So, after the quilt I made for my brother-in-law using his old shirts, I went to work on several baby quilts.  This one is for a friend’s baby girl, who was one of the only girl babies to be born to the many friends of mine who have had babies this year.  It was so much fun making a girly quilt.

Baby quilt

Baby quilt

For the plain squares I used two designs by Anna Maria Horner which I had bought a while ago and was saving for something fun.  The eight other squares were made mostly with scraps that were left over from a workshop at the V&A, which I helped to organize.  I love that I didn’t buy any new fabric to make this quilt!

Baby quilt detail

Baby quilt detail

This was the first time I’d tried diagonal quilting – in all my previous quilts I’ve always stitched in the ditch.  I loved the effect and have used it in subsequent work, and it’s made me think about different ways I can quilt projects in the future.  I’ve officially graduated from trying to hide my quilt stitching!  It’s much more fun to let it show.

Baby quilt detail.

Baby quilt detail.

Brother-in-law's quilt, top side.

Brother-in-law's quilt, top side.

It’s been ages since I last posted (and by the way, I did finish my script for Script Frenzy), but I haven’t been lazy.  I’ve made several quilts in the last few months, one large and a few small.  And now that I have joined the Committee of the London Quilters as their new Secretary, I better get cracking and show those quilts off!

The first one is one I made for my brother-in-law to put in his new house, which he bought in February.  Since I thoroughly enjoyed making my first quilt out of my husband’s old shirts, I decided to do the same for my brother-in-law and upcycle the shirts he didn’t use any more.  I asked my mother-in-law to secretly send me all of the old shirts he was about to send to the bin, and I cut them up and made a huge quilt out of them – with different designs on the top and the bottom.  Luckily, he wears a lot of blue – so everything matched. The little bits of brown are from a pair of trousers (my husband’s, not my brother-in-law’s).  I can’t say for certain that every single piece of fabric came from one of his shirts, but they were either worn by him or by his dad or my husband, so it’s all in the family.

Brother-in-law's quilt, bottom side.

Brother-in-law's quilt, bottom side.

The quilt was made as a surprise and it certainly was.  I was really pleased with the reaction from my brother-in-law – he really appreciated it.  I was less pleased with the two days of neck pain that I had after frantically quilting for 9 hours the night before I gave the quilt to him.  Our kitchen table was no match for the weight and bulk of a king-size quilt.  I hadn’t realized how much of the weight I was managing with my neck and shoulders while putting the quilt through the machine.  It sure took me out of action for a couple of days!  Next time I make a quilt this big I’ll have to think about how to save my muscles and not overload them.  It was worth it, though.

Brother-in-law's quilt - front detail.

Brother-in-law's quilt - front detail.

Script FrenzyAs if Nanowrimo every November weren’t enough, the good folks at The Office of Letters and Light also run an event called Script Frenzy every April.  I’ve chickened out of it in the past, thinking that I wasn’t interested in writing a play or movie or TV script – but this year I’m doing it.  And I’m smack in the middle of it right now!

The best thing about it is that I never imagined writing a script before – in my head I’ve always been a future novelist. So I had no hangups about what I should be writing about or how I should do it. Having no baggage is great!

The second-best thing is how much I prepared beforehand. I read about 25 plays (luckily my husband teaches a course in 20th century American Drama at Goldsmiths, so I had a whole library of plays at home!), mostly from the 20th century, mostly from North America and Britain, purely because this is my favourite time period (oh, I miss the 20th century!) and location. It was absolutely fascinating to read them; although I go to the theatre several times a year I hadn’t read a play since university. I had some greats on my list, but my clear favourites were Angels in America by Tony Kushner, The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams, M Butterfly by David Henry Hwang, The Mentalists by Richard Bean (I know, I know, it’s 21st century), Aunt Dan and Lemon by Wallace Shawn, and the howlingly funny Hysteria by Terry Johnson.

And now I’m writing my own play. We’ll see how it goes.  I fully intend to finish the requisite 100 pages by the end of April so I can have the nice ‘I won Script Frenzy’ badge to put on my blog!

I won Nanowrimo 2010!

I won Nanowrimo 2010!

