Sunday, August 26, 2018

Brainstorm a 3-D Fantasy Chair Quilt!

This is a good project for any quilter who has ever dreamed of designing furniture, but might hurt themselves with a power saw. It's a 3-D chair-shaped chair quilt! Here it is on my back fence, with two relatives: 

There's batting inside, and the edges of the top and backing are all turned in 1/4" and sealed with a hand running stitch. 

It started a couple of weeks ago with a short trip to Europe, where I took pictures of interesting chairs. Back home, I did a lot of tracing, drawing, and redrawing of my photos, and brainstorming fantasy chairs. A late draft:
These were turned into blocks with fusible web, and a zig-zag to applique pieces to black/white/grey print rectangles. 
Several were directly inspired by vacation photos.  For example, inside a glacier, we saw this chair carved from the ice: 
My version: 
Lacy red cafe chairs: 
Became this: 
Chairs with backs like tree branches
My version: 
This was a train station bench, with an ad for an art exhibit atop it: 
It inspired the overall configuration of the quilt, plus this block, a sewing machine bench: 
...and an Ohio Star seat: 
Some of the blocks are pure invention. Here's a thundercloud chair (the cloud is outlined with silver metallic thread, of course): 
A squid seat (with cushion):
A handy chair:
A plump purple paisley corduroy easy chair:
A breakfast chair:
And two chairs inspired by quilting motifs, a swirl chair:
 And a feather chair...
After making it, I discovered that, by pure serendipity, this quilt fits my parents' 1965-era Sears-Roebuck rocking chair almost perfectly!  Rocking chair before:
Rocking chair after: 
Much happier! If I attach ties to the quilt's back, I can hang it there permanently. I think I would first paint the rocking chair in bright colors - anything but Sears brown!

I added fun details, including 3/4" yo-yos (made with this tool, to ensure consistency, no financial affiliation) and cross-stitches in the seat cushion. 
The back incorporates a vintage fabric depicting old-fashioned, (OK, very tacky) furnishings....
Note that this fabric's seating only shows two legs each....
A good reminder that if you take on a chair quilt, you don't have to be literal with perspective - unless you want to be!

Although it's shaped unevenly, the quilt hangs well from just one rod along the top. However, if I were going to hang it on a wall permanently, I might add another rod sleeve just above the chair legs, to ensure they hang straight. 

What kind of chair would you design? Please feel free to play with these ideas to generate your own!

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Got Librarians? A Pillow for Book Lovers

Just finished: A birthday throw pillow for my cousins, rabbi Nina, and her husband Tom, a retired librarian: 
The lovable library fabric was designed by Heather Givans of Windham Fabrics, for her "Jot" collection. Closer:
I found it a couple of months ago, during my visit to an a terrific New York City fabric district quilt shop, Gotham Quilts
Gotham doesn't stock vast amounts of fabric, but the selection is choice and the prices are among the most reasonable for quilting cottons in New York's fabric district. (Most of the stores I visited there - much larger and messier - charged far more than $10-$12/yard). The owner is friendly and helpful! Great classes, too!
To cover the inner pillow (which I stuffed myself), I used fabric that my daughter bought me while participating in an archaeological dig in New Mexico this summer. My cousins live in Arizona, and have been involved with Native American causes, so I felt this was perfect for the interior.
There are approximately 20 billion pillowcase-making tutorials online, including (speaking of the great Southwest), the "burrito method". (Google "pillowcase tutorial.") With the right novelty fabric, a custom covered pillow is the perfect, fast gift!

Note: I have no financial affiliation with anything mentioned or linked to in this blog post! But, speaking of money, the fabrics in the Givans "Jot" collection are still widely available online, in precuts as well as yardage. 



Sunday, August 5, 2018

Artsy Chair Quilt Inspiration from Europe

Are chairs evil? That's the health buzz - sitting around all day is killing us. Maybe in 25 years everyone will work standing up, and  chairs will only reside in museums.

I love interesting chair design, and making an art quilt depicting chairs has been on my bucket list forever. (But buying a bucket chair has never been on any of my lists.)

So during our July week in France and Switzerland, I photographed chairs with quilt potential. We spent the first part of our trip in the Alps, where magnificent mountains dwarfed spidery lifts like this: 
They're so scant that they would be difficult to replicate in fabric. Maybe with bias tape? Or thick black embroidery thread?

