Teen Modern Quilting Challenge : Part 1 ~ Ice Dyeing 

Sometimes a challenge can get the creative ideas flowing and a month or so ago my Saturday Morning class were set a challenge, to create a small piece of work, based on one of four pictures of places special to me. There were of St Basil’s Basilica in Red Square, the Isle of Skye, the Dead Sea in Israel or the Blue Mountains in Australia. All places I had visited for the first time in my teens or 20s that I just loved and still do.

I wanted the girls to look at the colours and mood of the pictures, not necessarily the composition, and use small pieces of fabric to create a modern mini quilt top – about the size of a large placement.  Using just plain fabric would be a good start, but to add to this, and give their mini quilts ‘movement’, we decided to give ice dyeing a go. Although I dye frequently for myself, I’d only ice-dyed once before – so it was an adventure for all of us!

We started with fabric which had no manufacturing residues on it. If you give any fabric a good wash in a machine it should be fine.  I like to used Egyptian cotton which has a high thread count and arrives ready for dyeing. There is no need to dye large pieces – in fact, the pieces we were dyeing were around fat quarter-ish size in area.

I prepared a soda ash solution*, which is a fixing agent, ahead of time and let it cool. Each piece of fabric was soaked in the soda ash solution and wrung out.  Then it was up to each individual how to arrange their piece. They could fold, pleat, scrunch, roll or twist their fabric pieces. We then secured the folded fabric with a couple of elastic bands. The fabric bundles were placed on a metal rack (I used a cooling rack) which was suspended over the sink. This is so that as the ice melts, the fabric isn’t sitting in a pool of mixed up dyes. The dye that isn’t soaked into the fabric just drips off the metal tray.

We then covered the pieces completely in ice. It can be hard to get the ice to stay on top of your mounds of fabric so crushed ice can be easier if you get into trouble. Once completely covered (and with gloves on), we used 1/2-3/4 teaspoon of three or four power dyes (I used Procion MX dye) sprinkled

over the ice. The colour of dyes was chosen on the basis of what we had and what fitted with the mood of the picture we would be working with. As there were 5 people dying 10 bits – all of which were on one rack – we expected some crossover of dyes as the ice melted – which was another element of excitement for us. Finally, we sprinkled 4 tablespoons of salt onto the ice. This was to help the dye fix into the fabric rather than wash away later.

This was then left for 24 hours, for the ice to melt and the dye to settle into the fabric bundles, at the end of 24 hours, once again with gloves on, the bundles were unwrapped and rinsed in very hot water and placed in washing machine where they were all washed together on a quick 30 minute was with normal washing detergent.

…. and…….this was the outcome. We were thrilled!

   

Now the next stage could begin – they were going to start to compose their pieces!

*I used 10 teaspoons of soda in 500ml of hot water. Be very careful when you dissolve the soda ash. Always wear gloves, do this in a well-ventilated room and do not inhale the gas that is generated. Just a few precautions and you will be fine. Always follow the soda ash manufacturers instructions to the letter. If you have any of this solution left afterwards, then store it in an airtight container, label the container (very important) and store it for the next time.

Happy Sewing …… Gill

Note: All Gill’s Child/Teen sewing classes are full at this time. To go onto a waiting list, please email mail@gillymacdesigns.com

 

Teen Modern Quilting Challenge : Part 2~ Make The Modern Minis

The Saturday morning girls are always quick to adopt new ideas and find pretty much everything we do (except hand sewing) really exciting. Lola chose to work from the picture of St Basil’s Basilica and the other 4 decided to use the picture of the Dead Sea. Just to remind you, the girls’ challenge was to use the colours and mood of the pictures but, at this stage, not to focus on the shapes in the pictures.  We divided the pictures into columns and worked on the colour palettes in these sections, building up strips of colours represented in the pictures.

The girls weren’t afraid to try inserting gentle curves in their pieces to add movement and interest. We also found that mixing the solid Kona colours with the ice dyed fabrics worked perfecting to break up the flatness you can sometimes get with plain colours alone. Once sections were completed, the next section was started using their knowledge of the combinations that worked from the last section.  We found that by cutting into the work already done and adding in Metallic Essex linen also added a sunshine sparkle to the dead sea pictures and a rich opulence to that of St Basil’s.

