Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Quilting retreats

Unlike the knitting retreats, quilt retreats seem to take a summer vacation. There is a convention this very weekend, though: the World Quilt Show, New England XII at the Radisson Center, Manchester, NH August 14-17. There will be classes, exhibits, competition, shopping, and an ice cream social. A quilt appraiser will be on site so you can have quilts appraised for insurance purposes (by appointment and with a fee). Registration is $20 plus fees for individual workshops and lectures.

If you speak French, there's a French language quilting retreat in September from Quilting in Vermont, at the Strong House Inn, Vergennes, VT.

The remaining retreats are all in November, but it appears there's a tendency for them to fill very much ahead of time, so it's not too early to think about them.

  • Quilting in Vermont also has some no-teacher retreats (the first starting Oct 31) and advanced landscape quilting.
  • There is a Quilters' Workshop, at the Colonial House, Weston, VT, on the pattern Attic Window.
  • There are two Quilting Retreats at Calumet, in Ossipee, NH, each to learn a particular pattern.
  • Pearl Hill Quilts retreats at the Silver Fox Inn, Waterville Valley, NH (in White Mountain National Forest, about 90 minutes from Hanover) has a weekday retreat.
  • And finally, Mount Washington B&B Quilting Retreats, in Shelburne, NH, has three retreats (the first starting Oct 31), which are Mystery Quilt, Learn to Quilt, and UFO Finishing.

For future reference, quilting events all across New England are listed at the Rising Star Quilters Guild events page. QuiltersResources.net is a website for quilt shows and events internationally; their New Hampshire page is quite a bit more complete than their Vermont page, but both may be worth a look.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Two fibery reasons...

...to go to WRJ's First Friday tomorrow. There's always a lot of live music, art exhibits and artist studios, but this month there are two events happening on topic with this blog.

  1. Tag Sale at the Sew-Op: As Jenn mentioned, we are cleaning house! Come augment your stash with fabric, yarn, vintage sewing patterns, buttons, and trims. We also have some kits, sewing machines, empty sewing machine cabinets, calligraphy books, thread organizers, and other miscellaneous crafty and sewing items. A few things will be individually priced and the rest will be by the bag (different sizes of bags available). For inspiration see our previous post, on crafting with secondhand materials.

    The sale runs Friday August 1st, 4-6pm, and Saturday August 2nd, 10am-2pm.

  2. The Creation: Local DJ Shara Dee, wearing a white dress sewn by Robina D'Arcy-Fox of Fancy Felix Theatrical, will create music with Mr. Grim (Chris Boncoddo). During the music Robina will paint Shara and add fabric embellishments to her outfit while Maria Lara Dailey of Aquilino Arts paints a giant canvas behind them. The event will be filmed and turned into a time-lapse video. Decorating a dress on a person in motion should be an interesting challenge.

    The Creation is Friday August 1, 5:30-8pm, in front of Fancy Felix (58 N. Main).

You'll find Facebook pages for all these things: Sew-op tag sale, The Creation, and WRJ First Fridays. Perhaps I shall see you there!

[Disclosure: I may also be described as "of Aquilino Arts."]

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Working with Secondhand Craft Supplies

Whether it's a hand-me-down, swap, vintage purchase or thrift store find, you may have items in your stash with unknown properties or in colors or quantities different from what you would have chosen on your own. You may also want to acquire secondhand materials for crafting. I aim to address the concerns of getting and using such items.


Of course you want materials that are in good shape and clean; anything that isn't should be left behind, disposed of or washed. Even if it's in good shape, if it doesn't appeal to you and you don't see practical value in it, leave it behind or re-donate it. Whimseybox has tips for thrifting craft supplies which are fairly general and focused on locating desirable items. Whip Up has advice on thrifting sewing supplies in particular, that is more aimed at selecting. That article has a lot of good tips for checking quality, though if you acquire secondhand thread don't just throw it out. You can test it by breaking the thread by hand and paying attention to the elasticity. If it just snaps, don't use it. If you feel it spring after snapping, it's probably still good. Since the outermost layer will be in the worst shape, if it's okay the rest should be too.


Now you have it; what is it? The type of material makes a difference - you don't want to make potholders out of fabric that scorches easily, nor decorate towels with fabric that repels water. You can identify some fabrics by eye (no mistaking gold lamé), but for many fabrics and yarns you'll need the burn test. I found nice pages on the burn test at Threads magazine and fabrics.net. You can get fairly fine identification once you learn enough, but the general rule of thumb is that plant fibers (cotton, linen, acetate, rayon) burn like wood or leaves, protein fibers (wool and silk) shrivel and smell like burning hair, and petroleum-based fibers (acrylic, nylon, polyester) melt into a hard plastic bead - though they might burn first.

Here are some properties you might consider:
  • Absorbance: for towels, coasters, and napkins, cotton is best.
  • Heat resistance: for potholders, trivets, and hand warmers. I've had success using a double layer of fleece in my potholders, with cotton outer layers, but I would use only cotton for the hand warmers. This is also relevant in ironing. I had the experience of laying my iron on a giveaway bag that I wanted to mend with ironed-on patches, and coming away with an iron-shaped hole in the fabric. Fortunately I was able to clean the iron by scraping off the cooled residue with the back end of a wooden clothespin.
  • Safety and comfort: flannel, for instance, comes in cotton, wool, and synthetic varieties, and the synthetic ones are marked unsafe for children's sleepwear. They are also less comfortable than cotton if you sweat in them.
  • Washability: fairly easy to test simply by washing the material, but if you love it you might be more cautious. Concerns are shrinking, bleeding, and water spots. I pre-wash and dry all my fabric by machine, especially if it's secondhand, zig-zag stitching the edges first so they don't ravel. I have, however, run into problems occasionally with material that crumples in the wash and won't iron flat, though some became more smooth with multiple washings (my theory is uneven shrinkage evening out).
  • Dye-ability: all the natural fibers will take dye, and some synthetics, but not all.
  • Stretch: This generally has more to do with the construction than the fiber content. Clothing patterns are generally designed for either stretchy fabric or non-stretchy, and won't work as well with the opposite kind. Knit fabrics also take some special considerations in sewing. Anything where a lot of fabric will hang loose, such as curtains or even a dress, may stretch under its own weight. Long dress patterns will often tell you to hang the dress overnight before hemming, and the same principle can be applied to curtains. A different note on stretch: elastic doesn't live forever. Before using it in a project make sure it springs back on stretching. In extreme cases it may crackle when stretched; that's the elastic strands breaking, and such elastic should be discarded.
  • Creases: Some fabrics acquire wrinkles and creases far more easily than they give them up. If pressing the fabric is a laborious, unpleasant job, you'll want to avoid using it for anything likely to need regular ironing. Home decorator fabrics tend to be more wrinkle resistant than, say, quilting cotton.

Other characteristics that might influence how you use the material are whether it's prone to raveling or running and whether needle and pin marks disappear or stay put (as they will in many delicate fabrics as well as leather-like material). Delicate fabrics can be a pain to wrangle for sewing, un-squaring and shifting themselves, and can be tamed with gelatin (provided you can wash it out after!).


Good material but not enough

How can you use up nice things in small quantities?

  • Make small projects, or large ones with small pieces: "Stash buster" and "scrap user" are terms typically associated with projects that use up leftovers. Jenn discussed this topic here just last month, and you can find large collections of scrap fabric projects on my craft blog and Tipnut. Tipnut also has a list of yarn stashbusters. To highlight some specific ideas: a charm quilt (not to be confused with a charm pack quilt) is one where every piece of the top is a different fabric; you could make something similar with knitted or crocheted squares and different yarns (though you have to be careful of gauge). An armchair sewing caddy from During Quiet Time even quilts selvedges to form decorative panels.
  • Harmonize colors: If you have a bunch of fabric of the same type, and it's a type that takes dye, you can layer a new color onto the existing color so they will still be different, but coordinate better. This is called overdyeing, and could be as simple as tea-staining the lot to give them a sepia cast. Overdyeing can help even dramatic color differences harmonize (such as in my quilter-approved reverse applique shirt). MAKE has a nice article on natural dye. My one piece of advice on dyeing is to stir. Regularly and throughout.
  • Join pieces together: You can patch fabrics into larger pieces or join yarn into longer strands. Since your pieces are likely to be irregular, techniques from crazy quilting can help with fabric, such as foundation piecing (which you can do without a foundation if your fabric is sturdy enough). For yarn, Whip Up has a "magic ball" tutorial. You can even join fabric scraps together sculpturally as in this scarf tutorial from Jo So & Sew, rather like freeform crochet.

Undesirable type, irresistible look

If your fabric or yarn is, let's say, not so versatile, but you love it, you can still use it.

  • Gluing: Mod Podge will stick not-too-thick fabric to anything. You'll want a layer below the fabric and at least one sealing layer above (just one and it might be rough textured). I've used it to cover binder clips and promotional magnets with fabric, and the binder clips, at least, have seen quite a bit of handling since then with no ill effects. You could cover lightswitch plates, cans, jars, notebooks, folders, or drawer fronts. If you want to cut out pieces of the fabric to glue on something, you can prevent fraying by using Mod Podge on the fabric before cutting it (of course let it dry first). Stretching the fabric in an embroidery hoop can help keep it flat and prevent it from sticking to anything. Alternatively, cut the fabric before use, but let the layer of Mod Podge under it dry completely (having carefully patted all fabric edged down) before applying the sealing layer. The Long Thread uses hot glue and clothesline to wrap four cans together, but yarn or fabric strips could be substituted (though you might need multiple rounds for sturdiness). White glue will attach yarn to boxes, and even a glue stick will attach fabric to paper (though this probably won't withstand a lot of handling).
  • Knotting: Plant hangers are traditionally made with heavy yarn, but you could make them with multiple strands of thinner yarn or fabric strips of comparable size. Just make sure your material has enough friction to keep the knot in place. If you end up with a ton of material you can even make a new seat and back for a lawn chair (see here for a video tutorial). Free Macrame Patterns is just what it says, but in addition to the pattern listing pages it has general advice and information, and instruction in the basic knots. It also has instructions for many Celtic and Chinese knots.
  • String art: If you have thread or yarn, nails, wood, and perhaps a bit of visual intuition gleaned from playing with Spirograph, you can make string art. The nails and wood could be substituted with thumbtacks and a cork board or paper brads and cardboard or cardstock. Tutsplus has a nice how to, and more patterns are available from String Art Fun.
  • Accent fabric: You might be able to combine your good-looks-only material with better types of material in a project, such as for the cover of a needlebook whose pages are all wool felt, or as appliques for the outside of a coffee cup cozy.
  • Projects that aren't material-sensitive: You should be able to make pattern weights out of any fabric that will hold the beans. Small bags and shabby-chic jewelry are forgiving of material. The necklace in the latter link could be done with yarn as well as fabric, and along those lines you can turn a very long crochet chain into a scarf in a variety of ways, good for yarn that would be a pain in the neck for more crocheting or knitting than that. This trinket tray could be bound with bias tape instead of edged with piping, which would allow right-side-out construction and hence assistance by Mod Podge or a glue stick to keep recalcitrant fabric in place with the cardboard.

So many notions!

That is, what do you do with a big bag of buttons, zippers, ribbon, or other trims or notions?

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Fast Summer

Summer seems to be going awfully fast, just as it always does. So we're extending the Craft Challenge another month to give us all (including me) time to complete our projects. Just as a reminder, the topic is Tee Shirt Rehab. We'll meet back here in early September to recap.

