Category Archives: Quilty Trips

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 I even made a new exhibition pass holder based on the one that Kay originally made for me.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!”

https://www.facebook.com/linzi.upton/videos/1415135988503581/?l=559833344829126489

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!

Thinking Like an Artist

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I have been attempting to think like an artist to work out how I am going to pull off the Purdah Quilt. I don’t seem to have enough patience to wait for a Muse to come along and  just one day spent indecisively drives me mad. While I was thinking I tried some more couching yarn out that I may or may not use when I eventually pluck up the courage to start quilting BzB.

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I could not decide whether to keep things simple or make them more complicated but I remembered that elaborate does not seem to be the key to the Fine-Art-Master category at FOQ. Next I wondered whether I should be improvising or sticking to something more traditional. The whole point of the Purdah Quilt is that will be layers of some sort so I guess that means I will making more than one quilt. I made up some test blocks to see if they would work with what I already had bouncing around in my head and I think I know sort of what I am doing now…

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I spent 2 fun days at Newport Sewing Centre in Wales doing staff training for the Bernina Q24 longarm. They were enthusiastic to learn and try out new ideas but I have to confess that yet again I was too busy to remember to take any action photos. It is always interesting that no matter how many times you have taught a class or used a familiar machine, you can always find new or better ways of doing things. I left my pupils keen to work on new projects and pass on their knowledge to customers. I enjoyed seeing a great display of sewing and embroidery machines in the shop and even learned a trick for telling my Bernina 710 that I am using a straight stitch plate so it remembers when I forget so I can’t break a needle by zig-zagging.

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I was annoyed that the little car I hired proved to be defective. When it refused to start at the airport I was told that I was not operating it correctly and by chance it fired up when I went back to it. However, when I made it struggle up steep, narrow lanes it started to make clunky noises. My B&B proved tricky to find because none of the hedged lanes were labelled and the road signs were in Welsh. I flagged down a farmer and a dog-walker and they explained that my destination had a completely different name on its gate than the one advertised on the internet. I had a very pleasant stay in a barn conversion and a lovely home-cooked breakfast. However, the crappy car would not start the next morning so I called the rescue service, then got it started and cancelled the AA truck which would never have found me anyway. There were warning beeps and flashes from the dashboard and a stern warning to stop and get the car fixed as there was a problem with the brakes or suspension. I made it to back to Newport without breaking down and called the rescue service again. The problem was quickly diagnosed – the battery connections were hanging loose which had confused the computer. My Landy, which works hard despite making various clunking and rattling noises, thankfully doesn’t have a computer telling it what to think;)

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We have had glorious Indian summer weather this week with colourful sunsets and warm sunshine. I had an unusual visitor to my workshop – I found a tiny common lizard hiding under my wellies. It is a bit of a daft and uninspiring name when these lizards are quite uncommon in Northern Scotland. He was too quick for me to take a good photo and I was worried that he would get lost so I put him back outside. I wonder whether he would have found enough spiders to live off if I had not discovered him – maybe he fancied hibernating in a fabric drawer!

A Different FOQ for Quilt Quine in 2015

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FOQ felt completely different for me this year in many  ways. Instead of loading the Landy with gear and driving all the way down I flew in and “supervised” the Bernina guys putting the longarm frame together. I loved being part of the professional and friendly  Bernina team which included representatives from Switzerland and Scandinavia. It was great to have the chance to discuss techniques and projects that they have tried out on the Q24. I was thrilled that everyone loved the brand and that the new Bernina Longarms proved very popular with the visitors to the show. They were all so impressed with the quality of the stitches how I could easily swap feet to add couching or twin needle stitching.

The centrally located stand was incredibly busy and I did not have any time to wander off or stand idly chatting. I dashed around the show quilts first thing in the morning, not really giving the quilt galleries the time that they deserved.  Even my shopping was done in less than half an hour on Sunday afternoon;) I demonstrated and explained longarming non-stop to all sorts of quilters from all over the world.

