Friday, 30 December 2011

Sweet Pea Block

Another rainy day at the bach – but it is good for the sewing! But what a shame 
for all those camping over the New Year break.

Another block is made - a flowery one this time – called Sweet Pea. It is from the
 same book – in fact all the blocks are from Yoko Saito’s “138 Original Applique 
Designs” book. This is another 10” one.

New Year New Project

This is what I have achieved today as we are away on holiday and it is raining. 
And the second block is prepared ready for hand stitching.

This is the start of a new project – oh dear should I be doing that with all that hand 
quilting backing up. But yes I should – this is a special quilt. I have a nephew getting 
married in May and his lovely partner Kate has asked if I would make them a quilt. 
So I showed her a big range of books  representing as many quilt styles and colours 
as I could muster. She poured through them putting a post-it sticker on each page 
that had a quilt that she liked on it and we worked from there. You can imagine how
excited I was when she chose an appliqué quilt and she wanted it made
in the taupe fabrics.

So here is block one – Mushroom Gathering  - 10” square. I have used my favourite 
Freezer Paper appliqué technique. Each block has a little bit of embroidery 
on it – in true Yoko Saito style.

It is taken from Yoko Siato’s book “138 Original Applique Designs”. As the name 
suggests this book is packed with appliqué blocks so we have chosen 18 of them to make 
up the quilt. The block sizes range from 10” squares to 20” squares and some 20” by 10” rectangles. They are placed in a slightly irregular layout taken from another of my Japanese Taupe books – this one by Hitomi Hanaoka.

So onward with these blocks as they are getting married in March! The hand quilting of the other projects will just have to wait – so much for that rule I made a month ago – whoops I didn’t even bring any hand quilting projects away with me!  But I will re-instate that rule when I get home.

Monday, 26 December 2011

Christmas 2011

I hope you have all had a wonderful Christmas. This is a block from a Christmas quilt that 
I made many years ago - 1994 to be precis.

My Blog posts have been rather lacking over the last week or two - sorry.
Just before we closed for the Christmas break we launched our updated website - and 
that turned into a rather larger than expected mission as they crashed the old site 
in the process. So the pressure was on to get the new site up and running before 
Christmas instead of at my leisure!! But it is almost done, but no sewing got done for
days and days and days.

But now I am back into it but don't have a lot to show as I have been preparing my 
applique pieces for sewing onto the 1800s quilt border. Can you work out how this will go together?

And I have been keeping to my rule of quilting before any other project each day.
So my Amish quilt is nearly done - I have worked on stitching the borders tonight and it 
is going well - a nice flowing cable that is easy to stitch in one direction without having 
to keep on moving and reorganising the quilt.

I have drawn the design with my Clover white marking pen that irons away when I am done
with it - what a wonderful invention from Clover. This is the stencil that I used. I did have 
a bit of a debate about whether to use a design with curved lines when the rest of the quilt
 was quilted with straight lines. After checking some photos of old Amish quilts I 
decided this would be fine.

I did sew on the binding first so I could get the final cable design properly centred.

If I don't get back before New Year's Eve have a great one - welcome 2012 in style.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

1800s Blocks All Together

Well I met the deadline that I set myself last week and got all my 1800s blocks 
finished and sewn together - well just.

I was surprised how big it actually was - one row of blocks went over each edge 
when it was put on our double bed and it still has borders to go on.

And I do love these little blocks and all the colours and fabrics reproduced from the 1800s.

It really looks like a scrap quilt - it has so many different fabrics in it - we have cut 
63 different squares for the blocks!!!

Now it is onto the borders which have some more quite simple applique. 

But first I should spend a few nights quilting - I have my Amish Bear's Paw and 
my Japanese Quilt Block quilt awaiting lots more quilting stitches.

I think there is a rule coming on - that I have to quilt for at least 30 minutes 
before launching into more applique!!! I find this a good way to get way
to get quilting done when I would rather be doing applique.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

1800s Quilt Progress

These are two of the final blocks needed for my 1800s Applique Quilt - I just need to 
make two more of this block in different colours and then I can out the whole 
quilt top together.

My plan is to get the blocks all joined up next weekend and then I can start on 
the applique border - no, not a vine - you will just have to wait and see!

This Block of the Month looks like it is on target to be released early in the New Year - the sample won't be quilted by then but that can be work in progress.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Central 1800s Block

This is the central block of my 1800s quilt. 

Now I just have four more large applique blocks to make in a new design - my challenge 
is to get them done by the end of next week!

Saturday, 3 December 2011

From Vietnam to 1800s Blocks

Hi - we are home from Vietnam having had a wonderful time. The old clothes that I bought 
from the Hmong ladies are washed and have lost their smoky smell. They were definitely 
dyed with old indigo as my hands had a touch of the indigo blue from handling them when
they were wet - not that there was actually any doubt in my mind. 

