I keep my blog as a personal record of what I'm up to, which might be seen as working towards "An elegant sufficiency, content, retirement, rural quiet, friendship, books, ease and alternate labour, useful life"

I'm certainly not there yet.  There is quite some way to go!










Marginally less incompetent


I began the day with a determination to move forward and get to grips with a simple project I’d seen in one of the Bernina publications, issue #19 of Through the Needle.  It was a straightforward looking project using the software and though it was based on an earlier version, I thought it’d be fairly easy to follow on version 7, too.  But before I did anything else on my computer, I had to do as we all do – check my email!

I found a lovely surprise there in the form of a Bernina Embroidery file from my guru Ros.  I kept everything crossed as I opened the software and loaded the stitch she sent me.


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Ros had created a test design using one of the Bernina tassel stitches for me to play with and so, with a clear purpose in mind, I set about stitching it out.  First though, I had to transfer it to my machine on a USB stick.  Simple!

Sadly not!  For some reason, my machine didn’t see the design.  Though I’d loaded two stitches on the stick – a freebie from Bernina for registering the software and the stitch Ros sent me, only the Bernina pattern showed up.  I tried saving in a different file format, to an earlier version, moving to and fro from computer to sewing machine and getting more and more frustrated.  What was going on? 

Eventually, I spotted a format/file extension I’d not noticed before – .exp “Bernina USB stick” (I know…) and thankfully, this was the one.  In no time at all, I’d stitched out the pattern Ros sent me in a couple of different threads.




Cute isn’t it?




Quite good in a variegated thread as well, though I’d need to tweak those stitching marks in the fabric if I were to use it on a project, I think.  Still, I was away, on a roll!


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Now to tackle the software.  I had no problem opening a new file and following the steps given in the magazine article to create this design and now I’d sussed the USB bit as well, it was soon on my machine.




After another false start involving several broken threads (well, self inflicted…I should know better than to use Natesh threads without using every trick in the book to make it behave, shouldn’t I?)  I returned to the Robison Anton I had been using and sat back and watched my first masterpiece develop.




I was pretty pleased with that, I’ll admit and felt that I ended the day feeling a little less incompetent than I started.

When I went to open a new file, however:


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Another day, another challenge!


One small step




Before I loaded the software and began fiddling about with that, I thought that I would explore the potential of the on-board toolbox.  After all, there’s no point in making something more complicated than it need be, is there?  I watched the YouTube video first and worked out the process so that I might manage without stop-starting the tutorial.  Sure enough, in no time at all, I’d created a pleasing motif.

Or is it?


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As it stitched out, I wondered what I’d done to make the machine begin to stitch each motif at A, finish at B and then travel to C to begin the next one.  Why didn’t it take the simpler, shorter route and work anticlockwise around the circle? * (I’ve had further thoughts on that – see below)



To get the process established in my head I repeated the exercise once or twice more, discovering that the same process occurred with the first two circles I stitched.  Strangely, without my fiddling about with any of the other options, after each of the leaf shapes on that outer circle, the machine secured and cut the thread before moving on to the next one.  Hmmm.  I wonder why?

So, one step forward from the “unconscious incompetence” (aka ignorance is bliss!) into the “conscious incompetence” zone.  Things are not quite as simple as they first appeared and the more I learn, the more I realise there is to learn.  But I’m not giving up, I’m going to load the software because the answer may well lie therein.


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But after two hours of loading the software, downloading and installing an update, uninstalling and then repeating the whole process once again it to try to coax the Corel part of the program to play nicely, I called on my hero for some technical support.  He had the answer and was able to sort it for now, but this morning, when I tried to follow a simple project tutorial, it crashed and won’t now reopen.

I’m glad it didn’t cost me almost a thousand pounds to remind me how consciously incompetent I am.  However, this blog post can still be filed under “fun”…


I wonder if that pattern is better stitched out like that, with the long space thread to cut? If it were worked from A to B in an anticlockwise direction, there’d still be a thread to cut, but it would be a shorter one and therefore more tricky to snip.  Hmmm?


30 000 stitches and counting




Of course, I couldn’t wait to open the boxes and as soon as I’d tied up all the loose ends from Friday’s judging, written one or two letters, changed the beds and hung the washing on the line, I was free to play.  Is it our upbringing that means we can’t allow ourselves to play until the work is done?




Anyway, the small box was the easy part.  Inside was the new DesignerPlus software 7 – a really great gift from Bernina, thank you!  (Have you seen the price?!)  I put it on one side for later!




Opening the big box revealed an assortment of hoops, a box of embroidery needles, foot 26, a USB cable and a box of stabiliser samples.




Underneath was the real deal – the embroidery module.




For my non-sewing friends, this is the bit which fits on the side of the machine and holds the hoop in place.  It’s pretty large and rather heavy and increases the length of the machine set up to about a metre.  My sewing table is now pretty full and is going to need a little rethink!




Anyway, I’d already watched the YouTube videos and for this first go, I thought I’d just follow them step by step.  It was great having my old ipad at my side so I could watch and go over tricky parts once again, such as the additional step needed when threading the bobbin.  Though Frank had explained it to me and walked me through it step by step, it was over a week ago and I’ve had a few sleeps since then.

I was happy with the results and delighted to be able to leave it stitching away.  It’s quite noisy; possibly because the table is not 100% stable, but I like the stitch countdown and the timer which shows how long until the next thread change or whatever.  I didn’t need to babysit it at all.

And then I changed thread.  The machine really didn’t like the different (unknown) brand of pale blue I threaded up and it broke twice within a short space of time.  I wasn't ready for a fight at this stage; wasn’t ready to employ all the tricks we use to coax a difficult thread to behave itself, so simply unthreaded and got another reel of the brand I’d been using successfully so far.

