Episode 39. Lunar Zodiac Quilt with Berene Campbell and Wendy Chow

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Lunar Zodiac Quilt with Berene Campbell and Wendy Chow The Asian Sewist Collective Podcast

To wrap up Lunar New Year celebrations, we chatted with Berene Campbell (@happysewlucky / happysewlucky.com) and Wendy Chow (@the.weekendquilter / the-weekendquilter.com) about their collaboration, together with Kathy Looi (@kathylooi55), on the Lunar Zodiac Quilt. A portion of sales from the Lunar Zodiac Quilt benefitted Asian community organizations in Vancouver and New York City. To purchase Wendy's new book, The Quilted Home Handbook, visit her website or check out our Bookshop collection. For show notes and a transcript of the episode, please visit: https://asiansewistcollective.com/episode-39-lunar-zodiac-quilt-with-berene-campbell-and-wendy-chow/ If you find our podcast informative and enjoy listening, you can support us by buying our limited edition merch, joining our monthly membership or making a one-time donation via Ko-Fi: https://ko-fi.com/asiansewistcollective 

Links 

Patterns & Designers mentioned

Adventure Bag Sewing Pattern by Greenstyle

S9379 by Simplicity

S9379 pattern cover with the two Asian models (from Simplicity’s product listing webpage)

Lunar Zodiac Animals Combo PDF Pattern, via Etsy (happysewluckyshop) by Happy Sew Lucky
New Year Blessings Mini Quilt Pattern, by The Weekend Quilter

Fabric Stores mentioned

Discovery Fabrics, based in British Columbia, Canada, fabric store specialising in hard to find technical outerwear and activewear fabrics

Resources

Lunar New Year, National Geographic

Lunar New Year, Wikipedia

Happy Lunar New Year 2022 @AsianSewistCollective post, Instagram

Behind the Blocks: Lunar Zodiac Quilt, The Weekend Quilter

@happysewlucky, Berene’s Instagram account

@happysewlucky, Berene’s YouTube channel

@the.weekendquilter, Wendy’s Instagram account

@kathylooi55, Kathy’s Instagram acccount

Quilt Buzz Podcast, Quilt Buzz

Handmade Collective Awards, Happy Sew Lucky

Yarrow Intergenerational Society for Justice, Yarrow Society

A Lunar New Year Greeting and Reminder about Cultural Appropriation @AsianSewistCollective post, Instagram

Home of the Sweet Potato Quilt Club, Sweet Potato Quilts

Sewtopia, Sewtopia

The Chinese Zodiac Story – The Zodiac Rankings Race, China Highlights

@poppyseedquilting, Instagram

Let Me Help You Cross the Finish Line – Longarm Services, Stitch Panda Studio

@bernina_quiltfriends, Instagram

About Us, Quilt Friends

PreQuilt quilting app, PreQuilt

Kathy’s Lunar Zodiac Quilt at a temple, Instagram

Please note, we are a Bookshop.org affiliate, so we may make a small commission if you choose to purchase books via these links:

Urban Quilting: Quilt Patterns for the Modern-Day Home, by Wendy Chow

The Quilted Home Handbook: A Guide to Developing Your Quilting Skills – Including 15” Patterns for Items Around Your Home, by Wendy Chow

Show transcript

Ada: The best part about this apartment is it’s actually in a building that my old coworker used to live in. And it’s one and a half blocks from my old apartment. And my friends did not decide to move here until I left.

Nicole: We’re gonna be neighbors, it’s gonna be great.

Ada: Welcome to the Asian Sewist Collective podcast. The Asian Sewist Collective is a group of Asian people from around the world brought together by our shared appreciation for fiber and textile arts, and our desire to see more Asian representation in the sewing community.

Nicole: In this podcast, we explore the intersection of our identities and our shared sewing practice as we create a space for Asian sewists and our allies.

Ada: I’m your co-host, Ada Chen, and I’m recording from Denver, Colorado. Denver is the traditional territory of the Ute, Cheyenne and Arapaho peoples. I’m a Taiwanese-American marketer turned entrepreneur and these days you’ll find me running my own natural skincare business called Chuan’s Promise – that’s C-H-U-A-N-apostrophe-S promise – and sharing my marketing tips on my blog. Most importantly, for this podcast, you can find my sewing at @i.hope.sew on Instagram.

Nicole: And I’m your co-host, Nicole. I’m based outside of Chicago, the original homelands of the Council of the Three Fires: the Ojibwe, the Potawatomi, and the Odawa people. I’m a Philippine-American woman, a lawyer by day and a sewing enthusiast the rest of the time. You can find me on Instagram at @nicoleangelinesews.

Ada: Before we dive into this week’s episode, Nicole, can you tell us about your current sewing project?

Nicole: I can. I’m finally, I technically have not finished it yet but I’m finally almost going to finish something. And I brought it because it’s really cool and I kind of don’t want to give it to my brother in law. I’ve said I was gonna make him a crossbody bag for years, literally years…

Ada: Ooooh.

Nicole: …And I finally, it’s all ready except for, I’m waiting to, I’m trying to find a good buckle for it, a buckle closure. And this is the Greenstyle Adventure bag. It’s relatively new. It’s made completely from like, remnants or scraps that I have except for the webbing, which I don’t remember where this is from. So the exterior is a deep green, like, upholstery vinyl. And this is my first time working with upholstery vinyl, and it’s fine. It’s fine, my machine was fine, but I see why you might need a heavy duty machine when it comes to like, the thicker stuff. It’s also my first time working with metal zippers. The zippers are reclaimed, so it’s actually a really cool like, gun metal with gray on it. It’s professional looking, I don’t want to give this to him. And then the inside is just a navy blue quilting cotton with Superman bias binding. So yes, my brother in law is 39 but he loves Superman, and I didn’t want to, him not to use it. In case, like, you open it up, it’s just all Superman in there. So I just used it as the bias binding, and I think it looks really cool, but I guess I will give it to him.

