Saturday, May 17, 2014

Alabama Chanin Love

A few months ago, I saw a photograph of one of Natalie Chanin's beautiful skirts on Pinterest and became interested in the idea of making clothing using her techniques. I purchased her book, Alabama Studio Sewing and Design, and a new obsession was born.

Her website is Check out her DIY store.

My first project is a long sleeved t-shirt, (the first of three), constructed for the wedding of a close friend. They are opting for a very informal wedding on the beach at Tofino, and are wearing jeans and t-shirts. We opted for a long sleeved design as it is often very windy and cold on the beach in May. I am making a shirt for the two bridesmaids and the bride.

Here is the completed first shirt:

The clothing is sewn 100% by hand. The design is stencilled on to the hand-dyed organic cotton fabric, hand embroidered and the top layer of fabric strategically cut away. Swarovski pearls have been applied to the design. The pattern is Simplicity 5428. I adapted one of Alabama Chanin's stencil designs to make a border that frames the neckline of the shirt.

Needless to say, the bride's shirt will be more elaborately beaded and embroidered.  I have stencilled the neckline, front and back and the sleeve hems on her shirt, which will feature white on white embroidery, beading with pearls and crystals, and glass beads. I have two weeks to get the other two shirts finished....

Detail from embroidery on second bridesmaid's shirt.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Sidelined Again

In my last post, I vowed to finish my unfinished Christmas presents before starting anything new....
Finished stocking for Adella

I was only partly successful. Alas Dad's Christmas socks and Callum's Christmas stocking remain in UFO limbo. I have a good excuse this time....


A friend of mine, Sharon Leitch, who is teaching a nursing program, asked me to create a quilt as a teaching aid. This quilt was to be approximately 3 feet square, and the theme was to be person-centred senior's care. She gave me a list of words/concepts she wanted included in the quilt, and asked me to brainstorm. 

I immediately became completely absorbed it the project, to practically the exclusion of anything else, for about 3 months. I finished it in April, sewing on the label 10 minutes before handing it over to Sharon! 

I envisioned the quilt as a 13 block quilt, medallion-style, with 12 smaller blocks surrounding a centre block. We talked about the word reflection, and discussed using a reflective substance in one of the blocks. I became enamoured of the idea of somehow mounting a mirror in the centre block. 

I decided to crazy quilt the squares, using parts of vintage linens and doilies in the blocks. I wanted to incorporate photographs into the quilt as well. I learned a lot about playing with photos in Photoshop Elements on the fly, and then printed the photographs on to fabric. I crazy pieced and hand embroidered my blocks, embellishing them with beads and words. Each small block took approximately 8 to 10 hours to create. The centre medallion block took hours longer -- I am not sure how many. I hand-dyed many of the embroidery threads and silk ribbon used in the piece.

So here it is...

"Do You See Me?"

Quilt concept by Sharon Leitch, designed and created by Susan Sharkey. Texada Island, BC.  2013

Do You See Me? - You can see me in the mirror taking the photo!

Center Medallion block. Who do you see??

Respect. I am particularly fond of the doily/button detail.


A block to represent work history.

Some photos of friends and family at leisure.

Love/Companionship. The doily and buttons make another appearance.

Family. Relationships cross generations.

People will forget what you said,
people will forget what you did,
but people will never forget how you made them feel.
-Maya Angelou
Service. This is Sharon's grandmother and grandfather. Photos of them when they served in the war, and with their grandchildren. 

Life History - Billy
Life History - Louise

Without dignity, identity is erased.  I love this quote by Laura Hillenbrand.

This has been a pivotal project in my quilting career. I have found my true love, a marriage of the quilting and the hand embroidery that I love so much.  I love the spontaneity and the creativity that comes with the fly by the seat of your pants method of crazy quilting. 
Sharon is going to be exhibiting the quilt at a senior's care conference in London, England this spring. She will be subsequently using it as a teaching aid in classes with her nursing students. She has promised me the loan of it for the upcoming quilt show at the Texada Artist's Studio Tour in August 2014, and for the Timberlane Quilt Show in Spring 2015.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Another New Year

It is another New Year. 2014…what will it bring? At the moment, it brings 3 more UFO's in the form of unfinished Christmas presents. Alas.

There are Dad's Christmas Socks, which he received with the knitting needles still in them. Sadly, this is not the first time this has happened.

Dad's socks. Just started heel flap.

 Then there are the two Hardanger Christmas Stockings for my niece and nephew. The rest of the family have matching stockings ( I have completed six of them). However, the last two children born have been sadly neglected. I had high hopes of finishing them so their matching stockings could hang in the row with the other six, but it was not to be. The pattern is by Emie Bishop. From her Noel leaflet. I love this pattern. I have made her Noel bell pull at least 3 times. (Somehow, they have all been gifted to others too. I must make one for myself someday!)

One stocking cuff complete, one to go. Then, assemble stockings!

My challenge: to finish all these items by January 31st. I love a deadline!

In the meantime, I am not allowed to work on the following projects:

1. My crazy quilted colour wheel.

2. My Hardanger ornament club. There are 11 more. Such fun.

3. My red work snowman quilt.

4. Any of my other many UFO's that take my fancy.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Faded Roses

This post is journalling the quilt I finished for the 2013 Timberlane Quilter's Show, "Pieces of Passion."

