Sunday, October 4, 2015

Old Dog Learns New Trick & Recycles Old Trick for Quilted Stars

Sometimes I think that quilts are just an excuse to show off buttons. Here's a commissioned challah bread cover that I made last week, pre-buttons.

It started when a friend called to ask me if I had any extra challah covers lying around that she could buy to give a family that loves to travel. I looked in my UFO drawer and found three kaleidoscopic stars that I'd made years ago. They looked something like this,

but they were made from this Jewish-themed novelty fabric:

I had used the Magic Star Six by Mace McEligot, a tool that I bought in the late nineties, and which as far as I can tell is no longer made, though you may be able to find old ones on etsy or ebay.

However, you can do the same thing with Sara Nephew's Super 60 tool, which has the exact same configuration of angles, and is widely available. (Find it here. No financial affiliation.)

Start by placing hinged mirrors (an inexpensive notion found in many quilt stores) on top of the fabric, and slide it around til you like what you see. Place the template between the mirrors, with the 30 degree angle inside:

 Remove the mirrors to see the view:

Replace the template, and mark it with a china marker showing where the designs land. With the template in position and a rotary cutter, cut out six identical kite shapes, sliding the template to the correct location each time. Here's how each petal looks (with yet a different fabric! Sorry I keep switching fabrics!)
Now comes the magic: When you fold the petal in half,

and stitch the upper left and upper right sides together,
Press in position:
Trim the seam allowances, then turn the top area right side out (a ball-tipped stylus helps to extrude the point), voila!
The back before the final press
The front. (I know the print is wonky - I just made this for demonstration purposes. Be more careful than I was.)
Rinse and repeat five times. Sew two groups of three petals each. Join the halves, and press the central seam allowance open. You wind up with a neat little six pointed-star frisbee, with finished edges all the way around! Back:
I'd made three stars from the Judaic print. First, a nearly Celtic star:

A tiny star:

And a white star of stars:

To button or not to button? After some agony, I decided to go for it, with vintage buttons. This elaborate mirror-glass metal button went on the curly star:

A tiny, elegant metal button went on the small star:

And a metal-and-mother-of-pearl and metal shank button went on the white star: 
On the back, I put a travel-themed suitcase tourist label fabric, plus an African fabric with brownish stars. 
So what's the new trick? That blue-and-white fabric around the edges is a facing. Instead of my usual binding or satin stitch, I tried facing for the first time. It creates an edge that's like a pillowcase turn, but no need to stitch together an awkward gap. Facing has grown increasingly popular among art quilters. I found a terrific tutorial on the Silly Boodilly blog, here. Thank you SO much, Victoria, for teaching me how to do this!
Here's the overall cover with the buttons added: 
The freemotion quilting is a cross between leaves and candle flames.

It will be hard to say goodbye to this piece, because I love my kaleidoscopic stars and vintage buttons, like Gollum loves the Ring.  (Except he had only one Ring, and I have approximately two trillion vintage buttons). I hope the new owners will love them as much as I do, or at least not throw them into that Mount Doom lava pit thing.

More of my challah cover ideas and patterns are on my Judaiquilt website, here. I have tried to contact Mace McEligot for this article, but was unable to do so. If anyone knows how to reach her, or if they know a vendor who is selling the Magic Star 6 tool, please let me know.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Making Many Meaningful Moons

Did you see the blood moon last night? We couldn't see it from our house, but I caught up with this fabulous blog post with images from around the world. They cry out to be turned into quilts! (Write to the photographers for permission first, of course!)

It reminded of a wallhanging I made last year, which unwittingly prophecized the event:
It was a scrap project that I called "Night Meeting," because of the two creatures at the bottom.
 Now I'm thinking of renaming it, Blood Moon! The orange moon was cut from a deliciously streaky orange-and-red batik fabric.
I used the same idea years before, for this matzoh cover. The four corner moons were cut from streaky batiks - purple, magenta, lavender, and orange - plus the central one, of course, from trompe l'oeil matzoh fabric (no financial affiliation).
Stamping is another way to make moody moons. These were stamped with fun foam, the thin foam that kids play with, cut into circles. By not refreshing the fabric paint with each consecutive stamping, you get an interesting gradation among the images. 
Thread painting is another way to go. Stitch heavily with metallic and holographic threads over an appliqued circle. (Pretend this is an orange moon instead of a blue/green batik sun. Close enough).

I am a huge fan of superstar quilter Carol Taylor, who has made both moon and eclipse-themed quilts, shown off on this page. Check out especially the quilt titled "Moonshadows" and "Eclipse #2."

Have you made meaningful moons?

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Awkward Freemotion Quilting, Star Wars & Hair Edition

On my planet, there are two types of freemotion quilting (FMQ).

1. Respectable. (Taught brilliantly by Leah DayLori Kennedy, and possibly your local quilt shop teacher), and
2. Awkward. (A form of self-entertainment). 

The trick with both is to "draw" (stitch) a continuous line with the sewing machine, avoiding thread-cutting and ends-hiding. It often involves stitching accurately and repeatedly over the same lines. All this strengthens the quilt, and lets you finish faster, 

Respectable FMQ takes a great deal of practice. Drawing ability helps. It's tasteful, often stupendous, and might win a ribbon at the quilt show.

Awkward freemotion quilting requires no knack for drawing and no practice. A sewing machine is optional. It's a fun way to doodle with a pencil on paper, improves hand-eye coordination and deepens understanding of how to connect FMQ motifs. Done well, you should make yourself laugh.

My latest awkward episode was inspired by the prospect of a new Star Wars movie, coming out in December.  I discovered by accident that if you make 8 loops, you've got Princess Leia's head: 
Jagged lines make a Wookie: 
R2D2 isn't hard to draw continuously...
...but it's even easier to just spell him out in cursive.

Darth Vader is waaayyy  more challenging. As you can see, his helmet was dehydrating and shrinking by the end. 
Talk about helmet hair!
Here's a light saber design:
And speaking of hair, I happened to go to the hairdresser last weekend, and made the mistake of asking for curls with my longish trim. For the rest of the day, I looked like a mature person with a 5-year-old Shirley Temple coif. 
Or maybe like George Washington:
(Drawing George is like drawing Leia, but the loops pile up vertically.)

And speaking of Presidential hair, on the Democratic side, candidate Bernie' Sanders' hair is a Thing. ("Bernie Hair! Don't Care!" tee shirts here. No financial affiliation) My interpretation: 
Glasses are an important vehicle for travelling from one side of a design to the other. 

Hillary's hair changes too much to draw. (Here are 10 different 'dos just from 1993-1994!)

 Joe Biden, and most of the Republican candidates, mostly have unobtrusive hair. I was left with Rand Paul...
(His curls remind me of my son as a toddler. Awww!)

...And You-Know-Who. I drew this page while gazing at his hair in a variety of Google images.
Call this design (a) Donald Trump, (b) Softserve Ice Cream Training Session 1, or (c) Santa Claus, elves, and Bart Simpson flying in the sky. UPDATE: A reader saw Elvis in these figures. That's cool with me. 

And speaking of male do's, have you noticed lately the plethora of young men with man-buns and beards? 
I've barely scratched the surface of  coiffure-related freemotion quilting possibilities!  Run with it! Send pictures! (But no head lice designs - I must draw the line somewhere.) 

Earlier adventures in awkward freemotion quilting: 

PS Speaking of Star Wars, who says Darth Vader can't dance? Your 7-to-77 year old Star Wars fan will love this

PPS Speaking of trivial Presidential issues, my friends just told me that you can #Trumpyourcat! No animals were harmed in the making of this strange new hobby.  

