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The June meeting was a very interesting one, starting with our officers arriving to set up only to discover we had been moved out of our usual meeting hall to an upstairs room. Although that caused a small flurry of activity, things quickly settled down and the meeting proceeded without further interruption.
We had a somewhat unusually large turn-out of guests and visitors, and Chairperson Neela Shah welcomed everyone, including one or two new members. Sadly, she then called for a moment of silence in memory of our recently deceased friend, Rowena Buxton. The last few weeks have been a sad time for the Guild as we have each had to accept this most unfortunate loss.
Deanna Gaudaur has issued an invitation to our members to visit her studio at Kijabe for a demonstration of her long-arm quilting system. Of course, this necessitates a social outing complete with car-pooling and a sign-up sheet to control who will bring what dishes for lunch. When our members cook, the eating is top-notch, so if you’re a KQG member or guest, you won’t want to miss out. Date for the event is August 1, and it’s not too late to join in on the fun!
Sarah Brewin will be back with us later in the year, so everyone is encouraged to work on their African quilts to send with her for exhibition at the Rhododendron Needlework Quilters Guild in Boston. From there, the quilts will be forwarded to Canada where they will be shown during the “Out of Africa 2013” exhibition to be held at the London Hilton Hotel in Ontario, Canada, June 11-15, 2013.
The International Quilt Convention Africa 2012 is fast approaching, scheduled to run July 27-29 in Johannesburg. Members are urged to make airline, accommodation, workshop and social function reservations immediately so as not to miss out on the opportunity to participate in this historic and fun-filled event: the first ever professionally organized quilt festival on the entire continent of Africa!
Gill Rebelo also encouraged any of our members willing to do so to participate in Village Market’s Jean-ius fashion design competition. Details about that can be found on the Village Market Facebook Page.
Show and Tell photos are below:
Our guest speaker was textile artist Sophie Standing, whose work is much in demand. Sophie produces images of African wildlife and domestic animals on cotton canvas by applying raw edge appliqué of a wide range of printed cotton and other fabrics, followed by machine stitching. She described something of the processes she goes through from initial sketch to finished piece. She stretches her completed pieces on stretcher frames, ready for decorative framing. Sophie’s work has been so successfully received by Kenyans and international visitors that she has commissions booked for the next two years! Well done, Sophie; we all greatly admire your work!
The July meeting will be a children’s quilt day! All attendees are invited to bring any children they know who might like to learn about patchwork quilting plus 1 dozen cupcakes, and be prepared to teach and learn with the young people.
The notes below, about patchwork quilt batting, were given to us to publish by Deanna Gaudaur, a member of the Kenya Quilt Guild. At the March 2012 meeting, Deanna presented a lecture based on these notes, and most generally offered to share them with us here. Thank you, Deanna!
What is batting/wadding? It is the middle of your quilt sandwich, or the insulating layer that provides warmth. It also adds dimension/thickness.
How is it held together?
- Bonded: similar to glue, using starch or resin, some will dissipate with water so you might not be able to preshrink them.
- Scrim: A gauze, a loosely woven fabric sometimes used to stabilize the fibers
- Needle punched: Fibers are loosely felted together by a process involving many needles. It is more stable but is harder to needle as it is quite firm. More stability for wall hangings means your quilts don’t droop so much. A word here about needle punched batts: put the batting on the quilt with the needle holes the same way you will quilt.
Each type of batting has a long list of pros and cons. There is no “right” choice for every quilt and it will take some research to find the best one for your project. But how many hours and how much money have you invested into your quilt? Let’s not just put it together with any old batt!
Before we talk about the types of batting and which one you should use, there is a list of questions which can be asked about each project:
- What am I making? A baby quilt requiring frequent washing will require a different choice than a large bed quilt. A table runner or placemats will need to be washed frequently and an art quilt will never come near water but might need dry-cleaning.
- How will I be finishing it? Will it be tied, hand quilted or machine quilted?
- What kind of look do I want? Puffy? Flat? Highly defined? Do I want to see the actual quilting stitch line, or do I want the texture and dimension that quilting creates? You might want a soft cuddly bed quilt but more stiffness for a quilted carry-all.
- How warm should it be, or do I want it to breathe?
- Will shrinkage matter? Is the quilt’s finished size important? Quilting causes up to 5% shrinkage, then if you wash and it shrinks another 1-4% due to your batting choice, you might be surprised at how small it ends up!
