Thursday, February 28, 2008

Definition of a good blog

There are sqillions of blogs out there and I canot read them all. Well, I cannot read them all and still have time to earn a living anyway. I recently decided to go back to bloglines as a means of altering me to new posts becuase I kept forgetting which blogs I liked! So, as I was inputting my list I pondered the question: how do I choose my favourites?

I drew up this non exclusive list of factors which apply to blogs I like:

1. Good writing
2. Blogs where the personalities of the owners stand out and I like the people.
3. Pictures of quilts that are to my taste.
4. Practical information given (e.g tutorials or links to good sites) or details about life in a place which to me is foreign and exotic.
5. Posts on grandchildren and dogs kept to a minimum. Good writing about either allows more leeway because the writing is then the attraction to the subject matter (Yes, Jennifer you and the puppy come in that category!) but I switch off with endless posts on how cute a strange baby is!
6. Interactive features like tagging games or post which ask for specific opinions

So, if you have blogger friends - or if you yourself are lurking around my blog and I don't list your blog on my sidebar but you think I'd like the blog leave me a comment with the link as I am always open to working less and reading more!

A good example of a great recent find (which made it onto my feeds list on ground one before I'd got past the byline and the most recent post) is Kills Houseplants ( just the name....!!) Two non-quilting sites you may not have found which fascinate me for writing quality and insights into different lives are Orthomom and Renegade Rebetizin

And then we come to interactivity ... I was tagged both as me (by Sara ) and as my Quiltland Queen alter ego ( really BIG ego in that case!) ( By Quilter in Paradise) to list 7 weird/ random things about myself. Here are my real life ones.

1. My little toes curl inwards.

2. I mix up left and right. This makes me a nightmare passenger to take driving directions from. Except if the driver is my Dad because he does the same thing, but we instinctively know when the other has got it wrong and go the direction they meant to say without any oral comunication. In heavy traffic, on a deadline, this can drive other passengers frantic.

3. My Mum taught me to read when I was only eighteen months old. Apparently, when I was two, I was really, really excited when in the car one day because I thought that the lorry ahead advertising Lyons cakes had large and dangerous cats inside. My spelling is still dodgy.

4. I cannot swallow the skin around orange segments.

5. I arrive everywhere either early or bang on time. Even at my wedding I got to the church before the guests, had to have the driver do a circuit of the village and park up at the top for ten minutes and then walked down the aisle exactly as the clock bells pealed 12 noon.

6. I don't know how to rewire a plug. I keep meaning to learn, but....!

7. I once smuggled illegal goods across an international border. ( My husband bought turkish coffee in Northern Cyprus when we are staying at Southern Cyprus, at a time when you were not supposed to shop in the North and import the goods to the South. He thought the price quoted was for one bag but it was for ten. Refusing to leave any of the stinky stuff behind, he persuaded me to stuff it up my jumper! The smell lingered for weeks!)

Now, I tag Jennifer (in confidence that she will continue to obey the puppy rule!), Diane ( for being a nice stand out personality!), Brenda ( even though I get the impression tags are not her favourite thing becuase hands down her blog wins for information and after all no-one acually has to respond to a tag!), Tundra Threads for exotic location information, Flibbertygibbet for good writing ( she is a professional at it you know!), Quilterin for the dual language trick and Nikki for the pictures and still getting art done in the midst of so much domestic responsibilty.

I also have to list the tag rules so here they are:

1. Once you are tagged, link back to the person who tagged you2. Post THE RULES on your blog ( this be them! )3. Post 7 weird or random facts about yourself on your blog4. Tag 7 people and link to them5. Comment on their blog to let them know they have been tagged.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Die hard quilter

