Monday, December 31, 2012

Round-up / Wind-down

Well it's the end of another year and we all survived the end of the world, which has got to be a good thing! At the end of 2011 I did a challenging list of things I wanted to complete before the said end of world, and I've successfully completed precisely none!

In fairness it's been a challenging year all round ... my marriage finally disintegrated in mach, and I started dialysis at that time too. Then in April I got pretty ill with peritonitis, a dialysis-related infection, winding up in hospital for 2 weeks and deciding that I'd be better off back in the UK where I had family and friends in case of emergency, and to help me get out and about and doing fun things :)

So all those things came and happened and got in the way of any quilting. Then in november I got another mild case of peritonitis, followed by a not-so-mild recurrance that landed me in hospital again for 3 days just a weekend shy of Christmas ... luckily under an extended dose of antibiotics it seems to have cleared the infection and won't need more drastic treatment! Phew!

But enough of the excuses, the short story is that I haven't sewed a stich this year ... but I do hope to re-visit this year's to-do list in 2013 and complete at least a handful of the projects.

... And to help me in that I received a nice giveaway prize from the Talki' Tuesdays twitter chat, which is a scrap pack from Jan DiCintio / DAISY JANIE organic fabrics for hobby & home. I had a choice of scrap packs from her website, and after some very helpful advice from Archie the Wonder Dog I decided to leave the selection up to Jan herself! I mentioned being able to see strong contrasts and geometric shapes, and the pack I received was, i suspect, hand selected along those lines. I am delighted to be able to see the general patterns on all the pieces, which are a really good size so I should be able to get several squares from each piece, and they all fit well with the fabrics in my stash picnic-basket so should quickly find thBeir way into a quilt! .. So what better way to end the year than with a photo!

photo of a selection of scrap fabric pieces, each with strong contrast colours and geometric shapes.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

What the postie brought

Yesterday and today have been rather good! it's always a good thing when the postie brings nice things ... I had been told I was to expect parcel but had no idea what was going to be in it ...

Today I was looking forward to a trip to ken Picton's hair salon in Cardiff Bay for a haircut, and I'm really pleased with the result! They always do it nice, but the girl who cut my hair today has got it perfect I think!

photo of me with my new haircut and holding a beautiful handmade cushion

As you can see in the photo, I'm holding a very lovely handmade cushion ... it really is fantastic and came all the way from Sarah Narcoleptic way up north in the Shetlands. i can confirm it is an incredibly comfy cushion, and i was only thinking the other day how much I needed one to rest my back when i'm leaning against the radiator, and my head when lounging on my bed listening to audio books, so it is absolutely perfect! ... one of these days I'll get my quilting engine in gear and rattle off some nice handmade goodies of my own because there are lots of people I would like to make things for and feel pretty rubbish for not having been able to!

At the moment I'm preparing for a test trip on the train ... I've booked the assistance service to make sure I get on the train and find a seat and get off again ... if all goes smoothly tomorrow I'll be undertaking a more exciting trip next week to see the band Orbital in bristol, so that train trip is a little more complex! if you don't hear from me for a couple of weeks you can bet I'll be stuck at Bristol temple Meads trying to find the right platform to come home! lol

Monday, November 26, 2012

What they really think of me ...

Homework for my writing class was to describe ourselves as writers but from the perspective of somebody else ... So this is my homework, written by somebody who knows me very well ...

My writer

I really don't understand that thing he keeps tapping away at, all clickity-clack and noisy fan, though it's nice when he makes it say 'Bix Cool,' because I am quite a cool cat if I say so myself, and Bix is my name, or at least it has been since when I stopped living with that strange old lady who called me "Bumpkin Vectis," which had something to do with my pedigree name; it certainly made me feel a bit simple. I much prefer being a Bix and not being kept outside in that wire enclosure; my human is the best and I've known him for over 10 years now, which is 70 in cat-years, so I should know.

I don't think he can be all that good as a writer though, because every time I fancy a fuss he stops what he's typing and obliges without grumbling; a real writer would carry on and world be damned. If cats were writers Romeo and Juliet would have been a couple of scenes, plus a break for lunch, a couple of snoozes and a rub-a-dub-dub of a fuss at the end. I wonder how many published writers have cats? You have to admit it's no easy task being a creative writer and the human to a cat. I guess I make it easy though because I'm always a good boy, sometimes a very good boy! I know because he stops to tell me at least once every 10 minutes. I must admit I get a little confused though when he asks, "who's a good boy?" and I think, well I am of course, have you forgotten?

Sometimes I think I purrrr too loudly, but it doesn't seem to bother him. Maybe it's like background noise, other cats tell me their humans like music or the picture box on when they're doing things other than listening to the music or watching the box. What does stop him tapping away is if I stretch out so I'm up close to the black tappy thing and put my paw on his arm; especially if I do that but forget to curl my nails away! Sometimes he says Ah!"" when I do that, but in a short sharp way, not a nice soft "aaah" or "awwwww" that means he's happy.

When he says, "I'm just popping to make a cup of tea, I'll only be 5 minutes." I Sometimes try and improve what he's writing; I'll push the buttons and make it say qqqqqqwsssgfgfgxxxxx, which makes him laugh. My record is seventy seven perfect number 1s. Occasionally he says I've been trying to send e-mails or order catnip from the internet, though 'catnip' is the only word I recognise in that sentence.

I’m not sure what poetry is all about. He writes a lot of that and seems to spend as much time changing one word to another, and then another, and then back again as he does writing the main thing. He’ll often mutter about poetry that isn’t really poetry, like there’s a set of rules and poems that he calls “really prose” have broken them all. The more i think about it the more I realise he spends an awful lot of time just staring into space, occasionally humming and ha’ing. If it’s a good day inspiration will bite him like fleas bite my non-pedigree friends, and then he’ll rattle off a few lines and look rather pleased with himself. I have to admit though, poetry isn’t really my thing.

Oooh, tuna! Do I hear somebody thinking about opening a tin of tuna?

*** Human Edit: this is the creative monster behind this post!

photo of Bix sprawled out on the patio one summer, looking very photogenic

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sunday afternoon hooker

Being a Sunday afternoon hooker (thanks to Katie Thistle for that snappy title!) was what I wanted to be telling you about ... there was a beginner's crochet class at the local craft shop and I turned up hoping to take the class.

But I got there to discover an almost full shop! i was a little annoyed because I was running 10 mins late and there was one space for somebody who hadn't turned up yet ... but they didn't suggest I wait and see if she did show or not ... Maybe I imagined it but I did feel there was a trace of "how would I show a blind person how to crochet?" in her voice, which is what really disappointed me ... especially as I bought a crochet hook and thread there a month-or-so ago ... maybe she didn't think that but sometimes you just get that kind of feeling ... the same one you get at a job interview and you just know by the way they ask the questions that they're just going through the motions and you aren't really in with a chance at the job, pfffft.

But in news of the more fun kind ... I won another giveaway at the 2nd anniversary edition of the Talkin' Tuesdays witter chat ... I won a scrap pack of what I think is organic fabric ... it's by Jan DiCintio who designs and produces organic fabrics in Reading, PA. I will take photos as soon as it arrives :)

... In other news, I have had a pair of insoles made by the hospital ... apparently I have very high arches ... the insoles have a metatarsal bar across the middle ... personally I think that's a fine name for a bar ... can't you just imagine wearing a t-shirt to your next sewing retreat saying "I got drunk at the metatarsal Bar!"

And finally, by next time I post there's a very good chance I'll have entered quite a high-profile poetry competition. You submit a booklet of poems and from that they shortlist 4 poets who get invited to submit a book-length set ... the winner of that gets published (the competition is in association with WH Smiths, which for US readers is a UK national chain of newsagents and book seller) ... the competition judge is Simon Armitage ... so keep your fingers crossed for me! :)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Foiled again ...

I've always had issues with Blogger, mainly that most of the buttons simply don't work with my screen reader meaning I have to manually do the html code to make things bold, linked or insert images. ... that explains the several posts that were missing paragraph breks when I forgot to add them manually!</p>
<p>You may be thinking I've stopped reading all your posts lately, given the total absence of any comments from me ... this is not by choice, so I thought I'd better do a quick post to explain myself!</p><p>
Blogger has apparently changed something in its templates ... for the last month or so, if your blog opens a new window for people to leave comments, that new window stubbornly refuses to cooperate with my screen reader. I simply can't get into the box to type my comment, nor does the submit button work ... in the very rare instances I can get into the comment box and remember to copy my comment to the clipboard, then at least I get the chance to paste it into an email and send you that when the submit button doesn't work .... but in most instances I'm not even getting that far.<>/p<>pSo, in a nutshell, a big BAH! to Blogger ... I wish I was able to leave more comments, but I'm certainly still reading all your posts! ... hopefully Blogger will de-change whatever they changed but I'm not holding my breath! ... Maybe they did it because they didn't like my helpful message I sent them explaining how much trouble people were having with their spam prevention random words thing, and how both visual and audio challenges were verging on the impossible ... I had a helpful suggestion on how they could adapt this system but I guess they don't like constructive criticism ... I'll save my breath in future! ...

Thursday, September 6, 2012

eye spy ...

