Saturday, December 18, 2010

I Got the Boro Blues

Seeing as the 2 pieces shown in this post are called "Boro Blues" and "Boro Blues #2", let me start off by singing my own blues to you, over the poor quality of natural light which has been hanging around the last few days, (actually it seems like the whole month has been one long cloud). The quality of these photos is not what they should be, so my apologies. To make matters worse, the two quilts shown were photographed in different spots and at different times of the day, (I was trying in vain to go to where the most light was, sort of like my little dog Ellie, who seems utterly lost without a patch of sunshine to lay in).

Okay, now about the quilts... most of you know that I am very interested in Japanese Boro, and sometimes use it as a stepping stone for inspiration. The two works here were inspired by the the heavily patched and often erractic and eccentric stitching found in some boro pieces, similar to this absolutely amazing and authentic boro futon cover which you can see here. (How I wish it were mine!)

I went back into my scrap bag to make these quilts, and experimented with two different approaches to see what would result...

For "Boro Blues" (shown directly above) I started by piecing a background panel, then added various patches whose edges are turned under and appliqued on with a small zig-zag stitch. The machine quilting is done in various stages as the patches were added on, so some quilted lines go over the patches, while others go under.

Details of this piece can be seen in the photo above and below, (click to see a bigger image).

For "Boro Blues #2" (see below) I experimented with a different approach...

I began with a piece of fabric the size of the finished work, and began laying raw edge patches over the surface, zig-zag stitching them in place.

I'd do a layer of patches, add some quilting, do another layer of patches, and add some more quilting. This resulted in a piece with a bit more weight to it, and with a more ragged look. (By the way, "boro" means ragged!)

If interested, both pieces are currently available in my shop.
(Update: Both pieces have now been Sold)

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Scrap Bag Pressed Quilts

Another nod to the past here, as I went to my scrap bag to pull the colorful bits and pieces of fabric for these two patchwork wall hangings...

Long ago, every woman who sewed had a scrap bag. Fabric was precious and nothing could go to waste. She often pulled from her bag of scraps when making her quilts, and I've often read historic accounts of elderly quilters who fondly remembered the thrill of getting to go through their mother's scrap bag when first learning how to piece.

In another nod to the past I did some research and decided to make a "Pressed Quilt"...

What exactly is a pressed quilt? Well, from my research, it seems to be an old fashioned, and now seldom used term, to refer to quilts where the blocks are sewn onto pieces of foundation fabric. It takes it's name due to how each piece of fabric, after being stitched down, is opened and pressed with an iron before the next piece is sewn on. Crazy quilts are sometimes sewed this way, as are some strip quilts, log cabins and various variations, (such as "Courthouse Step" blocks, which is what I have done here). It comes in very handy when using smaller bits of fabric, or strips of fabric cut off-grain, which could easily become distorted without the foundation to add support. (I've worked this way lots of times before, as I am sure many of you have, too. I just had never heard of the term "pressed quilts" before, and always enjoy learning something new... especially when the information is old!)

In the past, pressed quilts often did not contain batting, making them the perfect choice for "summer quilts", (quilts that had no batting).

After some deliberation, I decided to forgo the batting in these quilts as well, feeling that the tops were visually strong enough... Knowing what to leave out is just as important as knowing what to put in.

In lieu of batting and quilting, and wanting the quilt to be structurally sturdy and sound, I decided to back the quilt with 2 layers of canvas weight fabric, and simply tack each block to the backing by using a concealed "tie" stitch.

Both quilts are now available in my shop.

And one more thing, I didn't realize it while sewing, but looking at the vibrant colors and pieced blocks in these two new pieces, I would be remiss if I didn't point out that I definitely believe that my reviewing Malka's book, Fresh Quilting, had a strong impact on my subconscious!

And speaking of Fresh Quilting... we have a winner in the Giveaway! Congratulations to Vicki @ DottyJane, who said...

"Malka's sense of color and pattern is exciting and captured my interest right away! Thanks for the interview and the chance to win her book."

Thanks to everyone who entered, and hope you all have a great week!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Fresh Quilting Blog Tour and Give Away!

Back when I first entered the wonderful world of blogging, flickr and Etsy, one of the very first artists to catch my eye, was Malka Dubrawsky. In my ever longing desire to see something new and exciting, the bold colors and patterns in Malka's work reached through my computer screen and yanked me wide awake.

I fell hard for what I saw and I've been a fan ever since. So, it is with great delight that I find myself a part of this blog tour to help introduce you to Malka's newest book, Fresh Quilting: Fearless Color, Design and Inspiration.

