Saturday, March 29, 2008

As bad as each other...

For all I hanker after a huge purpose built studio, the reality is that if need be I can manage to work in a small space. ( Of course storing stash is another matter....!)

In the flat we rent for holidays in Bath I set up my machine on a tiny drop leaf table ( with one leaf still dropped) in this galley kitchen. Blocks are laid out on the lounge floor next door or on the bed. The cutting board fits in between sink and hob and the tight fit of the ironing board actually makes it quite ergonomic. The ceramic hob is smooth so can be used as a table area. The proximity of Dennis' holiday treat of Frosties breakfast cereal makes for a good handful of sugary snack when energy levels dip. I put the MP3 on and skid up and down happily in stockinged feet on the lino floor singing along and making beautiful things with batik.
This I was doing one night - fortunately without the Mp3 on - when I heard a kind of fizzing, spitting sound. At the time was ironing with a a non steam iron so I was a bit bemused. Until, that is I turned round to find that I had accidentally knocked the controls of the hob and my Creative Grids ruler was cooking. I didn't bring it home but I can report that it bubbled and warped quite prettily. I can also report that from thereon Dennis set a rule that the hob was to be turned off at the fuse switch unless we were actually cooking!
Mind you he cannot call me for being daft. On our way to the supermarket tonight I was leafing through a cookbook.
"Lets try somthing new, " I said. "How about mango mousse?"
Dennis looked at me extremely doubtfully. I sighed. "You like mangos. Why not?"
He thought some more. "What kind of mousse?"
"Mango. I said already."
More thought.
"For pudding?"
Sigh. "Yes."
He smiled. "Ah. I thought you meant Mango Moose. With horns. I thought that you would have to order it vacuum packed by airmail and it was going to cost a fortune."

I'm back!

Fans of Julia Cameron will be familiar with the concept of an 'artists date' - basically in her book The Artists Way ( which I read aeons ago) she encourages you to take a couple of hours each week and go and do something fun to 'fill you up' as an artist. We have been going down to the same flat in Bath twice a year now for a number of years and often wonder why we don't get bored. It occurred to me this time that this trip was like a giant fortnights artist's date for me.

There are lot of bits to share but I shall do so in tidbits. So first - the productivity aspect.

I pieced this log cabin top while I was down there. Shamefully only the borders did not come from stash. (Thank you Hannah's room Beatutiful Batik Club!) . It is 72 x 72. ( Yes, square - the photos never are because I had to hang it over book cases with Kathy Reich and Ian Rankin novels to weigh it down one the edge of the border!)

The scraps went into this center piece. I was amused to come home and find that Down Under Quilts had a lead article on improvised quilts as it is certainly my favourite way to work. Given that I spent 6 hours today on my return tidying up the house, which was mostly to do with quilting stuff, or chucking other stuff to making room for it, and still I can't get the lids on my scrap boxes, I am also sticking to my new policy of piecing scraps as soon as the main quilt is finished. The green was also scraps from another quilt I made whilst away which will be in later blog.

This centre will be going together with these fabrics to make a fun 'liberated quilt' with lime stars all around the outside to finish about 60 x 70 I think.

I made this piece of Somerset Patchwork in a class at Midsomer Quilting. Its a bit rumpled from the journey in this photo! We were given a piece of paper with the guidelines printed on which you transfer to the base fabric. Only I was not listening when the teacher said not to transfer all 32 lines. Normally you work with 8 0r 16. She was a bit concerned when she saw me midway through with 32, having never done that many herself before. It worked though I think! The result is much more circular than if you work with fewer lines.

Friday, March 14, 2008

And so.. to Bath

Tomorrow we go to Bath for the Easter fortnight. The machine and two baskets of quilting stuff are all packed. I need not worry if I do not have enough as I have three quilt shops, two bead shops, a haberdashery market stall and a general fabric shop to play in. Oh and an independent stationers and an art shop, both of which I am expecting will yield up some good sketchbooks and journals.
I am going to a class on Somerset Patchwork and will get a day in the Midsomer quilting shop to work on my Rositha's World Quilt. Plus, we get to go to this exhibition of stuff by Kaffe Fasset and others as many times as I like next week (See those shoes!!!)
I have already seen this quilt exhibition ( scroll down the page a bit) ,in fact I am in it, but if I am passing I might just fnd that the car turns left at that point because there is always somthing new to see. Ok, because I am addicted and cannot walk past.
Lest you think I am being selfish and mean to Dennis on our holidays, he gets to go and see Bath v London Irish ( Rugby Union) , a concert at the Abbey and to go to London for a trip to the Royal Opera House. Although his train gets him back at 1.20 am so when he wakes me up there is a chance that I might be mean to him for a little while!
There will also be good food, including at this tiny but delicious vegetarian restaurant - the kind where you don't even notice that there is no meat. And I imagine some of these too

I might blog while I am there. I might not. Who knows!!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Technical aid for sock detection

