Category Archives: Techniques

Very Short Term Memory Loss

If you’ve ever seen the movie “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” you know how I’ve felt the past week. If you haven’t, let me explain. About a week ago I began to work on a long delayed paper templates project that I designed from a drawing. Here’s the genesis of the drawing.

I believe the final result succeeded in abstracting the object.

I enlarged my drawing and made freezer paper templates for the pieces. Each piece was carefully numbered and color coded, and the sewing order was worked out. The idea was the actual sewing would be a no brainer, just cut out and join the pieces in the already numbered sequence.

I selected a white, gray and black palette, with one color. Originally that color was to be green, but I didn’t like that and ended up using a very muted red.

On day one of sewing I used my master drawing for the big picture and cut out the freezer paper pieces. I ironed the freezer paper to my fabrics and cut out the pieces, leaving a quarter inch seam allowance. Then I saw I forgot to mirror image my freezer paper, and the freezer paper was on the inside, not the outside, of my fabric pieces when I put them together to sew.  I remade the freezer paper templates for my first section, reversing the image this time.

On day two I moved on to the second section. After cutting out two pieces of fabric I realized I forgot to remake the freezer paper pieces, so I stopped and redid the templates for section 2. Then, I ironed the now correctly mirror imaged pieces to my fabrics. Oops, I ironed them to the wrong (right) side of the fabric so I peeled off the pieces and began again, ironing the paper to the correct side (which is the wrong side) of the fabric.

Days three and four were a repeat of day two, only with the third and fourth sections. Apparently my brain was reset each night and failed to remember the mirror image reversal needed. At least I discovered my mistake sooner on days three and four and wasted less fabric. I did spend time each day holding two pieces of fabric up and thinking, which way do they go now?

I resewed section four three times as I changed my mind about the color, so I got lots of practice in ironing the templates to the correct side of the fabric.

In defense of paper piecing, you have less chance of repeating your errors if you’re sewing to one paper pattern than if you’re using individual templates. In further defense, I’m sure the templates technique works better if you have a properly functioning brain that doesn’t delete hard won knowledge overnight.

The final top has a few additions because the cut and dried path didn’t work so well for me. So much for advance planning.

 

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Intense Work for Intense Color

Last week I spent five days in Sue Benner’s Expressive Dye-painting and Printing with Procion MX Dyes class at the Quilt Surface Design Symposium (QSDS) in Columbus, Ohio. It’s a good thing the scenery of that thriving mid Ohio city wasn’t a distraction as my days in the studio began at 7:30 a.m. and often ended at 8 p.m., with breaks for meals.

Here’s what I saw on the way to the studio each morning. The studio, on the campus of the Columbus College of Art and Design, is a converted car dealership.

No, Sue didn’t set such hours for us, but I wanted to do as much as possible, and there’s a heap of washerwoman work involved in dyeing that eats up time. Once dyed, the fabric needs to batch (sit at least 12 hours at 70 plus degrees,) be rinsed (agitated in buckets of cold water until the water is mostly free of dye,) and then washed in hot water (we had a washing machine, thank goodness) and dried and ironed.

There are many approaches to dyeing fabric, all of them developed for different purposes. Dyeing solid color yardage needs a different technique than making patterns on cloth. The class I took stressed abstract painting and printing on silk and cotton with thin and thickened dyes. The dye concentrate tablecloth quickly became colorful.

We applied dyes directly to our fabrics with brushes, squeeze bottles, sprayers, and the like. We also monoprinted our fabrics using vinyl sheets and masonite boards known as tile boards.

Here’s my work table when it was tidied up. The big white square is the tile board.

And I haven’t yet mentioned rubbing, stenciling, stamping and the like. We all fell in love with textured vinyl bathtub mats for making rubbings. The pebbled pattern was especially popular. I used it under the fabric on the right below.

I did at least two layers of dyeing on each piece of my fabric. I learned I could let a piece batch an hour (as in the photo below) and then add more dye to it without the need to wash the fabric in between. This was a real time saver as I didn’t need to do a soda ash soak in between layers of dye. That’s right, you need to reapply soda ash between washings.

While we learned by doing, Sue worked on her class demo pieces and showed us how they came out.

Sue also did the brown/chartreuse piece you can see behind her. At the end of the class she cut that up and gave each of us a piece.

The last day we used paint on our fabrics and had some fun with various contests.

