Variations on a Theme.

So, for the better part of the last two years almost everything I’ve made has been chevrons. Different colours and sizes, sure, but chevrons as far as the eye can see. It looks like 2015-16’s look du annual will be hexagons.

The hexy-rainbow I’ve been working on has continued to come together swiftly. (Also this will be posted in my Etsy store when it’s done – if you’d like to bags it before it goes up, post a comment or email me at contact AT fukitu.com.)

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300 safety pins and the death of the remaining cartilage in my knees later…

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All the free motion quilting done, awkwardly piled over my worktable for trimming before the binding.

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Quilt waterfalls.

So far so good – although there was one casualty of this quilt (aside from my knees and wrists.) My poor little Brother BM-2600 gave up the ghost in a sad fashion part way through the free motion quilting. After probably an hour and a half of running it solidly at top speed it made a very sad noise, slowed to a crawl and started to smell lightly of overheating electrics. I ran it into the ground (I suspect I burned out the motor.) I bought a replacement from the same point in Brother’s line: the GS2510. I’ve heard some people have issues with the longevity of Brother machines, but honestly I’ve never had an issue with their entry level mechanical ones: I used the 2600 for eight years and probably sewed on it for an average of 10-15 hours a week. I should confess I never took it for a proper service, figuring if it blew a gasket in a spectacular fashion I could just afford to spring for a new one and instead just aimed a can of compressed air at the bobbin-zone once in a while. All things considered, given it cost me something like $250 when I bought it I think I got a good deal of life out of it.

I also had a lovely haul arrive from Hawthorne Threads.

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My plan for this is a drunkards path quilt, which should measure about 185cm x 185cm when complete.

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However, when you trim the white L-shapes for this quilt you’re left with a bunch of smaller quarter circles, which seem to suggest they ought to be in a complementary quilt which is slightly smaller.

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And then of course, you’d trim the L shapes for THAT quilt and be left with slightly smaller again quarter circles. Needless to say I took to my high tech design wall.

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Expect some delightful smaller and smaller drunkards paths until I get sick of following this weird little rabbit hole. I find the idea of recursive quilts echoing back and forth very very satisfying.

One last tiny hexagon tease though, something I’m revealing in full next week:

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So This is Christmas

I feel as though everyone I know is out at a Christmas Party – meanwhile, I’m having my own Christmas celebration, including catching up on a long overdue post. First things first. My new studio space! I moved in and sewed some luxe-as-hell pink velvet curtains.

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The first thing I started sewing in the new space was a cream wool and gold leather sculptural coat inspired by an Alexander McQueen piece I saw in an exhibition in Melbourne last year. Here’s my inspiration wall (they allowed photography in the exhibit.)

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In typical me-fashion I basically sketched the pattern onto the fabric and started cutting.

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Pictured: my design process.

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The tea cup and tennis ball are crucial parts of the sewing process. (If you roll around on a tennis ball for 5-10 minutes your mid-back might forgive you for kneeling on a wooden floor for an hour.) I’m still working on the coat, but this week I’ve been watching cheesy Christmas movies and teaching myself padstitching techniques as I shape the upper. Also, here’s an in-progress shot of the button tab for the back and pinning the hair-canvas.

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Updates to follow! ( love a good WIP, don’t I?)

Also, I’ve started and very nearly finished a new quilt. This one has a time limit, so it’ll be done before Christmas. You might remember the post I made about the beautiful fabrics from Western Samoa which I felt conflicted about using. I wound up using some of them to make a quilt for a friend’s new nephew who has Samoan heritage: I felt that using them like this, in an exchange (I traded a quilt for one of his exceptionally beautiful paintings) was an appropriate way to make use of them.

I sewed most of the quilt top while staying with my Grandmother. Pre-washing and drying in the sun:

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I had to work with more limited tools, because there’s only so much you can pack in a suitcase. Here’s pressing and laying out the pattern:

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And backlit after sewing up.

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Updates pending! I’m determined to have some WIP finishes for 2015.

Baby’s First Quilt Convention

Well, not quite my first convention, but the first I’ve been to since I was in my teens. I made it to the Australasian Quilt Convention in Melbourne last month and really enjoyed myself. It’s held in the Royal Exhibition Building which I’ve often walked past and wanted to look around so this served a dual purpose of allowing me to finally get a bit of a tour.

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The exhibition itself was split about evenly between vendors and the exhibition of competing quilts – I restrained myself from spending too much but got a new rotary cutter and a few fat quarters, plus a whoooole stack of pamphlets for machines for me to lust after.

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I also got a chance to drive a couple of long arm machines for the first time ever. This is the Juki Virtuoso (excuse the poor lighting) and you drive it with two joystick like handles, then the machine automatically adjusts the length of your stitches as you speed up or slow down (I know this is probably very elementary to a lot of people reading, but I’d never seen one in action before.)

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The quilts I was most taken with in the exhibition were the wholecloth quilts and those which used a couple of very large blocks of colour and very fine and detailed quilting.

This is a detail from Sanderson’s Apprentice by Karen Terrens:

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And this is a detail shot of Turkish Delight by Phillipa Thomas. I’m particularly fond of her use of silk as a construction fabric – as much as I love patterned cottons I’ve been interested in using other materials for some time (I think I posted a sample block of a chevron quilt pattern in dupioni silk a few years back) and it’s exciting to see someone constructing a bed sized quilt out of silk.

 

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I should also add that the posted information about sharing photos from the exhibition indicated it was allowed as long as appropriate credit was given to the makers – if anyone whose work is featured in this post would like the images removed please leave me a comment and I’ll take them down immediately.

As for my own quilting, I’ve been working on a chevron commissioned quilt – it’s close to done, actually. Some pictures of it in progress (I’ve been sewing it while visiting my Grandma).

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Toasty warm in front of the fire.

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George stayed home, but Pudding here helped with the all important basting process, making sure the fabric didn’t move while I was pinning it.

Steadfast Refusal to Use Autumnal Colours

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Remember the rainbow gradient quilts I mentioned in my last post?

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They’re coming along nicely! One (at the top of this post) has already been spoken for (a pal saw my upload of it on Instagram and asked if she could dibs it).

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The tops are all sewn together and they’re just waiting on the batting arrive. I’m going back to cotton/bamboo batting I’ve raved about so much and I’m making the most of the luxury of space in my studio by ordering a whole roll of it. I can’t wait. I also bought a proper quilting foot and I’ve figured out how to make my poor beleagued BM-2600 do free motion quilting, I hope. I’m planning a kind of spirograph inspired pattern with the quilting – riffing off the hexagonal shape of them. I’ve also got a custom commission in the works.

It’s for a friend’s mother who is a sportsmad Dundein-ite who apparently sits up until the wee small hours in the bitter cold to cheer for her teams and needs something to keep her warm as she does so. I pulled the fabrics for it from my stash this afternoon and I’ll be cutting them tomorrow. I’m thinking something similar to the chevrons I did last year since it’s still one of my favourite patterns and will come together quickly.

Colours pulled for Chevrons

Soothing greens and blues. Yes this does mean I’ve technically added three more WIPs to my list, but I did claim 2015 was the year of finishing WIPs up, so I still have oodles of time to knock these ones out…

I also finished off the baby jumper I was working on:

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I took some snaps hastily on my tablet before posting it off so the first of these two photos is closest to the actual colour. It’s only the second actual garment I’ve knitted; I usually stick to simpler things like scarves which have decidedly more margin for error. I only had to frog a couple of rows and those were mostly because I tried to knit while flying through turbulence. Learn from my mistakes. Turbulence is the universe telling you to just sit tight and enjoy another complimentary wine rather than trying to cable anything.

I have the gorgeous red cotton from a few months back coming together as a cabled hat right now – my first attempt at knitting in the round. So far I’m not the biggest fan of knitting in the round, it seems to go much slower than I’d like but the cotton is dreamy to work with so I’ll make do. I also have not one but TWO generous colleagues in Australia offering to show me how to crochet which I think I will enjoy. It looks a lot more portable than knitting (one needle, rather than 2 to 5).

Also! I realised I never did come through with my promise to show off the truly enormous rainbow quilt from a few years back. It lives on our bed now and our latest redecoration means it now matches the bedroom.

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Finally, to make up for this fairly scant post have a truly hilarious author photo, courtesy of a friend of mine. My current portrait aesthetic seems to be ‘austere’ which is quite at odds from the saturated colour work I’m doing but never mind.

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Shades of Green

Quite accidentally everything I’ve sewn or knitted lately has been one of many shades of green. I can’t seem to shake it. I’ve started knitting up the baby jumper I mentioned in my last post. It’s coming together well – it’d been a while since I made anything that had stocking stitch in it and I forgot how quickly it knits up. Most of this knitting was done in planes and airports – I got caught up in one of Melbourne’s famous storms and spent 2 hours sitting on a runway. Time flies when you’re almost finished the back of a cardigan though. Now I’m just knitting up the sleeves and swearing never to knit on anything smaller than a 3mm needle again. The sleeves of this are knit on a 2.5mm and I constantly feel like I’m about to bend the needles in two.

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While I was in Melbourne (before the skies opened and conspired to keep me stuck at the airport forever more) I stopped by Morris and Sons to get the wee little needles – I couldn’t find any in that size for love nor money in Wellington before I left (at least not without going off to dig through second hand stores). I love Morris and Sons – they have this gloriously light and airy feeling store with shelf upon shelf of yarn arranged by colour. My love of rainbow colour gradients is pretty well documented and being in their store is like having some deep part of my brain thoroughly massaged. I snapped a few photos while I was in there – only on my phone, so they don’t really do it justice – but still enough to capture some of the lovely warmth of the store.

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The other greens I’ve been working with have been the green and brown chevron quilt top I’ve been finishing off as part of my dedication to ploughing through my WIPs. To be honest I was a bit uninspired by this top when it was just individual blocks, but now I’ve pulled it together into a full quilt top I’m liking it a lot more. The final version is only going to be a wall or lap quilt – it should be around 48″ by 36″ and I’m quite looking forward to something which should come together so quickly. This and the pinwheel quilt I’ve been blogging about are both going to be up on my Etsy store when I’m done – although if you’d like me to hold one for you just shoot me an email (contact AT fukitu.com) and I can arrange that too!

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In less good news, I have to move out of my studio which I’m a bit heartbroken about – I love it, but the landlord is putting up the rent by more than we can justify paying (I share it with my partner.) I’m hoping something else comes along soon, because I don’t miss having quilting projects strewn across the lounge. I’m using this as a reason to be fairly brutal about which WIPs I think I will actually finish – moving back out is going to put space at a real premium so I’m trying not to hold onto half finished projects which I don’t have a hope of completing. What are other people’s thoughts on abandoning WIPs? I personally find it hard to let go of something I’ve invested so much time in, but there are some quilts where I can really see that my skill level has progressed so much that it’ll be quite obvious the quilt was completed over a fairly long time period.

One last picture before I take myself off to bed. I went a bit wild on the Hawthorne Threads website a few days ago and lo and behold, my parcel has already arrived! I’m pretty impressed – six days to be packed, shipped and arrive on the other side of the world is no mean feat. I was quite inspired by a lot of the Quiltcon images I saw on Instagram and decided to make my next project a colour gradient hexagon queen bed quilt – I did some preliminary sketches and I think this fabric should be enough for 2-3 quilts all in slightly different configurations. I’m banning myself from cutting into it until these WIPs are finished and listed in my Etsy store. The struggle is real.

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Quilting and Cultural Appropriation

I’ve been mulling this post over in my mind for ages and I’m still not 100% sure how to lay it out, but since I’ve been posting updates on my Indigo Pinwheels quilt which includes Japanese cottons as the main element I felt like it was timely.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about if it’s appropriate for me as a white woman to use fabrics which come from other cultures in my quilting. I know already that quilting has a problem with cultural appropriation – when I was looking, just as one of many examples, for a fabric with a skull print I kept being referred to fabrics with sugar skulls on them. There are already plenty of links which explain in detail why the Sugar Skull is culturally appropriative, especially used in this way – decorating a bolt of fabric, removed from its context, history, a time and place and with no acknowledgement of the history behind it. Personally, I’ve used recently some Japanese quilting cottons in my quilting, and a few months ago I visited Western Samoa and bought some lengths of fabric while I was there, including some Elei fabric (a style of printing traditionally used to decorate tapa cloth and more recently used on other fabrics) and some patterns which various people there told me are sometimes called Samoan but are more correctly identified as Hawaiian influenced.

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I think the main things I am considering are if there is a respectful way I can incorporate these fabrics into my work, or if it is inherently appropriative to use these fabrics from another culture in my sewing. I think the questions of Japanese and Samoan fabrics need to be considered separately. Among the things I want to think about (and I want to stress I am constantly growing and developing in my understanding, so if someone wants to correct me on this and has the energy to do it I would be only too grateful) are the relationship that my culture, as a white New Zealander has to the culture the fabrics come from, if the ways I am obtaining the fabrics materially benefit people from the culture they come from, crediting the origin of the fabrics appropriately and if they are being used in an appropriate way.

To be honest, I am more comfortable using Japanese cottons for a few reason: Japan has a history of quilting – including Sashiko quilting (a form of stitching reminiscent of many contemporary Japanese quilting cotton patterns), so I feel as though using the cottons in this way is appropriate to their intended and historical use. Also, New Zealand’s relationship with Japan doesn’t have the same colonialism inherent in our relationship with Western Samoa. Also, when I buy my Japanese cottons I try to buy them from stores either based in Japan, or owned by people with Japanese heritage so the proceeds from the sale of them are going to people with some relationship to the history of the designs. It doesn’t, and I’m aware this is a fairly nebulous way of putting it, feel appropriative to use the fabrics in this way because it is aligned with the use for which they were produced and my buying them feeds back into the economy of Japan.

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I’m more conflicted about using fabrics from Samoa. To start with, as far as I have been able to tell from my research, Western Samoa doesn’t have a quilting culture – American Samoa has some, largely introduced by missionaries. So the fabrics I have wouldn’t have been created with that end use in mind – I think that as uses  go quilting is fairly benign, but I would still prefer to use fabrics in a way aligned with their intended use. Also, Samoa has a history of being subjugated by New Zealand and I’m very aware of this imbalance of power when I consider if I have a right to use Samoan fabrics in my quilts. Samoa has only been independent from New Zealand since 1962, and New Zealand’s history with Samoa contains incidents like the Black Saturday shootings and the grossly racist Dawn Raids. It feels a lot more like the classic definition of appropriation – co-opting an attractive part of a culture without having to deal with the negative parts of having that identity (the poorer education and health outcomes Pasifika people experience in New Zealand because of systemic racism). For now, I’m keeping the fabrics in my stash because I don’t want to discard them and feel wasteful. One thing I am considering doing in the future is making a quilt from some of them and donating some of the proceeds from it to a Pasifika Womens Refuge or advocacy group.

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Pinwheels and French Braids

I’ve spent the last week working on some WIPs, trying to get them knocked out before January is gone – now I’m in my new studio I have one large plastic box which I’m keeping WIPs in and attempting to limit myself to only as many as will fit comfortably in it. So far it’s a very effective system – my desire to always be working on something new has been beaten out by my desire to keep things pleasingly streamlined and tidy.

I’ve finally finally finished the poinsetta blocks from the Fair Isle Quilt:

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I figure if I can knock out one of the blocks each month it should be ready in plenty of time for next Christmas.

I also trimmed all of the Indigo Pinwheel blocks, and plotted out a layout for the quilt top. I tried to keep some semblance of order between predominantly light fabrics and predominantly dark.

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It is so nice having a decent amount of floor space to use to design quilt tops – before I was always stuck trying to wedge things into my too-small lounge room floor. I’ve sewn together the top, and tomorrow’s task is to suss out an appropriate backing and binding fabric.

Here’s Bernie’s audition photo for sad etsy boyfriends:

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While sifting through the WIP box I also found this chevron quilt top I started years ago (literally years ago) and decided to have a go at finishing it up. I’m not suuuuuper in love with the colours any more, but I don’t want half completed projects languishing in my stash much longer – I also have all the fabric already cut and it seems a waste not to finish it up. I saw someone on Pinterest refer to this pattern as a ‘french braid’ and I kind of really dig that.

French braid chevron green and brown

I also threw together a few more of these coasters using leftover squares from the chevron quilt. Greens! Triangles! Binding which would be easier to sew with a walking foot!

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Speaking of my fabric stash though, I added some new bits and bobs to it the other day. I ordered a bunch of stuff off local Trademe seller which turned up cutely packaged.

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I also have a copy of Rotary Cutting Revolution: New One-Step Cutting, 8 Quilt Blocks on its way to me in the post which I’m quite excited about. I thought about grabbing a Kindle copy, but decided on balance I’d rather have a physical copy to put in front of me while I work. Hopefully it will have arrived by the time I write my next post and I’ll be able to let you know my first impressions!

Japanese Cottons in Melbourne

Japanese Cottons stack

I have been lucky enough to visit Melbourne for work this last week and while here I’ve done a little fabric shopping! I stopped into Kimono House on Swanston Street and picked up several Japanese cottons, which I’m planning to make into a quilt top over the next month.

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Japanese Cottons stack

I also bought some fat quarters from L’ucello one floor down from Kimono House and I expect I will stop by again before I leave. No idea yet what I’m going to make from them, at this stage I think I’m really just stash building. I can’t resist a good polkadot.

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Two weeks ago I stayed with my grandma and finished off the drunkards path quilt in orange and green while she was working away at a cable sweater for me. As a result I have had knitting on my mind recently. While researching places to find quilt fabrics in Melbourne I happened upon plenty of mentions of Morris and Sons and couldn’t resist starting a more portable project to teach myself to knit cables. I picked up two hand dyed skeins from Manos del Uruguay and some pretty wooden needles and googled some tutorials.  Here is the result so far:

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Red cabled scarf

It started as a test and turned into a scarf, probably for my partner’s Mum. I don’t think knitting will ever be a major hobby of mine the way quilting is,  but I enjoy having projects I can pick up and carry with me when I travel.

For the rest of my time here I think I’ll be seeing some sights when I have time and trying to see some Fringe Festival shows – I’ve been told to check out Deeply Leisured while it is playing. I took a few days at the end of my trip as a holiday so I can celebrate my 25th birthday here with friends who I don’t see often. A very fortunate and auspicious quarter century.)

I’m still waiting for confirmation but I hope I’ll have some exciting personal news to share in my next post (I’ll say up front it is definitely not a pregnancy in case anyone gets the wrong idea though…)