I won Nanowrimo again this year!  My 50,000 words were done and dusted by November 28th this year – mostly because I’d learned from last year’s experience of leaving it until the last minute to finish nearly half of my novel.  In case you don’t know, Nanowrimo is a month-long global novel-writing fest that happens every November.  I’ve been doing it for the past three years and have managed to get my requisite 50,000 words done on time each year.  Three for three!

I did have a horrible day in the middle of the month where I was a few thousand words behind my target, hating my novel, not knowing where it was going, and feeling like tossing it all in the garbage, but giving myself a whole day on a weekend to catch up made me feel all right again.  And the characters suddenly perked up and seemed much more likeable.  I’ve never divulged the plots of any of my novels before, but I’ll reveal a little about this one: it’s a murder mystery set in a small-town museum.  I may even try to revise it and show it to some gentle editor-friends.

Every year I get very excited about doing this project, but every year I seem to have a few bad (read: horrible, hair-pulling-out) days on the way, where I beg my husband to remind me not to do this again next year.  But the excitement and satisfaction of winning wipes all those bad feelings out and I can’t remember them… until the next time.  This must be what it feels like to write all the time.  Which I would like to be doing.  So now my challenge is to keep on writing after Nanowrimo ends, and not just do it in November!

Earlier this year I heard about the Sketchbook Project, created by art house co-op, and signed up for it after a brief argument with myself.

Me: But I don’t draw that often, how can I fill a whole sketchbook?

Artist Me: It’s a good way to get to draw more often!  How many markers, pens and coloured pencils do you buy per year and never use?

Me: But I have too many projects already!  What about National Novel Writing Month, which I’d have to do at the same time as the sketching?  And how about the e-course I’m signed up for, The Declaration of You?  Not to mention all my quilting projects!  I need time to do all that!

Artist Me: Come on, you know your best times are spent doing artistic stuff.  Do it do it do it do it.

Me: But what if my drawings are ugly?

Artist Me: No one will see them anyway.  Oh wait, scratch that, your sketchbook will be on tour with everyone else’s sketchbooks and people will be able to request it and read it as it travels through lots of cities in America.  FAME!  Come on!

Me: OK!

And so I signed up and got the beautiful Moleskine notebook in the mail in July: 80 creamy-white pages just waiting to be filled.  And I didn’t draw anything until the 18th of October.

But now that I’ve started, I LOVE it.  It makes me think in a completely different way.  And now I’m thinking of taking an illustration course and exploring it even further.

I’ll be posting lots of my Sketchbook Project drawings on my Flickr page.

Tribal Leaves

Tribal Leaves

Scandinavian Modern Riff

Scandinavian Modern Riff

Lucienne Day Riff

Lucienne Day Riff

I made this quilt six months ago for my husband’s birthday and keep forgetting to blog about it!  It’s a lap-sized quilt rather than a full one so he can easily bring it from room to room and use it all over the house, particularly (right now, anyway) in the study, which is the site of most of his PhD work. His thesis is on an American modernist poet, Hart Crane, whose most famous work is an epic poem about the Brooklyn Bridge.

Brooklyn Bridge quilt front

Brooklyn Bridge quilt

I made the centre panel in one of the V&A’s Digital Textile Design courses (the perks of being one of the supervisors is you get to do one too if there’s time!), with a photo of the Brooklyn Bridge that I found on Flickr (with Creative Commons licence, of course).  The photo was printed on silk.

photo detail

Centre panel printed on silk

The gray pieces of fabric on the front are scraps from a colleague who sews all her own clothes (only in gray), and the back is made entirely out of old trousers.  I did the orange quilting by hand in perle cotton.  I wasn’t sure it would look good with the grays, but it did, and now orange and gray is one of my favourite colour combinations.

Brooklyn Bridge quilt back

Who'd have known old trousers could be so useful?

detail of stitching

Detail of quilt stitching

Controlled office chaos

Controlled office chaos

I think this picture of my office says it all – planning for the Patchwork Social, coming up this Bank Holiday weekend at the V&A, has had me organizing, cutting, prepping, and sewing for the last several weeks.  I’m in my element, though – a huge event requiring lots of logistical thought PLUS the creativity of sewing PLUS doing good for others?  Wow.  I couldn’t ask for more.

