Sunday, January 15, 2017

From Facebook Photo to Wedding Quilt: Forest Bride Tutorial

According to my supermarket, Valentine's Day is almost upon us, so here's a relatively quick and romantic project to make for your favorite newlyweds (or oldyweds, or anyone):

You will need: One photograph of a beautiful bride, ideally my friend Alison, wearing a wowza of a turquoise beaded gown:
 Another snapshot of the bride, on a different day, in a forest. This photo should be taken by Alison's groom, Dave, an excellent photographer:

Can you spot the bride to the left of the tree? Here's a closeup:
She's didn't wear her gown on the hike, but her shirt does have some turquoise. When I saw Dave's photo on Facebook, and thought back to Alison's gown - of which there were also photos on FB - I knew I could combine the images into a quilt. Here are the steps.

1. If you're not doing this for immediate family or very close friends, ask permission to use their photos. Download an image from Facebook by clicking on it once; then right-clicking on it, and selecting "save image as." Or, ask your friend(s) to send you a high resolution image of the bride (or groom, or pet, or whatever).

2. Print the hi-res picture of the bride onto a sheet of fabric. Use pre-made fabric sheets (I like EQ Printables Cotton Satin, no financial affiliation) - or make your own.  Here are directions if you've never printed on fabric.

3. Apply fusible web to the back of the printed image of the bride, then cut her out. No need to leave an allowance - this is a raw-edge appliqué project.

4. Print out a forest photo (onto regular paper, and it doesn't have to be hi-res) and place it by your ironing board. (Or just stare at it on your phone or tablet without printing it out.) You're going to interpret it, not print it on fabric.

5. Apply fusible web to the backs of  3-11 different fabrics in leaf colors. I used shades of gold and green.

6. Bring everything to the ironing board. Study the forest photo, and reinterpret it. Start by laying down the ground (I used brown batiks along the bottom) and a sky (I left the white fabric to serve as sky.)  For trunks, I pulled from my scrap bag long thready cuttings made when straightening tan and brownish batiks. (Never throw anything away!) There is no fusible on those strips - you'll see why, soon.

 For the leaves, I cut gold, green, and orange fabrics into triangles and arranged them.
6. Once you like the arrangement, press everything in place (and/or glue-stick key elements so they don't shift).

7.  Now, test what a single layer of tulle does to your quilt top. Yes, tulle - the stuff that's used to make bridal veils and tutus? If you've never used it before, you're going to be amazed by the impact that one layer has, while remaining mostly invisible, and holding everything in place. Different hues have subtly different, and unexpected effects on the colors below. Light tulle, like white, tends to grey things down, while dark colors can make the fabric colors pop!

For this project, after many tests, I wound up using a sheet of red tulle. As you can see in the image below, you wouldn't have known I used red if I hadn't told you. It casts the slightest of red tones in the white upper sky portion - but it really made those leaf colors catch fire. 

6. Once you like the tulle, pin it in position. 
7. Bring the sandwich to the sewing machine and stitch over the entire piece to hold things in place. Don't sweat the small stuff.
8. Bind. I bound mine with turquoise fabric, to match the gown.   

 Ta Daaa!

Addendum: Are these leaves ringing a bell? If you've been a quilter since the last millenium, the word banging around in your head is probably "snippets."

In the late 1990's there was a huge "snippets" fad. Innovative quilt designer Cindy Walter wrote at least four snippets books, still on sale on Amazon (No financial affiliation). Her idea: Apply fusible web to the back of fabrics; go to the ironing board; cut the fabric into little or not-so-little pieces just above the fabric, so the pieces land fusible side down; press with a hot iron; frame and go! You don't even need to quilt the piece! Here's a page from her first snippets book, Snippet Sensations, showing how she laid down a wreath.

Maybe a little after that, a tulle fad came along I don't know who started it, but suddenly, a whole lot of quilters and fiber artists' studios started looking like tutu factories. They were cutting fabrics, threads, yarns, dryer lint, pet hair, plastic bags, and other random stuff into small pieces, laying them down a surface (maybe with fusible web, maybe with a  glue stick, and maybe with no adhesive) - and then pinning a layer of sheer tulle on top. The final step was to stabilize the pieces with freemotion quilting on top.

I've had a lot of fun using tulle this way over the years, especially in a class I took from fabulous quilter Phyllis Cullen at the 2015 convention of the Pomegranate Guild of Judaic Needlework. In that class, we created richly-colored fused raw-edge appliqué tropical scenes, then covered them with black tulle, which, counterintuitively, popped the colors. I wrote about the process here. I also wrote a blog post showing how different tulle colors affect the colors beneath, here.