Meanwhile, the Sew-op is having a tag sale on August 1st from 4-6 (same as First Friday) and August 2nd from 10-2. There will be sewing machines, fabric, knitting needles, yarn and notions available at a great price. All proceeds support the sew-op workroom and classes.

And for a fast project, try making the little guy above. He doesn't exactly fit with the theme of reuse since his body is a new car washing mit from the dollar store, but he's awfully cute and an easy project for a child to make. The tutorial is an oldie but goodie at Darling Petunia. Our hedgie was made by my daughter and is going to our favorite two-year-old who is moving away.

Happy Summer!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Big yarny events

There are three multi-day events happening yet this summer. I knew about one, but the others came from the Northern Lights Knitting Guild's newsletter.

The soonest is a convention called The Knit and Crochet Show, sponsored by the Crochet Guild of America and the Knitting Guild Association. It runs July 23-27 in Manchester, NH, with lots of classes, shopping, meet-ups and other events. Pre-registration is closed, but you can still fill out the registration form in advance to speed things up at the door. It's hard to say what the cost is because all the pieces cost separately; if all you want to do is shop for a day and you're not a CGOA or KGA member, it's just $5 (if you are a member, it's free).

Next up is Vermont Knit and Fiber Camp, August 8-11 at Kettle Pond Campground in Groton State Forest, about an hour mostly north from White River Junction. This is actually a camp; the campground has lean-tos, outhouses, and a hand-pump well. Because of that, though, the cost is low: the full three day stay runs $17.50 per person, including campsite registration and s'mores money. Knitters, crocheters, spinners, and anyone who does anything else with yarn or wants to learn how are welcome. It's basically a chance to get away and do your craft, though there will be a yarn/tools swap and Friday potluck dinner. (If this sounds good to you except for the camping part, there will be another retreat in February in a lodge.)

Finally, retreats all about knitting: Beth's Vermont Retreats with Beth Brown-Reinsel and Marilyn King. There are two, each held in the Dutton Farmhouse in Dummerston, VT (fifteen minutes north of Brattleboro), August 14-17 and August 21-24. Each costs $500 and includes classes in Scottish Sanquhar Gloves and the Danish Nattrøjer.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Requiem for the projects I will not be completing

There are two types of projects: the ones we finish and the ones we don't.

Like all these jokes, this is both an oversimplification and a truth. We all have projects that sound so good in the abstract but somehow never get completed. Or even started. The ones we carry around like baggage: Someday I'm going to... The ones that nag at us with their presence. The dreams in our head that clutter the path for the projects that we can complete.

So this post is my chance to send some of these projects on their way and thank them for coming. I've upgraded the storage and work surfaces in my studio and while I have lots more space than I did, I only have room for the projects I will actually do. Here is what I'm sure is only the first list of projects that I won't be completing.

Project: Stitched, woven basket out of newsprint paper.

Why I like it: Trash to treasure. This is a major theme of many of my projects and interests. The whole Yankee thing of using what you have to fill a need. And cute storage, ta boot. How cool would it be to have awesomely useful baskets made from IKEA packaging I already had on hand! So tempting! 

Why it won't work: I just have no need for that kind of storage right now.

And so it goes: this project may come around again, but for now, I'm letting it go.

Project: Baskets made from rolled magazines/IKEA instruction manuals/catalogs.

Why I like it: Trash to treasure, cute storage, stuff on hand.

Why it won't work: Sure, I could make all my studio storage out of this stuff. I need boxes for all the cubbies of my new storage system. But stuff needs to be stored by next week and I have a family to take care of and a house to clean. So it's purchased boxes for me.

And so it goes: Life as a parent and person who loves magazine subscriptions mean that I'll always have a ready supply of material for this one. Maybe someday the stars will align and I'll be ready to do it. Perhaps when my daughter goes off to college in 10 years we can make things from all those school brochures.

Project: Bowls made of shredded magazines/IKEA instruction manuals/catalogs.

Why I like it: Trash to treasure, cute storage, stuff on hand. (At least I'm consistent.) Back when I was running the catalog fundraisers at my daughter's school, I was tempted to create beautiful art from all the extra catalogs, envelopes and papers. So very Pinteresty and a sly kick at the fundraisers that encourage you to buy overpriced junk to support your child's public education. Never happened. I'm sure I could use an attactive bowl on my bookshelf/dresser/coffee table. [Oooh! I do need a bowl for my night table.] [Ahem!] [Sigh.]

Why it won't work: time and need. Night table bowl notwithstanding.

And so it goes: Yep, this one won't quite die yet. A bowl is a small project. Maybe it will get done during summer craftiness. But it's last on the list. I have bigger fish to fry.

Project: Alabama Chanin clothing

Why I like it: These clothes are stunningly beautiful. I enjoy hand embroidery and the idea of sewing a garment entirely by hand. And I like the idea of a long-term project like this for trips.

Why it won't work: As beautiful as these clothes are, they're not my style. An they're an enormous amount of work. I think a car/plane project should be something I'm capable of finishing in a season. Something small that will fit in a carry-on bag. Plus I just can't seem to get around to buying supplies for a project and the kits are more than I'd like to pay.

And so it goes: I do love hand sewing so I will probably use the patterns as inspiration in other projects.

Project: A memory quilt made out of my daughter's old clothing

Why I like it: I've been saving my favorites of my daughter's clothing for years in the hopes of making a memory quilt. (But stay tuned, I'm learning and will be teaching a couple of classes at the Sew-op this year.)

Why it won't work: Great idea but lots of knits. And all are so different it's tough to work them all in to one quilt. And it's a big project for a first quilt. Maybe I will work bits into future quilts so each quilt I make has a little piece of my daughter's babyhood but no designated memory quilt. (oooh, that's actually a great idea... Sort of a signature... Always in the same place. Hmmmm.)

And so it goes: I've got a plan now for all those baby clothes and I think it will be a nice way of spreading around the memories.

So there's my list. Say your own farewells to projects in the comments.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

E-Textiles and other July events

All across Vermont, libraries are going to have STEAM events this summer. STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics, and it's the usual STEM with a creative twist. There's one class relevant to this blog by location and content: E-Textiles at the Quechee Library, July 26, 10 AM to 1 PM. It's for kids and families, best for middle school and up, and combines sewing with circuit design to incorporate LEDs into fabric. For more about the class, see the STEAM-e-zine; for information about signing up, visit the Quechee Library page. If you are further afield in Vermont, the STEAM-e-zine has an interactive map of programs all over the state.

What about other happenings? Many if not most of the Artistree classes from the previous listing are still ahead of us.

AVA Gallery's fabric doll making course (for children age 5-8, July 21-25, 1-4 PM) is still open. For more information and registration visit the member listing or the nonmember listing and scroll down a bit.

Some of the upcoming League of NH Craftsmen classes have filled; here are the ones still open:
  • Cloaks and Shawls (and armor) summer camp for ages 8-10, July 21-25, 9 AM-noon
  • The Wonderful World of Color Captured on Fabric summer camp for ages 8-10, July 28-August 1, 1-4 PM (one place left as of this writing)
  • Transforming (t-shirts into other items) summer camp; ages 8-12: August 4-8, 1-4 PM; ages 8-10: August 18-22, 9 AM-noon
  • Suminigashi (marbled dye technique) for adults, Saturday August 9, 2-5 PM
See the mixed media class page for Suminigashi and the summer camp section of the children's classes page for the rest.

The Upper Valley Sew-op has reduced hours in July and will be closed for the month of August except for a "yard sale" August 1-2 (more on that closer to the date). Most offerings in July are Open Hours, the free drop-in times to come use the Sew-ops tools and materials. Those occur every Wednesday afternoon 1-3 and two Saturday mornings 10-noon: the 12th and 26th. On Saturday the 19th 10-noon there is a kids' class for ages 7 and up: Make a Chalkboard Place Mat. For the description and a registration form visit the the Co-op's calendar page.