Saturday, July 28, 2007

Couched Coffee Cuff (CinC)

This month at Conversations-in-Cloth, our technique was couching.
The project was a coffee cuff as published in the Spring 2007 issue of Quilting Arts Magazine.

Here's mine machine couched before the final seam. See some of the other CinC member's coffee cuffs.

This same technique could easily be applied to fabric post cards.

Fiber Play Samples

Last week, I took a class called Fiber Play, taught by Francine Gnoccio (sp?) at Sew 'N Sew in Appleton, WI. I've been waiting over a year to take this class ... A day well spent experimenting!

(Above) Steam-a-Seam bonded to the wrong side of fabric with exposed fusible, layered with sheer ribbon (recycled after a party), art sticker sewn on top. On the right side, you can see some "dirt" : this is a metallic powder applied with a dry brush. It was an experiment that didn't work so well here, but may be a nice idea for other instances. This piece could easily be finished off and mailed as a fabric post card.

Needle-Felting by Machine
(Above) This is some work on the HuskyStar embellisher. This is a fun little machine -- like a sewing machine, except there is no thread, just 5-6 barbed needles that "marry" fabrics and fibers together by needle-felting.
The purple piece is silk, angelina and wool roving on purple silk.
The other piece needs a little more work, but I think you get the idea ...

I've considered using my sewing machine with a barbed needle to do this kind of work, but I've concluded it wouldn't be such a good idea. This process creates a lot of lint that could cause havoc with the inner workings of a good sewing machine. I have the little Clover tool for needle-felting by hand. It goes pretty fast as a process.

Angelina never seems to photograph well ... If you want a little sparkle and glitz, Angelina may be just the thing! You can also trap snippets

Bonnie McCaffery has a short online tutorial on Tintzl, which is very similar to Angelina.

Snippets are the left over odds and ends, scraps, ribbons, whatever that you can cut up into bits and add a sprinkle when and where you need a bit of color. Kind of like make your own confetti ... Francie just keeps them in a jar for when she needs them.

Tyvek - Yup, Tyvek from mailing envelopes and housing construction projects can be used in Fiber Play to create interesting textures. It bubbles as it melts ...

There's a good Tutorial on Tyvek at Joggles if you want to learn more.

My favorite is Steam-a-Seam Lite 2 becasue it's so darn versatile, and doesn't build-up and get stiff with multiple layers.
On this sample (upper left), Angelina is trapped in netting with SAS. The color of the netting makes a huge difference in your end result.
Lower left, Fabric + SAS + snippets + netting.
Upper right : You can use crayons to transfer color to the SAS, then fuse it to fabric (SAS exposed)
Middle right : Paper can also be fused with SAS

Friday, July 27, 2007

Handy Folding Flat Bed Cart

This is my handy (and trusty) folding flat bed cart. It's wonderful for hauling oodles of stuff to and from sewing classes. It's also great for hauling stuff for work between sites. It's a great back saver!

It folds down, making it fit in my car easily. That's where I keep it most of the time.

Where to get one :
I got mine at Demo Library Supplies.

I've also seen them locally at Mills Fleet Farm for about half the price.

These days, they can be purchased at Uline (I have no experience shopping with this company). They call it a handi-mover.

(Attempted) Skin Tones Hand Dyes

Here's my attempt at a batch of hand-dyes for an up-coming portrait quilt.

I used Mellisa's recipe for skin tones on her excellent Fabric Dyeing 101 Blog/website. Here's what I was hoping for (Melissa's version) :

Mine didn't come out as rosey, and a lot more green. So what went wrong?

Could be temperatures. My workshop space may have gotten too cool by the time I stuffed in the fat quarters. I used Aurora Muslin--the good fabric, so fabric wasn't the issue.

I tried to map Melissa's dye colors to comparable options from ProChem. Maybe ProChem's Chino is more green?

Melissa's Dye Colors for Skin Tones from G&S Dye (Toronto) : Not quite equal at Prochem
Chino 600 : Chino 500N
Fuschia 408 : Fuschia 308
Golden Yellow 204 : Golden Yellow 104
Black 702 (greenish black) : Silk Black 610
Navy 512 : Navy 412

Other ideas? Please share ...

Maybe I'll overdye mine in Pink (my fuschia seemed to wash out in the rinse).
Maybe I'll save them for another project. They are pretty in their own right.
Maybe I'll purchase dyes from the company Melissa uses and see if I get better results on a second batch ...

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Why Sweet Leaf? (or Start a Sketchbook!)

The other day, I Gooogled "Sweet Leaf" and came up with some surprising results ...

No, it's not a reference to pot, or stevia, or even chocolate-covered mint leaves.

It all began back in 1994 (or so) when I started a small dress-making hobby-business (It really was never enough to make a living on.) in Madison, WI. I needed a logo --- It was summer--I was fond of pesto, so with the help of a computer-savvy friend, we flattened out and scanned a sweet basil leaf and adopted that as my logo.

I didn't want to limit my creations to just dresses, so I called it Sweet Leaf Productions. With a production company, I figured I could make anything I wanted if I got tired of dresses.

When I started the blog last year, Sweet Leaf Productions was already taken. So I settled into Sweet Leaf Notebook. The actual Notebook had been around for a little longer than the blog.

Not much to look at from the outside ... but bursting with ideas. That's why I had to start the notebook / sketchbook : I had many more ideas than I could possibly bring to life before forgetting the details. Now the Notebook is sort of a holding-place for those ideas until I do get around to bringing them to life. I keep a pencil tied to it, so I always have something to write with it. It's a spiral notebook so that if I wind up drawing something really awful, I can rip it out and not ruin the rest of the notebook. I haven't been able to bring myself to writing anything into one of those nive hardbound artist's sketchbooks ... They just seem too nice. Too permanent.

Sharon B at In a minute ago had a recent post on visual sketchbooks at Flickr. Apparently, you can see what's in other people's sketchbooks. Neat! So take a look at what other people are doing ... [Also see Sharon Boggon's article "Using a Visual Journal to Harness and Develop Your Creative Side" July 2007]

From time to time, I will continue to post a Page from My Notebook. I think it is very interesting to trace how the spark of an idea begins and grows and how close or how far the end product meets or diverges. Some projects take on lives of their own. Sometimes--it's what they want to be--not what I was intending. Usually, that turns out okay.

So what's in The Sweet Leaf Notebook, you ask? Wouldn't you like to know? At present, I have sections and drawings for the following :
  • quilt blocks and wall-hangings I am working out designs for
  • possible titles for quilts I'll someday make
  • layouts for samplar quilts
  • ideas for journal quilts
  • instructions and steps for quilts
  • dye and discharge project and design ideas
  • swatches of fabrics that might be good for kaliedescope or 4-patch posey quilts
  • machine quilting patterns I want to try (good to practice on paper first)
  • Instructions for potholders (developed by me)
  • Ideas that seem to translate well to visual images
    • I Remember Mama (or Gramma)
  • dye color combinations I like and want to try together
  • Websites for inspiration
  • Dye methods to try with notes on how it went
  • fabric painting experiments to try
  • Images to print on fabric
  • Ideas for the Sweet Leaf Website I have yet to build
  • Blog This section (though this section has moved into it's own Blog This notebook)
  • Quilting Classes I've taken, dates, or want to take someday
    • Who knows, I might want to become a quilt judge someday, and I might need to keep a record of all this stuff ...
  • Notes on favorite suppliers (and problem suppliers)
  • Mind-mapping experiments (lack of ideas hasn't really been a problem for me, but it was useful to learn the technique)
  • Leaf rubbings to use for patterns later
  • Ideas for fabric postcards
  • Sketches and drawing of architectural details (sometimes found on a candybar, or a bank railing in France ... ideas can come from anywhere!)
  • clippings from magazines glues in for inspiration
  • techniques I want to try
  • snippents of poetry and songs that inspire
  • The list goes on and on ...
I used to love going to office supply stores. I loved the paper aisles--all that blank paper--all that potential just waiting to be written on! Just waiting to become something else!

A sketchbook is yours to fill up as you see fit! You don't even have to show it to anyone if you don't want to do so. I hope some of you do start a sketchbook soon ... It's amazing to see how ideas start to build. Pretty soon, you'll have a whole library to draw on!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Inspiration from the Water Garden

Since the water lilies are blooming in my water garden, I thought it might be a good time to post this wall hanging, finished in 2004. I apologize for the poor photo -- The creases should be steamed out. This piece has been in storage for a while, so it's a little warped at present ...

Detail of dragon fly in Water Garden.

The pattern is modified version of Stephen Seifert's pattern in Foundation Pieced Nature Quilts.
I'm not much of a foundation-piecer, so I used fusible web applique with a satin edge stitch. I also changed the perspective of the water lily as I wanted to show off the flower petals. Overlaying everything is a collossal dragon fly with silk wings. All other fabrics are cotton. When I pre-washed the silk, it "crinkled-up" and took on an interesting texture perfect for dragonfly wings. This was the first piece I used beads for embellishments.

Here are the water lilies in my pond that inspired the wall hanging above.

My pond is a 110-gallon stock tank from Fleet Farm, the kind horses and cattle use for drinking water. It stays above ground because I just don't have the gumption, or energy, to dig it into the ground. What you do not see in this photo are the 2 beautiful goldfish I bought about 5 years ago when I set up the pond for the first time. I think they were 29-cents each. I never bothered to name them because I didn't think they'd live for long. If they didn't get sick and die, some bird or raccoon would pluck them out of the water. That hasn't happened yet! They eat lake flies, bugs, and algae all summer. Before Halloween, I tear down the pond and transfer plants and fish to their winter quarters in the basement where everything goes dormant until spring. It's a system that seems to be working remarkably well.

When I bought plants, I got them mail-order from a wonderful place in Sugar City, Colorodo : The owner actually bothered to spend time, via email and phone, helping me choose appropriate plants for my small pond. I really appreciated her time with me then, and I've become a loyal customer. Now the plants are fat and happily established (as you can see).

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Summer is for Mess-Making : Shaving Cream Dye Experiments

Last week, my 6-year old and I made a royal mess in the backyard. This is a great project to do with a kid. He loved it!

Instructions came from Dharma for Shaving Cream Dying.

We were able to get some of the beautiful marbled textures above, without investing in the equipment and materials for yet another surface technique (marbling).

What worked really well?
  • Using the pink sheet of insulation as a work surface was great. Though I was surprised at the initial cost ($26 for the sheet from a local building supplier), it makes clean-up a snap! All you have to do is hose it off and set it out to dry. This was a tip given to me by Evelyn Byler, the Hand-Dyer (and artist) at Sulky who was gracious enough to give me some tips and advice, along with samples when I was first getting started with hand-dying.
  • At some points, I was trying to fill the fat-1/4 with the marbled dye patterns we had layed out. Near then end, I was running out. Afterwards, I discovered that the less busy areas were just as pleasing, giving they eye a chance to rest.

What would I do different next time?
  • After dissolving the dye powder initially, use less water when adding the shaving cream. We had a problem with the watery liquid dye separating from the foamy shaving cream. This happened not only in the mixing cup where the layers were very definate, but also on the pallet. At one point I poured some of the dye on top of the shaving cream. It ran right through it, so that the shaving cream floated on top like a cloud. Then the dye started to run out the side far and away from the shaving cream. We got some beautiful colors that way, but it wasn't quite shaving cream dye anymore.

  • Use a tray to contain the dye (as the instructions suggest) from running down the incline of the insulation sheet on our lawn.
  • We were using a wire whip (analog) to whip up the shaving cream, but probably a electric mixer would have been a better choice to more thoroughly do the job.
  • I'd get the sheet of pink insulation up and off of the ground--up on tables or work horses, maybe. I must be getting old--crouching down to work on the ground was hard on my back.
  • Next time, we'll hold back and not blend the colors so much in the shaving cream. They were starting to get a little muddy (you know purple bruise color) in places. Oliver was having a lot of fun mixing and playing with the medium of shaving cream with the addition of color.
I wonder--would this method work with Koolaid as a dye? Oliver's hands got pretty full of dye, as I didn't have rubber gloves to fit him.

Thrift Store Find : Stencils

I recently read Pepper Cory's book, Mastering Quilt Marking.

Check WorldCat for a library near you, or Amazon for more info.

One thing the author suggested was to invest in stencils to make the arduous task of quilt marking easier. In my mind, I thought, "Great! another way to spend money on my hobbies."

Well, I also believe in the idea that "Where there's a need, the Universe provides." You just have to put in your request for it to manifest. On a recent stroll through my favorite local thrift store, I discovered a big bag full of stencils for quilting and painting--probably 25 stencils for $3. What a bargain! The set included some classic stencils like feathers, cables, meandering, and cross-hatch.

Anytime I purchase 2nd-hand items from the thrift store or a rummage sale, I always feel good about having found a bargain and about the recycling aspect--saving usable items from the landfill. Beyond that, I usually start thinking about the past history of the item(s), about the owner(s) ... What were they like? Did the woman who collected all these stencils use them? Did she also find them at a thrift store, or did she collect them one-at-a-time Many have price stickers for a store I've never heard of : House of Stencils in Canada. Did someone give them to her? Why did she give them up? Did she die, or was she moved into a nursing home as her family had to pare down her belongings to what would fit into a single room? Did she just decide she no longer enjoyed quilting? Did she put them in a rummage sale herself and these didn't sell, so they were taken to the thrift store? Or was it something more glamorous than that --- She is traveling North America in an RV, and just doesn't have room for all this stuff anymore ... Maybe she decided to join the Peace Corps and is helping to plant trees, or delivering HIV/AIDS medications on a bicycle as a visiting health-care worker in Africa. I don't know ... I do know that I've got all the stencils I could want now.