Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Fun project: "Lace" from funky yarn and fabric strips

Here is something fun to make with strips of sheer fabric and funky yarns.  I came up with this after numerous utterances of “what do I do with this?” from shoppers in my quilt show/market booth.  I sell packages of assorted funky yarns, and many visitors to my booth love them, but get stumped on using them.  I also had to find a way to use a stash of beautiful vintage rayon scarves that were a surprise in a big box lot from a recent auction.  The technique is an expansion of thread lace from two sources: Fun with Sulky Blendables and Solid Color Cotton Threads, (Joyce Drexler/Sulky of America, 2011) and Fabric Embellishing: The Basics and Beyond (Ruth Chandler, Liz Kettle, Heather Thomas, Lauren Vleck, Landauer Publishing, 2009)



2 pieces water soluble stabilizer (Sulky Solvy or Superior Threads Dissolve 4X), cut both pieces same size.

                HINT: Start small for the first try, about 10x10”

Assorted fancy yarns

Vintage scarf (rayon, polyester or silk)

Machine sewing thread to complement your color scheme


Here’s what you do:

1. Thread your sewing machine, set for free motion quilting

2. Cut narrow strips of scarf, roughly 1” wide, doesn’t have to be exact, vary the widths if desired

3. Place one piece of water soluble stabilizer on your work surface

Place strips of scarf on top of stabilizer, some horizontal, some vertical, some diagonal.  You don’t have to cover the entire surface, some gaps are OK.  You are creating a rough grid pattern.

4. Add random cuts of yarns on the strips; straight lines, curves lines, whatever looks good to you.

Add some more strips of scarf, but don’t completely cover the yarns you just used.

5. When you are happy with your arrangement of strips and yarns, place the second piece of stabilizer on top, matching it with the bottom piece. 

6. Carefully take the resulting “sandwich” to your sewing machine.  The fibers will shift as you sew, so watch for areas that are bunching and thin them out as you go.

7. Start quilting in a straight line pattern to “baste” the stabilizer sandwich, making your lines about 2”apart.

8. Once you get the basting lines done, you will now free motion quilt the entire sandwich.  Pick a quilting pattern that will allow you to easily double back over your design.  The first one of these that I made, I used the pebble design, and I simply stitched each pebble twice as I went.  The idea is to make sure the stitching is absolutely secure.  The quilting could take a while, since you are essentially quilting twice.  I also found that the stabilizer is difficult to maneuver at first, but it gets better as you go along.  I actually had to grab a fistful of one side of my sandwich to help it along.  Just be exceptionally careful that you don’t jerk it and break the needle.

9. When you are done quilting, you get to soak away the stabilizer.  Follow the instructions for the product you are using.  Let it dry, then you are ready to use it an embellishment, or attach to a piece of cotton and piece it into your next project.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Doily flowers

Here is another type of flower, made from a vintage doily (under 10" diameter).

1. Cut a length of hand sewing thread, thread your needle and knot it.  I like to use 8 or 12 weight pearl cotton for the doilies. 

2. With a long running stitch, sew a circle around the doily with a 1" or so radius from the center.

3. Don't overlap your first stitch, but when you get all the way around, take your thread to the backside of the doily.

4. Gently pull your thread with one hand while holding the doily in your other hand.  The doily will gather and ruffle as you pull the thread, creating the flower shape.  There will now be a small lump at the center of the flower, this is the back of the flower.  Take a few whipstitches through the lump to secure the flower.  Leave the thread end long to sew to a larger piece of fabric.  That's it!  So simple, a neat way to use old doilies.  Use them to add dimension to Baltimore Album type quilts, crazy quilts, or your own unique art quilt bouquet.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Lace Flowers

This is one of the embellishment techniques I was demonstrating at the quilt show last weekend.  It is very easy, and quick to do.  All you need is a length of wide lace trim, sewing thread and needle.  I include several cuts of dyed lace trim in my Creativity Kits, available on my Etsy shop.

1. Cut a length of lace trim, 7" to 12" long, cut a length of matching thread, thread your needle and knot.

2. Fold 1/4" of short end of lace to the backside, bring needle up through fold.  Sew a long running stitch along the long flat side of your lace trim, as close to the edge as is reasonable.  Be sure to catch the thread in the thicker parts of the lace.

3. When you reach the other short end of the lace, fold 1/4' of the end to the backside of your lace, sew through the fold. 

4. Gently pull the thread with one hand while holding the lace with your other hand.  The lace trim will pucker and ruffle, and curve back on itself until the two short ends meet.  Sew the short ends together with a few whipstitches.  Knot the thread in the trim, and leave your thread end long to sew onto a project.

Here's a view of the backsides of two flowers:
It might be a bit difficult to see, but I usually take a few running stitches to the outside of the flower after pulling the thread and whipstitching the center.  This further secures the flower and looks neater.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Streetsboro Quilt Show

If you have found your way to my blog after meeting me at the Streetsboro Quilt Show, welcome!  Thank you to those who made a purchase from me.  The hand dyed fabric and related art quilting goodies are my livelihood now; I appreciate your support, and I'd love to see what you make with my fabric.

Over the next few weeks I will be posting instructions for various things you can do with the vintage and unusual products I sell: flowers from hankies or lace trim, machine sewn yarn "lace," and couching fancy yarns.  Keep checking back.  I am trying to get into the habit of posting on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

In my last post, I wrote about several plants I use as dyes, but I did not have an image for the dahlias.  Over the weekend, I gathered a gorgeous bouquet of them from my mother's garden.  Dahlias have been bred to an amazing array of colors and variances in flower and petal form.  Some avid growers of them show their flowers at judged events with passion on the levels of horse and dog shows.  We enjoy them at home, and when these blooms fade, their color will be captured in some silk that I have waiting.

We always need beautiful things to look at in a world full of people doing ugly things.

Friday, September 25, 2015

More Plant Dye Adventures

I finally got around to mordanting some silk and a bit of wool fleece to trial the late summer flowers in the dye pot.  The first test was not a flower, but a pint of blueberries that got pushed to the back of the fridge.  I normally would not use edible goods for dyeing, but by the time I found the blueberries, they were not fit for human consumption.   They yielded a nice blue-violet color with some interesting green mottling.  I anticipate that the color will fade over time, as most berry dyes are prone to do.


Next, I tried a batch of Joe Pye Weed, an immensely tall plant that blooms a large cluster of wispy dusty pink florets.  I know enough already to never expect that a plant will yield the color of its flowers.  The Joe Pye resulted in a nice golden color.


Speaking of not getting results that you expected, I did expect a nice red-violet color from some hibiscus flowers.  What I got was a murky green-gray.  Not at all what one of my books promised.  I have no idea what went wrong.  I tried the hibiscus twice, same result. 


After the hibiscus disappointment, I cooked up a pot of ironweed.  The flower clusters of this plant are a vibrant red-violet, so intense that you might not think they are real.  It would be amazing if the flowers really did impart their color in the dye bath.  The ironweed, after rinsing, drying and pressing, turned out to be….


The same color as the Joe Pye Weed!  The ironweed is on the left, Joe Pye Weed on the right in the above image.  I knew I was not going to get a bright pink-red; the one book that discussed ironweed as a dye indicated it would result in a bright pale green.  I am starting to re-think my grand scheme to have a big dye plant garden and sell yards and yards of lovely plant dyed fabric.  At least not anytime soon, I have lots of learning yet, and tinkering with process and recipes.


Last week, my mom brought me a nice bouquet of dahlias from her garden.  When the flowers faded, they went into the dyepot.  The silks came out a very pale creamy orange.  At last, something a little different!  They soaked in the dye for over 24 hours, so I am a bit surprised that the color was so light.  I am going to re-read the mordanting instructions, I must be skipping something.

Next on my list: sumac berries, marigolds, beets and goldenrod.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Coming Soon to a Quilt Show Near You...

I am pleased to announce that I will be a vendor at two upcoming quilt shows in Ohio.  The first one is the Streetsboro Quilt Guild - Quilts and More Markett.  It will be held Friday, October 2 from 10-6 and Saturday, October 3 from 10-4 at the Faith Baptist Church, 9890 State Route 43, Streetsboro, Ohio.

