Sunday, August 18, 2013

Fresh Veggie Fabric + Vintage Linens = Colorful, Healthy Life!?

Maybe because of Michele Obama, or maybe because our whole society is eyeing the fresh produce aisle (if not yet doing most of our shopping there), there are a lot of hyper-realistic fruit and vegetable print fabrics right now (for example, from Fabri-Quilt and Robert Kaufman).

Beyond the most obvious project idea  - tote bags  for farmers' or supermarket - there's this: Combine the prints with vintage linens to make a fiber-filled food pyramid pep talk reference wall hanging!

Why a food pyramid? To recap my earlier article and quilt, it all started in 1992, when the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a graphic to guide Americans' food choices. The stuff we were supposed to eat the most of was grain, which were therefore placed at the bottom.
Moving up, produce was in second place, dairy and meat third, and oils and sweets at the top, meaning eat the least. It was a bit confusing (shouldn't the top be the best?)

As it turned out, those amber waves of grain were inspired more by agribusiness than human health - they were giving Americans ample waves of cellulite. In 2011, the USDA and many nutritionists declared that, whoops, vegetables, not grains, should be the stars! And fresh fruits should costar! The new graphic: 

In response, in the real world (ie not at the sewing machine), I've tried to make over our family dinner plates. The plains of grains have shrunk to small puddles. Salad and fruit take up most of the room, with a little space for  meat or beans. Local Husband and I have lost weight since our towering grainery days, and feel much better.

Then, a couple of months ago, Quilts Inc. announced a "What's for Dinner" challenge. The requirements were to depict a plate full of food, plus napkins, silverware, and a placemat. That  was exactly the incentive I needed to update ye olde food pyramid.

This wallhanging includes two specific pieces of nutritional advice that have helped me: 
  1. Make vegetables and fruits the stars of your meals  (I think nutrition guru Joel Fuhrman put it that way), and
  2. Eat only foods your great-grandmother would recognize as foods. (i.e. she would not know what to do with a gummi bear.) (This one came from noted food writer  Michael Pollan). I hung that wisdom from a fridge-button:

The background is a rectangular vintage linen table runner (or maybe a dish towel?). I was moving too fast to apply fusible interfacing to the rear side, which I regret - like many linens, this piece rolled around defiantly; thus my rectangle came out somewhat off kilter. I'm not sure if the vintage powder blue floral trim around the edges make it more or less obvious that the corners aren't quite square.

The napkin is another vintage linen, which came with that very cool curlicued turquoise border. (I still have four more identical napkins searching for a purpose). I appliqued a Kaffe Fassett chard bouquet on top of  the napkin, and stitched the whole thing down with  layered buttons to serve as napkin ring.

Down along the right side of the pyramid , I free-motion quilted advice for each level – at the top, by the sweets, red meat and tortilla chips, it says “Eat Little”

By the nuts, avocados, chicken, fish, and grains, it says “Eat Moderately”; 
[That's supposed to be a chicken, not Tweetie Bird.]
and at the bottom, by the fruits and vegetables, I stitched “Eat Lots and Lots.”.

Isn't this tossed salad fabric amazing? 
(It includes lettuce red onions, mushrooms, cucumbers and cherry tomatoes). 

There's also silverware (made from small-scale produce fabrics, plus a millenium fabric).
Alas, my piece was not juried into the show. The rejection email specifically stated, "Don't be discouraged," but of course, I was. Since then, I've cheered up. That challenge spurred me to make something that I'm now quite liking! Anything that combines excellent novelty fabrics with vintage table linens and (currently) sound nutritional advice, is a winner in my book! 

How are YOU using produce fabric?
UPDATE (8/19/13): Fabulous article on the history of US food pyramids, and best nutritional guidelines: Thanks, Linda!


  1. I bought 13 different food-themed fabric to use for a quilt for my granddaughter. I cut some of the squares and laid them out but still need to play around with design placement. Can't wait to get started on it. Even the binding and backing are food-themed designs.

    I really like your designs and explanations. Very creative and artistic.

    Doris Jaffe

    1. Doris, that sounds like GREAT fun! If you email me a picture when it's done, I'll add it to this page! Have a wonderful time!

  2. I LOVE your idea. I am going to Houston as my BIG trip of the year. I'll try to photograph what got it. If/when I do I'll post on my blog. Just bought some new rechargeable batteries today. I entered a quilt in "The World of Beauty". It didn't make it. I will probably be blown away by what is in. OR maybe not.

    1. Lucky you, Ann, I'd love to go to Houston, even though I know it would all blow me out of the water! One day!!! Have a fabulous time!

  3. Where are the accepted quilts displaying? You should have gotten in just on the concept. You know that they chuppah that was made for my nephew's wedding involved fruits and vegetables, very colorful! Keep up the good work~Just love your creativity!

  4. Where are the accepted quilts displaying? You should have gotten in just on the concept. You know that they chuppah that was made for my nephew's wedding involved fruits and vegetables, very colorful! Keep up the good work~Just love your creativity!

  5. Vivian, They're going to show them at the big Houston quilt festival, I think, and maybe some other shows. I am eager to see the ones that got in! Thanks for writing!


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