Sunday, 28 September 2014

Comme ci Comme ça

This week was hectic after I reluctantly agreed to work 4 days in a school the following week and felt the pressure to get lots done while I could. I programmed a basic flower pantograph into the Quilt Path system and quilted the wonky house quilt which I hope to put up for sale and I ordered 3 unfinished quilt tops from Ebay to see if I can sell them too. I have not lined up a shop to sell them for me since they charge such a ridiculous commission so I will just see if anyone fancies them on Facebook. I am considering framing up the individual quilts in “The Ostrych”, hoping that they will look more arty/saleable. It would be great to make enough from a sideline such as this so I did not have to go into school at all. I seem to dread the classroom more each time these days. It is not that I cannot cope, it is simply that I much prefer working on quilts!

I tried to avoid working on the heavy silk and wool-crewel bedspread by getting in a muddle piecing the “Dunes” bedquilt on point. Despite using a design wall, I found that I was short of a diagonal row of blocks. I think there is a bit too much yellow in the new version but I could not get a wide range of subtle, coastal colours in the UK when I ordered those Kona cottons. I plan to quilt overlapping circles all over it like rain splashes in a pool. 
The bedspread was completed in the end even though the weight of it made it sag on the frame. Surprisingly, the thickness was not a huge problem but a few pleats did form in places, particularly around the most damaged areas of worn silk.

The unquilted 1950’s hexagon coverlet that I offered to wash for Mo did not fare so well. Several of the fabrics simply disintegrated and I wished that I had quilted the whole thing densely first. It was another hard textile lesson learned. It could possibly be rescued by bonda-webbing new hexagons on top of the worn ones but I have not got time to tackle such a restoration at the moment. As it is, I keep having the same elusive dream about patchwork blocks every night and one of my cast-iron cooking pots had to be soaked for days after I welded mince to the bottom of it. Fortunately, no-one was able to detect the unintended secret ingredient in the lasagne sauce where I mistakenly used a large spoonful of baking powder instead of cornflour. The clue was that when I mixed it in there was some unusual fizzing which would not normally happen…

Freya and I ordered a selection of books and DVD’s from Amazon France,  to help with her studies for Higher French hoping that “poche” means paperback. We tried taking turns to read Harry Potter in French out loud but I think we just sounded like malfunctioning robots. 

My hairdresser had fun colouring my hair purple with teal highlights. I have decided that purple is far too dark for me and look forward to it fading to a more respectable pink. At least I won’t have to make much effort to come up with a witchy hair-do for Halloween;)

As Nell and I drove home from Banchory one dark evening, I felt that the Landy had developed wobbly wheels. We crawled home cautiously and in the morning could see that one wheel had lost a big nut and the ball joint on the other side was oozing gunge. It is lucky that this did not happen at speed, particularly last week on my trip to the Lake District. I hope it won’t cost a fortune to fix but Landrover repairs don’t usually come cheap!
I was almost disappointed when the Landy garage loaned me a banger for the week so I could still go to school. 

Fearing that I would not have time to sew much of consequence next week, I cut out a set of strips from a collection of fat quarters to make a simple “just-because” type of quilt. Even if I don’t get anything else done, I can at least piece a few strips:)

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Quilt Retreat in the Lake District

I did not plan to follow a large pack of cyclists all the way over the Cairn O’Mount at the start of my journey to the Lake District which my shortcut far longer than necessary! It is a good job that I had packed as minimally as possible since Kay had lots of quilts for her talks to fit into the Landy. We arrived at Rydal Hall after dark and found it a little spooky at first since there seemed to be nobody else there. During the week all sorts of guests came and went from Church ministers on refresher courses to watercolour artists and hill walkers. 

We spent the following day setting up 2 long arm machines and getting our teaching rooms ready for 10 quilting ladies who arrived in time for afternoon tea. Later that evening everyone started their projects and chatted about where they had come from until about 11pm. We had guests from Scotland, The West Country, The Midlands and even Austria. One or two had brought their husbands who would occupy themselves by exploring the magnificent countryside and its quaint pubs.

Like everyone else I worked on several projects and demos during the week. I quickly and randomly joined my house blocks together then worked on quilting circles on a better quality piece of spandex to make a replacement Gold Totem. I bored myself by painting two coats of paint on the quilted rings of “5-Bar Gate 2” and I managed to assemble all of the simple blocks for the bed version of “Dunes Duet”. 

