Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Melbourne Trunk Show and Up coming events

The Melbourne Trunk show is booked and ready to go.
Its going to be a huge 2 days.

Its at Quilts in The Barn in Wonga Park.

The lovely Linda also has some antique quilts, blocks and other fab goodies from Mary Koval as well available.

Kicking off at Noon on Friday the 9th of May til 7pm and Saturday 10th of May 10am til 4pm.
23 Hartley Road in Wonga Park.

Up Coming Dates:

Geelong Quilt In
Saturday, 17 May
9.30 am – 4.00 pm
South Barwon Civic Centre
Cnr Reynolds Rd & Princes Hwy, Belmont 

"Old Days, New Ways"
Sat 14 & Sun 15 June, 2014
Sunbury Memorial Hall, Stawell Street, Sunbury
Sat 9am - 4pm; Sun 10am - 3pm

Essendon Quilters
""Stitching Our Stories Exhibition
Friday 4 July to Sunday 6 July 2014
Sports and Performance Centre
Moonee Ponds Primary School,
Wilson Street, Moonee Ponds 3039

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A Bobbin a Day Keeps the UFO at Bay....

I have been trying to get more disciplined with my quilt making. I am between studios at the moment as we fit out the new one. So i'm working on the kitchen table. Its a bit cramped but it makes you really aware just how much you have bitten off and if its more than you can chew.

I have 4 projects on the go at the moment. I know thats not a lot for some of you, but its a lot for me. Especially in a very small temporary work space.

The one I am really trying to make a dent in at the moment is my Postage Stamp Quilt. Its 1.5 inch, finished 1 inch squares. Also, its for our bed so its going to be a large queen size quilt. So... when I do the math.. this is what it needs...7,744 squares. Thats quite a few.  Then the back, then the quilting.

I started this one on the election day last year and jokingly thought to myself to have it done by the next election...4 years. So I started cutting squares while I was doing other work and filling preserving jars. When they were full, i'd start stitching them into 2 patch.

The start....the jars to be filled
I would go through all my orphan blocks, all UFO's and any other scrap and cut the squares. I keep a large mixing bowl at my cutting area. After cutting other things, the scrap goes in the bowl till its full.

The mixing bowl. I like using bowls as I can dig my hands in.
A bit of everything.
My bobbin a day came from chain piecing. If I could just stick it out for a whole bobbin's worth of sewing I could at least make some sort of progress for this quilt. I am determined to get it done. I have wanted a postage stamp quilt for ever and a day and I have never found one. I have seen them, but not for sale. I also have to find my quilts. They need to cross my path. So, I'm doing my own. And for me its a bit of a journey and its a record of the fabrics that have passed through my studio, my collection and the print archive. I hope to be able to see this quilt as a bit of a snap shot of my fabrics and adventures over time hunting them down.

Chain piecing a bobbin a day
So now I'm onto my 5th jar of squares and i'm about a quarter of the way through this quilt. I have got them into 4 patch now, they are squared and trimmed and ready to be made into 16 patch. Then I will work out a bit of an arrangement of those.
4 patch ready to go
I am really trying to be very random about this quilt. I am trying not to look too closely at the patches as I assemble them. I want this to look very hap-hazard. As a graphic designer I was trained to be very methodical and precise about things. I am trying through making this quilt to become a bit freer. It's hard at times and I do chuck the patch back in the pile and go find another to make a more pleasing arrangement but in a way I feel I am not sticking to being random and free if I do that. I am trying to un-learn a bit. And to just let the scrap do its thing.

Monday, February 17, 2014

WIn The Trunk of Vintage Fabric Love

I know that all you guys are scattered all over the globe and that many of you can't make it to the trunk show coming up on the weekend of the 1st and 2nd of March.

But do not fear, you have a chance to win your own Trunk of Vintage Fabric Love.
Yep, all you need to do is jump on Instagram and find me here @apieceofcloth or on Facebook here and find the giveaway post and share and #trunkofvintagefabriclove to enter.

Pretty simple yes. Winner drawn on 1st March 2014

So the Trunk prize is valued at over $400 and there are 10 runner up prizes of swatch packs up for grabs.

Whats in the Trunk...
10 Swatch Packs
2 Vintage Quilt Block Packs
1 Vintage Scrap Pack
1 Dresden Plate Pack
1 Milk Bottle
1 Suffolk Puff Pack
1 Strip Cushion Kit
1 Vintage Trim Pack
1 Vintage Button Pack
1 Vintage Buckle
3 Spools of Cotton Perle thread
1 Vintage Wooden Spool
1 Pair of 1940s Fabric Ties
1 Dress length of 1960s Cotton Crepe
1 Length of 1940s white Cotton
5 Vintage Dress Patterns
1 Vintage Aunt Marthas Quilts Book
1 Cloth + Co Cushion
And the Trunk

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Textile Travelling...On the Hunt...and in the Trunk...

I spend a lot of time hunting. Well I call it hunting. Why, because you have to hunt things out. You need to go far afield, look in unlikely places to find the treasure tucked away. Scratching the surface doesn't deliver the gems, perhaps the fools gold but not the pot of gold.

I think this bug has been in me since I was a child. I was always finding things that perhaps I shouldn't...like santas presents before christmas or my brothers hidden cigarettes.

But it gave me the nose (and its kinda a big one) to sniff things out. Curiosity and a healthy desire to learn the how, what, when and why made me a traveller. Not only of places but of the stories that come with the people and history. Match that with my other love, textiles and its a beast that needs to be fed, the itch that needs to be scratched. Maybe when I am old, I can look back on this as my life's work.

On this recent trip I caught up with many people I have met over the years feeding this need. People with amazing stories. The more I get to know these amazing ladies the more I learn about pushing past the barriers and becoming fearless. Becoming honourable. Becoming the best of what you do. Being and doing good in business. Surviving in the big sea. I am now a strong swimmer thanks to these ladies. I learn from them more and more. I look up to you and I thank you for taking me under your wings.

But as much as I go far afield physically and have my head stuck in a history book reading and learning about the stories of the past so I can understand more for the future, there is one common thing. Its a thread. I find this thread where ever I go. It's something that binds us together. A language you can speak even if you do not know the words. It can be shown with your hands, it can be shown through the motion of acting out the mime of picking up a needle and thread and pretending to sew. It is universal. Every country and every culture has some form of textile story.

When I travel I collect these stories. The ones about great grandmothers who made the finest laces.  The tablecloths that were embroidered by grandmothers. The weaving done by a tribe or the dyeing done by a family. A textile heritage is there. From the wrappers worn by statuesque African ladies to the tight skinny jeans worn by the teenager down the road, its all a textile. The shirt on our back as much as its a necessity for modesty can also be a work of design or a feat of human hand. The survival of haute couture requires the finest hand workers as machines are not allowed. So many stories of the past talk of innovation and progress. But at the same time mechanisation and industrialisation is also killing age old traditions and skills.

Some of the saddest things I have seen are the closing and dying out of traditional skills as Chinese manufacturing pushes into traditional areas. The weavers who support their villages being replaced by Chinese polyesters printed to look like the traditional textiles of the region - this is happening in Vietnam as the traditional Hmong weavers are being pushed out to cheap Chinese imports. In Africa the traditional wax cloths as now screen printed in factories in China and are being sold into the region cheaper than they can be produced locally killing off local industry and jobs. Even in our own country we have lost our local textile industry. One such practice is to send boat loads of unprocessed wool full of grease and grit from the shorn sheep over to china for cleaning and processing then shipping it back.

These are only 3 examples of many....

