Sunday, March 4, 2018

Epic Rhyming Quilt: Just Attach Trash!

SAQA, the Studio Art Quilt Associates organization, recently hosted a "Rhyme or Reason" challenge, and entries closed at the end of February. Here's the piece I entered. 
If you like crossword puzzles, Scrabble, and other word games - and sewing tiny random things to quilts - you might want to consider making a variation of this kooky, obsessive project. It's a brain teaser for the maker as well as the giftee. 

I started by sewing 100 1.5" squares together. 
(I'm hooked on running up and down the value scale and all around the color wheel, brightest values in the center - but you do your thing. You can also make all the squares the same color!) 

Flip to the back. Press all the seams open, to create partitions. This is your new front. Add batting and backing, and finish the edges any way you want. (I did a pillowcase turn.)
Now fill the squares with tiny junk which rhymes, and which, for optional additional eye-exercise, has a color that sort-of matches its square. Every one of the 100+ objects on this quilt rhymes with at least one other object. Some rhyme with two or more. I've counted 70+ rhymes, which I track in a five-page document attached to the quilt.  

Here's what I'm talking about. (I'm not going to yell; I'm going to capitalize words that rhyme.) 

The blue CAR button below rhymes with the JAR button under it (I usually placed rhyming pairs far apart, but this rhyme occurred to me after the quilt was finished.) The CAR originally rhymed with a STAR elsewhere on the quilt, and the jar I initially thought of as a VASE which rhymed with a FACE and piece of LACE elsewhere.
The word FAST above, right, rhymes with a FORECAST, below.  The thread SPOOL rhymes with a JEWEL elsewhere; the cake-decoration baby above I'm calling a TYKE, to rhyme with a silver BIKE charm in the photo below; or, call him/her a DOLL, to rhyme with a soccer BALL.

The purple guitar PICK below rhymes with a CANDLESTICK tie tack elsewhere; the seaSHELL, left of the pick, rhymed with the toy wishing WELL, on the middle right of the same photo. In the left middle, there's a fluorescent green PEAR that I rhymed with a red BEAR and rocking CHAIR. The DICE will soon rhyme with MICE.
Above, in the upper right corner, is the needle THREADER, that I rhymed with the soccer ball HEADER below. Next to the pink ball, the SQUIRREL rhymes with a PEARL (fake).
The BELT, next to the clown, matches a piece of purple FELT.  Here are the MICE (glued to a shank button) that rhymed with the DICE.
In the middle of the next photo, the bright triangle, can you see the etched PAGODA, in what was my Mom's solo glass earring? 
I rhymed that sucker with a teeny can of SODA (top left in the photo below.) Next to the soda, the red BEER/CAP rhymes with a tiny DEER or SNAP. (Punched a hole in the top side of the cap with a hammer and nail.) The pot of GOLD with a rainbow, on the upper right corner of the photo below - goes with a denim bead that's ROLLED; it also represents LUCK to rhyme with a DUCK.
The pink creature immediately above gave me three rhymes: PIG (SPRIG); HOG (DOG) and BOAR (DINOSAUR). Above the pig, the mini-credit CARD rhymed with a can of LARD (below, middle).
South of the Crisco is the pink glass DOG that rhymed with HOG; I also used his MUZZLE to rhyme with a piece from a PUZZLE; and PUP to rhyme with a CUP. Above, lower right corner is a metal FEATHER that rhymes with the WEATHER badge in the photo below, plus green LEATHER. Above in the upper left corner is the Big DIPPER that I embroidered, to go with a ZIPPER;  the blue dog TAG in the rightmost column above rhymes with a handBAG and a STAG.

Below, on the upper left, is the orange CHAIR rhymes with BEAR, HAIR, and PEAR; a DINO (RHINO); an oval shisha mirror signifying YOU, which rhymes with....
...the number TWO (below, a Brownie patch), plus anything BLUE. Next to the number is the piece of FELT, which I rhymed with the BELT....the DOLPHIN, which I rhymed with a safety PIN (or PORPOISE which I rhymed with the alien CORPUS).
Below, a peace SIGN (FELINE, TWINE) or just PEACE  (FLEECE, on a lamb). Under it is the swatch of LEATHER (FEATHER, WEATHER).
Below, the sew-in SNAP that rhymed with the Kona beer CAP. There's also a broken HEART/FIBER ART (is that cheating?) There's the PUZZLE piece that rhymed with MUZZLE.
Below, there's a broom (which I made from pine needles and a chopstick); it rhymes with MUSHROOM and BLOOM. The FROG rhymes with the DOG and HOG, the pink BOOT rhymes with FRUIT, and the ALIEN rhymes with the SAFETY PIN and DOLPHIN. (Except when he's a CORPUS, to rhyme with PORPOISE).
And so forth. This was so freaking much fun, so obsessive - and so challenging. I'm a professional writer - but never of poetry - and I had no idea it would be so difficult to find rhyming nouns, especially if they have to be depicted in toys, beads, and other tchatchkes, in randomly pre-selected colors. 

