December 26, 2011

Chinese silk brocade

I visited China in December 2007--a great trip all around.  In addition to the usual sites, I went to fabric markets in Beijing and Shanghai.  I came away with a small suitcase full of Chinese silk brocade. When I was an undergraduate at the University of Chicago, I would sometimes to go Marshall Field's and browse in some departments just to see beautiful things, and one of the displays I liked to look at was a table full of bolts of Chinese silk brocade.  Some 20 years later, I went back to visit them again, but alas, the fabric department was gone.  I think I carried that image of the fabrics with me still, and when I saw stalls filled with these silks, at extremely low prices (especially after the expected bargaining), I found myself buying one piece after another.  But then what to do with them?  I had visions of making wall hangings of some sort, but started out with smaller things.  The silk was very difficult to work with. I put it aside.  I tried something else.  Still didn't work out.  I made an occasional small gift (bookmarks, needle case), but kept thinking about what else I might do on a larger scale.  Finally, I got the idea to make a scarf, and this worked out well.  The photo above is a pile of several I've made.  Here they are hanging next to each other:

And then another idea occurred to me--a way of using large pieces of the fabric.  I could piece very large rectangles into a quilt top.  (My first thought was to cut the fabrics into blocks about 9x12", but decided I'd rather keep a large expanse of individual fabrics.)  I played today with the lengths of fabric that I have, and so far I like this layout (just pinned up roughly, selvages not yet cut off).  This is about 60x80":

I will ponder it some more, but I think this might work.  I'm thinking of using a somewhat puffy batting (Dream Puff), cordoroy on the back, and quilting it in large (10") squares.  Your thoughts much appreciated!

Here's the fabric I'll still have left:

December 20, 2011

Back or front?

I intended this improvised log cabin to be the back for a baby quilt I pieced a couple of weeks ago:

This is the "Posh Tot" pattern from Blue Underground Studios.  Love this pattern--I've had it for a long time, but just got around to making a version.  It goes together very easily.  

But the more I looked at the improvised log-cabin back I'd made, I more I wanted it to have a life of its own.  So, I made it a front instead, gave it a plain blue back, and quilted it in squares, which I haven't done before.  I like it so much, I'm keeping it for myself.  Here it is in the multi-purpose room where I have a couple of desks as well as our washer/dryer.

a close up of the quilting:

And here's what went on the back of "Posh Tot"--made from fabric I had on hand, so no purchase necessary.  Quilted with straight-line horizontal stitching.  (Seems I forgot to get a shot from the front before I sent it off to the new baby.)

About backs/fronts:  There have been other backs that I've shown people, and gotten the response, "That should be a front!"  I started piecing backs after being inspired by Mary Beth Clark's creations--almost all of her quilts have a lively back pieced together from fabrics leftover from the front, plus other fabrics from her stash.  I know she gets this comment frequently too.  This is the first time I've actually changed an intended back to a front.  Why this time?  I think because this "back" was not only a viable composition on its own (true of other backs that I've kept on the back) but that it actually turned out to be of more interest to me than the front (even as much as I like the front). 

About the beautiful fabric in the Posh Tot quilt--both were purchased at the Quilted Fox, a fantastic quilting store in St. Louis.  
Red with square dots: Moda Fabrics Sherbert Pips by Anella Hoey in Cherry
Paisley: Westminster/Rowan Fabrics, Marylebone by Liberty Art Fabric, Fordwych in Rust