Aug 30, 2015

DIY blue jean skirts

Spoiler alert. This post is not about quilting. It is about a quick and easy sewing project.

My quilt buddy Amy G. asked me to help her make a blue jean skirt. After skimming a couple online tutorials... I figured out its pretty easy to DIY. Just take a seam ripper and remove the stitches at the crotch of the jeans and all the way down the inside leg seam. Then cut your skirt to the desired length and use a piece of the leg denim to fill in the V of the skirt (front and back). Sew the leg flap down, then hem it. 

Its was so easy... I decided to make one for myself too.I found a pair of white jeans (that I never wear!)... made the skirt, then added some bling!

In case you need some translation - this is the Houston Texans logo. My uniform? Red cowboy boots, a jersey and a Texans skirt... ready to go!

I gotta thank my quilt buddy for the help with the wool Texans applique AND the sequin loan. My first attempt at bling! I think it works. 

We'll be at NRG Stadium for Texans season opener in about 2 weeks! However, we'll be watching Game 2 & 3 from Japan. That should be interesting...

Aug 26, 2015

when jazz and quilting share an idea

The world of improv is calling me. My mind keeps returning to the possibilities - use what you know but use it in a new way.
The quilt top (shown above) is my latest improv attempt. Its made using two pieces of beautiful vintage Japanese Yukata cotton and a stack of half-yard cuts of shimmering Oakshott cotton. Plus a tiny sprinkling of orange wool. 

(I'll share the back story on these gorgeous Japanese Yukata cottons soon. Please check back!)

Meanwhile, its possible that the whole purpose of my 18-year journey of quiltmaking was intended to reach this point. Or truthfully, maybe next year I will move on to something else. But hey, right now this certainly feels like a calling.

The attraction to improv makes me think of music, particularly jazz - which I love. The jazz world veers into the world of improv all the time... and to be good at improv takes a lot of skill and know-how. The best artists draw their improv inspiration from their proverbial 10,000 hours of practice and they use their knowledge of the rules and structure in music to break them.

You have to know how things are supposed to work before you can turn those rules upside down.

Teresa Duryea Wong

Same goes for sewing blocks or quilt tops. At least, that's how I interpret these ideas.

Once you master the correct method for making a nine-patch, a double wedding ring or log cabin for example, then you can use that knowledge to twist the rules and create something with traditional roots but is entirely new and unexpected.

Teresa Duryea Wong

Of course, there are many quiltmakers today and throughout history who have worked in this unstructured style without knowledge of the rules. They just made what inspired them and used techniques of their own devising. 

For me, I am just taking baby steps into this world. And now that my eyes are open, I find inspiration everywhere. 

My blogger pal Jayne at Twiggy and Opal posted this a couple weeks ago and I could not get this image out of my head. I love the gray and the tiny pops of color. Very intriguing.... and frankly, masterful!
Twiggy and Opal
Japanese quiltmaker Keiko Goke has been working in improv for 40 years. Her world is bright and color filled and her style has inspired me for many years. She is one of the artists featured in my new book!
Keiko Goke

Case in point: my improv double wedding ring inspired by Keiko Goke.

Teresa Duryea Wong.
A few years ago I started following blogger and quiltmaker Maria Shell. Her color grid series is breathtaking. She has an amazing command of line and structure - all with a wonky improv approach. 
Maria Shell. "Day" 24 x 24 inches.
Fret Not Yourself just wrote a really great review of a new exhibition of improv quilts from the Rod Kiracofe collection on view at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles. Check out her photos.
Photo by Ann at Fret Not Yourself blog.
Ann also shares a link back to an interview with Rod that was written by a woman who coincidentally has also become a new blogger (and business) pal of mine, Patricia at Okan Arts, who in 2014 posted an interview with Rod Kiracofe and his book on his collection of improvisational quilts.

As for me... all of a sudden, it seems I've let go of the tedious task of lining up seams and matching up corners. No more worry about straight lines and mitered corners.

Now, wonky is good. And improv is fun!

Inspiration everywhere - especially when jazz and quilting share the same ideas.

Linking up to

Aug 24, 2015

Japan - preparing for take off!

In a few weeks, I'll be heading back to Japan and so this seems like an opportune moment to offer some travel tips based on my own personal experience. 
The iconic Mt. Fuji on a beautiful winter day (2014).
First of all, there's a plethora of guided tours organized by knowledgeable professionals. There are even tours geared specifically for quilters and textile enthusiasts.  Several tours options are centered around the Tokyo International Great Quilt Festival held annually in January. If you like tours, just Google quilt tours to Japan.

Personally, I am not a fan of tours. I like to go at my own pace and make my own decisions.

Japan is a very easy country to travel in, so if you're the least bit interested in planning your own tour - I assure you that you can do it. (Allow me to offer some data to validate that statement. I've traveled all over the world - 40+ countries for work and personal - Cambodia, Saudi Arabia, Tanzania, Russia, Italy, Venezuela, and many other locales.) 

