New organic cotton fabrics from Cloud9 and Monaluna, and our latest quilt show

Last year we quietly launched our new Etsy shop, Blue Star Organic Fabrics. We’re still building inventory slowly and collections we ordered last fall at Quilt Market are arriving a bit at a time. Last month we got Haiku from Monaluna, and this month Morning Song from Cloud9 arrived. Both collections are gorgeous, and more grown up than the usual juvenile organic cotton prints so widely popular in the market.

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Cherry Blossoms from Monaluna Haiku Collection

Clover from Monaluna Haiku Collection

Clover from Monaluna Haiku Collection

There are six designs in the Haiku line, three with metallic accents. The colors are rich and bright, but also soft and subtle.

Cloud9’s Morning Song Collection features 14 (!!) different fabrics in muted, whisper soft tones from ice blue and smoke gray to bright popping orange and deep plum. I’ve put together a little sampler quilt, perfect for a new baby gift (I have a recipient in mind for this one and I hope she’s not too big for it already!).

Morning Song organic cotton fabrics from Cloud9

Morning Song organic cotton fabrics from Cloud9

We’ll be making a kit for this one, including bamboo batting, and listing it in the Blue Star shop when we get back from…

Eureka! We’ll be vending at the Heart of the Redwoods Quilt Show this weekend in Eureka, California. I hope you can join us! We’ll be scheduling late summer sewing classes when we get back, so if you missed the ones in May there will be more opportunities to try some fun sashiko projects and get you more comfortable with those huge needles, thick thread, and strange thimbles.

Show your work!

I love seeing what my customers do with the fabrics I sell. Some turn them into personal diversions, while others use them in their own craft businesses. Here are a few that have been shared with me.

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Happi Babies

Fun bibs, happi coats, and accessories for babies, made using yukata and organic cotton fabrics.

 

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queenbee_purse

Queen Bee Essentials – Handbags and accessories made from vibrant fabrics.

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Diane S. shared her quilt from a pattern in Quilter’s Newsletter magazine from February/March 2014 using Kona Bay’s Tomorrow Morning Collection in blue.

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Linda R. shared a gorgeous kimono made from Kona Bay’s Lair of the Dragon Collection.

Do you have something to share? Let me know and I’ll post it here.

Playing with Texture: Japanese Dobby Cottons

Buddhas in beige

Dobby cottons are fun to play with, but most quilters outside of Japan may be unfamiliar with these highly textured fabrics. What exactly does “dobby” mean, anyway?

Dobby looms entered into the weaving scene in the mid-19th century and the origin of the term comes from “draw boy”, usually a young helper who would pull strings to move warp threads on a large floor loom up or down as desired, thus enabling the weaver to create fabrics with added texture.

From Wikipedia:

On a treadle loom, each foot-operated treadle is connected by a linkage called a tie-up to one or more shafts. More than one treadle can operate a single shaft. The tie-up consists of cords or similar mechanical linkages tying the treadles to the lams that actually lift or lower the shaft.

On treadle operated looms, the number of sheds is limited by the number of treadles available. An eight-shaft loom can create 254 different sheds. There are actually 256 possibilities which is 2 to the eighth power, but having all threads up or all threads down is not very useful. Most eight-shaft floor looms have only ten to twelve treadles due to space limitations. This limits the weaver to ten to twelve distinct sheds. It is possible to use both feet to get more sheds, but this is rarely done in practice. It is even possible to change tie-ups in the middle of weaving a cloth but this is a tedious process, so this too is rarely done.

With a dobby loom, all 254 possibilities are available at any time. This vastly increases the number of cloth designs available to the weaver. The advantage of a dobby loom becomes even more pronounced on looms with 12 shafts (4094 possible sheds), 16 shafts (65,534 possible sheds), or more. It reaches its peak on a Jacquard loom in which each thread is individually controlled.

kobayashi_purplefloral_dobby1 kobayashi_purplefloral_dobby4

 

Using a treadle loom is tricky at first. I’ve only ever dabbled a bit with one myself, but it seems akin to learning how to play one of those big church organs… the type with multiple floor pedals, pull stops, and a full keyboard. Modern dobby looms are computer controlled, so a human only needs to program it, get it going, and check to make sure nothing goes wonky during the weaving process.

Hokkoh teatime dobby cotton

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Some of the dobby fabrics in my shop have a sort of irregular, slubby texture, while others have a distinctly geometric texture. I like how light plays off these differences in what would otherwise be a pretty, but flat fabric.

