Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Jeans Circle Quilt -- It's a Start...

I mentioned in my last post that I was cutting out lots of circles for a circle blue jeans quilt. With a bit of help from my kids, I've now got all 221 circles cut out, plus a few more for good measure. I've spent a few days laying them out on the floor (with way too much help from Lacey, who knows she belongs in the center!), and now I have a design I'm pretty happy with.

The center 25 circles are already sewn together, since that part of the design was easy for me (and it was my proof-of-concept piece). The rest of it is all just pinned together.

What Was I Thinking?

This is a big project. My next step is to sew the rest of the circles together into squares with 4 "petals" on the reverse side. I also need to cut out squares of batting for each circle, as well as squares of colored fabric for each circle. The final step is to sew each petal down over the squares using a zigzag stitch to hold it together and quilt the piece. Each step times 221. No problem!

Dog, Again

And how can I do without a gratuitous dog picture, especially since Lacey's been spending so much time "helping" me with my layout?

Good thing for Lacey that pins don't seem to bother her!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Recycling More Jeans -- Work Apron

I'm currently working on making a circle blue jeans quilt. I haven't made much progress to show off yet, other than hitting up all my friends and family for their old ripped jeans and cutting out about 190 circles (so far), but I'm getting there.

In the meantime, I'm building up quite a pile of jeans scraps, particularly the hips-and-pockets upper sections of the jeans. The back pockets are useful for any number of kids' crafts, but that's not exactly my thing. I want something really useful. Maybe I'm channeling Thomas the Tank Engine or something--he wants to be a "really useful engine"!


I started with a pair of Levi's 501 button fly jeans with a 33" inch waist, which fits me pretty well. I took the upper section and cut it off about 1 3/4" below the bottom points of the back pockets. Then I ripped the side seams up to the waistband. I just want the back side and the waistband for this project. I ripped out the lower seam of the front waistband only as far as needed to get the front pocket sections loose so I could discard them. Now I have an apron-shaped piece with its own built-in button closure. I hemmed the bottom edge (under the back pockets) and stitched down the sides. I also restitched the waistband where I had ripped its seams.

I now have a pretty good sturdy apron with two pockets. For a finishing touch and one more pocket, I cut out the "fifth pocket" from the front pocket scraps. Since I want the look of the rivets, I cut an extra flap above the pocket.

I sewed the pocket down first by its flap (right sides together, pocket upside down). I used a zipper foot to let me get my seam right up against the thick layers of the pocket.

Then I folded it down into place and sewed it down over the existing pocket topstitching. Here is the finished apron. Note that I'm using the original fly button and buttonhole as the closure at the back of the apron. That little blur at the top of the pocket near the ruler is where I reinforced a worn spot with a little machine darning. Just adds to that recycled authenticity!

Very useful indeed!

Gratuitous Dog Pictures of the Day

Lacey must be competing with Moxie for who gets into my blog most often, because today when I was photographing the work apron, there she was, complete with her tie-dyed, recycled jeans dog toy!

I guess Lacey wants me to make her a work apron in her size...

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Tie-Dye in the Park with Dogs

I've been having a lot of fun posting pictures lately. It's been first graders for a while, and now it's back to dogs! We went to a park in Santa Rosa over the weekend, and of course had to wear tie-dye and take pictures.

Here is Moxie again, in his green and yellow dog shirt. It's always hard getting a good picture of a very black dog, but he looks good in the sun.

Introducing Cruella

Cruella is a Hairless Chinese Crested Dog belonging to some friends of my mom. Cruella doesn't have any fur other than the bits on her head, ears, legs, and tail, so she gets cold easily, even during the summer. She is used to wearing shirts and sweaters and jackets almost all the time.

I had passed along a tie-dyed dog shirt through my mom, even though I had never met Cruella. A bunch of my mom's friends gather at the park regularly, and it just happened that Cruella happened to come wearing the tie-dye shirt this time. What luck! I finally got to meet Cruella and she's dressed for the occasion!

Cruella is quite the model, isn't she? She's wearing a size Small shirt.

Cruella and Moxie look fabulous together.

Why Do People Keep Calling Us "The Tie-Dye Family"?

Well, I suppose it's better than "The Polka-Dot Family"! As a family, we often wear our brightest, loudest tie-dye clothes when we go out in big public places such as Disney World. It's purely practical--it makes it much easier to keep track of our group ("Are you missing a little girl in tie-dye? She went thataway."). My mom and my father-in-law aren't into the tie-dye thing, but they were good sports for our park outing. I suppose you could consider my mom's shirt shibori rather than strictly tie-dye, but it's close enough.

