Monday, December 28, 2015

Last Minute Quilter's Gift, Plus Star Wars Review

There are four days left in 2015! Is that enough time to make emergency last-second quilted gifts? Why yes, it is! You can even make a Star Wars-inspired quilted gift! But you must spring into action soon - no later than 10 pm on Thursday, December 31 - and set your standards low, like mine.

INTERMISSION: But wait! Before you spring, speaking of emergencies, let me say that the new Star Wars movie was like watching sugar-amped kindergarteners in a ballpit with low-flying missiles!

(Spoiler alert: Skip the next photo and two paragraphs if you don't want to know anything else about the new SW movie)

All I could think about was the huge cardiovascular benefit to the actors whose main job was to run, Run, RUN: Over the planets, through the woods, into the spaceships, under the spaceships, through tunnels, tents, caves, corridors, past glorious Hogwarts-y and Rivendell-esque scenery, past Targets and ToysRUs selling little jointed plastic replicas of themselves, all the way to a metaphorical grandmother's house, while dodging massive explosions! No wonder those actors are so svelte! Making that movie must have been a totally aerobic experience!

Unlike us, the movie-going audience, who want nothing more than to sit still for 2+ hours, moving only one hand between our box of Jujubees and our mouth, staring at buff people in stylish costumes getting heart-healthy exercise.

So what is the fastest possible gift you can assemble by zipping around your sewing room, and still finish in time for the last of holiday season 2015, hopefully without explosions?

A Star Wars collage hot pad. Assuming you already own some Star Wars fabric, and maybe another bit of fabric with planets or spaceships on it. (if you don't, independent quilt shops and chains are carrying the SW options). I made this a couple of hours before going to the SW movie with friends, to give them as a remembrance of our expedition. It has two layers of cotton batting, and an inside-out pillowcase finish. I topstitched around the edges. The planet is zig-zagged on with invisible monofilament thread. From start to finish it took around 30 minutes. I wrote "2015" on Saturn's rings, just to prove I'd finished it in time to be trendy.
I didn't have any other SW fabrics for the back, so I just used space fabric. 

This is the perfect host/hostess gift for your upcoming New Year's Eve party.  May the force be with you through all your creations! May you endure excellent cardio workouts in the New Year, in stylish clothing, with no explosions! Earlier projects with Star Wars fabric are here.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Extraordinary Holocaust memorial quilt project

So moving. So important. Children of Holocaust survivors make extraordinary memorial quilts based on their parents' memories.
The series of four quilts is now being shown in London's Jewish museum. 

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Triangle Quilt Design with Low Poly Rocks My World

Suddenly, quilt patterns by a talented designer named Violet Craft (really!) are everywhere. They're stunners. Her lion is an Internet celebrity:
Find this pattern and more on her webpage.. (No financial affiliation). Violet's talent is offscale, plus she had an assist from a mathematically-generated mosaic program that's all the rage among designers in many different media. It's called "low poly," short for "low polygon." 

In low poly, images are broken down into small units - not the regular squarish or rectangular pixels of our computer images; low poly units are varied, irregular, often-sharp triangles and polygons. The reason is: Math. (That's the extent of my comprehension.)

Violet explains her creative process in the Winter 2016 issue of  Modern Patchwork, in an article by one of my craft business gurus, Abby Glassenberg of 'While She Naps' (Abby's blog is fantastic.) Violet used a free program called MeshLab to generate and tweak her low poly images.

Immediately after reading the article, I located Meshlab, here, but it was way over my head. So I kept searching until I found a free site where you can upload photographs and low poly them for free and almost-instant gratification. The site is I started with this action shot of our late, great guinea pig Ginny, revelling in romaine.

Hit the "open image" button. Navigate to the image. The site uploads it, and after a dramatic pause of several seconds, translates it....
Way too complex, so play with the sliders at the top of the screen. After each slide, wait 10 seconds or so for the image to resolve. The most useful for simplification are the two on the right - bring down the "point rate" and "point count".
 In the next image, I brought them a little too far down, and costing Ginny an eye.
Next I hit "randomize" and the eye returned.
What the heck! Let's go for broke! I sent the point rate and point count all the way to zero:
Ginny!? Is that you?
After initial dismay, I have come to feel that the image above really captures the essence of Ginny. as well as the spirit of the lettuce. Or maybe not.

When you run out of pet photos, try a quilt. You may learn something unexpected about your composition and color choices. Here's a quilt I showed on this blog a couple of weeks ago:
Here's how it looked after the first round of triangulation:
Pretty cool, and not at all what I expected. 
Same quilt, with the point sliders on the lowest possible settings:
Whoa!!! The focal point on the upper left - that was totally unexpected! It should be in a flippin' quilt MUSEUM!!! A Low Poly Hypothetical Quilt Museum?!!

Once you adore it, hit "download image", and then choose between bitmap or vector. I chose bitmap. which I can open with Photoshop, and save as a jpg. Then I can print them out and develop a piecing pattern.

That's going to be the art part, and the hard part - turning the images into quilt patterns. Violet creates paper piecing patterns. Much simpler would be to construct them with fusible-backed raw edge appliqué. I am going to give it a shot. To be continued!

PS:  Warning! I just discovered that low polying people is a gamble. Here's a lovely image of my parents, 25 years ago:
Low polyed: 
The eyes are scary, but I do like what happened to Dad's shirt, and Mom's smile shines through.

On the other hand, here's a low poly version of two of my girlfriends posing side-by-side in silk saris for a Bollywood-themed party. My friend on the left was wearing a blue-and-pink sari, and on the right, a green-and-red sari.
I love it! It's Cubist, in a triangular sort of way. Since they borrowed both saris from me, I could cut them up (the saris) to make this actual quilt. 

I think it's safe to predict that we're going to see a lot of low-poly quilts in the future!

PPS: Violet isn't alone with the low-polyed animal portraits. Here's a fine artist selling animal prints:

PPPS: Shared on Nina Marie Sayre's art quilt collection, Off the Wall Friday,  at Check out the goodies from many different fiber artists!

PPPPS: A wonderful video tutorial showing one way to piece low-poly type images was made by Canadian quilt artist Yanicka Hachez. Find the tutorial here. And more of Yanicka's designs are on her blog, here. Thanks, Yanicka!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Star Wars Characters Go Home for the Holidays to a Log Cabin Quilt

Star Wars, it's everywhere! Even quilt shops aren't safe! But before you spend $102.48 for a half-yard bundle of SW fabric - consider what you might make.  Last year, I made a pillowcase for a young fan. (I'm abbreviated to SW so you don't get sick of seeing the words.)
It only took about a yard of fabric. I used up all the colorful guess-what-themed fabric. The piece I had leftover was a quarter-yard of this somber print...
So last week, I thought it might be fun to put these gray guys into colorful little houses. Specifically, improvisational faux-wood log cabin houses (thank you, Karen, for the scraps!)
In the quilt world, squares built out from the center by adding strips to the sides are called log cabins. First, I thought I might make each unit into a seperate coaster. Then, I plopped all four of them into the same indigo batik snowflake neighborhood:
Liked it! I also built a ground-floor addition to Darth Vadar's house, to accomodate his scary boss/roomate, the furious-nosed Darth Sidious.*
(Is that Darth Sidious? Corrections welcomed.) Whoever. Here's how the piece looked after quilting with a blue metallic thread (which can't be seen at all without a magnifying glass):
I also added a chimney, and cut a piece from a produce bag as smoke.
(My house-depiction skills have not advanced since 2nd grade. I am sacrificing my self-respect here in order to prove that anyone can do this.)

Because it was so improvisational, there was an unanticipated space (Space!), immediately to the east of C3PO R2D2's house [whoever]. So I imagined an invisible driveway with a vintagey spaceship parked in it, cut from a non-SW fabric. That's a dog in the rocketship window, symbolizing a wookie.
I didn't intend for the piece to look like Christmas/Chanukah, but that's what the snowflake batik accomplished. By now, the whole thing was screaming "winter holidays." A visiting friend took one look and asked me if I was making an Advent Calendar?!

Clearly, the Galactic Rulers wanted this to be a holiday quilt. Imagine, I told myself, that SW characters are going home for the winter holidays to their wooden log cabins, where they live next to each other in the same exclusive gated community. On their planet, by sheer coincidence, seasonal festivities involve trees and multi-armed candelabras.

With an undecorated tree:
With a lit menorah: 
How about a tree, a menorah AND a spaceship?
How about losing the ship, decorating the tree, and using a smaller menorah one the lower left?
After some agonizing, I wound up with a decorated tree and a small menorah. 
It became the perfect present for good friends of mine who love both Christmas and SW, and have friends of many faiths.

Meanwhile, if you are a beginning quilter, you may be wondering how to sew freeform log cabins. Start with your character. Cut him (with SW, it's usually a him) out in a rectangle or square. Surround with housing material - I used 1"- 2"strips from woodgrain scraps. Stitch the logs to all four sides (or just the two verticles, and one horizontal on top, to evoke a doorway). That's Unit I. 

There are a million ways to vary the above directions, altering configurations of the house and the roofs. However you do it, the final step is to stitch the bottom edge of Unit II to the top edge of Unit I. 
If you don't feel like making a SW quilt, support an independent quilter by shopping for reasonably-priced handmade SW quilts on Also spotted on Etsy: dog collars; women's shoes; bowties; lampshades, and much more, all made from SW fabric.  Plus lots and lots of yardage.

