Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Quilter's GO: Keeping up with the Pokémons

Everybody's talking about Pokémon GO! Even if you're not interested in the game you have to admit that it's brought young people out of their bedrooms, and onto the sidewalks, where they are forced to move large muscles! (Remind them to look both ways.)

Like millennials, quilters of all ages need powerful incentives to dislodge us from our sedentary hobby. So here are some games designed just for us:

Stashbuilder's GO:  Walk from quilt store to quilt store. Each store is a virtual battlefield, where you stare at your phone and press buttons to fight other quilters (also staring at their phones), snatching limited-quantity bolts from virtual shelves.

When the battle is over, the real fabrics will be cut for you, and your credit card will be charged, This win-win game will increase your shopping stamina, finger-strength, and stash, as well as bringing much needed profits to your LQS (Local Quilt Shop).

Featherweight GO: Everywhere you go, your cellphone shows you a shimmering vision of a highly collectible Featherweight 221 sewing machine, the holy grail of portable sewing machines. Singer Featherweights (FWs for short) were made from the 1930's to the 1960's, and real ones are hard to find. In a game of Featherweight Go, here's how a famous landmark would look with a virtual white model:
And here's a more controversial New York landmark, a black-and-gold palace which I think everyone can agree looks more inviting with a identically-hued FW parked in front:
No political affiliation.
Next, a dramatic recreation of how the Golden Gate Bridge will look with white,  black and tan virtual FWs awaiting capture:
Photoshop is not my forte.
Along with the three models above, the game will let you claim these even more elusive FW models:
  • WWII-era crinkle blacks 
  • Light celery (like the white ones, but with a slight greenish cast)
  • 1939 San Francisco Golden Gate Exhibition model
  • 1951 Singer Centennial model
  • Free-arm 222 
  • Accessories: carrying cases, folding tables, the ultra-rare oval cabinet, the oil can, buttonholer, presser feet galore. 
Gotta catch em all!
Crazy Quilt GO: Walk all over town while your phone shows everything you pass - buildings, trees, people, animals, statues, etc. - embellished with elaborate embroidery, beads, sequins, buttons, lace, shisha mirrors, threadpainting, hairwork, stumpwork, blackwork, silk ribbon-work, and yarnbombing.

If you correctly identify the embellishment, you earn points which will allow you to embellish more objects and people, simply by waving your phone while staring intensely at them. Some people might get suspicious, but just explain that you are improving their virtual appearance.

In a short amount of time, humanity will cooperatively create an entirely embellished virtual universe! Then, all the embellishments can be erased in seconds, and we can start over!

Freemotion Quilters Go: Wander all around town playing Pokemon GO. Take a route that seems somehow...artistic. Your phone will record your path and send it directly to your computerized domestic or longarm sewing machine, which will automatically stitch it out.

Modern Quilter's GO: You walk all over town, but you find only one hexagon, or maybe a polka dot, every 3-to-12 hours, in an unexpected location.

Now it's your turn to make a up a GO game!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Third Denim Octopus, Ready for Her Closeup

I'm obsessed with octo-quilts, inspired by my summer reading, The Soul of an Octopus, a Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness. I've shown two so far, a wallhanging and a quilted vase/aquarium, made from upcycled denim jeans. Here's the third:
Here's how it looked pre-fringe. I'm not sure which way I like it better, thoughts welcomed! 
My octopus' aquatic friends (and potential lunchmeats) surround her. 

Below, that's a hammerhead shark, alongside a sea star. While researching this quilt, I learned that sea stars' "eyes" are at the ends of their legs.
The eyes of the smaller creatures are glass beads. For our heroine, it took a lot of testing to come up with the perfect eyes. First I tried vintage red buttons: 
Meh. Then round glass eyes: 

Double meh. Next, I unintentionally sewed these glass beads down with the left eye at a slight angle,  which made her look worried:

I wanted tranquility, so I removed them and rearranged the angle. Here's what I wound up with.

An intense, deeply knowing stare. 
The top row of pearl buttons is stitched on with quilting thread: 
The bottom fringe is made from shell necklaces, glass beads, mother-of-pearl buttons, faux pearl beads, and polished shell pieces. 
And what exactly are those polka dots? 
I am so glad you asked! Those are button blanks, dug up many years ago by a friend from the vicinity of an abandoned button factory in New England. 

If you don't happen to have an abandoned button factory nearby, any buttons will do. I used permanent glue (Crafter's Pick: The Ultimate) to attach them. A layer of tulle on top of everything, and cross-stitching with white crochet thread in-between holds them in place. 

For free step-by-step directions for a tulle-covered wallhanging (or vase), see my my last two blog posts (1, 2). Draw your own sea creatures and start cutting! Or get a head start with my 12-page booklet with 35+ ocean creature drawings (details on my pattern page and new Etsy shop.) 

However you make it, have fun with octopuses! Send pictures!

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Quilt an Inexpensive, Zero-Maintenance Aquarium!

Last week I showed off a new wallhanging inspired by the new bestseller, The Soul of an Octopus. That enthralling book offers (among other things) an insider's look at the New England Aquarium in Boston, my hometown.

I was in junior high when the aquarium opened in 1969. I walked in and was thunderstruck to be confronted by a giant ocean tank, which the aquarium literally named the "Giant Ocean Tank." It's four stories high. 
(Photo courtesy of W. Chappell)
Those are penguins in the bottom pool. A walkway spirals up and around the tank, and as you climb, the flora and the fauna change. It was (and remains - it was renovated in 2013 for $18 million) absolutely mind-blowing. (More images here.)

