Part Two: Playing with Surface Design

2015 was the Summer of playing with stuff, and that included some “low impact” surface design. Because of travel and other things that were going on, I did just enough of my dyeing and surface design stuff to be happy.  The goal was to be cheerful, and come up with something “delicious”.  I’m pretty sure this is the textile equivalent to cooking with chocolate. It’s good to start with, so you just try not to mess it up.

Which makes this the cookbook I should have been following:


And this is a sample mixing bowl:


I kept a bucket of soda ash solution sitting by my work sink most of the Summer, so I got to dye fabric a few times without much fuss. These are the pieces that came out of the “mixing bowl” above:

I got to dump and combine leftover dye solutions, and dye some nice, light and bright fabrics to use in piecing, and for making many, many, more Kanzashi blossoms:

    IMG_3691        IMG_3700

I also got to tie-dye with crafty girls, even though I had to borrow the girls. They made tee-shirts, their mom did amazing pieces that looked like indigo work (I’ll look for pictures. The only sample I have from that day is:


A cotton + spandex bookcover made with an inexpensive white “blank” from Dharma Trading. Yes, I still love Dharma. The tie-dye part worked really poorly… too much white space, colors that looked like old bruises and dried blood… so after it was dry I re-soaked it in the soda ash solution, and dyed it robin’s egg blue. Delightful way to deal with failure.

Since we talked about sun-prints before, I offer these without further comment, but with great joy….

IMG_2812               IMG_2813

…the last technique for now is one you can read about all over the Internet. If you have white fabric, or a tee-shirt, or white sneakers… and Sharpies, and some rubbing alcohol and an eye dropper, you have the ability to play with color and fabric in very portable way. We tried this at family camp, and then I did some at home later on, when I just needed a quick shot of color. Google “Sharpie Tie-Dye” and commit to playing with markers and fabric for awhile, without worrying about how it comes out.

IMG_0358This sample started with designs in all the colors available in my multi-pack of fat tip Sharpies. Once I had a variety of shapes and colors, I dropped alcohol in the middle of the shapes, let it flow and dry, and then (in this case) went back and added the black lines. If you like to do fine line work, you have the option of stabilizing the fabric with freezer paper.

The entire process is to apply Sharpie to dry fabric, and than drip or spray rubbing alcohol (a solvent) on it and watch it flow. The only caveat is that you may want to open a window while you work. Once dry it should be fairly permanent. Again, this is your chance to experiment…  It’s JUST FUN!

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Piecing with Accuquilt GO Baby

The most important thing about acquiring a GO Baby is that you should check out videos of people using them before you even pull the Baby out of the box. If your results or amount of effort expended differ from what you see in the how-to videos on the Accuquilt site or YouTube… you have a broken or defective machine.

Part of the joy of the stupid little GO Baby is that it is dead simple to use; it really does only one thing. It does that one thing very well, though (unless it’s broken). I bought one off eBay for what would have been a good deal, if it had worked right, and then I compounded my own mistake by trying to make it work, futzing and trying to fix it.  Once I watched the boilerplate video on using the GO Baby, I returned it to the seller, who graciously refunded every penny I spent, if not all the hours. I ended up with the best deal I could find on line. I think it was list, but with free shipping.

Which leads to the second most important thing — the GO Baby is rarely offered at a discount equal to the time you’ll spend hunting for one.  You can sometimes save a little on the over-priced dies and cutting boards. I acquired some of mine from good eBay deals, and bought one at JoAnn’s because I needed it right away. However you acquire the dies, its important to follow the directions for using and maintaining them. The cutting edge is set into hard foam. If random threads get caught between the “blade” and the foam, they will keep the cut from being perfect until you pick them out. Cutting shouldn’t be more complicated than that — if it is…you may have a defective die, and will have to talk to Accuquilt or your vendor. This hasn’t happened to me.

The third thing is that GO Baby, and presumably the bigger cutters, are wonderful if you happen to need hundreds of a simple shape that is available (3 1/2″ squares, for instance) or merely dozens of a more complex shape. The stranger the shape, the more of an advantage the die.

IMG_0518   IMG_0030 (1)

While the “half-hex” was the first die I lusted after, having hand cut so many of them for a wall-hanging mentioned in an earlier post, and the apple core is a delightful problem in curved seams… the one I’ve used most so far is the tumbler. No words describe the happiness and novelty of easily, consistently cutting shapes — it’s like a cookie cutter.  Some shapes have “dog ears” to aid in alignment. Of these three shapes, the tumbler is the easiest to piece once cut — 12 tumblers make a circle… pairs lead to strips. No Y seams. Several more possible sets. Can’t wait.

IMG_0091     IMG_3668


Bottom line: Should you have a GO Baby? Maybe, if you love gadgets, or need hundreds and hundreds of uniform shapes, but don’t need dies wider than 6″.  If you need the bigger shapes you can look at the Baby’s GO siblings. If you have hand issues, there is one electric model… If uniform shapes come easily to you, or the very idea of uniformity causes you to break out in hives — than no, you don’t need a GO.

And, if you have a friend like me who already owns one (or your quilt guild or minigroup does) you can probably share, because the percentage of time you will spend cutting your “cookies” is going to be low.  If you know me and want to share mine, bring coffee — or maybe real cookies, made with or without cutters.

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What I Did on My Summer Vacation

Fact is, the question is really “What did I DO all Summer?” because it feels like Summer 2015 was gone in a flash. It was actually a delightful few weeks, but with a whole lot of time and psychic energy going into family-based stuff, travel, hugs, etc. Wonderful.

Without pictures I’d think I did no sewing at all, but it turns out that wasn’t the case! I’m sharing my “slides” of Summer vacation today, and will endeavor to explain what was going on over the next few days.  The basic categories are, 1) piecing with die-cut shapes (Accuquilt Go! Baby), 2) playing with surface design,  3) Delia’s birthday book , and 4) simple piecing that looks harder….

Hope your Summer remembers well, too!

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Feeding Matters Logo – just for fun!

 My daughter now works for an organization in Scottsdale, AZ, called “Feeding Matters” —  a group dedicated to resolving the kind of pediatric feeding issues that can influence or even control entire families in which one, or more, child is effected.  I’m delighted that she’s found them, and that they feel lucky to have her. 

 Now. Having said that, I confess that for all the months she’s been with Feeding Matters, I’ve been trying to figure out how to recreate their logo, a simple design of overlapping circles representing the various “pillars” of the Feeding Matters mission (education, advocacy, research, treatment and – in the middle – support).

So I took a shot at it.




All of the circles are done with a freezer-paper, inset method I first read about in Dale Fleming’s book, Pieced Curves, So Simple.  I have found the method many other places since, and mentioned it previously in my Circle Quilts post, here on SewBerkeley.

Ironically — perhaps true to form, I bound the piece before finishing the echo quilting, and learned lessons (translates to: made mistakes) on the binding, from machine issues with quilting which appeared and disappeared at random, and remembered why one doesn’t iron echo-quilting. The pancake flatness is not an asset.

The pictures are not a full tutorial, which I’ll do someday, but they give you an idea of the problem I set out to solve… and mostly did. I’ll also add a “finished” photo before putting it in the mail to Kate, this week, to hang in her cube-ical.

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Proofing My Piecing

This morning I worked on a stack of blocklets that have been knocking around for a couple of months. They’re getting a bit frazzled on the edges from all the dealing and shuffling they’ve been through.

  The blocklets were initially cut in stacks of four different batiks, each. They were then quartered, resorted, and reassembled with Xs of 1″ Kona cotton strips to restore them to their original 6 1/2″ dimensions, more or less. I made a lot of mistakes (and learned a lot) at this stage. As usual, it would be easier next time…. Will be easier,  if there is a next time.  

 I pull them out every week or two and poke them to see if they’re still viable; then I push on them a bit and set them aside again. It’s like making a very slow loaf of bread…. and today was the end of the second rise. By evening I will have finished the grid of medium grey sashing. 
   The Steel grey strips are randomish. The medium grey strips are a little wider, and meant to be an intentional lattice. I had to stop just now, because I get impatient with making things even and flat. The blocklets won’t go back in the box this time, but they will rest awhile before I go any farther.

I am so grateful for multiple projects, and the space to leave one or two out to proof on the table….


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What a morning! Sun painting, Gelli printing, and three new Thermofax screens! All before 1:00pm! Boom. The beauty of having “a room of ones own” is the potential to let supplies and space to sit, poised, for that sunny, still morning when there’s time to do more than usual. Trying not to jinx things by mentioning it, but can’t take it for granted.  


There are other things to get done, this afternoon, and that’s not to be take for granted, either. Life is a balancing act — a good thing.

I just found the pictures below, of the place out back where I get to work sometimes. Sometimes I get to work with friends and sometimes alone. The pictures are a few weeks old, but the space is still calm and uncluttered. That’s makes it unique in my universe.

The stunning quilt on the machine, front and center, is Kristen’s.


The blessed beagle at right — Rocky — just left us for the comfy chair in the sky, last week, and we miss him. His decline was sudden and sad, but his death actually has very little to do with my ability to work, today – Were he here, I’d be waking him to go into the house…now, or 4 hours from now.  The absence of food out here really helped him relax. Beagles are ever-vigilant to the dangers of food-invasion crimes, which interferes with their rest.  Good Dog, Rocky.

There have got to be crumbs in dog heaven. And sunny, still days.  

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Dye-Na-Flow Paints for Sunpainting

IMG_2816       IMG_2817       IMG_2815

Awhile back I got to do sun painting with Dye-Na-Flow paints from Dharma Trading. They work like the Setacolor (use diluted with water, paint with foam brushes) but are more brilliant, both wet and dry. I love the pictures above, which could be blown up into poster-sized abstract art. The picture below has too much detail for that purpose, but it does let you know how the process works. I need more stencils for this process… but am quite fond of the ones I have — cut outs from foam and tyvek, stickers, paper punches, pasta of various sorts, screening and plastic mesh. Leaves and pressed flowers would be great, too. What else????

In a moment of sheer brilliance, I set the fabric to dry on my work table, during the part of the day when it’s too sunny to work there. The prints “developed” perfectly, even inside the sunny window. That means the process can be done inside on breezy days, or outside when it’s sunny and still. Dye-Na-Flow is a paint that works almost like a dye. For pennants like these, the slightly stiffer hand of the fabric is not an issue. Because the colors were so saturated, it might be better to control the number of colors used, if clear bright color is the goal. I will post a picture of these finished banners when I find one. Both kinds of heliographic paint were easy to work with and gave lovely results. I think I will have to try each several more times to decide which is better.


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