city of the region. An impressive, impenetrable wall surrounded the entire city, even going up and down the hills. 

We had the most incredible experience of riding sideways on a mattress on top of an elephant! I could not imagine travelling a long distance using this mode of transport since it was a fairly bumpy, swaying journey, rather like being in a small boat on choppy water. It looked more comfortable to be the turbaned driver who perched on the elephant’s neck. Holding onto a short piece of rope with one hand I tried to take photos and hold onto my camera with the other hand. The view across the valley and of the landscaped gardens are stunning and the colours were crisp and bright in the clear sunlight. 

  

At the top we were guided around the magnificent courtyards, accommodation for concubines and studied the different patterns in the carvings and jail screens. I had used Google images for inspiration on my “Purdah” quilt but it was wonderful to experience the actual place. The Maharajah could watch dancing girls twinkling in the 6 million mirrors used to decorate the Sheesh Mahal (Mirror Palace.) The decorative influence for the Amber Fort complex is a blend of Persian and Mughal  styles. Beautiful ladies swept the courtyards and knot gardens, keen to be given a few rupees in exchange for tourists taking their picture. 

 

 

All of the coloured decorations were painted on using pigments ground up with precious stones and gum arabic. The sealant used was the white flesh of a coconut to add shine. There were so many photo opportunities – angles, views, even green parrots and pigeons nesting in nooks of the old walls. We travelled back down the hill in Indian jeeps, hotly pursued by persistent hawkers, desperate for us to buy embroidered bags, trinket boxes and sandalwood elephants. 

A gem factory was our next destination. Outside workmen were hand grinding precious stones which were then finished and set upstairs in a secure laboratory-like facility, watched closely by 76 CCTV cameras. The workers had to remove their uniforms at the end of the day and hand them in to be washed by machine so any gold or gem dust could be collected by specially adapted filtration systems. The showroom was very classy and the jewellery was priced well beyond my budget – there were not guide prices or tickets to give an indication of cost even for the cheaper silver jewellery. 

 

We had a buffet lunch at the glamorously titled “Glitz Hotel” which was where I took a photo of a decorated water delivery truck. Across the street a female builder’s labourer was balancing a large basin of a sandy cement mix on her head. The male builder had the less arduous job of scooping the mix into her basin with a shovel while she did all of the hard work dressed in her sari. 

The next stop was a carpet and textile warehouse. We watched weavers tie up to 900 knots per square inch on old looms using intricate patterns and at least 20 colours. The carpets were carefully brushed and trimmed by hand when finished and if the client required an antique look they could be washed with henna in the water. Finally, each carpet was blasted with a flaming blow-torch to remove any last bits of fluff. Each carpet could take months to be made by one weaver using camel hair, cashmere or silk. Because of this they were justifiably expensive. I had hoped to find a Mary Poppins carpet- bag but they had no idea what I was looking for, even after I showed them a picture on Google Images. The fabric on sale was beautifully displayed in an immaculate showroom. Suiting and ticking was displayed on shelves and would not have looked out of place in Saville Row, London. The fabric was therefore priced accordingly so a small group of bargain hunters went to look for less pricey fabric elsewhere. I bought a couple of Gudrun Sjoden style tunics and was measured up for a simple to in a typical Indian orange block print. The tailors were working at the back of the shop. I was expertly measured and they promised to have the item made within an hour and delivered to the hotel later in the evening.

 

The bus wove its way back to the hotel in rush hour traffic. We saw feral dogs sleeping in municipal plant pots and school children being taken home by Tuk-Tuk with their satchels and backpacks hanging off the back. The sights and sounds of just one day in Jaipur were simply amazing. 

 

The dinner was buffet style in the hotel and I chose Indian veggie curries. Obviously, I felt that I had to try a “Live Chat” which was a wordplay on watching the chef assemble some chaat artfully – lentil dumplings with some sauce and toppings, a little like how a pizza might be assembled. My simple orange tunic was delivered to the hotel and was fitted and finished beautifully.