Sue even cut up and distributed the fabric underneath the dye concentrates.

I’ll show closeups of my output soon, but here’s a photo of some of it hanging up on my design wall. You can see my dye color documentation sheet on the table. Each of us was to create a color. Mine was pale apricot, which is on the right in the top row.

The work of many of my classmates was outstanding, as was the sharing that blossomed among the students. As often happens, I relied on the kindness of people who were far more experienced than I, as well as those who over packed.

I did participate in some activities not related to dyeing, such as the impromptu photo shoot of my lunch in the cafeteria. The figures are dear possessions of a QSDS staffer who staged them for her photos. BTW, I really like brussel sprouts.

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Filed under dyeing, Fabric Printing, Techniques

Playing With Solids

The double whammy of the recent Circular Abstractions bulls eye quilt exhibit and a quilt group program on Nancy Crow’s design methods led me to pull out all my saved solid fabric strips and sew them together. I hope this link to Pinterest gives you an idea of the exercises students do in Nancy’s workshops. She offers several multi-day classes that range from beginner to expert.

My design wall became colonized by stripey units in various stages – just stripes, units cut from stripes, units with added cross stripes… As always, it’s fascinating to see which colors enhance each other and which just stick out their tongues at each other. So far I’ve worked only from scraps, though some of the scraps are about fat quarter size. If I want to make larger units I may have to break into stash.

For now I’ll set these assemblages aside to mellow a bit and wait for further inspiration. My fellow group members had fun playing with strips. Here are some of their efforts.

You begin Nancy’s workshop with lots of strip piecing, which you then build into units, and finally you do an overall composition. Since I made my units above before our group program I didn’t exactly follow Nancy’s dictates.

I learned that Nancy takes away everyone’s ruler after a few days; that she wants you to cut towards, rather than away, from you (I find that scary); and that she wants you to backstitch at the start and finish of seams.The ruler thing is amusing as Nancy once lent her name to an acrylic ruler.

I also learned she uses the same rotary cutter blade for a long time, even up to a year. Apparently she doesn’t sharpen it. We all wondered how that was possible, given the amount of cutting involved with her method.

All that cutting is the reason I won’t be adopting Nancy’s methods in a big way. Pressing down to get through multiple fabric layers and seams doesn’t do my shoulder any good. I plan to develop some of my starts further, but after that, who knows.

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Filed under In Process, Modern Quilting, Project Ideas, Techniques

My Latest Craft Addiction

I am very late to the little zipper pouch party. Other bloggers have churned them out by the armload as gifts and gussied them up with cunning shapes and zipper variations. I’ve been avoiding this kind of project due to my fear of zippers – installing them, that is.

Finally, I decided it was time to pull up my big girl pants and have a go. I searched Sew Mama Sew for tutorials, and settled on Melly Sews 15 minute zipper pouch. It’s a basic, no pockets, lined pouch that can be resized to suit. Besides, Melly has a video that shows each step.

As you know, I’ve built up a stock of fabric bits I’ve tortured in some way with various surface design experiments. What better way to use them than to make pouches. I began with some batik fabric I had pleated and sewed down in diamond patterns. It wasn’t going to make it to a quilt, so I chose it for my first effort.

I dug out an old zipper, chose fabric for a lining and sat down with Melly’s video. An hour later I had a zipped pouch. Melly is a lot faster than I am.

Emboldened by this success, I tackled an upholstery sample scrap next. The extra thickness was a bit of a challenge but the pouch got made, albeit a bit crookedly. The pouch now holds my Fabrico pens.

Next up was a fat quarter I bought at a quilt show – cute fabric but I couldn’t figure out how to use it in a quilt. I learned that it’s wise to interface quilting cotton used this way, but my colored pencils weigh down the bag so that oopsie is concealed.

Finally, I remembered some linen I bought in Canada that could give more body to a bag. In fact it gives so much body I can’t get the bag to stay open so the lining shows. It’s a teal color, to complete my green family lining color theme.

After four bags, I think I’m done. My next goal is learning to take glamor shots of my work – craft porn.

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Filed under Completed Projects, Techniques

Revisiting Garment Sewing

I grew up with a mother and grandmother who sewed all kinds of garments, and taught me the rudiments of making my own clothes. Attention to detail ran a distant second to speed in my work. It always had to get done for a deadline and a basted hem worked just fine.

In college I stopped sewing as much. Button fly Levis became my uniform along with chambray shirts, and the army/navy surplus store supplied my clothing needs. Once I was working, it was a thrill to shop for clothes that someone else had made. I loved being free of the dorky homemade look my own efforts produced.

Over the years I noticed that patterns became much more expensive, as did nice fabric. I grew up used to fine woolens and fully lined jackets and skirts. To reproduce such garments became cost prohibitive, so I wasn’t tempted to even try to make my clothes. In fact, some of my first quilts used old fabric from my clothing sewing days.

All this is by way of saying it’s been a long time since I sewed any clothing other than Halloween costumes.

Fast forward to my growing collection of silk fabrics, capped by bits of hand dyed kimono silk I bought from Laura Murray. I’ve made quilts with neck ties and intended to make one with all that silk, but when I saw this pattern by Barb Callahan at a quilt show I decided to make myself a flowing vest instead.

silk-vest

Because I had been away from this kind of sewing for so long (I don’t count my theatrical costume making stint as I simply followed orders) I bought some pattern tracing material to make a trial vest before cutting into my pretties. The result seemed large so I took fullness off the back and side seams.

Once I thought I had the right fit, it was time to cut the silk. Now, because I had many different weights of silk I decided to interface the lightest with a product called French Fuse, a fusible nylon tricot. I found the tricot was difficult to sew on which caused a few difficulties, but nothing I couldn’t force my machine through. The real problem I faced was the huge amount of fabric the vest needed – about 2.5 yards for the exterior and 2 yards for the lining. The largest piece of fabric I had was about 3/4 of a yard so I got creative in patching the segments, which of course created more seams to sew through.

The pattern calls for a process known as bagging out to sew the exterior and lining together. That worked pretty well, except for the armpits. I chanted Tim Gunn’s “make it work” mantra as I forced my fabric into a semblance of submission. I also changed the way of sewing the shoulder seams together, opting for a tabbed tuck method I sort of made up.

So, here’s front and back views of my vest in all its harlequin glory.

img_8904

You’re wondering about the lining fabric? It’s a silk Bill Blass scarf I bought at a women’s organization fund raising sale It’s also faced with French Fuse.

img_8906The finished product makes quite a statement and is very full, even though I removed about 8 inches from the original pattern. I plan to wear it to gatherings of art quilters, though it would make a great garment for shoplifting. I could hide a lot of merchandise in those folds.

 

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Filed under Completed Projects, Techniques

Play With Surface Design

Well, it was actually play with paint, but surface design sounds fancier. One of my goals for 2017 was to build on fabric I had printed with thickened dyes at a workshop last fall. For no reason I can explain, the dyes faded a lot on some of my fabric when I washed it, especially ones made with a soy wax resist.

soy-wax-1I had three that looked a lot like this; the vibrant greens had mostly washed out.

A recent paint play date gave me a chance to improve them. Participants brought a wild assortment of objects to print with. Some were ad hoc such as springs, cat toys, chop sticks, bubble wrap, and rubber door stoppers; while others were purpose made, such as stencils and fancy foam brushes. I availed myself of many of these tools, plus empty toilet paper tubes, truly the Swiss army knife of printing.

silk-screen-with-paintThe results are definitely more colorful than what I started with. I may add more to them at the next painting session.

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Filed under Fabric Printing, In Process, Techniques

On Top Of Old Smoky

While the weather here bounced around from 12 to 50 degrees I was revisiting the Smoky Mountains in fabric. I settled on an arrangement of my faux paper strips, sewed them down, and cobbled a way to finish the edges. I used no batting, but fused Decor Bond to my foundation fabric, and it’s a good thing I did. The finished product is heavy and might buckle without that extra firmness.

Because the fabric strips were three layers thick (top fabric, fusing, interfacing) I elected to trim up the side edges and sew some twill tape to them. I pressed the edges to the back and hand sewed them down. The top edge got the same treatment, while the bottom edge, which is only one layer thick, got turned under.

smokies-back

This project came with a bonus. I bypassed my scraps bins for the trimmings and created another small piece with them for this month’s scrap quilt. The base layer is fabric I had silk screened with thickened dye.

interwovenThe finished product, The Smokies, measures 20 by 25 inches.

the-smokies

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Filed under Art quilts, Completed Projects, Techniques