Category Archives: Yurts

Cutting Some Slack


For some time on my blog there has been the theme of feeling of guilt at not being busy or creative enough. I keep telling myself that I will move forward when the summer is “officially” over. Well, schools in Scotland have gone back after a much longer than usual break. The nights are drawing in, the rowan berries are on the trees and there is a nip in the air but as far as I am concerned, it is still officially summer! I managed to quash most of my guilt and spend most of the week just pottering, getting some useful things done on the way.

I had to quilt the Postcard from Sweden quilt over 2 days because the pattern was intense but I saved the project and opened it up without any bother on day 2. I love the “Folk Flowers” pattern by Sunstone Quilting and I think it looks fab on the rainbow triangles. I made a scrappy binding and sewed the topside down by machine with a blanket stitch. The quilt has gone on my bed, even though it does not co-ordinate at all with anything else in the room. I don’t care – it is joyful:)

Having used a decorative stitch on my binding, I decided to use an obvious zigzag stitch on two customer bindings. It is actually much easier than keeping a straight line dead straight, especially if a customer happens to have provided one that varies in width throughout. 

Nessie was given a clean bill of health at her post-op checkup and is totally back to her usual naughty self:)

I made two macrame projects using green cord which was thinner than I had expected. It is a nice colour but not as chunky as I would have liked. That is the trouble with placing an online order. I have now cut a lot of pink cord for a bag but I can’t seem to understand step 1!


Over the course of the last week or so I have posted 10 days of quilt photos on social media. This was a really good exercise in reminding myself about how many interesting things I have made over the years. I was really hunting around for photos because my laptop had crashed and seemingly lost everything. I decided to try once more to see if anything useful had been stored on my external hard drive. After some serious rummaging, I was delighted to find files that were hiding deep inside other files and I now have all of my old stuff back, including my kids’ photos! Just that should go down as a major achievement of the week. 

My next mission is to make decent lasagne pasta using the KitchenAid. I have rolled out extremely rustic flat bits of dough that look nothing like the ones in the instruction book. I think mine may be a bit chewy. 

I still have not come up with a next major project but my kids suggested that I do a YouTube studio tour so maybe I will look into that. In the meantime, I have ordered some unicorn and hedgehog stretch jersey for PJ’s so that should keep me busy for now…

The Bells, The Bells


Freya went back to St Andrews this week to start packing up her student flat, having come home for a few days in March and staying with us throughout Lockdown. That is the longest we have seen her since before she started Uni and even then, she never spent 24 hours at home every single day. The house seems subdued without her. I miss discussing news and politics over breakfast, Nessie misses her extra morning walk and Nella misses her company. At least she managed to slap some red paint on the old yurt doors so now we don’t have to worry about gusty winds catching the tatty canvas and tarpaulin. 

I have been working my way through half a dozen customer quilts. It is beginning to look like people are feeling braver about venturing out and have been asking me to quilt the projects that they have been working on at home. We do a weird exchange of bags and have a chat at a 2m distance outside my workshop. 

It has been taking ages to sew all of the tiny bells onto my prairie points with ridiculously fine invisible thread. I have sewn in the thread ends as best as I can but I reckon they would all slither off if given a gentle tug. I am officially OVER sewing tiny bells on now – at least I am now half way through the 4th side:) There is still a bit to do before the Rainbow Warliors quilt is complete and I really don’t know what projects will come next. My screen-printing came to a grinding halt after the Grays Student Exhibition was suspended. In theory I could be printing tote bags or something useful for sale but really I have no idea. 

I have been putting off worrying about what the future will bring because I think it is too early to decide. I might like to experiment with offering some patchwork and quilting tuition over Zoom. I intend to take some Advanced Qmatic classes with a tutor from Bernina of America so I will see how well that goes.

Yet More Fizz!


I had further cause for celebration this week when I received emails letting me know that “Tartan Tattoo” has won Best of the UK quilts at the World Quilt Show and that BzB has been juried into MQX!

On opening a chilled bottle of Furze Fizz, I discovered that it does not improve with age. It tasted eggy and not in a delicious eggnog way. Sadly, I decided to dispose of the remaining bottles but I may have been too hasty because I decided to slurp some of the escaping fizz from the last one and found that it was just as delicious as the first one. If I make it again the solution will be to have a party and consume it all within a month;)

It always takes a while to come back down to earth after the frenzy of FOQ but this year it seemed to take me ages to finish unpacking and catch up on admin. My kids had a Yurt Nite Party in the middle of all of this, followed by me being on bacon roll and mugs of strong tea duty the next morning.

I spent an afternoon with a Bernina Q24 owner, experimenting with tricky threads, giving  her advice on how to fiddle with tension and use all sorts of specialist machine needles for best results.

Desperate to do some sewing, I quilted a wonky baby bunting quilt made from well-worn shirts and even performed a good deed by overlocking a pile of tatty chiffon scarves for the local dance school.



