A Stitch Too Far


The balmy late Easter weather allowed me to soak up some outdoor Vitamin D and hand-sew kantha stitches onto my quilt binding. Despite making an effort to pull the stitches fairly tight, because they were not anchored into the outer edge of the binding, I could see that the stitches might not all stay neatly in position. The long-winded solution would be to add a clear glass bead to every crossover of red and white thread. I underestimated how long this would take to anchor every single bead using beading thread and a very fine needle. There will be somewhere over 600 beads in total around the binding but it feels like thousands. So much for my disapproval of the current trend for over complicated bindings!

I was very pleased with the label that I made for the Warli quilt. I cut a piece of freezer paper to A4 size then starched a piece of red dyed fabric which measured half an inch less  all round then ironed it onto the freezer paper. I ran it through my printer on the basic settings, deciding that it did not need any extra ink that might bleed if I used photo settings.  Next I printed a Warli stamp into a gap that I had left. It took me a while to notice that I had printed 2018 instead of 2019 so I had to repeat the process to get it right. I stitched the label onto the back of the quilt by hand and even added a quilt show “modesty flap” to cover the label to obscure the details during judging. 

I had 2 nice crazy quilts to do for a customer this week – one in batiks and one in African fabrics. I used Qmatic to quilt circular patterns which I thought complimented the angular patchwork. The quilts were small wall hangings so I was able to get them back to the customer within a couple of days. 

I sold one of my utility quilts to a friend this week which felt a bit weird. She could sense that I was reluctant to let it go and I tried to explain that it is a difficult process to sell a quilt, even to a friend because coming up with a sensible price for the materials and time is so hard. At the same time it is better if the quilt goes to a loving new home instead of languishing in a cupboard.

Poor Bumble was poorly this week and had a visit to the vet. She had blood in her pee and was off her food. The vet had previously told me that Scotties are very prone to bladder cancer and she is 12 years old. However, antibiotics have worked wonders so hopefully it was just a simple urine infection. She was most impressed that I tempted her appetite back with some posh dog food so if that keeps her happy I will keep spoiling her. 

I have placed orders for all sorts of trimmings that I plan to use on my Next Big Project so once they all arrive there should be no more procrastinating. The trouble with allowing a long deadline on a quilt is that there is no urgency to begin, especially when the plan is not quite fully formed. However, I do hope to explore some ideas soon, even it is just to alleviate the boredom of hand-stitching umpteen beads.

Keeping On Top of Things


If I did not have a notebook to hand to jot things down then cross them off then I would have no idea how I spend my time. It may seem that I have “produced” very little but there is always something going on. 

As a non mathematician I had to make a spreadsheet with all of the Q-series accessories that we will need to order for FOQ and I will have to do a similar thing to place a thread order. The Bernina UK Longarm Academy classes have been selling out quickly – the last time I looked there were only 5 places left out of a total of 48 which is terrific. 

Of the other minor but important tasks for the week I sent off an entry form for the World Quilt Show, tidied ONE teenager’s clothes that had been in a heap for months, had a few more bright ideas for my next Opus Magnus, sneaked in a few chapters of the epic novel  and did not deal with my paperwork;)

I had a huge customer quilt to do which was pretty challenging at 112” x 106”! For all the years that I had a 14ft quilt frame I rarely had to deal with anything that big. There was very little spare backing and I had a few issues sorting out some “bosomy” areas so I was relieved to get it finished. 

As a complete change of scene I produced 5 “Clam-Up” pouches to hold essential items at FOQ including thread snips, spare needles, tissues and mints. It was really good making the pouches in a batch because I could work on the same stage for each one, not muddling up the instruction pages and not having to continually swap threads or presser feet. Only one has a slightly wonky bottom for some unknown reason but on the whole I am really pleased by how smart they look. 

The 3 customer quilts that I did later in the week were far less stressful than the huge one in that each one was only 56” square and they were fabulously flat. I was even able to have a go at a hand-stitch experiment on the binding of my Warli quilt while I supervised Q-matic gliding along nicely. 

The pink sari quilt that I bought in India has a zigzag of kantha stitches along its binding so I came up with a version of that. What I failed to notice was that the Indian version does not wrap right around the binding and is therefore more secure. It may mean that I need to add anchoring stitches or beads to be on the safe side…

The first thing I am going to do in the coming week is gather up materials for my next Big Project / Magnus Opus, based on some antique Indian textiles, and make some sort of start on producing samples. I am aiming to have it ready for FOQ 2020 rather than struggling to complete it for this year – Let’s just say, I think it may take some time!

