Saturday, October 29, 2011

Stockton on Tees

Sorry for the delay, I've not had much down time. i made it back home OK last night but I was too tired to blog. This picture is from the workshop in Stockton on Tees where we were mostly making tulips on Dubai time, except when we were discussing knickers or making passion flowers.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Royal - Bridlington

Just a couple of pictures from yesterdays class, and to be honest, it's amazing I managed that. Fortunately Fiona remebered and that reminded me to take pictures. We both forgot in the afternoon though. We were making Autumn leaves yesterday in the style of my quilt Golden Storm. Students are always surprised that we start the day by quilting the quilt, but it is easier to do when you're fresh. From there we bind, using an all machine sewn technique. Thanks to an intrepid experimenter we can confirm the binding can be made on soft slipery silk and it looks great. It's a pig to do ;)

There was a really interesting selection of leaf fabrics yesterday. Which led to some more interesting discoveries of what could be fused. I think we even managed to keep all the glue under control. I think most of the students had come for lunch as much if not more than my teaching and I don't blame them. The food was good and there was plenty of it. Just when you thought you couldn't eat another thing desert turned up. Of course I had to have some. I didn't need to eat again yesterday after that. Really I should have paced myself better because come afternoon tea I couldn't sample the cakes and scones. My hosts were kind enough to send me on my way with a goody box.

Some of the quilters arrived early enough to take a stroll on the beach before class. It certainly looked inviting in the morning but as I had work to do I didn't join them. Apparently Bridlington had the best sandcastle sand in the North and second best in the country! Pretty impressive to me having grown up with shingle beaches. I guess I need to try and go back with time to play on the beach.

Today I am in Stockton on Tees, where I will be teaching Tulips. As ever I will try and get pictures but I do get very engrossed in teaching so I often forget.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Well there are some advantages to bringing the car out for this trip, the journey was so much faster than I expected. I guess an extra 20 miles per hour really does help. It also meant that I got to go and see the sea when I arrived as it was still light. As you can see the sea here is good. The waves are wonderful and the pictures don't really do it justice. I am very pleased with the picture of the harbour arm doing it's job. You can clearly see the size of the waves on the sea side but within the harbour there is hardly a ripple.

On the way to Bridlington the sat nav took me through Beverly. It's not somewhere I had heard of and I'm glad I've now seen it. It is lovely and if you like churches and minsters it is well worth visiting. I also loved the long tree lined road between there and Bridlington.

Tonight I am staying at The Royal. It's rather posh, not at all my usual stop. It's a lovely building very nicely decorated and you can really see a quilter lives here. There are quilts on many walls in the public areas. There are also some stained glass windows just begging to become quilts too. It sounds like tomorrow is going to be great. It's amazing what having extra facilities will let you do. I'll let you know how it goes but this is looking like a great quilting holiday option especially if you like the sea.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Speed quilt 4 - Bath

Sorry for the delay in getting this post up. I thought I would quilt during the day yesterday then blog when I got tired. Great plan except my internet connection evidently got tired too. So when I came to do it I couldn't connect. After a night off it seems fine this morning :)

I spent Friday afternoon driving to Bath. It is only a 2-3 hour journey but if you hit Bath around rush hour it can become a lot longer. I do love Bath, but I would strongly suggest taking the train, not driving. The up side of leaving so early was the views. I really got to appreciate the A46 on the way in which has the most amazing views. However all the parking places are at points where you can't see anything. Yup I did try most of them to get a picture for you guys. I think the best way to see the view is to be driven up and down the A46 by someone else. Maybe one day I can take Tet with me and video it.

Saturday a select group settled down to make my Speed 4 quilt. One of the ladies had been to a class with me before and knew what to expect. She had also taken full advantage of the shop being open a little early for people to come and cut out. She was in and ready so sew before the official start time, and being a slave driver I set her to work straight away. This seemed to lay down a challenge to some of the other ladies, which wasn't what I had in mind (I don't think that far ahead that early in the day) but it worked out pretty well.  I think several of the class hadn't appreciated that we were really going to be making a speed quilt not a speed top but by lunch time they were all well on the way to having a quilt.

