A TECHNIQUE DRIVEN Blog dedicated to mastery of surface design techniques. First we dye, overdye, paint, stitch, resist, tie, fold, silk screen, stamp, thermofax, batik, bejewel, stretch, shrink, sprinkle, Smooch, fuse, slice, dice, AND then we set it on fire using a variety of heat tools.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Be A-Frayed, Be Very A-Frayed

I'm Helen Howes, and I'm your Guest Artist for March, on the entertaining and rather compulsive subject of Manipulating Fabrics.

Couple of things - I'm English, so my spelling may worry some of you.. think of it as Trans-Atlantic cultural fusion, or the Language of Shakespeare (he couldn't spell for toffee)

Anyway,  I thought I would start with a relatively new technique - sometimes called Faux Chenille, but also Slashing...

If you haven't seen this before you will think it's rather magical.. if you have, bear with me, as I have a few twists of my own...

Part the first

You need lots of fabric - layers and layers.. it works best with slightly loose weaves (not batiks), hand-dyes, woven colours, solids.. You will find that some printed fabrics look weird, as the white backs take over the design. Plain muslin (USA) or calico (UK) is also fantastic for this

I started with a set of Oakshott cottons (disclaimer, I do a lot of pattern-designing for Oakshott, so I tend to have a lot of their fabrics at my disposal. Such a tragedy...) These are "shot", that is, woven with one colour in the warp and one in the weft.. they shimmer lightly.
This was an odd pack that just came to hand, and has a close set of pinky-purply-orangey colours. I also chose a dark purple for the base colour.  In any set you will see most of the bottom and top colours.
Cut the layers to a shape of your choice (a bit bigger than the end required, as it can distort), then (Hint number 1) cut the bottom layer at least 1/2 an inch bigger all round. If these had Right Sides, they would all face UP..
(Hint number 2, press the layers on top of each other - they will stick together quite well)
Pin in a few places if desired

You will note that I have 10 layers.  Much of the online and printed advice about chenille assumes 5 or 6 layers at most.  This always seems rather skimpy, and you need to sew your lines a lot closer together... I'm lazy and fussy, so I use more cloth...

Sew on the diagonal, starting with a line across the middle from corner to corner.. The diagonal bit is important.  I always use a walking foot, but if you don't have one, pin the layers together and sew..
Sew parallel lines across the fabrics. I'm using the width of my walking foot as a guide here, about 1/2 an inch.  If you have fewer layers, sew closer; more, further apart... DO NOT sew across the ends of the channels, please

All sewn. Now, those of you of an Observant Nature (hands up, if you aren't paying attention?) will notice that my extremely Low Boredom Threshold set in on the second half, and I sewed some different diagonals..

As long as you are working on that diagonal idea, you can play.. Note that the lines that go in and out of the middle are continuous.. You don't want odd thread ends or weak spots anywhere.  Use good thread, cotton or poly, and a small stitch. Check your tension is good both sides

Now you need to cut between the lines of stitching.  I did this sample with scissors, we'll look at the Technology next time.  You will, at this point, understand why the bottom layer is bigger, as you don't want to cut that one.  It makes it easy to get the scissors in the Right Place
Now, take your sample to the sink and Wash It.. I use a little dish-washing liquid and warm water, and rub gently.. Big pieces can be machine-washed, but I don't usually feel the need.. Rinse, and dry

The result is just sooooo tactile..
More tomorrow

My Fugitive Jungle

This is from Judith DeMilo Brown from 2011. This may look

 like printed cloth but no, she drew this herself and then....

I have been playing around with doodles for a while.  Here is

 the biggest and latest doodle.  The piece is a fat half of 

cotton and is destined as a prize on "And then they set it on


First I started off with white cloth that I doodled with a black 

gel pen--nothing special--not meant for fabric. Whenever I 

would stop, I would iron it to try and heat set the ink.

