Tag Archives: wool

Holiday sewing

Just listed these items in my Etsy shop — clothcompany.  I already have some wonderful balsam-filled sachets to list, so look for those – and there will be at least two Christmas Kitties next week, and — dare I say? — a batch of finished dolls.

We will be making these simple and yet charming tree ornaments in the December “Sewing for The Holidays” class at the New Art Center [Newton, Massachusetts].  Class meets for three successive Saturdays — Dec 1, 8, and 15 — from 12:30 until 2:30.  There’s still time to sign up!

two-sided postcard quilts

When BOTH sides of a piece warrant viewing, here’s one way to create a hanger – if you have used wool felt.  The same treatment could be adapted to employ a rivet or a button for a more traditional, three-layer cloth quilt.

Who doesn’t love wool felt?  Especially slightly THICK wool felt?  I could use an awl to poke a hole, confident that the hole would not enlarge.  This allowed me to create a simple, single crochet hanger, right into the quilt.

Waxed linen offers the nice benefit of being a cohesive thread… here, the snipped-off end can be twisted once or twice around existing strand and MASHED into pretty permanent place.  No need for clear nail polish, or fray off, or to worry about unthreading.

Here, a little clock gear serves as a doorknob.

These stitched landscapes were appealing on the ‘wrong sides’, which is part of why I wanted a ‘side neutral’ hanger – so both sides can readily be viewed with a flick of the wrist.

When I stitched the grey one, a piece of fabric got caught in the threads and I decided to cover it with a moon and add a window, being conscious of where my hand stitches would land on the other side.  Here are both the purple and grey felt postcards, with fronts and backs:

And a couple close ups.

And the other:
So, when the ‘wrong side’ is worth showing, consider a hanging method that can flip from side to side.

One wedding commission that I made ended up sandwiched between two pieces of glass and hung where both sides could be seen.  I don’t love putting fabric under glass, but I thought that was a great idea on their part.

Has anyone else found that they love the wrong side of their fiber creation? Or found another way to showcase both sides with a hanging method different from this?

puzzle quilting

Scorpios are notoriously jealous, of others and others’ things and so the suggestion to ‘Open’ sits there like a playground mother intoning, “Share”.  I plucked what was handy (calendar page, old scraps of cut-up quilts, wool bits, a page from a book on trusts, retrieved from a huge bin of recycling while working at the law firm last year) – initially to experiment for this week’s class, and then to puzzle this little piece together.

Nautical map is a phototransfer on linen.

Back reveals some of the wool inclusions and some of the stitching.

This little scrap is now about the size of a large Tarot card. I hate to pillage quilts that have been bound and sleeved, but I just hated this one, so pillage I did. Some of it landed in the Scorpio sketch. I have a few more pieces to use elsewhere.  Given my recent sighting of a screech owl around the corner and my sister’s current near-obsession with the bird, I will keep this little piece intact… perhaps to hang with a satin ribbon somewhere.

When butting edges of quilt scraps together and zig-zagging, lo and behold, the pieces do not have to form lines – in fact, little promontories can be stitched readily.  Because piecing otherwise requires making lines (or curves) as one goes, this felt more like putting a puzzle together than like quilting.

Back to Scorpio, and jealousy – I’ll admit to feeling a little envious of all the articulate, thoughtful, resolved, clear, energized statements and dedications many others are making about stepping into 2012.  Maybe it’s because I had a cold all last week, and the new year came in on a headache, but I think I’ll wait til my birthday in February to reflect back on last year and pause to consider the coming year.


Chronicles of a Garbage-Picking Crafter, II

See that beautiful poppy?

That was part of a cheesy jacket manufactured, oh, around 1972, I’d guess… you know the kind? Based on athletic wear, with knit cuffs and waist and zipper up the front and made of either polyester (the early gross type) or acetate?  Truly awful, in other words.

But, look how pretty that poppy is cut out, stabilized, and partnered with quality quilting cottons.

If you have a local clothes depot, real gems are waiting for you, too.

Cambridge, Mass. offers “Clothes by the Pound”. These are the articles that local Salvation Armies have given up trying to sell. They are heaped in piles on the second floor of an old office building near Kendall Square. One fills a bag, it is weighed, and off you go with a trunk-load of fabric for about $9.00.

While I’ll admit it’s not for everyone (the smell takes some getting used to, for instance), I love it!  One gets down on one’s knees and starts flinging garments around like a dog digging for a bone in the old cartoons.  If I’m there with fellow-treasure-hunter B., we might toss items between us, with commentary such as, “ooooh, an Ann Taylor — I can see you in that!”  The clothes piles invite a scrappy approach to acquisition that I seem to be more comfortable with than traditional shopping.  In fact, I am more comfortable routing around through used crap than trying pants on in an upscale clothing store at the mall (an activity I hate so much that for years I didn’t wear pants, and No, I did not go around half-naked.  I wore skirts.  They can be bought off the rack and fit fairly well).

One problem with a place like Clothes by the Pound is that it spoils you. I’ve gotten so that I wait for SALES at my favorite thrift stores, because $5.00 for a man’s shirt, even a very cool vintage Hawaiian, seems like, well, too much.

And, actually, another problem with Clothes by the Pound is that even though I’m not looking for clothing to wear, I often find great pieces — like a gorgeous 100%  wool J.Crew cable-knit sweater that was originally a Man’s Large, inadvertently shrunk — and now a perfect felted fit for a medium-sized woman.

I’ve learned to look for African fabrics, Indonesian batiks, and Indian madras. Also, anything from Hong Kong, because it tends to be hand-tailored and incredibly high-quality.