UPDATE: The forest photographer, Dave, has kindly given his permission for anyone reading this to borrow his forest image to inspire their own. Do email us a picture when you're done, at

UPDATE: Share on Nina Marie Sayre's Off the Wall Friday, a compendium of art quilt bloggers' latest projects! Enjoy it at

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Political Crochet, Nasty and Nice

Although I am mostly loyal to quilting, I dally with crochet on the side. Especially when convinced that crochet might save the world, which occurs with surprisingly frequency.

Those of us who are appalled by the grabby President-elect are planning to participate in protest marches on or near inauguration day. Someone came up with the idea of pink, uh, cat hats. (OK, I'll choke out the words: Pussy Hats.) It's called the #Pussyhat Project, and you can learn about it here.

They're extremely easy to make, and therapeutic to boot.

Crocheted, they take me about an hour. Knitted, up to a year.

According to newspaper reports, dozens of yarn shops are teaching how to make them, and hundreds of people across the country are practicing this form of short-term therapy. The project site offers patterns, but I just make them up as I go along. Here's how:

Step 1. Hook a line of chain stitches that go comfortably from the back of one of your ears, around the front, to the back of the other ear. With a J hook, and worsted-weight yarn, this should be in the vicinity of 25- 35 stitches. For a smallish hat, make sure it's at least 10" across, and longer for larger heads.

Step 2. Crochet a second and maybe a third row. Make sure your first three rows still reach from ear to ear or meet your inch goal. (Unravel and start again if you need more or fewer stitches).

Step 3. Crochet til your rectangle is about 16" high,

Step 4.  Fold it in half, so the first and last row meet, and each side is 8" high.  From the wrong side, sew up the sides with a tapestry needle and yarn.

Step 5. Optional: Do a line of stitchery diagonally across the two top corners, to magnify the cat ears effect.
Here are several that I made, most with the rectangle method, but a few crocheted in the round, like this one:

 Side 2:
I'm considering adding a patch of mixed nut fabric, whatcha think?
Here's a rectangular one. There are diagonal lines of stitching along the bottom of each pink triangle, to make the cat ears stand out.
Next, the only one that I've knitted (so far.) Knitting takes me about three times longer than crochet. The words read "Love the Rainbow." 
The next one reads "Argh"
If you spell out the words with single stitches, then wrap each stitch with yarn, they become more legible. Here's the same "argh" with all the stitches wrapped:
The next one expresses a more sophisticated sentiment: 
More thoughts:
And now, The Nasty Series. (Nasty because the President-elect accused his opponent of being a "nasty woman.") Along with the hat at the top of this post, there's Nasty in the round:
Nasty with love and irony:
Same hat on my DD's friend's head. She's not in the slightest bit nasty: 
My DD made me add the word to a blue hat I was making her for everyday wear. Since she goes to school in blasé NYC, I assume no Manhattanites will bat an eyelash at a sweet, petite college freshman wearing a blue cupcake that hurls an insult at the wearer, the viewer, or both.
And of course, there's this one, which sums me up: the day.
The evidence: below, my DD goaded me into writing this:
It says: 
And finally: 

We can only hope  that the next four years aren't one. Find many more pussyats on Instagram at #pussyhatproject. On Pinterest, search "pussyhat project."

And because some of my best friends are Republicans, here are some improvisationally-crocheted elephants. I turned out one on a long cross-country airplane flight, and another while binge-watching old Star Treks.
Start with a small round of four or five stitches at the tip of the trunk, and proceed upwards and outwards. Leave buttonholes for each of the four legs, and grow them separately. The ears are half-rounds, stitched separately, then sewn on. The blanket (left) and scarf (right) are crocheted from variegated yarn. 

The eyes and mouth are embroidery stitched with yarn.

Improvisational crochet is much easier than it looks. My sister-in-law is Swiss-French and learned crochet as a child in school, but forgot how to do it. So when came to visit last week for the holidays, she studied my elephants, asked me for a quick refresher course, and before you know it, she whipped this out:
...with green yarn, wood button eyes, a red-and-yellow hat, a multicolored scarf, and a strange pink nasal halter/leash. It immediately befriended its ancestors, and they all piled on the seat of the exercise bike:
Unfortunately, their legs don't reach the pedals. With its yellow-trimmed hat, I think the green elephant looks a lot like Babar. 
It also posed for a portrait with its fond but surprised new parents: 
The green elephant also has a trés insouciant derriére, which makes it  easier for Presidents and others to grab.
It also likes to float around the room in the life-ring my SIL knitted for him on circular needles.
Are you making inaugural or anti-inaugural art? I'd love to see! A "Nasty Woman" art exhibition kicks off in Queens, NY on January 7 and runs through the 12th; info here.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

153 More Backwards Scraps on the Wall

Happy 2017! Here's a New Year's diversion, explaining how I went from here... here: just a few steps, and it was more logical than you might think!

