Clothing · Sewing

The Sublime and the Mundane

The Mundane

That is, if making a Wild Geese quilt block can be considered mundane, which makes me think back to the Days of the Babies, when the only time I could find to sew was about a 45-minute block once they went down for naps (and only if I weren’t taking one, too). But those minutes might be considered sublime, don’t you think?

You can read my Instagram post to find out why I was trying to beat the blahs, but in a nutshell…it’s January. Need I say more?

73 years ago. Nice to know I’m not the only one — thanks for all your nice comments on IG.

Because I was inspired by this beautiful quilt made of half-square triangles, and because I’d promised a grown grandson a quilt long ago in blue and white, I drew this one up in EQ8 and thought “Gosh, I could do a block a day and have it finished by the end of January.”

Yes, that goal is a far cry from barely being able to drag yourself out of bed, but it’s that thing about small steps, about sticking with a task, about creating. I listen to most episodes of the Ezra Klein podcast and found that a recent one, on “Sabbath and the Art of Rest” contained so much great advice for me personally. I learned a lot about the idea of the Sabbath, of taking a rest, of leaving space, of joyfully getting together. The guest, Judith Shulevitz, was fascinating, the conversation sublime and at one point she said this nugget:

“[I]t’s like anything else. It’s like writing, for example. You sit down, you don’t want to write, but you got to write. And there will be three hours when it’s a slog and that one hour when your mind opens up, and you’re in the flow, and you get it. You get why you’ve created the schedule where you have to sit at your desk from 9 to 1, or whatever it is, as unpleasant as that may be, as many conflicts as there may be. And nothing good is easy….You have to work to get to the experience of flow, to get the experience to the experience of God, to get to that what Émile Durkheim…called effervescence, which is that collective joy.”

I made the 5″ finished triangles from my stash, using the 8-at-a-time method, then made one more HST to get nine. This quilt will finish as a large lap size. The first two large squares (white and blue) were cut at 12″ square, then marked as shown. I sewed on either side of the diagonal lines, cut on all drawn lines, then pressed and trimmed to 5 1/2″ square. It went very fast. Just what I needed for January. Was I in the flow? Did I experience effervescence? Not really, but it was a mood lifter, for sure, to see my progress pinned up on the design wall.

The Sublime

My husband asked me what I wanted for my birthday, and after we crossed off the yacht, the furs, and the jewels from the list, I said I wanted to go the Bowers Museum in Orange County and see Guo Pei’s exhibit of her couture clothing. So who is she? If you remember back to the Met Gala in 2015, when Rhianna wore that gorgeous yellow dress…that was Guo Pei.

Many of these dresses took thousands of hours to make, and are heavily embellished. The shoes can be outrageous, too. This is not the clothes you wear for schlepping around to the grocery store, but they are the clothes that are admired, that ideas come from, maybe even a bit of effervescence. Enjoy. {Click on an image to enlarge it.}

So many of the clothes were made from man-made materials, a huge departure from our quilting world insistence on natural fibers. I loved this fringed dress.

My sister Susan came down for my birthday weekend, and she, my husband Dave, and I all liked this grouping the best. This was from a collection she titled Chinese Bride 2012. These were made of silk, with gold and colored threads used for the embroidery of “standard and shaded satin stitches.”

I’ll put some video up on Instagram and link it in a couple of days.

A movie was made about her (here’s the trailer):

Thank you, Guo Pei, for your beautiful clothes.

Look what we found when we came out: a very fancy quinceañera dress!

P. S. This was fun to see. It’s all my Instagram monthly markers for 2022.

Clothing · Museums · Something to Think About · Textiles & Fabric

Power of Pattern: Central Asian Ikats


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.


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:



Note the embroidered cuff.

Ikat_5 Tajik Wedding Ritual

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.


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).

LACMA’s didactic label in the exhibit

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


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.


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).


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*

Women and Ikat_2017
Women and their Ikat Robes (2017), from *here*

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:


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.

Tabula Rasa Jacket_thequilttree.png

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?

crocheted jacket

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.


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.

Clothing · Sewing · Textiles & Fabric

Pioneer Cosplay

Heritage Day Logo_SB
Logo by Simone

Recently a few of us here were involved in the Heritage Day Celebration, honoring the early pioneers in this valley. It happened last Saturday, on a mildly hot day.  Good day to be wearing all these layers, right?

pioneer dress 2018.jpg

Didn’t Thoreau say something like “Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes”?  I think the dress looks like a cross between Mary Poppins and the mother from Little House on the Prairie, an ancient TV show that forever colored our view of what women in the 1850s wore around the farm, and notable for the final show: they blew up all the set houses with dynamite to keep them from the local evil corporate guy.

We hosted a “quilting booth” but instead of that tired old trope of setting out a quilt top so people could mangle it with their stitches, we ran a hexie booth, based on the research I found that quilters at the time were doing English paper piecing.