In the Times this morning (read it here if you do not believe me) is an article about a cheese -eating-sock-thief detection aid. Well, they don't call it that but you and I know that that is what it is. A Mr Kuniyoshi has invented Smart Goggles. These are glasses with a camera built onto them linked to 'the world's most advanced object recognition software and a computer that can learn the identity of new objects within seconds'. The idea is that you wander around your house teaching it things....
...Car Keys
...letter for posting
...packet of sashiko needles
...young child

Then, when you can't find the item you ask the computer and it replays the last time you saw it so you can retrace your steps and find it.
Now, admittedly the system is not yet flawless. I would need the upgraded version where it is linked to CCTV in the house so that I can use the glasses to identify the last time I saw the item and then watch the tapes for the thief to come and take it. Plus the education process could be boring:

...sock with green cable pattern sock with zig zag pattern sock with stripe pattern

But think of the possibilties for Quilt shows. You know how you see some fabric at 9am and decide to find it again later in the afternoon but can't recall which stall it was on?
....batik with a kind of smudgy orange giving way to lime greenish diamondy type thingies....

or for those mega quick demonstrations of technique
... the bit where she put the foundation paper upside down and to the left or maybe the right and did something with the needle tension.

or the use in medical waiting areas where you are both bored to tears and in need of cheering up
...that episode of WestWing where CK had dental surgery and couldn't say Foggy Bottom

No doubt you can think of your own applications. In the meantime, until the prototype is for sale on Amazon, I will concentrate on trying to work out how to make a quilt using 14 odd socks. It will be possible somehow.......!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

On the trail of the cheese thief

Regular readers may remember the mystery of the cheese that went missing from our fridge. We have still not found it ( after this time do not want to) but, being the daughter of a detective, I find it hard to let go. So today, our cold cases department got a break through. We now strongly suspect that the cheese was taken by a one legged goblin with a very cold foot.

Today, I took all the drying washing off the maidens and added it to previoulsy dried clothing waiting for ironing in the laundry basket. I spent the entire duration of Grand Desoigns pairing socks. I then checked all the sock drawers for lonely ones. there are no more socks anywhere in the house..... yet these are all the odd ones from the laundry basket
Who is stealing ny stuff???

Monday, March 10, 2008

Excess and scraps

First the excess...I arrived home to find that my husband's latest book order had been delivered.

Now, I have no problem with him buying this teetering pile of novels becuase (a) it's his cash (b) they are a collector's set so it makes sense to buy all at once (c) he deserves them (d) he is never, ever, ever going to be able to comment adversely on bulk fabric purchases. Ever. (To be fair - he has never complained about my quilting shopping but this is great insurance for the future!)

Then the scraps.....A while ago I decided that instead of accumulating all my scraps, it would be fun if immediately after every formal quilt I made I let loose with the scraps and did an improvisational one to match. Here is the start of the scrap quilt to match Rositha's World - entitled Going with the Flow.

I am often asked how I get time to make so many quilts This one is a good illustration.

Original plans for Sunday evening:
6-7pm Watch Ski Sunday
7-8pm cook dinner and eat it,
8-9 Watch Lark Rise to Candleford
9-11 half watch Lewis whilst flicking through the hat book I bought at the fair.
Revised plan:
6-7 Have Ski Sunday on in lounge with door to the sewing room open so I can hear the best bit ( i.e theme music) and start scrap quilt. Get Dennis to cook a basic main course and eat it when the second best bit is on (the spectaular falls down the mountain).
7-8 Full on quilting time. Delay the bath.
8-9.15 Record Larkrise and keep quilting.
9.15 - 9.30 run bath and tidy up sewing room so the floor is at least visible. Take these photos.
9.30 - 10. Have bath. Eat dessert, drink tea and read book in the bath.
10 - 11 Watch Larkrise in bed on DVD.
This is it with possible surrounding fabrics ... I'd like it to be snuggle sized at least but maybe it wants to be little? ( Its 26 v 30 at the moment).

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Vintage fair / blog comment response

Today I went to the Antique Textile Fair in Manchester. I expected a kind of V&A store room sell off but it was more like a giant jumble sale! However, my coat got lots of attention and admiration. The nice ladies from Black Cat Books voted it the best garment they had seen all day. I bought this book off them in response.
I will never ever have the patience to make a perfect quilt to win a show but I don't care if I keep turning round and stumbling over people who apologise for following me but ' we just wanted to see how you made it..!"
Now, I love getting comments on my blog, but don't often respond - sometimes they don't require one, other time I am just bad. But two recent ones inspire a reply.
First, on my complaint that I can't tell left from right and am therefore a lousy person to take driving directions from, Melusine says,

"If passenger is sitting on the left hand side of the car and the driver sits on the right, then the passenger navigates by saying "my side" if you want them to turn left and "your side" when you want them to turn right.Trust me, this works. I learnt it from a driver friend who can't tell her left from her right. It is also easy to use if you are in a country where the driver is seated on the left hand side. "

I agree - this ought towork. However I actually know when I need to go left and in my head I say left but the word that comes out of my mouth is right. So when we tried this all that happened was that I'd think 'my side' and say 'your side'!

