When I was in Vermont last week, we passed a Borders Books
in Burlington that was having a going-out-of-business sale - and they were offering incentives for buying more books. The only problem for me in this situation was narrowing down the number of books I had in my arms!
I picked up a couple of inexpensive ($2.99) cookbooks, a novel, and a sewing book called "One Yard Wonders
" - and I love it! I'm not usually much of a pattern-follower, but I set myself the goal of seeing if I could follow instructions. And you know what? Turns out I can. So there, Mom.
Needing to run an errand nearby and having this book just itching to be used was all the incentive I needed to make a trip to JoAnn's Fabric
. I picked up a few 1-yard pieces of home-decor weight fabric (heavier than quilting fabric, but lighter than upholstery fabric), in preparation of trying out this new book, as well as a few more embellishment items for my "Fall in New England
" piece that I'm still finishing up.
Coupons in hand (tip: never, ever go to JoAnn's without your coupons, your teacher's 15% card, and their new iPhone app
) - I'm excited to say that I saved 50% on my purchases.
Anyway, I made this cute grocery bag in one afternoon - and I love it. I used it to carry my tallit and other shul-necessities this morning when I went to Shabbat services. And I already have it packed with towels and a bathing suit for tomorrow's trip to the beach.
The directions were simple and relatively easy to follow - even for someone like me, who hates reading patterns and following instructions. I also made a skirt, following one of their patterns, and adding/changing a few things (I added a cute pocket, and made it a draw-string rather than elastic waist). Perhaps I'll get a picture of it up soon. Both projects took under two hours each - and came out great. If you're looking for easy projects that are fun to make and fun to use, this book is for you.
Maybe your dresser drawers are bursting with t-shirts from Camp Ramah
, or your high school drama club. Or maybe you’re about to start a new job where they want you to wear, gasp!, business attire. Or perhaps your mother wants you to clean out your childhood bedroom where you’ve been stashing your piles and piles of t-shirts.
Whatever the story is, you’ve got a bunch (ok, a ton) of t-shirts that you no longer wear but that you’re too attached to, to throw out. Sound familiar? Maybe you want to make a quilt out of them instead.
I made my first t-shirt quilt a few summers into working at Camp Ramah in New England. I was close enough to my college years that I still had affection for those shirts - and those were the days at Ramah where, between bunk shirts, edah (age unit), the staff shirt, and the hanhallah (senior leadership) shirts you could acquire an entire new wardrobe each summer. Living in NYC, I knew that minimal living space was going to force me to make some choices. Having not researched much about t-shirt quilts, my first attempt was adequate but nowhere near perfection (but lucky for me, you can't tell that from the picture).
A number of years later, I made good on a few-years-old promise to my camp director father, and I made him a quilt from his camp t-shirts to hang in the camp office during the summer. I tried a few techniques here that were good practice, but that I would no longer recommend (ie. the stippling stitch, particularly w/o using interfacing).
Having learned a bit more about quilting, t-shirt quilting, and sewing in general, I’ve completed my third t-shirt quilt
. I'm quite pleased with how this third one came out - I used interfacing to hold the t-shirt material together better, I varied the size of the blocks, and over all, I did a much neater job.
I am by no means an expert - but I have learned a lot, so I thought I’d share instructions, as well as tips and resources with you.
(If you want someone else to do it for you, and you want it to be super-fancy - check out Too Cool TShirt Quilts
. Those are some pretty impressive quilts!)
1. Pick which shirts you want to use, but DO NOT cut them. I have a box of cut-before-I-measured shirts that are now unusable…don’t let that happen to you!
2. Decide on the size of your blocks - my advice is to do this by the size of your largest design that you want to use.
3. Now you can begin to cut the shirts. I use a self-healing cutting mat (like this one
), a rotary cutter (like this one
), and a clear ruler (like this one
). Cut your blocks evenly, leaving at least ½ an inch for a seam allowance.
4. Using fusible interfacing
and a hot iron, attach the interfacing to the back of the t-shirt block. Some people do this before they even cut the shirts, but that seems like a waste of interfacing to me.
5. Arrange your shirts on the floor - notice the color patterns, alternate busy/not busy prints, etc. Make sure all the shirts are facing the same direction. This site
offers some nice examples of patterns and options for arrangement.
6. Sew the shirts together, making the top layer of the quilt. Some people like to add sashing between the blocks - I don't prefer that look, but it is your quilt!
If you need instructions on how to do that, here is a video about sewing pieces of fabric together:
7. After you've completed the entire top layer of your quilt, you need to attach it to a back layer, as well as including a layer of batting
in between the top and bottom layers (I have a strong preference for the Warm & Natural
8. Quilt the entire piece together, bind the edges, and voila! you have a t-shirt quilt!
Oh? You don't know how to finish the quilt? Or you need more information? Here's a great website
that you can use as a resource - and of course, ask questions in the comment section, and I'll happy try to answer them. In the interest of full-disclosure, the Amazon links are affiliate links - please help support Homegrown Judaica by buying through these links. All money earned from referrals will go towards supporting HGJ.
