Monday, December 9, 2013


Today was a fun day.

I got up late, which is very unlike me, I'm very much an early riser, and I was supposed to be in Ailsa Craig for 9 am.

Well, that was never going to work, so in the end I was there a little after 10 am. (So what? This really is of absolutely no interest,  but I suppose you have a tale to tell. Well, yes I do actually.)

I had an email from my friend Jane last week asking if I would be free for her annual AOK day. (Gosh, I'm beginning to switch off here, could you get on with it??)

Jane is one of those lovely people who attracts fabric and other things, just because people think she might be able to use it, and so she developed the AOK day. It stands for Acts Of Kindness and she rents Ye Olde Town Hall for a couple of days and then invites several fellow sewers to join her in making items to go in gift boxes which are then given out at Christmas time by the local Food Bank. Over 200 gift bags were given out last year, stuffed with goodies made by Jane and her merry band.

Got your interest now haven't I?

When I was first invited to join this intrepid band, I was making a trash bag for a quilter gift, it was for the quilts of Denmark show, and I gamely threw myself into it until I, just as gamely, threw it across the floor in frustration. I was trying to get a piece of plastic tube through a hole and join the two ends, It wasn't until Jane looked at it and told me the reason it wasn't working was because the plastic tube was too short, that we both decided I would be better making pin cushions, which I did perfectly, stuffing them and hand sewing the enclosure.

When it came to last years Christmas AOK project, I went along and she asked me to make a cute little bunny which was stuffed and had a little fabric circle for its hat, and was stitched in such a way to make it stand up....... only when I did mine, its ears were decidedly odd, its hat didn't quite sit right and it didn't stand up but rolled gently onto its back much to everyones amusement. That's when Jane gently pointed out that I hadn't quite stitched it correctly.

Neck pillows stitched by yours truly

A beautiful bath tote made by Jane

I swear she must go and breathe deep into a paper bag when I gaily reply that I would love to come and help her. This year though, I said if it involved straight stitching, then I was her girl. And so it was today that I made a total of nine neck pillows. I was quite pleased with myself, but humbled when I saw what others were tackling, but I know it causes great amusement amongst the others when they watch the pickle I get into!



More bags

Sideways picture of Jane's jewellery hanger

Another of our intrepid band had knitted 50 pairs of slippers in different sizes

I am always impressed with the set up for this day. Everything is pre-cut, all we have to do is pick it up and stitch it, it is all laid out on the table in neat little piles with a plastic folder containing the pattern, just take one and leave them for someone else. I am always amazed by how she puts this together. A large tray of threads in different colours, buttons, ribbons, batting, you name it its there, all we need are our sewing machines and basic sewing stuff.

The filler used for the neck cushions

Reels and reels of ribbon in every colour

I asked Jane if she would mind if I took photos and post them on my blog and she had no problem with it. I think I have a bigger problem with the fact that we have to do this because there is such a need.

I love Christmas, its one of my favourite times of the year, but it is always sad to see others who don't have such a happy time. Another very good friend has had a lovely idea for next Christmas. She thinks it would be lovely to hire the Church Hall and cook Christmas dinner there and have her family and me and the husband there too. 

She then wants to invite others who may be alone on Christmas Day to join us.

I think it's a wonderful idea but certain family members are totally against it. As she says it's not an open house for any wandering minstrel, but if they turned up, she wouldn't turn them away. There are so many people who have family Christmases prior to the big day, that, when it comes, they are totally alone, she just felt it would be nice to include them, they may not even come, but wouldn't it be nice to know that there was somewhere you would be welcome if you wanted company?

I leave you with that thought.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Quilting's Cool: Go Big or go Home.................

Quilting's Cool: Go Big or go Home.................: I was thinking the other day, as you do, about our friends in Northern Ireland, Jim and Heather. We still keep in touch on a fairly regula...

Go Big or go Home.................

I was thinking the other day, as you do, about our friends in Northern Ireland, Jim and Heather.

We still keep in touch on a fairly regular basis by phone, and we have seen them since we moved out here. I can't tell you why the following story popped into my head, except to say that it involves them, and it had to be the silliest time we ever spent together.

The husband used to go to Northern Ireland on a fairly regular basis, if it was Tuesday, it must be Northern Ireland sort of thing. Jim was the husbands agent there, so they would go off and see customers together, talk business etc,etc,. On many occasions I would fly out on a Friday and then we would all enjoy the weekend together. We also used to go over every New Year, as they would always have a New Year's Party to which we were invited, and it became quite the joke as Heather used to be smitten with a stress migraine on the day of the party, and I would invariably end up doing most of the cooking. The evenings were very jolly and Heather usually perked up as it went on. It was always the joke that "the caterer's were coming from London" for new year.

A couple of times a year, they would come and stay with us, and for some reason I was thinking about one particular occasion when they came over, and we went to France for the weekend.

Heather was in the process of having her kitchen remodelled. Some of the work had been quite major, and every time we spoke there was a new tale to tell, usually quite hilarious. The work had more or less come to an end at this point, and so it was that we decided it would be nice to go to France. I had at some time, bought a useful little book on "Factory Shopping in France", and the husband and I had been over at some point, and found our way to the Le Crueset factory. We told Heather what deals we had found there, and this was partly the intention of our trip in that we would go to the factory shop whilst there.

We went on the Chunnel so we were able to take the car, and had booked a really lovely Chateau Hotel through a club that we had signed up for which got really good deals on hotels and travel, so it wasn't in the same league as Relais et Chateau, but not bad. The Hotel was lovely and we had a very pleasant room and it was maybe an hours drive from Boulogne. Details of where it was have faded from my memory now annoyingly, (why does that happen when you leave somewhere you lived most of your life? There is so much I have forgotten), but I can see this huge Chateau in my minds eye and discreet and pleasant staff.

So there we are. We awoke the next morning and had planned our day around visiting Le Creuset. I do remember that it was quite a drive to get there, maybe a couple of hours, and the area the factory was in seemed to be around the back of a small town, with an uneven car park, and a small low building which was the factory shop. In we troop. On our previous visit, the husband and I had bought a couple of pieces to go with what I already had at home. I love Le Creuset, and had a full set of pans, and a couple of casseroles, if you know it you will know how heavy it is, but it lasts for ever. Although I now have new pots I still have my original set which must be thirty years old now. We had also discovered that they spoke not one word of English, but we managed to make ourselves understood to each other, and worked out from what she was saying that different countries went for different colours, e.g., the Brits loved the Flambe Orange whereas another country would prefer the deep red and so on. Very interesting to know what the nations psyche was up to.

Anyway, Heather was looking at pots, and had decided that she would go with a deep bottle green to match her kitchen, so she picked up a pan here, a pan there, when Jim said, "Sweetheart, have whatever your little heart desires! Get the casseroles as well!" So we are now in a flurry of activity as she is choosing all sorts of pots, frying pans, casseroles, my head was spinning. Jim looked at the husband and asked if we could get this home to which the reply was yes, of course. So the transaction was done, one very happy friend got what she wanted and the husband and Jim were left to load the purchases into the car.

