Working With Hot Fix Fibers (Angelina Fibers)

Stellar Nursery, inspired by NASA photos of "Mountains of Creation".  My first deep space quilt.

Stellar Nursery, inspired by NASA photos of “Mountains of Creation”. My first deep space quilt.

I have made two deep space quilts that used large “appliques” of Angelina Fibers…or holographic fibers that make a “fabric” when ironed together and their sister fibers that do not iron together.  I used these fibers to try to represent the exquisite colorful gas clouds pictured in NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer telescope photographs.  I also have used this product to represent foamy tops of waves on a stormy sea on other quilts.  I believe they would also make wonderful steam clouds from a steam locomotive, wings of butterflies, dragon flies, fairies, or angels.

Working with the fibers is not really difficult, but I have discovered some things that make them work better for my purposes.  First of all, one cannot simply place a pile of fibers down and iron them flat if they are to look right. It’s more like painting with your fingers.

You need the following tools:

  • sheets of either a teflon pressing cloth or a saved sheet of backing paper from fusible webbing (note the hot fix fibers only stick to themselves and the bottom of your iron…you can work directly on your ironing board, though I cover mine with backing paper).
  • an iron
  • a pointy something, like a chop stick or a bamboo cooking skewer or a sewing awl to move the fibers around.
  • a hard pressing surface works better than a well-padded ironing board
Set up ready to start

Set up ready to start

Working with very thin layers, I laid the fibers on a backing paper and arranged them as much like I wanted them as possible with such a lively set of fibers, and carefully placed the teflon sheet over the top.

Really thin layer

Really thin layer

Blues change color the most

Blues change color

Sometimes, sliding the pointy thing under the pressing sheet, I made a few adjustments.  I then  ironed over the sheet, drawing the iron across slowly but steadily and without stopping.  That is all it needs to turn it into a “fabric”.

Carefully cover with pressing sheet

Carefully cover with pressing sheet

Here are some of the other things I learned about it:

  • If you iron the fibers too long….and that may be just a few more seconds…it will darken.  This can be useful if you are making a dark nebula, for instance, like the Horse Head.
  • They tend to change colors a bit.  Blue fibers are the hardest to keep their colors.
  • Not all Angelina Fibers are hot fix, but if you are going to cover the fibers with a nylon veiling and sew down, you can use them if they are the color you need by sandwiching them between a very thin layer of the hot fix crystal colors.
  • Work like you are finger painting…round shapes, good for cloud puffiness, are best done in circular motions with your fingers, and carefully laying the pressing sheet over them and pressing. ‘
  • You can kind of comb the fibers with your fingers and the pointy thing if you need them to stretch out sort of straight.
  • The only way to get a hard edge is to make a flat sheet of the fabric and then cut it.  If you want a soft edge (in appearance), don’t cut it, but pull it straight out flat with your fingers until it  tears  off in order to fit into your desired shape.
  • Once the fiber is made into a fabric, this fabric cannot be pulled into any additional shape…there is absolutely no stretch.
  • Sometimes it is possible to remove a layer if you haven’t over-melted your fibers together and don’t like what you have done.

 

layer ready for horsehead

layer ready for horsehead

If you are working out a pattern of some sort, you need to realize you will not be able to mark it except perhaps with a soft chalk marker that will just go away while you are working with it.  I worked on black fabric and printed out a smaller picture of what I was trying to accomplish in color.  Laying it next to my work, I referenced it.  I did mark approximate sections within the nebula on my black fabric using a chalk for sizing purposes.

The resulting artwork should not be washed after completion, so you have to be aware of that during the entire time.  It is possible to block your quilt by laying it on the floor and spritzing it with a fine mist of water, but do not wash it in your washer.  Also, once quilted, don’t pull your quilt too forcefully to try to block it.  So I use a quilt sandwich somewhat larger than I need and square it up by cutting rather than blocking.  The blocking is so it lays nice and flat.

I also printed the horsehead full sized and cut it out like a pattern.  This enabled me to cut out the horsehead part of the nebula by holding it together with the fiber applique before applying it.

