Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Independent book shop

I know- I have a lot to say today (this being my third post today) but I wanted to to alert all book lovers (and in particular the one who just gently pointed out that my blog is supposed to be about writing as well as quilts) to a newly open shop and website and set of blogs.

Mr B's Emporium of Reading Delights in Bath has a name that alone makes me salivate but this new shop we discovered is a beautiful, calm, haven for book lovers devoid of chicklit and orange stickers but posessed of free coffee for browsers and a dog who lies wagging its tail in encouragement when you pick up a book.

And unlike Borders they don't stack their books on the floor like tins of beans.

For those like us who are not close enough to try to get locked in this place on a regular basis and who can see the merit at least some of the time of not buying on the basis of Amazon discounts only, they do sell online.

Plus there is a series of blogs about books. The owner has one based on the Guardian's website. The dog has one and the so called Book Monkey - who was absent when we there there but seems to do a lot of reccommending - even has one. Go to this link to see all three.

A stray non-quilt entry

I am feeling vindicated. I get teased a lot for the time I spend on the Internet and the way I think it is a magic box with wonderful amounts of information inside it. On the way home from Bath we decided, with the assistance of a brochure which I made myself travel sick reading, to go back to Morrocco in May. Being constitutionally unable not to go on line for information I decsended from the study a couple of hours later, jubilant. I saved nearly £800 off brochure price for our trip and found a deal on a deluxe room in this hotel which is the one we wished we'd stayed at last time in Marrakesh ( we used to leave our disappointingly tatty four star and go for lunch here and sigh). The price we paid was £68 per night cheaper than any other internet travel agency. Now that you don't get on the High Street

Plus I'm all excited because I've found this kasbah to stay in in the mountains - the very word is tantalsing. It has a textile shop opposite it!! (And I even managed to book it directly with the french speaking owner).

Finally did you know ( and this is the lawyer coming out) that riding one of these...

... requires you to pay the supplement on your travel insurance for dangerous sports unless it is tethered and led by a guide in which case it is listed in the exceptions to policy exclusions? I know. Anal. ( Me, that is not the camel. Although last time I passed one there was a bad smell coming from somewhere....)


Yesterday I posted a now deleted entry complaining that Blogger wouldn't publish my photos - which it wouldn't. Honest. And I am somewhat vindicated because I notice that Melody had problems on the same day with Blogger too. Only I log on today to try and add the photos only to find that not only has it published the photoless version it published the one with photos and a draft version as well. Apologies to anyone yesterday who tried to work out what on earth I was up to!

Also yesterday I was all excited to start quilting my first fused quilt ... here is the basic top, made out of those strings I wacked togther by hand on trains and in hotels last month.. to be embellished later..

But when I dug out the wadding from my many Bath purchases I found they had cut 45cm not 45inches! Grr.

Then Dennis reminded me to tax my car. Only I couldn't find the required MOT certificate. Which turned out to be becuase I hadn't had the car MOT'd. So there was a panic visit to the garage who kindly booked it in for 8am this morning. I've just been to collect it only I forgot to take any payment method with me so Dennis had to stump up then bless him he's even gone to tax it for me so I can come back and work on some opinions before driving to speak for an hour at a conference held at Manchester United football ground. (I'm going to be in big trouble when he sees I've actually been blogging!)

Now where is that darkened room?

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Back from bath

Back from a lovely week holded up in our retreat flat in Bath which we rent a couple of times a year. Plenty of time for reading, restaurant lunches and retail activities including some books, high leather boots, bits and bobs of clothes and this necklace and bracelet set from Bijoux beads to which I couldn't help but treat myself.