I have had quite a productive week writing-wise. I went to the little town of Usk (Brynbuga to give it its Welsh name, which as you can imagine lends itself to some unflattering pronounciations by people not so sympathetic to Welsh language!) ... they have a small community college and it has a creative writing class starting next week ... it's really a beginners level class but there's a more advanced group meet too, so hoepfully the tutor will allow me to jump straight in with that ... I shall find out on Monday when I meet the tutor!

i've been working on a little website to support my booklet when it's ready to launch ... very soon! i've got the bio page about done and the reading room page which has some excerpts to whet your appetite! Just need to finish up the front page and sort out a sales page ... but it's all getting there :)

I've also got a couple of volunteers proof reading to make sure I'm either spelling in English or American, not a random combination of the two depending on where I was living when I was writing individual bits! ... I've also got a potential offer of help from a graphic designer with the cover, so the booklet might even look decent!

Future plans still include a descriptive quilt reference, outlining the history of traditional quilt blocks ... ideally with modern examples drawn from the blogosphere quilt world! ... I want to write what i want to read - a book that doesn't just show pictures but also describes them for the non-visual reader, and gives some history and stories behind such quilts. I know similar things have been done before but I think the descriptive angle would make it a good addition!

Finally ... for future work, if you're walking around where you live, or somewhere you're visiting ... why not jot down a few words describing its character - the colours, sounds, smells, sights that make you love (or hate) it. It doesn't have to be full paragraphs, just standalone sentences or even one-off words ... email me them or comment and I'll try and write something that reflects the place .... I might not be able to see them myself but I can use other people's eyes! :) ... no timeframe on this, it's an open invite to scribble down anything at any time!

In quilty news I won a giveaway on the Talkin Tuesdays quilt chat on Twitter last week! So a package from the lovely Fat Quarter Shop (who are regular sponsors of Talkin Tuesdays) is on its way ... I'm very excited! ... especially as I have a couple of small projects I'd like to make a start on - it's been hard to get started on things with not feeling so hot in June and July, but August has been a lot better and hopefully that'll continue through September!

Oh and I'm off for my hair cut at Ken Picton's salon in Cardiff Bay on Wednesday so yay to that!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

have Your Say!

I have a couple of questions that I'd love your opinions on .... feel free to respond to any or all ... :)

To set the scene .... if you've followed Touch And Sew for a while you have probably noticed that I enjoy writing! It's basically been "what I do" for most of my working life .... I've written long boring plans and studies for local and national government transport departments; those of you who've known me even longer than my blog may remember that I co-founded and was contributing editor for a music magazine called Splinter .... a gorgeous glossy affair that made it into many independent record stores and even local Borders branches; following that I did music reviews for Atlanta music Guide .... and on top of that I just plain enjoy writing my own poetry and prose!

So I was thinking how I can build up some useful writing examples to help me hopefully get employed in a writing / editing role next year after all my transplant cutting and pasting processes are done and I'm back on my feet! ... and since I read a lot too I am thinking a book review blog would be pretty perfect!

So, questions:

  1. What do you think of that idea?
  2. Based on other blogs that might do this, what do you think of things like the Amazon adverts that people can click on to buy the books you review? .... Do they annoy, do you just ignore them, or do you even click on them sometimes?
  3. if you are also an avid reader, would you like to contribute reviews of books you've read (your choice of what you read and/or review!) .... anything from short snapshot reviews (100 to 200 words) up to more substantial reviews (500 words or so) .... and by answering this it's no commitment to contributing .... feel free to opt in or out based on how many people eventually follow the blog!

That's it, those are the questions I'd love your thoughts on! .... Just to add I'm thinking I'll be reviewing all kinds of books, from modern fiction to classics, books on crafts and quilting through to science and poetry .... I have a vary varied consumption of the written word and that variety will be reflected in the reviews! ... that's also why I'd really love it if anybody wants to write reviews too .... that's far better than listening to me all the time ;)

Finally, feel free to comment any other thoughts or ideas that spring to your mind .... however warped and twisted (your ideas i mean .... I *know* your minds are very warped and twisted!)

Thanks! ... Giles

Friday, August 10, 2012

Playing Hookie

Today was my mobility lesson in which we've been popping into Abergavenny on the little local bus service ... we've found useful places like the library and the bank, and today it was the turn of the wool / craft shop! :)

Inspired by Lisa from In The Boon Docks relating how she found a cushioned crochet hook to be really comfortable to use …so I asked about them in the shop and tried out what they had.

They did have the cushioned variety, but only in packs of 3 for £15, which seemed rather a lot for learning with! …however they did have something similar …a hook made from ash wood that is very comfortable to hold, so I got one! :)

photo of a chunky wooden crochet hook tucked into a ball of yarn.

As you'll see i also got some nice pale blue yarn …this is also kind of a recommendation from Lisa because she mentioned that cotton yarn could be unknotted easily …I figured that would be handy when you're just starting out, so I picked some nice cotton yarn in the shop while I was there.

So all in all a productive mobility lesson! …The learning crochet will have to wait a little while as I need a voltage converter to charge up my book player in order to listen to the audiobook I have on learning to crochet …I'm a little intrigued how easy it'll be to learn without being able to see pictures, but I am assuming they wouldn't have made an audiobook for the blind if it wasn't possible to follow along without sight! .

So, what do y'all think I should try to make first? …(no prizes for sugesting a knot!)

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Meet Horace Turnbull

Here he is, my pet spider! His name is Horace, he has 2 huge orange eyes, 2 orange legs, a big orange smile and is yellow tie-dye at the front and blue tie-dye at the back! He is the first thing I ever sewed and this year was his 28th birthday!
photo of Horace the spider taken from the front.
photo of Horace the Spider taken from the back.
Talking of spiders, if you've never seen the BBC cartoon Spider! you really need to …I'm sure it'll be on YouTube!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Quilt Kitty

I discovered there's a fantastic competition going on for the real quilters ... this is my entry, a photo of Maggie helping to make a quilt ... who am I kidding, she makes the quilts, I just get in the way!

photo of Maggie and Giles making a quilt

(I think this is the photo ... I didn't name my file so well!) ... here's the link to the competition on Lilypad Quilting

…so go on, head over and enter your cat, dog, budgie or frog in the competition!

…and Maggie says she'll be delighted to have your votes in the People's Choice category …since she's currently stuck over the Atlantic waiting for the summer embargo on flights to end so she can fly to the UK I think she deserves your vote :) …

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Gee up!

I waas doing some background reading about book publishing and small preses ... and I came across a fascinating blog article about binding your own books ... seriously high quality saddle stitched books like you'd get in a bookstore ... I was amazed that it is definitely do-able in the comfort of your own home! ... I'm not planning this for my booklet this time, but I definitely might give this a go one day ... for the craft-minded (that's everyone reading this blog!) it sounds like a lot of fun and a fantastic sense of accomplishment!

If you fancy a read the article is here:

Tomorrow is my mobility lesson ... a repeat of the last 2 weeks going into Abergavenny on the bus ... except this week we're going as far as the wool shop :)

As for my booklet ... I've been very productive and the Kindle version is finished all bar the cover (which needs a photo) and any added extras that might make the booklet easier to navigate or more appealing to potential purchasers ... the hard copy version is almost sorted too which just leaves the research into getting it printed ... i'll post more when I've got the cover sorted!

This all takes me back to the fun of co-fouding my own real glossy music magazine, almost 7 years ago now ... my how the publishing world has changed since then ... but how wonderful it felt to be on real store shelves, in places like Borders and those truly independent music stores ... there's a lot to be said for being indie :)

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Talking |Tuesdays

For my UK and European friends, plus anybody Stateside who wants to chat earlier than the usual 9pm ET time, tonight is the first early session for Talking Tuesdays! This is a Twitter chat about all things quilting and sewing ... there is a fast-paced chat with many folk, some of whom you'll know from Blog land! There are giveaway prizes if you sign in on the blog to say you're chatting ... here's the link for that: ... the chat is then on Twitter, to post you just inclue the tag #talknt2 in your tweet ... to follow the chat it's probably easiest to use the website that shows all tweets that have that tag ... I'll edit this post later when I find that website! (I use a talking twitter program so don't use the website!) ... hope to see you there ... don't forget 6pm UK time! :)

Friday, July 27, 2012

before I win the Euro Millions ...

edit: it has been brought to my attention that I managed to write this without paragraphs! I'm going to edit it now to make it more readable! Thanks Sarah for spotting that!

I was looking forward to writing a blog post later this evening to let you know that I was 1 of the 100 lucky winners in the lottery, which is guaranteeing 100 millionaires tonight to celebrate the start of the Olypics.

I selected my numbers and went online to create an account, because being me I forgot to buy a ticket earlier in the week ... at which point I got to read the informative message that web services were temporarily unavailable ... though they did appologise for any inconvenience caused ... It's my million pounds that are feeling inconvenienced! Oh well, better luck next time! :p

Meanwhile I have some exciting news ... after long deliberations (I'm talking years here, how's that for procrastination?!) I have decided to put pen to paper ... well not exactly, the pen was put to paper over those several years, I have just taken this long to decide what to do with the output!

My fabulous friend Magpie Mimi, in addition to her Etsy store (which you ALL need to go visit!) is trying out a store on Big ... it has a useful free account which can be used to guage interest and usefulness of their web services, and I too am going to set up shop, so-to-speak.