This is part of a child's set of traditional clothing - dress and long sleeveless coat - the same 
as all the ladies were wearing. Under this they wore knee length velveteen trousers and leggings. The ladies were wearing and making the embroidered sleeve inserts, but this one is ribbons sewn on by machine. The colourful edge stitching on the jacket looks hand couched.

This is a Hmong jacket - isn't it a delight with its embellishments - embroidery, sequins, beads, baubles and metal pieces.

Now it is back to the 1800s quilt with all those blocks. I finished off one last night that didn't 
quite get finished before I left on holiday. And this is an idea of the layout coming up - but 
there are nine big blocks and they are not all the same as these two.

Thanks for stopping by - do leave a comment.

Monday, 28 November 2011

More from Hoi An

The silk collection has grown a wee bit – it is much harder to get raw silk than I imagined.

We have visited some Art and Craft Workshops on a tour of historical Hoi An. He first was a lantern making one. These large bamboo frames are covered with silk fabric. Last night we explored the town a bit more and  hey were hanging everywhere looking magnificent, but my camera didn’t catch them well.

Other young girls were making smaller table lanterns – this was great to see these being as I made these with the Vietnamese children that I once taught back at home many years ago. They were a big part of the Vietnamese Autumn Festival that we celebrated with our Vietnamese students. We made them in the same process but our ones we made were hanging ones so they could be paraded.

Then there was this style of lantern which is cord woven around the frames and looking very colourful, The full sized version is the traditional, but they are now making some that are just half versions so they can go onto the wall and sit flush.

This lady was making a colourful woven sleeping mat at great speed. She worked with a team mate who passed over the coloured length ready on the shuttle  to thread through the loom.

So colourful.

Next stop is Saigon or Ho Chi Min City - not sure what textiles related things I will see there.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Silk In Hoi An

We are now in Hoi An. Coming in to this city was exciting – well for me – there were huge advertising boards all along the highway and all of them were advertising silk shops!!!

This is how my collection of raw silk started in Hanoi – just three colours and one of them is cream as you can see. So it is time for more variety.

I think I have a bed runner in mind for the end of our bed and a long landscape shaped wall hanging for above the bed head. I think the runner will be geometric and the hanging will have some appliqué on as well – who knows at this stage – it is such a vague idea that I have.
One stop in old Hoi An was to a silk factory where a lovely Vietnamese lady took us through the process of silk production. These are fat silk worms munching away on mulberry leaves – they get a new batch of leaves to munch on every three hours – these ones are 19 days old and nearly ready to go into cocoons. Most start spinning cocoons after about 23 days and it takes them about four days to spin it rotating their body in a figure eight direction over 300,000 times.

Once in cocoons they are gently placed in these racks – the two colours are because there are two different varieties of silk worm breed in this factory. Some are kept to go full cycle and turn into moths to start the next generation of worms off. Others are taken for their silk.

These cocoons have been chosen for silk production and dropped gently into hot water to kill the worm and release the silk fibre. A strand  is taken from four to six cocoons and twisted together to make one thread  and wound onto the big reel on this machine – done by hand here.

These reels of thread are then ready to be dyed – the white and the yellow are in the natural state and the blue has been dyed.

Then it is off to the weaving machine – this one was electronic and noisy, but fast. It was producing silk which has the crosswise threads of one colour and the length threads of another to give a shot effect.

Other thread were kept for the ladies doing the traditional silk embroideries.

Watch for progress as we are back into town tonight and into the night market. So who 
knows what we will find - more silk products and fabric I suspect.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Vietnamese Embroidery

We are now in Central Vietnam in a lovely city called Hue, having flown down from Hanoi. 
Before leaving Hanoi we drove down to Halong Bay where we spent overnight cruising 
on an historic replica Junk, out on this magical World Heritage Site.

On the way to and from Halong Bay we stopped at several places where local young women were working on embroideries. The quality of the stitching does vary as obviously they are stitched by so many different people. 

 In some the background is totally stitched too while 
others just the subject is stitched. The boy on the bike is the only part stitched on this one.

In Hue we were taken to a very classy shop and workshop where the women were making the double-sided embroideries – the back is as good as the front – they are totally reversible. They take many months to make these pieces and some were even the amazing double sided versions that many of us saw the Exhibition at the Temple out by Botany, Auckland, New Zealand. These two are working on a double sided one and it will take them four months to complete it. The background fabric is see through and is stretched onto the frame really, really tightly. They are stitching with fine silk thread.

Others were quicker and easier to make and were more for the average tourist market 
rather than the fine embroidery connoisseur. These were framed as pictures, sold as
just stitcheries or made into bags. This is a close up of he pansy bag below.

Next stop is Hoi An famous for silk. I start my collection of raw silk in the Old Quarter 
of Hanoi, but I definitely need some more.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Day Two In Sapa

This Blog post has been a bit delayed as the system has been playing but I found
 a new way in - I hope it lasts!

On the second day in Sapa we headed off on another trek – this one was shorter
but more uphill and down dale. We are headed down there!

