Sunday, February 18, 2018

Buttons, Not Bullets

Artist Trading Cards.

All made in 2013, soon after the Sandy Hook shootings.

Art wasn't enough. Nothing has worked. But I have high hopes for the millenials. We must follow them to the streets...and the voting booths.

(Incidentally, artists can obtain spent bullet casings as easily as Florida teens obtain assault weapons. I bought the bullet casings on Etsy, and plenty are still there, in case you need to make your own mass murder-themed art. If nothing else, you'll feel better.)

(Posts explaining Artist Trading Cards, aka ATCs, are abundant on this blog. Click on the term in the word cloud in the right-hand column. Maybe a group ATC-making session, with or without real bullet casings, would be emotionally healing.)

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Best Dog Fabric Ever: I Shoulda Bought 30 Yards

Here are two of my most adorable creations, one age 19, and the other one born in mid-December: 
(Note DD's winter fashion boots, designed to simulate bare feet.) 
(Just kidding, we're in Southern California, she's barefoot and didn't get frostbite.) A closer look at the purse:
Whatever you're eating. they want:

I encountered this fabric while rifling through the remnant bin at the legendary Britex fabric store in San Francisco a couple of years back. The half-yard was cheap and discounted - I think it was $15 - but they also had yardage, which was much more expensive. So I resisted buying more - big mistake!

Over Christmas vacation, while searching my stash for something else, I came across it, and the joy of it waylaid me. Before I knew it, I'd made two tote bags. Actually, I made one tote bag, and my DD, on vacation from college, strolled barefoot through my sewing area (despite pin hazards), spotted it, and requested one of her own.

I kept the big one on the left, and gave her the one on the right. She's petite, so she needs a smaller purse, I rationalize. Plus, I'm so old/old-fashioned that I carry around [a paper] notebook and freakin' PENCILS. 

I loved my new tote - and so do my friends - but I didn't have enough fabric leftover to make them their own. I scoured the Internet for more, but no luck.

However, I discovered that the fabric printing site Spoonflower is selling a similar AndyWarholesque pug fabric, here (no financial affiliation). As you can see in the picture below, its colors are less restrained than the brocade:
Spoonflower ain't cheap, but neither was Britex. If you buy the print on regular cotton (around $18/yard), you can turn it into a cheater quilt (add borders). If you invest in one of Spoonflower's heavier fabrics - like canvas, denim, or twill ($30+/yard) - you could make your own sturdy purse. Don't buy too little, I guarantee that one or more of your associates - dog owners or not - will want something made from it.

Through Spoonflower and Sprout Patterns, you can also buy the design printed on stretch fabric, with directions to sew it into leggings!
They may seem frivolous, but you will need them this year, because February 18 marks the start of the Chinese Year of the Dog! I learned this yesterday, as soon as my husband and I started strolling through our neighboring city, San Gabriel's, Lunar New Year Festival, and detected a theme to the chalk artists' drawings: 

Any one of the sidewalk masterpieces would make great fabric. People were wearing dog-themed clothes, and we even saw a dog wearing red satin embroidered Chinese New Year attire! My pug purse fit in beautifully. Gong Xi Fa Cai! (Happy New Year, more or less.)

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Fast and Artsy Scrap Valentine Gifts

Here are some silk scrap Valentine brooches, though they can also double as magnets, or notecard decorations. They're very easy, you don't have to use silk, and, let's see, today's Feb. 3 - you have plenty of time to make them before the 14th. 

When I got tired of hearts, I made these: 

They look good without much embellishment: 

And even better with much embellishment. 

Below there's a polymer clay hand.
The dangle (above) is a a combination of glass, wood and plastic beads. Below, there's a dangling pink crystal from a vintage necklace and a yellow glass bead from Big Lots.

Making these is pure relaxation. Start with a  piece of felt. I started out postcard size, a little bigger than 4" x 6".
Optional, but recommended for extra strength: Fuse paper-backed fusible web to the top of the felt. Be cautious and set iron somewhere between an acrylic and silk (so as not to melt the felt if it's acrylic). Press only as long as it takes to get the fusible to stick to the felt. The silk setting works  with my HTC Transweb - other fusibles may need more or less heat, but always use caution, and something to protect your ironing board surface.

