Monday, April 27, 2015

Sheet to Shirt

I came across an incredible quilt maker on Pinterest last week, Maura Grace Ambrose who sells quilts under the brand Folk Fibers.
She dyes cotton and linen fabric with natural plant dyes like pomegranate, walnut, osage orange and madder to create beautiful variations of tone which she then carefully stitches into geometric quilts.
The results are amazing and you can see them here.

I was so inspired by Ms. Ambrose that I just had to do some dyeing! Luckily I'm the kind of person who has lots of stuff on hand. My mum used to do a lot of dyeing and batik when I was a kid and she passed down some of her leftover dyes and equipment a few years ago. I had thought about getting rid of those dyes about a year ago, now I'm so glad I didn't!

I'm pretty impatient when I get an idea in my head, I like to do it straight away. So I didn't have any white read-to-dye fabric, I did, however have a number of vintage cotton sheets that have been hanging around too long. So I cut one up into two pieces and went to work.

I used Procion MX Jet Black dye, oddly it turned out to be a perfect indigo which suits me fine.
I also had a pretty daggy floral quilt that needed some modernising, so I folded it then bound it up with garden twine.

I found instructions for dying online here, and went to work.

I taped down plastic sheets onto the laundry bench and had an old hand towel at the ready to mop up splashes.

A few hours later I rinsed out my quilt and sheeting according to the instructions then I ran them through a wash cycle just to make sure all the dye was out.
This is how the quilt looks now, this is the reverse side which was calico:

And the vintage sheeting look even better! I dyed one piece for 30 mins and the other for 60 mins so I would have varying tones. I was planning on making the sheet fabric into a quilt but it is so beautiful I decided to make a top from it first and hope there would be some left over for a quilt (there is!). My favourite  part of the fabric is the little white printed dots that I hadn't even noticed before dyeing.

I spied this top on Pinterest recently and added it to my Makin' board as it looked simple enough for me to sew. 
Tessuti Alice tunic top

My version of the Tessuti Alice top
Indigo Tunic top made from over dyed vintage sheet


Thursday, February 5, 2015

Kilim Me Softly

Haha. I swear I was made to be working for some dodgy newspaper writing bad headlines.
I guess that's just the way my mind works :)

So, back to the kilims…
Have you noticed lately that they are making a resurgence in home decor? I have always loved kilims, and persian rugs in general but lately you can find the most incredible colours in kilims!
My favourites all seem to have pink in them and perhaps a little orange. Paired with grey or white walls and timber details they look incredible. Here are some of my favourites from Pinterest:

And here are a few items of my own design available in my Society6 shop! You can also find other great products with the same designs there. 


Thursday, January 15, 2015

1800's is where I'll be this year

When I finish working on one collection, and quite often before I've finished, I will research up-and-coming films and television programs. I do this to get an idea of what subjects, places and people will be lighting up the public's imaginations through the big and small screens.

I love cinema, and I have no problems with having a big ol' flatscreen in my house. It may be uncool verging on bogan to admit to this, but I don't care. I love storytelling in all forms, and a good movie is one of my favourites.

Recently I discovered a few films due out this or next year that are set in places and situations that have intrigued me for some time, so I have relished the opportunity to do a bit of research into them.

1. In the Heart of the Sea

We all know Moby Dick, right? Well although Herman Melville wrote it, the idea for his novel was based on someone else's story, the true tale of the Essex, a whaling ship from Nantucket that was stove by a spermwhale in 1820. As most people know even if they haven't read the book Moby Dick, the story ends with the ship, the Pequod being scuttled by the great white whale.

The book In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick focuses on the period of time after Melville's  tale ends, with the shipwrecked crew of the whaling boat the Essex striving to survive. The story that develops is one of unimaginable challenge and heartbreak. I have read the autobiographical story of one of the men aboard  the Essex - Owen Chase, and am now reading Philbrick's book to prepare myself for the film due to be released this year (March in USA) and starring Chris Hemsworth amongst other delightful actors.

2. The Revenant

The other film coming up that peaked my interest is one about fur trappers in the Rocky Mountains in the 1820's. The Revenant will star Tom Hardy and Leonardo DiCaprio, and will be a story of vengeance as far as I can tell. I'm hoping that there will be some pretty amazing scenery, fabulous costumes and here's hoping - good acting and dialogue.

The history of fur trappers in areas of the US and Canada is pretty interesting and I hope to see a bunch of beautiful costumes inspired by the Métis culture that developed when immigrant fur traders and native Canadian people married and their cultures combined.

François Lucie - Métis Guide, Fort Edmonton
Painter - Paul Kane 1846
3. Far from the Madding Crowd

ah, I love a period drama! Not sure if you would classify this one as a bodice ripper but there will be corsetry a-plenty and gorgeous linen frocks. Carey Mulligan will star in this film, set for release in May 2015 (US?) where she plays Thomas Hardy's heroine Bathsheba Everdene, a woman with plenty of options - well romantically anyway.
Can't wait for this one!

Any films that you are looking forward to seeing this year?


Thursday, January 8, 2015

Pure Gold

Last night I had the opportunity to meet a lovely lady in my town who creates incredible pieces of art in the form of religious icons. Elvia combines amazing talent and patience to recreate mostly Russian orthodox iconography. She graciously showed my some of her work at her home and shared with me the traditional methods she uses to create the works. Elvia uses egg yolk and pure pigments to make her own paints and adds white wine to thin and preserve the paint. Each colour you see may have 10-20 layers of paint used to create the depth of tone. She says that the colours actually grow stronger and brighter over time but of course, care must be taken to keep them away from strong light to avoid fading.

