Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Wednesday Sewing - Repurposed T-shirt Bags

On Monday, I showed you a crocheted market bag pattern from Coats and Clark that I just love!  However, I know a lot of you don't crochet - so today I have a market bag to make from old T-shirts.  These bags are also great for the beach or pool since you just toss them in the washing machine with the bathing suits.

I love re-purposing clothes - especially when I can find them at Goodwill!  I don't know if this happens everywhere, but Goodwill in the Phoenix area has a certain color tag half price each week and then $1 on Thursday.  You can't beat that!  It took me awhile to figure out I could just use what I bought as fabric - especially the larger sizes of clothing.

There are several patterns for T-shirt bags floating around out there.  This one I made is a bit different to suit my tastes - it has a boxy bottom and deeper handles/straps to put over your shoulder.  It's a really easy pattern to adjust, though, if you have different ideas on how you want yours to look.

*T-shirt - my pattern is for adult sized shirts, but the pattern is easy to shrink for child sized shirts.  Pick a shirt with a design that starts down a bit from the neck.  A heavier T-shirt will give you a sturdier bag; a lighter shirt will be easy to scrunch up and stick in your purse.
*pattern found here

1.  Cut out pattern and tape dotted edges together matching the letters.

2.  Take a full sheet of newspaper and fold it in half.  Lay your pattern so that the bottom edge is on the natural fold in the middle of the newspaper.  Draw along the curved edges of the pattern and cut the newspaper along those lines.  This is the bag pattern.

3.  Smooth out the T-shirt and lay the bag pattern on.  Pin the two curved side edges along the armholes, outside the seam - you don't want the seam on your bag.  Pin the top curve (by the neckline) and pin the bottom.  Don't pin at the sides or at the top of the shoulders.

4.  Don't worry if the sides of the T-shirt don't match the sides of your pattern or if the top shoulder piece is either too long or too short for your shirt.  These bags all turn out different sizes!

5.  Cut the T-shirt along the two curved side edges, the top curve by the neckline, and the bottom edge.  I save the leftover pieces, but then I'm a packrat!  I'll show you some of the things I do with them another day.

6.  Turn inside out, pin the bottom edges together, and sew a 1/4 inch seam with a zigzag stitch.

7.  If your T-shirt is smaller, you'll need to fold the middle of the bag pattern a bit to cut down on the width and trim the curved edge near the neck rounder.

8. To make the boxy bottom, I line the shirt up in the corner of my cutting board, mark at 3 inches on the side and bottom, and use a ruler to draw a line between the dots.  If you don't have a cutting board, just measure 3 inches up the side and three inches across the bottom for your dots.  Repeat with the other side.

9.  Begin sewing (again with a zigzag stitch) on the side I'm pointing to and follow the arrows, raising your presser foot and pivoting where needed.  This will mean you're stitching over the bottom edge again - it helps to reinforce it.

10.  Trim along the lines you drew.

11.  Turn the bag right side out.  Turn the fabric in on each of the three curved edges and use a zigzag stitch to sew a hem.  The fabric will want to curl, so I just let it turn itself under twice and then sew.  Some shirts have thick seams you'll be sewing over - just turn it under once at the seams to avoid having your hem get too thick.

And you're ready to go!

Happy Creating!  Deborah

Monday, March 28, 2011

Monday Project - Crocheted Bags

With spring and farmer's markets, I'm into crocheting bags lately!  This weekend we bought delicious fennel, cauliflower, kohlrabi, and French breakfast radishes.  Yum!!!  I made the bag shown in the opening photo and just loved it, so now I've made another and have a third in progress.  These are great for farmers' markets or shopping (or even keeping more crochet projects in).  The yarn I'm using is Cotlin from Knit Picks - 70% cotton, 30% linen.  I made washrags from it about 6 months ago and they're still soft and great with weekly washing - one of my new favorite yarns!  The market bag pattern can be found here .  I just substituted Cotlin without making any changes (same hook size, too).  It took four skeins.

