Calendar Quilt Series: My Spring Mini Quilts

I love sewing bags and other functional items because seeing people use my work makes me happy. At the same time, however, I’m just as passionate about creating fine art. In the first couple of years after starting ANY Texture, I made quite a lot of the first. Sadly, I hardly got to work on the latter. My sewing time is usually quite limited. Making an art quilt requires many days or even weeks. Between trying to prepare for fairs and maintaining my Etsy store, I simply didn’t have enough time for both. I ended up completing only three art quilts in two or three years (“Give a Hand,” “Falling Leaves,” and “Dare!“). I desperately wanted to make more.

Last fall I resolved to creating one small quilt a month. I decided to make one 12″ x 12″ art quilt for each month of the year. I hoped that this would get me into a routine of creating fine textile art, and would get my creative juices flowing.

I’m several months into this self-imposed challenge, and so far I’ve been enjoying it tremendously. Working on these quilts forces me to think of what each month means to me. It allows me to play with colors, textures and shapes. It also turned out to be a great source of comfort at a personally difficult time: since my father’s unexpected passing in March, I haven’t been able to return to my sewing room on a regular basis. I did, however, force myself to work on the monthly quilts, and found much solace in that slow, meditative work.

Recently I completed the third and last of my spring mini quilts. I thought this would be a good time to tell you more about them.

My Spring Mini Quilts: Influenced by Nature

“Rebirth,” My March Quilt

I live in California. The state suffered from an eight-year-long drought that officially ended on March 5th of this year. After many years of hardly any rain and strict water restrictions, we finally had a really wet winter. I will never complain about rain again, but this last winter did feel long and dreary at times…

We don’t get snow where I live, but it does get cold and dark and–this year, finally!–wet. Many trees lose their leaves, and there are no flowers to be seen. Its nice to stay indoors and hibernate, but as the weeks stretch on one begins to wonder whether the winter will ever end.

I have a garden where I spend many hours when possible. When I look at my deciduous trees over winter, bare for months on end, a little part at the back of my mind wonders whether they will all wake up come spring. I worry that some might not. Over the years, two of our trees actually didn’t. One died a couple of years ago, and the other this very year. And so, for me, March is a time when I hold my breath, so to speak. I always experience a sense of great relief when I see the first buds forming on trees, and when the first flowers erupt. There is a kind of reassurance in the awakening of trees, in the end of a long dormancy. For me, therefore, March is all about the gradual awakening of nature, and the the sigh of relief that accompanies it. 

This is what my March quilt is all about. It is dominated by the various browns of still mostly-bare trees, punctured by the bright pinks of freshly-blooming flowers, and the gold of newly-emerging young leaves. I call this quilt “Rebirth.” 

“Lush,” My April Quilt

By April, shrubs and perennials start to stir, too. Plants grow fresh leaves, often in light greens and lime greens. The first flowers add pops of color to the world, attempting to erase the browns and grays of winter. Weeds, too are happiest that month.

After I returned home from mourning my father, I spent several days in the garden pulling out waist-high weeds. My father was an amazing gardener, who taught me everything I know about plants. Working outside, surrounded by fresh greenery, some of which he planted for me, was a kind of catharsis, a medicine for my aching heart. 

My April quilt is dominated by the fresh greens of early spring, sparkled with pops of new blooms. It also has some of the curves of fragrant peas, which dominated my garden this year. I call it “Lush.”

“Bloom,” My May Quilt

May is my favorite month of the year. It is the peak of spring, full of colors and smells. This is the month in which my garden puts on its best show; when all my flowers are at their best. This is when I see results for all the work I put into the garden in the fall, when my efforts to paint the world with flowers bear fruit. Everything in my garden feels vibrant and alive, humming with buzzing insects. In May I gladly trade my sewing machine for hoes and pruners, and spend as much time in the garden as I possibly can.

Oh, did you know that my favorite color is purple, and that so very many flowers just happen to be exactly that?? Essentially, May provided the best possible excuse to make a quilt in the colors I like most! I call this one “Bloom,” and I’m sure you see why.

So, what do you think? Did my spring mini quilts succeed in capturing the essence of the months they represent?

 

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ANY Texture’s Gray and Red Period

It’s that time of year again… Teachers are rejoicing, school kids are elated, and parents … well, parents are flooded with mixed emotions, I guess. Yep. The last day of school is upon us!