- Do I want this quilt to feel weighty or light?
- What price can I afford to pay?
- What fiber will be best?
- Cotton: Feels like a thick flannel. It’s a good option for machine quilting because it doesn’t slip around. Generally it must be quilted closely. Cotton shrinks up to 4%, softening the appearance of the quilt and giving it a comfortable look. It can be sometimes prewashed/shrunk if you don’t like that feature. It is low loft, so doesn’t provide much definition to the quilting.
- Polyester: Less expensive, readily available in Nairobi, and is better for hand-quilting (if it is low loft) because it doesn’t need to be quilted so closely. High loft is best for comforter-like quilts, minimal quilting, or tying. It also holds it shape better, even when washed repeatedly. It resists mold and mildew as well. But negative sides can be the bearding that can occur, particularly if you use a lesser quality fabric or a dull needle. It is slippery when machine quilting, so take care to baste well. It also doesn’t breath well, so people can overheat. But, it can shift, especially when hanging. That being said, the majority of my quilts are done with polyester and my own son wanted the “poofiness”of a poly batt, not the drape of cotton.
- Bamboo: When I quilted professionally for the year I was in Canada, 90% of my quilting was done on this type of batt. It is very soft/drapeable and easy to use, either by machine or by hand. They are very washable and because the fibers are longer the quilting distance will be greater than in a cotton batt. We think of them as being very organic and environmental because bamboo is a renewable resource, especially when we hear about the world-wide shortage of cotton. However, most bamboo bats are only 50% bamboo and the process by which the bamboo is made into fibers suitable for using is very labour and energy intensive, negating some of the positive image. Learn more at O Ecotextiles.
- 80 % Cotton, 20% polyester blends: This is Hobbs’ best selling quilt batt. I like the lightness of this product, rather than the heaviness of pure cotton. Also it is thin, it has a bit more loft due to the polyester. It is available in Nairobi at The Woman Shop.
- Other options: Flannel–prewash unless you want shrinkage; old blankets, quilts or used quilt batts; or even polyurethane or rubber foam–available from Nakumatt in the mattress section. This is ideal for a stiffer project, like placemats, table runners or bags.
Find a helpful batting chart on The Curious Quilter blog.
Rhonda Denney first visited us last year when she came on tour of Kenya with Ricky Tims, Alex Anderson and other American quilters. Their visit coincided with our monthly meeting in January 2011 and we entertained the group to a small exhibition of our African quilts. Some of our more astute members spotted Rhonda’s stylish quilted fabric bag, and were thrilled to hear that she had made it herself. It was only a small step from that encounter to Rhonda’s return last month to teach us not only her famous Bow-Tuck bag but also two other original classes.
Rhonda was anxious to return to Nairobi; she had lived in Langata for three years as a child in the 1960s when her father was working here on a project studying wildlife migration. His work led to altered boundaries for some of the National Parks to accommodate animals’ migration patterns.
Rhonda started her visit by giving us a small slide show at our January meeting. She showed a picture of the family’s first Kenyan home in Langata and asked if anyone could help her identify its whereabouts. Two of our senior members Jean Classen and Heather Campbell, both longtime Langata residents, were able to help her with its location although it was feared that it is likely to have been demolished by now.
Following her talk and a show-and-tell of some of her quilts, Rhonda gave a one and a half day class on her famous Bow Tuck Bags. All the class participants took advantage of the attractive fabric kits which Rhonda had brought and had great fun mixing and matching the fabrics. We look forward to seeing a colourful selection of the finished bags at the February meeting.
The following week Rhonda gave a class on making a landscape quilt. Participants were asked to bring along a picture of their choice which they wanted to translate into fabric. Rhonda gave some useful tips on perspective and other factors to consider before the challenging task of choosing suitable fabrics began. Some members found this unexpectedly difficult and progress was slower than anticipated but we hope to see some finished landscape pictures at next week’s meeting.
The final class was on the topic of colouring and painting fabrics with a variety of media–regular coloured pencils, water colour pencils and pastels. A solution prepared by soaking soya beans was used to stabilize the colourful finished designs. Participants at this class hope to get together in the near future to continue with their designs as so much time was spent on meticulous colouring that most people finished only three of the planned six designs. We all found this class a very relaxed and therapeutic experience and can never remember attending such a quiet and peaceful class before.
