30 October 2015

Traditional Blocks Revisited, A Shirt and Some New, Old, Favorite Tools

My sewing life seems to be comprised of constructing very traditional blocks lately...many, many blocks for different projects. It feels like I have fallen into a time warp and have been taken back to the beginning of my quilting life...but, at least, with more skill and understanding of why some of those long ago blocks never seemed to come out very square or nice. As I am fond of saying "everything is easy when you already know how" and practice really does make for more perfection ...though I never seem to get to be quite perfect! My sewing does give new credence to the concept of "if at first you don't succeed"!


I am a big fan of Parson Gray fabric lines...and I am using them for one project - shown in the blocks above. As I considered the simplicity of the blocks I decided to make a second version using reproduction fabrics (below). This version will use up stash...a good thing. I hope to keep up with the traditional version, but will see if that makes sense as the blocks become more difficult. I think that my '2X the fun' plan will work though.

The other project that I seem to have fallen into is the FaceBook group for the Farmers Wife 1930's. Mostly simple blocks and another good stash buster.Can I ever work my way through it all?!
Work continues with my appliqué project from Material Obsession...Sue Cody's "Sweet Surrender". This is my least favorite block so far...I have 5 done but have taken only this one photo of any of the finished triangles...I am working the appliqué triangles on a whole, larger, piece of fabric (as they suggest) until the blocks are ready to be cut to shape later on. It makes sense to do it this way but the design seems swallowed up by fabric when I look at them right now. I may have to redo this block...it just looks so blah to me. Although I had been doing some appliqué recently, it did me a bit of time to get my "appliqué legs" back under me...now I feel better and the newer blocks are looking better. I have found that I enjoy the fabrics that are sent to me, but t I don't always want to use them for this quilt! Makes no sense right? I have been combining stash with what is sent from Material Obsession.
I DO have the 1/8" stems under control now...and that's a good thing since there are a lot them to do!

Many years ago I invested in Pat Cambell's (I miss her work) thread carriers for appliqué. I have two...a warm side and a cool side...filled with Mettler Silk Finish threads which were very popular before Superior and Aurifil hit the scenes. The carriers were made from some of the ugliest fabrics known to mankind...but they were a Godsend at that time. I was working full time then and did not have the time to make them. The thread is all still perfectly good, but I found that I disliked carrying around two relatively large thread carriers all of the time . So....I have invested in the much more portable, easy-to-use, donuts of my favorite,Masterpiece thread, from Superior Threads. Now, if only Aurfil would come up with something similar I would be appliqué thread color heaven! Can you imagine the thrill?! I know...simple pleasures for simple minds !

I just love it when an "old time" product makes modern life better. I had considered getting a tailor's clapper for a few years, but always managed to dissuade myself by thinking that it just could not make that much of a difference. In a fit of "what the heck" I ordered this maple version (hard wood matters) from Nancy's Notions...how I appreciate her free shipping offers! After ironing your blocks with steam you slap this clapper on the block and presto! you have beautiful, flat, non shiny blocks! Yes! It really does make a difference and this will be so good for my shirt making endeavors as well. Old technology, old wisdom, that works for today's sewist! Perfect!

I finished another shirt. Vogue 7700. This was an experiment. It offered me the chance to revisit some sewing techniques that I figured that I would be rusty with. A slightly gathered V back, collar stand, sleeve placket, longer back than front etc. I had a feeling that the V back might look kind of old lady and I guess it does...but this is a very comfortable shirt and it will see more use than I had thought it would. That's a nice bonus when I take a chance on a pattern!

I used material that had been ordered by mistake...but in my favorite rayon challis fabric. I had decided to keep it rather than return it so I felt a bit more free to use it for a shirt that I might not have liked. I found buttons that look like they were made just for this fabric. The blue in the shirt is more turquoise than the next photo indicates....the picture of the back of the shirt is the most color correct.

