Monday, July 16, 2018

Quel Fromage! This Quilt Is Cheesy!

There are many stacks in my sewing room, and one is comprised of potential handmade gifts: small quilts, brooches, fiber necklaces, and of course, UFO's - unfinished objects.

When planning a visit with an old (or new) friend who has admired my creations, I go through the pile, searching for something they might like; if necessary, I finish and personalize it for them.

It's a challenge if I don't know the person well and/or have never seen their home. What's their style? Minimalist? Flea market clutter? Black-and-white? Rainbow?

So I often bring choices. We recently headed for a week in the French Alps - my DH to teach, while I would be gloriously free all day to do this:
...Plus, on one day, have lunch with a friend from grad school who I hadn't seen in 30+ years. He's an American expat living in France, a writer, erudite, sophisticated and kind, all of which I detected from being Facebook friends with him for several years now.

I pondered what quilt to bring him and his wife. I had this small striped quilt from my Ann Brauer experiment days.
Sophisticated, but perhaps lacking personality.  I have a natural horor vacui, an allergy to unoccupied space. So I sewed a button on it. One button led to another and I sewed 13 on it. (Some are stacked.)
I may have overdone it. As a counter-offer, I brought this small eclipse quilt, mundanely named Eclipse #4.
(In real life, the colors are more muted than in this photo). I would let my friend decide.

The first clue to his taste was his suggestion from the menu items. He recommended the tartiflete.

What, you may ask, is a tartiflete? The word, which rhymes with "hearty PET," trips poetically off the tongue, sounding to me like someone who is a combination of a tart and flirt: O Tartiflete, ma petit chou, tu me tuer! ("Oh Tartiflete, my little cabbage, you are killing me!" according to my high school French.)

But a tartiflete contains no cabbage - it is a Savoy regional food made with potatoes, onions, cream, butter, and a whole lot of, OMG, Internet recipes are showing me massive hunks of bacon LARD being chopped into little bits and thrown in! Now I have to apologize to my doctor AND my rabbi!

(Here's a public domain picture from Wikipedia:
Ours wasn't quite as bumpy.)

What makes the dish fabulous is its crusty brown goo of reblochon, a French cheese that Wikipedia says is "smear-ripened," which is not only something that happens on Twitter to much-attacked politicians; in cheese the smearing is done with bacteria or fungi " them a stronger flavor as the cheese matures," says Wikipedia.

And if that's not intense enough, "reblochon" comes from the French verb "reblocher," which means "to pinch a cow's udder again..." Ouch?
"This refers to the practice of holding back some of the milk from the first milking. During the 14th century, the landowners would tax the mountain farmers according to the amount of milk their herds produced. The farmers would therefore not fully milk the cows until after the landowner had measured the yield. The milk that remains is much richer, and was traditionally used by the dairymaids to make their own cheese." 
The US government considers reblechon too dangerously unpasteurized to permit into the national arteries -  but, Wikipedia comforts us, there's a tasty and legal substitute for it called Delice du Jura.

Back to our luncheon - as you might expect, the tartiflette was delicious - how could it not be? Only my friend's fine continental manners kept me from licking my plate clean.

On top of that, he presented me and my husband with a weighty hunk of a DIFFERENT delightful cheese, also unpasteurized, similarly covered in white mold with tantalizing fungal smears. Here it is (after I'd downed a few slabs):

So, back to our choices: now that you know him a bit, which quilt do you think my friend choose after our luncheon?
Yup, he immediately went for the quilt on the left, the quilt that displays what I had intended as a sunny slice of the sky with forebodings of eclipse, but which I now recognize as cheese. It even has moldy golden veins.
(Disregard that the orange is closer to the color of Cheez Doodles.)

The circles surrounding the cheese on that quilt are no longer moons and planets  - they're mold spores whizzing around in excited adoration. I am even giving this quilt a new name: "Tartiflete," bien sur.

Remaining questions that burn in my newly-smear-ripened soul: 

1. Shall I now make an intentional cheese quilt?

2. Shall I include the wrapper from my amazing gift cheese, so my cheese quilt can have a scratch-and-sniff component?

3. Or should I forget cheese and just make quilts about the amazing Alpine view?
(...which is not cheesy at all.)

P.S. I just discovered many textile artists inspired by cheese at Spoonflower, the custom fabric printing company (no financial affiliation). They sent me a notice for a BOGO fat quarter sale this weekend (through Monday), so just for the heck of it, I entered "cheese" in their search engine. Lots of choices came up, including this tasty design by Charlotte Winter here:
...More from Becka Griffen, here:
And finally, because woman cannot live by tartiflete alone,"Happy Macarons," by youdesignme, sold here.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Judaica, Old and New, With and Without Charlton Heston

Judaic studies professor Jodi Eichler-Levine wrote a beautiful essay about Judaica and "riffing on tradition," published in the Association of Jewish Studies' magazine, here. I'm beyond honored to be mentioned. Here's he full matzoh cover that she discusses.
And the detail that caught her eye:
Doesn't everyone put Charlton Heston on their matzoh covers? I blogged about it several years back, halfway down the page. Thank you, Jodi. It's amazing to be understood
In tallit news: One disadvantage of being an empty nester is that my kids, who used to serve as fresh, unpaid supermodels, are no longer available. Fortunately, my fresh, unpaid supermodel husband steps in, if I plead and promise to maintain his anonymity. So here is an anonymous person modelling a tallit for a girl who chose the colors. the batik fabric, and the design, specifying that the stripes be uneven widths and uneven distances from each other. 
And here it is a few weeks later, on the actual gorgeous girl! (With her gorgeous family, also unevenly distributed.)
It's much more difficult to make stripes uneven than the same size. Closeup:
I outlined the letters with silver metallic thread, using freemotion techniques. The method is explained toward the bottom of this page. The Hebrew blessing for donning the tallit is made easily with my "atarah on a roll" pdf pattern, which you can download for free here. The quilted case, with the bat mitzvah's Hebrew name, is below.
Opened, from the back:

The matching kippah is very simple....
...and reversible....

(My not-quite-free book on how to make plain as well as complicated reversible kippot is here. )


And speaking of complicated: Tallit-and-kippah maker extraordinaire Marilyn Levy used a pattern from my book to make this kippah, with the extensive machine embroidery that she does so beautifully: 
Find more of Marilyn's exquisite creations, including kippot and tallitot, at her website, here.


And finally, moving from the sublime to the ridiculous, I must sheepishly admit that I do occasionally get commissions for bark mitzvah hats - yep, canine kippot. Meet Cody (and a feline photobomber): 
(What kind of a Jewish name is Cody? I forgot to ask his Hebrew name). I got a little fancy with fussy-cutting the four panels of Cody's headgear, for a kaleidoscopic effect: 
And the inside: 

It has a gold lame binding - what dog doesn't love bling? - and can double as an eyepatch. Not recommended for cats. The pattern is also in my book, here.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Artistic Protest Postcards and Signs for People with Bad Handwriting

My husband and I marched for refugees last weekend. We had to do something. We also came up with the sign below. I so appreciate and enjoy the creative, funny, heartrending, sincere signs people carry to marches for good causes. I was determined to do one for this march. My handwriting is terrible, but one thing I've learned from quilting is that anyone can cut out presentable, even enjoyable, lettering.
Before the march, when the news story of the separation of babies from their parents first broke, I sent money to a consortium of refugee assistance agencies, here.  Then I made five attention-seeking 4" x 6" postcards, from fabric, batting, and cardstock. In this case, a set of rubber alphabet stamps solved my bad handwriting problem.
I sent them to my lawmakers and Melania Trump (the day before she visited them wearing her "I don't care" coat - if I'd seen that first, I might not have bothered).

The large letters are individually rubber stamped. I did the entire phrase "Reunite families" in one stroke, thanks to my handy-dandy rubber stamp that looks like this.
These are dark times. When I heard the President describe immigrants as an "infestation," I heard the loud echoes of Nazis. As the daughter of a Holocaust survivor,  I am cautious about comparing things to Nazis. But this dehumanization of innocent immigrants and kidnapping their children is as cruel as any US government policy I've ever witnessed in my lifetime. My mother never recovered from the trauma of losing her parents and siblings, when she was in her teens.

My scientist son just informed me that separation of young lab animals from mothers is banned in science because of overwhelming evidence of the profound stress it causes. What dark souls cooked this up as something to do to human beings?

Want to make your own postcards? There's a tutorial at the bottom of this post.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Accidental Skyscraper Quilt, Plus One for a Quirky Baby

It's amazing how many quilts I make when I'm trying to make something else entirely. Take this one:


Even closer, you can see the Chrysler Building quilting.

(Here's the actual top of that iconic New York building:
Photograph by Leena Hietanen:
I didn't set out to make a quilt about New York City. While scouring my stash for a backing for a different quilt. I happened across a stack of Jan Mullens fabric scraps, purchased in the 1990s at (before it was bought by Amazon), when my children were almost as small as my stash. I had bought a yard of about 6 different coordinating fabrics. Lurid as some of them are (oy, that magenta!), they served me well, in dozens of kid quilts.
I was surprised that I had any left at all, and decided maybe I could make something quick, fun and modern. I added solids, did some improv piecing, and, a little too quickly, wound up with this on my (vanilla batting) design wall (Yes, that's my Pez collection above my design wall. It has an excessive impact on my color choices, so don't try this at home):
And yes, I made the rookie mistake of adding the strips, one by one, to the same side of the first strip, which is pretty much guaranteed to make your quilt arc toward freedom.

What to do? Call it "Quilt for a Baby Who Won't Crawl Straight"? Or maybe hide the bend by adding more strips? The central area looked like ladders, so I started making more improv ladders, this time from solids. At this stage, I was calling the quilt "Stairway to Heaven." I took pictures, and posted them to Facebook to crowdsource whether the additions helped or hurt.
I also took some pictures leaving the baby quilt portion out completely. 
There was no consensus on Facebook - the Russians apparently didn't care - so I decided to leave the baby quilt out.  At some point, I offset the tops of the ladders. They instantly became skyscrapers. The next thing you know, I had the quilt on the top of this page. 

So I still have to figure out what to do with the cockeyed baby quilt. (Yesterday a visitor suggested I call it "Drunken Baby Quilt," but I don't want to encourage babies to drink anything inappropriately.) What it really needs the right mother, one with a sense of humor who doesn't mind a baby quilt whose stripes aren't straight! Does it look any better on the horizontal? Does it look like a toothy smile to you?  Suggestions welcomed!

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Mini-Quilt Challenge: Connecting With Hard-to-Love Colors

A personal question: How do you feel about this color scheme?
It was the palette for Curated Quilts magazine's recent "Connections"  mini-quilt challenge.  My first reaction was "ugh!"  They're calling that color in the upper right, in the picture above, "mustard." And the middle bottom is named "moss green." But it struck me how similar they are to the colors of my late unlamented 1960s childhood kitchen, avocado green and harvest gold, which themselves are euphemisms for "overripe avocados" and, I am sorry to say, "upchuck tan."

Still, I liked the "connections" theme. Plus, the whole point of challenges is to force you to do something new, and often, uncomfortable. So I made this 10" square piece:
Everything that isn't white is an applique. The star on the upper left hangs out beyond the edge (thanks to a yellow felt backing):
How did I get to stars? The first things "connections" suggested to me was people holding hands. That made me think of linked paper dolls. Then I thought about linked 5-pointed stars, with touching points. So I grabbed some scrap paper (the informational paper that comes with batting), and did a back-and-forth fold,
 ...and folded that strip back-and-forth into squares...
 Drew a rough star....
 Cut it out, leaving tips intact...
 Unfolded it and out came this....
I was intrigued by the shapes between the stars, so I repeated the exercise, but this time in my graphics program - drawing a star, and flipping it to make rows, then flipping the rows to make columns,  just as I'd done by folding paper, but more accurate. It printed out like this:
There were four distinct shapes: the stars (in yellow, below); the "lozenges" in brown; the teal diamonds; and then, what I thought of as "joined pentagons" - the shapes in light lavender, which look like two pentagons joined at their bases.
This struck me as interesting! Plus I could fancy it up a bit more if I fit smaller 5-sided stars into the pentagons (in pink), and four-sided stars (in turquoise) to break up the big lozenges!
I assigned every element a color from the challenge's official choices. Then I printed out the pattern page, which without color looked like this:
I traced the shapes onto paper-backed fusible web, then pressed the pieces to the backs of solid-color fabrics. Cut out the shapes, and fused them, at an angle, on a 10" x 10" white background square.  I appliqued each shape with the neatest zig-zag I could muster (as opposed to mustard.) All the white areas are background fabric, except inside the mustard lozenge below. (Just thinking about mustard lozenges makes my throat hurt.)
I added a single lighter green star as an afterthought - 
It represents the birth of fresh, new baby avocados to take the place of aging avocados elsewhere on the quilt, and in the unrenovated mid-century kitchens of America.

Check out how a lot of talented quilters turned this color scheme from somber to fascinating, at the bottom of this page. There are some really great quilts! And I'm growing fonder of the palette! (Except mustard.)