Monday, August 25, 2008


Once again I have been captured by the dye/discharge combo process. I know - it's pretty crazy to dye pieces of fabric, just to undye them again. But I am fascinated by the colors left behind after applying a bleach product, and I just can't seem to get enough of it. Plus, I'm scheduled to teach this process within my guild in a few weeks and I'm trying to get a good stack of samples put together. Even though the pressure is on, I'm loving every minute of it!

So my current quest with the dye/discharge combo was to incorporate a free motion quilting technique I refer to as "positive-negative", as freezer paper fills the negative spaces to frame the positive shape for quilting. I love this technique and find it produces a beautiful, clean shape just by staying within the lines. I started with a stack of dyed dark cotton (using a palette of colors that included about 50% black in each formula), plus a few small pieces of brights that I wanted to incorporate as accents. In the end, I hoped to not only learn something new about the process but also to create a tote bag for ME! I had been running around with an old, tattered, 3 times dyed Safeway cloth bag, and decided I needed to have something that better displays my work.
I began by sewing my darks in a log cabin-ish pattern, using a small square of bright for each center. I also made small (1" square) tabs out of the brights to be sewn around the top of the tote for a decorative effect. After I finished the full piece (approximately 24"x36"), I sandwiched it with a backing and batting and began planning for free motion quilting. I had a total of eight log cabin squares (four on each side of the tote) and each small bright square was to be the center of a flower shape that I would quilt to stand out and later discharge with a bleach product.

To help with placement, I cut a piece of freezer paper for each side of the tote. Even though it was whole cloth, I only wanted to work with one side at a time. I placed the freezer paper on my sofa cushion (shiny side down) and put the one side of the tote directly over it. Then I took a pin and poked through each flower center into the paper, so I had the exact location marked on the freezer paper. I then was able to take my compass and draw four circles, keeping in mind balance, space for borders, etc. One by one I cut out each circle with about an inch all around, then cut out the inside of the circle. I was left with a ring that I then ironed to my fabric, creating the circle shape just where I wanted my flower to pop out. To further secure the paper ring, I pinned around it. Now the flower needed a center circle. I used a 1" freezer paper circle for each center that I ironed and pinned over the small bright center square, but for an interesting effect, I offset it a bit (maybe a half inch). Now I started quilting inside, going back and forth between the center and the outside perimeter, creating one petal at a time. At the end, I tied back into my beginning stitches. After stitching the eight flowers, I proceeded with discharging.

My favorite product (so far) is a Clorox bleach pen. I never use the applicator pen it comes in as I find it too globby. I prefer to use a fine metal-tipped applicator bottle that I also use for applying gutta to silk. After I squeeze the bleach product into my applicator bottle, I then carefully "color inside the lines" by squeezing the solution onto my quilted areas. Did I say carefully? I hope so, because a mistake could be project-fatal, but so far I've been happy and successful (without too much worry and stress) by using this applicator.

I should mention about safety and bleach products. Always read labels on the products you buy so you know what you're dealing with. FOR ME, I don't wear gloves, but will always wash my hands if they come in contact with the bleach. I also try to work in well-ventilated areas (outdoors is great), but if not possible, I make a point of only working for short periods at a time. FOR ME, I don't like breathing the chlorine product. I think I only discharged 2 or 3 flowers at a time on this project.

Now I was ready to quilt the rest of the areas surrounding the flowers. I chose to do a simple heart-shaped leaf, moving in and around each flower and also the bright tabs I had placed near the top. I turned out to be a bit more tedious than I expected, and in retrospect I would have chosen something a bit simpler, perhaps even a small stipple as the flowers are what stand out, not the background quilting.

My cloth was ready to make into a bag, but first I had to wash and dry it to get the bleach out. I used my Safeway bag as a pattern for size and handle length as it has proved to be perfect for me. I found a bright parfait for lining and sewed in pockets. To finish, I chose eighteen old buttons to add to the tabs and to the centers of the circles.

I am so happy with the finished product. I love the colors within the flowers and they are set off beautifully with the dark background. I am happy I chose bits of bright fabric for the centers and the tabs. My decision to offset the center of the flower (in relation to the bright square) helped to create another point of interest. If I could change anything, I would create fabric for the whole tote from one color palette- background, brights and lining. This one seemed to work well but I know how beautiful all those compatible colors from one palette look in a finished piece.

Will I throw away my Safeway bag? Not on your life! But this one is already packed with all my daily traveling essentials and has taken its place in the arena of "favorite bag of the moment"!

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