Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Sensei and Me.

Saturday with Sensei Chuck Nohara. 

I have been working on these blocks for a couple of years now.

I found out about Chuck Nohara from flipping through the Quiltmania book catalogues and magazines over the past few years. I saw more of the blocks on Instagram and then I saw Lorena Uriarte’s Chuck Nohara quilt up close. I was fascinated. I signed on to do a 5 class course with Lorena (it was once a month, I think it was 5). Anyway, as a pre requisite for the course I had to buy Chuck Nohara’s 2001 New Patchwork blocks published by Quiltmania (reprinted with permission by Nihon Vogue)

For all of us who like to make stuff, I’m pretty sure it’s fair to say we have loads of books and magazines about the things we want to make (or think we’ll make later).

But this book, for me, is different. 

For starters, it’s 2001 blocks - literally. So for a body of work it’s impressive. Really impressive. Let me put it this way, you try designing 2001 of anything let alone 2001 quilt blocks. In Fact Chuck Nohara designed 2800 blocks and selected 2001 blocks for the book.

Here is the West we seem to think that quilting is all our own. Quilting didn’t miraculously appear during the Prarie Migrations in the 1800’s in the US, nor did it appear during the 1930s or the 1970s. Quilting had surges of popularity due to necessity or nostalgia, but it’s been pretty much there in the backgrounds of our lives for centuries, across many cultures and we have all borrowed from each other in the true quilting tradition of taking something old to make something new.

This child’s dress is from the V&A collection in London. It’s a lovely example of “Make Do and Mend” - a major feature of British life during World War 2. 

Quilting in Japan goes back nearly a thousand years and finds it basis in the threads of Boro Boro. It’s no wonder that the numbers of quilters in Japan are in the millions and that quilting is a large part of life for many women there.

Chuck Nohara introduced Western Quilting to Japan in the early 1980s. She was the first. It’s because of her passion for this art (because it is an art) that Quilts Japan and Patchwork Tsushin have thrived. Scores of quilt shops have popped up around the country and the International Tokyo Quilt Show sees over 350,000 visitors from all over Japan and overseas going through it every year.

From the minute I started looking through Chuck Nohara’s book I knew Ms Nohara had had formal design training. Composition, balance, the depiction of light and dark to create contrast, it was all there.

As I dug deeper, I found out that I was right. Ms Nohara had studied Design in Hawaii and then Milan. 

I understood the mastery of the quilt blocks and how clever each one was. The blue prints for the successful completion of each block was all there in the design drawings. Clear and precise.

Bea-Chan likes to quilt too.

I isolated the blocks I wanted to do, copied them all in the size I wanted and put them in a Kunikuyo expandable folder (I use these for my quilting all the time) and started to make them. I’ve put them up on Instagram as I have finished them, I’m going to put them all up on a Pinterest Board that’s all ready to go once I get the pictures up ( you can check that out in the next day or two) .

As I have completed blocks, I have found each block has taught me something. Wether it be about colour balance or composition or about placement - I have found myself continually learning. I love that. There is no such thing as knowing it all, no matter how good you think you are. Knowledge has holes, and the more you fill those holes the more holes pop up as a response. That’s fantastic. It’s amazing and awe inspiring. 

These blocks are doing this for me.

Out of the blue it struck me today that I’ve not been approaching the 55 blocks I’ve done in the way I think I should. This means that I’m going to redo some of them. I’m pretty sure I’ve approached these blocks from a very western mindset. I’ve been looking for short cuts and I’ve used plenty. In some respects that’s been ok, but sometimes prescision and care needs to beat expediency and convenience. When that’s done, the results speak for themselves. Attention to detail.  Something we aren’t very good at here in Western countries and something that Japanese quilters excel at. I’m pretty sure that focusing on attention to detail in my quilting, sewing and illustration will be satisfying creatively and I’m prepared to give it a crack. Again, these blocks teach me every single time.

That’s why I consider Chuck Nohara my Sensei and mentor. In the truest sense of the word. When I spend time with my Chuck Nohara blocks I’m learning from my teacher.

I found out a while ago that Chuck Nohara had lost her business, her marriage and everything had been awful for her. I had also seen Western quilters claiming her blocks and using her as an afterthought if any thought was given at all.  I put away the blocks I was working on. It all made me feel very sad about my Sensei and what had happened her. Friends would ask me why I had stopped working on the blocks. I don’t think they understood why I had stopped working on them. For me, quilting is personal. When I sew, and quilt, I’m normally making something for someone. As I make something, life is going on at the same time. All the events that happen get sewn into the fabric and threads, it’s all there. So it felt personal to me that my Sensei had been through so much.

