Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sewing in the key of C minor

Are you tired and run down? Sick of remembering traumatic events in your life? Do you need an instant pick-me-up?

9 out of 10 health care professionals recommend SEWING to alleviate blue-coloured thoughts! *

Sunday is for sewing

Thanks to this medical advice, today I finished a skirt and washed it so I can wear it to work this week.

Sunday is for sewing

I sewed most of a Not Sorbetto top, bar the facing and arm holes.

Sunday is for sewing

And I've been studying this made-a-long-time-ago top to see if I can make it less Kamahl-ish. I'm thinking of removing the sleeves, adding in some waist shaping and fixing the dodgy hem. It would have gone to the charity bin but I love the colour and the neck stitching. 


For tonight's blue-banishing sewing activity, I'm going to baste this little wonky fella so I can hand quilt it.

What about you? Does sewing help you blow the blues away?

*Not really. But they should.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A little treat

I was going to preface this video clip with a story about me being a viola player, Yo-Yo Ma, my friend Phil, an email he sent me about his friend Aoife O'Donovan, and Jay Leno, but instead I will just Ctrl-V the clip in right now and you can enjoy it like I have been the last few weeks.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Fabric to fall in love with

I have few regrets about our recent trip. Most involve things we didn't get the time to do or see, and one in particular is not spending more time and money at the great fabric shops in the Garment District of New York.

We started out that day with good intentions and even had our subway rides planned out. Visit the 9/11 Memorial in the morning. Go straight to Mood and the other shops after. Go home and relax before an evening performance of Wicked on Broadway. But as is typical for travellers, you get waylaid by other interesting things, and then you have to eat lunch, and then someone (not me) gets a bee in his bonnet about needing a burger from the Shake Shack, and it must be the one in Madison Square Park and it must be NOW.

Shake Shack

Shake Shack

It was worth it. The day was a beautiful one to be lunching outside under the trees, the burgers and root beer were great, and the bee-bonneted one was happy.

Outside Mood Fabrics, NYC

By the time we got to Mood it was mid afternoon and I was very tired and very footsore. In the back of my mind I knew I couldn't go crazy as I had limited luggage space, and limited patience to carry said luggage. So I decided to buy one really nice piece of fabric from Mood, as a memento, and then move on to another fabric store. The fabric wasn't cheap - not cheaper than most places in Australia, anyway and that surprised me. I easily could have spent all day browsing all three floors, and then I could have spent another half day going through their button collection. I spent an hour there in total, but it was an hour well spent. I had engaging conversations with both my cutter and the cashier, and I had a lot of fun being in a store I'd only ever dreamed about.

This is what I bought. It cost me $18 a yard. See? Pricey. But it's lovely printed cotton, and I plan to use it for this year's Christmas frock.

Printed cotton - Ascher Studios

We then moved on to Paron Fabrics which is about a twentieth the size of Mood, but a little bit more personable and cheaper. I fell in love with a few fabrics there, but again decided to be sensible and limit myself to one piece. It's a cotton sateen with a crazy print on it, and I've never seen anything like it. I'm planning on making a skirt for work, maybe with a couple of little pleats. I haven't decided yet.

French cotton sateen

And then before we knew it we were too wiped to go anywhere else, so we walked past Parsons, found the nearest subway and headed back to Harlem. I was actually satisfied with what we'd seen and done and was on a massive high from it all. And to be honest it was only after I'd gotten home to Canberra that I realised I may have missed a few opportunities. I wish now I had planned to spend the whole day in the garment district. Not buying necessarily. But watching and browsing. I'll be back, I'm sure.

A couple of days later we found ourselves on the Upper East Side and Lexington Ave, and we visited Pins and Needles NYC. It's a fantastic little quilting shop and the lady there was so helpful and friendly, jotting down other addresses of places we needed to visit in San Francisco, and also websites I'd find interesting. And they had excellent husband chairs, which we all know is very important in any crafting store. I really wanted to buy something at the store as both a memento and to repay the kindness that had been shown to us, and my eyes eventually fell upon the collection of Liberty Lawns. At much cheaper prices than Australia. Finally.

Liberty lawn - Pelagia

This might be a Not Sorbetto, or some other summery top. I haven't decided yet.

