Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Tip of the Week (Catch up 3) - Homemade Liquid Starch

It might not seem like a big deal, but the starch you use for quilting and appliqué can make a difference.  Liquid starch will leave a crisper finish than spray starch--highly desirable when doing appliqué, and makes your pieces stick together better when you're sewing, which means less shifting and less pinning.

Nearly all fabric is treated with sizing.  That's why it feels so wonderfully crisp in the store.  There is a difference between sizing and starch.  Starch is edible.  If you want to iron your fabric and store it, you should use sizing, which does not attract insects.  Liquid starch is hard to find, but easy to make.  You can make it from corn starch, or if you find a bottle of liquid starch, you can dilute it; it will last a long time.

Homemade Starch
1 pint cool water
1 tablespoon corn starch (preferably organic)

Dissolve the corn starch into water and put into a spray bottle.  You can use other starches as well,  (i.e., potato starch).  Regardless of what type of starch you use, make sure you shake it continuously for a couple of minutes before you use it to redissolve the starch.  You can make smaller amounts by reducing the proportion.  For extended storage, keep the starch in the refrigerator, but allow it to come to room temperature before use.  If you can find liquid starch such as Linit or Sta Flo, mix equal portions of liquid starch and water.  The liquid starch solution does not require refrigeration.

Two cups of liquid starch will treat three yards of fabric.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tip of the Week (Catch up 2) - January 12- The Right Stuff for Appliqué

When doing appliqué, I've found that the tools make all the difference.  Here are some favorites:

Roxanne's Glue Baste-It
Roxanne's glue is not better than anyone else's but she is light years ahead of everyone with her dispenser, a syringe that gives you pinpoint (or more specifically, "needle"point accuracy.  I have been using this since I started quilting, and thank my first quilting teacher, Alison, for saving me years of trial and error.  It will wash out with soap and water, but will hold securely until you remove it.

Jeana Kimball's Foxglove Cottage Straw Needles Size 10
Needles are a very personal thing.  Many people recommend sharps or betweens for appliqué, but I find that I prefer straw needles, and of the straw needles I've tried, I preferJeana Kimball's needles.  They glide through several layers of fabric, and make needleturn easier for me.  They are, to quote Goldilocks," not too big, and not too small, just right." 

John James Gold'n Glide Appliqué Needles Size 10
I like this brand, size and type needle for the same reasons I love Jeana Kimball's.  The slight difference between this needle and Jeana Kimball's is that her manufacturing process means you have to pull the eye through the fabric, and his goes through the fabric without stopping at the eye.  I love them both.

Wonderfil Invisafil & YLI Silk Thread

For nearly invisible stitches, I use Invisafil® thread.  It is the finest (fine being a thread weight thing, not a quality thing, though the quality is wonderful too!) thread on the market, and your stitches will disappear.  They sell wonderful mini packs, so you can buy several colors at once. The slim spool means you can carry a few colors in a small pouch. I use this thread with a combination of YLI silk thread, which also sinks into your fabric.  Wonderfil is less expensive and has a wider variety of colors, important because you have to match the color of your appliqué piece (not the background).

I've mentioned this item before as a great way to store bobbins.  It looks like a silicon donut, and I keep bobbins of Invisafil and silk thread in a Bobbinsaver in my appliqué organizer.  That keeps it portable, and ready to go when I'm ready to appliqué!

Tip of the Week (Catch up 1) - January 12

Since I owe you all quite a few tips, I'll be posting a few tips this week. As they are fresh in my mind, here is the first of a few appliqué tips:

Used fabric softener sheets are an amazing tool for appliqué, especially when you have curves and points.  The shrubbery  along the sides of my appliqué block pictured in my previous post, Have you ever seen a quilter cry? were done using this method.  Trace the applique form on the wrong side of your fabric; you might need to reverse your tracing.  With the fabric right side to the dryer, stitch around your tracing with using a 1/8" seam.  Cut a small slit in the fabric sheet and turn it inside out.  Iron the piece.  The sheets are extremely light;  you may choose to trim them close to the seam.  Position the appliqué on your block, then sew by machine or hand.

Have you ever seen a quilter cry?

Happy New Year! I love all forms of fiber art, but I am drawn to some more than others.  That said, my personal feeling is that if you limit yourself to the things you are comfortable with, you will not grow as an artist,  and you will be doomed to repeat 1,001 versions of the same piece.

Case in point:  last summer, I agreed to submit an applique block for the 2011 Empire Quilters Guild raffle quilt.  The quilt, Subway Series, is based on mosaics from various subway stations in NYC.  The quilt is the brainchild of an incredibly talented quilter and applique artist named Mary Cargill.  She opened up her home and stash to participants, and from what I've seen, the quilt will be a masterpiece.    I enjoy applique, but I have NEVER done an entire block of hand applique; it was always a single component, such as a flower, or  heart.  Nevertheless, I felt I ought to try, and with Mary's support, I gathered the fabrics for my block.  Fortunately, I have a large collection of fabric that was bought for portrait and landscape quilts.  The sky and mountains are batiks; the water, a fabric reversed; the tile roof, stone house, and windows were fabrics from my collection, as is the wood for the dock (to the right of the house). I painted another batik to give the impression of grouted tiles both surrounding the block and on the brick of the reflecting pool.  It took me many, many hours to complete the block; I changed the reflecting pool (in front of the house) and the roof shape and windows several times, often cutting out something I had just sewn.

Now for the crying part.  Happily I sent off my blocks.  Not wanting to spend a fortune to send it, but wanting to keep track of it, I took it to USPS and paid for delivery confirmation.  I am in the minority of people (based on comments I hear, even within my own household) who thinks the Postal Service does an incredible job for the price they charge.  We do not pay very much for our postage...if you think I'm kidding, send a postcard from abroad and convert the price to USD!  I am happy to see our postman, even though I don't often enjoy the bills he brings.  Imagine my surprise when nearly a month later Mary called to say she hadn't gotten my block, and the delivery confirmation had not been posted!  I spent most of the holiday dreading the thought of having to recreate this block.  Each day I checked to see if the delivery had been confirmed.  When yet another week had passed, and the delivery still had not been confirmed by either Mary or USPS,  I began to gather the fabrics again, with very little enthusiasm for the task, and on the verge of tears.

The story does have a happy ending; the post office did return the block as undeliverable, and simply for this reason:  the address was correct, but the last digit of the zip code was wrong, a 6 instead of a 5.  Had someone even bothered to look at my HANDWRITTEN LABEL, they would have seen that the address was correct.  Argggggggh...of all the !@#$%; stupid things. Holidays are a horrible time for the mail system, and that was USPS' reason why the package seemed to be returned to me via Pony Express; since it was not delivered, they could not update the status to delivered, and they don't have a status called  CRAZY POSTAL LIMBO. Not willing to trust my block through the postal service again, I brought it to NY, and was happy to see it included in the quilt top last Saturday.