Thursday, December 25, 2014

A Fabric Book (A going away gift)

Escape velocity from France has been obtained. It has been a lot of work, but next move: Germany! Seven months starting in January. Return to France? Yes. Scheduling is in the works for my return in a couple years. 

Not long after I moved to France, due to new French friends, I joined a Patchwork club in a town near by. As the token English speaker I think I contributed a lot to the flavor of the club. It does not go without saying they contributed an amazing amount to my skills and how I look at quilting and sewing in general. I am forever grateful to know such a great group of ladies.

A total surprise at one of the last meetings was a presentation that was made to me by the members of the club to honor my time I was with them as a member. Truly I am touched. What a fun gift to receive.

Let me take you on a tour of my fabric book...

The club is called Bout Tissus which is a way of saying "beautiful fabric". In the small town where the club meets, at the end of the main street is a chateau of sorts. It is actually partly modern and has an interesting eccentric recent history. With a tower like that, it is a main focal point of the town. It can be seen from the toll road as one travels from Paris to Saarbr├╝cken Germany. 
One of the members of the club thread painted the tower scene for the cover of my book. Wonderful isn't it?
You find yourself going back and forth comparing the two images.

Before opening the book, look at the really cool way it was bound. OK, now, lets page through the book. 

The first block used scraps from one the projects the club did. Unique and beautiful. I enjoyed learning that technique! I am guilted into it, now I need to do something with my block of altered fabric I made. Mine looks very similar in colors to the one here, just not cut into circles,triangles and half moons yet.

Page 2, What is not to like. We made a chicken apron at one of the club meetings. you can see mine here. I love crazy patch. The block on the left is beautiful with all of its muted colors. The twisted log cabin block has movement that is wonderful.

Page 3. At club last year everyone made a quilt which was a sewn block followed by an applique with embroidery block. Well almost everyone. I did not. I regretted it later and bought the books the designs are in so I could make it later. The design on the left looks like it right out of the pages of that quilt design. The block on the right is the first example of many where club members knew of my love for vintage lace. What a fun use of this embroidered English netting piece to make the sail of a boat.

Page 4. Butterflies, I am a sucker for butterflies. Add a lace butterfly to a flower applique, gorgeous! On the right, while in France my cats lived with my parents. Sadly both cats died this past year. One from cancer and one just plain old age. I will always think of Macy and Ginger when I see this block.

Page 5: On the right is a wonderfully embellished block. Pictures do not do it justice. The embroidery make it look rich and very touchable. On the left, now here is a fun one. The fabric transfer is of a postcard from 1915 of Jacobsplatz (Place St Jacques) in Metz France.
Here is the colorized version of the postcard:
In 1915 the "Virgin Mary on a Stick" did not exist. Near where it stands now, in the picture, is what appears to be a May pole. Superimposed onto the picture in the book, if you look closely is the silhouette of the Virgin Mary. Hard to see? Ok, here is a close up:
Also highlighted is where I lived on the 4th (American),3rd (French) floor. You can tell the Virgin Mary was a prominent fixture outside of my window every day. It is interesting to see how little the square has changed, although it changed quite a bit between what you see now and what was then. The square was a flower market and an ugly parking lot in between. Now once again it is a square for the Christmas market in late November and most of December and a vibrant restaurant and cafe district the rest of the year. Loud to live there? Yes at times. but the people watching was the best part of living there.

Page 6: Owls with button eyes. Love it! Notice the lace bits and the stamped fabric background. Just plain fun!  On the right, again vintage lace this time used as a frame for a beautifully hand embroidered flower.

Page 7: The "Jardin de Grand Mere" or known in English "Grandmother's Flower Garden" block is a wonderful example of English paper piecing. The colors are perfect as it the use of a flowered button in the center. The use of it as an applique was part of the quilt the club made last year. On the right is a crazy patch block with kitty meows on it. More memories of my cats and one of the techniques we used at our meetings several years ago.

Page 8: Butterflies, vintage edging on a Jardin de Grand Mere flower. I think these ladies know me well. On the right the iconic and truly American Sunbonnet Sue done in red, white and blue, love it! 