Who wouldn't want a four-story Giant Ocean Tank, aka a GOT in their own home? Of course, it would be costly, between the construction, the fish food, and bribing angry neighbors over visitor parking issues. So instead, I made a fabric version. It's a towering 15" high (dwarfing that 9" pine cone.) I call it the Giant Ocean Basket (GOB). Or maybe the Giant Ocean Vase (GOV, not to be confused with .gov). 
More views: 

Want to make your own? Follow along, let's have fun, for a fraction of 18 million clams! (Sorry). 

1. Find used jeans that are dark, medium, and light.  You can use backs as well as fronts. Cut strips from a pants leg of each, to 5" x  22.25". (I can't explain that last measurement, it just happened. You'll need it later if you don't want to solve for pi with your own measurement.)
2. Arrange with the darkest on the bottom and lightest on top. Stitch together and press seams open. 

3. Cut sea life shapes from varying shades of denim. Make up your own, or use my new ocean shape booklet
4. Place the elements on areas where they will create a strong contrast. 

Incorporate seams and bumps wherever possible. Below, a hem is used to define the upper part of the jellyfish. 
Enjoy crossing boundaries. 
In process: 
Below, I sliced a piece of seaweed vertically in half , placing one half on the left edge, the other half on the right. 
That's because I wanted the ends to come together to create a unified leaf...
5. Once you like the arrangement, use Elmer's Washable School Glue (my new BFF) to lightly glue everything in place.  Let the glue dry (ironing speeds this up).

6. Zig-zag over the edges of all the elements with matching thread. I used dark, medium, and light greyish blue cotton/poly. Or, use invisible monofilament thread. Because the denim background is thick, you don't need a stabilizer. (But if you're doing this with regular-weight quilting fabric, you probably will need stabilizer, or felt, or batting on the back). 

7. Option: Test some tulle. Tulle gives everything a similar consistency, as if the elements were under water and/or behind glass. I tested white, pale blue, navy, and black tulle. Most colors greyed things down. But the navy and the black tulle made the elements pop! The results are unpredictable, so bring your project to the fabric store with you to test the tulles. You'll notice that the colors come in shiny and matte. In keeping with the window-water theme I picked shiny. (It's not very shiny.)

9. Pin the tulle on top, smoothing out from the center so it's very flat.

10. Pin on a backing. I used charcoal grey felt. There's no backing fabric. (But you can use traditional batting and a fabric backing, if you prefer.) Repin the sandwich - tulle, denim, felt - all the way around the edges.
11. Freemotion quilt around each element, using a straight stitch and invisible monofilament thread. Watch your creatures pop!  

12. Quilt waves across the background. 

13. Straight stitch just inside the edges of the outer rectangle, all the way around. 
14. Cut the backing and tulle down to the same size as the front, then zig-zag over the edges, all the way around. 

15. Here our ships part ways - pick the destination that's right for you! You could: 
  • Sew a sleeve on the back, and hang it flat on a wall. Ideally a wall on a staircase, so the view changes as you climb up or down. Explain to everyone that it's your new zero-maintenance, Petite Ocean Tank (POT?). 
  • Add four rectangular sides and a backing, to serve as a cover for a square foam pillow. That way it could be a sort of rectangular aquarium that could sit upright on a couch.
  • Use a traditional pillow form, and add a lapped pillow backing. 
  • Join the top and bottom horizontal edges; inset denim circles into the right and left sides; then stuff it for use as a bolster. Dramatic enactment:
  • Stand it up, on its own, in an arc, as a tabletop aquarium.
Look, it really does stand by itself! (Except in case of earthquake, helicopter, or if someone walks through the room):
On the back, there are traces of the creatures quilted into the felt. I cut a hole under the octopus' eyes to give it an anatomically misplaced mouth, into which I stuffed bits of felt to make the octopus rounder. 
17. Stitch up the sides. I butted them together and did a whip stitch. I wasn't wild about the messy result - neat hand stitching is not my forte - but we'll deal with that later. 
16.  Make a base for the cylinder. Since circumference =  2(pi)r, that means one divides 22.2" (the width of the piece) by 2(pi), which is 6.283.  22.2 divided by 6.283 = a radius of 3.5" and a total diameter of 7". I used a compass to create a circle with a radius of 3.5" plus one half inch (for the seam allowance), thus a total diameter of 7.5". Cut out the circle from denim, add a layer of felt, zig-zag over the edges, stitch a spiral to hold everything in place, Pin it in position, then  stitch. 
The next question: what, if anything, to do with the top edge. 

I played around with putting cut jeans seams around the top. I thought maybe the white strands looked like ocean waves. 

Nah. The hem top made it look more like a jeans leg than an aquarium. So I took that top off. I was also still not happy about the messy seam. 
I tested buttons to give the seaweed texture and cover the stitching....
Then I tested a twisted seam: 
Liked that, but more is better. I wound up with this: 

It's a string of faux pearls twisted around a jeans seam.
Plus added alternating shells and buttons...
This is such a quick project- you can finish everything but the embellishment in a morning. Do a quick sketch of your favorite sea creatures and start cutting; or get a running start with my new booklet, on my pattern page. It includes many of the species mentioned in the book that are actually in the GOT at the New England Aquarium. 
Whatever you make, have oceans of fun! Next week, in part 3, here's an elaborate and fun octopus quilt, here. And don't forget to read about last week's octopus quilt, if you're brainstorming your own!  

P.S. I was delighted to be able to share this project on Nina-Marie Sayre's weekly art quilt compendium, Off the Wall Fridays. Check it out!