Sunday, September 23, 2007

(Attempted) Skin Tones : Parts 3 and 4

The quest for perfectly hand-dyed skin tones continues ...
See Parts 1 and 2 for the story up until now.

Here are the results of the test that Melissa from Fabric Dyeing 101 recommended in order to isolate and remedy the problem I seem to be having with results. It appears that the yellow wasn't contributing enough and the fuschia was overpowering everything else.

So I tried putting in a little more golden yellow to see if that would "normalize" the colors suitable for skin tones. I also tried a white muslin to start with. The aurora takes the colors so well and deepens them--which is GREAT for landscape colors, but not so great for what I'm after here ... In the test above, the small swatches are Aurora Muslin.

Still too green for skin tones. I might blame the Cotton Black being too green ... except not all the greens had black in it ...

Next I tried backing off on the Fuschia (I've got enough pink-ish fat quarters by now!) and doubling the yellow. These look more like what I'm after, but they look too washed out and lack vibrancy :

The Dyeing season is just about over for me now. I'm giving up on this project. Dyeing is a summer activity. When it's too hot to be in my sewing room upstairs, I retreat to the basement where it's cool and dark ...

I guess the lesson here is Hand dyeing is great if you're not expecting anything in particular. I have so many greens now, I'd better start making some tress!

Autumn Update

It's been a while since my last post. I've been busy ...

I helped Oliver make a Star Wars Quillow [Pattern from Fons & Porter]. I did all the cutting and planning; Oliver picked the fabric theme and did most of the sewing himself. He loves his new quillow. It didn't take very long, and it's really simple sewing. It's a good project for a kid to start out on. I'm amazed at how good he is at operating the sewing machine ... I remember when I was learning to sew in first grade, there were a lot of starts and stops, sewing too fast or slow, and lots of ripping. Oliver seems to have the hang of operating the foot petal and pulling out pins before sewing over them. He sews at a nice even and steady pace. I was impressed. I suppose all the time he spends on the computer contributes to his well-developed sense of hand-eye coordination.

My regular sewing machine (Viking Rose) is in the shop, so I've been using the old stand-by Rikkar. It's a basic sewing machine--and I'm amazed at what I can accomplish with just this plain old regular sewing machine. This is the one I learned to do free-motion on.

Slow-but-sure I've been making progress finishing the machine quilted borders on the Kaliedescope quilt. A few more Sundays and it should be complete--only 11 months from start to finish. I tried the quilting in sections method ... It worked in terms of less struggling with the bulk of a whole quilt while trying to manipulate it under a regular domestic sewing machine. But I'm still thinking the answer is a long-arm quilting machine and having the quilt on a frame. Ahhh--some day! In the meantime, stay tuned for the finished quilt!

What else have I been doing? Re-habbing a 100-year-old treadle sewing machine. It is now fully cleaned, oiled, and lubed. It has a new treadle belt, and new long bobbins. Things seems to be in good working order, I even got it to wind a bobbin this afternoon. Still, something's not quite right. When I tried to sew a scrap piece of fabric, the top thread won't catch the bobbin thread--so no stitches. But I'm working on it. I'm sure someone at TreadleOn will know what's going on ...

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Everyday Inspiration : What am I?

Inspiration from everyday things ... What am I?

Scroll down to find out ...

A blue glass bowl sitting on the counter waiting to be washed with sunlight streaming through it.
Oliver's breakfast again : Yogurt.

It makes me think about using yogurt to "fingerpaint." It would certainly be non-toxic and easy to clean up. And a neat way to make surface designs ...

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Everyday Inspiration : Oliver's Breakfast

Inspiration can come from the most mundane places ... Here's a photo of Oliver's half-eaten jammy toast one morning. It was just so pleasing, I had to take a picture.

Maybe one day I will make a red, white and tan quilt with this block arrangement. Enjoy!

Mystery Solved : Vintage Sewing Machine Identified as National VB2

Thanks to the great people at The International Sewing Machine Collectors Society (ISMACs) who helped me to identify my "new" purchase as a "National VB 2." It was probably made between 1890 and 1910. Serial Number 1287755.

Apparently, it's a "knock-off" of a Singer Vibrating Shuttle 2 (later Model 27). National made these "badge" machines as generics that other companies branded as their own (like Sears, Montgomery Ward, local hardware stores, etc.). That's why so many machines tend to look alike, but have different names across the top.

I had originally thought I would NOT try using this vintage machine for any actual sewing projects, but with the encouragement of several ISMACs enthusiasts, I am planning to clean it up, get a few missing parts, and treadle away on some real projects (yet to be determined).

I am discovering that there is a whole world out there of treadlers who prefer the antique sewing machines to modern day sewing machines. One woman, Damascus Annie, has a business machine-quilting on exclusively treadle machines. Her clientele want an authentic antique look to their quilts. You can see her wonderful studio with the various machines and learn more about treadles here. There are treadle machines that allow for free-motion stitching--and here I thought this was a new innovation!

This has opened up a whole new world to me. The research is also fun, interesting and challenging--kind of like a treasure hunt. One clue leads to the next ... I'm looking forward to identifying and possibly collecting a few more treadles, restoring them and using them. Woo-hoo! Way to get off the power grid!

Singer has a good program to identify and age their old machines. You can call their 1-800-number, provide a serial number, and they can tell you the model, when and where it was made. Singer also has a website for checking serial numbers. Even White offers this service (to some degree). There is also a woman collecting White serial numbers to document some of the holes in the company's manufacturing record.

But how do you research a machine from a company that went out of business in 1957 (like National did)? Try some of the following sources :

ISMACs - International Sewing Machine Collectors' Society
They offer a listserv where you can describe what you've got, and the knowledgeable members will offer their best guess as to what it is.

