Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Block Play

If you have been following along with my last couple of posts, you know that I have recently fallen in love with EPP, (English Paper Piecing). I'm continuing to explore the design possibilities of combining this method with creating new blocks, and seeing how those blocks create various designs.



My brain is joyfully being stretched in new directions and I am having great fun playing with block possibilities using this hand stitching technique.

Above is a block that I have recently been working on. I picked some lovely hand dyed fabrics that I bought at my local fabric shop to use, and while I love the effect, I did find that the fabrics were a wee bit stiff, slowing the hand sewing down. 

Question: Is it just me, or do others find hand dyed fabrics, as beautiful as they are, also a bit stiffer to stitch through? And if so, why are they stiffer, even after washing? Is it the mordant used? Can you do something to soften them up? I have experienced this before, and am just wondering... is this my imagination, or do others experience this as well? Would love to hear your thoughts and tips!


Here is what the block looks like repeated 4 times. I am crazy about the large center diamond effect created when the blocks are combined!

Very anxious to explore this block in other colors, and also have several more blocks that I want to begin playing with. Now, if I can only figure out how to squeeze more sewing time into an already too short 24 hour day... !

xo

22 comments:

dolores said...

Cool beans!:) Sorry...I haven't used hand dyed fabrics in my hand stitching. Speaking of hands....how are yours doing with the EPP?:) Oh...and how freaking small are your stitches...it looks like these are paper glued together it so perfect!:)

Victoria said...

Haha! Thanks, Dolores! My stitches are very tiny and seem to average about 15 to 18 per inch, which seems to work fine. I've heard of some EPP stitches who average 25 per inch... which seems like an exercise in torture to me, but to each their own!

And thanks for asking about my hands... good days and bad days, but doing better! Started taking some Osteo Bi-flex pills which seem to be helping a bit, (or maybe it's just a placebo effect, which is ok by me, too!) The stiffness of this hand-dyed fabric did flare things up a bit, but overall I seem to be able to do the EPP stitching... maybe because the stitches are so small, and I am just stitching through fabric, and not a whole quilt? Whatever the reason, I am very thankful as I am enjoying it tremendously!

Diane J. Evans said...

Gosh, your hand piecing is PERFECT! Love what your brain is discovering with this new technique.

Yes, hand-dyed and hand-painted fabrics are stiffer than commercial ones. I have found that many times I cannot pierce the fabric with my safety pins for basting, and even when I do get the pins in, they leave little holes, which I have to steam and brush out. Since it happens with both dyeing and painting, it has to be something in the formulation of the colors; I'm not knowledgable enough to know what it is.

Would fabric softener help? I've never tried it, so it's only a thought. I do find that the hand of the fabric is a little softer if I machine wash and machine dry it before use, but it's still a bit stiff.

Good luck, and watch out so you won't overwork your fingers -- they are precious commodities!

Diane

Victoria said...

Thanks Diane for sharing your experience! Good to know it's not my imagination! I always machine wash and dry my fabrics, but never use fabric softener... so maybe I will try that and see if it does indeed help. Thanks for the suggestions! (And yes, I promise to be good and kind to my fingers! xo)

kay said...

Your EPP work is wonderful!! In the 4-blocks combined, I like the chunky cross in the center. Would be fun to experiment with values and colors that emphasize that ...

Victoria said...

Thank you and Kay, and what a great idea! I will be sure to play around with that!

Karen @ Pieces of Contentment said...


I love the visual effects created by your block, very clever, and the more you look the more you see. The hand dyed fabrics bring an added depth to your work too. Looking forward to seeing more.....

ipatchandquilt said...

Gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous!!!

Nifty Quilts said...

Another fabulous block! The large diamond in the middle is wonderfully surprising. I love your experimentation here. The hand-dyes add a lot. I hope they're not too hard to use.

Penny Schine Gold said...

I switched from hand-painting to dyeing, specifically to get away from the stiffer hand of the painted fabrics. I wanted to be able to use the fabric for applique, and the painted fabric was difficult to work with. I have dyed a number of different PFD fabrics. I choose for my regular fabrics a few where the fabric needles well; some do not. I would say that if you have some difficulty getting a needle through a piece of hand-dyed fabric, it likely has to do with the base fabric being dyed, rather than with the dye process. Contact me if you'd like to know the fabrics I like for hand-sewing (purchased in the U.S.).

Kathy said...

Just beautiful!

Victoria said...

Thank you Karen, ipatch, Nifty, Penny and Kathy.

And Penny, thank you. I had been wondering if it had more to do with the dyes themselves, or if the base fabric itself was the issue. Maybe tighter weaves are used in order to hold the dye better?? either way, I appreciate your input and help!

Audrey said...

I think Penny is right. Fabrics dye brighter--bond with more dye molecules--when they have been through the PDF process. Some PDF fabrics have a higher thread count, giving them a hand similar to bed sheets and they can be hard to needle. If you can live with less intense color saturation, untreated muslin works very well and needles like butter. Bleached muslin gives better results if you need clear colors and unbleached works very well for earth tones.

Your handwork is amazing!

Penny Schine Gold said...

I don't think it has to do with thread count. Some fabrics, even PFD fabrics, take up more dye than others. Two PFD fabrics I use that dye very well, and that are also easy to needle for applique and handquilting are Testfabrics 400M and Kaufman Patina. (Kaufman Patina is my favorite, but more expensive.) I would guess that Hoffman's Lawn fabric would also serve well, I just haven't tried it myself. I don't know if you're interested in dyeing fabric yourself, but if not, and you have someone you usually purchase from, maybe you could ask them to try one or more of these fabrics.

Victoria said...

Thanks so much Penny for the additional info!

Margo said...

these colors are just gorgeous! I love looking at the interplay of diamonds.

I have tried to soften stiff fabric before with a soak in a very salty brine. Not sure if that would help your stiff fabric or not.

Martha Tsihlas said...

Hi Victoria, this morning I discovered your blog through Pinterest! I immediately liked your style of Patchwork and your photos are so good. Thanks for sharing! On the subject of hand dyed fabrics, since I dye my own, I discovered that close knit fabrics end up feeling more like batiks after being dyed. In fact, the more expensive the PFD fabric the closer the knit. We all know how hard on the fingers it is to quilt or applique with batiks. Therefore, I like to use either PDF Kona or good quality muslin. (PDF= prepared for dyeing) when dyeing fabric. I will continue reading your blog so I need another cup of coffee, or two! Have a great day! PS: No FB page?just wondering.

Victoria said...

Margo, thanks for the tip, worth a try!

Martha, Welcome to my blog, and good info, thank you very much! And nope, Facebook is the one place I am not on, (despite everyone telling me I should be on there). I think it's just some stubborn streak in me that wants to rebel! However, along with Pinterest, I can also be found on Instagram, (where I post almost daily) Flickr, and occasionally Twitter. I also have an Etsy shop. All links can be found at the top of my blog under "Follow" or with the icons found at the top of my side bar. Again, thanks so much!

Uniquely Yours Creations said...

Hi Vic, This is an interesting subject! I'm always experimenting and learning. Do you know what your fabric was dyed with? If Procion dye was used; the fabric does not need a mordant. Mordants are normally used with eco-dyeing (plants) I've never used (for hand quilting) a fabric dyed with procion so I don't really know.
From my own personal experiments I know that using some fabric paints on
Kona makes it kind of stiff - it's a heavier weight cotton.
I love using Setacolor transparent paints which I delute with water and use
a lighter weight fabric and I love the results. I have dyed cotton sateen with them and hand stitched without a problem. I also found in Joann's a "cotton Classic" and good muslin that works great also and leaves the hand of the fabric still soft.
It also would be good to know, if you can find out what fabric that they used for dyeing.(if you can find out)
I would love to try the other fabrics mentioned!

Victoria said...

Hi Linda, Thanks for the great info! I have no info on the fabrics that I used, as I bought them at a shop, not from the actual person who dyed them.

This has happened to me before, I buy as I am wooed by the beauty, only to realize later the difficulty in stitching!

For now, I will just set them aside for machine sewing, and in the future pay much more attention to what I am buying, how it was made, how it handles, etc. etc!

Nini said...

WOW!! Love it! Thanks for the inspiration!

deborah wolff said...

I hand dye fabrics and have not found them to be any stiffer or hard to sew than any other fabric.