Monday, September 29, 2008


We had a great weekend off. The weather looked poor with thick fog as we drove up to Santa Pod, but as we arrived it cleared and we got two lovely sunny days. Not too hot just right. OK the evening did get cold but that is to be expected. Unfortunately I seem to have picked up a cold somewhere. It's slowing me down which is frustrating, but things are getting done. After last weeks mass quilting I was feeling pretty smug, and we know what happens when we feel smug, someone brings us back to Earth. Well in this case several someones. I think I now have more to do than I did last week. I wonder if it is related to the very bad weather this summer. I think we had about 2 sunny days, so people have stayed in and sewn. Now everything needs quilting. No I am not complaining. Actually I am rather enjoying having so much variety to work on, but I has slowed my turn around down. Rest assured, that if I have one of your quilts (or more in some cases) I will be getting to it just as fast as I can.

Of course doing this much quilting is cutting into my time to play with the computer, so this site and my main website may not get updated as often. Sorry, but getting quilts back to my customers has to take priority. Although right now I think I am going to have an early night and try to see off this cold.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Quilting like a mad thing

Wow, it's been a mad few days. I've discovered that having too many quilts waiting (more than 10) is bad. It makes me very uncomfortable. For some reason that is the point where things feel out of control to me. So since my last post I have quilted 6 customer quilts. I feel much better now, if utterly exhausted. It's a little concerning that I still have as many to do (to say nothing of three of my own) but it feels manageable now.

To give me a bit of a break from the longarm I've been putting together a sample quilt. I managed to cut it out in about half an hour while I was waiting for a class at the shop on Thursday, and it is now ready for quilting. It's made from the "Turning Twenty - Just got better" book, and it is even quicker than the "Turning Twenty Again" which I love. Tet, who has been helping sell patterns at my talks, felt it was time for me to get samples from the other books. I have to admit he is right, but somehow it hadn't seemed urgent until someone else pointed it out. Strange how these things work isn't it. So here is the first of my samples from the other books. I am really pleased with it. The fabrics for the center of the quilt were pretty much the first 20 fat quarters I pulled from the batik display that the shop. I say pretty much as I did put one back, but other than that I just grabbed the 10 darkest and 10 of the lightest. It's a good illustration of how forgiving this pattern is. I don't think you could quite walk into the shop blindfolded, pick fabric and be guaranteed a good quilt, but I suspect even that would work out fairly often.

Also I can finally show you my Hever challenge quilt. I wasn't overly inspired by the fabrics but after they had sat on my desk for a few months I realised they reminded me of one of my screen savers. So that is what I did with them. I would like to try a similar design with circles instead of rectangles, but that is going to be such a pain to stitch, I keep putting it off.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Where do I start?

Well I've had a few very hectic days and boy has a lot happened. On our last night in Scotland (Monday) we were taken on a tour of Aberdeen. I don't know about you but I do find it frustrating when you fly into a place but never see it. I seem to spend a lot of time saying, well I've been to X but I didn't actually get to look around, we just flew into the airport. I am so glad I did get to see Aberdeen. They aren't kidding about the amount of granite used, and personally I think it looks great. I can see that some might find it a bit grey and drab, but not me. I really liked how you find a whole row of very plain functional buildings followed by one that has every architectural feature they could think of. Ornate granite buildings are just amazing.

As our guide works in the oil industry he also showed us the harbour and the rig anchors. I am sure I can get a quilt from the docks, possibly several. I loved all the metalwork there. Especially at night when the lighting is really interesting. Obviously the light is intended to help the workers but some heads upwards illuminating cranes and storage tanks, and it is just so inspiring.

The flight home was largely uneventful, although I did enjoy seeing the South as we flew into Heathrow. There are some amazing buildings on they way in. I would have loved to take some pictures but sometimes other passengers get really concerned about someone with a camera, so I tend not to bother. It's a shame as you see some wonderful sights, but most of the time I can't be bothered to deal with people worrying about it.

As I mentioned we have been having a lot of computer troubles. So when Twisted Threads sent me the pictures from the awards I couldn't get at them. It's been very frustrating as I really did want to share. However, when you come how exhausted, what better time to sit at the computer and get photos sorted. Thanks tot Tet I can now share these with you. Now rather frustratingly the winners list, which I have to hand, doesn't tell you who the sponsors are, so I can't tell you. I will have to have a look for the show guide and see it that does. I can tell you that the lady with the black and white skirt is Beryl Cadman, who is the Gammill longarm sewing machine dealer. She sponsors the long arm quilting award. The other lady is the sponsor of the pictorial award and I believe it the editor of Quilt Mania. She is fascinating to talk to and introduced me to the European Art Quilt Foundation. Then I have to look very embarrassed, I can not think who sponsors the contemporary quilt award. Please do comment if you know as I can't find my show guide to look it up.

