Sunday, December 28, 2014

I Spent Christmas Stripping and Cheating

I spent Christmas Day (and the following two days) plunging into my scrap stash, stripping and cheating.

Strip piecing, that is. And also, cheating by turning old leftover strip sets into something new.

The first step was to unlatch the Suitcase of Terror, which holds my scraps. The pile immediately sproinged upwards, like a voracious vampire emerging from its coffin after a long day in June:

I pulled out a bunch of long strips, and sewed them together.

This creation did not inspire me. In fact, it bummed me out. So I continued digging through the ever-growing pile. (Scrap stashes are like egg whites - the more you stir them, the bigger and fluffier they get).

I found a leftover set from the back of a bat mitzvah pillow I'd made recently (blogged here:
I eliminated some strips, and cut the piece to 8" x 8" . Then I added three real rocks (actually, two rocks and a piece of beach glass, set among the rocks at bottom), a plastic fish from an old necklace, a brass eagle charm (upper right), and an old key. It seems to be a seascape! 'Fish Seeks Key to Life, Bird Seeks Fish.'
Heavily influenced by the rock and ocean theme, I pulled out some more strips, and this went together quickly.
I'm thinking it's called, 'Some of my Best Friends are Angels,' or maybe, 'Hands Up, Don't Shoot, On a Japanese Beach.' That light blue fabric with the floating people is supposed to be sweet and celebratory, but it also does look a bit to me like they've all been shot in the heart. (Are those red dots supposed to be cherries? Why?) The dark-blue-and-white fabrics are traditional Japanese designs. 

(UPDATE: Thanks to an alert reader who recognized these figures as copies from Matisse's 'Fall of Icarus.' [Scroll down on this page.] The fabric selvage doesn't mention the Matisse connection at all! Is that legal?)

Plowing through the pile more, I found some 1"strip sets in black and white, left over from a gift I'd made a dear friend. (I called that piece 'Chiarascuro,' blogged here
I turned the already-sewn-together strips into this:
Which I set on a white quilted background: 
 Final (maybe):
It's a meditation on life. At the moment, I'm calling it  'Lines, Circles, and Pouches are Suddenly Appearing Around my Eyes.' 

Finally, I found another set of white/cream/light blue strips made from a tallit case I'd made for my son 7 years ago. The narrow strips surrounded the flap in that project:
I took the already-joined strips strips, added some triangular leafy fabric I found in my stash, a strip of birch tree fabric, new and different rock fabric for the bottom. (I had no idea there was so much rock fabric in my stash. I think people gave it to me. I can't remember ever actually using it.)

It's not clear to me whether the white strips are birch trees or a fence, but either way, I think it's kind of naturey- - and I like it! I set the bottom horizontal strip on backwards, so you can feel the ridges.

So that's what my Christmas Day (plus the following two days) have been like. Are you getting in any creative time this holiday season? Stripping and cheating might work for you!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Happy Chanukah! I can't believe I made a wreath!

My mother has dementia, and lives in an assisted living facility. At this time of year, most of the residents have gorgeous Christmas wreaths on their doors. For three years, Mom's door has been bare. Talk about Jewish guilt.

Although confused about most things, my mother - who is a Holocaust survivor - still knows she's Jewish, and inquires constantly whether my family and I are also Jewish. I reassure her, again and again. So this year, I decided to do something I've never done before - make a Chanukah wreath.
Oh,what fun it was! The artificial greenery base was from Michaels, on sale for $6! I added ribbons, blue sequins, a plastic dreidel (middle right) and a real brass menorah complete with residue of colored candle wax left over from previous years. A hot glue gun and green floral wire figured prominently in the process.

Next, I wondered how one hangs it. I remembered a newsletter from Mom's place that said something about wreath hangers, but I didn't know what they looked like or where to get them. I called, and a staffer told me that they provide them.

When I arrived bearing the wreath, it was admired by the staff, who told me I should go into business, Then they handed me a bent piece of red metal,  adorned with a sparkly Christmas tree.

We put it on Mom's door, and I wheeled her over to look at it.
I pointed out the menorah, and the dreidel, and then a helpful staffer standing nearby pointed out the Christmas tree! Mom smiled happily at it all! I declare that a happy ending.
My Mom. Can you believe she's 88? 
Happy holidays to you and all your loved ones!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Joy of Vintage Neckties: Unions and Silk

I'm in a  creative slump.  Really, I can't think of a thing (beyond potholders). And as you've probably discovered, when you can't think of something, the best thing to do is anything.

So I pulled out my box of neckties and necktie scraps, and started covering buttons with them, using cover-button kits.  
After making 6 or 7,  I was stuck again. What to do with them?

So I cut the point off a green-and-blue-striped necktie, made a couple of folds, and secured it with one of the covered buttons plus four tiny mother-of-pearl shank buttons:
The front looked plain, so over a week I tried 8 billion or so different embellishments. Each was worse than the one before.
Ugh. That looks like a medal for a banana republic dictator. Many iterations later, I tried a chain.
Finally! I stitched the chain's ends in place. On the back, the cut edge is folded inwards to hide it, and I stitched on a brooch pin.
That white lining says "Robinsons" - hey, remember Robinson's Department store? Thanks to the Internet, I now know they're out of business. No wonder I haven't seen them in years. Which probably means the necktie was highly collectible 'til I cut it up. Oh well. The content tag has regal lettering that says"UNION MADE All Silk." Unions and Silk! Diamonds and Rust! Fire and Ice! It's all good!

