Wednesday, December 29, 2010

More Kimono Hapiness

Some more kimono moved to my house today... Some are silk and some are wool....
And it seemed to me that they were just asking to be made into a blue, orange and green quilt,
that one day soon will be going to live with friends in London to belatedly celebrate their marriage. I need to get unpicking....

Sunday, December 26, 2010

All's Well That Ends Well

I seem to have had an unusually busy run up to Christmas this year - probably had something to do with my getting not one, but two contracts for work, which started in the weeks before Christmas and needed some urgent attention. After several months of not working at all it meant that the inevitable last minute preparations were somewhat squeezed. I found myself promising that next year would be different.... where have I heard that before?

However all seemed to get completed in time, even if there was a fair bit of stitching completed on Christmas Eve, once I had our daughter safely out of the house. So, the kimono wedding quilt is fully quilted and bound and just waiting for a label.... I'm very pleased with it and am sure there will be a few more of these to be made. I had an idea a few days out from Christmas that I could do something with blankets and doilies to create a picnic blanket for an extended family member. However, my daughter found me in the sewing room as I was in the early stages and declared that it was far too good to leave the house as she loved it and wanted it for her room.... What can you say? The next day she was asking what I was doing with the blankets and I told her that I had put them away as I had no time to work on it. In reality I was frantically stitching every time I could get her off the property or into bed.

The result was this blanket which is now on her bed - she was delighted, so it was an effort well worthwhile.
I joked to one of my friends that I am planning a book to be published next your - 101 Things to do with Old Doilies.
Just as well I have so many of them waiting to be played with and made into something new...
And I've also been hard at it with the angels - I think I've made around a dozen of these this year. There's not too much left of my baby blanket, which they were all made from - I will have to make sure I make one each for the children before it is all used up.

We had a lovely Christmas - lunch for 12 was a smaller affair than we have had in recent years, but a good time was had by all.
Best wishes for a restful holiday season to you all.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Kimono in Progress

One of the marvellous things about quilting is that there is always something to learn.... and I am certainly learning with this quilt. Using different types of fabrics in one quilt, wool, cotton and silk and with these often having different weights, it's been giving me real headaches as I have quilted it. I'm pleased with how it looks but it is moving so much that I have had to re-pin it several times already as I have worked on it. Just look at the rippling...
I think next time I work on something with such different types of fabric I will invest in the spray on glue so I can more effectively stick the layers together and stop (or at least minimise) the movement. Lots of people swear by it - and its got to be better than this has been.
As light relief I've made a couple of Christmas angels....
If only quilts could be this quick and easy!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Kimono Loveliness

I mentioned in my last post that I have been occupying myself with unpicking kimono. In the process I have discovered that I owned rather more than I thought I did - maybe they have been breeding up in my sewing room!

Jacky asked me where I had come by them - and there in lies a tale. We have a wonderful shop here in Wellington called Asian Gallery. Its down a little lane in Kilbirnie and it is a veritable treasure trove of all manner of things Japanese, but most particularly of kimono, obi and other textiles. The owner has a licence as a antique dealer in Japan, which is apparently very hard to get, and he is able to buy up all manner of textiles which are not normally seen.

I well remember the first time I ever went there, as I was so overcome by the sight of all the kimono that I started hyperventilating and had to leave. There are literally hundreds of kimono in the tiny shop and the vast bulk of them sell for a mere NZ$25 - that's cheaper than the price of a tee-shirt. My hyperventilating was bought on by the realisation that it was impossible to make rational buying decisions faced with such variety and beauty at such reasonable prices.

The kimono that I have been unpicking were even more of a bargain than this though - they all came from a large collection right inside the door of the shop which are only NZ$5 each. These are all older kimono, some with holes or patches, but others in perfect condition. As you can imagine I find these irresistible whenever I am on that side of town - undoubtedly this is why I seem to have so many. If I take my boys with me when I visit I have to generally bribe them with a treat to ensure they will calmly wait while I wade through the stock - this also raises the average cost per visit! Here is a handful that have all been unpicked since I took this photo and this is my current favourite. It is still to be unpicked and will be kept to go into a quilt for me. I think this one was from the more expensive rack - although this of course is relative given the costs.
To get a look at the actual shop, have a look at this review of Asian Gallery that was written by Leimoni at the Dreamstress. It has masses of tantalising photos....
So what I've been doing with all these wonderful fabrics is of course to put them together for a quilt. This was my initial pin up of the fabrics as I played around with some ideas I had
and this is what the final version of the top looks like. I made a few alterations along the way and decided to go for a relatively consistent palette so took out the floral fabric which has quite purple tones.

