Friday, October 26, 2012

Launching the 'Quiltlet' (Quilted Bracelet) Project

I make a lot of quilted/fabric art strips, which I have dubbed 'quiltlets' (combining 'quilt' with 'bracelet').

A quiltlet is a strip that’s about 6 1/2”- 9” wide and 1” - 5” high.  Buttoned, snapped, or otherwise sealed shut, it's a unique artisan cuff bracelet – very on trend. (Proof: Enter ‘fabric cuff’ on etsy.com, and see what comes up!) But wait, there's more!

  • Unbuttoned, it can serve as a bookmark (assuming you still read paper books).
  • Hung by a loop or buttonhole, it becomes wall art, ideal for small spaces (There aren't a whole lot of large spaces left on my walls). 
  • With a few more tweaks, it becomes an artistic luggage tag, coffee cup cozy, billfold, mug rug, e-device holder, napkin ring, and more! 
Because of this versatility, quiltlets are can’t-miss gifts. Even if your friends wouldn’t be caught dead wearing one, they can probably do something else with them!

For the maker, quiltlets (like Artist Trading Cards, Inchies, Twinchies, etc.) offer infinite creative possibilities and learning opportunities, including embellishment and closures like button loops, snaps, etc., that quilters don’t usually get to play with. 

One big goal for my blog this year is to document and write up directions for my favorite quiltlets. I'm shooting for one a week here on Gefiltequilt, but if that pace crushes me, I will slow down!

My very first quiltlet leans Gees Bend. Created in a remote and isolated part of Alabama, the Gee's Bend quilts have had a huge impact on both the art and the quilt world. This particular  quiltlet was inspired by the extraordinary Gee's Bend quilts that use different tones of  worn manual laborers' garments. (Another one: here.)

This one is made from mostly used family jeans, but also some old denim yardage.



That's the arm of my resident teen, whose petite wrist is kind of swimming in this particular cuff. (I can't take a picture of it on my own less-dainty arm because a., I can't hold my hand and push the camera button simultaneously without moving the camera and/or myself, and b. I badly need a manicure. Come to think of it so does my teen, but even as we speak, a quick yet painless Photoshop amputation has just solved that problem!



The stamped metal button is art deco, I'm guessing early 1900s. 


For hanging purposes, the back of this quiltlet has two flat little metal loops stitched on. One is under the button end; the other, harder to see in the second photo below, is a little past halfway along the top edge. Find these in the notion aisles (they come with matching hooks, which I don't use in this project). 


Why did I place the loop in that odd position along the horizontal edge (circled below)? I used a pin to find the balance point, where, if a nail were holding the quiltlet to a wall, it would balance out and not slide to one side. 

So it can be hung vertically OR horizontally. For this piece, I prefer the former.
 Just to spare you from turning your head and/or computer sideways, here's how it looks on the vertical: 



You could also hang it from a nail or tack through the button hole end. (Feel free to stand on your head to view). 

The ties are made from gold/brown variegated perle cotton. Like a real quilt, the ties go through all  layers. (But this is not a true quilt, because there's no batting/inner layer, just the top, and a denim backing.)

Want to make your own? Here are the basic directions. As always in quilting, seam allowances should be 1/4". 

A. Collect small pieces of denim in a variety of shades, ideally 5 or 6. You can cheat by using the backs, if they're different from the fronts. If you still don't have enough, head for the nearest yard sale or thrift shop.

B. Cut a denim square that is about 1 1/4" by 1 1/4".  (they're piece #1 in the diagram below). Use a scissors and eyeball it for a more natural, wonky effect.  Resist the temptation to use a rotary cutter and ruler to trim these to precise squares or rectangles.

C. Cut another square, about the same size, from a different shade of denim. Using a 1/4" seam allowance, stitch the #2 pieces next to the #1 piece, as shown below.

D. From a new shade of denim, cut a strip that's between 1 1/4" and  1  1/2" wide, and at least 2". That's the number 3 strip.

E. Sew the #3 strip to the long edge of #1 + #2.  




F. Trim the #3 ends even with the ends of piece #1 and #2. 

G. Sew a new strip  alongside pieces # 1 and #3. It's #4 in the diagram. Again, cut it more or less even with the preceding pieces. 

H. Take another strip, #5, and join it to the top of pieces 1, 2, and 4.

If you're a newbie, congratulations, you've made your first 'log cabin block' - the block launches a zillion quilts! 

If you enjoyed the process, make one more log cabin blocks, switching the color positions. 

I. Now, do some freeform log-cabin style piecing, joining squares and  rectangles of various sizes, make 2 more blocks that could be called modified log cabins. Make sure that each has an extra wide strip (#3 in the first example, #5 in the second). You don't have to do this exact plan. 

J. Place your blocks in a row, and arrange them as you like. Each end should have a piece that goes from top to bottom (like piece 3 and piece 5, above). 

K. Use a strip of paper or tape measure to measure tight around your wrist. Add  1 1/2"" to that, to reach the unfinished bracelet measurement. 

L. Line up the blocks and figure out a way to get to bracelet measurement. Remember that each unstitched vertical seam will make the bracelet 1/2" shorter, and each end will make the strip 1/4" shorter. It's a good idea to have a larger piece at both ends, like this: 


M. Sew your pieces together so your strip is about the right measurement. 

N.  Cut a single piece of denim to slightly larger than your finished strip. This is the backing.

O. Place your denim backing on a desk, good side up; then the pieced strip on the backing, good side down. Pin all the way around. Stitch almost all the way around,  leaving a 1 1/2"gap at one short end, as shown on the dotted line below.



P. Clip the seam allowances to a scant 1/4", and clip diagonally at the corner, close to but not through the stitching. 

Q. Using a chopstick or other blunt-ended tool, turn the bracelet right side out. Hand-stitch the opening shut.

R. Add a button to one end. Stitch the buttonhole in the other end.

S. Load a large-eyed needle with embroidery floss, perle cotton, yarn, or whatever else you like. Tie at regular, or irregular intervals. I put ties in most, but not all of the pieces. I do a simple double-square knot. 

T. OPTIONAL: Stitch a small metal loop to the back center of one short end. This is for vertical hanging.

U. Also optional: Find the balance point on the long edge. Place in a pin to determine where the bracelet balances correctly when horizontal. At that spot, on the back, hand stitch another wire loop on. 

Now your giftee can hang this quiltlet OR wear it!

MORE IDEAS: 
 - Throw some red corduroy into the mix, for contrast, like I did in this denim bracelet. Now you're totally Gees Bend. 

(Just for fun, this bracelet also incorporates a jeans seam (on the left upper side), and wonky straight-line quilting.)
  • If you arrange your log cabin blocks in a square rather than a strip,and use a couple of layers of batting, you've got a Gee's Bend potholder. 
  • If you make your log cabin blocks a little larger by adding logs beyond #5 (starting in step H, above),  you'll have a set of denim coasters. 
  • If you multiply all the measurements by at least 5, you'll have a denim table runner.  
  • If you use a white or light color as the backing, write your name, address, etc., on back, and button it to your luggage handle - you've got an upcycled denim luggage tag.  
  • If you send me a picture, I'll be happy! 









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