Ada: I mean, that’s awesome. Oh, that zipper sound is so satisfying.

Nicole: Yeah, it actually is really, really cool. Hopefully he’ll be like, thanks. It’s not really my style, though. And that would not offend me at all. Because number one, I’d rather give you something that you want. And number two, I get to keep it so I’ll just be like, I’ll take this back, thank you! But I wanted to show you, I’m almost done, almost done.

Ada: Oh, that’s gonna be epic.

Nicole: What about you Ada, what are you working on?

Ada: I also sewed for a man, hahaha…

Nicole: Look at us!

Ada: I sewed for my partner for the first time. And I know, it’s like, a very big marker in your progression, that you would sell for somebody else that is a piece of clothing, at least for me. So my partner has been complaining or looking for sweatpants and joggers for years at this point. He has two pairs, and one is like a polar fleece, like, feels like a blanket, and one is kind of a more technical… Technical fleece, I guess, is how I would put it, like, an athletic wear fleece. So while I was unfortunately in a big box store hunting for Big 4 patterns for Koss, who’s another producer and contributed to the pod, I came along one of those $1.99 sales and there happened to be a Simplicity pattern at the top. So I sewed a Simplicity 9379 which I think I took a picture and posted on my stories. They actually have two Asian models on the cover of the packet but then they just did them so wrong by putting the, like, the colors are weird that they picked, like, the woman is in pink. And the other model is in, like, a royal blue and army green outfit together. And they’re like, all sweats and they did the weirdest views, like, there are normal views in this pattern but they did the weirdest ones. And it’s just like, I was like, well, I kind of got to buy that pattern for A, the representation and B, I do need a sweatpants pattern and I’m not going to be doing, drafting this myself or tracing his ready-to-wear pants, like, no. And so I got it and I was like, it’s $2, it’s fine. Big 4 quote-unquote unisex and men’s patterns are also similarly trash too! The women’s patterns because the ease is ridiculous, like, I chopped off four legs, or, four inches on the legs.

Nicole: Wow.

Ada: And then after I sewed up he came back with feedback, like, okay, well… The crotch is like, four inches too long. And I was like, what do you mean the crotch is four inches too long??? How does this make any sense? Why would this be a small? And so, yes, I believe I will be adjusting that pattern for rounds two and three because I did order some more technical fleece from Discovery Fabrics up in… They’re somewhere in British Columbia, I think, but uh yeah, they have a bunch of outdoor wear and technical fabrics so we’re going to try it again and we’re going to consider that first one a wearable toile and wearable by like, inside our house.

Nicole: In the house, yeah. That’s a, that’s, it’s still wearable, a success, a more successful wearable toile will be, you could wear it outside of the house. But fair enough. I just pulled up the pattern. Yikes.

Ada: We’ll have a pic… We’ll have a picture in the show notes. It’s, it’s not cute on the pattern.

Nicole: It’s a cool pattern, but when you said there’s two Asian models, I was like, oh, that’s cool. I mean, you said, but… I’m like, hmm. Let me see. Yeah…

Ada: They really just did them wrong.

Nicole: Yeah… Ugh. Okay. Well, fingers crossed for a second successful non-toile, hopefully.

Ada: Thanks!

Ada: Hey, podcast listeners, looking for a way to support the Asian Sewist Collective? Well, we have a great way for you to do that now and we are excited to announce our first set of merch. We’ve launched a limited edition set of woven labels on our Ko-fi page – so, K-O-dash-F-I-dot com-slash-asian sewist collective – and you can get a pack of five woven labels custom designed by our very own producer Mariko with some cute things from seasons one through three, like, “This was a panic sew”, “Forgot to prewash”, or, “Made with fabric purchased while traveling”. And they all have really cute designs on them that you should definitely go check out on our Instagram and on our Ko-fi page. And to get your very own set of five labels, you will be supporting the podcast and helping us bring you new content and new guests week after week. So head to K-O-dash-F-I-dot com-slash-asian sewist collective.

Nicole: Welcome back to another Asian Sewist Collective episode and Happy Lunar New Year to those of you celebrate it.

Ada: Yes. 恭喜發財 (gong xi fa cai) to our Mandarin-speaking listeners. And 새해 복 많이 받으세요 (saehae bok mani badeuseyo) to our Korean-speaking listeners. And there we go, I’ve used my two Asian languages and ten thousands, tens of thousands of dollars of tuition. 새해 복 많이 받으세요 (saehae bok mani badeuseyo) is a greeting to wish good fortune in the New Year in Korean and 恭喜發財 (gong xi fa cai) is well to kind of put it bluntly, I mean, how… Hope you get rich in Mandarin, if you’ve watched the Ronny Chieng stand up comedian special on Netflix, you will understand that joke. If you don’t know who he is, he is a Malaysian comedian and an actor you may recognize from Crazy Rich Asians, Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings or his long running correspondence series in The Daily Show formerly with Trevor Noah.

Nicole: I don’t think I’ve seen the full special but I think, maybe you sent me a clip and it’s hilarious, so you can definitely Google Ronny Chieng’s special. I personally don’t celebrate Lunar New Year and there are Asian cultures out there that don’t, so let me shed some light on this particular occasion. Lunar New Year is the beginning of the new year according to the lunar calendar as opposed to the solar or Gregorian calendar, i.e. the calendar most of us tuning in today use. The lunar calendar is based on the monthly cycles of the moon’s phases, hence the name. Some countries use the lunar calendar to determine religious festivals and national holidays. The first day of the new year on the lunar calendar starts on the new moon closest to the midpoint between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. So this usually lands somewhere between January 21 and February 20 on the Gregorian calendar,

Ada: And this year, it falls on January 22, but if you’re listening to this beyond 2023, I can’t help you, Google it. This is the biggest holiday of the year in many Asian cultures including China, Taiwan, Vietnam and South Korea. Japan actually did used to celebrate the Lunar New Year but they switched to the Gregorian calendar in the 19th century, so about 200 years ago. In South Asia, parts of India and Nepal and other regions partake in some form of celebration during this occasion too. The Asian diaspora also celebrate Lunar New Year although it’s worth noting that folks in each country have their own ways of celebrating that are unique to their cultures. It’s also worth noting that there are other countries and cultures in the world that celebrate the new year according to their own non-Gregorian, but also non-lunar calendars. So, their new year is at a different time from Lunar New Year or January 1, so for instance, in Afghanistan and Persian cultures and others, many celebrate Nowruz, which falls on the first day of the Spring Equinox. So if we’re going by the Gregorian calendar, this usually falls sometime in March.

Nicole: We’ll link to some resources that explain what Lunar New Year is, who celebrates it, and how they celebrate it, in our show notes. In general. During the approximately two weeks’ celebration for Lunar New Year, people make time to travel to see family and feast together. But as Ada said, many cultures have their way of celebrating this holiday. You can check out our Lunar New Year post on our Instagram last year to see some anecdotes from our followers and Collective members.

Ada: And keeping in theme with the Lunar New Year, today, Nicole and I are joined by Berene Campbell and Wendy Chow. Berene, Wendy and Kathy Looi, a quilter based in Malaysia who is unfortunately unable to join us today, are the three individuals behind the Lunar Zodiac Quilt project. So this quilt is made up of multiple animal block patterns which surround a New Year’s Blessings mini quilt pattern.

Nicole: The animals featured in the quilt are the animals of the Zodiac legend, with a couple of variations to accommodate the slight differences depending on culture. So for example, the cat instead of rabbit in Vietnam, the sheep instead of goat in Korea. This is why the quilt features 12 animals, but there are 14 different animal block patterns available for purchase. That’s a really high level description of the quilt as we’re sure its creators have more to say about it. And with that, we’d like to welcome Vereen and Wendy.

Wendy: Hello.

Berene: Hi everyone.

Ada: For those tuning in today who don’t know you, could you both tell us a bit about yourself including your pronouns?

Wendy: I’ll go first. Alright. So my name is Wendy Chow. I use the she and her pronouns. I’m Chinese-Australian, born and bred in Perth, Australia. My parents are originally from Hong Kong. I got married to an American and, a little over four years ago and relocated to New York City, which is where I’m now based. And I’m the founder of The Weekend Quilter, so I design and write quilt patterns to share my passion for quilting and to inspire a new generation of quilters. I also co-host a podcast called Quilt Buzz, and I’m the author of Urban Quilting and The Quilted Home Handbook, which comes out end of January 2023, so I guess it’s a few days after this, few days before this podcast is? And I’m a proud dog mama to Truffle the Corgi, which she sometimes, might see her on my Instagram account.

Berene: I’m Berene Campbell. I’m originally from Cape Town, South Africa. I’ve been living in Canada for about three decades and I came here via Dubai and London, UK. I design quilts under the name Happy Sew Lucky. I also coordinate community projects revolving around quilting and I do fundraisers. And I also run a bursary fund called the Handmade Collective Award at the Toronto Metropolitan University. And a bursary, for those of you in the states who don’t know that word, is actually a scholarship fund for financial need – and it’s a BIPOC and LGBTQ bursary.

Nicole: I had never heard the word “bursary”, so thank you for teaching me a new word today, Wendy [sic]. [Producer note: Nicole meant to say “Berene”.] Ada and I like to kick off our episodes by talking about our current sewing projects and we also welcome you both to do the same. So, Wendy, what are you working on right now?

Wendy: So I’m currently working on promoting my second book, so, The Quilted Home Handbook. I’m also preparing to teach for the first time at QuiltCon 2023 at the end of February this year. And so, I’ll be co=teaching with another small Asian business called PreQuilt and they’re based in Toronto, Canada. So we’re teaching them on how to use the quilting design app. I’m also hosting a social scrap swap at one of the, on one of the evenings. Students will swap scraps and create a mystery mini quilt using quarters grid interfacing. And I can’t share too much about it yet, but I am also working on book three and a few other patterns and collaborations.

Nicole: Wow, exciting.

Ada: Wow…

Wendy: So a lot of busy stuff, a lot of things happening in the background. Not… Too little time. So, yeah.

Nicole: Of course. And Berene, what are you working on?

Berene:  Well, usually my schedule is super jam packed. I’m kind of a workaholic and I work all the time. But in December I have somehow injured my back. And so I have not sewn for the past six weeks, which for me, that is pretty much an unheard of scenario.

Nicole: Oh no.

