Potted Lana and a reminder to wash!!

I have always enjoyed working with wool felt and making cushions is usually a quick project. I found the most beautiful wool project pattern in a book called “Summer Gatherings” by Lisa Bonegan from Primitive Gatherings and decided to make a new cushion.

The background fabric looked ideal – part wool and part viscose and in the dark black colour I wanted.  Excitedly I cut out the tiny flowers (80 plus of them) and the rest of the pattern pieces, but when I started to buttonhole the felted wool to the background, I found my fingers changing colour – to a deep black/blue!!  Realising that the fabric may also cause the colour to ‘migrate’ to my chairs or garments, I reluctantly decided I needed to wash the background fabric to get some of the dye out.  And the dye did come out!! I washed and washed and rinsed and rinsed!!

The first pot of blooms was well felted and the little flowers started to curl up – something I didn’t mind as it gave another dimension to the flowers.  I now just have to complete the other pots of flowers and  wash the flowers so that they mimic the first pot – AND give the finished piece a good press with the iron !

Felted blooms

The Lana worked well – it easily ” sinks in”  to the felted wool, and is so great to use from the spool.  I usually work with short lengths and with the extensive range of colours, I can always find a close match to the wool felt I use.

Next on the list is to try embroidering with Lana on a linen background.

Making Bias Strips Without Bars

I have recently started a small project from Deborah Kemball’s book Beautiful Botanicals.  (www.deborahkemball.com)  In her designs she uses lots of fine bias strips to make stems.  She constructs her bias strips without the use of bias bars.  This method appeals because it is less fiddly and you don’t have to labour over the preparation.  In addition,because you don’t have to use your iron in the preparation, it is good for occasions when you are away from home.  And you don’t run the risk of burning your fingers as you iron those tricky strips!

First of all cut your strips on the bias.  This is important if you want to sew curves.  (However, if you are using your strips for straight lines you can cut your fabric with the grain).  Deborah recommends cutting strips at 3/8 of an inch which makes very fine bias strip.  Experiment with different widths to achieve the look your prefer.  For my project, I cut my strips 1/2″ wide.

Mark your design, using your preferred method, on your background fabric.  Take your bias strip and place it, right sides together,  along the inside curve of the marked curve, as in the photo.  It is important to sew the inside curve first, so that the stretch of the fabric can accommodate the larger distance on the outside of the curve.

Stitch about 1/8″ in from the edge,  along the upper edge of the bias strip, using a neat back-stitch or running stitch.  I use Aurifil Cotton in 50 weight for my hand applique because it is so smooth and fine.  Here I have deliberately used a contrasting colour so that you can see where I have stitched.

Stitching the bias strip to the background.

Next, finger-press the raw edge up to the stitch line.

Finger press the raw edge to meet the stitching.

Now fold it over again so that the folded edge aligns with the marked curve on your background fabric and applique stitch it in place.

Appliqueing the folded side in place.

The finished curve looks like this.

The finished bias curve.

If you are sewing a curve which waves in two or more directions, you must make each section of the curve separately, so that you are always sewing the inside part of the curve first.  When you have finished one section, rotate your work 180 degrees and work on the next section.

The partially completed bias strips on my current project look like this:

Bias strips on my current project.

And if you think this looks slightly familiar,  it’s because it featured in my patchwork project pantry from a previous blog post!!

Shibori Truancy

I played truant from the office recently to spend a day with friends at a Shibori workshop. What fun!

Mary's "Chinese Pine" design after it has been in the dye bath.

I thought Shibori designs were created by wrapping the fabric with heavy thread, or twine, but we discovered that this was only one method.

The method that we used in the workshop actually involved a lot of stitching.

Preparing my "Chinese Pine" design, stitching with a thread that was a little too thick.

Here I have a very sad confession, as the owner of a business that specialises in thread, I took all the WRONG threads to the workshop!

As I said earlier, I was expecting to need a heavy thread to wrap / tie the fabric to create the designs so I took a heavy crochet cotton (luckily I did not take the string that we use to tie up the paper recycle!).

Others in the group had also taken thicker threads although, fortunately, Gwen had a nice fine crochet thread in her collection that she shared with the group.

Of course, because I had packed a thick thread I had also packed a BIG needle in my workshop kit.  Next time I will know better.

However, this turned out to be an excellent lesson in the value of using the right thread for the job.

  • Some of the thick threads, that appeared to be strong, did not pass the “snap” test and were deemed by the tutor to be unsuitable. … looks can be deceiving.
  • Some of the threads had a coarse twist and were difficult to pull through the fabric to create the stitched designs.

A thicker thread was also more difficult to gather up to create the “resist” pattern

After the design has been stitched, the threads have to be gathered up to pull up the fabric to create the “resist” patterns.

I tried  three different threads for my stitched designs:

  • the coarse one,
  • a thick but smoother crochet cotton (shown in the top photo) and
  • Gwen’s fine, very smooth, crochet cotton

Of the three, I have to say that the finer, smooth, cotton was the easiest to use for stitching as it didn’t grab the fabric as I made a stitch.

Further, after we had finished our first sampler Gail, another friend,  pointed out that using a thick thread with a big needle meant that the needle holes were visible after the fabric had been dyed.

The last, tricky technique that we had to master was unpicking our stitching while the fabric was still wet. This is not an easy task  … it was not possible to simply “pull” the gathered stitches out, they had to be cut out and we did not want to accidentally cut our beautiful fabrics at this stage.

  • We all found that our white cotton crochet threads picked up the dye at much the same rate as our white fabrics so it was quite tricky to selectively cut the thread without cutting the fabric

Unpicking the stitching required great care, and attention, as the white thread picked up as much dye as the fabric and was well disguised.

I decided that the black thread that I had used for the “Chinese Pine” design was the easiest to remove … it was a smooth thread and it was visible as a different colour to the dyed fabric.

Knowing what I now know about preparing shibori designs with stitching, I have to say that next time I will use Cotton Mako’ 12, in a rich colour,  as this good quality, smoothly twisted, thread will make it much easier to stitch & gather up the designs and will be visible when it is time to remove the thread.

Next time I will use the nice smooth, evenly twisted, Cotton Mako' 12 in an unusual colour

I think that it could also be fun to experiment using the Cotton Mako’ 40 to stitch closer rows of folds to create a finer more delicate design.

This colour of cotton Mako' 40 would also work

I have to say that during this workshop it was obvious that a good quality, well made thread, made the stitching easier, and faster.

When there are so many beautiful threads available, it really is false economy, and a waste of creative time, to use just any old thread no matter what the task.

I wonder when we can have another shibori day … my head is buzzing with ideas.

Read more about Shibori, written by people who really know what they are doing:

Japanese Textiles (From a Westerners pespective)

Smitha Nayar’s Blog