Sunday, June 30, 2019

Not Prizewinning Quilts - Quilts that ARE the Prize!

Do you belong to an organization that gives out awards? If so,  please consider hiring a quilter to make them! 

OK, it's a selfish idea - I'm seeking full employment for myself and quilters everywhere - but I'm also thinking of the well-being of the awardees. A wall quilt makes a room cozier than a cold, hard  plaque. Plus in case of earthquake, quilts falling off the walls are significantly less of a concussion risk. (I'm not paranoid, I live in California!) 

To tell the truth, I never thought about making awards - until early this year, when a friend asked me to make a pair of quilts for her temple's Couple of Valor honorees. Two couples would honored at the celebratory dinner.  I was delighted at the unusual request.  If you're a quilter wondering how a commission like this might work for you (OR if you're a potential quilt-commissioner), my process is outlined below, but to make a long story short, here are the two quilts I made, with full input all throughout the process from the event committee and the rabbi. 

The top line reads "Couple of Valor," and the bottom is the name of the temple. My inspiration for the colorful blocks was the dinner invitations that a talented graphic designer at the synagogue had created. The invitations' borders included this watery design:
I loved them and immediately saw the potential for recreating the mood in batiks. The dinner committee was also very specific that they wanted the synagogue's lamp logo on front. 

They hadn't yet settled on the wording, so in my proposal, so I winged it, drawing up ideas in my favorite graphics program (CorelDraw). Below is a page from my submission.  Idea #1 suggested a beautiful blue/multicolored sunrise streaks in the background - that was my favorite. Idea# 2 proposed a pure white background, quilted with gold metallic thread. 
Idea #3 would have been more labor intensive (and expensive), with a mosaic background. And Idea #4 would be a little bigger and more symmetrical.

The committee went for #2, the white background; I gave them a good price; and we were off! 

The most fun part came first. From my batik box, I pulled colorful pieces at least 2 1/2" square. I cut 144 to that size and turned those into 36 four-patches - 18 per  quilt - because 18 is a significant number in Jewish numerology (it stands for "chai"/life). 

I imported the lamp logo into my graphics program, sized it, turned it into just a black outline (saving ink), and printed it out backwards.
I traced the backwards version onto the non-glue side of Decor Bond, my current favorite fusible interfacing (made by Pellon). I pressed the top part of the logo (which is the Hebrew letter "shin," backwards) onto a beautiful yellow batik, and the lamp base onto a deep red/brown. 

By this time the committee knew what it wanted on the front of the quilt - just two Hebrew phrases, no English. What font to use? I have a bunch on my computer, so I went through them and selected a handful that I liked. I typed the phrases into a document in several fonts, and sent back to the committee. (I know they all look alike, but they're not quite the same.)
They picked one. I estimated how big the letters needed to be, sized them, and printed them out backwards. I traced each onto another sheet of Decor Bond. 
Those letters were ironed to the back of dark purple batik fabric. After cutting and glue-sticking them in position, I didn't start sewing yet - I sent the wording BACK to the rabbi to make absolutely sure that I wasn't making any spelling mistakes. (My Hebrew is pathetic.)

Once spellchecked, all that remained was to sew everything together. I used a tiny zigzag to raw-edge applique the lettering and lamp . Because it's impossible for me to make the exact same thing twice, they two quilts are slightly different. The one on the left came out a bit bigger . They're quilted in gold metallic thread, with diagonal lines. 
On the backs, I used a Star-of-David themed print fabrics. The rectangle along the top is the hanging sleeve, and you can see it's holding a dowel, sanded and cut to extend beyond the sleeve, just shy of the quilt width. (Hang it on the wall by resting the dowel ends on two nails).

The last thing I did was add a label on back with the information the committee requested: A statement of thanks, the couples' name and the year. I typed all this into my computer, then printed it onto fabric backed with freezer paper. My printer is an Epson, and uses DURAbrite ink, which is theoretically waterproof, although I hope this quilt won't need washing.

When it was over, I heard the awardees liked their awards. I felt like I'd won something, too - the honor and the fun of making them!

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Wear Your Quilt Show on Your Head (or Your Kids' Heads)

Last week, I taught a class in making small Jewish caps at a fabulous Canadian needlework conference. That got me thinking about a different style of hat that I haven't made in a while - quilted pillbox hats.

I originally designed them as "Bukharan"-style yarmulkes, but they turned into a canvas for fiber art creativity, including quilting and applique. Thinking about them again, a couple of weeks ago inspired me to look up my old photos on the computer. The photos were bad - cameras weren't as good and/or I had no idea what I was doing?! So then I decided to photograph them again.

Along with a better camera and more experience, I had another new advantage - my beautiful, wise, artistic, newly-adult daughter, home from college. When I asked her to be my model - rather than rolling her eyes and fleeing (which is what I would have done if my mother had made a similar request) - she cheerfully agreed! Yet she's still young enough that she let me pay her in ice cream.

I photographed her with my all-time favorite tree-of-life themed quilted hat.

I also took fresh pictures of it on a white background. 

She modeled this pomegranate hat, too, but it was too small for her, so it's perched precariously.
I didn't want to take up too much of her time - she has her own art to tend to (her awesome web comic is here), so I took tabletop photos of others. Like this, made from a gorgeous ferny batik, with a wooden button embellishing the overlap.

In keeping with the forest theme, here's a hat made from a fiery wood grain batik. It needs a bit of steaming. 

The next one was made from a shiny but strange cotton-nylon blends (aka "what was I thinking when I bought it," fabrics). 

The band has rows of decorative stitching with silver metallic thread. 

The hat below on the same design, but is entirely quilted, not appliqued, and has the Hebrew word "chai" - "life!" in the center. 

Flipped over, this hat also makes a good yarn holder! 

In fact, all these hats make nice baskets for holding soft stuff, like yarn or fabric scraps or faux flowers. Because the sides aren't rigid, I wouldn't keep wrenches or crowbars or rulers in them.

My son owns the next hat, and he's on the opposite coast, so I couldn't take a new picture. 

Below is a hat made from a gorgeous grape print. I machine quilted around the grapes, leaves, and leaf veins in shiny thread. 

One the side overlap, I set a bead-embroidered pin that I'd made long before the hat. 

Choosing the button, pin, or other embellishment is the most fun part.

Finally, a rock-and-roll hat, with flying CD's and inexplicable bubbles. I quilted stars into the bubbles. 
During my trip down memory lane, I reread the pattern I wrote back in 2011. That led me to spend last week in front of the computer, revising and simplifying it.  So - a word from our sponsor - if you want to try your hand at making a quilted pillbox-style fiber art hat/basket/yarmulke - or an unquilted one - my revised digital pattern is available for a modest price in my Etsy shop.

I love wearing these hats, and so do the people I've given or sold them to. They're uniquely cozy.  They're faster to make than a bed quilt. They let you show off gorgeous fabric. And they fit. My pattern has three sizes, and, because of the overlap on the band, can be adjusted to a custom fit. It's like wearing a quilt show on your head! 

Friday, May 31, 2019

Fun, Fabric, and Friendship at a Canadian Jewish Needlework Celebration!

Last weekend, I headed north from my home in Los Angeles for the event of a lifetime: the Rimon Calgary Celebration of Judaic Needlework, hosted by a group of extraordinarily talented, generous women who make up the Calgary chapter of the Pomegranate Guild of Judaic Needlework. 

The 3-day event was packed with artistic, quiltish, and Judaic delights, starting with  - could it be? - yes, it was, a psychedelic party bus! Several of our members attempted to pole dance, but arthritis struck, so we quickly sat down and applied hand sanitizer.  That's a sparkly light show on the ceiling. 
This unlikely vehicle brought us waaaay back in time, to the Heritage Park Historical Village, hosting its own special event - their 24th annual Festival of Quilts, with hundreds of quilts hung everywhere. The Wainwright Hotel was fully adorned. 

