Sunday, May 23, 2010

Featured Crafter - Chawne

Our featured crafter this week is the very talented Chawne, if you are in need of some inspiration - look no further!

FQ: I cannot get over your creative output! You’re like a stitching dynamo! Have you always been this creative? Where did it all start?
Chawne: It all started as a kid. My extended family has always been involved with textiles in some way. Seamstresses are most prevalent, but my father's side had several quilters. Ever seen those Gee’s Bend quilts?

Yep. Those were the kind of quilts I first encountered in our home. My favorite was a utility quilt made of old dungarees and holey gingham shirts. The "batting" was just residual fluff gathered after the cotton pickin' was done; the quilts are filled with seeds that poke you sometimes. I managed to make my own version. Anyway, my dad told stories about his childhood job to sit under the quilt frames and catch needles during his aunts' bees. He loved the job because he got to hear the gossip of the day.

My parents were quite crafty in their own ways after work in the evenings and on weekends; my father was a musician and my mother whipped up crocheted blankets in the blink of an eye. They fostered creativity and indulged our interests whenever it was clear that we were committed. We were all deeply involved in music; in addition, my sister is a great sketch artist and my brother made money on his macrame (it was the late 1970s). We were encouraged to practice, practice, practice and value quality of construction first and foremost.

I found my own love of sewing after taking a home economics class in high school. We each made a shirt and a pair of pants and I loved learning about the architecture of garments. Thereafter I made all my own formal dresses and even tailored a suit for my mother. That all got put on the back burner during college and graduate school, but five years ago while stressing out over my tenure application I rediscovered the relaxing nature of crafting. Late at night, I’d make tons of practice blocks trying, for instance, to find strategies for reliably matching points and managing all sorts of angles in piecing. It was the perfect diversion at the perfect moment.

FQ: You quilt, crochet, knit, embroider .Is there any craft you’ve tried that you didn’t like?
Chawne: There’s no need to discriminate. Every craft has its purpose and you never know when a technique will come in handy. It’s just great to learn new things!

FQ: In your flickr profile you describe yourself as a quirky knitting, spinning, cross-stitching and quilting math chick, do you see any link between the appeal of these creative arts and that of maths, which is after all, also comprised of patterns (only of numbers)?
Chawne: Because I use crafting as a way to reduce stress from work, I don’t tend to pursue mathematical ideas in it...yet. But it is important to note the universal nature of math—it is about much more than numbers and, in fact, is about finding and studying patterns in nature. Textile designers use mathematical principles of reflections, translations, rotations, and glide reflections to create patterns and to generate the manner in which the patterns repeat across the fabric.

I must admit to analyzing fabric geometries using these principles in my decision-making. There is also a vibrant community of mathematicians who are textile artists and use the medium to illustrate abstract mathematical concepts in a tangible way. An example is the crocheted hyperbolic planes of the Institute for Figuring. I’ve made a few of those for my own teaching.

FQ: Tell us a little about your creative workspace, do you have a dedicated space? or do you use this space for other things as well?
Chawne: I am lucky to have a dedicated sewing room. It is the place where I escape and so I don’t use the room for anything else. Hand-quilting and all other crafting happens in a cozy chair in my living room.

FQ: Which sewing machine do you use?
Chawne: I have the cheapest most basic Brother model. It really isn’t durable enough for all the sewing that I do, but I am not afraid to take it apart and service it before each new project. A new machine is definitely in my future. I’d love to get a simple industrial model machine with just the basic stitches that I can continue to manage to fix on my own. Those fancy computerized machines scare me a little and aren’t really what I want or need.

FQ: Do you work from craft books (which ones), online tutorials, bought patterns etc.?
Chawne: I still enjoy stitching up practice blocks from time to time in order to learn new techniques or just to hone skills. For these, I use online tutorials and free block patterns like on">Quilter’s Cache. When it comes to making a quilt, though, I prefer to work improvisationally or to draft my own patterns creating my own designs. And really it’s only through constant practice and acquisition of new skills that I feel I have the ability to execute my designs effectively.

FQ: Who inspires you?
Chawne: I am constantly inspired and invigorated by all the great quilting that is shared online on Flickr and on blogs every day. In terms of well-known quilters, I will fail to name many whose work I have studied, but here are a few.

I find Nancy Crow’s work to be a fabulously intricate geometric romp; I love how Malka Dubrawsky uses her own bright happy hand-dyed colors in fantastically liberated ways; and I admire Anna Williams’ stunning use of small-scale scraps to form cohesive designs.

However, I think a more interesting question is “what inspires you?” especially as my patchworking ideas are now migrating over into the realm of “art” quilting. I am inspired by the work of graphic designers of the mid-20th century (mainly in advertising) and by all sorts of geometry and color-play found in contemporary photography. I have no idea how this will work out in my quilts-to-be, but it is fun to imagine the transference of imagery to other media.

FQ: What is the most favourite thing you've ever made?
Chawne: This is a bit like choosing a favorite child. I have made a few quilts and every single one has meaning to me. But if I had to choose one to share with you it would be this super scrappy improvisational quilt.
It represents to me the payoff of all my practice, the assertion of confidence in my sewing skills and fearlessness in use of color. With all those angles and twists and turns, to make this top be flat required constant vigilance with the steam iron and computations a few steps ahead of the next move. I was quite surprised and pleased to see it turn out okay.


  1. Wow. Chawne is amazing! Great interview...

  2. Chawne is my hero. She's inspired me to try all sorts of new things in my piecing and crafting in general. Love her so much!

  3. yay chawne! i was never interested in quilting or sewing until i met chawne. if i'm doing any experimenting at all it's because of her.

  4. I am so glad you featured Chawne here! She's been one of my major quilting inspirations for years!

  5. What a fab feature - I've 'bookmarked' some of Chawnes work over the last couple of years so it was great to read more about this creative soul. A wonderful interview, she's one inspiring lady!

  6. I had recently fav'rited Chawne's corduroy and denim quilt on Flickr. Thanks for sharing Chawne!!

  7. Great article love how you are introducing us to new crafters...Keep up the great work

  8. love love love that improvisational quilt. wonderful quilter - thanks for the interview.

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