Sunday, August 31, 2008

Elephant mania

I wasn't going to do a blog tonight becuase I am all enthusiastic about a new wallhanging I am making for the challenge I posted about at Quiltland and busy taking preliminary steps. Nothing to show so far - I have just been spreading fabrics and threads about and playing with painting Lutrador and ironing Angelina both for the first time.

However, there are times when research ( searching for an elephant shape) throws up stuff you just have to share like:

1. My original inspiration for this piece from Stef Francis' gallery (although mine is a quilt not a pure embroidery)

2 This Amazingly intricate ATC from paper embroidery

3. Embroidered costumes for elephants to wear in case you needed a present for your pet Dumbo

4. Bedspread from Berber trading which has lots of other goodies to buy too

5. 1930's children elephant hat amongst an array of these ornate Chinese textile hats

6. This must make elephant pin cushion.

I will leave you to all this eye candy for a couple of days as we are departing tomorrow for a cunningly expenses paid shop hop. ( It seems to me to be a very American thing to do and I always wanted to join in).

I planned a day's lecturing on Tuesday which is to be held at the very attractive Risley Hall near Derby. I get an overnight stay as part of my package and the hotel do not charge extra for Dennis to stay. I also get mileage for the journey so I thought we might as well stop along the route. I booked the work for Tuesday because Monday is my 'work at home day'. So I swapped my work to today and we are going on a little tour of embroidery, patchwork and bookshops with the odd gallery and tea shop thrown in. Then to the hotel in time to use the pool before using my meal allowance at the nearby Bengal Spice. I would say pity about the fact I then have to teach all day but as that is funding the shop hop I should not complain! I will give you a photo tour on my return.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Computer blues

I know that computer aided design is all the thing now and I can see the benefits. But days like today just put me off. I am making a quilt which requires wording printed onto fabric. ( No sneak preview for reasons you will see below but see the Twelve by 12 reveal on 1st October for the end result.)

I Bubble jetted some fabric. No problem.
I typed up the wording, spaced it out the way it needed to be and saved.

I created a document to test print it - nope, printer will not work. It tells me there is an error. This I know because is no printing coming out. It is not, despite my furious clicking, able to tell me what kind of error it is but I suppose all I need to know is that it is a no printing coming out kind of error, which I do know.

Three quarters of an hour later I decide it is just being plain naughty and do the electronic version of smacking its bottom. (Its OK. Social services cannot get you for that.). I uninstall it. Then of course I have to reinstall it. Which I started ages ago. Long enough ago that I have read all my unread blog subscriptions for last week and reached the end of the internet and it is still reinstalling.

So, thanks for the Photoshop and all that but I'll stick with pen and sketchbook for a while I think.

PS As I finished typing the above I looked over and reaslied that somthing purple was just peeking out from the crack at the side of the printer where it opens to put in new ink. I opened it up and retrieved a scrap of purple fabric and a pin. I have no idea how they got there. Think that might be a clue to the error? It is now printing happily on my fabric.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Flightbooking rant

WARNING: this is a rant. It is nothing to do with quilting. It is about consumer anger pure and simple.

I have to go to Northern Ireland at Christmas. I don't really want to, to start off with but its one of those family things. No airline can be blamed for that but bear in mind I do not go to booking with a glad heart to begin with.

There are two choices. EasyJet from Liverpool ( rubbish airline, rubbish airport - my personal opinion but I can cite good evidence!) and BMI Baby from Manchester (Good airline, fantastic airport). Usually we do not even bother looking at Easyjet.

So I go to BMI baby. Good airline. Crappy ( 'scuse french) flight times necessitating a two night stay to get decent time with the family. Oh joy. But hardly the end of the world. Very reasonable flight prices. Do I want to check a bag in? Well of course. Its Christmas. The whole point of going it to deliver presents, which inevitably include several very heavy tomes for my bookworm nephew Neil and a few hardbacks for crime novel reader Aunt Margaret. Bags cost £7.99. Well one between us will do. We are a generous aunt and uncle but Neil is not getting more than 20 kg of presents. I click to take a bag.

Fine, you may take a bag, says the computer. At the extra cost of £23.96.

Closer investigation reveals that it is £7.99 each way. I consider ditching the bag but then recall that I may well receive presents and even if we don't you can bet that we will be hauling back wholesale amounts of Dennis' childhood tastes of soda bread from the local bakery and mega-multi packs of Tayto Cheese and Onion crisps. But 2 x £7.99 is not £23.96. Turns out you pay £3.99 to check in at the airport rather than online. I am more than happy to check in online. But I am not allowed to because I have a bag. So I pay to check in.

This riles me. A lot. Enough that I decide to compare Easyjet prices. Easyjet now have this scrum system where they refuse to let you have an allocated seat even at airport check in. If you pay £11 each each way you get a Super Boarding card which allows you to be in the first group let onto the aircraft to scramble for seats. Trouble is, the entire flight can buy this super boarding pass and if a bus is used they guarantee that you are first on the bus but not that only Super boarders get on the bus or that Super boarders are first off. In other words, £11 for naff all. Each way. And if you don't get it they still let all the children and parents and the first 30 people at the airport on before you. My Type A-prone-to-airport-panic -attack personality is not readily compatible with the scrum system especially when the rules are loaded against me.

But, I am not stupid. I know that having the best seat on a plane does not really matter at all (except somehow it does).So I get a quote without Supernaffallboarding, despite that fact that really we both have a very strong preference for forward aisle seats. I reject the options to pay for insurance, hotels ,car hire, carbon offsetting, car park and a personalised sock monkey ( I made one of those up). It comes in at just shy of £70 cheaper than BMI.

Bugger. Because the very idea of flying with them stresses me and we are 4 months off going. Dennis shrugs. Up to me apparently. I want BMI Baby. No question. I go back to that site. It warns me that if we check in separately it cannot guarantee seats together. Well, I am a big girl. I flew to Germany alone as a young teenager. I can cope with my husband being in a different row. But still, I am tempted by the 'sale' price of £2.99 for pre-booking our ideal forward row aisle seats. No Type A-must-get-to- the-airport five-days-early- to-get -the-best-seat angst. All done dusted and what is £2.99 really? Well actually by airline logic £2.99 is £11.96.

Ho hum. I am starting to feel guilty for being an anxious snob. I leave the laptop and pace. I conclude that there is a price I am willing to pay for a good airline and good facilities. I proceed to book BMI Baby. The flights which started at £79.96 (taxes included) for the two of us now mysteriously cost £163. Still.

Then I get to payment. Turns out it is £163 if I pay with a BMI Mastercard. It is £171 if I pay with a debit card and £175 if I use any other credit card. This does not rile me. This RILES me. How can this be? Now I refuse to fly with either unethical, cheating, no-good company. I refuse. But I also refuse to drive to Scotland and sail for hours in December seas. My family refuse to come here (one of the reasons why it annoys me to have to go there - although my parents in law are quite elderly, albeit healthy, and my reasonable point on that does get less reasonable as time goes on, which does not mean they play fair just that they hung in there and won. But I digress. And while I am doing that can I point out that there have been two major airline incidents this week and both with cheap airlines?)

Anyway, my husband refuses to let me not go. He has a fair point here, after all it is not as if I am being asked to pay four pints of blood and my pancreas for the privilege of swimming to Ireland. It is a flight. A short one. To see really, really nice people. (Mostly. Two are not at all nice and that is another reason I don't like going. But I digress again.)

I will get over it. Eventually. (After I have subjected you to a rant). Interestingly it is a perfect example of the philosophy in a book I was reading today Enough by John Naish. Basically he champions the benefit of us knowing that we have enough and illustrates that getting more does not help us be happier. One example is having enough choices.

If there had been an airline charging £175 from the start I actually would think that £87.50 to get to Northern Ireland is pretty good. I am not someone who wants the cheapest of everything over quality. But the fact that I have to choose between two different but equally imperfect options is not helpful because - as Naish says - we tend to want the best features of both choices and that option inevitably does not exist ( It would on Air Quiltland of course but then Air Quiltland would have seats with 38 inch pitch and I'd be in the royal cabin anyway and so there would be no need for Superripoffruntobeatthesockmonkey boarding.). But also because I have been presented with a list of choices all aimed at enabling me to feel I can pare the flight down to cheap as chips I get thoroughly stressed when I have to 'pay' for unavoidable options or even highly desirable options.

Strangely this is also an example of a theory of 'differential pricing' I read about is one economics book. Starbucks for example have a dilemma. They know that Person A will happily pay say £3 for a coffee. But if they price it at £3 they will lose customer B who can only pay £1.50. So, they price a plain Americano at £1.50 and allow customer A to add his optional extras for an additional £1.50. Both customers are happy because they get the different experiences they pay for and want. Starbucks are very happy because Superdecaffhazelnutsyrupsoymilk does not in fact cost them anywhere approaching £1.50 to produce . Nor for that matter does an Americano.

I say strangely because I am a very aware person when it comes to consumer targeting, differential pricing and advertising. I can spot the false messages in advertising a mile off and they do not work on me. I will only ever buy a tall tea in Starbucks, because the extra for a medio ( or whatever they call it) is not worth it for extra hot water that goes cold before I can drink it anyway. In fact I will not buy a paper cup of Starbucks each morning with the rest of the suited and booted business people of Liverpool because I have a kettle and a pile of Earl Grey teabags in the office and do not define status or well being by a logo. I am resistant to their tactics.

But I am a sucker for it with airlines. Which leads me to self analyse and conclude that whilst not having dollops of cream melting all over the edge of my hot chocolate or being deprived of a shot of organic fairtrade yaks milk does not make me anxious, rude staff, late flights, obnoxious fellow passengers and knees around my neck do make me anxious and stressed. Which makes me conclude that I am about to go and book BMI Baby. Not least because Liverpool has a dire cafe and at least T3 at Manchester has a Starbucks.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Design inspiration

Anyone interested in design could usefully add Beautiful Muslimah's blog to their reading list for a while. Aside from providing an interesting insight into the views of an observant Muslim Canadian convert/ revert to Islam, it is a feast of inspiration. Her main focus is to provide a never ending array of fashion abaya. Now the abaya is often thought of as 'that big sack that Saudi women wear'. Think again. It is truly amazing how many varieties of this garment (and indeed the accompanying headscarf and face veil) there are and how many ways to wear a hijab headscarf. The shapes, embellishments, lines and in many of the pictures even colours would all give textile designers of whatever sort food for thought.

More, these garments are in most cases simply beautiful. I know those who wear them aim for modesty and would not wish to draw attention to themselves in a vain way, but this blog shows that it is possible to be both a good Muslim and interested in fashion. Check it out for a while!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Weekend progress

I am in finish-up and get-on-with-it mode.

First this weekend, the European Quilt top was finished.
I am not at all sure now about the inner border. But it is done. Points of course do not match and it will have to be quilted flat.

Then I finally got Mum's embroidered blocks into a top. Frankly, I am mortified how badly I have done this. I certainly will never work with this particular silk fabric ever, ever again. It frays if you even think about the box it is in never mind actually touch it. I wonder why I try to make accurate designs when I am so bad at it and I love to make freer more liberated design- as I go quilts.

This was supposed to grow into a massive showcase quilt but given that (a) I messed up and (b) Mum made the very valid point that we'd see it more if it were a wall hanging, neither of us really wanting a black quilt on the bed, it will get one more border at most. I am debating whether it simply needs black binding, a black plain border or a black border with maybe some text metallic painted on.What do you think?

Either way neither will be quilted for a few days as I am going to order a new free-motion foot for my machine which we discovered at Festival. There is a free motion foot of course that comes as standard but this one is supposed to reduce the eyelashing problem I have been having on some of my backs, particularly when I stitch curves. When it does get quilted the European one is going to have rose and leaf desgin taken from one of the fabrics used with the green squares having red roses on them to try and give the centre a more cohesive feel.

I also spent much of yesterday out in the garage in my little corner trying out fabric paints on little samples. I was so engrossed that, despite facing a window I did not notice what Dennis was up to in the garden until I looked up and saw I had company.
I have also done a little bit of African embroidery, and done a lot of work on my city and guilds household item design. It is truly amazing how long you can spend with sketchbooks and samples just to make a cushion. But that's for a later post - I hope to get it to makeable stage this week.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Almost grounds for divorce

Further to my Judging rant in the last post can I add something else that annoys me. The Judge's choice category. In previous shows I have noticed that Judges tend to choose quilts that closely mirror their own. At festival Lesley and I came across a quilt and I immediately said, "Oh I love that. It's a Katherine Guerrier." As I was in charge of the camera and she the show guide at that point she checked. "No. It's someone else. But it was started in a Katherine Guerrier class." Of course, immediately recognisable. Nothing wrong with that. Save that it won a Judges choice. And who was the Judge......? Yup.

Maybe the game is to find out the Judges and copy their ideas and techniques.

Of course, this being a subjective game there will always be an element of personal taste involved in assessing quilts. At the very end of Sunday at Festival my husband sneaked in so that he could sit with me whilst I waited for the quilts to be dismantled ( and so that he could drive me home while I talked non stop about the four days of quilting he had just avoided). With an hour or so to go I decided to give him the highlights tour.

I took him to the Ricky Tims gallery. His face was stony and unimpressed. "What's so special about that?" He said of Bohemian Rhapsody ( sorry Ricky!) I explained all about the design and colour and the use of Trilobal 40 weight polyester threads. ( I know these things. I spent three hours doing the class). He shrugged. '"Can't see it." OK, He was tired, having had a pig of a drive down. I took him to Dad's Lone Star and explained how the center was pieced by Ricky's octogenarian father. Surely that would impress. No. Stony face.

I took him to see some of Jacqueline Heinz work, my favourite stand in the Festival. 'Why?' he says looking bemused. 'The quilting!'. He shrugs. OK. I drag him over to Contemporary Large where I had been delighted to see one of Pamela Allen's fabulous quilts ( do visit her site for more)

I just love this one called 'Domestic Goddess'. It has great embellishments which don't come out well on a flat photo. He physically recoils, "Ooooh no. Its scary."
He averts his gaze and waves vaguely at it unable to articulate his fear. "Scary."

I am making no pretence of being a particularly good wife. After all I have already confessed to leaving him for four days and spending about two and a half times our monthly household food budget on stash stuff. But this is where I become a bad wife. Very bad.

I stalk and mutter. He trails behind as I make for the diagonally opposite corner of the large hall where I need to pick up a box with a wooden work-box which he is jolly well going to carry.
I don't know why I bother. Its like a cold shower. I have have four wonderful days and then you come in and you hate everything and You don't need to want to make one all you have to do is look at them as art - you can do that and stop being so miserable you're really spoiling things now and....

He stops trailing. That in itself is often grounds for bad wife to notch up the muttering to something approaching 'about-to-shout-because-you-can't-even-trail-properly' type of abuse. But he has stopped in front of Dorothy Caldwell's gallery and is looking with a face full of genuine interest and liking. He points to a quilt which to me is black and dull and boring and grins. "I like that one. Honestly. And that one." He goes in. "All of these."

Given that he has chosen a professional, highly exhibited, fine arts, SAQA artist what can I say? It is the only gallery of which I did not take a single photo or sketch. They disinterest me in both construction and end result. I consider whether he is in trouble simply for clearly having better taste than me but decide that whilst I can live with being a bad wife that is a step too far.

"Why? I ask.

He points to a piece which appears to be black with blobs. "Look at how your eye moves around that piece. How there is so much going on but it is all balanced. " Blow me if the man is not talking about the principles of design and getting it right. Of course, Ricky's quilts do exactly that and I don't understand why he can't see that.

But I stopped stalking and muttering. And I bought him a smartie encrusted cookie whilst we waited for my quilt.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Festival competition

I have been sitting on this post for a while before writing to allow my thoughts and emotions to consolidate but actually, not much has altered over time. This was my entry to the Contemporary Large category in Birmingham. It was never going to be a winner. I knew that and, although when I looked at it hanging there first I though, 'Oh, why did I enter that it is embarrassingly, well, blah!'. After I saw some other entries I thought it was not that bad but it is not a winner and I had no expectations of that.

However, after my experience at Trentham, I was looking forward to the Judge's comments so That I could use them to improve. I was very disappointed by their utter uselessness.

When your quilt is returned you get an envelope attached by safety pin containing the three marking sheets from each of three Judges. They mark as Excellent, Good, Satisfactory or Need Attention ( which I assume to be someone's idea of a kinder way of saying the truth which is unsatisfactory'.). There are nine areas of marking under the general heading Design and five under Construction.

My first point is that you cannot logically grade on the basis of satisfactory etc unless you publish the expected standards in advance which they do not do. Also, surely the use of the term satisfactory depends on your standards. If you set out to be excellent then anything less than that mark is not satisfactory at all. (I am reminded of Steve Redgrave who said of the GB rowing team that it was wrong to aim for a medal; nothing but gold is good enough. Might well explain why he has five of them.)

That aside, I was amazed at the inconsistency in marking. I cannot see how, for 'Choice and suitability of materials', for example I can be all of Excellent, Good and Satisfactory. I cannot fathom how my Colour/ value/ contrast can be Good, Satisfactory and Need Attention at the same time. Nor how my quilting can be 'good' twice and also ' need attention'. This latter was particularly annoying as there is no indication of what I am supposed to be giving attention to. If it were obvious I would have given it that attention before hand, so I am no better off having received that comment. Does she mean that if I gave it more attention the other two would mark it excellent perhaps?!

One Judge said that my use of embellishment or surface design was Good. The other two (correctly I think) said that that category it was not applicable to this quilt at all!

There is space for Judge's comment but they were not really used to tell me how to improve. One comment was simply, 'A Fun idea for using your animal prints'. Well. yes, I know that, that's why I did it. If it was an idea akin to having root canal surgery the quilt would not be in existence. I would rather she explained why she thought my 'visual impact' was only satisfactory.

There will always be the bit in me ( a large bit) who wants to be the best when in fact I don't have the talent to be the best and so I have learned to simply observe those feelings of failure and self-loathing when I don't get all round praise, to leave it to one side and then come back in a better frame of mind to take the lessons from it and see how to improve. But I have to say that such inconsistent marking has left me feeling rather deflated and disappointed. Am I over reacting?

It will not stop me entering again because I firmly believe in the concept of participation. It will not stop me trying to learn and improve. But it may stop me opening the envelope next year.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Festival website roll

The water is back on at a trickle so it is with a mug of tea and a bar of Caramac that I sit and work through all the leaflets and cards I picked up at Festival and explore all the websites on them.

