Friday, May 25, 2007

Gone away

I have gone to stay here.....
to visit Ali....

... back a week on Monday. See you then.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Pricing a quilt

Googling my own ponderings (to avoid starting tedious work) has led me to some sites containing guidance on how to price a quilt.

It seems there are two basic approaches. The first is to take the cost of your materials and multiply. The multipler ( mutiplicand??!!) seems to vary between 1.5 and 3. Then you decide if the market can take that price and adjust accordingly. I multiplied by 2 ( but probably didn't factor in the cost of the show of postage to the client).

The second approach is to work out the cost of materials per square foot of quilt. Work out how long it takes you to make a square foot of quilt ( which could vary according to the technique used) then apply an hourly rate per square foot, add to the cost and multiply by the size of each quilt you make. The problem here is lack of any precise guidance on the going rate for a quilter. More than minimum wage perhaps less than a plummer is the suggestion!

Which does make you think really, doesn't it, how we value work in our in society. One of my bugbears is the press calling legal aid lawyers fat cats. I wish! Firstly there is no understanding of the difference between turnover ( what we charge the client) and profit (how much of that we keep after we pay all the expenses for the business - premises, staff, insurance, travel costs, postage, stationery, training courses, books and subscriptions, even wigs and gowns!). But even if we look at turnover, there is a vast difference in rates.

It is no secret at all that a barrister in Liverpool will charge around £125 per hour turnover depending on seniority for private paid work. (Much less incidetally than a solicitor as we have fewer overheads to pay out of our turnover). So, the market says that a two and a half hour hearing that takes say an hour and a half to prepare for is worth £500. If however that is personal injury case done on a contingent fee agreement ( i.e. no win no fee) the agreements allow for an uplift if you win ( to reflect the risk of not winning and not gettng anything). If a matter goes to trial that uplift is usually 100%. So that kind of case is worth £1000 if you win and diddlysquat if you do not. However, if that case is an interim hearing in a basic childrens case say, for a client on 'legal aid' ( now really called public funding), it would be paid just £130. It is perfectly possible for one barrister in the same case to get the £500 and the other the £130 for doing the same hearing!

Incidentally, £130 seems to be around about what UK quilt teachers charge per day. Now, I wonder which would be the nicer job to take on?!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

European pain and quilting joy

I have just wasted the last couple of hours watching Liverpool FC lose in the European cup final. Normally I couldn't care less about football ( although Liverpool is nominally 'my' team). However my brother-in-law got a free trip out working as a steward and then today I covered a full time Judge who had got a ticket and who was phoning in to the court on tenterhooks to report how delayed his flight to Athens was. I kind of got the fever at that point and when I heard the news story of how the last flight full of fans out was cancelled due to mechanical failure I felt so sorry for them I had to hope that the match at least was won for them. But it wasn't, so now I feel vicariously worse!

I am betting though that there are some unreasonable behaviour divorce petitions issued as a result of the financial stress caused by this match. One stranded fan was saying that he had spent two months wages and hadn't even got there. I heard that flights on charters were going for £1000, as were tickets. Crazy.

On a much cheerier note however, I sold the Leaf Peeper quilt I showed at Quilst UK. I really didn't expect that so I am just so delighted that anyone wanted to spend so much money to own somthing I knocked up. What an encouragement. It has been bought by a woman downsizing to a new house after her husband died who had always wanted to own a quilt and went to the show specifically to buy one - and picked mine!

Whats more she asked me if, should she ever want a new one, whether I would make her one as a commission! (Oh yes!).

I have no idea, however, how to value a quilt. I know it would be inappropriate to apply my professional charging rate to the work I put in and I think I am worth a bit more than minimum wage but thats a large gap! Does anyone know of any accepted formula for working it out?

I sold this for £450 pretty much at random which does give me a profit after costs ( it was longarmed quilted and finshed by Chris Marriage) but I did hear an American woman looking at it at the show say it was cheap. ( Yes, I confess - I was hanging around my own quilt for a little while!) I didn't keep a record of my time on this one (mental note to self for the future!) so I don't even know what my hourly rate worked out at on this one. But it doesn't really matter. As I never expected to sell it I am more than happy to have 'free' recycled fabric money instead of another quilt in the cupboard.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

I went to the show....!

British readers may remember Bruce Forsythe on The Generation Game helping contestants to remember as many as possible of the items that passed by on the conveyor belt. What they recalled they kept. Well.... look what I won! Perhaps I should offer a prize for the reader who posts the comment identifying the most items! Here's a close up to help you...

