Stitching Times serves up stories, examples and tutorials about needlework related crafts, especially quilting and crochet. Almost all of the projects shown have been designed by Kay Stephenson

Friday, November 6, 2009

Working with Iron-on Vinyl

If you have ever done a Google search on sewing vinyl, you know that this is one of the great curses of many a seamstress. The stuff bunches up, slips about, and then sticks to the presser foot of your machine. Solutions abound. You can buy a special Teflon presser foot and industrial needle feed machines. Hand sewing is an option, and some suggest using a walking foot for heavy vinyl. Simpler recommendations include sandwiching the vinyl between tissue paper, waxed paper, gift wrapping paper or interfacing. Adding a piece of tape to the bottom of the presser foot (some prefer painter’s tape while others recommend regular gift wrapping tape). I have even heard of applying sewers aid, a silicone thread lubricant directly to the vinyl.
A different approach is to use something called iron-on vinyl by Therm O Web. I recently came across a reference to this stuff in a pattern for baby bibs, and had to investigate. Readily available online, it comes in 17 inch widths and 2 yard packages or 20 yard bolts, and is available in gloss or matte. I have now completed an insulated lunch sack which I designed using iron-on vinyl on the liner, and have started working on the baby bib pattern I originally mentioned. It really is the easy solution.
In both cases I used the fusible vinyl with quilter’s cotton, so I can’t tell you how it would work with heavier fabrics, or with synthetics. This product is quite lightweight, so it might have difficultly holding up to heavy fabrics like denim, and I’m not sure that you can get most synthetic fabrics warm enough to make a good bond, but for the applications I tried, it’s great.
Here are a few tips:
Wash and dry fabric in same manner that you intend to wash the final product so that any shrinkage will occur before the pieces are cut.
Affix the iron-on vinyl to fabric for lining prior to cutting out pattern. Though you may waste a small amount of material this way, it is much easier than trying to line up and bond the two pieces after they are cut out.
The package for the Thermo-web provides detailed directions on how to fuse the vinyl to the face of the fabric, but it is very similar to other fusible products you may have worked with.
Pre-heat the iron and the fabric by running the warm iron over the face. This also makes sure there are no wrinkles in the fabric.
Peel the backing off the vinyl sheet and layer the tacky side to the fabric smoothing it out with your hands.
Use the hot, dry iron (no steam) for several seconds in each spot, moving with an overlapping motion until you have fused the entire piece of fabric.
Allow the fabric to cool and then proceed with cutting out your pattern pieces
Remember that every hole poked in the fabric will show later because of the vinyl. Make sure to place pins in the seam margin both when affixing the pattern to the fabric and to hold pieces together for sewing
Every machine works a bit differently, so experiment with a piece of scrap to get your upper tension set correctly. Some may find that you need a slightly looser tension on the top thread to achieve a good stitch.
Make sure you are using the correct needle size for the added weight of the fabric. Depending on how bulky your project is, you might even consider using a leather needle.
The cute bib pattern I’m using can be purchased here Pattern Play.
My pattern for two sizes of the insulated lunch sack is available for purchase in my Craftsy Pattern Store.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

What is Dupioni Silk?

Doupioni [doo-pee-oh-nee] Also spelled douppioni, dupioni [doo-pee-ohn] or dupioni, is a silk fabric. It is so called because two cocoons (or dupions) that are reeled as one. This created a very strong but slubbed, irregular yarn. Silk fabrics called shantung or pongee are also made from doupoini yarn. The plain weave fabric made of this yarn and labeled Doupoini will always exhibit this slubbed texture. It is considered slightly inferior to ordinary raw silk, but is very strong and with slight give. It is used for fine apparel and upholstery.

As you can see from the pictures, there is some variation from one fabric to the next in the amount of texture. Also, the fabric is very prone to raveling - something to consider when choosing it. Imitations are made in rayon and synthetics under different names such as cupioni.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A Fabric Yarn...