The second one is the Valley Quilt Guild Fall Festival of Quilts; Friday, October 23 from 10-5 and Saturday, October 24 from 10-3 at the First United Methodist Church, 1725 N. Wooster Ave., Dover, OH.

At both shows, I will have an assortment of my hand dyed fabrics: vintage damask cottons, some dyed silks and linen, along with dyed vintage doilies and lace trim.  I will also have packages of fancy yarns for embellishing (cut in lengths of one, three or six yards).  Depending on space, I might also have a small assortment of vintage sewing collectibles and a vintage sewing machine or two.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

My fabric dyeing world

Nearly 100% of the instances when I try to describe what I do (to non-craft people) in my Rags Paper Stitches business result in the comment, “Oh, you tie dye T-shirts.” No, I do not.  The following picture shows an assortment of repurposed vintage damask table linens and doilies that I snow dyed last winter with a four color blend.

I recently made the decision to phase out my small stash of commercially printed fabrics for a number of reasons.  One, if I am to earn a living off of my own dyed fabrics, I should use what I make.  Another reason, the commercial print designs, nice as many of them are, are someone else’s design.  I have lost interest in incorporating someone else’s work in mine; I know that is expected with commercial fabric, it is just not me anymore.  I enjoy creating my own colors and patterns through dyeing fabric, plain and simple.  I still use solid colors of fabrics not readily available for me to dye, and I use a fair amount of cast off clothing to add texture and pattern I cannot achieve through my own dyed wares.  

The most succinct way I can think of to describe my craft is “art cloth.”  Much of my fabric gets dyed in solid colors, but I also make a fair amount of blends, using two to four colors in one dye bath.  The colors do not get added all at once.  The fabric might get scrunched, folded, and rearranged with each color addition.  I sometimes use ice or snow in my dye process to achieve stunning effects with color blending.  Then there is my own special “end-of-the-day” technique that uses all of the colors that I’ve mixed for a dye session – anywhere from 15 to 25 in one large piece of fabric. 
There are many more dye techniques I haven’t tried yet, not to mention further surface design by painting, stamping, screen printing, etc.   

Now back to that tie-dye thing.  There are some wonderful surface pattern effects that result from tying fabric in certain ways – shibori, for example, and vastly different from what the psychedelic crowd did to t-shirts.  Fabric dyeing is not solely 1960s era t-shirts.  I do not sell t-shirts at the county fairs or Grateful Dead concerts.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Quilt National Thoughts

At a recent Studio Art Quilt Associates  Ohio meeting, I was requested to give my thoughts on the symposium at the Quilt National opening in late May (held at the Dairy Barn Arts Center in Athens, Ohio).  At long last, here are those thoughts.  Please keep in mind that this is my take on the events of the day, and my recollections have gotten a little fuzzy in the weeks since the symposium.
Juror’s Panel Discussion

To me, it sounded like the most important criteria that the jurors were asking themselves was: do they want to come back to the quilt and look more at it?  They were looking for quilts that hold a viewer’s attention, ones that they would want to revisit more than once.  I imagine that the revisit factor could come about by different means – how did the artist do something (technique) or a message the artist wanted to convey.

Another important juror factor was connecting the artist’s statement about the work to the work itself.  I thought that the jurors were looking at images without any accompanying information or identification, so this was intriguing to me.  Personally, I don’t go for art of any media that has to be explained to me.   

There was an active discussion about the size of works accepted to Quilt National.  The jurors acknowledge that there were small art quilts that were “little gems,” but for the venue of the show, they wanted works that took advantage of the spacious exhibit hall.  To me, that still wasn’t a good reason why small works were consistently absent from Quilt National.  Good art is good art, regardless of size.  So, what I took from that discussion was at least at Quilt National, size matters! 

Marvin Fletcher lecture – I skipped his talk, I wanted to spend more time looking at the show. 

