Sunday, May 31, 2009

From Saskatoon to Canmore

Today, after four wonderful days at Quilt Saskatchewan, we left the big skies and rolling hills of Saskatchewan for home. We drove through farm land planted with grains, through ranch land full of cows and calves, of steers and even the occasional llama, to the mountains. We saw gophers at the side of the road, and Canada geese coming in to land on one of the many deep blue sloughs, and deer not too far off the road. The vast landscape of our country left a strong impression on both Joan and I, making us feel extaordinarily proud to be part of this great land. We saw lonely and abandoned homesteads that were first settled not that long ago, and the farms of today, sheltered from the wind by stands of trees, with yards full of modern threshing machines and combines. And then, shortly after Calgary, we arrive in Canmore, relishing seeing the mountains from another angle on the way home. As we approcahed, we thought it was haze that we saw in the distance, or rain perhaps. But the undeniable smell of burning indicated otherwise, and as we

got closer, we could see billows of smoke filling the sky behind Mount Rundle. Helicopters with buckets of water were ferrying back and forth, attempting to quench the fire. By this evening the smoke had cleared, and it now looks as though they have been successful in their efforts. We hope so. We won't be home again for another day and a half, but this has been a wonderful journey to be on, and I'd like to say a huge thank you to all of you who stopped by our booth to chat with us, and especially to those of you who purchased the bags and placemats, wall-hangings and cushion covers, made by the ladies of the Bitengye Designers.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

What a wonderful time we've had, travelling from Vancouver Island through BC and Alberta, arriving in Saskatoon at noon today. What spectacular scenery we've seen. It's years since I've driven through the Canadian Rockies, and to do it on a sunny day was especially spectacular. Then there were the undulating hills of Alberta and Saskatchewan, the ranch land, then crops and grain elevators, and the hugeness of the prairie sky, where storms can be seen traversing across the land well in advance of their arrival. Today we set up our booth for the Quilt Saskatchewan event, directly across from our friend Jean Boyd; and in minutes we will be on our way to the opening of the National Juried Show, where we hope to connect with other friends. Despite aching backs and sore feet, we couldn't be happier.

Friday, May 22, 2009

They're Here!

Finally, the shipment we've been waiting for, ever since we left the ladies of the Bitengye Designers in Uganda, has arrived. With great excitement, Trudy, Joan and I unpacked totes and excitedly examined over all the finished items that these hard-working women had sent. There were exclamations of awe over the progress made by some, a few groans over a few that haven't quite understood the concept of "straight" yet, and amazement, once again, at the intrepid Alice, and the 64 bags she has sent us, in order that we can raise funds for her sewing school. So all of these items are now for sale.

Cushion-covers, such as the one held up by Joan, are $15 each. Wallhangings, such as the two I'm holding in the next photo, are $20 each. A set of four placemats, is $20. And Alice's bags, modelled by my daughter Jessie, are $15 each. All the proceeds from these sales go directly towards the Kitambaa Sewing and Quilting Project. These are not perfectly crafted items, but are some of the first items made by women who previously had no sewing, ironing, measuring, let alone quilting experience, before. What is so encouraging to us is the quantity of items the ladies have produced, and how many of the items are of "good

quality". Since we left, the women have had to learn how to use locally sold blankets instead of the flannelette we took to them in February, for batting. They have purchased new fabric and thread supplies from "Alice's store", using their own earnings. They have continued to work in the fields with their fellow widows and other grandmothers each day,while still carving out time for their sewing. Most impressive of all, they have produced all of these items in a tiny home, without electricity or running water. They have continued to fetch water, firewood for their stoves, looked after their children, and completed all the tasks that were already part of their lives before learning to sew. This astounds me. And I would be willing to bet that they have still found time for singing and laughter, for drumming and dance, each and every day.
So . . . if you would like to add your support to the Bitengye Designers, please contact me via email , and let me know what you would like to purchase. We will send it off to you just as soon as possible. Tomorrow, Joan and I are off to Quilt Saskatchewan, and we will be taking many of these items with us there. Trudy will be manning the booth in Parksville, who have their show at the end of the month.
And she will have a good supply of these items with her there. But if you are farther flung, please email us or phone us (250-339-3815). We will fill orders in the order that they are received. This is a concrete way for you too, to help these women. And a big thank you, thank you, to those who are already part of this huge group of women, reaching out to their sisters in Uganda.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

While We Wait . . .

The totes from Uganda, containing all the items completed by the Bitengye Designers since we left Uganda in early March, arrived in Vancouver on Monday. But sadly we were unable to collect them then - it being a holiday, there was no-one in customs who could process them. So my husband, who had made a special trip to Vancouver to collect them, returned home with an empty van. Today (Wednesday) an ACTS worker from the mainland went to pick them up from the airport, and he's had an equally frustrating day, spending hours and hours filling out copious amounts of paper work, but still the totes are not being released. So it will be tomorrow, all being well, before these much anticipated totes and their contents make their way to Comox. In the meantime, I thought you would enjoy seeing the work of two fellow quiltmakers. The top detail is from Lee McLean's Under the African Sun. Lee hails from Fredericton, New Brunswick, and has been a friend since I met her at CQA in Winnipeg several years ago. Last year we got reaquainted when I stayed with her suring a teaching trip "back east". What a treat that was! The second photo is of a quilt made by Betty Manuel, who had purchased a number of batiks from me, and set them in this original arrangement. I love it!

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Animal Quilt

Last week and this, I have been home for more than a few days for the first time in ages. And yes, there were piles of mail to be sorted through and winter clothes to be put away and a garden crying out for attention. But I chose to make an animal quilt instead. I have had plans to play with the Shweshwe indigo prints from South Africa that I import for some time, and this was the perfect opportunity. In combination with some hand-embroidered animals I had purchased from Langa Lapu (also in South Africa), they made up into a cheerful wall-hanging suitable for a child's room. Right now it is only known as The Animal Quilt. Any other ideas for a name? I am making up 12 kits complete with fabrics and animals and easy-to-follow instructions for this quilt, ready to take to Quilt Saskatchewan next week.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Timberlane Quilters' Guild

In Powell River, in our Ferns and Flowers class, participants worked with a variety of motifs from the Art Deco period, in designing their own original wallhanging. While working with the same shapes, each piece was unique, dispelling the notion that only some people are created to be artists. The fun was in seeing the pieces emerge, each demonstrating the sense of colour and design, the sense of balance and harmony, of the artist who made it. Having two days instead of the usual one day for this class, allowed time for Joan Darling to share her knowledge and experience of embellishing Art Deco-inspired quilts, as well as giving ample time for most
particpants to finish their design and consider border treatments. There were opportunities to learn how to couch yarns onto the piece, add Angelina highlights, and to add beading to the wallhangings. All in all, a totally inspiring weekend for all of us!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Vernon Silver Star Quilters' Guild

I have had quite a month, with a week-long visit to Vernon and then a weekend visit to Powell River. I taught workshops and gave Trunk Shows in both locations, and thought you would be interested to see some of the work going on in the classes. So first, here are some of the "journal pages" being worked on in the "Joys of Journalling" workshop - a play day in which a variety of not-so-usual techniques are made into original design "pages". Couching, designing with simple shapes, making wedge strips and wonky log cabins were some of the exercises undertaken. I think you will agree that the results are wonderful!
The hospitality I received in Vernon was phenomenal, as was the enthusiasm and supportive response of the Gathering of the Guilds on the Saturday. More than 400 quilters from 20 Guilds attended this event, and it was here that I gave my talk "Travels with my Treadle", an account of Kitambaa's Sewing and Quilting Project. It's a good thing that a new shipment of placemats, cushion covers, wallhangings and bags is due to arrive next week, as many items have been ordered by those attending this terrific gathering. Stay tuned to this blog over the next few days to see more inspiring photos . . .