Time and time again, Malka creates pieces that are hip, fresh and modern. Yet with roots reaching into the traditional past, they also evoke a timeless and treasured quality, which is evident in the beautiful and varied projects found in Fresh Quilting.

Whether you are a beginner or an experienced stitcher, this books offers something for everyone...

From cheerful practical projects such as scarfs, sewing machine covers and pot holders, to more challenging projects, such as this gorgeous Honeycomb Hexagon Quilt, below. (I adore this one!)

I'm always curious as to how creativity develops in people, how they interpret their creativity and how they keep it going. So, with those thoughts in mind, I asked Malka the following questions:

Q. You indeed have a fearless, (and amazing) sense of color as well as pattern. I am curious as to what some of your earliest memories of color and pattern might be, and did you grow up in an environment with a strong sense of color and/or pattern?

A. That is a great question. I come from a crafty family, but we didn't have a lot of money growing up, so sewing/knitting were done out of necessity rather than as purely creative activities. I think my love of patterning and color came from art classes I took in school. I'm definitely proof positive that an amazing teacher can change a kid's life. When I was in 8th grade, I was lucky enough to have that kind of art teacher and we really explored materials and processes. It was in her class that I learned to love making and that passion for making made me want to explore what and how others crafted. I don't think I'd be doing this today if it wasn't for her.

Q. In your new book, Fresh Quilting, I love the way you interpret and combine traditional quilt patterns with modern aesthetics and improvised techniques. Can you share with us what your favorite aspects are of each of these, (traditional and modern) and how you manage to marry them so well?

A. I think what I love about traditional patterns is all the possibility for interpretation they bring with them. I'm certainly not the first or the last to re-interpret a traditional pattern and make it my own. That's what's so amazing about a tradition with flexibility. There's room to put yourself in that tradition and when you do that you get to be part of this continuum of crafters.

Interestingly, that which is modern is also part of that continuum. It's built on what preceded it. A lot of my modern interpretations of tradition are based on my love of textiles from the past. For instance, in my book, the Strips and Stripes quilt and the Whilygig quilt are definitely influenced by my interest in Bauhaus art. The same is true for the patchwork in the Four Points Tote. That is an outgrowth of my interest in African textiles, especially Kuba cloths. I think making something traditional feel modern might just be about finding a way to put all your influences into an established pattern.

Q. Personally, I struggle a lot with balancing my creative work with home and family, and I am so impressed with how prolific you are! Between creating your fabric, designing projects, stitching them up, blogging and writing books, you also have a family. So, could you walk us through a typical work day and maybe share a bit of wisdom in how you manage to juggle so much and do it so beautifully?

A. I think everyone struggles with this balance. We all seem to have lives that are made up up of a little bit of this and a little bit of that.

A typical day for me starts pretty early, but not because I force it to, but because I'm naturally an early riser. Exercise is super important to me and has been for most of my adult life, so a day always includes running or swimming or some other kind of working out. My eldest daughter is in college, so after I take my younger two to school, I work in my dye studio or sew or plan out a design. Everyday is different depending on what's going on in my online store or what deadlines are approaching. I generally work until I have to pick up my kids from school and then a bit more after they come home. I think I manage things by focusing on the deadline that's most pressing and not letting myself feel too overwhelmed by all the different tasks that need to get done. I often say to myself, "focus on what has to get done today and worry about the rest later."

Q. And last, but not least, if you could offer one piece of advice in regards to fearless creativity, what would that be?

A. I said it in my book in the section devoted to improvisational quilting. The best piece of advice I can offer both in regard to working improvisationally and fearlessly is knowing that if you make a mistake or things don't work out as you planned, it's all OK because there are so many worse things in the world than ruining a piece of fabric. It's just fabric. Enjoy it, play with it, and don't let it be a source of anxiety.

Thanks Malka for sharing with us, and for the excellent advice, (I completely agree).

Malka and the good people of Interweave Press, are graciously offering a free copy of Fresh Quilting to one of my lucky blog readers! Just leave a comment, (only one per person, please) and make sure that I have a way of contacting you, should you win. I'll announce the winner next Tuesday, Dec. 14th. Good luck!
(NOTE: Giveaway now closed. Thanks to all that entered!)

For more peeks into Fresh Quilting and opportunities to win a copy for yourself, be sure to follow along on Malka's blog tour as she hops her way across a virtual America, to the sites below!








Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Cover Girl

A Novel by
Bruce Kellner
Cover Art by
Victoria Gertenbach
(That would be me!)

