Friday, 24 April 2015

Journal Quilt: Last five squares complete

The last five squares are complete and four others have had some additions made.  I’ve had the luxury of using computer, sewing machine, fabric paint, and all the other bits of interesting stuff in my stash, so these squares are a bit less rugged than some of the others.  After the backing is added, there will be some final embellishment (sort of like the almost last fitting of a custom made dress), but I’m really enjoying the look of this year long project.

N 40.22.33 E 49.51.08 Azerbaijan

We only spent a few days in Azerbaijan as we raced across the desert to try and book a ferry crossing of the Caspian Sea.  Calypso, our trusty truck, only had a visa of 72 hours before being fenced in at the dock in Baku.  Best fun was exploring the mud craters just outside the city and I decided that I would wait until I could print a photo of one of them on fabric before creating Azerbaijan’s square. I also created two “flames”, the symbol everywhere of Azerbaijan’s oil industry.  I found it fascinating to discover that the pattern we call “paisley” in the west is called “flame” along the silk road.  The beautiful lambs’ wool scarf I bought in the old city of Baku is patterned with these paisley flames as well and was what I wore with my basic black dress for Christmas dinner in Christchurch.  I was fascinated by this coin,  that on first look, appears so similar to the Canadian Toonie.

S 46.55.35 E 167.46.48 Stewart Island, New Zealand

My muttonbird scrub leaves arrived home in a parcel rather than being mailed and I had to coat them with some matte medium so that I could stitch them to the quilt.  This is probably going to be the most fragile square of the entire quilt.  It brings a big smile when I think about the day we watched a kiwi for the longest time then wandered through Ulva Island checking out the other birds and plants that thrive there.  I harvested two leaves, then used the ink of the Miru tree to write my message.  Christy, our guide smilingly autographed it, AND posed for a photo.  Then, the local postmaster agreed to hand cancel the leaf after convincing me that I didn’t need to pay the entire cost of postage, that a ten cent stamp would give the idea.

N 22.17.59 E 114.10.03 Hong Kong (retail therapy)

At the beginning of our trip, I had thought that one square might be created from labels I could liberate from garments I would purchase along our journey.  What I found was that the garments I purchased were handmade and didn’t come with a label!  And to be honest, I was more focused on fabric in all its shapes, sizes and colour rather than mundane clothes.

However, our stay in Hong Kong was in a very elegant hotel along Canton Road in Kowloon; where all the western fashion designers have their flagship stores to attract the wealthy (primarily Chinese) visitors to Hong Kong.  I had a great morning wandering the street and taking photos of the shops and was attracted to the colours of one dress in the H&M window.  An hour later, I had a selection of tops that were a little different but also very wearable back home in Northern Alberta.  Each item had a multitude of labels with information in all the languages that this international store does business.  And what I found so fascinating on arriving home is that the colours that were so prevalent in Hong Kong are not the fashion colours I am seeing in Canada – perhaps I am a year ahead?

I used the garment labels to create a fabric square (something I could not have done on the road without sewing machine and stabilizer), then added coins from Hong Kong, Macao and an ancient Chinese coin from the night market.  Just for good measure, I added the label from our bottled water in the hotel room.

N 53.34.06 W 113.31.26 Edmonton (things will wear out)

This photo of my boots was taken while I sat on the dock waiting for transportation to Limbang (and a hot shower and clean clothes) in Sabah, Borneo.  The two days of heat, humidity and muddy, technical hiking in the tropical rainforest had been fascinating but exhausting.  For some weeks, I had thought that perhaps it would be time to replace my faithful boots (bought in 2008) when we arrived in Edmonton.  There were areas on the inside that were frayed and I was starting to get blisters.  However, as I sat on the dock, I realized the question was not “should I” but “will they survive until we get to Edmonton in three weeks”.  The leather had split on the folds, the stitching holding the heel to the rest of the boot had rotted and the sole was starting to separate from the rest of the boot.  I did not dare wash the boots as it was probably the mud that was holding everything together. My only other choice of footwear was sandals or pretty yellow dressup shoes. Yes, we had become experts in traveling light.

I have many great memories of where these boots have taken me, but I left them at Campers Village in Edmonton when I bought another pair of boots, taking only one shoe lace as a reminder.

