Monday, August 29, 2016

Pokemon and Other Matzoh Covers: Judaica Show, II

Last week, I showed some of the quilts I hung at my local Jewish Federation office. This week, I'll show the Passover-only quilts that I considered and/or put on display. Yes, we're having Passover in August! First, my Pokemon-themed matzoh cover, made around 2000. 
My son (now 23) was in kindergarten with Pokemon-crazed children. I interrogated one of them to find out exactly what Pokemons do. He explained that they have superpowers, and are captured by "masters," then forced to battle on the masters' behalf.  It sure sounded like slavery to me (though this little boy insisted that "they like fighting!") 

So Pikachu (the bright yellow guy) became Moses, leading his adorable-yet-ornery minions away from the masters, through the splitting seas, with the ageless cry...
I forgot most of these characters' names - your kids or grandkids know. This cover was a huge hit with the youngsters over the years. Somewhere along the way, it developed an authentic Maneschewitz stain. 

The yellow duck in the next photo has the superpower of causing headaches. I added a kosher certification on the pig-like entity. (He's saying, "Next Year in Tokyo!")
Pharaoh represents the Masters: 
The trompe l'oeil matzoh fabric was purchased from (Similar fabric is also sold by Sunshine Sewing ). It looks exactly like matzoh, and when quilted in lines parallel to the rows of dots, it feels bumpy-soft-good, and so realistic that your guests may try to slather it with charoset and take a bite! 

Next, a cover made primarily from batiks, maybe in 2005. 
As I recall, my quilt-world idol Jane Sassaman's wonderful book The Quilted Garden (no affiliation), inspired me to photocopy, draw, and redraw a leaf of romaine lettuce a whole bunch of times before coming up with this stylized version. 
The entire piece wound up about 24" wide by 20" high - too big for a crowded seder table, but works great as a wallhanging.

Next, another matzoh cover that accidentally grew too large for the table - 35" at its widest. It's octagonal.
All the yellow triangles are 3D, with a folded edge along their hypotenuse, tucked into the seam. Detail: 

Next, a piece I call "Old Plagues on Them, New Plagues on Us."
It's 25" square. The top portion shows the traditional plagues: 
Those labels read "Frogs," "Locusts," and "Wild Animals". (Yes, that cow is supposed to be upside down. She's ill. Cattle disease was one of the plagues.) 

The bottom half shows what, 15 years ago, I considered to be modern-day plagues. These included: handguns, pollution, narcissism, steroids...
...endangered species (they themselves aren't plagues, but the whole endangerment thing I courageously oppose), despotism, bigotry (under a kingly figure who foreshadows 2016 political candidates?), soda, and, um, cell phones?! I can't recall what I had against cell phones, which were new at the time. I think because people were driving while talking on them. Plus, mine didn't work too well. 

Here's another small matzoh cover that I considered for the show, but decided it was too tiny - maybe just 12" high. 
Made with a wavy blue batik. I wish I had written down how I strip pieced it, because I  would like to make another one.

And finally, I hung my matzoh tambourine in the show. Double rows of large plastic buttons around the edges rattle. It's stiffened with plastic canvas, and measures about 12" across. 
For many more Passover items, see  this blog post, from last February. Want to stitch your own Passover  textiles? Join the fun - find inspiration and information - in the Pomegranate Guild of Judaic Needlework!

For more connections between quilting and Pokemon, check out this recent blog post.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

My First Judaic Quilt Show, Part 1

I hadn't participated in a quilt or art show for a long time. But I'm resolving to get my work out more. So two weeks ago, when I got a call from one of the lovely people at our local Jewish Federation (in Southern California), asking if I would hang some my Judaic-themed quilts in their Monrovia office, I was thrilled!

For about an hour, until I realized I would have to pull out and look critically at all my Judaic work, some of which is new, and some which is close to 20 years old. Assessing old work is exciting and scary at the same time. Sometimes I say, "Hey, that one was pretty good!" And sometimes, it's a  "Glug." (Similar to "Ugh," worse than "Meh," not as bad as "Argh".)

In this post, I'll show the non-Passover related quilts that I pulled for the show (the Passover ones are next week). First is a quilt that very few people have seen, for reasons that will become apparent in one second:

Yes, it's the world's oldest Jewish joke. It reads, "Three Fairly Major Jewish Holidays on Just 1 Dinner Napkin: They Tried to Kill Us. We Won. Let's Eat!" Another detail:
It is appliquéd to a genuine lace-edged napkin. The holiday names - Purim, Chanukah, and Passover - are appliquéd to the lace along the bottom.  In hindsight, it's quite a bit messier than I would like, but the idea has potential! (I'd love to see your interpretation!)

And speaking of lace, what are you supposed to do with green lace? When I started quilting, I bought every flea market embellishment I could find, without thinking it through. This green lace was probably intended for negligées or mermaid brassieres. I've only found this use for it:

People like this one, but I keep thinking "negligée".

Next, one of my paper-pieced Hebrew alphabet quilts.
The font is based on Torah calligraphy. It took me months to wrestle all the complexly-angled Hebrew letters into paper piecing patterns. How complex? Here's the pattern for one of the more challenging letters, the tzaddi:

That's 17 pieces for one letter, but who's counting? I was pretty proud of myself when I'd finished creating patterns for all 27 letters including five final consonants (which only appear at the end of words and are not in this quilt), plus a couple of symbols. (Commercial break: The pattern is available in my Etsy shop, or Judaiquilt page. For advanced paper piecers, only.)

Up next, another challah (Sabbath bread) cover, with the clouds containing the bread blessing. It's never been photographed.

Those five layer reverse-appliqué clouds were sooo labor intensive.
At least they're raw edge appliqué - turning under the edges before stitching would have been just plain crazy. (Last commercial break: I later simplified it into the pattern that's in my Etsy shop and Pattern page.)

I call the next one "Semi-Amish Dreidels," because of the solids-and-blacks color scheme. We display it every Chanukah. The last time I hung it, I was trying to recall how I made it. I thought I'd strip-pieced it, but after dredging through old files, I discovered that it's paper-pieced!
It's octagonal (I photographed it on a black background). Those are prairie points around the edges. Each dreidel has one of the Hebrew letters from the dreidel game quilted into it. 

Next, 'Shabbat Shalom', for a peaceful (pieceful?) Sabbath.
For six days (i.e. the top six rows of cubes), we run back and forth like chickens. On the last day, we rest, take a deep breath, try to perceive the divine. (Or at least the yellow.)

The lettering is done with dishwasher gel and freezer paper templates. I ironed freezer paper letters to black fabric, then painted around them with the gel. Let it sit a few minutes, and then gradually rinsed it off, starting at the top, so the bottom would be the lightest area, exposed to bleach the longest. (Don't try this at home without using Bleach-stop or its ilk when you're done.)

Next, one of my wedding canopies (aka chuppah).  "Seven sisters" is the name of this design in American quilt history, adding layers of meaning to six-pointed stars. 
Corner detail, with the word "chai" (for "life") quilted in gold thread.

Next, my "nine of anything" menorah quilt, blogged a few years ago, here.
There's an ice cream menorah.... Elvis menorah...
 ... a butterfly menorah, and more.

Finally, my response to the Charlie Hebdo massacre, blogged here. 

Seeing most of these pieces hanging in one hallway was an out-of-body experience. Even though the office wall was painted an intense turquoise, and there's barely a scintilla of turquoise in any of these quilts, it seemed to work out quite nicely!
Next week: my Passover matzoh covers for the show. There were a lot to choose from. I have in my home enough matzoh covers for at least a month of Passovers.

These quilts will be at the  Monrovia Jewish Federation office, here in Southern California, for three months, and they welcome visitors during their regular business hours.

Update: Part II of the show, my Passover items, are blogged here.

Public service announcement: Are you interested in making and/or learning more about stitched Judaica? Find inspiration and like-minded people in the Pomegranate Guild of Judaic Needlework, an international organization with chapters across the US and Canada, and independent members around the world. The Guild has a members'-only archives with hundreds of needlework patterns, ideas, and articles about Jewish art, tradition and culture.

We also have a Facebook page and Yahoo discussion group. And you don't have to be Jewish to join! Go to for more information! And consider coming to our 2017 Convention in Atlanta! You will make friends, and beautiful things, and soon be able to decorate your own hallways with your own  Judaic art!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Curvalicious for a Grownup Bed Quilt

My friend T. is an avid quilter with shoulder pain. She wanted to make some gift and personal quilts, but her upper body isn't cooperating at the moment. So she commissioned me.

For her twin bed quilt, she sent me yards of this beautiful turquoise batik fabric with gold Judaic designs printed on it:
..along with this starry white-on white fabric (it looks grey in the photo, but it's pure white). 
...And she specified that I should make stripes using Cheryl Lynch's "Curvalicious" ruler. I wrote a blog post about Curvalicious two years ago, when Cheryl gifted me with one. Its deceptively simple design is modern, retro, and stylish, all at the same time. 
At the time, I used it to make an understated, fast, modern infant-intelligence-enhancing baby quilt.
So, for T's quilt, I ironed paper-backed fusible web to the back of the turquoise fabric. Next, I traced the ruler on the back - the wavy lines as well as the circles. I then cut  along the wavy lines with my rotary cutter...
...and, for the circle, used an x-acto knife to start the cut. Once the x-acto had made a cut wide enough for a sharp scissors blade, I inserted  the scissors to cut the rest of the way around.
Once I had a  bunch of stripes and polka dots, I flung them around on white fabric and sent T. snapshots of a multitude of choices...boy, was that fun!

I got a little giddy...
Alas, T. wanted something less chaotic, with no more than two curvy stripes. She didn't even want the blue polka dots!

So I created a background - a wide turquoise piece with a narrower white piece - then fused and appliquéd the stripes onto the white background. Added batting and backing, and quilted it heavily. Bound it and done!
To stitch down the stripes, I used a machine zig-zag. 
I did random stippling on the turquoise expanse, and combined circles with stippling on the white area surrounding the stripes.

Please disregard the fact that some of my circles aren't very circular! For the back, T.  sent me yards of this chicken soup fabric: 
It made up the entire back. How I wish this chicken soup fabric wasn't out of print! I had bought a yard of it four years ago, and used it up for gifts! (Like this one.)

I packed the quilt up and shipped it to T. Fortunately, she loved the results of our joint venture!  I also sent her all the extra fusible-backed Curvalicious stripes and dots that I had cut out - hopefully, when her shoulders improve, she can easily fuse them down to make some particularly easy applique quilts.

The Curvalicious ruler is addictive and surprising - it can give an otherwise-basic quilt an unexpectedly sophisticated look. Cheryl uses it with dupioni silk to make elegant creations - see more possibilities at No financial affiliation! I'd love to see what you've made with it!

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Rocks, Paper, Scenery: Freemotion Quilt a Spanish Vacation

We just returned from the trip of a lifetime, a reunion vacation with friends in rural Spain, north of  Barcelona, in the Costa Brava region. We saw, ate, and drank many beautiful things, but what I found most fascinating - as a quilter and an American - were the stones.

The medieval walls and streets proudly show their age with layers of rock-and-brick patchwork. Like this one...

...and this...

Here's the villa where we stayed: 
I thoroughly enjoyed the ten days of friends, wine, cheese and cappucino, but I could hardly wait to get home to try some rock-inspired freemotion quilting. After a joyful reunion with my sewing machine, I propped my laptop next to it, and looked at each photo while stitching:
Do not follow my example and place your coffee cup on your sewing table. It's asking for trouble.

For my first experiment, I used a trapezoidal piece of scrap muslin that happened to be lying around, with batting between two layers, and red thread. I picked seven favorite photos, and stitched them out serially...
One was this photo:
First try:
I also stitched or wrote the name and number of the photo on top of each image. 
Wow, that's awful! I did the next round in pen:
Third time in fabric, again: 
Gee, practice helps a LOT! The most challenging part was making the rocks uneven sizes. In all my years of FMQ, I have mostly focused on making the repeated designs - loops leaves, squares, whatever - consistent sizes. But that's not how rocks look in ancient Spanish structures! The same wall can contain everything from tiny misshapen blobs to long pencil-shaped pieces to plump rectangles. It was surprisingly difficult for me to vary the sizes irregularly, and distribute them asymmetrically.

Next, a metal vine window grating, surrounded by bricks, then rocks:

First draft, stitched...
...Second draft in ink...
This was a wonderful arch, with family strolling underneath:

Rocks are much easier to sketch than relatives, so I left the family out of my interpretations. First version:
Third, another fabric practice: 
Check out this awesome window (door?) frame that had been completely filled in.

First try, stitched:
Second, drawn:
(I skipped the hard part). Third, stitched again:
 Here are the pieces I have so far.
 And here's my best version (so far) of the villa, colored with watercolor pastel crayons (Caran d'ache Neocolor II).
Meanwhile, here are some more quilty sights (and sites) from Costa Brava. Our villa featured an affectionate burro named Rudolpha.
We bonded deeply, but unfortunately, she wouldn't fit into the overhead compartment on the airplane. Next, a café ceiling - OMG, those are flying geese!

Across from the cafe, a building with a graphic sun dial. I believe those dark brown metal cross stitches are holding the structure together (not religious icons). 
Next, an apartment building painted with rectangles that look a lot envelopes with all the lower triangular flaps colored in!?
Is this a traditional Spanish symbol? Anyone?
Check out this rock mosaic pattern from the middle of a street: 
My friend Gary took an even better picture of it (Thanks, Gary!). See the clamshell motif?
In the next image, I love the people, and the wall behind them almost as much. Hmm, I could just print this photograph onto fabric, and follow the rock lines with freemotion quilting...
OK, you're sick of looking at rocks. There were also startling color schemes. Here's my glorious friend Maria, in front of an almost-as-glorious bougainvillea. 
Thank you, Maria and Dave, for organizing such a fantastic vacation!
A golden street corner: 
(Later, in the Dali Museum, I spotted a collage which echoed that corner's colors: 
A yummy gazpacho, which I'd just about finished when a golden visitor wafted down into it.
Below, a wall that looks like an island map. The window shades are a deep forest green....
And speaking of green and blue....
Sorry, that was more rocks. Don't get me even started on the inspiration at the Salvador Dali museum. One of Dali's famous pieces, "50 Abstract Paintings," made in 1962, is totally quilt-ish: 
OK, not totally. It's hiding distorted images of a Bengal tiger and Lenin (the Russian dictator, not John the Beatle). The layout reminded me of a less edgy but no less enthralling 1970 quilt, "Falling Blocks", made by quilting engineer Ernest Haight of Nebraska.
(Read about Haight here. He has nothing to do with Spain.) And I'm also singling out the Dali painting below because it's embellished with...yes, I believe those are dangling ESPADRILLES. 
Bless you, Dali, for giving me permission to hang shoes from my quilts! How about flip-flops dangling from a beach-themed quilt?

Will you be quilting your summer vacation?