Sunday, 21 January 2018

Problems of my own making

The second Trip Around the World quilt is quilted - thank Crunchy.  It has been an absolute pain and not remotely enjoyable, and it was all my own fault.

After the success of Friday's quilting I was raring to go yesterday to complete number two but overnight I'd had a STUPID idea, only it seemed like a great idea at the time - use another pattern so that there were more subtle differences between the two quilts.   I won't name the pattern or its designer but lets just say the pantograph was Terminated. With. Extreme. Prejudice.  the minute I'd sewn the last row.  I do not ever want to be tempted to use it again so it has been given a Viking Immolation on the compost heap (Management's idea, and a very satisfying one).

The pattern is pretty and suits the quilt but the spacing was a nightmare and I had a problem with every row trying to overlap back into the previous one.  There are a couple of spots on one row where that has happened, only by ¼" but it shouldn't happen at all.  I'm not going to photograph the boo hoo, far better to concentrate on the 98% of it which is quite lovely.  Both during quilting and afterwards Management and I reviewed everything I was doing and couldn't see a fault (and the day before I had used Meredith's "Featheration" all day without a single problem).  So the pattern has gone and we move swiftly on . . .

The quilts look amazing, the quilting thread unifies and pulls together all those separate pieces of fabric and everything becomes a cohesive whole.

I love the texture that the quilting and batting produce, Daisy can't be bothered!

One minute she was tolerating having quilts draped over her, the next she'd buried her head under the folds :)

When things have been this awkward, quilting can be quite stressful and my brain hurt, so I took the rest of the day off, took up the usual position in front of the woodburner and watched Portrait Artist of the Year.  I always assume I cannot draw (although I never try, so who knows?) but it is a programme I thoroughly enjoy and with David Tennant as one of the sitters  . . . All Hail the 10th Doctor,  and now it's time for Dancing on Ice  😊

Friday, 19 January 2018

First one done

The day started far too well 😛

Two of my favourite longarm pattern designers are Keryn Emerson and her twin sister Meredith England, from Australia;  I think I have more patterns from these two ladies than every other designer combined.  Keryn and I met many years ago in America, and we keep in touch casually via our blogs.  I was, therefore, absolutely delighted to start my morning with a message from her about my pattern choices for the Trip Around the World quilts!  She identified the first two patterns in yeserday's blog as being from her sister and recommended the second - Featheration.

As that was already my overnight favourite, it should have been a 30 minute job to position the paper pattern, load the batting (also Australian - using Matilda's Own for these quilts) and get started.  I should have realised things were going to go off the rails when Management came to tell me "we don't seem to have any water . . ."

So he phoned United Utilities and I carried on with the quilt.  Three hours later I had changed the top thread, tweaked the thread path, put in a new the needle, tried a different bottom thread, adjusted the fabric tension and was even considering getting a different backing fabric when I wondered about the bobbin case.  Tried a different case that was set to a slightly higher tension and 30 seconds later - perfect stitches.
Grrrrr  🤬 
It didn't really take three hours - there were breaks for coffee, playing with Daisy, and a few minutes online just to get some distance between an increasingly irritating situation!

Since then it's all gone rather well!   It took our water company until 3.00pm to make a start on fixing a leak down by the A66 but we had plenty of bottled water (and Management popped out for a little more, just in case) and right now there is a huge tanker filling up the pipes that supply this end of the village.

The first quilt top is finished and it looks bloomin' lovely.  💐

It is not perfect, but I have to keep reminding myself that this is a pair of utility quilts that are going to be slung around the back of a campervan.  The dog is going to leap all over them, and it's only a matter of time before I drop half a mug of tea over myself and any fabric within splattering distance.  Saturday is usually 'cleaning' day but I think Management will understand if I shirk my housekeeping duties and get to work on the second quilt top tomorrow!

