I'll use them to dye some fabric.
To make the dye I started with about half a bucket full of dried flowers and added just enough cold water to cover them. They were very buoyant and I had to squish them down to get them to start absorbing the water. I left the bucket out in the sun all day to stew.
The next day I let the sun warm it all up again then squished the whole lot though an old sieve. The flowers had completely broken down into a silky mush, but the water had taken on an incredibly dark red wine colour.
Before I added the fabric I decided to mordant it in the hope that I would get a better result. I didn't want to use anything toxic, so I chose to use vinegar. All I did was make a mixture of water and vinegar (1 part vinegar to 4 parts water) and simmer the white fabric in it for an hour. After 1 hour I left the fabric to cool in the solution and then squeezed it out ready to dye. If I had been scientific I would have tried a mordanted piece of fabric and a non mordanted piece to see the difference - but if I'm completely honest - I forgot.
As I had a lot of dye liquid I decided to see whether simmering the fabric in the dye would give a darker colour than simply leaving the fabric to soak in the in the sun. I cut the the squeezed out fabric into two and put one into my dye saucepan and simmered it for an hour then left it to cool overnight. The second piece I just put into the dye bucket and left it out in the sun.
The next day both pieces looked exactly the same.
Finally I put them both into the washing machine and washed them in cold water with a little delicate washing liquid.
The photo above shows how the two pieces of fabric turned out. They are both almost identical (so there was no need to use any electricity to simmer the fabric at the end - and quite possibly I could have done without simmering the vinegar either - something to explore in the future) and have a very pretty pale pink with a hint of greyness. I suppose I could call it mink. I still have a piece of avocado dyed fabric from last year so I have included that in the photo too (on the right). That has a similar colour but has a little more brown in the pink. It actually goes very nicely with the hibiscus dyed fabric. (You can read the post about dyeing with avocado pits and skins by clicking here and here.
As delicate as the fabric is I think it needs a bit of a kick to create something a little more interesting - so I mixed up some procion to dye some more smaller pieces of fabric to co-ordinate. I used fuscia, golden yellow, charcoal, pewter, my current favourite, cobalt. And this is what I now have - I think it look great.
Thanks for reading.
I decided to make a little quilt this week for the workshop I am teaching on Sunday at Midsomer quilting. The workshop is called 'Not my grandmother's garden' and is very loosely based on the very traditional quilt made solely from hexagons - just like the first picture up above on the left. The first piece of patchwork I ever made (when I was 11 years old) was just 7 hexagons big, and I must say, it didn't inspire me to carry on with patchwork at that time. Too many fiddly bits for an impatient eleven year old! However, several years ago I made the yellow quilt (above) for a Quilting Arts Magazine challenge, and used the traditional hexagon quilt as the starting point. Hopefully you can see the hexagonal 'flowers' behind all the paint, thread and buttons.
The inspiration for this last quilt came from one of Monet's paintings of the waterlily ponds at his home in Giverny. The top section of the green quilt reminded me of a watery pond, and made me think of Monet. Changing the shape of the hexagonal flower into a rounded flower is the sort of variation I was looking to explore for the workshop. It also meant I learned another new patchwork technique - Suffolk Puffs.
To make my version of the lily pond I needed to start with a watery blue background fabric - but my stash of such fabrics is rather depleted at the moment, so I needed a quick way to make a suitable piece. I decided to try my hand at marbling with shaving foam, as I believe it is quick and easy (nobody ever seems to mention how messy, however!).
If you haven't had a go at this technique it really is fun - but I do recommend wearing an apron and having lots of newspaper and a large bucket of water and a bin at your side!
(Arthur Comstock - a little bird told me that you love the gelli plates, so I think you might like to have a go at this too!)
This is what I did...
The shaving foam on the tray can be used several times, spreading it out again and adding more paint. My foam did start to break down and 'curdle' after a while, so when that happened I scooped what was left into the bin and started again.
The whole process took less than 3 or 4 minutes per piece of fabric, so was a quick project which yielded several very nice pieces of fabric, each a little different.
I'll add some photos of the quilts made at the workshop as soon as I can.
Thanks for reading.
If you haven't ever said it, I'm sure you have heard someone else say it....
"I can't do free motion quilting. It is so difficult."
Well, I can honestly say that is a load of rubbish! And here is the proof. Last Saturday I was with a group of ladies at Midsomer Quilting who are the proof that free motion quilting is not only easy to master, but lots of fun too. Some were complete newbies to FMQ - and others had dabbled a little and a few were already confident. Just look at what they made - I bet you can't tell who had never done this before!
Gill's brilliant and totally original golf playing bird has just scored a birdie. Get it?!?!?!?! I think he is wonderful.
We had quite a lot of Dodos (incidentally, my favourite Doodle bird
Robby Robin and his Christmas tree
So as you can see, a lot of very successful free motion quilting was stitched and a lot of concentration and fun was had. The great thing about making these lovely birds is not only do they look wonderful, but they are great at boosting confidence with free motion quilting. By working on a square of fabric of around 12" it is easy to keep control as you do not have to manage the bulk of a whole quilt in the throat of the machine. You are also free to experiment and try out lots of different patterns.
Still don't think you can free motion quilt? Why not just have a go?
If you would like some tips on how to be successful with free motion quilting take a look at my blog post from back in December 2014. You can read it here. I hope it helps! (Just one thing has changed since I wrote it - I no longer drop the feed dogs when I free motion quilt, - you could give it a try to see if you find it any easier). If you give it a try, I'd love to see what you do.
Thanks for reading
I had a funny half hour this week. I was quilting a new piece of work and all was going well. But very gradually a small squeak began. Nothing much, just a little noise. So I ignored it and carried on. Probably not the smartest thing to do, but I had a nice rhythm going and I didn't want to stop. Slowly the squeak became louder and louder until I realised that it wasn't going to go away, and in fact, I might be doing some serious damage to the machine. So I stopped and did the (almost) right thing.
Starting in the bobbin zone
Moving on up to the sewing head
Once I had checked that the mechanism was moving up and down freely I replaced the needle and presser foot and plugged it all back in again. To make sure no residual oil would make a mess I stitched onto a piece of scrap fabric for a few minutes - and guess what.............. the squeak was gone! Da da!!
Thanks for reading.
Not one of my favourite jobs to do - but if you are going to do something , do it properly, and a nicely made and decently sewn on hanging sleeve makes or breaks even the most amazing quilt. If you don't put it on straight, then the quilt will hang forever wonky. If you make it too tight, then the batton will leave an ugly bump in the front of the quilt. If you put it to high it will show above the top line of the quilt, but too low and the top will droop, or even worse, flop down. So maybe, it is more important to spend time on this little loved part of art quilt making than anything else!
This is the technique I use for all my quilts that are to hang freely. I find it makes an excellent hanging sleeve and the instructions are foolproof. I have taken them from the Contemporary Quilt challenge website, and have copied and pasted the appropriate section from the website. If you would like to visit the website please clickhere. (While you are there, you may want to consider making a quilt to enter the challenge - go on, what have you got to lose??)
"D" Sleeve (instructions taken from the contemporary quilt challenge website)
These instructions are for a 4 inch wide sleeve. If it is set 1inch down from the top edge and 1in in from the sides it will not show once the quilt is hanging. It will be able to accommodate a wooden batten and not create a bulge in the fromt of the quilt.
and now on to something a little more exciting........
Mouldy agar agar plates
Back just before Christmas I was busy experimenting with a vegetarian alternative to gelatine plates. You can read the blog post I made and see the recipes for a selection of different types of gelli type plates here.
Well, it is now 1st of March (already!!) and my weekly look at the agar agar plates has revealed..... mould!. Drat.
Perhaps it should not be a surprise. I have not refridgerated them and they have been sitting on a shelf in my garage which hasn't dropped below 25 degrees.They were stored in between 2 sheets of freezer paper and in a plastic bag to keep the dust off.
Interestingly, the gelatine based plate is still fine.
So what to do? I obviously don't want to inhale any dodgy spores; not sure if they are bad or not, but I would rather not find out the hard way. So I have a choice - throw them away, or see if I can 'refresh' them in some way.
In the interest of science, I chose the latter, but if you feel the risk is too high, then do throw yours away.
Refreshing an agar agar gelli type plate
This is what I did:
With a face mask on I washed the plate under running water, rubbing off the blobs of mould and any furry bits. I then cut it up into small chunks with a pair of scissors, and placed it into a glass microwave proof bowl (not for food use). I chose this method as this is what I do with my gelatine based plates - and it works a treat.
I started by zapping the agar agar chunks in the microwave on full power for 2 minutes. This would normally see my gelatine turn to liquid and the process would be almost complete. However, the agar agar did not budge. So, I gave it another minute, but nothing was happening.
Being mindful of the process I went through when making the agar agar plate, I decided to abandon the microwave as a method of melting the lumps and tipped the whole lot into my old dyeing saucepan. And I was very glad I did!
