Saturday, May 23, 2015

Coffee, Quilts & Love, A Mysterious Symbiosis

Have I mentioned lately my deep love for/addiction to coffee?

I am thrilled by all the new medical studies (hopefully not funded by the coffee industry) which conclude that coffee drinkers run a lower risk of dementia, heart disease, diabetes, depression, cancer, and - just announced this past week - ED (yes, that ED) - I kid you not.

For me, coffee and quilts have a symbiotic, romantic relationship. Coffee gives me courage to create quilts. And making coffee-related quilts makes me want to drink more coffee.  I've made quite a few coffee-themed items over the years, like 100 Cups on the Wall here,

Today, I'm excited to announce my newest ebook, Quilts for Coffee Lovers:
One of the projects is a pieced, dimensional wallhanging, which I call tessellated mugs: 
They represent rows of mugs, with 3-D handles pointing in alternate directions in each row (similar to the way my DH loads the dishwasher). The ovals are mostly coffee, but could be tea (I threw in some green ovals, for green tea). 

I made it in a couple of different fabric-ways. Above, it's all solids, with a grey border, for a modern look.

 Below, batiks. The border is a streaky brown that represents the precious flow. 
In the third version, which you'll see lower down,  I made the central mug area mugs from mostly solids (except the polka dot), while the fluid in the ovals are mostly prints. I call it "Clouds in my Coffee," because the variegated ovals look like something liquid is floating in the cups. 
I tested this center area on many different backgrounds. With "clouds in my coffee," from Carly Simon, playing over and over again in my head, I first checked out how the center looked against clouds. First, a dramatic sunset....
Second, a non-dramatic cumulus sky: 
And a weirdly enthralling vintage paisley:
I didn't pick any of those. Instead, I accidentally came up with this: 

Solids and the cumulus print fabric, plus an Indonesian print down the right. 

It wasn't just my love for coffee that inspired me. I was also influenced by a delightful Coffeehouse Mystery series by author Cleo Coyle, pen name for Alice Alfonsi and her husband Marc Cerasini.

Their fun and addictive little mysteries are full of lush coffee descriptions, factoids, and related recipes. And, oh yes, the plots are ok, too. The series helped get me through a miserable illness a few years ago.

Warning: Whatever you do, don't read one of these mysteries in bed late at night, because not only will you be unable to put it down, but you will also climb out of bed, carry it to the kitchen, wake up the whole house by grinding a cup of  fully-leaded (the Coyles are prejudiced against decaf),

See the mysteries here (unpaid endorsement), and more information about my pattern book, here, and/or come back next week to see more coffee quilts,,,,

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Applique Tallit Making for a Bar or Bat Mitzvah

Extreme excitement! This week's Jewish Journal has an article about making a tallit (prayer shawl, a.k.a. tallis) for bat and bar mitzvah, and they include an interview with me, and a picture of one of my favorite projects, a rock-n-roll theme tallit for a dream client. The Journal article is here.

I wrote a longer article about that particular tallit in a blog post here. There are lots more pictures there, including this one:
(That black-and-white electric guitar fabric is from More of my custom tallitot are on my Judaiquilt website, here.

Interested in making one yourself? It's not difficult, and is one of the most meaningful projects you'll ever do. If you're a quilter, think of it this way: it's an easy appliqué project, without batting, and a backing is optional. My how-to page is here.

That page also has a free downloadable pattern for the blessing said before putting on the tallit. Some people like to sew this strip (called an "atarah", along one edge of the tallit, although it is not mandated by Jewish law.

I call my pattern 'Atarah on a Roll,' because you cut and paste the strips together. On the bottom third of the how-to page, you'll find an explanation of ways to get this pattern from paper to fabric.
Did I say the pattern is free? Use it good health, and send me a picture! Questions? Reach me at cathy(dot)perlmutter(at)gmail(dot)com.

And if you need to make a kippah to go with the tallit, consider these!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Recently Remembered Quilt: Running Around Like Cubic Chickens

You know those famous newsmen who got into trouble recently for claiming they were in combat, when they actually weren't?

Well, I sympathize, because I thought I was selling this quilt as a pattern, and just discovered that I'm not: 
 I made this quilt  around 2003, using mostly batik fabrics, paper foundation piecing, and bleach discharge. The words read "Shabbat Shalom." meaning a peaceful Sabbath.

Poetic Rabbi Abraham Joshu Heschel explained: "Six days a week we wrestle with the world, wringing profit from the earth; on the Sabbath we especially care for the seed of eternity planted in the soul….Six days a week we seek to dominate the world; on the seventh we try to dominate the self."

From the sublime to the ridiculous, I interpreted it visually this way: Six days a week we run back and forth, from right to left, like abstract rectangular cubic chickens. On the seventh, as the sun  sets, we  stop, take a deep breath, and look at a candle flame and think deeper.

The blocks are all paper foundation pieced. For the lettering, I cut Hebrew letters from freezer paper, and ironed them to a black fabric strip. Then I painted the strip with dishwasher gel. (These days, you're better off using Decoulerant - much less toxic). In five minute increments, I washed more and more of the gel off the strip. Yes, it was a mess! But it worked, with a nice gradated result.

I liked this quilt so much that I drafted an 8-page single spaced pattern for this quilt. I churned out 10 dense, single-spaced pages of directions, including this map:
And paper-piecing patterns for the blocks: 
A wonderful quilter named Joan Garland of Georgia, even tested it for me! 
She found some errors, which I am pretty sure I corrected. Thank you Joan!

I hadn't thought much about this quilt for a long time, but quite by accident this week, I came across photos. My first thought was, "Didn't I make a pattern from this quilt?" My second thought was, "I don't think it's been selling very well." So I checked my my pattern page to see if it's for sale - but it wasn't! Hmmm, that probably explains why sales have been so slow. 

A dozen years later, I know I will never wring profit from this pattern. So I think I'll donate it to the archives of the Pomegranate Guild of Judaic Needlework ( Unpaid endorsement!)  But in order to do that, it needs many hours of fixing up. Are enough people interested? Is it worth my time?

Sunday, May 3, 2015

News Roundup: Hypothetical Royal Baby Quilts, Touch Quilts, Science Quilts, Film Quilts, Bargain Quilts, and Orange You Glad I Said Macaroni?

Congratulations British monarchs! Burning question: When royalty reproduce, do their subjects make  them a zillion baby quilts (or one giant one?)  If so, when will they/it be delivered? I don't want to be judgemental, but so far the royal couple has wrapped the baby.... something white and knitted, which is nice, but staid, and not nearly as exciting as a pieced quilt, IMHO. (Also, is Duchess Catherine an alien? Who else on earth looks that good 10 hours after giving birth?)

Unlike UK aristrocrats, I am still recovering from childbirth (in the 90s), and have nothing new to show off. But I have read some fascinating quilt-related articles in the past couple of weeks. Articles about:
  • Touch quilts for people with dementia: Wonderfully inspiring examples at Also, a longer article about how the Ottawa Quilters Guild makes touch quilts, here
  • Quilt illustrates 19th century science!  This quilt was made by an Iowa woman named Ellen Harding Baker, born in 1847, who used it to illustrate her astronomy lectures! 

Apparently astronomy was an acceptable science for women! Read the whole story here.
  • A bargain at twice the price. When someone gasps at the price of your quilts, send them this excellent explanation. 
  • Why use fabric when you can use 16 mm film strips that were formerly documentaries about textile crafts? That's what Brooklyn, NY artist Sabrina Gschwandtner did, and they are awesome! Read more here, and another terrific article here
  • Is orange the new avocado green? It made headlines (though not quite as many as the royal baby): Kraft Mac and Cheese is cutting back on the synthetic colorants that create their iconic fluorescent color. Read the ominous news here. Does that mean orange quilts may go away? Not when there are vintage beauties like these (from ebay's past:) 

 Actually, there are some orange quilts on ebay that are atrocious. This one (machine made) is so awful that I'm not even going to give you a link to it.
 However! Here's one of my past projects that makes even appalling orange fabric (this was an orange-and-brown-batik halter top set that my mother wore in the 70s) look good. 
Here are the directions. There's plenty of time before Halloween!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Girl Scout Cookie & Onion Shopping Totes with Novelty Fabric

My daughter's Girl Scout troop has been together since kindergarten - our girls are now in high school - and the reason is our three leaders. They are kind, generous, loving, empathetic, and set low goals for cookie sales.

Despite how I feel about cookie sales - ok, I'll tell you how I really feel: The national Girl Scout organization has no business whatsoever being in the junk food business and should find another income stream.

