Sunday, June 18, 2017

Three Easy Pieces: Artistic Potholders from Scraps

I love making potholders.  They're:
  • Low-pressure;  
  • Relaxing, especially between larger projects; 
  • An opportunity to experiment with new techniques;
  • An opportunity to get fabrics out of your stash and into the world;
  • And the result is something you can give as a gift! (Christmas/Chanukah: Six months away!) 
If your friends recognize them as brilliant art, that's great, and if they use them on greasy pots, that's great, too! (Okay, not quite as great.)

Potholder 1 - Solid Scraps 
Directions: Take a bunch of solid scraps; stitch them together. Quilt using your relatively new Handi-Quilter mini scallop ruler, just for practice. (Quilting with rulers is like learning to juggle, and requires infinite practice.)
Fill with two layers of batting (or one layer of regular cotton batting, and one layer of thermal batting, like Insul-Bright.)  For backing, shop your stash until you find a fragment of home decor fabric that you never used because it was awkwardly cut: 
When giftees ask why you put the pears in such an unusual position, pretend you did it on purpose and explain asymmetry. 

Potholder 2 - Kaffe's Kitchen
Directions:  Scour your stash or Internet to locate fragments of stunning giant vegetable fabric from Kaffe Fassett and his co-conspirators at This fabric was always (1) too nice to cut into, and (2) so distinctive that it takes over any project, and (3) Giant turnips? Cut it in large chunks, and combine with other fabrics if necessary. 
On the back, plop down another piece from the Fassett collective that's been in the stash for too many years.
I accidentally installed it upside-down. (I did that on purpose! Because, uh, asymmetry?)

 Potholder 3 - Fruit & Cupcake Salad

Directions: Locate all your fruit fabrics, cut them into rectangles, and sew them into a trapezoidal top. If you don't have enough fruit fabrics, feel free to add vegetables (brussel sprouts, hot peppers), carbs (bread, pasta, pretzels, a fortune cookie), fats (avocados) and dairy (ice cream).  This piece is so almost-healthy on the front that you can use something like this on the back:
 Mmmmm good! What kind of potholders do you like to make?

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Stuffed Pomegranate Recipe, High Fiber (Don't Eat Them)

Have you ever looked at a large-scale fabric and been tempted to cut out and stuff one of the motifs? That's what happened to me when I first saw this fabric.
It was designed by Alex Anderson for RJR Fabrics. For the last two posts, (1, 2), as part of a Pomegranate Guild of Judaic Needlework challenge, I've been playing with a yard of it.

The pomegranates are so juicy - 3 1/2" high by about 2 1/2" wide - that I had an overwhelming urge to stuff them!

So I did.

 I needed gifts for the guild's convention in May, so I made a bunch: 

I cut them out just slightly beyond their borders; sewed them wrong sides together against navy or scrap fabric; left a gap at the top; then turned them right-sides-out. Stuffed 'em, stuck an embroidered ribbon loop in the opening, hand-stitched the opening shut, and sewed a vintage red plastic button on top.

Added gold ball chain through the loops, and a gold safety pin, just in case. That makes them multipurpose! Key chains/luggage markers/pincushions!? Fluffy pendants? Beadable!? If I put a bell and some catnip in them, they could be a cat toy!?

I cut a sixth one a little bigger, to incorporate foliage. Poked in extra polyester stuffing, and hand-quilted around the fruit, so it popped forward.
Scraps on the back: 
Next, as special gifts for two of our many guild members who deserve medals - I made medals! 
(The base is stiff fusible interfacing, Peltex 72F in this case.) 

Even after these projects, plus my earlier 2 stars and 3 hexagonal mats, I still had about a quarter yard of my yard left....More to come! 

Sunday, June 4, 2017

More English Paper Piecing Hexie Adventures with Pomegranate Fabric

Last week, I showed you the Pomegranate Guild of Judaic Needlework's latest creative challenge: To make a project using one yard of this gorgeous print from Alex Anderson's "Mirage" Collection, generously donated to the Guild by RJR Fabrics:
That post had a tutorial for making kaleidoscopic stars using English Paper Piecing (EPP). After finishing those, I made the following. 
They're also English Paper Pieced, of course. It dawned on me that the main motif on the fabric would fit a traditional grandmother's flower garden quilt block. I figured out how big the shape would have to be and drafted it in my computer program (CorelDraw). 
I cut one copy out as a solid piece (from an old file folder). 
And cut a window: 
I traced the outside of the window to freezer paper and cut that out. 
 The window helped me figure out where to cut.
Slipped that away, put in the freezer paper, and ironed it down. Trimmed the fabric about a half-inch outside the paper edges, all the way around.
Treated this like needle-turn applique. I clipped into the concave curves to 1/8" from each inner angle.
Dripped fray-check on the innies. 
Pressed and glue sticked the seam allowance on top of the freezer paper. Two or 3 threads of the fabric should roll to the back.
 Glued all the way around.
In the same computer program, I made a sheet with as many component-sized hexagons as I could fit. (The component size turned out to be 2.586". Argh! If you're working with the same fabric, you can  get away with 2.5" or 2.75".)

Printed that out onto cardstock. For three blocks, I needed 12 x 3 = 36 cardstock templates. Here's how many fit on an 8.5" x 11" piece of cardstock.

Cut those apart, then glue-basted solid fabrics onto them. Back:
Now to stitch those guys around the motif. Some are attached  on only one side; and some are attached on two sides, like the lighter orange piece in the picture below. EPP makes these kind of y-seams easy.  I sewed the first seam in place (above and parallel to the white arrow drawn in the picture below...
(The arrow is pointing at the actual needle taking the penultimate stitch). Took an extra stitch at the center. Then realigned. Below, the second side is being moved into position so its right upper edge lines up with the underlying dark edge. 
Stitched them together, open it up, and there it is, neat as can be, attached on two sides! The next hexagon will be attached on only one edge, and the hexagon after that will be attached with a y seam again.
Now that I have three of these, I can't decide whether to finish them separately, and gift them as festive wallhangings/ potholders?  Or stitch all three together to make one holiday table runner? (Maybe with some dark blue hexagons in the spaces in-between?) Your vote counts! 