I'm also working on a cotton thread crocheted bag for little c's bath toys - she picked out the color herself!  I had one for little c's daddy and uncle when they were little but I seem to have lost the pattern and couldn't find couldn't find one that matches.  Finally I found this one at the Coats and Clark website here that is close.  The one I originally had was a wider mesh and the bath toys would get stuck - I'm following the directions as they are, but using size 10 thread and a size 7 hook.  I like the closer mesh and I think it will still be a good size.  The only part I don't like is the top and handle, so when I get there I plan on making adjustments to make it more like the market bags - I'll let you know what I end up doing!

Happy Creating!  Deborah

Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday Inspiration - Kimono

Mary Mariko Ohno and her student, Mari.

Last week I was at the National Art Education Association conference in Seattle getting inspired by lots of good presentations and workshops.  With my recent kimono fascination, I was very excited to see a presentation on kimono dressing given by Mary Mariko Ohno!  Mrs. Ohno is an amazingly energetic woman who was born in Tokyo and now lives in Tacoma, Washington and runs the Kabuki Academy there.  The hour flew by!  She talked with us about the history of the kimono, how they are made, and kimono etiquette.  Then she used two volunteers to demonstrate how a kimono is worn. 

The turquoise kimono is a simpler one and the pink one was Mrs. Ohno's when she was a young woman (young, unmarried women wear brighter colors of kimono and the longer sleeve style).  Let me tell you - when she and her student each pulled on one side of the partially wrapped obi (the sash), you could see the models' eyes almost bulge!  She told us that was nothing - traditionally, men do the obi tightening for formal occasions, theater,dress kimono, and such and they pull much harder.  No wonder women say it's hard to eat, drink, and sit in one!  By the way, she works with local groups and schools giving demonstrations and lessons in traditional Japanese dance and music, as well as kimono - see her web page here for contact information.

This kimono is a theater costume used on stage - my photography doesn't show how beautiful it really is.  The padding at the bottom helps the kimono to trail behind the wearer, making a graceful flow.

I've been looking for an exhibition of kimono to attend, partly for the kimono themselves and partly because I want to study their surface designs up close - haven't found one near me, yet.  But, depending on where you live, you might be in luck!

The Museum of Art and Science in Macon, Georgia is hosting a traveling kimono exhibit, Fashioning Kimono:  Art Deco and Modernism in Japan, through April 10th.  This exhibit shows 97 kimono on loan from the Montgomery Collection of Lugano, Switzerland and are from 1890 through the 1940's.  Update:  the touring appears to be over but there is an exhibition book available here.

The Schedel Arboretum and Gardens in Elmore, Ohio will have a kimono exhibit from April 1 - July 15 of this year.

The Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens in Delray, Florida has a current exhibit of kimono, woodblock prints, and paintings from different eras that will be on display through June 5th.

And finally, the Art Institute of Chicago will be exhibiting Japanese Kimono, 1915 to 1940: From Tradition to Ready-to-Wear, which looks at the information about the wearer a kimono gives.  I learned a few things in Mrs. Ohno's presentation - married or unmarried, for one.

I don't currently have plans to be near any of them, so I'll keep searching and in the mean time pour over my kimono books!

In other news, I have an update on where the Bead Museum's collection and library will be going now that they closed their doors - the Mingei International Museum in San Diego.  I've put more information as an update on the original post here.

Happy Creating!  Deborah

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Wednesday Sewing - Primitive Bunny

Here's the first project using the complex cloth I've been working on the past several weeks!  I love the look of simple stuffed animals - I think it draws more attention to the fabric they're made of.  If you've been following the complex cloth blogs, I'm sure you recognize the fabric I used for this!

*fabric - about 1/2 yard should do
*fiberfill stuffing
*chopstick or other long utensil
*pattern found here 

1.  Cut the pattern out and put together by matching dotted lines A and taping together.

2.  Pin bunny to the fabric, placing dashed line on a fold.  I cut this pattern on the bias (diagonal fold) to make the lines would go at an angle.  Cut two pieces.

3.  Put wrong sides together and sew in a 1/4 inch seam - leaving an opening.  I like to sew fabric stuffed animals with a zigzag stitch - I think it helps hold the seams together better when you're stuffing.

4.  Turn right side out and stuff.

5.  Sew opening shut by hand.

She turned out looking very different on each side - I love it!

