Saturday, April 28, 2007

Budding engineer

Today, after class at Morceau I finally got to the homeware/ hardware store on the edge of Penrith. Every month I promise myself that I will go and buy a length of table protector and every month I ever forget completely or I just forget to measure the table. Today I only remembered the first but fortunately both my husband and my 6 x 24 Creative Grids ruler were at home so I was able to go and part with my £17.34 for 2.2 meters of the stuff.

The reason I wanted it was that I sew on my dining room table. It's a good size but is a very polished table and so I have to keep the cloth to protect it, which then slips and slides if I drag fabric over it, especially if I am quilting. It is also so flimsy a cloth that I can't pin directly on the tabe top and end up using my ironing board as a narrow table top.

So I drag the protector stuff home in a state of great self-satisfaction and anticipation and..... yup, that slips and sides too. Grrr. Dennis said something along the lines of 'Perhaps it's the table, because its so polished and there is nothing you can do...'. Red rag to a bull - never tell me I can't do somthing!

So here is my solution.

First tie the protector on with ribbon by passing ribbon over the table like a parcel. and tying it around the table legs.

Much better. However, it still slipped, albeit with a restricted movement range of two or three inches rather than right off the edge. Still annoying though, so I tried to tighten the knots. But inevitably when you let go there is a tiny bit of slack in the ribbon.
'It needs a kind of torque system," I pronounced to a bemused looking Dennis, who has been standing obediently, with his finger holding down the ribbon on the top of the table while I crawl around under it. "Go get me a chopstick."

But I am far too imparient to wait the, oh, twenty seconds at least, it takes to produce the chopstick and in the meantime have laid a a hand on a stray thread spool. Slipped under the knotted ribbon it got me the tension to limit slipage to about half a centimeter. I then slipped a tiny little wad of protector between the ribbon and the lower edge of the table rim and ... BINGO.... a non-slip quilty table! Yeah.

A slight flaw is that white ribbon would be better because the peach shows through the table cloth but that's easily rectified with a shopping trip. A bonus is that on top of the protector the cloth now does not slip so I don't even need to remove it for quilting.

Now, before I go to bed is there anything else I'm not supposed to be able to do?

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Language, young lady!

The last couple of days have been lingusitic ones. I was the lucky recipient of a German quilting magazine in a Swapbot swap recently and was delighted to find that despite not having used my A level German since school ( except to order few Wurst on a weekend to Berlin) that I could get much of the content of the magazine and had fun picking up specialist vocab ('rotary cutter etc') from the context. I showed it to a fellow quilter who found a Scandinavian shop who sent her back copies of a different German magazine.. .and she speaks not a word! So I decided that it would be fun to use these magazine to brush up on my language skills ( and that brushing up on my language skills justified two more potential subscritions, of course). So I went to Borders in Leeds to get a German - English dictionary to help me with the words I didn't recognise.

There were several to pick from so I took a sample of words that cropped up in one article to test to see which magazine had the most specialist words in. I ended up with a Berlitz one but interestingly not a single one had the word 'quilt' as a verb!

It does pay to read carefully though. I was a little bemused as to why Dijanne Ceval had learned to applique with corruption when she was a child. Until I turned a page and found that Filz translates as felt as well as corruption and filth! (Reminescent of the double meaning of fleece in English - isn't language cool?!)

From that interview I have a fabulous title for a quilt: 'Meine Spitzen treffen sich nie'...... My points never meet. I just have to design something to go with that. Although knowing my luck if I design non-meeting points they will probably meet!

Then today I came home from Leeds to find I had been sent a copy of my very first book written in 1997, translated into Czech. Very odd.

Finally to pick up one or two comments - I very much value comments and knowing that people read me although I am bad at commenting on them ( mental note: must do better). Plus I will check out your blog if you read me. So, the idea about travelling with a miners headlamp is a great one becuase often hotel rooms don't have that many sockets. And they NEVER have a socket by the bed - which is just where you need it if you want to charge your phone battery overnight but not have to get up and walk across the room in the morning to put the alarm on the phone on snooze!

And when I said ladies of a certain age in an earlier post, I meant women in their seventies so I think those of you who were a bit worried need not be! Besides it wasn't meant as derrogatory. I hope to be like my Grandmother who talks about the old ladies in her church not getting out much and needing her to vist them. Gran is 85!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

And there (was not ) light

What goes through the heads of designers when they plan the lighting in hotel rooms? I am currently installed in a room in the Leeds Novotel, which is identical to the rooms in any other Novotel. I have a light at the entrance way, a light in the toilet, a light in the separate bathroom, a desk lamp, two reading lamps over each side of the bed and a lamp above the sofa. And still all I get is a diffused apricot glow around the room. Fine, I imagine, for romantic assignations ( although how romantic you can get in a Novotel in Leeds City Center I do not know.) Not so fine when I am tring to quilt. Fortunately my machine has a double light on it so if I am close to it with the addition of the desk lamp I can piece without bringing on macular degeneration but the pressing is done in semi gloom and the design wall ( flannel sheet laid out on the bed) has shadows that make value contrasts very interesting.... I can see that I am going to have to add a 100 watt colour true lightblub and desk lamp to the junk I already tote around on trips.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

I am not unaware that recent posts may make me appear rather profligate with money. In fact I am not – like all the women in my family I am a great budgeter. It is just with a good job and moderate house with no mortgage, no kids, pets, taste for alcohol or cigarettes or designer clothes, I can afford to spend a bit. (OK a fair deal). That does not mean I do not appreciate the need to manage money well, to share it with others less fortunate and to save – I will happily set aside money to spend but can’t enjoy spending unless I know I have also saved a good proportion of my wages so I know I will be able to spend when I am retired or am unable to work.

So I decided, in the interest of prudence, while I was in Bath, to investigate if it was possible to lower my monthly mobile phone bill. One enquiry at Carphone Warehouse (one of the few companies I can say that I have had nothing but superb service at ever since I started to use them in 1999) had good results. I got a new tariff for £10 less per month but with 50% more inclusive minutes. I was due an upgrade on my phone but rather than just take the basic Nokia one that was free they negotiated me a rather swish Motorola that should have cost £70 which I got for free. I also declined their offer of insurance for £12 per month to cover loss or theft of the handset on the basis that they allowed me to keep the phone I already had which is still in perfectly good working order.

The phone allows me to download photos onto it so I now have a choice of quilts for wallpaper which makes me smile, and I have £120 per year more cash, which also makes me smile. My head says that sum is in fact a small inroad into the effects of inflation and fiscal drag beloved by our Chancellor and doesn’t really offset the fact that publicly funded lawyers have not had a pay rise for ages, that the government is dead set on destroying legal aid for family cases and that I should add the £10 to my pension subscription.. My heart says that is £10 bonus per month and I should join a FQ club.

Which would you follow? Head or heart? Or shall I allocate £5 to each?!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Quick visit..

A quick pictureles post today as I am rushing off for dinner with friends. Today I went with a friend to the AGM of a local quiting group. I was invited through my C&G group and whilst everytime I read about people belonging to a group I yearn for the company and community feel, I was doubtful that I would go. Firstly because the freind who wanted me to go told me that the group was mostly old ladies. Secondly for fear of overcomitting myself. But I went because it was a nice day and the drive to the country location is a good one but more so to support my friend who was going to join but didn't want to go to her first meeting alone. She said I could go and just listen. So I went and I listened for about five minutes and then volunteered to be secretary. Which kind of means I have to join!!!

In fact all of my C&G class joined en mass and 3 of us are now on the commttee so we bring the average age down considerably. The other ladies are very welcoming and delighted to have new blood ( at least to our faces!!) so I am very happy to finally belong to a Guild albeit one which only meets for 2 hours once a month ... now I think I can manage that!!

PS There is nothing at all wrong with being a lady of a certain age, its just that I was looking to make friends of my own generation... thought I ought to clear that up!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

All after a days work.

I had a half hour appointment at 12.30 today in the Macclesfield County Court, a town I have never been to. To get there I found myself on Silk Road. The court turns out to be in Silk House. Oh yes and opposite are two silk museums! Well, these things have to be done don't they?

The first museum, a former silk factory was officially shut for a private group but the guide took pity on me and snuck me in for a one on one tour before they arrived.

So you think you have a lot of thread?!

This machine kind of spins out the silk thread which then goes on this jaquard loom.

The whole factory like this, was opened in 1820 and was still running in this state in 1981!

Turns out Macclesfield was a big place for silk - first buttons then fabric. The second museum was about the production of the silk fabrics and was housed in the old Macclesfield School of Art which trained a lot of the designers in industry. As a City and Guilds student, the best bit for me was seeing their work and sample books. These photos are just a sample - the work dates from 1949- 1952.