This quilt also features fabric from manufacturer’s headers (the green fish print).   Those are fun because fabric companies create sample booklets with colorways, so you would have coordinating prints, or a particular print in five different colors.  All swatches well-sized for a quilting patch.

Lastly, I recommend discovering a curtain maker or upholsterer in your area who would be willing to let you take some of their scraps.  This has been absolutely invaluable to me.  The real boon of a connection like this, especially if either of these sources work for upscale clients (and most people getting custom-made curtains and upholstery, are), is you avail yourself of very expensive linens and drapery weight polished cottons, for example, that you would NEVER pay for (many costing over $100/yard!!).

Happy Hunting!

In time for Good Friday


Finished this figure in time for Good Friday.

The face is Shrinky Dink, the body, unspun wool, covering a bark-less stick.  A garbage-picked scarf wraps around his neck, and a found rusty nail is tied to the torso.  The wool is nailed to the stick with small brads.  Most of the nails represent, well, nails, but the rusty one represents the spear that impaled Christ’s body.


The cross is a found piece from a little red wagon and arms are either day lily or hosta stalks saved from last year’s garden.


The hands are Shrinky Dink as well.  I have embellished the face with beads and waxed linen.  The crown of thorns are florist toothpicks on wire.


The face comes from a book of African portraits that I have (and currently can’t find, in order to cite).  This man was in an ecstatic trance.

The most satisfying part about making this figure was the sense of completion — the face and body had hung around the studio for at least a year before the other components found their way to the piece.  There is nothing like a marker in time (like a holiday, and specifically, Good Friday) to provide a little motivation.

Mixing Up Fabrics

Pillow in progress

Pillow in progress

Making Felt Objects & Embellishments

Try mixing in polar fleece if you are working with wool felt.  It is much cheaper and can add interest with patterns and shadings.  It is just as forgiving as felt to sew.  In the flower mounted on linen pictured above, all the purples and grey are wool and everything else is fleece.  The two-toned leaves were cut from a striped pattern in fleece.

Recycling wrongly-shrunk sweaters and felting thrift store finds are two other good sources of wool felt.  Be sure a second hand purchase is 80 to 90% wool if you plan to felt it, and use hot water in the wash.  I recently bought Betz White‘s book, “Warm Fuzzies” for some great ideas on using felt — the wool cupcakes are especially fun!  She has a blog and a website, as well.

mostly-felt brooches

mostly-felt brooches

In the selection of fabric jewelry above, the black is a cut-up sweater and the soft purple (dotted with a gold-silk-covered button) was a wool, tailored jacket.  Jackets, I have decided, especially if lined, may not be worth the work required to cut them up (they tend to cost more than sweaters and the panels of wool uninterrupted by seams are smaller).

Color Therapy

It is amazing how many New England quilters resort to hot colors and tropical, summery prints in their winter work. img_3781 The view out of our kitchen windowsill and recently hung quilt demonstrate the contrast.

Martha's Vineyard Tile (quilt, 13 1/2" x 14")

Martha's Vineyard Tile (quilt, 13 1/2" x 14")

Red as Neutral, Uglies, and Rogue Fabrics

Three of the best fabric tips I can pass along are as follows:

  • Treat red as a neutral,
  • Buy ugly fabric, and
  • Include rogues in your work.

A guest speaker at a meeting of the Quilter’s Connection (a guild that now meets in Watertown, MA) offered the first tip, and I think I heard people gasp.  I didn’t believe it at the time, but subsequent experience has proven her right.  (If I track down who said this, I promise to come back and give her credit).

Ruth McDowell, quilter, writer and teacher extraordinaire, offered the second tip.  To look at her quilts is to be astonished by the fabric combinations, so I have followed this advice ever since (especially since I can’t/won’t ever be able to piece the way she does!).  I actually don’t have to work too hard at this because I am a scavenger at heart and all kinds of fabric comes my way that I haven’t consciously selected.  The point is, though, you never know when some repulsive print in colors you abhor is going to be THE right touch.

The last tip is mine, though I have to say it was exalted by the Gee’s Bend quilters long before I ever started quilting.  A rogue is a vagrant, a scoundrel or a mischief-maker.  A rogue animal is one that misbehaves.  So, to include fabrics that aren’t quite part of the plan, or don’t quite look like they belong, is to follow the rogue rule.   (I suppose it is a corollary to the ‘buy ugly’ rule – and meant to expand one’s choices).  And, by the way, even if one is an ‘improv quilter’, one can follow this rule by selecting a piece of fabric that is not in the picking pile.

Below is a quilt where the red serves as a neutral rather than as an accent and the black is a rogue, although I’ll admit I’ve used black as a rogue often enough that it has become formulaic — and certainly, a formula cannot be a rogue!!

K's 2007 Christmas blanket

K's 2007 Christmas blanket

Supplies and Goodbyes

One of the great things about being a quilter is that when people have fabric to unload, they think of you.  It is only recently that I have begun to say ‘no’ because of space.  Today, I received the most gorgeous selection of fabrics from a friend returning to Japan that I am humbled — not just at her generosity and the exquisite quality of the fabrics, but at the whole notion of abundance.  With the economic news so uniformly and unrelentingly negative, how lovely to receive this bundle!!  Good luck Yoko!!  I don’t think I will be able to cut the silk obis, but if I do, some creation will be packaged and sent to Japan.

Clearly, being open to receiving whatever fabric comes your way doesn’t just expand your palette (and sometimes help satisfy the Ugly Rule), it can also open you to treasure!