There were racks and tents between buildings, with more quilts. Below, left, a paper-pieced quilt made by Laura Stewart and quilted by Jennifer Poole....
"Sasquatch doesn't Believe in You Either," below, was made by Falyn Nicholl, from an Elizabeth Hartman pattern
Another Hartman Sasquatch quilt, below, made by Karen Young,
On the left in the photo above there's a flying geese log cabin quilt by Lynn Rob, from a Missouri Star Quilt Co. pattern.  Next, by Sharon Hana, a quilt called "Roam."
Linda de Beaudrop's Spectrum: 
There were plenty of small quilts and group challenges, too. Marilyn Samuels (one of our conference organizers) made the gorgeous quilt on the left, below (#640), but I didn't know that when I photographed it and posted it just because it's beautiful! 
Below, "My Small World" by Bonnie Stainbrook, based on a Jen Kingwell pattern. 
Eva Lowey's "Arlene" was based on a pattern by Laura Heine
 Here's "Sockeye Run" by Kerry Foster,
And hundreds more! Plus shopping! At the huge Merchant's Mall, American dollars went a long way. In front of the tent, a cow named "Patches," made by artist Madelene Dollar, stood guard. (That's not fabric covering the cow; the surface is glazed). 
Something I've wanted to see for a long time was the park's historic synagogue, aka "The Little Synagogue on the Prairie." It's a 1916 synagogue that served Jews who had fled pogroms to make a new life on the dry Canadian plains. 
Calgary member Leslie Levant gave a beautiful talk that put us in the frame of mind of how difficult life was for these farmers. 
The historic furnishings were enthralling. 
Members of the Rimon Calgary group made many of the textiles on display. 
Learn more about the synagogue here. One of the Calgary Rimon members - author and artist Trudy Cowan - wrote a children's book, "Quarantine: Keep Out!" based on the time it became a refuge from the 1919 flu epidemic - read about it here

There was a special exhibit by Ana Buzzalino, an international quilt world superstar - whose class I would be taking a couple of days later. Among her many honors, Ana is this year's "Quilter of Distinction" at the Festival of Quilts. Here's one of her pieces: 
She's particularly brilliant at turning batik fabric into gorgeous rocks. (Quilting Arts magazine Feb/March 2008 has her article about how she does it.)
There were costumed interpreters everywhere, but the fellow below is the real deal - a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. 
He made me feel short. And safe (although I don't think there's any crime in Canada...)

I'm not a car person, but the vibrant shapes and colors of the park's "Gasoline Alley Museum" seized me. More info about this car-lover's nirvana is here.  These gas tanks were about 12 feet high. Loved the parrot-themed pump in the middle.  
And speaking of oil, as if that wasn't enough fabulosity, in the evening we walked into our conference dining room and found a monumental masterpiece:
It's one panel of the "Black/Gold Tapestry," a 9-year project by filmmaker and artist Sandra Sawatzky (she's on the left in the photo above). It consists of 8 long scrolls, 220 feet in all, that tell the history of oil, across cultures and millenia.  
The beauty, clarity, whimsy, and sweep of it are enthralling. 

See more and better pictures here. Sandra  was a wonderful keynote speaker, so humble and sincere. My only question is why this piece isn't yet in a major museum. Someday my grandchildren will tell their children that great-grandma saw it up close and met the maker. It's beyond stunning. 

