Sunday, January 22, 2017

24-Scrap Batik Quilted Postcard Tutorial

I have been possessed by a 1" square obsession, ever since participating in a magazine challenge that stimulated me to cut out hundreds of them.

In the throes of this fixation, I also signed up to participate in a fiber art postcard exchange. The theme was "Dance of Life." I reinterpreted it as "dancing colors," so I could make my cards from leftover tiny batik squares.

Here are some of the 18 cards I made:

This project was SO much fun, and so relaxing - no matter what you do, if you use beautiful fabric, the results will be beautiful. 

Although each card is made up of 24 squares - which sounds like a lot - it really isn't.  Cutting 6 tiny squares from a scrap doesn't take that much longer than cutting one. Plus the more you cards make, the more you get to play with different compositions. Here's a tutorial:

24-Scrap Mailable Fiber Art Postcard Tutorial

1. Cut two dozen - Start by cutting at least 24 squares (per postcard) to 1.5" square each, so they'll wind up 1" x 1" after stitching with quarter-inch seam allowances.

I used batiks, but solids work, too. You don't have to use 24 different fabrics - it's okay to repeat colors. And if you're using blotchy batiks, cutting squares from different areas will create different effects. 

2. Assemble the fronts. I designed a whole bunch at the same time. I laid them out on the floor (lock out the cats and dogs!)
For the "dancing" theme, I focused on arranging the cards in a way that set colors clashing and clanging and moving around. 

Once you like each composition, stitch it together, with quarter-inch seam allowances. 

3. Pick a filling.  You can use quilt batting or even cardboard. I usually prefer stiff interfacing with fusible on both sides. Products like Peltex 72F, InnerFuse (in the picture), Fast-2-Fuse - plenty of choices. At the fabric store, some stiff interfacings are sold on bolts, and some are packaged in small quantities with the notions. 
After opening, and cutting:  
(The crease hasn't caused me any problems. Ironing seems to eliminate it.)

4. Cut interfacing -  4" x 6" per card.

5. Affix the front - Adhere the pieced 24-square front to one side of the interfacing. If the interfacing has fusible, iron it on. If your interfacing has fusible on both sides, place a teflon press sheet or parchment paper under the interfacing, to prevent the back from sticking to the ironing board. when you press the front. If there's no fusible on your center material, apply paper-backed fusible web to one side, or simply use a glue stick.

6. Leave the back of the interfacing blank, for now.

7. Embellish and stitch! The card below has raw-edge appliqués (two circles and a squiggle), plus a swatch of a ribbon ladder yarn (with ends bent and glued to the reverse side).  I machine quilted the elements on, and glued the yarn. Then I echo quilted around the shapes.

The next card is also embellished with appliques, same yarn, and machine quilting.
This one is hand- and machine-quilted: 
8. Design the writing side. After embellishment, pick a fabric (or cardstock) for the writing side. Fuse or glue it to the back. If you're going to write directly on the fabric, use a light color.

9. Print Out a Statement? Because I was making these cards for a large exchange, I wrote up a one-paragraph long artists' statement. Then I arranged the paragraphs (in a graphics program) so that it I could print them out onto sheets of white fabric sent through my printer on a freezer paper backing.
Printed that out, applied fusible to the back, cut it up, and adhered one statement to the lavender fabric on the back of my postcards.

My return address label is above it. (Here are directions if you've never printed on fabric before). You can also print the statements on paper and glue the paper to the back of the cards.

10. Finish the edges.  I zigzagged all the way around the edges with a variegated thread. If I wanted it to be neater, I might have done a corded edging. (My corded edging tutorial is at the bottom of this post.)

 11. Sign and Send. I signed each, added personal notes. The most spectacular way to mail your cards is in a cellophane envelope. It's incredibly exciting for both the recipient, and the postal service employee.

On the other hand, it can cause the wrong sort of excitement at the post office if the clerk has never seen anything like this before. So if you're using cellophane envelopes, bring the cards to the post office not yet in envelopes.

First, they're probably going to drop your card through their little slot tool, to measure the width, and they'll charge more if it sticks.

At most post offices these days, the employee will tell you to put the stamps on the cards. Then they either will or will not cancel the stamp. (My post office employee didn't cancel my stamps! I don't know why!) NOW you can put each stamped card in its cellophane and mail them off.

If you add 3-D embellishments, that's going to make your visit to the post office even more risky. Consider sending your card in an opaque envelope if it has glued on elements, or any 3-D elements.

Before bringing my cards to the post office, just for the fun of it,  I smushed them together for a big group photo, to see what they would have looked like if I'd made one quilt out of them: 

Hmmm,  I feel another square-based quilt coming on!

UPDATE: Shared on Nina Marie Sayre's Off the Wall Friday, a compendium of art quilters' latest projects! Enjoy them all at . 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

From Facebook Photo to Wedding Quilt: Forest Bride Tutorial

According to my supermarket, Valentine's Day is almost upon us, so here's a relatively quick and romantic project to make for your favorite newlyweds (or oldyweds, or anyone):

You will need: One photograph of a beautiful bride, ideally my friend Alison, wearing a wowza of a turquoise beaded gown:
 Another snapshot of the bride, on a different day, in a forest. This photo should be taken by Alison's groom, Dave, an excellent photographer:

Can you spot the bride to the left of the tree? Here's a closeup:
She's didn't wear her gown on the hike, but her shirt does have some turquoise. When I saw Dave's photo on Facebook, and thought back to Alison's gown - of which there were also photos on FB - I knew I could combine the images into a quilt. Here are the steps.

1. If you're not doing this for immediate family or very close friends, ask permission to use their photos. Download an image from Facebook by clicking on it once; then right-clicking on it, and selecting "save image as." Or, ask your friend(s) to send you a high resolution image of the bride (or groom, or pet, or whatever).

2. Print the hi-res picture of the bride onto a sheet of fabric. Use pre-made fabric sheets (I like EQ Printables Cotton Satin, no financial affiliation) - or make your own.  Here are directions if you've never printed on fabric.

3. Apply fusible web to the back of the printed image of the bride, then cut her out. No need to leave an allowance - this is a raw-edge appliqué project.

4. Print out a forest photo (onto regular paper, and it doesn't have to be hi-res) and place it by your ironing board. (Or just stare at it on your phone or tablet without printing it out.) You're going to interpret it, not print it on fabric.

5. Apply fusible web to the backs of  3-11 different fabrics in leaf colors. I used shades of gold and green.

6. Bring everything to the ironing board. Study the forest photo, and reinterpret it. Start by laying down the ground (I used brown batiks along the bottom) and a sky (I left the white fabric to serve as sky.)  For trunks, I pulled from my scrap bag long thready cuttings made when straightening tan and brownish batiks. (Never throw anything away!) There is no fusible on those strips - you'll see why, soon.

 For the leaves, I cut gold, green, and orange fabrics into triangles and arranged them.
6. Once you like the arrangement, press everything in place (and/or glue-stick key elements so they don't shift).

7.  Now, test what a single layer of tulle does to your quilt top. Yes, tulle - the stuff that's used to make bridal veils and tutus? If you've never used it before, you're going to be amazed by the impact that one layer has, while remaining mostly invisible, and holding everything in place. Different hues have subtly different, and unexpected effects on the colors below. Light tulle, like white, tends to grey things down, while dark colors can make the fabric colors pop!

For this project, after many tests, I wound up using a sheet of red tulle. As you can see in the image below, you wouldn't have known I used red if I hadn't told you. It casts the slightest of red tones in the white upper sky portion - but it really made those leaf colors catch fire. 

6. Once you like the tulle, pin it in position. 
7. Bring the sandwich to the sewing machine and stitch over the entire piece to hold things in place. Don't sweat the small stuff.
8. Bind. I bound mine with turquoise fabric, to match the gown.   

 Ta Daaa!

Addendum: Are these leaves ringing a bell? If you've been a quilter since the last millenium, the word banging around in your head is probably "snippets."

In the late 1990's there was a huge "snippets" fad. Innovative quilt designer Cindy Walter wrote at least four snippets books, still on sale on Amazon (No financial affiliation). Her idea: Apply fusible web to the back of fabrics; go to the ironing board; cut the fabric into little or not-so-little pieces just above the fabric, so the pieces land fusible side down; press with a hot iron; frame and go! You don't even need to quilt the piece! Here's a page from her first snippets book, Snippet Sensations, showing how she laid down a wreath.

Maybe a little after that, a tulle fad came along I don't know who started it, but suddenly, a whole lot of quilters and fiber artists' studios started looking like tutu factories. They were cutting fabrics, threads, yarns, dryer lint, pet hair, plastic bags, and other random stuff into small pieces, laying them down a surface (maybe with fusible web, maybe with a  glue stick, and maybe with no adhesive) - and then pinning a layer of sheer tulle on top. The final step was to stabilize the pieces with freemotion quilting on top.

I've had a lot of fun using tulle this way over the years, especially in a class I took from fabulous quilter Phyllis Cullen at the 2015 convention of the Pomegranate Guild of Judaic Needlework. In that class, we created richly-colored fused raw-edge appliqué tropical scenes, then covered them with black tulle, which, counterintuitively, popped the colors. I wrote about the process here. I also wrote a blog post showing how different tulle colors affect the colors beneath, here.

