Sunday, March 29, 2009

Women's History Month--Take Three

Well, the month of March is almost over, and I have to admit failure. I just did not have the energy to do research and really put together any decent essays on quilt history. I've grown very sick of the library, and not even for my blog could I drag myself there for any lengthy period of time. I did, however, do some internet browsing and a little extra reading on various topics, so the entire exercise wasn't a complete wash. Plus, I've decided to extend (or rather, remove) the end date. Sometime, when you least expect it, I'll finish up an essay on something fabulously interesting. Just wait.

In the meantime, however, here's a cute little thing that my mother called my attention to. The Schaefer Yarn Company in Interlaken, New York has a series of color concepts for memorable women. Its kinda like roses...different colors and patterns that the company creates are named in honor of special women in history. There are a lot of lovely yarns on their website that you can browse through, but here were a few of my favorites.

(Fabulous woman who endowed Smith College, one of the Seven Sisters)

(Prime Minister of India from 1966 until her assasination in 1977)
(Emperess of Russia from 1762-1796)

Someone stole the iron that was in the laundry room, so no sewing until I either buy one or hunt one down. The universe is conspiring against me...I really meant to get some things finished up this weekend!!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Fabric Friday

Well boo! This was a cruddy week for posting. I have lots of things in progress right now, but nothing in a really postable state. I'll have a big update sometime this weekend hopefully.

In the meantime, however, its Fabric Friday!!! This week, I decided to indulge my inner love of fabric bundles. I love half-yard sets, they are my ultimate weakness. They're all so pretty and full of possibility...

Like this beauty. The Mendocino line by Heather Ross is one that I always am tempted to indulge in. The lovely pastels are contrasted by richer browns and gold and highlighted by splashes of orange and fuchsia. The movement in the fabric is fantastic, and from what I've seen online, it makes amazing quilts!

This Michael Miller set is a favorite too. The prints are cute, and the colors are genius. The chocolate brown keeps the palate from looking too nauseatingly Easter eggish. It adds a richness and depth to it.
And I saved my favorite for last! This Paula Prass Flights of Fancy bundle looks slightly medieval to me, which is probably why I like it soooo much. The modified quatrafoils at the bottom are definitely gothic, and the knot/chain motif on top is very Anglo-Saxon. I can even image seing something similar to the second fabric in the marginalia of a manuscript. The colors make it modern...its a cool contrast between old and new.

Monday, March 23, 2009

If It Rains, It Pours

I seem to have caught swap fever. It started with two fat quarter swaps a month or so ago. Then, I signed up for a virtual quilting bee (kinda swapish), a "Seams To Me" themed swap at Itching 2 B Stitching and now another one with my new blogosphere friend, the 6 o'clock stitch.

I'm super excited for this. Check out the link above for full rules and sign up information, but basically all you need to do is create an 8 by 10 piece of art using any medium to swap with someone else. ANY MEDIUM, so Maggs, feel free to jump in...doesn't have to be textiles! Personally, I love doing little projects like this. I think its nice to take a break from quilts, and think small. Just focusing on a one block, one square, without worrying about how its going to fit in to a larger project, can be really liberating.

I hope you all join us!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Lets Not Quibble Over Definations

I've been making a lot of bags lately. Some might say I'm on a roll. Others might respond that I'm in a rut. Maybe, I'm rolling in a rut...or rutting in a roll. Oh crud, I just said rutting...rapidly retreating here...


This first one is for my mother. Its another variation on my Be Prepared Bag. I added the zig-zag pattern, and made it a bit smaller than usual. I'm pretty happy with it. There are certainly imperfections in the construction (it was my first attempt at zig-zags) but I hope to make another at some point. The fabric all came from my stash which was exciting as well. The blue with brown floral was a swap acquisition and the brown dot and blue swirl came from my scrap bag. I'm very cautious about letting my scraps get out of control (so messy), so I was very excited to find a perfect project to use some up!

