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


  1. The marbles help a lot with this piece. You lost your cow!?

    1. I didn't literally lose the cow, Shasta. I purposely removed it, in order to enhance my DH's reputation as a scientist. Thanks for your comment.

  2. Gorgeous!Thanks for the inspiration.

  3. BEAUTIFUL tallit! The photos really make it personal.

  4. That site was my start up screen for years. Love, love, love those images!

  5. I love that this came from a chance juxtaposition; it definitely looks like all these elements were meant for each other.


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