Thursday, May 05, 2011

Seeing patterns

I've been playing around with sewing and quilting in the last few months. It sounds funny, but since so much of my knitting is centered around deadlines, I find that having a creative outlet entirely separate from the knitting/spinning world is refreshing for me. What's been especially fun: seeing how things have changed in the world of fabric -- or maybe it's more a function of my having had outdated ideas about what fabric and quilting and sewing are all about. I've been knocked out by the wide variety of fabric choices out there -- traditional ones, like checks and dots, but in all sorts of colors; fun ones, with aliens or mermaids or dancing vegetables; lush, vibrant florals like the ones created by Kaffe Fassett; Japanese imports; organics; and even a whole new world of print-on-demand fabrics via places like Spoonflower, where you can upload designs and get them printed in small quantities (or order fabrics from indie designers who sell via the Spoonflower site). I'm really fortunate to have access to a bricks-and-mortar shop like Spool, and I've discovered some terrific on-line sites and blogs -- True Up is one of my current faves.

It's also been fascinating to see what's happening in the world of quilting design. Everybody has their druthers when it comes to style and I've found that I"m no different. Not surprisingly, I find myself infatuated with color and how expert designers combine colors and patterns. Of course there are the incredible designs by Kaffe Fassett and Liza Lucy --the colors and combinations of colors they use make my heart sing. It was also fascinating for me to see the work of Jane Brocket; her quilting book uses lots of lush fabrics but in larger swathes of fabric rather than many small shapes pieced together.

But I've also been looking at a lot of quilts that go by the name "modern" -- and without stirring up a whole debate about what's modern and what's traditional, I'm talking about quilters who play with the use of solid or nearly solid fabrics, make sashing a design element, and incorporate pared-down geometric shapes-- often larger rather than postage-stamp sized, pieced quilt backs and free-motion quilting. (I've found this Flickr feed to be especially full of interesting stuff.) I hadn't realized that there were quilters out there doing this sort of thing, so it was a revelation to discover a whole thriving community of them with nary a Sunbonnet Sue in sight.

As someone who's been immersed in a subculture of the craft world for so long, I've been finding some of the parallels between the knitting blog0sphere and the quilting blogosphere to be interesting. The role of the internet plays in shaping the craft? The need to support local bricks-and-mortar shops as well as on-line businesses? Indie designers versus large companies? Whether designers should give patterns out for free? Process versus production? All of these issues are explored in both the knitting and quilting worlds. Recently there was a blogging brouhaha arising out of the suggestion that quilting was being "dumbed down", and I couldn't help but think about similar debates in the knitting world that erupted during the time when novelty yarn scarves were everywhere or when people were obsessed with quick-knitting super-chunky yarns and nothing else. (Pretty please don't debate these issues in the comments.....they've been done to death elsewhere. Me, I think people should do what makes them happy. For some, that will involve pushing the envelope and constantly trying new things; for others, that will entail a less intense approach to a craft. For me, it will involve both, depending on what kind of mood I'm in. To use a phrase that I am sick of hearing, "it's all good.")

Anyway, if you happen to notice that I'm showing you photos of fabric-related projects, don't be alarmed. Much of what I'm knitting is on deadline for future publications, which means I can't talk about it yet here. So in the meantime, allow me to distract you with these photos of some pillow covers I made recently.

Fabric by Scarletfig (Etsy shop here)

I was, of course, infatuated with the bunny

French Window Pillow pattern by Patty Young (free here)

They are already a teeny bit wrinkled, but that's just a sign that they've been used and loved. Which is really what it's all about, eh?


knottygnome said...

i like your pillow cover. :-)

i love quilting--it's just another way to play with color and texture and it has the bonus side effect of being incredibly practical. who doesn't need a new blanket?

Tabitha said...

Ooo, Ooo, raising hand and fidgeting in chair. Check out Weeks Ringle and Bill Kerr's books and website for some killer modern quilts.

Wendy B. said...

It's lovely, Carol! I like the bunny pattern, too. =)

Bridget said...

Very nice! If I can ever clear a path to my sewing machine, I have some things I'd like to try ...

Anonymous said...

Hey Carol
Welcome to my world! Let me know when you start dyeing fabric. Kaffe will be in New Hope on May 18 and 19 to teach and lecture. There is still room in both classes and the lecture. For more information go to

besshaile said...

what a great post - and yes boy do I know what you mean by needing a fiber outlet that's not attached to a deadline. Thanks for the link to spoonflower!

Barb B. said...

Very interesting... I hadn't put together the similarities between the issues of the two crafts. Once again you get my brain buzzing!
(I am glad to see that those of us north of the border are influencing you so highly too... EH?)

Anonymous said...

I see Tabitha beat me to it with the reference to Weeks Ringle's blog, Craft Nectar. I love the quilts she show.... and find quilting to be the perfect counterpoint to knitting, since the kind of quilts I like are much quicker to complete than the kind of sweaters I like to knit (tiny needles, tiny yarn, many stitches, etc.)

Barbara M.