Friday, May 24, 2013

The Perth Quilt and Craft Fair

I had a great time visiting the latest Quilt and Craft Fair this year here in Perth.  Instead of going solo as I normally do I went with two American friends, Carla and Becca.  It was a full on, all day event for me.  I arrived just before opening and didn’t leave until 3 in the afternoon.  I had LOTS of time to shop and absorb everything on offer – and of course to spend entirely more money than I planned to on things I didn’t even know I needed.  I’ll talk more on that in another post.

Here are photo’s of some my favourites.  My apologies to my quilt friend Cat who has a fabulous quilt in the show that I didn’t get a picture of because my mobile phone died on me and it’s what I was using to take pictures.  I’m usually more organized and bring a proper camera but in my rush to get out of the house in the morning I forgot it.  Her quilt is a testament to meticulous quilting and use awesome use of color.  Here is a photo of it from our last retreat.  It looked even better hanging on display at the show.

 And now, on with the show:  (and so sorry some are blurry.  Mobile phones just aren't the way to go to capture the best photos)

Interesting textured piece

The theme for this challenge was 'FREE'.  This is a close up of the quilt below

Beautiful machine quilting

A lovely whole cloth machine quilted

Close up of one of the hexie.  This was thread drawing

From a hexie block swap

Simple, yet striking

Too bad this is blurry.  Very interesting

Fantastic use of a childs drawing for a full sized quilt

Loving this wool quilt and the large stitches used throughout

This is from the FREE challenge

Monday, May 20, 2013

I Don't Do Subtle...

This is gold lame fabric.  Lovely, isn't it?  I think its safe to assume most quilters wouldn't use it in their quilts.  Yeah, well, I've always been different.

My wonderful quilt group, Running with Scissors, has sort of a long standing tradition.  Each year a 'group' quilt is chosen that we all agree to make. This quilt isn't a group project rather it's the design that is chosen to which we all make our own quilt from.  There are no rules.  Though we all work from the same pattern it's amazing how truly different our individual quilts turn out in the end.  It's a really fun project and I think we all come to it with ideas on how to make it distintly our own.

The design for our group quilt this year is a basic New York Beauty block.  It's not one of those really complicated NY Beauties that are out there.  This block consists of only one band of points and that makes the construction much easier than if you had say three or four bands of points.  This is also a foundation pieced block.  I'm not a big fan of foundation piecing because to me it's a bit tedious.  But to make the absolute best points, its the only way to go.  I've constructed star blocks and a mariners compass using solely pieced blocks and also solely foundation pieced and the foundation pieced always comes out with better points.

Our 'quilt master' this time around is Liz (actually Liz tends to be the proposer of most of our group quilts...) and she has chosen what I think is a really versital block for all skill levels.  Most members of our group have been quilting for years but even the newer quilters will be able to tackle this block successfully with a little patience.  She sent the pattern out to all the members after everyone agreed this would be our group quilt project.  When I received mine my brain kicked in with ideas.  I of course thought scrappy at first as many NY Beauties look amazing using a multitude of colours.  Then I thought it would be challenging to use only two colours, red and white or blue and white.  Though I have a mini quilt shop in my own house I instead decided to browse a few fabric stores to spark some further ideas.

I went to a fabric store I don't usually frequent.  It has an amazing range of fabrics in every conceivable texture and color so it's a riot for the quilters senses as you walk in the door.  The only reason I never really visit it often is that they never had a very extensive range of 100% cotton. Well, that has changed.  I'm happy to see their cotton range has grown a great deal so after this visit I'll definitely be back again when I'm on the hunt (its unfortunate however that their minimum cut is 1m - this is a pain if you only need 1/2 or less).  Anyway, because this shop handles so many different fabrics, after looking at the cottons I browsed the rest of the store and the idea I finally settled on took root.  This shop caters to a large clientele of Indian women who make and wear the most gorgeous sari's so the fabrics they carry are bright and blingy and beautiful.  It was here I found an amazing array of lame in sooo many colours.  I knew right then I was going to use gold lame in my group quilt. 

I've used lame before many, many years ago when I made myself a ball dress (yeah, I went to a ball in the 80s so gold lame and black satin were 'in').  It's a bugger to work with.  Not only is it flimsy in texture, it's slippery as well and it tends to 'dent' when you pin it.  And to top it off lame unravels at the drop of a hat.  

All in all its not a quilting fabric but you know this only added to my determination to use it successfully.

I stablized the lame by ironing light weight interface to the back
I bought one meter of it to take home and do some testing on.  Right away I decided there was no way I was going to use this fabric without first stabilising it in some way.  The most logical choice is light iron on interfacing.  Lame can't really be ironed.  It can, but you need to use a pretty cool iron or else the fabric buckles up under the heat and a permanent group of wrinkles develop.  Not pretty.  And of course to use iron on interface you have to apply enough heat to melt the glue that will adhere it to the fabric.  The only logical way to do this is to place a few layers of fabric on top of the sandwich of lame and interface so that the heat radiates through gently.  After a couple of try's to get just the right ratio of barrier fabric to interface/lame fabric, my finished stablized lame turned out pretty well.  There was some slight rippling but as I'm using only small bits at a time that won't affect the look overall.  It was ready to try in the foundation pattern.

Gold lame with interfacing ironed to the back
One set of points done
 I'm going to use batik fabric in multiple colors of blue.  This block only has two of the batiks represented but the rest of the blocks will have a mixture throughout the quilt. 