More photos from Rhonda’s classes are in the gallery below:
Many thanks to Rhonda and we hope to see her back in Nairobi again next year.
Because the third Thursday of October is the 20th, the national holiday Kenyatta Day, and the fourth Thursday is the 27th, Hindu holiday Diwali, the next monthly meeting of the Kenya Quilt Guild will be held on Friday, October 28, 2011. We will meet at Shalom House off Ngong Road because we cannot hold our meeting at EAWL Headquarters, WEAL House.
Please note that the October Guild meeting will be held at Shalom House on Ngong Road (see map below) beginning at 9:30 a.m. Bring a mug for your coffee or tea, as we will not be supplying styrofoam cups, or get there early to order coffee and tea from the restaurant Larena next door.
We will be exhibiting the African Challenge quilts and awarding prizes for the First and Second Place Judge’s Awards and for the Viewer’s Choice as selected by yourselves.
Our guest speaker will be Paula Benjaminson, with us from her new home in Gabon. Paula will be talking about her life and her quilts. Her husband’s work as a diplomat has taken Paula to such diverse places as Namibia, Canada and now Gabon. Paula’s quilts demonstrate her passion for Africa, its people and cultures as well as its wildlife. Paula will also be teaching some workshops for us while she is in Kenya. Find full details about these on our 2011 Quilt Workshop Schedule.
On Thursday morning, January 20, 2011, the Kenya Quilt Guild received quiltmaking visitors from overseas, courtesy of Jim West’s Sew Many Places. Accompanying the 50 tour participants were quilting superstars Alex Anderson and Ricky Tims, hosts of The Quilt Show amongst all their other many activities. What a great time we had!
The event was hosted in the East African Women’s League headquarters at WEAL House on Bishop’s Road in Nairobi. Our guests, who were lodged at the luxurious Nairobi Serena Hotel, arrived promptly at 10:00 a.m. Pulling up in three shiny new buses, the safari participants debarked and moved into the hall and auditorium of WEAL House where they were warmly welcomed by members of the Kenya Quilt Guild.
With the entire group assembled in the auditorium, a few small speeches were given. Margaret Odera, resplendent in full African dress, shouted “JAMBO! Karibu sana!” and issued a customary welcome to Kenya to our guests. Then, our Lady Chairman, Jasvinder Phull, greeted the visitors on behalf of the Kenya Quilt Guild. Gill Rebelo, our resident quilt and East African textile historian, spoke briefly about the history of the “Settler Tapestries” on permanent display in the hall.
Alex and Ricky jointly spoke about how delighted they were to be visiting Kenya, and about all the fun they have working with quilters from around the world. They presented all members of the Kenya Quilt Guild with a gift subscription to The Quilt Show. Our members were delighted!
In return, the Guild presented Alex with a lovely African necklace that we know she will enjoy wearing with great pride, and Ricky with a traditional African “finger piano.” What better gift for a talented musician and entertainer? Ricky promises he will be playing it on his next album! To Jim we presented a lovely ebony “mother and child” antelope sculpture.
The participants of the tour enjoyed proper Kenyan hospitality, taking tea and coffee with us and feasting from a table loaded with cakes, samosas and all kinds of other “bitings.” They wandered leisurely around the building, viewing a fabulous, although hastily hung early that morning, display of quilts made by our members. There were about 45 quilts on display, both indoors and outside, so there was good reason to keep moving about. The visitors introduced themselves and chatted with our members, and vice versa, and a truly good time was had by all!
The buses departed at about 12:00 p.m., and we were sorry to see the party break up as all good things must come to an end.
Thanks go to all those who loaned quilts for display, brought food to share, helped set up the space and quilt exhibition, and especially to Dena Crain, whose idea this reception was, for organizing it with Jim West.
We hope Jim’s safari tour group will enjoy the rest of their time in Kenya as much as we enjoyed entertaining them yesterday morning: “Safiri salaama!“
At the November 2010 monthly meeting, Gill Rebelo gave a presentation about boutis, one of the lesser known techniques of quilting that is undergoing a renaissance in popularity today. Gill’s report:
Derived from and similar to Italian trapunto, boutis is a French method which developed in the 13-14th centuries near Marseille, thus its other name “Marseille work.”
Trapunto is a process of quilting with wadding or batting included, cutting into the back of the work to add extra filler and then closing the cuts. The result is what we would consider a proper wholecloth or appliqué quilt with extra stuffing in some places.
Boutis (pronounced boo-tee’), however, is made by stitching two layers of fabric together without filler. Lines of stitching are usually kept close together and running roughly parallel. After all the stitching is completed, the channels of space between lines of stitching are filled with cotton or wool roving or yarn. No cuts need to be made if a needle that is thick enough to carry the yarn can be passed through the threads of the cloth. Roving is trimmed about 1/2 inch away from the cloth and the ends are pushed in with a little stick like a toothpick. The “wound” created by the needle then heal themselves, and the excess roving inserted allows for some shrinkage.
Boutis is a Provençal word which means “stuffing.” A boutis is the name used in France for a wholecloth stuffed quilt. The earliest stuffed wholecloth quilts made in Europe are three Sicilian quilts, thought to date from the late 14th century, which were made as wedding quilts, two of which are now in the Victoria and Albert Museum. They depicted the love story of Tristan and Isolde.
The technique emerged again, in the 17th century, in Provence in southern France, as Matelassage quilts. These were composed of two layers of fabric, the bottom one often coarse and the top being a fine fabric such as silk, sateen, linen or a fine cotton, sandwiched together with a stuffing of carded cotton or silk in between. These were quilted with running stitches to give a raised surface between the stitches but did not contain any cording or stuffing. When washed the cotton shrank to create a puckered three-dimensional look.
Pigure de Marseilles, which became popular in the 18th century, was a more refined version of this. Again, fine fabric was used for the top and a coarser one for the bottom, without a layer of batting, and these two fabrics were stretched on a loom. The quilt pattern was drawn on top and the outlines were stitched with either running stitch or backstitch, which creates a stronger outline. Parallel rows of running or backstitch were worked to create narrow channels as a background to the design motifs which were stuffed by drawing a fine cord or tightly rolled fabric through the narrow channels, using a special blunt-nosed boxwood needle which is also known as a boutis. This was inserted from the back of the quilt, between the stitching lines, without making any cuts in the fabric.
In the 19th century, boutis as we know them today started to reappear as a renaissance of the earlier techniques. These quilts were more refined, made with a fine cotton, linen or silk used for both the back and the front of the quilt. These quilts were reversible, unlike traditional trapunto work which revealed cuts made in the backing and used to insert stuffing.
In the 18th and 19th centuries the boutis were usually made in plain white fabric but occasionally strong colours such as yellow, red, indigo and bronze were used.
Embroidered embellishment motifs, sometimes called Marseilles embroidery, often used to enhance boutis became larger. The varied designs included flowers, hearts, oak leaves, fruit and berries, cornucopia, and fertility and religious symbols such as crosses. Embroiderers also used naïve symbols inspired by events in their own lives.
Traditionally, items made with boutis methods included special baby blankets called “petasson” for newborns, baby’s christening caps and layettes, counterpanes and quilts, women’s petticoats and men’s waistcoats. Because boutis requires fine workmanship, these articles were intended for special occasions such as births, baptisms and weddings. A bride often wore a boutis petticoat under her wedding gown, often in traditional green or red, and boutis items were included in her trousseau.
There was much demand for boutis items from the wealthy in England, Holland, Germany and Spain. Boutis work fell out of fashion in Provence in the early 20th century. Recent revived interest in handwork has brought it to life again. There are now many books and classes teaching the method.
Links to more information about boutis include:
Over two weeks in October, the Kenya Embroiderers Guild hosted Mary Hickmott to teach several workshops. Mary Hickmott’s work is well-known in her home country, the UK.
Click each thumbnail image below to see a larger photo.
Kenya Quilt Guild members were invited to take the workshops to swell numbers sufficiently to make Mary’s trip to Kenya worthwhile. Several of us signed up for and took these wonderful classes that are sure to change our approach to quilting forever. On offer were workshops on crewel embroidery, Mountmellick, gold purl threadwork, canvas stitches and counted thread sampler. Those of us who attended had a most pleasant time learning new stitching methods that we can use to enhance our quilts. We were grateful to be able to participate in this, for us, fantastic opportunity to study with an international embroidery teacher.
During her visit to Kenya, Mary presented a lecture on embroidery to members of the Kenya Quilt Guild as well. Many thanks, Mary, for taking time out of a busy schedule to spend with us!
For more information about Mary Hickmott and her work, see New Stitches Magazine.