Saturday, July 23, 2011

Quilts on the floor!

This blog entry has nothing to do with quilting, or maybe it does... You  decide after you read the "How To".  I got this idea from a friend who has a very clever sister. I'm going to show you how simple it is to make a floor cloth. You're probably thinking the Colonial floor cloths that were labor intensive made with heavy canvas and required numerous steps, creativity, patience, hemming... Well just stick with me and I'll show you what my problem was and how I solved it.

I had this area, and wanted to protect the wood floor, because the kitchen is always a major traffic area, especially when it leads to the laundry room. Plus it was an irregular shape with the sink and stove top cabinets extending out more that the other cabinets.

So, I used this...  Yep, that's just cheap vinyl flooring!

And accomplished this by flipping the vinyl over and painting the other side!

Ha! You don't believe me?... You want proof?  Well, check it out...

(Just so you'll know, I put the Rubber Maid shelf lining under the floor cloth so that it wouldn't slip and slide.)
This floor cloth is much easier than what they had to do in Colonial times or what crafters do today when painting canvas floor cloths.

First, I went to a big box store like Lowes or Home Depot,  and bought a large hunk of vinyl flooring.  Next I turned it over - and painted the back side, and decorated it with a stencil or two!!! Yep... that's all there was to it. The back side of vinyl flooring is a paper like substance that is perfect for painting.

Whoa, hold on a minute, I was just at Lowes and bought a remnant for $10, thinking I'd just make another floor cloth to use as this demonstration. When I got my bargain home I was dumbfounded to find a surface that can't be painted... look at the picture and you will see that the back side of this "higher priced" vinyl flooring is actually a rubber backing that paint will not adhere to and will not accomplish the effect we want. Moral to the story - check to make sure the back of the "cheap vinyl" is a paper like surface that will readily accept and absorb paint.

So, here's what you do:
Wait a minute - Before we start, I want to preface this by saying I'm not a stenciling or Tolle painting instructor. I am me, a self taught crafty person. I am supplying you with the basic instructions for doing a floor cloth. You will take what you know or learn from a credited source to decorate it. 
Okay,  we can start now.
    • First you need a work area where you can make a mess and leave it alone for a few days and not have to deal with wind, bugs or kids. The garage is ideal. Park your car outside and work inside. When I made my big floor cloth the room over the garage had not been finished. That was the perfect place. I worked away on the subfloor and didn't care if paint got splattered. That room is now my sewing room!   For this lesson,  I'm demonstrating in my kitchen/dining area using the dining table and using a small scrap of vinyl since my bargain was a no go.
      • I made a paper pattern of the shape I wanted so that it would fit around my cabinets. Notice in the picture that I am making a pattern for a floor cloth at the door coming in from the patio. That is a traffic area that can be wet, dirty, dusty, cat hair... you get it... traffic grime. (Ha, I hadn't discovered the back of the bargain vinyl yet!)  You can do a simple  rectange, oval, circle, square... well, any shape you want works. I just wanted a custom fit. REMEMBER... The back of the vinyl piece is the side that you are going to paint and see. The actual vinyl floor patterned side is the WRONG side. We are going to paint the back side and love it!

      • Next, cut the vinyl with strong scissors to make the basic shape.  Lay your paper pattern on the vinyl and traced around the pattern. (Since the fabulous deal I got at Lowes turned out to be the wrong kind of vinyl, I'm going to demonstrate on a small piece.)  Do a final cut using an OLD rotary cutter with the mat underneath. I wanted a perfect straight edge so I just slid the mat under the vinyl and cut and slid my way along the marks from my pattern using my quilting straight edge.  For my big floor cloth, I was on my knees sliding the mat and doing the cutting on the floor. Knee protectors would have been a good thing.

      • Next comes the first coat of paint. I used the left over latex wall paint from our house. I painted the  whole floor cloth  and let it dry over night. Latex wall paint is durable and strong and works fine, plus latex paint is not only durable, but can be gently bent without cracking. You can roll or brush the paint on. You need to do 2 coats for both good coverage and as another layer of protection for your floor cloth.  The picture shows me painting the small 'example' floor cloth the light sage green that is on my kitchen walls. You want to be sure and paint the edges also.
      • When making my big kitchen floor cloth, I wanted to lightly faux paint the straw colored paint before I added the border. I took the dark green that was also the border paint; mixed it with a glaze, and dabbed it on with a big sponge... *This was my technique! I'm clueless on how to OFFICIALLY do Faux Painting CORRECTLY. Talk with people at your local paint or craft stores to get clear directions. The picture shows a sample of the faux painting I practiced before doing the big kitchen floor cloth. I also used the same scrap to practice the stenciling I was going to use.