What can you use dobby fabrics for? Many are heavier weight than quilting cottons but lighter than canvas or Oxford cotton, while others may be lightweight, breathable, and made for summer use. Dobbies can be used for clothing, quilting, bags, upholstery (with reservations–I’m not sure some would hold up to heavy use), curtains, and other crafts.

For example, I have this dragon fabric in six different shades, and I’m working on a set of throw pillows!

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Schedule for April 2015

It’s spring here in California… actually, we skipped winter altogether so it’s been spring since February, but I digress. Spring is time for new projects, cleaning out the stash, and learning new techniques.

Here’s where you can find me in April:

Thimbles thimbles thimbles! And more thimbles.

As an avowed thimble-hater in my youth, I never expected to carry so many in my shop that I would actually use.
metal_palm_thimbleYou may have heard me evangelize the merits of a sashiko palm thimble, either leather or metal, and seen me wearing both at a quilt show or teaching event. I do use these regularly and find they take the stress out of sashiko and allow me to sew for longer than I would without a thimble. They may seem awkward to start with if you are unaccustomed to them, but once you find the right balance and rhythm to using them they will become your go-to thimble for sashiko.

olympus_leather_thimbleWhich to choose, leather or metal? It really depends on the base of your middle finger on your dominant hand. If the base of your finger is very narrow and rings tend to spin around when you wear them, try the leather thimble with its adjustable elastic. If you have a medium-sized finger base, either will do. If your fingers are thicker or you have arthritic joints, you may prefer the leather and either adjust the elastic or replace it with ribbon to make it larger. I tend to use the metal one most as it is easiest to find in my sewing tool box.

Are they absolutely necessary? No, but if you plan to be sewing long lines, I wouldn’t do it without one. Short curves where you’ll only be picking up one or two stitches at a time will be fine without a thimble.

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This leather fingertip thimble from Cotton Boll feels like wearing a glove. It is soft, pliable, and has a slit for your fingernail to poke through and comes in small, medium, or large. Cotton Boll is a Japanese company, but the thimble is made in the USA. Having grown up near a cattle pasture in California, this does not surprise me. Plenty of leather around here.

littlehouse_thimble1The tortoise thimble is armor for your finger, but with access for your fingernail to be free. I’m one of those people who fumble with metal fingertip thimbles, so I haven’t used this one. They do seem popular at quilt shows! They come in two sizes, medium and large. If you’re not sure which you might need, just ask. I’ll do my best to get you fitted.

lh_ringthimble2
This little ring thimble is what I use for sewing quilt bindings. Adjustable and comfortable, this thimble prevents me from stabbing my fingertips and bleeding all over my quilts. The one shown is from Little House. I currently stock these from Clover as the exposed brass turned my finger green and Clover plates theirs so that doesn’t happen. You can see a video of me using it to sew a binding here.

Yubinuki are beautiful handmade thimbles. I’ve picked up a few books on how to make them, but it may be a while before I have the chance to sit down and learn the finer points. Check out the selection of books at Pomadour’s Craft Cafe if you’d like to give it a shot! I also like this clever handmade thimble from May Sheung on Etsy.

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Schedule for March 2015

Busy busy! Local local! No airplanes for me this month. Here’s where you can find Kimonomomo this March:

Looking for classes? I’m working with Jennifer Serr of the Sewing Room in Alameda, CA to put a schedule together and will post here when we’ve got that ready for you.

Event News for February, 2015

February 1 – Starting the month with a bang, I’ll be in the Campbell/San Jose, CA area for the monthly Bay Area Sashiko Workshop meetup. Sit and stitch with like-minded crafters ranging from absolute beginners to incredibly talented and experienced. All skill levels are welcome and light refreshments will be served. Fabrics, notions, thread, and assortment of other sewing goods will be available for purchase.

February 3 – I’ll be teaching sashiko and hand sewing in Alameda, CA with Upcycle Alameda at the fabulous Recrafting Co. shop for 6 Tuesday night sessions. Contact Joan at 510-913-2732 for more information.

February 19-21 – Come visit the Quilt, Craft, and Sewing Festival in San Mateo, CA. This is a fun, FREE show where you can try out new craft tools and find inspiration to actually finish projects you may have already started. Check out all the booths (including mine!) featuring beautiful materials and pick up supplies for your crafty ideas.

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