Sunday, May 25, 2014

Denim Rings: Upcycling Tiny Bits of Jeans

If you're a reader of this blog, you've seen my upcycled denim bracelets,
...Not to mention denim quilts, vases and mystery objects. (Click 'denim' in the word cloud on the lower right of this page for more).  Here's one of the tinier things you can make from denim: Rings! Front:
They're so easy! Cut out a denim seam. Measure and fit to your fingers. Slather the cut ends as well as the edges with 'Fray Check' or some other fray-stopping substance (thinned glue works too).

Add embellishments to the middle. The question mark ring is simply stitched on - the question mark is a bead, and there's a button behind it. For the zipper pull ring, I stitched on a button and then glued the zipper pull in the center.

Once the fray-stopper is dry, butt and stitch the ends together with straight stitches. Voila, you are ready to take on any cocktail party with your new rings!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Quilt News Roundup: We Are Luxe

I'm working on a large project (to be unveiled), so I don't have anything of my own for show-and-tell this week. But I have been finding some interesting articles related to quilting. Here's the roundup:
Expensive Aura - I love it when quilting is associated with expensive things. Like Chanel purses, for all the good it does us. Why can Chanel charge thousands for a wee trifle like this...
...While quilt artists, making queen-size stuff, starve? 

Still, perhaps the expensive aura rubs off on us. So the good news is that quilted clothing is totally IN right now, according to Glamour Magazine. Actual headline: 

Quilted Clothes: The Sophisticated, Luxe Micro Fashion Trend We Are Loving Right Now

I Am So Loving That Headline Right Now. On a different site, I found these intense quilted shorts for men. They're made by the Sons of Odin? Is that a Tolkien thing? And don't peek - how much would you pay for these?
They're $220. If you cut them up and turn them into a purse, it's a bargain, compared to Chanel. I hope the people who actually stitched those shorts (probably in a sweatshop) get most of the money, but I doubt it. I personally have always found that quilting shorts is especially tricky. All those steep curves.*
Hawaiian Bliss - A quilt collector shows off his spectacular Hawaiian quilts. I especially like this second one, in red and white!
(I'm a sucker for red and white - see my recent baby quilt.) Need more? Do a Google image search for "Red and white Hawaiian quilts." OMG!!!
Digital Manipulation - In our last installment, I photographed a quilt, rearranged the pieces digitally and printed the new version on fabric. This week, Quilting Arts came out with a new free booklet with much more sophisticated techniques for creating photo collages and printing them onto fabric to embellish. Claim your copy here.
They Had to Ask - Hilarious quilt show questions, by hilarious quilt blogger Kathy Matthews.
Quilt Camp -  I want to go to quilting summer camp! Unfortunately it's only for second through seventh graders. Plus, it's across the country,  in Georgia, at the Southeastern Quilt and Textile Museum. They're currently featuring a gorgeous show called "Wall Art," by quilter Marilyn Wall. Really!
Head Trip - I've heard of altered books, altered purses (not Chanel - sell it on ebay), and altered shoes, but what about altered bike helmets? They're real and way cool, at  the Funky Diva blog.  But a bike afficianado warned me - don't try this at home. Sanding and glue compounds might weaken the skull protection. They're fun to look at and, come to think of it, wouldn't that be a great quilt, showing different colorful helmets arrayed in rows? Or decoupage your old, used helmets and hang them on a wall!
Have a great week, and remember to always wear your bike helmet, along with your quilted Tolkien riding shorts!

* Joke. I know they quilt the fabric first.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Photograph Your Quilt & Print Out Variations

A couple of weeks back, I showed you a denim quilt I made by cutting wavy slices from jeans (tutorial here.) Here it is:
I liked it a lot, and it was even selected for a juried gallery show. This was so exciting that I started writing up directions more detailed than those in the original blog post. These days, I write my patterns mostly in CorelDRAW, a flexible and intuitive program for both graphics and text that I've been using for years and recommend highly. 

While placing the photos in CorelDRAW, I started playing around different arrangements and pieces. Here are some pages from this doodling

First, just thinking: 
Then: What if I arranged them like a window? And added some red patches? 
 Or, what about alternating circles with rectangles?
Skip ahead a few more experiments: What about rotating a slice 360 degrees, for a woven look? And then adding black rectangles shadowing one edge?
Whoa!!!! I was so enamored with that last design that I immediately printed it out onto photo fabric, backed it with white felt and white fabric, straight-stitched around all the edges, cut out the windows, and wound up with this very cool thing that can be dangled from a finger, if you're in that kind of a mood: 
Here it is against a flat black background: 
It measures about 7" x 7". Can you imagine if you had to piece this thing? 

