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!