Friday, November 18, 2011

Mead quilters, start of a long week

The picture today is from my talk on Tuesday night at Mead Quilters. This is one of the groups local to Patchwork Corner so full of ladies I know and work with. Having been to them before I was desperate to show them something new and I had a particular somthing in mind, the new wholecloth. Of course that meant I needed to finish it. I thought I would get it done over the weekend but other things had to be done and by Monday I was worried. Monday night I admitted defeat. Then I realised the van was pretty much loaded, and the talk was fairly close to home. Back to quilting. I had about 10 minutes to spare but the quilt came with me. One of my friends even held it for me during the talk so I got to see it as well.

As I said this was the start of a long week. Wednesday and Thursday were regular classes which pretty much fill the day. Today I'm heading north to collect a new to me motorhome. When I get back tonight. I will probably be preparing it for the weekend when I am giving a talk in Cambridgeshire followed by a workshop on Sunday. Monday is seeing a supplier then Tuesday-Thursday I am at Patchwork Corner teaching again. I'm hoping to fit some customer quilting in around that lot somehow. Tuesday is good news, I will be teaching Art Quilts by Numbers, and last week I ws sure it wouldn't go ahead, then suddenly it's almost full! Cool, it's a fun class and one of the repeat students is doing something a little different and very exciting. I hope I will be able to share a picture or two.

I've also really enjoyed the cathadral windows classes. The idea was to teach an in depth technique class, but we've all learned so much more. Last night I was really pleased to hear people planning ways to use the techniques, which iswhat I was aiming for, but there were also people adjusting their cutting and 1/4" seams. They were spotting their own problems and fixing them. I think that is great, becuase it tells me they have the problem solving skills they need when they are at home. I hope some of them do play with their ideas, and that they share the results.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The ugly duckling

I thought I should share a picture of the ugly quilt I mentioned. I couldn't get all of it in but this probably gives you the idea. No it's not a great looking quilt. I do think it will be a handy teaching tool as it would have looked far better if it had at least been random rather than ordered. It will also be warm once it is finished and on the bed. I took the picture with it laid out on the bed tonight. On top of a quilt made from 30 least loved (OK actively disliked in most cases) batiks. Which I made to test a pattern I though looked horrible. That quilt is on the bed because I love it. It's one of my all time favourites. Under that is another test quilt. That one wasn't such a success. I was playing with patterns for jelly rolls and found the result was too random to really work. So I then used the quilt top to test out a new wadding (bamboo, I love it). It works fine on the bed and keeps me warm at night thus making it a good and successful quilt. I love my show quilts but I have no problem with those who don't really make the grade. I get something out of all of them. You never know once the ugly duckling has borders and quilting (maybe applique?) we may all feel differently about it.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Productive day

Today has almost gone to plan and we have achieved a huge amount. I didn't get to go and see any potential new vans because most of the sellers were out of contact. We did however go and pick up our van which is much happier now. In fact the work seems to have solved several problems we hadn't been able to track down, which is a great bonus. I think the garage were glad to see the back of it. They did an awful lot of work for the money they charged us.

I also managed to pick up a second thermal t-shirt. Every year I look for them and for women you mostly get cap sleeves or vests. I really wanted a proper t-shirt. I found one that works well at Go Outdoors. It's not a store I really like but they do have a few very useful items. These thermal shirts are now on the list. They were a bit more expensive than I would have liked but they save on fuel bills so in the long run I think they will prove to be a good investment.

I've also made good progress with my wholecloth. I am really getting desperate to get it off the frame but it is so close to done I want to finish it first. I think there is a real chance I will have it as as finished as it is going to be by the end of tomorrow. It may well get one more visit to the frame as there are a couple of areas I may add more stitching to but I want to get a good look at it before I decide. In fact I will be heading down to get a bit more done before bed tonight. I am getting quite excited about seeing it now.

There has been progress on the fractal quilt patterns, which I am hoping to launch at Quiltfest in February. We have been looking at what extras we can add to the patterns to cram in as much value for the quilters as we can. We have also changed format in which should make them easier to use. Of course that change means a lot more typesetting work for Tet to do, but hopefully it will pan out in the end.

