Sunday, September 24, 2017

Quilts, Etc., Made So Long Ago, I Almost Forgot About Them

I love it when people send unexpectedly me pictures of quilts I gave them. Especially when it's something I made long ago (= more than a month) and pretty much forgot about. 

A couple of weeks ago, my cousins in Arizona, sent me a bunch of photos like this:
They're time lapse photos of their cat emerging from underneath a quilt. It's one of the first quilts I ever made, more than two decades ago, which I hadn't thought about in a long time. Here it is flat:
Thank you, I know it looks okay from a distance, but let me assure you I had no flipping idea of what I was doing. Solids and prints were combined with reckless abandon. The pink and lavender fabrics came from the bargain bin, so cheap you could see through them. The black-and-white inner border print was scratchy and therefore likely - horrors! - polyester! I used a classic book on Seminole piecing to create the effective 3-D folded ribbon effect, so I take comfort in that. But the muddy brown and green squares. contrasting with pastel cornerstones, makes me want to weep, and not from happiness. 

Poor decisions notwithstanding, the cat photos convinced me that the quilt survived more than two decades of happy marriage and lively pets. The fact that the bargain fabric is intact is a miracle. Maybe the Arizona air mummified it. 

And speaking of mummies, a couple of weeks ago, I received two more photos of something wrapped: 

Not a mummy - that's my yummy new grand-niece Skyler, the best dressed baby ever, whose mum is a fabric industry fashionista! I knew this baby would need a stylish quilt, so I sent her the minimalist black-and-red-and-white baby quilt I made using Cheryl Lynch's brilliant Curvalicious ruler (no financial affiliation). 
It's so much happier to see it wrapped around a baby! And speaking of wrapping girls, another project I showed while back was an appliqued silk dupioni prayer shawl, a commission for a bat mitzvah, based on a vintage map of Jerusalem. (Tutorial here.)
What I couldn't do for this commission was embroider the biblical quotation that the family wanted on the shawl's collar, because I don't own an embroidery machine. They found someone local to embroider it, plus a date along the bottom. 
And who wouldn't love getting a picture like this after the happy occasion?
While we're discussing Judaica, here's a challah (bread) cover I designed and started selling as a pattern in 2010. 
In recent months, two people who bought it (it's in my Etsy shop), sent me images of the covers they made based on it. Jan wrote to me that she is not Jewish, but she made a simplified version for her Jewish daughter-in-law and grandkids. This was her first experience with machine applique, and it went well. 
 Another correspondent, Orit,  made a more detailed version:
Like all pattern designers, I get a huge kick out of seeing what people do to make them their own! 

And moving from Judaica to crosses....many months ago, I sent a picture of my "Blue Cross Blue Shield" all-jeans upcycled quilt to the Studio Art Quilters' Association, as part of their "Cross Purposes" member exhibit. I was beyond thrilled when the photo came back to me in their magazine. 
A tutorial for making a quilt like this starts here. (Those are non-denominational crosses.)

Moral of the story: If you're the recipient of a quilt, it's never too late to snap a picture of it and send it to the maker. If you're a quilter, don't be above asking your giftees for pictures of your quilts in action (even if they're just hanging on a wall.) And if you make a quilt from a pattern, the pattern designer would LOVE to see it! 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Eclipse-o-mania: Cosmic Uses for Batik Scraps

Guess what, there's another eclipse tonight! I'm not kidding - scroll to the end of this article.

Inspired by this past August's solar eclipse, and the NASA #EclipseArtQuilt challenge, I aimed to make a quilt that would inspire quiet reverence for a natural phenomenon. Instead, I wound up with a batik tailgate party. Afterwards, extra batik and batik-esque circles and crescents were strewn about my cutting table, coffee table, ironing board, sewing room floor, kitchen floor, purse, socks, but not my hair. Dramatic recreation:
So I picked them up, dusted them off, and started arranging them on a blue background.
And, to make a long story short, I made the following. It's called, "There's Always an Eclipse Somewhere."

How do we love batiks? Let us count the ways! They're full of irregularities that give them an extra-terrestrial look. Especially batiks that are so splotchy that you don't know what else to do with them - they make terrific astronomical and astrogeological phenomena. Sunspots, craters, crevasses...

...atmospheric anomolies...

...purple mountain's majesty and amber waves of grain (oh wait, that's America)...
...shining seas...

...valleys rings, dorsa, promontorium...

... single-cell seeds of life, seas, arachnoids, domes...


...lava tubes, dark matter...

...channels and canals (built by mother nature or ET)...

(That yellow globe above is a bit of hand-painted fabric with experimental smears, arguably from brush cleaning.) It's so much fun to find strange parts you would otherwise discard, and cut planets around them. I stuck everything down lightly with a glue stick.
Then considered whether to throw a tulle net on top. Tulle can soften/hide edges of raw edge applique, and the hue can change the look of the quilt in unexpected ways. If you freemotion quilt on top of tulle (instead of directly on the cutouts), there's less concern about loose edges causing tangles and creases.