When Josh and I were getting ready to move in together, I, ahem, gently suggested that he trim down his collection of old t-shirts. The idea was met with a look that said, “you’re making me pack up this entire apartment, and you have the nerve to suggest that I throw out some of the clothes I don’t wear too!?!”. We compromised by dividing the t-shirts into three piles - keep, donate, and quilt.
One look at his hallway filled with bags of clothes to be donated, and you can only imagine how many he had to be quilted and kept!
Having been promising my father a quilt of his shirts for year, Josh had no expectation of receiving a t-shirt quilt any time soon. You can imagine his surprise when he got an almost-finished quilt of his shirts for his birthday in mid-July!
[As a side note, it was kinda satisfying to be able to surprise him with something he wanted - to be working on it while he truly had no idea.]
The quilt is nearly finished. I had just been waiting for the binding to come in from Beverly’s Fabric Store
. Now that it has arrived, I’ll aim to finish the entire thing by the end of the week.
Here’s a picture of the quilt, as I gave it to him for his birthday.
Interested in making your own t-shirt quilt? Come back tomorrow for instructions and tips on making a t-shirt quilt. Want to commission a t-shirt quilt of your own? You can reach me at email@example.com.
It may still be summer here in Boston, but it’s almost fall in my sewing studio, also known as on my dining room table.
I'm working on an image of fall in New England, with the trees standing out in white, and the colors of the leaves providing the background.
Since I took the picture, I've added falling leaves on top of this background - and I’m playing with the idea of embellishment, adding tiny seed beading to those leaves.
I’ll post a picture of the final product when I’m done with it. In the meantime, I’m loving watching the leaves really pop off the fabric, with the extra texture. I'm planning on binding it in a textured white fabric - and then I plan on hanging it in my office at work, unless of course, someone wants to purchase it.
Just in time for Launch Night (tonight!), The Jewish Advocate does a feature piece on Homegrown Judaica and a few of our local Boston artists.
This post was written by Marlene Burns.
I normally paint in the style of Abstract Expressionism. My emphasis is on the process, rather than the finished product as well as experimentation with media. Each morning, I face a blank canvas and allow the process to take over as I spill out my guts. In recent years, I have been very active in the Jewish community acting as a lay leader for a group of 30 people in the Northwest communities in Tucson. It has become increasingly difficult to clear my mind to paint each day with all the prayers, commentaries, midrashim and tunes filling up my head. I decided to marry my painting with religion and my Judaic series of paintings was officially born. I have 16 paintings in the series so far, with a goal number of 18 (Chai) by the end of this year.
One of the most powerful paintings for me, centers on the Kaddish Yatom, the mourner's prayer.
Our sages displayed great wisdom when they directed us to say this prayer three times a day during the period of mourning. At a time when we are surrounded by death and our faith in G-d might be shaken, we have a prayer that affirms life and sanctifies G-d's name. Our loved ones are not mentioned in this prayer. In my own experience, as I moved through grief with the loss of my father, Tzvi Avraham of Blessed memory, I needed to be able to do something more intimate with this prayer. There is a Kabbalistic meditation coupled with this prayer, based on the gematria (numerology) found within. 42 is a significant number in Kabbalah and there is a string of 7 words, all starting with the 6th letter (Vav) of the Hebrew alphabet. When these words are read, one should envision a ladder with 7 rungs going up toward the heavens. As each word is said, the mourner climbs a rung, carrying the soul of his loved one straight to G-d in his heavenly realm.
I found this meditation not only beautiful but, proactive by giving me the power to actively help deliver a soul back to G-d. I have given a name to this style of painting. I call it "sacred intention." Kavanah is the intention with which we pray. I hope that the viewer can make the connection of the kavanah in the prayers and the kavanah with which I create.
My partner and I chose this word to use as the name for our printing press that produces fine art reproductions of the series as greeting cards and framed reproductions Giclees on paper and canvas are also available in limited editions, enhanced, signed and numbered.
Unlike many religious paintings, my symbolism is covert. In this painting, the central image is the ladder, with 7 rungs. Hidden within are two words.....Chai for life and the double yud, representing G-d's name. The intention in saying this prayer is to not only concentrate on life and G-d but to also meditate on the ladder when the appropriate words are uttered. Throughout the painting process, I chant or sing the appropriate words to aid my expression of them.
The image is filled with incomplete circles that follow lines wending upward toward the heavens. These circles represent souls becoming whole as they complete their journey back to G-d.
