Tuesday, December 31, 2013

happy new year and hello radiant orchid...

We live in one of 300,000 homes in our city that lost power for days after the ice storm ravaged Canada and the US. I won't go into the unpleasant details since this blog is already in danger of having weather posts supplant textile related ones. Thankfully, it is over and we are now WARM.

Pantone's color of the year for 2014 is "Radiant Orchid" so we will now see this purple showing up in everything from fabric, clothing and home dec items although unlike 2013's "Emerald" probably not in cars. On the screen, this shade looks like Robert Kaufman's Kona Pansy although on my Pantone fan deck it is more like Violet with magenta added. I loved last year's green but like to experiment with every new "color of the year". It is always a good exercise trying something new. Where do you stand on this one- Love it or hate it?

Happy New Year! See you in 2014...

Monday, December 16, 2013

retro clean...

As for many, it is a busy time of year and my hours other than work seem to consist of shopping, wrapping and shipping gifts to far-flung family members and friends. Wanted to give an update on the dirty Dresden blocks that I first blogged about here.  After some research, I found this product called Retro Clean that is nothing short of miraculous. It is a cleaning soak that removes yellowing, mildew and all kinds of stains from vintage fabrics. In the interests of "science" I have taken both before and after shots in the same place and in roughly the same light. Here is one of the blocks before...

You can soak the fabric for up to 36 hours but I chickened out after 12. The amount of yellow dirt that immediately came out was incredible...

A quick rinse and wash and here is the result. The after picture does not do true justice to how renewed the blocks look. I wish I'd left them in for even longer. This level of cleaning has made me re-think donating a number of ancient linens and vintage embroideries.

"Retro Clean" and "Retro Wash" are so good, they'll make you feel like Billy Mays!

Friday, December 6, 2013

rest in peace...

Former South African President Nelson Mandela stands before an AIDS quilt during a World AIDS Day function in Bloemfontein,
South Africa, Sunday Dec. 1, 2002.

Monday, December 2, 2013

challenge 4 art #3...

The theme of our online art group Challenge 4 Art for this quarter was WINTER. Canada is a country which has a long and cold one. You have to embrace it or go crazy. One of the first signs that winter is coming is when the snow fences go up everywhere. They are made of a very distinctive orange plastic mesh and help direct drifting snow. They delineate cliffs, river banks and roads whose edges might be otherwise dangerously obscured. To make my piece, I took a shot of my dog playing in the first light snow of the season that thankfully did not stay on the ground for long.

I edited the shot in iPhoto- cropping out Her Majesty and bumping up the color saturation. I played with an arrangement of multiple images before printing them on silk organza. The organza came in pre-prepared sheets from Dharma Trading which is the most phenomenal supply house for textile crafts of every kind.


The organza prints were sewn together with the paper backing on to prevent slippage. Then the paper was removed. Originally I planned to use the sheer printed organza over a background fabric for a ghost-like effect until I made an exciting (to me) discovery...

Quite by accident my test shot ended up on a shiny piece of foil fabric from a Halloween costume. The effect was fascinating. Because the foil fabric mirrors back the image it saturates the colors and makes the photos look 3D like those of a vintage View-Master. Here is another shot with a fabric strip in the middle so that you can see the flat "before" and stereoscopic "after".

In my challenge piece, the fabric slightly glistens behind the snow fence collage. I used gift wrap tape to hold the translucent print and foil fabric together (spray mount showed through as a splotch), then layered and quilted the piece. It was really easy to sew.

The finished mini is about 10" square. As in the other challenges, trying new techniques has been so much fun. While I have mixed feelings about my finished quilt, I am thrilled with the discovery of layering the reflective fabric behind the sheer. The next experiment will be making my own silk organza sheets for a large format printer using freezer paper for a backing. The paired fabrics are so light and colorfast you could make clothing out of them with your own digital prints like the work of designer Mary Katrantzou. It is really hard to capture with the camera but this layering is a gorgeous effect and one that I'm definitely going to explore further...

Check out what everyone else made for WINTER!

Lisa: Love to Color My World
Amy: Crafty Shenanigans
Claudia will be back for challenge#4

Monday, November 18, 2013

blogathon canada...


This week is Blogathon Canada. You can travel across the country and meet lots of inspiring quilters. There are tons of cool blogs to check out and many prizes to be won! Here's the schedule for the week...

Monday, November 18
Monday, November 18
Tuesday, November 19
Tuesday, November 19
Wednesday, November 20
Wednesday, November 20
Thursday, November 21
Thursday, November 21
Friday, November 22
Friday, November 22
Saturday, November 23
Saturday, November 23

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

dresdens dresdens everywhere...

Do you ever have odd coincidences occur?

I've become addicted to online courses at sites like Craftsy and in this instance CreativeBug. My schedule is erratic and I love learning in my pajamas and get a textile fix that is more economical than fabric shopping. Also sewing time is scarce these days...