Page 9: Vintage lace show up yet again on both blocks. If you think France is awash with vintage lace, you would be correct. One of my favorite past times was to search out vintage lace for future projects.  Easy to find once you figure out where to look. You just can't be picky about what you find and you need to buy it when you find it. The imaginative uses of the old lace just astounds me. Well done!

Page 10: Appliqued lucky clover and embroidery with a button accent in the center,  on the left and more vintage lace on the right. I am sorry to say,  why did I not think of doing this more? Check out the beading on the flower piece of lace. This addition adds so much interest to the block.
Here is a close up of the beading work.

On the left is a Beautiful crazy patch block with hand embroidered seam lines, made even better with the addition of a butterfly/flower in the center and the vintage lace medallions. On the right is a sampler of Broderie Swiss (in French) or chicken tracks (horrible name in English). 
We learned Broderie Swiss at the club several years back. I used one of my samplers on my jacket and I finished a small Christmas ornament. I thought it would be fun to make for the annual Christmas ornament exchange I am in each year, but it turned out to be FAR too much work to make just the one. I can't image making 4 more of them. The pencil is there so you can gauge the size of the ornament. It is two sided so that it was twice the work.

On the left, another technique we learned at the club. Great mosaics can be fashioned using small pieces of fabric. We were encouraged to make pictures of animals of trees using this technique. On the right is the log cabin block beautifully done in shades of brown and off white.
A wonky log cabin type block with machine specialty stitching. Most interesting is the fabric which ties in all sorts of newspaper headlines from Johnson being sworn in after the assassination of John Kennedy to the president Eisenhower's signature making  either Alaska (July 7 1958) or Hawaii ( March 18 1959) a state. Farther back in history, the Titanic hitting an iceberg and the Virginian goes to her aid. Funny how you focus in on what the fabric says when it is in your mother tongue. On the right is again one of the techniques we did this past year of the Jardin de Grand Mere flower appliqued onto a block with embroidery and other appliques used to complete the block. I love this technique!

Now the reason I did not make several of the projects at the club was because I was sewing other projects that I wanted to finish. The block on the left captures so  what I was up to while I was in France. Nothing said we had to do every project, so many I stepped back and watched others create amazing things. On the right is an art form I am going to try - Hardanger. Several of the ladies in the club made the most amazing things. Here in this block is a small example of the work I so admired:

On the right, crazy patch, hand embroidery and butterflies. I love the use of rick rack and embroidery. These ladies know me well! The block is beautiful. On the left is embroidery mixed with vintage lace.  And not just any vintage lace, The vintage lace is a reinforced battenburg lace. 
There is a wire down the center of the lace tape so that the lace tape can be molded to any shape. 
Vintage wise when I find this it lace tape, it was made into a collar or a waistband. Once I found it on a old window curtain. The embroidery is beautiful. The butterfly, (You are not surprised to find one here are you?) appears to be a doily that was folded in half and bound with the same yarn used to make it. I found myself unfolding it to figure out if that is what it was. It is my best guess.

On the left, a Sewing machine! Applique and embroidery. Notice the vintage lace along the 4 corners. I love the use of vintage and embroidery! The Machine just brings in that vintage feel. On the right is a really fun block using machine specialty stitches and couched metallic yarn. Across the top is eyelet edging and the use of blue both the dark stitches and the light fabrics makes your eye look over the entire block.

On the left, a bobbin lace heart in red, just beautiful and well made. the background is perfect to show it off. Love it! On the right is another well made bobbin lace heart with an oval vintage picture embroidery stitched to the background linen. The embroidered flower and ribbon work embroidery give this block a beautiful vintage look. I could stare at it all day.

Finally the last page, All of the members of the club in order who produced a block for my going away book. Thank you all of you!

As the book is closed, there are many ways to say goodbye, or rather until we meet again to both the patchwork club and to France. Planning says I will be back, but until then:

Monday, December 15, 2014

Christmas Ornament exchange

Every year I participate in a Christmas ornament exchange. Rules are simple, you make an ornament 5 times and exchange it with others on the list you are provided. As long as it is a Christmas ornament, any crafting technique works. This year I wanted to see if I could make something using yogurt tops. You know the metallic cover that seals the yogurt contents inside of its container? In countries like France, mostly these are plastic but in Germany, more commonly, they are some sort of metallic material.

