Adieu SHWS! I’m Off to Chasing Bright Shiny Objects

My neighbor has no idea how frequently I stalk her rose garden for photo opportunities!
One rose fades while others blossom–that’s my little ready-to-bloom rosebud peeking out from below

The time has come, the time is now:  exit Jennifer, stage right. Thank you very much for joining me on my See How We Sew journey. I absolutely will miss our collaborative blog and the boundless creative energies of Laura and Pati. Do consider joining me at Chasing Bright Shiny Objects, you are most welcome!

Jennifer Signature

 

Parting Thoughts: Going Solo @ Chasing Bright Shiny Objects

After four years of blogging with a quartet of talented women at See How We Sew, I am going to take a leap into solo blogging. Starting this coming Friday you’ll find me at Chasing Bright Shiny Objects, a blog about whatever strikes my fancy. Sure, there’ll be quilts and sewn crafts in the mix, but with my own blogging venue, I’ll be exploring a broader world of creativity and random other things.

Before I head out, I’d like to take a look back at some of my favorite posts and shared moments with Christie, Darra, Laura, and Pati. Just to reassure you, dear readers, SHWS remains in the capable hands of Laura and Pati.

Do check back on Friday for a preview of Chasing Bright Shiny Objects. I’d like to invite you to join me on my new adventures—the road map is a work-in-progress!

Favorite Profile

No question—Candace Kling. Writing a blog is a great excuse to marshal courage and contact the more iconic figures in our creative realms for interviews. I’ve long admired Candace and it was a treat to meet her and visit her outrageously wonderful studio: rough around the edges in its warehouse setting, but a true Aladdin’s cave filled with glorious examples of her art and collected vintage wares.

Inspiration-J: Candace Kling's Studio
Examples of Candace Kling’s outstanding floral ribbon work.

Favorite SHWS Project

Again, a clear favorite for me, Achoo!, a collaborative pattern we developed for the debut of Jennifer Sampou’s Shimmer line. It’s not easy to squeeze in shared sewing time when we have such crazy working and life schedules—remember Laura had her daughter’s wedding in that interval—but somehow we managed to design and sew the quilt, plus write the Achoo! pattern instructions. Yes, we were breathless by the end, mostly because we had to make an additional quilt for the Robert Kaufman Fabrics trunk show, but we very happy with the result. Truly, the team collaboration has been the most satisfying experience in this last year. (Laura is awe inspiring as she power sews!)

Handsome Freddy (last name Reddy, yes, Reddy!) guards our secret project.
Handsome Freddy (last name Reddy, yes, Reddy!) guards our Achoo! quilt.

Favorite Team Event

It too was madness, but so much fun: Quilting in the Garden 2012. That’s where our original quartet, Christie, Darra, Laura, and I, were featured artists for the outdoor quilt exhibition in Livermore, California. What a fun weekend we had visiting with fellow quilters and visitors to Alden Lane Nursery. Laura returned this year with her long-time collaborator, Diana McClun, for a retrospective exhibit of a quarter century of shared quilt making. They have an astonishing number of them in their archives–we’re talking hundreds of quilts!

From left:  Christie, Jennifer (Christie's BOM), Darra (Sunbonnet Sue & a baby quilt)
From left: Christie, Jennifer (Christie’s BOM), Darra (Sunbonnet Sue & a baby quilt) at Quilting in the Garden 2012, Livermore, California.

Favorite Personal Post(s)

Yikes, that’s a tough one because there are several that resonate with me still. As a writer who spends most of her professional time crafting sentences that have a neutral voice, taking those first steps to sharing my own voice has been both scary and thrilling. My first post, Designing Quilts One Grocery Bag at a Time, was a complete improvisation. I experienced something that tickled my fancy and I wrote about it. It was weird inspiration, but that spurred me to share the moment with photographs. My peanut gallery of males (i.e. my all-male household) thought I was demented as I tried to figure out how to photograph groceries on my kitchen table. Par for the course as it turns out with this blog–we have each grown our skills as we’ve navigated this endeavor. Next fave personal post: My Quilts Have Feet–it makes me teary eyed. I miss my little fellas, even as I adore the grown men they have become. I absolutely do miss them when I have large quilts to photograph though. They know the drill and, as I mentioned in this recent post, my new crew needs some pointers.