Ok. I confess. I should have said, look at haul from my shopping at Quilts UK at Malvern. This woman cannot be said to be responsible for all or even the majority of it but she is my favourite stall holder and was certainly responsible for the majority of my haul at Trentham! She is of course Magie Relph of the African fabric shopI bought 2.5 metres from her some of which deserves its own photo it is so beautiful: ( these photos are actually on their side - Blogger won't let me load edited photos tonight - and the fabric unironed but you get the idea!)
We drove to Worcester on Friday and stayed in a ridiculously cheap but very dull room at the Travelodge (all the more cash for hauling!). So that meant two whole days at the show and also two very good meals - Thai and Indian in rather innovative restaurants of their type that we stumbled on in the evenings.

Dennis spent Saturday finding all the Elgar attractions in the area whilst I had a leisurely browse of the show. I do love shows but find that you get a kind of sensory overload so it was great to go back and have a second look. Dennis came today and spent a couple of hours browsing quilts, longer sitting in the sun and listening to sport on his portable radio and a little time choosing this book as a gift for me.

And finally, I collected my quilt after the show was over and came over all Kaffe Fassett's photographer in the car park.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Pre show frenzy

I didn't get to blog the last two days partly becuase I was busy finishing off this wall hanging - look at the quilt and not at how old fashioned our TV is! (It is perefectly adequate for seeing Mc Dreamy on Grey's Anatomy and until it stops doing that why get anything different?!)

Then last night I got all caught up in pre-Qulits UK stash checking frenzy. I have developed this sequence of events which starts with me getting out my stash baskets and analysing what I will actually need to start the project I have in mind that I have been stashing for. Then I think about the quilts actually in progress. Do I have the right thread colour when I come to quilt? Do I need a backing? This time around and I am also thinking about City and Guilds samples and how it would be a good idea to do all my applique samples in one set of fabrics. I look around my sewing space to see what notions need replenishing. Can you believe I am on my very last needle for my machine! This summer I also have a class with Kaffe Fassett and a summer special class at Morceau based on Ricky Tims' convergence quilts both of which will require specific fabric.

Shows are such a good place to shop, I think becuase of the range of choice and the time to browse and compare. So I make a list of all the things I identified. I set a budget, take it out in cash ( to save me time and vendors the transaction charges) and set off with purpose, un-flustred and organised so that I also have time to enjoy the quilts.

Of course what then happens is that I lose the list, get inspired by the quilts to go of into an entirely different direction, see fabric that it would be stupid to pass over becuase I might never see it again. Then I find Magie Relph's stall and at that point the credit card comes out and all is lost.... except the smile on my face which somehow seems to get wider through out the day!

We leave later this afternoon,back on Sunday evening after I have collected my quilt at the end of the show so it might be Monday before I can show you my goodies... hope to see you then.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Getting things done

Jennifer left me a nice comment saying she was in awe of what I accomplished. Well, I get that type of comment lot - along the lines of where do you find the time....? I can tell you that the secret is not in what I do, but in either what I do not do, or which of several things I do all at the same time. Like type this while I watch Grey's Anatomy, for example.

So, the quilt she was commenting on was substantially made whilst in a hotel, watching property development programmes on TV, nibbling on a room service sandwich and at one point ( whilst pinning bits) I was also talking to my husband on the phone.

The activity in our house just a few minutes ago might help you understand too. In January I bought some poles to match the curtain rail with a view to having two quilts hanging in the alcoves of our lounge. Today I decided it was past time to put them up, despite the fact that the quilts are not finished. ( It will be good motivation!). So this is how our house was at half-past seven. I was at the sewing machine being happy doing a pile of City and Guild samples ......This was my Dad doing the hard work on my hanging poles.....

and .....this is my husband cooking his tea becuase if he waits for me he will starve!

Today, I also came to an accommodation with my City and Guilds teacher over time. I signed up for the certificate in Patchwork and Quilting because

(a) I thought it was a good way to be taught all the different techniques

(b) I liked the design element

(c) you need it to get on to the diploma which I thought might be handy for teaching purposes later in life

The latter two reasons hold good and in fact we have now done all the design portfolios. However the samples of techniques are causing a problem because I have been teaching myself quicker than the course - last week we were taught what a rotary cutter was (sigh).... plus I can get far more done at home than in the class when in any event we are expected only to do one sample a fortnight. Two of my class mates are still workng on a sample from six weeks ago....So we have come to a deal where I will work ahead at my own pace and see if I can get it done in two years not three. If I can't it doesn't matter - if I can, great. I'm just going stir crazy going so slowly! If I'd done it on line I would have been going at my own pace anyway but this way I get to pay the far cheaper in person rates and still get to be with my new buddies in class - I'll just be doing somthing different with my hands as we chat.

