Friday, December 24, 2010


Dennis took some great pictures of the icicles hanging off our guttering by the bedroom window. I thought he had done it merely to show me the icicles because it was dark when I got home. But no - he did it because he thought the lines were interesting for quilting purposes. Got to love that man!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Virtual Christmas presents for you all

I can't buy you all a real present but I have been shopping to give you a choice of virtual presents that I would love to buy for you and myself as well!  They are all under the tree - pick what you like best!

I am sure I will not be the only one to be fascinated by the really interesting baskets forms here by Joe Hogan

If you need wall art and share my love of African items you too will covet a framed print of these fabulous photos from a trip to Mali here or one of these fabulous portrait shots by Laurent Rappa - this one is my favourite - I think you will see why!
If Africa is not your thing, the  food or still life photos of stylist Nan Witney would look great in a kitchen.
Or maybe you prefer patchwork on your wall? Or embroidery on paper from the Missouri Bend Studio?

 Maybe you prefer ceramics? Try these Beautiful bowls with marks to inspire stitch by Lidia Serra
These ceramics by Catherine Brennan remind me of the ceramics by Pollie and Garry Utley in that they both appear to have textiles imprinted into the clay.

Or for something in a different media how about an altered book by Raymond Papka?

Maybe you have been shopping too and need a bright bag by Yda Walt - I love her street scenes too: a very fresh approach to an old subject.

I found all these things simply by stumbling on a blog by South African artist Robyn Gordon and reading back a few posts and folliwng a few links. I shall be reading more of her blog that is for sure! And maybe in the future funding a space for one of her carvings.

Happy Christmas

Here is an e-card for you all - Happy Chistmas!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Girl maths 3

Daine wanted to know my response to Terry's question in her comment on my Girl maths posts. Basically - how does Girl Maths help her get an affordable ipad?

This is the response I emailed direct to Terry:

"Ok it works like this:

"Ipads here cost £429.

"Running across the road is free. But if you run across the road you might get hit by a car. In fact you surely will if you choose a freeway. Which will result in serious injuries and will cost you a small fortune in your mysterious USA insurance co-payments and medication obtained by stealth from Canada.

"So I advise you not to run out into a freeway and you thus save enough to buy an ipad.


"If you need extra money to buy kindle books for it advise all the people who would have brought you flowers in the hospital that they should buy amazon gift vouchers instead. But only for half the cost since it is nice to share."

Cabin fever quilt

Last Wednesday I set off of work, hit black ice and crashed Dennis car ( mine was already in the garage). the car required a new wheel and tire. I missed a cyclist by inches. (No I have no idea what he was doing on a bike in that weather either.) I ended up shaken and wrenched my shoulder and back a little with referred aching into my elbow. But no major injuries. I had a couple of days at home, went in on Friday to find  all my colleagues were also off with various ailments and the staff had cancelled almost all of the appointments. So I got a slightly early finish and got home just as the snow was starting.

Overnight 8 inches of snow fell. Essential travel only was the official advice. Well, I had a hair appointment and I graded that as essential so Dennis drive me and it was grim then. Not a wise journey. Then the snow froze and we have ice over the roads. My sister spent the whole weekend at the hospital (she is a nurse) because she came off nights on Saturday morning to find she could not get home.  An on foot inspection of local roads this morning, the discovery that the grit bin at the top of the estate is empty and the fact that not one of the local taxi firms were running pretty much ruled out getting to work by either car or train.

So, a snow day. It started thus:
I dressed and made fresh blueberry muffins for breakfast and washed up. I made two calls to work to sort the schedules out.  I took a call from the builder to say he could not come and so I then  put all the furniture in the lounge back where it belonged and took the dust sheets off. I made two onion and rosemary foccacia and washed up.

 I received two phone calls from work to deal with specific cases. I made red lentil and chickpea soup and washed up. I marinated the fish for todays tea and - yes you got it- I washed that stuff up too. I looked at the clock. It was only 10.25. Really - what do stay at home childless wives do all day??? Dennis had to stop me baking because we haven't eaten the mocha cake, Christmas cookies and loaf of bread I made yesterday yet. And, I may have mentioned this once or twice, but I don't even have a sewing machine to make the most of this time!

So I was pretty, much pacing the house fired with guilt at being (more or less)healthy but home and with unresolved creativity, when one of my colleagues rang to say that he was only at work because he happens to live right on a gritted bus route, that many other people were not getting in and that he would really rather I didn't even try.He had taken an executive decision that things were not going to get better by tomorrow and he had cancelled my work for then too. Just then a very sturdily shod and somewhat blue looking postman slid down the drive bearing not just Fibre Arts but Studios magazine. Suddenly I felt so much better - permission and reading matter!