J-Inspiration: Groceries II Minus Chips and Ice Cream

Favorite Collaboration

Ah, this one was a true pleasure: the African textiles and quilts series that culminated in a virtual quilt show of African quilts (Part I, Part II). This mega international project would have be impossible without Paula Benjaminson, art quilter, ambassadorial wife, and former U.S. foreign service officer. We most definitely spanned the globe with this extravaganza: Paula and I were in touch via email as she traveled from Africa to Europe and the U.S. The images from the collection of posts are still favorites for Pinterest pinners and for those who love African textiles.

A wondrous array of colors and prints on display for sale in Libreville, Gabon.
A wondrous array of colors and prints on display for sale in Libreville, Gabon–photographed by Paula Benjaminson, SAQA member.

Wow, four years and somewhere around 50+ individual posts, it’s been a blast here at SHWS. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with me in the Comments section, it’s been a true pleasure getting to know such a talented and passionate array of crafting people. Keep the pedal to the medal with your sewing and do consider joining me on my new blogging journey.

Jennifer Signature

 

A See How We Sew Tradition: Our Top 10 Posts for 2014

Inspiration-J:  Xmas Tree

Hello dear readers! Hope the holiday season is  treating you well. We’re enjoying the closing days of 2014, and looking forward to all sorts of crafting and sewing adventures in 2015. You’ll remember that last year we shared our Top 10 Posts for 2013 and we’re establishing a New Year’s tradition by looking at our results for 2014 and sharing them with you.

Like last year, you favor learning about techniques, notable textile artists, and products:

  1. Patterns
  2. Walk Your Stitches Out of the Ditch
  3. 10 Things I’ve Learned From Hanging Out with Candace Kling
  4. Drafting Part 2:  Making an 8-Pointed or Lemoyne Star
  5. Candace Kling, Masterful Manipulator of Fabric & Ribbon
  6. Prewash or Not? Quilting’s Perennial Question
  7. Feeling Frantic?  Check Out These Last-Minute Goodies
  8. Gallery
  9. Soft & Stable:  An Alternative to Batting
  10. Creating Curved Pieced Blocks and Landscapes with Sue Rasmussen

Enjoy the waning days of our Winter holidays and do check back to see what we have in store for 2015!

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Scrap Wool Felt + a Button = Super Quick Xmas Gift

As I mentioned in my last post, this holiday season has me on the run. I don’t have much time to take on big projects with my gift giving. I love a good sewn project as much as anyone, but my quick go-to is always jewelry making. Bead stores have the best stuff for impromptu inspiration. And, if I still feel the need to add a stitch, well, I opt to make a jewelry pouch to hold my handmade gift. You’ve heard my schtick before and you’ve seen samples of my passion for pouches here and here.

This year I’ve been a bit obsessed with natural stone jewelry that I can dangle from a “universal” earring base.

Projects-J:  Earrings for 2014 gifts

The top row sports the universal base. All I need to do is slip off the dangling jewel and slip on another one. Very cool!

In honor of Christmas, I decided to make red wool felt jewelry pouches for my handiwork. I repurposed the wool from a tree skirt that I made a couple of years ago. The sad tale was that my pretty red skirt with  glued on felt snowflakes was taken out by a flood when the Christmas tree toppled and spewed water from the reservoir across the floor. That was also the celebration when my some of my votive candleholders shattered on the hearth. After all that I think the felt scraps should be directed to projects with inherently better karma, like gift giving.

Project-J:  Jewelry pouches for gifts

These pouches are 4 x 9 inches folded to 3.5 inches and machine blanket stitched along the edges. Super simple to make and very nice for stowing in suitcases for travel. The fun part is adding sparkle with a jeweled button or beads.

Have a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year!

Jennifer Signature

 

It’s a “Hazy Shade of Winter” at SHWS, but I Will Conquer Xmas!

Despite not having to tackle my traditional major family party on the 24th, I have a feeling that Christmas is running away from me this year. We’re already in double digits on the December calendar?!? Where did the time go between that last bite of pumpkin pie and today? [soundtrack:  primal, panicked scream!] Keep it together, woman!

Okay, enough with the hysteria, here’s one of my accomplishments from this week:  a completed quilt. You might recall my posts on a quilt of crosses called Purple Haze (here’s the first post). I was on the fence about the finished quilt top. The good news is that I am a fan now! That attitude switch comes courtesy of Kathy August, the long arm quilter who took my quilt from slightly odd to FAB-U-LOUS!