Freya, Bumble and I went on an expedition to St Andrews to deliver some of Freya’s stuff to her new Uni flat because I did not want to repeat the mammoth task of cramming masses of  her and her friend’s belongings plus 2 bikes into the Landy.  The new flat is in a central location and will be cosy when the girls have settled in but it is shocking what student landlords can get away with in their standard of furnishings despite charging high rents. I emptied a choked hoover that had obviously never been emptied before and threw a bag of rubbish into the car to dispose of later. We may need a trip to IKEA to purchase a few home comforts.

I have a neatly written To-Do list ready for next week and the kids go back to school after their long summer break so maybe I stand a fair chance of getting 50% of that done and trying to get back into a routine…




We have been enjoying a Scottish heatwave which is wonderful but it has been difficult to get anything done. I wondered what I had spent my week doing as I had wound down so much that I even felt it necessary to order a hammock, although goodness knows when I will have time to lie in it…

The dogs enjoyed long walks and splashes in the unusually low river and we had BBQ’s most evenings, despite the ravages of thousands of tiny midges. I took the children on a couple of trips including a super afternoon at  Craigievar Castle. We had an exclusive tour with a delightfully ancient tour-guide and felt glad that we do not live in a 7 storey tower-house with narrow spiral stairs and no decent bathroom.

I spent time organising camping gear for our trip to WOMAD via Bath and made sure that we all had sleeping mats, mugs, plates and other useful equipment. I am beginning to hanker after a cheap caravan because at least most of the equipment could stay stowed away ready to go. Although, I don’t suppose many people try to pack cafetieres, bottles of gin and guitars for a family holiday.

womad exped

 I turned a large length of tartan flannel into a huge protective sack for the coracle and securely lashed it onto the Landy roof along with the boxes containing the totems. It was after all that was accomplished that I remembered that all of the FOQ labels are meant to be covered with a flap of fabric to hide the maker’s details during judging. All I can say is that I am NOT unpacking them now to rectify that snag and besides, even with a hidden label it would be fairly obvious who had created my pieces.

I confess that I am no further on with any Ebook projects but in my defence, I answered  lengthy interview questions for Generation Q Magazine and I spent a long time trying to get my disorganised files and photos in order on my Macbook. I always think that a tidy desk(top) will lead to feeling motivated to do some serious work.


As if I did not feel that I had enough to do already, I worked on a customer quilt on which I was asked to keep the quilting motifs understated. It may not be my preferred style of quilting but it does look simple and classic.

Instead of allowing Fenella to spend £10 on a giant plastic windmill to demarcate our hired yurt at WOMAD, I chose to spend an afternoon making bunting to hang outside. Not just rough cut party bunting, mind you; proper double-sided hemmed stuff using vintage fabrics. I may have got slightly carried away – I reckon it will just about reach all of the way around the 16ft yurt even though a short string of 10 flags would have been quite sufficient!



Camping in the Rain



Apart from teaching pretty demanding infant classes this week, I seemed to pick long overdue tasks such as sorting out Fenella’s bedroom and the family towel cupboard in order to avoid starting on the stitch-in-the-ditch customer quilt. I have been prevaricating because I have been asked to quilt as little as possible in the background. This concept seems to have stumped me completely because I just don’t do that sort of quilting. Perhaps this type of quilt is why I really should get to grips with using a computerised system where I can program in a simple, repetitive block design. I can’t put it off forever – I have folk coming for longarm tuition in a fortnight so it needs to be done by then!


I finished all of the quilting on Dunes Duet and created a huge pile of discarded thread on the floor because I had problems with tension. I am not entirely sure why things were so tricky. Maybe I had a bad reel of thread or perhaps it was the dyed flannel that I unwisely used as a backing. There was some boring unpicking but otherwise I hope to get away with a little painting on the reverse to stop the loose bits from coming unravelled. Trimming all of the threads will take several attempts. I admire the fortitude of quilters who sew all of those tails in so neatly but I do not have the patience for such a malarkey. I randomly painted some gold rings on the front and now want to add some subtle machine embroidery around some of the other circles.

I have been reading the first book in the “A Game of Thrones” series on my Ipad. After battling through the first couple of chapters getting to grips with the world of fantasy and peculiar names, I am completely addicted to the twists, turns and intrigue of an epic story. It is too tempting to read a couple of chapters at coffee time or while supposedly cooking supper. I was glad that I had such an engrossing novel to take on my weekend camping trip…


I took Freya and her friend, Millie, to a small midsummer festival near Breemie, Kintore that was last held 8 years ago. It is on top of a hill with spectacular panoramic mountain views when not obscured by angry rain clouds. I cannot remember the last time we had a hot and sunny summer solstice in Aberdeenshire. It was chilly and pretty wet for most of the time. I was jealous of the owners of small touring caravans that arrived, unhitched, levelled their legs then made a cup of tea. Our little igloo tent was fine and did not leak or blow away but it was quite a challenge poking the tent pegs into such rocky soil. We now only have about 3 straight ones left! I was glad that it had a tiny porch so I could sit on my folding chair to use the primus stove while the girls played guitar inside the tent.

