Monday, March 23, 2015

An Inside Look at a Quilt Show

When I took up quilting a couple of years ago, I joined a quilt guild- a local group of quilters who meet every month to share and learn more about their craft. Every two years, our guild organizes a quilt show- it is an ambitious undertaking for a small guild of just over a hundred members. We rent a large event space for the weekend. Quilt show weekend takes a year of preparation and hundreds of volunteer hours.

The central theme of the show is to showcase the quilts that we make- and a few months in advance, categories for the quilts are announced (bed sized quilts, art quilts, modern quilts, etc. and a novice quilts category for beginner quilters) and everyone is hard at work finishing their quilts for the show.

A few weeks before the show, the quilts are received from the members, each ensconced in a pillowcase for safe-keeping. Each quilt is measured, photographed and documented. A nationally recognized, certified quilt judge comes to town and spends a weekend examining the quilts and awarding ribbons in each category for first, second and third place, as well as honorable mentions and special overall awards including ones for best quilting, best applique and the most coveted grand prize of them all- best in show. Having a third-party judge to come look at the quilts is a golden opportunity to get comments on one's work and see potential areas for improvement. Quilting is a lifelong journey of learning and we can all strive to do better next time. One of the members volunteers to hand-make beautiful ribbons to put on the quilts, and pins to give out to the winners for bragging rights.

As the show date approaches, there is a frenzy of work behind the scenes. One or two people form the "layout committee" and decide how we will manage to hang the quilts so that all 200 quilts can fit in our space in a way that shows them off perfectly.

Meanwhile, there are other volunteers who handle print publicity (making posters, flyers and postcards), Internet publicity, place ads in local newspapers and send out press releases about our event.

Then the much-awaited day dawns- set up day. It starts well before the crack of dawn, at 7 AM, with volunteers arriving to a large and empty space. They start by taping off floor space- the central space will be bays where quilts are hung and around the perimeter of the space are booths for the vendors.

The materials to create the bays- boxes, poles, sheets, hardware- are stored in the basement of one of the quilters. A few volunteers show up at this place and load up a UHaul truck with all the materials, and unload it in the event space. Then, two or three teams, along with tall metal ladders get started on the work of building the bays.

By lunchtime the framework is up. Everyone takes a break and sits down to a family style lunch of sandwiches, chips and fruit.

Then the layout sheets are consulted. The quilts are brought in and laid out in different bays. The hanging teams fan out, taking the quilts and hanging them up using S hooks and cords. This takes 4 hours or so. By the end, the quilts are up and the show is on! While the quilts are hung, the vendors start driving in, unloading their wares and setting up shop.

At the end of the day, the hanging team makes one last walk through the show, adjusting the quilts just so, removing stray threads and getting things just right. Everyone takes a break and freshens up.

At 5 PM, punch is served, and the guild gathers in the auditorium. There is a lovely presentation, showing a bit of the history of the guild, the community involvement of the guild. This is also when the awards are announced, to loud whoops and cheers. The show opens, and the evening is for guild members only, to enjoy the quilts, and to do some shopping.

The next morning, Friday, the show opens to the general public. Volunteers sell tickets, greet guests and enjoy hosting the show. Back in the kitchen space, members drop off food for a potluck breakfast, lunch and snacks served all day to the members and vendors. Vendors appreciate having this hospitality and tell us that we serve the best food of any of the shows they attend.

In addition to the vendors, the guild sets up a boutique- handmade items made by members are sold here. There's everything from stuffed animals, bags, potholders, scarves and quilts of course.

This year, we organized a scavenger hunt for the kids attending the show. Kids got a sheet listing 24 items that were on the quilts (houses, animals, Christmas tree, etc.) and had to walk around the show locating the items. They got to pick a prize for participating in the scavenger hunt.

On Sunday afternoon, the show draws to a close. It takes 9 hours to set up the show but less than an hour to tear it down. The quilts get taken down, put back in the pillowcases and returned to their makers. Materials get put back on the truck and transported back to the basement for storage. Everyone is tired but happy.

There are quilt shows all over the United States, and Spring and Fall tend to be the seasons for quilt shows. So look around for a show in your town and please- go attend, look at the artistic talent in your community and prepare to be wowed. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Door Decor to Welcome Warm Weather!

Posted by Kashmira

Winter's gone, the snow did melt
So I made some flowers out of felt
To say goodbye to winter's gloom
And welcome spring with vibrant blooms!

And without further ado let me spring forward to today's craft - not a bunch, not a bouquet but a whole sackful of felt flowers to spruce up the front door!

I love doing 3D crafts. So this time I decided to make a floral display that looked like they were potted from whichever side you approached the door. I collected the following materials:

1) A used yogurt container, washed and dried.
2) A piece of burlap big enough to cover the container
3) Pieces of felt in different colors
4) Buttons
5) Needles and threads in coordinating colors
6) Green straws
7) Glue gun

I usually make fabric flowers, but knew felt ones would be easiest and quickest. There are tonnes of tutorials on the internet on making felt flowers; I chose these 3 to get three different kinds of blooms.

1) Felt flowers with scalloped petals from Cutesy Crafts

2) Felt roses from Dreamwidth

3) Felt zinnias from Craft Leftovers

Once I got the flowers done, I cut the yogurt container in half to get a cross section. Then I covered the convex surface with the burlap to create the sack effect. I tried stapling it together but it got too thick on the folds. However, the glue gun worked like a charm!

I glued a piece of pom-pom ribbon to the sack just to amp up the cute quotient. Then I stuck a few of the flowers on green straws and reinforced them by using a waste piece of felt across the straw. 

Then came the actual flower arrangement. I started gluing the non-straw flowers to the front edge of the sack first. Then I flipped it over and glued the straws to the back surface after eyeballing the placement from the front first.

And here I've finished arranging all the flowers on the sack. I like how a couple of stems peek out from behind the blooms.

Next I attached thread through the sides of the container - a needle passed through with just a bit of coaxing and finally I hung it up on the front door!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Custom Creation for a Charming Customer

Posted by Kashmira

A couple of months ago I was excited to receive an email from a lovely lady about a custom bag she would like to order. Now, it is always a pleasure to make custom designs for people, to incorporate all their dream features and endeavor to hand over exactly the product they'd love.

But the pleasure is greater when the person in question
1) Gives you a detailed list of 'I'd like to have' / 'I do not want to have'
2) Points out special things to look out for
3) Knows enough of your work to, in her words, 'trust your judgement'

Needless to say, I was very grateful to know her preferred features and colors (red, blue, black) and especially the nagging problem she's faced with handbags earlier - lining/ pockets tearing from the inside under the weight of her keys. I'm glad she pointed this out, because then I took special care to reinforce pockets.

I remember when I first drafted this pattern for a pleated tote. It was in my early days of sewing and my living room was full of newspaper pattern pieces, with trial after trial to get just the right sized bag. The most fun part of making a bag with this pattern is pulling the fabric combinations. I went on to sell a few of these colorful bags subsequently at college fairs, exhibitions and for a short duration at my etsy store.

So I began with a trip to the fabric store to pull the best combination I could of reds, blues and blacks and ended up going with all three. Next I cut strips from all the fabrics and set them up in an asymmetrical way just to make it more interesting.

I sewed them together and added the pleats to the front and back.

Then I prepared the pockets and added them to the lining. I chose a heavyweight black interfacing because the bag needed the structure to take the weight of those notorious keys! I triple stitched the pockets to the lining and also made triangular corners for added reinforcement. Bring it on keys!

Here's the inside of the bag put together.

Similarly the outside sewn together.

Then I sewed the handles, added the magnetic closure and sewed the roomy bag together.

I'm thrilled to say that my charming customer was very happy with it and I'm so glad I bagged her order :D.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Crochet Beanies for Teenie Weenies!

Posted by Kashmira

Last week we had our friends over for tea and snacks and it was the unveiling of their brand new 2 month old daughter. Well - at least for us it was, since we saw her for the very first time! 

It is always great fun to make stuff for babies (even if your project turns out a little less than perfect, they couldn't care less!). That's not the only reason of course - there's so many cute knick-knacks out there to make for tots. But this time instead of sewing something, I decided to dust off my crochet needles that hadn't seen the light of day for a long while. I'm completely a novice crocheter, with just a handful of projects like a couple of butterflies and dishcloths under my belt.

But then there is a plethora of helpful youtube videos out there that gives you that experience of actually doing the project with someone right next to you showing you step by step stitches. I got hold of one such tutorial by Happy Berry Crochet to make a little beanie for the tiny tot. I must say, the tutorial is really clear and although this was the very first crochet hat I made I had no problems with it at all. Any fears I had of creating a 'has beenie' instead of a beanie flew out the window once I got started!

I used a multicolored yarn from my limited yarn stash and made this.

Then of course I had to amp up the cute factor by making some type of embellishment. So I cut out the shape of a little birdie from felt, a contrast beak, used some polyfill to plump it up and sewed it shut using a blanket stitch.

And here it is sewn on the little hat with a small branch and a couple of leaves!

Now, while I was busily crocheting this hat my son comes over and after his usual interrogation about what i'm doing, who it's for etc helpfully points out that the baby already has a green hat (which he's noticed when they had come over and actually remembered!) and didn't need another one and can I make him one instead. (At this point he conveniently forgets that he has one too.) 

But then by this point I've realized that, crochet is WAY addictive and I also have some blue-grey yarn that Sis has given me earlier. So I went ahead and made him one. I ran out of the yarn a few rounds before I could complete the toddler hat, so I had no choice but to learn how to change the yarn color and continue crocheting haha! Again, youtube came to the rescue by way of this tutorial. I learned that this process was not at all as big a deal as I'd imagined it would be. I fortunately had some contrast yarn in my son's favorite color that went well with the grey.

For the embellishment I cut two car shapes out of blue felt and a couple of windows and got two buttons. 

First I sewed the windows onto one car shape. Then sewed the car together with a blanket stitch, filled it with polyfill and lastly added the buttons for wheels.

And here's my toddler's beanie!

I do hope the teenie weenies enjoy their new beanies :)

Monday, February 23, 2015

Brocade Border Bag

Posted by Kashmira

When I was running my little bag business a couple of years ago (the business was little, not the bags - they were many different sizes), I used to make burlap applique bags lined with plain cotton fabric. Instead of buying this cotton fabric off the bolt, I used to buy cotton saris and cut them up as needed. (A 'sari' is a traditional Indian garment that is a length of cotton/ silk fabric usually 5 or 9 yards long wrapped around the waist with one end over the shoulder.) The saris I used were cotton ones with solid colors but they did have a traditional striped contrast brocade border. So once I was done with the plain part of the sari, I was left with rolls of these beautiful borders.

A few years ago I'd also executed an order for upcycled conference bags made from used sugar or grain sacks. I'd been left with a few pieces of these too. 

These two types of leftover materials come together to form this brocade border bag!

I started by joining up various brocade borders together.

Next I sewed them up on a rectangular piece of sack. This gives the bag structure and stability and is used in lieu of stabilizer/ interfacing.

I completed this project on my recent trip back home and got these beautiful handles from a quaint little craft shop in Kolhapur called 'Dreamland'. If crafting is your thing, this store certainly lives up to its name! Everything you can possibly dream of is crammed in what seems like less than 200 sq ft of space. Shelves going from top to bottom crammed with yarn, laces, ribbons, buttons and more. When I asked for bag handles, the 'chacha' (uncle) manning the store behind the counter climbed up on a rather rickety looking stool and from the depths of a top shelf extracted a plastic bag, dusted it off and out tumbled these colorful beaded handles with embroidery thread wound tightly along the handles. I chose this turmeric colored ones with striking black beads that I thought would go nicely with the color scheme of the brocade borders.

I made little loops of some maroon woven fabric and attached the handles to the top of the bag.

Next I cut a rectangle of the same maroon fabric, sewed it on as lining and edge stitched the top edges of the bag.

Then I attached two magnetic snaps as closures and finished binding the sides edges.

And here are the brocade borders and gunny sack in their new avatar!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Animal Panel Tote

Posted by Kashmira

When Sis and I had been out fabric shopping together last year, we'd spied a really lovable animal panel print that we'd each bought.

While Sis chose to make this beautiful quilt out of hers, I'd wanted to make a largish bag to hold my son's snow pants, extra clothing sets and other paraphernalia for toting around, so decided to pull out the panel I'd been hanging onto until now. What follows is another way to use those cute little animal print blocks!

This tote is a simple, unlined bag made of 3 main pieces - one rectangle that makes up the front & back and two rectangles that make up the sides. The base is accounted for in the main rectangle. I did not use a lining because the fabric I used was home decor weight, quite heavy duty. Also, even without the lining the raw edges do not show up because of the binding on the borders.

So I started by choosing the two animal panels that would end up on the front and back of the bag. (Well, there's no front and back really, because there's one animal each side, neither willing to be relegated to the back.) I cut out the rhino and elephant because they were both
a) on horizontal panels
b) roughly the same size
c) on one corner of the panel, so that the rest of it is still preserved well.

I sewed them up on the front and back areas, leaving out more space on the middle since that would become the base of the bag. Notice that they are facing opposite ways to end up right side up when the fabric piece is folded over.

Next I pinned one of the side fabric pieces to one edge of main bag after cutting out 2 strips of contrasting yellow fabric.

And here it is sewn together such that all 3 raw edges are together.

I folded the yellow fabric over and stitched through again to bind one side of the bag completely.

Similarly I sewed the other side.

In the same way I used one more strip of yellow fabric to bind the raw upper edge.

Next I cut out 2 strips of brown fabric and 2 of a coordinating multicolored one for the handles. Notice that the brown fabric is wider than the printed one so that it bulges a little once I've sewn them right sides together. This is because once turned right side out I want a little brown border running down the sides of the handles. You'll see what I mean in the next picture.

There! The handles have a bit of brown encasing the print. See what I mean?

Next I sewed the handles onto the bag. 

Voila! Animal tote ready for holding all!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Quilted Pouches - A vote of thanks!

Posted by Kashmira

My toddler son and I are best buddies. We spend almost all of our time together. When I'm in the kitchen, he's right there getting into pots and pans with me. When I'm working on my laptop he's sitting next to me doing some 'important work' on his. When I'm in the bathroom, he's outside chatting away through the door. You're starting to get the picture here - although the real umbilical cord has long been cut, I sometimes feel an invisible cord still holding us together. 

 You can imagine then how difficult it must have been for him when he started day care a few months ago. What really helped him get through this tough stage was the kindness, care and patience shown by his teachers. So when I pulled him out of school on account of our long vacation, I wanted to make his teachers each a thoughtful and useful gift as a token of my gratitude. While I was thinking of how to also make it personalized I spied a little chart in their classroom that gave a bit of information about the teachers, including their favorite colors. That was it! I decided to make them quilted pouches (pouches because they have a thousand uses, everyone needs them!) in the colors they liked - Green and Pink,Black.

I wanted to make the quilting more interesting by using different shades/ prints of the color. So I started with different strips of green of the same size.

I sewed them together with a 1/4" seam allowance and pressed the seams open.

Next I cut a piece of batting slightly larger then the prepared piece and quilted the two layers together through each seam.

Then I trimmed the quilted piece to the desired size.

I then sandwiched a zipper between the quilted piece and lining fabric and sewed it together.

I repeated these steps to attach the other side of the zipper to the opposite side of the quilted fabric and lining.

And here's how it looked at this point once the zipper was opened up.

I cut two more strips of fabric to make the piped sides that also closed up the pouch.

My first quilted pouch is ready!

And here's the other one in shades of pink and black.

When my son's teacher unwrapped her present, she was so surprised that it was in her favorite colors. "How did you know?!" she exclaimed. When I pointed to the little chart she gave me a hug and said how thoughtful it was that I noticed. Well, it was nothing compared to the love and kindness they had extended, but I hoped it would go a little way in showing my thanks and appreciation.