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

1 comment:

  1. Excellent Christine. It's great to see all the bags together!! Loving the books wraps....may just have to have a go myself!!!! I'll add it to my list ...... certainly have enough scraps to use!!!