The Professor’s Choice

I had just finished Rainbow Kites and was hoping for some time to work on the next draw from the UFO Lottery when there was a knock on the door. Oh no!

A tall thin guy came in. Dressed in a coat that had seen better days, faded jeans, a hoodie. An unruly mop of hair framing a pair of glasses. I recognised him at once.

‘Professor! Welcome to my humble dwellings. Nice to see you again. – You haven’t changed at all.’

I had met the Professor a couple of years ago in the sci-fi department of a big bookstore in London while looking for a souvenir book to bring home from my holiday. Being a little lost I had asked him for a recommendation. He seemed nice and I invited him on a cup of coffee in return for his help. But of course I never saw him again.

Professor? I never told you.’ He raised his left eyebrow.

‘Some of my customers mentioned you occasionally – well, someone like you. Just had to put the pieces together. – Now, what can I do for you?’

‘I’m looking for something to hang in my study. I understand that you don’t sell any of your pieces. But what about a commission?
‘Hmm. Depends on the amount of work, actually. Things are a little busy at the moment, I’m afraid.’
‘Well, I thought about a smaller piece, about one meter square.’
‘Any specific colours that you’ve got in mind?’
‘Brown and blue – they’re my favourites.’ – He looked around. – ‘What’s that over there?’
‘Just my pile of UFOs.’
‘May I have a look?’
‘Feel free.’

He had picked up the corner of one of the pieces. ‘This one looks interesting.’
‘Oh, eh, yes. Not my usual standard of piecing, I’m afraid. The points, see?’
‘Well, as I’m a little nearsighted I wouldn’t really notice from a distance.’

He ran his long fingers across the top. ‘I like it. – Would you … ? – I mean … if you’re not …’
‘Wanting it for myself? I think I could part with this one. – By the way, another cup of coffee? Or tea, perhaps?’
‘Oh yes, tea please. With a splotch of milk.’
‘I’ll put the kettle on.’

After discussing a border solution we agreed on a narrow dark brown border and a back made of the same batik fabric, no quilting.

Before he left, I had one more thing to ask him.
‘Tell me, Professor, did you send Arnold my way?’
‘What, is he causing trouble?’
‘No, not at all. Except for the Orion incident. But that’s another story. – He appeared one day totally desperate with a patchwork piece in small box which was astonishingly big on the inside.’ – He smiled. – ‘I fixed his piece for him and now he’s bringing in the occasional new customer. From their stories I knew you were still around. I was always hoping to see you again one day.’
‘Your wish has been granted’, he grinned.

Of course, the ‘Professor’ character is totally fictitious like Arnold and Fiona. The book store I have in mind is located elsewhere and I’ve never met this man. But I know exactly how he looks like. 😉

Arnold’s Pizza

Sunday morning. After finishing Arnold’s Shirts yesterday, I had sent him a message via the intergalacticnet and was waiting for him to pick up his finally finished piece. And there he was already, opening the door in his slow and careful, now so familiar way.

‘Hello! It’s me!’
‘Hello Arnold! How are you?’
He was meandering his way from the door, carefully avoiding to knock over any of the numerous piles of fabrics and other things, carrying his little box under one of his four arms.

‘Mr. Miller has been asking for you.’ I told him. ‘You know, the Orion Insurance guy. Wanted you to pay for his car repair. I think you better not turn up in your Smart car again.’
‘Easy-peasy!’ he answered and pulled a little device out from one of his pockets. He pressed a few bleeping buttons. ‘Done.’
‘Remote control?’
‘I’ve just changed a few settings for my ship. Should look like a little pizza delivery van by now. Piaggio Ape 50.’*
‘Cool!’ One of my favorites. ‘Can I have a look?’

We went outside and there it was, parked in front of The UFO Garage. ‘Arnold’s Pizza’ it read in big friendly letters across a dark blue star-scattered sky. And, in smaller print, ‘Delivering everywhere‘.

