Thursday, December 24, 2009

Riandaria リアンダリア


ta dum. A flower for mom. My first completely original piece, and i love it. It was all hand appliqued, and then quilted (stitch in the ditch) as well as echo quilted. The final product looks like a modern/hawaiian/japanese/leanne invention. My friend gave it the name riandaria...combining my name Leanne (in japanese pronounced rian) with the flower dalia.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Echino Baby Quilt for Milo

milo`s quilt
After many months of stopping and starting, sighing and groaning, loving and hating, I finally put the final touches on this baby quilt for my nephew Milo. It`s all wrapped up and in the mail, and hopefully will make it in time for the holidays.

spider detailThe main light green material found in this quilt is a beautiful cotton linen blend designed by a japanese artist ECHINO. I found this piece on an auction and bought it for a few dollars. The prairie points around the green material are made with various scraps of material; some antique japanese kasuri, other pieces cotton remnants from past projects. I was hoping that a baby would love to touch these little pieces of fabric that poke out from the quilt.

This quilt was all hand quilted and embroidered, including this little spider.

 The bottom and top of the material is covered with leaves, which I outlined with small green and white quilting stitches. The middle of the quilt was blank, so I improvised with my signature squiggles quilted in multicolor thread (my school notebooks were full of these kinds of patterns).  学生の時私のノートは全部このようなくねくねした線の模様で溢れていた。

The back of the quilt is a checkerboard arrangement of some baby soft, double gauze material designed by Heather Ross in her FarFar Away collection. The light blue sections are full of unicorns, and in the orange area you can find many little snails. This quilt is reversible.
ベビーキルトだから後ろにヘザー ロスのユニコーンとカタツムリの模様の柔らかいダブルガーゼを使いました。このキルトはリバーシブルだよ。

milo`s quilt-stone


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Coin Quilt Completed

swing your partner round and round
It’s a different world depending which window you look through. My complete coin quilt seemed to me less like a collection of scraps and more like separate little windows framed with pretty white. Do you have a favorite window?
coin on a bridge

For this quilt I used a bag of scraps that I bought from Anna Marie Horner, as well as other various scraps that I had floating around in my house. The white lattice work was an experiment in using trapunto- a technique where you actually insert extra filler (in my case wool) into the design. The hand quilting took forever to complete, but now that it is finished, I wish I had hand quilted all the lines. The sewing machine is great for doing the piece work, but I love the look of hand quilted lines. Sewing in the ditch with the sewing machine was not nearly as easy as I had expected.

Since this was my first attempt at using a hoop, there is quite a bit of variation in my hand sewing, starting slightly irregular and becoming smaller and neater as I improved.
This quilt was designed with the purpose to hide a cubbyhole where I store various odds and ends, including garbage in my house, kind of like a curtain or in Japanese a noren. Rik (my husband) laughed at me and said that our house has the most beautiful garbage hider (ゴミ隠し)in the entire archipelago. Of course it’s true, and what he is really trying to say is that the purpose of the quilt doesn’t really match the design of the quilt.
Live and learn! Personally I can’t wait to install it in our home.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Asian Baby Bag

My latest bag design is finally in the hands of my little sister. Happy Birthday Anita!
This bag was made using scraps from a baby quilt I made last year, Japanese antique kimono material, Shikoku hand woven material and my boss’ old pair of jeans. For the front of the bag I used a pattern called “Orange Peel” to put together these various scraps into pretty flower shapes. Alternating between dark colored circles and light colored circles I think the busy patterns of the fabric work well together.

Making the orange peel pattern was really tricky because of all the curves. The material I used was also not the easiest to turn into beautiful arcs, instead I struggled using a mix of a roulette to first make a curved crease, as well as appliqué glue. Where the various circles came together, most of the seams met beautifully, but I was worried with the type of material I used that there might be some fraying of the seams. I should have made a wider sewing allowance especially with the loosely woven materials. In order to reinforce these weak areas, I put covered buttons at all the junctions. In the end this helps to unite the front of the bag with the back of the bag. The front of the bag was all hand quilted with tiny stitches, echoing the curves of each petal.

