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
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
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
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
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”
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
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.
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.
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!