Click on the link above for more information and a close up view.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Farm Houses

Another cloudy day here, but that's okey-dokey. If the last week had been sunny and gorgeous, I might never had been inspired to head off in this direction with my stitch work... a direction that I'm really enjoying! (Thank you, grey skies!)

This piece is entitled "Farm Houses", as that's what I see... two white farm houses, one on the left and one on the right.

However someone else might see it differently...

what I see as a red door, part of a porch roof, and a window, (or maybe it's a date stone?) someone else might see as a red house, a garden plot and an out building.

And, what I see as a window, a trellis and a porch roof, someone else might see as a house, a train track and an upside down barn!

Any which way you see it, is the right way in my book. I get a kick when people see different things then what I see. I like different points of view and perspectives. That's part of the joy of art, don't you think!?

"Farm Houses" is now available here in my shop.

(Note: Now Sold)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Rural Roads

The weather this last week has been rather dismal and grey. And, while driving around, (mostly transporting teenage daughter from a continuous series of point A's to point B's) I notice that the landscape, (which generally looks so vibrant and full of color) is now looking a bit flat and faded. Sigh, winter is on its way...

So it seemed appropriate to create a patched and stitched textile piece reflective of that. (See that one patch above... it has the word "Molasses" in it, which I adore. Those of you that have been with me on this blog journey for awhile may remember why, as that was Mo's full first name.)

Made up mostly from old, (and yes stained) pieces of vintage feedsack cloth, I've also added some handwoven twill which I made on 'ol rust. (After doing a little bit of googling, I discovered that my wonderful gifted loom is a "Structo Artcraft", most likely pre World War 2.)

There were a couple of holes in the fabric, which I incorporated into the design. Both have a bit of shot cotton peeking out from behind, and this one has a bit more of that hand woven twill. Also, I wanted the hand stitching to be just a wee bit uneven in length and placement, as I think it adds something special to this type of work.

I tell you, I just don't know what I would do in a world without cloth... old, new, faded and stained or vibrant and pristine, it never fails to intrigue me, sooth me, inspire me and delight me.

Rural Roads is now available here in my shop.

(Note: Now Sold)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Universe is a Wondrous Thing

I've mentioned before that I use to weave. That pretty much came to an end 15 years ago, when we moved to our current home. There simply was no adequate extra room to set up my big floor loom, and thus it went into storage. But lately I have been yearning to have the ability to weave again... nothing big or grand, just small swatches and patches of fabric to incorporate into my other textile work.

"All I need", I told my husband the other night, "is a small, 4 harness, table top loom... the kind that has little hand controls for operating the harnesses..."

So, imagine my surprise when a neighbor stopped by yesterday, with an old, small, 4 harness, finger controlled, table top loom table, asking if I might want it!?!

Turns out she had bought it a while back, but never got around to cleaning it, let alone figuring out how it worked. She realized that she never would, and remembered that once, a long time ago, I had mentioned that I use to weave.

It was covered in about an inch of dirt, dust and general grime, and still had part of an ancient weaving hanging from it... yet I could see that all of the parts were there, and happily accepted her wonderful gift. After an hour of lots of elbow grease and hard core scrubbing, plus a good dose of WD-40, she was ready to warp with a lovely cotton-linen thread, left over from my previous weaving days.

I wasn't sure how she would weave, but was delighted to find that 'ol rust, (that's what I'm calling her) keeps a beautiful tension, and is very easy to use!

Now, isn't the universe a wondrous thing?!


P.S. If you are more interested in the quilting side of things, you can see my latest piece in the post below. xo

New Work

Just a quick post to show my newest quilted shot cotton table runner...

Available in my shop here.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Work Quilt #4: Hand Quilted Layer

This past week I resumed work on Work Quilt #4, and I must say it feels good to get back to this baby!

If you remember from my previous Work Quilts, I approach each step as a "layer"...

Layer #1 is always the piecing of the top, and from there the layers can differ in order, but their will always be at least one layer each of machine stitching, (which was the second layer in this piece), hand quilting, (which I am currently working on here and is thus the third layer) and appliqued patches, (which will be the fourth layer of this quilt).

For the hand quilting I am once again using some of those beautiful Sulky® Cotton Blendables that were so generously gifted to me by the folks at Sulky®. Love them!

The plan is to hand quilt two meandering lines, of stitching in each of the rows, (both horizontal and vertical) that were previously created by the machine stitching, (which was done in both straight and zig-zag).

As the colorful lines of hand quilting going from side to side intersect with those going from top to bottom, small squares of various shapes emerge, and I think I will be revisiting some of those little squares in maybe another layer of decorative stitch.

To be continued...
(hopefully soon!)