Lost in Literature


I took my 2 teenagers on an outing to the V&A Museum in Dundee, hoping that they would be blown away by masterpieces of British Design. The outside of the building, designed by Kengo Kuma, is magnificent. It looks like a cross between a futuristic ship and an Aztec temple and has a similarly impressive interior with giant wooden planks reflecting Dundee’s industrial heritage. However, there was actually only one rather small gallery that show-cased Scottish design, including a Charles Rennie Mackintosh panelled room. It was rather cramped and crowded, therefore difficult to see the exhibits. My kids were mortified that I asked a museum guide where the other galleries were. I was told that the other main gallery was closed (for up to 6 weeks) while they prepared it for the next temporary exhibition about computer gaming and would cost £12.00 per head. The £80 million pound building is large with plenty of room but in the style of many trendy museums has little substance. There were hands-on areas for young children to build structures and 2 cafes but I was disappointed that the Scottish branch of the V&A was not a patch on its London parent. After less than 30 minutes we had seen everything, went for lunch then headed home.

Years ago I read a novel called “The Far Pavilions” by M.M Kaye set in India with an impetuous hero and wonderful descriptions of 19th Century Indian palace life. I had completely forgotten the plot and found myself totally absorbed by a weighty, addictive novel. I don’t usually “allow” myself to read during the day so I found that I was sneaking in several chapters between what I was meant to be doing. Of course, it has made me yearn to return to India and explore more of a vast country that I merely glimpsed last year.

Eventually I finished all of the stitch-in-the-ditch on the house quilt and had to decide how much more quilting to do apart from some simple free-motion in large areas of sky or grass. It is not my quilt and the brief was to “keep it simple” so apart from some roof tiles and patterns on large areas of gable end I had to step away and declare it done. 

Freya came home for a visit over the weekend having been on a trip to Egypt with Uni friends to celebrate her 21st birthday. She seemed pleased with my present of a wee braw bag filled with goodies from Lush and a red metal tool box that I had stocked with everything from pliers and screwdrivers to plasters and chocolate. 

I prepared my next customer quilt which I had been told was 100” square but when I checked it was actually 106” x 112” so it was lucky that there is JUST enough backing fabric. I decided to wait until after the holidays are over before tackling it so I made a “Clam-Up” pouch by Annie, having coveted one that I had seen on Instagram by Norway’s Bernina Q24 Ambassador, Merete. I made the tiny one which was fiddly but it does look quite professional, especially since I decided to neaten up the inside of the zip by hand-sewing it inside. 

Exciting news is that I have booked up classes for myself at Bernina University in Florida this June, hoping to get to know the Qmatic system inside-out. Finding flights to Jacksonville was not easy and I explored many options of flying via Europe or going to Orlando then hiring a car. It was annoying that Virgin had good offers online but when I attempted to book the price went up by more than £200.00 In the end I used Expedia and have bookedFlybe flights to Manchester followed by JFK with Virgin. I just hope it all ties together!

Around the Houses


It is rather annoying that some sellers on Ebay and Amazon claim to be from the UK when they are in fact based in China, so items take ages to arrive. A box of 60” tape measures finally arrived that looked positively vintage although the contents had never been used. I devised a way of sewing them onto my mini zipper canvases so both zeros met in the middle and I even wrote down detailed instructions in case I ever need to make 4 sets again. 

I am never sure how much work I will get done during school holidays but I loaded a sweet customer quilt called “Welcome Home in Spring” and started off with a basic bead-board border. The plan is to stitch-in-the-ditch around all of the applique, add some detail on roofs, some free-motion in large areas of sky or grass then decide if it needs any more quilting after that. It is one of those projects where I could just keep going – adding chimney smoke, paw prints, flower pots…

I was required to be a Roadie for Fergus for a band rehearsal then I detoured to IKEA to collect a Raskog trolley so each Q24 can have its own set of kit parked nearby. Since I had now made 4 sets of zippered leaders I decided to make 2 more one-hour baskets. As I could not find the fabric that I quilted before, I used off-cuts from the vintage kantha jacket that I had tailored for me in India. I have really enjoyed making these baskets as they are so easy and useful so next I made 2 smaller ones to hold Q24 cleaning kits. I even had to buy mini tins of WD40 that would fit nicely in each basket!


Much time was wasted online and on the phone trying to line up Young Driver insurance in the event that Fergus might pass his driving test. Because he is 17 and a boy the prices were shocking and some companies would not insure him at all. His lesson and test began at 7am on Friday morning and I was so pleased for him when he sent a text with good news. 

We went to collect a pre-loved VW Polo from one of my quilting friends and he drove it back home sedately following my Landrover. He gave it a quick wash and then spent much of the weekend driving around on little jaunts to the shop, beach, around the block, and even to Aberdeen city centre. It will be very handy to have an extra driver and vehicle – I just have to hope he continues to be a sensible motorist.