I used the bum side of the jeans for the back of the bag. I figured that the pockets would be fun to use for the bag. First, the jeans had to be taken apart, and resewn so that the pockets were straight and functional. Using a pair of well-used jeans gives the bag a very soft feel, and drapes comfortably on your body when you wear the bag. The appliquéd butterflies were made from scraps from the front of the bag to cover some thin areas in the material of the jeans. Also, I thought that Rowan (my sister's daughter) would like to look at some butterflies on her mama’s bag.

I quilted the denim using my handy dandy sewing machine. Sounds easy, but since the material is so thick and bulky the machine revolted and often bunched up. My teacher recommended that I use her free motion machine to quilt the top of the denim, so I jumped on the idea and sat down at her machine only to produce a mess of neither straight nor curved lines of sewing. What a disaster! I took it all out and hand stitched little flowers instead at the top of the bag. Putting the bag together was also a real pain. The thick layers of denim, batting, and scrap material were way to thick and awkward to sew together by machine. Instead I had to painfully sew the bag together one stitch at a time using a thick needle and brute force. I promised myself that I would never make another bag using denim.

I made a matching cell phone/glasses case that attaches to the bag in a clever way using the belt loops from the waistband of the jeans. The material I used for the case was a scrap of beautiful antique material called Aizome, which is a blue indigo dyed material made in Japan. I love this little scrap of material, and cutting into it was really hard. Since the material was a little thin and worn, I first reinforced the material with an iron-on material especially made for reinforcing thin material, and then hand quilted the case following the pattern of the material. I love this little pouch, although it makes the bag not fully reversible, as you most likely want this accessory to appear at the front of your body as opposed to along your back.

The inside of the bag is lined with a deep scarlet red cotton material. My sewing teacher was not very fond of my choice, but I think it’s great. I love how when you open the bag it seems like you are entering the body cavity of the bag. The outside of the bag is so busy that I think that a solid color works best. In the lining I put a zippered pocket and a convenient key fob to make finding your keys a little easier (I personally think this is the best part of the bag).

There you have it, a handy dandy bag made from beautiful scraps. Happy Birthday Anita!

Monday, June 29, 2009

I've got the rainy season blues

This is what happens when it rains all weekend and I have too much free time on my hands.

I'm thinking it will become a pillow, any ideas?

The design was inspired by a beautiful pillow that I saw on Anna Maria Horner's website. I put together a basic design of the flower on Photoshop, and then made stencils to make each appliqued petal. I'm in the process of hand stitching around each petal.

Most of the material I used to make this flower was scraps from my coin quilt project, which is almost finished.

For all those wondering whether I would ever finish the coin quilt, fear not, the end is in sight. Since I mostly hand quilted the entire quilt, it has taken forever to complete. I'm just putting the binding on the quilt, and am feeling a little anti climatic about the whole process. I should feel happy about the imminent completion, but instead I feel a little disappointed. Perhaps after awhile when I have time to step back and appreciate the final product, I will like it better. I'll post a picture of it as soon as it stops raining, and I can hang it up outside to take a nice picture.

Monday, April 27, 2009

My latest favorite color

daidai mini
The Japanese language has made words for the subtle difference in the red spectrum. Recently I learned a new color "daidai", this color is for a warm saturated orange color. The word “daidai” is actually the name of a citrus fruit. This orange is quite sour and is generally used more for decoration than for its juice. For those familiar with the Japanese New Year celebration, you might recall the daidai orange as the crowning touch on a stack of round mochi cakes.
The other day I received a bag full of these “daidai” oranges. Upon recommendation I used them to squeeze on freshly boiled seaweed, and also as a salad dressing.
On the Amakusa islands, many varieties of citrus grow in abundance. The taste, shape and color variations all make for non-stop delights for my taste buds. The only problem with a lot of these varieties is the over abundant use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. These chemicals all wash into the rivers and eventually the sea leaving an environmental disaster.
The daidai variety is actually a type that does not require any special care. Although these varieties are not prized for their taste, and as such do not fetch a dear price at the markets, the fact that they are a sustainable crop should increase their value.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Kanreki Journal Cover

happy b-day johnny
In Japan, turning sixty is a big occasion known as “kanreki”.“Kanreki” is a big event in Asia for people who have completed 5 revolutions of the Chinese Zodiac calendar. In Japan, this monumental event is celebrated by giving the honored person anything in the color red.