So trust me when I say, traveling inside Japan is easy and safe.

Here's my most important tip --- Purchase a Japan Rail Pass before you go! 

I've found that most people are unaware of this option. The Japan Rail Pass must be purchased outside Japan! It is available only to foreigners traveling as tourists. The Pass is sold in 7 or 14 day packages (or longer).  

There are several authorized sites in the US and other countries to purchase these passes. Check the Consulate or Embassy websites in your area for a list of authorized sellers. Inside the US, you can purchase online from JTB USA

Once you land at the airport, stop at the Japan Rail Pass check point and get your certificate authorized. You can begin using your Pass immediately.

If you land at Narita airport in Tokyo, for example, you can use the Pass on the Narita Express that takes you to the heart of the city. (Without the Pass, the Narita Express is approximately $20 USD one way.) Once you get to one of the major stops inside Tokyo, you can transfer to a subway or take a taxi to your hotel - this can save $$. 

By the way, riding in a taxi in Japan is an experience in itself. The drivers wear suits and white gloves and are extremely courteous. If you provide your driver your destination in writing, they will have no problem putting the address into their GPS and delivering you there straight away.

Back to the Japan Rail Pass - if you plan to travel to more than one city, the Pass will probably cut your transportation costs in half, or more. So this is a huge cost saver. Plus, it takes the worry out of using the amazing public transportation system.

Another very important note, the public transportation system in Japan is mostly bi-lingual. Thank you Japan! Many of the signs in major areas and most of the announcements on the trains and subways are offered in English.
Grab a quick selfie on one of the bullet trains before the other passengers board!
As with any big city, the layout of these trains and subways systems can be a bit tricky, but if you can read a map, you can navigate the system! Truly. 

Just set aside a few minutes each morning and study the map and plan your route. If you do this, you can get from point A to point B quickly and easily.

I always travel with a pocket map that I refer to throughout the day. There are also apps with maps and other helpful info for your phone. I find that holding a piece of paper is sometimes easier than navigating a map on a small electronic device... but I also download the apps for backup.

Stay tuned for more to come... including how to rent an apartment for an extended stay in Japan, where to shop for textiles and museum info.

Aug 20, 2015

extraordinary embroidery

This original art quilt was made and designed by my friend Amy G. 

Amy's original design was inspired by 'Fraktur' - which is a type of elaborate folk art. And I think she has certainly captured this unusual genre.

The work is created all by HAND! Hand applique and hand embroidery! And its embellished with trim, buttons and beads. She's used some beautiful prints, but she also used a lot of wool and some lovely velvets, which add to the texture. Amy's embroidery thread of choice is pearl cotton (size 8), mostly Valdani.

My part was merely the machine quilting - which I tried to keep in the background as much as possible so as not to detract from this incredible art.

The foundation is an antique feed sack textile. The feed sack is loosely woven (so a bit tricky to quilt) and it has a few spots of wear and stains from its many years of use, which make it all the more special. Those original red lines running down the textile make a perfect frame. 

Amy is an incredibly talented, extraordinary needle artist. Truly. No more words needed... the pictures say it all.

Thanks Amy G. for letting me be a part of your art journey!

On Friday, I'll link up with
Off the Wall Fridays
Finish It Up Friday

Aug 13, 2015

a red cardinal on black wool

A beautiful red cardinal appliqued on black wool.

The stitching shows up much better in this photo. I started on this piece quite a few weeks back. It is made using fused applique on a gorgeous piece of black wool.  I bought the wool at International Quilt Festival last year and I've been waiting for the opportunity to use it. It seems to me that the high-contrast between the solid black and the red makes the cardinal just pop off the background... and where he's hanging, its as if he is sitting looking out the windows of my new studio. This photo below helps give some perspective on how large this piece is.

The Calder-inspired art quilt in the corner is one I made years ago. I also made the red & white window shade!

This extreme close up was taken while I was still working on this piece. The cardinal body is covered in thread painting... which is a fairly new technique for me.  (In case you are not familiar with this technique, it means I used my Bernina to cover the fabric in thread, using very close lines in a pattern.) The thread painting was done before the cardinal was quilted to the wool... so the thread painted stitches do not show on the back.

I used a 12 wt Aurifil cotton thread. I ordered it online (for another project) and actually got the 12 wt by mistake. Then I decided to try it out on this project. The thread sheds a great deal, but I love the thickness of the stitches... looks almost like hand embroidery with pearl cotton.

Linking up
Off the Wall Fridays
Finish it p Friday

Aug 12, 2015

update on 'no blogging' rule in quilt competitions

About a year ago, I wrote a blog post based on my personal experience in entering a quilt competition with rules that stated the quilt could not be shown on blogs, websites, etc. prior to the exhibition. I call this the 'no blogging' rule and I now have a good news about the rule and some bad news about my original post.

First the good news. 

