Friday, April 29, 2011

Handwork--it's catching!

     In March I taught at the New Jersey Quilt Festival. As one of several teachers, we were paired with a roomie and that's when Laura Wasilowski and I got to know each other. If you looked at our work, you might think we'd be apples and oranges but we have lots in common it turns out. Both of us try not to take ourselves too seriously. We found we could trade paperback books (for airplane reading) but the big news was that we discovered we both liked hand sewing. 

Laura's latest book Fanciful Stitches, Colorful Quilts had just come out and to my surprise, the book features hand sewing touches.

     In addition to being Professor Emeritus of the Chicago School of Fusing, Laura loves hand embroidery. We got to talking about needles and here's a mini-interview I did with Laura. 

Pepper: " What type of needles did you use when stitching the quilts in your new book?"

Laura: "You'd never know by looking at me but I'm really fussy about the embroidery needles I use when stitching my little fused art quilts. Most of the
stitching on the quilts is done with  my hand-dyed Size 8 threads. My favorite needle for a size 8 pearl cotton is a size 4 Richard Hemmings embroidery needle. These excellent needles are from Colonial Needles and they slide through the fabric like
butter. (Not that I've ever sewn butter.)"

Pepper: "Do you use a hoop when adding embroidery stitches?"

Laura: "No, Pepper, I am a totally hoopless stitcher. If you place a raw-edged
fused quilt into a hoop, it may stretch the fabric and fray the edges. So I
avoid a hoop and add embroidery stitches just through the batting and quilt
top. If you'd like more fascinating tips for stitching a fused art quilts
on my blog under Thread-u-cation."

Pepper: "Thanks Laura!"

To my blog readers: you might not have known it but you're on a blog tour. So, if you comment on this blog posting, your email will be put into the pot and you'll have the chance to win a copy of Laura's new book. The offer lasts until 9 PM this evening April 30. Good luck!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Ocracoke Chapter 2

Getting back to this second blog posting about teaching on Ocracoke Island, North Carolina seemed impossible. The Ocracoke trip was my only teaching trip in January 2011 but come February, I'd started to run. Short version: teaching and work commitments picked way up. Looking back,  the whole Ocracoke experience was about a re-commitment to work. To be able to work for three blessed days with the same group of happy people toward a common goal was quilting bliss. Sounds idyllic, right? Makes you want to move to the island, right?

Before you sell your house and set sail for Ocracoke, you ought to know a few things about the place and its people. Although connected to the mainland by ferry service at both the south and north ends of the island, you never get to Ocracoke by accident. In the summer it's overrun by tourists. Food and gas cost more here. There's always the problem of what to do if a medical emergency arises. Especially in the winter, people learn to be self-reliant. It doesn't hurt if you enjoy your own company more than being in a crowd. You don't run down to the corner store for a loaf of fresh Italian bread--you make it yourself. There is no Starbucks. Lori, holding her block, is multi-talented. She appeared every day with a different hat, sweater, or scarf. She had spun, dyed, and knitted them herself and is planning to open a store on the island come summer.

This group boasts a very diverse gathering of personalities. The woman peering over her sewing machine is Susan M. Dodd, a well-known author of novels about difficult women. Susan once said, "Luck is largely a matter of paying attention. " That's the next thing I'm going to embroider on a pillow. I found out she was its author by accident when I Googled her and found I'd copied the line on a sticky note and slapped it on the side of my computer monitor over a year ago.

Other quilters in the group were artists, musicians, stain glass workers, teachers, librarians, and at least one psychiatrist. Remember the radio show tag line --"... where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average." The word 'Ocracoke' might well be substituted for Lake Woebegone. Being independent types, a number of people decided to hand piece the block rather than machine stitch. Frances (hands seen in the picture) did exacting work and used a Viyella wool plaid as her Lily block's background.

The hand stitching contingent wisely staked out a table with excellent lighting near the kitchen.

By the end of Day 2, some folks, like Genvieve, were ready to baste their Carolina Lily wall hangings. This group really moved along.

Other pictures include Merle's block. Merle is always so fashionably dressed that within her circle of quilting friends, the term 'merle' has come to mean downright spiffy. She was the only person to use metallic fabrics in her block.

On the last day, it was obvious this group needed a little diversion from the task at hand so I taught them how to do the folded Log Cabin block as it's done on the Isle of Man. We used the group's plaids. Busy beavers every one-- a group shot of the blocks we made that morning.

After lunch we all lined up and had a group photo. Here are all the                                                    Carolina Lily blocks in their glory and the group members grinning broadly.

Saturday morning came all too quickly and it was time for me to leave on the ferry going back to the Down East mainland--bye-bye Ocracoke.