Sunday, September 30, 2012

a magical journey to Sultan's Fine Fabrics

Yesterday my buddy Melinda and I went on the most thrilling little excursion. When we came back to earth (and back to my house) all we wanted to do was wrap ourselves in fine wool coating and grin like mad women. So we did that for a little while.

deliriously happy with my yardage of violet blue wool coating for Gertie's SAL

Modeling the fabric for the the Gertie's Butterick 5824 Sew-Along

Who's to blame for this transformation of two otherwise rational, professional women (with acknowledged weaknesses for textiles)?  That would be Sultan.

Do you know Sultan's Fine Fabrics?

If not, then OH MY GOODNESS are you in for a treat!  He does mail order, but after a transcendental fabric shopping experience there yesterday I have to recommend -- nay, URGE you to visit in the flesh if you are in the Toronto area.

Melinda and I recently joined Gertie's coat sewalong -- we're still waiting for our copies of the pattern (Butterick 5824) to arrive so we can catch up and work on our fitting muslins -- and were inspired by Karyn's glowing report on Sultan's Fine Fabrics to visit the shop ourselves.

Once upon a time, you would have expected to find this shop down around Queen and Portland, in the "fashion district" (before it was called the fashion district...and when it really was a garment district, through and through). But Sultan's is in the north-west part of Toronto, in a semi-industrial area -- but honestly it's not really much of a journey from downtown (and of course quite readily accessible from the 401), and totally, completely worthwhile.

Sultan's Fine Fabrics -- view of one part of the shirtings section
view of one section of fine shirting fabric

Sultan's Fine Fabrics -- view from one section of wool suiting and coating!
view from one section of wool coating fabric

As soon as we walked in I recognized Sultan: I had bought a couple of exquisite yards of Italian shirting fabric from him at the Creativ Festival two years ago! (Which reminds me that I owe my hubby a shirt...that's a topic for another post!).

But Sultan's shop is another experience altogether, an enormous space filled with wool, silk, cotton and other natural fibre fabrics -- so much more than I saw at Creativ Festival, and of a quality that (intellectually) I knew existed but which I had never EVER been able to experience firsthand. This was like being transported to another planet.

The fact that Melinda and I were looking for relatively inexpensive wool coating didn't stop Sultan from showing us the full range of goods he carries, and for this I am so grateful.  He has a true passion for fine fabric and recognized in us an extremely appreciative audience.  The fact that we clearly don't have the means to purchase cashmere and vicuna wasn't reflected in the customer service he offered -- which was truly amazing!

We took two sweet hours to select our coating and lining fabrics and after oohhing and ahhhing over all sorts of tweeds and plaids and houndstooth and herringbone, we both ended up with bright solid colours -- anticipating that our coats will be ready by late winter/spring, when a splash of brightness will be appreciated.

Melinda with her magnificent persimmon wool-cotton coating fabric and Sultan, amused by us (I hope!)
a very patient Sultan and Melinda (like me, she was drunk on fabric)
As if the journey to selection of coating and lining wasn't enough, Sultan steered us to the remnants tables...and oh lordy, I'm having trouble finding words to describe just how overwhelmingly lovely these tables are.  All the remnants were at least a yard, plenty for a beautiful wool skirt...and a few of them managed to wiggle their way into our respective loot bags. Sighhhhhhh.

Melinda's pile and my pile, eek
Melinda's goodies on the left and mine on the right 

our extras: incredibly lush wool remnants from Sultan's

Finally, a little Stash Love sidenote: I haven't bought any quilting fabric, not a bit, and I'm sticking to that.  But garment fabric?  Well, that's something else.

If you do go to Sultan's, please say hello from Melinda and me!


Sunday, September 23, 2012

worlds collide!

It feels a little awkward, bringing my work life and my stitching together, but here it goes....

As some of you know, I am an academic -- a folklorist (I was fortunate enough to do my graduate work at the Folklore Institute, Indiana University) and, for the past 12 years, an English professor.

For the past 3 years I also have been obsessed with quilting. That obsession started with the modern quilts I stumbled across online, so totally different from the kinds of quilts to which I had been exposed before, and so inspiring.

Quite a while before I started this blog, I began to get a sense of how supportive and encouraging the online modern quilting community could be, and this happened largely through flickr. First I lurked, then I got an account, then I started commenting on photos and entering discussions, then I started building a contact list, then I found the Fresh Modern Quilts group, then I discovered the world of VQBs...and here I am, a bit more experienced and with more quilty ideas than I could possibly stitch up  -- even if I were independently wealthy and child-free!

For those of you who have also tapped into flickr as a resource for creative inspiration and social networking with other quilters, it may come as a surprise to learn that those scholars who study quilting and quilters really aren't aware of the depth and breadth of this phenomenon.

That's what I'm seeking to remedy, and --


My "read" on how modern quilters use flickr is only part of the story, and I would love to include the work and words of others.  I have invited discussion on flickr (please follow the link if you have a moment!), where I have also linked a project description/participation consent info letter which I ask that you read to get a better sense of what I'm up to in this project I'm calling "Stitched Together: Flickr and Social Networking Among Modern Quilters."

I would love to hear from you -- on flickr, in blog comments, by e-mail or flickr mail...whether you have a general comment to make or a story to tell. Please just take a look at the project description and then let it flow....

Thanks and happy stitching.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

odds and ends

Getting the semester started, home life reconfigured (now estrogen-heavy, with my son off at university), and a massive manuscript ready for typesetting has left very little time for crafting and none for blogging...but I have worked in a few stitches here and there.  Here are my various odds and ends.

First the ends, since I have little in the way of finished objects to reprot. Earlier in the week, my extra yard of Melody Miller's orange retro clocks arrived (thank you, dear Brenda @ Pink Castle!!).   That very day I prewashed and finished cutting pattern pieces from view A of a stashed skirt pattern, McCall's 6290 (but with no pockets or ornamentation).

I hadn't had my sewing machine out for at least 3 weeks, so it felt great to stitch up this very simple skirt.

Melody Miller clocks, M6290 (modified)

The pattern is more flared/A-line that it looked from the envelope...didn't like that much, so I tapered at the centre back seam by about 1.5". Kindly ignore the chain-link, broken concrete, and plastic wheelbarrow.....

The skirt doesn't really swing up at the back, despite how it looks below...but as you can see, the Melody Miller linen-cotton does soften up a lot when washed, and wrinkles a bit.  A bit imperfect (as always), but love it!  
Melody Miller clocks, M6290 (modified)

In this photo, it looks like our little knight is giving it a thumbs-up too.  At least, I think that's what he's doing....

One more finish: my "diagonal lace" socks, very comfy but a little floppy.

a good day for wool socks

I started a second pair from Wendy Johnson's book, this one is "trilobite"... and this time I'm going down to 1.5 mm needles. I knit 'em fast and loose, dontcha know.

trilobite start

Now the odds: 

I have made tiny, tiny bits of progress on current English paper piecing projects, first mermaid stars, where I appliqued one and just surrounded myself with the others to brighten up a long work day, many hours spent alone at the computer.

first mermaid star appliqued

seeking some inspiration during a long work day

I am inching my way towards the finish line with the Loulouthi photo available right now, but soon.

I really miss being at the sewing machine.

Remedy: over the past two weeks I jave committed myself to a couple of projects with schedules and deadlines...and that should help to turn things around:)

Mouthy Stitches 2

There's Mouthy Stitches 2, a swap in which we're making our secret partners an interpretation of a reversible totebag pattern. Shhhh, can't say much about this....

And then there's quite a serious gament sewing project: Gertie's coat sewalong, which uses her newly-released pattern for Butterick:

My sewing friend Melinda and I will be making our coats together, which will help immensely!  Our patterns are on order and we're already dreaming about wool and lining combinations...sure to bring about another garment-sewing deviation from my Stash Love pledge, but with the incredible displays of self-restraint I have exhibited this month (in the face of massive sales at some favourite fabric shops), I'm holding my head high.


Monday, September 3, 2012

Stash Love misstep

A short post, and a confession: I am buying one yard of fabric. Booo, hisssss...I know. But wait, please let me explain!!!

Last week, after the Kokka stash success that resulted in a new skirt for Frida, I had the impulse to make myself a skirt from a Japanese linen-cotton stashed fabric.  It struck me that Melody Miller's retro clocks would make a pretty nifty garment,  and I had one yard of clocks in orange in the stash.  Perfect! I dug up a basic skirt pattern and dived in...without much planning, as it turned out.

The result was a front piece cut followed by the realization that I didn't have enough to cut the corresponding back piece.  Oops.

oops...cut front of skirt without planning ahead

Well, today I decided to let myself off the hook and buy another yard of this fabric, despite my vow of stash fidelity. (Or maybe this is a case in which stash fidelity requires a small purchase?  I'll let you be the judge.)

Melody Miller's orange clock fabric is on sale at Pink Castle and, until the end of the day, there's also a 20% off coupon.  No, I'm not going to link the website and the coupon because I am not going to be an enabler! Jeesh. My transgression is my own burden to bear -- go ahead and be virtuous today, without me!

I'll be back on the wagon tomorrow.

And shortly after that I will also be clad in a very cool skirt.  See you on the other side.

my love affair with English paper piecing

I love EPP (English paper piecing), mostly because it is relaxing and doesn't require great cutting accuracy (the paper pieces offer the precision) -- very appealing all around. The problem with this romance is that it has (so far) been mostly about process and has produced few finished objects.

I was all hopped up on little hexagons about 18 months ago, when I bought a massive bag of 1200 precut hexies. Then I was into 60 degree diamonds, and pieced a lot of those too. And then last summer I joined Lynne and Gayle's "hexalong" and started working (very enthusiastically, I might add) with Loulouthi and a couple of Kona solids -- working both with precut paper pieces (from and ones I had made myself.

Process-oriented posts from last year are here, here, here, here, here, and here.

That project stalled by Fall and was left in a basket all winter, but I did pick it up again just last month -- and now it is quite close to being done.  Today it looks like this:

Loulouthi hexies, started summer 2011, now almost done

I'm quite please with how this is shaping up...and the fact that it is going to be a finished object in the not-too-distant future.

In other EPP news: I am planning a winter 2013 workshop with my good friend Miriam, the new head of Art at a well-known private girls' school in Toronto.  We're both very excited about it, more details in a few months...but for now I am getting geared up to do some test "rose star" blocks and to that end I ordered some new supplies from

newest additions to the paper pieces collection

I am particularly fond of the thick acrylic cutting templates, which are new to me -- and fabulously helpful when fussy-cutting.  I lovelovelove these things...with an ardour that must seem strange to a non-quilter, but which some of you might understand :) So let's take one more look at these, shall we?

cutting templates from

Finally, I have been playing with my new toys to make some stars (rose stars without one set of outer pieces) for a winter quilt project I started last year (is there a theme here?).  This one is destined for Frida's full-sized bed, where she has a couple of very sweet quilts but none that is quite big enough to overhang the sides and keep out the chilly draughts.  I shaped the project around 6 yards of a gorgeous Anna Maria Horner flannel from a sale, and while the back is lovely (long expanses of the Good Folks flannel combined with some pink and lilac solids), the front was  a bit too simple to keep my interest.

A few recent developments have re-ignited interest in this project: first and foremost, Frida is now obsessed with mermaids -- which is good news for my Mendocino stash (a set of FQs bought a couple of years ago).  And these look lovely with the Good Folks, as it turns out.  Yippee!  Here's what I'm up to now: mermaid stars to be appliqued to Frida's winter quilt.

mermaid stars in progress

EPP mermaid stars to be appliqued

I am so happy with this project now, and it's great to know that even with the severe limits on my sewing time right now I can still have some fabric fun.

I do love English paper piecing!

I hope all my friends in the U.S. and here in Canada are enjoying the long weekend.  Best to all.