Of course I didn't ger very far reading before the inspiration and need to create took over. I cannot machine sew my existing projects but I can fuse ready for when my new machine arrives as and when the van can get here. Then I thought I could maybe hand blanket stitch. And hang it - I might as well hand piece. Which is how this little quilt top came to be almost, but obviously not quite, finished.   The red shape is the Adinkire symbol for creativity. I know its not exactly high art but I thought it would be something to stick up on my temporary studio wall. And it will - as all tops do - look better finished and embellished. It is about 26 x 24 inches.

It is only after I emerged from 'down the well' that I realised I had sewed so much my shoulder was bad again.  But I still had fun.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Girl maths Part 2

This post will make no sense until you read Girl Maths Part One but for those of you who have, could I just apologise - I have made some basic errors in my previous calculations.

Dennis says I can 'magic money'. Since I posted I started to wrap Christmas presents and realised that I had, in error, ordered two of an item from Amazon. The money I get back when I return it less postage? £11.28. So now I am only pence short. And that was when I suddenly realised.

 I made a very, very small income from quilting this year. Tiny. But still taxable as self -employed income. Which means I can tax deduct the machine as a cost of my business and set the cost off against not only my quilting income but my other taxable income, which reduces the cost by £199. Before its starts paying for itself.

Oh and I have now found a shop selling it for the same price but with a special offer kit with free feet and extension table (which I always use on my existing machine). £99 worth of stuff for free. And free next day delivery still guaranteed to my area despite weather.

And I paid with my cash back credit card which gives me 1% of the price back.

Forget the coalition. Vote me for Prime Minister. I'll get rid of the deficit  in no time.

Girl maths

Have you noticed that one of the nice things about quilters is that they are all enablers.
Never once have I heard a quilter say anything like:
          'I don't think you need anymore fabric'.
Oh wait. No thats not true. Actually I have heard that. But it was always followed seamlessly by 'But you have to get that anyway because it is so beautiful/cheap/perfect/in existence.'

So, I suppose I knew full well what you would say when I asked about buying a new spare machine in my last post. I kind of knew what my husband would say too although the thing with Dennis is that although I know what he is trying to get at, I never quite know how  he is going to get at it.

After spending an hour or so with pen and paper making charts about what features were different on a range of machines roughly in the right price range, I had narrowed it down to two choices. The Janome DXL 603 for £369 or the Janome QXL 605 which is exactly the same machine only it has an automatic thread cutter and costs £499.  I sit Dennis down. I show him the list of features and explain which ones are important to me. I am mid way through when he says ( and I am not making this up),
"Awhh!" in that way you do when you see something you feel terribly sorry for.
"A dog with seven feet. Awwh!"
"Oh no. I read it wrong. A seven point feed dog. Is that different?"

We get over that and I explain how I am asking him to help me make one simple decsion - do I spend £130 on an automatic thread cutter?
Simple in my head anyway. Eventually he manages to explain the cause of his confusion. Neither of the machines I am showing him are labelled £130. So what I'm really asking is whether I should spend nigh on £500 but somehow the question he has to approve is only about £130?

Oh yes. Girl maths in action.

And I can do Advanced Girl Maths too.
If I take the post tax profits (all sitting waiting in my account for a good purpose) from
(a) the quilt I sold
(b) the second Lark advance for our Twelve by Twelve book
(c) my profits from kits for the African Fabric Shop for the last quarter
I am £11.41 short.
So, if Dennis gives me that just because he loves me and to stop me making him sit and look at pictures of identical machines, the machine does not really cost me cash so much as I bartered for it by doing things I need a machine for and therefore the machine is self funding, and therefore free, no?

And if you want to go onto Degree Level Girl Maths, if I have a machine I can complete the quilt which I intend to sell as a magazine pattern which means that the machine is actually not free but comes with a cash back.

I do believe that Christmas is a time for miracles.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Help! Emergency!

I set aside the whole of this weekend for working on my Aboriginal fabric quilt and my Twelve by Twelve quilt and look! Kaput sewing machine.
Help me!
Originaly it said itwas an E1 error and the service man (who came out to the house very quickly) rang someone in London who said they thought E1 went a small fuse had blown. An easy fix. But he came and it was not that. And when I got home to the bad news it was showing an E3 error. The Service man is awaiting someone helpful from Janome to ring him.

I decided to give the Janome centre near where I live a call as well. They do not know what an E1 error is either. As the manual tells you to ring the service centre in the event of an E1 error this is not good!  Particularly as the error seems to be growing!  Plus, there is all that time off over Christmas and New Year when I planned to sew.....

