Monday, March 14, 2016

Dyeing mercerized fabric - worth it

Sometimes I buy JoAnn Fabrics muslin to dye, mainly because it's cheap and they have amazing coupons. But if you look at the difference below, you have to ask if cheap is really worth the price.
The mercerized fabric on the left has taken the same dye recipe so much more vibrantly and with so much more texture.

The mercerization process is pretty brutal for the poor fabric. It is given a bath in caustic soda, which causes the fibers to swell, increasing the surface area, and thus enabling them to accept more dye. Mercerization also makes the fabric stronger, gives it added luster, and makes it pre-shrunk to some limited extent (Of course this process also  leaves a nasty chemical mess to be disposed of).

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Fabric pots for putting things in - super easy!

A favorite Winnie-the-Pooh story in my house is the one where Pooh discovers that it is Eeyore's birthday and no one is celebrating. Pooh and Piglet rush around and find him presents, but Pooh absentmindedly eats the present of honey on the way, and Piglet falls down and pops the balloon he was bringing Eeyore. When presented with an empty pot and a tattered balloon, Eeyore finds he has both a pot for putting things in, and something to put in it, and is uncharacteristically happy! There is something very satisfying about a pot for putting things in.

The chemist and her dad are off to South Africa, and I am resisting the urge to fill their suitcases with presents to take. I saw this awesome tutorial for making a fabric pot for putting things in, and am busy making some. They will be unfussy travellers, and light to boot, so perfect. They are pretty quick to make, depending on how much stitching you add. You cut and sew 2 squares and fusible batting, which I finished with hand-dyed thread, fold, sew the 4 seams, hand stitch the pockets and you are done!
You can make the pot as subtle or as wild as you like!
And I chose to make each button decoration different.
See the light shining through the needle holes? Couldn't have got that shot if I was trying!

It was fun to play with the Sweet Sixteen again, it's been a while. It made doing all the free-motion stitching a doddle.

If you widen the base size, then increase the size of the triangle seam or you end up with a very floppy end result as there is no peltex or timtex in this pot or bowl or box or whatever you want to call it.

Monday, March 7, 2016

What not to ask someone to take on an aeroplane for you, or no, I cannot take your canary's ashes to be interred in the land of its fathers...

The chemist is traveling to South Africa on Thursday. I was there in November. Most of our family is there. Suitcases bulge with presents. It made me ponder some points about the etiquette of asking if someone could take an item with them on a journey. Most people understand that it is hard to be separated from one's near and dear, and the chance to send them something to let them know you are thinking of them and missing them is rare and special. Most people are only too happy to do someone a favor. Unfortuately, sometimes ignorance or a lack of common sense leaves the traveler feeling abused, and less willing to be helpful in the future.

In the interests of fostering happy travels I offer the following musings:

If you want to send an item with the traveler it should be


1. Space, space, space. If you don't travel a lot you may not think like a seasoned traveler. An international travel allowance is around 20 - 23 kg or 40 - 50 lbs. For a 2 week trip, this can get used up surprisingly fast. Someone once gave me around 15 kg of used children's clothing to give to someone in South Africa. I am not a charity. I am a traveler. I have my own luggage which I need to transport. If you wish to send a lot of things, or something very bulky, feel free to use FedEx.

2. Security. No one wants to end up in a small room with a man putting on a rubber glove in a meaningful way. Airlines have virtually no sense of humor about items which may constitute a threat. Anything you send needs to be unwrapped. However much you would like to cover your gift in ribbons and bows, the person who is transporting it needs to face stern TSA personnel and swear that they are familiar with everything in their luggage. Educate yourself as to what cannot be safely transported and don't send it!

3. Self-contained. No one wants their clothes to smell like your item, be covered in your item, or be colored by your item. Do not send those cinnamon pine cones, the scent of which penetrates your very skull. No Tennessee fire water. No home made jelly. If there is the slightest chance your item may cause issues, wrap it very well in clear plastic.

4. Delivery. The onus on making sure the item reaches its end goal is on you. Do not expect someone else to spend their vacation trying to connect with total strangers to deliver your gift.

5. Make it clear that should the item be lost or damaged, or should it prove impossible to deliver the item, you give full permission for it to be donated to someone else, or put in the trash with no hard feelings at all. Do not ask someone else to transport a priceless family heirloom.

6. Timing. Let the traveler know well in advance that you would be delighted if they would be kind enough to donate a corner of their luggage to you. Do not pitch up the night before they leave and begin showering them with items to fit in. Do not see them off at the airport and expect them to start squeezing things in for you.

All of these points also apply to people who are going home after a trip. It is terribly kind of you to want to give me a gift, but mainly I am delighted to see you, and would rather have a drink with you than be given a bottle of wine to take home.

Kudos to my extended family who give some of the most thoughtful small, light presents ever! Your compassion and ingenuity is much appreciated!