Thursday, May 29, 2014

Trees, and Improvisational Quilting

Over the last year or so, I have been looking over the work I have done and thinking a lot about what works best for me. And the conclusion I've come to is that improvisational piecing is the technique that fits where I'm at right now, and what I want to develop further in the next couple of years. I have had the opportunity to be in so many wonderful classes, and been exposed to many possibilities in terms of my quilting. It's very tempting to sign up for yet one more class. But instead I am choosing to narrow my options and improve as much as I can, in working with in this one area.
You will also notice that I've decided to pursue my love of trees. Vancouver Island is such a marvelous place to be to study them. I've bought a little tent trailer so that I can get out and meet more of them in person, and to expand my collection of photos

from which to work. Douglas fir trees are what captivates me right now, and are the basis for both these recent pieces. The first is called "In the North Woods". These are near my home, and where I can be found most days walking my yellow lab, Charlie. The second is called "Windows on My World", and is a reflection on how important these trees are to me.
In coming weeks I will be working on several new pieces - the fabrics are already being gathered for two of these - and invite you to visit my blog, where I'll share how they develop. Basically improvisational piecing means making it up as you go along. When I start, I really have no idea where I'm going to end up. I just begin with sewing little strips together, and take it from there. But more of this in future blogs.
And in case you're wondering, I am still very much involved with the Bitengye Designers in Uganda, and will continue to use this blog for updates on them too.
Talk to you again soon.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

African Attire for Traditionally Built Women

Not long ago, I told you about the workshop that the Bitengye Designers had with Alice, learning how to make dresses as well as jackets, aprons and yoga mat bags. The shipment containing all these items arrived this week, and some friends offered to model some of them for you. The dresses are either a straight cut with short sleeves and rounded neck, or "butterfly design", in which the sleeves are fashioned from fabric at the side of the garment. Joyanne and Hennie (photos 1 and 2) model the straight cut design, while Anne (photo 3) models the "butterfly dress". Nerissa and Jessie are our models for the jackets, based on a Japanese "Happi coat" design. Lastly there is Anne, modeling one of the very popular aprons.
This weekend the Comox Valley Schoolhouse Quilt Guild is holding a Quilt Show in Cumberland, and yes, we have a booth there. In addition to dresses and jackets and aprons, we're selling many of the other items made by the Bitengye Designers. And this is our challenge. We need to find ways to get the amazing times they make out there where the public can see them (and buy
them). Business acumen and marketing are not my strengths, but I feel confident that the product these women now make is of a quality good enough to be of appeal to the general public. The challenge is how to reach them.
Another thing I'm not very good at is modern communications media. (I can barely manage to write a blog with any regularity!) But with a bit of perseverance and lots of determination (read, stubbornness and bloody mindedness), I hope to have items such as these up on Etsy before too long too.
If anyone out there knows of individuals who might be willing to offer their skills and their time to get this ball rolling, I would be most grateful to be put in touch with them. Just email me at
What I would really like you to notice, is how striking and how universally appealing these garments are. Just the sort of thing to change into at the end of a long day taking in a Quilt Show. Cool and comfy - put your feet up, and sip on a glass of wine, while reviewing your impressions and your purchases. Doesn't get
 much better than that!