Sunday, March 26, 2017

4 Improvisational Hashtag Quilt Blocks

A couple of weeks ago, I showed improvisational hashtag quilts made from batiks and printed word fabrics. Below are 4 1/2 very different, very fun hashtag projects, made with solids and/or novelty prints.

First, a  potholder inspired by hashtags, but really more of a tic-tac-toe board since it's not slanted. The sashing is watermelon fabric. (I cannot explain why I combined chopsticks and watermelon; I think those two fabrics were on top of my scrap pile.) The cornerstones are a white-on-black polka dot. The blocks celebrate chopsticks, except...
...the lower left corner, which celebrates Western cutlery. This is just a simple piecing project - cut nine 4" squares, 12 pieces of 4" x 1" sashing, and four 1" x 1" cornerstones - sew it all together, it's fast!

Next, a slash'n'stitch project that puts the hashtag at more of an angle.  I started with a solid 8 1/2" square. Plus, two strips about 9" long by 1 1/2" wide. 
Cut horizontally 2 1/2" down from the top, and up from the bottom, straight across. I used a ruler and rotary cutter to make these cuts straight, but you could use no ruler, or even scissors, to make them a little wonkier.
 Sew in the strips.
 Cut at an angle.
Do it again. Now you have two cuts. Keep everything in order.
 Sew another 1 1/2" strip (slightly longer than the square) onto the leftmost piece.
 Press open.
 Sew in the middle segment.
 Press open.
 Sew in fourth contrasting strip.
 Press. Add the final segment of the background and press open.
Trim overhanging edges. Optional: to make the hashtag "hang", add strips of whatever width you want, same color as the background, to the four sides.
Throughout the process, I ironed all my seam allowances inward (but you don't have to). I like that it gives the hashtag a sense of being in front.
Now comes the fun part: What is your hashtag about? Here are some of my tests. #Polkadots?
You'll see what I finally chose in a future installment. 
UPDATE: Vermont art quilter extraordinaire Carol McDowell read this blog post, and within a couple of hours, she made her own hashtag quilt block, using this method: 
Carol is a social media maven, and proposed we post our hashtag blocks on social media with the hashtag "#hashtagquiltblocks." I'm all in on that! I added that hashtag to my Instagram photos. Also see Carol's beautiful blog at 

Below, another slash and sew project. Instead of insetting straight strips, it involved insetting wedges. Start with a rectangle or square - this was a 9" square of mixed nuts fabric.  Slash as desired.
From a contrasting fabric, cut wedges slightly longer than the square. Place them with the wide end in alternating positions. (The wide end of the pretzel insert is on the right side in the top cut, on the left in the bottom cut.)
Cut apart in the opposite direction, at an angle.
Lay in two more wedges, with wide ends alternating.
 I pressed the seams inward, for a 3D look.
I put this piece on a double layer of batting, plus a backing, and a rat tail loop on the upper left corner. Result: a fun, wonky, potholder.
I shall call it #ChexMix (no financial affiliation.)

Finally, a completely different approach to hashtag construction. It involves foundation piecing with fabric. Start with nine squares or rectangles. I cut these rectangles 2 1/2" wide x 3" high. 
 Cut a 1 1/2" strip of fabric in a strongly contrasting shade. Cut it the full width of the fabric, and press one long edge up 1/4", all the way across.
 Option: use a temporary glue stick. Place the strip at an angle along one long edge of what will be the center top rectangle. Make sure that the top inner edge of the strip (on the upper right of the photo below) is 3/4" or more from the right edge. Add a couple of glue dabs below the seam allowance and press into position.
 Fold it over like this. Trim the strip so the top and bottom edges are just a little beyond the underlying rectangle.
Do the same thing on the opposite edge, making sure that when the flap is folded to the left, it fully covers the background fabric.
Press with a hot iron to dry the glue. Sew down the creases.
 Press open. From the back, trim away all the extending flap fabric so it can't be seen from the back.
 The front now looks like this.
 Set the third (and final) piece along the top, at the angle shown.
 Glue, then stitch in position.
 Again, trim away the area that sticks out from the backing.
 Make another one with the exact same angles.
 These two rectangles will go at the 12 o'clock and 6 o'clock positions:
 Now we'll work on the 3 o'clock and 9 o'clock positions. Add a strip at the angle shown to only one long edge of each of those two rectangles.
Add angled strips to the top and bottom short edges of those two blocks.
 Here they are with one short edge sewn in position.
 And now we're placing the final, second short edge in position.
 Once again, trim those two blocks to the size of the backing rectangle. The arrangement should look something like this.
 Sew the blocks together.
 Interesting, no? I didn't cut away any background between rounds of sewing, so the contrasting fabric hardly shows from the back.
I'm not yet sure how I'm going to embellish the front. There are probably a zillion other ways to make hashtags - I'd love to see what you've done with them! Post them on social media with the hashtag: #hashtagquiltblocks. 