Another place to find ideas is at Camelot Fabrics, the manufacturer - a couple of free projects start on this page.

Hancock Fabrics is having a SW sale! (no financial affiliation with any of these places).

What's next? I predict: Star Wars-themed sewing machines, with special effects and climactic music, rising to a crescendo when you press harder on the pedal and/or use your fanciest attachments.

*As opposed to the even more furious, nasally deficient, Voldemort.

P.S. Then there's this. It's literally true:
This is literally true. Sold here. No financial affiliation!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Chanukah Quilt and Craft Projects Past

Happy almost-over Chanukah 2015! Lovely as it has been for my family, it may never again be as delightful as 2013, when it fell on the same day as Thanksgiving, compelling craftsy persons to create poultry-themed Judaica, and linguists to coin new words, like "Thanksgivvukah" (for the holiday), and "Turkorah" and "Menurkey," for turkey menorahs.

For the occasion, I made this festive banner, which, even more importantly, used up a lot of my excess dreidel fabric:
 It's overseen by an unimpressed bird:
(Originally blogged here.) Thanksgivvukah also inspired me to crochet a flock of turkey menorahs, and now I don't know what to do with my extras. (Free pattern on the bottom of this page.)
With steely resolve, I am striving make a clean break from Thanksgivvukah, since this coincidence won't happen again for 77,000 years. So this year, I hung  this totally turkey-free Chanukah quilt I concocted  shortly after I began quilting. I called it Semi-Amish Dreidels, because of the color scheme.
I wish I remembered how  I made it! It involved a lot of solids, strip sets, prairie points, and, of course, totally non-Amish buttons.

Another golden oldie: This quilt is called "Nine of Anything," because I used nine things cut from  novelty fabrics to make custom menorahs (aka hanukiot).
 Including a gummi bear menorah....
And, of course, an Elvis menorah, memorializing his little-known but bona fide Jewish heritage. 
A couple of hand stitches with blue embroidery thread at the bottom of each candle flame creates a little realism. The words to "Rock of Ages" are freemotion stitched into the background. 
These are fun to make, and don't take long if you just want to make a single menorah. Pick a novelty fabric, put fusible web on the back, cut out nine things, arrange them artistically on a background, press, then zig-zag all the way around everything! And try not to think about turkeys. Whoops, I'm sorry I said that.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Last Minute Gift (& Gift Wrap) Idea to Sew, Just in Time for Chanukah!

Happy Chanukah 2015! It starts tonight, and continues for 7 more nights. So even if it's 4 in the afternoon, that's still enough time to make stitched Chanukah presents (or Christmas, for that matter), especially the ones I'm showing you here.

These drawstring gift bags are probably the most useful Chanukah items I've ever sewn. I made them years ago, and they have brought our family's wrapping paper trash and expense waaaayyy down. A pack of different-sized bags is the perfect meta-gift for an environmentalist and/or hard-to-shop-for person.
For some of my bags, I used wide ribbon to cinch, for dramatic effect. But in hindsight, this was a mistake, because the ribbon has to be pressed before reuse every year, on a low temperature, so as not to melt the acrylic. Choose a nice cord, or a very thin grosgrain ribbon instead, especially if you're giving the bags to someone who doesn't know much about ironing.

The purple bag below may have been my first gift bag, before I discovered Judaic novelty fabrics. Instead of a drawstring casing, it has a velcro closure at the top center, and a grosgrain ribbon stitched  through its center on the right side, so it can be tied.  I can't believe I used sparkly glitter glue! (Real quilters sneer at sparkly glitter glue!) 
Here's a bag cut from menorah fabric. 
This one is from a more elegant print:
To punch up the excitement, I made each bag a little brooch. I cut star motifs from novelty fabric, mounted them on stiff interfacing, quilted them, overstitched the edges, then decorated with fancy buttons and beads. The diamond-studden button on the left is missing a few of its priceless stones, but who's going to notice?
 Here's the back. (I cannot explain why I painted the back petals in such an eccentric fashion.)
The giftee can wear it, or leave it on the bag.
Oh wait, there's one more. For this third brooch, I went nuts with the eyelash yarn, and the beads spell "holiday." I know, it's kooky, but keep in mind that I was trying to impress young children!
Here are two of my bags from birthday themed fabrics:
Want to make your own? Google "How to Make a Drawstring Bag" and you'll find eleventy million tutorials. Want to buy a set instead of making them? On etsy, here's one of many sellers who make lovely bag sets from Christmas and other novelty fabrics. (No financial affiliation!)

Wishing all a joyous and colorful holiday season!