Thursday, 18 January 2018

A bit of fettling, and not a lot else

It is stupid, but I have always been intimidated by the APQS machine.  No reason why I should be - 20 years ago I brought only the second-ever Gammill longarm machine into England and with Tech Support 4,500 miles away and FaceTime not yet invented, if something needed fixing Management and I got out the toolbox and went at it.  We probably know far more about working on large, single stitch industrial machines than your average quilter but there has always been something about the Millennium that I've found daunting.  That has to stop and it stops now.  So this morning we removed various covers and I was delighted to find that the area under the front cover was really clean and not over-oiled, so I could reassemble everything and not worry.

We then took off the motor cover and Management drilled a hole in it so we could fit a horizontal spool holder I've had sitting in the toolbox for years (took it off the Gammill when we changed machines).  Really should have done this sooner but a plastic chopstick held on with Duck Tape has been working fine 😉

Then it was a thorough clean of carriage, wheels and tracks and then everything was clean and shiny and ready to load backing fabric for the TATW quilts.  90" wide and 160" long - plenty big enough for both quilts, but had been folded in the stash for years and the creases took some getting out.

It pinned on well but this is one of the rare occasions I really miss the 12 foot table on my old Gammill.  When we changed machines I had to go down to 10 foot - no way a longer table was going to fit here.  Most of the time it doesn't bother me, but it would be nice to be able to work on larger quilts and have a bit of room at the end of the table.

I know what thread I am going to use, and which batting, but cannot make up my mind about the quilting pattern.  The wrong pattern can kill a quilt, and I admit on this occasion I want a big, well spaced one that isn't going to take forever to stitch up. 

Daisy has had her tea-time walk and the jury has retired overnight to the comfort of the woodburner and my Kindle with a box of tissues nearby.  I refuse to go down with this year's flu virus but can no longer ignore the fact that both Management and I "have got a bit of a cold 🚑 ".

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

That went rather well 😊

Despite a few January snuffles and weather than doesn't make me want to be in the garden, life at Bag End is pretty good.  I seem to be taking this 'Gentle January' idea quite seriously and we have pottered through the last week with a relaxing mix of keeping busy but not doing much 😊

When not laughing like drains at Daisy when she turns one of her ears inside out . . .

(In my defence, one of us vacuums every day, sometimes more than once a day.  We have learnt to wait until Madam has finished spreading the detritus from her morning Bonio until we get the Dyson out!)

. . . I have finally been playing with the longarm machine.  If I ever want to turn those Trip Around the World quilt tops into quilts then I have to overcome the apprehension and just get on with it.

Last week I put borders on a couple of little panels which have been sitting around for at least two years and quilted them up.  I am useless at practising on plain fabric - it has to be something 'real' or I just don't try hard enough.  However, despite this potentially being a sacrificial piece (and the fact that I still don't like freehand meandering quilting!) surprisingly they turned out really, really well.

Something else which surprised me was successfully inserting invisible zips for the first time (which I could not have done without this video from Debbie Shore) so that's two nice cushions for Bill.  Zips and I have a difficult relationship, in truth, I find anything related to dressmaking far more difficult than it ought to be, so this was a Big. Thing.  Two more cushions to follow when different coloured zips arrive.

This morning I loaded some fabric which has been sitting in the stash for years and quilted it up.  Note to self, my machine REALLY does not like 'Poly Quilter' thread from Superior but it loves Valdani thread, and Coats Star thread.  I used a pretty Superior variegated for the first couple of rows and the back is a complete pigging disaster ... changed to Valdani and happiness all round.  It doesn't really matter because I'm going to cut this piece up to make small bags.

After lunch quilted up two pieces which have also been sitting around for years, originally intended to be quilted pillowcase covers for the first caravan ... turned out brilliantly but I am too tired now to trim them and try my luck with more zips.

I ~love~ that transitional moment when you stop and take a look at a half-quilted item, and realise that the piecing has become patchwork:

Tomorrow we want to do a bit of tweaking and fettling around the longarm machine, and it would be good to get the TATW backing loaded. 

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Teatime walk

Daisy gets a walk towards the end of the afternoon, and at this time of year that's just as dusk is falling.  Most walks are fairly unmemorable - we wander up to The Green, she pees, sniffs around, we come home.

