Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Christmas update - look what I got!

I am having a slothful time hence the lack of a blog entry. Here are a few photos to tell the story of the last few days:
The table:Before Christmas


And yes, that is how it looks after three days of quilting in there! So far so miraculous! I've just noticed that one of the drawers is open. Could be becuase that,s' where I have stashed some of the Christmas chocolates!

I am so glad that I hit on the idea of making a quilt sized to hide my dining room chairs. That quilt makes such a difference. In fact it is not quite finished becuase I ran out of thread with two strips to quilt! I don't want to put the lights away either - they make the place quite cosy. I shall have to source a pretty lamp of some kind.

Presents were plentiful - here are is a sampling of stuff you will be interested in:

Lucky bags of machine and hand threads from Oliver Twists, a heat gun, colured scrim and silk and recycled sari yarn and ribbon.Experimental pack from Stef Francis embroidery, fabric from Magie at AfricanFabric Shop, paint stylus ( to go with some paints which are coming my way when a lost in the post parcel gets replaced!)
and, just one of my presents from Dennis.. 25 King Tut threads!

Got to love a man who can not only source thread but knows where to get a discount on it!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Help- Advice needed!

I am right in the middle of re-organising my quilting storage space. I have a big cupboard, half shelving, half hanging. I need to retain some hanging because that is the only place Dennis' coats can go. But most of the hanging is taken up with some suits and dresses I had tailor made in Bangkok at least 8 years ago if not a little longer They are in pristine condition, beautifully made to measure... the woman I was then! Some are of suiting material, most are of good quality Thai silk. They no longer fasten over my hips. I know that it is stupid to have them cluttering up this useful space.

So, do I

(a) Fold and store them in the attic and diet - on the basis that if my hips were that size once they should be again, then when I am thin move them to my wardrobe

(b) Give them to charity - on the basis that no one is fooled by the diet plan and I should stop selfishly hoarding them because someone night need a good suit.

(c) keep them downstairs but folded in in with the other fabric in the new boxes I am about to order on the basis that if my some miracle (a) happens I can wear them but if not I could cut them up and quilt with them.

(d) get real and just chop them all up now to quilt with on the basis that whilst that might seem like a criminal waste I did pay for them to start off with and might as well continue to get money's worth from them?

Monday, December 22, 2008

Auntie for a day

Normally I discourage posts about kids (being a grumpy childless-by-choice crone-to-be) but, since I only see my nephew but once a year and since this tale ends up being textile related, I grant myself an exemption.

Neil lives in Northern Ireland. Last time I went he was keen to play board games. Not now he is twelve. His first question to me: "Does your phone have bluetooth connectivity?"
It does and I am now the proud possessor of a Mr Bean ringtone ("I'm ringing, I'm ringing. It's in your pocket!) and some Monster Hamster hiphop MP3s. (Actually 'Country Roads' speeded up Pinky and Perky style with some backbeat but it makes for a very good alarm tone.) I am also pleased to say that my two year old Sony clamshell phone has officially been pronounced 'cool'.

On day two of the visit he arrives at his Grans after Sunday School and comes sidling up to me. I am doing cross stitch and playing at 'how long can I put off the moment I have to go and lose at Playstation again'. (Does any adult understand what you are supposed to do on those games?) He asks sensible questions about cross stitch and gets a little explanation about how I am doing the City and Guilds course. He only rolls his eyes once when I ask if I can draw around his hand to use as a template for a fabric book inspired by Nelson Mandela. He has no idea who that is and even tolerates an explanation. Then his eyes light up as he realises he has the perfect way to get his Auntie's undivided attention.

"Blue Peter were showing how to make sock monsters," he says.
"Oh Yeah?" (See how cool Auntie can play this)
"Yeah. You sew them." (His emphasis.)

I crack under the charm pressure and send him off to get the requisite things. But we are short on cotton wool for stuffing and have to go down to the Spar to buy some. Despite the fact that at this stage my 12 year old style guru pronounced my coat 'embarrassing', the cotton wool winds up costing me £16 as mysteriously the bill includes a top up for his phone. ( This I do not regret as you will come to see later in this long tale).

We return and he spreads his equipment on the table. I eye the pristine pairs of socks. "Will Granny let you cut these up?"

"No," he says. "But if you ask she'll let you away with it."
I ask May, my cool-as-BenandJerry's- MIL. She shakes her head in a combination of despair and resignation and we are away.
"So," I say to Neil, "What were the instructions?"
He shrugs. "I don't know I didn't actually see the programme because I was in trouble with Granny and she was telling me off."
"Oh. So how do you suggest we make them then?"
He shrugs again, "I don't know. You're the one doing the course."

So, I get him to draw an impression of what a sock monster looks like. He draws an amoeba like blob with appendages and insists that it is a very different thing to a sock monkey. All he can recall is that you use the ribbing from the top of the sock to make a mouth. Ho-Kay then!

We start to figure it out and the phone rings. He says, "OK" and "cool" a lot then puts it back down.
"I am away to my friends," he says.
"What, and leaving me to do the monsters all by myself?"
"Aye. But I'll be with you in mind."

