Wednesday, September 28, 2011
On the other hand we did have one success at the track. Tet finished and delivered another quilt. The Welsh flag in the picture is a quilt. It is standard quilting cotton fabric on the front and a velvety fleece on the back. The soon to be parents are Sean and Suzie Armstrong who are Taffy Bear racing. That is their race car trying to hide behind them, I insisted the whole race family needed to be in the photo :) and I'm afraid I chose the picture where the car looked it's best. I think they will understand, and the bump is getting in on the photo too. There was some concern that that little one would try and put in an appearance at the racing this weekend but it managed to hold on so it hasn't seen it's quilt yet. The quilt is waiting in her hospital bag so the little one will be able to go home in the welsh flag.
Once we had our breath back the first stop had to be the engine. I had forgotten how good it smells (well to me at least) but the sound and the heat had stayed with me from my previous visits. There is a very special sort of heat around engines and I love it. It is also just mesmerising to watch moving. I will try and upload some video of it soon. I hadn't really thought about it before, but I guess it's quite rare to be able to get this close to a moving engine. I'm glad it's still allowed.
When you are next to the engine you can look out of the portholes and see the paddles moving. It makes it clear why she isn't the most manoeuvrable vessel in the world. When her paddles are going they are both moving together. Great for propulsion but it would help her turn if they could be slowed independently. They do give her great acceleration though and when she leaves a dock she does it very very quickly.
The next stop on our exploration of the boat was the lower bar. When they say lower they mean it. this is the view from the portholes in the bar. They are above my head height when sitting down and as you can see they are pretty much at sea level. I would guess that later in the journey when we had taken on many more passengers they were even lower. I really enjoyed watching them as it gave a great feeling of movement.
From Margate we headed out around the Kent coast towards Herne Bay. This took us past a wind farm and Reculver. When we were at university we often visitied Reculver, and had often read about how important it had been. You really appreciate how imposing it is when you see it from the sea. It was still clearly visible when were ready to turn into Whitstable. The towers of St Mary's church, Reculver are the blocky towers in the middle of this picture. The lower structure to the left of them are the ruined back wall of the building.
The next stop on our trip was Whitstable. This is somewhere we were both very familiar with from university and we had lived in the area for a few years after graduation. However we had never approached it from the sea. I hadn't expected the harbour to look so enclosed, it doesn't from the land side. It also seemed a lot smaller than it had. I have seen several ships being loaded with gravel, and they looked quite large. The Waverley on the other hand looks quite small and seemed to take up a lot of room in the harbour. Given how small the Waverley looks the queue on the dock was quite a surprise. She can actually carry 860 passengers and on Monday was just 6 short of a full load. It does make it quite hard to move around so I was very pleased we had taken the time to look at the engines while there were less people on board. As soon as we left Whistable we headed down to the dining room, thinking that the new passengers would look around as we had done. Sadly we weren't that lucky and had quite a queue for lunch (which is actually a very good thing for the Waverley she is run as a charity and all the profits keep her sailing). The food was good too, although it was the strangest haddock I've had it was tasty.
After Whitstable we headed on to Southend, which was one of the places I blogged from yesterday. All the way we were given information about where we were and what we were seeing over the PA. It was great to hear about the other vessels we passed. Some of them had almost as much history as the Waverley. I really enjoyed learning more about the history of the coast too. I think that had better be all for tonight, given I am teaching tomorrow. I'll try and finish off tomorrow.
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
It turns out that server had a faulty power supply so for the moment is dead. However, we have other servers so the web site is now back up and running. Sorry for that folks. On the other hand I have a lot less downtime now we have our own machines so I really can't complain. Anyway, normal service has been resumed.
Monday, September 26, 2011
Sunday, September 25, 2011
The racing is going OK. We would have liked to stay number 1 qualifier, but number 4 isn't too bad. Due to some mishaps this morning our class hasn't raced yet today hence the sewing. I guess we will be called if I get set up for the next piece i wnt to make.
