Sunday, 28 February 2010

And, gee, I've been quilting too!

Of course, I'm nearly always quilting, in some form or other. I don't always remember to put up what I've done. Remember those swap blocks I did with my quilt group back in... can it be 2007? I've finally put them together into a quilt top. I did say you wouldn't see it until it was a top, which was a pretty rash thing to say, considering I have unfinished quilt projects dating back to... um,  1996, I think. Maybe earlier. (Hangs head)
But here they are, together at last. Of course, it may need to have a border added yet. I'm still thinking about it. Well, that's my excuse for not immediately beginning the quilting. I'm planning to hand quilt it, on the basis that hand quilted projects get finished because they aren't fighting for their time on the machine, along with the garments I make and the machine embroidery and the bags and... well, you know, all that other stuff.

It's the first quilt I'll have that's made from all reproduction fabrics. I love the look of these modern-antique quilts, but when I make a quilt myself, I blend all those wonderful repro fabrics with other fabrics in my stash - whatever works together. So I've never actually made a quilt with all reproduction fabrics. It's also a fabulous reminder of a group of friends who've been meeting together now for more than a decade. And guess what? We're making swap blocks again this year. I've chosen batik fabrics and dark blue backgrounds, which should be striking! Why did I choose batiks? Well, I have this box of batik fabrics, many of which I bought.. yep, in the nineties! So as I make blocks for the girls, I'm making myself a block too, from my own fabrics. Of course, it's not making a dent in my batik fabric stash at all.

Which brings me to something I've been thinking about for a while. I suspect I'm not the only quilter who has an obscene amount of fabric. Somehow, even when you're on a Low-Fibre Diet, as I've been for some years now, fabrics still find their way to your door. I've just bought a bunch of fat quarters for the swap blocks we're making, because somehow it seems mean to use all fabrics from my stash, some of which were definitely not bought yesterday. Only new and glossy will do. And of course, people give you fabrics, because it's your birthday or Christmas, or they are cunningly downsizing at your expense... So my stash is increasing at a greater rate than I can use it. So far, so ordinary.

But really, isn't this just another example of what we women in the developed world do? We buy Stuff. We buy more Stuff than we ever have a hope of using, and we can't pass it on to our kids because they want their own new Stuff. We buy things to replace other things that work perfectly fine, because the one we just bought is new and shiny, because it has brag factor, because it shows we have a lot of money to spend on Stuff. I've thought for a long time that the rampant consumerism of the society I live in is obscene, when there are so many in the world who have almost nothing, and I consciously choose not to buy new things unless I really need them. But fabric is somehow different. It's as if I give myself permission to exempt the fabric I buy.

But fabric isn't neutral. I buy cotton fabrics, and cotton takes water and fertiliser to grow, and often has a significant effect on the physical environment (as any mass monoculture inevitably does). The processing of cotton is not environmentally neutral either, nor is the printing process. I'm not singling out cotton as being necessarily worse than anything else we might buy; it isn't.  But it's cotton fabric that we quilters buy and store away in boxes for the "one day" that will never come.

How can we justify buying all this "product", that we freely acknowledge we will probably never use? For some people, I know this simply isn't an issue. But I've started to think about it and, frankly, I don't like what I see myself doing. I'm not going to take the high moral ground and declare I'm never buying more fabric... I don't trust extreme points of view, even in myself. I just hope I can learn to be more discriminating, more able to resist the siren call of the new.

And do you know what? While I was writing this, I remembered that some friends gave me a box of fat quarters for my Significant Birthday a few years ago. And yes, I found it includes a whole lot more batiks. So I definitely won't be shopping for that quilt anytime soon!


Time is such a slippery thing! It seems like only a moment since we celebrated New Year and in a moment we'll be in March. How did that happen? Of course, I know how that happened. January was full of birthdays and lazy summer days, and February has been Suitcase Month. No, it's not my own travels I've been organising; it's the travels of Saffron and Jasmine, sister suitcases of The Maharajah's Garden travelling suitcase exhibition. About sixty member of ATASDA have made works for the exhibition, and a further 45 have made bunting pieces, to be tied together to dress up the show, or treated as individual works. The exhibition begins to travel in March, first to our Branch meetings in Sydney and Brisbane, and then all around Australia for at least two years. The range of work is amazing. Each work is accompanied by a techniques board, explaining the inspiration of the work and one technique used by the artist. Such a diversity of techniques! We on the organising committee have all found new things to try. Images of the works should be on the ATASDA website sometime in March, if all goes well.

Now the suitcases are just about ready, I feel like a mole, emerging blinking into the light and wondering what to do next! I have managed to find a little time to do creative things this month. I made my graffiti fabric into a bag, using some suede leather scraps that were the perfect colour, given to me by a friend from her stash. She in turn acquired it from someone else's stash a few years ago. The bag looks fantastic...

..but there's a tiny problem. Although I checked the leather closely for faults, it isn't quite the same leather it once was, I fear. As I sewed, I began to notice myself turning a delicate shade of pink. No, not an allergy, just the leather colour, coming off all over me. Like the fool I am, I pressed on, instead of pausing to take stock. Yes, the bag looks brilliant, but it's completely unusable, because it crocks colour onto everything it touches. Not only that, but, despite using the appropriate leather needle, stitch length and thread, the leather is simply pulling apart along the stitch lines. I suspect that leather might be older than I am, and it's decided that it's had enough.

So, I did finish my graffiti bag by the February deadline, but it's going to have to come apart again, once I acquire some new red leather. I am so in love with the look of the bag that nothing else will do!

So the moral of this sad tale is : if things start looking a bit odd when you are in the midst of a creative flow, STOP!! Do not go on mindlessly ignoring the problem. Who'd have thought, eh?