Sunday, March 12, 2017

7 Ways to Use Rickrack, Life's Consolation Prize

People bring me all kinds of things that they think I might put on quilts - fabric, quilt, buttons, faux flowers - and most recently, a friend brought me several hanks (bolts? skeins? murders?) of rickrack.

Not that I needed more rickrack. I already have a little drawer filled with the stuff. (Technically, it's a half-drawer. The left side contains zippers):
Let's face it, rickrack is hilarious. It's like Sisyphus, drunk, zigging and zagging, back and forth, sound and fury, moving forward and signifying nothing but whimsy.

I was about to need hilarious because 1. I was soon to be in mourning, and 2. I was soon to make a bad decision  on one of my pieces involving 1" squares. It was this piece, a block leftover from a large quilt.
One evening, I impulsively decided to do a round of feathers in the border.

Freemotion feathers are hard. My odds improve only if I practice for a substantial amount of time for  weeks, and then again for at least a half-hour IMMEDIATELY before the final feathers, plus marking the quilt. (More feathers advice here.)

It's also a big mistake to make feathers when sad.

My beautiful mother was 90, and she died peacefully at the end of January. Mom had advanced dementia for many years; I believe that her passing was a liberation for her and she is reunited with my dad and with the family she lost in the Holocaust. Even so, it's shocking and miserable. In hindsight, impulse feathers are not good way to distract yourself in the week following a loss of this magnitude.

I know, that doesn't look too bad, but I won't show you the closeups. OK, I will. Some of the details were so awful that I tried to use a black pen on them.  As they said in Watergate, it's not the crime, it's the coverup.
After a minute of coloring, I realized that disaster was only spreading.  I put the whole thing aside.

A couple of weeks later, when I was breathing better, I ripped out the feathers. I also cut off the buttons in the central area. Then, I seized my new rickrack, cut little pieces to the same width as the squares (1" finished), applied Fray Check to the cut ends, and glued them onto selected squares. (There are also French knots on the squares).
I added large hand-stitches using embroidery floss, and in the outer borders, ebullient rick rack.
 The border rickrack is held in position with more big hand-stitches.
So it winds up being a happy piece! And there's nothing my mom loved more than happy. Of course, she liked everything I made. I was the luckiest daughter in the world.  I basked in her unconditional love, and still do.

This made me wonder what else I had used rickrack for in past.

I found this mixed media "100 Cups of Coffee on the Wall" quilt (blogged here), onto which I'd dipped lengths of rickrack into fabric stiffener, then stitched them to the left side of the quilt,
They're supposed to be caffeinated radiating energy lines....
I also used stiffened blue-and-silver, gold, and white rickrack as energy lines on this denim valentine brooch....

...and more white rick rack on the next one....

It's right above the silver bugle beads, below, held on with glue and pink transparent beads.
But wait, there's more!  I found this quilted linen cuff bracelet, blogged a couple of years ago, here. I used a huge, chunky rickrack as both embellishment....
 And, with the addition of a buckle, as the closure. I just poked a hole in it for the belt prong.
 The metal diamond embellishments are iron-on. That's a vintage button and polka dot silk in the yo yo, and the bracelet fabric is linen. I love all the textures, including the ridged rickrack.
Here's a denim vessel made from a torn pants leg. I circled the top with a piece of vintage lace that incorporated fancy embroidered twisted rickrack. 
Women of yore were ambitious with their rickrack. Someone crocheted, twisted, and knotted this trim by hand, no? Yes, those pink and white stripes in the middle are rickrack, wound together. 
I did a little more searching, and found that I'd used patriotic red and blue rickrack to embellish  totes that my friend Marian Sunabe and I made as fundraisers for the 2012 election. It works great to accent pockets....

And then, just this week, I happened to visit Quilt'n'Things, a lovely quilt shop in Glendale, and they had a shelf full of rickrack in bright colors and gigantic sizes. But I didn't see any quilts with the rickrack.  

If you're yearning for more  rickrack ideas, here's a link to a Pinterest page full of ideas:

What are you doing with rickrack? I'd love to hear about it! 


  1. I love ricrac, at the moment I just buy it and it is waiting to be used! I just love bluemountaindaisy's quilts with ricrac on.

    1. I just looked up the Blue Mountain Daisy blog, thanks ES. I like the heading with rickrack - I'll look for her quilts with rickrack!

  2. That edging with the twisted rick rack is definitely hand-crocheted. Somewhere, I have an old 10-cent booklet with similar patterns. Dot

    1. Dot, thanks, it's amazing how neatly and precisely that rickrack is stitched, and the crochet added. Quite incredible!

  3. So many fun ideas! I was just in Florida and I noticed how often Seminole patchwork integrated rickrack.

    1. Oh, I love Seminole patchwork! I didn't know (or forgot) about the rickrack - I'd better look it up. Thanks, Kathleen!

  4. Cathy, I have told you many times how incredibly funny I think you are and what a great writer. I love your humor and your rickrack pieces.

  5. At the age of 93, my mother was released from her dementia cage. I thought your feather quilting was a perfect representation of my mom's mind at the end and my emotional state after her death....all over the place with no particular goal. Your final piece is beautiful however. Just goes to show you that there is a place for all kinds of quilting. Love the use of the rickrack!

    1. Thanks for your comment, Anonymous, and I appreciate your insights. "Released from her cage" is a good description.


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