Some are memorable because it is persisting it down, or blowing a hooley, or freezing cold.  But some, like this afternoon, are memorable because for the 15 minutes or so we were outside I was treated to a couple of lovely sights.  Looking east it was a small murmuration of starlings which occasionally came close enough that I could hear the beating of wings and chattering of the couple of hundred or so birds above my head.

Looking west it was a lovely sunset.

And looking towards the pocket with biscuits, it was a darling little girl 😉   🐾  😉  🐾

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Pottering about in Keswick

My trip yesterday to Ambleside involved going into every single outdoor shop in the town lookng for new outdoor shoes.  I was singularly unsuccessful.

Management suggested I take a quick trip to Keswick this afternoon to check out all the shops nearer to home.  I was singularly unsuccessful and the search continues.

However, in Keswick I also went into a couple of 'gifty' shops to see if anything caught my eye to use as a coffee tray in Bill.  Didn't find a tray, but I did find myself in Diagon Alley . . .

What is more surprising than finding a magical emporium hidden in a corner of Keswick, is that I didn't buy anything.  We're putting that down to being in shock and there being too much choice.  I'm going to have to go back . . .

A brief aside,  Millers Bridge car park in Ambleside has bays which Are.Long.Enough.For.A.Campervan!!!   Unless you have a van or small motorhome you won't appreciate just how unusual that is.

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Slumming it

Abandoned Management and Daisy today, popped out for a browse around the shops.

Had coffee whilst I was out . . .

I could do with a little tray for when I'm just having a drink; whilst the old roasting pan did a very good job, I think Bill deserves something nicer 😊😊

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Just checking ..

After the piecing frenzy of the last couple of weeks it occured to me that it might be a good idea to check these Trip Around the World quilts actually looked OK in the campervan.

Yeah baby!

The blue/grey fabric in the middle will be pefect for backing.

In other news, there was no gardening today because I'm too flippin' tired.  Daisy woke me up at 2.29am . . . it was very cold outside as I stood around in dressing grown, thick coat and wellies whilst she ate grass and went to the loo, her usual reaction when something has upset her tummy.  She needed to go out again at 3.05 am .... and another three times between then and 4.30am.  She has never needed five trips outside in one night and when the poor girl was finally settled, despite a fresh hot water bottle I was frozen to the core, and it took me another hour or so to get back to sleep.  We think the "culprit" was a tiny bit of leftover pork fillet.  That's it sweetie, no more treats from Mummy and Daddy's plate - ever.

Clearly I am not the only one who is plum-tuckered-out today and needs to chill out.

Saturday, 6 January 2018

No more lists ?

Saturday was not quite as bright and sunny (or cold) as forecast but I was still able to get outside for a couple of hours and start to tidy up the vegetable patch area.  Of course, there was A List, there is always a list (or three).

First job was cutting back the wildly overgrown triffids known as verbena bonariensis.  Honestly, when I bought 4 little plants some years ago at an open garden the owner said "such a lovely thing but not strong enough to overwinter in Cumbria, I have to sow new seeds every year".  Really?  In this garden it has self-seeded everywhere to become a perennial thug reaching 8 or 9 feet tall, despite the RHS claiming it will only make two-thirds of that!  Nevertheless, it is a beautiful plant flowering late in the season and quite easy to pull out when it misbehaves too badly.  But I digress . . .

With some intensive pruning the back bed looked exceptionally smart, especially as I could now see early shoots of the small daffodils I've planted against the fence.

After lunch I finally planted our next garlic crop - only two months late and it will either grow well or not.  A good mulch of half-rotted bark chip and that's another 'tick' for the forthcoming season.

Walked Daisy, came in for a cuppa, looked at my "list".  At which point the satisfaction of two lovely jobs completed was replaced by the thought of "but I still have the other FIVE items that I want to do in this area".  And I don't know where the idea came from, but my list transformed - into:

which is where it is going to stay, and hopefully, any other "Lists" I am tempted to make in the garden for the forthcoming season will go the same way.   I had an epiphany along the lines of "all a list does is show me what I haven't done, it nags and reminds me of the tasks I really ought to be getting on with, it emphasises what I have not managed to accomplish rather than celebrates what I have done.  My garden lists are not helping me, they are suffocating the joy I should feel from working outside".