Fortunately, it dried up a bit in the evening while the bands were playing and I even took my full length drizabone coat off for the duration of one dance. We joined Mo, Willow, Yurtman and some other friends to sit around their firepit and had fun with djembe drumming, while admiring the fire-dancer who fluidly spun her lighted hula-hoop. We actually had great fun despite the damp weather but I am glad that I have booked a yurt rather than a small tent for the WOMAD festival in July.

After we arrived home and aired out our soggy gear, Freya and I lit the stove in our garden yurt and cooked sausages for lunch since the grey morning had dampened our enthusiasm for a cooked camping breakfast. I was unpopular for having forgotten to take milk with which to make hot chocolate so we enjoyed that at home and even had to open up the yurt doors because it became far too hot inside. It was a much nicer place to sit and listen to midsummer sleet and hail lashing on the canvas roof 🙂

IQA Houston International Quilt Festival 2012


Computer Rage


My excitement about my new MacBook soon turned to frustration as I could not seem to make a smooth transfer of data from my old laptop to the new one. It took a few phone calls to Apple Support until I found a technician who was able to explain the “migration assistant” procedure clearly. Having copied everything over, I realised that I was not familiar enough with the Mac to do some of my everyday tasks quickly and easily. On the day that I set aside for emails and writing I had both laptops and the ipad running on my kitchen table. The plan had been to reformat the old laptop and give it to one of the children but it may be while until I am confident enough to use I-work instead of Microsoft Office.



I created a Powerpoint step by step photo slideshow to demonstrate how to assemble the USA Yurt. I won’t arrive in Houston until Quilt Festival but the special exhibits also appear at Quilt Market so a team will have to put it up without me.

I had a diverse week in school as usual, teaching sex education, hockey, RE and finally being presented with a new Primary One class with no warning on Friday morning. I deliberately avoided teaching infants when I was a full time teacher but I managed to muddle through the day with the help of a patient classroom assistant who knew the words for the “Welcome Song” and password for the electronic Smartboard.

I did eventually manage to piece the Oz Bewitched blocks together: some seams lined up beautifully whereas others are decidedly offset, which is a little puzzling, but this often happens when using gold lame so I am not going to be doing any unpicking. I have to contribute to an online article about Feedsack quilts and the Willowbay Herb yurt panel will make an appearance in “Machine Quilting Unlimited” so I decided to take a couple of new pictures as it was so sunny on Saturday morning. I confess that I did not take advantage of the glimpse of summer and sit in a deckchair with a book as I felt that I would rather try to make progress on the condensed Yurt brochure that I hope to produce for Houston. However, I discovered that I had not actually written as much as I thought I had since the last time I worked on it so I have got rather a lot to crack on with…!




I took the Quilted Yurt up to Fochabers for the Speyside Quilters Exhibition in Bellie Church. The Speyfest Folk Festival and Craft Fair was also on at the weekend so the small town was buzzing with visitors and it was even possible to buy freshly cooked noodles or sushi from a food stall on the green. I did not see the Red Hot Chilli Pipers in action but I heard a rousing cover version of “500 Miles” by The Proclaimers. Seeing folk in wellies dodging downpours, a large marquee and the smell of a beer tent is so typical of a summer event in Scotland.

The quilt show happens every two years and a vibrant collection of work was hung beautifully inside the Bellie Church on the main town square. The Yurt was put up quickly in the adjoining Church Hall by the most efficient team that I have ever had and it was admired by many appreciative visitors over 3 busy days. The Hare panel was much admired and reminded me that it should have a companion piece such as a fellow hare or even a stag. It is always a wonderful to see the Yurt fully set up in a good space. It stays packed up in my workshop most of the time and I had not even thought about it since it was at Newcastle Racecourse in March. I am always taken aback at how large it really is! I enjoyed speaking to many different people; some who had been dragged along to a quilt show by quilting enthusiasts somewhat reluctantly were pleasantly surprised and curious about the yurt’s structure. I was made most welcome by Speyside Quilters and spent a very pleasant night with Kate and her husband at their house on a nature reserve near the Moray coast.

I managed to put all of the Oz version of Bewitched together so far then fiddled about with different ideas for the borders. I even started a distracting mini project using up some of the scraps. I had to order more of the main feature fabric and will need some more hand dyes to finish it off but it is coming along nicely.

I battled with my computer a bit this week – it seems to be getting rather temperamental about emails. I purchased a saddle stool, wadding and a porter’s trolley for Festival of Quilts then nagged the shippers about how long it has taken for them to clear the Irish longarm through customs. This experience has made me worry about getting all of the other machinery here on time as one machine is coming on loan from Germany and yet another from America.

I enjoyed the creative and splendid spectacle of the Olympics Opening Ceremony. The children did not fully understand the significance of references to The Industrial Revolution but they loved the scene when James Bond met the real Queen and parachuted into the stadium. I wonder what gadget was used to make the duvets light up…?

