Sunday, June 8, 2014

From Bargain Charms to Zillionaire Art

Do you have a charity home tour in your area? Here in LA, we have the Pasadena Showcase House, which is a very big deal. Every year, this charity borrows a zillionaire's manor, guts it, and then high-end designers glam it and cram it with expensive furnishings, often white. (Video here.) Hordes of people then pay to look around.

No mortal could live in these modern Versailles - for one thing, you'd need a maid in each room to vacuum the pale rugs and buff the pale tchotchkes - but it IS a spectacle, a fun girl's afternoon out for me and some pals, and the money raised from ticket sales - at about $40 per - supports community arts organizations. 

The one thing I DON'T go to the Showcase House for is home decorating tips, since my own manse is rigorously maintained in a Post-Modern Neo-Star Trek/Pez-Roccoco style. 

You're not allowed to take pictures at the Showcase House, so trust me on this - though the furnishings over the top, the artwork on the walls this year tended to be very simple - modern, colorful, austere. 

I thought about that simplicity, and then I pulled out some charm squares - 5" squares - I'd bought on sale a few years ago. They were from the 'Center City' collection by ultra-talented Project Runway winner, Jay McCarroll, and they have a strong geometric feel. Here are several: 
(More fabrics from his collection here. Unfortunately, the Center City collection is out of print but I am finding pieces of it for sale on Etsy.)

Thanks to this year's Showcase House, I finally knew what to do with them. I decided to use each as inspiration, to make a series of 'keep it simple' wallhangings (or, it occurred to me later, placemats) that would look good in a billionaire hallway and/or a Pez-crammed sewing room. 

First I made this: 
The black isn't part of the quilt. They all measure about 18" x 13". Closeup: 
I'm calling it Aqueduct. I kept the charm square's original pinked edge in all these pieces. The quilting, like the color and shape choices, were inspired by the charm square. Everything is raw edge appliqued - glue sticked down and zig-zagged in place. 

The next piece got even simpler. I used two charm squares - the square print with the white background (the spheres look like viruses - I'm not sure what Jay was thinking - urban plagues?) and the spattered gold print, which I cut into a circle with pinking shears. 
The grey slash extends beyond either edge of the piece. 
I surrounded the gold sphere with grey buttons. I'm not sure if this piece is about viruses or planets. 

Next, I took a map charm, and set it on a purple print from a totally different collection. The quilting continues the map theme: 
Here's the whole thing: 

The purple wedge hangs off the top and bottom edges. It's a good place to put a fork.

And finally:

The large-scale fabric with squares and rectangles is from a different, 'modern' fabric collection (seems familiar? you may have seen it here), and the grey chevron is from a third. The original charm is on the upper left. I think the shapes on the upper left look like a totem pole face.
I'm really happy with the way these turned out. If only I had a long, empty, white zillionaire hallway, I'd hang them in it. As it is, I think they make very artistic placemats, though perhaps so much white was not the best choice given food spillage (as in the Showcase House rugs).

 If you've splurged on bargain charm packs that are now just occupying space in your stash, this is a creativity-prodding and fun way to spend a day - let each piece guide you. Aim to make them all the same size, so you wind up with a series. You never know where they might end up! Befriend high-end designers!

UPDATE: Shared on Nina-Marie Sayre's Off theWall Fridays - Check out the all the quilt art eye candy at


  1. Hi Cathy,

    I always look forward to your inspiring weekend posts, both your creative projects and the light and fun accompanying text. I really like the look of the projects you featured today. They are winners!


    1. Barbara, you are too kind! Thanks for the encouragement!

  2. This are gorgeous. Some of my favorites of your work.

    1. Thanks, Margaret! I had a ton of fun.

    2. What's your favorite? If you donate one of your offspring to be my daughter's best childhood friends for years on end, I'd be honored to give it to you.

  3. OMG Cathy, not only do I like your modern quilts, but as always you funny way with text makes me smile. It puts a big grin on my face. I vote for planets. Maggie Winfield

  4. Ms. Diva, your funkiness always makes me smile! I need some of that furniture on your blog now. I think you could get very rich with your line of custom furnishings and bike helmets!!!

  5. Thanks, Eleanor, I'm thrilled you like them!

  6. Your pieces are fit for any mansion!!!

    1. Thank you! Hovels and huts need not apply!

  7. Oh, they are all beautiful !! Thanks for sharing ;-))

  8. Thank you for commenting, and for the moral support!