Which brings me to shopping. Well, you knew it would didn't you?!
I think I may be the only serious quilter I know who only has one machine. In fact I have only ever had two in my life. When I thought I might try quilting I bought a Toyota for £99 from an advert. Big mistake. Useless thing. It went back within weeks, which of course is all the time you need to get hooked and I upgraded to the Janome Memorycraft 6600 whch I love.

So, shall I now get a new one? I think most people who have more than one have them because they upgraded and kept the old ones rather than buying a new one with less features on than their main one. But, given our refurbishment costs at the moment I am not in the market for a bigger better machine. I am assuming the old one is mendable and am wondering whether to get a smaller one for times just as this. Just as I keep a spare hairdryer because, if and when the one I use all the time blows up, it is going to do so when I have wet hair and am about to go out. Some time ago I sold a quilt and used some of the profit to buy an embellisher. I held back the remaining profit for something significant and special. Maybe this is what it is for!

So - help me. Either pop around with a spare machine for me to borrow or, leave me a comment  to help me make up my mind, would you? Should I be patient and do hand work for a while or should get a new second one asap so I can sew over the holidays? I can stillget next day delivery before Christmas if I order very soon and it doesn't snow too much more. Tell me, If you have more than one do you use them all and if so when do you use which ones? Do any of you have a Janome Jem Platinum 760?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Munich Part 2

There was a stark contrast during our trip to Munich. First, Dachau memorial park, site of the nazi conceptration camp. It is in easy 10 min train and short connecting bus ride from the city. I actually went when I was interrailing when I was 17 but Dennis had never been and we are both firm believers that everyone should take time to visit places like this. It is of course grim, although in many ways less immediately affecting than Auschwitz - possibly becuase less remains standing.

This part of the memorial sculpture is the only colour around.

                                     And then back to the tinselly glitter of the Christmas markets.

Did you notice that I learned a new skill in Picassa? Amd I overdoing my collages? It is is  much quicker that postng all the photos individually.

So what else from Munich?  Not a lot. Terry commented on my packing dilemma post that she never swam in hotels and would I really go swimming? Oh yes. If there is a free spa quality pool I am in it as often as possible. And I love it when I get to be there alone. And this one was amazing. It was less pool more swimming cave. You need to use your imagination for this because for obvious (wet) reasons I have no photos.

You enter the pool down wide water covered steps. All the walls in this area are covered with either small black mosaic tiles or large deep grey stone. The wall to your right is straight and as you get to the bottom of the steps there is a cut out arch in that very high wall but the arch is only about a foot and a half above the water. Just enough to swim under. That leads you to a rectangular area in which there is a button operated set of jets, an on demand waterfall and a small thin window that lets you see out to reception ad lets in the only natural leight into this stone vault. In the pool the window is normal height but in reception it is almost floor level and unobtrustive. If you swim back out under the arch so the steps are to your left the room is thens shaped as a curved corridor sweeping round to the right to an oval area behind the steps - think tadople shaped. The tail of the tadpole is the corridor you swim down - wall to wall water and the only lights are green underwater lights so it is like a cave. In the oval room are verticle jacuzzi jets set in plates on the floor. Every time you move past the steps from one area to the other you catch a glimpse of burning church candles out to the reception area. It was all somewhere between womb like and surreal but very relaxing. Then there was the sauna and steam rooms - nude areas. And no I didn't. Interestingly no women I saw did go without costumes, but lots of men did. Go read into that what you will!

Renovation thrift

Lest you think that owning (and incessantly ranting on and on about) my beautiful and cool tap makes me a spend thrift let me show you this:

The extractor fan I fell in love with. Cost £1500. Stupid money. But it was beautiful and cool.... and only suitable for a hob on an island which we decided not to have.

The lampshade I did buy for over the island. Cost. £34.95

Oh and the dressing room is now wall papered and awaiting an injection of colour via textiles.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Munich Part 1

 First to the Sofitel. Swish 'junior suite' sourced at bargain pay-in-advance-heavily-reduced price. Which is blog code for 'staying way above my station in life and can't bring myself to part with 28 euros each for the breakfast so bought in goodies from the delicious station bakery each day instead.'
Its extremely handy location next to the main train station means views are mostly of the facing buildings or, on our side of the building, of the station tracks. But there is no noise. Unless Someone Else likes to play with all the switches they don't understand and accidentally and unwittingly opens an electrically operated window high, high up over the bed and freezes their wife's feet off when all she is trying to do is have a little relax downstairs. Then you get a little of the station announcements. And of course when you learn all the switches Someone Else can play with the in built electric blinds to his hearts content - up,down,up, down, until it snows and then there is kind of no point. Because then the view of the choo-choos becomes this.