Cheeky beggar. My prototype monster was a bit ropey. The second was better. I planned to blog about it. But blogs without photos are boring. Especially when you can't see the monster. But wait! All is not lost. I know a twelve year old. A quick request for a picture message from his phone and - voila! Un sock monster.

Oh yeah and the photo of the crisps above was mostly so you'd keep reading, because I have this theory that more people read a blog post if there's a photo high up. But also its there because the other reason it cost me £16 at Spa is because Dennis asked for a multi pack of Tayto cheese and onion crisps which taste of his childhood. He meant the 6 pack. I only saw the 12 pack and decided to be kind and get two. So that's him regressing for the next month then!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

What does it mean?

I am not a download fan. I mean I down load Annie Smith's quilting podcasts but that its about it. However today I downloaded my third ever song ( the first being the Hollies version of Boulder to Birmingham, and the second being Kid's Rock's All Summer Long). Just occasionally a song gets into my head and I could happily play it over and over. This time it is Human by the Killers.

But unlike the other two I actually have no idea what the song is about. Can anyone enlighten me as to what these lyrics mean?!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Start of Christmas

It is a tradition for us to pay a Christmas visit to Bents garden centre. Not for gardening stuff but to view their Christmas displays, maybe buy a new decoration and then eat an enormous cake. The photos in this post are all from there. ( I picked that giant Vienese whirl on the second shelf)The meme has been doing the rounds so you may all be very bored with it but as I am full of head cold and can't be bothered being original I thought I'd join in. Anyway, sometimes it is nice to belong to a crowd!

Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate?
Chocolate - I don't even know what eggnog tastes like. The chocolate has to be Cadbury's made with milk by my husband. No one makes it like him.

Does Santa wrap presents or set them under the tree?
Well both of course. Where would the surprise be if they were not wrapped and how would you find them in the morning if they were not under the tree?

Colored lights on tree or white?

White. I do decorations as uncluttered and as un-tacky as possible.

When do you put your decorations up?
This year - today, but it varies. Up until my mid teens I thought that the proper day to put decorations up as Twelfth night, which is of course the night to take them down. But we always put them up on 12th Dec. Set in stone. It was ages before I realised that that that was because 12th was my Dad's birthday! So now it is never earlier than that but often later.

What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)?

I like the pickings of all the leftovers of buffet type food that I get to eat in the period between Christmas and New Year. Including Sour Cream Pringles. Yum. And, perversely, Matzoh which is a kosher passover cracker. Great with the pork based Ardenne pate!

Favorite Holiday memory as a child:

Until recently the big (BIG) Derby match in Rugby League between St.Helens ( my town ... "Come on you Saints, come on you Saints...) and Wigan ( ssssssss! Pie eaters!) took place on Boxing Day with the return match on Good Friday the venues alternating. Boxing Day meant dressing in as many layers as you could get through the turnstiles wearing. My cousins and all would go and we'd meet at the scoreboard end. One year my Grandma died just ten minutes into Boxing Day ( at home peacefully with family around her). We were all at the match that afternoon, red eyed and saying, "It's what she would have wanted." And it was. Sadly the season has changed now so the match no longer exists.

When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?

I don't remember at all, but I may have contributed to some other children learning the truth when at the church Sunday School party I hit Santa. Well, he was my Dad and he tickled me when I was on his knee, what did he expect!

Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?
Oh no, no, no, no, no. That's spoily!

How do you decorate your Christmas tree?
Gold beads, white and scarlet baubles, gold butterflies. Understated and matching! In fact our tree is small and false and every December there would be great stress and unkind things said as we tried to remember how to fit the base together. Then one year I realised that the secret of a happy marriage is to forget returning the tree to the box but instead to shroud it with a black bin bag and shove it up in the loft still errected. The next year we realised that you could do that and leave the decorations on. So now decorating consists of removing the bin bag, hanging one Christmas quilt, throwing another one over the sofa, setting out a Germanic velvet cloaked wooden based Santa on the mantelpiece, three ceramic snowmen on the fire base, two wire reindeer on the windowsill, plugging in a modern menorah and a set of lights in a vase and handing a heart shaped wreath on the hall door. Done. No arguments. Time for a Vienese Whirl!

Snow! Love it or Dread it?
Depends if I have to go out. If I can stay in with the pickings ( see above) and a good book its pretty. But I hate to walk on it - I am afraid I may fall and break my teeth.

Can you ice skate?
I could when I was a student. I assume it is like riding a bike in that you never forget.

Do you remember your favorite gift?
My Mum used to look after an old lady and when 'Aunty Nancy' died ( I am sorry this is so morbid!) Mum got a very small inheritance which she spent on my sister and I. I got a 'music centre' as they were then called for my room. I was about 13 or so and felt very grown up indeed. My parents were actually quite good at anticipating things that we didn't quite know about yet but were about to get to the age of craving!

What’s the most important thing about the Holidays for you?
The whole present opening thing has to be done with my little sister ( who is now 35!) and my parents on Christmas morning. Its no fun without Jen there. Then I like that 'blank time' from Boxing day on when there is time to use the gifts you receive and plan ahead for goals in the New Year.

