Stitching, Sewing & Cats

Stitching, Sewing & Cats

There are still spaces left for The Basics Workshop! This workshop is for any and all who want to learn basic design concepts, techniques, stitches and have lots and lots of fun. Hurry and sign up now before it fills up.

I did a livestream for my Patrons yesterday using my newly organized space and I have to say, it’s working! I did a few tweaks, because of some suggestions from all of you, and have purchased a little side table, I think people use these for working in bed, as it’s an L shape and has two shelves at the bottom, so I am thinking/hoping that will help with the thread storage and needing/wanting to see everything situation. I’ll report back!

In the meantime here is the revised sewing area.

And the revised stitching area. I tried to put the plastic bins vertically, but any time I pulled a thread from one of them everything came tumbling out, so I’ll have to rethink that.

But all in all I think this is doable. Of course, like any true New Yorker, I’m always secretly coveting the empty elevator shaft that is directly behind the wall I face now while stitching. Recapturing it has proven to be more than a little challenging, but I do continue to hold out hope.

So beyond my various stitching projects, I still have my Pat Pauly quilt that I began and haven’t done much with since taking her class. Still it’s hanging here on my design wall, waiting for me. Oh! And I’m determined to test out my GoPro before going on our crazy African adventure. More on that next week.

I just had to add this Youtube video of cats interrupting people as they were being televised. Too funny. My particular favorite is the cat who crashed the fashion show and struts down the catwalk!

Happy stitching/sewing everyone!

Teaching at Gotham Quilts!

Teaching at Gotham Quilts!

A month ago I taught a 2-hour stitching workshop exploring shapes and stitches at my quilt guild. It was a huge success, and lots of fun! I prepared squares of wool and precut circles in different sizes. More than 20 people attended and each person got to pick a wool square and some circles, which they then whipstitched on to their wool base. As most of the participants already knew how to do some of the more basic stitches such as the Running Stitch and Backstitch, I taught how to do the Bullion Knot and a Cast On Bullion stitch. (We only had two hours) It was a lot of fun! I really, really love teaching.

Through one of the participants (who also happens to be a friend) of that workshop I was introduced to one of the owners of the last remaining quilt shop in New York City, Gotham Quilts – New York City’s Quilt Shop. It was a terrific meeting and as a result of that meeting, I will be teaching a 6-hour Creative Stitching workshop playing with shapes using many of Sue Spargo‘s techniques in April. If you’d like to sign up for it, you can, by clicking ‘here‘. The workshop is on April 25th from 11:30 – 6. Everyone will get a “kit” which will include precut circles, a wool square base, wool thread to whipstitch the shapes onto the background, needles, lots of different kinds of threads to play with, tons of Perle Cotton threads, a piece of silk velvet, some stabilizer for the silk velvet, a sampling of beads, buttons and silk ribbon. I am SO excited and hope some of you will join me!

For those of you unfamiliar with Gotham Quilts, it opened in 2014 and is located at 40 West 37th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues in the heart of Manhattan and just a block from the Garment District. Two friends, Andrea and Ivete, own and run it. Over the years they have expanded what began as a tiny shop on the second floor, to a multi level space, carrying a wonderfully curated selection of fabrics and notions as well as Bernina Sewing Machines. They are now open six days a week, everyday but Sunday, from 11 – 6, and on Thursdays until 7pm.

Gotham Quilts

I hope to see some of you there!

Have you checked out my latest YouTube video? My channel is: Ariane Zurcher – On the Other Hand where I give tutorials on all things involving stitching, sewing, design and creating. I will be doing videos that are for Left Handers, but others that are not hand specific. So join me, and stitch along!

Tutorial: How stitch the Pekinese Stitch
How to stitch The Coral Stitch with 2 (okay 3) variations!

Teaching at Gotham Quilts!

Quilting Arts & A Rooster

A couple years ago I was featured in Quilting Arts Magazine – the Year of the Rooster!  

The piece I submitted, entitled Regal Rooster, was made of wool, cotton and silk velvet (that I dyed myself) using a variety of threads, but predominantly Eleganza Perle Cotton from Sue Spargo.  She has the most luscious perle cotton threads in sizes 8, 5 and 3 as well as just about anything else one could want.

I designed the rooster with one of my sister’s roosters in mind.  Though I must admit her roosters are mean, nasty, brutish fellows and can only be appreciated from afar.  As in – where are my binoculars?  (Sorry Sis.)  However my rooster is kind and regal and very colorful. Here’s his head, since that’s the first to go…  Oh stop it.  Seriously, in my experience roosters in real life tend to be vicious creatures, but my fictitious guy is lovely.  I swear.