Horsehead cut out after making as close as possible with fiber "painting"

Horsehead cut out after making as close as possible with fiber “painting”

The background needs to be completed before you start adding the Angelina Fibers.  In the case of the Sky Horse, I painted some of it first, sandwiched the quilt, spray basting it together, then laid the appliques on the background and covered them with black nylon veiling.  Black veiling virtually disappears in this case.  Then I placed my pressing sheet over that and did a light ironing to join all the appliques together.  Once I did that, I pinned it together with safety pins and did the quilting.

Horsehead layer in place

Horsehead layer in place

I used both black 100 wt silk thread and Superior’s Glitter.   This thread looks almost like the Angelina Fibers and works well for special places, such as the horse’s head.  I heavily quilted it.  Once it is quilted together with the nylon veiling it is much less fragile and I found it went through the shipping to and from and the showing at the Houston show with no apparent damage at all.  Before it is quilted, though, it is kind of easy to crease it.

You can't mark this, so lay a picture beside your work.

You can’t mark this, so lay a picture beside your work.

When used as just a small accent on a quilt, you don’t necessarily need a veiling, but you do need a heavy amount of quilting.  I found that Superior’s Glitter works very well for this also, since it looks like the fiber, but it sews easily.

Tatum_SkyHorse_Full 2014

Sew there you go….that’s how I work with  Angelina Fibers.  It’s harder to describe than it is to do, sew give it a try.  I’d love you to let me know how you find working with it yourself and if you have any tips to add.

Sew happy everyone!

 

I Like Machine Applique

appliques

Appliques from Canterbury Silk at the beginning of the quilting process. These are fused, stitched raw edge applique with narrow single blanket stitch.

I have noticed lately quite a few statements by sewists and quilters about how they really dislike doing, are afraid of, or simply won’t do applique.  I have a little arthritis in these aging hands and find machine applique much more user friendly for this situation than by hand, but it is one of my favorite parts of making a quilt.  I use several applique methods and use each for different purposes.  I decided to share a few of my favorite applique points.

1.  For  very complex edge appliques I always use fused raw edge machine stitched applique.  I decide what look I want to determine if I use a satin stitch, a single blanket stitch, or a double blanket stitch.  I almost always use a really narrow stitch, but once, when I made seaweeds, I used a wider double blanket stitch and it looks really cool. 

 

Thread painted coral and seaweed with wider double blanket stitched edge.

Thread painted coral and seaweed with wider double blanket stitched edge.

For the printed appliques I digitally paint of faces and small appliques, I sometimes use a very small straight stitch with 10o wt silk very very close to the edge.  It depends on what I want to accomplish.

The Storyteller–This quilt relies heavily on appliques. Even the tree trunk, which is embroidered, was embroidered on a separate piece of fabric, cut out, and turned edge machine stitched. You just cannot see it was machine stitched down. The sun is turned edge also. All the other appliques are fused and edge stitched.

2.  For very smooth edged, larger appliques, I usually use a double layer of freezer paper template pressed to the wrong side, and do a turned edge by painting starch on the edge, turning it, and ironing just a small bit of the edge at first to make a smooth edge, and then ironing the whole turned edge down.  Once that’s all starched and heat set, I remove the freezer paper and iron it all flat.  I then stitch it down with 100 wt silk using a very narrow applique stitch.  It virtually disappears and closely approximates hand turned applique.

3.  Occasionally, I have done a reverse applique.  It’s not hard at all and has a unique look.

4.  And finally, there is the painted “applique”.  I will either paint it on the quilt and then quilt or quilt and then paint.  This is good for when you want to shade the applique or make it have a particularly unique look.  Although I use fabric paints that are washable after heat setting, I do not consider these quilts very washable.  They are blockable, but I would not wash these frequently.

Sew try some appliques on your next project. If you don’t like one method…try another. Teach someone to quilt, yourself, your son, your daughter, your BFF, your cat, your dog.

 

 

 

 

Progress Report and Thoughts on Quilting Economics

Saturday Morning 12 July

Saturday Morning 12 July

Hi. It’s been a while since I wrote a post mainly because I didn’t have anything more interesting to say than “I’m still quilting.” 😀  Well, I finally finished the quilting and moved on to painting the border.

