I made great progress on some customer quilts this week and have them all trimmed, ready for collection. I have had an enquiry about custom quilting a great quilt – I would love to do it but I know that it would take me well over 10 hours which puts it well above the customer’s budget. It will look perfectly nice with a suitable all-over pattern so I guess it comes down to whether it is to be used as an every day bed quilt or a pride-of-place wall hanging.
I have finally sewn on all of the tiny bells onto the Rainbow Warliors quilt! I applied all 600 more hot-fix crystals into the tiny squares but I was about 25 short so had to order yet more. That will make almost 1000 little sparkles. I also managed to attach a few mini hot-fix mirrors onto some 2” squares using an appliqué iron on a low heat setting. I have the label to do, threads to tidy, later on it will be blocked but for now it has been shelved until I get around to hanging it up for a photo.
During the week ECT Travel published a Zoom interview that Kristell did with memory Instagram. It came across better than I expected despite my dodgy lighting and scruffy, long hair. I have decided to sign up for some online classes and typically, instead of just seeing how it goes it has got me into researching equipment that might be useful for streaming future lessons. I have been watching YouTube demos on how piano teachers set up overhead cameras. I drove Freya mad asking her to practise Zoom with me. I wanted to sign in on a laptop and a phone to see how using different cameras might work but I got weird echoes, even when the device was meant to be muted. Apparently, using headphones might help.
I am quite “Techie” up to a point but wish I really knew what I was doing. I dropped my laptop off to be looked at and was told the hard-drive is dead. I have decided to get it fixed and use it if I venture into filming and recording. Otherwise, I have found that I can get by using my IPad and the old, family IMac.
I expect that when Freya comes home with her first car-load of stuff from her student flat she will think Nessie looks bigger. Nessie thinks she is pals with Thistle, who is amazingly tolerant but her idea of playing nicely is not really cat-friendly. She is now developing the Scottie characteristic of ignoring me calling her if she is having fun cat chasing. I need to work on that… maybe I can make some jerky using the food dehydrator that I have ordered. Nella and I thought that if Freya ever manages to grow excess cherry tomatoes in her long-awaited poly tunnel we can preserve them. Perhaps it will be a novelty item but if it can dry soft fruit that is in season locally now for winter then I think it is worth trying.
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.
Since we have been enjoying great weather it was decided that we would move the old garden yurt to a new spot. Genghis Khan may have had the resources to move the whole thing on a specially adapted horse-drawn chariot but we had to take ours apart. It had been in a rather damp dip in the main garden, under trees for 11 years and was looking very much worse for wear. We have moved it into a sunnier spot behind my workshop which used to be a chicken run. We decided that since we won’t be going to any festivals this year it could be the site of our own mini version. The old chicken shed looks like a ticket office but it will eventually get shifted. Because it is a smaller area and has walls all around, this garden is much more sheltered. It is a scruffy area, rather overgrown so we are tarting it up by planting wild flowers, hanging dangly things from a chain strung from the building to a sturdy fence post. I had to climb over barbed wire to tie off some rope as quickly as I could without the cows in the neighbouring field spotting what I was up to. I bought a cheapo swing-seat online that made me resort to “Man-Help” as the crappy screw holes did not line up properly.
I could not afford to shell out £1500 for a new yurt cover so we had to be very careful to salvage the original, brittle canvas. We spent a day dismantling the frame and evicting giant spiders. We got everything back together except the door (which needs some fixing) the next day. Obviously, all of the experience I have had putting up my exhibition yurts was irrelevant as my advice on marking out a circle and tensioning the frame was initially ignored. I don’t usually ask for “Man-Help” with jobs like this but sometimes extra strength is useful;)
I spent a few days working on 4 customer quilts and 6 more arrived this week so that should keep me ticking over for a wee while.
I have sewn all of my Warli Quilt pom-poms on at last! I hope the ridiculously fine invisible thread won’t come undone. That is what I intend to use to sew on the miniature bells but it is tricky to finish the thread ends without knots.
I used up 300 sparkly crystals on the centres of the tiny filler squares and realised that I would need to order at least 600 more. At least they are hot-fix crystals and not sequins or beads.
I actually had two customer quilts to do this week, all dropped off and collected at a respectable social distance, of course! One was a large hexagon shaped Hexie quilt, all sewn by hand with edges that went off in all directions. I used a Honeycomb all-over pattern which I knew would incorporate all of the pieces and I think it set the piecing off nicely, without being busy.