Happy Creating!  Deborah

Monday, March 21, 2011

Monday Project - More Work on Complex Cloths

I have declared two of the complex cloths I've been working on finished!  One seemed to just flow.  The other ... I pretty much fought with the whole time.  But in the end, I loved it!

Lighter/Multi-colored Cloth

When we last saw this cloth I had used a bleach pen to make squiggles all over.  It needed something more.  I took tape (I use artists' tape because I don't think it leaves a sticky residue like masking tape does) and made two stripes going both ways, leaving empty rectangles and squares.

I put discharge paste in those rectangles and squares.

When it dried, I ironed until all the color was gone from those areas.

I then painted on thickened purple and turquoise dyes on the rectangles and mixed the two dyes together for the squares.  After sitting in plastic overnight, I washed it out and :

I really like this one!  Here's the progression it went through:

Darker Cloth:

This cloth was a problem all along!  Dye wouldn't set, paint wouldn't stick, discharged areas wouldn't stay white - it's the same fabric as the others, so I don't know what was going on with it.  When we last saw it, I had just added gray, shadowy marks with thickened dye.  They were supposed to be triangles, but the dye wasn't thickened enough and spread.  Oh well.

Next I painted on discharge paste in circle shapes next to the shadowy circles.  When dry, I ironed them until white, washed it and everything looked great.  Whew, I thought - the curse was over.  Nope.  I painted the white circles with thickened gray and black dye, set it overnight in plastic, washed it out the next day and ..... the dye didn't set and the circles came out yellowish.  When things don't work, I usually have some clue as to what went wrong.  Not this time.

So I painted them with gray and black fabric paint - a mixture of Versatex and Peebo watered down and rubbed in with a q-tip.  Because everything kept washing out, I put the paint on thicker than I really wanted it to be and ironed the painted areas for about 5 minutes each.  By this point I didn't know if I even wanted to look when it came out of the dryer!  Well .... this time the paint set.  Boy did it ever set!  It was just as dark as when I painted it, so it was darker than what I'd had in mind and I decided to work on it later.

Then .... I turned it over to fold it up and !!!!  The backs of the painted circles were gorgeous!  I'm done and I love it.  I could never repeat it, which makes it even better!

Here's the progression it went through (minus photographs of the dye not setting several times - I was too disgusted at the time to take photos):

Now it's time to start thinking about what to do with them!

Happy Creating!  Deborah

Friday, March 18, 2011

Friday Inspiration - Hearts and Hands for Sendai

It's difficult to keep inspired when the news from Japan keeps getting worse each day ... my heart and prayers are with you.  When I read of Crazy Quilt International's Hearts and Hands for Sendai project for the quilting community, I felt inspiration stirring again - this is something I can do to help beyond simply helping monetarily.  Not to say that's not needed (we've seen enough disasters recently to know how important monetary donations are and I've just read that the Red Cross' funds are dwindling), but it feels so good to be able to work on something concrete and beautiful.

The details are on Leslie's Erlich's site, Pinyon Creek StitchingCQI's website, or Facebook.  There is a $10 donation being collected with each quilt square sent, the squares can be traditional or crazy quilting (there are specific requirements for crazy quilt squares), 8 inches, and in jewel tones - think gems like sapphires, emeralds, amethysts, garnets.  Janet Towbin has a good photo of jewel toned embroidery thread on her Flickr site here.  Contact Leslie by email at for the address to send the squares to  - she'll need them by June 30th.  Plans are to have the squares made into quilts that will tour Japan and then be auctioned off.

Hideko Ishida is a CQI member from Sendai - she and her family survived.  I spent most of a morning looking over the beautiful stitchery and quilting her blog, Wind from the East.  

I've always wanted to learn ribbon embroidery, so I was especially drawn to her gorgeous ribbon work.

I love the way this one looks like Spring finally arriving after a long winter!

Happy Creating!  Deborah

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Wednesday Sewing - February Story Quilt Square

March is half over and I finally got my February quilt square finished for the 2011 story quilt I'm working on.  See the post on January's Quilt Square here for an explanation and a tutorial on how I'm using photos as patterns for these squares.