In fact I literally started dreaming about this quilt, jubilantly discovering new rhymes. Tip: Keep a notepad nearby, even when asleep. As soon as you think of a rhyme, write it down, because it's amazing how fleeting they can be. (When you wake up, you may discover the rhyme doesn't exist.)

It didn't help that my sewing room is at the opposite end of the house from my computer, and I don't have a paper rhyming dictionary. So I didn't consult an online rhyming dictionary until late in the process. When I finally did start using (this one), it wasn't a huge help - the reason I couldn't think of rhymes is because there often aren't many - especially not rhymes that are memorialized in tiny objects. 

Take octopii. Please. Despite owning several adorable octopus buttons and charms that I would have loved to put on this quilt,  I never found a common noun to rhyme with OCTOPUS (autobus pronounced the French way?)

I have a lovely charm in the shape of a THIMBLE, but what does that rhyme with? Dimple? RIPPLE wine? And the plastic BABY drove me CRAZY. BABY/RABIES? I have a ton of bellydancer COINS, but what is there beyond LOINS?

Not to mention my ceramic button in the shape of a sewing MACHINE (Fabric that's CLEAN? Meat that's LEAN? Clown that's MEAN?). 

A friend gave me a cute little fabric applique of a rotary CUTTER that I really wanted to stitch to the quilt, but the only rhyme I could come up with was UDDER and none of my cow toys or buttons had discernible udders (Grrrr, why are toy manufacturers not making anatomically correct cows?) 

And does anything rhyme with ROTARY besides a miniature NOTARY? 

I have a pendant that is a  resin-encased aspen LEAF, but all I can rhyme with LEAF is good GRIEF!  My stray Monopoly piece - the IRON - will only sorta rhyme with the Life of BRIAN (Monty Python buttons haven't been invented.) And surprisingly few words rhyme with my hex NUT and wing NUT. SMUT? HUT? BUTT? Please, this is a G-rated quilt. 

In short, this project has given me new respect for poets and songwriters, although of course, unlike quilters, they can use abstractions to rhyme with LEAF, like GRIEF, and difficult-to-miniaturize NOTARIES in their POETRIES.

I think this thing would make great decor for a pediatrician's office, or a kids' room.  Frame it in Lucite, so a child doesn't break the glass to get to the toys. 

Want to make one yourself? If you're in a rush, you could just shop the novelty button section of the craft or fabric store. But if you have a little more time, diversify.  

STAGE I: Upcycle your junk. Look in the:
  • Household junk drawer
  • Sewing basket(s) Along with the safety PIN, needle THREADER, SPOOL of THREAD, and ZIPPER, I also attached a giant blue plastic yarn NEEDLE to my quilt, to sorta rhyme with a metal BEETLE.
  • Fabric stash I used SILK, LEATHER, LACE and FELT to create rhymes. 
  • Bathroom cabinet I used a sweet little BARRETTE from my daughter's childhood, to rhyme  with BRACELET. I could imagine using a Q-TIP, to rhyme with a computer CHIP.  A hair ELASTIC could rhyme with something PLASTIC. Although PILL rhymes with TWILL, I don't recommend gluing prescription medication to the quilt.
  • Rock collection MALACHITE/SATELLITE; HEMATITE/KITE; OBSIDIAN/Joan DIDION, never mind. (BTW, nothing rhymes with PEBBLE. Feel free to correct me.) (OK, maybe REBEL.)
  • Costume jewelry 
  • Button box
  • Carpentry or metalwork workshops Rusty SCREW goes with Barbie's SHOE; a bent NAIL, goes with a PAIL, a BOLT goes with a COLT. 
  • Recycling bin You can use cardboard - this quilt will never be washed. Cut out the chart of Nutrition FACTS, pair them with candle WAX? You could laminate cardboard, too. PROTEIN/SEWING MACHINE! Eureka! CARBOHYDRATES? Anyone?
  • Toy boxes  Pay special attention to Shrinky-Dinks, Creepy Crawlers, Polly Pockets, Littlest Pet Shop, etc. 
  • Scouting badges Ask permission before cutting them off a uniform. The ones I used were all flea market extras.
  • Old games Scrabble tiles, puzzle pieces, Monopoly pieces. The older they are, the cooler your quilt. It would be fun to come up with an all-vintage version. 
STAGE 2: Make Stuff
  • If you're good with polymer clay, you can make an awful lot of recognizable object. If you're good at drawing or painting with permanent markers, you can draw on shank buttons
  • I didn't - but could also have glued details cut from novelty fabrics onto cover buttons or shank buttons. 
And if those doesn't provide enough rhyming objects, move to Step 3, shopping, at:
  • Thrift shops An especially good place to find old games. 
  • The gumball machine Fascinating crap, including my collection of miniature plastic rifles and guns (why do they sell these to children?)
  • The music store  I found brightly colored guitar picks with ready-made holes; consider other musical supplies like clarinet REEDS (WEEDS? SEEDS? BEADS!) Our local music store also sells instrument charms. (GUITAR/STAR/CAR/crow BAR). 
  • The cake decorating store - the baby, squirrel, clown's head, and more on my quilt were cake or cupcake decorations. Cake decorations are some of the campiest, funniest stuff you'll ever find outside of a gumball machine.
  • The bead store - Not just the metal charm department - also check out the glass and ceramic novelty beads, like the trompe l'oeil brown glass coffee bead below, which I mounted on a square cut from a foil coffee bag. (I could not find anything to rhyme with coffee. The rhyming dictionary suggests Qaddafee, but that's in poor taste. Instead, I used a rhyme for coffee BEAN - a piece of window SCREEN.) 
  • Other hobby stores; the model train store (trees, people); the dollhouse store (home furnishings), and of course the hardware store (screen, nails, etc.)
  • The liquor store. Buy beer with colorful/interesting CAPs. I couldn't find a suitable rhyme for CORK, but you might. (Wait, I just thought of one! A pig - it's PORK! Why didn't I think of that sooner?) Also, this project might drive you to drink.
  • The craft store, of course. Along with bead and button sections, they may have a miniatures section. And they also sell findings that you can use to attach weird things to your quilt. 
  • MELT A HOLE:  If it's plastic, go to a well-ventilated area and use a pointy crafting heat tool or a soldering iron to melt a hole in the back. For example, the clown above - I used my craft tool to melt a hole through the back of his ruff. 
  • GLUE IT TO A SHANK BUTTON. If it's not meltable, or it's too small to safely melt, glue it to a shank button. I like Liquid Fusion glue. If you use a fabric-covered shank button, the hold will be better than with plastic.  Here's the mini soda can on a green twill-covered shank button: 
GLUE IT DIRECTLY ON THE QUILT I didn't do this, but some people do. The only thing I don't like about this is that you can't switch objects around. Once it's glued, it's staying right there. 

