Sunday, October 16, 2016

Very Rare: Quilter Makes Bear

Here he is! My new best friend! He's tall (18"), quirky (crooked nose), enjoys California weather, is not a big talker, and doesn't have a name, because I don't want to get too attached to him.
I'm going to ship him out to a child with a rare disease, through the auspices of the Rare Bear project of Rare Science, a non-profit organization that seeks treatments for kids with rare diseases. On the back, each maker stitches in a tag with a number specific to that bear. 
Rare bears are made from a commercial pattern - Simplicity C5461, view E. It's only $5.96, and Simplicity is donating a portion of the earnings to Rare Science.  (No financial affiliation.)
Speaking of rare, as a quilter, I am someone who almost never touches a commercial sewing pattern. Undertaking this bear forced me to wrack my brains trying to remember everything the ferocious Mrs. Rich taught me in 7th grade Home Economics, circa 1970, where my semester project was a yellow paisley dashiki mini-dress. (I just did a Google search and found my dashiki pattern!: 

I didn't add the rick rack.)

The bear pattern was definitely more complex than that dashiki, so I made a lot of mistakes, like overlooking notches, and using imperceptible methods to mark placement dots (light Sharpie dots on the wrong side - fail!) I also initially stitched the legs to the neck. When I make another one, I'm sure I'll sail through much easily, because it really isn't hard once you grok the concept.

On the upside - especially for quilters - it's a great way to use up juvenile print leftovers. I used mostly scraps from a set of Jan Mullen children's prints purchased long ago. 
I am counting ten different fabrics I worked into this bear, not including the black felt for the nose, and the logo fabric the organization provides for the feet. 
If you want to make a Rare Bear, buy the pattern, and submit the form on this page. They will send detailed instructions, along with a numbered tag and foot fabric. Rare Bears also make a terrific group project - inspiration is here

Unfortunately, some of the project's instructions contradicted each other, and I went with the direction sheet that told me to stuff my bear.  The CORRECT instruction sheet said DON'T stuff it - headquarters does that.  So if you make one, don't worry about expensive postage - an unstuffed bear folds up very light and small for mailing (and they provide an address label and bag.) 

Want to see some real wowza finished bears made from this pattern? Alex Anderson and Ricky Tims' online organization, The Quilt Show, will hold a Rare Bear Celebrity Auction from November 2-6. Bears made by famous quilters will be auctioned. Peruse them from this page, and bid on them here

UPDATE: The most astonishing of all is this bear, completely covered with beads and other embellishments, by Melody Crust. 

The celebrity bears will also be displayed in the Rare Science Booth at the International Quilt Festival,  which is also November 2-6, 2016, in Houston.  

If you make/made a Rare Bear, I'd love to see a picture! Thanks to my friend Saraj for letting me know about the Rare Bear program!

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Kvelling Over Hat and Hebrew Quilt "Grandbabies"

Every so often, I get an email with the subject line "Your newest grandchild!" These announcements don't come from my own kids, which is a probably a relief, because they're 18-to-23 and single.

Instead they come from my friend Linda Horowitz, a businesswoman and humorist, who loves making over-the-top kippot from the patterns in my yarmulke how-to book.  She especially likes to make personalized, reversible lined kippot with 12 fabrics (plus buttons and charms.)  A couple of months ago, she made the hat below for a friend's rabbinical ordination. There are six panels on the outside....

And six more on the inside....

Her giftee is involved in Jewish summer camp (so there's a camp fabric); "edible Judaism" (pumpkins); sun-and-wheat for counting the omer; a dove of peace button on a Jerusalem fabric; a tree fabric (Tree of Life/Tree of Knowledge - both work), with an apple button, which, she notes, could also be a teacher's apple; a G-clef charm; and much more. The binding is black denim with gold musical notes.  

I thought I couldn't be prouder, but shortly afterwards, Linda sent me another baby picture! It was for the following 4-panel kippah she made for her son, who is starting freshman year at Butler University in Indiana. The school mascot is a bulldog.
This hat didn't come as a total surprise - Linda had visited my home to print a bunch of bulldogs onto a pretreated sheet of fusible-backed printer fabric. Our printout looked like this:

She then cut out two of the dog heads, and fused them to a satin white fabric. She hired a professional machine embroiderer to spell out "Butler" in Hebrew (under the dog's head), her son's Hebrew name, and "Go Dawgs!" (The embroideries cost her $10/panel.) She cut the fabric into four panels, and stitched them together to make the kippah.

