Sunday, September 30, 2007

More finished quilts

Continuing with my finishing up Project this weekend I tied and bound White Women Can Quilt - this one is 52 x 72 inches

And then I did the borders, machine applique, quilting and binding on When Ricky met Magie (42 x 52 inches) It is so called for the combination of Ricky Tims convergence technique for the sunset panels and fabrics from Magie Relph's African Fabric shop. Originally it was to be bigger but it refused point blank to accept another border and so it is the way it is!

Oh and to reply to English Rose's comment on a previous post - needles can be taken on to aircraft - apparently they are too slim to be picked up on the security scan - and if you think about it are not dissimilar to a brooch backing. You need special thread cutters though.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Things going wrong...

Marble cake is the easiest thing to make. It also gets great praise from the two obsessively Rugby World Cup watching men parked in my lounge for the duration. However, it does not work if you casually whack the oven on to preheat and forget to turn it down to 200 degrees when you actually put the cake in.

This singed volcano like mess - burned and stuck to the tin on the outside, still fluid on the inside - was inspected by my husband's friend (officially named Denis with one 'n' but, behind his back, called 'the human hoover'). His verdict? "Whats wrong with the solid bit?"

The middle bit was duly excised from the liquid portion, iced and presented looking like something a kindergarten child made with a blindfold on . He gobbled the whole lot ( which was at least 3/4 of the intended cake and proclaimed it delicious. He did venture the opinion that looks did not matter but as we were watching some rather gorgeous Fijians thrash a pasty looking Wales at the time, I had to disagree!

That was after my hairdryer packed in. I suppose all hairdryers, when they pack in, must logically pack in while someone's hair is still half wet.... but did it have to be when all my neighbours who might have loaned me one were out and when I was in a rush to go for brunch with Dennis ( mine - see the two 'n's) because a carefully times fry up at a (not so) greasy spoon was all he had time for, what with the 8 matches on this weekend?

The local hairdresser kindly loaned me one and then we made a quick dash to Boots for a replacement. You gotta love the way they try to sell you a hairdryer. We compared no less than twelve models all sold on science. Last time I bought one, hairdryers produced cold, warm and hot air. Now they offer ceramic technology and ionic conditioning. Trouble is, they all do, so even if I knew what they were talking about, it doesn't help me choose. In the end I chose the one one with a rectractable cord and folding handle for ease of packing when travelling. But I was oh so ( not) tempted by the brand that sold two identical dryers in different boxes. The only difference with the second box was that it included a 'FREE!' ceramic hairstraighter. Oh, and it cost £10 more than the other box.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Odds and sods

I am conscious that I am not being a consciencious blogger at the moment but I have three excuses for the last few days:

(a) I am undergoing training to be a collaborative lawyer which is a whole new way of practicing family law and so I have my head stuck in participation agreements and the like.

(b) I was away at the weekend at Mum's and my Morceau quilting class. Mum and I began to design our embroidered quilt ( actually having declared her total lack of design capacity Mum pretty much picked out what we were going to do amd I agreed and drew it for her!) and then I came home with instructions to come up with all the embroidery designs for the centre portion and I spent 6 hours flat yesterday working on just that! We went shopping together and started very well with exceedingly well priced solid black fabric which I then got a further 20% off and a few skeins of DMC embroidery silk. We then slid a little by deciding that several borders had to be in order-only dupion silk at £14 per meter... but the colours ( which Mum mostly picked) are black, gold, magenta and purple ( for grapes on a grapevine border she wants) and will look, I think, deliciously rich and, well, rather clerical, as is appropriate for a quilt based on an exhibition of sacred texts.

(c) I am on a massive finishing up session to get at least some of my WIPs finished before half term in October so I can justify taking a whole new set of uncut-into fabrics on holiday and making a quilt in a week down in Bath. This is a simple wallhanging for Christmas I have just completed - started on the plane and in baggage reclaim at Manchester a few weeks ago.

And I have quilted the quilt pieced mostly when I was in Tunisia. This is for my Gran for Christmas.... the Gran who rang tonight to declare that she wasn't doing Christmas presents this year. She was makng a charity donation instead and didn't want to be given anything for herself..... Tough!!! Its nothing innovative but I like the colours and it was easy to handpiece whilst on the go.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Sad news

Most of you will be familiar with the work of Laurel Burch , famed for her felines and mystical horses amongst other works, and have probably at least coveted one of her bags if not bought one.

