Sunday, February 28, 2010

Workshop results...

This small quilt, described by our instructor Jane Sassaman as a "sampler" of circles, is the result of a one-day class titled "Sun, Moon, and Stars". The class was one of many offered at the annual Honeybee Quilt Retreat in Jacksonville, FL. Not only were we treated to an inspiring image show of Jane's beautiful quilts, but also learned about her design and construction methods. Then we began to make circles, using iron-on interfacing to stabilize them for stitching to the background fabric. And the stitching became a sampler of its own. Edges were secured using a selection of decorative sewing machine stitches and threads. It was fun to experiment and get to sew stitches that are under-used for the most part.

To reduce the bulk of fabric layers, we trimmed out behind the shapes. That created leftovers too pretty to get rid of. I have a paper grocery bag half full of the bits and pieces that didn't get used in this quilt. Just look...they're fun, too!

My friend Joanne Nolt flew down from Philadelphia to attend this retreat and participate in another two-day class also taught by Jane. That's Joanne on the right, teacher Jane Sassaman in the center, and me, left.

In the two-day class titled "Shapeshifting", we explored designs more deeply, and learned to isolate design elements that appealed to each one of us. We then drew those elements and began to use them by overlapping and repeating them until we arrived at a design we would then translate into fabric. Seems I'm drawn to paisley, plumes, and plump cresent-circles. Here are a couple of versions using the paper shapes.

I've chosen most of the fabrics, but only a few shapes are cut. They've been arranged and rearranged. And will be again! Who knows where this will end up? So this is a project to finish in the weeks ahead. No pressure. Much of the enjoyment is in the process.

The first photo below has a "borrowed" element from the circles quilt shown at the beginning of this post. I placed it in this design temporarily, but decided it belonged where it was originally intended. Can you find it?

The middle photo below shows a good reflection of how I work... kind of messy, making lots of piles, and requiring a good deal of space.

Since we're talking about circles, here's looking at you, kid! Whose eyes are these?? Stop in later this week and I'll show you who.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Fabric Paper Trades

As our Stitch Alchemy book study group winds down, a number of the swaps have been completed. This means colorful, exciting mail. Here's what I've recieved in just the past couple of days.

First, there are these strands of Good Fortune Birds. Each participant made three strands of five birds each, sent them to our hostess with a return mailer, and got back three strands made by other group members.

Mine were made by Peggy Wilkinson, from Illinois; Denise Funfsinn, also from Illinois; and Catherine van der Hoeff, from Holland. The birds have glitter, glitz, stitching, stamping, and more surface decoration. They were fun to make, and even more fun to recieve!

Then, Claudia Vedder, of Hamburg, Germany, was my swap partner for the Love Doll trade. Here is the doll I recieved from Claudia. In the package, she also sent some pages from a German book, shown behind the doll, so I can make more fabric paper using it. There is a lot to look at on the doll. She is thoroughly embellished with buttons, charms, sequins, beads, coins, my initial, embroidery, a felt heart, and even a tiny tear drop. I'm sure it's a tear of joy!

Thanks to all who took part in these exchanges. I learned a lot and I'm so very pleased with the results.

And, PS, my swap partner Claudia, has a blog you might be interested in. She has wide-ranging interest and ability in mixed media.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Well, la-di-da!

What does la-di-da mean anyway? I had a sense of the meaning, but wanted to look up the dictionary definition for it. That's because I was a guest at the recent La-Ti-Da Luncheon held by the Quilting Sisters of Leesburg, FL. It turns out that the term (with its slightly different spelling) means "affectedly genteel". So we all polished up our gentility and enjoyed the event greatly. Right down to the edible orchid on our salad plates! This one didn't get consumed, and it's still vibrant one week later.

This active group of quilters holds the luncheon each year as its major fundraiser. They're a busy group, and members and their guests are treated to a silent auction, a well-stocked boutique, door prizes, fashion show, and more. This year's challenge was Sun Bonnet Sue Through the Ages. We were each given a cute Sunbonnet pin like this one, made by the members, along with our machine-stitched programs. How about that for effort? Adding to the excitement of the day was the drawing for their spectacular raffle quilt. Chances had been sold since last year's event, and the quilt was a major prizewinner at several major quilt shows. Proceeds benefitted a local charity.

The fashion show prompted its own buzz as 15 guild members modeled garments made in response to a Florida lifestyle theme. My friend Claudia, a professional long arm quilter by trade, made her winter jacket vest using light-color velour which showed off the quilting motifs nicely. It's lined with a cozy sweater knit. Our Citra Crafty Quilters group, of which Claudia is also a member, convinced her the outfit needed a matching hat, just to top things off, so to speak. Rising to the challenge, Claudia created this cloche hat and accented it with the dimensional flower. I thought it was just the right touch...she wore it well!