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My Tartan Tattoo quilt looked good even if I say so myself – nobody spotted the disaster area or commented on the wobbly lines that only I know about. I wished that I had entered it into the competition after all so I definitely want to enter it elsewhere to see how it gets on. Michael Oakshott was impressed with the use of his fabrics which made me think that I ought to publish a pattern and offer it for sale.

Vivienne and I were privileged to sit with Luana Rubin at the Gala Dinner and we spoke about all sorts of topics including how Amazon gives authors such a poor deal. Luana and I realised that we have a mutual friend in Wisconsin and our conversation seemed to flow naturally without any heirs or graces from such a well known quilting personality.

I took very few photos at the show and since there are plenty of pictures of the winners online, I decided just to show a few unusual quilts on my blog that made me look twice as I passed them at a trot. I am always entertained by the 3D category and often baffled by the Fine Art Masters.

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Kay’s double-sided quilt looked splendid and is bound to win prizes in other places. (I am delighted that she shared the Visitors’ Choice award with Dutch piecer, Coriene for “Stonefields”.)

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I felt guilty about leaving the show just before it closed on Sunday in order to catch my flight home but I was not sorry about missing the melee of teardown and van jostling. At least one FOQ tradition was maintained – the annual trip to Shabar for a Balti with old friends! I am already looking forward to next year and I am determined to enter at least one new quilt…;)

Am I on the Right Road?

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Q24

My act of rebellion this week was disobeying Satnav Lady’s instructions. She had determined that I needed to drive from Bristol to Cardiff in a hire car avoiding ALL major roads in order for me to sit in as much traffic as possible. It was quite fun driving a nippy little car with a steering wheel that was half the diameter of the Landy’s, except when the buttons on my cuffs got stuck in a weird groove that contained the airbag.

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I gave two basic training workshops to UK Bernina technicians so they could get a new customer up and running. They will be able to opt for more advanced lessons later if they need to. The Q24 frame machine and sit-down Q20 are lovely machines and they both stitched beautifully, using a standard size 80 needle and all sorts of threads, including metallic and monofilament. Luckily, I had a full afternoon to familiarise myself with the controls as my machine is still “in transit”. I really liked the ratchet rollers which held the fabric perfectly with no slipping. There are so many super features, including basting stitches and couching! I think I will be able to have a go at all sorts of things…

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The Tartan quilt has frustrated me – I detested the sight of it and it could even swear me off using stretchy shot cottons in future. I decided to use the Bernina 710 for some of the long lines but I wished I had made a much smaller quilt. Even though I have a generously sized domestic machine, it still struggled right in the middle. The sheer weight of the quilt made some of the stitches too tight and I accidentally knocked the stitch length button a couple of times. The job that was even worse was adding embroidery stitching to all of the ditch lines. All I could see was every wonky line and too many missed stitches. I might have been tempted to give up except that I had already spent a ridiculous amount of time on this project. I have no idea how it will flatten out and eagle-eyed judges are bound to find all of its faults. Kay reminded me that quilting is meant to be FUN as she described how she had wasted hours skinning an entire quilt. I still have a long way to go before the Tartan quilt is ready to display at FOQ and although it will look pretty good, it is not the show-stopper that I had imagined.

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I loaded Freya, her pals and their canoe gear into the Landy and drove them to a bunkhouse near Aberfeldy via Braemar. It was a damp, grey evening but the scenery was still stunning. I wished I had asked one of them to take some photos as we avoided sheep and a herd of red deer on the road while lapwings flew overhead. The road was narrow and winding and seemed to go on forever with very little traffic. One of the girls felt a little queasy after 2 ½ hours so we made a quick stop and checked the map. The other car which had taken the sensible main road route got lost so we both arrived at the same time.

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I took a different cross-country road home yet my journey time was exactly the same. I did question my judgement as we crawled slowly up and over the Cairn O’Mount at nearly midnight through low clouds but despite some ominous creaky groans, the Landy got me there in the end.