WRAP IT IN TULLE AND SEW IT ON My friend Marion told me this worked for rocks. And speaking of rocks, you can also,

WIRE IT ON Below is a polished ROCK (rhymes with HAWK, CLOCK, CHALK, BLOCK) that I wrapped with wire. I made a small wrapped loop at the top to stitch to the fabric.  (Also call it a STONE, which I rhymed with a button BONE). 
BUTTON COVERS and FINDINGS - Remember, those bulky things you slid onto buttons, to jazz up a shirt?  I think they were big in the 80's. I bought an extravagent collection from a thrift shop 1990s - lots with holiday themes, like the St. Patrick's Day pot of gold and the mini-credit card you saw in the quilt above.
Browsing the web, I can't find many button covers except vintage ones on ebay and etsy. But if you google "snap-on button covers" you can find blank ones. Glue your object to the front, slide it onto a regular button, and snap it shut. 

TIE TACK FINDINGS  These findings are like stud earrings. Instead of sewing it to the quilt, poke a hole through the quilt, and hold it in position with the rear finding. 

Have fun with this idea! And/or send rhymes! I had so much fun with this quilt, I might do it again! What have you made that rhymes?


  1. All I can say is wow! So much thought went into this. Well done!

  2. Thank you, Rena! I had a (maddening) blast!

  3. Wow! This is an incredible project, and what a load of fun! A lot of thought and effort went into this one!

  4. Your creativity and passion amaze me!

    1. That's a nice way to put it, Vivian, thank you!

  5. What fun! You've made me smile.

  6. Cathy, your creativity knows no end and your mind works in wonderous ways. I love the idea and the finished product.

  7. Marilyn, you're always too kind, and I welcome you or anyone to make this idea your own. I kept thinking that it would probably be a lot easier to do as a children's applique rhyming quilt! (12 squares: cat and bat, ball and wall, a few more and done!)

  8. Phew! I'm glad you worked that out of your system - though I couldn't stay with you to read through it all, overwhelmed - nice idea though.

  9. What delight and joy!! A writer's passion turned to concrete form! I loved seeing it, and all the rhymes...octopus/platypus? comes to mind...thank you for sharing this fascinator!!

    1. My kids had every kind of toy known to humankind, including a dozen tiny koala bears that DH brought home from Australia - but we completely lacked a platypus, Jeri! I should google "Platypus Buttons." It would be a good name for a rock group, come to think of it....

  10. Um...doesn’t CUTTER rhyme with BUTTER (which, besides the obvious, could be a goat or a “moon”)

    1. Brilliant! I need some fake butter! Easy to make from polymer clay! I understand the goat (subtle but works for me!) Now let me think about what you mean by "moon" that rhymes with butter....

  11. Love!!! What a fantastic project, from start to finish. Excellent. Thank you Cathy for sharing all about it as well.

    Sue Kaufman


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