Wednesday, October 8, 2014
One of the few downsides of the internet is a degree of sameness when it comes to fabric. All the collections are available everywhere all the time. In the solely bricks and mortar era of retail, going to a fabric shop always had a degree of mystery because what you found was so dependent on the owner's personal taste, interests and even geography. In the pursuit of different material, thrift shopping for men's shirts and unusual prints can be rewarding but this has also become more difficult as everybody else seems to be doing the same...
So over time, I've been collecting Japanese tenugui and furoshiki which are cotton hand towels and wrapping cloths to make things with. They are generally about 15" by 36" and 16" by 16" respectively and are printed with the most interesting patterns. The weave of the tenugui is a little looser than quilting fabric somewhat like a bandana. On the lighter colored ones you can spray baste some white voile with temporary adhesive on the back to give the fabric a bit more body while sewing. When my brother lived in Japan, these fabrics were free;) but now excluding the incredibly fast and inexpensive shipping, they generally start at around $3 and up each on Ebay. A quick search comes up with these and these beautiful cloths...
My most recent favourite is this sushi towel. If I was ever reincarnated as an animal I would love to be a seal. There are few better things I can think of than living on a diet of raw fish:). Now your turn, what other sources of cool textiles are out there? Where do you find your fabric? Please tell...
Wednesday, October 1, 2014
I saw these great zippers at Willow Lane Quilting. The owner Priscilla Knoble was recently featured on "The Quilt Show" speaking about Japanese quilting. They are excellent quality and I could not resist the pulls which are tiny sewing machines, irons and scissors. Mine are going in a version of this great jacket...
but they would work well in any quilted bag or pouch...
Friday, September 19, 2014
True confessions, this book was pre-ordered as soon as I heard about its publication and I was predisposed to love it. Happily, it does not disappoint and my nose has been buried between the covers since it arrived last week. Roderick Kiracofe's previous and wonderful work explored the evolution of American quilts up to 1950. "Unconventional & Unexpected: American Quilts Below the Radar" explores quilts made after this time and more specifically utility quilts. These are my favourite kind of quilts: the ones I obsess over on Pinterest and Ebay. To see them treated in an academic way so beautifully as modern works of art makes my heart sing.
The book is gorgeous with lots of images and essays from renowned textile personages. Am still at the child-like stage of looking at the pictures and trying to pick my favorite one which changes daily. These quilts are the most colorful, joyful and soulful expressions of their creators' spirit. Made of polyesters, wools and corduroys as well as cottons they are the embodiment of recycled materials. They were made for warmth and they were made to be used. Stylistically, these patchworks intersect traditional quilts and purely improvisational ones. They are abstract in pattern and yet have form.
I love this book and can't recommend it enough. My only regret is that I wish Kiracofe had written it decades ago so that these quilts were valued as I suspect the most beautiful of their kind have been worn to bits, abused and discarded...
Now I know all my favorite bloggers are writing about this book. Have studiously not looked at their posts and am now off to read what more intelligent insights they have about it :)
Friday, September 12, 2014
Well we are back from some ferry hopping and beach time with cell phones turned off. In the modern age it feels subversive to go off the grid. A bit caught up in the film festival but am feeling refreshed and looking forward to lots of sewing. As written in a previous post, I love the Juki in every way but one. It could do with more lighting. At a hardware store, I found this LED product pictured above.
It is quite thin, can use rechargeable batteries and the adhesive hook and loop strip is repositionable. Here are the before and after shots unfortunately taken with my phone...
Now the LED is just over half an inch thick so it may get in the way when quilting but for piecing it really lights up the bed without any heat or an electrical cord getting in the way. I bought two lights as I think my serger could use one...
Also on a final and exciting note, the much anticipated this and the sure to be interesting that arrived in the mail so book reviews to follow. As well, there is the most beautiful (and sadly only borrowed) antique quilt given to my friend by her client that you all must see...
random holiday shots for my Mum:)
Saturday, August 23, 2014
Am not much of a shopper (fabric excluded!) but when an additional 40% off clearance prices email from your favourite shoe store lands in your inbox it is really hard to not go to the site "just to have a look". I could not resist these shoes which are perfect for a sewist. Look at that stitching and those tiny little red scissors?!! Sold...
Sunday, August 17, 2014
It may seem odd to visit a re-creation of a Canadian 18th century pioneer village to buy modern African fabric but that's what I did yesterday. "Quilts at the Creek" is an annual show rather like the "Sisters" show where hundreds of quilts are hung in a beautiful setting called Black Creek Pioneer Village. Unfortunately, rain set in so most of the quilts not sheltered were being quickly taken down before we could see them. I did manage to get a shot of the quilt above made by Valerie Prideaux. It was sewn with Cherrywood Hand Dyes and was positively luminous in the grey light.
