In 2006, I started working for a large multi-national corporation whose end product I don’t find very interesting – i.e. I started working for the Man.
Working for the Man has a number of lovely fringe benefits – the opportunity to interact with people you wouldn’t otherwise choose to and whose interests and opinions you don’t share, and access to a really good paper shredder. In the case of my job, working for the Man also involves travel.
The first bit of travel I did at the behest of the Man was to China (Shanghai and Guangzhou) and Hong Kong. The trip was ten days and involved two weekends on the road. I was travelling with a lovely pattern maker who shares my love of fabric. We had one free day in Hong Kong before flying home, and we went shopping.
Hong Kong is a funny contrast of brilliant color and dirty grey. The sidewalks are grimy, the air is usually humid, and there is the unsettling experience of getting hit from above by liquid. Hacking up phlegm and spitting seems to be a form of street art in the parts of Asia I visit. Hong Kong is no exception. Hong Kong also has a lot of window air-conditioning units. When hit from above by liquid, I have a morbid tendency to wonder if I was just hit by condensation from an AC unit, or have been the recipient of an expectoration. I really should invest in a large travel hat.
Back to the brilliant colors – brocades were everywhere. Hong Kong is a shopping mecca for foreigners, and tourists tend to go for “traditional” brocade looks. Everything you can think of is covered in or made from brocade. Pencil cups, photo albums, slippers, boxes of every size and description, note pad holders, and on and on. We bought pin cushions, tiny boxes for sewing notions, tea, candy, and chop sticks to the point that we both had to buy extra suitcases. This was before we got the Yue Hwa Products Emporium.
The Yue Hwa Products Emporium at least five floors of gorgeous chaos. Highlights and lowlights include beautiful traditional paper cut designs and entire arctic fox belts dyed in a rainbow of unnatural colors. The fourth floor has the fabric. I brought home meter upon meter of patterned silk charmeuse, an embroidered length of fabric from which to make a traditional qipao dress (more on this soon), and the pink silk that has become the top of this quilt.
The reason this project has been in the stash so long is that it took me a long time to accept that my plan for this piece simply wasn’t going to work out. The plan was to do a Hawaiian-style quilting design of regularly spaced concentric lines around each of the figures. The problem was the outline shapes weren’t pleasing to the eye. I wanted to come up with a quilting plan that would result in an all-over quilted look. I settled on doing one outline around all of the embroidery that made sense. I’m happier with it than I expected – quite pleased in fact.