Finally, a good family picture!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Mountain View Voice Likes Color Too

The Mountain View Voice newspaper just printed my photo of the first graders in their fabulous tie-dye!

The school PTA recently installed a brand new handball court ("ball wall"), so it seemed like the best backdrop for the picture. New shirts, new wall--many colors in front of some serious green!

It's on page 5 in the Local News section (June 13, 2008 edition) .

Thanks, Mountain View Voice!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Most Colorful School Around!

Today the first graders got their shirts back! They came out beautifully, and the kids loved them! I also made shirts as a surprise for all the teachers at the school. They were very excited to receive them, and today's final assembly of the school year was our most colorful ever.

Here's the first grade, all squashed together:

Wow! Enough said.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Now It's a Floor of Many Colors...

I spent almost the entire weekend in my garage.

I worked with the first graders all day Friday, then I spent some time Saturday washing out a subset of them. But I also did a whole bunch of t-shirts myself as an end-of-year surprise for the teachers at the school. I don't usually do "production" tie-dye (Harmony does large-scale production much better than I ever could!), so the 59 shirts I was working on was quite a lot for me! My garage workshop was overflowing with t-shirts and humming with the sound of the washer and dryer.

With all that glorious color around, I couldn't resist spreading them out on the (clean) floor and taking some pictures.

Here they are stacked by size.

Ooooh, I can hardly wait to hand them out! And some of those I did are extras, so I can add something to my wardrobe too!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Rhapsody in Many Colors

Today I had my now-annual tie-dyeing day with the current crop of first graders at my local school. I do this project in four sessions:
  1. Measurement day: the kids measure each others' seated height (seat to shoulder) and waist size. We also look at the t-shirt sizes the kids are currently wearing. This gives me the data I need to order the shirts from Dharma. More importantly, it also gives the kids a little experience with measurement. First grade is is when most of them are just learning what a inch is. I can now pretty much tell a kid's t-shirt size by eye anyhow, and most of them are size 10-12s so they can still wear the shirts next year. I ordered 84 size 10-12s, about a dozen each of 6-8's and 14-16's, and 6 adult M. I often have one or two kids who take an adult L, partly because they like their shirts big.
  2. Tying day: about two weeks later I have all the shirts and have prewashed them. I go in and teach the kids the fold for stripes, X's, and diamonds (see this picture in my previous post). With the help of teachers and some parent volunteers, the kids all fold their shirts and tie them with 4-7 rubber bands. I leave the shirts in the classroom for the week.
  3. Dyeing day: this is the most work but also the most fun. I explain to the kids how to mix colors together on the shirts (I give them six colors to choose from), how to hold the squeeze bottles, how to check that they got dye on the inside of the folded shirt, behavior rules, and so on. Then an army of parents and other volunteers suit the kids up in gloves, goggles, and a garbage-bag smock, guides them to their soda-ash-soaked shirts, and supervises the dyeing process. The kids love this part!

  4. Shirt return day: a few of the parents take the shirts home to wash over the weekend. We time the whole project so the kids get their shirts back right before the final school assembly of the school year. I just love watching the kids show each other their results: "I love my shirt! I love my shirt!" It's so cool to see the entire first grade in the front of the assembly in their shirts. It's an amazing swath of color.
Behind the scenes, it's an amazing amount of work. I mix about 9 gallons of dye (6 colors), 12 gallons of soda ash solution, make 80 or so trash bag smocks, collect table coverings, order and prewash shirts, and so on. And of course there is washing out afterwards and lots of cleanup. But that's all stuff I can do at my leisure, at my own pace.

It's all the volunteer help that really makes it work and makes it a really fun experience. First graders aren't terribly patient about waiting in line for getting suited up or doing their dyeing. So we have half a dozen people swarm the kids quickly, popping garbage bags over heads and slipping on gloves and goggles. Other volunteers are waiting at the dye tables. With this effort, it goes very quickly, and we got through four batches of 20+ kids today in three hours! Of course, the cleanup took another few hours...

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Fabulous Fanny Pack

My daughter and I wanted to make a birthday present for a friend who likes carrying around a book to read, but has lately had trouble with her hands. My daughter suggested a fanny pack might be nice...

My daughter practically had to duck as scraps and salvaged bits of whatnot came flying out of my craft room! That pink Disney Princess backpack that had given a zipper to my yoga bag still had another zipper, buckles, and shoulder straps to give. Another bag donated a black plastic buckle. And of course there was another pair of jeans to recycle!

The Process

We cut off the top part of the jeans and stitched down the zipper fly so it couldn't open.

Probably the hardest part was installing the zipper from the Princess backpack, since the jeans top was still a tube. We had to undo the bottoms of all the belt loops so the zipper seam could go behind them, and we still had all those thick jeans seams to sew through.

