Thursday, December 31, 2009

Last update

Well this is as far as I will get this year. I finished the background fill in the middle and all the line work is done. Have a good new year.

Darn the photo looked in focus on my phone, sorry. I will try better tomorrow.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Back to quilting

I took a couple of days off over the Christmas period, but I still managed to do some crafty things. Notably I knitted a scarf. Not impressed? What if I tell you I knitted it in the car between London and Winchester services? A student gave me a ball of wool that was a scarf in a ball and I thought it wuld be a fun distraction in the car. It took me a while to get the hang of knitting with it. I knit with a tight tension and this wool spaces you to quite loose tension (it's a pom pom wool) I think this and the speed it grows would make it a great beginners project. Once I got into the swing of it it went really well and it's a very snuggly scarf.

That was Christmas eve and for the next couple of days I played board games and only thought about quilts. I was getting bored and would have started piecing but I am very low on black fabric so none of my designs was viable. By yesterday I was desperate to be quilting. Holidays are all very well but it means there is a lot of work to do before and after and I need to finish my quilt on the frame before I can do customers quilts. I made what looks like good headway with that quilt. I did a lot of outline work, in fact I think that is nearly finished. Of course the filler is what takes the time so it's not as much progress as I would like but every little helps. I doubt I will get to work on it today, but I should tomorrow.

Monday, December 21, 2009


Finally, we've got a white midwinter. We had considered going abroad to find one, but anywhere with guaranteed snow was out of our price range. Just as well, as we'd have been really miffed to have spent the money and found out we could have stayed at home. I've been getting excited for a few days now, as The Met Office have been forecasting heavy snow for today, but yesterday they downgraded the forecast to sleet. At least when I woke up this morning, there was still snow on the ground.

After a traditional festive breakfast of scrambled eggs and gravadlax and Coke Zero (I forgot to buy any orange juice), we thought it would be a good idea to visit one of our favourite shops, Leisure Games in Finchley. As we left, it was just starting to rain. We discussed whether, as the temperature dropped, the rain might turn to snow, but even if it did, with so much water on the ground, there was no real chance of it settling. As we arrived in Finchley, we were proved right. The rain had indeed turned to snow, but wasn't settling.

Games shopping is much like fabric shopping. You have to inspect every item in the shop, make a selection, realise it's entirely wrong and start again, but eventually, we left with a moderate armful of games. It was still snowing, as we left the shop and surprisingly, it had started to settle. By the time we reached the car, it was definitly settled, which was unfortunate, given the tight turns and steep ramps of the car park, and the prospect of a route home with several significant hills. It's been very beautiful and festive, but 3 hours and less than 10 miles later, I'm still driving (no, I'm not typing, Tet is).

I would quite like to get home now. We had food and drink in the car, but its bathroom facilities are sorely lacking. Should I have stayed at home? Nah! It's been great, despite (or perhaps because of) some hairy sideways moments, and one extremely slippery roundabout. Hopefully it will only be another half hour or so before I'm reunited with modern plumbing.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Slowly very slowly

So here is todays update. I unwound it so I could get a better look at it, and of course that made it too big to photograph. Oh well. I have tried not to over do it today so I haven't got as much further as I would like. I have worked on another project a little though. I want a new coat and I have had half a plan for something quite flamboyant for a while. Now I would say it is about 80% of a plan. I've ordered the extra fabrics I need (I have quite a dressmaking stash) and when I need another break I may start work on the pattern adjustments. Lots to do, so little time.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Still progressing

As you can see I am making slow but steady progress on this quilt. It really isn't something you can rush (and I have tried believe me) it will be done when it is good and ready, not before. I think I might be half way now, but I'm not certain. I guess I won't know for sure where I am until I've done :) As you can see it has got to the point where the area I want to work on in one lump is bigger than I can see at one time. It's more frustrating when I am working on something free form, I can only see it in my head with no guides at all to compare to. It's taking more faith than most of my work, and I usually have some sort of map to work to, but hopefully it's simple enough to come out OK when it's done.

I got my copies of Down Under Quilting in the post. It's a good feeling magazine and I am really thrilled with the article in it. It is also available as a very well thought out online magazine, if you feel like saving some trees and postage.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Doesn't look like much but...

Progress is very slow on this one, but it is progressing. This is where I got to before lunch. I would guess another days work would get me to the half way point, so the bigger version will probably take over a month of solid work. I think it might be time to buy zippers for my leaders. I can't take a whole month off customer quilts and to be honest it's sufficiently hard work that I don't really want to work on it for that long without a break.

Skinning a quilt

This is the video I was talking about that will teach you how to skin a quilt. If I have two layers of wadding I will work between the layers to try and reduce the risk to my quilt top and back.

I don't have her funky little tool, I use a very sharp knife. I works very well especially on the tight little stitches you can't get at any other way. I have a feeling those used to skinning other things will have an advantage with this technique, let me know. Please do be careful with sharp blades. I am amazed how many quilters are very casual with them. To be good for cutting fabric or threads (and especially this techniques) the blade does have to be very sharp. The sort of sharp where you probably won't feel it cut you, you'll just see the blood. None of us like getting blood on our quilts so make sure you pay attention to where you are putting your blade.

