I've been working on a new quilt for a while now, for the SAQA 'Made in Europe II' exhibition. I am hoping it will be selected to hang in their gallery at Festival of Quilts later this year. It isn't what you would call a 'pretty' quilt, but it is part of the ongoing work I have made this year in terms of its style and inspiration.
The quilt itself is of fairly simple construction, (much like the others) being made from irregularly sized rectangles pieced together, so nothing much to write home about there. The fun in this quilt has come from creating a particular effect on the fabric I used. I was aiming for a very specific visual texture, the look of iron metal that has been painted and then blistered by rust beneath the surface. The process of creating it was an interesting journey, so I thought I would share a little of the process I used to create it.
I decided to start with a large piece of commercially dyed black homespun fabric and then remove some of the colour from it. In the past I have used both formusol and discharge paste to remove colour from fabrics, but neither was readily available to me here, so I got out the bleach did some experimenting to find the best way to get the results I had in mind. As it turns out, it worked brilliantly - so much so, I may never bother with the smelly formusol ever again!
Interestingly enough, here in New Zealand bleach is comparatively expensive. I have no idea why! In the UK it is dirt cheap. I sought out the least expensive bleach I could find - it turned out to be the thin watery stuff - and tried various ways to thicken it so it would be more controllable.
I started with manutex - the sodium alginate seaweed based thickener I usually use with dye: Sadly it was no good. The bleach completely destroyed the viscosity.
Dharma Trading sell a thickener for bleach made by Jacquard (click here to go to their website), but I would have had to import it from the USA and I didn't want to wait for it to arrive, so my search continued.
I found out about fumed silica (click here to find out about this interesting stuff) which would apparently work very well (maybe that is what is in the Jacquard stuff??), but again I would have to order it.
So I decided to try plain old starch - cornflour in water. I mixed two big spoonfuls of cornflour into a little cold water to make a slurry then added another half a cup or so of water and and popped it into the microwave. A few seconds later I had a very thick, gooey transparent paste. I mixed in some thin bleach and gave it all a good stir. It stayed thick and allowed me to draw, dribble and stamp the bleachy paste onto the black fabric.
For a cheap and practical solution to my needs the cornflour paste was perfect!
Note: Interestingly, the left over bleachy paste did break down overnight and became thin and runny - so I recommend mixing the the bleach and paste as you need it rather than making a big batch.
There is some debate as to how much damage bleach does to fabric when used to remove colour (discharge) in this way. To be honest, I have used bleach to remove colour several times in the past, and never had any problems. The fabrics still seem to be in good condition and I see no problems on the horizon. Maybe in 20 or more years there will be - but so far so good. However, in the interest of being thorough I researched how to neutralise the bleach and stop any potential damage.
There are a number of methods various people recommend. The one NOT to do is to dip the discharged fabric into a mixture of vinegar and water. The (faulty) logic goes like this: bleach is alkaline, so neutralise it with an acid. Apparently it is not quite as straightforward as it seems (is anything???) Paula Birch has a very good explanation of the different methods on her website, which you can find here: www.pburch.net/dyeing/FAQ/neutralizingdischarge.shtml
I opted for the hydrogen peroxide as it was the cheapest and easiest to obtain, not to mention that it seems less noxious. Paula Birch recommends 3% peroxide, which translates to 10 vol if you are more used to that measurement.
(As a long term experiment I have kept 3 pieces of the discharged black fabric. One has not been neutralised at all, just rinsed in water, the second has been neutralised in the dreaded diluted vinegar and the third in peroxide. Time will tell if there is any difference!)
By this stage I was pretty happy with the effect. To me it is beginning to resemble a section of painted iron. I have since added some further fabric and begun the process of hand stitching various knots over the surface to give it even more texture.
The closing date for entries to the 'Made in Europe II' SAQA exhibition is 31st May - so I had better get on with it!
Thanks for reading.
I met a lovely group of very accomplished traditional quilters this week. We spent a great morning together eating cake, swapping stories and sharing our work. It was a pleasure to see such beautifully made quilts. It always makes me smile, but the world over, quilters always seem to ask the same questions...
'How long did it take to make?'; 'Where do you get you ideas?' and 'How do you turn the ideas into quilts' being the top three that seem to get asked most often.
A quick Google search brings up lots of videos, online courses, tutorials, books, and tips for those who would like to make the transition to designing and making their own work. If you want to get technical you can get into the detail of good design and like many other quilters I have written a book about it. One of the main things to do is to stop wondering about it and take the plunge. Try something small and don't worry if it doesn't work out. But that still doesn't answer the question, does it?
So, here is one quick and easy technique to at least get started, and once you have started it will all seem a lot easier!
Find something that you like. It might be a picture, a cushion, your auntie's old tea towel, or maybe a quilt that has particularly caught your eye. It can be anything. You aren't going to make a copy of it - so no need to fret about copyright. (However it might be polite to ask the permission of the original maker if you think it appropriate.) This is going to be your inspiration and you are going to look at it carefully and ask......... 'what if ?'
To demonstrate what I mean, here are several quilts made using the quilt 'City of Roses' (a quilt I made several years ago) as the starting point and the 'What if ?' questions that I asked.
What if................ I changed the colours?
This is a pretty straightforward and not terribly original, but it is a good place to start this explanation.
(note: if you are only changing the colours of a quilt then you really do need to ask the permission of the original maker, as it is a copy). So, instead of green and pink I chose blue & purple and peach & pink. Already it is starting to look different. (I will be teaching this quilt and many options for altering it at Midsomer Quilting on 3rd July)
What if.............................. I modified the shape of the flower motifs?
In my sketchbook I tried several different ideas for the rose shapes. There are lots of different variations that could be made. I stuck with roses, but I could have easily changed the type of flower to something like a daisy for a really different look.
I decided to change the way I cut the spiral. Instead of a simple straight edged spiral I made the edge bumpy.
What if ....... I changed the way I put the flowers onto the quilt top?
Instead of using raw edge applique I thought about how else could I put flowers onto the fabric. I made a lino cut stamp and also experimented with Derwent Inktense pencils and mono printing
What if............. I add some leaves?
Just a few little green leaves add enough contrast to help define the rose shapes on the busy background. They act as visual cues to say 'we are flowers' and stop the rose spirals from appearing as a big scramble.
What if....................... I changed the background?
As you can see from the quilt below I made quite a few changes to the background. You can read more detail about how I made this quilt in an earlier blog post by clicking here, but basically I cut the quilt into 3 and inserted panels of white fabric in between. On the white fabric I wrote a message with dye to tell the story I wanted to convey.
At a glance this quilt looks quite different from the original, but if you look more closely you will see it shares many similarities with 'City of Roses'. There are changes to the size, colour, overall shape of the quilt, as well as a slight change to the flower motifs and the method of adding the flowers. All this has contributed to making this a new and unique design.
What if...................... I simplify the quilt?
Instead of having 3 central panels - how about making it smaller and just having just one? Alternatively how about making it larger and having 5?
What if ................. I change the colour of the text?
Rather than have black and grey, what would it look like if I had black and rose coloured text?
The answer turned out to be YUK!! Oh well, sometimes these things happen and when they do you get to try another 'what if ?' to solve the problem.....
What if ................. I change the colour of the white outer fabric?
To quieten down that bright pink writing that was now shouting out I tried painting some weak blue and green dyes onto the fabric. It calmed it down a lot and I like the new look.
What if .................. I change the position of the band of appliqued roses?
To be honest, this happened by accident, but is nevertheless another good example of a 'what if !' When I fused on the flowers I did not notice I had the quilt upside down, but rather than pull them all off I stood back and looked at the quilt to see whether I liked it or not. I liked the new position - so they stayed and were stitched down.
Do you notice that the central panel isn't completely square in this one? That would be another good avenue to explore -perhaps trying a parallellogram or trapezium shape instead of the square.
What if............... I added a big extra border?
The blue outer border made me wonder whether another border might look good - giving a much more traditional look to the quilt.
Looking at it now I am thinking what if I extend the flowers across the blue border? I might lay a few on to see how it looks.
What if.............. I took the text away and replaced it with some quilting lines instead?
For this one I free motion quilted thorny rose stems and leaves and then added a little colour with Derwent Inktense pencils. It has given a light and delicate look which I like very much.
What if................ I change the quilting pattern?
Instead of the straight line quilting I used a micro stipple to fill the gaps between the leaves. I think this one might be my favourite!
That pretty much explains how I approach the whole 'What if' idea, and it has yielded some interesting results.
Thanks for reading.
It is that time of year again - when I am thinking about making a quilt for the annual challenge set by the Contemporary Quilt Group of the Quilters Guild of the British Isles. This year's theme is 'on the edge'.
I have participated in this challenge for the past two years and am very pleased to have had my quilt selected for display both times. Lets hope it is third time lucky!
This year the challenge is going to be a little different, in that the selected quilts wont hang at the Festival of Quilts, but instead will tour various venues across the UK (and possibly further afield). You can find out more about the challenge here. There is still plenty of time if you want to make a quilt to enter into the challenge too. All you need is to be a member of the Contemporary Quilt Group. Go on - what do you have to lose?
So, with all that in mind, I decided to make a quilt that involved the extremes of curves and points, hot and cold, and with more edges and corners than a quilt really ought to have. I woke up at 4am on Monday morning and decided that I should start the quilt right there and then!
I had a lot of scraps of fabric that had been pre-fused with bondaweb from another project, so I went through them and pulled out some vibrant colours - then sorted them into 'hot' and 'cold'. To be sure I liked the idea I had in mind I made a small sample piece to experiment with. This will probably be the piece I submit with my entry, which I hope will help my quilt get selected!
(I really like the idea of sending a sample piece to the challenge judges. I think it gives them a far better idea of what my quilt looks like and how carefully I have made it. This particular challenge always requires a small 20cm square sample to be submitted so that way the judge(s) have 3 things to help them make up their minds: the photos of the quilt, the statement I submit explaining what the quilt is all about and the sample to hold. The other thing I like about this challenge is that the quilts are all judged anonymously.)
As you can see, I went for sharp points and curvy waves on either side of the quilt, leaving the middle empty - something we don't usually do on a quilt! I cut the pieces free hand, so it came together very quickly.
You can probably also see that I have cut a square from the bottom corner of the sample - that is deliberate - not just the scrap of fabric I chose! I wanted to experiment with making the quilt an irregular shape, and because it has that inside corner I wanted to see how neatly I would be able to finish the edges of the quilt.
After a bit of thought I decided to try the pillowcase method of stitching the backing fabric to the front of the quilt, then turning the whole thing inside out - just like a pillowcase. I made my 'Cape Dutch' quilt in the same way. (Click here to see it.)
Using this method meant that I needed to put the wadding on the back of the quilt before stitching on the backing - so I decided to stitch the wadding to the front of the quilt with soluble thread first, to make sure it didn't move and wrinkle whilst I turned the quilt right sides out.
Finally I stitched the backing to the front of the quilt (with right sides together), making sure to leave an opening through which I could turn the quilt.
And here it is. The edges are very neatly turned (no binding now required), the corners have remained nice and pointy, and the whole tiny quilt is nice and flat. I have started some free motion quilting to try out a design and to make sure I know the thread / needle / tension combination for when I come to make the real thing.
I will keep you posted on how it turns out!
And now for the other thing that has me 'on the edge'...................
It is my own fault, and I should know better, but I opened up my computer this morning to find all the images of my work on the 'Go Easy on the Makeup' quilt have vanished!! Who knows where they have gone? I have spent hours searching for them, trawling the internet to see how I could locate and retrieve them, finding out interesting stuff that I had no idea about with regard to hidden files, overwriting files, retrieving files you deleted years ago, but all to no avail. So, PLEASE PLEASE - if you have anything on your computers which you really would hate to lose forever
BACK UP YOUR COMPUTER NOW!
I think I might make a quilt about that!!
Thanks for reading.
Following on from my last blog post this one continues the story of the 'Going easy on the makeup' quilt. Last time I mentioned that I would move on to playing with some ideas. I like this way of developing a quilt, I find that it is a good way to find out what works and what doesn't.
So, this post is more of a rambling running commentary of what I was thinking and what I tried out next.
For the lips I decided to cut a paper stencil and try it with Markal oil stick and acrylic paint. I also wanted to try fusing a piece of red organza onto the voile and the machine stitching over to add a little detail. The results were varied, but each gave a different effect. The Markal did not show particularly well, so I discounted that idea immediately.
I hope you are getting the general idea - lots of trying out different ways to achieve what I have in mind.
The benefit of this is that I can use the samples to choose the best option for the quilt. I also get to explore different ways to use the materials I already have and find out what works and what doesn't. What I discovered here is that acrylic paint takes surprisingly well onto voile - and perhaps unsurprisingly, Markal oil sticks don't.
I also discovered that even with 2 layers of soluble stabiliser, machine stitching through one or two layers of voile puckers the fabric too much for what I was trying to achieve. I tried hooping the voile - but even with very careful hooping, hoop burn added to the distortion of the fabric.
After a lot of trials and thinking my solution was to use a combination of fused organza and hand stitch with embroidery thread, rather than use the machine. This is how the eyes turned out. I hope you agree that the effect works and the time I took to experiment with different ideas has paid off.
Scroll down to see how it turned out.
This isn't quite the finished quilt - I am keeping that a secret until the exhibition it is hopefully going to be part of in June.
UNFOLDING STORIES 2 - An exhibition with Contemporary Quilters West, at Rook Lane Chapel, Frome, Somerset, June 24 - July 5, 2016. I hope to see you there!
Thanks for reading. I hope you have enjoyed sharing in the progress of this quilt.
Having messed about with raw edged leaves last week I had some ideas to make a few pretty things for Christmas. The holly leaves looked particularly nice, so I soaked a few more oddments of fabric in the Terial Magic stiffener and cut out a few more leaves; small, medium and large.
I placed the holly leaf shapes on top of each other and finally put the little pile onto a piece of green felt. I then free motion stitched the leaves down and did a bit more stitching around the edge to look like berries. Then I cut it out. Looks ok, don't you think?
Next I cut a piece of white felt into a rectangular 'tag' shape and laid the mistletoe and felt leaf onto it and then stitched that down too.
And then I got carried away..........................
Why not try out something similar? It was lots of fun and all I used was a few cotton fabric scraps and some oddments of felt.
Thanks for looking.
Trying out Terial Magic
To see how it worked I took a few pieces of cotton quilting fabric from my scraps bag and sprayed them until they were moist. Following the demonstration on the Terial Magic website (click here) I put my fabric into a small tub and sprayed it. Once it was quite moist I squished it about a bit to make sure the liquid had penetrated throughout the whole piece, and then squeezed out the excess liquid (I put this back into my bottle).
After smoothing it out I left it to air dry on a flat surface for the 15 minutes stated. After this time it was still very wet - it was a winter's day in the UK, so not very warm - so I left it for around another 20 minutes of so, by which time it was only just damp. Obviously the temperature plays an important part in this, so use your judgment.
NOTE:At this stage the fabric was slightly stiff, but not noticeably different to when I had started.
I then took the fabric pieces and ironed them, as per the instructions. I used a hot iron directly on the fabric (no ironing sheet) and the heat obviously had an effect, as the fabrics became smooth, very crisp and stiff. There was no residue on the iron and no flakes or 'gunge' on the fabric.
According to the blurb that comes with Terial Magic these are two of the drawbacks of using starch. Another thing they mention is that insects like to eat the starch and therefore your fabric. I must say that I have never noticed this, but I am not a regular 'starch user'(!) so I am not able to say whether this is an issue or not. They also say the stiffener in Terial Magic is not edible by insects - so if this is important to you it may influence your choice.
What to do with this stiffened fabric
The stiffened fabric was interesting.
It folds crisply - just like thin card, so if you have a project that needs firm creases or needs to stand without support this may be a good product to use.
I tried a few origami ideas...
The crispness of the fabric made it perfect for folding techniques. I can imagine it would also be particularly good when piecing small, fiddly shapes or pieces cut on a bias.
Origami links for the above
For the folded dress, click here
For the yo-yo hexie, click here
Next I tried some needle turn applique
And then I tried stitching some raw edged leave to a piece of fabric
The stiffness of the leaves made it easy to position them on the fabric and the raw edges, once again, did not fray.
The blurb also says you can use the stiffened fabric for machine embroidery without and further stabiliser. As I don't have an embroidery unit I can't let you know about that - but if anyone does and has experience of this product it would be good to find out if the claims are true.
So - do I like Terial Magic? Yes, I think I do. It is similar to starch, but has a nicer feel, doesn't gunk up my iron and the treated fabric is nicer to stitch. I don't often need fabric that is stiff or crisp, but when I do I think this product would be a useful addition to the tools I already use. Thanks De - when I run out I will be buying another bottle from you!
Now for those Doodle birds!
These are a few pictures I took during the workshop at Midsomer quilting last weekend. Brilliant aren't they?
And how about these two amazing Doodle Poodles? My thanks to Chris D who was so inspired when she got home that she made these two fantastic pieces. I just love them! Thanks for sharing them, Chris, I think you have cracked free motion quilting!
I hope you have enjoyed seeing all this brilliant free motion work. Thanks for looking.
In a few weeks time I will be teaching my free motion quilting workshop at Midsomer Quilting not far away in Somerset.
I haven't taught this workshop in the UK before, so to celebrate I have made some new samples of my favourite birds and created some nice things with them.
As you may know, I always like to make samples of things before I start a bigger project. I like to see how new fabrics or paints behave before I launch into a big piece and become familiar with how they behave. It may seem like an extra step in an already long process, but time and again I have been glad I did spend the time exploring and experimenting. I personally find it saves a lot of time and frustration in the long run!
Using some of the sketches I made of the flamingos as a starting point, I drew a new, quirky flamingo and filled it with some doodled patterns. I then transferred it onto a piece of plain white poplin fabric and free motion stitched the whole thing. Once it was finished I had fun using my newly mixed fabric paints (using acrylic paint and fabric medium, as I explained last week) to finish the quirky doodled flamingo.
The paint and fabric medium mix worked very well. As well as making the paint soft, buttery and easy to work with, it also extends the drying time of the paint too, meaning I have more time to blend colours together to get that nice graduated look. This is how the new flamingo turned out.
Which brings me on to the next point..... what do I with all these samples?
It is an important thing to consider. I live in a fairly small house, and space to store things is at a premium. I would love to have the equivalent of a walk in wardrobe of fabrics, equipment, sketchbooks and samples - but until I win the lottery and buy the old textile mill that is in my town, and convert it into a home and studio (pipe dream!!) I need a better plan. So, what I try and do is convert them into something both pretty and useful. Cushions, sketchbook covers, bags, storage pouches and so on. You get the idea.
And this is what the little flamingo has been converted into. I am planning on storing my samples for the doodle bird workshop in it - so everything will be neat and tidy and all in one place. How about that for organised?!
My thanks go to Kati Spencer, whose excellent instructions I followed to make the bag. You can find Kati's excellent tutorial here on her blog 'from the blue chair'.
Here is the link, should you wish to make a similar bag. http://www.fromthebluechair.com/2013/03/messenger-bag-supply-list.html
I must say, I am really looking forward to running the Doodle Bird workshop in November. I have 16 new full sized Doodle Birds to choose from, and several smaller bird projects for those who are new to free motion quilting. As well as developing or improving your free motion quilting skills, you will create beautiful quilted squares which you can transform into other projects, like the bag above, or perhaps a cushion or book cover. If you get completely hooked you could even make all 16 and turn them into a bed quilt - something a bit like this.
The workshop is on the 14th November at Midsomer Quilting. To find out more either contact De email@example.com or myself, or see the brochure on the workshop by clicking here.
Thanks for reading. Happy doodling!
Fabric paints two ways: ready made fabric paints or mix your own....
One of the ways I like to add colour to fabric is with fabric paint. There are lots of brands on the market, all at varying prices.
'Pebeo', 'Jacquard', 'Dala' and 'Golden' are brands that are readily available. They each give bright, long-lasting colour, leave the fabric with a soft hand (that is, not a stiff or plastic-like feeling on the surface of the fabric), can be heat set easily with an iron and are washable. I have lots of all of these brands and find them equally good.
So far, so good. The main problem I find with all of these is that they are mostly sold in little pots and can work out to be rather expensive.
Happily, however, there is an alternative. You can purchase something called FABRIC MEDIUM to mix with ordinary artists acrylic paints which transforms them into fabric paints. Again, there are lots of fabric mediums on the market. In the past I have used 'Golden GAC 900', 'Dala Waterproofing Medium' and 'Liquitex Fabric Medium' very successfully.
One of the major benefits of using fabric medium is that you can mix it with acrylic paints - and these come in a huge variety of colours, qualities and sizes and are readily available online and on the high street and even in many large supermarkets. For me, this means I have so much more choice.