Our Thursday excursion was to a slum to visit tribal, Rajasthani puppet makers. The slum dwellings were small and rickety but clean inside. Fortunately it was dry in the narrow lanes, only just wide enough for 2 people to pass. There were wobbly slabs and some raw sewage but it was not at all grim. Ladies in gorgeous saris peeped out of doorways and seemed surprised that we wanted to take photos. The puppet makers constructed huge procession puppets and also small marionettes with wooden heads just like those I had seen in the puppet show. The clothing for the puppets was made from scrap cloth from deities in temples. A pair of puppets cost 400 rupees and two people could make up to 20 figures in a day but there is no guarantee that they will sell all of their stock to tourists via hawkers. 

 

 

We were invited to a Khambhatya patchwork class later in the morning and learnt the technique of couching rough cotton strands like string over pieces that had been salvaged from worn-out tribal tunics. The women used huge needles to couch down the cords, having stuck the random patches down to a muslin cloth using a stinky glue made from milk. This was followed by a trunk-show / buying session of more quilts, shawls and embroideries. There was even an antique elephant blanket! Kay had asked me to buy her a kantha quilt like mine so I bought her a very similar version and arranged to have it shipped direct. Next time we share a hotel room at FOQ we can have matching beds.

                                                                                                                                  

The afternoon was spent at a more relaxed fabric emporium with lots of block print fabric. This was the place where everyone in the group wanted to have items of clothing custom made. I bought some wacky floral cotton velvet for trousers and dungarees. This took some explaining until it was established that they might be described as “mechanical trousers”. Masala tea and wine was served at the end of the shopping and the previously tidy shop looked like the fabric had exploded. Everyone was exhausted. I wandered back out to the street where street kids gathered round to stare at the spectacle of the Westerners turning up in their neighbourhood. The bus driver shooed them away when they became too cheeky asking for snacks, “Challo, challo!” I was fascinated by kids riding around on bikes that were too big, small stalls selling snacks and berries and dogs sleeping on the street. 

My supper was a couple of samosas at the tea house and when I returned a tailor delivered jackets that had been made from the antique kantha quilts which were very well fitted and almost reversible. 

  

I was very excited to spend Friday finding out about block printing. The wood block carver had a small shop right on the street where he carved out the designs onto hardwood using small chisels. On the way we just happened upon a woman tie-dyeing sari lengths sitting crossed legged outside her house. She had tied pieces of cotton thread around red cloth then would overdye the whole piece with intense black dye. I bought a dozen blocks from the wood-carver and could easily have bought more. 

 

We made a fascinating side visit to a Jain temple where photographs were prohibited. The temple often hosts naked monks but none were present for our visit. There were many marble statues in shrines to the 24 preachers of Jainism, the most famous of whom was Mahaveer, a Buddha like deity. He prescribed non-violence and decreed strict rules of how to lead a pious life. 

The visit to the block printing “factory” was just too short for me to find out all that I wanted to know. I observed how to fold a piece of newspaper to a make a mask for a mitred corner and noted the method for applying the paint. The runny paint was in buckets on the floor then tipped into deep trays on trolleys. There was a metal grill-rack in each of the trays then a pile of cotton cloth that was saturated with the paint. The printer assisting my end of the table did not seem to be an expert so my corners ended up a mess. I was not keen on the dark purple paint that was assigned to us so I was bit disappointed in my project but I certainly learned a lot from the experience.

That evening we had a real treat as Govind had suggested that we go to see a Bollywood Movie. He bought tickets for the opening night of “Needle and Thread, Mad in India”. The cinema was undergoing extensive renovations but remained open despite holes in the ceiling and precarious looking bamboo scaffolding. At the opening premiere there were no crowds of cinema-goers, just half a dozen locals and us. There did not seem to be a staircase so we had to use an ancient lift to get up to the posh section. Our balcony seats were definitely vintage and just before the programme started a guy sprayed the row behind with a huge bottle of what may have been insecticide or air-freshener. After the Hindi adverts for men’s briefs and washing powder that could remove curry we had to stand for the national anthem. A trailer for a forthcoming film, what appeared to be a Hindi version of Pirates of the Caribbean, “Thugs of Hindustan”, looked highly entertaining – there was plenty of action, dancing, slow-motion, comedy and glitzy sword-wielding girls. 

