If at first you don’t succeed ……

Sometimes when you’re dyeing fabric the colours don’t always come out quite as you expect or as you want them to. The good thing is that almost always you can dye them again. Earlier in the year I was experimenting trying to get some good, rich chestnut browns but ended up with some very uninspiring dull oranges instead. Last week I decided to try over-dyeing these fabrics using dark brown, black or dark blue and ended up with these lovely autumnal pieces.

Just perfect for autumn leaves.

In my most recent batch of dyeing I was also experimenting with some yellow and blue combinations for foliage effects. For some reason the blue I used was very weak and completely washed out leaving me with a lot of bright yellow fabrics. I over-dyed these with a muted green and some black and got some gorgeous textured prints, which are going to be just perfect for backgrounds.

Artful Fabric Dyeing

Since I first started dyeing my own fabric as part of my City and Guilds course and discovering that it is something I love doing, I have dyed many, many yards of fabric, bought numerous books and done several online courses, but recently I haven’t been so happy with the results. It seems that every single person who writes about dyeing or does a class has a different method and dye recipe. The consequence is that I seem to have got confused trying all the different methods and am no longer sure what works best for me. There are so many variables when it comes to mixing the dyes, what quantity to use, how long to leave them how much water to use etc. and there is a huge variation between the different methods.

I find Linda Johansen’s Fabric Dyer’s Dictionary is useful when I want to dye a specific colour for something and sometimes I want fabrics without too much texture and colour variation, but I was looking for something that would give a bit more exciting results for other projects. Ann Johnston’s “Color by Accident” is another good book but I was still looking for a slightly different and more intuitive approach.

At the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham this year, I bought yet another book on dyeing in the hope that it might help me with my dilemma, “Tray Dyeing” by Leslie Morgan and Claire Benn. I found the book inspiring and I liked the fact that they approach the subject as artists rather than scientists, giving plenty of directions but also encouraging one to experiment.

I just mixed several colours to start as I wanted to see how these would turn out before dyeing a lot of fabric. I used golden yellow, a medium blue, turquoise and a little black, and made use of cheap local calico which I’d prewashed.

They recommend leaving a minimum of four hours and even better overnight, so as I was impatient to see the results I only left them to sit for four hours before rinsing. Straight away I could see that the fabrics looked very promising and I liked most of the results.

Golden yellow on its own.

Blue and turquoise.

Golden yellow and blue

Golden yellow and back.

The good thing about dyeing is that you can always overdue something that doesn’t turn out too well. I had a pale lemon yellow from a gradation I did which was a bit insipid, adding golden yellow really gave it some zing!

This yellow and blue also turned out well.

Now to go and buy some more fabric and try out some more combinations, and of course if you don’t like the results first time you can always dye them again.

“Tumbling Birds” – The finished quilt

After several months and many, many hours of work my “Birds and Flowers” quilt is finally finished and hopefully on its way to Birmingham (or maybe even already there).

Virtually all the applique was done with Aurifil 50 wt cotton thread and I used the same for the quilting. I actually did this part quite quickly because I when I first started to quilt the design it wasn’t looking so good with lumps and bumps all over the place so I wanted to get it finished and smooth again.

Before the quilting was done I also added some hand embroidery to make the stems for the little pink flowers.

Also to add a bit of interest to the larger leaves.

And hand dyed cotton thread on the tail feathers.

A section of the finished quilt. 

 Another section of the quilt showing some of the embroidery detail.

 

Jungle Leaves

I recently signed up for a Craftsy class with Gloria Loughman called “Linear Landscape Quilts”. It’s  a really good class and the first sections on choosing colour schemes and fabric painting are almost a class on their own. To make her “linear landscapes” she uses two layers of fabric and a clever raw edge applique technique which reveals slithers of the underneath fabric to create the effect of contours. The landscape she created is very appealing but as I watched the video I realized that this technique could be adapted for things other than landscapes so I decided to try it out on one of my own designs.

My inspiration was this jungle plant which grows in the Sarawak rain forest and has beautiful curved and ribbed leaves.

My first piece is a close up study of these leaves using some of my hand dyed fabrics.

I was happy with the way that this first piece turned out so I decided to try it on a larger design using the complete leaves.

I used a bright green for the base, with a darker green for the main part of the leaf, and made three pieces like this. It’s  time consuming but very effective.

Birds and Flowers stitched

After many hours work I have finally finished machine stitching all the bird and flower applique. Here are a few photos showing some details.

I used mostly Aurfil 50wt thread for the applique as I wanted something subtle that wouldn’t stand out too much but blend with my hand dyed fabrics.

Detail of some of the flowers. The next step will be hand embroidery to add stems and detail to some of the leaves and the tail feathers.

Foundation Piecing a crazy patchwork block

In my last post I wrote about the piece I made for my Janome challenge group. This month it is my turn to lead the challenge and following on from last month’s project which was to create a stitch out of all our machine’s decorative stitches I am asking people to make a foundation pieced crazy patchwork block and then embellish it with decorative machine stitches. For those of you who are unfamiliar with foundation piecing I am providing a short tutorial. There are many different ways of doing foundation piecing but this is the method I find that works for me.

