Monday, July 28, 2014

Still Recovering (FQ Retreat report!)

It is a whole week since I got back from London, and I'm only getting to put my thoughts in order now! I had such a fantastic weekend. But since I got back its been go, go, go and I haven't had a minute.

Ok -so, I'm going to try to try very hard to give you the short version. But I'm warning you now, there is a lot in this post. I failed miserably in being short.

First up, preparations. I was, to be very honest, a bit blasé about the whole preparation issue. I got the supply list well ahead, and I glanced at it without really giving it any thought. I signed up for the nametag and sample swaps on the Flickr group. Then, a few days before I went I thought I should probably get my stuff together and realised I had a LOT more to do than I had thought. I also TOTALLY underestimated the effect of all the fabric and stuff would have on my carry on case space. Happily, due to the extremely hot weather, a couple of lightweight summer dresses were all I needed to bring with me, clothes wise, and I decided one pair of sandals would work just fine. Of course, I totally overpacked on the fabric front but that was ok.

So I got gathering my fabric and supplies:

And I got making on my swap items for the sample swap.

I had found Cindy when I got off the Tube from my friends' house, which left me a little more confident about meeting everyone else. I think almost the very first person I laid eyes on when I went into the hall in Baden Powell House was Hadley - and it was like meeting an old friend, which is exactly what it was, despite the fact we'd never met. Straight away she handed over some goodies - what better start to the day! I had won her blogiversary giveaway earlier that week, so my winnings were included. She also had put together a little pack of essential pins, needles etc to save me the trouble of bringing it all over with me. I was delighted.

I recognised lots of people and got chatting straight away. Really, I couldn't have asked for a better start, it was so lovely to meet people like Trudi and Nicky and Di who I had been chatting with for years.

We quickly went off to our first class, which, for me, was foundation paper piecing with Tacha. I find it really difficult and counter intuitive and was looking forward to getting to grips with it. I have to say, for me, this class was one of the highlights of the whole weekend. Tacha was a great (very patient) teacher, and there was no one that I felt I knew really, really well in the class. That was probably the best thing that could have happened, for me. I got chatting to a lot of people, some who I knew a little, some who I didn't know at all. We had so much fun. At one point, I was laughing so hard (at my own ineptitude) that I was crying. And I actually got something achieved - a little post box. Look at that heart. Have you any idea of how many teeny tiny bits of fabric make that up? That
was the bit that made me cry giggle uncontrollably.

I came away from the class in awe of Joanne's paper piecing skills and I felt I had found some new friends too. Not to mention, also feeling a bit more confident about tackling the other pattern pieces to finish the Mail Organiser.

That evening I went for a lovely dinner with a host of friends, almost every one of who I met for the first time that day. It was just fantastic to finally be able to sit and talk with them face to face, over a glass of wine.

Saturday morning started bright and early. My first class was with Trudi in Free Motion Quilting. Now, I would be lying if I didn't admit that this class was "the one" for me in this retreat. It was the one I was most anxious to do and the one I looked forward to for weeks beforehand. And it absolutely, 100%, delivered on my expectations. It was, quite simply, awesome. Trudi is a fantastic teacher. I came away invigorated and inspired and feeling like I could actually do some of the stuff I've been admiring on blogs for years. We started off practising, getting the feel of our machines, figuring out different threads. It was doodling, on fabric. Fun, lots of fun. My favourite bit is that daisy.

But in a couple of short hours I was able to do this - not perfect, by any means, but getting there:

Not bad, right? I'm loving that Aurifil 28wt yellow thread. Such lovely definition. Shamefully, I haven't managed any more practice since I came home, but its high on my list.

After lunch I had a FMQ design class, again with Trudi, which was equally good and involved lots and lots of doodling. Then I had a quilt maths class with Lynne. Really, it was late in the day and I never was very good at maths. I found myself transported back about 25 years and giggling far too much at the back of the class with Joanne - that's me at the back. Apparently my report reads "must try harder".

Saturday evening was a whole pile of fun. It started with the swaps. I had signed up for the sample swap, and made the little mug rugs in the picture above. I ended up in a group with Hadley, Cara and Bettina and I got a lavender pouch, a fab zippy pouch and one of Hadley's gorgeous bags. This was a little ironic, because the week before, I won Hadley's blogiversary giveaway and won another of these bags. I just knew we would end up in the same group, no way was that not going to happen. But I didn't have any issue because the bags are just gorgeous and also, I live in a house where my bags are appropriated as fast as I acquire them by my 6 year old daughter. So she was very impressed that I came home with 2, so she could have one, and better still, it was the same as mine! Thank you Hadley, I've been using mine since I came home and love it.

After the swap, I finally had one of my quilty dreams come true. Cindy had brought her Fluffy Sheep Quilting shop with her for the quilt market and I had begged volunteered to help her out. So I played with all her fabric we set up her stall in a very pleasing-to-the-eyes arrangement and then we joined lots of other peeps on the terrace to grab a bit to eat. I had a lovely chat with Karen and Nicky :-) Then I pretended it was my fabric shop I helped Cindy at her stall at the quilt market.Possibly I was not a great assistant, as I appropriated some of the fabric for myself instead of selling it. Those top 3 FQs on the left were hers. I also abandoned her and went shopping at some of the other shops too. I got a charm pack from Karen (Blueberry Park) and I picked up some lovely FQs at the Village Haberdashery. You can also see some bag buttons in my picture there. More of that later. Really, I was pretty impressed with myself. I think this is a remarkably restrained fabric shopping expedition.