Which is why I was busy stitching up as many varieties of log cabins as I could think of while the men in my life ran around doing my bidding. Now that technique isn't in the C&G syllabus!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Euro outrage and soothing quilting

The camera is now working so I can show you lots today.

First from last week - a scrap quilt. Made entirely with bits from the scrap bag and one bigger ( green) piece from the stash. It needs a label but I am rubbish at giving quilts names. Suggestions please?

A picture of the quilting:

I used the green thinking, ' I wonder where this came from- I don't even remember stashing this piece.' Then, half way through the quilting I realised that I'd bought it to back a silk quilt in progress which is supposed to match another one already backed in this fabric. Ooops!

Having been out on the razzle last night in Penrith ( marketing do for Chambers) I sat on my mother's kitchens stool this morning, groaning until she fed me a bacon buttie. (Normally the cooked stuff is reserved for her B&B guests). I wasn't even drinking - its just old age and inabilty to cope with arriving home at midnight. I mean, that not even that late, is it? Of course it was a bit later when I actually went to sleep as, earlier I'd had time to nip into Penrith for lunch with Mum and took the opportunity to use her library card to take out three quilting books, which she would not let me bring down here for fear she'd get fined. ( Fair do's). I thought I'd have time whilst other people were speaking on our afternoon seminar to read them but it didn't work out that way so I read two when got in. Big mistake.

Before I headed home we had a wander around Penrith market in the cold to try and revive me and I got this fleece for Project Linus quilts. It was being sold as pet blankets, but at £2 for 120 x 85cm per piece I had better plans for it! When I got home I was so tired and so resentful at having to finish up my form portfolio that I sagged off for a couple of hours and knocked up this top to go on one of the fleeces. Railfence is not my favourite pattern but I had to make sonthing with strip piecing for the C&G course so - two stoned birds and all that....

Tomorrow I have to work out how to take this to class in the car without it falling to bits.

And finally.. Yes, I am in a big sulk. Our Eurovision song was worth way more than 7 points from Ireland and 12 from Malta. What were people thinking????

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Thinking persons blog

It transpires that I have in fact been tagged before. Purple Missus put me on her site as one of Five Bloggers who Make you think. Only she didn't tel lme and I got caught out not reading hers! In my defence because I travel so much I do tend to have blogfests when I curl up and read all the back issues as it were. (Am I forgiven?!)

I was particularly pleased when she said
"It reminds me very much of the penultimate page in a lot of magazines where someone writes a column each issue with their view on life in general" because thats exactly what I was aiming for with the blog.
But talk about pressure - what can I get you to think about today?

Well, how about words since I am a writer.

Yesterday I went to Craftsand Quilts in Southport and had the usual conversation about how I didn't need anythng, how I'd just popped in for a cup of tea while I was in the region and how I really didn't need anything but could she just cut me a FQ from all those nine bolts on the counter. Driving away, I was pondering how we all talk about being addicted to fabric.

I had a whole blog mapped out about how we do ourselves a diservice calling it an addiction. I was going to write about how we ought to allow ourselves to declare that beauty and creativity are a necessary part of life and not somthing to be ashamed about. I was going to write that we should not equate fabric buying with the consumption of illegal and socially unacceptable substances.

But then I went on line to get a definition of addiction and found these:

'Compulsive physiological and psychological need for a habit-forming substance'
'an intense desire for some particular thing'
'given over to'

So now my thesis ought to be that we should rehabilitate the word and disassociate it from concepts of ill health and theft.

Or I could stick with my original proposal which was that we all start to declare that 'fabric is our passion' or that 'I am fulfilled by textile arts'.

Either way one thing I am sure of (to steal from Oprah's magazine back column) - as long as you are not getting into debt and are not harming yousrelf or your family - buying fabric is not a bad and shameful thing.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Taxes, answers and meme


Today I got a nice but stupid letter. For filing my employer's tax return on line I get £150 tax free. Which is very nice since I didn't file it at all - the accountant did - and very handy since I am off to Quilts UK next week

However, they wrote to me to tell me that I was entitled to it and that I should write to them giving them the information on the letter and request the cheque. They will then acknowledge the request but warn that there will be a delay in actually sending the cash, because of the large number of letters they have to deal with. This wouldn't be because they are trebling their work load, would it?!