It all started when a challenge in Machine Quilting Unlimited magazine set me on a path of cutting out and arranging hundreds of 1.5" squares. My first experiment was with batik scraps, and I wound up displaying the seamed side. It's in my post from two weeks ago

Now I was completely hooked on squares, especially the 1.5 inchers. The first photo below is a trial 9  x 9 grid of solids.
Nice, but what if there was a white sashing between all the pieces.... 
Or white sashing in only one direction?
How about offsetting the columns?
I stitched white sashing strips - each 1" x 1.5" high - in only one direction:
I lined up some of the colored squares with each other, and offset other rows, which required a plenty of pinning.
Below is what I was aiming at - squares that more or less line up with each other for the top four horizontal rows, and then wiggle back and forth for the bottom four rows. 
Not great. The proportions were way off - it looked squashed. But then, I looked at the back:
Cool! There were textured capital I's or sideways H's/barbells! [Update: One reader saw thread spools!] And, like my earlier quilt, there were cubbies with flaps, begging to be filled! I couldn't have accomplished that if I tried!

I tested black buttons...
Nah. How about white?
Much better. 
But I still wasn't ready to hide the "right" side. I wanted to have it both ways -  to show off the simple front and the complicated back. That meant I couldn't make this a quilt with batting. I had to do something strange. 

Whenever I have an urgent out-of-the-box quilting dilemma, I post to the Quiltart list, where innovative quilters - from beginner to legendary - share ideas. Several chimed in, including the following three (and I have their permission to quote them here).

First, my cyberfriend Blue brainstormed with her husband, and came up with this genius idea: A wall-mounted swing-out towel rack. (This one is from Bed, Bath and Beyond, and there are many others. Some are sleek metal. No financial affiliation): 
"That way," Blue wrote, "You could swing [the piece] to one side when in the mood, or to the other side when in that mood." In a billion years I wouldn't have thought of that.

Another unique idea from Blue: " from a certain distance from the wall and then using silver metallic (black-out curtains) pinned to the wall or curtain, thus reflecting whatever side you wish to." Hmmmm - taking that idea a step further - should I install a mirrored wall in my house? My 1990 condo had one, and I never appreciated the mirror tiles for their quilt hanging potential!

Her third idea: "Could it be hung from a piece of ruler-like wood, then an eyehole pin inserted in that wood, with a corresponding hanging hook in the ceiling, and some fishing could be spun around? Think Calder and his mobiles!"

My quilting friend Phyllis Cullen, awesome Hawaiian quilter, weighed in with another ceiling idea: "You can mount it on stretcher bars, or make a sleeve or loops that project from the top, and inset a swiveling bar to hang, or allow it to be hung from the ceiling so both sides can be seen."

A third creative thinker, Eleanor Levie, wasn't so optimistic. She shared: "I'm always sorry when I try for a reversible product, because I end up compromising the effect on one side to make the reverse side work neatly and aesthetically. Don't try to do it all, girlfriend. Trust your instincts and experience. Pick a side."

Could they all be right? Why yes, they could!

I decided to try a variation of Phyllis' idea. I took an inexpensive 11" x 14" stretched canvases from the craft store. Pulled out the staples holding the canvas, leaving only the wooden frame. Then stapled my piece to the wooden frame and hand-stitched the buttons for good: 
Below is the back of the piece. I carried the crochet thread holding the buttons. Eleanor was dead right: The back is messy. primarily because the two vertical sides of the fabric aren't long enough to cover the wood, like they do on top and bottom. If I were to actually exhibit this,  I'd have to take it off the frame, lengthen the sides, and even then it might still be messy (other suggestions welcomed!) 
Next, on the new right side, I wrapped colorful embroidery floss from button to button, going over one, down one. In my first experiment, I also wove in white cord.
Didn't like the white, so I removed it. The final weave is below. Because all the squares were not lined up perfectly, the strings made unusual angles.
My final step was to extend the colored floss via stitching from the outermost buttons into the borders....

And around to the back, where they end in a knot. 
The fun of this piece to me is looking at how complicated it looks from the front, and then flipping it over to see how simple it really is. 

By the way, I also experimented with displaying the piece in an embroidery hoop......

That didn't work out too well, either. but I think with a round design it might work better.

Thanks so much to Blue, Phyllis and Eleanor for sharing your ideas and advice!

And thanks to another extraordinary Quiltart list member, Margaret Cooter, who told me about the work of Inge Hueber, a well-known German quilter. Backs are Inge's thing! See Inge's inside-out work at