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Archive for January, 2009

Casual Blouse Finished

I finished the casual blouse I decided to make as my first foray back into garment sewing in a long time.  I wasn’t able to get a good picture of myself wearing it because no one is around today to take a picture for me, but here it is on a hanger.  It looks better on!

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It turned out fairly well.  The fit is a little big, but I put a white tank top under it and that makes it fit a little more comfortably.  I’ve never been fond of deep v-necks and this one is a little lower than I like, but the tank top peeks through a bit to soften the “v”.  

The whole thing went together quite easily and has made me feel ready to tackle something a little more difficult.  It’s amazing how the skills for sewing come back, just like riding a bicycle.

I do still need to learn more about the new stabilizers and such, but I think I’ll try some pants or a skirt next.  The issue will be finding good quality fabric.

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Yesterday I finally received the December (yes, December!) installment of the Tour of DC Sock Club yarn from Neighborhood Fiber Company.  It is well over a month late and included no fiber content or gauge estimate. Nor was there the expected link for the pattern and the promised virtual tour of a DC site.

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Late delivery and having to find my own pattern and gauge I can live with.  However, lack of notification of expected later delivery after a promised (still late) date, and failure to respond to e-mail queries and discussion on the Ravelry board set up by the supplier specifically for this club is inexcusable. 

The conversation around this lack of integrity by a vendor has gotten me thinking about the whole issue of quality and service in the world of crafts and fiber arts.  Over the many years that I have been purchasing supplies for quiltmaking, knitting, and needlework, I have more often than not found that people who open shops, and now on-line business, because they love the craft, frequently do not have good business sense.

I understand the allure.  I’ve often thought about, and many people have tried to talk me into, opening a business around my love of fibers and textiles.  It sounds great, until my practical side kicks in and I remember that I am (1) not an entrepreneur, and (2) that while I love playing with fibers, etc., running a business is an entirely different ball of wax (or yarn, as the case may be).

Which brings me to my concerns.  So often shop owners and workers are more interested in their own projects and friends than serving their customers.  I can not tell you how many times I have gone into shops and been ignored or treated as if I was bothering them.  It was a breath of fresh air to walk into A Frayed Knot in Rocky Mount, NC last week and receive wonderful service and attention.  I find that to be more and more rare. 

Then there are the online yarn suppliers.  Yarn dyers, in my experience over the past year, have “eyes bigger than their stomachs” and think they can supply more than demand allows.  Thus, the problems, I suspect, with the Neighborhood Fiber Company and those other suppliers out there who send out e-mails saying they have yarn, but seemingly sell out before anyone can get to it.

I finally had to ask one supplier to stop sending me e-mails about the beautiful yarn she dyes and I would love to buy, because even if I responded immediately, her website would say it was all gone.  There are enough wonderful suppliers out there that we do not have to be sitting at our computers waiting to jump as soon as a supplier says boo!

I have decided to stick to one or two “middle woman” suppliers that I have found to provide consistent good service, like The Loopy Ewe.  Maybe I pay a bit more, but I think it’s worth it.  My knitting and crafting time is limited and I don’t want to be worrying about whether I will get that $30 skein of yarn or not, or if I’m going to have to file a complaint.

The other issue which I’ve run up against this week is quality.  When I shop for materials for my hand work I try to buy from shops and businesses that I know offer high quality.  And I try to patronize small local shops when I can find them.   Again, if I’m going to use the precious quantity of time, I want to use good materials.

That’s why I was extremely disappointed when the fabric I purchased from GStreet Fabrics (not a small shop) a couple weeks ago turned out to have several major flaws in it.  Fortunately I happened to purchase enough yardage to work around them, but I did not see them when the fabric was being cut and I guess the person waiting on me didn’t either.  At least she didn’t say anything.  Sadly, the store is too far away for me to take it back.

I made a special effort to go out of my way to go to GStreet because the quality of their fabrics is usually high. While they do have some tables of end cuts, I thought by the price I paid for my fabric that I would be getting first quality.  Not so in this case.

I know that a lot of people sew and craft to save money and they don’t seem to mind flawed and lower quality materials, but for those of us who are wanting to use our time and talents to create heirlooms, or at least items that will take and give a lot of joy and wear, high quality is a must.  

I fear that the WalMart mentality rules too much of the marketplace.  Quality, service, and integrity are almost completely missing.

Chef Kurt Michael Friese, in his book Slow Food in the Heartland defines “slow food” as food that “is raised with care, prepared with passion, and served with love.”

In thinking about integrity, quality, and service in regard to fiber and textile arts and crafts and the discussion some of us engaged in last year around “slow cloth”, I would say something similar.  The passion, love, and time with which we work with materials to create items that will last and be enjoyed for more than just a season, demand quality in materials, service from vendors, and integrity of both.

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I went to a great meeting of the Meherrin Piecemakers Quilt Guild last night.  We set the calendar for the year–I’m going to do a demo in July on hand dyeing fabrics for quilts–had some great show and tell–I forgot my camera again 😦 –and got a challenge.  

The challenge is to go through all your quilting projects, large and small and assign each one a number. Then, each month a number will be drawn, and that’s the project you must work on during the month.  It doesn’t mean you have to finish it, or that you can’t work on other projects.

So, since today is my day off from regular work, I’ve gone through my projects and given each a number.  Most are small projects but I have a few larger ones.  And there are even a couple I had forgotten about.  I’m sure no one else does that!  But you would think I would have remembered them all, since I did a major reorganization and stash busting during my year in NM.

