Saturday, January 25, 2014

How to Dye Aida!

Let's face it - sometimes finding the right color Aida for your cross stitching and craft projects is a major pain, and sometimes the color we need just doesn't exist.  This week I had a customer ask for a cross stitch to be done on UT orange (a burnt orange, for those not familiar with the school colors).  This is one of those situations where the color just doesn't really exist premade.

If you ever wanted to make your own colored aida, it's really quite simple!   For this project you will need:

100% Cotton White Aida cloth
Rit dye in the color of your choice (I use liquid Rit)
HOT water
Measuring utensils (a cup, teaspoon, tablespoon etc.)
Latex gloves
Stirring utensil

For this project I needed a finished product of 5 x 7 inches, so I cut an 8 x 10 piece of white aida, just to be sure I had enough to hem the cloth and frame the finished product.  You want to begin by making sure you have a large enough container for your cloth so it can "swim around".  You have to constantly stir this cloth so it doesn't get splotchy!  I don't recommend using anything you care about staining.  Fortunately, I splurged when I remodeled my kitchen and bought the biggest sink I could find, and it came with these handy metal inserts!  You can always pick up a bucket for a few dollars at a home improvement store.

You HAVE to measure all the water to make sure you get the recipe right for your dye color! I let the faucet run for a few minutes to get the water as hot as possible (if your water doesn't get really really hot, I recommend microwaving it or even boiling it in a pot!).  Then I measured all my water in a 2 quart pitcher, which it took three pitcher fulls to get the basin full enough!

Once you have your very hot water, add a half cup of salt (if it's a smaller piece of fabric) or a whole cup of salt if you are doing a lot of fabric.  A lot means A LOT, like a pound of fabric or more. I pretty much just make sure that the salt mostly dissolves.  Since the aida you're dying is 100% cotton, the salt helps achieve a deeper, truer lasting color.  Don't ask me how... but it surely works.  Be sure to don your gloves now unless you want multi-color hands!

Take your fabric and get it thoroughly wet, then take it out of the water prior to adding the dye!

Measure out your dye, and add it to the salt water.  To find out the recipe for the shade you want, just visit the Rit Dye site.  They have an entire section on color recipes!  I simply measure the dye, pour it in, and use the measuring cup to mix it together in the water.  Be sure you mix very very well before adding the fabric!

Place your fabric into the dye, and make sure it is fully submerged.  You must constantly stir the fabric to avoid any splotches!  I like to mix my aida around for 15 - 20 minutes to achieve a full color.  You can see in the pictures below how the color progresses.  Each picture is a five minute progression.

5 minutes of dying

10 minutes of dying

15 minutes of dying

After 20 minutes of dying

After your cloth is done taking a dip in the dye, it's time to rinse!  Start with warm water, then make it cooler until the water runs clear.

And your cloth is dyed!  Find a nice safe spot to hang it up to dry, and come back in a few hours.  Keep in mind it will lighten a little as it dries.  If you are in a hurry, you can always pop your cloth in the dryer on a gentle setting for a few minutes.  I prefer the air dry method, as it helps the fabric fray less.

You will notice when you fabric is dry that it is a bit wrinkled, but a quick ironing on a cotton non-steam setting will do the trick to get those wrinkles out.  

Keep in mind if you have any little wrinkles left over, they will come out when you stretch your fabric during framing.

And... ta-da!  You have custom hand dyed aida fabric!  If anyone else dyes their fabric I'd love to hear about it in the comments below!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Airplane Plush

My little nephew is turning 4 next month!  With his daddy being a pilot, and him being that age where whatever daddy does is amazing, it only makes sense he would be having an airplane themed birthday.  I picked him up a few things at the store, but I wanted to include a nice handmade toy as well.  So I made this beauty!

And before we begin... excuse the mess on my desk. I'm a messy worker! (I like to think my creativity explodes everywhere...)

To make a plush airplane of your own, you'll need the following:

Fleece (for the body & windows of the plane)
Felt (for the wings and tail of the plane)
Stiff felt (propeller)
Needle & Thread
1 24mm Safety Eye
Sewing machine - optional.  You could completely do this all by hand if you wanted.