I particularly loved the floral designs on the red kimono so have put a couple of larger pieces in to show it off.
Working to a deadline seems to work for me so it won't surprise you to hear this quilt is for a young couple who are marrying in early January - they are honeymooning in Japan, which is what sparked off the idea of a quilt from kimono textiles in the first place. Their wedding is making me truely feel like I must at last be a grown up - I can remeber so vividly the birth of the groom. He was the first child to be born to one of my school friends, and now he is marrying. Where have the years gone?
I have just started quilting it so will post more shortly to show how it is looking. I love working with these textiles - I think I can feel many more of them coming on. Maybe one will even be for my bed. Now there's a novel thought!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Small Is Beautiful

I had forgotten just how much fun it is to make a small quilt for a new baby. I haven't made a baby quilt for a few years now - all my friends are now past that stage. Infact there was a stage some time ago now that I was producing small baby quilts with such regularity that they were starting to wear me down and I swore off making any more. Happily this seemed to neatly coincide with a drop off in birth rates among close family and friends. But three weeks ago I became an aunt again to a lovely wee lad called Harrison. So of course a quilt was called for. After all, I couldn't have part of my family without one!

I started out with a few new fabrics selected just for this project - here's one of the lovely Japanese fabrics I got from Stitchbird when Lindy came to our Guild last month for sales night. Her fabrics are just lovely - do have a look.
I decided simple was best for Harrison's first quilt so it has all come together quite quickly with nine patches alternating with zoo and car fabrics.

Finished off with a red border

Today I finished quilting it and tomorrow the binding will go on - it will be in the mail before I know it, winging its way to Canberra. While I wish I could be carrying it onto the plane myself to present it to Harrison and his very proud parents, it will be nice to know that within a few days he'll be tucked into his cot in a quilt carrying our love, all the way from Wellington.

In the meantime I've been spending my evenings deconstructing old kimonos for another quilt that is lodging itself into my brain. So far I have taken apart five kimono and have a few more to go yet. I learnt on the weekend that kimono were usually taken apart for washing and then reconstructed. All I can say is that the women responsible for these tasks must have had more success keeping clothing clean that I manage in our family! If not, they must have spent all their time deconstructing and reconstructing them.

Today was the perfect day to get the pieces washed and out into the sunshine. At this rate I should have pieces up onto the design wall for photographing within a matter of days....

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Stitching Stories

I've been steadily working away quilting over the last few days and have made tremendous progress - makes me wonder why its taken me so long it get to this point really! The quilting is making a big difference to the quilt. I thought you might like to have a look... I particularly like toile fabrics so often tuck a few into my quilts. They add a point of interest and a difference from the mainly floral fabrics that I put into these quilts. This woman looks as though she is turning back to her friends to share a story or a joke, while she does to me anyway.
I thought you might also be interested in a couple of the pieces that I have put onto the back. Below is part of the label for the quilt. As you can see it is a large embroidered piece that compliments those on the front. It has the usual things written on it that labels have but on this one I have also drawn a diagram identifying which of the embroideries were done by family members, Mavis and Jill, and also noted their full names and dates of birth and death. All documented so that they won't be lost in the mists of time.

One other piece that I was thrilled to find is this linen tea towel was a calender from the year of my sister-in-laws birth. I embroidered around the date of her birth - you can easily see how late I am running with the quilt! The tea towel was in mint condition - never used at all. And best of all in Kay's favourite colour, orange, as befits a child of the 70's. She hasn't seen this part yet - there have to be a few surprises after all.