Sometimes I get a bit frustrated doing tiny samples - I want to get on and do the whole thing but boy did I suddenly have a penny drop in my numb skull today. Fisrtly wouldn't it be nice if the journals we are keeping now were of interest to someone else 60 years later? I sometimes keep swatches of the fabrics I am quilting with but then wonder what is the point given that I have the whole quilts. But then I saw all the fabric swatch books on show and reaslised that we are in fact creating a record of history. This swatch book has fabric on it with the face of Queen Victoria woven into it.
Historical records need not just be the formal exhibit in the National Museums. Social history of individuals can be just as valid.

Secondly I was able to go to a special exhibition upstairs where some local embroiderers had produced work of their own design based on either a pattern book or a print block in the museum collection. I got to see the original item, the new one and the design book showing the progress. At this point a penny kind of dropped in my numbskull brain. This one item and book is by Carolyn Allott.

There are actually two other silk related museums in the town but I didn't have time for those because I had already planned to drive 15 miles or so to Stockport to see an exhibit curated by the Quilters Guild in the UK which I had accidentally discovered when googling for quilty shops in Macclesfield ( well you don't go somewhere new without checking, do you?).

By co-incidence the theme was very similar. There is a local heritage house in Stockport called Staircase House and the local quilters had been asked to produce wallhangings inspired by part of that building. No design books this time but still a piece on the wall about the original source. I had this exhibit all to myself and had a great time not only pondering the thought processes but also looking at the exectution and the stitchings. Here are pictures of my favourites three with their explanatory boards.

Don't you love this frame?

I left desperate for time to sit and play making samples of the techniques I had seen! Sadly, work means it won't happen for a while but I trust the inspiration will not wear off!

Stash building

At the Trentham show Dennis subscribed to British Patchwork and Quilting for me for this year and we got a free project bag. This is how it looked when we got it.

This is how it looked half way through the show after I had been to Magie Relph’s stall. Its a little more than it looks because there are several bundles of FQs in there. Then a bit later when I had been to the Out of Africa stall and put a second layer in (The top left two are more of Magie's . The rolls are colections of 10 hand-dyed FQs from Durban.

Then later on when I had been to Midsomer Quilting.

As you can see most of the fabric is African but there is some in there for a Japanese quilt I designed when I was in Bath which I intend to make for the Butterflies and Blooms theme competition at the Great Northern Quilts Show in Harrogate in September. I didn't bother photgraphing the the plains.

Of course A japanese quilt requires Sashiko so I bought this from this quilt shop in Bath. ( Another class mate at MidsomerQ snatched it from the shelf in front of me else I would have bought it there.

Dennis also got me this one which I had previously seen on the Internet. The quilts are very simple – not that that is necessarily a bad thing, especially with such busy fabrics. I was fascinated with the little logos at the beginning of each chapter though which spurned a quilt design of my own which is now in my journal awaiting time. I certainly have the fabric for it! Although if any of my Australian readers want to recommend a good web based store for Australiana fabrics I would be interested in expanding my stash yet further around the globe.)

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

What was I saying? (Written in Bath on 13/4/07)

I think my brain has been foundation pieced – it certainly seems like it has lots of perforation holes in at the moment. This all happened within 24 hours when I was in Bath:

I left my loyalty card at Midsomer Quilting. Then I realised that I had lost my quilting journal which is a hard back notebook with all my sketched designs in, swatches, records of spending, list of books to put on my birthday list, notes from classes, entry forms and even the official label for my entry to Malvern and entry tickets for the show. I was going nuts until I traced it to Woods Stationery store.

I had gone in to buy isometic graph paper designing a quilt a la Kitty Pippen and also these plastic folders which are such a good storage ideas for cut quilt top pieces.

I had realised that the journal was one which the assistant might think I was buying, so I put it down on a ledge by the counter, told her that it was already mine so she didn’t think I was stealing it, paid for my goods and then…. walked out without it. I mean, I was talking about it just 10 seconds before I forgot it!!

Then I went to do some other shopping and realised when I was back at the flat that I was minus the Marks and Spencers chilled food I had bought for our (good quality but still very lazy) tea. That I left at the checkout at Waitrose supermarket when I called in for some of their unrivalled pain rustica. That was embarrassing when I had to phone them to ask them to put it in their chiller until I could get back for it. Plus, when I first tried to ring, I could not find my mobile phone. Fortunately ten minutes or so into the frantic search (cushions tossed off the sofa, handbag upended on the floor…) Dennis, who had gone to Bristol for the day, sent me a text and I heard my fat quarter bag beeping….