Now I thought that painting the border would not take me more than a day or two, but I have been painting about three full days so far and as you can see, I have less than half of it done.  I’m using a combination of  Lumiere and Setacolor paints.  I found if I accidentally paint a little outside the stitching, it can easily be removed if I act quickly with a dampened paper towel.  Then I finish off the leaves and flowers with a coat of SoSoft glitter finish.  I actually like the Setacolor glitter finish also, but the glitter pieces are much larger in it and I thought the subtlety of the SoSoft works better for this quilt.  SoSoft takes a couple of days to stop being sticky, but it dries to a level where it doesn’t disturb it if you touch it in about 10 minutes.  Setacolor dries faster and better than any of the paints.  After the paint dries for a couple of days, I will turn the quilt upside down into a soft towel to prevent the trapunto effect from being squashed and heat set them by ironing from the back of the quilt.  I’ve already tried this with my sample pieces and know it works well. 

I estimate that I will finish the painting in about three more days of work.   I am using multiple paint colors on each leaf, flower, and swirl and this takes time. Then I will bind it and I have a lot of beading I want to add to the quilt…beads in the middle of the flowers, around the center of the faux sashing between the red center block and the border, and I ‘m debating whether to scatter some beads on the border.  The original design from the illuminated manuscript has some scattered spots of paint that could easily be beads on the quilt.  Here it is.  See the spots?

My design...border taken directly from digital picture of an illuminated manuscript.

My design…border taken directly from digital picture of an illuminated manuscript.

 

Sew that’s why I haven’t been around to post anything much lately.  But I have been taking periodic breaks and watching entries in Facebook, The Quilt Show, and so forth.  I have noticed that there is a bit of disturbance in the quilting world regarding what threads and fabrics to buy, what fabrics “require” what threads, and where “responsible shoppers” buy them.  Sigh.  I may lose some of my followers here, but this is what I think about all of this.  Buy the best grade of fabrics and threads you can, because you are spending so much of your time and effort making these wonderful quilts and garments, but sometimes you can find real bargains of fine quality threads and fabrics.  So buy them where you can get the best for the best price.  If you buy them from JoAnns, or the big box store, you can take comfort in the fact that you are helping supply badly-needed jobs for your neighbors.  If you buy them at your local quilt store, you can take comfort in the fact that you are helping to keep them in business.  If you buy them from the Internet for a particularly good price and convenience without spending gas to go get them, you can rejoice in having saved enough over time to make one more quilt—perhaps even a charity quilt.  Don’t feel guilty for where you shop or what you buy, but DO pay attention to the quality.

Sometimes it is just as cheap or cheaper to buy a high quality thread in a cone on sale than it is to buy a low quality thread in smaller quantities at a discount store.  The lower quality thread also can damage your machine, so that has to enter into your thinking about the economics behind your purchases.  Also, it is not necessary to use cotton threads on cotton fabrics.  The quality of the higher end threads, especially, are so high now that no longer applies.

Sew those of you out there who have developed into–for good reason–thread snobs or fabric snobs, please be gentle with those who shop where you think they should not and buy the threads you think they should not, and vice-a-versa.  Love thy fellow quilter or sewist as thyself.

Sew happy everyone!  Teach someone to sew…your son, your granddaughter, your nephew, your niece, your fiance, your neighbor down the street, your cat, your dog. 😀

Playing in My Studio: Combining Multiple Techniques

I really love taking the different techniques I have managed to gather over the decades and apply them to make an art quilt, a decorated vest, or a beautiful bag. Since my retirement a couple of years ago I have spent a lot of my time learning and perfecting new and old techniques with the goal of being able to call on anything to produce the look I want. In my quilt “Waiting…”, for instance, I used drawing, paper piecing, regular piecing, applique, trapunto, fabric painting, digital art printed fabrics, thread painting, free motion quilting, and embellishment.

Waiting...

Waiting…

So whether you are a traditional, contemporary, art, or modern quilter, I encourage you to gather your techniques and tools and put them all together to realize your own masterpieces. It’s really fun to not be limited by not knowing how to do some technique and you can end up with some delightful items while you learn. While it’s always nice to have a face-to-face class with an expert, one of the nice things today is there are many sources for learning these techniques online, sometimes with accompanying books.