Why Aye Yurt!



Although I had told myself to leave plenty of time to pack for my Yurt expedition to Newcastle, I ended up teaching in school for two days. After making up maps, stories and wrapping fake parcels for “Katie Morag” with Primary 3 I dashed home, loaded up the Landy then went to watch my own children’s marvellous school show. I am stunned by how well everyone sang and how many words and lines they all managed to remember. Fenella has brought her fantastic penguin costume home. Perhaps she might like to wear it on our trip to the Edinburgh Zoo next week?

I had a clear run down to Gosforth Park Racecourse and arrived mid afternoon. The Yurt had to be unloaded, crammed into the goods lift of the catering kitchen and set up on the first floor of the grand main building. We managed to round up a few volunteers to get the frame and roof up and within a couple of hours I was satisfied that all was ready, although it was set into a corner as space was a little tight.

My B&B accommodation was interesting… it looked cottagey from the outside but inside it was not so much “shabby-chic” as just well, shabby. The en-suite bathroom was brown and there was no wifi for an internet junkie. Being a typical Brit, I didn’t like to grumble. The lady cooking my breakfast was lovely and it seemed rude to buck the trend from all of the other delighted comments in the visitors’ book. I secretly enjoyed watching trash TV from a choice of two channels and drinking plonk out of a tooth-brushing glass but I shuddered when the milk in the little jug for tea went gloopy. I eventually plucked up the courage to tell the show organisers that I wouldn’t recommend it for future reference. It has to be noted that it has given me far more to write about than if it had been perfectly appointed. I do wonder about some B&B’s though. I reckon if I had one it would be perfect: quilts, decent showers, wifi, Gin & Tonic in a mini fridge, sewing machines and home baked bread!

I really enjoyed the show – the people and traders were friendly, the setting was super and as a bonus there was the excitement of seeing some horse racing on two days. I taught several workshops including a circles journal quilt, free motion quilting samplers and a zipped cosmetics bag in an open plan area upstairs overlooking the race-course. There were other classes running alongside mine in crochet, rug-making and paper crafts. My students were very willing and all seemed extremely pleased with what they achieved. The brand new Janome machines on loan from the Singer Sewing Centre in Whitley Bay purred along very nicely. This generated a lot of interest in the local sewing machine shop and there were a few sales so by the end of the show I managed to persuade them to let me have a good deal on a Lady Valet dress-making dummy.

I went on a jaunt to IKEA one evening to buy some cheap cushions for the Yurt. I bought some small ones for 80p each and a fleece blanket. I quickly ran up some very basic cushion covers with fringed edges in my makeshift studio. Typically, I also bought some useful random IKEA items such as a hard-boiled egg slicer, a silicone ice cube tray that produces novelty-fish-shaped chunks of ice and a spare set of pinking shears.

It was pointed out to me by my landlady that there are quite a few footballers’ wives and girlfriends living in the Ponteland area which would explain the flash cars, Waitrose and some very tanned ladies with glamorous hair-dos. I went out for supper one evening with Crafting Angels, Jen and Rosemary from Broxden in Central Scotland. We had a good time, discussed a little business and enjoyed a spot of people-watching.

Guiltily, I phoned home to wish Freya “Happy Birthday” but it sounded like she had a good time anyway. Tania provided her with a surprise birthday tea, she went to Bands Nite at the town hall, unwrapped lots of super presents and finished school for the Easter holidays.

Dismantling the Yurt after the show went very smoothly and Robert from Norman Cummings Fabrics was a great help in holding onto the crown until all of the rafters were removed. It was decided that it was far easier to carry all of the gear down the terraced seating and park the Landy near the paddocks. I wish that someone would grab a camera unexpectedly one day. I must have looked like a very odd turtle balancing the crown on my back. Everything got shoved in and I found a friendly farmer to assist with the rope lashing that I always do just in case any of the cargo straps fail. I had a scenic drive home through beautiful countryside via Coldstream on the A697 with the last of some unseasonably summery weather. The children were pleased to see me return home from my latest trip and even helped to unload the Landy and stow away the Yurt until its next outing. I paid them a little pocket money from my postcard sales so they may even feel inclined to help out another time 😉

Yurt Lush London



I drove from Aberdeenshire to North London in 11 ½ hours, listening to BBC Radio 4 and eating rather a lot of sweets. A long journey like that is actually easier done solo as there is no-one else to consider when making stops and there are no bored passengers. I was relieved that the free sat-nav app on my phone told me exactly where to go once I reached the capital. I would never have managed with an atlas and some sticky notes. I was very fortunate to be able to stay with Tania’s step-mother, Maggie, since it meant that I could park the Landy safely and travel into the show by Tube once everything was set up.