Yesterday I taught my first class of the new term. Well actually my first two classes of the new term. I now have groups Wednesday morning and afternoon. It went pretty well, although I will need to fine tune the change over. I had planned to start on sampler quilt book 2 with Wednesday morning, but they had things they wanted to finish, which was a blessing. Wednesday afternoon though, boy was that manic. They are so quick and lively, they are really going to keep me on my toes. Most of them have chosen to work on my round robin sampler, and in the first lesson they finished the first chapter. They are all ready to move on straight away next week. I am very glad I have this all ready to go, or I would be in trouble. I might see if they will let me take some pictures next week as their quilts all look very different to mine already. I find it fascinating how classes get their own style a well as the styles of the individuals.

Today I am pretty certain I will be starting the new book with my evening class. I've had several requests for requirements so I know they are keen. Hopefully they will like what I have planned for them. Tonight we will be starting with a Carpenters Wheel. It's a block I have been wanting to do for a very long time, so I have used it as the center piece of this quilt. I like to try and get one of my loves into each design they ask for, and so far it seems to have gone down well. I'll let you know later if it has worked out this time too.

Finally, I have to brag. I found out last night that I have won best machine workmanship in the traditional category of the world quilt show. I cannot begin to say how utterly thrilled I am. It is another award for Guide Me, which I still think is one of the best quilts I have ever made. I've been so disappointed by the response to it in this country, so it's successes in the US are even more important to me. The full list of winners is here.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Manic day part 2

So I had to leave off quite abruptly this morning as I needed to get out to my next engagement, teaching 'Art quts by numbers'. The hall this time was very close to where we have been staying, which really does make things easier. From the outside Crathes Hall is very functional looking. I can't claim it was the most attrctive building from the outside but inside is a great village hall. The 16 tables fitted nicely, neither cramped nor rattling around. There are a reasonable number of sockets and heating that works. We arrived about 9.30, the hall was cold. By just after 10 we were able to turn the heating down, then by luchtime off. If you've ever had to teach in a chilly hall you will appreciate not only how impressive this is, but also how rare.

I had a great group today they were very keen and worked amazingly quickly, with good results. I did get the impression I wore them out though as they drifted off quite early. Still they seemed to have a good time and really did achieve more than a lot of classes I've done. Perhaps the Scots are just a lot more efficient with their time. I am really hoping some of them will send me pictures of their finished work, as a lot of them managed to put a lot of personallity into their work. Bear in mind they were working with my designs and in many cases my kits, so managing to make a unique and characterful piece is quite an achievement.

As we got away earlier than expected we had a shopping oportunity. Milton Studio is a lovely quirky little shop. Actually thinking about it, I am not so sure about little, maybe compartmentalised would be more acurate. If you would like to take a look they do have a web site, Parts of the shop were originally used for storing two carts and as a hay loft, and the shop in split into different stock in these different areas. Next to the cart garage you have a selection of quilting fabrics and thread. Coming into the garage there is the till and lots of goodies, from chocolate and ice-cream to art and crafts made locally. Heading up the stairs there is a small gallery with more from local artists (they are good and the prices are very reasonable) then you head on up to the hayloft. I would know more about the history of the building but I got distracted at this point. The hayloft is full of knitting yarns, beads, embelishments, books and well generic goodies. I think it would have been a very expensive accident if I hadn't had to get all my purchases on a plane.

From here we went to meet up with Mo. She was our tour guide on Friday, and is very passionate about the area. She took us for a walk along the the river Dee. It is a very beautiful river. Stupidly I didn't take my phone with me, so I can't share a picture. Think a wide fast flowing river, occasional rocks, pines and bends. If you've seen a picture of a Scottish river, it's probably very similar. I realy have been spoilt for inspiration the last few days. I've been spoilt food wise too. My goodness do they do hospitality up here. Last night we were at a very fancy private club, with stunning and reasonably priced food, tonight Mo made us a traditional roast dinner. Traditional here (with chicken at least) is an oatmeal and onion dish, which hopefully someone will remind me of the name of. It was a big hit with Tet, so much so I suspect I will be finding out how to make it. I think I would like i but I need to find a sauce it will work with as I don't eat gravy and I think it wants something moist with it. It was good to have a chance to try something so obviously part of life here, yet new and exciting to us. Round off the meal with an apple and bramble crumble (with ice cream) and I am in heaven. Honest solid food, perfect.