Springing Forth


There must be some truth in the idea that the busier a person is, the more productive they can be! Maybe it was the spring weather but I had 4 days worth of DIY quilters and also managed to do 2 other customer quilts which meant that I could justifiably turn down offers of supply teaching. It was great using the new zippers on the longarm machine and I wished that I had ordered a second set from the USA in the first place to avoid two lots of postage and customs but I no idea how successful they would be until I tried them.

The zippers needed to have somewhere to live near the longarm machine so I downloaded a pdf pattern for “The Hour Basket” that I had seen on Instagram. It is suggested that SoftnStable interfacing is used but I did not have any so I quilted up some scrap fabric to make 2 basic bucket bags. They were quick and easy to do so I should think about making some more although I have no idea where I will put them. 

On a roll with bag making, I also downloaded a pattern for a “Wee Braw Bag”, concluding that life can be much easier when using a pattern instead of figuring it out from scratch. The instructions were really easy to follow so I made 3. On the first one I did not deviate from the pattern and just fitted pockets on the front but I thought it looked unbalanced so made pockets on both sides for the others. The pattern is easily customisable so pockets inside could also be handy, especially if making a toiletries bag.

I ordered a box of cheap Perle cotton thread from Amazon because it was on offer and had a good selection of colours but there was no indication that they would arrive slowly in a parcel from India. Number 8 thread is possibly a bit thick but now that I have new sashiko needles and a leather thimble I can probably manage. I just have a few strips of kantha to complete on the Warli quilt and I have not punctured my fingers yet. 

I sewed a facing onto the Dream Big panel and got it done quite quickly I the knowledge that it did not have to be especially neat since it is not a show piece. 

Out of the blue I had a flash of inspiration about what I would like to attempt for my next show quilt. It is an amalgamation of various ideas and is rather ambitious so I am aware that it is unlikely to get made in time for FOQ 2019. I also have to consider how it can be hung. Even though it was never intended as a show quilt I will enter the Warli quilt this year just for an outing. 

My kids have a spring holiday for the next 2 weeks and are meant to be studying for exams and end of year assignments. They don’t need entertaining these days but I will have to feed them so I am not sure how much I will get done. Perhaps it will be an opportunity to at least plan my new Opus Magnus…

Getting It Right – Sort Of


The Dream Big panel was really pushing me to figure out how to quilt many designs that I have admired online but never attempted. I drew a rectangular grid out on paper and fiddled around with wavy rulers until I worked out how to make a shape like a squashed chinese lantern. I have also discovered that the Scanncut can cut stencils which would obviously be neat if I could work out how to design them on my iPad but in the meantime can be done by tracing a paper pattern using a broad Sharpie.

Eventually I only had two petals left to quilt so I decided to include a Warli figure and some triskeles. What little was left of the background was quilted with ⅛” lines and because I did not have another shade of pink thread left I used my favourite variegated neon. 

I was so engrossed in quilting that I failed to notice a strange, hot smell at first – a plastic wrapped roll of batting was sitting on top of the electric heater plug which overheated and started to smoulder. I caught it just in time and doused it with a powder fire extinguisher! Phew…

I completed 2 customer quilts and hosted 2 DIY quilters before starting on the Dream Big finishing touches – adding 2 coats of paint very carefully around each of the petals. This was a bit of a gamble since it already had a nice 3D effect and although it was time consuming and fiddly I think it really added to its depth. I decided to attach a facing instead of a binding and temporarily stuck the edges down with fusible tape so it looked respectable in my trunk show on Saturday.

I was the afternoon speaker at the QGBI Region 16 day in Perth, following the esteemed Lynne Edwards MBE! Her talk was great – she spoke about the quilts that she had collected from significant quilters over several years. We had a lovely chat, finding many things in common, particularly since she is completely down to earth and fame has not gone to her head;)

My talk was slightly chaotic – a minute before I was due to start I could not get the slideshow to display on the projector screen, the microphone kept cutting out and screaming feedback worthy of a heavy metal concert, I dropped all of my prompt cards and spilled the water. I suppose I was a bit of a comedy turn but it kept everyone awake. I have made mental notes on which parts of the talk to tweak and how to line the quilts up in the same order as the slides. 

 Purchases from Gillian Cooper’s Textile Studio

I intended to have a slow day on Sunday just putting the quilts away then started on a mission to improve the zipper system that I have installed on one of the Q24s. I made 2 mini canvas leaders with zips so the quilt back can be basted onto the canvas rather than the zip. The idea is that it should cause less wear and tear on the zip and also have idiot-proof instructions (for me) printed on using T-shirt transfer paper. It was one of those jobs that I obviously had to over-think because I have deviated from the original instructions, delusional that I may have invented an easier method of attachment. 

Although I would like to start a new project soon I will hand-stitch the facing and the rest of the Warli quilt kantha sections in between customers next week. If I manage to do anything else I will count it as a bonus!

I Can See Clearly Now


My intention to start the week with a customer quilt at 8.30am on Monday was temporarily halted by the arrival of 2 packages from overseas. 