So I collect textiles and the stories that go with them. I find the original examples of human ingenuity before Chinese and computerised mass production took over. People wonder why I collect early printed textiles. I do so because to me they are clever. Done without the aid of a computer. Hand drawn designs and repeats carefully worked out. The screens separated by talented technical artists who split the colours into the separate screens for printing. Engravers who etched the plates by hand. All coming to together to create prints that flow beautifully with an effortless quality and organic line that can only be achieved by hand. The first of the trends and design eras, colours and technological advancements. We have had more advancement and movement in history in these last 100 years or so than any other period in history. Thats exciting.

The other reason I collect early printed textiles is the design and innovation that goes behind them. How technology and its effects on social history brought forward trends and milestone moments in history. As simple as a particular colour being able to be produced successfully starting a fashion trend and the age of new technology. Perkins Purple is an example of this. Even good old black was not an easily obtained colour that was stable until the early 1890s when 'Direct' black was created. Orange is another that set the world on alight with bright happy joy in the 1920s. Why the 1930s was mute and pastel was they could then produce those hues with stability and success. I just find this stuff really interesting. I like how curiosity and invention shapes the way we create things. These days we can have what ever we want. Sort of takes the fun out of it really.

So my thirst for finding the most interesting, clever, quirky, technically wonderful or down right wacky original print textiles continues. And I am sharing them with you.

Come to the special trunk show on Saturday and Sunday the 1st and 2nd of March at the Ceres Township Sunday School Hall.

Friday, January 31, 2014

On the Road Again....in more ways than one...

The studio is on the move. We are packing up and moving to a new location. We just need a few weeks to get ourselves settled, re-stock the shelves and re-open. (And paint, and polish the floor and all sorts of other must do but less interesting things that I won't bore you with)

We are also doing another buying trip in the USA as well so there will be lots of new exciting vintage fabrics, quilt tops, feed sacks, quilt blocks and other interesting odds and ends to stuff the shelves with. That I will entertain you with.....

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Dear Retailers....

I am quite proud of myself that I didn't spend any money in the Boxing Day sales. This is my ode to retail…and my pledge and New Years resolution all rolled into one.

Dear Retailers….it takes far more than your emails to tempt me….
perhaps they did once
but it now takes more than 25% to make me click 
And bonus offers…do you think i'm a dick?

As we wade through the sea of polyester with no choice
Where is the cotton, the wool and the silk?
Or through Faux and PU which really is EWWW
I will opt  at last resort for rayon or viscose if you will

I ask you where is the quality
Where is the choice
You want me to buy
But there is nothing worth the look

I try to give you money
I walk through your stores
I want something nice
That doesn't constrict my curves

I do not want body con
I do not want Tizz
I do not want Skimpy
or to show off my mid riff

Every week more crap is designed
It piles onto shelves in quantity more than demand
As more and more same same but different is created
we forget which store as its all in a blurr

Your sales are where the polyesters and Faux's go to die
Their grave yard is land fill
Their tomb stone says fast fashion
Were they too young to die?

Give me something more
Give me some choice
Give me some quality
Give me what I want

So you wonder why I shop online
Why I buy from other countries
You whinge an whine that I don't support you
and ask for government subsidies

If you only listened to the consumer
The ones who have the cash
You would find that they do have wants 
But you are too dumb to act

You think I want cheap
You think I want heaps
I just want a nice few things
that don't fall apart in 3 weeks

I will live in my jeans
I will seek out leather shoes
I will buy quality when I find it 
and buy it in droves

So until then I will make it myself
Or support independent local makers
I will buy good tailoring, Country of Origin and natural fibres
I will opt for quality and not quantity
Go for classic not fast
I will invest in good basics that will last

I will make this pledge for 2014
I will make this pledge my principal
I will not consume fast fashion
I will not consume badly made

I will opt for the best I can afford
I will opt for well designed
I will opt for quality over quantity
I will opt to make better choices

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Eastern Pallative Care Quilt Show

Hi everyone, I will be at this great quilt show this Friday from 10 til 4.30 ish. 
As I will be here the studio will be closed on Friday. 
We will be back business as usual on Saturday from 10 til 4. You might even catch me on Sunday as I have some work to do in the studio then so if you are passing feel free to rap on the door. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Up Close - 1940s Snowball Sparrows Vintage Crib Quilt

This was a custom order for a special new arrival for one of my customers.
I hand quilted this little gem that I found for them a few years back on a trip in the USA. I really enjoyed doing this one. I did little circles to accent the design of the block.