‘Don’t you think that’s a little too obvious?’
‘That Miller guy won’t notice. He’s so stupid he can’t even tell a pulsar from a quasar.’
‘Neither can I.’
‘But you’re not stupid. – By human standards.’ he added. ‘Anyway, he won’t turn up today because he’s always spending his Sundays with his girlfriend.’
‘Have you been spying on him?’
‘I obtained some information about his personal habits. Just in case.’
Oh, Arnold! *sighs*

Arnold’s Shirts, finally finished

Back inside, I explained to him what I had done. ‘Look, I’ve finally finished the piece made from your old shirts. As the fabric I wanted to use for the back was just about as wide as the top I had to cheat a little. I simply cut a couple of squares from the remaining fabrics you brought and sewed them together. Then I used the backing fabric for the border strips instead.’
‘Looks great. Something different for a change.’

I handed him the finished piece. As usual, he stuffed it into his little box. ‘And here are the leftover shirt fabrics, too.’
‘No, I’d rather you kept them. For some later project of yours.’
‘Oh, thank you very much!’ – Not everyone’s as lucky as to own fabrics from Interstellar Bargains.

*Not an English ape, but an Italian bee

A Job For Jack And Pinchie

This job was calling for a specialist. It was calling for me. Me – that’s Jack, Jack the Ripper. My friends simply call me Jack.

I’m the thin guy in the blue coat there on the left. And yes, I’m as sharp as my looks.

***

A couple of days ago I got a call from one of my clients. ‘I’ve got a job. I need a pro. I need the best. I need you.’

According to my client, her name was Fiona. She appeared on the doorstep of the UFO Garage the other day with an unsuccessful patchwork top. To save it from the bin, it had to be done. It had to be ripped apart. Or to be ‘unsewed’, as some say.

Hi! Name’s Pinchie.

I gave my friend Pinchie a call. He’s the one who does the cleaning up. Then we went to work.

Seems Fiona knew what she was doing – double stitches at the corners, a couple of backstitches to secure the ends. Minute stitches. Not a seam longer than 3 or 4 centimeters.

***

We did the job, Pinchie and me. Like we always do. We’re pros. We’re the best.

Fiona’s Fall

I had been working on some of my other projects for a while. Suddenly a knock on the door – another customer? The door opened in a now familiar slow and careful way. Arnold. But this time he wasn’t alone, he had brought someone with him. He was dragging a hesitant female behind him.
‘Hello Arnold! And Hello to you too!’
‘Hi! This is Fiona. She doesn’t speak English so I’ll have to translate. I’ve met her at Intergalactical Bargains on one of my last journeys.’
‘Your girlfriend?’
‘Of course not. Just a friend’, he said. But I noticed a hint of purple on his blue face.
‘She’s nice.’
‘Oh yes, she is. – Eh, Fiona has got a problem. Maybe you can help her solve it.’
‘A problem? Let me guess – an unfinished patchwork piece?’
‘Yes, and an unsuccessful one, too. Look!’
He talked to Fiona who pulled an oblong patchwork piece in fall colours out of her bag.

‘Tell me something about it, Fiona.’ With Arnold translating, she explained.
‘I meant to make a harvest-themed piece with some sky fabric, a big moon, sunset fabric, fallen leaves. I wanted to sew flower shapes in the first place, but this didn’t fit in with the rest of it. So I sewed two pieces together in pairs and made rows of hexagons. But this looks awful. Can you help me, please?’
‘Hm. I’ve got an idea. Why not sew them together as you first intended and drop the rest. Of course, this would mean ripping the seams apart again.’
She looked horrified. ‘All the work in vain!’
‘That’s something I really hate, too. But think of it. After all, it can’t get worse.’ – Finally she agreed.
‘Have you brought the paper templates, by chance?’
She pulled a little plastic bag out of her pocket. ‘I tore some of them while taking them out after sewing the pieces together, I’m afraid.’
‘Never mind, I can make a couple of new ones. As long as I don’t have to make all of them.’

‘Um, this will keep me busy for a while. I’ll have to rip the pieces apart again, then baste them around the templates and sew them back together again. – Do you want anything special for the back?’ She shook her head. She even gave me permission to add some pieces, just in case. ‘I’ll post about the progress on my blog so you will know when it’s ready to be picked up. You can follow my site on the intergalacticnet.’

This piece needs a fair amount of re-working, dear reader. But hey, that’s The UFO Garage’s business – Fixing them all! Somehow.

Excuse me for now. Need to call a friend to help with this.