This second one is a new pattern I'm working on. My friend Jessye wanted a tote after I showed her all the ones I've been making lately. She wanted hers to be longer than it was tall, however. I told her that could be arranged. As I was making this, it occured to me that its a more "grown up" bag design. I normally make my bags codex style because I intend to use them to carry books. This one's wider design is more suited to life beyond college (again as always, praise the lord above). Its a good size for a pair of high heels, a sack lunch, and a few other odds and ends. It makes me think of being in a city on the metro during the morning commute. In light of that, I wanted to name it The Working Girl's Bag, but then I thought some people might take that the wrong way. Therefore, in tribute to Dolly Parton in all her spangled, lipsticked and hairsprayed glory, I'm christening this The Nine to Five Bag. Bear it in good health Jess.

P.S. I have some more tweaking to do on this design (actually a lot) but sometime in the future, there may be another pattern. Pacify my inner control freak and all that know...

Friday, March 20, 2009

Fabric Friday

You know what would be cool? If I had infinite amounts of money and could buy whatever fabric I wanted...

Like this lovely by Patty Young from her Andalucia line. I've been thinking that I need more tone on tone fabrics in my stash that can be more multi-purpose. This would be a good choice. Its utterly usable and still oh so interesting. There's a little flair of exoticism and the color is to die for.

Here's another tone on tone-ish fabric that would be a must buy (if I was buying fabric that is). I love love love this. It reminds me of those weird little fungi that grow on the side of fallen know what I'm talking about (see picture below). They're kinda gross looking, but they're so tactile. You HAVE to touch them. This is the same way. Highly tactile and highly engaging. I'm having a VERY hard time not buying this one!!!

Weird tree fungi...see the resemblance???

My final pick isn't even close to a versatile tone on tone. This Keri Beyer print is flamboyant and apologetically flashy...just like the peacock it emulates. I'm not sure I'd use this in a quilt though. Imagine trying to sleep with all those eyes watching you. CREEPY!!!! This would make an amazing accent pillow or something though. apron!!!! There's an idea!

As always, click on pictures for original context, and to buy!!! I was going to be dog in the manger-ish and not let anyone else buy my fungi fabric, but then I thought better of it. Quick!!!! Snatch it up before my resolve weakens and I buy it!!!!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Women's History Month--Take Two

I know, I know...I promised a textile history post. I'll get to it...I promise...but its coming a bit slower than I expected. In the meantime, I thought that a post here and there honoring the efforts of different people to maintain and celebrate the interaction between women's history and textiles was in order. I'm starting off with Judy Chicago.

This last weekend, during my mini-vacation in New York City, I decided that I needed to put my money where my mouth is and do something special for Women's History Month. Instead of my planned visit to The Cloisters (I'm a medieval historian...the cloisters are like Mecca) I trecked all the way down to the Brooklyn Art Museum to see a work there that I have long admired.

The Dinner Party by Judy Chicago is an iconic piece of feminist art. The work recognizes (invites to the table) women who have been overlooked, misinterpreted, or undervalued by popular history. 39 women (both mythical and historical) are represented at the table, and the names of 999 others on the floor (names can be found here). It is impossible to understand how powerful this piece is, without seeing it in person. Before going, I had studied the pictures, I had read reviews and explainations, and I thought I understood. I didn't though, and you can't until you're there.

As I walked around the table, reading the names, I felt an odd sort of interaction with it. I felt like I was a server, or maybe an intern who had helped to set the whole thing up...both part of the dinner and yet still seperate. I experienced a little thrill of excitement and pride every time I recognized the name of a woman that I admired who had been given a place of honor. I felt both curiosity and shame everytime I encountered a name that I didn't know. So special a woman, and I didn't know her? That wasn't right! I could have stayed there for hours, starstruck.

Now, I'm sure many of you are thinking to yourself, "this is all well and good, but what the heck does this have to do with textiles." Well now, I'm glad you asked, because this is what makes The Dinner Party so absolutely amazing (at least in my opinion). As a large scale installation, there is no single medium or technique used. Instead, the work is comprised of many materials and methods. Many of the methods used, however, are what are regarded as traditionally feminine arts.

The entrance banners (one of which you see here) are woven.

Each place setting contains a painted china plate and a runner, personalized to fit each woman and her period. The embroidery used in Hildegarde of Bingen's runner, for example, was common in ecclesiastical garments of the medieval period.

Susan B. Anthony's runner contains elements of friendship or memory quilts that were popular at the end of the nineteenth century. Emboidered in the white rays are names of other prominant sufferagists.

