Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Great Wall of Fabric

So, I am a little self-conscious about my fabric. I am third generation pack rat--at least when it comes to fabric. I have been seriously sewing and quilting--and buying fabric--since the mid-1980s; I have not only my fabric, but also my Mother's fabric and my Grandmother's fabric. Fabric brings me pleasure. I can go into my sewing room, pull something, maybe something 10 or more years old, and combine it with something new and watch sparks fly between the two. When I see those sparks, ideas start flying in my head and quilts happen.  So I am trying to get over my embarrassment about it and just enjoy it!

the wall

the closet

I am very lucky to have a room dedicated to me and my quilting. I am also lucky to have pretty good storage. Most of the fabric is in two bookcases from Ikea--they are not perfect, the shelves are a little shallow. But the thing that they have that is so very important to me is doors. They have glass doors and the glass is covered with UV light filtering film. In our first apartment, I had my fabric on open shelves in a bright room. The fabric never had direct sunlight on it, but the ambient light really did some bad things to quite a bit of my fabric.

I've seen some lovely sewing and quilting rooms on flickr with lovely fabric storage, but when the fabric is out in the open and exposed to light I want to tell the proud owner of the space to cover her fabric.  I try not to get too strident and bossy, but I just want to caution everyone to be aware of the amount of light your fabric is exposed to. Fading is a slow process and you probably won't notice it--like I didn't notice it--until it is too late.


It is so nice to have stacks of fabric out in the open, to decorate the room and inspire the artist in the room. But we have quite a bit of money invested in those stacks and I hate to see them ruined by the sun.

I'll get off my soapbox now.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Conundrum

I know we have all been in this place: work and life intrude themselves so much that you either don't have the time or the energy to get to your sewing machine. For the past few weeks and for the next few weeks, that is where I am.
I go into my sewing room and just putter about; tidying, maybe sewing a seam or two, but without the mental concentration to really DO anything. As I head out the door for another long day at work, I think, "All I want to do is SEW!" And thoughts of fabric and pattern and quilts keep me going through the day. But I always wonder if I really would be happy if all I had to do is sew. Is part of my peace and pleasure at my sewing machine that those moments are rare? I won't say my time in my room is "stolen", I don't steal the the time,  I "make" the time! If I don't make the time to cut and piece and iron and--well, quilt!--I get unhappy and frustrated. But I would like to *try* having nothing to do but quilting--at least for a week or two!

Until that happens, let me share some images of my Heaven on Earth.

work table
I highly recommend NOT having your machine facing the wall. I am lucky to have a window next to me, but even if it weren't, I am not looking directly at the wall whenever I look up from my sewing.

corner of my sewing room
My little 'alter' of gifts from friends and loved ones.

east wall
This my rotating 'gallery' that I spoke of in the last post (plus monkeys!).

west wall 
My custom-built bookcases--Thanks, Shug! I tidied quite a bit before I took this image.

Monday, February 21, 2011

More Vintage

I am not often moved to buy a vintage or antique quilt. I have inherited a few--tops mostly--but I don't have much interest in owning old quilts. I love books about old quilts and find it much easier to store the books than to store old quilts.
But a few quilts have spoken so loudly to me that I had to bring them home.
I found this funny denim throw at an antique mall in Missouri. At the time I had never seen anything like it. Since it became mine, I saw one in my buddy, Bob Shaw's book Quilts: A Living Tradition. (I highly recommend this and all of his quilt books!) It is just the single layer of denim or twill--no batting or backing, so strictly speaking, not a quilt. The squares are crocheted together, mostly with variegated perle cotton. Then there is the wonderful variety of designs and motifs on the blocks. There aren't a lot of fabrics there but what is there is put to excellent use! The maker got good mileage from the apple print; some squares just have rick rack patterns; one block has a tiny crocheted doily; there are quite a few tulips and butterflies; and the maker's initials are even there.
I think it is just charming!

denim throw

The other quilt I want to show today is this child's-size throw--again, no batting; this one is made like a pillow case. I got this at the International Quilt Festival. The HSTs are about 2.25 inches square--and the points are crisp! And the fabrics! I would like to know the provenance of this one--perhaps it came from Hawaii? The fabrics are all cotton and look like those used in shirts and muu-muus from the early 1960s. They are mostly large scale prints, so it is difficult to know how many different ones were used. It just glows!

vintage hawaiian prints

I have a short dowel hanger on the wall that I look at when I am at my sewing machine. This is my rotating gallery for my small collection. And I encourage EVERYONE who has quilts hanging in their home to change them from time to time. Even ambient light can fade fabrics!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Happy Birthday HMQG!