Let the testing begin. Black tulle:
Purple tulle: 
A vintage red organza scarf, full of runs:
The tests made me decide not to use tulle at all. That meant more pressure to do a neat zigzag around each shape. Used either matching or variegated rayon threads. I ignored the pressure and did a non-neat zigzag. 
By the time I finished the machine applique, it was already 5 pm, and I have a rule: Never FMQ (freemotion quilt) after 5, except in case of emergency potholder. From dusk forward, I make lousy decisions, monotonous dinners, and my handwriting decays worse than usual. FMQ is all about excellent handwriting. 

But I do let myself PRACTICE after 5 pm. I started out on paper. My first idea was freemotion sky motifs. 
Second, I tried freehanding five-pointed stars inside pentagons....
I liked that, so I tried it on dressmaker's tracing paper, using a watercolor marker (for easy removal in case ink leached through, which it didn't.) In process: 
....And after removing the quilt: 
Waaaaaayyy too fussy and small.  Need something simpler. 
Better. The next morning, I did a bit more pencil practice, then stitching practice, and finally, I went for it. 

 I like that it looks like "low poly" designs. I did a rolled-edge facing (favorite tutorial), and called it done!
When's the next big eclipse? TONIGHT! I learned in this morning's New York Times that a type of eclipse called a "lunar occultation" - the moon hiding planets and stars  - will take place from the evening of September 17, 2017, through tomorrow evening.  (Yes, the August  21 eclipse was also a lunar occulation.)

Depending on where you're located, the moon will briefly hide Venus, Mars and Mercury, and maybe Regulus, the brightest star in the Leo constellation. Read all about it in the New York Times here.  And then get out your batik scraps!

UPDATE: Amazing NASA images from Saturn/the Cassini mission are here. They're also crying out for a batik interpretation!

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Look, Up in the Sky! Eclipse? Fruit Cocktail?

For the NASA eclipse art challenge, discussed in my last two posts (1,2) I planned to do something serious and dignified, in keeping with cosmic awe, science, wonder and all that. Inspired by austere NASA photography, it would probably involve discharge (chemically removing dye) from black fabric, which creates this kind of a mood...

...(from a years-old stamping-discharge experiment stuffed into my stash), except less wrinkly.

But a funny thing happened on the way to austere dignity, and I wound up making this:

It all started when I started to create the patchwork background, inspired by my friend Anne's photos of the eclipse reflected through tree leaves on tiled Atlanta sidewalks, which I showed last week.
I figured I would discharge the moon shapes onto a pieced sidewalk. But blacks and greys seemed too dull. Instead, I cut shadowy brown and purple batiks into 1 1/2" strips. I also cut strips of used packing paper to 2 1/2" x about 15". (Never throw away packing paper - it's also great for drafting freemotion quilting designs). Pieced the fabric strips on the paper at an angle - half had the strips going from upper left to lower right, and the other half with the strips going the other way. In process, it looks like this: 
 Cut off the tails.
 I wound up making five.
Stitched the rows together. (I wanted it rectangular, like a sidewalk, so I only used four).
 Then tore out the paper. The background was done.
Time to bring in the moody moons.  That would require rummaging through my craft supply closet to locate my jar of preferred discharge agent, Decoulerant. (no financial affiliation). But I happened to be at my cutting board, where there were some batting scraps. Just for fun, I cut some crescents and strewed them on.
Below is the next photograph in my camera. I'm not sure what happened between these two photos. Maybe I blacked out. Or maybe there was another eclipse. When I awoke, I'd done this:
OK, I didn't black out, there was some logic that got me pulling colorful scraps from my batik scrap bag and raucously cutting them into moons, planets, telescopes, eyewear, sidewalk leaves, etc.

I viewed the eclipse from the Caltech campus in Pasadena, CA, where my husband works. It didn't get very dark, so, at least as impressive as the teeny waxing and waning crescent in the sky was how it drew people together, joyfully grooving on the vibe. In 1967, when I was 10, I went with my parents to a Be-In in Central Park. The eclipse was like the Be In, but without the cannabis, protest, or big hair. People were getting high on astronomy.

So, dang the cosmos, I let myself quilt a colorful celebration. 

After looking at what I'd made for about ten seconds, I was a little bummed to realize that my crescent suns look just like bananas. 
I can't think of a cure for that. (Ideas welcomed.)

On further reflection, one might argue that there are also maraschino cherries and grapes.
Oh well. I added batting and backing, and freemotion stitched everything down. I hand-embroidered the location and date on the telescopes. 
I do still have one extra strip - maybe I'll try some serious bleach discharge on it.  
Or maybe I'll just throw on some more bananas. 
 You have until September 15, 2017 to complete your eclipse-inspired art work, take a picture and upload it to social media using the hashtag #EclipseArtQuilt.  There's no judge, no jury, no voting, just sharing!  It's a cyber-Be-In. 
  • To learn more about the Eclipse Art Quilt project, go
  • To see pieces that have already been posted (including fiber art pieces), use the #EclipseArtQuilt hashtag in a social media search engine, especially Twitter and Facebook. 
  • Machine quilting guru Leah Day has a tutorial for making her cutaway eclipse applique pattern, here
  • And here's a gorgeous, serene video of the event, with a lots of people oooohing and aaaaahing in various languages.