Sunday, 18 March 2018

Practice Makes Perfect - Sort of;)

I was in the unusual situation of not having any customer quilts waiting to be done so I decided to push on with what happens in my DWR borders. They have been keeping me awake at night, as I have trying and failing to figure out how to piece them. I guess I could work out the maths eventually but I think I will have to just cheat and wing it with invisible appliqué since I just don’t have acres of border fabric and I have already spent £150 on the materials for the top alone. I made 4 wiggly pieced borders, turned under the edges and will attempt to put the quilt top together next week. Any printing of iconic Russian women can either be added later or abandoned if necessary. I did a test-run with a paper print of Jimi Hendrix using Modge-Podge but it was a messy disaster so the only way forward will be thermofax screens or linocuts. 

Since I had some down-time, I took the opportunity to do some practice ruler work on a simple quilt pattern by Iva Steiner that I got from Regina in Germany. I am always telling students to practise while never getting around to it myself. It was a fun project but it made me think that I really should use a much finer thread for back-tracking so I guess I will be placing an order from Madeira for the DWR quilt. 

I gave a talk for Thistle Quilters in Edinburgh at the weekend and pulled out some quilts that have not seen the light of day for a while. It is always surprising to rediscover what is stored away in boxes. I did not take the Coracle as it is such a bulky item to cart around but I did take a large Totem and Purdah - and a bicycle that I had sold on Ebay! The audience always enjoys my invitation to rummage through the quilts when I give a talk so they can examine the stitching and actually feel the textures of the more unusual fabrics. 

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Experiments Don't Pay Bills

If experimenting paid the bills then I would be unbelievably rich! Let’s just say that I did a lot of thinking and experimenting then feeling guilty for not seeming to be more productive. I think it will be useful - eventually. I spent quite a lot of time on Youtube trying to figure out the best way of printing ghost-like photos onto my DWR’s navy borders. I managed to transfer very faint images using acetate and hand-gel but they disappeared when ironed so that won’t work. I have a couple of other methods to test out before I ditch that idea. Thermofax screens are partly the safest bet so I tried out the Print Gocco gadget with reasonable results.

This DWR quilt has led to more angst than I can remember for a while. It’s quite tricky to have a vision but not a pIan - why does this sound familiar?! I finally got the body of it together, not particularly enjoying some Y seams where the squares met. Not being a clever dress-maker, I could not work out how to insert some extra scallops around the edges so I will resort to some painful appliqué involving what seems like 500 miles of bias tape that I have made. I am planning on adding some chains of curved sections in the border somehow so I had to make a trip out to Rainbow Fabrics in Old Meldrum to get some more of the lapis lazuli / malachite blues and greens. 

For so-called light relief I finished the tiny Fancy Forest firefly and 2 other mutant versions. There were a couple of times when I picked up the wrong pieces and had to wriggle my way out of a muddle. After that I made a jacket for a syrup tin for no particularly good reason. 

I have no customer quilts to do this week so I will try to make good use of my time. I still have a lot to learn about Qmatic and if all else fails and I run out of purposeful activities, I will load an unfinished quilt top and simply do some quilting practice!

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Almost Like a Zombie Apocalypse

I paid attention to the weather forecast and sensibly stocked up on essential groceries before it started snowing. It was very cold and I kept the wood stove stoked all day but it was almost sub-zero out in my workshop. I have seen more snow in my part of the world in past winters but some parts of the UK were badly affected. However, the TV news could hardly have been more sensational if there had been an actual zombie apocalypse. My kids had 3 days off school which they enjoyed, despite the bickering. Bumble was definitely happy to wear her fleecy jumper!

I never feel as though I get much work done during a snow week but luckily the power stayed on and I made good progress on a really jolly seaside quilt which received lots of ruler work and whimsical fillers. I even managed to fit in a straightforward flannel quilt, complete with binding. 

When I was not chopping logs and making hot chocolate I worked on the dreaded DWR quilt. Its main issue is that the orange sections are like cardboard. I don’t know why it is freaking me out so much - perhaps the lack of a plan for finishing it with ambitious borders when I originally thought it would just consist of the 9 rings. It is causing me considerable angst! Maybe once the rings are connected I will decide.

I bought a Gocco printer from Ebay on a bit of a whim. I want to make my own thermo-fax screens but can’t find an affordable way of getting my hands on a machine and supplies. I have “researched” extensively online and am tempted to get a tattoo stencil machine and some Riso film but I need to know if it would work first. The Gocco is actually a Japanese toy and I hope to try it out as soon as I have an image that contains carbon ink or has been Xeroxed. 

I may have to do some serious bread making next week - I could not resist the free offer of a sack of flour from the supermarket. I can only assume that the in-store bakery must have short use-by dates. Maybe it was a goodwill gesture to make up for the lack of fresh veg, bread, and many other empty shelves caused by an apocalyptic event;)

Sunday, 25 February 2018

The Trouble with Time Travel

Knowing that I had a custom quilt job to deal with before I would allow myself to work on my DWR project, I decided to swap Monday and Tuesday around, pretending that I had already made some progress. This idea backfired slightly when I got around to actually checking the measurements on the customer quilt and discovered that it was too small on the back and I would have to buy more fabric to give it wider borders so in the end I did not actually start on it until almost the end of the week.