The completed block:

To start I took a block from EQ7 printed out the pattern on lightweight paper. I use Carol Doak’s Foundation Paper sheets, but there are other products available and it is even possible to use ordinary copy paper, just a little harder to tear out at the end. One tip is to use smaller machine stitches and a slightly larger machine needle.

I take my first piece of fabric and cut it approximately to size, making sure there is at least a quarter inch overlapping all seam lines. This is placed right side up on the unprinted side of the paper.

First fabric patch, right side up on unprinted side of paper.

You can hold the paper up to the light to make sure all the seam lines are covered. I pin this in place, and then working from the printed side of the paper I take a piece of card (a postcard is ideal) and fold back the paper along the seamline where patch one meets patch two.

Place card along the seam between patch 1 and 2

I then take my ruler and trim the exposed fabric to a quarter of an inch.

Next I get my fabric for patch two and again trim it to the approximate size, lay it right side down on top of the first piece of fabric, matching the trimmed seam, making sure there is a generous overlap on all seams. This is the tricky bit because you need to make sure that when you stitch the seam and flip the fabric back all the lines are still covered.

Stitch along the line between patch 1 and 2, starting and stopping your stitching a few stitches either side of the line.

Stitch along the line between patch 1 and 2 then flip the block over and press. I like to press each seam as I stitch it. Remember not to use steam though as it can distort your paper.

Next, use your piece of card, fold back the paper along your next stitching line which will be for block 3. Trim your fabric and lay on your patch 3. Continue doing this for all the patches until your block is complete.

laying on patch #3

I made four 6 inch blocks like this and then joined them all together, backed them with some Pellon fusible fleece and had a bit of fun embellishing them my machine’s decoartive stitches.

The finished block

 

Purple Challenge

I belong to an online challenge group linked to my Janome 6600 and 7700 sewing machines and last month’s project was to create something using at least five different purple fabrics. This appealed to me because when I’m dyeing I almost always seem to end up with more turquoise and fuchsia left over and from these loads of different purples.

hand dyed purple fabrics

 I decided to randomly strip piece some of these fabrics together to create a background. I varied the widths and curves to create more interest and ended up with this piece.

random strip pieced background

 I then added some applique flowers trying out a new method of machine appliqué which I have just learnt on a Craftsy class with Beth Ferrier. She uses a narrow zig zag stitch rather than the reversed blind stitch which I have used in the past and creates an almost invisible finish.

I then quilted the whole piece with a variegated rayon thread, roughly following the curved lines.

 I wanted to experiment a bit more with this technique so made another small piece using a piece of multi coloured hand dyed fabric which I’d always thought rather unusable but cut into a small square looked so much better than I’d imagined

 

New Hornbill design for 2013

While waiting for the threads I’ve ordered for my Birds and Flowers quilt I started work on a new hornbill design.

 To start with I made a sketch from the photo I’d taken in a friend’s garden, leaving out unwanted background details.

I drew out a pattern for it in EQ7 and then put it all together using my own hand dyed fabrics for the background and borders, and a mix of hand dyes and commercial batiks for the bird, which I stitched in place using a fine satin stitch and 50wt cotton thread. I used a fabric pen for the markings on the casque to give a more natural look.

 

Birds and Flowers_2

It’s been far too long since I updated my blog and one of my New Year’s resolutions for this year is to write more regularly, so I hope I can stick to it. New year, new project and I have just started work on something much larger than I usually do and using only my own hand dyed fabrics. This is a detail of the work so far

.… and this is the panel of batik sarong fabric that inspired it.

 I drew out the pattern for the appliqué in EQ7 and then the next challenge was to choose the fabrics I would use. I knew the colours I wanted to use but couldn’t find the right background so had to dye more fabric   until I came up with something I liked. The first stage of construction was laying out all the stems. I used a light box to roughly draw some placement lines.

 The flowers I preassembled on a special nonstick pressing sheet and then applied them to the background.

 It took me two weeks just to assemble all the pieces and fuse them to the background fabric.

The next stage will be the stitching. I tried a blanket stitch, but it looked too clumsy, I’m not so keen on raw edge applique so the alternative is a fine satin stitch using mostly Aurifil 50wt cotton mako and some Superior Masterpiece thread.

 

 

 

Sunrise Over the Belait continued

In my last post I descirbed how I painted and prepapred the background for my latest wall hanging. The picture below shows the next step with the palm fronds pinned in place ready to be fused, then stitched.

I then added the detail on the far river bank using thread painting. I first used a dark green along the lower  and top edges, a lighter green to highlight the tree tops and then a thicker variegated thread for the palms alng the water’s edge.

The palm fronds were stitched in place using raw edge applique. Then the final step was to layer and quilt the whole piece.

The edges were finished with a narrow black binding.

 The completed wall hanging.