If it didn't had windows, it could have been a very elaborate potholder. I quilted it with a simple straight stitch down the center both ways - just two perpendicular lines.  That added a dimensionality, begging to fold along the lines, maybe into a dish or a cootie catcher sculpture: 
Hmm, if I run wires through the back, or used moldable interfacing inside (like Inn-spire), I could fold each corner inward as much as I like, and have an interesting candy dish with holes in it, so that the candy ultimately drops through the dish to hide from people like me who don't need it. 

But never mind the practicality - talk about your shortcuts! Since virtually the invention of the home printer, quilters have printed out photos,words,  fabrics and even entire quilts (learn how from the awesome Gloria Hansen) onto fabric, but I'd never really gotten far beyond words and photos. I kinda had to do it to appreciate the miracle! 

It hit me full force that we can do hundreds of hours worth of piecing in the time it takes to play and print. What a great way to explore alternative arrangements for our quilts, not to mention fast, small, and impractical gifts such as wallhangings, potholders, and candy dishes with holes in them!

You can do this at home, too. If you don't have a good graphics program at home, you can simply take pictures of your finished quilt, print out several copies in various sizes, cut and paste pieces into something you like. Scan that and print the results onto fabric.  However you get there, I know you'll have a lot of fun with it!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Stitch, Glue and Swap Your Way to a Triptych

One of the most fun and creativity-enhancing things you can do as a quilter/artist/maker is participate in swaps. I've done plenty - especially postcards (recent) and artist trading cards (recent)  One of my most satisfying swaps involved wonky, house-shaped panels.

This particular trade was the the brainchild of a wonderful artist named Dove, who keeps a gorgeous blog at We were given a simple  line drawing of a classic house outline, but with a wonky roof. It measured  6.5"  x 4.75" wide.

We were told to use it to make three panels to decorate with the theme "Celebrate Me." We would each keep one of our panels, and swap the other two with two other artists.

The usual base is stiff interfacing, ideally with fusible on one or both sides. But you can just as well do it with cardboard, though it will be harder to stitch, and won't be as waterproof (in case someone knocks over a wine glass), and machine stitching might weaken cardboard more than interfacing.

Here are the three panels I made. I placed nice plump middle aged ladies in doorways.  They're surrounded by buttons. The ladies, doorways and buttons are stitched on by machine; the trim is glued.

A closer view: 
That's trompe l'oeil mother-of-pearl button background fabric. Only the blue buttons are real. Vintage trim surrounds everything. Any resemblance to a real button-and-trim hoarder is not coincidental. 

One of my swap partners, Charmion, sent me this fabulous panel, featuring a poignant photo transfer of a young girl, against a spare brick walls with climbing cheesecloth moss and applique flowers. The roof and brick fabrics are stitched on by machine; everything else is glued on. There's something behind the figure, so she stands forward. 
The little girl, Charmion tells me, is her mother, in a photo taken when she was about 6 years old, in the early 1900s. Charmion used a lot of scans and photo transfers until she found one that worked.  

My other swap partner, Sharon, went in the other direction, with loads of joyous detail: paper stickers spelling "laugh"; a metal bird charm; mixed media flowers (wood, silk, etc); a wooden fence; a zipper, and a giant stuffed heart attached by a ribbon to the panel, apparently made from a vintage quilt. And more. The pieces de resistance are the real, usable pearl-headed pins poked into the top right roof line.

Once I had all three panels, I stitched the edges together- and, Voila! 
The triptych stands up nicely, all by itself! 
Here's the back. My panel is on the far left -  I put a vintage fabric bookcase on the back. 
This was the project of an online group called Fiber Arts Traders, run by the extraordinary Normajean Brevik. The group has wound down and no longer does swaps, but I'll always be grateful to Normajean and my various swap partners for the incredibly creative things I received and was inspired to make! (We also did a superfun Steampunk swap, shown at the bottom of this post.)

So if you're itching to exercise your creative muscle, consider a swap with friends - cyber or flesh-and-blood. Just set a deadline that's close enough so you don't agonize over it. Jump in and make it!