Sunday, January 27, 2013

A Partial Fail

I've started to put some of those painted and stamped elements from earlier this month into use. My first application has been a partial fail.

This infinity scarf (made from a recycled t shirt) with painted motifs appliqued looks nice and is quite comfortable to wear, but it is a fail in terms of the stiffness of the motifs. The jersey absorbed too much of the fabric paint and therefore the 'hand' of these appliqued elements is much stiffer than the main body of the scarf.

It's not a total fail. It looks OK, the colours are good and it's actually quite nice to wear. I like the obvious hand stitching around the appliqued pieces. It's just that stiffness.


I need to go back to the printing and painting station in the basement and have another go - this time with a lighter approach when working on this kind of fabric.

On the bright side:
One thing is clear here... how much better, more consistent,  my hand sewing has become. I'm inspired to get back to some free form embroidery. I've posted some of my previous embroidery pieces on Pinterest to remind me to do this. You can see them on my Hand Embroidery board here.

Scary Sewing

Last week I made my first garment of the new year. I'm calling it my Ladder Tunic.

The design and drafting of the pattern went well. The fabric was entirely appropriate. My sewing machine and serger behaved impeccably. I only had to rip out one short bit of sewing. I discovered a wonderful new sewing tool. And I think the final product has worked out very well.

So what was so scary? Well, the design in my head required me to mostly finish this top and then cut it up! WTF?

After doing some texture samples on jersey last month, I knew I wanted to try out some of those techniques on wearables. And the one I wanted to use first was slashing to create a distressed fabric.


I used a self drafted pattern. This is a long, loose tunic with dropped shoulders, an asymmetrical hem and a double neck treatment.

This has a classic "lagenlook" unstructured shape that works with leggings, narrow pants or a long skirt. In case anyone is interested in sewing something like this, Butterick 5203 is quite similar in silhouette.

When I sew this pattern again, I think I will narrow the shoulders a smidge to further emphasize the trapeze shape. But otherwise it fits very well, including the bicep diameter and the sleeve length. It could also be lengthened for a dress/longer tunic.
The neck is a high turtleneck plus a tight cowl. To avoid bulk, I didn't sew the cowl into the neck seam. Instead it is a separate piece and simply attaches at center back with a small snap. This allows some wearing options and is removable for easier ironing.

And yes, that is snow in the background of this next picture. It's winter. It's Canada. 


I wanted to sew this in cotton jersey, but of course that fabric is completely absent from my local sewing stores this time of year (hopefully the spring fabrics will be in soon). However I was able to find this 95% bamboo, 5% spandex fabric in a soft army green colour which behaved pretty well.

The fabric was a bit tricky to sew in that the cut edges rolled like crazy - much more than regular cotton jersey. I guess that is the spandex at work.

The underlay of the front panel was a scrap of soft 100% bamboo tissue jersey that I had from a previous project. I wondered it the lighter weight of it would be problematic, but in fact I think it was an advantage in that it stops the front panel from being stiff.


This sewed together very well for the most part. As I said, the cut edges of fabric rolled a lot. It wasn't too bad when I was serging the seams , but it gave me some grief when it came to the long, curved hem. It was rolling like crazy even after pressing and pinning wasn't helping to keep this flat in any way.

And then I remembered a set of Clover Wonder Clips that I had picked up at Michaels over the holidays but never used. These are small plastic clamps that have a good strong spring and are flat on one side so that they lay flat on the sewing machine bed. I have to say that these little babies are amazing. I may never pin again! They can grip right at the edge of the fabric - so in this case they tamed the rolling fabric - and they really grip. Easy to remove as you sew too. And there's no chance you'll sew over one of these by mistake and break your needle. They also add a little weight to the edge of the fabric - which was a definite advantage with this garment.

I have the 10 clip set, but there is also a bag of 50 available. I know what I'll be using my next Michael's coupon for!

Front Panel:

The front panel was obviously the scary part. To make it, I sewed a long strip of black jersey behind the front of the finished top (prior to hemming) and sewed irregular horizontal lines all down this panel. The lines are no more than about 1.5cm apart and some are more diagonal than others.

Once this pattern had been sewn, I then took very sharp fine point scissors and cut between the lines. The natural tendency of the fabric to roll took care of the rest. A little steaming sorted out any lines that weren't rolling as much as the others.


I am very pleased with this technique. It allowed me to add some considerable texture to what was otherwise a very simple fabric. But did not add any appreciable volume to the garment. I don't need more volume. I have plenty of my own.

I'd like to use this again, perhaps in a single colour or tone on tone effect.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Alcohol Ink Coasters - for alcoholic drinks of course

This one is short - and hopefully sweet...

You may have seen these – coasters made from ceramic tiles decorated with alcohol inks. They are all over Pinterest and a search with Google Images shows more examples than is comfortable.

I saw the original tutorial here: And I thought it would be a fun little "make" for house gifts around Christmas time. Besides, I had all the alcohol inks left over from updating my kitchen back splash last year.

Well, Christmas came and went and it was well into January before I actually got around to having a go. A quick make? Not for me. They took way longer than I expected. There is a lot of waiting around to see what happens, during which time you get to inhale alcohol fumes. And not the good kind either. And then inevitably you have to wash the ink off the tile when the result is ugly and try again. And wait again. I found these hard to make look good!

And yet the process is strangely mesmerizing. Essentially you apply some rubbing alcohol to a 4" ceramic tile and float some drops of alcohol ink on top. And wait for them to spread and merge. Or not. Or merge too much and get muddy. I also had to fight the overwhelming urge to poke at the ink which I learned is not a good technique (more washing off).

So, only 4 got made in the end. They were hard to photograph – at least with my limited skills – so I scanned them instead. The colours are more intense in real life. I guess they're kind of pretty in a Hubble-telescope-picture-of-a-nebula kind of way.

You can pick the one you want to use next time you come over for drinks.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Printing and painting my way into 2013

Wow, I've really slipped in the ol' posting department lately. Not a great way to start a new year. A whole month has gone by! Well, I can partly blame Christmas, partly blame having been sick with this month's very popular bronchial bug (cough hack), and partly blame the fact that I have been busy in the basement.

Although I had been hankering to get on with some more garment work, I got pleasantly distracted by a Christmas present - tools for making printing blocks. So I've been carving soft and lino block stamps, setting up a printing space in the basement and generally making a nice mess.

Getting Set Up:

Setting up the printing space was no big deal. Essentially you need a sturdy table covered with some sort of padding (to make it easier to print on fabric) and plastic. I used a couple of towels for the padding and a vinyl Dollarama table cloth, duct taped tightly around my trusty folding table. $2 for these supplies seemed like the right price.

Luckily we have a kitchenette in the basement, so I was able to put this table right up close to the sink and on the vinyl floor. Easy clean up!

I was only working on small pieces (vs. yardage) so the laundry rack was perfect for hanging the stuff to dry. And yes, I did remember to clean it off before using it for laundry again!


For printing/painting I use 2 kinds of products:

ColourVie products from Gunnel Hag. The ColourVie system is really great - transparent, non-toxic, mixable, colourfast and flexible. I use it thinned with table salt (weird but true) for washes of colour and as is for painting and printing. The pigments are intense and can be used for dyeing more than just fabric, i.e. my fingers. I truly recommend the products and also any course that Gunnel teaches! You can check out her blog here:

Tulip Soft Fabric Paints (intensely pigmented, opaque acrylics that stay soft on fabric). These you can get at most craft stores.

Fabric wise, I just grabbed a selection of items from the stash - plain cotton of various weights, some linen and some cotton jersey. Generally I found that the linen performed best for printing, a heavier, smooth finished twill for mono printing, plain white cotton for Colourvie painting and the jersey for stamping.

Carving stamps:

It"s been a while (OK decades, but who's counting) since I made any printing blocks. To say my skills were rusty is an understatement. So the first few stamps were wash outs. This undertaking was also a sobering reminder of my general lack of drawing skills.

However, once I got into the swing of it, and got myself a sturdy bench hook (an edged wooden board for safer cutting) I was OK. All in all, I think I may never go back to lino. The soft carving blocks (like large erasers) are a dream to use in comparison.

I tended to remove too much material in my first couple of attempts, so I learned to ink and check the stamps as I went along. An ink pad shows clearly where the background is still too high and makes it simple to see where to trim further.


Of all the things I made over the 3 days I was mucking about, my favourite are mono prints that look like roses. These were made with the Tulip paints and the pictures really don't do them any justice. The colour is intense and luminous in real life, with a subtle pearl sheen in some areas. They are also much more dimensional than the pictures capture, and are 6-8 inches in diameter. Here are a couple of detail shots and small images of what the whole flower looks like (sort of looks like).

There were also a bunch of non-rose mono prints too, such as the one at left that is going to look great stitched onto the front of a black T shirt.

What am I going to do with these? They could be used as appliques on clothing (think pockets) or bags or made into pouches. I'm considering doing some stitching and/or beading on them too. Check back in a few weeks to see what they've turned into.


Having gotten really into the intense colour and coverage of the mono printing, the whole block printing thing started to lose it's appeal until I combined the two. Even then, I found myself going back into the stamped areas with more ink on a small brush to intensify them. Likely I would have been happier with the results of silkscreening (another skill acquired long ago) rather than block printing, but that is a whole different set of supplies and equipment - a road I'm not going down at this time.

These images show mono prints stamped with hand carved blocks. The orange ones will be used at patches on an infinity scarf (next post!). They are about 6 inches in diameter and again, the photos don't show the vibrancy and luminosity of the prints.

ColourVie painting and stamping:

Once I get rolling with this stuff, I can't stop. I love the way you can work and rework the materials. Paint onto the fabric. Stamp into the paint. Scrap some off. Put more on. Etc., etc.  I've made dozens of small blocks like these. Likely they'll be pieced together for something. Seeing as I have never quilted, and have never really wanted to quilt, I'm not sure what the final application will be.

Phew!  That was fun. But enough is enough. Time to clean up and start making something with all these interesting bits and pieces.

Happy New Year everyone!