PPSS: This just in: President Coolidge was a quilter!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Fiber Art Postcards Inspired by Tradition

Wishing you a healthy, happy, creative New Year! Jewish New Year, that is! Also known as Rosh Hashanah, it starts tonight.

This is the one time of the year that we dip apples in honey (Try it! You'll like it!). The challah bread is round for this occasion (like the year). We convey wishes to family and friends for a good year.

And one way we do this is with cards. A longstanding tradition, first in Europe, and then transplanted here, is to send pictorial Rosh Hashanah postcards to our loved ones. Here's one from Germany, dated 1908.
Here's one I found in my husband's family photo album, with a photograph  of unknown ancestors glued in the center: 
Here's an insanely great dozen more vintage cards. Warning: They're addictive and you can find plenty for sale on ebay

Several years back, I did a fiber art postcard exchange with a Rosh Hashanah theme. Inspired by vintage postcards, I used rubber stamps for the lettering and lots of items cut from novelty fabric

First, Mr. Spock of blessed memory. I purchased the rubber stamp at a Star Trek convention in the 1990s. Sadly, this is my first Rosh Hashanah without Leonard Nimoy on Planet Earth.
I hope he's on an even better planet. He's about to blow the shofar (to the right of his head), the ram's horn whose intrusive blast shakes our deepest selves. The lettering reads "shanah tovah", a good new  year. On the left is a good luck hamsa hand; a metal hamsa charm is on the upper right. Spock's Vulcan salute is, of course, derived from Jewish tradition.

Like Leonard, Elvis Presley was technically Jewish. Really! Read this! And, like Leonard, Elvis was also a strong supporter of Jewish causes.
U.S. Presidents and Lady Liberty look worried about the future...Perhaps they were anticipating the 2016 Presidential election?
Two anonymous women convey best wishes for a year with more sewing and less cleaning:
The back: 
(I mailed it in an envelope so I didn't need room for an address). 
Fish is a traditional dish for Rosh Hashanah - this one was cut from an African fabric. (This tradition actually involves fish heads - or, if you don't have fish around, a nice juicy ram's head - oy vey!  Read all about Rosh Hashana food traditions here.)
Pure wackiness:
Also random, because mahjong is by now a Jewish (as well as Chinese) sport: 

Making and trading fiber arts postcards, for any occasion, is a blast! And very simple. And therapeutic. Here's a tutorial:

1. Cut a couple of pieces of stiff interfacing to postcard size, 4" x 6"  (Peltex, Peltex 72F, Inner Fuse, Fast-2-Fuse, in other words, stiff interfacing of any kind, ideally with fusible on both sides, but okay without.) 

You'll also need a couple of inches of paper-backed fusible web. 

2. Pick a background fabric for the featured side. Cut it to a little over 4" x 6".  Adhere it to one side of the stiff interfacing. Use fusible web if your interfacing doesn't have built-in fusible. Trim excess. Don't put fabric on the back yet.

3. Gather all the fabrics with images you want to include in the top. Cut them out from the fabric, with a half inch margin all the way around. Apply fusible web to the back of them, then cut out closely, and arrange them on the background fabric. 

4. Press, then stitch everything down. I often use invisible/clear nylon thread and a zig-zag stitch. 

5. Trim stray threads, especially from the back. Once everything is stitched to the front, turn to the back (the message side.)

6. Adhere a rectangle slightly larger than 4" x 6" to the back. It should be light-colored so writing will show.  Fuse it in place, and trim close around the edges. 

7. Zig zag all the way around the edges. For extra neatness, do a corded edging - my corded edging tutorial is at the bottom of this post.

 8. On the back (the message side), draw a vertical line 2/3rds of the way across toward the right. Write the address on one side, and your message on the other side of the line.  Take it to the post office to see how much postage they want you to pay (each post office is different!). Put a stamp on it and mail it to your loved ones. (Note: If it has 3D elements, like buttons or beads, you may have to send it in a padded envelope.)