I didn't get much in the way of sewing done this weekend.
But the weekend was not a loss...because Saturday was our monthly meeting of the Houston Modern Quilt Guild! And it was our first anniversary! Now, I am sad to say that I was not one of the founding members, I joined in April or May, but I think am not going too far in saying that I am part of the core group. The big news is that we are growing so that it is now uncomfortable to meet in member's homes! I will be a little sad to loose the cozy, bee-feeling of our small group, but it is exciting that we are gathering more and more members.
I especially enjoyed this meeting because....I got birthday presents! Last month it was decided that the way we would deal with birthdays would be that the person's whose birthday it was last would give a gift--something handmade, a bit of fabric and a bit of chocolate--to the person whose birthday is next. I thought this was a very clever idea--and not just because I would be the first to benefit! My gift-giver was Safieh. Saf has done and continues to do lots of swaps and I am always amazed by her creativity and sewing ability. She gave me a couple of fat quarters, this very cute pouch (even though it says "pens & pencils" I will use it for sewing things), and some real French chocolate! I also got a bonus gift from Amy--a second pouch with her famous tiny hexagons!

 birthday loot

The round and row robins continue, though many of them probably will soon be pulled as they are now big enough to be quilts. This time I brought home Fi's round. I've been looking forward to working on hers and have had fabric set aside for it for some time.

louis help

Our next group project is a charm square challenge. We are using Moda's Central Park by Kate Spain. Today (Sunday) I began pulling fabric--only half a yard!!!-- to use with it.

pippa help

Many of us brought along our red, white and blue wonky stars for Jen. I mentioned before that she has made many, many Quilts of Valor but, because of shoulder surgery was going to have trouble meeting her promised quota---HMQG to the rescue! See our work here.

I also pushed the dust mop around and though I didn't get to the vacuuming, I don't feel that the weekend was a loss!

Friday, February 18, 2011

I LOVE this quilt!

Today I am looking at a Very Merry Merry-Go-Round by RachaelDaisy.

Very Merry Merry Go Round Quilt

I'm not sure where to start with this one. There is SO MUCH there. The block is the challenging and old-school Queen of May. But there is nothing old fashioned about the way it was interpreted here. I think every color in the spectrum is represented and while the palette is wildly exuberant, it is a controlled exuberance: the brights and the pales, the darks and the lights, the patterned and the plain--it all balances out. The skillfully pieced blocks on their fields of bright polka dots are further balanced by the sashing of intuitively string-pieced bands.
There aren't many solids in this quilt. And the prints are a little bit of everything; there are cupcakes and sugar skulls, puppies and paisleys, fruits and flowers and flamingos, and lots and lots of dots! The lucky person who got this quilt (the caption makes it sound like it was a gift) would never get bored looking at it!
This image doesn't show the quilting, but other images in RachaelDaisy's flickr stream do. The detail we see shows hand quilting using a heavier thread (it looks blue). On this quilty version of a bear-hug, the addition of hand quilting is like a gentle kiss on the forehead.
The challenge I take from this quilt is to try a block that I don't think I can make--I have always admired these wheeled blocks but have never ventured to try to make one. I would also like to try beginning a quilt that had neither theme nor color range. This quilt makes me want to just jump in and sew!

You can find this quilt in my flickr gallery "I LOVE these quilts!".

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Caution! Construction Ahead!

Let's see, I did a little bit on....five different projects! Needless to say, none are proceeding very quickly. I hope I am not only one to spread herself thin like this.

I pieced together several more hexagons. This project is really on the back burner, but I love the colors and the fabrics so much that I like assembling the pieces. I am a bit fearful that my skills will not be equal the overall construction and that my centers won't match up. But until then, I like these twirly parts.

new hexes

The circle skirt top is nearly assembled. I put together 4 more blocks and laid out a design I liked. My big, temporary design wall is in the dining room. So I set up a satellite sewing station down there with my Featherweight and my little Bohin iron (a little awkward to use but it is just so darn cute!) and got the rows all sewn together. I am eager to start experimenting with those narrow satin ribbons!


