Power of Pattern: Central Asian Ikats

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Among the most colorful clothing in the word, ikat robes — which hail primarily from the “the Stans,” or Central Asia — employ “creative use of scale, proportion, and orientation.” They are created by dying the warp (or vertical) threads of silk and cotton, sometimes multiple times.

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This past week, my husband and I had a chance to head into Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) to see this collection.  Here’s the notice in the gallery:

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Note the embroidered cuff.

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This photo of a Tajik Wedding ritual (1865-1872) shows the rich patterns of both men and women in their ikat robes.  I did a Google Image search, which has lots of results, but these older robes, as shown in LACMA, are rarer now.  In that Image search, I saw lots of machine-made ikats, which don’t have the subtlety of the hand-dyed.

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On the right is a series of threads which will form the warp threads in a loom, showing their various patterns from dying them using a resist process:

“Fabricating an ikat design demands vision as well as time. Before any actual weaving takes place, the lead craftsperson must picture a fully fleshed-out color pattern. Next, assistants soak the warp threads of the textile-to-be in a series of dye vats—up to eight in total—accumulating hues along the way. Prior to each dying phase, all stretches of warp are strategically bound with dye-resistant greasy thread, leaving exposed only those portions meant to be colored.

“By repositioning the dye-resistant thread before every immersion, textile makers gradually cover the entirety of the warp in an array of different tones. The most skilled designers will subject some sections of the material to multiple immersions, combining red and yellow dye to produce sunset orange, or red and blue dye to yield rich royal purple.

“Finally, when the Technicolor warp is ready, loom operators stretch it taut and gird it with a cotton or silk weft. The result is a long, narrow oblong textile bearing the designer’s repeating geometric pattern. This can be shaped into an eye-catching coat, or alternatively kept two-dimensional and made into a wall hanging” (from an article in the Smithsonian Institution Magazine, when they mounted their exhibit of ikat).

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LACMA’s didactic label in the exhibit

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I love the visual doubling and tripling of pattern and color in this robe.

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I think the guards thought I was crazy when I came to this robe.  I kept crouching down, zooming in, trying to capture the details of what I would call a type of kantha stitching, embroidery, hand overcasting.  It was a riot of color and texture and pattern:

You can see the nature of the ikat weaving, which blurs the edges as the weft yarns are woven through those pre-dyed warp yarns.  To make velvet, two rows of weft yarns are needed, instead of just one, so velvet robes were considered top of the line.  In the outfit above, it is the outermost robe.

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I took so many photos, that I’m not really sure which title goes with which picture, but I enjoyed reading the names of the clothing: a woman’s robe is a Munisak, a woman’s dress is a Kurta, and a man’s robe is a Chapan.

“Defined by an hourglass sihouette produced by the gathered fabric at each side of the waist, a munisak was used throughout a woman’s life for significant events, from her wedding to her funeral.  As such, it was an important part of her dowry” (LACMA text).

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Recently, my friend Judy had traveled to this area with her husband, so I was familiar with the term “the Stans,” and what the area looked like.  Although some consider that term a snub (“stan” means land, as in Afghanistan is the land where Afghanis live), I think it works well for those of us not familiar with where these countries are:

Map of The Stans

Image sneaked off of her travel blog, *here*

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Women and their Ikat Robes (2017), from *here*

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Turkish Coat, pattern #106

While we were in the LACMA exhibit, I told my husband that many quilters have used FolkWear patterns to make a similar robe, and added detailed surface decoration.  I first learned about ikat when I took a class in Houston several years ago from Roberta Horton, a reknowned quilter, who showed us ikats from her line of fabrics, made in India:

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Although I was a Clothing and Textile Major in college, I’d didn’t remember hearing about this fabric before; perhaps that why I wanted to blog about it today.  But in the quilting world, we also have variants of these colorfully patterned robes worn by these people from Central Asia.

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I’ve seen the Tabula Rasa jacket and all its variations, from a pattern by FitForArt.  Perhaps it’s the blurring of the lines between our patterned quilts and these beautiful ikat robes?  The more surface decoration the better?

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Not always. I’ve also seen some not-so-great versions of handmade clothing that were patterned to within an inch of their lives, certainly showing their makers’ skill but not always on the level of what was in that exhibit.

The brilliant thing about these ikat robes is the sense of balance that is present.  Even in the layering of the different patterns, something pulls them together, links in either color or design.  A worthy goal for our own creating, wouldn’t you say? whether it be in quilts or robes or clothing.

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This was another experience that showed me that old truth: it’s always good to get out of my head, my studio, and the endless loop of social media, in order to gain inspiration from other places in the world.

