Friday, December 30, 2011

Time to Reflect

The end of a year is a time when I like to think back over the last twelve months, and reflect on those things I have managed to do, and those things that still remain undone, and make a few choices about what comes next. I don't like the idea of New Year's resolutions - I'm so lousy at keeping them - but I do like to set quilt-related goals for the coming year. To begin the process, I first think about those quilts I am most pleased to have made, and these are the three that came to mind this year. The first one is called "Just for the Joy of It", because that's what it was. I made all sorts of log cabin blocks, using fabrics from my scrap box. Some had diamond shaped centres and some had door shaped centres. I kept making them and joining them to one another until the quilt seemed about the right size to snuggle under when I'm reading a good book. It has gone to live in my cabin on Hornby Island. What did I learn from making this quilt? That I am thrilled to use up little bits of leftover fabrics from projects made many years ago. Each time I reach into the pile, it's like encountering old friends. That I enjoy intuitive piecing, in which I don't really know what the
outcome will be; that it's the process of asking myself "shall I use a little of this or a little of that?", of deciding quickly, or risking not
not knowing what it will be and then being happy with the outcome. So whatever else I choose to do this year, I would like to make more
quilts like this one. The second quilt is "Encounters with Kente", a piece in which I was inspired by an original piece of Kente cloth purchased while in Ghana, in designing an original accompanying piece, while remembering the crowds and heat and colour of Ghana. I sold this piece the first time it was shown, so haven't had the opportunity to live with it, but felt so alive while I was making it - there was a "rightness" to a move in that direction - that I am now committed to making more pieces in what I now see as a series. The third quilt was finished this year, although it was started some time ago. It's called "Celestial Dance", and I've shown a close-up photo as well as one of the whole quilt. When I learned to "couch" threads in a Carol Taylor workshop, I had no idea where it would take me. I have adapted her method and made it my own, and am using the small folds of fabric cut when I am making up "fat quarters". I have made other smaller pieces using this technique, and in the coming year, plan to make other larger pieces. You will notice that I've also used it in "Encounters with Kente". So this is how far I've got so far in my end-of-year, taking-stock/listing accomplishments/setting goals for the new year process that I'm goind through. I would love to hear back from any of you who go through a similar process yourselves. And of variations in this practice. Thanks for letting me share my own.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Other Africa-Inspired Quilts

I hope you have all enoyed a wonderful Christmas, full of all the good things that bring us together - especially friends, family, food. And that you have been enjoying a relaxing Boxing Day - tidying up the leftover bits of paper and ribbon, cleaning up the remaining turkey and trimmings, bringing back some sense of order to your home and life. Boxing Day is one of my favourites of the year - I indulge in reading a good book, doing a Sudoku or two, and possibly bringing out a new jigsaw puzzle to try. It's also been a day to begin thinking about what I want to work on next - which quilts I have managed to work on this year
and which quilts I hope to work on during the coming year. I thought you would enjoy seeing a few previously unposted Africa-inspired quilts, to get your own creative juices going. First is Sandy's African Collage piece - beautifully balanced, and most effective in showcasing the African art work. Next is Margaret Kelly's scrap piece, which I might have showed you before. It's been donated to the Kitambaa Sewing project, and will be quilted and bound shortly, with Opportunities to Own it being offered to you whenever it makes an appearance.The next two photos show the front and detailed quilting on
Janet Archibald's African Collage. Just gorgeous, Janet. She took the motifs from around the silk-screened animals and used them as the inspiration for the quilting designs she used in her border. And lastly are three little hut Christmas ornaments - made by the Niger quilters I introduced you to earlier this month. Perhaps they might be a fund-raiser for us for next Christmas? I also wanted to let you know that most of the money to finish Alice's new sewing school has now been raised. Christmas sales were terrific! There have also been donations of 5 new sponsorships for students to her school, and several donations of sewing machines, so that graduating students can be provided with treadles, fabric and thread as they begin their own businesses. My husband will be leaving for Uganda the day after tomorrow, and will be gone for 4 months. He is taking new "fashions" for Alice and her students to start producing, as well as some of the fabric they need for borders, new sewing machine
needles, more embroidery floss, and various other things for the Bitengye Designers. He will be seeing all of them at one time or another, so will send photos that I will then be able to pass on to you. Thank you to all of you who have continued to support this work, and who have bought items made by these remarkable women, and so have enabled them to provide for their families in all the ways we take for granted we can provide for our own families. You have truly made a difference in their lives!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Quilters in Niger, and other news

