Sunday, 29 September 2013

BLOG 168

ASIDE: My mother seems to be making yet another of her miraculous recoveries, so much so that we are calling her Doris Mandela!! Although she is not out of hospital yet, she is determined to get back home and is working on her mobility with the hospital staff. I feel as if she is taking four steps away from us but only three back each time she has these medical emergencies. That said, I greatly admire her tenacity and I am banking on the inherited genes!

During these fraught few weeks, I have immersed myself in colour and fabric as a way of coping. As usual with my own work, I have a vague idea of how I am going to start but I have no idea where it will lead me and how it will end. I just let the fabrics talk to me.

I prepare my fabrics, preferring the close weave of multi-coloured Batiks and Bali’s, with a fusible backing (Bondaweb is my preference) and use them like a paint palette. My work area consists of a flat ironing surface covered with the release paper removed from the fusible web. I cut random strips of fused fabrics using a rotary cutter and a pinked blade.

                              Work area

I prepare squares from the fused fabric, where the strips are placed on the diagonal and over-lapped slightly so that they stick to each other when ironed.  On the design wall, which is essential for this process, I over-lap and fuse these squares together to create larger squares. The square on the design wall below measures 18” with a 6” squares missing from the centre. (ASIDE: The first square I made like this was put forward as one of the ideas for our group quilt project but it was rejected. It seems too good an idea to drop so I am developing it myself.)

                           Design wall

The concept is to create a wash of colour going across the whole quilt, so that the colours of one square and one block seep into the colours of another. I liken the process to doing a jigsaw, where you have to find the right strip of fabric for the right place. The process isn’t easy and it requires a lot of prepared fabric strips for ease of creativity.

                   More blocks

Before I fuse a fabric, I pin it onto the design wall and audition it for colour and tone. Taking a photograph helps to distance you from your work so that you can view the blocks as a whole and therefore make better colour choices.

                     Blocks and fabric

The preparation goes hand in hand with ironing. Once I have selected my palette of fabric, I stick them, RS up, onto the glue side of the fusible web, over-lapping them slightly so that no fusible gets onto the iron.

                            Fusible web

                           Completed sheet

 I spend a lot of time ironing on the paper side to make sure that the fusible is transferred onto the fabric. I pay particular attention to the edges of the paper.

                      Iron to the edge

Allow the fabrics to cool and only then start to remove the release paper from the fabric. This paper makes an excellent surface for sticking over-lapping shapes, so remove it carefully so you can re-use it. I slide my hand between the layers initially and work across from edge to edge.

                         Ease with your hand

I then pull the paper from the fabric, taking care that it doesn’t rip.

                             Pull apart

 The paper and fabric separate easily and remain as two complete units.

                  Paper and fused fabric

Once free from its paper, the individual fabric pieces can be easily separated.

                      Separate the pieces

On the WS of the fabric you will be able to see where the fabrics over-lapped and where there is no fusible.

                          Edge of fusible

Use a pinked blade and cut away the fabric which is not fused.

               Cut to the edge of the fusible

 Use the cutter to cut each strip into random lines. The cutter is easy to control as it is a wide blade.

(ASIDE: You will take chunks out of a ruler if you try to use this cutter against the edge.)

                         Cut into strips


Sunday, 22 September 2013

BLOG 167

This week I have concentrating on completing the wall hanging of Ella’s drawings, mentioned in Blog 164. In that blog, I showed the method used to make several blocks of what is basically crazy log cabin. I was not able to control the size of her drawings, even by giving her constant 8” squares of fabric to draw on (you can’t put a damper on spontaneity!) so I took the best of the drawings and, with borders, produced squares measuring 3”, 4” 6” and 8”. On paper I also drafted a crude gird of what size blocks I needed to make a balanced wall hanging, 16” wide.

Joining the squares

Place the blocks RS together and join them to make a line, and join line to line to create the wall hanging. You will see that I have sewn onto cotton batting with no backing fabric thus enabling me to iron open the ¼” seam to make it flat. (These seam allowances could be hand basted to hold them down if you prefer.)