      • I measured for the border by carefully putting light pencil marks on the dried painted surface. I ran masking along the lines and made sure it was straight, and secured to the surface before starting to paint. As you can see from my example,  I used my quilting straight edge to draw the lines. 

      The dark green paint is a semi gloss latex wall paint. It matches several furniture items in the room and is a good accent color. I painted two coats and let it thoroughly dry before removing the tape. 

      Now you get to learn a lesson that I had to learn the hard way... See that purple masking tape? It is the same tape I used on the big floor cloth that was made 4 years ago... Masking tape actually has a shelf life! Did you know that? I didn't. Take a look at how the paint was able to creep under the tape even though I made sure to securely press it into place. 
      Moral to the story: Tape is cheap, buy a fresh roll when doing a big project!  

      • The picture above also shows how I started to play with stencils. Whether you are stenciling or painting a design/picture, you need to practice on painted scraps. You've got to get the feel of how the brushes are going to interact with the painted surface. 
      The pictures below show you where I got my inspiration. It's my friend Kate's kitchen. Her sister painted these beautiful floor cloths and custom cut them to exactly fit the space. Kate went to a rug dealer and bought a non slip rug liner that she could easily cut to put under the vinyl floor cloths.

        Check out this close-up. Linda, the talented sister, hand painted the apples and also did a faux paint in the background and the border. So beautiful!  Kate recently reapplied 2 polyurethane high gloss coats to her floor cloths. I plan to redo mine this fall when our humid weather is gone. My floor cloth is a semi-gloss. It's a personal choice and entirely up to you to choose the effect you want. I love it both ways.

        Here you can easily compare artistic painting vs stenciling... I'm not an artist, but I can stencil and come up with a similar effect. Please remember, I'm not a professional stenciler. I'm merely sharing what I did. I used regular craft acrylic paint and a stencil brush. I love the illusion of the metallic copper color in the words and line border. I also got brave and mixed greens and the copper to do the grape leaves. 
        You just do your own thing and it will be perfect for your area!

        • You're at the final step. When your floor cloth looks just the way you want, all the painting/stenciling is completed... You need to seal and protect it. Use a clear liquid polyurethane that you brush on. Two of the  main brands are MinWax and  Varathane. They all come in Gloss, Semi-Gloss, and Satin finishes. There are spray on polyurethanes, but you just are not going to get the coverage and protection you want and need. Applying the polyurethane needs to be done in a well ventilated, dust free area. The garage is perfect as long as it's dust and bug free. Probably you will need to sweet out your garage and do the painting at night when no one is around. Remember... at least 3 coats.
        • Cleaning the floor cloth is simple...  vacuum and then use a damp mop. Wow, that could wear a girl out!
        Before starting this blog entry I "Googled" floor cloths to see what was out there. Well, there's a lot, and there's also a lot of very clever floor cloth artists. Lots of great ideas for shapes and colors.
        But, think about this for a moment... How about painting actual quilt blocks on your floor cloth. You could also use all those stamps from scrap booking ... Once you have the base color and border on your floor cloth you can let your imagination go wild. What... if your decoration doesn't turn out great? Who cares... just paint over it with your base color and start again. Who's gonna' know?? 
        I can't wait to see what you come up with. I can see your creative juices kicking in right now. You're tired of that old kitchen sink rug, aren't you. Get creative and have fun!
        Me? I'm heading back to Lowes to return that vinyl and get what I want. Then the floor cloth by the patio door is going to get underway!

        Stay creative, have fun, and keep stitchin' for the ones you love!
        Hugs from Mary

        Thursday, July 21, 2011

        One way to do three dimensional objects on an art quilt

        Look at the autumn leaf on my blog name just above. It is part of a wall hanging designed by Nina Stevens, called Autumn Oak, as pictured. Do you see how the leaves seem to float on the quilt? This is not the technique Nina suggested, but it is a technique I want to share with you today. It is not an original idea, rather one of those things you see or hear about and then tweak it to meet your needs. And, you won't believe how simple it is to do. All you need is a light weight fusible interfacing and the fabric for the shape you want to emphasize.