In celebration of my boss turning sixty, I decided to make him an agenda book using the colors red. I used various scraps from red and black traditional kimono material. I tried to make the book cover simple, functional yet something that my boss could carry around without feeling embarrassed.

I used a quilting pattern called “Drunkards Path”. This pattern can be put together in various different forms to make many different shapes, but for this project I decided to make simple circles. When using antique kimono material I found it beneficial to first fuse on some thin material, which then made the material more stable and easier to sew.

The book cover was then put together with some plain black cotton material. For some reason I didn’t really like putting the silk material of the antique kimonos together with a basic cotton material. In accordance with my quilting teachers guidance I used this material. In retrospect, although this material is very strong and simple to quilt, perhaps a coarser material such as linen or hemp would have matched my vision and the rugged use that my boss needed for his journal cover. What do you think?

It’s been over a year since I made this project, and I’m happy to report that my boss still uses this book cover. That is really the best compliment you can give a quilter, isn’t it!
happy b-day johnny inside

Monday, April 6, 2009

Coin Quilt

These days my life has become closely intertwined with the Internet. For sewing ideas and inspirations I love to look at people's blogs and flicker photos. Recently in cyberspace, coin quilts seem to be all the rage. Using a handy tutorial by Moda Fabrics and some inspiration from a Coin quilt flicker group, I started on my latest creation.
This easy to make quilt is basic but quite attractive using up odd and end scraps of material. I used mainly various scraps from material designed by Anna Maria Horner. With my recent purchase of a sewing machine, I was looking for a project that I could do with my new acquisition. This quilt with its straight sewing lines seems like the perfect project.

After cutting tons of rectangles of scrap material with my rotary cutter, I spread them out on the floor of our living room arranging them first by color, then finally settling on a gradation of color, starting with darker red colors on the bottom gradually changing to light greens on top. Since I used brightly patterned material for my coins, I found that alternating colored material with white material made the quilt look less busy.

Next I pieced it all together using my new sewing machine, chain stitching heaps of pairs of colored material and white material. I then sewed these coupled fabrics into groups of 4, then groups of 8 etc. Before I knew it I was done, quick and simple. Next I chose a pretty, soft pink material by Moda for the borders and the backing. After I attached the borders, I was ready to put the quilt together. Using a process that I found on the net (crazymomquilts), I taped down my backing material to the floor, layered on my batting and finally my completed top layer. Instead of pining it all together, I hand basted through all the layers, starting in the middle and working my way out in a grid. This took forever and killed my back, but alas if you want your end product to lie straight and beautifully this is a crucial step.

Now that my sandwiched quilt was ready to be quilted, I turned to my sewing teacher, for advice. We agreed on using a combination of both sewing machine and hand quilting to finish the quilt. I'm interested in learning how to use a frame to hand quilt, so I figured this quilt would be as good a time as ever to learn this technique. Since the quilt has large areas of plain white material, I decided on some intricate hand stitching using a technique known as trapunto. So far, I've chosen the pattern, and begun the long process of hand sewing. After about 10 hours of using a frame and two thimbles to hand quilt my creation, I'm finally getting faster and my stitches are getting more regular, even and shorter. Perhaps I should have practiced this new skill first on a scrap quilt. As it is, my quilt in the end will be a little irregular, changing slightly as my workmanship improved. I'm hoping by the end of this quilt, I will have mastered this technique!

coin quilt on hoop

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Messenger Bag

computer bag close
My first big sewing project was a shoulder/messenger style bag. Rik, my husband, helped me with the design of this bag, combining functionality with style. For me, it’s all about the colors and patterns, for Rik, it’s all about making something that is useful and serves a purpose. Since this bag was to be used during my commutes to work by bicycle, Rik thought that it was important to make the cover of the bag in a pattern similar to a road sign, something that is easy to see from far away. We decided on a diagonal design using a gradation of bright reds to white on one side, and a gradation of dark colors to light colors on the other. With the sudden switch from bright red to dark blue, this effectively created a design that would stand out from far away.

