Enter the dragon… if you dare!

I had a good day yesterday, which was surprising for a number of reasons. I’ve got something bugging me in my left ear at the moment; it’s blocked, then it’s not; there’s pain – so excruciating at times that it is literally driving me insane. I kid you not, if you’d have seen me banging my head, screaming expletives and dancing the boohickey witch-doctor’s foxtrot on the front lawn on Saturday afternoon, you too would have considered calling in the men with the white coats. I’m pretty sure my hubby was looking for the number…

I am a wuss when it comes to pain of any kind. I think it’s because I’m very tuned to my senses, so that I *notice* stuff – the way the air blows across a room (I feel my hair ruffling), the scent of Chinese five-spice in a Wan Chai market from two streets away, which flavour crisps my husband ate in the car on the way home, each of the fifteen spices and herbs that create the magnificent flavour of the Mixed Tandoori Platter from the wonderful Kathmandu Restaurant in Hong Kong – stuff that other people don’t always pick up on. I cannot eat anything with black pepper incorporated into it because it makes my tongue swell up, which can be a real bummer when I’m eating out. Everyone drowns all their food in black pepper and chef’s think I am being deliberately obtuse when my request falls into their laps – like it’s some kind of personal challenge for them, which it really isn’t.  Pain is a constant part of my life at the moment and I just lost the plot when it was inside my ear as well as everywhere else.

Did ya see me coming there? Did ya?
Did ya see me coming there? Did ya?

But that wasn’t the reason I had a good day yesterday – the pain did lessen a little and I managed to get over a couple of minor panic attacks without treating passers-by to my Jack Nicholson impression from One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. Although, that might have been fun…

I was dragged to a quilting event in Harrogate by my nearest and dearest. I had decided that I had to learn how to free-motion quilt to add a dimension to the Dresden quilt that I feel it lacks. Plus, this is the fifth quilt I’ve made and it’s probably about time to tackle a new skill right? So, free motion quilting it is then. Now I can hear Maria, Eileen and Kathy and all those other lovely people who’ve been quilting for years giggling at my naivety … for those who don’t know, FMQ is like doodling with a sewing machine, where you draw lines with your stitches on your pieced quilt. The key part is that you disable the ‘feed dogs’, which are those serrated teeth on the sewing machine just under the bobbin plate that move the fabric along evenly whilst you sew – clearly, this can be quite restrictive if you want to meander around drawing maniacal moustachioed Martians manoeuvring magnificent moons or some such creative mark-making, with your slick stitching (don’t think I won’t!).

I’d read some references to this technique a while back, laughed loud and long at the thought that I might even try to tackle this, let alone master it and dismissed the idea as craziness incarnate. Maybe it’s the ear pain that’s finally pushed me over the edge into the sweet oblivion of insanity, but I have made up one of my minds and FMQ it is.

So, having arrived at the Yorkshire Show ground, which is in itself a magnificent sight, we paid our eight pounds and entered into the hall, unsuspecting as we were of the hoards of ladies that would greet us.

Suture ninja's unite!
Suture ninja’s unite!

I felt as if I had been transported to a Bruce Lee movie, entering the dragon’s den, about to be pounced upon by suturing ninjas and I was overwhelmed immediately – stalls to the left and right as far as the eye could see and each draped with fantastic textile creations, each with an Aladdin’s cave of goodies to ogle and covet unreasonably. It was a feast for the eyes, with stall after stall selling rainbow-hued fabric, notion nuggets and stitching supplies that no self-respecting sewing enthusiast could possibly manage to function without. And a million books about how to *do* sewing stuff, from choosing fabrics (like I need help with that… I’ll just take ’em all of course!) to sourcing dyes to make my own designs and everything in between.

The quilts on display were, in some cases, simply magnificent; a glorious quilt about eight feet square on a black background depicting the rise of a fantasmagorical phoenix was the highlight for me. I found Dresdens, although thankfully, none like mine which I was inexplicably relieved about, as well as Civil War quilts and others with square blocks that I was inspired by and learned from. There was an example of the lovely quilt I think fellow OGBF-er Jeanine Predmore was undertaking, with gorgeous midnight blues, purples and turquoises which may have been called ‘moonglow’ or something like that – compass points with log-cabin blocks that are just lovely to get lost in. I’ve come away from them with a better understanding of how to  achieve the end result that I want for my quilt. I’m going to be able to use Eileen’s method of FMQ’ing the individual blocks then attaching them together with sashing to make the quilt. It might seem a little basic, but I haven’t done them like that before – I’ve only put the whole backing on to the pieced sections at once which can be really challenging to say the least.

So, what with the wonderful ice-cream in mid afternoon and various tutorials in how to use some of these incredible machines to create intricate embroidery and other lovely effects, as well as the purchase of sashing and backing fabric and soft batting to sandwich into my Dresden and of course, the purchase of the requisite FMQ foot for my Brother machine and a book of practice patterns, I had a good day. I couldn’t wait to get home to try it all out.

I’ve discovered that handling the FMQ foot is akin to learning to draw with a mouse in a computer programme like ‘Paint’ . It’s going to take a WHOLE lot of practise! I am not sure when I’m going to get the Dresden finished, but keep everything crossed that it will be soon – and I hope it will be lovely too. Maybe I’ll enter it for next year’s Harrogate show. That’d be a dragon too far perhaps…


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