You'll also see in the picture below my pair of hemostats.  These are simply giant tweezers that make flipping pattern pieces inside out a DREAM.  I highly recommend getting some if you sew a lot.  It's like finger extensions.  I bought mine online for three or four dollars.

Download and print the pattern HERE!

I would say this project is an intermediate project.  You should know the basics of sewing and have a project or two under your  belt before doing this.

I used scrap fleece i had lying around, it was less definitely less than a half yard.  Same goes for the felt, less than a half yard, more along the lines of two to three "sheets" if you are buying the paper sized felt.

Stiff felt is found at your local hobby store.  The only difference between regular felt and stiff felt is the "stiff" part.  It stands on it's own accord and doesn't bend easily.

I always start by cutting out all my pattern pieces.  Follow the instructions on the pattern pieces as to how many pieces of each you will need.   For the wings and tail pieces, I cut what I like to call "guide" pieces.  The wings, I will cut two along the pattern (even though you need four!) and the tail I will cut three along the pattern (even though you need 6!).  Then I cut rectangles that are a bit bigger than my pattern pieces for the batting and the other pattern pieces I need to cut, like the photo below.

Pattern piece cut for the wing, with rectangles of batting and felt.

I start with the wings and tail pieces.  You want to sew them together with the batting and both pieces of felt at once.  The order should be felt - felt - batting on bottom, like the picture above!  It'll all make sense after it's flipped inside out.

The pattern includes a 1/4" seam allowance. Sew your fabric sandwiches together!  If you use the rectangle method, like I do (because I'm lazy and it's a wee bit easier in my opinion), you will need to trim down the excess fabric around your seams.  Do that now!

Trimming the seams

You'll be left with a lovely bunch of wings and tail pieces that should look like the above picture.  Flip all your pieces inside out.  You want to go in between the felt layers to do the flipping, and you will have...

Wings and tail pieces!  Just push on them a bit to flatten them out if they decided to poof a bit on you.

Next you'll be moving on to the body.  I cut all the body pieces on the pattern lines (no rectangle shortcuts this time!) out of fleece.  You'll want to start by attaching the wings and the tail pieces.  I begin at the tail of the plane, taking two body pieces and sandwiching a tail fin between them where the pattern instructs, and repeating with a wing.  Repeat on the other side with the third body piece, and second wing and tail piece.  You'll be left with something that looks like this:

At this point it's time to flip your plane inside out and add the windows.  I hand sew these, because I like the look, but you could machine sew them on if you really want to.  

Check for placement

and sew them on!

Once your windows are sewn on, all six of them, flip your plane back inside out.  I hold the wings together through the open seam, and sew from the nose of the plane to where the wings are sticking out.  Then I turn the plane around so I start the the tail of the plane, and don't forget to sandwich that last tail piece in there!  Sew from the tail to the wings sticking out of the seam.  Then it's as easy as pulling the wings through and the body of the plane will follow as you flip him inside out!

Notice the hole placement on the top of the plane, where the wings were protruding as it was inside out.  Also notice the last tail piece has been sewn in!

Time to add the propeller!  I use a 24mm safety eye!  If you don't know what that is, they are available in different sizes at hobby stores in doll and bear making sections, and also numerous places online.  The propeller itself is made from stiff felt, which we went over before. 

Gently bend (and do not crease!) your propeller, and cut a small hole in the center so you can mount the propeller onto the safety eye, like so.

Now take your plane, and cut a small SMALL hole slightly off center from the three meeting seams on the nose of the plane.  You do NOT want to cut your seams.  Remember when you are cutting that fleece loves to stretch! Your hole WILL get bigger if you get scissor-happy.  I like to use the right or left top piece, not the belly of the plane for my slit.

The tiniest slit will work!  Notice that it is off center on the nose of the plane!

Now insert the stem of the safety eye into the hole and use the washer that came with it to secure it inside the plane.  Now it's time to stuff!  You may have been wondering WHY there was so much wing inside of the plane?  That is so you can put stuffing on top of the wing so it will stay straight during play.

I like to stuff my plushes quite full, and this plane will take a good two or three handfuls if you want it stuffed firmly.  Now sew him shut!

Congratulations!  You have your own plane plush!!  I can't wait to give mine to my nephew... and now I'm going to have to make some more for my own kids.