Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Travel trauma

For one who travels so much -both for business and leisure - I am very bad at one aspect of it: packing. I don't mean the mechanics of packing. I am a world beater at that - I can roll and stuff and cram into a case for England. I mean choosing what to take.

How do I know what the weather will be like next Thursday?
How do I know whether I will be in casual or dress up mood?
How do I know whether I will or will not spill chicken tikka masala sauce over one outfit and need a spare?

And for our upcoming trip to Bath the decision get worse. We are going by car for a fortnight in a flat we know well. So no airline luggage limits but I do have a very large car boot. Basically I have a fortnight of creativity and relaxation.

Some decisions are easy. The sewing machine has to come becuase I am doing a thread play class at Midsomer Quilting when I am down there. Which means the thread box comes too. And my still in edit novel has to come because if I don't crack it soon the only chance of publication will be a posthumous one. (And my friend Sharon will start to nag. In a very nice way. And with justification. But still....)

But thereafter I hit dilemma time.

How many books shall I take given that I don't want to run out but in any event am within 5 mins walk of two good bookshops?

And what about quilting? The sewing machine has to go becuase I am doing a thread play workshop at Midsomer Quiting when I am down there. So the whole thread storage box goes too. And the gift quilt I am painstakingly hand appliqueing and paper piecing comes too or else the lack of progress will worry me and spoil the relaxation. But should I pack somthing else and if so what?

The Afican ladies will be ready for basting (There are just two seams left to sew and a border to put on) but there is no space in the flat to baste it but I might be able to wangle workshop space in one of the shops down there. Which begs the question - do I just put a plain backing on it or shall I use the spare strips leftover to piece some kind of back?. Or are they best used in another top ( Im thinking a kids one with animal foot prints inbetween scrap blocks). Or should I finish one of the others in progess before I start another? The crazy blocks I was making with other scraps? Or the silk wall hanging that is ready for quilting? Or should I give into temptation because I'm in holiday and see if I can start and finish one while I am away - a Japanese one perhaps? Or should I let myself hack into that collection of black and red Asian fabrics I have been itching to get my hands on in my stash? Or perhaps I shouldn't take anything given that I am going via the traders at Trentham Gardens and have access to three fabric shops and a haberdashers down there.....

Or perhaps I should just squeeze it all into the car and decide when I get there?


Tuesday, March 27, 2007


I have now booked tickets for the Festival of Quilts in August and am very excited to be able to do a full days Quilt Academy class with Kaffe Fasset. I extended the trip to three days at the show when I saw that so I don't lose out on any viewing or shopping time. This will be my first Festival of Quilts and I intend to do it in style! Lesley is also coming and we will share aroom to increase spending power at the traders stall and we are even going to the salsa evening... I do worry that after a day at the show my feet might not be up to that but there is Latin American food so I can always just sit and replenish energy stores!

Monday, March 26, 2007

African ladies and more

The African quilt progresses....

It was worked on with Lesley at Morceau, the quilting school I go to once a month in Penrith. Two design walls, the beginnings of two twin quilts

The day was spent starting to make extra connector blocks, removing blocks that seemed a good idea but didn't work so well, and auditioning extra fabric needed for that all important 'zing factor'. I don't normally pose with my blocks but it seems that there is the possiblity of an article on the process of these quilts so we are pre-illustrating as we go along!

This is my co-maker Lesley.

The common verdict for that zing fabrics was a touch of black, which was the best of all options, but I wasn't ever really convinced. Then I came home and remembered this genuine african fabric in the stash from Maggie Relph's online shop. Perfect. And what good justification for the existence of a stash!

I have decided on an irregular setting with a partial plain black inner border ( well, I can't ignore all the advice!). I need fabric for an outer border which is the perfect excuse to do some shopping at the show at Trentham Gardens on Saturday. This is it so far. You have no idea how many times I have rearranged the blocks to make them look casually placed!

And this is my dining room. I always mean to be neat and tidy as I work......

I also picked up my maple leaf quit from the long arm quilter.It looks great hanging here temporarily at the workshop room at Morceau ( she says modestly) and this maple syrup pantograph was perfect for it. The next big one I have ready I am going to learn how to longarm quilt myself.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Future plans

Purple Missus commented on my last post asking why I didn't just do the writing and quilting full time and make the the rest a hobby. Well....