But wait,  there are more new grandbabies! They're not hats; they're quilts, and they're Canadian! (so I  may need to move in with them after the election.) A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from my friend Susan Podlog, who lives in Calgary - and it contained this photo:
Left to right: Leslie Levant, Nadine Waldman, Deb FinklemanCarolyn Devins, Polina Ersh, Myrna Ichelson holding a challah cover by Lily Joffe
This group of women - members of the Alberta-based Rimon Calgary chapter of the Pomegranate Guild of Judaic Needlework -  made quilts from my Hebrew Aleph Bet pattern. Their finished projects range from simple alphabets to challah (bread) covers to a "welcome" sign for a synagogue office.

What makes this astonishing to me is that some of these ladies were beginners to paper piecing and even to machine sewing! Tackling my paper piecing patterns without a little experience can be daunting. For example, here's the letter Aleph:

It makes this:

... Fortunately, this group of stitchers includes Polina Ersh, "a phenomenal quilter and paper piecing maven," explains chapter member Susan Podlog. "Polina has the patience of Job, and was so gracious in sharing her knowledge. We so appreciated her willingness to be a teacher!"

One of the Polina's most helpful tips, Susan reports: Use the "Add a Quarter" ruler to trim seam allowances as you go. My pattern does not include information about this tool, but I just found a very clear tutorial here. (This tutorial is from the ruler's inventor, Carolyn Cullinan McCormick. No financial affiliation!)

The group also gave me some very lovely feedback on the patterns. One of the women wrote,
"I do remember thinking it was good that I'd done a previous paper-piecing project. I guess I'd say it might be tough for novices without some guidance.  But I'm very pleased with how it turned out, and very glad that Cathy made this pattern. It's something the world needed!
What more could a grandmother ask for?  Well, a human grandchild would be nice, eventually....meanwhile, I'll just sit here in the dark.

A blog post with more about aleph bet quilts is here.  Patterns are on my Judaiquilt website, here. and my Etsy shop.  If you make something from one of my patterns, please send a birth announcement! We will both kvell!

P.S. Many more Judaica patterns, in many different mediums are available to members of the Pomegranate Guild of Judaic Needlework. You'll make new friends and learn new techniques - it's all good!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Vintage Greeting Cards for a Sweet New Year

Happy New Year!  In October? Why yes, of course, because Rosh Hashanah starts tonight!

Rosh Hashanah is both somber and celebratory. Jews reflect on our past year, to begin the process of asking forgiveness. We pray, and listen to the blasts of the shofar, the ram's horn, that shakes us to our souls. Culinarily, we indulge in apple slices dipped in honey, and circular challah bread, round like the year.

Another colorful custom: For more than 100 years, Jews have sent each other Rosh Hashanah greeting cards.

Don't get me wrong, I treasure the musical e-cards I receive from friends and family -  but they'll never match the charm of the vintage paper cards from the late 1800s forward. Here's one I showed off a couple of years ago, found in my husband's family photo album

American patriotism is a common theme. I recently discovered a stash of vintage Rosh Hashanah greeting cards in Wikimedia. The next elaborate postcard from their collection also celebrates immigration and American patriotism:

The Yiddish, says "Happy New Year Ship Card." (Among other things). It's from about 1930. See details here.

Next, another immigration-themed card, a fabulous pop-up: 
A closer look.
The next pop-up card seems to be celebrating the end of WWII. It's dated 1950. Tanks appear to be rolling in to liberate a town? What town? Any ideas? See details.

Next, a simple but spooky pansy:
And how about this sweet standup lad with dozens of purple flowers?

Below, an incredibly elaborate synagogue popup: 
Aren't these wonderful? Want to see more? 
  • For more from Wikimedia's collection, travel here
  • To make your own fiber art Rosh Hashanah postcards, check out my blog post which includes a tutorial, here
  • To buy your own vintage cards, check ebay. Enter "Rosh Hashanah postcard" in the search window. Below are some amazing recent examples:
Above, children with a beautiful angel. Below, love and romance is another common theme: 

And finally, I wish all who celebrate it a happy, healthy, creative New Year! Or as Mr. Spock would say,
(Here's the entire fabric postcard:)
PS: To make your own Judaica of any kind, consider joining the Pomegranate Guild of Judaic Needlework.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Planetary Future Depends on Sewing Political Pillows, Bags, etc.