Berene: So I have a few patterns that I had in the works, which I just recently released my Happy Sew Lucky Tinies Valentine pattern. I’m sort of on a bit of a tiny piecing bender, and so these tiny series are tinies patterns, some of the blocks are as small as an inch by an inch. And then I have another pattern that I am hoping to get out in the next few weeks, which is a banner pattern, similar to my Stitch On and Let ‘Er Rip banner, which are the ones in the background here. Bit I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to get that out because as I said, I can’t sew right now. So, waiting on some news from, I guess, doctors or maybe just the healing powers of the healing gods. But for now, sewing is not really on my agenda, sadly.

Ada: And do either of you. I know you haven’t been sewing, Berene, do either of you participate in other fiber arts outside of quilting or sewing?

Wendy: Just purely quilting. I wish I had enough time to explore other fiber arts.

Berene: I do some hand applique and a bit of embroidery but I haven’t been doing any of that right at this moment. I don’t knit or crochet, I would like to be able to, but I don’t.

Ada: Oh, we had a whole episode about knitting, and then I attempted to make a hat. Don’t look too closely at the hat.

Berene: I say big needles and big wool. That’s the only way to go, cause I’m too impatient!

Nicole: But you make tiny one inch blocks!

Berene: I know, it doesn’t make sense. But um…

Ada: A one inch block. Here’s what I will say about piecing. And like, overall, I know there’s different types of piecing. When you finish that one inch block, you will be, you put that into something else and it becomes an, a finished quilt or accessory or object or clothing. And that will have taken you less time than it took me to cast on this hat five times.

Berene: Exactly. Also, people that sew, you look at what you’re doing when you’re sewing. But my friends that are… Like, I have a friend who’s an ace knitter and she just sits there and has a conversation and she’s not looking at what she’s doing. And she watches TV or she drives in the car, and I just don’t know how to do that. I don’t know how to, uh, I don’t have that gift.

Ada: I know Mariko, who’s producing this episode who, who does knit and sew, probably has thoughts about this! I’m just saying my personal experience with knitting and other fiber crafts has always steered me back to sewing.

Nicole: It’s knitting season. That’s, I feel like a lot of what I’m seeing on Instagram for my folks who I follow for sewing, are all knitting. And it is influencing me a little bit but not enough. I am not ready to, to jump to that, like Ada, you were influenced by our conversation that we had for other podcast. So… And switching gears, at the start of this episode, we gave a really brief introduction to the Lunar Zodiac Quilt, but in your words, what is it exactly? And we’ll start with Berene.

Berene: The quilt is a collaboration between Wendy and myself, and then Kathy Looi was kind of a consultant, I guess you could say. It has a large center block that’s about, I think the image itself is about 16 inches square, Wendy, correct? About. And that’s off the 福 (fu) character – did I pronounce that correctly, I think I did – blessings block. And Wendy can jump in and correct me if I’m wrong. And it’s surrounded by the border with the 12 animals in order of the Zodiac story, which, thankfully, Kathy corrected me on the order of the animals because it didn’t have them in the correct order, because I wasn’t aware of the fact that there was a whole story. And so the pattern itself comes with the story of Lunar, of Lunar Zodiac, which Wendy wrote. And Kathy also consulted on as well as some information regarding color symbolism and the feasts and the food and the traditions and some photographs from Wendy and Kathy’s families. Anything you want to add, Wendy?

Wendy: That… Oh, yeah, actually, well, it really started off, you know, the, your 12 blocks really started off back in 2019, right, Berene? Like, you designed that first quilt block, which was the pig and then you turned that into a pot holder.

Berene: Yeah.

Wendy: As a small gesture for a family friend who hosted the Lunar New Year gathering that year. And yeah, Kathy was really kind of like, the matchmaker for us.

Berene: Yeah, she really was. It wasn’t supposed to be a quilt in the beginning – as Wendy said, I had just, I was going to my friend Jackie’s house for dinner when her mum, Gum, would always make this amazing feast and she would invite us for dinner. So I made her a little pot holder of the pig. And then the next year I did the same again. And so then I, when I started releasing the patterns for them, I did them as a little mini fundraiser every year for an organization called the Yarrow Society. It’s an intergenerational organization in Downtown Chinatown in Vancouver, and they support Asian seniors. And then this year, I had done the, sorry, 2022. When I say this year, I technically mean last year. In 2022, I did the tiger. And then I saw Ada’s post on the Asian Sewist Collective about businesses that were non-Asian businesses, sort of cashing in and taking advantage of and culturally appropriating, uh, Lunar New Year. And it suddenly occurred to me, even though I had tried to do it right, by doing a fundraiser, I wasn’t sure if I was getting it right. And I thought, oh, my gosh, maybe I’ve crossed the line here, I should not make any more of these blocks. So I came to a screeching halt, and decided that was it, no more lunar blocks, I’ll just leave them as animal blocks. And then a short while after that, I received this message from Kathy Looi on Instagram, and she wanted to know when I was going to be finishing the blocks, and I said, well, here’s the thing. And we had this wonderful conversation where I said to her, I kind of decided to stop for this reason. And she explained to me how much this meant to her. And she said, “You don’t understand, I need to finish this. I’ve been waiting for you to finish this. I’ve already allocated a space on my wall.” She sent me a picture of the wall where it was gonna go. 

Ada: Oh my god.

