Friday, 20 March 2015

Total Eclipse 2015

Today there is a solar eclipse visible from My Hilltop. We are in the 95% zone. It is just starting now and the sky is getting dark. I suppose. My Hilltop is covered with cloud. We have a full eight octas of cloud cover. Nothing is getting through.


Instead I am watching these guys -

Space geeks geeking out about the solar eclipse. Am loving it.

Monday, 9 March 2015

My Hero.

Today was the second last football (soccer) match of the season and we played 25 miles away from home. In the course of this season we have gone from unplaced to second in the division. A win today meant we would be going up into Division One. Our lads played strong from the start. They had fire in their bellies and kicked hard.
I am the shouty parent on the sideline I confess. I am especially shouty at the defence because that is where the Boychild plays and I get to holler all sorts of advice to him that probably runs contrary to what his coach has told him because I have absolutely no understanding of the rules. However as a shouty parent I am in the 'Good Guys' camp because I only shout out good and positive comments and I clap the opposition goals and good plays. But my voice is loud and I don't pause for breath very much (yes you all probably would hate to be on the sidelines with me).
We gave one of the lads a lift today. I have known this boy since he was 18 months old. He is ... ummm... a one off. He feels things deeply, is fiercely competitive and has very little fear. He is a whirling dervish powered by a Category Four cyclone. He plays like a really really angry terrier in full chase mode.
He had a rough first half as he bounced an own goal into the net but full credit to him he pulled it together, dashed away the tears no one was supposed to see and got his head back in the game. The opposition were a physical team. A big physical team. I disagree with the base defensive strategy of our coach and spent a lot of this afternoon's match shouting at our lads to push forward, be a bit more aggressive in their defence. It didn't work. Despite my (and lots of the other parents') vocal encouragement the result was 2-1. Truth be told we were swizzed because one of their goals was from a free kick that shouldn't have been awarded.
As we always do the Boychild and I had a post-match post-mortem on the way home. My cyclonic dervish friend joined in. He asked what I had thought when the other team were rude about me being the shouty parent. When I said I hadn't heard it he told me it was when he got pulled aside by the referee and told to adjust his attitude. I think the exact words were "Even if he commits the foul if you get up and punch him then it goes against you." Apparently the boy on the other team had been mouthing off at my vocal support for my Hilltop team and Sir Cyclone of Dervish came to my aid. As his Mum told me later 'He was funny-I quizzed him when I saw your lovely post on the Hilltop Team Facebook page and he explained that he'd never stand for "some stupid kid bad mouthing Trashy". He's your #1 fan!!! '

He might be only five foot four but my hero is a giant to me.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

For Sue : Festival of Quilts, Birmingham 2014.