Nashvegas and the Windy City

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On Monday morning we were amazed that we could fill the hire-car up with petrol for $25! We drove a little way out to Gruhn’s Vintage Guitars where we marvelled at the pricey instruments. Since I could not afford upwards of $2000 for a resonator guitar, I chose the kids a selection of picks, stickers, gadgets and T-shirts instead.

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We decided that the best way to tour Nashville was by trolley bus. The guide told us a bit about some of the city’s famous musicians and landmarks. We slightly regretted that we had not done the tour shortly after arrival so we had a better idea of where everything was. I now wish we had decided to visit Music Hall of Fame but we simply ran out of time. The trolley bus dropped us off at the Marathon Motor Works which was meant to be a collection of artisan boutiques and a junk store but we thought it was just a little naff.

Back on the trolley tour, our guide pointed out Taylor Swift’s 2-storey condo and Reba McIntyre’s personal recording studio with private helipad. We passed studios that had recorded artists including Elvis, Roy Orbison and Johnny Cash.

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We spent a little time in the tattoo shop, admiring the artwork and being a little surprised that a young couple favoured matching beer mug tattoos as their Nashville trip souvenir, rather than inked cowboy boots or a guitar.

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We joined Ellen at the HardRock Cafe for delicious cocktails before heading to Rippy’s Ribs for the worst, most artificial margarita ever in a plastic cup. The food was pretty good and we had a great view overlooking “Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge”, a purple building that has hosted many rising stars over the years.

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We had a last wander around Nashville then returned the car to the airport unscathed. Kay had a dramatic accident on the escalator with 2 suitcases and a backpack – it was one of those dreadful slow motion moments where you can’t believe what you are seeing. She toppled over backwards on the moving stairs until someone at the bottom had the sense to hit the emergency stop button. She reassured a policeman that she was fine, despite receiving a scraped arm and a bashed finger. We really should have taken an elevator to the next floor but for some reason just did not think it was necessary. That was a lesson learned the hard way!

We jumped into a shuttle bus at Chicago airport and listened in on the conversation between two passengers behind us. One was a no-nonsense woman from Alabama who had reluctantly left her two corgis at home to attend a conference. She quickly made her strong Republican views very clear and then we found out that she was a judge who made the decisions on whether people should be eligible for social security benefits. She declared that almost all cases were wholly undeserving then she went on to give two examples of ex soldiers with PTSD  who were clearly shirkers who could easily work for a living. I was astounded that she was so indiscreet inside a public vehicle. I wondered what a scoop it could have been if I was an undercover journalist…

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The Acme Hotel on Ohio Street turned out to be very hip and it was ideally located a block away from Michigan Avenue. We ate at Pizzeria Uno, where they claim to have invented the Chicago deep pie pizza in 1943. The old fashioned restaurant was packed and the food was delicious. We even took leftover pizza back with us in a box in case we fancied eating it for breakfast.

We did the sensible thing on Wednesday and took an open-top bus tour of the city. It was a good job that we had jackets as it was pretty breezy on the top deck. We almost had to duck as we passed under some very low bridges and girders. The Chicago architecture was amazing – there were all sorts of styles and ages of buildings. The tour took us down to Lake Michigan, past the sports stadia, many museums and Navy Pier. We only had time to RUN around the Art Institute which houses one of the largest French Impressionist collections in the world.

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We all agreed that Chicago has a very cool vibe and wished that we had arranged to stay  and explore for a couple of days longer. The Cloud Gate sculpture, otherwise known as The Bean was incredible. It is a huge polished-mirror edifice in which you can take strange photos of the skyline and the tourists. A large Dick Blick art shop was nearby so we felt obliged to see what arty items we could add to our suitcases.

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We took a very circuitous route around several blocks before supper, ending up almost where had started. “Eataly” is an enormous, chic Italian deli with several cafes and fresh produce counters inside. If we had stayed one night more I would have headed to “The Goat Tavern” which is apparently famous for its cheeseburgers and the infamous curse that a previous patron had placed upon The Chicago Cubs baseball team.

