Sunday, June 30, 2019

Not Prizewinning Quilts - Quilts that ARE the Prize!

Do you belong to an organization that gives out awards? If so,  please consider hiring a quilter to make them! 

OK, it's a selfish idea - I'm seeking full employment for myself and quilters everywhere - but I'm also thinking of the well-being of the awardees. A wall quilt makes a room cozier than a cold, hard  plaque. Plus in case of earthquake, quilts falling off the walls are significantly less of a concussion risk. (I'm not paranoid, I live in California!) 

To tell the truth, I never thought about making awards - until early this year, when a friend asked me to make a pair of quilts for her temple's Couple of Valor honorees. Two couples would be honored at the celebratory dinner.  I was delighted at the unusual request.  If you're a quilter wondering how a commission like this might work for you (OR if you're a potential quilt-commissioner), my process is outlined below, but to make a long story short, here are the two quilts I made, with full input all throughout the process from the event committee and the rabbi. 

The top line reads "Couple of Valor," and the bottom is the name of the temple. My inspiration for the colorful blocks was the dinner invitations that a talented graphic designer at the synagogue had created. The invitations' borders included this watery design:
I loved them and immediately saw the potential for recreating the mood in batiks. The dinner committee was also very specific that they wanted the synagogue's lamp logo on front. 

They hadn't yet settled on the wording, so in my proposal, I winged it, drawing up ideas in my favorite graphics program (CorelDraw). Below is a page from my submission.  Idea #1 suggested a beautiful blue/multicolored sunrise streaks in the background - that was my favorite. Idea #2 proposed a pure white background, quilted with gold metallic thread. 
Idea #3 would have been more labor intensive (and expensive), with a mosaic background. And idea #4 would be a little bigger and more symmetrical.

The committee went for #2, the white background; I gave them a good price; and we were off! 

The most fun part came first. From my batik box, I pulled colorful pieces at least 2 1/2" square. I cut 144 to that size and turned those into 36 four-patches - 18 per  quilt - because 18 is a significant number in Jewish numerology (it stands for "chai"/life). 

I imported the lamp logo into my graphics program, sized it, turned it into just a black outline (saving ink), and printed it out backwards.
I traced the backwards version onto the non-glue side of Decor Bond, my current favorite fusible interfacing (made by Pellon). I pressed the top part of the logo (which is the Hebrew letter "shin," backwards) onto a beautiful yellow batik, and the lamp base onto a deep red/brown. 

By this time the committee knew what it wanted on the front of the quilt - just two Hebrew phrases, no English. What font to use? I have a bunch on my computer, so I went through them and selected a handful that I liked. I typed the phrases into a document in several fonts, and sent back to the committee. (I know they all look alike, but they're not quite the same.)
They picked one. I estimated how big the letters needed to be, sized them, and printed them out backwards. I traced each onto another sheet of Decor Bond. 
Those letters were ironed to the back of dark purple batik fabric. After cutting and glue-sticking them in position, I didn't start sewing yet - I sent the wording BACK to the rabbi to make absolutely sure that I wasn't making any spelling mistakes. (My Hebrew is pathetic.)

Once spellchecked, all that remained was to sew everything together. I used a tiny zigzag to raw-edge applique the lettering and lamp . Because it's impossible for me to make the exact same thing twice, they two quilts are slightly different. The one on the left came out a bit bigger . They're quilted in gold metallic thread, with diagonal lines. 
On the backs, I used a Star-of-David themed print fabrics. The rectangle along the top is the hanging sleeve, and you can see it's holding a dowel, sanded and cut to extend beyond the sleeve, just shy of the quilt width. (Hang it on the wall by resting the dowel ends on two nails).

The last thing I did was add a label on back with the information the committee requested: A statement of thanks, the couples' name and the year. I typed all this into my computer, then printed it onto fabric backed with freezer paper. My printer is an Epson, and uses DURAbrite ink, which is theoretically waterproof, although I hope this quilt won't need washing.

When it was over, I heard the awardees liked their awards. I felt like I'd won something, too - the honor and the fun of making them!

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Wear Your Quilt Show on Your Head (or Your Kids' Heads)

Last week, I taught a class in making small Jewish caps at a fabulous Canadian needlework conference. That got me thinking about a different style of hat that I haven't made in a while - quilted pillbox hats.

I originally designed them as "Bukharan"-style yarmulkes, but they turned into a canvas for fiber art creativity, including quilting and applique. Thinking about them again, a couple of weeks ago inspired me to look up my old photos on the computer. The photos were bad - cameras weren't as good and/or I had no idea what I was doing?! So then I decided to photograph them again.

Along with a better camera and more experience, I had another new advantage - my beautiful, wise, artistic, newly-adult daughter, home from college. When I asked her to be my model - rather than rolling her eyes and fleeing (which is what I would have done if my mother had made a similar request) - she cheerfully agreed! Yet she's still young enough that she let me pay her in ice cream.

I photographed her with my all-time favorite tree-of-life themed quilted hat.

I also took fresh pictures of it on a white background. 

She modeled this pomegranate hat, too, but it was too small for her, so it's perched precariously.
I didn't want to take up too much of her time - she has her own art to tend to (her awesome web comic is here), so I took tabletop photos of others. Like this, made from a gorgeous ferny batik, with a wooden button embellishing the overlap.

In keeping with the forest theme, here's a hat made from a fiery wood grain batik. It needs a bit of steaming. 

The next one was made from a shiny but strange cotton-nylon blends (aka "what was I thinking when I bought it," fabrics). 

The band has rows of decorative stitching with silver metallic thread. 

The hat below on the same design, but is entirely quilted, not appliqued, and has the Hebrew word "chai" - "life!" in the center. 

Flipped over, this hat also makes a good yarn holder! 

In fact, all these hats make nice baskets for holding soft stuff, like yarn or fabric scraps or faux flowers. Because the sides aren't rigid, I wouldn't keep wrenches or crowbars or rulers in them.

My son owns the next hat, and he's on the opposite coast, so I couldn't take a new picture. 

Below is a hat made from a gorgeous grape print. I machine quilted around the grapes, leaves, and leaf veins in shiny thread. 

One the side overlap, I set a bead-embroidered pin that I'd made long before the hat. 

Choosing the button, pin, or other embellishment is the most fun part.

Finally, a rock-and-roll hat, with flying CD's and inexplicable bubbles. I quilted stars into the bubbles. 
During my trip down memory lane, I reread the pattern I wrote back in 2011. That led me to spend last week in front of the computer, revising and simplifying it.  So - a word from our sponsor - if you want to try your hand at making a quilted pillbox-style fiber art hat/basket/yarmulke - or an unquilted one - my revised digital pattern is available for a modest price in my Etsy shop.

I love wearing these hats, and so do the people I've given or sold them to. They're uniquely cozy.  They're faster to make than a bed quilt. They let you show off gorgeous fabric. And they fit. My pattern has three sizes, and, because of the overlap on the band, can be adjusted to a custom fit. It's like wearing a quilt show on your head!