Berene: She said, “There aren’t any Asian designers designing this kind of pattern, and so I am reliant on you to finish it.” And so I said to her, okay, well, let me, let me do some consulting first. And so I reached out to Ada, and she and I had a Zoom call about it and discuss how we might go about doing it in an appropriate way. And Ada, you can give your feedback on that in a minute, if you want. And I also spoke to some friends here locally, and decided that I could continue to do it, if I consulted with Kathy, making sure that it had the correct cultural information in it, and also that there was some way of giving back. So, honoring the traditions versus doing it in a disrespectful way – not that I was being disrespectful before, but just trying to get it right. And so I did the 12 animals, and then we had these 12 animals and Kathy was quite excited about that. And then I said to her, you know, I don’t want to be funny, but it kind of looks like just a whole bunch of animals designed by anybody and it doesn’t look specifically Lunar Zodiac. It feels to me like it needs something that’s going to pull it all together. And so she actually sent me a screengrab of the pillow that I had made that year, which was my project, but it was of Wendy’s pattern. So it was quite funny, and I said to her, well, that’s, that will be perfect except that’s not my pattern, I can’t put that on my quilt. And she said to me, well, why didn’t you ask Wendy? And so I thought, that’s a great idea. So I, and I, Wendy and I had connected the year before with the Asian Love banners. So I reached out to Wendy and Wendy was keen, and I put it together digitally. And it was just, it was like it was meant to be. And so then we became the sort of little, uh, the Three Stooges, in a way, we became this band of, of collaborators. And it was great. We had some, a lot of great conversations. And you know, Wendy gave her input. And then we had some testers. We had Christina from Sweet Potato Quilts. And also, Amy Newbold from Sewtopia was consulting. And so we had a lot of input, which is where we got to this stage of when, you know, and Amy had said, well, we don’t have a rabbit in Vietnam, we have cat and so, and so it was really good to have all that information. And in the end, it’s not your average quilt pattern, it’s a whole story. And, Wendy, anything you want to add to that?

Wendy: Yeah, actually, so the, the 福 (fu) character that’s in the middle, I actually designed it back in 2019 and it was actually something that came from my mum. So she wanted a new set of cushions for her home to celebrate the Lunar New Year and so she specified, I want a 福 (fu) cushion cover. So, with… Typical Asian mum, and so I was like, alright, fine, like, I have a little bit of time at hand. So I created it. But then for a little while, like she did release it as a pattern. I didn’t release it until 2021. And I guess like, there was a bit of like, sort of, like, nervousness around releasing that as a pattern. I wasn’t sure what was the feedback gonna be like, would it actually sell cause, you know, my audience, it’s mostly non-Asian. But surprisingly, it was a really positive feedback, it’s actually become one of the highest selling quilt patterns that I have on my website. So it was a huge surprise and you know, the collaboration between Berene was, and Kathy as well, our matchmaker, my quilting auntie.

Ada: I love it.

Wendy: Yeah, it’s been fantastic. Especially it’s been a great platform to be able to share the origin stories behind the zodiac animals. Growing up, I’ve heard about it. My mum’s told me the story. But revisiting it as an adult now, like, it’s, it’s so different. And it was lovely just learning about the order of the animals this time around and actually do remember it and putting the blocks together, sewing them in order, in clockwise of the layout, that quilt makes it memorable.

Berene: And thank heavens, Kathy corrected me on that, because some of the animals were facing… When I put them in the right order they were facing outwards, so away from the center block, so I had to redesign the blocks to face inward, just flipped them. And so thank goodness, Kathy mentioned that and brought that up. There was also a few other amazing things that happened in the process. So one of them was when Wendy and I were having a conversation I said to her, it would be great if we could get our quilts quilted, or long armed by Asian longarmers. And I have a friend in Vancouver, Laura Gates from @poppyseedquilting, who did mine. She’s Japanese, so she doesn’t celebrate Lunar New Year, but she was so excited to be part of the project. But in conversation with Wendy, I said, it’d be great to have like, somehow, a list of Asian longarmers in the pattern. And Wendy suggested reaching out to the Longarmers League [sic], which I’ve never heard of before. [Producer note: Berene means the Longarm League.] It’s a woman called Jess and she has this whole program for longarmers, which is quite amazing. And when I reached out to her, she agreed to put together the option for people that were not members because it’s a paid membership, but people that were not necessarily members or were members, but anyone who long arms to join this diversity and inclusion list of longarmers. And Wendy got hers quilted by… Who was yours quilted by, Wendy?

Wendy: Um, yeah, so I ended up getting it quilted with Rosie and her business is called Stitch Panda Studio, which I’ve never heard of until we started working together on this project. I think it was, you’d originally included her as one of the recommended longarmers?

Berene: Right.

Wendy: Yeah. So Rosie is based in California.

Berene: The other, the other awesome thing that happened is Kathy lives in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, and she is connected to a shop there called Bernina Quilt Friends, I think is the name of the store. And they reached out to us and said that they would like to host these workshops for Lunar New Year, this year, for people to make the quilt together. And so for them, the pattern was quite expensive. And so we decided to do a little subsidizing for them. And they have now hosted three workshops of these women’s, and they’ve been posting these amazing pictures of just rows of quilters that have super enthusiastically made these quilts. We had, I had a Zoom call with them on the first day of the workshop and they were just buzzing with excitement to make this quilt. And it’s just been really a beautiful thing to see how many people have been involved in this project. And it’s not, you know, normally as a quilt designer, you sit on your own in your studio, and you design your thing and you make your thing and then you promote your thing, and then that’s the end of that. And this has been such a beautiful journey of discovery and learning and sharing and friendships and it’s just been amazing. So one of my favorite projects ever for sure, for that reason.

Ada: I’m just gonna shamelessly plug the project and all of the things before asking my next question. So, Wendy, when you were saying, oh, I think I released the New Year’s mini blessings quilt in 2021, I was one of the first people to be like, I’m buying that.

Wendy: Oh really? Aww!

Ada: Because I think I saw your photo and I was like, oh, I want one. And so I made it and it was not my first quilt but definitely the smallest one so far. And I am not… I’m a garment sewist, so I’m kind of like, what are seam allowances? So I will say that it’s not completely straight if you look at it, and I probably could have done a better job on the quilting aspect. But now it’s like this nice mini quilt that kind of hangs over a… It’s like, a nice home piece, like, it’s in my home office which is cool, and I wanted to… I’ve been meaning to, for over a year now, make another one in like, a deeper red, with like, a black instead of… I think on mine and on the sample, it’s like a yellow gold for the character. I want to make one in black so that you can kind of make it very similar to the paper hangings that people have around their house around the Lunar New Year. But it is, if anyone is like, listening to this, and they’re like, I don’t, I can’t quilt, I don’t know how to do this. It’s so simple and you kind of are kicking yourself halfway through because you’re like, why did I think this is gonna be like, that hard, because you’re just piecing it together in a very logical way, I think. And then you end up somehow magically like an hour later with this whole shape and character. So highly, highly recommend. Still need to, maybe I’ll be better at binding, or maybe I’ll make a pillow like your mom wanted. Then I do have the tiger block. But we actually, I think, Berene and I ended up connecting back in season two after you partnered with Amy from Sewtopia on the Asian Love banners, which I also haven’t had that made yet. But the tiger one I think I have as well, because I was like, oh, this will be really cute, because I had a lot of friends having babies in the year of the tiger. That didn’t happen for many reasons. I’m still a little averse to the piecing, but I printed it out and it’s so stinking cute. Like, I cannot explain how cute these animals came out that I was originally like, oh, I’m just gonna get the animals when my friends are having babies. And then the little banner will be like part of their gift. And then I ended up making full on quilts for these people. So, maybe I made it harder for myself and I should just rewind and do the little piecing parts first. But like, if you read through, I’ve read through the instructions multiple times, Berene, because you said I could do it. And I was like, I can do it. And then the thing that got me hung up was cutting out the fabric!

Berene: So I will clarify this difference between the technique in Wendy’s section of the quilt to mine. So Wendy’s is traditional piecing – so for those of you that don’t quilt, what that means is you cut all the pieces out before to the correct size and then you sew them together with your quarter inch seam allowance and it all just comes together. So with traditional piecing, there’s more work initially when you’re cutting but once you have that cutting done, it comes together quite quickly. My section, which is the animal blocks, are using a technique called foundation paper piecing. So with foundation paper piecing, you have paper templates that you print out, and you actually sew through the paper. And you’re sewing sort of back to front. I have lots of YouTube video tutorials, so for those of you that might want to try it, I encourage you to go to my YouTube channel at Happy Sew Lucky and you can learn how to do it there. It’s just different. You don’t precut the way you do precut for traditional piecing, and there’s a little bit of a learning curve in the beginning. But once you’ve learned your foundation paper piece, this whole world of patterns available to you that are really fun. And yeah, so that’s sort of the difference.

Ada: If you ever wonder how those teeny tiny patterns get made, the videos are very helpful. I just have, here’s the thing. I buy quilting cotton like I buy garment fabric. So like, I have like two yard pieces. And it’s an eight and a half by eleven sheet and I was like, dear God, how do I do this? And just, I think the sheer panic of looking at it and looking at my fabric stash going back and forth, I was like, no. But I am, I will publicly commit on the podcast now, I will try it and get it done this lunar new year, this lunar year.

Nicole: So I myself have bought some of these patterns as well. I haven’t made any of them or printed them. It was more like a, maybe I’ll get to it, but also I want to support like, the work that, that you all are doing, and the charity work as well. So it’s interesting, Berene, that you brought up the foundation paper piecing and then the more traditional quilting style. And I know, I’m a little bit more familiar with your work, Berene, I know you do, it’s a lot of foundation paper piecing and I have watched the YouTube videos, but I haven’t gotten the courage yet. So I want to ask, Wendy, how would you describe your quilting practice? Do you have, do you work with a more traditional piecing or a mix of both? And you know, how does it, how would you describe your quilting style, I suppose.

Wendy: So, with my quilting style, I… It’s more, sort of modern, sort of style. I like to use bold geometric shapes and colors, sort of unexpected color combinations. I also like to sort of riff off traditional quilt blocks and kind of give it more of a traditional spin to it. So I started off as, with traditional quilt piecing and that’s how I learned. But actually working more with, you know, Berene, with like, foundation paper piecing, she’s kind of got me a little bit hooked onto that. So I’ve kind of caught the foundation paper piecing bug. And, you know, by actually creating the zodiac animals for my quilt, it’s made me feel more confident with the technique and cutting out different angular shapes and fabrics for the project. And I’ve also started dabbling into creating foundation paper pieced patterns as well. Yeah.

Ada: Love it. This might be a weird question, but Nicole and I have never actually met in person. So I’m wondering if the two of you and Kathy have ever met in person and how it’s been kind of collaborating across both borders, and many time zones.