What is your favorite Holiday Dessert?
I hate Christmas pudding so I get Cartmel Village Sticky Toffee pudding instead. (Must be that brand. There was a nasty moment one year when we realised just as it was time to cook it that Mum had mistaken the packaging and brought the wrong brand. Very disappointing!) Also for Christmas Day tea there must be home made meringues, one white, one pink, sandwiched with cream, decorated with sprinkles and set in a fairycake case. That's a cupcake case for you Americans. (Gerrie - that should save you heading for your English to English dictionary!)

What is your favorite tradition?
Being together for the present opening. Also getting Dennis an advent calender as although he pretends it would be OK if he didn't have one, the little boy who lives inside him gets very excited by them. This year I kind of lost track of time and between finishing work and coming home on 1st Dec visisted 13 shops to try and find one. (including the small newsganets staffed by an Iranian who had only been working there a week and had no idea what I was talking about). In the 13th shop I had a choice of High School Musical ones or the very last, slightly bashed ertzatz Winne the Pooh one. Phew. Next year I buy in August!

Which do you prefer, Giving or Receiving?

I like to make sure my Mum has lots and lots of gifts because she never buys herself anything but I'd be lying if I didn't say I like amassing my piles of things around me! I am blessed with a husband who buys in piles and knows where the online fabric shops are! (Den, if you read this and its not fabric this year, that's fine too!)

What is your favorite Christmas Song?
Noel Noel for the descant bit

Candy Canes! Yuck or Yum?
Well they are OK but I never buy one. I'd rather gorge on Thorntons Dairy Butter tablet, a concoction of sugar and condensed milk.

Ever recycled a Christmas present?
Only in that nasty trinckety stuff will go straight to the charity shop. I don't have it in the house and no one who knows me well would buy it me if they thought on it so I feel no compunction to keep it if given me.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Fragile ( but still piling)

Last night I was a dirty stop out. I met a dear (male) friend in Manchester who suggested we start the evening by strolling around the Christmas markets. Very festive and full of lovely German and Dutch food all of which I was persuaded not to eat in favour of dinner at a table rather than in the street.

He also thought that a way to extract himself from the annual dilemma of what to buy a female friend for Christmas when you hate shops would be to invite me to choose something from the market. Lovely idea. Save that the only things I really craved was the whole tray of chocolate white mice. I love looking at painted wooden nutcrackers in the shape of soldiers but.... After a fun half hour or so he said tentatively, "I suspect this market is full of cheap tat."

Well, a girl has to seize the opportunity, so I rescued him by strolling him casually to the nearest department store, pointing him in the direction of the Elizabeth Arden concession and indicating the free bag I craved all the time I was Christmas shopping in Sheffield last week but resisted. Free with £45 worth of makeup that is. Like any man he peered in confusion said, "That's fine. Choose what you want" and vanished. So look what yummy stuff I got. In a box too. I love boxes. It seems like a good thread box to me! It also contains far more for its cost than you get buying individually Of course it turned out that I was £1 under the free bag price even with the big box and the one individual eyeshadow I can actually say I need, so an extra lipstick got chucked in.....

Then we went to Ithaca which he picked because all the stars who were at the MTV awards in Liverpool ( the one Paul McCartney played) came here for dinner afterwards. Of course all that means is that it was dark, black walled and overpriced. But the Japanese food ( which I have never had before) was artistically presented and delicious ( and to my relief, cooked!). We stayed out far too late then when I got back I was on a high and had to tell Dennis all about it and show him how those pallets in my yummy makeup box stack together. ( Oh, at 1am he was sooooo interested in that!) .

So now I am knackered. I wasn't even drinking but I can't do these late midweeks anymore. We have to drive up to Cumbria now for me to work tomorrow, then see A Christmas Carol at the theatre in Keswick to celebrate Dad's birthday, Quilting class on Saturday and retirement celebration Sunday lunch at swanky Sharrow Bay. So I am busy doing what I do best.. making packing piles... a work pile, a quilting pile, a 'things for my quiting buddy pile' a birthday present, a things to do in the space moments pile..... good job a I have a big car boot!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Studio systems

Well I am sorry folks. I promised you lots of photos of my sewing space but Blogger is refusing to let me post a single one so I shall just have to do that another time and tell you what I have been thinking instead.

Which is that my problem is much less about space than it is about systems.

For example, I do not have enough table top space in the dining room where I sew. So I end up with fabric scattered all over the table so after an hour or so it looks like a second hand clothes stall on a Ugandan street market. More ends up on the floor, or left on the ironing board which gets used as a second table ( and never put away because have to carry it all through the lounge and hall only to get it out again the next day). I need another table or eight. Or, just maybe, I need to learn to scatter less and fold more.

Another example. I created a painting space in the garage where I could make a mess. I store all my art stuff there. The day I decided to spend some time drawing in a cafe I took a plastic box and put in some pencils and pens. That box is in my work case which is in my study upstairs. Why? Because its freezing outside and the very idea of moving the stuff outside makes me curl up with anticipation of getting cold. Only the box has no home inside so it stays lurking in the way. It is true that when it is warm I like having that dedicated space for sketchbook work - it puts me in the mood because I am physically 'in the zone'. Its true that I cannot dye or monoprint inside the house without endangering good furniture. But a system of 'winter storage' which allowed me to have a caddy for 'safe' art items inside might well enable me to stop putting off the sketchbook work I believe I would do if only I had a warm purpose built studio.