Next week my kids will be home full time. I’m looking forward to spending the long summer days with them. I’m old enough to realize how fast the years go by, and to appreciate every moment we still have together. But that also means I need to wrap up my sewing, which makes me a little sad. My many partially-conceptualized, half-started, unfinished, and almost-completed projects will all have to wait for fall. Sewing Season is over. Summers are for family.

So this week I’ve been busy finishing up one last thing: my throw pillow series. When they were all completed, I noticed a recurring pattern.

If you’ve seen my work, you know I love colors. Strong, vibrant colors in non-primary hues. I love purples, maroons, magentas, mustards and teals, to name some. But lately, it seems, I also started liking the combination of black, grays and terracotta-reds.

I think it started with my Dare! quilt:

Dare! My New Moths and Butterfly Quilt

Then I made a mini-messenger bag in that combination:

This was followed by a cross-body bag in those same colors:

A while later, I found a beautiful piece of textile in … you guessed it: black and red!

I sewed it into a Renaissance Tote, and really loved how it turned out!

Slowly, small scraps in blacks, grays and reds, leftovers from all of the above projects, started accumulating on my sewing room’s floor. Consequently, I started playing with them. I just couldn’t help it:

They ended up as cute, small artsy messenger bags:

When I made my unisex messenger bags, I realized I was still enjoying the same combination:

The pile of scraps kept growing. All the accumulated pieces gave birth to my latest new collection of gray-and-red patchwork throw pillows, the ones I finished this week:

I suppose you could call the first half of 2018 my “Gray and Red Period” 🙂

Wishing you all a wonderful, restful summer!

Off Track, Again… But Isn’t It Fun?!

The days are too short. Or maybe it’s that the weeks aren’t long enough. Either way, I seem to blink, and it’s Friday again… My to-do lists never get shorter. My project piles never shrink. And the many, many ideas in my head just keep accumulating, waiting for a right moment that never comes.

Can you tell I’ve been busy? Both in the sewing room and out. There are kids to drive around, school events to go to, groceries to buy and meals to cook. And then there’s a house, a garden, and always, ALWAYS laundry… Despite it all, I managed to sew quite a bit in the last couple of weeks, and that’s the part I want to tell you about today.

Cleaning up my sewing room a few weeks ago turned out to be somewhat problematic. It’s true that I greatly enjoy the extra space and added cleanliness. However, allowing myself to bend my New Year’s resolution got me off track. I am really happy with how my Peruvian Tapestry Totes turned out. Working on them, though, cracked the dam that held my creativity at bay. The result? A flood of new ideas, unchecked excitement, new experimentation and a bunch of new projects… I just can’t help it! So, sadly, I made only a tiny dent in my original UFO piles, but then added quite a few new projects to make them significantly taller…

When you sew, you see, there are scraps. And when scraps accumulate, they start giving you ideas… For me, there is nothing better than sitting on the carpet surrounded by fabrics. Beautiful fabrics, in different colors, shapes, and sizes. And when this happens, I start playing, matching, designing…

Don’t these pieces look great together? They will make a gorgeous new sling bag.

And these, I just HAD to sew into a flap (for another cute, spring-colored sling):

These are flaps for messenger-bags-to-be. They started their journey as a sample that caught my eye on FabMo’s wall. They looked so amazing together that I just couldn’t resist… And yes, I will sew the rest of them, eventually…

Then I made a cross body bag for a friend, and happened to notice a few other pieces that also wanted to become cross body bags. So I let them. I love them all, but especially this one:

I DID work on some linings for previously-sewn shells (i.e.–UFOs), but these require many steps and take a while to make:

In the midst of all this, I also took a couple of days’ detour to make a custom tote for a special lady:

Ah, and there’s the troll. But he deserves his very own post, another day 🙂

My New Peruvian Tapestry Totes

As you might recall, at the beginning of the year I resolved to finish all the many half-started projects that clogged my sewing room. I decided not to allow myself to sew anything new before I reached that goal. At first, I stayed on course, and slowly tackled one pile after the other. But then my family guilted me into cleaning the room up. In the process of doing that, I found some treasures that turned out to be irresistible. Without really wanting to, I got sidetracked…

In one corner of my sewing room, you see, I found a little plastic bag containing five pieces of hand-woven tapestries I bought in Peru. On the other side I stumbled upon a pile of beautiful, vividly-colored velveteens I got at FabMo. The two piles just happened to match perfectly. How could I not do something about that?

