Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Applique Letters in Cotton - Tutorial

In my fun with fabric I also love to combine quilting with my love of words.  I have and will explore many methods to combine writing and fibers, but this is one of my current favorites for precision and ease of creation.

-Fabrics of choice
-paper backed double sided fusible web (like heat n' bond or wonder under)
-computer, printer, and thin white paper (the thinner the better)
-black pen
-sewing machine
-paper scissors
-small sharp scissors
-hot iron

I start with my letters.  In this case I am working words into my 368 block project.  I know I want 4 E so I will go ahead and make them using this method.  Since this project has 4 inch finished blocks I have a mental idea of the size of the letters I want to wind up with - 3 inches tall or so.

Now I go to the computer.  I am using the word program that came with my laptop - Word Starter 2010.  I believe the setting I will show will be available in most any word type program out there.  What I want to make are letters that are about 3 inches tall when printed, an outline if possible, and in a variety of fun fonts.  I am using all capitals for this run, but this is equally fun to do in lower case.

Some hints for using a word program.  You can make a font larger or smaller than the menu items for font size will show.  In this case I used 250, 300, and 350 depending on the font.  you can also download different fonts, many of which can be free.  I have used 1001 free fonts on several occasions.  You can search using your browser for free font sites, or pay if you will download a lot or want a super specific one.  In the word program there are often fun effects you can do with letters.  One of them may include options that will show an outline.  Word art might also be an option you prefer.  It does not really matter what way you use - you just want a black outline of your letters when you print them.  With that in mind it also doesn't matter if your word art is in color.  You can print it in a color, or change your printer settings to grayscale.  it will print anything not white in a shade of gray or black.

So now I have my letters in the fun fonts I wanted to use.  However, If i trace them as they are on the paper backed fusible, then when I iron the fused fabric to my background my letter will be backwards!  So, time to use some preventative reversible.  I printed the outline in grayscale/black so I could easily trace my letter on the backside of my white paper.  This is where cheaper white paper will come in handy.  Good quality printer paper has a higher fiber content and is reduced in translucence.  Poor quality paper will be much easier to see thru and trace.  As a quick tip - I use the screen on my laptop as a simple lighttable.  I flip it and lay my screen flat and put on something with a white foreground, like a new word document.  Then I can lay my paper on the screen and voila - lighttable!

Once I trace the reverse letter on the back of the paper in a black pen I am ready to trace onto the paper backing of the fusible.  The fusible is a lot more transparent than most printer paper so as long as you used a dark pen ink, it should trace easily.  This can be a good use of scrap fusible if you have some!

now I can use my paper scissors and cut out my letters in the fusible.  I just cut a rough square around my letter - I would rather be precise when I trim the fused fabric.  One I have my letters ready to fuse to the back of my fabric for the letter - a hot iron a steady hand will get me fabric ready to trim.  Once the fusible is on the back of my letter fabric I will use my small sharp scissors to trim carefully on my letter outline.  This is a raw edge applique method - so I will trim directly to the edge of the letter.

Now I have little fabric letters ready to fuse to a background.  Once I have placed them on my background exactly where I want them I will use my hot iron again to fuse them down.  I want a good fuse along the whole edge.  If needed I will use a glue stick along a lose edge prior to sewing.

Once I have my letter fused to my backing it is time to make some choices for finishing the edge.  It this is a wallhanging and you used a heavy weight fusible web, you may leave it with no sewing.  If you will use this project as a home decor item that will get touched and washed, you will want to sew the edge down in some way for long term fastness.

I prefer a sewn edge - this is fabric afterall and part of the fun is having that mix of fibers and the softlook a sewn edge will give.  My favorite stitch for raw edge applique is the blanket stitch on my machine, but as you will see you can use a variety of machine stitches - look to see what you have available.  I look for a stitch that will allow me to make corners, will cover the edge fairly completely, and will allow for a bit of a curve if needed.

Carefully sew your edge down, and voila!  you have a fun letter or word in your project!  Great for monograms, names, or entire quotes - use your imagination!  below are a few personal projects I have done or have in the works.

4 Es, 4 fonts, 4 stitches for finishing

You can even use cursive fonts!  This hangs in my living room.

My first play with this method and words - this hangs in my office.

You can even create effects with fabric choices - Here I have taken 2 fabrics of each letter and layered them for a fun shadow effect in a rambunctious font.  The bright fabrics is a fishy fabric - when used for something like this it has a bright circus effect.

Using 2 fabrics for a shadow again and 3 shades of the same blue fabric for movement.  This is a Mumford and Sons tribute project.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Bleach Stenciling - Tutorial

Today it was a gorgeous sunny day here and I decided to test some bleach stenciling for future projects.  This turned out to be a lot of fun, incredibly fast and easy, and had some fabulous results.  This is something most any fiber crafter can do with common household projects and a little ingenuity.

-Fabrics of choice
-cardboard letter stencils
-2 to 1 bleach solution in spray bottle
-spray baste
-paper towels
-running water and soap

I started with a random selection of fabrics to test.  I used 1 fabric that was a hand dyed batik, and several prints of various tone and scale.  All fabrics had been pre-washed.  I also used a small utility spray bottle and made a solution of about 2 parts bleach 1 part water.  I set the nozzle to the spray setting.

I cut the fabrics 6 inches tall and various widths.  I chose 6 inches as my stencils are 3 inches tall - I wanted to have a bit of a surrounding area to cut down or sew as I may desire.

Spraying back of stencils
I chose a few simple words to start - imagine, be alive, create, and joy.  I sprayed a very light amount of spray baste on the back of my precut cardboard stencils and set them on my fabrics.  Then, I set them outside and sprayed them with my bleach solution.  I sprayed the stenciled area heavily and randomly around the edges.  I personally set them on a bare wood handrail on my back porch and set coffee cups on the corners to keep them from blowing away.  Then I let the bleach do its work.

Due in part to my very strong bleach solution it worked very fast.  The bleach had the biggest impact on the batik fabric - hand dyed fabric has already been treated to accept color changes and the bleach impacts the dyes used very quickly.  The prnted fabrics took a bit more time and had a larger variety of effects based on the prints and the chemicals used in the original print process.

Once I decided a fabric was to the color I wanted it is very simple to deactivate the bleach.  I carefully peeled off the stencils - trying to keep them intact for a later use - and then washed them under running warm water.  Using a bar of soap, I just quickly scrubbed over the fabric and rinsed clean.  I squeezed them as dry as possible then draped them for a while over my shower bar.  An air dry and hot iron later and it was ready to go!

A couple of points of interest - bleach is very bad for the skin.  I would either use gloves (which I did not) or wash your hands well after every contact and then use lotion (which I did).  When washing the bleach out dont be shy about using a nail brush if you like.  I used a bar of soap because that was convenient, and it works well at getting things off me.  If you prefer you can run the finished pieces thru a wash cycle of the washing machine - just don't add it to a load of darks!

Your cardboard stencils wont last forever.  Mine started to peel apart after 3-5 uses.  You could make some out of template plastic.  Or watch for cardboard ones to go on sale in the office dept of the store.  i plan to collect them on sale in various fonts.

Finally - I watched the bleaching process closely.  As bleach is corrosive I would not recommend this on delicate or vintage cottons.  I would also not bleach for more than an hour or so - bleach can and will 'eat' cotton eventually.  You do not want to wind up with a piece of fabric that is brittle and cannot be used in a quilt!

Some fabrics will not accept the bleach at all.  Good for color fastness in projects - bad for this project!  I believe there are pre-treatments you can do to overcome that, but for the purposes of my project I elected not to look into that.  Here you can see a fabric that did not bleach out at all.  I was really hoping it would!

Stencils stuck to the fabric
A light print with heavy contrast doesnt do well - you can't even tell there was bleach added
This is a fun one - black does not bleach to white, it bleaches to a muddy orange!  I love that when you use a tone on tone print the painted print will stay and add a whole new dimension to the bleached out sections.

5 minutes
10 minutes
15 minutes
Washed and ironed - love how the orange kind of glows and the printed floral stayed on
I was unsure how the dark green would do, it seemed to take forever to bleach out.  However, once I say it going i loved how the leaf print stayed a grey item thru the fabric.
15 minutes

20 minutes

25 minutes

Ready to use!

I love this rich blue fabric.  Its fascinating how it bleached out to a grey.  the large print with contrast muddied up the words a bit - something to keep in mind.

10 minutes
15 minutes

20 minutes

Ironed and completed.  A large print like this will show - make sure thats what you want
Now I have several pieces I will have to put into projects - and lots of ideas for more!  Thinking about a project using a favorite word or phrase in several languages.   Adding words to a few ongoing projects.  The possibilities!
This is the hand dyed fabric - a bright burgundy.  I love how this came out

So much possibility!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Tutorial - How I Make HSTs (Half Square Triangles)

I know when I am working on a technique I love to go out into blog world and see what others do.  I tend to either find a technique that appeals to me, or use a combination.  With that in mind I thought others may find this helpful.

HSTs are a bit of a mainstay in quilting.  They are a very strong geometric design element with a limitless possibility for patterns large and small.  You find them in hundreds of traditional quilt blocks and border treatments.  They are also a fabulous addition to any free form design as they tend to draw the eye.  Many quilt designs use HSTs to draw the eye across the quilt.

Since HSTs are so prevalent there are many patterns that call for hundreds and sometimes a thousand or more.  Make that many HSTs can be very tedious and problematic.  Working with the diagonal weave opens up a lot of stretch while sewing and possibility for measuring mistakes and frustrated quilters.  It's also really frustrating to make them one at a time when you may need 20, or 100, or 1000.  I am always looking at ways to make things easier and a bit faster while maintaining or increasing accuracy.  This method is the one that works best for me.

Tools -
Rotary cutter and mat
Sewing machine
2 or more fabrics
Ball point pen
Clear rulers for marking fabric
Optional - 2.5" quare clear ruler with 45 degree mark through the center

To start I usually decide how many HSTs I want to make.  I tend to make extra just incase I made a mistake at any step - design to cutting to sewing.  That way I have substitutes if needed.  For a guild challenge the design I made calls for 244 HSTs, so I elected to make 250+.

Next step is to decide on the size of your HSTs.  I recommend for the square up step you have a square ruler the same size as your HST, but it is not needed - just really nice.  For this project I am making 2.5" HSTs for a finished 2" size.  The mathematical rule for HSTs is to use a square 7/8" larger than your finished size for precise HSTs.  However, I prefer to square mine after sewing them, so I go up to the next inch.  In this case I am using a 3" square base.

I am using a selection of orange and yellow fabrics for my light fabric with a black fabric for the 2nd fabric.  I will draw my line guides on the wrong side of the light colored fabrics.  To start I cut 9" square blocks and equal number of front and back.  The 9" size was arbitrary - I wanted a size that is easily handled under the needle but did not wish to cut a lot of squares with a smaller size.

Next I use my pen on the wrong size of the yellow fabrics and draw out a 3 X 3 grid, basically outlining my squares for the HSTs.  These will be cutting lines so I am not worried about the ink running or showing on the front of the quilt - all of the ink will be cut away or under the seams.

After the straight lines I then draw out my diagonal.  These are going to be both guides for sewing and cutting lines.  I am only drawing a diagonal once through each square.  I also chose a pattern that will make a continuous sewing line in a square shape twice, than a second line on the long diagonal back and forth.

Once I have all the lines drawn I pin my 2 fabrics for the HSTs right side together, and then using my 1/4" sewing foot on my sewing machine I sew a scant quarter inch from all the diagonal lines.  Here I have shown the finished lines on both the front and back of the blocks so you can see.

Next, I start cutting.  If you are very careful and precise you can cut these in stacks with a rotary cutter.  You can also use scissors if you prefer.  I cut the straight lines first, then the diagonals.

Here is where I differ from some people.  I square up my HST before I iron it open.  Using my little square ruler I set it so the 45 degree line is a thread above my sewn line.  I then cut off both the excess edges and the tags along the sides.

 This leaves me with a very precise HST ready to iron open and use in my project!

The cool thing about this method is its great for mass production and can be modified to fit the fabric sizes you have.  I had one piece that would not make the full 9" square so I made it 6" x 9".  Just remember your cutting lines and your sewing lines - you only diagonally sew thru each block once.

Once I got my HSTs made I could start putting together my guild challenge. Here is the start!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Block 126 of 368

This block came about when I realized I have not done a square in square amish block for this project.  Well, it's about time!

I took some solids and did a very traditional amish quilt block.  This is done for a full sized quilt.  Very dramatic and modern results.  As it happened I had the solids for the color way I see the most in this style.

Once I had the top together I elected to use a less traditional back but chose something that makes me think Amish - log houses.  I might never have used this charm square otherwise!  Then for quilting I did a very close echo quilting - less than 1/32 inch from the seam line.  Then in the middle I did a dense grid - again quite traditional for this block.

Voila!  I do love how shades of red work on dark fabrics like this.  Great way to use jewel tone solids.

Block 125 of 368

I have been eyeing the scallop blocks for a while.  While I had my fabric circle cutter out I decided to do a faux scallop block.  Here is the result.

i took 1.5" circles in a variety of fabrics and layered them.  I went from one corner to the other, not thinking about how this would set the scallops on the diagonal.

Then I did a blanket stitch around the edges.  The color way was a happy accident, I would never combine these colors on my own.  But I do like how it turned out - as long as it stays this little!

Someday I will try to do a more traditional scallop block - but I like this technique too.

Blocka 121, 122, 123 and 124 of 368

This series was in response to a desire to try out a great tutorial for an easy drunkard's path.  This video shows it in the best way possible - slow and simple.  Got to love that!

However, as happens to many a quilter I am betting, once I got 2 made I still had ideas for layouts!  So, I pulled out some solids to give it even more contrast and fun, and tested away.

The first series of 2 is from a set of fabrics I just love.  I have them in 3 color ways; white with black, black with white, and white with red.  I used the black and white variants for the front and backed both with the red variant. I learned you want to be careful using big prints in the drunkards path - if you do make one of your pieces a solid color for a strong line.  Here the patterns kind of flow together, which can be interesting but loses the drunkards path curves.

Also, for variation 2 I am not sure I would recommend echo quilting.  I cant help but see a pac man in it, lol.  The color variation on the backs is not the fabric, its a shadow I could not seem to get away from while picture taking!

For the second set I pulled all solids to get away from losing the curves in the pattern.  Originally I was going to put green on purple and purple on green, but then I decided to just use light and dark on each other.  I also used 2 different layouts.

 I then picked backs that represented the colors on the front.  For quilting I stuch with echo variants.  I love the way the echo waves of the purple variation worked out.  I was nervous about that block setting at first as it is so asymetrical, but with the quilting it works even on a small scale like this.  On a large scale it is gorgeous.

So, this is my play with drunkard's path in 4 inch blocks.  Love the movement and sheer possibility of this block, almost as basic and easy as HSTs!  No wonder its been used SO much!