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!

 

Back from my trip inspired and awed.

The haul from Houston

The haul from Houston

 

My trip was all around inspiring from the first half, which was spent at the International Quilt Festival in Houston (see the winners) to the second half of my trip, which I spent in San Diego with my brother and his family.  He took me to the San Diego Zoo’s Safari park, the main zoo, and to see my nephew and family.  What a wonderful trip!

I did not do a huge amount of purchases, because I either didn’t know where to look, or couldn’t find some of the things on my list.  But you see the photo above…I found two fantastic hand dyes and a bunch of threads (mostly metallics), and some new gloves.  I was looking for several specific fabrics, especially hand dyes for some planned quilts. These seemed just perfect.  I had several professional quilters recommend Wonderfil metallics to me, so I bought some to try.  I’ll let you know how they work for me.  I plan on ordering some prepared for dye fabrics (PFD) and a few Radiance (silk and cotton blends).  I found some Radiance, but it was already precut and wasn’t any cheaper.

But the most fun I had was in seeing the quilts and meeting friends, some of whom have been my friends for years and I have never met them.  I am embarrassed to say that I let my camera battery run down at the show and I had left the other one back at the hotel on Thursday…the day I had set aside to view the show and take pics…so I don’t have good quilt pics for you.  I am sorry. They were unbelievably magnificent, and I don’t think the pictures would have done them justice anyway.

I am fully inspired, and just as soon as I recharge my batteries (get some rest) and do a little house cleaning, I will plunge into making some show quilts for 2015, and, insofar as possible, take you along for my quilt journeys.  I actually had several of you come up to me and tell me you read my blog.  What a delight that was!  Thank you!  Sew I am now excited and inspired!

Sew happy everyone!  Teach someone to sew or quilt…yourself, your BFF, your cat…. 🙂  If your cat does make a quilt, be sure to share.  LOL

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. 😀

Progress and Plans

I’ve made a lot of progress on my little silk folk art Chaucer quilt, temporarily titled “Whan That Aprille”.  I have completed the central section, embroidered the text box, and assembled the top with the black border, which I also marked.  I am waiting on my order of additional black Radiance for the back and while I wait, I have been experimenting with threads and settings for the quilting.

I decided I really like the look of the antique gold metallic from Superior Threads.  Now I have discovered that my old Bernina 1230 “Betsy” has no problem with Superior metallics at all, and neither does my little B350 “E-Claire”, but my big old honking “Gibbs”, my Bernina 830 LE has some trouble with it.  It’s all related to the tensions of both the bobbin and the top.  It’s one of the best features of Gibbs, but also one of the most complex that it allows tremendous adjustment for both the bobbin and the top.  I really want to use the big machine to do my quilting so I can use the stitch regulator and the large table arrangement that makes quilting so easy.  I must have spent three full quilting days trying to figure out how to get the setup right and the gold thread to quilt without showing up as “tension problems” on the back that judges simply cannot abide.  But I finally got it, I think.  Here is the setup I have for the black borders that I plan to quilt in antique gold thread:

Silk-Cotton black Radiance for both the top and the back
90/14 Superior titanic top stitch needle
Superior 100 weight silk thread in the bobbin
Top tension 2.0
Bobbin thread for embroidery, but tension is loosened two clicks to the left (there is a special tool for this)
Bottom layer of batting is a thin polyester from Quilter’s Dream
Top layer of batting is Hobb’s wool.

Now yesterday I had no problem with this.  Both the top and the bottom looked absolutely even.  Today I had a few spin out loops on the back, but I think it is because I got overly confident and started sewing too fast.  So I slid the speed control to the left and slowed way down with no more problems.  My other two machines will not sew that fast.  It just needs time to make it right.  I have successfully quilted one of my five little practice mug rugs.  I plan on finishing up four of them and sharing them with some of my friends that I owe mug rugs to.  I will use them as practice painting samplers also, since I am planning on painting the border designs.

Sew what else have I been doing while waiting for the backing fabric?  I have been rejiggering my quilting plans for the rest of this year and beginning of next year.  I put them on my website (did you know I also have a website)?  I have also started updating my quilt show list I keep there, but I figure that will take me a few more weeks to complete.  I’ll let you know.  Anyway, here is my “current projects” list (actually it’s my current plans list, but I like the feel of “projects” as opposed to “plans”…seems more like I’m making lots of progress. 😉

 

  1. Whan That Aprille:  A folk art applique, embroidery and beading experiment.  I combined this with the illuminated manuscript project.  This is a silk and silk/cotton/Radiance quilt.  The main center section is complete, the black border is pieced on and marked, the text box is successfully embroidered and pieced in.  I am ready to make the sandwich and begin the quilting, but I decided I needed considerable experimenting, testing, and practice before I do this, and have put together five small mug-rug sized practice pieces for this purpose.  I estimate completion of this quilt by 1 August.
  2. **NEW** First Flight:  New blue print based whole cloth quilt based on Wright Brothers’ Line Drawings and an applique/embroidery rendition of a plane in the center.  Mostly designed, although not patterned out yet.
  3. Volcanic Fire with Flying Things:  Erupting volcano with dark mountain, smoky orange sky and fiery volcanic lava…in the near orange sky there will be a fight between phoenix and dragon in hopefully magnificent colors.  This was inspired in part by my recent storm-at-sea quilt “Waiting…” in which I placed a rocky lower border.  I enjoyed making that border and it made me think of volcanic rocks.  It was also inspired by my work on “Sky Horse” and I decided the phoenix or dragon should have a large component of Angelina Fibers and crystals as part of the applique.
  4. Peppered Ikebana:  This will draw from old Japanese Sashiko for the background, and will have a Japanese flower arrangement in the foreground.  I am planning on making this largely with Pepper Cory’s shot peppered cotton fabrics, both free motion machine quilting and Sashiko large stitch quilting, and a combination of applique and machine embroidery for the flower arrangement.  Remember, I have my fourth year flower arranging certificate in the Sogetsu School of Ikebana that I got in Japan and I want to use that in a series of flower-arrangements on quilts.
  5. Flower appliques and embroidery:  I am using Beth Tatum’s beautiful flower pictures to design both in-the-hoop appliques and embroideries and out of the hoop free motion embroideries as a joint quilt with her (my DIL).  Working on applique designs.
  6. Jazz On a Crystal Night:  A stylized nighttime city scene with musicians silhouetted in tall building windows and doors.  The music stream will be floating out of the windows and doors to the sky where it “explodes” into “fireworks”.  This quilt will have a lot of crystals. Set in the 1920s.
  7. Light in an Ancient Forest: Very dark forest with great old character and large wonderful trees.  Coming through the trees is a beam of sunlight that lands on the floor of the forest highlighting [something] in  full of color.  The something may be an ancient ruin of church with the light coming through the stained glass or a small patch of colorful flowers.  There may be a woodland creature or two peaking out from behind some of the trees.  🙂
  8. Perspective in Silk:  Second in series of perspectives in thread drawings…I will do this one on silk with colorful threadwork.  This may become the start of a series on American monuments or something else.
  9. Zephana’s (my mother) Gifts:  Using my mother’s unfinished hand-crocheted lace I found in her workbasket after her passing for embellishment and a key design component, this quilt is in her memory.  I will use a background of linen  and silk fabric.
  10. Dragon Dress for Competition: Black quilted silk sheath dress with flared skirt, will have appliqued trapunto dragon wrapped around the dress.  This is for competition and will include machine embroidery, hand embroidery, Angelina Fibers, crystals, beads and sequins.  I just have to figure out how to make the dragon wrap so it looks right.

Sew Happy everyone, and what are you working on or planning now?

 

 

Whan That Aprille: Machine Applique

Fused and Ready to Stitch

Fused and Ready to Stitch

I have all the appliques cut and fused down. They are made from silk/cotton blend Radiance that I purchased at a quilt show. The appliques are tiny with little pieces, so I was able to do all of them from the 10 inch squares I bought in a collection of colors. I even have enough left to do a second quilt like this.

I love doing machine stitched appliques both fused stitched raw-edge, like I am doing here, and turned edge, machine stitched. Since these are so tiny with complex edges, I decided on the stitched-raw edge for this quilt. The stitch I use depends on the look I am going for. In this case, this folk-art influenced quilt works well with the blanket/applique stitch. Note that satin stitch, double blanket stitch, and some decorative stitches also work well. Here’s a little example, and I do mean LITTLE!  The flower here is a little more than one inch across.


stitchin-begun
It always interests me how I can miss problems when I’m looking at what I have done, but see them when I photograph them. I had a little tension trouble when I did the black perle cotton number 8 bobbin work at one point. I thought I had found it all and fixed it already, but here you see I missed a couple of spots:


Photo-test
Sew remember to use the photography test for your own work.  I’ll fix this.

I am experimenting with a new setup for my stitched-raw edge applique because it is SO SMALL and requires so much turning to keep the blanket/applique stitch at the right angle. I took an old super slider I had that was a little worn around the stitch hole and cut it so my feed dogs are exposed. I think this will help me move the quilt top around easier and more accurately. You see the disadvantage, though is I have to change thread colors a lot for this quilt, which means taking it up and putting it back every bobbin color change.  I’ll let you know if it makes enough positive advantage to use it despite the thread changes.

New-setup

Sew happy everyone, and happy Mother’s Day to all you mothers out there.

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!