Pioneer woman who devastated M. by telling him there were no baked goods to sample from the bread oven...
Lastly, the Shweshwe fabric. This African fabric is created through a discharge and printed roller technique. It is similar to Balinese batiks but much finer in detail. I have some in the traditional blue and white indigo but thought you might find the green and black interesting. It is apparently called "the denim of South Africa" due to its long-standing popularity. I bought it from this lovely vendor. We are on the move again here and there for the next couple of weeks so expect even fewer sewing posts but hopefully more fabric purchases ones:) Hope everyone is having a great summer (or winter- hello Australia)!
Saturday, August 9, 2014
This antique sampler quilt is from the late 1800's. The seller suggests that the fabrics have probably faded with age but the present color combination looks very modern. I've been thinking of making a sampler quilt in the hopes that the variety of blocks keeps things interesting: that is, when I get my sewing room tables back after several large pieces of furniture painted by my other half dry. This kind of friendly takeover is the danger of having the largest flat surfaces in the house. Have you ever made a sampler quilt? Did you use a pattern? Re-create an antique like this quilt? Am thinking of choosing blocks that are symbolic of events in our lives... Thoughts?
Saturday, August 2, 2014
Thursday, July 31, 2014
Current obsession is this vintage quilt from Granny Loz in Australia that I first caught a glimpse of at FMQ goddess Karen's blog. Actually I owe another Karen thanks for sending me there. Am determined to learn to free motion on a domestic machine and have been wanting to make a hexagon quilt. That blog is the perfect intersection of these two desires. Her skill set is extraordinary and I'm avidly reading all her tutorials and planning on going through the archives too. Between Faeries and Fibres, Leah Day's Youtube channel, Diane Gaudynski's classic book and at least 15 minutes a day hopefully I'll pick up a few skills of my own. In the mean time, isn't this quilt a beauty?! Love the colors, the fussy cutting and the shape of the lozenges...
Thursday, July 24, 2014
This has to be the weirdest marketing stategy. This is the label from the women's gardening gloves I just bought. Macho or what? Am not sure if I'm supposed to be weeding flower beds or on on some paramilitary special ops mission.
It seems symbolic as I've been at war with the manufacturer of my overpriced and over-engineered sewing machine. After months at headquarters it still couldn't sew a balanced stitch. It was very emotional as I've been loyal to the brand since I started sewing. My dealer is amazing. Even though he didn't sell me this machine he was so upset on my behalf he offered to trade it on the spot for no additional $$$. Have come home with a different brand a new Janome 8900 with a table and every optional accessory imaginable. Little time to sew but so far I love it. Between this and the portable Juki I am set up for life...
Hope all your sewing adventures have been peaceful!
Friday, July 11, 2014
I had a long list of grown up things to do this afternoon but decided to do some sewing instead and work on the quilt from the previous post. These disappearing hourglass blocks are still really fun to make. Maybe I am easily entertained but it still seems like magic when the pieces are rotated and the stars appear.
Am finding that the bias edges work in your favor as you can gently manipulate the fabric so that the seams nest without using pins at all. Except for the hourglass stage, there is no iron pressing either until the block is complete to avoid unnecessary handling which is saving a ton of time. The blocks are turning out remarkably similar in size. If they are off in any way they are off identically.
Sorry about the lousy photo but the camera phone was again closer. The lighting is not so great either. I'm experimenting with these new florescent floods in the hopes of reducing my electricity use but they create more of a spotlight effect compared to the wider glow of halogen bulbs. Not sure whether economy is going to win out on this one...
Wednesday, July 9, 2014
Sometimes you need to make a quilt quickly for someone who won't appreciate your more improvisational efforts. Recently I found this pattern called "The Disappearing Hourglass" by the Missouri Star Quilt Company on Youtube. It was designed to use pre-cut layer cakes but you can use any size square. You need equal amounts of a solid or very tiny print and whatever prints you want to feature. I used some Kaffe Fassett fabrics and a blu-ish Kona grey which looks much darker in these not-so-great camera photos. The blocks are so easy to make and the process is really fun.
Take 2 squares in my case the solid and a print. Layer them and sew a ¼" around the edge:
Then cut them corner to corner:
Open up, press, arrange and sew together to create an hourglass block:
This is where it gets interesting. Cut the block in thirds. Mine measured 12 ¾" so my cuts were at 4 ¼" but yours will vary depending on the size of your initial squares. Cut from the center seams out:
By rotating the pieces, a star is born!