A small haul of buttons ...another new, but necessary, addiction!
A great supplier for buttons is Button Lovers

My next shirt project is this "Now and Zen" from Sewing Workshop. The fabric is from Malka Dubrawsky and is a part of her "Simple Marks" line which I love...I just ordered enough of another of the designs from this line for another shirt. Anne Dawson, a well known quilt restorationist from Lopez Island has an amazing eye for fabrics. Her shop is small but I could happily buy just about everything she has in stock. I bought this fabric there.

I had expected a lot from the Sewing Workshop patterns. I like some of Linda Lee's patterns very much and was excited to have finally bought one to try. They are relatively expensive, but you DO get multiple looks from one pattern so that counts as, of course, does the excellent instructions (which is what I buy them for anyway I guess!). I used to like using Kwik Sew patterns from before they were bought up by a conglomerate because the pattern was printed on nice, heavyweight, paper that was a pleasure to work with...not on flimsy tissue (I hate tissue patterns s much!). For some reason I had hoped that patterns from The Sewing Workshop would be printed on more substantial paper..but they are printed on white (which I do prefer to the usual tan color),very thin, tissue.

I transfer all of my patterns to Swedish Tracing Paper anyway...so it was not a huge issue...just a very small disappointment.

What are your favorite sewing tools? Modern? Vintage? Both? I love tools so share your favorites!

What projects have you been working on? Plans for winter sewing? Here we have the 'season of eternal gray' which, with the time change, will become even more gray soon. Sewing helps keep my mind off of the darkness!
















16 October 2015

Gifts Of Friendship That Cross The www Bridge

For many years I moved a lot for business when I worked for airlines...9 moves in 10 years and all, ostensibly, for better jobs and better wages. What I missed out on during those years was being able to put down roots and with roots, of course, come friendships. As I look back on those years I question if all of the moves were worth it. Hindsight is 20/20 of course and it all made sense to me at the time (yes, I can be a bit bullheaded and obstinate at times!). Those years did give me a much greater appreciation for friendships though and, perhaps, that is one reason why I treasure the friends that I now have so very much. In the end, I think, life is about family and friends and not so much the career or the money. I have only a couple of enduring friendships from that period of my life - one who like my "other half" and the sister that I never had...so for that I am most grateful.
The Internet is a great and mighty entity - one that I would not give up very willingly now that we have it- but, let's face it, it has a dangerous, darker side too. Many people that you "meet" on social media and the web are pleasant acquaintances, but not of much substance. I have been very blessed, however, to have found several "online" friendships that endure and grow. I don't understand why I have been so blessed, but I have been and I am very grateful. Recently, two of these amazing women have sent me packages that have blown me away - as much by their contents as by their offers of unconditional friendship and caring. I can never thank them enough for that precious intangible quality!

Jeannie Evans-VanHoff has been someone that I connected with strongly through her thoughtful comments to my blog and through FaceBook. She has been generous with her positive support and her offer of friendship. In the past she gifted with me with wools, felts and and a whimsical book on stitching.

After my workshop with India Flint last month I had mentioned on FaceBook that I was going to go searching for a horse shoe to use in future Eco-dyeing experiments. Not long after a box full of magic and rusty goodness arrived at my door. Jeannie says that this is one of the oddest boxes that she has ever sent through the mail and, well, let's just say that the post office offered a good deal on the heft of this flat rate box!

Jeannie- how can I thank you for the joy and friendship that you have gifted me with? The contents of this box, which include some of your Dad's treasures, is so special..and I know that I will get some awesome results from these cool 'rusty gold' items! Your beautiful shibori will be used for something special...some special stitching project that is small and filled with special memory items...your card is tucked in my journal.

Another special "online" friendship is one that has grown over the years. Judy Hudgins, Knotty Needle to her friends, has been a cheerleader and friend for some years now. She and I both worked for the same airline years ago, although in different areas. I always have said that if I had had the kind of positive support from my parents as she gives me I could have gone places! She is a talented knitter, writer, quilter, mixed media artist and her love for reading rivals my own!

