Sunday, March 30, 2014

Multi-Purpose Denim Wall Pocket

I love working with vintage denim - the serene, worn indigo-and-whites. Add vintage mother-of-pearl buttons, and some metal, including the jeans' original rivets, and the experience is bliss. (My best denim quilt so far is here.) 

My theory of gifts, if not life, is that things should serve multiple purpose. That's because I know that most people wouldn't wear what I wear and vice versa. But if a gift can serve multiple purposes, your giftee is more likely to enjoy it. 

So here's a wallhanging that I showed earlier, along with a bunch of other denim valentines. 
It can be hung from a wall via its loop, (which as you can see is the original buttonhole from a jeans waistband.)

The front can be unpinned and worn as a brooch: 
because it has a pin backing. 
When you remove the brooch, you find a button underneath. 
Folding the hanging loop forward, you can seal the tiny front key pocket:
Now it's a good place to hold something small, like earbuds.

There's also a secret pocket between the two layers of the backing denim. And there's another button on the back. 
Seal that back pocket by bending the pocket loop to the back: 

 The embellished heart pin is about 3" high. The entire wallhanging is almost 7" high.

I haven't given it away yet.  It hangs from a pencil holder on my desk, and I keep a small scissors in the pocket: 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Denim and Corduroy Car Quilt

This is my car quilt! For the past two decades or so, it has lived in the trunk of my two consecutive mom vehicles.
The quilt combines my husband's and my denim and corduroy jeans. The lighter patches are denim; the darker blue and black patches are corduroy. 

(For those of you newer to the planet, corduroy jeans were all the rage among students in the frozen Northeast of the 1960s and 70s; when I made this quilt in the 90's, I had several pairs to work with that neither of us had worn in years. Which was a good thing, because corduroy jeans don't slenderize the thighs even one tiny bit. The fact that we'd recently moved to hot Southern California made the prospect of ever wearing them again even more awful.)  

I took this quilt's picture yesterday, because earlier in the day I was at a quilt show in Pasadena California and saw a NEW quilt book about incorporating corduroy. New!!! The book made me wonder if my old car quilt is back in style! 

Now that I've dragged it out and taken its picture, I'm thinking it is indeed very trendy! Along with corduroy, another 2014 attribute is its asymmetry.Yes, the block placement - 9-patches alternating with 3-strip 'rail fences' - is mostly regular. But the value placement - the darks and lights - along the bottom two rows is definitely quirky, and keeps the eyes moving. In the wake of the Gees Bend quilts, and the 'Modern' quilt movement, this is very popular!  

It measures about 57" x 41". It's pretty grubby, with dirt that doesn't want to come out in the washing machine -  but it could be worse, considering that it spent most of its life under muddy snow chains, baby strollers fresh off sandy playgrounds, used dog towels, and other mobile detritus. The quilt was only occasionally extracted to lay upon grass or dirt that wasn't clean enough for unguarded family posteriors.

Technically, it isn't quite a quilt - there's no middle layer, just the pieced top, and a back from the same burgundy cotton as the border. It's tied with colorful strands of embroidery floss,

...and also machine quilted with decorative stitching along some of the seams. 
The main thing I remember from making this quilt is what a mess cut corduroy makes. Have a vacuum cleaner handy, maybe a lint roller too. Brush out your sewing machine possibly during, and certainly after you're done. If I had to make this quilt again, I 'd do it entirely in varying shades of denim. 

The other thing I remember is that the cut edges of corduroy ravelled like crazy, and that's why I did the decorative satin stitching on the most vulnerable-looking seams. The satin stitching goes through both layers  - here's the quilt back.
 Wow, that's messy. Nothing embarrasses me, obviously.

If you want to make a corduroy quilt my advice to you would be 1. Make the seam allowances a half inch instead of a quarter inch (to compensate for ravelling). I didn't do this, but you should. 2. Cover the seams with a wide zig zag topstitch once the top is pieced (it doesn't have to be a satin stitch, any zig zag will help - use invisible thread if you don't want the stitching to show), and 3. Buy a Roomba or some other superfun vacuum cleaner, plus a lint roller six-pack from Costco.

Do you have a car quilt? Should you? You might want to skip the corduroy. Unless a new book tells you otherwise. 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Wrist Candy: Denim Seam Bracelets

How fun are these? (A: Very fun, to make and wear.)
They are, of course, jeans seams, embellished with a lot of things: Embroidery thread, leather, vintage watch face, vintage buttons....

This shows all five before a final round of embellishments. Below you'll see I added a bit more to some.

1. Cross stitch with colorful thread (sorry that's hard to see), leather wrapped and glued ends, hook and loop twisted from wire.

2. Vintage brass/gold metal buttons, new chain attached at ends and in center, hook and loop from twisted wire at the ends.

3. Scrap leather wrapped ends (from a cut up old leather jacket), vintage watch face, wire hook and loop.

4. Vintage rhinestone buttons over a broken rhinestone necklace. Toggle and lobster clasp with ribbon ends. I used ribbon crimp ends on either side and they worked well for me, but you've got to get the height of the crimp ends just right.

5. Vintage silver-colored metal buttons, new chain, lobster clasp and jump ring at ends.

Other than stabbing myself multiple times with large, sharp needles (this activity is not for the thin-of-blood), making these is seriously satisfying. You should know a little about opening and closing jump rings and attaching findings (so you need a couple of jewelry pliers). Use an extra strong thread, like button and carpet thread or some other version of "heavy." If you want to form your own wire hook and loop, practice with scrap wire. After making the first several by bending wire (not particularly expertly), I vowed to make future bracelets using jump rings and clasps - I think they'll last longer, and stay on better. 

UPDATE, 5-24-14: You can make matching rings, too! Go to

Above all, have fun! (And send me links to what you make!)

Sunday, March 9, 2014

MY Latest ATC (Artist Trading Card) Haul

ATC's are addictive little works of art that anyone from age 2 to 102 can enjoy making. They measure 2 1/2" - 3 1/2". In our last installment, I showed you the fiber Artist Trading Cards I made from mostly vintage neckties, jeans, and an upholstery sample book. 

Now I'll show you the cards I traded them for. My ATC group is a group of incredible, kind, generous, and talented people, artistically, professionally, and personally. 

Jason Ashimoto reported that he is playing around with a woodburning tool. He used it to sketch out this exquisite, ethereal tree, and painted in the colors. 

Jenny Goto makes art using Japanese mineral pigments. This dreamlike haze features flecks of shiny gold, the little specks of which unfortunately didn't show up well in the picture. It's like a heavenly cloud.

John Tallacksen is an astonishingly gifted young artist and printmaker who devotes his professional time to helping underprivileged youth. This is one of his tributes to pioneering printmaker Charles White. It's a pencil sketch. 
See more of John's intense work on his Facebook page, or at  He will participate in a group show on March 18, 2014, in the Pacific Design Center in Los Angeles.

John T. Watson's packs a lot of social commentary into a small space. The title of this one is "Purse Snatchers." It reminds me of driving across California freeways - mall after mall, the same eight stores in every community. Fortunately, one of them is a Jo-Ann Fabric. (I'm an anti-materialist, except when it comes to material.)

My friend Marian loves to work in collage. This is a hymn cut from an actual book, and the face is done with packing tape transfer (Simple tutorial.) I love the balance and the intensity. 
The frustrating/great thing about packing tape transfer is that it misses some spots, often for a wonderfully aged effect (and occasionally, of course, the inevitable failures, on the way to success.)

So that's my haul. I lucked out, don't you think? Every one of them is a mini-masterpiece. If you want to see what these same artists made for our last exchange, go here.  

Exchanging ATCs is a wonderful experience, especially if it's done in person. If you're interested in exchanging ATCs, in real meetings, or onoline, here are some suggestions:

Sunday, March 2, 2014

ATCS (Artist Trading Cards) from Vintage Stuff

I mentioned in an  earlier posts that I participate in an Artist Trading Card (ATC) exchange group. ATCs are an addictive little hobby that involves creating low-pressure works of art measuring 2 1/2" x 3 1/2", and trading them with other people! (More here.) Artistic genius is a non-requirement, as I will now prove, again.

Our group had another gathering schedule for last weekend. About 3 days before, I realized I needed to get started. I decided to involve neckties, since I have a huge embarrassing goodly stash of ties and tie scraps, many vintage. So here's what I came up with:


The peace sign is a relatively heavy bead, made from plastic or bone? There's a red velvet ribbon and a stripe from a necktie, on a denim jeans background. The jeans piece is glued to a cardboard backing.


A Girl Scout star serves as a tie pin.

100% vintage necktie silk.


Also all neckties, plus an aged metal button in the center.


Neckties, upholstery sample fabric (the gold plaid piece), and vintage trim.


Neckties, vintage plastic button, vintage trim including blue tatting, not done by me (probably by someone long gone), cotton and synthetic yarn.

Hubert W.: 

Neckties, red velvet ribbon, and old necktie label, plastic button that looks old. Hubert W. White is the name of the tie designer (of a different tie). Probably also long gone. Thanks, Noelle, for picking just the right button!

For some of my ATCs, I started with a thick gold/tan/white/brown upholstery fabric, with zig-zag geometric satin stitched lines. It came from an upholstery sample book. It's glued to a cardboard backing.

Blue Chip:
Includes a denim diamond cut from jeans, an old metal button, and a vintage necktie label

 Same upholstery, with necktie, zipper, vintage metallic trims, broken conical earring and a broken necklace spacer.

Two denim bars and a finger-pleasing thick transparent plastic button.

I also discovered that you can use the narrow end of a necktie to create an ATC-sized envelope:

The grey rectangle is ATC sized. 
This is a one-off, and it's just a fuddle:
I need to paint over it and take other drastic measures. like hiding it forever and/or claiming the kids made it in kindergarten.

The moral of this story, dear readers, is as always: You can be a non-Picasso and still have a lot of fun making very cool ATCs. And speaking of kindergartners, they love making them. It's truly an activity for all ages. All you need are pieces of cardboard cut to 2 1/2" to 3 1/2", fabric and trim scraps, glue, and OTHER card-makers to trade with. For more ideas, my woven ATCS are here. To see what my talented group members (none fiber artists, all artistic geniuses), made last time, go here.

And one thing I learned from this particular ATC creation session: Keep a lot of Fray Check and the like around. I used it on ribbon ends, and on the upholstery fabric's incredibly ravelly edges. Alternative to fray-stopping liquid: White glue mixed with a tiny bit of water. I like Crafter's Choice "The Ultimate." It's important to test the fray stopper and/or glue you choose on a sample of the fabric, to make sure it dries invisibly.