Berene: None of us have met in person. However, I do have a sister that lives in New Jersey, just 45 minutes drive from New York. So I do definitely plan on meeting Wendy. I would love to be at QuiltCon. I was contemplating going to QuiltCon this year, except now with my back that’s totally out of the picture, I think. But I think it definitely will be in our future to meet and I haven’t ever been to… I haven’t, I’ve travelled a fair bit in Asia, but I’ve never been to Kuala Lumpur. But I do hope to one day meet Kathy. But we’ve had a great time on Zoom and on Instagram chat. And it’s been really fun. It was very easy. There was no awkwardness. Luckily, everybody speaks English really well. I think Kathy was a bit concerned initially, maybe her English wasn’t good enough, which I don’t know why, she speaks excellent English. And yeah, it was just really easy. We all just kind of gelled immediately, didn’t we, Wendy?

Wendy: Yeah, we did. And there with the different time zones as well, like talking to Kathy in KL, it wasn’t too bad, because, you know, pretty much all my family and friends are back in Australia and Hong Kong. So yeah, it wasn’t, wasn’t anything unfamiliar.

Berene: Yeah. And I think if we were all just so enthusiastic about it, and so, you know, whenever there was a question or an issue, or, you know, we weren’t sure about the facts with regard to the pattern, and the cultural stuff, you know, we would just put it out there and then everybody would just thrash it out. And there was never any moment of awkwardness, it was just great. We just kind of gelled from the get go. And when, when I, when Kathy first reached out to me, and I said to her, we need to have a Zoom call to chat. It was just like, as Wendy said, it’s like speaking to your quilting auntie, she’s just kind of in there and she’s very connected. And I suspect, not knowing her personally, I suspect she’s incredibly organized. She comes across as very organized to me. And she’s kind of got her finger on the pulse. So yeah, she, you know, it was amazing. She was like a matchmaker, basically, between us. So it was great.

Wendy: And you’d be pretty surprised, the quilting community is really nice and everyone is just so friendly, and you can just simply reach out to a stranger and be like, hey, and ask them any question. And they’re most likely to respond and be really nice about it. I’ve heard in other sort of, fiber arts communities, it can be quite catty, or like, pretty vicious. So like, a little, a lot of the time as well, like when I’ve been to quite a few QuiltCons already, there a lot of people kind of, you know, know each other from just simply their Instagram handle and they’ve never ever met before. And that’s the same with how I met Laura from PreQuilt for the first time, we were just strangers on Instagram.

Berene: She’s great.

Wendy: We’re just strangers on Instagram, and all of a sudden, you know, she’s like, hey, let’s… You should go to QuiltCon. And I was like, alright, I’ll come meet you down in Nashville. And, you know, growing up you’re taught not to talk to strangers, especially on the Internet. And that’s the same, how, with how Quilt Buzz, our podcast, came about as well. It’s just through talking to strangers on Instagram, and then meeting them in person and realizing that hey, we have a lot in common and you’re really cool.

Nicole: Sounds a lot like how our podcast got started. And I’ve only met one other Collective member in person because Aarti came to me, so like, to Chicago.

Ada: Aarti also came to me. Resident quilter in our group, Aarti has been to all of us.

Nicole: I will meet you one day, Ada, I think…

Ada: Soon!

Nicole: Maybe this year. Yeah, maybe. Maybe I should just not go though. And we’ll just keep this mystique going about not meeting.

Ada: I have your address. I’m just gonna show up one day.

Nicole: Give me some warning because look at this mess. Look at this mess. Well, since this is a Lunar New Year themed episode, how do either of us celebrate Lunar New Year if you do celebrate it in the first place?

Wendy: Okay, I’ll go first. Yeah, so I do celebrate Lunar New Year, what I… I would say since I’ve moved to the US less so just because it’s just mostly, it’s just my husband and I really, and we do have elderly or like, older sort of relatives. So one of Brian’s aunts, she normally organizes it. And the last couple of years, we haven’t really got together just because of COVID. They’re deemed as like, a higher risk, sort of, like, how should I put it? Like, a higher risk of, you know, contracting COVID, we didn’t want to put them at risk and harm. And also, I think, just really the height of the pandemic with the whole, like, you know, anti-Asian hate, sort of sentiment, we just felt that it wasn’t really safe for them to travel from one side to the other side of the city to meet up, but hopefully we can get together again this year and do something.

Berene: So I, as a non-Asian person, we don’t have a family tradition of it. However, through my friend Jackie, we sort of have a family tradition of it. But her mum this year has moved into a senior’s center. And so I don’t think she’ll be making dinner this year. And I’m not sure whether I’ll be seeing Jackie but we for sure will be going to the parade in Chinatown, in Vancouver, and probably also going to New Town bakery, which is this little restaurant slash bakery in Vancouver, which we go to really often. In fact, I actually shot my Lunar Zodiac Quilt in their kitchen, in amongst all the steaming buns with the chef who was super excited about being in the shot. And so we’ll just go and celebrate that way, probably, and enjoy it, and also making the donation from the fundraiser because at the moment the Lunar Zodiac Quilt, the fundraiser is running up until the 22nd of January. So it’d be great to be able to make that donation round about the time of lunar zodiac year to the two organizations that it’s going to.

Ada: I love it. And do you have any plans for the quilt pattern beyond like, I guess, once we get to the Year of the Rabbit?

Berene: We had a rabbit for the last 14 years, our little bunny’s called Rube who unfortunately passed away in December.

