Authentic Japanese Boro, Boro Mending and Boro-Inspired Patchwork

Authentic Japanese Boro, Boro Mending and Boro-Inspired Patchwork

I have recently been fascinated with the historic Japanese textiles known as boro.

Authentic Japanese Boro, Boro Mending, and Boro-Inspired Patchwork

Boro exhibit at the Amuse Museum in Tokyo

Authentic Japanese boro

Boro means, literally, “tatters.” These were made by repurposing carefully saved garment pieces and other handspun and indigo-dyed fabrics. They were sewn together as a patchwork built up from many layers providing extra warmth.

Authentic Japanese Boro, Boro Mending,and Boro-Inspired Patchwork

The example below was dyed using a simple shibori technique. I showed several ways to do shibori dying here recently.

Authentic Japanese Boro, Boro Mending,and Boro-Inspired Patchwork

If this example were still in use, it would have been patched with another fabric over the tattered right middle section.

The Japanese used these unique textiles for utilitarian items such as futon covers, field clothing, sheets, and more. Including the interesting relics known as donja or yogi. These curious boromono were quilts constructed in a kimono shape and worn by parents and children together while sleeping.

Authentic Japanese Boro, Boro Mending,and Boro-Inspired Patchwork

 

Makers used careful patching and sometimes intricate stitching to craft these textiles, mending the same item many times over many generations.

Boro origins

This accidental art form was born of necessity in Northern Japan. Peasants started making them during the Edo (1603-1868) period. Japan was closed to trade and under sumptuary laws at this time. These laws restricted clothing choices for the lower classes and forbade silk, bright colors, and large patterns.

Authentic Japanese Boro, Boro Mending,and Boro-Inspired Patchwork

In addition, as explained by Kat Siddle in the August 2016 issue of Seamwork Magazine:

“Industrialized fabric production didn’t reach Japan until the 1870s. Cotton, linen and hemp were spun, woven, and dyed by hand. Cloth was a precious resource that represented huge amounts of labor, and even scraps had value. Even after mechanized mills were built near Osaka, the fabric produced there was too expensive for many people to afford, and they continued to weave their own yardage for clothing and household items. Cotton was particularly scarce in northern Japan, where it was too cold for it to grow.”

So peasants pieced and patched their indigo-dyed fabrics and saved every usable scrap of cotton for reuse in these boro items and garments.

Generations of history

Since these pieces include fabrics saved and repaired over many generations, each piece is rich with family history and memories. The homespun and indigo-dyed patchwork acquired a specific patina with age and antique boro cloths can be awe-inspiring when seen up close and in person today.

Authentic Japanese Boro, Boro Mending, and Boro-Inspired Patchwork

This special and breathtaking beauty and historical significance takes several generations and a great many years to develop. So you could say that it is not possible to create new, authentic boro today- at least, not without also waiting about a hundred years!

Sashiko stitching

Authentic Japanese Boro, Boro Mending,and Boro-Inspired Patchwork

photo courtesy Sake Puppets

Japanese ladies began carefully piecing homespun and indigo-dyed natural fabrics together into boro during the Edo period using the distinctive and decorative stitches that later became known as sashiko. This art is still practiced today.

To work sashiko, you need a long needle and thick thread. You can order sashiko needles and sashiko thread from Japan, but if you don’t want to wait for long-distance shipping, you can make do with a long cotton darning needle.

Authentic Japanese Boro, Boro Mending, and Boro-Inspired Patchwork

To substitute for sashiko thread, try perle cotton, which DMC makes in several thicknesses, both on spools and in skeins. Or you can just use regular embroidery floss.

Sashiko stitching can be as simple as straight and long running stitches, or it can be challenging and complex. It can be sparse or dense. There are many traditional patterns to choose from. But sashiko allows individual creativity, and you can invent your own sashiko patterns, too. Here’s a tutorial from Sake Puppets to help you.

Authentic Japanese Boro, Boro Mending,and Boro-Inspired Patchwork

Simple crossed sashiko stitches, photo courtesy GinaPina

Authentic Japanese Boro, Boro Mending, and Boro-Inspired Patchwork

This antique piece at the Amuse Museum in Tokyo is a wonderfully dense and detailed example of sashiko stitching.

Boro mending

You can borrow from boro and use this style of mending today. Boro-inspired mending uses the same techniques and shares the same sentiment of mottainai, or “too good to waste.”

Authentic Japanese Boro, Boro Mending,and Boro-Inspired Patchwork

Boro mended jeans and photo by Heather, via Flickr

Boro jeans mending is currently popular right now, thanks in part to Ralph Lauren and other fashion designers who have featured several boro-inspired denim collections within the last decade. So if you have any torn jeans, you can use boro techniques to mend them into something more stylish. Here’s a nice tutorial that will help you to do this.

