Google Translate can be very hit or miss but it allowed me to get the gist of some lovely comments that had been left by quilters on the Bernina Germany Blog. Apparently it is even worse when an English article has been translated into German then back into English – that is how I became a “long-sleeve” quilter! As a result of the German article, Bernina Netherlands got in touch with me to find out if I might teach patchwork and quilting over there. I think it must be time for me to plan some more classes and kits to add to my repertoire.
Vivienne has been posting videoclips on Facebook to promote the Ebook. I enlisted the help of Mo to film local River Dee Ghillie, Robbie to endorse the book in Doric, the local accent of North East Scotland. It was very low budget, filmed on my phone in one of the fishing huts but Robbie did a great job. Maybe I should actually teach him to quilt so we can make another “fillum” of him using a sewing machine… https://youtu.be/I31EBWiy47o
I was visited by 3 DIY quilters this week who wanted to get their quilts finished in time for Christmas. I like to load the quilts for them, wind bobbins and be on hand if the thread breaks. They had all done some long-arming before elsewhere so they were fairly proficient but they all said that they enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere, having someone on hand who would give assistance, and the coffee. I did a few little jobs that had been annoying me like re-sorting and folding my fabric drawers. I get really irritated with myself if the contents are all in muddle. My workshop is generally tidy but every now and then I can’t remember what safe place I have used to stash things. Maybe I should keep a list of what I have mislaid and make a note of where it turned up.
I did eventually complete all of the ruler work and freehand spikes on the large customer quilt. It took a really long time to complete but I think it looked modern and fresh when it was finished. I have posted it back to its owner so it will be a few days before I hear whether she is pleased with it.
The first Purdah quilt was quilted using half-inch straight lines and variegated black and red thread. I had to adjust the lighting of the photo but it still appears much lighter than it is in real life. I told Freya that I was considering adding more black stitching and beads but she has reminded me that this piece is meant to be minimal;) I have been making sketches for the other quilts and gathering images from Indian architecture which may or may not eventually come in handy.
At the back of my mind is the dreaded winter festival that starts with a “C”. In my opinion, nobody should be allowed to mention it before December 1st, let alone advertise or shop for it! Ideally, I would like to make some small gifts and I have rashly promised the Landy Man an appliquéd horse cushion for his daughter…
Linzi Upton’s Deviant approach to Quilting
My mission in Deviant Modern Machine Quilting is to make you believe that there are no hard and fast rules in quilting. Any rules you have learnt can be bent or broken! Quilting should give the freedom to express your creativity using whatever ideas or materials take your fancy.
It should be possible to take your inspiration from anywhere, mull over an idea for a while, then adapt or personalise it to suit your capabilities and choice of fabrics.
The Deviant Quilting approach should give you the confidence to be inspired by the colours and texture of your local landscape, for instance, rather than being confined to following a prescriptive pattern. You can make anything as off-the-wall as you please or just make a book cover if that is what you want to do.
Vivienne and Trevor from Vivebooks spent 3 days in my studio with me filming video clips and taking stills to complete “Deviant modern machine Quilting” which should be ready to sell at the end of September. Amazingly, we only needed to do one or two takes for every demo, deciding that we would leave in the odd mistake as it seemed more realistic. The quality of the sound and light in the playbacks was excellent. My only problem was that I absolutely cannot remember a script so every ad-libbed quip was slightly different. This is why Radio 4 could employ me but I would be hopeless as a TV actress;) I do not appear glamorous in my YouTube introduction but Vivienne reminded me that it looked natural, as if I was about to get stuck into some quilting or go and feed the chickens. They managed to take some great photos of me and my local area which they have generously allowed me to use for publicity.It took a while to get my workshop back to normal after filming the demos, finding projects to photograph and shifting most of the furniture out of the way to make room for photography brollies. Ann came over with 6 Linus quilts which we completed on a production line – one of my machines quilted automatically, while we freehand-quilted on the Bernina Q24. It stitched very nicely and Ann was most impressed by how easy it was to use.