You know you are a die hard quilter when:
(a) you have a trip up and down to London in a day to speak at a conference and your brief case containes three quilt books for the train and Bonnie McCafferey's vid-casts on your Mp4 player
(b) you are speaking to several hundred people in Kensington Townhall on the relevance of Capital Gains tax hold over relief as applied to the transfer of business assets on divorce when, mid-sentence you think, "Oh wow, look at the pattern the lights and tiles make on that ceiling."
(c) you spend the break between sessions on Kensington High Street sketching the applique-inspiring wrought iron work on the M&S building.
(d) you are delighted when you take a side road and find, on the corner of a quiet square a mosaic shop with the most quilty of designs which you photo on your mobile phone bitterly regretting not bringing te proper digital camera
(e) there is a problem with the points at Tamworth and your train is 35 minutes delayed on teh return journey but you are actually quite happy because it gives you more time to work on handpiecing the Katherine Guerrier scrap quilt pattern you just happen to have with you.

Incidentally for those who do not know London, Kensington is a world apart from where I live. I stopped to window shop in the estate agents and picked out a two bedroom flat for £1,850,000 ( thats US$ 3,597,625 , Euro 2,379, 691 or AUS $3,824, 646... I like this currency converter!) I was a little worried about the fact that the living room windows looked onto a car park though. I went into the Oxfam charity shop (Thrift shop, op shop and whatever you call in in European countries!) and all the clothes were designer gear, on wooden hangers, with identical gaps between the hangers like in a proper boutique. The second hand books section had a shelf of Christie's Fine Art Auction catalogues! I had a quick squint at the street parking sign near the mosaic shop to see how long you could pay and display and it said 'Diplomatic parking only at all times'.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

I am back! Although this is a quick post as I am off to London tomorrow and need an early night. But this you should know.....

This book, which I found by accident in Borders in Leeds, is wonderful. Anyone starting a City and Guilds should buy it as a text book. Anyone not but wanting to know about design should buy it. It is readable and beautiful. It goes thought all the design principles illustrating each several times with different art forms, including some quilts. It also uses the most amazing range of teapots I have ever seen!

Plus, it was only £9.99. Bargain. Or I thought so until I found that Amazon have it for only £6.49. Well worth the price.

Monday, February 18, 2008

On my travels again

There will now follow a blog hiatus as I begin the first of my 2008 lecture tours (this one to Leeds - Wow! Why did I not go into a more international field of law?!) and then up to Mums' for the weekend
However, this does not mean a quilting hiatus. Coming with me to Leeds is:
1 sewing machine
1 large box containing coat pieces and african fabric from appliqueing to same ( coat to be constructed under supervision at class on Saturday)
1 bag containing Kaffe Fasset quilt to go to longarmer who is in Bradford and sort of on the way betwen Leeds and Penrith
1 large box containing the jungle quilt for embroidering in the hotel room
1 smaller box with bits of the water quit for piecing in said hotel room
1 cloth bag containing a collaboration quilt with Lesley in case I still need things to do in the evening in the hotel or after I do the coat in class
1 book on fabric journals
1 pile of old Quilting Art magazine both for inspiring a half thought through City and Guilds wall hanging that needs designing.
1 basket made by Berber ladies in Marrakech containng quiting journal, ottlight, smaller basket of threads , scissors, cutter, board, pincusion and machine leads.

All packed and then Dennis says, " Would there be room for me in the hotel if I came over on evening?" Ermmm.....!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Quilts at the Imperial War Museum North

First, thanks for the pantograph votes. We too picked Pashmini, so we are reassured... although Brenda as a fellow lawyer I loved the way you were able to argue both sides just as I was doing in my head!

Today I took a day away from quilts ( sorta.. OK, not very much, as you will see) to visit the Imperial War Museum North with Dennis. Now a warning - this is a long post with lots of photos but if you are interested in design and lines I think it will be worth your time. The main reason for going was my current interest in this man

The great Daniel Libeskind, architect extraordinaire in my book. His buildings are not just cases for exhibits but are themselves symbolic, quirky, imaginative and plain clever. Oh and great inspiration for the Quilts UK special category this year which is architecture! I will spare you most of the 117 photos I took but you have to see these ... and bear with me ... there is quilting and patchwork for real at the end of the show.