Quilt-J:  Detail of reverse side of Jennifer's Purple Haze
Long-arm quilter Kathy August outlined each bird and then quilted the top in unevenly spaced horizontal lines.
Quilt-J:  Detail of Jennifer's Purple Haze
Front side of Purple Haze–can you see the bird outlines?

Kathy actually finished the quilting in October, along with my son’s birthday quilt, but I pretty much ignored the purple monster until last Thursday night when I picked up the folded quilt from the corner of the floor of my husband’s empty office-in-the-making, where it had languished for many weeks.

Quilt-J:  Auditioning binding for Jennifer's Purple Haze
Auditioning the Kaffe Fasset stripe from Westminster Fabric.

A striped fabric was my top choice for binding, although my stash was a bit thin on color/quantity candidates. I found about a half-yard of a Kaffe Fassett Westminister stripe with a sizable bias-sliced chunk removed. No way sufficient for a queen-size quilt. Ah well. I gathered the candidates and, the next day, took them to my friend Cyndy Rymer’s for an impromptu lunch with my quilt/dining group. Turns out they were in unanimous support of the stripe, which put an annoying internet fabric search for more yardage on my agenda. Until, that is, Cynderella went stash diving in her collection and found a complete set of 3-inch strips of that very fabric in her Kaffe box. (She’s got some wonders locked away in that fabric treasure trove!) Christmas lesson:  Seek and ye shall find.

Quilt-J:  Detail view of binding, Jennifer's Purple Haze
Detail view of finished binding

It’s truly amazing how well-planned and executed quilting (Kathy August’s amazing spin on my original minimal idea) plus a perfect binding candidate can win over a doubting quilt maker. I am enchanted by the result. I love it! That’s very good because I’ve got bedrooms to furnish for the return of my fellas for the holidays . . . they’ll have to flip a coin for the bed with the fancy new quilt.

Quilt-J:  Jennifer's Purple Haze
I had the B Team holding the quilt today, my A Team has grown up and launched. Looks like I’ve got to train the new guys on quilt holding techniques cuz, among other things, I just realized the quilt needs a flip to the right.

See ya Friday here at SHWS . . . perhaps I’ll reach holiday zen by then, but I’m not optimistic. In the meantime, though, take a gander at my stress-relieving effort for the Christmas season–month-long Ballet Conditioning classes led by Katarina Wester, a former soloist at the Royal Opera Ballet in Stockholm, Sweden and an incomparable teacher. (Jennifer was not harmed as a result of Katarina squishing her straddle split because she weighs nothing, but J. may be very sore tomorrow!)

Inspiration-J:  Katarina Wester's hard-core conditioning class

p.s.  Hazy Shade of Winter–Paul Simon!

 

Jennifer Signature

Antique Textiles: What Does a Quilter Do with Legacy Fabric?

There are legacies, and there are legacies. Some fit in a pocket, while some are, well, huge like houses. The legacy I received recently is, thankfully, something to which I can relate:  antique textiles! What I’ll do with them is something I’ve not figured out yet. Your suggestions are welcome!

Inspiration-J: Vintage Chinese Textiles

Nearly 80 years ago, my husband’s father lived in Tianjin (Tientsin), China with his family. His father was in the  U.S. Army and he was posted to duty there until the onset of World War II forced the evacuation of the Americans and Europeans in the city. There are many treasures from their China days, and among them, a collection of textiles and garments. My (extra and very dear) mother-in-law Barbara has been the caretaker since her marriage to  my husband’s father and she recently passed the collection to me. Barbara is a skilled sewer and had thoughts of adapting the fabric to her use, but she never quite took up her scissors and snipped. I don’t think I can either . . .

Inspiration-J: Vintage Chinese Textiles

It’s impossible to fathom that these textiles are nearly a century old. Their colors are perfect and the workmanship of the embroidery and the garments is stellar.

Inspiration-J: Vintage Chinese Textiles

A sense of scale is always illuminating and thus the penny. The stitchery is tiny, precise, and quite, quite exquisite.

I absolutely adore the pleating and embroidered details of this piece–it’s something like a wraparound skirt. It’s too precious to wear, even if it fit. The beauty of the garment is in the details as you will see in the subsequent images.

Inspiration-J: Vintage Chinese Textiles

Here’s a close-up of that center panel:

Inspiration-J: Vintage Chinese Textiles

How about even closer views?

