Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Whaddya mean it's already Wednesday?

I can't believe it's already Wednesday! I was away in Seattle on the weekend, so I don't have a lot of progress to report. I did buy border fabric while I was across the border, so here's a sneak peek of how the baby quilt will look:

Last night I bought a backing fabric as well:

At least I managed to finish a few ID holder wristlets for my Etsy shop:

Finally, I just started knitting a vest for myself. I tried going shopping this weekend, since I'm in desperate need of some new winter clothing, but this year's styles just don't appeal to me. If you want a wool vest, best to DIY! I never make complete gauge swatches--usually I just do a swatch for an inch or two, and then decide whether or not it's going to work. This time, though, I actually made and blocked the swatch for what I'm pretty sure is the first time in my life:

It looked tiny when I finished it, but happily, after blocking, it was 4" x 4", 16 stitches across and 22 rows high--just what the pattern called for. I also finally taught myself a proper long tail cast-on last night. Since I started sock-knitting last winter, I've learned a lot of new techniques. I'm still a quilter at heart, but maybe I'll also consider myself to be a knitter as well, with a little more practice and experience. We'll see--it depends on whether I actually manage to finish this vest in time to wear it this winter!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

My second quilt ever: Japanese quilt, 1990

When I started quilting back in the fall of 1990, I immediately fell in love with Japanese quilts, thanks to Jill Liddell and Yuko Watanabe's beautiful book on the subject, as well as some RJR and Hoffman fabrics based on traditional Japanese patterns. Not long after I started quilting (and made my first quilt, a tied "Trip Around the World bed quilt), I happened to be visiting my sister in Seattle, and I made my way to In the Beginning Fabrics, then a great quilt shop (sadly closed, after the owners decided to concentrate on wholesale and fabric design).

At that time, the finished products from a Japanese quilting class taught by Lorraine Torrence happened to be hanging in the shop. The quilts used Japanese fabrics in half-square triangles arranged asymmetrically to create a send of flow and movement, and I immediately thought I could do the same on my own. When I got home, I immediately made my second quilt ever:

For the sake of variation, I used one square block, in addition to all of the half-square triangles. I planned all of the blocks in advance on graph paper with colored pencils.* In the end, I liked the result a lot, although I'm still a little ambivalent about what I think of as "the big black bat" in the lower right quadrant of the quilt.

When it came to quilting techniques, I knew absolutely nothing. I used stab stitches because I didn't understand how to make a running stitch, and since I had no concept of bindings, I finished the quilt by folding excess fabric from the front around to the back. I think I made at least four quilts before I learned how to make a binding. No mitered corners in the border either, which helped ensure that the borders stretched more than they ought to have.

Even so, I'm still fond of this quilt, flaws and all.

*For my third quilt (alas, no longer in my possession), I did another "Japanese-style" quilt with half-square triangles, but I tried for spontaneity and initially laid out all of the triangles completely randomly. The result was a complete mess--an important lesson in design and how improvisation and randomness aren't anywhere near the same thing. A coherent design with a simultaneous sense of movement and order required a lot of rearranging, planning, and experimentation.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

WIP Wednesday

It's Wednesday, and time to share!

At Saturday's retreat, I pieced the top for a baby quilt for DH's granddaughter, and I just need to add the border before I start quilting:

(Sorry it's a little blurry. My camera has issues--or maybe it's the photographer.)

I also started work on a quilt using an array of traditional Japanese fabrics:

The notebook page shows my planning process. I started keeping a notebook about a year ago or so, and it's a wonderful way to keep track of ideas and projects. Much better than the random scraps of paper that constituted my previous system! This quilt centers around five katazome floral blocks dyed by Karen Miller, an Oregon artist who specializes in katazome dyeing. The rest of the fabrics are yukata or katazome fabrics; some are antique, while others I bought new back in the heyday of Kasuri Dyeworks, a wonderful store that, in the pre-internet days, offered one of the few sources outside Japan for traditional Japanese silks and cottons.

When I sketched out the basic plan for the quilt, I had thought of the floral blocks as "meditation stones" that would offer points of concentration. The quilt in progress seems busier than I had originally imagined, however, so who knows what the end result will be?

Finally, last night I started putting together a new set of ID holder wristlets for my Etsy shop:

Happy quilting, everyone!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

A beautiful day of quilting

Yesterday I joined our guild-sponsored, all-day, 13-hour quilting retreat in beautiful Lions Bay, BC, organized by Krista of Poppyprint, who regularly offers retreats for eager quilters looking for a full day of concentrated sewing. We enjoyed a wonderful day of creativity, along with good food, show and tell, door prizes, and general camaraderie. My energy was already flagging considerably by 5 p.m., so the piecing went pretty slowly after that, but it was so much fun just to hang out, wander around to see other people's projects, and chit-chat throughout the evening.

I worked on two projects--the baby quilt that I've mentioned earlier, as well as a new quilt featuring Japanese fabrics. I had originally planned to put together some ID holder wristlets, but when the big day arrived, it seemed so much more interesting to work with a pile of Japanese indigos!

I'm saving the photos of my full progress to reveal on WIP Wednesday. More coming soon!

Added on 9/17-9/25: Other VMQG members are also starting to post their achievements at the retreat! Janet finished a beautifully quilted charity quilt, and Felicity worked on a variety of lively projects. Finally, see here for Holly's happy reflections on the retreat, plus a few hints of her own work on that glorious Saturday.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

"Brushstrokes," 2011

"Brushstrokes" represents a more improvisational style that I've been exploring in recent years. Susan Shinnick's beautiful hand-dyed, hand-printed linens and linen-cotton fabrics seemed to beg for fabric collage, as well as the extra visual and surface texture of raw-edged piecing. I pieced the background, assembled the three layers of the quilt, added the free-motion quilting, and then simultaneously machine-appliqued and machine-quilted additional fabrics onto the quilt.

The end result combines natural imagery with an effort to communicate a sense of visual balance, movement, and spontaneity. The raw-edged piecing means that individual threads periodically loosen themselves and begin to drift. For me, those threads are not signs of deterioration, but part of the changes that define the quilt's life cycle and development over time.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

WIP Wednesday

I'm going to VMQG's all-day quilting retreat on September 15, so I'll be prepping fabric over the next week-and-a-half. I want to be ready to sit at my machine and sew, sew, sew! I started off this weekend by washing and ironing fabric for the baby quilt that I've started (yes, I am one of those quilters who always prewashes her cottons), and cutting the patches:

My plans are pretty simple. The quilt will be eight blocks wide and ten blocks long, with blocks from each fabric arranged running diagonally, like a fourth of a trip around the world. I'll finish the top off with a pieced border.

I haven't made anything new for my Etsy shop in a while, so I've also started prepping fabric for a new set of ID holder wristlet coin purses. I'm planning on half a dozen, mostly in vintage yukata fabrics. I have other projects to work on as well, although I'll be lucky if I can finish the quilt top and the wristlets.

I am so looking forward to a full day devoted to nothing but sewing, and hanging out with quilting buddies!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Two finishes

Hooray--I finished my striped quilt! I'll take more formal photos later on, but for now, here's the new quilt:

The second finish happened two days ago, when I picked the last of our Shiro plums. Final tally for the season: approximately 430. The plums brought August to a close, and now September is off to a good start!