Sewing for Myself

One of today’s big buzz words is “self-care”. Self-care was why I started quilting in the first place! It’s so important — I think especially as a woman and a parent — to prioritize something or things that give us life and energy for the other areas of our lives where we need to show up fully. Since quilting became my job a year ago instead a form of self-care (a.k.a. hobby — let’s not diminish the word “hobby”!), I have been searching for other things that give me a boost. Enter my first garment making attempts. And a backpack, one year in the making.

Range Backpack. Pattern by Noodlehead.

We get a lot of joy out of making things for others, don’t we? So this category of sewing, when we sew something for ourselves is often called “selfish sewing” — a term that I could take or leave. Self-care can seem “selfish” but it’s not, right? A reminder that it feeds the other areas of our lives!

Inari Tee. Pattern by Named Clothing.

First up, the Inari Tee. I bought this pattern at the workroom in Toronto. It takes very little yardage and isn’t fitted, so I thought it was a forgiving first garment to make for myself. If it didn’t turn out, I would have wasted too much fabric or time. I loved the cropped length of the tee – something I didn’t already have in my closet and I thought it would look great over a high-waisted skirt or a fitted jersey dress (both of which were already in my closet). I found the perfect fabric in Jen Hewett’s Imaginary Landscapes line for Cotton + Steel.

Farrow Dress. Pattern by Grainline Studio. Fabric: Yarn-dyed Essex Linen in Lingerie

Secondly, I’ve always wanted to make Grainline Studio’s Farrow Dress pattern. For a couple of years now, I’ve thought, “If I were to make a garment for myself someday, it would be a Farrow Dress!” (see all the #farrowdress goodness here!) It was ‘someday’ until I was at Patch Halifax working on my Inari tee and a fabric delivery arrived. And this Yarn-dyed Essex Linen in “Lingerie” arrived. It was perfect. Right then and there, I bought the fabric and the pattern.

And lastly, my Range Backpack (pattern design by Noodlehead) that I started a year ago! Leather straps and brass hardware from Tandy Leather, with a special zipper pull that I replaced myself (which may seem easy peasy to you who do it all the time but it was a little heart-stopping) were the perfect accent for this black and gold Rifle Paper Co. canvas. The Wonderland collection is fabulous; I love how this particular print is a loose map of all the places in the story of Alice in Wonderland.

I did want to add a layer of water-resistance to the canvas, so I waxed it myself! You can see how I did that over on my Instagram story highlights.

As you can see, blush pink, gold and black – my kind of neutrals. I’m so glad that these items speak to my style more than any store-bought items could. That’s part of the reason we make, right?

In Search of Botanical

If you ask anybody who knows me even a little bit, they’ll tell you, “Andrea doesn’t do floral.” I don’t wear flowers. I don’t plant or grow flowers because they always die on me. I don’t have any floral prints in any of my home decor. I don’t draw flowers unless I can’t think of anything to draw. But when you put a challenge in front of me, my response will usually be, “Challenge Accepted.”

This quilt is titled In Search of Botanical and marks the beginning of my quest to find my own version of floral. It’s my entry into QuiltCon 2019’s Two-Color Quilt Challenge. It hasn’t been accepted yet, but whether or not that happens is irrelevant to the work itself!

So back to flowers: Don’t get me wrong, I like flowers. Like a bouquet of flowers. And I appreciate flowers — I see their beauty and their appeal. But I don’t often find floral prints that really feel like “me.” There are artists that do work that really appeals to me — Anna Bond of Rifle Paper Co., Leah Duncan, Brie Harrison and Arounna Khounnoraj of Bookhou. Many other artists can also be found in Uppercase’s Encyclopedia of Inspiration “Botanica”. And so I set out to find my own style.

Many people say that copying is a form of flattery. Others consider it an infringement of copyright. To me, it’s a way of learning. From a cultural perspective, I’ve had a glimpse at how a Chinese art teacher approaches learning versus how we learn art in a Canadian public school. (Disclaimer: Times have changed, so I’m sure that both have evolved substantially since my experience.) A Western mindset prizes freedom of expression and creativity so a class’ works will look very different across the board. A Chinese approach focuses on technique first then expression later so a class might have works that look very similar to start. I tend towards the latter in my own practice — give me the tools to express myself so that when I have something to say, I can say it accurately and eloquently.

