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 many weeks, and then again for at least a half-hour IMMEDIATELY before doing the final feathers, plus mark 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, soon after my friend brought the rickrack. 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 growing.  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. She would have liked it. 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. Attempting to search my files, I started to wonder what the best spelling for rickrack might be.What about rick rack, or ric rac? Like Tic Tacs?

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? Or do you think a machine did this? 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: https://www.pinterest.com/explore/rickrack/.

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

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Hashtag Scrap Quilts for a Material World

In 2016, I was obsessed with stitching batik scraps into irregular blocks. At one point, the light and dark blocks kept separating themselves out, then organizing themselves into hashtags/tic-tac-toe boards. Like this: #, but less angled. Can you detect the four scrappy hashtags on my design wall below?
The more hashtags I made, the happier I became. Not only are hashtags interesting to look at and intuitive for quilters - a 9-patch variation - but they've become ubiquitous in our daily cyberlives.

Hashtags help us find ideas, images, emotions, facts, and, of course, alternative facts, richocheting around in cyberspace. Where we once had to schlep our bodies to libraries crammed with dictionaries, directories, encyclopedias, card catalogues and book indexes, we now dispatch our fingers to type tiny hashtags followed by a word or three.

So why shouldn't we use hashtags to organize our material scraps? Which brings us to the title I gave this first piece: #Hashtag Scraps. (If you read that out loud, it says "Hashtag hashtag scraps.")
For the borders, I dug out all my scraps with words printed on them. Lower right corner: 
Many of my word scraps came from old fabrics with cut-and-sew projects printed on them.
...The "BOXER" headline below came from some dreadful make-your-own-men's-underwear fabric. I set the latter scrap against a new brassiere-themed fabric scrap. To summarize this section: #Underwear. 
Upper corner detail: #Drugabuseisn'tfunny. 
The back includes #eye charts,  #eyeglasses,  #keyboards,  #grunting sumo cats, and #millenium fabric. The whole piece is about 31" x 39". 

The second piece, below, I call "Hashtag Strips." It's similar to the quilt above, but with abstract black-and-white designs, lots of #selvages, as well as text. The strips are angled, for extra energy. It's 34" x 47".
(If it looks familiar, that's because it had a dye-bleeding accident, which I fixed and blogged about here.) Below is the #husband-seeking section.
#Selvages.  #Dots.
 #Massachusetts.
#America. #Random.
The back includes more #keyboards, #eyeglasses and #sumo cats again, plus #newspapers and #license plates.
Now that I look at them, vanity license plates predicted text messaging and Twitter by decades!

For the third hashtag piece, I used a dramatic black-and-gold Lonni Rossi print in the borders. 
The large gold circles are made up of (fake) words. 
The Rossi print made me think about "The Cloud" and all those words and ideas hovering somewhere up there, in the sky (?), along with the seven newly-discovered planets, birds, aliens, ancestors and deities. (Do aliens read our Tweets?) The whole piece is 37" x 47."

Finally, my fourth hashtag quilt. I left out the borders. I put two sleeves on the top back of the two vertical bars, and the black crossbar is slipped through them. This oddly-shaped quilt measures 33" on the long bars x 25" wide.
The best thing about making a hashtag quilt is that if you can persuade camera-shy friends and lovers to pose with them, holding them off to their right (even if they are left-handed, like my DH)....
....then you can label the photo "#Husband"! (Or #Friend, or #Whoever.)

Some of these quilts may be for sale (email me if you're interested.) For more experiments with improvisational batik blocks, click "Batik" in the word cloud on the right.