Quilting: rather nice, actually

I’m finding the cutting part of starting a quilt rather meditative, with a rotary cutter.  I know that doesn’t sound meditative … and yes, I am keeping my fingers well out of the way!

It’s my first time using a rotary cutter, and I’m enjoying the sameness of about 100 tiny triangles, all squared off with a ruler, cut nice and straight down the sides.  (I made more after I took the photo – and even managed to finish before the children came home).

I’m using this pattern for a kitchen table cushion.  And 2 random packs of fat quarters from Lincraft.  I actually don’t love the fabric, particularly.  I think I’ve seen it too many times before.  And the pattern is fine, too, but really I chose it as suitable for a beginner.

I think the combination of focus on learning to use a new tool, and not caring much about the outcome: that’s what I’m finding so calming. Hope it continues.

Fat quarters for quilting: should you pre-wash?

I guess not, based on this experience.  At least not in a washing machine/dryer.

I know for garment sewing, you really, really do need to pre-wash fabric (or calculate shrinkage).  And yes, I’ve heard of hemming fabric before you wash it (and even done it, for a few precious fabrics). But fat quarters? They’re so small, I thought hemming before washing was a bit other the top.

So what do you do in quilting? Not worry?  Maybe I should have cut with pinking sheers?

By the way, no sympathy needed: I don’t mind detangling and they’re all separate and neatly folded now.

In which I solve a quilting problem, without making a quilt

You see, I’ve been planning to learn quilting for some time.  Properly, following traditional patterns. With exact measurements.  And seams lining up precisely and neat corners.  At least to begin with.

It’s a skill I think I should have. And something I can really imagine enjoying, once I get good: playing with colour and pattern, within geometries and repetition.

But after all this time thinking, I still haven’t started yet.  Something’s slowing me down.  A worry.  I’ve finally worked out what it is: the product of quilitng … is a quilt.  I don’t have room for a quilt!!  Well, maybe one.  Two at the most.  Possibly three, but what if I really enjoy quilting and want to make more?  There must be more than 3 techniques I’d like to try.

We live in a really small apartment, with four people.  I have trouble enough storing the Winter doonas and blankets.  And everything else.  I don’t really want to add to our storage problems.  I could throw a quilt or two over the sofa (to be dragged on the floor by the kids?), perhaps give one or two as presents (gift the storage problem to someone else?).  I could put a quilt on the wall, but I don’t fancy drilling into these walls than I have to.  And then I’m stuck.  I do like to justify to myself that most of my crafting is useful.  Knitting produces gloves, scarves, hats, jumpers… sewing produces dresses, skirts.  But quilting?  Just produces more storage problems.

And then it hit me: cushion covers!  Lots of finicky little mini quilts.  Different fronts and backs.  We’ve at least four chairs.  And we’ll need a change of covers – eight.  And at this age, with the rate kids spill stuff – twenty!  Or more!  Plenty of opportunities to explore pattern & technique!

So here is my inspiration, courtesy the library:
– an encyclopedia of techniques;
– a modern quilt reference (I’m always drawn to modern looking quilts);
– the quilt book recommended by the librarian;
– an apartment therapy, for storage hints!

Our apartment is rated “small”.  Pity the other examples of small apartments don’t seem to include children.  And their toys.

And welcome everyone visiting through Kirsty’s creative spaces.

My first patchwork: am I mad?

patchwork_bag_12010 is starting to feel serious: A is back at school, M’s starting soon (it’s a Montessori school) and I’ll be back at Uni before I know it. So I’d better hurry up and show you the only Christmas present I actually handmade!

Yes, Germaine, Mum did actually ask for a handmade gift. I suspect she knows I have more fabric/time than money at the moment … And so I took the opportunity to try my first patchwork.

The fabrics are from a charm pack: Botany by Lauren and Jessi Jung for moda. You know, I haven’t really used craft fabrics before. Admired them, yes. Stroked them on the bolt in the shops, uh, yes. But actually sewn with them? No, I’ve basically used dress fabrics: cheap or better quality.

So this project gave me a couple of surprises. First, I’d always thought that not using craft fabrics for dressmaking was kinda snobby: it isn’t. Roll on all the designers (actually it’s not their fault), roll on all the manufacturers offering craft fabric designs on dressmaking and other types of fabric. And second, I’d thought that combining the fabrics contained in a charm pack would be kinda brainless. I mean, they’ve been specifically designed to go together, haven’t they? Well, they probably were designed to match. But I didn’t happen to like that particular fresh Spring green with that particular turquoise. Might be just me. Or might be unrealistic expectations. Any rate, I decided one side of the patchwork bags would use mainly the fresh greens; the other mixed the turquoises.

patchwork_bag_2

Look pretty and neat, don’t they? But they’re actually a bit wonky. I mean, I knew attaching the linings would be a problem: I’d sized them without factoring in any space needed for bulky seams, turn of cloth or any concepts like that. As a result, there’s a tuck just where the ribbons are joined. And I rather like that tuck, makes the bags a little more interesting. Next time, I’ll design in a tuck (on purpose).

My other issue was a bit more unexpected. I’d chosen what I thought was a really simple pattern for my first patchwork: just lots of squares. Arranged in a grid. No fancy hexagons, diamonds, nothing. Just a grid. About an hour into sewing (I’m slow: I sew and think, sew more, ponder..). Anyway, about an hour into sewing I realised a grid-based pattern requires you to line things up exactly. And I couldn’t. I did try, with lots of pins. Hence my question: am I mad to worry if my patchwork is about 2mm out in places? Lots of places?

Deep down, I know the answer. No, I should be more accurate. It’d look better. So, dear experienced patchworkers, some more questions: what should I have done? I’ll admit to treating a my fabric like paper: folding in half, scoring and cutting (with scissors). Was that my downfall? I’ll also admit my sewing may have veered from straight by about 1mm on occasion: did those slight errors multiply? Or is there some particular technique I should have known about and used?

And yes, I did check my patchwork books, limited though my collection is. And I realised all my Japanese books are about hand patchworking. Not by machine. Even though one of them is specifically about different designs made from squares (and triangles). I also have Last-Minute Patchwork + Quilted Gifts by Joelle Hoverson which doesn’t really have a lot of grid-based designs. Perhaps so you can make them last minute, eh? And they still look good as gifts? Yes, Germaine, there’s often quite a bit of truth to what you say, however offended we get. But nine patches are a traditional grid pattern, so there must be a way to align them?

Tokyo craft shopping: a rant

Because what’s a blog without a rant or two?

Hopefully, this rant about Tokyo fabric and yarn stores will leave you feeling virtuously frugal  or at least  proud to buy local …  in these post-Credit Crunch times.  And yes, I’m planning a few rant-free  posts on the topic,  too!

Reading my favourite craft bloggers,there’s nothing but praise for Japanese craft books, Japanese fabrics, dinky little Japanese gadgets … and always glowing reports of Tokyo craft stores.  So my expectations where high, too high.  But hey, anywhere’s got to be better than Craftlight, right Aussies? (Perhaps think Joann’s if you’re American … but I’ve never seen a Joann’s, maybe they’re excellent in comparison to what’s usually available in Australia …)

Anyway, on to the story…

I started at Yuzawaya, that huge craft store in Kichijōji.  Phew, found it.  Pot plants, both fake and real, lined up outside the door.  Hmm, gardening’s definitely creative …  not totally sure about the fake plastic stuff, looks a bit like a $2 shop back home, nevermind…

Through the door, and the first thing I see is a giant Disney-esque Princess and fairytale character clockwork display.  Now, one reasons I’m into craft is I don’t want my 2 growing up with a Princess Complex

Next thing I see, a totally ghastly (for the daughter of an artist) European-style oil painting in a giant gilt frame for an obscene amount of money…

And then there were the goods themselves, the stuff for sale … it would’ve looked perfect at a cut-price chemist’s liquidation sale, you know, the “Bargains galore, everything must go!”-style chemists: chipped white melamine tables dumped with cheap lipsticks, nail polishes, mascaras … totally NOT what I was expecting.

Kichijōji

Around the corner, oh great, “character goods” … pencils, stuffed toys, hankies and so on, designed as tie-ins to a variety of American and Japanese animations.  And to complete my catalogue of the ground floor: dog toys.  Cat toys too, presumably.

By this stage, I wasn’t sure I was in the right store, and I went up the escalator with some trepidation.  More of the same: it was April, back to school time, so there were rows upon rows of “character” lunch boxes.  And “character” backpacks.  And “character” jigsaws … and a few globes which yes, I agree, did look educational.

Next floor, men’s underwear, WTF?!  I mean boxers, briefs, socks … perhaps there was some women’s underwear too.  (I went back later, on purpose, with Husb, but the men’s underwear had gone… must have been a back-to-work special, only women’s underwear is there normally)

Fourth floor, finally!  Dressmaking fabrics, nice ones, too.  Liberties, which I haven’t seen since I was a kid, good quality wool plaids, organics, linens … ah, this is what I was after!  Although, to be fair, at least a quarter of the fabrics are those fluro sequined Lycras Craftlight specialises in … And half the total floor space is devoted to knitting and weaving supplies (not forgetting the reasonable-sized selection of fake furs, eyelash yarns … you get the picture).  (Nice) buttons, (sensible) sewing machines, notions and wigs (!) round out that floor.

Fifth floor, quilting fabrics, children’s prints, some traditional-looking Japanese indigo prints, and … pots and pans.  Rather nice ones, I agree, but again, not what I was expecting.  The upper floors are all a blur … there is some tapestry and embroidery stuff, bear making, leatherwork, patchwork, temari and so on.  Art supplies and calligraphy, too, but by that stage you can hear the top floor … arcade games, I’ve always wondered if they’re designed to soften kids up for pachinko later in life… (cynical, who? me?)

Now, I’m not dissing Yuzawaya, I respect that they honestly DO have dressmaking fabrics, not re-purposed quilting fabrics.  And Yuzawaya has enough yarn for anyone to find something they’d like … and more high-quality notions that I’ve ever seen. Ever.  But I’d just like a little more perspective, when discussing Japanese craft shops, I’m kinda trying to balance up all the praise I read before I left Sydney, and my own dreamy imaginings …

And it’s not like Yuzawaya is exceptional … all its competitors are the same.  Okadaya in Shinjuku is probably my favourite store, I even took my Mum there when she came to Tokyo.  I hadn’t told her the name, but as we approached I said “Look, it’s the one next to the shoe shop”  “I know” she said.  “How do you know?” “Well, it looks like a craft shop” she said, pointing to the tacky plastic bangles, hair ties and nail art on the ground floor.  She’s right … she’s been to Craftlight in Sydney, too.

Kinkado in Ikebukuro is reached through a 100 yen shop and cut-price cosmetics store.  And Tomato, in Nippori … well, if you hate the disorganisation of Craftlight, the rolls of fabric draped onto the floor, the slimey polyesters in clashing prints … I’m not sure you’ll fall in love with Tomato.  Although you CAN find amazing dressmaking bargains, and the patchwork fabrics on the top floor are neat and lovely…

Recently, Husband explained it all: these stores are for housewives, hence the lingerie, toys and saucepans along with the sewing machines and fabrics.  He’s right, I’m sure.  But the militant feminist in me feels somewhat uncomfortable …