I get anxious around election time, mainly because I feel that the planet is at stake. And I'm hardly alone in my fears. This year, I support the reality-based candidate, but worry that the other guy is gaining. To ease the terror, my friends and I usually do some phone banking, and some candidate crafts.

Artisanal politics are a whole lot more fun than any other kind, and we donate all the profits to our candidates's campaigns. In 2012 we raised close to $600!

This election season, the Democrats are blessed with a logo that is, like the candidate, brilliant and pragmatic, with secretive details. It's a simple H, but the arrow extending slightly and irrevokably past the rightward bar presents complications.

Because of the protrusion, attempting to piece this design would take me past November. So I made a raw-edge appliqué pattern. Here it is, on a virtual 7 1/2" blue background.
After drawing out the pattern, the next step was to make a PDF with a variety of sizes, to give my incredibly talented artist friend Marian Sunabe. She collaged some beautiful versions. I collaged a few, too.  Here are three of Marian's gems: 

And two I made: 

The next job was to zig-zag over all the raw edges. Then, I attached the patches to things. First, I turned blue-and-white logo into a pocket, and sewed it to a small cross-body bag made from a jeans leg, with the strap made from the seams.
Another bluesy bag:
I crocheted a flap for the back side, and a strap.
For the next bag, I crocheted a colorful strap from ribbon yarn.
The entire bag in the next photo was crocheted around the patch. 
A teal model:
Next, a large tote, cut from the leg of a huge pair of denim shorts. 
I also sewed patches to plain tee shirts that Marian and her mom had collected: 

And finally, when kooks diagnosed Clinton's affection for lumbar pillows as terminal illness (I'm not making this up), I decided to generate some Hillary pillows. 
The back message is rubber-stamped.
Say that 10 times fast. The next one, pre stuffing: 
...and post-trim and stuffing:
(That green trim has sat in my stash for years awaiting a purpose!)
In the next pillow, Marian used fascinating orange-and-white fabrics for the logo.
You got the idea! 

The upcycled jeans cross-body bags have been our bestsellers, so far. Want to make your own? Here's a tutorial.


First, create the logo patch. Use the logo of your favorite candidate, if they have one. If you're supporting Hillary, that means using the colorful pattern that is the second image down from the top of the page. Remember, it is not a piecing pattern - it's for raw-edge appliqué, so there's no turn-under. Use the measurements in the diagram to replicate it on graph paper, and then you can shrink or grow it to your needs on a copy machine.

For the version below, I shrank the pattern down to about 5 1/4" square. The purple polka-dot vertical strokes in the H are about 1" x 4" (they underlap the arrow.) I cut a template from the paper pattern to trace and cut out the arrow. I used a glue stick to put everything in position. (Washable white school glue works well, too.)
Next, I zigzagged everything down, with paper serving as stabilizer on the back.
Ripped away the backing stabilizer. Cut a piece of matching fabric slightly larger.
Placed them right-sides-together, then stitched around three sides, leaving a turning gap along the bottom.
Trimmed the excess seam allowance all the way around, snipped corners, and turned right side out. Pressed the bottom gap closed neatly, and inserted a slice of fusible web to hold it in position.Then topstitched a line horizontally across the top, about 1/8" down from the edge. 
Now the pocket is about 5" x 5". Cut a piece of a jeans leg wide enough to be at least an two inches wider than the patch pocket and about 2 1/2 x as long as the patch. I cut it this jeans leg to about 6.5" wide and 18" long (including the turn-under at one end.)
The jeans hem on the left serves as one finished end. 
I turned the right end over twice and stitched it down. 
Stitched the two long edges of the rectangle with a zig-zag, to minimize fraying. 
Tested a jeans pockets to place at the right end. The problem with jeans pocket below is that it's too wide - it might get caught in the seam:
A tiny jeans pocket was the perfect size, and added character:
I stitched the H pocket in position, around the sides and bottom. Then I stitched the tiny jeans pocket the same way. My sewing machine does not like thick denim layers, so I only stitched part of the way along the sides and bottom of the jeans pocket. I used strong glue to hold the area under the rivets.

Once pockets were finished, I folded the bag right sides together and stitched down the two side seams. Turned it right side out, and we're almost done.
 Crocheted a strap, flap, and added a button.
Added an interesting closure:
 It's made of stacked buttons and a crocheted loop.
And there you have it, ready for action! 
I'd love to see political items you make! Interested in buying some of these items? We have sold almost all the bags, but do have lots of shirts leftover. Cheap and profits go to the Clinton campaign! Send me an email at cathy(dot)perlmutter(at)!