Once I've given her the quilt, which won't be long now as I've started stitching down the binding, I might even let her know about the blog!
If you are in Wellington on Saturday Coast to Coast is on in Lower Hutt. Its a great day for quilters from the wider Wellington region to get together for a massive show and tell, speakers and merchants and to catch up with each other. There will be door sales, so do pop in if you are close - I'll be there, with my quilt which will be complete with binding. Hope to see you there.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Springing Into Action

Mentioning the quilt for my sister-in-law's 40th birthday in my last post has made me finally spring into action and actually do something about getting it finished. Kay had her birthday in May (a mere six months ago!) and she has been patiently waiting for me to get on with it. It's partly the patience which has spurred me on and partly the observation by my ever observant daughter that I should really try to get it to her before my mother-in-law arrives for Christmas.....

The idea for this quilt came several years ago when my mother-in-law sent me a package with several pieces of family embroidery. I was (and still am) collecting them up for a quilt I plan for my daughter. It is still several years away - maybe for her 21st. Anyway I showed the pieces to Kay and she said that the piece below had been on her dressing table when she was a child. It was stitched by her mother's cousin, Mavis Grey, who died last year. This of course gave me the idea for a quilt for her and given she was 40 this year, it seemed the perfect occasion. In the interim I collected a number of similar embroidered sets in the fan shape to add to the quilt.

The other significant family pieces I put into the quilt is the small piece below. This is one of two which are on each side of the main fan. These were stitched by another sister-in-law of mine, who died in 1985. I had met Jill a couple of times but didn't really know her well when she died unexpected. She was the eldest sibling in the family, while Kay is the youngest. Jill's embroidery is lovely - I think we would have got on very well together.

The quilt top has been finished for a while - actually within a couple of weeks of the actual birthday. I never normally show a quilt in progress to the recipient as they change so much through the quilting process. However I felt so bad about not having this finished in time that I did show it to her. I was also worried that my mother-in-law would mention it to her as I had told her that I was putting these special pieces into the quilt for Kay. She was delighted with it and moved to tears as I told her about the providence of these pieces. Can't ask for more than that!

So two days ago I decided that she had waited long enough and started the quilting. Its a big quilt so it be a quick finish, but finished it will be!I think this will be the last of these type of quilts for a while - I would hate to be too predictable. It's my third and I think its time to develop some ideas that have been brewing in my brain for while. But first this needs to be finished. I'm putting a grid onto it, with variable distances of 3/4inch and 1inch gaps, which will result in an irregular grid pattern. It's being quilted with a variegated cotton thread in pale pastel tones - and its starting to look different already, as they do.... I'll keep you posted on progress.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Answers, Experiments and New Ideas

I had a bit of an adventure away from home last week - a quick trip to Christchurch to see Leonard Cohen (most wonderful concert ever!) and to stay with friends from school. We laughed and laughed, sometimes until we cried, and it was great. A real treat for the soul.

It also provided me with an answer to my recent textile question on the origins of a hanging, for in my friend's home, hanging over the banister, was the exact same stitched hanging. It was in a different colourway and this one was made in silk, rather than wool, but it was definitely the same. They had been gifted it but told me it was from India. I think its done in a densely stitched chain stitch - can you imaginehow long that must take? Still more research required.... I will report in due course.... I had some real fun creatively while I was there. My friend's daughter showed me the materials she had purchased to make herself a fascinator to wear to Canterbury Cup Day yesterday and said she was planning to glue gun it all together somehow. Those words (glue gun) are enough to make me shudder!

Perhaps unsurprisingly the words were out of my mouth offering to help and stitch it before I had even thought about whether I could do it... nothing new here! We experimented with pinning it to get the right shape

and then I stitched it all together for her. It was such fun that had another of her friends turned up with a bag full of materials I suspect I would have started straight onto another version. Infact I find I have ideas for more of them already... Kara was delighted with how it turned out.
And around the fascinator construction I even managed to start a wee piece of stitching for myself. I have the beginnings of an idea for a new quilt - at the moment its really just akin to doodling in thread, but we will see where it goes. I have an idea of a piece with 6 different views of my favourite snake river formation put into one piece so that it will look like aerial snapshots taken on different days. I've been inspired by a painting of Colin McCahon, Six Days in Nelson and Canterbury, which is a great favourite of mine.