It was at this point that the husband said to Jim, "When we get this home, how are you going to get it back to Northern Ireland?" It was at this point the blood drained from Jim's face and then they both started laughing hysterically because he had absolutely no clue!!!!! Oh well, we'll work something out.

Once back in the car, this fact was relayed to Heather who was then, through her laughter, worrying that she had bought so much. Don't worry, says Jim, we need a new ski bag and that should be big enough to put it all in,and with that thought, we continued our journey back to the hotel.

We duly met in the Restaurant of the Hotel for dinner, and were a little subdued as we were all so tired. The restaurant was quite large and there were a few other diners quietly having their meal, and we sat there quietly when all of a sudden, we got the giggles.

 It's bad enough when one person does it, but when four of you start laughing hysterically, it's even worse. The service was very good, and they were infected by our good humour. When the main course was brought to the table, the plates were covered with big silver lids, and then a great show was made of removing all the lids, voila!! There was your meal sitting on the plate. For some reason, that set us off again, and by this time the repartee was flowing thick and fast.

We managed to get through the meal, and were then asked if we would like dessert? Oooh, yes please, may we look at the menu? We duly ordered from it, and sat there waiting. By this time we had managed to clear the entire restaurant, so we were the only patrons left. Would you really want to have your meal with four maniacal idiots? No, I thought not.

As we awaited this wondrous delight to appear from the kitchen, we suddenly heard the most enormous sneeze. This set us off again and I jokingly said that it was probably my dessert that was sneezed over, all we could hear from the kitchen was laughter. Eventually one waiter and the maitre d' came out and with due aplomb, removed the silver lids while trying very, very hard not to laugh. By this time we were almost puddles on the floor, with the kitchen staff peering round the door enjoying the joke too.

The next morning we were due to go home and we had the car loaded and ready to go. The husband was busy paying the bill, and mentioned to the maitre d' who was putting the transaction through, that he would love to know what they were laughing at the previous evening, he was swiftly told, "No, you would not", which almost set us off again.

The journey home continued uneventfully, and we stopped in Boulogne at the Carrefour supermarket where Jim purchased a very large ski bag, and then we continued the journey back to London. The next morning the husband went to work and left me to sort Jim and Heather out as I was taking them back to the airport.

Jim had packed the Le Creuset in the ski bag, and was standing there practicing how to pick it up without breaking into a sweat. We loaded everything into the car and off we went to Gatwick. We found a cart for the luggage and wheeled it to the check in desk for their flight back to Belfast. There was a short queue with a very irate passenger at the front of it who was arguing with the check in desk about her overweight luggage. Eventually she went off to pay her excess baggage and the girl looked across at us and said she could help.

Here was the big test.

Jim gamely lifted their suitcase on and then the ski bag. "I'm sorry sir, but your luggage is overweight".

"Oh! I didn't think there was a weight limit on domestic flights". (Try that one now and see if you get away with it).

"Hang on, I'll ask my supervisor", whisper, whisper. "No that's fine sir, it won't be a problem".

You have never seen three people walk away from checking in baggage holding each other up as their sides ache from laughing so hard....................

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Musings of a China Restorer..............

I have just been going back over past posts. Not something I do, but I just thought it would be interesting to see what I had written, the title really doesn't give away too much.

One post I wrote said that this would be MY last year as Workshop Director of ACCQF. How dumb was that!? I can reassure you that it won't be, as I'm having way too much fun, and things will be easier as I now have an International Consulting Committee, so our title will be ACCQFICC, (or if it's easier, "aquafik" as opposed to Aquavit which is a Danish Schnapps).

I had a lovely day yesterday, which sort of led me back to my older posts as I had friends visiting for lunch. They were interested in seeing my studio. Lunch was wonderful, and we had great food, conversation and even let the husband join us for a little while, then we all trooped downstairs, minus the husband. I showed them some of my work, and then we started talking about china /ceramic repairs, did I have any I could show them? Well only those I did for my diploma about 20 years ago, but like most restorers, you never did your own work, bit like the shoemaker's children.

I thought I might bore you to death with this post and explain in a little more detail the finer points of Ceramic Conservation.

I sort of fell into it almost by accident. At the time, I was trying to make a living as a dealer in 1930's china. The only thing was I wasn't very good at it and didn't always buy the things that people really wanted to buy, but on the other hand, as a collector, I collected some pretty choice pieces. I had high hopes for the pieces I did buy, and some good items came my way but were damaged. Well, that was a shame, and they were not as easy to sell because of that, so...........oh look, The local Adult Education brochure has landed on the mat. I wonder if there is anything interesting? English, French, computers.... now lets have a look at the Arts section.,oh, dance, watercolour Acrylic, well I can't paint so no point, oh, what's this? China Restoration? A one day class on a Saturday to let people try it out with a view to them signing up for a full course, well, what do you think husband, shall we give it a try?

I spent a bit of time running around collecting bits for the class, broken ceramics were not a problem,  it was the materials needed, and off we went. There were quite a lot of people there, and our tutor was a lovely elegant Dutch lady called Blanche. She explained what we would be covering during that day, which wasn't much really, but just gave a taste of what it was all about. I obviously enjoyed it very much as I signed up for her class which ran every week for a school year.

Blanche was fun to be with, and had a class of about 12 eager students.  She explained how to take old repairs apart, clean them  etc,. etc., but, if I explain how she did it, it negates my post, I want to tell you how I did it. Anyway, I was with Blanche for about a year, at the end of which she said to me, "I have taught you everything I know, you can go off and restore for other people". Well, that left me a little scared and nervous to say the least.

I had a subscription to the Antiques Trade Gazette which arrived faithfully every Tuesday morning without fail, and was something I read avidly. It listed upcoming Auctions, Antique Shows, viewings at Auction houses nationally and in London and Auction reports.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I would visit Auction houses in London just to be able to see things I could never afford, and to handle them. My area of interest as mentioned was Art Deco, and I also liked Art Nouveau, but Deco ceramics were my thing. I could generally be found at a specialist sale in Christies South Kensington viewing Clarice Cliff,  Susie Cooper and any other number of bits and pieces, silver, jewellery and anything else that was on offer. I had some very good buys for our own collection, a Susie Cooper plate painted with a Scottie dog which had been bought by a friend on behalf of someone else who didn't come through with the money, so I was able to take that off his hands, another time, I was able to purchase a Wilhelm Wagenfeld glass tea set after the sale as it wasn't sold during the auction. I still have it, and the surprise is that it is as light as a feather, there is no weight in the cups or saucers and they are so delicate. Anyway, I digress, it was through the Antiques Trade Gazette that I stumbled across an advert for a China Restoration Diploma course to be held at Burton Manor College on the Wirral. If your wondering where the Wirral is, it is that piece of land that sticks out between Liverpool and North Wales and looks a bit like an arm on the map of Great Britain.

It was a two year part time Diploma, and would mean me travelling up every six weeks from Friday to Sunday and a week long Summer School. So off I went.  I was very nervous the first time, and found my way -pre GPS- and checked in, the college was residential and quite old fashioned as a building, it had been the home of the son of William Ewart Gladstone.