This building is created from three great shards - Air (the vertical one) Water, which overlooks the Ship Canal and houses the cafe and Earth, the main exhibition space . These are the three arenas of war. The design came from an idea he had when he was blocked and frustrated and threw a teapot from the window of his studio (as you do!) Running downstairs he found three main shards. He turned this into a factured globe,

reconstuted after war - different, but healing into something new.
You can however take design too far. Mr Libeskind wanted the entrance to be hidden like a bunker, with no signs so that vistors had to expereince the disorentation of displacement to get in. The museum pointed out that as a charity with a public purpose it was rather important that patrons could find the door. So there are signs - to his disappointment apparently!

The building is full of quirky lines. It is meant to slightly disorientate as war does. The floor of the main space slopes and few if any angles are straight. The air shard has a walk way 29 meters up this shaft. You can see the black flooring way up high in this shot.

the solid flooring leads to this window whch appears straight.

but from outside is not.

then when you walk back to the life the floor is such that suddenly you can see through it way way down to the ground. Quite dizzying even though I am not afraid of heights.

The outside of the air shaft is verticle concrete slats with gaps. However, when I photgraphed it the light created these concentric lines on the picture that were not visible to my eye at all. Quilting lines wouldn't you say?!
This one I took becuase it reminded me of the stripey quilts made by Brenda and Anne which I had seen on their blogs yesterday Even the cubicles in the ladies have been offset so that the lines as you enter are curved and displaced.
The museum is the otherside of the Manchester Ship Canal from the Salford Quays which houses this Lowry Arts and Theatre centre - designed to look like a ship coming out of the water. The two are connected by this bridge.

And coming back over it you get great reflections in the office complex. Isn't this vaguely Hundertwasserian?

Anyway, this building does house a museum concentrating on how war affects the lives of people. In amongst the exhibits I found this crazy patch apron made during World War one in Sumatra
and this quilt ( hung way way up on a wall sadly) made by the Asian Ladies group in Preston with an artist, Lynn Setterington, in 1997 -8. It commemorates 50 years of independance in Pakistan and India . The quilt shows the countries before partition with the word "azadi" meaning Freedom in Urdu embroidered in the centre.

We had a great day spending far longer than planned. (Thanks in part to a very piggy lunch at an incredibly cheap (£6.99) four course chinese buffet on the Quays! They did chocolate cornflake cakes on the desert table. And banana fritters with sweet, sweet syrup. And fruit salad. And cookies. And I had all of them. Oink. But I didn't have any of the cake so that's all right!)
But sadly, all good days out must eventually come to a close...

If any of these photos on this post inspire you to design, feel free to copy them onto your computer for your personal quilting use only.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Which pantograph?

Today I booked the Kaffe Fasset quilt ( still debating that title - how about Diamonds through the ether with Jennifer?... can you tell I live not far from Liverpool and Beatle land?) into be longarmed ... Dennis is paying, fantastic chap that he is! Even for the binding to be done. He says he wants to stay married and somehow he thinks the chances are greater if I don't have to work on that quilt anymore! Perhaps no co-incidence then that the quilter is called Chris Marriage.

Anyway I got to spend some time looking at patterns - I had no idea there were so many to choose from and it made me think a lot about my own free motion options for other work.

If you go to the Intelliquilter site you can link to a number of sites offering endless patterns. Of course in reality many of them would look just fine on the quilt but we narrowed it to this and this. We have chosen but it would be interesting to see which one you would go for ( you might even change our minds!)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Help needed!

I am looking for web tutorials / good books on the following topics - any recommendations please? I want books that are worth buying for the fact they contain a number of techniques not just a gallery of quilts:

(a) Button making
(b) hanging tabs and loops for wall hangings
(c) decorative edges for quilts
(d) fastenings - zips, buttonholes, button loops etc.

Brenda has recently posted a great list of tutorials for quilt facings so I am sorted for that!

Thank you

Immersed in quilts!

