Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Piecing Frangipania

Have been quiet for a while due to a trip up to Cumbria for the Morceau quilting class followed by a trip down to London to teach. I had some time before my train today and dragged my case to the cool(ish) basement of Waterstones University branch for a Massimmo Mango Frascato and a browse at some quilting books. Not much in stock that caught my eye except one on fusing fabrics with a soldering iron which appeals to me but will horrify Dennis who knows my pyromaniacal tendancies. ( In my defence I have never gone further than burning paper serviettes in the candle flame in restaurants but I still frighten him!)

However, setting off to Euston I was halted in my tracks by a book cover in the window which I thought had fantastic batik type colours and gave me a sudden jolting insight into how to combine such fabrics. It looked like this:

I had to go back and find the novel. I read the first couple of pages and instantly wanted it - it is by a Tahitian writer whose prose cadences reminded me of Sandra Cisneros and the opening at least was very funny. However it was on the 3 for 2 promotion but I didn't have time then to find another 2 and it grieved me so much to buy a book and not get the discount that I put it back. I regret it now but it will be bought very shortly.

Instead on the train I read this book

which shows you how to use a myriad of tiny templates evolved from straightline drawings in turn evolved from tracings of photgraphs to create intricate landscape quilts. Have to try this sometime soon! Probably with a scene of Khayelistisha township with Table Mountain in the background which I saw whilst watching U Carmen e Khayelitsha and knew I wanted to quilt but hadn't a clue how. Not saying I can now but at least I know where to start.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Hot in the city tonight

This heat is sapping all my energy and is melting my car. Seriously. There is a bit of the trim around the handbrake area whch has shrivelled up and gone all sticky in the sun. Which I don't blame it for because that's how I feel. Which is what I am using as my excuse for the behaviour to which I am about to confess.

Today I watched three daytime TV programmes in a row. My study was unbearably hot, the lounge, which gets the sun later less so. The TV was on for breakfast news because our newspaper didn't arrive this morning and I can't eat cornflakes without engaging in another activity at the same time. So, when I dragged myself up to get the laptop and settle to boring word processing type jobs in the lounge, I left the TV on for company. And saw three property development shows in a row. That's 2 and a half hours worth. Without changing channels.

I saw two women not buying any of three houses in Tunisia. Two were 'fantastic but not for me'. The third had no roof and a donkey in the kitchen. Then I saw three people buying houses at auction and not living in them. Then I saw a Leeds couple beeing shown a house above their price range, a house like the one they lived in now but with a newer kitchen and a 'wild card' house that had none of the requirements they asked for and a basement kitchen with a ceiling about five foot eight. (Her: I love the sink but I couldn't stand at it wearing heels.) Then we had to wait with bated breath and reminder of what we had just seen all of ten minutes ago to see which one they would buy. (None of them.)

When did we get so obsessed with property in thsi country as opposed to creating homes? A similar show I watched ( OK, I know I need to stop this) last week ( as wall paper whilst handquilting in a hotel room) claimed that the family home market in Poole now 'demanded' three bathrooms. I seem to recall that a good family home when I grew up ( and I'm only 36) demanded sufficient space in the garden for a blow up paddling pool.

Which brings me to my point. How come that all these renovation projects show us how to 'add value' with ensuite showers and decking with Japanese water features and original mosaics in the courtyard ( in Tunisia that last one) but none of them ( including the Tunisia one) talk about AIR CONDITIONING.

Is it just me?

Monday, July 17, 2006

Tivoli quilt

I might have been absent from blogging whilst I was away in Leeds but at least I was being productive. I finally finished my completely handpieced and quilted girls quilt this week called Tivoli on account of having been pieced mainly on flights to and from Copenhagen and whilst sheltering from rain when we were there. It is meant to be a Project Linus quilt but whether I can part with it just yet....! The quilting is done with large butterflies over the surface to match one of the fabrics. I knw a lot about property developing as a result of this quilt as I was busy watching what I call 'hotel TV' whilst I was sitting on a cushion on the floor of my Novotel room ( the better to get some light on the quilt - why do hotels insist of having tiny low wattage blubs around the rooms but no central light on the ceiling?)

Monday, July 10, 2006

Story submissions sought

Writers among you who struggle with long word lengths ('E....n' and 'T.....h', you know who you are!) Try the magazine Random Acts of Writing which is seeking short stories including short shorts - i.e 100 words. (Come on even you can do that!!) The details are in 'Submissions' and then unexpectedly in the 'What you get' link.