First of all, If you haven’t already, I suggest you spend the modest amount of money to buy a membership on The Quilt Show and watch the shows, the classes, and the videos that accompany the BOM (Block of the Month) even if you are not making the BOMS. This has been a big resource for me in improving my quilt making, learning about who are the major quilters in the world today, and being inspired when I get discouraged.

Secondly, I discovered that Nancy Zieman has many of her Sewing With Nancy available free to watch on Wisconsin Public Television online website, many of which relate to quilting, but in fact, most any kind of sewing relates to quilting.  Also, you can purchase her dvds with accompanying books from Nancy’s Notions.

Sharon Schamber has dvds available now on some of her techniques from her daughter’s website that she used to have on a downloadable website. I subscribed to that website that is now defunct, and downloaded and watched everything available, even the long arm ones. I fortunately still have them.  Some of the videos seem a little primitive in format, but her techniques are wonderful. I particularly recommend The Quilt Fairy, which shows a painting method that has stood me in good stead for many places on my show quilts.  Now that brings up another point.  Fabric painting has different styles and materials just like applique or piecing, and each one has its place and learning as many of them as you can is helpful.  On “Waiting…” I used Sharon Schamber’s method presented in The Quilt Fairy to put the lowlights and highlights in the woman’s dress and cape.  I used my own computerized digital painting to paint her face and hands and printed them on fabric and appliqued them.  I used watered down Setacolor fabric paints to wash paint the sky fabric as demonstrated by Mickey Lawler show number 1305 on The Quilt Show.  Her hair is thread painted, which is another key technique especially useful for art quilts.  While I developed my own technique for this, it closely matches that shown by Nancy Prince on show number 1004 on TQS.

 

finished detail as shot 2

Wind-tossed woman showing the high and lowlights on her clothing, her digitally painted face and hands, her thread painted hair, and a little embellishment.

 

tatum-detail-waiting-AQS

The clipper ship has wool batting between the sails and the quilt. Together with the dual bats (one 80/20 and one wool) I used in the quilt itself, this provided a wind look behind the sails.

If you are going to be at AQS Charlotte in July, my quilt “Waiting…” will be in the show and you can go see it for yourself.  It may not place.  I have had it in two shows so far and it did not.  One judge at Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival thought my borders were too large.  Another judge at HMQS really didn’t like it.  She didn’t like my color choices, my overall design impact, and my quilting.  But hey, to each his own, right?  I would make it in the same colors today even after that critique, and I happen to like what I call “organic” quilting for a story landscape quilt like this.  The winners for that show are magnificent quilts, I will say.  Nevertheless, I am honored to have my quilt show in the big shows even without a ribbon.

I want to show you one other quilt, because it has a heavy dose of in-the-hoop machine embroidery, which isn’t used in Waiting…,  that I digitized myself and also motifs I used from my Bernina software that I enlarged and painted after it was quilted.

The Storyteller...now touring with Hoffman Challenge 2013 show

The Storyteller…now touring with Hoffman Challenge 2013 show

The phoenix and dragon in front of the sun is the story she is writing.  The word on her tablet is “Betty” in Japanese Katakana.  I drew and painted her on my computer myself, printed her on fabric and appliqued her down.  After that I added some highlights with real paint.  Then I drew and digitized the tree trunk myself from scratch.  It was a bear to stitch.  I stitched it out twice on a piece of brown fabric.  It required two hoopings on my jumbo hoop on my Bernina 830 LE, and then I turned the edge of the brown fabric behind the stitching and appliqued it to the quilt.  Even though the tree trunk was tough to do, I like it so much I am planning on using this kind of tree trunk in a deep dark forest quilt that I am planning, which will have a beam of light making it through the trees to a color-filled spot on the forest (perhaps the ruin of a beautiful little church with the light shining through the stained glass window to the floor of the forest where flowers are blooming.  It’s been in my head for a long time now.

I am telling you all of this because I am thinking of writing a book about some or all of these techniques.  I am working on a book proposal now, but I can’t share much about this with you because of the publisher rules, who understandably does not want things published before the book gets published.  I have temporarily put aside the Bernina book because I understand that many of my frustrations have been dealt with in the latest v7 software upgrade, but I need to obtain this product before I can see for sure.

Sew happy everyone!  And pull those techniques together–even hand quilting and embroidery–to realize your dream quilts.

 

On Managing Stashes for Busy Sewists

stash-building-web

I hear a lot of embarrassment out there from my sewing friends about the size of their stashes, but I say don’t be embarrassed, but be grateful and manage those stashed right into productivity.  It just needs a realization that there is a huge value to having well-stocked stashes  collected over time and properly managed.  I began this practice decades ago when I first used sewing as a supplemental income when my children were very small and improved it substantially since retiring a couple of years ago.

Since retiring and reorganizing my stashes I have found the value of spending just a little time each week making sure things are put where they belong and taking note of what needs replacing.  Now don’t get me wrong.  I am not very good at this.  Instead of carefully ironing and folding my fabrics and organizing them carefully on shelves, as some of you do, I sort of fold them straight from the dryer, and then stuff them into my generically labeled drawers.  I just dump my threads in similar plastic bins according to type.  Libby Lehman, bless her dear heart, had a magnificently organized studio, properly labeled (I would guess it sits there waiting for her full recovery still in its organized splendor).  She was my inspiration, but I will never reach her level of organization.   Still, she helped me see that at least SOME organization is needed.  I’m sure some of you would be horrified if you saw what I considered “organized”…LOL

studio3

Imagine that you have a great idea, found that perfect pattern, or have designed a special project in Electric Quilt whatever version and want to get going on it.  In your dreamworld, you go into your studio, select your fabrics from your impeccably organized stash, and get started.  Then you pull the perfect threads out of your thread stash just right for your project.  Your small amount of time is well spent and you make significant progress on your project in that little bit of time.  Now I know it is fun to go shopping in your local quilt shop, but my time and budget is limited even since I retired, so I needed to develop a list of what I needed for several projects ahead.   Since retiring to full-time fabric artist, I have had to organize my projects, deadlines, show quilt schedules.  It saves me far more time than it cost to set this up initially and keep it going.  I use simple computerized spreadsheets and it seems to work.  I also put deadlines on my computer calendar so it reminds me when I need to do something to help counter that vanishing-time problem.  🙂

What kinds of stashes do you have?  I have several types of stashes–quilting cottons, various types of silks, light woolens, denims, etc. in the fabrics sections.  But my thread stashes have significantly grown since I retired.  My favorite threads are #30 and #40 polyester solids and variegated embroidery threads,  #100 silk threads, #12 and #16 perle cotton threads, and #8 perle cottons and Razzle Dazzle and other decorative bobbin and hand embroidery threads, and hand quilting threads that I use for hand sewing beads onto my creations.  I also have a collection of buttons, beads, sequins, fabric paints and markers, brushes, stabilizers, interfacing, bag making specialty parts, and needles of all descriptions.  I also have a very nice collection of tools.  I did not collect these all at once, but over the course of many decades and some of these items are inherited and older than me.

In the past few years I have given away a large amount of fabrics for clothing that I know I will never make.  I had decided I need to give away a lot out of my quilting fabrics stash because they no longer appeal to my tastes (funny how that happens), but instead I decided to design several very quick to make quilts that are still pretty, and take those fabrics and make them into pre-cut kits, using my die cutter, that I will either sew up myself or convince some of my friends to sew for people in need.  We’ll see if this works  or not.  I’ve only just started this. 

My ultimate goal is to reach a point where the fabrics in my stash are the ones I will use so my stuffed full drawers will once again resemble a nicely organized stash, that I have the stabilizers, battings, beads, buttons, and threads I need most of the time and don’t have to delay a project to order them (my “local” quilt shop is 45 minutes away, and the brands I like are not often available, so I buy my threads online).

Sew I have learned that a small part of my in-the-studio time has to go to managing my projects and stashes in order to keep more productive  and the costs spread out across time (as you know threads and fabrics are so expensive…it just helps to have built a stash and keep it stocked so I don’t have to spend a big amount at the beginning of each project), and my fabric art humming along.  I realize a lot of you are far better organized than me, but I encourage you if you haven’t done so to take a look at your own stashes and projects and do a little managing and organizing and your productivity and imagination may just take off and soar in ways you don’t expect.  And you’ll probably save a little money too.

Sew happy everyone!