Saturday, April 30, 2011

Russian Textiles

Today was the St. Paul Needleworkers Spring Luncheon. We once again had a very nice lunch prepared by the ladies of the church where we meet each month. Our guest speaker was Masha, curator at The Museum of Russian Art in Minneapolis. If you live in the area and haven’t visited yet, check out their website for current and upcoming exhibits.

Masha spoke about  a recent exhibit entitled, “A Homespun Life: Textiles of Old Russia.” As an added treat she brought along a Russian man, Mikail, who is here for a quick visit . He is a collector of Russian embroideries and had several of his embroideries with him for us to see.


Masha told us about the history of these Russian embroideries. Young girls would be given a prialka when they were infants. This would be placed in their crib. It was used to spin the flax. By the time she was five years old she would have learned to spin and then would also be taught to dye and embroider.  These young girls would get together and have spinning parties where they would bring their own prialka (distaff), which was an L shaped object they would sit upon. It was a very portable instrument and was also easily adorned. Some of the prialkas Masha showed us photos of were quite ornate with carving and painting.


Young girls would spin and embroider for many years. When they became of marriageable age, 16 years old, they would have a nice store of embroidered items to bring into the marriage. Masha showed us art work depicting a scene where a young lady would hang her embroidered towels on the walls for her prospective in-laws to inspect!

Towels had very specific uses and used designs that had special meaning. One figure that was found in many early embroideries was the goddess figure. This would often be placed upon clothing where the body would be exposed, such as the neckline and cuffs. It was thought this would offer the wearer special protection. 


One symbol used frequently was the sun in the form of a swastika. This was a very positive, strong symbol, not like what we think about because of its use during World War II. Mikail told us that many of the embroideries with variations of this symbol were destroyed during the war when German soldiers came into the small towns and villages and burned the embroideries with that symbol. Some survived because they were hidden by the families who owned them.

Mikail began collecting embroideries as he traveled to very remote towns for his business. He would find homes that had been abandoned as families moved into larger towns. Inside these homes would be these lovely embroidered pieces. He felt that they couldn’t be left to rot away, so he began collecting them. He told of how he almost got into a fist fight with a farmer who was using one of these pieces to wipe the grease off of his farm equipment! They came to an agreeable arrangement and the towel was saved.

Masha told us the museum is planning another textile exhibit, but it won’t be for 2 or 3 years. I think everyone in the room today is looking forward it!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Two Quilting Projects

I am currently (actively!) working on two quilts. One is a paper pieced project I started for a class and the other is a baby quilt. One has a deadline and the other doesn’t. Can you guess which one?

I paper pieced the first quilt using batiks, which isn’t what I usually use in my quilts, but I wanted to try this technique of paper piecing and the designer was teaching a two day course at a local quilt shop so I gave it a try. The paper piecing part is finished and now I’m working on sewing everything together so it will be a quilt top.

The technique involves cutting your fabric into very specific sizes. If you follow the designer’s directions you end up with much less waste than is usual when you paper piece. I spent an afternoon at a shop that specialized in batiks (the owner is now retired and the shop is closed) selecting my fabrics. I’d have to look at the pattern again, but I believe I had to select over 30 different fabrics! The woman working that afternoon helped me or I would probably still be there trying to make a decision.

I was very happy with my selections, but the designer was not. On the first morning of the two day class she told me my fabrics would not work!

I am working on the curved piecing right now, using forked pins and easing it in as I go. I put one in each end and one in the center and that works quite well.

As soon as I finish the top, I plan to take it to the same shop employee who helped me select my fabrics. She does machine quilting. There is no way I’ll be able to hand quilt through the batiks and I know she’ll do a nice job of showing off all of those points.

The second quilt is currently in the hand quilting stage. I am having a slight problem with the lamb in the center of the quilt. It has the usual top, backing and batting, but it also has an additional layer of fabric for the appliqué lamb and a thin layer of batting underneath the lamb so the top doesn’t show through the white fabric. Soooo…. instead of quilting the usual way I am doing a stab down, stab up motion. It is taking awhile, but I really want those curly shapes in the lamb’s fleece to show.

Grandbaby number two is expected in mid-July, so I hope to be done with all of it except the label by then.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Hand dyed silks

Earlier this month I was at the EGA Heartland Region Seminar in Kansas City. One of my instructors mentioned an online source for hand dyed silk floss, a company called Hand Dyed Fibers. I’ve worked with silk before and like the look and feel of it, but the price can be somewhat prohibitive, especially if you are doing a larger piece. This hand dyed is more reasonably priced so I decided to give it a try. The regular floss is $1.65 for 8.7 yards, while the variegated is $2.00.