Here’s my list so far:

1.  Hope Blossoms Table Runner

2.  Churn Dash Table Runner

3.  ShooFlyAway Quilt

4.  Stack n Whack Quilt

5.  Brown Itty Bitty Bag

6.  Blue Itty Bitty Bag

7.  Patchwork Puzzle Balls

8.  Pink and Green Quilt — this is a quilt top my Mom pieced years ago that I said I would finish!

9.  Basket Skirt — Can’t find the instructions so this will probably get a make0ver

10.  Baskets Wall Hanging

11.  Tea Cozy

12.  Kokopelli Placemats

13.  Sarah and Hagar Quilt

14.  Monoprint Bouquet

15.  Shams for African Persian Carpet Quilt

That’s not too bad, considering several are little projects I haven’t even started yet.  But we were supposed to include those projects we have all the materials for, but have not started.

Here’s a picture of three of the UFOs:

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The number drawn for this month is “17” and I don’t even have 17 projects!  So the instructions were to go back to the top of the list and keep counting until you get to the number.

That means number “2” for me:  Oooo!  That’s the Churn Dash Table Runner that I haven’t started but have had out on my sewing table wanting to start.  It’s a kit I bought a couple of years ago.  I don’t usually buy kits, but I thought this looked like a fun quick project.

Front:

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Back: 

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It’s a great project to get started on since it is a start to finish small project and will give me some incentive to do some machine quilting.  Yay!

Now I’m off to do a little garment sewing–or at least cutting out the pattern. 🙂

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It was an overload work weekend (and first of the week) so I have had zero time for anything fun.

But I did get in contact with BJ Briner, an artist in New Mexico that I want to interview for my D.Min. class, and she’s willing to have me visit. So now we just have to pick the date and make arrangements to fly out for a week. Woohoo! It will probably be sometime in March.  I am so ready for a little down time.  

Tonight I’m going to finally make it back to the quilters’ guild after several months of not getting to go.  I expect to be highly inspired by what everyone else has been working on.

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I have finally gotten just a little bit tired of knitting socks.  That doesn’t mean I will stop knitting them.  I just won’t work on them as totally as I have been. I’m still working away on the Cable Ribbed Socks that I started earlier this month, but I’ve made a mistake somewhere and it will take a bit of work to go back and figure out what happened.  That’s what I get for knitting on tiny needles with dark yarn in low light.

It’s time to start on some lace and that jacket I’ve been wanting to do. 

I’ve also been wanting to do some garment sewing ever since I got my new sewing machine almost two years ago.  So when I was in DC I went to GStreet Fabrics in Rockville, MD and chose a simple top pattern and some great printed cotton fabric.  I used to make all of my clothes when I was in my twenties, I even made my wedding dress!  But once I started quiltmaking, I kind of stopped doing garment sewing.  ‘Just Halloween costumes for Larissa and a few miscellaneous things here and there.

I have become so fed up with what’s available in ready-to-wear, that I’ve decided to make some small steps toward making my own clothes again.  Of course I have much less free time, techniques and materials have changed, and I am way out of practice.

So, although I found myself looking at the lovely patterns for tailored suits and dresses in the pattern books, I held back and chose something that would be easy to sew and require little, if any, fitting — a top to wear with jeans.  It’s not a style I would normally choose for myself, but I thought that change might be fun also.

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The pattern is New Look 6677 and the top is very retro looking — like something I remember from the 60’s.  ‘Don’t know how it will look on me, but I think the techniques for making it will get me back into garment sewing quite easily. I’ve picked up another pattern for a simple dress and jacket I want to make in linen, but I’m waiting on fabric until I see how this project goes.

My other new project is to begin a band sampler while participating in the Stitch Explorer 2009 challenge on pintangle.  I bought some beautiful pale green linen at The Lazy Daisy in Raleigh (my first visit there) and also found a lovely variegated perle cotton that was on sale.  I’ll add other threads and fibers from my stash.

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The first stitch exploration is chicken scratch which is usually done on gingham.  But this is about exploration, so I’m doing it on 32-count linen.  

The fabrics are prepared, now the task will be to work in a few minutes here and there on each, along with everything else.

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I’m spending a lot of my creative time this week think about and preparing to get started on a project for my Creativity and Spirituality Doctor of Ministry class project.  It is supposed to be something in the visual arts and preferably something I’ve never tried before.  

So I have some ideas and I’m doing some research on techniques and materials, but so far it’s just head stuff with nothing to show.

I found some interesting food for more thought and creativity as I was surfing about on a website called TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design that explores all kinds of new ideas around technology and design.  In particular I watched this video of Ted Brown talking about creativity and play.  It takes about a half hour to watch, but is extremely interesting and emphasizes the importance of play to the process of creating.  It confirms and affirms much that I learned in my classes a couple of weeks ago.

While all the other doctoral students were sitting in classrooms listening to lectures and writing papers our class was engaging in a lot of creative play.  It has sparked so many ideas I don’t know how I’ll get to even half of them. And that’s what it’s all about.

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I do have a couple of other pieces that were completed in the 1990’s, but this is the last one I’m going to show in my Retro Quilt Show.  The other pieces are “liturgical” pieces that were designed specifically as biblical interpretation for use in worship or meditation.  I’ll show those pieces at another time.

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This last piece is a hand appliqued and quilted piece that was made for a going away gift for the wife of one of my husband’s commanding officers–she’s picture to the left in the photo–in 1990.  I executed the quilt piece which was inspired by a design in Quilter’s Newsletter Magazine called “Techny Chimes”.  The piece was mounted with a round matte and another person did the calligraphy around it.

There have also been lots of small gift quilts and baby quilts that I’ve made and neglected to photograph.  It’s pretty amazing when I begin to compile a “show” like this and remember all of the things that were happening while I was quilting.  It’s also been interesting to document how I’ve  been challenged and grown over the years of quilt making.

Thanks for visiting my show.

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