Burton Manor College  photo by Nigel Cox

The main building housed the students and we sometimes had our classroom in there too, there was a dining room and we were fed well. 

My tutor was the lovely Helen Potter. Helen was a wonderful restorer and worked for Museums as well as doing private work. She also taught Botanical painting which I did a couple of times with her. We became very good friends and I would often go up and stay with Helen, who lived in a delightful cottage behind a Hotel in Wallasey with her Mother and her daughter. The cottage was just lovely but small and had originally been part of the coach house of the Hotel, it was down a very narrow lane with a very sharp L turn and enough parking for one car only. I used to sit with my eyes closed if we went out anywhere, as Helen and her Mother were no taller than four feet nine inches, and they would reverse the car out into the street around this L turn, (it wasn't even a curve but a definite L). As I am five feet nine inches tall, I felt like a giant in this cottage. Helen's father had renovated the cottage and it was lovely, the stairs were open plan wooden planks and no hand rail, both Helen and her Mother, because they were short would come down in stilettos, I would crab walk sideways and I wore flat shoes.

But back to restoration. The weekends at Burton Manor were  also very social, there were a couple of ladies who came down from Scotland, so it was a bit of a competition to see who had travelled the furthest. Helen stayed over too, so the evenings after class finished were quite riotous with laughter and one evening, we stacked all the furniture in the sitting room along the walls while a couple of them got their accordions out and Helen and the teacher of Massage, who was Scottish, taught us Scottish Country dancing, it was hilarious as we had no clue what we were doing, but we gamely threw ourselves into it.

Now Helen and the husband share the same birthday, albeit some years apart, but she always referred to him as her "bruv". One weekend, the husband came up to Burton and took part in the class. He and Helen were standing in the queue for lunch, and Helen said to the chef, "have you met my twin brother?" The husband was standing right next to her. It is worth bearing in mind that the husband is over six feet tall and dark haired, and as mentioned Helen was 4 feet nine at a push and blonde. Chef looked at the husband and said he didn't know how he lived with her!! We thought it was very funny.

I tried to do a fair bit of homework in between, and generally went up with items in various stages of repair, but tried hard to keep to the curriculum. The week long Sumer School was great fun, and we did colour charts. I'm sure some of you might be thinking this is so BORING, but trust me, knowing how to paint a colour chart and use it has stood me in good stead.
My first colour chart and colour wheel below

We used 7 colours to create almost 200, and also did a white chart which was even harder. When you look at ceramics,- and I mean REALLY look- you find that white is not white. I think most people who know nothing about restoring think you slap a bit of white paint on and thats it,  so what's the problem? Well white contains more than white, Titanium white is the purest white, so that was always my base colour and then you looked harder and could see other colours in it. The basic recipe was always Titanium white, Raw Umber and Cobalt Blue in varying degrees, try it and see what you come up with. Use the white as the base, and add the other two in small increments, dab a tiny amount on your white china and see if you can match it- I dare you. it's not as easy as it looks, but after 20 years I'm (almost) a dab hand at it.
The white chart

I redid the colour chart a couple of years ago now, but it didn't hurt to go through the exercise again. We all see colour differently which is another good reason to do it, for some reason, my colours are always pale, although I dress in much richer shades  

I seem to remember uproar at painting the charts, there were one or two who felt that it wasn't necessary, but I am so glad I did. Even if I couldn't match a colour from them, it pointed me in the right direction. But, I am jumping way ahead here. The first thing you need to do is to wash you pieces, so hot water with just a dash of soap is in order.....................

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Reflections on a show.........

Well, I've been home since Sunday and have had even more time to reflect on Houston. It's interesting how a show can do this to you. By the end of the ACCQF  I am so exhausted, I can't think straight.

I live 30 minutes away from Ailsa Craig, so I clock up around 1,000 k on my car that week, running backwards and forwards every day, taking teachers to the show, running errands if they need things, collecting lunches, bringing everything back, blah, blah,blah, the list goes on. I'm not looking for sympathy, it's just something that I do for the love of the festival.

We have up to 60 volunteers a day at the show, a huge number for a small town and shows the commitment of everyone involved, and makes the Festival the success it is. I was struck by this thought when we were in Houston. Cathy and I had left our bags to be picked up later, they were getting heavy, and when we did, we were  chatting to a lovely young man who had taken our tickets. I say young, he was probably early 30's, and as I'm only 23 (not), it seems young. He told us how he really loved the quilt festival and looked forward to it every year, he helped to hang the quilts as well as doing the bag thing, he just loved talking to us and looking at the quilts. On one of our many trips around the quilts, I was struck by several young men who were working as Quilt Angels and helping people to see the quilts, who, when they were on their own for a little, stopped, and REALLY looked at a quilt that had caught their eye. Not just a cursory glance, but really going in for the detail and soaking in the workmanship, I was very impressed by this.

Cathy and I came across a group of children in the SAQA exhibit, who were filling out a questionnaire on the quilts, why did they like it? what drew their attention? why? etc., again, I was enthralled by the fact that the children had valid reasons and comments to make. We asked them questions, and again, a Quilt Angel, male, came up to them and asked questions and drew their attention to a detail they may not have seen. The kids were about 11 or 12.

Every year we invite schools to come and see our Festival, and every year we are disappointed that none turn up. Some children are brought by their mothers and I think, enjoy it, but would it really hurt for a school to arrange a quick trip, or car pooling to bring them to see something they may never get the opportunity to see again? We are thinking that we will prepare a similar questionnaire this year at Festival, last year we did cards which had views of the quilts in close up and as a whole and sent the kids off to find them, and then they came back to us to claim their Smarties, but we have no idea how many actually did look at them all.

That's my soapbox finished for tonight, but I just wanted to draw everyone's attention to the fact that it's not just women looking at and making quilts, there's a whole untapped market out there.................

Monday, November 4, 2013

The intrepid explorers continue.......

Having had some sleep, I awoke the next morning with a very stiff and sore leg.
One of my many grazes on my lower leg

The weather was just awful! The rain was torrential, so our host very kindly drove us to the Convention centre which saved us getting very wet.

We had meetings planned today, (no, I'm still not saying), and had decided that we would try and spend the day looking at the quilts, with a break for some shopping too. The vendor mall is so huge it takes time. We kept bumping into people we knew which was great fun! The Israeli's had an exhibit of the "Many Faces of Jerusalem", which was wonderful. We saw work hanging by quilters who were in Ailsa Craig in May, and were just awestruck by the fact that their work changes constantly. It is not easy to pin down a style by any of them.

Yemima, myself and Cathy

Yemima's quilt in the Many Faces of Jerusalem

Eti's quilt which came from a class which she took at the SDQA in Hands around the World

Ita's quilt in Hands around the World

I am going to Israel next year, so I am looking forward to seeing so many of my friends there. I think I will be there for a month, I was also making new friends so I think I am going to be busy!!