But, like the GS organization's stance on good nutrition, hypocrisy-r-me. When I happened across several bolts of Girl Scout-themed fabric, including GS cookie-themed fabric - well, I seized those bolts like large, flat, rectangular footballs, tucked them firmly under my arm, and ran them to the cutting table, knocking intervening customers out of my way. Unlike the cookies themselves, (I told myself), the fabrics depicting them are calorie-free and fiber-licious!

So I made our leaders totes that stuff into their own pocket and can be easily carried in a purse.

Here's the front of one:

The back,:

Here are two of them bundled:

The front of the open tote turns into the back of the bundle:
I also made a label/ instruction sheet:
Extra tote bag - keep it in your purse.
To unbundle the tote, unbutton the white button and pull out the contents of the pocket.
To rebundle - Open the pocket as wide as it will go, start to turn it inside-out, stuffing the tote and then the strap into the pocket as you turn it, like a pair of socks. When the tote bag is stuffed all the way in, button the white button to the buttonhole along the top edge of the fabric.  Machine washable. Made with love! 
Feel free to borrow and adapt the language. Now of course, I wouldn't give a cookie-themed bag like that to my trainer! Oh no! I am way too much of a hypocrite! For Wendy, my dear fitness guru, I made a virtuous version:

Yes, here's the perfect way to use up your excess onion-themed fabric. Not to mention chicken soup-recipe fabric and jalapeno pepper fabric (for the strap.) Bundled and buttoned:
 Want to make some shopping totes like these? They're quick and easy. My step-by-step directions are toward the bottom of this post.

P.S. I'm sorry for what I said about Girl Scout cookies. I just read that they literally save lives, like the two women who were stranded and lived on them for two weeks, article here. The moral of this story is if you buy them, keep them in your car and don't eat them until your life depends on it.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Modern Batik Scrap Wreath Tutorial 2: Embrace Your Inner Awkward Freemotion Quilting

Last week I showed you how to piece a wreath/ring/thing with batik scraps, and a fusible fleece backing for dimension. I decided it looked like a ring flying through the sky, so I decided to call it "Ring Toss." 

This week: Freemotion quilting the ten background motifs. 
After stitching down the ring and the grey motion-marks (or alien quarter-moons), I added batting and backing, and stitched 9 double diagonal lines separating the background into 10 sections. So I needed 10 different sky motifs to fill them.  Below left is one, star/suns that's not original to me - I've seen many variations.  
As you may have sensed if you've read this blog in recent weeks, freemotion quilting is not my forté.  But I am far too too cheap/possessive/proud to farm it out. The alternative, Grasshopper, is to embrace our inner awkward. My quilts may not be magnificent, but I do have a lot of fun!

And believe it or not, I do a lot of homework to achieve awkward.  I do a Google image search for the thing. I sketch out as many different poses as I have patience for. Then I draw them again and again and again from memory, connecting them up, until they're not hideously embarrassing. 

So what flies through the skies? First, Birds. 
What else? Frisbees and boomerangs. They're much more interesting together. 
Stitched out:
Butterflies and bees: 
Stars, planets, galaxies (and those are raindrops on the right)
Below left, stars/asterisks, raindrops, The backtracking on the asterisks made the lines thicker and more prominent. The trick is to set the lines at more-or-less 60 degree angles.
What else flies? Humans and superheroes shot from cannons, first draft
Later draft, connected: 
And, of course, drones. I image-searched "drones," and found a lot of non-amusing war drones, as well as highly-entertaining Amazon drones,
I made up my own version. They unexpectedly acquired a retro look:
To the right of the drones, below, there are the cannon people:

Can you see the cannon on the lower right?
Before stitching each motif, I practiced over and over: 
and over: 
I have a half inch thick folder full of practice pages. 
Here's the center of the ring: 
I only needed ten motifs but wound up with more. There were three especially that I was sorry I couldn't use. First, overlapping angels. The backtracking for this design was challenging with a pencil, and I didn't think I could pull it off at all with a sewing machine, not without a few more months of diligent practice. 
Or how about the Flying Spaghetti Monster? I didn't think of him until the quilt was done, alas.
And a final favorite, but the details would have been too tiny for the scale of this quilt: 
Now I need to come up with another quilt to use these little guys!!!
That's all, folks!
(More awkward freemotion quilting here: 1, 2, 3).
If you seriously want to get better at freemotion quilting, be sure to check out Leah Day's freemotion quilting project (no financial affiliation!)