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 be 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, 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!


  1. Replies
    1. I'm glad you like them, thank you for stopping by, Donna!

  2. Very interesting concept—so much better than a plaque!

    1. I agree, Vivian. Better than a paperweight, too!

  3. These wall hangings are warm, gracious, and so meaningful. Thank you for sharing your technique, I am forwarding your blog post to my Jewish friends who are also quilters, for ideas for their synagogue. You are such a gift: talented and creative. Blessings. Jane

    1. Jane, thank you for being an angel in my life! And if this blog post inspires more synagogues to hire quilters to make awards, my work here is done!


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