Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving! Nostalgic for Thanksgivvukah!

Remember Thanksgivvukah? It seems so long ago, 2013 to be exact, when a once-in-77,000 year coincidence brought Thanksgiving to the same night as Chanukah. To celebrate, I used up many Chanukah fabrics to make this unbatted banner....

...with a turkey doing oversight....

...and a million Judaic prints.

I also frantically crocheted flocks of turkey menorahs...

AKA "turkorahs" or "menurkeys," with lightable tails....

And the occasional ethnic headgear..
Every night, I crocheted an additional flame.
For non-Hanukah Thanksgivings, it can be adapted to be a non-menorah, like this peacock turkey. 
The pattern for the crochet turkey/peacock with menorah option is still available as a free download on my pattern page. My blog posts with more details about all of the above are here, here and here. Wishing you and your family a happy, healthy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Another Denim & Crochet Purse, made from Freemotion Quilting Practice Pieces

When it comes to freemotion quilting, practice makes not-so-bad. Never perfect - not me - but certainly more tolerable. No matter how eager I am to start FMQing, the more time I take to practice, the better I will like the results.

The downside is that the practice pieces accumulate in towering snowdrifts, looking something like this:

So here's a project that can upcycle some of them! Especially if you practice on denim! With the holidays coming, it's a fun gift. It's a denim and crochet cross body purse. I showed one off two weeks ago (here), but this one is different because it is made from quilted pieces.

And back:

The back piece, unfolded below, measures about 5" x 10"  (not including crochet). It's quilted with  experimental vines/feathers, relics of my eternal Sisyphaen quest for a neat, convincing vine without premarking.
The smaller front piece is about 5" wide x 6" high, not including crochet: 
My theory is that grids compliment vines; and they're a lot easier! Here's the back of the flap. 
 I crocheted the gusset, too, 

but you can improvise a different solution, or skip the gusset completely and sew the front to the back. Go with the flow and see where you wind up! Here's a tutorial/reconstruction of how I made mine.  

1. Practice quilting on a sandwich at least 6" x 18"  if you want to make a purse about the same size as this one. If you're working with blue jeans, don't include thick seams, to save yourself aggravation! My backing fabric in the example is white, but on second thought, you should choose something a lot darker and/or busier , so dirt doesn't show.

2. Cut two pieces from your heavily quilted piece: a small front (about 6" high x 5" wide) and a long back-and-flap (about 10" high x 5" wide). Widths should be the same for the two pieces. 

3. Use an "edge skip" rotary cutter blade to cut holes a generous 3/8ths of an inch or more from each edge of both pieces, all the way around.  ('Edge Perfect' is the brand I've long used, but now there are a lot of similar blades out there.)
4. Do a blanket stitch all the way around both pieces through the holes created by the blade. I used a blue linen yarn. 

5. On the long quilted piece: Crochet all the way around it 2-3 times. For the short edge that will be the bottom of the flap, do a long stitch, like double or treble crochet, so buttons can be buttoned through it, shown in the photo below. With such small buttons, I didn't need extra gaps beyond the hole created by double crochet.
For the remaining three sides, do single crochet.

6. Do the same number of rows all the way around the smaller piece. Then, only crochet down one side, across the bottom, and up the second side. Turn and do it again, just those three sides. Make the rows a tight stitch (like single crochet) and DON'T INCREASE. After a few rows, the stitches will start to pull in, creating "fabric" parallel to the piece, which will become the gusset. If the crocheting isn't tight enough for a purse, you can either add a lining later, or add an additional crocheted gusset (the latter is shown below).  

7. Once the gusset is at the width you want, stitch the outer edge of the crochet that's on the smaller quilted rectangle, to the crochet stitches along the sides and bottom of the larger rectangle. 

8. Because my crochet was loose, I crocheted another, tight, gusset strip to the inside, about 2" x 17", with a thicker yarn. I hand-stitched it in place along both edges using yarn. This serves as backup, to keep anything except maybe toothpicks securely in the purse. The alternative: install a full lining. 
9. Chain a strap to the width you want (I used three different yarns), and tie it to the gusset. Since this purse will be a gift, I only did a single knot, and will have the recipient retie it to the length they want, with a double knot. 
12. On the front piece, stitch on buttons that will fit through the crochet on the bottom of the flap. I used smallish shank buttons. 
So much fun! Call it done! More projects that upcycle freemotion practice pieces - into Artist Trading Cards, Valentine's Cards, and a purse pocket - are here. My previous denim-and-crochet purse is here

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Celebrate Catastrophe! Turn UFO's into FrankenQuilts!

Presenting my new FrankenQuilt! 
Yes, sort of like that, except in fabric!
It's stitched together from old body parts stashed in my UFO* cupboard, a freakin' scary place. Said cupboard contains 25 years worth of aesthetic outrages, piling up since I started quilting.

I normally avoid this cupboard, to preserve my sanity and self-esteem. Occasionally I squint my eyes and shove things in, slamming the door shut quickly so nothing escapes.

But the demise of my computer forced a confrontation. The computer was behaving so badly that my DH had to send it to a computer meditation retreat, where it contemplated the ways it had wronged me, and gradually repented.

Without my computer, endless hours yawned ahead. I was in the middle of several writing projects that I couldn't do on my phone. I was creatively stuck on a major quilt.  I tried, how you call it, "vacuuming the house," but that only took a half hour.

