Sunday, July 30, 2017

Fabric scraps: Clues in the cutting

Since starting my purging and repurposing episode back in January, I've sorted lots of fabric bits and pieces this year... bags and bins of all kinds of trimmings and leftovers. The scraps are going into quilt blocks for charity projects and lately I'm having fun with improv log cabin blocks.
Improv log cabin blocks from fabric scraps.
Both of my quilt guilds have a community service project, and I also make small quilts for the kitties at the Cat Clinic. Because I'm working with log cabin blocks, the fabric gets sorted by value—darks and lights.
Sorting fabric strips by dark and light values.
In her book, "Clues in the Calico," quilt historian Barbara Brackman provides insight into how to read the "clues" in the fabrics of vintage and antique quilts to identify and date both the fabrics and the time the quilt was made. During my recent fabric foraging escapades, I'm finding clues about the quilters and sewers themselves—and the kinds of projects they made—by looking at how the scraps were cut.

Here's what I mean...
It's a safe guess that these strips are quilt bindings—likely the remaining lengths. They're between 2.25" and 2.5" wide and some were folded and pressed in half. Conclusion: these scraps are from a quilter.
Quilt bindings among the scraps.
This one shows the mark where strips were joined.
The pencil mark for joining the binding.
This larger scrap had an odd shape cut-out. It makes more sense when looked at folded. I'm guessing a garment was cut from this piece. Conclusion: this sewer made garments with quilting cottons.
Leftover fabric piece from a garment.
Here's another symmetrical scrap that was cut with the fabric folded. The project had scallops... possibly an apron or curtains?? The whimsical chicken-and-egg print also lends a clue that the project was something for the kitchen. Conclusion: this sewer/quilter made accessories or items for the home.
Scalloped shape cut on the fold.
Because these trimmings were stuck together—20 or more layers thick—they were all likely cut at the same time. They were also interlaced with a white muslin. The curved shape could be for a garment or another item. It is not clear. Conclusion: these scraps came from a manufacturer's production run.
Manufacturer's trimmings.
For these manufacturer's scraps, I cut them into triangles for half-square triangle units. 
Half-square triangles make good use of scraps. 
I only found one scrap that looked to be from an appliqué project. Generally these fabrics look like swiss cheese with various shapes fussy-cut from a larger piece of fabric. Quilters who like to appliqué also tend to keep their small scraps because they can use them.
Scrap from an appliqué project.

So those are the clues I uncovered in the scraps and the conclusions I've drawn about their backstories. Do they sound plausible? I think there are clues in the calico, and also in the cutting! 

Do you ever do detective work on fabric scraps? If they're not your own personal scraps (or even if they are, our scraps baskets run deep), put on your detective cap and discover (or remember) their past life. And then, of course, repurpose them and send them into the world with a new life!

Below are my improv log cabin blocks that are beginning a new life as Cuddle Quilts. I showed these tops at a recent guild meeting.
Improv log cabin blocks.
These log cabin blocks were paired with a panel. (I really like this one.)
Improv log cabin blocks add length to a horizontal fabric panel.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Mending vs embroidery, or embroidery as mending?

Mending and kantha embroidery stitching.
While growing up, the summer was the time when us kids (my brother, cousins and I) visited my grandparents at their summer home in Wisconsin. I remember that grandma always had a small pile of items that needed mending... grandpa's shirt with a missing button, a sock with a hole, a worn or torn place on a shirt sleeve or cuff. I think this mending pile, the associated sewing tools, and watching Gram sew replacement buttons on various garments are among my first love encounters with sewing and textiles. Although she had an electric Singer sewing machine, Gram repaired these things by hand with needle and thread.

We live in such a disposable society these days. If it's broke/torn/has-a-hole or other minor defect, it often gets pitched and a new replacement is purchased. As I learn more about kantha, boro and other time-honored mending and stitching techniques, I've begun to look for creative mending and recycling opportunities.

As well as being a "saver"—from buttons to cardboard boxes, plastic containers and lard for making soap—Gram was a mender. So, I channeled Gram this weekend as I mended a knit top whose hem had come loose.

As I was looking for a small hand sewing needle for this task, I decided it was a good time to organize my Needle Index and purge the pincushions of the useless pins and needles—the bent ones, the dull ones, the ones with burrs, etc.
Bent pins and dull needles go into a small plastic medicine bottle.
After organizing my (vast) assortment of hand sewing needles, I took some of the pre-threaded ones and added more lines of stitching to another kantha embroidery project from Dorothy Caldwell's workshop.
Kantha embroidery.
I admit, I am thoroughly enjoying the simple beauty of the running stitch and the rhythm of the kantha mending/embroidery process. Even though it was probably considered "housework," I suspect Gram found the same quiet and relaxation in doing her mending by hand, too.  <3 

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Art Weave class: creating with large scale fabric designs

Are you inspired by large scale fabric prints? After my visit to Frond Design Studios (read my blog post here), I sure was! This Art Weave class is an answer for using these beautiful, large scale designs in a fun, easy project.
Art Weave: Fabric art with large scale prints from Frond Design.
I'll be teaching the Art Weave class at the Ringgold Quilt Expo, August 24-26, 2017.  Join me!

Class info:
     Friday, August 25, from 1 - 4 pm.,
     Ringgold Depot
     155 Depot Street
     Ringgold, GA

Contact the City of Ringgold for class registration.
Contact Kathy at It's Sew Time at (706) 937-3777 for quilt show details.

Let's make fabric art together with beautiful, large scale, artisan fabric designs!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Getting ready for a "Group Baste" session

Cuddle quilt top pressed and ready for basting.
My quilt guild, the Choo Choo Quilters, does a "group baste" at our annual Cuddle Quilt workshop. This is so efficient and fast—ya gotta love it!

1. We boost the tables up on wooden blocks to a height more conducive to standing (without having to bend). 2. Two people—on opposite sides of the table—tape the backing down. 3. The batting is positioned. 4. We use a spray baste product (follow the instructions on the can). 5. Then two people lay the pieced quilt top over the sprayed batting. Smooth the top to adhere. DONE! Basted.

We crank these basted cuddle quilts (child size and lap size) out like an assembly line that Mr. Ford would be proud of.

So, with our Cuddle Quilt workshop coming next month, it behooves one to get as many quilt tops ready for this process as possible. Hey, who wouldn't want a speedy solution for this [booooring, but necessary] step in the quiltmaking process??? I have three tops ready for the Group Baste session.

I finally found time to assemble a batch of strippy blocks from last year's Cuddle Quilt workshop (or was it two years ago?).
Strip pieced quilt top. 32" x 40"
This next one is an improv "Make Do" quilt top using scraps and leftover patchwork. (I've been making improv chunks since the February guild program.)
Improv cuddle quilt. 41" x 30"
Panels are good for these quilts, too. (This one is a more recent finish, but you can see it required little cutting and sewing.)
Fabric panel with borders. 33" x 42"
So... I'm making progress... a few found minutes at a time... over the course of the year. 

Kudos to the other members of the Choo Choo Quilters... who have just as little spare time, but always come through making these quilts for our guild's community service project. A true team effort!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Intrigued by large scale fabric prints? A class is brewing.

Do you like large scale fabric prints? Those bigger-than-life compositions... lush with bold, exuberant color? In whose shapes and subject matter you see the brushstrokes and marks made by the hands of the artisan?
Artisan cotton fabrics from Frond Design Studio.
While at Spring Quilt Market in St. Louis this past May, a quilting friend and I accepted an invitation from Stephanie Brandenburg to an Open House event at her DelveMIY storefront and showroom for Frond Design Studios' fabrics. Frond Design takes original, hand-painted art and re-creates it in fabric. Their mission is "to create hand designed art in fabric." 
Open house at Frond/DelveMIY near St. Louis, MO.
The "showroom" is much like a quilt shop—only with fabric from one company: Frond. And, oh what a fabulous space it is! 

Walk in... 
     and then catch your breath. 
Colorful quilts on the walls at the Frond Design showroom.
Anywhere the eye rested it found shelves, tables, and walls with bolts of fabric, fabric bundles, pattern inspiration... and glorious projects made with Frond fabrics. (Yes, I now carry Frond Design fabric lines as a fabric rep. Please ask for Frond at your local quilt shop.) 
Pillows made with Frond's blender lines rest atop of a quilt
made with large flowers from the Flower Power collection.
There were quilts and home furnishings...
Frond Design showroom: bots, kits and project ideas.
... garments and accessories. And Frond also supports the global community with its Do Good program, which you can read about here.
The mannequin displays a wrap and dress made with artisan cotton fabrics.
Bolts of fabrics line the shelves and fabric bundles are tied up with satin ribbons.
At the open house, there were a bunch of cool, quilty people hanging out, too. Fiber artist, teacher and lecturer, Catherine Redford was in attendance. Here is Catherine (below, right) chatting with my friend, Sue. Check out the color wall of blenders behind them!
Catherine Redford (right) and friend, Sue, at Frond Designs open house.
I also met Susan Stearns, the owner of Rain Baby Gear. She is a fabric representative for Frond Design in the northwest. It was a great evening.

A New Class
I couldn't walk away from this event without being inspired by what these fabrics have to offer quilters and sewists. A bag of select Frond fabric pieces came home with me and I'll soon be offering a class for using these wonderful large scale artisan fabrics. Watch this blog for an announcement on the date and time.
New Art Weave class! Create fabric art with large scale fabric prints.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Making Do: A Cowboy quilt from fabric samples

Next month. the Choo Choo Quilters are having their annual Cuddle Quilt workshop—a day set aside for guild members to get together and work on the guild's community service project. This "cowboy quilt" is one of my contributions. The quilt top was made from pieces from my collection of fabric samples and inspired by the guild program about "Making Do."
A cowboy themed fabric is featured in the center block of this quilt.
I finished the quilting but it is in need of a binding.
Cowboy cuddle quilt quilted and ready for binding.
The quilting pattern is a free-motion, overall pattern of circular motifs. No marking. Only fun.
No mark, free-motion quilting.
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