The website (which I linked to about a kagillion times) is fabulous. I really encourage you to take a look and enjoy both the beautiful art contained in these textiles and the rich history that they honor. Judy Chicago understood and honored that fact the women's history and textiles are intertwined. Much can be expressed through them, both in the past and still today.

BN: All images are from the Brooklyn Museum webpage. The original context is accessable by clicking the image.

Monday, March 16, 2009

In Case It Hasn't Yet Been Made Abundantly Clear...

I am a complete and utter control freak. COMPLETE.AND.UTTER.

Case in point, I love making patterns. Actually, I don't just love it, I luuuuuurrrrrrve it. Writing instructions, breaking things down into manageable steps, telling other people what to do and having them actually listen...its a dream come true!!! I wish I would have discovered the wonders of writing patterns earlier.

So anyways, here's another one. Humor me...I'm attempting to control the world one pencil case at a time.


Friday, March 13, 2009

Fabric Friday

I was really touched by Jacqui's blog entry on Wednesday, where she thanked a few of the lovely people who have been helping her with Project Improv. Both Kathy at Pink Chalk Studios and Jane at Jane's Fabrics really went above and beyond the call of duty. Quilters really are a special bunch. Jacqui suggested that we consider buying fabric from these two special ladies to thank them for their contribution. I think this is a fabulous idea, but unfortunately, because of the freeze, I trying not to do that. I do want to make my support known, so instead, for this Fabric Friday, I'm doing all my window shopping at these two stores.

My friend Anna actually picked this lovely print out. We were browsing around trying to find more sexy fireman fabric (she wants boxers and a bag) when we stumbled on this one. She absolutely loved it, and as I started to look at it closer, I did too. Its not something I would normally pick, but I think it has a lot of potential. I love how the busy background makes everything blend together. Its only when you really focus on it, that you see all the details. My theory is that if you can't stop looking at it, its got potential. No one wants pretty and forgettable. A little weird and memorable is a far better combination.

My second pick for the week is another funky stripe. Can you ever have too many of these? I don't think so...they're so versatile! This one is from Sue Zipkin's Samba line. I love the way she included triangles and polka dots. Its really cute and fun!

For a while now, I've been wondering if there is something missing from my essential make up. Here it is, the dark truth...idon'tgetthewholefussaboutjapaneseimports...don't judge me! I mean, they're so expensive! I would only get half as much fabric for the same price! I would rather just indulge in Free Spirit amazingness. BUT THEN, I saw this little cutie patutie, and I started to understand why everyone seems to be so gaga. I love those pigs! Look at the spider web on the top one's butt!

Ummm...I just realized as I was looking at these all together, that I have a color scheme going on here. Do you think I have enough blue and purple?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


I just realized that I have yet to post a follow-up to all the swaps that I participated in last month. Gawd, that was dumb. Sorry swap ladies rock.

My swap partner for Darci's swap was Tiny House and man oh man did she hook me up! In addition to these two gorgeous fat quarters, she sent me an adorable pin cushion and pouch! Both are already in use. Plus, the whole package smelled AMAZING.

I also participated in the Sew Mama Sew swap. My first partner, Kate, sent me this awesome package. I love how bright the two fat quarters are. I'm been buying a lot of really low intensity fabrics lately, so these were a nice change. I'm using them in my pencil pouch pattern that I'm working on. They're perfect for it! Kate also included these amazing vintage postcards. I put them in my cubicle at work to jazz it up a bit, and they look so cute there! I just love them.

Sadly, I don't have blog contacts for my other buddies. This beauty is from Kaitlyn. I haven't decided what to do with it yet. I'll try to doodle something up next time I have religion class..:)

These are from Kathy. Again, I was happy to get so many bright prints, since that's a big gaping hole in my stash. I think I'm going to save this for a bit. As soon as I graduate, I'm going to rescue a cat...I've been missing furry companionship lately. This fabric would be perfect for making some pet accessories!

And last, but not least, these are from Katherine. What's really cool about these two fabrics, is that they coordinate amazingly well with my scraps. I don't know how that happened, but it must have been preordained or something. I already cut up the blue to make a new version of my "Be Prepared" bag. My mother was lamenting that she didn't have time to make one, so I thought I'd do it for her. So Ma, you're getting blue and brown with neutral canvas...I hope you like it when its done!

