Monday, September 28, 2015

Making Many Meaningful Moons

Did you see the blood moon last night? We couldn't see it from our house, but I caught up with this fabulous blog post with images from around the world. They cry out to be turned into quilts! (Write to the photographers for permission first, of course!)

It reminded of a wallhanging I made last year, which unwittingly prophesized the event:
I called this scrap project "Night Meeting," because of the two creatures at the bottom.
 Now I'm thinking of renaming it, Blood Moon! The orange moon was cut from a deliciously streaky orange-and-red batik fabric.
I used the same idea years before, for this matzoh cover. The four corner moons were cut from streaky batiks - purple, magenta, lavender, and orange - plus the central one, of course, from trompe l'oeil matzoh fabric (no financial affiliation).
Stamping is another way to make moody moons. These were stamped with fun foam, the thin foam that kids play with, cut into circles. By not refreshing the fabric paint with each consecutive stamping, you get an interesting gradation among the images. 
Thread painting is another way to go. Stitch heavily with metallic and holographic threads over an appliqued circle. (Pretend this is an orange moon instead of a blue/green batik sun. Close enough).

I am a huge fan of superstar quilter Carol Taylor, who has made both moon and eclipse-themed quilts, shown off on this page. Check out especially the quilt titled "Moonshadows" and "Eclipse #2."

Have you made meaningful moons?

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Awkward Freemotion Quilting, Star Wars & Hair Edition

On my planet, there are two types of freemotion quilting (FMQ).

1. Respectable. (Taught brilliantly by Leah DayLori Kennedy, and possibly your local quilt shop teacher), and
2. Awkward. (A form of self-entertainment). 

The trick with both is to "draw" (stitch) a continuous line with the sewing machine, avoiding thread-cutting and ends-hiding. It often involves stitching accurately and repeatedly over the same lines. All this strengthens the quilt, and lets you finish faster, 

Respectable FMQ takes a great deal of practice. Drawing ability helps. It's tasteful, often stupendous, and might win a ribbon at the quilt show.

Awkward freemotion quilting requires no knack for drawing and no practice. A sewing machine is optional. It's a fun way to doodle with a pencil on paper, improves hand-eye coordination and deepens understanding of how to connect FMQ motifs. Done well, you should make yourself laugh.

My latest awkward episode was inspired by the prospect of a new Star Wars movie, coming out in December.  I discovered by accident that if you make 8 loops, you've got Princess Leia's head: 
Jagged lines make a Wookie: 
R2D2 isn't hard to draw continuously...
...but it's even easier to just spell him out in cursive.

Darth Vader is waaayyy  more challenging. As you can see, his helmet was dehydrating and shrinking by the end. 
Talk about helmet hair!
Here's a light saber design:
And speaking of hair, I happened to go to the hairdresser last weekend, and made the mistake of asking for curls with my longish trim. For the rest of the day, I looked like a mature person with a 5-year-old Shirley Temple coif. 
Or maybe like George Washington:
(Drawing George is like drawing Leia, but the loops pile up vertically.)

And speaking of Presidential hair, on the Democratic side, candidate Bernie' Sanders' hair is a Thing. ("Bernie Hair! Don't Care!" tee shirts here. No financial affiliation) My interpretation: 
Glasses are an important vehicle for travelling from one side of a design to the other. 

Hillary's hair changes too much to draw. (Here are 10 different 'dos just from 1993-1994!)

 Joe Biden, and most of the Republican candidates, mostly have unobtrusive hair. I was left with Rand Paul...
(His curls remind me of my son as a toddler. Awww!)

...And You-Know-Who. I drew this page while gazing at his hair in a variety of Google images.
Call this design (a) Donald Trump, (b) Softserve Ice Cream Training Session 1, or (c) Santa Claus, elves, and Bart Simpson flying in the sky. UPDATE: A reader saw Elvis in these figures. That's cool with me. 

And speaking of male do's, have you noticed lately the plethora of young men with man-buns and beards? 
I've barely scratched the surface of  coiffure-related freemotion quilting possibilities!  Run with it! Send pictures! (But no head lice designs - I must draw the line somewhere.) 

Earlier adventures in awkward freemotion quilting: 

PS Speaking of Star Wars, who says Darth Vader can't dance? Your 7-to-77 year old Star Wars fan will love this

PPS Speaking of trivial Presidential issues, my friends just told me that you can #Trumpyourcat! No animals were harmed in the making of this strange new hobby.  

PPSS: This just in: President Coolidge was a quilter!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Fiber Art Postcards Inspired by Tradition

Wishing you a healthy, happy, creative New Year! Jewish New Year, that is! Also known as Rosh Hashanah, it starts tonight.

This is the one time of the year that we dip apples in honey (Try it! You'll like it!). The challah bread is round for this occasion (like the year). We convey wishes to family and friends for a good year.

And one way we do this is with cards. A longstanding tradition, first in Europe, and then transplanted here, is to send pictorial Rosh Hashanah postcards to our loved ones. Here's one from Germany, dated 1908.
Here's one I found in my husband's family photo album, with a photograph  of unknown ancestors glued in the center: 
Here's an insanely great dozen more vintage cards. Warning: They're addictive and you can find plenty for sale on ebay

Several years back, I did a fabric postcard exchange with a Rosh Hashanah theme. Inspired by vintage postcards, I used rubber stamps for the lettering and lots of items cut from novelty fabric

First, Mr. Spock of blessed memory. I purchased the rubber stamp at a Star Trek convention in the 1990s. Sadly, this is my first Rosh Hashanah without Leonard Nimoy on Planet Earth.
I hope he's on an even better planet. He's about to blow the shofar (to the right of his head), the ram's horn whose intrusive blast shakes our deepest selves. The lettering reads "shanah tovah", a good new  year. On the left is a good luck hamsa hand; a metal hamsa charm is on the upper right. Spock's Vulcan salute is, of course, derived from Jewish tradition.

Like Leonard, Elvis Presley was technically Jewish. Really! Read this! And, like Leonard, Elvis was also a strong supporter of Jewish causes.
U.S. Presidents and Lady Liberty look worried about the future...Perhaps they were anticipating the 2016 Presidential election?
Two anonymous women convey best wishes for a year with more sewing and less cleaning:
The back: 
(I mailed it in an envelope so I didn't need room for an address). 
Fish is a traditional dish for Rosh Hashanah - this one was cut from an African fabric. (This tradition actually involves fish heads - or, if you don't have fish around, a nice juicy ram's head - oy vey!  Read all about Rosh Hashana food traditions here.)
Pure wackiness:
Also random, because mahjong is by now a Jewish (as well as Chinese) sport: 

Making and trading fabric postcards, for any occasion, is a blast! And very simple. And therapeutic. Here's a tutorial:

1. Cut a couple of pieces of stiff interfacing to postcard size, 4" x 6"  (Peltex, Peltex 72F, Inner Fuse, Fast-2-Fuse, in other words, stiff interfacing of any kind, ideally with fusible on both sides, but okay without.) 

You'll also need a couple of inches of paper-backed fusible web. 

2. Pick a background fabric for the featured side. Cut it to a little over 4" x 6".  Adhere it to one side of the stiff interfacing. Use fusible web if your interfacing doesn't have built-in fusible. Trim excess. Don't put fabric on the back yet.

3. Gather all the fabrics with images you want to include in the top. Cut them out from the fabric, with a half inch margin all the way around. Apply fusible web to the back of them, then cut out closely, and arrange them on the background fabric. 

4. Press, then stitch everything down. I often use invisible/clear nylon thread and a zig-zag stitch. 

5. Trim stray threads, especially from the back. Once everything is stitched to the front, turn to the back (the message side.)

6. Adhere a rectangle slightly larger than 4" x 6" to the back. It should be light-colored so writing will show.  Fuse it in place, and trim close around the edges. 

7. Zig zag all the way around the edges. For extra neatness, do a corded edging - my corded edging tutorial is at the bottom of this post.

 8. On the back (the message side), draw a vertical line 2/3rds of the way across toward the right. Write the address on one side, and your message on the other side of the line.  Take it to the post office to see how much postage they want you to pay (each post office is different!). Put a stamp on it and mail it to your loved ones. (Note: If it has 3D elements, like buttons or beads, you may have to send it in a padded envelope.) 

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Embellishment Fun with Paper Clips

Buying school supplies? If you're the embellishment type, the paper clip department may have stopped you dead in your tracks.

A couple of years back, my nearest office store had a freestanding station devoted to a wide variety of paper clips. It was like a salad bar, but with no nutrients. I went nuts and picked and chose a bunch, including these.
I think that's a diamond ring on the left, and a sort of G-clef third from the right. There were more, as you'll see soon below. Some were covered with colored rubber; some were beautiful and colorful bare wire, like the lavender second from the left and the neon green, far right. The bar even supplied containers with partitions, so you could sort your clips like a TV dinner:
(Then I spilled them and didn't take the time to re-sort).

But that was a couple of years back. This past week, when I went school supply shopping with my DD, I was saddened that the paper clip salad bar was still gone. Instead, there were only packaged clips.

Nice colors, but nothing to match the creativity of those older clips. At the time, they inspired me to make a couple of things. First, the strip below. It measures about 9" x 3" and weighs a ton.   There's black-and-white paper clip fabric, and a velvet black-and-silver ribbon running horizontally across the middle. Stiff interfacing is inside. The rubber-covered white paper clips are clipped along the top; black ones along the bottom, and large colorful metallic ones clipped around the velvet ribbon in-between
 (That particular fabric is out of print, but I found a bunch of people selling it on etsy. There are also newer paper-clip novelty fabrics - Google "paper clip quilting fabric.")

When I close the ends with a black-and-white decorative binder clip, it becomes a  paper weight/clip dispenser/awfully heavy cuff bracelet.

Then, early this summer, I made an art piece devoted to 20th century office paraphernalia, inspired by my favorite typewriter fabric. Preclip:
Can you find the ring, shoe, purse, heart, stars, purse, guitar, clef? 

More paper clip lore: There's a sewing connection! Before clips, people used PINS - sewing pins - to hold paper together! Early clip makers boasted that their products were less likely to draw blood. The first patent for paperclips was issued in 1867, but clips didn't become popular until the 1890s. I learned all this and more at the Early Office Museum website, here. Be sure to scroll down to the "Early Paper Clip Gallery." Paper clips came in a huge variety of shapes and sizes!

Much more recently, a hip British font design company created a font from colorful bent paperclips:
You can buy the font, but not the actual paperclips, unfortunately, here.

Also from England, there's a company selling golden paper clip-inspired jewelry, here.
A Pinterest page with more paperclip jewelry is here.

Aliexpress sells a wild variety of paperclips: Penguins, fish, cats, dog bones, butterflies, and my fave, which they call humanoids: 
Unclipped, they are anatomically correct gentlemen. But clipped they're G-rated. Unfortunately, you have to buy 200 at a time, which you can do here.

Ten cute things made from paperclips here.

How about a paper clip inspired freemotion quilting design from the great Lori Kennedy? Find the tutorial on this page.

On a far more somber note, speaking of paper clips resembling humans, there's the Six Million Paper Clip Holocaust memorial project, here.

What office supplies have you used in your quilts? 

(P.S. No financial affiliation with any of the vendors in this article.)