Cathy and I took another one hour workshop, but were a little disappointed by the teaching and attitude of the teacher, although we liked the kits we were given, but little help. We then met up with another new friend for discussions and are happy with the outcome of that. We left when the show closed and then had a quiet evening in, and slept like tops!

Friday saw us going in for yet another meeting, and then going into the show and doing more quilts and Cathy wen off to see a demonstration. I spent time looking at more quilts, and then a little retail therapy, but no fabric - needles and a coat(!). Again, we had a long day but enjoyed looking at the quilts and met up with Tamar which was lovely, and then all three of us went to look at quilts. While we were looking at one section, I heard this frightfully British accent coming from the Meet the Teacher's area, this was a series of  very short lectures showing quick techniques and work etc., The accent belonged to the wonderful Jennie Rayment. I grabbed Cathy's arm and dragged her across the floor and into a chair. Jennie had us in stitches with her wonderful humour and at the end of it, we nabbed her and had a quick chat. I had met Jennie in the UK in August, and she will be teaching at the ACCQF in May next year, so I wanted her to meet Cathy just to put another face to the festival. The three of us ended up giggling hysterically at the back of the hall!

Jennie holding the audience in thrall with her lecture

We told her about my "accident", and she told us how she had walked two miles to get some copying done the day before, and ended up walking back through torrential rain, and how she had draped dollar bills around her room in an effort to dry them out.

Again, we had a quiet evening in, and my bruises were really coming out at this point. Saturday was going to be our last day at the show, and I was taking a class with Jennie. Cathy was doing machine quilting with Ferret.

Quilt Festival is so busy, I miss out on all the workshops, and I think this year will be busier still, so, if you want to volunteer to help in any capacity, we would love to have you. Anyway, I was doing Jennies, Tucked and Embellished circles. OH MY GOODNESS!!!!! She is hysterical!!! We laughed a lot and she is an EXCELLENT teacher. Jennie took us through the first steps and then we stopped while she explained the next steps, none of us were left out, and she made sure we all had her attention and help.

Jennie Rayment's Tucked and Embellished circles (and squares)

If you are looking at these and thinking they must be difficult, think again!! The Mistress of nipping and tucking talks you through it and it really is very easy! If I can do it anyone can.

It was a long but very satisfying day, and then Cathy and I met at the end of class, and went back downstairs to finish looking at the quilts. I know we thought we had done it all, but this morning I saw a report on a Houston tv station, and was seeing quilts that we didn't even see!! 

We spent the evening packing as we had to be up by 4.30 to get back to the Intercontinental airport for a 7am flight. We were up bright and early and our cab arrived in plenty of time and we were checked in and ready to board. We were much further back in the plane this time, and had very little leg room, but oh well. However, one of the flight attendants started telling jokes and had us in stitches so it made up for a lot.

Now its back to the grind and getting workshops onto the web in readiness for everyone to sign up for them, if you are coming or contemplating it, you will not be disappointed!

Houston, we have a problem..........

Well, the activity of last week at the International Quilt Festival is now behind me, and I am home again.

I have decided that I love Houston. I went with Cathy, and our reason for going was to make contact with potential countries to show their work at the Ailsa Craig Community Quilt Festival in future years, I am glad to say that we were successful in this endeavour, and are set for the next four years. No, I will not tell you which countries, wild horses will not drag that information out of me.

This was my second visit to Houston and Cathy's first. I knew it was going to go well when we got the Metro Detroit airport, and couldn't find the car park to leave the car. We followed the signs which suddenly stopped and were never seen again. We stopped at a Days Inn and asked there, but the receptionist had no clue where they were. As we were driving out of the parking lot, there was a valet parking van pulling in, so we did a quick trip around the lot and pulled up to him and asked the question. He started to tell us and then just said, "follow me".  So we did. He took us to the valet parking lot. It actually turned out to be a lot cheaper than using the main parking lots, $5.99 a day as opposed to $10, so we lucked out. They were very nice people, and we had a laugh and a joke while getting the car checked in, and, when they heard my English accent, I was given a discount, so we were going to pay $5.98 a day!! A good start to our trip.

We were flying Spirit airlines. I think we will just leave that there, I think they are akin to Ryanair, or have taken lessons from them.

We arrived late in Houston. I don't know how many of you have been to the city, but it is HUGE. I had no idea until we were talking to someone in the queue one morning, that the city is about 100 miles across in any direction. We had decided that we would rent an apartment rather than stay in a hotel in order to keep the costs down, and had found the perfect one for us through Air BnB in Montrose, which was just a short bus ride from the Convention centre, but we had to take a taxi from the airport to get to it, took about 30 minutes.

The apartment was attached to our host's home and was lovely, just perfect for two people for the amount of time we were there. The swimming pool was just outside our door, and we were welcome to use that. The fridge was stocked, most importantly, with wine, butter, milk, yogurt, juices and water, and they had bagels and chips to start us off. Lovely and fresh and clean.

The next morning we were up bright and early as we were taking workshops at the show, and then staying on for the Preview evening. I was really looking forward to that!! Cathy was taking Cindy Walter's fabric painting class, and I was taking Paula Nadelstern's Tower One class. I did ask myself after I booked it Why? It is so unlike anything else I would ever do, but I thought it would be a challenge and it doesn't hurt to do some precise piecing once in a while.

Paula Nadelstern's Tower One quilt

As we were leaving the apartment, our host appeared and offered to drive us to the bus stop as it was raining quite heavily, and we could see lightning and hear thunder, it also showed us where to go every day.

The workshop was very interesting as we had to do drafting and cutting out of templates, and then we chose some of her beautiful fabrics which was part of our kit, with which to do our blocks. We had an hour for lunch and met up with out Dutch friend Laura. The weather was still wet, but at this point it had stopped raining, and we walked a shortish distance to a bar and had the most delicious hamburgers. As we left, the rain was teeming down, and we only had one umbrella between the three of us. Laura decided that as I had a raincoat, I didn't need the umbrella, whereas she and Cathy had no coats so huddled together under it. (They both have short hair, so fairly drip dry, whereas I am the princess of the group with my medium length bob and hate getting my hair wet unless I happen to be washing it!). We made it back and continued with our classes.

A view of the vendors

I was pleased with what I achieved. For a non piecer I thought it looked good, although I did make an error on my last border and needed to re draw my template and will have to recut and restitch them. But its a learning process which is why your there.

We finished our classes and made or way down to the show floor where we spent the next four or five hours looking at the vendors. I have to say, I was very restrained and I bought thread only. As I was paying for it, a class was announced at Make It University which is right in the middle of the show floor. For $10, you can take a one hour class with a teacher learning a new technique. We hot footed it and had a blast! It was creating text on fabric by using scrapbooking sticky letters and then painting, and then peeling the letters off to leave the image. Very effective. After that, we carried on looking at the vendors. After four days at the Festival, I still don't think we saw them all, but it was terrific fun.

