Thursday, October 31, 2013

Traditional Russian Shawl

A friend, recently back from Russia, brought this stunning traditional shawl for me.

The shawl was hand crafted near Moscow, using traditional materials and methods.

The yarn is spun from the fleece of goats, and is most commonly knit in only it's natural colours of white and grey. Said to be as warm as a fur coat, they are very highly prized in their home country where winters can be very harsh.

Similar in texture to a mohair/cashmere mix, the shawl is lightweight and feels luxuriously soft and silky.

Having only limited experience knitting laces, I can still appreciate the complexity of this hand crafted design. This highly prized, heirloom quality gift will be worn with great care and valued for generations.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Patchwork Canada: Prairie Elements

Design and Colour

Where to start?

Never having worked on a landscape piece before, I am relying on the knowledge and experience of quilters and embroiderers, who have published books on the subject, to help me through the process. These are a few of the books that I am finding helpful for this process.

Top to bottom/left to right. "Adventures in Design" and "Color Play" both By Joen Wolfram; "Nature's Patterns" by Joyce R. Becker; "Luminous Landscapes" by Gloria Loughman; "Serendipity Quilts" by Susan Carlson; "Machine Embroidered Flowers" by Alison Holt.

What have I learned so far?
How to proceed?

1. Choose a theme.

The quilt will be a triptych, 3 long wall hangings, each representing a particular region of western Canada.

There will be 3 pieces, exact size yet to be determined, and for current purposes I'm working with a 12" x 24" dimension for each piece. The first in the series will be of the prairies, this will be followed with images of the mountains, and the final piece will represent the Pacific coast, sea to sky.

2. Find your Inspiration. 

This photo of the prairies will be the starting point. The image will give me the basic outline for the wall hanging and still allow me to add, subtract, ignore, etc., as the spirit moves.

From the sprinkling of the blue and yellow wildflowers in the green grasses to the golden field meeting the blue sky on the horizon, the photo will also help with the colour choices.

Here it's been converted into black and white to offer more contrast between the shapes and to better visualize the flow of lines.This made it easier to trace.

3. Create the design.

The small tracing (above) was enlarged on a copier to make a full size pattern which will serve as the design board. A second enlarged copy will be cut apart into templates.

 The size and placement of the tree may change. A scattering of flowers in the foreground will add a sense of perspective while the field and sky gradually disappear into the horizon.

4. Decide on colours. 

To find the value and intensity of the colours, it is easier to work with a black and white photo.

I will aim to sort each colour family into 5 values.

A self imposed goal for this project is to use only (well mostly)  fabrics from my stash. (Borrowing from my daughter's stash will be allowed. ...and the occasional purchase of a fat quarter or two may also be necessary!). Here are two colour palettes that I have been able to pull from my stash so far. I had hoped for colours that were more neutral, but given my self imposed limitations, I may have to alter the plan.

The first palette is somewhat softer then the collection below.

These colours are a little deeper and richer.

I'll have to start cutting them up and playing with them to get a better feel for the mood of the piece. I constantly have to remind myself that this is a learning experience, and when experimenting, making some wrong decisions will be part of the process.  I have to to allow myself freedom to play, as Susan Carlson indicates in her title: "Serendipity Quilts: Cutting Loose Fabric Collage".

5. Think about technique.

Books are a fantastic resource.

From Susan Carlson's free-style fabric collage, "Serendipity Quilts", to Gloria Loughman's use of a more structured piecing technique, "Luminous Landscapes" and Alison Holt's free motion machine embroidery embellishments, "Machine Embroidered Flowers", these books are all a great resource for teaching and for inspiration. Joen Wolfram's books, "Adventures in Design" and "Color Play" are both great references for designing any quilt.

There are as many different ideas and techniques as there are quilters. The trick will be to find something that works for me.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Autumnal Table Linens

With company visiting last weekend and with Canadian Thanksgiving coming up this weekend, I took a little time-out from my regular stitching to add some colour to the table linen scene.

Two years ago, when sewing some rather large drapes for a patio window, it was necessary to buy a whole bolt of fabric in order to get the colour and weight of linen required. Because there were about 12 meters of linen left over, there was easily enough for a tablecloth. It was made to fit our table with an added extension, but here it's on the table without any extensions.

(The colour of the linen is actually a brownish terracotta. The colours on the first two photos are much "pinker" then the true colour. I'm not sure why; all photos were taken at the same time?!?)

To get the width that I wanted, some additional lengths of fabric had to be added to each side of the fabric.

In staying true to my goal of using only (well mostly!) fabrics from my stash this year, I was also able to make coordinating napkins. When working with linens, I make sure to square up carefully before cutting. It's always time well invested.

There are six dinner napkins and six cocktail napkins.

While "rifling" through my "stuff" looking for coordinating linen for the napkins, I unearthed some autumnal WIP placemats that were started about 5 years ago. Because I love needle turn applique, and have not done any for far too long, I kept these out in the hopes that between now and Thanksgiving 2014, there may be an opportunity or two where I could finish them. Here's hoping!!! The placemats have been pieced and the applique finished on one. Everything else is organized and ready to stitch. It really should be possible to complete without too much stress!

The colour of the linen tablecloth in this photo is much closer to the real colour. Not sure why the first two photos turned out to be so "Pinkish", even after several edits in Photoshop.

Wishing all of my Canadian friends a Happy Thanksgiving, and everyone else (wherever you are) a very happy weekend.