Sunday, March 12, 2017

7 Ways to Use Rickrack, Life's Consolation Prize

People bring me all kinds of things that they think I might put on quilts - fabric, quilt, buttons, faux flowers - and most recently, a friend brought me several hanks (bolts? skeins? murders?) of rickrack.

Not that I needed more rickrack. I already have a little drawer filled with the stuff. (Technically, it's a half-drawer. The left side contains zippers):
Let's face it, rickrack is hilarious. It's like Sisyphus, drunk, zigging and zagging, back and forth, sound and fury, moving forward and signifying nothing but whimsy.

I was about to need hilarious because 1. I was soon to be in mourning, and 2. I was soon to make a bad decision  on one of my pieces involving 1" squares. It was this piece, a block leftover from a large quilt.
One evening, I impulsively decided to do a round of feathers in the border.

Freemotion feathers are hard. My odds improve only if I practice for a substantial amount of time for  weeks, and then again for at least a half-hour IMMEDIATELY before the final feathers, plus marking the quilt. (More feathers advice here.)

It's also a big mistake to make feathers when sad.

My beautiful mother was 90, and she died peacefully at the end of January. Mom had advanced dementia for many years; I believe that her passing was a liberation for her and she is reunited with my dad and with the family she lost in the Holocaust. Even so, it's shocking and miserable. In hindsight, impulse feathers are not good way to distract yourself in the week following a loss of this magnitude.

I know, that doesn't look too bad, but I won't show you the closeups. OK, I will. Some of the details were so awful that I tried to use a black pen on them.  As they said in Watergate, it's not the crime, it's the coverup.
After a minute of coloring, I realized that disaster was only spreading.  I put the whole thing aside.

A couple of weeks later, when I was breathing better, I ripped out the feathers. I also cut off the buttons in the central area. Then, I seized my new rickrack, cut little pieces to the same width as the squares (1" finished), applied Fray Check to the cut ends, and glued them onto selected squares. (There are also French knots on the squares).
I added large hand-stitches using embroidery floss, and in the outer borders, ebullient rick rack.
 The border rickrack is held in position with more big hand-stitches.
So it winds up being a happy piece! And there's nothing my mom loved more than happy. Of course, she liked everything I made. I was the luckiest daughter in the world.  I basked in her unconditional love, and still do.

This made me wonder what else I had used rickrack for in past.

I found this mixed media "100 Cups of Coffee on the Wall" quilt (blogged here), onto which I'd dipped lengths of rickrack into fabric stiffener, then stitched them to the left side of the quilt,
They're supposed to be caffeinated radiating energy lines....
I also used stiffened blue-and-silver, gold, and white rickrack as energy lines on this denim valentine brooch....

...and more white rick rack on the next one....

It's right above the silver bugle beads, below, held on with glue and pink transparent beads.
But wait, there's more!  I found this quilted linen cuff bracelet, blogged a couple of years ago, here. I used a huge, chunky rickrack as both embellishment....
 And, with the addition of a buckle, as the closure. I just poked a hole in it for the belt prong.
 The metal diamond embellishments are iron-on. That's a vintage button and polka dot silk in the yo yo, and the bracelet fabric is linen. I love all the textures, including the ridged rickrack.
Here's a denim vessel made from a torn pants leg. I circled the top with a piece of vintage lace that incorporated fancy embroidered twisted rickrack. 
Women of yore were ambitious with their rickrack. Someone crocheted, twisted, and knotted this trim by hand, no? Yes, those pink and white stripes in the middle are rickrack, wound together. 
I did a little more searching, and found that I'd used patriotic red and blue rickrack to embellish  totes that my friend Marian Sunabe and I made as fundraisers for the 2012 election. It works great to accent pockets....

And then, just this week, I happened to visit Quilt'n'Things, a lovely quilt shop in Glendale, and they had a shelf full of rickrack in bright colors and gigantic sizes. But I didn't see any quilts with the rickrack.  

If you're yearning for more  rickrack ideas, here's a link to a Pinterest page full of ideas:

What are you doing with rickrack? I'd love to hear about it!