I am going to do my own booklet of writing which I'll produce as a photocoppied 40-page booklet, which will keep prices (and costs) down to a minimum ... I'm aiming for no more than 4 pounds cover price, ... though obviously if I can sell a cool 250,000 copies then I won't be far short of those folks who come out on top in tonight's lottery!

More realistically, I'll be hand-numbering the first 100 copies (no mean feat when you can't see what you're writing!)

I am also having great fun preparing a Kindle version ... that'll be a little cheaper, though I haven't decided whether I'll pitch it at the 3 pound mark where I can get a bigger cut of the sale price than Amazon (who take a whopping 65 percent if you charge less than 3 pounds!) ... I do realise that pitching it at the 99p price point is where you're more likely to get people to part with money for a copy though!

Anyhow, enough rambling about the economics ... I'm having fun pulling it all together ... let's face it, it's good to be doing something while I wait for those transplants! I'll post again before publication and let you know how things are looking, along with some snippets to tempt you into buying a copy or simply telling everybody you know, and have ever known, so that I can hit that quarter of a million sales target :)

if anybody has a photo they've always felt is crying out to be the cover photo on a book, drop me a message and tell me what it is ... if it fits in with my writing I could use a good photo! The one I had in mind to use seems to have been exactly that ... a figment of my mind! ... I am sure I remember taking it in St George's Park in Bristol, but I haven't the foggiest where it is now! (the photo, not the park!)

PS I have started using a text editing program that has sound effects like an old typewriter so I am really getting into the writing mood :)

Watch this space, as they say!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

A stitch in Time ...

What's this then? Two blog posts in a week, what on earth is the world coming to? ... well it's stopped raining so i've come out of hibernation and goodness knows some blog updates are long overdue! I thought I'd give you a quick update on why things have been quiet in Touch And Sew land ... and it's quite simple really, I haven't done any sewing type things at all! The slightly longer explanation is mainly due to health factors ... and I'll update you a little on those! If you've been following me for a few months you'll recall that I started dialysis back in March and returned to Wales in May. I saw the hospital consultant for transplants fairly early on and so several trips to the clinic for blood tests have ensued ... the result of which is that apparently my blood group is fairly uncommon, so I'll be emailing you all asking if I can borrow one of your kidneys shortly ... Haha, not really. I'm on the waiting list for a pancreas and kidney so, since people are generally using their pancreas and don't tend to have a spare one, it kind of rules out the living donor options ... aren't you glad! Having an uncommon blood group means there's less donors but also there are fewer people on the waiting list ... One person in fact! So sometime between Christmas and Easter I should be ready to go! So all the blood tests and heart check ups have taken a lot of time lately, and I've also not been feeling too perky - you can get a lot of nausea as your kidneys stop working and also lack of appetite and difficulty sleeping, and I've been getting all of those and just not feeling up to any big projects! That's why I've not been entering many giveaways ... I feel rotten for winning lovely fabrics and then not getting anything made with them! I've got a fantastic fabric stash now including several lovely giveaway prizes, and they're all crying out to be made into something nice! just to reassure everybody, I haven't given up on quilting but I don't have any great expectations of getting anything made this year ... once I get through the transplant surgery I should be full of beans and keen to get started on all those things I hoped to do this year!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Fabric Finder

Just a quick question ... does anybody know of any octonauts fabric? My mum wants some, presumably to make something for either my niece or nephew! Let me know if you`re aware of any such prints ... thanks!!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Table Preservation

Well I'm long overdue a sewing post, so I feel a small hurrah is in order ... not exactly sewing per se, but at least a step in the right direction! Suddenly struck by the realisation I better get started cutting up fabric if I'm going to have even the remotest chance of entering the Men Quilt Too competition this year, I remembered that I left my nice large cutting mat back in America because even though I got mum and dad to bring their largest suitcase, there just wasn't any way it would quite fit the dimensions of said suitcase! So into Abergavenny I trotted and visited the new wool shop which also has a small selection of fabrics and general crafty paraphernalia ... There was nothing on display but when I asked, as if by magic, a pair of cutting boards were produced from the back of the store! So now I have a nice self-healing cutting mat of the same dimensions as the one I left behind ... 36 inches or something like that! It's not one of those snazzy ones I've heard some of you guys drooling about, the ones that sharpen your rotary cutter as you chop your fabric, but I can't grumble at short notice! So my tasks for next week are to go through my stash and the pattern I'm doing and work out what I've got and what colours and patterned prints I still need, and then maybe I can go do some additional fabric shopping and get started on the quilt top! PS I haven't found my camera battery recharger since I've been back, which makes me think it didn't come back with me, so that's why my posts have been devoid of pictorial content lately! I'll see what I can do about that!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Second Wind

So what's been happening in Touch And Sew land? .... not a lot to be honest, but I do have plans and news! First I made it to the Malvern quilt show and had a really nice day. Having been not so well for the previous month I ran out of energy after about 2 and a half hours of looking around the stalls and exhibits, but it was fun to see everything .... and I got a really nice craft lamp which will help not only my sewing but other things too ... It has a magnifying glass and I got excited when I could read the text on a fabric print and I wondered if I'd be able to read large print books with it .... however it's only a 2x magnifier and I normally use a x6 to have any chance of reading anything .... my optimism was misplaced, I found the fabric print must have been quite large anyway because I had no luck with a large print library book :( but all the same the excellent lighting will be a big help .... watch out for a review once I get stitching again! On which note, I had an email from Thearica from Pigtales And Quilts announcing that the second Men Quilt Too! competition will happen in October .... for my newer followers, my very first quilt took 3rd place last year .... so this year I want to win! lo .... with new changes to the rules I am forbidden from revealing which quilt I am entering, so I will have to write incognito about my progress, and certainly no photographs until voting has closed. But I know you'll all like what I have planned to work on this year! I'm actually going to follow a real pattern rather than just randomly sewing squares, so it should look like something recognisable if all goes smoothly! To do this I'm going to need a new sewing machine, since I decided to leave my old one in America when I moved back. Having seen the prices of new machines over here I admit I'm horrified! My $150 machine is the equivalent of machines costing over £450 (around $600) and £200 barely gets you much above a beginner machine. Now I don't need extensive features, except I do want the ones that make quilting a pleasure not a arduous chore! ... Luckily my friend Susan in Tennessee found a fantastic machine on Amazon with all the lovley quilty bits my old machine had and more! And it is on sale with $300 off the normal price of $450! .... with a simple voltage converter this could be my dream machine! lol .... it's the Brother CS6000i and even with postage costs it's going to be cheaper than anything above those entry-level machines over here! And something else I'm very excited about .... I may get my very own sewing room! At least while I'm still staying back with the parents .... mum said we might convert one of the spare rooms into a craft room! Now this may have something to do with the fact that she's always knitted and done some sewing, and is keen to learn some quilting with me .... so we will both get a lot of use from a nice craft room! Health wise things are good ... I'm feeling a lot better and ready to get out and do things again! Catching up with friends is top of the agenda! Talking of which, if you are one of my new followers and you notice I've not managed to follow you back yet, do give me a nudge! Sending me an email or leaving a comment with your blog address would be ideal! I've had some lovely comments of late and if I haven't replied to yours then it's been a slip of my mind because I try to reply to most comments! It's been a bit hectic trying to catch up with emails and blogs since I was offline .... my inbox is slowly reducing and I think I'm down to only 30-odd unread messages now! Gosh I've wittered on a bit here! I'll shut up now and let you get back to your sewing!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Quilts UK