We left the show and then crossed the road to get our bus back to Montrose. It seemed a lot quicker than it had in the morning, and the buses are hardly full. Trouble was, it was pitch dark and we had no clue where we had to get off! Cathy thought we should get off at the next stop as the name of the street we got on at flashed up on the screen, So off we get, only to find that we are nowhere near where we should have been! A quick call to our host, and it was, " stay there, I'll come and get you".

So there we were, standing on the street corner by the traffic lights of Brazos and Elgin in the rain and dark waiting for a ride home. Cathy came up with all sorts of ridiculous scenarios which led to us having fits of the giggles when we suddenly heard a car horn, and turned to see an arm waving through a sun roof on the opposite corner to the one we were on. We ran across the road, Cathy ahead and me following, she clambers in the back, I reach for the front passenger door which had been opened, stepped off the kerb and..................that's when my left leg suddenly disappeared into thin air and I was looking at the bottom of the car sill. Cathy clambers back out hauls me out of the hole and we discover that the drain cover, had been broken leaving a large hole into which I had fallen. My right leg was bent at another angle and I had plonked my bags on the road and by doing so wrenched my shoulder.

We climb into the car, and are laughing so hard I had tears running down my face. Our host was horrified, and once we got back, took us into his apartment and then found me sterile pads and anti bacterial lotion to bathe my wounds. I had scraped the side of my leg and the the front side and back of my thigh, the bruises are beautiful! I was in a lot of pain, but we just kept laughing so that was a good thing, they were worrying that they needed to take me to Emergency but I said I was fine. We went back, or rather I hobbled, to our apartment where Cathy fed me wine, Advil and chocolate, which I thought was a good thing. Sleep was difficult as I couldn't find anywhere to put my leg without causing pain, but did manage to get some eventually...................

To be continued......

Friday, October 18, 2013

I howl at the moon..........

Well, I've actually had (almost) an entire week at home and got to play in my studio.

It was a bit of a strange week, I actually felt myself sinking into the black hole of depression, but luckily, think I only got as far as my knees, when things started to look clearer and rosier. I find that a full moon can have quite an effect, some months are better than others, but this wasn't quite so good.  I never suffered, or don't think I did in the UK, and think it must be to do with less light pollution where I live now, ie., no street lights, just a sky full of stars. Once I find out the reason for feeling the way I do, it's a lot easier to cope with.

The end of the previous week, I had challenged a friend to turn out a piece of intuitive art every day for five days, (more to the point, she got me started on challenging her, I used the same parameters, it had to be totally intuitive, no thinking, just pick the fabric and go. The only difference was I didn't have a subject to work from). Probably a lot easier to do with paint and paper than with fabric, but I actually had a  lot of fun with it. I made myself choose a piece of fabric every day without looking, and had only one where I felt I had no idea what I would do with it.

Day 1 - the fabric I pulled spoke to me, I could see leaves in the dye patterns so decided to use Inktense pencils to intensify and then machine stitched around the edge. Not a bad effort for my first piece!

Day 2 - this awful purple piece caused me to scratch my head, and I had no idea what I was doing so decided that abstract might be best, although it's not that easy to do. Not my favourite.

Day3 - I was in Cincinnati in April and took a workshop with Cindy Walter, we were painting fabric, diluted and undiluted, this was a clean up rag stuffed in a beaker. I quite like this piece, I saw a dragon in the colours and then added a branch of cherry blossom.

Day 4 - this piece of fabric just yelled stormy skies so that's what I did. Used wool roving and silk roving and cheesecloth.

Day 5 - This piece was interesting and I really just started playing with it, out popped a waterfall and I was pleased with the overall result.

I posted the results of each days piece on Facebook which is where I am in contact with my friend, and I was able to see her pieces too which I really enjoyed, they are getting more confident the more she does, and I really love them. I think I should continue the challenge - is anybody game?

I also had a very interesting morning on Tuesday. A friend from church had asked if I would like to meet her friend from the Netherlands who had been taking a workshop in the States and was coming up here for a couple of days. Oooh, yes please!

I am always interested in meeting other artists and connecting with them, no matter what their medium is, paint, fabric, metal, print, I really love it. I have plans to get together with an artist friend who lives locally as I would like to do prints on fabric, and he has a printing press, so I want to see him very soon, I'm a big fan of Tony's work, and want to learn more from him, he was unwell earlier this year, but is now on the mend, and I will see him after I get back from Houston. Oh, didn't I mention that? Give me time.

Anyway, I had a lovely time with Margo van Strien, she told me about the workshop she had taken with Nancy Crow and showed me the work she did, and showed me her website and her work, which is lovely, and so different, and then I showed her mine, which is completely different in style to hers. 

I always find it interesting to see and hear the reaction to my work, it gives me hope. Interestingly, Margo asked if I sold my work. I told her that I had space in a lovely Gallery in Port Stanley, and while I can't keep up with the demand for my fabric postcards, (a snip at $10), the "larger" pieces, which I try and keep to a smallish size, and reasonably priced, don't sell. I think the reason for this is that when Joe Blow goes to a gallery and looks at a painting, they see the size of the canvas, paint, colour and, the fact that they can't/don't/won't/ couldn't do "this", "it's" worth the money. With a textile artist, they look at it and think it's fabric, why should I pay what they're asking? They do not see the cost of dye to "paint" the fabric, fabric paints, acrylic paints, watercolour pencils, Inktense pencils, (my personal favourite), the design, the different materials, silk rovings, wool rovings, cheesecloth hand dyed or painted, the DESIGN, (this doesn't happen on its own and takes as much thought as a painted canvas would), mulberry bark, again a favourite, silk cocoons, carrier rods........ the list is endless, BUT the art is as important and just as well thought out.

One of the things I really love to do is perspective. I love to make my work look as though it has walkways, paths, hidden spots and dimension, after all, isn't that what all the great artists would do?

My space in Port Stanley at the Art Emporium - please help an impoverished artist.

A quilt I made for my friends Mother

I really like this piece, canvas, tyvek, cheesecloth and colour vie paints.

I'm a big fan of Pre Raphaelite art. When I was doing my Diploma in China Restoration, I got very friendly with a couple of girls who hailed from Liverpool, (probably my most favourite city on this planet), and the husband and I would often go and stay with either of them for the weekend if I was taking my class. Did you know there were NINE Museums in Liverpool housing some of the best art in the UK, if not the world? Especially Pre Raphaelite. My favourite was the Lady Lever Gallery in Port Sunlight, I could spend hours in there just breathing in the art and ceramics. Another was Sudley House. I think my jaw dropped when I saw the Charles Rennie Mackintosh furniture housed there plus other pieces from that period and whenever I was asked where I wanted to go, it was high on the list.

Our very first visit to Liverpool consisted of going out for a meal with both sets of friends, and then driving around at 1 am and visiting all the sites mentioned in Beatles tunes and singing at the tops of our voices, Penny Lane, Strawberry Fields, John Lennon's home, which was just down the road aways, it was magical. I remember going to the Theatre in Liverpool and watching a play about the life of John Lennon, "Imagine". The tension was palpable, this was their son, so get it right. I just wanted to get up and dance and sing. I can report that the show was well received and got a standing ovation, phew!!