They did say that if I liked I could take their prefered route of letting them simply knock the sum off the 2007/8 return. In otherwords I could let them keep my money interest free for a year. And they are suprpised they get lots of requests for cheques?

... to Helen's comment

No, I didn't eat all 8 creme eggs. I would have done but I know that other people would think me greedy and that some things in life are best done in private. More embarassingly, I managed to let one roll out of my handbag on the way to the airport and then squished it underfoot all over her car. These creme egg cars actually exist by the way. There are several parked at the Cadbury's museum in Birmingham

And no I don't understand the giving away of a stash either. I think it's fair to say that rather than being a Quilter she is a person who made a few quilts but then stayed balanced and unobsessed and was able to stop. ( I don't even want to stop!) A lot of the fabric is from when she was living in the the US and was meant for watercolour quilts that never got made. I took what I could ( after weighing all my clothes on the kitchen scales to determine which where the heaviest I could wear on the flight to create luggage allowance space!) The rest I understand to be going to the Ullapool craft club.

One of the books I got on long term loan is this one. The quilts are indeed very traditional but the text is fantastically useful anyway - particularly for measurements which could be just as useful in a contemporary quilt.


I have been tagged ( first time ever - yeah!) by Nellie Bass Durand for the 7 things you don't know about me meme So:

1. I have an inside leg measurement of 31.5 inches.

2. I love the Eurovision song contest. (For Americans and Antipodeans, you may have been spared this endless, kitch bad song contest, which we have no chance of winning anyway because of the Baltic bloc [sic] vote... but it was the competition Abba won with Waterloo and Cliff Richard came second in with Congratulations) The year it was won by the transexual Israeli (yes, that's right - Israel is not even in Europe) my Gran and I even phoned votes in! Go to this link to see the UK entry for this year- click on 'watch the video' under the UK's heart - so fantastically kitch!! Go! You have to!!Live is even better - they do a mean dance around the plane food trolley. I shall be handsewing and watching it on Saturday night. My husband will be elsewhere in the house banging his head against a wall.

3. My favourite animal is the Emperor penguin. A strange choice for someone who can get cold even when the surrounding temperature is warm. If I get cold like that I get shivering to the bone cold and have to overheat the room and wear squillions of clothes to warm up. My sister is the same.

4. I have peculiar politics - left wing on some issues, very right on others - I kind of meet round the back in my own unique political party. (It's called The Don't Be So Stupid Party.)

5. I once stopped Terry Waite ( former Archbishop of Canterbury's special envoy kidnapped in Lebanon) in the street in Cambridge and asked him for dinner at my house. He came too.

6. I have no idea how to make gravy.

7. A a child I was brought up in a Pentecostal church and from the age of 9 was encouraged to 'speak in tongues' and 'prophesy'. ( I don't go any church now although that is not to say I don't have spiritual beliefs- they are just not identical to what I was brought up with).

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Friendship is...

Today I was reminded of the love is series of cartoons. I remember collecting stickers of them as a kid. For some reason the utter nakedness of the characters did not make them taboo in our church going household! I was reminded of them because I was thinking about the definition of friendship - today's I think is:

Friendship is:
*Allowing a person to stay in your beautiful house for four days

* nipping out and leaving them with the comment 'Oh yeah, there are two bin bags of quilting fabric here I am giving away unless you want to take any.'

* and adding 'And you can borrow any of the quilt books in this box.'

* and giving that person a box of 8 creme eggs to eat while she rummages.

Cheers Sharon! (And I am really, really sorry about knocking that tea over your carpet!) .... some people are just not house trained as guests!

PS As for Helen and Frances's comment on yesterday's post - no strawberries, but I've been fed a delicious raspberry tart.

Saturday, May 05, 2007


I am staying with a friend in Scotland for the bank holiday weekend. This afternoon I have spent lolling on this windowseat

looking at this view ( except the flowers are a bit different becuase I took this last year and didn't bring a camera this time!)

whilst ( finally) getting on with editing my novel and having my feet licked by this dog who is deperate that I instead devote him my attention.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Fairy story

Long post today but I hope it amuses you.... it was supposed to have photos but I've mislaid my camera lead. Sorry.