Inspiration-J: Vintage Chinese Textiles

Inspiration-J: Vintage Chinese Textiles

Now this detail is one of my favorites in the garment: crystal pleating through embroidered silk. Don’t you just love that last bit of floral stitchery emerging from the pleating?

Inspiration-J: Vintage Chinese Textiles

As I recall, the true test of workmanship is to be found on the reverse of the garment. I think the embroiderer was wonderfully skilled.

Inspiration-J: Vintage Chinese Textiles

There’s a part of me that wants to bemoan the disappearance of exquisite hand stitchery and the dominance of machine-embroidered garments that we can see these days, but I think I’d rather enjoy the artistry of a bygone craftsperson who painted such a beautiful story with needle and thread. I still don’t know what I should do with my textiles, but I hope, at least, that you’ve enjoyed the peek at my little “collection.”

Jennifer Signature

 

 

My Mother’s Art: One Quilter’s Creative Roots

Hello Readers! I’m just back from a visit to my family in Florida. My mother hit an epic birthday (a woman never reveals her age or those of her nearest and dearest) and we just had to celebrate in suitable style. Among our events we held a celebratory dinner at her favorite Indian restaurant–seriously good food–and topped off the party with Sunshine Cake. Mind you, I’ll be skipping all cake for a while cuz daily doses of that deliciousness throughout my holiday was a bit much and totally against my reduced-sugar regimen.

Inspiration-J: Sunshine cake
Exemplar piece of Sunshine Cake–don’t you want a taste?

Anyway . . . aside from the frolics, visits home can be poignant, even as they are joyous occasions. My father and mother are aging and my past life in Florida is more memory than fact with its imprint scattered as ephemera throughout their home. Bits of my life show up in odd spots. A guest room drawer disgorged this mighty fine tie that I made in a high school art class for my father. Yes indeed, a batik-dyed muslin tie! Not only tough to wrestle into a Windsor knot, it’s really ugly. Bless his heart, he actually wore it to work a few times.

Inspiration-J:  My father's batik tie

Now this Pop-era minidress was stowed in the guest room closet. That’s some serious eye-ball-burning color and it’s not even neon. (Can you imagine a quilt in that color scheme? Makes me shudder and I like bright!) The dress was one of my sister Laurie’s wardrobe faves and it featured prominently in an oil painting our mother created when she was in a painting phase.

Inspiration-J:  The dress that started it all

Our mother said at the time that she never saw Laurie’s face because Laurie was always running out of the house and so she decided to paint her from the back as she exited the front door. (That big hair bow must have been a fantasy–that was definitely not Laurie’s style.)

Inspiration-J: Oil painting by my mother

I’m grateful for these artful bits because, much like Hansel and Gretel’s trail of crumbs, they carry me back to my creative roots. My family has always celebrated personal expression, albeit in fashion or the arts. Our mother was initially the alpha/omega in all matters aesthetic, but over time, as we each followed our own creative passions, we found our voices as well as the confidence to express ourselves. To my own surprise and delight this year, my two grown sons are showing their own artful identities.

Inspiration-J:  My son's table art
My son’s table art–chalkboard paint makes a clever canvas for an ever-changing artist’s medium.

Now my mother’s truest and best artful pursuit has been sculpture. In one of her first forays into the art form she made a hilarious kiln-fired clay female figure that we nicknamed “Fanny Buttocks.” I wish I could show you a photo, but I think it’s lost in the family archives. Fanny lived for many years in the backyard of the homestead underneath a row of Florida pine trees. She could have given Kim Kardashian a run for the money with her hefty hindquarters–although what tickled me more about Fanny was the prim pageboy hairstyle she sported even though she was naked! As my mother’s sculpting skill developed she decided to make busts of family members. Here’s mine as a teenager:

Resin-cast sculpture by my mother
Resin-cast sculpture by my mother

Author Thomas Wolfe once said, “You can’t go home again.” I suppose that is somewhat true, but I think our creative arts can help us remember who we were at the time.

Stay tuned on Friday when I’ll share a beautiful textile legacy I just received from my husband’s family. I don’t know what to do with it, but maybe one of our readers will have an idea . . .

Almost forgot!  We have 4 winners from last Tuesday’s post by Mom & Me Quilt Boutique.  Send us an email to seehowwesew@gmail.com and we will email you the pattern.

CONGRATS to:

Elizabeth Baker, Pat T., Frances Misquez Quigley, and Jennifer Willard

Jennifer Signature