I said that 2018 was to be the season of consolidation, I wonder how different my gardening experience might be this year if it is also the season of not having any lists?  Because in truth, I always know what needs doing; I cannot glance out of a window or step foot outside without being aware of the plants that would benefit from a little attention.  And the other truth is that unless I give up all of my other hobbies and interests, there is NEVER going to be enough time to do everything perfectly at Bag End.  And the other truth is that nature can be extremely forgiving and if I don't attend to something one year I can do it the next,  or not . . .

This feels frighteningly liberating; but it also feels right.

Friday, 5 January 2018

Sewing marathon

Phew - I cannot remember when I last did so much sewing in one day, but "TA DA", Top Two is put together 😊😊

Management came up with the layout, and there was a tricky period when he was having trouble articulating his idea and I was having trouble comprehending what he was trying to tell me.  Fortunately we managed to negotiate a mess of "no, I mean that bottom right, not that bottom right" without coming to blows and think the end result is fabulous.

I wanted to get finished today because the weekend is forecast to be clear and bright (albeit absolutely freezing cold) and I'm ready to get out in the garden for a few hours.  I know from experience that putting a top aside at this stage can often mean it gets left for far too long, and these quilts are meant to be used in Bill, not piled up on the sewing room table getting dusty.

Next stop is to get the longarm machine running and see if I can remember what on earth to do with it!

Here's the first top again so I can see them side-by-side.

Might be time for this again 😀

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Gentle January

I got up this morning, padded down the hall and pressed a little button.  Pure Magic 😊😊   A few minutes later the kitchen radiator was starting to warm up and after a short while the whole house began to lose its overnight chill, absolute bliss.

I suddenly realised how relaxed I felt, which is indicative of how tightly wound we have been since before Christmas - constantly worrying about the house feeling so cold and clammy (this is not a building that responds well to being unheated), worrying about Daisy being warm enough, worrying about the potential for burst pipes, and going for a shower to find we had forgotten to put the towels in the tumble dryer and they were damp from the previous use.  It would be no bad thing to continue that state of relaxation through this traditionally grey, moist and sludgy month and have a Gentle January.

The last couple of months of 2017 were hard; I was stressed out about something (that doesn't need to be discussed here) which thankfully resolved before the holidays, in an effort to get more sleep I decided to break my usual rule of virtually no pills, and ended up with a very unpleasant reaction to a painkiller which left me feeling even worse for a couple of weeks than before, and frankly I was tired to the bone.

2017 was one of the most tumultuous years we have experienced for a long while.  Management's retirement Has.Been.The.Best.Thing he could have done for himself, and for us.  However, it has been a massive life-change and don't the 'experts' reckon that Big Events (even good ones like babies and weddings) cause us far more stress than we tend to acknowledge at the time?  I feel we spent the last seven months adjusting to whatever the "new normal" was going to become.  But we're nearly there, and it is good.

2018  is going to be a busy, busy year.  We want to make far more use of both the caravan and campervan.  Management will (I hope) spend more time working on his motorbikes than he's ever been able to before.  The garden is due for a season of consolidation and I want to take the time to appreciate what we've got out there rather than constantly running from one list of tasks to the next, and it is about time I got my walking boots out and went back on the fells.

With the heating back on, it sort of feels as if today is our "new year's day".  Easy dinner pulled from the freezer early on, damp and cloudy outside, so the lure of brightly coloured fabric was not hard to resist! 

There were a lot of long seams, much pressing, and even more cutting into sections.

I've pinned up all the sections I will need to make sure I had enough (bit short on a couple of the fabrics).   Top Two has the same fabrics in the same sequence but the final order will be different from Top One.  It is also 95% likely to be different from where I am this evening.

The photobombed version: