Monthly Archives: April 2009

Weaving… and the big old happy textile family

I’d been searching for an appropriate patchwork motif for the antique fabrics I got for my birthday for quite some time. When the fabric that I’m working with is rather precious, I want to make sure I settle in something that’s just right. Fortunately, inspiration came along in a rather unexpected way. Artist and professor Judy Leemann (http://judithleemann.squarespace.com/home/) gave a weaving demonstration in our art department. Unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to try any actual weaving (though I plan on it), but I nonetheless walked away with a few new ideas to apply to my quilting and knitting. I loved how slight variations in the loom settings could cause a switch between a basic, checkerboard pattern and diagonal strips, or various other designs (forgive my inadequate weaving vocabularly; I hope I’m being at least somewhat articulate). For instance:

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So I decided to apply that design to my quilt-making and so far I’ve come up with this:

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Piecing together the diagonal strips is somewhat trickier than I had anticipated… but I love the look. And, though one can’t really have too many quilts, it’s also nice to mix up one’s patchwork items- so I’m thinking of creating a giant pillow. This deicision has the added bonus of leaving me with some extra fabrics, perhaps for a summer bag…

I also took my weaving inspiration and applied it to my next knitting project. I have to be honest, I’m still a little unsure about this one- I keep asking myself if I really love it enough to keep going. It’s not easy to knit when your heart isn’t in it. However, my cardigan has turned into a rather improvisational project and since it’s constantly changing, I’m going to stick at it until the decisive moment- keep it or start over- really hits me. Anyway, here’s what I have so far:

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Again, I tried to get in the different weaving patterns- the diagonal versus checkerboard design- and I’m using the blue as a sort of palette onto which I add strips of different texture and color… looking at it now, I like what I see so who knows, perhaps I’ll keep it after all!

Of course, weaving hasn’t taken over all of my patchwork projects. I’m finishing up my brother’s giant plaid quilt- it’s deliciously warm and soft but since the Boston weather has finally picked up and dorm’s don’t have great air-conditioning, I tend to overheat while working on it! It’s so large that I had to combine two different fabric colors for the back (hopefully this isn’t too opposed to his Spartan ways; I naturally think it looks much more interesting) and I spiced it up by appliquing on some leftover plaid squares- and, as usual, a little message.

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I’m in the midst of tying it together, and contemplating adding buttons to give it just a little bit of quirkiness- my brother might have simple taste, but he’s also wonderfully confident and not altogether conservative (he has a bright green, striped collared shirt that he pulls off pretty fabulously)…

Believe it or not, there’s one more item to add to my week of patchworking productivity. Inspired by the Sewing and Quilt Expo, and itching to dig into the Vogue Fabrics that I bought, I made myself a jacket. Nothing fancy (no lining and simply zipper-stitched hems); just my own variation on Barb Originals’ Fleece Swing Jacket (www.barboriginals.com).

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Naturally, I gave it a patchwork flare and went for contrasting colors, textures and added extra buttons. I also lengthened the sleeves and the body, but I also tried to stick with the overall schema since I’d like to teach myself at least some of the garment-sewing rules before I embark on designs that are entirely my own (something I see happening in the rather near future). The jacket is a little larger than I’d like, but it’s all part of the learning process and I didn’t expect to end up with a perfect fit my first go around. There will undoubtedly be a next time (In fact, I may have already ordered my next batch of jacket fabric…) Perhaps you recognize the fabric on the pocket from my Birds in the Air Quilt- it’s some of the leftover antique cloth that I decided to put to good to use!

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I even used it to cover some of the buttons. Wastefulness is the antithesis of patchwork after all.

Finally, this week’s mini quilt. The inspiration? It should be pretty clear…

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Like I said, patchwork shouldn’t be wasteful and I had leftover wool fabric, as well as a desire to flex my improving buttonhole-stitch skills. I like to think of this little quilt as a nod to my branching out into the world of patchwork apparel. After all, quilts, pillows, knitting, jackets and weaving are all a part of the same big old happy textile family.

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Playing with Plaid

My Dot Cabin quilt (I decided this name flows better than Log Cabin with a Twist) is complete. Hard to believe, especially when I begin to calculate the amount of time that went into each of those polka dot squares. Then again, I always stop myself from this kind of calculating anyway. Quilt-making is not about speed or efficiency but the pleasure of taking your time and committing to a single project for days, weeks or even months. Especially as my senior spring sets in, the ability to indulge in hours of quilt making is something to be relished. The flannel polka dot fabrics that I ordered for the back were a little more pastel than I had anticipated, but kind of fun nonetheless. I tried to make the entire back a blown-up Log Cabin motif which was semi-successful since I only had a few different fabric patterns. Nonetheless, my utimate conclusion: I love this quilt. It’s fun and vibrant and definitely a design I would moderate and try again.

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Completing a quilt is always a little bittersweet. They become companion projects to look forward to in those odd moments of spare time- or those entire afternoons. Fortunately, there hasn’t really been a lull in my quilting. First of all, this past week was the Original Quilt and Sewing Expo in Worcester, MA (http://www.sewingexpo.com/cities/worcester.htm). So I took advantage of my class-free Friday and spent the day surrounded by quilts, fabrics and every sewing knick knack you can imagine. Of course, I walked away deeply inspired- though not in the way I had expected. Of course, there were many beautiful quilt and quilting fabrics  and I picked up a few fat quarters that I simply couldn’t resist. I’ve never not found a use for a fat quarter, after all.

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However, the expo had a large focus on clothing and fashion sewing, something that I’ve certainly dabbled in though never seriously pursued. I found myself very intrigued. I love the idea of custom-made apparel and enjoy the few items that I’ve made for myself in the past. Suddenly, surrounded by all these lovely garments, I wanted to try something more ambitious- just like yarn and fabric stores, expos can have an oddly intoxicating effect. I bought some interesting fabrics from Vogue Fabrics (which had a huge sprawling layout in the middle fo the display floor), along with a few sewing patterns to guide me, and am planning on making my own jacket at some point soon:

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The multi-colored fabric is so interesting; it’s 100% silk and has a very open, loose weave. The dark purple is a soft wool and the blue is simply a cotton plaid. But, in the spirit of taking things one step a time, I decided I should get going on a project that’s under a bit of a time constraint before diving into my next sewing adventure. So I spent my Saturday surrounded my piles of plaid flannel fabrics and came up with this simple, purely patchwork quilt that I plan on giving to my brother as his high school graduation gift. Every dorm room needs a good quilt. (Pardon the sun spots; my camera and the lighting just wouldn’t cooperate).

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 It doesn’t get much simpler than this- each block is about 12 inches square so it only took a few hours to sew them all together (I suppose quilt making can be efficient after all). Since my brother’s nickname is The Spartan, it suits him well. Let’s just say, he loathes excess and tends toward the minimalist lifestyle. He’s also very touch-oriented so I think he’ll appreciate the soft flannels. And I have to say, though I’m drawn to bright colors and patterns, I really love this. It’s so quintessentially patchwork. I have some red flannel for the back; all I need now is the batting and I’ll put it all together.

I suppose that I have plaid on the brain because this week’s mini quilt seems to be inspired by that pattern. Let’s just say my sewing machine was not cooperating with my vision of nice clean zig zag stitches but these minis are only ‘sketches’ after all so all the little snags and nonlinear stitches aren’t such a big deal.

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I’m going to finish this quilt-filled weekend with patchwork of another kind- the kind I haven’t done in quite a while. My mother bought me the most wonderful cook book, “Chocolate and Zucchini” (inspired by an equally wonderful blog: http://chocolateandzucchini.com/) so I’m going out to my house to cook Sunday night dinner- which will at least include the recipe for pistachio, tomato and choirzo loaf which I’m dying to try. 

According to the author, Clotilde Dusoulier, the title “Chocolate and Zucchini” is meant to reflect the dual but complementary elements of what she loves about cooking- the simple and the indulgent. Sounds very patchwork-esque to me!

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Marking Milestones

Quilts store memories. They’re in the fabric, the pattern and the time that goes into each little stitch. This natural characteristic can be taken advantage of and some quilts hold even more memories than others. For instance, the little quilt I made for my parents’ 25th Wedding Anniversary which my family celebrated by spending Saturday night at the Boston Harbor Hotel and dining out at Hamersley’s Bistro in the South End (this restaurant’s card made it into the billboard quilt for sure, it was fabulous: http://www.hamersleysbistro.com/home/). The quilt is composed of 25 squares, naturally, on which my siblings and I wrote our fondest childhood memories. It was hard to choose- from summers at Wingersheek beach to Drumlin Farm and reading Twas the Night Before Christmas every Christmas Eve. The result: a quilted container of our parents’ 25 years together (or at least the bit that we have been a part of)!

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Let’s just say the majority of my peers aren’t hardcore quilters so this was a fun way to get in some communal quilting- having my brother and sisters over to the dorm to write out their memories, ending up with something we all pitched in to create. Yet another wonderful thing about quilts; they bring people together. This was my first time putting pen to fabric for a quilt (good old black Sharpie) and I like the look- especially how the combination of hand writings really capture each person’s own recollections. I’d actually consider doing something similar on a larger scale. And I’m very fond of quilted ties these days (here I used bright orange to match the back fabric); I may have to use them on my Log Cabin with a Twist Quilt.

I almost let this count as this week’s mini quilt but then I realized that Sunday was Easter. My family never neglects the holidays, even if we celebrate them in a low-key way (this year we spent the day napping, cooking, and in my case quilting). Easter always has such a hopeful undertone, the promise of a fresh springtime beginning. I simply couldn’t pass up the chance to make an Easter Egg Quilt!

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I’ve always wanted to try making a quilt with curved borders. These ones aren’t particularly well-done and I certainly need more practice (there’s probably a more refined technique that I’m not aware of) but it’s not bad for a first shot.

So it was one of those weekends- celebrating milestone, new beginnings and hopefully the approach of Spring. How lovely to have it all captured in quilts.

 

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…but Bigger can be Better!

A marvelous ad dition has been made to my quilt collection. This patchwork masterpiece one is truly exceptional. It embodies everything I love most about quilts. First of all, it was made by my grandmother, and I love how quilt’s offer a sense of history and family ties, how they’re passed down through the generations (the quilts themselves as well as the love of quilting which I clearly inherited)! Then there’s the fact that it’s made from scrap fabrics- and it’s just stunning. Sometimes I feel like those are the best quilts, the ones where you’re making the most of what you’ve got, and as a result end up with the most unexpected combinations. Finally, this quilt is huge, easily king-sized. As I pulled it out of of the big brown cardboard box that my grandmother shipped it in, my breath was simply taken away. And my first instinct was to wrap it around myself- exactly the impulse a quilt should encourage! Naturally, getting it all in one photo was no easy task but I took a few shots to try to capture as much as possible:

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I love the star design, all the contrasting colors and patterns. I even recognize some of the fabrics from quilts my grandmother made for me and my siblings when we were younger. It’s a little hard to see but there’s also a lovely, simple  border of strips around the edge. Of course, I emailed my grandmother instantly to learn more about the story behind this one and she described the quilt-making process so wonderfully, I’m going to quote her directly:

Yes, I  made it several years ago from scraps I had when I was heavily into quilting and learning to do paper-piecing.  On this particular quilt I was working on joining the points on stars.  I always make my quilts long enough to go all the way to the floor, so they are comfortable as a comforter on top of a blanket.  Sometimes this means adding two to three more rows of Seminole edging, or whatever pattern grabs me at the time. This also adds length so they easily cover the pillows when the bed is made and covers your toes when you’re sleeping.  Also, I seldom back my quilts in white, because I like the contrast pattern when the quilt is turned down.  Quilts are so open to whatever strikes your fancy at a particular time. As you use them and look back at all the memories of fabric and pattern selection, it’s like you just made it.

That pretty much sums up all that I love and admire about quilts- that they should be large and comfortable and full of memory. Clearly, I’m inspired. And apparently this quilt gave me the motivation to finish the top of my Log Cabin with a Twist quilt. Let’s just say I spent my Sunday churning out log cabin squares, and all of Monday morning piecing the different blocks together. I just lost myself in a quilt-making rhythm, totally absorbed and loving every second of it. Upon finishing the original design, however, I realized that it wasn’t quite long enough- and my grandmother’s words about a quilt covering your toes while sleeping were reverberating in my mind! So I added a simple square border to the top and bottom. Now it drapes beautifully over all sides of the bed. Once again, it was hard to capture in one shot but I did my best to get a few different angles:

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I’m really pleased with how it’s turned out. The juxtaposition of circular and geometric motifs is precisely what I’d imagined. And thanks to my grandmother, it’s just a little bit bigger- which I’m sure will make it that much better. Of course, it’s not ready to be slept under quite yet. I’m awaiting the delivery of some flannel fabrics for the back. Which means I found myself with a few free hours yesterday afternoon, and not wanting to start on my next big quilting project quite yet, I continued my log cabin obsession on a slightly smaller scale- proving that bigger isn’t always better, as is the case with this 16 inch pillow:

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I dug into my (ever-diminishing) fabric stash for this one and pulled out my soft flannels and corduroys so it’s soft and homey. I like the contrast between the patterns, and between the front log cabin square and simple patchwork back. And, since I’m all about spreading the joy of patchwork, this is on sale in my Etsy store!

With my Log Cabin with a Twist quilt at least nearing  completion (never underestimate the amount of time it takes to complete the final stages) I’m getting ready for my next full-size quilt. I’m even considering working on two at once- yes, this my idea of Senior Spring heaven! One will be using the antique fabrics that I got for my birthday- old feed sacks that are still in their original bag-like form. I’m in a quilting frenzy these days and it’s no exaggeration to say I fell asleep last night contemplating different designs- since these fabrics are remarkable enough on their own, I’m imagining something simple… I’m a little indecisive, but confident that I’ll know when I’ve found the perfect design! That’s another wonderful thing about quilts; when they hit the spot, there’s no doubt about it.

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Less is More

I’ve completed my third attempt at a cowlneck scarf- and it’s undoubtedly my most successful. The smaller circumference was definitely the way to go. In the end, it’s like a cross between a necklace and a scarf, perfect for lighter Spring wear. Admittedly, I’ve only had one occasion to try it out (hooray for cold and rainy Boston Springs) but I look forward to satisfying my knitwear fix once the warmer weather has truly arrived.

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Though this one is certainly the closest to what I had in mind,  my two previous cowlneck scarves were not a waste. Quite the contrary; this little experimentation has left me with three lovely accessories and I plan on enjoying all of them:

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Naturally, my next knitting project is already underway- or at least swatched. Now, though I’ve been very dutifully sticking to my stash (and quite enjoying it), I also realized that I might as well take advantage of my art class budget while I have it! So yes, I splurged on some new yarn. I mean, it had been more than a month since I’d stepped foot in a yarn store. The withdrawal was just too much. I was starting to feel slightly anxious; who knows what new Spring yarns were awaiting discovery. Turns out I was right to wonder; it only took a few minutes in Woolcott for me to set my heart on a few balls of one of their newest items: Cascade’s Quatro, 100% Peruvian highland wool. And after all this accessorizing, I’m craving a bigger project. I’ve decided on a cardigan, one of my favorite items of clothing, so versatile and useful (When are you not in the mood to throw on a cardigan?)

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It seems that these days my knitting is headed in the simple direction. I contemplated all kinds of patterns, but settled on stockinette with the little bars of stripes every 20 rows or so. For someone who loves patterns, texture and the chance to challenge her knitting skills, it’s a bit of a surprise to realize that sometimes less is more. But in this instance, I do believe that a simpler, bold pattern is equally captivating and fun to knit- not to mention wear.

It’s now time for an update on the Log Cabin with a Twist quilt. I haven’t forgotten it despite some distractions (The Curly Que Quilt, by the way, is finished and for sale on Etsy!). In fact, many hours of hand quilting later, I have finished the polka dot squares:

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There’s actually 12 altogether but I couldn’t get them in one shot. There are a few puckers here and there, but all and all I’m very pleased. They’ll be going around this central Log Cabin motif:

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And around them, the rest of the little Log Cabin squares:

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I only have five so far (I’ll need twenty altogether). I guess I was so focused on the more difficult polka dot squares, I’ve been putting these off but now it’s time to get back to the machine! Finishing the first chunk of squares has me newly motivated. And I’m excited by the design, a perfect combination of tradition and my personal flare.

Finally, my weekly mini-quilt. Another demonstration that less is often more. Hard to think of the exact inspiration, as usual, but I’ll give it a shot. Needless to say, I love patchwork and all that it stands for. And sometimes it feels like true-blue patchwork is uncomplicated; it’s about saving and salvaging and making the most out of bits and pieces. It’s also about the fabric itself, which can sometimes get lost in a busier pattern. On the other hand, plain old squares (what’s more patchwork than that?) let this flannel and corduroy stand on their own:

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I do believe this mini quilt is worth ‘expanding.’ I love the simplicity, the juxtaposition, and how all the focus is on the fabric. I’m also very drawn to flannel these days, it makes me think of pajamas and old shirts. The fabric store awaits; a new quilt idea has been born and it is really, truly, purely patchwork.

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