I recently made an Ebay purchase of two counted cross stitch Christmas stocking designs by Just Nan in Victorian colors. Doing these in silk seemed like a natural. I selected the one that required the fewest colors, checked the website for the DMC conversions and placed my order. My order was at my home within a week.

I just love the way these are packaged. They come wound on plastic bobbins. It’s very easy to see the colors and each bobbin is clearly labeled with all the floss info you could possibly need.

I took photos of the DMC cotton floss next to the Hand-Dyed silk floss conversions so you can see how they compare. Keep in mind that these are hand-dyed silks and are not meant to be exact duplications of the DMC cotton flosses. That said, some of them are amazingly close in color.  You can probably see that the Ecru color has a slightly yellow tone in DMC and a slightly whiter tone in Hand-Dyed silk. You will need to decide if that color variation would work for your particular project. Once I get to the point of stitching the stocking I’ll take a closer look and see if I want the more yellow tone or if the whiter tone fits with the project and linen I’ll use.

Also offered on the site are packets that have been selected to work a number of published projects. You can easily select the manufacturer with the pull down menu, or simply scroll through the entire selection.

I haven’t yet started this stocking project, and don’t look for it any time in the next month or so, but will let you know what these silks are like to stitch with. If the customer service is any indication, I’m sure I will love using them!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Spring Bus Trip- Part Two

I almost hesitate to post this with "spring" in the title as we are expecting 1-3 inches of snow in the next 24 hours! But, back to the trip...

Our first Missouri shop was The Peddler’s Wagon in Parkville. It is on a very quaint Main Street. We were greeted by a very nice woman and led into the shop. The sun had finally come out so we thanked her for giving us the nice weather. Almost everyone in the shop was very pleasant, with the exception of the two ladies at the front checkout counters. They did not seem to be happy to be there. One watched me as I looked at the quilt books, at one point putting her hands on her hips as she stared me down. I’m not sure what the problem was, but perhaps the MANY signs posted around the shop that said- “No Photographs”- had something to do with it. I didn’t have my camera out but maybe I looked like someone who might take a photo and so needed to be carefully watched. In any case, it was quite off putting, which is a shame because it was a nice little shop.

This shop had a large selection of quilt themed puzzles and Happy Hollow patterns and accessories. They also had a decent selection of embossed notecards with quilting themes, which was my main purchase.

Our next stop was Quilter’s Station in Lee’s Summit. This large shop was almost overwhelming! They had a huge selection of traditional fabrics organized by color. This made it somewhat difficult to find the 30s prints I was searching for, but was handy for those seeking out specific color schemes. The shop had a large notions wall and a section devoted to wool, needlework and punch needle. They carry both Valdani and Weeks Dye Works floss and pearl cotton. I did pick up a couple of fat quarters and a skein of Weeks, but more on that later!

Soon we were back on the bus and on our way to the last shop of the day, Prairie Point in Shawnee, Kansas. This shop had a good selection of 30s prints and Jo Morton fabrics as well as batiks and novelty prints. I bought a fun chicken pincushion pattern here as well as some Jo Morton yardage. I have no clue what I will do with it, but it spoke to me and the others around me encouraged me to take it home. Our group had its share of enablers!

Several of the ladies found some buys in the clearance area at the back of the store. Others were somewhat shopped out by this point and spent their time relaxing and snacking in the lounge area that had been set up.

After everyone had made their purchases we were back on the bus headed to dinner and then off to our hotel about an hour north of the shop. 

Day Three of our trip included our final shop visit. You might think that everyone at this point had spent all of their money and would not find anything of interest, but you would be mistaken! We arrived in Ames, Iowa and headed straight for The Quilting Connection. We were greeted by the owner, a very warm and friendly woman, and then made our way into the shop. This shop not only had a very nice selection of 30s reproductions that came home with me, but also had a good variety of batiks, modern prints, novelties, flannels, Nancy Halverson prints and traditional prints and solids. They also had an area devoted to Viking sewing machines and accessories. Several members of our group made plans to come back and visit this shop again on their own.

Many of the ladies were very happy to learn that just a couple of doors down the owner of a chocolate shop had opened his doors early just for us, and even offered a 10% discount. Let’s just say that the chocolate content of the bus on the way home dramatically increased!