On reflection, what fascinates me is how little of what I took on our year of travel did wear out, considering that I followed the suggestion to only bring old, comfortable items that you wouldn’t mind losing or staining or breaking.  I’ve included a few other things that also wore out:
The light blue Canadian flag material was wrapped around the handle of my backpack and took a lot of wear and tear when carrying the bag rather than using the backpack straps.
The purple ruffle flower is from my purple swimsuit, worn regularly since 2006 – even Speedo fabric will eventually start to disintegrate - and it was last worn on the Franklin River under a wetsuit.
The center of the flower is the metal disc from my thimble that finally needed to be replaced in Nelson, New Zealand after more than ten years of use.
The rather well used Canadian flag pin lived on my hat for the entire trip. It was actually from a package of pins I got from Ollie Currie (Swim Alberta) in 2010 after Peace River hosted the Alberta Summer Games.

For the record, the only other things that wore out were:
Our travelling coffee pot was replaced in Turkey, given away in Malaysia and replaced again in New Zealand.
My water bottle broke in Uzbekistan, was replaced in China, wore out and was replaced in Christchurch.
My smartphone became very forgetful and grumpy but limped through to Kolkata where I purchased a small notebook computer, then finally died two weeks before we got home.  It just had had too much of unpredictable power surges.

N 56.11.18 W 117.35.56 Grimshaw (Home Again)

When I was creating the first square on the quilt, a pieced maple leaf block, I thought that perhaps the final block would be another maple leaf motif.  On reflection, though, my home does not have native maple trees, which only grow in Ontario and Quebec.  Northern Alberta trees are poplar and spruce, our provincial flower which grows along the paths we walk is the Alberta Wild Rose, and the most successful plant in my yard is Snow in the Mountain (a pretty variegated leaved plant that some consider a weed).  My coming home square uses the silk that travelled with me for the year and is featured in some of the other squares but it is painted with fabric paint that stayed home to become the Wild Roses.  The background square is a photo I took two years ago of my Snow in the Mountain gloriously taking over a flower bed to the exclusion of the most determined weeds.  The stem of the roses is sari silk yarn that I bought on impulse online some years ago.

As I was creating squares on the road, there were some things that I couldn’t complete with the small sewing kit I was carrying.  I’ve also finished four of those squares.  I suspect that there are a few more squares that will get a bit of extra additions as I sit and look at them. The squares that have objects to be added like shells or stones will need to wait for the final finishing touches.

N 41.41.45 E 44.48.44 Tblisi, Georgia

The hand woven and hand embroidered square has been patiently waiting to have some machine stitching for the Georgian Cross.  Hand stitching  just disappeared into the thick cotton threads.  It’s hard to see in the photo, but the square now has the outline of both St. George’s Cross (for the state) and St. Ninian’s Cross (symbolizing the religion of Georgia)

N 27.19.56 E 88.36.48 Gangtok (Sikkim), India

The fabric was from the market in Gangtok and the frame of the spider web is hemp from a shirt I bought at the market in Kolkata, but the threads themselves needed to be some of the glittery almost transparent shimmer thread that I’ve finally added to the square.  I still remember how beautiful and dramatic the spider webs were as we travelled through Asia.  A photo I found of my first encounter with leeches when we explored the zoo in Gangtok was also the hint I needed of where some lovely fabric and a beautiful scarf came from.

N 15.52.48 E 108.20.22 Hoi-An, Vietnam

All this square needed was a bit of machine stitching with pale pink thread to finish it off.

S 43.44.15 E 170.06.03 Mt Cook National Park, New Zealand

I’ve added the foot fleece clouds to the background.  This very experienced foot fleece has traveled from New Zealand home in 2009, then to Scotland, Iceland, Haida Gwaii, then on our year of travel.  The last bit of this package got wet in a backpack on one of our last treks in Borneo and has even been partly wet felted.

Next is to take the backing fabric I painted on the back sidewalk of our hostel in Perth, add some words and memories, then sandwich everything together.  Quilting is going to be a combination of machine and hand and in the spirit of more is better, of course there will be some final bling to be added.  Stay tuned.

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