In the end, I had to pick up the blocks again. I’d flip through the folder, the blocks I had done were all there and looking at me. A good friend of mine (yes you Elizabeth) suggested that the blocks were a celebration of the skill of Ms Nohara and she was so right. 

But life is an incredible thing. Quilts Japan published an article on Sensei Nohara a couple of years ago and I only found it by chance about 18 months ago. Sensei Nohara left Tokyo to go and live by the sea in a lovely house with massive windows that look over the ocean. The house is filled with all sorts of antique and vintage quilts, knitted and crochet textiles, beautiful flowers and Knick knacks of all descriptions. It’s the house of a soul that designs and what’s more, it’s also the home of a very furry cat.

Sensei Nohara has come through hardship to the place she was always meant to be. 

When I pick up her blocks now, to make them come to life, I think of the sea. And a very fluffy cat.

Sunday, 25 August 2019

Pattern and Templates for you! Introducing "Clock-A-Go-Go"

Pardonnez s'il vous plaît le manque de traduction pour ce poste.

Here you go.  This is a conversation piece, a fab big cushion for a bed or Lounge, take your pic.  It's yours for whatever personal use you want!  If you want to make a bunch then we will need to sort out an arrangement that keeps us both happy and won't see you breaking any copyright laws.  But when I say this is a gift for personal use, it really is a gift.  Happy Sunday!

The templates for the Daisies and the clock can be found here

The link will take you to Google docs, where you can download the templates with a click of a button.

The Diamonds are 2'' (5.8cm)  @ 45 degrees.

Each Diamond Border needs the following:

7 Grey Diamonds - 7つのxグレー・ダイアモンド形. 7 forme de Diamants Grise x
7 Red Diamonds. -  7つの赤いダイアモンド形   7 forme de Diamants Rouge x
7 Blue Diamonds -  7つの青いダイアモンド形    7 forme de Diamants Bleue
7 Green Diamonds -  7つの緑のダイアモンド形.  7 forme de Diamants verte
4  Pink Diamonds. -  4つのピンクのダイアモンド形.  4 forme de Diamants rose
4 Full Orange Diamonds -  4つのオレンジ・ダイアモンド形.  4 forme de Diamants orange

(yes, the ones in the picture are only half, I'm still learning the program).
24 Grey Triangles (I cut my diamond papers in half to make the triangles I needed).

24の灰色の三角形形。 三角形を作るために、半分に紙ダイヤモンド形を切ってください

24 forme de triangle grise.  la forme de diamant en papier de réduction dans la moitié pour faire le triangle

Here is a sample of a finished border.

Jo's English Paper Piecing Technique:

I love English Paper Piecing.  I was fist taught how to this when I was 15.  My family was staying in a very tiny outback town.  We were all staying in the post office.  It was very old  with very high ceilings.  Because this town was in the outback, it was very hot and desolate.  The postmaster's mother (she was a little old lady) was staying there too.  There literally wasn't anything to do, and my mother wanted to keep myself and my sister in side.  A young stockman had come to the post office.  he was wearing his best white moleskin jeans and a light blue and white checkered shirt and had his akubra hat in his hand.  He said he was just stopping by, but as there was only one other girl in the town (she was the barmaid in the only pub in town), word had gotten round the surrounding cattle stations that there were two new girls in town.  This stockman had decided to come and see for himself.  My mother then decided that we were going nowhere and we spent the rest of the time inside the post office.  The post master's mother taught me how to Paper Piece to while away the time.  I learnt the traditional way, folding fabric around paper shapes cut from old women's magazines, then tacked in pace and then sewn together with a whip stitch.

In that cool, old Post office with desert and scrub as far as the eye could see out the windows, looking back I could have been looking out onto the 1930s outside those windows.  Time felt like it had literally stopped.

I don't do my English Paper Piecing like that anymore.  No more shapes cut out of the pages of the Women's weekly.  I use laser cut papers.  I don't sew my shapes down before I sew them together, I use glue to put my shapes together and now, as of this project I also use washi tape.

There are a few folks around the traps using tape with their English Paper Piecing, I'm using washi tape and it now sits with all my quilting tools.  I cut out my fabric shapes, use glue to cover my laser cut pieces and then comes the washi tape.

