Sunday, April 26, 2015

Girl Scout Cookie & Onion Shopping Totes with Novelty Fabric

My daughter's Girl Scout troop has been together since kindergarten - our girls are now in high school - and the reason is our three leaders. They are kind, generous, loving, empathetic, and set low goals for cookie sales.

Despite how I feel about cookie sales - ok, I'll tell you how I really feel: The national Girl Scout organization has no business whatsoever being in the junk food business and should find another income stream.

But, like the GS organization's stance on good nutrition, hypocrisy-r-me. When I happened across several bolts of Girl Scout-themed fabric, including GS cookie-themed fabric - well, I seized those bolts like large, flat, rectangular footballs, tucked them firmly under my arm, and ran them to the cutting table, knocking intervening customers out of my way. Unlike the cookies themselves, (I told myself), the fabrics depicting them are calorie-free and fiber-licious!

So I made our leaders totes that stuff into their own pocket and can be easily carried in a purse.

Here's the front of one:

The back,:

Here are two of them bundled:

The front of the open tote turns into the back of the bundle:
I also made a label/ instruction sheet:
Extra tote bag - keep it in your purse.
To unbundle the tote, unbutton the white button and pull out the contents of the pocket.
To rebundle - Open the pocket as wide as it will go, start to turn it inside-out, stuffing the tote and then the strap into the pocket as you turn it, like a pair of socks. When the tote bag is stuffed all the way in, button the white button to the buttonhole along the top edge of the fabric.  Machine washable. Made with love! 
Feel free to borrow and adapt the language. Now of course, I wouldn't give a cookie-themed bag like that to my trainer! Oh no! I am way too much of a hypocrite! For Wendy, my dear fitness guru, I made a virtuous version:

Yes, here's the perfect way to use up your excess onion-themed fabric. Not to mention chicken soup-recipe fabric and jalapeno pepper fabric (for the strap.) Bundled and buttoned:
 Want to make some shopping totes like these? They're quick and easy. My step-by-step directions are toward the bottom of this post.

P.S. I'm sorry for what I said about Girl Scout cookies. I just read that they literally save lives, like the two women who were stranded and lived on them for two weeks, article here. The moral of this story is if you buy them, keep them in your car and don't eat them until your life depends on it.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Modern Batik Scrap Wreath Tutorial 2: Embrace Your Inner Awkward Freemotion Quilting

Last week I showed you how to piece a wreath/ring/thing with batik scraps, and a fusible fleece backing for dimension. I decided it looked like a ring flying through the sky, so I decided to call it "Ring Toss." 

This week: Freemotion quilting the ten background motifs. 
After stitching down the ring and the grey motion-marks (or alien quarter-moons), I added batting and backing, and stitched 9 double diagonal lines separating the background into 10 sections. So I needed 10 different sky motifs to fill them.  Below left is one, star/suns that's not original to me - I've seen many variations.  
As you may have sensed if you've read this blog in recent weeks, freemotion quilting is not my forté.  But I am far too too cheap/possessive/proud to farm it out. The alternative, Grasshopper, is to embrace our inner awkward. My quilts may not be magnificent, but I do have a lot of fun!

And believe it or not, I do a lot of homework to achieve awkward.  I do a Google image search for the thing. I sketch out as many different poses as I have patience for. Then I draw them again and again and again from memory, connecting them up, until they're not hideously embarrassing. 

So what flies through the skies? First, Birds. 
What else? Frisbees and boomerangs. They're much more interesting together. 
Stitched out:
Butterflies and bees: 
Stars, planets, galaxies (and those are raindrops on the right)
Below left, stars/asterisks, raindrops, The backtracking on the asterisks made the lines thicker and more prominent. The trick is to set the lines at more-or-less 60 degree angles.
What else flies? Humans and superheroes shot from cannons, first draft
Later draft, connected: 
And, of course, drones. I image-searched "drones," and found a lot of non-amusing war drones, as well as highly-entertaining Amazon drones,
I made up my own version. They unexpectedly acquired a retro look:
To the right of the drones, below, there are the cannon people:

Can you see the cannon on the lower right?
Before stitching each motif, I practiced over and over: 
and over: 
I have a half inch thick folder full of practice pages. 
Here's the center of the ring: 
I only needed ten motifs but wound up with more. There were three especially that I was sorry I couldn't use. First, overlapping angels. The backtracking for this design was challenging with a pencil, and I didn't think I could pull it off at all with a sewing machine, not without a few more months of diligent practice. 
Or how about the Flying Spaghetti Monster? I didn't think of him until the quilt was done, alas.
And a final favorite, but the details would have been too tiny for the scale of this quilt: 
Now I need to come up with another quilt to use these little guys!!!
That's all, folks!
(More awkward freemotion quilting here: 1, 2, 3).
If you seriously want to get better at freemotion quilting, be sure to check out Leah Day's freemotion quilting project (no financial affiliation!)

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Modern Batik Scrap Wreath Tutorial, Part 1: Piecing and Appliqué

Here's my latest. I call it Ring Toss.
It sits on a yard of fabric. I'm not yet sure which way is up. What do you think?
It grew out of three of my most recent obsessions: wreaths; batik strips (in January 123); and coming to terms with my hopelessly awkward freemotion machine quilting  (1: Spock2: Mammography: and 3: Sound of Music.  

So I'll break this blog post into two parts. This is Part I: How to make a batik scrap wreath, suitable for all occasions, or, as in this case, non-occasions. Part 2 will go into the 10 freemotion quilting motifs I added.

It all started when I got sick of weaving batik strips, and decided to start piecing batik scraps into log cabin-ish rectangles. 
I used a 24" ruler (with a pinhole) to draw a circle on brown paper approximately 22" across. Five inches outside the first circle I drew another circle
Laid the blocks on the pattern and grew them until there were enough to cover the doughnut shape. 
Removed the blocks. Cut out both circles and used the ring pattern to cut out fusible fleece. (Or interfacing, or something stiffer; you have lots of options, which we'll list at the end.) 
Cut the outer area away from the fleece...
And then the inner area. Laid the fleece ring with the fusible side down.  Placed two stitched blocks on the ring. Made sure they extended beyond the ring at least a half inch on the inside and outside. 
Flipped the bottom block onto the top block, right sides together, and stitched along that lower edge. 
Open. Pressed carefully, using a nonstick applique press sheet on bottom to protect the ironing surface from the glue.
Kept adding blocks, stitching, and flipping open.
Continued until the entire base was covered. The last block overlapped the first; turned under its final edge and topstitched with invisible thread. Walked away for a day or so, came back, and took a look. 
I kind of liked it with jagged edges along both the inner and outer edges, and therefore could have skipped the next several steps. But ultimately decided I wanted smooth edges. So I trimmed them to 1/2" beyond the fleece backing, on the inside and outside. Clipped curves as needed and pressed the edge under. It adhered to the fusible.
Trimmed and pressed, it looked like this:
Pretty cool, eh? Time to audition backgrounds. What about a rainbow? 
 I preferred solid blue.
 I really liked it off-center!
Check out those accidental crease curves lines on the upper right of the ring.  I meant this as a wreath, but with those accidental creases, it looked much more like something flung. I decided to call it Ring Toss.

I machine zig-zagged the ring to a yard of Kona cotton blue background using invisible monofilament thread. The grey marks have fusible web on the back and are also raw edge zig-zag appliquéd in place. They are supposed to represent the spinning/wavering motion of the ring? (Alternatively, they represent two grey quarter moons on a distant doughnut-shaped alien planet.)

 There are so  many different directions this idea could go in: 
1. Use a stiff thick fusible interfacing, like Pellon F2F and don't put it on any background - it will literally be a hangable wreath. Embellish with buttons, beads, or sparkly trim. Press a fabric to the back and fold in its edges. 
2. Do decorative stitching along seam lines for a crazy quilt effect. 
3. Use a paper foundation, or light-to-medium weight interfacing instead of fusible fleece, if you don't want the ring to have dimension. 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

How Your Fabric Stash Can Improve Your Techno-Savvy, Increase Income, and Strengthen Marriage

It's not easy being a woman, and as if pantyhose, salpingo-oopherectomy, and unequal pay aren't bad enough, our better clothing lacks pockets.

Women have long complained about pocket deprivation, but today the stakes are vastly higher - pockets, it turns out, are essential to keeping up with the boys in technology (and therefore, pay), because that's where they keep their e-gadgets. My friend Teresa sent me this fascinating article called 'The Gender Politics of Pocket' in The Atlantic.

Solution: Use your quilting fabric stash to create and lengthen existing pockets! Or, Teresa found this site where you can buy premade pocket extenders: - they're a cheap investment in your future, and the page has easy installation directions. Since I love polka dots, here's the one I'd buy:
) . 
And speaking of delightful fabric, your techno-savvy won't improve, but you will attract more brick-and-mortar friends if you wear disembodied celebrity heads. The maker, a creative young fiber artist named Erin Pearce, accepts commissions, and along with dresses,
...she also makes shirts and shorts from her custom fabric, and they're not too pricey. (Yes, that's Captain Picard of Star Trek.) I'd befriend anyone on the street dressed in early Picard (or Worf, or Cumberbatch).

What if your favorite celebrity is imaginary, and he's Superman? Make this.
Cindy, of Cation Designs, tells me she found the fabric from a thrift shop, and it was a....wait for it....bed sheet! (Obviously minimally slept on or laundered).  And - oh yes - it has pockets! (I asked!)

He wasn't exactly Superman, but I do have a lot of Elvis fabric, and I love making little scenes from it, like this one, blogged here:
But here's what I usually do with novelty fabrics: Make "Everything in the World" baby quilts. The top panel, among the clouds, has squares of sky stuff (planets, birds, cow jumping over the moon). There's all kinds of random things in the novelty fabric 9-patches below the sky - dogs, cats, elephants, berries, Mighty Mouse, Elvis, you name it.... 
And the bottom has sea-dwelling entities like ships and fish. 

Next, the story of an adorable husband and wife who dress in matching novelty fabric outfits:
This quirky habit adds depth to their marriage. Now if only I could persuade DH to wear one of these whenever I wear the other:
Left Worf and right Worf. With pockets, of course. Here's the matching quilt:
(Just kidding, I haven't made any of these things....yet....)