I spent Friday faffing about making sure that Freya had all of her documents in order for her Tallship Race next week and packing minimally to take Fergus and Nell to visit my folks. We travelled by train for 9 hours, giving me plenty of time to read for hours and eavesdrop on the other passengers. I completed “Go Set a Watchman” which I enjoyed – I certainly did not hate its sequel/prequel as some critics had warned. I noticed a man drinking a whole bottle of red wine before midday, tutted at families who shouted at each other from one end of the carriage to the other, and glared at children who played noisy computer games without headphones. The married woman behind me informed a total stranger that she visits an old flame 4 times a year to carry on a long-standing affair and a young woman chattered nervously in anticipation of meeting a man face to face in Newcastle with whom she had met on the Internet. I could imagine myself as Agatha Christie, sitting on trains, making notes then constructing convoluted murder plots!
Norfolk is meant to be the driest region of the UK but we always seem to bring Scottish weather with us. While my Mother was out, I took over her kitchen to rustle up a Sunday family supper. I could not find anything so there was a bit of improvisation and some essential ingredients were swapped for substitutes. A bottle of wine wrapped in cling film stood in as a rolling pin for a plum (nectarine and cherry) and marzipan tart. Mini tortillas replaced Chinese pancakes for the slow cooked shredded duck but it all worked out tastily enough. My sister has handed me a bundle of 6″ squares and if I might whizz up a small quilt by the end of the week…
My main mission for the week was to find and book rooms in Paducah 2015. I emailed and phoned more than 20 hotels but was thwarted by being told that they were already fully booked or did not accept bookings until January. I appealed to one of the original Stunt Quilters who very kindly passed on the contact details of someone offering B&B who had not advertised anywhere else. I was relieved and excited to be able to report back to Kay and Ellen that the Paducah part of the trip was organised. We just have to co-ordinate the other internal flights and decide what to do in Chicago and Nashville. For an unplanned trip that evolved out of the MQX cancellation, it looks like we will have a lot of fun!
After convincing myself that I did not have any more urgent organising to do, I assembled all of the bits and pieces to finish and photograph the final 4 book projects. I discovered that gold spandex does not make good bias binding. I needed a teflon piping foot as the metal one would not travel over the slippery surface. Rummaging around the local fabric shop, I discovered some lurex bias tape that may not be very durable but it looked perfect.
Somehow I forgot that the instructions in my book were for vertical quilting lines for the circumference of the foam cylinder so now I can’t decide whether to cut and rejoin the piece of quilted spandex that I quilted with horizontal lines to make them go up and down instead. I suppose it depends on whether I want it to look like a Greek column or a walnut whip… I quilted the squares that will form the top and bottom circles and made the piped lurex binding so the next step will be to assemble and write comprehensible instructions for the project that I am calling “Spandex Pouffe – Not For Cats”.
I actually quilted a small customer Lonestar quilt this week. Since I had not really quilted anything since the end of June, I faffed around for a while while deciding what designs to use. I had intended to keep it simple but I got carried away as usual. I even added machine embroidery stitching around parts of the star and the inner border to add definition. I reminded myself that I have an unquilted Lonestar of my own tucked away – Silent Movie Star 2 was made as a class sample but I never liked the fabrics as much as the original version. However, since my quilting has improved since 2008 maybe I can make it look less brown with some funky designs. There are a few quilt tops that I have abandoned in a basket that I really ought to get done. They don’t need to be fancy – they just need to be finished;)
FOQ gets bigger and better every year! Ani, Kay, Sally, Ellen and I set up the APQS long arms and dressed the stand knowing exactly what we were doing since this was the third year that we had worked as a team. We had fewer people who were amazed to see a long arm machine in action for the first time and more who were doing thorough research into all of the available brands and features. We were petty busy most of the time apart from a couple of afternoon lulls when I would scatter M&M’s onto the quilt top and chase them around for a while before eating them.
I was disappointed that The Quilted Henge did not receive any judges’ accolades but it was greatly admired, although most people had not bought the expensive show catalogue that explained what it was all about. Kay Bell received 2 Highly Commended awards for her painted whole cloth and a customer quilt. A beautiful quilt that the judges over-looked was voted Viewers’ Choice by the public!
As a quilter I can’t help myself muttering about a number of the entries not really being quilts or even quilted. This was not confined to the Art Quilts, some of which had minimal stitching and only 2 layers of chiffon. In the Quilt Creations category were 3D items that were felted or machine embroidered. These were all fabulous pieces of textile art but I wonder whether the Festival of Quilts should be rebranded.
Getting up early allowed us to have a look around the show quilts and exhibits before the crowds arrived. I was inspired to join SAQA after chatting to Sandy Snowden. It would be great if a museum or gallery would house some of my pieces for a while as it is getting tricky to navigate around my workshop.
It was fun to meet up with friends and colleagues from all over the world – apparently it is actually called “networking”. We were thrilled to meet Bonnie Hunter who had been on a tour around England with Jim West. I had one or two brainwaves and mad ideas at 3 am, one of which was a plan for my second book, even though technically the first one still needs to be completed;)
I had a super chat with Aggy and Sarah from Bernina and they helped me to make a list of essential feet for the B710. I bought a large Sewezi table for it as I hate using a sewing machine that sits on top of the table, particularly for free-motion quilting.
After a week of late nights, early mornings, rather a lot to drink and a couple of great curries, it was time to make the 11 hour drive home, unpack and decide what colour to dye the white shirt that I unwisely wore while eating a Balti with chilli and turmeric pickle.
With a successful and mostly dry School Sports Day out of the way, I managed to sew shut the final seam on the last totem then fiddle about with eyelets and corset strings. It felt strange to decide that such a long running project was finished. I keep looking at it and wavering between feeling proud of my efforts while wondering if anyone else at a Festival of Quilts will appreciate my creation. Maybe they will find it too simplistic and not arty enough but I don’t care if anyone thinks it is just weird.
Having got The Henge finished I was anxious to work out how it would actually get to FOQ. I soon discovered that if I mentioned the words, “textile art”, couriers would not touch it. Next I was told that it would have to travel in custom-made boxes and could cost between £200-£400! I decided to be more cunning and asked a more basic transport haulier if they could shift “cushions” that were bubble wrapped and shoved into a giant fertiliser bag. They agreed to stick it on a pallet, shrink-wrap it in clingfilm and get it there without a fuss, far more economically.
Frustratingly, I discovered that my Windows Live email account had been hacked and then shut down. Luckily, no data appears to have gone astray so after changing passwords on all of my devices, I eventually got everything restored.
I taught my last half day of the term then loaded up an overdue customer quilt. I decided to “let” the computerised system do this one as it was so big and the customer wanted something simple. I swore at the computer a few times because it seemed to ignore what I was trying to tell it to do but in the end it quilted a modern version of pumpkin seeds really well. When I was sure that it was not going to muck-up, I was able to sort through some of the photos for my E-book. I even had a cup of tea with a visiting American quilter while it sewed away in the background. I still don’t actually LIKE the computerised system and much prefer to freehand just about everything but I acknowledge that not all quilts require fancy or dense stitching. It was rather boring supervising while the machine did its own thing but I have a large customer quilt coming up next that needs a lot of freehand taming.
Mo, Nell and I went on a bit of a jaunt on Saturday and ended up “raking” at a car-boot sale, a vintage-style craft fair and a lovely tea-shop. We came home with all sorts of treasures including blue and white napkins and retro saucepans.