Predictably, there was not a welcome party awaiting me at Olympia but I managed to hijack a large trolley and a steward who bravely assisted with the job of setting up the frame. The Yurt can be quick and easy to assemble if there are a handful of helpers; it takes a bit longer to get sorted if there is only one or two, particularly if they have seen a yurt before… Everything eventually got tweaked into place, the doors even got touched up with a little paint where they had been scratched in transit and the new pompom trim was pinned into place. There were even electric spotlights inside that replaced my fairy lights and slideshow.

Mollie Makes Magazine was using the Yurt as a “meet and greet” venue for their author book signings so they had brought along some vintage furnishings from a shop in Bath. One of their team explained that in their part of the world an expression of delight is Gurt Lush so my exhibition should be called “Yurt Lush”! It would have been great if we could have acquired a couple of large sofas to create a chill-out area inside. I think I will take along 6 folding chairs with cushions to the next exhibition – there is a limit to how much gear I can fit into the Landy after all! I enjoyed finding out about how a craft magazine is put together by a small editorial team and I also had the opportunity to talk to a few authors and their publishers. It has given me a new impetus to take the long overdue Yurt book forward.

The Stitch and Craft Show at Olympia, Kensington was an interesting mixture of cross-stitch, crochet, knitting, felting and paper-crafts on three floors. There was a special exhibit by Quilts 4 London of a selection of the quilts and pennants made to present to Olympic athletes at London 2012. Many of these had been created by groups and represented themes from their local area and several were patriotically red, white and blue. There was a Quilting Live area where visitors were helped to make simple signature blocks using Liberty of London fabrics to make a diamond jubilee celebratory quilt for The Queen.

It is always wonderful to see the reaction of visitors to the Quilted Yurt at a show as I have to admit that it really is rather impressive in real life. I tend to forget about it while it is all packed up in my workshop but it is exciting when so many people stop and simply say, “Wow!!” They wanted to know how long it all took, could they buy a book, did I make them to order, what was the amazing gold fabric, and was it waterproof?? I caught up with a few online friends in person, Judi from P&Q Magazine gave me a commission and my Mother came down to see me on a bus trip from Norfolk. I met up with an old school friend in Crouch End whom I had not seen for 7 years and we simply carried on from where we had last left off over a couple of gins followed by a very nice Thai curry.

I enjoyed meeting all sorts of people with many different interests. There was an inspiring group of women who had arrived in the UK as refugees who were involved in craft co-operatives in Spitalfields. They loved the welcoming roundness of the Yurt and wondered if they could recreate something similar to use for story-telling and music activities. I hope to hear how members of the Tuwngani Project or Songolo Feet take their ideas further. Lots of people wondered where else the Yurt may appear in the future. The stumbling block seems to be that it takes up quite a lot of expensive floor space but I am more than happy for it to be used as a venue or to contain another exhibition inside. It was amusing that people sat around the Yurt and leaned up against its walls to have their picnic lunches. It is such an invitingly tactile quilted project that I wouldn’t dream of telling people not to touch it. They seem to enjoy pointing out all of the patterns and details to each other, wondering how the painted circles are made.

Once the show was underway I rather enjoyed myself in London. There is always a sense of adventure when travelling by Tube. There are crowds of people, lots of interesting conversations to eavesdrop, huge escalators; will the doors shut on a packed train? and regular announcements, of “Mind the Gap!” I found it fascinating that a girl was applying her makeup and that two members of the chorus line in “Chicago” were discussing who had got parts on Broadway. I would love to buy some moquette fabric to make some bags or cushions – I could buy something basic and ready made in the London Underground Museum Shop but I feel that the addition of a few pompoms would make the project even more special. My tube station was closed without warning one day so I had to make part of the journey on the top deck of a red London double decker bus.

The last day of the show was a little slower and most exhibitors were rather weary. At 5 o’clock I packed away all of the panels, roof and accessories in less than 20 minutes but there was no sign of anyone to help dismantle the frame. I admit that I began to seethe with frustration as I asked several times for a man with a trolley to assist. Eventually I was assigned two helpful guys and the frame came down in about 5 minutes. They helped me to get the roof spars and doors lashed onto the Landy roof-rack and I battled my way through heavy Sunday night traffic in the dark.

I left London at 5.30 am the next morning so that I could get on my way before rush hour. There were several hold-ups on the way back to Scotland due to some nasty motorway accidents and I was relieved when the traffic gradually thinned out in the North. It was a 13 hour marathon trip punctuated by the odd stop for diesel and delicacies such as creme eggs. I thanked my Landy profusely for being such a sport at the end of my journey and just left the Yurt roof and doors on top ready for my trip to Pins & Needles at Newcastle Racecourse at the end of next week. My children were pleased to see me again – I was immediately barraged with questions about WW2 weaponry for a project and “how is it possible for a train to travel underground in a tube?” I groaned slightly when I checked my diary and discovered that I have two teaching days this week and I have not quite finished preparing kits for next week’s workshops. I will just have to brew up some strong coffee and get going…

Willowbay Herb


There is nothing like a lack of time to concentrate the mind. Despite having had months to prepare the Yurt for its exhibition at Stitch and Craft Olympia, I only really got cracking this week. I regretted having sent all of the bunting and trimmings to the USA. I ordered many more metres of pompom braid, made new bunting for the roof, and dyed some crochet flowers magenta to replace the original feather cockades. I really don’t think I like procion dye – it always looks so promisingly vibrant then most of it gets rinsed away. I must order some more Hungarian dye as the colours fix far more reliably. I even had to resort to using a box of purple Dylon to dye a piece of vintage linen that had been marked with blue ink for cross stitch as I couldn’t find the original backing for the last ever yurt panel that I never got around to quilting. It was actually pieced at the end of last summer in honour of the rampant weeds in my garden.

