Oct 24, 2016

Nancy Crow workshop - day one

Today was a great first day of Nancy Crow's "piecing & resturcuturing" workshop.

I'm at the 'Crow Barn' - out in rural Ohio, near Baltimore. Its a lovely setting.

As for the workshop.... today felt a bit like I was a contestant on 'Project Runway' ... (in a good way!)  We were given "one day" for the "challenge" and a budget of 12 "fabrics" (aka knows as finished improv pieced blocks) that we created!

I started with this....

Then made 12 sets of new fabrics....

Then... I sewed like a crazy woman and turned those strips into this...

A few small things to fix on this tomorrow morning. Not bad for "quilt in a day" challenge!

Sunday we also visted the Dairy Barn Arts Center - in Athens, Ohio. There is a fabulous exhibit on view of master quilts curated by Nancy. Unfortunately, no pics allowed. But the barn is a very cool space ---- this is the same venue that hosts/exhibits Quilt National.

Stay tuned. More to come. 

Oct 22, 2016

heading to Nancy Crow workshop today

Heading to a week-long art quilt workshop with Nancy Crow today.

I'm looking forward to the critique on my recent improv.... and the inspiration to do more.

More to come throught the week!

Sep 23, 2016

Blogger's Quilt Fest - Hand Quilted category

Its fall and that means its time for the Blogger's Quilt Festival. 

I've entered this online festival for the past several years and its always fun to be a part of it, and to see all the great quilts that people make and blog about.

I am entering the HAND QUILTED CATEGORY.

Take time to visit and vote for your favorites.

This quilt was created from antique Japanese cotton. Some of these pieces are a century old, some older, some newer.

I stitched these pieces in layers with white cotton sashiko thread. Here is my original post about making this quilt.

Sep 19, 2016

this is what obsession looks like

This is what obsession looks like.

A dozen + handbags!!! I've done nothing but design and construct purses. And along the way I have neglected my blog! :(

Its all been purses and more purses... for weeks! I've built them, and then redesigned them and rebuilt them... so its hard to actually count them. On some designes, I built them and then took them apart and started over and built them again, till they're perfect. 

This is obsession for sure! I've been obsessed before... over quilts... or work... or kids... or whatever. But I don't think I've spent this much time with such a single focus, ever! I have truly lived like a hermit... or maybe just an artist obsessing over the work.

Its all been so interesting because working with leather is so different and its been good for my mind to have a totally new challenge. 

In addition to the mental challenge. leather is also very physical... there are hole punches, screwdrivers, mini drills... hammers and knives ... and strong-arming leather into forms and shapes that work. 

Leather is unforgiving! Mess up and you gotta start over.

Why the obsession? Well, I'm starting a new business making and selling leather and cotton handbags --- something I've wanted to do for quite some time!

Back in 1969, my dad started a business making wooden purses and I used to help out working in his shop after school and on weekends. Back in those days, child labor was not looked down upon! haha. Everyone was expected to work and help out, so we did. To honor those early days, I've named my new company mariejay- a combination of mine and my dad's middle names.

I plan to focus mostly on leather handbags, lined with beautiful quilting cottons.  

Each one is unique and I start each project with an open mind and let the leather and fabric speak to me.

But I also plan to use unusual materials such as canvas, vintage feed sacks or upcycled coffee bean sacks (we don't say "used" anymore... haha). The feed sacks and coffee bean sack bags have leather interiors!

I plan to sell online for now. I'm in the process of building a new e-commerce site. And I've opened a new Etsy store for my new brand (mariejayshop.etsy.com

Setting up websites, taking professional photos, keeping up with social media stuff... all takes time and patience. But at this point, I think it is a better option for me than selling through retail boutiques. Although, later down the road that may change. 

Of course I will keep quilting! I love quilting and will always be a quilter. In fact, its the very skills I've learned with 20 years of quiltmaking that are helping me in my new business. And hopefully, I will turn this new passion into a real day job... and keep quilting for fun.

Thanks for reading... and for coming back to my blog after the summer absence.

Aug 7, 2016

leather and quilting and Japanese fabric and 5 purses later!

Lately, the stars have aligned.

I've combined all my loves: quilting, sewing, cool purses and tote bags, Japanese cotton, vintage materials, and now leather.

This combo is so cool that I've made 5 purses using some of each. I just listed them on Etsy

Loving my new leather sewing machine! These red and black purses turned out great. Perfect shoulder bags. Both are fully lined and include a thin piping along the top edge. The interior fabric on the black bag is a Yoko Saito cotton - made in Japan.

Cotton and Steel vintage ladies on the pocket!

More Japanese fabrics here! These funky flowers were designed by Keiko Goke - and printed in Japan. The inside fabric is hers as well. Its quilted.

I've spent weeks toiling over these bags. Making every little detail as best I can. Stirring my creativity and stretching my technical skills.

Then we (the Husband and I) spent hours on the photo shoot today for Etsy. Luckily the Husband is a pro - and lets me use all his photo gear and lights! You know what else is lucky? The Bernina sits on an electronic lift table and it lowers to become, well, a photo studio on top!

Love this vintage telephone cotton canvas from Cotton and Steel. I cut out one telephone and quilted it and it hangs outside the bag. The straps and top binding are a dyed leather.

And this one below is made with an American vintage feed/grain sack and leather inside! The vintage typewriter (also Cotton and Steel fabric) is appliqued on the outside and hand embroidered. The typewriter is also featured on the inside pocket. Once upon a time, this cotton fabric was used to haul grain or feed (don't worry, its been washed). Its very soft. And to make it extra special, I lined the inside with leather. Clever, huh?

All of these bags are now listed on my Etsy site.

I dusted off the mothballs of my Etsy site and I've decided to give Etsy another go. I opened an Etsy shop in 2013. Originally I listed art quilts and baby quilts. I have sold a total of 2 items. I shuttered the site for quite a while... but now I am back in business.

If you happen to be in Kerrville, Texas, or near there, I am speaking at the Hill Country Quilt Guild on August 15. I'll be bringing these handbags there in person to show off and maybe even sell! I also be bringing lots of new deliveries of vintage Japanese cotton yukata.

I would LOVE your comments, feedback, questions or whatever. Let me know what you think.

Here the whole url for my Etsy shop: thirdfloorquiltsshop.etsy.com

Jul 31, 2016

move over Kate Spade... I'm sewing with leather

Turns out, dreams really can come true!

I made my 1st leather tote bag!

I've been dreaming of getting a second sewing machine specifically for leather for a couple of years. I plan to make purses, bags and other stuff. I see myself as the next Kate Spade! ... (Actually, I don't even know much about her... and I don't think she even owns the company anymore...) I picture Kate Spade as this eternally young woman, happily designing cute colorful purses, making stuff women want to buy. Then I insert myself into that picture! Haha. Hey, don't laugh.

After two years of making and selling tote bags (think Vera Bradley, only way cooler), I finally reached a point where I could justify the cost of a new machine and make the room - both in my studio and in my schedule.

My second machine is a serious, industrial workhorse... like a Mac Truck.

My first machine is a sewing computer. 

...a delicate dandelion ready to break apart with the wind.

My second machine is like JJ Watt (think Terminator, only real) - ready to roll over anything that stands in its way. This one - you turn it on - and it just sews! Forward and backward.

I bought my first machine about 4 years ago. Bernina --- the 820 Quilters Edition. It was International Quilt Festival time and my BFF and I had margaritas and Mexican food before 'Preview Night' of the show. Still happy from our happy hour(s), I found myself in the Bernina booth talking to this very nice lady who showed me this magical machine and its stitch regulator for free motion quilting. 

For 15 years, I hand quilted but always wanted to learn to do more. So the features of the 820 looked very appealing. I signed up! Called my BFF ... "Come to aisle 1600. I just bought a Bernina."

This time around, I did a LOT more research! Here's my first little leather coin purse.