Another benefit is simply down to cost. Generally speaking, artists acrylic paints are not very expensive and come in a range of sizes from small tube to bucket-sized. Prices vary according to whether you buy student quality, which I find is usually fine, or artists quality which has more pigment and often goes further but is more expensive.
Which brings me on to why I am talking about this today.
I ran out of fabric medium on Friday!
Here are some of the samples of doodle quilting that I painted
The final thing you need to do when using paint on fabric is to fix it in some way. If you do not fix the paints you risk them coming off or running when the fabric becomes damp or wet for any reason and after all your work that is probably the last thing you want - so do not forget this last and vital step.
It is usually as simple as ironing the fabric for a certain length of time at a given temperature. There are other ways, however, which I have summarised below. Just be sure to always read and follow the instructions on the particular product you are using.
Thanks for reading.
To help me decide on a motif to use I decided to take a walk and look what I found! I have been noticing all kinds of fruit in the hedgerows along the sides of the road these past few weeks - it amazes me that people don't stop and pick a little. So far I have had blackberries (a firm favourite), plums and now apples. There were lots on the floor that were perfect for cooking - so I gathered up my skirt and chose about 20 of the nicest ones to take home.
As well as making a delicious crumble and some apple sauce for the freezer, I saved a few of the mangiest ones and started a new sketchbook. Problem solved!
So far the sketchbook only has a few pages - and is likely to stay that way for a while - but it is the beginning of something that may (or may not) end up as a series of quilts one day. Nevertheless, it will be enjoyable to create and will hopefully give me the opportunity to try out lots ideas, old and new, that I can use in the future.
Here is a flip book of some of the pages.
Why not try a few ideas in a sketchbook of your own?
Thanks for reading.
South African soy and sunshine
Now I know sun printing is not new - I have tried this fun technique before, when I made the small quilt named 'A Faithful Hand' (above right) using Pebeo Setacolor paints. When I first tried the technique I was amazed at how simple yet effective it was. Just by covering fabric with the paint then allowing it to dry in the sun with a solid object placed on the fabric (in this case a stencil I cut from cardboard) I created a beautiful piece of fabric to work with. However, I discovered one major problem with the paints once the piece was finished. Although I had heat set the fabric (well, I thought I had heat set the fabric), when I came to block the quilt the mist of water I sprayed over the surface sent the blue and orange paint running in all directions. As you can imagine - after completing all that stitching I was not happy!!!!
Lesson learned: Follow the manufacturer's instructions to the letter when you heat set your work, and then check and double check to ensure it is heat set properly before you continue.
Anyway, after that misadventure, my love affair with the process stopped. Until now.
Thinking back to some of the things I have seen on my travels, I have seen soy milk used as a binder when used with mud (yes, mud!) to colour fabric. Not understanding the process, I began researching the use of mud and soy as a traditional method of adding colour to fabric. As it turns out the soy milk acts as a very effective 'binder' - in a similar way that a mordant works with other natural dyes. Apparently that is why babies that are fed on soy milk have bibs that never come clean!
The thing with soy milk is that it needs time to do its job - and the longer you leave it, the better the results. So, back in March, before I left the South African sunshine, I decided to try out a new idea.....
sun dyeing with paint and soy milk
Once the fabric is completely dry (and now a little crispy) you remove the mask and you will find a blank patch on the fabric where it was placed. So far so good - the sun print has now been created. With the Pebeo paints you now need to iron the fabric to fix the paint - that is where it went wrong for me. Because I was trying the soy milk binder the proteins in the soy milk needed time to naturally break down and bind with the fabric, so I needed to pack them away and wait. I believe 3 or so weeks is long enough - but I have not experimented with this to discover. In my case I have waited a little over 4 months (time flies!!) and this is what I discovered.
When I plunged the fabrics into hot soapy water nothing happened! No bleeding of colour, no paint washing out into the water, NOTHING!! The colour was now completely fixed. Whether that is due 100% to the soy milk I do not know for certain, but what I do know is that it worked really well. Here are some of the results.
So - some interesting discoveries. I am not sure I will follow through with this much further at the moment - but it is always interesting to explore ideas and experiment with different ways to do things. Who knows what might come of it in the future, and what soy milk could also be mixed with to yield interesting fabric to work with.
Thanks for reading.