Monday, April 26, 2010


This is the stick I blogges about on Friday. Isn't it cute. I'm told it is a ferret called Hal, and as well as being cute it's a lovely height to lean on and very comfortable. It is even a good fit in the car.

Yesterday was another good quilting day. My students worked really hard and are well on their way to producing some stunning quilts. I didm't get any pictures I can share yet, but hopefully I will hear from them when they finish. One lady did bring in a piece she had started in another class which was great. I really love seeing how people carry on with techniques after class. This lady had completed the the autumn leaves project right down to the unusual binding. I suspect the next time I see her there will be a wholecloth to admire.

One of the things I really enjoy about retreats is I can take my latest projects with me. Last time I was at Hobby Holidays I was working on my quits for my NEC gallery. Specifically, Mother. This time I was able to take it back and show them the finished project, which will always be partly theirs because they saw it being built. Of course it also means they get to learn about whichever technique I am working on.

This time they found out why my bindings and sleeves take me so long. I like all my hand work to be invisible, yes even on my hanging sleeves. I guess this might be why I don't do a lot of hand work. I want everything to be perfect so I spend a lot of time on it. I don't always achieve it though. So doubly it's not satisfying to me. It means that I have really taken to the all machine bindings, as taught by Ricky Tims on his Grande Finale DVD. I got to show my students how it works yesterday, which is unusual. Normally in class I don't have time to do this so this was a nice bonus, and it got Holiday Starrfire finished too.

Then I got home. Well things hadn't gone so well here. The main computer wasn't working right so Tet bought it a new hard drive. During the process his bike packed up. Quickly followed by the mouse on his computer. The post that was expected didn't arrive, and the reconditioned computer we bought doesn't look like it was. When I got home I took us out for dinner, and everything he tried to order ran out. His sewing machine was also having issues, at least I could deal with that. Finally this morning, the server that started all the trouble died totally. So for today I won't have net access. I know there are several of you waiting for replies to email and there are more that I didn't even read last night. I'm sorry I won't be able to do anything about it today. If you need to contact me urgently please phone.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Hello from Hobby Holidays

I had intended to blog when I got here last night, but as you can see I didn't manage it. By the time we had set the world to rights and eaten a very fine dinner it really was time for shower and bed. Besides I had forgotten to take any pictures so I figured I would wait.

I only just remembered today. The pictures are of the main house where we stay and eat, and the coachhouse which holds the workroom. We are working on wholecloth quilts this weekend. Despite the students having quite a range of experience they are all progressing well and keeping me busy. Their questions have even led me to find some new quilting designs. I did bring two quilts with me that need some finishing but I've been too busy to need them.

As with the other multi day classes I've taught I am getting a huge thrill from seeing how much more people can achieve over the longer time. I am lucky to have had several students send me pictures of finished pieces from class, but actually seeing the work is something else, especially seeing the students reaction to their achievments.

As with my last trip here the atmosphere is great. I think the relaxed environment helps a lot with machine quilting and being pampered doesn't exactly hurt. I should really get some sleep now. I have high hopes that the students will work me just as hard tomorrow as they did today. I know I've worn them out so it's only fair isn't it?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Classes classes everywhere.

Yesterday was one of those slightly scary days. A new regular class. For a workshop it isn't too critical if the group don't gell it's only for one day. It's a lot more problematic if a regular group doesn't. It was also the middle of a very long week which is quite daunting. I got lucky though, although not all the students made it to the lesson the group works well together. There is a nice mix of ablilities and everyone so far wants to make the same project, that is just a joy for me to work with. I should also say there is still a place (maybe 2) left on the class, so if you would like to join us from 1.30pm to 4.30pm on a Thursday afternoon get in touch with Patchwork Corner.

Between classes I have a couple of hours to work on my own projects in a nice big space. I thought I would take advantage of this and put the binding on Holiday Starrfire.  It's a huge and quite weighty quilt and after doing two sides I had definately had enough. So I just had to sit and relax for half an hour, it was a terrible task but I managed it :)

My evening class was a lot of fun too. Just as well I needed to be kept awake. Two students indulged in bribary and corruption of their tutor. Not only did I get a bag of Scampi flavour fries (the smell terrible but taste so good) but I was also given a very special hand carved walking stick. One of my students husbands carves these sticks and she had brought in one with a ferret on to show me. It was all the cute and practicle too. I fell in love. She managed to extract his stick to take home but only with difficulty. He has now made me my own! It's amazing and just the perfect height for me to lean my chin on. Not bad given he has never met me. It also came with a card telling me about the stick and indeed ferrets. Apparently the ferrets latin name means thieving, smelly mouse killer. That's fine, but my boss feels it suits me! I do make sure to always bath before coming to teach honest :) I will post a picture of the head of the stick later, I haven't got a camera with me right this second.

Finally one of the Thursday night students has started a blog. Even better she has already put up some sneaky pictures of a quilt I recently quilted for her. I really enjoyed working on this particular quilt even though it was a bit of a pain. It has 5 different colours of thread across it. Which meand extra work when you are quilting, and if it worked out the result would be my quilting was almost hiddent on the quilt. It did work out and I was very pleased with the result. I am looking forward to a picture of it finished. If you would like to see the previews they are on this post. This was alos the quilt that made me realise how much I learn about my students when I quilt their quilts. Quilting isn't like looking at a quilt, for me it is very different, I really see a quilt when I work with it. I had realised in class that this students work was coming on well, but not the way I did when I got the chance to quilt three of her tops in quick succession. It was clear which was the first. Which had been completed in a hurry, and which was the latest and greatest. It's really a very valuable tool for me as a teacher. Apparently it's pretty satisfying from the students perspective too.

Well I guess I should stop playing with the computer and go and start sorting out the car. I am off up to Hobby Holidays today to teach for the weekend. Its a lovely venue with fantastic hospitality. If you are looking for a quilting weekend away you really could do a lot worse. I know it will be a lot of work, but a huge amount of fun too. I can't wait to see what my students come up with this time. We are going to be working on wholecloth quilts again, and after what my students achieved on Tuesday I am really very excited by the idea of two whole days to play. More later.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The South can do hospitality just as well as the North

I think spring might have finally sprung. It's been a glorious day and not just weather wise. Having travelled to a lot of groups I have noticed that in general the north is far better at hospitality than the south. Sorry, I'm a southerner myself but that's how I've found it. Today I was in Fleet, and I can only assume they are the exception that proves the rule. We've been spoilt rotten all day, by a lovely group of quilters. I feel it has to be the joint best faith lunch I've been too. I don't know how quilt groups manage to get such a great variety of food. I would like to give a special thank you to whoever made the lemon sandwich cake, oh boy was that good. The whole event felt very well thought out, from the choice of venue to the signage, to the helpers, everything seemed to run very smoothly and there was a great atmophere.

I arrived at lunchtime (as requested, not just for food :) and as the speaker was on and I didn't want to interupt I went to see what the young quilters were up to. They were making very good progress on journal covers. They seemed to have really taken to the project and were progressing really fast. As with a lot of adult quilters they obvioulsy prefer the sewing to the pressing, but being young quilters were managing to get assistance with that bit. I guess there is an advantage to being young a cute :) By the time I started my talk they had very nearly finished their covers. That's is very good going. I teach a very similar class and they had got further than a lot of my students do. I also really liked their choices of fabrics, which I guess impies that the group are good at donating nice fabris for them to use. I hope the young quilters were as impressed with their work as I was.

The lady who had been working with them asked a ery interesting question. How many groups have a young quilters section? The answer I think was one of them. Now that is better than I thought, but it is a shame. Oddly it isn't something I had thought of. I am really keen on finding ways to help younger people learn about quilting, but the law makes it very difficult for shops to do. If groups could manage to put on a few events for their associated children it might go a very long way to filling this gap. I suspect for some quilters it might negate part of the reason for going to a group if it was too often, but even a couple of times a year would be a huge improvement on what is currently available. Also younger quilters have much less idea of what is possible and a whole load of imagination, which they are more than happy to share if given the chance. I am sure we can all learn a lot from the new generation of stitchers, we just have to let them in.

Despite having had a very fine lunch just before my talk it was a very interactive audience. It is a risk that on a warm afternoon with a full belly everyone will fall asleep but the ladies here are up to the challenge and at the end of the talk came up with lots of interesting questions. They also approved of the binding I've put n Greek Fossils which is a relief. I've been debating what to do for a while as the quilt wasn't planned as a finished piece. I was somewhat limited in my options but I thought the result was good, but a lot of people have had very strong views on this particular quilt so I was worried how others may see it. I'm less concerened now. 

There were also a high number of really interesting questions today. I like that as it means I have to actually think about things rather than just repeat the same answers, and having net several of tomorrow's class I think it's going to be fun. It sounds like I will have several people who are already thinking what they can use the techniques for even before they've leanred it and that makes for a very lively class. I don't think most of you have any idea how much I needed today. It was wonderful, thank you all so much.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A word about wadding

I get asked quite often which waddings (battings) I prefer. Having just had a reordering frenzy, I thought it might be a good time to share my thougts on the subject.

For me there is a clear winner, and were money no object most if not all of my quilts would contain the same wadding. Wool. I was about to say I'm not that picky about which brand, and that is almost true. I do like the big name washed and preshrunk ones. I've used plain carded batts and will do again, but they are not machine washable, by any stretch of the imagination. Trust me. I tried the samples and it wasn't good. Why do I like wool so much? There are several things going for it. I would say everything actually
  • it's wonderful to quilt through and compresses well to fit under the machine.
  • it has amazing loft and quilts down to nothing without getting stiff
  • on the bed it has great thermal properties, it keeps you warm but not sweaty
  • it tends to hold creases less than other waddings
  • offcuts shred to make fantastic trapunto filling
  • it's surprisingly light for it's loft and warmth
The only downside is cost. It has been about 50% more expensive than cotton and up to twice the price of a poly cotton blend. However that seems to be changing. Matilda's Own, which is what I am currently using is now only a couple of pounds more per metre than my preferred blend. Hobbs, is still rather more, but I suspect once the price shifts on one the others will probably move too. I can supply wool wadding to customers for their quilts if they wish.

The wadding I use most of these days is Warm Bond. This is not a fusible wadding, but a blend of 80% cotton and 20% polyester. I've tried quite a few blends, and to be honest they all work. I've stuck with this brand because it's been the most consistant. I like my cutomers to feel they are always getting the same grade of wadding, and I really don't like dealing with complaints (who does). It is the most expensive of the 80/20 waddings (as far as I know please do tell me if I'm wrong) but it's great to work with, has a lovely loft, washes well and as I said is consistant. Obviously, quilting for others I get ti use quite a range of waddings. I really like some of the cheaper blends on the market. They feel good and quilt up well. I have some concerns with the number of inclusions in some of them, and I've noticed they mostly suggest pre washing the wadding now. Personally that isn't a job I would want to do, so I advise looking  carefully at the wadding before buying it. If it has large (think peppercorn size) pieces in it I'd steer clear, if nothing else they are hard and can break needles. Half that size and I would worry about using itwith light colours, but a delicate dusting of specks all over hasn't caused me any troubles. Again if you know differnt pleas let me know.

I do get quite a few quilts where the quilter wants a pure cotton wadding. I have mixed feelings abotu working with the pure cotton waddings. I find that some of them are very fragile. The thinest don't seem to support my quilting terribly well or indeed their own weight. They can be very prone to stretching and tearing. I tend to stick to Hobbs 100% organic cotton and Warm and Natural. The Hobbs is the lighter of the two and most people prefer it. being me I like the Warm and Natural better. It is quite firm which makes it easy to work with, and it has a higher loft which makes the quilting stand out better. I find that once it's been used and washed it softens up nicely as well without going completely limp. Of course if you are looking for the delicate very thin traditional look, this won't be your wadding of choice.  Another cotton wadding which I am a huge fan of is Quilters Dream Supreme. I was lucky enough to get a sapmle pack of all their waddings and when I first saw this I knew it was a marmite moment. This was going to be love or hate. You will never call another wadding board like after feeling this one. It's really thick. Even I wasn't sure how it was going to work. Well it works amazingly. I don't know how it would respond to use on a bed, but for art quilts it is fantastic. It holds quilting really well and stays flat. It really does support art beautifully. I suspect it would also hold creases like nothing else, but I've avoided testing that theory. It's not cheap, it's not easy to get, but if you like making art quilts you might want to give it a go.

A new wadding that I am rapidly falling in love with is bamboo. There are several brands and blends out there. So far all the ones I've tried have been fantastic. They are especially good for quilt as you go projects, being thin, grippy and happy with the iron. They do feel a bit squeaky when layers of wadding rub on each other, but I can live with that. I haven't found it to shrink much with washing and I love it on the bed. In many ways it's similar to wool, but without the loft. I do have some reservations about how it will fare over time. Bamboo is processed quite heavily to get to a useable state and is essentially a rayon (which is made from wood). Rayon is fairly well known for not being durable. Sadly the only way to be sure how it is going to work out is to use it. So that's what I am doing. I'll report back if I notice any deterioration. I'm pretty hard on my quilts so hopefully if it can stand up to me it will be fine for other people.

There are many other specialist waddings available. I have several that I want to try out. I love the idea of an all silk quilt for example, though with 6 cats it's low on my list of things to do. I'm largely driven by the feel of a wadding. If it feels nice I'll buy some and play with it, if not I'll avoid it. Fair? Probably not, but it works for me. One specialist wadding I did try and like was the alpaca blends. However I found they performed in much the same way as the 80/20, so much so I can't tell them apart. At that point they just aren't worth the premium to me. Maybe people more sensitive than me will feel a difference. If I am quilting for you and you would like to try a different wadding, just ask. I usually have several on hand, although I may not have used them much yet.

You may notice one rather large family of wadding is missing. Polyester. In general I don't like it, and I don't use it. I can't deny it is cheap and has great loft, but having made a couple of quilts with it in I can't live with it, I find it gets very hot ans sticky, yet somehow doesn't stay as warm. I do use it when I need heavy faux trapunto on something that won't be on my bed. It can be a real life saver if you have some less than flat blocks. Of course your blocks are always great, but I've had my share of DD, the really curvey ones. Tehy really look great with a thick wadding under them and heavy quilting in some areas. In fact I think sometimes they come out better for having gone wrong.

If you would like to explore some of these waddings and your local quilt shop doesn't stock them there is an online source in the UK. ASDING have bailed me out of more than one tight spot (usually related to black wadding) and are great to do business with. They also offer sample packs so you can give lots of waddings a through stroking before comitting.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Birthday unsurprise

I know you are supposed to be surprised on your birthday, but this year I am quite excited about a non surprise. It's still not certain but a well know web site might be giving me a lovely present. Of course something urgent could come up between now and then, but keep you fingers crossed it won't.

Whups, just to clear up any confusion, it's not my birthday yet. I just relaly hope this cool thing will happen on schedule. I'll point you in the right direction whenever it happens, but I am really hoping it will all come together.

What have I been up to?

Mostly I've been sleeping. It's what happens when I get ill. I sleep, a lot. Fortunately I seem to be getting better and have been able to spend some time quilting today. The down side is, I am now starting to worry about all the deadlines that are looming. This time of year is always quite manic. It seems that every show comes up at once and there are no end of entry forms to deal with. Just to bring this home to me, the form for the World Quilt Show arrived this morning. This is a show I particularly like. Mostly because they make it so easy to enter.  The quiltsd from each country go to one collection center in the country and are then sent en mass to America. This makes it much cheaper to enter than most international shows and ensures the quilts are insured in transit. Another bonus is that the show is in several venues, so the quilts get seen by a huge audience. The down side is it clashes with Houston and Festival of Quilts. So I need to do some careful planning before I decide what is going where.

