It's about exploring and sharing my creative adventures (mostly sewing these days) ~
~those activities that sometimes obsess, usually inspire, occasionally frustrate
~and always provide a delightful maze to wander through.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Printing on Fabric

I had an idea.
This often leads to some form of a time-consuming obsession.
Time-consuming obsessions are usually some combination of fun, education, mistakes, "aha!" moments, frustration (usually minor...I'm too old to get caught up in such things anymore.   And (when sewing is involved) seam ripping.  And did I mention lots of time consumption?
This idea had all of the above components.
But mostly fun.
And in the end, a wonderful sense of satisfaction. :-)

(WARNING:  This is a long and potentially eye-glazing post, unless you're actually curious about the process of printing on fabric from the comfort of your injet printer...)

Backing up to the idea - I wanted to make a book for a baby's first birthday.  Out of fabric.  Beyond that, it was merely a dim light bulb, other than the fact that I had made an activity book for this baby's aunt - so many years ago that said aunt is about to graduate from college, and I could barely remember how I had done it!   When I heard that the original book was being used and loved at the new baby's home, it was clear that a new book for baby was a Must Do.

The next bit of inspiration came when I found this:
It's a page from a cloth children's book from yesteryear - I talked the shop owner into selling it to me, thinking that I would incorporate it into my book, and the idea was set that I would print children's story pictures onto fabric.   Somehow.

More inspiration came when I was sewing with a group of friends a couple of weeks ago, and someone was actually making a children's book using this fabric, which I totally fell in love with:
I bought these at Hart's Fabric in Santa Cruz, along with some lovely linen/cotton blend (and a few other goodies, of course.  Hart's is definitely worth a visit if you're in the Santa Cruz area!

Even more inspiration came when Denise at grrl + dog posted these delightful freebies from a 1948 children's book she had found - not only were they perfect for the thoughts that were starting to roam around my brain, but I actually remembered all of the pictures!   Clearly I had the book when I was a babe.  Perfect!  Just one example:
Next started the research on printing on to fabric.  I had printed images from my inkjet onto those sheets of pre-prepared cotton fabric sheets before (also available in polyeter) but really disliked the fabric, not to mention the exorbitant cost!  

I researched the interwebs.  I called stores known for their expertise in dying fabric.  I was not getting the info I wanted, which was how to print from my inkjet on to my own fabric and have the dyes be permanent, but done in a relatively non-toxic manner.  (relative being a very subjective word, as it turned out....)

Here's a bit of info about what did, and didn't work:

1.  I pre-washed all of the fabric.
2.  Some fabric was pre-treated for dying, some was not (detailed below)
3.  Fabric was ironed on to freezer paper
4.  Fabric + freezer paper was cut to size, then run through the printer
5.  Freezer paper was removed, then printed image was pressed with a hot iron.
6.  Printed fabric was treated again, with various methods.

Ingredients used:  
  • Bubble Jet Set (BJS) Ingredients: Water, Preservatives, less than .001% Formadehyde
  • Bubble Jet Rinse (BJR) Same ingredient list as BJS
  • Sea Salt (non iodized)
  •  Soda Ash Fixer (Sodium Carbonate) - "mildly caustic"
  • Dharma Dye Fixative (DDF) - Contains Methyl Alcohol and Formaldehyde (less than .75 parts per million)
  • Jacquard Synthrapol (sorry, didn't make it into the picture) Contains isopropanol (rubbing alcohol)   Although I have no concern about rubbing alcohol, I've since learned that Dharma makes a Synthrapol substitute that does not use it.
All of the above come with warning labels, wear rubber gloves, good ventilation, etc.   SO not the direction I wanted to go in, and I want to continue researching alternatives, but in the meantime, I subjected my brain and nervous system to the evils of chemical-land, trying to find out how to use methods that were as clean as possible and still get lasting results.

I might add that the cloth I started with was organic cotton/linen blends.   (insert image of me rolling my eyes here)

The fabric for 1, 2 and 3 above was not pre-treated with anything, other than being washed.
4, 5 and 6  were pre-treated with Salt and Soda Ash fixer.
After printing, #1 was treated with Bubble Jet Set.  The colors faded a bit, but not much.
#2 was treated with BJ Rinse.  Fail.
#3 was treated with Dharma Dye Fixative.  The colors were pretty good here too, but when I wrapped it in a towel to squeeze out some moisture, some dye transferred to the towel.
#4 was treated with BJS.
#5 was treated with BJR (another fail)
#6 was treated with DDF - good color, no dye transfer on to towel.