Selected Artists’ Panel – Four artists discussed their work and thoughts on their process, to some extent.  It was sort of interesting to hear their thoughts, but I didn’t really get anything out of the lectures.  I didn’t take any notes during the panel.  I feel like I should ask myself what I would want to get out of an artists’ panel discussion, or out of the symposium as a whole.

My overall thoughts on Quilt National:

Innovation is always claimed as a crucial criteria of acceptance into Quilt National, after viewing this edition of the show, I am wondering if the art quilt world has reached a plateau on innovation.  In my opinion, there were thirteen quilts out of eighty-four that were strongly influenced by the same artist/instructor.  Is that innovation?  Yes, those thirteen quilts had strong design merit, but the overall similarity left me a bit befuddled.  This was only my second Quilt National, and I noticed a couple repeat artists that had very similar works in the show in 2013 and this year.  I would expect any individual artist to continually grow and evolve, not stagnate.  There is a difference between having a distinct, identifiable style and essentially repeating oneself over and over.  Yes, the jurors are different each edition of Quilt National.  My point is that some things are no longer innovative.  There were other repeat entrants that clearly evolved from two years ago, just enough that it took a while to make the connection between their previous Quilt National entry and this year’s entry.  That’s what I like to see.

I’m certainly not disappointed that I went.  I most enjoyed the camaraderie with art quilters from around the world, most of whom I did not know.  It was refreshing to not have to explain or defend my chosen art medium.  I left the symposium feeling that I am on the right track with the things I am making, and I feel like I could hold my own at this level in a short time as I get better with technique.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Spring plant dye: Horsetail

Now that spring is well underway, I have a steadily increasing amount of different plants to try as dyes.  There is a shallow ditch running along the road frontage of my family’s acreage that is filling in with horsetails.  By horsetails, I ‘m not talking about the last part of Secretariat to cross the finish line, these horsetails are Equisetum arvense, a bright green, stiff, spindly, primitive plant.  The Equisetums are fascinating plants, “closely allied to the prehistoric order of the Calamitales, large and abundant treelike plants of the Carboniferous period nearly three hundred million years ago.”  (Boughton Cobb, A Field Guide to Ferns and their Related Families, Houghton Mifflin, 1963, p. 194)  Horsetails may be used for dyeing, here is the result:


A nice light tint of yellow green on the cottons, a bit darker on the silk.  I added a bit of alkaline modifier in the form of wood ash solution to one pot, and it seemed to lighten the color.  I’ve given up on weighing and measuring like most of my sources suggest.  Rough visual estimates are working fine for me, and if a batch of fabric doesn’t turn out, I’ll just try it again with a new dyebath. 
The sprigs in the picture that look like pine needles are the horsetail plant.

I’ve always had a deep appreciation for the natural world, I spent summers as a youngster tagging along with my mother to her job at a natural history museum.  Now that I am living on rural acreage, I am reacquainting myself with the wild flora and fauna.  While I was harvesting horsetails for dyeing, I was reminded of Albrecht Durer’s Great Piece of Turf watercolor from 1503.  The longer I concentrated on a square foot of meadow edge, I found more and more different plants.  Tip of the day: Never completely strip an area of a plant you are collecting, only take a fraction of what is there, and collect only if there is an abundance of what you seek.  Of course, don’t trespass either!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

New venture

I will be a vendor at a craft show at Deerassic Park Education Center/National Whitetail Deer Education Foundation on May 30.  I believe that the show is a fundraiser for their education programs.  The venue is near Cambridge, Ohio, across from the main entrance to Salt Fork State Park on Route 22. 

I've been planning on developing a art/craft show line of small, affordable finished items, useful things.  So far, I have a selection of small purses and whole lot of "picnic kits" - quilted placemats with side pockets for silverware.  The placemats roll up and tie into a neat bundle and tuck nicely into a picnic basket, backpack or lunch bag.  They would also be great for anyone who takes a lunch to work.  I might take a small selection of fabric cuts to the show, though the focus will be finished work.  I'll have some art wall hangings too.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Fredericktown Quilters' Market

I had a bit of a milestone today in my little fiber arts business venture.  I had my debut as a vendor at a quilt show.  The event was a nice, small show in Fredericktown, OH.  I even managed to sell some things!  Thank you to those of you who made purchases from me, and thanks even more if you made it as far as to look up this blog.  I learned a lot from this first show, and I really appreciated talking to everyone who stopped by my table.  I received some good ideas on post topics, so please keep checking back.

Here is a view of my table:
The show was held in the multipurpose room of a high school; the Rachel's banner on the wall was NOT part of my set up.  Here's a bit of interesting trivia - apparently Fredericktown is where the iconic FFA (Future Farmers of America) jacket first appeared. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

My fabric in Cincinnati

If you are in the greater Cincinnati area, you will find a small selection of my hand dyed fabric at Silk Road Textiles in the College Hill neighborhood.  I just replenished the supply there; more vintage damask squares and Creativity Packs - assortments of small cuts of fabric and matching trims and embellishing fibers.  Visit Silk Road's website

Monday, March 30, 2015

Hungry Squirrels

The squirrels in my area had to share their stash of acorns and black walnuts with me this winter.  Believe me, what I collected for my fabric dyeing was miniscule compared to what I left behind for the wildlife.  Here’s how my first attempts at natural dyes turned out:

The cottons didn’t take the dyes too well, some of the literature on natural dyes hints at that.  The silk organza though, really soaked it up.  I definitely want to try more silks in the future, and wool fabric as well.  I have been peeling lichen off of my firewood, and I think I just about have enough to try a small batch of fabric.  I have also been picking up fallen wild cherry branches, and have them soaking in water for a dye session soon.  The wild cherry is supposed to yield pink tones.  The lichen, I have no idea as to possible color, but I know that it can be used as a dye.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Let It Snow!

We finally got some snow last week, so I jumped on starting some snow dyeing.  It is a simpler process than other dye methods.  I first learned of the technique from a fellow member of Contemporary Quilt and Fiber Artists.  One could also use ice cubes for this dye method but snow is plentiful in Ohio and free!  A helpful article on the process is “Dye Your Own Iced Parfait” by Carol Ludington, Quilting Arts, June/July 2011. 

I made up three main color blends this time; my “Painted Desert” blend, a red-violet/yellow-orange shade/green blend and a brown/yellow shade/green/red-orange blend.  I have made up two variants of each basic blend.  As the snow melts down into the layers of fabric, I can see some areas where the dyes are blending with each other, and other places where the dyes are separating into other colors.  I’ve had a lot of purples separate into blues and red-violets in this slow process.  Not that it is a bad thing, the varied separation and blending creates some wonderful, unexpected surprises.  Here’s a view of the snow and dyed covered fabric.  Yes, there really is fabric in there.

Back in college, I had the opportunity to work with raku fired ceramics, something I miss doing and would like to do again.  The snow or ice dyeing process is very similar to certain concepts that I loved with raku: lack of direct control of results, seemingly random results, extreme temperatures, and a lot of unsuccessful pieces.  Well, the high rate of loss wasn’t really something I loved so much, but it was a strong lesson in dealing with mistakes and loss, things to carry though in all aspects of life.  The iridescent colors or crackling in the raku glazes depended on how quickly the pieces made it into the sawdust reduction, whether or not any combustible material touched the glaze, and how long the red-hot pieces were allowed to smoke and slowly cool.  The shock of being pulled out of a red hot kiln causes many pieces to break.  With snow dyeing, I often get a moderate amount of fabric that doesn’t get dye distributed nicely.  There are often large areas of still white fabric.  The nice thing about fabric, I can always re-dye it again, and fabric doesn’t crack or break.  Unlike the heat of raku firing, snow dyeing obviously goes to the other extreme.  I have been running out in single digit temperatures to gather snow to top my buckets of fabric.  Once in a while, the color blends just don’t work out, and then, there isn’t much to do to save it.
The buckets get set aside for about 24 hours, until the snow melts.  These look promising:


Then comes rinsing out, and washing with Synthrapol.  I can get a fairly good feel for how the fabric is turning out as I rinse, but it still transforms to a certain degree while it goes through a wash cycle or two, then drying.  This batch looks like a success:


Do I have to sell these?  I want to use them myself!