The first contained my bulk order of custom carved waril figure wood block stamps from India (I could only order them in batches of 10!) which arrived too late to be printed on the front of my Warli quilt but may yet appear on the reverse. 

The other package was zippers for the longarm machine to allow quilts to be loaded or swapped easily. I had to really pay attention to get them on in the right orientation but they were helpfully printed with text for people like me who get things the wrong way round. These zippers could have grosgrain ribbon or canvas strips attached in case the quilter wants to attach the quilt back with safety pins but I have no idea why they would want to do that. The zips get attached to the quilt back top and bottom using a large stitch on the domestic machine then get zipped onto the canvases on the frame. It is not a major time saver but the biggest advantage is not having to deal with big stabby pins;)

The beach themed quilt was completed with a seaside panto which looked really fun!

I spent FAR more time than I planned working on my Dream Big dahlia panel. The biggest issue was deciding which pattern to place in each petal and swapping threads so the colours were evenly distributed. There was much angst wasted comparing my efforts to already completed panels that I had seen online, especially when I made myself tackle patterns that I had never quilted before. However, I treated it as a useful practise exercise, even if I only quilted 2 or 3 petals a day. My greatest interruption was cracking the whip so that Fergus would hand his essay on Rap-Rock music in on time.

I spent ages preparing a new slideshow for my forthcoming talk at the QGBI Region 16 (Scotland). I last gave that Region a talk in 2014 and my blog informed me that I had been on my travels and made all sorts of projects that I had forgotten about in the interim. It also reminded me that I should have a piece for FOQ well underway by now but whatever it is going to be remains at the undecided stage. Every week planning a potential 2019 competition quilt just keeps getting put back on my To Do list;) 

For the slideshow I had to find and select a series of photos then remember how to get them into a Keynote/Powerpoint presentation. My unco-operative laptop kept displaying the “spinning rainbow ball of doom” then told me that I did not have permission to save my work. The simplest solution was to make a duplicate copy and save that version. 

I was surprised when I booked an eye test to discover that I last got new glasses for close work 4 years ago. One pair of specs was particularly wonky, scratched and was missing a nose clip. I picked up 2 sparkling new pairs and was amazed at how I could see everything clearly again.

I hope to complete the Dream Big panel in the coming week – it has certainly taken more than the couple of days that I intended and that is without taking background quilting and the probability of adding fabric paint into account…

Too Many Choices


I had a varied selection of tasks to choose to work on this week, starting with encouraging Fergus to knuckle down with his essay on Rap-Metal music. Let’s just say that I now consider myself an expert on the politics and angst of the genre from Rage Against the Machine to Lil Peep;)

Since I have done no free-motion quilting since I stitched my FOQ samples, I decided that I needed some practice so I loaded the Dream Big panel that so many longarm quilters have been using to showcase their fillers. It took a while to stitch around the petals of the giant dahlia but even longer to decide what patterns to choose. I wish I had chosen to use 2 layers of wadding to add definition and I was not happy with my first petal but I expect it will look fine once I get into it.

I was invited to be on the judging panel at the Scottish Quilt Show in Glasgow (ICHF Events Craft Show). It was a very enlightening experience being on the other side of judging to being a competitor. The checklist was similar to the one used at FOQ. It can be really tricky deciding whether a quilt is excellent/good or satisfactory/needs attention. I would hate to put anyone off entering a quilt into a show by being negative! It is a shame that the process has to be done in a hurry. There is the opportunity for the judges to make comments on each quilt but after 100+ it is a bit like writing school reports and my handwriting became progressive scrawled. Overall, the judges reached consensus on the quilts that were placed. One thing that struck me was that a few quilts could have been entered into a different category. There were several that I would have said should have been contemporary rather than traditional. There was a strict size restriction, apparently due to a lack of space. I am not the only Scottish quilter who would have competed if larger quilts had been accepted. It is important to support the show since it is now offers the only opportunity for quilts to be exhibited in Scotland. 

 Sheena Norquay – winner of theme category Colour of the Isles


After a very pleasant overnight stay with Bonnie McKerracher I went back to the show as a visitor and I enjoyed having time to look at the excellent exhibits by quilt groups from Scotland and further afield. There was a good selection of fabric on sale but I was hunting around fruitlessly for thread which was disappointing. I only managed to spend 50p on a silicone thimble!

Despite being away for less than  48 hours, I had so many emails to answer on Friday morning that I never got back to the Dream Big panel. There were exciting messages from Bernina International wondering how we can co-ordinate me to teach longarm quilting in Mumbai, Dubai and Seoul!!! I am so excited to be offered such an opportunity to teach and travel. I expect I will have to think of some more new classes…

After I got some of my admin under control I did a little more hand-stitching on the Warli quilt. There are half a dozen blocks still to go but it had to be hung at the Grays School of Art Short Courses Exhibition on Saturday morning. Considering that it was not blocked and there is a mixture of hand / machine sewing, it hung reasonably flat.  Noticing that some fellow students had left business cards I rustled up a quilted pouch that can hang beside the quilt. I really ought to have printed some with images of the Warli people quilt.