Oh yeah and I might have gone to Country Threads. A couple of times. OK, four times. And to a Husquavana shop for some Simplicity bag and skirt patterns on half price sale. ( I got talked into taking some dressmaking lessons as from next month. )

Dennis bought me a Kaffe Kasset book and I did really try to buy some outrageously colourful fabric from his range but didn't quite manage to get away from 'my colours'. I will one day. But for now I needed 4.5 m to back an autumn coloured log cabin and maple leaf quit I was working on down there (managing to set up studio in the tiny galley kitchen so that we almost ended up with rotary cut batik sandwiches for supper one night.) Only they didn't have enough left of either my first or second choice fabrics so I decided to piece a back, got a bit carried away and ended up with this tasty selection ( they look even better in real life). I think that the back may end up better than the front!

Whilst the shop owner and I were both stroking the pile she told methat they discovered recently that they have a couple of regular cusomers who don't actually sew anything -they just collect fabric!

I did also get a lot of work done on my first fused wall hanging - But Im not showing you that until its finished. Watch this spot.

The thing I hate about coming back from holiday is the washing. Somehow it didn't seem so bad today......

What the heck - the clothes can wait.

Oh and came home to find that I had sold my first quilting article (I've written loads of legal ones before) to British Patchwork and Quilting - about quilters blogs - expected to be in sometime in the Spring.

Friday, October 20, 2006

All roads lead to quilts

My husband's Hifi was ancient save for the modern addition of a CD player which cost all of about £34.99 a few years ago. For a music buff this is the equivalent of a treadle sewing machine so not unreasonably, ( and after I took delivery of my semi-professional sewing machine) he bought, for an extremely good price, a new, tiny and higher tech Hifi.

Fine. Only It looks daft in the much larger cabinet bought for the old one. And it has an aeriel that has to be pinned to the wall and which now looks like a black varicose vein up the wallpaper. Which, now you come to look at it closely has got a bit faded. So I made an executive decision that the only solution was new cabinet ( I'm thinking one with drawers to hold fabric and may be even one or two of his CDs) new wallpaper and custom made quilted wall hanging to cover the aeriel.

So off to the wallpaper shop. Dennis hates our local curtain and paper emporium Shaws with a passion. He shakes if I make him go in there and look through racks of to-order wallpaper books. So we went to a shop my Mum recommended - Slinns. Which I got Dennis to on the basis that it was more like a B&Q warehouse with racks of choose-and-walk-out-with-them rolls of paper. Which it is. Only nothing off the rack suited. It never does. So then we had to look through all the racks of paper books whilst standing up because, unlike the delightful Shaws, Slinns being like B&Q , do not provide chairs.

Dennis did very well. Very well indeed. Once he got over the habit of trying to guess what I liked and just got into comparing the paper against the sofa cushiosn we dragged in with us because he finds it so hard to carry colours in his head, he was fine.

We began to stack up the open books with possiblties in. One pile I then spread round the cushion, one particular paper stood out for us both as being just the right shade and we put all the other books back and off we went to order it. Only they don't sell it. So why is the sample book out? Because the manufacturers don't tell them which sample books they have discontinued. They just provide a catalogue with an index of what they do sell. I asked why on receipt of that catalogue they didn't just go to their racks of books and take away anything not on the list. Blank look. Arrgh. Why is customer service and common sense such an elusive thing these days?

I was all for denying them my custom and buying said expensive (don't ask) wall paper from Shaws but Dennis started to shake so we had to start again with a second choice , distinctly hampered by the fact that we couldn't remember which books contained out shortlist.

The only happy thing to come out of this was that I was so furious at the staff for wasting my time that they let me borrow without a deposit the 5 sample books in my second pile which contained wall paper that I have no intention of buying but which have design or textures that would make wonderful quilts. I never thought of looking in wall paper books for inspiration but it proves to be a good source.

Such a good source that I might end up with so many wall quilts that we won't see the paper we strove so hard to buy in the first place.
Ah well, tis life.

Off to Bath for a week in a flat for a break early tomorrow so may be blog lite. Not lite in any other way mind you - I have three large bags packed for a seven day trip. One with clothes (and shoes., always so many shoes!), one with fabric and one with sewing machine, and there are two quilt shops within easy reach so I antcipate being heavier on the way back......