The other quilt was for a young couple, made from a jelly roll so I used a spiral-ish design called Dizzy-Izzy which I have to say is another of my favourites on many different types of quilt.
In between supervising the computer stitching the customer quilts, I have sewn a few pom-poms onto the RainbowWarliors. It is a fiddly job using invisible thread doubled up, making sure they are secure. This is really not enjoyable with the rough, calloused fingers that I now have from hand-sewing without a thimble and seemingly, rather a lot of washing up. I have run out of decent hand cream so the thread keeps catching on my rough fingers – shiver!
The pom-poms look jolly so I wondered if the tiny prairie-points might also need some extra bling. For that reason I have ordered 200 tiny silver bells and if I later decide against them I will simply make Nessie a very annoying reindeer suit for Christmas!
I made myself sit and do some filing, a rather depressing task when I have virtually no income. I can’t add to my existing spreadsheets which are stuck inside my dead laptop but the figures have all been recorded on paper so that boring chore has been semi dealt-with.
While my girls have been fixed to Animal Crossing I have been addicted to Duolingo, trying to soak up as many German phrases as possible. I am not entirely sure that I will ever need to say “The boys eats 30 beetles” or “I want a horse for my birthday” but still, I am getting better at remembering some more useful vocabulary.
Another week has gone by and I have finally finished the seed stitching on the Warli quilt. According to Facebook, I started the quilt a year ago! I have to admit that I was actually getting a bit bored with the seed stitching so I am glad that part is done. I am at the stage when I am not sure whether it is a quilt that I love or just want to be done. I have made a hanging sleeve for it so I will get that done next as that is a stage that I don’t really enjoy. After that I think I will start on the Pom-poms.
I made some more French sticks and bagels but the drawback to making bread is that it gets consumed almost immediately.
Nessie now has two perky Scottie dog ears:)
I was asked if I could recommend a face-mask making pattern so I made a few more and took photos. I made a slideshow of the process, as my tech-savvy kids suggested that was a good way of presenting the information. It is still rough around the edges but I think it is quite a good way to lay things out with a photo and a caption for the instructions. I feel a bit handicapped because I have not got used to working without my laptop, which I still hope can be rescued when the Apple Store re-opens.
Freya sat her final exam online so she has now officially completed her studies at St Andrews after 4 years. She is hoping that Lockdown restrictions will ease enough for her to go back down for June so she can sort out her flat.
I have had one or two enquiries about customer quilts but nobody has felt brave enough to drop any off yet.Hopefully I will have time to get my quilt finished before starting what may be a busy summer. If it is not then I guess life will just go on much the same. Some good weather would be nice so I can put together the swing seat that I ordered. Freya’s birthday present of a poly tunnel still has not been delivered so she may not even be here when it is time to plant it up with all of the veg plants that she has been nurturing. At least we could set up a table inside for cups of tea until she comes back;)
Honestly, all of the days are exactly the same these days. There are no appointments or commitments to distinguish between them but I do have a bit of a routine. All meals and snacks are scheduled, of course and I make bread most days, particularly now that I have half a kilo of yeast that I ordered online. I have to do some Duolingo German quizzes since I now have a 102 day streak, even though it can be extremely frustrating as nothing is ever really explained in depth.
I have to sew something every day – sometimes I can make it more exciting by allowing myself to work on 3 or 4 log cabin blocks.
I finished the triple line of rustic kantha stitching all the way around the Warli Quilt binding so now I am back to the random seed stitching inside the glitter warli circles. Each one takes me around two hours as involves a lot more stitches than is immediately obvious.
I made a few fabric face masks to send by post for my folks and threaded them with cording made from a T-shirt, which are adjustable with a toggle.
After months of research, Freya completed her Uni dissertation and so she is finally able to enjoy some down time, apart from one final exam. She and Nella have since been engrossed setting up idyllic world on the Nintendo Switch “Animal Crossing New Horizons” game. I can see why so many people have become addicted to their lovely virtual lives, building cute houses and growing trees. At least they don’t have all of the seasons in one day of May in Scotland where today we have seen snow, sunshine, hail and wind!
I decided to put the seed stitching around the glittery warli figures on hold in order to get the binding onto the Warli quilt as I was bothered about the multiple layers at the edges fraying as I move the quilt around. I used foot 20D and the 9mm stitch plate on the Bernina 710 which meant that I could add a narrow flange of silver lame then a half-inch double- fold binding by moving the needle position.
The binding was constructed from lengths of 3 of the quilt’s colours – turquoise, orange and bright pink. Since I intend to show the Rainbow Warliors in the future the binding had to be stitched down by hand on the reverse – a job I never really relish on a large quilt.
I wondered whether I could add decorative hand embroidery to the binding but my hand- sewing skills are not very advanced, there were far too many layers of fabric to penetrate and it is not easily to keep shifting the whole quilt around. In the end I came up with the idea of a triple line of rustic kantha/running stitch in a contrasting thread just on the surface of the binding. It is a bit mindless but what else am I in a hurry to do these days?!
Because I managed to order a sack of flour online from a ship’s chandler, I have been making lots of bread. I tried the surprisingly good no-knead method of letting the bread dough ferment over 18 hours then baking it in a cast iron pot. It is really good fresh then goes a bit rubbery the next day but it makes good toast. I also made French bread in my new French bread rack and we slathered it with wild garlic butter.
We took Nessie for evening walks at the river and she has been very good on her lead. It seems odd to walk at a reasonably brisk speed since Bumble was so slow. She has grown so much that she already needs a new harness. She thinks she is being very helpful, climbing into the dishwasher to lick the dishes. Almost as helpful as trying to clear up discarded mouse entrails from those cats that she feels obliged to chase;)
Most days I wake up and have no idea what day it actually is. I only knew it was Tuesday because I had to take Nessie for a rendezvous in the Vet carpark for her puppy booster so now she is all clear to go out in public whenever that might be.
I spent most of the week completing the sparkly stitching-in-the-ditch then simply wondered for a while whether the machine quilting was actually complete. The blue marking pen came out easily with a spray of water and none of the Indian fabrics bled any dye which was a relief.
I decided to crack straight on with attaching the prairie points which was not an easy task with Nessie around. I had to keep a large and heavy quilt off the floor as she kept trying to eat the wonder clips that were holding the PPs in place. My plan is to add the binding so the edges don’t get tatty and leave the blocking until much later. It seems fairly square. At least the two sides both measure 90” but admittedly the top and bottom are 1.5” different which is not a massive problem;)
I have reined back a bit on my plan to add a lot of kantha stitching on the quilt. I decided that the circular, glittery Warlis were a bit saggy so I am adding rustic seed stitching in their backgrounds. I don’t have all of the right colours of perle cotton so I am just using what I have and I think it will look OK in the grand scheme of things. I may add some sort of kantha onto the binding. I have decided to use plain blue and orange for the binding instead of the psychaledic backing fabric or black which does not appear anywhere else. Other than that I pottered away at somelog cabin blocks, made a couple of hairbands, one face mask, bread – some good loaves, some like bricks, and just taking each day as it comesThis despite my MacBook dying without having done a recent backup. Hey-ho, what can I do at present? I have an IPad and a very old IMac so all is not completely lost for now.
Another week has gone by in “Lockdown” where the days go quickly and I feel busy but am not actually busy at all. I actually did 2 customer quilts using the machine with the computer which felt productive. Mel delivered some jazzy prints that she had picked up from a bazaar in Myanmar so I decided to make a set of table napkins. I watched a long-winded YouTube tutorial on how to make perfectly mitred corners then figured out a much quicker, easier method myself. If I could work out how to make a good YouTube video single-handedly then I would upload it for others to try.
Most of the time that I spent in my workshop was just stitching-in-the-ditch with sparkly thread. I had to keep
dousing the cone with silicone and the hefty size 20 needle is not as accurate as I would like but once I step back a bit it looks pretty good. I still cannot decide if it needs or wants any hand sewing like I did on the red, black and white version.
Nessie went for a walk halfway around the field on her lead without complaining which is fantastic. I had a Westie years ago that would just refuse to budge on a lead and often had to be carried home!
I have sort of tried to be less busy at weekends but I never allow myself to simply read a book. I have been pottering away on the log cabin blocks because it is relaxing but also feels useful, getting annoyed learning German with the Duolingo app, and helping Nella make another very basic pair of PJ trousers. She was upset that the first set did not fit but I had stupidly cut out the small child size instead of small adult – not an ideal situation for a recovering Anorexic.
I anticipate the the coming week will be much the same – maybe the Rainbow Warlior SID will get finished, maybe not;)
A sure way to beat the Blues is to play with as many colours as possible. My friend, Mel brought me a selection of rich, shot cottons that she had brought back from Myanmar and left them in a bag at a safe distance. I wanted to start using them straight away but could not decide what sort of project, other than a nice, easy one. There is currently a virtual log cabin quilt online, curated by www.theafricanfabricshop.co.uk so I made a test block for that, followed by random selection of “ethnic” prints that I had stashed away combined with the shot cottons. I did not want a tricky project that involved fiddly bits, paper piecing or improvisation, so a plain and simple, old-school log cabin fits the bill perfectly. A couple of blocks can be made in a short time, in between other things, and they are a great stress reliever.
Nessie got her smart made to measure harness this week but it took 2 weeks to get here and she is growing so fast that it probably won’t last long. We decided on green since she is named after the Loch Ness Monster and I attached a couple of bells so I can hear her when she is hiding. One of the local vet practices agreed to administer her with puppy vaccinations. I handed her over in a pet-carrier in the car-park to avoid any human contact with the Vet. I decided go ahead with the vaccinations in case Lockdown is lifted by the summer so she can safely socialise with other dogs.
It was a shock when it was announced that UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, had been taken into intensive care and I think it made people realise that nobody is invincible from Coronavirus. Festival of Quilts sensibly announced that the 2020 show has been cancelled. Even if it had gone ahead later in the year I don’t think many people would have attended, particularly since the NEC is currently being used as a field hospital. Without being over pessimistic, I can’t see this crisis being over for a long time yet.
Bit by bit I finally reached the bottom of the Rainbow Warlior quilt! I could not quite believe it to be honest as it seemed to take forever. The next phase is to add a defined sparkly line of stitch-in-the-ditch to every single seam. I had a bit of a tussle with the Madeira Supertwist 12 thread to start with until I got the right tension/needle combination. The 120 needle is FAR bigger than is ideal but is the only one that I can use without the sparkly thread shredding every couple of inches. The SID is not quite as time consuming as I had expected so my next decision will be whether to commit to any kantha-style hand quilting in addition. To look authentic there would have to be a lot of it and it is a very large quilt. I also want to attach almost 200 tiny pompoms to each of the prairie-points in the binding and that is possibly already fiddly enough;)
I have been trying not to get a tiny bit frustrated at not feeling purposeful and I feel that I must make something every day and that is not so easy with a puppy to entertain. An old friend sent me some Scottie Dog fabric so I made Nessie a smart cover for the pillow that we keep in the kitchen. I thought she would look cute in a bandana and that led to make some elasticated hairbands. This in turn reminded me that I had a pattern for making knickers so I decided to have a go using the remains of the PJ fabric. I forgot that the outer gusset usually matches the main fabric of the knickers. The knickers looked generous enough to suit Bridget Jones but after I added the leg bands only someone with skinny legs and a big bum would be able to wear them. Oh well, at least I know I can make knickers if Marks and Spencer closes down;)
I have made slow but steady progress on the Rainbow Warriors quilt, just doing a couple of blocks a day. The ruler work is slow but I am pleased with the texture. I have now rolled it all the way down so I can actually see the bottom of the quilt which is quite exciting and will spur me on. Then I will start at the top all over again to do something about highlighting all of the seams. I will probably make a scrap sample to decide whether that will mean using a thicker metallic thread or a freehand “embroidery” stitch. The antique Indian tunic scraps that I used as inspiration have SO much stitching and it is not like I am working to any kind of deadline.
We have managed to teach Nessie a few simple commands which is important because she is a terrier and they like to be the Boss. She can SIT, COME and does understand NO but thinks it does not apply to cats, hens and people’s ankles. She is great fun, follows me around but we have to keep her occupied so she does not try to chew cables which is a challenge in the workshop. She has a ridiculous, new toy that might distract her – a squeaky rubber chicken. It is amazing how much she has grown in just a week. We can already see that her nose is stretching into the distinctive Scottie snout and her floppy ears are already perkier. I am so glad she has joined our household and stops me worrying about when I might be able to find the next bag of flour in the supermarket. The empty shelves actually remind me of news reports about life in Soviet Russia of the 1980s. Our lives are certainly very different these days but for now I can try to keep calm and carry on quilting.
Just as we were put into Corona Virus Lockdown in the UK we were very lucky that the Scottie breeders decided that all of the puppies could go to their new homes a few days early so we were able to dash to Dundee and collect Nessie. We were dreading not being able to get her so were delighted but totally unprepared and did not manage to borrow a puppy play pen. She is absolutely fantastic except when she tries to chew cables and nip our ankles. Nessie seems to be very clever and we have already taught her to SIT with the aid of tasty treats. House training is going fairly well most of the time. The cats are not impressed and have not yet put her in her place and she thinks it would be fun to chase the hens. I am so glad that we have such a lovely distraction in this awful time.