We started off in the markets in Sapa township – these were a produce market where the locals picked up their fresh meat and vegetables each day, a clothes market for modern clothing and the traditional wholesale area where traditional clothing was available. It was fun to see the local ladies buying up before heading out onto the streets to sell their wares.

So I did have to do a bit of shopping here too – but came back after the walk so as not to hold up the others who were not really interested in old textiles  - can’t understand that!!!!! So I bought some old pieces from a Red Dzao lady. These are clothing pieces worn around the neck but she wanted me to have them for wallhangings. The red version is the one that we saw more of being sold in the streets and of course they were new.

My Red Dzao lady was very happy to pose for a photo  - in fact she added more 
interest to her clothing for the occasion.

She was busy at her treadle sewing machine along with lots of others producing 
pieces for the market.

We were heading to CatCat which is another Black Hmong Village – but we had no followers this time. On the way we saw buffalo grazing – these are prized in Vietnam as they are 
used for working the fields and a good way to make money – they are worth the same as a modern motorbike when sold in the livestock markets.

We saw indigo plants growing on the hillsides – all Black Hmong clothing is indigo dyed. 
These bed covers were for sale – they were a mixture of plain indigo fabric, pieced 
areas and embroidery panels.

The items that the Black Hmong ladies had in their baskets were mostly small bags. 
Some were hand embroidered while others were obviously machine done like the one this young girl is selling us.

The Black Hmong have certainly got their sales techniques fine tuned whereas the Red Dzao people are much more private – they specialise in providing Home Stays in their Villages
for the tourists. We only saw a few of them selling their wares in Sapa Township and they 
were a little more hassling with lots of “buy from me, buy from me” and no other conversation. The Hmong ladies have such a friendly approach and make you feel as though they are genuinely interested in you and where you come from! And they engage you for long time chatting and are happy to answer any questions that you have.

That is it from the Northern Hill Tribes.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Sapa - Vietnamese Hmong Villages

Hi there from Sapa in Northern Vietnam. We have spent two days trekking from hill tribe village to hill tribe village and it has been great. 

One lady and her friend started chatting to us outside the hotel and while we were wandering around Sapa Village before joining the walking tour. Unbeknown to me this is their ploy - I was now her "friend" for the rest of the day. But she was lovely - friendly, not hassling, spoke good English, was happy to chat about her culture and lifestyle and happy to pose for photos.

This is the traditional band of followers on the walk - Hmong women - including my new found friend. Their husband's bring them into Sapa in the early morning and they walk home with a tourist group hoping to make some sales at lunchtime - our group was not that successful for them as I was the only one to buy.

My new 'friend' stayed close by all the way and helped me when the track got a bit rough - the helping hand was always welcome and I did want to buy. 

As you can see even baby comes along for the ride.

They didn't put any pressure on until we sat down to lunch in her village - this is the traditional time to purchase. And by the time we got to her village I had decided what I wanted to buy - believe it or not a set of traditional clothing - a child's as it was smaller to pack and old rather than new. But as I suspected she didn't have that in her basket as most tourists buy the embroidered bags - trust me to be different. But while we had lunch she was happy to go off 
and get what I wanted!!!! They it was gentle bargaining time - she was very sweet and a pleasure to buy from.

Below is another Hmong lady sitting outside our hotel sewing while she waits for a tourist who might like to buy from her. We got talking to her and did buy a couple of hand embroidered bags from her. She is stitching the insert that goes into the sleeve of her outfit. No time is wasted - she has a portable stitching project just like us! And she was happy to show and to explain what she was doing - we learnt so much from these ladies. I guess most tourists don't that much interest in their handwork.

Her friend was joining long pieces of hemp fibre together ready to be woven into fabric and dyed with indigo back in the village - these women worked away at this as they walked along - they started the day with a large hank of fibre hanging around her shoulders and by the end of the morning it had all been joined and wound into her hand neatly. She too was happy to be photographed and explained and demonstrated the process of joining the fibre lengths together.

When we stopped on the walk to the village for drinks the women would settle down to embroidery - there was no hassling to buy while we were walking - just when we got to their village at lunchtime. Such patience as we left Sapa at 9.30 and got to their village - Lao Chai -  at about 1.00pm.

Well that is the day with the Hmong ladies - they certainly added another level of interest and a personal touch to the walk.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Vietnamese Embroidery

Hi there from Hanoi - today we took a day trip out to the ancient capital of Vietnam, Hoa Lu. 
The highlight was a  trip in sampan up the Tam Coc river. We went through some amazing limestone caves on the two hour trip. 

And as we are fast learning the Vietnamese never miss an opportunity for a sale - on the way back out came  the local embroideries, table cloths, T-shirts, etc for sale. I was pretty easily persuaded to buy a couple of hand long stitch embroideries on black fabric made by local women.

I am sure I can feel a quilt of some shape coming on with a collection of these put together with 
our Shot Cottons from the shop or maybe some silk I get here - who knows.