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 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 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) 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. 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 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 usually pulls out all that dye that did not penetrate the fabric

but wait! isn't working this be 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 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 it is our Thanksgiving here in Canada, I was inspired to draw this guy.

it was suggested that this would be fun to 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 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 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 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!
Copyright Jill Buckley