After I wrote that original blog post a year ago, it was reposted by the Bad Ass Quilters Society and was linked to several other blogs. As such, it got a lot of attention and comments. A couple weeks ago, that same post (unedited) was reposted on the Quilt Art News blog, and once again it brought this debate to the surface. 

The argument I was trying to make was that seeing an image online or in a book, or hearing a recorded piece of music that you love, actually builds familiarity and makes you want to see/hear the real thing in person all the more.

A week ago, I had the good fortune to have a conversation with Karey Patterson Bresenhan, President and founder of Quilts, Inc. --- a luminary in the world of quilts. Karey informed me that Quilts, Inc. plans to remove the 'no blogging' rule from their special exhibition call for entries in 2016. Great news! I'm pleased that my post helped in some small way to draw attention to the fact that some individuals consider their blog as an integrated part of the quiltmaking process.

A small victory for quilts and bloggers both!

The bad news is that the wording in my original post may have confused or misled some readers, and may have even discouraged people from entering competitions at all, which was not my intention.

Ultimately, I want what all quilt competition organizers want, and that is for as many people as possible to engage in the exhibition process - either as entrants, judges, curators, sponsors, viewers, fans, whatever!

So here's where the confusion happened.

In my original post, I was referring to rules for a special exhibition managed by Quilts, Inc. (the owners of International Quilt Festival / Market, and other entities) but I did not name this competition specifically. I've since learned that some readers assumed I was talking about the International Quilt Association (IQA) competition - which is the biggie at Houston. IQA does not have a 'no blogging' rule.

This was not an oversight on my part. I was trying to argue the issue from a broader perspective because there are several competitions in the international quilt world (not related to IQA or Houston) that have (or have had) this rule. The point was not to name names. The point to was make the case that blogging is as much a personal form of expression as quiltmaking itself and to offer a perspective on the way our brains interact with art.

So, I apologize to those of you who read my post and were confused, or worse misled, by my words. Also, I apologize to the IQA organizers for muddying up the waters on their rules for entry.

I do believe that every now and then it is important to offer a point of view in a public way and to bring others into the debate. In doing so, the writer takes a risk. Good intentions can be misconstrued or make things worse. 

I appreciate the gracious response from Quilts, Inc. and I'm thankful they made the tough decision to amend their rules. And I thank all of you who offered your own experiences and feedback on this particular issue and for agreeing with - or challenging - my point of view.

Aug 2, 2015

you know you have too much fabric when.....

My favorite fun fact from the big quilt industry survey is this: The average American quilter has $6,000 worth of fabric in her stash! I always thought that was amusing and interesting, but certainly did not apply to me.

Well, as some of you know, I recently remodeled my studio. Which was great. And in the process I unpacked ALL of the fabric that has been stored in one closet or another for years, some of its been there for 10 years or more! I emptied every single closet shelf. "Discovering" how much fabric I actually have was not so great. The pretty fabric you see in the red shelves, all folded so lovingly... this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Here's the rest of the story...

Recently, I started working on a new art quilt. Its a large red cardinal applique on black wool. As I started working on it (this was BEFORE my new studio, by the way) I stood in my closet and could not find any red fabric that I liked. So, of course, I drove to the quilt store and bought several new fat quarters. And this scenario has surely been repeated hundreds of times over the last decade. I think you know exactly what I mean, right?

As I bought new fabric, I put it in the closet and I shoved the old fabric to the back. Pretty soon, it was a big unorganized mess. But I kept buying more. And now that I have it all out where I can actually see it, I realize that that $6,000 stat is way more true that I want to admit.  Wow. I could make 2 or 3 trips to Japan for $6,000! As I'm fond of saying... holy cow! (Actually, I have 'other' sayings but those words are not nice to publish...)

I have been thinking about the need to buy - and the stash we collect - a lot lately.

A week or so ago, I read a really interesting blog post by Leah Day. Her post Stop Hoarding, Start Creating discusses our need to hoard tools, fabric, stuff... and how sometimes we'd rather go shopping than spend time creating. I believe there is some truth to that. I also think a lot of the problem is poor organization... and in my case, I attribute that to lack of space, and frankly, being too ambivalent to organize my stash. I'd go shopping because it was easier. The stacks at the quilt store are all so neat and clean.

So now I have a mission! And a plan.

I'm going to use my stash. Really use it. Sound crazy?

For starters, I'm going to making easy, quick, improv pieced traditional quilts to give to my family for Christmas. I can already see one in blue, one in earth tones, a green one, one (or maybe two home spuns - "what was I thinking?") and one in red. Yes, sadly, the woman who went to the store last month to buy more red fat quarters has enough red fabric in her stash to piece an entire quilt. Probably enough to piece the entire backing in red too!

I am going to just start cutting and piecing and see what happens. When I finish the quilts, I will stack them up at Christmas and let each family pick one quilt. To do this right I will need at least 8 quilts! I think I'm up to the task.

Stay tuned. And sorry quilt retail stores. One of your best customers is calling it quits.... For now.