We'll see where my stitch doodling leads, although with a new nephew born last week and a very overdue birthday quilt for my sister-in-law still to be completed, I'm anticipating it will be a slow flowing development.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Blogger's Quilt Festival

It was an exciting discovery last night that the Blogger's Quilt Festival is back on again hosted by Amy at Amy's Creative Side. I took part in this last year and its fun to be able to do so again - infact I had a lovely time last night browsing through some of the quilts that people had already posted and discovering lots of new interesting blogs in the process. So much for an early night!

So here is my quilt for the festival. I blogged about it really recently, finally telling the story behind Friday Morning Coffee, which I made as a celebration of friendship and as a memorial quilt for my dear friend Denys who died two years ago of breast cancer. You can read that post by clicking on the quilt name.

Going through my stash to make this quilt I was pleased to discover that I had so many fabrics that seemed perfect for the quilt - speaking to me about Denys, our friendship, the things and colours she loved. The quilt is full of colours from her clothes, her garden and plants she had, many teacups to remember the cups of coffee we so regularly shared, and even a plaid fabric from a shirt of her husband.

The quilt incorporates embroidered pieces. I just love these and have been putting them into a few quilts that I have made lately - my view is that it is better to have these beautiful pieces sewn into quilts than sitting in cupboards and drawers where they aren't seen. The embroideries in this quilt all belonged to my Aunty Dorothy, my mother's best friend. It seemed so appropriate to use some of her linen's in a quilt which was all about friendship.

The experiment of this quilt was to include some embroidered quotes that speak to me, both about Denys but also about how I believe a good life is lived. These were stitched onto napkins which had also belonged to my Aunty Dorothy - she was a provider of food beyond compare, so these bring to me memories of so many shared family meals from my childhood. When Aunty Dorothy cooked she always made sure there was enough food for twice the number of people she knew were coming - in her house you could never be sure who would arrive for a meal!

So its a pretty special quilt for me, and one I'm glad to be able to share (again) with all of you.

Enjoy the festival - and thank you Amy for providing such a great chance for us all to be able to get together and share.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Expect the Unexpected

Talk about a holiday treat designed for a textile lover - over the long weekend we headed down to Lake Rotoiti in the Nelson Lakes area for a fabulous time away with friends to celebrate a significant birthday. There was sunshine, there was no wind (very important when you live in Wellington!), there was fun, laughter and relaxation.... and in the house I stayed, there were wonderful textile hangings.... One of my friends was able to authoritatively tell me that this one was from Nepal - she had bought a similar one herself many years ago. The owners had painted the wall behind it the perfect tone to accentuate it. I just loved the camels....
This one was more of a puzzle for me - Indian I think, but more research required to be definite. It had wonderful stitched hunting scenes all over it. Hunters, horses and even the hunted animals all look so happy. Great foliage. I can easily see why the purchaser found it irresistible and had to bring it home.
But almost the best thing of all over the last couple of weeks is that I have actually been behind the sewing machine - after months of neglect I am pleased to report that it still works and I still know how to drive it. This was certainly unexpected!
And as you might be able to see I've been doing one of my favourite quilt tasks - sewing on bindings. Every year the Guild I belong to makes quilts for the Wellington Women's refuge and Te Whare Rokiroki, which is the Maori Women's Refuge. We give them around 80 quilts each year so that each women who goes through the refuge is able to choose a quilt to take with them when they leave. There are a very dedicated group of women in the Guild who work hard all year to achieve this - I take my hat off to them.
Stitching on a few bindings is the least I can do!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Promises Are Made to Keep

Many, many moons ago I promised that I'd tell the story of Friday Morning Coffee, the second quilt I made with lots of embroidered pieces and with tatting to boot. Just like In My Grandfather's Den it is based on a Kaffe Fassett pattern and features lots of wonderful florals that I'd been collecting up for a special something.

It all started off with an idea that I wrote about at the time and called What If. I had the idea of using the embroideries that had belonged to my mother's dearest friend, my Auntie Dorothy, to create a quilt that honoured friendship and the central role that it plays in my life, my mother's life and, I am sure, the life of most people. It is also a memorial quilt.

At the time of having my "what if" thoughts I had very recently lost a close friend of mine, Denys, who had died after 5 years of living with breast cancer. She was a friend that was loved by many, many people and who, two years after her death, is still greatly missed by her friends but especially, by her family.