Once upon a time in a land far, far from Blogland there lived a Man. Just so you are clear, there wasn’t a Goldilocks, Cinderella or a fair maiden called Rapunzel. (At least, if Man knows what is good for him there had better not be.) There was however a Wicked Witch.

Mr Man was a clean person. He liked his house to be clean. He liked his hands to be clean. He also liked his politics to be clean but, as he lived in the UK in which we get to dictate a benign dictator who is periodically interviewed by the Police, we shall not get into that.

So, one sunny Sunday afternoon, Mr Man was minding his own business. He had settled down in his clean armchair, wearing clean clothes to drink some delicious coffee from a clean mug when – suddenly- his house was invaded by the Wicked Witch.

Of course like all cunning evil characters she did not actually look like a Wicked Witch. She looked quite nice actually because she had just bought some new trousers from Wallis and a fetching top from the Per Una Range of M&S. Nonetheless if you looked beneath the veneer she was an evil woman. She crooked a finger, bumpy with quilter’s callouses and needle scratched fingernails at Mr Man and cast a spell over him.
“Hubble Bubble Toil and trouble,
Come quick help me, on the double,
Eye of Newt and toe of frog,
No, I don’t want to have a dialogue.”

Soon Mr Man was following her with a confused look on his face.
“Right. We are going to make a set of paper mache Persian slipper and then when that is done we are going to make a model of a building, OK?”

Mr Man remained confused. That was partly because he was, as I have already explained, a Man. And partly because the Wicked Witch’s magic was not strong enough to actually give him creative powers. After all she was a nice girl underneath its just that she ate an apple that was touched with a drop of blood from when Ricky Tims pricked his finger on Kaffe Fasset’s spinning wheel and she got infected with quilting madness and ended up being a mad evil City and Guilds type person.

And so Mr Man was forced to make mess. He tried very hard to make paper mache without touching the glue but his fingers got all sticky. He tried very hard to visualise how the Costa Coffee straws the Wicked Witch was making him roll up in Brown paper parcel were going to help create a Cameroonian Chiefs compound in conjunction with a San Miguel box, a polystyrene packing piece from the new freezer and a left over bit of table protector. But he failed.
And the Wicked Wicked Witch made him do it anyway.

At one point she asked him whether it was not relaxing playing with childlike things.
“No,” he replied. Then more hopefully, “I could go and clean my shoes. That would be relaxing. And they’re not even dirty.”

But the Witch wouldn’t let him go and be clean. She made him roll straws in glue and fetch scissors and hold down hinges dabbed with PVC adhesive. She made him bend over a patio table that was too low for his bad back just to place layer after layer of nasty, unclean, sticky gluey, paper over a cling film wrapped Moroccan slipper. (The nasty witch was not too bothered about spoiling her slippers because she gets to go shopping again in the souk they came from in three weeks time.

After a while Mr Man worked out that even a Wicked Witch might turn back into a princess if she was persuaded to stop panicking about the incomplete state of her Form portfolio and to sit and watch a double episiode of Grey’s Anatomy. So he gingerly and bravely pointed out that the Wicked Witch had promised to cook tea and it needed to be ready for 8pm.

The wicked witch narrowed her black cat like eyes and gave him an ugly look.
“Well, you’ll have to help me clean up then.”

So the Wicked Witch got to slice a chicken breast and stir fry it with tinned bamboo shoots and a packet sauce whilst Mr Man got to clean up the glue box and the strips of paper, the stencil paints and the left over cardboard that was sticky with PVC adhesive. He got to scrub the unclean kitchen floor and scrub the unclean kitchen worktops and to scrub his unclean hands from all that stencil paint he had scrubbed away from elsewhere. He got to put his now clean hands under the freezing water of the outside tap to wash out an unclean pallet of acrylic paints. He got to hoover and put away the craft knives and to wonder how the Wicked Witch could multi task by painting with one hand and stirring with the other.

And then, just at the stroke of 8pm as the pumpkin was turning into tea he finally got to sit in his clean armchair and eat his tea from a clean tray and then, he fell asleep, a deep sleep that felt like a thousand years. And when he awoke, there was no sign of the Witch, only a serene woman curled on the sofa watching Mc Dreamy. He checked for gnarled hands just in case but no, her fingers were long and smooth and he shook his head and assumed it was all a dream.

Poor Mr Man never saw the tube of Udder cream slipped between the sofa cushions. He did wonder where that model came from though