The choice of material was left to me. I love a variety of materials. This time, I used a red stripe of soft and furry Minky as the centerpiece. On the red half, I used some material by Amy Butler, some Japanese silk kimono materials, and others. These were all hand pieced together in a pattern known as Drunkard's Path, a tricky piecing technique that consists of mostly curves sewn together. The blue side of the bag was made almost entirely with antique “kasuri”, a Japanese material that was used to make everyday kimonos in the past. The “kasuri” I used was made of wool, although often “kasuri” is cotton.

After the piecework was finished, I basted the creation to some batting and used a scrap piece of material for the backside. I now hand quilted all the various lines. After I finished this, it was time for the really tricky part – putting the bag together into a functional shape.

Using my second hand sewing machine, somehow I managed to put things together into a bag like shape, although I was left slightly unsatisfied with the result. The size was right, but the front panel was too big and bulky and difficult to open and close in a jiffy. If I were to make it again, I would make it with the opening at the top. This would be more convenient, plus the front design would be better positioned.

computer bag
Throughout the process of making this bag, I had the invaluable advice of my sewing teacher. Although she was baffled by my combination of materials and colors, she was able to help me put the whole thing together. In Japan, “kasuri” is generally material favored by the elderly. I think young people look at “kasuri” and immediately think of their grandmothers. For me, a “gaijin” or foreigner living in Japan, I have none of these preconceptions about the material. I love the indigo color which comes from a natural dye, as well as the simple weaves and patterns of the fabric.

Initially I made this bag with the intention of using it for transporting my laptop computer. Although I occasionally use it for this purpose, generally, I simply use it as my work bag. It is roomy enough for carrying my lunch, some books and the other junk that seems to collect in people’s bags.

Some of my friends have remarked that I could have sold this creation. Considering all the time and effort that went in to making this bag, I can’t imagine an appropriate price. One of my junior high school students complimented me by saying that she would even pay $50 for it. I sighed and wondered about the futility of living in a world where handmade products are so undervalued. After all in Japan, as in most of the developed world, almost everything is made in China, where labor is cheap, working conditions are abominable, standards are low and production is high. In this present economic situation making things by hand does not seem to make any sense. Still, I think there is a point to it. Rik also thinks it is great to learn new skills and to exercise ones creative mind. After all, we just can’t attach a price to everything.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Gaijin Creations- my favorite quilt

As a Canadian living abroad in Japan for over 10 years, I find my inspirations to be quite eclectic and diverse. Whether it's the local grocery store, the children I teach, my family and friends or the environment I live in, my mind is always racing with new ideas. Over the past few years I have been trying to express these ideas through various sewing projects. In this blog I will try and showcase some of these creations. Some were miserable failures but others were wonderfully beautiful.

Last year, my sister Anita had a beautiful baby girl. In celebration of this miracle I set off to make my first quilt, a baby quilt.
rowan's quilt
Basic Instructions

Cutting: Create 2 templates out of clear plastic sheets(by using a clear template you can choose ideal and suitable sections of your material). One of the templates is of a hexagon and another template in the shape that somewhat looks like a flower; your hexagon shape plus curved petals. The latter is best made with a compass. Be very careful and as accurate as possible as this will later influence the beauty of your finished product.

Next using the hexagon template, cut one shape from batting and one shape from your chosen top fabric (you do not need to have a seam allowance).

Next using the flower shaped template cut one shape, plus a 1cm seam allowance from your chosen backing fabric.

Using a "hera roulette" wheel like tool, trace over the flower template shape so that you create easy to fold beautiful curves. I used some special fabric glue to paste the seam allowance.

Place the backing hexagon with the curved petals wrong side up and centre the batting and then the hexagon on top, right side up. Fold down all the curves(from the backing) on top of the hexagon. Pin all three layers and baste.


I then stitched the curves using an applique stitch.

Quilting was all done by hand using the pretty material as a guide for sewing lines.
I also added some embroidery to make the flower shape really jump out.

For this quilt I made 23 full sized squares, plus 4 half sized squares. I bought this material which is no longer in stock on an online auction. This beautiful plum blossom cotton material was created by a Japanese designer, Junko Onishi. I love the rich blue color, the placement of the flowers and the texture of the material.

Once you are finished the quilting, to join the framed hexagons together, place two right sides together and ladder stitch the edge. Because they are backed and quilted already, you are done!
quilt from Tante Leanne

I might feel bias, but isn't Rowan just the most beautiful baby. I love how she makes the quilt look so wonderful!
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