Tomorrow is my last booking here, at Touched by Scotland. It will be intersting to see a different area as this gallery is a little further afield and in a direction we haven't been yet. Who knows what we will see tomorrow, or who we will meet? Whatever happens I am sure it will be fun and probably give me yet more inspiration for quilts.

Manic, but fun

It wwas a packed day yesterday hance no blogging. We had an early start to get to the enue andd set up. You would be surprised how long it takes to decoate a venue, st up stands and put up signs. Still by the time the visitors were arriving everything was ready. Boy are people keen up here. It was an earlier start than I am used to, 9.30, but the crows was there on time keen to get at the traders. Frankly once the visitors got in there was no chance for me to get near the ales stands, I suspect the traders had a vry good day. Fortunately a very kind lady told Linzi and I we had to buy a copy of Quilt Mania and founr them for us. Both of us have had a quilt featured fron the Festival of Quilts. How cool is that?

The morning speaker was Barbara Weeks. She gave a very interesting presentation on what show categories a given quilt could fit into. The talk was illustrated with many well known pieces and was very infomative. I hadn't actually thought about the lack of entry forms for the Festival next year. Apparently this is because they are looking at making some changes, and I will be interested to see what they are when they send the forms out. She is a very interesting lady to talk to if you ever get the chance.

After a fabulous lunch (even Costso in Scotland have the idea of proper hospitality, I had thought th sandwichs for my opening were generous) we got ready for my talk. It was the most imposing venue I have spoken in. Good, but imposing. There is something about tiered seating that makes a place look more official. The talk seemed to go OK, but the audience was very quiet. It was a little unnerving until I was told this is normal for here. It was interesting to see how peoples reaction to me changed after the talk. Before hand most people had no idea who I was, and I think were a little confused by me lurking. Afterwards they could not have been more warm and welcoming. I only wish I could have brought them more quilts, as they so obviously enjoyed playing with them.

A very fast clear up was followed by a good amount of driving arround. First we delivered some ladies to the train station, then off to hunt highland cattle. We were successful. I think I have arround 100 photos, so hopefully I will have at least one I can quilt from.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Cowie and bathrooms.

First thing in the morning I find toilets have a storng pull, however not strong enough to distract me from the amazing view here. How mean is it distracting someone like that. OK not very mean, just rather wonderful.

After breakfast we were collected by Mo and delivered to Cowie. This is a small fishing village next to Stonehaven. We headed up the cliff with instructions to turn arround at the graveyard. After days of rain an gloom we were treated to a warm sunny morning, the best way to see the sea in my opinion. The Kirk is a ruin but very beautiful, perched on the top of the cliff. Hopefully I will have some good photos from it. Apparently the cliff is very fossil rich, but I didn't find any, we did find an amazingly black slug and some very pretty snails.

Now we are sitting in a very nice little cafe bar on the seafront.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Oooohh, ahhhh, wow!

Is it a good thing or bad thing when you are coming in to land and ealise you aren't going to be somewhere long enough? I suspect it is a good but frustrating thing. This area has great bones, the land undulates beautifully and is punctuated by hills and rivers I can see why so many artists are inspired to create here.

The people are pretty amazing too, boy do they do hospitality. I couldn't have asked for more. Met as soon as we got off the plane, navigated arround the airport then deliverd to a lovely house. The longarm workshop and yurt didn't hurt any either. We got to meet some more natives over tea who have offered to take care of us tomnorrow. How cool is that? It's looking like a full day of castles, landscapes and extra shagy cows. Yes I am hunting more subject matter for quilts, who wouldn't in such a fabulous place.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Don't you just love it when a plan doesn't come together?

Yes I said doesn't, and yes I did mean it. I had a plan. It seemed like a very good plan, I did a test and everything. I wanted to have the first of the outer borders onto my quilt before it went to Scotland and I am going to use my new technique for doing it. However when I pinned it on (or tried to) it was too short. I was very upset but headed to the bath to console myself. As ever, my best ideas are had in the bath. Had it been the right length, the way I have quilted it would mean I couldn't get the last two borders on. It would have been a real disaster. As it is it will work perfectly. How weird is that? So I will very proudly show my latest quilt, very unfinished and in two pieces as the talk on Saturday. At least it gives me something else to talk about. For those of you who can't make the talk (and why not Scotland is lovely and it really isn't that far) I will post some pictures either while I am there or when I get back. I am hoping to find lots of inspiration while I am there, I think if I am very lucky I might get to two castles which would be great. I am told the landscape in that area (Crathes) is good too, so who knows what I might find. I wonder if there are any local shaggy cattle. I would love to do a quilt of them.

