Wednesday 13 November 2013

Wearable Art

Last month I was asked to present a trunk show to my guild.  You are all familiar with the concept.  Basically, a show and tell about your experiences and sharing of your work.  As I informed my friends, my quilting trunk is fairly empty, so instead, I shared my other passion.  Historical and Vintage fashion.  The subject has been quite dear to my heart for most of my life and based on the response of yesterdays audience, the appeal seems to be universal amongst quilters.

The subject of todays post is on quilted clothing.  This combines both of my loves while staying the course with the object of this blog, our upcoming show in April 2014 and sharing highlights from our last show in 2012.

Early 19th century Banyan
Mid 18th century under skirt

Historically, it is believed that the earliest quilted garments were worn by Asian soldiers as a form of protection against the rubbing of their armor.  These garments were eventually adopted by European armies for the same purpose and may have been introduced during the Crusades.  It isn't much of a stretch to realize how quickly they found favor for domestic use, both as bedding and fashionable garments.  While very early examples have not survived, we do have many beautiful examples from the 18th and 19th centuries.  

The example at the top is called a "Banyan" and was worn by men at home for leisure wear and warmth.  It eventually evolved into the dressing gown or house coat.  The chintz would have been imported from India and if you look closely, the fabric was quilted first and then cut into the required pieces for making up the garment. It was probably made by the women in the household at this time.

The skirt above is a silk underskirt, not a petticoat.  It was meant to be seen as a foundation for the open gowns of the 18th century.  Made of silk satin and heavily quilted, it is typical of some of the earliest examples of ready made clothing that could be purchased from shops. (Click on the pictures for greater detail).  The quilting on this example is truly beautiful.

For quilters and fibre artists alike, the appeal to adorn ourselves with our own efforts continues.  Our quilt show in 2012 displayed some beautiful examples of quilted apparel and the category is sure to impress again in 2014.

Tuesday 17 September 2013

Fall is in the Air

Well, the temperatures are cooling down, but things are heating up as we prepare for the Spring 2014 Piecemakers Quilt Show.  Fall is my favorite time of the year and this year big things are happening in my area.  The Stratford Theatre Festival is winding down, but this weekend the Fall Fair, the 100th anniversary of the Plowing Match and Savour Stratford will all be happening at once!  It seems that here in Southern Ontario, our ancestral and spiritual roots go deep into the very ground that we walk on. 

For many fiber artists, inspiration comes from all around us and with the approach of autumn I thought that it was appropriate to share some cozy quilts from our last show.  These hues are bound to be present once again for our show in April of 2014.

Autumn comes in all shapes and sizes

The grey blue really sets off these fall hues

Don't forget to mark your calendars for April 24, 25, & 26th 2014.  Our show is sure to please everyone.

Friday 26 July 2013

Christmas in July?

As quilters, we look for any excuse to employ our creative talents.  Nothing escapes our notice.  Be it a birthday, anniversary or some personal milestone.  The holidays are no exception.  With only 5 months until Christmas, YES, I SAID 5 MONTHS!,  quilters in my area will be busy thinking about their gift giving and decorating for the upcoming holiday season.  At our last show in 2012, they shared their holiday spirit with us.  I think by nature, creative people are generous people.  We take as much pleasure in the making as we do in the giving.  If you are looking for some great ideas to get inspired, you're sure to find them here.  Wall hangings, place mats, table runners and even a full size quilt to embraced the most magical season of all.  Be sure to double click on the images to see all the amazing details.

Santa and his Elves
If you love applique, this is the pattern for you.

Applique and Paper piecing

A warm welcome

The sampler format
In the example above, we see a great setting for a variety of appliqued and pieced blocks.  Not only a great way to use up scraps, but the variety in executing each block would be a welcome relief from the monotony often associated with traditional piecing. Perhaps this should be started now for Christmas 2014.

Guild workshops and kits are a great way to get started on a project.  Sometimes we need the companionship of others to keep us motivated.  Place mats and runners make terrific hostess gifts as well.  Especially for those who are not as handy with a needle as quilters.