There are two theories. There is mine. (Bear in mind I am a natural hypochondriac who has just finished a very good book about a brain surgeon’s daily work life called Life in the Frontal Lobe) I think I have a tumour ( benign, but very rare and medically interesting, of course) pressing on the part of the frontal lobe which controls short term memory ( and also controls the urge to buy fabric and shoes and books for which there is really no need).

And then there is Den’s. He says I just have a head too full of quilts to concentrate properly. That’s his explanation for the forgetfulness. He doesn’t know that there is an issue with shoes/ fabric and books for which he needs an explanation…. Oh damn, I forgot – he reads this. See what I mean…?

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Midsomer correction

Ok, Turns out I was a bad 'journalist' amd forgot to check my facts about Midsomer Q in my last post. It turns out that the shop is now soley in De's name and Chris was flattered but apparently 'elevated' to be called a co-owner. Ooops. He and Birgitta now work there - get this- as a a hobby!

Now it never occurred to me that anywhere in the world was anyone lucky enough to have a hobby that involved looking at fabric and quilts and stroking the fabric and arranging it in pretty piles .... and not ever having to buy the stuff to do it! ( I gather that Birgitta does actually buy some - I'm not sure about Chris!) How cool is that?

But it got me thinking. How about if the quilters in an area all thought, as I do that some part time working in a quilt shop wouldn't feel like work at all. And if at least one or two of those quilters had professional experience - or the abilty to learn - so that they were competant to run a business sucessfully. And if the people who worked there were all volunteers co-ordinated by someone who could maintain some order. ... (I don't do committees well!)

Surely then the overheads of the busienss would fall - no staff costs, just rent and utilities, accountants fees etc ( although see above: volunteers/ experience). So the fabric and notions could be sold without making a profit over overheads... kind of like a co-op...... and that could even be done on line - perhaps with a yearly membership fee to cover some basic costs, so that we could all benefit....

Now I'll take it as written that De will think that a VERY bad idea! But what do you consumers think? A good dream or shall I go and get a cold compress now?!

My favourite shop - Midsomer Q

Let me take you on a little day out to my favourite quilting shop. It says a lot that I hold a loyalty card for this store as it is about 4 hours drive from my house. Well, actually that’s cheating a bit because I only go when I am in Bath on holiday when it is half an hour’s drive up out of the valley in which Bath lies and out into the countryside.

Midsomer Quilting is in these stone buildings on land shared with a garden centre and a craft shop. The shop is L shaped with one ‘wing’ being a very pleasant workshop area where spent Easter Saturday being educated on threads and needles with Dawn Cameron Dick. More of that in a subsequent post.

There are several reasons that this shop is my very favourite of all the ones I have tried (and my husband got very worried when I said that I was ‘ collecting shops’). Firstly they give you chocolate digestives and tea. (In my case tasty Roiboos and Vanilla tea at that.). Now it’s not just that I can be bribed with cocoa solids (although I can) but my point is that you are positively encouraged to just hang out there a bit. There is even a seating area right in the middle of the retail area for you to sit and relax.

And a very pleasant place to hang it is too. It is neat. Fabric goes on the shelf not in piles of bolts slithering all over the floor. (In my house it slithers right down the stairs and through the house but I like shops neat!) Apart from a good range of fabrics ( I didn’t photograph them but they stock about 65 African style fabrics in just one small area of the shop). It is also developing. I went back this Friday after the class and was shown new shelving and a whole new display of thread racks.

It has beguiling shelves and windowsills with quilting gifts on. Not knick knacks. (Knick knacks set my teeth on edge – the same feeling as tearing masking tape with them. Ugh). No, quality gifts – jewellery, jigsaws, coasters, stationery and the like all with quilting motifs. I also love their Amish dolls you can see sitting on this shelf. They have little African girl doll kits too. They don’t sell fabrics on line but some of these gifts are available mail order from their website. Plus lots of books – this photo shows just half of the display that runs either side of an archway.

They are also just really nice people. I went in April 2006. When I rang this March to book the Easter Saturday class I was remembered by Chris. When I went back last Friday his wife remembered what I had been shopping for over a year ago. Chris had even taken the time to google me after the class to find out more about me. (It turns out there is a scary amount of information about me on the Net if you know where to look!!)

(And in case this photo made you wonder - no Chris does not have 2 wives .... at least I don' think so! One is the co-owner of the shop, De)
They open Friday – Monday but put their personal phone numbers on the door so if you were just passing you can call and they come and open up just for you.