One third of six more stars are ready to be added to the wonky star quilt.


I spent *a little* bit of time working on the Modern Quilt Guild monochromatic challenge. If my past is any key to the future, I will not get this done in time to be considered in the competition but I am doing something I have thought about doing for a long time, the contest just spurred me into action.

And then this thing came out of nowhere! Last week it was not even a twinkle in my eye!
I've been loving what was being made in the postage stamp quilt along flickr pool. Not much appeals to me more than a big field of checkerboard patchwork; but I had not actually joined in with the group. After my fabric binge of last week, I was looking through my stash, seeing if there was anything that I would not mind getting rid of so as to make room for my new purchases. I pulled out about 3 yards of this stuff that--heaven help me--I think I bought to make a blouse with. I was ready to put it in the Goodwill bag, when I paused, squinted my eyes, got out some Kona white and started cutting strips. Next thing I know, this thing I hadn't planned was 1/4 done!


where did this come from

Friday, February 11, 2011

Fabric spree or fabric bender?

With great enjoyment and just a piquant pinch of embarrassment, let me show you what I got this week.

strings and dots yum


Jane S. yum

dark yum

chambray & stripe yum

AH birds yum

The grand total:

total yum

In my defense, my birthday was this week.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Pretty good weekend

In spite of this sign of End Times--right at the foot of the bed!!!--I got up and got through the day unharmed.

Apocolypse Meow

After a week of frigid temperatures (I know we on the Third Coast are wimps about the cold, but it was in the upper 20s F (-0 C) this week! That is COLD by anyone's measurement!) it was in the 50s on Saturday and the 60s today, so I took advantage of the balmy weather and got a good walk in on both days. I did some cooking for the week: lentil soup on Saturday and beef stew today. And I even got to spend some time in my sewing room.

I added to Constellation Wonkulae and like how it is coming along.

purple-y stars!

I put the circle skirt circle quilt back on the design wall and am VERY excited about the elements I am thinking about. What do you think?

mustard & blue

extended lines

And I got this little throw quilt out to finish machine quilting. There isn't much left to do on it, so it shouldn't take too long.


Now, the stew is simmering, I have a bourbon and lemon soda in hand and I feel satisfied with the weekend's accomplishments.

Friday, February 04, 2011

I LOVE this quilt!

I want to start a recurring feature that I am calling "I LOVE this quilt."
In it, I will choose an especial favorite from my flickr favorites and analyze why I like it so much. These will never be quilts of my own making; I will always identify the maker's flickr name and name they have given their quilt. I hope the makers might be flattered that I have chosen their quilt to write about or at least not mind that I do so. If I include your quilt here and you do not wish it to be, please just let me know and I will remove it. I also hope that others will enjoy reading about these quilts and my exploration of what about them pleases me. But I have to admit that my main reason for doing this is selfish: I hope by really thinking about these quilts that I look at again and again and trying to understand why I love them, it might make me a better quilter.

First in this series is "Wonky Squares" by SilaiBunai.

Wonky Squares

I think this quilt is like a haiku! It says so much with an economy of color and piecing.
There are only five fabrics and they have all been re-purposed from other household uses. I would love to be able to examine it closely to see the fabrics that were clothing in their previous lives: Lungi and Salwar-Kameez! The calming palette of shades of brown and cadet blue make for a serene quilt while the wonkiness of the squares give it just a bit of an edge. This quilter has a good eye for combining colors and real ability for improvisation piecing. I like the broad bands of color around the chocolate-y brown print (I tend towards thinner, fussier bands). It looks to have been machine-quilted with an over-all meandering stitch that just brings the whole thing together.
(The setting for the photo perfectly suits the quilt too!)
The challenge I take away from SilaiBunai's quilt is to do more with less and to experiment with intuitive piecing and to use wider strips. The quilt shows that one does not need the latest line from the top designers to make something amazing. All she needs is vision!

Find this and future "I LOVE this quilt!" quilts in my flickr gallery.