Anyway, I've finished dinner now (yup I I have to multi task if I am going to get this wholecloth done) so I aught to leave this computer alone and get back to the longarm. Keep getting in touch with cheap ways to have fun while we wait out the economy. I'll try and share some more ideas soon.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Shock headline

You may not have noticed but times are hard. People are short of cash and businesses are struggling. The real shock is complaining about it isn't going to change it. Unfair I know but life isn't often fair so I guess we shouldn't be surprised. Feeling more positive may actually help though, so what plans have you got for getting through tough times with a bit of fun and creativity?

I'm planning quilts, I know, you're surprised, but think about this. One of the problems with less cash is paying the bills. Fuel of all kinds has gone up so using less is a good plan. More quilts helps that. I am trying to keep the heating down while wrapping up warm. However spending money on lots of fabric probably isn't on the cards either so time to use up scraps and recycle old textiles into new warmth. I'm not thinking these will be show winning quilts, but they will be fun, quick and serve a purpose. In fact I already have one ugly duckling nearly ready to quilt. I was testing and idea, and I've learned a lot from the test. Some of my students who have seen it are surprised I intend to finish it and sling it on the bed, but when I'm asleep I can't see what it looks like so who cares? If it really bothers me I will put a prettier one on top of it. Warm is warm whatever it looks like.

My scrap boxes are pretty big and very full, so I think they may need to turn into a quilt too. I think they would like to be a smaller quilt suitable for the motor home. I don't have many small quilts and I don't really want to make a huge one with tiny pieces. I may be crazy but there are limits right? The other source of fabric that is looking really tempting is old clothes. I never manage to wear out all the fabric so I may as well put the good bits to use. It's been an idea on the back burner for a while but two things recently have got me thinking about projects for old clothes. Firstly a friend was considering what to do with old but much loved t-shirts. She doesn't sew much and wouldn't be looking to invest much money in it so a traditional t-shirt quilt isn't going to work for her. Then I got a magazine in the post, called Cloth, which has lots of simple projects in it and got me thinking about non sewing approaches to making things. Now I have a head full of new designs I want to try. I'll be sharing how they go as I try them out. OK if they are a disaster I may not share so much :)

Now it's your turn. What have you got planed to keep busy and hopefully happy while money is tight?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Frayed, I'll show you frayed!

Well cathadral windows have been interesting. I was expecting the idea of hand sewing to get mixed reviews and it did. I hadn't expected the fraying competition though. The most interesting part however has been the cutting. A lot of my students have been surprised how long cutting out takes them (why do you think I try to hide it in most of my projects?) They have also noticed for themselves that it isn't easy to be really accurate. Even though we have been starching the fabric before cutting, material moves, and where exactly you line up your ruler matters. Interestingly two of the beginners have had great results, so I guess when we start out we think more about what we are doing. From my point of view it is great to see so many of the students can spot when a square is off now. That too is a skill and for quilters it's just as useful as knowing how to cut well in the first place. The quicker you can spot an error the sooner you can fix it. We have also fouid some fabrics that shrink a lot. Most quilt fabrics I've worked with recently have been pretty good but one lady forgot to starch beforew cutting so did it after. That should have been OK she is a good presser but none of her blocks were square. The 6" squares were consistantly 5 3/4" x 6". So she assumed she had miss cut them all. It can happen. Then we realised it couldn't, well not in this case. She used the shape cut plus ruler to cut her squares. It's a fantastic ruler with slots in that makes cutting a lot quicker and easier, but it only cuts in 1/2" increments unless you reposition your fabric for each cut. You can't accidently be 1/4" out. It turns out that her fabric shrinks 1/4" over 6". That's 4% shrinkage, over something like a quilt back that could really cause a problem. I think I will be starching more of my fabrics just to encourage out the shrinkage. I suppose it's a good reason to buy batiks and multicolour prints too as they will have been processed enough to shrink them as much as they can.

