Budgies Don’t Fly Upside Down

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It was midweek by the time I had written yet more lists, helped a DIY quilter, did a cute customer quilt, tried to help Fergus tackle last minute revision for his Music Prelim, and managed not to sort out the kitchen cupboard that is full of spilled sugar. After all of this industry and to stop myself from getting sucked into reading an epic trilogy non-stop, I decided to have a go at Sara Lawson’s “Aeroplane Bag that I had purchased as a PDF.

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customer quilt – Candyland computer pantograph

I already had fabric and some interfacing but by the time I had been to the craft shop to get a chunky zip, more specialist bag-making interfacing and some more pompom wool, I reckoned it would have been cheaper to have bought a bag in Cath Kidston’s very jolly shop.

It took me some time to prepare all of the pieces and because the pattern did not actually say to check that my fabric should be the right way up, despite the many photos, I managed to cut out my budgies upside down! The only solution was to add a panel of co-ordinating fabric and pretend that I was doing patchwork. The instructions were very good and I managed not to get lost. The only hiccup I had was getting the ends of the chunky zip to line up exactly despite being very careful with that step. I need to give myself a zip masterclass to figure out how to improve that.

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There is an iffy bumfle inside the lining that only I need to know about but overall it looks quite professional. I decided to make a false bottom to make it sit up even more like a carpet bag. If I could get my hands on a piece of sewable carpet I would love to make a Mary Poppins bag for under £400, although the metal clasp could prove even more unco-operative than a zip!

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How I “Waste” my Time…

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Truthfully, I don’t waste time at all – I just don’t fill it with meaningful activities at every opportunity. I could watch daytime TV or read novels all day if I owned a chaise longue but according to my many lists, I have productively done some pointless filing, written my first pupil reports in 17 years, made bramble jelly, listed loads of old magazines for sale on Ebay, changed a lightbulb, completed and bound two customer quilts, and even planned what we were going to eat each evening!

The trouble is, I don’t actually have any projects on the go. I have PLENTY of ideas, and even a quilt top or two lying around. I have been trying to get all of my outstanding jobs done first but I never feel I have achieved in a week anything unless I have sewn something to prove it. So… I absolutely have to get my brain in gear, finish that big job hanging over me which is updating the list of Patchwork and Quilting classes that I can offer so I can finally knuckle down and create something!!

 

Pom Diddly Pom!

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To remind myself not to take life too seriously now that my Planner gives me no excuse for forgetting ANYTHING, I thought it would be appropriate to make some pompom page markers so I know what day it is;)

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I went off on a bit of a tangent one morning when I sorted out a box of quilt magazines, cataloguing and photographing them in case I ever get around to listing them on Ebay. This led to reorganising another box which contained all of the publications in which my quilts have appeared. It was uplifting to look back at all sorts of projects and it made me realise that I want to produce more work that can go into print in future.

I had to take BlueCat to the Vet, rather worried by a hard lump that had appeared on her undercarriage. She was not impressed to be bundled into a cat carrier. The vet was incredulous as he explained that she simply had an unusually protruding piece of cartilage on her ribcage that must have changed shape. I was too relieved to feel silly but I did feel obliged to purchase a 6 month supply of wormer to make the visit worthwhile.

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When I had finally caught up with all of my self imposed tasks, including a few useful ones, I started on a customer quilt that took 3 days of background and SID. It was not full-blown heirloom quilting but it was fairly intricate with lots of stops and starts. The on-point squares were too big to go all the way around using the ruler base without rolling the quilt on so they had to be done in 2 halves.

Theoretically I have 6 days to quilt in the next 2 weeks including 2 simple customer quilts and 2 DIY clients and my Planner goal for February says that I should be making a start on monstrous “BzB” which has been waiting for 4+ years. Alternatively, it might be wiser to plan more quilt classes and make samples. If only the Planner would implement a ban on deviation and work avoidance!

I need an extra week in January!