I tried another set, but this time pre-treated the fabric with BJS (this is the stage when BJS is supposed to be used; i.e., before printing).

#1 Set with BJS.  The colors faded slightly.
#2 Set with  BJR (the stage you are supposed to use it at).  Colors looked good.
#3 Set with DDF.  Colors looked good.

I cut each of these in half, and experimented with a final stage:
#1 - Rinsed again with BJR
#1a - Washed in regular detergent (washing soda) in cold water
#2 - Washed in Synthrapol with hot water
#2a - Regular detergent in hot water
#3 - Regular detergent in hot water
#3a Synthrapol in hot water.

It isn't that easy to tell from the pictures, but the best results here came from pre-treating the fabric with Bubble Jet Set, and after printing, fixing the dye with Bubble Jet Rinse or Dharma Dye Fixative and doing a final wash with Synthrapol and hot water.

In the end, I chickened out a bit with all of the chemicals, and while I pre-treated my fabric with BJS, I skipped straight to the Synthrapol hot water wash, and did a whole lot of very hot iron pressing and setting, hoping that would be enough for the finished piece to last many years.

Some notes on the Bubble Jet product - this is designed to be used with printers that use dye-based inks.   My printer is a Canon that uses dye-based inks for all of the colors, and pigment-based inks for the black.  So we'll just have to wait and see how well it all lasts.

Here's the process, in more detail:
1.  Pre-wash and dry the fabric
2.  Treat the fabric with Bubble Jet Set.  Note:  this is expensive stuff, but the good news is that it's re-usable!   I just poured my used product right back in to the bottle.  :)   Don't squeeze the moisture out - let it drip dry.
3.  Iron the fabric on to freezer paper (the smooth side)   Cut to size.

4.  Run the fabric + freezer paper through the printer, printing your image.
5.  Peel off the freezer paper, and Press the heck out of your printed fabric.  I used the hottest possible setting on my iron, pressed both sides with a dry iron, then for good measure I pressed with steam.   Just because.
6.  Now would be the time to use Bubble Jet Rins or Dharma Dye Fixative, if you want.   As I mentioned, I decided to skip this step and went straight to...
7.  A wash with Synthrapol and hot water.   Hung the prints out to dry.
8.  Pressed the heck out of everything.   Again.

I definitely want to play with more printing, but I would like to research some eco-friendly options.  I do have some people I plan on contacting, but if anyone has any hints, tips, or experience to share, I would love to hear it!

Meantime, I hope this helps or inspires other wannabe home fabric printers among us :)

Next up:   The finished product :)

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Psychedelic Crossword Pajamas

Who needs drugs when you can find fabric like this?  

In my, no...I have no defense.  Honestly, I don't know what I was thinking when I bought this fabric; all I remember is that I'd had it up to here looking for a good quality, non-juvenile flannel for cold night PJ's.  Maybe I had reached the stage when I actually wanted drugs (no, kids...I don't go there.   anymore.)   Not only did I buy some fabric, I bought Five. Yards.  of the stuff.  (it must have been cheap) And I needed flannel jammies.  So dangit, with 5 yards of it, I was going to make jammies with it!

The pattern - Simplicity 2823:

I actually bought this pattern to make jammies for my darling Mumsy, because it seemed like something that would be easy to get on and off for her without dealing with buttons.   I didn't review it because the only thing I used from the original pattern was the neckline, since her body required so many alterations.  

For my version, I didn't bother tracing the pattern like I usually do; I just cut the original tissue - the 99 cents for a pattern I probably wasn't going to use again didn't warrant any special preservation.  So, even though this was, technically, the second time I had made this pattern, I didn't realize until I had the pattern tissue cut out that the shoulders in the size Small dropped halfway to my elbows!   Linebacker PJ's, anyone?  And I don't know WHO the pants were designed for, but I added about 2" to the height at the back waist, and dropped about 3" to the front.....way bizarre, that was.   I barely remember what all of the other alterations were, but I think it's fair to say that I either added or subtracted from every.  single.  seam.   For a set of loose-fitting pajamas???  Clearly this pattern was not designed for my body!

Once it was all done, I ended up folding over the front placket, essentially removing another 2" from the center front.  This was mainly because I wanted more chest coverage in a winter flannel jammies than the pattern covered.   I also just sewed up the placket - no need at all for buttons, and the top is still easy to get on over the head.

