The Dos and Don’ts of Sewing: Cinderella Style

The Dos and Don’ts of Sewing: Cinderella Style

One of the most classic Disney movies is Cinderella, the 1950’s cartoon version of the popular fairy tale. In this story, we see Cinderella go from being a young girl who loses her mother and has to live with an unloving step-family to a woman who’s optimistic enough to take a chance by going to a fancy ball and catching the prince’s eye.

Every detail about this story line isn’t perfect—if she’s Prince Charming’s love, why can’t he recognize her without this shoe business?—but it’s still a staple for a lot of people in regard to movies they adored as children.

For a person who grows to appreciate sewing, the film can have another level of intrigue because sewing is a part of the story. Before the Fairy Godmother comes by to provide Cinderella her glittering, beautiful gown, she goes through the process of planning her own dress, which will be constructed from tools and materials within her home. The actual dressmaking happens at the hands of a team of friendly rodents once they realize Cinderella is too busy to finish the project herself, and the musical scene connected to their sewing is one of the most recognizable ones from Disney.Disney4

Beyond those aspects of familiarity and youth, there’s unique sewing advice happening within that dressmaking scene that you could apply to sewing endeavors. All it takes is a little consideration and a bit of imagination to find those gems of guidance within the lighthearted scenes of sewing.

For instance, these mice have applicable tools at their disposal to see this dress come to life. There’s no machine in sight, but you do see other sewing essentials, like needle, thread, scissors, and chalk, all of which can at least be representations of things that are useful for sewing. The chalk, as an example, can be replaced by soluble pencils to trace your cutting lines, and like the bulky chalk the mice are using, you can wash out the remnants later. With that strategy, you’re making sure you’re sewing in a more precise way without forever damaging the fabric. Good strategy, mice!Disney5

As the dress is being assembled through pulley systems and such, the mice have a dress form setup to keep the fabric in its most natural wearing position. This detail cannot be overstated if you’re going to sew clothing like Cinderella’s dress because it makes you able to see the dress as it should be rather than bunching it up or expanding it unnaturally on a flat surface. You can tell how the dress will look, and you could prevent a time or two of accidentally sewing your dress sides together in the wrong places. Like the mice, make sure you have that form for these purposes!Disney3

Unfortunately, though, the mice didn’t quite get everything right, and it makes sense to note those things as well. For example, you probably want to use a better method of organizing your supplies than a simple wicker basket that you can dive into. Even if you’re just tossing all of your supplies into a container like this and reaching in to gather what you need, if your organization is lacking, you could end up getting a sewing needle or straight pin in your hand. For the mice, this is particularly bad since the needle is about as tall as they are, but even for human-sized sewing fans, a straight pin in the hand can hurt!Disney2

For this reason, you should consider organizing your sewing utensils better than our Cinderella mice friends! Use different containers for different items, have shelves to display them, use chest drawers to keep them stored… Whatever your strategy, do yourself the favor of not piling everything into one area that’s dooming you to minor injury!

One more detail the mice get wrong is how simple they make assembling this dress seem. Sure, they employ pulleys that you probably won’t work with, but let’s be honest. Cinderella simply points out a picture in a book that she wants her dress to look like and gives very basic instructions about what needs to be done, and the mice infer all of the in-between information even though there are no measurements listed at all in the book.Disney

Fortunately for the mice, the foundation of this dress is already assembled since Cinderella is intending to alter something that she already has—another good tip from the mice: use what’s around you!—but if you take this at face value, the process is too simple. Without having measurements, at least, you could be setting yourself up to fail.Disney6

So rather than just picking a picture, use a pattern or at least take the measurements of the person who’s supposed to wear the finished product. Remember, after all, that the dress Cinderella intends to alter is her mother’s—not hers. There could’ve easily needed to be some redefining done to make it fit Cinderella just right, and the mice take a risk by not being more specific. On this, don’t be like the mice! Be measure-specific!

In the end, while the mice got some things very right and some things pretty wrong, it’s a catchy scene with an upbeat song that embraces sewing in a youthful manner. So, embrace the mice’s optimism, apply their useful techniques, and learn from what they did wrong.


Reference for all photos
Disney, W. (Producer), & Geronimi, C., Jackson, W., & Luske, H. (Directors). (1950). Cinderella [Motion Picture]. United States: Walt Disney Company.
hero image - french seams

How to Sew a French Seam

hero image - french seams

French seams are a way to finish a seam so there are no raw or exposed edges of fabric on the seam. They work great for thin or delicate fabric, or any project where you want both the outward showing and inward showing seams to look good.