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Freya and I arrived back in Scotland late on Monday night form our amazing trip to St Petersburg then I had a DIY quilt customer here on Tuesday so that left me just one day to catch up and unpack before my 2 days in school. I keep having the guilty feeling that I have not achieved anything in January 2017, apart from a superficial tidy-up in the workshop and a terrific 3-day trip to Russia;)

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I rashly decided to clear out a couple of boxes of quilt magazines that have not been opened in several years. If I can be bothered I will try Ebay, otherwise will have to give them away or just recycle them to make space as I can’t keep putting stuff into my workshop without taking some other stuff out!

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I got a bee in my bonnet about making a bag for the vintage Elna Lotus sewing machine as I was worried that it could get rust spots on its metal case from the cold air on days when my workshop is not heated. I quilted a linen fabric with Bosal interfacing which is spongy and helps bags stand upright. I did not have enough quilted fabric to make shoulder straps but decided that I only needed small handles anyway. There were no pockets but I came a bit unstuck when I had to put in the zip panel as it meant that the opening was not wide enough for the sewing machine. I had to take the zip panel apart and use a longer zip that overhangs at each end to overcome that issue.

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I have made lots of notes thinking that I could probably come up with either a generic sewing machine bag or a handy shopper tote pattern. There are already many of these online but many seem to have vague instructions. There is probably no point in writing a whole book on alternative pockets/zips because this has already been done but I would like to come up with a bag that could be made as a gift that has a neat finish and is practical.

My new desk planner now has dates and I have written up a wall calendar so there should be no excuse for forgetting appointments or not tackling admin tasks in a timely fashion in the coming months…;)

Magnificent St Petersburg

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I am not usually lost for words but my trip to St Petersburg, Russia with Freya was so amazing that it is almost impossible to describe it. There was simply so much to see and do to stop and write a travel journal at the end of each day in which we walked for miles on snowy pavements, marvelling at spectacular architecture and absorbing all of the history from Peter the Great to the demise of the Romanovs and the Siege of Leningrad.

The scale of imperial wealth was so vast that it seemed inevitable that a revolution should eventually take place. There were enormous palaces on every street. At the time of “War and Peace” it would certainly have been a place to see and be seen. We could imagine the swaggering cavalry officers parading across the Winter Palace Square.

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Three days were not nearly enough to experience all of the incredible sights and museums. We found the people welcoming and the city was buzzing with families still on their Christmas holidays. We chose to eat Russian food – the Soviet style canteen was an interesting experience but we made up for it the next evening by sampling vodka and caviar! I was embarrassed that I only knew about 4 words in Russian but at least I could make out some of the cyrillic words and Freya could understand a lot of what was said.

I think the city would be crowded with tourists in summer so we probably chose a good time of year to visit. It was around -2 degrees but did not feel as cold as a damp day in Scotland. We were well wrapped up and all of the buildings were extremely well heated. Out little apartment in an old courtyard just 200 yards from the Winter Palace was so cosy that we had to sleep with the window open even though it was snowing. I would love to revisit St Petersburg in the future – it was truly an awe-inspiring experience!

Restoring Order

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I always have to start the New Year with a big tidy up. No matter how much stuff I think I may have got rid of on Ebay, more stuff seems to arrive to take its place. My workshop becomes Santa’s grotto before Christmas then it doubles up as a cold food store over the holidays so there were many cardboard boxes to squash, invoices to file and much glitter to vacuum. I will re-fold all of my fabric stash in due course but at least I have managed to stop the IKEA basket-drawers from collapsing further for the time being.

My tidying extended to completing my tax return, writing school lesson plans, and tackling the music room cupboard that was bursting with bits of drum-kit, kazoos and random cables. I need to get rid of some instruments that the kids have outgrown and have failed to sell!

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I have ordered a fancy new planner which I hope will make me become a Super-Organiser. I write everything down in two A5 spiral notebooks but I have a nasty habit of using post-it notes that don’t always make it into the “Mother-Notebook”. I have tried a Filofax Planner in the past but it was too small so I the A5 size should work better. I just hope I don’t waste more time organising my new planner than I might actually gain in being more organised;)

Are You All Set for Christmas? (- Grr!)

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I know folk are only trying to be festive when they ask, “Are you all set for Christmas?” but it drives me mad! I would like to have made a pile of beautiful home-made presents but to date I have not written any cards, wrapped any gifts or purchased any Christmas food. By Sunday afternoon each week I wonder what I have been actually been doing frittering away my time then I jot down a few reminders for my blog and realise I have really managed to fit quite a lot in;)

I did semi-custom quilting on a customer’s “Silent Movie Star” and my free-handing felt seriously rusty after doing mainly computer pantos and lots of lines lately. I was reminded why I have a thing about gold lamé as the quilting on it positively glittered!

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I met Freya on the train to Edinburgh for our trip to the Russian Consulate to obtain our visas. I was concerned when the very plain building in which it was located looked deserted apart from a tiny hand-written note advising visitors to turn left, go through a car-park and enter from the rear of the property. We had to have our fingerprints digitally recorded then handed over forms, passports and the pricey fee but we still won’t know for another week whether we have been successful.

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We spent the rest of the day wandering around the Christmas market. By chance I spotted a poster for “The Goldfinch” which was on loan to the National Gallery of Scotland. It was  thrilling to see the real painting on which Donna Tartt’s fictional novel about its theft was based. The exquisite, small bird’s portrait was painted in 1654 by Dutch painter, Carel Fabritius.

It was lovely to catch up with Freya as I had not seen her since October and we were both very excited to discuss plans for our weekend in St Petersburg. It is a good job we had lots to say to each other as our train home was delayed by almost 3 hours.

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I received a surprising email from The Modern Quilt Guild about my QuiltCon entries. “Tartan Tattoo” has been accepted for the modern traditional category but “Shield Maiden” was rejected from the show. I was so sure that the SM quilt was just the sort of thing that QuiltCon would be looking for. I am in “good company” as far as rejections go – there were many amazing rejects on Facebook and Instagram so it will be very interesting to see what quilts have actually been selected. There were some good social media posts about why entrants should not get so het up about rejections and I will certainly enter “Shield Maiden” elsewhere but it is always disappointing to make a quilt specially for a particular contest then it does not make it.

My week ahead is likely to involve a last minute attempt at making something Christmassy, sellotape, glitter, a frantic scramble for the last mailing dates, wishing I had bought wrapping paper in July and hunting for Brussels sprouts!

где находится стеганый магазин?

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Freya has been valiantly studying Russian as one of her minor courses at Uni. It has been an intense language course, taught in fast Russian by Russian natives with fancy cyrillic handwriting. She has been wondering whether to continue with it because she has to spend so much time learning tricky grammar and vocabulary that she is worried that her other subjects might not get so much attention. Rather on a whim, I suggested that we set off on a brief expedition to St Petersburg during her Christmas holiday. Growing up in the Cold War, I never thought that a trip to Russia would ever have been possible. I only know a handful of words including “perestroika”, “vodka” and “Dostoyevsky” but I have read all sorts of wonderful Russian novels in my time and Mo has lent me a fur hat. As you can see in this week’s blog title, I have used Google Translate to ask how to find the Quilt Shop.

It would have been fun to have kept the trip as a surprise but I had to tell her as we both had to complete a lengthy online visa application and will have to attend the Russian Consulate in Edinburgh to have our fingerprints taken. We had to declare every foreign visit for the past 10 years. My passport had been date stamped for the USA but EU countries have not done that in years so I used my blog to approximate my other travel dates. Fingers crossed that we actually get the visas because I had to book flights and accommodation first in order to say where and when the trip would be!

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I am in between major quilt projects so I had two DIY quilt ladies here this week. One of them had been given inaccurate advice on measuring fabric for her quilt back so it was too small. It was not possible to attach side clamps so there may be the odd tiny bumfle. We used a computerised pattern called “Candyland” and I trimmed both ends of the quilt afterwards so nobody will be able to tell it was not quite the right size.

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I have now made a dozen mini purses as stocking fillers but I still have around 20 short zips left so maybe I will make some more for Fenella to sell in aid of her Girl Guides trip to Norway;)

This week I hope to get some of a customer’s “Silent Movie Star” quilt done, meet Freya in Edinburgh for our assignation and think about buying myself some thermals!

Wavering

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For months I had planned to quilt the Civil War tumbler quilt with close wavy lines but at the last minute I wavered and chose a pantograph pattern called “Turkish Tiles”. I worried that I should have chosen the version where the tiles change direction and got frustrated when Quilt Path randomly crashed twice. I had to restart the quilting and there was some unintended crossing over of lines BUT it is finished and it is for me so it does the job perfectly well. It is a pretty large quilt with over 1100 tumblers but I used a wool wadding so it is as light as a feather.

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I had a bee in my bonnet about perfecting the measurements and method for making lined tartan zip-up purses. The reason for this project is that I seem to have a large quantity of annoyingly short zips and before I can justify ordering some more longer ones I “need” to use those up! After faffing around with zips that are positioned part of the way down one side, I decided that going back to Plan A of a top opening zip was the most practical as it does not matter which side the zip head is inserted. I have made copious notes that suggest cutting the lining bigger so there is plenty of room to turn the zip opening then everything gets trimmed to match later;) I have sent Freya the prototypes to give to her Foreign Friends as stocking fillers. The wool tartan is really nice but I might rustle up a few more purses from brightly coloured African fabrics.

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I did use the wavy line quilting on a customer quilt that will raffled in aid of polio research. The customer requested something different in the borders to the body of the quilt but I did not trust QP to be accurate enough so the wavy lines went all of the way across then I added some freehand small spirals in the outer borders for interest.

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The rest of my week was taken up with teaching and trawling the internet for quirky Christmas presents and how to apply for a Russian visa – just in case;)

Bloody Quilt!

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Monday morning was bitterly cold and I wished I had fingerless gloves because my hands were so cold I could not feel them. After a hot, strong cup of coffee, I plucked up the courage to stitch words written in Viking runes onto Shield Maiden. Runes are just an alphabet system, not an actual language, so I just had to write out the words that I wanted on the quilt into their runic form. They are quite hidden and you really have to look for them!

The next adventure was to use a test piece of linen to see if the “blood” spattered effect would work. I used watered down fabric paint in a spray bottle, toothbrush and pastry brush to apply my Jackson Pollock style artistry. Because it was raining heavily outside, I had to fling the paint onto the quilt while it was on my workshop table. Afterwards it looked like I had been butchering something – there was red-brown paint on my sewing machine, carpet and table which took some time to scrub off. It just shows how difficult it must be to get away with murder;)

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I co-opted Tania into helping me block the probably finished quilt then hang it outside for photos. I had a choice of full sun or very dark shade because I don’t have any blank walls where I can take uncluttered photos inside. I have been warned by my friends to step away from the quilt now and not be tempted to add any further embellishment, not even pieces of antler…

As usual, after an intense project, I was a bit lost so I decided to finish piecing my tumbler quilt which I may give to myself for Christmas.

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I did not do any significant Black Friday shopping apart from a vintage wool tartan dressing gown from Ebay. I have visions of me wearing it to quilt with my wellies and thick socks in the depths of winter!

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I Can’t Seem To Do Subtle

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Now that it is on Freya’s bed in Uni Halls, I can post photos of her “away” Christmas quilt. It is a Betty Quilt pattern that I downloaded from Erica Jackman on Craftsy. It was quick and easy to piece and I used a computer panto called “ Let it Snow” by Natalia Majors at http://www.sunstonequilting.com The fabrics have a fun Scandi look but I will have to warn her to use a load of colour catchers if she ever washes it since red dye was obviously coming out while I ironed the binding!

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I have got Shield Maiden to a point where it could be hung (on a sturdy batten as it is so heavy!) Hand sewing linen is seriously heavy duty, especially when the edges have been overlocked to stop them unravelling. The deadline for Quilt Con is in 10 days so it at least needs to be finished looking for photos. I can add some stitched runes if I think they will work. I want to paint the trickles gold then experiment on a piece of sacrificial linen to see if a radical idea might work… The quilt is subtle but in my opinion it currently lacks “Oomph”.

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Purdah was rejected from the SAQA Layered Voices exhibition with a very professional let-down informing me that only 23 out of 535 made the cut. Those were high odds but I had hoped that Purdah was relevant to that sort of exhibition. I don’t know where Purdah can be exhibited. It clearly is more of a statement than a competition piece, like so many other things I have made. I wonder whether some quilters win consistently in competitions because they aim to perfect a particular style of quilt. I am obviously still busy experimenting, trying to find “my” style;)

Failed Rescue Attempt with Tennis Balls

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I gave Shield Maiden my full attention for 2 whole days and completed the basic quilting. I have decided that I will face its edges and add the hanging sleeve then decide whether to add more quilting or embroidered runes IF there is still time to meet the QuiltCon competition deadline.

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I had hoped that the felt-pen guidelines that I drew on with a so-called washable marker would just wipe off but they did not! Next I tried rubbing them quite vigorously with a bar of soap and wet sponge to no avail. Feeling slightly panicky, I purchased an armoury of stain removers. Shield Maiden is already a heavy quilt as it has a layer of cotton and a layer of wool wadding, a wool scarf and front and back of coarse linen. By the time it got plunged into a bath of cold water with a splash of Fairy liquid and vinegar, it weighed a ton! I transported it back to my workshop in a large bucket for a spin in the washing machine.

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The pen marks had all gone but the quilt looked worrying “antiqued”. This can be a good look for a quilt but I had rather liked the smooth finish on the coarse linen before washing. I laid it out to dry on the table, hoping that would recover.

48 hours later it was still damp and still looked decidedly crinkly so I threw it into the tumble dryer with tennis balls for a rumble, not daring to give it any heat. When it emerged it was dry but not flat and still wrinkled…

The next remedy was to block it by dampening it and pinning it out. At least it is now flat enough to add the few lines of stitching that I want to highlight around the motif. After that I may coerce Tania into helping me to give it a bit of a stretch since two people pulling might help. The stitching has held up remarkably well considering its harsh treatment.

The photos don’t actually look too bad and I am probably over-reacting but I am already drafting a blurb that includes the words “weather-beaten” when describing Shield Maiden. Meanwhile I have wondered how to incorporate a subtle length of leather thong somewhere and have decided to buy lookalike Dremel drill-bits to bore holes into antler pieces. I should probably just take up LARPing as a hobby – it would be a good excuse to create quilted costumes out of fur and other unusual found objects.

(Over the weekend I finished off a project for Freya but I will not post any spoiler pics until she has seen it;))

Bragging About Bamber Sewing Machine Centre!

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My 1951 100th anniversary Singer Featherweight arrived back from its holiday at Bamber Sewing Machine Centre, Manchester www.bambersew.com

I tried to flag down the courier’s van as it drove off without checking that I was in my workshop so it had to be re-delivered the next day.

It came in a box packed out with polystyrene blocks and the machine itself had lots of wadding around it inside its wee case so it had an extra smooth journey. I was amazed at the technician’s checklist which actually had 46 points that should be investigated. The machine was certainly very clean and shiny and I am quite sure the knobs and levers did not look as pristine as that before.

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The great thing with Bambers is that they are such a long established family business that they are bound to have lots of long-forgotten spare parts in their archives. Alan Bamber writes great posts on Facebook about the many interesting characters he has met, including some formidable Home Economics teachers. AND he drives a Landy;)

Bamber Sewing Machine Centre supplies and services school sewing machines and they give honest advice to their prospective clients. I was really impressed that they sent away a lady who had received a small legacy for a sewing machine away until she had time to have a good think about what she really wanted from a machine before making a snap purchase. I am sure she will go back to them when she has done her research on the brands and models.

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The shop is in a busy part of Eccles, Greater Manchester. When I visited earlier this year there was a constant stream of visitors looking at new machines, picking up machines that had been serviced, people buying fabric or machine accessories, and also attending classes.  The Bambers team have phenomenal knowledge and experience of everything to do with sewing machines – my latest purchase, the tiny 1970’s Elna Lotus will be next in line to be sent down for a spa treatment – in fact, I bet they could even fix the seized antique hand cranks!