This past week I got a fat envelope (even better than those fat envelopes that you get when a quilt has been accepted for a show!) from her. I had known that she was going to send me some 'samples' of fabrics that she though I would like...this lucky gal lives near some wonderful shops let me tell you! Thanks to some of the previous fabric samples she sent, I am finishing a shirt made that was made with fabric that I ordered after she sent me a few pieces of some lovely rayon batiks. What I had not expected was that the "samples" in this envelope would be yardage! Jeez! How in the heck do I rate for this kind of goodness?!

These are digitally printed cottons from Kaufman California. They feature vibrant colors and a silky soft, drapey, hand. The one below is a homage to my home town (well, I have two home towns really- the other is in Connecticut), New York City. The beautifully featured Emprie State Building gave me shivers...I used to look at it from our apartment windows way back when.....

I guess my point is that friendships mean a lot to me- especially now that, later in this game of life- it would be oh so difficult to re-establish meaningful friendships if I were ever to move again. Friendships really do float my boat. I have many acquaintances, but I cultivate relatively few, true, deeper, connections. These two gracious women, who have always offered their friendship to me across the magic of the www, will remain close to my heart. Thank you both...oh so much!

Hold your friends and family close. Tell them that you love them and care about them...enrich yourself by doing so......


05 October 2015

An Intriguing BOM From Land Down Under- Or "Material Obsession" By Any Other Name

I decided that this coming year would be devoted to re-engaging in my love for hand appliqué. To that end I fell in love with this pattern, called Sweet Surrender, designed by Susanne Cody and sold by Material Obsession (the well known shop and home of Kathy Doughty) in Australia. In order to save just a bit on the high cost of international postage I opted for shipping every other month...so I just received two months in this first shipment. The fabrics that are included are shown below...in their just unpacked bags!

Typically, I am not a huge fan of BOM's. I always seem to want to tweak patterns -if not downright diverge from them- and I often prefer to use my own fabrics. That being said, I was VERY curious to see what fabrics would come from the 'land down under' and so I ordered the BOM..figuring that I could always choose to use- or not use what was sent.

Material Obession does a great job with their BOM's. Directions are clear and well written. Fabrics are well chosen and appropriate (though one piece of background fabric is just too cute to use and I will save it to use in another way). I am looking forward to sewing this project....although can I just say that making almost 1/8" stems will soon become second nature for me ...or at least I hope that they will.....otherwise you may hear echos of some choice words of frustration! I look at a pattern and think "oh gosh ...that's a pattern that I would like to make" and I neglect to notice some of the more niggling details like 1/8" stems! I like patterns with a lesson to teach (witness Jen Kingwell's 'Smitten' that I did to overcome any lingering dislike for 'set in' seams (the dreaded 'y' seams) and so I expect that the stems in this pattern are my lesson...though after finishing the first stems it may not be too difficult anyway....just a bit time consuming. I have, thus far, cheated and made a scant quarter inch stem that I folded to get my eighth inch. This makes for a slightly thicker stem...and it will work for some fabrics but may be too bulky for others...we will see!

This will be my hand-sewing project for the 2016. I have TWO machine projects planned....although the second one may become a half machine and half applique project. The first is the very traditional "Farmer's Wife 1930's" (although I had not planned on doing this one I decided to go ahead with it and also with a 'no guilt' policy if I fall behind) which I joined in order to use up a fraction of my 1930's fabrics stash. You have seen a block or two that I have already posted. Angie from GnomeAngel and Marti Michelle of fabulous template fame are the leaders of this huge project...the FB group,is HUGE!

The second project may have to be kept under wraps for some time...as a larger project within the concept of the quilt is being considered. It is a large, traditionally based quilt that I am going to work in either Parson Gray fabrics (if I decide to let my personal exchequer spring the cash to get them) or else it will become a modern-scrappy version (do you think that 'modern' and 'scrappy' are somewhat oxymoronic?!)

Either way I think that my project for 2016 is pretty well filled...with the exception that I know I will want to make some more shirts when the passing piece of perfect fabric calls to me...

Has anyone else considered what they want to do in the new year? Generally I don't....and for the first time in many, many years my holiday cards have not even been considered much less ordered. This is the month that I generally begin writing em...the envelopes...yes, I am already behind!

For those of you who have gotten read to this point and who use links from within a post....do you prefer :

A link that opens to a new page or

A link that opens within the blog post?

Inquiring minds need to know! Thanks so much.

Cheers to the beautiful season of Fall! Let's all take some moments to stop any the color and scents of the season!





29 September 2015

India Flint and September Gone

Our classroom

Caution! After a long quiet spell, this is a long post so, if you want to, have a cuppa and enjoy this glimpse into a workshop with India Flint....after a brief prologue!

I have done it again! Failed as a 'faithful news updater'. Where did the time go? Once again a gentle push from a friend alerted me to the fact that that time had slipped through my fingers and an update here was sorely needed. September was an unusually busy month for me. Among other, smaller events, September featured an annual quilting retreat to Cle Elum, Washington. It's a beautiful spot in the mountains and the scenery always provides a nice Autumnal counterpoint to our lowland views. A week after I got back from there, my friend, Janet, and I headed to a neighboring island (Lopez) for a magical three day workshop with India Flint. It would have been wonderful if we had been able to just commute to and from each day, but the Fall Washington State Ferry Schedule meant that it would have been neigh on impossible to do so - and so Janet found us a cozy beach cottage to rent. We returned home late Friday night and I am, just now (Tuesday) beginning to feel somewhat 'myself' again.
The garden that was the backdrop for the class.
Before my FM/CFS and pesky chronic back pain issues(from the surgeries), colored my life, I never was much for schedules or routines. My energy flowed as I willed it to - more or less. Now I have to be so much more careful. Routines bring comfort and I carefully doll out my energy in spoon-fulls rather than event-fulls. Going away to do something fun brings with it the knowledge that I will "pay for the fun" by requiring most of a week to recover. My need for sleep and rest skyrockets. While my issues are nothing compared to what many others face, the fact that each day can bring an energy deficit with elevated pain does wear on me. I try not to bring these issue to this site...but once it awhile the truth behind my lack of diligence here might require a mention.

But now - back to the fun in life.........................

I have been a fan of India Flint for many years, but her classes are generally too far away and too expensive for my personal exchequer to consider. When this opportunity to take a class on a neighboring island came up last February I knew that it would be now or never. I prepared. The class itself was called "Wayfarer's Jacket". It is about working a deconstructed pre-loved garmet into a recreated, somewhat visonary, garment that is replete with pockets to hold treausues, words, implements and utilitarian objects. I knew from the get go that this was not really "my thing" but I hoped that I would learn whatever it was that I needed to learn from the class....and I did. In spades.

We were a class of 13 very lucky women from parts near and wide. We included one woman from the host island,  Janet and I from our 'neighbor' rock, 2 from Canada, 4 from Seattle and 4 from California... it think that is how it broke out. It was such a great group of creatives that I felt inspired. There was a sense of comraderie and friendship that permeated the three days. India Flint is one of the most gracious women and teachers that I have met - she has encyclopedic knowledge of her craft, but she is unassuming, well grounded and a throuugh delight. She is attentive when needed and gently guided when she intuits that you perfer to go it on your own (which I think is the vibe that I must whiff of).
A 'pre-loved' shirt becomes a pinafore
 (an apron by any other name).
This was the option that I chose to make as well,
but mine is still in the continuing process of becoming
It felt like sacrilege to cut apart the Irish Linen Shirt that I had brought to work with. Most of the additional fabrics that I had brought were silk chiffon, and silk noil. I had no pre-conceived notion of just what in the heck I would be doing and, truth be told, I did not want to spend more money before I had a good idea of "the plan". Knowing that the jacket option would see little use, I was happy to make an alternate choice- a pinafore which I know will see use. I had to shake myself into submission as I took my scissors to the sleeves and placket of the snowy white linen. At this pointin time my apron is stalled, but it looks much like the image above that was another student's work. I was amazed at how free and easy some of my classmates were with their "scissor hands". They blythely cut into sweaters, precious silks and woolens as they created ruffles and sinuous curves of cloth that were melded and welded onto the vestiges of their original garment. Meanwhile, I was considering how I might put my shirt back together again! I am adding threadwork and embroidery at a slow pace. It will, at some point, become a finished, wearable, item.....yes, it will!
..............and the cauldron bubbled............
Best of all I was able to get answers to so many of the questions that I had about making and 'cooking' eco-dyed bundles. Although I presumed that eco-dyeing would be a logical component to this class I was not sure how much time would be devoted to it. Happily, a large amount of time was devoted to this amazing process.... and all of my personal learning goals for the class were met- and then some.

Our two hostesses were Mz.Christi and Mz. Patsy. Between the three of these women (Mz.India cooked for us too) they managed to feed us royally each day; treating us to lunches worthy fine restaurants. Included were some of the best gluten free breads and cakes that I have ever enjoyed eating. There were rich, delectable soups, tasty grains and salads, rich, lusty, cheeses and crusty breads galore. The setting was a home that belongs in the pages of architectural magazines with vistas of land, forest and seas that delighted my eyes at every step and turn of the pathway that led from the classroom to the house. The path was magical; filled with old growth evergreens, Madrona trunks that twisted towards the sky and mosses and lichens that looked like the homes of fairy kingdoms. The light in these forests was like no other that I have seen locally. I felt so blessed to be a part of this. It was a class, yes, but it was so very much more. A class with India Flint is more of a total experience rather than just an opportunity to learn about her process. If you have the interest I cannot any more highly suggest that you snap up  a place in whatever class you can get to!  Many of India's students travel extensively each year to take on-going classes. I wish I could do that too...especially one tht she teaches in Edinburgh...perhaps in my next life I will be able to!

There was a box of "give-away" garment and fabrics that our hostess, Christi, made available. The dress that is in the image above was one of those orphan garments and it peaked Mz.India's fancy as a backdrop that has now begun it's coloration journey by having our eco-dyed bundles placed upon it to cool before the magic of unwrapping began. I think that what I love the most about this process is the kismet of the color. Yes, one can plan the color a bit by having knowledge of the likely outcome of the plant dyes and by careful placement on the cloth, but the the results are always touched by unexpected magic too.

Many of the students created artful bundles that were festooned with personal "identificatiion tags" like bobbins or beads. Some wrapped their bundles around obejcts that created whisical shapes like hearts (below) and cat heads.

The magic and anticipation are really in the unwrapping of these magic bundles.

It pays to wrap your binding tightly as well as smoothly. There were moments when finding the ends were a nuisance for those of us who used mere cotton string. Some people used velevt ribbons, wool yarns, fabric strips or other means to tie their bundles up. The addition of things made from iron...horseshoes (I need to find one of my own), rusted car chains, copper tubes and the like make for an added touch of magic. The items I brought were very pedestrain...wool yarn and cotton string that look less than glamorous! Below: Janet begins to unwrap her magic bundle.....
Results when some iron (I don't remember what she used) is added to the mix. Rich, dark, greys.
The edge of this amazing dress with it's elaborate stiching (an ongoing journal of life and travels) trinket line fascinated me. It made me wish that I had the height to carry off the long as elegantly...but I think that I would end up looking like a fire plug or a mushroom if I tried it. I do like the ida of using my pinafore as a stitched journal though and tht's my plan....
Can you spot the bundles below that most likely had iron bits in them?

This sun-lit succulent caught my eye. I need to remove those wisps of spider web!

I brought along some silk noil yardage on a whim, but I was glad that I did. I got such a rich variety of color. In this yarage the darker colors were caused by closeness in the pot to some iron but also to Smoke Bush leaves. The brighter greens and yellows are from Butterfly Bush (Buddleia) which I now simply have to get. I put some in the freezer to try later. Our hostess, Christi, brough some boughs for who to sample. I also had added some onion skins to this brew which always delights me in it's range of broens, oranges and reds.
I love the look of the string marks on this piece! There are two 'real' leaves on the fabric for comparison to the prints in green.
Lookit' those greens! A delight!

This is a simple silk noil top that I had made to bring. Once I got there I dcided that it was not suitable for the class, but I decided to dye it. The back of the top is below. I had added a small pleat as a detail and managed to get the effect of having wings on my back. Kismet at its best! This was also the top that I had been stitching on when my left middle finger attracted a through and through encounter with a Schmetz 80/12 needle. I worried about getting the blood out, but it really would not have mattered! Now that I have washed and ironed this shirt it really looks great!
 The front of the shirt below. 
The top part of the shirt is a bit more wet that green areas that are thoroughly dry 
so that's why there is color variation in the photo. 

The end of the adventure featured a champage send-off replete with a lush and luscious chocolate-gingerbread cake - gluten free! It was baked by Christi and was decorated with violets and fresh rose petals (which tasted like velvet with a hint of apricot). 

In all of my years of taking classes this was the event to remember. Gracious women, divine views, hostesses with the mostess', food for the finest restaurants in the world and a teacher who "gives a damn" about her students and the world. What an experience to remember this was. There are thoughts about having a  2017 reunion in Big Sur. Not so much a class, but a respite. If it happens I will try hard to make it.

I learned so much more in this class than just technique. I learned a lot about myself along the way. What better hallmark of the excellence of a class experience is there than that? None in my book!

To learn more about India Flint and her work have a look at her website and her blog.

 A few random images from the special place that we were privileged to be able to enjoy.

Captivating vintage tool
along the edge 
treeline to the sea

If you have made it this far to the end of this long post - thank you for being here. I apprecaite the time you take to read about my small adventures. 

17 August 2015

Just What I Need?! Not!

FaceBook is all a-twitter with a new sew-along. It's hosted by Gnome Angel, The Fat Quarter Shop (one of my personal favorite places), and Marti Michell templates.the nexus is the new book by Laurie Hird called "The Farmer's Wife 1930's" (nb: there was an earlier book called The Farmer's Wife from th esame author...which I also happen to own).
This not a project I need of course, and I certainly had not planned to be involved in yet another project! Perhaps what called to me was an opportunity to use up some of my stash of 30's reproduction fabrics. The books comes with a CD that provides all of the necessary templates as well as all instructions and templates for paper piecing. Of course, as a confirmed acrylic template fan! I was happy to know that Marti Michell templates make the project even easier. They are, of course, an extra expense. Thus far I have just used the paper piecing templates and a combination of hand stitching (I found hand sewing easier for some of the tiny half square triangles). The paper piecing templates work very well.


I played with the paper piecing templates ... the block below required two tries ...and still the points are below standard. I will, most likely, use these two blocks on the back and will remake the block again using the templates and hand piecing instead. These are 6" finished blocks- so large in comparison to Dear Jane blocks, but not all that large.


I am eagerly waiting for my pattern called "Sweet Surrender" to arrive from the Land Down Under...it's supposed to ship at the end of August. That quilt will be a combination of hand appliqué and EPP. I figure that once I start on that project this one will fall by the wayside and go on a back burner for some time. I am still chaffing at the bit to make some more shirts, plus I have a knitting project going - so I will be prioritizing very soon. Retirement has made my extremely grateful that I enjoy sewing so much. I am never, ever lacking for something to do!

The block in the photo below was a bit like a jigsaw puzzle- but I had fun making it! I took my time and enjoyed the process.

The FaceBook group does not officially start the project until September 28... And there are already over 1500 folks involved...that a whole lotta quilts in the offing! The group will not be doing the blocks in order, but rather, as I understand the plans, blocks will be presented as skills are built- from more simple blocks to more complicated ones. There seems to be a wide diversity of skill levels and folks are joining in the fun world-wide. It will be fun to follow the group. I so enjoy seeing people discover new skills and building on their knowledge of sewing techniques.

If you want to have a peek at the FB group search for "the Farmer's Wife 1930's Quilt Sew-Along".

Enjoy your last bits of summer. Here in the Pacific Northwest hinterlands we have had the driest summer on record...as well as the hottest. I am astounded that it is the middle of August already. I blink and another month has gone by! Enjoy each day as much as you can....Fall is right around the corner!