TAST Week 7 – Detached Chain Stitch

I’ve really cut things fine this past week and only just managed to get my sample stitched in time!

Although I’ve always admired old traditional samplers I’ve never felt the urge to stitch one but I’m really getting a feel for the repeating patterns that are possible. There is something very satisfying in the rhythmic nature of the patterns and the negative spaces created.

I’m sure there are more variations I could have come up with, I had in mind to use detached chain as a couching stitch but ran out of space; I also deliberately stayed away from variations of chain stitch itself as I’m saving those for next week!

Our Young Embroiderers start back next week and our focus for this session is ‘weather’, we are starting with sun and looking at working sunflowers so I’ve been incorporating some of the TAST stitches into a few samples.

I’ve also managed to add some more stitching to my Zentangle inspired sampler; I’m enjoying using some of my newly found stitch combinations to fill the spaces.

I still find myself on an academic timetable so with the schools back this feels like the start of a new year ………….. so lots of stitching to plan!


Hillarys Craft Competition 2015

Whilst browsing for a new blind recently I discovered the Hillarys craft competition and decided this was just the excuse I needed to get out my machine!


I didn’t really have a project in mind and choosing from the four fabrics on offer was difficult as I could see potential in all of them! Eventually I decided on this Rayna Apple fabric.

Each entrant is sent 1 metre square of their selected fabric with which to make an item of their choice and adding any other materials required.

I decided that the lovely upholstery weight of this fabric would make it ideally suited to a bag; something that could be used to carry my craft equipment to workshops or as a shopping bag.

These A4 plastic storage boxes have become an essential item for carrying projects and therefore were the key to sizing my design.

Other essential elements included pockets suitable for specific items and zipped pockets for security.

The Rayna fabric design is linear and directional so I had to do some careful planning to line up the motifs on the pockets with those on the main body of the bag and to be able to cut out suitable handles.

These are my plans and prototype made up in paper:

I chose a contrasting fabric for the lining and to add a band to the top of the bag – Kona cotton in Pomegranate. I think this contrasts well with the grey tones.

All the main bag pieces were interfaced using an iron on woven interfacing. I decided to omit a wadding layer as I want a bag that can be folded up if necessary for shopping trips and the wadding adds extra bulk and structure.

The top band was stitched to each of the main body pieces; pockets were constructed and stitched to the outside of each main body piece and squares were cut out of the bottom corners so that the base could be squared off. The side and bottom seams were then stitched.

I added a zipped pocket into the seam joining the top contrast band and the main fabric on one side of the bag.

To square off the base the seams are pressed open then the side seam and bottom edge seam are brought together, (with right sides together), and this diagonal seam is stitched.

When turned through this gives the bag its boxy shape.

The main lining pieces are joined in the same way as the outer bag except that a gap is left when stitching the bottom edge – this is for turning through after joining the bag fabric and lining together. Before constructing the bag lining I also inserted a zipped pocket.

I used strips of Rayna fabric and lining fabric to construct open ended straps; as these are quite wide I folded the central area together and top stitched in order to make them more comfortable for carrying.

I also made a lined pouch with a magnetic snap fastener and a key fob both of which I stitched into the top edge of the bag.

Here is my finished bag – plenty of room for all my craft essentials and more!

On one side the pocket is large enough to hold an A4 cutting mat whilst an A3 cutting mat will fit inside the bag.

The other side has a divided pocket so I have 2 compartments each large enough for glasses or a small sketchbook. The outside zipped pocket is useful for anything I need to keep accessible like keys or a phone.

The inside – 3 x A4 craft boxes, rolls of paper/fabrics, my Hussif, books and an A3 cutting mat – and still room to spare!

I can see the pouch being really useful for my camera, rotary cutter, fragile items …. so many things.

And what’s left? – only 2 small strips!

Thank you Hillarys for a competition that is a challenge but a pleasure to complete, and, of course, for the lovely fabric.

Sewing Withdrawal

I found this funny seamstress vintage sewing machine sticker on Funny seamstress vintage sewing machine by BigMRanchhttp://www.redbubble.com/ by BigMRanch.

I think this just about sums up how I’m feeling just now!

Life keeps interrupting the decorating and the process of getting everything straight after our boiler installation so progress has slowed down a bit.

Never mind I did get to the Stitching, Sewing & Quilting show at the SECC in Glasgow. The addition of the quilt exhibitions was a real bonus as there were some beautiful quilts on show. Although it is several years since I last visited there were a number of regular exhibitors missing; this was disappointing but it did mean that I saved some money!

The thing I enjoy most about the stitching shows is the chance to meet and talk with textile artists whose work I admire. Before visiting a show I always check the list of exhibitors to plan who I’d like to see; top of my list this year were Christine Plummer & Lynda Monk.