The weekend is going to be full of great activities – including sewing patchwork blocks by hand or machine, making a ‘virtual quilt’ from designs inspired by the museum’s collections, and learning how to re-purpose your old clothes and textiles into new treasures with Sarah Baulch of ReVampt.  There are also family activities and the chance to cheer on members of Girlguiding London and South East Region (LaSER) as they sew towards their craft badges.

The ‘doing good’ part is because all of the hand- and machine-sewn patchwork is going to be made into quilts for Project Linus UK, a charity supporting seriously ill and traumatised children.  Project Linus will be donating the finished quilts to Great Ormond Street Hospital and Kids Company.

I was running up some example quilts yesterday with the beautiful fabric we’ve got – all 200 metres of it donated by Coats Crafts, plus needles and thread too – and feeling so happy that what I was making was going to go towards making a difference in the life of a child in distress.  It was such a good feeling – now I realize why all the Project Linus volunteers I’ve met are so dedicated to their work.  Over 20 people from Project Linus will be volunteering this weekend, and some of them have already been a great help in cutting and prepping some of the fabric.  (If I’d had to do all 200 metres myself I’d have gone nuts!)

I’m really looking forward to the event and hope that everyone who comes will enjoy it.  In fact, I’m wishing it were tomorrow already.  I may not be able to sleep tonight!

'Here's one I made earlier!'

'Here's one I made earlier!'

Last week I went to the BurdaStyle London Meetup at the swanky Sketch restaurant.  I’m more of a quilter than a dressmaker (although I’ve just attempted sewing a block/sloper bodice so that I can start making my own clothes for my own hard-to-fit measurements), but I didn’t find that my lack of clothes-sewing made any difference.  It was great to meet the people there – thanks to Melissa of Fehr Trade for inviting me, and thanks to Nora and Carol of BurdaStyle, who hosted the evening and who were very skilled at introducing people to each other.

I got to meet some great people, including Polly and Clare from Selvedge magazine, Helene, Houkje, Susannah, Emily from the London College of Fashion,  Christian from Twisted Thread, and Amy from the East London BurdaStyle Sewing Club, among others.  See the pictures in the BurdaStyle Flickr pool.

Now that I’ve joined BurdaStyle, I’ve got to say how impressed I am with the whole open-source philosophy.  That doesn’t often come out in the world of sewing patterns.  No wonder they get so many new members every month.  As someone who works with digital and who knows the value of open source, I’m totally behind that endeavour.  And as soon as I can figure out how to work with my own measurements, I’ll be using some of the copyright-free BurdaStyle patterns to make some clothes for myself!

Coverlet by Ann West, 1820.  Museum no. T.23-2007

Coverlet by Ann West, 1820. Museum no. T.23-2007

The Quilts exhibition has opened!  OK, so it opened last week and I just wasn’t on the ball to write a blog entry immediately after seeing it at the private view and I was on a plane to Ottawa right after that.  But I’ve just seen it again today and it is truly fabulous.  It’s garnering rave reviews, and quilters from all over the world are in London to see it.  I met with a trio of Texan ladies a few days ago who organize the International Quilt Festival, among other things, and they just loved it.  It was such a pleasure to talk to them about the events and courses my department has been organizing, and about the interactives that have been created to go with the exhibition (such as the fabulous Quilt of Quilts, where you can upload images of your own quilts!  I added three of mine.)

Chintz bed hangings, 1730-50.  Museum no 242-1908.

Chintz bed hangings, 1730-50. Museum no 242-1908.

The quilts themselves are breathtaking.  I particularly loved the patchwork commemorating the Duke of Wellington, with the paper pieces still intact on the back of the patchwork, and its odd little rhyme which is not at all what it seems at first read.  I also loved the ‘Alphabet of Love and Courtship’, especially Q for Quakings.  And the patchwork made by Girl Guides for their group leader while in Changi prison in Singapore during World War II was heart-rending.  There are a number of contemporary quilts commissioned for the exhibition, and I had the luck to meet maker Sarah Impey at the private view and talk with her about how she made her wonderful piece ‘Punctuation’.