        Here is how you do it...
        1. First look at the interfacing and think of the side with the fusing as the right side (it will feel bumpy). The side without the fusing is the wrong side (it will feel smooth).
        2. Draw the shape you want on the wrong (Smooth) side of the interfacing remembering to include a quarter inch seam allowance. If, while you are drawing the shape, the pen feels like it is drawing on a bumpy surface - you are probably drawing on the fused side which is the "right" side of the interfacing. That would mean you need to turn the interfacing over and draw on the smooth "wrong" side.
        3. Now that you have drawn your shape on the smooth side of the interfacing you are going to take the interfacing and the fabric - put right sides together - that means the bumpy side of the interfacing will face the right side of your fabric. Pin the two together and stitch on the interfacing side following the lines you have drawn. Go all the way around the shape. Do not leave an opening.
        4. When stitching is completed, trim corners and carefully clip edges to get ready for turning the fabric.
        5. How are we going to turn this to the right side if we didn't leave an opening... Easy - carefully put about a 2" slit in the interfacing. Now you have a hole to turn the shape through. Finger press and use a toothpick, scissor points.. whatever works to push out all the points to the right side.
        6. Place your shape on the quilt where you want it to be. Remember the fused side of the interfacing is facing out and when you press the shape in place; the interfacing will bond and hold the shape while you free-motion stitch any design you want.
        That's it! You have a nice clean edge, the shape floats on the quilt, and you can easily stitch the design. I works for balloons, Christmas ornaments, flags, butterflies, ... just about anything and adds a nice dimension to your quilt.

        Keep those fingers busy!
        Hugs from Mary...

        Wednesday, July 20, 2011

        Quilt a Fixator Cover!

        My dear friend, Alice, broke her ankle a few years back. She went through several surgeries that didn't do the trick. Then, she gave it one more try and found a wonderful surgeon. However, Alice had to keep all weight off the foot and was literally bolted into a huge titanium frame called a fixator for six months! Well, it wasn't pretty. Her foot was swollen, red, blue... it all looked pretty yucky with metal pins going into the ends of each toe. Not at all a nice thing to see.

        So, my quilting brain started thinking about making a stylish cover for the contraption. Sweet Alice had been tying a pillowcase around her leg... I had to accomplish something better than that. I knew Alice loved beige and wore it often. I found a darling floral print and began to design the cover. It had to be rigid and able to wrap around the frame and velcro in the front. I found a stiff pellon with a double sided iron on bonding much like Wonder Under. It would hold its shape and stand up straight. I ironed the beige fabric to both sides and then began to sew. I hoped the doctor wouldn't mind, but I also used stick on velcro and went around the entire outside edge of the fixator frame. So, the bottom of the cover had velcro sewn in to it so that it would wrap around the frame and have the stiffness to go up her leg.

        The part that covered her foot was the really fun part... I traced around my own bare foot for the pattern. I found a sweet pink batik, backed it with Wonder Under, and then using the foot pattern ironed it onto the beige floral fabric. I did free-motion sewing on the pink foot to simulate toe nails, folds in the skin... it was so fun. I kept looking at my own foot to get all the lines and cracks correct. I found a magenta fabric scrap and ironed on painted toe nails! Good lord, I was cracking up as I was working. I even put in a toe ring! I'm sure Alice's alter ego would wear a toe ring even though she is quite the proper lady.

        Well... when I had the whole thing finished I delivered it expecting a roar of laughter - hoping she would actually use. Roar with laughter she did along with her husband. Sweet Alice loved it and was the talk of the orthopedic ward when she went for her next doctor's visit. The nurses loved it.
        I am delighted that I was able to make an ugly contraption look like something cute and stylish. Everywhere Alice went she was stopped to talk about her novel foot covering. My goal was to lift her spirits; I believe I did. The doctor told Alice to tell me I could make a fortune making these covers.... but, I just want to pass this idea on to you and hope you will perk up someone's fixator. Think how fun it would be to make one for a child... just let your imagination go. Oh, a little ballerina could have a toe shoe!! I LOVE it! What about a swim fin or fancy flip flop... Yee gads, this is great!
        Keep on stitching with love...
        Hugs from Mary

        Tuesday, July 19, 2011

        My First Pieced Quilt

        I did it! I accomplished a pieced quilt! I know, I know... the pieces are big. A girl's got to start somewhere. Maybe learning the intricate ways of putting together a pieced quilt is best started with large cuts of fabric. At any rate, it looks balanced... meaning the squares seem to fit together nicely and flatter each other. I was not following an actual purchased pattern, which was probably not the best way to go. I did research on line of the various types of old pattern styles and decided a log cabin variation would be a good place to start because of the colonial flags, which were cut from a fat quarter. There were six usable flags, so that dictated the number and size of the squares. I cut 1.5" strips to go around the flags a total of two times. From there I began to "play" with my remaining fabrics to come up with another design. I kept it simple with three fabrics and used a crazy quilt cutting method.