I met her through the local kindergarten where our eldest children were friends. They are still friends and were recently discussing the possibility of flatting together when at University. That would have made her smile. She was part of the special group of friends that I meet with and have coffee with every Friday morning, hence the name of the quilt which was the idea of my daughter.

My quilt recently hung in the Wellington Quilters' Guild exhibition and was hanging there on the second anniversary of both her death and funeral. This felt right and was my tribute to her. Losing friends is awful, infact it is 1000 times worse than that - but it has also helped me to really confront what is important in life.

For me that is love, friendship and laughter - without those life would be truly impoverished.

Friday, October 15, 2010

New Pathways

Something strange happened today - I wandered down a few roads arond town, doing chores that needed to be done, and I found myself thinking about this blog and taking a couple of photos. It was a grey day, but the promise of spring was around. Colour, line and form - so pleased it can still catch my eye!
I've had a full on year and blogging, stitching and quilting has all taken a back seat. My focus instead has been on museums, heritage and how that's able to be expressed through textiles. It has really absorbed me and I have loved it. New pathways running ahead....
I'm itching to get back to the sewing room, my sewing machine and the ideas that are running... Can't ask for more than that! I promise there will be more - very soon!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Failure and Success

I'm simultaneously feeling like I'm failing and succeeding - rather an odd combination. On the one hand regular blogging just seems to be completely beyond me at the moment, or maybe it always has been looking at the frequency I've added to this over time. The reason I do keep going is that I rather like having the record of what I've been making. It's a really easy way of keeping track of it all, especially as much of my output seems to leave my house relatively rapidly on completion. It's also nice hearing from those few people who do look in on the blog - so I figure that I'll keep at it, even if it is sporadic and rather 'failure feeling' inducing.

On the upside I have another completed quilt to show off, which definitely makes me feel successful. Tomorrow I'll be jumping on a plane to head for Brisbane for an Easter with far flung family members and this quilt is a birthday gift made especially for the gathering.Late last night I finished off hand stitching down the binding and now have only the label to go - nothing like cutting it fine! I'm very pleased with the mix of Dutch and Japanese fabrics. I think they work well together and I hope will please the unknowing recipient. I've held onto the Dutch fabrics with this person in mind for almost 15 years, so its certainly been a long time coming!
There's really nothing like a binding to make you feel a success.

Have a marvellous Easter - I'm hoping to pay a visit to the Victoria and Albert Museum exhibition of hats that has just opened at the Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane. Who knows what I'll come back inspired to make next! Rest assured, I'll keep you informed, in due course....

Friday, March 5, 2010

There's Nothing Like a Deadline

It focuses the mind, gets the foot to the sewing machine pedal and before I know it I am almost half way through the blocks for the birthday quilt. Well, it's either the deadline or just plain avoidance of the work I need to get finished up! Only yesterday I told a friend that I was focused on finishing a report I need to write for work and that there'd be no blocks made until it was finished. And here I am a mere day later - and I seem to have finished 16 blocks.... Either way it seems to be working - I'm clearly going to make the quilt deadline.

I also keep pondering this little pile of trimmings. Normally I would toss these without a second thought, but they look so appealing I've been wondering just what I could find to do with them.
These thoughts, I willingly concede, are pure report writing avoidance. So easy to spot the life time habits of a procrastinator!

Monday, March 1, 2010

And onto the new

Such a fun day today as I was able to give my finished quilt to my friend - I'm pleased to say that she loved it and is thrilled to have something to wrap herself up in. Of course the other marvellous thing about binding, that I didn't mention yesterday, is it means that you are able to get onto the next new thing. And get onto it I have.

For me the next new thing is a quilt for a family member to mark her 70th birthday. I have long thought about making this quilt and was quietly confident I would have enough time as I had a clear two months to get it made - that was until I discovered that we are meeting a month early to celebrate her birthday! So here I sit with only a month ahead - as you can see from the photo I am at a somewhat preliminary stage.

Thank goodness for quilting friends! I confessed to them last week that I wanted to make something featuring the dutch wax batik fabrics that I have hoarded for almost 15 years - and they came up with the design you see. It has an elegant simplicity about it - and I'm eternally hopefully that it will be achievable in the time remaining to me. What more could one ask?