I know for most readers this shop is not one you can visit readily, but perhaps if you are looking for a present for a quilting friend you will consider (just as a favour to me) sending off for one of their gift items. Or treat yourself – after all, you deserve it!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Are you a dedicated quilter

Which part of the quilting process do you least like and what do you do to motivate yourself through it?

For me, basting is both boring and usually painful – either I end up kneeling on dodgy knees as I crawl around the floor or I end up stooping over tables too low. Either can be dealt with by breaks and a couple of judicious yoga poses but that still leaves the tedium which I deal with my listening to quilting podcasts on my MP3. Nothing fires me up for quilting than listening to someone else passionate about their projects.

Which is how I came to be in a rather dreary basement workshop room putting almost 400 safety pins into the African ladies quilt .... with a little bit of initial help from Dennis before he went off to more interesting things.. Once he went I started to listen to Alex Anderson’s The Quilting Connection. There were two separate episodes I wanted to mention.

The first was the one where she says for her the binding is the worst part and her version of binding is to whip out her cheque book and get someone else to do it. Which made me wonder why I didn’t just send my quilt over to Chris Marriage and get her to baste on her long arm machine!

But, even as I was bleeding from having stuck a pin under the nail of my forefinger, I was captivated by some statistics Alex was passing on from the 2006 Quilts Inc survey.

Part of that survey is of ‘dedicated’ quilters which they define as someone who spends over US$600 a year on quilting. Hey, that’s me! Is it you? Here are the vital stats [with my response in square brackets]. I’d love you to comment and let me know how much like or not like you this is.

Apparently the average US dedicated quilter is:

Female. [check!]

59. [I am 36 and have always found that whatever I do I seem to be the youngest person doing it, so no change there.]

72% are collage educated. [I have been to 4 universities and 1 college of law for my sins!]

She has been quilting for 13.5 years. [ I notch up 15 months. And that would make them 45 when they started so I am still young!]

She spends an average of $2,300 a year on quilting. [I probably should not admit this on line but I reckon I beat that figure in sterling which has twice the value – although fabric is about twice the price here so perhaps it means I end up at around that figure]

83% have their own quilting space. [Technically the dining room is shared apace but as you can’t see the table for fabric…..]

Their stash contains $3,000 worth of fabric. [Umm – without checking I’d estimate mine has about £1,000 ( lots of it bought on sale)- but give me 13.5 years and I bet I beat that figure by miles].

She owns 2.6 sewing machines. [Nope – just one good one. Although if it makes me normal I guess I could get one with a stitch regulator on as well.]

She bought 98 yards of fabric last year. [Yeah – and the rest – I bought 35 this fortnight , 43.25 at the Craftsandquilts January sale and 34 metres at the Nantwich January sale….. and I have not exactly been abstinent on my Penrith trips in between.]

She has 4.2 quilting magazine subscriptions per year. [ I get 6 but I cut them up, toss the adverts and file the articles so perhaps I only keep 4.2]

She buys 5 books a year. [Pause while I hold my side in laughter. I think I managed 60 odd last year. I bought 2 this week alone. Well, no actually Dennis bought one because I pleaded poverty… with justification given the above information don’t you think?

So what is your verdict? Am I dedicated or just in need of a 12 step programme?
And how do you compare?

Back home

Hi, I am back home from self-imposed blog exile in Bath with lots to tell you. I wrote a few posts while I was away and will post them daily for the next few days. They may be a bit longer than usual as I had plenty of time to write so bear with me. I hope you enjoy them.

Monday, April 09, 2007

From Bath

We are having a good time in Bath. We came down via the quilt show in Trentham In my view the quilts on display were very disappointing compared to last year - fewer and lesser quality. ( I still have my photos on the laptop from 2006 and viewed them when we got here to make sure it wasn't just the haze of my first show that was influencing that opinion!) However I still enjoyed the day - not least because I bumped into people I knew ( last year I didn't know any other local quilters!) and spent a large amount of money on gorgeous fabrics from Magie Relph's stall.

On Easter Saturday I went out to Midsomer Quilting and did a class called Thread Play with Dawn Cameron Dick where we got to make little samples with a wide selection of threads. The idea was that we never play at home becuase we are focused on making and completing things so this was a day just to doodle Plus the information she gave us on needles and threads and tension issues was worth the price alone. I have pages of notes! I would highly recomend her as a teacher.

In the next couple of dayas I am going to avail myself of the room at Bath's Country Threads to baste the African ladies quilt which is now sporting borders from Magies stall. In the eveings I am quite happily working on other blocks.... and yes, I am also enjoying eating and clothes shopping and reading and just enjoying the easter sun in the park here.