We could have done far more sightseeing since we were close to Beatrix Potter’s house, Wordsworth’s church and a flat-calm Lake Windermere but we were FAR too busy sewing to tear ourselves away. Kay and I wandered around Ambleside which was crawling with hikers and I have never seen so many outdoor-apparel shops. 

I made a point of wandering around the beautifully landscaped grounds where we were staying and was impressed to discover that a textile artist-in-residence had an Art Yurt in which she was spinning herdwick sheep wool. There were felted and crocheted objects hanging around the garden that looked like they had simply grown there. 

Ani,Kay and I all gave talks in the evenings and invited outsiders to attend. One visitor told  us that she had particularly enjoyed the comedy repartee when we tried to sort out a minor technical hitch at the start of my slideshow - I had grabbed the wrong bag of cables so we quickly made a copy from my Mac onto a USB stick and used Kay’s laptop instead.

One of the highlights of the week was a trip to the Derwent Pencil Museum which boasts that it has the largest colouring pencil in the world. I found out about the importance of graphite for cannon ball manufacture in the 1500’s and how its smugglers coined the phrase “the black market”. There were microscopic carvings on the tips of pencils and many other fascinating artefacts including WW2 maps concealed within pencils that would enable escaping POW’s to find their way back to Blighty. We had a bit of a spending spree in the shop and I bought a couple of tins of Inktense blocks to colour the plain side of the long-abandoned “BzB” after it has been quilted.

All too soon the end of the week approached. With some trepidation, I woke up on Friday morning and was quietly relieved that Scotland had voted to stay within the United Kingdom with a definite majority. It was quite odd to be staying somewhere without access to TV and decent wifi during such a momentous time of Scotland’s history but we had far too much stitching to do to worry about that;) 

We said our goodbyes, offered to hoover up the clumps of thread and repacked the Landy which was quite a feat since we were also taking the demo APQS Millennium and frame legs back to Scotland! As usual, we had fun hanging out with quilters, drank a fair amount of gin and the other guests seemed to enjoy our daft banter. We took a scenic road out of Ambleside and the laden Landy valiantly tackled the bends of a steep hill, appropriately called “The Struggle”. 

The worst part of returning from a great trip is putting everything back in its place at home. Freya helped me to perform brain-surgery on the Lenni machine while it was off its frame. New circuit boards will solve the repetitive needle up/down malfunction that used to occur in hot weather. I even loaded the house quilt ready to seat in the morning so I can do something easy before attempting to fix an ancient tapestry bedspread for a castle. I think it will be one of those weeks that disappears in a flash…

Monday, 15 September 2014

Loose Ends

I seem to have spent my week tying up loose ends, finishing things off or getting organised for the next project. I am teaching at a Quilt Retreat with Ani and Kay this week in the Lake District so I also wanted to pack plenty of things to show and do there. I completed the quilting on the Book version of “5 Bar Gate” so I should get its rings painted while I am away and finish it off with machine embroidery using the big Bernina when I get back.

I attached the binding onto the Vintage 50’s quilt and the Super Bright Starry one then swithered about whether to add a border to the remake of “Silent Movie Star”. In the end, I decided just to leave it since I did not really like it as much as the original version. I soon discovered how sloppily I had pieced it when I attempted to custom quilt it with feather motifs using the Quilt Path computer! Let’s just say that I learned several things at once. I would definitely have made a a far better job of it freehand. I wanted to see what formal feathers would look like on a quasi-lonestar quilt but the spaces were too large to fill with the basic designs. I discovered how to edit, copy and move blocks so it was not a waste of time at all and as long as I stand well back from “B-Movie Star”, it looks all right. It is another quilt that I hope to sell. 

Another decision was that I would not continue making long fence blocks as a border for the Happy House blocks as it was already quite large. This is another quilt which I will “allow” QP to do with an all-over pattern. I made an uncharacteristic decision to square up the blocks to a uniform size and was aghast when I realised that some were at least ¼” -½” inch bigger all round than others. 

Another job that had been waiting to be done forever was to make a new ironing board cover since the old once was brown with burnt starch and bits of sponge were poking through. It did not even take me very long to cut out a piece of wadding and make a channel for string in a very roughly shaped piece of linen curtain fabric. The Tuesday Night Quilters were most impressed by the improvement because I have probably been muttering about making a new cover for at least 3 years.

