Saturday, May 30, 2015

It's All About the Taste: Coffee Quilt Based on Research

Last week, I showed one of the quilts in my new ebook, Quilts for Coffee Lovers. Here's another: 
It's done in raw edge appliqué, using a machine zig-zag. The red lines are coffee stirrers, and there are buttons between the stirrers and in the four corners.
This is a research-based quilt. If you've ever been serious about making a good cup at home, and looked into the subject, you know the coffee snobs afficianados say that details matter. Like:
  • water temperature
  • timing of grind
  • fineness of grid
  • relative quantities of water and coffee
  • timing of pour
  • height from which the water is poured, no kidding
  • and, of course, the gadget. The gadget makes a HUGE difference.
I learned all this about a year ago when our 15-year-old drip maker died. I did a lot of Internet research, then took a tasting class at a fragrant independent coffee shop, where we sampled the same coffee brewed by a half-dozen or so different devices. I was stunned by the varied outcomes.

In particular, I was stunned by how appallingly bad percolated coffee tasted.  Why did anyone in America drink coffee during the first half of the 20th century?

So for this quilt, I drew 6 of the most picturesque gadget choices that I could find in cyberspace. They include a Moka pot, a percolator, an Aeropress, a vacuum maker, a drip filter holder, and a French press. Here are the first four:

I also came up with 7 variables contributing (sometimes indirectly) to coffee triumph and failure:
 - Good Gadget
 - Good Coffee
 - Good Grind
 - Good Cup
 - Good Beans
 - Good Friends
 - Good Luck
Anyone who wants to make their own version can personalize it with their own 4 favorite devices, and their 4 favorite phrases. Perhaps the most important, imho:
What system did I end up with? I finally bought a Bodum Bistro burr grinder (about $100), the first grinder I'd owned in many years. And I bought a Bonavita drip coffeemaker (about $130). $230 is not cheap, but it would have been very easy to spend a whole lot more. My family is happy with the coffee since then - usually delicious - and after about a year, all the equipment is still working.

Sometimes, for just one cup, I use the Aeropress, a strange little device that my friend Sam gifted me, thanks Sam!
It makes the most reliably delicious single cup I've ever made at home, and it's not expensive at all, at around $30! (No financial affiliation with any of these products!)

What are your secrets to coffee success? Let me know. More information about my coffee quilts pattern book is here,

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Coffee, Quilts & Love, A Mysterious Symbiosis

Have I mentioned lately my deep love for/addiction to coffee?

I am thrilled by all the new medical studies which conclude that coffee drinkers run a reduced risk of dementia, heart disease, diabetes, depression, cancer, and - just announced this past week - ED (formerly known as impotence) - I kid you not.

For me, coffee and quilts have a romantic relationship. Coffee gives me courage to create quilts. And making coffee-related quilts makes me want to drink more coffee.  I've made quite a few coffee-themed items over the years (like 100 Cups on the Wall here).

Today, I'm excited to announce my newest ebook, Quilts for Coffee Lovers. One of the projects is a pieced, dimensional wallhanging, which I call tessellated mugs:
They represent rows of mugs, with 3-D handles pointing in alternate directions in each row (similar to the way my DH loads the dishwasher). The ovals are mostly coffee, but could be tea (I threw in some green ovals, for green tea). 

I made it in a couple of different fabric-ways. Above, it's all solids, with a grey border, for a modern look.

 Below, batiks. The border is a streaky brown that represents the precious flow. 
In the third version, which you'll see lower down,  I made the central mug area mugs from mostly solids (except the polka dot), while the fluid in the ovals are mostly prints. I call it "Clouds in my Coffee," because the variegated ovals look like something liquid is floating in the cups. 
I tested this center area on many different backgrounds. With "clouds in my coffee," from Carly Simon, playing over and over again in my head, I first checked out how the center looked against clouds. First, a dramatic sunset....
Second, a non-dramatic cumulus sky: 
And a weirdly enthralling vintage paisley:
I didn't pick any of those. Instead, I accidentally came up with this: 

Solids and the cumulus print fabric, plus an Indonesian print down the right. 

It wasn't just my love for coffee that inspired me. I was also influenced by a delightful Coffeehouse Mystery series by author Cleo Coyle, pen name for Alice Alfonsi and her husband Marc Cerasini.

Their fun and addictive little mysteries are full of lush coffee descriptions, factoids, and related recipes. And, oh yes, the plots are good, too. The series helped get me through a miserable illness a few years ago.

Warning: Whatever you do, don't read one of these mysteries in bed late at night, because not only will you be unable to put it down, but you will also climb out of bed, carry it to the kitchen, wake up the whole house by grinding a cup of  fully-leaded (the Coyles are prejudiced against decaf), See the mysteries here (unpaid endorsement).

Here's the cover of my new ebook, and more information is on my pattern page, here,

...and/or come back next week to see more coffee quilts!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Applique Tallit Making for a Bar or Bat Mitzvah

Extreme excitement! This week's Jewish Journal has an article about making a tallit (prayer shawl, a.k.a. tallis) for bat and bar mitzvah, and they include an interview with me, and a picture of one of my favorite projects, a rock-n-roll theme tallit for a dream client. The Journal article is here.

