Welcome back!

So, it’s been positively Miss Havisham-like round here since February, hasn’t it??  In my (very slight) defence, I’ve started a new job since last time I posted here, and so crafty stuff has gone on the back burner, rather.

However, I’ve cheated.  This evening, I’ve written up 3 posts which have been bubbling for the last month or so.  I’ve back dated them, so it looks as though they were posted contemporaneously.

So, dust off a chair, make yourself comfortable.  You’ve some catching up to do!!

Japanese geek work

So.  There’s been some stuff in the news and all over Twitter that I wanted to get away from.  And I’m on holiday, and the kids sleep all day on account of being adolescents and overrun with unmanageable hormones.  And the obvious solution to all this is to spend some time in my shed.  Mental health sewing.

There are a number of quilts bumbling around in my head.  I’ve started re-working my sister’s quilt, which has been on the back burner for a number of years.  I originally started it as a wedding gift and for one reason or another – largely due to the technical complexity of the original design idea and the fact I went back to work and didn’t have time to execute it – it’s been languishing.  But I finally have a way of simplifying it, which means unpicking quite a bit of what’s been done, and starting again from scratch.  Which I have now done.  The unpicking part, anyway.  The starting again is for next week!

In the meantime, I’ve been wanting to do something with the Japanese designers.  I love the fabrics produced by Kokka, Echino, Melody Miller.  They are things of utter beauty, and for a long time I’ve wanted to make a quilt wholly out of some of their more graphic pieces.

At the Festival of Quilts, last weekend, I decided to sate this particular ambition.  I told myself that I would spend *all* my FoQ show money on Japanese fabrics.  I would visit the Eternal Maker, and fill my boots.  And so I did.  I intended to sit on the fabrics for a while, and see what happened.

But as I say, there’s been all kinds of stuff that I’ve wanted to hide from.  And there’s been an idea brewing in my head about how to honour these beautiful fabrics.  How to ensure that the prints were *seen* on the face of whatever I made, rather than cut up small and pieced in a traditional way.

So I decided to make a strippy quilt.  I thought if I did stripes of uneven width, I could ensure that the fabrics were represented properly, and the art of them could be admired.

Actually, this did pose some difficulties.  The strippy is easy to put together – no cutting fabric into teeny tiny pieces and re-joining them into bigger blocks, to be joined together to make the quilt top.  But despite this, the overall effect risks looking very busy, and reading incoherently.  But aha! I had thought of that.  I got a plain.  A real, actual plain (where usually, if you scroll through my quilts, you’ll see I normally go for fabrics that ‘read as’ plain).  And I decided to put a bit of plain in every row.

Half a dozen rows in, it became clear that a piece of plain in every row wasn’t going to work – perversely, that just made the plain read as though it was another pattern.  I needed some rows of *mostly* plain, in order to create spaces for your eye to rest as you look at the thing.

Anyway, I cut lots of bits.  Uneven widths.  I didn’t even measure – it was all totally guided by the print on the fabrics.  And I put them together.  And I laid them out on my bed to guage the size, and then I went and made some more strips.

It flew together.  Obviously.  Big pieces, see?  I started it yesterday lunchtime, and by this afternoon Freya and I were laying it on the dining room floor, auditioning rows against each other to determine the final layout.  I find it impossible to look directly at a quilt top and decide whether I like it, at this stage.  I have to work from photos, which means that there are inevitably a lot of photos of potential layouts, and then Freya and I shuffle rows about, and try to make sure there aren’t too many similar pieces too close together.  She usually declares herself satisfied a good while before I do, but I’ve bought her some new Vans this week, so she was obliged to humour me, and persevere!  This is the layout we (I) eventually decided on.

Stitched together, trimmed up and on the bed it looks like this (click on the pictures for a bigger, clearer view)

I love the graphic, stylised nature of these fabrics.  Doing this piece has allowed me to gorge not only on Japanese fabrics (which are coarser than their American counterparts – like a lightweight canvas rather than a dress cotton.  Or perhaps more like a coarse shirt linen…) but it’s given me some 50s gloriousness and speaks to my whole Mad Men obsession. 

I still need to put a border on.  I have an olive green fabric for this, with pale pink polka dots – it’s more in keeping than it sounds.  I think there’s going to be a fairly narrow border at the sides, and a deep one at top and bottom.  The back may well be plain (I’ve never done a plain back before), although I do want to pay a geeky homage to the fabric I’ve used, and work the selvedges into the back.  I’m not sure how to quilt it.  Perhaps I can work out a martini glass design, if I can get access to a longarm machine… not sure I would have the strength to manhandle this through the throat of my machine.  But we’ll see.  Stranger things have happened!

Despite the fact it’s being modelled on a bed (for size) I suspect this might become the living room quilt of choice for this winter. 

In any event, once the border is on, this will go back on hold for a bit I think, while I work on Sissy’s overdue wedding quilt.

In the meantime, can I just pause to point out that this is the first time I have shown you work in progress quilt photos without Buto in them?  Poor little kitty cat.  I do miss her quilt inspection talents!

Festival of Quilts

I love the Festival of Quilts.  Usually.  I come home with hundreds of pounds worth of fabric (and sometimes machinery) that I perhaps didn’t totally need.  I have literally thousands of photos taken at festivals over the years which I still regularly draw on for inspiration.  I meet friends there.  We laugh.  We point.  Sometimes we point *and* laugh.  Honestly.  The quilted bags and waistcoats have to be seen to be believed!

This year, I met up with two friends – lovely Penny from rats as big as cats, and nbnq, who has written a far better review than I’m about to.  We had much to talk about, and we were looking forward to seeing some gorgeous stuff.

We *did* see some gorgeous stuff.  Well.  We saw one gorgeous stuff.  It was Penny’s quilt, which was utterly beautiful and incredibly well executed.  Go and look at the final piece series on her blog and you’ll see snippets of it.  It is jaw-droppingly stunning.

And we saw some other gorgeous stuff, in that there was a Pauline Barnes exhibition.  And her work is amazing.  But it was a professional show, and not part of the Festival, as such.

And the festival? Well, we spotted one *really* odd piece which was clearly made a couple of years ago (I thought it was a rule that entries had to be made within the year?) – and what’s more there was a book on sale at one of the stalls detailing its creation…  We spotted one piece which was clearly made to a pattern from a Jane Brocket book although not, from what we could gather from the catalogue, submitted by Jane Brocket herself (I thought it was another rule that entries had to be original?).  We spotted a number of pieces which were just simply ill advised from almost any conceivable design point of view. 

There was, don’t get me wrong, an awful lot of technically accomplished traditional quilt-making on show.  And I’m sure if traditional quilts were my bag I’d have had a ball.  But they’re not.  And so I really didn’t. 

Perhaps it’s my bad.  Or at least, perhaps it’s the bad of people like me.  People who are technically accomplished but not traditional.  I did mean to submit ‘She Knew the Names of Flowers‘, but I got busy and the deadline got away from me, and one thing and another…

But really.  If this is the future of quilt making then I despair.  I know there are other, better and more dedicated modern quilt makers out there.  I know (from experience) that the judges of this festival don’t speak our language and it can be frustrating submitting entries only to have them dismissed, over looked, or critiqued on the basis of no understanding of the concept whatsoever.  But unless we enter, unless we try to make our views and our styles known, we can’t ever expect any different, can we??

I’ve been joking for some years about making a 3-D quilt.  Quite a graphic one.  I might actually do it, this year.