(a) I spent today ( and will spend tomorrow) embroiled in a divorce case with 5 family members and a friend involved, one of whom may not be competant to make her own decisions, one has been disciplined in their own profession for what I shall simply call dodgy dealings and appears not to have learned their lesson. An expensive property has been disposed of for a tiny sum, there are dubious financial transactions all over the place and when at 4pm we were finally able to tell the Judge that it was all agreed one person decided that actually he didn't agree after all and so we start again tomorrow. I love it!!

No really. I wouldn't want not to be doing any law.

(b) Law pays for the stash. I doubt that my earnings quilt teaching would get me anywhere near what I earn now. And before anyone tells me that there is more to life than momey yes I know but
(1) see (a) above and
(2) I do work less now so that I can quilt at least some of the time and
(3) Money might not necessarily bring happiness but I do suspect that poverty brings misery!

However, this is not to say never.
It is in the back of my mind nearer retirement (and that's a long way off- i'm only 36!) if I keep stuffing my pension I may be able then to move through law to somthing more quilt related perhaps on a 50-50 basis and then through 100% quilting as a business to full retirement.

And I have also thought about just teaching the odd evening or weekend class for fun well before then - one reason I want to get the City and Guilds qualifications that I have embarked on.

I've even had mad moments about putting money into a quilt shop and employing someone to work in it most of the time.... which was why I smiled when Pam on her second lesson said ' You could open a shop..." Little did she know she was the employee I had in mind..... we will see ... oooh look, flying pigs!

Finally I will now be away a few days (part work part quilting trip) so no blog until at least Sunday unless I find a free Internet spot. See you then.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Quilting excitement doubled

My Sunday afternoon plans have just been wrecked in the nicest possible way ever.

Pam, who has worked for us as an amazing cleaner and who can find anything I have lost around the house has been showing an increasing interest in all things quilting. This may be because she spends so much of her time hoovering up threads and taking stray fat quarters out of the bathroom and putting then back where they belong. On Friday she was dusting and pointed out to be a fabric tucked away in a basket that she liked, so I invited her to take all the baskets out of the cupboard and have a good look. When I saw her stroking the african fabrics I suspected she might be suseptible to the charms of quilting. She asked how seams worked and so I acquired my first student.

She wanted to start with a simple quilt just with squares and so we learned how to do a fourpatch and she was dispatched home with some precut sqaures to try handstitching and my rotary cutter etc to have a play with. She arrived unannounced about three hours ago, bag in hand asking for lesson number two.

It was such a delight. She used my design wall and designed her own quilt. OK Its a very small one for her dog to lie on but it was fascinating to see her design using sashing and cornerposts when she had never actually heard those words. She just wanted to know if she could 'put a strip there' or 'move that square there'. When she realised she could do whatever she wanted and if she didn't know how I could show her, she was away!

Once all the pieces were cut we took mugs of tea up to the room where I keep my fabric and books and she immediately spotted things she wanted to make. She loves the African ladies I did and a quilt with houses on. So I suggested we make a one with African ladies outside their huts to her own design. (Which is a really good idea I should have thought of on my own but didn't)Then she spotted a bag with seams on the outside and frayed and a clutch bag to make. I left her with the books to make more tea and came back and she was poring over African American art quilts, and said

" Its so exciting. I've got about 20 ideas already!And the colours...."

I don't know who is the most excited - me or her! I love teaching trainee solictors law but teaching quilting - well how much better is that?! I do hope she stays excited. I am pretty sure she is hooked though as already in just three days she is taking ideas for several pictured quilts and combining them into new ideas. I can see her moving as I did from wanting to replicate Amish fourpatch quilts through to what is my own instinctive style but she seems to be doing it even quicker.

Plus she is going to the US in May and has decided to shop for fabric there. Now that is SO unfair that she gets to do that and I can't!!

Dennis having surveyed the fabric and books spread out around us is a litle concerned that she will be making more mess than she cleans in the future and when he made some good natured crack about that she replied that she will be requiring a pay rise to cover her quilting costs..... I may be needing to make this one of those blogs that asks for donations for its upkeep. You'd all understand wouldn't you?!

Swap a goat

Can I tell all of you who swap on Swap-bot ( as well as those who don't yet but might) about a charity swap I have set up called Swap a Goat.

Obviously this does not involve posting an actual goat but is not far off and you'll have to check out the link at to see what its all about.

Let me just say its my little attempt to use the internet and the alternative gift schemes that many charities now run, to get some money directed to those who don't have food never mind broadband and all the other things we take for granted.

Back on track

Seems to me that blogging is like dieting or exercise in that you miss one day and suddenly a week has gone by. How on earth did that happen?

Well part of the time I was in Birmingham with no easy internet access. And other days I was working on blocks to swap/keep for the collaborative African quilt. This what I have so far. There is no attempt to balance the positioning of blocks as I will acquire some of Lesley's and lose some of these on Saturday - I can't wait to see what she has for me and to spend a whole day with her making more.

Finally I am very excited today because I have managed to get tickets to Placido Domingo's only UK tour date in Manchester in May and I get to fullfil one of my Mum's lifetime dreams by taking her as well.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Quick post then off

Very quick post then I am off to Birmingham to try and avoid the worse of the M6 rush hour.I am teaching there for a couple of days. It's that time of year where my blog starts to get erratic as I dash about , wheeled and overpacked suitcase in tow

First, to answer Flibbertygibbet's question about what I got in the first package to arrive in her swap.... all this, in a cardboard box. The long narrow thing at top right is a magnetic notepad. There are several ginger teabags which I love and even the tissue paper is reusable and very colourful. There was a very interesting letter as well.

Got time to work on the African ladies blocks on Sunday pm but got distracted - the sample block ended up in the bag below! The ladies did get done although I realised belatedly that on one block I had used the reverse side of the centre block material in error. I emailed my collaboration partner Lesley to confess and she had done the same thing.. I guess this partnership is meant to be!

Friday, March 09, 2007

Back home

I see my blog was hijacked while I was away - and in a very well written way too. I will have to watch my back or my readers will be defecting. But Helen's comment is right - he is a sweetie. And the house is indeed all sparkly and pin free ( in part because the cleaner also came this morning so it was a team effort - he tends to tidy up before she arrives whereas I pay her extra hours when my mess is especially bad. ) But, I have been in all of ten minutes and already there is fabric draped over the armchair.. there was a fabric swap package waiting for me and a good one at that.

Annie Smith's podcast had a while back an eposide dealing with 'You know you are a diehard quilter when....' This sprung to mind on this trip to London. First of all I was frantically packing (or trying to, because I seemed to have lost half my work shirts and the other half were unironed) when I found, right in the middle of the back of the one clean, ironed, and as it happend rather expensive shirt..... one hole. An undarnable, undisguisable hole. Did I cry? Did I scream? No I examined the care label and said, "Oh at least its 100% cotton. I can always quilt with it."

Then, when in Marks and Spencers in Oxford Street shopping for replacement shirts, I spotted , at twenty paces, an absolutely perfect fabric and was well on the way across the store to the rack where it hung before I realised. Indeed it was perfect fabric.... for the African style quilt I am making. Even when I realised I briefly considered buying it for that purpose but it was crinkled synthetic and I am not a complete masochist so I didn't!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Dennis Takes Revenge

"Do you think I need to take some quilting stuff? Do you think I should add some more clothes? What if it's cold? What happens if...?" So it continued until I finally packed Helen and her bags off for her (work) trip to London.

At last: the house to myself. A night of partying with friends? An evening drinking? Sport on TV? No, out came the Dyson and the cleaning began in every room. Threads removed from carpet, chairs, cushions, books(!?), pieces of fabric (my definition of "scraps" is different from Helen's.) from below the sofa, beads from underneath cushions and paint wiped from the kitchen work-top. Almost done; just one more thing. Shoes and socks off; walk across carpet in bare feet-only three needles/pins found this time. Not too painful!

Finished at last; a tidy house- no more quilting for three whole days. Peace reigns. Husband surveys the result of his handiwork......and guess what? I miss her already!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Am I the only one?

I just wondered - does anyone else out there like to say goodnight to their fabric or am I the only one? I mean, I don't actually tuck it in and read it Goldilocks or anything, its just that quite frequently the last thing I will do before I snuggle down is nip into the back bedroom and have a quick peek at my fabric. I just like to remind myself of what is in there so that I can go to sleep with the colours in mind and drift off with various possible designs in my mind. I supose its the nearest I can get to eliminating the frustration that comes from knowing I'd get so much more made if only I didn't have to sleep.

This is today's bag. In theory its for a swap but I don't know... I like it and I have time to make another for the swap.......
As for the two suggestions I got about what is to go in the beaded swap bag. Erica, I see where you are coming from with the chocolate but it turns out when I read the recipent's profile that she doesn't eat anything with wheat, dairy, sugar, gluten or anything that is non-organic.... way too much hard work for me! But she is a quilter and I did see beautiful little pens and mechanical pencils at Paperchase at Euston station last week that I didn't need but really wanted to buy so I guess I'll combine the other two suggestions - pencil and fabric.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Fusing Fabrics

I'm not sure where the days have gone since my last post save that on Saturday I was at a workshop in Warrington based on Margaret Beale's book Fusing Fabrics. In essence you get to bond/ mark/ burn synthetic sheer fabrics with a soldering iron. To a pyromaniac like me this requires a lot of self-control to get a design rather than wonderful flames.

(Actually I can tell you - by accident - that if you apply too much pressure for too long you don't get flames but a melted blob of fabric and acrid smoke. This is why furntiture needs to be upholstered in stuff that wouldn't work for this technique.)

Simply by cutting the shapes from fabric with the iron on glass then bonding then togther with a tiny dab of the iron you can make 3d flower and all kinds. Stitching can then be added to make the most amazing pieces of art that I still only aspire to. I am definately getting the book to learn more but the above pictures are some I made earlier.... I went for bookmarks because I had to make four for a swap I was in. The two below are in fact paper as I didn't want to give away all my fused ones!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Little bag

Tonight I made this little bag. It is the first beading I have ever done and did it without buying a beading book ( usually I have a book for everythng) so I don't know if I did it right but the beads don't fall off so it can't be that wrong! It has a magnetic clasp inside and is the right size to be used as a rotary cutter or dressmaking scissors pouch. However, as it is for a swap I don't know what it will ultimately be used for. I think I may have to make myself one though!

For the swap I also have to put some little gifts in the bag. What would you like to have in it if it were coming to you?

Blocks and blockheads

These photos show the product of a nice relaxing night last night. I lowered the ironing board and used it as a worktable by the sofa as I vegged out on front of TV ( taped episode of New Street Law, Channel 4 News, Relocation Relocation and a programme about a barking mad man who took a crumbling castle, a listed ancient monument- part of which later fell down- and made it into a beautiful house, of which I would be very jealous of, if the narrator hadn't helpfully told us that they had more than doubled their intended mortgage and had to make it interest only to achieve it. How will his wife afford her fabric stash now?!)
The ladies, to answer Diana's question, are raw edged machine appliqued. Or at least they will be - these six are just bondawebbed at the moment. I am thinking that having enlarged the centre oblong frome the sample they might now take a beaded inner border... but I will see what it looks like when the connector blocks are made and what Lesley, who is making this with me, thinks.
This block ( made partly on a train to London on Tuesday) is very different to my usual style and is my first hand applique. It is for my gift quilt.
And finally, just for Brenda and all others who love consumer tales......
I discovered, last Friday, hidden under a pile of papers, £28 worth of rail vouchers. Inevitably they ran out that very day. I decided that we had to book a journey - to anywhere. At Easter we go to Bath and I am working one day so I asked Dennis if he wanted a free day trip to London. Of course he did. We checked online - singles could be had for just £9. Yeah. Enough left over to get two returns Bath to Bristol. (Cricket for him, shops for me)
The snag is that the vouchers need to be used at a ticket office so I dispatched him to the station. He was told that the single back from London would be £13.50. He said, no its £9 I saw it on the website and was told to go and buy it on line! When he explained why he couldn't and asked for an explanation as to why he was being charged a different price he was told that he would not be served if he was abusive. So the manager was called and Dennis explained that asking, without a single swear word, threat or raised voice for a price explanation was not abuse. It was customer service. The man asked what the problem was and then suggested he went and bought the tickets on line.
He gave up and paid £13.50 ( its not the money, its the principle.....). He then got one Bristol return, total £28.10 and the woman told him she could not accept a mixture of cash and vouchers. He told her that he was not entering into a discussion because that was patently ridiculous and that she could either take the mix or charge him £28. The manager was called again who decided to take the £0.10.
Dennis then said that when asked to fill in the back of the vouchers with his journey details he put in the wrong date and wrote that he was to travel from Southhampton to Inverness....... its the rebellious little boy in him, but I do think that they deserved it. Not, of course that the noticed.....