Then I colored it in with water-soluble pencils.  I used them

 both dry and dipped into water.  Not too much water cause 

that would make the gel pen ink blur.  Kept ironing it too.

When I was done coloring it, I brushed it with print paste to

 bond the ink and pencil to the fabric. That made the colors 

and ink a bit more fuzzy.  When that had dried I gave it a coat

of very diluted blue Setacolor to blend the colors and 

background.  When it was dry and with much trepidation I 

threw it into the washing machine.  VOILA!  The inks/colors

stayed!!  You can not believe how excited I was over that! 

 Last step was to put a little smooch in spots to give a little 


First piece I have finished to this extent.  I need much more

 practice but I am pleased by the experiment.  Yep, tonight I 

expect a second piece will get started.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Fine Line piecing with Kathy Loomis

We have had some amazing guest artists on our blog. Here is one from June 1, 2012

Thank you for inviting me to be your guest artist this month.  Please let me introduce myself -- I'm Kathy Loomis and mostly I make pieced quilts.

Just reading the subtitle of your blog made me wonder at first exactly what I’m doing here.  Although I have tried dyeing, overdyeing, painting, resisting, silkscreening, stamping, fusing, and heat tools at one time or another, none of them have earned a permanent place in my repertoire.  But then I found “slice” and “stitch” in your list, and felt more confident.  Those two techniques pretty much make up my current body of work.  I slice fabric apart, piece in a very thin line of contrast fabric, and stitch it back together again.

But will they work for you?  Maybe better than we think at first glance, and here’s why.

During my surface design years I found myself in possession of yards and yards of fabric that looked absolutely wonderful, but I had a hard time figuring out what to do with them.  Didn’t want to cut them up into little pieces because I would lose the lovely designs.  But simply quilting them whole-cloth, or suspending them to flutter in the breeze didn’t seem to be enough to transform them from yardage into works of art.  Perhaps you have the same ambivalent and confused feelings toward the lovely fabrics you are making.

In thinking about how I might provide you with inspiration, I realize that maybe my slice and stitch techniques would be a good solution to that beautiful-cloth problem.  Perhaps by insetting a network of lines you can add a new dimension to something you already have produced. 

The technique of piecing in very fine lines is embarrassingly simple.  I’ll give you a fast sewing tutorial, then some suggestions of how you might want to arrange the lines.

Any fabric works as the background for this technique, but you should be picky about what you choose for the skinny lines.  Don’t choose too beefy a fabric (like Kona cotton) or too firm a fabric (like pimatex).  You actually want something on the limp and flimsy side so it will lie flat in submission and not pile up too high where several layers of fabric accumulate around intersections.

I don’t know whether your main fabric is light or thin enough to see through, but just to be safe, make your skinny-line fabric lighter than the main fabric.  You don’t want your beautiful piecing marred by show-through.  (Ask me how I know this.)

Cut your skinny strips on the cross-grain, from selvage to selvage.  This makes them a little stretchier and more forgiving when it’s time to press everything flat. Cut them a half-inch wide to start, although you may want to go a bit narrower after you have become comfortable with the sewing method.

Before you start to slice your fabric, mark it so you get things back together the right way.  I like to mark two adjacent sides, one with one line (of stitching, pencil or pen) and the other with two lines.  And if I’m marking with a line of stitching, I’ll put a different color in the bobbin so I can tell the right side from the wrong side.

Now slice!  Start with straight lines (curves are possible but don’t try them at first).  Arrange the two pieces near your sewing machine right next to one another, right sides up, in the same orientation as before you sliced.  You will always proceed in this order:  sew the skinny strip to the right-hand piece of fabric, then sew the skinny strip to the left-hand piece of fabric.

For the first seam, stitch the skinny strip with a very narrow seam allowance, just a hair over an eighth-inch.  Don’t press yet.  Now open up the strip and get it in position to sew the slice back together again.  Check your markings to make sure you have the two halves aligned properly and the right sides are together.   

Usually in machine sewing we guide fabric through the machine by gauging a certain distance from the cut edge.  But for the second seam on the skinny strip I want you to gauge a certain distance from the previous seam, no matter how far it is from the edge of the fabric.  That way you can make your pieced-in line the same width, or vary it if you want, and see exactly what you’re going to get.

From the back of the work, gently press both seam allowances in the same direction.  Then flip your work and press again from the front side of the work, more enthusiastically this time.  Make sure there are no pleats in the work where the seam didn’t open all the way; if necessary, relax the seam with a spritz of water and press again till it’s perfectly flat and open all the way.

The fabric is now back in one piece and you can slice again and piece in a second skinny strip.

From now on you’ll find yourself having to sew over big piles of seam allowances when you cross a previously sewed line.  You’ll find that sometimes the seam allowances want to stand up and get in the way of the needle but just grab an implement (I like to use needle-nose tweezers) and hold them down as you sew by.

Sometimes your presser foot seems like it’s sliding off the piles to the right (actually the presser foot stays in place but the pile of fabric is squeezed out to the left).  The seam bulges off to the right and your line won’t be uniform.  

But not to worry.  Just go back and stitch that place again at the proper width, holding the fabric more firmly in place with your implement.  You don’t even have to rip out the bad stitches.

Whenever you go to press a completed strip, check which direction its neighbors are pointing in and press the new strip in the same direction.  As your work becomes more densely pieced it’s much easier to have all the seams pointing the same way so you can run your iron in one direction and not flip any seams.

You’ll notice as you make more and more lines that it’s difficult if not impossible to make the preexisting strips line up exactly across a new seam.  Embrace that!  In fact, what I love the most about this method of piecing is the little slippages and offsets that occur.  Sometimes I help it along, by placing the two halves of the slice a bit off to begin with.

Similarly, it’s difficult if not impossible to make the two ends of the seam line up exactly.  Partly that’s because once you’ve pieced in the skinny strip, one side of your slice may not be exactly the same length as the other.  But the fabric also stretches a bit as  you work with it.  Do not obsess over this, just accept it, and recognize that you will lose some of your fabric at the end when you trim off the jagged edges. 

Here's a quilt in progress.  You can see how if gets out of shape after many lines have been pieced in from different directions.  I'll lose quite a bit around the edges after I trim it to square.   (I suggest you stick with straight lines -- curved are way too difficult to learn at your first attempt.)

Here's my quilt Fault Lines 1 -- starting with 42-inch fabric, this piece ended up only 34 inches finished width

Now that I’ve taught you how to “draw lines” with piecing, it’s up to you where to draw them.  Here are some suggestions:
  • All your lines don’t have to go all the way across the piece.  While you have a sliced line open, you can slice and restitch just half of the piece, then go  back and complete the original line.  Or you can make two parallel slices and sew intermediate lines in between the two cuts before you sew them back together. 

  • You can combine different fabrics to make your original expanse of fabric.  You can join them with a plain seam, or piece in a skinny line at the join.

  • While you have a slice open, before sewing the two halves back together you can insert a wider strip of contrast fabric.   It’s probably better to do this early in the process, so the join between the two colors can be offset by subsequent crossings.

  • You’ll get a different character if your slices are all at right angles to the sides of the fabric, creating a gridlike pattern, or if they go on diagonals.

  • Areas that are densely covered with lines have a different character than those sparsely lined.  For interesting contrast, have some areas of your composition densely sliced and others less dense.

Here's a piece on the design wall last year.  The screenprint was by ShelleyBrenner Baird.  I auditioned several hand-dyes to find one that complemented the strong character and color of the screenprint.  

Here's the finished quilt, Fault Lines 5. Most of the screenprinted images are left relatively intact so you can appreciate the design. 