I know it sounds odd, but given yogurt lids:
Make an ornament. How hard could it be? 

It turns out it was really easy and fun. All I needed was some Mod Podge (Decopatch), a cookie cutter, bits of fabric, vintage lace (dyed to match), scissors, heavy thread (I used 12 weight sulky Blendable cotton thread), a sponge, a paint brush, a sewing machine and I was ready to go. 

I tried several different options for fabric, see failure at the bottom of this blog. Finally I decided on using a medium weight Danish linen from my stash. They were not Christmas colors, but I loved the muted tones. 

From the lace stash:
Not bad, but no match to the Danish linen so I cut pieces and dyed them: 
Much better and, Ohhhh pretty!

The pattern for the Christmas ornament is from a cookie cutter, I am a sucker for Butterflies. I found the cutter in Paris earlier this year at Bon Marche. It appears to be British. Three different sizes of the same butterfly leads to a lot of options.
Here they are partially completed. Esay do to they are straight stitched along the edges which means there may be slight fraying. the Mod Podge should hold it together.
Antennas, how to do the antennas... Mod Podge of course! Notice the use of two different sizes of the butterfly, one was not enough to get the desired effect The fancy tail lace pieces were just knotted in.
Just in case you think I have no failures,I have to start somewhere and here is the first try at this ornament. It just did not work. I mean nothing, not the color, the satin stitch edging, the one cut of the butterfly or the fancy tail. Total yuck! In my mind was the finished product, but I loved to colors of the failure, it just did not and would not work for this project.
Now here is the completely finished butterfly. Due to the metallic interior, the butterfly can be molded to be 3 dimensions. How cool is that? 

Photographing turned out to be the hardest thing to do, but after taking far to many pictures, these are the best that show the 3 dimensional look for the butterflies.
As you can see, the upper and lower wings can be spread and molded into what ever pleasing effect needed.
I love the way the fancy tail hangs. How fun it that? Here is hoping those who get this ornament like it.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Isn't he cute?

Last project of the year in my patchwork club was to make some really cute stuffed felt items. I choose to make an owl Christmas ornament.  
I just love the eyes which are buttons I had in my stash. I think it gives him personality. Don't be fooled by his size, he is about 1.5 inches or 3 cm tall. Sew Cute!

While others were making all kinds of other felt items, I decided to complete the embroidery for the Christmas ornaments that were started at Patchwork France last month. I am sure I will finish for next year's tree but I have too much going on right now to complete them now.

You may remember this one, the snow man:

Well when I finished him I made a Rudolph a red nosed reindeer:
And then lastly, a Christmas stocking:
Now all I need is time next year to finish them. 

Friday, December 5, 2014

A Fabric Covered Notebook

My Patchwork club did a notebook cover project day. It has been a long time since I made one of these and they are very easy to make.

A couple weeks prior, a friend had emailed me, call her an "enabler". "You need this fabric" she wrote, sending me a link to Au Fil d'Emma. She was sew correct, I did need that fabric!

Now an interesting thing about living in France is that the rest of the world looks at France with rose colored glasses. There is something romantic about France that attracts people. Those attracted are called Francophiles. There are a lot of them in the world. So much so, that as a hobby I collect badly worded French fabric. Normally this fabric is out of Japan, but the US makes some interesting mistakes as well in the fabric and projects found there. I am not an expert in any language including English, I dangle my participles with the best of them, but I do enjoy finding the lack of spell check on fabric.

The French however, are by definition Francophiles as they are French after all. 

Now what does that have to do with fabric? 

If I see French style fabric anywhere but France, by the time I get to it, it is either sold out or slim pickings. I hate that! In France however, it is there and not as popular. Things in any other language, English for example, have the same appeal here and French does everywhere else.