Interested in learning more about Judaic needlework, including quilting, embroidery, needlepoint, knitting and beyond? Check out the Pomegranate Guild of Judaic Needlework's webpage here. To learn more about Alex Anderson's Mirage collection, scroll to the bottom of my previous post, here

Sunday, May 28, 2017

English Paper Piecing 3-D Adventure with Alex Anderson's Pomegranates

Those of you who are longtime quilters know the name Alex Anderson. She’s the author of more than 30 quilt books, hosted "Simply Quilts" on television, and now is co-host, with Ricky Tims, of the delightful Internet quilt show, The Quilt Show! (

Alex is also a fabric designer, with a longtime affection for pomegranates. The rich Jewish symbolism of the pomegranate - learning, good deeds, fertility, joy - was an inspiration for her new fabric collection called Mirage. Here's one of the spectacular fabrics from that collection, by RJR Fabrics:
By coincidence, I'm the president of a non-profit needlework organization called the Pomegranate Guild of Judaic Needlework, so when I learned about the collection, it felt like serendipity. I contacted Alex (having written for her magazine in the past). I proposed a challenge for our members, hoping maybe we could get a discounted rate on some fat quarters.

Well, we got a discount, alright - Alex and RJR Fabrics - thank you, Demetria Hayward - shipped to my door a free, heavy, 5-feet-long 45+ yard roll of this festive fabric to share with our members who wanted to play! 

I waltz/wrestled that roll through my house, to the sewing room in the back, and tore, mailed and/or handed out 1-yard pieces to 45 or so of our members who requested them. They flew out about a month ago, and I can't wait to see what people come up with!

Because I am currently obsessed with English Paper Piecing (EPP), the first thing I did with my yard was make two stuffed stars, using cardstock templates. In the first star below, which I will call the "chiselled star," I left the templates in place permanently, to create facets:
The next photo shows the contours better:

The back has another cardstock layer and is also contoured. There's stuffing in-between to hold the cardstock in position.

For the second star, I removed the cardstock before finishing, so it has a rounder look. We'll call this the chubby star:

 The back has this hanging system:
It started with this star-shaped cardstock templates that I happened to have lying around (I used it for the blue and gold fancy EPP quilt blocks described in this post.) I cut the pieces apart - a hexagon in the center, with six "jewels" surrounding it.
Picked a flower (actually I think that's a pomegranate cross section?) to serve as the center:
Centered the hexagon template on it...

Cut it out about a half-inch all the way around, and basted the back....

Then addressed the six jewels. For the roundish star, I punched a hole to make the templates easier to remove:

For the contoured star, where the cardstock will be permanent, I didn't punch a hole - I drew a midline, pushing hard on a ballpoint pen.
 And folded.
 Placed the template (contoured or not) on top of a flower:
Basted the edges to the back, and here's the front: 
The star points weren't identical, but they were similar. 
Stitched the jewels all the way around the hexagon center, then stitched from the center piece outward six times.
At this stage, it can be used as a flat applique! But not for long.

I made a backing template. This is just the outline of the entire star on cardstock. For a chubby star, the back template looks like this.
For the chiselled star, I drew lines from point to point, pressing hard on the pen.
 Fold back along all those lines (I messed up at the top, I fixed it.)
 Next drew lines from concave angle to concave angle....
 And folded FORWARD on those lines.
 The goal:
Pinned it to the wrong side of the backing fabric. (If it's contoured, place the pen lines side against the back of the fabric.)
Cut about 3/8" all the way around. At each convex angle, clipped inward to about 1/8" from the paper template (where the white arrow is pointing). 
Trimmed and clipped all the way around. At the ironing board, glue sticked the seam allowances inward. Used liberal amounts of glue for the chiselled star. Use glue sparingly for the chubby star. Here's how the back of the chiselled star looked with clipped curves and fully glue basted. 
Here's what the inside will look like - permanently. 
And next is the chubby star front and back. The cardstock on the reverse side.
Placed the two sides wrong sides together and start stitching - a whipstitch or a ladder stitch works well.  Yes, the points and inner angles are tricky - you'll be using your needle to push the seam allowances inside - it's a lot like needle-turn applique.  You'll get there! 
About halfway around, for the chubby star, I pulled out all the templates. When I had just one star point left unsewn, I stuffed it, stitched the hole closed, and done!
For the chiselled star, I stuffed the area between the front and the back templates - and then stitch up the opening. 

As an afterthought, I stitched beads to the center of the chubby star. 
What to do with these ornaments? I think they'd make festive hangings for Sukkoth, Chanukah, and other holidays! The chubby star also works as a pincushion!

If  you want to learn more about the Mirage collection, here’s a video of Alex describing the inspiration, and showing off some the lovely coordinates. The collection can also be viewed on the RJR website, here. To purchase, contact a shop called Once Upon a Quilt in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. There's no shopping cart on their website, but you can call Lisa, the owner, at 954-987-8827 and ask for the coordinates you want from those pictured on the RJR site. Lisa's shop hours are Tuesday through Friday, 9:30 am to 4:30 pm; Saturday, 9:30 am to 4 pm. 

For more information about the Pomegranate Guild of Judaic Needlework, and our many fun and creative projects, check us out at 

After finishing the stars, I still had quite a bit of my one yard of pomegranate fabric left over. So there are still more projects come!