So, thank you, thank you, thank you swap buddies!!! You really went above and beyond the call. My first swap was such a positive one!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Middle School Doodling All Grown Up

I think it was in middle school when paying attention in class all-of-a-sudden became uncool.

Who the heck needs to understand the basics of English grammar...drawing your initials in a heart with those of your latest crush is clearly more important! Jeez...everyone knows that.

One would think that by college, people would be over it though. But people would think wrong. My doodles in first-year statistics were a wonder to behold. Now, however, four years later as a SENIOR (praise the lord) my doodles have evolved. When I sit in my horrendously boring Introduction to Christianity class (which I am being forced to take and am very unhappy about) I make stuff like this...this is doodling all grown up.

I wanted to make something with the scraps from my Alexander Henry "Ready for Action" fabric, but I really had hardly any left. So between answering questions and participating fully in class discussion of course, I designed this little pencil pouch. I sat down and sewed it in just over an hour later in the day. It's cylinder-shaped and is the perfect size to showcase Lars (one of the hunky firemen from the fabric). Construction was a bit tricky, but I think it came out quite well.

Here's a picture of Lars, just because. Isn't he handsome?

Sadly, this is my last sewing project for a while. This week is midterm, and I am swamped. The sewing machine has been put away until after I'm done. Then its Spring Break though, so there is a light at the end of the tunnel!! I'm going to New York for the weekend, and then heading back to school for the duration. I'll sew and watch lots of movies and eat Chinese takeout. Maybe I'll get this little nugas written up in another tutorial. If I get too bored, I have a friend who lives nearby that I can visit. It should be fun...

Friday, March 6, 2009

Tina Givens is the Shit (aka Fabric Friday)

I have officially been bitten by the Tina Givens bug. Seriously, how can one human being hold so much fabulousness? There must be a max volume that one person can contain, and this lady has to be close to it. My fabric picks for this week are exclusively from her collections.

Now, before I get started, I have a tiny, itsy-bitsy, little confession to make. I might have accidentally broken my fabric buying freeze and purchased some of the Treetop Fancy collection. Its totally not my fault though! I heard that the sunset veranda print in the rasberry colorwave was on back order, and I had a panic attack. All of a sudden I was terrified that I would never own the line, and pictures of all the beautiful projects that I could make flashed before my eyes. I couldn't just let the opportunity pass me by!! This was a sign!! I bought a six pack of half yard cuts to calm myself down. It was totally a health issue. Besides, a six pack of fabric is better than a six pack of beer, right? Me=justified. The following things, however, are what I am NOT allowed to buy. Unless I have another health crisis that is.

Yes, those are chadeliers, and yes, I completely love them. It's whimsical and cutsie and romantic without making me want to vomit. This is from the quickly disapearing ZaZu line. Click the picture for a link to a store that still has some, or search around the internet. Its luckily still around.
This next fabric also qualifies for the cutsie sans nauseau title. Actually, that's a theme of Tina Givens' applies to about everything. That's a case it wasn't clear. Anyways, this fabric is from the Cloe's Imagination line, which aparantly was inspired by the garden at Tina's childhood in Africa! This doesn't look particuarly African to me, but whatever...its gorgeous!

This last fabric swatch is from the much adored Treetop Fancy line. I love the window pane motif in it. Again...whimsical. Who can't remember a time when he/she was stuck inside studying for a spelling test, or something equally as attrocious, and was reduced to whistfully staring out the window, longing to go out and play? I'm sure that we've all been there, and this fabric totally goes there too. Its just WAY too cool for school. Plus, it fits in beautifully with my six pack...

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Tutorial is Here!!!

I am so pleased and so excited to share my first original, start-to-finish project with you. The pattern can be found here. Please let me know if there are any problems downloading the pattern, or any confusion with the directions. Once you have finished creating your bag, please consider leaving a comment with a link to a picture. I would love to see what results!

Monday, March 2, 2009

I Betcha Didn't Know...

