Fabrications – Sand In My Shoes (part two)

Batiks serve as the perfect fabrics for making these little flowers since they are tightly woven and quite colorful.

Once you have completed the free motion stitching on each of the circles, remove the Solvy from you hoop. Clip around each flower, leaving all the loose extended threads in place.

Circles Clipped from Solvy

Place each flower circle on a terry towel and spray with water to remove the Solvy. Spraying rather than soaking works well here because some of the melted Solvy remains in the fabric, adding a little stiffness to the bubbly texture.

Sprayed Circles

When you circles are semidry, center the small circles on top of the large circles. If you have used an assortment of colors, you may like to mix and match until you are pleased with the results.

Layered Flowers

Apply beads or buttons to embellish the flower centers. I used “tye dye” glass beads.

Tye Dye Beads

Take each flower and scrunch it into a little ball. Gently open the ball and shape it back into a flower.

Scrunched Flower

Allow to dry completely, and your flowers will be ready to add colorful embellishment wherever you place them.
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N. Rene West
Time Treasured

Fabrications – Sand In My Shoes

Batiks always make me think of summer vacations at the beach. If you’re like me, you probably have lots of batik scraps from past projects. Here’s a great way to transform them into beautifully embellished flowers.

For this project you will need some regular Solvy, a heavy variegated cotton thread (I used Valdani #35 “Autumn”), colorful beads, an embroidery hoop, circular templates, and assorted batik fabrics.

Supplies

First, mark large and small circles on your batiks. I used a mechanical pencil, which makes a very thin cutting line. For templates, I used metal eyelet charms that I found in the scrap booking department of my local craft store. These charms are quite thin, making them very useful around the studio. My large circle measured 1 3/4″ and my small circle measured 1 1/4″.

Circle Templates

Cut the circles out and press to flatten if necessary.

Cut Batik Circles

Hoop you Solvy and lightly spray the back of the individual large circles. Position them in the hoop.

Hooped Solvy

Set up your sewing machine for free motion work. Use a coordinating color and similar weight of thread in the bobbin. Drop the feed dogs and attach a closed free motion foot. Free motion stitch each of the circles, using meandering and circular motions. Allow the thread work to extend beyond the edges of your circles. Fill each circle with stitching, creating a bubbled texture.

Free Motion Stitched Large Circles

Repeat this process for the small circles.

Free Motion Stitched Small Circles

Your completed stitching should look something like this. Notice that the thread work extends well beyond each circle.

Free Motion Thread Work

We’ll finish these little batik blooms in part two.

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N. Rene West
Time Treasured

Felted Finery – Angelina’s Secret Cousin (part one)

Dragonfly

There’s definitely a family resemblance, although Angelina is the more flamboyant of the two. And when things heat up, Angelina experiences meltdown way before her cousin. Of course, Angelina by nature is “strung out” whereas her cousin flows with the warp and weft of things. Both like to put on a show and grab attention. For Angelina, it all happens so naturally. For her cousin, it takes a little more work (but it’s worth it).

This enjoyable fiber play requires simply supplies: a light weight stabilizer, some batik motifs, and (did you guess it?) – organza! To begin, hoop your stabilizer and place a cutout motif on top. If your motif has one side that is more pronounced, place that side face down. You could also use a hand painted motif. The important thing is that the fabric is double sided.

Cutouts

Using your Babylock Embellisher or needle punch machine/attachment, tack down the motif and then give it a more thorough felting.

Tack Down

Your motif should be covered with tiny needle holes. It’s easy to over felt some areas, so occasionally check the back side to make sure you are getting even results. At this point, some of the stabilizer should still be visible but the colors of the motif should also be coming through.

Next, cut a piece of polyester organza a little larger (about 1-2 inches) than the motif. When you needle punch organza, it tends to bunch up. I like to hold it in place with my fingers as I tack it down, slowly moving in a cross pattern followed by an “X” pattern.

Do a very thorough felting across the surface of your design. Pay special attention to the edges of the motif, making sure they are felted well since this will be your cutting line. Check the back to see if the organza fibers have felted through evenly. They won’t solidly cover the motif, but they should have an even appearance across the surface. Continue felting any sparse areas.

Thorough Felting of Organza

Peach organza on orange motif

When your motif is completely felted, remove it from the hoop and cut it out with a sharp pair of craft scissors. Next, sandwich it between two layers of parchment paper or a pressing sheet and iron at a “cotton” setting for about 6-7 seconds. Let the motif cool before touching it.

Cutout Dragonfly

Yellow organza on blue motif

You should have a beautiful non-fraying motif that can be used on quilts, pillows, hats, handbags, or whatever items you desire. Additionally, you have two sides from which to choose, both offering unique textures and some sparkle. These motifs can be used as stand-alones or embellished further with beads.

Bead Embellishment

Angelina is often mixed with other fibers (without being melted). The reverse side of these motifs bears a close resemblance to that technique. One thing is certain: the results are always one-of-a-kind and spectacular.

In part two, I will share with you how I made the shadow-dwelling dragonfly.

Shadow Dragonfly

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N. Rene West
Time Treasured

Fembellish Footnotes – March 12, 2007

Felted Flower

(News, notes, and fiber art related information that might be of interest to you.)

1. Bernina is celebrating their 75th anniversary. To commemorate the occasion, they have set up a special anniversary web site.

2. March 17th is National Quilt Day.

3. The March/April 2007 issue of Fons and Porter’s Love of Quilting magazine contains an informative article on the production of batik fabrics. “Behind the Batiks” by Bruce Magidson takes you on tour through an Indonesian batik factory, revealing the centuries-old practice of dyeing and waxing with complex designs.

4. If you do a Google search on “Carriff,” you will find several links to forum discussions on the 0.5 stabilizer that I use for my felting projects. It is my understanding that the Carriff Soil Separator (0.5 weight) sold at Lowe’s and Home Depot is essentially the same product. If you’re interested in trying this product, you might check these stores to see if they have it in stock.

5. The Eagle-Tribune (MA) has an article on the popularity of wool felting: Wool Whimsy Felting: A hot hobby for any age. Newspaper article links change quickly, so if you’re interested in reading it you might do so sooner rather than later.

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N. Rene West
Time Treasured

Quilting – In the Eye of the Beholder (part two)

Hummingbird Embroidery

The more I work with the Babylock Embellisher the more excited I become regarding the potential that these types of machines hold for fiber artists, quilters, and artisans. Every thread, yarn, fiber, and fabric becomes the basis for experimentation, producing unique results that cannot be produced by other means. But I digress. . .

In part one I promised to share with you a technique that I call “shadow felting,” since the resulting fabric takes on a suede-like appearance and renders a muted form of the original base fabric. Also, when used as a 3D object on a quilt or other project, it casts a shadow.

For the best results with this process, you will need a batik, a hand dyed, or a hand painted base fabric that has individual motifs you can use for appliqué. Using a one-sided commercial fabric doesn’t work well owing to the pale underside that obscures the original design when needle felted.

Additionally, you will need a very light stabilizer. I experimented with several and found two that worked quite well: Carriff .50 weight and Gerber EZ-liner disposable diaper liners. Here are the reasons why these work for this particular project:

1. They are both very lightweight.

2. The Carriff stabilizer will remain in the project, adding strength and a good foundation with which the fibers can mesh. Its non-woven wispy appearance also mutes the surface ever so slightly.

3. The Gerber EZ-liner provides a foundation for the felting process but afterwards is melted with an iron or heat gun, so it disappears. (If you cannot locate this product, call 1-800-4-GERBER for product availability in your area.)

If neither of these products are available to you, try a very light weight used dryer sheet (some are too dense) or a water soluble mesh stabilizer such as Vilene. I haven’t experimented with the wash-aways because they involve the extra step of removal, but they should work.

Begin by hooping your stabilizer and placing a cut motif on top. If one side of the design motif is more pronounced, place that side face down. Starting in the center, tack the motif to the stabilizer and needle felt the entire motif. It only requires a light felting.

Hooped Stabilizer and Motif

Next, place a small amount of roving on the surface of the motif. Again, start in the center and needle felt roving over the entire design motif. Use a roving that matches the color of your motif. You may also like to mix in other colors that blend well. For example, I added a darker shade of green on one of my leaves.

Roving Over Motif

Make sure you felt the edges of the motif adequately.

Felted Motif

Check the back side (which will be the front side when you’re finished) to see if more felting is required. The goal is a motif with a suede-like appearance. Make sure enough roving has meshed through to produce this look.

Suede Look Leaf

When your motif is completely felted, remove it from the hoop and cut away the surrounding stabilizer. Set your iron on the “cotton” setting. Sandwich your motif between nonstick pressing sheets (or parchment paper) and iron on both sides. Let the pressing sheet cool and then take a peak. The Carriff motif should be ready to cut. The EZ-liner may take a few more seconds to melt.

As an alternative, you can melt the EZ-liner with a heat gun set to its lowest heat setting. Do this outdoors if possible, but always in a well ventilated area. Do not place the gun too close to the motif and keep it moving across the surface until you see the liner begin to melt.

Regardless of which method you use, a quick pressing flattens the motif (to about the thickness of craft felt) and helps to set the fibers. Now you are ready to cut your motif with a sharp pair of craft scissors.

Felted Leaves

I placed my leaf motifs here and there on the surface of my quilt. I chose to appliqué two of the leaves, simply doing a few rounds of straight stitches. When the sewing machine needle punctures the edge of the “shadow felt,” a slight bit of fraying takes place.

Appliqued Leaf

Appliqued Leaf 2

However, on the leaves that I applied as 3D objects (with stitching on the interior of the leaves), there was no fraying.

3D Leaf 1

Notice the difference in appearance between the thread painted leaves and the appliquéd/3D leaves. They all share color and shape similarities, yet they each have unique properties that add visual interest to the whole piece.

3D Leaf 2

I hope you enjoy playing with this technique and discovering new possibilities for your work. Relax and have fun!

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N. Rene West
Time Treasured

Quilting – In the Eye of the Beholder

Quilt

When I was seven years old, our neighbor’s teenage daughter taught me how to play the piano. Of course, I soon wanted my own piano. With a mixture of excitement and nervousness, I approached my father with my request and received the standard reply: “We’ll see.” I never cared for that answer because at best it meant a long time delay, and at worst, that nothing would ever come of it.

So with my seven year old mind, I came up with a little game that I actually thought held some merit. Every day as I walked home from school, I would look up into the clouds and scan the sky for the form of a piano, believing that on the day that an ethereal piano appeared, a tangible piano would be delivered to my house. Oh, to be seven again. I don’t remember ever seeing my cloud-piano, but the real thing did finally arrive one day.

I tell you this little story because I applied the same childlike vision to the batik fabric for this quilt. After cutting the fabric to size, I then studied the surface to see if any forms popped out that could be used as a basis for real objects. The most obvious forms were those of leaves, something the designer had planned. However, two unplanned forms also appeared: a butterfly and a humming bird.

Butterfly Form

Hummingbird Form

This same eye exercise can be used on hand-dyed and hand-painted fabrics. Wonderful shapes sometime appear that can be used as main themes or sub-themes in your quilts.

I began this project by stabilizing the fabric with Decor Bond. I then outlined with pencil the somewhat nebulous leaf forms printed on the fabric.

Pencil Outline

Next, I gathered all the thread colors I thought I might use to outline and free-motion embroider the surface designs. (I used Valdani cotton thread.) After thread outlining all the leaves, I began working on the leaf veins, using multiple colors.

Leaf Outlined with Thread

Then I lightly embroidered each leaf, using whatever pattern came to mind at the moment.

For the hummingbird and butterfly forms, I thread outlined the bodies and then did some simple fills. For example, I used a small feather design in the hummingbird’s wing area. I also gave him a ruby throat. The butterfly received some spots, more definition in the wing area, and antennae.

Hummingbird and Butterfly

The idea for this quilt actually came to me while experimenting at the Embellisher. Testing various fabric and fiber mixtures, I developed a technique that I call “shadow felting.” I was so pleased with the results that I decided to make a quilt to showcase my new discovery. Of course, I will share the technique with all of you in part two.

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N. Rene West
Time Treasured

Felted Finery – Sheer Serendipity (part two)

Pink Felted Flower

Being relatively new on the scene, machine needle felting holds many secrets yet to be revealed. By experimenting with various fabrics and fabric combinations, one can discover some very exciting things.

In part one, I ended with the light green on dark green organza fabric. The first time I mixed the two colors and saw the resulting texture on the back side, I knew I had discovered a technique that could be used in art quilts and more particularly in landscape quilts. The appearance of this new fabric resembles the mossy looking growth on old tree trunks or rocks.

Felted Green Organza

When ironed, it flattens out a little and makes a great fabric for leaves. It can be stitched, appliquéd, or used for 3D objects. Owing to its inherent sparkle, I believe it would also make wonderful insect wings, animal fur, and other such items. Such a promising fabric deserves a name, don’t you think? Maybe I’ll call it “Noah” cloth since the first thing I made with it was an olive leaf.

Felted Organza Leaf

On the piece where I used the Carriff .50 stabilizer (used dryer sheets really do have a similar appearance to this product), I decided to go a step further and see how the Noah cloth handled fabric paint. Using a small amount of pernod Setacolor paint (transparent) mixed with water, I dabbed areas where the stabilizer peaked through. After it dried, I ironed the piece again (to set the color) and noticed that the paint had removed the sparkle from organza, providing me with more options to play with in the future.

As we saw in part one, the nature of polyester organza changes under the needle. In its original form, it is very sheer, unruly, and frays easily. After being needle punched to a light stabilizer, it loses some of its transparency, behaves beautifully, and becomes a non-fraying fabric.

Additionally, organza can be used as a base fabric for other felting projects, which it what we will turn to now for the fluffy pink flower. First, hoop a piece of organza whatever color you would like your flower to be.

Hooped Organza

Place a small amount of wool roving on top the hooped organza. I like to pull it apart and fluff it out so that there are no heavy areas. Beginning in the middle, slowly tack down the roving.

Organza and Roving

After the roving is secured, give it a more thorough felting, making sure you have covered the entire surface.

Thorough Felting

Remove the felted piece from the hoop and cut five flower petals. I cut one and then used it as my pattern for the remaining four petals. (Although we are going to take these little petals to new dimensions, you could use them at this stage for many other projects.)

Cut Five Petals

Returning to your Embellisher or needle punch machine (you could also use a hand needle punch), take one petal at a time and very lightly felt a small amount of roving across the surface. Do this very slowly and only allow the needles to punch the fabric a few times in each spot. The goal here is to have a fluffy dimensional petal. Also, it helps to roll your roving into the shape of the petal before putting it under the needles.

Extra Roving

You will now have five petals with a fluffy loft to them, ready to become a flower.

Five Fluffy Petals

For the center core, I used a small round piece of felted organza left over from the project in part one. You could just as easily use a piece of craft felt. To aide in the flower’s symmetry, dab a tiny amount of fabric glue on the back side of the inner points and positioned them evenly around the yellow circle.

Tack Down Petals

Next, turn the flower over to the back and needle punch around the yellow circle, securing each of the five petals.

Felting the Petals Together

You may like your little flower just as it is at this stage, or you may like to embellish it further; the choice is yours to make. However, if you used a piece of felted organza for your center, observe the effects on the front of the flower. Notice that the organza fibers felted through to the front of your flower and graced it with their sparkle.

Organza Sparkle

To complete the flower as pictured in part one, take a small amount of yellow roving, form it into a little ball, and needle punch it in the center front of the flower.

As a finishing touch, sew some seed beds around the circumference of the center. You now have a lovely little flower that will add beauty wherever you plant it.

There were a few other serendipitous surprises as I worked with various fabrics. I’ll be sharing these with you in the near future so stay tuned.

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N. Rene West
Time Treasured

Felted Finery – Sand Dollar Shallows

This piece of needle play is difficult to categorize. True, it does involve needle felting silk to silk. However, it also involves free motion embroidery and a little trapunto. So, it really belongs in Fabrications as well. That said, here is a helpful lesson on all of the above.

Marked Silk

Starting with a piece of silk dupioni (any size you want), stabilize it with a heavy fusible stabilizer. I used Decor Bond. Draw some diagonal lines with the light stroke of a pencil or any marker of your choice. Next, cut some freehand circles out of a contrasting color of silkdupioni, varying the sizes for more visual interest.

Silk Circles

Place one of your circles of silk at the beginning of a pencil line. Using about three needles in your Babylock Embellisher (or other needlepunch machine), tack down the first circle in the center.

Slowly begin working your way around the silk, lightly securing it with your fingers so that it doesn’t form folds. It helps to felt a cross pattern after the tack down and then continue felting the circle until complete. Your goal here is texture; a light felting is all that is needed.


Continue felting circles, alternating their sizes. Don’t worry about the distortion in the base fabric. The next step will take care of it.

Garnet Stitch

When your circles are complete, thread your sewing machine with some variegated rayon thread and attach a free motion foot. Drop the feed dogs. To form the appearance of water, you are going to embroider the surface around the silk circles with a garnet stitch. This versatile stitch is fun to create and easy to do.

Using a straight stitch setting, begin making circle shapes with the needle. Go around and around, stitching over the previous round of stitches. When you are satisfied with the circle’s appearance, move on to the next circle. Vary the sizes, making some small, some large, and some in between. Within a few minutes you will feel like an expert at the garnet stitch. This wonderful stitch can be used for adding detail to animals, birds, reptiles, insects, flowers, leaves, water, rocks, and a myriad of other things.

Garnet Stitches Complete

When you have completely filled the background fabric with garnet stitches, thread your machine with a rayon thread the color of your silk circles. Using the same method, stitch around the circumference of each circle until all frayed edges are covered with stitches.

Batting Circles

You now have a relatively flat background with rows of circular “puffs.” Turn your piece over to the wrong side. With scraps of cotton batting, cut freehand circles a little smaller than each of your silk circles. Use a very light dab of Glue Pins or a similar water soluble product to attach them to the underside of each circle.

Sand Dollar Motif

Turn your fabric to the right side and return it to the sewing machine. With the same thread and settings, lower the needle into the middle of a silk circle. Sew a few securing stitches and cut your tread tail. Now free motion stitch a sand dollar design (or any design of your liking) over the surface of the silk circle. Repeat with each circle until finished.

Sand Dollar Close Up

When I completed my piece, I auditioned several different beads that I thought would look nice in the center of the sand dollars. However, I found that the wonderful surface texture created by these methods needed no further embellishment.

Completed Design

I hope you will experiment with this exercise and use the methods in larger works. Silk is an excellent choice when texture and sheen are required. Needle felted silk increases the textural quality of your work and can add realism to individual elements.

Note: I chose blue and white for this project because blue, white, and grey are Project Spectrum’s color choices for February and March. If you’re not familiar with Project Spectrum, click on the banner in the side bar and visit their website.

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N. Rene West
Time Treasured