I only had two days in which to do all of this since I was teaching in school again this week and I have to admit that I think I worked harder because of that limitation. I quilted “Willowbay Herb”, a basic strippy panel, the same way that I quilted “5 Bar Gate” that is now in Wisconsin. I painted in all of the skinny lines and added some machine embroidery. I stopped myself from adding even more embellishments and crystals as I simply had to get the binding and Velcro attached.

There was a bit of a farce with the Post Office this week… I paid a customs bill for Parcel Force to the Royal Mail online by mistake. These two organisations are related but are no longer the same company. There was much to-ing and fro-ing between automated customer services until I paid the customs bill again to the correct company then got the original one refunded. After all that I received an email informing me that the parcel had been mislaid. I decided not to bother getting even more annoyed and anyway, my local Postie turned up with it the next day!

The over-priced package contained the giant hexagon die from Accuquilt. I couldn’t help myself – as soon as I had finished packing all of the Yurt gear into the Landy, I had to go and cut out Freya’s Christmas quilt. I am really enjoying these easy in-between projects where I don’t have to worry obsessively about perfect points and I can use whatever fabric I happen to have as long as it is vaguely Christmassy. I may just sew a row or two tomorrow after I have collected a new batch of Yurt postcards and packed my overnight bag…

Making Up for Lost Time



I resent the time that is wasted by being ill! At the start of the week I had a couple of days feeling under the weather and all of the good intentions on my Must Do List got scrapped. I wound myself back up to speed by winging it in almost every class in a school on a supply teaching day from story time with P1 to French conversation with P7. I was incensed by this week’s caption on the front cover on the Times Educational Supplement for Scotland suggesting that “undesirable” teachers from England might cross the border and take up teaching posts. I wondered whether I might have missed the Referendum on Independence while I was ill! Of course, there was an explanatory article inside the magazine but as someone who gained a perfectly respectable B.Ed Hons. degree in England, I am still drafting my objection to such an inflammatory headline.

I gradually began to make up for lost time in my studio but instead of purposefully getting organised to take the Yurt to the looming “Stitch and Craft” show in London 15th – 18th March, I cut and pieced Fergus’s Christmas quilt, completed a small Norse carving, and worked on my quilted projector screen. I did eventually order 18 metres of pompom braid and I sorted out a new postcard order so apart from finding the door knobs for the Yurt that may have got lost and quilting the very, very last “Willowbay Herb” Yurt panel,  I think everything is under control. Everything that is, apart from fitting in 3 teaching days, dreading the prospect of a 12 hour drive to London and trying not to worry about getting all of the teaching kits ready for “Pins & Needles” in Newcastle at the end of the month…

AQS Show in Des Moines


On Monday I did a little exploring around Des Moines on my own as I would be waiting until the afternoon for the Yurt to arrive from Wisconsin. I took the Skywalk downtown to see what little shops I could find. (It seems that the Skywalk was partly responsible for the downtown shops closing down as it meant that no-one had a reason to walk at street level any more.) I had coffee at Java Joes but did not see many interesting people downtown apart from office workers and a few stray hobos. Next I walked up to the East Village where there is a scattering of trendy boutiques and a couple of large thrift stores where I felt obliged to have a good rummage. I checked back at the convention centre where stallholders were beginning to unload and get set up for the show. There had been very heavy rain in the north so Norma did not make it down from Wisconsin until late in the afternoon but it was a great feeling to unload the USA yurt from her car at last and lay it down in the space where it would be displayed.

Arriving early on Tuesday morning, we were assigned two very helpful members of AQS staff, Melissa and Barry to help get the frame assembled. It was useful that they are both tall as this yurt frame is 2 feet higher than the original Scottish version. The new yurt frame also has a smaller diameter so the two lattices meet more tightly at the back. This took a little persuasion to get all lined up but in no time we had figured it all out and I was impressed at how easily it all went from there. Before long the hanging rope and wall skirts were on and finally the roof that I had made from a sketch diagram with Mo’s help.  Thankfully and impressively it fitted perfectly! The wall panels all lined up nicely so there was plenty of time to add the pompom trim and bunting. The electricians agreed to run a cable under the carpet so that I could plug in the fairy lights and we still had time left to go on an expedition to see if we could find any interesting items to add to the yurt’s cosy atmosphere. Enthused by what might be uncovered in junk shops we set off for a good rake around some of the goodwill stores and Dollar Trees. I have never seen so many jeans all in one place amongst discarded Christmas decorations and novelty mugs. I managed to find a dangly plastic mobile that looked funky, a 1960’s style butterfly chair and an interesting wool blanket. Just for fun, I added a set of imitation antlers that were probably designed as a coat rack that would hang above the door. I was made very welcome at the evening Teacher meeting by Bonnie Browning and Andi Reynolds from AQS, before returning to my room to eat a leftover salad and a large G&T.