I use washi tape to tape my pieces together, in the order I want.  Then I flip the piece over.


I then whip stitch the pieces together but next time, I think I'll use a ladder stitch.  The results are so much better than doing it the old way and I think the ladder stitch will really make the stitches disappear on the right side.

I enjoyed making the shapes so much I hade a whole bunch.  I don't know how that happened.

On my blog here you are going to see a button for EQ8 (The electric Quilt Company).  This incredibly powerful piece of software is now an important part of my designing tool box and I'll be writing about it along with everything else I'm planning, from now on.

I am still learning EQ8.  I have to say that as far as improving my accuracy, the results have been astounding. Leaps and jumps ahead of my efforts before.  from no one, when I am designing something new, I will be using EQ to ensure that everything is tickety boo (aka - accurate).

I took a couple of screen shots of my design process in EQ8.  No matter how accurate I try to be with a pen and paper when it comes to my quilt designs, its never quite right.  In EQ8 I don't have that issue.So this is me working on my diamonds and whaddya know, it's all lovely!  Its a very simple process to make accurate shapes.


There is one of my favourite features of EQ8.  When you design a motif or block you can print out a black and white image of your design.  This is great.  This means that if I want to play around with my pencils and colour by hand I can.  I like that a lot.  Here is the clock motif before I put it in the final design.

This was the result of me placing all my elements together for the final design, before I added the colour in the program and created the templates for you to use.

All the elements in this design were created from scratch by me.  EQ8 has a hug library of quilt block designs and motifs but if you see anything here on this blog, designed by me it's really designed by me from the ground up.  Normally with a manual on my knee.  Just because a quilt design is done on a computer doesn't mean it's "easy" or doesn't require any design skill.  That's simply not the case.  Being original or trying to be original (more of that in the next blog post 👍) is a skill.  I am a real lover of pencil and paper and paint but I also love using my computer as well, and blending them all together - well - that's a treat.

Let me know how you go and if you like this pattern.  Thanks so much for dropping by!

Baby poo, the art of letting go and a present for you!

Hey hey.

So very glad to see you here!

Its been a very interesting few months here at Cake HQ.  I have been thinking and thinking about a whole bunch of things and making some decisions about the future of this blog and me, and all the other stuff in between.

Which leads me to baby poo.  When my daughter was very little, it came time to face toilet training.  She was going to start Preschool for one day a week and she had to be fully toilet trained before she started.

It was disaster.  An absolute disaster.  No matter what we did, now matter how hard we both tried, it was terrible.

The crunch came on the day that we. both sat in the bathroom for hours and my husband came home from work to find us both sitting on the floor crying.  It was awful.  I picked up my little girl, kissed her wet little face while we both sobbed and I told her we were not going to worry about toilets and poos anymore.  So we didn't.  Three days later she came into our bedroom very early in the morning to tell Captain SWP that she had done an enormous poo in the toilet and it looked like a sausage.

We stopped worrying and stressing and fighting.  We relaxed, took a breath and stopped worrying.  Then everything fell into place.

This was a very important lesson for me.  And it seems that I had forgotten this important lesson when it comes to my blog.  I have been lost in the web.  I haven't really known how I am suppose to approach it, it's so big and nebulous.  I feel like I have thousands of people yelling at me with courses and things I "should" be doing and on and on it goes.

So I have decided to let it all go, take a big breath and relax.  What this will mean is that Cake HQ will be just that.  My HQ.  Im going to post about what I want, things that I find interesting, things that catch my fancy, I'm going to give patterns away because I love to design, I'm going to make stuff and share stuff I learn. Maybe also try and get together some professional stuff too, talk about the design process and whatever takes my fancy will be here.  I might have posts about selling some patterns but they are going to be few and far between.  I am also thinking about getting together a group to come with me to The Tokyo International Quilt Festival in January 2021.

There's going to be lots of stuff, and I have no idea exactly what it's going to all look like.  We will find out together.

I am going to be including Japanese and French here as well, Japanese Quilters are prolific and incredibly passionate and no one includes them. So are French quilters so  I am going to do that.

I am using an online translator here and I do apologise, but as I learn and if I can find any native speakers I will see if I can get some help.

There will be another post after this one with my gift to you, a pattern with templates.  all yours.  Go. Nuts.




