Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Line dancing

Okay, so call me sick, but I love hanging out my clothes to dry. When I found out we were leaving California and moving to the Midwest, I told my husband there were three requirements: a screened porch, air conditioning, and a clothesline. I hung clothes out on Memorial Day and there must be something wrong with me, I took so much pleasure from it. Nothing like textiles waving in the wind. This photo is actually of the quilts I sewed in 2004, my first year of quilting. I thought it was more pleasant to share than a shot of underwear fluttering in the breeze.

And don't forget! There's still time to enter the give-away and win a copy of Diana Rupp's truly wonderful book, Sew Everything Workshop. It's got tips, how-tos, and ten patterns included. Just go to the last post and tell me why you love fabric. (And if you have a chance, hang a textile on the line and think of me.)

Friday, May 22, 2009

Yellow in the garden and a yellow give-away!

I'm afraid of late it's been the garden vs. Pearl the Squirrel, and the garden's winning. If you live, as I do, where winter is relentless, the opportunity to be outside is too tantalizing. (These are very tiny, late-blooming jonquils—each flower is literally the size of a dime.) The garden wins because it's finally possible to put things in the ground and anticipate lush hosta foliage, deep pink and purple petunias, and fresh sprigs of basil and mint. And being outside just feels so good.

That is, until the last couple of days, when gnats started their dive-bombing mission. I've swallowed more than one, and when I let Pearl (the dog, not the blog) outside I've taken to carrying a hat. I spend the entire time swatting gnats off my ears, neck, and face.

Work projects have also made time for blogging scarce. But you can help me with one of them. I've been thinking a lot about my relationship to fabric and why I've chosen to express myself through textiles. What is it that draws you to fabric or yarn, that makes you long to caress it, use it, and yes, buy more of it? Is there some memory of learning to sew or knit as a child, perhaps, or the colors or textures of fabric, or the way it allows you to produce something unique? Leave me a comment that tells me about your passion for fabric, what it means to you, and why. (It needn't be long, or even a complete sentence!)

On May 31 I'll choose a winner. And that lucky winner will get something written by someone else who is totally smitten with fabric: the talented Diana Rupp (the subject of my profile for Stitch). She's the proprietor of Make Workshop in NY and the author of Sew Everything Workshop, a fabulous, sprial-bound volume with how-to tips on everything from choosing the right fabric to what to look for in a sewing machine. Although the book bills itself as a beginner's guide, there are wonderful projects included for those with a range of skills. Leave me a comment and this fabulous book just might be yours!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Quilt Capades

Our longtime friend, Dianne, shared with me a quilt she had made for her daughter Leah's high school graduation. Leah was an ice skater all through her school years and each year her ice skating group had an elaborate performance. Hundreds (well, more than 100) kids were involved in each annual production and there were lots of numbers, from the adorable little, little tykes group "dances" to the high school seniors, who often performed a dramatic, romantic duet. These productions always involved amazing costumes, created from all sorts of glittery, stretchy, super-bling fabrics and trim. Dianne somehow wound up in charge of costumes and worked with a talented seamstress to get the costumes designed and made.

Leah graduated from high school two years ago and Dianne had a quilt made for her using pieces of fabric and embellishments from her many costumes. The background fabric and backing is silk, so the quilt feels amazing (well, at least the parts that aren't covered with glitter or sequins). Sadly, I don't know the name of the woman who made it, but I though you might enjoy seeing this creation.

Dianne can touch any fabric on the quilt and remember the costume Leah wore. Suffice it to say, Leah is NOT keeping this in her college dorm room: Dianne's got it home for a few more years.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Not to scale

One of my favorite parts of quilting and sewing is combining fabrics. I like to think that I have a pretty decent color sense and enjoy the challenge and fun of pulling together a variety of prints and colors to create something that is unique (a word one of my journalism professors once told me never to use because he claimed NOTHING was truly unique. I beg to differ).

So when I decided on the fabulous Tula Pink Neptune fabrics for my second Birdie Sling, I was quite happy with my decision. While grouping fabrics from a single line of fabrics isn't perhaps as challenging as pulling from an entire quilt shop or a stash, there are still some choices that affect the overall success of a finished piece. And I think I learned something with this project that hadn't really been on my design radar: it's important to consider the scale of a particular print, along with the pattern and color.

While I absolutely love these fabrics, I think a larger scale print on the body of the bag might feel more contemporary than the print I chose. The big morning glories on my first bag read a bit more modern. Because it's a big bag, a print with a scale to match might have better enhanced it.

This is not to say it was a failure. My friend, Siouxsie (as she spelled her name when we were 16 and CITs at Camp Northland for Girls) immediately transferred the contents of her purse to the Birdie Sling and carried it around Chicago during our two days together. And she's a little gal, so a small print doesn't overwhelm her like a larger one might (here she is modeling it at Buckingham Fountain). But the next one I make (and I've got one planned) will feature a big 'ol floral print.

As an aside, camp friends are as dear as quilt friends. Siouxise, our friend Annie, and I have known one another since we were 13 and we've reconnected in the past five years. (The two of them even gave a shower in NYC for my daughter before her wedding two years ago.) We were pleased to compare notes and realize that part of the reason we can't remember things anymore is because entire sections of our brains are taken up with things like remembering every single word to every single camp song. Who could forget classics like Camp Northland Horse, Bruce the Spruce, and Canoey-ooey? Apparently not us, no matter how hard we try.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Diana Rupp makes it

We interrupt this blog for some shameless self-promotion...The new Stitch magazine is out and in it is my profile of Diana Rupp of Make Workshop. Talking with her was a great reminder of the ways many of us have come to sewing: I mentioned in an earlier post my interview with her in which she talked about learning how to sew by following the rules and the epiphany that comes when you figure out you can do something in a different way. I've thought about that conversation repeatedly as I've sewn since then and done my best to embrace (or at least ignore) mistakes.

I feel so terrific about having my work in Stitch. The cover alone is enough to make me happy. The creator of the pillow on that fabulous teal chair is Malka Dubrawsky, who has a colorful and fun-to-read blog, A Stitch in Dye. I love her work—talk about not worrying about following the rules. The woman knows how to put colors together in the most unexpected ways and the results are pure eye-candy. And she's got a great green wall somewhere in her house that's the perfect backdrop for photographing her luscious quilts.

There's a lot more than the cover to make me happy with this issue of Stitch: in particular, there's a bag and an apron pattern I love and articles on Liberty of London and hand-printed fabrics. Check it out (but if your local store is anything like Home Ec, you may have to wait for the next shipment: they've already sold out once)!

Lessons on scrappy quilting from Marc Chagall

Okay, so Chagall may not have been a quilter. But on a recent trip to Chicago I realized that the way he combined colored tiles to create images is completely applicable to the way a quilter might use scraps of fabric to do the same. While waiting to serve as the studio audience for NPR's Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me, we stopped to admire Chagall's rectangular mural, The Four Seasons.

If you're a trained artist, you might just want to skip this post, because it's probably pretty obvious to you. But I (NOT a trained artist, thank you very much) sometimes forget what subtlety can be obtained by sneaking up on a color. By that I mean, rather than painting something RED, combining multiple colors in the red family (pinks, oranges, tomato reds, rust reds, etc.) creates a much richer and more believable color and shape.
The principle holds true even when you're not creating an image, but say, a scrappy star or maple leaf: using multiple shades of the red family makes that block more interesting than using a single fabric. And it works for the background, as well as for the images (or colored portions of the block)—check out the depth and motion created by the myriad background tiles. Personally, I think Chagall would have been an exceptional quiltmaker .