Sunday, March 30, 2008

Snow Dyeing

The Dye Studio is usually closed for winter, just because the basement is too cold to work in for long (a cozy 45 degrees down there!). But a few people in Blogland have been experimenting with Snow Dyeing and getting some wonderful watercolor-like results. I decided I had to try it while we still had a little snow. It's melting fast now.

Basically, the technique is as follows :
1) Pre-soak cloth in soda ash solution
2) Arrange fabric in lumpy pancaske fashion
3) Pile snow on top
4) Pour on dyes
It's reminiscent of snow cones with sugar syrup.

5) Leave the snow to melt

After 1 hour

The next morning with dye soaked through snow. Not all the snow has melted in my cool basement.

6) Pour off excess dye, and remove the remaining snow (if any remains).

7) Rinse
Voila! Here are some more pictures :

The colors I used were from ProChem :
Teal Blue
Leaf Green

Here are a few "stuff and dump" pieces to use the extra dye. I did sort of a gradation with 1/4 cup dye + 1/2 cup H20 in bottom of cup with fabric stuffed in + 1/4 cup full strength dye on top. These came out rather nicely.

Mulberry and Purple

Leaf Greens

Teal Blues

Cheesecloth Sop Cloths and "parfaits" made with leftover dye :

I want to try more of this!

Note on the colors : To my eyes, the colors in this dye session turned out brighter than in my summer dye sessions. So what did I do differently? Although I soaked these in warm water for several hours a couple of times, I did NOT run them through the washing machine with Synthropol or any other detergent. I'm wondering if the Synthropol was so strong (even a little bit?) that it took the color out of my newly dyed fabrics?

Polymer Clay Experiments

I've been wanting to make this little thing for 2-3 years now, ever since I saw it on HGtv on the Carol Duval show.

Instructions / Tutorial is here. It was also helpful to get the book, Liquid Polymer Clay by Ann Mitchell and Karen Mitchell. (Remember your local public library if you just want to take a look.)

The flat pieces are okay, but the 3-D construction looks kind of clumsy. And the Transfer Clay (windows) were an interesting experiment, but I don't feel compelled to do more of it.

Here's what I did with some of the leftover clay :

I've decided THIS is the way to go with hand-made beads. It's a much more pleasing texture than the shrinky-dink beads. Using the techniques described by Ann/Karen Mitchell, I used a rubber mat texture plate brushed with PearlEx powder to add the luster, and run through the pasta machine.

I even bought a pasta machine to dedicate to polymer clay. My intention was to make this candle holder and then turn the pasta maker over to Oliver who wants to be a potter when he grows up. Maybe we'll have to share this tool for a while ... I don't think I'll try too many more 3-D structures such as the candle holder, but the flat-textured pieces and beads are fun!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Oliver's Mess-Making Night with Mumma : Shrinky Dinks, Beads & Baubles

We used the following tutorial to make these beads.

Ingredients :
White Shrinky-Dink Sheet
Inks (alcohol based) with metallic shimmer
Soft Pastels (like chalks)

Oliver used permanent markers and ink stamps.

We decorated the sheets. Sandpaper helps rough up the surface so that the soft pastels stick to it (otherwise, it's too slick).

Cut them into pieces and bake them.

Beware : The blue piece above has a slight piece hanging off the edge. I thought that wouldn't be a problem because it would shrink up and they'd all fit on the pan. Well, when it shrunk up, it fell off the pan and onto the bottom of the oven .... Eeesh! That was a stinky mess. I wonder how many years I shaved off my life with that exposure!

They curl up and can get wavy.

The next step is to get the heat tool and re-heat and roll them into beads. I tried flattening the end pieces to get a "squarer" bead. But that didn't really seem to work very well.

Finally, I rubbed them with Rub n Buff as the the white edges were a little too stark.

Interesting side note (Surprise!) : The cup of rinse water for the paint brush (I painted my stamps with a brush) was amazing with the heavy metallic inks. It swirled and moved like The Northern LIghts.

I also decided to save that rinse water in a spray bottle to use as a color wash. We'll see how well it works.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Best Tips from FVTC Sewing Expo 2008

Must-have tools :

Grid-maker - useful for quickly marking a grid

Supreme Slider at It has a teflon top, self-stick backing making moving your piece effortless

3 in 1 P.E.T - an expansion table, storage tray, and light box. APparently you can get a special price on them at the big quilt shows.

Clover White Marker - good for marking dark fabrics. May take a moment to appear

Totally Awesome Stain Remover - at Dollar Stores
Wool Wash - at Dollar Stores

Orvis WaPaste (spelling?) - at farm supply stores (Fleet Farm), used to wash sheep and horses. Same stuff as Orvis Quilt Wash, but for a better price.

