Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Serendipity, and a Thanksgivvukah Quilt in a Day

A Thanksgivukkah* quilt in a day? If I can do it, you can too! But you have to take tomorrow off, no time to cook or travel, and you must have a large stash of Judaic fabric, plus one small fabric turkey.

I personally had no intention of making a Chanukah/Thanksgiving quilt, (crochet is enough) right up until two nights ago. That's when - rifling through a pile of fusible-backed scraps for a totally different project - I came across this eons-old cut-out, maybe 3" high.
He came from one of those tacky preprinted fabric panels that has all the pieces you need to cut out, stitch and stuff a toy. Specifically, this: 
A 100% vegetarian, fully stuffed turkey, about 14" high. Since assembling him two decades ago, we've displayed him at every Thanksgiving dinner - which wildly entertains the whole family (we're easily amused). 

So, when I came across the mini-version (which was an illustration from the directions) in my scrap box Sunday night, I realized that this week might be his last best chance to fulfill a truly remarkable destiny - to star in the rare, 1-in-77,000 years cosmic convergence of Chanukah with Thanksgiving on Thursday, November 28, 2013. So, yesterday morning, I sprang into action.

It used to be difficult to find a Judaic fabric that didn't have blue-and-white dreidels and menorahs on it. So I have a lot.  The first thing I did was cut 7" x 40" strips from those fabrics. I stitched them together, from dark to light.
I also have a new, beautiful pile of  assorted 7" squares of Jewish holiday fabric - that I received  at the recent Pomegranate Guild conference. A stack was donated to all the attendees by the generous Lauree of www.1-800-dreidel.com, one of the world's best sources of Judaic novelty fabric.

So I added the 7" x 7" squares in descending value order, to the left of the bars. I fused the turkey to the topmost fabric (which is a subtle white-dreidels-on-white fabric - if you examine the first picture in this post you might be able to detect the design). 
I looked at what I'd stitched for a while, and then I had a hunch. Count the strips, the voice of serendipity whispered. Could it be? Yes it was! NINE strips! NINE!!!

Why the excitement? Nine of ANYTHING makes a menorah! That inspired me to add the yellow stripe, in gradations, moving to the darkest and richest color at the top. 
The yellow rectangles are candle flames! See, if you hang this thing sideways, it's a menorah! 
OMG! I'm going to play with that idea. I expect to get rich on it. (You're free to adapt the idea, of course.)

I cut 3 1/2" off the right edge, and brought it over to the left edge, hanging it from light to dark. So here's the finished product: 
I did a pillowcase finish, no batting - I'm thinking it's a tablecloth or a banner, but not a quilt.  

One more detail: I love this candle-box fabric. 

I put an all-Jewish holiday fabric on the back, so it can be used for other occasions.
Here's a closeup of the back. This is one of the best Judaic fabrics ever made! 
Underneath the turkey, I'm going to stencil or applique 'Thanksgivukkah 2013'.
Wishing you and your family a happy, healthy, holiday season!

* I've been informed that Thanksgivukkah should have two "v"s and one "k". I did the opposite in the headline, but have corrected it throughout the article. (I can't change the headline for a while, or it will mess up people trying to find this page!)

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Antioxidants and More Fresh Kitchen Art

With the holidays looming I'm in full friend-gift production mode. Fortunately, I have lots of delicious leftovers from my recent Fabri-Quilt project. So I'm making holiday wall hangings/potholders.

The first series I call the Antioxidant Line. As we all know, the antioxidants in fruits and vegetables are good for us, for various scientific reasons. So here's the front:
 Another one:
A third: 
The words are free-motion quilted in. 

Did you know that chocolate is also rich in antioxidants! Or so the Internets allege, and they are always right. So here's what the backs of the three above look like: 
I know, bon-bons are probably not the healthiest form of chocolate, but I have yet to locate 93% cacao chocolate-bar fabric. (Are you listening, fabric companies?)

 This next one is titled (and inscribed) 'Eat some plants.'
 But the back trends carnivorous.
Chicken soup fabric discussed earlier, here
And finally, for modern quilt fans, we have the Grey Line. Grey chevrons:
Plus the grey triangle wallhanging at the top of this post. The back of that one isn't grey:
It's Kaffe Fassett chard. No one does leafy vegetables like Kaffe Fassett did in this gorgeous, out-of-print fabric. Alas, I put the backing on upside-down - note the loop is now on the lower left - so if you hang it with the back showing, the chard stands on its head. Hmmm. Perhaps chard stays fresher longer stored that way (I'm starting the rumor, anyway).

Want a tutorial? Most of these project are extrapolations from my free asterisk potholder pattern, available here, and my quilt pattern on the same page.

I hope this will give you ideas that you can execute with time to spare for Christmas! (And maybe by the first night of Chanukah, which starts next Wednesday, oy!)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Thanksgivvukah II: More Poultry, and Other Holiday Fauna

The whole Thankgivvukah thing - the upcoming coincidence of the second night of Chanukah with Thanksgiving on November 28 - got me crocheting like mad, which is a mixed blessing. On the good side, I've made quite a few turkey menorahs. Here's one that wasn't in the last post. It flew off to Boston last week.
But it occurred to me that, if the world doesn't end this Thanksgivvukah, no one will need my free turkey menorah pattern for another 77,000 years, when the next coincidence of dates occurs. So I tweaked my pattern a bit to make a peacock. It worked out pretty well!

My dear stitching friend Rivi let me know that she used my directions to make this little guy:
What a difference fuzzy black yarn makes for his hat! It turns it into shtreimel,  Rivi also hung a little dreidel charm around his neck, and used variegated yarn for the candles. Thanks, Rivi, for winging it! (Ha!)

Another reason for my crochet jag was that I wanted to put some items in my community gallery's holiday boutique, which opened last night. (If you're in the L.A. area, check out the SPACE in South Pasadena - lots of great presents in different media.) I can't crochet my way to minimum wage this way, but it's a lot of fun to participate. I made a couple of unicorns,

I set a challenge for myself to start with the tip of the horn. It worked, though admittedly it's a pretty stubby horn.

I also made a lot of crocheted swimming pools/desktop relaxation visualization devices, most of which I'll show in another post.  Here's just one.
(The flotation device says "LIFE")

Now I need to stop with the crochet. It's so relaxing and addictive, but having woken up today with a completely numb right arm, I received the universe's message loud and clear: Get back to the quilting already!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Vegan Except Chicken Soup

Have you read 'Vegan Before 6?' I haven't, yet, but I gather that the gist of this bestseller by New York Times food writer Mark Bittman, is that if you eat a healthy diet before dinner (i.e. most of the time), you can eat whatever at the evening meal, and still maintain (or recover) a healthy weight. I enjoyed the interview here, and seriously doubt it would work for me, but I do admire the author's optimism!

So I'm calling this table runner 'Vegan Before Soup'. It describes the cognitive dissonance that happens during my vegetarian intervals, when I, or someone I love, gets sick. Noble veggie instincts fly out the window, replaced by the fierce conviction of my Eastern European ancestors that the patient's last best hope is chicken soup. It's in my blood. Literally.

So, a couple of weeks ago, at a needlework conference, I happened upon this awesome fabric:
Sold here, among other places. There's a red-and-white version - for Xmas? - as well as sober the b-and-w above. 
Despite having more food fabric than I knew what to do with, my tribal unconscious would not let me pass by this fabric; I went crazy and bought a yard.

Only a yard because, if you read my last installment, you know I also recently experienced a massive influx of colorful, hyperrealistic, and best of all, free, fruit-and-vegetable fabrics.

At home, a careful reading of the fabric recipe revealed that I also had fabric depictions of several key ingredients: Carrot, onions, garlic, and various greens. So I added 2 1/2" strips of them to either side.
Above and below the chicken soup panel, those are 2 1/2" strips of fabric with tiny inexplicably  blue chicken heads.

I also happen to own magnificently hideo-beautiful vintage African fabric with giant green-and-burgundy roosters, gifted to me by a kind and generous friend. (If anyone knows what the rooster symbolizes on African fabric, I'd love to know.)

So my question now, is whether to leave the front as it is, above, or to add a witness:
What do you think? Giant green chicken or no? Vote in the comments!

For the back, I stuck with a purely healthy vegetarian theme. These are also 2 1/2" strips.
This table runner, or placemat, would be a great present for anyone who believes in the magical healing powers of fruits, vegetables, and, of course, chickens.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Beyond Bacon: Fun with Fruit and Vegetable Fabric

Ah, youth! Thinking back to my early days of quilting, when I was a wee wain of thirty-mumble, I was so carefree about what I put into my mouth, and into the throat of my sewing machine (there being a strong correlation).

How I loved sweet and/or high-carb treats and their many representative textiles - bagels, pizza, ice cream cones, cows - although unhealthy, the fabric versions at least contained plenty of fiber, so I shamelessly collected, and too-often ate, them all.
I also made quite a few food pyramids (above and below are here and here), and wallhanging/potholders, too (here.)
Ice cream, gummi bears, pizza, and finally, on the lower right, vintage cartoon character Andy Capp is eating french fries in the inexplicable fabric with the blue background,. 

Junk food seemed far easier to find in the fabric stores than healthier fare. So I have been very happy in recent years, when fabric companies began putting out luscious, mouthwatering, larger-than-life, realistic depictions of  perfect fruits and vegetables. 

Especially Fabri-Quilt, a fabric manufacturer whose produce fabric come in collections with title variations of Farmer John's (Farmer John's Garden, Farmer John's Market, etc. Observe them via the 'category' search window here.)

I contacted the company, and they offered me a bushel of free fruit-and-veggie fabric, if I would design something from it. Having never designed for a fabric company before, having never been offered so much (new) free fabric before, you could say that I...bit.

 Here's what I came up with:
It's kind of like an asterisk, or exclamation points.
It's got nearly as much and better-looking produce than my local farmer's market. Going around the wedge circle, starting at 12 o'clock, we have:
  • artichokes (with purple highlights!), 
  • carrots,
  • corn, 
  • cherries,
  • peas, 
  • eggplant, 
  • pears, 
  • radishes, 
  • peaches (omg they look delicious), 
  • cauliflower & broccoli, 
  • avocado (there's also realistic tortilla chip fabric out there, in case you're making a guacomole dip quilt, but we won't go there right now),
  • oranges, 
  • potatoes, 
  • asparagus (also unaccountably, gorgeously purple and green), 
  • blueberries, 
  • and pomegranates. 
  • They also sent me a blackberry fabric that I judged too dark to use in this quilt (though I did put it in the first potholder below). 
The center of the quilt above looks like an apple, but it's not; much more exotically, it's a whole pomegranate from one of the fabrics.

I used the fused scraps to make matching potholders. They're also simple, with raw edge applique. Blueberries float in the center.
The next one has zigzag stitches around all the appliques.
'Have a Salad' is written in the upper left corner with free-motion quilting.

Along with farmers and fruitarians, fruit and veggie projects are perfect gifts for people who are striving to eat healthily, people who actually do eat healthily, gardeners, people trying to quit smoking, teachers, Mayor Bloomberg, the First Lady, etc.

DH surprised me by hanging these potholders on the door to the pantry (which holds the chips), as a suggestion to back away and move towards the refrigerator, instead, for a nice piece of fruit.

The non-maraschino cherry on top is that, whatever the configuration, you can personalize your healthy  project with a message that fits and entertains but doesn't lecture or overly annoy your giftee - I  used 'Eat Farm Fresh,' on my quilt,

But after it was done, of course, better ideas started flowing:
  • Give Peas (and Carrots) a Chance
  • Kale: The New Chocolate (alas, I haven't found a kale print yet.)
  • You Are What you Sew, (= Part 1)
  • Sew Have a Salad (= Part 2)
  • Bacon Isn't Enough
More caption suggestions welcomed!

If you'd like guidance for the potholders, a free pattern is on the Fabri-Quilt site, and on my pattern page. And a complete illustrated 13-page pattern for the quilt as well as the potholders is also on my pattern page. It's suitable for confident beginners and beyond.

Fabri-Quilt is also hosting a scrumptious fat-quarter bundle giveaway for people who leave comments on their blog. The contest closes next Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013.

And I'd love to hear about what you've made from fruit and veggie fabrics! 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Chiarascuro, Black & White Quilt Fabric, and the Happy Wrinkle Zone

Chiarascuro. What a beautiful word. Do you know it? It's Italian, for light/dark, and its origins (says Wikipedia) are in Renaissance Italian artists who used dark ink and white gouache paint. It's acquired new meanings since, in art, photography, and film, usually connoting dramatic contrast.

A few years ago, as a part of the Fast Friday Fabric Challenge, I had a month to make a chiarascuro quilt. After learning the term's meaning, I went through my stash of black-and-white (and sometimes grey) quilting fabrics, and pulled out a bunch, including:
  • zebra stripes
  • white mod circles on black
  • black polka dots on white
  • white fish skeletons on black
  • white human skeletons on black
  • grey chevrons on white
  • black-and-red eyeglasses frames on white - it provided the dab of red. 
  • Op-art faces of people who look like they're from 1960s London, at least one of whom looks a lot like Twiggy, (who is alive and well, thank heavens, and looking not much older than in her  heyday, speaking of mod and skeletal.)
The lady on the lower right looks like Twiggy to me.
Even though the color range of these fabrics is limited, they vary dramatically in value. Value is the most powerful concept I've learned as a quilter. Like chiarascuro, value is about light and dark - chiarascuro is an extreme way to approach value. In quilting, value - relative lightness and darkness - is often more important than color. Profound truism recited by quilt teachers: "Color gets the credit, but value does the work."

Contemplating value also directly transports the brain to The Zone: Beyond thoughts and words, completely engaged, where we wish to dwell forever.

Another deeply meditative thing for anyone who works with fiber (or paper) is weaving. There's just something so primal about over, under, over, under. It's a mantra. As a kid, I loved weaving those little potholders, and I still do.
So I took the aforementioned high-contrast black-and-white prints to the cutting board, cut off half inch strips, and sorted them into five piles - dark, med-dark, medium, med-light, and light.

To ascertain value, one must squinch one's eyes, which will give one wrinkles, but they're worth it. (OK, to forestall crow's feet, you could also look at them through the wrong end of a binoculars, or a piece of red plastic with a regal name. I bet that's why Twiggy still looks young.)

I wove the strips on top of a rectangle of fusible interfacing, glue side up. The lightest strips went horizontally across the top, and vertically down on the far right. The horizontal strips darkened in color moving down, and the vertical strips darkened moving to the left. This resulted in the light area in the upper right, which seems to travel and fade to the dark area on the lower left. And high contrast checkered areas in the upper left, and lower right. Value magic!

Once woven, I pressed the strips in place, added a border of the groovy faces, created a fringe with the excess vertical strands, white buttons and colorful beads (Boy, did this quilt need some color! The heck with value and chiarascuro!)

It was backed with batting and backing fabric. The edges were handstitched with a blanket stitch.

I gave it as a present to a dear friend, but really, the present was to me, for the time I spent in the happy value/squinting/weaving zone!