This week, I finished watching the "Dresden Plates" class taught by Kathy Doughty of Material Obsession fame. She teaches how to construct this classic block. More interestingly she takes you through her process of auditioning fabrics for the blocks. She discusses for each one the fabric she likes, those she doesn't and more importantly why they do or don't work. She mixes all genres of print in the most fascinating ways. I love watching creative people work creatively. This process is usually silent but in this class you get to briefly be in KD's very visual head.

Catching up on my favorite blogs today, I came across this recent post by Andie about some Dresden blocks she found at an antiques show. She's decided to mix her blocks with traditional fabrics. She is a super quilter and I look forward to seeing what she makes with them.

Finally this afternoon, with Dresden Plates on the brain I went to Goodwill with a carload of donations and found these vintage blocks sitting forlornly on a shelf in the thrift store. Needless to say they came home with me.  I think these Dresdens are going to end up paired with some modern prints but first they need some attention. They are dirty and need a wash. Any suggestions on the best way to get them clean?

November... The month of Dresden.

Monday, November 4, 2013

quilting in space...

NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg hosted a quilting bee in space to coincide with last week's International Quilt Festival in Houston. You can watch the LA Times video and read the accompanying article here. She describes in fascinating detail the challenges of piecing fabric in zero gravity. Actually, her velcro board is a great idea for the absent-minded here on Earth... She invites anyone and everyone to make a star-themed block to be assembled into a quilt celebrating the IQF show's 40th anniversary next year. Quilters really do appear in the most surprising places!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

happy halloween...

Have never been particularly drawn to a black and orange color combination in a quilt but this golden antique cigar store ribbon one from Laura Fisher is gorgeous. Am also taken with these Halloween prints from Maywood. I love the way the second fabric looks like a conventional damask but upon closer inspection is made up of intertwining ghouls, skulls and pumpkins. To those that celebrate- Have a Happy Halloween!

"Ghouls Night Out"

 "Orange Ghost"

 My 3 year old sister and I back in the day Halloween 70's style...

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

eat or sew...

Grown-up life is intruding on creative fun but there is still lots of late at night armchair designing going on around here. My best friend is doing a degree in culinary arts and wants to know if I can try and replicate these laser cut nori sheets on my die cutter. These ones were stencilled by an ad company for a spring exhibition in Japan. Since I'm not a scrapbooker and only cut geometric shapes and strips out of fabric, we are going to head out to the craft store to if there is an allover pattern die for paper to try. Hopefully, all my fabric afterwards doesn't end up smelling like seaweed...

Don't these exquisite images make you want to sew a black and white quilt? Perhaps with a few accents of yellow, orange and green?

Monday, October 7, 2013

one day of sun during a storm...

Have not made anything much lately as my father had a stroke. It was a great shock to everyone as his diet, weight and fitness level are exemplary. I can write these sentences now only because he appears to be recovering nicely. One worry free day was spent at a Kaffe Fassett workshop last week. There are certain teachers that should be on every quilter's young or old "bucket list" to take a class with and KF is one of them. It was challenging to work with such saturated and dense floral prints with nary a solid or white-based fabric in sight! The class was interesting as he and Brandon Mably teach by a kind of osmosis. It is hard to articulate by what means but they show you how to see color and light through their eyes. Both have an unerring sense of design. You work independently and they circulate the studio stopping only to pull out the perfect fabric that suddenly makes everything look so much better. The pattern is "Chintz" from "Kaffe Quilts Again".

On the left is mine early in the day and next to me is my friend Karen's. Hers turned out to be my favorite!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

block for sarah...

This is a block for Sarah Fielke's Birthday quilt which is a re-creation of her "All That And The Hatter" from her latest book. As ridiculous as it sounds, this block took me forever to make. My first attempt at appliqueing the handle with freezer paper was a complete disaster. Am not very experienced and that inner curve was tight. The block was saved by my discovery of this tutorial on front basting by Liza Prior Lucy.  In front basting, I copied the shape of the handle on freezer paper and then ironed it to the right side of the fabric. I then sewed this to the block with contrasting thread. If you click on the photo below you can see this step in more detail. I sewed at a regular 2.5mm stitch length. Then I unpicked a few stitches at a time trimming as I went and hand sewed with a matching thread. The beauty of this method is that you don't need pins or glue. The piece is very stable and the unpicked stitching creates the perfect crease to turn the seam allowance. Can't say front basting will make an applique addict of me but it sure made the technique pretty painless... Hope she like it!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

st. louis 16 patch top finished...

I finished this top a few days ago but needed BOH's (Beloved Other Half's) help to photograph it. This St. Louis 16 Patch is so large that Mark very kindly borrowed some rigging stands meant to hold movie lights from the studio from the Key Grip. Thank you so much Stretch (yes that is his name...)! Still wrestling with how it is going to be quilted...

Below is a shot of my crew lying down on the job.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

challenge 4 art #2...

As I wrote about here, I excitedly joined this group "Challenge 4 Art". Our second challenge was "BLUE". I decided to explore the subject on two levels. I made a quilt about my first "grown-up" bike from my childhood. At the time, all the girls' bikes in the store were pink and I desperately wanted a blue one. My parents ended up giving me the boy's metallic royal blue 10 speed model. I loved it although admittedly that crossbar made for some painful abrupt stops! Furthering the blue theme, I made my piece using a cyanotype imaging or blueprint process that makes a cyan-blue photo on paper or fabric. Because the method is so fast I could not take pictures.