After 10 minutes on a medium heat this is how the agar agar lumps looked. I was worried about it catching on the bottom of the pan, so I stayed with it and stirred approximately every minute.
Here we are after 15 minutes. About half melted. Stay with it and keep stirring!
It took around 20 minutes in total to melt all of the lumps and get a thin, runny liquid. To be on the safe side I decided to give it a good boil, to kill any spores and / or lurgy. Then I poured it back into my mould and waited to see if it would set.
Good news!! I think the newly reformed agar agar plate is even better than before - and no more mould either!
As ever, I will keep you posted on how it keeps. I am going to leave it in the garage again - so will see how long it lasts.
Sorry for it being a short one this week - I'm working on a large project this week and if it turns out well I will share next time.
Thanks for reading.
So - this is what you do...........................
Re-forming the plates
Cut or rip the gel plate you wish to recycle into chunks. This helps speed up the melting process.
Put it into a microwave bowl and heat for around 1 to 2 minutes on full power (I have a 750W microwave). Keep your eye on it and give it a stir after a minute. If you need to add more time do it in short bursts and watch it at all times. You want the mixture to just bubble up but not over the edges.
If it spills over, don't wipe it up - just allow the hot gel to cool then peel it off and stir it back into your molten gel.
Suppliers you may find handy to know about
Glycerine and gelatine from MM ingredients
Glycerine BP (that means pharmaceutical grade) can a be bought more cheaply in chemists (such as Boots) than in supermarkets where you find edible grade glycerine.
Isopropyl alcohol - also commonly known as 'surgical spirit' or rubbing alohol in the UK. Don't bother with Boots for this one - the thought police have been there and they just give you 'the look' when you ask for it. Last time I tried Superdrug still sell it.
Glycerine and Isopropyl alcohol from Pure Nature
Gelatine I buy at the supermarket
I hope you will find some of this info useful should you wish to try making a gelli plate for yourself. I would love to hear if you do try any of the recipes - and have any feedback . They really are quite fun to use and you can make some very beautiful papers and fabrics using them. I will let you know how my agar agar plates hold up - I don't intend putting them in the fridge - so I will see if they go mouldy or not.
Thanks for reading.
I was at Midsomer Quilting last week, teaching my 'Doodle Birds' workshop (more on that later) and was given a present by De - a new product to try out. It is called 'Terial Magic', and I must admit, I had never heard of it until now.
Terial Magic is a slightly sticky liquid that comes in an easy to use spray bottle. According to the instructions it needs to be sprayed onto fabric and allowed to dry naturally for 15 or so minutes, and then ironed.
Once dry it is supposed to make the fabric stiff (like when you use starch) and non fraying. Stiff enough, it is claimed, that no further stabiliser is required for things like machine embroidery or 3D work.
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.
Comparison with starch
Up to this point I was starting to wonder why I would use this product instead of starch. I do not often use starch on my fabric, but when I do I usually mix my own and apply it in the same way.
I applied the homemade spray starch to the fabric in the same way as I did the Terial Magic and left it to dry until just damp and then ironed the fabric. It was slightly stiff, but nowhere near as stiff as with the Terial Magic.
To try and get a stiffer result I sprayed the fabric once again with the starch mixture, but this time I ironed it dry straight away. This made a big difference and the fabric now had very similar crispness and stiffness to the Terial Magic soaked fabric.
There were, however, two things I noticed which were slightly different when using the starch.
1. Small flakey particles of starch came to the surface of the fabric, which easily scorched
2. The sole plate on my iron got covered in a thin film of starch, which also scorched. Not the end of the world, but it meant I had to clean the sole plate of my iron which is always a pain.
My spray starch recipe:
50ml tap water
200ml hot water
1 to 3 teaspoons of cornflour
Mix the cornflour and the cold water to a smooth paste.
Add the hot water and whisk / shake until well mixed.
Pour into a spray bottle.
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...
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
The green fabric stiffened with the Terrial Magic did not fray at all and was very easy to stitch. I was pleased to note that there was no resistance to the needle from the product in the fabric
To make a fair comparison I repeated the process with a piece of yellow fabric soaked in starch. It cut well and creased well, just the same as the Terial Magic soaked fabric. The only difference I noticed was that when I came to stitch the needle and thread were not at all easy to pass through the fabric. It was much more difficult and made hard work of a simple job.
And then I tried stitching some raw edged leave to a piece of fabric
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.
Now for those Doodle birds!
These are a few pictures I took during the workshop at Midsomer quilting last weekend. Brilliant aren't they?