For various reason a few of the ladies had to leave early but as you can see a lot was achieved. These are the hardy ones who stayed to the bitter end. I suspect the pastel flowery one will be finished by now as she only had 2 more pieces to sew on and they were prepared ready to go. I actually thought she might have completely finished it in the class, it was a very close thing.

As ever, no two quilts were the same, the fabric choices make a huge difference.  Also the quilts are reversible although this group all seem to have gone of subtle variations between the front and the back.

Tomorrow I will be driving north again, lots of north all the way to Bridlington. It sounds like it's going to be a lot of fun and even the local paper has picked up on it. We will be making autumn leaves there and I will try really hard to remember to take pictures during the class. Maybe if any of my students are reading this they can remind me.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Waverley - Engine

I've finally persuaded blogger to put up one of my videos. This one is of the Waverley's engine. Sorry it has taken so long to do. Hopefully now I've got it to work once I will be able to do it again.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Heroes at Highclere

 After dinner on Saturday, Tet asked if I had plans for Sunday, yes the usual, quilting. Would I like to go out....Hmm.....He had just found out the Vulcan was due to fly over Highclere castle on Sunday. Well I've been trying to catch the Vulcan flying since she got back in the air so it was something of a no brainer. We were going.

Highclere Castle is near Newbury, surprisingly close to where I broke down on Thursday, maybe the van was just trying to get to the front of the queue. Not that there was a queue to get in. It was a very busy event but the marshals got people in and parked very smoothly. Sadly when we arrived there were no tickets left to actually go around the castle, but there was plenty going on to keep us busy.

The event was instigated by Lady Carnarvon, who's home it is. In 1915, the 5th Countess Carnarvon converted the castle into 'Highclere Home Hospital' so Heroes at Highclere aimed to raise money for military medical causes. It looked like it was pretty successful given the number of visitors.

While we had gone to see the famous vehicles there were apparently a lot of famous people there. Downton Abbey was filmed at the castle and the cast and crew were there to help with the fund raising. I have to admit I only found that out from the internet after we got home. I kept seeing things about Downton Abbey but I had no idea why the building might have two names. Oh well I guess I wasn't the target audience for that part of the day.

I did like the helicopters. We didn't queue to go in them (just on the ground, no flights) but we did get to wander around them and peer in. By then end of the day only the Chinook still had a queue, so I did get to hear what the crew were saying about their aircraft. We also left late enough that we saw the Apache leaving. I don't think it's the most attractive beast on the ground, but it does a good line in purposeful once it is airborne.

As you can see in the background of the lynx there was a fairground there. In fact there was everything you would expect from a summer fete. With the weather playing along it really did feel like an old fashioned summer. It makes sense too, as a lot of the silly attractions you find at fetes are very good at raising money. The fairground rides were all donating their profits to Horses Help Heroes, which surprised me as I would have expected those at least to be running for profit.

 Around the grounds there were a lot of historic displays. Tents and equipment from many different eras of warfare. Being a sad textile geek I did have to spend a lot of time looking at the clothes and tents, but then what else would you expect?

 For me the stars of the show were the air displays. The Spitfire arrived later than the commentator expected. He had been listening to the radio so had a good idea where it was, until it was within about 5 minutes of the show ground, then it went quiet. They paused and asked people to listen for the engines. Nothing. A bit more chatting then they offered a free meal to the first person to spot her. A young lady got the prize a couple of minutes later. It was well worth the wait. The Spitfire stayed and played a lot longer than was planned. It was a lovely day, why wouldn't hang about as long as you could when you have a toy like that to play with?

 I had to wait until 3.15 for the Vulcan to come over. I was getting a shade excited by then. Again she was a bit later than expected and the commentator again said to listen for her. The club members felt you would see the clouds of smoke first. Actually they were both wrong, she came in very quietly and from the direction where she was hidden by trees for the longest. Suddenly there she was. You wouldn't think something that loud (and relatively large) could sneak up on you but she can. In fact she was very quiet through most of her display, only getting loud in the turns furthest away from the castle. I did wonder if health and safety had anything to do with it, but then I am quite cynical.