It was inspired by a Craftsy course I took online called "Design It, Quilt It." The funny thing was, I had already started to talk to my friend Cheri about designing quilts using recycled linens, denims and thrift store finds when I signed up for the course. I had no idea that the instructor, Cindy Needham, had been creating quilts out of vintage linens for a long time.

I purchased a vintage tablecloth with hand-embroidered detail in each corner, probably dating from the fifties, on E-bay. (Don't even let me get started on how hard it is to resist online auctions for vintage linens, lace etc. The best thing to do is never log on and start looking or you will be lost...and broke...)
As I spread it out to inspect it, my eye fell on the Dresden plates I was creating for a crazy quilted project. 

Crazy Quilt and Dresden Plates

With little ado, the tablecloth hijacked my plates, and now I have to make some more for the original project. 

I added an 18 inch wide cotton border to the tablecloth, and english paper pieced the dresden plates for the centre of the cloth and the borders. They are hand appliqued to the quilt. A vintage doily was added to the centre plate. (A kind donation by my friend Sandra!)

Quilting "Faded Roses"

I quilted it on a domestic machine, and tried machine trapunto quilting on the fans and all the feather and flower motifs. I was quite surprised at how much volume the fans gained with the trapunto, they are quite fat!

Trapunto detail

Quilting detail, embroidered motifs

When I basted the quilt for quilting, I had no tablecloth clamps and tried another method to secure the backing to my folding table. It did not go so well, and the backing was a bit overstretched in the end, which led to wavy borders. I think that this might settle with blocking, but I had no time to block the quilt, and no place. My house is quite tiny. The only place I could even lay it out was my bed! I had made a goal to finish the quilt for our local quilt show, and did so about 1 day prior to hanging it!

Faded Roses, Finished.

Much to my surprise, it won the ribbon for Best In Show. Even more to my surprise, the quilt our embroidery and quilting groups made for my friend Sandra, as a wedding present, ribboned as well. It got a second place ribbon in the medium sized quilt category. 

Best in Show Ribbon

A Victorian Romance, design by myself, blocks by the members of the Texada Embroider's Guild and the Texada Quilter's Guild. Quilted by myself. 

After a long absence....

It has been way too long since I have posted. It is not because I have not been finishing things....Au contraire, I have been creating on many of my hobby fronts-knitting, quilting and embroidery. I finally finished my Silk Sampler, which was stitched with hand-dyed silk floss. I also departed from the original pattern and stitched the border with several Hardanger variations.

I also finished (and started, unfortunately) a couple new projects at our annual spring quilting retreat:

1. Violets Table Runner, a kit sent to me by my dear friend Cheri, started but not finished last year.

2. The Girly Tool Belt, a new project that several of us started on a whim at our retreat, just because the pattern was cute. I am proud to say I have been wearing it when gardening.

3. A new bag to match said tool belt, in order to use up extra fabric.

4. Placemats. Originally I started making ONE placemat for retreat, as each participant is supposed to have their own placemat. This is my 5th year of retreats, at least, and I have yet to finish one. So I cut out one and ended up making eight. Now I need another one for retreat, as I can't spoil the set.

5. Neat little change purse, made with -get this-broken/worn out carpenter's tape measures. I love recycling stuff.

6. Red, black and white quilt. Of course, not the one already cut out and brought to retreat for finishing. No, I gave in to temptation and cut out an entirely new quilt. Hmm. I must have a mental problem.

It made a nice gift for my brother-in-law's 65th birthday though. 

Cocoa Quilts

It has been too long since I posted! Life has been way too busy. I have been working on some new quilting ideas, and gardening furiously, and I have a new love in my life....

Meet Cocoa...

She is very active and curious and wants to be right in the middle of everything I do. I don't seem to mind though. She is my first pet in several years and I am enjoying her thoroughly, although my husband was not too impressed when I brought her home. Here she is helping me work on my latest design, Strawberries and Lace.

I had a small exhibit at our local coffee house and made the quilt in honour of the show, which took place during a Strawberry Moon. Nothing like a deadline to make me finish a project - It was completed about 1 hour before the show. I am going to go back and redo the applique of the lace doily. I want to stretch out the chain stitches on the edge a bit more.

It is a prototype for a larger project, I want to make a full-sized bed quilt using some of the ideas from this quilt.

Here Cocoa is helping me work out ideas for applique motifs using real strawberry plants and vintage illustrations of strawberry plants

A little help from my friend.

Work in progress, quilting detail

It's a miracle my quilt isn't completely full of runs. Silk and kitty paws are not a good combo.

Inspiration for the name of my budding quilt design business, Cocoa Quilts Design Studio. Logo: Kitty playing with thread on sewing machine. 

Quilting detail, almost done now.  Morning of exhibit.

Detail, strawberry flowers made of gathered yo-yos and embroidered with rayon boucle thread.

It's funny how finishing a project just makes you want to start another to replace it. So I started cutting out the wool appliques for this project: 

 Isn't this just the cutest? Not that I need another project.....