Sunday, April 15, 2018

Things Learned from Neckties: Flap Purse Tutorial

How I love playing with neckties - the quirkier, the better. Quilts are my favorite thing to make from them, but a close second is purses. Here are two flap bags finished recently. 

First, a bag made from three gold neckties. The groovy tie on the far right, with the colorful O rings, is one of my all-time favorites (I'm guessing it's from the 60s or 70s). 
Open view below. The signatures on the lining of my favorite tie, over on the right, say "John Weitz," so I did a Google search for him. It turns out that this German-Jewish immigrant was not only a famous men's fashion designer, but also a novelist, historian, race car driver, yachtsman, and, oh, he almost killed Hitler. In short, the most interesting man in the world. The things you learn from neckties! 
The metal button is even older than the ties (if you know the era, I'd love to hear!)
The handle is made from the short ends of two neckties sewn together. Its ends are held to the purse by stitching and more vintage buttons, 
 An embossed velvet ribbon is an option, pinned on for now. (I'm ambivalent).
That bag was good practice for the next one, which is bigger. It's made from 4 1/2 neckties for the body, plus most of one more for the handle. John Weitz didn't design any of these ties, but they do feature (left to right) rainbow trout, cocktail molecules, paisley reimagined, and circus animals. 
The blue buttons above are purely decorative - it closes with snaps inside the tips, below. (I inserted a sheet of cardstock for this photo.)
 
Back. The wide end of the handle tie is stitched to the body - on the right, I used a scrap of leather to hold a pair of plastic D rings in position, and they grip the other end of the handle tie.

Open the bags to see the labels. 
It's the labels that informed me of the fish type and the molecular substance.  
 
 Want to make your own necktie flap bag? Here's a tutorial.
1. Pick 3-4 ties to serve as the main body of the bag. Cut them to about 34" from their widest tip.
2. Open at the cut end. If you can see that it's hand-sewn, don't cut back the thread - cut it once, then pull out stitches to about 1 1/2" down. Tie that thread into a couple of knots close to its base.
 3. Cut off an inch of the lining.
4. Bring the outside back up. Hand stitch the area where you took out the thread. For extra security,  hand sew over the entire back seam with sturdy matching thread. I used a running stitch, ending in the same place at the wide end that the stitching in the tie ended.

5. Roll the cut edges to the inside twice, about a half inch each time.
6. Stitch it down, by hand or machine (I used a machine, with invisible thread in the bobbin). 

7. Arrange ties in the order you want. The wide ends are lined up on the left. On the right, at about 24" across, the narrower tie ends are brought back toward (but not reaching) the center, partially overlapping the ties underneath, but also partially between the ties, so they widen the right end. Their right-most edge, where they turn, forms small tie points.
8. When you like it, hand baste everything in position, inside and out (in white thread here). 

9. Prepare for permanent stitching. I found that the wide ends of two neckties were particularly flimsy, because they're unlined. I put a piece of tear-away stabilizer under the weakest area (the white rectangle, below, left), before stitching. 
10. Do the permanent stitching. From the outside, I went over all the hand basting with gold metallic thread in top and bobbin, and a wide multi-step zigzag. Inside, I sewed remaining flaps by hand, so the stitches wouldn't penetrate to the outside. 
Here's how it looks sewn together, from the inside.
Below, a closer view of the inside stitching. A and C mark the hand running stitches used to reinforce the central back seam in this red dot tie. B shows the back of the multi-step zigzag done from the outside, joining the red dot tie to its neighbor. D shows handstitching done after all the machine stitching was completed, to fasten down the upper edge of the red dot tie. 
11. Bring up the short (right) end, and play around to determine how deep you want the purse vs. flap length. 
Wouldn't this make a nice clutch?
12. When you like the proportions, pin the flap in position With wrong sides together and working from the flap side, use decorative thread and multi-step zigzag again to sew down the two side seams. 
13. Make a handle. I used leftovers from two of the ties. I measured two tie remnants to 22" from their narrow tip; cut across them flat; and undid a couple of inches of the thread holding them shut. Then I opened them out, and stitched the ends together with a straight stitch, going right through the linings. 
14. Finger press the seam  open and refold everything back in place; make and bury knots from the tie's thread; and reinforce the whole length of the central seam with handstitching.
I finished the gold purse with a button-and-loop closure, as shown in the first photos above. For the blue purse, the closure is the snaps underneath the wide tips.

For more necktie projects, click on "Neckties" in the word cloud on the right. 



Sunday, April 8, 2018

Freemotion Quilted Hebrew Alphabet Postcard Tutorial

How's your Hebrew? Mine could be much better, but that didn't stop me from making thirteen 4" x 6" quilted Hebrew alphabet postcards for a recent exchange.
A little closer: 


One example: This is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, 'aleph.' 
Mystics saw its structure as a ladder between heaven and earth (Can you see the ladder on the far left?) The rest of the background is freemotion quilted with objects that begin with aleph, including pears,  pineapple, ears, fire, and lion. OK, they're very sketchy, but they're there! 