Tomorrow I am going to go to my first UK quilt show! It's 30 minutes up the road in Malvern which is pretty handy@ I'll also get the chance to say hello to Lorraine from Monkey Buisness and Quilts! Having said that I've been battling with a cold that has be threatening to afflict me for the last week. it's made breathing a little harder and that's caused me anxiety at night with the result i have hardly slept a wink in 4 days! Today the cold hit with full force and I have not only been sneezing but have been sick too - that made me wory it was a return of the peritonitis infection, but i am glad to say my drained solution was clear so that's ok .... if it's cloudy that's when you end up back in hospital! here's the list of workshops at the show. I'm quite taken with the cordroy ones and the hand stitching, though i can imagine the silk flowers would be fun too! Time might limit how many I can do if I want to wander round and look at all the quilt entries too! WORKSHOP 1 11.30am - 1 hour - Free (registration essential) Thread Sense with Wonderfil Speciality Threads Are you confused by all these different threads out there? Why are there so many different threads and what do they do? Debbie from Wonderfil Threads will talk about their thread range and answer any questions you might have. We will clear up some of the nonsense and give you thread sense. 12.45pm - 1 hour - £6.50 Silk Ribbon Roses with Valeri Bennett A demonstration on the various ways to make silk ribbon roses. Handout sheet plus fabric and ribbons provided to try out the various stitches and techniques shown. 2.00pm - 1 hour - £6.50 Flower for Fool-Proof Foundation Piecing with Anja Townrow Be converted to the new Fool-Proof Frustration-Free Foundation Piecing! After a short demonstration, we will make a Flower block using the new method for Fool-Proof Frustration-Free Foundation Piecing. No waste, fits every time, sharp points! Beginners will be amazed at how quickly they get great results with this new way of Foundation Piecing, while anybody who didn’t ‘get on’ with this technique in the past, will now be totally converted! Your block can form the basis of a larger bed quilt. Pattern, freezer paper and fabric supplied for one block. WORKSHOP 2 11.00am - 1 hour - Free (registration essential) Creating Hand Look Needle-Turn Effect Appliqué by Machine with Eileen Blood Eileen will demonstrate her techniques to produce ‘hand look needle turn effect appliqué’ as featured in her original designs. The appliqué pieces can either be prepared ‘in the hoop’ using an embroidery machine or just a regular sewing machine. The demonstration will feature quick, accurate methods of construction using modern products and stabilisers. 12.15pm - 1 hour - £6.50 Rag Quilting with Jane Lodge Learn to make "a quilt as you go" rag quilt block in lovely soft flannel cottons. See how easy it is to create the ragged effect. You can then use the free pattern to make an extra warm quilt to snuggle under. 1.30pm - 1½ hours - £5.50 Hand Quilting - The Basics with Ann Jermey An introduction to hand quilting. Learn how to start, stitch and stop. For those hand quilters unsatisfied with their stitching, a chance to iron out problems. Quilting sample, needle and thread provided together with the use of hoops, thimbles and frames. WORKSHOP 3 11.30am - 1 hour - £5.00 Button Landscape Cards with Lesley Brankin Learn how to create fun little fabric landscapes using foundation (paper) techniques. No previous experience is necessary. Full materials will be provided to make two greetings cards. 12.45pm - 1 hour - £5.00 Kanzashi Flowers with Maggie Davies Learn how to make these elegant Japanese fabric flowers to embellish any project. Kit provided. 2.00pm - 1 hour - £5.00 Introducing Japanese Folded Patchwork with Lesley Brankin A brief introduction to the 'circle into a square' technique. Although simple in concept, this technique can open up a world of exciting design possibilities. No previous experience necessary (includes a number of tips which should interest even those have done this before). Full materials will be provided to make a stylish needlecase. WORKSHOP 4 11.30am - 1 hour - £5.00 Corded and Stuffed Work with Sylvia Critcher Come and try this very simple combination of techniques that I demonstrate at the shows. It looks complicated, but it really is very easy to do - all levels welcome. It is hand stitched so you must be able to do a running stitch. 12.45pm - 1 hour - £6.50 Felt Brooches & Key Rings with Roz Johnson Learn how to make a fun felt brooch or key ring. Roz will take you through the steps that will enable you to create and complete a charming, fun-to-wear brooch or key ring. A pack will be provided for each person, containing instructions, pattern sheet and materials to make up the brooch / key ring. 2.00pm - 1 hour - £6.50 Little Owl with Sadie Yeomans Spend a relaxing and fun hour creating a cute little owl beanie made from scraps of fabric and embellished with large Suffolk Puffs and buttons. Full kit and pattern included. WORKSHOP 5 11.30am - 1 hour - £6.00 Redwork, Beginner to Continuation with Marilyn Hornby Choose, depending on your skill level, between a card (beginners) or a needlecase project to be completed at home. Full instructions will be given and techniques and stitches demonstrated. A kit will be provided and loan of equipment. 12.45pm - 1 hour - £7.00 Italian Corded Quilting by Machine with Sarah Wellfair (Goose Chase Publishing) Learn Italian corded quilting by machine and decorate with the use of automatic machine embroidery stitches and decorative threads. Make the panel up into a cushion with instruction for button back. Husqvarna machine and fabric pack provided by Modern Sewing Centre Worcester. 2.00pm - 1 hour - £6.50 Summer Meadows with Claire Tinsley Make a picture of summer meadows. Very simple, using marbling and bonded appliqué. Easy to do, but very effective.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Missing Month

You may have noticed, it's been over a month since I last wrote anything on here! So here's a brief account of where I've been, what I've been up to, and where I am now! Exactly 1 month ago today I had been sick all night .... I called my dialysis nurse and she came by and took all of 30 seconds to realise I needed to be heading to the hospital! She called me an ambulance, and so I spent 3 hours in a chilly waiting room, at which point I got sick again and found myself at the front of the queue pretty rapidly! As soon as I got through preliminary tests I was then into Intensive Care for 4 days and then a dialysis ward for another 5 days. I'd picked up an infection connected to my dialysis, peritonitis, which can be pretty rough! So that accounts for the middle of April. My parents came over , arriving the day before I got discharged, and with their help I spent the next 10 days packing up my American life ready to head back to Wales. I was managing fine by myself over there, but episodes like the past 2 weeks made me decide I'd be better back closer to family! So now I'm back in Wales. I've spent the last week and a half in and out of morre hospitals, seeing different doctors and dialysis nurses to get set up with dialysis here. Initially they thought it'd take about a month to get me a machine so I could do dialysis at home overnight again .... but in an unprecidented turn of speed the good old National Helth Service got me a machine in 3 days! I was quite flabbergasted!! Very happy about that though! The new machine is easier in some ways than my old machine too, though with the minor drawback that I can't read the screen because the text is too small and the screen to dim! But it has icons I can see, and the procedure can just be done in routine order and the machine takes care of the majority of the steps! So that's my tale of why I've been offline for so long! I now have wi-fi at home so can use my own laptop which also helps enormously! One hard thing to deal with at the moment .... I'd made all the arrangements to bring Maggie cat back with me, but we all arrived at the airport and were told there is an embargo on pets entering the UK! At this point I interrupt the tale to say a huge huge thank you to an amazing person .... my dialysis nurse in Rochester not only came to visit me in hospital, she also took a key to feed Maggie twice while I was in. And if you think that's above the call of duty, there's more! She said if there was any trouble with Maggie at the airport to let her know .... I'm sure she didn't really expect me to be calling and interrupting her breakfast asking her to look after Maggie for possibly 30 days! But she agreed with no complaint and Maggie is now staying with her until she can fly back .... that's a big flight for a little kitty all on her own! But she seems to have settled ok with Janice for now and I'm sure she's being well looked after! Maybe I can make a nice quilt as a thank you present ..... I am also pleased to report that, despite initial doubts, I was able to find a box the right size to mail my picnic basket that I use to hold much of my fabric stash .... and yes, I brought a good 95 percent of that fabric back with me! The basket and my quilt have arrived safely in the mail so that's all the important things, except for the cat safely here! next step is to find a local quilt club .... I've seen an advert for one and I believe there may be a second one too, so that's my mission over the coming weeks! Glad to be back and on my feet again! Now I just have to catch up on what y'all have been writing in your blogs over the last month! hopefully they've been less eventful than my month!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Last minuute answers

OK, some time ago I remember Narcoleptic in a Cupboard asking some revealing questions and tagging, or tigging (yes, I'm one of those who would say tig instead of tag) a motley collection of her followers to answer them. Now quite what she thinks these questions are going to reveal about me I shuudder to think, but here are my answers .... somewhat late ... ok, I admit, very late!

1 Who did you blame for your last public fart?
Margaret Thatcher
2 What's your favourite TV theme tune and why.
I like the theme to Grange Hill, though I don't know why, it's just catchy! I liked Twin Peaks (Falling by Julee Cruise) and X-Files, Tales of the Unexpected, and Bergerac!
3 Tell me, what's on your 15 minute mix tape?
a 15 minute track by Underworld, or Lilly Allen's smile, James' sit down, Catatonia lost cat, and Lady Antebellum need you now
4 Roller boots or roller blades?
I'd kill myself in 1 minute flat on either!
5 If a cushion is a pillow what's a pillow?
why is a cushion a pillow? a cushion goes on a sofa, a pillow goes on a bed, don't they?
6 Who is your Dr. (who)?
David Tennnant, no question!
7 If you don the ruby slippers and click your heels etc, where you gonna end up?
In a whole heap of trouble, probably
8 What fragrance is your fabric softener?
9 Bananas - young and firm or old and soft?
ugh bbananas
10 Why is a raven like a writing desk?
just because, Stupid question!
11 What was the last thing that totally grossed you out?
that happens less now that I can't see things! Our eyes influence how we think things are going to be before we let our other senses sample them!

Now the more important question, it's 8:30pm so what shall I do for dinner? Answers a bit quicker than mine please else I might starve to death, Thanks!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Helping Hands

It has been a busy, rather challenging week! In summary I have:

  • Spent 5 days training to learn the kidney dialysis machine
  • Got lost either on the way to the dumpster, returning from the dumpster, or both .... twice I tried to take the rubbish out and failed. It's frustrating how apparently simple things can be hard and take so much time :(
  • Booked a bus to take me to the supermarket today ... I will actually post this when I return so should be able to relate how I get on!
  • Met Cindy from Bird Brains And Dog Tales, a local quilter and blogger and we enjoyed good food and conversation at Cheesecake Factory!
  • .... and went to the pet store afterwards, which helped me get Maggie cat stocked up for a couple more weeks! :)

Dialysis was as fun as learning a new medical procedure is ever going to be! I like learning new things, machines especially, so that was good, challengingg, and I picked it up pretty fast, with the aid of some improvised guides (made by janice the extremely helpful nurse, out of a chopping board from Wegmans spermarket!) ....