Feel free to feature your boro patches on either the inside or outside of your jeans; they look interesting and stylish done either way. Also, don’t limit yourself to jeans; you can use boro mending to repair canvas shoes, a bag, jacket, hat, or any other item of clothing you choose.

Authentic Japanese Boro, Boro Mending, and Boro-Inspired Patchwork

It’s not quite as easy as you’d think it would be. I’m not happy with these stitches at all and will rip them out and try again!

Boro-inspired patchwork

Yoshiko Wada, who popularized shibori in America, wrote an entire book about boro. I think that she would disagree with the notion that you can’t make new boro today.

She says that she uses the term “to define a new aesthetic and to bring new meaning to an alternative creative process, e.g., darning = healing, meditative action = marking time, reuse/repair = recording history. “Boro” represents the transformation of inconsequential material to something precious and valuable… This type of imperfect beauty possesses a power that resonates with people almost like an emotional barometer. It points to an alternative value of “beauty” slowly coming to surface in our social consciousness.”

In any case, you can certainly make boro-inspired patchwork now.

Authentic Japanese Boro, Boro Mending,and Boro-Inspired Patchwork

This modern day version of a boro quilt, photographed by GinaPina and made by Vessel Quilts, achieves an antiqued and authentic look through the use of rust and indigo dyes.

Choosing your palette

In making your own, you can choose to limit yourself to the authentic original palette of indigo-dyed natural fabrics.

Authentic Japanese Boro, Boro Mending, and Boro-Inspired Patchwork

Or you can add in more neutrals, browns, blacks, or even a few reds for an extra pop of color.

Authentic Japanese Boro, Boro Mending, and Boro-Inspired Patchwork

Machine sashiko

If hand stitching isn’t your thing, you can construct boro-inspired patchwork the same way you would make strip patchwork. Then you can embellish with machine stitching over these seams, using a simple zigzag or a more decorative stitch. You could even get amazing and more authentic looking results if you invest in a Baby Lock Sashiko sewing machine.

What will you make?

You could make a boro-inspired quilt, a pillow or cushion, or a small or large boro bag.

Authentic Japanese Boro, Boro Mending,and Boro-Inspired Patchwork

Boro bag with sashiko stitching by Jacque Davis

Authentic Japanese Boro, Boro Mending, and Boro-Inspired Patchwork

You could echo boro’s traditional uses by making a futon cover or coat. Or construct part of or an entire garment from your modern boro patchwork. Here’s my boro board on Pinterest, too, in case you’d like more info, inspiration, and ideas than I could fit into this post.

Authentic Japanese Boro, Boro Mending, and Boro-Inspired Patchwork

I made the pieces pictured above to sew a small kinchaku drawstring bag. I also think this kind of patchwork would look great as a bento, or azuma bukuro, bag. Both of these linked projects would be quick, useful, and satisfying ways to play with and use boro-inspired patchwork.

I’ll show you what I’ll make from my other panels soon. In the meantime, if you are even half as intrigued by this textile art as I am, then I recommend that you experiment and play with it because it’s fun! Happy sewing!

Thanks to na0905 for taking photos of the Boro exhibit at the amazing Amuse Museum in Tokyo, and for sharing these at Flickr with the lovely Creative Commons license. Thanks to GinaPina, Heather, and Jacque Davis for making their photos available this way, too.

Cleaning Your Sewing Machine

Cleaning Your Sewing Machine

Clean Machine Lead

Keeping your sewing machine clean is an important part of producing beautiful things with fabric and thread. After enough projects, there will be an accumulation of fluff from thread and fabric in the inner workings of your machine. If you leave that to accumulate for too long, your machine will start to perform poorly.

Anytime I start to get skipped stitches or a sluggish machine I think back and ask myself when the last time was I cleaned it; it was usually too long ago.

Read the manual

I talk a lot about getting to know your manual. I’ve put little sticky notes all over mine so I can quickly find what I’m looking for. Get your out manual (or locate a PDF online) and go to the section on ‘How to clean your machine.’

1

Some machines will tell you to oil certain parts. Others won’t. My top advice is to always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations on cleaning.

For my Brother cs6000i I need to remove the bobbin cover on the needle plate cover.

2

Then I follow the instructions to remove the needle plate cover itself.

3

Next I remove the bobbin case.

4

Vacuums and cotton swabs

Now I have unfettered access and can get to cleaning. Step one, vacuum!

5

I also use cotton swabs to gather up the fuzz that my vacuum can’t reach.

6

Look at all that fabric and thread fuzz!

7

Once the inside of the machine is clean, you need to also clean the parts you removed.

8

After you’ve reassembled the parts you’ve removed, I also suggest changing out to a new needle. It’s better to start fresh and new after a cleaning.

9

Re-thread in your desired color.

10

Now do some practice stitches. Here you can see how clean my embroidery stitch looks after cleaning my machine and switching out to a new needle.

11

With a clean machine I was able to do some beautiful embroidery for a friendship quilt I’m making.

12

Happy cleaning and happy sewing!

———————————————————————————–
Charlotte Kaufman is a writer and sewist in Mammoth Lakes, California. She specializes in marine and home interiors and continues to fall more and more in love with quilting. You can follow her at charlottekaufman.com.
Should Your Child Learn to Sew on a Machine or by Hand?

Should Your Child Learn to Sew on a Machine or by Hand?

Recently, more or less, my oldest niece has shown an interest in Chess, and it’s been a learning experience for me as well as I play games with her. Given how little I knew about Chess going in, honestly, I almost had to learn something along the way, but we’re both growing as players—which is fairly awesome. She’s come a long way from the girl who played with a toy phone in the kitchen floor, and now, she’s exploring more advanced hobbies.Sewing and Chess

Chess, as it happens, is just one of the latest. She’s also tried making stepping stones, baking, and sewing.

Once upon a time…

Sewing, like you might have guessed, is the topic of this particular post since once upon a time she found herself wanting to explore the territory as a hobby. That hobby was encouraged when she got a toy sewing machine, but what I assumed would be the case turned out to be accurate. Those toy machines aren’t good strategies to teach your children how to sew. Even with all of the hours that I’d spent sewing, I couldn’t get the toy to work right, and I ended up encouraging her to just forget the machine and sew by hand. That strategy actually led to her progressing a bit, and it turned out better than if I’d left her alone to the machine.

But that brings up an interesting question. Sure, this toy wasn’t a good machine for my niece to learn sewing, but what about a real machine? Essentially, which is the better strategy to teach your children to sew: on a machine or by hand?Sewing with Kids

By hand

The answer, to me, is two-fold. If you want your child to finish an early project on a more individual basis, the sewing by hand method works better because there’s less chance for injury while working alone. Sure, the child might stick themselves with a needle, but it won’t be with the force and repetition that a machine can deliver. This would make the overall process safer, and even though you might argue that it could slow the project’s completion, keep in mind that if you were dealing with a child on a machine, you probably wouldn’t get the full speed that’s possible through using the machine because of safety and the child’s hesitance during the learning process.Sewing by Hand

Children can learn concepts that can benefit them later in life through this by-hand process, like how to tie off the thread or make consistent stitch sizes, and they’re doing so with less chance of serious injury. Still though, keep in mind that any needle can cause injury, so always supervise and only allow the child to try sewing in this method if they’re old enough—and mature enough—to handle it.

By machine

If you want your child to be at their safest rather than their most individual, it might be a good idea, believe it or not, to break out the sewing machine since the needle stays in the same vicinity during the process. Regardless, guidelines for these early sewing machine moments should definitely be in place to lessen the chance of serious injury. Although other people probably disagree, as an example, if my niece (who’s 12 now) sat down with full control of a machine and fed the fabric through, I’d be paranoid that she’d accidentally get her fingers caught under the needle because she’s never tried it.Sewing by Machine

There is a way to combat this complication, fortunately, and that’s a guideline to only allow your child to do certain things on the machine—as in either work the pedal or the feed the fabric through. This way, while your child is smaller, they can focus their attention on learning how the speed of the machine works through operating the pedal without getting near the needle. Once your child is older, you can switch places and let them feed the fabric through while you’re in charge of the pedal to make sure the fabric feeds slowly enough for their fingers to be in the right places every time the needles comes down. This keeps the child from learning to feed the fabric through at a too-fast pace and lessens the chance of injury. That’s a good combination to pass on sewing to your kids!Sewing Generations

If you choose not to decide – you still have made a choice

Basically, there’s room for both hand sewing and machine sewing. To make the call, you should consider child’s needs and capabilities, and always—always—think of safety first. Always supervise and guide your child through the process, whether it’s more individual-centered through a by-hand method or tag-team through dividing the sewing machine labor. If you plan these things right though, your child can blossom in the sewing world, and the roots to their success can trace back to these moments you shared over their early interests.

Sewing Projects to Prep for Winter

Sewing Projects to Prep for Winter

Where I live, it’s unseasonably warm at the moment, but we all know winter is on the way. Yes, first we’ll experience the glory and brilliant colors of fall, but those crisp days will quickly give way to cold, snowy winters. Now is the time when I and my neighbors begin to prepare for the near-hibernation that will get us through the winter. Much of this involves prepping our homes to retain the heat. There are several sewing projects that help with this task – and make it more fun!

window-265406_640

Draft dodgers

When the cool weather arrives, it’s easy to feel the drafts underneath doors. Even with weather stripping, not all doors form a tight seal against the elements. Sewing a draft dodger is easy and keeps the cold weather out of the house. I use my scrap pile to find a long enough piece of fabric and sew it in a long tube that will be high enough to cover the base of the door. Then stuff it with polyfill or beads. You can even add some ambiance by adding pine, lavender, or other aromatics before sewing it closed. If you’re feeling silly, create a cat, puppy or other furry friend face to attach to the outside.

Thick curtains

It’s common in this area for people to hang quilts over their windows to keep the heat in and the cold air out. While I understand the logic, I dislike blocking the natural light. Winter is dark enough without blocking windows. Instead, sew some thick curtains that can be tacked or pinned around the window sill and frame. This will still keep the drafts out, but will also allow light in. Burlap or linen backing on a material that matches your décor, perhaps with quilting in between, can work quite well.

Bedding

Personally, I love curling up under blankets in the winter so creating a fabulous, thick blanket for my bed is incredibly fun. I’m not a quilter, though if you are, making one that’s extra warm for winter would be immensely fun. Since I’m not, I have a great time finding fun fleece fabrics that coordinate with the rest of my bed linens and adding edging to them.

With these sewing projects, I know I’ll be warm and cozy this winter. If you’re in a cold area also, try them out and see how much warmer your home is this year.

What I Do At Work: Part XX

What I Do At Work: Part XX

The TV business is uglier than most things. It is normally perceived as some kind of cruel and shallow money trench … a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free and good men die like dogs…

– Hunter S. Thompson

I’ve had a couple extremely busy and rather annoying weeks at work. This past week, I altered somewhere close to twenty-five suits. That’s twenty-five suits while also doing a ridiculous number of fittings and a whole slew of other alterations as well. None of that is necessarily annoying on its own. What is annoying is when people aren’t good at scheduling and neglect to take into account the time it’ll take to complete an alteration.

As a TV and film tailor, I’m often the one who has a particular garment last, right before it goes off to set for an actor to wear. Which means, if someone didn’t schedule a fitting early enough or if they showed up late to a fitting, or they forgot about a fitting altogether, I’m the one who is under the gun. And I’m also the one who’ll get blamed if the clothes aren’t ready on time. Seems rather silly but that’s the way things normally work (no one ever said the film and TV business was a pretty or fair place).

As Hunter S. Thompson said, "The TV business is uglier than most things. It is normally perceived as some kind of cruel and shallow money trench through the heart of the journalism industry, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free and good men die like dogs, for no good reason."

As Hunter S. Thompson said, “The TV business is uglier than most things. It is normally perceived as some kind of cruel and shallow money trench through the heart of the journalism industry, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free and good men die like dogs, for no good reason.”

Often when I tell people that I work on television shows and movies, they say something like, “Oh that must be so much fun!” I suppose it has its moments but after the couple weeks I’ve just had, none of those moments seem all that fun.

So what can be done when you find yourself in work situations that are less than ideal? Here’s a short list of the things I do, or at least try to do when things are chaotic and disorganized around me.

Ask lots and lots of questions

 If I’m in a fitting and I know the actor is scheduled to work the next day and the designers are putting multiple outfits on him, I ask things like, “So, this is what he’s wearing tomorrow?” or “For the courtroom scene, he should wear this?”

The only way you’ll be able to ask lots of questions, is if you read all the paperwork. Which leads to the next thing on the list (which perhaps should be the first thing…)

Read all the scheduling paperwork production puts out

For every episode, the assistant directors put out a schedule called a One Liner. A One Liner is organized by shoot day, starting with shoot day one. It lists every scene to be shot that day, and which actors are in that scene. Every actor in a show is assigned a cast number and that’s how they’re listed on the One Liner. At the end (or beginning) of the One liner, all the characters are listed in numerical order so you don’t have to know off the top of your head what number each actor is. It’s called a One Liner because the scene descriptions are traditionally one line.

You probably already know this but, tv shows and movies are not shot in the order of what you see as the final product. Also, remember that sometimes things change at the last minute. Double check everything. Read the daily call sheet. Check in with the Wardrobe Supervisor to make sure they have everything they need for the next day.

Some TV and film tailors rely on the Wardrobe Supervisor or Costume Designer to let them know what garments to complete when. I like to be a lot more proactive than that, mainly because I hate last minute, “Oh I forgot I needed this tomorrow. Can you alter this before you leave?”

These types of requests at the end of a ten hour day can often be avoided if you’re informed about the schedule and who works the next day and ask questions early on. People get tired and overwhelmed and forget things (I do sometimes, too!) but one thing I dislike a lot is when someone else’s forgetfulness or disorganization means I have to stay at work late. Because, believe me, most Costume Designers, after dropping a big late afternoon alteration in your lap, aren’t going to hang around at work with you while complete it.

So, I just try and stay super organized and prevent those types of situations. Also…

Know when to say no

This is always difficult for me (and likely for most people) but, if a designer puts, say,  a suit jacket on an actor that doesn’t fit him in the shoulders (and it’s a contemporary suit they just purchased in a store), the answer to, “Can you move the sleeves?” is, “I can but it’ll look a lot better if you buy a suit in the proper size. And we really don’t have time for that extensive of an alteration.”

Same goes for men’s shirts that don’t fit correctly in the neck. Buy a shirt in the proper neck size.

There are a lot of things I like about the film and television business but, one of the things I don’t, is the delusion that making TV shows is akin to something as important as curing cancer or launching rocket ships. TV is great and all but, it’s not world and peril stuff.

Which is always something worth remembering.

Fabric Inspiration Autumn

Fabric Inspiration Autumn

September is almost over. I always say, “When the kids go back to school, it is almost Christmas!” Time just flies the last quarter of the year. Holiday planning starts now! It is time to design and find fabric for our holiday projects for our homes and thoughtful gifts for others during the last months of 2017.

Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower. - Albert Camus

Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.
– Albert Camus

Personally, the earlier I order fabric for holiday projects, the more I enjoy doing them. Holiday sewing is a great way to show your creative side and the options are so many. Fond memories of handmade things are always fun. Someday all the decorations at my house will be hand made.

Fall brings cooler weather, sweaters, handmade comfy scarves and jackets and an occasional whiff of burning wood from neighboring houses (hopefully my own).

I love fall. I love warm, dark colors and a soft quilt or blanket to cuddle up in while watching those great football games. Especially if I can sit in the stadium! Cool weather and cinnamon colors beckons me to sew cozy things! How about you?

Today, I am offering inspiration for you to follow my passion for fabric. Its great news!! Trust me!

SewingMachinesPlus.com has begun providing fabric online and in their brick and mortar store in California. If you haven’t yet looked on their website, you need to!

Let’s get going!

First visit www.sewingmachinesplus.com & on the Search Bar at the top, enter “fabric”. You can also visit the fabric page here.

Since I enjoy shopping for sewing, my desire is to fly to California and visit this mega-store in person, to see their highly rated products and experience their friendly employees and customer service, but for now, I want to preview a few things with you that I really like! Hopefully, you will be inspired to place an order for sewing products for your stash or to get a head start on the season of giving!

The first fabric I saw, and promptly ordered was:

Stonehenge Gradations Chips – The color is Bright Iron Ore. A quality fabric made by Northcutt and has colorations like stone.

A beautiful package of (forty two) 10 x 10 inch precut squares in Browns, Golds, Cream and gradient neutral colors which look like different pieces of colored stone.

A beautiful package of (forty two) 10 x 10 inch precut squares in Browns, Golds, Cream and gradient neutral colors which look like different pieces of colored stone.

A beautiful package of (forty two) 10 x 10 inch precut squares in Browns, Golds, Cream and gradient neutral colors which look like different pieces of colored stone. This was a perfect choice for me as I have designed our new home in neutral browns, cream and beiges. This reminds of of swirling marble or granite and a harmonious accent to neutral décor.

I am thinking about a table runner or napkins for our dining room table right in time for autumn dinner guests or anytime of the year paired with the appropriate colors for that season.

Burgundy shades with the creams for late winter events.

Burgundy shades with the creams for late winter events.

Or pair with the same brand in Burgundy shades with the creams for late winter events. Drumroll! Picture please!

There are (forty two) five inch squares in this package. I suggest perhaps 2 or more packages depending on the size of the project. Look for the Brights- Amethyst and Lagoon Colors as well. Fabuloso!! Rich looking colors!

Precuts are done in different sizes by the manufacturer and sometimes the shop and work great in many applications. Since they are already cut, it helps considerably when putting together projects.

For a larger taste of these pre- cuts that can go together in perfect harmony, go ahead and visit the website. Take note of all the various cuts that are available in other fabric designs. Pick the ones you love! Ask the experts about yardage on the ones you really like (I have to ask that question myself). And then, comment on my blog and tell me what appeals to you. Make the project and send us a picture. We would love to see what you make!

I’m going full circle for a while. I have ordered the fabric, started designing and will hopefully share with you what turns out to be a great addition to my handmade collection! Dream, design, shop and create!

Having a creative life is: sew good!!

Speaking of tastes, I just received a call from my husband *who is upstairs organizing his man cave*. It’s the usual question at 5:00 p.m Friday night, i.e. what’s for dinner!

Take care dears. See you again soon!

Traditional vs. Modern Quilts - What’s the Difference?

Traditional vs. Modern Quilts – What’s the Difference?

Do you understand the differences between traditional and modern quilts?

Let’s look and see just what sets these different styles apart.

Traditional quilts

Traditional quilts are tried and true. Folks have been piecing and quilting these familiar designs for hundreds of years. Traditional patchwork designs have names: Log Cabin, Courthouse Steps, Nine-Patch, Dresden Plate.  There are thousands of these traditional patterns, and these are based on blocks and a grid.

Traditional vs Modern Quilts-What's the Difference?

Traditional quilts use regularly repeating shapes and blocks, based on a grid.

Traditional patchwork can be simple or complex, but it is usually made up of many repetitions of the same block and orderly rows. These are frequently combined with uniform sashing between individual blocks and/or borders all around. They rely heavily on symmetry in both the patchwork and the quilting.

Traditional quilt patterns are still made and loved today, but we can say that these are our grandmothers’ quilts—and their grandmothers before them.

Traditional vs Modern Quilts- What's the Difference?

Modern quilts

As the name implies, modern quilts are something new. They are more experimental and rely less on rules and order.  Modern quilt designs began popping up in the last half of the twentieth century. But they really hit their stride just before the new millennium.

Modern quilts differ from traditional quilts in many ways. Traditional quilts rely on a grid of regularly repeating designs, symmetry, sashing, borders, often complicated patchwork, and simple quilting. In contrast, modern quilts go off the grid and use asymmetry, less fuss, minimalist designs, and a more improvisational style with unusual arrangements of blocks and settings.

Traditional vs Modern Qults- What's the Difference?

While there is a definite list of characteristics that categorize the modern quilt style, these are not rules. Most modern quilts will fulfill at least one but not usually all of them.  In general, modern quilt characteristics include a minimalist style; they emphasize negative space rather than intricate patchwork. They may feature bold colors and graphic designs that give high-contrast pop. And modern quilts often feature asymmetry and use unusual block placement and off-center motifs.

Traditional vs Modern Quilts- What's the Difference?

photo courtesy redheadwiththread

Modern colors and fabrics

Colors in modern quilts tend to be bold. High contrast graphic designs are created with brightly colored solid fabrics and striking modern prints. These are used more sparingly than in the more familiar repeating patterns which march across so many traditional quilts.  The focus is on the bold modern fabrics, rather than fussy technique.

Traditional vs Modern Quilts- What's the Difference?

Bold colors make modern quilts pop

Negative space and dense, innovative quilting

Negative space features heavily in modern quilts.  In traditional quilting, the repeating patchwork is meant to stand out. So traditional quilters most often construct backgrounds from neutral, receding colors. But backgrounds in modern quilts are brighter and more expansive. Whites and grays are popular choices to bring these negative spaces forward.

All this negative space highlights asymmetrical, alternate grid, or graphic modern quilting.  Simple piecing contrasts with dense quilting in innovative designs. Whereas patchwork commands attention in traditional quilts; on modern quilts, the quilting more often stands out.

Traditional vs Modern Quilts- What's the Difference?

Zig-zag modern quilting

No rules quilting

Traditional quilting stitches may be straight and simple lines, such as with “stitch in the ditch” lines that follow piecing seams. Or they can be elaborate curliques and designs which are deliberately and symmetrically placed to line up with wide borders. They may even meander as free-motion stipples, but these must follow rules, and not cross each other.

Modern quilters are free to abandon all these rules. Modern quilting lines may cross to form geometric patterns, irregular curlicues, or any other design an imaginative quilter can dream up. Quilters can even combine many varied stitches and feature each separately to break up a large expanse of negative space into different sections, for example.

Traditional vs Modern Quilts- What's the Difference?

Another quilt by Columbus Modern Quilt Guild member DanaK

Free-motion quilting is one way to let loose and experiment with fun and free modern quilting. To quilt in the free motion style, use your darning foot. You can either lower your feed dogs to guide your fabric by hand, or you can leave your feed dogs up and just set your stitch length to zero. Either way works!

Leah Day, who teaches free-motion quilting online, challenged herself to create a new filler design every day for a year. And her Free-Motion Quilting Project blog is an excellent resource and inspiration.

Off the grid layout

Patchwork in modern quilts can include off center or tessellated designs.  Modern quilts differ with much less reliance on uniform blocks and borders than is traditional and may feature irregular rows. Lack of borders and offset blocks create designs that continue beyond the quilt’s edge.  In general, both the patchwork and the quilting on modern quilts tends not to rely on a grid.

Traditional vs Modern Quilts- What's the Difference?

Example from Flickr user Gabrielle shows a modern, off-the-grid design

Modern quilts may make use of technology, such as computers for visualizing designs, and tools such as cutting machines or tessellating or other specialty rulers, to assist with cutting and design.

Traditional vs Modern Quils- What's the Difference?

This quilt by Columbus Modern Quilt Guild member shows a fun take on pixelation.

Hybrid design: modern traditionalism

You don’t have to choose between these two styles, however! Modern traditionalism is a hybrid of both. These quilts marry the improvisational freedom in design, piecing, and quilting of modern quilts with the traditional patchwork designs that connect us to the many generations of quilters before us.

A modern traditional quilt may shrink a traditional pattern and sprinkle these sparsely as isolated individuals amongst a wide expanse of negative space. Other modern treatments of traditional patchwork include combining patterns or enlarging blocks to a single design. A quilter may then feature such blocks this off center, for example.

Traditional vs Modern Quilts- What's the Difference?

Modern traditionalism features new settings for traditional blocks. Photo courtesy of Trillium Designs

Which style do you prefer? I love them all!

For more modern and modern traditional inspiration, check out the gallery at the Modern Quilt Guild.
Flickr images licensed under Collective Commons.
It's National Sewing Month!

It’s National Sewing Month!

As a writer, I was well aware there’s a National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) that happens in November. As a person who sews though, I had no idea there was a month dedicated to sewing, until this week. Imagine my surprise to find that not only does National Sewing Month exist, but it’s this month — September! Essentially, I found this detail out with less than a month left to officially celebrate, but I suppose learning late in the month is better than having to wait until next year to utilize the concept.

I was surprised as well that this status isn’t something that a random sewing fan made up. Rather, this is something that Ronald Reagan declared back in the 1980s. That’s right. This is a former president’s declaration, and it pretty much boggles my mind that something like a sewing month would be noted by a President of the United States. It seems solid evidence that the world of sewing is more far-reaching and popular than what I might have thought when I first dove into it.

Now that I’m aware — and maybe you are too because of this post — that this month is dedicated to sewing, the question arises about how to celebrate it. There are plenty of options to do so, but seeing as how over half of the month is already gone, whatever celebrating you do would have to be fairly quick-paced! Regardless, there are still ways to fit your celebration into your end-of-the-month schedule, like with these possibilities!

Make a quick project

While some sewing projects can take a long time to make, other projects can be done in a day or less — and these are great prospects at this point for celebrating National Sewing Month before it ends. This concept can vary depending on how fast you are with sewing. For instance, something like a quilt might be a project that one person can finish in a week while another person requires longer. A guiding factor for this possibility then is your own ability and time frame. If you can manage a bigger project, go for it! But if you feel more comfortable with something smaller, like a fabric coaster or throw pillow, choose one of those options. As long as you have enough time to wrap up the loose ends before October 1st, you’re in good shape!

A great idea for this project would be to work on a homemade gift that you can give someone later in the year for a Christmas present. This can give you space to craft that gift and an excuse to revel in a month dedicated to sewing. Win/win, right? If you’re looking for sewing projects, Sewing Machines Plus has free project ideas available here that you can browse through to find a National Sewing Month project.leaf-flower-petal-celebration-heart-food-1250761-pxhere.com

Take a sewing class

Sure, a number of programs that you can take have specific start and end times, and you can’t just decide for those options that you’re going to start a class right now. For other possibilities though, there’s room to maneuver, particularly if you take a class you can finish in a virtual setting with timed videos. Craftsy, for instance, has classes with videos of certain lengths, and if you schedule your time effectively, you can finish one of them by the end of the month.hand-needle-girl-woman-vintage-tool-706616-pxhere.com

One other option would be to start a program this month even though you know it’ll extend farther than the beginning of October. Penn Foster programs, as an example, can allow you that kind of freedom to simply decide to register for a class today and work your way through at a personal pace. It’ll extend beyond September, but September can still be the month that led to you making the choice to enroll.

Buy a new piece of equipment

If you want to treat this month as something worth celebrating, why not go all out and buy yourself a gift for the prospect? You could even extend the prospect outward by buying small sewing supplies for friends and family who enjoy sewing as much as you do, like new thread or fun pattern kits. This way, you can spread the enjoyment of National Sewing Month beyond your own personal collection.hand-sewing-sewing-machine-art-design-handicraft-759263-pxhere.com

That doesn’t mean you should feel bad about adding to your own sewing stash though, and there are plenty of ways to build your supplies in honor of the month. If you need a new sewing machine and can splurge just a bit, celebrate Sewing Month by bringing your dream sewing machine home. Check out Sewing Machine Plus’s site for possibilities on the matter!

Smaller details, like a new sewing kit or interesting fabric, can also be ways to celebrate the month if your budget won’t allow for a new sewing machine, and a few extra dollars can lead to a tiny contribution to your sewing supplies in honor of the month. If you can work even a new pack of straight pins into your budget, it’s a method of celebration!

In any event…

I feel a bit of camaraderie with my fellow sewing fans this month, given our shared interest that was valid enough for a president to declare a month for it.

So to these fellow craftsmen, happy National Sewing Month!

A Sewing Vacation

A Sewing Vacation

I need a vacation…

In the past week, I think I’ve said “I need a vacation” about a zillion times (yes, that’s a real number – not just a sewing measurement ʕ•ᴥ•ʔ). Ideally, I want the type of vacation where I’m not tied to technology. I want to check out from the world. Reading and sewing are high on the list of things I’d do during this much needed vacation. I’ve seen knitting cruises in the past and though I’m looking to get away from people right now, if a sewing cruise existed, I might be tempted.

sunset-86214_640

Fellow sewers and crafty people tend to be more fun and easier to get along with than the people I interact with regularly as a freelancer. Don’t get me wrong, I love my clients, I just need a break. As an introvert, extensive downtime is key to my survival.

Sewing is one of many ways I escape the stress and daily pressures of life, so you can understand why I’d be tempted with a sewing cruise. If any travel planners are among my faithful readers, here’s what I think it would look like. If you set one up through your travel agency, please reach out!

My ideal sewing vacation

My old singer is heavy, so if machines were provided, I’d be happy to use another machine for the duration of my trip. Also, I do like the cruise concept, even if it’s just around the coast line for a long weekend. In New England, Maine and Massachusetts both have boats that offer these type of trips. On the cruise ship, there’d be an area set up with sewing machines and the option to either choose a project offered by the trip organizers or bring one of our own.

As with any vacation, fabulous food to meet everyone’s dietary requirements and plenty of both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages are necessary. For living arrangements, standard rates for double rooms, of course, but I’d be willing to lay out some extra cash to have a single room and the break from people I’m looking for.

While it’s not necessarily something I’d be interested in, to keep the cruise exciting and fun for everyone, activities like speakers and classes would be excellent. By the time the ship arrivals back to port, we’d all have finished a fun project, enjoyed some serious relaxation, and maybe learned a little something and made some new friends.

What do you think? Would you go on a sewing vacation cruise?

French Alterations and a Wee Rant

French Alterations and a Wee Rant

French Alteration: Pinning a garment with a note about something you never intend to actually do – and no one ever knows or realizes!

At this point in my tailoring and patternmaking career, I tend to work with the same five or six designers. Mainly, because I enjoy working with them and our fitting styles and fitting room etiquette mesh.

“Fitting styles and fitting room etiquette?” you might ask, “I didn’t know that was a thing.”

Well, when it comes to TV and film fitting rooms, it is definitely a thing. I prefer to work with designers I know and respect because they, in turn, know and respect me. And, most importantly, they let me do my job. Which is to fit a garment on a specific person’s body.

Take it in

My fitting style is to survey the situation for a few minutes, to let the clothing settle on a person so I can see what it’s doing or what it wants to do. Then I go in and start pinning if I need to. Sometimes, I don’t need to, sometimes I can tell what needs to happen just by looking at it.

On the rare occasions these days when I work with someone who doesn’t know me very well, they often want me to rush right in and start pinning away before I’ve had a chance to actually look at things. Or, one of my big annoyances, they yank in the center back waist of a thing so the side seams are pulled all wonky and tell me I need to “take it in”.

Well, yes, it does need to be taken in, but not like that.

Fit preference

Sometimes they’ll even do this to a jacket without buttoning the front buttons, which means if I did take it in the amount they’ve grabbed, the jacket would never, ever, in a million years, be able to close.

I try to be as nice as possible and say, yes, I see that. Now, can you please let go so I can see what’s going on?

Costume Designers definitely have their own preferences when it comes to fit and hem lengths and stuff. I’m completely ok with that and will fit things how they like them fit but I’m not going to do something that will end up looking bad in the end (and for which, I’ll be the one who is blamed because, as in most things, people tend to blame the last person who touched a thing if something is wrong with said thing).

We tailors have this little term we use called a French Alteration. It’s when you pin something or write a note about something as if you’re going to do it but never actually do and no one ever knows or realizes.

Anyway, so back to fitting room etiquette. If there’s a designer in the room, I let them do all the talking and or schmoozing about how good something looks on someone. I just like to concentrate and do my job. Some tailors like to chat (which is perfectly cool if that’s your thing) but I like to listen to what the clothes are trying to tell me.

Brand fitting

One thing I’ve noticed about some designers is that they don’t always seem to understand that brands are cut differently and certain labels look better on certain people. Sometimes, you need to go through a whole slew of suit jackets to find the one that fits a specific body type the best. I can do pretty much any alteration but after a point its sort of foolish to spend a crazy amount of time altering a thing when you could possibly find a cut of jacket that works with minimal alterations. Like, if you need to shorten the body of a suit jacket, maybe you should buy a short (as in a 40short or something). Men’s suit jackets come in longs, regulars, and shorts for a reason. Use them.

I know I’ve mentioned this before but, one of my favorite designers to work for is Frank Fleming who, among all sorts of other things, is the Costume Designer for the show Power. Frank is the master at finding which suit brand and cut fits best on which actor. He can even usually tell which one is going to be best by just looking at an actor. I love that, ‘cause as much as I enjoy taking a suit jacket sleeve out, re-cutting the back and or shoulders and resetting the sleeve (not really), why not just start with a suit jacket that works on a specific body type and not do that?

I never went to school for costume design so I don’t know if they teach this little idea but, they should. It’s a huge time saver. And it really just makes sense.