 From this you can deduce that it was Cold in Munich.
And the girl is not keen on Cold.

But she can be cheered up with street food.

Note bene: two coats, two scarves. Both worn.

And she can be cheered up even more with not one but two visits to a quilt shop especially when the second is at Someone Else (Who Has An Atonement To Make)'s suggestion for the purpose of a present being bought.

The shop Quilts und TextilKunst is on Sebastietnplatz whch is not on any of the tourist maps we had but is very easy to find because it is between the Viktuelenmarkt ( the fanous and central food market) and the Jewish museum at JakobsPlatz. It has some nice cafes very near by and a pottery painting shop opposite. Like all European shops it is expensive for fabric compared with at home so the bag contains two German magazines and one 'Becuase-I-Had-To' FQ which, for the rest of the day proved extremely useful to wrap around my right ankle to stop my new snow boots chaffing my leg to bits.
At the back of the shop is a small exhibition area and there was to be found A Slice of Quilt Art by the QuiltArt group. The present the next day was the catalogue from that and the QuiltArt 25 show also.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Packing heavy

Pam, Ace House Cleaner and Queen of Finding Missing Things knows me too well. This morning when she arrived for work I was bemoaning the fact that people go for a weekend away with a small carry on case and my packing so far for a two hour flight and three nights  in Munich involves a suitcase, a cabin sized suitcase and a handbag sized back pack. (And that's just my stuff. Dennis says he can't choose what to take until he sees how much luggage is left for him.)
"How do they do it?" I asked Pam "Why can't I do it?"
"It's all the quilts." she said.

Huh. All  the quilts is an exaggeration. But it is true that the cabin bag houses a sizeable hand quilting project and a box of threads. Well, I have time at the airport and on the plane and after dinner (because we are notoriously early eaters on holiday)...... But even if I take that out there is still the matter of the suitcase. I have pared to the minimum but clearly I need help. Which is why God invented Blog Readers.

I was about to ask you this: 

Which of the following shall I take out?
Long, smart coat and short, casual coat
Two hats and two scarves - one to match each coat
Snow boots because snow is forecast
Trainers because a day without snow is forecast
Decent shoes to wear to restaurants
Three pairs of jeans (bear in mind one or more pairs might get wet in snow/sleet/rain )
One pair evening trousers
One glitzyish jumper for nice meals in evening
One big polar neck thick sweater
Two different sets of three thin sweaters to be worn in conjunction to create two warm outfits that can be peeled off when I go from colds markets to hot cafes/ shops. A trick I learned in Kyoto
Swimming costume for hotel pool
One book, three magazines

I will cop to the fact that a pair of jeans could be sacrificed. But really - is that one pair going to make a difference?!

But then, I was driving to work pondering which part of this made me abormal and when I arrived I had a  an email from a dear friend telling me that she had gone to Starbucks for a couple of hours and had packed
 2 Quilting Arts magazines
list notebook
new book on collage
new book about marriage
laptop for online shopping

That email made me happy.
These people who carry on a small bag..... Shame. So abnormal. They must really struggle with that.

I might add another scarf. just for variety.

Thursday, December 09, 2010


Remember when I used to write about quilts and not just my house? Well, I finally finished my 'South Island of New Zealand Quilt'. Note the 'put the quilt on the floor and stand on the sofa' slapdash photography technique.

I chose the word fabric as my starter in the shop at Picton because the various words so summed up the relaxing time I was experiencing. the other fabrics were all bought on my shopping trips in South Island.

Then, on a roll,  I actually started one to play with my Aboriginal fabrics which came with me from Australia ( never!) and some batiks from PIQF. Packing boxes turn out to be a good place to set blocks out. I started with something simple and quick  for my own play satisfaction and so it will work as a magazine pattern. But I have ideas for later faux complications.

I am also working on some hand stitching of a quilt I started with Lisa Walton in her Crystalisation class at Midsomer Quilting in September and which ( becuase I am a rebel) looks nothing like her class samples. I shall show the full thing when finished. Here is a teaser.
This is my TV sewing. So relaxing. No precision required whatsoever.

Answering your kitchen questions

I have never quite worked out the ettiquette for answering people's questions posed in a blog comment. I mean, I always email the person direct with the answer - that much is obvious. But, on the assumption anyone reading the comment might want know the answer do you answer with a comment - which people probably won't go back to read, or with a new post? I am playing safe and going for all three!