To all the rooster lovers in the world, I apologize in advance for my biased characterization of them. I’m sure there are some really nice roosters out there, I’ve just never met them…

Regal Rooster

And here he is in all his colorful glory. I used Sue Spargo’s techniques of layering beginning with a wool base and then adding fabrics: cotton, velvet and silk ribbon before applying the wool Rooster body. Hand stitching using various threads and stitches came next and then I machine quilted the whole thing!

See the random seed stitches in the lower right corner? That’s where I inadvertently burned the silk ribbon with too hot an iron. I can tell you this now because no one noticed and why not admit to these tiny mishaps that inevitably occur in life?! They say we learn from our mistakes, and I’m hoping that’s actually true as a singed silk ribbon makes for a very unhappy stitcher, however stitching and gorgeous threads can cover up just about anything.

Teaching at Gotham Quilts!

Power Struggles

Above is one of the images my teenage daughter sent me saying that she wants to dye her hair pink. I don’t have a problem with that, except for the fact that her hair is already pretty fried from having gone platinum (like Gwen Stefani) for years, and only in the last year plus has she agreed to get highlights, (less damaging) instead of full on platinum. Even so, her hair is not in good shape, we just had to trim it again, and I worry that it will get even worse if she goes pink. So we discussed. And then we discussed more, and there was alot of disagreement, interrupted by watching You Tube videos of a number of young girls dying their hair various shades of pink and how they did it. Some were incredibly compelling and I wavered between thinking maybe I should dye my hair pink, to sternly telling myself this was an idea I would quickly regret and reminding myself to get back on track as this wasn’t about ME, this was about my daughter and how could I best support her without her doing something that might just destroy what was left of her hair. Not my body, not me, get out of the way…

Last night I barely slept. Because this is just the sort of thing that keeps me up at night. And yes, I was aware, at 2AM that I was incredibly fortunate to be thinking about my daughter’s hair color and not something actually serious. I even said a silent – thank you – to the great unknown. And then I remembered that when my son was my daughter’s age he went in for some serious ink and came home with a massive tattoo that he now wants to have removed. I didn’t love that tattoo, though I rather like a couple of the others that he got, but again, not my body, not me, get out of the way…

My job is to support my children, now almost adults. This is easier said than done, however. I figure it’s my job to give them good information so they can make, hopefully, great decisions. Unlike my own young adult self who made a series of questionable and even very, very bad decisions! (I will spend the remaining years of my life apologizing to my mother for what I put her through.) But mostly I need to not engage in anything that starts feeling like a power struggle, because, in the long run, I’m not going to win, and anyway it’s ultimately counter productive. Again, not my body, not about me, get out of the way…

All of this got me thinking about designing (see, I told you my thoughts ricochet like a pin ball during the wee hours of the night/morning) and how similar these kinds of challenges are when designing and stitching. Often when designing I begin with a sketch. Sometimes that sketch evolves, but other times it’s simply the starting point. I have to be willing to let go of the initial idea. Some ideas are definitely more bossy than others. I have to go with where the design leads me, sometimes down unexpected paths. But most of all, I have to get out of the way…

Below is a sketch of a bracelet idea I had using 18 Kt Gold and a variety of green colored gemstones.

Preliminary Sketch for Bracelet

That idea eventually turned into this 18 Kt Brushed Gold Bracelet with multi-colored Tourmaline.

18 Kt Brushed Gold & Tourmaline Bracelet

Below is my sketch for what would finally become my Cookies Delight Quilt. The Pattern for this has been written and I’m just waiting on a couple of things before releasing it as a PDF with detailed instructions on how to make and stitch it.

Cookies Delight Sketch

My Cookies Delight Quilt, using Sue Spargo’s wonderful techniques for layering and stitching, free motion quilted and bound!

Finished Quilt

This is the preliminary very rough sketch I did for the piece I’m currently working on, which was begun in a workshop I took a few weeks ago with Sue Spargo.

Landscape Sketch

This is where it’s going or maybe I should say leading me… I am definitely having to follow this one as it’s careening off the original path I’d set out on. We will see! But that’s also part of the fun – seeing where it goes and doing my best to follow.

Landscape Piece in Progress

I’ve convinced my daughter, for now, to get highlights (compromise) and we’ve bought a “pink conditioner” and will apply that this weekend! Who knows where this may lead?!