UPDATE: The forest photographer, Dave, has kindly given his permission for anyone reading this to borrow his forest image to inspire their own. Do email us a picture when you're done, at

UPDATE: Share on Nina Marie Sayre's Off the Wall Friday, a compendium of art quilt bloggers' latest projects! Enjoy it at

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Political Crochet, Nasty and Nice

Although I am mostly loyal to quilting, I dally with crochet on the side. Especially when convinced that crochet might save the world, which occurs with surprisingly frequency.

Those of us who are appalled by the grabby President-elect are planning to participate in protest marches on or near inauguration day. Someone came up with the idea of pink, uh, cat hats. (OK, I'll choke out the words: Pussy Hats.) It's called the #Pussyhat Project, and you can learn about it here.

They're extremely easy to make, and therapeutic to boot.

Crocheted, they take me about an hour. Knitted, up to a year.

According to newspaper reports, dozens of yarn shops are teaching how to make them, and hundreds of people across the country are practicing this form of short-term therapy. The project site offers patterns, but I just make them up as I go along. Here's how:

Step 1. Hook a line of chain stitches that go comfortably from the back of one of your ears, around the front, to the back of the other ear. With a J hook, and worsted-weight yarn, this should be in the vicinity of 25- 35 stitches. For a smallish hat, make sure it's at least 10" across, and longer for larger heads.

Step 2. Crochet a second and maybe a third row. Make sure your first three rows still reach from ear to ear or meet your inch goal. (Unravel and start again if you need more or fewer stitches).

Step 3. Crochet til your rectangle is about 16" high,

Step 4.  Fold it in half, so the first and last row meet, and each side is 8" high.  From the wrong side, sew up the sides with a tapestry needle and yarn.

Step 5. Optional: Do a line of stitchery diagonally across the two top corners, to magnify the cat ears effect.
Here are several that I made, most with the rectangle method, but a few crocheted in the round, like this one:

 Side 2:
I'm considering adding a patch of mixed nut fabric, whatcha think?
Here's a rectangular one. There are diagonal lines of stitching along the bottom of each pink triangle, to make the cat ears stand out.
Next, the only one that I've knitted (so far.) Knitting takes me about three times longer than crochet. The words read "Love the Rainbow." 
The next one reads "Argh"
If you spell out the words with single stitches, then wrap each stitch with yarn, they become more legible. Here's the same "argh" with all the stitches wrapped:
The next one expresses a more sophisticated sentiment: 
More thoughts:
And now, The Nasty Series. (Nasty because the President-elect accused his opponent of being a "nasty woman.") Along with the hat at the top of this post, there's Nasty in the round:
Nasty with love and irony:
Same hat on my DD's friend's head. She's not in the slightest bit nasty: 
My DD made me add the word to a blue hat I was making her for everyday wear. Since she goes to school in blasé NYC, I assume no Manhattanites will bat an eyelash at a sweet, petite college freshman wearing a blue cupcake that hurls an insult at the wearer, the viewer, or both.
And of course, there's this one, which sums me up: the day.
The evidence: below, my DD goaded me into writing this:
It says: 
And finally: 

We can only hope  that the next four years aren't one. Find many more pussyats on Instagram at #pussyhatproject. On Pinterest, search "pussyhat project."

And because some of my best friends are Republicans, here are some improvisationally-crocheted elephants. I turned out one on a long cross-country airplane flight, and another while binge-watching old Star Treks.
Start with a small round of four or five stitches at the tip of the trunk, and proceed upwards and outwards. Leave buttonholes for each of the four legs, and grow them separately. The ears are half-rounds, stitched separately, then sewn on. The blanket (left) and scarf (right) are crocheted from variegated yarn. 

The eyes and mouth are embroidery stitched with yarn.

Improvisational crochet is much easier than it looks. My sister-in-law is Swiss-French and learned crochet as a child in school, but forgot how to do it. So when came to visit last week for the holidays, she studied my elephants, asked me for a quick refresher course, and before you know it, she whipped this out:
...with green yarn, wood button eyes, a red-and-yellow hat, a multicolored scarf, and a strange pink nasal halter/leash. It immediately befriended its ancestors, and they all piled on the seat of the exercise bike:
Unfortunately, their legs don't reach the pedals. With its yellow-trimmed hat, I think the green elephant looks a lot like Babar. 
It also posed for a portrait with its fond but surprised new parents: 
The green elephant also has a trés insouciant derriére, which makes it  easier for Presidents and others to grab.
It also likes to float around the room in the life-ring my SIL knitted for him on circular needles.
Are you making inaugural or anti-inaugural art? I'd love to see! A "Nasty Woman" art exhibition kicks off in Queens, NY on January 7 and runs through the 12th; info here.