I don't feel like there has been much of a holiday. I guess that's what happens when you sleep through it. Still the new term starts on Thursday and I am looking forward to it. There are still a few places on my new Thursday afternoon class, so if you would like to join it get in touch with Patchwork Corner as soon as possible. The wholecloth class on the 20th is now full. Sorry to all those who missed out this time.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

All the packages

Yesterdays class certainly lived up to my expectations. My students were keen, worked hard and had lots of good ideas and questions. I will be interested to see where they take the techniques I showed them. I stayed for dinner and chatting and well you know how it is when quilters get talking, it was late when I left and even later when I got home. So by the time I got home my main thought was bed. Then I found a stack of interesting post on my desk. Cool! Lots of things I had been waiting for had arrived. I had a quick look before giving in to the bed idea.

No sooner that I got there, Tet mentioned that Phoenix was back. OK I had to go and check on it. It's arrived home in great condition. Thanks to the guys at the Lancaster quilt show. However I also found I had more post. He had said I had got all the post but still. I now have a whole raft of new toys to play with for my garments at the Festival of Quilts. Obviously being me I am not going to do anything simple of traditional am I? So I needed a whole load card for prototyping and some fastenrs to go with it. There was me thinking paper fasteners no longer exisited.  I also have several new materials to test. I've got some ideas for things that might be possible in quilts but haven't been done yet. If I want to do them I think I will need to spend some time in the lab (quilting studio come engineering department). Don't worry I am keeping notes so I can share the process after I unveil the pieces :)

I even managed to get some quilting done today. I've had a week when I really haven't been up to it, and it has felt sogood to be back at the machine. The machine is sounding completely different after it's service. It really have appreciated the new gear grease and I think with the new brushes it is running faster. Taht could just be me being slow though so I am not certain yet.

Monday, April 05, 2010

How long?

I can't believe how long making up kits takes. OK I do like to do a whole batch at once (because it takes so long) but still. I've spent over 4 hours today putting together kits for my art quilt classes and I didn't actually finish very many. Partly because they also get through a lot of wadding. I see urgent reordering in my future. At least I have plenty for the class tomorrow and all the extras we might need. I'm quite looking forward to tomorrowa class. They are a friendly and laid back bunch, who are generally very quick on the uptake, a teachers dream class. I might even get a little writing done too. I know that would please at least one of the students as it is the art quilts book I am working on. However I now need a bath and a reasonably early night. I won't be enjoying the early morning or playing with the M25. I guess you can't have everything can you?

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Two things that might make you smile

Firstly alternative jobs for me if I ever want to stop quilting,

and then Uncle Bud teaches dogs to read,

What can I say, I have to fill my time with something.

I'm weird

I suspect that isn't news to regular readers but I thought I would share it anyway. It seems last weekend really took it out of me. Today I feel very ill and somewhat frustrated. I have so many things I want to be working on. I haven't ben on the longarm for days and I am really missing it. The quilt currently on the frame belongs to one of my students and is from my next sampler quilt book. It is designed to be quilt as you go but she decided she would rather I quilted it. It will take quite a lot of work but I know I will enjoy it.

I also have a book on making armour I would like to be playing with. I know card won't work quite like metal, but I think I should be able to adapt the techniques. I also have several clothing patterns awaiting my attention, but it won't be today.

Fortunately I recently bought a new laptop to improve things in my art quilts by numbers class. The old machine was free and rather old. Not a problem in itself but the screen was getting very hard to see. That meant I could only have two people at a time working on the machine, hopeless for big classes. The new macjine has a much larger, clearer screen. It's also relieving the boredom for me today, I may not be able to quilt but I can watch quilting DVD's. Sad isn't it. Ill in need ot time off and yes I chose to watch quilting. Told you, I'm weird.