I was impressed by the superb work that the other students had produced in all sorts of media in addition to textile screen printing there was photography, kilt making, ceramics, jewellery and fine art. It really was a diverse collection of talent!

All About Time



This week I was either zooming around like a headless chicken or sitting very still, concentrating. I made multiple trips to Stonehaven station as my kids went down to Edinburgh for a gig then Freya came up for a flying visit to see Fergus perform at Drummonds Bar in Aberdeen. 

Fergus and I blitzed driving theory revision on Tuesday morning and he passed the test in the afternoon. My knowledge of road signs and pedestrian crossings is now far superior to when I sat my driving test in 1986;) He will sit the practical driving test in April and it would be great if he could manage to pass first time so I don’t have to pay for any more lessons!


I supervised 3 large customer DIY quilts where we made good use of Qmatic automated designs. I have decided that the next quilt I do freehand will be a Hoffmann Fabrics “Dream Big” panel so I can brush up my quilting skills and showcase many designs on one piece. 

I spent my final week at the screen printing class using the large table to block-print wooden stamps randomly around my Warli circles. I attached pompom trim and red bells to each end of the scarf which I wear to the student exhibition opening next weekend. 


I continued my slow and rustic hand-stitching on the quilt but decided to attach the quilt hanging sleeve before completing the hand sewing just in case I do not finish on time. I must investigate some sort of thimble alternative because I have holes or callouses on my fingers and a nasty split in my thumb which I have now repaired with super-glue. I made an effort to reinforce the ends of the hanging sleeve with really tight stitching because I find that tends to unravel after the quilt has been loaded on and off a batten a few times. 

I bought a timber batten for the Grays Art School student show and decided to paint it white to match the wall upon which it will be hung. I was delighted to find a small can of white enamel fast-dry spray paint when I was rummaging for sand-paper so I simply sprayed the ends of the batten that will poke out.

After waking up in the middle of the night panicking that I had not turned up at an important appointment I decided that it was time to tidy my desk and check my multiple notebooks for things I have forgotten to do. I was almost caught out by February ending abruptly with a quilt show entry form that I had to email instead of sending by post, even though it had been completed in what I had thought was plenty of time. 

The spring-like weather should be making me feel like having a good clear-out but as long as my workshop is organised and I have projects to do I will choose to ignore any junk and chaos in my house.

What is Black, White and Red All Over?


The warli quilt was not destined to become a show quilt but a few folk have asked if I intend for it to go to FOQ. I had planned to be working on something else for 2019 shows by now so maybe the warli quilt will be a contender after all. It is not that I have not made an effort with it, just that it was not exactly planned. It was only really originally made for the evening class exhibition. 

I did go around some of the figures with sparkly thread but not all of them as that would have been bonkers. It was tricky task since they are very angular so any freehand wobbles would be obvious and they are rather small for rulers. I wound quite a few pom-poms before deciding that I had been making the wrong size and maybe they were not strictly necessary. 


The thing that did get out of control was my decision to kantha stitch all of the unprinted sashings. I dislike thimbles, the eco wadding was a bit tough and the big needles required for thicker threads did not exactly go through the layers of the quilt willingly. Sometimes I found the task calming but at other times I was frustrated by tangling threads and before long I had bent several needles and worn away the top of my finger. My stitching looks decidedly rustic but it does add really nice texture. After some long hours of hand-sewing I can’t believe how many sashing strips there still are to finish!

Although it felt like most of my week was absorbed by the warli quilt I managed to fit in a customer quilt and I dyed some cotton pom-pom trim to attach to my as yet unfinished scarf. 

On Thursday I presented a trunk show and (ha-ha) hand-sewing workshop to a visiting group of American visitors in an Aberdeen hotel. Despite being near the end of their busy tour, they were an enthusiastic and appreciative group and everyone did a great job of simple stitching on a triskele “mug-rug”. Aberdeen’s mini IKEA is situated in the area where I was teaching so I nipped in for a wander and came out with 2 cheap red cushion covers, ideal for screen-printing. 

On Saturday morning I drove into Aberdeen to visit Peacock Visual Arts Studio where I had signed up for a class in using a Risograph copier. I was not sure how this could be applied to fabric printing but I used it as an opportunity to see what else went on. I was excited to discover that there is also a laser cutter and a suite of Mac computers running Adobe Illustrator and that the learning sessions are very reasonably priced. I am hoping to get some tuition in creating vector drawings that can be converted into stitch files on the Bernina Qmatic. 

During the workshop I added text to my warli spiral since I thought that a chorus from Blur’s Parklife seemed appropriate,“All the people, so many people, and they all go hand in hand…” I have no idea what I will do with my batch of warli posters yet but it gives me something else to exhibit at the art school show I a couple of weeks:)

So Many People!


I spent Monday morning shinning up and down a step ladder to tie lengths of string to my workshop strip lights so I could hang up a set of fairy lights to make the far room with fewer windows look more inviting. I had not noticed that the lights comprised multiple dangly strings of icicles or that they might flash. A certain amount of detangling went on and I managed to disable the annoying twinkling. After that was all sorted out I plugged in the new Q24 and gave it a quick test run and all seemed well, which was a relief since I built it by myself!

While I had a DIY quilter here a friend came over having suggested that my bookcase was inaccessible behind the ironing board. She gamely took all of the books off the shelf and we swapped the bookcase with an old kitchen dresser that stores stuff I rarely need (should chuck out). The books are now in the longarm room with non-flashing fairy lights and chairs that have been dug out and dusted off. I found a ricketty stool and mended it with a piece of wooden pallet, a couple of brass screws and a hammer, since I could not get the screws in far enough. I am going to invest in some ratcheting screwdrivers because my electric one is pathetic. I have no idea when I will sit calmly and read all of my books with a cup of coffee balanced on the now-steady stool but it all looks fantastic. 

I received a package from India containing wooden stamps that I felt would come in handy. I gave them a quick print on a scrap of linen and they worked well. I planned to use them on the Warli quilt to fill in the blanks where I have to add strips to make the blocks fit together.


A customer phoned in a panic because a quilt that she had pieced seemed to have got pressed out of shape. She had been aware that it had a lot of bias pieces which just stretched and distorted when ironed. I used steam and spray starch to get most of that under control then quilted it with the Timewarp pattern. Thankfully no pleats or tucks were necessary and it all finished up nice and flat. It might not hang straight on a wall but it will look lovely on a bed which is what it is for;)

At the screen printing class I printed off 8 large Warli spirals on a very thin piece of white Indian cotton. I decided not to bother measuring the spacing accurately and will fill in some of the gaps with a few more people and small spirals. I intend to wear it to the end of year student exhibition. I printed off a couple of discharge prints on black fabric then declared that I had enough samples to make the quilt. 


Piecing the Warli quilt was not very creative or scientific – I just joined strips on by eye until it all fitted together which took almost 2 days. Rather than print more blocks and take even longer to piece a reversible quilt back, I used Indian dye powder to dye a white piece of cotton as red as I could in the washing machine. I had to get my mop out when red dye started flowing over the rim of the defective workshop loo but the floor is concrete so no harm was done. The quilt back is a great colour but more under-ripe tomato red rather than ketchup red but I don’t mind because there are variations of red in the screen prints.


I decided to use the Qmatic to do basic background quilting in spirals then think about how to add interesting embellishments or additional stitching later. I was so pleased with the result that I forgot that I had intended to outline some of the figures. I carried on and attached the binding, complete with a fancy spiral stitch. I might pin the quilt back on later if I feel like attempting some freehand outlined Warlis in sparkly thread.  I hope to do some rustic kantha stitching in some of the blocks, add some block printing and sew on a few random pompoms so although it is technically finished it is not actually finished…


Superwoman Sometimes


I completed 2 customer quilts this week using Bernina Qmatic. I am pleased to say that I have sussed how to realign the safe area which was a puzzle to me for a while. It is very accurate at matching where the next row of a design should be placed. An issue that I need to solve is when customer quilts are not totally square and the size of the borders varies throughout the quilt. 


In anticipation of the new Q24 being delivered I rearranged some stuff in my two rooms. Although I have a lot of space, it is not well designed with sloping ceilings, bits of wall that stick out, windows where blank walls would be more useful and a lack of wall sockets. I have to keep all of the Bernina boxes for the Q24 that is on loan and they used to be stuffed under the APQS machine. Since the new Q24 is a couple of feet shorter, I can store the boxes at one end of the room. I wanted to hide them behind a hanging quilt so I installed an IKEA curtain wire with a tension mechanism. The wood that I had to fix screws into was very hard so I found it difficult to get them in all the way and for some reason the tension mechanism wanted to unravel itself so my solution was to wrap that end in duck tape! Of course I could not find a quilt that was exactly the right size to hang so I folded over the top 6 inches of my Fancy Forest and attached curtain clips to hang  it from the curtain wire. 

I laid out all of my Warli screen prints and realised that I probably have more than enough to make a quilt – in fact I may even make a double-sided one if I have time. I was not thrilled with the quality of the print using my new screen so have decided to re-expose it so the images are crisper. I want to keep the Warli spiral design so I bought my own screen since the college ones will be wiped when the course finishes. I plan to print the Warli spirals onto some long cotton scarves when I make my mind up about whether to dye them or not. I ran off a few prints of the design that I drew based on circular mantra stitching and I love the way it turned out.