        I want to talk a little about free-motion quilting... My skills stink! I feel like I've done a good job of learning how to thread sketch when I do my art quilts... But, I have got a lot of practicing to do with free-motion quilting. Leah Day at The Free-Motion Quilting Project seems to have the best blog, in my opinion, for teaching free- motion. There are videos, pictures... everything you need to know to help you improve your quilting skills.

        Now, back to the quilt.... As I look at the finished quilt, I'm pleased with what I see. There is only one little thing that I would have done differently... Look at the blue border and rows... I wish I would have put that same blue strip on both sides of the center squares to form columns... Yep, I can see you agreeing with me. Darn! I didn't even think of it until I really looked at the quilt; analyzing it to write this blog. Oh well... learn something new everyday.
        Keep on sewing friends

        Sunday, July 17, 2011

        My First Art Quilt

        First read the entry below the picture and then come back up here for the "rest of the story"

        Okay... here's what really happened. I am surrounded by water birds, and really wanted to capture them in fabric. That's a novel thought, but I had never done anything like that before, although I have been sewing for years. Not to worry, I'm a quick learner. I visited Thimble Pleasures in Chapel Hill, NC. Boy, can you get inspired there! I saw a finished quilt with the basic size and shape I wanted. I bought some batiks that represented the colors of the salt marsh during winter and set out to make the background of the quilt. It didn't turn out too badly, in fact, I was pleased. Of course I had to go back to the sewing store for a walking presser foot, pins, needles... well, lots of stuff. Next, I searched the web for heron pictures from which I could make patterns. I used the Wonder-under and then satin stitched the heron to the background. The grasses on the quilt are weeds from across the street that I just glue gunned on.

        From that first heron I just kept making more and improving. I started piecing fabric in odd ways to give the illusion of a forest or water. I put sheer fabric over certain areas to give a glimmer or shimmer. Experimenting with metallic threads was great fun and the outcome really wowed people.

        What have I learned since making that quilt two years ago?
        • Raw edge applique really is a great way to go.
        • Thread sketching really is fun and an easy way to cover mistakes.
        • Small scraps of fabric can be used anywhere.
        • Other quilt blogs are fabulous and loaded with ideas. (Thank God, Google knows how to find them!)
        • Believe in the 3 foot rule. (most people will be admiring your work from at least three feet away and won't even notice the imperfections you're stressing about.)
        • Organized fabric bins and a permanent sewing area really does matter.
        • Machingers are wonderful rubber tipped white gloves for free-motion and thread sketching. (I just wish I could find mine... Yes, I do have an organized sewing area)
        • Experimenting is not only fun, creative, and useful - it's how we all learn.
        I think I'm going to like doing a blog. This is clearing my head and making me think about the process and my progress. Hey, you retired teachers out there... isn't that part of Blooms Taxonomy?

        This is an article about how I designed my first art quilt. I picked a design. I looked at fabric. The fabric gave me inspiration that changed my design. With the changed design I had to choose new fabric. Once I bought the fabric I took it home and started cutting it. Realized I didn't have enough fabric and went back to the fabric store for more. Found new fabric that created a different inspiration and had to start all over again.

        I think I finally have enough fabric. So I'm cutting it out again. Wait, maybe I need one more piece or an extra 1/4 yard of this one. NO! Control those fabric buying instincts. I will use what I have.

        I have now cut out all my pieces and WonderUndered the hell out of it. Let's start stitching. At first I sucked at Free Motion quilting. My herons were electric blue. And I don't know when to stop and just keep adding more and more stitching. I practiced first on the quilt my daughter spent days making. I ruined it in learning how to make the pretty designs. Don't worry, I'll make her a new one and someday it will actually be finished, you know, before I die or my hands get so arthritic that I can't move them anymore.

        So I have free motioned this new quilt and it looks pretty good (where the hell are my magic finger gloves!). I'm ready to try more difficult things. Like Sea Horses and Canadian Geese and Herons perched in pine trees.

        Maybe someday I will finish my daughters quilt.