Best Offers Between Here And Andromeda

Today I was waiting for Arnold to pick up his finished patchwork piece. A knock on the door. But that wasn’t Arnold.

It was a guy in a grey suit with a suitcase in his hand.

‘Good morning! Max Miller, Orion Insurance Company – Best offers between here and Andromeda. I was just doing business around here and saw your garage’, he said and handed me his business card.
Oh no, not now. Arnold could be here any minute.
‘Excuse me, Mr. Miller, this isn’t the usual kind of garage. And I’ve got an appointment with a customer right now.’
‘No problem, I’ve got a little spare time.’

That instant the door opened again. I heard someone swearing in a foreign language. In came Arnold with his face being a slightly darker blue than usual.

‘Some guy has parked his tin can diagonally across two parking spaces. I could hardly squeeze in my Smart car! Better park your car properly if you want to avoid dents and scratches. – Especially if you’re driving a 1970s Mercedes.’

The insurance guy looked surprised but caught himself quickly. ‘Um, I’m afraid that’s my car.’

‘Mr. Miller, Orion Insurance Company – Arnold’, I introduced them to each other.
‘A cup of coffee, gentlemen?’

While I was making coffee in the kitchen I overheard the Orion guy trying to sell a car liability insurance to Arnold.
‘No thank you, I don’t need one. I can’t afford your doubtless astronomical insurance fees anyway.’
‘The Orion Insurance Company has got the best offers between here and Andromeda.’ Mr. Miller sounded slightly offended.
‘Well then, that’s only a stone’s throw from here.’
‘Two and a half million light years are a stone’s throw?’
‘Yup. Next galaxy from here. Just around the corner.’

Arnold’s Batiks

Later I handed the completed piece to Arnold who stuffed it into his little box.
‘Well, goodbye then! See you next time.’
‘Bye-bye!’ he answered cheerily.

Off he went, happily humming. A short moment later there was the sound of bursting metal.

‘Arnold’s ship is made of reinforced material. Built-in automatic dent repair’, I told the Orion guy. ‘I hope you’ve got a good car insurance. And a good garage.’

 

Arnold Is Back

The other day I was sitting in the UFO Garage sewing when I heard a knock on the door.
‘Come in!’
Someone opened the door slowly and carefully in a slightly familiar way. In stepped Arnold, carrying his small box.
‘Hi!’ He waved with one of his free hands. (As you may remember, he’s got four of them.)
‘Hello, Arnold! Nice to see you again.’
‘I was just doing business in the neighbourhood and thought I might come in to see how far you got.’

I showed him his ‘shirts’ he left last time. ‘I’ve just completed the border – look!’

‘Nice. I love how it turned out.’
‘I’ve thought about sewing the black pieces to the white side and vice versa. But it didn’t look as good as I had expected. – What do you think about two black and two white sides of binding? And a thin batting because of the white fabrics. Oh – do you want a black or a white backside? Or something different?’ I explained to him what I had in mind.
‘That’s different indeed. If it doesn’t mean too much of an effort – yes, it’s OK with me. Sounds interesting to have different colours on the binding, too.’

He hesitated and placed his box on my table. ‘Eh, I hardly dare to ask, but can you do me another favour?’
‘Sure. What is it?’ (Sure? I should perhaps be more careful.)

fabric, batting and extra blocks

‘I’ve got this project here made of batik fabrics. Hard enough to make the blocks match. Strangely enough, I’ve even had five of the blocks left.’
‘And now you don’t feel like finishing it.’
‘Yes, exactly. How did you know?’
Well – you haven’t even joined the rows completely. – I can fix this for you. What about this batik fabric I’ve got here for the borders and back? A bit of a peach colour. A narrow border as usual and also a thin batting.’
He nodded. ‘I’ll be back in a couple of weeks to pick them up. I’ll call you about the exact time.’

Arnold’s Batiks – finished top

Original pattern

You may have wondered about my ‘mysterious’ or ‘secret’ projects. This was one of them. First I had to sew the last rows together, then take out the paper templates. It seems Arnold has used a block pattern from a project called ‘Positiv und Negativ’ which was published in 1995 by the former Austrian ‘Patchwork- und Quiltjournal’.