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On our final morning in Chicago we waited for the shops to open so we could browse quickly in a 7-storey Macy’s and other high-end stores. It seemed that the shop assistants had been recruited according to their high level of campness;) A nice chap with stubble,  painted eyebrows and lipstick assisted me in the cosmetics department.

We arrived at the airport in good time but despite having checked-in online, we had to join a ridiculously long queue for the bag drop. Are Lingus made no announcements or explanations and we stood in that line for almost 3 hours. Their computerised booking system had failed which meant that all of the boarding passes would need to be hand-written. They seemed to be incredibly inefficient. When we were really bored we started timing how long it took to deal with each customer. It could take anywhere between 7 to 17 minutes to sort each one out. At the security gate we were told to return to the booking desk since we did not have the correct boarding passes but after giving some stern Paddington stares, we were allowed to proceed. The passengers were loaded on board where we continued to wait ages before take-off. To add insult to injury, the captain informed us that cabin crew would start serving drinks but only water and fruit juice was free of charge. There were  loud mutters that British Airways would not treat its travellers so scornfully.

There was further chaos at Dublin as Aer Lingus attempted to rearrange flights for everybody who had missed their connections. The journey home by train went smoothly although it was a struggle to stay awake. It was nice to be home and tell the kids about my adventures but I must admit that I missed my afternoon cocktail, my travel buddies and not having to do any chores. I gave myself the weekend to unpack, sort photos and update the blog but next week I need to make new lists to get back to real life, pay bills and meet deadlines…

Paducah 2015

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The trip began after I only just caught the Stirling train to meet up with Ellen and Kay. We set out early on Monday morning to get the flight for Dublin but were rerouted via London. It was a long 8 hour flight squashed between a rather large woman and a man who had taken his own food. I was happy not to interact with my fellow passengers and just watch movies. So much for my grand intentions to make quilt sketches…

We arrived at the Chicago hotel at the equivalent of 3 am then excitedly ordered a pizza from room service.  

Wide awake at 4.30am USA time, I made cups of tea before heading back to the airport to fly into Nashville. Ellen bravely drove the automatic car onto the 5 lane interstate and battled with honking trucks. We made a slight detour and had to ask for directions at a seedy loan shark joint but the guy was very helpful and printed us off a map. There was a brief thunder storm with impressive lightning as we drove into Paducah 2 hours later and found the beautiful Queen Anne style house that we would be staying in. 

 

We dashed straight to the awards ceremony after going to the wrong venue first, just missing a downpour. It was great to see the show quilts on sneak preview night before it became crowded. There were many stunning quilts and some more everyday ones but all admirable in their own right. Kay was thrilled to have had two of her quilts juried into the show, “Flower of Scotland” and “The Horse”. She met many friends and fans over the next few days. Our British accents were much admired and we picked up as many local phrases as we could to use in conversation later. I loved, “Robber’s Roost by Joanne Baeth, Oregon. Some of my other favourites were not prize winners.  As a quilter, I felt both overwhelmed by the skill on display but I also felt that I could create equally valid work. 

 

It was lovely to meet online friends and friends whom we had met at other shows. 

Despite having had a long day, I still woke at 5am to make cups of tea, keen to get to downtown Paducah! I enjoyed a Jesse James breakfast at the Gold Rush Cafe despite the copious, weak coffee and then enjoyed rummaging in one of the amazing junk emporiums where Kay and I bought 1930’s quilt tops for $40. This turned out to be a great bargain as there were similar flimsies for sale in town ranging from $150-$500! 

 

The next mission was to view all of the quilts and vendors upstairs at the show and in The Pavilion. It was really busy and after a while I glazed over as everything seemed to blur together in a massive quilt overload. It was time to wander back into town for a refreshing craft beer, mosey around town then walk back to our house. Later we walked back into town for a pleasant supper at The Italian Grill wishing that we had been wearing a pedometer to see how far we had tramped. Despite wearing my comfy Docs, my feet were aching. 