I have a tendency to gather 'piles' .Stuff just accumulates. On the chair in the library. On the sofa in my storage room which is the second bedroom. In the Berber basket I use to carry the piles up and down stairs when I am in a more organised mood. On the drawers next to my sewing table. On the chairs behind them. On the coffee table in the lounge. On the wicker drawers in the bathroom.. well you get the picture! STUFF everywhere, annoying me. Not huge teetering, even- the -fire-brigade- could-not-get-through piles. Not even stuff that I should get rid of. Just a light scattering of stuff so the eye never has a clear place to rest.

There is in fact room to store all that stuff. It just that
(a) I am blind. I put a item down and I don't see it. I repeat that twelve times and suddenly I see it - a pile of STUFF!
(b) my head is too busy. Many piles represent good intentions. One pile may be for the magazines I am going to fillet and file the keeping stuff in my filing cabinet (already equipped with folders helpfully labelled 'applique' or 'bag patterns'.) Another pile is for sticking in a sketchbook in which I am designing a new quilt. Another is for a City and Guild project, another is to take to my Mum .... and so on. I can pile up much faster than I can do.
(c) I can't use it and put it away without walking the 38 steps between sewing table and main storage cupboard. (Yes, I counted that's the actual number). So I set it down to go upstairs later and then I don't see it.....

I need a system for replacing items and to review if the use of storage is as ergonomically practical it could be.

It is tempting to think that 'systems' mean expensive but cleverly designed storage systems from shops like A Place for Everything. In fact in the case of my storage cupboard it might well have a little do do with that. A good part of the room in there is behind a solid wall so it is hard get to and the two bottom shelves are very deep indeed so its hard to do more than, well, create teetering piles. In fact on one shelf I have piles of three high storage boxes for scraps. In theory it is a good system - one box per colour. In practice it is bad because if I want to add a teesny bit of say blue to the box I have to life two boxes off the top. And these are Ikea boxes with those lids that kind of just sit there and don't really make more than a token effort at clipping on. So when the scrap box get a bit full the lid comes off. An elastic band solves the problem but then that has to be removed too and oh you know what? Lets just shove the fabric in the vague direction of the bottom blue box and be done.

I am thinking that drawers may be better. Or Really Useful boxes which have much better clip on lids. Or, how about I forget about furniture and start using scraps up before the lids start coming off the boxes?!

I am a great believer that if you have a problem to solve there is probably a book about it. Indeed I have just paid a penny for Julia Morgenstern's Organising from the Inside Out. The best that will happen is that she will teach me how to stop being a blind, lazy, disorganised over-optimistic person. The worse is that it can go on the pile with the Studio Magazine back copies.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Studio pictures

Further to my last post I started to look for web sites with studios on. I found these three:

1. Amy Giles has her very own play shed featured in a Studios magazine online extra.

2. Virginia Spiegel cleaned up and organised her studio here. Then messed it up again here.

3. Msueh has posted an album of her quilting studio - she even has a woodburning stove in there to keep it warm.

Then I realised this was a pointless task because I found two huge lists already done here and here. Go enjoy!

Friday, December 05, 2008

At least one deadly sin ( part 2)

Continuing the tale of lust and envy of other people's studios and greed because I am not satisfied with my own space, I have begun to develop a fetish for looking at other people's studios.

It was under control until Sharon Boggon showed us her storage system here. The, last night on Property Ladder Sarah Beany was showing off sheds used as studios (Just £7000 for a huge room. I could have that if only I had some land to put the thing on...)

Then, Browsing Amazon I was reminded of this book.

Which was bundled with this book.
I already have this book

But when I went on Amazon.com ( rather than .co.uk ) to see if they had more look inside options ( which they often do) I found this book

and, only a little off topic, this book

and this one, which the description says includes textile artists
Then, searching for blog reviews of the Where Women Create book I found that it is now a quarterly magazine from Stampington! Now the exchange rate has plumeted it is a very costly magazine to get over here but look! It has 160 pages of other people's cupboards. Look! All those pictures of what other people have done with space I do not have. Look! Oh I want it so badly.

So, before I bankrupt myself I need you all to do me a favour. Blog about your creative space and leave a comment her showing us all where the post is. I need to be brought down to reality whilst at the same time satisfying my voyeuristic nature. Most of us do not have photo-shoot worthy spaces (and if you do I most certainly want to see it). I do want to see ( if I pretty please may) where you all do your stuff.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Cool studio web finds

For those interested in studio storage but with no time to browse the lists I posted recently here are some of my favourite things I've found this week...

These drawer sets- so much better than a jumble of stuff in deep drawers

This over the door storage for rulers won't work on my glass doors but its pretty cool

This ladder straight up to a storage loft full of coned yarn

Quilt storage (and quilts) to just die for and in the same studio these underseat thread drawers

Storing fabric on a treadmill just made me smile

Thnak you all for your comments showing links to your own sewing space studios. I have enjoyed peeking. However, it occurs to me that for all my pontificating on this topic I have not recently shown my sewing space although I have in bits in the past. I shall do a comprehensive post with photos then leave the subject alone I think. (If I can) Assuming you want to see?