Quilts on display in America

I finally got access to some of my email, although outgoing is still a problem, and I was amazed to find people have seen my quilts. I knew I had quilts in America (you do tend to notice) but I had not expected these two to be on display for a couple more weeks. Apparently "Node with Rope" (they renamed it for me :) and "Guide Me" were on display at Pennsylvania National Quilt Extravaganza in Harrisburg. It is the first stop of the World Quilt Sow this year. How cool is that? On the other hand neither of them were wearing ribbons, so it could have been cooler. Still I have a picture of my nude at the show and "Guide Me" was too popular for them to be able to get a picture. That's a fantastic thing to be told. At least as good as it's got a ribbon. So thank you to the ladies who sent me the reports, if you would like to send me your postal addresses I would like to send you a little something each.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008


I've finished one of the outer borders for the quilt I showed you, and I am thrilled with it. OK I couldn't go far wrong in my eyes given I am using silver bias tape on black background to make knots, but still, I am very pleased with it. I also found time to make a test piece (yes really) for the quilt as you go technique I have thought up. It worked exactly as I expected and I like it. I think it could be very versatile, and I have to admit I am going to use it got the outer border of this quilt, even thought it won't appear until my next book. The technique I had been going to use would work fine, but I need the very fine strip anyway so I might as well do it this way. I can't see me getting all four outer borders on before I go, each knot takes nearly 2 hours and I will need 12 of the on the long sides plus 4 corner knots (these should be a lot quicker). Still I should have one on with will be enough to give people the idea. I have decided that I will take this quilt with me for my talk at the regional day. I am not going to be able to take as many quilts as usual so I want try and take some special things to make up for it. Besides they really need to be pieces I can talk about for a while, or I will run out of things to say.

I'm finding I am more nervous about doing talks and teaching so far from home, than I have been about closer ones. I should say that close is a relative term but somehow this feels further. I guess it is to do with having to fly to get there. The daft thing is I am not sure why this should be any different to working closer to home. I will have to be a lot more selective about what I take with me, but I really aught to be able to do that. I don't know where I could puck up emergency supplies if I do forget something, but as I will be staying with a quilter, I can't imagine what I might need that I can't borrow. I can only assume this is one of those things where the human mind is not entirely helpful. Maybe this nagging (but irrational) doubt is why a lot of people don't like working further afield. I suspect that once I have done it and proved the voice wrong it will give up. I will let you know.

I guess I aught to get some sleep. Tomorrow I have to try and figure out how to write lesson plans without proper computers. I am sure I will figure out something, but it may not be elegant.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Server still down

Our server has eaten it's power supply and our spare. I will be fetching it another one today but I will not be back up and running until at least tonight. This assumes that the mother board is OK, which we won't know until we can get a power supply to work. You can contact me by phone.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Shopping should not be exciting

At least not just going to the supermarket. However when your car won't start and you have under an hour to move it before collecting a 50 pound fine it does get more thrilling, and no not in a good way. I decided that I could push it out of the car park on my own, however I couldn't then stop it rolling down a steep hill onto the main road. Fortunately a local friend was home and able to come and give me a hand. Of course I managed to get the car started once help was on it's way. These things certainly have an interesting sense of humor.

This delay, and chatting to the very helpful friend kept me busy a lot longer than I had planned, so I haven't got all the borders on the quilt yet. However I have now got the last pieced border on which is all stars. I really like where this quilt is going. I am trying to decide the best way to transition from the patterned black area to plain black. I need the outermost border to be plain as I am going to put more applique on it and I want my work to be visible. I just think than going from one to the other might feel a bit jarring. On the other hand it worked well enough in the center. Sorry the picture isn't as clear as usual. I was working on my phone and I guess I was shaking more than I thought (and I suspect the background fabric is quite tricky to photograph as well). It looked OK on my phone, but not so great here. Still I am sure I will have my computer back soon and then I can put up a better picture. As yet if you need to get in touch please do phone me.

I had been going to reply to a couple of my Scottish students. Yes I do have kits and will be bringing them with me. if you search here for swan and rose (separately) you should come up with some pictures of the samples. Tropical Punch is one of the samples for the Touched By Scotland class.

Sneak preview

Well I think I've been hiding this for quite long enough. I have been working on this quilt (on and off) all year and so far it's been hiding. Now it is almost done I've just got to show someone. This is the sample I made for my book. Most of my students have stopped at this stage, but I want this one to be bed sized so I am adding another couple of borders before the final one. It does mean I am going to have a lot more work in my outer border but I think it will be worth it. Hopefully I can get at least the next border on tomorrow, maybe I can get all of them on if not finished.