V&A/Liberty limited edition fabric

V&A/Liberty limited edition fabric

Of course, the shop is also stocked with irresistible goodies.  I’ve already bought some of the wonderful limited edition fabrics made by V&A and Liberty Art Fabrics.  All 18 of the patterns are gorgeous but I like ‘Petals’ best.

The years of work that Sue Prichard, the curator, and Claire Smith, the assistant curator, have put into this exhibition has paid off – it’s just fabulous.  All quilters or sewing aficionados should go see it.  I hope they will also come to the Patchwork Social, which I’m organizing for the first May bank holiday weekend, 1-3 May.  We’ll be sewing patchwork blocks to be put together as quilts for the charity Project Linus UK to support children with serious illness or trauma.  I’m really excited about the event and we have so many lovely people from Project Linus who are going to be volunteering at the event and helping people with their sewing.  If you are a quilter or are interested in making a simple patchwork block for charity, it would be great to see you there.

Lizzy House e-book

Lizzy House e-book

Earlier this week I was reading the fabulous True Up blog and saw that fabric designer Lizzy House had released a new e-book called ‘How to Enter the World of Textile Design: For the Quilting Industry’ ($25 US).  I nearly choked on my baked potato (yes, reading blogs while eating lunch – again!).  This is exactly the kind of book I’ve been looking for.  In January I  made a plan to start designing fabrics this year, and while I’m still at the beginning stages, I know that eventually I’ll be trying to design a fabric line that gets taken up by a manufacturer.

I immediately sent myself a reminder email to buy the e-book as soon as I got home… but after about 10 minutes of trying to do work and still thinking about the book, I decided to buy it right away.  Transaction went well, download not so great, thanks to my work computer not having enough memory for anything bigger than 10MB (the e-book is about 275MB, so it takes a while to download and needs a lot of space free).  Extremely frustrated by the piddly amount of memory on my work computer, I emailed Lizzy herself to see whether I could still download it onto a different computer (my own, much more trusty laptop – yeah, the one with six keys that don’t work but which still has never caused me a minute’s trouble with available memory).  Lizzy replied very quickly and assured me that she’d guide me through downloading the e-book at home if I couldn’t do it with the link I’d saved.  As it happened, the link did work and I  managed to download the e-book right away when I got home (after what seemed like an interminable afternoon waiting to get home) – but thanks, Lizzy, for being so willing to help!

The book was everything I’d hoped it would be.  First of all, it looks beautiful – some great photos, lovely colour combinations and nice design – but of course, the content is what’s most important and it really was exactly what it said in the title.  Lizzy gives an account of her own experiences breaking into the textile design market, and then some very clear guidelines about how to put together a fabric collection.  ‘Anatomy of a collection’ was the most useful section for me personally, because I haven’t gotten as far as getting ready to present a collection (another really useful section), but I know that as I continue experimenting with design, I’ll have those points in mind so I know what to work towards.   I was pleased to see that a lot of things I’ve noticed about fabric collections but never really taken the time to analyze fully (especially in the Colour section) were confirmed for me in the e-book – it’s as if Lizzy has written them all down and made very clear.  My only small niggle was a few typos/correctable mistakes.

All in all, though, it’s a winner.  I was so engrossed in my reading that I nearly finished the book in one evening – until I was told very sternly, for about the fifth time, to go to bed!

I’d highly recommend this e-book to anyone who’s interested in knowing how the quilting industry works, and who is planning on submitting their designs to manufacturers.  There’s no design instruction – it’s assumed that you’ve already gotten familiar with that part yourself, which is clear and obvious from the title.  There are plenty of great books about design.  This one’s about the industry, and I’m really glad that someone wrote it, because I don’t think this information is readily available.

I’m really looking forward to referring to Lizzy’s book over and over again.  I’ll certainly be looking at fabric collections with a new eye from now on.  Especially the 200 metres’ worth of fabrics we’ll be using for the V&A’s Patchwork Social, which I’m in the middle of planning right now!  (YES!  I figure that since Sue Prichard has mentioned it in her blog, I’m allowed to talk about it on mine now… sometimes I think I have the best job in the world.  More about the Patchwork Social in a future post.)

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.