30 June, 2011

Privilege, art and asshattery

Warning, rant ahead!

I was going to do a nice post tonight with a couple of shout-outs and a picture or something but I've got something on my mind and I think I need to talk about that instead. Unbeknownst to me until today, there has been some sort of hate-in going on Heather Ross. Were you aware of it? The first I knew was on her blog today, which led me to True Up (which I also read but must have missed that post), and then, and I really wish I hadn't, on to the offending blog posts. I'm not going to link to them because I don't want it to up their numbers, you can get there through True Up! I think Kim at True Up said it really well, and I'm not going to rehash the whole argument, but if you have a few minutes and feel like reading up on it a little, then I'd love to hear your thoughts. My thoughts are this:
  1. I'm obviously white and privileged because I'd never noticed most fabrics with people in them show white people. This bothers me and I'm really pleased that I've had my eyes opened to it. Not that I ever really buy fabrics with people in them, but obviously it's really important to other people to find themselves represented there and fair enough.
  2. Why do they think that telling Heather Ross how to draw her pictures is in any way ok or even vaguely reasonable or sane, or that it's ok to call for a boycott of her products until she starts including other skin tones than white? 
  3. Would they demand that other famous artists change the way they create art so that it suits them a bit better? Makes them feel more comfortable? Is prettier? Has more blue in it? Would they tell a black and white photographer to use colour because it's more realistic? 
  4. Does having a privileged (as in, not a disadvantaged minority), white childhood mean that it's not acceptable to talk about or depict it? Isn't that also racism? Am I expected to disown my childhood?
  5. Should we expect people to alter the past to fit in better with that is considered acceptable today? Does that mean we should stop looking at art created by people in the past? What about books?
I think that this topic, the one of inclusivity, should absolutely be talked about - and when I started reading the original posts I was actually feeling quite positive about it. But by the end of them, and the comments, I was so angry I had to walk away from the computer. Not because of the inclusivity issue, but because of #2 above, the general self-absorption of some of those commenters, and the always present fact that the internet is full of rude, nasty and angry people. Suggesting that someone shouldn't represent their childhood, or some version of it, because it doesn't resemble yours and you, personally, don't relate to it? I mean really? You said that in public? And thought it was a good thing? I mean, god forbid that people should take this issue to the people who really need to address it, that is the manufacturers who buy or commission the fabric lines from the artists, or to, I don't know, society as a whole? Why make Heather Ross responsible for the fucked up state of race relations around the world? And I think the thing that really made my brain hurt the most, was the fact that people have actually emailed her and told her she should be altering her designs and her style and that she's doing it wrong. I just...I mean...I...I'm not getting my head around the effrontery. Not that she's like, perfect or anything, but isn't the normal thing to just not buy the stuff? Or go and design your own fabric at Spoonflower? You know, put your money where your mouth is? And then, when the person you're lobbing great lumps of turd at gets mad at you, and leaves a grumpy comment or two, why would you then say things like "well, she's not nearly as nice and full of light and happiness as her drawings suggest!" No, she's not - she's a real person, with feelings and a brain. Do these people not realise how unpleasant they're being? I'm assuming they actually think they're being constructive, or helpful or something. And then there's the academics in there, being clever and snide, laughing at all the plebs and using big words. It's not a good look, and as an academic I bloody resent how it tars the rest of us with the same brush.

Sorry, I've gone all ranty here, but jeez I'm really mad at all those rude people. When I rule the world rude, self-absorbed people better watch out. And bad drivers...

Yeah, so how was your day? Before I got all mad and ranty I started making Hazel some togs! It might be a success or a  huge disaster. Only time will tell. I'm very nervous though!

25 June, 2011

It's a Plus

I've started working on another cushion cover, using a pattern adapted from the Lap Quilt in 'I Heart Patchwork' by Rashida Coleman-Hale, one of my favourite books. Though having said that, this is my first actual project from it! I love looking through it and dreaming :) And you know what? Dream projects always turn out perfectly in my mind, and enhance my life and make me much cooler and happier. Is it any wonder I have a bit of a thing for craft books?