So I started with these inspirational artists and looked at motifs that I liked. I drew them to figure out if I could “make them mine.” As I went along, I continued to layer inspiration and constraints that influenced the design:

  • QuiltCon’s Two-Color Quilt Challenge: Prints may be used as long as they consist of ONLY two colors. Thread color and binding needs to match the two colors in the quilt. Backing can be any color. The deadline for submissions is November 30, 2018. 
  • I was also inspired by an article on gilded artwork and illuminated manuscripts in Uppercase Magazine Issue #38 and went in search of gold metallic fabric and finally found some at The Quilted Castle. It’s from a holiday collection by Windham Fabrics from a few years back.
  • I had a couple of Riley Blake fat quarters in my studio with white and gold metallic and put them into the mix.
  • Learning a new skill. I wanted to try my hand at needle-turn applique since Carolyn Friedlander/Leah Duncan’s Wildabon quilt was a large influence.

A test block based on Suzy Quilt’s Aria quilt pattern.

Let’s talk timeline. (Laughs out loud).

  • July: I was inspired and got my fabrics.
  • August: I tried my hand at needle-turn appliqué and tested a block based on Suzy Quilts’ free pattern Aria.
  • Beginning of October: I whipped up the design in Adobe Illustrator in a couple of hours one evening in August or September.r
  • Mid-October: Started it  on a day trip to Lunenburg for the CCF conference. I got… 3 petals done.

  • November 18: Watched two CreativeBug classes by Carolyn Friedlander on how to do needle-turn applique.
  • November 21: Packed it up and travelled to Montreal/Ottawa for some teaching.
  • November 22-28: Plane rides, train rides, hotel rooms – needle-turning and hand stitching.
  • November 29: Basted, quilted, bound.
  • November 30: Photographed and submitted to QuiltCon.

I really like the medium contrast of these two colours. I like that they’re both “neutral”-“ish”. The gold fabric is basically a cotton completely covered in gold metallic ink. It’s heavy and stiff and feels almost like plastic. It was nice in that the edges didn’t fray as I was turning them under but it was a bit hard jabbing my needle in.

So my final verdict? I loved the process of making this quilt top, but I really dislike the quilting that I did with gold thread. Overall, I am so happy that I made this quilt on a weird timeline and will certainly be doing more needle-turn appliqué in the future. We’ll see what the jury has to say, I guess!

***UPDATE*** This quilt did not get accepted to QuiltCon 2019, but I am nevertheless glad that I ventured into the world of needle-turn appliqué.

The back of the quilt top before the basting stitches were removed.

Front of the quilt top before the basting stitches were removed.

Canned Pineapples: 2019 Quilter’s Planner Blog Hop

Welcome to the 2019 Quilter’s Planner Blog Hop! If you’re new to 3rd Story Workshop, I’m Andrea Tsang Jackson – a designer, artist, quilt maker, and probably some other things. Today, at the beginning of a summer long weekend here in Canada, I get to introduce you to my design, “Canned Pineapples.” A combination of small paper-pieced pineapple blocks and embroidery, this hoop quilt uses a small handful of scraps to produce a glowing group of fireflies.

Photo taken by Kitty Wilkin (Night Quilter) for The Quilter’s Planner 2019

Do you remember being a young adult? Maybe you are one! That feeling of freedom to do whatever you wanted to do? No adults (or kids) dictating what you could or could not do… because you were the adult in charge? Eating supper in front of the television. Staying up late just because you could. Eating cake for breakfast. Taking off for a weekend with your friends to see a concert.

Photo taken by Kitty Wilkin (Night Quilter) for The Quilter’s Planner 2019

That’s what my friends did every summer. We would go on a camping trip to Saratoga Springs, NY to see a Dave Matthews concert because often that was the closest venue to us on the band’s tour. We drove for a few hours, crossed the border, set up our tents, set off for the Saratoga Springs Performing Arts Center, danced in the rain while enjoying our favourite band. One post-concert night, we stayed up watching fireflies under the stars which shone so brightly in the black night. It was magical.*

Of my paper pieced animal patterns, I have a land animal (Sleepy Fox) and a sea animal (Narwhals #1 and #2). I wanted to round out the collection with an air animal. Fireflies (or as I have learned, “lightning bugs” in the south) were the perfect inspiration.

I have seen a lot of beautiful pineapple blocks lately, both large and small (Karen LewisMelanie TuazonGiuseppe Ribaudo). “Canned Pineapples” uses the block’s radiating geometry to create a glowing effect with a gradient from bright yellow to navy. They aren’t too too tiny, so they’re very achievable. And with only three in the design you could put this together relatively quickly.

I am no embroidery expert, but I have done some in my crafty past. I liked exploring these different stitches to add some smaller fireflies to the composition.