The staff and doctors were very doubtful that a blind person could manage a machine with touch screen keys and on-screen alert messages ... but they've not met this Lert before, and I quickly demonstrated that with the help of my magnifying glass I could read what I needed to read, and with the cutting board additions I could connect up all the tubes in a safe manner!

So on Monday I am expecting delivery of a house-full of dialysis supplies, mainly bags of sugar solution which I will ratttle through 3 per day of the 3 litre size (no I'm not going to be drinking them!) Numerous other paraphernalia such as masks, gloves, yards upon yard of disposable tubes and bits and bobs for the machine, soaps and bleaches and gels to kill all known germs beyond an inch of their little lives ....

Then I get to meet my doctor, whose bedside manner I am already less-than-impressed with, and finally my machine will get delivered Monday afternoon.

.... then on Tuesday it's a final morning of trainin at my apartment, during which time my machine will get set up and my apartment inspected .... I expect a list of recommendations on how to improve my safety and clean conditions while doing dialysis! I've finally made a start shuffling things around so the machine will fit in nicely and not be too accessible to the cat!

.... it is mostly just a case of washing hands and keeping things clean, but the times where I have to connect to, or disconnect from the machine are times where the tube going into my stomach is open and all those nasty bugs and microbes have an expressway into me ... those obviously have to be done in sterile conditions, hence the multitude of antibacterial soaps and gels and bleaches! ... the cat will also be bannished from the room at those times! (she doesn't know this yet, but i softened her up with a sachet of smelly mackeral food which she devoured with gusto, so hopefully she'll accept the new rules!)

Right now I'm just trying to mentally prepare for the challenge of my first solo grocery shop .... the store say somebody will be able to guide me around so I can find what I want ... I just have to get there and back and know what foods I want! Sounds simple ... but then you'd have thought taking the trash out would be too!

But to round off last week, after a successful week of training it was lovely to meet up with Cindy and talk about all things quilty and cat related. Aparently questions had been asked of other quilters who she knows that go to my quilt group, and the consensus was that I am very shy and quiet! LOL, as far as I know that was the worst that was said about me! Quilters can be terrible gossips! ;) .... depending on any plans for going back to the UK, I may go to one of Cindy's quilt group meetinggs in Fairport just for a change!

I did also find out about some local services that may actually be able to help with things like shopping .... I will find out more about their services and costs when I speak to them, but it was encouraging to know there might be some ways to make life more manageable!

So that's it ... not much quilting unless you count talking about it! but it has been a hectic week with lots of new things to grapple with .... I can only hope the grappling gets easier and the challenges less mountainous in the coming weeks! .... at some point I have to get the cat to a vet for her rabies shot so she can travel .... that is going to be a barrel of laughs ..... oh yes, she's going to love that and no amount of smelly mackeral food will placate her for that one!

And now finally, as if this post wasn't long enough already, I got to and from Wegman's supermarket safe and sound! i can't praise the store highly enough for making it a painless trip! it was easy to speak to somebody to make the arrangements, the girl who guided me round was really nice and I got everythin I had on my mental list, and then after waiting for my bus inside I headed out to be there as the bus arrived ... as I was battling with my mountain of shopping bags another employee arrived out of nowhere to give me a hand onto the bus with my bags! So i have enough food and milk to last me another week or two, and the cat should be catered for too, so now I've just got to remember to go back to work on Wednesday!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Sizing Up!

I know, I've been a bit quiet lately! more on that in a moment, but first I have a couple of big thank you's to make!As I have talked about lately on here, and with several of you by email, I've been deliberating over rulers that I might be able to use. The main issues are that not being able to see the markings, I'm somewhat left needing a ruler in different widths, one 6 inch wide to make blocks, a 2 inch wide for strips ... and every width in between that I might need!

In one chat about this problem, my new(ish) friend Patricia showed me this ruler by Guidelines for Quilting. It sounded rather fine but we didn't know how much it cost. Unbeknown to me she spoke to the company, asked the price and whether they thought a blind guy would be able to use one ... they did, and very very kindly said they'd send me one, complete with a seam allowance addition that also performs as a finger guard ... this is super helpful since I don't think my braille reading would be helped by the loss of a couple of digits!

So here's a photo of mine!

photo of my new Guidelines ruler on top of a piece of square pattern fabric.

Now I'm not certain I've actually got it in the picture, so here's one from their website!actually I can't figure out the URL for the image so here's the page about it!

I've been taking my time getting to know my new ruler! I can adjust the size,which is currently at 5.5 inches. I can add or remove the seam guard, and I've discovered that on the underside there is a railway track style ruler in 1/8 inch increments and markings at 1 inch intervals, and I can trace those with my fingertips and count to determine the size setting of the ruler ... this is very cool for a blind person! :)

Next important announcement: I have noticed a nice handful of new followers recently too! Hello!! Please do leave me a comment if you're reading this, because I have not figured out how to go from your name in my list of followers to your blog, so I have no way to follow you back except if you leave me a comment! So please do - I'm thrilled to have new followers and would love to follow you back! The same applies to anybody who has followed me and notices I haven't followed you ... I'm not trying to snub you, I just can't get to your blog! sometimes I feel so dull when I can't figure out how to do some things on Blogger!!

So what has been keeping me away from blogging? Well, a move back to the UK is on the cards, probably in about a month. So I'm trying not to do much other than preparing and thinking about what I might be able to bring back ... this is why I haven't done any quilting at all of late ....

I do hope to bring my fabric stash, main tools, in fact pretty much everything except the sewing machine, which I'll probably try to sell and replace when I get back ... it's a stressful time, but I am looking forward to being back in Wales. I'll certainly miss my American quilt friends who I won't see anymore, and those who I hope to meet in the short time left here ... but being blind poses challenges that I feel I'll cope better with back in the UK!

bout a week ago I had minor surgery to ex-plant the catheter that I had implanted back in October. This is for my dialysis which I am due to start in the next week or so, at least due to start training! I've still got a small amount of life in my kidneys (at best 5%) but I'd like to get going with the training so I'm getting familiar with the new routine!

So that's what I've been up to. Those of you who live nearby, do let's see if we can meet up at least once before I go, and for those in the UK I hope to see y'all soon!

Go get yourselves one of those super cool rulers, you know you need one, every quilter should have one! :)

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Weekend Wonderfulls

I am very pleased to announce that I have been chosen by LynCC to receive a Liebster Award . You can see it here: (I think that's the post I'm supposed to link back to!)

The award is for blogs with less than 200 followers, and the recipient should pass the award on to 5 more bloggers... so here's my list. I must say that this was hard because I love reading all your blogs, and many of you are already way over the 200 followers mark (and a couple of my nominees are pretty darn close!) ... but these are 5 people who have been great friends and entertain me with their comments, their own blogs, and by email where they converse about all manner of crazy things!

In alphabetical order so there's no whiff of favouratism!
  • Archie The Wonder Dog for posts chock full off hexagons and super cute photos and a good dash of humour too! I look forward to Helen's updates and love chatting to her!
  • Bird Brains and Dog Tales is one of my newer followers and a close neighbour. I have never worked out what I'm supposed to do to follo a Wordpress blog, but maybe you can figure that one out and follow this lovely blog! I stop by regularly to catch up with the goings on!
  • Magpie Mimi for wit, style, creativity and determination, she's got the lot! You might discover some must-have things in her etsy shop too!
  • Narcoleptic in a Cupboard I know a lot of you follow Sarah already, but for those who don't, get on over and follow this blog because she lives in a place with no trees and a cute cat called Ellie ... and she sleeps a lot so knock on the cupboard door before entering! She's also got a stained glass quilt tutorial that you need to check out!
  • P.S. I Want to Quilt Too! is another newish follower who I've greatly enjoyed chatting too lately! I couldn't quite figure out how many followers there are, but a few more would be well deserved! Susan has given me lots of great tips on all kinds of quilting matters!

Liebster Conventions:
*Thank your award presenter on your blog {thanks Lyn!}
*Link back to the blogger who presented you with the award
*Copy and paste the award to your blog
*Present the Liebster Award to 5 blogs that have fewer then 200 followers that you think deserve to be recognized
*Let them know by leaving a comment on their blog

And in other news, I won another giveaway recently, thanks to #Talknt on Twitter, and a couple of days ago this lovely collection of hundreds of MODA prints and solids arrived. It's sure going to be a challenge keeping track of what's what, and I think I might need some kind of organisation to my quilt drawer .... rather than the chaotic heap that currently masquerades as my stash pile!

a photo of at least a dozen little parcels of various prints, including ones of buttons, shirts, and severl solids.

I'm unsure to whom I owe thanks for sending this lovely present, though everybody who sponsors the Twitter chat is fantastic and the fabric giveaways add greatly to what is already a superb community of quiltobsessives and sewaholics!

I'm also sporting a new haircut, but since it's exactly the same as my usual haircut I won't post a photo here! If anybody sees a photo they think the style would suit me, do share the link so I can suggest it next time I need a trim! (serious suggestions only please since I can't see what you're recommending and I don't want to end up with the comedy haircut from hell, no matter how funny that might seem! ... not that I don't trust you all and your whacky senses of humour or anything!!!!!!) :)

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Grotty Knotty

Friday night was sew night at quilt club, 2 hours to finally do some sewing ... something that's been sadly lacking since Christmas! I managed a grand total of 3 squares ... the very observant amongst you may notice a conspicuous correlation between that and the number of needles I managed to thread in that same 2 hours!

