March 18, 2007

Small quilt

  After discovering Spirit Cloth, I've been inspired to take out the fabric I bought a while back form Azabu-ya and try my hand at quilting. When I tried a few months ago I didn't get very far because I was trying to practice the quilting stitch on samples that weren't going to be anything and I really need a project to get going. So this will be my first project for both quilting and embroidering. I have some ideas for the embroidery, but first I am going to quilt enough of the fabric that I don't have to worry about messing that up while I embroider. I know that usually people embroider first, but I've already found out a couple of things about the kind of quilter I'm going to be, if this works out.
a) I don't like to use a hoop.
b) I don't care about the way things are supposed to be done as long as I like what I get.
Looking at the kind of quilting and embroidery that Jude of Spirit Cloth does, I am convinced that this is the way to go for me.

This is how far I got yesterday.

So far I quilt stitched along two lines and the stitches are very "rustic". I'm telling myself it's a feature, not a bug. :)

I like the back fabric almost as much as the front one, so I am going to try to make a reversible quilt. Funny that this morning I should see this same fabric on another blog: 100% Pura Lana.

Given the colors and motifs of the fabric, I am thinking of a marine subject for my embroidery.

March 5, 2007


   Preserving the ordinary is perhaps not high on most people's priority list. Collecting antiques or even the barely old is one thing; cherishing the normal objects of everyday life beyond their expected life span and a certain respectability of appearance is another. This book has reminded me of bygone days, when I was a little girl growing up in a convent. In summer, I was the only girl left in the nuns' care and I would spend my days roaming around on a tricycle and sharing the nuns' activities.

Every afternoon they would spend a couple of hours sitting in the shade of trees, embroidering, mending, and chatting. I can still see them patiently darning modest pieces of cloth, often working on their "soggoli" (guimpes), a part of their habits that covered the neck. White as snow and perfectly pleated with a parting halfway that changed the direction of the pleats; a feat of sewing and ironing mastery.

Now, when something is old and abused, we throw it out without a second thought. Or so I've been doing.

While my language inadequacies prevent me from understanding even the book introduction, I sense that behind this Darning Notebook is a true appreciation for preserving beloved objects by either maintaining them or repurposing them so that some of their qualities can exist in different form. The book is clearly aimed at the Japanese public with no concessions to the "Japanese Craft Book club" of overseas. Entirely in Japanese — not even the usual English chapter headings — and to be opened from right to left and read vertically, as is customary in traditional publications. The projects include a few items you could fit in the cute category, but the overall feel is not one of cuteness. The aesthetics of wabi-sabi — the beauty of imperfection — are at work here, but taken to a certain extreme and out of the understated domain. Some of the pieces seem closer to fine art than clothing.

After the photographic section, are a few pages of instructions, mostly the basics of darning. Some projects involve cutting and sewing pieces together to shape new items of clothing, but they are meant to be inspirational and no specific instructions are provided to replicate the objects.

Darning Notebook
by 勝屋 まゆみ
Published 2007/01
87 pages
ISBN-10 4579111273
ISBN-13 9784579111275

September 24, 2006

Friends & stuff

Yesterday was guild meeting day and I got to see many friends and meet a few new people. As usual, we had about five new visitors and a couple of new members; our little guild is now more than 80-strong.

I had brought my quilting hoop with me and spent at least two hours practicing my quilting stitch. Not a whole lot of progress, but I am getting slightly less frustrated and that's incouraging. Trying out different fabrics and battings is also helping a bit, as some are easier to quilt than others. Mariko showed me how she does the quilting stitch and also spoiled me with unexpected birthday presents: two adorable Japanese craft books (this has really turned into Japanese book week for me), some sharp Japanese pins and a magazine article on Boutis how-to. Mariko-san, どもありがとうございました!

Both during and after the meeting, I was too busy having a good time to remember to take pictures. That's a good sign, no?

My practice in progress — PIP?

Cat hair courtesy of "il grigino".

Piper recognizes two categories of things: food and toys. When he sees something new, first he smells it to see if it's food…

… then he tries to move it to see if it rolls or bounces. He's our little Pelé and spends hours playing soccer by himself.

The quilting hoop is no fun; Pipie gets back to napping.

After the meeting, I joined Theresa, JoShell, Rose, Lisa and Marty and went to a café downtown to meet up with Andrea, who had overslept and missed the meeting. I think she was up again til dawn working on her mystery Fair Isle project. All my friends are getting so much done lately; I feel like I am underachieving these days.

Interestingly, half the people in our little group are interested in learning an Asian language. Rose is starting a class in Chinese Mandarin tomorrow. I just started again listening to my Japanese Pimsleur tapes this week, while I work out on the elliptical machine. Lisa is also considering Japanese and has been checking classes in Riverside. JoShell lived in Japan for 3.5 years. And I know Andrea has considered Japanese herself.