Dear Sue,
given the state of your head when they walked you off into the First Aid room at the NEC I figured there was a strong chance you wouldn't be back to attend the Festival this year so I thought if I wrote up what I saw it might give you some idea of the event.
Firstly may I ask after your husband? He was looking a little bit pale and wan as he helped you up from your tumble by the path. I can understand why; that hen's egg-sized lump above your eye was enormous and getting bigger by the minute. Couldn't be sure exactly how big because I hadn't yet purchased one of those 'Bloc Loc Rulers' which was on my list but it was definitely over an inch proud of your head.
You should know I think you were terribly brave, in fact all of us who could see just what had happened thought it. Once you were away from gawping NEC workers and the  bossy Aussie holding a tissue to the badly grazed duck, egg-sized lump over your eye, and safely ensconced inside the First Aid room I hope you let rip and flooded the room with tears. A little bit of wailing and teeth gnashing wouldn't have gone amiss either. And then again in the ambulance they better have called for you because chica, you *needed* to be pumped full of the strongest analgesics possible before getting that goose egg-sized lump x-rayed. Fingers crossed your orbital bone wasn't fractured and that the lump the size of an emu egg was merely really ace fake make-up. Anyway.
Once into the Festival of Quilts the first thing visible were (unsurprisingly) rows and rows of quilts on display. Plus the Quilting Guilds booths. Not being a quilting guild I ignored them because you know, not me. But oh Sue! The teeny weeny mini quilts people made were sooooo fabliss and stunning.
The pieces in this are so little Sue. You seemed to have 20/20 vision so you probably wouldn't have had to squint but I saw a few older women leaning in for a closer peer. Actually this was one of the bigger minis, there were some that must have been about six inches square. Don't tell anyone but I can imagine having a bash at a teeny one and possibly/maybe entering it at FoQ 2015. Let's make a deal Sue, you physically get yourself through the doors at the NEC next year and I will have a micro mini on display for you to look at.
This one was Maria's favourite. No, I wasn't surprised either.
I don't know about you Sue but every year on the way up to FoQ we say we must buy a programme and every year we are so excited to just get in there and see everything we don't. As a consequence we venture up and down the aisles and get lost and confused and spend too much money, double back on ourselves, see loads of stuff and miss even more.
These were some of the quilts that worked for me. There were loads of stunning quilts, technically fabulous quilts, funny (haha) quilts, funny (peculiar) quilts, some modern art quilts and a few I confess I looked at and just thought "Hmmm..." The ones in this collage aren't those. All of these spoke to me; I know, I know - a little bit 'Pseud's Corner' but they just did. All of them were extremely clever in their construction, quilting or use of colour and that London Modern Quilt Guild one is all of that. I think it was by Judi Kirk. I may be misremembering her name but she was one of the desk jockeys at the Modern Quilt Guilds section of that Quilt Guilds booth/office place right up the front.
The Spools was a feast of Liberty chosen by an expert eye and I couldn't help but smile as I went passed it. It feels as if it has been made with a lot of love. If you actually know who made it Sue please tell them how it gives me a little glow when I look at this picture, and if it was made with much swearing and crossness I don't have to know . I wish the lighting in the venue had been better because this photo does NOT do justice to the colours at all.
That skullington is creepily magnificent or you know, magnificently creepy. Clever, clever pattern designer and good work exhibiting sewist (if they are different people). The general consensus of people drifting past it was it was clever but they were feeling a little hypnotised looking at it. Given the headache you undoubtedly have it is probably a good idea you avoided actually looking at this one Sue.  The bottom right was a winner for me because of the colour choice being so totally in contrast to the traditional block.
And the Festival is a little bit about the shopping isn't it? I hope that all your spending money can be used in your Local Fabric Shop. Or you could always convert it to Paypal (which we all know is free money) and spend it online. If so I would thoroughly recommend Magee Donegal Tweed. Normally
tweed has a slightly rough edge right? No matter how flash the brand you always know it is going to smell of wet dog and wee if you get caught in the rain. Not that it is such an unpleasant smell, almost weirdly comforting but still not the parfum de choice for most. But this family firm has cracked it, delicious colours that had us fizzing around the stall touching everything we possibly could because it was all so soft. So incredibly soft. Like a tweed blanket created by weaving unicorn tails. As I said, delicious. Do you think I bought any Sue? No. Because I am a dumbass. I couldn't chose which one to go for and what to do with it if I could. Some might call it an intervention by my pennypinching, tightwad conscience. I call it Left Brain Bastardry; I think we can all agree FoQ is *not* about logical thinking.
Earlier in the week I had pulled out every piece of fabric my husband thinks I own and sorted it. There was a big mess in the kitchen I have to confess and as I cleared it all up and folded it into its new boxes I realised there is practically NO yellow. Searching through the shop stands I could see why. Most of it was manky. Wrong tones, babyish patterns, smelled funny, you know the sort of thing - just not right. And then we saw this stand - Fair Trade Fabric - as if I wasn't already sensorially blissed out from the tweedy people I then got to play with this cotton. Soft, beautiful drape, tonal like Oakshott but more delicate. I will definitely be shopping online with them Sue, maybe you could have a little look there to spend some of your 'free' pounds?
Given the size of the NEC it must be possible to actually spread the shopping streets out because there were *so* many people. Everyone jockeying to get past the knots of women oohing over fabric, stroking fabric, watching the demonstration of some gadget to do with fabric. I think that shopping hall was a bit like the internet; the feeling of anonymity in the shuffling mob lets people do things they would *never* do in real life. I was pushed in the back by so many white-haired old ladies with ENORMOUS bags to get me to move forward that at one point I turned and said "I cannot move. You are behind me, the lady in front of me is standing still and cannot move and is blocking my path to the side. What would you like me to do?" She kind of sniffed a little bit, glared at me then turned into the serpent her soul yearned to be and slithered off in the other direction.
Sue if you had been declared fit enough to be let loose they might well have suggested you use one of the NEC's mobility scooters. I *love* mobility scooters. They are a brilliant invention that has given so many people freedom to be a part of their community and in charge of their own lives. My mother has had cause to use one when travelling and my lovely neighbour in the front house would be housebound without hers. I really do think they are great but the scooters provided by the venue were HUGE. Proper off-roady type ones with a long wheel base and hubs big enough to ferry small children. Not ideal for the incredibly confined space of the shopping hall. Plus I don't think many of the riders had much experience. Just sayin'. Let's not mention those cuboid, hard plastic trollies being pulled behind people.
Have you been to the Festival before Sue? Just like last year we went off to the side hall to have lunch. There were tables and chairs to sit and relax before heading back into the fray of the main halls except this year there weren't. How ridiculous.
 So we sat on the floor beside a booth  and had our picnic;  this was less than ideal especially for those with a dodgey, arthritic knee. I know there were benches dotted about the place but it isn't the same. We only met briefly Sue but I am sure you would be impressed at my restraint when later I passed Mr Twisted Threads, the organiser of the whole event and did not collar him with my complaint. 
Our day was only halfway through but I imagine your eye is now completely swelled shut and your head must be pounding. I hope the ambulance arrived really quickly.
love love,


Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Ten ace things that happened at Fat Quarterly Retreat 2014

1. I arrived without melting. My word but London was Hotty McHot Hotpants that weekend.

2. The goody bags had water bottles in them so we didn't require medical rehydration for the participants.

3. The goody bags. These were filled with the awesomeness - cool postcard, loads of fabric, amazing Aurifil thread, one of those ace mini-sewing kits you keep saying you don't need but still hunt for when emergency button reattachment is required en route to a job interview (is that just me??) and elastic (which always comes in handy when you spend any time with children). I'm guessing there was more but I lost focus after spotting the elastic.

4. Janome lending out FIVE BAZILLION sewing machines for FQR folk to use freely.

5. Meeting ace new people. Some of them I had been chatting with for aaages on Instagram and Flickr but had never actually shared air with, others met for the first time in any platform or reality.

6. Sleeping with two different women over two nights. Marg and Sonia were fabliss roommates for the weekend and didn't even complain very much when I had fifty twelve showers in three days. By the time FQR came about we had been without showerage at Trash Towers for TWO weeks! I was getting a might twitchy because if an occasional bath was a poor substitute for a shower then crappy little birdy bath washes were so far outside the pale as to be invisible. Can I just stress that hairwashing over the sink is a stupid idea and not be countenanced? As soon as polite the hotel shower was put to use and that baby got cranked all the way up to 11. Bliss and contentment.

7. Learning stuff like how to be an octopus when rolling fabric onto a lampshade, the thrill of knowing ALL the answers to the quiz before the questions are even asked and how to limbo around all the cables in the sewing rooms. All the cool things.

8. The Sample Swap working. Cannot even begin to express my relief that I managed to get everyone into a group and there was no repetition of the 2012 ZakkaFest, that everyone was happy with their swap groups and that the handmade crafty goodness being passed around left smiles on all the participants' faces. Let's not even mention that I had to spend half of one Saturday class rewriting the group list as the master one was sitting back on the desktop of my computer all the way back on My Hilltop.

9. My beloved concierge at the Grange Hermitage, Ruben. He was a helpful, calm, friendly, pleasant and hander-outerer of umbrellas when the rain came beating down first thing Saturday morning. the tip wasn't much but I hope the Tunnocks Teacake you received as well stood us in a good light.

10. Being named as an honorary Texan. Loving that so much, thanks Cristina, I shall take my Lone Star status seriously from here on out.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Fat Quarterly 2014

So, it has been ten days since Fat Quarterly and I have just about processed the 2014 retreat. Just about.

It was a whirlwind three days of happy faces, fabric fondling and skill learning. I met new friends, old friends and invisible, made-up, online friends.

During formal registration and check-in I was sent over to man the goody bags desk; this meant everyone was pleased to see me b/c Oh! MY! WORD! the content of those calico bags. And that I was partnered with half of the JackQuarterly team, Lynne's son Jack. All in he was a considerate and good boss who employed me on reasonable terms (but don't tell anyone - he snuck me one of the water bottles destined for the attendees).

With a formal welcome from the Fat Quarterly Team (Tacha, Lynne and Brioni) the event got under way and everyone got ready to head off to their first class.

Although not before somebody really dumb had headbutted those double doors up there with force and at speed. All was well though because nothing breaks the ice like a mahoosive collision followed by the biggest and best curtesy it is within the power of the headbutting idiot to manage. This was the bruise that took a few days to come out but was evidence of a claim for sympathy from those who stayed at home. It was unsuccessful. Unsympathetic bastards.

Once I was mobile again (it did hurt a little bit) I headed upstairs to Brioni's Petals class.