At least I made progress, albeit rather slow progress on the DWR pieces. I cut all of the melons and pinched squares carefully with sharp scissors then added a stay-stitch around all of their edges to prevent the organza coming unstuck or fraying.

The weird thing was that the small arcs were way too small for the melons. The test block had worked pretty well but after at least 3 undos I knew that I had a problem. It also occurred to me that the melons had absolutely no give. I fiddled with the arcs and worked out that I would have to add an extra wedge to the middle of each arc with ⅛” shaved off each side. If I had attempted something like this even a couple of years ago I would have tossed the entire project away in disgust but I have determined that it will not defeat me - although I have not yet tried to join any melons to any pinched squares so that still might happen! 

I have been giving some thought on what to do once I have got 9 rings done. I originally planned that would be it but I am aware that a potential show quilt needs more impact like fancy borders. Some DWR quilts are appliquéd onto backgrounds but that would either be too easy or a recipe for disaster. I think I may have to add some half-melons and half squares to to make a quilt with a straight outer edge to which fancy borders might be added. But I dread the thought of cutting out another 1000 or so mini eggs.

One idea that I have been toying with is using Decolourant paste to remove the dye from fabric, leaving a ghost image. I spent quite some time online looking for images of significant historical Russian women and trawling second-hand sites in the vain hope of finding a reasonably priced thermal copier, wondering whether I should invest in a tattoo stencil making machine. There are companies in the UK that make excellent thermofax screens but they are quite expensive and I would love to be able to make my own. I had a go at using decolourant on a photo screen from Freya’s school art project but the effect is not subtle enough so I need to go back to the drawing board. 

No wonder a week goes by so quickly here. The customer quilt got started in the end and so far I have the outer borders done and appliqués outlined. BzB has been juried into Paducah and I am thrilled that it is the third of my quilts to have been shown there in the past 10 years. I will be giving a talk at Thistle Quilters in Edinburgh in a couple of weeks so it will be time to revisit some of the show quilts that are packed away and give some of them an airing:)

Sunday, 18 February 2018

An Eggsellent Week

During a week of spells of heavy, wet snow and bright sunshine, my hens laid at least 50% of the time. There was even an unusually white speckled one. I decided that it was time to make lemon curd. I am pretty good at that these days, having made notes to myself in my hand-written recipe book that refer to past disasters and how to avoid them.

Much of the half-term week was filled with customer quilts, re-drafting the Fancy Forest blocks so I can make giant animals, and an outing to a junk shop where Nell convinced me that I did not have room for another cheap, beaten-up chest of drawers even though it was a bargain.

I listened to Carrie Fisher’s autobiography on Audible while I pieced together the lapis/malachite DWR arcs and by the time I cut out the amber coloured pinched squares I was onto Stephen Fry’s “Mythos” but I had to pay close attention to the complicated relationships between all of the Greek gods. I fused some of the 1500-odd egg shaped pieces of “amber” onto the skinny melons and realised that I would have to make yet more to be able to fill up all of the large pinched squares. I dread to think how long it will take to quilt around all of the amber pieces, at least 3 circuits each…!

I have restored the indestructible iron that fell onto the nylon carpet so I will use it to weld the misty-fuse and organza onto my DWR amber sections. The major challenge will be joining the curved arcs on without having a tantrum;)

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Bumble's Busy Week

With a mid term break looming I had to fit in lots of projects to get ahead of myself. I made a second Mutant Hot Cross Bunny and cut out all of the Russian DWR pieces out in kit form. 

Bumble had a very smart trim, not the traditional Scottie Dog style as all that hair just collects twigs. She was in and out of my workshop all week, snoozing while I completed 2 customer quilts, supervised 2 large DIY quilts and made a vegan avocado cake. I made the cake at Nell’s request - the texture was good but it needed far more sugar which I reckon defeats the object of it being a healthy option.

I ordered a cheap roll of orange organza from Ebay which I was annoyed to discover incurred an additional postage charge since the seller decided that my postcode was in The Highlands. When it eventually arrived it was not what I had hoped so I called Rainbow Fabrics in Old Meldrum where I got the burnt orange crystal organza for my practice piece. They posted my package first class and it arrived the next morning which I think is incredible!

I took Nell and Bumble to St Andrews for the day to catch up with Freya and we had a lovely time on the beach, meeting lots of friendly dogs, even another Scottie called Hamish. We took a drive out to the picturesque village of Crail, just along the coast and walked around the bay and harbour in bright, chilly sunshine. When we got back to St Andrews Bumble even managed to trot all the way to the Deli, deciding she might quite like to be a town dog as it was so exciting. No wonder she snored loudly all the way home. 

I randomly selected from my box of green/blue DWR pieces and constructed 48 basic arcs which will also need to have angled end pieces attached. My friend, Angelika, managed to find some of my favourite gold lamé which seems to have been discontinued so I should get the arcs completed next week then begin work on the amber sections. I am trying to persuade Freya to paint a custom back for it IF she can find the time while studying, kayaking and socialising;)