The storyline of film was a little difficult to follow in the first half but Govind explained the gist and we passed it along the row. Based on a true story, a poor couple in a village struggle to improve their life and overcome obstacles and family arguments, eventually starting a successful fashion business using artisan crafts-people. 

There were a couple of fights, tears, a little slow-mo, many troubles, funny moments but ultimately a happy ending. Customers could order samosas for a snack during the interval and for the second half Govind arranged for English subtitles and a reduction in the volume. Even the projectionist enjoyed the film as he poked his head of out his little window to watch. It was a terrific evening’s entertainment – Govind asked if we could borrow the poster to take a group photo and I was delighted to be given it afterwards as a souvenir. I took a bottle of Schweppes back to my room from the cinema fridge but was sorely disappointed to discover after a large mouthful of G&T that it was just ordinary bottled water. I did not want to waste good gin so drank it anyway.

   

Saturday was an an exciting day as we visited markets in Old Jaipur. The first stop was the Milk Market where churns of milk are delivered by scooter or bicycle. Buyers dipped their hand into the pails to taste and test the consistency of the cream. The milk is boiled before it is drunk or made into yogurt and paneer cheese. We wandered through the flower market and saw heaps of marigold and roses bundled up in old saris. The aromas and colours were intense. Women carried heavy loads on their heads through the market as porters for wholesalers. The selection of fresh vegetables was amazing – there were mountains of okra, bitter gourds, chillis, onions and fresh ginger. Monkeys in the trees overhead boldly attempted to snatch bananas from the stall holders. We visited a busy Hindu temple where colourful crowds of devotees chanted and sang. 

 

We caught electric tuktuks to the bazaar and visited a small spice shop where peppercorns and cumin seeds were piled up on the counter. I asked if he had Nag Champa incense sticks for sale and he gave everyone free packets that looked like it had been in stock for years. I was thrilled when everyone passed theirs onto me so I ended up with a dozen boxes.  The busy side streets were raised above street level and we had to remove our shoes before entering each open fronted shop where the merchant would sit cross legged on a white cotton mattress. 

The lacquer bangles were too small for me so the maker heated them up over a small charcoal burner then passed them over wooden forms to enlarge them. He kept his spare stock of bangles in the roof of the shop so shimmied up a shelf to look for more colours. 

 

We had a great time in a “Matching Shop” which is where plain cotton fabrics that co-ordinate with saris can be purchased. This fabric was priced at 80-180 rupees per metre. I bought a bright selection of 2 metre pieces with no particular quilt in mind. The seller did not need a cutting table – he just used his enormous brass shears sitting on the floor in his modest shop. 

My next stop was a shop that sold powder paint for Holi festivals where I bought 100g of every colour of fabric dye. I carried on shopping while he wrapped up my purchases in newspaper and caught me up for payment later. 

We stopped for fresh lassi in a terracotta tumbler and a chilli pakora from a street vendor then visited a shop selling fancy braids, quickly running out of rupees. I am hoping that the very cheap white cotton that I bought will soften or wrinkle after a hot wash and I can add a trim of bright pink pompoms. After all of that frenetic bargaining we had the afternoon free for swimming and uploading photos before taking an in-depth design class with Pam. She explained how to enhance our photos so they can be used as prompts and design features in quilting. 

On Sunday we drove to a rural settlement called Bagru, a village specialising in indigo dyeing. There was the main village of brick houses and a quilted tent settlement for nomadic itinerant workers. Life there must be hard during the 3 month monsoon season. Ragged but beautiful children dressed in traditional outfits carried pots of water on their heads. 