One of the most astonishing tourist attractions of the Alps  - and the world - is the Mer de Glace, a mountain pass with a massive but rapidly-melting glacier that you can walk on - and in. From afar, it looks like a river of gravel, but there's a glacier down under that grey stuff.

The glacier is still large enough to host a human-built tunnel. Inside, it is the most incredible shade of blue; plus it has items carved (with hot water?) from the ice, including a statue, a bar, and this throne: 

And here it is occupied by royalty (DH is a prince among men.)

After the Alps, we tackled the rolling hills of Lausanne, Switzerland. Last week I talked about its mind-boggling outsider art museum.  Another fantastic place is Mudoc, the Museum of Contemporary Design and Applied Arts, which is hosting a show about design and weaponry called "Line of Sight." From the catalog:
"Designers play a central role in the development of firearms....Guns are required to be reliable, compact, ergonomic, durable, adaptable, attractive - even aesthetically pleasing....In general, discussing the relationship between design and violence is often taboo." 
A highlight was this chair by Goncalo Mabunda, an African artist and anti-war activist. It's the outcome of an effort to disarm Mozambique - a campaign that has collected over 800,000 weapons, and distributed some parts to artists to upcycle - read the story here.
The black-and-white catalog photo provides a clearer view of the piece's beautiful silhouette: 
And speaking of the Bible (beating swords into plowshares), at St. Francois church in Lausanne, we found these 14th century choir stalls: 
Love the quilting designs on top, but the seating doesn't look comfortable. Fortunately there's distraction from hard surfaces: One set had carved figures on the arms - a mermaid on one side....
And someone who has lost his nose on the other. 
Voldemort? Is that you?
Tourism makes one hungry, so we ate at a cafe with these: 
They're remniscent of lace....brains...Swiss cheese?!
Here's how the auto-trace function in my graphics program (CorelDraw) traced it:
It would be fun to simplify and arrange in fabric. There are so many possible technologies - Bias tape? Applique? Reverse applique, cutting holes from a single bright red piece of fabric? 

I also loved these asymmetric branches...
...and the black-and-pink color scheme. (Note the ubiquitous ashtrays. Unlike California, Switzerland allows smoking in outdoor restaurants. Which makes sitting outside breathing mountain air in beautifully designed Euro-chairs not quite as intoxicating as it should be.)

And speaking of bucket chairs, this green one was in an architectural firm's window: 
 
I traced it by hand in my computer program. It's so helpful to sketch and/or trace chairs to understand the perspective. The back legs are  always shorter than you think. 
And finally, the piece, er, chair de resistance. At the end of our trip, waiting for the airport train in the Lausanne station, I spied this on the opposite platform. 
Only when I examined it closely in Photoshop, was I able to discern that it's an ad for an exhibit by Rasheed Araeen, a London-based Pakistani-born artist who creates luminous geometric painted quilts (including the one above), and complex 3D architectural sculptures. See plenty of his work here.

Here's my first sketch that came out of all this inspiration. 
Top row: Tree chair, red mesh chair, glacier throne.
2nd Row: Hand, Ohio Star, handgun.
3rd Row: Swirl, spools & notions, branch;
4th row: Swiss cheese, stippled, and feathered.

UPDATE: Here's the chair quilt I finally made from all this inspiration. Read about it here

Note on copyright: I would not create a replica or tracing of any designer chair without the artist or copyright holder's permission. As general inspiration, like the adaptations in the sketch above, I don't think there's a problem. 

Feel free to borrow my photos for inspiration, and if you need more, try googling "chair quilt." When I did, I found:  
  • A whole lot of chairs with quilts thrown upon  them; 
  • Chairs upholstered with quilts (especially 1930's quilts); 
  • Designer chairs that are puffy in quilt-like ways (like this by Ronan Bouroullec)
  • A gorgeous 2011 book by Alethea Ballard with collage chair quilt blocks (no financial affiliation). It's a fun way to use up large-scale novelty prints (Look inside here): 
  • And a few more quilts that depict chairs. Here's a Pinterest page with about twenty. And here are three-and-a-half more. 
I would love to see/hear about your artistic chair quilt! 

More quilt inspiration from Europe is in my last three blog posts: 12, 3.

UPDATE: Wonderful little chair quilts by art quilter Terry Grant are here. The way they're hung is also enchanting.