Except that the pale blue thread broke as I tried to pull it through.  Even though I was doing as recommended, and pulling it through from the spool, it snapped and the piece of thread was somewhere in the machine.

Oooer!  Time to get out the book.




Time to get out the toolkit too!  I can’t say that taking the front off my brand new shiny “sewing computer” was exactly what I wanted to do, but sure enough, there was the thread.  Not that it was going to come out easily, though.

Gently gently, hoping that it wasn’t going to break again, leaving some bit left inside, I held my breath as it gradually came unstuck and came free.  Phew!




So, the colours are wrong – I didn’t have the right colours to hand and as this was only a practice, I wasn’t too worried.  I’m not sure I intended it to be a stripy flower, though!  But for a first go, I was fine.  18 000 stitches on the clock, a couple of thread breaks mid-stitch which meant I had to navigate the pattern and retrace my steps to start again and of course, the major thread retrieval.  I felt I’d achieved my objectives for the morning.




So, whilst on a roll, I did another 15 000-odd stitches and stitched out another of the designs on the menu.  Thank you, Switzerland!


Over the bridge again




It was time to pack my bag again and head off to Glamorgan yesterday.  It’s a show I’ve judged before but for some reason, I just couldn’t picture the venue we were heading for.  Was it the town where I bought my favourite twinkly shoes; the ones I liked so much I telephoned to ask if they’d post me the same ones in the other colour? 

“No”, said Marion.  “it’s the Community Centre just off the motorway.  No shoe shops there”.  (shame!)

Hmmm.  I gave it a little more thought.  Perhaps it was the modern hall which I seem to think is accessed through a school complex?  No, that was in Gwent, I think. 

Thankfully, we have maps and satnavs and sure enough, as soon as we arrived in North Cornelly, I remembered it well.  Yes, of course I’d been here before!  Familiar faces were there to greet us and after a jolly lunch it was time to begin work.




It’s a show renowned for the enthusiasm with which everyone takes part and this is only a small part of one of the classes – St David’s Day.  There are literally hundreds of entries and every class has a wealth of good things to see.  Lesley, do you like the cushion in the top right hand corner?  I thought of you when I saw it!  We English judges were caught out by a couple of the entries though – can you spot the wayward dragons?  Would you have known what’s not quite right with it?  (We didn’t – but will know in future!)




I was judging the staging and interpretation of the co-operative class on the theme of “Mothering Sunday”, in which there were 27 entries.  Quite a challenge!




But as a little light relief, to round off the afternoon, I also had the “decorated wellies” to consider.  An opportunity for the men to show off their talents, I couldn’t resist placing this amazing tea time wellie in first place, though there was some tough competition, I can tell you.




After a spot of tea and a review of the stars of the show, it was time to head home, back over the bridge where something was awaiting me.

Oooo!   I think it’s going to be a fun weekend!


Sioe Frenhinol Cymru




Shortly after 7.15am this morning, as some of the competitors were enjoying their early morning beauty treatments, I made my way through an already busy showground to report for duty.




It was a beautiful morning and I’d really enjoyed the drive over from Glasbury, parking my car on a hill overlooking the showground and thinking that a hat and some sunblock might have been a good idea today instead of the cardigan I’d thrown in my bag at the last minute.  I love the early morning before the crowds arrive and was glad to have time to stand and watch some of the preparation for the day ahead.




Not much activity in the sheep pens though and a definite air of peace and quiet remained there for now.  Not for long, I suspect.




My work was waiting in the exhibition hall, where the winners of the federation rounds were competing for the Rose Bowl with their interpretations of a “Secret Garden”.




But first things first – a cup of tea and a biscuit in the Cwtch.  Isn’t that a great sign?




It’s such fun working amongst friends and having the chance to catch up with my Welsh WI chums was a delight.   Once I’d finished my part of the judging, I went out into the sunshine to see what was what.




My eye was caught by the Dyfed-Powys Police stand – or rather, their tractor with blue flashing lights!  I chatted a while with one of their “specials”, about my father in law and the family connection with the constabulary, wondering what Richard would have made of it all now?  Police tractor indeed…!




There were loom bands galore today and the craze definitely continues here.




But the real “hot” product?  Orthotics .  Looks like wearing those ballet flats and flip flops is beginning to catch up with people and there were several stands around the showground selling a variety of products to treat the condition.  Interesting!




I don’t speak Welsh though I love to hear it spoken and from time to time a translation brings a smile to my face.  Had it not been alongside the English word, I’d have had no idea what “tatws” meant, but seen like this, all was clear!  Does anyone call them “taties” any more?




By now it was getting really warm and after a spot of lunch – well, roast Welsh lamb and all the trimmings of course – it was time to return to the hall to check the winners and to meet the competitors.




Now, that can be scary.  There’s always the fear that one of them is going to harangue one of the judges for not awarding as many marks as they’d hoped for.  Or maybe to point out something we’d missed.  But when the winning team from Ceredigion arrived, they were so thrilled with their first place we needn’t have worried!  It’s lovely to witness their elation and it’s a good reminder of how much is resting on those few bits of craftwork, cookery and flowers and how important it is for us to get it right.  Of course, it’s only a bit of fun – or is it?  Winking smile




By this time, it was well into the afternoon and mindful of the journey home, I decided it was time to leave.  Not before this cute little bunch had crossed my path, however!  Isn’t it a great setting for a show, here?




I took the same route back to the car park, watching the next generation learn the tricks of the trade.

Time to go home.