While I was rooting through the basket I came across an antique quilt that is really tatty but I need to find wide batiste with which to cover the ancient appliqué. There is also a lovely Indian bedspread that needs a simple all-over design but first I will actually need to order some new rolls of wadding! 

In amongst my time in the workshop, I met with the Estate Factor regarding a housing development behind Durris School, taught Primary 1 for a day, drove deep into the Highlands to drop off Freya’s D of E crowd and tried to watch out for the Northern Lights through a thick blanket of fog. Obviously not forgetting, also mopping up two washing-machine related floods in the workshop loo where the decrepit plumbing rain caused an overflow and attempting to prevent Thistle the Kitten from teasing Bluecat, the most disgruntled Older Cat. Everyone will just have to sort themselves out this week while I am away busily demonstrating longarming and finishing off one or two quilts;)

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Proof that Procrastination leads to Progress

Perhaps it is because people are constantly asking me if I am busy that I feel obliged to fill every available moment in my working day, particularly since I am not teaching much in school at present. Certainly, with everything lined up in kit form for the week, there was less opportunity for getting side-tracked.

Monday’s project was assembling the spandex pouffe Book Project which went well after a couple of attempts at attaching the lurex piping. I wanted to figure out how to explain the  neatest and most straight-forward method accompanied by step-by-step photos. Fitting the cylinder onto the circular ends also went without a hitch. The major problem that I had not foreseen was how to fit a firm foam cylinder with a 48” diameter into a 14” opening. I had imagined that I could just squash it all in but it proved to be impossible. I suddenly realised why most pouffes are filled with polystyrene beads or why they have a long zip around one end. I came up with a radical solution because I did not want to take it all to bits and start again. I used a bread-knife and cut the cylinder in half then I cut one half in half again. It was then far easier to shove the firm foam inside the cover, pat it all back into shape the sew up the back by hand like one of my totems. I have tried sitting on it and it survived, although I experienced a sinking feeling. Really, it is just a frivolous foot-stool or a place on which to  balance a tea tray. I don’t even know where I intend to put it since I can imagine Thistle shredding it with her claws. In my Book, this project will be titled  “Spandex Pouffe - Not For Cats”.

Since I don’t currently have a backlog of customer quilts, I decided to finish off a couple of tops that had been stashed in a basket for a fair while and try to sell them. There was an ancient one that was made from all sorts of worn and unusual fabrics that seemed impossibly skewed out of shape. Some of the fabrics looked like they could easily have been recycled from garments of the 1950’s. It could only be freehand quilted densely in order to fix some dodgy seams and deal with the fullness. When it was done, I chucked it in the washing machine with two colour-catchers which emerged later soaked a suspicious dark grey. The unloved vintage quilt now smells clean and feels softly worn - it just needs to be squared it up a bit before a gingham binding is attached. 

The other top was one that I bought as an unfinished project at a Guild sale some time ago. I could never decide whether to add borders or turn it into a sleeping bag so it kept getting put back into the basket. After the usual faff of forgetting how I last managed to programme my longarm to use Quilt Path, I supervised while the machine robotically quilted an allover honeycomb pattern. I should be able to go away and do something else while the machine is doing its own thing but I still don’t trust it to behave when I am not watching.  I am very pleased with the way it turned out and I think the hexagonal quilting design on top of the bright stars looks great. I posted a picture on Facebook and sold it within an hour!

Website Wonder, Helen Bantock, worked away at making all of my updated icons, pictures and text operate correctly and I am delighted at the fresh, new look of 
This more than made up for the chagrin that my FOQ results seem to have been lost in the post and that I cannot find a single haulage company in Aberdeen to work out a simple shipping quote to Germany. 

I wrote my final Parent Council Chairperson’s Report for Fenella’s school 3 days ahead of schedule and finished the week working on the Book version of “5 Bar Gate” since I did not take any quilting photos while I made the original yurt panel or even its spin-off, “Willowbay Herb”! It is one of several projects that I plan to take to a Quilting Retreat in the Lake District.  I am actually one of the tutors so it will remain to be seen how much sewing of my own I manage to get done. Still, I reckon it is better to take too many things to do than not enough;)