When in Peru, I was blown away by the beautiful hand-woven and naturally-dyed tapestries I saw everywhere. I bought a table-runner or two, but was having a hard time finding tapestries to use in my own work. Most of the pieces I saw were quite big, and I wasn’t sure whether I could cut them without completely damaging them. They were also very pricey. Using such costly textiles would have required hiking the prices of my own bags to more than what most people can afford. So I didn’t buy anything to sew with.

Until, that is, I visited the most amazing Christmas market I’ve ever been to. The Christmas market in Cusco had a mind-boggling array of booths, with some incredible handicrafts. Several of these booths sold small tapestries in the size I was looking for. Unfortunately, most were made of commercially-dyed acrylics. Although some were pretty, I decided to pass them over. Then I stumbled upon a booth with some naturally-dyed woolen tapestries that stopped me in my tracks.

The seller showed me a handful of small tapestries, the likes of which I haven’t seen anywhere else (you can see them in the above picture, on the very left, right above the shoes). Of those, I chose five that I found the most appealing (yes, in hindsight I DO regret not buying them all!). I purchased them without knowing what to do with them. When I came home, I put them in my sewing room for future use.

I re-discovered them while tidying up.

When I saw them, I immediately thought of the bright-colored fabrics I got at FabMo, piled on the other side of the room. Together, they were just begging to be turned into totes! So I started playing around.

Since the tapestries were gorgeous works of art all on their own, I wanted them to be the focus of the work. Because they were very colorful, I decided to match them with solid-colored fabrics that would frame and highlight them.

I’ve never worked with wool before (since I’m actually allergic to it!), and have never sewn through tapestries. I wasn’t sure how this would work, or whether my sewing machine will like it. It turned out not to be a problem. The tapestries acted like some of the thickest fabrics I’ve worked with, but were unremarkable in any other way.

I made the five outer pieces, then selected matching solid colors for the lining. For those, I chose rough-ish textures to go with the feel of the outer layer.

After some deliberation, I decided to sew wide black straps. These I made from a fabric that felt like a cotton-raw-silk blend.

I worked on these totes on and off for about two weeks, and am quite happy with how they turned out!

Of course, once I gave myself permission to work on new things, the flood gates opened. Especially with new scraps lying on the floor, suggesting all sorts of new possibilities… My mind has been working overtime! I think going back to working on my UFOs might prove somewhat difficult…

Last Project of the Year: A Summer Tote

My husband finds it amusing that I count years by academic years. I’ve been a student most of my life, though, and got used to planning everything around the academic calendar. For the last decade I’ve also had school-aged children, and so my life continues to evolves around the cycle of the school year. I was able to start ANY Texture only after my baby went to first grade, and since then my work schedule, too, has been dependent on the flow of the school year. Counting time by academic years, therefore, seems normal to me. Calendar years are almost meaningless.

Well, the current year is ending today. Soon my kids will return home from their last day of school, toss their school bags into a corner, and with them shed the burden of homework, schedules, and early-morning wake-ups. With that, my current year of creativity will also come to an end.

With this inevitable deadline nearing, I spent the past week trying to finish one last project: a cheery summer tote. Last year my last piece was a summer messenger bag for my mother in law. In the end, I wasn’t able to complete it before school ended, and had to sneak some sewing-time into the first couple of weeks of summer. This time, I wanted to make sure I got my piece done on time. I am happy to report that I did!

This tote is unique in that I designed it from the lining out. Usually, I design the outer part of bags first, and then find lining to match it. But with this tote, I first happened to find a piece of linen fabric that I really liked. It was bright and cheery with beautiful big flowers. Sadly, it just wasn’t outside-tote material, so, for the first time ever, I decided to use it as lining and designed a tote around it!

First, I chose the main fabric for the sides of the outside layer. That was fairly simple:

Then, I looked for fabric for the bottom. I tried this:

But although I liked both colors, together they seemed a little dull. I looked through my fabric stash, and tried something I never thought I will:

Surprisingly, I really liked this combination! So I sewed the outer layer, and also added purple handles and a purple pocket:

This is what it looked like:

Then, I ironed the interfacing on, and sewed the outside layer:

Then the lining:

Finally, I attached both layers together:

The result: a bright, cheery spring/summer tote for farmers’ market shopping, picnics or summer trips!

With One Week to Go, Craft Show Preparations Continue in Earnest!

To all the friends and family members who have been wondering whether I disappeared from the face of the earth: I want to reassure you that I am still very much around, just buried, once again, under piles of fabric, thread and tools. Under the guise of craft-show preparations, I have actually been having a blast indulging my love for all things fabric!

I genuinely intended to dedicate this past week solely to the overhead preparations for the upcoming fair. And I did make a lot of progress on that front. I finished purchasing all the props (though some are yet to arrive). I made new, sturdy price signs. My family came up with an easy solution to my canopy-weight problem: we will fill the sacks that came with the canopy with sand. And my husband surprised me by painting my new shelves for me, thus saving me a day’s worth of work. If that’s not true love, what is?

The problem started when I got to finishing my shop banner. Due to various life happenings, I haven’t been able to touch my sewing machine ever since our Japanese exchange student arrived. For about five weeks I wasn’t able to sew at all. So maybe it was only normal that once I turned the machine back on to finish the banner, I simply couldn’t turn it off again…

All of a sudden I noticed all the spring-themed fabrics that lay around waiting. I couldn’t just leave them there, now, could I? What about that cute piece of doggy fabric I recently found? Someone will surly want a tote made out of that… And wait! Mother’s Day is just around the corner. Shouldn’t I have something for moms? Thus, so I sank, yet again, into a full-time sewing frenzy.

As usual when these things happen, our house is in disarray. The laundry is piling. The dishes are waiting. Our meals have been mediocre at best. We are ever running out of toilet paper and paper towels. And the worst part is that my son is asking whether it’s ANY Texture’s fault that I am not playing with him… Yet I, dear friends, am having a ball, and I have the perfect excuse so as not to feel guilty about it!

Getting Into Spring Mode: A Visit to Filoli Gardens

I love to travel near and far to explore beautiful places. Every now and then, however, I am surprised to discover new gems right in my back yard. This happened last week, when a friend took me to one of her favorite places: Filoli Gardens in Woodside. I lived around here nearly half my life, yet did not even know about this place. Once there, I couldn’t believe I had never visited before.

Filoli Gardens

Filoli was the country estate of a wealthy San Francisco gold-mine owner. He purchased the land shortly after the big 1906 earthquake, when many rich people chose to leave the city. The construction of his mansion began in 1915, but the development of its gardens took a few more decades. A subsequent owner continued expanding the gardens, bringing them to what they are today. That second owner donated the estate to the public in the 1970’s. Consequently, it is now open for all to enjoy. Telling by the crowds, it seems that a lot of people do, indeed, enjoy it.

When I visited last week, the gardens were full of tulips in all colors and shapes, giving it the feel of a spring wonderland:

Percy, the vain resident peacock, was an added bonus:

Peacock at Filoli Gardens

The combined effect of colorful gardens, grand house and peacock was truly breathtaking. Admittedly, seeing these meticulous gardens made me feel somewhat self-conscious about my own garden. I had to remind myself that this site is maintained by a large paid team of gardeners together with hundreds of volunteers, whereas I try to fight the weeds all on my own…

My friend and I spent a lovely morning in Filoli. We marveled at the various gardens (in addition to the tulips there are also a camillia garden, a rose garden and a fruit-tree garden). We enjoyed the beautiful weather, had lunch at the cafe, and checked out the gift shop.

Me at Filoli Gardens

All that fresh air, combined with the lively blossoms, put me in spring mode. Energized, I wanted to run right back to my sewing room. Hence, the resulting greeting cards are probably  just the beginning of my spring sewing:

ANYTexture purple tulips card, fabric greeting card ANYTexture pink flower card, fabric greeting card

If you’d like to see the estate and enjoy its flowers, too, you can start planning your visit here.

Year of the Weed: Spring in My Garden

I’m not sure how it got here so fast, but March is upon us already. Spring will officially start this weekend, with the move of the clock. It was a great relief, after four long years of drought, to finally have a rainy winter in California. Not just any rainy winter, mind you, but a record-breaking one at that! Our water reservoirs are now full and overflowing, and our snow-caps are at record deep. We sure needed the water, but many of us were no longer used to the long stretches of dreary, wet weather. Recently, however, the days of rain have started to be interrupted by longer and longer intervals of sunshine, and hints of spring are all about us.

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