Satin Sampler

OK.  I have been working out a satin sampler to test markers, techniques, threads, paints, and background designs for several projects, one being my Mom’s memory quilt.  The cool thing about this is that I am making it with polyester crepe back satin.  It has a lovely beefy hand and I wanted to test it for future projects.  Why?  Partly because I can get a 58 inch wide piece for about $5 per yard for a lighter hand up to $8 a yard for a heavy satin instead of the $17 to $40 a yard for 43″ wide fabric, and partly because there are some wonderful colors available in the polyester that don’t run when washed.  I am using the heavy polyester crepe back satin for this sampler.  I will be making it into a pillow top for my bedroom since I can tell I will like it when finished.

Sew I have layered it with a cotton backing, and a double bat of Quilter’s Dream 80/20 select loft on bottom and Quilter’s Dream wool on top.  I marked it with a heat-away gel pen (see my blog on marker testing for this satin) that I do not recommend unless you are prepared to go through a removal process that requires much effort and time.  This ink returns when frozen (such as in the airplane when you check your luggage or ship it someplace). Also, my marker testing is incomplete, because I want to finish the sampler, freeze it, and completely test the removal process again on this sandwiched piece. I am quilting it with 40 weight Superior Magnifico and, where needed, 100 weight microquilter.

I painted this sampler with a combination of Setacolor and Jacquard Lumier fabric paints in order to get the colors I wanted.  Their steadfastness will also be tested in the freezing/washing test.

Here is a little look at my work on this little sampler thus far.  I am really having fun with this.  While most of the stitch work has been on my Bernina Q20 sitdown longarm, some very small amount was done on my new B 880 Plus machine, just to see how it quilts.  LOL

 

 

So my conclusion about good quality polyester crepe back satin as a quilting fabric…it works, it’s beautiful, and it both paints and quilts well.  I do back it with a very light weight pellon fusible to make it behave well.

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Something I didn’t tell you all earlier is that just after I got Odette all sorted out with a new machine from Bernina because the first one seemed to have a serious problem, I made a mistake in threading it and got a huge glob of thread nest in it that I could not remove myself.  So I had to take it in to the dealer to get it fixed.  It made me weep. I was really gloomy when I found that Lew, the magical tech guy, was out for two weeks and so I had to wait.  He fixed it almost imediately when he got back and I got it safely home on Tuesday and have done considerable sewing and embroidery on it since then.  It is clearly a wonderful machine.  It was my mistake, and I have since figured out what I did wrong (with Lew’s suggestions).  I didn’t want to whine again or have people tell me I was wrong to buy it in the first place because their prefered brand works so much better they think.

Anyway, that meant that I was without my main sewing machine for nearly three months with the exception of a day or two twice!!!  So I did a lot of sewing on my little Bernina 350 and a lot of free motion work on my Q20, and a lot of non-machine prep work for future projects, and stacked up quite a bit of work for the new machine.  I will, therefore, be missing a few deadlines I had tentatively planned on.

I have begun attacking the stack of work and have been having a huge amount of fun and the icy fear of further machine problems has begun to melt away over the past week.  In addition to some “regular” sewing, I did some in-the-hoop embroidery last week that came out so perfect and beautiful that I was nearly weeping again, this time in joy.  You should know that I seldom cry for anything much, and am known as a “tough old bird” as one of my former colleagues told me.  But this machine saga seems to have loosened a few tears from me.

Sew happy everyone!  May your stitches be beautiful and your machines play well with you for many years.  Hugs to you all!

 

Cotton, Polyester, Silk, or Rayon?

Periodically the question comes up on social media groups related to quilting about whether a quilter “should” or “can” use polyester or poly blend rather than cotton fabric or thread in their quilts.  This is usually followed by people vehemently claiming it MUST be cotton.  Nothing else but cotton, and declaring this as if the issue were settled and can not be questioned.  Those who suggest otherwise are mostly ignored.

I have also seen  several quilters claim that polyester does not last as long as cotton, which astonished me.  So, I have been doing some research.  You see, I think with today’s high quality manufacturing a quilter should feel free to use whatever fabric or thread they want to use without feeling they MUST use a  specific fiber.  So I thought I would write about this and also ask what you think.

First of all, it was pretty easy to find a lot of comparisons of the properties of cotton and polyester fabrics that had a bit of science behind them.  Without fail, such sites all said the polyester is more durable than cotton, which is what started me off on this hunt.  Cotton is also a wonderful fabric, but it is not true that polyester is less durable.  Some people say they have had a bad experience otherwise, and they probably did, but I suspect it was the quality of the fabric rather than the fiber that made the difference.

Additionally, I have been looking into how well polyester behaves in quilting and sewing, because I want to free up the quilting world to love and appreciate all manner of fibers for their quilts.  I’ve done some experimentation and talked with other quilters who use polyesters in their work.

