Tuesday, 11 August 2015

The never ending list of WIP's

I wonder how many quilters do not have a list of Works in Progress (WIP) or unfinished quilts. If you don't have a long WIP list, you have my utmost respect. How do you do it? My list is so long it reaches, hypothetically, from the sky to the ground...at least that's what if feels like most of the time.

The other thing that I do, is collect fabric for "future quilts". I have piles and piles of fabric that belongs to quilts that I need to make in the future. Will I ever get to make them? Who knows?

I had to move house 2 years ago and decided that I was not going to pack fabric (and books) that I had not used or looked at in 2 years. That cut down my stash substantially. Needless to say, it is slowly building up again. There is a very good series of articles by Dena Crain on Time Saving for Quilters. One of her articles is on stash management both as a time saving tool and a financial management tool - very wise words from her. I would do well to pay attention.

Of course, there is a small caveat here. My business partner and I own a small hand-dyed fabric start-up called TwigaDudu. We often dye fabric both for sale and, just because we can... we both love playing with colour. I'll leave it up to you to consider how much fabric is lying at home (excluding the fabric for sale). A hint.... my kids often used to use the word "over-countable" when they were younger. Is my fabric stash headed that way? Who knows? I'm too busy working out when to finish my current WIPs to even start quantifying my stash.

Now for the photo of the day....below is a photo taken the day we went Sani Pass to play in the snow. I live in Africa - what's snow? This photo was taken by Adrian, my business partner's young son. I love the placement of the 2 rocks with piles of snow on top of them. Notice how the water is moving round the rocks. This photo was taken of the main road up Sani Pass at the South African border post, between South Africa and Lesotho. About 10 centimetres of snow had fallen the day before, covering the road. Mmmm - I wonder how many of the browns (and greens) in the photo, I can match to fabric in my stash?

Thursday, 23 July 2015

National Quilt Festival - July 2015 - Take 2

The South African National Quilt Festival for 2015 has come and gone. It flew by and was a kaleidoscope of colours, almost an assault on my senses, but what a positive experience. Incidentally, it was the first national quilt festival I have attended.

The festival was held at Kearsney College, a private boys high school in Kwa-Zulu Natal (KZN). What a beautiful setting - crisp cool mornings warming up to warm sunny days typical of the KZN winter. There were loads of vendors, almost "over countable" as my children would say. AmafuDana Biddle, Bernina, Pfaff, Brother, Arthur Bales and Wool n Weave are some of the vendors that exhibited their wares at the festival. All the stalls were bright and sunny. There were so many different colours. Almost everyone was selling bright happy fabrics, threads and yarns.

On a slightly different note, another hat I wear is that of co-owner and mad scientist of my own fabric hand-dyeing business. The company is called "TwigaDudu" and we use very different base fabric to most of the other commercial hand-dyers. We use loom state fabric and it's slightly rougher and earthier than most base fabric. The advantage is that it seems to absorb more dye than other fabrics so our colours tend to be more intense than what is currently available on the market. The point of this shameless "plug" is that we were too small to exhibit our fabric at this year's festival, but we will definitely be at the next one. In the meantime, why don't you pop over to our site and browse around.

Back to the Festival, on the Saturday morning  I did half a fabric dyeing course by Helga Beaumont, attended the Kaffe Fasset lecture on the Saturday afternoon and walked round the quilt exhibition on the Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately the photo below is the only photo I have with the quilt makers name. There was just too much going on to write it all down or even to remember to photograph the descriptions next to each photo. Next time......

This photo is of an award winning quilt by my very good friend Susan Wessels. It's stunning. I love the colours and the balance.

There was also one quilt that was attributed to Dena Crain's Quilt University "Darned Quilts" class. As many of you know that Online University in it's original format has closed because of the sad passing of the dean of the university, Carol Miller. Dena Crain has started her own online quilting faculty - QuiltEdOnline. I would encourage anyone looking for online courses that are clear, concise and loaded with information, to visit her website and try out one of her offerings.

In the meantime, I will continue to look through my photos, and maybe, who knows, I will find some descriptions of the quilts in the photographs.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Finished quilts, photos and bad designs

Finally I've managed to finish some quilts - some with a help of a friend but at least they are getting done.  We made about 7 cot quilts using TwigaDudu's pastel and grey range of fabrics. The fabrics were hand-dyed especially for these quilts. This photo is of the blue and grey quilt we made. According to some people the pattern looks like the Nazi symbol. However, it was never our intention to create such a quilt. It's a simple rail fence pattern and I really apologise if I have offended anyone.