Friday, October 29, 2010

Pojagi Style Scarf

Remember the several pojagi pieces I did a few months back? Well, besides using pojagi construction techniques to create runners and window panels, you can also use them to create a lightweight scarf.

Because it's just one layer of fabric, and all of the seams are finished on both sides, it's perfect for wearing indoors, (as well as out) and both sides can be displayed. (I have a tutorial for how to machine stitch two types of Pojagi seams here

Remember, lightweight fabrics work best. For this scarf I used a Kaffe Fassett ikat, and two complimentary shot cottons, (also Kaffe Fassett's) which are very light weight, (whereas the ones from Robert Kaufman's Carolina Chambray collection are a quilters weight).

And speaking of shot cottons, I have received a lot of questions as to where to find them. Alas, it seems to be getting harder, and quilt shops don't seem to be carrying them, (many have never even heard of them). Your best bet is to just do a simple google search, and you should be able to find various on-line places to buy. You may need to shop from several places, as many times you can only find some here and others there. Hoping more shops and vendors start stocking up on these gorgeous and versatile fabrics!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Big Scout Project

Today is my wonderfully creative and entertaining, big sister's 50th birthday. (Happy Birthday, Jean!)

It's also the day that she launches her fabulous Big Scout Project, and invites everyone to join in and follow along on this marvelous adventure. (Please, click on that link and check this out!)

The geniuses for this project began when Jean found herself through unexpected circumstances alone on a beach with only her little dog Frieda to keep her company. Wanting to build a campfire, she soon realized that although she had been a Girl Scout years ago, she had no idea any more how to get those flames a-going.

After many unsuccessful tries, she finally did, and spent the rest of the evening pondering the stars and wondering what other bits of useful skills and knowledge she had forgotten, (or simply never learned) in the years from scout to grown-up. It was then and there that she determined to, one by one, go through and complete each badge requirement, and see if by the end of it she was a more well-rounded and capable individual.

In Jeans own words, this project is about "... a vehicle for those of us who’ve become so specialized in our work and what we do, that we’ve forgotten to explore other ideas and disciplines—or we’ve put them to the side for want of time. To put it another way, can we re-learn how to live a “wide” life?

It’ll be a tap on the shoulder to those of us who are perfectly fine within the confines of our own comfort zones, thank you very much—even though there’s that little voice inside that says maybe even a little change would do us some good.

And finally, it’ll be a reminder for all of us who just miss having the kind of fun we used to have – or should have had — when we were kids.

Wanting to be held accountable just like a real scout, she has selected three virtual team leaders, (of which I am one) to make sure that she has indeed done the requirements to earn each badge; along with a selected group of experts that will help teach and guide her on certain areas of expertise.

I personally am really excited about this, and think, under my sister's fun, enthusiastic and out-of-the box originality, it has the potential to be something great; encouraging us all us to reconnect with all the potential that we once held and still do!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Yukata Table Runner

I have finally finished this latest Yukata cloth table runner. (This striped Yukata cloth is a type of Japanese fabric that is traditionally used to make men's kimonos. You can see other ones that I have made here and here.)

Despite the fact that it is entirely hand quilted with approximately 7000 stitches, (no, I didn't count them all... I do have a life! I just counted one row and multiplied it by the number of other rows.) ...I am still not sure why it took me soooo long to complete. (I've done more extensive hand quilting on other pieces that seemed to take me a fraction of the time.)

With this one, I felt like no matter how much I stitched on it, there were always lots more rows to go. It began to remind me of some nightmare where the hall you are walking down just keeps getting longer and longer, with no end in sight.

Because it was such a bugaboo, I've decided to keep this one for myself. :0)

P.S. That old scale with it's original weights, was just given to me the other week by my aunt. It had belonged to my Greek immigrant great-grandparents who used it to measure out candy in their confectionary shop in Baltimore, Maryland. Pretty cool, huh?!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Quilting Arts Boro Bobble How-to

With everything that has been happening at home this last month, I plum forgot to let everyone know that you can find my instructions on how to make your own "Boro Bobbles", in the current issue of Quilting Arts magazine, (Oct./Nov. 2010) :o)

It's a great little project for anyone who likes to use every tiny bit of their favorite fabrics, mine of course being shot cottons. However, I also think these would be lovely made from various toned muslins, wools, or maybe even dupioni silks. What do you think? (If anyone decides to give them ago, please feel free to send me a photo, as I'd love to see what yours look like!)

And for anyone who would like some Bobbles of there own, but isn't so inclined to make them, I still have some in my shop, (here and here) and will be posting more in the weeks to come.