Recently I received a very interesting email from Shannon - a quilter from Niger in West Africa. Her mother had purchased my It Takes a Village pattern in the US, and she sent me photos showing me a couple of ways it had been used with local fabrics, as well as telling me about the quilting going on in that part of the world. The first photo is Shannon's own design, based on an enlarged version of my African hut. Then there is 10-year old Micah, with his very own Village Quilt. And the third photo is of an auction quilt, made by Shannon's quilting group to raise money for a local school. Thanks so much for writing, Shannon, and telling us all about yourselves. It's pretty exciting to hear, and encouraging to us too.

Then there is this lovely photo of a very happy Nerissa (from the Comox Valley), the proud owner of this year's Opportunity to Own quilt. (I hope the dog is only invited onto the quilt on rare and very special occasions, Nerissa!) And the last photo is of our sweet Nora - now 5 months old and chewing on everything in sight. She's just delightful - smiling readily, gurgling and chortling, and especially happy when she is in her jolly jumper. I was able to visit her earlier this week, and to help out by looking after her for a few hours at a time. Now I am back home again resting up for their Christmas visit to us. One last note. When I posted the photo of Gladys's winning 12 X 12 quilt on my last blog, I neglected to link you to her own blog - http://www.fibresoul.blogspot,com/ - where she describes her process in making this piece. My apologies for not including that info earlier.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Water Challenge Quilts - The Group formerly known as TheTamagawa Textile Artists

I returned this week from a quilting retreat at Honeymoon Bay Lodge. Eighteen of us, most of whom have been going on retreats together for the better part of 10-15 years, experienced a new venue for us, and it was a great success. Queen sized beds for all (no more bonking our heads on upper bunks), a hot tub, cosy common rooms and catered meals. It was great. There was even a massage therapist on site! It was great to see everyone, and what they were working on, and once again to vote on the challenge quilts. This time the theme was water/the coast, and it was interpreted in a number of
different ways. I'm only able to show you a few of them here. Some were in a 12" X 12" format, while others grew to be the size they wanted to be. We had winners in both categories - Gladys Love's in the "12 X 12 category" - its the last shown here, and incorporates a slice of stone from the Lower Mainland. Just gorgeous! And in the "Other size" category, the winner was Carol Seeley's polar bears. Her hand applique is exquisite, and the theme of polar bears who are becoming homeless as the polar ice cap melts, is beautifully portrayed. I feel so fortunate to be amongst these friends - such a creative group - twice
a year. Nothing like the creative energy that abounds at such a gathering.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Pumpkin Seed Quilters and Boundary Bay Quilters

To continue where I left off - my week of travels began with two most enjoyable events. First, there was the Pumpkin Seed Quilters Show and Sale. This is a group of quilters whose purpose is solely to make charity quilts. This year saw them making more than 500, which are then distributed to several worthwhile causes. I was invited to attend with my Bitengye items, in which there was lots of interest (see the two happy shoppers, picking up Alice bags for their two daughters).

Then it was off to Tsawwassen, where I taught a one-day Ferns and Flowers class. So many colourful quilts were in process by the end of the class. I can't wait to see them finished! And now I'm home again for the rest of the year, and nearly giddy with all the possibilities dancing through my head. I just had a few days on my own on Hornby Island, playing with fabric and reading, walking down to the beach with our dog. But I forgot to take a sketch book with me, and could hardly sleep last night, thinking about what I might make next and getting home to write them down before they depart like fairy dust. It was storming like mad - a true south-easterly - in fact I think I was on the last ferry off Hornby before they shut down the ferries - but it felt like a sunny day in Mexico to me.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Fall Visits to Vancouver and Victoria