                           Seams open

Once all the blocks are joined together, I use a long ruler and rotary cutter to straighten the raw edges.

                         Trim the edges

I have decided to add a length of folded patchwork to the lower edge of the wall hanging, and this is one of those super techniques that you just NEED to know. (ASIDE: When I first started to teach, 30 years ago, I would have been cutting individual squares and trying to fold and iron them individually without burning my fingers! This method is much easier and you have my apologies for being unable to recall the name of the person I saw demonstrating it over 20 years ago.)

Folded patchwork border

Cut a 5” strip by the length you require from your selected fabric (mine was 5” x 15”). On the WS, draw a central line along the length, to divide each half into 2 ½”. Mark the top half into 2 ½” sections (creating a line of 2 ½” squares). Cut away half a 2 ½” square from the lower line (2 ½” x 1 ¼”) and mark the lower section into 2 ½” squares also. The sides of the lower squares should be exactly halfway along the sides of the upper squares.

                            Mark the WS

Cut along each of the vertical marked lines up to the centre line.

                       Cut the vertical lines

Working one row at a time on an ironing board, fold and press each square on the diagonal as shown.

                      Press on the diagonal

Repeat for the other row, pressing in the same direction.


On both lines, fold the top point of the triangle down to meet the other end of the diagonal and press as shown.


Fold and press along the central line marked along the length. Pin to hold the triangles in place.

               Press triangles together

Take out the pins, inter-weave the triangles and re-pin.

                 Inter-weave the triangles

Sew a machine line 1/8” in from the fold to hold the triangles in place.

                             Machine line

Pin the strip to the edge where it is to be featured.

                        Pin the wall hanging

Prepare a piece of backing fabric that is about 1” larger all around than the size of the front. Iron a 1” strip of fusible to the WS, about 2” below the top edge (mine measured 1” x 13”). Use a rotary cutter to cut a clean line, leaving 1” either side of the cut.

                         Cut the fusible

Pin well to hold the prepared top and the backing RS together, placing the pins at right angles to the seam.

                             Pin the backing

With the batting side uppermost, sew all the way round with ¼” seam making sure that you don’t remove the pins until you are almost sewing over them to prevent slippage. Trim away the excess fabric and trim across the corners (ASIDE: you will see that I have exaggerated the corner by sewing 3 diagonal stitches across it. This helps to give a softer corner and it is easier to turn through.)

                  Trim the excess fabric

Remove the paper from the fusible and turn the quilt RS out carefully through the remaining hole.

               Remove the fusible paper

Use a blunt point to help to get a pleasing corner and iron only the edge of the quilt so that the backing is not visible on the front.

                        Ease out the corners

On the back, hold the edges of the hole together and iron to stick them onto the batting.

                       Iron to close the hole

Make a thin hanging sleeve to go onto the back to cover the hole.



                                Add a sleeve

I have added Ella’s name and my signature to complete.

(Darn it!! I forgot to take a picture of the completed hanging in my enthusiasm to hand it over to Ella so you’ll have to wait until next week to view it! Sorry about that.)


Sunday, 15 September 2013

BLOG 166

ASIDE: This Blog was written last weekend with the intention of posting it early as Roger and I were flying off to the Yellowstone National Park for 10 days. We had visited my mother who was in hospital again and, after a happy chatty hour together, we were satisfied that we should go ahead with our holiday. But as she began to deteriorate, we knew that we couldn’t go away and enjoy ourselves under the circumstances so we cancelled the holiday. Now we are in a strange limbo, knowing that she has rallied from situations like this many this before. Personally, the only way I can work through this unsettling time is by keeping myself occupied and immersing myself in fabric and colour. It's turning out to be a lengthy and therefore productive period!


 Cut lining strips that are ¾” larger all round than the cardboard. Follow the same procedure of adding glue to the card and the corners of the fabric to stick the lining fabric to the lid sides, remembering to stick the short side first.

                 Cover the lid sides

Cut a square of batting to the size of the lid and stick it in place. Cut out the centre hole and make sure the batting is cut right to the edge of the card. Prepare a lining square that is ¾” larger all round than the top of the box (7” x 6 ½”).

                           Batting onto lid

Stick the lining fabric onto the batting side of the box.

Lining onto batting

 Cut out a small hole from the centre to leave a good 1” seam allowance. Use small sharp scissors to clip up to 1/8” of the cardboard edge. Clip every ¼”.

                       Clip the seam allowance

Apply glue to the card around the edge of the circle. Stick each of the shapes down securely to complete the lining of the lid.

                            Lining complete

Cut a piece of batting to the exact size of the lid, and outer fabric that is ¾” larger all round (7” x 6 ½”).

                         Batting and fabric

Use a marker to draw round the hole for the box top on the RS of the fabric. Cut out a small circle to leave a good 1” seam allowance and clip every ¼”, up to1/8” of the marked line.

                                  Clip the seam

Place the batting centrally onto the WS of the fabric. Add glue around the circle and stick the clipped seam down.

                            Stick the seam

Stick the fabric onto the lid as described above for the base of the box.

                    Glue the sides

                        Pinch the corners

                             Tape the folds

Sew around the centre hole with a ladder stitch and add the edge strip as described for the base of the box.

                         Add the edge strip

If you have difficulty concealing stitches on the top of the box, you can always add a bit of trimming to cover them! This completes the box. 

                        Completed box

ASIDE: Stumbled on a free drop-in workshop with Mandy Coates at the Ruthin Craft Centre on Saturday and came out with this half an hour later!

                           Willow dragonfly

Sunday, 8 September 2013

BLOG 165

It’s all about the Tissue Box this week and next week. A couple of Blogs ago, I prepared the lining for the box base and now I am ready to cover it with the outer fabric and do the lid.



Cut a rectangle of fabric which is 1” larger all round than the base of the box (7 ½” x 7”).

Cut a strip (22 ½” x 7 ½”) to go all round the outside of the box with 2” to spare on the length measurement for an over-lap (22 ½”). The width should be 2” wider so that both edges can be turned (7 ½”). Notice that I have ironed under a 1” seam allowance along one long edge only.

                           Outer fabric

Add glue to the corners of the fabric rectangle and place it, WS up, on a flat surface. Add 1” of glue around the lower sides of the box (this corresponds with the extra fabric of the rectangle). Place the base of the box onto the fabric.

                           Base onto fabric

 Pull the fabric firmly to stick it up the box sides. Pinch the corners to stick them together firmly. Turn it upside down to make sure the base is smooth.

                            Smooth base

 Fold the pinched fabric to one side and use a small strip of masking tape to hold it down. Repeat for all corners.


                                    Masking tape

                       Base complete

 To add the side strip, start by over-lapping one of the vertical corners by 1” and secure it with masking tape. Make sure that the fold of the ironed edge lies level with the base and tape to secure it for sewing.

                           Overlap a corner

                  Sew around the base

Use a close matching thread and a concealed stitch to sew around the base.

Turn under the excess fabric so that the fold lies on the vertical edge. Sew up the vertical seam.

                           Vertical seam

 When you are half way towards the top edge, turn under the excess fabric so that it is level with top edge of the box. Sew along this top edge using a ladder stitch. (This is the shortest possible stitch, going straight across from one fabric to another. The needle slides for 1/8” in the fold before going back straight across to the other side.) This completes the box base.


                                Ladder stitch

 I had a wonderful diversion this week at the hands of talented machine embroiderer Suzette ‘one pin’ Smart. I created a bird using machine embroidery and this is the result. The most difficult part was getting it to stand up!! (ASIDE: the ‘one pin’ tag came about when I asked Suzette if I could borrow a pin. It took her about 5 minutes to find … 1 pin!)

                        Bow-legged chicken

                    Knock-kneed hen