Over a couple of classes, the patchwork element of the mini quilts was completed and next we planned to do some line drawing of the outlines of the objects in the pictures on top of our quilts.

We used a heat transfer pencil to replicate the images we wanted to sew onto the mini quilts. This was not completely successful. Initially, tracing the outline of the pictures onto paper was quite easy. We taped the pictures and paper to the window and traced away using the special pen. At first, we didn’t reverse the image when we traced it – but trial and error sorted us out and we started again, tracing the mirror image this time.

We lay the mini quilts facing upwards on the ironing board, the traced image facing down and with a very hot iron and a dry pressing cloth and some persistence, the image transferred.  The downside of using this method was that if you took a peek to see if the image was transferred, getting the paper back down in exactly the right place to avoid double images was really hard (and we did have some double images). Also, the marks didn’t transfer as the thin pen lines we had drawn, they were thicker and more smudged. This wasn’t ideal, but we worked around that by sewing over the lines more than once.

The sewing was very successful. Jess’s larger image of a palm tree looked stunning when sewn in and even with the smaller imager, the girls all found ways to make them work.

Until this point, we hadn’t had a clear plan of what we would do with these pieces, but a casual conversation about transporting school work led to us all having the idea of making zip up folders for their school bags… We ironed the mini quilts onto single-sided R-foam to give them extra body. the girls chose lining fabric from my stash and we used metallic Essex linen for the backing. The pieces were so successful that with the remnants I made each of them coin purses.

We all loved this project. Now the girls have moved on to their piece for the Festival of Quilts in the Summer… more on that soon.

Happy Sewing …… Gill

Note: All Gill’s Child/Teen sewing classes are full at this time. To go onto a waiting list, please email mail@gillymacdesigns.com

 

Guest Blog : The Making of a Baby Quilt by Jessica

Over February half term I decided to make a baby quilt, well more like a throw. I made it as a gift to my form tutor, as his partner has just had a baby. He’s also been my form tutor for the last five years so it’s also as a thank you gift. I go to sewing classes with Gill Towell of Gillymac Designs where I have made three different and unique quilts. We have also entered two quilts as a group for the National Festival of Quilts. We came 2nd with one and got highly commended in the other.

I started by looking for fabric suitable for baby boys and found that there were lots. I then had to work out what size I needed and how many squares I needed. I bought a fat quarter bundle which came with 5 different materials. As I was short of a few squares, I bought another bundle which I thought has colours in it which would bring all the fabric together  – which indeed it did!

I started off by drawing out my pattern and seeing which patterns would work well together. I then assembled it by making blocks of 9, 3 across 3 down. I decided to have 6 squares going across by 9 squares down. Once I had made the patchwork top centre,  I added the borders which I decided to have white so that it would accentuate all of the colours in the main panel. After that, I glued it to the backing using temporary glue. I then quilted the whole thing using a walking foot creating a grid design. I finished the quilt by making my own binding and sewing it around the edge. This gave the quilt a nice finish and made the whole thing come together.

The most challenging bit was adding the binding and trying to make it look neat at the corners. I also found matching the fabrics and making it look nice was quite difficult and took a long time.

My favourite part of the quilt is how it all comes together and how the colours work well. I like how the binding finishes the edges and how it brings it all together. I would definitely make it again as I had so much fun making it. There is so much effort and concentration involved and I have learnt so much from doing it.

I would do it the same way because it’s a great design and I like the way in which it turned out.

I am giving it away sometime next week before my form tutor goes on paternity leave.

Making Presents – Should We?

I have read soooooooo many posts online these past few days, where people are upset that the gift they have made has not been properly appreciated or even appreciated at all.  It is sad, and I can feel all the frustration when I read each story.

I don’t have lots of time, and so when I make something, just like everyone else, it is a big deal to me. Late at night in October and November, I did wonder if I really should be making presents, not because they wouldn’t be appreciated, but because of the time involved… and could or should I be using it better – but I had it in my mind that it was a good idea to make some gifts, and so the course was set!

It was a push to get it all done and there were things not made (for my daughters), but I was pleased with all the things that did get made, wrapped and gifted.  There were (2) handbags, (15) coin purses, (12) make-up bags, each with a personalised design on them, (6) pillowslips, a tuffet and two sweatshirts.