I really should be working on samples for next terms lessons. I think I have come up with two new to me techniques which, if they work out, I will be able to share. Obviously I need to take time to play with them before I teach them. So many ideas, so little time.

The trip to Ikea turned out to have a quilty flavour. I managed to find a frame big enough for one of my prints (without needing a mortgage) and it turns out to be accomodating enough to take actual quilts. Large deep frames are generally too expensive for me to play with so I am very happy with this find. Also they have plastic containers with a hook designered to hang in the kitchen. They are 49p each and are very handy for scissors in my fabric room, and pens at the drawing board. They may also find a place at my new cutting table when I get that far.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

The place to be in London on a Saturday night

I'll admit I'm weird. Sometimes I get a craving for Swedish meatballs and their sauce. I live reasonably close to Ikea so it's something I can at least fix without flying to Sweden. Usually the food shop can supply me but it's been out of stock recently. I thought about coming for lunch today, then sanity kicked in. You don't go to Ikea in the middle of a rainy Saturday, that would be very silly. However my need for meatballs hasn't gone so I figured by dinner time the store wouldn't be too bad. After all anyone less sad than me would have a life and many better things to do on a Saturday evening than have dinner at Ikea right? Wrong, very very wrong. I have never seen it so busy. Apparently this is where you take your loved ones for dinner now. Still I suppose it will mean my dinner hasn't been sitting keeping warm for hours, if and when I eventually get it.

Dead computers everywhere

Just in case anyone is trying to get in touch, I have a very sick network. We think one of our servers isn't talking but it isn't a simple fix. So I am largely out of touch until at least late tomorrow. If you need to get in touch more urgently please phone me. My number is on my website there is a link to the right.

I guess without the computer to distract me, or indeed let me do any more paperwork, I can get on with sewing. I spent a lot of yesterday working on finishing the sample from my book. Maybe today I will get it done. At least I managed to check my quilts had arrived before it all went wrong.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Herd Mentality

Yay, it's arrived. Well at least Fedex are showing it as delivered in Houston. So until and unless I hear otherwise I am going to assume it is reasonably safe for the moment. Now I've just got to keep my fingers crossed for a few weeks. Also I think the world quilt show starts soon, so I need to cross another set of fingers for that.

All quilts shipped

Well they've all gone. On time too, just. Yesterday the two for Edinburgh left and Herd Mentality headed for Houston. Today my entry went off the Hever. Sadly I think I will miss the show at Hever. I think I will be in Scotland, so I will be looking forward to a picture of the other challenge quilt. This is a very small challenge that was set to me last year. A grand total of two of us entered. I hope mine will look OK. It;'s somehow a lot more scary with with only two of us in the class. As far as I know it isn't judged, but I am very curious as to the other entry. So please do feel free to send me pictures from the show. I will confess that mine would have had more hand sewing if I could have managed it, but I am very slow by hand, even slower than I had thought, so it has gone as is.

I also delivered the last of the wedding quilts today. Another happy customer and hopefully another happy couple.

Monday, September 01, 2008

One more quilt done

You've got to love piped bindings. They may not be the solution to every problem but for some quilts (especially those you need yesterday) it's great. If you haven't tried it you might like to get yourself a copy of Grand Finale a DVD by Ricky Tims. I was going to point you at his online shop but apparently he is filming at the moment so his shop is shut. Anyway it's a great technique which allows you to complete the binding by machine. Even better the piping looks like a much harder and more time consuming binding even though it is quicker and easier. Neat huh. Now I need to get back to quilting my Hever entry. I would like to have the binding on that today as there is some hand stitching I want to do before it goes. Yes you did hear that right. I want to hand sew!

International Shipping

Argh. Maybe I should just give up on entering quilt shows. I can't believe how complex it is to ship a quilt through customs and back. OK it is being made harder by me wanting in insure it for more than $45 and the show wanting me to use that as it's value. I've talked to so many people about how to do this, and frankly I am none the wiser. I could spend about 1000 pounds to get it a passport. I may then be required to pay the full value of the quilt to US customs to get it into their country, although I might get it back when it comes home. I can't afford that. I could send it out on a temporary export, exactly like I have done every other time, but then I would need to give a sensible value on the customs form to insure it. The show doesn't think that is a good idea. I could ship it with no insurance and hope. Oh and I've been warned that when you tell US customs something is of no commercial value they like to cut the corner off just to be sure. Guess what I am supposed to put on the form. So send it uninsured with an invitation to cut it up. It's not sounding like something I want to do. Of course I don't have anything better to be doing, I love trying to figure out a way to get around three different sets of rules at the same time. No really I do.