The end result?  Jammies that make me smile and giggle, and when the lights go out the psychedelic aspect doesn't matter any more so they won't keep me awake, and best of all, they do what they're supposed to and keep me comfortably warm.  :)

And the kitty approves too :)

Coming Soon.....a project I'm really having fun with, and learning a lot in the process.   Here's a sneak peek:

Monday, March 25, 2013

2 Neckwarmers and a Scarf

Back when the weather was still cold in the Bay Area, I tried on and was smitten by the neckwarmer that shams made and posted about here: sham's post.  The yumminess of the fleece lining, next to the skin, makes a neckwarmer like this a Must Have if you live anywhere but the tropics!  I immediately gathered some material for my own version.  In my usual wandering fashion, I switched paths midstream and ditched the D-rings that shams used, using buttons and/or magnets instead.  Using buttons was one of those ideas that came to me while drifting off to sleep, and I thought I'd had a brilliant original thought, until I visited the website that had been sham's original inspiration, Fashion Cogs - only to discover that she was already using buttons on some of her neckwarmers, along with creative shapes and other unusual details.  Her designs are quite delightful, and even though the pattern isn't that difficult to figure out, I'm choosing to respect the fact that this wasn't my idea, and I'm not going to publish the details.   (thanks for understanding!)

Both scarves provide a LOT of variety in ways to wear them - buttoned (or magnetized) differently, top folded over like a collar,  shifted to one side or the other, and with the fleece lining, sooooooo toasty!

I will share that I used buttons and buttonholes on the ikat scarf - I'm SUCH a fan of self-covered buttons!   I used some vintage button forms from stash, but I've heard of a company that makes some awesome button and buckle forms, and I'll report on them when I've looked into it a bit more.

I used magnets on the polka dot scarf - I sewed the buttons on, and discovered a cheaper (albeit more work-intensive) version of button snaps:   these mighties:

Which I sewed in to little pockets:

They're just strong enough to grab through a layer of fleece for one magnet, and a layer of cotton on the matching magnet.   They would have a nice strong "grab" using only cotton.  I got them at Blick Art Supply - about $7.00 for 8 magnets.

Another side path that I took - somewhat out of necessity - was some quilting on the blue polka dot piece.  I found that the cotton layered over the fleece wanted to bunch and wander a bit, so I thought I would just do some random quilting (with my adorable at the ready Featherweight, Colette).   I just chalked some random meandering lines on the fabric, and followed them (somewhat) by stitching with the Feather - it turned out perfectly!

While I was at it, I also made a Twist Scarf based on the pattern published in Threads #158 (Dec/Jan 2012).  (If you're a Threads Insider you can access the pattern online.   The pattern is by Koos Van den Akker (one of my design heros), but my friend Lynn simplified the pattern by removing the classic Koos patchwork aspect, and also simplified the construction just by leading me through the steps in person.  (Thanks Lynn!!!)

It's a twist (literally) on a basic rectangular scarf, because it's sewn  on the bias, with a twist added in the middle of construction.   Simple, but rather brilliant!   Her's my version, made from a lovely silk charmeuse:
Kind of showing the unusual twist

Wrapped around the neck - I cut the fabric 18" x 66"
in order to end up with a piece that
I could easily wrap twice around my neck.

Another wearing option
 I think I'll get a lot of use out of all of the scarves!   I'm even still wearing the neckwarmers on  our naturally air conditioned evenings; the silk scarf should be wearable nearly all year.  :)

I'm still sewing.... just catching up on blogging....

Thursday, March 21, 2013

That Frosting....Revealed.

Way back when (several weeks ago, just before my blogging life took a nap) I made this post about my welt-pocket-in-uber-long-faux-fur.   I finished it shortly thereafter, and finally got the camera out today.  Here we are:

The pattern is Katherine Tilton's V8777, also reviewed here.  I didn't mean to buy the faux fox, truly I didn't, but I kept walking by it at Stonemountain (over the course of 2 or 3 separate visits there), and my hand kept reaching out to pet it, and day it just followed me home.  I had a hefty discount coupon after all, and the cutter was being VERY generous, so the total cost of this vest was about $15, so how could I resist?  (Time spent doesn't factor in the cost when you're sewing for yourself, after all....right?)

I did the usual sort of cutting prep when sewing fur -
Marked the cutting lines on the back:

Cut through the backing, avoiding cutting the fur:

I parted the fur along the seam lines and combed it over to the side, then trimmed the fur that was on the seam allowances (no pictures of that, but you get the idea).