Needlebar - Another group of people interested in researching the history of old-timey sewing machines. The offer many pictures to help you identify what you might have.

TreadleOn - Is a wonderfully informative website and society that actually promotes the use of antique treadle sewing machines, as opposed to just collecting them for decoration

Book : Charles Law's Encyclopedia of Antique Sewing Machines
This can be very useful if you can find a copy, or someone who does own it. This week, only 1 copy was available on Amazon used Books for $200. Only a handful of libraries seem to carry it as well, one of them being The Library of Congress--and I'm not sure how willing they are to share it. Seems like this type of book would be considered non-circulating reference material.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Dye and Fabric Tests

Inspired by Ann from CA in a recent Quilt University dyers' class, and Vicki Welsh at Field Trips in Fiber, I decided to run a test on sample dye fabrics to see which one(s) work best for my dye conditions (humidity, water chemistry, etc.).

I ordered / requested samples from Dye Artist Fabrics and Batiks, etc. as well as testing a few things purchased locally.

Here's the Legend :
1- Dye Artist Fabric (DAF) - Lawn - $6.59/yd
2-DAF - Dyer's Cloth - $2.95/yd
3-DAF - Sateen - $6.99/yd
4-DAF - Pimatex - $5.39/yd
5-DAF - Kona Cotton - $4.39/yd.
6-Batiks, etc. - Pimatex PFD Bleach White - $6.50/yd
7-Batiks, etc. - Radiance - $12.50/yd
8-Batiks, etc. - Prima Cotton- Vintage White - $5.75/yd.
9-Batiks, etc. - Kona Cotton - White $5.50/yd.
10-Batiks, etc. - Ultra Sateen - $9.00/yd
11-Batiks, etc. - Hoffman White - $6.50/yd
12-Batiks, etc. - Aurora Muslin - $3.25/yd
13- Roclon - Ultra Muslin
14-Hobby Lobby - Kona Cotton - Snow White $4/yd
15- 100% Cotton of unknown origin
16-Walmart Muslin $3.44 / yd
17- Laundered Linen (leftover from my wedding dress)
18- Mystery Muslin
19-JoAnn Fabrics - 200 Count Muslin
20-Hobby Lobby - Muslin 97 cents / yard

Notes on samples shown : I only had enough samples to do 1-12 in both fuschia and blue. I didn't have samples to test in yellow. The 2nd page consists of samples (from my stash) 13-20 in all three colors.

I was hoping these results would give me a solid and definitive answer so I could buy a bolt to have on hand and have this question settled. But what I discovered is : It depends on the effect you're looking for, and the cost and weight of the fabric you want to work with.

Everything from Dye Artist Fabrics and Batiks etc. seemed to take the color beautifully.

My own stash stuff seemed to dye up a little duller, not so bright (maybe bleached or otherwise treated?). Some had splotches (bleach?), not the lovely and sought-after mottled effect.

Highlights : The Linen dyed up beautifully in all three colors--deep and bright, with a nice luster. Not exactly good material for quilting, though.

DAF Lawn is very thin and frays easily. I like to have a heavier weight cotton.

I must have gotten a bad batch of Kona Cotton along the way, because the KK from my stash dyed with splotches, while the Kona Cotton from the fabric suppliers was fine.

Surprises :
* Some fabrics seemed to take 1 color beautifully, but were just okay in another color.
* The most expensive fabric didn't necessarily offer the best / desired results.
* The Aurora (which I have been using) comes out darker and deeper than the other natural colored muslins. That's fine if that's the effect you want, but it won't always be what I'm aiming for.

So what am I going to purchase? I don't know yet ... What do you think?

Northern Lights Post Card #3

Made with some satin-ny blue and green fabric that had the sparkles already adheared. Purple trees in the foreground. I thread-painted the trees in black, but I think I'll use a sparkly dark green next time ... This one has real possibilities for a larger version!

Sunday, September 02, 2007

(Attempted) Skin Tones - Part 2

Here's my second attempt at dyeing skin tones according to Melissa's recipe at Fabric Dyeing 101.

Here's the first attempt with ProChem dyes :

Here's what I was shooting for (Melissa's example) :

This time, I used the same G&S Dyes from Canada that Melissa used, hoping for better results than the translated colors from ProChem. In the dye pots, things looked promising--rich and rosier colors ... but in the rinse cycle, the rosy colors went down the drain, leaving me with the alien green skin tones. Sigh!

Lesson Learned :
Dyes are not the same from different dye houses.
The dye powder for ProChem's Chino is muddier, browner.
The dye powder for G&S's Chino is brighter, brassier and warmer ...

Next steps : I will try re-dying / over-dying the ones that seemed to lose the red/fuschia to see if it will stick this time.
Check temperatures for water. Am I using water that is too hot?

Here's the Third Round where I took the first 4 fabs from sets 1 and 2 above, and over-dyed them with the fuschia that seemed to disappear :

I thought that came out too intense, so I took these outside with a spray bottle of bleach solution(1 cup water + 2/3 cup bleach) and discharged them for less than 5 minutes :
They're looking better, but still not quite right for skin. Hmmmh ....

Maybe I'll try Dharma's Chino, yet, too ... This has become quite a challenge for me!

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Oliver on Exhibit in Madison

My "Oliver" Portrait Quilt will be on display at The Quilt Expo in Madison, WI, Sept. 13-14-15, 2007. Stop in to see it LIVE, if you're in the area. I plan to be there on the 15th (Saturday) oohhing and aahhing over everyone else's luscious contributions. See you there!

It is an honor to be part of this show with other Wisconsin Quilters!