After a couple of passes she headed off, returning about 30 minutes later. Again confusing the commentators who were sure she would approach from a different direction this time. She didn't. It was the same sneak approach as the first time. Well why not it worked so well. On her second visit she stayed longer and gave people plenty of time to get photos.

 As ever the Vulcan is in need of funds to keep flying. If you would like to help you can donate on her website.

The show was officially closed by the Blades display team. We saw them at Santa Pod earlier this year and I really enjoyed them. Though they aren't ideal for Santa Pod as they actually take the rules about flying over crowds seriously. Highclere Castle was a much better venue for them and the acres of lawn to lie on and watch didn't hurt either.

It was a fairly early end to a day out so I even made it home in time to get some quilting done. Not bad for the spur of the moment really.

Thanks all round

I've had two lovely letters recently from groups I've given talks to. Thank you so both Region 7 and Region 15W. Despite my journey back being rather longer than I had anticipated I would love to come back to Cumbria, so any suggestions for sharing the booking around several groups in that general area would be much appreciated.

I would also like to thank the RAC. The guys they sent out did a great job (the phone staff were rather more of a challenge). The first chap correctly diagnosed the problem, the van had blown its main rear oil seal. It was more than I had done. Though I had looked at how fast I had lost oil, where I had oil and concluded it was a recovery situation :) The van engine bay is soaked in oil. Really, everywhere. However the technician managed to clean it up enough at the side of the road to spot a leak. The driver of the transporter was really good too. I am a bad passenger. OK, lets be honest more like a VERY VERY BAD passenger. He was a careful securing the van and drove well enough I didn't even think about the van the whole way home. It was safe I was safe and all was good. Those who know me well will understand how rare that is, and why I am impressed.

Now I will get some more quilting done before looking through yesterdays photos for you.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

What's wrong with this picture?

This was what I was doing Thursday. I was supposed to be at Emerson Green Quilters, instead I was getting a piggy back home. At least the driver stopped at the first services we came to so I could use the facilities and get a picture of the van on the back of an RAC lorry. It took about 6 hours to get me recovered. I had wondered if it could be done quickly enough to get me into another vehicle and still make the talk but it turned out I was right to cancel early as accidents held up the recovery vehicle. It looks like the van has lost one or more oil seals so it is in need of some TLC.

Today I am at Threads and Patches in Bletchley. A much less eventful journey this morning so I am early. Still gave me time to blog, right?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Day off?

I guess that technically, I've had a day off today. I say technically as I have been lying in bed most of the day at motorway services. As it goes, I would rather have been at home working, but I can't get there. The wind is throwing the van around too much to get through the roadworks. It's rocking enough when parked that typing is tricky and sewing or rug making right out. So I will read and play games until it's safe to go home and have dinner. I just need to convince myself this is exactly the holiday I was looking for. Then again, at least I'm not out there playing with the emergency vehicles which have been very busy today.

Penrith workshop

This is where I was teaching yesterday. We were in thw workshop above the shop Just Sew. It's a big sewing shop (so big I couldn't get it all in) and a real treat for me as they sell dress fabrics and supplies as well as patchwork fabrics. I was restrained yesterday, but I am certain I will need to go back and shop at some point.

I did forget to take pictures of the class which is a great shame. They ladies did really well with the quilting despite not feeling they were up to the task when thwy arrived. Hopefully they will send me some pictures when they finish their quilts. I suppose I should try to finish driving home. I got just south of Birmingham last night, an decided to wait for rush hour to clear before I moved on.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Just a quick one

I think the M6 was named for the average speed on it. I've lost more than 3 hours on my projected arrival time and I am not half way yet. Not looking like I will make it home tonight.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

What a place to wake up.

As it was dark when I arrived at the services so I could only guess how good the views were. This morning I got to see some of it, it was quite misty still but clear enough to see the fantastic scenary. The first pictures aren't a mistake they were taken a couple of spaces down from my van. She was just getting some fresh air. Tebay really isn't your normal services. Even the breakfast was good. I don't often have breakfast but it was just too tempting. I really liked being able to choose the n items to make my own breakfast, and I can't see why other outlets couldn't do the same. I'll be stopping in on my way home too.

Today was fun, although by the end yesterdays drive was catching up with me. I don't think I have ever had so many people offer to get me a drink, and don't mention knicker elastic. This is a small region with a very low population density so it's hard for quilters to meet up. They certainly made the effort today and we had more peopl than expected. I got so engrossed with talking to the members I completely forgot tohave lunch and I missed the demonstration I was going to look at. I did manage to buy som fabric though. I was also given a lavendar bag, as I love lavendar that works for me.

I got a great helper for the talk and several ladies stayed behind to help fold pack and carry. That was really appreciated and let me save some energy for the drive back tomorrow evening.

During the day tomorrow I am teaching Autumn Leaves. I'll try and remember to take photographs. Right now it's wet and windy and time to charge the phone.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Ferreting Around -Tebay

This quilt will probably look somewhat familiar even though you've probably never seen it. It is a quilt made by one of my students from my book, Ferreting Around. My student was surprised I wanted a picture of it, as over the course of making it she has learned and improved so now sees what she could do better. I see a quilt that has done it's job of teaching and that will be much loved by the recipient. This is also another colourway and design variation which is great. It is also another problem my student has with the quilt, they aren't her colours, they are what her aunt wanted. It's very hard to make a quilt in colours you don't like and it's rare to really love what you make. It doesn't mean the quilt isn't good though. If you've made a quilt from this book please do send me a photo. I love seeing what people have done with the design.

In the comments on my last post it was suggested I should visit Tebay services. That was actually my goal for today as it should put me about an hour from tomorrows venue and save me from an early morning. I made it there. Well I think I did. Itis amazing, too good to be true to be honest, so maybe I am dreaming. The farm shop is something else, so good I will be getting up early enough to have another look around. I was too overwhelmed to take it all in tonight. The food smelled fantastic too. In fact better than many restaurants I've been to and the loos are fab. I will be stopping here on the way home.

Motorways and rainbows

Today I am mostly driving with a few visits to motorway service stations. It's where all the most fashionable quilters spend most of their time. Ok maybe just the busiest quilt tutors and traders, but it's a large part of my job. I would have to say I am not a fan of the M6. The congestion is horrible. Possibly even as bad as the M25 which is saying something. The rainbows have been great. It's been sunshine and rain all the way so far. Of course I can't photograph most of them as I am driving, but this one was at Stafford services. The sculptures are here too. I don't know if you can see but the stones all have faces on. These services aren't bad, the loos are actually very good but the coffee making skills at Costa here leave a lot to be desired so I will move on in search of coffee. Well that and I've still got a long way to go. I left hone 11.30 ish and I am just over halfway to tomorrows booking. With Manchester and rush hour ahead I think dinner will be fairly late tonight.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Waverley up the Thames

As promised here are some of the photos from the cruise down the Thames on the Waverley. From Southend we headed up the Thames. I was surprised by how many different areas of water there are on the way. I'm sorry I didn't take notes so I can't tell you all the names, but if you can be bothered it worth looking them up as they often tell you a lot about the history of that area.

As you approach the Thames it becomes obvious how a large trading area grew. It is a very clear broad inlet and you can easily imagine sailors seeing it as a suitable entry point to the country.  All the way along the Thames there are docks. Some old, some new, some in use and some abandoned. It was great to see one being built, which will be a large container port. It is on reclaimed land built from dredging the Thames itself to make a channel deep enough of the container ships to get to it. I like industrial areas and we have a lot of pictures of the various docks and their loading equipment.

There are a few landmarks along the river I especially wanted to see and get pictures of. The first of them was the QE2 bridge, also known as the Dartford crossing. The road going over it is the M25 and I much prefer this angle for seeing the traffic jams. It is a very modern bridge, but I think it's rather lovely.

The river winds back and forth a lot and it makes it quite difficult to work out where the buildings are in relation to each other. However, Heathrow airport is the other side of London, so this plane is landing at City Airport which is on the site of the old King George V dock. I found it quite amusing that people would point out things and name them wrongly usually a second before the announcement told you what it was you could see. The comments about the plane landing were perhaps the most obviously incorrect and most popular.

