Friday, September 2, 2016

Friday Freebie: Felted Crocheted Mug Rug

I'm giving away my secrets over on our Hyer Wools website today. I've been busy again, working on wooly items for our 2016 Heart of New Mexico Fiber Gathering. The festival begins tomorrow! But I did take the time to create a tutorial for this cute mug rug and I decided to teach the world how to make one, if you're interested. It's easier than you might think, but you do have to use 100% pure, untreated wool yarn for this project. Just slip over to Hyer Wools for the photo tutorial and pattern. And if you pin it from our blog over there - I'd consider it a favor! Thanks.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Tips for Using Iron-On Emroidery Transfers

While I love embroidery - the stitching part, that is, I don't much like all the decisions about design and the preparation before stitching. I especially don't like the design transfer step, but it has to be done. Iron-on transfers seem to be the easiest way to get the design on the fabric, except when you can't get a good transfer, then it's just frustrating! The following tips come from my own hard-won experience. I hope they help. Some of these tips seem obvious, unless you are a beginner - then nothing is obvious.

First of all, follow the directions for the transfer. Each type is a little different, so follow the instructions the pattern company gives you. With one *exception, which appears below.

  • Use a good iron. Sometimes old irons develop hot spots and won't deliver the heat evenly over the plate. You probably won't notice it if you're sliding the iron back and forth over fabric, but it is a problem when you want a even transfer. A classic, dry iron with flat sole plate actually works the best.

  • If you only have a steam iron, don't use steam! Turn the steam off and even empty the water from the reservoir. Steam will cause the lines to be blurry or thick and you want clean, crisp lines. Get rid of the steam.

  • Put the dial on the proper setting, as per instructions, and let the iron heat completely.

  • Check to make sure the iron temperature won't harm the fabric. Most transfers direct a high temperature, usually cotton or wool. Test the fabric in an inconspicuous area to see if it can tolerate the temperature.

  • Speaking of tests, there is a test design on the pattern page for a reason. If you use the test design on a scrap of the same kind of fabric, you can determine how long to hold the iron in place to get a good transfer. Since you want to get it right the first time on your project, you'll get better results if you use the test design and gain some valuable information. Depending on how dark the test transfer is, you can adjust the amount of time you leave the iron on the paper.

  • Press the fabric first to remove any wrinkles and make a smooth surface for the transfer. Pre-warmed fabric will take the transfer much quicker and more evenly.

  • Use your fingers to hold the paper in place. Obviously, keep your fingers away from the iron, but your fingers are better than pins. Why? Because the thickness of the pin creates space between the paper and the fabric and your transfer will be patchy. Seriously, your fingers do a better job - just be sure to keep the paper from shifting.

  • Place the iron in one position over the design until the ink transfers. But don't leave it on any longer than you have to as this creates a dark transfer with more ink than you really need. Keep placing the iron over the design until it is transferred. *Some directions say to move the iron back and forth on the paper. This is likely so that the heat doesn't "burn" the transfer too dark or darker in one place. The problem with moving the iron, though, is that the paper can shift ever so slightly. This makes for blurry lines and, particularly with a cross-stitch pattern, the movement can distort the design. I think it is better to hold, lift and place the iron on a new section, rather than sliding the iron back and forth. If you'll use the test pattern, you can determine the length of time to hold the iron, without causing problems.

  • Be very careful not to shift the paper! Before you move the iron to a new spot, carefully lift an edge of the paper to see if the transfer has taken place.

  • Use a padded hard surface. The ironing board works unless it has a nice cushy cover. Cushy again creates thick, blurry lines. If you do a lot of embroidery, you might want to make a surface from a thin board covered with wool felt. (Don't use acrylic craft felt as it will melt at high heat.) Or, use a very thin cotton batting, like Warm n Natural, covered again with a muslin top. This creates an ideal surface for the transfers and you won't ruin your pretty ironing board cover. In a pinch, I use a scrap piece of foam core board that I covered with a couple of old dishtowels.

  • If you choose to use your ironing board, protect the cover somehow, even with an old cotton dishtowel. The ink will likely come through and you don't want to spoil your cover. I sometimes think I can be careful or quick and I so often have a bleed through onto the cover. Seriously, just protect it to begin with.

  • You may not even realize that the ink is likely permanent. Sometimes it will fade with time, or wash out eventually, if the fabric is 100% natural fiber, but if there is any synthetic fiber in the fabric, the ink cannot be removed.

  • Remember that all of the ink on the pattern page is transfer ink. I mention this so that you can be sure to cut off any lines that you don't want to appear on your design. Even the words and directions. Cut those off so that you don't accidentally transfer them to your project. Also check for smear marks from the design being folded and stored or other, unwanted lines of any kind.

  • Cut the paper away from the design close to the edges. This makes it easier to position the design on the fabric. You'll know better where the edges are and get the design positioned just right.

  • Go for as light a transfer as you can manage. Obviously, you need to be able to see the pattern, but thin, crisp lines are better than heavy dark lines. It is harder to cover up thick lines and a thick, underlying color of ink will make your embroidery look muddy.

  • If you are working with 100% natural fabric, don't transfer the design until you're ready to embroider the piece. Sometimes the transfer will fade a little and it may then be harder to see. Keep the project folded and away from bright light until you finish the embroidery.

Do any of you have experience or other tips to share about this process?

Monday, August 22, 2016

A Milestone: College for Miss Abigail

Well, today is a milestone for both Miss Abigail and I. Abigail is starting classes at the community college in Santa Fe and I'm finished with homeschooling. What a change for both of us. She is excited and a little nervous and I am kind of heartbroken that my serious, hands-on mothering is at an end. All of my children are adults! Honestly, if it were possible, I think I'd have another baby and begin again. This is the first time in 24 years that I'm not beginning a year of homeschooling! That was quite a commitment and Abby is the last little chick to try her wings. I'm so proud of Abigail. She's such a sweetheart and we're excited to see what the future holds for her now. Excuse me while I go find some chocolate!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Tutorial: Microwave Baked Potato Bag

You may not know that August 19th is National Potato Day! So this tutorial is just in time to celebrate potatoes. I love them all ways, especially scalloped, but I also like them baked.

On my last trip to Idaho to see my mom, I bought potato print fabric to make a microwave baked potato bag for Miss Abigail's hope chest. You couldn't find a better print for this kitchen item and it will be perfect to remind her of family "roots." I grew up on an Idaho potato farm! While you may not be able to find the potato print fabric, here's the tutorial so that you can make a bag with any other cotton print. Just make sure the materials are 100% cotton so that you don't have problems with the microwave. Directions for using the baking bag are at the end of the post.

Materials: 2 pieces of 100% cotton fabric, 1 piece thin 100% cotton batting, basic sewing supplies, including 100% cotton thread.

Measure and cut both pieces of fabric and the batting 9 x 21 inches.

 Place both pieces of fabric, with right sides together, on top of the cotton batting. Use a 1/4-inch seam and stitch across each short end.

 Turn the fabric right sides out. The batting will be between the pieces of fabric. Press. Top stitch across each end, about 1/2-inch from the edge.

 Arrange the bag with the outside fabric facing up. Fold the top down about 3 inches and pin on the edge. Fold the bottom up and overlap the top by about 1 inch. Pin securely.

 Use a 1/4-inch seam to sew both sides.

 Finish the seam edges with a zig-zag stitch or use a serger.
 Turn the bag right side out and press well.


Microwave potato baking bags are designed for use in a microwave to cook any type of baked potato, including sweet potatoes. The bag works best with 2 or 3 regular Russet potatoes. Simply wash the potatoes and leave them damp. Don't pierce holes in the potatoes. Tuck the potatoes into the bag and close the flap. Cook on high, 6-10 minutes, depending on the number & size of the potatoes, and the power of the microwave. You can also interrupt the baking halfway through and turn the potatoes over, but it isn't necessary. Sweet potatoes will need about 30 seconds to 1 minute longer than regular white potatoes. You'll have to adjust the time for smaller round "salad" potatoes. After cooking, remove the potatoes. Be careful of steam as you open the flap! Simply let the bag air dry. Remember to let the bag cool completely before using it again and remember to use caution and proper supervision. The bag is machine washable, but don't use fabric softener or other additives.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Tutorial: Tucked Tea Towel

This post is a tutorial for another very easy tucked tea towel. The towel requires only straight stitching. Although it is simple and unadorned on the front, it does have a surprise on the back with a finished faced hem using a matching printed cotton fabric.

Materials: 7/8 yard of 100% cotton "bottom weight" or decorator fabric, (2) 1/8 yard of matching 100% cotton print fabric, basic sewing supplies, measuring mat and ruler, disappearing ink pen.

Cut the towel fabric into two pieces and square up ends and edges. Cut the printed facing fabric into 4 strips 2.5 inches by the width of towel.

Pin one strip to each end of the towel, right sides together. Sew 1/4-inch seams on each end.

Press all the seams open.

Fold the long sides in 1/4-inch and press. Fold over again to form a hem. Press and pin.

Stitch close to the edge to finish the sides.

With the towel facing up, use the measuring ruler and place the 2 1/4-inch marking line directly over the seam separating the print facing fabric from the towel fabric. Draw a mark across the width of the towel. If you don't own one of these wonderful rulers, just use a regular ruler and yardstick to measure and mark a line 2 1/4-inches up from the seam.