One of the things my husband and I love about living in Arizona is Spring Training - the baseball stadiums are small so you can sit up close to the field, the weather's usually great, baseball's back .... I could go on and on.  February's a happy month around here!  Last year several events conspired to keep us from being able to get tickets until the last weekend - and then we were involved in a car accident in the parking lot and didn't even make it to that one.  So sad!  This year we're making up for it - from the first weekend to the last!

I made this square the same way I did the last one - appliques using Steam-A-Seam 2 and pieces of fabric, photo fabric, and embroidery.  If you're also making a story quilt, be sure to post a photo of the squares you've done so far on the Story Quilt Flickr group here!

Happy Creating!  Deborah

Monday, March 14, 2011

Monday Project - Using Thickened Dyes

I'm back to working on my complex cloth!  When we last left the two I worked on this weekend (this blog post), I had used discharge paste and they looked like this:

Then I washed them.  And forgot to use Synthrapol - actually, since I'd already washed them once, I wasn't expecting them to run any more.  I was wrong!  The dye back stained in the areas I had just discharged.  For the darker fabric, I liked it better - there was a little color in the previously white areas.

But I hadn't completely discharged the bluish fabric - I stopped before I had white showing.  So when the dye back stained those areas, it filled them in and you couldn't tell what I'd done.  Hmmmm.  I decided to retie and pole wrap the fabric as arashi and put discharge paste on again.  This time, I discharged to white and put Synthrapol in the wash water.  It looked like this:

It was time to start the next step - using thickened dyes. Thickened dyes are good to use when you want the fabric you're working on to have a soft feel and be completely dyed, not painted.  However, if you want a crisp line with absolutely no bleeding, you'll probably be happier with fabric paint.  Most of the materials I'm using I've talked about in detail in this post.  I've added links to new materials to show where you can buy them.

*fiber reactive dyes like Procion
*soda ash
*sodium alginate
*Synthropol or other textile detergent
*small containers and utensil for mixing - don't use anything that will be used for food.  I like to use plastic that I would have been recycling
*face mask
*paint brushes, stamps, stencils

1. Mix up the dyes.  First mix 3/4 cup of urea (this keeps the dye wet on the fabric longer, helping to get a good dye set) and 1 quart water.  This is commonly called "chemical water."

The usual way to proceed is to mix the sodium alginate (1 - 4 tsp.) into this until it is as thick as you want it to be.  I do this a little differently. 

I take about 1/4 cup of the chemical water and add 1/2 tsp. soda ash, about 1/2 tsp. of dye powder, and about 1/2 tsp. of sodium alginate and mix well.  The sodium alginate will clump - keep stirring and it will mostly dissolve.  Wait a couple of minutes to see if it's the thickness you want, and then begin adding more until it reaches that point.  For less bleeding, make the dye thicker. 

Once you've added the soda ash, the dye will last for about 4 hours.

2.  At the end of adding the dye, you will want the fabric to sit for around 6 hours and, optimally, stay damp for that time.  I do this by first laying down a layer of painter's plastic, laying the fabric over it and then folding the plastic up over it when I am done painting/stamping.  Then I just put the next fabric on top, paint/stamp it, and fold more of the plastic over it when I am done.

3.  For the darker fabric, I wanted to stamp triangles in radiating lines.  I used a block I'd cut into that shape and a slightly thickened dye.  As you'll see, I probably could've used a thicker dye - it spread pretty well and ended up looking more like a circle.

To make the stamping easier, I pour some of the thickened dye into a smaller cup and just press the stamp into it and then onto the fabric.

4.  After about 6 hours, rinse out and wash.  Here's what it looked like when I was done.

5.  To stencil, I like to use a very thickened dye.

6.  Brush it onto a stencil like this:

7.  I press the brush against the edge of the cup containing the dye to get most of it out before I paint it onto the stencil.  If you have too much dye you get a lot of running - the snowflake on the right was done with very little dye and making a "stabbing" motion down into the stencil with the dye.

8.  Here's how that fabric turned out.

Next week, I'll show you what I've been doing on the other two fabrics.

Happy Creating!  Deborah