But, back to Art..........(to be continued at a later date).

Friday, October 4, 2013

On the catwalk.... I shake my little tush on the catwalk

Today was the day, or evening, of the fashion show. I always love doing these events, it's the same group of girls every time, and we only really see each other twice a year when we meet up for the show, lots of wine is drunk, stories told, and catch up on what's happened since we last saw each other.

Tonights show was a new venue, we had met the previous week to do a show at the Restaurant we do twice a year, so this was the same clothes just a different place. I mentioned that we were going to have our hair and make up done which was a lovely treat. Normally we do our own hair and make up.

I duly arrived at the salon at the appointed time, and got checked in..then realised that everyone else was there, I just didn't recognise them! It was lovely to watch everyone else getting prettied up and pretty soon it was my turn.

Now, I have a wonderful hairdresser. My trips to her salon generally hit the three hour mark as we factor in a visit at the same time, and she updates her skills regularly and will always come back with some funky ideas which she knows none but me will go for or can carry. I sent her a quick text just to let her know that I was modelling and having hair and make up done, just in case she found out that my car was parked out the front of another salon, (these things have a strange way of getting about), and said that if one hair on my head was touched apart from having a wash and blow-dry, I would not be responsible for my actions. You see, I am terribly vain where my hair is concerned and always have been. I like to look groomed and my hair is a big part of that.

I was offered a cup of tea, what would I like. Plain and ordinary Tetley's. Well come and see what we have, Pumpkin Spice, Pomegranate, Cranberry....... can I have Tetley or plain tea, No. I'll have water then thanks. I drink gallons of it anyway I really don't mind. I don't understand the popularity of flavoured teas, but appreciate that others do, I feel unfulfilled.

So what did I want to do today? Well, your the hairdresser, and you know I'm doing a fashion show, so it's a pretty good guess I just want a wash and blow-dry. Ok, no problem. The wash was lovely and then I was led to a chair, a robe put around me, and the drying began. Dear reader, the one thing I have been blessed with is plenty of hair, so why do they use volumiser to make it look bigger? I have a lovely bob straight fringe, (bangs), so not too difficult a style to deal with. The Big round brush came out and it was blown dry ..........backwards? It's a bob, surely it should be down and under? Oh well, go with the flow and let her do it. Well, it's bigger than normal but I guess it will fall into place. Oh good, the flat iron is out, not to bad I guess, except one side sticks out more than the other. Oh, now what's she going to do?

Backcombing.........SERIOUSLY????  I thought that was pretty much dead and buried except on little old ladies, (sorry if I offend any little old ladies). I just wanted to giggle and say what on earth are you doing? She lifted sections and dusted a powder onto the roots then backcombed. I was beginning to look a little slack jawed by this time as I couldn't believe it. It was a little pouffy but not like my Mother's used to be. Mother would go to the hairdresser every week to have her hair done, washed, put in rollers and under the dryer, once dry, the rollers came out and it was backcombed to within an inch of it's life and then doused in hairspray. That "do" did not move - ever. In fact, a very good friend of mine once referred to her hair as a steel helmet because there was never a hair out of place and it just couldn't move it was so lacquered.

As a child, I was never allowed to have long hair. It was always short and I hated it. In my teens it wasn't too bad because all the mods had short hair, including the girls, so I was sort of in fashion. I came home from the hairdressers once with hair cut short, but she had left longer tails at the back, mother was furious and whipped those off with a pair of scissors. Once I was 18, I could do what I liked with it, so I grew it and loved it. I have quite a small head, so short hair always make me feel like a pimple.

I used to go up to the Vidal Sassoon School of Hairdressing. That was a real experience, and probably the first time I got a decent hair cut. It was a training school. You would turn up at either 10 am or 2 pm, and check in, you had an appointment for one or the other, then sit with lots of other girls in the waiting room. Eventually the students would come in and look around until they saw something they wanted to work with and then you were taken away into the main salon. The first time I ever went there I was around 18 or 19, and a young Japanese boy decided to take my hair in his hands and off I went. His instructor was good, showed him how to look at the hair, how it fell, where the crown was, the idiosyncrasies, after all, hair does'n just pop out in a straight line, it will have kinks and swirls just where you don't want it. After some discussion it was washed and then the cutting started. I can't really remember what the style was but think it may have been a pageboy and it was beautiful. It was the first time I had ever spent two hours at the hairdressers. After that, I decided to graduate to a proper salon, and chose Michaeljohn, and went several times.

And so started my journey on finding the perfect hairdresser. I did once, and am pretty much close to it again with my current one.

Trevor became my best friend. I met him at an Antique Fair, and once we became friends, he started cutting my hair. He was another one who would change my style frequently. I used to pretend I was the junior in the "salon", he used to do the husbands hair too, and I would sweep the cuttings off the floor, and watch in fascination as he trimmed away with the scissors.

Anyway, I digress. Once bouffanted, I was then able to join the others for a glass of wine, a new experience, wine at the hairdressers, but fun to do! And we just sat and chatted and watched the others get their makeup done too. I love having makeup done and it didn't look too bad when finished, it was a fun afternoon, but, as I told my hairdresser, I wouldn't be changing her anytime soon.

The evening went well, always difficult to judge in a new venue, but it was lovely, the ladies eat their meal while we model, and love to have a quick feel of the clothes. It's very informal and we all have a good time. All to soon it was over and time to dress in our own clothes.

Which brings me to fashion. I love clothes, I have a wardrobe full and probably far more than I need. I envy those people who only have six or eight items which all mix and match, but they are missing out on so much. I am sure my wardrobe is like 90% of the populations, I love it, got to have it............and it goes with absolutely nothing else in the wardrobe, but never mind, I'll find something one day that will be perfect for it! And there it sits.

However, I tried hard when I was England not to buy anything that didn't go with something else, and managed pretty well and was pleased. If I had a report card, it would say "must try harder........"

My original career prior to Conservation and quilting was fashion retail. I was a management trainee at Harvey Nichols, (darling, shades of Patsy from Ab Fab always come to mind when I think of Harvey Nicks). A lovely store, or was, as I didn't think much of it on my last visit. The one thing I loved about stores such as Harvey Nicks, Harrods, Selfridges, etc. was that you might not be able to afford the clothes, but you could get up close and personal with them. I never made clothes, just the worlds worst and I don't have the patience for it, but I used to love looking at how they were put together, there is something so different about couture, the way the lining is made and how it is attached to the garment, the detailing, stitching etc., is just a joy to study and look at. I was lucky enough to own a Yves St Laurent skirt once and I treated it with reverence. I would look at it in great detail, the waistband, the fabric, the lining, how the lining was attached not only at the top, but to the hem of the skirt. I didn't wear it often sadly, it was just to special to wear everyday, but YSL is probably, or rather was, the best designer in the world. The French really have the rest of the world beaten on couture I'm afraid. I have books on his clothes and I love to look at them, the designs are timeless and I wish I could have more.

Bicester Outlet Village was my favourite shopping destination. Situated just outside Oxford, it had a lot of designer outlet stores, Versace, Ferragamo, Max Mara and many others. Max Mara was a big favourite and I liked going through their racks and stores too. It must be the Italian styling.But, it was good to be able to have designer clothes at a much reduced price. I think the husband is glad we don't live in the UK now, it's cheaper for him to clothe me!!

I am now a big Joe Fresh fan. I can get my groceries and clothes in one store, and before you pooh pooh it, just turn a dress or coat inside out and look at the finishing. It may be inexpensive, but the detailing on the seams and other small touches impress me. Now they have Internet shopping it will be my downfall!

Oh well, that's it until the Spring, when Fashion Week starts all over again.........

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Summer... what was that?

I can't believe that we are now almost through September and officially into Autumn, (Fall for those of you in North America).

I got home safely, and the next day, the husband and I were off to Michigan to join our friends who had rented a cabin at a resort just outside Gaylord. We had a gentle drive and arrived mid afternoon and made ourselves at home as there was none there. Eventually they came back and we had a very enjoyable couple of days.

A cabin similar to the one we were staying in. The sprinklers came on every day about 4pm, and did not stop until 8am the next morning, hitting the metal was noisy.

The main office

All too soon it was time to come home, but I did need to do the washing and unpack my suitcase!

Now here we are, almost at the end of September, and I have to buckle down and get the workshop information proof read and ready for the website for the Quilts of Great Britain. I am really looking forward to this Festival, as I do them all, there is always an excitement about the workshops, and I look forward to taking the registrations.

It hasn't left me a whole bunch of time in my studio. I have tried so hard to get some items ready for the Gallery in Port Stanley, so far I have four postcards and a small picture and not much else! There is a call for Christmas items now so really have to get something done this week and next. I am also trying to write an article for a quilting magazine. When I was in Birmingham, I was asked to do this, and I have struggled with it a bit, so I have decided to write it the way I write this, it might flow more easily.

Well, it's now October.

I should have realised that things wouldn't go the way I wanted.  Never mind, I will get there in the end. I have been spending time writing the workshop lists out and still have a way to go, the husband also needs to photograph the quilts so that we can then get our tech wizard to upload it all to the website, it's a long slow process. The rest of this week is taken up with modelling tomorrow for a good friend who has a dress shop, we are having hair and make up done, so it's a bit of a treat, and then modelling on a runway and dinner. I do this twice a year in a restaurant in Sarnia. The evening is sold out every time and we all have a lot of fun. Patti is very generous. I love going for my fittings, I generally get the more unusual items to wear which is fun.

However, this isn't helping my creative spirit.which is in sore need of feeding. She's probably sitting in the studio with arms folded getting grouchy, so I will have to try and be extra nice to her and get some work done. I have, in fact, signed up for a challenge which is quite exciting and I'm looking forward to starting it. I need two models, so I will have to draw on an artist friend and her husband and get them to pose for me. A good excuse to see them anyway, I just need to set up a time and date. Sarah has a show at the end of this month, so I hope i can talk to her then. My idea is in my head, I just need to get it started.

I also have a baby quilt to finish, it just needs quilting now so I should buckle down and get on with it.
So, why am i sitting here? Time to go and get some things finished!

Monday, September 9, 2013

A little R & R.....

I had decided that I wanted to do some exhibitions while I was in London, so decided that I would take myself out and about for the next few days. As I had had such a busy week, I didn't go to far on the Monday, I had to return my car to Gatwick, it really is pointless having a car in London when transport is fairly reasonable and relatively easy to get around on. So my day started at the airport and then I caught the train back to Croydon. I thought I would have a leisurely day, just wandering around the town.

It was a gentle day, a little shopping and then back to the house in the afternoon. A quiet evening in and an earlyish night. The next day I went to the V&A.
Glass sculpture by Dale Chihuly

I love this Museum, the mix of exhibits is quite something, Samurai armour to ceramics and all in between, a good eclectic mix. I specifically went as I wanted to see the From Club to Catwalk exhibition which is on and features Fashion from the 80's. The music took me back, and it was interesting to see the influences on fashion at that time, New Romantics, Boy George and a myriad of other groups who set the pace, plus the clubs that they frequented. I worked in a Department store during the 80's, originally as manager of the dress department, Dynasty was THE tv show, so fashion was influenced by that and Princess Diana was also news at that time, so things were beginning to change. I then took over Young Fashion, oversaw the installation of a brand new department and saw the influences slowly filtering into it, Cyndi Lauper, (think bubble skirts and sweatshirts).

The point of me telling you all that is that I think fashion changed dramatically at this point, it started to slowly filter out of London and make its way into the suburbs. Now, shopping in any town is easy and it isn't necessary to go to the city. However, I used to love shopping in London, and so having done the exhibit at the V&A, i walked back to Harrods.

Now there are several things I love to do in London, one is walk everywhere, you see so much more, and I got to know the backroads from Victoria station to Knightsbridge well. The other thing is wander around the top department stores. I used to love the Harrods Sale, and had an account which was always used in the Sale, the first Saturday was always an extra ten percent off so well worth going, and the husband would quake. My first stop would be the shoe department, Ferragamo was my shoe maker of choice, and I bought some beautiful ones in the sales, some of which I still have. The one thing about living in North America is that I have discovered that I have English feet, they are used to being shod in leather, uppers and soles, and not in North American plastic, I don't mean that in a disparaging way, but there is a tremendous difference. The other thing with shoes here, is that I can't find a size that fits.

Anyway, there I am at the doors of Harrods and in I went. Well, the one thing the husband says is that I knew that store like the back of my hand, that is, until they have now changed everything around, and I actually got lost. Absolutely impossible but yes I managed it. It's been a while since I was there admittedly, but I wasn't expecting it to have changed quite so much, the shoe department was so different and I restrained myself, (the husband thanks me), although I had trouble not dribbling over them. I eventually managed to find my way to the Harrods Souvenir department, (as I mentioned, I was Christmas shopping), and bought some items there, then I wanted hosiery which used to be on the ground floor. They have moved it to the first floor, and I had to walk around the store a fair way until I found it.
Harrods Teatowels

Baseball cap

Pug purse

I had a quick visit to the Food Halls, the husband and I used to meet for lunch there quite often but on the whole I was glad to get out of the store. A wander along Knightsbridge to Harvey Nichols was in order and it amused me that things hadn't changed. Tourists amble along without a care in the world and those of us who wanted to get places do what we normally did, walk in the road to get round them.  Harvey Nicks has changed too, and not necessarily for the better, I thought it looked a little tacky. Anyway I had my shopping so decided to go home.

The next day, I was at the Royal Academy. On my walk up to the Academy, I go past Buckingham Palace. There were hundreds of people and the Police were doing their best to clear the entrances to the Palace. I heard them say it was for the Changing of the Guard. Well, I didn't have time to wait and see it so carried on and was waiting to cross the road, when who should come riding past me but the Horseguards!

The Summer Exhibition was coming to an end, and I had purchased my ticket online in readiness. Used to go every year and really enjoyed it, so it was good to get back there and see what art was hanging. I soaked it in and felt inspired, got some ideas for work, but would loved to have taken photos, yes, I could have bought the catalogue, but papers heavy to carry home. I think the highlight of the show were the Grayson Perry tapestries. Exquisite work and the story in them was very interesting, I could have spent a lot longer looking at them, but it was beginning to get hot and stuffy.

I decided lunch was in order and took myself off to probably my favourite store, Fortnum and Mason's. I had been given strict instructions to top up the tea bags! The husband loves F&M's Earl Grey bags so I didn't dare come out empty handed. This is another store that has gone through a makeover, but is still as lovely as ever, I didn't get lost so that was a good thing.

The front of the store is lovely, and the window displays are always good to look at. I managed to miss Mr Fortnum and Mr Mason coming out of the clock on the front of the building. If memory serves me, they used to come out on the quarter past the hour and quarter to.

I wandered the Burlington Arcade, and then up Bond Street, breathing in all the expensive stores, and then popped out onto Oxford Street. John Lewis was my next stop, another favourite. After all this it was time to go home, I was exhausted!

The rest of the week went by gently, dinner out one evening with the gang, we all used to live in the same street and next door to each other and is usually a feature of a visit. I love to see them all, the kids come out too, although now they are married and have families of their own!

Before we went out for dinner we visited Dave and Pauline's house as they had just added an extension on the back so she has a beautiful kitchen and garden area now. It also took us past our old house which hasn't changed since the day we left 10 years ago!!
Our old house!

Graham, Chris, Dave, Dennis, Pauline and Wendy on the new patio

I spent the weekend packing and then was up early on the Monday morning, ready to fly home.

 It's always lovely to see everyone, and this trip was no exception and I had a great time meeting so many people in Birmingham, I think next years Festival will be a lot of fun! Now it's down to getting the details organized!!

Friday, September 6, 2013

All's quiet.........or so I thought..

Things got very hectic for a while. I shut the door on the studio and decided I should start packing for my trip to England. I was attending the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham on behalf of the ACCQF, acting as the representative promoting Quilts of Great Britain next May.

Cathy came over and loaded me with posters and bookmarks to hand out at the Festival. I decided to take little with me as I wanted to do some Christmas shopping,(yes, I know it's early but I like to get a head start on things). So off I went.

The airport was busy, but I got checked in early but too early for my luggage so, "leave it over there", well, hope I see you in London, suitcase. I am beginning to learn that I need to lighten my suitcase a lot more, it's a hard shell, which several years ago would cause no problem but because airlines are now so sticky about weight, cost me excess baggage on the way back. In fact, I think they got cross with it, dropped it from a great height as it is now broken, so I guess I am buying a new one. Anyway, I am getting ahead of myself, but I just wonder why the staff at airports have to make the experience as unpleasant as possible. I spent my time sitting at the boarding gate watching aircraft take off, land, and listening to the last calls for passengers, and actually watched them unload luggage from one aircraft at the next gate for a passenger who failed to show. The flight itself was uneventful and I slept all the way, only waking for food which we will not discuss, it was as bad on the way back.

I landed on the Tuesday morning at Gatwick and found my way to car hire, checked in, was shown to my car, Hyundai i40, and told how to use the handbrake and off I went, drove out the car park on the wrong side of the road, but soon got into it. I was staying with friends in Croydon, so a half hour drive.
I arrived safely you will be pleased to know, found my way and parked to be greeted by my friend with a big hug and .......couldn't get the car key out of the ignition. There followed a good fifteen minutes of fiddling when all of a sudden, it popped out. Apparently, you had to push it in and then slide it out, who knew?

Well, I had a lovely day and managed to last until quite late which pleased me and after a good nights sleep, I was up bright and early as I was going to be seeing my Aunt the following day as she was holidaying in Sevenoaks. Aunty had been born and brought up in the village of Ide Hill, not far from Sevenoaks, so was making a trip down memory lane, normally I would be staying with her at her home near Cambridge. We had a lovely day at Chartwell, the home of Winston Churchill. I love visiting this National Trust property, it never fails to bring me a certain peace and calm, the gardens are beautiful, and I particularly love the Sun Room. 

The view over the Weald of Kent is spectacular, although it was a little cloudy this day. It was lovely to catch up with the news and also to see my cousin and his wife, we keep in touch sporadically, so it was good to see them. Jane is a quilter, and last year, I was able to see her at the Festival of Quilts last year along with her two daughters, Philippa and Susannah. So we talked quilting for a bit.

The day went by all to quickly and then it was back to Croydon and get myself ready for the following day as I was travelling to Birmingham for this year's Festival of Quilts. I left at six in the morning thinking there wouldn't be much traffic at that time. What was I thinking? It's a while since I've driven the M25 but I wasn't prepared for it. I thought I was travelling a reasonable speed, but others were flying past me, I didn't remember the traffic being this bad last year. 7am saw me the other side of Oxford, so I stopped at the first services I found, got out of my car and shook like a jelly. I thought this was slightly ridiculous as I used to travel these roads regularly and went up to Liverpool every six weeks at one point, but, I guess you get out of the way of traffic. Living in the boonies of Southwestern Ontario, heavy traffic consists of maybe a dozen extra cars between the hours of 6 and 9, and the school buses! I exaggerate, but you get the idea.

I made good time on the rest of the journey, and got parked easily at the NEC and followed the stream to the Convention Centre. The queue had already formed, and quite by chance, I met my contact with the Quilters Guild of the British Isles. She very kindly got me sorted out with an Exhibitors pass and took me into the hall. The stand for the Guild is the first thing that greets you upon entry, and I had a table which had been draped in purple cloth with an advertising poster and a power point, so I set up my computer, turned the music down, and played the presentation I had put together showing the ACCQF from set up to take down and shots of all three shows.

I put my poster up and a display of bookmarks out and waited for the doors to open. Oh my goodness!! I'm not sure I was prepared for the rush through the doors! I spent the next four days talking to hundreds of people about the Festival and barely leaving the stand, although I did pack things away and go for lunch, leaving plenty of bookmarks out only to find the table empty when I got back! I was busy which was good, everyone was interested in what a small town was doing and amazed at the support we get. I was able to meet with my teachers who will be coming next year, and they were just delightful, I think we have a great mix of workshops.

These were a few of the quilts on display, I took so many photos and haven't got room for them all.

Inner Circle, flower of Scotland by Kay Bell

Gillian Travis- Wired Flowers

Gillian Travis-Indian Women and others

It should never have happened- Edna Standley

EQA display-Italy

EQA display-Spain

Transported-Tolpuddle by Kate Dowty

A small taste of what was on display. The show was excellent this year, the standard was good and the layout much better. I was very tired by the end of the show on Sunday, especially as the fire alarm had gone off at 4am that morning in the hotel! We all dutifully trooped outside and found it was a false alarm, but better safe than sorry. My journey back to London took three and a half hours and I was glad to be able to relax and was looking forward to the following week....

To be continued........