At least one deadly sin (Part 1)

I am not sure whether this post is about envy or lust or gluttony but it is definitely about Studios. And probably sloth as well, as it has taken me until this week to file away several piles of quilting magazines and clippings I have accumulated. One of them was Studios magazine.

Now this edition of the magazine was discovered with great delight in London after I had refused to pay postage from the States even though I really, really ( oh believe me, really) wanted what is in effect a collection of glossy photos of other people's cupboards. I read it on a train. I gazed dreamily out of the window imagining. I arrived home and set it to one side.
Then I found it again. Now, Really I am lucky. I have lots of space to sew and store and even design. But it has its drawbacks. The storage is upstairs, the painting and dyeing is in the garage and the sewing is in the dining room. This latter has the great advantage that our very large dining table is just wonderful for supporting a bed quilt when machine quiting. The problem is that dining room tables come with dining room chairs. I have shoved ours out of the way under the window. But they still annoy me sitting there reproachfully reminding me that this is a dining room not a purpose build designed 'Studio' with those beautiful nooks and crannies and window seats with clever understorage.

So when I picked up the magazine again I went into overdrive. All those wonderful spaces to crave. I removed Dennis from in front of the TV and made him listen to my crazy ideas. Put the chairs in storage ( I.e pay for the privilege of driving 10 miles to get them every time we want to eat at the table). Put them in the loft (I.e scratch them - and probably each other - to bits, manoeuvring them up and down a ladder into a tiny hole in the roof). Put them on Freecycle and eat Japanese style. ( But the table is normal height). Make a room screen to hide them. (Cue Dennis trying to hold up a large, curling sheet of Pelmet Vilene so I can imagine what it would be like). Conclusion - makes the room even more cluttered.

Bah! I want ( imagine stamping of tiny feet) I want, I want a space where I can display some of my work and I want a place to loll with my notebook. I want to have the room more colourful less formal. I want more downstairs storage without being cluttered.
We have to move house. At this point Dennis looks frightened. Or - BANG!- Inspiration hits. I could make a quilt big enough to cover the chairs, scatter them with cushions and make them into a temporary window seat covered with my work. Boxes for storage for current projects can be hidden underneath. I can remove the windowsill items we had when it was just a dining room and put something more creatively inspiring there.....

This is the mock up. Not perfect yet but enough to make me smile in anticipation. So often it's the simple things.......... (I still want a studio though)

Part 2 of this tale comes tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Quilts finished and not yet started

Gerrie, bless her, asked for closer details and more information about my Jewish Memorial quilt.. So here goes....

The quilt is for my City and Guilds and ticks two categories (a) Applique and (b) a wallhanging. It is a memorial quilt to Salka Wildfeuer for whose memory I am Guardian in a scheme run by the Israeli Holocaust Museum. She died in Poland and almost all her family were murdered in Auschwitz. The quilt as it is is about 26.5 deep by 43 long. However, the sleeves are on the right side of the two short sides as the next task is to roll it on poles and mount it on a varnished board so that it will look like a Torah scroll. Hopefully that will make it look much more impressive

It has a fair amount of symbolism in it:

1. The trees are trees of life made out of Star of David shapes symbolising the continuation of the Jewish people and the foundation of the State of Israel. They are much larger than the train tracks entering Auschwitz which would have been the last journey Salka's family made. I hope the trees have a defiant nature. The tracks now run to a patch with a quilted Star of David on it. You may see this as a reminder of the yellow star patched Jews were made to wear. Indeed if you look closely you will see a tiny smudge of yellow which is why there is a patch and not just a star because something had to hide the marker that for the first time ever refused come out! Or, you may try to see something positive and view the tracks as symbolising the Journey Salka's family never did make but which others made to establish Israel.

2. However it seemed to me that such determined trees needed strong roots and to
be rooted in something. The bottom strips are based on the edgings of the traditional prayer shawls. Orthodox men wear undergarments with knotted fringes which hang out over their pant belts. These fringes are known as tzitzit and represent the 613 commandments. I have not made that many but that is what the tree roots are.
3. The tiny beads on the trees represent Salka's family - some , stemming from the woman who listed her many deceased family members at Yad Vashem, remain on the tree, others are falling to earth.
4. The gravestones are crooked just like old surviving Jewish cemeteries in Europe. The words are the Jewish mourning prayer the Kaddish photocopied from a prayerbook onto Bubble jet soaked fabric. It is the photo not the created fabric which is a touch fuzzy. Still to be added is a small brown bead on top of one of the gravestones as a traditional Jewish mark of respect is to place a pebble on the headstone. I always do that when visiting a Jewish cemetery.
The quilting is simple lines further fragmenting the crazy pieced background to represent the diaspora and the scattering of families caused by the Shoah.
By the way - I am not actually Jewish, but I do have a strong interest in the Jewish faith and people so I hope I got this all right!
The next finished piece for the City and Guilds is my quilt. I am going to do a double size, based again on Egungun masquerade costumes and the research on masks I have been doing. It is all going to be made with my collection of fabrics from The African Fabric shop. (the pre- washed ones for those who read by Quiltland blog). I am so excited about starting it I can't actually start it! I am waiting until I am not tired and have a big swathe of time and can really enjoy it. But here are the fabrics all ironed and arrayed ready to start.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Learning from mistakes

Sometimes I do really stupid things. But generally I am not stupid enough to reveal them on this blog and today is no exception. However, if you are disappointed at my lack of revelation, you might like today's' Quiltland Chronicle post.