Now I am just waiting for my second class of the day who are onto the machine sen sample tonight. Hopefully last weeks practice will have got them really precise and not having to use the four letter word (hand) will make them much happier. I'm looking forward to it, I wonder if they are?

Monday, November 07, 2011

Fuax Trapunto workshop

It seems this photo didn't make it through email so I am putting it up here for my students. There are three pieces to this class which I made up as a wall hanging. It has proved quite tricky to photograph and this is the best I've managed so far. Hopefully it will be good enough to give an idea of what we will be doing.

Somewhat Frustrated

I feel I've been neglecting you guys but I can't think of anything to blog. I've mostly been working on my big wholecloth which I am trying desperately to get finished. I know the unveiling at Quiltfest will be the best option, I know that photos won't come close to capturing this quilt but given it's what I am working on what can I share.

You could take a look at motorhomes on ebay :) I've done a lot of that recently but it isn't very exciting, well not when you have a budget and need a petrol one. Our van is still awaiting parts and it's surprising how much I miss it even when I am not travelling. The number of time recently the answer to where is, has been in the van. Still it should be a much happier van when it comes home. It's the lack of heating and the 2 weeks in Wales in February that really have me looking for another one.

I've also been working on a new series of classes for textured blocks. My Thursday classes are currently working on cathedral windows blocks and each term we will do another set of three technique blocks. Some of them will just make samples, some will make cushions and the rest of us are aiming for a quilt. I think my one will take me a while as the hand sewing really doesn't agree with my shoulders at all. I haven't quite decided what these classes will become. They make be patterns or workshops or I suppose another book. I guess I will have to wait and see.

As well as a stack of customer quilts awaiting my attention I am also planning new quilts for Quiltfest. I can't go to Wales with only one Dragon can I? I'd like to have another 3 made by February but even by my estimates that is going to be tight. I will just have to see how far I can get I suppose. At least I know I can fill the space whatever. In fact the bigger problem we are having is how to fit my quilts in :) I will learn to work smaller one day honest, just not today.

I also have new toys I want to sit and play with. There are cutting needles for my sewing machine and two new ranges of fabric just begging for my attention. You can see why the blog is having a hard time can't you? Oh well back to the current pressing problem, finishing Promtheus.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Village quilters - I hadn't forgotten you

I have been slow getting this post written and I hope you will forgive me. I made great time getting home thanks to being sent off a little early to miss rush hour. I also got some extra traffic news from a professional driver in the area which kept me out of the worst jam. Having a box of munchies for the trip home didn't hurt either. I wish I had got a picture of the lunch table before we attacked it. It was impressive and this group has several very good cooks. The mince pies were really special and I look forward to trying Ruth's carrot cake on a future visit.

Despite the warnings about the area I was struck by the obvoius effort being made in the community. I'd head about the boarded up estates and imagined the desolate council estates I've seen elsewhere. That's not the case here, the estate I drove past has clearly been a good place to live but no jobs means no money and ultimately no people. It's very sad. The hall I was teaching in was the first community center I've really seen working for the community. People were popping into other rooms for coffee and a chat, the place felt alive, I wish more did. As you can see it's a great venue. Large, light and with heating that is possibly too efficient.

The workshop was my tulips class again (what are the odds of two groups so close together doing the same class?) and the ladies did really well with it. They quickly settled into the rhythm of the technique and were keen to try editing their designs as they went along. Something I like to see in my classes is students helping eacxh other, it usually means at least some of them are confident with the technique. It's quite funny to hear your words repeated word for word and often with pretty much the same intonation but the best thing is when another student can convince someone their work is good and help them out when I've not been able to. That sometimes needs a friend to manage it and I really appreciate when it happens. Quilter seem to be very hard on themselves. They expect to master new techniques instantly. Fortunately they don't have such high standards for their friends and that can make all the difference. I'm hoping that some of the ladies will sent in some pictures of their finished pieces, the quilts were coming along well on the day so who knows, maybe some are finished by now.

Thanks for the great day and I hope I will be back up there sometime soon. Next trip I will have fish and chips too. I can't believe I was so close to the sea and didn't get fish and chips. Hopeless. I will do better.