Thursday, September 22, 2011
Then the students moved on to what they would like to be taught. This is how my book 'Ferreting Around' happened. They gave me a list of requirements and I built a quilt from it. This time though they want to learn techniques and make maybe cushions or bags with the samples. OK, I can do that but it leaves me cold. So I start kicking the ideas about. They came up with several good techniques, and then I spotted a theme in them. It wasn't quite there and it wasn't fully formed, but there was a pattern to the subjects (mostly) and I could work from there. By the time I got home I had most of a quilt planned. It will use all the samples to make a lap (ish) quilt. Cool. It will meet their needs and not make me feel like I've been producing samples. Unfortunately this is the sort of design where I need to get some diagrams onto paper to be able to see the sizes, but I'm really busy. I am planning on being at the race track this weekend but both vehicles are playing up. Also having lost a day this week to being ill I've got a lot of catch up work to do. Well what do you know, my internet access was down when I got home, so while I waited for dinner I was forced to make some design notes. I guess the world felt the new quilt idea was more important than all the other stuff waiting for me.
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Saturday, September 17, 2011
I posted a lot about the process of my latest art quilt 'Quiet Moment', and I mentioned printing three versions of the reference image before I got one the right size. Before that there had already been quite a lot of design work, some formal some less so. First there had been talking to the model, then she selected some images she was happy with. I look at those images and see which ones 'talk' to me. I don't see any point in working with images that leave me cold. At best I won't do them justice, at worst they won't touch anyone else either. Once I have some images I like the look of I start playing with them on the computer. I'm looking for shapes that offend me, and details that can be misread, be it through shape, or shade. Only after that can I think about producing the reference image. My first thought it that as they follow an image pretty closely these are probably my most designed quilts, but maybe they are just the most formally designed, with paper and everything people think of when you say design. However they evolve a lot as I work on them. If you go back and compare the images of 'Quiet Moment' you will notice many little edits as I went along. I also don't think that much about the quilting until I get to that stage so really these quilts are somewhere in the middle of my planning scale.
'Leather feathers' is one of my least planned quilt. My whole idea when I started it was to sew on leather. Yup really, that was it. Once the hide was loaded onto the frame I thought about the thread. Black to hide errors. Only then did I wonder what I was going to quilt. A bit of hand waving and it got feathers. The big one across the middle came first then the others just sort of filled it in. Maybe this isn't the way you are supposed to make quilts, but if it works it ain't daft.
The next leather quilt and indeed most of my other whole cloth quilts did have a little more planning. Usually I design the straight lines which make up the pattern and I only worry about the colors and stitch patterns when I actually get to the machine.
Some quilts do get a bit more work on paper. Usually so I can check the maths out. I think my most common sketch is a series of concentric squares or rectangles with numbers on. Down the side you will often find a list of numbers. The image is the first one I could find on my desk. It's on the back of a letter, that's pretty normal for me too. I write on whatever comes to hand when the idea strikes me. This is pretty typical of my sketch books, pages and pages full of numbers. I suppose they really look far more like maths books than sketch books but it's how I work. Greek Fossils started life like this. just a few concentric rectangles and some numbers. In fact so did Prometheus, my new monster wholecloth, although that did gain some diagonal lines in the middle.
So that's how I design my quilts, I hope it might inspire others who can't/don't/won't draw to have a go at design. You really don't need lots of art tools to design quilts (though they can be fun sometimes too). My students have become very adept at reading my design sketches, and I've noticed some of them starting to use a similar techniques for working things out. Most of the time quilts don't need a lot of details to get you the information you need. I might go from this sketch to sketches of the blocks in the quilt which would then have their cutting requirements with them. For very simple things I don't bother, I just need to know what sizes I should have at important points. Sorry if this disappoints the folks with the beautiful sketchbooks, but they don't work for me, this is how I think. I kinda wish I did produce the fancy prep work, but at least I can make the quilts.
Thursday, September 15, 2011
It was good to catch up with the returning students and see what they had achieved over the holiday. Looks like one of my regulars is hooked on hand applique so I guess now is a good time to start designing some. I've been putting it off as I just can't do that much hand work, but she can and it looks like she is going to get really good at it.
