Friday, December 11, 2009

A New Grandmothers' Quilt

Earlier this week, I had a visit from Margaret, Maria and Florence - all quilters who are involved in making pieces for the second collection of quilts for a local group of Grandmothers to Grandmothers, raising funds for the work of the Stephen Lewis Foundation; and all quilt artists in their own right. Margaret and Florence gave me permission to photograph this first piece, which they made collaboratively, using pre-printed fabric from Africa. I love it! The main reason for the visit, though, was to select scraps of African fabrics from my collection, for possible incorporation into the "Turning the Tide" quilts. ("Turning the Tide" is the theme for this year's quilts for the Stephen Lewis Foundation.) It was great fun upending a box of leftovers onto my table, and going through them. Ideas for new quilts were flying around almost as fast as the tidbits of fabric. Then Margaret produced a quilt made from another collection of African fabrics. It never ceases to amaze me how wonderfully all these wild fabrics work together. And the great news is that she's donated it to the Kitambaa Sewing Project, and once it's been quilted, we will start selling "opportunities to own" this quilt, with 100% of the proceeds going to our work with the Bitengye Designers in rural Uganda.
Thank you, Margaret!!!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Kitambaa Sewing Project Update

What do squash have to do with the Bitengye Designers? Well, everything. Joanne Colleaux, an enterprising fund-raiser from the Salmon Arm area, had an abundance of spaghetti squash in her garden this year. Joanne was already a supporter of the Kitambaa Sewing Project. So one Guild meeting she took an Alice bag packed with a squash, and a set of Bitengye placemats, set as though the squash was the main course, for her "show and tell". She then sold all of the squash, and is donating the proceeds to the Sewing Project. This is certainly one of the most enterprising fund-raising efforts I have heard of to date! But there are generous people all over Canada who are once again donating to this project, and making our second workshop with these remarkable ladies possible (less than 6 weeks now until we fly!)
This week we have tremendously exciting news, in that we were able to let her know that we have now raised enough money for her to begin building the classroom for her Sewing School.
(she has plans to add a dormitory at a later date, so that students from afar can board with her while they study). She had already earned enough to have the land levelled and to have the bricks made, so now she has enough to begin putting up the walls. So all of you out there who have purchased one of her now-famous bags, or one of her other items, know that you have been part of seeing this happen. A huge thank you to everyone, particularly to those who have made a direct donation to Alice's school. I can't wait to see it, and will be sure to send you photos once in Uganda.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Africa-inspired Quilts

One of the delights of our trip to Uganda earlier this year, was collecting some remarkable batiks in the craft markets. In some cases we even managed to meet the artists responsible for making them. We sold out of all that we brought back with us fairly quickly, but kept back a few for ourselves to work with. These first two wallhangings are the work of Joan Darling, who has added free-motion stitching and beading as well as borders to the batiks. The first wallhanging of two women carrying pots on their heads is part of our fund-raising efforts for this year's trip to Uganda, and is for sale for $125. The second wallhanging of a woman walking in the rain, is not for sale. Aren't they delightful?
The quilt below is made by Ann McLean, owner of The Country Quilter in Richmond, Ontario. The Richmond Guild made all the blocks for their October block-of-the-month challenge, and Ann put all the blocks together with African fat quarters from Kitambaa Designs, as well as from her Ugandan friend, Petwa. I love the colours in it. There's nothing quite like silouetted animals against a sunset sky to evoke the feeling of Africa. Except perhaps the music.
It is six weeks today that we fly to Uganda, and preparations are well underway for the next workshop. Thank you to so many of you who have collected unused embroidery floss for us to use with the ladies, as well as all the other miscellaneous supplies we will be taking with us. Now we're busy making samples up of "new designs" to take with us, and filling totes with fabrics, particularly the black fabric that is so hard to find in Uganda. We'll be sourcing out local supplies for this once we get there, but have no way of knowing how successful we will be.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Visits on the Sunshine Coast

I have just returned home from a teaching visit to the Sunshine Coast. This is a euphemism, you understand, at least 8 months of the year. And being November, I was not disappointed, but enjoyed the sighing and moaning among the tops of the Douglas firs, the crashing of waves on the rocky shore, and the sound like breaking glass, as sheets of rain slammed into windows. But what better time to be snug inside and enjoying a quilting retreat?
The two groups I spent time with are known as "The Halfmoon Crazies", and "The Off the Wall Quilters". That should tell you something right there. They were willing to venture into unknown territory, to learn both new techniques and a new way of designing. And here is a glimpse at their works in progress, as they participated in Ferns, Flowers and Other Follies; and The Joys of Journalling. There was lots of laughter, lots of encouragement, and a huge willingness to enjoy the process. The third class - African Sunshine - was a joy to teach. Colourful "arcs" appeared up on design walls and blocks too, as this enthusiastic bunch of women worked into the evening to continue what they had learned in class. I can't wait to see the finished quilts! And I have a confession to make - I was so inspired by the African Sunshine class that I came home to work on a new sample for this for myself. Now I can return the original sample to my daughter, who has been threatening to abscond with other quilts of mine, at least until African Sunshine was returned to her.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

And the Winner Is . . .

So many of you bought tickets for this year's Grandmothers' Quilt - at $5 a block we were able to raise more than $1500 towards next year's Kitambaa Sewing Project Workshop. Thank you - all of you - so very, very much. The winner of the draw for this year's quilt is Susie Schneider, from Grand Forks, BC. Susie is a new quilter, who bought a block from us when we were at their Guild Show in September. She was thrilled when I called to ask her how to go about shipping the quilt to her. She told me that my call couldn't have come at a better time, when they had just lost someone dear to them, and could do with a little good news and comfort. May this quilt comfort you for years to come, Susie.

Monday, November 9, 2009

More Quilts from Houston

A couple of weeks ago, I showed you a few of my favourite quilts from Houston, with the promise of more to come. Well here they are. (Ever get the feeling that you can't quite catch up to your own life?!)This first one is a close-up, and even so it doesn't do justice to the exquisite work involved in making it. Applique was done with satin stitching with silk thread around each and every piece. It is called Hearts and Garlands, and was made by Liz Jones from the U.K.

This next quilt is called African Adventure, and was made by Janneke de Vries-Bodzinga from the Netherlands.
This one is Spring Field, made by Akiko Kawata, from Japan.
And this last one is Butare Star, made by Canada's own Ann Bird. She is without doubt the queen of medallion quilts, and this one was inspired by fabric she purchased in Rwanda, when her husband was teaching at the university there, as well as some wild and crazy bird fabric, from Kitambaa Designs

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Back home from Ottawa and Beaconsfield

I have just returned home from a two week trip back east, during which I taught several workshops both in Ottawa area and Beaconsfield, Quebec and presented three Trunk Shows on my adventures in Africa, particulary with the Bitengye Designers. I thought you would enjoy seeing a few photos taken during one of the Journalling workshops. It never fails to amaze me how creative women are, and during this workshop that creativity bubbles to the surface. Asking the question "what if I . . .?", and then doing it is so liberating. It made me itchy to get back at making some journal quilts again myself.

The time spent in Ottawa was particularly sweet, as it gaveme the opportunity to see some old friends, and to make the reacquaintance of others. Ann McLean, of The Country Quilter in Richmond, just outside Ottawa, is someone I first met when we lived in Ottawa in the late 80's. When we met up again in Portland last year, she invited me to come and teach at her shop. We learned that we not only have a shared interest in quilting, but also in work in Uganda. It's a small world, as they say. A huge thank-you to all of you who made my journey so enjoyable!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Houston Quilt Market - A Few of the Quilts on Exhibit

Here are just a few of the quilts exhibited that particularly caught my eye. A sampling, if you will, of the extraordinary quilts on display. I didn't get around to all the exhibits, so this sampling only represents a few of the quilts in all the various displays. I hope you enjoy them. This is Shannon's Bantam, by Denise Havlan, from Plainfield, Illinois.

Woman Waiting #2 - by Pamela Allen, from Kingston, Ontario

Seedpods, by Laura Wasilowski from Elgin, Illinois

Spring Field by Akiko Kawato, Japan

And Show me the Road to Timbukto, Take my Hand and let us Go, by Bodil Gardner, from Lystrup, Denmark.

More to come . . .

Friday, October 16, 2009

Quilt Market - Houston

Quilt Market in Houston each fall is a huge affair - literally hundreds of vendors and even more shop owners. I went alone this year, so was hugely grateful to meet up with Jean Boyd from Brockville, Ontario, who helped me set up my booth and with "Sample Spree", and relieving me so I could go and investigate the booths of other vendors.
Here's a glance at the shoppers lining up for "Sample Spree" - a 2-hour frenzy during which all sorts of bargains can be found. I don't know if I had more fun shopping or meeting people at the Kitambaa table. Yes I do. It was the shopping.
The whole event is unbelievably stimulating. Enjoying the quilts that others have designed, admiring their quilted clothing (I love this mock mudcloth design for a jacket!), participating in "Schoolhouse", and teaching at "Take and Teach". Even the twinkly lights outside the Hilton had me mesmerized.

And of course there were the quilts. The standard of quilt work is so high now, it can be quite intimidating. I will share a few of my favourites over the next few posts, starting with this quilt by Ann Bird, from Ottawa. Ann is renowned for her medallion quilts. The difference with this one is that it is made with African fabrics she purchased in Rwanda and also from Uganda (through Kitambaa Designs). When she asked me for as much fabric as I had of the "wild and crazy birds", I couldn't imagine what she was going to do with it. But isn't this magnificent?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Ferns, Flowers, and Other Follies - an Original Application

Sue Robertson from New Brunswick recently sent me this "quilt" resulting from a Ferns, Flowers and Other Follies workshop I gave back east last year, and certainly it qualifies for the most original application of an Art Deco-inspired piece that I have seen to date. She travels a fair bit, so decided to incorporate her design into a garment bag. I love it!
Meanwhile I am down in Houston at Quilt Market. The third of my new Art Deco designs accompanied me here - an adaptation of Jocelyn's quilt, that I showed you in August. I've called it Faith, and it will be available for order by the end of November. Here's a peek at it in its unquilted state.
Made up in turquoisy-greens, and then pinky-purples. For any of you who have read the children's story of Miss Rumphius, it may have particular meaning. In our family, that story is an all-time favourite.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Quadra Island, Serendipity

Last weekend I had the pleasure of giving my Trunk Show, "Travels with my Treadle", and teaching my workshop "African Sunrise", on Quadra Island. And through the generosity of one of the members of the local Guild, I was able to spend the weekend at a charming log cabin overlooking the water. My idea of heaven. I had brought some brightly coloured fabrics with me, and played with them all day, working on something "just because", and not in response to some impending deadline (the current deadline has me getting patterns ready for Quilt Market in Houston next week). It reminded me again how important it is to spend "moodling" time ("moodling" is a word coined by Barbara Ueland, who writes about the the writing life, something that has a lot in common with the artist's life, and the quilting life). She says "So you see the imagination needs moodling - long, inefficient, happy idling, dawdling and puttering." It seems, for me at least, that I need to be away from home for this to happen. Away from the screaming "shoulds", not to mention the phone, the computer, the television. It's been my dream to have my own "little log cabin in the woods" to retreat to for most of my adult life. And one day it just might happen. In the meantime, I am thankful to others who have shared their cabins with me.
When I returned home, it was to put the finishing touches on a couple of new pattern designs, both inspired, once again, by the Art Deco period of design. I've called this one Serendipity, and you can see it pictured here in pinks on a dark purple background, and in yellows on a blue-green background. The flowers themselves are fused, and the stems are made of couched yarn. Beads in the centre of the flowers were added for the final touch.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Jocelyn's Quilt

My friend Jocelyn has just completed her Masters in Education. To mark the event, she asked me to make a quilt for her. She told me a little bit about what the experience had meant to her - about the support from her family, about the growth and new-found ability to breathe that had come during the process, about the ripple effect this new strength would have on her students, and on everyone who knows her. There's new light and new life in her, and this is what I tried to capture in her quilt. In asking me to make it she gave me no parameters, no colour scheme, no size requirement. She just asked me to interpret what I knew of her in the work. What freedom! And when I gave it to her yesterday, I was so pleased to see her positive reaction. To make such a quilt was an honour, and my gift to Jocelyn. To trust me to make it was Jocelyn's gift to me.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Journal Quilts 3 & 4

You may remember me starting a series of Journal Quilts back in the summer, each one geared to reinforce one or more design principles. I haven't been as diligent as I had hoped to be in getting one done a week, but I haven't given up either. Here are Journal Quilts 3 and 4. The first one is constructed in predominantly warm colours with one cool colour, and the second is constructed in predominantly cool colours with one warm colour. There will be more coming shortly.

On another note entirely, and for those of you interested in the work of the Bitengye Designers, I want to share some exciting news with you. We received another shipment of their finished items last week, and a second is due to arrive this week. They have been so productive that I have had to ask them to slow down just a little. And the most productive of all has been Alice, who has produced another 180 of her bags, in order to raise funds to build her new sewing school. Already she has raised close to half of what she needs to begin building. She is one determined lady, and I only hope she isn't exhausting herself sewing so much. I have also had news that she has organized a 3-day refresher for the women who come from Kikagati to go to Rubingo to spend time sewing with her. She felt the quality of their work was not adequate, and of her own initiative will spend time with them, working through the problems. Kudos to Alice, and to all the Bitengye Designers!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Kitambaa visits Grand Forks

I'm just home from a wee road trip to Grand Forks, situated along the southern border between BC and Washington state, well on the way to Alberta. We drove through the fertile farmland of the lower Mainland, then up amongst the mountains of Manning Park, through the fruit growing and wine-making lands of Osooyos and Keremeos, then down into the Kettle Valley and Grand Forks. The quilt show was great, with lots of participation from all levels of quilters, and tea and goodies served to all who visited. A highlight of the trip for me was being able to visit with friends Kim and Denise, both known to me from visits to Gibsons. Another was visiting a new-to-me quilt shop - Heart 'n Sole. What a delightful setting - in a period house on a tree-lined street. Bolts and bolts of fabric, and lots of brights - you will be surprised to hear that I couldn't leave without a few new pieces to add to my collection!

I'm also pleased to be able to tell you that Heart n' Sole will now be carrying my patterns.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

African Thunderstorm

Now for something completely different (and not exactly related to quilting). Those of you who have ever spent any time in Africa know that there is nothing quite like an African thunderstorm. Sudden, dramatic, powerful, crashingly loud, and gone before you know it. The thunderstorms we experienced during our time in Lesotho were afternoon storms, with much lightning, and heavy rains that ran off the baked red dirt. In Uganda, the thunderstorms can happen any time of day, but are every bit as impressive. A friend recently sent me this particular "African thunderstorm". I hope you enjoy listening to it as much as I have. It can be found at

Monday, August 31, 2009

Comox Valley Exhibition

Our local Exhibition was held this last weekend, and along with displays of prize-winning dahlias, and decorated wheelbarrows, was the Comox Valley quilt show. Exhibitions like this have something for everyone - antique farm equipment on show, 4-H judging of sheeps and goats, fruit and vegies, even a zucchini race. Bands played on the stage all weekend, and throngs of locals and visitors to the valley took it all in, including the quilt show that occupied one quarter of the Curling Rink. Ably coordinated by Therese Shwab, there was representation from the C.V. Schoolhouse Quilters, the North Island Quilters for Community Awareness, and I was

pleased to be invited to attend as the Featured Artist. I thoroughly enjoyed talking to people over the weekend, and hearing their responses to my work, as well as to the work of the Bitengye Designers. Thought you might especially enjoy this pic of Joan, visited by a pair of charming clowns roaming the displays!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

African Collage

The other thing I did at Gibsons, besides enjoying the colour and energy of all the fibre artists, was to teach the class, "African Collage. Participants started with a selection of lino prints and a group of African and North American and batik fabrics that worked with them. They constructed borders and fillers for each of the prints, then tackled the challenging job of how to put them altogether into

one piece, that was balanced but not overly symmetrical. It was pure pleasure for me to be in the midst of such a creative group of women.There was enormous variety in the settings, and each one created a unique wallhanging. The possible variations on this kind of piece is endless, and provides a wonderful way to showcase African handwork and fabric. Some chose to add a little beading to their finished pieces, others included embroidery, and one person incorporated mask designs found on ancient African artifacts.
When I have photos of the finished work, I will be sure to post those too, so you can enjoy them. By the way, if there is anyone out there who would like to take on a similar challenge, I am willing to make up more kits and send them out with class instructions. It would be a great thing for a few friends to get together to work on. The kits would be $50 each, and include 10 fat quarters, 3 lino prints, some beads, and two borders.