  

 The next morning we breakfasted at another local diner before heading out to Hancocks. It was packed with bargain hunters but the bolts were arranged by manufacturer rather than theme or colour. Kay chose some very nice batiks and flannels but I was so overwhelmed by choice that I only purchased one jelly roll of solids and a box of pins. A quick trip to the liquor store allowed us to restock on wine, sniggering at Kinky mixers and Knob Creek Whiskey. After a dash around Hobby Craft looking for notions, the next stop was the Rotary Club to view antique hexagon quilts and pick up a little something from Cherrywood Fabrics.

After a reviving ginger lemonade and Elvis cookie we visited the National a quilt Museum. It is a purpose built museum with temperature controlled archives. A selection of American Quilt Society prize winning quilts was on display in spacious, well lit galleries. SAQA’s “Food for Thought” exhibition was in one wing; old and modern 9-patch quilts were in the other wing. 

I had an impromptu meeting with representatives from the AQS Museum, tourist board and the Mayor to discuss my offer of donating the Scottish Yurt to the City of Paducah. They were incredibly enthusiastic and spoke about how they could use the Yurt for a variety of festivals and educational projects. It was refreshing to meet such visionary people who are happy to commission their own wooden frame and pay for me to ship the coverings. We briefly discussed the possibility of publishing some sort of book and patterns to recreate the panels. I am delighted to have found such an appreciative foundation at last that will curate and celebrate the Quilted Yurt. It really is amazing where that project has led me…

 After a deserved glass of wine we headed back into town, meeting a couple of re-enactment Confederate soldiers. The lower ranked soldier advised me where to look for Moonshine. He told us in broad Kentuckian that he was “packin’ a drum cos his friend couldn’t carry it for himself”. We enjoyed an excellent supper with live music at JP’s and by the time we walked all the way home we were so exhausted we could barely move. We decide  that it was because we are so unaccustomed to pounding pavements. 

There was so much to fit into our last day that I felt obliged to wake up at 5 am again.

We encountered a Mrs. Overall at the Gold Rush who sloshed coffee and gravy all over herself and unwary customers. It was our last opportunity to catch up with folk from APQS and other online friends, before buying thread and other last minute purchases. 

We drove to Nashville, rather wishing that we had a Satnav to direct us. We were met by “Indian Elvis”  at the front desk of the hotel the headed into downtown Nashville, flashing with neon signs. There was loud live music everywhere, cowboy boot shops and plenty of hen/stag parties. 

 

My gold boots matched the shiny satin decor at our more basic hotel. Before even reading a whole chapter of my book, I fell asleep. 

On Saturday morning we has a slower start, watching marathon runners from our hotel window. I thought it would be quiet downstairs so I nipped down to fetch some breakfast in my PJ’s and boots. I had not expected to enter a crowded elevator, walk past some cowboys then negotiate a buffet full of fully dressed people. I felt like trailer trash! 

The town was already heaving with people at 10am live bands competed with each other to be the loudest. We wandered around for a while, stopped for a reviving beer then took in the Tennessee State Museum which taught us much about the American Civil War. There were even a few vintage quilts and a reproduction settler’s cabin. It became hotter and hotter so we felt that it was necessary to stop and drink cocktails and people-watch at the Hard Rock Cafe for a couple of hours. Eventually, we managed to haul ourselves to our feet and make it to an elegant, old building that housed a Spaghetti Factory restaurant. Because we enjoyed such a huge supper, we felt able to walk back to the hotel on Music Circle. Our feet were absolutely throbbing by bedtime!

 

On Sunday we headed to Franklin, a small town outside Nashville. There was a tremendous crafts and music festival in the Main Street. We all managed to buy some handcrafted souvenirs and enjoyed a generous slice of pecan pie in Merridee’s coffee shop. 