I have taken this week off work to imerse myself in quilts. So lots of photos for you this post. On Sunday Dennis and I went to Quiltfest in Llangollen. A small but well formed quilt show was enhanced by the presence of Magie Relph who was happy to relieve me of a large sum of cash in exchange for the most beautiful Ghanaian fabrics.

This was one of my favourite entries - part of a challenge exhibition to use the Sisters block. It is - I think, if my memory is correct, by Jennifer Roberts. I have a deal with Dennis at shows. He comes and looks at the quilts 'as if they were art'. (I know I know- his words. I know they are art!) He lets me know which ones strike him and which do not before sloping off to get a coffee and read his book whilst I go round again more slowly then hit the traders.. I find this useful not only to gauge what quilts he might like around our house but also to see which might work as art and which not so much. I do not always agree with him but of course we are entitled to our own opinions...

.... only sometimes that opinion is best kept internal. He saw this quilt, which was inspired by a Scotttish shore line and immediately and loudly pronounced it "horrible". Only its maker,Elizabeth Brimelow was standing right behind him! Ooops. Fortunately she either didn't hear or was exceedingly gracious as she came up and asked me if I'd like to know more about her exhibition of work which of course I did. It included this double sided quit which I first saw in this book. I had been trying to figure out its construction for ages so it was good to see it up front ( and back, as it were).

I was amused that this quilter who has been exhibited in museums and has her quilts in publish books confessed that she had never made a 'proper quilt'! (She meant a traditional pieced quilt.) She was of the view that others could do it better than she so why bother trying. I agree to a point - I think you mayb ehave to try once to know that others are better but then yes, focus on what comes naturally to you rather than trying to follow the crowd

My own efforts have been more humble.

The beast of a Kaffe Fasset top is finished (yeah!)
From this quilt I learned that:
1. For all I moaned about it, I spent hours at a time happily working on it's construction - the committment and self-discipline I apply to my work seems not to desert me at the sewing machine!
2. In the end it took three part days to finish - nowhere near the mamoth off-putting, tedious job I had been building it up to be! It could have been done ages ago.
3. Whilst I would probably enjoy the contruction of any quilt I am much more at home working freely than following a pattern ( especially a one patch one!) . I like to pull out from the stash a pile of fabrics that look good together, take them downstairs and start to make something, designing/playing as I go.

In celebration of its completion, despite the fact that I told myself I was not starting any more quilts until I had finished up the major projects on hand I started these blocks ( using the preferred method in 3 above).... nominally they are my samples of fabric manipulation for my City and Guilds ( and therefore I did not cheat) but I think you can see that they are intended to end up as a quilt when the course is over.
(that one doesn't show well but is slashed fabric)And this one still needs its hole filling!

Saturday, February 09, 2008

At day's end

I finished my 'fun' (work?) for the day at ten past seven on a high - finally I had sewn not one but two rows of patches without unpicking anything! Really this is not a difficult quilt at all but I seem to be making heavy weather of it. I am happy I have finally broken its spirit ( go supernanny!) but disappointed I didn't get more done. It takes 20 mins to do the longest rows. I have 15 rows left but they get smaller and one would hope faster. However, sewing the rows together take time - I am estimating 5 - 7 hours more which mean 1 hr a day this week.

After ( same same but bigger!)
It is probably a sign of progress that I am now starting to think about names for this quilt. No doubt you can assist with ideas.

How about In praise of slow.

or I'd rather be in Massachusetts tidying Jennifers closet.

Or, have a friend who has a quilt ( made at a tricky time in her life) called I can't wait to leave the bastard. So I considered I can't wait to finish the bastard off but perhaps that's not suitable for the family quilt show market. ( Not that this is going to any show being a kit quilt!)

3 3/4 hrs in

Do you get the TV programme Supernanny where you are? I am sure if not, there is an equivalent. You know the scene where the nanny is trying to show the parent how to get the naughtiest child in the world to bed and they just have to keep dragging them back no matter how many times it takes? Eventually the child gets the message and starts to behave?

