Shibori Techniques, Tips, and Projects

Shibori Tie-Dye Techniques, DIY Tips, and Projects

What is Shibori?

Bound resist dye methods, which we know as tie-dye, have been around almost as long as civilization itself. Many cultures have contributed techniques to this ancient craft. Perhaps none have contributed as widely as the Japanese, who began developing their methods, known as shibori, as early as the 8th century.

Shibori Tie-Dye Techniques, DIY Tips, and Projects

Shibori Techniques

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Shibori traditionally uses natural dyes, most often indigo. Dyers pleat, sew, tie, bind, or even wrap the fabric around a pole. Let’s look at these different methods now:

Arashi

With the arashi method of shibori, dyers wind a long and narrow piece of kimono cloth diagonally around a pole, then scrunch the fabric tightly together and bind with thread. This method produces a pattern reminiscent of rain, hence the name, which means “storm.”

Arashi shibori

Arashi shibori made with wide pvc pipe in place of a pole

Itajime

For itajime, or shape-resist, shibori, the cloth is first folded, then pressed between blocks of wood and secured with clamps or ties. The wood resists the dye and leaves a repeating pattern on the finished cloth. Shapes can be simple, such as square or rectangular blocks, triangular, or more elaborate, with wood shapes cut into various free form designs.

Kanoko

If you’ve ever tie-dyed before, you’ve likely practiced kanoko shibori methods without even knowing it. These are the familiar tied designs such as bull’s eyes and repeating circular or other motifs. Dyers make these designs by tying off sections of fabric, often including pebbles, popcorn kernels, coins, or other found objects repeatedly or randomly throughout the fabric.

Kumo

Kumo shibori is a pleated and bound method that creates spiderlike veining and circular designs. Dyers pull the fabric into peaks, twist or pleat, then bind with thread. Kumo designs may be any size, with small, repeating, all-over patterns or just one large kumo to cover an entire piece.

Shibori Tie-Dye Techniques, DIY Tips and Projects

Kumo shibori

Miura

In miura shibori, the thread is not tied at all. Rather, thread is simply wrapped, usually twice, with thread. Tension holds the entire piece together. Because this method is easier and can be accomplished with the help of machinery, it was perhaps the most historically used method for producing shibori designs. This method most often uses hooks to draw up tiny sections of fabric, which are individually wrapped.

Kimono, from the collection of Gentry Klossing, with finely detailed miura and nui shiboro

Kimono, from the collection of Gentry Klossing, with finely detailed miura (the diamonds) and nui (the waves) shiboro

Nui

Nui shibori uses stitching, either by hand or machine, rather than tying, to create designs.  From simple running stitches which gather and pleat, to flowers or other intricately stitched designs, nui shibori runs the gamut from super easy to unbelievably complex.

DIY Shibori Tips

shibori agistadler

photo courtesy of AgiStadler, Flickr

Shibori traditionally uses natural dyes, especially indigo. Jacquard makes an easy-to-use, pre-reduced, indigo dying kit, for a great price, too.  If you go this route, use a 5-gallon or larger bucket or plastic bin with a lid. Set this up and plan to dye outside for the sake of mess management. This dye kit will color a lot of fabric and will last 5 days when covered, so you can plan to spread the project over several days.

Or use any hot-water dye

You can also use synthetic dyes to achieve a shibori look, but be sure to use the kind prepared with a hot water dye bath. Natural dyes are immersion dyes, and so any synthetic dye you use should be this kind, too. Don’t use the popular squirt-to-apply types of dyes for your shibori projects.

I used a synthetic denim blue color dye bath in my stainless steel kitchen sink to achieve a softer blue for my batch of shibori pictured in this post. To get a darker and more authentic indigo color, you can mix denim and navy. Sarah Gibson from Room for Tuesday suggests mixing one bottle of Rit denim with half a bottle of Rit navy. Her pillows dyed in this bath look great!

Pillow project at Room for Tuesday

Pillow project at Room for Tuesday

Important DIY tips:

  • Wear gloves! Otherwise you’ll likely find it impossible to get the blue/black dye off your hands and, especially, fingernails. Besides being unsightly, this is not good because dyes are toxic chemicals which you’d rather not absorb into your system!
  • Take your time preparing the fabric. And have all fabric fully prepared for the dye bath BEFORE you start to prepare it. I rushed when tying the beans to make my kanoko circles and made a mess with my grid design! Take your time, do not hurry.
  • Rinse items individually until the water runs completely clear, then untie. If you don’t rinse completely before removing ties, your designs will turn out less crisp.

Easy shibori projects

Shibori is fun and you will enjoy it most if you start with simple techniques. Kanoko, Kumo, and Itajime are particularly beginner-friendly methods to use. You can shibori dye any item of white or off-white natural fiber fabric, such as cotton. You can even dye synthetic fabrics, as long as you choose a dye formulated for synthetics. I noticed Rit makes these now.

You can easily dye T-shirts, skirts, pillows and pillowcases, socks, scarves, and small fabric pieces in your kitchen sink. Sheets, curtain panels, and fabric yardage are easy to dye, too, though you may want to use a tub larger than your sink for these.

shibori altnoun shibori lisa dusseault shibori lisadusseault

I’m planning to use the fat quarters and long strips that I dyed today to make either a patchwork skirt and a top or a dress. I might make that project a tutorial for another post soon.

Have fun!

Shibori is fun, with near endless choices to explore. Unwrapping your dyed and rinsed shibori pieces to see the finished designs is as exciting as opening a real gift. Play with dye and have fun with it!

Flickr images licensed under the Creative Commons license.
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The Basics Photo Quilts

Once again, we come to the point on this blog where it’s reasonable to look into a new quilt type. The reason for this specific interest for this post is because I happened to figure out that making a certain type of quilt is a lot less difficult than I expected. In fact, I’m toying with the option of making one of these for a Christmas present this year.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, let’s look at the quilt type I’m referring to, and then we’ll go into the ease and benefits of making one.

The type of quilt in question is a photo quilt, and it gets its name in the way you might expect—it includes photographs in its design. Now, you can order a printed throw like this through a store, but if you’re going to own or gift something that’s as sentimental as a series of personal photographs, it makes sense to add in that additional personal touch of sewing it yourself.Picture 1

Up until recently, I never realized how simple this prospect could be because I couldn’t grasp how printed photographs made their way to a quilt—unless, of course, you bought the quilt that way. As it turns out, the process is actually simple. You can treat it like a general patchwork quilt—so long as you have printable fabric at your fingertips.

With that one addition to your sewing supplies, you can browse through your pictures to find the perfect ones for your project.Picture 3

If you’re going to create a photo quilt for a wedding gift, for instance, concentrate on images of the right couple together. Once you find enough fitting photographs for the prospect, scan them if you only have print copies and get to printing on that fabric! From there, you’ll need to rinse it and iron it to keep the ink from ruining in the wash or bleeding where you don’t want it to go. You can find those details here.

You can pick and choose other fabrics that complement the theme and look of the images to build the rest of the quilt, and you can tend to the trimming and sizing of the photo blocks in the same manner that you would any other fabric style. Essentially, you’re doing nothing differently expect printing and preparing some of your fabric rather than purchasing all of the fabrics already printed.Picture 1

This is a simple prospect, but it’s a wonderful idea to add personalization to quilts for your own home, for a nursery, for a gift… The process shows care because you searched for the right pictures and because you took the time to piece everything together yourself rather than run to a store to have it printed for you. In a world so technologically advanced, this is one of the ways to use technology to bring a personal quality to something homemade.

Remember that the fabric you pair your photographs with can add value to your work in that they can carry out a particular theme that you’re going for. If you’re creating a graduation quilt (like in the link provided) and you want to showcase all of the graduate’s high school friends for a keepsake to take to collage, choosing fabrics that represent their school’s colors or mascot would be useful, as would ones that reflect typical graduation items—like caps or diplomas.Picture 1

For a Mother’s Day present, you could consider what your mom’s favorite colors and items are and use them for inspiration in regard to other fabric choices. If she adores light blue and lilac, pairing the photographs with those hues can add a level of care to the overall product since it’s another bit of evidence that you know the recipient well enough to pattern the design for them.

You could also use these for your own purposes as well, such as printing off photographs from your trip to Rome or Venice for a European-themed work that showcases the pictures you took during your stay. Even a moment that might seem trivial could be represented through one of these quilts, like the first time you baked with your children. Just take enough photographs to commemorate the experience, then pair your printed photographs with colors that reflect the baked goods you created together. It’s a big way to remember in detail such a small moment.Picture 1

Overall, I’m very much interested in trying my hand at this quilt type, and you can expect updates as I go through the process of trying to construct one. It’s so personal, and I look forward to testing the waters on the matter—especially to see how well the ink stays in place through my own personal experience.

Have any of you ever tried a photo quilt? Suggestions? Let me know!

Hero Image Fitted Sheet

Make a Set of Sheets from a Duvet Cover

I’m a huge fan of custom bedding. In this post I’d like to show you how to turn a duvet cover into a set of fitted bed sheets. You will need a duvet cover that is the size of your mattress or larger. Our mattress is a queen and so is this duvet cover from Ikea. First, I prewashed the cover and then turned it inside out.

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I don’t waste time trying to unpick the seams of the covers. I take my scissors and simply cut off all the seams around the three sides that are sewn.

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Iron the large rectangular piece of fabric that you’ve created by chopping away the seams.

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You should have a nicely ironed and very long piece of fabric now. Turn to your mattress and find its length and width. My mattress is a custom size. It’ dimensions are 53” x 75”.

The width is 4”. I add an extra 2” for a fitted sheet to wrap under the mattress and an additional 1” for seams (½” plus ½” for turning). To find the total length and width I need for a fitted sheet then, I add 7” + (width or length) + 7” = total width or length needed. In my case I needed a large rectangle 67” x 89”.

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First I mark the shorter side of the sheet and cut the long strip of extra fabric away. Then I mark the length of the first sheet and then the length of the second sheet. For the second sheet you will often be a few inches short. If this happens I take fabric from the long side piece I discarded and sew it onto the ends to elongate it.

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Now cut out 7” squares (or whatever your measurement is which will depend on the depth of your mattress). If you did your math right, the rectangle formed between those cut out squares will equal the same length/width as your mattress.

If you want to make the second sheet right away, then sew any fabric you need to make it long enough, and then repeat the process, cutting out the 7” squares. I made two fitted sheets because we don’t use top sheets but you could make the second sheet a top sheet.

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Take your fabric to your sewing machines and sew the corners together. I sew first a straight stitch and then finish with a zig zag. Do this for all four corners.

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There are many ways to finish the edges of a fitted sheet. I like to finger fold over the fabric by ½” then another ½”, then place the elastic on top. I move that over to the machine and begin sewing a zig zag stitch.

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Once I’ve secured the elastic, I begin to hold it taught (but too tightly) and sew around the entire sheet this way. I finger fold over the fabric, hold the elastic taught, sew and repeat over and over until I’ve made it completely around.

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Soon the seams will look like this as you keep working.

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And here’s what it will look like when you are done.

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Take it over to the bed and try it out. If you’ve done your math right, and not pulled your elastic too tightly, it will fit like a dream. Make the other sheet now and you’ll have a spare.

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Charlotte Kaufman is a writer and sewist in Mammoth Lakes, California. She specializes in marine and home interiors and continues to fall more and more in love with quilting. You can follow her at charlottekaufman.com.
Back to School and My First Alteration

Back to School and My First Alteration

It’s the middle of August and, according to the Internet, Back to School time.

It’s the middle of August and, according to the Internet, Back to School time.

I was such a geeky, nerdy kid that I always loved going back to school in the fall. And I always liked autumn clothing better than summer clothing. Probably because I have a soft spot for anything plaid and earth toned, both of which tend to be predominate in fall fashions.

Turn back the clock

 

I grew up in the 70s and 80s when J. C. Penney and Sears still put out their big book catalogues. I spent hours going through those, ear marking the pages that pictured the clothing items I most wanted. We never actually ordered anything from the catalogues. My mom was a big proponent of in-person shopping. Even to this day, she’s not so keen on ordering things from the internet.

Instead, on a Saturday or Sunday in August, she’d load all four of us kids into the van for a trip to Midway Mall or, if we were feeling fancier, Great Northern Mall. Midway Mall is in Elyria, Ohio and it had a Penney’s and a Sears. (I suspect it still does.) Great Northern Mall is in North Olmstead. We always thought of it as being a bit more high end the Midway Mall though I have no idea if that was true or not. Great Northern had a Penney’s and Sears as well but, it also had a Macy’s.

I would spend hours searching the racks for the garments I had identified in the catalogues, or something as similar as I could find. Then I’d try on a pile of clothing in the dressing room. I always wanted much more than Mom’s budget would allow so then I’d go through a lengthy editing process until my choices added up to what Mom was able to spend. Every year there was one thing I desperately wanted that Mom didn’t want to buy for me because she thought it was too trendy and I’d lose interest in it after a month or two.

Every year there was one thing I desperately wanted that Mom didn’t want to buy for me because she thought it was too trendy and I’d lose interest in it after a month or two.

Every year there was one thing I desperately wanted that Mom didn’t want to buy for me because she thought it was too trendy and I’d lose interest in it after a month or two.

Pin striped adventures

When I was 12 or 13 and in junior high school, I was obsessed with pin striped pants and ties. Mom agreed to buy me one pair of pin striped jeans but told me if I wanted any more, especially the wide legged, pleated pair, I’d have to figure out how to make them myself. As for the ties, she had some old ones from her father I could have.

I had no idea at this time how to go about making a pair of pants. I also didn’t happen to have any pinstriped fabric lying around.

But my Dad did, at least he had some pinstriped pants shoved deep into his closet that he never wore. The pair I liked the most were rust and brown and one Saturday afternoon when both he and my Mom were at work, I extracted them from the closet.

They were, of course, humongous on me but I knew how to sew so I figured I could alter them to fit. I was afraid that someone would come home and stop me mid alteration so I didn’t bother taking anything apart first. I just started adding pleats to the waistband, two to each side that I topstitched all the way down the legs. Then two in the back. I chopped off the hem, unintentionally rendering the pants capri-length. When I put them on, I decided the capri-length made them more fashion-y and I was going to wear them to school the next day.

Zero photo evidence

I wish there was a photo of me in these pants but there is not.

I wish there was a photo of me in these pants but there is not.

I wish there was a photo of me in these pants but there is not. I did put them on Monday morning, along with a brown turtleneck, a brown belt, and my flat brown capezio lace up shoes. The pants were bulky since I hadn’t trimmed any of the fabric out when I altered them and the legs stuck out because of the same but I thought they looked cool. When I walked into the kitchen, my Mom did a double take. She opened her mouth to say something then closed it again. I waited for her to yell at me or, worse yet, to give me the “I’m so disappointed in you” look.

But, instead, she stifled a laugh and said, “Well that explains why there was brown thread all over the sewing room. Next time, you really should trim out some of the excess fabric. That waistband wouldn’t be so bulky then.”

“You’re not mad?” I asked.

I’m not. I’ve been telling your father for years to get rid of those pants. But we should probably ask him if it’s ok.”

And there marked a three or four year period of me altering my father’s 1960s clothing to fit me. My mom was happy that I didn’t ask her to buy me as much at Penney’s and Sears. I was happy that I had clothes that were not like everyone else’s. And my dad was just happy that me repurposing his old trousers gave my mom one less thing to nag him about (my father was never very good at throwing “perfectly good” old items away).

I don’t know what the other kids at school really thought about my vintage dad wardrobe. I was already considered weird before I started donning old pinstriped pants so I suspect it just solidified that sentiment. I am, though, forever thankful to my parents for letting me develop my own little bizarre fashion style, and for encouraging my sewing habit.

Whoever would’ve thought it would turn into a lucrative career.

Sewing with Confidence

Sewing with Confidence

Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced sewer, there will always be projects that seem too tough, that are hard to feel completely confident about taking on. Without a way to approach projects confidently, it can be tempting to skip doing them all together. What a shame it is when we miss out on making something special simply because it seems too hard. Instead, try using these tips to build your confidence and get that project done.

self-confidence-2121159_1280

Break it Down

Often, I find myself feeling overwhelmed by a project if I try to look ahead at all the directions. With simpler projects, I can do that and picture the whole thing coming together in my mind. With more complex projects, reading ahead sometimes makes me feel like it’s too hard. I won’t see the project. Instead, I get lost in the words of it and panic at the sight of terms I’ve not seen before.

The simplest and quickest way to overcome my fears and boost my sewing confidence is to take it one step at a time. Instead of reading through the whole thing, I only focus on the step I’m currently working on and the move on to the next. This makes it easy to look up any terms I’m not familiar with and complete each step successfully. And, of course, doing this generates more confidence. I have a hunch it will be the same for you. Give it a try and let me know how it goes.

Ask for Help

Although sewing is largely a solo hobby, that doesn’t mean you have to work through every project on your own. If you’re stuck, bring your fabric and the pattern to your local fabric or sewing machine store and ask their experts to help you out. They may be able to give you an explanation that’s easier to understand than the one written in your pattern instructions. Also, having the corresponding fabric pieces may help to show you a way to pin or cut the pieces to match what the instructions are asking you to do. And once you’ve learned it, you can apply it, confidently, to future projects.

These two tricks have helped me tackle everything from a sundress to a wedding dress with confidence and wind up with gorgeous completed projects that I’m proud to wear. The next time you’re feeling overwhelmed by a project, don’t fret. Try these two tips and get the confidence you need to complete the project without stress.

Building Creative Confidence

Building Creative Confidence

Building Confidence

I have been away for awhile packing and moving into our new home. Unable to do any sewing with so many other things taking priority, I have missed my time with you.

The first thing I did is set up my office, so I can begin to feel productive again. Although I cannot offer an alternative method to sew a project this week, I want to create awareness of something we may take for granted. Its still about sewing, but sewing psychology!

I have gained a whole new respect for people who use their talents to produce window coverings. It is labor intensive and costly for the buyer. Naturally, today’s modern new builds will be designed differently than the earlier built homes. I always think of the difference between mid-century designs and what is popular today. Things you have to consider now are tall and narrow windows. Half arch windows above doors, double and triple wide windows in family rooms and bedrooms. I see French doors instead of sliding glass patio doors, and particularly windows to the floor versus horizontal windows high on the wall.

Times change

Times have changed and the fabric design and methods of making draperies have given us so many wonderful options. The awesome part is you can find companies that have talented people machine stitch and finish them by hand, stitching the hems and tacking the pleats, grommets, tabs, or other headers. Can you even comprehend what a huge job that is?

Shoot for the sun, the moon, and the stars, and then we will go from there.

1 panel 40” wide by 108” long, cutting the fabric perfectly straight and carefully sewing the seams by machine and stitching the header and hem by hand. I understand why it takes six weeks for the completed project.

1 panel 40” wide by 108” long, cutting the fabric perfectly straight and carefully sewing the seams by machine and stitching the header and hem by hand. I understand why it takes six weeks for the completed project.

Secondly, if you have been following my blog, you already know how much I love fabric. We have only been here a week, and my sewing studio is not operative yet, but I have been basking in my product samples from a few different shade and drapery companies. I thought, new home, new life, so I will make it exquisite by professionally made drapes and roller shades. A few weeks ago, I began order sample swatches to see quality and color to design a cohesive, interesting theme.

Overload

Overwhelm Overload!!

Overwhelm Overload!! I wasn’t even in the house yet and I was stressed about the overall look I wanted to achieve. I just knew I loved every color and sample I received. Does this sound like anyone else you know? I feel this same emotion when looking for fabric for sewing and quilting as well. (I imagine others do too.)

Similar to how I have described “improvisational” sewing in the past, you have to start somewhere to “dress” several windows in a newly built house. You just have jump in and play with the samples, and the colors, and find your taste. Take a break for awhile, read design magazines, think about how you live and what makes you happy. You are a designer, its your choice!

Okay, we are here, moved in and windows bare! Its decision time. Because I wanted our window treatments professionally measured and hung, I invited a design consultant who was very experienced and had exceptional reviews on her work. She only does window coverings and I had many options to consider. Even though I had a good idea what I wanted to accomplish, her comments and mostly her product knowledge opened new doors for an even greater creative experience.

She had very good advice when we started the process.

She said, “Shoot for the sun, the moon, and the stars, and then we will go from there.”

She said, “Shoot for the sun, the moon, and the stars, and then we will go from there.”

She said, “Shoot for the sun, the moon, and the stars, and then we will go from there.” Basically, she meant what is your ultimate vision of your home to suit the needs of your family? (That was an open door to all the ideas I had thought about all these months.) Of course, some ideas I knew were not obtainable, but also, the hope of a future goal was there. So, we went over the design, the samples, rods and finials. The roller shades, the Roman blinds, and the solars. But she reminded me, “Its about you not what others think you should do”.

Yes, I was almost to the moon when I saw the value of my dreams. Needless to say, with my financial advisor’s advice, (aka hubby), we came down to earth and comprised on a plan with the promise of continuing our dreams down the road. However, now, I have a vision of making panels myself for one or two of the smaller size windows. I know I can do it! My ulterior motive is to save that money for that crystal chandelier I have been admiring!

The moral of this story is not about sewing techniques, it is about the pleasure you get from coming out of your comfort zone, finding yourself and your tastes, and being courageous enough to feel confident in moving forward in your goals. Sewing is being creative!

Sewing is about making beautiful things, like silk draperies, and Roman blinds. Sewing and fabric in today’s world is earthy and organic. Sewing is also for fashion, and quilted blankets, warmth, and clothing. It is my therapy. It makes me happy!

SewingmachinesPlus.com has what you need to get started with your creations! Tell them your dream! They will help you get started.

The Lace-Maker by Tropinin

The Lace-Maker by Tropinin

Once more, we’re turning to an artist’s rendering of a sewing topic for exploration and analysis, and this time, it’s coming with a couple of twists. Before we dive into those twists, let’s go ahead and introduce you to the painting that’s the focus of today’s post.

The Painting: The Lace-Maker

The Artist: Vasilii Andreevich Tropinin

The medium: Oil on canvas

The year: 1823

Picture 1

Masterpiece

This is an eye-catching piece, and one of the most immediate concepts that separate it from works that have already been explored on the blog can be noted in its title. The topic isn’t just sewing stitches or making repairs, but rather the very specific task of making lace, which might require different tools than general sewing. The woman in the painting isn’t using a regular needle, clearly, which provides a unique view into the world of sewing.Picture 4

In fact, this entire painting is varied from some of the ones that historically came before it since it’s showing an average woman tending to the lace’s creation rather than someone from high class (“Vasilii Andreevich Tropinin: The Lace-Maker,” n.d.). This woman looks like someone you might see working on a sewing project in the comfort of home, and that quality creates a similarity between the average viewer and the painted woman. You can relate to her because it’s so akin to your approach—sewing in your own home.

Both of these aspects are showcased specifically in the painting—the tools and the woman—through the triangular configuration that’s been noted on other artistic works. Within the triangle of focus, you have the woman and the tools she’s using, allowing your eye to primarily be drawn right to them.

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It’s about the passion, not the project

It’s also worth noting that we don’t see much of the actual lace being made. We see the woman. We see her working. But the project is mostly facing toward her, so our view of it is limited. It can be interpreted that the lace-maker herself and the process of making the lace are, to the artist, more significant than the actual project.

By extension, you could continue this logic to assume that the woman in the work is a beginner or early lace-maker, and that the process doesn’t need to be tarnished by seeing a newer lace-maker’s mistakes and missteps. This notion can be argued as mirrored in the idea that her hands look dainty as she tends to the process, which might lead the viewer to assume that she’s treading lightly into the field. She isn’t gripping the tool firmly, and the overall result can look like the carefulness and hesitance of a beginner.Picture 4

Personality and disposition

One could argue as well that the smile on her face is another detail that brings this new-lace-maker quality to life, as if the woman is happy to give this process a try and perhaps pleased with her progress. Unfortunately though, her face is the main spot where the argument could shift in favor of the woman being very secure in her craft, as if she’s done this again and again over the years. There’s no uncertain furrow in her brow or any lines of tension on her face like you might expect from someone struggling to get the hang of such an activity. Rather, she looks calm and relaxed, and that mind frame can be labeled as out of place for a new lace-maker being caught on canvas.

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If you consider that detail—that her face is so free of lines of tension—the other elements can suddenly take a new turn as well. Maybe those hands aren’t dainty with hesitance. Maybe they’re loose from comfort with the process, like the casual grasp she has is enough to professionally finish the task. If you decide on this method of logic, the project being pointed toward the woman can mean that her comfort with the task is what’s supposed to be shown. You don’t need, from that point of view, to see the project. The woman is too at-ease with the process to be creating anything less than successful through her endeavors.

Light and shade

This notion of comfort can be seen in the lighting of the painting as well since, for the most part, everything is well-lit and in the spotlight. Other than the shady corners at the top, the space under the table, and the area underneath the platform the project is on, little is dark about this work. That sustained level of lighting speaks to an overall bright experience, and the similarity of color throughout adds to that calmness. No hue drastically sticks out, and other than the handful of dark places, nothing severely falls into the background in regard to those hues. Everything is neutral or placid enough in color to create an overall image of cohesion and balance.

With all of these elements combined, it’s sensible to interpret this as Tropinin’s attempt to showcase an average woman tending to a very specific task with so much expertise that she’s calm and tranquil throughout the experience. It’s a primarily bright experience that she feels comfort in, with little dynamism about the process due to her ease with the task while she works on a project that the viewer doesn’t need to see to know it will be a success.

References
“The Lace-Maker.” (n.d.). Russian Art Gallery. Retrieved from http://russianartgallery.org/famous/tropinin_lacemaker.htm
“Vasilii Andreevich Tropinin: The Lace Maker.” (n.d.). Rollins College. Retrieved from https://myweb.rollins.edu/aboguslawski/Ruspaint/troplace.html
DIY Drawstring Fabric Bag

DIY Drawstring Fabric Bag

I use fabric drawstring bags to organize everything. My girls have a set I created for them for traveling; the bags hold their socks, underwear, and toys. I used a separate set for my own travels and also have a bag I use to transport my gym shoes in my backpack (so the shoes don’t get the interior of my bag dirty.)

Any time I have a new need, I whip up a bag or some bags for the job. For this project, I wanted a small pouch to hold my ear plugs and eye mask. I’m a writer and I spend a lot of time writing in coffee shops and libraries (yes, sometimes libraries can be loud). And when I travel overnight, I also bring my sleep mask.

Don’t throw that away!

This is a piece of scrap fabric a girlfriend sent to me. “I bet you could use this,” she said. And she was right.

I drew a rectangle 15.5”x 5.5” (centering the pattern.)

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I cut out the long sides of the rectangle with pinking shears and regular fabric scissors on the shorter ends.

Next, I folded the fabric over, right sides together and drew a ¼” seam on each side. (If you can eyeball this, go ahead). The seam stops on each side 1.75” from the top. Start at the bottom and sew to that spot, back tacking at the end of the seam (on both sides.)

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I snipped just a tiny bit on all four sides of the bag and then folded the seams in all four sides. First I finger pressed, then I ironed and starched them down.

4

Let’s straighten this out

Next I folded the top of the front and back down ¼” inch and ironed and starched as well.

5

Now I did a supporting seam starting at the side seam and going around the top of the fabric to the other seam. Do this on both sides.

6

Now fold each top down to meet the top of the sewed side seam. You should see how the drawstring casings will be formed now. Iron and starch each folded side down.

7

8

Sew across each side from the side seam across to the other side seam. I used the stitching I did prior as a guide for where to sew. Make sure you don’t catch the other side of the bag while you sew.

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Lovely! Look how nice it looks inside out. Imagine how great it will be when you turn it right sides out! First I zig zag stitch the sides and trim the bottom corners before turning.

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Now to tie it all together…

Whoohoo! Give it one more iron and starching to take it to the next level. Then measure out enough ribbon for a double drawstring.

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I used a safety pin to feed the ribbon through each side and around.

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Tie a not on the end of each piece of ribbon, use pinking shears on the end of the ribbon, and you are finished!

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This is perfect for slipping in my bag when I’m going out to write.

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And my eye mask fits in beautifully too.