Now arrange one or more largish pieces of fabric on top, and, if you used fusible, press it (briefly) in place.
Silks will give your finished jewelry a sheen, but if you don't have silk scraps you can of course use cotton. I love thread clots formed when I wash dupioni (this is why I can't throw them away.)
Like a tossed salad, you want to mix things up, but distribution needn't be even - it's okay to have different patches of color. You can throw all kinds of things on there. It's subtle, but can you see the pieced of gold mesh running diagonally from upper left to lower right?
Next, I grabbed the following tulle with glitter on it. I wouldn't wish this stuff on my worst enemy, because the glitter sheds, but in this case I know it will be covered with yet another piece of tulle, so it's not cruel to incorporate it.
I chopped that tulle into tiny bits and drizzled them around.
I threw on some holographic translucent sequins, which I later regretted -  my sewing machine didn't enjoy sewing through them, and some got cut off, leaving sharp edges. So save your sequins to add later.
Test a tulle color to place over everything. As a general rule, white and light colors will make colors paler, whereas a dark color, like red or, in this case purple, can intensify colors in unexpected ways.
Do you HAVE to cover it with tulle? Probably, because if you don't, your sewing machine foot is likely to get tangled up and create a nasty jam. Alternative: Water-soluble stabilizer, if you're willing to wash it away later - but be aware that when the stabilizer is washed away, if there is glitter or other tiny bits that didn't get stitched down, they will fall off. (Expensive alternative: Buy a felting machine. In that case, you can pound everything together without tulle.)

Once the tulle is on top, load the bobbin with a color that matches the backing felt, and use something decorative in top - I used a sparkly gold thread here, and did random echo stitching. 
Trim around the decorative layer, to make it even with the felt, so you know where the backing ends.
Here's a dangerous phase: You may fall madly in love with your piece and not want to cut it up! For example, after making this next piece, I thought I was friggin Jackson Pollack....
...if Jackson Pollack had had a ruinous love affair with magenta. If you do love it too much to cut apart, that's fine, just glue a piece of cardstock on back, address it, stamp it, and mail it as a postcard to yourself or someone else you love!

But if not, it's time to cut out your hearts. (I just cut them freehand.) 
To finish the edges, on some of the hearts you saw above, I used a machine zigzag with gold metallic thread. That looked fine, but what really gave the other pieces a wow factor was going around the edges with a variegated perle cotton, specifically, this one from Valdani. (I'm pretty sure this is M32 Jewels, size 8, on this page, no affiliation.)
If you're going to want to dangle something from the bottom point of a heart, drip a little fray check there and let it dry, just for extra strength (especially if you didn't put fusible web on your felt.)

After nine hearts, I branched out. I freehand cut paper shapes that would fit within postcard-size boundaries: A bird, a seahorse, and a crown. Pinned them on. (If you own cookie cutters, you can also use those as cutting guides.)
 Cut them out.
 They're kind of nice just like this.
For the crown, I did the edging whipstitch (I suggest dripping fray check on the sharp points, and letting it dry before stitching, especially if you didn't use fusible web).
The back....

And then I embellished it with shiny glass and plastic buttons and beads, plus cross-stitches.
 For the seahorse, I whipstitched with gold thread.
 Then added a green crystal for the eye.
 For the bird, I used a leftover scrap to make a wing.
 I whipstitched around the bird, then the wing, and then I whipstitched the wing in position. I dangled an old necklace bit from her beak to serve as an olive branch/worm?, and that's a vintage pink bead from a different old necklace for the eye.
Sew a pin to the back, or glue on a magnet, and you're done! Want more eye candy? Here's a bunch of wonderful and very professional pieces made with a similar process, but using decorative yarns and cords to create a sort of plaid: 

And some of my past freemotion quilted valentines are here.

