Monday, October 27, 2014

Crispy Mornings

The cooler weather has arrived.....and so too, has the signal that it is here to stay. As much as I dislike the thought of the wind and snow that will soon be at our doorstep, I do LOVE to see the Juncos return. These pretty little birds arrived this weekend telling me to get ready....the cooler weather is not going anywhere, anytime soon. But currently, the daytime temperatures are quite pleasant, allowing me to sit outside, pencil in hand, enjoying my backyard visitors.


Monday, October 20, 2014

and then...the UNEXPECTED happed

It was Oct 20, 2008 when I began this blog ....I did not know then where it might lead...one thing for certain, is that I have learned a great deal and continue to do so.  Most of the time it is simply out of curiosity, sometimes it is because I am asked a specific question. Today's post has come about because of a specific question, one that I was asked just last week.
The question was about dyeing fabric. I was asked about the supplies I use, the dyes.....and honestly, I am not quite sure what the dyes I have been using are ( they are old...from the 70s, maybe early 80's) they are a powder, come in a small brown envelope and are made up of very intense, concentrated colour...but I don't really know anything about them...are they "fibre-reactive"...or acid? I dunno....those of you who visit regularly, know that I don't worry about knowing the specifics...I don't get caught up in branding and terminology......I rarely follow instructions....I experiment, play...I "TRY" and from that, I find what works best for me.
The specific question was....can my recent dyeing experiments also be done using Rit dyes? (you know, those little boxes of dye that have been around forever and that can easily be obtained without having to find a specialty shop or order online) I happened to have a couple of boxes leftover from many years ago, back then when I used the Rit dye...I "cooked" it on the stove.....they always worked great that way...but could I use them the way I have been using these other dyes? I set out to find the answer.
This is a long post and photo heavy...BUT there is a surprise ending so if you are interested, come back when you have time to read the whole thing.
I gathered the basic supplies....Rit Dye, pre-washed 100% cotton, Soda ash, a paper mask, rubber gloves, plastic containers, freezer bags, and blue Dawn dishwashing liquid.
I am often asked about the soda ash...you can get it in a variety of forms, I found the Tulip brand at a major craft retailer, the Jacquard brand at an art supply store and the big container of pH Plus at a pool supply company...they are all the same thing  (Sodium Carbonate)....it is much MUCH less expensive at the pool supply store.

Soda ash (different packaging)
for this experiment, I used Rit dye,and prepped the fabric with pH Plus (soda ash)
here is the process I used, I began by soaking the fabric in a soda ash solution, the ratio of soda ash to hot water is 1 cup soda ash/gallon of water............for this experiment I used 1/4 cup soda ash in 1 quart of water as I was only dyeing a few small pieces.
Left it to soak for about 30 minutes.


I use this method to acheive nicely mottled effects....the soda ash pre-soaked fabric now gets placed into freezer bags....the more rumpled and scrunched, the better


Note: when working with the dye powder you want need to wear a mask (you do not want to be inhaling that fine powder)
As you can see, you don't need a lot of the dye powder


 I put a bit in the cup and then add just a small amount of water to create a wet paste....once I have it at that stage, I can remove my mask.


Next I need to add "hot" water, for this experiment, I did not bother to boil it, I simply used the hottest water I could get directly from the tap. What is most important is that you get all the powder dissolved.  Again.....you don't need much. (I did not measure but you can get the idea of volume....those are small sundae cups)


Now, I am ready to pour dye solution onto the fabric in the bags.....just a bit...it doesn't need to swim. If you like, you can use a few colours (keeping in mind that complimentaries will make mud) then you squish and squeeze to allow the dye to begin to work its way into the fabric. The more you squeeze the less mottling you will get.


I decided to test one piece by dyeing it without the benefit of the Soda ash pre-soak, it went into it's own freezer bag just having been thoroughly dampened with plain water....I expected that this piece would not suck up as much dye as the others....but....(something VERY interesting and unexpected happens)
Once I feel that I have the dye worked in enough, I seal up the bags.....cover the whole works with an old rag towel and leave it to sit overnight. (I leave it in my laundry room, where the furnace is, so it is in a nice warm spot)
The next day the bags can be opened and the fabrics rinsed....and rinsed and rinsed...(the dye process does use a lot of water) the goal is to remove all of the unused dye..(the fibers can only take in a certain amount of dye...the rest has to be washed away so that you will be left with fabric that will not continue to run/bleed......your goal is for the water to run clear.
I start this process by first rinsing each piece pretty well with plain water, then I use some blue Dawn dishwashing liquid...a few drops is all that is needed....it usually pulls out all that dye that did not penetrate the fabric


but wait!..it isn't working this time...to be specific...it isn't working on the fabrics that were pre-soaked with soda ash...I can not seem to get the water to run clear as I normally do...BUT it is working with the lone piece I dyed that had NOT been soaked in soda ash....hmmm strange but as you can see....I am always learning too.

notice that the water is still showing a lot of colour (this was after many MANY rinses)

managed to get to clear water pretty quickly with this piece (the one that was not soda ash soaked)

I don't know why....all I know is that with the RIT dye....it worked much better by completely eliminating the soda ash step

here are the dried and pressed pieces


This piece turned out beautifully......even without the soda ash...totally unexpected! click on it for a better look

You can see the nice mottled effects....scrunched and sitting in the bag, some of the fabric is exposed to a more concentrated pool of dye, so you get darker and lighter spots happening..the more "creases" the better the effect..the less you squish initially, the more whites you will have showing....if you wanted a more solid colour you would want to go and squish it a bit every so often in the early stages to cause a more even distribution of the dye.



This is really a super basic method....if you want to delve more into the dye process, and purchase all the recommended supplies and chemicals....go for it...there are a great many books on the subject and of course, workshops, classes, including online classes as well. BUT if you just wanted to try dyeing with just a few basic supplies, without all the up front investment...this is an easy, inexpensive way to give it a go....and as I discovered with this experiment...using the Rit dye, means you don't even have to get the Soda ash.

Perhaps you may try your own experiments.....But please....Do be mindful of safety!...use the mask, protect your skin with rubber gloves (unless you like multi-coloured hands)...protect your work area and your clothing.

Note: I did eventually stop "bleeding" on the problematic pieces....a final soak using a cap full of Retayne  did the trick.  



Monday, October 13, 2014

Holiday Doodle

It has been a long while since I last posted a new doodle.....as it is our Thanksgiving here in Canada, I was inspired to draw this guy.


it was suggested that this would be fun to colour.......so if you would like to print this image and break out the crayons or colour pencils, perhaps keep the kids busy while you are in the kitchen preparing your own turkey....here is the link to a printable file.....Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Pumpkins are Everywhere

This time of year you start to see Pumpkins (in many forms) everywhere. A few years ago I created a little pumpkin quilted wallhanging as a project/pattern that was available in The Canadian Quilter. 
I thought that perhaps some of my readers might like to try this as well.  The technique is a cross between fused applique and thread painting......by having the fabrics act as the underlay, you don't have to add that much thread to get a cool effect.
Since October is my blog-versary month, I thought I would share the instructions pretty much as I had written the article and also share the printable pattern/design


Have you ever tried to paint a picture using just fabric and thread? It can, and should be a lot of fun. It may appear complicated at first glance, but follow the steps and you just may discover your inner artist.
For this project, your list of supplies are easily found......mostly, you are going to need to raid your scrap pile. Dig in and find a number of greens, browns and a few oranges. (wonderful effects can be achieved by using small prints that read as a solid) You will need threads, for this project too, I used just three different spools of variegated thread.....but, you could use up those spools that no longer have much on them. Gather up a selection of shades in the same or similar colours as your fabric bits.
You will need some yardage, a piece of fabric for the background, I started with a piece roughly 18”x 12” as well as something for borders if you decide to finish the piece as I have. I will list those dimensions further along in these instructions.

The thread painting process will be done prior to adding batting, this can cause some distortion so a stabilizer is important, a piece large enough to cover the design area will be needed, I used a medium weight, tear away stabilizer, big enough to cover the back so I did not have to worry about having enough coverage.  You will also need some paper-backed fusible, 0.25m should be plenty (I used Wonder Under). Besides a sewing machine in good working order, one that can have the feed dogs dropped, you will need the usual tools, a pair of sharp scissors, an iron, perhaps a pair of quilting gloves, and if you have one (or can borrow one) a hoop will help diminish the amount of puckering that can occur, depending on how heavily you stitch, and of course, additional yardage for borders, backing along with your choice of batting.

Using a variety of different fabrics will help give it a more painterly feel. If you pick colours that look good together, then in the end, it will be harmonious. Here is a look at my choices


 Are you are ready? Let's get started.
You will first need to print the pattern. Download the design as a PDF using this link
It is a 4 page document containing the pattern, right side up, this is your placement guide and a second that has been reversed to make it extra easy to trace out all of the pieces. Follow the instructions on the pattern pages for joining the two halves, you can now begin to trace and number each piece onto the paper side of paper-backed fusible, be sure to leave a little room between each shape and note what colour the piece will be, B for brown, G for green and O for orange.


