Sunday, June 19, 2016

Fold and Cut Improvisational Leaves from Denim

I've been playing with denim from jeans, and one of the ideas that jumped into my head was to cut leaves from folded fabric.

For this small batch, I folded the fabric in half and cut the half-stem and -half-leaf, like making Valentine's in 2nd grade, and just as relaxing. Sharp scissors are crucial. Here's the first piece; it's small, at about 11" x 13".
 I stitched down the holes with an almost-satin zig-zag stitch.
To maintain the "holey" theme, I added lace binding.
Emboldened, I played around with other shapes. I googled "interesting leaves" and made some quick sketches: 
I created a background of raw-edge denim pieces, on top of a batting and backing fabric, then quilted it with a diagonal grid. Mostly ignoring my Google findings, I freehand cut imaginary leaves to fill the squares and rectangles.
The fantasy plant on the middle right  (below) looks more like a squid than a leaf. 
The piece I cut it away from became a reverse squid. 
 And the vine on the upper right, below, looks like a bunch of apostrophes:
(Apostrophes happen when you've spend too much time trying to freemotion quilt feathers.) Next, a Batmanesque leaf. 
The gold stitching on a jeans pocket shaped the next plant: 
Below, those are supposed to be tiny plants in the upper right and left corners, but they somehow look more like doves. Also suitable for Valentine's Day. 
Some of my shapes started out way too complicated. They would have taken forever to stitch down.
So I pruned:
Here's another, pretrim:
After clipping, I flipped it to its reverse side so it would show against a medium background:
I eventually tired of leaves, so I made a forest. 
These could arguably also be called roundish leaves, or human heads, and/or mushrooms. 

Once I liked the placement, I glued each plant in position with smears of Elmer's white school glue, a cheap but abundant resource is all the rage in the quilt world these days. (Discussed extensively two weeks ago.)

Once dry, I put a darning foot/aka freemotion quilting foot on my machine, set the machine to a straight stitch, then zoomed back and forth over the edges. all the way around, stitching down with what is effectively a multi-stitch zigzag, but which can be done from any angle. With matching thread, the stitching essentially vanished. But it also contributed to a bit of fraying around the edges. Can you see the light blue thread on the darker blue applique? 
Neatness doesn't count if you use a color that blends. Since making this piece, I have switched over to doing denim applique with a regular zigzag, which causes less fraying than the multi-step variety. 

Want more denim ideas? Click "denim"  or "blue jeans" in the word cloud on the lower right!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Great Graduation Gift: College Tote Bag Tutorial

Advice to the fertile: Don't generate offspring 4 years apart! In the 1990s, Mother Nature, my DH and I made that mistake. If only we'd done 5 years. Or 3. Or ANYTHING but 4.  Why? Because approximately 18 years later, you might wind up with major graduations on top of each other.

I'd been worrying about May/June of 2016 for years. We finally got the schedules: My son's college graduation on the East Coast was to be 3 days before his younger sister's high school graduation here in Southern California. This all went down 2 weeks ago. We are still recovering. 

Both my kids chose East Coast colleges, but most of their friends opted to stay on the West Coast. Three of my daughters's close friends will head for two of the nation's finest universities in the fall: UCLA (aka University of California at Los Angeles), and USC (University of Southern California). 

These happen to be the only two schools for which I have college logo fabric - bought many years ago in Los Angeles' fabric district, when I used to buy every fabric I liked, because I might never see it again. (The fabric-shopping Internet was tiny at the time.) 

So 2016 became my opportunity to use that old collegiate fabric! I decided to make each of my daughter's three friends a bundle-able tote bag. 
Below is the USC bag (the school is affectionately known as SC). 
And here's one of the two for UCLA. (Not known as CLA.)
The secret of making these bags bundle-able is the two-sided pocket with an interior button.
The flap side of the UCLA bag, bundled:
The reverse:  
SC: 
The back of all three. 
Below I will reprise my bundle-bag tutorial, which first appeared at the bottom of a long post in 2013. It's somewhat simplified here. 

HOW TO MAKE A BUNDLE-ABLE GRADUATION TOTE BAG

Step One:  Obtain a yard of collegiate fabric. There are quite a few online stores that offer it,  including: 
(No financial affiliation with any of these.) And if they don't have the school you need, design your own and have it shipped to yourself via Spoonflower.com!

Phase Two: Find or Invent a Tote Bag Pattern 
You need to create a single layer, unlined tote bag with enclosed seams. Don't use interfacing. Make French seams; or zig-zag/serge over the raw edges. If you don't have a favorite pattern, here's an excellent, simple tutorial for a French-seamed bag that will work perfectly for our purposes: Tote 1

Phase Three: Make the Magic Pocket
The magic reversible pocket explained below can be added before or after the main body of the tote is finished. I prefer to add it after the bag is fully stitched, so I can more easily align the bag, button, buttonhole, and pocket. 

Pocket size is up to you. About a fourth of the bag's side or a bit smaller is a good rule of thumb. The pocket size will determine the bundle size.   

Start with a rectangle of raw-edged fabric, a little more than twice as high as you want the pocket, x the approximate width you want. That's the first piece below. Then, fold it in half, right sides together.






Students can keep them bundled in their purses and/or backpacks, then pull them out and expand them when needed. Kids, don't leave your dorm without one! 

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Quilt Your "To Do" List, Rediscover School Glue

There is so much that I should be doing, but instead, I am just having a ridiculous amount of fun cutting up old jeans to make "to do" lists. Here's a piece on a pants leg:
(Same piece, with added waistbands at top and bottom, to turn it into a pennant:)
The polka dot denim is from a jeans skirt.
The other shades came from family, thrift shop, or yard sale jeans - I buy the largest sizes I can find.

OK, it's true, my fibrous to-do lists don't include activities that are more than six letters and/or tedious, like: shop for groceries (18 letters) or clean the refrigerator (uncountable) or...what's that word...twerk...shirk...oh yeah! Work!

Here's another more succinct and heavily-illustrated priority list:
That's a coffee filter on top, FYI.
And here's my new BFF, who makes these creations easy:
The quilt world is having a love affair with white glue, especially (but not always) Elmer's washable white school glue. You can hardly turn around in quilty quarters of cyberspace without bumping into someone doing something mindblowing with simple, cheap glue. For example:
  • Several people demonstrate how to BASTE large quilts with a drizzle or a spray of school glue, sometimes watered.
  • Legendary quilter Sharon Schamber offers a three-part Youtube series on how to BIND quilts with Elmer's school glue, starting here. She also does a technique she invented called Paperless Paper Piecing with it. 
  • Sharon's daughter Cristy Fincher uses school glue for accurate piecing and appliqué, here.  She uses a fine point tip (more on this below).
  • What finally sent me over to the glue side: Reading my quilting hero Susan Carlson's courageous confession to the centrality of Aleene's tacky glue to her collage process, here
It's so easy to make your own priority list wallhanging with old jeans and glue. Feel free to borrow my list (send pictures).

The appliqué needs to be very flat. Gluing at the ironing board is a good idea, to flatten as you go, and the heat also dries the glue. Drip glue on the back outer edge of the appliqué, and use the tip to shmear it around. Aim to cover a more-or-less continuous line next to the outer edges, without any significant gaps.(The inner part of the appliqué does not need glue).

 If you're using thick denim, the not-so-tiny opening that comes with the orange nozzle on the school bottle is fine.
However, if you're using a thinner fabric than denim - like quilter's cotton -  I suggest buying  fine point tips. Sharon Schamber sells plastic nozzles that fit directly on glue bottles, here. (No affiliation).  I used  metal nozzles that I bought years ago, can't remember where - they don't fit on the Elmer's bottle, but they do fit onto the small empty bottles they came with. These are widely available on the web (for example, here at Dharma Trading, one of my favorite companies.)
The metal nozzle simply screws into position. You fill the bottle with the glue.
Stitching the appliqués down is optional. If you do this project with kids, you can use a permanent non-toxic glue - Aleene's tacky, for example - and you won't need to stitch them down at all. Of course, the piece is no longer washable.

If you use school glue, like I did, and you want it to last, then of course you should stitch everything down. (School glue is not very strong, especially on denim.)  I went for "invisible" monofilament thread, zig-zagging over every edge, with most of the stitch on the appliqué, zagging to just beyond the border.
Stitching inevitably causes some fraying - denim is a relatively loose weave - but it's much less fraying (I discovered through trial and error) than simply doing a straight stitch just inside each appliqué, or a multi-stitch zig-zag, both of which raise a ruckus on the raw edges.

Adding a batting and backing is optional. They're sturdy and hangable just as they are if you used a pants-denim background. Just for the fun of it, I did glue and then stitch grey felt to the back of each piece, to give it more weight and dimension. No batting whatsoever. It's a fast and fun project that can be done with children of all ages!

What would you glue onto your fantasy "to do" list?

(Brief commercial message: If you want coffee-related shapes suitable for tracing, consider my extremely cheap 'Quilts for Coffee Lovers' booklet on my pattern page. Along with these shapes,
...there's also a percolator.)

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Denim & Dementia: Minding the Gap

Did you ever notice that the word "dementia" has "denim" in it? No, I'm sure you didn't, and neither did I, until I wrote this blog post.

This didn't start out to be a quilt about anything in particular, except fun with denim scraps. (For earlier fun, click "Denim" in the word cloud on the lower right of this page.) 

I began it the same way as my denim-and-lace piece from last week: With a raw-edge denim surface, on top of cotton batting, and a backing fabric. I pinned the layers together, then quilted them on a grid. 
Most of my denim stash comes from old jeans, but I happen to have this denim angel fabric, bought many years ago to cover a couch. I love the thoughful contemplation.
I put that little guy on the lower left, just above the pocket. Then I started playing with frayed cuff edges and thready seams.
How about a moon?
The shaggy cuff ends made me think of lace, and crochet. So I crocheted raggedy strips, using a hook that was too large for the crochet thread, so it would be full of holes. 

When that was finished, I decided the piece looked like an angel gazing upwards, at stratified heavens. So I crocheted little clouds, from grey crochet thread.
I suddenly realized the clouds also looked like brains. Brains with gaps.  

That's when it occured to me that this might be a quilt about dementia, an issue I face every day because my mother has advanced dementia. Mom doesn't say a lot, but much of what she has been describing lately is a vision of heaven."Birds together, flying forever. Precious family, flying together. Flying together, forever. We are precious family, flying together." Sometimes it gives me goosebumps. Also, for the past year or so, she's been using the word "birds" as a substitute for "people."  Thus I added birds. 
I did a bit of  hand cross stitching in one segment of the skies. 

I changed from the two experimental flowers above, to a grouping of crochet and scrap flowers below.
Along the bottom, I crocheted an edging with dangling bobbles. 
Here's the finished piece. I used a jeans buttonhole to create a tab at the top for hanging. 
Turning loss into art is therapeutic. Doing it with old denim jeans in lovely shades of blue makes it even more soothing.