But something I did decide when I got back home was that I have to use these fabrics before I sew with anything else. They are special, and mean something to me. They have stories. It is only fitting I do something special with them.

Until of course I went to the Spotlight sale yesterday morning and came home with arms full of lovely embroidered cottons.

Embroidered cotton

Must. Not. Be. Seduced.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Super Stars: American Folk Art Museum

When we first went to the US together 15 years ago, I was not a quilter but my mum was. I remember I bought her a pattern book on the Smithsonian quilt collection, and then I saw an amazing exhibition called "Calico and Chintz" at the Renwick Gallery of the National Museum of American Art in Washington DC. The quilts in that exhibition were all made prior to 1850 and they were, in a word, amazing.

I was hooked from that moment on. I wanted to be a quilter too. So I took my first class, and then I took another, and then I started making quilts all the time.

When we were in New York a couple of weeks ago, we visited the American Folk Art Museum which was holding a special exhibition called "Super Stars". All the quilts had stars as the theme. And again - amazing.

Mariner's Compass Quilt 1840-1860

Mariner's Compass Quilt 1840-1860

This was probably one of the oldest quilts in the exhibition. It's a Mariner's Compass quilt made sometime between 1840 and 1860 by an unidentified quilter. Aren't the colours amazing, 150 years on? And the hand piecing! I can imagine the woman making this would have done her meticulous piecing by lamplight after her chores were done and the children were in bed. Nowadays we all have daylight lamps and magnifiers. How lucky we are!

Bull's Eye Quilt - 1900-1920

Bull's Eye Quilt - 1900-1920

This Bull's Eye quilt was made sometime between 1900 and 1920 by an unidentified member of the family of Alverda H. (Hoffman) Herb in Berks County Pennsylvania.  Again, the amazing handwork in this is breathtaking. I want to learn how to be this amazing! And patient!

Star of Bethlehem with Satellite Stars quilt 1930-1950

Star of Bethelehem with Satellite Stars quilt, made by an unidentified quilt maker, possibly in Pennsylvania sometime between 1930 and 1950. I can't imagine the word "procrastination" or "idleness" was in the quilt maker's vocabulary. The hand quilting is spectacular.

Star of France quilt - 1930-1940

This quilt was framed and behind glass. The integrity of the fabrics was still really good. It's a Star of France quilt made between 1930 and 1940. It was apparently made from a purchased kit (pattern number 151 from Hubert Ver Mehren's Home Art Studios of De Moines, according to the museum). So some things haven't changed - we quilters still use kits to make our quilts!

Tied Stars Quilt - 1900-1940

Tied Stars Quilt - 1900-1940

This quilt was perhaps my favourite, and I sat in front of it, examining the patterns, for quite some time. It's beautiful in it's simplicity, but the amount of work making all those ties in the pattern of the stars is incredible. it's called a Tied Stars quilt, made by an unidentified quilter sometime between 1900 and 1940. The museum notes that "The pointiillist effect of this (tying) technique creates a doffuse Milky Way when seen up close. At a distance, the stars resolve into their defined forms".

What do you see? The docent at the museum I spoke to said he could see hearts.

Carpenter's Wheel variation quilt 1945-1955

Carpenter's Wheel variation quilt 1945-1955

This Carpenter's Wheel variation quilt made between 1945 and 1955 includes cotton, and also synthetic and nylon fabrics. It's a Midwestern quilt by another unidentified artist. The colours are lovely in this - I can imagine it as a very modern quilt made today, and not 60 or 70 years ago. And so meticulously made - even a quilt this old still hangs straight. That's an achievement.

Visiting this museum was another highlight of our trip. It's a tiny place, just opposite Lincoln Centre, but was worth visiting just so I could be inspired by quilts made years before I was born, and marvel at their workmanship. The exhibition made me want to be a better quilter.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Me and Martha

A couple of weeks before we left for our holiday, I overheard someone at work talking about Martha Stewart and attending a taping of her show.

Brilliant idea, I thought. I'm just a bit of a fan. Just a bit. (Who am I kidding?)