It is a very easy process with only 4 steps:
  1. Place your design element on the treated fabric. (I printed the bike image on overhead projector acetate from the office supply store. I covered everything to weigh it down with glass from a picture frame to make the image as sharp as possible.)
  2. Expose the fabric to sunlight. (It took about 12 minutes on a sunny day at around 2 pm but this varies depending on where in the world you live and the weather conditions.)
  3. Rinse the fabric until the water runs clear.
  4. Dry the fabric and then use!

The contrast in my image could be better. My acetate was a bit transparent which means my bike ended up pale blue rather than white. I wanted to try again by marking over the transparency with a black pen but since the weather was not co-operating by becoming overcast I used the original print I'd made enhanced by some free motion embroidery and a zig zag border to suggest motion.

You can buy pretreated fabric or the chemicals to make your own blue prints at this site. Cyanotype printing is a fascinating process and the level of detail achieved is just amazing. Have a look at theses images at Flickr. As in the last challenge, it was so much fun to try something new and am looking forward to the next one. Check out how the other Challenge 4 Art participants LisaAmy and Claudia interpreted "BLUE"!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

fresh sewing day...

Can't believe it is the first of September and the end of summer! This month I am linking to Lynne's Fresh Sewing Day for the first time in awhile. August was a bit of a blow out on the sewing front but I did manage to finish sewing all the blocks for a huge St. Louis 16 Patch top. Above is what I think will be the final layout. I could not find a good space to lay the blocks out so the this is not a shot of the actual fabric but a paper mini mock up. My software was not co-operating but my scissors, tape and printer were!  Doing it Old School... Here are the fabric blocks. Also, made a small art quilt for my "Challenge 4 Art" group but we are posting on Tuesday. Have a look at what everyone made in August!

Lily's Quilts

Friday, August 30, 2013

quiltmania mania continues...

Quiltmania has done it again with its latest release "Godharis" which examines the utility quilts of western India. Like many other nations, these quilts were/are sewn by rural women out of used clothing. They are made out of old saris and cloth layered then finished with big stitch or kantha-like quilting. Because Indian clothing is often brilliantly colored, their utility quilts are vibrant and utterly charming. I can't take shots without breaking the spine but you can take a short virtual tour of the book here. It just arrived and I want the world to go away for a few hours so that I can get lost in its pages...

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

good gadget...

 When I need to iron for a long time and am pressing more challenging fabrics that require lots of steam and weight, I use a gravity feed iron. I wheel it around hooked up to an IV stand that I bought from a medical supply store. It is fantastic but it sucks power and when pressing just a couple of cotton quilt blocks sewn with stolen minutes is often overkill.  I found this gadget for the domestic iron which keeps the cord held safely taut, up and out of the way . It is called the Cordminder. It was around $10 and clips to the ironing board. Love it...

Friday, August 16, 2013

final St. Louis blocks...

Yeah- I finished the final blocks. Like in the previous post, the photo does not show the duplicate ones. Am ready to put this together but have a few technical issues to figure out. This sucker is huge: that is, 49 blocks arranged 7 X 7 that are 16" each for a king size total of 112" square. Mine are larger than the tutorial's 14" because I used my 4 1/2" strip die on the cutter to quickly prepare all the fabric. I was worried this quilt will be too big but my husband not so tactfully pointed out that we are getting plumper and probably need more surface area to cover us up?! Am not sure where to lay the blocks out to arrange something this large and how on earth to quilt this top. Am open to any and all suggestions...

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


20 more blocks... Just a few left to sew and then on to assembly!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

meet me in st. louis...

It has not been much of a summer for indoor creativity. Above are the first few blocks of my St. Louis 16 Patch that I originally wrote about here. I must say, if you are having problems getting into a sewing groove this pattern is the cure. It is easy to make the blocks and because of their size the fabrics really sing. It seems to look great in every possible kind of print. At this stage, mine is a bit too like a checkerboard but am hoping that this is just the random nature of the sewing order. There are some less contrasting combinations coming up. This quilt is going to be a monster in size but it is tremendously satisfying to sew...

Hope you are all well out there?! I look forward to reading and catching up on everyone's blogs...

Saturday, July 20, 2013

nqr heat...

Thankfully, it is cooler today but earlier in the week... 126 F degrees in that car not counting the humidity. Read the whole story here.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

st. louis 16 patch...

Unexpectedly, we have a chance to get out of town for a bit. I've been trying to prep some projects so that I can mindlessly sew upon my return. Thanks to a suggestion by Andie, above is the fabric cut up to put together one of these:

Steffani's amazing tutorial and this inspiring Flickr pool make for what will be easy and stash busting summer sewing...

Not sure what the weather is like where you are but after a record breaking storm apparently we now live in Venice. Am not sure whether to pack the car or build a boat. Thankfully, there are no fatalities but lots of people are still without power and there is another storm forecast for tonight...