Thursday, May 29, 2008

Chiffon sandwich, hold the chiffon

This instructional post is entirely inspired by Annette Husband, who posted an fantastic tutorial on Inkjet water transfers that I'm planning to try this weekend. I wanted to post my own tutorial on using fabric scraps and a heat gun to make embellishments.

I've been making embellishments from glitzy stuff trapped between layers of chiffon, stitching the layers then burning them back with a heat gun. I've seen this technique in Cloth, Paper, Scissors and in Maggie Grey's books.

This particular sandwich isn't actually chiffon, and I didn't like the way it burned - instead of cracking and shrinking, it went more fluid and blobby. It was an experiment, and I've learned from it. I'll still be using these pieces, in this case, for a 3D fabric box I'm working on, but in the future, I'll stick to chiffon. Or do more test burns.

I iron a layer of vliesofix to each piece of fabric, then sprinkle one side with lots of glitzy stuff. It's the time to dig out all those really garish brightly coloured stuff I love to stash but can never use tastefully: glitter, lurex threads, shimmery fabric scraps, sequins. I especially like to use the big, cheap, multicoloured sequins, because they melt into amorphous jewel-like puddles of colour.

Because the vliesofix is slightly tacky, gold leaf adheres to it pretty well; if it doesn't, a quick whiz with the heat gun will soften the glue enough. This is an extreme close up of what's in this sandwich: snippets of foiled tulle, sparkly yarn, sequins, and red/gold leaf flakes.

Then you press the layers together, and iron them (under a sheet of baking paper), with an iron that's warm enough to seal the vliesofix together, but not so hot that it makes your sheer fabric shrink or buckle. We'll save that fun for later. In this picture, you can see the glitzy stuff trapped between the two layers of sheer fabric.

Then I stitch the layers together - as the fabric shrinks, it clings to the stitching, and leaves an aged, crumbly residue. (Or in this case, slightly blobby.) I've stitched one piece in a grid with a butterscotch-toned variegated cotton thread. The thread needs to be cotton, or something non-synthetic that will stand up to the heat-gun.

And in this section, I've stitched a spoked wheel. I've found that the smaller the gaps between the stitching, the more structure the final piece will have, which is why my wheel has an inner and an outer circle. You could do all sorts of motifs this way, and the best thing is that they look better if you don't stitch nice, tidy lines. (This is good for me, because I'm a wobbly driver on the sewing machine.)

Now, the fun and destructive part. The first thing you need to do is open the doors and windows, because this is like burning plastic; it's smelly and the fumes could be toxic. So, make sure there's lots of ventilation. I heat from the middle of the grid out, holding my heat gun as close as I would for melting UTEE, moving the hottest part around the area I'm heating. You really see the purpose of the grid when the fabric is twisting and melting and pulling away from the lines of stitching: it holds the piece in shape, and ends up as the skeleton of the fabric. Here's my grid melted, with all the shiny treasures revealed:

And in close-up:

And the wheel, still in the framework of supporting stitches:

And all my wheels, snipped away from their frames:

The sheer fabric I used for these didn't shrink as much as chiffon does - if you're using chiffon, you should expect your piece to shrink by a third. As a consequence, my wheels were too big for what I wanted, which was to be medallions on the faces of a five-sided fabric box with a steam-punk theme. Never mind! I'm going to snip out tiny squares from my large grid, and stitch them to my fabric box, and embed lots of multicoloured beads into the gridwork. The wheels will keep for another project. I think they'll look great over black velvet. (Oh, velvet! Why can't I quit you?)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Back from a whirlwind tour

I'm back from my weekend in Melbourne, and thoroughly recovered. It was great to do a class, let alone one with the amazing Nina Bagley. My hands were very sore after crimping and twisting wire all afternoon, but it was worth it to learn how to drill through those treasure I've been hoarding for years, and how to go about turning them into beautiful jewellry.

It was also great for me and Stephanie to catch up with our tiny quilting group, Quilty Conscience: Debbi Baker, Coralee Barker, Karin Hutchinson and Ruth Kelly (plus assorted friends and family!). We had a great meal, a bit too much wine, and lots of conversation. It was so amazing.

We also swapped postcards, for the last theme, which was "Home".

Here's mine:

It's a fabric paper collage background, with a tiny house made from painted black paper, and itsy little sequins which are imported by , judging from the address on their label, but looking at their site, they appear to be wholesale only. I'm finally getting the hang of the zig-zag edge; this is the first time I've actually been proud of it.



And Karin's, which is just so lovely, I keep stroking the satin slippers. Oh, there's no place like home!

I made a fabric book to keep my postcards in. I really like having them accessible. We don't have much wall space in our livingroom studio, so I worry about keeping them on the table where paint is splashed around. They're nice and safe in this little booklet, and I can keep adding pages at the back as my collection grows.

Here's the inside, with one of Debbi Baker's beautiful postcards.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Treasure at the bottom of the garden

Neil Gaiman linked to the most amazing photos of fairytale houses, abandoned and intact because they were buried deep in a forest in Russia. I love fairytales with magical things hidden in forests, or even at the back of the garden. Remember Enid Blyton's 'The Wishing Chair'? Magical stuff.

Our garden is pretty wild. There's plenty of treasure to be found, thanks to our relatively lax gardening skills, despite the best efforts of my girlfriend, who is a demon with secateurs and blackberry poison. (That sounds scarier than I meant it to!)

Here are some treasures from our last foray into the tangle:

A tiny nest in a tangle of blackberry canes at the back of my garden:

Stepping stones that lead to nowhere:

A wall of briar roses:

Giant rosehips, big enough to eat:

And our house at the top of the garden:

It seems to be a long, long way away...

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Bon Voyage, ATC!

Here's the ATC that's currently on its way to Domito in France. It's an Autumn themed card.

And this one is made from scraps of crazy quilting that were too good to throw away. It's looking for a home, if anyone is interested in swapping.

I think I prefer photographing my work to scanning it. I really like using my camera, now that I've figured out how to use the macro setting properly, and to switch off the automatic flash. Ten Tastiest Food Photography Tips is a really helpful site for capturing good pics of tiny things like ATCs.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Treasure From Afar

I've been quite busy with misdaventures at work - a tire detached from a moving car and hit the front door of the shop, smashing the window and bending the front strut out of alignment so that the door no longer closed. Nobody was hurt, and it's all fixed now, but we were quite the buzz in our sleepy country town.

I see that I have a bazillion blog posts to catch up on now - I'll save those for tomorrow at work, but I wanted to post about my exciting presents. I had two lovely surprises in the mail this week - though one was actually hand delivered by my dad.

Firstly, I received this beautiful ATC from Domito. We both agreed to make a fabric ATC for the season, (Spring for her, Autum for me), and this was the lovely result.

And Dad brought presents for me from Mum's holiday in Hong Kong:

Shiny, glitzy fibres

Delicate butterflies made from feathers

Luscious papers

And the most delicate little glass teapot

Thank you everyone for these beautiful presents - I feel very spoilt.