So, here is the cushion cover so far:

It's A Plus cushion cover

The quilt pattern was adapted from a doll's quilt over at Soto Softies, and since that's about the size I was after I thought it would make an excellent cover.  I didn't have a huge number of suitable blues in my stash so was constrained by that but I think they go together quite well on the whole. I figured the basic block size should be 1.75" (sorry about the imperial and metric together, my metric brain can't help but think of inches like this!) to yield a piece of about 20" square, sorted out which fabrics would be which squares (nearly blew my mind on that alone) and got cutting. That was fine and I had beautiful little stacks of squares and rectangles and I started sewing them into strips and then put the first 10 strips together and they matched and looked really good! And that's when things started to go wrong...

Suddenly the squares weren't matching up, things were up to 5mm short in places and I couldn't figure out why! Then I realised that, gasp!, I'd managed to include some poly/cotton fabrics in my assortment and they'd shrunk with the hot iron! They were both fabrics from ages ago and I had no idea what they were made of - well to be honest it never crossed my mind to wonder! I thought I'd ironed everything on hot before I cut, but obviously not hot enough. So I ironed and steamed those fabrics really hard and recut the pieces. But I think they were still shrinking or something, because by the end things were so out of whack that I was having to restitch seams narrower and fiddle around to get most of the squares to match but not all of them. If you look at the closest rows you can see things not matching up, and when I look at the piece as a whole, I can see it gradually expanding in width as I went.

I really REALLY should have stopped when I first had a mismatch and figured out what was going on - or started sewing in from the other side and worked it out in the middle - but no, I had to press on. And what I really really REALLY should have done is stopped and removed the polycottons (the navy blue with white spots and the dark navy plain) and found replacements. But that would have meant going out and buying something and I was proud this was all from my stash and I was lazy and feeling cheap, and I wanted to do this NOW, so I didn't. Lesson learned. This isn't the first time I've had issues with cheap polycottons and jeez you'd think I'd learn wouldn't you? But no, every time a sucker! I need to purge my stash of any remaining substandard fabrics because I obviously can't be trusted to not use them. Anyways, after much swearing, unripping, resewing, unripping, and swearing, things mostly match up and won't be too noticeable when it's squared up with a border around the outside. I hope! I'm not redoing it at anyrate :P

And lest anyone feel that I'm being too hard on myself, I honestly do consider self-criticism an essential part of my crafting process. If I can't reflect on how I could have done it better then how can I hope to improve? It's the same in academia - if you can't take criticism on your work and use it constructively, no matter how crap it makes you feel at the time, then you won't improve. So please don't tell me not to be critical of my work or think that I don't like what I've done - I do! I wouldn't show you anything I wasn't at least moderately proud of :)

20 June, 2011

There's a city out there...

...somewhere behind the steadily pouring rain they said was just going to be "showers".

The only good thing about rain in Auckland is that it generally comes straight down so all you need is an umbrella. And gumboots.

18 June, 2011

Quilted pillow in reds

Quilted Pillow in reds

...or 'In Which I Learn That Perfectly Straight Is Much Harder Than Wonky'

I'm gradually trying to replace the grey-patterned pillows on our couch with lighter and more interesting covers. For my second one I decided to have a go with white and a pop of colour, and went with red scraps I have left over from my red quilt. I used the Picket Fence tutorial over at Made On Maple to get me started

with some inspiration from Oh Fransson's Chopped Vegetables pattern.

So the wonky thing - both the inspirations are wonky, but I thought I'd rather go with the more traditional stacked coin look and cut everything nice and straight. The thing with that though, is if your linen fabric (the white) is stretchier than the coloured cottons, then it won't come out perfectly straight no matter how hard you try. So you end up with something that is neither wonky nor completely straight! The pillow is close enough really and only I'll know to look at it, but a good lesson to learn :) The linen does have a lovely sheen to it though, which doesn't come through in the photos.

I was really pleased to be able to use some of my 'In the Neighbourhood' houses fabric from Ruby in the Dust - I didn't get it in time to use in my red quilt. My other favourite in here is the Kei Honeycomb dots, there's something perfect about that fabric! I've almost used it all up, but luckily the FQ I won at the Modern Quilt Guild is virtually the same, so I'm not totally out of red with big fat white spots (thank goodness, it's my all-time favourite design).