I cut off two more tie points - one from a  blue tie, and one from a red one - and folded the top of the blue tie point backwards. Then sewed shut the cut end of the red tie point and stitched it inside the blue tie opening. I wound up with this: 
 The tip of the blue-necktie is folded backwards, and hand stitched in a Y seam, to form a pouch.
I stitched a clasp to the back and added a chain. 
Open it, and there's another winning label: "Made in USA of Fabric Hand Printed In Italy ALL SILK" [sic].  It's all-American, yet Italian! Like Unions and Silk! What's not to love?
I stitched in a black snap inside to seal it. 
I still had lots of leftover necktie-covered buttons. So I sewed four of them to a conservative brown striped tie that I believe is from my late father's wardrobe in the 1980s. 

That mysterious white line of stitching above has to stay there because it's holding on the label in the inside, which you'll see in a minute. I cut the tie to about 16", which is the length that goes snugly around my wrist twice. I overcame my fear of snaps and hammered a snap in at either end. 
There are so many different snap kits -  the variety of methods, setters, and costs is all over the map. For this Dritz product, all you need is a hammer and a thread spool, I only ruined one in three attempts. So they work pretty well.

This tie has wonderful label too - so pink that I also want to wear this thing inside out - 
But who is Henry Grethel, I asked my Internet? Why, he's an American fashion designer born in 1931 in Syracuse, New York, who pioneered "elegant American sportswear," according to Wikipedia. His father was a plumber from Germany, and Henry is still alive, bless his heart at 83. Here he is winning an 'Icon of Style' award from Syracuse University! Thank you, Henry, for this fine bracelet with the elegant label! I am thoroughly enjoying it! 

I did one more striped tie/cover button strip necklace, this one starting with a red striped tie from my Dad's collection: 
The fabric on most of these buttons come from a scrap bag of fancy necktie silks that I scored at a flea market. 

Hiding inside I found a cardboard price tag. It says, "All Silk, $22.50." My Dad bought all his neckties from Filenes' Basement in downtown Boston, so there's no way on earth he spent $22.50 on this tie in the previous milennium (and indeed, this isn't a Filene's price tag.) He probably paid more like $5-$10. 
 Wherever you may be, dear Dad, I hope you like what I've done with your bargain!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Holiday Giftmaking by the Creatively Blocked

I'm insanely creatively blocked. What to do? Make potholders. So over Thanksgiving, I stitched up these fruit-and-veggie potholders, accented with un frisson de junk food:
 The first one is all healthy (except the back, as you'll see):
Number two sticks its toe in the waters of non-produce with a grilled cheese sandwich top row, and some pretzels, 2nd row. (The less-healthy food fabrics were purchased for use in a commissioned wedding canopy/chuppah - really!)
And finally, we get wild with a Hostess cupcake in the center and some fortune cookies,
They are intended to be used,  so they have two layers inside: One of Insul-Bright, against the bottom, and one of Warm'n'Natural, right behind the top.
I like to use buttons to hold on the loops in the corners. 
This is is a piece of vintage twill tape.
And for the back, I went calorie-crazy:
The fruit and vegetable fabrics in these projects mostly come from Fabri-Quilt's Farmer John's line. To see more projects from this fabric go to  A free pattern I designed for a different potholder is on the Fabri-quilt website, at

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

Seems like only last year that Thanksgiving and Chanukah were the same holiday! Here's a quilt I made for both!
Blogged here. You still have time to make one for Chanukah!

(Crocheted turkey pattern is free, here. Scroll to the bottom.)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Orphan Paper-Pieced Blocks

Back in the 2000's, I designed a foundation paper pieced Aleph Bet (Hebrew alphabet), based on calligraphy principles, and made a couple of quilts from it, like this one wallhanging (about 34" x 28"):
I put the e-pattern for sale on my website, and have received images of quilts made from it, including this one by a wonderful quilter named Wayne:
I also used the pattern to spell out 'Shalom': 
Very gratifying! Designing such a complex quilt meant lots of experimenting and discards. I wound up with a stack of leftovers, including these:  
Here's a closer look at the aleph (first letter of the Hebrew alphabet), front: 
And the back, with most of the paper pattern still in place, 
I stuffed the orphaned blocks in a file, where they sat for about six years, until this week, when I decided to participate in a Hanukah boutique at a local temple.

I took two orphan hamsa blocks that were not fails, added borders, quilted them, put on a hanging loop or sleeve (respectively), and voila! 
 The second one has a button eye in the center:
They're quilted with gold metalic thread, and are about 10" square. 

Here's what the hamsa pattern looks like. It's one of the most complicated patterns in the set. 
That's 22 pieces! Most of the letter patterns have far less!

(If you're interested in making your own, the epattern is sold in my Etsy shop,  as well as from my Judaiquilt shop, here.)