Sunday, August 20, 2017

Cat toys - recycle/upcycle!!

I love to recycle...

I love socks, especially cat socks...

When I wear my socks down to the threadbare point, I make cat toys out of them! 

Here's a quick overview:

Get out your old ratty socks and some scraps of quilt batting!  If the sock has a hole, just stitch it closed on your machine.  No fancy darning needed!  Use a couple of layers of batting, but what you see here is literally trimmings from a quilt that was longarmed. 

Make your stack a little narrower than your sock is long. 

Then the catnip!  Sprinkle it liberally over the batting. 
As you do for any dried herb, crush it between your fingers a little
to release more scent. 
Roll it up tightly.
Shove it in the sock!  If you have a pair where one sock is truly threadbare, use that one as your first sock and put the one in better condition over it.  Here, I'm just using one.
Almost done! 
I sew them shut in the cuff but I leave a little of the cuff dangling out for more kitty fun!

Be sure to trim any loose threads so that the cat doesn't ingest them. 
Thread swallowing is VERY BAD and involves a trip to the emergency vet.
All done!  Time for play!
Here's a demonstration from an earlier project.  These sock toys are very popular among cats who enjoy catnip (I believe the figure is about 75% who do).  If the scent fades over time, either discard the toy and make a new one or freshen it up with catnip spray!  
Yes, there is such a thing and it comes in a spritz bottle. 
Make some for all your kitty buddies!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

A trip to the Sydney Quilt Show 2016

I went to the Sydney Quilt Show!   June 22-26, 2016.  Australia has lots of great regional quilting events but this is the biggest.  With 400 quilts entered in 17 categories, 19 special awards, 80 sponsors,  and meet the teacher and guild demos that were too  many to count, this show was worth traveling 17 time zones to see!   
There were special exhibits, featured quilters, and an exhibit of past winners.  All spread out with plenty of room in the Glebe Island Exhibition Center.  But wait, there's more!
QuiltNSW partners with Expertise Events to add a huge vendor's mall with quilting and craft supply vendors from all over Australia.   Big vendors like the major sewing machine manufacturers (Toyota has a new candy apple red machine) and small  independent sellers of yarn, notions, and fabric.  They, in turn  provide a full schedule of lectures and demonstrations in three theaters over five days.  Something new about every 30 minutes.  You cannot see it all! 

Then there was Tula Pink!  For an additional fee, you could attend one of her three trunk shows and lectures, featuring quilts from several of her 500 fabrics and her mother as quilt holder. 

I attended the show four of the five days and the first Tula Pink lecture.  I selected several other lectures to attend, including Kathy Doughty's talk on combining fabrics and some interesting speakers on quilting techniques.   Thank goodness not all of the programs were about quilting!  Some were for knitters and scrapbookers, too. 

Australian quilters have a rich tradition of their own, even though they are heavily influenced by American quilting.  They still produce big, elaborate medallion-style quilts and use a lot of applique (especially in the borders).  More recently they are making vivid, complex color mixtures in new Australian traditions with large scale designer prints.  This was not a juried  show but the quilts were of very high quality with lots of innovation. 

It is still true that local teachers influence the local quilt production.   Quilters attributed their inspiration and design to local teachers and classes, and there were some similar patterns, color combinations, and techniques.   But with 400 quilts there was a wide variety, too!

I saw a big trend in using circles and circle blocks in quilts.  One popular teacher advocates a technique of adding a bias flange around circle blocks to make it easy to apply the circle to the background and to add a fun design element.  So there were lots of those.  Designers such as Jen Kingwell and Kathy Doughty also influence local quilters who are choosing the mash up of color and pattern that Australian quilters are becoming known for. 

I looked for information at the show and local museums on the traditional art of Aboriginal Australians and how that art is being used in fabric design but found nothing.  There was very little fabric for sale with these traditional designs.  It is more available in US stores than it was at this show and there was no information about the art. 
Attendees were cautioned against posting quilt photos on web sites or social media without the express consent of the quilter.  But official photos were taken for use on the QuiltNSW Facebook page and Instagram account so photos of the winners are easy to find on the Internet.   Best of Show went to "Rachaeldaisy " for her entry "Whizz Bang", a wild melange of circles, prairie points, and applique that is sure to influence a new generation of quilters.  Look for her website (Google Rachaeldaisy) and get out those circle blocks and templates if you want to do as the Aussies do! 

2016 Best of Show "Whizz Bang" by Rachaeldaisy

Monday, October 14, 2013

Variable Star quilt block - a possible origin

Quilt block names, as we know, often reflect quilters’ observances of life events, society, and day-to-day living.  I didn’t know until recently, that the term “variable star” has a rather famous origin.

In science history, the general public often became fascinated by new discoveries, theories, and debates.  The term “variable star” describes stars that change in brightness.  A significant change from previous theories that stars stayed the same – never varied in brightness (or position!).

“Novae are considered to be a class of variable star, because they flare up suddenly after a long period of being relatively faint, and then they gradually fade back to their former dimness…These variable stars were significant in astronomy because they directly contradicted the ancient view that the stars were immutable, and as a result there was a concerted effort to understand what was driving their fluctuations.”

-- “Big Bang, the origin of the universe” by Simon Singh, pub. Fourth Estate 2004, page 195

The study and popularity of variable stars came about in the late 1700’s and 1800’s, as telescope technology improved and as photography was invented.  Photos allowed astronomers to make objective measurements of star brightness instead of relying on subjective views.   

Understanding the variable nature of stars - their cycle of heat, expansion, release of energy, cooling, and contraction – helped astronomers understand much more about the universe. 

I choose to believe that the public was so enamored of the expression “variable star” during this time, that a quilter named a quilt block after the phenomenon!  If you know of a more specific origin, please let me know!

It’s easy to sit here at the beginning of the 21st century and forget that only a short time ago we earthlings didn’t understand basic things about space.  But here we are, and there they were, and they left us a legacy in quilting.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Some quick color inspiration

I love fall colors, especially when the palette includes purple!  So here are some purple threads from my current inventory - cotton, rayon, poly, and metallic.  Stir a little purple into your fall-colored quilt and see what happens!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Binding Quilt Corners - a special post for left-handed people!!

Here is a series of photos on how I do the hand sewing of binding, as I approach a quilt corner!

I'm left-handed and there are very few places on the Internet where you can see photos of how we left-handers do things!  So this is special for you!!

Note that I'm sewing shut the folds on both the front and the back of the quilt at the corner.  An important step. 

This technique is described completely in my book, "Binding Your Best", with Bonnie Craig.  Easymade Publications. 

 Approaching the corner - sew past the line of machine stitching
you used to secure the binding to the front. 
Now, fold over the new side, make a perfect miter and a perfect corner. 
Secure with a couple of stitches. 

Sew shut that fold!
Ladder stitch or whipstitch.
Take your stitching to the very point! 

Flip it over to the front and sew shut the fold; use a ladder stitch for invisibility.
Poke the needle thru to the back and bring your thread to the back again;
continue on the new side!
Shown here using Valdani thread!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Teddie - a cat in fabric

I have read a lot of articles and web sites about pictorial quilts - particularly making an image of your pet in fabric.  I wanted to do it!  Had no idea where to start.  Sadly, I was not born with the "art gene" - I got the "music gene" but that's a story for another day.  So I read and read and read advice from those folks who do have artistic talent.  These articles gave me courage, directing me to take a photo of my cat, use the main design lines in the photo, and start cutting up fabric!

You'll see below that I did it!  I have lots of fun photos of my cats - this one is Tedrika (she goes by "Teddie"), my tortie with attitude.  The photo was from a day right after I moved into my house in Vancouver, WA (in 1997) and everything was pretty much in disarray.  She had made herself a perch on my vintage piano desk and was waiting to see if I could squeeze everything into that little house.  As long as the food dish is full, she's happy wherever we are.

Teddie is now 16.5 years old and she looks the same but is older and crabbier.  As am I. 

First, find a photo:

Then, photocopy the picture on paper and use a marking pen to find the major design lines.

I looked and looked for a fabric that I thought would represent tortie coloring - a black undercoat with brown/orange/tan touches.  I found the PERFECT batik at Shibori Dragon Fabrics.  Then I had no excuse to put off the first cut!  I traced sections from the photo on fusible webbing, fused my fabrics, and started arranging them.

The best advice I think I got from the articles I read was to limit yourself to 5-6-7 fabrics.  Don't think you have to shade everything on your first attempt.  That was the advice that gave me the most courage.  I think I used six total fabrics in the cat on this piece.

The eyes are set behind the face (holes cut in the face).  The pupils were stitched.  I made the splash on her head all white (artistic license) because I thought adding the tan on top just looked like a blob.  Then, I mustered up courage to fuse!

I raw-appliqued the tortie parts of the cat with black 100-weight silk.  The white parts I raw-edge appliqued with white Invisafil.  Both of these are go-to threads for me.  Black silk is really black-black and delicious to sew with.  Invisafil is not "invisible" but is 100-weight poly and so fine that it blends amazingly in every application.   Yep, all done by machine. 

I did some experimenting to get the pieces in place.  Some were re-cut.  Some were covered so much (like under her right front paw) that they barely show. 

Her haunch and other quilting in the cat body I also quilted with black silk. 

Here's what the back (of the top) looked like.  I think I put a little more stitching in it after I took this photo.  I also put some medium-weight stabilizer behind the piece before sewing and I tore most of it out.  This is a little art piece and won't be washed and handled like a big quilt.

You can't see the white Invisafil but it's there!

Here is the finished piece; I quilted the green background with white Invisafil and added a touch of Wonderfil Hologram thread as the buckle on her collar.  Metallic threads are so much fun to have around and sometimes you just need a touch of sparkle to make the quilt!  I added the whiskers with a very fine white cotton thread. 

So Miss Teddie has been immortalized in fabric.  She is a Southern cat - a former client of the Durham County Animal Shelter in Durham, NC.  So she likes to be addressed as "Miss Teddie" as is the Southern custom.  She is a great little kitty friend, and deserves to be admired in person as well as in fabric!

  **All text and images are copyrighted to me.  You know the drill.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Blooming Nine Patch - an obsession

I love the Blooming Nine Patch pattern.  An original design by Blanche Young, it is featured in her book, "Tradition with a Twist" (CT Publishing - with Dalene Young Stone).  It's actually the cover quilt for that book.  But the BNP, as we devotees call it, is one of those quilts that takes on a different personality each time you make one.  And it's almost a mystery quilt, because it's almost impossible to imagine what it will look like until the top is done!

Blanche knew what she was doing when she made this a quilt for color exploration.  Each pair of fabrics touching each other must share at least one color.  If they share more colors, the quilt achieves a "blended" look.  If they share only one color, the different rounds are more distinct.

The combinations I like best are where the color(s) in the center are pale and kind of glowy.  Then to add a round that creates a distinctive path at about the halfway point.  These BNPs are so darned much fun to make that I have made eight so far...and I feel another one coming on.  

If you use a lot of floral fabrics, remember that nearly every floral includes a lot of green.  So my advice is to not let green be your only color in common between two fabrics.  Look for more interesting possibilities!

It's easy sewing and a great quilt for a determined beginner with some experience.  Lots of practice matching up those intersections!  And you learn a little something about fabric grain during assembly.  I think the secret of making this quilt is the "Friskies box".  I buy Friskies canned cat food by the comes in a tray that is shrinkwrapped.  Two of those trays will hold a complete set of cut BNP strips and squares, in order; ready for you to sew.  I also like to make a key index card with sample fabrics, numbered, to make sure I remember which fabric I intended to use for each round. 

BTW, you need Blanche's book for your collection.  It has some great patterns with brilliantly written instructions.  And be aware that there is no fluff in the fabric requirements listed.  If you plan to make some cutting errors (!) buy a little more fabric than required. 

I'm pretty sure I'm not the only person with an obsession for the Blooming Nine Patch - if you love them, too, let me know!  I see them in quilt shows all over the Pacific Northwest!

These photos are not too great, but you'll get the idea!

My first BNP - love the purple edge!   Hoffman florals are a great place to start if you're looking for BNP fabrics.

My second BNP - lots of blendy florals. Not visible in this photo - one of the rounds of squares is fussy cut cats in garden hats.  A treat for those who inspect the quilt closely!

My third BNP - I have seen several in this color combination at quilt shows.  Seems to be a a favorite to do them in all blues.  Mine has a pale lime green center which didn't photograph well.  This is the first one I did with one less round than the pattern calls for.  Makes a 62" x 72" quilt which is a little more useful for me.

My fourth BNP - for Trent H when he was about five years old.  This quilt is even smaller.  All jungle fabrics.  This was also my first attempt to do a little custom quilting by tracing the figures on tissue paper and quilting through the paper.  Then, as you see, I forgot to take a photo of the quilt after I removed the tissue...The quilted images turned out to be a "seek and find" game for him, which was an unexpected benefit.   
My fifth BNP - for Jennifer S. on her graduation from Eastern Washington University!  Creamy orange, pinks and greens.  A touch of blue.  Lots of fun!
My sixth BNP (can you believe it?) - This time a quilt for healthy eating!  All vegetable fabrics.  The purple edge is eggplant fabric.  I still have some fragments of some of these fabrics.  They're like sourdough, always waiting to be the start of another quilt...
My seventh BNP (are you still reading?) - another healthy eating quilt with all fruit fabrics.  Most of these fabrics have images that are small enough to fit in one square, except the watermelon fabric.  So the quilt has some scale changes as well as color changes.  The red on blue round is apple fabric and the last round is cherry fabric.  Photo taken at Calico Country in Lynden, WA.
My eighth BNP - that's all so far - this time not so much healthy eating but delicious drinking!  All coffee fabrics!  This one was a tough one to choose fabrics for, as most of the available coffee fabrics are brown!  And/or black!  But I found some that included teal and blue; the rounds are pretty distinct but that's what makes this pattern so fun!
Check out some other BNPs on the Internet and start thinking about your own.  This pattern started a trend in the early 1990's; there are other similar patterns around but Blanche started it all!  Thanks, Blanche!