I am an expert sewist and quilter…very experienced with dealing with fabrics, having sewn for over sixty years.  I had my own business as a fashion designer and tailor some years ago,  and have been a show quilter for over 11 years now, as you all probably know.  I have won some ribbons in international shows. I have made many of my own clothes and those of the men in my family.  Trust me, when I say that I know how fabric should behave.

Years ago I made many special occasion dresses, including wedding dresses, from both silk and polyester.  I also made men’s suits in both wool and wool blends, and special needs clothing for professors and business people in all manner of fabrics. For them and for my own clothes, I used both natural fiber fabrics, which I count Rayon as one, and polyesters.

Since I have been quilting, I use mostly cotton or silk because I like the way it looks.  But about a year ago Kaufman Fabrics ceased making my favorite quilting fabric, which was a blend of cotton and silk in a satin weave called Radiance.

Since then I have been trying out a few things to take its place.  One of those fabrics are various types of polyester satin.  I have found that a really good quality crepe back satin makes a fine quilting fabric.  It has enough give and take to show the quilting well and not to pucker.  The colors are good, the strong colors don’t bleed, the fabric doesn’t shrink.  And oh yes, it is about a third the price of Radiance.  I love it.  I have a polyester satin show quilt planned for this year.

I also think that some of the lighter weight polyesters and different weaves of poly blends are acceptable to use in quilting.

From my own experiences there is a wide range of quality of fabrics of all kind. The quality, no matter the fiber, is really an important factor in determining how the fabric behaves.

Admittedly, when trying to do things like inset sleeves into a garment or piecing a curve, most polyesters will show a slight tendency to pucker.  I have not found that to be the case of the crepe back satin and other crepe weaves, however, because I think the crepe weave gives it enough give and take to counter the lack of ability to shrink.

Sometimes, you need to back your polyesters (and your silks too, I might add) with a light weight fusible interfacing to make it behave well.

Silk is a sometimes difficult fabric to work with, will bleed like everything, and sometimes will shrink.  But it is so beautiful, that it is worth the effort to make it work.  I hand prewash silk using Synthrapol.  It makes it less likely to bleed when you use a little starch or some steam on your finished show quilt.  But sometimes the bleeding is just too great to use with another color.  I also usually back the silk with light weight fusible interfacing.  THEN it works as well as cotton.

Cotton does work the best, admittedly, but it needs to be prewashed to contain the shtrinkage and prevent later bleeding. I use Synthrapol for that too, because some manufacturing does not fully set the dye and there may be some lose dye that could even just bleed from working the fabrics, not even involving water.

Now rayon is a fussy fabric and I have never tried to use it in a quilt, but I love it for some clothing.  It, however, shrinks!  So if you are going to use it be certain to prewash it.  I love how it drapes and moves in a full skirt or loose flowing jacket.  It’s a wonderful fabric made from trees.

And yes, when it comes to threads, I like them all…cotton, poly blends, all polyester, silk, and wool.  Thread is a lovely thing.  You just need to buy a good brand of thread and the right needles to use with them.  Cheap thread does not do a good job.  It can stuff up the inner workings of your machine with fluff, break, pull, shred, and just make a mess, and yes, I have even had it shrink and bleed back when I used it years ago.  But really fine quality thread is a dream.

The answer is…you can use the fabric and threads of your choice and have a good result that lasts for many years and you can pass it down for generations.  Yes, there are bad fabrics out there that will shred, distort, and make a mess, but it’s a quality issue, not a fiber content issue if you pay attention to the right preparation for the fabric.

Sew you can use whatever you want to make your quilt, even burlap, for that matter, if you back it with fusible interfacing, but I won’t go near it, because burlap makes me break out and sneeze.  Hahahaha

Sew happy everyone!  Enjoy your quilting and sewing using the products you like and don’t listen to those who think there is only one way to do things because it was what their great grandparent used back before the fabric manufacturing was as advanced as it is today.

Working with Peppered Cottons

I just made a quilt using the beautiful Peppered Cotton  These cottons, designed by Pepper Cory, are beautifully colored and have a wonderful soft hand.  They would make marvelous bed quilts that use simple blocks, and I suspect they would be perfect for hand quilting.

I, however, chose to make a piece of wall art with precision machine embroidery using this soft, loose weave cotton because it had the perfect appearance for what I wanted to do.  While the blocks are simple in shape, they have detailed machine emnroidery, and the quilt itself presented some real challenges.

Here’s the quilt:

Kanazawa Memories, Completed August 2015

Kanazawa Memories, Completed August 2015

And a detail view:

Kanazawa Memories detail shot

Kanazawa Memories detail shot

 

When I first saw this fabric I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it.  It reminded me of antique fabrics used mostly by peasants centuries ago in Japan especially in firemen’s and fishermen’s coats, which were layered together and often repaired using Sashiko stitching.  While the peasants would probably have had blue or off white fabrics, these have wonderful colors with a warm feel.

Pepper Cory, who is a friend of mine, told me about The Ultimate Sashiko Sourcebook (you can find this in the little box of “My Favorite Products” on my sidebar if you don’t have your ad blocker turned on) and it helped me with figuring things out for this quilt  In the end, however, I used commercially available embroidery designs from OESD:  Sashiko 1.

I thought when I started the quilt that, although it was mainly a project for me to work on improving some techniques, that I may end up showing this quilt and ultimately selling it, so I asked OESD if I could use this design set for such a purpose, and was assured that was acceptable.  (It is so important to get such permissions before one spends hours and money on making a quilt you may show or sell, even if you are going to donate it for an auction at church).

But in order to get good machine embroidery results using such a nice soft cotton that is so loosely woven, one needs to back it with a very good stiff stabilizer.  I used tear away Madeira Cotton Stable (you can find it through that little box of my favorite products on the sidebar also), which is temporarily fusible.  I was going to tear it out, but by the time I got it all embroidered and the whole thing pieced together, I liked the way it had softened up just while working with it and the way it helped me with the piecing. So I ended up leaving it in. It is an all cotton stabilizer and I find it softens a lot from working it and when washed..  I could have backed it with a light weight fusible interfacing and used a wash away stabilizer that would have probably done the same thing.   I do love this stabilizer, and have found I can pretty easily tear it out when I want to, but it stays in place until torn.  I use it for a lot of my embroidery.

So, thinking I would probably wash the quilt when I was finished, I prewashed all the Peppered Cottons in cold water AFTER I serged the cut edges of the fabric before I cut it.  Such a loose weave really needs to have the edges serged before washing or you could lose a large bit of raveling.  If you don’t have a serger, you should stay stitch the edges prior to washing.  Indeed, this is a good way to approach any loosely woven fabric.  I serge the edges of silk dupioni just to store it in my stash because it ravels so badly.  I think that Peppered Cotton is not quite as bad, but when machine washed it would be bad.   This step saves lots of headaches.

The other thing I did for piecing this fabric was to use half inch seams instead of quarter inch.  In spite of the fact that this was initially a mistake in my cutting of the blocks, I found it much more stable overall that way.  Although when I did the moon, I did only a narrow turned edge…maybe even less than a quarter of an inch…but it was around a piece of freezer paper and I used a lot of spray on starch that I sprayed into the top of my starch can and painted on with a stiff little brush, then ironed the edge around the moon pattern.  I then glued the moon to the background and stitched around it with a short applique stitch using monopoly.  This worked really well and looks great.

After that I cut out the background behind it, I appliqued the Japanese flower arrangement onto the top.  I got the flowers by painting them digitally using Corel Painter and printed them on Electric Quilt fabric (Find them in “My Favorite Products” box)

I added an extra layer of wool batting just under the moon because I wanted the flowers to have a slight trapunto appearance.   Then I sandwiched with wool batting overall and a pretty quilting cotton print for the back, giving it all a lot of stability.

Everything went really well for the quilting of the central theme and the background using monopoly over the embroidered background and closely color matched 100 wt silk for the moon.  I did use a heavier weight 40 wt cotton to quilt the little creatures around in the moon.

Then I got to the borders.  I failed to back the borders or the binding with anything except the wool batting and backing.  It stretched during the quilting and binding.  You can read about my struggle with that in this post if you want.

To wrap up, when using Peppered Cotton, or any soft, loosely woven cotton you need to:

  1.  serge the edges of your yard goods before you prewash them.
  2. prewash the fabric in cold water with like colors.
  3. iron with some spray starch on the wrong side
  4. back with a stiff stabilizer for any machine embroidery
  5. back with fusible light weight interfacing for accurate piecing results and to reduce stretching when quilting.
  6. a cold water soak and blocking after completion is important to make the quilt square and flat. (You can steam it flat and square if you just don’t want to wash it and it’s a wall hanging).
  7. enjoy the quilt…it feels soft and cuddly and has a dynamic lovely look.

In the end, I am really happy with this little quilt and have decided to try to show it before I offer it for sale, mainly so some of my friends who live elsewhere can see it.  I don’t  think it will win any ribbons, but I think it might get into the shows, and that makes it really fun.

Sew happy everyone.  Try making a nice cuddly bed quilt with some Peppered Cottons, and, if you dare, make some blocks or a wall quilt that requires some precision.   Or you could make a fisherman’s coat to wear on cold wet days out on the sea.  Cheers.