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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Interview with Katherine Bell - Author of Quilting for Peace.

Katherine, thank you for taking your time to do this interview with Contemporary Cloth. I have to start by stating that your publication, Quilting for Peace is exceptional…..from the layout to the contents to the physicality of the book itself. Quilting for Peace belongs in everyone’s personal library and it now has a special place in mine.

For a brief overview: the Quilting for Peace chapters cover the following: community quilting, wartime quilting, quilting for kids and quilting to change the world. As stated on the cover, Quilting for Peace contains more than 25 inspiring essays and 15 charity projects with clear instructions. It is packed full of ideas, life stories, quilt resources in a variety of areas, including quilts for pet shelters (cage comforters), sleeping bags for people who are homeless, quilts for solders, infants and many more people who have needs. Contacts and websites are provided, so that we can all become involved. There is information regarding places where you can donate finished quilts or fabrics. It is all here. Katherine makes it easy for us to follow through.

There are also significant quotes, which I loved, in each chapter. I hesitated to include any of them in this interview because they need to be read as they were meant to be, as part of each chapter. They are so meaningful and an integral part of this book.

The Quilting for Peace website is another excellent resource and clearinghouse of information. Katherine has a blog, a Flikr Group and a Get Involved Page with extensive information.

I read that you are an online editor in New England (my favorite place), what do you usually write about and what inspired you to write this amazing book – Quilting For Peace?

First, thanks for inviting me to your blog – I’m so happy to hear that you like the book! I’m an editor at Harvard Business Review and – it seems like that would be almost the exact opposite of writing about crafts and writing fiction (which is my other true love) but in fact they have quite a bit in common. I spend a lot of time thinking about people’s work lives, why they do what they do, how they stay motivated and motivate others, that sort of thing. I wish quilters were in charge of more organizations, because they tend to be resourceful, realistic, empathetic, and persuasive – all qualities common to great business leaders and entrepreneurs.

How did you gather the resources for your book? Did you find most of them on the web?

I did find most of them on the web. Many quilters were early adopters of the Internet. They’ve been networking online for years, and just about every organization I profiled has its own website. One exception is the Sunshine Circle, a quilting group in rural Iowa that started in 1912. Most of the women in the group now are at least second-generation, and they’re in their seventies and eighties. I lived in Iowa for a couple of years, and while I was there the University of Iowa Press published a book about Iowa quilts by Jacqueline Andre Schmeal. It’s gorgeous, one of my very favorite quilting books. There’s a chapter in it about the Sunshine Circle and I called Jacqueline and asked if she could put me in touch with them.

What particular crafts/sewing adventures do you personally enjoy doing?

Quilting is my favorite. I never finish knitting projects. I just made curtains for my living room, and honestly it was kind of painful. I really want to learn to design and make clothes, but I keep making quilts instead. I also like working with paper – letterpress printing and making handmade books. At some point I want to combine the two and try both printing on fabric and quilting with paper.

You refer to “the rhythm of each project” when you are quilting, what is your favorite segment in the process of quiltmaking?

I love the design stage and the process of piecing. The whole-is-more-than-the-sum-of-its-parts transformation is so satisfying. I get impatient during basting and binding.

It appears that the “tactile” nature of making and quilting is a rewarding process for you and for many of us. In Occupational Therapy (my previous profession), the act of “doing” is the main component of functional performance and self-esteem. You have promoted this philosophy and the resultant product is functionally useful and meaningful to other individuals. How do you feel during and after you’ve created a quilt?

The physicality of quilting is really important to me. I spend a ridiculous amount of time on the computer, working, writing, reading. So it’s extra satisfying to make something tangible. I love washing a brand-new quilt and pulling it out of the dryer all puckery and warm and already worn-in looking. And of course, the best part of all is sending it off to the person I’ve made it for.

Do you usually have a person in mind that you will be gifting when you are making a quilted project?

Almost always.

When you create your quilts, what are your favorite colors or patterns on fabrics?

I’m a little old-fashioned when it comes to fabrics. I like small prints, shirting, and stripes. I love blues and pinks and greys and browns. And yellow and orange; I’ve been especially into orange lately.

While reading through Quilting for Peace, I found the quiltmakers to be such givers and they touch the lives of so many people in a significant, positive way, how has doing this research, meeting these people and writing this book affected you personally? How has this experience changed your life?

I have always spent too much time worrying about what’s going on in the world and not nearly enough time actually doing anything about it. The quilters I talked to don’t waste time thinking about how they won’t be able to make a big enough difference. They just do things that make a small difference and convince others to do the same, and those things add up over time. I’ve definitely learned from their generosity and resolve.

Is there a special story or experience that has affected you the most?

The two stories I found both most heartbreaking and most inspiring were Barbara O’Neill’s and Don Beld’s. Barbara’s son died in combat in Afghanistan when he was only 19 years old. “When there’s a tragedy,” she told me, “you do what you need to do, and then you recruit other people to help you.” Within days of her son’s death, Barbara and her best friend began an effort to make quilts for as many veterans as they could, with the help of quilters all over the world. After his son died of AIDS, Don made a panel in his memory for the AIDS quilt. A few years later, Don began another grassroots quilt memorial — the organization he founded, Home of the Brave, gives quilts to the families of soldiers and marines killed in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Is there a particular place where you have donated your quilts? Do you have a special cause that is important to you?

They’re all important, but the wartime quilts feel most urgent to me right now. We’ve been at war for eight years! I’m very concerned about veterans’ issues — PTSD, homelessness, and so on. I find it absolutely horrifying that one in three homeless men is a veteran.

Katherine, I have to say that I am with you. The lack of care toward our veterans is an atrocity in this country. And further, I will never understand the value of war, we have not learned much since Vietnam. It appears that President Obama is starting to assist the veterans, their needs and their families......long overdue.

The work that Katherine Bell has done is to be commended. This book would be a special gift for anyone. Katherine has opened our eyes and consolidated valuable information and resources in her book, website and blog. Katherine has now made it easy for all of us to do our part in providing hope and comfort to another person. Thank you, Katherine.

****Here is a recent post from Katherine's blog for those of you who are interested in quilts for veterans.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Scraps and Timtex - and an Amy Butler Bag!

I have owned Amy Butler's "In Stitches" for some time now and thought it would be fun to try a quilted box bag.

I selected the "Patchwork Handbag With Zipper Charm".  I thought it would be a good use of scraps and a fun first quilting project.  The project requires a number of pieces of main fabric, lining, backing fabric and batting.  The main pieces and lining could be cut from 1/2 yard or less of fabric.  I had the luxury of selecting color coordinated scraps from the scrap bin here at Contemporary Cloth.  But you could use your stash or try  your luck with one of our scrap bags.

The pattern is written in a very descriptive style.  I stumbled during the quilting section because I did not understand that an entire piece was quilted and then cut in two for the two sides.  I had started by cutting out the dimensions listed in the book, things did not add up and I set the bag aside, convinced I would not finish it.  I later decided to simply make horizontal strips. It's not as visually interesting, but it was simpler for this first-time quilter.  (You'd never know that I completed three years of college-level math, including differential equations!)

The pattern calls for making a cardboard insert for the bottom of the bag.  I simply couldn't see how this would make the bag sturdy enough - at least for my taste.  So when making the lining, I attached Timtex, a fairly sturdy sew in stabilizer, that is great for bags and totes.  This added wonderful shape to the bag - so much so that I did not need to add the cardboard.  Even after adding my wallet and several other items the bag held its shape.

Overall, I'm very pleased with the bag.   I learned how to make a box-shaped bag.  And next time, I will be a bit more adventurous in my quilting!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Contest Winners!

Thank you for participating in our fabric giveaway.   The winners of the fabric selection are:

Because we had such a response, we have added three winners of a yard of fabric of our choice.  The winners are:

The winners have been notified by email.  Thanks for participating!

Be sure to check out our latest interview with Paula Singleton, Milliner here.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Interview with Paula Singleton, Milliner

Tell us about What A Great Hat! How did you start it and what are your products?

I’ve been artistic all my life and started out knitting and sewing then moved into working in paper and then eventually started making jewelry using vintage buttons and beads.
I had never worn hats and bought my first handmade hat at the Ann Arbor art festival in 2004. I wore it all day and had no less than 30 compliments on it. It was so much fun that I felt compelled to do my part to bring hat wearing back into vogue. It’s funny – I went to the Ann Arbor art festival to get inspiration for jewelry making and came away with an entirely new appreciation for hats, which launched a new career path.

Do you have a blog, a website, a storefront?

I have a web site: What A Great Hat! and a working studio where I see customers by appointment. I also participate in the finer art festivals in Northeast Ohio. I left the corporate world in 1999 as the communications manager for a financial services firm; writing and public relations were my specialty. I continue to write on a freelance basis and need the flexibility to go out on assignments, which prohibits me from having a true storefront retail presence. And, truth be told, hats are such a niche that having a retail hat shop in Akron, Ohio probably wouldn’t be the best business decision.

Tell us about your design process?

It usually begins with a great fabric, color of felt or vintage item like a buckle, button, flower or feather. Then I think about what shape would complement my inspiration piece. The design process is rather organic – the hat evolves as I work with pieces in my studio that complement it.

What are your favorite materials to use?

For summer hats, I love to work with cotton – so many amazing patterns and colors to jumpstart the imagination. I also love working with sinamay, a natural straw-like product that is great for swirling and sculpting. For winter, wool or silk fabric, or wool felt are my materials of choice.

How do you determine what the best hat design is for someone?

I can usually look at someone and know the style that will work for them. But it’s best to have them come to my studio and try on hats of various shapes. Once we know the best shape for their face, frame, and lifestyle, we can talk about color, pattern, trimmings and all the details and select a hat that I’ve already made or create a new piece that really works for them.

Do you have any favorite colors or styles/eras?

I love the styles of the ‘20s through the ‘50s. The cloche (which is the French word for bell) is a personal favorite. And I adore fun, flirty cocktail hats. Color-wise, I’ve never met a periwinkle blue that I didn’t love, and deep plum/eggplant is also hard to resist.

Do you only design hats for women?

Yes. I’ve also made some hats for little girls.

Have you made hats for special occasions?

I’ve made many hats for the Kentucky Derby and even made one for a woman who traveled to England for Royal Ascot (the horse event that’s attended by the royal family). I’ve also had a lot of fun making cocktail hats for women going to black tie events.

Who are your favorite designers?

Philip Treacy is sort of the king of hat making and his work is amazing. I also like Siggi, and Edwina Ibbotson, hat makers in the UK.

Where do you find inspiration?

I’m always inspired by nature. Old movies are another great source. I wake up in the middle of the night sometimes with designs swirling around in my mind.

What do you enjoy the most in your creative process?

Combining colors, textures, shapes and trimmings in creative ways.

How do you feel after you have created one of your wonderful hats?

Creating hats is a real thrill but the best part is finding the right hat for the right person, especially for someone who claims she can’t wear hats. Seeing her face light up when she finds the right hat is the best reward of all.

Is there anything else that you would like to share with us?

I was fortunate to find a millinery instructor – Donald Wasson from Cleveland – who is a true gem. He has inspired legions of students to create hats to augment their careers in fashion as well as helping them make connections for launching a career in millinery. It may be that millinery is a dying art, but every milliner I’ve met is passionate about keeping it alive. I have yet to meet another milliner who isn’t helpful and supportive of fellow hat makers out there trying to make a go of it. If any of your readers are interested in learning how to make hats I’ll be glad to share the resources I know of with them.

Are most of your customers from Northeast Ohio?

Yes; I meet many of them at the shows that I participate in as well as referrals from existing customers. But I have made hats for people across the US.

What are your future plans?

To continue learning and growing as a milliner. And to escalate the enthusiasm for wearing great hats by designing pieces that make people feel and look terrific.

Thank you, Paula for taking the time to do this interview and share your art with us. You are keeping the art of millinery alive and we are grateful for that. Your work is truly amazing.
When I think of hats, my mother's hats from the 40's and 50's come to mind. I will have to post them on the blog some day. A few years ago, I gave a friend of mine a copy of the book Crowns, which had just been published. Sandra told me about her involvement with church on Sunday and how it was an all day happening, which led our discussion into the hats that many of the women wore. This book is a treasure and if you enjoy hats, you will love Crowns!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Ricky Tims - Rhapsodie Coloree ll

The fabric design and quilt are by Ricky Tims. The finished quilt size is 50" x 50". If you decide to order these fabrics, ask us for a pattern or download the pattern from Red Rooster Fabrics. Enjoy the Rhapsodie Coloree ll Collection, the look of hand dyed fabric at a great price!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Giveaway - Thank you for following us!

We will be in touch very soon and posting the winner.........
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