Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

I'd like to wish you all a Happy New Year! May all your wishes come true... and have a safe and joyful one :-)

image: Stock.xchg

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

I'd like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas (or whatever winter holiday you celebrate) and a Happy New Year!

I'll be back in January with more goodies and tutorials for you all. Until then, stay crafty and warm :-)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

tutorial: how to sew on a sequin

Sequins are a fun way to add some glitz and glamour to Christmas ornaments and crafts. But do you really want to just glue them on? Sewing them on means your craft will last longer and add a decorative touch as well.

As always, this is an original tutorial and may not be copied or reproduced without my permission. You're welcome to link to my site however :-)

Let's get started!

You'll need your standard sewing supplies as well as sequins, "e" beads and whatever fabric you're attaching the sequins to:

I'm using felt because it's sturdy, doesn't fray and is easy to work with. Thread up your handsewing needle (make sure the eye is small enough to fit through the beads) with four strands of thread. You can use either a matching thread, or a contrasting colour, as I'm showing here.

Take a stitch through the fabric and leave a short length of thread before the knot at the end of the thread:

Make a loop of thread by passing your needle through two of the strands of thread and pulling snug - it should look like this:

Thread a sequin and a bead onto the needle and thread:

Stitch back through the hole in the sequin so the bead is held in a little loop - like this:

Gently tighten the needle and make a knot on the wrong side of the fabric... or keep going and add more sequins and beads:

If you don't want to use beads to secure the sequins, you can use just thread. Repeat the first two steps as above, but this time, bring the needle through the centre of the sequin and stitch across it - on the edge. Repeat at least twice more:

Make a knot on the wrong side and trim the threads. You can get some lovely effects by using decorative threads as well.

This is a great technique for adding sparkle to anything from pillows to clothing - give it a try!

tutorial and image copyright C Findlay-Harder 2008

Monday, November 10, 2008

tutorial: how to make a round fabric yo-yo

Fabric yo-yos are one of my favorite craft or quilt techniques - in fact, I love making them so much that I've made thousands of them into garlands for my Christmas tree!

I was taught to make them by my mother, when I was quite young, she in turn was taught as a young girl by a family friend. There is a real sense of continuity for me when I make yo-yo circles - women have been making them for hundreds of years.

I recently was asked by a reader how to make a basic, round yo-yo circle - so here you go :-) An all-new fabric-tastic tutorial!

As always, this tutorial is my original work, so please don't copy the text or photos without my permission!

To begin, cut out a circle of fabric, I normally use a template to cut out the first one - but you can even cut a free-hand circle if you really want :

The finished yo-yo will be approximately half the size of the fabric circle that you started with. I'm using a circle that's four inches across, so my finished yo-yo is just under two inches across.

Thread a needle with standard sewing thread and knot the end. Fold over a 1/4" seam allowance to the wrong side of the fabric (the pale side in the fabric shown here) and using running stitches, start stitching around the outside of the circle. I use a stitch length of approximately 1/8", but it depends on the size of the circle and the kind of fabric you're using. Heavier or crisper fabrics will need longer stitches, and extremely fine fabric may work better with smaller stitches.

Don't pull the thread tight - leave a tail at the end.
Keep on sewing around the entire circle:
To make sure the stitches won't get pulled out when you start gathering them, pass the needle and thread through the knotted end of the thread (that's why we left a tail at the beginning!)

Now start pulling the thread to gather the fabric evenly. It should look like this - the circle is evenly gathered all the way around and it's a nice, even circle:
Knot the thread and trim it. You can press the yo-yo if you'd like at this stage.

Congratulations! You've made your first yo-yo! Now you can make more...

Tutorial and all images are copyright C Findlay-Harder 2008

Sunday, November 2, 2008

How to make silk paper - tutorial

I love making silk paper - it’s messy, wet and tons of fun to play with :-) Ready to get messy?

As always, just a gentle reminder - this is an original tutorial, designed and written by myself. It's copyright and may not be copied or transferred without my direct permission.

For this project I’m using raw silk in a “cap”, but you’ll probably find silk hankies (not to be confused with the kind you blow your nose with!) more easily. Meinke Toy has several different silk products, but I’d start with silk hankies.

Tease the silk out onto a mesh surface. I’m using a paper-making tray, but you can even just tape the edges of door screen mesh and use that. It’s going to look like a light, fluffy pile - but don’t worry, it’s going to look like paper soon!

Now either stick the whole pile of silk under a tap, spray it with a spray bottle, or what I’m using, a spray shower. You need to throughly soak the silk fibers - use your fingers to massage the water into the surface. Here’s what it looks like when it’s half-soaked through:

I just plopped the entire screen into my bathtub to do this. When I first began making silk paper, I would gently spray it down with a plant mister… and you know what? It takes hours to make silk paper that way! The silk must be completely soaked through, any patches that are dry or just damp won’t form a nice firm surface.

Keep massaging the silk until it looks like this - no dry patches and it’s evenly soaked through:

Now we need to glue all those lovely silk fibers together :-)

I like to place the screen onto a plastic lid, or other surface that won’t leak all over the place.

I’m using Golden’s GAC 900, an acrylic fabric medium, but you can use any textile medium - or white glue mixed half and half with water. Spread it over the surface as evenly as you can:

Use your fingers to massage the fabric medium into the fibers, until it’s evenly worked through - like this:

You’ve got a choice at this point. You can let the paper dry like this, and embellish it when it’s dry, or you can bring the paint out :-)

I’m using Dye-Na-Flo to paint the wet surface. It works particularly well for projects like this because the paint acts like water color paint on the wet fiber. You’ll get a fluid, soft surface if you paint the silk wet.

Here’s how I painted this piece of silk paper:

Let it dry overnight and then peel it off the screen. Leave that to dry on a flat surface until it’s completely dry. We’ll embellish and embroider it next time!

images & tutorial are copyright 2008 C Findlay-Harder

Friday, October 31, 2008

Painted Skies tutorial - whole-cloth painting for art quilts

I love to create art quilts using my own painted fabric - so I thought it would be fun to share one of my methods with you all :-)

As always, just a gentle reminder - this is an original tutorial, designed and written by myself. It's copyright and may not be copied or transferred without my direct permission.

For this project, you’ll need plain, tightly-woven white cotton fabric (pre-washed, please), a work surface that can get paint-y, a selection of fabric paints and paint brushes. I’d also recommend a spray bottle, clips or tape to attach your fabric to your work surface, and as an option - coarse salt:

Let’s get painting!

To begin, iron your cotton fabric (it’s pre-washed right??) and secure it to your work surface. I prefer to paint on fabric that’s anchored to my work table - I find it’s a lot easier. I’m using big clips to hold my sample fabric down.

Before you start painting, it’s important to have everything prepared and ready to go - you don’t want to go running around your studio trying to find something while your paint is drying on the fabric! I recommend having a good size water container handy to wash your brushes too.

I’m using a combination of Dye-Na-Flo and Lumiere fabric paints for this project. You can use your favorite paints, but these are my preference - I don’t have any commercial interest in them, they just work the way I want :-)

To begin, take your spray bottle and mist the fabric all over - it doesn’t need to be soaked through, but it’s got to be evenly damp for the paint to move the way we want.

I’ve dipped my large, round paint brush (I like Winsor & Newton University synthetic bristle brushes - the white bristle ones) into my water and then into “azure” Dye-Na-Flo. I’m using really light, loose strokes all over the fabric. Don’t try and make obvious cloud shapes, just use light strokes of paint. I’m using heavier strokes at the bottom, moving to lighter ones at the top. That will help give the illusion of depth to the sky.
I’ve mixed a 50/50 blend of azure Dye-Na-Flo and pearlescent turquoise Lumiere, thinned it with water and lightly painted over parts of the blue paint. I like the sheer sparkle of pearl paints, but you’ve got to use them sparingly in this project or they’ll overwhelm it.
I’ve added some light touches of “violet” Dye-Na-Flo. I’ve dipped my paintbrush into water first, and then into the paint - it helps to keep things really light and fluid.

The dark patches you can see in this photo is the worktable surface showing through the white fabric.

It’s important to keep your fabric evenly damp during painting. I photographed this project outside on a hot and windy afternoon, so I needed to spray the fabric down again at this point.

I’m trying to paint a sky at the beginning of sunset, so I’ve a really light layer of yellow streaks, just at the top of the fabric. I’ve used “sun yellow” Dye-Na-Flo. I decided to punch up the metallics a little, so I used a thinned out mixture of Lumiere’s “true gold” to add high lights to the yellow.

I decided that the bottom of the fabric needed a little more color, so I’ve brushed on a second layer of violet. The dark line across the bottom is actually a shadow from my house - not paint.

Spray the fabric again lightly and let it dry thorougly. You could also lightly sprinkle with rock salt at this point. Rock salt will add an interesting texture, just make sure to wash the fabric after you’ve heat set it to remove the salt. It’s not good for fabric to leave it sit for too long!

The fabric has now had a chance to dry overnight, so you can see how much the paint softens as it dries. That’s half of the fun with painting on wet fabric - you never quite now how it will dry! You can now heat-set it according to the instructions on the paint - that will ensure the paint is fully permanent and can be washed safely.

Just to let you know, the finished piece of fabric is over six feet long and approximately eighteen inches wide…

This is why I should remember to wear gloves when I paint - I don’t seem to be able to paint without wearing it :-)
Here's how the fabric looks if you salt it with rock salt when it's still wet:
I love the mottled effect and the added dimension it gives.

tutorial & all images are copyright C Findlay-Harder

Thursday, October 30, 2008

How to go from photo to finished fibre art - tutorial

I’ve found that it’s pretty common for people to get completely excited & inspired… and then not know how to go about translating their inspiration to a completed piece of art. Here are a few simple steps to go from an object, to a finished piece of fiber art.

Before we start the tutorial, just a gentle reminder - this is an original tutorial, designed and written by myself. It's copyright and may not be copied or transferred without my direct permission.

I’m using a small pot of primulas, or primroses as my starting point. I love their rich color and interesting texture. I’ve taken a bunch of photos and decided that this one is my favorite:

But that definitely needs to be cropped! Play around with your photo editing software (there are free ones like The Gimp available if you don’t have any) to find the composition you like the best. This is what I ended up with:
It’s much more interesting now!

I like to create a simple sketch of the composition and layout before I start cutting up fabric or embroidering. It can be tricky to know exactly which lines are important - that’s a pretty detailed photo we’re using after all!

There are a few things that can help - first of all, try blurring the photo:

You can also just squint at the photo - but it’s challenging to try and draw like that :-) Blurring the photo simplifies the image and allows you to see the major shapes in it.

Sometimes it also works to convert the photo to black & white:

Like blurring, removing the color simplifies the photo and can be easier for some people to see the lines, rather than the full, complex photo.

It’s time to start sketching now! The point isn’t to create an exact replica of the photo, but to create a basic outline that you can use to base your fiber art on.

The point of making a basic sketch is to give you a bare-bones idea of the basic shapes you’re using in the piece of fiber art. It doesn’t need to be a “perfect” drawing - but it should give you the composition:Now you’ve got some decisions to make - how is the piece going to be finished? Are you doing a densely-embroidered piece, using machine embroidery? Are you going to create a fibre fusion collage? I’m going to paint onto silk duppioni and then lightly free-motion embroider over the paint as an accent.

You’ll need to transfer the sketch to your base fabric - or, you can just draw it directly onto the fabric:

I’ve used a fine-tipped black permanent marker to draw directly onto my silk (interfaced with a heavy weight fusible interfacing, for stability) If you’re using a light colored fabric, you can use dress-maker’s transfer paper and trace directly from your sketch, onto the fabric . If you’re using a dark colored base fabric, Sulky makes a fantastic white, iron-on transfer pen.

I’m going for a very loose, almost abstract design in this particular piece and I want the pen lines to show through. I’m lightly painting the silk with a very fluid acrylic fabric paint called Dye-Na-Flo, that almost acts like dye when you paint it on (without all the toxic chemicals in dye :-)

I’ve placed the silk on a plastic sheet, so my paint doesn’t seep through and stain anything. The paint has to dry overnight.

Do you know exactly where you want to embroider? Do you want to take the risk of tearing holes in our lovely silk with having to rip stitches out because you’ve decided that you don’t like how it looks?

Photo editing software is our solution!

You can play around with different lines & colors, before you commit to actually embroidering the fabric. I use Photoshop elements a lot to work out different ideas for quilts or fiber art. I don’t have a tablet, so my sketches are pretty rough looking, but they’re enough to get a general idea of how the stitching should work together:

I’ve got an idea of how I want the embroidery to support the composition - it’s time to sew now!

I began with two shades of yellow - both plain old polyester sewing machine thread. I wanted the yellow to be small “pops” of color to make it more interesting - but not so much that it’s overwhelming.

Here’s the first shade of yellow:

I used free-motion embroidery to create short lines radiating out of the flower centers. I filled in the remaining centers with a darker shade - using the same stitching technique.

I threaded my sewing machine with purple next. I wanted the purple to echo the pen lines I drew on first, but I didn’t want to match them exactly. I used quite a loose, fluid line of stitching to give the petals some extra dimension. The dark purple thread blended in a little bit too much with the paint, so I went over some of the lines again with a paler shade of lavender:

I used an olive-toned green to outline the leaves, and to add some depth & volume to the embroidery. It’s getting close, but I still think it needs a little more something…

There was so much green on the piece that it needed to be balanced out. And since red is the complementary color for green - I just needed to add a touch of it. The colors are nicely harmonized now and seem to almost sparkle.

I’m going to display this piece by sewing it onto a stretched canvas (the kind you would paint on) I like to frame smaller art works this way (and have for years now) - it seems to give them more of a “presence”.

tutorial & all images are copyright C Findlay-Harder

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Machine fusion fiber - tutorial, part two

As promised - here's part two of the machine fiber fusion tutorial! You can catch part one here.

Before we get back to the sewing machine, just a gentle reminder - this is an original tutorial, designed and written by myself. It's copyright and may not be copied or transferred without my direct permission.

It’s time to fill in the little gaps on the fabric and add another layer of color:

I’ve used a cherry red & a darker green to fill in the background. Using different colored sewing machine thread will add depth & richness to the finished piece.

Here’s a close-up of the surface:

You can now dissolve the top layer of stabilizer. Follow the manufacturer’s directions! I find it’s easiest to soak smaller pieces in my bathroom sink.

Make sure you’re using color-fast fabric & threads before this stage:

Place the completely rinsed out fabric face down on a studio towel on your ironing board and cover the back with a second towel or a pressing cloth. We’re trying to dry & flatten the piece of fabric at this stage.

I’d avoid directing touching the surface of the fabric with an iron - some water-soluble stabilizers can leave a film of gunk on on the bottom.
Here's how it looks after being rinsed and pressed:
Trim off all the loose threads from sewing, because we're breaking out the fabric paint!

This is a completely optional step… I don’t always use paint on the fusion fabric - but in this case, I like the effect.

I’m using one of my favorite fabric paints (Lumiere by Jacquard) in halo pink-gold, metallic gold & metallic olive green. I added small lines around some of the stitching & added lines where I felt it needed more definition.

Here's a close-up, so you can see how the paint was applied:

After the paint dries throughly (don’t put tacky or wet paint through your sewing machine - you’ll be very, very unhappy!) we’re going to add some more stitching and finish this piece.
I added lines of metallic stitching around the roses - just to add another dimension of color. Metallic thread can be tricky to work with, so remember to use a metallic embroidery needle, go slowly, loosen your tension slightly and try using a bobbin thread specifically meant for metallic threads.
And we're done! There are some many ways of using this technique - the sky truly is the limit :-)

tutorial & all images are copyright C Findlay-Harder