It was also the first chance to meet new students and find them projects to work on. I'm looking forward seeing my book quilt made up in latte colours. It's going to be very subtle but I think it will also be quite stunning. That's the upside of a new term, lots of new possibilities. Having finished my lesson prep for tomorrow (a new pattern for some of my evening students to play with) I think I had better get to bed. I need to be recovered from today before I get tomorrows set of questions in. I wonder what other new projects will appear then.
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Sunday, September 11, 2011
Of course the venue isn't that close to Santa Pod and we were having a very early start so to make things easier we drove down to the nearest services on Friday night and stayed there.
The experience is run on an airbase, mostly on a run way with the circuit laid out in cones. For me that wasn't great, I found spotting the yellow cones in the sea of orange tricky but after a few laps I knew where the corners were and it was less of an issue.
We were booked to drive three cars, an Aston Martin, a Ferrari and a Lamborghini. I was put in the Aston first, which was a bit of a shame as really that was the one I was most looking forward to but I had long enough in the car to get to know the circuit. It may have been the heaviest most armchair like car there but I loved it. It does however have terrible visibility. Nice and solid, yes, but huge windscreen pillars.
From there I went on to the Ferrari. I don't think it really worked for the track they had set up. It is very tame at low revs and there just wasn't enough room to really get it up to speed. It is very solid in corners, again in this environment perhaps to much so. I can see why the instructor says it is the most rewarding car to really get to grips with but it takes more than a few laps on a short circuit, so really it did nothing for me. Perhaps if the cars hadn't all got extra silencers it might have at least sounded good.
By this point we had decided it was enough fun to be worth booking a few more laps. Tet went for a Porche and a Mitsubishi and I added the Lotus and Subaru.
The Lamborghini I really wanted to like, and for the most part I did. Both of us were shocked by how slow and jerky it's gear changes were. It has flappy paddles and man do they look cheap and tacky, but there is a very long delay between you asking for the change and actually getting it. I really hope this is just a feature of how the centre have their car set up. Like the Aston visibility is poor, but not to the point of being a problem, more something to be aware of (the Capri can hide an articulated lorry so I can't really complain). It's real issue is that you are going faster than you think. The instructor did stress that if he said brake just do it the speed is deceptive. OK, first significant corner I brake, then more then he asks for a lot more brake. It felt like I could have got out and walked, so I asked if the car just didn't handle well in corners. No, he insisted I was gong faster than I thought. Hmmm, OK, but it didn't feel very quick. I checked the speed the next time we cam around, at the point I would have said we were doing 30 ish, it was 70 ish. Ouch. The car is lovely in corners, but man you need to watch the speedo. It won't even notice you losing your licence. I'd love to try another one just to see if the horrible gear change is just a feature of this specific car.
My next drive was the Lotus. Other than having the monopoly on door sills and the most painful seat, I loved it. It was just so much fun to drive, quite indecent given how much cheaper than the others it is. Were money no object I would love an Aston but bang per buck the Lotus really beats them all. I am quite certain the seat could be changed to one that didn't bash my hips about like this one did.
The Subaru was a car I wouldn't have gone out to drive but as it was there I wanted to see what the fuss was all about. I'm none the wiser. I spent most of the drive home trying to come up with a positive about this one, and my best offer is you can probably carry more in it than any of the others, but if load capacity was the thing I was after I'd be looking at a Transit van. Apparently most people like the easier clutch, brakes and gearbox. I hadn't noticed the others were hard. There was a large notice in this car warning against rushed gear changes and it wasn't kidding. I found I had to be actively slow changing gear. Yes it's gates were easier to find than the Ferrari but the slow motion changes were just frustrating. I'm also very used to rear wheel drive cars and they drive very differently to a four wheel drive vehicle. To me it seemed to need a lot more babying than I would have expected to get it round corners. Maybe it should have been at the drag strip.
It was a very fun way to spend a day. I really enjoyed getting to play with all the different cars. I will be keeping an eye open for events where I can spend longer with some of them. They say this is designed as a taster day, and that's a really good description. The problem is, once you've had a taste you want more.