I had arrived full of optimism, having found my new self-threading needles quite simple to thread in a recent blog update. I was also armed with a nifty Clover tabletop needle threading device, very thoughtfully sent by Quilter in the Gap, who happened to have a spare one and saw a comment from Susan suggesting I might find one useful.

So I sat down to thread my first needle of the evening, and promptly discovered that getting the thread through the eye was easy, but lining up the two ends of the thread ready for knotting wass less so! To cut a long struggle short, next time I tried knotting the thread first and then parting the thread so I could slide it into the eye of the needle (remember these needles have a tiny slit by the eye so this is possible) ... however it took me an age, well about 30 mins, to accomplish this .... and when I tried to repeat the trick for needle 3 I gave up! it doesn't take long before you find yourself wondering if you actually just knotted the end of the thread and didn't get the other end into the knot, and therefore whether you're trying to separate a single bit of thread!

Now you all probably well know that I take a long time to ask for help! I did have a willing helper this time but I had to try on my own so that I can find a way to master this without depending on somebody to help! I did ask for help figuring out the mechanism for the threading machine, but neither of us got very far with that, so I have no success to report there either! .. before giving up on that though I will try with a conventional needle and also by looking for instructions online ...

I also have to report no success grappling with the sewing machine today. Having had trouble pushing the fabric through past the needle in a straight line and without any bunching, I thought I'd turn the machine around so I'm sitting behind the needle as it were, and therefore would be pulling the fabric through which would hopefully avoid the whole bunching problem .... well I struggled to work out exactly where I'm lining up the fabric under the needle ready to start, so I definitely need to play around with some scraps before ruining any of my rainy day quilt squares! ... I'm not too hopeful because all the controls are now facing away from me (the needle raise button and the dials etc) but we'll see, it might still work!

So that's my dismal sewing update! At least I got 3 squares hand sewn on Friday night, but it'll take me a lifetime to finish my second quilt at this rate! ... I have had a lot of other things going on though so it's not all been my lousy skills that have been getting in the way of my stitching!

Not giving up yet though .... and I'm determined to get going on my Hanuary quilt block (an asterisk and a wonky pound sign) for the tutorial I've signed up for! I've even been thinking about how I can embelish it to make it a nice little mug rug style affair!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Resolved To Sew, 2012

When I saw Manda from Quilty Moments post about this, I knew I had to enter ... obviously I did necause I'm a hopeless fabric addict and there are some delicious prizes on offer of a fabricatious nature! ... but in all seriousness, this really struck a chord (or should I say cord? you know how I love my cords!)because if there's one overarching aim I have for 2012 it's to resolve to sew more ... and I do mean I need to be resolved to do so, not because I lack the desire to sew, but because I let everything else in life get in the way, and especially the little obstacles that I let become barriers, like threading needles, needing to master the sewing machine, getting the mobility van to and from quilt club sew nights .... as you can imagine, I'm not short of excuses for why I have nothing for show and tell week after week!

The original post is here on Very Bery Handmade One of the rules is that I have to name my preferred prize from the list .... I think my number 1 choice would be the lifetime's supply of Christmas cake, delivered at monthly intervals until there is a world shortage of almonds with which to make the marzipan to go on top of the cakes, or the world supply of brandy that moistens the cake and plumps up its pretty little raisins hits drought levels,or I end up in a diabetic coma, whichever comes first ...

... oh,maybe I imagined that prize! OK, my next number 1 choice is ... (7 FQ) from Dan Bennett’s Premier Lord collection from Eclectic Maker

and I think I can name my other prize preferences too, so second and third choice would be:

2. Fat quarter bundle (3 FQs) of polka dots from Lake House/Tanya Whelan from Quilt Me Happy ... polka dots are one of few patterns I still can see quite clearly ... they litterally jump off the shelves at me in the quilt stores!

3. Fat quarter bundle (4FQs) from Kate Spain’s Terrain collection from Gone to Earth

So here they are, my resolutions for 2012. I've focused on half a dozen "aims" rather than projects, which you can find a plethora of in my "Between Now And The End Of The World" post back in December... these are skills I want to work on throughout 2012, and that list of projects will hopefully be the nitty gritty way in which I accomplish my resolutions!

1. I am not going to let every little thing stop me from doing *something* with a needle and thread each week
2. I am going to learn as many of the "basics" as I can, primarily through where I've signed up for aa 2 blocks per month challenge.
2b. ... I will make as many of those blocks as I can without any assistance, no matter how clunky they turn out!
3. I am going to try and fit in learning some Free Motion Quilting, using Quilter in the Gap's very helpful introduction video tutorial, and Quokka Quilts's recently started QAYGFMQAL which I know several of you are also doing!
4. I hope to hold my own challenge midway through the year, with more than a little inspiration and help from Quokka Quilts (her again!) ... the plan is for a tactile quilt challenge though the details are still in deliberation ... more later!
5. I will have a giveaway myself too, having been the very happy winner of several over the course of 2011. Having just passed 50 followers I would like to celebrate that, and will do so as soon as I think of what would make a nice prize!'
6. I will try and respond to more comments and get to know my new followers, even when their blogs aren't on Blogger and therefore aren't part of my update summary list ... I'm bad at forgeting to stop by their websites and I must do better! I hope you do know how much I appreciate your comments, whether you comment on every post or just once or twice .. they all add up to a great bunch of happiness and I know I don't tell y'all enough!

So that's it, my resolutions for 2012. You have my permission to come round my house and take a handful of my stash mountain for every resolution I fail to keep ... I'll even make you a cup of tea and a cake before you leave.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Easy Camel!

Right back when this blog began I mentioned I needed help threading needles. I tried a weird and wonderful contraption that worked but which more often than not left me tangled up in thread and the needle laughing at me no closer to being threaded! Then there was a needle designed to have an opening alongside the eye, with a little notch which the thread would catch on and slot into the eye ... that worked but the needle itself was so blunt my poor little fingers cried at pushing it through even a single layer of fabric.

So for the last 6 months I've largely been dependant on others to thread needles for me, and my evenings at Quilt Club were constrained by how many needles i could take with me (not being the sort of guy who likes to ask for help with something as basic as threading a needle at Quilt Club!)

Then I discovered a different design of self-threading needle. This one has a groove right on top of the needle, above the eye ... I tried and made no progress trying to even fathom how this mechanism worked, and so I quickly gave up. Then this weekend I've started reading the Elm Creek Quilts books, beginning with The Elm Creek Quilt Sampler, the first 3 books in the series. I enjoyed the first 2 and was reading book 3 today ... I was certainly inspired when I read about Sylvia having a stroke but working to recover her ability to quilt ... including threading a needle by moistening the eye of the needle instead of the thread ...

So, feeling brave I got out my needle and thread and moistened the eye and waved the thread in the general direction of the eye ....

no luck! You need to remember that when you can't see the thread and can't really feel it between your fingers, you've no way of knowing how close or far you are from getting it through the eye, so it's a case of 100 or more attempts and sheer luck whether you get anywhere!

With the blunt needle design I also had trouble because I couldn't easily line up the 2 ends of the thread to knot them (blind people find it much easier when the thread is knotted so that it can't pull out of the eye again when you drop the needle ... I think the correct term is double threading but I might be wrong about that!)

Anyhow, refusing to give up, thanks to Sylvia's storyline perceverance, I kept trying different ways to figure out how this groove on top of the needle was supposed to help the thread through the eye ... and hey presto!

I didn't even think I'd be able to line the thread up with the groove (remember, I can't see the thread!) ... but I found that by pulling the thread (still attached to the reel) so that it is taut, then it's surprisingly easy to get the needle to rest with the groove on the thread ... then it's just a question of wiggle wiggle jiggle so the thread angles to the side ... and at one side you find there's a little slit and the thread just pops into the eye! :)

Congratulations you have threaded your needle!

And the extra benefit is that the thread can be pulled to a good length before you start, then you can make it taut just next to the reel, and when you work at that taut part you can ignore the rest ... just get the taut bit into the eye and then you can run your hand along to the loose end, grab it between thumb and forefinger, bring it towards the reel and your right to cut and knot it ... all done and no more stress!

I should add that this design of needle has a much sharper point which is why I wanted to get it working, so now I'm happy and my fingers are happy too!

There have been a few people interested in my experiences with these needles, so if you want to know more - instructions or just makes / types, then leave a comment or email and I'll happily go into more detail!

I'd had to give Quilt Club a miss tonight because, quite frankyly, I'd forgotten it was the third Monday of the month already! I therefore hadn't booked a bus, and with more snow in the forecast i decided to stay home. However, with this minor success with the needle, hopefully this opens the door to a lot more sewing!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

World's Strongest Quilter

I spent an enjoyable weekend watching World's Strongest Man. This is an annual event usually shown around New Year time. It was postponed from New Year's Day this year and I've been eagerly waiting for this weekend since then!

If you haven't ever seen it, WSM features incredibly large men doing implausibly stong things, like pulling fire engines, throwing heavy barrels, and running with huge balls made of stone!