So, thank you all for your kitchen compliments.
The cabinets are Burford Cream Gloss from Howdens which is a trade only place. Do not believe the catalogue price. Thye routinely give about 70% off to your tradesman. Which aas well as noone would pay the catalogue prices which is clearly inflated so your tradesman can say he got you a big discount. And they don't sell direct anyway so who are those prices for? We then accidentally decided on a new kitchen when the sale was on too and didn't even know until the builder suggested we complete the order before  the end of the month and store it in the garage to save money.

For the ignorant yank ( self titled but surely not!) who asked about the round thing embedded in the island:
A pop up socket so I can plug in hand mixers, blenders etc at my baking island. It actually has three sockets if you pull it up enough.

And Terry, the black sink is 'composite'. Whatever that is.

 And Kristin, I am delighted you like the 'wood' countertops. because they are not wood. I wanted granite becuase it is shiny ( and beautiful and cool). But noone would sell it to me. Seriously. all the many kitchen shops went to told me it was overpriced, showed me how its scratches like mad and warned me off it in no uncertain terms. So then I decided on wood block. They would sell me that but warned that you need to care for it and oil it like a cricket bat. Dennis knows excactly how low my tendency is for oilng wooden thngs and banned it. So we got laminate because everyone said it looked fine, was easy care and was priced so you can change it every couple of years without blinking if you want to change the look of the kitchen. I balked because I remembered my mother's 1970's laminate but it has changed a lot since then.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Help! Fire!

I do have an inner arsonist in me, it is true. I mean who can resist putting paper napkin pieces into the candle flame in a restaurant? But I truly did not mean to set the country lane behind us on fire. Or to grow scary triffid like things in the garden.

This is what happens when you have no idea how to use the non-point and shoot functions on your camera but have some vague idea that increasing exposure time might enable you to take a picture of snow in the dark before you go to work.  And when you don't bother with a tripod.

Kitchen progress

First - any idea what this is?

 Or indeed, this?

Yup. One beautiful and cool and (halleluja) working tap.

For some reason you all showed interest in my kitchen so I thought I'd give you an update. (Boy are you going to regret that interest - there is a whole house to go yet!
Thanks to the builder falling off someone elses roof,** the kitchen is stil missing vital components like a floor and a windowsill and textiles and butternut squash*. But thanks to said builder orgainsing subcontractor joiners from his hospital bed, it is functional and I have been enjoying using it.I love the island.

Here are some photos.

I love my pull out thingies too - there are others hidden around the place. This hidden bin was a last minute addition. It is where the radiator should have been. Only the electrcian suggested a plinth heater whch was a stroke of genuis. Assuming when it is connected it works. It will of course all look much better when decorated. And the careful measuring to ensure the island fitted in and all the doors still opened was time well spent as it all works a treat. The island has three drawers on the sink side and is my baking station.

Of course when moving in we had to decide where everythng went. I like to think my decisions were logical. And Dennis was right there when everythng was put away.
So, can he put things back where they belong? No, he cannot. So, when looking for the missing item I have to consider where his brain might have put it. The tea strainer was not in its drawer tonight. That would be the drawer nearest the kettle and the mugs. The one with the teaspoons also in it. The one beneath the teapot.  I eventually found it and kindly, wthout even the hint of an irritated hissy fit, wrapped my request that he please put things back where they belong, by presenting him with  a ready made excuse. "I found it in the baking station. I can understand that it looks like a sieve so you put it with the flour sieves in the baking drawer, but it isn't a sieve its a tea strainer and I only used it that once to dust incing sugar on your mince pies becuase we hadn't unpacked the icing sugar shaker, so it goes with the tea making equipment. But at least you had some logic to where you put it."
He looks amazed.
"Thats not true but is really complimentary. I'd never be able to think all that."

* Dennis spotted  a receipe for butternut squash and wensleydale risotto and requested it for our first meal cooked on a hob in weeks. So off we went to the supermarket to do a  two trolley shop having not had any cupboards to store food in for weeks. Did we remember to buy a squash? No we did not. Does it work if you substitute a pumpkin? No it does not. Well, it might if said pumpkin was not one you bought in September and just rediscovered when moving into your new kitchen. However, I can confirm that frozen peas and corn go well with cheese in a risotto!

** The builder is fine but has a badly broken foot now in a cast and attached to his leg with metal plates. He says he can put screws in straighter than the surgeon can. He is anxious to return to work and plans to come in his wheel chair to supervise his team, but not until later this week as his cousin has died and the funeral is soon. I have told hin to stay away until the third of his'things happen in threes' is over.