If only I could find someone who lives close to me to study together. I started studying Japanese so many times and then lost momentum that I think a buddy would be really helpful. Even when I was getting lessons, it was only an hour a week and that is just not enough for a language that is so different from the others I know.
Anyone out there who lives in the Pasadena/Glendale/Burbank area? Please, pretty please? Anyone?

September 10, 2006


  This was another working weekend and I haven't been doing any knitting or spinning or sewing in ages. I finally got off the computer around 4PM and decided to get back into manual work by converting one of Ben's old jeans into shorts. When I got my Pfaff last year, I bought some spare needles, including jeans needles, so I was set.

Sewing went ok until I got to the thick part of the side seam. Folding the hem twice at that juncture proved too think to go under the foot. I reinforced each side of the lump, but couldn't sew all the way around the hem. Yuck. Ben, always the easygoing guy, said not to worry; he would wear those shorts around the house.

When I got to the second leg, the needle stopped moving. It got completely jammed and we tried everything we could think of, short of breaking the needle. We thought of that, too, but this is a German jeans needle and I am convinced that it was built to outsmart any American or Italian trying to break it. So, tomorrow I'm going to make arrangements with the store where I bought the machine to get the problem fixed. Bummer.

August 26, 2006

Quail pincushion

Since someone almost destroyed the chicken pincushion I bought at Fabulous Fiber Fest (bad kitty, bad!), I decided to make me a new one. First, I had to reverse engineer the model, so I used some sacrificial muslin to figure out pattern and size.

And here is my chunky little quail.

I am actually rather pleased with it. The eyes are kind of funky and the filling took a lot of massaging and still she's rather lumpy bumpy, but she's cute in a rustic kind of way. I've decided that I don't like the polyester filling and I'm going to look for something different for my next stuffed projects. I also think that I should have added something heavier to the filling because she is not grounded. Suggestions anyone?

August 23, 2006


Today I washed the fabric I bought over the weekend at Fabulous Fiber Fest and learned a few things in the process.

1) Bad idea to throw 20+ small pieces of fabric in the washer at the same time. When I got them out, they were more tangled up than Medusa's hair. No kidding; I had to cut threads and disintangle the various pieces forever.

I read somewhere that you should trim the borders of your fabric with pinking shears before washing. That might work, but to trim all those tiny pieces would have taken just as long as it did to disintangle and trim them afterwards. No? But, unless I hear of other ways to prevent this, I guess I'll get myself a pair of pinking shears.

2) There has to be a trick about ironing that I don't know about. Someone send me that memo, please. Most of my fabric pieces are striped and very light fabric. Ironing them distorted the stripes. What should I have done? And how will this affect whatever I want to make out of those pieces?

I think part of the problem is that the pieces are very small. I thought they were squares, but they are actually long rectangles and I think that makes them more prone to distortion. I sure hope there's a quick fix that doesn't involve rewashing and especially re-ironing the whole lot.

August 22, 2006

Crafty postcards

  Yesterday's mail brought my first order from Wee Wonderfuls: a sewing pattern, a pack of postcards and some stickers. All cuter than the cutest Japanese stuff. I can't wait to start sending the postcards.

August 21, 2006

Quilting baby steps

When I went over to Pamela's on Sunday, I didn't just get help with my sweater steeks. I also got a primer on the quilting stitch. I can tell you already that I don't have a natural knack for it and it's going to be hard.

I don't like it when I can't do something right on the first try. There is an obvious disconnect here between what my brain wants and what my hand can do.

After showing me how to transfer a pattern and do the quilt stitch, Pam sent me home with hoop, thimble, thread, a few needles and three quilting books. What more can a girl ask for?

I already started reading one of the books: That Perfet Stitch. It's really very good. It goes into great detail on everything you need to know to hand quilt, from choosing your fabric, batting, needles, and thimble to the details of hand stitching broken down in all its steps. Oh yeah, why make things easy for myself? I am going to hand quilt, what the heck. It's probably for the same reason that I prefer spindle spinning to spinning on a wheel. I can do it anywhere, anytime. If I learn to hand quilt, I can do it sitting on the sofa. Sofas are good; just ask Kelvin and Piper. Sofas are up there with grilled salmon, roast chicken and catnip toys. Which reminds me… time for some quality time with my sofa now. Ta-ta.

August 19, 2006

My loot

  Here's my loot from Fabulous Fiber Fest.

I love these striped fabrics. Azabu-ya only had fat quarters for these fabrics at the show (they had plenty of fabric by the yard, just not these ones). Fortunately, they also sell them by the yard in their store so now I know where to get fabrics I like.