Curved Snips make it safer to snip the threads, not cut your quilt top. Get the ones from surgical suppliers.

Basting Pins - Joanie Zeier Poole likes to use those little golden (brass) pins (also found at dollar shops). They are easy to open and close, won't tear your fabric (They're more likely to break before they rip your fabric.), and don't leave large holes. And they don't take up a lot of space on the quilt top.

Kanson Tracing Paper - goes through the printer and is available at University Supply sotres.

A Ping Pong table might be a good tool to have on hand for basting quilts. (I'll have to comb the thrift stores for a collapsible PingPong table ...)

These are just some of the tips I picked up from the ladies in the classes I attened. There were hundreds of ladies there on Saturday. Just think of all the knowledge and tips I missed!

FVTC Sewing Expo : Saturday Workshops and Wrap-up

I attended several energetic and informative lectures by Wendy Bulter Berns on color, picture quilts, and borders. She talked about value, as much as color. She said that if you run out of a certain fabric, you can combine several other fabrics of the same value. From a distance, it will look the same. Now I have a much better understanding of VALUE. Something clicked for me at that lecture. Just looking at the hair on The Little Gardners, you get the idea of what sh'e talking about with VALUE.

She also said DecorBond Fusible Interfacing is a great stabilizer and serves to hold together the pieces of her form of applique before it's stitched.

I bought her book, Photo Album Quilts :

It is re-assuring to see that she used some of the same basic techniques I used to go from the Oliver-blowing-bubbles photograph. She does a lot more with value and color.

Another Lecture : What to do with 5-inch squares / Charm Packs?
This lady also had to cancel for health reasons, so she sent her sister. Also with little preparation, she put on an entertaining program. The books she recommended were :
Nickle Quilts, More Nickle Quilts, and Charm Quilts.

At Christmas-time, I had asked for a charm pack--a single charm pack. I got 3 or 4 charm packs. What to do with them? Now I have some ideas ...

I suppose Chinese Coins would also be a good pattern.

The speaker was a quilt-shop owner. She said that we should be careful/beware with the pattens produced to utilize charm packs. Some of them are designed to sell more fabric, and not necessarily use the fabric efficiently.

Pauline Richards finished out the day with Needle Felting by machine and by hand. She also just recently published a book :

I'm glad she put this book out, because other books seem to emphasize the $300 felting machines (like I need another toy!).

She said she does a lot of her felting work traveling on planes. That surprised me a little, but seems more appealing than other types of handwork while traveling. I was surprised that she was able to take those needle-felting needles on a plane. Perhaps that's what I'll take on my next trip!

Free-Motion Quilting with Joanie Z. Poole

2 days of live classes and demos, vendors, and Quilts, Quilts, Quilts at the Fox Valley Tech's Sewing Expo.

The Friday Class :
Diane Gaudynski (the Free-Motion Goddess) was not able to attend due to a family emergency. (Our thoughts are with you, Diane!) Joanie Zeier Poole filled in. JZP was very knowledgeable and did a nice job with only 48 hours notice. She has 2 books (1 on patterns; 1 on design) out, and a 3rd (on navigation) due out next fall.

She brought some fantastic heirloom quilts!

Joannie Z. Poole has a degree is graphic design. She has discovered that she loves designing and teaching. She gave some really good advice on a number of topics.

On Batting :
The Hobbs people gave her some sample squares of Hobbs Heirloom Wool Batting to share with us. She uses this wool batting and gets a wonderful Trapunto-like puff with the wool batts without adding an additional layer of poly batting.

I realized I could have brought my batting samples to continue work on the many sample squares yet to go ...

She also said we could buy directly from Hobbs for wholesale prices. They require a minimum order of $100--That seems more than reasonable! I used to be able to get Hobbs 80/20 cotton/poly batts from JoAnne's, but they don't seem to carry them anymore. I've really been wanting to FEEL the new silk batt from Hobbs before I go ahead and order one. Perhaps in Chicago, I'll be able to touch one ... I'll have to look into the buy direct option.

Joanie spent most of the morning lecturing and showing us beautiful samples of her work. She really is an artist! We really didn't get to much hands-on free-motion quilting until the afternoon. She had a lot to say about grids and how to mark them, and navigate the stitching of the basic grid.

Then the task was to mark every other square and stipple to make a checkered grid. I have discovered that I really don't care to stipple (much less micro-stipple). It takes too long to cover too little space. I get tired physically and bored mentally doing the background stippling. It makes me much more interested in DiJanne Cevaal's 72 Ways Not to Meander or Stipple. Then I started to play with other patterns ...

Here, I used a light green thread on a deep purple. The backing fabric is a light purple. The light green seems to look better on the back (pictured).

When I got to practicing the feather plume, I switched to an olive green Aurafil thread. This looks much better on the deep purple, and not so good on the lilac backing fabric. I guess that was part of the lesson--thread colors and the difference it makes, without matching thread colors too closely to the fabric, or contrasting so much that all my mistakes appear.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Progress on the Bonfire Block

I made some progress on the Bonfire Block. The part that tripped me up these many months was somehow adding the words "Trust" and "Faith" to the logs.

So many possibilities :
1) Stencil it in with PaintSticks
2) Have Aunt Rosita spark up her laptop with embroidery machine, and let the machines do it
3) Thread Calligraphy
4) Free-motion embroidery/quilting
5) Applique the letters

In the end, I decided to use Thread Calligraphy. It has been almost 1 year ago that I took an excellent (live) class from Nancy Kazlackas at the local Sewing Expo. It's about time I used it!

With the words on the logs, I could finally attach the fire section. I layered a piece of batting to the back, used my free-motion foot with smoke-colored thread and free-motion zig-zagged around all the edges. Then I trimmed the batting up to the sewn edges. This way, it will give the fire a kind of Trapunto look. It will stand out and puff up a bit more once I add the regular batting and batting and quilt it. Then I can add some sparkles and finishing touches ... The end is in sight!

Mixed Media Class at Joggles : Faux Leather Journal

This is a faux leather journal cover, made from an ordinary brown paper bag. It's another excellent lesson from Sue Bleiweiss, the instructor. I just signed up for a new journal-making class she'll be starting at the end of the month. I'm really looking forward to it!

This one has a coat of Krylon spray as sealant. I'm not sure how durable that will be ... We'll see.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

The Joys of Online Quilting/Mixed Media Classes


  • Much wider range of options and topics than would be available locally with live teachers
  • Classmates from around the world
  • You don't have to pack up a trunk-load of supplies and equipment. You just print your lesson and retreat to the sewing room, or wet studio ...
  • You get to know your computer in new and utilitarian ways
  • Inspiration - Though you may all have the same class assignment, every student puts their own spin and interpretation on it. There is usually a photo gallery where student share pictures of their progress and work.
  • Access to the instructors who can offer encouragement to help you get unstuck by problem-solving and offering suggestions. We can all purchase books filled with techniques, but it's this live interaction with the teacher and classmates that makes the classes so worthwhile.
  • Class assignments with flexible deadlines are incentive to do the work--not wait for the perfect break in your schedule
  • Reasonable rates
  • Lots of ideas come from your classmates--ideas about where to purchase supplies, what worked, and what didn't work. Sometimes the problems are just as instructive as the successes.

  • Getting familiar and comfortable enough with your computer to make an online class work
  • Getting used to a new interface can also be challenging. For instance Quilt University's bulletin board style of posting messages seemed easy and intuitive. It took me a while to figure out how to efficiently work Joggles' class forums (Look for the New Posts links ...)
If you're curious about how an online quilting class works, Quilt University offers a free sample class to let you get the feel of it.

A few Selected Sources for Online Quilting / Mixed Media Classes :
This list is by no means exhaustive. If you have more to add, please leave a comment.

I've successfully taken online classes at :
Quilt University
I took 3 dyeing classes with Marjie McWilliams that I can highly recommend.

Tea Dyed Samples

Quilt Portraits with Marilyn Belford was also top-notch.

Fireworks class was also fun (This was my first online class--I just wanted to see how in the world these things work before I embarked on the Quilt Portraits class with MB).

I took a few others at QU ... including a class with Susan Brittingham where we made free-motion lace :

I took a few Electric Quilt classes, too, but realized that I would much rather sew and make stuff than spend even more time on the computer. I didn't take so well to those, but that was my problem. The teachers were top-notch authors who know the subjects well!

Sue Bleiweiss's Mixed Media Surfaces class was a lot of fun! I'm just finishing it up now.

I have not taken classes with the following, so I can't vouch for them :
Embellished Cloth Community
Linda Kemshall - City & Guilds Program
Quilt Campus
Quilter's Threads - Click Online Classes
Quilters Keep Learning
Sharon Schamber Network - She seems to use actual video to teach, including lessons on long-arm quilting.

Many more quilt teachers are starting to offer online classes and tutorials on their own.

There are also a number of video demonstrations and lectures out there as well. Although these don't offer the interaction with other live students, these are also very useful, educational and inspiring!

Online Quilt Classes open up a whole new world of possibilities! I hope some of you try them!

[This entry updated May 3, 2008]