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Charlotte Kaufman is a writer and sewist in Mammoth Lakes, California. She specializes in marine and home interiors and continues to fall more and more in love with quilting. You can follow her at charlottekaufman.com.
Tutorial: More Kinchaku Japanese Drawstring Bags

Tutorial: More Kinchaku Japanese Drawstring Bags

We made lotus shaped kinchaku drawstring bags here on the blog a couple of weeks ago. I told you then that there are other ways to make kinchaku, too. So let’s look at these now.

Kinchaku are purse or lunch sized drawstring pouches. They were traditionally made with chirimen, which are kimono fabrics. They are most often made with a round or square bottom.And they are and were extremely popular with ladies in Japan, both now and in history.

I didn’t have any chirimen fabric, but I did have a piece of Robert Kaufman Tranquility fabric with a crane motif and hints of gold shimmer.

kinchaku tutorial

Square kinchaku, fabric by Robert Kaufman

I started with this Japanese inspired print, and then I made these in all sorts of other prints, too.

kinchaku Japanese bag tutorial by Millie Green

These are reversible, by the way, when you make them the way I’m showing you.

How to sew kinchaku

You can make your kinchaku with a square  or a round bottom.

Kinchaku tutorial by Millie Green

Small kinchaku made from five and six-inch squares

You can make them any size that you like.  Use three or four inch squares and add pockets inside to make a small pouch for carrying jewelry. Or use eight or nine inch squares to make a large purse. I think seven and a half inch squares are the perfect size for lunch bags.

I made one that’s ten inches all around, but once you make these that large or bigger, then they become komebukuro. We’ll save those for another post.

Make them sturdy

You will want to prepare your fabric squares before sewing these together in order to create a nice sturdy bag. You have choices here, and I recommend you make your choice based on the wise old principle of using what you have.

Prepare your squares using any combination of:

  • Batting and backing
  • Fusible fleece
  • Midweight interfacing
  • Heavyweight interfacing
  • Felt
  • Canvas
  • Duck
  • Denim

I like to use fusible fleece on five of the squares and midweight interfacing or sturdy duck or denim for the other five. Felt works nicely in place of fusible fleece.

For canvas, felt, or anything other than fusible type interfacing, you can baste the sturdier fabric to the back of a lighter weight cotton if you are using this for your outer fabric. To baste, just sew these together with a scant 1/8” inch allowance all around.

Or make a miniature “quilt sandwich” by layering your outer fabric over a layer of wadding (batting) and a backing square. Then quilt these together. You can have fun with this and do some fancy or decorative quilting. Or you can keep it simple.

Kinchaku tutorial by Millie Green

I had some fun quilting on the outer base square for these kinchaku.

You can add pockets to some or all of the lining squares, too. Do this now, after you interface the pieces and before you sew them together.

Of course you should feel free to construct your fabric pieces by patchwork. Simple four-patch works nicely here, or use your imagination and go wild.

large kinchaku

Ten inch square bags (made here from four- patched five-and-a-half inch squares) are a great size for a project bag for knitting or other take-along crafts.

To make square kinchaku

Kinchaku sewing tutorial

You will need five squares of outer fabric and five lining fabric squares, prepared (as discussed above).

For the exterior, I like to use a contrasting square, possibly of the lining fabric, for the bottom piece. In this case, I cut four of the outer fabric and six of the lining.

Take the bottom piece, and sew the other four pieces to the four sides of this bottom square,right sides together,  starting and stopping a seam allowance width from the edges.

Then, sew these four squares to each other, creating the side seams. Now use your fingers and eyes to check and make sure there are no openings in these seams. Fix this now if you missed any spaces.  You can turn it right sides out and look at it now if you want. Then repeat with the remaining five squares.

Skip to the next section to finish your square kinchaku.

To make round kinchaku

Round kinchaku tutorial

You need two circles for the outer and lining bottoms, and a piece of each fabric that is as tall as you’d like your round kinchaku to be by the circumference of your circle, plus seam allowance. You can use a compass or trace a dish or other round object to make your circles.

Prepare your fabrics as discussed above. Then, simply sew the other piece right sides together around the circle and then sew the side seam. It’s easy to sew the circle, just go slowly and carefully guide your fabric to keep your seam allowance uniform.

You can clip little slits in the seam allowance all around if you like, but if your seam allowance is narrow you won’t need to clip much if at all. Check the bottom and side seam with your eyes and fingers to make sure everything is connected and you didn’t accidentally miss a spot. It is easy to fix these mistakes now. Turn right sides out, if you like. Then repeat for the lining piece and base.

To make the drawstring casing

For either square or round kinchaku, you have options in constructing your drawstring casing.

You can make tabs from matching or contrasting fabric, grosgrain or other ribbon, or bias binding. You can make several evenly spaced  tabs or just choose one wide tab centered on each of the four sides.

I like to use contrasting fabric. To make the tabs like I have done for most of the kinchaku pictured here, cut four same sized rectangles. Cut them between three and four inches wide by a length that is anywhere between one-third and five-sixths of the width of your squares. Turn and press a narrow hem on all the short sides, then sew these down. Now fold along the long edge, and center it along the top edge of one of the squares with the raw edges of the folded rectangle aligned with the raw edges of the square. Baste down with a one-eighth inch seam allowance. Repeat for the other three tabs.

You could do the same thing with shorter squares rather than rectangles and space two or three tabs along each square. If you use narrow bias binding, cord, or ribbon, you will want to use more tabs.

You can use contrasting fabric, even satin for the lining, and add pockets if you choose.

You can use contrasting fabric, even satin for the lining, and add pockets if you choose.

To finish your kinchaku

Place the inside and outside bag pieces right sides together, with the casing or tabs sandwiched between the two layers. Sew together, leaving an opening big enough to turn. Turn right sides out. Pull the tabs and push the lining down into the bag.

Sew the opening closed and continue top-stitching all the way around the top of the bag. Pull down on the lining and straighten the top seam as you sew.

Now thread a cord or ribbon through all tabs and tie the ends together. Then thread another cord of the same length starting and ending on the opposite side of where you started and ended the first cord. Tie the second drawstring and your bag is complete. You can tie the cords in a bow or use them as handles to carry your bag.

These are addictive

kinchaku tutorial

I can’t stop making these bags! They go together so quickly and are so cute and sturdy; sewing them is addictive. That’s good because these will make great gifts. Try this quick easy project and I bet you can’t make just one either.

Happy sewing!

Sewing With Voices

Sewing With Voices

As is my custom, this weekend, I was out with the guys riding bikes up mountains and we got to talking about podcasts and television shows and books and stuff. One of them said he didn’t really ever have time to listen to podcasts and was surprised I had time to do so.

“I listen while I sew at work,” I said.

“Really? You can pay attention to both of those things at once?” he asked.

“Yes, I really can,” I answered. And I can.

Listen while you work

I hadn’t ever really thought about it before, though. I’ve always been able to listen to radio shows or audiobooks or podcasts while sewing. I’ve even been known to watch Netflix if I’m not in a super time crunch. By “watch”, I really mean listen to a show I’ve already seen and don’t have to pay that close attention to. Or something like Law and Order that you don’t need to see the whole thing to get the gist of. Or something really cheesy like The Ghost Whisperer that only requires half your brain, at best.

Long ago, when I worked at The Alley Theatre in Houston, TX, we’d listen to audio books on the shop stereo in the afternoon. It was actually a really cool way to “read” a book. Then we’d get into lengthy debates and discussions about whatever we were listening to. We had our own sewing book club down there in the costume shop.

Hammer time

My friend Kassandra and I used to watch the morning talk shows while we made costumes for the VH1 special on MC Hammer. And these days, if I’m at work and not in a fitting, I’m listening to something like This American Life, StarTalk , Stuff You Should Know, Undisclosed, Radiolab, Ear Hustle – my list goes on and on.

Every once in awhile I come across an article that claims that humans are, in general, unable to do more than one thing at once and anyone who says they are a multi-tasker is not being completely truthful. Usually, the author will then go on to explain that people can’t really concentrate on more than one thing at once, that its scientifically impossible.

Neil deGrasse Tyson

Neil deGrasse Tyson.

But I just don’t think that’s true. I can listen to Neil Degrasse Tyson talk about black holes and the speed of light and measure, cut, pin, and sew at the same time. I can even pattern or drape while listening to something. I guess because, at this point, a lot of what I do sewing-wise I’ve done countless times before so its kind of second nature and I don’t need my full concentration to do it correctly.

In contrast, though, I can’t talk on the phone while sewing and if someone has questions or needs to have a conversation with me, I have to stop what I’m doing (and its not just because I think its rude to not look someone in the eye when conversing). I have worked with people though, who seem to be able to video chat or skype while sewing. One of the ladies who worked for me on Boardwalk Empire was always skyping Russia.

Which reminds me of one particular day during Boardwalk. It was the afternoon and we were super busy. There was music on the background. We always had music on, just some Pandora station that we’d take turns choosing. Everyone was working away steadily on different projects, immersed in their own little worlds. I was patterning something, I don’t remember what, when I paused for a minute to look up and listen to the conversations going on in the shop.

There was one in Russian, another in Turkish, still another in French, a couple in English (obviously), one in Spanish and one in Arabic. It was all quite wonderful and made me really proud of the amazing diverse shop full of talented people I had around me.

And speaking of languages; that’s another thing you can do while sewing. You can listen to a language learning app or book.

I love that I can learn something new or get lost in someone else’s story while still creating something with my hands. I think it’s a wonderful ability to have, a gift even.

I think most of us who sew are true multi-taskers. (We’re pretty cool like that). I’d love to know what other people listen to or watch while working on projects.

I’m also in search of any new and interesting podcasts to listen to if you have any suggestions.

Happy sewing! (and listening).