My latest obsession is learning German… I have visited a few times to teach longarm quilting for my friend, Regina Klaus and I know lots of random vocabulary but absolutely no genders or grammar so I cannot have a conversation. I managed a find a tutor who would come to the house and teach Nella and me using the BBC “Talk German” course. We have been most attentive pupils, quite swotty in fact – doing lots of practice and revision in between lessons. In addition, I have become addicted to the Duolingo phone app and have been battling it out online for the top of the league spot with a Russian student. Nella and I do Duolingo at every meal or snack time now and this week alone we have clocked up over 1800 points – at least it is not gambling! We are both keen to put in a lot of effort and try to become more confident with attempting another language.
When I was not conjugating German verbs I managed to complete 3 customer quilts, finished off the footstool and made a fabric basket from printed doily fabric to contain my business cards.
Nella has made her area in the workshop her own by decorating with paper leaves, fairy lights and pompoms. She now enjoys reading or crafting in her space which allows me to get on with some of my projects. I cut out 80-odd border squares from plain coloured fabric and all of the pieces for the fancy prairie points that I want to include under the binding. The T-shirt heat press machine came in handy for ironing a whole lot of small pieces in one go. I used the digital cutting machine to cut out 90 x 2 ½” tall Warli figures from glitter vinyl so I should be able to get the borders onto the Rainbow Warli Quilt soon. My next challenge will be how to quilt it?!
It is amazing what you can achieve in a week where you don’t have to be anywhere in a hurry. I dug out a pop-up design wall, pinned up the Warli blocks and labelled them once I had decided on a random arrangement. The tricky thing was to add side strips in order to get the blocks to fit together since each varied slightly in height and width. After considerable fiddling and fudging I had a quilt top measuring (more or less) 79” square. Yes, it IS another large quilt, especially since I have decided that it will probably be a quilt rather than a canopy AND it will have an additional outer border of squares and fancy prairie points.
I decided to crack on and start putting together my screen-printed pieces ready for the end of semester student show at Grays. I was originally going to chicken out and ask Mo to tackle the upholstery for me but it struck me that I should have a go myself if it is to be a showcase of my own work. I stripped the Ercol chair covers down and used the pieces as templates. I re-used the piping cord and the back cushion but the seat cushion was disintegrating into toxic dust so she found me some replacement foam in her shed. There was nothing too tricky to tackle and I even managed to paint and re-cover the popper straps that hold the cushions onto the chair. The original chair did not have zips in its cushions so I just made it exactly the same and sewed up the openings for cushion pads by hand. The chair is really just a prop to show off the screen-printing and the thin indigo screen-printed fabric is not at all practical for upholstery so if I decide to sit on it I will probably cover it with a sheepskin rug.
With some trepidation I screen-printed the giant doily onto a plasticky fake linen roller blind using opaque white ink. I would only have one shot at not smudging or flooding the print and to my relief it worked perfectly.
I had run out of linen (having made a few too many mistakes) to make a lampshade and re-cover a shabby foot-stool so I had to settle for heavy calico instead. The lampshade kit that I had bought drowned the small, cheap table lamp that I had bought for the purpose so I painted an IKEA pine standard lamp. I was impressed by how easy that project was!
The footstool was more fiddly as my side panel measurements were wrong and I had allowed extra fabric for the top since it was padded. My solution was to staple the top piece on and hand sew the sides onto that – pompom trim will finish that off nicely;) Now that my main exhibition pieces are done I might think of some smaller accessories. Should I make a chicken-shaped doorstop?!
I felt like I spent my entire week rushing to fit in meals and appointments, getting unnecessarily stressed by trivia. Despite that, I fitted in 3 simple customer quilts and celebrated my birthday. Even though I was not in India as planned, my girls made it special with lovely cards and gifts. The next day we drove Freya down to St Andrews to begin her final semester of 4th year. It is incredible how quickly her time at Uni has gone.
It was a relief that Saturday was a day that I did not have to be anywhere and since it was dry I decided that the Ercol rocking chair would be sanded down for the last time. I did not have any wood oil or wax polish handy so I rubbed it over with the stuff that is meant for re-treating wax jackets and it looks fine. It is not a professional job by any means but it looks serviceable and will have cushions on it which will hide the tiny areas of dark stain that I could not completely remove. I have to decide whether it has white or navy screen-printed cushions – my preference is for blue but Mo, the upholstery expert disagrees;) I have bought a cheapo-nasty roller blind and a basic lamp because I plan to make a mini room set of screen-printed fabrics to display at the end of year Grays student show.
Bit by bit, I constructed all 20 Rainbow Warli blocks but they are not all exactly the same size. My large table is not big enough to lay them all out so I need a still, dry day to lay them on the grass to decide what order they should go in. I intend to fill the gaps with skinny pieced strips until it all more or less fits together, which will be a bit of a jigsaw. Why I can’t work to an exact size is beyond me…
We have had a week of unusually settled, dry, January weather so I put the Ercol rocking chair outside to try and strip off the rest of the dark wood stain. It was a much more complicated job than I had anticipated with so many fiddly struts and the only thing that really worked was sanding it all off. I used an electric Mouse sander and tried out a lookalike Dremel which was useless. Purists would have done the job by hand to avoid scratching the wood but that would have taken months. I applied a dry paste of Barkeepers Friend which contains oxalic acid to lighten the wood and it is almost there apart from a LOT more sanding still to do to get rid of the roughness, after which I should attempt to add some wax using wirewool.
Since I did not have any customer quilts to keep me busy I got into a routine of joining pieces of the Rainbow Warli quilt together in sections of very approximately 20” square, plus or minus a couple of inches. I have not ironed any of the sections, just relying on finger pressing to get the seams to match up. I will not actually be able to press anything on the right side of the quilt because of the giant sequins, silver lamé, glitter vinyl and screenprint foil. Progress seems to be going steadily and I have sewn 10 out of 16 sections. I daresay it will be challenging to get all of the slightly different sections to fit together and keep it all looking a bit haphazard but it is really nice to work on such a brightly coloured project in the middle of winter.
I developed 4 screens at my evening class, including transferring one of my original designs onto my own screen instead of one that belongs to the art school. One screen had not developed clearly, possibly due to an extra thick area of emulsion so it will have to be redone but I was pleased with the test prints. I took the huge screen home to print white ink onto indigo fabric but I did not remember to borrow a huge squeegee so I ordered my own. The first print was perfect but I did not leave enough space to print the next one so ended up with an annoying overlap. It is not easy to wash large screens at home so I took it outside and hosed it off with cold water, soaking myself in the process. I had enough indigo fabric to attempt 2 more prints – I flooded part of the first one and missed a bit one the second one. Screenprinting with such a huge screen and thick, opaque ink really can be a hit and miss affair!
I am trying to think of simple makes that I could sell using my doily prints so I made a prototype elasticated bowl cover. It is actually rather smart and could almost pass as a beret;)