There are lots of bias seams but with a good dose of Best Press or starch at the start there are no problems assembling these stars.
In the original quilt the blocks are set straight but I'm leaning towards putting mine on point.
I'm always amazed by the engineering abilities of quilters. Thank you MSQC...
Friday, July 4, 2014
Tuesday, July 1, 2014
Friday, June 27, 2014
I try to keep the personal and particularly the negative personal off the blog but we have a sick (thankfully now relatively stable) family member who lives far away necessitating travel and life has been stressful. My brilliant but temperamental sewing machine is at the manufacturer's headquarters being overhauled with no return date in sight so I haven't been able to sew. Never realized how much I manage pressure by making things until now. Every time I'm worried my husband always suggests going to my studio to create something. It is a rare man who asks you to go out and buy an extra new sewing machine but mine did...
I decided to get the most pared down machine as close to being mechanical as possible with the longest throat I could find for similar reasons better articulated by Jacquie Gering in this post. At a fantastic price, I ended up buying a Juki 2010Q. So far, the whole experience is a love story. First impressions are that the stitch quality is perfect straight out of the box. It is also easy and straightforward to adjust upper and bobbin tensions as well as foot pressure. It is also nice to have a presser foot lever again as my most recent sewing machine does not. I love the simplicity of it. What few bells it has are good ones. They include an automatic thread cutter, sewing speed control, needle down, knee lifter and every foot including walking that a quilter or tailor could need. It is also semi-industrial which means it is solid but portable for workshops.
With no fiddling, I've been able to sew well mindlessly. The only problem I am having is that pressing the heel of the pedal on this machine cuts the thread as opposed to raising or lowering the needle as on my other one. I also can't figure out how to use the needle threader but the same issues arise assembling IKEA products from their diagrams so this is my problem. While I miss my regular machine and many of its innovations, am enjoying the reliability and lack of drama with this Juki- Absolutely love it!
Tuesday, June 17, 2014
It is always exciting to discover that one of your favorite quilters has written a book. Sujata Shah is an American artist who hails from India the country where legend Diana Vreeland famously declared that "pink is the navy blue" in reference to the people's love of color. Sujata's book is called "Cultural Fusion" and is available for pre-order. If you have never seen her quilts stop reading this and go immediately to her blog. Whether improvisationally pieced or derived from more traditional blocks her work is always a playful and exciting mix of vibrant hues and prints. I expect her book will contain more of this wonderful same and I can't wait to see it!
Tuesday, June 3, 2014
This is the longest I haven't sewn a stitch in as long as I can remember. This sad occurrence is due to other commitments capped off my my sewing machine's admission to the hospital. So thanks to some tips from quilty friends, I wanted to write about the Denver Art Museum which is exhibiting some of the most beautiful quilts in their collection. This gorgeous one is from Lancaster Pennsylvania and is dated to the late 1800's. The second was made by an unknown quilter in the same time period. It would be great to see all of the works in person but there is an exhibition catalog...
Thursday, May 15, 2014
Well I'm almost finished sewing the wedges for my vintage spin quilt from Kathy Doughty's latest book "Adding Layers". Am aiming for a sort of 70's thrift shop feel by mixing shirting fabrics with some modern prints. The only wrinkle is that I am chickening out when it comes to cutting the circles down to squares. Won't be near a sewing machine in a few weeks so I'd better "woman up" and get it done!
Friday, May 9, 2014
Don't know whether it is due to some sort of spring madness or giddiness over the end of winter but I've joined Pink Castle Fabrics Kawaii Fabric Club. Here is the dictionary definition of Kawaii:
"Kawaii, ("lovable", "cute", or "adorable") is the quality of cuteness in the context of Japanese culture. It has become a prominent aspect of Japanese popular culture, entertainment, clothing, food, toys, personal appearance, behavior, and mannerisms. The noun is kawaisa ("lovability", "cuteness" or "adorableness").
The term kawaii has taken on the secondary meanings of "cool","groovy", "acceptable", "desirable", "charming", "non-threatening", and "innocence". "
These Japanese novelty prints are crazily charming. Because of their tiny scale you get lots of imagery in a small amount of fabric. They make me smile...
Who can resist a squirrel talking to a bear print?
or slightly psychedelic bunnies?
or fingertip-sized multi-colored hedgehogs among others?!
Could pink hair be next?