Turn the towel with the back side up. Fold the facing toward the back with the raw edge towards the middle of the towel. Press carefully. Fold again, completely enclosing the facing within the fold. This step will allow you to catch the raw edge of the facing, making a nice finish on the back. Press along the previously marked line, across the width of the towel. Pin and repeat this step for both ends of each towel.

Decide how large you want your tuck to be and make a mark on the throat plate of the sewing machine in order to guide your seam. I just used the 5/8-inch marking. Sew the tuck across the width of the towel. If you sew with the right side of the towel down, you may want to check your tension before you start sewing to make sure the bottom stitching will look good on the right side of the towel. Repeat for both ends of each towel.

Open up the towel and press well again. The raw edge of the facing will be enclosed in the tuck, making a nice finish on the back of the towel.


Monday, August 1, 2016

Removing Ink from Iron-On Transfer

If you've worked much embroidery, you're likely familiar with iron-on transfers. And, you have probably discovered that transfer ink doesn't always wash out, even after several times through the laundry. I've discovered two reasons for this.

First, many people don't know that the transfer ink is considered permanent. However, the content of the fabric does play a role. Transfer ink may eventually wash out, given enough time, if the fabric is 100% cotton. Unfortunately, the ink typically doesn't wash out of a poly/cotton blend - at all, ever. Yikes! Most pillowcases are a blend, even those that are called "cotton-rich." So, if you're using a blend, you need to be extra careful to use a light touch with the iron and then use enough embroidery thread to cover the ink entirely. I have pillowcases that, after thirty-seven years of washing, still show the ink under the slightly threadbare designs. Haha, you're probably wondering why I'm still using those pillowcases! I can only admit to being sentimental. And, remember that fabric was much better in those days and the pillowcases are still useful, if somewhat shabby.

Secondly, when you transfer the ink, sometimes you will end up with a very dark transfer that bleeds through both layers, ruins your ironing board cover and won't wash out. Follow the instructions on the transfer envelope carefully. It does take some practice and "finesse" to get a clear transfer and to know when to quit.  I will post my best tips for using iron-on transfers in a couple of days. I always err on the side of a lighter transfer even though I sometimes end up with spots that I have a hard time seeing.

So, how to remove the ink? That's the subject of this post because Miss Abigail has a particular set of pillowcases for the hope chest that needs an answer to this question. The design is unfinished. That was deliberate, I think. Miss Abigail's grandma just got tired of working the design and wanted to leave the ends. It doesn't take away from the design at all, but there is remaining ink on the fabric. My sweet mother-in-law finally decided she was just finished with embroidery. She doesn't see well anymore and she just doesn't enjoy it. So she passed the last of her unfinished projects on to me, along with tools and threads. This set of pretty pillowcases was in that box. The fabric is a really nice, quality percale blend. So I know I'm going to have a hard time removing the remaining ink from the transfer. In fact, I'm not sure I can get it out at all.

However, because I use a clothesline to dry all of our laundry, I do know one secret -- sunshine. Yup, sunshine fades all kinds of ink! Sadly, there is more experience talking here. So, I'm trying direct sunlight and hope that it will fade the stamped ink. It's worth a shot, but so far it isn't working very well. I could try to finish them, but the threads won't match and that will look awkward. While I know it is probably a lost cause, I'd rather remove the ink somehow.

Does anyone else have experience or suggestions for removing this ink?

Monday, July 11, 2016

Trim on the Apple Dishtowel

As I was again cleaning in the sewing room this morning, I came across some dyed Cluny lace. It seemed like it matched the apple dishtowel that I completed last week. So naturally I stopped cleaning and attached a length of it along the edge with a simple running stitch. I think it adds a nice finishing touch. What do you think?

Friday, July 8, 2016

Social Media - Find Me

Some of you may wonder what I've been up to for the past couple of months, since I haven't been blogging much! Some time ago my husband and I had another "planning meeting" where we assess our goals and see what needs to happen. We have so many changes happening at our house. The biggest change, as it relates to me, is that we decided to expand our sheep business. So I've been on a steep learning curve about building a business and, in particular, social media. This has been hard for me because I am actually not very social in real life. But, needs must. So I've been hard at work on a website and setting up business profiles for Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.

I've never been very active on Facebook, personally, but am making a concerted effort to be active on our business page. Please look us up if you would like to see what goes on around the farm. If you like our page we can have a conversation!

Instagram intrigues me because I love beautiful pictures, but I'm still trying to learn my way around and find people to follow. If you happen to be on Instagram, please find me! If you'll introduce your profile in a comment, I'll be sure to follow you back. I am most anxious to find people I might already share interests with!