Last week I posted some pictures of several of the art journal slip on covers that use the fabrics I made whilst exploring and experimenting with different surface design techniques.
Quite a few people got in touch with me to ask how I made the slip on covers, so I thought it would be a good idea to try and write a post to show you how I go about it. They are quite straightforward to make- so I hope my explanation doesn't make it seem too complicated.
1. Measure the book you wish to cover
In this example I measured a spiral bound sketchbook. It is important to make sure that you measure the thickness of the spine as well as the front and back cover - especially with a book like this that has a particularly fat spine.
Make sure you note down the measurements - as you need to add a bit to them in the next step.
2. Add a seam allowance
Take each measurement and add a generous quarter of an inch all around.
In this example the width of the front and back covers will become 9 inches,
the height of the front and back covers will become 12 and a quarter inches and the spine will become 1 and a half inches wide.
In my example I have pieced some fabrics pink and green fabrics to create the front and back covers. It would look equally good if you used a whole piece of fabric for each section - or even a whole piece of fabric for the whole cover.
4. Make two tie closures
Either make two very thin strips from a co-ordinating fabric, or cut two pieces of tape or ribbon. These will be the ties that you use to keep the book closed. You can make them as long or short as you like - long ones will wrap around the book before you tie them, short ones you can just knot or tie in a bow.
These two are about 8 inches and 10 inches long.
5. Cut 2 further pieces for the inner cover
Next you need to cut two pieces of co-ordinating fabric that are the same height as the front and back cover sections and little narrower. Don't worry about the exact width.
On each piece neaten one of the long sides by folding the fabric over and pressing and then folding it over again. Stitch down the neatened edge using a straight or decorative stitch. You should now have two rectangles, each with one neat long side and one raw edge. The short sides will both be raw.
6. Add a pocket if you wish
As an optional extra, you can stitch a pocket onto one or both of these rectangles. For your first attempt it might be worth skipping this stage until
you have seen how the finished cover turns out.
These pieces will eventually be on the inside of the book covers. If you want you could make a long, thin pocket to perhaps hold a pen or pencil.
12.Stitch all the way around
With a straight stitch, sew all the way around the whole piece with a scant quarter inch seam. When you come to the place where the thin strips are located on the short sides go over them a few times - reverse stitching to make sure the ties are firmly attached.
Carefully clip the corners if you think it is bulky
If you make one I'd love to see it!
Thanks for reading.
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Fabric paints two ways: ready made fabric paints or mix your own....
'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.
So I took a look online to find some more, and I came across what looked like a bargain - so I bought some to try out. It is a new manufacturer of fabric medium for me. It is made by Berol and comes in a 1 or 5 litre bottle, with 1 litre costing £5 and £6 depending on where you buy it. I purchased mine from Yellow Moon as they were having a promotion and free shipping. It arrived the very next day, which was fabulous.
I have used it over the weekend on a variety of samples and have found it to be of very good quality. It mixes well with all of the brands of paints I have tried so far and has been great for painting onto fabric with a brush, using with stencils and with hand carved stamp blocks.
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.
- Iron for 3-5 minutes with a medium-hot iron on the reverse side (side opposite of the application). On delicate fabrics where lower heat levels must be used, a longer ironing time will be necessary.
- Oven: Cure for 1-2 minutes at 300F; 4 minutes at 250F.
- Clothes / Tumble dryer: Commercial: medium-high temperature for 20-40 minutes. Household: high temperature for 40-50 minutes.
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.
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.....
The process is pretty simple. All you do it mix the acrylic paint with soy milk until you get a milk-like consistency. You then brush or sponge the mixture onto damp fabric (I used 100% cotton seed cloth) and cover part of the fabric with a mask. I used a mixture of things - metal letters, foam shapes and wooden die cuts, but you could use anything - natural items like leaves and grasses are very popular. You then leave the whole lot to dry in the sun.
The way it works is this: the heat from the sun dries the uncovered fabric more quickly than that which is covered by the mask. This dry uncovered fabric then pulls the moisture out from under the mask (you may be familiar with the term 'wicking' it away) and at the same time takes the pigment from the paint with it. Thus, the paint and soy mix is physically drawn out from underneath the mask, leaving a whitish area the same shape as the mask. Clever eh?
This is exactly the same process as you would use if you used the Pebeo paints directly from the pot. The next part, however, is where the properties of the soy milk come in.
It is not the UV from the sun that is important - just the heat. So, if you do not live in a very sunny place, just put your fabric under a heat lamp, taking care to ensure it cannot burn.
Thanks for reading.
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Sew On The Go