There is Brioni being all teachery and setting out the important stuff. What to cut, how many and the application of bondaweb. This is what it was supposed to look like, obviously the Hat of Happiness is an optional extra but you have to admit it does look good up on the Petal quilt.
Unfortunately I must have been focusing on something else when details were given bc my bondaweb was so bondy and webbish that I couldn't separate my petals from the backing. Even Brioni's clever life hack of scoring and flicking the backing was unsuccessful. But I now know the pattern and plan to one day finish at least one block. Fingers crossed by FQR 2015.
Dinner was a Waitrose picnic out on the terrace at Baden Powell House. There was lots of chat and laughter and a little bit of flying ice to cool down the drinks on such a  Hotty McHotpants evening (in the UK. I know!) before the Block Party kicked off.
The Block Party was a chance to get numbered groups together to create blocks and/or a quilt flimsy for a Siblings Together quilt. I was in Team Infinity (8s look way cooler on the side). Siblings Together is an ace charity that quilters around the world have taken to their hearts and sewing machines to benefit brothers and sisters separated in the care system. Lynne had a box of 'scraps' of Cotton and Steel and Jenni Baker's Vintage Summer. Scraps??? These were huge! So I ran away with them cackling, stroking them and whispering 'Precioussssss'. Not really (well kind of). I hawked the box around to all the other teams, being incredibly profligate with someone else's amazing fabric stash. This is the leftovers and because I was sooo bad at being a member of Team Infinity Lynne has graciously allowed me to take it home so I can make my own Siblings Together quilt.

First thing next morning was registration again and then straight into one of THE. BEST.CLASSES. IN THE WORLD. EVER!!!!!!!!!!
Armed only with instructions on how to screen-print Karen from Blueberry Park faced down 20 crazed sewist and then let them all loose with sharp pointy cutting sticks and waterproof paint. Not content with their own inspired ideas everyone went around swapping and trading images.
I sketched and cut out a pear, which I thought was not too shabby for a freehand and then I looked over at Jen who had drawn a flamingo freehand and then scaled it down so it would fit onto the frame. Freehand drew a flamingo. Twice! Gutted. However I have made stuff during this past week using the prints nicked from other talented participants so - Yay me!

 Post-lunch where I had a show down with a Baden Powell House dweller when he thought he would help himself to food - cheeky fecker (although retrospectively I have felt bad bc he was probably a starving travelling teenager), I went and had a class with the amazing Trudi Wood. Trood was a superstar and taught us loads about free motion quilting patterns and design.
Then off to lampshade making with Karen again. Great fun but my stars! You need fourteen hands to make it happen, thankfully Malmesbury Jen and Shen (Craft Giraffe) were available to assist. I dashed off to shout out the groups for the Sample Swap then back upstairs to be someone else's octopus on their lampshade run.
Saturday night was another Waitrose picnic followed by Market Square in the Main Hall. People were buying  all sorts of fabulousness and then it was time for the Siblings Together Quilts handover to Delma followed by Show and Tell of all the clever stuff people make. My favourite was the Vegetable Patch Quilt made by the uber-talented Nick at Quilts From The Attic. The dude has got it going on!
I managed a short chat with Thomas Knauer, really interesting to hear his viewpoint on modern stitchiness and making. He and Jen Kingwell are at opposite ends of the quilty spectrum. Technology vs hand-created.
With all the oohing and aahing out of the way it was quiz time. I'm still not sure how but I was dragooned into being Quizmaster. Team Butler were the eventual winners and we rounded out the night with random name drawing/prize giving.
Sunday morning saw Market Square comparison going on among room mates. In fact we were so excited to show that we didn't even get out of bed!
Yes that might mean some of us slept snuggled up with the new deliciousness in their lives but quite frankly can you blame me?? Look at it!
Sunday morning was an earlier start but I got there in time to fight my way through the scrum that surrounded the boxes of Oakshott fabric to be used in the Fractured Glass foundation piecing class.

 This was my colour way and just about all I managed to accomplish in this class. I *will* finish the block but I think Foundation Piecing and I are on the verge of reaching an uneasy d├ętente.

Then it was time for farewells and much hugging and a few tears, at which point the fire alarm went off and obviously stopping to collect the treasures amassed over the weekend we trooped out into the street to do it all again - hugs, tears, promises to keep in touch/send that link/fabric/book and farewells.
Then it was off to just sit for a little bit. This pretty much sums up how I felt.
 Hey @

you were the bomb. Thanks for having me.