After a week of travelling, I'm happy to be back home again, and ready to work on all those things that were put on hold while I was busy teaching. One thing that couldn't be put off during the fall, though, was Nora's quilt. And I came home via Victoria so that I could deliver it to her in person, and have a little visit at the same time. I think she liked the pink bunnies, as she was already dressed in coordinating clothes. At four months now, you can see that she's thriving - a happy baby, giggling away as her father (Ben) tickles her tummy. I also managed to fit in a visit to one of my daughters - Emily - and we had a delicious time walking through the leaves that were covering the ground - red and green mixed together - the aftermath of the previous day's storm. Another highlight was discovering a new fabric store - A Spool of Thread - at Fraser and 15th. It's actually called a Sewing Lounge, and is high and open and well lit, and full of bolts of modern fabrics as well as solids (which was what I was looking for). An inviting gathering place for young people to learn how to sew, with a full slate of classes on how to make pajama bottoms, or
pillow slips or bags. It was refreshing to see young people engaged in these activities, and made me feel as though the baton has been passed to the next generation.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Alice Bags at Aspen Park School

Sarah, Gabby and Max are three Grade 6 students at Aspen Park School who, along with their class, are looking for ways to make a difference. They're learning about the world community, as well as the local community, and already proving the old addage that even one person can make a positive difference in the lives of others. Just over two weeks ago, I was invited to speak to this class about the work I do with the Bitengye Designers in Uganda. I showed them photos of the women at work, and shared their stories, ending by showing them some of the crafts the women make in order to provide for their families. Well, Gabby and Sarah, with their teacher's encouragement, went to other classes in the school, telling them what they'd learned, and particularly about the bags I've been selling to raise money to build Alice a new sewing school. They took orders from anyone who wanted to buy a bag, and took my breath away when I heard they'd raised over $800 in Alice bag sales - enough for her to buy many of the supplies she needs to finish the interior of her school. Today we delivered the bags, and other items, to the school. And cleaned us out of Alice bags
almost entirely!!! A most happy event. Many of the bags were purchased as gifts for family members, and others will become their school bags. Sarah and several others have been using Alice bags in just this way for sometime, and it seems it's become a bit of a fashion statement within the school. And what a difference it will make to Alice! And what a wonderful thing for these young people to have done. Next on the agenda, I understand, is a presentation Sarah, Gabby and Alex will be making at one of the local high schools. Congratulations to all of you!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Collaging with the Blue Mountain Quilters

I'm just home from teaching another class of African Collage - still one of my all-time favourites. This time I was with the Blue Mountain Quilters in Port Coquitlam. I was thrilled to see the amazingly different quilts develop, and to witness the creativity of each and every person in the class. They all started with the same fabrics, more or less, but tackled the questions of how to bring balance to the different design elements in their work, of deciding what "worked" and what didn't, in their own personal ways. For some, the process of designing their own quilts was quite new, but they
were all enthusiastic, and I can't wait
to see photos of the individual wall-hangings when they are finished. In the top photo, Brenda and Gail are deciding where best their pieced borders might fit, and in the next, Janet and Mary Ann are figuring out how to put an unconventional top on Mary Ann's piece. Works in progress by Carol, Brigitte and Louise are also pictured. All in all, it was a great weekend, complete with a Trunk Show and an evening dinner at the home of the President (Louise) I'd like to thank you all for being so welcoming. It really was a treat to spend the weekend with you.

Friday, October 28, 2011

A New Shipment from the Bitengye Designers

Just before I left for Canmore and Calgary, a new shipment of goods made by the Bitengye Designers arrived. This is always exciting. We unpack the large posho (cornmeal) sacks in which they come, and look to see who made what, and to exclaim over colours and fabrics and the women's craftmanship. We check off the order against Athens carefully listed inventory, and then begin taking them out to various sales. This being the season for Christmas sales, is our busiest time of year. We were delighted to receive cosmetic bags (we'd sold out of these), paper bead necklaces and beaded bracelets, as well as being able to replenish supplies of Alice bags in two different sizes. Trudy Thorne continues to be the one looking after all this inventory, and re-orders items from Athens whenever the stock is getting low. Athens then contacts Alice with the order, and Alice divies up the work amongst all the Bitengye members. You can also see that lots of paper bead necklaces and bracelets arrived in this same shipment, and soon - very soon - we will have the new and improved Kitambaa and Bitengye website up and running, so that you will be able to
order these items directly from the web, using paypal, if you're not close enough to attend one of the sales where these products will be sold. The great thing in all of this is how well all the women are doing, that the order system we set up is now working well, and that we're able to communicate with Alice via emails to Athens during the year, as well as when we travel to Uganda. Thanks again to all of you who support this project. Nothing would have been possible without all of you.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Time Flies . . .

What have I been doing lately? Something I've never done before - taking an online class through Quilt University. The class was called Working in a Series, and it was instructed by Elizabeth Barton. What I hadn't reckoned on, was how totally absorbing it would be. I've posted a few photos of the sketches I made in class, which give you a hint of where I'm headed, but are only the beginning. Elizabeth gave us so much material to work with, referred us to many artists (quilt artists and other artists) who work in series, and I haven't quite finished it even now. Life intervened too, of course - visits to Nora and her parents in Victoria, the FAN (Fibre Art Network) retreat in Naramata, BC, teaching on Mayne Island and again in Canmore and Calgary this coming weekend. You know how it happens. I feel I learned so much and am looking forward to working with what I learned for weeks to come. More on that later. I'm also reading a book on creativity that recommended to me - Fearless Creating, by Eric Maisel - and there is lots of meat in this as well. Fall always seem to be a time of re-evaluating for me, this year as much as any. For
those of you who receive Robert Genn's Newsletter, you have already read a profound quote from Steve Jobs of Apple fame. But I think it bears repeating here: "Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything - all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important." And "Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the
noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your own heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary."

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Visit to Mt. Vernon, Washington

Last weekend saw me in Mt. Vernon, Washington, where I was the guest speaker at a meeting of the Northwest Quilters Connection (NQC). This is a group of quilters from BC and Washington. I was to give them an update on the Bitengye Designers, the group of women I teach sewing and quilting to, in Uganda. My car was full of their samples - everything from jewellery pouches to quilts. Well, sadly it was my turn to get stopped at the border. After more than an hour, I was told that while I was welcome in the US, my samples were not. I phoned Arlene in a panic - she's one of the organizers of the group, on the Canadian side of the border.
Thankfully she had not left home yet, and I was able to drive up to her place, drop off all the Bitengye items, and drive back down to Mt. Vernon with my Powerpoint presentation. I had the great pleasure of staying with Patty and Bill Mitchell in Bellingham, and that's where these photos are from. Patty has ventured into various ways of quilting, and these are just three examples of her work. I am particularly drawn to "The Corn Maidens", the second very graphic quilt made up in the colours of the Southwest. There are elements in this that look almost African. Thanks for letting me post these, Patty, as well as calming me down after my border-encounter. The last photo is of Nora, now two months old. I managed to route my return to Vancouver Island via Victoria, so I could fit in a quick visit to her (and her parents too, of course). She's smiling and starting to coo when you sing to her, and beautifully healthy. (I'm not sure I should be using the blog for family photos, but I heard from a little birdie that there was someone in particular from southern Ontario, who wondered why there hadn't been more pictures of Nora. I'm more than
happy to post them from time to time.)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

More From APWQ

Here are a few of the APWQ juried entries that particularly caught my eye. This first one is called Mitchell's Awesome Mexican Adventure, and was made by Faith McLeod from Delta BC. I love the way it captures the sense of the wind, the sun, and the colour of the parrots. It has a lovely border treatment too, as well as being marvellously quilted. Next is Barb Shapel,s heron quilt (I forget the exact title of this, unfortunately). The quilting was exquisite, but the composition itself was so also compelling. Without that red tree in the background, and the vertical shading in the fabric, the quilting itself would not have been so successfully
supported. The applique quilt pictured was in a class
of its own,
and again, I have come away without writing down the name of the maker (can anyone out there help me with this?). It wasn't a prize winner, but was so exhuberant, so representative of the Hawaiian flowers the artist recalled in making it. The final photo is called Natural Wonders, and was made by Kathy McNeil from Tulalip, Washington. The close-up gives you some idea of the attention that has been given to detail included in this work.Everything is so realistic, and her use of value is so masterful, that you almost feel you are there. One of the things that surprised me about many of the entries in the APWQ, was how densely machine quilted many of them were. There were many instances in which this supported the quilt, but sometimes I felt that it was overdone, and overwhelmed the quilting. However even in the traditional category, the extent of the hand quilting blew me away.