After the quilt market, there was a fun quiz, and a raffle. I sat beside Jen Kingwell at the quiz and bent her ear about things I have been thinking about had a really interesting conversation with her. In the raffle, I was really lucky, I won a scrap pack of Art Gallery fabrics. I thought that was a bit serendipitous. I had had at least 3 conversations with Cindy's customers earlier that evening about how much I loved Art Gallery fabrics, how beautifully soft they were to work with, how much I loved the quality. So I thought maybe it was karma :-) When I got the pack, I didn't think too much about it. Then I got home and opened it out and realised what a jackpot I hit. Aren't these gorgeous? What a fab scrap pack!

There as other stuff too - Siblings Together quilts, other swaps etc. The quilts for Siblings Together were fab and I found myself wondering if we could try do do something similar here in Ireland despite the small numbers of people involved. Saturday evening ran pretty late. I found myself on the Tube back to Isleworth between 11 and midnight and was surpised at how there was standing room only at that time, and how civilised it was. But at that stage I was flagging a little and found myself late for Lynne's Touchdraw class the next morning. I eventually caught up with everyone else, and was really happy with this class. So many possibilities!

My last class on Sunday morning was with the very lovely Jen Kingwell, in Hand Quilting. Now, you know I love hand quilting. Its my go-to technique to give a project a little something special. And its not too long since I finished hand quilting my Made to Measure quilt. But my technique is very much self-taught, and I have encountered a number of nerve issues in my neck from poor technique.
So it was really lovely to listen to Jen and have the opportunity to ask some questions. I definitely have a few ideas for how I might adjust and improve my technique and felt really inspired coming away after looking at her beautiful work. She gave us a lovely little finger pin cushion to take away. I really thought she was an inspiring person, and after seeing her quilts in real life, making one of her patterns is on my bucket list for definite.

When the class ended, that was it. Time to say a sad goodbye. Of course, the fire alarm went off in the middle of the farewell, and we ended up out on the street, but it was a kind of fitting end to be all gathered together like that on a little strip of path in central London! We came away with a bag full of goodies. FQs, thread, charm packs, mini charm packs. Lovely stuff.

Two picture, because some of my stuff got mixed up with Cindys. When it was all over, I wandered around Kensington, picked up some gifts for the kids, then went back to my friends who I stayed with and had some lunch and more catching up. Then it was off to the airport and back to Cork where I found my my kids pretty much standing at the door waiting for me at 10.30pm that night.

My verdict? FQ Retreat 2014 was fantastic. It was not as crowded as I anticipated and I got to speak to or get to know so many people. I met old friends and made new friends. Yes, it was expensive. After stalking the flights on Ryanair and Aer Lingus for 2-3 months, I got a really great deal on my flights, but between ticket price, travel, spending money etc it still worked out at a big cost. I am very lucky to have friends living in London, and they kindly put me up for the weekend, despite having a very new baby (yes, having a little cuddle was a definite highlight, as was spending some lovely time chatting with them.) But with 3 kids and family holidays to pay for, spending in excess of €500 on a weekend for myself is a big indulgence when money is tight. But, oh so worth it!

It was worth it in lots of ways. The classes were great. Really great. I learned loads and loads. Plenty of new techniques, and plenty of improvements on my current techniques. I've been sewing for 6 years now and sometimes I am shocked by the things I don't know. The social aspect was fantastic. A lot of work went into making sure no one was left out, people had someone to meet up with etc. I was lucky not to need that because I had a lot of people I knew, but I thought it was great. Before I went, I was totally focused on completing that circle with my online friends and meeting them for real. I wasn't there 24 hours before I realised that one of the biggest things I would take away with me was the new friends I made. But, most important of all was the inspiration I came away with. It was so interesting looking at what other people were doing. People wore their own handmade dresses (it was entirely not obvious they were made at home, they looked so professional and beautifully finished. Sometimes, it was only when I recognised a fabric print I realised that the dress was handmade). People travelled handmade. There were beautiful bags, pouches etc. Oh my goodness, the bags! I came home filled with bag-making fervour. You need to watch this space. I can't wait to get started on that. I've been saving, pinning and printing bag patterns all week. My head is spinning with ideas. I came home feeling totally inspired on the sewing front. I know I haven't posted all week, but I've been sewing. I've finished a quilt (more tomorrow), got well started onto a 2nd, and am half way through my Big Stitch Swap item. I've made a trip to the local fabric store for interfacing (can't make bags without interfacing). I'm ready to sew.

This was my first retreat. The first year I was in the middle of a very difficult pregnancy, last year, my baby was too small to go off and leave for 3 days. So I have nothing to compare to. But I have this to say. FQ retreat 2014 was ah-MAZ-ing.


Laura said...

It looks like you had an amazing time!!! I've just started a new Quilt as you go Free Motion Quiltalong which is a skill builder - the link to all the posts is if you want to keep working on your FMQ! :) There are some pics from the last one here but the new one is based on rectangles for a different set of designs :)

Sewing Directory said...

Sounds like you had a great time. I'm sad I missed it but as you said it works out as a really expensive weekend and after moving house a few weeks before I just couldn't afford it :(

Leanne said...

I am so glad you had so much fun!

Sheila said...

That was a great report, so glad you had such a positive experience.

Mrs Flying Blind... said...

So greta to meet you at last and share some brilliant times there! It really was the most inspiring weekend ever xxx

myBearpaw said...

very funny Sarah! So lovely to meet you and chat over dinner!

Archie The Wonder Dog said...

It sounds (and looks!) like a wonderful weekend!

memmens said...

Thanks for a wonderful report, sounds like you had a brilliant time. Gutted that I had to miss it this year but like you say with 3 children etc it's not always affordable or practical! Crossing my fingers for next year!

pandchintz said...

Sounds like an Excellent time!! Thank you SO much for sharing your experience - I'd love to go one day.