The Aberdeen delivery company commissioned to deliver the new Q24 phoned to enquire whether I had a forklift as it was all loaded on a hefty pallet. I explained that the usual procedure would be to take the plastic wrap off the pallet and carry the boxes separately. I was not impressed when one guy instead of two arrived with a truck that did not even have a lifting tailgate. Thanks to my porter’s trolley and some determination we managed to manhandle the boxes off the truck. 

I spent more than 2 days slowly assembling the new Q24 frame single-handed. If you don’t have to do it regularly it is easy to forget the easiest way of doing things and a few of the fixings are now different to the original installation manual. I got there in the end and I am looking forward to trying it out when I get a long enough extension cable. 

My kids have been mortified by the Landy’s latest anomaly which is that the alarm kept going off randomly every time the doors opened or closed and quite often while driving along. It turns out that the driver’s door lock is broken so I have temporarily had to tape it shut with pink Scottie dog duck tape until I can get it fixed. I have a nasty feeling I may have to get an entirely new door since the whole thing is rusty. 

Fergus refused to be taken to his first solo performance at a pub in Aberdeen in a car that gave the impression that it may have been stolen so we had to squeeze his gear into the Beetle. Quite a few of his college friends turned up and declared that he did a great set. He has since been booked as a support act for a few local gigs so it looks like I will be the “Roadie” until he passes his driving test and gets his own transport.

Quilting in a (not so) Polar Vortex


It has been very cold here this week with temperatures rarely rising above zero celsius, even in bright sun. I cannot imagine what it must have been like in the USA where some places were colder than Antarctica! We had very little snow up here so everything ran as normal except for my Landrover which had ice on the inside of the windows, the alarm beeping as I was driving along due to some ice in the electrics and I had to use rope to tie the door shut when the rubber seals froze so that Bumble was not ejected. Twice a day I had to pour boiling water over the hens’ aluminium drinking trough because it kept freezing. While the prospect of summer seems like months away, I booked tickets to the Latitude Festival in July so I will have to organise some camping gear since my folks have sold their caravan. 

I managed to get my workshop up to a working temperature most days as long as I was also wearing thermals and at least 2 extra jumpers. I managed to finish off the quilt that the computer messed up while I was busy multi-tasking. I tightened up the belts and clamps  then had no more issues on the final quilt done by my trusty APQS Millennium. I advertised it for sale in the New Year, assuming that it would take a while to sell as it is the 14ft version. To my surprise it was snapped up within 24 hours! This week I packed it all up, with all sorts of accessories and spares then it was collected to go and work for a new owner in the south of England. I have owned an APQS machine since 2007, quilting ALL sorts of projects on it so it was quite a big decision to let it go and order a second Bernina Q24. However, I know that I love free-motion on the Bernina and the new frame will be a bit shorter so there will be a little extra storage space in my studio. 

Once everything was tidy I noticed how the longarm room could do with being brightened up. I will hang a quilt up to cover some boxes and invest in some fairy lights. I can’t do much to hide all of the quilts, totems, wadding and general “stuff” that I have to store other than keep it tidy. Imagine how amazing it would be to design a studio from scratch with cavernous hidden cupboards;)


I actually completed 3 other customer quilts, all done with computer pantographs. None of them were quick or easy and I had to keep a close eye on them. I downloaded a great pattern called “Steampunk Spokes”, perfect for an engineer / bike enthusiast whose mother made him a birthday quilt. Qmatic did a great job but each row took at least an hour to sew. 


Since I did not feel I could go away and leave the machine quilting completely by itself, I decided to titivate the sketchbook that will accompany my screen printed Warli figures at the Gray’s School of Art evening class exhibition. I confess that I did not create the sketchbook THEN create the artwork. I actually created the artwork with what was inside my head then put the ideas onto paper afterwards. I printed out examples of Warli artwork, stuck in some photos that I took in India, added a few fabric samples, decorated some of the pages with wooden stamps then decided that the outside would be more fun if the spiral binder was festooned with pompoms. 



I ran off a few more prints at the class, including some foil transfers. I discovered that they do not work with a hot domestic iron at home. I only need one or two weeks more at the class to create prints so I leave enough time to sew all of the samples together as a quilt, particularly if I am considering adding a couple of blocks of pompoms / yo-yos, because – why not?!


Older but not Wiser


I became another year older this week but definitely not any wiser. I decided that the best way to celebrate my birthday was to work on the Bollywood Borders sample quilt while allowing the automated quilt system to work on a customer quilt. The first 2 rows were great then a belt clamp became loose, the whole design slipped and stitched over itself twice. This led to a pointless 4 hours of ripping out very small stitches! And I did not make the required progress on the Bollywood piece. 