Quilted pillow in reds - detail

Family reactions: Mat refuses to commit to any particular colour scheme in the living room, but has said he thinks there's enough red (the curtains are quite a heavy red and the rug is a red Persian one) so I think my next pillow will be blue.  When she saw me holding the cushion after photographing it, Hazel paused in a stream of chatter about ponies or something like that to say "that's good work you know" and went back to chattering. That's one thing good thing they don't generally tell you about having kids - they make you laugh!

15 June, 2011

Modern Quilting

I went to the first meeting of the Auckland Modern Quilt Guild last night and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I'm really excited to be part of it and am looking forward to more meetings, challenges, classes etc. It was great seeing everyone's quilts and just talking about quilting in general - something I don't get to do very often in person!  I even got a prize for having the most photos up on the site - a lovely FQ of red with white spots. Perfect! I highly recommend joining up if you haven't already.

And because a post needs a photo, here's one of a camellia that Mat bought to replace the large ones by the front door we cut down before we painted. I think it's called Yuletide, or something Christmassy anyways.


I took it at the same time I was photographing the Batch of Brownies quilt, the colours must have lodged in my brain :)

Red and yellow detail

14 June, 2011

Next cab off the rank

Here's the most recent quilt top, it's the Batch of Brownies pattern from Elizabeth Hartman's The Practical Guide to Patchwork, which I got for Christmas.  Another present I got for Christmas was a gift certificate from my friend Sarah, for a fabric shop in Edmonton.  Although it wasn't a quilting shop per se, they did have a fairly extensive selection of basic prints and solids and I knew I had all this linen at home and so the two presents combined very well! It's an awful picture because it's an overcast and dreary day today.

Batch of Brownies Quilt top

The thing about choosing fabrics from a non-quilting shop is that you're rather constrained in your choices, and no picking fabrics from one line or anything like that! I didn't care for the fabrics used in the book (I just really really don't get that whole camouflage and deer print thing, it was too like home decor of a friend's house when I was a kid!) but I loved the linen she used for sashing so decided to go with more primary colours. As soon as I started sewing it I suspected it was going to be a heck of a lot brighter than I'd intended! And so it was. I really can't make up my mind about it it - on one hand I like it a lot, but on the other hand it's the kind of quilt I admire on other people's blogs but wouldn't really want myself. The orange is a smidge too orange, and the pink is verging on garish Barbie pink. My favourite print of the lot is the yellow, with overlapping circles. But still, overall it's not bad. Hazel likes it anyways! I added sashing top and bottom, which isn't in the pattern, but it's a still little too short for her bed. I did wonder about trying to slot in another row, but since all I have left of the fabrics is small scraps it would take a lot of cutting and fiddly stuff. Doable but probably not worth it! It just won't tuck in at the end of the bed is all.

Plate of Brownies quilt

It's definitely the most technically proficient quilt I've done so far, and I'm really proud of that. It was the first time I've sewed up blocks and then cut and resewed them to get different arrangements. The blocks lined up and everything stayed pretty straight, which is more than I can say for my red quilt! Oddly though, I had trouble with the red blocks, if anything was out it was always those. I don't know what it was - the weave of the fabrics, maybe they shrunk a bit with ironing?

The next step is to figure out backing and quilting. I'm a bit nervous about using linen for the backing because I can see it puckering and stretching something wicked, but perhaps if I sprayed it with starch and then used spray adhesive instead of pinning everything together? Might be worth a try anyways.

Loved the pattern though, super-easy to follow and substitute other fabrics in. I think that's one of its major strengths, aside from the nice patterns! I got a Kafe Fasset book out of the library yesterday and I think it would be nigh-on impossible to do most of those patterns in anything else but the specified fabrics. Certainly not worth the bother of figuring it out when you have books like Elizabeth's instead.

12 June, 2011


In truly stereotypical fashion, Hazel has become obsessed with horses - or ponies as she usually calls them. She would die to have one and regards anyone who does as extremely lucky. And she tells me that almost daily, inbetween pretending to be a pony who is lost and needs a new owner (me). Or sometimes she's a working pony who needs to pull things around behind her. Or a racing pony who gallops around maniacally and demands that you hold the reins.

She's not the only pony-obsessed little girl I know, the other day I overheard a conversation between two of her classmates, T and E.