When most of us think about crochet, we think of yarn – defined on as “a thread made of natural or synthetic fibers and used for knitting and weaving”.

It is made by spinning which is further defined as the ‘drawing out, twisting, and winding of fibers”. We differentiate types of yarn based on the fiber – wool, cotton, silk, acrylic, etc. However, we can also crochet with yarn substitutes. A couple of years ago I wrote about recycling plastic grocery bags into "yarn". This idea led me to another project for using up remnants of fabric. I took some of the scrap fabric left from making a quilt, and made a crocheted fabric yarn purse.

Making the fabric couldn't be easier.

Step 1 – cut fabric into narrow strips. I cut mine at ½ inch to make a bulky but manageable yarn. Make sure to cut each strip into the longest length possible. This will reduce the number of joins you need to make, and save time. You can either cut the strips with scissors or a rotary cutter, or if you want a softer look, rip the fabric. To do this, use your scissors to cut small snips the appropriate width about along one selvage edge of your fabric. Then just start ripping the strips. Due to the fact that fabric is not always printed to line up perfectly with the straight of grain, you may find that the first couple of rips are very short. However, this is the best way to square up the fabric, and will yield a stronger yarn.

Step 2 - cut a small slit in the both ends of each strip. Now thread the end of one strip through one end slit of another.

Step 3 – take the other end of strip #2 and thread it through the slit end which has been passed through strip #1

Step 4 – pull the resulting knot tight.

Step 5 – continue to add strips until you have many yards, then roll the “yarn” into a ball ready to crochet. The beauty of this method is that you can always make more yarn – either from contrasting and complementary scraps you have lying around, or by going to the fabric shop to buy something out of their remnant bin.

Monday, August 17, 2009

A Little Fabric History

More than a year ago I wrote about my book The Home Sewing Reference: Fabric and Notions. For a variety of reasons that book was set aside while I worked on other things. Now I’ve picked it back up and am trying to work on it a bit every day. Here is a sample of what you will learn by reading it.

Hickory cloth [hik-uh-ress, hik-ree] is similar to other heavy duty cotton twill weaves such as denim or ticking, but lighter in weight. It was originally associated with overalls and caps for men working on the railroad and features a blue or black stripe contrasted with natural or white yarns. The name may derive from the idea that it was as rugged as hickory wood, or that garments made of the fabric were worn by “hicks”. Hickory cloth is a traditional American textile known at least as far back as the California gold rush and Civil war.

Unfortunately this special fabric is not easy to find and when it is, it is often mislabeled as denim. However the hand is much more supple than denim. It is a very durable fabric suitable for many purposes.

The photos at left show a bag made of Hickory cloth and a close-up of the selvage edge of this fabric. I made this bag as a prototype for my first Lady Bags line back in 2006.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

How to Miter Corners for Binding

I thought I had published these instructions on the blog quite some time ago, but since I can't find it now, here is a brief section from one of my quilt patterns that explains how to make nice square corners when binding a quilt. This method will work equally well for adding seam binding to a garment.

The final step to finish a quilt is to add binding around the outer edges. If you have not already sewn the binding strips together to form one long stripe, do so, and press the seams open. If desired you can fold and press the binding lengthwise by bringing the outer edges to the middle (wrong sides together) and then folding it in half again. Some find that this makes the binding easier to work with.

Once the binding is ready, trim excess backing and batting material to be even with the edges of the quilt top. Fold over the end of the binding strip about a ¼ inch matching wrong sides together. Then match the right side of the binding with the right side of the quilt and sew the binding to the quilt beginning in the middle of the bottom.

When you reach a corner, sew to ¼ inch from the edge, backstitch a few stitches and then cut the threads and remove the quilt from the machine. Fold the binding at a 45 degree angle from the direction you were sewing as shown at near right. Now fold the binding back on itself and sew ¼ inch from the edge, as shown at far right.

Continue in this manner until you arrive back at the beginning. Overlap the binding for an inch or so, backstitch, cut threads and remove from machine.

Next fold the binding to the back of the quilt and fold the raw edge under. Slip-stitch the edge of the binding to the back of the quilt with small stitches to enclose raw edges.

The final step in finishing your quilt is to wash it with cold water on the gentle cycle and tumble dry it on low. While washing and machine drying may not be recommended for some quilts, if you are making this one for a teen, it will need to be laundered regularly. You may as well wash it and make sure it is ready for use.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Green Dust

I’ve been really unhappy with myself for buying disposable dusters such as the ones from Swiffer™ or Pledge™. On the other hand, they worked really well. You can poke them into places that you can’t reach as easily with your hand and a dust cloth, and they hold the dust much better than feather dusters. 

What’s my simple solution? 

Today I made a handful of reusable dusters from leftover fleece. They fit the same disposable duster handle, and after use I can just pop them in the wash and they will be ready to go again. 

They couldn’t be easier to make. Cut two pieces of fleece the same shape as a disposable duster – roughly 4 inches wide by 7 inches long. Round the top edges a bit and taper the bottom edge toward the center. 

Now match the two pieces with wrong sides together. Stitch a seam down the center from top to bottom stopping about ¾ inch from the bottom. Stitch two more seams on either side of the first approximately ¾ inch away from the center. Finally stitch very close to outer edge along sides and top. 

That’s it. Slip it onto you existing handle. Use a dusting spray if desired and when it is loaded with dust, just slip a new one on and throw the dirty one in the wash.  You’ll be saving money and saving the landfill from 100 or more disposable dusters you would use each year.


Friday, April 3, 2009

A friend told me about this service - - that allows you to post remotely to your blog, twitter, accout, Facebook, FriendFeed, etc. I thought I should try it out. Of course, I don't believe in reading directions - just bang on the keyboard - so it will be interesting to see what if anything arrives...

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Felted Bags, Leftovers and Distractions

Since my friend Kim at Knitch sucked me back into working with yarn, I’ve been creating many crocheted and felted projects. In the past I’ve shown you some of the bowls and other home décor pieces. However, as someone with no less than half a dozen projects going at once, I had a real need for project bags. The goal was to keep everything organized in one place, and ready to grab when I needed an on-the-go project. I also had a basket full of yarn left over from other projects – not enough to make anything in any one color, but all similar fiber content and weight.

The perfect synthesis of wet felting, the experience making fabric project bags for sale, and leftovers led me to experiment with crocheted and felted project bags. The first piece was designed "on the fly" while I was traveling home to visit family last fall. I didn’t really have a project in mind, so I threw all my half balls of left over yarn, a few crochet hooks and a pair of embroidery scissors into my carry-on bag. Yes – we can carry scissors on airplanes now as long as they aren’t more than 4 inches long.

The result was this striped bag which was crocheted with no seams. Because I was feeling a bit whimsical, I made the strap a möbius strip. Remember those from school? If not, take a strip of paper and join the ends in a loop after giving one end a half-twist so it joins with the other upside-down. Now try to decide which edge is up and which is down. Fun right? The möbius strip has many applications in crochet and knitting, especially for scarves and shrugs. As a purse strap, it’s a bit impractical, because the strap can’t hang flat on your shoulder – it has a half-twist in it. Still, it was fun to play with in the design.

I’ve also, been experimenting with incorporating hardware into some of the designs – as with this grey bag. I used D-rings to attach the straps to the bag after felting – rather than integrating them into the crocheted design. This bag is big and roomy, and I find myself carrying it as a handbag more than a project bag. It works will with all those black clothes I have to wear to hide the black dog hair!

Magnetic snap closures and metal purse feet are also great additions. The snaps and the feet (these are from the Clover Bag's & Tote's accessories line), are very easy to install. 

The back of the snap, which will show on the front of the flap, can easily be covered by a decorative button, as I have done with this bag.

Crochet hooks have been accumulating around the house at an alarming rate – I now have all but the very largest sizes (N, O, P, Q & S which corresponds to 10.00, 12, 15, 16 and 19 mm respectively). 

Again trying to use up small bits of leftover yarn I started creating some felted hook cases. Here are a couple that hold my aluminum hooks sizes B-K, and the bamboo hooks up to size M (9 mm). I still need a good case for the tiny steel hooks (.9 mm up to 2.55). I think those are going to have to go in something made of fabric though. Otherwise they would always be poking through and tangling up in the felt.

I’m making progress documenting the patterns for all of these and hope to have them in the shop by early next week. My real problem is that a friend has been hosting a “woodworking for ladies” class. It’s hard to stay focused on stitchery when I can be in the shop working on something like this. None of these are mine, but I hope to finish up two boxes tonight, so will have to post some pictures soon. Naturally one of my boxes features scissors and the other one is all about Lady.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Patterns, Patterns and More Patterns

It’s been busy this week with too much time on the computer. I’ve been documenting the patterns for several of my projects. There are many more to go, but at least I’ve established some templates and a bit of a system. In fact I’ve listed a couple of these patterns in my Etsy shop. Take a look and let me know what you think.

Over the past couple of years I’ve designed a variety of project bags – some to sell at my friend’s yarn shop, Knitch, some to give away as gifts, and many more to use myself.

This funky purple one was made for a friend and I liked it enough to make another for myself. It’s not clear why, but having half a dozen unfinished projects sitting around doesn’t bother me as much when they are organized in a pretty bag.

The same friend gave me a couple of great handmade reusable grocery bags. I love them, but two is never enough, so I decided to use up some excess muslin, and made these. May as well advertise my projects instead of some grocery store chain, right?

Now I have several more project bags in progress, combining fabric bodies with felted wool pockets and other interesting embellishments. I think one is going to be made from an assortment of black and white fat quarters and feature a piece of white cotton filet crochet on the pocket. 

There are also a whole group of felted bags – guess I’d better get busy and write up those patterns too. Before I know it I’ll have a book! That is if I can stop twittering long enough to get real work done. Follow me on Twitter

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Ansel Adams Inspired

Have I mentioned the Ansel Adams Tribute project? The idea is to reproduce Ansel Adams photographs using fabric, quilting, and other fiber manipulation techniques. I thought it would be interesting to see if I could evoke the same depth and texture of the black and white photographs. For my first attempt I chose his 1948 photo From Hurricane Hill, Olympic National Park, Washington. Here is a link to the photo

And here is my attempt to reproduce it. (note: I haven't attached the rod pockets to the back yet, so those odd little shapes at the top are binder clips holding it up for the photograph.)

It’s interesting as a first attempt, but clearly does not reflect the detail and subtly of light, shadow and mist in the original. I tried using a bonding product called Mistyfuse to create the layers of mist on the distant mountains, and I really don’t think it worked. The bonding agent leaves a sheen to the areas where it has been applied that makes the mountains look hard instead of soft and ethereal. Again I would try an opaque fabric like organza.

The snow was made from cotton flannel, which may also have been a poor choice. In my original project plan I was going to use a furrowing technique to create the play of light and shadow on the snow. Then I planned to add highlights with white fabric paint. After working with it for awhile I found I couldn’t get enough distinction between low and high spots, and adding detail with paints or dyes was extremely difficult because the nap of the fabric defeated efforts to control application.

This is why I resorted to using two colors of fabric. I used spray adhesive to hold the small fabric pieces in place before stitching, but even so it was extremely challenging to add small detail, and more was needed. I might have had better results just using thread in shades of grey with an open toe darning foot to add more detail to the snow. A third, lighter shade of gray might also have helped.

Anyway, it was a fun project to think through, and I’m looking forward to trying some more of these. For the next project I think I’ll choose something a bit more angular and with less detail – perhaps Church, Taos Pueblo”, which Adams shot in 1942.