We reclosed the belt loops and installed the backpack straps as a "belt" through the back three belt loops while the jeans top was still a tube and easier to handle.

To make the pouch hold more cargo but not stick out so much at the sides, we put small pleats on each side of the fly in front, and on the outer side of each pocket on the back side. We used the blue masking tape to secure the pleats and the front pockets during sewing. The bottom seam was sewn twice along the brown line. We then trimmed to a half-inch seam allowance (trimming off the bottoms of the front pockets) and zigzagged the seam edge.


Here is the finished fanny pack. My daughter did all but the trickiest sewing, and this project certainly has helped improve her machine sewing skills. She also made a lanyard decoration for the back (and learned a new completion stitch from the Boondoggle Man).

The backpack straps are sewn together in the middle of the back, and the whole strap is sewn down. The front of the pack is meant to go against the body so doesn't have the strap.

The following shot shows the zipper opening:

Because we used adult womens' jeans, this fanny pack has some serious book capacity! I could easily get five paperbacks in it. Of course, it also has five functional jeans pockets.

"Honey, does this make my butt look big?"

Yeah, you don't even need to answer that question! Next time I'll have to make one of these out of a little black dress instead of some big baggy jeans! Or maybe bustles will come back in style...

Sunday, June 1, 2008

What Do You Mean, "Soak It"?

One thing that often happens, especially in the uncontrollable chaos of group tie-dyeing at YMCA family camp, is that someone will carefully tie his or her piece and start dyeing it, then hear me telling someone else to go soak their tied piece in the bucket of soda ash solution.

"What do you mean, 'soak it'? I didn't do that..."

Thus begins a process I call a "rescue". The Procion fiber reactive dyes I use need the soda ash to make the color bond to the fibers in the fabric, making the colors permanent. What I usually do for these cases is place the dyed piece in an empty bucket and pour some of the soda ash solution over it (one year a camper dumped her blue piece in the main soda ash bucket on top of other pieces that were soaking. They all got dyed pale blue!) and let it soak. I then have the owner put more dye on to counteract the small amount of washing out that happens when we soak it.

The Experiment

This rescue process seems to work well enough, but I was curious as to how much of a difference it really made. So while I was there at camp, I tried an experiment. I tied three identical prewashed cotton bandanas the same way. I soaked one in soda ash, then I dyed all three the same way. The other two were dyed without soda ash. I took one of those two and did a "rescue", pouring soda ash over it and then adding more dye. I then let them sit overnight and washed as usual. So my three bandanas are the "control" (usual process), the "no soda ash", and the "rescue".

One initial observation: I generally dislike dyeing dry fabric, with or without soda ash (some people advocate soaking tied items in soda ash, drying them out and then dyeing). Even if the item is prewashed, the dye often beads up, runs off in unwanted directions, or pools up. Once it does soak in, it tends to spread unevenly. With the soda-ash-soaked bandana, the dye goes in smoothly and spreads more evenly, while I have to pretty much force the dye into the two dry bandanas.

The Results

There was a distinct difference among the three finished bandanas after I washed them out, though not quite as much difference as I expected. In the following picture, the "control" (usual soda ash soaking) sample is on the left, the "rescue" is on the right, and the one in the middle has no soda ash at all. The middle sample is definitely more dull and faded-looking than the other two, especially for the dark cobalt blue triangles on the sides. They are at least a shade lighter than their counterparts on the other bandanas. The "rescue" sample has more vibrant colors than the untreated sample, though it lacks the definition of the "control" sample.

I think part of the difference in pattern definition between the rescue and control samples may be due to dyeing on dry fabric--the dye absorption and spreading properties are different. Also, when the dyed "rescue" sample is soaked in soda ash after dyeing, the soda ash solution may be spreading the dye, blurring the whiter areas you see in the "control" sample. The re-dyeing after soaking may also aggravate the blurring.

Here is another picture where you can see the differences more directly (click on the picture to see a larger version).


It's clear that the best process for nice sharp tie-dye is to soak the item in soda ash before dyeing it. However, given that mistakes often happen, I think doing the "rescue" process is preferable over just going without the soda ash, so I'll continue to recommend that as necessary.

One further thing I want to do is to wash all three bandanas a couple more times. I know from experience that I won't see much change in the colors for the two that had soda ash, but I wonder if the untreated bandana will show visible washing out of the colors. I'll be doing a lot of
tie-dye washing in the next week or so, so I'll put an update out later.

Epi-dog (Gratuitous Dog Picture)

Once again, my dog Lacey, knowing how fabulous she looks on tie-dye, decided to help me out when she saw me getting ready to take tie-dye pictures! That's the "rescue" sample.