I must admit that printing my work has never been a priority, but when this card is sent, with complete translation and artistic explanation/interpretation printed on the back, the one who receives it can take the teaching into his heart for comfort and inspiration.
Guest post by Preston Neal.
When I was younger, my older sister taught me how to make necklace beads out of FIMO clay – that bendable craft clay sold in a variety of colors at most arts stores. As I learned more about Judaism during high school, I studied the commandment to “inscribe these words on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:9, 11:20) and realized that those verses were the basis for why people put a mezuzah
on the frame of the front door of their house. Then, I saw some very beautiful, professionally-made mezuzot
on a trip to Israel and thought, “I could do that!” So, I decided to make my own mezuzah
using my trusty FIMO clay. Granted, it’s not as fancy as a mezuzah
made of Murano glass, but it was special because it had personal meaning. Furthermore, it was fairly simple to create, and it has traveled with me to every place I have lived since!
When I studied Jewish texts more formally in college, I came to see this particular mitzvah
as very intriguing in part due to its peculiarity. After all, the paragraphs in the Torah that contais the mitzvah
(Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 11:13-21) emphasizes the obligation to teach “these words” – specifically, to love God with all your heart, soul and might, but often interpreted as Torah in general – to one’s children and to speak of them in all of your doings. Why, then, if the real message is to engage in words of Torah with others, did the Torah specify that we also need to post them on the doorposts and gates of our homes?
Some have interpreted the purpose of the mezuzah
as protecting the home from evil spirits and bad luck. But that just doesn’t feel very Jewish to me. It seems unlikely that a tradition which emphasizes the covenantal bond between a sole, non-corporeal deity and human beings would necessitate the use of a talisman. Indeed, isn’t that why Abraham – according to the Midrash –
smashed the idols in his father’s workshop?
I believe that the primary purpose of the mezuzah
is not to protect the inhabitants of a home from evil but to remind them to study and teach words of Torah in their comings and goings. If the Torah had just told us to meditate on and teach the words: “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might,” it would have remained more of an ethereal commandment. Instead, by writing “these words” at the nexus of our transitioning between the private and public realms, our inner and outer selves, we are reminded to transition with purpose and presence, to more faithfully integrate the disparate physical and spiritual areas of our lives.
So go buy some FIMO, mix and match your colors, pick up a mezuzah
scroll from your local synagogue, Judaica shop, or other trusted source, and make a mezuzah
that will serve as a personal guidepost for you in your comings and goings.Preston Neal, 26, is a freelance writer, Hebrew and Judaica teacher based in Manhattan. He graduated from Brandeis University in 2007 with a degree in Near Eastern & Judaic Studies. He blogs at www.theprestonian.com, and be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Yesterday was a big mail day for me! I came home to find lots of fun birthday cards (tomorrow is the big 2-9), and...a package from the lovely Marlene Burns, full of...more cards!
I knew that she was sending me samples, but I had no idea how Absolutely Gorgeous they would be. Truly stunning. They are beautiful pieces of art, masquerading as greeting cards for you to send to your nearest and dearest. Well worth the inexpensive price of $6. You can purchase them on our site under the new "Cards" section or see more at her site, www.kavanahpress.com
A little bit more about this amazing artist: Marlene Burns has been a professional artist for forty years, and has always had a passion for Judaism. But it wasn't until last year that Marlene began a Judaic series of paintings based on some of the Hebrew prayers she studies and shares with those she teaches. The debut series had nine offerings and she has since added six more to include psalms and holidays. It has become her most inspired series to date. She prepares for each painting by chanting or singing the specific prayer while her abstract expressionist process unfolds. Most of her symbols are hidden. The translations and explanations of her artistic process become part of her offerings as teachings.
Marlene has partnered with Ken Mirman, a seasoned veteran in the printing industry, to bring her imagesand teachings to a wider audience in Jewish Communities across the country.
Together, they have established Kavanah Press to create a fine art line of cards and framed reproductions. Giclees and larger reproductions are also available in a wide variety of sizes. Marketing is being developed to target Temple and Synagogue fundraising as well as exhibitions and presentations in key Jewish communities.
Homegrown Judaica feels particularly lucky to be one of the ways you can purchase Marlene's artwork.
It is especially noteworthy that Marlene is donating a large percentage of her profits back to Homegrown Judaica to keep this site going and improving. Thank you Marlene.
We here at HGJ are doing a little market research on Ketubot (1=ketubah, 2+ = ketubot). Have you bought one? Are you in the process of buying one now? Want to fill out a survey
telling us about your experience?
Founder Rachel Silverman writes about the entrepreneurial spirit - and some of her other wildly crazy (and significantly less successful) venture ideas over at JewishBoston's blog today. Check it out here