The next step is to cut out each traced piece roughly, do not cut on the pencil lines just yet. Separate the bits according to their colour designation. Next, choose the fabric you wish to use. For the pumpkin, I used a different orange print for each piece. For the leaves, I chose a variety of darks, lights and mediums. Place your traced fusible on to the wrong side of your fabrics, fuse according to manufacturers directions. At this point, you will cut each piece directly on the pencil line. Once all of the pieces are prepared, you are ready to begin putting them in place. Lay your background fabric, right side up, over top of the placement guide, if the fabric colour is light enough you should be able to clearly see where each piece will go. Begin by removing the paper backing one piece at a time and place it in the corresponding spot following the placement guide. Don't press anything just yet, you will want to make sure you are pleased with the placement of all of the pieces before fusing them permanently. The goal is to put it all back together, almost like a jigsaw puzzle, but don't be concerned if you have a little gap here and there, you will be covering it with thread.

look closely and you see that there are some small gaps.....no worries, they will get covered
Once your design is fused, you will now need to place a piece of tear-away stabilizer on the back, just baste it along the edges using stitches that you will be able to easily remove later.
Set your machine as you would for free motion machine quilting, this is where the fun really begins. I first stitched the stem and vines, then the pumpkin and finally the leaves. Concentrate on one small area at a time, place it in the hoop and stitch following the contours of each shape, for the pumpkin, strive to have your stitching flow with the natural curve of the pieces, Look carefully at each area and try to imagine how they would look in nature. You don't even have to stay within the lines, wander off here and there, give the vine a bit of a “hairy” look. Stitch a little or a lot. Not sure where to start? If you like, draw a few guidelines to help get you started or perhaps, fuse an extra leaf to a practice piece and stitch until you become comfortable with the process



This photo illustrates what the piece will look like on the back and may help give you a better understanding of the direction you will want to move your thread work. (the white you see is the stabilizer that will later be removed)


Once you are satisfied with the amount of thread painting, it is time to get rid of the stabilizer. Remove those basting stitches and begin carefully tearing away the stabilizer, remove as much as possible. Here is a look at the back, you can see that I have thoroughly removed any stabilizer that had not been stitched through.


Even with the use of stabilizer and hoop you may find that you have a bit of puckering, not to worry, the quilting will get rid of that. First, minimize some of the puckering by placing the piece face down onto a thick towel and press from the back using lots of stems. Let the piece cool and you are ready to trim, add borders, batting and backing. For this sample, I trimmed my thread painted piece to 10.5”wide by 16.5” in height. I cut narrow border strips at 1.25 inches in width, (they finish up at 0.75”. Next, I added the outer border strips cut at 5 inches. Once the piece was quilted, that outer border was trimmed to about 3.5 inches. By initially cutting your borders generous in size, you will have something to “hang” on to during the quilting process.
I chose to do a fairly dense echo quilting in the background, circles on the inner border and meandering on the outer border.


These photos illustrate the thread painting process, as I said you can stitch as much or as little as you want. Allowing your beautiful fabric to shine through adds to the effect with this technique and by using the fabric as an underlay you don't have to build up any "base" stitches as with true thread painting.





Enjoy....Have fun!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Progress

At the beginning of September, I showed a small whole cloth quilt top I was marking. It is a redesign of a previous piece. This one ( design called "Echo" ) is being done as a small white on white test/sample. This sort of stitching tends to be difficult to photograph, but these images might give you an idea of how it is progressing.



I am currently still in design mode and have created (on paper) several new designs which I am working to refine.....The one shown below is called "Grace"


finding myself in need of a portable project, I thought "Grace" would lend itself nicely to hand quilting.




Monday, September 15, 2014

Coloring Animal Mandalas

Coloring Animal Mandalas is the title of Wendy Piersall's book published by Ulysses Press. When asked, I happily agreed to review this book. My readers know that I myself, love to play with the mandala form and often include nature in the themes, so I thought this one just might be a fun book to explore.

Here is a look at the front and back covers

Lets start with the basics....the book measures 9.25" x  7.5" there are 31 different designs for your colouring pleasure, presented on crisp white pages. A really nice feature is the "lay flat" binding.

