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!

 

Thinking About 2015 Quilt Activities

studio1

Now that I’m back from the trip to Houston and San Diego, and am almost finished with my little special exhibit quilt, it is time to decide what is going to happen next in my studio.  This is an exciting time for me.  I love Thanksgiving and Christmas season, and I also love planning for the new quilting year.  Several new things will be happening.

First of all, I have finally gotten really going on writing a new book.  From the several subjects I have in mind I chose to write about machine applique first.   I chose this because I frequently hear that applique is something a lot of quilters and fashion sewists find difficult or dread.  Applique is fun and not difficult, so this book will include multiple techniques for machine applique and discuss when to use which type.  I plan on having several projects in the book for you to play with.  It is my intention to record a video to accompany this book.  So it will have the book, the dvd, and the projects.  This will take me a lot of time, and unfortunately, I will probably not be able to share specific progress with you along the way, but I hope it will be a good addition to the information already out there and be clear and easy to use.

Next, my plans require that I finally set up as a small business in order to sell the resulting project above from my web site along with some other smaller projects I am thinking of having available.  It will be a very low key business, designed primarily to finance my quilting activities, going to shows, and pay for this blog and my website.  If I make some real profit, that will be icing on the cake.

And finally, I am planning to make three or four new show quilts for 2015 shows.  I haven’t gotten the specific concepts together yet, but in general they will include one new illuminated manuscript quilt on silk (or silk/cotton blend) (to continue my series begun with Canterbury Silk), one new story landscape (this would be my fourth such quilt), one new line drawing quilt (third in my architectural/design lines series), and one new deep space quilt (third in the series).   If these go well and faster than anticipated, I could make another quilt or two, but I also have to allow space for a few articles of clothing and a couple of utility/charity quilts.  Seems like a fun but busy year ahead, starting now!

The other day I realized how important my Bernina 830 LE machine has become to my overall quilting activities.  I have now put nearly 8 million stitches on this machine that I bought at the end of 2011.  It is still going strong, but I think I need to start saving for a new machine in a couple of years.

Sew here is what I want to know from you…Do you like the idea of an applique book with DVD?  What are you working on now or plan to work on for 2015?  I’d love to hear from you.  I really like comments on my blog.

Sew happy everyone!

 

 

Metallic Threads on my Berninas

While in Houston, I bought some Wonderfil metallic threads.  It had some colors that were just a little bit different than those I find in Superior metallics, and a couple of my professional quilty friends have recommended it to me.  I just gave it a try and found that the tension settings are just about the same as for Superior threads for my machine.  I like the thread ok.  It has a nice sheen to it, and sews without breaking.  I still think I prefer Superior, but clearly this is a nice alternative.

Almost all the thread manufacturers recommend really lowering your upper tension when working with metallic threads.  Now this may work ok for most machines, but with my Bernina 830, I have found that the tension settings sometimes need to be even higher than for the standard 50 wt  that is the thread used for default tension settings for nearly all manufacturers.  This may be a surprise to you.

Here is a picture of the little stitch out I used to test the threads.  It has both Superior and Wonderfil metallics.

Top with mutlitple tests of tension settings look ok for all:

Right side, mutliple threads and tensions

Right side, mutliple threads and tensions all appear ok from the top

Bobbin side with 3.0 to 4.0 thread tensions…see how it pulls to the back.  The bobbin is threaded for normal tension.  Apologies for the slightly fuzzy, picture, but you can still see how bad the tension is.

Obvious poor tension

Obvious poor tension–bobbin side

 

It wasn’t until I went to 4.25 top tension that it began to look ok, but probably could go to 4.5 to make it work well enough.  I have used thread tensions as high as 4.75 on some metallics, especially when using them in the embroidery hoop.