This morning, I bumped into the father of a girl in Katie’s hockey team that I had made a gift for. He was so lovely. He stopped me to tell me how great the bag was and how much his daughter loved it. So yes, it is worth it… it was all worth it just to make one girl smile!


 

Defining Your Own Colour Story

It is very easy to buy a bundle of fabrics, all from the same range, because the colour combination (often called a colour story) will have been worked out for you. In the Tula Pink Tabby Road Collection, the ‘Strawberry Fields’ colourway has red grouped with pink, aqua, green and cream and it looks fantastic. I’m not sure, if faced with a blank page, I would have come up with this group, but actually, I should probably have more faith my understanding of colour,  because the basics aren’t so hard. First, you need some inspiration, like a fabric, or colour or pattern. Then you need to find fabrics and check the colour value or tone to get a good mix. So in three steps, you have it cracked? Yeah … well … maybe there is more to it …. but really, not a lot more. Let’s go through the steps.

Inspiration

You need a starting point. That is your inspiration… as I said, it could be anything as simple as a fabric you like, or a picture you want to create a quilt around, it could be the favourite colour of the person you are going to give the quilt to, it could be seasonal colours – it could be anything.

Colour Combination

Once you have a colour to start with, then you need to understand the colour wheel.

In the colour wheel above, the solid triangle is pointing to the Primary Colours of yellow, red and blue. Those are the colours which are used to create all the others on the wheel. The dashed triangle is pointing to the secondary colours. Those are the colours that are created by mixing the primary ones. For example, red and blue create purple and so on. The colours not touched by either triangle are the Tertiary Colours – these are created by mixing primary and secondary colours. There are many shades of tertiary colours. These colours around the wheel are often referred to hues of colour.

Next to learn is how to combine colours successfully.  Colours opposite each other on the colour wheel are complementary. So, referring to the colour wheel above, yellow’s complementary colours are plum, purple and violet, and red’s complementary colours are green, turquoise and lime. Colours that are close to each other on the colour wheel are referred to as analogous and can be clearly seen to co-ordinate. Finally, the colours from yellow, clockwise around the wheel, finishing with plum are known as ‘warm colours’ and those from purple around to lime are know as ‘cold colours’.

Tone and Value

The first step is all about understanding what colour tone (sometimes called value) actually is. It is not complicated to understand this, so let’s take an example. If we take green – any green – then there isn’t just one tone of the colour, there are many. Think about a paint colour card. In the diagram below various amounts of whites and blacks (shades of grey) are added to the green base colour to create this range of tones. Often you will see a colour wheel with the colours around the outside and the tones of those colours merging inwards toward the centre. So if you decided to use a green – first pick the right hue of green (for example a lime green or a moss green or an olive green etc)  and then pick the right tone for your project.  When people talk about colour value, this is all they mean. What we call ‘rich’ colours have a  deep tone (high value) and pastel colours have a low tone (light value).

If you want to check the relative value of a group of fabrics. Lay the fabrics out together and take a picture of them – then turn the picture to black and white. In this way, you can immediately see the values. Try and aim for a mix of values in the quilts you make.

In Summary

So that is it – now you are ready to create your own colour story using your inspiration for the starting point, the colour wheel to get the right base colours and then a good mix of tones/values to create interest in your piece.   Don’t forget to give your colour story a great name,  like “Strawberry Fields”, or “Marmalade” which Tula used in her Tabby Road Collection!

In saying this, the most important thing in picking the colours and fabrics for your quilts is that you like them – so treat all this as a guide and not a rule!

Should you want to go on and create your own colour wheel, then Tula Pink’s free pattern “Moxie” could easily be used to do so by replacing the recommended fabrics with solid colours in the right tones.

Good Luck and please feel free to share your work with me @gillymacdesigns on Instagram or GillyMac Designs on facebook.

Good textile-focused colour wheels can be purchased from Lady Sew and Sew and Plush Addict  I haven’t found a good one yet on Amazon!

 

 

Working from Base Camp

I am no stranger to working on my holidays. After years of corporate life, where everything was urgent, nothing could wait and my phone was constantly ringing (with bad news), not working would be shocking. However now working on this holiday, isn’t really work, it is building a small business, creating projects that I think people will enjoy, whilst using fabrics that I think will inspire. In the Lake District, I can do this whilst Katie and Brian fell walk – everyone is happy

We’ve been away for two weeks, staying on Ullswater. It is the only place in the UK, other than the Hebrides, that I’ve been where the daylight changes the colour of the surrounding landscape so dramatically, often hour by hour and certainly every evening. I love doing anything by this light because almost every time you look out the window the palette of colours has changed again.

We don’t particularly come here hoping to get good weather. Good weather is a bonus, but slowing down our pace of life and changing the way we operate for two weeks is all we truly need. My business allows me to be a ‘base camp’ for Katie and Brian who like to plan a walk, get dropped off in one location and get collected somewhere else. Katie is becoming quite an accomplished walker. She knows how to plan, what to take and how to both fuel and pace herself. I think this year is the first that she is setting the pace rather than Brian, but she sees it as a team game and that is all part of it.

This afternoon I have come down to Glenridding to plan my class schedule whilst they take out a rowing boat. It is cooler today, but they are still keen to get out on the water all the same. Later, I will be back at base camp, looking out over cattle and fields and further onto Ullswater.  I am able to sew with a magnificent view, preparing Winter class samples and writing spartan notes that will eventually become class methods. Perfect !

Gill’s new class list is now on the website and pictures of her sewing whilst away in Ullswater this year are on the website gallery.

GillyMac Dawn til Dusk Sewathon

If you didn’t already know (how could you not know !) , on 22nd September we held a Dawn til Dusk Sewathon in support of Macmillan Cancer Support. From 7am until 7pm there was a flow of adults and then after school children and teens arriving at the studio in Westfield Road. The participants enthusiastically sewed squares together all day, making 15 quilts over the 12 hours.
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Julia’s First Ever Patchwork

It was a great team and community effort. Pupils, past pupils, friends, and neighbours came together to sew and eat cake ! By sewing precut squares into blocks of three by three, Deborah Ransom and Jean Cozens co-ordinated the assembling of colourful quilts in cot size and bed size. The day flew because of the boundless energy and enthusiasm of the flow of people through the studio on the day. We even had some very young helpers !

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Allegra having a rest !

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Jordi enjoying the Tuffet !

For me, the day was a moment in time of the spirit of sewing within a community of volunteers. That spirit is continuing through a group of volunteers that are helping with all the quilting and binding need for each of the quilts.
All of the quilts made are being donated to Project Linus, a charity which provides handmade quilts to poorly children and child carers across the UK. The quilts made during the Sewathon will be distributed across Berkshire. The day also raised more than £650 for Macmillan Cancer Support which I have just dropped off at the bank.
This isn’t something we can repeat annually as it takes an awful lot of effort by all those involved, but I hope we can have another Dawn til Dusk event in 2018 and maybe even try and break our record of 15 quilts ! I’ll keep you updated with how the completion of the quilts go and the reception we get when they are handed over to Project Linus in November.
Thank you all very much for taking part – it was amazing !
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The GillyMac Club is Launched !

Now that there quite a few people coming along to classes and so many brilliant things are being created, it has been on my mind to find a way to share more of what we do just between ourselves.  I already post some of the work in my gallery page on this website,  and of course there is the very active facebook page I run for GillyMac Designs, however many of you are often doing similar projects but are in different classes, and it would be great if you were able to share your work directly without it being in an open forum.

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Earlier in the year Tracy and I were discussing how to create such a group and  luckily for me she has come up with just the thing ! We haven’t solved the problem if you are not on facebook, but the majority of you are and I will continue to think about how we can include everyone. Now, if you have been to a GillyMac Class, you can apply to access the GillyMac Club, where you will find (currently) 26 photo albums from each of the various classes I teach, full of class samples made by me, or items others have made in classes. There are over 700 photos uploaded. I know I am missing some of your lovely work and so if you have made something in a class and you cant find it … don’t despair, you are able to upload photos to albums yourself and I would encourage you to do so.

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To find the group – simply search for it in the top search bar on your facebook book page. I have invited a number of you to join it already. When I am sending you the invite you will automatically get access. Alternatively, you can proactively look for the group and ask to join. It may take Tracy or I 24 hours to approve you, so just hang in there we will do it as quickly as we can. Everyone who has been on one of my classes at home, at Liberty, at Juberry, Lady Sew and Sew or at the various quilt groups I’ve spoken and taught at can join. The group is accessible from whatever device you use to view facebook – however for the best access to the photos and the albums I have found it ideal to use my laptop.

