Sunday, September 1, 2013

Quick Project for Quilters Who Love Fonts Too Much.

A bunch of years ago, I took an excellent class on the Adobe InDesign program, which I use to self-publish my patterns. Typography, of course, was an essential part of the class. The teacher told us that his personal font collection ran into the thousands - that's thousands of alphabet styles, and dollars, too, since the good and the new ones tend not to be free. He explained: "I'm a font whore!"

 I'd never heard the term before (although it's been around), but oh my gosh, me, too! Well, wait a sec, that term is pretty rude, since persons who sell their bodies are usually not so enthusiastic about it. So I'll edit that to "font groupie," to reflect the enthusiasm factor. There have been many times that I loved fonts too much and threw them about promiscuously on my pages!

Then I read Walter Isaacson's excellent biography of Steve Jobs. After dropping out of college formally, Jobs nonetheless audited a college calligraphy class. When he developed his first mass market computer, he was determined to give civilians the ability to select fonts, a word that most people didn't even know. Thus Jobs turned typography from an obscure field for graphic designers and printers, to a steamy pleasure for the masses. Jobs was the personal computer age's first f.g.

The other relevant pop culture influence here is the Mary Tyler Moore show. Remember that giant "M" hanging in her living room? I thought it was the coolest thing. [Here's a lovely blogpost by a retired designer, with a picture of Mary's 'M', plus the bloggers' own fab artistic alphabetic wall letter collection:] Just as Jobs launched the font-loving trend, Mary (or her show's set designers) almost certainly launched the wall-alphabet trend.

So what we have at the top of the post are three quiltlets that celebrate font symbols and letters, aka "glyphs." These make excellent wall hangings - solo or in groups - as well as bookmarks, and even, sometimes, bracelets. It's the perfect gift for a literary friend. I trundled through the dozens of fonts on my computer to find suitable glyphs. My main criteria was that they had to be relatively wide - no thin, narrow stretches, or they wouldn't support their weight and would be a big pain to cut out and stitch.

The ampersand is a manipulated version from the font Blackadder. I smoothed it and stretched it. It's about 10" high and 4" at its widest.

It really does work as a bracelet. Here's the ampersand on (petite) Local Teen's tiny wrist.

And then there's the exclamation point.

 I can't figure out if I got it from the Binner D font, or from Gloucester MT Extra Cond - they're similar.  It's 8" high not counting the loop. The black cord loop secures the top to the stacked buttons in the bottom dot. The loop also serves as a wallhanger.

The question mark started out in either Harrington or Poor Richards. Aren't those font names enticing? They REEK of ink, of the Gutenberg Bible, Thomas Paine, and Benjamin Franklin.

Want to make your own quilted glyphs? I used a combination of black felt and solid quilters cottons. Here's the approach I used:

1. Choose a letter or character you like, and size it up in a graphic design or word program.* (see below)
2. Print it out (not mirror image). Trace the printout onto freezer paper (or print directly onto freezer paper, if you know how).
3. Press the freezer paper pattern onto your first contrasting color - for the ampersand, I used a red quilters cotton.
4. Don't cut into the red cotton yet - instead, press the wrong side to fusible web, so it is fully backed with fusible, with the freezer paper still on top.
5. Cut out the red cotton letter close around the freezer paper pattern. Remove the pattern
6. Press red cotton symbol to another contrasting color, in this case a dark blue-green cotton.
7. Press the blue's back to more paper-backed fusible web.
8. Cut around the blue-green fabric so a sliver of it shows beyond the red areas.
9. Press the red/blue combination to felt of your choice. (I chose black acrylic felt.) Use a press cloth, and a moderate temperature, so you don't melt the felt. Decide which areas of the felt to cut away, and which to leave in place. Trying it on a wrist will help you engineer a closure.
10. Stitch around each color with a zig-zag. I used a gold metallic thread from Superior, which goes well through sewing machines.
11. Optional: Stitch around the outer edge of the felt, if you want.

* Wondering how to resize and manipulate characters? Here's what I did. First, I typed the glyph into my favorite graphics program, CorelDraw, where I can easily convert it to curves and play with it. If you don't have a graphics program, you can resize in MSWord. Type the letter in the font you like. Select it. Bold it if you want it all a little wider. Select it again - you'll get a menu that allows you to enter the size. My MSW 2010 lets me size the glyphs from 1 to 1638 points, the latter being so huge it takes up about 8 sheets of paper. Size it around 600 points - it should take up most of a standard sized page. If it cuts off the image, try going to to 'page layout' and doing away with the margins. I don't have an Apple, but I'm betting that, thanks to Steve J., it's much easier to play with fonts in their system. Or, resizing on a copy machine may be easier than wrassling with MSW. Sigh! If only Bill Gates were a f.g!

Would love to hear about your passion for fonts!


  1. I have a huge collection of fonts too!

  2. thank you for a great fun project! Will be looking much more closely at my "collection" of fonts!

  3. Thanks for a fun project! All the more reaso0n to have a nice "collection" of fonts!

  4. These are really cool. Thank you for posting.