Photo taken by Kitty Wilkin (Night Quilter) for The Quilter’s Planner 2019

A project of this scale is so satisfying and I am thrilled to share it with you in the 2019 Quilter’s Planner. You can pre-order your 2019 Quilter’s Planner here (U.S. customers), and your pre-order comes with some extraordinary goodies. Canadian pre-orders can order through Clinton Modern or Mad About Patchwork. Another U.S. and international option is Fat Quarter Shop.

*My future husband was there with me. I just didn’t know it.

There are plenty of amazing patterns in the 2019 Quilter’s Planner. Follow along on the blog hop and see what’s in there:

Monday, July 23: Cheryl Brickey Meadow Mist Designs @meadowmistdesigns
Wednesday, July 25: Kitty Wilkin Night Quilter @nightquilter
Friday, July 27: Karie Jewell Two Kwik Quilters @karie_twokwikquilters
Monday, July 30: Mandy Leins Mandalei Quilts @mandaleiquilts
Wednesday, August 1: Megan Fisher @ayragon
YOU ARE HERE –> Friday, August 3: Andrea Tsang Jackson 3rd Story Workshop @3rdstoryworkshop
Monday, August 6: Trinia  Braughton Penguin Feats @penquinfeats
Wednesday, August 8: Lee Monroe May Chappell @maychappell
Friday, August 10: Karen Lewis Karen Lewis Textiles @karenlewistextiles
Monday, August 13: Isabelle Selak South Bay Bella Studio @southbaybella
Wednesday, August 15: Sylvia Schaefer Flying Parrot Quilts @flyingparrotquilts
Friday, August 17: Yvonne Fuchs Quilting Jetgirl @quiltingjetgirl
Monday, August 20: Kate Colleran Seams Like a Dream @seamslikeadreamquilts
Wednesday, August 22: Shannon Fraser Shannon Fraser Designs @shannonfraserdesigns
Friday, August 24: Kerry Goulder Kid Giddy @kidgiddy
Monday, August 27: Kitty Wilkin Night Quilter @nightquilter

Photo taken by Kitty Wilkin (Night Quilter) for The Quilter’s Planner 2019

Prairie Storm + Female Artists

Side of the highway, on our way to Regina to see a Saskatchewan Roughriders football game.

I married into a family of Saskatchawanians. I had no connections or interest in the prairies prior to my relationship with my now-husband. This summer we had the chance to spend some time at the family cottage two hours north of Saskatoon, as we celebrated the Jackson matriarch’s 90th birthday. I had the chance to make a quilt for her based on a 16” x 16” sketch from the landscape charrette series that I created last spring.

16″ x 16″ mini quilt, April 2017 – Quilt Charrette series.

A few summers ago, my mother-in-law experienced an intense storm that hit as she drove by herself on a very late night in rural Saskatchewan. Using one of my favourite colour combinations, I imagined from her description — gold improvised fields and very regularly spaced rain, quilted with metallic gold thread.

Side of the highway near Warman, SK

There were a couple of stops along the side of the highway to photograph the prairie-inspired quilt, which measured 50” x 72”. The intensely yellow canola fields were a regular siting along our long drives around the province. This time I used Glide Thread in Fool’s Gold for the quilting. I wasn’t sure how regular metallic thread would fare in my Juki TL-2010Q so I was happy to try this 100% polyester thread with a sheen. I didn’t get a chance to photograph the quilt label unfortunately, but I suspect I will get to see the quilt again.

We made time to escape for a day trip to the city of Saskatoon, which has its own cultural vibe going on. In the fall of 2017, the new Remai Modern opened up, an art gallery dedicated to contemporary art. The building was designed by KPMB with lead design architect Bruce Kuwabara. It is located at the junction of a bridge crossing the South Saskatchewan River, the river itself, and multiple recreational bikepaths.

Remai Modern, designed by KPMB Architects. Image via remaimodern.org.

I really enjoyed our time there without our kids to take in the artwork. Of special note, two installations in the public areas of the museum. Lucky Charms by Pae White makes use of neon “doodles” (terminology mine) in colours of light used in “happy lamps”. These wavelengths of light are used to help the symptoms of depression caused by seasonal affective disorder. On our visit to Saskatchewan shortly after the summer solstice, we experienced daylight until past 10 pm. That means that the opposite season of cold dry winters have very limited daylight hours. This installation touches on the effects of daylight, living at such a northern latitude.

Lucky Charms by Pae White

The second piece was Sol LeWitt Upside Down by Haegue Yang. These very rational looking boxes are a re-interpretation of his modular Structures but hung upside down. Each cube of the framework is enclosed with a surprising material – very mundane Venetian blinds. I love these very rational boxes against the geometric linear lights suspended above them. The Venetian blinds capture both the artificial lighting above it as well as the natural light coming through the atrium space that connects all levels of the museum.