Also at dinner, we got our first glimpse of work exhibited by Pomegranate members. Here are just a few, starting with a trio of gorgeous High Holy Day Torah covers made by Carolyn Devins, Polina Ersh, Deb Finkleman, Susan Podlog and Nadine Waldman
Next, a fascinating 3D piece that incorporates felting and family photos, by Marilyn Samuels. 
Laura Rosenspan - who came to the celebration from Massachusetts - displayed this Tree of Life,
Trudy Cowan showed several pieces, including this embroidered piece called "After the Harvest."  
Another of her piece's became an illustration in her book, "The Little Grey Mouse  - A Fable in Fabric." (Details here.)
And this is Trudy's quilt called "Wildfire." 
You can see why Trudy was last year's Quilter of Distinction at the Heritage Park Festival of Quilts! Next, Esther Silberg's "Fun, Family, Friends, Sports, Sewing, Sipping Wine, Life, Love, Laughter." She covered all the important stuff in a small space!
A fabric collage called "Tzfat," was made by Chana Nachal McKereghan. 
Eileen Patterson came with a group of people all the way from Florida. Here's her lovely embroidered and quilted Shabbat Shalom wall hanging/bread cloth. 
There was a stupendous, elegant chuppah made by the Calgarians. The leaves are 3D and bend into the space below. The group rents it out for weddings. 
And so much more! The dining tables had their own textile show - including denim placemats with machine-embroidered maple leaves on the pockets....
....and they reversed to a variety of Canadian-themed fabrics. 
And there were stitched bread bowls with more Canadian fabrics. I'm not sure what I loved more, these carbs or what they're sitting upon. (That triangular sesame lavash was divine). 
At the end of the conference, my friend Miriam Marlin, from Northern California, kindly gave me one of the bread bowl that she won in a raffle. They're reversible! Side 1: 
 Side 2: 
Thank you, Miriam and people who made it, I'll treasure it! 
The desserts were also works of art, including this pastry....
...And a pomegranate sorbet. (The Carriage House's glatt kosher kitchen specializes in crusty caramelized shards.)
The desserts were so photogenic that I took pictures of people taking pictures of them.
The event had its own vendor's mall. There was jewelry;  hand-knit dolls by Myrna Ichelson (who's donating the proceeds to charity)....
...Sewing and embroidery kits; plus something I never could have anticipated - fish leather!? It's relatively lightweight, gorgeously colored and textured, and artists use it for appliques, brooches, and bags. (More here.) The company is called "Sea Leather Wear," and its president Stanley Major, below, joked about it being "gefilte fish leather." Indeed, the fish species in their wares includes carp. It's all brightly colored and begs to be patted. 
The fashion show on the second night was another highlight. I didn't get good shots of everything, unfortunately, so send me a photo if you have something I missed! First, Marilyn Samuels in a beautiful quilted jacket with a bargello background and appliqued flowers. 

Marilyn also modeled this wet-felted piece...
Trudy Cowan showed an immaculately stitched sashiko jacket.
...and a quilted jacket:
Musician Paul Finkleman showed off an awesome shirt that his wife Deb stitched...
Susan Podlog wore this fascinating vest: 
Next is a formfitting knit dress worn by Rona Davies - a dress that her mother, a professional singer in the 1930s, knitted 60 years ago! It's as fabulous today as it must have been then. 
Bring on the hats! Susan Rose made this fascinator in a class taught by Carolyn Devins, a professional milliner. The feather exactly matched the fabric used on the base of the hat. 
Carolyn also brought these two 19th century style-hats she made. They have straw bases....

I walked the runway, too, and with my friend Marion, from Winnipeg. We showed off two of my quilted Bukharan kippot, made from my pattern (here). 

And speaking of yarmulkes, I taught one class at the event -  
how to stitch a skullcap-style yarmulke, based on my "Uncommon Yarmulke" book.  My students brought wonderful fabrics, and here are some of the hats they made. First, Nadine Waldman (left) and Deb Finkleman (right) show off kippot with very different moods.
Nadine ambitiously took on an sophisticated grey stripe, with a silver lame binding. 
Deb used a colorful print. 
Here's Leslie Levant's kippah, not quite finished - when it is, the ruffling around the bottom (caused by pins) will go away. 