I love the corn flower blue and the little snippets of feed sacks in this quilt top. I backed it with white and finally sourced a matching 1940s blue cotton solid to bind it with.
Sometimes this design is called Snowball, but with the cross in the middle it is sometimes referred to as Sparrow. I so need a copy of Barbara Brackman's guide. If anyone has that on their shelf can they check this block and confirm what it is....
It measures 850mm x 1150mm.

This is the block diagram if you want to have a go at it. Its a good one for hand piecing especially if you have lots of precious scraps you don't want to part with. Finished block approx 110mm x 110mm or approx 4.5 inches. This is a small one, but that's what make it so charming.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

What is on the inside....

Over time if you asked this as a question - "what is inside?" the responses would vary.
I asked this the other day in a round about way and the response I got was a brand name.
Today, most would answer with perhaps cotton, bamboo, wool etc, that the inside was the batting or wadding.

But what about the other 'inside'. The inside of discovery, the inside of necessity or scarcity?
The stories of pioneering women who had to fill their quilts with leaves or corn husks to provide some protection from the cold. The scarcity of fabrics due to the taxes and regulations imposed by the mother country of England to protect their own industries and to stifle any that would start in the new world. That inside was a matter or life or death as the bitter winters froze many to their ends.

I was fiddling with a quilt the other day that I picked up last year on my way driving from San Fran to LA.
I love to stop here and there and take the back roads through the towns. The scenery is stark and the climate is dry and hot.

This quilt was heavy and a bit out of character but I loved the prints in it and bought it and stuffed it in the back of the SUV along with everything else. By this stage on my journey the car was getting very full.

So last week I snipped out some of the ties and started to take the backing off and what did I find inside but a very old, very worn turkey red and homespun check quilt. I haven't taken any more apart yet as I have a think about what to do next.

But to ask this in another way, the emotional way. What is inside? The feelings the efforts, the memories that the quilt holds.
I want to share with you this statement.  Marguerite Ickis, who you might know as the author of the 'Standard Book of Quilt Making and Collecting' that was first published in 1949 documented this quote from her great grandmother.
For me, this sums up what is inside…

"It took me more than twenty years, nearly twenty five, I reckon, in the evening after supper when the children were all put to bed. My whole life was in that quilt. It scares me sometimes when I look at it. All my joys and all my sorrows are stitched into those little pieces. When I was proud of the boys and when I was down-right provoked and angry with them. When the girls annoyed me or when they gave me a warm feeling around my heart. And John too. he was stitched into that quilt and all the thirty years we were married. Sometimes I loved him and sometimes I sat there hating him as I pieced the patches together. So they are all in that quilt, my hopes and fears, my joys and sorrows, my loves and hates. I tremble sometimes when I remember what that quilt knows about me." *

I just wish I had a photo of this quilt to share with you, I would love to see it. But I imagine many past quilts would hold this emotion in the patches and the stitches. Perhaps it was a quilt like this?
Sunburst - 1840 - Rhea Goldman Gallery
It also shows how quilt making has changed over the decades, or even in larger chunks of time of the centuries.
Today we make quilts with a different perspective as we are now in yet another century. One that is dominated by technology. Where ideas and patterns can be accessed in an instant. Fabrics purchased in abundance of choice and quantity at the click of a mouse and delivered to your door.  New tools and methods for speed and accuracy have taken on a whole new way of 'making'.  Instead of twenty five years its now often a day to turn around a quilt. It is a new era as 'modern' quilt makers now take the stage. 
But as history repeats itself, the quilt makers of the nineteenth century thought the ones of the twentieth century were the modern makers.  As the new century dawned and between the wars and the great depression tastes changed and society placed different demands on women creating a different perspective on the quilt.  I wonder what the quilt makers of the 1700s or1800s would think of it all now? Or what is now on the 'inside'?

*Quote taken from America's Quilts and Coverlets by Carelton L. Stafford and Robert Bishop. Weathervane Books New York 1972

Thursday, September 5, 2013

New Opening Hours For Spring, UFO Support Group

The studio now has extended trading hours starting today.
We are now open from 10am to 4pm Thursday and Friday and from 10am to 2 pm Saturday and Sunday.

We are also running the UFO Support Group - Sit and Sew again. Every second Thursday from 10am to 12noon from the 12th of September through October. We will review the day and time after that so we can try and mix it up a bit for those of you who can't make this time slot.

Plenty of new arrivals are coming through, loads of amazing prints to excite you and get those creative juices flowing again after winter.

So come on down, the kookaburras are out and about and the parrots are up in the trees, it's really nice to see the signs of life with spring.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Fudging it...

The Perfect Patchwork Primer by Beth Gutcheon was first published in 1973. Its as old as I am!

Written before the time of rotary cutters, computers and companies dedicated to printing 'quilting fabrics'. I forgot what a great read it was, not only that its a great reference. Partly because it covers how blocks were constructed before the advent of the concept of 'straight seaming'. Where shapes were cut and pieced whole with set in seams rather than in 2 or 3 parts to achieve straight seams for a sewing machine. 

But the thing I like most about it is Beth's take on things. Known more now as a fiction writer, her first 2 books were quilting books, her second being the The Quilt Design Workbook. Both considered classic texts in the field.

It has some really refreshing snippets in it. Ones that still 'ground' me when i'm being a bit hard on myself or when I hear some of my customers frustrations that they feel they can't put something together the 'right way', being it colour, design or skill.

So I would like to share with you some of Beth's wisdom... (hold onto your rotary cutters people....)

"Each piece of patchwork is cut out separately, using care and very sharp scissors..."

"Tearing the fabric is the most desirable alternative because it saves you the rather annoying task of measuring and drawing..."

"Don't worry about pruning the dangling threads close to the material; they'll all be inside the quilt and won't matter..."

"...when one unit is much larger larger than the one its supposed to match, you may even have to sew in some puckers, but with puffy batting behind it puckering isn't nearly as obvious...."

"...you can take a few liberties with the straightness of the seam."

"A pucker is better than a hole, and if you press the bejesus out if it, once the batting and quilting are added you'll hardly know the difference."

And the best line being this...."Up to a point you can fudge, and the better you are at fudging the better you are at your craft".

Thanks Beth. I feel a whole lot better. Now, where are my scissors....

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A part of something bigger.

Being a part of something bigger is an honour. I was really proud to be a sponsor of this years Quilt Showcase by the Victorian Quilters.

But the real joy was being a part of something that was truly inspirational.
All of us who pick up a needle and thread have something in common. We create a stitch. With those stitches we create something that makes us a part of this thing that is bigger than any one thing we make. It is the common thread that joins all of us. Wether it be stitching a quilt or making a child's dress to embroidering a keepsake, it is something we do because we love it and we enjoy it. Be it the process of doing or the finished product.

My sponsorship went to this years Convenors Award. This award went to Lou Smith and Andree Donaldson's Quilt - Lou's Reward. This quilt is part of this joy and inspiration. An amazing story of someone recovering from a terrible car accident who is rekindling her love of sewing with her friend.
Lou made this quilt. For someone who is learning how to speak and walk again and who has nearly lost her eye sight from the accident, this is one truly amazing quilt.

Learning the story behind this quilt made me pick up my needle and thread again after a long break. I too was in a car accident last year and lost some of the feeling in my hand and had stopped hand sewing.  After seeing this quilt I picked up my needle and thread again and got back into it. I can't sew as well as I did before and my fingers were soft and as I said, no pain no gain. But even though its a bit messy and my stitches aren't as even as before, I still love it. I missed it.

It's why we sew, it's why we quilt, its because we love to do it. We share this.

Thank you for your quilt Lou and Andree, it is wonderful.

Monday, August 12, 2013

No Pain, No Gain....

Finally after a long break I am back doing some hand quilting. It's been a long time between projects for myself. In fact most of the time I am 'reverse' quilting, I am unpicking something to re-work or salvage it.

But as I have not picked up the needle and thread to quilt for quite some time my fingers are out of condition. They have gone 'soft'. I am a lap quilter and I have never quite got the hang of using a hoop, let alone a thimble. I sometimes use a bit of tape or a bandaid when my fingers get sore, but I need to investigate some of these new fangled quilters thimbles in leather or the other plastic ones that you stick on.
As I sit and quilt I keep hearing John Lennon from the Beatles White Album going....'i've got blisters on my fingers'.... his were from playing guitar, my sore spots are from the needle making a groove in the edge of my finger.

Along with pricking myself in a few spots too, I am cursing that I am not developing some good old callouses fast enough. So, as they say, no pain, no gain....I need to toughen up!

One day I hope to be able to quilt in tiny stitches, evenly and finely. It takes practice and strong fingers. But until then, its a small job and I need to quit complaining...sigh...

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Quilt Top Contraband....

There have been a few tips and tricks I have had to rely on over the years getting through airports with too much luggage. Often my carry on gets a little over loaded and more than once I have had to stuff a few things in the top of my pants to get past the check in at the gate. My most preferred method is to wrap a few articles of spare clothing around my middle or stuff a few things in the top of my boots til they tell me my carry on is light enough. Now, I don't recommend any of this, but sometimes you gotta do what ya gotta do.

One of my customers came for a visit to the studio. Her husband was waiting in the car, but she spied a 1930s Double Wedding Ring quilt top. And as what so often happens when people visit the studio, they fall in love with a treasure that has to come with them.
The quilt top had to be hers... But what about the husband? Well, as a joke, I said you can stuff it down your pants? Or how about I post it to you? Thinking that posting would be the option chosen...I could have popped it in the post pack and it would have arrived the next day. But no, the option chosen was the former...
So I folded the queen size top into 8th's length wise and flattened it down. Her arms went up and we tightly wrapped the quilt top around her middle and stuffed it into the top of her jeans. Jumper down and coat on top....can you notice? ...No, he won't suspect a thing.

Off she went beaming...was it that she now owned a beautiful one of a kind vintage quilt top....or was it that she got one over on the other half safely home and into the stash??

Friday, July 19, 2013

Orphans and Under Dogs...

I've had a lot going on lately in my non-working life, but is made me make some connections to my working part of things...the other 8 hours a day....well, its more than that but I like to think I sleep for 8, work for 8 and live for 8.

I have always had a thing for the under dog, the one left behind, the one that surprises you (go Quintana - TDF reference here)  the little thing in my eyes that I think is gold, a tiny scrap, something that is left behind.

When I travel I pick up orphan blocks (the blocks that don't make it to a quilt), unfinished quilts and those ones many would leave behind, perhaps the corners don't meet up or they have a patch that needs replacing or some stitches to repair. I love them. To me there is so much potential, there is a story to them...there is a why?
They show a touch that is human and by hand. The wonky stitches or the patch that still has a button of the shirt cuff on it. Names of makers and friends, connections. There is a need in me to finish them or to find them a new home.

Those who know me well will know why this is and over time I will draw some lines to this and join the dots, but in the mean time, enjoy some of my collected underdogs....the unfinished or the abandoned and make them a part of your stash....give them a new home.