Tag Archives: tutorial


I promised a prezzie for anyone guessing my score on the color chart quiz post– Debi guessed correctly that I scored an 8. Debi— ding ding ding– you win!!

Thanks for those of you with such confidence in my color ability! I suspect the low score less to do with my ability than it does with my good computer screen, and the ability to flip it at an angle to see the chart at somewhat of a grey scale.

While we’re discussing color, here’s a close up of one of the fabrics I dyed at Dye Day 2008:

In other news, the president of the PTA asked if I would make some Tee Bags out of some incorrectly screen school tee shirts. I made 40 bags, and some of the 6th graders will be hawking them (hopefully they will be more polite than silly…) at Back to School Night. The proceeds will go towards helping the 6th graders offset the cost of an upcoming field trip.

If you’re new to this blog, please check out the post titled “Tee Bags” for a photo tutorial on turning old tee shirts into shopping bags. The bags are really simple and fast to make (ahem, I just made FORTY!!) and they’re great for the farmer’s market, where bags can get kind of messy from all the leafy goodness. Just toss the tee bags in the wash, and you’re ready to go shopping again!


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Hand dyed fabric day

What’s a fun thing to do when it’s 100 degrees out? Invite your friends over to dye fabric! No sitting around the pool for us– oh no, let’s race around sheathed in rubber gloves and face masks.

I hosted a dye day with some of the members of Fibervision, my Santa Barbara CA-based art group. In attendance were Judy Rys (of Color My World), Lora Martin (Loreclectic), Linda Cassirer (you’ve seen her work on the cover of QNM), Mary Norton (applique artist and beader extraordinaire), and me.

Oh, and my 2 kids, 2 of their friends, and just to add to the general mayhem, the gardener decided that Saturday would be a good day to take out the dying pine tree in the back yard. So we had nice background noise music, too.

Even with all of that chaos, we ended up with some gorgeous fabric! I spouted off the few dyeing facts I know (mainly because Judy asked a million questions. For someone so adamant about NOT buying more products, she sure is interested in the dyeing facts of life!)

Here we are, mixing up dyes:

I’m on the left, with Linda and Mary mixing, and Judy putting some fabric in or taking some fabric out of the soda ash bath in the background.

Gosh, I hope we’re dyeing enough fabric! (gosh, I hope it all fits in Lora’s car! I kept getting emails about BOLTS of fabric showing up. I thought they were joking…):

Please note that this represents only ONE area of tubs and the photo was taken early in the day. Soon, there were tubs lined up on the other side of the patio, all along the outside of my studio, and on the other side of this lot of tubs. Lots and lots of tubs. Wheeee!

We are mixed media artists, so we also dyed papers and coffee filters:

You don’t have to do much to paper to make it gorgeous– just blot up some dye puddles and you have instant color!

I didn’t dye much fabric, because I was more interested in getting the girls hooked in the dyeing process. (Shhhhh, don’t tell them!) Promise I’ll share some of my dyed stuff tomorrow.  Plus, look for the upcoming tutorial on how I dye fabric!

Meanwhile, my studio clean up has run aground for a while. I was able to get most of the nonsense up off of the floor and table, and I got all of my cabinets organized:

It was fabulous to open a cabinet and be able to pull out a few tubs that contained all of my dye product.

I have 3 shows to get ready for this Fall, and so I need to get back to creating. The studio feels much better now– and I created happily all day Monday. As for the studio clean up, it will continue, and I’ve gotten far enough so that I can do it in bits and pieces (go through my file cabinet, re-order my beads: tasks instead of big looming overwhelming projects!) Thanks for sticking with me during the process– I know, I know, I owe you photos!


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How to make an ironing board topper

As I delve deeper and deeper into mixed media, adding more and more supplies and projects to my list of art projects, I find that my studio becomes ever more filled with piles. Where does one put a pile? On top of one’s work table. Where do the other piles live? Right next to the first pile. Sigh. It’s a mess, I tell you! Now that I’m in a cleaning frenzy, life is getting less pile-y at Wild Onion Studio. That won’t always be the case though, and I want to share my secret work space with you all!

When the piles get the best of my space, where do I work?

On top of my ironing board, of course.

When I lived in Chicago, I had a teeny room in my house in which to work, and my ironing board was the only “table” I had. Now that I have a whole big studio, I have hung on to that habit. However, now I have this amazing ironing board topper that measures 22″ x 60″,  made by Mr. Wild Onion for my birthday about 6 years ago. It has become one of my favorite studio tools, second only to my Gammill longarm machine.  Due to the 22″ width of the topper, I can iron fabrics without having to work around the pointed end of the original ironing board; I can also put my cutting mat on top of it, and use the surface as a cutting station!

