Tools I am blaming you

A good workman never blames her tools right? Well that makes me a bad workman but I was right, it was all the tool's fault! I have been working on the piece above for a while and whilst I am really pleased with the quilt top the quilting has had me flummoxed. The design of the quilting (the stitch and not the pieced fabric top) is a huge part of my work. Generally I make whole cloth quilts where there is no piecing of fabric on the top, instead I use just white fabric and my designs are built through the quilting. Trying to reconcile that approach with this pieced top has been a struggle. A struggle which was not helped by how badly the fabric kept moving about while I quilted. Then last week my sewing machine took a violent dislike to this quilt and the stitches went CRAZY.

Jumping stitches, slipping fabric, followed by breaking 5 needles. Yes you read that right five. It was the fifth needle breakage when I started to suspect my sewing machine foot was the issue. And here is where I am starting to blame my tools. It seems that this quilt has been cursed by my walking foot. I'm not sure how but it has become a bit deformed and skewed. The foot doesn't line up with the needle so it strikes the metal of the foot and not the proper hole. Also the walkingness isn't so much walking as limping hence the fabric slippage. A quick ebay purchase and five days later - success! The quilt is coming together at last.

An unexpected side effect is that my new foot is a tiny bit off centre. By tiny I mean really tiny, the needle sits maybe 1-1.5mm to the right of the centre. Not a lot I hear you think but for me this is massive.

I am not a big fan of measuring, my quilts are done in human proportions. The grids of my quilts such as Called Control are based on the width of my sewing machine foot, the size of my lap quilts is defined by the width of the fabric I have. This disregarding of both the metric and imperial system isn't a conscious attempt to be obtuse but more indicative of my instinctive approach to making. I'm just starting a new densely gridded piece, so the change in being able to use my foot as an easy guide is a challenge. I'm having to concentrate a lot more, but this more mindful approach is starting to click.


What's in a name?

While redesigning my blog I have spent a lot of time googling it on various devices to test all my new links and SEO bits. The search results is always very disturbing:

Yes those are giant rats. Like all good superhero's my blog name has an origin story and it has nothing to do with these rodents of extraordinary size -  I thought it was high time to share this tale.

Six years ago both BorderlineStraggler and I decided that we wanted to start blogging. We were both avid readers and wanted to start making our own content. Trouble is that when you set up your blog it needs a good name, a name that you are going to be able to evolve with as your blog matures, it needs to be have the right amount of cool cache without being too hipster, it also needs to be catchy and quirky. With all of these things to consider choosing names became a huge challenge. My mind was blank. Luckily BS has a world of song lyrics and cultural references in his head and I eventually picked Rats as Big as Cats from his list of rejects.

It is actually a misquote from the spoken word track 'Future Legend' on David Bowie's Diamond Dogs. It fit perfectly to everything I wanted, something that could be cute (I was firmly in the grip of kawaii at this time) but wouldn't be painfully cutesy once as my style evolved and it just felt right. As this space and my crafty dreams evolved this space changed to. The biggest development came in the form of a beer mat.

BS drew this logo for me one quiet night in the pub, I don't think he expected it to stay around for so long! Certain bits of the logo have evolved, I've lost the illustrated Penny and the "sew it, knit it, make it" sidebar has gone but the font has remained. In fact last week BS used ifontmaker to make me a full 99 character font based on this doodle which is now the basis for all my branding.

Incidentally if you are reading on a reader I urge you to click through and take a look at my new improved space, I'm really proud of it! I have also updated my URL to, please update any bookmarks you have to my old address.

Happy List v.2

Noticing what makes me happy appears to be addictive! Last week I wrote this post inspired by Caramel Latte Kiss. I have to admit it was a little rushed as I had to respond to the bat signal (aka mournful text from a friend in need of wine) and my mind has been full of little things that make me smile. Rather than re-edit the old post to be a definitive list I'm going to be making a series of little lists as I go along. Here are today's list of three things that make me smile:
  • My laundry folder. We are Big Bang Theory lovers in this house and Sheldon's laundry folder in a prop that has been used quite alot. I bought one for BS as a Happy Thursday gift a few months ago. It's awesome. Folding a big basket of laundry has become very satisfying, so much so that I had a whole post dedicated to it planned out, photo's taken, text written, until I realised that it just sounded crazy. 

  • People refusing to believe I am 31. Yes, vain I know but it still brings a smile to my face that people are genuinely shocked when they find out my age. The less charitable reader could suggest that this is because I am incredibly immature but to you I stick my tongue out and chose to believe it is my joie de vivre and unremitting sarcasm that convinces people of my youth.

  • Leaving the lid off the hot chocolate just to annoy Dave. Okay the age thing probably has more to do with stuff like this than anything.... The trouble with someone telling you about the little things that really tick them off is that on days when your feeling naughty doing those things deliberately is far too much fun. Now this doesn't extend to things like kicking puppies or the subjugation of women, and it doesn't extend to all people - I'm not a sociopath. I don't want to make people's life hell, but there are a few people with whom this kind of game can be played (knowing full well they give as good as they get). One of them is my friend Dave. He hates the lid being left of the Hot Chocolate - it makes it go clumpy. I know it's really childish and pointless, but it does make the naughty side of me smile. Sorry Dave.


Excuse the mess

Rats as Big As Cats is getting a makeover. Now I am doing all the work on this myself which means things are taking time and may not work first time. Having spent all day yesterday working on le blog someone let me know that what I should have done was have a test blog to play on and then just uploaded all of the code once I was happy. Thanks. It would have been better advice at 9am and not 10pm, but nevermind now. Please bear with me while I spruce up this place, I promise it will be worth it.


Happy List

A few days ago Caramellattekiss wrote this Happy List post and I wasn't all that surprised to see how many of the things on her list I agreed with - shared love of all things Whedon is one of the things we bond over. After an unexpected, and hideously busy 9-6 supervisor shift tonight Rats as Big as Cats needs a little Happy List action, so here are the things making me smile in no particular order

  • Forgotten inscriptions in books 

  • The Buffy Musical episode
  • The purple jiffy bag my instant film always arrives in

  • Fresh cinnamon rolls

  • Flowers in vintage thermos flask
  • Christmas songs out of season
  • Instant pictures


Weekend of wise words

Two Months left. That's all I have left till I hand in my final collection and get off this rollercoaster which has been University. I have been struggling with the enormity of it all and this has been reflected in some hideous creative block. Hours have been spent staring at white fabric, white pages in sketchbooks, white tiles in the bathroom as I take yet another 'relaxing' bath, white, white, white. In an attempt to get some perspective I tootled off to see my fake-big-sister-from-another-mister SilverLining for some much needed sofa time by the fire, piles of dogs, advice and gin. And she came up trumps in all counts.

Thursday involved a wild goose chase for yarn which was always just an excuse to go to the gorgeous Portuguese cafe and load up on sugary treats. Friday, well Friday was a day of non stop supportive, useful and relevant advice. The train ride was filled with help on writing my business plan and making it a useful relevant thing, in a language that I understood. For the first time in months I felt inspired by the potential of being a graduate and not trapped by the possibilities  Sadly I think I learnt more in a 90 minute train ride than I have all year in my lectures. Our plan was to see the Bowie show at the V&A. The tickets for this show are harder to get hold of that unicorns but news of a loophole was fluttering all over twitter - if you became a member of the V&A you could go to any show, whenever you liked no need for timed tickets! Excellent, getting to see a brilliant show and supporting a wonderful gallery gives you a sense of both smugness at cheating the system and a peculiar feeling of pride at being a patron of the arts. Before the show we met up with some Lovely People for The Best Tapas in London, champagne at lunchtime and the good Life advice just kept coming.

The most important of which was that the actual act of finishing my degree is never going to live up to my expectations. Nothing could. It is like those couples who spend years planning a wedding to discover that no matter how wonderful the day is it just couldn't live up to the pressure of all that planning. I have been trying to get my degree for 12 years now. This is my sixth attempt. In that time I have survived more life drama than I ever imagined possible and through it all the fact that I hadn't managed to get a degree was a millstone of epic proportions. At times it consumed me. The sense of lacking and implied failure defined me for too long. There is no way that the final receipt for my final deadline can compete with that amount of pressure, but do you know what - that's OK. Turns out that the underwhelming feelings of 'that's it?!' aren't just another way that I am failing at being a student, that's just how everyone feels at the end of their degree.

So it is with a sense of realism and calm that I am tackling these next two months. I'm not going to waste another moment frozen by the pursuit of a perfection that can 'fix' the last 12 years. It doesn't exist and the only thing that I'll get from it is overwhelming regret for wasting these last few months on it's pursuit. Instead I am doing this because I want to, because I love it, because I took the scary decision to change my life - drop out, go to art school and because it was totally worth it.

Thank you to the Lovely People for your excellent advice. I'm off to put it into practice.


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