And while you are blog surfing check out the 1st Deecember reveal on the Twelve by Twelve blog. Our mathematic quilts are now out and we'd love your comments.

Saturday shopping

There was a time when the plan for each Saturday involved carefully dressing then catching the No 23 bus into town with my best friend Lisa. There we would buy Constance Carol eye makeup from the markets stall and purchase a Gregg's meat and potato pasty to eat from the paper bag whilst walking around the streets eyeing up hair accessories and pocket money clothes.

Now it is not possible to buy a Greggs meat and potato pasty because the EU regs say that because of their relative meat content they have to be called potato and meat pasties. They only time I frequent the market which now seems sadly seedy is when I am in dire, dire need of haberdashery and can live with the low grade quality of the stall there. I am ashamed to say I have no idea which number bus goes into town from here. Instead I drove in this weekend and faced the theatre of war which is Tesco's car park with drivers who will steal a spot which you are indicating to drive into as quick as say, "Santa Claus is coming to town'. I tried my best not to knock over all the old people who seem to think it is their right (because they fought in the war) to walk directly behind my reversing car. Then I went to shop in the laundry section of the supermarket.

Came away with this though and guess what - I am as happy as I was with my first goopy mascara. See that doo-dah thing by the iron rest? Its a place to hang binding strips as you iron them shut. What more can a girl want?

The renamed pasties still taste good too!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The stashing gene

Although it was a surprise to me when I stumbled upon quilting as my life's passion just three years ago, in fact it may have been predestined. I knew that my Dad's sister was an excellent sewer but it has only been through recent research that it has emerged that my paternal grandmother was a dressmaker and that backwards from my maternal great-grand mother I have ancestors who were a seamstress, a tailor and several sail makers. Of course all those occupations require the precision I disdain so the talent must have got diluted over the centuries.

However, in finishing off this Jewish memorial quilt I realised that there is probably a much closer stashing gene in the family.

I say 'finished' - the top is complete but it is to be rolled on curtain poles and attached to a backboard so it looks like a Torah scroll. All of which requires hardware and so the following telephone conversation with my Dad in Penrith ensued.

ME: In mock wheedling voice, knowing I am about to suggest great fun to him "Da-ad. Can you use your pensioners discount at B&Q and go and get some stuff for me?"

HIM: Oh, I could go today. What do you need?

ME: I need two curtain poles at least 32.5" long."

HIM: I've got some curtain poles somewhere. They won't be that length but I can cut them down for you.

ME: But what colour are they?

HIM: Oh I can't remember but they are different.

ME: Well I need them to match and I was thinking of mahogany. Can we sand and stain them?

HIM: Yeah. I've got some mahogany stain in the garage.
ME: Great. And I need some finials for them. Ones that look like a Torah scroll top.
HIM: They cost a fortune. I've got some drawer knobs that will fit on top if we screw them in. They are in the garage. They are kind of elongated onion shape.Will they do?
ME: Great. And we need those bicycle type clip things you use to hang your tools to clip the poles to the backboard.

HIM: With gusto. I haven't got any of those. I'll have to go shopping.
ME: Get gold or brass.

HIM. They don't do them like that. I've got some gold metal paint in the garage though.
ME: Fab. Now I need a back board. Can you get some wood. About 34 x 45.

HIM: That off cut of MDF I've got in the garage will do for that. And I'll have some hanging screws in my box......

Just as I say that show-going(and buying) and quilting are two different hobbies, so for him DIY and what we call 'widgiting' (i.e. rummaging through boxes for screws and nails at the local market or hardware store), are different activities. I used to wonder what we would do with his collection if anything happened to him but recently I saw a great piece embellished with rivets and tile spacers. I am just a little worried that if I start to stray too much into his area now he might suddenly see the use for half a meter of Moda in his construction of a garden wall....

Monday, November 24, 2008

Knit and stitch show

Show news but first a tiny rant if I may: Today the government announced, in effect, that if I wait until Monday to buy the CD I was going to buy my husband for Christmas it will be 21p cheaper. For this great privilege I get to pay much higher taxes in a years time. Of course that is an unfair summary of the Pre -Budget report and the VAT reduction. I could instead go on a huge spending spree for stuff I don't need and save lots of 21ps and then find that when my taxes go up I not only have no savings but quite possibly have debt to pay out of my reduced income. Good grief Gordon Brown!

Ahem. Ok back on track. I went to the Knit and Stitch yesterday with my Mum. Relatively restrained spending occurred. (Relative to the national debt that is):

Pretty things from Oliver Twists

Compulsory half meters of genuine African Fabric from Magie Relph. (It's the law - you have to shop with her.)

This, my first ever cross stitch kit, my lust for which increased in direct proportion to the amount of doubt my mother showed that I would ever get it done. It is called Three Yoruban Women for anyone also lusting for it. It is by Dimensions.

Vastly reduced Anchor threads found just as I was leaving.
and this book

On my return my Spring Fling quilt had arrived. I had had a heads up from Kate North who worked on it that I would love it and I do. Shame that the smallest member of our household appears to have appropriated it as his own.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Textiley travels

No blog for a few days now - off to court in Rawtenstall now. Don't actually know where the court is in Rawtenstall. Or indeed where Rawtenstall is exactly (just out of Blackburn somewhere) - how Sat Nav takes the stress out of work travel! Assuming the road is not a new one named after my Sat Nav disc was made which is what rather embarrassingly happened when I tried to guide Brenda from Midsomer Quilting in Somerset to our hotel when she came over from Australia. We both have a greater knowledge of the byways ( there were no highways) of Somerset than we ever wanted.

That should not take too long ( because my lay opponent has decided that a better option than actually dealing with his divorce would be to go and live with a young woman in Thailand. This does not work - we just serve him and go ahead anyway.) so I hope to visit the Quaker Tapestry in Kendal on the way to Mum's. Mum saw it yesterday and is raving so at least I should have some ability to converse on the subject tonight.

On Saturday I have my quilting class and from there Mum and I are driving to Harrogate to stay with her friend and then go to the Knit and Stitch on Sunday. If you were thinking of coming to burgle my house then think again - Dennis is at home watching rugby all weekend on TV with his best friend and my Dad who is driving down as I drive up and is clearly seeking refuge from the stitching stuff.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

John Seargeant and sheep

The press in the UK has gone mad. (Again). I am not sure if this is getting world wide coverage but the nub is that there is an entertainment programme called Strictly Come Dancing in which people who you may or may not recognise are teamed with professional dancers, learn to Latin and Ballroom dance and then the public vote to get rid of one each Saturday night. Retired journalist John Seargeant was on there apparently - I wouldn't know, being the one of the three people who have not watched it. He is a very bad dancer, (Its true - I have just watched a brief compilation here.) the public loved him and refused to vote him off then he resigned.

Major outcry. He is on the front pages of every newspaper bar the Financial Times. I do believe that there are massacres in the Congo but no, the Times Leader is about John. Mad. Or is it?

Maybe we have a collective and self reflexive need for an escape valve. After endless headlines about inflation and deflation and depression and bears and bulls maybe we get to a natural point where we just say : enough. Let me pull over and take five then I shall start being worried again.

Which may explain the sheep. Ten thousand workers have drawn sheep and they are all available to view here first as little dots then the sheep themselves. They are all very badly drawn and cute as a result. But, why? Why did ten thousand people waste time doing this? Why were they not applying their minds to how to increase their productivity in a recession? Probably the same reason I pressed my Stumble toolbar button whilst eating my breakfast. The newspapers are just too depressing. I mean, what will Saturday night be without John...?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Watch 'n' sew

The wonder of wifi in the house is that I can now watch TV on my computer in my sewing room, thanks to the BBC I player which allows you to watch programmes previously broadcast in the last week. And of course you can watch wherever you are in the world:

If you have some spare time while you are sewing ( or whatever) you might like to check these out:

The Barristers may well answer some of the questions I have had from people about my profession. It follows four young people trying to qualify at Bar school and also has some footage of a criminal barrister and a QC - not in court but in Chambers and in the robing room. Its pretty accurate about life at the Bar (save that in my area no one actually uses the red bags they talk about - we favour suitcases on wheels!) and there will be more episodes.

The department store I am watching as I write. It is hilarious. I am certain that the participants in this documentary did not intend it to be a comedy but I am pretty sure that the maker and narrator knew exactly what they were doing even as they present it with all seriousness. It shows the running of a small, old-fashioned family owned departments store in the Yorkshire Dales. It is a very good example of how not to run a business and has as its stars one of the most irritating men you have met ( but it's like a good horror film - you almost can't watch him but you just have to!). It actually is a very good example of the people and lifestyles of Yorkshire people as well as a telling portrait of a marriage and parent-child relationships. Towards the end a couple of poignant revelations make it a little weightier than it seems at the outset (but it is still trivial enough to paper piece to!) The two old ladies buying chairs are worthy of an Alan Bennett story. Again there are two more episodes to come but in different stores.

Let me know if you watch.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Dennis is a patient, kind and understanding man who knows when he has done wrong or done something daft. He usually expresses this knowledge by saying, "That's going to be a blog story isn't it?"
Today he was not wrong.

At 8.05 am on this damp, cold and thoroughly miserable day I awoke with a startling remembrance that my car was supposed to be in the garage for service. At 8am. Ooops.
Five minutes later I am washed and dressed and Dennis is staggering about rubbing his eyes still in PJ's but looking for trousers. "I'll drive down behind you and drive you home." He says.
"Great! I'll set off and I'll start to walk up the one way system and you can just pick me up."

Now, imagine the route a bit like this: Think of a tuning fork. The garage is at the bottom of the left hand prong. Add in a loop to join the prongs. That enclosed loop is now the one way system. The handle of the tuning fork is the A main road out of town. If you draw in an imaginary line from the top of the handle horizontally out to the left that is the B road. We live just off that. About 2 miles from the garage.

So, I drive down the A road, around the loop and drop the car off. Turns out the panic was for nothing as unusually the mechanic had not opened up yet, so I post the key and walk. Half way up the left hand prong I see Dennis shoot straight past me. I keep walking. It starts to rain. I keep walking. And walking and walking. Where does he pick me up? Five steps from the house, having driven around the loop no less than five times. It is a straight road. I am nearly six foot. There are no concealing crowds. I have a bright green coat on.

We go into the kitchen. I put the kettle on. He takes milk from the fridge and places it on the counter. He puts cornflakes into a bowl. Thinking he already used the milk, I reach right in front of him. I mean RIGHT in front of him. Like the milk was probably as far away from him as your screen is from you and he was facing that way. I take the milk use it, replace in the fridge. I take a sip and watch him look confused. Really confused. Bewildered.
"I thought I got the milk out...."

Do you think there is some particular reason that God missed really big bits out of men's brains when he created them?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Weekend progress

Finish up weekend has finished me off! I have worked hard ( apart from the sleep on the sofa previously admitted) and now my hands are all crampy with little shoots of niggle up my arms and down my shoulders : a certain sign that I should have stopped earlier. I never learn. But still....
This boring scrap top ( which started like this)

now looks like this. It is about 38 x 42 ish. The back of its is dreadful as I had real problems with tension and snapping thread. I tried everything I could think of to solve it. As it is going on my wall, in the end, l I decided a few bobbles made not a jot of difference. It was only today, putting the binding on that I realised that although I had utilised the special glide quilting foot I bought from my Janome, I had not used the reduced tension bobbin case that is required with it. Aha. (Doh!)

The plain Jewish Memorial quilt background now looks like this:

Not finished but it took quite some time to applique all the Star of David leaves and trunks on.

The mini quilt is quilted ( can't show you that as it is a secret swap but I can tell you I nearly freaked out when it arrived as the top was an ornate and precise work of art with stars and celtic applique and tiny precise circles. How not to ruin it? Well, lets just say the back now looks like this:

This too had initial problems as I started to free motion quilt with the feed dogs up and zig zag stitch on. Queue a few well dodgy stitches and a broken needle. Binding is cut but not yet attached.

The fabrics for the NYB block are chosen but I know I should be sensible and not try more sewing tonight. Indeed I cannot because the web site with my chosen pattern on worked when I was downstairs and now I am upstairs refuses to reveal the pattern. I am being given advice I think! Instead I shall try a bit of design work in a sketchbook and see how that goes. Otherwise it is a hot bath and a session of balancing heated wheatbags on part of my limbs they were not destined to stay on!

I have also managed to deliver two finished pieces for assessment to my City and Guilds tutor, have Sunday Lunch at the Bottle and Glass, and research scenic float plane flights and holiday cottages in the very South of New Zealand. Not bad for one weekend.

Finally my stumble-d upon favourite for today is this site of safari photographs

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Things what I found....

Apart from the two hours when I accidentally fell asleep on the sofa today has been a productive Finish UP day and I shall have good images to show you tomorrow. However, a girl has to have a break - here are some things I found today:

Stumble. Quilt Pixie put me onto this one today. Seriously addictive website referral engine. Beware

This video on Gerries blog is so funny.

Sharon Boggon moved her blog and treasure trove of stitching stuff to her very own domain.

Rayela made a great quilt using fabric and molas - slightly chaotic but I love it for that.

Eye candy at the SAQA one foot square auction

Pictures showing the difference scale makes ( with a social message too)

Amazing 3d pavement art.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Public accountabilty

Both my blogging and quilting took a back seat this week.
(a) because I was dispatched to Carlisle to work at the last minute on Monday evening and
(b) because I have been researching our travel tip to New Zealand and my style of holiday planning requires me to vist the website of every single available accommodation in a place and compare quality of bedspreads before I can let go. This I find is great fun but time consuming.

So an an effort to enusre I get off line this weekend and continue my Finish Up project here are my tasks. I shall repeort back on Sunday evening and you can all come round and smack my bottom if I have not done what I should have. ( There, that alone should increase my google search hits! I apologise to any new readers who find this post turned out too wholesome for your tastes.)

This top has lain unfinished for some time. It is annoying me and somthing must be done.

This (badly photographed) top did not exists on Wednesday - it is evidence that I sagged off work on Thursday afternoon. It is the intended background for a Jewish memorial quit for my City and Guilds wallhanging. I intend to do fancy things with attaching it to a backboard for display so it will not get finished this weekend ( because fancy hardware attachments require access to my father's tools) but susbtantial progress should be possible.

I also need to make a NYB block for a swap, catch up on blog reading and quilt a miniquilt which I can't show in the terms of the swap. This may all be too ambitious. We will see.