I took Nell up to the Portsoy Boat Festival on Sunday and insisted that she have a go at paddling a coracle in the sheltered harbour. I showed photos of my coracle to the Coracle Society experts who pointed out that I should have fitted my cover over the top edges of the wicker frame. I tried to explain that it was purely decorative and I wanted to show off the wicker and beading but they were more interested in practicalities. One cocky teenager discovered how unstable coracles really are and he was tipped out into the harbour. There was a great atmosphere with craft stalls, food stalls, buskers and antique sailing boats all over the fishing village and we agreed that it could be fun to stay for the whole weekend to see more live music and take part in coracle racing. I was even moderately tempted to join the Coracle Society and consider making another coracle…
I spent most of this week finishing off the bronze spandex totem and quilting 9 circular “tree trunks” for the top ends of each column. It was handy to have Freya at home to help check and pack all of the Northern Lights kits for the cruise. Following her sage advice, I made up one of the kits from scratch to double-check the quantities were all sufficient for a 16” cushion.
I gradually crossed things off my packing list and the only thing that I did not include in the end was a pair of binoculars. Everything for the classes was organised into little poly-bags and made up the bulk of my luggage. My clothes were all squashed into my carry-on bag. Obviously, I felt it necessary to start making a zipped bag for my drawing tablet the day before I left but I was not concentrating so it finished up being too small. I decided to use it for cables/chargers instead then proceeded to resize a pre-existing laptop sleeve to fit the tablet.
I had an early flight to London on Saturday morning followed by a bus trip to the port of Southampton. I had not expected The Independence of the Seas to look quite so much like an invading spaceship. I cannot describe how truly enormous it looked with 14 decks, elevators, an ice-rink, theatre, running track, pools, restaurants and even a High Street of shops.
The quilting tutors met the students for the first time before a formal dinner in one of the many dining-rooms. The group included ladies from USA, Canada, England, Cyprus, Scotland and Wales. They were not particularly impressed with the squashed Tunnock’s tea cakes in their goody bags. I forgot to explain that I had also included a sachet of Hungarian dye and found out later that some people opened their packets and tasted the contents, thinking that they might be a rehydrating solution in case of a stomach upset!
We had an early start for two classes on Sunday and it was super to have a maximum of 10 students in each class. I introduced my pupils to freehand rotary cutting and using slightly different techniques to achieve gently curved piecing. The emphasis was on taking a relaxed approach and declaring that there were no “mistakes, just deliberate design choices.
After spending most of the day busily sewing below decks in the classroom we emerged on deck to bright sunshine where other cruisers were sunbathing beside the pool or jogging laps around the ship to work up an appetite. Over dinner the students discussed what they had achieved that day and started to get to know each other a bit better. There were a few glitzy outfits – my gold lamé Doc Marten boots seemed appropriate enough;)
My list of things to do got worked on pretty methodically and I was very satisfied by what I managed to achieve this week. I attended to all sorts of things that I had been putting off and managed to book my travel to Southampton for the Norway cruise, update my dreaded business spreadsheets and order some new Quilt Quine postcards.
I got a customer quilt done at the beginning of the week and then quilted the toffee coloured sheepskin leather. It behaved differently to the goatskin ones and seemed to want to tear or perforate but hopefully the dense stitching will hold it all together. The beading is coming along slowly on the other two despite Bluecat deciding to sit on the green skin if I leave it lying around. The weeks are whizzing by and I sometimes wonder whether my totems will be finished in time to enter any of this season’s shows.
I let my hairdresser have carte-blanche so she dyed it purple for a change. It has been magenta before so my kids were not at all shocked. I take the attitude that hair just grows so I can do anything with it since it won’t have to stay like that forever.
There were some successful attempts at creating quilt diagrams on the computer. I downloaded a simple app called Quiltography which helps to draw up simple layouts. It is a bit limiting as I have not been able to design a quilt with more than 10 vertical rows but it was only meant as a stopgap until I can get EQ7 for my Mac. I surprised myself by reading the instruction manual for the EQ6 program that is on my old laptop and managed to get basic diagrams drawn up for some of my book projects.