J'ai pensé à beaucoup de choses
Je devais enseigner à ma petite fille comment utiliser les toilettes avant qu'elle est allée à l'école pre.
C'était un désastre, c'était terrible. nous avons crié.
Nous avons arrêté d'inquiéter et souligner et lutter. Nous nous sommes détendus, avons respiré et avons arrêté de nous inquiéter. Alors tout est tombé dans l'endroit.
c'était une leçon très importante et un j'ai oublié. J'ai constaté qu'Internet est très grand, avec les règles qui ne sont pas claires.
Je vais parler de toutes les sortes de choses, j'espère que vous l'aimez.
J'utilise un traducteur en ligne ici et je m'excuse vraiment, mais comme j'apprends et si je peux trouver des locuteurs natifs je verrai si je peux recevoir un peu d'aide.

Thursday, 21 February 2019

Tutorial - Wee Widget

I use this funny little poufy sqaure thingy all the time and I thought I would share how to make this.

I use this as a weight for when I’m quilting, cutting out a pattern from fabric, or needing something to hold down the various bits of paper I use when I am drawing and painting etc.  Ive got a bunch of these in different sizes and they are very useful.

I’ve done up an illustrated pattern (only 1 page) that you can print out if you want to scribble all over it or do what I do, and stick them in a folder.  For that rainy sewing day.

This is such a simple project to do.

You will need:

A square off fabric.  It has to be square or it will make you cry.  I started with an 11.5cm square or a 4 and half inch square of fabric.

Needle and thread.

Your chosen filling material, I use flax, but you might want rice, wheat etc.

I folded that fabric into quarters and finger pressed the edges.  This is to make guidelines.  They come in handy.

Fold the edges into the middle of the square and sew the together.  Have a look at the drawn images on the pattern  It’s simple and clear and it will make sense.

Once you have sewn all your edges together making sure you have left a space to fill (yes, I have learnt that the hard way).

I have filled my widgets with flax seed.  I like the way that feels and I like the fact that folks have been filling all sorts of things with flax since medieval times or earlier.  I get mine in bags form my local health food store.  When I bring the bags home I stick them in the freezer for 24-48 hours before I am going to use them.

Sticking the flax in the freezer means that you will have very kindly and gently gotten rid of anything creepy crawly that have been snuggled down in the flax (because that can happen).  Just be aware that if you want to fill your widgets with rice, wheat whatever, make sure you stick in the freezer for a bit first.

You could fill your widgets with sand or with crushed walnut shells if you want a pin cusahion as well as a weight.

Toy fill or wool won't work for the widget because they don’t have any real weight but could work if you want to make a pin cushion.

Let me know how you go, I’d love to see what yours look like.

You can find the pattern link here

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

The Dressing Table.

Elizabeth Arden Blue Grass advertisement 1959

I’ve got a large collection of vintage magazines and ephemera, plus scrap books filled with pictures of all sorts of vintage images and fonts etc, stacks.

It’s a bit of a sickness that seems to be shared by a lot of designers and creative folks. We are visual pack rats 😜

But there’s a point to it. Every single image on every single page of everything I’ve got stashed away is packed with heaps and heaps of information and inspiration. I’ve got it organised - mostly. Some creative folks like a huge pile of chaos, that can be part of the process that is getting inspiration.

I love late 50s - early 60s design. It’s my thing. BUT while I love it too bits, I don’t want to steal from it. I want to be inspired by it.   In designing that can be a bit of a tricky thing.

Anyhoo, the range I’m building that literally came from some flowers I took from my garden (only because I had to dead head some roses 🙄) has now grown into a range of quilting/furnishing fabrics. I’ve just loved loved loved being swallowed up by the process, I’ve got a couple of designs in the range to finish but I’ve also starting getting together a few images to use as a base for a new range.

And so it goes.

My range that I’m working on now has a name “Dressing Table”.  I have such strong memories of the lovely old lady who lived next door to us when I was a kid. Aunty Joy had a white, low early 60s Dressing Table with a very large mirror that was covered in vintage Avon bottles, little ornaments, powder puffs, cut glass crystal bowls filled with costume jewellery and very large rings. My mother in law has something similar.

It’s funny how those snap shots from life get buried in the brain and always stay with you. 

It stayed with me.  As I painted roses and swans it was a no brainer, “Dressing Table” is my theme for my range and for the new one too. 

I’ll talk about how I look at images next week. What do you think when you look at the picture above. What can you see and what does it make you think? 

Monday, 4 February 2019

The birth of a range ... why is it so late??

