The wonderful blessing of opportunity

26 02 2015

I have spent a lot of time in the last little while thinking about opportunity. It is amazing to me that the decision to start my little craft business fifteen years ago would provide me with so much in rich experiences. To date, I have met so many amazing people and travelled the world, yet this feels like just the beginning.

In the time that I have been doing the major craft shows, a period of well over a decade, I have had the opportunity to spend time with literally thousands of incredible people – mainly women but also some noteworthy men. I have learnt that everyone has a story, a history that has shaped their present and can dictate their future. In the fleeting time we often have, I have been truly honoured to hear the stories of many. The wisdom and experience in these stories give colour and perspective to the human condition and shapes my creative expression. I love that I can intersect with so many and hopefully leave a little mark behind. There is nothing so exciting as someone telling me that they did a class or workshop with me or asked me to explain something and they then went on to use that skill, knowledge, or media in a way that made a difference to them; whether winning an award, getting a great score in their textiles class or being able to capture a meaningful moment or experience. I love that I have the opportunity and ability to inspire and teach.

In my International travels and the events that I have planned, I have met and become friends with some of the most remarkable and inspirational women. Friends who challenge me to fulfil my potential, give me measures to aspire to and drive me to stretch myself and push beyond my boundaries. I am so fortunate to have all these voices behind and within me and their support going forward.

In 2014, I attended 18 craft shows, taught in two of the most prestigious International quilt events and ran three events. Teaching at Birmingham and Houston was an honour beyond words and I will always cherish having been given that opportunity as it is rare and precious. Putting that aside, 2014 was a hellishly busy year. So while doing all of this, I was actively downsizing and cutting back. I knew that being this busy was preventing me from seizing bigger and bolder opportunities. With opportunity, you also have opportunity cost. While doing one thing, you can not be doing another. When doing too much, the risk is that much is done badly. It is easy to get into a groove or rut, to do what you did last year because it is known and safe. By doing so though, a door is closed to other things. 2015 must change that: to break the cycle, to do less better and to seize new opportunities. As I worked through 2014, I chose not to rebook most of the major craft shows preparing to see what door opened when the comfortable one was closed. So far, two months in, I have not been disappointed.

This year, I intend to do a lot more on a local and regional level, a lot more online and hopefully continue to build my International presence. The opportunities seem incredible and accessible. It is also time to give back to those who supported me for the last 15 years and this blog will be a critical vehicle for much of that.

I have four events coming up this year with some wonderful International guests. The two Modern Quilt Conventions with Weeks Ringle and Bill Kerr in Parramatta and Brisbane in June are filling fast. I am excited to be bringing this style of event and these leaders in their field to Australia. My Retreat in Canberra and the Mixed Media Mayhem in Brisbane with Lesley Riley and Liz Kettle in September will be so much fun, I almost don’t care if other people come (kidding, please come). Interwoven between these I am doing a number of the smaller Regional shows with the Craft Alive crew.

Ten years ago, I did three Craft Alive shows and vowed to never contemplate them again. It took me over twelve months of watching very closely to determine that I would give them a go again. Ten years ago, the shows felt jaded, tawdry, not craft oriented and definitely not for the quilters. I was surrounded by people selling finished goods, fudge, leather cleaners and special tools for painting my walls. Now all of these are valid products which need an appropriate market. I am all in favour of nice fudge and having embarked on renovations, some of those painting tools would be more than useful, but this market as it stood was not one I belonged in. With a change of management and a fabulous enthusiastic and youthful team they are demonstrating that they can deliver a vibrant, varied and balanced show. It has been a revelation to me how relaxed the environment is and how wonderful it is to have more time to spend talking to the people who come to buy from us. It would be a mistake to assume a small show is not a good one. It is also noteworthy that most of the exhibitors that I have shared these events with are ones many have grown to love at the major metropolitan shows. These regional shows bring some of the same great exhibitors, the same great products and the education and information that is hard to source in the regional areas. Most importantly we come to you.

Over time, I would like to extend my stay in some of these regional areas and run workshops or classes for groups and guilds. This is one of the exciting opportunities in the future. Let me know if you are interested.

My events and my involvement in the country shows are opportunities that I have controlled and planned. It is the opportunities that I did not see coming, have not planned and are growing every day that have me the most excited. Many are still in the embryonic stage and will unfold over time. Some will not eventuate or will be pushed back for later years, but what is certain is that by closing the door of the familiar and comfortable, by standing on the cusp of the future, I am truly just at the beginning.

I hope that you will continue to join me on this marvellous adventure.





tremendous texture from tyvek

8 02 2015

Tyvek can look really dull and boring – no colour or texture, but this week’s product is worth having a play with.  Tyvek is a synthetic sheet, water resistant, it can also be recycled. Tyvek comes in three weights: 54gsm, 75gsm and 105gsm. I get the sheets cut into A4 size pieces, but it can come in larger pieces or even on a roll if you need that much.

Tyvek can be found in a lot of different forms.  It is most commonly found in the US as free USPS envelopes, but we don’t have that luxury here in Australia.  It is a man made paper type of medium and is now most commonly used for archival purposes.  Water proof, no acid, smooth surfaced, it is a great storage paper when slipped between items being stored.  The other place you find it is in hardware stores in the form of protective clothing (a great way to start a wearable art piece by the way).  In earlier times, you would readily find tyvek used as wall insulation.  You do not want to use industrial tyvek in your craft as it will probably have a lot of other, nasty additives which you particularly do not want to heat and therefore release into the air.

Using it is supper cool.  Tyvek bubbles and warps with heat. It also bonds to itself and other materials when heated. Yet it remains soft and pliable and can be hand or machine stitched or embellished.

To use, place the Tyvek between two sheets of baking paper or an appliqué mat. Using an iron on the cotton setting gently iron until the Tyvek starts to change shape. You can keep going until it bubbles and separates, or use it with limited warping. Painting the Tyvek on one or both sides not only creates interest, but helps with the warping process. You can use any paints. They will behave slightly differently, but it is fun to experiment. I particularly like the effect of Lumiere paint on melted Tyvek.  When you put a surface of paint onto the tyvek, it acts as a bit of a resist, slowing down the heat activated reaction.  This will often give you more time and, dare I say it, more control.

Both sides of the Tyvek will look different after being heated. You may like to heat some of the sheet on one side and flip it over to heat other areas. That will create an interesting combination of hills and valleys. I have also had a lot of success using a heat gun on Tyvek.

Some ideas for its use include:

  • Cut out shapes and heat or use scissors to create slashes or nicks in the paper before heating.
  • Paint and then lightly apply Shiva stiks or other highlights.
  • Stamp on the surface.
  • Hand or machine stitch patterns or designs on the Tyvek and then heat.       The stitching will slow the warping in some areas and create interesting designs.
  • Sprinkle or stamp embossing powder onto the surface – the heat will warp the Tyvek and activate the embossing powder.
  • Lay Hot Fix Angelina on one side of painted Tyvek. Heat. The Angelina will melt into the Tyvek but will also limit the warping where the Angelina is.       Try this with non hot fix too.
  • Cut strips of painted Tyvek, roll onto a skewer and heat with an iron or heat gun. The rolls will bond to become chunky beads.
  • Cut Tyvek shapes and apply to a background of Tyvek. Heat to bond.

As always, play experiment and wonder ‘what if…’ and you will get some great results.

Tyvek Project – A Swirl of Pearls

swirl of pearls

Materials

Silk velvet (about a 10inch square)

Backing material and wadding

Hot Fix Angelina Fibre

Acrylic Paints – I used Lumiere

Tyvek

Small number of Pearl beads

Appliqué Mat or Baking paper

Iron

Thread, Sewing Machine

Foam Brush for paint

Instructions

Sandwich the backing fabric, wadding and velvet, pin to hold together and stitch around the sides to baste.

  1. Cut small pieces of Tyvek. Start with pieces about 10 by 15 cms.
  2. Paint both sides of the Tyvek with the acrylic paint and leave to dry.
  3. Lay a thin wispy layer of the Hot Fix Angelina on to one half of the appliqué mat. Cover with the remaining mat and iron to bond the Angelina together making a cob web effect. Set aside.
  4. When the paint on the Tyvek is dry, place between folded appliqué mat.
  5. Scatter some Angelina fibre over one side of the Tyvek and iron with a warm to hot iron. Hover the iron over certain areas to cause puckering and bubbling. Flip the Tyvek and do both sides until you are happy with the effect.
  6. Lay the Angelina web on to the velvet ‘sandwich’ and stitch to hold in place.
  7. Pin the Tyvek in place and stitch in place.
  8. Scatter pearl beads and hand stitch into place.
  9. Quilt and edge to create interest and texture.

 

 





Using Multipurpose Cloth

1 02 2015

Last week I did not post a blog, not because it was the long weekend, well partly because of that.  We spent the weekend building a fence and I did not have the capacity to think, or move nor the time, so took the weekend off.

This week’s featured product is made by Roc-Lon and was originally designed as a black out curtain lining, but it is one of the most fabulous and versatile surfaces to work on. If you want to use it to line your curtains, it blocks light, acts as an insulation for heat/cold and noise. Those exact characteristics are what make it so versatile.

Multipurpose Cloth is 30% Cotton and 70% Polyester. As such, it can be dyed with transfer dyes and stained with Procion dyes (colour will only be light, soft and drifty due to high Poly content). The surface is mildly suede like and it takes all sorts of paints and colour products really well. The first thing you can do with it is apply paint. The cloth is quite solid and heavy but maintains a soft drape. This means that you can use this to add body but still be malleable and can be shaped. It is completely washable, so depending on what you are making select a paint with sufficient colourfastness if it is likely to be washed. The cloth takes Lumiere Paint like it was made for it.

Most importantly, the Multipurpose Cloth can be cut with scissors or a rotary cutter and can be sewn on the sewing machine or hand embroidered. Due to the polyester content, the cloth will not fray, so you can be a bit lazy on how you finish the items you make with it. It makes great baby shoes and bags, sturdy cloth dolls and baby toys. It can be stitched into quilts or garments. Imagine a painted, embroidered and embellished vest front for example.

So, paint, stencil, stamp, spray and sponge layers of colour over the surface with pretty much any paints and colour products. You can glue fabric or paper elements directly on the surface, foil or apply embossing powder.

Once decorated (or not), the cloth can be stitched into a range of different items. As the cloth is water resistant, it is great for household items such as placemats, bowls, wine and lunch box covers, picnic wear, peg holders and more.

The cloth is heat tolerant, so you can add image transfers, embossing powder, foils, iron on decals and more. It also means that the cloth can be used for lampshades and other functions were indirect or diffused heat will be present. Most importantly it can be ironed.

Although the cloth can be the base fabric for pretty much anything, my favourite uses for it are dimensional embellishments. You can cut the cloth with any of the die cutting machines, so can make anything from very precise and detailed appliqué elements to dimensional stars, flowers, hearts etc to stich or glue onto a project. Lots of brightly painted stars would make a great baby mobile.

For a huge range of very quick and easy projects, go to the Roc-Lon website listed below.

http://www.roc-lon.com/useful_info/cloth_projects.html

I am carrying the cloth in the 54 inch width, so if you want metreage you can order it. Have fun with this awesome surface.

Here are some pictures of me colouring it and a bag I made from the painted fabric

Painted with Lemon and Hot Fuchsia Dye na Flow

Painted with Lemon and Hot Fuchsia Dye na Flow

Pearlescent Magenta and Metallic Gold Lumiere and Pink and Orange Liquitex Paint sponged on all over the surface

Pearlescent Magenta and Metallic Gold Lumiere and Pink and Orange Liquitex Paint sponged on all over the surface

Multipurpose Cloth painted with Pearlescent Purple and Pearlescent Turquoise Lumiere Paint with Gold Embossing powder melted onto the painted surface.

Multipurpose Cloth painted with Pearlescent Purple and Pearlescent Turquoise Lumiere Paint with Gold Embossing powder melted onto the painted surface.

AND finally the bag I made from it all.  As this is all waterproof, I can use this for a towel and swimmers or a great nappy bag.  I have four pockets on the outside.  Although this is not lined, I could easily have lined it and perhaps made the bag reversible.  In a different shape, it could be a lunch bag or so much more.  Easily washed, Multipurpose Cloth is extremely versatile.

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Alter Fabric with Transparent Paints

18 01 2015

Creating or altering fabric with paint allows you to tailor your feature fabrics or backgrounds to exactly what you want for your project. It is also incredibly quick, easy and fun.

Paints come in many forms. Different brands will be described and marketed in different ways and it can be confusing to know which product is optimal for which technique. The reality is that most of them are interchangeable and there is no single product that has a single use. What can be the greatest separation between types of paints is viscosity and transparency. Some paints, like Lumiere, Golden and Liquitex are thick and generally opaque. Some paints like Dye Na Flow and Pebeo Seteo Transparent are very liquid or runny and generally more transparent. It is these more liquid paints I want to show you this week.

I use Dye Na Flow.  Of all the fabric paints and inks I have used, I find this paint effects the hand of the fabric the least.  It is the closest surface to a dye I have found in a paint.  Paint does not become part of the fibre like dye does, so will always sit on the surface in some way.  Fabric paint is generally a form of acrylic paint, made up of the pigment (colour) and a bonding agent/carrier.  Dye Na Flow are very saturated in pigment and can easily be diluted with water to make softer colours and a softer hand.

Transparent Paints will go on any surface, but are best on fabrics. As they have a light hand, these paints are terrific on silks and other sheer fabrics as well as all natural and most synthetic fabrics.

Transparent paints can be painted, sponged and stenciled directly onto the fabric like any paint.  However transparent paints make fabulous watercolour, washed backgrounds, can be altered with salt or alcohol solution and can sun print.  Because these paints are transparent, they can be seen through so you can use the paint to change the colour of something but keep the pattern or detail.

Here is an example.

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Any transparent paint can be used for sun printing.  When you use paint like Dye Na Flow, it is richly saturated but very fluid.  To sun print with these paints, you dilute them with water, paint the diluted paint onto a wet surface and then lay items on the wet paint to create patterns.  The faster the paint can dry, the crisper the image will be, so this works best on a hot sunny day, but the truth is sun printing can occur on rainy overcast days too.  The piece photographed below was made with Dye Na Flow paint, salt and a plastic mask in the shape of a tree.

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Here are instructions on this technique and a colour wash effect:  sun salt and screens

Dye Na Flow comes in 30 colours, all of which are able to be mixed to make new colours.

dye na flow colour chart

you can find them on my website here:  http://www.uniquestitching.com.au/c/195292/1/dye-na-flow.html

Here is an example of a project where I painted the background with Dye Na Flow.

from this                      bird on the wire 1

to this                           bird on the wire 3

Give these paints a go.  They are exceptionally versatile and easy to use.





Working with Prismacolor Premier Pencils

11 01 2015

Pencils vary dramatically in quality and consequentially price.  In loose terms, pencil quality is determined by three key components:  the quality and intensity of the pigment; the nature of the binder the pigment is mixed into; and the quality of the wood that encases it all.  How often have you had a packet of pencils where the wood splits and breaks everytime you try and sharpen them, or the inside is so brittle that once knocked or dropped the colour is broken into tiny pieces and you can’t use them.  These and other problems are a product of the materials used to make the pencil.

Often when we talk about Prismacolor pencils, it is the Premier pencils that we mean.  Prismacolor make many different colour products, but the best, artist quality, wax based pencils are the Premiers.  These pencils now come in 150 colours, including 36 grey shades.  There is no colour you can’t create with these pencils.  Here is a colour chart.

150colorchart

You can get these all as individual pencils, in packs of 12 through to all 150.  I personally always want them all, but I might just be greedy.  The ones in the boxes plus the three Neons are the newest colours.

Prismacolor pencils are fantastic artist quality pencils.  They are rich, vibrant colours as they are strongly pigmented.  They are a waxed based pencil, not watercolour, so they will not shift easily with water and can be blended with a brush, sponge or your finger.  When using them, I tend to start with a light layer of colour and build the layers up.   Although designed for artists drawing on paper, many textile artists are using these with stitcheries, quilts and garments.

This video is a joint activity between Dick Blick and the Prismacolour educators.  This video only considers their use on paper.  It is a good explanation of the pencils.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P5VIfFETIe8

Although not designed for fabric the pencils have been used by doll makers and embroiderers for decades. Fabric always has ‘tooth’ and working the same area over again does not take that away.  As the carrier of the pigment is wax based, the colour can be ‘melted’ into the fabric for permanency.  To heat set these, place the fabric between some absorbent paper and iron.  Please test this on your fabric as different fabrics will behave differently.   If you are concerned about washability, pretreat your fabric with a diluted textile medium.  To do this, mix one part textile medium in three to five parts water and paint this solution onto your fabric.  Allow to dry and then colour over the surface.  This will act as a binding agent for your pencil.

An alternative approach can be found here:  http://sandraleichner.com/wordpress/colored-pencil-applique-tutorial/.  I found Sandra’s use of flowable extender interesting and I really like how she adds life to her applique with the pencils.

An Australian textile artist who has used the Prismacolor pencils in many of her award winning quilts is Jocelyne Leath.  You can see her website here:   http://www.jocelyneleath.com/index.html

These pencils will go on pretty much any surface.  I have an artist who draws on wood using Prismacolor.  They are great on Kraft tex, tyvek and Lutradur too.  With the addition of some fixatives, the pencils can be used on non absorbent, smooth surfaces too.  Here is a post about someone using them on metal.  http://blog.prismacolor.com/2011/09/heavy-metal/  Just amazing.

You can find the pencil sets on my website here:  http://www.uniquestitching.com.au/c/196496/1/prismacolor-pencils.html

 

 

 





Cyclone Tracey Quilt Challenge through the Darwin Patchwork and Quilters

15 10 2014

Gosh, it is incredible to think that Cyclone Tracey was 40 years ago.  I was a child then, living in Mount Isa.  I remember very clearly the events that followed.  We had, for varying lengths of time, three seperate and very different family groups of Tracey refugees camped in our lounge and dining room while they transited through or waited for permission to return home.  It was my first exposure to people in crisis and the sometimes irrational behaviours that follows. One family had nothing to thank us with other than a boot full of canned foods, looted from a destroyed supermarket which they wanted to share with us.  Another family gave my sister and I a late Christmas gift, both costumes I think.  Mine was an Islander grass skirt and top.  Plenty of fodder there for a little quilt.  How would you commemorate this life changing and nation shaping event?

40 YEAR ANNIVERSARY
QUILT CHALLENGE
On Christmas Eve 1974, Darwin was destroyed by Cyclone Tracy.
The effect on people who lived through the cyclone was, and still is profound.
We invite you, the Quilters of Australia to make a quilt that reflects your depiction/memories of that time and Cyclone Tracy. You need not have lived in Darwin at the time, or experienced the cyclone, but remember it through different media/personal stories.
First Prize:
Second Prize:
Third Prize:
Viewer’s Choice Prize:
$250.00 $150.00 $100.00 $200.00
The quilt size is A4 (29.5 x 21 cm) and in portrait profile. The quilt must comprise of three layers and must be quilted. Any technique or combinations of techniques can be used to make the quilt. The finished quilt must have hanging sleeves on the top and bottom of the back of the quilt.
The quilts will become the property of Darwin Patchworkers & Quilters Inc. who will join the quilts together to create a community art piece.
Entries Close on the 1st December 2014. Entries should be posted or delivered to:
Cyclone Tracy Challenge
Darwin Patchworkers & Quilters Inc
PO Box 36945
Winnellie NT 0821
For further information please contact: Jan Cashion 0418 894 131 or
Pam Hamill 0412 213 600.





texturising Angelina fibre

7 10 2014

Did you know that you can create textured surfaces with Angelina fibre by ironing onto something with texture?

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I have used bits of three of the bright citrus hot fix Angelina, mainly as they are what I could put my hand on easily, but this will work with any hot fix or meltable Angelina.   You also want a surface that has good texture, ideally some depth so you get good contrast in your layer, that will take heat from the iron.  I have used two different rubber stamps.

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Place your stamp or other surface face up and layer the Angelina over the top.  The thicker you make your layer of Angelina, the thicker and more solid your final piece will be.

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Place baking paper or an applique mat over the top and iron to heat and melt all of the Angelina.  Angelina ‘crackles’ while still seperate fibres, so iron until the crackling stops.  You need to iron a bit longer than you think you do if your Angelina is very thick.  It might take a couple of attempts to get it right, but it is worth the effort of experimentation.

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Once happy, peel the Angelina off the stamp or other surface.  It should all be one solid layer now.  Trim back the edges for a straight line, neat finish or leave the loose edges for a more organic finish.  You can now cut, stitch, embellish the piece and add it to your project as desired.

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