The fabric reminded me of a starry night sky. 
Sheila Martin made the next one from an elegant blue print. 
Here's the whole class, showing off one side of their kippot.....
...and then flipping them to the reverse side, since my kippot patterns are reversible. 
Another thrill of a lifetime was Ana Buzzalino's class. She showed us how to use Inktense pencils to apply permanent, rich color on quilts. Some of her samples: 
The design on the upper left of that picture is the one we would be making. We spent the morning freemotion quilting it into a fabric sandwich. I was lucky enough to use one of Carolyn Devins' vintage Berninas. (As if these Calgary gals weren't wonderful enough, they loaned us their personal sewing machines for workshops! Carolyn also arranged for the Fashion Institute by Olds College to loan us some more.)
In the afternoon, Ana taught us how how to use fabric medium with the Inktense pencils. 
My more-or-less finished piece. 
I may pin all my Candian souvenirs to it...
I also thoroughly enjoyed a Locker hooking class taught by  Calgarian Sheila Martin. Locker hooking has to be the most relaxing craft ever. Here's the project that Marion Yarema finished. It's so folk arty...and so easy to do, when explained so well by Sheila! 
After the class was over, I finished my larger experiment. I call it "Kindergarten Flower." 
The "Show and Kvell" at the final dinner was just wonderful. Here are some more classes with finished projects. (There would be more people in these photos, except a bunch went to a Cher concert!)
First, "felt gelt pockets" taught by Carolyn Devins - using heavyweight felt to make gift pockets.
A "Mosaic Afikomen Bag" workshop, taught by Laura Rosenspan (left) of Massachusetts, using English Paper Piecing. Participants will combine their EPP mosaics with meaningful family textiles to make bags for use on Passover.
Polina Ersh of Calgary (center) is a highly-accomplished foundation paper piecer, as well as an organizational whiz, and she taught a FPP class that made these quilted Shabbat cloths.  
Trudy Cowan taught a shadow embroidery class, a technique I'd never seen before. The embroidery is done on a very sheer fabric. 
Closeup of Jan Robertson's finished project is below. (It will eventually be a greeting card.) Isn't her stitching lovely?
Next are items from Susan Michlin's "Vintage Days of the Week" embroidery class. Susan also vended her beautiful designs and patterns. See better pictures of her work here. 
Unique beaded cuffs were made by participants in Marilyn Samuels' class.

Carolyn used an heirloom watch case in her cuff, and plans to put a family photo in it. 

Susan Podlog (below, center) taught a class in making Sukkot fabric bowls. They're shaped like leaves or fruit. And they're reversible!
Trudy Cowan also taught a class on how to translate papercut designs into fabric. 
Trees were one of the themes in Laura Rosenspan's class in freemotion quilting, below. 
There was a counted cross stitch class taught by Jeannette Douglas, an internationally-known needlework designer. Her class worked on a small pomegranate-themed needlebook, but if you're looking for any exquisite handstitching project, check out her website at Here's the "Mini Pomegranate and Pear" stitchery from her webpage: 
(no financial affiliation.)
And so much more! Like loads of raffle gift baskets...

...which meant loads of happy winners! (including two named Susan.)

...the best corned beef  ever....
...a hilarious sing-along with Paul Finkleman, whose website is He sang "Walk Around the Block" - see the video on this page. (Swallow your coffee first.)  

But above all, I will always treasure the kindness, friendship, and infinite hospitality of the Calgarians....the Calgary White Hat ceremony, when we became honorary Calgarians....

...reconnecting with old friends, making new friends, and free snuggles from a ridiculously cute baby. 
What more could anyone ask for? My profound thanks to the event co-chairs, Esther Silberg (below, left) and Susan Rose (right). They have worked on this for two years, overcame many obstacles, and did a spectacular job. (Note also the lovely quilted chapter banner.) 
They were ably assisted by Carolyn Devins - my hero in so many ways, who saved my class with her knowledge and generosity with sewing machines  - and Polina Ersh, who helped keep the teachers   organized. Thanks to the entire volunteer committee: Trudy Cowan, David Craimer, Rona Davies (who put together the gorgeous gift baskets), Steve Davies, Carol Feldman, Deb Finkleman, Paul Finkleman, Myrna Ichelson, Lily Joffe, Leslie Levant, Sheila Martin, Chana McKereghan, Therese Nagler, Susan Podlog, Agi Romer Segal, Marilyn Samuels, Gary Silberg, Hartley Waldman, and Nadine Waldman. 

Thanks to all the instructors, donors, raffle contributors, swag bag contributors, vendors, sewing machine loaners (bless you a million times), and jack-of-all -trades/comedian Gary Silberg, Esther's husband. Thanks to the Carriage House Inn and staff, founded 50 years ago by a Jewish Calgarian named Leo Sheftel, whose portrait hangs in the lobby,
(He looks like my zaydie). So many of the locals told me how important this hotel was to their families, a place where they knew they could get delicious food, well-run simchas, and, when needed, kosher food. He built an extraordinary community-focused business that serves all Calgarians so well. 
If you want to learn more about the Rimon Calgary group, please contact me and I will put you in touch with them.