The show opened on Wednesday and the visitors were amazed and most complimentary when they saw the yurt in person, after having read about it in American Quilter magazine. There were many questions to answer about yurts, why I had decided to make a quilted version, and where I got my gold Doc Marten boots. It was great to have Norma Klimpke on hand to talk about the USA yurt frame from Yurts of America and the background of the Cedarburg, Wisconsin Museum of Fiberarts I gave my first class that evening, “Bling My Quilt” and the students seemed to enjoy themselves despite everyone being tired after a long day at the show.

Thursday was a busier day at the show as we headed towards the weekend. I made a point of going to see all of the super show quilts and had a brief look at some of the vendor stalls. It was fun to spend time talking to the APQS team and their booth looked great set up with all of the machines in the range on show. I bought some thread, glittery spray and some stencils one just one trip back from the ladies’ loo. I met lots of people from the APQS forum and Facebook; it was lovely to meet the real people at last instead of their virtual personas. It seems that Norma and I are both curious people because we quizzed everybody about where they had travelled from and they in turn asked me about Yurts and Scotland. I was interviewed on video by Bonnie Browning of AQS and had fun pretending to be on the news. It was exciting to meet quilt teachers whom I had read about on the Internet; we had a great laugh with Ellen Anne Eddy over breakfast and supper a couple of times and Heather Thomas gave me some helpful book publishing information. I had a worthwhile meeting with AQS publishing editor, Andi Reynolds who encouraged me to look for an alternative publisher that would let me have free rein to put together a book about the yurt that goes beyond patterns and tells the richer story of the collaboration of women quilters who helped to create the Quilted Yurt. I appreciate her insight and this should give me a better sense of direction to the way I put the chapters together.

On Friday I gave my “Silent Movie Star” piecing class which went really well until we realised that I had missed out a crucial photo. Luckily, there were a couple of clever students who helped to find the missing piece of the puzzle and we soon put it all back on track. I promised that I would make the quilt again, photograph every stage and email new improved instructions once I get home. I should probably stick to teaching longarm quilting…! The afternoon lecture on the story of the Quilted Yurt went down very well. The audience listened attentively and laughed in all of the right places, apart from a couple of people who had forty winks because the quilt show had obviously worn them out. The talk ran to schedule then many members of the audience came back to look around the yurt again to examine the structure in more detail. Even vendors made a special point of coming to see what everyone was talking about and ask about the project. I am thrilled at how well received the yurt has been. People are also enquiring which longarm machine I would recommend and asking for more information about the WI Fiberarts Museum. I have certainly been made to feel most welcome in Des Moines!

The Saturday morning crazy notebook class was fun as it was relaxing and not at all complicated. Everyone had a good time but wished it was a couple of hours longer. I went back to the Yurt where Norma K (from the Wisconsin museum) reported that the morning had brought many excited visitors. So many people were amazed by the use of gold lame and fabric paint on many of the Yurt quilts. The time passed quickly, chatting to all of the crowds then I had a last look around the vendors, making the decision not to buy a couple of large and heavy items such as a metal barn quilt sign. Sadly, it was time to pack up and with the help of members of the AQS team, the whole Yurt was packed up and ready to load into the car in less than an hour. Norma and I had a very good burger with beer in the Raccoon River Brewing Co. where we had quite a laugh at some of the shiny, tight Homecoming frocks and high heels.

We will leave for Wisconsin in the morning and I hope to have the chance to take far more photos…


NEOS 2011 – Phew!!



I joined North East Open Studios way back in the spring and really did not know what to expect. I lined myself up with some projects to keep me busy during what I thought would be a quiet week with possibly a handful of visitors dropping in from time to time. I dug out some of my 1940’s quilt tops, expecting to finish a couple of them. The Yurt frame was set up in the garden in case of good weather; I cleared the camping gear out of the garden yurt, filled up its log basket and put a sign up on the gate.

 I was completely overwhelmed by the number and enthusiasm of my visitors for the following 7 days. I reckon that 20-30 people called in every day and some called in for second visits to bring their friends. There were people who had looked me up in the NEOS catalogue, folk who had seen the Patchwork Smart Car parked outside the sweetie shop in Banchory, artisans who had the sense to book themselves a day out to see other studios, tourists who had seen the studio trail advertised and then people who came because they had heard from others that my place was worth a visit. There was even a bit of traffic chaos as several visitors arrived at the same time as the guitar teacher and a fully laden tractor & trailer.

