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

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Ansel Adams Tribute 2

I’ve been away for a bit and (arrgh) the posts I cued up to post while away didn’t. So it goes. Where was I? Well this might give left coast folks a clue
Yes. That’s part of the view from our hotel room balcony in Hollywood.
We also took in an baseball game between the Anaheim Angels and New York Yankees on September 11th, with an inspiring pre-game remembrance ceremony.

Now I’m home and back in the studio to finish off the second in my series of Ansel Adams tribute wall hangings. This one was inspired by "Church, Taos Pueblo" by Ansel Adams 1942 (photo from the National Archive).

Unlike Tribute One, which was predominately developed with fabric and paint, this new work uses heavy thread painting over just a few large fabric pieces to provide depth and texture.
It’s a technique my machine and I are still learning. I need to work on basic drawing skills to improve perspective and color (or shades of gray) values, but I don’t hate the result. 
As with Tribute One, I began with a photo-shopped cutout, though with less detail this time.
Next time I think I'll try a piece where I draw the basic shapes directly onto one large piece of fabric and start thread painting from there. I also need to experiment with stabilizers so that the areas with heavy thread work don't draw up and distort the overall image so much. But it's all about the adventure for me. I just love trying different techniques - even if I do end up reinventing the wheel on occasion. I learn so much from my mistakes! What new thing did you teach yourself lately?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Fabric Friday - Basic Weaves

Plain weaves are by far and away the most common of all fabrics used worldwide in all fiber types. In a plain weave the weft yarn passes over and under the warp yarns in the first pass and then under and over in the next. This produces a very strong fabric because it yields the highest number of crossings in warp and weft. While plain weaves tend to wrinkle and show soil, they are also more easily cleaned and one of the most easy fabrics to produce.
Balanced plain weave fabrics have warp and weft yarns that are essentially the same although warp yarns are usually somewhat finer, higher twist and set in more closely than weft for added strength. Examples of balanced plain weave fabrics are batiste, canvas, gingham, madras, organdy, and voile.
Batiste flower girl dress image courtesy of French Knot Couture on
Unbalanced plain weave fabrics use a different number, size, or type of yarn between warp and weft. This type of weave will generally result in a visible rib to the fabric, which can be either very fine or coarse. Examples of fine cloths include broadcloth or taffeta formed when the warp and weft yarns are similar in type and almost the same type, but the ratio of warp to weft yarns is at least two to one. Coarser fabric like poplin is formed when weft yarns are thicker and there are more warp yarns than weft.
Silk Taffeta image courtesy of Sylvia Leinweber (Bandidos on
Basket Weave is a variation of an unbalanced plain weave that results when two or more yarns are treated as one for either the warp or the weft. Basket Weave is also sometimes called hopsack. Oxford cloth is an example of a basket weave in which fine warp yarns are doubled and single or softer twist weft yarns are as thick as the two warp yarns.
Oxford cloth image courtesy of Theresa Porter (cherrycheckers on

Other variations can be achieved through using different fibers or tensions, color or allowing occasional loops in the yarn for surface texture. Seersucker is an example of a fabric that uses differing tension on the yarn to create a puckered texture. Gingham and madras fabrics create distinctive patterns in the fabric through the use of color. These fabrics are often described as yarn dyed meaning that color is applied to the yarns before the weaving process rather than applying color to the whole cloth as in printing. End-on-end is a term that refers to cotton shirting fabric having alternating warp yarns resulting in a striped effect. The fabric could be broadcloth, chambray, madras or others.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Fabric Friday - What's In A Name

What’s in a name? It appears the answer is many things. Fabric names have been passed along from one product to another that is similar so that it is often unclear what the name describes. For example, look at barkcloth. The original barkcloth is a product developed in the South Seas that involves removing actual bark from trees, soaking it and then beating it into a thin strong fabric that can be used for wall hangings or apparel. However, in these regions this product is now called tapa or kapa (Hawaii) or masi (Fiji).

This barkcloth was quite popular at one time, but in the 1920s, a product called cretonne began to be imported from France. This was a white fabric of hemp and linen that was printed and similar to an unglazed chintz in texture.
American manufacturers renamed cretonne as barkcloth because of its nubbly bark-like texture. Then again, when servicemen began sending back “barkcloth” clothing and other items from Hawaii, the textured fabric inspired the development of a whole array of materials called bark cloth, bark crepe, decorator bark, etc. in a whole host of fibers from cotton to fiberglass. 
Today's barkcloths are most often a printed textured cotton product with designs that are either tropical, or retro atomic.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Seriously Challenged

Some challenges are easy to meet than others. Way back in March I told you about this challenge project and this past week I finally finished up the quilt. The challenge was to get a dozen quilt "sandwiches" ready to go on the road with me. It was a quilt as you go project to work on during our trip to Nashville. Well those blocks went with me to Nashville, Cape San Blas, and Centralia, Illinois, even a local swim meet, and I finally have something to show for all of the hand work.
I think I mentioned that this quilt was intended as a throw for the living room, and especially to save a leather chair from Lady's sharp claws. Every time we go out and forget to close the door to that room, she feels compelled to jump up and look out the window. Sigh.
The quilting on this project was fairly random swirls and flourishes in a design suggested by some of the fabric prints. Once the sandwiches were all quilted, the blocks were joined and then those seams were quilted in-the-ditch. 
I kept the binding as unobtrusive as possible. I didn't want a border to detract from the overall flow of the piece.
And I have another new treasure to show the quilt off when it's not on chair protection duty. A friend had no place for this lovely antique quilt rack so I am the beneficiary of her largess! I'm crazy in love with this piece and can't wait to get the brass polished up a bit. 
And how did I fair with the Labor Day challenge you may be wondering? Drat! I knew I had forgotten something...

Friday, September 2, 2011

Fabric Friday

Several years ago I began writing a book about fabric. For a variety of reasons I never completed the project or published, but now I’m feeling an interest to pick it back up – at least the research part of the project.
As an incentive to keep that going, I’ve decided to start a new feature here at Stitching Times. Every Friday I’ll write a short piece about fabric – either something from that half finished book, or something new that I’ve learned in my research.
The following is from the preface for that long ago planned book…

sew [soh] –verb used with object, sewed, sewn or sewed, 
1.       to join or attach by stitches.
2.       to make, repair, etc., (a garment) by such means.
3.       to work with a needle and thread or with a sewing machine.
[origin: before 900; Middle English sewen]

Sew·er [soh-er] –noun
1.       a person or thing that sews.

What does it mean to you be a sewer? Whether you aspire to design and sew your own clothes, reupholster a special piece of furniture, or just be able to hem your own pants rather than resorting to that dubious shop with the “alterations” sign in the window, an understanding of some of the basics is necessary.
This book is all about the materials used in home sewing. It answers the questions of how fabric is made and what raw materials are used in these processes. It also explains how to select, prepare, and store fabrics. Most importantly, it demystifies the terms used to describe fabric and notions – terms which are often more confusing than helpful.
Even as experienced sewers we still have questions. Should I be using all cotton thread when I’m working with quilter’s cotton, or is it ok to use cotton wrapped polyester? And, what is the difference between cotton flannel and brushed cotton anyway?
I hope you will follow along and add your own observations and questions about fabric. Together we can learn about fabric new and old.