 

   

Men worked waist deep in large stone tanks, blue with dye, rinsing the dye from the resist dyed indigo. The women carried heavy bundles of wet cloth then stretched them out on the dusty ground to dry in the sun. Washed plain cotton and silk was hoisted onto high drying racks, just as it would have been done for centuries. There was a loud, squeaky machine that rolled 100-200m of cloth through a dye bath. Printers mixed up a paste of black river mud, gum arabic, lime and flour containing weevils and used wood blocks which would resist further over-dyeing. Sawdust was sprinkled over the resist paste  before drying in the sun and curing for a whole day. Hundreds of wood blocks were stacked on shelves and in heaps on the floor. Further on a man wearing thick rubber gloves sat over a 19ft deep well full of indigo dye and dipped the lengths of fabric into it.  As it was hauled out of the well the sun developed the green of the indigo to a deep blue. The process was repeated several times, depending on the intensity of hue desired. All of the workers’ clothes and hands were stained blue. We had hard decisions to make in the shop, choosing indigo dyed scarves and some yardage of the hand-dyed and printed cloth.

 

I climbed the steps of a ruined temple thinking that I had spotted feral pigs at the top but was surprised to find a group of men sleeping in the shade. Pigs snoozed in the streets and trotted over the drying cloth. Apparently they are not as fat these days since people are installing flush toilets. Interestingly, pork is actually eaten by the lowest caste, Dalit people,  which explained why we saw piglets in the tent village. A potter invited us into his yard to see his kiln and the pots he made in various sizes from tiny yogurt pots to large water carriers. 

On the return journey I tried to photograph the decorated juggernaut trucks, hand painted with helpful safety advice and Om drawings for good luck. Some trucks even had taillights painted on as a substitute for actual working lights. 

Back at the hotel, we met the tailors who had not completed garments satisfactorily because they had outsourced extra workers. My simple trousers could have fitted Ganesh, the elephant god with a Gangsta-style crotch. It was amusing to see that they marked where adjustments needed to be using an office stapler, sometimes even accidentally stapling the garment to the customer’s undies. 

The evening entertainment was a visit to a Rajput family home where we were welcomed with marigold necklaces and neon green sherbet drinks. In their garden courtyard there were demonstrations on how to make pakoras and jeera aloo (spiced fried potatoes) at an outdoor cooking station, followed by a delicious thalia selection on a metal tray. The young, enterprising couple, Royal and Nidhi, run an upmarket guesthouse, offer cooking classes and will be featured on a popular Indian TV food channel. They were assisted by 2 male Nokars (servants) who had been with the family for years – they served the food, played with the little girl called Angel and joined in with the Bollywood-style dancing. Later in the evening they waved us off, reminding us to give them great reviews on Trip Advisor. 

 

Not Exactly Slumming It

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With less than 48 hours to go until my Big Trip, I decided to fit in a small customer quilt which was not as straightforward as it could have been since I had to make its back bigger by using scraps.

I tried to think what Veggie kids would cook while I was away and got them supplies. Since Freya was home to get her broken front teeth fixed (kayak accident!), she supervised my packing and we whittled everything down to a minimum. She and Bumble drove me to the airport and I flew to London in stormy conditions. There was a 5 hour wait which was good from the point of being in plenty of time but I was not in the market for a designer handbag so I wandered a bit and read a book.

The Delhi flight was full – I watched a couple of films, had a mini doze and glimpsed rugged mountains at dawn flying over Afghanistan. We landed early in the morning and immediately felt a humid heat as we left the plane.

 

I was responsible for getting myself to the hotel so I found a pre-paid taxi stand and was ushered outside to my driver. He skilfully wove in and out of manic traffic. If there were 2 or 3 marked lanes there would be at least 5 actual lines of traffic. The vehicles all jostled for position, squeezing motorbikes, tuk-tuks and bicycles, honking constantly even if there was nowhere to move. Every car was scarred with dents but amazingly the traffic kept flowing all the way into the city. I noticed that Delhi was very green with trees and lush vegetation on every street. I was grateful that my taxi had air-con since the outside temperature was 36 celsius. The Taj Mahal hotel was very grand with a luxurious colonial style foyer. The doormen and staff were all very smart , polite and helpful. After checking in I met 3 Antipodean ladies who had arrived the day before and we got to know each other over a leisurely lunch. It was lovely to unwind after a long journey and I was glad I had taken a swimming costume so I could have a refreshing dip in the outdoor pool. The Americans in the tour group arrived later in the afternoon. We all met at dinner, just 11 of us plus tour leader, Pam Holland and Govind, our very knowledgeable guide. They seemed pleased with the tweed pouches that I had and I was delighted to have made a space in my suitcase.