For ages I have wanted to put several pictures onto a page to create a sort of photo-story of quilt instructions. I found a nice app that lets me put photos into hexagons so I gave it a dummy run with the pictures I used for the Generation Q article on “The Quilt Quine’s Hoose”. I think they look appropriately quilty but I think I may need to add some descriptive text or even some arrows. While I was in designer mode I arranged for a final-year media studies student to do the videography for the Ebook in the Easter holidays. Now that I have set a deadline I will need to make myself decide on a plan or script of what I will actually demonstrate.
The weekend was more than the usual whirlwind of activity as we also had to squeeze in Freya’s birthday, a choir concert, and making a cherry-marzipan cake. Fenella and I felt pleased with ourselves after we managed to turn Mo’s ex purple bunny hutch into a hen house by adding a different floor-plan-kit and reattaching the wire run that had been a bit squashed by a falling tree. All we need now for fresh eggs are some point-of-lay pullets and a new bag of layers’ pellets.
Apparently, my science lesson on the circulatory system was the most awesome demonstration ever. I had managed to source a deer’s thorax, heart and lungs and then proceeded to dissect it on the teacher’s desk, wickedly warning the kids that if it had been a badger or homeless person then we would have needed face masks as a precaution against TB. One child went a little green but the rest declared that they would like to become surgeons.
I pootled around for the next two days packing and unpacking for a Quilted Yurt talk in Stirling. I foolishly decided to take the scenic route and missed the conventional turn-off to Stirling so ended up going cross country and only just arriving on time. I missed supper but my talk went down very well. The ladies were stunned at how much work had gone into the yurts and surprised that I had decided to drive home the same evening. Actually, the return journey was easy as the roads north were dry and clear. By midnight I was an expert in all of the post Spring Budget debates on Radio 4 but I also enjoyed listening to The Book at Bedtime.
Not a lot of sewing went on but I spent some time uploading and sorting photos for The Book and trying to decide whether to include another piecing project. I had a chat with the publisher in the end, discussing the proposed video sections and how to try to organise all of the material that I felt was becoming overwhelming. I managed to run up a “Wee Bag” so I could take step-by-step pictures.
My folks made an impromptu visit and had to camp out in the summerhouse under several blankets and quilts because we don’t have a spare room. My Dad tried to help me out with a couple of long overdue DIY projects and my Mum got me to cut her some blocks to take home and make a charity quilt. We even had an outing to Costco where I was sorely tempted to buy a beehive. It was nice to take time out from my self-imposed crazy schedule because the late nights seem to have been catching up with me. They were most impressed by my interview in Generation Q Magazine. Jake and Melissa did a great job of capturing the atmosphere of “The Quilt Quine’s Hoose”!
At the weekend I ran a taxi service for my girls’ activities and collected an ex-rabbit hutch from Mo so I can get a couple of new laying hens. I almost bought an old caravan from Gumtree that I could take to festivals but someone else made an offer first.
More beads were added to the leather skins while I was hanging around at Fenella’s swimming and dancing lessons and while I watched the terrific BBC series, The Great British Sewing Bee. People are fascinated to see me sewing on all of the embellishments but I am finding it tricky to explain what I am making.
A list has been drawn up for the forthcoming week but there is no guarantee that I will “follow the map” – it is far more likely that I will decide to take the scenic route;)
I think that the Christmas term is a week too long! The final week is absolutely hectic when most school children become over excited and over tired. My class party was an hour long sugar-rush of squealing and chasing until I made them do a ceilidh dance to my live fiddle playing medley that included The Dashing White Sergeant, Jingle Bells and something that I made up on the spot because I forgot what I was meant to be playing in 4/4 time. They fidgeted through their end of term carol service and could not sit still in the Muppets Christmas Carol DVD but they did seem genuinely sorry to say goodbye to me as I wished them all a Happy Christmas.
The pupils at Banchory Academy gave a magnificent music concert on Monday evening – the choir sang Skyfall and Winter Wonderland beautifully. The weather has not been particularly festive with gales and rain. I keep hoping for frost or snow but it does not look likely and I may just clean the BBQ just in case high winds bring power cables down again.
