Monday, November 24, 2014

Half Cross Stitch -- Which Way?

I have three, no, four, Christmas UFOs at the moment, and I won't finish them all, but I'm going to make a push on this one:

Dimensions Gold, "A Kiss for Snowman"
I thought it would look cute if I finished the figures before I started the background, and I think it does!

It feels like ages since I've done any cross stitch, but I think I last touched this piece in June. That was when I decided to unpick all the half cross stitches from the blue snowman body. It took two days! The trick was to pull them out without damaging the full crosses. It only took one day to stitch them in again.

Why did I put myself through that? Crazy perfectionism? Maybe. But here's the issue:

I am never really sure which way to stitch the half cross stitches. Should they slope up to the right, like the first or bottom layer of a full cross stitch, or up to the left, like the top part of a full cross? I have done it both ways on different projects. As you can see, the Dimensions instructions say to slope up to the right, like the lower layer of the cross stitch. And that's how I started with the snowman body.

But, I didn't like it. There was a clear shadow line where the stitch direction changes. So on the snowman face I stitched the half crosses parallel to the top stitch of the full crosses, which smoothed it all out and made the shading more natural. Then, once both figures were done, I realized I had enough thread left in the kit to restitch the body so it would all align.

From now on, I'll be stitching the half crosses in the way that gives the desired effect, rather than just unconsciously following the pattern!

The next step is to stitch the entire background in half crosses going the other way, so hopefully the figures will stand forward a little. And hopefully, it'll be done before Christmas!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Slowest Quilter Ever?

Blogathon Canada is on this week, and today it's Ontario's turn. Since the lake in "Lakeview" is Lake Ontario, I'm up!

Heather at Peace Love Quilt suggested on Thursday that she may be the slowest quilter ever, but I think I could challenge for that title! I started my first quilt in the late 70s, my second quilt in the late 80s, my third quilt in the late 90s, and I didn't finish any of them. (Although the third one may still get finished.)

It's just about a year since I finished my first quilt:

Nine Patch Jubilee, 54" x 66"

I'm now up to three:

Highlands Houses, 19" x 19"

And this flimsy is probably the next one to be quilted:

Mod Trips, 60" x 60"

Not all my projects are red and white! The quilt that I started back in the 80s was a Texas Star, from Judy Martin's book Scrap Quilts. Machine piecing all the Y seams did me in, but two years ago I started it again using English Paper Piecing.

The stars are about 3 3/4" across, with 5/8" hexagons and 1 1/4" diamonds, and to make a 60" x 80" throw I calculated that 333 stars would do the job. I'm very excited, because I'm only about two weeks from finishing them all!

Of course, the next step is to sew them all together. But it will be a big milestone on a quilt I've been planning since the 1980s!

I think there are three reasons everything takes so long. One, most of my projects are ambitious, like Judy Niemeyer's Prairie Star...

...which I've realized is going to be a heck of a lot of sewing, but which I hope to get back to in the new year.

Reason two is that I enjoy a lot of hand stitching -- including embroidery...



Best Friends Forever

...and applique:

Trick or Treat Baskets

Although, I really shouldn't show you that one, because I'm pretty sure I've changed my mind about the fabrics.

In 2013 one of my resolutions was to hand quilt a project, and I did -- this pincushion!

Hand quilting is still on my list of things to learn.

And reason three why it takes me so long to finish anything? Too many things on the go! But you know, the great thing about blogging is that it's mainly about the journey. I hope you'll join me!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Ink Week Wrap Up

If you missed the earlier posts in the series, you may find them here:
Today I'm going to wrap up the series about the Tsukineko inks, but the complete project still has many more days to go before it's done!

My original plan was that the coloured inks would be a watery wash to fill in some of the large empty spaces in this stitchery quilt, Leanne Beasley's Down in the Garden. The stitchery was always intended to be the main feature, and to give the structure to the design. What I found on the first day, though, was that the more water you add to the ink, the more unpredictably it behaves. Here's a better photo of that first bird house:

So I think that while it's good to start with a plan, it's also good to be prepared to change it as events arise! I decided that I can live with the blue creeping over the lines in the block above, but that I didn't want that to happen with all the flowers in the other blocks. So the colours became darker and more saturated as I worked.

I bought some specialized equipment to work with the inks, and I was happy with all of it:

  • The Color Mixing Cups at the top of the photo are small lightweight plastic containers, each with its own lid. They come with their own tray, which makes it easy to organize and store the ink over a several day project.
  • On the left are the Tsukineko Fantastix, which also come with their own caps. I kept the ones that were loaded with ink in a plastic snack bag, and they were good for a few days.
  • On the right below the water jar are the plastic eye droppers, which I used to transfer ink from the bottle to the mixing cups, to transfer mixes from one cup to another, and to add clean water from the jar to the mixing cup.
With all three of these tools you need one for every colour of ink that you buy, and for every colour of ink that you plan to mix. They can't be cleaned, but the huge advantage is that they are much easier to control. They give you consistent results across the project. Painting or inking on fabric is very different than painting on paper, I found. It's less precise, so any tool that helps with that is well worth it.

I bought almost everything, inks, tools and fabric, from Dharma Trading Co., who also have some articles on techniques. The fabric was the Kaufman Kona PFD (prepared for dying), which really absorbed the ink well. The high thread count has been a little dense for hand stitching, but it certainly supports the thread well, and I've had no issues with stitch tension.

I will say that stitching over the bright colours, all of which you have chosen and painted yourself, is extremely satisfying! I have used all my favourite flowers as inspiration. The purple daisy colouration is inspired by purple irises, the small pink flowers are inspired by apple blossoms, there are the large coral dahlias, and the little yellow "sunflowers."

Those sunflowers, by the way, took two days of trial and error to get the right combination of stitch and thread colour:

In the end I decided that while the white gap between the ink and the stitching looked nice and "arty" in the purple and pink flowers, it did not work in the sunflower centres. I tried blanket stitch to cover up some of the gap, and it worked quite well. I also left out that yellow straight stitch in the petals, because it distracted from the clean curves of the stem stitch around the petal edges.

I still have more decisions to make about the four small flowers that are in the bird house blocks and scattered around the rest of the quilt, but this should keep me busy for now! I hope you enjoyed the series. It's been a large undertaking, but I've learned a lot. I can already think of a couple more projects for the ink, but I want to finish off a few more of my WIPs first!

Speaking of WIPs, since it's Wednesday I'll link up to WIP Wednesday at The Needle and Thread Network. And if you want to see all the posts on this project so far, including the quilt piecing and other little stitcheries, please click here. Happy stitching!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Ink Week, Part 4

There were just two flowers left for my last day of inking the stitchery designs from Leanne Beasley's Down in the Garden quilt. If you missed them, you can find Part 1 here, Part 2 here, and Part 3 here. At this point, I thought it would be pretty easy. But, you should never count your chickens before they're hatched!

The large coral flowers, in the photo above, did go well. It was the last flower, the light pink one, that gave me a lot of trouble. Here's my well-used test sheet again:

The two remaining flowers were similar in shape, one large and one small, so I decided to make them two shades of pink, so they would be related but still different. Both would start from the Tsukineko Rose Pink ink.
  1. Here I started with a drop of the pure Rose Pink, and then gradually diluted it.
  2. Using the brush, I tried a petal shape with the diluted pink and the gold from the sunflowers. I liked it, but for the large flowers I wanted something more orange.
  3. This combination looked good to me.
  4. I made two petals with a long triangle of orange at the base, and the pink around the edge. It looked good to me so I went ahead and inked two test flowers, in the photo below, the four watering can blocks, and the large centre block.
    Large flowers seen from the back on the left, and front on the right
  5. For the smaller flowers I planned to make them both lighter and a little cooler. This is a drop of the pure Tsukineko Orchid Odyssey ink. I added just two drops of the orchid to cool off the diluted Rose Pink I'd been using, and a lot more water.
  6. I also started over with some fresh Lemon Yellow from the bottle, and diluted it heavily. Then I tried to reproduce the effect I had lucked into at #2.
  7. I started with some water in the centre of the petal, and then put a line of the light yellow down the middle, surrounded by a line of the light pink. The first two tries blurred together to make a muddy orange in the centre.
  8. Success!
  9. Time to try a test flower. Argh! The real flower petals were smaller than #8, and there just wasn't room for the water, yellow and pink to blend nicely.
  10. I tried this one without water, just the yellow and pink ink. The muddy orange came back, and it was still too dark over all.
  11. I had to draw on a couple more quick test flowers. This one was still not consistent, but I liked the lighter look.
  12. Still not great.
I had run out of room on my test sheet and I didn't have any more test flowers, so I decided to just go ahead on the real blocks. Probably not advisable! I tried two with water, and small dabs of yellow and pink. Then I abandoned the water for good, and just made dots of yellow and pink with dry white fabric in between. Fortunately, the first two pieces were so light that I was able to go back after they dried and add darker pink dots to them as well. If you look closely at the first photo, you can see that's what I did.

I used the final version of the small flowers on the centre block:

Although they were not what I intended, I think the small flowers still work anyway. Plus, now I have the opportunity to go in with the stitching and balance things a little more.

Next time I'll have some of that stitching to show, and my final thoughts on the process. It's been quite a journey! Please click here to read on.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Ink Week, Part 3

Ink Week is becoming Ink Fortnight, but never mind, I'm still forging ahead! If you missed the previous posts, please click here for Part 1, or click here for Part 2.

Today was by far the most ambitious day planned, and God definitely smiled on me, because it went exactly as I had hoped. As each layer goes on, the consequences of a mistake get larger, so I am very grateful to come through the tricky part intact!

I'm making Leanne Beasley's stitchery quilt, Down in the Garden. This round flower is used all over the quilt. I thought that if I left out the inner circle and the dot, it would look like a little sunflower. I always love sunflowers!

My first thought was to fill the centre of the "sunflower" with a couched lattice, as I did in one of the Best Friends Forever motifs. But, I want to get away from the intensive embroidery I've done on that project, so my second thought was this fancy shaded ink that you see here.

Those shaded gold centres are one of the key features of the whole quilt, so they had to work. I reused my Day 2 test sheet, with just a few extra petals drawn on for the other flowers. By reusing the same sheet, it is easy to see if all the colours are working well together.

  1. I started by mixing a dark, sludgy brown from my three secondary colours, Tsukineko's Emerald, orange (which is actually called "Tangerine"), and the dark purple Wisteria. Strictly speaking, it is better to mix from the three primary colours, but I didn't buy red, just some Rose Pink. My sludge was not the nicest brown.
  2. Fortunately, I have been saving all my mixes from previous days, which I highly recommend. I took some of my yellow orange petal mix from Day 2, added more orange, then drop by drop added some of the sludge from #1 until it turned this caramel brown. It was still a little greenish, though, until
  3. I added a couple drops of the Rose Pink. Success!
  4. For the gold part of the centres I again went back to the yellow orange petal mix from Day 2, added some water, a drop of the #1 sludge, and a drop of the pure Lemon Yellow from the bottle, and lucked into the right colour pretty quickly.
  5. I loaded the gold and the caramel onto separate Fantastix. For the centres I began with a circle of the gold in the middle, leaving a wide white border inside the line. Then I used the caramel to circle around the gold, still well inside the line, and blended it over the gold towards the centre. I tested the circles with a centred highlight, and an off-centre highlight. I decided I liked the off-centre one best.
  6. Even though I was satisfied at that point, I thought I would try a circle with some extra water in the middle before I put in the ink, to see if it blended better. It did not! The gold washed out, and the caramel was too dark by contrast. I went ahead and used the #5 formula to ink the centre block, the four watering cans, and the 16 individual flowers shown below.
  7. After a rest and a quick lunch I sat down with the purple, Wisteria. The first drop is the pure undiluted ink, and below that is the diluted ink. 
  8. In my mind I was thinking of something like DMC 327 for these flowers, so I added some of the caramel mix from #3 to the diluted purple. This was close, but a little too brown, so I added a few drops more of the Wisteria, and a little more water, until
  9. It looked good to me!

There are twelve of these individual yellow flowers in the overall quilt design. I made a few extra so I could pick the best ones. I still had a few white squares of fabric left over, and over the weekend it occurred to me to use them to test the other flowers as well:

Maybe they will end up in the quilt, maybe not. The purple daisy petals were quite narrow... I was glad to have the extra practice before I inked the larger blocks!

With tight spaces like this, I found it was best to start in the middle of the widest petal, and work out to the points as the Fantastix dried out.

As I suspected, it was too optimistic to think I could finish all the flowers in one day. But, it's definitely coming along!

I would also like to do some two-colour shading on the remaining two types of flowers. That'll be Day 4! Please click here to read on.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Ink Week, Part 2

In Part 1 of Ink Week, I inadvertently created a splotchy pattern with the Cerulean Blue Tsukineko ink in the border of two of my birdhouse blocks for Leanne Beasley's Down in the Garden stitchery quilt. In the end, I liked those ones the best, so I thought I would do the same technique to fill in the watering cans in four of the other blocks.

However, I learned that the Cool Gray ink behaves rather differently! The blue ink really moves out the edges of the brushstroke, while the grey seems to even itself out. In the photo above, the splotches have almost vanished.

I also learned that the ink tends to settle to the bottom of the cup over time. This was actually helpful, because you end up with more pigment at the tip of the brush, which then pushes out the edge of the brushstroke. So the last piece I did came out splotchier, as you can see in the photo I took while it was still wet:

But, once it dried, the edges of the strokes still blended out:

Which is fine! It still has that watercolour feel to it. You will also notice that for these blocks I decided that it would be better to have a thin white edge along the line, than to let the ink go over. It will be interesting to see how it looks once the lines are stitched!

Until this point all the inks were used straight out of the bottle. The colours for the leaves and flowers, though, are all mixed from two or more inks.

Here's my Day 2 test sheet:

After finishing all the grey parts, I started to mix the colours:

  1. I began with drops of the pure, undiluted ink. This is the orange,
  2. And this is the pure yellow,
  3. And this is the Banana Cream that I used for the birdhouses.
  4. The pure yellow is very harsh and a little greenish, and my goal was a softer, yellow orange. I started by mixing the pure yellow with a couple drops of pure orange. Nice colour!
  5. But, when diluted, the orange almost vanished and it went back to bright yellow. You can see I tried various levels of orange and water to fine tune the mix.
  6. I thought I had the colour right here, but it still turned out to be too saturated, and not as transparent as I wanted.
  7. This is the final mix that I used on all the blocks. In the photo below you can see that the ink looked a lot oranger in the mixing cup than it did on the fabric.
  8. Next up were the greens. Now that I knew how much the colour changed with the addition of water, I looked at that first. This one is the pure lime green ink on the right, and the diluted lime green on the left. You can also see that the lime ink in the bottle is really a mix of pigments, and that the blue pigments once again moved closer to the edges of the drops, leaving the yellow in the centre.
  9. The emerald green ink was really surprising! On the left is the pure ink, and on the right is the diluted ink, which turned almost turquoise!
  10. In the end I used three different greens for the quilt. This one is a diluted combination of the lime and emerald. It still felt a little artificial to me,
  11. So I added a couple drops of the orange to brown it down. This is the mix I used for all the leaves.
There are also diluted lime, and a lemon-lime mix in some of the flower centres. Here's that yellow orange from #7:

I still have the centres of the yellow flowers, and the three other flowers to do, which will amount to four separate sessions with a dry in between each one. I'd like to do it in one day, but it may end up being two more. I'm past the "white knuckle" stage though, and it's starting to be fun! You can already see the blocks coming to life:

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Ink Week, Part 1

I have not been able to find any online information about how to use Tsukineko inks in a painterly way, so I thought I'd go in depth on my learning experiences with them this week. You can learn from my mistakes as well as my successes!

I'm making Leanne Beasley's stitchery quilt, Down the the Garden. A year ago I chose Tamara Kate's Flight Patterns fabric collection for this project. Inspired by the watercolour effects in the fabric, I thought it would be nice to "watercolour" the stitchery designs before I stitch them. Rather than use real watercolour paint, I chose Tsukineko inks for the job, which are water-based, but can be heat set to become permanent and washable.

I've had the ink for 10 months now, but it was never the "right time" to get started. Finally, to get over the first hurdle, I dredged up my science lab experience from a long time ago, and set it up like an experiment. I wrote down the things I wanted to learn:
  • Test ink colours - Banana Cream, Cool Gray, Cerulean Blue (not the colours in the photo above, those are for later)
  • Compare brushes with Tsukineko Fantastix
  • Try various wet/dry wash techniques
  • Test drying, heat setting
Then I made a test sheet with the same fabric, Kona PFD, and permanent lines, Pigma Micron, that I will use for the quilt:

I ironed a piece of freezer paper to the back of the fabric, to stabilize it while I worked. I picked up this tip from Linda M. Poole's book, Painted Applique, and it worked great!

Then I assembled all my equipment. Tsukineko Fantastix are blank foam pens that you can load with your ink:

I also bought a cheap set of brushes, and single-use eyedroppers to transfer the ink from the bottle to the mixing cups. I'm calling this "Ink Week," by the way, because my sewing machine is packed away until I finish this phase of the project.

Here's how my experiment progressed:

  1. I started with the undiluted blue ink, and a small brush. The Kona PFD fabric really sucks up the ink, and the more you hesitate, the wider the line.
  2. I wetted the corner of the fabric with water, and used the brush to paint a line of pure ink, then pull it back into the water. The wash took time to really soak back through the fabric.
  3. I decided the pure pigment was too dark for the effect I wanted to achieve, so I diluted the ink, and tried to repeat #2 along the edge of the first square. The diluted ink really soaks in fast! 
  4. I still felt the ink was too dark, so I diluted it more and loaded it onto one of the Tsukineko Fantastix. They are much easier to control!  I found that if I drew about 1/8" away from the line, the ink soaked up to the line but not usually past it. It is easiest to just dip the Fantastix in your ink, and hold the tip up for a few seconds to let it soak in.
  5. I used the same technique as #4 to colour around the birdhouse. The colour was flatter than I would have preferred, but I was ready to move on!
  6. Same as the blue, I started with the Cool Gray diluted and loaded onto a Fantastix for the flat area of colour in the first circle.
  7. For the second circle I soaked a little water into the centre first, and then filled in the edges with the same Fantastix as #6, and blended it back into the centre. Success! 
  8. I tried the same blended technique in the roof, with moderate success. At this point I got out the blow dryer and dried all the blue and grey bits before I started with the yellow. Waiting for the paint to dry is worst part of a watercolour technique!
  9. The yellow square was done the same way as #7, with a little water in the centre, diluted ink and a fresh Fantastix. There was no problem at all with the wet yellow ink picking up any of the dry blue ink.
  10. I went ahead and finished the birdhouse with the yellow.
Feeling pretty confident, and with the inks all set up, I decided to forge ahead and colour the four birdhouse blocks for the real quilt.

I started with the yellow this time, dried it, and painted the grey. The real grey roofs were narrower than my test one, so I gave up on the wash after two of them, and just filled them in with solid grey. The block above has been heat set with the iron, and I found that the yellow and grey both faded away more than I wanted.

The blue, however, was a little too dark! I wasn't totally happy with the flat blue colour around the birdhouse in the test piece, so I loaded the edges of the fabric with plain water, and tried to use the Fantastix to blend the ink back. However, I ran out of the first batch of diluted ink, and you can see I made the second batch too dark.

For the third and fourth houses, I was getting impatient, and I decided to use a wider brush to ink around the edges of the fabric:

You can really see how the ink carries out to the edges of the brushstroke! Then I used a Fantastix with the same mix to fill in the gaps along the line. I like these ones the best -- the blotches look a little like clouds to me.

All of them have some bleeding of the blue over the line. My hope is that with the stitchery added, it will not be too noticeable. I made a start with the embroidery on the worst one first, just to see if I can live with it:


It certainly has the "loose" feeling of some watercolours! I bought enough fabric to redo everything if the experiment failed, but at this point I want to keep moving forward. The others will be better, and once it is part of the whole quilt, I think it will just be a minor quibble.

Next up, the watering cans, and all the larger flowers around the quilt. I think it will be a couple more days!

Click here for Part 2!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...