 

We had to stop and check out the Joann’s fabric store on the way back to Nashville;) Yet again, we felt that a couple of glasses of wine at the hotel were well deserved. 

  

50 Shades of Pink

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I should never have trusted the other paint guy who insisted that the mixing formula for gloss would be the same as emulsion – the result is that I have a different shade of pink at one end of my painstakingly painted workshop. I am trying not to let it bother me but in certain light it is very different. I finished the garage door, drips and all and it looks fine, unless I look closely. Let’s hope that the next time I think the building needs a facelift, I seriously consider getting a professional painter in to do it for me;)

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The extra time required to freehand inside the Burgoyne Surrounded customer quilt baptist fan rings was typically more than I anticipated but I think it looks good. All I have left to do is apply the 400” of binding!

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I have been doodling away trying to improve my drawing skills but I think the answer will probably be for me to quilt my designs onto white fabric with black thread and take high quality photos. I have so many different notebooks, pencils, apps and gadgets for sketching  – all I need now is an actual ability to draw.

I have packed my bags for my trip to the USA with Ellen and Kay. In the event that I may decide to buy fabric, I will leave my old pyjamas behind when I leave. There should also be a space left after we have drunk the wine and eaten the marmalade that I have stashed away.

I am very excited to be going back to Paducah 7 years after my first visit so next week’s blog-post will be a Travelogue of the trip. I expect we will see a few nice quilts on the way…

Linzi in London

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Leaving home very early, I flew to London to launch the Bernina Q24 longarm machine to the UK dealers. It is always exciting to experience the hustle and bustle of the Capital. I love travelling on the Tube, even during rush hour. I chuckled and thought of Paddington Bear when I read a sign on the Underground, “Dogs Must Be Carried”. I don’t suppose I would actually want to live there though. Driving a Landrover and avoiding pedestrians, bikes and London cabbies on all sides would provide an adrenalin rush every day.

The Q24 boxes were delivered to the basement of The Hilton at Woburn Place and immediately the Technician and I started to assemble the frame. We took our time, having never done this before and located all of the bits and pieces correctly. After tidying up the packing boxes and hanging some quilts, the machine looked splendid in the middle of the room. The rollers are configured differently to my APQS machine so I was a little worried at first that I had got things back to front. All was well and the red fabric looked really enticing. The machine was switched on, threaded up and stitched beautifully without the need for any adjustments. I got to grips with the functions quickly – it is possible to programme personal preferences into the toggle switches on the handles depending on whether you are left or right handed.

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I gave 4 presentations on the Q24 with a brief demonstration and then offered a hands-on session to a large number of UK Bernina dealers. I was so involved that I forgot to take any photos! They were very impressed with the handling of the machine so hopefully it will make good sales in the UK. I am now waiting impatiently for the machine that is coming to my studio so I can make something to show off at FOQ. It probably will not arrive in time to make a competition quilt but I can at least make something to display on the Bernina stand. If there is not enough room then I think I need to make something to wear;)

I am definitely experiencing sewing withdrawal symptoms. Apart from constantly being asked what I am working on, I feel the need to have some sewing on the go. I deliberately decided not to start any major pieces while the Ebook reaches the final editing stages and up until now have preoccupied myself with sorting beads, updating endless paperwork and reorganising computer folders. However, I think I might cut some large pieces of linen just in case the fancy takes me to rustle up an everyday sort of quilt.

I am irritated when the same items keep appearing on my To-Do List each week and really must do something about finishing those tasks. “Yurt canvas replacement” has been on there for months, I want to make a set of rip-stop nylon storage bags for the Totems and the overdue Ebook edits are beyond a joke. I took the printed draft to London to proof-read during the evening but brought it back to Scotland without having looked at it. The pages are now in a box file with scissors, pencil and sellotape so I will take it everywhere I go this week until I have read every line and checked the labels on every photo. I also have to fit in 2 quilting pupils and a customer quilt so I must try not to get distracted by events such as eclipses…

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