Other entrants modeled jackets that sported applique motifs representing palm trees, flamingos, geckos, and even the Jupiter Lighthouse. There were aprons, hand bags, quilted sweatshirts, and skirts. It was quite inspiring. I've ordered a new apron pattern.

Plans are already underway for next year's La-Ti-Da Luncheon and Fashion Show. And the new raffle quilt... a foundation pieced star sampler... has been unveiled.

Years ago, my small New York hometown newspaper always ended articles in the same way when reporting social "goings on". I'll echo those words today by saying, as the paper did back then, "A Fine time was had by all."

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Vintage Beauties

Imagine receiving a gift sack full of antique quilt tops! That's what happened to my quilting friend Mary. She received these lovely quilt tops from a woman for whom she had done some longarm quilting. Happily, Mary brought them to our quilt group for show and tell.

There seems to be a range of dates for the fabrics in these old treasures. Many are hand pieced.

My favorite... well, I can't really pick one. But my favorite parts of the quilts include this border, seen in the Basket quilt above. It's Double Flying Geese, and all the units are hand pieced. The pieced border surrounds the basket blocks, all of which have retained their vibrant color.

And then there is this colorful and bright Log Cabin. I find it so appealing. Of course, the Log Cabin design is an enduring and popular pattern. Many quilters have made at least one of them. The fabrics in this one are fun to study up close. There are decorator prints, silky dress goods, and cotton prints. Together they create a very bold and graphic quilt.Plus the impact of the long view is stunning. Joined together in the Sunshine and Shadows block setting, the contrast is created by arranging the deep, dark colors of four adjacent blocks so that they touch each other.

I think this may be my favorite. But no... I love them all. I just cannot get enough of looking at quilts! Old ones, new ones, big or little. Back when my daughter Joanna was in grade school, and I was just beginning to quilt, she commented, "Mom, if you took all the time you spend looking at pictures of quilts in magazines and spent it sewing, you'd have a whole bunch of quilts of your own." She was right...I just love gazing at quilts and quilt images. And now I spend more time at the sewing machine, so I do have a whole bunch of quilts of my own. With more underway.

There are more of Mary's quilt tops to share with you... so watch for them. I'm happy I had my camera with me.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Boot Skirtin' Boogie!

Meet these cute little models Taylor (right) and Delaney (below).

Their mom, Jenny Lekschas Baker, and Grandmother Judy Lekschas, spent a fun afternoon with them, styling a fashion shoot. They're wearing the Boot Skirtin' Boogie outfit I made for the LilBlueBoo/Dharma Trading Design Challenge, sponsored by Dharma Trading. Happily the skirt and top fit both of the girls.

I was curious about the popularity of home sewing and quilting, wondering about the continuing level of interest in them. So I went on an internet search to find out. What I discovered was a wonderful array of blogs and websites dedicated to sewing, crafting, quilting, and even tutorials for various creative projects.

I am delighted by all that is happening in these fields, and am particularly impressed by Ashley Hackshaw of LilBlueBoo. In addition to her art work, she designs a line of patterns for children's clothing based on using "upcycled" t-shirts and knits. I purchased two of her patterns and set about making an outfit for the challenge. Rummaging through my t-shirts yielded the green tie-dye look one, along with a plain-vanilla one. That was all I needed to give this challenge a try.

Boot Skirtin' Boogie combines two of Ashley's patterns. The top is made using an adapted shorter version of the Recycled T-Shirt Halter or Tie Back Dress. The challenge requires at least one added element such as fabric paint, applique, or embellishment. Since the girls live on a farm with lots of horses (Mom Jenny is an outstanding trainer), I machine appliqued the cowgirl boot with a little star for a spur. Jenny really liked the design of the halter top for two reasons. First, it's adjustable to fit both girls and grow with them. And second, the design is such that there is no gapping at the neckline or underarm area. She usually avoids kids' clothing with halter tops for this reason, so was very happy with this design.

The skirt was made using the Recycled T-Shirt Ruffle Skirt/Skort pattern and has an elastic waist. Both patterns were comprehensive, offered multiple sizes, and had plenty of diagrams and photos. They also include extras like other design options, and instructions for adding stenciled images.

Both pieces were quick and easy to make. Then there was the fun of combining colors and graphics. Plus the good feeling of turning recycled and inexpensive materials into something stylish, useful, and new...I'll be on the hunt for more t-shirts to make additional outfits.

Good job girls! Taylor and Delaney make this little outfit look great. I think I feel just a hint of the excitement the contestants on Project Runway must feel watching their models show off the garments they've made!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Good mail!

Just before I left for the Honeybee Retreat in Jacksonville, FL, last week, this colorful package arrived in the mail. Inside were the four bookmarks, shown above. They were made by participants in the swap conducted in the Stitch Alchemy book study group I belong to on Yahoo. Each was made using fabric paper, also called stitch paper. I learned to make and embellish the fabric paper along with the other members of the group. Author Kelli Nina Perkins hostessed the swap, and it's her artwork on the envelope and on the two enclosures shown here.

It was fun to see the variation in style and construction. What a great way to make use of all those yarns, threads, and trims! I'll enjoy using these bookmarks, and showing them off.

While taking classes at the retreat, I was joined by my friend Joanne from Pennsylvania. Happily, she got out of town just ahead of the winter storm there over the weekend. In addition to learning lots in the quilting classroom, I also brought some items needed to make stitch paper so Joanne could give it a try. Here are the results. She had to make do with limited materials, so she creatively incorporated bits of napkins and the paper label from a club soda bottle in her pieces.

The fabric paper isn't necessarily done in the state you see it in the photo. There are colors to add, stamping to be done, and surface stitching which is my favorite part. It's a chance to try out the many decorative stitches on the sewing machine. The piece in the photo below, right, has been stitched and is now ready to use in a project of some kind. Like the doll from my January 17 post.

When I returned home, my husband Jack had this card waiting for me. It was for our 45th anniversary. I love the sentiment, and hey, it kind of looks like fabric paper to me!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Oh, You Beautiful Dolls!

While attending the Honeybee Quilters Retreat in Jacksonville, FL, this week, I reconnected with Alice...a new friend from last year's retreat. I had learned that Alice is a doll maker, so this year I asked her to bring some of her dolls. I especially wanted my friend Joanne, who is also a doll maker, and attending this year from Pennsylvania, to see them. Imagine our delight when we were greeted with this bevy of lovelies when we walked into the hospitality room! Alice is so talented and imaginative, and these are just a few of her creations. The detail is amazing, right down to tiny fingers, and lacey hosiery. One had her own miniature rocking chair, another was daintily perched atop a wooden candle stick. The stork is wearing a bikini and a feather boa, and sports sunglasses.

In last year's class, Alice and I, along with our classmates, learned to "make faces" with quilt artist Yvonne Porcella. Alice went on to make several of the whimsical faces, and had them matted.

My class project, below, is named "Vege-mina" and is created largely from vegetable motifs cut from assorted fabrics. Eventually it will be made into a sewing machine dust cover. It's almost time that Vege-mina meets Bernina!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Oldies are goodies....

I just love old quilts. Early in January, friends from Michigan brought several quilts to Florida with them in their RV so I could have a look. These were nicely-preserved family quilts, so I learned a bit of their history, who made them, when, and so on. This graceful applique Iris quilt was most likely made in the 1930s or 1940s, using a kit. Kit quilts contained a placement design marked on background fabric. The quilter could follow the design lines while appliqueing the elements and quilting the piece. This pretty quilt was sewn by hand, and is nicely made. Some of the blue dots that indicated where quilting lines were to be sewn still remain faintly on the quilt top. Lovely hand embroidery accents the flowers. The Quilt Index is a good source if you are interested in vintage quilts and patterns. Use the Search feature, type in "kit quilts" and you'll see other lovely examples of this type of quilt.

In addition to antique quilts, I like to look over the ephemera of quilting..patterns, newspaper clippings and the like. My friend Deb was given these pamphlets dated 1933 by an antique vendor, and she passed them on to me.
From what I've gathered so far, Jane Alan was a columnist for a Chicago newspaper. The year of publication is the same year as the Chicago World's Fair, which featured an exhibit of winners from Sears National Quilt Contest. Newspapers were a source of quilt patterns, and clippings were kept and exchanged by quilting enthusiasts. There's lots more to learn about quilt history here and here.

In the small booklet, Jane Alan refers to "a poll taken in the middlewest" in which the top-five ranked quilt patterns were these: Double Wedding Ring, Grandmothers' Flower Garden, Aster or Friendship Ring, Butterfly and Basket quilts. I'd quote other tidbits from the publications, but the editor in me was distinctly uncomfortable with the 62-word, paragraph-long sentences!