These cards were made for my Jewish quilting group's "People of the Book"-themed postcard exchange. I was particularly excited about this theme because of my fondness for fonts. New, old, I can't get enough, in any language. The Hebrew alphabet is particularly gorgeous, whether ancient Torah calligraphy, or art-deco influenced mid-20th century. A favorite book on my shelf is this 1950 tome called "Hebrew Alphabets," by 20th century Judaic graphic designer Reuben Leaf. The book offers dozens, and even the cover is a treat: 
For the postcard exchange, I paged through it for ideas, and was stopped in my tracks by this one: 
At the bottom, it says it was designed by Siegmund Forst, a groundbreaking mid-20th century artist and graphic designer from Vienna; and the letters were based on the Kafra Haggadah, a lavish 1947 illuminated Haggadah.

The first thing I did was scan the page; then in a graphics program, I resized the letters to about 2" x 3", so they would fit comfortably on a 4" x 6" postcard. 


Since I was swapping with 12 people (plus one more card for me), I cut 13 pieces of stiff double-sided fusible interfacing to 4" x 6". I cut a long strip of a mottled batik fabric and pressed each rectangle onto the fabric (using a non-stick press sheet on bottom to prevent the other side of the fusible from sticking to the ironing board.) 
 Cut back the excess fabric to the same size as the interfacing.
I used Golden Threads tracing paper to trace the outline of the 13 letters I selected for this project. 
 Then I pinned the outline to the center of each postcard.
 Next, I stitched along the edges with gold metallic thread and an open-toe freemotion quilting foot.
After stitching:
 Tearing away the tracing paper was next. First I ripped away the outside.
I liked how it looked with the paper inside, but obviously that's not a long-term solution.  I ripped away the inside, and then went after the little bits. With Golden paper, they're easy to dislodge. (That's not the case for other kinds of paper.)
I wasn't wild about the lack of contrast when the letter outlines were empty - so I filled them in with gold metallic paint. They are all painted by hand, with a small brush, and of course I always wear my magnifying headgear to do this as neatly as I can. 

Next came the research part: I dug up my Hebrew-English dictionary, and also opened a translator online. I looked up Hebrew words that began with that particular letter, that would be relatively easy to freemotion quilt.

I grabbed my tracing paper again, and pinned fresh 4" x 6" pieces of it to each card again. This time, I focused on doodling designs representing Hebrew words that begin with that letter, in the space around the letter. 

For example, the card below shows the letter peh. The sketch shows my brainstorms for the surroundings. Peh has a numerical value of 80, and peh words depicted include bell, skeleton key, unlock, brook, mouth, face, mushrooms, flower, coffee pot, and fruit. 
In order to get the design onto the card, I did NOT stitch through the tracing paper. I needed to see exactly where I was gong, and the tracing paper would obstruct the view.  So I put the sketch next to my sewing machine, and referred to it when freemotioning on the actual card. I ended up doing many things differently from the original! 

Next, the letter 'bet', the second letter of the alphabet, is associated with the number two, and it’s said to be pointing to heaven. Bet nouns on this card include egg; home; banana; peanuts; thumb; and balloons.
This one's 'ayin'. The words I depicted include tree, grass, eye, grapes, clouds, and maybe cookies. 
 And so forth.




After the quilting was finished, the reverse side of these cards was still blank - just fusible interfacing. In my graphics program, I wrote a little essay for each card, explaining each letters and its words, plus the address of each recipient. I could fit three custom 4" x 6" labels like these per page. 
I ironed five 8 1/2" x 11" pieces of plain white fabric onto freezer paper. Then I printed the labels onto the fabric. I cut each one out, fused it to the back of each card, and did a zigzag stitch with invisible thread around the edges to hold the three layers together. They were ready to go! 

If you love fonts - in any language - you can easily do a project like this. Quilted postcards are a great way to exercise creative muscles between large projects, plus they work as fun group activity for farflung people. They're also good mini-presents for all occasions - the recipients can hang them on the wall, or use them as bookmarks or coasters. For much more fun with fiber art postcards, click "Postcards" in the word cloud on the right. 


Sunday, April 1, 2018

Simple Squares, Striking Modern-ish Quilts

A couple of years ago, I got myself hooked on squares. Among the results is a set of 5 sibling quilts - quiltuplets! - made up of 4" squares. Even beginners can do this. Here's #1. 
Detail - easy freemotion designs repeated along the diagonal. 
 Baby #2 below. It has a preppy border...
And insanely simple quilting....
  Baby #3: I satin stitch appliqued the smaller squares.
 Baby #4, with paper-foundation-pieced scrappy triangle borders:
Detail: 
And finally, I chopped up leftover squares to make the youngest and kookiest (which squeaked into QuiltCon.)
Below are some of the dozens of photos I took of my design wall when a bunch of them were in progress: 
Next, four of the centers sewn together; I considered joining them into one quilt.
Even after I finished three of them, I toyed with the idea of stitching them together. (Or maybe joining them with a zipper?) (By the way, the molding above my design wall holds my Pez collection, which, now that I look at it, probably influences my quilts more than I would like. Don't try this at home.)
It's so much fun to explore color and value when you don't have to worry about complex piecing.  Plus, if your stash isn't huge, you can use precuts - squares or strips - to maximize choices without having to buy a yard of each fabric. Start by sorting squares  by color and value...
...then deal them out, starting from the center and moving outward, playing with going up and down the value and hue scale.
More adventures with squares include a recent rhyming quilt; 25-36 square small gifts; 24-scrap postcards, a heavily embellished 10" 100-square backwards wallhanging; a 153-square backwards wallhanging and a 144 button wallhanging.