Well I feel it is a bit like that with me and this quilt, only I am not sure who is the nanny and who is the child but sometime soon one of us is going to win the battle! I have now done row 13. Jubilant because it was the first one where I didn't get a seam wrong I took it over to the design board to meet the others.... perfectly sewn... but with a patch missing. Grrrrr!!

Now let me say that I really love comments on my blog but I have to put Qult Pixie right on her last comment. This quilt cannot be used for applique background. It is 108 by 93.5 inches finished and if you think I am going to be covereing up even a quarter of that with more work you need your head feeling! The good thing about the quilt though is that the gift includes the costs of getting a longarm quilter to quilt and bind it so the piecing really will be the end for me. Or the end of me maybe... :)

Two and a bit hours in

I hate this quilt!

I have to do 31 rows. I have done 10 and every single one has required unpicking. Sometimes I have had to unpick the resewns stuff. Grrr. One problem is keeping track of what goes where even though I have just spread all the pieces over the table in order and numbered with a scrap of paper. It is a Kaffe Fasset quilt and the fabrics are cut so that they blend which is great overall but when you are trying to get a horizontal pattern to be constructed in diagonal rows with blending fabrics - OY!!

Dennis wondered through when I was re-unpicking. This is a kit he bought me at great expense to him so I want to do it well but asked,
"Which do you want: perfect or finished?"
"Its meant to be fun for you."
"it would be if these points would ever match."
He peers. No doubt he remembers that this was the kit from the shop that only sent half of it and we had to complain about their service.
"Well, then," he says in his best encouraging voice, "it must be cut badly."
Deep breath, "I CUT IT!"
He slunk out and is now watching rugby well out of shouting range.

Oh well, back to work. I'm having a break at 3.30 though.

One hour in

Well already there is progress with the task of unpicking and repiecing that I have been avoiding for months. First hour saw:
25 min sprawled on floor unpicking
5 mins runing around house shouting 'Can't find my glasses'
2 episodes of Annie Sm'ths podcast
1 cup earl grey tea
15 mins cleaning machine and swapping needles etc ( it was filthy)
15 mins piecing.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Project Day Is Here - Post 1

In just a few minutes I get to have my first email chat with Jennifer and then we set to doing out 'Don't- want - to- but- know - I -should' tasks for the day. Of course I get the benefit of starting at noon my time and so planned to fortify myself for the task with a traditional English breakfast. I might love fancy restaurant but sometimes you just can't beat a well cooked English Breakfast

This greasy spoon is right near my sisters house. I just love the name. I didn't love the fact that it was, without explanation closed when we got here. Bummer. Next best optionis about sven miles the other direction at the chain Little Chef. But, they do have an American style option so in deference to Jennifer I ordered that. ( This Dennis posing!)

And of course having eaten this we need no more than light snacks for the rest of the day so I am off cooking duties and onto quilting - yipee!

I feel like curling up with a book right now but no, I am off to unpick my mispieced quilt and put it back together. Progress reports later.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Which do you want first....

The good news is that I may not be hoplessly addicted. I went to a quilt shop after work today and bought..... nothing. Nada! See, it is possible. I went hoping to buy an entire roll of wadding and 7m of backing/binding fabric for the frothy quilt but they had no wadding on the roll at all and nothing caught my eye for the backing. I didn't even grab a reel of thread when I was there. Nothing. I amaze myself.

The bad news is that just before I left work a fellow Judge was chatting to me about his holiday home and wanted to show me some photos on his laptop. So there I am politely looking at his shots of pool, beach and his rather stunnng wife holding up a plate of ginormous king prawns when I spot the tiles on the Portugese table top. The photo is on its side so I am there head on one side, finger on the screen going, "Oh fantastic pattern, look a bit of hand applique and you could piece the stars and....." and then I remember where I am and who I am talking to.....!!

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Show girl / WinPs

I have just launched a 'Jealousy Quilt Show' over on my Quiltland blog - please come and play along with me!!