There were locals who were curious to see what I do, people on touring holidays and even a visitor from Australia who was staying with family in the area. The weather was decidedly unreliable and I only managed to display the Quilted Yurt’s covers once but the sun shone on the gold lame and looked fantastic. During the rest of the wet and windy week, I showed visitors into the cosy garden yurt where some of the panels were hung on the inside. The workshop/studio was festooned with bunting and a collection of bed quilts, show quilts and antique quilts, all of which I encouraged people to handle.

Many signed up for classes which I now need to put on the calendar and Mo came up for a day to run a needle felting demo on making felt animals. Yurtman called in and discussed frame modifications, the Art Department from the local Academy enthused about potential projects, and textile artists & quilters were all gratifyingly complimentary. I talked non-stop about the quilts, my inspiration, forthcoming projects and travels and why on earth I decided to make a quilted yurt in the first place. It was actually a good rehearsal for my forthcoming visit to the AQS Des Moines Show as an exhibitor/teacher.

I sold a few postcards, took a commission and ran up a few quilted Iphone cases in between visitors. One of the 1940’s quilts had a mere 12 inches of quilting completed in one corner. Somehow the children got fed on dwindling rations after the studio closed at 6pm each evening and I wondered how artists would manage to do any creating if they had to run a shop on a regular basis. On Monday morning as I type this, I have a long list of things to tidy and sort out before I allow myself to think about packing for my USA trip. This week I also happen to have the supply teaching interview that I have been waiting for since January – I guess it keeps my options open…!

Coffee and Chips

Thanks to Kay for sending me a photo of the Yurt at Perth…!
Mo and I had a whole two days of “raking” together when we took the Quilted Yurt to the QGBI Regional Day in Perth, Scotland. Before we even left Banchory we managed to rummage through the Red Cross shop where I acquired a Tyrolean jacket, dropped the patchwork Smart Car cover off at the sweetie shop, “Continental Cream” where it will be displayed on a car during NEOS week, chose some sweets for the journey, then we bought some bespoke gin & tonic for our weekend trip from the Deeside Drinks Emporium. I had been busy all week making ipad covers, crazy notebooks and cutting up kits for bunting & Christmas table runners so I felt entitled to a couple of treats…
We thought Perth was pretty cool – I have to admit that I have only ever passed through Perth on previous conferences. There were quite a few interesting and trendy shops selling jewellery, beads, felt hats and yarns, alongside an old-fashioned general store and a traditional ironmonger. There is now a well-stocked craft & quilt shop quirkily named, “The Peacock and the Tortoise”. We arrived in the late afternoon so did not get much time to shop but we called in to a great coffee bean and loose tea shop – “The Bean Stop”. It was a treat to sample the house coffee and enjoy all of the aromas of freshly blended teas. After a lengthy discussion on the merits of coffee making equipment Mo left with an “aeropress” and I bought packages of Cuban coffee and Russian Caravan tea with a hint of smoky lapsang souchon. We had an early supper at a French bistro then headed to the venue of the lecture, Glenearn Community Campus. The staff there were very obliging and helped to unload the rafters from the Landy roof-rack so that everything was in the right place so that a fast assembly could be attempted ONE hour. The organising committee had managed to round up some young men to help get the crown up and we even had time to spare so that all of the covers went on too – it makes such a difference to have a team of strong helpers! Mo and I felt that we were lacking in salt after all of that strenuous lifting so we stopped off for a bag of chips on our way back to the hotel. There was some hilarity as we could not operate the sofa bed mechanism until we had thirstily slurped a large gin each.
It was nice not to be in a hurry in the morning and we were glad that we were able to brew proper full bodied coffee with the new press. John from the coffee bean shop called in to admire the Yurt and he gave us a great collection of printed coffee sacks from around the world. They are fascinating, smell great and I am sure we will think of a good project for them. My talk seemed to go down well as I told the story behind the Quilted Yurt with some pig chasing tales thrown in for good measure. I was worried that I had only been talking for about 20 minutes but I managed to ramble on for over an hour without anyone falling asleep. The quilters were fascinated by the scale of the project and by all of the different panels. Someone asked Mo how she could cope with a friend like me but of course, she replied, “We are just the same!”
Jan Hassard from Bristol gave a trunkshow in the afternoon and she showed a super collection of historical quilts as well as some of her own. Her old, treasured quilts reminded me to get on with quilting a couple of scruffy feedsacks that I bought from Ebay ages ago. As usual it was great to catch up with other quilters from around Scotland and meet some new ones too. Kay and Another Lady VERY kindly stayed on and helped to disassemble and pack up the Yurt at the end of the day. The janitor, politically correctly named “a mighty man”, held onto the crown in the much quicker dismantling process. Lashing the ropes on is always the most onerous task but I must be sure that everything is well secured.  Mo sold enough of my postcards to pay for our obligatory fish supper with mushy peas in Stonehaven and I lazily decided not to unpack the Landy until Sunday morning!