Here are some for your viewing pleasure. ( You need only supply your own beverage and chocolate.)
My clever Twelveby12 friends sometimes refer to using thermoscreens and I always wondered what they were. I saw some at festival and they seem like stencils to me. Turns out they are not so mysterious after all. I now want some ( of course!) This site provides ready made ones or you can have your own custom made.
The association of swiss quilters. Notable for the quilty ecards you can send from this site.
Europes first quilt museum created by the UK Quilters Guild in York. Newly opened this year.... juts a few weeks after my business trip to York, planned so I could 'do' the museum. Ooops, got that wrong!
Source of the delicious handdyed fabric I bought at Festival. Go to the Buy Fabrics page to see a short U Tube video about the fabric and how they were used in one quilt. They also sell threads which I can confirm are equally delicious. This is Laura Wasilowski's site and I was delighted when she commented on my blog post about buying her fabric. Anyone else get excited when some one 'famous' reads their blog?!
This stall will be my first stop at the Knitting and Stitching Show in November. By then I hope I will have completed my first embrodiery - simple African fokelore kits and be ready for these lucious embroidery kits which promise to teach me techniques so I no longer need a kit and also to allow experimentation with the kit to produce original work. Definately not twee cross stitch. Also products for those of you who don't need kits.
Their FAQs page has really good information about what Lutrador is - one of my experimental products acquired this week!

Water log

Today has not been a good day for water. I go out to the car this morning and notice our 'up and over' garage door is open. I probably left it that way when I put my new paints away last night. I pull it shut. All the rain that had accumulated on it overnight splashes over my feet.

I go to work. I am in a place where I work on a sort of occasional freelance type arrangement and where there are full time staff. I go to the kitchen which is off the dining room to get the usual tea that we all get at a certain time because there is no opportunity for the rest of the morning. An unexpected meeting for full-timers is in progress which no one told me about. A power crazy self-appointed Queen Bee woman rudely chucks me out without apology or tea. ( But I did insist on being allowed access to the water cooler first. ) This is petty and insignificant but layered on other indignities perpetrated upon me by this person has me in tears. I lock myself in the loo, got rid of the tears then another male, full time colleague comes to be nice to me which started me off again. I pretend for the rest of the morning I have an allergy resulting in red and watery eyes.

I drive to a different city for my afternoon work. I can't find a parking space in the usual half of the carpark I use so I park elsewhere and walk across, watching carefully for merging traffic at the exit/ entry point I pass and not watching carefully for the gully where the water from the car valeting service runs. Wet feet again.

I squelch to work. I hand about being kept waiting for far too long. I eventually return to the car. Half way across the carpark without warning the heavens open. I do have an umbrella but I cannot use it because I cannot hold it, all my papers and the cone of honeycomb frozen yogurt I bought myself as a cheer up treat. Wet all over now.

I get home. My husband asks if I had a good day. He waits patiently for me to get the story out and to say, "So I am going to have a cup of tea in the bath and then I am going to play with my new paints."
"You can't," he says, turning the kitchen tap. Nothing happens. There is, apparently a burst water main and two postcode areas are without water. And because I put washing on before I left there isn't even enough in the pipes to fill a jam jar to wash my paint brushes.

It is 18.20 and there may be a postscript to this yet but I am recalling a saying from a Ricky Tims story - nothing ever happened that could not have been worse. This is true. I am neither dying of dehydration ( we have milk but not enough for a bath) and not flooded. Plus, my Janome does not run on hydro power, so excuse me if I leave you and go and retrieve this sodden / sodding day with some fabric therapy.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Extreme shopping

Here is my outrageous stash from Festival. Actually this is cleverly combined to make it look small. When Lesley came to my room for show and tell and found the king sized bed mostly covered she could hardly walk into the room for laughing. Just because some stalls had less stock...

But its not that bad really! Purchases fall into 6 categories:

1. For the house and therefore not really quilt stuff at all
I.e. Work box to keep the lounge tidy when hand sewing - practically furniture. And half price at £15.
Kaffe Fasset fabric to make something for our bed in the unforeseeable future - just £6 per meter.

2. So small as to not really require justification because if I hadn't been honest and showed you you wouldn't even have noticed I'd got them.
Trapunto wool
Magazines - one was free anyway

3. Gifts. No one can criticise you for generosity
Two small FQs for a swap.
Circle cutter (because in some months time one of my birthday swap blocks is a circle theme)
But you never know - some of the other stuff might get given away in due course too.

4. Stuff for education - City and Guilds and general self development
Education is priceless, paints are not really expensive ( and for everything else there is Mastercard.) Besides I had decided before I went that my spending was to be focused not on randoms stash development (Oooh oooh pretty!) but on a sensible combination of products I actually needed to learn the things I chose to focus on this coming academic year. Well, kids get new pencil cases in September - why are we different?

Fabric paints. I want to learn the stuff in a couple of books I bought (The Painted Quilt by Linda and Laura Kemshall and Print Your own cloth by Rayna Gillman) and I also want to focus on machine quilting. In fact the Kemshall's technique nicely focuses on both. I also have limited time so I decided to focus on wholecloth quilts.

First stop three pieces of hand dyed from the Chicago school of dying - this is one example. I thought one meter would give three panels for a triptych and as you can see from the main photo I got three meters - lots of practice scope there.
But I didn't really know what to get for paints - I kind of freeze with indecision at the choice

So I started with one pot of Jaquard metallic paint and a handful of Markal paintstiks ( in the sale) and a small pot of discharge paint and then bought some of the paintbrushes Linda Kemshall recommended from a wonderful woman at For Myself. I paid for the brushes,admired her work and expressed my frozen state at the shelves and shelves of Stuart Gill paint behind her. She said she would not sell me either lots of colours or just my favourite one anyway. Huh? At first I assumed that it was a language problem - she was Dutch. Then she explained.

If I bought my favourite colour I'd get bored and not do anything spectacular with it. If I bought lots they'd sit on the shelf, expire and then I'd be cross with myself and with them for wasting money. She picked up a red, a yellow, a blue , black and white and told me to mix my own and play. Well, Duh, yeah. Of course!! But then she put them back on the shelf. I was confused. Did she think I wasn't smart enough to use them? No turns out she was genuinely just trying to advise and didn't think I wanted to buy. Nice, nice lady. I bought. Plus a couple of glitters to add in. When I asked for her card so I could order more in the future she told me not to buy from her, buy direct from Stuart Gill because they are in Scotland and the postage is cheaper. Nice, nice lady.

For the quilting I want to play with using and blending lots of thread colours in one piece and with using different brands and weights and including hand stitches. Of course little bits of thread in each quilt requires a blow out on threads overall :)

Dennis wants to know can anyone spot the little rogue addition he made to my stash before the photo was taken?

4. Bits based on the Michelangelo principle

You know how all the great Renaissance painters had patrons who supported them financially. Do you ever think how large a part the people who spent their cash to support artists made to art History? Probably they could not paint a straight line with a ruler but without them many churches would have plain brick walls.
So - copies of the Kemshall's latest journal project Threefold
Copies of the EQA catalogues ( bargain too - five and two CDS for £20!)
Handdyed fabric from Ricky Tims ( he touched it!)

5. You can't give if you are empty inside.
You know the theory - you have to fill yourself up with good things if you are going to be selfless and support others like that.
Bundle of FQs from the African Fabric Shop ( besides, a horrible migraine comes on if I walk past Magie's shop)

6. Boring but necessary.
Bobbin box.

I also managed to win a free Microtack gun in a prize draw and Ricky gave me a free subscription to The Quilt Show because it was my birthday this month. then there was the challenge purchases - but they don't count because the came from a kitty not my spend and they are over at Quilt land anyway...

I know this all looks outrageously extravagant but in my defence
(a) I had saved up
(b) I know I am very very lucky
(c) I didn't buy everything I saw and wanted because I have three more shows in the next three months!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Post festival homecoming

I am home after four days of Festival of Quilts and I can hardly remember it it went so fast. A better review will follow after I have had some sleep ( a noisy room on night one of the stay kept me awake much of night - but the refund boosted the spending coffers - and then I woke up entirely naturally at just the time the Olympic marathon was twenty minutes off ending, in the middle of the night, and ended up watching Paula come in in 22nd - still a heroine to me, so I could do with a good night,

But, I digress...... ). In the meantime here is a hint at the highlight for Lesley and I.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

As this post arrives on your screen, I shall be at Festival of Quilts having a whale of a time. I thought I'd schedule a post, though, to publicise the Butteryfly Project from the Holocaust museum in Houston.

They are seeking 1.5 million handmade 2 dimensional butterflies in any media, no larger that 8 inches by 10 inches by June 30th 2011. Now no one can tell me you are too busy to make that deadline! Just write it down so you don't forget!

There will be a special exhibit in Spring 2012 with each butterfly representing a child killed in the Holocaust. Please join in. I feel very stongly that the Holocaust ( and indeed other mass killings) should be remembered not only in an attenpt to stop it ever happening again, but also because I feel that through us, the victim's memories live on and so the aim of the Final Solution is in a small way defeated and reupdiated.

If you feel the same then you can join me in joining the Guardian of Memory scheme through Yad Vashem where you are linked with one victim to honor. It doesn't cost anything but thought.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

European quilt progress

One of the skills a lawyer needs is to be able to give the court an accurate ELH ( estimated length of hearing) for a case. Too long and you run the risk of being given a date far, far into the future and then annoying a Judge. Too short and you run the risk of going 'part heard' ( having to come back mid way through a case on a different day) or even not being allowed to start the case and either way you are going to annoy a judge.

If you are a judge then some days, you need to juggle a list with a lot of cases in it, all listed together, and you need to assess which ones you will have time to get done and which might have to be released to a different judge. Or indeed whether the lawyers - who are desperate not to get sent away are being over optimistic when they revise ther estimates downwards.

If you will excuse the lack of modesty, in both roles I am very good at this. So how come I always totally underestimate the time quilt things take? I fully intended to do the next step European quilt last night but - do you have any idea how long it takes to cut out and fuse 126 leaves the size of your thumbnail?
You do? Oh, well bully for you. Bet you don't know how long an application to set aside judgemet takes do you?

Anyway - ten of sixteen blocks now look like this.

Monday, August 11, 2008

European Quilt design

Now you have seen the fabric - here is the plan.

In Haarlem we went to visit the Corrie Ten Boom House. Corrie was one of the righteous gentiles from World War Two - the site has the story if you don't know it, of how she hid Jews and resistance workers behind a false wall in her bedroom but got caught and ended up in Ravensbruck concentration camp. In the drawing room was a table runner embroidered by Corrie herself. We were not allowed to photo in there but I took a quick scribbled 'reminder' sketch and stuck it in my journal later.

Later, on this sofa on our moored houseboat, I played around with the design figuring out what I could do with the amount of fabric I had and came up with this design.

Deciding a souvenir should be made as near the holiday as possible I took the fabric to Morceau on Saturday for class and just got on with things. This is the stage it is at so far. It is not exactly innovative but somehow it didn't want to be - it wanted to fit in with the house!

Little leaves might well get fused on tonight ,although the stitching will have to await purchase of a suitable thread at Festival of Quilts on Thursday (Friday Saturday and Sunday -I can't wait!!) . I'll keep posting as the quilt progresses.

Corries most famous book was called The Hiding Place and I am trying to work out how I can make a hiding place in the quilt itself as a tribute to her bravery,

By the way, it is possible, but by no means certain that I will be acquiring an embellisher machine (best known as a faffing machine) sometime soon. Does anyone have any comments that might help me - as in do I need one at all or are they just a fad? If so what brand? What cool stuff have you done on yours? - you know the stuff.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Olympic rant

Day two of the Olympics.

I love the Olympics. I pretend that I can tell a good synchro dive from a bad one. I cry when people win sports I have never heard of. I have pressed the red button for interactive TV for the first time ever. I love it. But - Purlease! - if more one BBC commentator asks how on earth we are ever going to beat this years opening ceremony in 2012.....

Here's my suggestion.

The stadium is dark. There is a fanfare by a military band ( I don't care who thinks they are a superpower, no one can march like a UK military band). A screen comes to light on the floor of the stadium. Pictures are projected onto it. A maternity ward in the DCR . A school in Cambodia . A clean water systen in Nepal. A whole sequence of images of what we bought instead of effectively rolling up tenners inside a firework tube and setting fire to them. The lights come up. The athletes come in each wearing a badge with the face of a child in Lesotho whose parents is alive because they actually got HIV/AIDs medication.

Beat that.

Trawling Europe for Fabric

The camera now has batteries so let me take you on a tour of European Quilt shops. I am good at touring quilt shops so this will be a long post but its mostly photos of fabric so I am imagining you'll stick with it! You will recall the plan to assemble a quilt kit as I travelled...

First the fabric that began it all from Creative Quilting in Hampton Court.

Then the fabric from Berlin gets added. (see previous post)

Next Traumstoff in Osnabruck. Osnabruck is a charming town - very quiet because most of the locals were on holiday and shops were shut. But not this gorgeous quilt shop. The owner was there sewing away. They have an amazing collection of beads set out in trays in this table and another in the back. They also do yarns. It has such a delicious atmosphere - modern but cosy. They have a real talent for shop dressing too.
Sadly fabric in Germany is expensive and the euro rate did not help so I spun out choosing this half meter so I could linger as long as possible.

It was here also that I discovered this magazine Patchwork Professional with which I was very impressed - the slight problem is that it is all in German but whilst I was away the pictures are perfectly understandable as was about 50% of the words ( I did A level German 20 years ago!). Now at home with my dictionary it is both entertaining and educational ( in both the linguistic and the textile sense!) Sounds daft but I may subscribe.

Next stop Irma's sampler in Haarlem, just a short train ride away from Amsterdam. We were feeling lazy having just arrived on our canal boat and wanting to rest after all our travels so we only arrived in Haarlem with just enough time for lunch in the square and the last English Tour of the Corrie Ten Boom House ( more in the next post). So we moved quick smart ( I deny I was actually running, but it was quick smart, muttering, I'llmissiitI'llmissithurryupmanI'll missit under my breath) to this shop in a street where even the pavement outside has quilty patterns.

I burst through the door hot and red faced, twenty minutes before they closed, to be greeted with instructions to sit down, have a cup of tea and enjoy myself. Oh. Ok then! I broke the rules here, relieved that fabric was, whilst more than the UK, less than Germany, and added two half meters. The welcome was such that it seemed a disproportionate response to buy just one!

I got to the till dead on closing to be told to take my tea and camera upstairs and look at the exhibition in their classroom. I think this shop probably had the most tempting collection of fabrics of all the ones I visited with a small Dutch section also, although these fabrics were a bit 'rural' for my taste, they would have made a good souvenir. The owner is also going to Festival of Quilts so I hope to meet her again and return the cup of tea maybe! If I was in Amsterdam I'd definitely take the side trip to this shop again and have a bit of a blow out ( in the morning this time). I'd like to see more of Haarlem too which seemed a friendly easy going place.

There are two shops side by side in Amsterdam not far from Central Station and Dam Square. the first specialises in reproduction Dutch chintzes and is charming but old fashioned. The fabric is not my style particularly - although of course it is still tempting to buy those nicely beribboned bundles. I think it would be hard to mix with other fabric though. So no purchase here.

By the way, from Irma's onwards Dennis appointed himself official shop photographer so all these photos are his candid shots as I shopped.

Next door is Birdblocks which has the second best range of fabric I saw. By this stage I had begun a design (see later post) and realised that I should have bought more focus fabric and also that I needed to start adding lights. It was getting harder to pick stuff to match and I enjoyed mooching. Eventually though the shop owner could not resist and came to help, obviously relishing the game!
As soon as I went in I recognised the blue Dutch houses quilt which I think won some European prize of other. ( I don't know - I saw it in some magazine!) They sell the pattern at the shop.
I chose this as the second focus fabric (Half a meter)and a meter of this ( which photos badly)

We had planned to visit shops in S'Hertogenbosch and The Hague but in the end decided to skip more train journeys in favour of rest and recuperation so the last shop was Carol Cox in Utrecht. Utrecht on arrival appears a modern town with nothing particular to distinguish itself but then you come across a long canal which is lined with shops and restaurants on two levels and suddenly it is a charming bustling town full of individual shops ( and a great Italian ice cream cart!)

Right down the end of that cobbled street is Carol Cox. ( It is not far from the unusually located Museum of Aboriginal Art).Carol is originally American ( although her English now has a Dutch accent given that she has been in Holland some 37 years). The shop has a very large selection of plains and solids which I found restricted my choice but again, I could not have asked for a better welcome and enthusiastic joining in with the inspection of my design and comments on possible selections despite that fact that we turned up in the middle of her lunch. She also sells Shaker boxes and furniture. The shop has a cool, restrained, polished feel - despite the temporary presence outside of a horde of young men queuing on the pavement for electronic bargains at a closing down shop next door! It does stock some Kaffe Fasset designs but I would say overall has a more calm, restrained, more traditional feel than the Haarlem or Amsterdam shop. I liked the contrast and that each had its own personality. Having maybe gained (and probably given you) the impression that this one had the most restricted ranges I still bought the most fabric here - it is the quiet ones you have to watch out for!I bought fabrics for borders here - when I bought the original Hampton Court Fabric I assumed I'd end up with quite a modern quit but in fact as I went around it seemed to want to become more traditional so I let it, with this Moda fabric being for the outer border.

the green for some applique leaves
and the lighter brown for a thin inner border.
So, with the fabric trawl over it remained only to reclaim my camera and let Dennis carry the spoils and then to bring them home and start sewing. More on progress so far in the next post.

Friday, August 08, 2008

European travels 2

Before I introduce more photos, let me plug Dianne's idea - she is going to have an Olympics project to be done by hand whilst watching the Games - see her post here. Lots of people are joining in. I shall be doing my African Folkelore embroidery. What will you do?

Also another plu g for Uk quilters. Brenda Smith will be teaching at Midsomer Quilting on 12th October. I am travelling down for the class and I know she is keen to have other UK bloggers there also.

The next stop on our travels was Berlin - we went to see the Jewish Museum there but first stop was a sewing stop by Alexanderplatz called Zick Zack NahweltIt was not very impressive - the shelves you see here are the whole collection of quilting fabrics but - hey, you only need one shelf to choose and the second half metere for my souvenir quilt put a smil on my face.

Since we last went to Berlin there has been a lot of building work and the Sony Centre at Potsdammer Platz is one of the places to go for food and entertainment. Oh, and amazing patterns in the glass walls and from the tented roof.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

European travels 1

Hi! I am back home for a stop of about 36 hours before setting off again tomorrow for class at Penrith via Blackburn County Court. While I was away I began a fabric collection game for a Souvenir quilt. The Rules were:
1. One FQ of fabric each shop. (In fact I changed that rule in the first quilt to one half meter!)
2. I started with a focus fabric and added fabrics which all had to combine into one quilt.
3. The design was to be based on something I saw as I travelled.

Sadly my camera batteries died tonight so you will have to wait for the first photos of the actual fabrics but here is a summary of my first stop - London.

Work was punctuated by a delighful day at Hampton Court. First stop Creative Quilting ( which I forgot to photo - doh!) - spoils to be shown later. Then I got to meet Kate North - her American accent suprised me. Have you noticed how you read all blogs in your own accent?! The photo above was taken by her eldest daughter Sarah. Kate suprised me with a lovely package of African fabrics from her stash all nicely wrapped in a ribbon and her daughter Olivia kindly swapped me the chocolate from the base of cereal her snack bar for a piece of my cream scone.

The Palace was full of Henry VIIIth history for Dennis and patterns for me. Dig these chimney pots!

We also fitted in a visit to the October Gallery which has some great African art

including this 'cloth' by El Anatsui made of bottle caps.