After a lunch stop at the local pizza place, we were back on the road and headed home with all of our treasures to add to our SABLE- Stash Acquisition Beyond Life Expectancy. All in all, it was a successful trip!

Now back to that purchase of Weeks floss. When I was getting ready for the trip and writing my shopping list, I found a kit for an eyeglass case I had purchased a few years back. It seemed like a good project to bring along to stitch while on the bus. At some point on the trip my dark green floss vanished from the kit bag. I was determined to have it finished before arriving back home, so made the Weeks purchase. I am happy to report that the project was completed!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Spring Bus Trip- Part One

I have just returned from a three day quilt shop hop with my friend Bev T.! We visited eight shops in four states. I’ll tell you a little about the shops and a few of my purchases.  

On Day One we left the quilt shop in the Twin Cities area and headed to Nebraska. Just south of Winnebago, Iowa it started to snow! Large, wet, heavy flakes that covered the grass and the windshield on the bus. 

The first shop was Country Traditions in Fremont, Nebraska. They had set up little cutouts outside that you could stand behind to be photographed as the “queen of fabric” but it was wet and nasty out and we all had shopping to do, so no one stopped for that particular photo op.

The store itself was large and had many bolts of fabric. I didn’t buy much here because I thought their prices were a little high. I found a ruler I had on my shopping list but I thought it was expensive, so passed it up. (I did find it the next day at another shop and bought it for $10 less than this shop was selling it for!) Everyone in the shop was very friendly and they had a nice assortment of new techniques on display and were very willing to demonstrate them. They also had Koala cabinets, Accu Quilt Go! products and a large selection of machine embroidery. 

Before we got back on the bus, the little coffee shop bakery across the street offered us free coffee.

The next stop was The Quilted Moose in Gretna, Nebraska. The owner was very pleasant as were all of the ladies working in the shop. I must admit I spent a little more here than I should have. I picked up some yardage with cross stitch sampler designs. I’ll use it to make project keepers to store my doilies with no creases. I also picked up Marsha McCloskey’s second book of feathered stars which includes this warning on the front cover: Really hard blocks that take a long time to make. So this is a heads up to not look for me to finish that quilt any time soon!

If you like Moda fabrics and find yourself in the area, you will want to make this a stop. I think they had just about any line of Moda you could imagine.

Next on the agenda was Plattsmouth, Nebraska. We ate in a cozy little restaurant/soda shop that stayed open just for us. After dinner we walked down the muddy street to the last shop of the evening. Seams to Be was also a large shop. They had several classic children’s books done up in fabric. You buy the panels and then cut them apart and sew them up to create a softcover book for your favorite little one. I didn’t buy any of  this but I did go home with a cute pair of thimble earrings that are just perfect to wear to quilting and stitching retreats. 

The shop had a variety of fabrics from batiks to Civil War prints to 30s reproductions to novelty prints. One of the ladies was very happy to find some Mary Engelbreit fabric at this shop. Even Mark, our bus driver, made a purchase and left the shop with a yard and a half of moose fabric.

That was enough shopping for the day so we got back on the bus and drove to Omaha to get all rested up and ready for another full day of shopping.

On Day Two of our three day adventure we were up bright and early for breakfast at the hotel and then a quick drive to the first shop of the day, The Country Sampler. This shop was my favorite. They had a wide variety of fabrics and many samples on display. They had wool for penny rugs, needlepoint featuring quilts, punch needle, embroidery and a variety of gift shop items like candles and soapstone coasters with quilting themes printed on them. 

Probably the busiest section of the shop was the sweatshirt display. Our bus was having trouble with the heater and we nearly froze on the first day, so many of us picked up sweatshirts. I bought a light green shirt without banding that says, “I’d rather be quilting.”

This is where I found (and purchased) the previously mentioned ruler. It is a Lazy Girls template for making flying geese and a variety of other pieces that involve triangles. This method of making flying geese involves next to no waste fabric and is really quite easy. There is a good demo online of the ways to use this ruler.

In addition to the ruler and sweatshirt, a book by Terri Degenkolb of Whimsicals called Tangled Up in Thread made it into my shopping bag. The book features fun sewing/quilting themed projects.

As delightful as this shop was, we had more shops to conquer so we were soon back on the bus and on the road to Missouri! 

This is where I'll end for today. More later!