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

City and Guilds Lines Final Piece (b)

So here is the 'resolved piece'. I am a bit worried that for a lines module and considering how I used lines to design it how few lines are in the end result - but hey, its done and I can explore something else now. Oh and I smudged the arm using pastels. Grrr. But no time to redo it.

You can't see the glittery lines much on this photo but they are twisted and knotted Madeira threads - they look much more like barbed wire than on this picture.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

City and Guilds - Lines Final Piece (a)

The first module of my City and Guilds is almost at a close and I have been busy cutting and gluing as the final task is to produce a 'resolved piece' showing all the stages in the design. however, we are not allowed to actually sew or quilt anything although fabric can be used as a medium.

In this entry I am posting the series of crayon drawings I produced ( in a Travelodge room in BirminghM one night!) as inspiration for the final design. The design must be intended for a particular type of product - an table runner, a cushion etc. and I decided to design an art quilt in memory of a 25 year old Polish Jew called Salka Wildfeuer who was a victim of the Holcaust. I have recently become a 'Guardian of her Memory' in a programme run by Yad Vashem which involves you receiving details of a Shoah ( holocaust) victim and wearinga lapel badge and lighting a candle in memory of them once each year. Details can be obtained from guardianofthememory@yadvashem.org.uk if you are interested. You do not have to be Jewish ( I am not) just concerned that this - and indeed other atrocities like it - should not be forgotton. The hope is that each victim will be remembered by someone.

Anyway - back to quilts. I was playing with lines in the shape of fire as her name means wild fire, the symbol of remembrance is a flame and, whilst Salka died in 1942 in Maniowy, almost all her extended family died and were cremated in Auschwitz.

The commentary on these pages from my portfolio has not come out well, but basically I was playing with fire ( as it were)...

but wanted to get away from this fleeing image from flames of destruction....

Played with just blue lines... ( the Yad Vashem flame is portaryed as predominently blue with a tiny centre of white -yellow)

and eventually used straight blue lines to represent both continuity of lineage and memory and as a reference to the flag of Israel and Jewish prayer shawls. I also wanted the lines representing Salka to have more defiance.

I am now making a paper and fabric collage of this last design - which I hope has more direct reference to the Star of David in the flames- and will post a picture of that soon. Currently part of it is a fabric shape painted with PVC glue and drying over a frame made of chopsticks and grapes in my kitchen!

Saturday, October 14, 2006


Up to Morceau today for the open class and I decided to leave the on-going quilts in abeyance and make a bag to cart my City and Guilds stuff around in as I am sick of packing and unpacking the same bag for work/ travel/ play. I intended to make something inspired by Brenda's strip bags but, well, I didn't. This material came out of the stash selection I took with me and the whole class decided I just had to use it. So here is my new bag.

It was only after I made it that I thought to try to put the travel cutting board in it and it fits like a glove. Serendipity ( to coin someone elses website!).

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Quilting on the hoof

It is now that time of year where I am on the road teaching only making pitstops home to change clothes and pay some cheques in. Oh and to make 22 foundation pices log cabin blocks yesterday - well, I was determined that I should have some time off. My work pays very well so I am not really complaining but I do get a little wistful ( hell, lets be honest, I get sheer resentful these days) when I can't be at my machine for at least a few minutes a day.

So at the start of September as I ran out to catch a train I grabbed 6 fat quarters, a pair of scissiors, pins, needle and thread and began hacking up and sewing back right there on the train. The result is these blocks. There are actually about 20 of them and I have no idea yet what use I will put them to but they have kept me company in several hotel rooms whilst watching bad TV.

I did resolve recently to rearrange my working life into a better balance so that I didn't work weekends at all. Sadly becuase I take bookings up to a year - 14 months in advance it takes a little while to implement these resolutions and so I found myself at this keyboard today ( Sunday) writing an opinion. Grrr. I wanted to be at those strips and log cabin blocks that are scattered all over the dining table. To make the experience less arid I did my usual trick of going to the BBC website to listen to something on playback. Oh that the BBC did a radio show about quilts I thought . Da-Ding! Memory Flash - ddn't I read somewhere that there was someone in the States who did quilt podcasts.....

