Sunday, October 30, 2016

Necktie Creations II: Don't Use Awful Ties!

To my delight, last week's blog post, about my 68-necktie quilt that made it to the Pacific International Quilt Festival, inspired two more artists to blog about their necktie creations! 

The irrepressible Maggie Winfield, who is a spectacular fiber artist and a walking work of art, showed off the outfits she made incorporating ties, including this necklace,
And this outfit: 
Her post also explains her brilliant technique for removing the linings, without losing the ties' shapes. For details and more pictures, see her Funky Diva blog post here

Fiber artist Norma Schlager, another inspiring blogger and fiber artist, was moved to write up a post about her necktie creations, here. There are two stunning quilts; a lovely scarf; and a vest with a layout similiar to one I made around the same time (We were both probably inspired by a vest in the book Daddy's Ties, by Shirley Botsford). 

Here's the vest I made - it's been in my closet for 2+ decades, and this is the first time I've shown it to anyone. You are about to see why. (Maybe I can cut it up into potholders?)
In my defense, the photo makes the background look beige but it's really a pale celery. Even my florid hedge can't make it look good. Here's the back.
Wow, that is really bad. It took me so many years to learn a simple lesson: Awful fabrics usually make awful things. Maybe I could wear it when handing out Halloween candy tomorrow? Along with a witch's hat? 

I used leftover strips to make four log cabin blocks, which I quilted and folded into along zippered  purse, with beading around the rim. The purse is better than the vest, and I have actually carried this purse in public, believe it or not.  
I also made a small statement wallhanging. The statement is: How wonderful it is not to have to wear neckties to work! The cursive quilting around the edges is a take on the old song "American Woman." It reads, "American Necktie, Stay Away From Me; American Necktie, Please let me be."  
In my own defense, I made all those three pieces in the mid-90s, when I was a new quilter. For more recent and tasteful necktie creations past, check out this blog post, which includes the medallion and amulet purse below.

Gee,working with wonderful prints really makes a big difference. Neckties are also great for making Artist Trading Cards

What have you made from neckties? 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Necktie Archeology Quilt

Imagine that a quirky yet wealthy man who wears unusual neckties lives next to a steep mountain.

One day there's a heavy rainstorm, and our collector flees his house in the nick of time. A massive mudslide buries the house. Since he's very rich, he never bothers to dig it out, and lives happily ever after in another house.

A hundred years later, his wealthy heirs, arguing about inheritances, decide they want to salvage his buried home. A crew of workers dig down into the ruins, and finally break into his closet.

Here's a cross-section of what might they might dig up. There are 68 neckties on this quilt, newest on top, aging as you move down, with a 1950s-era quilt on bottom. (Also, 100+ vintage buttons).
In truth, these neckties didn't come from one person. I've been collecting them from thrift shops and flea markets for years. About a year ago, I began the job of stitching them to a background.

In the interests of historical documentation, I tried to keep these ties as intact as possible. The only change I made to most was to surgically cut the tags off the back and move them to the front, so future fashion scholars can study them.
I stitched the neckties to the backing by hand, with relatively large stitches. The future owner of this quilt could theoretically remove and wear most of these ties.

 Here's the bottom-most tie:
It's a slim '50s or early 60s tie, with a bikini-clad pinup girl hidden in the lining. (She unfortunately has punctures on her neck, due to a thrift shop sales tag and/or confused vampire attack.)

Moving up into the later 60s, the ties widen. 
A closer look:
Perhaps 1960s tie designers experimented with LSD? There's an Escheresque orange-and-black design at the bottom, followed by pink diamonds; a striped tie celebrating San Francisco trolleys; and a whole lot of crazy paisley. 

Continuing upwards, into the 1970s. Three of the four ties below were my Dad's. He had conservative tastes.

Along the bottom of the photo above, there's a festive tie that features international drinking toasts: "Prosit!" "Campi!" "Skol!"  "Salute!"and of course, "L'Chaim!" (Plus one in Chinese characters - thanks to reader Margaret who let me know it reads "Ganpai!", literally, "empty your glass!") Above that is a demure orange paisley that belonged to my Dad. Above that is a lobster-themed tie. The topmost navy tie in the photo above was also my Dad's; it has state seals from Massachusetts, the state he loved and lived in.

I wove an ultra-wide British beefeater-themed tie through that grouping.
Moving up into the yuppie 80s, we find a power tie with words like "will," "determination," and "adversity." Perfect for people who work on Wall Street, and/or admire Ayn Rand.
Next, my greatest thrift shop find: the vertical burgundy-and-yellow meta-tie - a tie that illustrates how to tie a necktie!
Continuing to climb, we have birds, yellow submarines, eagles and wolves. The animal neckties and many others have labels that indicate they raise money for charity. 
Still higher, in the photo below, there's a space shuttle; a supersized fish (you need some chutzpah to wear that to work!); Forbes magazines punctuated by money; a Monopoly board, and neon Volkswagon bugs. 
The other end of that grouping also shows a moon landing tie, the narrow end of the space shuttle tie, and young Elvis clutching a hound dog. 
Past Monopoly, there's a lime-green golf course; a photography tie with antiquated film rolls; and the tornado scene from The Wizard of Oz. 
The topmost grouping features Nicole Miller ties. Nicole's exquisite silk fabrics bring new meaning to the word "clutter." Many appear to be advertisements as well as fashion.
The bottom tie in the photo above has what appears to be cups filled with green sno-cones - the cups read "Tabasco" Green Tabasco sauce frozen treats? Is that a thing? Directly above that: New Orleans  (crayfish, saxophones, beads, masks); breakfast foods, like croissants and cafe au lait with red bottles of Tabasco sauce; assorted corkscrews; Dole Fruit products; Nestles fun-size chocolate bars; Miller Beer at a beach; and sports equipment on  top.

The left side of the quilt has two different vertical groupings.  On the upper left are my Liberty of London ties, donated to me by my friend Roslyn, a professional-level thrift shopper;
Closer:  (The plaid tie on the left and the horizontal ties are not Liberty). 
And finally, in the lower left corner, I put a section acknowledging the tie's resonance as a symbol of  upright masculinity.  I call it the Love, Sex and Babies Department.
It includes an authentic Viagra necktie smack in the middle (given to me by a doctor, who got it free from the drug company). Moving right from the center, there's a Pfizer (makers of Viagra) pill-themed necktie; a Nicole Miller pediatrician tie; a custom baby photograph tie. To the immediate left of the Viagra tie, there's another Nicole Miller doctor-themed tie; a physician's emblem tie; and a tie that features Valentine candies.
To my extreme excitement this quilt was accepted into the Mancuso Pacific International Quilt Festival in Santa Clara, CA (#PIQF), held this past October 13-16. I wasn't able to get to the show, but my dear friend, show vendor, and queen of appliqué Kay Mackenzie took some pictures for me. Their hanging system wasn't as high as my quilt (about 100" long), so they ran it onto the floor.
I got some nice judge's comments, plus Kay commissioned her husband, who I know as a brilliant science writer, but also turns out to have unsuspected depths as a world-class doodler, to create this important faux-award for me:
I couldn't be prouder!

I love working with neckties, and these kinds of quilts make wonderful retirement as well as memorial projects. There are several books out on the subject; my favorite is an oldie but goodie, Shirley Botsford's "Daddy's Ties," which is inexpensive on Amazon, here. (No financial affiliation!)

For instant gratification and more of my favorite necktie projects from across the web, check out my Pinterest board on upcycled fabrics, at

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Very Rare: Quilter Makes Bear

Here he is! My new best friend! He's tall (18"), quirky (crooked nose), enjoys California weather, is not a big talker, and doesn't have a name, because I don't want to get too attached to him.
I'm going to ship him out to a child with a rare disease, through the auspices of the Rare Bear project of Rare Science, a non-profit organization that seeks treatments for kids with rare diseases. On the back, each maker stitches in a tag with a number specific to that bear. 
Rare bears are made from a commercial pattern - Simplicity C5461, view E. It's only $5.96, and Simplicity is donating a portion of the earnings to Rare Science.  (No financial affiliation.)
Speaking of rare, as a quilter, I am someone who almost never touches a commercial sewing pattern. Undertaking this bear forced me to wrack my brains trying to remember everything the ferocious Mrs. Rich taught me in 7th grade Home Economics, circa 1970, where my semester project was a yellow paisley dashiki mini-dress. (I just did a Google search and found my dashiki pattern!: 

I didn't add the rick rack.)

The bear pattern was definitely more complex than that dashiki, so I made a lot of mistakes, like overlooking notches, and using imperceptible methods to mark placement dots (light Sharpie dots on the wrong side - fail!) I also initially stitched the legs to the neck. When I make another one, I'm sure I'll sail through much easily, because it really isn't hard once you grok the concept.

On the upside - especially for quilters - it's a great way to use up juvenile print leftovers. I used mostly scraps from a set of Jan Mullen children's prints purchased long ago. 
I am counting ten different fabrics I worked into this bear, not including the black felt for the nose, and the logo fabric the organization provides for the feet. 
If you want to make a Rare Bear, buy the pattern, and submit the form on this page. They will send detailed instructions, along with a numbered tag and foot fabric. Rare Bears also make a terrific group project - inspiration is here

Unfortunately, some of the project's instructions contradicted each other, and I went with the direction sheet that told me to stuff my bear.  The CORRECT instruction sheet said DON'T stuff it - headquarters does that.  So if you make one, don't worry about expensive postage - an unstuffed bear folds up small and light for mailing (plus they provide an address label and bag.) 

Want to see some real wowza finished bears made from this pattern? Alex Anderson and Ricky Tims' online organization, The Quilt Show, will hold a Rare Bear Celebrity Auction from November 2-6. Bears made by famous quilters will be auctioned. Peruse them from this page, and bid on them here

The celebrity bears will also be displayed in the Rare Science Booth at the International Quilt Festival,  which is also November 2-6, 2016, in Houston.  

UPDATE: The most astonishing of all is this bear, completely covered with beads and other embellishments, by Melody Crust. 

If you make/made a Rare Bear, I'd love to see a picture! Thanks to my friend Saraj for letting me know about the Rare Bear program!

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Kvelling Over Hat and Hebrew Quilt "Grandbabies"

Every so often, I get an email with the subject line "Your newest grandchild!" These announcements don't come from my own kids, which is a probably a relief, because they're 18-to-23 and single.

Instead they come from my friend Linda Horowitz, a businesswoman and humorist, who loves making over-the-top kippot from the patterns in my yarmulke how-to book.  She especially likes to make personalized, reversible lined kippot with 12 fabrics (plus buttons and charms.)  A couple of months ago, she made the hat below for a friend's rabbinical ordination. There are six panels on the outside....

And six more on the inside....

Her giftee is involved in Jewish summer camp (so there's a camp fabric); "edible Judaism" (pumpkins); sun-and-wheat for counting the omer; a dove of peace button on a Jerusalem fabric; a tree fabric (Tree of Life/Tree of Knowledge - both work), with an apple button, which, she notes, could also be a teacher's apple; a G-clef charm; and much more. The binding is black denim with gold musical notes.  

I thought I couldn't be prouder, but shortly afterwards, Linda sent me another baby picture! It was for the following 4-panel kippah she made for her son, who is starting freshman year at Butler University in Indiana. The school mascot is a bulldog.
This hat didn't come as a total surprise - Linda had visited my home to print a bunch of bulldogs onto a pretreated sheet of fusible-backed printer fabric. Our printout looked like this:

She then cut out two of the dog heads, and fused them to a satin white fabric. She hired a professional machine embroiderer to spell out "Butler" in Hebrew (under the dog's head), her son's Hebrew name, and "Go Dawgs!" (The embroideries cost her $10/panel.) She cut the fabric into four panels, and stitched them together to make the kippah.

But wait,  there are more new grandbabies! They're not hats; they're quilts, and they're Canadian! (so I may need to move in with them after the election.) A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from my friend Susan Podlog, who lives in Calgary - and it contained this photo:
Left to right: Leslie Levant, Nadine Waldman, Deb FinklemanCarolyn Devins, Polina Ersh, Myrna Ichelson holding a challah cover by Lily Joffe
This group of women - members of the Alberta-based Rimon Calgary chapter of the Pomegranate Guild of Judaic Needlework -  made quilts from my Hebrew Aleph Bet pattern. Their finished projects range from simple alphabets to challah (bread) covers to a "welcome" sign for a synagogue office.

What makes this astonishing to me is that some of these ladies were beginners to paper piecing and even to machine sewing! Tackling my paper piecing patterns without a little experience can be daunting. For example, here's the letter Aleph:

It makes this:

... Fortunately, this group of stitchers includes Polina Ersh, "a phenomenal quilter and paper piecing maven," explains chapter member Susan Podlog. "Polina has the patience of Job, and was so gracious in sharing her knowledge. We so appreciated her willingness to be a teacher!"

One of the Polina's most helpful tips, Susan reports: Use the "Add a Quarter" ruler to trim seam allowances as you go. My pattern does not include information about this tool, but I just found a very clear tutorial here. (This tutorial is from the ruler's inventor, Carolyn Cullinan McCormick. No financial affiliation!)

The group also gave me some very lovely feedback on the patterns. One of the women wrote,
"I do remember thinking it was good that I'd done a previous paper-piecing project. I guess I'd say it might be tough for novices without some guidance.  But I'm very pleased with how it turned out, and very glad that Cathy made this pattern. It's something the world needed!
What more could a grandmother ask for?  Well, a human grandchild would be nice, eventually....meanwhile, I'll just sit here in the dark.

A blog post with more about aleph bet quilts is here.  Patterns are on my Judaiquilt website, here. and my Etsy shop.  If you make something from one of my patterns, please send a birth announcement! We will both kvell!

P.S. Many more Judaica patterns, in many different mediums are available to members of the Pomegranate Guild of Judaic Needlework. You'll make new friends and learn new techniques - it's all good!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Vintage Greeting Cards for a Sweet New Year

Happy New Year!  In October? Why yes, of course, because Rosh Hashanah starts tonight!

Rosh Hashanah is both somber and celebratory. Jews reflect on our past year, to begin the process of asking forgiveness. We pray, and listen to the blasts of the shofar, the ram's horn, that shakes us to our souls. Culinarily, we indulge in apple slices dipped in honey, and circular challah bread, round like the year.

Another colorful custom: For more than 100 years, Jews have sent each other Rosh Hashanah greeting cards.

Don't get me wrong, I treasure the musical e-cards I receive from friends and family -  but they'll never match the charm of the vintage paper cards from the late 1800s forward. Here's one I showed off a couple of years ago, found in my husband's family photo album

American patriotism is a common theme. I recently discovered a stash of vintage Rosh Hashanah greeting cards in Wikimedia. The next elaborate postcard from their collection also celebrates immigration and American patriotism:

The Yiddish, says "Happy New Year Ship Card." (Among other things). It's from about 1930. See details here.

Next, another immigration-themed card, a fabulous pop-up: 
A closer look.
The next pop-up card seems to be celebrating the end of WWII. It's dated 1950. Tanks appear to be rolling in to liberate a town? What town? Any ideas? See details.

Next, a simple but spooky pansy:
And how about this sweet standup lad with dozens of purple flowers?

Below, an incredibly elaborate synagogue popup: 
Aren't these wonderful? Want to see more? 
  • For more from Wikimedia's collection, travel here
  • To make your own fiber art Rosh Hashanah postcards, check out my blog post which includes a tutorial, here
  • To buy your own vintage cards, check ebay. Enter "Rosh Hashanah postcard" in the search window. Below are some amazing recent examples:
Above, children with a beautiful angel. Below, love and romance is another common theme: 

And finally, I wish all who celebrate it a happy, healthy, creative New Year! Or as Mr. Spock would say,
(Here's the entire fabric postcard:)
PS: To make your own Judaica of any kind, consider joining the Pomegranate Guild of Judaic Needlework.