Sunday, March 27, 2016

Eleven Totes that Used Up My Problem Fabrics

Some fabrics are impossible to work into a quilt. They're too thick or too strange or just too - something.

But - assuming they're sturdy - you might be able to move them out of your stash and turn them into one-of-a-kind environment-protecting conversation-piece tote bags. Here are some examples.

1. Australian Foldaway Tote A -  I never go anywhere without a bundled foldaway in my purse. A couple of years ago, I made one out of anti-smoking cartoon fabric (blogged here), which grocery baggers found entertaining. But about a month ago, that bag mysteriously vanished. So here's the replacement, made from a sturdy Australian canvas that my DH brought back from a trip down under ten years ago:
I auditioned this fabric for many quilts over many years, but could never work it in. Reason one is because it's so brown. Reason two is that it's thick canvas. But it's perfect as a tote! Here's the bag folded into its front pocket: 

2. Australian Foldaway Tote B -  My DD liked the one above so much she asked me to make her one from the OTHER piece of sturdy Australian canvas that my husband brought home, which had ALSO been sitting around in my stash for a decade, awaiting a purpose in life.  
You can almost see the pocket front and center. 
Here it is bundled:
My how-to-make-a-foldaway tutorial with a magic reversible pocket is at the bottom of this post (look for the diagrams.)

4. The next bags don't fold into pockets, but they have other gimmicks. First, a reversible tote made from mahjong fabric. I made it long, to fit a friend's mahjong set. Side one:
Side two: 
Tip: Use webbing for handles to save time. That particular mahjong fabric may be out of print, but there are other options currently on sale, at one of my favorite fabric vendors, Find their mahjong fabrics at No affiliation.

5. Another reversible tote, with African fabric on one side.
A six-pointed star is an African symbol, but I'm not sure what it means. So it's accidentally Jewish. On the reverse side, I used this intentionally-Jewish holiday fabric : 
It made a nice book bag for a Hebrew teacher.

6. Next, I laid out a long piece of denim, and stitched on embroidered ribbons. I think most of them are from the 70s and 80s.  
A friend gifted me with the pseudo-Smurf ribbon - priceless, no? Based on the harvest gold, I'm guessing it's from the '70s. 
I used denim yardage as the base (it could have been made from a jeans leg.) Unfortunately, it developed a tear at the top left, which I repaired after this photo was taken.

7. The next three bags were made from a big book of brocade upholstery samples, fabric so thick that it was useless for a conventional quilts (though arguably useful for art quilts.) This first one one involves a deer (stag? springbok? antelope? muntjac?)
Because upholstery samples are relatively small, I made each pattern piece from a different fabric. So it's like a scrap project.

8. Fruity:
9: Rampant lions:
10. Collard greens!? Who designs these strange fabrics? And I like to use belts as straps. 
It's fun to embellish (and hold) the belt ends with buttons: 

11. Next, an unlined large tote I made for a wedding party to carry their quilted wedding canopy (chuppah) to their seaside ceremony. It used leftover fabric from the chuppah. 
Here's the matching canopy (Blogged here). The outermost border fabric was used on top of the bag. 
12. Finally, it's not a tote, but here's the purple octopus bag I showed a couple of weeks ago (in my review of QuiltCon), made from a trendy new Japanese fabric. 
( The pattern is  Yoyomama Designs' Fort Street Market Bag. No affiliation)
I'm showing it again because it now has fabulous buttons!  I originally attached the plainish matte purple button below, front and center, Then my friend Saraj sent me a set of insanely cute octopus buttons!  I placed one south of the original button. 
Is that not adorable? The other's on a pocket:
Thank you, Saraj, you made my bag! (Well, I made it, but you know what I mean!)  

Want to make a tote from your unique/problem fabrics (and buttons?) There are approximately 267,548 easy tote bag tutorials online. Find a really good one from Purl Soho here;  it is actually three  in one - easy, easier, and easiest. If that's not enough, Google "how to sew an easy tote bag"; you'll find more than enough to get you going.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Keys to the Universe: How to Sun Paint the Big Bang from Your Junk Drawer

Starting with the end: I made this!

It's a quilted wallhanging, about 26" x 36"  Here's the center:
I made that key fabric! All by myself! Well, okay, not really, I didn't weave the cloth. But I did paint all those keys. Sort of.

It all started because I have shelves full of beads, buttons, rocks, dice, Scooby-Doo figurines, marbles, poker chips, ice cream sticks, corks, beer caps, Scrabble tiles - you get the idea, the j-word. (junk.)

One of my favorite compartments is devoted to keys. Old keys are like old friends  - I can't remember what they did, but I can't throw them away.

So one day I decided to trace some. I placed one on my sketch book, and then changed my mind and decided instead to lay them all out and take their picture.

So much character! So few memories! Mostly of  unwheeled family suitcases!
I started thinking that I might print the photos directly onto fabric.

But then it came to me: I live in Southern California! I can sun print them! Sun printing is also called sun painting or heliographic art. Certain fabric paints - like Setacolor Transparent  and Dy-Na-Flow - can be used to safely and easily print objects, The paints cost a few bucks more than craft store acrylics, but the special effects make them worth it.

Experiment #1: I painted a stretch of  wet white muslin with a mixture of green Setacolor Transparent paints, and arranged the keys (and some wee padlocks) on top....
...Left it in the sun to dry, and voila! 
Interesting, but the mossy green wasn't thrilling me.
In experiment #2, I laid the keys in a circle, smallest toward the center, on a Setacolor purple background:
I overpainted that with blue Dye-Na-Flow, and laid buttons in the spaces between the key shadows. Set that out in the sun: 
 Removed the buttons. Now the keys were light blue, and the button images were purple.   
What's not to love? It looks like an explosion in my junk cabinet! Running with the explosive theme, I tested button clusters....
...and plastic paper clips...and milk-box and seltzer-bottle lids,,,and various border fabrics)...
That earthy green-and-white key sun print above just didn't want to play nicely with the subtle center. Which led to experiment #3, sunprinting more small objects on fabric painted blue first, then green: 

The fabric above became one border. I selected three more borders, all prints.
Once the quilt was constructed, I started stitching things down for good. I started with tiny lavender and white beads toward the center, then the buttons, then colorful small safety pins (just pinned on, no need to stitch). Further out, I stitched larger multi-hued glass beads, and the paper clips...
Above, in the lower right hand corner , I also threw in a white glass sneaker bead. 

The sunprint border was quilted and embellished with hand running stitches and bugle beads. 

For another border, I used this Japanese-ish chrysanthemum fabric from an old skirt: 
 I dressed it up with iridescent lime green beads in each flower's centers, plus vintage white buttons  between motifs. (Too much is never enough!)

For a third border, I used an atomic fabric graciously gifted to me by the queen of All About Appliqué, (Thanks, Kay!) to which I added iridescent faceted beads....
Finally, to the fourth border, I stitched a variety of green bugle beads. 
Two outer borders consist of fabric that looks like graphed data. I added plastic alphabet and question-mark beads. and silver glass beads.  
For the outermost borders, I cut key fabric from an old shirt. I haven't embellished it at all (yet). 
The finished quilt is at the top of this post. 

Interested in trying sun painting?  I buy my Setacolor Transparent and/or Dye-Na-Flow from two places. One, the Dick Blick store near me. If I'm too busy to go there (parking is a pain), I buy it online at [Update: I am told that Dharma is out of many Setacolor paints right now. Setacolor transparents are in stock at Dick Blick's online store; at Pro Chemical and Dye; and No financial affiliation.]

Explore other sun printing possibilities using Dharma's handy search window. Select "Browse by Technique," then click "Sun Painting," You'll find several different products.

PS Shared on Nina-Marie Sayre's Off the Wall Friday. Take a look to see many links to beautiful and interesting art quilts! 

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Transform Your Freemotion Quilting Practice Pieces into Fiber Art Cards

Valentine's Day was fast approaching, and I had no cards to give. By coincidence, I happened to be cleaning out my huge folder stuffed with freemotion quilting practice pieces.

Quilt authorities tell us to to save all our practice pieces for reference, but if I did this, my sewing room would be knee-deep in snowdrifts. Most of my pieces are white, the color of basic muslin, because, of course I don't want to practice on the expensive stuff. They usually look like this:
But as I went through my folder, I found several pieces in which I'd used better fabric. For example, there was this long-forgotten slab...
...and this ancient Jan Mullen fabric, consisting of pink hairy dots, which I'd quilted  with holographic thread: 
They had potential! I cut the red stuff into 2-4" pieces, and collaged on top to make three small  heart art cards:

(They work as coasters, too.)  I cut up the polka-dot piece, zigzagged the edges, and turned it into a pocket for a denim zippered case for my DH's tablet. (The denim is from old jeans.) 
Don't look at the corners. To paraphrase Dr, McCoy, "I'm a quilter, Jim, not a zippered-case maker!"  The pink flap is ultra-suede, so no need to stitch a buttonhole  - just cut a slit.
All that was so darn much fun that I invited a couple of friends to a Valentine-making session, and in preparation, I stitched out a bunch of backgrounds, thereby logging even more much-needed free motion practice.

I started with a large sandwich, about 6.5" wide and 16.5" long, with a solid blue on one side, light pink on the reverse. I went to town with the stitching.
Once the long slab was decorated, I cut it into postcard-sized pieces, 4" x 6".
I also made some seperate postcards in a variety of colors. Before stitching, I cut them a tiny bit larger than 4"x 6", to compensate for shrinkage.
Horrific tension? You could call it that, but I prefer to call it conceptual art! 
(The concept is: horrific tension.)

Next: Embellishment. I pulled out my mother-of-pearl buttons; my new Jane Austen book fabric (from a line called Ardently Austen, bought from Hawthorne Threads, no affiliation)...
 ...metal keys from ebay that my friend Kay Mackenzie - the awesome queen of appliqué  - had gifted me: 
I also pulled out my stash of scraps with fusible applied to the back. 

Two friends came over and we went to town!  Teresa made these. Note the teeny tiny buttons and the sparkly line of bugle beads...
Here's her second....
And third: 
I happened to have a pile of white felt cupids (doesn't everyone?).  Plus black ribbon with white words, from the scrapbooking store. Marian used them here:
She also brought some pearlized round beads, which she strewed artistically...
I made the next two: 

I love a messy outer edge! I just do. (Perhaps because I cannot do it neatly.)

Along with fiber art postcards, these backgrounds can be used for Artist Trading CardsInchies, Twinchies, cuffs, and beyond! Collaging is so much fun. The only problem is that if you overdo it, the brilliant background does get covered up a bit too much. Restrain yourself more than we did.

So dig up your quilting practice pieces and cut them into rectangles, squares or other shapes! This may also be an incentive for you to use the good stuff when you're practicing freemotion quilting.