So I signed up on Martha's website, and just before we left I got an email confirming that I was to attend a taping on Monday 24 October! And there were rules about what to wear - bright, solid coloured clothes, no washed out colours, black, white or grey. No t-shirts. Oops. Hadn't planned on packing anything like that! (Luckily for me there was a Lane Bryant store not far from our apartment in Harlem so I could shop for a shirt. And maybe a few other things slipped into my shopping bag. What of it?)

Monday came and we headed to the studio in Chelsea. I joined the queue of brightly coloured women and men, and then I sent the Mister on his way to have his own non-Martha adventure.

When the queue finally moves, you end up inside a holding area.

Martha Stewart Show

Martha Stewart Show

We stayed here for about an hour, signing waivers and meeting Joey Kola, who warmed the audience up and told us who was going to be on the show today. And then it was time to climb the stairs to the studio.

I got lucky with where I was seated. Second row from the front. So close to Martha. See my lovely new teal shirt from Lane Bryant? And red beaded necklace from Re/Dress NYC? (I felt quite special until I saw another girl in exactly the same shirt as me. Luckily we weren't sitting close!)

Martha Stewart Show

Martha Stewart Show

Martha Stewart Show

While we waited for the show to start taping, we watched all the action in the studio.

Martha Stewart Show

Martha Stewart Show

Joey warmed us up a bit more. He was a lot of fun. This is the least blurry photo I could take of him - he didn't stop moving.

Martha Stewart Show

And then we had to put away our cameras as Martha was joining us for the taping. The show had a breakfast entertaining theme, and Martha cooked eggs with a local breakfast celebrity Willy Geist, and cookies with the head pastry chef of Momofuku Milkbar, Christina Tosi. The audience were all given a cookie and Christina's new book "Milk". Joey also gave me some beautiful Martha Stewart paints, but they were too heavy to take home so I gave them to our landlady's little daughter, Yasmeen (our landlady emailed us after we left to say than Yasmeen had been making Halloween decorations with the paints).

Martha Stewart Show

After the taping, Martha took questions from the audience, and we were allowed to bring the cameras out again.  I think Martha is amazing - I doubt she would suffer fools gladly, and she seemed quite down-to-earth for someone who is so wealthy and high on the social scale. The floor manager said only two questions would be answered as they had a time constraint, but Martha kept pointing out people with their hands up, and kept answering their questions.

Martha Stewart Show

I never saw the show on TV - it was screened on the Thursday after the taping, but in the middle of the day and we decided to walk around the upper east side instead. But you can see the show (if you can abide the terrible ham ads before each segment) over here.

It was a great day - probably one of the highlights of the holiday. I laughed a lot, and even made a new friend while waiting in the holding area. I would go in a flash if I visited New York again.

Friday, November 4, 2011

To be where little cable cars climb half way to the stars

San Francisco - it's been a blast.

We've discovered places we didn't know existed. We've met some amazing people. Someone hung off the side of a cable car. That someone wasn't me. A shawl has been completed, and a hat commenced. My huge tummy scar has hurt every time we've had to stand up on a bus and climb one of the massive San Francisco hills. We had to mail home 13 pounds of books and fabric just so we could safely lug our suitcases down a flight of steep stairs from our "garden apartment" which it turns out is not in the garden as it would be back home, but has a view of the garden. From the second floor.

Our local cafe makes Banh Mi and we had our first ever yesterday. We'll have our second Banh Mi ever at lunch today.

But after lunch it's time to get on a plane and come home. I didn't think I'd want to go home, but I'm ready. And that's good.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Walkin' with my baby down by the San Francisco Bay

So that snow I mentioned was threatening on the Saturday that we left New York? It came early - 11 am early. And it was beautiful.

Beautiful and a pain in the arse when our flight to San Francisco was cancelled and we couldn't get onto another one for 28 hours.

So we spent the night in a grotty airport hotel, and the next day in Brooklyn watching the snow melt on a very sunny, very cold October day. Hang on - snow in October?!

We arrived in San Francisco at midnight last night. We only have 3 and a bit days here now and we missed seeing a gig in Berkeley with my friend Phil, but we are going to make the most of the days we have here. We were last here 8 years ago and there is a lot to catch up on.

For now we have the interesting situation of staying in the Castro on Halloween. The boys and girls really know how to do a good costume in this neck of the woods.