Backside and progress

Two pictures for you tonight (this morning?) This first one is the back of the quilt that has spent the day occupying our bedroom. It is Phoenix Rising, now happily rolled up and almost ready to ship to Road to California. I love the back of this quilt because not only can you see the quilting but you can see that is was put together feather by feather, and where the feathers overlap so does the quilting. Of course when the quilt is at shows very few get to appreciate it, especially as the best of the quilting is high up. If I get a chance I will try and photograph the whole of the back, but it won't be for a while.

Here we have the quilt I am currently playing on on the frame. As you can see the feathers are growing and the background filling. It's slow work and I am now on my third needle. I haven't been breaking them just wearing them out. I also realised today that there is as much thread in this small pieces as I usually use on a double bed quilt. Given I have only quilted a piece about 12"x80" that's a lot of thread. It's also very hard work, lots of very small movements with a big machine is good exercise. I'm glad I will be seeing my osteopath next week. I can certainly tell I am learning a lot with this one, which is good as the next is already planned and I think I have the fabric to make it too. I will have a break between this one and that though as I will need a rest after this. I have several customer quilts that will be a nice change, and even pretty detailed work is going to seem quick for a while.

Monday, December 14, 2009

We do the impossible

and before breakfast too! I can't block large quilts, we just don't have the space. Our biggest rooms are about the same size as my quilts and strangely they are full of furniture, who would have thought it. There isn't room for us to take the furniture out of one room and move it to another. So how do you block a large quilt? Well you buy a lot of thick polystyrene boards and lay them out on the bed and overhanging all the way around. Of course this does mean that once you are on the opposite side of the room to the door the only way back is to wriggle on your belly around the end of the bed under the boards. Half way through the escape I did wonder why the army train for blocking quilts. You really don't need a fit of giggles when trying to wriggle through a tight space with lots of turns. We also discovered that there is a limit to how far you can reach and accurately place a pin. The limit being about 3" less than you need, typical. Still it's done and it looks great. Hopefully it will dry during the day and we will be able to go to bed tonight, if not the sofa will have to be dug out from the pile of quilts waiting to be quilted, or I could just sleep under the longarm.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Speak or stay silent

I belong to several mail list, mostly quilt related. When I first joined I listened, I tried to soak up the feel of the lists. When I felt I had I understood the lists I started posting to join in with the community. Now I write two or three posts per list per day when I have time at my computer. However I send maybe one per month. Why? Well I can't figure out the rules for most of the lists any more. Actually I can figure out a lot of rules. So many that I can't see what you can safely post to some of these lists.

One rule I think I understand is no commercial posts. Many lists are funded by advertising so it makes sense that if you want to advertise you should pay. Should you also remove the link to your website from you signature? What about the link to your blog, or talking about your blog, or providing a link to a piece of your work which is on your business site? Well that depends, on who is reading on what day and how they feel. Should those who make money from their quilting even join these lists? Is it OK if they only read and don't post?

What about going off topic? Personally if the group allows it and it's marked in the subject line, I don't mind but in some places it causes a lot of problems. Should the group set rules to prohibit anything off topic (then how close do we have to stay to the topic to be safe?) or should the members understand that some others don't like them and just stop out of concern for the rest. Then again should the objectors tolerate it for the benefit of those who do want to discuss issues further afield.

What if a quilt (or indeed a customer interaction) could be seen as racial, political or religious by another group member does this then become taboo on an otherwise quilt focused list?

Maybe you can start to see why I don't post much. This has been a very bad couple of weeks for 'rules' appearing. I say it like that as none of the lists seem to have these 'rules' and yet they should be obeyed. Tricky if you don't know what they are. Your best guess from yesterday may be utterly out of date by tomorrow when your message is read, so it's a lot easier to keep quiet. Saying nothing offends no one. Of course it helps no one either. I wonder how many have given up, losing one voice on a list doesn't matter. Losing 2 or 3 isn't really a big deal either, but I'm pretty good at speaking my mind, and I've shut up. that suggests to me a heck of a lot of quieter and more timid people have too. People who probably have a lot to share. In my experience quiet people listen and learn, so are a font of information, if only others will give them a safe place to share. Of course that then puts me in the same place all the other list subscribers who make new 'rules'. Just like them I want the list to deliver what I want and like them I think it will be for the good of many if not all.

This brings me to the point of the post. Just because I am a member of a group doesn't mean I get any say in how it behaves, I have no more rights than the next person, and if it doesn't fit me it's time to move and find something that is a better fit. I don't know if groups just bicker more this time of year, but it seems to be one of my close of the year traditions, a cull of mail lists and groups. This year it looks like there are plenty that I can do without, although I will miss some of them and wish for a more live and let live attitude, I think I will be happier without the stresses. On the other hand this year I have discovered a couple of really good groups too. Mostly by members visiting this blog and leading me to them. To the friendly and accepting groups, thank you, and I hope you keep your wonderful atmosphere.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Current insanity

This may be one of those seemed like a good idea at the time type projects. In fact the time it seemed like a good idea might have only been the bit before I started but who knows, it may get better. There are some good points to this project, the main one being it is smaller than the one I really wanted to make. With the amount of work involved that could be claimed as a sure sign of good sense except the only reason it isn't bigger is that I couldn't find a bigger piece of fabric that would work with the idea. This is also the second take, I've already had to unpick once. Boy am I glad I found the video on skinning a quilt. It was a lot easier than any other method I've found.