Many of you now know that, in another "life", I am the co-owner of TwigaDudu, a new startup in the Valley of a Thousand Hills, KZN, South Africa. My business partner and I hand-dye 100% cotton fabric suitable for patchwork quilting. Our fabric is different and interesting in that we buy loomstate fabric i.e. fabric directly off the weaving looms. The fabric has not been through the chemical scouring processes which makes it slightly rougher and thicker than what I would call "processed" fabric. It also absorbs up the dye like a very dry sponge in water. The hot African sun acts as a catalyst between the fabric and the dye. Wow - what interesting results... Intense, vibrant colours that are amazing. The photo below is one of our browns and yellows and greens batching. The batch of dye and fabric 2nd from the left right at the back of the photo was the binding for the double bed quilt that I made - the one Sir Sprocket approves of.

I also made my first attempt at sewing a double bed quilt in blocks and then using the "sew as you go" method to put the blocks together. This is the worst quilt I have ever designed. The blocks aren't fitting together like they should and, I'm still manhandling big sections of quilts under my machine. Needless to say, I'll never design a quilt like this again.... There is nothing wrong with the sew as you go method - I just designed my quilt badly using this method.

The photo below is of the quilt on my bed and Sir Sprocket, the red Burmese boy approves of my handiwork - he noted that he would actually like the quilt but understood when I told him it's a gift.  He did however try and persuade me to make him one.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Meet a great Quilting Friend

I've decided to showcase some of my quilting friends and their work. They are all truly inspirational.

First up is Kathy Stadler, a very good friend who lives in Germany.  She summarizes her passion in this quote: "Quilting is a passion that has brought me great comfort and many, many friendships along the way. I wouldn't trade this way of life for anything!!!"

Enjoy reading about herself and her quilting journey... 

"My passion with sewing and quilting started when I was in Junior High. My mother taught me clothing construction after taking the required Home Economics class. I started out as most girls do, making my own clothes. It wasn't until my Senior year in High School that I discovered quilting. I wanted  to make a quilt for my bed in college. I started out with a “bang” and made a King-sized quilt. That passion stayed with me during college. After college and newly married, I began my true journey into quilting. I have celebrated many of my cherished occasions by making quilts. I made sure that all three of my newborn sons came home to quilts made by me. As my sons reached important milestones in their lives (graduations, marriages and new homes), they are always gifted with a “Mom quilt”. That way, I am part of their new lives even though I am not geographically near them.

Quilting is a source of comfort during those times when I need to go 'inside” for a while. It gives me the solace and a place to heal. Quilting also gives me the opportunity to create and enjoy the times where I expand as a person and creator.

After many years of sewing and quilting, I had relocated to a place where fabrics were not as available and affordable. I had been looking into fabric dyeing and finally joined an online education group and took a class in order to learn how to dye. I was hooked from the very first piece of fabric that came out of the bucket! I had discovered the fun of dyeing one's own fabric and getting the feeling of accomplishment and artisty. This was simply meant to be!!!

Out of this new passion, my business was formed. I am now a supplier of affordable dyes, PFD (Prepared for Dyeing) fabrics, dye accessories, dye chemicals, patchwork accessories and all sizes of rotary cutter blades. I also sell hand-dyed Jelly Rolls and other hand dyed items.  I have a computerized Long Arm machine and quilt for myself and others. I also have a professional Embroidery machine and again, do work for myself and others. I combine the embroidery work with the quilting.  One of my options for service is making embroidered quilt labels for the quilts I have quilted or for someone who just wants a label. 

You can check out my website at:  www.Patchwork-pro.de

What a wonderful story Kathy. I hope you have enjoyed reading it as much I have. 

Thursday, 30 April 2015


As some of you know, in another life I train a Search and Rescue (SAR) dog, well, she trains me but that's a story for another day. You can read more about our adventures here. One of the advantages of SAR training is that I get to travel far more than I used to - my kids are also 18 years old now so it's easier to pack my gear into my little car and head out for the weekend.

