18 March 2011

Batik, C'est Chic

I've blogged about this book before, but it is coming up again, because I've got to say how much fun I have just keeping that electric fry pan of wax around and pulling it out on a random evening when I've got a free hour and a bell pepper.

Since I don't dye too often in the winter, I've got a fair amount of waxed fabric in a box under my bed, just waiting to be dyed.

When I made the light blue dye bath for my soccer jersey, I went through the box to see if any of the waiting fabric would be pleasing in blue.

I found this one, which was made using the aforementioned bell pepper:
Looks good all dyed up, no?

If you look back at my older posts about batik, you'll see that the problem I had when following the directions in Malka's book was some missing details in the explanation of removing the wax from the fabric.  Basically, this is what I learned last time (which Malka confirmed in the comments to an earlier blog post):  don't try to boil out more than a yard of fabric at a time.

I have discovered another useful tip which really minimizes the work involved in removing the wax:  as the wax boils off the fabric, scoop it out of the pot.

Those bubbles on the surface are wax.

Scoop the wax.
Have a bucket of cold water handy and put the hot water and wax you've just scooped into the bucket.
As you can see, this removes a lot of the wax from the pot!  It's kind of fun to watch it solidify as it hits the cold water.  You don't have to watch the pot and scoop the wax continuously, a few times over the course of the boiling will do it.

Doing this made the post-pot wax removal time about 10-seconds long.  I just had to rinse the fabric and massage it to verify that all the wax had been removed  (it had!) Hooray!

Only drawback:  my soup ladle is no longer safe for food...oh well, nothing a trip to the shops won't fix!

16 March 2011

DIY Soccer Jersey

It's crazy how fulfilling I find it to be able to make certain things for myself. 

This weekend, I needed to go to the thrift store for a light blue shirt.  I need it for a soccer team I'm subbing on next month.  I was whinging to myself a bit about this trip; I was going to have to walk to the store, which I wasn't in the mood for.  And then I was going to have to dig through their shirts for one that was 100% cotton and big enough and the right color and didn't say anything too obnoxious on it. There are days where that sounds like fun; this was not one of those days.

Then I remembered that I had white t-shirts and blue dye.  Ten minutes later, a white t-shirt was submerged in a dye bath.
I used most of the same steps you'll find in my Immersion Dyeing Tutorial, except that I didn't paste the dye up in a dish, but added it to a squeeze bottle with some salty water, shaking it to mix.  I used a squeeze bottle because I figured I'd start the dye bath with a very small amount of dye in it and then slowly add more if the shirt was too light; the squeeze bottle makes that easy and safe. 

The trick to getting pastel colors is to have only a small amount of dye in the bath...it's not like paints where you stir in white to get pastels.

After the dye bath and washing the shirt, I printed my jersey number on the back.  I contemplated getting a more polished look by using paint and a freezer paper stencil or maybe whipping out the fabric markers, but I decided I wanted a sort-of handmade dot-matix look, so I used a radish to stamp paint on the shirt. 
I like the result and am ready to play!

10 March 2011

March of the Tools: Rotary Cutting Tools

The fabric designer Heather Bailey started  March of the Tools  on her blog a couple of years ago.  Since I have had a few questions about the handle on my rotary ruler, I thought I'd take a post to talk about this tool and a few others.

I resisted buying this handle.  In general, I try not to buy "stuff," so this isn't too surprising.  Also it is very purple and plastic, which makes it one of my least favorite colors and materials! Plus, it costs around $20 and just wasn't sure if it would be $20 worth of awesome.

I thought about it for at least a year.
I looked at cheaper options.
Ultimately, I sucked it up and forked over the $20.
I wish I had done it sooner!
This tool makes it so much easier to hold the ruler in place while cutting, to move the ruler between cuts, and to set up cuts very precisely.
I don't, in general, have a clumsiness problem, but I'd wager that if you were someone who worried about cutting your flesh when cutting your fabric, the gripper would help to avoid those accidents.

Love this tool!

While we're talking about rotary cutting, I wanted to point you towards my favored rotary cutter: Olfa's Quick Change Rotary Cutter .  Why do I like this one?  As the name implies, it is very easy to change the blades.  The problem I had with the ergonomic one (see picture below) is that I have a heck of a time changing the blade and then end up with a wobbly blade. The Quick Change is very easy to change and never wobbly.

Also, I am ambidextrous enough to cut with my left hand when the situation calls for it, and the ergonomic cutter is for right-handed cutting only.

The downside of the Quick Change Rotary Cutter is that it doesn't automatically cover the blade when you set it down...you have to slide the guard up.  This is second-nature to me now, so its not a problem.  But, if you are accident prone...maybe not the right cutter for you. 

 This is the ruler I use 90% of the time.
It's just a really good size for me (6.5 x 24.5) since I usually cut on a 24x36 mat.  And that purple half-inch on the one side is really useful!

I don't have any strong feelings about rotary cutting mats except that bigger is better and buy them when Joann's puts them on 40% or 50% sale.  : )
The one that I use currently is a Fiskars mat.  I like its pretty colors.
When buying a rotary cutting mat, I avoid any that are putting off a strong odor. 
I also avoid any that have a lot of writing on them.  I used to have a smaller Olfa mat and I was constant working around a corner that was full of words rather than ruler markings.

So, that's me marching out my rotary cutting tools.
For advice on caring for these tools check out this webpage.
And if you're new to the whole rotary shebang, check out this tutorial.

For my other March of the Tools posts click on the label below.

What's your favorite tool?

06 March 2011


The rain stopped.  And then it snowed.  And then the sun came out.  Quilt picture time!

I've named the quilt the DoublePlusGoodQuilt.  Yep.

This link will take you to the first image, in its original size (huge!) in case you want to scroll across the quilt top and see what's going on there. 
View it huge!

See if you can spot the fabrics I made or altered--there's an original batik, some potato prints, and some wrong-side out fabrics.

Currently my plan for quilting this is a vertical honeycomb, then binding with yellow.  We shall see.

04 March 2011

And miles to go before I sleep...under this quilt...

I like to forget how long it can take to go from finishing quilt blocks to finishing a quilt.

I guess this might take a particularly long time when you start from 100 blocks that are all different heights and widths and not squared up.  : )

This is my process…

Step One:  Square up the blocks

Step Two:  Sort blocks by height

Step Three:  Lay out blocks keeping blocks of approximately the same height in the rows together:
Step Four:  Label each block with its location in the overall quilt
( I like to use address labels on which I write 1-1   1-2   1-3)
I always mark the end of the row with an extra symbol so that know when I'm done.

I pin the blocks in pairs as I pick them up. 

I’m not a big pinner in general, but here it is useful to keep the pair together.  Generally, I only put a few pins in each pair, all on the end where I want to start the seam.

For each row, I decide whether I’m going to line up the bottom or the top of the blocks.  Because the blocks are not identical heights, rows get squared up after they are joined and having either the top or bottom already straight makes this easier and less wasteful.

Step Five:
Sew and press and sew and press until the rows are complete.

Step Six:
Square up the rows.
Here’s the best way that I have found to do this.

(a) start in the middle of the row.   Line up a seam with the lines in the rotary cutting mat. 

(b)  check the top or bottom (whichever is supposed to already be square) to be sure that it is square.  You need it to be square, so even if it is just 1/16” off somewhere, square the whole row again.

(c) With one side totally square, find the shortest block in the row.  Start from that block and square up the row.  Be precise.

Step Seven
Once all  of the rows are squared up, lay them out again.  Check that you don’t need to make any rows wider…your quilt is going to be as wide as your narrowest row.  Pick the rows up in pairs, deciding whether you are going to join them starting from the left or the right.  Varying this will result in a more balanced final quilt.  When deciding, I think about which blocks will get cut up and what is going to line up with what.

Join the first pairs of row, then lay the quilt out again.  Again, decide whether you are going to join rows from the left or the right.

In this picture, you can see that some rows have been joined starting from the left and some from the right. 
As you go through this, you can start cutting off extra width from the rows.  I do this by sliding my rotary mat onto the floor under my quilt.

Step Eight
Realize you’re done.  Wish it wasn’t raining so that you could take the quilt top out for a proper photograph.