The fabric on the website I was pointed to by my very nice enabling friend was called "I Dream of Paris" and it is from Windham.  I bought the 1/4 meter cut selection and two rows of postcards.
At about the same time, one of the ladies in my club brought me a small bag of lace bits that have been stored at her house of years.
Here it is after it has been washed and pressed. 
When the fabric arrived, something wonderful happened! There was a color match!

Yippy! It is not often that I don't have dye lace to match the fabric I am going to use. How nice for a change.

For the club meeting we were asked to have our top ready to go. One of the frustrating things that happened as I worked my design was that the postcards were not the same size. Here is a picture of my top and clearly one of them is taller than the other. 
It is probably not wise to stretch the shorter one or gather to shrink the longer one so I just designed around it. As they will be on different sides of the book, it should not be an issue. I was able to incorporate 2 of the 3 matching vintage laces into my book cover.

You might notice some wrinkles at the top my the word musee. 
This piece was ironed onto a firm Sulky stabilizer called Fuse 'n Stitch. Any wobbly stitches that may not be noticeable when it is just fabric shows itself in detail when ironed onto the stabilizer. I had to go back and fix that part as well as several other places. I knew if I did not my eye would be drawn to the problem area for the  rest of the notebook covers life.

The Fuse 'n Stitch, although not required for this project was cut to the exact dimensions of the notebook (when it is closed). Stabilizer in this project is objective. I wanted firm and crisp not soft and possibly saggy.

Construction of the notebook was pretty straight forward. For my lining fabric I used a plain muslin scrap I had laying around.

Here is my finished product.

I added a silk ribbon to mark the page to the cover and at the bottom I sewed on a little Eiffel Tower.
I am pleased with the results. No question, I am going to use this notebook in the future.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Souvenirs de France

Several years ago one of the women in my patchwork club made a beautiful red wall hanging. She had several bags of left over fabric and when I expressed interest she "loaned" them to me. I was to take what I needed and give back the rest. I did not want a wall hanging, when I looked at those fabrics, I wanted a jacket.

In my stash I have an old pattern for a jacket that I have modified and made more than once. My pattern is on a piece of plastic and in the pattern pack are my notes of where I changed the original (I seem to recall Simplicity, vintage, 1980s...) I changed the sleeves so they were less cupped and symmetrical (something you do not do for shirts, but for a loose jacket it is just easier to assemble. 

Years ago, when rag quilts were all the rage I made a jacket using this pattern. I still wear it. I added patch pockets and came up with a fun easy way to attach the collar. This collar attachment is to easy so someone must have done it before, but my notes are really from the early days of the internet where we did not have the resources we have now. I have it in my notes what to do, good thing too because to reinvent the wheel would take me a little thought process.

All of the red pieces meant that I needed to piece them together. I decided to do the rag quilt method again just because I thought the texture would be nice with the red, mostly linen, fabrics. As this is a souvenir I wanted to capture what I like about France. So here is a tour of my jacket.

In an old copy of Mon Ouvrage I found a raised work French knot butterfly. I love butterflies. I forgot to write down the publication date of the butterfly, but it is most likely late 1940 to early 1950.

Here it is on my jacket
Since I sew, I wanted  a dress form. From Pinterest I found a couple of ornate ones and so I copied and modified one of them I found.  To the left is my drawing and there it is on the jacket.
Next up was the  Eiffel Tower of course. Again I found photos and traced off the design.
I love cats but can not have one, or any pet for that matter. Going again on line I found images of cats and drew my rendition of what a proper french cat would do given the chance.
Here it is on the jacket. Pierre, le chat rouge needed a moustache, don't you think?

One of the techniques we learned at my patchwork club was Broderie Swiss or chicken scratch (horrible name). Here is the piece that I was able to incorporate into the jacket.
 In an vintage copy of La Mode Illustree I found a line backstitch pattern. This pattern was one of 4, the other 3 you had to mail order for a small fee. Just darn! I do not think I can order it now. the other 3 designs were just as nice as this one. I failed, like the butterfly to write down the dates of the publication, but it was most likely 1897. 
I copied it off and then penciled in the lines so that they could be better seen. It was then traced on to the fabric. Here is my rendition of the design

Finally what the jacket looks like in its entirety, here is the front:

And back: