Tuesday, December 28, 2010

On Our Way to Uganda

So today's the day we leave for Uganda. I'm sitting here in my nightie, not yet fully packed and not quite believing that we're going. It seems to have come up so quickly. Just before we go, though, I wanted to give a huge, huge thank you to all the people who have contributed in so many ways to the Kitambaa Sewing Project. Just to mention a couple - I found the gift pictured above in my mailbox on Christmas Eve. It's from two small children - Hailey and Tanner Sanders - who must have collected small change from friends and family in order to make a donation to the grandmothers. The box of embroidery thread below came our way from the Fredericton
Quilters' Guild. And there have been oodles of dresses and shoes donated by local folks - from the Black Fin Pub and from Comox Massage Centre, to name just a couple. Joan and I managed to get most of these packed into four large totes, and all being well, will meet up with them again in Entebbe.
And then just before Christmas, the last photo was sent to us from Rubingo, where Alice's new sewing school not has had its doors and windows added. It will be terrifically exciting to see it first hand, as well as to see all the Bitengye Designers again. All being well, I will post to my blog several times a week (it always is a bit iffy. So you will be able to follow along on our advantures with us. Until then, thank you, thank you, thank you, for all your support and well wishes and kindnesses to the Bitengye Designers and to us. We will greet the women on behalf of all of you. And have a very Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Three More Africa-Inspired Quilts

I continue to be amazed at the way various quiltmakers use African fabrics to make quilts. The vibrancy of their colours, their energy, their affirmation of life speaks volumes about the human spirit, and the survivor in each of us. The first quilt featured is one of my own. Circles of Kente-inspired cottons have been appliqued to a background of pieced Shweshwe cloth, then surrounded by couched circles of thin strips of veritable wax fabrics. It's called Celestial Dance. Next is an enlarged version of African Journey, made by Lynne Fanthorpe from Coquitlam, B.C. And lastly is a quilt called A Conversation, made by Margaret Kelly from Courtenay, B.C. I was recently invited to write an article for the Canadian Quilter magazine, on using African fabrics in quilts, and these are three of the featured quilts. Look for the Spring Issue of the Canadian Quilter to read this article - a must-have journal for any Canadian quilter.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Little of This, A Little of That

Have I introduced you to the wonderful women from Incomparable Buttons in Johannesburg, South Africa? These are the ladies that make hand-crafted buttons that I am often found selling at quilt shows and in classes. They're fired at very high temperatures, so washing machine safe. Great for knitted items, or in African Collage quilts. Next is a delightful African Collage wallhanging made by Noreen Duncan from Winnipeg. And lastly is a small wallhanging made by Trudy Thorne.

It's just terrific to see so many Africa-inspired quilts, but nowadays so many of us have first or second hand experience of different African countries, so that it's no longer an unusual thing to share stories of time spend on that great continent. In fact when I recently taught my African Collage class in Saskatoon, 11 of the 12 participants had African connections of one kind or another. It's a small world, indeed.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Canvas for Quilting

These photos from Donna James of Nelson, BC deserve an entry of their own. She took my African Sunshine class, and chose a limited palate of dark red, black, pink and sky blue. I honestly wondered how it would work out, but when I saw these photos, I knew she had succeeded. Like Amish quilts of old, her piece became the canvas on which she exhibited her quilting skills. All of it, right out to the feathers in the border, proclaim her skill with a long arm quilting machine. As someone who has limited herself to stitching in the ditch on this piece, this quilt was truly humbling to see. As Donna said, "Can you see now that I make quilts so that I can quilt them?" I see, and am full of admiration. She calls her version of African Sunshine "Kootenay Splash".

Monday, November 15, 2010

African Sunshine

Here is another version of my African Sunshine wallhanging. I've just taught this to the Fraser Valley Quilt Guild, and before that, to my home Guild - the Comox Valley Schoolhouse Quilters' Guild. How's that for a mouthful! I am always intrigued and surprised by how well blocks made by different quilters work together into a whole. The sixteen blocks pictured here were all made by the Comox Valley Guild members. Seeing these should take away any trepidation individuals might have as far as mixing colours. Truly, just about anything goes. The last photo is of the same group after they'd reclaimed their blocks. And already I've had a report from one person in the class, to say that she has made all 16 blocks. As for me? I can't seem to stop making them! They're quite addictive.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Africa-Inspired Quilts, This Year's Grandmothers' Quilt

Many of you have made quilts which have incorporated small pieces of textile art in them, in combination with a variety of African fabrics. This first quilt photo comes from Langa Lapu in South Africa, and contains many lino prints and block prints. We've been importing them from Lembu prints and Langa Lapu for some time, and they have been so successful that we are hoping to teach this skill to the Bitengye ladies, so they can make something similar.

This next "African Collage" was made by Joanne Colleaux, from Armstrong, BC. She and a group of friends got together to work on their own individual pieces, in this case incorporating batiks as well as lino prints and African fabrics.

And how's this for a colourful rendition Africa-inspired quilt? It's a variation of a Rail Fence quilt, and was made by Trudy, Joyanne, Judy, Noelle and Lindsay, a quilt group based in Victoria, BC. And most exciting for us, it's this year's Grandmothers' quilt. This weekend I delivered it to Marilyn Wickes, who has once again graciously agreed to quilt it for us. As soon as this has been done and the binding has been added, we will begin selling "opportunities to own" this quilt. The tickets will be $5 each, and will be sold right up until the time of the Whistler Quilters' Guild show in June of next year, when one lucky person who has made a donation will become the owner of the quilt.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Sue Benner Workshop

Where has October gone? I have been on the road much of the month, and it feels as though time evaporates when that happens. But they have been happy days. First I drove down to Sisters, Oregon with my friend Joan Darling, to attend a five-day workshop with Sue Benner. The class was called Driven to Abstraction, and working from our own images, we were encouraged to interpret it abstractly, using a variety of techniques. The class was rich in information - enough to work with for months to come. I especially liked the notion of doint "studies' - something like journal quilts - to see how various ideas work out. Here are some photos of some of my work, and that of other workshop participants:

I worked from a photo I'd taken when on Saltspring Island last summer - two trees leaning against one another. First I interpreted the photo using unrealistic colours, and simplified lines. Then I looked at the lines alone - a graphic interpretation of the photo. The third study was more realistic in colour, but simplified in line - almost a combination of the first and the second studies. Next was a study broken up into sections by a single tree shape. Then a close-up of one element of the design. I fell most compelled by the third of these, but would like to push these ideas further, before committing to a larger piece

A study of poppies, by another student, Sara.

Karen's studies.

And one of a tropical flowers by Laura.
And lastly, Debra's studies.
If you ever have the opportunity to take a workshop with Sue Benner, I would highly recommend it. She was incredibly generous with her knowledge and experience. And as with many workshops, the things you learn are so often above and beyond the specified subject matter. And to have five days to work on this, uninterupted, was heavenly.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Tanglebank continued

I thought you might enjoy a couple more photos from Tanglebank. There was this lovely little spot called "Meet and Greet", a space provided so that visitors could spend a little time talking to their favourite designers. But the joy of it was that more often is turned out to be a place where the designers themselves could get together for a bit of a visit. So here I am with Joan Darling (my faithful "Worker-Bee"), Cheryl Wall of Country Quilts, and Sue Jensen of Quilted Escapes, enjoying the sunshine and a bit of a chat.
Three of us gave mini-seminars on various techniques. In this case, I am giving a demo on how to make the borders incorporated into my newest design, Geckos in My Garden.
And here is an alternate setting and fabric choice for this pattern. In this case I have used fabrics generously provided to me by Northcott Fabrics - all part of a stunning new fabric line created by Quilt Poetry's Jane Spolar. I think I like this setting even better than the first setting, and now I'm itching to make it up in African Fabrics combined with batiks.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Quilts at Tanglebank

This last Saturday saw Kitambaa Designs at Tanglebank Garden Centre, in Abbotsford. I joined three other designers - Sue Jensen of Quilted Escapes, Dougal Walker of The Freckles Collection and Cheryl Wall of Country Quilts - in exhibiting our quilts and selling our patterns. It was a perfect day - a sunny day sandwiched between two rainy days - and lots of people took advantage of this and joined us for a day filled with demonstrations, book-signings by Cheryl, and wandering around the lovely gardens, where quilts hung on fences, between trees and in the greenhouse.
One of the highlights of the day was viewing the challenge quilts, one designed by each of the four designers. We all started with the same fabrics, but the quilts themselves were quite different from one another. (I wonder if you can guess which was mine???)
Heather from Quilter's Connection was there too, signing up new subscriptions and renewing others, for what is the only non-CQA Canadian quilting publication. For those of you who still aren't subscribers, I would heartily encourage you to take out a subscription, in support for this new magazine.
And yes, this is my challenge quilt, entitled Geckos in My Garden. I had quilt kits for this design on sale at the Show, and still have a few left over, if you're interested. It includes all the fabric required for the quilt top and binding, and is $59. It measures 40" X 55". Let me know by email if you're interested in obtaining one for yourself, and I'll put one in the post to you.
So thank you to all of you who came out for this event. It was great to see many old friends as well as to make new ones.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Colour-full Summer

The warm, bright, colour-full days of summer are passing so quickly. Here it is the middle of August, and I haven't accomplished nearly half of the things I had on my summer "to-do" list. But I have enjoyed myself taking a few mini-holidays. I'm just back home from a trip down Vancouver Island and taking the ferry across to Saltspring Island, then wending my way home through Victoria, Chemainus and Nanaimo - ending with a short trip over to Hornby Island before coming home to rest. Of course it wouldn't be a holiday without checking into fabric shops along the way, and I was delighted to top up my Kaffe Fassett stash at Stitches Quilt Shop on Saltspring

Island, all ready for the next Kaffe-inspired quilt project. Aren't they incredible? I resisted the many fabulous yarns - have resolved not to buy any more of them until I've knit up the yarn I have into warm and cosy (and colourful) socks. I visited the Saturday craft market where there were oodles of tempting wares, from pottery to wild flower filled earrings.
Then on the way home up-island, had a delicious pub lunch at the Crow and Gate in Cedar, where the perennial border was at its finest. This is just a taste of the joys of summer I've been enjoying, along with having time to complete the quilt top
for my daughter and new son-in-laws quilt, and to begin designing some new patterns. Today we booked our return flights to Uganda - Joan and I will be leaving Vancouver on December 28th, and I know the fall will pass just as quickly as the summer, and that before we know it, we'll be winging our way back to the Bitengye Designers. The workshop is still in the planning stages, but I will be sure to let you know some more of the specifics before we leave. In the meantime, I hope each of you is enjoying these last days of summer wherever you are.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Update on the Bitengye Designers

It is now just over 4 months since we returned from Uganda, and thoughts of the Bitengye Designers and the widows and their families are never very far from our minds. We're already thinking about what new projects or designs we will teach the women when we return again in January. Our present plan is to meet with Alice for at least a week before all the other women arrive, so that we can teach her these new things. Then she will teach the other women, with our support, for the workshop itself. But what has happened since we left? Well, we've had 2 large shipments of items, and sales for most of these

is going very well. We now have people in five different provinces helping us sell what they make. Alice has the roof on her school. And at least one of the tourist craft shops in Kampala at which we left their products has sold out of them. We are gradually handing over more of the management of the orders to Alice, with Nightingale (you may remember that she was our wonderful translator this year) and Perez, helping Alice understand and reply to the emails we send to her. In addition to the already sponsored secondary school students we have, we've begun a scholarship to Alice's sewing

school. The first student started in the spring, and now a group of quilters in Whistler has made a second scholarship available. (It cost about $150 for a year's tuition.) We have had two Singer Featherweight sewing machines donated to Alice, and will arrange for these to be set up with solar power when we are next in Uganda. And we have received donations of 5 more sewing machines for next year's project. We are investigating possible new crafts to teach the women, and hopefully a few new women, and will be trying to practice one or two over the summer ourselves, in order to be ready to teach others. A group of quilters in Victoria is busy working on the next raffle quilt, and framed batiks will soon be available for purchase. Thank you to all of you who are supporting this very small grass-roots project. As most of you know, we raise all our own funds to carry on with this, and couldn't do it without the help of so many of you. So, many, many thanks to each and every one of you.

Monday, July 12, 2010

African Jigsaw

This spring saw a marvellous collaboration between Alice, the Coordinator of the Bitengye Designers, and the Victoria Children's Choir. Word reached Eric Allen that Kitambaa was working with this amazing group of women, and he thought how wonderful it would be if the choristers not only sang about Africa, in their performance, African Jigsaw, but also wore shirts made by women in Africa. After some discussions around style and colour, he
entrusted the undertaking to Alice and the Bitengye Designers. We transported the colourful shirts back to Canada with us in March, and now here are some photos of the Victoria Children's Choir performing in their Uganda-made garments. What a sight they must have
been! The choir was delighted with the shirts, and with the overall impact of seeing all the children dressed in them while they performed. And Alice, who did most of the sewing, was equally delighted that the funds from this one project, would pay almost half of the amount she needed to put a roof on her new sewing school.
One postscript to this story - a teacher who was in the audience at the performance had been staying at Canada House in Uganda, and had seen them. But she didn't put two and two together until she saw African Jigsaw and recognized them from her time there. It's a small world indeed!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A Wedding in the Family

There are some of you who are wondering if I've given up on blogging, or worse yet, disappeared from Kitambaa and the quilting world. Let me assure you that it was only a temporary absence, while we prepared for and then celebrated the wedding of my daughter Emily, to Michael Beausoleil. (I had determined that I would never write on this blog about anything but quilting and the Bitengye women in Uganda, but this is an exception that I hope you will allow.) It was a wonderful wedding, almost magical. Someone said it was Narnia-like, or Tolkein-esque. The Woodland Gardens where the ceremony and reception were held was absolutely perfect. We hung flowers from the trees and filled a medley of other vases with more wild flowers and peonies and roses. Emily looked stunning in her dreamed-for Art Deco style silk dress, and she and Michael beamed through the whole thing.
After the ceremony itself, the words of which brought tears to many of us, there was croquet on the lawn, and bocce, and a photo booth set-up where many chose to have their portraits taken. My son Ben and his Emily are pictured here in the booth. There was a fabulous meal, with salmon cooked on cedar planks by one family friend, and served by the marvellous ladies of my Book Club. Followed by dancing, surrounded by paper lanterns and flowers, and where the old folks got out first to show them how it's done. All in all, it was marvellous, and yes, magical, a family celebration we will remember for a long time to come. And I hope that those of you who follow this blog, will accept this as my humble apology for not staying in touch more regularly over the last month. Some things take precedence, and this, for sure, was one of them. Thank you for the patience of those of you who have waited longer than you should have had to for responses to your emails, and apologies to those of you whose orders took longer than I would have wished to fill. I am back in the saddle now, smiling quietly to myself from time to time, and once again dreaming of new quilts and new designs and new fabrics to cut apart and sew together once again.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Thrill of a Challenge

Since "Challenges" first came into being, they have become a venue for testing one's own creativity, and enjoying the creativity of others. Most challenges are based on the use of a few pre-selected fabrics, and sometimes a specific theme is chosen. Quilters are invited to make one-of-a-kind pieces in response to both of these. These photos were taken of challenge quilts made by the Manitoba Prairie Quilters, from Winnipeg. The rules for their challenge were simple. Participants were to use black and white and one other colour, and to limit themselves to a total of five fabrics. The diversity of the quilts they made is testament to the artistry of the participants. And the collection as a whole was amazing. All were offered for sale by silent auction, and excitement mounted as the deadline for voting drew closer. I would love to have had a successful bid on any number of them, but while I didn't go home with one myself, enjoyed seeing the smiles on the faces of those who did.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

A Door for My House

Finally, my piece for this year's effort of the North Island Quilters for Community Awareness, is completed. Better late than never. More than fifty individual pieces have been made, each one reflecting the artist's interpretation of this year's theme for the Stephen Lewis Foundation - Turning the Tide. Each one is astounding, personal, and speaks of the hope and positive change that is happening among the women of African, in spite of, or because of HIV/AIDS. All sorts of techniques and materials have been used to convey the story of what is possible, "one ripple at a time". The collection has already begun its tour throughout western Canada, and if you have the opportunity to see it, I would encourage you to get out and do so. A full catalogue of the pieces and the venues in which they will be displayed can be seen on the website - www.glaciergrannies.org. As for my piece, the central block is based on a photograph I took of Alice teaching the other Bitengye Designers how to thread a treadle sewing machine. The blocks surrounding it. tell the

story of the way life has changed for these amazing women, since they have learned how to sew. It illustrates the things they have been able to purchase, since they started to have an income. Annah told me she'd bought a cow, Knight bought a bed for herself, and Rechael bought a door for her house. A book has been published containing photos of the entire collection, and can be purchased wherever the quilts are being showcased. And all proceeds will go to the Stephen Lewis Foundation, which continues to support widows and grandmothers, and orphans affected by HIV/AIDS. If you haven't already read it, I would suggest you get

yourself a copy of "Race Against Time". Stephen Lewis articulates the difficulties in combatting this pandemic as few others have. And despite the frustrations in so doing, continues to remember the women of Africa, and to do what he can, what his Foundation can, to "Turn the Tide". And while it is a wee drop in the bucket, the Bitengye Designers are doing that too. I applaud both of them from the bottom of my heart!