In spite of my margarita-happy purchase, I do not regret my Bernina decision at all. Quite the contrary - I love the machine. The learning curve was very high though. I have to say it took me almost a year to figure out the machine --- and that's with attending all the classes my Bernina dealer offered.

My fancy dandelion sewing computer is awesome if you abide by my 2 rules. Number one, don't use the BSR (otherwise known as the Bernina Stitch Regulator). Yes, the gadget that was the most attractive to me at first turns out to be the least useful. 

Number two, oil the machine every hour or so. Yes! Every hour! Trust me. This solves all evils.

With these two rules, I rule my Bernina and I love it.

But with a second chance, I wanted to make sure I knew what I was getting.
What would Kate Spade do? I assume she would start with You Tube, I mean really. Who needs a staff or professional counsel when you can learn just about anything on You Tube? haha...

Seriously, there are tons of great videos on how to choose a leather sewing machine... how to thread it... how to sew with it... on and on. Its all right there if you invest the time to watch and learn. This time, I also talked to lots of people. I read blogs, studied the work of small leather studios, went to an industrial sewing shop, and I talked to many dealers on the phone.

I plan to make leather purses, tote bags and other small items. So I decided that I needed a machine with a cylinder arm. That raised the price quite a bit over the flat bed machines, but I knew it was a critical feature for rounded corners and other tight spaces in sewing bags. I also knew I needed the lock stitch, compound feed mechanism, and I wanted a stitch length of 6 mm. I would have loved to have the option for an even longer stitch length, but it turns out this is one of those dividing lines and the machines that do longer stitches are a lot more expensive. So 6 mm is good for me.

Next decision was the price and the brand. I started out preferring the Pfaff based on advice and reviews. But I learned from talking to experts that most of these industrial machines are pretty much made by the same manufacturers and they just stick different labels on the outside. I don't mean to discredit Pfaff or any other brand by saying that, I know there are quality differences.

Anyway, I was ready to accept an off-brand alternative. I found machines that mimic the features of the name brand machines, but for several thousand dollars less!
I finally decided to purchase a Typical GC 2603 from a dealer in Dallas, Texas - Sunny Sewing Machine. Their customer service has been incredible! I was nervous to purchase a machine over the phone that I had not sewn with... but they assured me I would be satisfied and they spent a lot of time talking to me about the features and what I needed to sew purses, bags, etc.

The price tag was $1,350 --- within my budget. Shipping was $165 (Dallas is only 4 hour drive from Houston). And I needed a couple extra gadgets added, which Sunny Sewing machine included AT NO EXTRA CHARGE!

And get this - I got the machine 2 days later! AND it came to me fully assembled and ready to sew. With industrial machines like this, there is a motor, belts and other stuff and the machine has to be firmly attached to the table. Sunny Sewing Machines did all this up front. Bolted the thing to a pallet and shipped it to me ready to go. All the other dealers sent the machines in parts and you have to install the motor, etc. Having it ready to go was very attractive!

Luckily "third floor quilts" has an elevator! And A Husband available to help!

Bernina's customer service was a completely different experience. I'm not saying it was bad - just different. First, it took 6 weeks to get my Bernina delivered. At the time - and even now - that seems crazy to me. Second, the machine did come with one set of needles, oil, small tools, and several feet amd a few other things. But it did not come with a 1/4 inch foot. I had to buy that foot extra. It wasn't that expensive, but it seems that a $6,000 machine desinged especially as a quilter's edition ought to come with a 1/4 inch foot. Small thing, I know. But it has stuck with me all these years. Bernina did fund about 6 full and half-day classes, which I took full advantage of. These were very helpful.

With my new leather machine, Sunny Sewing added an edge guide (which was not standard to this model) and 2 zipper feet attachments for free! They also sent needles and other goodies.

I'm so happy with my new Mac Truck... my new JJ Watt power!

Stay tuned Kate Spade. I'm on my way.

Jul 18, 2016

tote bags ... some recent finishes

Some recent finishes of my custom quilted tote bags for the needlepoint industry. I sell these types of bags through Chandail Needlework.