confessions of a fabric obsessive

Tag Archives: Textile

So tired and so happy

I went to my first ever quilt show today.

Only the largest in Europe: the Festival of Quilts at the NEC.

No point doing things by halves.

My feet still ache and I may never walk again (not until tomorrow at least)

Has to show you some piccy’s before I go for a well deserved lie down (for about 20 hours)

I need to find another way of expressing awe at a great quilt, I must have said “Oh Wow!” about 350 times today.

If you’re going Saturday or Sunday, take a bottle of water, something to nibble on and maybe some painkillers (you won’t want to stop if your feet start aching).  I wonder if I can book tickets for next year yet?

Good news:
the facilities are good, lots of chairs and benches for you to sit on in the two food areas even if you brought your own, and everyone is so POLITE and HAPPY!

More photos and a proper write-up of my day as soon as my legs have stopped being annoyed with me.

Blissed out ClaireBear

Sewing outside the lines

You might already have spotted that I’m following the Craftsy Block of the Month course, and you may have read where I describe what I wanted out of the course. Basically, I want to improve my accuracy as well as learning new (quilting) skills.

So is it weird that my striving for accuracy in my cutting and sewing also comes with a flip side – a yearning for the creative randomness of free-motion embroidery?

Most quilting (apart from improv quilting) is precise and structured (OK I mean the piecing together of the little bits of fabric into a pattern), and it’s this precision and structure that I love most about the beautiful quilts that I blog about occasionally and pin to my boards on pintrest frequently (my “quilts I want to make” pintrest board has over 500 photos, no duplicates that I can find, and is still growing!).

But the quilting together of all the layers in a quilt, unless done as “stitch in the ditch” or straight lines, needs me to have some control with free motion stitching.  I’ve seen some beautiful quilting and some incredible and   intricate designs, and while I’m realistic about my skill, the thought of only ever being able to quilt straight lines doesn’t work for my creative self.

I adore free motion embroidery and have tried a few times with limited zero success, partly due to the fact that my sewing machine needs servicing, and partly to a mystery tension problem.  I have been reading and watching youtube demos of FME for months and I have the basics in my head but I really want to produce gorgeous stuff like this (as always, click to view photos in their owners’ blogs):

and these


and this


and of course, the wonderful Raspberry

Yes, I could embroider by hand (or hand-quilt), but it takes soooo long and I have arthritis in my fingers that is only going to get worse.  I’m worried that if I sew too much by hand I might worsen the arthritis to the point where I can’t hold a needle at all (and that would make me very sad).

One of the lovely ladies at the networking group I go to once a month owns a sewing shop and runs classes in FME, and has suggested that I go to one of her classes (she also kindly made a few suggestions about how to get around my tension problems). I’d love to, but money is tighter than tight at the moment and it’s not even a possibility, so I have been exploding with frustration and pent up wanting-to-drop-those-feed-dogs. Last night I just went for it and look what I did:

First-time-ever kind-of-successful free motion embroidery.

If you’re wondering why it look like it’s been done on a tissue, I’ve also been reading a lot about textiles and using unusual mediums (like dryer sheets) to sew on. This has intrigued me to the point where I grabbed one of the wipes that I use on my spectacles (the closest thing I have to a dryer sheet, and the closest non-woven fabric I had by my sewing machine), sat at my machine and went for it.

Of course if it had worked out as badly as like my previous attempts, you wouldn’t be seeing it (I don’t show all my failures to people, just the ones that are useful).

It needs work obviously, I need to slow down (I have a heavy right foot), swap the normal throat plate for one with a tiny hole (apparently it can reduce the amount of fabric that gets dragged down into the machine if things go worn) and find a darning foot. Also, I didn’t actually drop the feed dogs on this, it’s a bit of a faff to do and to be honest I didn’t think that the free-motion would go any better than the last few times I’ve tried it. I think I need to put the fabric in an embroidery hoop as well, as the satin stitch (which is really cool when you move it sideways instead of boring forwards and backwards like normal) kind of puckers the fabric.

I know that to most experienced sewing people, this bit of tissue with random stitches on it looks rubbish, but I started this blog to record my journey to sewing excellence. This tiny scrap of stitching may only be a first step on the road to competency in free-motion embroidery, but it is a major breakthrough and one that I am proud of.

Happy Claire Bear

I’ve been dyeing…

…but only a little bit.

Ages ago I rescued an old wooden clothes airer. I stripped off the disintegrating webbing “hinges” so that I could clean up the wooden frames, replace the webbing and have a new clothes airer. Simple job, you might think, but I wanted the new webbing hinges to be pink (I had to make it complicated!).

Can you buy pink cotton webbing? Not online, and not in the shops.

I already had white cotton webbing, so I thought, “Ah, I’ll get a pack of pink dye and dye some of the white webbing pink”. In theory it should have been easy, just follow the instructions and I’ll have some great colour webbing. While I’m at it, I could drop in a few other white cotton things and have them bright pink as well.

When I was a teenager I used to dye fabric  (mostly t- shirts and jeans) quite often. Mum wouldn’t let me dye them in the washing machine, so I got to be a dab hand at dyeing by hand.

Cotton absorbs dye really easily and takes the colour quite strongly: most synthetic fibres don’t.

This is the colour of the dye I bought, flamingo pink. (I don’t do things by halves. If I’m having pink, I’m having bright pink!)

According to the instructions, one pack would dye up to 250g of cotton to the full colour, so I worked through my stash, picking out cotton trimming and cotton fabric to make up to the 250g weight limit.

I followed the instructions, stirred and stirred for the first 15 minutes, and then every now and again for an hour.

This is what I got:

See that pale pink wide webbing at the back? I was sold that as 100% cotton. Needless to say, it isn’t. If it had been it would now be the same colour as the narrower stuff.

There’s another length of white tape (not in the photo) that is still white. I was sold that as 100% cotton too. It’s so white after the full time in the dye solution, it can’t possibly have any cotton in it at all. In fact it’s so incredibly day-glo white that I didn’t even put it in the photo.

Cross isn’t the word. Well actually cross is the word, along with very.

Having paid a premium for 100% cotton, I find out that it’s actually less than 50% (in the case of the wide) and  0% cotton (in the case of the un-photographed).

Then I panicked that the twill tape that I am selling on Ebay and Etsy at the moment might not be cotton after all, so I dropped some in the used dye solution just to check. It’s fine, it didn’t take up as much colour in the same time as the 100% cotton tape in the first batch, but it did colour up and I’m satisfied that what I’m selling as cotton is cotton. Phew!

I’m not going to go into dyeing as an extension of my sewing (with natural dyes or tie-dyeing), but it is nice to know that I can still do it fairly easily, and that if I really want a colour that I can’t buy anywhere dyeing it myself will be fairly simple (although I did google “hand-dyeing” for this post and found some really interesting blogs and started following Nancy Guchte’s hand-dyeing board on Pinterest and Wild Onion‘s blog).

Back to my clothes airer refurb. Almost finished but I need to hammer the tacks in and it’s too late (I’m writing this in the wee small hours of Thursday night, as usual for a Friday post) because my neighbours need their sleep.

I’m glad I took the time and effort to dye the webbing pink for the hinges. It looks exactly how I wanted it too. It will be displaying some of my quilts, eventually, as well as my laundry!

Happy Claire Bear

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