I only had my mobile camera (and a shaky hand) so the images do not do the work any justice at all, still I thought some of you might like to share a peek.


Friday, January 2, 2015

2014 Wrap up

Happy New Year everyone!
2014 was a good year to us here at Astoria - that's the new name of our home (sign coming soon).
10 points if you can guess the inspiration of the name.

Before officially welcoming the new year and writing up all my resolutions I thought I should reflect upon the last year and all it had to offer:

  • Family Trip to New Zealand - This was the first overseas trip we have taken together so we were a little apprehensive about committing to 10 days in a campervan with a 5 and 6 year old who have never been in the car for longer than 3 hours at a time. It turns out we had nothing to worry about. The biggest issue we had was the flush/closing lever on the van toilet breaking 2 days in - eewwww. The kids had the greatest time of their tiny lives, and the grown ups had a ball too! When I ask the kids what their favourite parts of the were, they always tell me about the animals we encountered along the way; The goats next to the van park near Wellington, Dobey the cat at Christchurch TOP10 and of course the native critters like the Wekas.  My favourite place to stay at was the TOP10 holiday park at Motueka (in the NW corner of the South island), it is situated on the grounds of an old botanical park and boasts huge and beautiful examples of tree specimens including a giant chestnut tree (under which we parked our van). The kids loved the giant bouncy air pillow, we all loved the pool with slide and the night we stayed there was a mobile wood fired pizza oven parked on the grounds where we bought delicious fresh made pizza. Anyone who is considering doing the ol' white road maggot trip around NZ with kids should definitely get a TOP10 holiday park pass. Not a week goes by without hearing "when are we going back to New Zealand?". Soon kids soon.
  • Finally getting rid of the back pain I've been suffering from for too long. a few years ago I ruptured a disc in my lower back causing intense pain and limiting my mobility. After a tone of physio, exercises, massage, painkillers, crying and generally feeling useless I was doing pretty well but still had twanging pain and found it difficult to sleep. I had a session of massage and dry needling with a wonderful practitioner in Canberra, and that night the pain was gone! Then the next day the pain came back but…… the day afterwards it was goneskis. And still is.
  • A happy workplace. Yes it's true. My income producing work (aka real job) is full of the funniest mofos you could work with. They crack me up every day and make it a pleasure to come into work. Thanks guys, bring on the cray cray beaver box nonsense in 2015 please.
  • My family, all of the unique personalities in my extended family have contributed to a great year for us. Hopefully 2015 brings more chances to catch up. And my closest peeps, my darling little monkeys and darling big monkey - I love you guys and am so proud of all your achievements this year. I can't wait to see what shenanigans we will get up to this year.
  • My local Modern Quilt Guild gals, you guys have been monumentally inspirational to me this year. The encouragement to get involved in shows, do workshops and try new techniques is just what I needed to up my skill level in all things quilty.
  • This year my work was featured in Tickle the Imagination magazine, hooray!
  • And finally I have set up my website. It still needs a little work but you can browse my fabric designs and link to my shops from there.

I'm sure there are HEAPS of things I'm missing but anyway, let's get to 2015 already!
What's on your to do list for 2015?


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Fabric Finds: Linen Tea towel goodness

OK, so I have been trying to curb my "habit" of buying fabric. During a recent clean out of my workroom, I realised exactly how much fabric I have collected over the years. YIKES.

I decided to not buy anymore fabric until I had used some of my stash for a quilt….. pshuure! That's working out really well….. actually it's not working at all.

So here's what I bought the other day, admittedly three of them are tea towels and may remain in that format, so I've only technically bought 1 piece of fabric ;)

I love vintage linen tea towels, but to be honest I've never found them to be very absorbent and useful in drying dishes - luckily my dishwasher does most of the drying at my house.

Why are tea towels traditionally made from linen? I wonder if it's because linen was traditionally used for dish cloths (you know, for cleaning dishes) because linen is much stronger when wet than when dry? Perhaps it's because many of these souvenir tea towels originated in Ireland which produced it's own linen?

I'm off to research tea towels, hope you enjoy my recent fabric finds!

Vintage Hungarian linen teatowel

Vintage Irish linen tea towel by Ulster in Lotus pattern

Teal and orangey crimson, my current favour colour combo! Vintage Australian linen tea towel
(over-printed with Greetings from Tuncurry)

Lovely open weave cotton with a pattern of Camellias (?) growing up trellis.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Quilt for Ruthie

For the past few months I have been totally Ruthless. That is to say, without Ruth :(
I'm not going to go into all the reasons why I think Ms. Ruthie is such a great person, mother, daughter, employee, sister and friend because I know it would embarrass her and I don't want to do that.

This is my first appliqué quilt and based on Sarah Fielke's Enchanted Blossoms quilt pattern (but altered because I'm no good at following rules!). Whilst sewing it, I spent time thinking about Ruth and her crazy ways, love of animals and punctuality, fear of opticians, plastic spiders, real snakes (with good reason) and her go-out-of-her-way determination to assist those who need assistance.

Ms Ruthie, you make life for everyone around you fun and yes, a little crazy too. But then what is life without a little craziness now and then?

Love you Ruthie

Ms Ruth's quilt (a version of Sarah Fielke's Enchanted Blossoms quilt)

Back of quilt with mixture of vintage and new ikat fabrics

I decided (last minute) to make the corners scalloped
Next time I'll make a template and get them all the same (lol!)