Something happened the other day.  I took a picture of a bunch of flowers from my garden. No big deal really. But something happened.  I found myself wanting to turn those flowers into a large floral motif.  I had to do it.  I couldn’t wait for the small pockets of time I could grab so I could get it started.  And since that very moment I put brush to paper, I have not been able to do anything else (my bathrooms and the washing that needs to be done can testify to that).

I’m a planner.  Sometimes, that can be a good thing.  Sometimes I think I should plan more,especially with my writing.  But when it has come to my textile designs, I plan way too much.  The more I plan, the more confined and fussy my designs become and the more frustrated I become. After my last attempt at putting together a range, I found myself with great colours, a promising motif and a lot of silly ideas that went no where.

I was thinking way too much.

The new work I have done, to be honest, I didn’t think about it all.  I mean it, I just thought “paint”.  I used colours that I had mixed for the last failed range and paper I had in my studio.  I don’t think about anything, I just allowed myself to  paint and enjoy it.

I love the result, it’s excited me in a creative way and as a result, I’m getting fizzy brains.  In other words, I’m getting together a range that is forming organically.  All by itself.  Very cool.  I’m in unknown territory here because this isn’t a process I have ever followed before.  So its going to be interesting to see what eventuates. 

I’m instagramming the steps I’m taking so I can see the progress of the range.

I rustled up a quick co-ordinate to go with my floral centre3 piece.  It looks great.  Text can be great in fabric and it can be very versatile.  It looks great as borders or as highlighting or as a focal point.

Words are important, and they can have power.  They can transport and educate and create feeling.  Unless you use them waaaaayyyyy too much.

The words “dream’ and “believe’ are everywhere.  Wall art, fabric for furniture, fabric for quil;ting and clothes and t-shirts.  I hate to say it but those two, once very important words, now have the depth of wall paper.  I glaze over when I see them to be honest.

I went through all my vintage magazines and ephemera looking for great fonts and words that made my imagination go bonkers.  I then took the words I found and turned them into a design.  I thought it would be lovely to be lying  down on a quilt and l;eating the words fool your head with images.

Words like : Loveliest, cottage, garden and open of my favs, enchantment.

It only took a couple of hours to get the design finished. I thought I was done for the day.  I did all the stuff I needed to do and went to bed.

Like that worked.

My head has been filled with a deep, dark forest green.  I have that green in the bunch of flowers piece.  I love that colour, its very rich and out looks great with the mauve colour I have been using.  So my brain goes fizz fizz fizz and I’m lying in the dark imagining what that fabulous green looks like with gorgeous text on top of it, and then what that fabric would look like as an oversized business shirt, worn with boyfriend jeans, and a bandana made out of my bunch of roses motif.  Yeah, I’m in creation mode.  

So here I am, in the studio writing my blog post so i can say that I have been true to my scheduled and blogged on Monday(ish) and thinking about mixing some more divine green before I go to bed and start a new design tomorrow, without planning!

Saturday, 2 February 2019

Ah ... the empty blog and how to fill it.

“You have to have a blog Jo.”


But ... blog what?  I’ve been wrestling this for months and months now. So now, at last I’ve settled on what I would like to put here.

If you have found me on Instagram (revolutionarycake) and have come here (hi 👋🏻), you’ll probably find an expanded version of something you have seen there. This blog is the place where I can write about stuff I like, stuff I’m creating and stuff that makes me want up create stuff.

And I’ll show you all the stuff too.

Starting from Monday, I’ll be blogging once a week. I have to, I put it in my diary so I can’t let the diary down (this is my year for organising my design schedule and staying true to my focus. 😱😱)

So this is the kick off post. The picture is of a new design I’m working on.  I’ve spent hours preparing another collection based around the colours I’m using here and to be honest, it didn’t thrill me   I plugged away at it but it all felt very stilted. I got grumpy and put it all away.

It’s been incredibly hot here, so hot it’s been melting the tar on the roads. While everything has been shrivelling up (including me) my roses have grown into monsters. I had to do a huge session of dead heading, and this big bunch were the left overs.

They just sang to me. So I stood on a chair and took a picture of the flowers while my cat looked at me like I was nuts.

I thought it would make a lovely fabric design so I had the picture blown up to an A3 copy and I’ve been working on the design ever since. Without thinking too hard about it and using the colours from the failed project, because they were too lovely to ignore.

A new design collection is coming to life. Woohoo. It’s going to be interesting to see what it looks like.