Friday, September 09, 2011
Thursday, September 08, 2011
Last night was a different venue but the same group. I was giving my talk, 'Quilter? Artist? Lunatic?'. It was an interesting venue, but I was pleased how much I managed to display and how many quilts I got to show during the talk. Despite a lot of the group being on holiday there was a good turnout and I think people had fun. P.S. Thanks for the water ;)
Wednesday, September 07, 2011
Tuesday, September 06, 2011
The photo really doesn't capture the detail of this quilt, you'll just have to take my word for it, the piecing and quilting are both lovely. At Sandown we saw this quilt before we saw either the second place or winner of the bed quilt category and our initial response was it should have been the champion. It turned out there was a glut of exceptional bed quilts this year there.
The spiky rosette if the champion quilt award, one of the others is first place in bed quilts and I think the third one was for hand quilting but I may be wrong on that. The certificate is a judges choice. I hope this quilt will be displayed again somewhere. I would love to see it again and I'd love as many people as possible to have a chance to admire it. I'd love to make a quilt like this at some point, but I'm not sure I have the patience for it.
There are more pictures of this quilt on Susan Briscoe's blog here.
Monday, September 05, 2011
Here are my quilts from the Harrogate quilt show this weekend. It's the first time I have entered this show and as I was lucky enough to pick up an award it was also my first visit to the show. It is a bit of a trek from London to Harrogate so we set off Saturday evening and stopped at a services for the night. As we are both night owls it really makes things a lot easer for us. After a gentle Sunday morning drive we arrived at the show about lunchtime. Perfect. It's a lovely area and I would very much like to spend a day or two exploring the area at some point.
The first two of my quilts were in the Bed Quilt category. I really didn't think either of them would have a chance of an award here as I had heard this is a very competitive show so I was really pleased to find that Ferret Fractal Stars had picked up a Judges Merit award.
The other bed quilt I put in you probably remember, it's Holiday Starrfire. It's my interpretation of Starr Fabrics Starrfire kit. I made it as a holiday from quilts I needed to think about with the intention that it would go on my bed last winter. I had been thinking this might be it's last show so I could use it this winter, but then it was invited to a show in France. So I guess I can wait another year. If it's going to be around for another year I may see if it can go anywhere else too.
My other two entries were in the small wall hanging category. This is a great category when you need to ship your quilts to shows, you can send smaller lighter quilts :) See I do sometimes think about the shipping problems.
The portrait is "A brief moment of clarity. It is of a friend of mine who is also the writer of Cancertown, the graphic novel that inspired the quilt "Bad Rain". I had hoped this might picked up and award but I had forgotten it wasn't in a specific art quilt category, that does make a difference. It did also mean the small wall hanging category was larger than I would have expected.
Finally there is the quilt that brought me to the show. "Leather Star" won the small wall hanging category. It was great to see it there with a ribbon on. They are really nice ribbons too. In the UK they are colour coded by show not by where you place in the show. I love these shaded blue ones. The certificate next to it is a judges choice award from Jenny Rayment, thank you Jenny.
Below are a couple of pictures of me with the trophy, I think we were having way to much fun during the presentation, but hey it was a lovely day at a really good show, what do you expect :)
Sunday, September 04, 2011
I found it really interesting the different things people saw in the image, it's something I really love about making art quilts. They go and talk to people in so many different ways. I do love the idea that this quilt is linked to Wait, and this title works in with that idea. There were some titles suggested that may appear later. I have some other pieces in the planning that we think they might fit rather well.
Now Tet can get on and finish the calendar, which was the critical job. I am really look8ing forward to that now. We've just got back from Harrogate quilt show, which I will post about tomorrow, but for now I think it's bed time. Why did they put Harrogate so far away?
Saturday, September 03, 2011
Thursday, September 01, 2011
I'm due to give a talk tonight in Stone. It's quite a posh venue, 2 halls and a few other rooms. There's a good size car park too. Fingers crossed for a good night.