EQ user, Jan Allston might have landed one of the coolest jobs in the world. Get this… Jan has been asked to pack her bags (and sewing machine) and board the MV Magellan in January 2017 for a World Cruise! That’s right, a WORLD CRUISE! The adventure starts in London and, well, I’ll let her tell you the rest…
EQ: Hi Jan! Tell us a bit about yourself?
Jan: I’ve been sewing all my life: from making dolls’ clothes as a nipper in Scotland, through making my own dresses as a teenager, making clothes for my two daughters as they grew up, to taking up quilting in 2005 when I retired from my job as Director of Computing at a local secondary school in Eastbourne, Sussex in England where I taught 11-16 year olds how to use computers as well as managing a department which had lots of staff.
EQ: How/when did you get into quilting?
Jan: Quilting caught my imagination – it was creative, inspirational and engaged the brain! I started off by going to a local class and learning techniques, colour use and getting lots of tips and tricks. I am eternally indebted to the teacher of that class – Lynette Harris (The Stitch Witch). An expert quilter herself, she is so generous with her time and expertise. The group who all started together in 2005 have come a long way although we have lost some of the original members. We still meet every week at my studio and sometimes we have a new project to share; sometimes we just sit and sew, but most of all we share ideas, admire finished work and inspire each other.
I joined The Quilters’ Guild of the British Isles in 2009, a registered charity whose aims are to promote quilting, to educate in the art of quilting and to conserve quilts and other textile art for posterity. I forgot to do the “sitting on hands” course and ended up volunteering to help with events in my local area. I went to a committee meeting and came away with a bade that said “Area Representative”! After a couple of years I became coordinator for the whole of the south east of England which meant looking after around 1,000 members. Our Guild is unlike a “guild” in the USA in that we don’t have groups who meet regularly. We are a national organisation with around 7,000 members from both the UK and internationally. I served over three years in that role before becoming a Trustee for the charity and am now in charge of membership for the whole of the UK.
EQ: How did you hear about EQ and why did you start using it?
Jan: I heard about EQ from Lawrence Dawe (The Man from Rio) of Rio Designs. I had met Lawrence at one of our major quilt shows in the UK in 2009 and saw the possibilities of using software to design quilts. I looked at several quilting programs and chose EQ6 as the one I would work with. It seemed to tick all the boxes for me. I could choose lots of different types of blocks – all ready made – or I could draw my own. I was blown away by the tutorials – so easy to follow and so detailed. I couldn’t go wrong. The level of support offered by both Lawrence and Penny at EQ was amazing as well and I have never regretted my decision to choose EQ as my software for quilting. I have upgraded when the new version has come out and am on EQ7 now. Each month I contribute to the Challenge at ClubEQ too as this keeps me stretched and working with features that I may not use very often. The bonus is that each month, everyone gets a copy of everyone else’s patterns.
EQ: Has EQ changed your quilting life?
Jan: EQ has changed my life in that I never have to get the graph paper out, draw, erase, throw away or file in boxes. It’s all on the computer. If I make a mistake, I undo. If I don’t like what I’ve done, I delete. If I don’t like the colours I chose initially, I can change them with a flick of the wrist. I can import photos, pictures, drawings. I can trace photos, pictures, drawings. I can add sashing, borders, extra blocks with a mouse click. I can manipulate designs, make other designs from designs within the software that I never knew I could using the Serendipity tool which is amazing. When I’ve finished designing and save the quilt, I can even see how much fabric I will need to make it. I used to teach mathematics before I went into teaching computing, but I don’t even need to do complicated sums any more. What’s not to like?
I have even started teaching others how to use EQ and have my “teacher’s badge” from EQ. I haven’t had time to offer classes yet, but have done some private tuition already. My pupils have caught my enthusiasm and have started exploring all the possibilities of the program for themselves. I always tell them to look at the manual – as this is a manual like no other. It’s easy to read and so helpful with diagrams every step of the way. As in mathematics investigations, if you break it down into small, manageable chunks, it becomes so much easier to learn. There are also helpful people online – Gordon Cooper with the Steppen Group on Yahoo, for example. Gordon lives in New Zealand, but I have met his daughter who lives in the UK and works for one of the large Quilt Show organising companies. So EQ has made me new friends as well.
I will be going on the cruise of a lifetime shortly too. All thanks to EQ. I had been on a cruise with Cruise & Maritime Voyages to see The Northern Lights in Norway in 2014 and through a quirk of fate I ended up teaching a class on the ship. Due to rough weather, we couldn’t get into any ports for the first five days. The craft group that formed in that time got to know each other quite well. Our craft instructor at the time, Irene Burns, had asked me if I had made the little needle case I was using and if I would show her how to do it. All the other ears in the room pricked up at that point and I taught them all how to make a Fancy Fandango Needle-case. (Instructions available if you email me). Fabric in Norway is very expensive, so I only bought enough for Irene and a friend to make the case. I managed to scrounge a pile of soft paper napkins from the dining room though and we all made the needle cases on the way home. The paper ones were to be used as patterns for the ladies to do the real ones when they got back to the UK. As a result of that class I was asked to submit my résumé to the cruise company and I started teaching craft classes for them in August 2015. I’ve been teaching people to make greetings cards using Hardanger embroidery inserts; fabric necklaces (the most popular class so far); Swizzly thread-catchers (small collapsible containers); themed pincushions; Tea-bag folding (no tea bags are harmed in this process, I promise! ) cross stitch key-rings; Rosemaling brooches; fabric postcards – and, of course, the Fancy Fandango Needle-cases that paved the way for me to do the classes on the ships. I have been to Norway several times – a beautiful country with magnificent scenery and the most wonderful friendly people. I have been round the British isles and up as far as The Faroe Islands. In July I had the chance to go to several European capital cities by cruising in the Baltic Sea, as well as St. Petersburg in Russia. I have been so lucky.