I had to get some Japanese looking fabrics as well.

Plus the cutest pin cushion — that came all the way from Guatemala — and some quilting thread from New Moon Textiles

Fabulous Fiber Fest

  This morning I headed down to Santa Monica's Fabulous Fiber Fest with Una and Theresa.

Outside the building were several spinners and an area with alpaca crias. This baby was feeding from a bottle while two black crias were feeding on grass in an enclosure.

Cute, well-behaved and with the daintiest eyelashes and toenails.

This year my focus was all on textiles, so I didn't take many pictures of yarn or spinning fiber, but I could't resist Trish Andersen's yarns. I ran into Trish at a bead vendor where she was looking for beads to incorporate into a new line of pure cashemere yarn she is about to launch. Her yarns (Tanglewood Fiber Creations) are as soft and lovely to the touch as they are beautiful to look at. No website yet, but it's coming soon.

Several bead vendors.

Some beautiful jewelry.

Ah, the beautiful fabrics! I had been looking for great plaids and striped fabrics for a while and today, finally, I found them at Azabu-ya.

Many stunning quilts on display throughout the show.

Many wowen items, as well.

Unfortunately, Habu Textiles was missing this year, but maybe that's just as well, because I didn't have the budget for their line of yarns.

This was really a good day, in very good company — I also ran into a lot of friends from my spinning guild — and I bought some fabrics to start my quilting stash. More about that in a moment.

July 27, 2006

SP8 package delivered

  My July package to my buddy in the UK has arrived, and she posted imemdiately to her blog. I really appreciate that, especially since I know that she is very busy with work and household renovations.

This time I sent her a Lantern Moon needle sheath and a needle case for her circulars. I had thought of other things to sew, but didn't feel confident trying something for the first time. Since I had already made two needle cases, I decided to play safe.

I modified the proportions of my second needle case slightly. I really like the provençal fabric.

No, I didn't include the needles! I only put them in to see the effect.

It took me a while to find a button I really liked and I was undecided until the very last moment between this button and another one. I think this was a good choice.

And now, I'd better start thinking of the August package.

July 4, 2006

Needlecase #2

Thought I'd better make another needlecase right away to fix the process in memory. It took a few hours and when I thought I was done, I realized that I had forgotten to stitch one side of the pocket trims.

Since I couldn't undo the whole thing, I did the stitching by hand with an invisible stitch.

Altogether, the needlecase is better than the first one, although the flap is not perfectly symmetrical. Oh well. What matters is that I was able to do the whole thing by myself. I am sure that with time and practice I'll get better.

And I finally used one of the beautiful buttons I bought last year in Rhinebeck.

July 2, 2006


Today was a very good day. My friends Theresa and JoShell came by for a few hours and we got a lot of stuff done. Theresa had some Columbia fiber to card; beautiful white wool with bouncy crimp but some naps that we were hoping to get rid of. We tried hand cards, combs and flicker, but the naps resisted all attempts. Carding seemed the most effective method of preparing the fiber; still, I think Theresa has accepted that the naps won't go away. Maybe someone else in the guild will come up with a clever way of solving this problem. We'll see.

JoShell helped me figure out how to make a needlecase for circular needles. Actually, she did all the figuring out, pattern and measurements. She then cut and put together her piece and helped me cut mine and got me well on my way by the time she left. I was doing a decent job when I made a couple of mistakes that kept me busy for over an hour. If only the sewing machine had an undo button!

I did manage to finish my needlecase, though, and I am rather pleased with it, in spite all the imperfections. This was only my third attempt at sewing something in 7-8 months. The first time, I tried to make a soft toy following a Burda pattern. Of course, without any sewing experience (manual or otherwise) and having never seen a pattern before, I failed miserably and got myself in such a state that I thought I'd never touch the machine again. A few weeks later, around Christmas, Theresa came by and spent the better part of a day showing me how to sew a pattern that was stll a bit over my head (my fault again). So I am really happy that today I managed to make an object that I think I'll be able to duplicate on my own. Maybe this time I'll start sewing for real. I have many small projects that I'd like to make.

I still have to find a button for the closure. I made the loop too small; and to think that I had made it too long and hid the extra tails inside. Grrrr.

The flap came out skewed on one side, but I managed to fix it… I think. Seeing the project being done completely before or in parallel to mine was a huge help that saved me from at least two major mistakes.

I feel that I've learned a lot today. Now I have to make another needlecase soon, so I don't forget how.

Theresa had brought a small basket for her rollags and as soon as she put it on the table, our little pumpkin lept inside. He spent most of the morning napping in the basket.

I meant to take pictures of the rollags and also JoSHell's needlecase, but being the monotasker that I am, once I started sewing I was so stressed out about doing things right that I forgot. Next time.

Thanks girls!