23 March 2010

500 Art Quilts

There are few greater pleasures in life than that of seeing someone find a source of inspiration and witnessing their excitement. For the last week Catherine has been telling me everyday that one of our new books has her name on it .... "500 Art Quilts". Having excitedly taken it home last night, she got through the first 20 pages while sitting in a traffic jam in the airport tunnel on the M5 in Sydney - is there a better way to be patient in Sydney traffic! This morning she presented to me the same book with the pages now littered with post-it tags, marking all the quilts that inspired her. Catherine's quote: "This book is like going to a quilt show, but you don't have to spend all day on your feet". This is the first year Catherine has submitted quilts for the NSW Quilter's Guild Quilt show at Darling Harbour. One of the two is a wall hanging 'art quilt' and she was amused to find one quilt in the 500 Art Quilts book with striking similarity to hers. Even more amusing was that her raw edge applique was listed along with other techniques as being 'avante garde'.
It truly is a remarkable expose of what is possible. Every quilt featured has been photographed in such a way that it is possible to see the detail and techniques used. Many have close up photos showing minute detail and every quilt has a brief list of the materials/techniques used. A detailed index shows the country of origin of all featured artists, proudly revealing Australians Dianne Firth, Beth Miller, Brenda Gael Smith, Margery Goodall and Alison Muir. Sandra.

New Oriental Quilting Fabric

If only you could experience what happens to us here at The Craft Mailbox when we open a box of new fabrics - lots of ohhh's and ahhh's, followed by fervent stroking of the fabric (can someone tell me why we are so fond of doing this??) and then a visit to the bookcase to pick out the perfect pattern for the fabric! We are very fond of orientals and these new arrivals have been a delightful addition to our collection. They are on our website - look out for Imperial Collection 6 from Robert Kaufman and Hyakka Royan direct from Quilt Gate, Japan. Sandra.

Craft Mailbox Meshwork Class

In December 2009 we had the pleasure of teaching a 4 hour Japanese Meshwork Class to members of the NSW Technology Educators Association. It was an enthusiastic fast and furious 4 hours with plenty of fun. Concentration levels were high and the enormous sense of accomplishment was unanimous. We now teach this in our own showroom as a one day workshop. Get a group together or come on your own. You will be inspired! Sandra.

Electric Quilt Predictions

In the most recent newsletter from Electric Quilt there appeared an archived article from 1994, by Penny McMorris, (Penny@EQ – the lady behind the incomparably helpful tech support). It was in a bit of a Nostradamus style – a prediction of quiltmaking in 2010. Most - if not all - of it is dauntingly accurate! In the introduction Penny refers to a friend appearing on her computer monitor, calling from Australia. Unheard of back then, a daily occurrence now!
Penny goes on to discuss the innovations ahead, by comparing those of the past – we can laugh as we look back at how we thought photocopy machines and CD-ROMs were so sophisticated! Some of our partners probably agree with the 19th century Quiltmaker who declared sewing machines to be ‘the work of the devil’! She must be spinning madly in her grave with what is on the market now!
One point to reflect upon is Penny’s musing that the encouragement of the development of innovative quilting products and tools will attract younger generations to quiltmaking, thus adding to its history. It was, and remains, an accurate statement. We need to keep it exciting, rewarding, challenging and attractive. We can keep tradition as well as open up new categories and change restrictions. The great joy is having a choice! There is room for everyone, and there is art in every quilt format.
Some of the wondrous predictions from Penny include computer software (such as we see with EQ6), embroidery machines, sewing machines with differential feed, the expansion of mail and computer order shopping (we love that one!), computer classes in quilt shops (April 17 & 18 with Jan T Urquhart Baillie at The Craft Mailbox showroom), and printing from a computer directly onto fabric. I’d say most of her future business plan was listed right there in that article!
I guess the question now is, what will be next...how much further can technology take us? Have a quick read by following this link...well worth the reflection. Julia

22 March 2010

Nickel Bricks Quilt from "Loose Change"

In May 2009 I posted a Blog about Catherine and I making this pattern from the quilt book "Loose Change". There was fast progress in the beginning and this image was taken in August '09 as we used a design sheet to audition the block layout (and a ladder for dimension.... it is much more effective to hang your design sheet on the wall). Now no-one could accuse me of being a prolific quilter .... progress has slowed somewhat. Catherine has gone on to make the identical quilt pattern, however she used all Kaffe Fasset fabrics with a solid black, whereas I have used a combination of Kaffe and Bali Watercolours. Catherine's is now almost finished - the top is finished, it was layered and pinned together in our training room (she used Kaffe Paisley as her backing) and she has now mastered 'stitch in the ditch'. Having seen the stunning results of Catherine's creation, I have changed direction with my design (again), deciding to make a queen size, featuring all Kaffe fabric in the middle 20 blocks with those pictured becoming an outside frame. The good news is we have had plenty of new Kaffe prints arrive so I have had the pleasure of choosing from more luscious colours and fabulous designs. Sandra.

21 March 2010

06 March 2010

The Skillbuilder Challenge Continues!

“What about the Challenge?” asks Sandra May rather menacingly. Hmmm. Have I had time? Have I had the courage? Did I try it and it was an abysmal failure?
None of the above is quite the correct choice. I have not had (made) much time to devote to quilting (I honestly love cutting up fabric and sewing little bits together, but NOT quilting). I have quailed at the sight of the Skillbuilder panels. And I must honestly admit that when I did have a go, I found that I am much better at cutting up fabric and sewing little bits together...
The Skillbuilder is however, a wondrous tool. I duly made my quilt sandwich, basted with my trusty Micro Stitch Tool, and faced up to my machine. I stole my chair back from the musician who seems to think it is his (well it is really, but it should be replaced neatly in front of the sewing machine, not the guitar stand) and got quilting. It is really very much like learning handwriting. I recall patterning; I taught my boys their letters by the same method. I just don’t have brilliant handwriting, and when driving a sewing machine where I need to coordinate speed and agility and fabric, I appear to be a bit of a dud. That of course is the whole point of the exercises set up in the Skillbuilder books – to gain control, confidence and learn by use and practice-practice-practice!
I must say, even though I am not at the standard of quilting anything precious just yet, I do admire the product and have noticeably improved (bit hard not to really – I surely could not get any worse).
To end on a high note, I can report that the binding is on the quilt mentioned last time, and that it proudly resides in the lounge. That means that it is good enough to be seen by visitors, so I am thrilled! Julia
PS: I got the bloodstains out of the binding from where I overzealously used my favourite Appli-bond Needle – it pays to watch where you stitch...we claim the needles slice through fabric like ‘a hot knife through butter’...well let me tell you, that also reads ‘like a needle through the entire finger tip all the way until it hits the nail on the way out’....the funniest bit was that I was at a hockey game at the time and they nearly had to invoke the blood rule... Lesson learned – respect your tools and concentrate on the task at hand!

04 March 2010

Tool Tips - Appli-bond Needles

If you are struggling to force your needle through the multiple layers of your appliqué, especially if you use fusible webbing, then Appli-bond Needles are for you! They have triangular points – that is, instead of being a rounded needle there are three flat facets that slice easily through layers of fabric. The grip is still comfortably rounded, and the eye is manageably large. I use them for everything...especially hand sewing on tough fabrics like denim. And be warned, they really do slice through the fabric ‘like a hot knife through butter’...so make sure you take up more than one thread when stitching finely, and take care that you do not use any sawing actions or you may cut the fabric or your thread...or yourself!! A final word - unlike most other needles that I have brutally forced through multiple layers, I have not yet had one of these quality needles break. Julia

Jean Greenhowe Knitting Series

Jean Greenhowe has been a name to appreciate for many years. She is the remarkably clever lady behind the knitted dolls that make us all smile. I am sure most of us have seen a brightly coloured painter, jolly Santa, comical clown or Scarecrow Sam somewhere in the last 25 years! Such is the popularity of these wonderful patterns that they have been published and supplied in a new release format. We will all appreciate the very affordable price point of the booklets, and the range is superb. There are at least 20 books to choose from: Scarecrow Family, Christmas Treasures, Storybook Dolls, Knitted Clowns and Golfing Clown are just a few of the titles that are available now. All of the patterns are achievable for the average knitter, and use Double Knit yarn – plain old 8 ply! You will need a good supply of assorted coloured yarn, and quality needles – I only use Clover bamboo, as they just glide along beautifully and are easy on my hands! What a grand way to use up scraps from past projects! They make the best presents as the appeal of these characters is universal and transcends generational issues! My strapping teen still has the Santa that was gifted to him by the hospital he was born in...Julia

02 March 2010

Twist-and-Turn Bargello Quilts

Twist-and-Turn Bargello Quilts by Eileen Wright ...If accuracy and precision in piecing appeals to you, then take up the challenge of a magnificent Bargello quilt. The amazing works of art whirling through this book are like dances in fabric; they move, have life, ebb and flow, or as the author says ‘simmer and stew’! All of the quilts featured are made employing regular strip piecing techniques using vibrantly coloured fabrics in a colour wash effect. The fabric placements create wiggles and twists, while varying widths of slices ‘produces rounder corners and sharper points’. Find essential advice on fabric selection, cutting straight strips, creating a fabric map, building strip sets, pressing, and cutting accurate slices. Each of the eleven designs has individual colour choice advice, step-by-step instructions, diagrams and colour design charts.
Each year there seems to be one title that stands out from the crowd that deals with the same topic – this must certainly be the Bargello book of the year! 96pp. Recommended equipment include the original gypsy gripper, ruby beholder, cutting mat, ruler and rotary cutter with a sharp new blade. Julia.