Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Hark! I Hear a Baby Boom! Be Prepared!

(Below, a brand-new human on a recently finished quilt. Eyes are covered to protect anonymity.) 

Is romance in the air? For whatever reason, in my world, babies are a-poppin! Fortunately, I am prepared! Here's my neonatal kit: An oversized shoebox full of maybe 200 4" squares, some of them sewn into 9-patch blocks.

Unpacked, below, you'll find stacks of squares, many tourniqueted with torn white fabric strips, and the category name scribbled in pencil on torn-paper labels, in handwriting so terrible (mine) that I can barely read them. 

In the photo above, the categories, starting on the top row left and going across, I discern piles of:

  • Transportation; Ocean; Nature. 
  • Middle row: Music; People; Creatures
  • Bottom row: Science; Sports & Games; Food (that's garlic on top).

Not shown: Places; Black-and-White Prints; Rainbow Geometrics; Sky-Aerial Transportation-Flying Bugs (one category!) and the biggest pile of all, the sublimely descriptive "Stuff".

I periodically cut these squares from my novelty fabric stash, and then, when I hear rumors of a human emerging shortly, I sort the squares thematically into 9-patches, and organize those blocks into quilt tops. Here's the front the quilt upon which the baby above is laying.

Below is the back. 

The strips for the back didn't come from the shoebox; it came from a larger, more densely packed container (a pastel blue suitcase, circa 1965 -- no wheels!), which features scraps not only inside it, but also upon it, and surrounding it for a radius of several feet. 

(Especially when the cat tunnels into it, clawing out heaps to create a cave.)

(Below, the video evidence).


Next, a closer look at the back. It was wonderful to revisit scraps I hadn't seen in years. It was like greeting old friends! (I thoroughly washed this quilt after finishing it, to get out the kitty cooties.)

Below are some of the front's nine-patches. In the middle are science-related fabrics. 

Next, below, on the upper right are nine sky-themed fabrics (and you can see why bugs and transportation are part of the aeronautical category, along with UFO's and eagles.) 

(The hand is in a black-and-white border, and a "cats" nine-patch starts on bottom.)

Next, a meeting of two different nine-patches: Random Creatures on top, Places on bottom (the latter includes houses, a carnival, a map of Southeast Asia, and a Manhattan subway map). Black-and-white border squares are on the right. 

This one's People, real (Ruth Bader Ginsburg) and imagined.
Below is the Food unit (lower right). Stuff squares are above it (pencils, erasers, computers, stamps, crayons, cellphones, laundry.) 
And this is the cat block. On bottom is more Stuff, including....
...directly above, a Featherweight sewing machine! Was I happy when I found that fabric!

This "random animals" nine-patch has one of my favorite fabrics, anteaters on pink.  Also note Elvis, top row center.

And sew forth! Keep in mind that it took me 30 years of minimal-impulse control to accrue this encyclopedic collection. 

If you're hanging around people capable of surprising themselves and you with a baby, you might want to get a head start now by cutting squares. I promise you'll have a lot of fun, laugh, and best of all, you will, as the Boy Scouts say, Be Prepared! 

For more photos of my baby quilts, click on the term in the word cloud on the right. I hope you will consider signing up for my occasional newsletter, a

Sunday, March 10, 2024

Thready Scrap Basket, or Scrappy Thread Basket, or Baskety Thread Scraps (A Tutorial)

Let's give scrap baskets a double meaning! Made from scraps, especially thread scraps, this basket is also a good place to throw them! It's about 4.5" high and 3.5" across. I used silk, so it's extra fancy, but you can use any fabric and threads you like. 


 One end overlaps the other. Three metallic buttons seal the flap, and I put more buttons below the top edge. The view shifts as you turn it...

Contents include:

-- An old freemotion quilting practice sandwich, 

--  Long scrap fabric strips, as background,

-- Ravelled threads on top. Most are threads that have peeled off my silk dupioni collection; there are also strands of a thick gold thread that will never go through my machine. Any decorative thread scraps will work. And,

-- Vintage metal buttons.

I didn't take photos while making the basket above, but here's a tutorial with a dramatic recreation (but different colors).

I started by cutting an old quilting practice sandwich to around 11" x 4.5". Below, the  blue square on the right was a tension test with flannel. Since that patch is not thick (and it's covered with stitches), I just left it there. On this side, the white fabric doesn't reach all the way down to the bottom edge of shape, but that's okay; this entire side, including the batting along the bottom, is about to be completely covered.

The reverse side does have fabric reaching to all edges. That means I can decide later if I want to leave this interesting side showing on my final piece, or cover it with another piece of fabric so neither the old nor new stitching can be seen on back.

I covered the front with long, rough-cut silk scraps, each a couple of inches high, overlapping their long edges by at least a half-inch.

I drizzled that with  clots of unravelled dupioni, and other decorative threads, plus small scraps and strips. 
Keep adding. Pretend you are Jackson Pollack.
Too much is never enough (imho.)
Once you're happy with it, cover it with a layer of tulle.  If you're lucky enough to own tulle in several different colors, audition them all -- they have unexpected and subtly different effects! Here, I decided I liked the black tulle best.
Carefully pin the tulle in place, all the way around the edges of the practice sandwich underneath (it's hard to see the pins, but there's the yellow head of a flower on the lower right).  

Do a rough trim of the excess tulle. (I used my rotary cutter, above). Bring it to your machine and quilt as desired! I used my walking foot, and a shiny rayon variegated thread, to quilt wavy echoing lines. 

Alternatively, you could use a freemotion quilting foot and do more elaborate designs! 
At each end, I turned the corner, turned again, and used the walking foot's edge to echo the previous line.
When it was done it still looked pretty messy.
Time to trim all the edges even with the backing practice sandwich. 

My ruler helped me cut an even rectangle.

To finish the edges, I did a corded edging all the way around. This involves zigzagging a thick dark blue embroidery thread (6 strands) all the way around. I used a medium-loose, very wide zigzag, with dark blue thread in top and bottom. 

Here's a short video of the process....

At corners, stop with your needle outside of the corner, and turn. 

All done! 
A better view of the edging (left)

Next I cut a circle of Peltex Ultrafirm interfacing, with one fusible sided. I fused silk to one side, and sewed another fabric circle to the reverse side. This gave me the base. 

(The flowery outside is former pants). I hand-stitched the lower edge of the embellished panel around the round base. 

Here's the view looking straight in. 
There's so much more that you can do with this idea! You could fold it into a little case for your earbuds.
In 2018, I used it to make a whole lot of  heart brooches. Find a tutorial at the end of this post.

And I made schools of fish and other ocean creatures (my tutorial is here.
My fish pattern book is on etsy, here.)

As you can see, this technique is adaptable and  addictive! Find the Create Whimsy article that triggered this round of objets, here

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