Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Windows and cake!

I finally finished my Cathedral Window sample this week.  It's only 12" square, but seemed to take quite a long time to construct it.  I guess that the benefit is that once you've stitched it, it's done - no need for backing or wadding as it already has a finished back and sufficient layers to be heavy / warm!

Of course, me being me, I have had to look up different methods.  As much because I want to use this type of effect (well, the effect of a single block, rather than the sixteen in this sample) on bag pockets where I won't want such bulk, as to find a faster method.

I've found two methods that are similar, that leave you with an unbacked / unfinished block - perfect for what I wanted.  I shall spend some of my sewing time this week making these as samples too.  This is one of the methods
 for faux cathedral window blocks using a large square in the middle.  The other method I found in a magazine called 'Bags, Beads and Brooches' by Nina B and uses 4 small squares folded in half diagonally and sewn onto the four background squares to make that 'square within a square' pattern that can then have the bias edges rolled back around a 'window' of focus fabric.   Lots of fun!

The other fun that we've been having this week is to celebrate DD1s birthday.  Can you guess how old she is?  (Can you guess how old I feel?  if you've guessed anything over 88 you are correct.  It turns out that even if you aren't having an actual party, just a few friends around for a birthday tea, it can be quite noisy and tiring as a parent!).

Now I just need to gird my loins (metaphorically.  In reality I need to straighten out my back, hips and right shoulder!) ready for the excitement of Easter and the school holidays!

I did laugh yesterday.  One of my DH's colleagues swears blind that she won't be laying a trail of chocolate eggs on behalf of the Easter Bunny this year, like she has every other year.......her daughter has just turned 20!  Looks like I've got a lot more years of Easter surprises than I'd thought ahead of me!

Hope that your spring isn't too chilly to have fun.  Happy Easter!

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Textile Bravery!

These little 'fluffies' were the result of  a mini needle felting workshop given by Hilary, one of my quilt group members at last week's meeting.

Of course, DD1 looked at it over breakfast the next day, and got very excited as she thought that she'd be allowed a go too.  Gulp!  A frisky 9 year old and a very sharp barbed needle being stabbed up and down a lot....what could possibly go wrong?  I decided to be brave, spent £15 on eBay, and became the proud owner of these lovely colours of wool and 5 felting needles.

By Saturday I was brave enough to allow DD1 (right) and one of her friends, and their younger sisters to all have a go at needle felting!  They were great - imaginative and focused.  Yes, we did need one plaster.  Yes, 3 out of 4 claimed to have pricked their finger at least once.  No, it wasn't as bad as I thought it might be!  My bravery was rewarded!

These are just some of the items that they produced - we also had trees and another egg or two, in addition to the rainbow scarf, glasses, and all sorts!  A couple of brooch backs were added, and a good time was had by all.  I think that the girls were pleased not only that they'd been able to make some lovely items, but that there was yet another craft that they hadn't realised existed before!

My next bit of bravery was to experiment again with some hand dyes.  Once again following on from the quilt meeting, were I'd talked to someone who said that she washed all her hand dyed pieces together in one wash, not finding the need to separate them by colour family when she was rinsing / washing them.  I used the last of the dyes that I had mixed last week and set up a range of colours.  After about 36 hours I slopped them from their plastic bags and into the washing machine - all in one load with a couple of colour catchers - and pressed the 'start' button.

These colour catchers show the progression of 'loose dye' reduction - but it took five lots of 59 minute washes to get to the bottom pale blue.....so still not completely free of loose dye, but well on the way.  I'm not sure that I'm desperately comfortable with the amount of resource that it takes in order to dye this small amount of fabric, but at least I know that there is an alternative to the (for me almost impossible) tasks of rinsing / washing separately by hand.

My range of hand dyed FQs looks like this now - it must be time to stop admiring them and start using them!
I realise that these are only tiny braveries, insignificant in the world, but they make me happy!  Hope that you are having small happinesses too!

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Fabric to Dye For

I finally did it!  Many, many years after buying Helen Deighan's inspirational book 'Dying in Plastic Bags' I finally did do some dying in plastic bags (and a few bits in a cat little tray too, for good measure).

This is probably my favourite piece - reminds me of Japanese screens - very simply pleated and stuck in a bag with the next two bits shown here.
I thought that I should include a 'sunburst' (a 10p piece and five elastic bands to make this one).
 This one was loosely scrumpled with two elastic bands around it.

Isn't it great that these pieces were all in just one bag of dye?  I'm really pleased with the different effects!

The colours above are just to give you an idea of what my other bag dyed pieces looked like - lovely mottled dying, which is just what I wanted.  Luckily for me they are easy to achieve as it means that you have to work them less rather than more.  I don't know why I can't put this text beside them, though!

I found the whole rinse / wash part rather too taxing to do by hand - so used the washing machine to do lots of it.  A rather nice bonus was this array of colour catchers, which I'm looking forward to using.  I confess to a niggling doubt about whether or not all the spent dye has been caught, though, as I didn't have enough time / colour catchers to get to the point where they were coming out white.....

An interesting conversation at my quilting group last night, though, where I was told that if the dye was spent (so after 24 hours from mixing with the salt / soda to be sure) I should be able to wash all the pieces together, rather than in colour sets.  I feel a little more experimentation coming on (although I only have a limited amount of the white fabric for dying left at the moment!).  If it works I might do more dying in the future, otherwise I'm going to leave it in the 'too physical' pile and move on with other things instead.

Hope that you are having a lovely colourful start to spring too!

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Flaming Dragon Hen!

Should I really be posting my laughable silk painting samples?  Oh, alright, just so that you can learn from my experience, you understand.  I thought that you'd be interested to see how this latest 'fabric colouring' for my C&G turned out.  Interesting, even if it wasn't quite how I expected it to be.

My two top tips for any other inexperienced but aspiring silk painters are as follows: 1) make sure that your gutta line is 'secure' (so that it fully encloses any area you want enclosed) and isn't so thin that you can't see it when you are painting (!); 2) don't spray so much water on to the silk that it bridges the gutta that you so carefully applied!

I'll try to remember this next time I have a go (after all, I still have half a large scarf to use!).

This second piece worked slightly more as I'd intended....but I've still got some way to go until I'd say I was completely happy with what I was doing.

 The rest of the week I've been sewing C&G samples.  This hexie pattern by hand, and then applied to a white background.
This prairie point tree was fun to make - although I'm not sure that the tiny one at the tip of the tree does anything for it!

Away from my C&G course samples, I managed to finish this.  I decided to make a wall hanging from these workshop sample pieces - the dense quilting around the faux trapunto roses meant that any quilt that used these blocks would be a bit too stiff to be cosy.  Although Ferret had suggested that it was possible to beat the bend back into heavily quilted items it all sounded quite physical - not up my street at all!

I opted for a simple zig zag around the edge, topped with a frame of large ric rac.  I think that they look rather like postage stamps now. 

It isn't a quick process, the micro pebbling around the top rose took me almost four hours, I think, but it does give satisfying results.

Off for some much slower hand sewing now - I need to get something done on my cathedral windows sample now.  Of course, I might have hoped to watch TV whilst I was doing this, but I would be unlucky today as it appears that DD2 has hidden the remote control on her way out to school.  Parenting top tip?  Don't start bickering with small children who are holding even smaller bits of technology if there is a chance that you'll want it before school comes out!  Thank goodness for Radio 4, my standard daytime companion!