Christine Plummer Display

For some time now I’ve been a bit obsessed with collecting brown packing paper to use for printing and I’ve always enjoyed making books and journals. It was whilst searching for inspiration that I came across Christine Plummer’s lovely recycled journals.

I love the rustic simplicity of these little journals and purchased a kit at the show, here is the journal I made from the kit after some expert advice from Christine:


The revelation for me was the use of an interfacing called DGEDSC DIGITAL CAMERAecovil to make the firm covers; I hadn’t come across this product before, it is an iron on interfacing by Vilene that handles like a soft leather and works beautifully fused to the brown paper.

I like to crumple the brown paper before I use it as this gives a nice textured surface, I also added the orange papers from my stash.

The pages for the journal are included in the kit with a good variety of weights supplied.

You can see more of Christine Plummer’s work here: http://www.jeudis.co.uk/jeudis.php?page=christineplummer



Lynda Monk is another favourite textile artist and I purchased the two books above, along with a Thermofax screen and some transfer foils so that I could make a start on some of the techniques described.

There are lots of wonderful surfaces to try so these are just a few that I’ve tried so far.

Crumpled tissue fused to Lutradur 30 Brusho colour 2 layers fused together sealed with Acrylic medium

Crumpled tissue fused to Lutradur 30, Brusho paints to colour, 2 layers fused  together then sealed with Acrylic medium. The sample below is the same but using the heavier Lutradur 70 and only a single layer.



Lutradur 100 coloured with Brusho then transfer foil fused to the surface with dressmaking tissue applied using acrylic medium.

The way that the colour migrates from the bottom layer through the foil when the acrylic medium is applied is quite magical! The photograph doesn’t do justice to the lovely glow given to the surface by the foil.

I also tried this technique using drawing inksGEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA to colour some Lutradur 130 – I wasn’t sure if the inks would work but the sample shows they did, the colour is stronger but in some instances this might be desirable.

This is just a taste of what is in the books, I am still working on other techniques so lots more to come!

Lynda’s work can be seen on her website http://www.purplemissus.com/index.htm and on her blog http://www.purplemissus.blogspot.co.uk/

Dyeing for some colour!

In February I talked about a Dvd called “Color by Accident : Exploring Low-Water Immersion Dyeing” with Ann Johnston. The You Tube video below is a preview of this Dvd.                                                                                                                            Since June started with so much rain in Edinburgh I thought it was a good time to try out some of Ann’s techniques!

Preview of Dvd “Color by Accident : Exploring Low-Water Immersion Dyeing” with Ann Johnston


Dyeing with Procion MX Fibre Reactive Dyes                                                                                                                                     There is so much packed into this 4 hour Dvd; colour mixing, dye properties, recipes, different methods of applying the dyes as well as lots & lots of beautiful examples. I was particularly interested in Ann’s low water immersion dyeing as my very limited experience has been with direct dyeing where small quantities of dye solution are made up including soda ash solution and painted onto the fabric.

Colours – There is a bewildering choice of tempting dye colours available; Ann explains that within each range there are a limited number of single chemical procion MX dyes from which all the other colours are mixed.  Different suppliers all make up their own mixes of these single chemical dyes, just as an example, Fibrecrafts (http://www.georgeweil.com/) have 23 colours in their own brand dyes & 43 Jacquard dyes!

Fibrecrafts Fibre Reactive (Procion MX) Dyes, 50g

George Weil Procion Dye Colour Chart

Jacquard Procion MX Dyes, 18g

Jacquard Procion Dye Colour Chart







                                                                       So how do you choose? – I have previously taken a workshop with textile artist Ruth Issett who recommended using 6 colours – 2 each of 3 single chemical primary colours, lemon yellow, golden yellow, scarlet, magenta, ultramarine &  turquoise.

Ann Johnston uses all 14 of the single chemical dyes from Prochemical & Dye (http://www.prochemicalanddye.com/). When mixing colours Ann often uses more than of each primary colour in the mix; she describes how the different dyes react at different rates with the fibres causing the shades to split and ‘halo’ – this gives wonderful depth and patterning to her fabrics.                                                                                                                                                    I have only worked with 6 dyes, my first batch of dyeing used Colourcraft dyes in lemon yellow, golden yellow, scarlet, magenta, ultramarine &  turquoise. My 2nd batch used Jacquard dyes from George Weil in Lemon Yellow 004, Bright Gold Yellow 010, Aquamarine 069, Midnight Blue 079, Bright Scarlet 028 & Carmine Red 032 & Brown Rose 126  – these were brought as a set and I have subsequently discovered that only the yellows are single chemical dyes, this may explain some of the difficulties I had mixing colours with these compared to the Colourcraft dyes!

