Monday, February 28, 2011

Zippered journal cover

Well, this has taken me all day! but the video is finally uploading.  In the video I will be making a journal cover using a fibre entrapment technique to create a gorgeous surface.

As this is my first video, I hope you will excuse the fact that I accidentally clicked stop when I was supposed to click go and lost the second half of the binding section.  So I have embedded a you tube video about binding below to assist if you need it.
If you want to make your own butterbox journal, you can find the tutorial here on Gwen Diehn's blog, although I heard about it from Melanie Testa.
I can honestly say that this was not my best sewing and next week's tutorial will be a little simpler (sigh) and use a better camera.  My web cam is OK for face to face and hands on stuff, but not for sewing and tiny stuff, so I have  glossed over the sewing bits.
Zippered Journal

  • Journal - all measurements depend on your journal, so make sure you have it handy before you start
  • A piece of fabric and a piece of tulle at least 2 inches larger  on all sides than the opened out journal for the background
 As you can just see here, the opened out book has been traced in chalk on the background

  • A piece of heavy interfacing at least 1 inch larger on all sides than the opened out journal
  • Double fold bias binding (this was left over from quilting) and a length of zipper by the meter

  • And of course lots of yummy embellishing thread I have used a selection of black, white and silver is varying textures)
Adding fibres
Back your Background with the interfacing. (because we are going to free motion over the tulle, we need a firm foundation so we don't need to use a hoop.)
Add your fibres, I added a light amount of feathered merino tops first.

Finish by layering and pinning the tulle over the top (pin outside the main area of the background)
The tulle is not strictly neccessary, but it will make the journal more durable.
Free Motion
Set up your machine for free motion, with the feed dogs down, a darning foot on and any other tools you use.  I use a silicone mat to help with slip during free motion.  Just remember to take it off when you put the feed dogs up, or the dogs will not work!
Take your time and just sew swirls and circles all over the tulle until the threads are anchored
Next, cut your fabric to an half an inch larger all around than the opened out book
Also cut two pieces  half the size of  your fabric and fold them in about a third on the long side
these will form the inside  of the front and back.  Place them with the fold to the centre and raw edge underneath and staystitch
Adding Zipper
After making this a few times, I think it would be easier to put the binding on first, then the zip, however, in the video I did it the other way around.
Using a zipper foot, start stitching the zip at the top right of the spine, and follow around, snipping at the corners to fit. Stitch only half way around, to the bottom right of the spine.
Unzip the zip, leaving the two sides in place and flip the unsewn half to the other side of the cover.  Sew in place the same way
Slide the zipper head back into place, and bar tack each end of the zipper.

Open the zipper out again and sew the binding tape to the inside edge of the cover, folding to form a mitre at the corners
fold and overlap the ends before stitching down.
Open out the cover and fold the binding to the front
Secure either by hand or using a straight stitch, folding the corners into mitres as you go

Add a journal, zip it up and off you go!

I have not had time to write detailed notes and put a PDF together for you, but will during the next week.  I just hope my friend, whom this was made for likes it.  It is her birthday today!
Without further adieu, here is the tutorial

And here is a short video on binding to help you if you need it.
This is from daystyle designs which is an excellent site.

Don't forget to check in tomorrow for how to use up all those scraps of thread and get some new fabric out of it!

Sunday, February 27, 2011


This part of my blog is where I will record my sketchbook, or some of it.  What I hope to impart is how I use and develop this tool (yes, I see the book as a tool to assist me creatively).  Sometimes, I will post work, if it has relevance to a sketch to illustrate how I use the sketches.
This week I have sketched a few butterflies and moths (because there are a lot around) and been reading The Art of Annemieke Mien again.  It is one of my favourite books as it obviously is for shirley Fife, who showed how she created a fibre art butterfly in response to one of her works.  Here are a couple of my sketches
This one is of an orchard butterfly which was feeding on blackberry blossoms, was done for the sketchbook challenge theme opposites this month. I used felt tip calligraphy pens in black, blue, red and silver and liked the way the two halves reflect each other.
This one is a collage of a Hummingbird moth, which I observed closely on my saponaria blossoms.  I had never seen one of these before and was entranced by the way it hovered and fed.  If I had not seen it's antennae and known there were no hummingbirds in Australia, I would have been sure it was one.  I used a red and a black felt tip marker and later a brown crayon.   This sketch was very important to me, which is why I drew as many angles as I could, since this will become a fibre art piece, I am sure.  I also observed an orange darter, which is a small skipper that holds it's wings in quite a striking way, and a painted lady butterfly, but they are only rough sketches in pencil, which would not show up in a photo.
Out doors, I generally work in pencil, using a rather antique set of clutch pencils loaned from my partner, which range from 3h all the way to 3b.  My sketchbook is a really important part of my creative process.  Not every sketch is worked up, but it gives me impetus and ideas for what to create.
This very simple sketch done with a watercolour wash and a black crayon was done from memory as it is one I see all the time.   It is looking up through the wattle at night to see the moon on the landing at the top of our steps.
 These two colour studies illustrate a point: that my sketchbook is a working one where I keep information and exercises as well as "Works of art".  These two were looking at opposites, using a technique modified from Jane Davila and Elin Waterston's Art Quilt workbook.  (Their blogs are here and here).  I took a variety of paint chips from the hardware store and sorted them into opposite colours (LHS) and into darks and lights (RHS).  This is a very useful exercise and reference for me especially when I am choosing colours for a project.
As you will have noted, I often use whatever is to hand to finish sketches, crayon, markers, paint and mix the media to suit my impulse at the time.  A sketchbook is a tool for the owner, to assist in creative endeavours, not a work of art to display.

Belated Blog

As I said, Saturday is Stitchin' time, however, I spent a lot of time trying to video my stitches.... and failed.  So here is my blog for yesterday in picture form, instead.
I really love free motion embroidery (FME) in all it's forms and have been studying all the ways to stitch using it.  There are a lot of books and a lot of artists and they all use similar stitches and techniques and some have names and some have several names, but what I observed when I looked at it all is that there is an heirarchy (like a tree diagram) to the stitches, so I will show you that - but later, let's get down to the stitches!
Obviously, most people starting FME start with either straight stitch or Zig zag.  I am going to start with straight stitch, even though in some ways zigzag is easier to start with.
I am not going to look at the technical set-up stuff, because there are plenty of excellent sites with this information: sewing machines for beginners, beginners tute, technical stuff, excellent article from new mexico uni, beginners guide from isew.

Straight stitch techniques in FME
One look at a quilting catalogue, or leah day's project will show you that straight stitch is extremely versatile and can form a zillion different patterns.  This is because it is basically a line and lines make drawings, so anything you can draw, you can FME.  And let's not forget drawing.  Before you start at the machine it is a good idea to draw out what you intend to sew.  Not only will this help you remember where to move, it will make the result better.
The first thing you will probably do and this is a good idea, is just scribble.  Below are a few examples of just that.
 Try a variety of shapes and even some stick figures or leaves and trees,  Keep it interesting, because practice is the key.
Some patterns you could try:
wiggly lines
zigzag lines
pointy scribble
curvy scribble or stippling
curvy lines that touch
practice the alphabet
write your name
These are not special, perfect examples I made up to show you.  They are just my everyday practice.  If I don't practice nearly everyday, I get a bit rusty.
Don't look for perfection in your lines,
  • firstly because most applications of these lines in FME will not require perfection 
  • secondly, because if it is not fun to do, you are not likely to persist and striving for perfection can be a little boring.
  • lastly because my philosphy is that creativity and perfection are opposing forces.  Think about your purpose.  Is your purpose to create a perfect carbon copy that is cold and lifeless, or is it to create something alive and beautiful that expresses your inner self?  
Now let's look at the three main ways to use straight stitch in FME
Granite stitch
Granite stitch is just scribble, the first thing we do as children learning to draw, which is why I chose it to start. Leah day calls it cat hairball, it is also known when done like in the picture above, as encroaching circles in The encyclopedia of Machine Embroidery, or granite stitch by carol shinn, or spiralling straight stitch by Alison holt and probably as many other names as there are FME artists.
Basically, this stitch is used to fill in large areas and shade by overlapping  or to make trees in the distance as in my itty bitty landscape, here is a close up of  that stitching.
The main thing with granite stitch, is that the circles need to overlap, and if it doesn't look right to you (remember to stand back, no-one looks at art with their nose to it to enjoy it,  only critics do that!), then go over it again, or ask someone else, because you will always be over critical of your own work. 

This has been an overlong blog... and I still had two more stitches!  But we will go on to those next week, and I will work out how to post my stitch chart or tree diagram as a PDF for you.

On Monday, I will be posting a tutorial for a zipped cover for a sketchbook, that uses circular straight stitch on a large scale, so tune in for that, and later today I will post my sketchbook for this week.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Water, Water, Everywhere

You know, the main reason I set up my blog was to keep myself on track.  So I have finally made myself up a routine to follow so I get things done in all the many areas of my interests.  My Friday Focus (forgive my alliterations as I am partial to them) is where I intend to post about new techniques and experiments, be they fabric manipulation, surface techniques, sewing, etc.
This week i am posting about manipulating fabric for texture and depth.  In my Quilt Uni course, this week we are looking at scrunching fabric and I got to thinking about folding and pleating techniques.  I got an idea for pleating a strip pieced fabric to get an impression of water.
In my first experiment, I used three values of  2.5in blue fabric
I strip pieced these and pressed the allowances to the dark, then cut them in half
I joined these together
And then sewed pleats in at the seams
I then tacked the pleats up and down to create waves
Although they do look like waves, they were a little too regular for me, so I untacked it and tacked it differently, alternating the ups and downs on each row
I like this one much better, the curves are more pleasing, but it was still a bit too regular, so I did it again...

This sample was a bit more to my liking, and with a bit of Free motion and some embellishment, would be OK.
However, I still wanted more wavy sort of Textures, so I started again with some thinner 1.25 in strips
This time, I did not strictly pleat, but used a piece of iron on stabiliser smaller than the fabric and ironed random pleats into place on it
I started free motion scribbling on it, but It was too uneven and thick in places, so I sandwiched it between tulle layers and put it in a hoop

It was still difficult to free motion, but I finally got something approaching what I wanted

With a bit more embellishment (and practice)  this would be great for a sea landscape.
The next thing I wanted to make was some water in a  river pool.  My idea was to create curved tucks around a central point, however I got something quite different.
As with my second sample, I used a piece of interfacing smaller than the fabric.  then I used a basting stitch to crumple the fabric into the smaller space.  This is a slight modification of one of the techniques in the Quilt uni Course, but is called furrowing in the art of manipulating fabric by Collette Wolf (Which is my bible for such things).  It is also similar to making twisted roses in Fantastic Fabric Folding by Rebecca Wat or chopkeys in Folded fabric elegance by Rami Kim  and
here is the final sample
I did like the texture better before pressing as it was softer and more fluid.  However after some stitching to stabilise, it could be pouffed up again
I still hadn't worked out how to get my curved pool tucks, but as i was writing this it came to me, so i went and did a quick sample
I cut a wedge shape and gathered along the edges, then rolled the gathers into curves by pushing the gathers to the to and the centre of the tucks to the bottom, and voila!   With a wider wedge and some stitching in between the tucks to define them, it will be just what I want.
I have designed a small quilt/hanging to use some of the techniques in the course and I will try and remember to post it on Sunday, 'cos Sunday is sketchbook day.
Tomorrow is Stitchin' Saturday and I will look at a Free motion stitch in detail.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


After an hiatus trying to get my bad back behaving, I have started back working, but of course, it played up pretty soon after.  However, I have done a little work on my sample for the wallhanging.

In the sample I tried both free motion and  general, feed dogs up couching.  Remember the white is water soluble, and will be a lace and fringed bottom.  I have put the skeleton in for this but I will do more work when the couching is finished.
in the enlargement above:

  • the first thread is a black and metallic mix and is obscured by the fluffy red stuff, I will remember not to put it in such a place in the real thing.  This is what samples are for, sorting out the problems.  This first thread is chain stitch, but as i said you can't see it.  
  • next is an orange boucle, also obscured, 
  • then the red eyelash, 
  • followed by a brown cord.  
  • On the other side of the curve are four more textured threads.  
  • All of these were attached free motion using a narrow zigzag.  
  • the next threads were done using the feed dogs up.  
  • The gold one used a narrow, long zig zag. 
  • the next two ribbon like yarns were done using a straight stitch down the centre.  
  • They are followed by a decorative cross stitch. 
  • The gold and the red threads next up used a narrow long zig zag in black thread 
  • and the orange ribbon used zig zag with monofilament.
I am pleased with the way these threads look on the back background, but as I said, I will have to do more work on the lace at the bottom, so it is not just swallowed up.
Another reason I worked on this sample was to create some couching samples for a Quilt uni course on embellishing with Susan Brittingham as I am very far behind due to my back.

Let's see what creativity tomorrow brings!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

FME stitches

Here are a few new stitch try outs I did recently.

This one is a heavy garnet (or granite) stitch using a wide zig zag.  This is really good for filling large areas, like the poppies in my itty bitty landscape.  The next one is the same, only a little bit lighter.
It is good for shading and merging different colours.
The next one is also a garnet stitch, however it is bobbin work, working on the bottom of your fabric using the bobbin. a thicker thread (sorry, I had white to hand at the time) is wound on the bobbin and the bobbin tension loosened to compensate.  This thread (a no 10 crochet cotton) is at the limit of my bobbin screw, anything larger must be bypassed, which creates a nice mess of moss stitch on the bottom.

Another bobbin technique, is called cable stitch,  this is the same as the one above, however it is not a circular stitch
This is good for outlining and embellishing.  Once tension issues are solved, it is easier than couching, since you don't need to control where the thick thread goes.  And this leads us natually to couching.

My sample is not the best.  I have used FME, however if you are using this in a straight line, or in a manner that allows the feed dogs to be up, you can get a much smoother look.  The top one is showing a dense zig zag, while the bottom is a longer stitch and shows the thread.  Obviously, you would not use a dense zig zag if you wanted the thread to be a decorative element, and in this case you would probably use a monofilament thread, so the couched thread could be seen in all it's glory.  The dense couching, I would use to create dimension, as the lines of satin stich would be raised.  It would not really matter what thread you couched, 'cos you wouldn't see it.  another thought, is that using the feed dogs up, you can couch with a variety of decorative stiches, which is what I will be doing on my wall hanging
The last stich is another couching stitch, which I first learnt from Quilt in a day.  It is called chain stitch
This technique is also used in machine ribbon embroidery.  Generally, you use a pretty thread for the chain (not white!) and monofilament for the top and bobbin.  Basically you fold the thread in half and attach it to the base with a few stitches. Cross the thread or ribbon in fron to the needle, not pulling too tight, sew a few stiches forward to anchor the crossover, cross again and so on.  This is another technique which can be done with the feed dogs up.
So, there's a headful!