I have written a few words about the protocol of the group. This is just about not reusing photos that are not your own. Please would you scan over it. I’m sure there will be no issues.

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So that’s it. I hope we can make it a useful forum to share information and pictures… Gill

Creating an Amazing Space – Part 2

Oh my goodness.. we are about done ! Yesterday was the last big push. The GillyMac room upstairs is tidied, labelled, dusted and vacuumed. Downstairs we are leaner, with less clutter but still with some of the books I love on view for inspiration! 

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In the next couple of days, the hooks will go up for the inter-changeable design walls. Then …  I think we are done…. in the sense that we are in good shape to maintain order, see what we have and enjoy and use what we have. Lastly we are putting up curtain tracks on top of the shelves so that lightweight calico curtains can be hung from them to protect the fabric from direct sunlight and to keep the dust down!

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The Super Sale was a great idea and it will be something I will do on a more regular basis. It created a healthy turnover in stock, it shared the love and it made some cash to plough back into the business. I still have sale fabrics … so don’t be shy to ask… I think another sale will happen at the same time next year and I am sure that year on year the Super Sale will grow.

IMG_1895Measuring the pieces (as I discussed in ‘Part 1’) was a master stroke – Thanks to all who helped! At last I can see what I have and most importantly I know how much is there. I have 3 or 4 boxes of ‘bits’ left over. These range from ‘smaller than fat quarter’ to ‘less than a metre’ and I am going to turn these pieces into 3.5″ and 5″ squares as well as 2.5″ strips which can be used in creative classes and for the Young Quilters and after school classes. Then once this is done, my lovely pal Lindsey will have the remaining small bits for her amazing 1″ hexi project…

The outcome of all this sorting and tidying is a huge number of project ideas. There is so much scope to use what is here for many exciting things. Added to these ideas are the new techniques I have been researching over the summer. I want to dye my own fabric with my senior girls and I also want to add fabric stamping into some of the applique pieces we are about to undertake this term ! I have a folder with all my ideas in it .. my magic folder !

I love been more organised, but it has made me remember how amazing lucky I am to be married to a man who has allowed me to build GillyMac and who supports all that I do every day.

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Why Don’t You …

I have no idea why it seems to be such a secret that to work with kids is just the best job (though teaching my two Thursday groups is a close run wonderful thing)!!  This Summer, I’ve had the pleasure to teach just over 60 children, either at home, on Young Quilters session, at the Festival of Quilts or a Claires Court Holiday Club. I am amazed it is so many!

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We have made mini quilts, appliqued pictures, zipped pencil cases, frogs and owls, as well as tote bags and tie dye’d T-shirts. There are lots of pictures on my ‘Young Quilters’ page at the website.  Yesterday I looked at the cost of each activity per child. Ignoring my time, the cost was less than £4.60 per child per activity for each of the activities, except for tie dying where we created fabric bags as well as dyed T-shirts all in one session, but even that was only £7.  So the cost is not much really at all, yet everybody seemed to have a brilliant time.

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It’s not just the cost though, it’s opening their little minds to what they can really do. What they achieve can be all their own work and can be beautiful, brilliant and useful. It doesn’t need to be another thing that has to be sneaked into the bin, but it can be something you, they, friends or family can use or keep forever.

By mid-Summer I had created the classes for my after school groups. I am still reeling from their success at the Festival of Quilts and wanted to build on that. This term we are making bed runners (like table runners, but for the end of a bed with pockets for teddies and books), and we will be doing a variety of applique pictures. Later on in the term we will be doing some microwave dying and fabric stamping across to create our own fabric designs to use. I am also planning activities for 1/2 term at Claires Court Holiday club …so keep an eye out for that.

image1 (9)I am hoping that by the end of the year I will have a “Why Don’t You” page on my website. For those of us of a certain age there used to be TV programme in during the school holidays called “Why Don’t You” that encouraged children to get off the sofa (it would be ‘away from the computer’ now) and do something more interesting instead… I thought I could share my low cost makes and ideas to try and inspire even more creativity ! So watch this space !!