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Saturday, January 31, 2015

Long Distance Reconnaisance

For two great weeks in January I have been away from home to travel to the land of my birth, New Zealand, to attend the biennial Quilt Symposium, held this year in Palmerston North in the Manawatu region of New Zealand. Of course I also took some time to visit with family there too.

Humor me and also be willing to take a look at some non quilt photos!  When I first got there ( a very long trip of 29 hours door to door and with an 18 hour time difference) I was keen to get outside and walk around in the sun to help my body acclimate to the new time zone. I was coming from the mid winter of the US middle east coast to full on summer in New Zealand. The locals were complaining of an unusually hot and humid spell of weather. When I took this photo above I was taking it for the contrast between the three buildings but you can also see that ominous sky. About four hours later I got caught out as the heavens opened up with an absolute deluge of heavy rain and I was stuck waiting outside the supermarket, within easy walking distance of my hotel, for forty minutes waiting for the downpour to stop.

Welcome to the Manawatu!

Some say that Palmerston North is the windiest city in New Zealand. They take advantage of that with this huge wind farm which apparently generates 80% of the electricity the area uses. I loved the way the setting sun highlighted the biggest of the wind turbines.
Once I got to the quilt exhibit I was delighted by this small quilt by Liz Gates of Fielding. The Manawatu Symposium was organised by a consortium of four area quilt groups and each had been asked to submit small works to show their area. The Symposium also featured many poppy images in recognition of the 100 year anniversary of the outbreak of World War I which cost the lives of many soldiers from New Zealand.

The Symposium usually consists of several parts including: an exhibit, classes, merchant mall, lectures and more.

I was lucky to get into two classes with New Zealand tutors.  The first one was "Kapiti Seascape" given by Chris Kenna. I had seen Chris's quilt that this class was based on when I was at the 2011 Symposium in Queenstown...

At the time I loved the simplicity and elegance of this quilt so was excited to have the chance to take a class with Chris.  I'm sure you've all taken classes where you hope to get through the entire project but, if you are like me, and a bit of a slow poke, you come home with a project half done (yes, a PhD!)

Here's mine:
The way Chris has you do this is you first make your island, then assemble the sea and sky, add the island and then quilt it. Yep, that's as far as I got. And then my piece was rolled tightly and squashed in my luggage for more than a week so it is looking a little weary. But next I need to applique on the foreground. Chris has the classic New Zealand flax bush seed heads as the foreground. I might do that but I also have an idea to have the equally classic New Zealand cabbage tree in the foreground so later on I was busy trying to take photographs to give me an idea for that - see below.

Now I'm not sure if I have ever seen Kapiti Island but the local ladies in the class tell me I wouldn't see cabbage trees in real life when looking out at Kapiti. But I figure I can use artistic license if I want so, as they say, watch this space because I do think this is a class project I might just finish.

For my second class I was with the delightful Anna Williams for her "Celtic Rows" class. Again, I was pretty much of a slow poke. The method was somewhat similar to Kapiti Seascape in that we assembled a foreground (so to speak) then created and quilted a background. The celtic row foreground was then machine appliqued onto the background which, in essence appliqued and quilted at the same time.
Here are my pieces (again a little bedraggled from being stuffed in the suitcase):

You can see I regarded this more as a process than a project class. As a project it would be assembled in a quilt as you go style with narrow strips of binding between each of the rows. I can envisage using this technique for borders on a quilt and so hurried over to the Merchant Mall to see if I could find some patterns that might be adaptable for a current project I'm working on. Bingo! New Zealand Quilter magazine was having a half price sale on back issues and I picked up several. Alas, as I walked back to my hotel after class I realised how heavy those seven magazines were. Post script, I bought an additional suitcase before leaving New Zealand as my original one piece of baggage was now overweight!

But it is always an uplifting experience to go to a Quilt Symposium. The time spent away from home and all the domestic duties is a guilty pleasure and meeting up with friends you only see once every two years is an added bonus. Doing a little reconnaissance in other lands should be on every quilters "to do" list.

Now I'm home I must apply my time and my needle to finishing my "Where Poppies Grow" quilt top in the hope it can be finished ready to go to the Kansas City National World War I Museum for an exhibit in June. Before then I hope to get the binding and final finishing touches on my Thread of Memory Quilt which is currently with the longarm quilter.

Lots to do for me!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

TOM 12 - Rochester Star for Amy Post and Harriet Jacobs

Here we are at the last block of this block of the month  from Barbara Brackman's Civil War blog project "Threads of Memory"; block 12 Rochester Star for Amy Post and Harriet Jacobs.

As you may remember I had some personal rules that I was working with: all the backgrounds used a solid grey fabric (Manatee from Free Spirit fabrics), had a bird print in there likely in the center, used a particular lime green (from the Just Color range by Studio E Fabrics - now discontinued) pop of color and tried to use only once all the other grey fabrics.  But every now and then I gave myself permission to break my own rules.

Block 5 did not have a good center for one bird print so I used lots of birds flying around a center of the lime green.

Block 10 again did not have a center patch so I decided not to have any birds either; instead there were stripes to represent the "jail" the slaves on the Underground Railroad were hoping to escape.

Block 12 did not use the same lime green fabric that all the others did. As an alternative I was finally able to use this lovely grey and white fabric with lime green leaves.

 For fun I thought I might show you what some of my fabrics look like now. See how great it was to be able to cut around those dominant red roses for this last block?

I also tried to balance out the birds. With hindsight I would really rather I had used only that one bird print at the top. But by the time I realized that I was not keen on remaking that many blocks. And besides, the stories had great variety so why not the "birds" too as they represented those who were trying to fly away to freedom. In addition to being sure I only used that top bird print six times I also had to be careful that I had three birds facing left and three facing right.

Once I looked at the blocks as a collection put on point, which is how I had decided right at the beginning I was going to set them, the April block was not a success as I had originally made it. Consequently yesterday I spent some "quality time" with the seam ripper and replaced eight outer light triangles with the standard solid grey. It makes a lot of difference and I am happier with that block now.

Now comes the time to set all the blocks together and make a quilt top.  I'm going to show you a sneak preview...
The blocks are all up on my design wall and I am able to see how many lovely ones there are.  It's hard to say which is my favorite because I have to choose between, oh let me see...3, 7, 11 and 12. But what about 8, 9, 6 or 1? And if I go look at what the flickr people had to say about them I notice that blocks, 1, 2, 3, 9 and 11 were marked as a favorite.

Which all goes to show three things: I'm very analytical aren't I?!, I'm also detail focused but most of all, there were some fabulous stars in this project.

Keep checking back in to see my finished top. And maybe you'll even make a comment.