Sunday, December 29, 2013

Swimming Pool Quilts II: Serendipity and a Tutorial

After finishing the small pool things in the previous post, I was contemplating a larger quilt with multiple pools. By astonishing serendipity, on Monday December 2, as I was eating breakfast, I found a front page article in my Los Angeles Times about - swimming pools?! 

It seems that a young German designer named Benedikt Gross, flying into LA, was fascinated by the glittering landscape of pools below. He partnered with Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientist Joseph Lee, to map some 43,000 local pools (and hot tubs); they analyzed the data using cutting-edge methods, correlated it with public databases (including the child molester's registry, and people who donated money to defeat same-sex marriage!?) I cannot adequately describe this projects's complexity, so here's Gross's summary.
The project attempts to highlight on one hand the emerging and powerful role of non-domain experts in the discovery of scientifically and socially relevant information, and on the other hand seeks to emphasize the darker, creepier, and more contentious issues surrounding data processing and exploration.
Got that? They wound up with a 6,000 page 74 volume set of results. And here's one of the creepy parts: they produced a voyeuristic silent video called The LA Swimmer which takes you on a Google rover tour through back alleys, peeping over fences at pools. Gross describes it more poetically:
Imagine swimming across Los Angeles as if pool-by-pool they form a river through the city; 43,123 oases stitched together in a desert of hyper-urban reality. You float unabashed down your unmapped highway of water, but are confronted very quickly by the fact that you are not welcome in this realm of kidney and clover bowls, Olympic-sized parallelograms, and hot tubs. Threatened by an unforgiving obstacle course of disgruntled homeowners and an impending court order you continue from pool to pool, your reconciliation awaiting you in the next chlorinated ecosystem.
And speaking of kidneys and clovers (hey, that's an old song! sort of), one more interesting result of their study (that I am capable of comprehending) is how irregular most of the shapes are. You'd think most pools would be perfect ovals, rectangles, and kidneys, but in fact most appear to be quite asymmetric and quirky. 

So I gave myself artistic liberty in imagining various pool shapes. From a quilter's and a viewer's perspective, the most important (and fun) aspect of translating pools into fiber is creating a ridge and a height difference between the water on the lower level and the what I'll call the "patio"fabric above. You can see it in the shadowed outlines:
For the patio level, I mostly used  novelty fabrics that resemble flooring - bricks and planks. Quilting along the texture lines of these fabric make touching the quilt irresistable.

The technique I used has a name, reverse applique. I also added a layer of a fusible interfacing called Decor-Bond (thin fusible fleece works too), to raise the ground level above the water. 

To make one block:
1. Cut a square or rectangle of  patio fabric (something that resembles outdoor flooring) the size you want the block (plus a half-inch for seam allowances.) 
2. Cut a piece of Decor Bond or fusible fleece to the same size.
3. Do a few sketches on paper  until you have a pool shape you like. The pool's edges should be at least an inch from any outer edge. For shape inspiration, along with the Gross/Lee study above, I also looked at aerial Google satellite pictures of pool-ridden neighborhoods near my corner of southern California; and at swimming pool builder websites. You will also be struck by how assymetrical many are. For ease of turning under, avoid sharp corners in your pool design.
4. Trace the pool shape onto the interfacing, and cut out it. (We won't need the center for this project.) 
5. Fuse the outer area of the interfacing to the back of the patio fabric. 
6. Cut away the patio fabric inside the hole, leaving just a quarter inch showing all the way around.
7. Clip valley curves only, perpendicular and close to but not touching the edges of the interfacing. Don't clip curves that jut into the space. 
8, Turn the unbacked edges inside and to the back of the interfacing. Glue-stick in place. 
Here's what the back of each block looked like after I'd cut and turned in the edges, and stitched several blocks together, but before I added the blue backing: (Ignore the blue in this picture; it just happened to be resting on that fabric; the idea is that these are holes.)

8. Turn the windowed block over, and lay it on your pressed pool fabric. Pin the pool fabric place around the pool edges (about an inch out), inserting the pins through the patio fabric. 
9. Stitch in place by doing a straight topstitch 1/8" onto the patio fabric,  all the way around the edges. 

When you have enough, sew the blocks together. Assembled, my large quilt looked like this.  
I really liked it undecorated. But since I suffer from chronic horror vacui, I thought: Maybe it needs more? Diving boards; slides; umbrellas? (The satellite imagery that I looked at showed LOTS of umbrellas. Fewer diving boards, and I couldn't identify any slides). I gave some of them white and dark grey diving boards, plus some medium grey slides and colorful pool umbrellas. 
I can't decide which way I like this quilt, naked or loaded, and I would be very grateful for your vote in the comments. 