EQ: So you get to attend the Grand Maiden Round the World Cruise – WOW! How did this come about?
Jan: When I heard about the World Cruise on the company’s flagship, MV Magellan, setting off from London, Tilbury Cruise Terminal in January 2017, I asked if they would be interested in my idea of teaching quilting on the trip. This plan came from a quilt I had already made with Lynette in class. I emailed a photo of that quilt to the company. They said they would like that idea so I set about designing a quilt that would take in some of the destinations we will visit on the trip. Inspiration came from floor tiles in famous buildings, drawings of creatures I had seen, traditional items from some cultures, architecture and photos. The quilt I make will be in the cruise company’s colours, but the passengers can choose their own colour schemes. The finished quilt will have 25 x 12” blocks in it and will measure 73” x 73”. The company have asked me if they can hang it in MV Magellan as a memento of the voyage. Of course, I was delighted to be asked to do this commission. I also offered to give out a sheet of information about each of the countries depicted in the blocks and a recipe from that country as well. Passengers will have the choice of making the whole quilt, or parts of it as they may not be on the ship for the whole of the voyage. Some people will be travelling for “sectors” which mean they can make a wall –hanging, a crib quilt,or use the blocks to make cushion covers or bags, table runners or plate holders. The requirements list for material will go out along with the pre-sailing information and I hope to be able to find out how many will be in the class before we set sail. I will take along a set of fabrics and accessories for those who have yet to realise that quilting is going to change their lives as well! So this class will be for anyone from the total novice to the most expert. I am planning on a class of around 20 people for this trip. At the moment when I teach craft on the ships, I can take larger classes – my biggest to date is 55 people all at the same time. I had thought of going in for a World Record with The Guinness Book of Records.
Naturally EQ7 will be accompanying me on my laptop as I will be extolling its virtues to those in the class. If the company wish, I can even do a lecture in the Auditorium using the program to show people its potential. I might even break my world record for a class after it though. Now that would be fun!
EQ: Any plans besides speaking while you’re on the cruise?
Jan: What else will I be doing on the trip? I will be enjoying the scenery of the different ports we will visit; I will probably help out by escorting some of the organised excursions to places of interest – I am really looking forward to seeing wildlife on The Great Barrier Reef and dragons on Komodo Island! Wow! Having delicious food put in front of me and dirty plates removed from the table afterwards will have to be endured as will having the cabin cleaned and bed made every day. Well, someone’s got to do it! I will be entertained every evening with a glittering show from the entertainments team; take part in quizzes, attend lectures about the places we are visiting and maybe even visit the gym to work off some of the pounds put on in the restaurant! So much to do, so little time to do it! Most of all, I will meet amazing people with so many interesting stories to tell; to share a laugh with, to pass the time of day with, to become friends.
EQ: What else will be happening during the cruise, where does the cruise go and who should sign up?
Jan: So, where are we going? We leave London in the midst of winter and after visiting Amsterdam, we head across the Atlantic for The Azores. Then it’s on to the Caribbean, Panama and Mexico. We take in parts of Polynesia before heading down towards New Zealand and Australia. Indonesia is next on the list, when we sail for Brunei, Malaysia and The Philippines before heading up to Hong Kong, Vietnam and Singapore. Do you think they’ll let me play the piano in Raffles hotel? Thailand will be next. After that it’s off to India, Sri Lanka and The Maldives. Those beaches do look inviting there. After visiting Oman, Egypt and Jordan, we go through the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean Sea. Then for the homeward journey, we call at Malta, Gibraltar and Lisbon before docking in London Tilbury again on May 5th. (View the cruise itinerary here.)
I noticed in our Columbus Club magazine “Compass” that we already have several passengers signed up from North America as well as lots from the UK and a few from Europe. The Columbus Club is for passengers who have sailed with the company more than once and the more you travel, the higher your ranking. It is a bit like a loyalty card. There are perks attached to it, like fast-tracking through embarkation and disembarkation. To sign up for the trip, all you need to do is contact the company directly. The website link is above or call 0844 998 3795 from the UK or email firstname.lastname@example.org. From the USA, call (+1) 855 206 4897. Email email@example.com. It’s a trip of a lifetime. The ship has facilities for disabled passengers as well as the able-bodied. There are lifts in all parts of the ship to get you from deck to deck. Embarkation and disembarkation is wheel-chair friendly. The only time they can’t accommodate a wheel chair-bound person is when we have to use the tender boats to get from ship to shore in a few of the ports. Folding wheel chairs can be taken on those boats though if the person is able to walk a little and can manage the steps down to the small boats. Crew are always on hand to help and I have never met a friendlier bunch of people as the crew on Magellan. When I arrive on board, I am greeted with “Welcome home!” Awww.
EQ: Thanks for doing this interview with me, Jan. We’ll have to follow up next year to hear all about it! HAVE FUN!