Sunday, 11 August 2013

Dyeing Day

Earlier in the year I had attended a Ferret workshop with CB and HW from Quirky Quilters. We had a great time and achieved a great deal over the weekend. I had used a piece  of my own hand dyed fabric and needed more to complete the quilt.

Original piece with quilting started on Ferret course

A week off work meant I had time to do some fabric dyeing. As I dye outside on the patio, nice warm weather is beneficial. I had plenty of chemicals made up, as QQ had held a fabric dyeing day, which I hosted, a couple of weeks ago. I had sorted the fabric, knew which colours and techniques I was going to use, next step fabric preparation. I wanted to tie-dye some backing fabric similar to the commercial piece I had used, so out came the elastic bands, pencil and ruler. I marked the circle centres at 250 mm triangular intervals and tied the circles from these centres with two elastic bands along each.

Tied fabric

I put the cloth to soak in soda solution for 20 minutes. I did two pieces like this using some old cotton sheets my sister gave me,they were approximately 2 x 1 metres each.

Soda soaking

I  arranged these pieces in two trays with the tied peaks on top and dyed them using royal blue poured all over the fabric and massaged to make sure the dye penetrated the fabric between the elastic bands, I only wanted the white fabric under the elastic bands. Then I used a plastic pipette to place black dye around the outer side of the circles, the elastic band at the widest point of the peaks.

Tied and dyed

The border and binding fabric (cotton poplin sheeting off-cuts from Empress Mills) was soaked in soda solution for 20 minutes and then arranged scrunched in a tray. Lemon yellow dye was applied to the cloth and left for 15 minutes. Royal blue dye was then poured down the sides of the tray to flood the bottom. There were four pieces in total, two at 2 meters x 300 mm and two at 2 meters x 150 mm.

Scrunched and dyed

I had some cotton sateen left over from lining some curtains so decided to try dyeing it. I thought indigo would be nice. I mixed this using one measure of magenta and two of turquoise. I poured the dye over the soda soaked fabric in a plastic bag. I then massaged the fabric and dye to get a fairly even colour over the fabric. I had a bit of black dye left from the tie-dying and put a few smaller pieces of soda soaked cotton sateen in a plastic bag with that, massaging them to get an even colour. As I was putting away my equipment I realised I should have used golden yellow as well as lemon yellow with the royal blue. I could have added it at this point but decided to wait and see the results. It looks like I will be adding the golden yellow as the colour is not quite right. All the trays were covered in plastic and left for about 40 hours. The dye stops working after 4 hours, I usually rinse and wash them after 24 hours, but I went out the next day so finished off the day after.

The results are always a surprise, even when you think you know what you are trying to achieve. The pictures don't do the colours justice even after fiddling with them in Photoshop, the closest is the tie-dyed picture.
Tie-dyed - fantastic much better than anticipated
Srunched - nice texture with this fabric, needs golden yellow added
Srunched - further along the strip
Indigo - gorgeous colour, softer texture than poplin but still evident 

Sunday, 3 February 2013

New Fabric From Scraps

Like a lot of quilters, I have a large box of scraps as I have great difficulty when it comes to throwing fabric away. A good way to use it up, is to make a larger piece of fabric from all those little pieces (yes I know, that's how I aquired them in the first place). I do this by using a foundation fabric and stitching the smaller pieces to it. This can be a lot of fun, it is also a good way to experiment with different colour combinations, and you get to use the decorative stitches on your sewing  machine. Recently, I have used this technique to make bookwraps for the tombola at the Festival of Quilts later this year. The instructions for making these came from The Quilter magazine and (free patterns to download from the Contemporary Quilt group of the Quilters Guild)

 If you want to have a go here are some basic instructions for the fabric base. If you have never done anything like this before, you may want to do some experimental pieces before you start on a project.

Gather together some interesting machine threads and get out your sewing machine manual. You will need your manual as some decorative stitches will need tension adjustments and  a change of foot. Do not be put off by this, practice makes perfect, get a piece of the foundation fabric for checking adjustments before you start stitching your samples. I like felt, but you could use a firm wadding, vilene (pelmet/craft) or any medium weight fabric you have handy. The choice of foundation fabric will depend on the use you make of the final piece. I use one of two threads in the bobbin, YLI lingerie and bobbin thread (black or white) or Superior Threads The Bottom Line (lots of colours). As long as your tension is good you should not have problems with the bobbin thread showing on the top. If you do, use the same thread in the bobbin as on the top.

If you have an extension table for your sewing machine, I would recommend you use it, as it gives a larger flat working area, which makes guiding the fabric easier and relieves strain on your arms, shoulders and neck.

Select a stitch that you like and check the instruction manual for any adjustments in top tension and foot pressure, as well as the need to change the foot. Some decorative stitches will require the use of a satin stitch foot. Take your piece of foundation and stitch a few inches to check the tension, make small adjustments and stitch a few more inches, repeat until the stitch is balanced. If you have to check the tension several times to get it right, make a note of the thread you are using (top and bobbin) and the tension that gives you the right balance, for future reference. I like to keep a small note book with my machine for this, it saves a lot of frustration in the future. Try several more stitches, you can ignore any that do not seem suitable, or are too troublesome. Try them again later with a different thread, sometimes using a different type of needle can be successful, like a metallic needle with metallic thread. When you find a solution to a problem, make a note in that book.

Once you are satisfied with the stitches you have chosen to use, you can have a go with scraps covering the foundation fabric. If you are just experimenting, use postcard sized samples, you can attach notes to them for future reference.

Start with a simple layout of overlapping strips across the foundation. They can be laid in a horizontal, vertical or diagonal direction and can be made up of shorter lengths. Make sure you cover the whole area, unless the foundation was chosen to complement your colour scheme, in which case you may want to leave a bit visible occasionally. Pin the strips at the edge and in the middle if using joined strips. Sometimes I use a straight stitch along the length to anchor the strips, mostly when making larger pieces, then all the pins can be removed before decrorative stitching. You could use matching, invisible or contrasting thread for this step. This is where small experimental pieces come in useful, you can see how each method works and decide which one best suits the current project.

Pinned strips
Now for the really interesting bit, decorative stitching. Select your stitch and thread up your machine. Stitching along the edges of the fabric strips will give fluffy edges. Torn strips and those fluffy selvages are also useful for fluffy effects. Stitching over the edge of the strips gives a well anchored finish. The type of stitch used will also make a difference, a close stitch will give a well anchored finish and a more open stitch some fluffy bits, as it allows fraying. If you find you have some plain looking strips, just stitch down the centre of the strip. I have also added torn strips of sheer fabric over the top, using a straight or very small zig-zag stitch on either side, and a decorative stitch down the middle, gives the appearence of sheer ribbon.

Stitched strips

Stitched strips detail
Now try using very small scraps, overlay them with a piece of net, tulle or sheer fabric pinned in place to keep them from moving too much when stitching. Alternatively, you can iron them on to the foundation with bondaweb or bonding powder. I would advise using baking parchment between the iron and fabric to prevent glue getting onto your iron. With this method the stitching can be meandering lines, rather than straight ones, as you do not have the strip edges to follow. You will need more dense stitching with smaller scraps, even if you have bonded the scraps to the foundation, to prevent them moving about under the overlay. You could consult your machine manual on how to do free machine stitching, using the darning foot and disengaging the feed dogs.

My advise is just go for it. I have never made something I could not use, there are no mistakes only design changes. If you get something you do not like add some ribbon or couch an interesting thread on to it. There are fabric paints, foils, embossing powders, beads, sequins and sheer fabrics that you can add until you arrive at something you do like. Do not forget hand embroidery can also be used for further embelishment, especially with thicker threads. Although you may like to wind them round a bobbin and couch them from the back, use a matching colour or invisible thread on the top. I have used this technique successfully with YLI Candlelight (nice sparkly thread) in the bobbin. It may be possible to use some of the simple decorative stitches with this technique, but I have only used a straight or zig-zag stitch.  
If your postcards are so good you want to use them, finish the back with a pale coloured plain fabric if you want to write on them. Use bondaweb/bonding powder to stick it firmly to the back of your work or one of the spray adhesives for fabric. Trim the edges to get them straight. Satin-stitch the edge twice, use a wider width and shorter length for the second round. The numbers will depend on your machine.I have a Janome and find a 3.5 width, 0.5 lenghth for the first round, 5.5 width, 0.4 length for the second round gives a good finish.
To finish my bookwrap pieces, I used a backing fabric and quilted the top to the back before finishing the edges with binding or satin-stitch. On one item, I used one of the overlocking stitches on my machine. This stitch only works for straight edges, it is not suitable where you need to turn corners.

Postcards overlaid with tulle and free machine embroidery

I have used the fabric made with this technique to make purses as gifts. A4 is an ideal size for this, the stitched piece is backed with fabric, a 20 cm (8 inch) zip inserted on the short ends and the sides finished with matching binding (straight or bias).

You may be interested in some further reading on similar techniques, if so these four books are some I find inspirational;

Beginner's Guide to Embroidered Boxes, Janet Edmonds, Search Press,
ISBN 0 85532 929 7 

Surfaces for Stitch, Gwen Headley, Quilters' Resource, ISBN 1 889682 18 7

The Quilted Object, Ineke Berlyn, Batsford, ISBN 978 1 906388 23 2

Fabric Leftovers, D'Arcy Jean Milne, Mitchell Beazley, ISBN 1 84533 232 6