Freya arrived in Munich just after midnight on Tuesday evening which was amazing progress made just by hitch-hiking. The entire group of students from St Andrews raised over £40 000 for local charities on this adventure. They also had great fun making new friends, drinking beer and enjoying Bavaria in the snow. 


Meanwhile, in my workshop – I decided that I would only work on Bollywood Borders and NOTHING else until it was finished. I lied when I said I might leave some of it unquilted. I could not leave more than half an inch of fabric unstitched. Maybe there is too much stitching but it is meant to be an aspirational piece for students to show them how far they can go if they want to. They can decide how little or how much to quilt. 

I started off by marking some border sections using a ruler and Frixion pen then marked in where the large shapes would fit. Some of these were drawn with a longarm ruler, using a ¼” spacer disc and others used a shape template that I had cut out of funky-foam. Paisleys had proved tricky to draw accurately. I could draw them using a combination of French curves but I was not sure how I would quilt them. The students will learn that they do not need an exact ruler for every shape. Basic rulers will guide them around odd shapes and at times they will have to be brave and go freehand. Of course, the Q24 is very well balanced so it is quite easy to freehand accurately. 


I had several reference books on Indian design on my table and had scoured through my Indian photos, looking for motifs. I hate that I doubt my drawing ability – little flowers should not be difficult! When I really started to analyse the shapes used in wood block prints and carvings I noticed that many of them were simple repeats of lines, lace and sprigs so all I had to do was vary where the fillers got used within the big shapes. 

I thought the whole project needed to be finished off with a touch of Bollywood Glamour so I spent an entire day filling some of the outlines with gold fabric paint and dotting on little blobs of pearlescent 3D paint like henna paste. 

Obviously, it took me far longer than 3 hours to complete the class sample quilt but the students should have enough time to learn how to quilt each section, even if they have to finish off the details at home. 

Just for fun, I bought myself a Polaroid Snap Touch camera for my birthday. I don’t “need” it, it just appealed to me and I like the idea that picture stickers can be printed straight out and put into a scrapbook. Suddenly, an idea that I had been mulling over for a while took shape and I realised that an effect that I want to explore is Double Exposure. I had a go at merging 2 photos from India – an elephant and a pattern. If I can find the right combinations of pictures this might be really interesting;)

I Ate an Elephant!


My Esoteric Elephant class sample quilt rampaged away with me. Partly this was because I had not really decided in advance what designs would be used. Mainly it was because I just could not stop adding details to the quilting which the students will not actually have time to do in class. 


I tried using an acetate sheet to audition the quilt designs but I did not notice that it did not cover the whole area that I wanted to doodle on and the bright green felt pen slipped, leaving a mark. This was was really prompted me to start colouring it after defining some of the edges with gold textile paint and a tiny brush.


I started off using Derwent Intense pencils and aloe vera gel but not all of the colours were vibrant enough. Sharpie pens were applied on top but they had a tendency to bleed so I had to be very careful. I found some Sakura jelly-roll pens so used them to colour around some smudges. In hindsight, I should have applied some sort of primer to the elephant then I could probably have used Sharpie pens without any bleeding. 

I could have continued colouring-in the whole elephant and adding definition with a fine black gel pen but there comes a point when a class sample has to stop, especially when I have one more class to plan by the end of January at the latest! Having spent far longer than planned on the project I finished it off by adding tiny blobs of 3D fabric paint in some of the circles, rather than start applying crystals and mirrors. 

The Bollywood Border class should have been drawn out ready to quilt by the weekend but I found it tricky to decide on the designs. I will quilt out a sample that will involve some ruler work and freehand detail but I will provide alternative designs on handouts because the class sample won’t be large so only a few motifs can be explored in the class. I have now sketched out the bare bones on paper and will get it quilted as fast as I can – maybe I could even leave some areas unfinished (As if!) 

Having been a bit concerned that I had a lull in customer work since Christmas, 5 quilts came in last week and I also hope to get something underway for the FOQ competition. 


My Warli screen-prints are building up – not all of them are suitable but it should not take me long to print off enough pieces to make some sort of quilt. I have not yet decided whether to do any piecing with shapes other than squares and rectangles. Obviously, that would be far more interesting but there is the issue of TIME. I would really like to figure out how to get Art&Stitch/Qmatic to stitch out some of the Warli figures but that is still beyond my capabilities with digital design at this stage.

I drove Freya back to St. Andrews after a long Christmas break. It was lovely to have her at home and she has been hugely supportive of Nell’s prelim exam revision. Before she starts the new term she is off on an adventure, hitch-hiking to Munich for charity in a team of 3 students, racing against 60 other trios. It is fun to track her progress on www.race2.org.uk (Team 58)