...that in 1987, Congress declared March "Women's History Month." Being both a proud feminist and a rather historically-minded individual, there is no way in heck I'm passing this up. BUT, since this is technically a craft blog, I'm restricting myself to textiles. That's more than okay though...textile history is really under-acknowledged and there is a ton of cool stuff to talk about! I'm going to try to put together a few posts during the month of March about textiles and their place/impact on women's history. I'm hoping to get to quilts as activism for sure, but we'll see where the spirit moves me.


Textiles are a hugely important part of women's history, first and foremost because of their ubiquity in daily life. Take the Middle Ages for example. Women spent something like 75% of their time in textile production (I can't remember the exact percentage, but its close to that). They raised the sheep, they sheered them, washed the wool, carded the wool, spun the wool, wove the cloth, cut the cloth, sewed the garments and then washed and mended them.

American women, hundreds of years later, were as equally occupied with textiles. Young girls began sewing as early as two or three and continued until they were too old to hold a needle. Women sewed for basic necessity (covering and warmth), they sewed for beauty, they sewed for friendship, they sewed for charity, they sewed for memory, and they sewed for activism.

Much of the history of women is in textiles. While written history is often elitist, textiles have less of that bias. Until recently (and only in certain parts of the world) only a few women wrote while virtually every woman sewed. Stories are often told in textiles that cannot be found anywhere else.

Unfortunately, much of that unique and irreplacable history is already gone. Textiles don't survive well in the archaeological record. After a couple hundred years, its usually game over. There are exceptions of course, but its heartbreaking to think of what was lost. We didn't just lose a smock or a weaving, we lost the history of Ethelfrith and Brunhilde. We didn't just lose a slave quilt, we lost Mary and Tessie. This makes the few textiles that remain all the more precious.

Just as frustrating, however, is the fact that textiles have yet to be recognized for their full scholarly potential. Quilt history, for example, only really emerged after the 1970s, and to this day, the body of scholarship is relatively small. Its getting better, but we still have a long way to go. Quilt history furthermore remains as a specialized branch of historical studies, largely segregated from more mainstream scholarship. If you can show me a general history book of the Civil War that cites a quilt as a source, I'll eat my hat.

A huge portion of women's history is being eaten by moths. A huge portion of women's history is placed out of the mainstream in a specialized branch of scholarship that the general public is largely ignorant of. A huge portion of women's history is disregarded, not through malice, but through ignorance. As crafters and lovers of this legacy, we are the people in the best postition to stop this trend and preserve the histories contained in textiles. Research the heirloom quilt you keep secreted away and share the info via the web. Ask your grandmother about the embroidered sampler she keeps tucked away in her ceder chest. You don't need a phd to do this, you just need to care. Textiles are important. Women's history is important. Please, please, please, lets do something about this.

General Women's History Day Sources:
Library of Congress
The History Channel
National Women's History Project

Reader-Friendly Quilt and Textile History Sources (more to come with each specific topic):
Hearts and Hands: Women, Quilts and the American Society
America's Quilting History

Sunday, March 1, 2009

In the Pursuit of Tote Bag Nirvana

Due in large part to the ever-increasing tedium of winter, the number of tote bags featured in the blogging world has recently exploded. I've been seeing them everywhere. Tote bags mean picnics in the park, afternoons at the beach, shopping at the farmer's market...sun! We're all desperate for it.

I'm no exception. I am currently engaged in a very serious quest to create the perfect tote bag. When summer finally rolls around, I'm going to be ready. I refuse to be one of those people caught flat-footed who have to carry stuff around in old plastic grocery sacks. No, when I go to jazz in the park this summer, I will be ready with my very own "Be Prepared" bag!

Last week I made my first sample with the Alexander Henry fireman pinup fabric. I absolutely loved it at the time and I still like it...its pretty dang cute...but I have since improved my pattern. The new sample I made this weekend is GLORIOUS. I widened the straps, tweaked the dimensions, added interfacing and more decorative elements. I am so close to tote bag nirvana that I can smell it!! .

Meet "Be Prepared" variation two..."KP Patches". (In case you haven't noticed by now, I name everything).

The tutorial that I mentioned previously is still in the works. I have the instructions all written up, I just need to take some process pictures to illustrate them! I hope to have it up by the end of next week.