Here’s how my clever DH constructed the topper:

  • Cut a piece of 1/2″ plywood 60″x22″. This size is light enough to pick up off the ironing board, big enough to press yardage by the half yard without scootching the fabric all over the board.
  • DH sealed the wood by giving it 2 coats of paint, top and bottom. I don’t think this is necessary, but he was giving this to me as a birthday gift, so he felt that he needed to pretty it up a bit
  • Lay your existing ironing board on the bottom side of the plywood, with the ironing board against the plywood to use as a template. Mark around the ironing board with a pencil.
  • ** my ironing board is already finished, so for your purposes, please ignore the wood planks and the muslin! Yours won’t be in place yet.
  • Cut 5 pieces of 1 .5″x .5″ x 14″ of wood plank. Is 1.5″ x .5″ a standard size for a wood plank? I don’t know. I’m also guessing that the 14″ lengths had something to do with that wood piece coming in a 6′ length. What I’m trying to say is, don’t stress out on these sizes!
  • Nail one of the 14″ pieces of wood along the line drawn at the straight back edge of your ironing board marking. These wood pieces will keep the topper from slipping off your ironing board.
  • Nail two of the 14″ pieces of wood along the lines drawn at each of the tapered front edges of your ironing board marking.
  • Nail the remaining two 14″ pieces of wood along the lines drawn at each of the straight sides of your ironing board marking. These 2 steps keep your topper firmly in place when you snug it on top of your ironing board.
  • Important note: make sure to nail the inner edge of your 14″ pieces of wood along the drawn line of your ironing board marking. You can even nail the pieces a bit outside of your marked line. DO NOT nail the outer edge of your 14″ pieces of wood to the drawn line or you will not leave enough space for your ironing board!
  • Cut a piece of 100% cotton batting and 100% cotton muslin 64″ x 26″. Layer both batting and muslin on top of the topper. Fold about 1.5″ over the edge of one long side of your topper; attach to the underside of the topper (the side with the 14″ pieces of wood) with a staple gun. Pull the opposite edge of the batting/muslin over the opposite edge of the topper, staple.
  • Repeat above step on the short sides of your topper.
  • Continue smoothing the batting/muslin over the edges of the topper, stapling every 2-3″ to secure your new ironing surface.
  • You can add fresh muslin on top of this batting/muslin combo whenever you need to clean up your surface. Alternately, if you get fusible on your muslin surface, it’s a snap to rip off just the yucky muslin, leaving the batting stapled on the topper. Repeat the stapling steps with clean muslin.
  • Put your ironing board at a comfortable work height. Now you just place the topper on top of your ironing board, snugging the ironing board inside the area defined by your attached 14″ wood pieces. Make sure the ironing board sits within the confines of your nailed planks for stability!

I have become a convert to pressing on a hard surface; I find that the pressed fabric really does keep a sharper, more accurate crease. This is particularly important when pressing seams for quilting. As a bonus, the harder surface makes a nicer work space, should you plop down your cutting board and rotary cut some fabric.


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Umbria roof (fiber)tiles, a tyvek tutorial

The Brady Bunch cottage cheese texture (the only texture I hate!!) has been scraped off of DS1’s new room-to-be. I’ve been up since 6:30 to start painting said ceiling and it’s time to get to the walls. But first, a blog post! I am so totally procrastinating! And that was so totally a So. CA sentence from this Midwest girl!

I promised to share some step-by-step photos of my fiber tiles made with fabrics and Tyvek. Without further ado, but with some procrastination of the painting kind, here goes.

The roof “tiles” from my fiber piece, Umbria: Roof I were fascinating for me to make. I drew heavily from the book, Surfaces for Stitch by Gwen Hedley. After reading it cover to cover, and then going back and reading it again, I closed it, grabbed a journal, and began scribbling ideas from memory. This way, I was able to merge Gwen’s instructions with my own experiences and ideas. This was a new way of organizing my experimentation, and I must say that I like it. Not only does it arrange my ideas, but it keeps me going when I get interrupted. I don’t make a firm step-by-step list, but rather a loose gathering of ideas, with notations on “what if’s” and “try this’es”. In addition to helping me through the tedious and numerous interruptions to my day, it also helped me get over the initial resistance I always feel when trying new ideas. What is that about, anyway?

On to my roof tiles. I first gathered together most of the fabrics I thought I might use. I hand-dyed and painted several segments of cotton, silk, dry baby wipes and paper towels (great texture!), used dryer sheets, cheesecloth, and lace. Some fabric was rusted. The inspiration photo of the actual roof tiles in Italy was indispensable for color. Here is a photo of the gathered fabric, with some painted Tyvek in the center:

To paint the Tyvek, front and back, I grabbed some craft acrylic paint in the tile colors, and swiped it on randomly. I did experiment with different patterning, but in the end, it didn’t make any difference to the finished product.

Next up: play time! I cut random chunks of different fabric, laying them down on a square of painted Tyvek. Sometimes the fabric hung over the edge.

Then, I took the square to my sewing machine, and sewed my beloved interlocking circles. Around and around and around I sewed. Wheee!

The above photo shows an experiment on unpainted Tyvek.  I ended up zapping the Tyvek enough to have it shrink back and hide behind the fabric, so I didn’t paint the tyvek for this tile.

Once the squares were sewn, I took them outside, along with my heat gun and a chopstick to hold the square in place. The chopstick complained less about the heat from the air gun than did my fingers. Ouch! I have a cheapie heat gun from Michael’s, so I let it run for a few minutes to heat up.

I experimented with zapping the square with hot air from the back and from the front. The back side won, hands down. The Tyvek curls and bubbles and generally has a party, all the while being constrained by the sewn lines. Here is a specific square, shown before and after zapping:

Below (shown before being zapped) is an experiment that, to my eyes, is a failure:

I had a square of Tyvek/fabric and couched on some yarn. I didn’t realize that the yarn made such a pronounced “S” shape (really, I was just going for some curves, but the small size of the initial square didn’t allow for much patterning with the yarn….) I had hoped that the shrinking Tyvek would obscure the “S” in some freeform way. Didn’t happen.

I share these yucky photos because I always find much to learn from failure, and I will definitely try adding yarns to the Tyvek square again.

Well, I have to go paint the walls of DS1’s room now. I do have some more close up’s of the squares to share, plus some other experiments. You won’t have to wait too long to see those– I have a whole ‘nother bedroom to paint, so I’ll need to have some more procrastinating excuses!

Note:  another tyvek tutorial follows this blog post!  I’m on a roll!!


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Tee bags: a tutorial to recycle a tee shirt into a shopping bag

Tee-bags is the name of my 10 year old’s new business. A tee-bag is a tee shirt, recycled (and washed in hot water!) into a reusable shopping bag! He has granted me permission to offer a free tutorial on how he creates shopping bags using t-shirts!

Since his dad (my DH) owns E-cycle Group, a green business recycling printer cartridges, DS1 is very excited to follow in his dad’s green footsteps with his own recycling business. Not only is he preventing the tee’s from becoming landfill, he is also providing an alternative to the age old question, paper or plastic!

A bonus is that the bags are machine washable, which is a nice option to have when you go to the farmer’s market and get bits of lettuce and onion skins in the bag! The tee-bags also fold up to stuff into your purse or glove compartment–so they are convenient to use, which is a key component to making recycling part of your lifestyle.  For more tips on recycling and environmentally friendly choices, visit the eCycle Group Cafe blog!

He was able to obtain free tee shirts from our local Freecycle organization (note: Freecycle is an entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving and getting stuff for free in their own towns. It’s all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills) He was also able to pick up unsold tee shirts from a local rummage sale.

After a quick lesson on my serger, he was able to whip out some bags. His BFF worked on the marketing end, providing a beautiful poster, as well as rigging up a wagon for a portable display. Their proceeds go towards a 6th grade (next autumn) field trip.
This morning, I took the boys to the local Farmer’s Market, to test the waters. They sold out within one hour!! The boys are really excited, and are already back at work in my studio, getting Tee-bags ready for next week!
Here’s a quick tutorial for making your own tee-bags:
(DS1 says to tell you that first, wash the tee in hot water, to get rid of any germs.)

Turn the tee shirt inside out, line up the bottom hem, and sew or serge the bottom edge together, just above the tee shirt hem.

Line up the sleeves seams and cut off the tee shirt sleeves. It works best to cut off the sleeve seams!

With the shirt still flat, cut out the neck: cut close to the neck ribbing at the sides of the neck

then cut a “scoop neckline” including the back of the tee shirt in the scoop.

Here’s what it looks like when all the pieces are cut off. Knit jersey (tee shirt fabric) doesn’t fray, so you don’t have to hem any of the cut edges!

Turn the bag right side out, and go shopping!


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How I rust fabric. A tutorial!

I have been so intrigued by creating rusty fabric! All summer long, a part of my backyard has been taken over by various rusty implements:


rust-yardage-oil-drum-blog.jpgHere is a tutorial of how I use these rusty implements to create my rusted fabric. Today, we will work with an old oil drum, now being used to create a shibori-type pattern on some white cotton fabric.

rusted-fabric-blog.jpg Here are some finished fabrics– I like to overdye and stamp and stencil on the rusted fabric, to create unusual and unique art cloth!

I tend to figure techniques out without the aid of books or videos, because I find that the mistakes I make along the way lead me to create unique-to-me versions of whatever endeavor I’m attempting to produce. To rust fabric, Susan-style:

  1. beg the neighbors for rusty items
  2. stack said items in a heap in the backyard
  3. cook lovely dinner for DH who complains that the neighbors will think we live in a trashy dump
  4. explain over lovely dinner that neighbors are too busy laughing at wife and celebrating the removal of trash from their own yards to think badly of us
  5. dampen fabric (silk, cotton, rayon, poly– everything I’ve tried rusts) with a 50/50 mix of white vinegar/water
  6. arrange, tie, and/or smoosh fabric artistically around, over, on top of rusty object
  7. sprinkle fabric with salt
  8. cover fabric/rusty object with plastic tarp to keep fabric damp
  9. check every so often for appropriate level of rust transfer** note that this transfer seems to happen faster with silk than with cotton, and faster in warm weather than cool

I over dye with Procion dyes, then stamp or stencil with Lumiere paints. Voila!

If you want more detailed directions, videos, or tools, please visit Rust-Tex, a wonderful new online site for all things rusty!

Happy rusting!


Filed under Fiber, Fiber Art, paint fabric, Quilting, rust fabric, sewing, silk screen, stencil