I hope you will come by and visit us somewhere on the web! I'll share the links below. If you can't find me here, you might find me there. (especially the blog)

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Tutorial: Derwent Inktense Dishtowel

You may remember that I posted some time ago about keeping an art journal. Part of my supplies for the art journal is a small set of Derwent Inktense dry ink blocks. I have known that these could be used on fabric and have wanted to fool around with them and today I did. So here's a tutorial on how to use Inktense color blocks to embellish a plain cotton dishtowel. I can certainly use some more practice, but the project was easy and quick and I think it is a useful technique to decorate items for the hope chest.

As far as materials go, you'll need a set of Inktense Blocks. These are dry, water-activated ink blocks. So you can draw or trace lines on the fabric and then activate the ink with water from a blender pen or a brush. It works just like a watercolor pencil, but the color is much more vibrant and intense. BTW, I have no affiliation - I just like this product. I got my set at Michael's. You will also need a 100% cotton dishtowel. You can draw a freestyle design on the towel, but I used an iron-on transfer because I'm just not that great at drawing. You'll also need a small cup of water to activate the ink and a couple small brushes. A black fine-tip Sharpie marker will be used to trace the original transfer design after the ink has dried. Oh, and you'll need something to protect the work surface since the ink will soak through to the other side.

Wash the towel to remove any sizing and then iron it smooth.

Center the design on the towel and follow the directions to transfer the design.

I first used the dark brown ink block to trace the branch of the apple tree. Then I lightly colored the branch with a lighter brown color. I traced the leaves with a dark green, and the apples with the red color. I added some orange to the apples and a bit of yellow as well.

The ink has to be wet in order to activate. Use the brush and a cup of water and "paint" over the lines of ink. The fabric will wick the water outside of the lines. I used a lot of water because I like this effect. You may wish to be more careful.

While the fabric is wet, you can use the block to add more color or use other colors to add shading. The ink goes on very thick when the fabric is already wet. Just use a little more water to make sure this second application of ink is activated and won't wash out later. Brush the ink further into the design to darken and shade the design.

After the ink is dry it becomes permanent. Because the inked lines become so blurred, I used a fine-point Sharpie pen to trace the transfer lines.

I ironed the towel again to heat set the ink. I know the ink is permanent, but with an item that will be used and washed often, I think the heat set will be a back up option. Even the back looks great!

So here is the finished towel. I've used wax crayons to color on fabric in other projects, but these vibrant Derwent Inktense Blocks are so lovely and work so much better, I believe. I am now planning even more projects! A simple design on a crib sheet would make a cute gift.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Show and Tell: Etched Glass Tumblers

Hi everyone! Miss Abigail here. About a week ago a friend of mine gave me these "etched glass kits" and asked me if I wanted to give it a try (with warnings of "this is acid, so you'll have to be really careful and dextrous.") Judging from the cover of the kits, glass etching looked like one of the coolest and classiest crafts ever!

Fast forward to Wednesday. I opened up the kits to get the party started, and after reading through the instructions and preparing a work space (because protecting the kitchen table is always a good idea, right?) I decided to jump right in. This was going to be awesome!

Isobel was right when she said the etching cream is dangerous. The bottle says that it causes severe burns and damage and may be fatal, and according to ye olde Internet, it is on the same scale as battery acid. How fun. This is why nitrile gloves exist!

So after being warned about the dangers of glass etching cream, I started playing with different designs on the glass tumblers that came in the first kit. I ended up going with a simple double stripe design to start with.

The process of creating your design and taping it onto the glass is pretty easy. You just cut strips of vinyl tape and arrange them how you like on the glass. It's a lot like placing an adhesive stencil - except you're the one creating the stencil with strips of tape. Really, the hardest part is deciding on a design. If you're like me, you can't decide whether to go with this idea or that one. (The etching cream bottle did say "permanent," after all, in bold letters.)

So I decided on a simple newbie design and got to the real work/fun/potential finger-destroying action. I pulled on my nitrile gloves, stirred my bottle of acid cream, and started spreading it over the areas within the tape. It's crazy how similar this is to stenciling. Just think, Abby, years ago you were  a fresh-faced ten-year-old just learning how to paint within the lines. Now you've graduated to using those techniques to make classy tumblers that you can use at dinner parties, or other events that call for fancy glasses.

So after I finished with the etching cream (fingers still intact so far) I had to let it sit for about five minutes, to allow the acid to do its work. Then it was time to rinse it off, wipe away the stubborn remaining globs, dry it and peel away the tape. Aaaaand....

...Ta-da! It looked great! Now I know how one achieves that "frosted" look on a glass. After I finished the other one I put them together in their own little set.

Then I got started on the other kit, which was a pair of glass flutes in need of classy etching. I tried a much more intricate design on those (shamelessly stolen from the cover of the box, because I really liked that design and my first initial happens to be A.) They turned out really nice too, and I think they'll make great little juice glasses. So I'm pretty pleased with how things turned out, and happy that I tried something new. I think we need to go to Walmart now and get more glasses! This glass etching business is definitely something I could get used to.

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