Somewhere in blogland I had seen a picture of a fur vest with the back made of fur-less fabric - an idea I blatantly copied (sorry to whoever gave me the inspiration - you're out there somewhere but I have no idea who you are; apologies.....).   Thank heavens, because this puppy ended up bulky enough without encasing myself in a full sausage of fur!   I used a lovely woven with a bit of stretch (the same fabric in a different color as The Dress With The Pose - this fabric may well still be available at Fabrix, for local SF folks - it's really quite yummy!)

I also lined the front pieces with the same fabric.

And yes indeed, I AM using those pockets!

I ended up cutting some bulk off the center front, and I also shortened the vest by several inches (that fur is LONG!); other than that the sizing is the same as the first vest.  I sewed the lining in by machine along the bottom edge and the armholes, and hand sewed the fur to the lining along the side seams and the neckline.   Other than the welt pockets, it all went together fairly quickly.

This is definitely a frosting piece; I don't know how often I'll actually wear the thing, but I'm sure I'll have some fun with it when I do!  :D

I have been sewing - more will be revealed shortly.  In the meantime, may we all enjoy a little tasty frosting now and then, whether it's healthy & practical or.....otherwise ;-D

and.....I had to add this photo, because....just because.   Because I just HAD to!   A few of the uber cute goat kidlets I petted and played with at Harley Farms last weekend :)

Oh!  One more thing!  Rhonda Buss, from Rhonda's Creative Life, is a finalist in the Sew It All Casting Call, competing for a spot on a tv show!  If you haven't yet seen Rhonda's contest entry video, please check it out - I think she has a deserving win with this, and you can vote for her if you agree!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Google Reader and Bloglovin'

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Well.   I log in to my Google Reader (after too long an absence) only to discover that Google is whipping said Reader out from under our feet!  Starting July 1, no more Google Reader!  :(   People have had some nice things to say about Bloglovin', so I thought I'd give it a whirl - with just a tad bit of research, it turns out to be pretty easy to transfer all of your blogs over, and add a Bloglovin' widget. (this is specific to blogspot blogs - I think the process for wordpress is similar though)

Here are the steps:

  1. You will need to sign up with Bloglovin' at   I only saw two options - sign up via email, or through your facebook account.
  2. You now need to "Claim" your blog by going to "Account", and "my blog" - type your blog name in to the box (or click on it, if your blog name shows up in the drop down menu)
  3. Copy and paste the link into a new blog post on your blog
  4. Go back to and click on "Claim your blog"   This should verify your blog, and the link should show up in your blog post.  (this is the link that is showing up at the top of this post)  

To add a bloglovin widget in a blogspot blog, bloglovin' has made the process easy as it could possibly be!

  1. Under your Account in, select "add a Follow button"
  2. A page will open with a variety of bloglovin' icons.  Choose one and click on "select this icon"
  3. A window will pop up that says "Add Widget".   Click on the Add Widget, and your Layout page for your blog will automatically pop up.   The bloglovin' widget will be at the top of your widget column.  Simply drag it to the location you want, Save, and you're done!

Bloglovin appears to show only the first paragraph of a new post, so you need to click through in order to read the entire post, but other than that, it appears to be much like Google Reader - yay!

Now to figure out how & where to save all of my favorite "starred" posts that I wanted to have as handy references.....

An aside:  I haven't been a very active blogger lately, (but I HAVE been sewing!), and sewing posts will follow, as soon as I organize myself and get some actual pictures taken....

Meanwhile, happy sewing and blogging, and remember that the only constant in life is change, so we might as well enjoy the changes as best we can :)

EDIT:  badmomgoodmom added this info in the comments as a way to store your starred items (note:  it isn't working for me on my Mac, [yet], but if I figure it out I'll add that info too):


then click on:
this link  ...(that's what it says when you get there)...

then go to:
login with your Google email and passwd

Select Choose Services tab at the top of the page.
Select Google Reader and build archive.
Wait for it to build a file of all of your reader data.
Then download the file (mine was 5.3MB) to your own computer.

Your blog subscriptions are in xml.
The rest of the stuff is in json (JavaScript Object Notation) and can be read by many other programs. (I heard that Chrome can read json, but haven't tried that yet.)"

Another Note (from me) on the starred items:  I also downloaded Feedly, and discovered that the Starred items from Google Reader show up automatically in Feedly!   I may do another post with my own feelings about the differences after I've played with feedly and bloglovin for a bit.....