Friday, July 31, 2009

Quilter's Connection

Excitement is mounting. . . . This September the first issue of the first ever Canadian quilting magazine will be published. It has been birthed from what up until now was a BC only quilt magazine - Connection for Quilters. It was a wonderful little magazine, but it is now time for it to move on, and in its new life, it will be known as the Quilter's Connection, and will be a Canada-wide publication. Kudos to editor Heather McArthur for taking on this exhilirating (if a little scary) challenge! For more information on the magazine, and to subscribe to it, visit their blog at I hope to see as many Canadians as possible give a vote of confidence to this new publication by signing up for a subscription right away. And friends-of-Canada too for that matter. It's just that we've been dwarfed by American publications so long, and now it's time to embrace our own wealth of quilters and quilt artists. And I can't think of a better way to do that than taking out a subscription now. I am honoured that I will have a regular column in Quilter's Connection, entitled "Confessions of an Incurable Quilter". And a new design - "Art Deco Delight" - is being featured in the first issue. So here is a photo of that project, made in colourful primaries first, and then in subtler blues and purples - just to whet your appetite. There will also be a column by Tricia Sherman on quilt shops in Canada, an off-shoot of her hugely popular "Great Canadian Shop Hop" series, and a project by Freckles designer, Dougal Ann Walker. All that and much more.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Journal Quilts

I am one of those quilters who seems to respond well to challenges. The confines of working under specific guidelines narrows my choices and for me, this results in more freedom. Not so many "what if" possibilities dancing around my mind at the same time! So this summer, I decided to undertake the construction of a new series of journal quilts. First I prepared backing, batting and background "sandwiches" - 10 to begin with - each measuring 9" X 11 1/2" (to be trimmed on completion to 8 1/2" X 11"). These are my "canvasses". Then, using the Art Quilt Workbook, by Jane Davila and Elin Waterston to guide me, I decided on 10 exercises:
1. Make a journal quilt in all cool colours.
2. Make a journal quilt in all warm colours.
3. Make a journal quilt in 4 cool colours and 1 warm colour.
4. Make a journal quilt in 4 warm colours and 1 cool colour.
5. Make a journal quilt that uses overlapping as a means to achieve perspective.
6. Make a journal quilt that uses relative size to achieve perspective.

7. Make a journal quilt that uses diminishing detail to achieve perspective.
8. Make a journal quilt that uses temperature to achieve perspective.
9. Make a journal quilt with rhythm.
10. Make a journal quilt with radial balance.
I only allow myself 1 - 1 1/2 hours to make each journal quilt, including binding it (for which I cut strips 1 1/8" wide, sew to the back and bring to the front and machine stitch in place). The two pictured here are my responses to the first two exercises. They're not meant to be works of art, but learning tools. The time limit doesn't allow for me going back and changing things too often, and I find myself working more spontaneously as a result. I'm keeping a little notebook in which I record of my response to each one, including things like lessons learned, and what I might do differently next time. I'm discovering how much I enjoy making small pieces, and how they seem to "prime the pump" for other creative work. I'll post a few more over the coming weeks.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Cushion Covers made by the Bitengye Designers

I thought you might like to hear a little more about the Bitengye Designers, and the Kitambaa Sewing and Quilting Project. You will remember that a shipment of new items arrived in mid-May. It included cushion covers, wallhangings, sets of placemats and Alice's bags. We have been taking these to quilt shows and trunk shows, and they've been selling very well. In fact, Alice's bags have sold out, and one third of the money she needs to start building her new sewing school has been raised. But for those of you in farther flung places, you haven't had the same opportunity to see the products first hand, so here are some photos of the cushion covers. The first photo shows you the design of the cushion covers we have on hand on the left (actual colours vary from cushion cover to cushion cover, as does the size), and one of the "new fashions" made by Alice on the right. And the second photo shows you two other designs that we hope to make with the women on our return trip to Uganda this January. Alice saw me working on one of the sashiko samplers when I was there this year, and asked me if she could make one too. Absolutely, I told her. So she made the one on the left and bordered it with African fabrics, while I made the one on the right and bordered it with Shweshwe and Japanese indigos. The cushion covers are a bargain at $15 each, and are sure to add a touch of colour (well maybe more than a
touch) to any room, and 100% of the profit (after the women have been paid) goes straight back into the project. There are still some wallhangings ($20 each) and placemats (4 for $20) left too, although these are going rapidly. For those closer to home, we will be at the Gibsons Landing Fibre Arts Festival the third week in August, at the Comox Valley Exhibition the last weekend in August, in Grand Forks for their quilt show over Labour Day weekend, and and the Vancouver Quilters' Guild Show in October. Perhaps we'll see you there?So the Bitengye Designers will keep making the same products for sale until our workshop with them at the end of January. Once again we'll be spending six weeks in the country, teaching them new project, looking for ways to improve marketing both inside the country and at home, and visiting the women in their homes. We'll be looking for new types of crafts to teach to new groups of widows, and expanding our secondary school education sponsorships to more of their children. It's only 6 months until we'll back in Uganda, and many preparations still remain to be made. Please know that all your contributions, big and small, make a tremendous difference to these women's lives and the lives of their families. Thank you, once again.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Inspiration From a 92 year old Quilter

Yesterday, early in the morning, an email arrivethat made my day. It was this picture of Blanche, a recent participant in my African Sunshine class. She had been persuaded to take part in the class by her friends, and just look at what she's done! It is such a well-balanced piece, obviously made by someone with her own well-developed sense of colour - someone who has been true to herself in choosing the fabrics she worked with. Paper piecing was a technique that was new to Blanche, but after a bit of a bumpy beginning, she caught on and was away to the races. I love the way her quilt tones in with what she's wearing. I swear, we have a much more develped sense of which colours work together than we ever give ourselves credit for. After all, we get up and put on clothes every morning. Congratulations, Blanche, on your quilt, but even more, on your spunk and your willingness, even at 92, to try something new. You have given all of us something to strive towards.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Paying Attention

One of the amazing benefits of slowing down, is that there is time to pay attention to the world around us. And it is from that place of noticing the insignificant, moving slowly enough to see the detail, that creativity springs. Here is a small fern frond, just beginning to unfurl in the debris of last year's growth.
Here are its cousins, just a little bit older, vibrant green and stong and tall.

And older family members, resplendant and confident, majestic in their summer attire.
And here are the blackberry bushes, making their annual bid to overtake the salal, some of the berries already ripe.
And when not taking time to pay attention to the natural world around me, there is the time to notice the details of other treasures, in this case these carved gourds from Uganda. Barbara Ueland, an older and very wise writer about writing, credits her creativity to the daily walk which was part of her routine. Time to pay attention, she said. To take the time to notice details. In some mysterious way, she was more creative because of it. And we who work with fabric benefit from taking time to pay attention in the same way. What a joy to be travelling a little more slowly through these summer days, to have the luxury of noticing the world around me.