I used this as an opportunity to play with colour in a way I don't normally. I did not worry about careful colour choice/consideration....I just picked up pencils and went to it.  Warning!...colour riot ahead!
With these first two, I used colour pencils only....often closing my eyes when picking a colour, allowing myself to use colours and colour combos I likely would not have chosen on purpose  :-)  Kinda fun to see what happens as the colours begin to take their place, to mix, mingle, and play off each other. The process is rather meditative and somewhat addictive.
There are no instructions with this book...it is, after all, a colouring book.....but I assumed it would be suitable for dry media only....I was wrong!!!!  Know how I know? because I decided to give some watercolour a go to see what would happen. I was certain the paper would crinkle and not withstand the wet media. I began by taping a piece of watercolour paper behind a page just in case it would bleed through (turns out that was probably not necessary)


I used cake watercolours as well as Inktense pencils with water...the page held up quite well...really quite well! and as you can see, I laid down a lot of colour.....everything used on this design was wet. I initially began rather timidly, using just a dampened brush, but as I progressed I used more and more wet colour, now, mind you....I don't think I would use any heavy "washes" but it sure handled the moisture I did throw on it. 

Some designs in the book are more elaborate than others......Lots of detail in each one. I think the Frog and Dragonfly was likely my personal favourite but in Coloring Animal Mandalas, you will find insects, elephants, seahorses, serpents, cats, birds, flowers, fish....and well...like I said 31 different designs to enjoy!


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A is for Apple


With September being National Sewing Month & back to school time, Janome Canada is celebrating with "An Apple a Day" over on the Janome Life blog.  Something "apple" related is being posted
everyday this month.  I am quite happy to be one of the contributors and since I seemed to be in design mode anyway, I created a continuous line quilt design.

I did 3 actually, 1 pretty basic, another, just a little more challenging, and a third for those who want to take it a bit further.



So, if you are interested in these designs and want to try them for yourself, head on over to the Janome Life blog and grab my downloadable  PDF.  These free designs are printable and ready for you to play with....(even if you don't want to do free motion, you could adapt them for applique or perhaps have a fabric painting/colouring session).....hope you like them!

Of course, I couldn't just stitch the design, I also thought I was due for another round of playtime with discharge paste, mine is called, "de-Colourant". You can find out more about this product here
I have shown this technique before but here is a refresher. I traced the design onto a piece of freezer paper, pressed the freezer paper to my black cotton fabric,


then went to the machine, removed the bobbin as well as the thread from the needle and stitched along the design lines in order to make perforations. The next step was to brush on the discharge paste. once I was sure I had distributed the paste evenly, I carefully peeled off the freezer paper and left the piece to completely dry.


The final step was to hit it with a good hot iron using plenty of steam. The discharge paste had made its way through the perforations, once activated by the steam, this is the result.



Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Small Whole Cloth underway

I have decided to play with the design I recently re-vamped, the plan is to use it in a simple "white on white" wholecloth piece.
This will also give me an excuse to re-visit the use of those FriXion pens. I do like the way they glide so easily across the fabric and the fine lines they make, I worry about the lines reappearing at a later time. BUT, since this is not going to be a competition piece or a gift, it is an opportunity to "test" this out again.
I enlarged my design and have begun the process of tracing it onto white cotton.


Did you know that when you are tracing, you will find it MUCH easier and accurate if you use a broken, dotted or dashed line?




Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Design Mode

I seem to be in "design mode" as of late. My needle has been idle but my pencil has been busy. A while back, I showed this quilt that I designed, painted and stitched.


Every time I walk by it, I see some things I would have liked to have done differently...........so I decided to do a little "re-designing". The changes are subtle but I like this version much better.
I've named it "Echo"



Thursday, August 14, 2014

Colour Pencil on Fabric

Earlier, I showed how I had begun colouring in my design which I transferred to fabric. Here is the result.


To achieve that blended multicoured look, I used 3 pencils. Working in small sections I added a bit of the blue


then some green


followed by the yellow. 


Once all 3 colours were applied, I simply continued to build the layers until the desired intensity was achieved.  As the sections were completed, I lightly brushed textile medium over the pencil to seal the colour. I tried a few different brands and found that for this project, the one I liked best was  Folk Art Textile Medium made by Plaid.

Even though this is not the sort of technique that would be used for a project that would be washed regularly, I was curious to see if it could hold up to a gentle wash. On a scrap of the same fabric, I drew and coloured with the same supplies. I cut the pieces in half, marked "wash" on the bits that would be tested.  Submerged into cool, soapy water, agitated a bit, a short soak, then rinsed.


 I placed the bits side by side once dry and as you can see, the colour remained vibrant.






Copyright Jill Buckley