      From this ……                                                                     

                   ……. To this GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA



Dyes are made up in very concentrated solutions, Ann Johnston’s recipe is 2 tablespoons of dye powder with 2-4 tablespoons of urea in 240ml of warm water.                                                                                          I only have small quantities of dye so I used 1 tablespoon of dye powder with 2 tablespoons of urea in 240ml water – as you will see my results were still quite successful.                                                                                                                        A separate solution of soda ash is made up; I used 3 tablespoons of Soda Ash to 1 litre of warm water as I don’t have room to store a large quantity.

With each colour made up into separate concentrated solutions it is easy to mix colours and dilute as required for GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERAeach piece of fabric. Working on the basis of 240ml liquid to dye 1 metre of fabric the ratio of dye concentrate to water can be adjusted depending on the tone of colour required – using 1 teaspoon of dye concentrate made up to 240ml with water will produce a very light tone whilst 1 tablespoon of dye concentrate made up to 240ml with water will give a much darker tone.

The effects achieved by this method vary depending on the technique used as the following samples will demonstrate.

Basic method

  • fabric soaked in plain water & squeezed out,
  • damp fabric scrunched into container
  • dye solution poured over & pressed to ensure all fabric penetrated
  • left for 15 minutes without any agitation of fabric
  • soda ash solution poured over & pressed into fabric
  • left for at least 1 hour before rinsing
View album

These samples are on a variety of fabrics using the ColourCraft dyes – 100% cotton, silk noil gauze, cotton muslin, cotton/linen scrim and some poly/cotton mix fabrics that are not really suitable for procion dyes – 2 pieces were obviously a higher cotton percentage as they dyed quite well but I have shown the higher polyester content piece to show the difference – almost none of the dye was absorbed into this fabric.

The following examples are all on 100% cotton fabric using the Jacquard dyes from George Weil.

Parfait –

  • fabric soaked in plain water & squeezed out,
  • damp fabric scrunched into container – I cut the top off a 2litre plastic bottle
  • dye solution poured over & pressed to ensure all fabric penetrated
  • left for up to 15 minutes without any agitation of fabric
  • soda ash solution poured over & pressed into fabric
  • 2nd piece of damp fabric scrunched into container on top of previous piece
  • 2nd colour dye solution poured over & pressed to ensure all fabric penetrated, this also mingles the 2 dye colours
  • left for up to 15 minutes without any agitation of fabric
  • soda ash solution poured over & pressed into fabric
  • repeat these steps for as many pieces of fabric as desired, after last piece of fabric leave for at least an hour after addition of soda ash before rinsing.


Don’t be put off by the way this looks during the process, as you can see from the pictures the results are amazing!



This piece was first soaked in soda solution then folded whilst damp, concertina style, then in half, as it was too wide for my container. the first dye colour (orange) was put into the container and the fabric was stood in the tray so that the folded edge only was in the dye. After 10 minutes I took the fabric out, poured away the orange dye, replaced this with turquoise dye then rotated the fabric and pushed the undyed portion into the dye bath, left for an hour before rinsing. I kept the fabric folded during the initial rinsing only opening it up when the water was running almost clear.                                                                                                                                                         My container was quite small so the fabric was tightly packed giving more pale areas towards one end.

Folded_dipped_edges This fabric was soaked first in soda ash before being folded concertina style then again into a small square. The whole square of fabric was left for 15 minutes in the first dye bath (a beige colour), then removed and the dye poured away, replaced with a burgundy colour and the edges each dipped in and held for a couple of minutes. The whole package was left to absorb before rinsing.

The beige colour was mixed from lemon yellow and rose brown, I like the way the yellow has absorbed more rapidly giving very subtle changes in colour in the light areas.


These pieces were first soaked in soda ash solution, scrunched into a container and dyed the first, (lighter), colour then removed and twisted. The piece on the left was twisted from the centre and the piece on the right from one end, before being coiled back into the empty container and the 2nd dye colour poured randomly over the coil. They were left for an hour before rinsing.




This piece was pre soaked in soda ash then scrunched into a container and dyed with yellow, left for 15 minutes then squeezed out. The fabric was opened up and re-scrunched before being put back into the container and dyed with the orange.

The effect is very similar to that achieved by the ‘parfait’ method which allows more fabrics to be dyed at once.



The images below and right are the same piece; this wasGEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA actually my cleaning up cloth! There was so much dye on it by the end of the session that I decided just to twist it up, as if wringing it out, and pour over the bits of dye I had left over from ‘painting’ some final pieces. I left this for about 15 minutes then poured over soda ash solution and left to cure before rinsing.



A final point – the ColourCraft dyes were much easier to mix; being single chemical dyes it was much easier to assess the colour. With the Jacquard dyes I had particular difficulty assessing any mixes using the blues and reds as they appeared very ‘muddy’ – that said I am very pleased with the final colours after rinsing and drying the fabrics.

It is possible to mix an infinite range of colours using single chemical dyes in the primary colours, especially if selecting more than one of each so it is certainly worth investing in these alone unless there is a particular mixed colour that you use a great deal.