Monday, December 31, 2012

2012, the year in stitches

Phew, I'm back!  I have had the hardest time contemplating a blog post: the past 6 weeks have been very hectic, both while wrapping up the semester (trying to tie up loose ends before I start a research leave in January) and then in a frenzy of crafting activity once work let up.

But first and foremost: happy holidays and happy new year to you all!

I have typed and retyped and finally deleted my attempts to say something profound and somehow affirming about the way 2012 has ended. It seems an impossible task, in the face of violence that was both almost incomprehensible and yet so tragically real.  I am so grateful for my family, my life, my city...and my heart goes out to those who have suffered so greatly.

On a lighter note, I did a little sewing this year and it brought me great pleasure -- as have my sewing friends, near and far.  It's hard to imagine my life without stitches and without my quilt-world friends!

Without further ado, here are quilty objects that I brought to completion this year -- 15 quilts, ranging from crib- to king-sized; 3 hand-quilted pillows; a tote featuring mini-English paper piecing; and a wool suiting pincushion also EPP'ed.

quilty objects completed in 2012

Here are some other odds and ends -- including some knitting, some garment sewing, and some things not completely finished (like my Farmer's Wife sampler, which I finished piecing but have not yet quilted) or very much "in progress" (like my Ruby Star-inspired Pony Club sampler, which I am enjoying immensely).

odds & ends made in 2012

There are lots of odds and ends missing from those mosaics -- more dresses and simple skirts for Frida, a bunch of cowls and scarves knit this fall for Chloe and me, for example -- but it's fun to take stock of all this.  And one project has squeaked in under the wire, leaping from the WIP pile to the "quilt me" pile just yesterday:

Swoon! No way to get a good photo right now (the tall people are still sleeping!)...but it's fully pieced, after 6 months of sitting, partially pieced, in a closet-- and before the end of the year

Yes, that's a "swoon" quilt, which I had 2/3 pieced last spring...but which sat in a closet until a couple of days ago.  It feels great to have this done (or at least fully pieced).

I have learned so much through my sewing adventures this year and there is so much more I want to learn and to try in the coming year!

I am really looking forward to 2013,  excited about the two projects on my desk (one a monograph that will bring to completion research I started several years before Frida was born, another a book that promises to be visually beautiful and non-academic).  

I hope the new year brings us all joy, peace, happiness, and creativity. xx

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Pony Club obsession

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends! I miss U.S. Thanksgiving -- it is a much bigger holiday there than it is in Canada (where we celebrate over a month earlier) and I always enjoyed it.

Anyway, onwards....I am a blogger of little motivation these days, at least where writing posts is concerned...overworked and overtired, but thankful for the good things in my life and in the world.

I have found lots of happiness this week stitching up more blocks for the Farmer's Wife Pony Club sampler.  This project continues to obsess me (along with a couple of knitting projects -- but that's a topic for another day). And I'm approaching the making of blocks as I did with the Farmer's Wife project: gathering templates, selecting and cutting fabrics for a few blocks at a time, and then stitiching those into blocks when I can find another window of time.

21 blocks for #ponyclubsampler. This may be my favorite project EVER!!
Through a very busy week I have somehow added 15 blocks to the stack, bringing my total to 22.  I took this group shot a couple of days ago, when I was at 21 blocks.  It's all a blur, really; I don't know how I pieced that much this week.

It just happened...somehow...a direct reflection of my enthusiasm for this project, which ranks currently as my all-time favourite.  

I am so obsessed that I have been repeatedly supplementing ("enhancing") my Pony Club stash (in contrast to the FW quilt, which drew exclusively from fabrics I already owned -- up to the last dozen blocks or so, when I bought some gingham!).

So I must admit that Stash Love -- my vow to work with stashed lovelies only, up to Valentine's Day -- is being renegotiated.  Blame my Pony Club infatuation. Happily it is bringing me lots of joy.

A quick shout out to those of you with overflowing scrap bins: 
If you happen to have any Ruby Star or other Kokka scraps looking for a home, I would be delighted to swap for fabric from my own stash.  I am especially keen on finding a couple of those Ruby Star ladies to fussy-cut for a future Pony Club block....

Okay, so without any more delay, here are this week's blocks and a group shot from a couple of days ago -- names of individual blocks are included in my flickr photostream (click on a photo), but I feel that for now I have said quite enough.  A very happy evening to you all!

pony club: "clover blossom"

pony club: "children's delight"

pony club: "cowboy's star"

pony club: "at the depot"

pony club: "arizona"

pony club: "bright hopes"

pony club: "best of all"

pony club: "basket of flowers"

pony club: "betty's delight"

pony club: "colt's corral"

pony club: "best friend"

pony club: "bird's eye view"

pony club: "boy's playmate"

pony club: "broken heart" (might re-do)

pony club: "county fair" (a favourite)

Friday, November 9, 2012

Pony Club

I have not yet basted my Farmer's Wife sampler quilt (although I have a quilting plan, and will get to this project soon), but I have had another sampler project brewing for a while now.  Last weekend I got started, made seven blocks in two days (I was inspired!) -- and I want to post about the project before any more time slips by.

I am making 8" blocks (finished) from Laurie Hird's second book The Farmer's Wife Pony Club Sampler.

I used (foundation) paper-piecing for the first block, Dakota Star, but worked from templates for the remaining ones.

FW Pony Club, "Dakota Star"
Dakota Star, foundation paper pieced

FW Pony Club, "A Dandy"
A Dandy

FW Pony Club, "A Beauty"
A Beauty

FW Pony Club, "Gold Nuggets"
Gold Nuggets

FW Pony Club, "Alabama"

FW Pony Club, "Gretchen"

FW Pony Club, "Handy Andy"
Handy Andy

My palette is drawn largely from Ruby Star prints and assorted Echino fabrics, combined with Denyse Schmidt's "Chicopee" and some other odds and ends.

I couldn't tell you why this book is so much harder to find than Hird's first Farmer's Wife sampler book.

As a side note, I just discovered that spiral-bound copies of Pony Club are available through Laurie's website and on the US Amazon site. Mine has a conventional binding, but I think spiral binding is a great idea for a book like this!

I found a copy of Pony Club at the Creativ Festival last month, and now that I'm working on the blocks I can report that I love it.  The blocks are intricate, many are challenging, but I am thrilled to be working (mostly) with templates again.

Is that odd?  Templates!!!! But it's true: I love cutting the wee little pieces and fitting them together.  I love the lack of measurement and rulers. As mentioned in the book, pre-rotary cutter quilt block designs weren't tied to easy measurements -- any odd fraction of an inch is do-able when working with templates . Of course, I'm neither a luddite nor a masochist: I print the templates from my computer onto card stock, cut them out (with scissors) and then rotary cut freehand around the templates.

I actually have a few more blocks done than I'm able to share today (12 at the time of writing).  I am simply behind on documentation, but do want to say that I'm sooooo happy to be working on a sampler again -- and that I can recommend Pony Club!  It has been well worth the wait and the search.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

jiggety jig

I'm home again, energized by a great conference in New Orleans but also feeling slightly swamped...have been on the computer ALL DAY, no time to sweat it out with Kelly (and we do need some time together, after some NOLA culinary indulgences)...until I am saved by Miss F's passionate desire to watch Lady and the Tramp, clearing some time for exercise and a 5 p.m. shower. Phew.

Quickly then: for those who contributed so generously to my research for my conference paper, I will have a summary and report for you later this week.  I'm excited to share my findings with you!

For the craft-photo-deprived, a few tiny things.  First, I revived a 60-degree diamond EPP project in order to have a portable piecing project for the plane (try saying that five times quickly!).

old 60 degree diamond project, revived

Destined to be a dolly quilt, perhaps?  Who knows.  All I do know is that I couldn't be four days without some stitchery!

One of the sweetest pleasures of this trip was having the opportunity to finally meet my online friend Kaelin, in person. We met when planning the Bee (A Little Bit) Japanese VQB over 2 years ago. She is just as sweet, funny, and smart in person as I knew she would be.

playing with Arne & Carlos's balls

I have been experimenting with the "Christmas balls" from Arne & Carlos's wonderful book, and gave this one to Kaelin as a wee gift.

And here on my kitchen counter today are a few more balls -- at varying degrees of completion, and in varying size and shape...I'm still finetuning, and there will be more of these to come.  They're fun and quick and very satisfying to make.

balls big and small

Finally, speaking of gifts, I returned home from a busy day at work yesterday to find a Royal Mail parcel waiting on my doorstep -- and knew it had to be my tote from a mystery partner in the Mouthy Stutches swap.  I sent out my own creation over a week ago, and I know it hasn't reached my own secret partner yet.  Here's what I made, following the brief of the Mouthy Stitches 2 tote swap, which had us making a simple reversible bag:

tiny tessellations for Mouthy Stitches 2

rainbow stitches for MS2 back

interior/reverse of tiny tessellations, Mouthy Stitches 2

And here's the little bundle of delights that arrived yesterday...all the way from sweet and talented Jo (of the blog Quilty Doings by Emily's Mum) in Scotland:

Inside this sweet package was the most beautiful tote, featuring tiny little hexies in retro repro feedsack prints (Jo has me figured out!!!!), very cool semi-circles of quilting, a lovely lining/reverse side of Amy Butler Lark, a giant red button securing a handy pocket...I am sooooo lucky!

MS2 tote from Jo!

MS2 tote from Jo!
And do you see that little key fob?  Yes, that's a double-decker attached with a union jack, with more tiny hexies on the reverse. Jo, you outdid yourself...and I am so touched that you made all this for me...!

Finally, I need to come clean and admit that I broke my Stash Love commitment and bought some fat quarters for a new sampler project.  So while I strayed from my fabric diet, I did so with a very distinct purpose in view.  I tossed my Farmer's Wife scraps into a bag and now my little storage container is a little sea of richer tones (including plum and mustard, notably absent from my FW quilt top), taking various Ruby Star prints as a launching pad. More on that soon, I hope.

Well, that feels better.  I have had a bit of a blogging block, feeling like there is simply too much and also nothing to you know what I mean?  Anyway, I guess I am back in the swing of I just need to bring some quilt projects to completion while I get started on others.

Bye for now.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

living offline

I feel like I should apologize for my absence from this online space...but also feel a little strange doing so, since that implies that there are readers out there waiting in eager anticipation of what I might sew and write next (!).  I doubt very highly that this is the case...!

But still, there has been a lot happening here that I have not documented because I simply haven't had much time to blog. Work is keeping me extremely busy and has also required a lot of time online (that's what happens, I guess, when you choose to write about craft and social networking -- it starts to feel like work rather than play). I am finding myself cherishing every spare moment and using that time away from the computer....

So I'll be back soon, sharing some projects as per usual.  But for now, I am going to use the remains of my self-imposed 30 minute break from grading to knit.  Oh, on that note maybe I can offer you some crafty eye candy, indirectly. 

I'm playing with this delightful book, written by two men I'd love to hang out with (they're being added to the list of invitees to my hypothetical Very Fun Party, a game my husband and I have been playing for years) -- but I suppose I will need to learn Norwegian first:

You can fall in love with them too: watch them here and here.

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.