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.