So I was forced to the cupboard. Among the better offerings was this top. (Pretend it's not quilted).
It's made up entirely of wedge-shaped pieces, cut circa 2001, when I was obsessed with Marilyn Doheney's wedge rulers. My kids were little and I made a bunch of hyperactive medallion quilts for gifts and our preschool's auctions. Here's one I donated:
The medallion includes chopped flamingos, tigers, zebras, alligators, manatees, and polka dots....
I liked that so much I made another one to keep....
When these and others like them were done, I had a thick stack of leftover wedges, like this: 
They sat on the UFO shelf for many years. Somewhat recently - maybe within the last three years - I sewed them into another medallion, 
and raw-edge zigzagged that onto a teal background fabric....(pretend this isn't quilted).... made four borders out of strip-pieced wedges and solid fabric wedges....
 ...And then restuffed this whole thing back into the cupboard....

...where I found it last week.  Also in the UFO cupboard, I also found a stack of blocks from my much-more-recent hashtag obsession. (i.e. earlier this year).
My tutorial about how to make these blocks is in this blog post.

I decided to lay my spanking new hashtag blocks around my spanking old wedge medallion.  Although the colors didn't match, I kind of liked the effect!  There weren't quite enough hashtag blocks, so I whipped up some more...

...below, a half a hashtag is better (and faster) than none....

Plus some of my original hashtag blocks were insanely boring, so I shattered them....
....and surgically enhanced  others: 

 The border quilting, as you saw in the shots above, was straight-line quilting. The corner blocks were quilted with curly loops. I quilted a sun in the middle....
...and did a whole lot of freemotion wiggling on the teal background....

I think the uneven wedges look like the stitching on Frankenstein's neck!

With or without wedges, you can make a Frankenquilt too! Just follow this simple tutorial:

 1. Await a mild catastrophe that forces you away from as many electronic devices as possible. At the very least, your PC should crash. It would also help if your kindle, cable, and cellphone goes down. However, if your electricity goes down, this won't work, unless you own a hand-crank.

2. Go to your UFO cupboard, grit your teeth, and pull stuff out. Find things that are remotely related, and sew them together. If common sense tries to stop you, explain to it that you are making a charity quilt, or an ottoman quilt, or something that honors the kooky spirit of Young Frankenstein! When it's over, you'll be exhausted but happy!

* UFO=Unfinished Objects. A more euphemistic/positive term is "Works in Process."

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Wrong Meets Right: Half-Backwards, Reversible Denim Scrap Purse Tutorial

Here's a crossbody 7" x 9" upcycled denim pouch that can be worn inside-out, or outside-in.  In fact, it's not at all clear to me which way is out!  Let's call this Side A, Orientation 1....
Turn it over to see Side A, Disorientation 1 

Open it up, reach inside, pull out the inside, and here's Side B, chaos...

....and Side B, not so chaotic....

This makes a guaranteed unique gift and even if you don't crochet, you can improvise alternatives. Here's how it happened.

It all started out, as most of my stuff, as therapy sewing. I love sewing wedges, especially  wedges made from old jeans. The soothing blues, the foamy whites, the gentle oceanic ripples and creases that I'm too lazy to press out; wedges give it all a wavy feel.  Sometimes I cut wedges improvisationally...
...and sometimes I use a wedge ruler, like I did for this project. I started out with a light set and a dark set. Here's the finished side of both sets, both about 7" x 8".
 Their reverse sides:
As usual, I couldn't decide which I liked better! The finished side is neater, but the oh those raw edges!!! So I decided to sew my two panels together with one wrong side facing one right side! I did a straight stitch around three sides (stitching shows best where the arrow is pointing.)
 Next, I used my handy Edge Perfect blade (no financial affiliation) ...
to cut evenly spaced holes just outside the stitching. I did a blanket stitch through the holes with a light blue perle cotton.
 The flip side:
 I also cut holes along the top. The next step was to do a couple of rounds of single crochet with the light blue embroidery floss. Along the top opening, I  separated the layers before crocheting. (If you're not a crocheter, you don't need to do this at all. Or you could conceivably sew or even GLUE trim around the edges.  Just a pompom trim along the bottom?)
Next, crochet a flap, and make it loose in the area where it is likely to meet a button. I crocheted a circle, but a square, triangle, parallagram, etc. would work, too. If you're really good at crochet, unlike me, make a fabulous mandala! Here's my non-fabulous flap.
If you're not a crocheter, you could cut a scrap of leather, faux leather, ultrasuede, or even another piece of denim, etc., to make the flap. You will need to cut a buttonhole, soon. 

Stitch the flap securely to one side of the purse. 

 On the flip side, place a button. I used a white plastic shank button on this side. 
If you crocheted your flap loosely, you don't need to "make" a buttonhole - just button through the crochet. If you're using an alternative - say a piece of ultrasuede - use this button placement to cut a buttonhole.

Reach in and pull out the reverse side, and plant another button where the hole in your flap will meet it. On this side, I used a vintage mother-of-pearl and metal shank button.
 And here's the back:
I added a round of dark blue crochet to the purse edges. I crocheted a 47" strap using double crochet, sized for an adult, but of course you should size it to whoever will use the purse. This is a good project for teaching youngsters to sew and/or crochet! For many more denim and crochet projects, click "denim" in my word cloud on the right! For bags, click on purse.