Then, Jennifer asked whether my leg is OK and about my garment making history. For the benefit of others the leg question relates to the fact I that I had a trip in a hotel on a dangerous ( in my view!) lip to some laminate flooring, fell smack onto an adjacent tiled floor area and took a right bang to my right leg. I had to sit on the floor for a while and then on a chair with a costa coffee footstool for a while before I could stand on it and while we waited for an ambluance. I was right by the lifts and everyone was so British, averting their gaze and not questioning why I was there!

I can walk on it but it is still stiff and bending my heel up to my backside is not a good idea. Putting socks on is bizarely quite hard. I can also tell you that crouching at an angle to access the bottom of my design board is an instinctive but highly painful movement. The first time I did it I screamed and Dennis came running. The second time ( 'coz I never learn!) I screamed but the rugby was on and there was no response at all!
As for garment making - no, I have not been dong it under the radar. I made a very badly finished skirt once, which I only ever wear to quilt shows where other arty people go! (it's long and swishy and I fear too flamboyant for normal wear although others disagree) And a black shift dress which I have never worn at all because I don't like the neck line. Then the coat. I know that I will never get a tailoring finish as good as I could buy so I am only interested in garments as a base to embellish with one off design ideas really. Oh and to get attention!

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Water quilt/ coat

I have been a busy bee! The water quilt top is finished. Or I thought it was. Mum rang just as I'd pinned it up and I sat on the floor to talk to her. Then I saw it. Oh please let it be just a question of perspective, please, please.... but no..... can you see the mistake?
Yup, the strip right under the top tryptich is half an inch wider than the other two. And its really noticable in real life. Bugger. After I have unpicked and trimed, it will have more detail quilted into the pictoral aspects and just possibly some beads in the fountain water jets. De, the angel who runs Midsomer Quilting, is lending me her workshop room when the shop is closed to quilt it because I am going to Bath next Saturday for Easter and don't fancy quilting this on a breakfast nook table. It is for the Water special category at the Trentham Garden show in April.
In case you missed previous posts, it is called Rositha's World after the baby who was born in a tree during the 2000 Mosambique floods. The panels represent drought, plenty and flood. I audtioned several fabrics for the outer vertical borders and having picked this one asked Dennis what he thought. "Oh definatley," he said, "the fish are perfect."
Fish? What fish? I took a closer look. Oh yeah, that random patter is -um, fish! (Thanks Lesley, for telling me to buy it ten minutes before the Harrogate show closed even though I could barely carry all that I'd already bought!)

Then I also finished my first ever coat tonight. here is the front - all green fabrics from Magie Relph, the black is boiled wool. (It's hanging a bit funny on the hanger here!)

Here is the back

and here are the two pieces together.

Monday, March 03, 2008


This is the water quilt still in progress but growing nicely on my design board. I need to get on with it now but was too tired tonight to do more on it than audition fabrics for the third tryptich panel which will have a nice lush garden in it.
Instead I watched rubbish on TV - a show about mothers who drink too much. They cheerily confess that they drink five bottle of wine a month (I'm betting on more actually) then appear shocked when shown how many glasses that is and what damage it can do to their livers. I don't drink too much ( hardly ever in fact) but sometimes I wonder if I .... (come close, I'm going to have to whisper this in case Dennis hears me).... quilt too much.
The reason I was tired is that I got stuck in a trial all day and then some - courts finish at 4pm, we got done at 5.55pm and still didn't finish and so have gone 'part heard' to resume another day. My client needed 'special measures' - screens and then a video link to enable her to give very emotional evidence about domestic abuse from the father of her child who now wants to see his son.
Outside the court room right afterwards I was talking to the child's guardian about the instruction of a psychologist and other serious matters when I heard the words come out of my mouth, "By the way, don't think I am odd but do you mind if I just touch your bag. I'm going to make one just that shape and I just want to see what interfacing is in it." She was most obliging but I am wondering if there is a safe number of units of quilting per week you can consume before you start to damage your brain's abilty to compartmentalise your life.

Sunday, March 02, 2008


I have been browsing on line looking at bag shapes, seeking inspiration for a bag I need to make for my City and Guilds course. Of course there are so many bag shapes I don't know where to start really - making a choice is never my strong point. However, I certainly know where to finish. No lap top bag can be more beautiful than this one.

I want, I want, I want......

But whether I get or not I must still make. These sites look helpful:

U handbags for supplies
And their blog with tutorials
This site links to other free patterns
More handles here

I found this little video tutorial when looking for alternatives to zips - not quite what I had in mind but a good tip anyway! ( But you have to ponder why he needs to fasten that bag - it would be empty in my house... watch it to see what I am on about!)

This site and this one have nothing to with bags (well, there are some on the latter one, but only a few) but are stuffed with bright art works. Yum Yum