So find a piece of fabric that you did an exotic surface design on, and slice it up!  Maybe you'll want to start with one that you don't like much, and see whether it improves with a line pattern over the top.  And if it works, maybe you'll want to try it with a piece you love.  Let me know how it works for you!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Labels under "LABELS"

Judith sent me this email: 

 "We have shown some of our favorites from the past but
you can check on other topics you might be interested in by clicking on a label." 

In case you've missed it, there is a HUGE list of topics WAAAY down in the right column labeled "LABELS."    See how handy that is?  

You'll find labels like "creating texture"- 26 posts, "Sun Printing"-17, "Shibori"-25, and Screen "Printing" - 21.  We haven't been very consistent in our labels so you'll find similar labels such as "hand stitched" - 21 and "hand-stitch"- 12.  I am not sure what the difference is between those two.

So, please be sure to look for your favorite surface design technique or maybe a technique you've always wanted to try or maybe one you didn't know about and want to learn more about now. Just check out our list under LABELS, click on a label, then read all the posts tagged with the label.

Have fun!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Fun from the Hardware Store

Nienka has several short posts using hardware store stuff to use for the clamping that I really liked.  Here is a compilation of three of them.

Shirbori Folding #12

And now, we're up to some 3D folding. Roll your square piece into a tube. And clamp it between those corner pieces from the hardware store:

Interesting.... there must be more ways to fold 3D, will think about it.


Shibori Folding--no 11

More fun from the hardware store, fold your rectangular piece in a zigzag pattern:

Shibori Folding - no 10

 Now for a Mandala fold, take a square piece of fabric, fold it in quarters and further in eighths:

Try to fold the remaining part into its place between the outer eights.

Found this at the hardware store, it's an opener for paint cans, but I have my own plans with it.

In the mean time I am also experimenting with different types of fabric, this is a 80% cotton, 20% polyester blend with an 'open' weave, which makes it easier for dyes to penetrate into the inner layers. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Shibori Folding--no 1. (again)

This post is Nienka's first instructional post from November 2, 2013.  It is pretty basic which is a great place to start but wait till you see some of her later posts!

To start this series, I want to show you two ways to fold a grid pattern.
The first one  (right) is known as the 'flagfold' I think, and the other one is just a variation. I made an example in paper as it is easier to make a picture of this:

You see the difference in the starting point. For both, fold a rectangle piece of fabric like this:

Then start folding the triangle each with another starting point, but after the start just make sure you outline one of the triangle sides along the long side of the fabric:

Clamp your folded triangle accordion between two glass coasters with some rubber bands:

Now it's time to make your dye bath. Don't forget to add soda and salt as you want the dye to move through the water, looking for fabric to attach on ;-). And be generous, mix at least 3 pure colours, for a nice colour splitting effect.

Leave these packages at least one night in the dyebath. Rinse cold before un-clamping your fabric! Now it's time to unfold your package, and follow your regular rinse-process. Voila:

Monday, February 22, 2016

Shibori Review

Nienke has been a resident artist for many years.  She posted a whole month of folding techniques in November 2013.  She used plastic form meant for clamping, stuff from the hardware store, and even jar lids.  Wow, were those posts outstanding.  I can't link or copy all of them so I will do a sampling.

It's November so it's my turn (Nienke) and as may expected, dyeing is involved!
Recently, one of my clamp shibori pieces was published in a dutch magazine 'Quilt en zo' and it will be published in the November issue of Patchwork Professional as well.


So, a nice starting point to explore 'more ways to fold your fabric' to create some nice shibori fabric.

I started with collecting items to clamp onto the fabric, like, this stuff from the hardware store

acrylic shapes, bought f.e. at http://www.thermofaxprinting.co.uk/

a couple of jar lids, and yes it is a sponge you're seeing (more to come, stay tuned ;-):

glass or metal coasters from the pennyshop:

Or even try to saw some shapes yourself for example in trespa, perspex or woord.

For the clamping, you can use rubber bands, or all sorts of (glue or paper or wash) clamps:

See what you can find, the folding party will start tomorrow!

PS. If you are new to dyeing, this online course is a good starting point: