Archive for the ‘surface design’ Category
I’ve been a dyer for over 30 years now. It’s not all of what I do. It’s never really been the focus of what I do. But my work would have been much less rich without it.
I’m also incapable of measurements. Not in cooking, not in dyeing, not in any way. If you just can’t pour it in and hope for the best it’s probably not going to happen on my watch. Soups and stews, yes. Much better at bread than cake. It’s all a dyslesics view of the measuring cup. It’s a sugguestion, a guideline. Don’t ask for accuracy.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t love experiments.So I was delighted when I got a package of Heat and Shape.
I’ve pasted in the information for you. Of course, it never occurred to me to do trapunto.
cut with scissors or a rotary cutter and, prior to heating, can easily be sewn through using standard
needles and thread. Due to the nonwoven nature of Heat & Shape it will not fray at the edges like
Ideal as a hidden stiffener to add stability and crispness to handbags, tote bags and
placemats. Let your imagination run wild with fanciful masks, costumes, millinery, boxes, bowls, flowers
and ornaments. Heat & Shape is mold and mildew resistant and is machine washable and dryable.
Quilt Heat & Shape into some of your favorite fabric, lightly steam and you have what we call
When I got done they were fearfully white. But they were polyester. It’s been a long time since I played with Rit, but Rit is one of the dyes that is formulated for all kinds of fibers.
It was like my old college days. We used what we had.At that time Rit was it. Rit responds to vinger, salt and heat and I used a lot of both of those. I put it in the Crockpot and left it for two days. It remains to be seen whether the mix of purple and green made that brown or whether I singed them. But they are very, very fall like.
They’re currently pinned to the Cidada quilt that is in process on top. I’m excited to see what they’ll look like with veining and stitching all over them.
You’ll find Heat and Shape at InnovativeCrafts.Com. Even though it’s polyester, we’ve proved it will dye with heat, salt vineger and Rit. Although, there’s a rumor that it could be made in rayon. Which would dye with cold water procions. The mad scientist in me is completely overjoyed.
Tomorrow I’m heading up for Ann Arbor the their Quilting Unlimited Festival, where I’ll be teaching this weekend. I’ve got my usual pile of thread, books, kits, toys and quilts and I’m ready to go. I’ll be teaching the Stitch Mastery Book, Applique Master, Bobbin work Flowers and Button hole Binding. If you’re anywhere near, come and join us. You’ll find more information on their web site at http://www.gaaqg.com/qu2013/.
When I get back I’m going to start up Thread Magic Summer School Session. If you joined us last year, you know it’s an intense week of blog classes, this time on color theory outside the box.We’re going to talk about how and why color works the way it does. It’s kind of like class camp for grownups, where we focus on quilting, color, art, expression and fiber. The first lesson will start August 12. It’s free, it’s fun and it’s a great way to stretch your knowledge.
Join me both places! This is going to be fun.
We all live and die for thread. But sometimes thread simply isn’t enough! Thicker yarns and cords are the natural extension for a more dramatic line in quilting and surface design. We can use them in a number of ways to accent and accentuate our work.
Or you might want to create a line that helps complete a visual path through your piece. The small bit of yarn carries your eye right across the surface.
Thick threads and yarns are easy to include in your designs! But it isn’t as simple as simply sewing them through the machine. They’re too thick or uneven to put through either the top or bottom of your sewing machine. But they can be couched. The options and possibilities are too wide for simply one foot to handle all of them, but there are all kinds of feet that accommodate different yarns, ribbons and threads so you can use them all.
All yarns can be couched by hand. But some of us don’t hand sew well. These are methods I find work well with machine couching. In general, couching is usually done with feed dogs up. You can use either a zigzag stitch,a broken zigzag stitch, a straight stitch if it’s aimed carefully, or a joining stitch that catches the middle and both sides. Monofilament nylon will make the stitching invisible. But you can always use a bright colored polyester to add an extra color and texture.
Your Regular Pressure Foot
Thin and bumpy threads: Many thick and thin threads can be couched on with your regular pressure foot
Your regular pressure foot for most sewing has a groove down the center that you can run light yarns through.
Much thicker yarns take a thread escape.
A foot with a large channel underneath lets the yarn pass through. Again any zigzag or joining stitch can be used to attach it.
This couching foot with a wide thread escape that let’s you couch on all kinds of thicker threads.This foot also has a small hole through the top to guide medium yarns. Medium yarns pass through both holes easily for excellent control.For much thicker yarns, you can just run them through the bottom of the foot.
All these yarns run easily through your machine because of the large thread escape in the foot. They were stitched with a joining stitch.
The Braiding Foot
This braiding foot arranges 3 smaller cords or threads into a braid. The yummy pearl cottons I showed you last week are perfect for this. There’s another foot set to braid 5. The Braiding foot with 3 thread channels loads from the top and has a bar that closes to hold the threads in place. You can use either a zigzag or broken zigzag to stitch down the cords. The effect is a flat braid made of your threads.
Sashay yarn is a new fiber we’re seeing in the yarn shops. Its loose open weave can be stretched and shaped in all kinds of ways. Because it catches on the foot, it helps to have a cut away foot that clears the yarn as we sew it. This foot originally set up for cutaway applique with its single toe makes it easier to stitch down.
It can be sewed straight or in waves, down either one side for a more textural effect or on both sides for a more controlled look.
Couching is a way to put extra fiber in your fiber! And its sew much fun!
One of the new Quilting Arts tutorials has a couching video on it. Check it out for more information.
So teaching aesthetics really doesn’t work. What you do is expose people to what you see as a wonder and let it take them where it will. Most of this is about color. A bit of it is about design. All of that is just a toolbox for seeing things differently.
With that in mind, there are things I say, just to open the doors a crack on that regard.
Break the match instinct. You’ve matched thread all your life. You want it to show up here. Pick the brightest thread you can find that will shine against your backdrop.
Complementary colors are the definition of excitement. And you can’t have too many. If you’re bored, add the complement.
Use a shocker and a shader in your color choice. A darker color anchors your piece and puts it into dimension. A bright shocking color gives it a final shimmer that puts it into the light.
A three legged stool always stands. Designs with three elements balance almost automatically. It’s easy design.
Built a visual path. Create a path for your eye to follow and your eye will move through your work. It will make your work seem to move too.
Design so that your piece is as exciting up close as it is at a distance. Details and design are both vital. Detail brings excites up close. Good design brings them in.
- Hang it up and look at it. You’ll know in six months. You don’t see a piece in whole until you hang it on a wall and look at it for a while. Unless you’re in a crushing hurry it’s always worth doing that. Especially if it’s large.
- Build a frame and break out of it. We crave structure. We celebrate release. if you build a frame into the work and then break out of it in the design, it gives you both feelings at once.
- All art depends on contrast. You have contrast between hues (basic colors), shades (darks and lights), and casts (golden, blue, clear and muddy). You can create contrast with colors, textures, shapes and sizes. Without contrast your eye has nothing to grab onto. Everything is sadly the same.
- Of course all of this works except when it doesn’t. Which is so true to everything I say it all the time.
Art tricks are just tricks. They’re easy ways to think about building your personal aesthetic, the rules that really work for you. And they’re the only ones that count.
I teach a lecture called the Visual Path that walks people through this pretty simply. If you have a group that would like some real design tools, it’s a good starting place.
I teach color theory on all classes. Can’t do it without it.
I met I met Vivi at least 15 years ago. At the time she was running the best fiber art gallery around. A gallery is it’s own creation, a place where art shines. And that is an important part. But often people are more involved with that space than they are with art.
Vivi isn’t one of those. I’ve watched her create safe spaces for children, exhibition places for artists ( bigger children), grace and love for the people in her life, and turn around and do the most amazing pottery/ sculpture. She is in constant movement and definition.
I’m a color person. I dream in color. I think in color. But Vivi’s vital textures in plain porcelain open doors in my head I didn’t know where there.
“After over 10 years of clay, I still boil down to my love of surface design and fiber. My current projects endeavor to combine porcelain, stoneware and fiber in new and wonderful ways. I currently designing a new jewelry line , scheduled to appear on Etsy in the new year.
The photo of Seedpod is felted wool fiber and porcelain.
Anemone is porcelain, hand built. I’m considering a revisit to this only with a porcelain body and fiber tentacles.
This “…is my potter’s mark. I started signing my name as VIVI before we lost Leo because that is what he always called me and I liked it. Oddly enough the VIVI done like a roman numeral can be read as a 66, this is interesting because Leo was born in 66, I was 6 years old and he was murdered New Year’s Day 06.
…. Quite a few people don’t know what a flower frog is. I didn’t either when I was younger and when asked by my mother to get her a flower frog whilst she was arranging flowers, my reaction was “what frog?”, I thought we had frogs as in amphibians in the laundry room, lol.
I met Pat Jones at the Mountain Laurel Guild in Georgia. The whole guild was full of wild gardeners and astonishing fiber artists. Pat fits right in. She lives in a cabin up the mountain where birds sing to her right off her porch, looking down the gorge. It’s another world.
Pat tells me I gave her permission in my first book to try things. And she has. She’s this quiet and very proper southern gal doing wonderfully wild things with her thread and fabric.
She took my flower class, and being a master gardener herself, she build one incredible flower garden.
Here’s what she had to say about it.
It all starts with Ellen’s hand dyed fabrics. Not only do they provide her palette, but often the pattern within the fabric evokes an element in the quilt.
Then there’s the thread. Lots of thread! My big “aha” moment was when I saw how she made some of the frogs and butterflies separately from the quilt top and then attached them. That’s how she gets those thread-heavy creatures onto her quilts!
As wonderful as her quilts are, the same is true of Ellen herself. She could easily be a character who just stepped out of one of her magical quilts. Meet Ellen Anne Eddy this month on Quilt It! The Longarm Quilting Show and be charmed!
It’s such a good thing people don’t generally look in my washer. They would need medical attention pretty fast, and perhaps that’s just as well. There’s a large quality of the embodied question.”Just what is that?”
This is a cheesecloth lump. As advertised, it’s a lump of cheesecloth, tucked carefully into a nylon stocking so it doesn’t unravel and trap the whole washer in threads. Is this some special fabric we’ve never heard of? No. You probably put it on a turkey breast last Thanksgiving.
Even open it’s a bit of a mystery for folk. But you can see the colors. Cheesecloth is one of the appliquer’s and dyers best kept secret. It’s a cotton sheer that dyes beautifully, can be ironed like cotton ( with a pressing cloth) and is fabulously textured. What it does best is sheer bright color behind stitching.
Here it makes the background behind these great mushrooms
This great flower is cheesecloth in two shades. All the other coloring is the thread work.
These soft leaves are cheesecloth with polyneon thread stitched in different colors on
How do you dye cheesecloth? It dyes just like cotton. The trick is not in dyeing it. It’s in washing it out. Like every other bad boy, you can’t let it play with others. Stick it in a nylon stocking, tie it up and your good to go.
I apply cheesecloth with Steam A Seam 2, iron it down thoroughly and stitch it with abandon.
Sheer, bright, lovely, cotton and completely addictive, add it to your applique stash.
If you can’t find it, or dye it, I do make it available for folk. Email me and we’ll set up mailing you a box of it.
I love technology. I hate technology. I feel like the red queen and though I can’t possibly run fast enough, or at all, I must try.
Pat Winter is the Dye Cup Fairy. When I’m done dyeing fabric, I always have a bit of left over dye in the cups. Not so much that you could dye yards and yards of fabric. But ribbon? Yes! So Pat comes by and picks up the dye cups. I go for long periods of time when I don’t see the Dye Cup Fairy but you always know she’s been there. There’s a note, missing dye cups, and if you’re lucky, new plants in your garden or an Icy waiting for you. If you don’t know Pat, she’s perhaps the most inventive and amazing crazy quilter in the world.
Several years ago, I bought what I call a boob camera. Not because it’s for those of us who are a bit behind. No. It fits in my bra. Now this is important because if you don’t have a camera with you you can’t take the picture. I know you’re supposed to be able to do this with a phone.
Please! I can only master one plastic box at a time.
I love my boob camera. Simple, no cap to lose. Takes a lot of pictures before it declares itself dead. Do I know what all the settings are? Don’t be silly!
So one day I walked into my studio and found the Dye Cup Fairy. And being the Fairy of Large and Incomprehensible Messes, we played together. With the boob camera and paint sticks.
Pat is much better with a camera than I. We both looked at the sport setting and said Sure! Why Not! You press the button down and it takes picture after picture after picture after picture. Well, you get the idea. She pointed and shot. I just played.
We got 836 pictures. What do you do with 836 pictures? Even after you take out the ones with blurry hands, more is definitively less there really is a too much. Who’d have believed that?We’re not going to use that setting again.
I hope you have a Dye Cup Fairy who takes, gives and shares wonderful things with you!
I hope you play with your friends, even when the technology is incomprehensible!
I hope all your messes bring you wonder and joy!
You’ll find Pat Winter’s blog at Pat Winter Gatherings. She also does a fabulous crazy quilt magazine that will launch you into a brand new crazy quilting world.
You’ll find more about paint sticks on older posts of mine at
You’ll find my camera on Amazon.com. There are lots newer ones, but none better. And it fits just fine in a DD cup.
All of life is an art form. I’ve always maintained that how we live our lives, structure our stories, organize or not organize our space is in it’s own way a creative act. Sometimes it features beauty, or courage, or growth. Sometimes it’s a rare moment of survival in the midst of craziness. It is, however a creative act in response to the world we live in.
Several weeks ago, my neighbor Liam told me he wanted to make a volcano. Not a problem. Got a soda bottle, vinegar and some baking soda. Mix and explode. It was a lovely afternoon.
Yesterday, I recreated the LaBrea Tar Pits pit in my kitchen. Honest to God. I can barely wait to show Liam.
We wash dishes here every six weeks or when we run out of forks, whichever happens first.This time I decided I’d have a clean kitchen for my birthday which was yesterday. At least it’s a novelty
I had a very slow drain and thought it was risky to run the dish hider ( I haven’t noticed that it washes dishes. But it’s very good at hiding them.) I knew it was a dicy situation, so I went and looked up drain cleaning on the internet. As always, every product had at least one one star review and five five star reviews. Thus equipped, I went over to the hardware store and picked up a product I will not name. It was buffered sulfuric acid. Should cut through anything. Right?
Not exactly. Home again and we put it down the sink. Looked good. Made significant noises. ( I always find those encouraging). I waited 15 minutes and ran cold water. Out of the depth black bubbly goo started to rise. And take over one side of the sink and then the other. I went to the living room and started to pray for a faith healing experience. That didn’t happen. Two hours later I had everything from the black lagoon in the kitchen sink except, thank God, the creature.
Then I heard the drip. I looked down to see a streak of black goo on the pipe. Ran to get a bucket from the studio. Ran some more cold water to dilute it.
This situation is what we call a busted comode. Full of something and going no where. When I though again about plunging and plungers, I remembered that we could have sulfuric acid and black goo everywhere.
Back to Liam’s volcano. I got the box of baking soda and started to pour it in. Black bubbles rushed up one side of the sink. The other side burbled in response. An odd black greasy crust formed on the surface, broken temporarily by more bubble action. It went on all night.Blump. Burbble burbble, blump,plip,plip plip. Grirrrirrrgle. A symphony in black tarry substances. More baking soda in the other side. More blurble sounds. It was the symphony of the swamp.
I plunged at 10:30. At 3 am. More burbling noises but no other changes. The swamp is still extant and bubbling at nine am.
Why is this art? It’s too funny to be anything else at this point. But in the middle of this, when I called a friend to ask what to do about it, she said” Have you seen the moon?” No, it wasn’t a non-sequetur. If you’re going to have the worst plumbing night of your life you might as well have the best moon too. And I bet there was a spectacular moon over the tar pits as the dinosaurs went down. You’ve got to enjoy what’s there. And it’s a new form of surface design. But you might not want to try this at home.
So I hope you have a super moon to light your plumbing disasters. I’m also hoping the plumber works on Sunday.
You’ll find more information about the super moon at
Update: The plumber doesn’t work on Sunday. And he thinks it’s the whole drainage system. Anyone wanting to buy a quilt today, contact me and we’ll have a half off sale.
I’m working on a commission which gives me the opportunity to play with a lot of possibilities. This is a great little quilt with butterflies and bleeding hearts. I’ve got number of backgrounds to try, to very different results.
Here are some of our possibilities.
This brighter background gives us a well of color behind the red exterior.
Which did my owner like? The green felt I embroidered the vine on. So I’m off to look at my stash of green hand dye.The background of a quilt is usually your first decision. Except when it isn’t. It changes how everything in your quilt is perceived.
Sometimes it’s very valuable to take your elements and give them an interview on differing backgrounds. You know.
“Do you work and play well with others?”
“Do you share the limelight?”
“How do you fit in here?”
Often the answers aren’t what you expect. Aren’t you glad you asked the question?
I’m currently working on a commissioned quilt for a new family that’s just had a baby. The dad has asked me to do a butterfly quilt, partially for the mom but for his baby daughter as well. Commissions are a privilege. It’s an act of trust, that I am always a bit nervous about.
So I make several approaches possible and go from here. The premise was pink and purple butterflies. So I’ve started the quilt with those. I’m using an applique process where I cut my shapes out on sheer fabric backed with Steam A Seam 2, fuse them into a form, embroider them and then cut them out to use as appliques on the quilt. You’ll find full information on this in my new book Thread Magic Garden.
These are my butterfly fabrics. They’re great sheers and an oriental brocade. I buy these wherever I see them, because you never know if you’ll see them again.
Here they are cut out as butterflies. Each butterfly has two teardrop wings, a body and eyes. They’re on a non-stick pressing cloth so I can arrange them.
Once their formed, I fuse them on to a stabilizer sandwich. This sandwich is made from hand dyed fabric, poly felt, and Decor Bond. This makes a firm embroidery surface that controls some of the distortion that happens with intense embroidery.
I embroider the butterflies from inside out. First the bodies, then the veins of the wings, then the shadings and finally the outlines. They’re embroidered with a freemotion zigzag stitch and metallic Supertwist threads from Madiera. Finally I added in my bleeding heart blooms as well.
The image at the top is what they look like cut out.
Here’s the rough placement with the stem I have planned.
Next time we’ll talk about backgrounds.
The last time I talked about paint sticks, I had rubbing plates hanging from the ceiling, paint sticks everywhere, huge piles of fabrics I was waiting to dry and no idea how they would work in quilts.
That’s about par for a new toy. You don’t always know how to use it.
There’s a great book out called “Poke the Box” by Seth Godin. It’s kind of a one note wonder, but the premise is rock solid. It really doesn’t matter what the instructions say. You learn any new tool by taking it out and poking at every button, switch and display it’s got. You learn by poking the box. You watch what it does and when it does something bigtime cool, you see if you can repeat it.
So I was a bit worried when I took my first couple of oil stick rubbed scraps and used them as surface designed starting spots. They remind me of wall paper. I love them.
From a practical point of view, I stipple less. But they fill the space with glowing light and color and I think I now have all the rubbing plates except the ones for Xmas.
Poke the Box! Take a new toy out. Don’t worry about what will happen. Poke all the buttons and switches and see what you’ll come up with.
You’ll find all kinds of cool information about paint sticks at
You’ll find Poke the Box on Amazon
And you’ll find my very cool new quilts on my web gallery
Check them out!