Nov 28, 2014

Celtic Cross art quilt - back to the front

The mind works in mysterious ways. After starting an ambitious Celtic Cross art quilt back in March, it was set aside. This week, I've moved it back to the front of the list.

The background is white on white, one inch squares... not easy to photograph.

The cross is a cream/beige fabric, with white Celtic knots which I hand appliqued and hand stuffed (trapunto)! The circle is completely open, and the circle in circle Celtic shape around the arms of the cross is not covered yet - the white showing here is just the batting.

Its still very much a work in progress --- there's a lot of work to be done here, but the quilting on the background squares is done! And for that, I'm thrilled.

Here's the inspiration for my cross --- a family marker at the cemetery where my father is buried.

I found this vintage doily at an antique fair and I've added the same Celtic knot in the center in white lace. This will eventually become the centerpiece of the cross.

I am quilting each one inch square one design at a time. Several of the designs are repeated, but the overall effect is that they all look slightly different.

At first, I had a completely different quilting plan in mind. But I sought some expert advice from the master of intense quilting - Hilary at Hilary Florence Quilting Workshop. Her art, and her blog, are truly amazing. You must visit her!  Every time I visit I am so inspired.

The quilting I've done here is not as meticulous or as beautiful as Hilary's work... it is a bit more 'improv' we'll call it. But I owe credit to Hilary for the idea and I love the effect - gives the whole background a mosaic effect.

When I finish this, I promise to capture some better photos!

Two truly amazing things have happened while working on this. One, I have consumed almost an entire spool of 50 wt white Aurifil thread. This is incredible! Do you know how much thread is on there? I checked: 1,422 yards, 1,300 meters!!! This spool was brand new when I started!

Second, I have actually worn out the Bernina free-motion foot 44C... another thing I would not have imagined was possible.

For several hours, I kept finding these tiny black specs... looked like grease, or metal shards... unfortunately they were all too easy to see on the white fabric. I kept cleaning the machine... trying to figure out what was going on... finally I noticed it was coming from the foot. On closer inspection, I see that the spring might be shot.

So I did some math. It is very probable that I have put about 900 hours on that foot in the last 7 months. Math is not my strong point, but I believe this is a fairly accurate estimate. That is my 'go to' foot, for sure!

Anyway... back to my Celtic Cross quilt... I'm thrilled with the progress so far and I'm totally psyched to keep working and finish!

I like to include links to my previous posts. Part one began in March and part two was April 2014.

And its Friday, so I am linking up with Nina Marie's art quilts. This week especially, I am thankful for having a place to share work and see how so many creative minds work!

Nov 27, 2014

happy turkey day America

here's my thought for the day....

Or, as the case may be for this day... eat more turkey!

I made this quilt a few weeks just for fun. As you can see, it goes with the black and white Texas theme... and if my cow art quilt could talk - I imagine this is what he would say.

This was fun and easy to make... and it is a great throw quilt for watching TV.

Full explanation: If you're "not from 'round here" as we say... these words (and the way they are spelled) are part of a funny series of TV commercials from a chicken sandwich fast food chain. The cows even have their own website and Facebook page!

The letters are formed from strips of scraps I cut and stitched free form - no rulers. Then I used the freezer paper method to cut the letters. These are raw edge, then fused. A true quilt in a day method!

Nov 24, 2014

history of the textile trade: a gorgeous new book

If you love textiles and art history, you'll love this lusciously illustrated art book on the history of how and where textiles were traded 500 years ago.
Interwoven Globe: The Worldwide Textile Trade, 1500–1800
Edited by Amelia Peck
And who better to turn to than the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Yale University Press - two American cultural giants  - to compile such a gorgeous book.

The book has two parts. The first half is the most interesting! There are 9 essays by academics and curators covering everything from how textiles were produced on several continents, (which in many cases involved slave labor), to the paths that were sailed in this global trade, to the dyes that were used, traded and coveted by people all over the world.

The second half is a catalog for the Met's museum exhibition of the same name. Each item is beautifully photographed and the very first textile is a quilt made from silk that dates to the 17th century.