Ada: Oh no…

Berene: It seems sad that we’re going into the Year of the Rabbit without our bunny. But he was an old boy, he was 14 years old and he had a good life. And so, I, you know, had the block already designed for that because… Actually, I had designed that one way back because of the bunny, not because of this year, the rabbit, yet. But I don’t have any specific bunny related thing. I think my daughter is gonna get another bunny in the next few weeks. But aside from that, it’s not really related to… The new year.

Ada: The new, the new bunny will bring good luck with the timing.

Berene: Hopefully.

Wendy: Yeah, so I originally… So I wish I had the time. As usual, I’m operating very last minute. But you know, just because with the, you know, with the book promotion, everything, I just haven’t had the time and also visiting friends and family back in Australia and Hong Kong for the first time in four years since I’ve moved to the US. So I didn’t get enough time but I originally wanted to create a foundation paper pieced block of the white rabbit candy to… Yeah.

Ada: Oh my god. I just, I can see it all over my feed now.

Berene: Kathy would love that. I will say that Kathy is a hardcore New Year decorator and she…

Wendy: Oh my god, yes.

Berene: …Has been churning out bunnies literally like bunnies for the last couple of months.. Bags and like three dimensional rabbits and everything. So I think her Instagram is Kathy, K-A-T-H-Y-L-O-O-I, Looi, 55, is I think her Instagram handle and you can go and see all of her decorations that she’s made. She also took incredible photographs of her Lunar Zodiac Quilt. So, for those of you interested aside from the ones that you might see through your podcast, Kathy’s pictures were taken at a temple in Kuala Lumpur. And they’re phenomenal and Wendy’s photographs are also phenomenal in Chinatown in New York. So yeah, for all your New Year decorating ideas, hit up Kathy’s feed.

Wendy: Yeah, it’s really good. I just don’t believe, like, just, I don’t know how she finds the time and effort. Like… Yeah, my mum would be totally like, loving her feed. I think she might be following her? I don’t know. I… I kind also don’t want to tell her to follow her, just cause when, when she sees Kathy’s feed, she’d be like, Wendy, can you make this for me?

Berene: It’ll make you look bad.

Wendy: I want this. Did you see this? I want this. I mean…

Nicole: That’s exactly what I would be worried about. Yeah.

Ada: That’s literally my friend’s… My high school friend who, I guess, is closer to my sister, her mom and I… Hi, Mrs. Gikandi, if you’re listening to this. She, she was a quilter and we now follow each other on sewing Instagram, but like, her posts are like, fantastic in that it’s, well somebody made this so then I had to make it too.

Nicole: Well, we hope to be able to chat with Kathy someday as well and to… And then definitely go online and check out her stuff. But for those who are meeting Berene and Wendy for the first time, can you tell us, tell our listeners where you can find your online stores?

Wendy: So, on Instagram, I’m at @the.weekendquilter and my online store is the-weekendquilter.com.

Berene: So you can find me at @happysewlucky on Instagram, that’s H-A-P-P-Y-S-E-W-L-U-C-K-Y, as in “sew” as in “sewing”. And there are links on my profile page there to my YouTube tutorials if you want to learn paper piecing, and I’m at happysewlucky.com for my website, and my Etsy store is happysewluckyshop. You can also find on Instagram more information about the bursary slash scholarship fund, which is called Handmade Collective Awards. And that is an award fund at Toronto Metropolitan University set up for BIPOC and LGBTQ students, supported by sales of patterns and projects made by creative people of various creative sports.

Ada: Thank you so much, Wendy and Berene for joining us. For today’s episode, listeners, we will have links to the Lunar Zodiac Quilt patterns as well as links to both The Weekend Quilter and Happy Sew Lucky in our show notes. And from the Asian Sewist Collective we wish you a Happy Lunar New Year. 恭喜發財 (gong xi fa cai), may you get rich, and 萬歲如意 (wan sui ru yi), so that’s the second saying in Mandarin, so may all your wishes come true.

Berene: Thank you.

Nicole: Thank you, Berene and Wendy, for your time. Listeners, we will see you next week. Have a great Lunar New Year if you’re celebrating.

Berene: Thank you for having us.

Wendy: Thank you.

Ada: Thanks for being on. 

Ada: Thank you so much for joining us on this week’s episode of the Asian Sewist Collective podcast. If you like our show, please consider supporting us on Ko-fi by becoming a one time or monthly supporter or, new this season, buying our stickers and our very funny sewing labels. Your financial support helps us with overhead expenses and will allow us to give back to our all volunteer team who work super hard to provide you with new content each week. The link to our Ko-fi page is ko-fi.com/asiansewistcollective, and you can find the link in our show notes, on our website and on our Instagram account. 

Check us out on Instagram at @AsianSewistCollective, that’s one word, AsianSewistCollective, and you can also help us out by spreading the word and telling your friends. We would also appreciate it if you could rate, review and subscribe to this podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, PocketCasts or wherever you get your podcasts. 

Nicole: All of the links and resources mentioned in today’s episode will be in the show notes on our website, that’s asiansewistcollective.com. And we’d love to hear from you. Email us with your questions, comments or even voice messages if you want to be featured on future episodes at asiansewistcollective@gmail.com.

This episode was brought to you by your co-hosts Ada Chen and Nicole Angeline. This episode was researched by Cindy Chan, produced by Mariko Abe and edited by Sareena Granger and Henry Wong. Thank you so much to the other members of our collective for making this week’s episode a reality. This is the Asian Sewist Collective podcast and we’ll see you next week.

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