 

Bobbin side at 4.25 top tension...see it still needs to be a little tighter on top

Bobbin side at 4.25 top tension (very close in picture)…see it still needs to be a little tighter on top

Sew what is the secret to sew with this high tension and not break the thread every few minutes?  Well, for me, besides using one of the better threads, I use a 90 embroidery/top stitch needle, a thread net, and set the speed down to middle or less, and sew a little slower than usual.  I also use the lubricant bar with the pink lubricant on my 830 LE, but if you don’t have this, I think it would work ok anyway.  I heard a rumor that Bernina discontinued this, but I have not checked it out yet.

On my Bernina 350, and my 1230, I have also found a tighter upper tension, bigger needle, thread net, and slow stitching helps to make the metallic threads work well, and if I sew relatively slowly, I have little problem with the threads breaking.

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

One Fabulous Quilt Show

I just got back to the hotel, and am tired, but inspired. I think you might be a little disappointed when you learn that I didn’t get many pictures. Last evening when I got to the show I discovered my camera battery was dead. I took a few with my phone, but that is slow and clumsy. But I will see what I have when I get home next week and process the pictures.  Today was shopping day, lunching with friends, and I even recorded a video with Quilt Alliance I in front of my quilt.  That was an interesting experience.

From my perspective, however, I have had a blast.  I finally met many of the friends I have had from The Quilt Show and Facebook for years.  What a treat!!!

I bought a lot of threads, some hand dyes, and quilting gloves.

But mostly I have been inspired by the quilts, the classes, and the people.

I’ll tell you more about it when I get home and to my computer.  There will be some pictures.

Sew happy everyone.

 

 

Blogging with my Kindle

Well I’m about ready to leave on my trip on Monday. Since I am hoping to be able to keep you up to date while I’m gone, I wanted to see if I could write a blog using this kindle. I see it works, but is slow. Still I can write little snippets, though they won’t have pictures probably. I plan on putting together a gallery of pictures when I get home.

I hope to see you there. But I think that many of my friends won’t be there, so I want to share the fun as much as possible. I know what it is like to be unable to go to Houston. This is the first time I am going.

Sew stay tuned. This is working well enough to keep my blog going while I’m on my trip. After Houston, I will be going to San Diego, and that promises to be full of neat things to share too.

Sew happy everyone!

On Going to Houston As An Artist

Tatum-SkyHorse-Detail 2014

Detail from Sky Horse, which is in the show in Houston.

I leave on the 27th for The International Quilt Festival in Houston, and then on to visit my brother in California on Halloween. I am very excited and even a little apprehensive. This trip is expected to include some fun classes, starting Monday night, the awards ceremony, a party afterwards, and the lunch next day. Wed night, all day Thursday. and Friday morning I will be viewing the show, after which I set off to see my brother and his family in San Diego.

The plans in San Diego are also terrific. They include not only seeing my family that I don’t get to see often, but also taking in a museum exhibit on King Tut, going to the San Diego zoo (one of the premier zoos of the world), and a dinner at my nephew’s home. What a trip!

My apprehension is entirely related to “will my feet hold out?” and to flying again after years of not flying. If it all goes well, and I expect it will, I should have a trip of a lifetime. I’ve done everything I know how to do to prepare.  I am praying for a good and safe trip.

For some years before I retired on 1 Jan 2012, I began to take my sewing and art that my mother instructed, inspired, and encouraged me to develop and use from a very young age, and make a new career for myself to fill my “retirement” years. It is one that fills my heart with joy and I will keep doing this as long as I am able. I love exploring techniques and experimenting with types of fabric, paints, threads, digital technologies, and just about anything else that can be used to create fabric wall art. I love most of my results, some I just learn from.  Since retirement, I do this full time, though not for profit as yet, and it is an absolute delight for me.

Sew going to Houston, one of the premier quilting shows in the world, where I hope to meet many of my friends and some of the rock stars of the quilting art world, and having two of my own quilts hanging there is a big deal for me. I expect to come back inspired for my 2015 quilt year.

There are several shows I would like to go to in 2015 but I have to pick and choose, since I’m not bringing in any money with this new “career.” From the first I have planned on turning this fun occupation into a profitable business, at least to the extent that it pays for itself and allows me to keep up with good software, machines, nice materials, and new developments and go to the shows. I have some ideas on how I can accomplish that and plan to put them into action in 2015.  I will tell you more about them when I get closer to getting them launched.

After I get back on 6 November, I will post pictures from my trip. I am not dragging my computer along, and I photograph using a camera rather than a phone, except rarely. I am going to have my Kindle Fire with me, so I will be able to post on my facebook and email…not sure about writing a blog, but I’ll see. But I do plan on sharing the fun with you all as much as I can.

Sew happy everyone. Take care of yourselves, and maybe I’ll see you there!

Getting Ready for International Quilt Fest in Houston

 

It’s just a little over two weeks before I board that plane and fly off into the sky towards Houston.  Yesterday I got my flu shot, and I’ve gotten all my tickets, arranged for the shuttle transport to and from the hotel, and even arranged to do my voting with absentee ballot because I’m going to visit my brother and nephew and their family after Houston.  I’m really getting excited now.

I promised to put a pic of my brocade vest.  It is beautiful, but it does kind of make me look like a semi truck.  I’m going to wear it anyway.  Here’s a pic of it with the black blouse I also made to wear with it.

Palace Silk Brocade Vest

Palace Silk Brocade Vest

Sew I have been making some little things just to finish up and then it’s back to quilt making.  I made two tool rolls to tuck into my luggage..they are both alike, but one is open and the other snapped closed.

tool rolls

tool rolls

I hope to see many of you there.  To those who are Unable to Go to Houston (UGH), I plan on taking a lot of pictures.  I even bought some new compact flash things for my camera, have two batteries and a charger, so I should be able to take quite a few. I’ll share as many as I can.  Not sure what the rules are about that, so I may be limited to sharing the pics of friends and the vendor booths…we’ll see.

I’ll probably post one more time before I go.  I’m now making a bunch of mug rugs for my friends…some of them are made from my samples and practice pieces, so I hope they will like them anyway.

Sew happy everyone! And don’t forget to teach someone to sew or quilt…even if it is yourself!

A Ribbon at MQX Helps Focus My Style

Canterbury Silk a MQX with Best Surface Design ribbon

Canterbury Silk at MQX with Best Surface Design ribbon

Well glory be!  I won a ribbon!  🙂  Best Surface Design at MQX Midwest.

If you recall several blogposts back I was discussing how I might focus my style a little more clearly in Sky Horse, Houston, and Focus….  I got some wonderful feedback from some of you out there mostly along the lines of “do what your heart tells you”.  Now I wholeheartedly agree with this.  I also have a list of about fifty or more quilts I have thought of and almost any one of them would please my quilter’s heart to make. Indeed, I think of a new quilt almost every day, but have stopped adding to the list unless it is extremely compelling.  Sew I think some focus might be in order.

The ribbon was so unexpected. Now of course I never really expect a ribbon when I enter a show. I hope for one, but I never really expect one. I enter shows so my friends and others can see my quilts.  A ribbon is icing on the cake.  But what I mean about unexpected here is what it is for…Surface Design.

I had never really thought about my work in surface design, but now that I look at my body of work, a great deal of it is centered around surface design. I hadn’t even put that together until I won this ribbon. The main exception to this is my line drawing quilts…Perspective in Threads and Dad’s House Plan.

Now, however, I see how well this fits. I love to add unusual appliques, thread painting, embellishments, and paints to the surfaces of my quilts to make my idea in my head come alive. This term “surface design” pulls together three of my four styles I identified in my previous post…story landscapes with Deep Space quilts and Canterbury Silk. What a surprise. So my two focus choices for the next year are…Surface Design and Line Drawings.

Thanks to all of you who gave me your feedback on my previous post about this. I really appreciated them more than you may realize. I have been struggling with this for some reason.

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.