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Some people balk at trying them and I think it’s because it feels like you are sewing in reverse. To start a French seam you have to sew a seam on the right side of the fabric, and that just feels wrong. I get it, I do. But if you trust the process, you’ll love how it all turns out.

Here is an example on two pre-cut fabric squares. I’m going to join these together with no exposed seams by using the French seam method. First, place the fabric WRONG sides together.

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Now sew your seam. Your seam allowance will depend on the fabric you are using and the type of project. For ease of explanation I did a ½” seam.

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Next, cut down the excess fabric a bit and then head to your ironing board. Do NOT skip ironing when sewing French seams. As with most sewing projects, ironing can make all the difference.

Iron the seam to one side. Flip the fabric over and iron the seam on the reverse as well.

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Now fold the fabric on the seam you’ve created. I like to iron this too. For good measure, you can pin the fabric in place so it doesn’t move when you sew again.

Take the fabric over to your machine and sew another seam, this time on the wrong side of the fabric. You want to sew a seam that is wide enough to fully enclose the raw seam on the inside portion. I sewed ½” again (remember I had trimmed down my previous raw edge to about ¼”.)

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Voilà! Now your seams are completely encased. Très bien.

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The last and important step is to press once again. Open up your seam and press on the front AND back of your fabric.

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You’ve done it! THAT is a French seam. The applications are endless, just trust the process and don’t worry about starting a seam on the right side of fabric. Happy sewing!

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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.

When Alterations Go Wrong

When Alterations Go Wrong

Things don’t always go as expected. Sometimes you do something and it fails to turn out like you imagined it would. Or it just doesn’t look as good as you wanted. Sometimes you unintentionally execute a crappy alteration.

There’s no reason to panic or get upset when this happens. You simply fix whatever it is. A problem only arises when you don’t see that something has gone awry or you try and convince someone that nothing is wrong; the garment just needs a good press.

twisting sleeves

twisting sleeves

Ironing and a healthy dose of steam can right all kinds of wrongs but neither of those things can make a bad alteration, good.

The old distraction trick

This past week, a Costume Designer friend of mine, Lauren, called to ask if I could look at a suit jacket for a friend of hers. He’s getting married in a few weeks and had purchased a Brooks Brothers suit. Brooks Brothers had recommended a tailor for him to go to for alterations.

The suit didn’t need all that much, just a little taking in on the sides to slim it a bit. When my friend’s friend – I’ll call him Dan – went to pick up his suit and tried on the jacket, he noticed some strange twisting in the sleeve. His fiancé (I’ll call her Kate), was with him.

They both pointed out the twisting to the tailor, but the man kept insisting that all they needed to do was send the suit out to be pressed and they should take a look at the back because it was smooth. You know, the old distraction trick.

Well, Dan and Kate weren’t really buying it, but they paid the man and took the suit to the dry cleaners to be pressed professionally. As they suspected, when they picked up the suit, nothing had changed. The sleeves were still hanging in a sort of corkscrew way. That’s when they asked Lauren if she knew someone who could help and they ended up calling me.

Its much easier to fix your own alteration snafus than it is to remedy the ones of others, mainly because you know what you did to get to where you are. When you’re not the one that started the whole thing, you have to use a bit of detective work.

Before I told Kate and Dan that I could fix the twisting sleeves, I opened the lining of the jacket to see what I could see. Men’s suit jacket sleeve linings are stitched in by hand at the armseye so that’s where to open them up.

I took out the sleeve lining from the back notch to the front notch, then unattached the lining body from the jacket body at the armseye.

Suit jackets are constructed fairly standardly when it comes to seam allowances. I could see that the side back seam of the jacket had been taken in, but just in the back, as well as the side front seam above the pocket. All of that had been done quite nicely, and the shoulder part of the sleeve was smooth and lovely. The problem was with how the bottom portion of the sleeve had been put back in.

Fitted Armholes

Men’s suit jackets, as a rule, have pretty fitted and constricting armholes. When you take in the side back and side front seams, you make the armhole smaller. If you don’t take in the seams equally front and back, you change where the bottom of the sleeve is (where a side seam would be if men’s suit jackets had side seams). You have to compensate for this in some way or your sleeve will be off balance and hang in a weird way.

Which is what happened in this instance. There are a couple ways the original tailor could have prevented this.

He could have taken in the sleeve itself the same amount he took in the body of the jacket. I don’t normally do this, though, unless the entire sleeve really does need to be slimmed. A better, more accurate way, to solve the twisting sleeve problem (in my opinion, at least) is to drop the armseye, starting from the back notch and ending at the front notch. What this does is make the armhole bigger and, essentially, the same size it was before you took in those jacket seams.

Oh boy…

In this particular jacket, not only did the tailor neglect to lower the armhole, but, when he eased the too big sleeve into the smaller jacket armseye, he rotated the whole bottom part of the sleeve too far forward.

Once I dropped the armseye, the sleeve, once again, fit perfectly and I was able to line up the bottom of the jacket body with the bottom of the sleeve. No more twisting!

Dan and Kate are happy now – though they’re asking the first tailor for some money back. I don’t think the man is necessarily a bad tailor because his alteration didn’t turn out so well (everyone does a wonky alteration every now and again) but, I do think he maybe doesn’t know what he’s doing because he didn’t see that something was wrong when Dan tried the jacket on.

It’s ok to make mistakes and have to do something over. It’s not ok to tell someone that nothing is wrong and not offer to fix it. Even if you think they’re wrong. And especially if it’s a suit they’re going to wear at their wedding.

The Mysterious Shrinking Pants

The Mysterious Shrinking Pants

My weight tends to go up and down, often in connection with my relationship status. I wouldn’t say I struggle with it the way that my mother does, though as I’m approaching 40, it’s getting tougher to shed the extra pounds. The first time I lost a ton of weight, I spend days, maybe weeks, altering all my favorite clothes so I could still wear them in a my new, much smaller, size. I stayed at that weight, my ideal weight, for a long time.

belly-2354_640

And then one day it happened, the mysterious shrinking pants showed up! I don’t know where they came from, but my pants started to get tighter and my shirts and undergarments weren’t far behind.

Has this happened to any of you? Sound familiar? So, I had a choice – spend crazy amounts of time putting my clothes back to bigger sizes, lose the weight, or accept it and buy new clothes. Of course, I chose to lose the weight and keep squeezing myself into shrunken pants…I’m cheap and I don’t like gaining weight!

Let me tell you, it’s been tough this time around. I’m eating great since I’m not eating out on a regular basis anymore, drinking far less (cause I’m not stressed and upset), and working out more (cause I don’t feel responsible for taking care of anyone else’s demands). Yet, the weight just doesn’t want to go. Don’t get me wrong. I’m just over halfway to my goal. It’s happening. Just more slowly than I thought it would and my tight clothes are starting to feel a little silly.

Still…I don’t want to alter them. I want my pants to mysteriously expand the same way they mysteriously shrank! That would be far less time consuming and much more fun. At least I think so… My jeans could use some patching in the seams – I like to do this with fun fabric scraps to add a little flair. Plus, then it makes it look like I did it on purpose, not that I’m too cheap to buy new ones!

I’m not ready to replace them yet, but when I do, I need to make sure I don’t buy pants that mysteriously shrink!

Seeking Your Input: Sewing a Giveaway

Seeking Your Input: Sewing a Giveaway

You may or may not know this yet, but besides writing and sewing – and writing about sewing – I’m also a children’s author. My newest book is about a rock with a crazy big dream – one that will transform her life. The main character, Adri – which is Sanskrit for rock – is captured so beautifully by my illustrator that I feel inspired to create giveaways. Giving a rock personality without humanizing it is a real challenge, as I’m sure you can imagine, so I was completely blown away by the illustrations.

front cover

To capture Adri in 3D, I’ve been playing around with gray fabrics. And let me tell you – there’s A LOT more shades of gray than you might think. Anyway, I’ve been playing around with gray colors and different fabric textures and combining it with different stuffing types to create Adri giveaways. But here’s the thing – and this is where I’d love some help from all of you – a stuffed rock is soft. On the one hand, that’s good since it’s a kid’s book and I don’t want anyone getting hurt. On the other hand, rocks aren’t soft so anything I sew and stuff won’t be too realistic. I’m torn about what to do.

There are other characters in the book, though they don’t have names. Flowers, mainly. I’m wondering if it’s better to make a soft giveaway that recreates one of the flower characters and use actual rocks, maybe with glued on eyes, to make Adri. For those of you my age and older, you may remember pet rocks. I’m thinking something along those lines, though hopefully it’s not a copyrighted toy.

What do you think?

As sewers, readers, parents, would you prefer a soft, sewn “rock” or an actual rock giveaway? Is it even necessary to have a giveaway? I’d love to hear your thoughts, suggestions and any other ideas you have for helping engage kids and their parents in my book.

On Being Genuine and Working with Children

On Being Genuine and Working with Children

I’m currently working on a little six episode new series for Amazon. The main stars of the show are three young actors ranging in age from 10 to 16. People often ask me if working with child actors is difficult and how it differs from working with the regular full sized, adult actors.

I honestly enjoy working with kids, especially the three on my current job. I’ve made quite a few garments for our leading young actor, who is all of 10 years old. And he’s one of the most professional, intelligent, and appreciative actors I’ve ever worked with. Last week he told me that the pair of pants I had made him were, “the best pair of pants he’s ever put on.”

Of course, he’s only 10 so he has quite a few years of trying on different pairs of pants ahead of him. But, he meant it. He’s an extremely genuine young man. Which got me to thinking about the ways in which people interact with each other, especially when it comes to clothing and style, and even sewing.

Starting early

Sewing is something I’ve been doing for most of my life, at least ever since I was about 8 or 9 (and I’m getting dangerously close to 50 these days), yet I can probably count on two hands and maybe one foot the number of genuine accolades I’ve received from others in regards to my work. Not that I do this tailoring things for the compliments. God knows the television and film business is pretty much the last place you’ll find that type of thing (unless you’re someone like an actor or a producer or a director.). And most of the time it’s all okay. I don’t need a lot of recognition or (really, any) glory.

But, I’m not going to lie, receiving appreciation and actual, true admiration for something I made, even coming from a 10 year old, was quite wonderful. Actually, I think I should amend that sentence to say, especially coming from a 10 year old.

On Being Genuine and Working with Children

Drafting patterns for children is no more difficult than for adults, once you get used to the different proportions. One thing I learned early on in regard to making kids clothes is that they (the kids) can sometimes experience growth spurts in the middle of the run of a show or even during the time it takes to film a television season or a movie.

I always leave extra seam allowance in the hems and center backs of things, something I’m sure Moms who sew for their own kids do all the time too. Back in my Alley Theatre Christmas Carol days, we had a stock of clothing we used every year for the urchins. They often had hems that came all the way up to the knees and center back seams that extended more than half way to the side seams.

Fabric – choose wisely

Something to keep in my mind when making children’s clothes is fabric choices. You want to make sure you don’t use anything that might be itchy or rough against their skin. And the more durable it is the better. I always reinforce any seam that’s going to get a lot of strain. Another little thing that we do often in the television business is to buy more than one of any particular clothing item. That way, if something happens to the shirt an actor or actress is wearing, like a chocolate or grass stain, the set costumer just needs to switch it out for new one. On the show I’m currently on, we usually have at least three multiples of all the kids’ wardrobes.

Of course, this means I have to alter three of everything we use. But, it’s all fine. Kids clothing is not very big and, for some reason, everything seems kind of adorable when its small.

The one really great thing about working with children, though, is that, for the most part, they still have a sense of awe and wonderment for the fact that they’re getting paid to spend all day playing make believe and dressing up in costumes made especially for them. And, although they get tired and occasionally grumpy (just like adults do) they definitely exude an infectious joyfulness that makes me truly happy to make them all sorts of fun and unique clothing.

Because, when a 10 year old (going on 40) tells you that “I bet even something you make when you’re having a bad day will be awesome,” you can’t help but smile.

So, spread some joy if you can this week. Give someone a genuine compliment. Make something special for a young person that makes them feel as if they can do and be anything. The world can always use more of that.

The Paradox of Fabric Markers

The Paradox of Fabric Markers

I’m just a simple girl trying to navigate her way through the quilting world, and on this journey, things sometimes strike me as odd. I might find a blog post saying that information that seemed fairly cut-and-dry for me is way more complex than I thought, and recently, I’ve taken to looking into a topic that doesn’t comparatively seem to be the basis of very much discussion online.

I mean, people talk about it, but not to the level that I think the topic merits.

If you look up websites that give you information about using markers on fabric, you’ll probably see a whole lot of results that have to do with markers designed to trace patterns or cutting lines to give you a more polished finish. This is a topic that makes absolute sense because having the right marker in that scenario means you can effectively use it, then wash it out so that it’s not a permanent part of your design.Picture 1

What strikes me as odd, though, is that sometimes people would probably want their markings to show on their quilt.

Specifically, you would want a more permanent set of markings if you were drawing or coloring a picture right onto the fabric, and you meant that drawing to be the décor for the quilt.

Now, you might be thinking that this is a very cheap and amateur way of doing things, but let’s not forget that some people are fantastic artists with this kind of thing. If that weren’t the case, how many cartoons would we have missed out on over the years? And the bottom line is that if a part of your skillset is drawing, you should be able to add hand-drawn and hand-colored details to your quilt to let that skill shine through for something that goes beyond adding an iron-on design.Picture 2

Another benefit of bringing this element into the equation is how much sentimental value it can place on a quilt. If you’re grandmother not only sewed a quilt, but drew or colored the designs by hand, how much higher does that boost the personal value of that final product?Picture 3

In addition, this drawing your designs on fabric opens plenty of doors about what you can showcase on your quilt because all you need is for someone to be able to draw it. As your primary objects to display, those drawings can act as the stand-out qualities so that the actual fabrics and block placements can be basic. You don’t need special fabrics and tricks—just general fabric and a person with great drawing skills.Picture 5

One of the best things I’ve found that you can do with markers and materials though is to begin with a blank surface, and then hand over the markers to two or three children. I currently have curtains in my room that are the product of two of my nieces tackling the project with happiness and a package of Crayola fabric markers. Sure, the child-friendly nature of the markers has led to the images softening a bit, but you can still get a sense of the original artwork so long after the curtains were decorated by my nieces.Picture 4

As I said though, you don’t hear too much about marker possibilities that are built for staying on the fabric, so it’s a bit harder to come up with recommendations in regard to what markers you should use for what purpose. Currently, I can recommend those Crayola fabric markers because the designs are still visible on the curtains. When allowing children to do the decorating, that fuzziness of the image design over the passage of time is worth knowing that they’re using markers that are age-appropriate. I have a younger niece now, and you can bet I’m not handing her a permanent marker to fancy up material in the near future!

There are other types of markers out there—ones that are non-toxic, ones that are Sharpies, ones that are metallic… I’m fairly convinced that since so little was found in my search of fabric markers for this kind of project that I’ll be the one who explores different types of markers that work well and can last through their time spent in the washing machine. Whether for sentimental reasons or just because you love the design, once you put your marker to fabric for these projects, you sensibly won’t want your design going away bit by bit every time it needs to be washed!Picture 6

So to begin this journey through fabric markers, I would give the Crayola brand 3 out of 5 stars. As I said, they did their job to get the images on the curtains, and I can still see the images there. The markers were child-friendly, and that was definitely something that I wanted for that project. But since the images have faded somewhat over time, it’s hard to give them a 4 or 5 rating since it means that over time, I might lose all traces of the images—which wasn’t what I was going for!

I look forward to exploring the possibilities involved in this marker fiasco, determined to find one fabric marker that suits each of these purposes: Marking fabric with my nieces (must by kid-friendly) and taking on these drawing assignments alone (more lenient with regulations). Stick around while I sort through the options, one at a time!

hero image1 - pencil case post

DIY Embroidered Pencil Case

Recently I saw this set at Costco that includes 50 colored pencils, a pencil sharpener and a plain zippered pouch. I nabbed two but I think I’ll go back and grab some more because I turned them into something cool and I want to do it again.

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Here’s what I did. I printed out two words, one for each case, and then used them as patterns to draw the words onto fabric. The font is a free font I downloaded from dafont.com called Painted Paradise.

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Empower printed out in three sections and I was able to place them on a charm square from my fabric stash. Create printed out as one word so I used a layer cake precut for it.

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I used a freshly sharpened pencil and held the paper down as I traced.

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For this fabric, it was easier to flip the words upside down and draw on the backside of the fabric (I eventually chose a pink fabric instead of the purple you see above).

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Use some sharp scissors, and patience, and cut out the words.

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I ironed and starched the words to get them very crisp.

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Next up: taking out the seams of the pencil case. This actually went pretty fast as I ran my seam ripper along the serged seams and then opened the fabric and pulled out the inner seams.

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I did this to both cases and then took a moment to pull out as many of the remaining threads as possible to create a clean working space on the fabric (and my table).

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This is my handy quilt basting spray. I placed the words wrong sides up on a piece of paper and then sprayed fabric glue on them. Then I positioned the words on each pencil case where I wanted them.

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My plan was to basically embroider the words onto one side of the pencil cases. I learned a great embroidery stitch, called a satin stitch, on my machine. You create this look by selecting a zig zag stitch and then reducing the stitch length to almost zero. You can play with the numbers/look to find what you like.

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I practiced on some scrap fabric and then got to work.

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Here’s what it looked like from the back when I was done. It even looks cool inside out!

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After I finished embroidering each case, I pinned each one closed and resewed the cases back up. Then I turned the cases right side out, pressed them, and look at these beauties!

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The Create case is for me. It’s rare I make something for myself and I’ve been in a really creative mood lately so I thought it appropriate. The Empower case is for my friend, Kate, who empowers other women. I definitely think I’ll be making more of these personalized cases in the future.

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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.
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!