One block completed
The stablized lame seems to work well.  I might throw this block in the washing machine to see how the lame reacts to general laundrying.  I like to actually use my quilts on the bed and having a dog and a cat it's inevitable it will need washing on a regular basis.  If the lame isn't strong enough to handle a good washing I'll have to decide if I really want to use it in this quilt or make this quilt a display piece only.  We'll see.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Coming Full Circle

The Great British Sewing Bee
I've been watching with great interest the BBC series The Great British Sewing Bee (series one just ended and a second series has been approved - yeah!).

To summarize, the show has compiled a group of 'amature' sewer to compete against each other for the title of most talented amature sewer in Britain.  They are given challenges that get more difficult as the show progresses with eliminations after each episode.  I have to say that after watching this show I'm amazed they are categorized as amatures.  The only thing that makes them amature sewers in my mind is that they don't sew garments for a living.  Personally I would be more than pleased to have the skills of any of these talented people.

And this leads me to my post and my deep and meaningful thought for the day (Ha!  I'm laughing myself stupid after that comment....).  Haven't we come full circle with our needles and thread....

Way back when - it was a given to have been exposed to and be knowledgeable in (be it garments or home furnishings) the art of sewing.  This was a skill most housewives possessed as a matter of course.  We learned this from our grandmothers and mothers and were also taught it in school (who remembers Home Ec?).  Even if we didn't become proficient sewer, we still knew how to sew on a button or hem a skirt.  It absolutely amazes me that I have spoken to young women nowadays who have never even picked up a needle.  When did this most basic of skills fall to the wayside?  When did we, as women, get so busy outside the home to have lost the continuing thread of knowledge from our foremothers in home sewing?  And I'm wondering when did the thread become reconnected to bring us to today with the billion dollar industry in quilting and booming home garment making interest?  What changed inbetween?

As my field of study at college was Social Anthropology, I have a bit of insight into this topic as I planned to do my thesis on the changing roles of women in contemporary society.  One of the main aspects of my paper was the changing dynamics of the nuclear family with the advent of women going into the work force and how this shift changed almost everything we thought of as the basis of family and women's roles within the family up to that point in history.  Its only recently with the switch of attitudes by young women that we're seeing a bit of a reversal.  For example, a women who grew up in the 50's would most likely have conformed to the mores of society and what was expected of a woman of her status.  She married and raised a family and didn't work outside the home until much later in her life.  As times changed and society viewed women in a new light she taught her daughters that they could grow up to be anything they wanted to be and encouraged their independence.  Her daughters grew up to be doctors and lawyers and scientist with the belief that they could have it all - the successful career and the happy home life.  However her daughters found that this wasn't always the case.  Something had to give.  She couldn't spend 10 hours at work and come home to feed the children and the husband and do the housework without loosing her mind and without the need for 'mothers little helpers', a.k.a. amphetamines.... Flash forward to today.  Our young women have seen Super Mom - and have felt the effects of what had to give for Mom to be super woman and they've decided this isn't what they want for themselves and their families.  These young women are looking at their home life with different eyes then their grandmothers from the 1950s.  To these women a successful family life IS their job, their vocation and a worth wild one at that.  I'm not saying women still can't be the doctors and lawyers and scientist.  What I'm saying is that there will be sacrifices made for it.  Anyway, this is getting too deep....

I'm so pleased to see that within the last 10 years or so there's been a resurgence of interest in the 'home arts'.  Women, as well as men, are rediscovering the creativity and usefulness of having the ability to make something specifically their own from fabric, needle and thread.  I think we've really have come full circle.

I'll be hanging out to watch the next series of The Great British Sewing Bee to get some pointers on how to bump up my own sewing skills.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Retreating we shall go.....

Black Wattle Retreat.  You reached the entrance after driving about 10 miles on a dirt road.
This past weekend one of my quilt groups - Running with Scissors - had a retreat in country WA at the Black Wattle Retreat in Toodyay (pronounced to-jay), Western Australia.  I'm a city girl and don't go 'country' very often.   There's a good reason for that....bugs, dirt roads and the total silence of the country drives me crazy!  I'm used to cars, street lights and civilization.  Anyway, going retreating in 'the bush' as Australians say is always an interesting endeavor for me.

The retreat compound has numerous buildings with the main house the central point for food and mobile phone reception.  Here in the country getting mobile reception is always a challenge and this place was no exception.

Our group was split up into two sleeping assignments.  Three of us were in the 'log cabin'.  I have to explain that the definition of log cabin in Australia is a bit different to that of the northern hemisphere.  I'm not making a disparaging comment, merely pointing out there is a difference.  Our log cabin was actually a large metal shed clad in vertical strips of wood inside and out (I thought the vertical arrangement was interesting as I've never seen a log cabin built this way...).  But I suppose if the wood bits don't correlate to the structural integrity of the building it doesn't matter if the wood is place horizontal or vertical.

Our log cabin
We had all the comforts of home with queen sized beds, a fully stocked kitchen, a potbelly stove - even a spa located next door to our outside bathroom.

Home away from home
Posted on the outside of our detached bathroom
  All our quilting work was accomplished in The Goose House - a purpose built common area within walking distance of the guest houses.  An interesting feature of The Goose House is that on the  inside metal red painted walls of the building, names are written in chalk from previous groups who have used the space.
Our common room

Our name sake for the Goose House who was perched above the kitchen space

Kilroy was here
Though we consumed plenty of food (gourmet I might add - swordfish one night and osso bucco another....) and wine, we did get plenty accomplished in the way of quilting.

Quilting and wine go hand in hand

Consuming a completely homemade breakfast the next morning
 Some of us even had time for a look see in town.
Toodyay is a lovely old Australian country town
When I got home on Sunday I spread the blocks I had finished during the retreat on my kitchen floor and Daphne, my dog, approved.

My dog's impression of a 'thumbs up'
 All in all is was a lovely retreat.  I'm already looking forward to the next one.