I wrote a longer article about that particular tallit in a blog post here. There are lots more pictures there, including this one:
(That black-and-white electric guitar fabric is from More of my custom tallitot are on my Judaiquilt website, here.

Interested in making one yourself? It's not difficult, and is one of the most meaningful projects you'll ever do. If you're a quilter, think of it this way: it's an easy appliqué project, without batting, and a backing is optional. My how-to page is here.

That page also has a free downloadable pattern for the blessing said before putting on the tallit. Some people like to sew this strip (called an "atarah", along one edge of the tallit, although it is not mandated by Jewish law.

I call my pattern 'Atarah on a Roll,' because you cut and paste the strips together. On the bottom third of the how-to page, you'll find an explanation of ways to get this pattern from paper to fabric.
Did I say the pattern is free? Use it good health, and send me a picture! Questions? Reach me at cathy(dot)perlmutter(at)gmail(dot)com.

And if you need to make a kippah to go with the tallit, consider these!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Recently Remembered Quilt: Running Around Like Cubic Chickens

You know those famous newsmen who got into trouble recently for claiming they were in combat, when they actually weren't?

Well, I sympathize, because I thought I was selling this quilt as a pattern, and just discovered that I'm not: 
 I made this quilt  around 2003, using mostly batik fabrics, paper foundation piecing, and bleach discharge. The words read "Shabbat Shalom." meaning a peaceful Sabbath.

Poetic Rabbi Abraham Joshu Heschel explained: "Six days a week we wrestle with the world, wringing profit from the earth; on the Sabbath we especially care for the seed of eternity planted in the soul….Six days a week we seek to dominate the world; on the seventh we try to dominate the self."

From the sublime to the ridiculous, I interpreted it visually this way: Six days a week we run back and forth, from right to left, like abstract rectangular cubic chickens. On the seventh, as the sun  sets, we  stop, take a deep breath, and look at a candle flame and think deeper.

The blocks are all paper foundation pieced. For the lettering, I cut Hebrew letters from freezer paper, and ironed them to a black fabric strip. Then I painted the strip with dishwasher gel. (These days, you're better off using Decoulerant - much less toxic). In five minute increments, I washed more and more of the gel off the strip. Yes, it was a mess! But it worked, with a nice gradated result.

I liked this quilt so much that I drafted an 8-page single spaced pattern for this quilt. I churned out 10 dense, single-spaced pages of directions, including this map:
And paper-piecing patterns for the blocks: 
A wonderful quilter named Joan Garland of Georgia, even tested it for me! 
She found some errors, which I am pretty sure I corrected. Thank you Joan!

I hadn't thought much about this quilt for a long time, but quite by accident this week, I came across photos. My first thought was, "Didn't I make a pattern from this quilt?" My second thought was, "I don't think it's been selling very well." So I checked my my pattern page to see if it's for sale - but it wasn't! Hmmm, that probably explains why sales have been so slow. 

A dozen years later, I know I will never wring profit from this pattern. So I think I'll donate it to the archives of the Pomegranate Guild of Judaic Needlework ( Unpaid endorsement!)  But in order to do that, it needs many hours of fixing up. Are enough people interested? Is it worth my time?

Sunday, May 3, 2015

News Roundup: Hypothetical Royal Baby Quilts, Touch Quilts, Science Quilts, Film Quilts, Bargain Quilts, and Orange You Glad I Said Macaroni?

Congratulations British monarchs! Burning question: When royalty reproduce, do their subjects make  them a zillion baby quilts (or one giant one?)  If so, when will they/it be delivered? I don't want to be judgemental, but so far the royal couple has wrapped the baby.... something white and knitted, which is nice, but staid, and not nearly as exciting as a pieced quilt, IMHO. (Also, is Duchess Catherine an alien? Who else on earth looks that good 10 hours after giving birth?)

Unlike UK aristrocrats, I am still recovering from childbirth (in the 90s), and have nothing new to show off. But I have read some fascinating quilt-related articles in the past couple of weeks. Articles about:
  • Touch quilts for people with dementia: Wonderfully inspiring examples at Also, a longer article about how the Ottawa Quilters Guild makes touch quilts, here
  • Quilt illustrates 19th century science!  This quilt was made by an Iowa woman named Ellen Harding Baker, born in 1847, who used it to illustrate her astronomy lectures! 

Apparently astronomy was an acceptable science for women! Read the whole story here.
  • A bargain at twice the price. When someone gasps at the price of your quilts, send them this excellent explanation. 
  • Why use fabric when you can use 16 mm film strips that were formerly documentaries about textile crafts? That's what Brooklyn, NY artist Sabrina Gschwandtner did, and they are awesome! Read more here, and another terrific article here
  • Is orange the new avocado green? It made headlines (though not quite as many as the royal baby): Kraft Mac and Cheese is cutting back on the synthetic colorants that create their iconic fluorescent color. Read the ominous news here. Does that mean orange quilts may go away? Not when there are vintage beauties like these (from ebay's past:) 

 Actually, there are some orange quilts on ebay that are atrocious. This one (machine made) is so awful that I'm not even going to give you a link to it.
 However! Here's one of my past projects that makes even appalling orange fabric (this was an orange-and-brown-batik halter top set that my mother wore in the 70s) look good. 
Here are the directions. There's plenty of time before Halloween!