Teaching at Gotham Quilts!

An “Ode To Matisse” Quilt

Last fall I decided to design my own bed-sized quilt.  I wanted a quilt that would remind me of spring and summer, that was colorful and had big organic shapes that inspired cheerfulness.  This was before the election and though there were many things being said that were ominous  – calls for great walls to be built, mass deportations being touted as campaign “promises”, comments about bringing back the “good old days”, leading many of us to wonder to whom those “good old days” applied, (obviously not women, minorities, and anyone who didn’t conform to traditional gender roles and relationships) all this from a man dogged by bankruptcy, lawsuits, accusations of fraud and sexual misconduct, a man who bragged about assaulting women, not paying his taxes, and encouraged his supporters to physically assault those who voiced opposition to him – still, it seemed there was room for optimism, and, if nothing else, the elections hadn’t taken place yet.  Those months and weeks before the election now feel like the “good old days”.

So in the midst of all that, I decided to design my own quilt and was inspired by the shapes in a fabric covering a chair and couch my husband used to have in his office at his advertising agency, that now occupies the western portion of our bedroom.


Couch in our bedroom

I wrote about this quilt, that I began designing and intended to make, just after I’d chosen all the fabrics for it.  I discussed the process of taking a sketch and translating it into an actual quilt.  That post is ‘here‘.

Matisse reminds me of the playfulness that can be a part of life if we allow it in and the shapes he created make me smile.  The colors he frequently used tended toward bright, primary colors, and I decided to stay close to those as well.  It took ages to figure out where everything would go, what fabrics to use, how to fit everything in to the size quilt I knew I wanted.  The quilt kept getting bigger, and even though it is intended for a twin bed, I wanted it to be long enough that I could tuck it under and over pillows. I really wanted it to be the size of a bedspread.

And then the elections took place and I threw myself furiously into escaping what was now to become our collective reality learning how to dye my own fabrics.  I took several classes at the Academy of Quilting taught by the extremely,  talented, artist Elizabeth Barton.  Between learning to dye, which I love, love, LOVE, playing with colors, and sporadically working on my “Ode to Matisse” quilt I managed to avoid getting too depressed by the events and endless drama that has now become commonplace with this new administration.  Still, I knew I’d have to make a concerted effort to concentrate on my Matisse quilt if I was ever going to finish it.  So about a month ago I began working on it daily.  The free motion quilting, which I’m very new to, was challenging and I ran into lots of tension issues, but then went back to one of the dozens of Craftsy classes I have enrolled in and was reminded not to be afraid to turn the tension down as far as needed in order to get the threads to behave with each other, no matter how imbalanced that relationship might seem.  Read whatever you like into THAT statement, but it did seem ironic given who now occupies our White House.

There are many wonderful free motion quilting classes on Craftsy, but the two I particularly love are Free Motion Quilting Essentials taught by Christina Carneli, her blog is A Few Scraps and Divide and Conquer: Creative Quilting for any Space taught by Lori Kennedy, who also has a blog, Inbox Jaunt.  They are both wonderful.  Christina also teaches several other free motion quilting classes for those who are more experienced.  But for me, starting out with her class was perfect and just what I needed to attempt this:  img_0102

and this:img_0093 and this…img_0100 And this…img_0099

From Lori’s class I began with doodles of things I saw others doing and then took it to the quilt.  Patterns like this…img_0097and this…img_0089and this…img_0090With each block, I tried a different free motion quilting pattern that I thought complimented the shape in the block.  I know many feel the shapes themselves should also be quilted and I may have to go back and quilt the larger shapes, but I wanted them to pop, so decided to leave them alone.  Once all the blocks were quilted I agonized over the binding.  Eventually I opted for the darkest background beige fabric I had used.  I cut it on the bias, pieced it together and then following the instructions in Mimi Dietrich’s book, Happy Endings   I bound the whole quilt with mitered corners.  I added a label and voila!ode-to-matisse

And here’s a shot of the labelLabel.jpgOTM_Back.jpg

There’s nothing quite as satisfying as finishing such a mammoth project, except of course writing about it while it is draped over your lap!

I forgot to include the contents of this quilt on the label.  They are:  100% cotton fabric, Wool Batting, Cotton thread.

Next up – my Block of the Month quilt that I’m currently designing and working on, inspired by the fabulous Sue Spargo, who is to blame for my current obsession with all things fabric, quilted, embroidered, embellished, etc.