On our first morning we were presented with marigold necklaces and were driven to India Gate, a war memorial based on the Arc de Triumph, dedicated to Indian soldiers who fought in WW1. We had our first taste of persistent hawkers selling bangles and gifts. Many of them were children under the age of 10. There were also pitiful beggars living under tarpaulins. Our guide advised us to give them snacks and toiletries rather than cash. 

The first adventure was a bicycle rickshaw ride through the market in Old Delhi dodging scooters and hand wagons laden with huge bundles. Monkeys clambered on the overhanging electric cables and our eyes goggled at glimpses of trimmings in small shop fronts. Our skinny driver must have been immensely strong to drive two Western ladies along the rough streets, weaving in and out of marketeers and vehicles.

We had a fascinating trip to a Sikh temple where we had to wear shawls and remove our shoes. We were able to look around the kitchens where vast pots of dahl were being made for the thousands of people who can have a free meal every day. There was even a roti rolling machine to provide all of the flatbreads for the crowds. The diners sat in rows in a large hall and were served a sustaining meal on metal canteen trays. 

  

Our guide arranged for a currency dealer to come to the bus on a scooter. It made me think of the shady characters in the novel, “Shantaram”…

The final trip of the day was to a Craft museum where there was an extensive collection of antique shawls, wall-paintings, pottery and metal work. I rather fancied an artisan oil painting of a wacky pink panther but I declined at £150.00 after bartering the original price down. The hotel was hosting a very fancy engagement party and all of the guests were photographed as they descended the grand staircase like celebrities. 

My high strength mosquito repellent was useless at keeping insects away as I had quite a few bites but it was obviously rather a strong solvent as it dissolved the gold leather on my sandals. 

Our bus took a toll road Agra without too many crazy drivers. As we approached the city we saw many more beggars, cows wandering along the road and goats being transported by motorbike. 

 

In the late afternoon we visited the Taj Mahal which really is an impressive sight. It is a mausoleum made from white marble flanked by 2 red sandstone gate houses. The white marble was inlaid with black marble calligraphy as well as semi precious stones such as cornelian and malachite. There were thousands of people visiting and it was joyous to see so many ladies wearing traditional series instead of Western clothing. Many of them wanted to take selfies with us just as much as we wanted to take photos of them. One of the elderly gardeners showed us where to stand to take photos of the central line of the Taj Mahal. It’s a bit weird optically because its towers lean outward slightly but from a distance this makes them appear perfectly straight. 

 

 

I went for an evening dip in the rooftop pool with a view of the Taj Mahal trying to ignore the thumping dance music that the DJ was aiming at the non-existent trendy, young crowd. On the streets below the luxury hotel could be seen people working and living in very poor conditions, reminding me that India has extremes of wealth and poverty. I felt grateful that I had opted to join an organised tour rather than attempting to travel solo without an expert guide. 

 

On Sunday our main expedition was to the Red Fort, an enormous military fortification built in the 17th Century by Mughal Emperor, Shah Jahan. There were many intricate Persian style carvings and it was originally decorated extensively with white marble and precious stones. The British Army used it as a garrison during Queen Victoria’s reign. Pam (Holland) was really helpful in suggesting ways to improve our photography and how to compose more artful pictures. 

  

Later we had a private viewing at a museum specialising in the Zardosi embroidery of master craftsman, Sheikh Shams Uddin. We were shown how he built up a 3D structure into his pictures using thick white cotton thread underneath then stitched to vibrant colours with silk threads. His pieces took years to complete and were encrusted with precious stones. This makes the little bit of glitz that I add to quilts with gold lame and paint look understated! The museum also housed a very nice jewellery shop where it would have been possible to spend a lot of money. I bought a simple pair of turquoise and silver earrings that did not break the bank. The next stop was a shop that made inlaid marble like we had seen at the Taj Mahal. Apprentices demonstrated how they cut and polished tiny pieces of semi precious stones that they set into indentations that they made with a small, pointy tool, all done by hand. I could have shipped home a magnificent marble dining table if I had felt inclined. 