So wouldn't it be fun to have a World's Strongest Quilter competition! Each year the best of the best gather to compete against fellow quilters in battles of fabric, thread and sheer stitchery.

World's Strongest ManWorld's Strongest Quilter

log press
hexagon fabric pressing
truck pullTug of War with Aurifil thread
Fingle's FingersNeedle threading
Dead liftSewing machine carry
Barrel runFastest bias tape making
The Atlas StonesSpeed FMQing
photo of Fingal's Fingers

The Haxagon Press favourite will undoubtedly be Archie The Wonder Dog who has been practicing this event all weekend I believe. I am not of world class standard at any of these events (except perhaps if there's a bonus for how many times you prick your fingers in the needle threading event!) but I'm one of the best at making cups of tea so I'll be in charge of refreshments between events! Yes, this will include biscuits!

Suggestions for future events are always greatly appreciated, just leave a comment with your suggestions!

Meanwhile although I haven't managed to actually do any quilting this weekend, I did receive a lovely package from the equally lovely Magpie Mimi, containing some "not very fat" quarters (Mimi's description! I gather they're some kind of new fangled meters or something ... since moving to America I've gone all imperial in my measurements so it's yards and inches all the way!) ... there's a couple of really nice fabrics and I already am forming plans, including maybe doing some applique raindrop shapes for my Rainy Day quilt with one of them! The package also included a couple of lovely leaf hanging decorations that I shall promptly hang somewhere, and a key fob that I shall also attach to something, most likely my keys since that's what it's designed for! I definitely recommend you check out her blog and from their her etsy store as she adds more and more things to it! ... you definitely all need some of her leaves and key rings ... here's a photo to illustrate! (sorry if I've missed anything off the photo or placed it back to front etc ... I can't really see what I'm taking photos of anymore!)

... and finally the package also included a yummy bar of Cadbury's Dairy Milk chocolate and 80 Yorkshire Teabags! I'd gobbled a couple of rows of the chocolate and had the kettle boiling within 2 minutes of opening the parcel! :)

Meanwhile I've also been reading some of the Elm Creek Quilt novels ... I found an audiobook on the Blind service at the Library of Congress, containing the first 3 books so I'm listening to those and am currently starting book 3! Really enjoying them!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Sew mama questions...

I saw Sarah (Narcoleptic In A Cupboard) post her answers to these questions recently and thought I might answer them too!

Looking back at the 2011 sewing scene, what trends stand out in your mind?

I've probably been too new to quilting to know what was a trend and what wasn't. Everythin I encountered was new to me and I don't know what was new to everyone else and what ideas are old favourites! I did notice a lot of triangles at the quilt show I went to, and I'm hearing lots of people doing things with hexagons, but that's about all that stuck me as a "trend" in 2011 .. but you must know I've never been a scenester!

What were some of your favourite things related to sewing this past year?

All the sewing people I've met and the things they've helped me learn! I can't believe that from my quiet blog beginnings when I had but a handful of follwers, I have just hit 50 followers which is more than I even imagined might be possible ... I mean, how many people would want to read about the blundering stitches of a newbie blind sewer?! ... I'm thrilled to have so many friends to chat to and who are willing to share their knowledge and especially take the time to make their posts accessible to me by describing things that a picture could easily say by itself ... that means a lot to me! :)

What did you make that you're most proud of?

That would have to be my first quilt! Most of the fabrics were picked for me by the lovely people at Center for the Visually Impaird's quilt group in Atlanta, based on the colour choices I came up with. I then found a nice fat quarter of owl fabric in complementary colours, and following that chose an owl fabric to make the backing from, and a complementary colour for the binding.

And rather ashamedly I have to say that that was all I finished in 2011! Hopefully I can be more productive in 2012 and even make some nice little gifts for all my lovely friends who have sent me books and fabrics and even little bells!

Here's a picture of that quilt, just to showcase it again ... did I mention it won 3rd place in the men Quilt Too competition on Pigtales and Quilts? ... keep an eye on that website because there's a crazy quilt competition coming up and lots of other good things!

photo of my owl quilt

What sewn projects have you seen this year that you absolutely love?

Obviously with my very limited vision I don't quite see many of the quilts I hear about, and often at quilt club show and tell I really miss that when everybody "oooh" and "aaaah's" at what somebody is showing! But sometimes I can still see a little bit, and if a quilt has good contrasts and strong colours I may get a good (if slightly monochrome) idea of what's going on! An example was a Medallion quilt I saw at a local quilt show. I could see myself trying one of those one day!

On my list of projects for 2012 "Between Now And The End Of The World", I have a couple of quilts I liked the visual look of, in terms of the bits I could see! Included in these are a Supernova design, which I think is like a starburst ... or maybe a giant asterisk ... eitherway I'd like to make one!

I have a whole list of projects I'd like to try too from the tutorials on Sew We Quilt too! Not so much for the visual I've seen, but they sounded so nice that they made me want to try them ... so I have them all saved or bookmarked for future attempting!

What are your thoughts about social media? How is it going for you? What do you love or hate?

I find social media a bit of a mixed bag. In theory I love it, and when I could see I would be on all the networks! ... but to visually impaired folk a lot of the sites are very inaccessible. Facebook for example is hard work unless you use the mobile version of the site and then it is very limited in functionality compared to the main version. Google Plus I'd really like to try, and several people have added me to their circles, but apart from creating a profile I've been unable to get any of the buttons to work with my screen reading software, so I am a mute voice on Plus ... I promise I'm not ignoring you if you've added me to a circle! I'll keep trying it and will add y'all back when I can get it to work for me!

I do enjoy Twitter, where I am @bix_cool. I love the #talknt chat where many quilters come to spend 2 hours in fast-paced talk about quilting and sewing! It's great fun and you should definitely try it out! There is a chat webpage that makes it easy at at this Twitter chat website, or just search for the tag #talknt using your Twitter webpage or client. Huge thanks to Cara for hosting this every week and to Fat Quarter Shop, MODA and anybody else who has sponsored the giveaways each week! ...

Social media does have a nasty tendancy to get in the way of actual quilting though doesn't it?! ... I often think if I spent less time tweeting and blogging I'd get a lot more quilting actually done!!

Did you have a favourite fabric collection or print in 2011?

I like what I've seen of Michael Miller and in the Robert Kaufman collections. I often don't know what I'm looking at, so it's difficult always for me to know exactly "what" I've bought at the shop! lol ... I like the strong contrasts and patterns because I can see them, and a little selection that Thearica sent me of black and whites is eagerly waiting to be made into something, as soon as I decide what!

The Blogger's Choice competition from Laura of Quokka Quilts and Fat Quarter Shop introduced me to many many different fabrics and designers, all of which I want to part with my precious few pennies for, simply by spending hours browsing the store looking for patterns I could see or names of fabrics that appealed to me in one way or another ... in fact, if anything has spiraled my fabric habit into an even greater acceleration, this competition has got to be it! So there you go, Laura is to blame for wrecking all those New Year resolutions about not buying more fabrics until that stash mountain starts dwindling in size!

Finally, just a nice request, but a serious one, to anybody who has an online fabric store, please do describe the fabrics ... I can't really buy any if I don't know what the main colours or patterns are like, and this isn't just an issue for blind folk! There's lots of people with low vision who would find descriptive text helpful, and just think how many times you've seen an entry in a competition and it's the story behind it that's really inspired you or captured your imagination ... just think, a couple of sentences describing a fabric as "creamy background with dark chocolate swirls and spirals" (to make up an exapmple) might tempt somebody's taste buds who wasn't initially looking for a cream fabric!

Oh, and I also have ideas for some fabrics that I'd love to see made ... not really saying I'd do it myself because I couldn't do justice to what I have in mind, but some day, I'd love to talk to somebody who knows about that kind of thing!

What do you predict for 2012 in the sewing industry?

Well, since the world is going to end, apparently, I expect lots of people to try and finish those WIPs that are filling up those craft room cupboards, and that people will start trying to reduce that ever-growing stash mountain at least by a fat quarter or dozen ...

I'm interested to see whether Free Motion Quilting is becoming an increasingly popular thing to try, or whether that's just amongst my bloggy friends ... I think it's more widespread than that so watch out for FMQing to explode across the quilt world! I'm going to start with Quilter in the Gap's intro to Free Motion Quilting which was part of her Duo Quilt-a-long, and then I aim to try what Laura (see links earlier) is doing in her FMQ-a-long, so I'm in on the FMQ trip too!

Can you tell us what to expect from you in 2012? Any big projects or life-changing goals?

Crikey, how's that for a pressure question! You'll hold me to what I say, and I'm already feeling overwhelmed by my To Do list!

If all goes to plan you should see a lot of small projects. I have a Rainy Day quilt to finish, but apart from that and maybe a Supernova quilt, I think I want to try as many new ideas as possible ... so watch out for coasters, mug rugs, orphaned blocks, all with different designs as I learn many of the techniques you guys already know!