Wishing you a sweet and creative Valentine's Day! 

Friday, January 26, 2018

Sunbonnet Sue Says "Me Too"

Just finished:
A little closer: 

I've always enjoyed looking at other peoples' Sunbonnet Sue quilts, yet was never tempted to make my own - the motif, which dates back to the 1800s, is too sweet for my style. But when the #MeToo movement swept through the US, I couldn't get her out of my head.

I have experienced a few, very minor episodes of molestation. But when #MeToo exploded, I was astounded to discover that virtually all my female friends and acquaintances have also been molested - many experiencing far worse than I did - regardless of how strong, confident, and ferocious I knew them to be.

And if that's the case in my relatively privileged circles - imagine how much more for girls, women, and some men, living in more challenging circumstances?

And what about our mothers?  I can remember when the phrase "date rape" and "sexual harassment" didn't exist. What did they think about when it happened? Did they blame themselves? And what about their mothers?

And then....what about the women who stitched all the quilts and embroidered all the textiles in my vintage collection?

"#MeToo" also coincided with a new tv series based on Margaret Atwood's novel "The Handmaid's Tale." The handmaids are concubines who bear children for the infertile rich, and wear voluminous red garb, with white bonnets.

So it wasn't much of a mental leap over to Sunbonnet Sue. To acknowledge the endurance of our foremothers, I wanted to use vintage linens.

My collection included this set of delightful antimacassars - stiff linen pieces that I am pretty sure were intended for chair and couch armrests and backs, to keep them clean. There were five of these long narrow ones (why 5?),

And 5 more of these slightly bigger units, which I am guessing are the head rests.
The hand stitchery is gorgeous.

I also have several pillowcases with embroidered and/or crocheted full-skirted women along the hem. I chose the following pillowcase, in which the belles have inexpert torsos and arms:
One of the consequences of sexual abuse is lasting damage to women's body image. Hiding - with clothing, with fear of going out, with eating disorders - is not uncommon among people who have been severely abused.
To make the appliqued figures, I first looked at pictures of Sunbonnet Sue quilts on the web. The minimum is a bonnet, dress, and feet. Some are armless, helpless, like Pez. So I sketched and cut out freezer paper patterns, one for right-facing girls, one for left,
...and used those to cut feedsack fabrics from the 1930s - plus a smattering of other vintage fabrics. I fused them to four armrest antimacassars, and did a zigzag around each shape to hold it down.
The resonance of feminine biology in the flower in the next figure was serendipitous - I didn't even notice until it was cut out.

Below, the bright red bonnet was probably a mistake - it stands out too much, and is newer than the other fabrics - but I couldn't resist the needlework print, wanting to emphasize the point that perhaps one reason our foremothers enjoyed sewing, embroidery and quiltmaking so much was because it reduced their stress and anxiety.

The most challenging aspect of this quilt was crossstitching the words. I don't have a much cross-stitch experience, but fortunately I have this thrift shop find: 
The book is copyrighted 1967, to Doris Drake in Thomasville, Georgia, If you find a copy, (they sometimes appear on ebay and etsy), snatch it up - it has a whole bunch of vintage fonts in cross stitch. I more-or-less used the lower one on this page. 
I embroidered "Me Too" on an old grey handkerchief. The line of letters seemed straight when I stitched them (in a hoop); but the underlying grey hankie was so flimsy that it got away from me and the O's are rising. 
...which gives me even more respect for the women who did the original, perfect, stitching along the hankie's bottom edge. 
The line of red stitching on the left side of the quilt is a rip in the pillowcase. A little bit of batting shows through. 
The buttons that run down the sides represent more people; they also represent garments undone.

I can't possibly be the only quilter who has connected "#MeToo" with Sunbonnet Sue. I hope this inspires more quilted responses, and would welcome seeing other peoples' interpretations. 

UPDATE: A very nice, brief history of Sunbonnet Sue is at Also, a commenter below noted other examples that have unusual/quirky themes. 

UPDATE: Another history of Sunbonnet Sue, with some irreverent examples in questionable taste.