Thursday, April 21, 2016

Happy Passover! Decorate your Local (or Distant) Baby!

Passover starts tomorrow night!  If you happen to have a baby in your life, and some trompe-l'oeil matzoh fabric in your stash (I buy it here), this project will take you less than an hour

It's a bib for my 4-month-old grand-nephew Noah, who I haven't met yet, because he lives on the other side of the country  According to his grandparents (my in-laws) little Noah is the smartest, sweetest, best-behaved baby ever! Plus, of course the cutest. Wouldn't any baby look great in this?

On the other side, Chanukah fabric:
And that project was so fast that I made Noah a second bib, with chicks on one side... (I wasn't seeking an Easter theme, it just happened)...
...and non-denominational dolphins on the reverse....
I use velcro to close the back.

Realistic matzoh fabric is a source of unending laughter and inspiration for me. Here are 25 more things I've made from matzoh fabric. Hope they inspire you! And wishing all who celebrate a creative and sweet Passover!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Cosmic Coasters: Turn Space Photography into Mini-Quilts

Here's a project idea for the astronomy enthusiast in your life: Make quilted stuff with National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) photography!

The great thing for quilters about NASA photographs is that they are not only stunningly beautiful, but they are also in the public domain, with minimal copyright issues, and no need to request permission.

That's what I learned 9 years ago, when I transferred a whole bunch of NASA photos onto fabric, including these iconic images:

I know it was 9 years, because it was the year of my son's bar mitzvah, and he's now about to graduate college. A science kid, he had asked for space images on his tallit (aka prayer shawl). So I printed a slew of them onto fabric printer sheets (I like EQ Printables Premium Cotton Satin, no affiliation), then appliquéd them to the tallit.

I came across my stack of the leftovers by accident in January. Most were about 4" square or rectangular.Within a couple of hours, I had sandwiched four of them with a batik fabric backing and cotton batting, Stitched them right sides together, left a gap, turned them right side out, topstitched the edges, and done! Almost as fast as the speed of light! (Unscientific exaggeration.)

But how many coasters does one household need? Especially since the wood on my coffee table is already stained with more rings than Saturn (unscientific estimate), which in turn are covered with books, magazines, fabric, notions, seam rippers, quilting experiments, lunch, etc. 

At the time, I was improvisationally building batik log cabins, then backing and finishing each one separately. I freemotion quilted the resulting pieces. By proximity, these pieces started to look like space photography, too, 

The quiltlets from both these projects wound up in a small cleared space on the aforementioned coffee table in my sewing room (aka the sewing table in my coffee room.), So I started integrating them.
As it happens, DH is an astrophysicist, and I own almost enough black buttons to fill a galaxy (not really), so I seized the opportunity to add buttons symbolizing black holes e.g. DH could hang this in his office rather trying to find some space on our home walls, which are almost as cluttered as the coffee table. I placed  black buttons in the corners....
There was still plenty of undecorated space, and I have this cool old fabric depicting swirly, non-realistic glass marbles (which I also used in last week's Gazing Ball quilt). 
...So I  added some of that to the mix.... 
And how can you render space without a cow jumping over it?

Below is where I ended up. I tacked down the corners with a strong black thread, added the buttons, appliquéd the marbles by machine with invisible thread, and lost the cow.
Mission accomplished!  And speaking of missions if you want to make your own quilted project from space photography, go to There's a lot to look at, but I suggest you start at the lower right box headlined "Mission Galleries." There you'll find fantastic images, not only of space, but also of the earth from space, and much, much more.

UPDATE, 4/11: Here's an amazing quilt from fiber artist Anne Munoz, interpreting the first image on the top of this post through batik and freemotion quilting:
UPDATE 4/11: Shared on Nina Marie Sayre's Off the Wall Fridays! See lots of fiber goodies at

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Make a Fabric Collage, and Still Have Time to Sleep

Ever wished you could quilt and sleep at the same time? I haven't figured out how to do that yet. However, if you make quilted collages from novelty print fabrics (i.e. fabric with stuff on it - hippos, marbles, candlesticks, anything that's a noun) - you will become so relaxed that it's almost as good as sleeping. Plus, the project will go so quickly that you'll have time leftover for a nap.

In January, I received a birthday party invitation from a friend who used to live in Hawaii, so I whipped up this swimming pool, which includes turquoise and rainbow batiks I'd bought on last summer's fabric-finding trip to Kauai.
The waves are quilted with holographic Sulky thread. The other components are stitched down with invisible monofilament.
The shallow end:
(I happen to have a swimming pool obsession. See how to create a 3-D pool ridge in this post.)

Combining prints with batiks can be tricky - but in all three of the pieces I'm showing here, batiks make an ethereal, fuzzy background, with printed objects in sharp focus in the foreground. Which, by complete coincidence, is sort of how reality looks. 

Next, "Gazing Ball." It's only about 5" square and incorporates three batiks, and two prints, including a fabric depicting a candlestick that serves as the ball's pedestal.
It's satin-stitch edged with gold metallic thread, and entirely appliquéd, not pieced. 

Finally, here's my accidental quilted review of the "March of the Penguins," the poignant National Geographic documentary that blew the covers off the wretched, frozen lives of Emporer penguins. They could have called that movie, "Les Misérables, II: Antarctic Edition." 
The piece is 9" wide. The innermost sky rectangle, with mottled khakis and cobalts, inspired everything else. Those little guys, from a Japanese fabric, are trudging together to the bitter end, as is penguins' wont. 
To make your own collage, all you need is a little bit of fabric, a zig-zag capable machine, and a fairly sharp pair of scissors. Fusible web is optional (glue sticks work too). 

Here's my usual procedure: 

1. Choose a main background piece, the largest piece that will go behind all the elements - for two of the pieces here, I used batiks that suggested skies. 

2. Shop (in your stash or LQS) for novelty print fabrics with the elements you want for the foreground. (A tough job, but someone's.....)

3. Rough-cut all the printed elements larger than the final size you want. Iron paper-backed fusible web to the back of all those elements. 

4. Peel away the paper backing, and, with a sharp scissors, cut the applique elements down to their final size.

5. Arrange. Fuse in place. 

6. Add batting and backing slightly larger than the front. 

7. Stitch all the elements down. I usually zig-zag with invisible thread, but a shiny metallic can add sparkly importance to selected objects. You'll be saving time because you're quilting and appliquéing simultaneously.

8. Trim and finish the quilt's edges with binding, satin stitching, a couched cord, fused strips - whatever you like. Here's a useful Quilting Arts booklet in PDF form, that explains a bunch of diffferent options. 

In summary, you will make and keep wonderful friends if you march through the blizzards of life like penguins, eat only fresh sashimi, pass your offspring back and forth between your feet like priceless soccer balls, sleep standing in a huddled mass, and make fast quilted collages for each other's birthdays in all your leftover time.

PS Shared on Nina Marie Sayre's Off the Wall Friday, an online art quilt exhibit, at