Meanwhile, here are some more individual pools. I quilted the water in Sulky holographic thread, which gives them a shimmer as you walk by (just like flying over LA). Alas, the shimmer doesn't much show in the pictures. 
The next pool inspired by Las Vegas', maybe the world's most expensive private pool (to the tune of $7 million):

The slides have Sulky holographic thread strands stitched down them, and  over the edge into the air above the pool (I did that part with wash-away stabilizer).  The pool umbrellas are mounted on shank buttons,so they jut upwards and lean over a bit.

If you're inspired to make a pool quilt, you can consider adding even more features: Water-loving creatures, beach balls, people, palm trees, etc., from novelty fabric, or scan them from copyright free art and print onto fabric sheets run them through your printer. Applique in place with invisible thread. (That's what I did in the previous post.) Send me pictures!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Quilted Pools, Part I

Lately, I've been obsessed with swimming pools. I crocheted a bunch, and then I started making small pool quilts. For the first, I added cutout dogs, a novelty fabric fish, a hot tub, a diving board and a slide. 
 Next, the Gaugin pool, named after the style of the novelty fabric on the lower left. The duck is from a non-Gauginesque pool, and the diver came from a copyright-friendly Dover book.
 And finally, we have a mermaid and her pet goldfish contemplating....a manatee, of course.
She's doing the Vulcan mind meld on him. Or maybe it's a love triangle?
I used Sulky's glistening flat holographic thread to make the watery lines. Reverse applique with substantial interfacing (I used 'Decor-Bond') or thin fusible fleece makes the pool sit at a lower level than the surrounding 'patio.' The lines in the brick are quilted, which give them a wonderful texture. The figures are appliqued with a zig-zag stitch with invisible thread.

Want to make your own swimming pool quilt? Stay tuned. Next week, I'll show a larger, multiple-pool quilt, with detailed directions. UPDATE: The next post with directions is here.

Wishing you and your family happy holidays!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

That Quilted Stranger Across a Crowded Room

I am exhausted! I was an exhibitor at the Jewish Federation of the Greater San Gabriel and Pomona Valley's music festival in Arcadia, California all day today. (That's me behind the table).
I basically packed up a hefty portion of 20 years of quilted Judaica and brought it along. Except on specific holidays, it usually lives in boxes (we ran out of significant wall space years ago). So this festival was an opportunity to air it out.

Plus, in general, it's a great thing to hang one or more of your quilts in an unfamiliar location. At some point, you leave the room - for a quick Subway run, the lady's room, whatever - and then you come back, and across that crowded room - sort of like that song from South Pacific - you spot something familiar yet strange - your own work! Yikes! You might fall in love, a la Rogers and Hammerstein, or you might be mortified, or as in my case, a little of both, but however complex the emotions, it's an educational  moment that makes all the packing and hanging worth it.
There was one other quilter; embroiderers; painters, a sculptor, a glass artist, a beader, and more. Still standing at a distance, surveying the entire room's art horizon, it was fun to see the sweep of changing colors and shapes. Every artist was so different. You can get the idea below - the foreground quilts below are mine, but that quilt on the upper left with the horizontal turquoise stripes - that's the other quilter's - it's a different neighborhood, right? She used bright, clear, varying colors, which contrasted with my heavy emphasis on dark blue and black, with some white. I had no idea how much my Judaica trended to dark blue! Or maybe I did know, but I was in denial!?
The highlight of the day was the concert, including performances by a cast of local cantors, a talented adult choir, an adorable rockin' young Klezmer group 'Mostly Kosher', and the even younger adorable Federation's Jewish Youth Orchestra, which, we were told, is the only Jewish children's orchestra west of the Rockies! Great music! Thanks to the hardworking Federation organizers for making this very complicated event a success. I met a lot of wonderful people, met my own work in a new light, and once I get some sleep, will look forward to doing something like this again!

(If you're interested in seeing more of my Judaica quilts above, check out my website. I do sell patterns for some of the projects in these pictures.)

Crocheted Swimming Pools: Toys or Desktop Relaxation Devices?

I've always been obsessed with swimming pools. I don't necessarily want to own one - cost and upkeep is a bear - but I've always loved looking at them, jumping in them, and more recently, translating them into space-efficient low-upkeep fiber art.
Before I had to stop crocheting a couple of weeks ago to give my sore arm/shoulder/wrist a break, I made a bunch of these desktop relaxation devices.

I embroidered the word "LIFE" on the flotation rings. Embroidering legible letters on crochet is much more challenging than it looks. 

How long do these take me? Too long! 

The slides and diving boards are just big enough for a fellow aquaphile's imagination. 

Next, the inevitable: Quilted Swimming Pools! (Part I and Part II.)

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Ode to Caffeine, in Trivets & Mug Rugs

The coffee piece I showed last week started out to be a small wallhanging/potholder/trivety thing, but it grew. So after finishing it, with caffeinated adrenaline still surging in my veins, I made the three things below.

They are significantly smaller versions of last week's quilt, made with the excuse that I could put them  the holiday boutique at my local art gallery. 

These might serve 'mug rugs'. What's a mug rug, you might ask? I'd kinda heard of it, and assumed it was a glorified coaster, but when I asked on one of my chat groups, quilting cyberfriends informed me that it's a bit more than a coaster - kind of like a mini-placemat - a place to put a mug of something hot, plus a nosh. It doesn't have to be as thick as a potholder.  So, I made these with only one layer of batting. 

First, we have The Kosmic Coffee Lounge
("Kosmic Coffee Lounge" is the wording that came with the black-and-white novelty fabric cup on the lower right.)

Next, Queens of Addiction:
(You-know-what, plus, in the lower right hand corner, chocolates): 

And finally, World Smile
These are quick, fun and easy to make with novelty fabrics, paper-backed fusible web, and invisible thread  If you'd rather buy one than make it, and happen to be near Pasadena, California before Christmas, stop by our wonderful local nonprofit art gallery, SPACE, and check out their holiday boutique, with these plus art of all descriptions for sale!

If you want to see more coffee creations, click "coffee" in the word cloud on the right of this posting. 

UPDATE: Here's a wonderful coffee infographic!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

100 Cups of Coffee Collage on the Wall

Coffee is one of my favorite quilting subjects, (cuff bracelet, wallhanging), but I've been using the same old coffee fabrics for years. Then, a few months ago, I had a chance to visit the renowned Britex Fabrics in San Francisco, where I scored this delicious scrap of red-black-and-khaki fabric, with pseudo-polka dots.
I don't say 'no' to polka dots, even if they're square. (Representing sugar cubes?) Closer to home, at my LQS, I bought a bit of this: 

The idea of this fabric is so much better than the reality -  it repeats the same designs and coffee shop names in a very small space, so once you get up close, it gets boring quickly (note that 'City Coffee Shop' is on top of another 'City Coffee Shop.' We'll soon fix that, mwah hah hah!)

I also had the good fortune this fall to take a class with Eleanor Levie at the Pomegranate Guild convention, in which we recycled coffee and other foil beverage bags into wallhangings. The experience reinforced my love for coffee detritus. 

Thus, this wallhanging. It starts with the words, '100 cups on the wall' The '100' and 'cups' are cut from foil coffee bags. 'On the wall' is burlap, with paper-backed fusible web ironed on back before cutting. I stitched them with invisible thread, scribbling all over each burlap letter, to hold it securely. The foil bags I only zig-zag stitched around the edges, to minimize risk of the plastic ripping through.

When a novelty fabric doesn't give you what you want,  jack it up (as they say on television). This I did by sticking a few colorful mugs among them, and then patching tiny black-and-white motifs from other fabrics over the labels. From top left, I added a butterfly, berry plant, music symbols, a hand signing the letter "c", a sun, nintendo-like entities, a strong man, an egg, a warrior, dice, and a cat.
The strong man is my favorite (from the Lunn's Red Ant Studios, now out of print). I am thinking of spilling dots of actual coffee among the cups. What do I have to lose? (Seriously! I'm asking! What?) 

On the lower left, an alarm clock (cut from old pajamas) conveys the impact, and often the timing, of caffeine. 
 The hand is from a fabric depicting Mexican fortune telling cards.
And finally....ever since that Eleanor Levie class I've been tying recyclables to the bottoms of my quilts. I thought about this: 
But then I wound up with the arrangement in the first picture above. For the right side, I created a long chain of creamer cups, with a plastic coffee cup at the bottom. 

And for the left side, I added radiating energy lines made up of stiffened rickrack. 
Too much coffee can be too much fun!