And so I discovered the shows of Alex Anderson. You wouldn't think that you could 'do' such a visual topic on radio but the three I have listened to so far whilst working have put me in a much better mood! Check her out on www.alexandersonquilts.com.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

(pre) Senior moments

I am too young ( I hope) to admit to senior moments but I do have to confess to being a ditzy cow these last couple of days. I mismeasured the backing I needed for the pink garden quilt I posted a few days ago and ended up 10 cm short. So I decided to piece this strippy back and make it reversible. I planned with great accuracy so that the ties which were going through at the midpoint of the nine-patches on the otheside would come through in the thin strips on this side.

Only I forgot to add any seam allowance. So they don't.

Then I decided to learn how to foundation piece and started with some log cabins. I've made log cabins before but not this way and I want these to be very accurate so I can use them as a border around a centre piece of maple leaves. I was delighted with the first attempt. Precisely 7.5 inches square. Until I realised that it should be 8 inches. When I trimmed it I had cut the seam allowance off!

Then I forgot to change the paper in the printer and printed out my lecture invoices on foundation paper.

I am blaming it on all the travel and the subtle way it addles your brain. I am away again this afternoon to London for three days. Dennis however is with me this time as his old throat problem has resurfaced and the best he can manage is a squeak - no good for controlling a class full of unruly school children. So at least I will have some company and an excuse to try out some new restaurants in the evenings. Although I am feeling a smidgen guilty as I have a first class rail ticket and because he only booked yesterday he couldn't get any of the sensibly priced special deals and so is in 2nd class. (Full price is almost £300 - ridiculous for a journey of just 2hrs 10 mins.) Of course I could use my ticket in 2nd class and join him..... but I don't feel that guilty. And as he so generously pointed out - he can't really chat to me anyway!!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Quilter's exercise regime

I am back from a week of trailing my suitcase (and bag full of handsewing and art equipment and Waterstones and M&S bags acquired en route) around the country. Time to relax with some quilting. But soon it occurred to me that I might ditch my gym membership ( which at this time of year I never use because I'm not here) in favour of quilting. Here is today's exercise regime.

Aerobic warm up
Carry fabric from upstairs store cupboard to machine downstairs.
Go back up for FQ you droppped on the landing.
Go down. Start to sew.
Decide thread colour is wrong. Go upstairs for thread box.
Carry it downstairs. (Note for most quilters this step also has an element of weight training involved.) Sew.
Realise you have forgotton the precise method for your chosen technique.
Go upstairs to bookshelf for manual. ( For advanced practitionsers keep this on bottom shelf to incorporate squat)
Go downstairs. Decide technique is harder than anticpated and really requires mini chocolate bar stashed in handbag upstairs ( liberated from hotel conference facilties). Go upstairs.
Come down
Repeat ad nauseaum.

Sit/Stand squats
Sew one line. Stand, pushing yoursef up without use of your hands on the chair. Walk to ironing board. Press fabric. Walk back to chair. Sit. Uses thigh muscles. For advanced level do squat whilst at board. Repeat for 8 seams per block and 40 blocks per quilt.

Yoga stretches - upper shoulders ( also tones arm muscles).
Grasp one corner of kingsize quilt top in eachhand. Stretch out arms until top is taut. Hold up and mantain tautness for what seems like years while panicked husband looks at it and tries to discern what particular element of it he is supposed to comment on.

Yoga stretches - lower back. ( also known as basters bum).
kneel on floor in front of quilt which should be pinned to floor with wadding and top set out. Stretch straight out keeping lower back straight to pin/ baste quilt. Gradually increase stretch. If necessary let your botom rise until it is sticking in the air.

I am sure there are more movements but I really should be working now so I'll let you devise your own.