On a non-aesthetic level, what strikes me about these two installations is that they are works by female artists prominently displayed in public spaces. Women’s roles in the public realm has evolved greatly in the last 100 years and I hope that this artistic representation continues to grow. Especially as a Asian female artist, Yang’s artwork as the first encounter in a museum of such importance really encourages me. Asian females are often perceived as the most reticent, passive, and submissive in European and North American cultures. Although none of the females in my family fit this profile — we are a particularly assertive and vocal bunch! — I have certainly been subject to this stereotype. I have begun to make a case for my role as an female Asian artist in a dominantly white art form, as well as for domestic arts to have a place in the public realm. This is a relatively new dimension to what I think about in my artistic practice, and I’m excited to see how it informs the way I work.

The lobby of the Remai Modern.

The vast Canadian prairie landscape is one that I really took notice of this trip and I’m sure we’ll be back again in the next few years for another Saskatchewan adventure.

Photo by Bruce Jackson

Colour Post: Navy + Gold

My love for navy blue is right up there with my love for grey, black, and white. I imagine that it will adorn my living room or bedroom walls someday. What is special about navy is that it’s an actual colour; I surprise my architect self with this preference. What puts it into this category of favourite? And what does the addition of gold do to elevate it?

A nostalgia settles in when I think about this colour combination. My 16-year-old self imagines a romantic “Starry Night” by Vincent van Gogh while reading a Pablo Neruda poem from Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair:

“Tonight I can write the saddest lines
Write, for example,’The night is shattered
and the blue stars shiver in the distance.’
The night wind revolves in the sky and sings…
Love is so short, forgetting is so long.”

Oh, the teenage angst. (In fact, that last line was quoted in the series finale of Dawson’s Creek. Anyone remember that?)

Let’s start with navy. This colour really permeated my world when we moved to the East Coast. It’s often paired with white for a nautical feel, often with a lobster red thrown in as well. The thing about navy that gives it an advantage over black is its hygge-ness. Hygge (pronounced “hoo-gah”) is the Danish word with an approximate equivalent in English “cozy.” It derives from a 16th-century Norwegian term that also is the root of the word “hug”. From the new definition from the Oxford Dictionary, “a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being”. (More on hygge in this New Yorker article.)

Black can be stark, which often is my aim. However, there is a softer feel to the navy hue, making for a cozy, hygge-type warmth. Black represents an extreme purity in its lack of colour and light; navy has a humanness in that it leans toward imperfection. Navy is a warm neutral, close enough to being perfect that it’s even more close to being perfect than black in certain contexts. (Navy is the new black, don’t you know?) I love navy.

Gold quilting lines. Gold thread likes to break, but my affinity for this subtle shimmer outweighs the frustration. Photo: Naomi Hill.

So what’s my deal with gold? It’s also a warm neutral! The colours of natural materials – blond wood, metallics, walnut wood – fall into a neutral palette with ease. When paired with navy, gold gives sharp contrast in tone without adding too much colour.

When I first started using Pinterest in 2012, one of my very first pins was a colour palette that I name “Lemon to Midnight.” It sat on my ‘colouring’ board for four years until the perfect project came along.

The perfect project ended up being the Land & Sea quilt, a collaboration with Keephouse Studio. We picked a navy fabric (Kona Indigo) as a background for Alissa’s prints in gold ink.

 

 

Photo: Naomi Hill

Fabrics with metallic prints are becoming more common now, but in times past, gold made appearances in spandex and prom dresses. We often consider yellow to be a matte approximation of gold, in the range of golden yellow to mustard. Yellow is tricky as a hue. As the tone darkens it often turns brown. Add black to darken it and it turns green, often losing its warmth. There are actually fewer shades of yellow than other colours in the spectrum.

The key to the navy and gold/yellow combination is contrast. Navy and yellow sit across from each other on the colour wheel. One is a dark, near-black tone and one is a light to medium tone, as you can see from the black and white photo of “Land & Sea” below.

Beauty, calm, serenity, angst, hope — the range of emotions that navy and gold represent is vast. It makes it oddly versatile. There is no shortage of inspiring ways to use this striking, but comfortable colour palette. Find more on my Pinterest board.

Land & Sea: A collaboration with Keephouse

Photo: Naomi Hill

2017 marks the 150th birthday of Canadian Confederation. The country has been ramping up to this for quite some time now, with capital projects readying for years leading up to this very occasion.Quilting as a craft has deep roots in American history, but I really want to explore what stories and techniques a Canadian quilt can contain to commemorate this sesquicentennial year. I had great intentions in 2016 to get a series of one-off throw quilts off the ground, featuring different regions of vast Canadian landscape. I got “Land & Sea” finished in time for a Quilt Con entry at the end of November and another two quilts are in the works. So, it’s not really quite a series. Yet.

