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.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Yes we can!

Dennis, seeking rugby on the BBC Interactive service, has just discovered that in fact sport has been replaced by continued repetition of two rather catchy children's songs with animated video. Suddenly I realised from what had inspired the writers of Obama's victory speech.

Technical incompetance prevents me from embedding this UTube video but it is here:

Play and all will be revealed.

A day to remember

Here, and in other Commonwealth countries it is Remembrance Day. Colloquially known as 'poppy day' this is a day originally set aside on the date of the Armistice in World War 1 to remember those who lost their lives in war.
On the nearest Sunday ( today) there is a formal parade along Whitehall at which representatives from political parties lay wreaths and then there is a walk past with wreaths from all the service organisations. Military bands play.

I make it a habit to watch this, especially looking out for the group from BLESMA ( British Limbless Ex Serviceman's Association). My maternal Grandfather, a career officer and keen rugby man, fought with the Scots Guards in the Second World War. In Italy he stepped on a landmine and lost his leg. He returned to find that all the money he had sent home to his parents to help him establish a life with the woman who was to become my Granny had been spent.
These circumstances did not deter him. He trained as a social worker, specialising in mental health work and moved around the country, building up to his final position as Director of Social Services for Cumbria ( a large country in the North of England).He often helped people with problems on his own time and with his own money.
He also played tennis doubles with my Granny ,with her covering the net and him making the ground strokes from the baseline. One day they were resoundingly beating a man called Jim Boardman and his partner when Grandad overreached and fell to the ground. Granny rushed over to him and shouted, "He's broken his leg!". Jim jumped the net to rush to help and was rather disconcerted when Granny said, "I'll just go and get the spare from the car boot." Jim apparently was later heard in the club house muttering, "It was bad enough being beaten, its even worse now I know it was by a one legged man."

When I was twelve I had done a project at school on monasteries. I had gone to town on it producing a file of reporting that went far beyond the requirements of the assignment. Granny and Grandad, newly returned and taking the opportunity to visit friends across the country turned up at our house unexpectedly a day or two later on their way home. I showed him the file and the commendation my teacher had given me. I remember him sitting looking at it and seriously discussing my naive declaration that I was going to write a book about monasteries. He made me feel it was entirely sensible that I should declare such a thing.

Just a few days later he died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 62. The loss of his leg did put strain on his body and his ability in later years to continue the exercise he had been able to manage as a young man and no doubt contributed to his death. I miss him still. I never did write a book about monasteries but when at the age of 25 I got my first book contract ( for a self help book about domestic violence) I dedicated it to him. Today he is not here to parade but he is not forgotten.

Herbert Eric Causey, you are remembered with love.

Thursday, November 06, 2008


If you read my last post you know about the Grand Finish Up project. And I boasted aboutfinishing artcile. Only one of them required me to make some sample blocks to photograph the technques and now I have tese spare blocks taht looks so nice... so I want to do something with them.... HELP I CAN'T MAKE IT STOP!!!

Plus, my resolve is not helped by eye candy like these sketchbooks from a course run by Design Matters.

I want to learn how to do this kind of things soooooo badly. But I have to Finish Up other things first. Unless that sketchbook with 2 pages used needs Finishing Up in this way..... hmmmmm....

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Grand finish up project

I need to confess. I have myself in a pickle. Here is just one example of what happens.

I go to Bath for a relaxing week in a flat. I decide to take with me a pile of Kaffee Fasset fabrics with a view to making them into a quilt for our bed. A great opportunity to get one planned project done in a clear period of time. I design a pretty pattern on the computer. I cut away happily. I cut a whole pile of square the wrong size but that is remedied easily (snip, trim) and is not the pickle. I start to piece. Yuk. the lack of contrast means the pattern vanishes. Should have known better. Now I have a pile of cut fabric. I know I do not love the quilt enough as it is to spend the time making it king size but do not want to waste the fabric. So I made this baby crawl quilt which I bound tonight.

However, what about all the other cut squares and triangles? Well, I have designed two more baby quilts and bought some extra fabric to convert my original vision into an entirely different strippy part - appliqued quilt. So now, my plan to get one quilt done has spawned four quilts.
Which is why I am in a pickle. Multiply that by several ( I can't bear to count accurately) add in a few swaps and challenges, a City and Guild course, inspiration from umpteen books and websites and .... well, I can't think. Literally. I keep taking projects out, moving pieces around and not doing anything because I can't decide where to start first. I take out a design sketchbook and can't concentrate because my head is carrying so many lists of things that are almost done but not quite.
So I decided that one of two things had to happen. Either the wizards on the back of the crawl quilt had to cast a miraculous spell on me ...
or, I just had to determine to Finish Things Up. I have never been in debt but I imagine this is a bit how it feels.... I really want to begin new stuff but I can't because I have to work a little at a time at clearing the decks from all the mess I created over the last year. One step at a time and It will get done and I can think again.

I have begun well, writing three patterns/ articles today and quilting and binding this quilt. The problem is, I can't decide which task is next. HELP!!

Not my election.....

... but I had to stay up anyay until Ohio was called (2.30 am our time) and i knew it was in the bag. Bleary-eyed congratulations America on what my husband called your 'Mandela moment'.
PS About 2am all that counting of electoral votes gave me a great idea for our next Twelveby12 'mathamatics' quilt!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Tibetan sand mandela

At the end the short street where we regularly stay in Bath is the Museum of East Asian Art, which, last week, I finally made the effort to actually enter. In fact I was very disappointed with the museum save for one item in a very small temporary exhibition which was this medicine mandela made by Monks in Glasgow.

It is made of sand and would normally be destroyed after its use in meditation but this one was fixed to a board. I ended up sitting on the floor opposite it with my sketchbook for 90% of my hour's visit.
This was another smaller painted one

Monday, November 03, 2008

Return (and anticpated departure) of the wanderers

Well, we are back from Bath having had a very relaxed time which may have included a little (ahem) clothes shopping and a little (ahem) more shopping at the wonderful Midsomer Quilting.
This was the car coming back - and we only went for a week. ( and I have to say that Dennis had one small cabin case and a shoulder bag!)

Well, we are back from Bath having had a very relaxed time which may have included a little (ahem) clothes shopping and a little (ahem) more shopping at the wonderful Midsomer Quilting.

This was the car coming back - and we only went for a week. ( and I have to say that Dennis had one small cabin case and a shoulder bag!)

I know I keep raving about Midsomer Quilting but really - on arrival in Bath we were able to have an Indian meal with De who owns it and Chris who is Mein Host of the place and Brigitta who quietly and efficiently helps make the place work. Chris would not let me put my credit card down so I had even more money to dispose of in the shop the following Friday. I arrived, had tea and biscuits, chatted, chose fabric, laid bolts and bolts out in the workroom compiling selections for different projects, joined in the conversation with sewers in there, admired some quilts, bought my choice, had more tea and biscuits and chatted and browsed some books. I was there just over 2 and a half hours - what more can you want from your last day on holiday?

But now we are home and into an admin work day which has included sorting out my diary for 2009. Incredibly it is more than half full already mostly with lectures. However, for those of you who commented on Dennis' retirement with suggestions that we travel ( forgetting that I sadly am not retired!) I can tell you that all of Nov/ Dec 2009 are blocked out as we contemplate a grand Retirement trip. We will certainly be taking in Sydney (Brenda, Erica and anyone else within striking distance, please note I will be requiring at least one girly quilty day of fun, if you have any ideas? Kirsten - are you too far away from Sydney?) Tasmania and New Zealand. But, we are likely to add stop overs using a Round the World Ticket so all suggestions to help us narrow down the endless options are welcome. What does your area have that makes it unmissable? Recomendations for quilt related stops in New Zealand and Tassie are also welcome.

I wanted to start in Houston but I see that the dates for next year's show are mid -October just right in the middle of peak lecture season here. Piddle Pooh. That will have to be a separate trip another year :)