I am also very pleased to be trying this idea. It is hard work and I am having to learn new skills, but it is so much better than just sitting thinking about it. It will be interesting to see how much I improve over the course of the project. I am hoping when I need to quilt the focal points I will have improved enough to make a good job of them. I have at least learned one thing I don't like so won't repeat somewhere more prominent. Now I guess I should go and do a bit more quilting on it. Tomorrow I won't get much quilting done as I will be teaching 10 others to do it down in Putney. I am sure we will have a lot of fun, and I will get to rest my shoulders.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Pretty goodies

Here are the goodies I was talking about. Calendars, notebooks and mugs. The calendars have a different quilt for each month. I tried to get in lots of my new quilts and kept a few old favourites. The mug has nude with rope on it, going most of the way around the mug. If you want to orde any of these items please ues the contact me link to the right.

My article in Down Under Quilts has come out, and seemed to have been well received. It is available not only as a traditional magazine but also as a digital subscription. I haven't been a fan of digital magazines, but they have managed to get the feel of looking a magazine. You can flip pages and look closer easily. It's a fun magazine well worth a look. I am out and about at the moment so can't supply a link but if you search for the title, Down Under Quilts, you will find it.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Banks, and goodies.

Hmm, I feel I have to post about banks given the amount of time and energy they suck from me, but I'm not sure if I should be praising or cursing mine at the moment. My bank account has been a catalog of errors, culminating in me being totally locked out of my account on the 1st December. That's pretty bad right. I was given a few possible solutions, none of which were likely to work, but today I went into the bank to try and sort it out. The first person I spoke to remembered me from my last visit (trying to fix a different and still unresolved set of problems) and correctly identified this had gone beyond anything she could fix and need to be handed over to a manager. Which she did as quickly as she could. He was helpful and fixed most of my problems, some we decided to leave as fixing them would cause more issues, some he can't fix, as the bank doesn't allow him to. Overall I now have a working bank account again, some services that have never worked now will, and I can get at my money. On the other hand, it has taken up a lot of time to get back to just mostly working. Hence my dilemma, good or bad?

On the other hand I was very late getting to the bank as every time I tried to leave the house I got another book order in. From that point of view it has been an amazing day. Other than it being a far better use of my time to post lots of books at once (at the great self service machine) it's lovely to know so many people want to buy my book. I am definitely making a dent in the book mountain. Thank you all for the orders and please do send me pictures of your finished quilts I would love to see what you do with the ideas.

I will also be trying to add some new merchandise to my web site this weekend. I have mugs with 'Nude with Rope' on them for eight pounds each, wall calendars, and desk calendars eight and five pounds respectively with a picture of a different quilt every month and A5 notebooks with my blue nude on them. They have been selling to quickly for me to get pictures of them, but more arrived this morning so I should manage to get some pictures before they all head off again. Finally, for those who like my pencils, I will be adding those for sale too, at 10p each. If you are ordering anything else, put a note on that you would like a pencil or two and I will put them in for free.

Now I think it is time to do some quilting. Starting your day at 5.30pm is a bit sad really isn't it.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Quilt on the frame

This is what is currently on the frame. It is a sample for a pattern I have written, which should be available early next year. I've had the top waiting to quilting for a while and as I needed a breather from demanding quilts I thought I would get it done. After all I need it finished to put on the pattern. I have already quilted one sample of the pattern with feathers in the spots so I wanted something different for this one. I've put a different filler in each colour of spot on the quilt and in the black areas I am making different borders with the quilting. I got about two thirds of the way though yesterday, which was pretty good, but I would like to have if finished for tomorrow lunch time. It's not likely, but I have found someone to do binding or me and it would have been nice to hand it over to her. I guess after the months it has already waited another week isn't going to matter.

The wadding in the quilt is wool, Dream Wool to be precise, which is the wool it the holiday quilt as well. Sorry that took a while to find out. The label was in a safe place and took some extracting.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Road 2 California

I finally gave in and called them. They are usually very prompt with notifications and I was getting really worried that my entries might not have got through even to the jury process (I had some issues getting them submitted). However the entries did make it, and were considered. Two of my three quilts have been accepted for the show. Phoenix Rising and Mother will be going to the show, so I had better sort them out with labels and get them packed up. Bad Rain unfortunately didn't make it. It's a shame I thought it would fit in well there, but they have said that this year they had to reject quilts they would have liked to have had due to time and space restrictions, so I don't think I can feel too hard done by. At least now I can stop worrying about it.