After lunch and a leisurely swim we took a hair-raising evening rickshaw ride into the bazaar to see if we could find sewing supplies. This market was really scruffy, past slum housing and we had to battle our way through holiday crowds all honking their horns. We saw several trucks with loud speakers and plaster deities, all covered in coloured powder paint.

 

I was excited to see market stalls with huge piles of my favourite snack, Bombay Mix. The market stalls were tiny and mainly sold one type of thing like incense or cheap metal bracelets for wholesalers. The alleys were narrow and the path uneven so we had to walk single file yet motorbikes still zoomed through – it was not a straightforward shopping experience. It was easier for Pam and Govind to buy a batch of fabrics and embroidery hoops for everyone rather than figure out what we wanted and bartering for everything.

 

I enjoyed another excellent evening meal, sticking to delicious Veggie curry options. I was being careful to avoid any salad, meat, ice cream, rice, ice or fruit, hoping to avoid the dreaded “Delhi-Belly” that some of the other ladies had suffered. I don’t want to miss a single moment of such an exciting trip. Next stop – Jaipur in Rajasthan…

 

FOQ 2018

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Being a tutor or exhibitor at Festival of Quilts is hard work! There is the preparation, the set-up, getting up early, going to bed late, long days of standing and explaining, and much walking. There are times when you feel that you are not actually getting to see much of the show BUT it is great fun meeting new people, teaching people how to quilt, catching up with old friends and socialising afterwards.

There was the usual controversy over some of the judging decisions and much grumbling about the lighting. I was extremely disappointed that navy blue “Iconoclast” was in a dark spot and was not allowed to move to the brighter, empty wall opposite. Most viewers walked straight past without giving it a second glance. 2 out of 3 judges scored it highly and gave excellent comments but the third did not seem impressed. I absolutely did not expect to win a prize, I just wanted people to be able to see my quilts properly after I had worked so hard on them.

 

 

Sadly, my “Domestic” slideshow onto a white whole-cloth quilt was completely invisible under an overhead roof-light, bright spotlights and in a white-painted gallery while a few of the Fine Art Masters quilts were displayed on the outer walls in more subdued lighting. I was chatting to some guys as they dismantled the gallery after the show and told them all about “Domestic” being an ironic entry after several rejections in previous years with what I had considered to be among my best works. “Domestic” is not a fine piece of quilting but more of a concept. After telling them that I consider it patronising to Quilters that FAQM entries should “transcend craft and be worthy of hanging in an art gallery” one of the guys finally introduced himself as the co-ordinator of that competition – well, Oops! Sorry, not sorry;) I am glad I finally broke into the elite with my ironic art quilt but annoyed that there had been no effort to display it sympathetically – I even had to check that the projector was switched on each day.

 Domestic did NOT look like this!

I enjoyed teaching master classes in the Bernina Longarm Academy, also running demos in the classroom and on the stand. I even kept up a constant commentary for a 45 minute Youtube Livestream video, wearing a microphone headset like a popstar.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amazingly, I did not buy any quilting supplies at all! However, I bought some basic clothes patterns and boiled wool to make a coat. I hope it is not just a fantasy and I will actually MAKE something to wear that fits for a change.

 

 According to one of the judges, ” Quilting needs attention”…

I did not take many photos, probably because everyone else who visited the show had taken plenty of pictures and posted them on social media. And I confess that I never did find time to look at every single quilt. Some of the exhibition galleries were fantastic – I was impressed that Nancy Crow presented 75 almost identical monoprints. I could not make up my mind whether it was sheer genius or artistic audacity.

 Customer quilting by Kay Bell

 Model Ford H by Kay Bell

I really enjoyed the Ricky Tims concert/dinner. He is an entertaining speaker and also fantastic at playing a grand piano. I gave him a standing ovation, although other members of the audience were more British and clapped loudly but did not stand up. There was a rowdy taxi riot after the show at the Hilton where seemingly innocuous quilters elbowed each other to grab the unbooked rides back to their hotels.

The whole week flew by so quickly. It was great fun, sociable, hard work, inspiring and it won’t be long until plans get underway for next year;)

 Gin delivery

 Hauling everything back after the end of the show!

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.

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