Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Lakeside sewing

One of the wonderful connections I've made through my writing is with Mary Lou Weidman. I "met" her when I interviewed her for American Patchwork and Quilting nearly four years ago and we've walked the aisles of Quilt Market together. 

Kathy and Mary Lou
In addition, last January I took a class from her at John C. Campbell in North Carolina. Lots of great opportunities have come my way thanks to Mary Lou. This past week another one took place—a sewing retreat at Zephyr Cove on the shore of Lake Tahoe.

There were 15 of us from around the U.S.—most from the West Coast, but there were two Texans and a Georgian. Everyone had taken a class from Mary Lou at some point, many at the Asilomar Empty Spools seminars

Some folks brought a Mary Lou-style story quilt to work on, while others brought UFOs or other projects they had in the works. 

Candy's story quilt about her mom
I only knew five of the people and really enjoyed getting to know the rest. The location was fantastic—a light-filled sewing room with views of Lake Tahoe right out the window—and the company was creative and fun-loving. 

Cherise's incredible pineapple quilt
There was lots of laughter and lots of sharing of techniques, design ideas, and fabric. (Of course we had to buy some fabric, too. There's a terrific little shop with a varied and sizable inventory that some people hit more than once.) 

Kathy's Hoochy Mama flowers

Lynne stitches her family quilt
Some of us had gathered in Lake Tahoe previously and already had the required Red Hut clothing. After a Red Hut breakfast one morning several of the rest of us got this year's Red Hut sweatshirt. We also had the opportunity to peruse the blown glass jewelry made by Andrea King and several of us took something home. She even took orders and brought them to us a little more than 24 hours later.

Nancy and her new necklace
I learned a tremendous amount simply by seeing what other people were doing.

 I think I mentioned that my French Roses quilt took a turn for the better when I laid out my blocks at the end of the first night and someone casually mentioned that I might think about a sashing. Before I knew it people were bringing over fabrics to audition and then someone suggested keystones. I'm so happy with the way it turned out—the black and white lifted it from being fine to giving it a bit of sophistication. The border is still in the works and only about half done. 

I also learned wonky Monkey Wrench blocks from Mel and Deb, who were cranking out cowboy and polka dot blocks, respectively. Everyone's work was different and inspiring in its own way. 

Though I went through travel hell on either end of the week, the time I had in between made it all worthwhile. Now, I'm hoping that I've built up some good travel karma for my next two trips—Quilt Market this coming weekend and the New York Marathon the week after. 

Apologies for the wonkiness of this post...the quilt blocks are supposed to be wonky, not the blog layout!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Packing up my cares and woe...

I'm hitting an unprecedented spate of travel just now. Right before I left for the first trip I took a French Roses class at Common Threads. I had no business taking a class just then, but I remembered the pattern from several years ago, when Common Threads opened and I just couldn't resist.

I was totally excited my the red, purple, and green fabrics and I got these two blocks done and all the other pieces cut out by the end of the class. Then I had to pack up and head out. Stay tuned for what happened to this pattern, thanks to the input of a group of creative, talented women!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Generation Stitch

A couple of weeks ago I had the incredible pleasure of having both my daughters home for a weekend. The younger one had to head out on Sunday afternoon, but Maggie stayed until Wednesday. We had the most wonderful, leisurely time: the weather was gorgeous and we walked to Home Ec and RSVP, had a ladies lunch, and bought a chocolate bar to share in the park. And we sewed!

Maggie's been taking classes at Stitch Lab in Austin and has really taken off on her sewing—she's done some bags and a skirt, but the accomplishment I'm most impressed by is a headboard she made for her guest room for which she had to piece three sections of a chevron-print material. The seams match perfectly.

She has several friends who are in a family way, and for one of them she wanted to make a playmat from a pattern she'd found in Lotta Jansdotter's Simple Sewing. We modified the pattern a bit to make it a little larger. In addition, rather than the recommended stitching in the ditch, Maggie went for echo-stitching each rectangle (and learned just how fabulous a walking foot is for quilting). The fabrics were stash-busters from my bulging happy they got used.

We spent Tuesday back-to-back at our respective sewing machines, catching up and listening to tunes. Most satisfying aspect: the entire playmat was completed and Maggie went home with a gift for her friend. Best part: spending time with my sweet girl.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Adventures in Crafting Continue

In addition to my Gujarati embroidery class, I took a one-night class in needle felting. I'd bought the book Little Felted Animals more than a year ago, although I had no idea how to needle felt. I simply couldn't resist the adorable critters in it. 

Codi taught the class, and she had several other books, as well. I made the bird that night from the book Sweet Needle Felts (I think). Codi complimented me on how firm he/she was and you could practically hear me puff up with pride. Really, it takes so little to make me pleased with myself. (A few nights later both girls and Paul and I were g-chatting and they were all talking about the truly important things they are dealing with at work: patients with diabetes, the best ways to handle new administrative duties, the death penalty. And I was showing off felt animals.)

The next morning, fresh from my conquest of felt birds, I got up and made the mouse from Little Felted Animals. I was on a roll.  I had this idea that I'd make an animal a week and then I'd really understand how to judge the proportions and I could take off and make my own.

The polar bear was next on the roster and it was then I realized that some creatures are definitely more challenging than others. For the longest time he looked a lot like a rat and building his haunches and shoulders out took some doing.

In the end, I think he could have had longer legs, but I do like his cartoon face. This past weekend I got a start on a Jack Russell terrier, in preparation for re-creating Pearl. That lone black spot should be easy to reproduce!

In searching the web I've discovered probably the most amazing needle felted animals—somehow they have the most expressive faces, yet they're smooth and simple. They're by Victor Dubrovsky, and you can find them here.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Crafting ADHD

Yes, I'm a quilter, but I can't just leave it at that. Years ago I was a spinner and weaver, I've always been a knitter, and I love to sew all kinds of things that don't qualify as quilts. I've covered a birdbath with broken pottery, used boxes and fabric to make doll furniture, and heck, was even an elementary school art teacher for awhile, so you know I've tried every craft in the book. That's why I understood when a woman I recently met told me she had "crafting ADHD."

A couple of weeks ago I finished a big project and as a treat to myself I decided to give in to my love of all crafts and signed up for two classes at Home Ec. The first was something called Gujarati embroidery. I was a big embroidery buff during my college years (a few samples from my blue chambray "work shirt" and a patch for jeans) and keep wanting to get back to it. So, although I had no idea what Gujarati embroidery was, I decided to give it a try.

The floppy-looking framework for the embroidery at left
Turns out that Gujarati is a region of India and this embroidery hails from there. Our teacher learned it as a young girl (in 1953!) from an Indian man who stayed with her family when they lived in Costa Rica. She was a great teacher and actually gave each of us in the class a sample of the technique stitched out step-by-step on muslin. Good thing, because I certainly had to refer back to it time and again.

The back of Gujarati embroidery
The really amazing thing about this is when you turn it over and look at the back, you realize that there are very few stitches showing. You create a framework and then you weave your thread in and out to create a design. We learned two types of embroidery—one in which the motif's center is filled with thread and one in which it is empty.

Most traditional Gujarati embroidery seems to be one color, but starting with two colors helped us see where we were going. It was a fairly tricky technique to learn, but once I got the basics I could move on to the more complicated patterns. I even made a Christmas ornament using the design as it reminded me of a snowflake...will wait to show that closer to the holidays.

Filled center embroidery at left, open center at right
And as often happens, the first week I learned Gujarati embroidery I went home and read the word "Gujarati" in the book I was reading...Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. I'd had the book on my shelf since March 2009 and finally read it. Recommended—a compelling read. And I'll tell you about my other class in the next post.