I tried to complete my Christmas shopping in Banchory but was unsuccessful in my search for nice socks so I substituted them in the only possible way by purchasing mini bottles of Gin and Tonic instead. My week whizzed by as I made several trips to the parcel depot, used yards of sellotape for wrapping and finally scrawled the last of the Christmas cards. On Thursday evening I helped myself to the bottle of Chablis that I had earmarked for Friday.
Mo, Tania spent a lovely evening together at the end of the week exchanging gifts and drinking plenty of Fizz. We had been so busy lately that we barely even caught up for a quick coffee in the past few weeks.
There was not much sewing activity in my workshop which becomes an elves’ grotto and festive food cold store over Christmas. I bound a quilt that is a present and admired two packages of fabric that arrived. I ordered a fat-quarter selection from Anna Maria Horner and some deers, thinking that I might get around to making some new cushions for my scruffy old sofa.
The other package came from Ani’s new shop in Kingsbridge, The Crazy Catt Quilt Shop. She put together a sample pack of hand dyed strips for me to try out for my Northern Lights project on the P&Q Magazine Cruise to Norway and the colours look perfect. I might have to sneak out to my grotto to see how it looks pieced together.
I hope all of you enjoy a Peaceful and Happy Christmas with plenty of mince pies and chocolate! xxx
I turned down several supply teaching requests in order to catch up before the Easter Holidays. It took me several hours to sort through some overdue paperwork and I still have not managed to put all of my business on an electronic spreadsheet.
The antique bedspread was duly completed and bound. It is a good job that its purpose is just to be decorative as it is very heavy and the string-like crewel embroidery feels really scratchy.
I painted metallic bronze paint onto the deerskin Norse birds – it was very difficult to highlight the tiny details on such dark leather. I even managed to sew all of the remaining gems and beads onto the white goatskin quilt. Attaching the binding neatly and consistently was challenging as I had decided to keep it fairly dead-goat-shaped. I am planning to punch eyelets down each side and lace it like a corset onto the patchwork totem.
It is with some alarm that I noticed that April has arrived so quickly as I have several unfinished projects that I really need to get done by May in order to enter FOQ. I pieced some very skinny strips that I plan to insert into the purely pieced third totem. If I run out of time I will simply have to enter one rather than 3 pieces. At least I am not intending to sew any more gems onto the other two!
I used the excuse of Freya’s birthday to make two rather tasty cakes this week. There was the Starbucks style spiced pumpkin loaf that I made using the tin of canned pumpkin that I received from my children for Christmas and a deliciously moist cherry & almond cake. Neither of them lasted beyond the first day and then it was the Easter weekend with lots of chocolate eggs so I really have not made any attempt to follow a low-fat diet this week;)
Durris Primary School put on a great version of “Joseph” this week. Fergus looked as though he might be sick or faint with nerves but to my relief, he sang an amazingly good solo. It is a pity that I can’t persuade him to join a choir as he is a good singer. He has started improvising a bit more with his electric guitar and we were treated to some Jimi Hendrix riffs one day after school.
We still had snow this week so I attempted snow-dyeing once more. I sprinkled several packets of my Hungarian dye onto a piece of bamboo silk and splotched some purple fountain pen ink on as a special effect. The ink was obviously not waterproof and the snow or dye was definitely not the right sort as by the time it had come out of the machine after a hot wash, the piece emerged as a uniform but very satisfactory gunmetal grey/violet.
I found myself being sucked into another geeky obsession – fountain pens and ink. It was not until I went online to order some brown ink that I discovered a whole world of Youtube demos, forums and websites dedicated to old-fashioned pens, special writing paper and far more ink companies than I ever imagined. There is an American company called Noodler’s that sells an amazing selection of colours. French manufacturer, Herbin, sells scented ink and then there are all of the wonderfully shaped glass bottles. My old pen was so unco-operative that while I bought Freya an ink pen for her birthday, I bought myself one too and I have been relishing the act of writing. I felt as though I would like some Latin homework or an English essay to use up all of my lovely ink!