A New Customer

The other day while I was working in The UFO Garage I heard a faint knock on the door.
‘Come in!’
The door was slowly and carefully being pushed open. In came, well, someone unusual. About three feet tall. Blue. Dressed in a silver space suit. With a small box underneath one of, eh, four arms.
‘Hello!’
‘Hello! What can I do for you?’
‘A friend of mine told my about you. Said you might possibly be able to help.’
‘You’ve traveled a long way, it seems.’
He – or she – or even it – looked a little desperate. ‘You’re my last hope.’
‘How can I help you, then?’
‘I, um, have this thing here. I’ve started this myself a while ago but I’m stuck. It needs some fixing.’
‘Can I have a look?’
He – or she – or even it – put down the box and opened it carefully with all of his – or her – or even its – four hands and pulled out a patchwork top. Black and white with some splashes of colour. ‘I’ve made this from some old shirts of mine and some new ones from Intergalactic Bargains.’

the top in question

I recognised the pattern immediately. It was one I had already made before at least three times. English paper piecing. A square surrounded by four kites. Totally different looks could be achieved just by changing the colour placement.

‘Hm, let me see. You’ve got a problem with the borders, right?’ My little visitor – I had decided by now it was a male – nodded. ‘You haven’t brought any of the fabrics, by chance?’
‘Oh yes, I have!’ he said exitedly and started to empty the box. A big pile of fabrics began to grow rapidly on the floor. I wondered how all this could have fit into this small box. Bigger on the inside?

I discussed some border solutions with him and we finally agreed upon filling up the border with triangles to make it straight using the leftover fabrics.

‘Can I do something else for you? Maybe give your ship a check-up? Oil, gas, water, air?’
‘No thanks, she’s fine. Parked just around the corner disguised as a Smart car.’ (Now I know why they always looked a bit weird to me…)

‘How long are you planning to stay here on Sol 3? It might take a couple of days to finish.’
‘No problem. I’m coming back to pick it up on my way back. I’ve got some business to do in this sector of the universe. Time for me is relative, anyway.’ (Oh, that kind of ship.)
‘By the way, what’s your name? You didn’t mention it yet, I’m afraid.’
‘I’m very sorry. Where are my manners? I’m Arnold’ he said, turning from blue to purple.

detail

Blue Tiles

+++NEWSFLASH+++UFO CRASH LANDING IN NW AUSTRALIA+++NO SURVIVORS FOUND+++EXPERTS ON THEIR WAY TO CRASH SITE+++

By Martin ‘The Martian’ McIntyre for The Meteorite News

Broome, WA – An alien spaceship has crash landed on the coast of Western Australia at Gantheaume Point near Broome. Eye witnesses described hearing a loud bang and seeing a giant fireball. ‘I thought doomsday had finally come,’ said one of the locals, who wants to remain unnamed.

According to the local police forces, no survivors were found. The spaceship has been totally destroyed. Only a few remains can still be seen on location, waiting to be examined by experts who are on their way to the crash site.

A couple of strange footsteps leading into the sea were detected. The authorities denied any ‘alien’ origin, stating that they belong to dinosaurs which left them there in prehistorical times. ♦

Reconstructing the pattern

fragment on crash site

After experts had given the remains a closer examination this photo was sent to German UFO collector/mechanic Jule who identified the fragment as belonging to the pool area ‘or maybe even the bathroom. – Sturdy little thing, hm? Not exactly plaster board.’ she commented. Her attempts to reconstruct the pattern were successful. Here’s a short résumé of her research so far.

‘When I began to reconstruct the pattern a first look showed a 7 x 8 unit repeat of the pattern, which is a little unusual. Further examination of the adjoining areas where some of the tiles only left marks revealed a more familiar 8 x 8 grid. Obviously the alien tiler had to work his way around a smaller gap.’

8 x 88 x 8

8 x 7

‘Starting with the smallest tile, I determined the length of its side as 1 unit. The other tiles were 1 x 2 and 2 x 2 units, respectively.’

the reconstructed tiling, split up into units for sewing

‘I will make a sample of 5 x 5 blocks using various blue batik fabrics. Working with an unit length of 2 cms, the finished piece will be approximately 80 cms square.

finished block

24 blocks finished