Last weekend we visited a very good friend who lives on a farm outside Standerton - a large town in Mpumalanga. We had a wonderful time. It was good to catch up with my friend because I hadn't seen her since August 2014. Electra (aka The Munchkin) and I walked all over the farm and also visited some of the neighbouring farms. Our first stop on the Sunday morning was a beautiful dam across the road from the farm I was staying on. This photo shows the view over the big farm dam. It was a perfect morning - blue skies, warm autumn weather etc.

I sat on a dead tree branch (after checking very carefully for Ring Necked Cobras) overlooking the dam and watched while the Munchkin had great fun playing in the water. She is a true water baby. It was so calm, peaceful and soothing. Just looking at the photos reminds me of the peace and tranquility I experienced that day.

Eventually it was time to go back for breakfast. We walked back through the grasslands flushing quail and various other birds that I haven't seen for more than 20 years. To the Munchkin's credit, she didn't chase anything. She just meandered along checking out all the exciting new smells she came across. She did insist in sticking her head into all the holes in the ground we passed. Fortunately no cobras or porcupines came storming out of any of the holes. Both are endemic to the area.

The main farmhouse is a beautiful old Sandstone building with big shady trees round the house. 

Walking round the farm I found a shed built out of sandstone, a wall with the most amazing textures and a dead tree with a mushroom type fungus growing out if it. All of them inspiration for quilts and quilting. 
The main house built from sandstone

                                      The shed also built using sandstone bricks

This dead tree had fungus growing out of it. The red around the fungus is the remains of a termite nest. What interesting colours - the sun bleached wood, the red sand and the greens and beiges of the fungus. I wonder how easy it would be to dye fabric these colours. 

This textured brick wall reminds me of a jersey pattern in one of Kaffe Fasset's books - if I could just remember which one. 

Monday, 23 February 2015

Wonky Log Cabin Blocks

I am passionate about log cabin blocks and log cabin quilts. At the beginning of 2015 I decided it was time to learn to sew straight seams so... the ideal place to start would be to sew traditional log cabin blocks, or so I thought. Indirectly, I was trying to create order out of chaos...

Anyway... I made a start using Amafu's Maluti Moments and Brazillia fat quarter packs. The following photo is of one of my first blocks.

Sewing square blocks, how boring my creative brain screamed. The rational brain argued back... you need to finish what you start and, it's good to create order out of chaos.. Ha!!!!! 32 or so squares later, I was very proud of myself... It's time to play with the blocks to see how they best fit together....Then I realised that somehow, predictably not all of the blocks are the same size and so their seams don't fit together in a line. Now what... Yippee shouted the creative brain - you see, you shouldn't try and create square log cabin blocks. Let's take what's left over of the same fabric and make wonky log cabin blocks.....

In the meantime, I started making a blue and brown Shweshwe quilt for a very good friend of mine - in the square log cabin phase - I have to continue because I can't make wonky log cabin blocks with this fabric. What happens if I make a lone star as a centre  panel and add log cabin blocks around the centre panel? No, no no, not more structured shapes shouts the creative brain....... But what to do? This quilt needs to be finished. To be absolutely honest with myself, the creative brain is still working on ways to make wonky log cabins out if this fabric.

I also took some of the square log cabin blocks that didn't fit and played with them. I added black crosses to the blocks - along the lines of what Nancy Crow taught me years ago. What people don't know is that sometimes creative brain gets very angry with the world. The block below is the start of a series which expresses the feelings of "I'm done" - not sure what I'm done with but here is the start......

As for the wonky log cabins... that's a post for another time. Let's just say it's interesting working on 3 different quilts at once :)

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

2015 and Funky Fabric Dyeing

2015 has arrived - wow, what happened to 2014? Guess it's time to move on and embrace 2015 with both arms. I can't wait......

Summer is here in the Southern Hemisphere and we are having a hot dry summer - not so good for the farmers as Africa has a perennial water shortage under normal circumstances. It is however great news for those of us who use the hot African sun as a catalyst to create the most beautiful hand dyed fabric. A friend and I hand dyed about 20 metres of fabrics in the last couple of weeks. Now it's time to cut fabric, pack it and send it on it's way. Watch this space for our new venture and the destination of the fabric.

Some photos below of the fabric that being dyed, cut and sewed into a beautiful quilt top.