And quite possibly I might have a giveaway to celebrate hitting 50 followers ... well I didn't literally hit my 50th follwer, but I'd like to hit somebody with a nice package delivered by your local postie. Not sure what it's going to be, or exactly when, ut watch out for it coming soon(ish)

Ooh, and thanks for some interest to a comment I made about being able to touch display quilts at quilt shows, there may be some mileage in a challenge! The idea being that anyone who wants to participate can make a "tactile quilt", one which highlights different textures or effects to make it fun to run your fingers over! Then at the end of the challenge all the quilts will be auctioned or donated to charity ... the details are still being pondered, but watch out for that mid-year! Of course there will be prizes and things too! Sound like fun? Let me know you're interested so I can pick your brains and know what kind of size challenge is in hand!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Giles' Blogger Bundle

So here it is. You've been holding your breath all afternoon and evening, since my first post, and I can sense you're going a little purple in the face by now ... so go ahead, breathe! here it is! my second post of the day! what a way to begin 2012!

So this is it, my entry for the Blogger's Bundle competition, dreamed up by Laura of Quokka Quilts in partnership with The Fat Quarter Shop, who promised a prize consisting of half a yard of each of the winner's fabrics, that's 15 half yards of fabric! Awesome!! ... and then they went and trippled the prizes, so there are now 3 chances to win! Fantastico!!!!!!

So here's my entry. As far as I'm aware you can only submit one entry. If I'm wrong I may be back with a jazz-inspired selection, but here for now is my bundle.

I started by browsing Fat Quarter Shop for fabrics whose names connected with me for one reason or another. That's where the cupcake came from, for example! Then when I felt the first selection looked a bit washed out, I went with ones I could see, which means strong colours and good contrasts. In common with a lot of male quilters (apparently) I like geometrically inspired designs, so much of the contrasts went with that kind of pattern.

I'll post the mosaic which I followed Laura's suggestion and went to the free online tool at - it's easy to use and lets you save the result to your computer. Then, as per the rules, I list the fabrics and their SKU codes so that when I win the Fat Quarter Shop will know which fabrics to put in my bundle. Then, as an extra, I re-post the mosaic in my own table so that any visually challenged people can move through it one cell at a time and any screen reading software should be able to announce the name of the fabric from the tags I put on each image ... so that will give a better idea of the layout I put them in.

Ready? Here it is!

This is the list of fabrics, starting with the 12 patterns:

1. Dessert Party by Ann Kelle for Robert Kaufman Fabrics. Dessert Party Chocolate Lollipop Lineup Yardage SKU# 12049-193

2. Robin Zingone for Robert Kaufman Fabrics. Heart Garden Love Butterflies on White Yardage SKU# 11906-262

3. Piece O' Cake for Robert Kaufman. Marigold Large Floral Yardage SKU# 10993-129

4 Contemporary - Bespoken Passion Woven Yardage SKU# BE-6108

5. Michael Miller Citron Gray Gray Lolli Dot Yardage SKU# CX3295-GRAY-D

6. Penguin & Fish for Clothworks Fabrics. Safari Sweet Organic Orange Wobble Stripes Yardage SKU# Y0774-36

7. LouLouThi by Anna Maria Horner for Free Spirit Fabrics. LouLouThi Citron Framed Yardage SKU# AH41-CITRO

8. October Afternoon for Riley Blake Fabrics. Farm Fresh Green Allover Animals Yardage SKU# C900-GREEN

9. Cupcakery by SPX Fabrics. Cupcakery Multi Mini Cupcakes Yardage SKU# 22566-Multi1

10 Farm Fresh Teal Picnic Plaid Yardage SKU# C9005-TEAL

11 Alexander Henry - Rivoli Natural and Black Geo Yardage SKU# 7497-C

12 Metallic - Plume Black Large Plume Yardage SKU# CM8664-BLACK

And finally the 3 sOLIDS:

13. Free Spirit Designer Solids Cranberry Yardage SKU# S27-CRANBERRY

14 Bella Solids Blush Yardage SKU# 9900-112

15. Amy Butler - olive

And my re-creation of the mosaic table :

Designer Solids by Free Spirit Fabrics. Free Spirit Designer Solids Lemon Bella Solids Blush Amy Butler - solid, olive
Dessert Party by Ann Kelle for Robert Kaufman Fabrics. Dessert Party Chocolate Lollipop Lineup Robin Zingone for Robert Kaufman Fabrics.  Heart Garden Love Butterflies on White Piece O' Cake for Robert Kaufman - Marigold Large Floral Yardage SKU# 10993-129
Contemporary - Bespoken Passion Woven Michael Miller - dots Penguin & Fish for Clothworks Fabrics. Safari Sweet Organic Orange Wobble Stripes
LouLouThi by Anna Maria Horner for Free Spirit Fabrics. LouLouThi Citron Framed October Afternoon for Riley Blake Fabrics. Farm Fresh Green Allover Animals Cupcakery by SPX Fabrics. Cupcakery Multi Mini Cupcakes
Farm Fresh Teal Picnic Plaid Alexander Henry - Rivoli Natural and Black Geo Metallic - Plume Black Large Plume

Reading, Writing and Resolutions

Brace yourselves! This is the first of what may be TWO posts today! That's not a resolution, just a threat, or maybe a promise ... well, at least it's the plan!

Let's start by saying Happy New Year! Right, that's that checked off ... we all know 2012 is going to be pretty much the same as every other year, give or take random things! And of course the End of the World is going to be on December 12th, so get all those WIPs finished by then! ... and I don't want to hear any arguments about starting the Christmas cake early this year, because if the world is ending I want to know how the cake turned out!

So how did you spend New Year's Eve? Wild parties? I spent pretty much all day wandering in an online fashion around the Fat Quarter Shop! I was selecting my choices for Laura from Quokka Quilts's and Fat Quarter Shop competition where you can make your own "Blogger's Bundle," a selection of 12 patterns and 3 solid colours ... that's the only rule (as far as I'm aware!) ... so that's what I did all day, and when I finish one last bit of tinkering with my selections I'll post the result in my much-hyped, eagerly-anticipated SECOND post of the day! ... oh yes, and I had a nice relaxing soak in the bath to wash away 2011 in a cloud of bubbles

And now to keep up a tradition I started on Live Journal, here's my reading list for the last year. In 2010 I managed to average a book a week, but this year since starting work that rate has decreased a little, but I came close! It's an even odder mix than past years, the usual romantic series novels by Catherine Anderson and Robyn Carr, plus a few random others, and then a good dollop of scientific and technology type books,and Winnie the Pooh because I'd never read them before! Not too much intellectual fare really, but hey, it was a busy year what with the new job, moving and learning quilting!

Talking of which, the book list follows in a moment, but HOT NEWS! I just signed up for an online freee quilt class, where you can learn 2 different blocks every month, co covering all the basics, with videa instruction and a tutor you can ask questions if you get stuck. Sounds good! So that's my resolution, to try and keep up with that (and the other dozen projects and quilt-alongs I've put on my To Do list for the year!)

So that's it until later just the reading list ...

Books of 2011:
Temptation Ridge (Virgin River series book 6) (by Robyn Carr)
Nickel Mountain, A Pastoral Tale (by John Gardner)
32 Cadilacs (by Joe Gore)
The Tender Years, vol 1 (by Janette Oke)
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake (by Aimee Bender)
Cat's Cradle (by Kurt Vonnegut)
Paradise Valley (Virgin River series, book 7) (by Robyn Carr)
Death's Excellent Adventure (short stories) (by Charlane Harris)
The Universe and the Teacup (by K. C. Cole)
Killing Time (by Linda Howard)
A Searching Heart, A Prarie Legacy vol.2 (by Janette Oke)
Wellspring (by Janice Holt Giles)
Angel's Peak (Virgin River series book 10) (by Robyn Carr)
Super Sad True Love Story (by Gary Shteyngart)
The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy (by Douglas Adams)
Lost Genius- The Curious and Tragic Story of an Extraordinary Musical Prodigy (by Kevin Bazzana)
Phantom Waltz (Coulter series book 2) (by Catherine Anderson)
Sweet Nothings (Coulter series book 3) (by Catherine Anderson)
Simply Love (by Catherine Anderson)
So Enchanting (by Connie Broadway)
Rush to the Altar (by Jane Feather)
Contract null and void (by Joe Gors)
the Complete Stories of Winnie The Pooh (by A. A. Milne)
The House of Gucci- A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed (by Sara Gay Forden)
Lullaby of Birdland (by George Shearing)
House of Versace: The Untold Story of Genius, Murder, and Survival (by Deborah Ball)
Moonlight Road (Virgin River series book 11) (by Robyn Carr)
Promise Canyon (Virgin River series book 12) (by Robyn Carr)
Neuromancer (by William Gibson)
Count Zero (by William Gibson)
A Beautiful Mind (by Sylvia Nasar)
Googled. The End of the World as we Know it. (by Ken Auletta, )
Dead Reckoning (Sookie Stackhouse series) (by Charlane Harris)
Here To Stay (Harrigan Family series) (by Catherine Anderson)
Wild Man Creek (Virgin River Series book 13) (by Robyn Carr)
Supercrunchers- Why Thinking-by-Numbers Is the New Way to Be Smart (by Ian Ayres)
The Art of Intrusion- The Real Stories behind the Exploits of Hackers, Intruders, and Deceivers-(by Kevin Mitnick)
The Amazing Story of Quantum Mechanics- A Math-Free Exploration of the Science That Made Our World (by James Kakalios)
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs