Monday, 31 October 2011

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Awesome Indigo

Bryan, our host and tutor in Japan next April, has been to the tsunami-hit region of Japan to give some very creative and practical support in the form of indigo dyeing workshops.  Read all about it on the Japanese Textile Study Tour blog.

Susan Briscoe Weekend 2

On Sunday I joined Susan Briscoe's "Japanese Circles and Squares" workshop at Ludford.
Susan has made several variations of this quilt design and is planning a book which will share them and her wonderful cutting, piecing and block arrangement instructions (which saved us a lot of strain on our grey matter on a Sunday morning).
We all worked very hard, there was a lot of 2 1/2", 3 1/2", 1 1/2" mutterings as we cut and then a lot of 2,4...3,6... as we arranged our blocks. 
I used Japanese fabrics for my quilt but not everybody did and it was interesting to see how the quilt came together in the differing fabrics.  It seems to be one of those designs that works in almost any fabric.  I feel another version coming on!  Susan has photographs of everyone's versions on her post about the workshop here.
I made very good progress during the workshop, getting all the blocks made and arranged in order.  I was pleased with how accurate my work was on this project with everything coming together neatly.  Yesterday I sewed them together and then spent a while playing about with adding the circles before deciding I didn't need circles at all on this version.  No, I wasn't swayed in that decision by the thought of needle-turn applique as Susan demonstrated this and I'm sure it's really easy :-)
So now I need to think about borders and then I am going to use sashiko stitching to quilt the piece, using a cream thread.  Here is the quilt so far, "Japanese Squares Without Circles":
Thank you for all the comments you made regarding the handles on my Southern Belle bag.  I agreed with several of you it would be sensible to machine them as that would give them strength.  I did that this morning and am now going to return to hand stitching to quilt the bag flap.  I'll share that when it's finished but if you would like some Japanese eye candy please scroll down to my first post of today and see some of the lovely quilts Susan shared with us on Saturday.

Susan Briscoe Weekend 1

You will remember that I have been rather excited about the QGBI Region 10 area weekend I attended on 22nd and 23rd October as the guest speaker was Susan Briscoe.  I wasn't disappointed.  On Saturday we had a lovely day with a mini workshop (quilt as you go, I'll share that soon), traders, bring and buy, a yummy faith lunch and lots of chat and then Susan's talk in the afternoon.  Called "Japanese Quilt Inspirations" it was right up my street and was a feast for the eyes.  My photos are a bit skewed as I didn't choose my seat very well but anyway I would urge you to get your local quilt group to book Susan so you can see them for yourselves.  You will also hear all the stories that accompany them and the story of Susan's quilting life and her connections with Japan.  I've included a few detail photos too so that you can appreciate the quality of Susan's work.


Friday, 21 October 2011

Friday Night Sew-In: Saturday Morning Report, October 2011

I'm posting during FNSI itself just before I go for a nice soak in the bath and then an early night.  I got back from a trip to Rugby this afternoon (the English town not the World Cup in New Zealand sadly) and have been working on my "Southern Belle" bag since having a lovely fish and chip dinner (thanks DH for fetching it).  I'm getting on quite nicely but am now wondering whether I ought to "cheat" and machine the lines of stitching that strengthen the handles.  I was intending to do the whole bag by hand but...what would you do?
My early night is in aid of it being QGBI Region 10 Area Day tomorrow.  Susan Briscoe is coming to speak about her Japanese Quilt Inspirations and on Sunday I'm doing a workshop with her, Japanese Circles and Squares.  I'm very excited and will hopefully have a lot of photographs to share with you next week plus a quilt top.  Hoping you're all having a good FNSI and that you have a lovely weekend.