The cover is made from cloth (who does that anymore?) and the pattern is a replica of a blue/indigo resist textile --- a work of art on its own.

There are two maps inside the front and back cover highlighting the sailing routes to and from Europe, the Americas and Asia during these years. I find this so information fascinating. During all my years at corporate work, I was always reminded of this when I would find companies bragging about how global they are today... and talking as if they invented globalization. I always wanted to shout: People: we've been global for 500 years! 

But back to the book, one of the most interesting sections for me deals with trade with Japan. Its a fascinating essay about who Japan did and did not trade with during those years. In the late 1500s, and for many centuries later, Chinese silk was a highly sought after commodity. But China considered some of the Japanese islands to be pirates, so they would not officially trade with them. But, as the essay explains, there were some interesting 'work arounds' to these bans.

Later, in Edo Period, around 1630 Japan outlawed maritime trade with most nations, especially Christian nations such as Portugal and England who were expelled. The essay explains that the Japanese did continue to trade with the Dutch --- primarily because they were "nonproselytizing Christians." All interesting stuff... but I love the way academics explain these things. For example, the author says that the Western perception of Japan as a closed country during this time is a "presumption that lingers among non-specialists today." Non-specialists? Hmmmm.... I think she means mere mortals like you and me... hysterical. But, actually, she makes a good point. 

The other really interesting essay in this book is the one titled "Global Colors," which explains our search for the blues, yellows, reds and other colors around the world and the lengths traders would go to to get the raw materials, as well as dyed textiles, exported - mostly to Europe. By 1565, Spanish ships would trade silver (which was mined in the Americas) for large quantities of silk and dyestuffs from Asia back to Europe and Latin America.

There is also a whole section on the cochineal reds, which were made with the cochineal - a parasitic insect that lives on the prickly pear cactus. The cochineal originally came from South America, mostly Mexico and Peru, and the little bugs were collected (not easily, I imagine) and sold all over the world. The essay explains how the insects were sold by weight, and some of less scrupulous sellers often mixed tiny pebbles and other junk into their packages to increase the price. Eventually, people learned to cultivate the bug, but the most discerning dyers in Europe sought the wild cochineal for their finest products.

Other essays cover textiles from India; the Iberian trade with Latin America; Chinese textiles for Portugal; Silk trade along the seas and Turkey and Iran; and several others.

If you do nothing but look at the pictures, this book will be one you treasure. But if you have the time or interest in reading the serious literature, you will certainly learn a lot, or at least find new explanations of familiar story lines.

This would also make a great holiday gift!  Currently $40.90 on Amazon. I paid $65.00 several months ago for my copy. Also available at the Met Store - and the Met needs our support more than Amazon!

Nov 23, 2014

photos for friday

some random photos for friday

 hand-quilted bow ties from 1975... 
and funky flowers from right now. 
a Samsung tablet and a spunky new handmade cover...
                             and a handmade sock monkey made by my grandmother long ago. 

Nov 17, 2014

rebranded my Etsy shop... added some baby quilts

There once was a little girl who was the flower girl in our wedding. That was 29 years ago. Now, that little girl is married now and has her own baby girl. I made this sweet little quilt for her baby shower.

Afterwards, I decided to check out the world wide web for more baby/kid fabric just for fun!

Holy cow! Where have I been? There are tons of really cool designs and great colors and edgy themes... (edgy in a good way).

So... I decided to make some. Why not? And I added them to my Etsy site. At the risk of boring you to tears, I also must mention that I rebranded my Etsy site to match my blog. Etsy lets you rename your site once, and they redirect traffic etc. Pretty handy.

Anyway, I had great fun making these baby quilts and I hope that they sell and make someone happy!

I am linking up with Freshly Pieced Modern Quilts this week!

Nov 16, 2014

American Influence on Japanese Quilts: An Investigation

Last night marked the culmination of a five-year journey to complete a Master of Liberal Studies at Rice University. I presented my final capstone paper (thesis) to my faculty advisors at Rice, as well as fellow students, family and friends.

Teresa Duryea Wong presents
"American Influence on Japanese Quilts: An Investigation"
for a Master of Liberal Studies degree
at Rice University.
My capstone is titled: "American Influence on Japanese Quilts: An Investigation."

This material is an academic analysis of the story that will be published in my new book: Japanese Contemporary Quilts and Quilters: The Story of an American Import.  My book is due out in the Spring of 2015 and is being published by Schiffer Publishing. See more here.

Naturally, I'm thrilled to have completed my Master's degree. There were a lot of late night classes, tons of weekend studying, countless term papers and final exams. But in the end - it was an incredibly rewarding journey.

My part of the program is now complete and Rice will officially confer my degree in December 2014.

Next step is publication of the book. I am endlessly excited.

Nov 9, 2014

a machine that changed my life

This is a story about a machine that changed my life.

There are plenty of transformative machines that have changed our lives, of course --- the car, the fax machine, um... the Weedeater. But no machine has changed me so personally and profoundly as a new Bernina I bought two years ago this month.

Hang with me and I'll explain. But please note, this is not a shameless plug. No one asked me to write this. These words are the real deal - an expression of how the way I approach my own quiltmaking has completely evolved.

For example, here's me 2 years ago.

"Roseville Album" by Teresa Duryea Wong. Hand applique, hand quilted. 2011-2013.
Based on a pattern by Kim McLean.
And here's me today.

Wanna Cookie? Teresa Duryea Wong, 2014. Hand applique, machine quilted. Original design. 
FINALIST: Special Exhibition: "It's Raining Cats and Dogs."
Holy Cow. Teresa Duryea Wong, 2014. Fused applique, machine quilted.
Original design. 2014.
For 16 years I was a hand quilter. I made mostly traditional quilts. I believed that hand quilting was superior and worth the time and effort it took to make things. I still believe that hand quilting is a beautiful technique, and there are moments when I miss the tedious, repetitive hand work and its outcome.

But one day, something lit up in my head.

It was 2012, and I was walking around at the Houston International Quilt Festival. I stopped at the Bernina booth, and without planning or even a warning, I made the largest single purchase I have ever made on a machine that is for pure fun.  Once I sat down and saw all the benefits, saw the technology and what it allowed you to do - well, I wanted in!

I have to admit, the first year was a huge learning curve... and there was a lot of frustration as I tackled new techniques. I am not the most patient person. My local dealer offered classes - including a half-dozen, full-day classes that were included with the purchase of the machine. I took every one of them, plus a few more. There were also several trips to the dealer for repairs and problems, and lots of queries to the Bernina 800 series Yahoo user group. Bet you didn't know there was such a thing, did ya? But let me tell you... this user group rocks. The ladies there know their machines and someone is always willing to help, or at least calm you down!

You see, free motion quilting is like driving a car. It takes time to learn and even more time to be good at it.

This past year, like magic, I now rule my machine!

The story of how this happened is long. For starters, I figured out that the thing eats oil for breakfast - yes, seriously! Of course they advise you to oil the machine often, and even a cute little 'check oil' icon pops up on the screen. But I figured out, if you're sewing all day, at full speed, like I often do, feed the thing oil every two hours at least... and sometimes, I feed it every hour! Its kinda like Little Shop of Horrors ... "feed me, Seymour."

The other thing I figured out is that not all threads are created equal. At first I tried some ordinary threads... and then some shiny threads, and some thin threads and some thick ones. Lots of cuss words and maybe a few tears later... I discovered Aurifil.  It's like raising kids, there are some things you just gotta figure out on your own.

Look at that rack of pure Italian beauty! Don't you just love it?

Aurifil thread is strong, it is smooth, the colors are beautiful, and it makes quilting more fun.  I can't fully explain exactly why it is so much better, but I use 50 weight, 2-ply, and it is 100% cotton. And that combination just works. Plus, its made in Italy. Need I say more?

The other thing about my Bernina is that feet do matter! You gotta pay attention to these little jewels and make the investment to get the right tool for the right job. For me, the biggest discovery and the biggest change that made a difference for me personally was to switch from the BSR (Bernina Stitch Regulator) to the open embroidery feet for free motion quilting (or FMQ as we say in our quilty language). Using these feet (44C is my fave) gives me free motion freedom, stress free sewing, beautiful stitches and hours of entertainment!

When properly fed and with the right thread and the right foot, my machine just purs along while I stitch. And that makes me both productive and happy.

Just like a car, FMQ is also fast and it gets you to where you're going so much faster than hand quilting! Its something akin to the difference between riding a horse-drawn cart or flying with Hans Solo at warp speed!

So that brings me back to my two art quilts.

While my hand quilted beauties took me on average two to three years to complete, these two art quilts were made in a matter of months. But hold on a sec... this evolution is more than just time.

Rather, it's the very idea of FMQ itself and the fact that I could eventually master it that helped me see things differently, even think differently. And this is my whole point.

While I once relied on store-bought patterns and color-coordinated collections of fabrics (nothing wrong with that - I cherish all my quilts and I still love all styles of quilting...), I now design my own patterns and I use a plethora of techniques to make my own color from a variety of fabrics.

I dream of painting-sized images in my head and I work out how I can construct my own art using my machine!

Yep, evolution is part of the game I guess... and the journey continues. But I now consider myself an art quilter. In fact, my dog quilt "Wanna Cookie" was accepted into a juried competition for the International Quilt Festival. It was on view in Houston and it will now travel for two years to various museum shows and quilt exhibitions. Isn't that cool?

But I just can't stop there. If you are still with me, there is still more to the story!!!

A couple months ago, I started a small business!!! I make custom quilted tote bags specifically designed to hold needlepoint projects.  I sell these to a needlepoint retail shop and the joy of making something that will sell and will be used is enormously rewarding.

So... when I walked out the doors of the 2014 Houston International Quilt Festival for the last time, I got to thinking about the past two years.

Belive me... never did I envision launching a small business when I wandered into that Bernina booth two years ago. But there you have it.

Two years, two art quilts, and one small business start-up later, I gotta say, its been a heck of an evolution.  

And all because of a machine that changed my life! 

Thanks Bernina!

Nov 1, 2014

a few friends & family photos from Festival

Here's my "dear diary" post from the Houston International Quilt Festival.... this may interest only me, but here goes anyway. 
My best quilt buddy Amy G. and I start off day one right!
I had so many wonderful friends and family who took time to come to Quilt Fest and see my art quilt on view, I wanted to collect all the photos and memories in one place. It was all so surreal... loved every moment. (Photos are in no particular order.)

The husband and his fancy red car. He was just awesome... drove me to Festival EVERYDAY!
Even went back one day and picked up my mom, aunt, and two friends. Thanks Husband!
At Quilt Market, I got to meet Amy Butler. Love her vibe!

At Quilt Market, I also got to meet and chat with fellow blogger pal Emily Breclaw.
She is pictured in front of her beautiful quilt she created for the Hoffman Challenge.
Emily blogs about quilts and patterns she creates and also hosts a monthly series on Japanese quilts.
Me, my mom and my Aunt Peggy.
Amy G. and I outside the GRB, on our way to Preview Night.

I was thrilled to meet up with Noriko Endo, a truly gifted quilt artist from Japan. During one of her afternoon's "off" from her busy teaching schedule at the International Quilt Festival, we visited the Texas Quilt Museum in La Grange.
Gorgeous La Grange.
Noriko Endo inside her classroom, with Maggie Backman, the organizer of the whole Silk Experience series of classes. Maggie and her teachers have been offering these classes for 10 years at Festival.

The lovely (and fellow red head)  Lisa L. stopped by!

My dear friend Nancy S. (yet another red head!) took time to come see the quilt extravaganza.
And last but certainly not least.... today I attended the luncheon with Jo Packham, the founder and creator of "Where Women Create." Her presentation was funny, poignant, and so real! She made me cry and laugh and I am truly inspired by her story. She was also incredibly kind! There must have been 500 people at this luncheon, but she came out to greet us all as we stood in line and stood around after for photos and chatting afterwards. A class act, for sure!

Me and Jo Packham, founder and creator of "Where Women Create."
I feel so blessed and lucky... and completely inspired. Now I'm ready to go make more quilts!