At my very first craft show in April of 2016, Alissa Kloet of Keephouse approached my booth and I was flattered that she showed any interest in my work. I had been an admirer of her work ever since I saw it at the first Halifax Crafters show I attended as a patron in 2012. The clean aesthetic, the clarity of handiwork in the designs, and her tagline, “Moments Made Well” — It appealed to me on so many levels. She wanted to swap some of her pieces for one of mine (as is common practice at craft shows, I have learned), so I gave her a Ruby Gemology Pillow in exchanged for her tea towels in her “Houses” print and coasters in her “Strip” print. It was completely pre-meditated but I was definitely bashful about throwing it out there, “Would you like to do a collaboration with me?” I blurted, after I chased her down the stairs back to her booth. This coming from someone who had made a total of four baby quilts, some quilted wall hangings, and 30 quilted pillows.

“Sure!” she said. A little bit easier of an answer than I expected, and I was so pleased.

That was not only the beginning of a creative collaboration, but I found in Alissa a new colleague and friend. When you’re a solo creative entrepreneur, it can be lonely. Having someone with more experience to talk to about what you’re passionate about, especially the less-glamourous elements of business, is important in keeping your feet on the ground, mind expanding outward, and heart facing forward.

Back of “Land & Sea.” Photo: Naomi Hill

Since my days in architecture school, I have had a fascination with the notions of “place” and “home.” As I talked to Alissa about this idea, she suggested that, in addition to the handprinted fabric design/produced here and about here, we include some hand-dyed fabric coloured with goldenrod plants from right outside her door. Her surroundings in Seaforth, Nova Scotia are something to behold. On my way to her studio for the first time, I stopped briefly at Lawrencetown Beach on the Eastern Shore and picked up these stones that speckled the little nook where I parked my car. I didn’t even actually make it down to the beach, a hot spot for surfers — if you ever want to surf in the Atlantic. [Brrr.]

It’s no wonder Keephouse’s work looks and feels the way it does.

I “come from away” and I have gathered in the last four-and-a-half years living here that Nova Scotians are at the root a no-frills kind of people. The harshness and unpredictability of the weather leaves little room for frivolity. This is backed up by some research I gathered before designing this quilt: “The early quilts of Nova Scotia do not reflect the elaborate taste of sections of the eastern United States — they are more like what the people call ‘common quilts,’ practical, economical, and warm. […] Even though the quilts were utilitarian, they were planned with a good eye for colour and arrangement.”1

To capture the essence of the East Coast, we chose Keephouse’s Houses and Rows (inspired by vegetation rows in a garden or crop field) designs to represent land. Navy and gold were the colours that I had in mind, and with Alissa’s suggestion of hand-dyed goldenrod, it seemed like a good fit. I love navy as a warm neutral, and with the storminess of the sea as a prominent feature of the Maritime landscape, it was an appropriate background colour.

An important part of my process is testing. For this step, Alissa and I decided on trivets – an 8” x 8” block that I would design, produce a limited number, and then the design would be integrated into the larger quilt at a later time. The block features skinny 1” strips (measuring 1/2” finished) as the coastline, defining a border between the “land” and the “sea.” Having both the land and sea on the trivet allowed me to practise my free-motion quilting skills, which I picked up from my very gifted guild-mate Linda Coolen Smith in May.

In the larger piece, the “land” is made up of traditional blocks, turned on point as many Nova Scotian quilters used to do. To add tactile texture and weight, I used Essex Yard-dyed Linen in Indigo, which tied in some of the white ink that Alissa often uses. The blocks are “Tulips” and “Storm of the Sea,” pulled from a couple of books on Nova Scotia quilts — there are only a two or three books on this topic in the Halifax Central Library and available for consultation only. (Who doesn’t want to spend some time at the library, designed by Schmidt Hammer Larsen with Fowler Bauld & Mitchell?) The blocks vary in scale, with omissions and crops. The coastline, made up of the block, is broken and pushes outward as the sea tries to encroach on the land. The irregular border where the land and sea meet required countless partial seams. Free motion quilting over a regular grid represents ocean currents and the dynamism of the sea. The composition of the quilt mimics the province’s southern shore on the map, coastline with vast Atlantic to its southeast.

This quilt will be on display in Savannah, Georgia at Quilt Con 2017 from February 23-26, 2017.

1 Houck, Carter. Nova Scotia Patchwork Patterns. 1981.

Photo: Naomi Hill