Card Trick, an old pattern, is playfully converted here into a cluster of gifts.  A fantastic way to use up all those scraps from your previous Christmas projects.  Try exchanging charm squares of themed prints with other friends and guild members to increase your stash for this one.  Finish off each package with ribbon and bows to complete the look.

Traditional piecing
Christmas in July?  You betcha.  If you hope to get finished in time.

Wednesday 3 July 2013

How Does Your Garden Grow?

I ran into a fellow guild member the other day and we got to talking about our summer break and our quilting projects.  It seems that even the most dedicated of quilters, in spite of good intensions, can get distracted by the needs of their gardens and the lure of outdoor living.  Our local museum has just finished a year long run of all things related to quilting, both old and new, and some of us are getting ready for the 100th anniversary of the Ontario Plowing Match and upcoming fall fair.  But, typical of country life, the garden does make its demands on our time and the latest heat wave did make it difficult to think about getting under a quilting frame.

Obviously for some of our members, they can appreciate the joys of summer and get inspiration for their work from mother nature.  Our grandmothers certainly did, with patterns like Grandmother's Flower Garden, Garden Path or any of the numerous rose and lily patterns that have come down to us over the century.

Beautiful Applique
Every technique conceivable demonstrated how varied the Piecemakers 2012 garden grew.  From the realism provided by applique through the romantic touch of embroidery.  Native plants and flowers competed with hybrid roses, exotic poppies, romantic bouquets and spring bulbs.


Fussy Cut Focal Fabric
Fussy cutting a piece of yardage made for a beautiful quilt.  The intricate sashing and border demonstrated the artistic talent and skills of the maker.  One of my favorite quilts in our last show.

A Solute to our Theme Flower
Since our very first show, we have used the motif of the tulip as our logo.  (Be sure to look for it on our posters).  Sometimes it is executed in a paper pieced technique, at others, an appliqued technique.  The colours here are as fresh as a spring garden and remind us of the tulips welcome after a long cold winter in Southwestern Ontario.

Show Stopper & Prize
I'm just left speechless on this one!  A ribbon was well deserved for its maker.

An Interpretation to the Baltimore Quilts
The Baltimore Album Quilt of the mid 19th century has been interpreted here with native plants and a tribute to the Amish and Mennonite communities we enjoy sharing the surrounding counties with.

Stained Glass Technique

I am sure that in our 2014 show, our members will continue to delight us with their floral creations. Unfortunately, my garden is full of weeds, but perhaps that would make for an interesting quilt next year.  After all, one man's weed is another man's exotic plant.  Don't miss our 2014 garden!

Thursday 23 May 2013

Kaffe Fassett: A Life in Colour

Last week, while on vacation in London, England, I was fortunate enough to visit the current retrospective on the work of Kaffe Fassett.  "A Life in Colour: 50 Years of Textile Art."  Held at the Fashion and Textile Museum, I was unfamiliar with the venue and discovered a part on London I had never visited before. If you are familiar with the size of our own Textile Museum in Toronto, you will be able to identify with the size of this museum and the amount of space available for installations.  It is  small and intimate.  Perfect for viewing the works displayed.  It is a testament to the regard that fiber artists and the general public have for this man's work that the show was well attended for a Tuesday afternoon.
The sweater that started on a train.
The installation for the show began in the hallway leading into the gallery.  Early artwork and biographical information introduced the man to the public, with family photographs and art sketches from his days as a student at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and later the Art Students League in Manhattan.  From here, we entered into a two tiered exhibition space hung with 50 years of his work.  It was like walking into one of those middle eastern bazaars you only hear about.  

In 1964, Kaffe went to London and the trip changed his life.  His early experiments with textiles began with an interest in knitting.  While on a trip to Scotland to visit the family of friend British fashion designer Bill Gibb, he became inspired by the colours and textures of the rural landscape.  Further inspiration came when he visited a local woollen mill where he fell in love with the subtle artisanal shades and values of the hand dyed products.  Not being able to knit, he still didn't hesitate to purchase a pair of needles and while traveling back to London by train, he found a teacher in fellow passenger Alice Russell.

