The Fiber of My Being: Coloring My World

I started out machine piecing with gray thread because I was told that a neutral color was suited for piecing. Eventually I found my gray stitches didn’t show up on camera so I switched to red thread and stayed with it. Raspberry or cherry red stitches just cheer me up.

Blue however is my favorite fabric color. I piece white and blue fabric with white thread. Otherwise a loose colored thread would surely shadow beneath the white fabric. When I come across the inevitable white stitch on a quilted area of blue I conceal it with a blue fabric marker. If I had the space, I’d set up a sewing machine with white thread, another with red thread, and a third with a dull needle dedicated to paper piecing.

I once had to make a quilt at the last minute for an Alex Anderson quilt show. I was frantic, real life was escalating and I’d only begun to gather the 200 fabrics needed from my stash.

I dropped off a class sample at The City Quilter where I saw two fat-quarter stacks of Japanese Hanamomen brand fabric still wrapped in cellophane. I begged Cathy Izzo, the owner, if I might buy it all. She acquiesced, special circumstances and all. She had returned from the October Quilt Market in Houston with them. The assorted indigo blues became the background, or “constant” fabric. Those indigos brought the quilt to life.

This September was New York Textile Month and I took advantage of its offerings to dye a piece of fabric, an Itajime, in a Sukomo vat of natural indigo dye. Serendipitously I folded and clamped the fabric in such a way as to get diagonal stripes. Diagonal stripes and plaids are my favorite motifs. I intend to dye more Itajime for a quilt.

While squishing my fabric in the vat of fermented indigo liquid I recalled a mesmerizing video I saw last spring. It’s beyond “just” indigo.

Indigoes from South Africa, like the many in my “Tee” quilt, arrive stiff. Laundering is mandatory to release the lingering dye. The fabric softens up and has a beguiling scent. It’s manufactured here.

Now that it’s autumn in New York, my Two-Color Pineapple Quilt is on my bed until I teach it at the Quilt Festival in Houston this October 31. I have no shame; every time I set my eyes on that quilt I admire the interaction of its two colors, coral and indigo. It took me less than five minutes to choose those colors.

The quilt came about because 30 quilters were invited to make KONA fabric quilts in celebration of Robert Kaufman Fabrics’ 30 years of Kona cotton solids. You can see everyone’s work in this Lookbook.

Earlier this year I needed, yet again, to make a quilt at the last minute. I’d soon be filming a new Craftsy technique class. I’d already made an exquisite Jewel quilt for it from prints plus a white “constant.” A Jewel top in solids would effectively delineate the block architecture. I stormed my sewing room and grabbed solids. Solids I liked but intentionally not too many pretties. I needed 32 fabrics but took 36 for wiggle room. I arranged 16 pairs of rectangles and began to sew through their paper patterns. I loved the top I made. There wasn’t one color I’d change.

I flew to Denver not yet for the filming but for the Craftsy Instructor Summit weekend. It was a staggering educational experience. Some Robert Kaufman people were there and seemingly on the spur of the moment, Allie Heath asked if I’d like to assemble a designer palette. I think I shrugged. I didn’t understand what she was talking about. I was late and scooted back the event. Five minutes later it dawned on me: I had an opportunity to select solids from the 303 KONA colors. Where to begin? A second dawn soon followed: I already had 32 favorite colors made for each other.

A severe snowstorm began blanketing the East coast disrupting instructors’ flights. Craftsy made a quick announcement offering to extend our hotel rooms. The presentations continued without skipping a beat.

I returned to Manhattan late Monday / early Tuesday. There was not one iota of snow on my block. The street was absolutely, positively dry. The next morning I awoke to a movie being filmed below my window. Unbeknownst to me, the previous evening a production crew had removed every speck of snow. Seasons may change but my favorite 32 colors haven’t. Bundles of them as fat-quarters, squares and rolls are arriving in stores as I type this.

Blue I love you.

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