Monday, April 30, 2018

Low-Tech Wearable (Quilt) Fitness Tracker/Wrist Entertainment System

Are you frequently stuck about what color to use next? Or do you have trouble remembering what color you used last? Then you may need to make this low-cost, low-tech, quilter's wrist color fitness tracker which, although nearly useless, will at least entertain you and people around you. 
I know it's entertaining because I wore mine to a quilt show (specifically, QuiltCon 2018), and people laughed at me. (OK, 3 people in a coffee line with me laughed. I don't actually know if they were laughing at me or with me). It's stitched to a stretch of vintage necktie, embedded with snaps:
It's constructed on a black felt background, with freehand cut silk scraps (that's why there are 7 divisions - I couldn't have achieved that if I'd measured!), and purple tulle on top. The zigzagging is metallic gold Superior thread. That's a tiny mother-of-pearl shank button in the center.
Unlike the annoyingly virtuous fitness trackers your health-conscious friends wear, this kind requires no technical skills. It's so low-tech that, now that I think of it, I probably got the idea from playing "Candy Land" in 1962, when I was a mere child of 46. (Just kidding, I was 5). If you're undecided about what color to use next, spin the spinner. Oh, right, there are two colors, the button and the background - well, you can choose between the two, or use them both! 

Alternatively, AFTER you use a color, set the spinner to that color, and then when you have to walk the dog, and you're bored pleading with it to Do Its Business,  and it occurs to you that you can't remember which fabric you cut last, just look at your wrist! Uselessly entertaining, right?

I had so much fun making that one - which is about 2" across - that I doubled the size for the next one.  This time, I used necktie scraps: 
It's Jerry Garcia o'clock! (I think the yellow fabric was one of his posthumously designed ties). At 4.25", it's too big to serve as a wrist tracker, unless you also declare it a corsage. This one can help you make a decision between polka dot, checkerboard, or floral print fabric. I constructed it on stiff double-sided interfacing, and backed it with more necktie silk. 
Third is this extremely messy necktie scrap dial, which was part of a series of collages that I wrote about a couple of weeks ago. It will help you choose a  color only if you have a limited palette of  baby blue, shiny black (vintage faceted glass beads), silver-blue, white or gold. 
Wondering where I got the extremely cool clock hands? Maybe 10 years ago, I bought this package of "Game Spinners," designed by Tim Holtz for paper crafters. They come with tiny paper fasteners,  but I think buttons are more durable (and cuter). 
They're still available - google "Tim Holtz game spinners" and you will find the exact same package - cheap!  Or, make your own, if have some wire around the house and are good with it. I tried making some wire arrows, and it isn't as easy as it looks:
One was passable enough to use in this fourth tracker:
That arrow is wrapped once around the central button once. (It started out much longer). Alas, it doesn't spin as well as the professional spinners.  

How to make you own tracker? Cut a circle of felt or stiff fusible interfacing. Cut 6-8 pieces of fabric and back them with fusible interfacing (if you're using felt) . Cut pie pieces out of fabric and overlap them on the backing. Press in position. 

 Back view.

Cut everything flush with the backing. Option: Put a layer of tulle on top. Use a decorative thread to stitch over the raw edges between segments, and satin stitch the circumference. 

I made necktie bands by cutting about 9 1/2" from the narrow end of a vintage tie (Oscar de la Renta in the case below). On the right end, I trimmed back the interior lining, then rolled the edge over twice and stitched it in place. I used a snap setter to insert a pearl-headed snap top on the left side, bottom half on the right side. 
 Stitched on the "watch"
On my arm, here's the inside....
It's the ideal gift for the quilter who has almost everything!

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Things Learned from Neckties: Flap Purse Tutorial

How I love playing with neckties - the quirkier, the better. Quilts are my favorite thing to make from them, but a close second is purses. Here are two flap bags finished recently. 

First, a bag made from three gold neckties. The groovy tie on the far right, with the colorful O rings, is one of my all-time favorites (I'm guessing it's from the 60s or 70s). 
Open view below. The signatures on the lining of my favorite tie, over on the right, say "John Weitz," so I did a Google search for him. It turns out that this German-Jewish immigrant was not only a famous men's fashion designer, but also a novelist, historian, race car driver, yachtsman, and, oh, he almost killed Hitler. In short, the most interesting man in the world. The things you learn from neckties! 
The metal button is even older than the ties (if you know the era, I'd love to hear!)
The handle is made from the short ends of two neckties sewn together. Its ends are held to the purse by stitching and more vintage buttons, 
 An embossed velvet ribbon is an option, pinned on for now. (I'm ambivalent).
That bag was good practice for the next one, which is bigger. It's made from 4 1/2 neckties for the body, plus most of one more for the handle. John Weitz didn't design any of these ties, but they do feature (left to right) rainbow trout, cocktail molecules, paisley reimagined, and circus animals. 
The blue buttons above are purely decorative - it closes with snaps inside the tips, below. (I inserted a sheet of cardstock for this photo.)
Back. The wide end of the handle tie is stitched to the body - on the right, I used a scrap of leather to hold a pair of plastic D rings in position, and they grip the other end of the handle tie.

Open the bags to see the labels. 
It's the labels that informed me of the fish type and the molecular substance.  
 Want to make your own necktie flap bag? Here's a tutorial.
1. Pick 3-4 ties to serve as the main body of the bag. Cut them to about 34" from their widest tip.
2. Open at the cut end. If you can see that it's hand-sewn, don't cut back the thread - cut it once, then pull out stitches to about 1 1/2" down. Tie that thread into a couple of knots close to its base.
 3. Cut off an inch of the lining.
4. Bring the outside back up. Hand stitch the area where you took out the thread. For extra security,  hand sew over the entire back seam with sturdy matching thread. I used a running stitch, ending in the same place at the wide end that the stitching in the tie ended.

5. Roll the cut edges to the inside twice, about a half inch each time.
6. Stitch it down, by hand or machine (I used a machine, with invisible thread in the bobbin). 

7. Arrange ties in the order you want. The wide ends are lined up on the left. On the right, at about 24" across, the narrower tie ends are brought back toward (but not reaching) the center, partially overlapping the ties underneath, but also partially between the ties, so they widen the right end. Their right-most edge, where they turn, forms small tie points.
8. When you like it, hand baste everything in position, inside and out (in white thread here). 

9. Prepare for permanent stitching. I found that the wide ends of two neckties were particularly flimsy, because they're unlined. I put a piece of tear-away stabilizer under the weakest area (the white rectangle, below, left), before stitching. 
10. Do the permanent stitching. From the outside, I went over all the hand basting with gold metallic thread in top and bobbin, and a wide multi-step zigzag. Inside, I sewed remaining flaps by hand, so the stitches wouldn't penetrate to the outside. 
Here's how it looks sewn together, from the inside.
Below, a closer view of the inside stitching. A and C mark the hand running stitches used to reinforce the central back seam in this red dot tie. B shows the back of the multi-step zigzag done from the outside, joining the red dot tie to its neighbor. D shows handstitching done after all the machine stitching was completed, to fasten down the upper edge of the red dot tie. 
11. Bring up the short (right) end, and play around to determine how deep you want the purse vs. flap length. 
Wouldn't this make a nice clutch?
12. When you like the proportions, pin the flap in position With wrong sides together and working from the flap side, use decorative thread and multi-step zigzag again to sew down the two side seams. 
13. Make a handle. I used leftovers from two of the ties. I measured two tie remnants to 22" from their narrow tip; cut across them flat; and undid a couple of inches of the thread holding them shut. Then I opened them out, and stitched the ends together with a straight stitch, going right through the linings. 
14. Finger press the seam  open and refold everything back in place; make and bury knots from the tie's thread; and reinforce the whole length of the central seam with handstitching.
I finished the gold purse with a button-and-loop closure, as shown in the first photos above. For the blue purse, the closure is the snaps underneath the wide tips.

For more necktie projects, click on "Neckties" in the word cloud on the right. 

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Freemotion Quilted Hebrew Alphabet Postcard Tutorial

How's your Hebrew? Mine could be much better, but that didn't stop me from making thirteen 4" x 6" quilted Hebrew alphabet postcards for a recent exchange.
A little closer: 

One example: This is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, 'aleph.' 
Mystics saw its structure as a ladder between heaven and earth (Can you see the ladder on the far left?) The rest of the background is freemotion quilted with objects that begin with aleph, including pears, pineapple, ears, fire, and lion. OK, they're very sketchy, but they're there! 

These cards were made for my Jewish quilting group's "People of the Book"-themed postcard exchange. I was particularly excited about this theme because of my fondness for fonts. New, old, I can't get enough, in any language. The Hebrew alphabet is particularly gorgeous, whether ancient Torah calligraphy, or art-deco influenced mid-20th century. A favorite book on my shelf is this 1950 tome called "Hebrew Alphabets," by 20th century Judaic graphic designer Reuben Leaf. The book offers dozens, and even the cover is a treat: 
For the postcard exchange, I paged through it for ideas, and was stopped in my tracks by this: 
At the bottom, it says it was designed by Siegmund Forst, a groundbreaking mid-20th century artist and graphic designer from Vienna; and the letters were based on the Kafra Haggadah, a lavish 1947 illuminated Haggadah.

The first thing I did was scan the page; then in a graphics program, I resized the letters to about 2" x 3", so they would fit comfortably on a 4" x 6" postcard. 

Since I was swapping with 12 people (plus one more card for me), I cut 13 pieces of stiff double-sided fusible interfacing to 4" x 6". I cut a long strip of a mottled batik fabric and pressed each rectangle onto the fabric (using a non-stick press sheet on bottom to prevent the other side of the fusible from sticking to the ironing board.) 
 Cut back the excess fabric to the same size as the interfacing.
I used Golden Threads tracing paper to trace the outline of the 13 letters I selected for this project. 
 Then I pinned the outline to the center of each postcard.
 Next, I stitched along the edges with gold metallic thread and an open-toe freemotion quilting foot.
After stitching:
 Tearing away the tracing paper was next. First I ripped away the outside.
I liked how it looked with the paper inside, but obviously that's not a long-term solution.  I ripped away the inside, and then went after the little bits. With Golden paper, they're easy to dislodge. (That's not the case for other kinds of paper.)
I wasn't wild about the lack of contrast when the letter outlines were empty - so I filled them in with gold metallic paint. They are all painted by hand, with a small brush, and of course I always wear my magnifying headgear to do this as neatly as I can. 

Next came the research part: I dug up my Hebrew-English dictionary, and also opened a translator online. I looked up Hebrew words that began with that particular letter, that would be relatively easy to freemotion quilt.

I grabbed my tracing paper again, and pinned fresh 4" x 6" pieces of it to each card again. This time, I focused on doodling designs representing Hebrew words that begin with that letter, in the space around the letter. 

For example, the card below shows the letter peh. The sketch shows my brainstorms for the surroundings. Peh has a numerical value of 80, and peh words depicted include bell, skeleton key, unlock, brook, mouth, face, mushrooms, flower, coffee pot, and fruit. 
In order to get the design onto the card, I did NOT stitch through the tracing paper. I needed to see exactly where I was gong, and the tracing paper would obstruct the view.  So I put the sketch next to my sewing machine, and referred to it when freemotioning on the actual card. I ended up doing many things differently from the original! 

Next, the letter 'bet', the second letter of the alphabet, is associated with the number two, and it’s said to be pointing to heaven. Bet nouns on this card include egg; home; banana; peanuts; thumb; and balloons.
This one's 'ayin'. The words I depicted include tree, grass, eye, grapes, clouds, and maybe cookies. 
 And so forth.

After the quilting was finished, the reverse side of these cards was still blank - just fusible interfacing. In my graphics program, I wrote a little essay for each card, explaining each letters and its words, plus the address of each recipient. I could fit three custom 4" x 6" labels like these per page. 
I ironed five 8 1/2" x 11" pieces of plain white fabric onto freezer paper. Then I printed the labels onto the fabric. I cut each one out, fused it to the back of each card, and did a zigzag stitch with invisible thread around the edges to hold the three layers together. They were ready to go! 

If you love fonts - in any language - you can easily do a project like this. Quilted postcards are a great way to exercise creative muscles between large projects, plus they work as fun group activity for farflung people. They're also good mini-presents for all occasions - the recipients can hang them on the wall, or use them as bookmarks or coasters. For much more fun with fiber art postcards, click "Postcards" in the word cloud on the right.