I found it advertised in Leakey's second hand book shop in Inverness and it markets itself as a Highlands Magazine but the submission pages does not say you have to live there - its just retailed on line and in shops in that region. No payment yet but some sense of self-satisfation I would imagine.

What if? Writing meets the needle.

I had one of those Eureka moments last week.

I was having a bad day with the quilt I last posted and in a sulk picked up a very old copy of Popular Patchwork. In there was an article on 'Liberated quilting' i.e cutting up fabric and sewing it together however you like and it led to a very creative and happy weekend. I emailed the author June Barnes (who has a wonderful gallery of quilts on her site the quality and inventiveness of which I aspire to) and she wrote back saying in part:
"there is no right or wrong way to do anything in this field of textiles, no rules and regulations to adhere to. If it works for YOU and the results please YOU then it is right! It is so important to enjoy the process, not follow some pressure to please others (especially judges!) – have fun! Always ask the what if? Question and experiment to find out the answers!"

I am used to the 'What if' instruction in writing but it had not occured to me to try it in quilting. The photos below show the weekend work/playing of a quilt in process and a consequential midden of a dining room, which sadly will now have to be left as I travel to Leeds for three days... but I will be asking 'What If' about the quilting to be done as much as I will about a possible second attempt at a novel. I have a family in mind who are presenting themselves quite strongly as wanting to be in a novel but need to work on what exactly happens to them: there are a few ideas already there ( equivalent I suppose to my basket of fabrics) but I want to do the mental equivalent of spreading them on the floor and seeing what goes well where.... at least I have three evenings in a hotel room with nothing good on TV to start the process!

Friday, July 07, 2006

Stretched squares and Novel lengths

This latest project is driving me mad. Being self-taught I am not sure where I have gone wrong but all the blocks are different sizes and will have to be cut down. Thats the bad news. the good news is that I was so discouraged that I decided the agony of writing a novel was preferable. So, alos inspired by the unbrearable heat which has been preventing me sleeping I returned, until the early hours, to the novel and got all but the final chapter out of the way.

In so doing ( and in playing on Google for quick micro-breaks between lines ( as I do)) I stumbled on this blog from a literary agent which led me to the tip that if you look at the 'Search Inside' facility on Amazon.com it gives you the word length of the books. ( Note: on a quick survey it does seem to be on the US facility only but it might be available for certain books on the UK site that I haven't found.) It took me a while to find it but it is in 'Text Stats which gives you all kinds of other information such as 'Words per Dollar'!

All of which told me what I knew already - mine is too long. Only three of the books on the shelf in front of me as I played were longer: The Mammouth Cheese. Small Island and A Suitable Boy. All prize winners. Still trying to work out if lenght is a relevant factor in that connection! Either way, I still think mine is too long so it is off to the editing room for me

Monday, July 03, 2006

A good day

Today I got an un-expected letter from Inland Revenue Customs and Excise, which is not a name you really want to see on an envelope when you already have the quarterly letter containing your blank VAT return form and are pretty sure your tax bill is not yet due. But when I opened it it was a letter telling me that becuase my accountant was smart enough (unbenown to me) to file my employer PAYE return on line rather than on a paper form I was entitled to a £250 tax free, Vat free cheque! And ... if he does it again next year, I get £150. Which is not bad when my total PAYE bill is £660 a year. Of course I could be churlish and point out that Gordon Brown has taken far more from me in stealth tax than he doth give.... but that would take time up and I don't have time becuase, if you will excuse my short blog, I have to go to Amazon and spend my windfall on one of the few product that doesn't incur tax these days!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

On being away

It seems that blogging is like exercise - once you miss a day the whole routine goes to pot. However, I have the excuse that I have been travelling. I went to see my friend Sharon in Scotland and stayed in this B&B by Loch Broom

The weather was not good which meant I got to snap this double rainbow just as I was leaving:

Then I flew to London and flew back in the same day haing spoken at a conference for an hour, then the next day we went to my parents B&B ( www.sunningdale-cumbria.co.uk) for the weekend taking in a quilting class and Sedbergh which is setting itself up as a book town and is thus, for a tiny place, stocked with many second hand ones of which the best by far is Westwood Books ( which sadly as yet has no website) so here is a picture of my second favourite a shop combining textiles with books - a general stock as well as ones on quilting ( suprise suprise) and general sewing and embroidery. It rejoices in the name of The Sleepy Elephant.

Then I went to London again, this time, for two full days and managed to sneak in an evening in Waterstones and a Thames cruise before coming home to sew together a large pile of blue and white triangles Sharon kindly let me cut out at her house and to start a great new book Londonstani .

So I hope you can forgive my blog absence!