Sadly I stumbled on a blog today notifying of her recent death. Condolences can be left at her website. I did not know that she had suffered very badly from a rare bone disease. For me it makes her art so much more beautiful that it came out of such adversity.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


I have a new book. (Yes, another).
This is a catalogue of quilts by Mary Fisher who is a UN goodwill amabassor to Africa on their AIDS project. The quilts are accompanied by short bits of her writings about her African experiences. Sections showing her sculptures and her textiles are accompanied by extracts from her speeches. Her quilts feature printing with woodblocks or lino cuts and often have words from her speeches incorporated. the book is very well produced and I was not charged extra for international postage. It is available from

Thursday, September 13, 2007


Last nights activity was much less macabre than the day-before's; I called in at the British Library to see their Sacred exhibition. Unimpressed for the first few moments looking at pages of old books with old calligraphy I turned and saw some illuminated pages of a Hebrew Bible and that quilty bit of my brain went 'DING!'. For a while now I have been persuading my Mum to work with me on a quilt - she is a talented embroiderer, albeit not someone who enjoys doing her own designs. So, when she finally agreed, the task was on me to design something. All the embroidery books I looked at seem to be flower focuses which is not my taste but I am now geared up to design using images from the catalogue. I am now just wondering what the recreation of our ( seemingly traditional) show judges will be to the replication of a 18th centrury depiction of a scene from revelation containing a seven headed serpent sweeping bodies into the burning abyss! Actualy maybe last night was not all that much less macabre.....

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Taking embellishment one step too far

The great thing about working n London is that there is always something you can do in the evening after work. Yesterday I went to the Wellcome Trust building on Euston Road just down from my hotel. You may know the name as a medical institution but they also have three galleries with displays linking medicine and art. One was a sample of the many many vaugely medically related things Henry ( I think that's his name!) Wellcome collected, from torture chairs to Japanese sex aids, to anatomical models to glass medicine bottles. Another is about the heart with everything from Egyptian papyrus pictured of the heart to a pickled human heart removed in a transplant operation. There is even a film made of a heart operation very bizzarely narrated with a voice over of a Billy Graham sermon. The third related to five aspects of medicnine today. That included obsesity which promtly made m walk very briskly to buy M&S blueberries for my supper!

Of course, I am now well trained in using displays like this for quilting inspiration but what I learned most from this trip is that you can take embellishment too far. Three things I saw were:

1. Pictures of the heart drawn by a psychiatric patient in Germany who used to stick pencils up his nose until it bled then used the blood as ink. ( He drew well though!)

2. A chinese shop sign from which hung a kind of beaded curtain made of human teeth.

3. Tables with human sillhouettes on them. Turns out they were made by removing all the veins and arteries in a human body, laying them out in their right places on a block of wood then varnishing them down.

Members of my twelve my twelve group should be very grateful that it is a long time until I have to set a challenge theme and so there is a good chance I will have forgotton these influences by then!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Quick update

I am just back from the Great Northern Quilt show Harrogate. I called in at Pennypot Patchwork on the way - a new shop to me. This time the show seemed small and quiet and did not really justify the day and a half I set aside for it - but I had to stay as I was collecting my quilt at the end.

I stayed at the Premier Travel Inn near Leeds - Bradford airport and was mulling over the wisdom of this - would I have been better getting up really early and driving over just for the day and having the cash to spend? The dilemma was solved when I realised that I had been allocated a room near doors that slammed and that the other otherside of the wall on which my headboard rested were several extremely squeaky steps. Not a major problem, but enough to genuinely keep me awake for half an hour or so at night and then wake me up at just before seven in the morning as early leavers departed.

Premier Travel Inn still has their' good night sleep' guarantee ( although they don't advertise it so much these days). If you don't get one, you get your money back. I didn't, so I did and then I made the lady from The Shuttle who was selling fabric at £5 per meter very happy the next day!

But no photos of my haul becuase I have already stashed it all away without thinking. I have now ( several months too late says my husband) reaslied that I am at the stage where I have to focus on stash reduction and WIPs for a while. So no more serious shopping ( except for a little planned splurge at Midsomer Quilting in October because that's my favourite shop and the holiday would not be the same without a little trip there) until Easter next year... when I go to Midsomer Quilting again and then just after there is the Trentham Gardens show. Oh, and except for the Nantwich sale in January when fabric is so cheap you'd be mad not to stock up on backings at least...

But now to London for the week to work so I may go off radar for a while!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Quilting CV

We have taken on two new pupil barristers in my chambers and I have been reading their CV's. They are frightening. Whe I got my first trainee job it was sufficient to have good A levels and a decent chance of getting a good degree with an intention to go on to law schoool. Now they have all their accademic and professional qualifications already. Plus they have done things like learn conversational Java when on a solo motorbike journey across Indionesia, or work in a death penalty center in Oklahoma. They have done interneships in Strasbourg and one of them has even been the scretary general of some UN student group - I mean it wasn't quite Kofi Anan's job but was still pretty impressive. ( I have not made any of that up).

It made me depressed at my inadeqacies so I decided to review my skill set and give you my quilting CV:

I have undertaking the following roles for at least twenty months:

Small business support officer
Responsiblity for assisting sole traders and small partnerships in the fabric retail industry to maximise their trading profits. Worked with not only UK traders but also with dealers in the US.

International communicators director
Responsibilty for writing, producing and disseminating a focused textile related journal with a potential readership of several milion in an international forum

Production engineer
Responsibilty for managing over fifteen ongoing design and manufacture projects each requiring detailed attention to pre-production design, mechanical and mathematical calculations, the maitenance of machinery and the end fabrication processes.

Spacial organisation faciltator
Responsibilty for the ergonomics, health and saftey of the storage and production areas to include financial planning and manual construction of fabric containment units

HR/ Family Liason officer
Responsiblity for negotiating allocated time allowances, compromise agreements and time-loss compensation agreements with non-quilting sectors within the home organisation

Budget supervisor
Responsibilty for creative budget planning, the establishment of specific textile-dedicated allowances and the rationalisation of non-textile budget areas to allow for sector expansion.

What have you been doing with your life?!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Blog help needed

I thought I was being clever by writing a couple of posts when I had time and saving one as a draft to post tonight. However, when I do that it posts it to the date I wrote it first and not today, which means if you are reading this is is now two posts below and so not obvious to anyone who logs straight onto the blog and is not notified via bloglines that there is a new post.

So now I have had to post anyway to alert you to the old post (are you following this becuase I feel I am slightly losing the plot myself!) but also to ask: am I missing something obvious on blogger? Can I save a draft and date it on a later posting date?

Wednesday, September 05, 2007


Ia m very excited that I have been included in a by invitation online art quilting group Twelveby12 - so named for the size of quilts we are going to be making bi -monthlly. We now have a new blog on which you can follow our progress - come and have a look! There is a list on the site of the members and links to their blogs which are well worth following. I'll try and remember to let you know when actual quilts are made and posted.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

My friend Chris

One of the best things about quilting for me has been the making of so many new friends all around the world. I always wanted to be in an old fashoned Amercian quiting bee. Well, we don't hand quilt and we don't eat grits, but the 'girls' in my City and Guilds class have recently started meeting occasionally in each others home's to gossip and sew together.

Last time it was just Kristina and myself but we had such good fun. This is her in her inside studio. ( She has another outbuilding with dying space downstairs and long room for her quilting frame and othercrafts upstairs and is about to build a dedicated studio in the loft space of a new double garage, lucky cow!). I am just fascinated with other people's sewing spaces, aren't you?

Here am I in another corner of the same room holding up one of her C&G samples that I wanted to keep because they were all Africany and beautiful.

And this is a photo of her patchwork turkey that she sent me a photo of unasked for, so she obviously wants me to show it off! And a very nice turkey doorstop it is too.

One seam flying geese tutorial

Having spent a week in Tunisa making geese the hard way, by hand with half square truangles, I came home and discovered this super quick technique. I found it demonstrated by Ricky Tims on The Quilt Show and by co-incidence founs it again the next day flicking through a book called Quick Quilts in a Weekend. Ricky learned it from someone else so I am guessing it's no secret. It was new to me though so I am also guessing it might be new to some of you. It produces three dimensional geese with little pockets.

1. From your background fabric cut two squares each three inches square.

2. From your goose fabric cut a rectangle three by five and a half inches.

3. Place a square right side up.

4. Fold the rectangle to align the short sides with the wrong sides together. Place ontop of the square with the aligned short sides at the bottom of the square. The fold at the top will come slightly short of the top of the square.

5. Set the other square on top right side down.

6. Sew a quarter inch seam along the right side taking care to keep the fold at the top as you work.

7. Press open the top square

8. Pull out the goose and press down. Hey presto!!

Monday, September 03, 2007

Whats on your wall?

I find it almost impossible to concentrate soley on one project at a time. Leaving aside the WIPs in boxes, this is my design wall tonight.

First we have samples of different forms of applique for my City and Guilds. We have all decided to make them in co-ordinating blocks so that after the course they can go in a quilt.

Then there is a block which is the start of my next challenge quilt with Lesley - we are doing a kind of wonky round robin. We each are to swap one block then build it up a bit - not necessarily with a border, but in any way we choose and hand it back, build on it and so on until the owner of the original block deems it finished.

Down at the bottom is another sample that I just had to make after reading about the technique in Quilters Newsletter. I read it at 11.30 ish at night, got up and made it at 7 am! Having made it I have decided do do somthing similar in the borders of this, which is a Ricky Tims convergence with a Brixton twist! The little flying geese are Ricky's method of three dimensional geese - I'll post instructions tomorrow - they are easy peasy and so fun. Random pieces on a board but a complete quilt in my head at the moment!

What's on your board?

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Shoes, sisters, sticks and silliness

It is hard to understand how sisters can be so different. I like smart things. These are the slippers Ii was wearing when my sister arrived last night. ( Handmade and imported by me from Morrocco.)
These are Jen's shoes:
They are Crocs. (Look like plastic boats to me). Crocs have holes in them apparently ( What's that all about?) and Mark, Jen's husband managed to buy then for her just as she came home from a health and saftey talk at work where they were banned from wearing shoes with holes in. She is a nurse and the logic is that there is a danger of getting needlestick injury if the needle is dropped on a foot and goes through the hole.
The rule is still in place despite the fact that the A&E staff apparently spent quite some time throwing hypodermic syringes at a pair of crocs and failed totally to get any of them to land the the holes. So the solution was to fill the holes with these plastic animal 'gems'. (Gems to me means diamonds and sapphires).She works on a Children's ward so I guess she can get away with it. They look rindiculous to me but perhaps I am out of synch with foot fashion. Is there a market , do you think, for plastic quilt blocks to cover holes in our shoes in case we drop a Jeans needle into them?

New printer for fabric

Both of our Canon printers packed in recently so my mission for today was to buy a new all in one printer- and possibly a cheap one just for documents. My primary requirement was one that would print well on fabric and had an easy facility to enlarge on the copier. Having no idea where to start I googled sites about fabric printing and most people seemed to be saying Epsom or HP worked fine. Of course, because printers seem to be made for two months then discontinued, the precise models recommended were not really helpful.

So I then factored in the time consideration. PC world here have a facilty where you can choose and order on line to get web prices, then go and collect from the local store to avoid a delivery fee/ wait. As the store is 2.2 miles away this is a good option. Den's view was - get the best if you are going to be quilting with it ( gotta love this guy!) so I just started at the top end of the list, ruled out those with faxes becuase we have one and narrowed it down to the top range Epsom or HP.

As the spec details didn't cover exactly what I needed to know I rang Epsom. After listening to a lot of advertising I get to ask if the model in question enlarges.
"It does via the PC but I don't think it does on the stand alone facility."
"You don't think? Does it or does it not - can you find out?"
"It does via the PC"
You know when you just can't be bothered carrying on? So I try the second question?
Does this printer take fabric sheets?
"None of ours do."
"That can't be right. there are lots of web sites with people telling me that they actually recommend some of your printers."
"Oh well, yes it will be alright but as a company we don't say that."
"Fine. I think I'll buy a HP then."
Stunned silence.

I ring HP. I ring a local number but get someone with such a deep south US accent he is hard to understand. I already know that this printer enlarges. So, does it take fabric sheets OK and in particular are the new inks this printer uses OK because I had seen one review saying that a particular brand of HP ink only has 50% durability?
"What do you want to do with it?"
"Print on fabric sheets."
"For quilting...."
"Its very common in the US. there are several sites recommending HP - some of them do it as a business so I know some HP printers are fine but this is a new printer ink, so I want to check."
"You are running a business?"
"No. I want to know if this ink prints OK on fabric.
"Ummmm. There might be somthing on the website."
"On which page?"
"Look, if you don't know, could you just say so?"
"Can you ring the business support centre on Monday?"

In fact, if you go to the HP website and search for quilting rather than fabric ( which is what I tried first) there is a whole how to page with lots of links to projects and they even produce the fabric-paper!

So I bought the HP Photosmart C5180 and off I go to the store.

Now, for economy reasons we did wonder whether it would be a good idea to buy a cheapy black and white printer too for documents. So I was trying to puzzle out which brand did more pages per cartridge and compare the costs of cartirdges ( impossible task by the way) when a helpful lad called Gary arrived.
"Have you thought about a laser printer? I've got one and this one is only £40."
"How much is the toner?"
"How much??"
"Ah but you get longer out of it than an ink cartridge?"
"How, much longer?"
"Oh you won't need to change it until it runs out."

I decline to buy a second one. I am given the receipt for the goods I ordered on online which gives a bar code to be scanned in at the till and should include the half price cartridges I added in store and which Gary added to my internet order. The sales assistant scans the bar code. £161 and pence.
"Is that right?" he asks.
"I don't know, I didn't add everything up - does it include the batteries and CD's I put in the trolley?"

He peers at the computerised screen. It doesn't have a itemised list. He stabbes a finger at the touch screen and it says, "This will cancel this order. Do you wish to proceed?"
He proceeds.
"Oh dear," he says. I can't find it now." He is totally non-plussed
"What if you just scan in all the items in the trolley?"
"But you might have discount."
"I do, but we could put that in manually."
"Can you just wait to one side while I serve the rest of the queue."

I grab a passing girl and explain. She comes back with Gary.
"Don't you want it all anymore?"
"Yes. I very much want it, its just that your colleague can't work the till."
"But Janine said you were cancelling the order."

God help me but I am beginning to understand people who take semi-automatics in to shops!