Happy traveling, and Happy Father’s Day!

Wedding Day for Us

The day my husband became a father to four children.

Bee Happy QAL Progress • June 2019

BeeHappy_June_1The wheeled devices in the So Very Cute Project I  lost my mind and decided to do are completed.  It’s nice to see it before it goes to a Time Out in my closet, so I can get some Real Quilting Work done.

But before I tell you about the basket of flowers in the back of the truck, you need this chart from Whip Stitch:

WhipStitch Bias Tape Cutting Guide

Head to her website to read all about it, or download it here.  Trust me, you’ll want this, as the weensy little instructions with the Clover bias tape makers will drive you batty.

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This is Lori Holt’s logo for this delightful project.  Notice the dog in the back of the truck.

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Notice how the people who live in my quilt realized that they needed the space in the back of the truck for hauling baskets of flowers.

Make 1/2″ mini-hexies for the flowers, fussy-cutting a couple. Cover some triangles, sized in relation to the flowers, then give each a pleat in the lower edge before sewing them on.  I used three “leaves” and five flowers.  I used the lower edge of piece D8 as a pattern for the basket, then turned it upside-down to get the wider edge at the top.

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It is really dense in that section, with the layering of fabric.  I’m one who cuts away from the back whatever I can to lighten it up for quilting:

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one more wheel to cut out

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Here’s the Guidesheet for this week: Bee Happy Sew Along Week 4
See you later, Bee Happy-Sew-Along-gator!

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I’m still working on this quilt, which I call Ladybird, because it reminds me of a ladybird beetle (sometimes called a Ladybug).

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I finished the first book (long, but good) and am now onto another:

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And this happened. Yes, no more PT. Now I’m getting ready for my project for tomorrow, Flag Day, the day when we find our rolled up flags in the front hall closet, and hang them out front, a prelude to the month of July, when it’s all red-white-blue all the time.

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Okay, my wannabe flag quilt morphed into this flag-like wall hanging.  I say flag-like, because I read one Instagrammer say that she had to make another less flag-looking quilt because her family didn’t want to lay hers on the ground for picnics.

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Another version

I opened up my QuiltPro program, guessed out the proportions and figured it out.  There is no pattern in my worksheet, because I do assume that you’ll figure out how to make this, if you really want to.  Again, if either of my arrangements bother you, make one that you like.  I was inspired by a lot of what I saw on this post from Quilt Inspiration, where you can find lots of free flag and flag-like quilts for your patriotric needs.

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Here’s my worksheet, with all the dimensions, in a downloadable PDF file:
Betsy’s Creation_OPQuilt I named it after the original creator of the flag: Betsy Ross.

Happy Flag Day!!

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Trapped in the Dungeon of Cute

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Working on this quilt makes me feel like I’m trapped in the Dungeon of Cute.  I discussed this with my friend Laurel, who is also doing this, and she said wistfully said, “Yeah.  But it’s so cute.”  It is, so I keep working on it.

That first section, sun-bee-butterfly-jam-jars-long-flower-two-trees-churn-dash-pinwheels-flower, is all stitched together. I’m trying to get the second section finished before I leave it for awhile.

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Obviously the different between the top photo and this one is that I’m trying to get that truck and camper block pinned up, but the other difference is that I re-did the star on the flag.  Ms. Holt has us back every shape with interfacing, stitch all around it, clip and turn, press and appliquè.  I did it with the star in the top verion; that’s why I had to re-do it.  I say, there are multiple ways to appliquè, so do your favorite method.  Mine is a combination of needle-turn (à la Becky Goldsmith) and also using freezer paper.

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To say the directions are frustrating would be an understatement; they look complete, but are missing crucial information, like the truck piece is too long.  I’ve worked out several weeks worth of instructions for Laurel and I, and have put them in a PDF chart.  You are welcome to them:

Bee Happy Sew Along Pre-Tutorials

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I put in pictures belonging to Lori Holt, as they are an additional guide to this pattern.  I acknowledge her at every turn, and don’t give away anything that’s not on her blog, but hopefully I make it clearer.

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Believe it or not, but the Bee Happy block was the easier than the Jam Jars block or the Truck-Camper block.  The missing dot on the exclamation point will be a small button.

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Quilting this is my antidote to the Dungeon of Cute.  A couple of hours every day.

 

In spite of our president’s tariffs, I ordered new 2″ cotton webbing from China off of ETSY, and it arrived so I could fix my tote bag.  If I purchased a certain amount of precuts at Quilt Market, I was given the bag free (free=haha).  This happened back in Salt Lake City, and the handle began to shred almost immediately.  The New York Times had a great article recently called “What to Do With All Those Tote Bags.”  What to do, indeed.

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Wanted to play along with this QAL…

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…and even purchased the red, white and blue fabric (there’s more in the stash).  Sigh.  Just like I finished my Christmas quilt in June, I’ll probably get this done in November.

Decibels in CPK

The other night at a restaurant, since my husband and I couldn’t hear each other in conversation, I downloaded the NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) app to figure out how loud the dining room was at California Pizza Kitchen.  As a guideline, the average noise level in a home is around 40 decibels (dB) and noise becomes harmful at 85 dB.  My husband and I pretty much gave up on conversation, ate our pizza in silence and went home.

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I’ve been haunting Letterfolk lately.

Do Something but in pajamas

from here

Not quite, but I’m thinking about it.

 

Christmas Criss-Cross Finished

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Christmas Criss-Cross, June 2019
Quilt #219 • 60″ wide by 66″ tall

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I started this for the 20th anniversary of a small quilters group I’d participated in, as we were given mini-charm packs of this print.  Of course, that only got my toes wet, as I soon ordered a Layer Cake.  Then yardage.  Then backing.

My quilter, Cathy Kreter, finished this up quickly and I put the binding on this past month (so, while I finished 12″ of the binding in June, technically it was finished in May, when I sewed the label on).

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It will be hanging out in my closet, waiting for the holiday season to arrive, a nice lap-sized quilt to use when watching all those holiday seasonal specials.  It doesn’t require a Quilt Ph.D to make this.  I walk you through the steps on an earlier post.  There are many variations of the block in my reference book, but I can’t give you a name for the block outright, as there are two basic blocks in this, both four-patch variations: one is cut on the diagonal and one on the straight.

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Get to Work Book 2019

In other news, my Get to Work Planner arrived and this time I ordered the elastic band to put on my old one, as I tape in all sort of things and the book has kind of expanded.

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Recently I had an interesting letter in my emailbox.  A young professor asked if he could use the image of this quilt in a project he was working on for his English class.  Since I’d taken it in to my class when I taught the short story Everyday Use, I quickly acquiesced.ESE Utlity Quilt_2

Yep, it’s pretty wonky.  It was designed that way in a class I took with Roberta Horton in Houston, eons ago.  I treasure the quilt for that reason alone.  It’s #37 on my Lifelong Quilts lists.ESE Utlity Quilt_3

I think at one point I wanted to put an epigram on every quilt label, but in a quick survey, this is the only one.

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Lastly, such happy news arrived with the announcement of Affinity Publisher‘s public release on June 19th.  I’ve been a Beta tester in my own weasley and squirrely fashion for the last several months, sending in comments and notes on using the software.  While not a difficult software, there is a learning curve which is when I searched their tutorials and forums for help.  I use this to write my patterns, and I’m currently working backwards through the MSWord versions, and converting them one by one to a more professional look.

The introductory discount is 20% off the price, and there are NO SUBSCRIPTIONS to deal with (you know which company I’m referring to).  So mark your calendars, if you’ve needed software that can help publish documents at a higher level than a word processing program.

Scrappy Radiant Star

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Mary, of NeedledMom, chose this block for her June turn as Queen Bee of the Gridsters.  Originally found on Wombat Quilts website as a free illustration, I redrew the block to Mary’s specified 6-inch (finished) size.  Four of these blocks are put together to make Mary’s larger 12-inch block.

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Scrappy Radiant Star Illustration

Click on the download PDF file here:

Scrappy Radiant Star

You’ll need four copies to make one 12-inch block, as shown below:

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sketch I made to keep the colors organized

Notice there are FIVE colors per Mary’s larger block.  Four corners have the same color, which when sewn together make that center star.  But in looking at the way she designed it, the colors are to be distributed throughout the quilt.  You can see her initial thinking about this version on this blog post (where you’ll also get a glimpse into her gardens and cooking.  I love reading her blog).

Peek Marys Chart

Just a peek–download below.

Mary gave me permission to post the chart she drew up to keep her ideas straight.  You can download this as a PDF:Mary’s Chart_ June Gridster Bee

You can see that she’s diagrammed the main stars (in the center), and the secondary stars in the corners.  We Gridsters each chose two blocks, identifying our choices using her coding on the sides and are now sending them to her.

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To further my tributes to Mary today, I’m making her bread recipe to go with my version of Italian Wedding Soup.

Have fun making these blocks!