E: ...and we could save up all our pocket money and buy a pony!
T: Oh E, that would take us years and years to do and we'd be all grown up.
E: Yeah [in a disappointed voice]... I knew someone who saved up and then she bought a pony and she was almost nine years old.

I wanted to hug them.

10 June, 2011

Autumn colours

Autumn blueberry

It has to be said that in general Auckland doesn't do autumn colours very well, and this year has been particularly bad since it was the warmest May on record and June seems to be heading that way too. However, our two blueberries came up trumps this year, perhaps they actually like warm, humid, drizzly and overcast weather!

Autumn blueberry

It's particularly foul out at the moment, so I'll just stare at these pictures and remember the lovely foggy morning yesterday when I took these. Hazel's school put down a hāngi for lunch today, hope the rain doesn't affect it too much. I wondered if they'd even get it lit this morning to be honest, but they were meant to be doing it at 5am so may have beat the rain. The smoke certainly smelled lovely this morning when we arrived! I'm pretty of jealous of the kids actually, it's such good food! Or kai I should say :)

09 June, 2011

The red quilt finished!

With the Modern Quilt Guild having its first meeting next week I suddenly felt the need to actually have something to take along! So I hauled the red quilt top and backing out of the pile of intended projects and actually put the thing together. I really do work best to deadlines :)

Red Quilt

I started quilting along either side of the seam lines of the blocks (it turns out this block pattern is called a rail fence btw), intending to do the same with the strips inside the blocks, but my enthusiasm for quilting ran out and I did long diagonal lines across the the quilt instead. I'm not entirely sure if that's close enough though - any thoughts from the more experienced quilters among you?

Red quilt

You can see the quilting a bit better on the back

Red quilt back

I'm still working on getting the back to sit as flat as the front. I did all the taping and pinning as per instructions but still ended up with some puckering which really annoys the perfectionist in me! But it's not so bad that I'm going to redo it. I'm wondering if spray basting might be the road for me?

The binding is scrappy, which I quite like, and I think I'm as happy with the simplicity of the back as I am with the riot of red on the front - it's truly reversible!

Red Quilt Back

I have my other quilt top all done too, just need to think about the backing and quilting. My machine will only do straight lines, which is a bit limiting, but to be honest I found that meandering free quilting rather daunting when I tried, and I'm still not entirely sure I like it all that much, so perhaps I either send stuff out to get done more fancy-like, or stick with my lines! Anyways, that's another post :)

02 June, 2011

Hi, my name is Jacqui...

...and often my daughter won't wear the clothes I make her. It's my crafting shame and not one often talked about in blogland it seems. In blogland all children are enraptured by their mothers' creations, love wearing them, demand more and wear them endlessly. And after gorgeous photos are taken of the item in question, everyone goes off and has organic snacks while playing educational games or communes with nature and some pinecones and then everyone is home-schooled. I wish I lived in blogland...

But no, I live here and there is refusal, sugar, school, Barbies, arguments and tv. And also quite a lot of smooching and cuddles :)

This reflection was brought on by my production of three pairs of really kick-ass leggings that were roundly rejected and one pair was literally flung across the room with the comment "these are the worst pants in the world!" Yeah, we're working on a few anger-management issues in our house at the moment, added to which she's a stubborn and head-strong little so-and-so and has very decided views on what she is willing to wear. I'm actually holding out hope for the leggings as it's progressively getting colder and and even Hazel can't continue to try and dress like it's summer for much longer; but until the moment when rationality kicks in and her legs get cold, those leggings are O. U. T. baby.

But the item that she rejected that really kills me, like actually breaks my heart, was the Zigzag Dress from last year:

Zigzag Dress

I initially bought the Nani Iro fabric for me on my pilgrimage* to Purl Soho, and adored it, but the only time she wore it was for these photos. I can't let it go even though I know it'll never get worn! 

So tell me lovely people - what have YOU sewn that hasn't been a success and that still bothers you? Leave a story or a picture or a link to it in the comments and we can all commiserate, pat you on the back and admire the item. Join me in my pity-fest tonight! The more the merrier!

To aid my recovery from the leggings debacle I've been sewing up a quilt! And you know what? She wants it on her bed. If you can't get them one way, sneak around the back and attack them from another direction.

*I'm not joking, it totally was!


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