Sunday, September 25, 2016

Planetary Future Depends on Sewing Political Pillows, Bags, etc.

I get anxious around election time, mainly because I feel that the planet is at stake. And I'm hardly alone in my fears. This year, I support the reality-based candidate, but worry that the other guy is gaining. To ease the terror, my friends and I usually do some phone banking, and some candidate crafts.

Artisanal politics are a whole lot more fun than any other kind, and we donate all the profits to our candidates's campaigns. In 2012 we raised close to $600!

This election season, the Democrats are blessed with a logo that is, like the candidate, brilliant and pragmatic, with secretive details. It's a simple H, but the arrow extending slightly and irrevokably past the rightward bar presents complications.

Because of the protrusion, attempting to piece this design would take me past November. So I made a raw-edge appliqué pattern. Here it is, on a virtual 7 1/2" blue background.
After drawing out the pattern, the next step was to make a PDF with a variety of sizes, to give my incredibly talented artist friend Marian Sunabe. She collaged some beautiful versions. I collaged a few, too.  Here are three of Marian's gems: 

And two I made: 

The next job was to zig-zag over all the raw edges. Then, I attached the patches to things. First, I turned blue-and-white logo into a pocket, and sewed it to a small cross-body bag made from a jeans leg, with the strap made from the seams.
Another bluesy bag:
I crocheted a flap for the back side, and a strap.
For the next bag, I crocheted a colorful strap from ribbon yarn.
The entire bag in the next photo was crocheted around the patch. 
A teal model:
Next, a large tote, cut from the leg of a huge pair of denim shorts. 
I also sewed patches to plain tee shirts that Marian and her mom had collected: 

And finally, when kooks diagnosed Clinton's affection for lumbar pillows as terminal illness (I'm not making this up), I decided to generate some Hillary pillows. 
The back message is rubber-stamped.
Say that 10 times fast. The next one, pre stuffing: 
...and post-trim and stuffing:
(That green trim has sat in my stash for years awaiting a purpose!)
In the next pillow, Marian used fascinating orange-and-white fabrics for the logo.
You got the idea! 

The upcycled jeans cross-body bags have been our bestsellers, so far. Want to make your own? Here's a tutorial.


First, create the logo patch. Use the logo of your favorite candidate, if they have one. If you're supporting Hillary, that means using the colorful pattern that is the second image down from the top of the page. Remember, it is not a piecing pattern - it's for raw-edge appliqué, so there's no turn-under. Use the measurements in the diagram to replicate it on graph paper, and then you can shrink or grow it to your needs on a copy machine.

For the version below, I shrank the pattern down to about 5 1/4" square. The purple polka-dot vertical strokes in the H are about 1" x 4" (they underlap the arrow.) I cut a template from the paper pattern to trace and cut out the arrow. I used a glue stick to put everything in position. (Washable white school glue works well, too.)
Next, I zigzagged everything down, with paper serving as stabilizer on the back.
Ripped away the backing stabilizer. Cut a piece of matching fabric slightly larger.
Placed them right-sides-together, then stitched around three sides, leaving a turning gap along the bottom.
Trimmed the excess seam allowance all the way around, snipped corners, and turned right side out. Pressed the bottom gap closed neatly, and inserted a slice of fusible web to hold it in position.Then topstitched a line horizontally across the top, about 1/8" down from the edge. 
Now the pocket is about 5" x 5". Cut a piece of a jeans leg wide enough to be at least an two inches wider than the patch pocket and about 2 1/2 x as long as the patch. I cut it this jeans leg to about 6.5" wide and 18" long (including the turn-under at one end.)
The jeans hem on the left serves as one finished end. 
I turned the right end over twice and stitched it down. 
Stitched the two long edges of the rectangle with a zig-zag, to minimize fraying. 
Tested a jeans pockets to place at the right end. The problem with jeans pocket below is that it's too wide - it might get caught in the seam:
A tiny jeans pocket was the perfect size, and added character:
I stitched the H pocket in position, around the sides and bottom. Then I stitched the tiny jeans pocket the same way. My sewing machine does not like thick denim layers, so I only stitched part of the way along the sides and bottom of the jeans pocket. I used strong glue to hold the area under the rivets.

Once pockets were finished, I folded the bag right sides together and stitched down the two side seams. Turned it right side out, and we're almost done.
 Crocheted a strap, flap, and added a button.
Added an interesting closure:
 It's made of stacked buttons and a crocheted loop.
And there you have it, ready for action! 
I'd love to see political items you make! Interested in buying some of these items? We have sold almost all the bags, but do have lots of shirts leftover. Cheap and profits go to the Clinton campaign! Send me an email at cathy(dot)perlmutter(at)! 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Raging bead embellishment endorphins: Help, I can't stop!

By odd coincidence, the word for "insanely cute" in Japanese - kawaii - sounds almost the same as the Hawaiian isle of Kauai (both are kuh-why-eee).  

This linguistic coincidence came to life when I found this terminally cute Tokyo street fabric on sale in while vacationing in Kauai a year ago, blogged here.  As a former resident of Tokyo, it spoke, nay, yelled to me. 
Tokyo streets - at least when I lived there in the early 1980s -  were dense with action, color and plastic cherry blossoms. This fabric street scene was good, but needed more! So I stitched on a slew of vintage glass and plastic beads, plus sequins held on by beads.
Most of the beads and sequins are iridescent. I bought them at a flea market many years ago. 

Here's the overall wall hanging. It's about 14" x 9". 
The top area is an elegant metallic print featuring cranes in flight. I embellished it with vintage gold sequins and plastic beads. 
Along the bottom, the fish are decorated with iridescent blue translucent sequins, and blue-and-gold plastic beads.
Along the bottom, I stitched on a colorful premade seed bead fringe which came attached to white elastic. To that I added long dangles, Small black safety pins hold the dangles. Each safety pin is attached to a gold-colored jump ring. There are three eyepins per jump ring. These can be unpinned in case the wall hanging ever needs washing. Here's the back:
The back has sushi fabric. Through the top rod pocket, I slid a chopstick. I should paint it gold, right?
Once every available space had been filled, my embellishment endorphins were still raging! I scoured the house for something else to adorn. Family members declined the honor, and we have no living pets (unsurprisingly), but I did find a silk dupioni raw-edge appliquéd scrap 9" strip lying around. I had been planning to make it into a cuff bracelet, or maybe a bookmark. 
 I outlined the edges with gold metallic thread satin stitch, then added the leftovers from the project above. 
The left side doesn't have beads, in case my giftee wants to use it as a bookmark.
I stitched those sequins on with metallic gold thread, setting stitches at 120 degrees from each other. 
 The right half has the glass beads holding the sequins on. 
It's freemotion quilted with gold metallic thread. What fun! What or who to embellish next?

Sunday, September 11, 2016

"Sew Jewish" Book Review

One thing I love about Jewish tradition is that it requires plenty of textiles. Important occasions are marked not only with prayer, gratitude, and (usually) food, but also fabric creations. These include:
  •      Marriage - the ceremony requires a chuppah, a wedding canopy, 
  •      Bar or Bat Mitzvah - the child needs a tallit, a prayer shawl; people need kippot, headcoverings,
  •       Sabbath, aka Shabbat, which comes every week - the challah bread wants its own little bedcover,
  •      Passover - The ceremonial matzoh cracker needs a cover; the people need theme pillows and kippot,
...And much, much more! I won't even describe here the fibrous imperatives of  Rosh Hashanah,  Purim, Sukkoth or Chanukah - but  they are surprisingly compelling once you start thinking this way!

Today, one of the most significant gathering places for like-minded people is the Pomegranate Guild of Judaic Needlework, a nonprofit organization approaching its 40th year. Members include quilters, needlepointers, embroiderers, knitters, weavers, beadworkers - you name it. All skill levels are welcome. (Learn more here.)

And one of the most exciting new voices in the world of fibrous Judaica design is Maria Bywater of Hudson Valley, N.Y. Maria is a professional huppah-maker, who rents out wedding canopies at, and blogs at She recently sent me a complementary copy of her book, "Sew Jewish."
The book is geared to beginners on up. Most of the 18 projects are not quilts, but they draw on the same basic sewing techniques. They cover the Jewish lifecycle and calendar: 
  • For weddings, she offers not only simple chuppah directions, but also a bridal veil, kippot, tallit, tallit bag, and teffilin bag.
  • For Shabbat, there's a challah cover, and, when Shabbat ends, a havdalah ritual spice pouch. 
  • For Chanukah, there are directions for a dreidel (spinning top) game kit, complete with cut-out labels that explain how the game works. 
  • For Purim, there are bright and cheerful mishloach manot gift containers.
  • For Passover, a matzoh cover, and handwashing towel.
  • I especially like her detailed prayer shawl pattern/instructions, which answers all the questions beginners and beyond have been asking me for years about construction. 
  • For the home, there's a pattern for a mezuzah case; a tzedakah (charity) jar wrap; a mizrah (which marks the Eastern wall); a "Shalom" pillow; and an aleph-bet (Hebrew alphabet) cuddle blanket, and this lovely, whimsical hamsa (a hand-shaped good luck wall hanging): 
The book is clear and beautifully illustrated, There's an entire chapter that covers the most basic stitching concepts. 

Find it  on Maria's Etsy shop or Amazon,  in paperback or downloadable PDF.  The Etsy site also sells more tallit collar patterns, and a different hamsa wall hanging than the one in the book. (No financial affiliation with any of this!)

I am thinking that this book would be a terrific present for a teen, especially a bar or bat mitzvah who is interested in sewing; for newlyweds; for people who are celebrating conversion; for new retirees; and for anyone who wants to sew and is interested in Jewish heritage and ritual. I also think it's a must-have for synagogue and Jewish school libraries. Maria, yasher koach, well done! 

Interested in seeing more Judaica? Go to, and also check out my own website.