Quilt of the Mormon Migration_EPP (1)(1).jpg

We had some work to do.  We, meaning, several of us who have attended our quilting group for many years, plus some others we conned into asked to participate.


First, combine four patterns to make a pioneer outfit (seen above). Then start working on the demo goods: hexies.

Pioneer Hexies_1Pioneer Hexies_2

I appliqued them to a tote bag I picked up a couple of years ago at Quilt Market, figuring the “maker” theme was a good fit for hexies.

Pioneer Hexies_0
l to r: Julie, Melissa, me, Laurel, Simone, Lisa. (PS Simone doesn’t really look like this. She likes to pull faces. Her texts always make me laugh.)

Pioneer Hexies_0aPioneer Hexies_0b

We figure we glued up about 500 hexies, total, between this and what Leisa did later on.  It was so good to have these!


It was a team effort: our friend Dennis brought us tables and chairs, and Leisa was the “set decorator,” using quilts from near and far. We arrived at 7:10 a.m. and left at 2:20 p.m., the right amount of time.


We also had some modern hexies there to entice the participants; that is Laurel’s beautiful Modern Millefiore Hexie quilt on the left, with Simone’s hexie pillow (pattern here), and other props.


We had Color-A-Quilt pages for the littlest visitors, as well as create your own quilt block (below).  We had to remind them that it was a visual treat–take a photo with your phone sort of thing–as people kept walking off with my design boards.  That is Julie’s hand you see there, making a mock-up.  She kept these two sections rolling the whole day.


from l to r: Cindy, Julie, Denese, me, Laurel and her husband Ralph, Leisa, Simone

The original crew, plus my husband, Dave (who is taking the photo).  We swapped out two for four others mid-day; we were swamped, so were glad to have them.  Here are some photos from our day:


We were suprised by the number of teens — and teen boys — who sat down and made a three-hexie patch from start to finish.

Pioneer Hexies_3.jpg

Most did not look like this–they sewed them up properly, although sometimes with an interesting twist or two, but we thought this won the prize for “Most Interesting Hexie” of the day.  We had to teach many how to tie knots (about half had no idea how to do that), and we saw that lots of youngsters (and oldsters) liked to be able to sit and sew, a skill not often available to them in other places.


We had a sample quilt set up in a hoop in case anyone wanted to try hand-quilting.  Most were more fascinated by the hexies.  And most wanted to pick through the baskets of cut fabric squares and glue their own shapes, too.


Wee Pioneers


I love sharing our craft with some new quilters!

tiny nine patches

Stats: 3,000 paper hexies purchased
60 needles (only 35 were brought home–don’t know where the rest went)
3 needle-threaders: one from Clover, my friend Laurel, and my husband Dave
2 ten-gallon jugs of water
4,000 cut squares prepped up: fabric donated by Paintbrush Studio and Primitive Gatherings
Project boards that are not dusty: 0
Number of pioneer outfits that will never be used again: 7

Clothing · Creating · Textiles & Fabric

Dusky Tones on the Comeback Trail?

Over Labor Day weekend, I headed up to my nephew’s wedding and was completely entranced with the flowers on our tables.  No brights anywhere.  Dusky hydrangeas, mossy-textured greens that were soft as baby’s ears, pastel roses, grayed down tones everywhere.  The bridesmaids’ dresses were a pinky-tan color.  The bride was in a rich ivory dress.  This is a couple who is on the cutting edge of everything, including fashion and design. Now consider this:

This is the latest from the Moda design team and the collection is entitled “Little Gatherings.”  While the tones and colors are similar to what I bought in the 1970s, what I noticed was the design: little bitty designs.

So the question that some are asking around on the blogs, as they drag out those uncompleted quilts from the 1970s is: are the dusky tones from that era making a comeback?  I would have said yes to the colors and the tonality but no to the itsy bitty calico-type prints, until I saw the Moda line above.  So, are we returning to that era?  Have we tired of the brights and bolds and large scale prints and heading back to the 1970s? 1880s?  If we look to fashion for inspiration, it’s often said that short skirts are a sign of a healthy economy and that long skirts indicate that we are all in for tough times. Since our economy is pretty much in the tank, I wonder if we can make the same predictions based on fabrics.

And by the way, here’s a view from the runways.  Even those with shorter, body-conscious clothes had a few longer skirts in their line-up.  In many shows, that’s ALL they had.  And judging from some of the fabrics being used, looks like we’re still in love with large-scale prints, although in fashion, I think only those who are 6 feet tall pull them off really well.  That lets me out.  And the colors?  They trended to the dusky, darker tones, but hey–it is the FALL fashion shows, which of course will be shown in deeper-toned fabrics. (Designers’ names are under the picture, newspaper-caption style.)

L’Wren Scott