Tony Danza at the Victoria & Albert Museum

I have mentioned before my Tony Danza wall quilt.  It has been a work-in-progress for a little over two years now.  And by “work-in-progress,” obviously I mean I haven’t really started it but I sure do think about it a lot.  But I fly out in just two weeks (!!) for the Heather Ross sewing retreat, and then in February Whipstitch has our own sewing retreat, and my Big Plan is to use that time to finish this project that, let’s be honest, has no real purpose in the world except my own amusement.  And what else are retreats for if not to indulge, yes?

The idea is based on the Power Phrases that I use in my sewing classes, and that I included in Stitch by Stitch.  The first power phrase is “You’re the Boss!”  Taking control of your sewing machine and not letting is sass you is core to the Whipstitch way of thinking, but then, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know.  I want to sew something to reflect that.  Enter: Tony Danza.  Is it all coming together now?

I’m using the Victoria & Albert Museum’s Patchwork Generator to create a pattern for the whole thing–it’s a great little tool that allows you to upload any image and turn it into a quilt pattern, PLUS you can vary the number of fabrics and complexity of the design.

 Upload any image, including one from the Victoria & Albert’s own archives, which are extensive and lovely:

In my case, it was a Tony Danza image I downloaded from Google images.  (Do note: I am free to use any image I choose because I don’t plan to sell this piece; be sure to double-check any copyright laws as they might apply to pieces you intend to make for sale or profit.)  The uploaded image will display like this:

Then, make your selections:  you can crop the image, you get to choose how many colors will be included in the final patchwork (more colors = more fabrics but also more detail, so it’s a judgment call) and how many total pieces (same deal–you get more detail with more pieces, and I might be wrong, but I think only the “advanced” tab gives you the option of triangles in the form of HSTs).

Naturally, I chose 20 colors and “advanced” because I intend this piece to be both big and detailed.  From there, click through to find your image has been pixellated, if you will, into a patchable, quiltable pattern.

You’ll also get a by-color listing of how many triangles and squares of each fabric ought to be cut–no counting, just follow their list and you’re ready!

Plus, the V & A give suggestions and links at the bottom of the page for how to get your best results from your project:

Next for me is to match the colors to my Konas and do some fine-tuning–I plan to hand-quilt and embroider some detailing into the finished quilt, so you can really tell it’s Tony (not to mention appliqueing on the words “You’re the Boss!” in curly 80s-style script), but I don’t love how mushed up his mouth is here, so I plan to fiddle a bit with the colors to make his face a little more clear.

Once the fine-tuning is done and the pattern is really ready, I’ll cut out my squares so I can take just the pre-cut pieces with me to Palm Springs!  Woot!  God willing, I’ll at least have the quilt top done by mid-February, so that I can get well into the hand-quilting and embroidery by Easter.

Tell me: if you were going to “quiltify” one image, what would you choose?  Would you use the V & A program to make your pattern?

*Also, I was flattered to have been included in the Sew, Mama, Sew Reflections and Predictions series this month.  Check out all the great contributors and posts, including mine!  I hope if nothing else, reading all of us chatter about what we love most and hope for in the coming year will get you inspired to think of your own best and worst from 2011.  You can even win a prize!

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  • Sparrow
    January 14, 2012 at 8:45 am

    I’ve not made a quilt before, so the idea of doing one that complex has my head spinning. I really love art nouveau though, so I would probably pick something in that style. Alphonse Mucha’s “The Moon” is my favorite, so it would most likely be that.

    • Deborah
      January 17, 2012 at 2:06 pm

      What a cool piece to choose!! I would looove to see that in fabric…

  • Jodi B.
    January 15, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    I really enjoyed this post, because first of all, I often hear in my head when I am hesitant before stitching in uncharted territory “I’m the boss!” because of hearing you say it in the beginner class, so big tip of the hat to you and many thanks for empowering us!
    Secondly I love learning that this tool exists and to see it in action. I am enjoying pondering how I can use this one day. Can’t wait to see Tony come to life. I’m sure it will be awesome :).

    • Deborah
      January 17, 2012 at 2:07 pm

      Hooray!! I can see my efforts at brainwashing all of you into sewing zealots are working… Hee! 🙂

  • Siang
    January 16, 2012 at 8:21 am


    I used to work at the V&A, but as I worked in another department (with Chinese textiles) I overlooked this wonderful patchwork generator! Thanks for highlighting it! This is timely now that I’m embarking on my own crafting and designing adventure! 🙂

    All the best with the home improvements! We know how it is: one year on and we are STILL renovating!

    • Deborah
      January 17, 2012 at 2:07 pm

      Ooooh, wouldn’t that be a lovely job! Was it amazing being at the V&A? I’ve been to London twice and can never seem to make time to get by there–maybe my enxt visit. 🙂

  • Crunchy Con Mommy
    January 21, 2012 at 9:53 pm

    Tony Danza is hilarious! I love that you don’t take quilting too seriously but are keeping it fun and incorporating pop culture you love into it.
    I’d love to do a G.I.Joe quilt for my husband-maybe with the original 80’s characters and the phrase “Yo Joe!” (it was his favorite cartoon).
    Or I’m sure its been done, but it’d be cool to do a Monet water lily quilt for my mom.

  • Jane
    January 31, 2012 at 8:29 pm

    I love this! I’m working on a quilt made with the V&A patchwork generator right now, too, and I’m about to start another. I found it was really helpful to manipulate the photo first to simplify the background and bump up the contrast a little before putting the photo through the website. I’m impressed that you went for the biggest size, that’s SO many little pieces! I’m doing a medium size and only 10 colors.

    • Deborah
      February 1, 2012 at 7:49 pm

      Oooh, I would love to see your quilts! I’m finding that I need to manipulate the colors as I work, too, since I want the background to be more blues and greens rather than all neutrals, as the original photo came through. I’d be super curious to see what changes you made and get an idea of how those impact the finished quilt.