A Tale of Two Purses

July 20, 2010 at 7:23 pm 3 comments

You know how sometimes, when you need to call or write a friend you’ve been out of touch with for a while, you catch yourself  putting it off because there’s so much to say?  Yet the longer you put it off, the more there is to cover, and you dig yourself a little deeper.

That’s where I’ve been with this blog.  I’ve been back from Arkansas for almost a month, my guild show has come and gone, and each time I think about posting to the blog I think, Oh, but I still haven’t posted about the quilt shop in Arkansas, or the lecture and exhibit I went to at the Allentown Art Museum, or winning my first-ever blue ribbon, or going to New York City…

You see where I’m going with this.  I’ve been doing the same thing with the blog lately that I’ve been doing with my UFOs, allowing the accumulated psychological weight of  my perceived to-do list to paralyze me into inactivity.  So perhaps I need to take a more measured approach to the blog, the way I’ve been attempting to do with the UFOs.  Rather than trying to get all caught up, I’ll start with what I’m doing now.  If I can manage to go “back in time” and catch up, great; if not, at least I’m not digging myself in deeper.  Again.

So!  What have I been working on lately?  Purses!  It most likely started here:

Japanese purse patterns

As I’ve doubtless mentioned before, I am totally in thrall to the Japanese quilters.  I’m amazed by the idea that a culture with no history of quilting (technically, sashiko isn’t quilting, it’s embroidery to decorate and reinforce a single layer of fabric) and certainly no history of decorative patchwork, a culture which was only exposed to American quilting post-WWII, has managed to produce in just the last 60 years a community of quilters of unparalleled creativity and workmanship.  I subscribe to two Japanese quilting magazines, Quilts Japan and Patchwork Quilt Tsushin, and am always happy for opportunities to see Japanese quilts in person.  I love the design esthetic:  the frequently muted colors (especially taupes!), the artful assymetries, the use of fabric printed with English or French text as purely a textural element much in the same way we use Chinese or Japanese logographic characters for decoration.  Here we see the quintessential American craft, that is ours the same way jazz and rock and roll are, reinterpreted through a foreign lens in a breathtakingly beautiful fashion.

So every time I’m in or near New York City, I stop at Kinokuniya bookstore, located right across the street from Bryant Park, where they put on the Fashion Week shows (Hi, Tim Gunn!) and Sanseido bookstore, located in the Mitsuwa marketplace in Edgewater, NJ.  There I spend some very happy hours browsing through quilt books that I can’t read, but the photographs are stunning and the directions have very helpful diagrams.  Both the books and magazines are for me primarily sources of inspiration, rather than patterns I plan to follow faithfully, but I think I’d do OK once I converted all the measurements from metric to English, if I decided I had to make something exactly the way it appeared.  I didn’t plan to just buy purse books, but these were the items that attracted me the most.

Then, hard on the heels of my NYC trip were several family birthdays.  One of my sisters, when I asked her what she wanted for her birthday, said, “Oh please, don’t buy me anything.”  I decided to honor the letter of the law, rather than the spirit, and made her a purse.  Technically, the only thing I bought were the zippers and interfacing.  She apparently forgives me this transgression, because she loved the purse:

Star Wars purse front

Star Wars purse back

I am inordinately proud of this zipper.

I am inordinately proud of this zipper.

She and her family are big Star Wars fans, even having attended the Star Wars Celebration in Orlando, so I couldn’t think of a worthier recipient for something made from some of my precious vintage Star Wars fabric.  My friend Joan was generous enough to share this with me last month, after I had quite openly coveted it at our guild retreat in December.  She had bought the fabric when it was in the stores after Return of the Jedi came out in 1983, held onto it all these years, then made this quilt for her grown son’s “man cave”:

Joan's Star Wars quilt

Joan's Star Wars quilt

I wound up quite unexpectedly being asked to hold an impromptu “Introduction to Star Wars” lecture at the retreat, explaining the story to those retreat-goers not familiar with it, based on the images in the quilt.  (Fortunately, the regulars were all fully cognizant of what a big giant nerd I am, so I wasn’t outing myself.)  It felt pretty much exactly like this:

(I couldn’t find a version of this scene without the added comedy title and subtitles, but you get the idea.)

So the purse is the Huntington Hobo by Pink Sand Beach Designs, and the directions were wonderful.  Even the zippers were easy to do with her photos and instructions.  The only drawback is that I wish I’d had a better quality zipper for the top opening; the big metal one from JoAnn’s hangs up too much.  Hopefully as my sister uses the bag and possibly waxes the zipper, it will work more easily, but overall I have to call this one a great success.  Which is good, since another of my sisters has already informed me that I’m permitted to make one, sans Star Wars, for her birthday in November.

Then this past weekend, we attended a birthday party for my 12-year-old niece.  I got her a DVD she wanted (Up, probably my favorite Pixar movie yet, which is saying a lot) and some fingernail glitter, but I thought it would be fun to make her a purse as well:

Hot pink skull purse

Inside skull purse

This is Geisha Girl by Purse Strings, and the directions were great right up until it came time to put in the zipper.  I’ll definitely make this purse again, and I’ll have to play with the zipper instructions then, but they just weren’t speaking to me this time, so I left the zipper out.  But it turned out SOOOO CUTE!  She was very happy with it.  I wish I could have taken it to show and tell, but I missed my guild meeting last week due to an upset stomach — much as I wanted to share the purse, I didn’t want to risk sharing a nasty GI bug!  Fortunately it was of short duration.

The skull fabric is called Skullfinity, by (you guessed it) Alexander Henry.  I found this at JoAnn Fabrics of all places a couple years ago and bought 6 1/2 yards out of sheer love.  (Yay coupons!)  I have a Halloween UFO that this should be the back to.

I spent much of Sunday making the bias binding for Ruby Wedding.  My parents’ 41st wedding anniversary was yesterday, and while I’m getting no pressure from them, thank goodness, I’m feeling the guilt considering the quilt is now a full year late.  I haven’t basted it yet, but knowing the binding is there waiting for me somehow makes it easier to embark on the huge intimidating project that quilting this quilt represents.  That’s what’s next…


Entry filed under: New Projects, Time Management, Travel, UFOs. Tags: , , , .

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