You might remember his early designs which were featured in Vogue Knitting.  A collaboration with Bill Gibb on a knitwear collection for the London couture house, Baccarat, would be a sensation.  Vogue editor, Judy Brittain, said that "his style was the shape of things to come."  Fassett's work would have a pronounced effect on the styles, colours and patterns of the 1970's and early '80's. The bohemian knits and peasant dressing that we all remember so well can be traced pack to his work.  It wouldn't be long before he was looking towards the home furnishings market for his next creative outlet and needlepoint would be the result.  In the 1980's every decorating shop displayed petit point or gros point cushions and the interest in the texture of tapestry could be found in every home in Europe and America.  A historical revival would result in the Victorian and French country styles of that decade.  More importantly, a resurgence in handicraft lead people back to their needles to produce their own cushions as well.  It was at this time that he published his first book on needlework designs.

One of the exhibition displays.

Fassett is best known for his use of bold and complex colour combinations.  His tapestry work has a painterly depth that demonstrates his artists training and this can be seen in the cabbage pillow above.  Early influences, such as medieval and Renaissance have evolved into the explosive and fiery palette of  south east Asia.

"India proved to me that colour is a vital ingredient in life"

It was in the 1990's that American quilter Liza Prior Lucy introduced Kaffe Fassett to the art form of patchwork quilting.  His departure from the small scale previously used by quilters was revolutionary and a turning point in contemporary quilting.  These influences continue after nearly 25 years! In response to the interest generated by his work, he began to design his own line of fabrics.  This has probably been his most successful endeavor along with publishing. Here, the quilt medium with its larger scale, provided Kaffe with a greater surface for design possibilities.  

By keeping his shapes simple, he allows the complexity of the design to develop through his use of pattern and colour.  The results are kaleidoscopic.  Full of movement and blending of colours. Their seems to be something primal in your response to these quilts.  You want to reach out and touch, even cuddle them.  They take you back to your childhood in a more sophisticated and adult way.  Perhaps we all have a "Linus" complex.

Kaffe Fassett continues to publish and influence the way that we look at textile design today.  He is arguably this generations answer to the great men and women of the 19th century Arts and Crafts movement.  Would your grandmother have approved?  Most certainly.  Imagine the joy they would have provided in the drab soddy of the prairies or the log cabin of a century earlier.

So, what has Kaffe Fassett to do with our Piecemaker's 2014 show?  Well, you'll just have to come out and see my tribute to this man and decide for yourself.

Thursday 2 May 2013

Our Charity Work

Our Crazy Quilt

The members of our guild are very generous with their time and talent.  Every year they produce numerous quilts for a variety of charities as gifts or for fund raising purposes.  This year I asked them to participate in the creation of a crazy quilt.  The finished piece will be used to help with the fund raising efforts for "The International Children's Theater Festival" that will be hosted by the city of Stratford, Ontario in June 2016.

Luckily for us, the fabrics and trimmings were provided by the Stratford Festival workshops.  These scraps represent every costume that was worn in their stage productions for their 60th anniversary year. Members participated by purchasing a kit that consisted of a 10.5" muslin square foundation and a selection of fabric and trim.  They had up to four months to return the finished blocks. Forty two kits were sold and forty came back by the due date!  The finished piece will consist of 8 rows x 5 rows wide.  For some members, this provided an opportunity to try techniques which were new to them.

The challenge was well met and the resulting blocks are not only beautiful on their own, but are resulting in a balanced and attractive quilt. I have the task of assembling the blocks into a coherent arrangement and further embellishing the seams.  I thought that I would share some details with you and when the top is finally assembled I hope to display it at our show in April 2014.

Silk ribbon embroidery adds texture and detail

Some participants chose to show off their needlework skills

A grandmother's fan makes for an interesting block
Thanks to everyone who participated in this project.