Meanhile over here in the real world I have been gearing up for my project day with Jennifer by actually working on some WinPs as well as photgraphing them! So I am pleased to say that my prevoiusly drafted posts are now out of date. So I give you the 'before' (with extracts of original text) and the new after photos. I hope this encourages you to get out your WinPs on 9th Feb with us ( or any other day) - it is amazing what you can finish in a short time that has been lurking for months!

'How many fish in the deep blue sea?':


"This rail fence is not this muddy colour at all - rather a bright turquoise. Made because my City and Guilds 'teacher' said she wanted us to bring somthing strip pieced for the next week then never mentioned it again. That woman does annoy me these days! It just needs quilting and binding." (And the creases taking out!!)

The quilting thread on the front blends and so is hard to photo but hopefully here you can see the fishies to match the feature fabric on the front.
'Blues and twos'


This 'nee-naw'quilt was started in Bath in October 2007 because Dennis saw the fabric on a trip to Midsomer Quilting and said that the little boy inside him was excited by it. I pieced it and fused the letters whilst on holiday but didn't have my machine. (Got talked into that one - never again!) so it remains unfinished. It needs applique stitches, quilting and binding.


Bound with this backing backingbrought forward and quilted with wavy lines and large stippling

'Electric Avenue'.

Another remnant from my convergence class. made with fabrics from Brixton market's african shops. Meant to be clever clever but it won't lie flat. I am told by Yvonne ( at Morceau) that all my twisted seams might have a lot to do with that! She told me to unpick amd resew the twisted bits or at least to clip them, but it has been in the box since. She also kindly pointed out that piecing polycottons on the bias so much won't help either. Jeez. You try to be creative and it turn out there are all these rules.....!You will notice that my inabilty to do maths has affected the triangles too. I wanted to do a convergence quilt that didn't look like all over convergence quilts! Its the usual squarish panel cut into triangles.

It is not perfectly flat but this photo is of it firmly pinned to the carpet and I reckon it is near enough that with firm pin basting ( reluctantly I think I might need more than spray on this one) and persuasive quilting, this might well now work enough to complete it. You can't see it here but the black fabric has great texture on it so I might well follow that for the quilting. The geese are thre dimensional.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Photo tutorial - Recralitant borders

Remember this quilt whose borders wouldn't fit? Well I considered all your suggestions then came up with one of my own! Here is the illustrated tutorial on how I got them to fit:

The problem

The quilt is made up of half square triangles. The border is constructed from larger triangles, the base of one of which should be equal to two of the squares. My problem was that the base of some of the large triangles were too big meaning that the border strip was overall too long.

The solution

1. Plug in a lap top by your sewing area and play a DVD of The Sopranos through it. This step is optional but I thought it would lend credibilty to my muttering to the fabric that if it didn't do what I said this time, I would wrap it around a corpse and get Tony and Pussy to bury it in a gravel pit in New Jersey somewhere.

2 With right sides together pin the upward facing triangle points to the corresponding seamlines of the squares. This resulted in the bases of the downwards facing triangles being 'puffy' and not lying flat.

3 I took the point of the downward facing triangles and aliged it with the seam line of the squares to which it should correspond. I pinned it.

4 then, I pinched the fabric so that there was a ridge in line with the seam line. Either side of the ridge the fabric then lay flat. I pinned along the bottom on this ridge.

5 Then I sewed in line with the pins creating a permanent ridge. Most of mine were in fact a quarter inch seam but one or two were less. Sew the actual width of the ridge.

6. The effect is that some of my pink triangles now have a seam down them as if they were pieced and the borders now fit.

7. The borders make all the difference to the quilt and I am so glad I persevered . And it was so quick - less time than the Ireland - v - Italy match which was on at the time. This is the top hung over my bookcases - I really do need a place where I can put larger tops to photograph well!

8 However, there was one slight problem. I had accidentally used a piece of the border fabic ( which does occur throughout the center) at the very edge near the borders which led to this effect. Ooops! So having finally got the borders on I had to unpick a little and swap the half square triangle and resew... and still the match was on.

Much better!I can't take it further yet because I don't have any suitable fabric for backing but I am sure that can be recitfied sometime!!