Life is ticking along here and we are coping well out in the countryside as long as we still have internet to keep in touch with friends and family. Nella and I finished off the homemade presents for Freya’s birthday. I made her a pair of PJ trousers from a Swedish pattern. I struggled to locate the pattern pieces on the print-out and tried to follow the instructions in English online except that these were for children’s trousers therefore not quite the same. She has not yet tried them on so I don’t know whether they are actually wearable.
I finished the final customer quilts in my workshop which will now sit on a shelf awaiting collection in who knows how many weeks time. It has not been easy to work on my quilt with a puppy to supervise but there is now no pressure to get it finished. I honestly don’t think FOQ will even go ahead this year. I think it would be foolish to run an international quilt show until we are certain the Pandemic is over, besides which the NEC is being prepared as an emergency hospital facility. It is strange to think that there are no deadlines to meet. I need to get over the feeling that I should be writing a novel or preparing for non-existent classes. I should just plan to do some simple, fun projects and wind right down if possible. At the very least I should keep practising German and work on some impressive small Scottie Dog training.
On Monday Nella met with her English tutor in the morning then we visited the student show at Grays School of Art in the afternoon. However, the very next day the show was abruptly cancelled and shortly afterwards the Government announced that schools would close indefinitely and that all exams this year will be cancelled due to the world Coronavirus pandemic.
In a strange way the fact that Nella and I have been living quiet lives for the past 6 months meant that we were slightly less stunned than many people by the advice to stay at home and cut ourselves off from everyone as much as possible. My husband is now working from home, doing the grocery shopping – all activities and appointments have been suspended. Supermarket shelves have been emptying as fast as they can be restocked and the world news is bleak. We are incredibly fortunate to live in the countryside away from crowds and that we have the resources to keep ourselves occupied. Freya still has to finish her dissertation and her academic future is uncertain but she is also planning a vegetable garden.
I worked on a couple of customer quilts that I handed back to their owners at a safe distance and we are still hoping to collect Nessie, the Scottie Dog next weekend. As we prepare for a long period of isolation and uncertainty a puppy would provide a welcome distraction. We made cute matching quilts for Nessie and for her mum, Lady. I also made Nella an upcycled plant pot cover and a couple of prototype face-masks just in case. For the first time ever I can work on my quilt without any time pressure. I bet there will be some great quilts on display at future shows. I hope we can all weather out this global event and come out the other side with a different perspective.
Stay well, fellow quilters!
And in Other News (while the world deals with the Apocalpytic Coronavirus) – we are getting a puppy! Nella and I searched for a rescue dog locally and online but none of them were what we really wanted. I checked the Kennel Club website and found one litter of Scottie puppies in the whole of the UK, not that far from here in Dundee. We visited the breeders today and chose our little girl, “Nessie” who should be ready to move in with us at the end of this month. We are so excited and looking forward to a wonderful distraction during such troubled times.
I had a busy week working on 7 customer quilts from a Welsh quilter who visits her sister in Aberdeen twice a year. They were all super and ready for collection by Friday afternoon.
I set up my Doily exhibit at the end of session student show at Grays School of Art. I actually forgot to take the lamp as it was in our sitting room but we will take it along tomorrow and view all of the other students’ work.
There was not much time left to work on my Rainbow Warliors but even working on a little bit was some progress.
Freya is home for her Uni Spring Break and her birthday which is lovely for us but she is feeling down that all of her final year celebrations and social events have been cancelled. She was meant to go on a girls’ trip to Orkney but that is now off. All classes, lectures, libraries and the Student Union has been suspended. We are certainly living through unprecedented times. We will have to hunker down, be sensible and make plenty of quilts.
It was actually a bit of a bonus to discover that my customers were not coming until next week which gave me a whole week to crack on with the Rainbow Warliors. I was fortunate that Nella was perfectly contented to get on with her knitting projects so every spare minute was spent deciding on designs then stitching them out. At the start of a new quilt it is always making the decisions that seem to take longer than the actual sewing. The majority is ruler-work and I was not sure whether to allow myself any freehand areas at all.
I have probably only just completed a third of this bigger than intended project and once I have customer quilts to work on my time on it will be limited. It seems to be going well and I daresay I will get quicker. I plan to go back at the end and stitch-in-the-ditch everything with silver thread to cover up any backtracking. So far there has only been one dodgy “full” block, which is not bad considering that there was no pressing and some of the piecing was done by eye;)