Monday, 17 October 2011

More About Bryan

This article from 2006 about our tutor and host in Japan next year was published by The Daily Yomiuri Online, here's the link to the original:

Canadian finds his own silk road

At the entrance of his 150-year-old house in Fujinomachi, Kanagawa Prefecture, Bryan Whitehead fixes the shape of a tool, called mabushi, made of straw and used for spinning cocoons.
Whitehead unwinds cocoons while a machine called zaguri reels the silk.
Obi and drawstring bags made by Whitehead
Degummed silk floss waiting to be hand-spun
Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer
FUJINOMACHI, Kanagawa--Bryan Whitehead is a person of many interests--art, history, antique tools, fabrics and gardening. After spending years going off in all directions, he now lives in an old silk-farming house that satisfies all his interests.
In spring, Whitehead takes the eggs of silkworms, laid the previous autumn, out of the refrigerator. After the eggs hatch, he constantly feeds the caterpillars mulberry leaves until they gain enough weight to enter the cocoon stage. A month later, Whitehead starts spinning silk from the cocoons.
During the winter, he uses natural dyes, including indigo that he grows himself, to dye the silk that he produces and weaves. His silk products range from traditional Japanese bags and other small items to larger items, such as kimono.
He also cultivates mulberry trees to feed more than 10,000 silkworms, which eat about 60 kilograms of mulberry leaves a day. After talking to older residents in his neighborhood of Fujinomachi, where sericulture once flourished, he learned how to make tools that are no longer available.
Whitehead also paints on commission--a subject that he studied for many years--while teaching English.
"Everything fits so well together with the old silk farming house I am living in. All my interests since I was a kid seemed to find a place in what I am doing," the 42-year-old Canadian said.
His respect for a simple, but refined life, close to nature has kept him in the mountainous town for nearly two decades.
"I was dissatisfied with a consumer lifestyle and wanted to live my life as something more than simply someone contributing to the world through purchasing things and being someone who would be often defined by what I owned and wore," Whitehead said.
Japan's traditional arts and crafts helped him achieve his ideal lifestyle. The turning point came when he was invited to a friend's home on Izu Peninsula in Shizuoka Prefecture shortly after he first came to Japan in 1989.
"I had no idea what to expect and found myself traveling for hours in a van with no one who spoke English in Golden Week traffic," he recalled. "Eventually we stopped in the middle of nowhere and started hiking up through the mountains. We came to a really poor-looking shack with no electricity. There were about 20 people inside with just some candles and kerosene lights."
However, his worries turned to excitement when he saw that the table--which was just a huge slab of zelkova wood--was covered with many beautiful cups and dishes, and that the food being served, such as wild vegetable tempura, came from the nearby mountain.
"It made a great impression on me and I was determined to learn about pottery and this new aesthetic [called] wabizumai, a kind of refined poverty," he said.
The mingei philosophy of Soetsu Yanagi (1889-1961), who discovered the beauty in everyday objects created by unknown craftsmen, further inspired him to learn about traditional Japanese craftsmanship.
"Some objects made by illiterate potters, weavers and painters are worth millions. Why is this? Why do we never get tired of looking at them?" Whitehead asks.
"I guess it is a kind of Zen lack of ego. My ego functions a bit too well at times, but somehow I figured if I went the whole route of making my own silk fabric...somehow 'I' would disappear and just the work would be left," he said.
Born near Vancouver, Whitehead studied marketing and advertising as well as graphic design at university, but in the end, he became disillusioned with the commercial fields and decided to travel abroad.
"I was being reactionary against store-bought goods after years of studying advertising and marketing. I knew the structure and the games and wanted to avoid that world for a while," he said.
At age 25, Whitehead arrived at Narita Airport with just a backpack, after having traveled in India and Southeast Asia for six months. Initially, he planned to stay in Japan for five years to study sumi-e ink painting.
It was after moving to Fujinomachi that he became interested in raising silkworms, as well as dyeing and weaving textiles. It was a meeting with his neighbor, Minako Kato, that led him into the fields.
When he saw Kato creating textiles from scratch by making raw materials, his desire for producing quality work intensified, and he often visited her to try to acquire the traditional craft techniques, which are often time-consuming and labor-intensive. To weave one kimono, up to 5,000 cocoons are required.
However, Whitehead's enthusiasm overcame the challenges he faced.
"He was really enthusiastic about learning the craft. Also, he was a fast learner and very skillful with his fingers," the 85-year-old Kato said. "Now that he can do anything on his own, I just sit back and enjoy watching his achievements."
Whitehead's current passion is to share the skills he has learned with others. Several times a year, he visits Laos thanks to an Asian Development Bank project aimed at developing the country's silk production and crafts. In Japan, he recently started holding workshops where his students can learn the traditional techniques involved in reeling, plant dyeing and weaving fabrics.
"I am not so proud of being 'hen na gaijin' [strange foreigner] and try to be inconspicuous at times. What I am doing was so common not so long ago, so I don't think it so special," Whitehead said.
But he added, "I love what I am doing and am always enthusiastic about it, so I love to share it."
(August. 13, 2006)
I think there might still be a place available on the Japanese Textile Study Tour (April 2012) but you'll need to be quick, have a look at the tour brochure here.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Productive Weekend

On Saturday I made a banana loaf in the morning (no picture, it's all gone!), put a casserole in the slow cooker and then went to meet DD in Horncastle when Doughty's were holding a fabric roadshow.  Going later in the day was a good plan, it was much calmer than when we arrived at the start of their last sale and we were able to browse easily and get fabric cut without queueing for ages.  We also got to buy the remaining cakes, mmm lemon drizzle, to support Breast Cancer.  DD bought a great selection of creams and browns to make her first quilt.  I bought the fabrics above, the cream and turquoise for the Fat Quarter Frenzy quilt I started at Country Roads Quilters last week and the brown and rust for another quilt I'm planning using the same pattern.
Once home I finished joining the blocks for the FQFQuilt, version one:
This will be going on one of the guest beds at the bach next season.

Today has been a glorious, sunny Autumn day and this morning we took GS2 on a walk in the woods, he had a great time playing in the stream and collecting minibeasts, DH and I collected blackberries and hazelnuts for an afternoon treat.  I love foraging.
Back at home DH sat down to play his guitar for the first time in a very long time and I headed to the cutting board.  I got all these sets cut to make another version of the FQFQuilt.  Most of these fabrics were sent to me for my birthday by my Global Piecers friends in South Dakota and I thought it would be great to use them all together.  We have pheasants adorning our dining room so this quilt is destined for that room.  Thank you Twila, Carole and Joan.
Before lighting the fire and enjoying the second incarnation of the casserole I washed and ironed all these delicious Japanese fabrics for a workshop I'm taking with Susan Briscoe next weekend. 
I hope you've also had a good weekend.  Bad luck for Wales but at least New Zealand beat Australia!

Friday, 14 October 2011

Thank You Sam

Just photos this evening after my adorable grandson, Sam, helped his Grandad move and stack a pile of logs in the autumn sunshine this afternoon.  Have a great weekend everyone and good luck to Wales.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Country Roads Quilters and Giveaways for Christmas

Thank you for all your comments about my small fat quarter (anyone reading this who isn't a quilter and is therefore confused please click here), it is interesting to learn that it is an international problem and not confined to one supplier or two.  In future if the dimensions of a FQ are important to a project I shall have no hesitation in asking to measure what I'm thinking of buying.  I learned also that even though fabric might be marked as 44" wide this is the "off the loom" width and it might be less than 42" by the time it reaches us.  More grrr.
Anyway, in spite of that hassle I had a lovely meeting at Country Roads Quilters on Tuesday when most people started work on their Fat Quarter Frenzy quilt with the aim of it being finished for Christmas (don't say which Christmas!)  Quilters are such lovely people aren't they?  Our members range from the expert, teaching, exhibiting end to the "what's a rotary cutter?" end of experience.  Everybody was willing to help somebody else as required, whether with showing them how to cut their fabric into the required size pieces, giving suggestions about layout or about border fabrics or simply making a supportive cup of tea as required and offering assurance that it gets easier!  Thank you ladies, you're the best.
And finally today, also on the subject of lovely quilting ladies, get yourself over to see Lynne, she's organised a fantastic Christmas gifts giveaway here or you can click the button on the right or below.  Good luck, have fun and thank you to all the sponsors as well as to Lynne herself.

Christmas Gifts for Quilters