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.

Allow Yourself a Bad Idea…

Yesterday I had an extremely rare term time Saturday off from teaching my lovely teen classes and attended a lecture by Tula Pink, a young Amercian textile designer, who now lives just outside Kansas City.

If you don’t know Tula’s work then it is really worth having a look at her Collections.  They are beautiful,  often with the larger designs based on aminals buried within intricate curvy patterns with colour choices stand apart from other designers in the market.

Whilst listening to Tula describe her design process, she said something that really resonated with me – and I know it will resonate with many of my pupils. She said that she has learnt to no longer be afraid of a bad idea, in fact, she encourages a bad idea. When she gets a new journal for her designs, she scrawls over the first page, as now nothing in the book will be as bad as that first page. She explained that, for her, a bad idea is part of the process of having a good idea. She also said that a ‘block’ occurs when you dont give yourself the chance to have a bad idea. She believes her ratio is about 9-1 bad ideas to good ones.

Let us just think about this. So now, if I follow her suggestions,  tomorrow, instead of getting frustrated that I want to come up with an exciting idea for a quilt I need to make for an exhibition this year (and my current ideas are a bit rubbish)… now I can relax .. this is part of the process – a proper, successful professional designer says so. It takes the stress away … I feel better already and more excited about designing a quilt.

Why have I not thought of this before? In some ways I have.  I tell my pupils that I can solve their problems because I have made every single mistake they have made myself. I often make Katie laugh in the car home from school.  telling her about all the mistakes I have made that particular day, as she tells me about a tiny thing that has gone wrong for her… I think these things are similar. However, I see teen and adult pupils getting cross with themselves when they dont get’ that point’ perfect or the quilting design nailed on the first try. So now I will try and remind them (and me) of these words from Tula… Don’t be afraid of a bad idea – it is part of the process.

From Monday 5th Feb 2018 to Monday 12th Feb 2018, GillyMac Designs will be running an Instagram and Facebook competition to win a Tula Pink’s “All Star” Fabric Bundle – available here a whole 5 weeks prior to market launch.

Tula’s Next Range – ” All Stars”

 

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.

GillyMac Club Image 1

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.

GillyMac Club Image 2

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

Quilted Eggs Cracked …

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Quilted Eggs Cracked..

I saw these eggs in a post on a North American website. They looked great and as well as being a timely project as we head towards Easter this year, I liked the three dimensional look of the fabric pieces… Thinking ahead I could imagine that the owl in the Senior Girls entry into the Festival of Quilts this year could usefully apply this technique.

The most taxing part of making the eggs was sourcing the Styrofoam eggs themselves. It is easy to buy oodles of little eggs, but finding solid eggs that are 4″/10cm or bigger is difficult and consequently expensive.  Anyhow, I did find them on Amazon, but for about £4 each including shipping, I have now sourced them cheaper .. The smaller eggs are obviously cheaper still and will be quicker and easier for the smalleIMG_5129-104r girls to manage. Solid eggs >15cm seem only to be sold in the US..maybe I could get a friend to send some over …  but then maybe I am going egg crazy !

Once you have your Sytrofoam eggs, then you will need 300 or so cheap dressmaking pins (the ones with the tiny steel head) and pieces of fabric cut 2″ x  3″. I used three different fabrics for both eggs.  To start, you need to mark the centre of the top (narrower end) of your egg. Then fold one of your rectangles over by about 1/8″-1/4 ” and drag your nail down the fold to create a crease.Now fold the fabric rectangle again along the longest side and create another. This should allow you to see where the centre point is along that fold.

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At the top of this mark, place a pin through the fabric and into the egg, just a tiny (incey wincey) amount below the centre dot you marked earlier on your egg. You now fold the edges of the fabric down and overlap them slightly and pin them, and finally secure the other points of the formed fabric triangle with two additional pins. Now repeat this again, placing the fabric directly opposite the first piece. Then fill the gaps either side of the pieces 1 and 2.

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To create the next row needs a little measurement. The point of the first triangle in row 2 should be 3/8″ below the point of the first triangle in row 1.

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When I was making my eggs, I did do the measuring for row 2, but after that I just guessed and all went well .. so don’t despair.. throw away the tape measure once your confidence builds.  Creating rows down the eggs just continues in this way. As you get close to the bottom on the egg, you will find that some of the pins are visible and no longer hidden. When this happens, you can fold the tails of your triangles to hid the pins. When you get to the last row, finish your egg with a piece of material over the tail ends and hold it in place with pins, but this time you can put the pin through a sequin to give a more polished final piece.

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There are lots of designs I have thought up. Instead of working all the way down the egg, stop half way and build the egg up from the bottom (fat end) and then put a ribbon or piece of material around the centre where they join… this has quite a Faberge look about it. Another thought would be to use a larger final piece in the shape of a flower which comes up the side of the egg, this would look a little more acorn like. This technique can be used for Christmas decorations too…

I will be using my eggs as part of an Easter display, hanging from branches in a vase on my dining room table (sounds naff but will look GORGEOUS !)… when I finish the display, I will post a picture ! For now, I will be holding a class on making eggs on Monday 30th March, from 7pm-10pm £25pp including all materials to make 3 eggs each (one large-120mm  and 2 small-70mm).

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