The next landmark I was really looking forward to was the Thames Barrier. When I was studying civil engineering this was the latest and greatest project. I read so many articles about various aspects of its construction I couldn't fail to become fascinated by it. A few years ago we managed to persuade one of the tour boats to take me to see it on my birthday but we weren't allowed to go very close and certainly not to go through it. This time we could and for me that was very exciting. Sad, absolutely :)

It was a bit of a shock to see it looking well used and frankly quite old now. I guess it is because I remember it being built and how significant it was. I doubt anyone really thinks about it now, even the Londoners it protects from flooding on a fairly regular basis. In the photograph you can see one of the sections raised to the defence position.

I hadn't seen these buildings before, they are next to the Dome which isn't somewhere I visit, but these buildings are cool. They look like patchwork and each has a different pattern. I think I feel a quilt coming on at some point. That may mean I need to go back and take more pictures, maybe I need to do this cruise again next year.

I suppose I should include a picture of the Dome. It never really grabbed me as a building. I find it rather dull. I can't even say it's ugly, I think it's too dull for that. It just is, and I suspect it's going to stay so I guess I will just keep ignoring it.

 The sculpture in front of the Dome I do like. I think it's clever. From listening to the other passengers on the Waverley  I'm in the minority. I think part of the problem is you do need to be at the right angle to really appreciate it. A lot of the time it looks like a cloud of metal, but then you are suddenly in the right place and you can see the man standing in the cloud. The sculpture is called Quantum Cloud and is the work of Antony Gormley.

This group of buildings has changed a lot in the time I have been living in London.  They are at Canary Wharf in the West India docks. When I first moved to London only one of the four tall buildings existed. One Canada Square is the tallest of the group (the pointy one) and was the first. For several years the working light on it's roof was my beacon to get me home.
 Canary Wharf itself takes its name from the sea trade with the Canary Islands, whose name comes from the dogs (Latin canis) which the Spaniards found there, producing the linguistic coincidence of trade between the Dog Islands and the Isle of Dogs.

As well as the new towers there are a lot of older  building still on the Thames. Very few are still being used for their original purpose, but personally I would rather see the buildings survive than not. Conversions that keep the look of the building while keep them in use and thus in good repair are fine by me. I wasn't so convinced by the building that has been all but removed with just it's facade left. Really it was just a set of arches now everything else has been removed.

Another highlight of the trip was coming through Tower Bridge. I like the bridge anyway but this was a special trip because it had to be opened for us. That means stopping the traffic for several minutes each time. Sorry folks, the chaos at rush hour on Monday was partly our fault, and it was great.

The large tower to the left of the bridge is the new Shard of Glass. It left me somewhat underwhelmed. It does look better in this picture than it did in real life but as with the Dome I found it rather bland. Maybe it will be better when it's finished but I am sceptical. I think it is going to rely on being tall rather than any other architectural feature. Maybe big is all you need now, but when you are surrounded by really great buildings I'm not sure.

As the Waverley is hard to manoeuvre at low speeds we were towed through the open bridge and turned just the other side of it. We got to spend 30 minutes the other side of Tower Bridge before it would open again to let us out. It was funny to become a tourist attraction while being a tourist. A lot of people passing by asked for the Waverley to sound her horn and mostly she obliged. It was a lot of fun.

While we sat waiting for the bridge we had the chance to admire our surroundings. Tower Bridge is right next to the Tower of London. The main tower is called The White Tower and was built by William the Conqueror in 1078. It was used as a prison for many years which is probably what is is best known for.

To the other side of the Thames is a more recent piece of military hardware. HMS Belfast. She is now a museum ship, but saw active duty in WWII. Initially she was part of Britain's naval blockade against Germany, but after being damaged by a mine and undergoing extensive repair and improvement went on the escort convoys through the Arctic Circle to Russia. She retired in the 1960's and had many rocky years while her scrapping was debated. A trust was formed to save her and the government transferred her to them. Since 1971 she has been moored in the Pool of London and open to the public.