Friday, July 15, 2011

Frixion Pens Evaluated

Frixion pens by Pilot have been showing up in quilt stores, usually priced well higher than the 6$ per three-pack you can get them for at Staples or Office Depot.  The way they work, they flow on like any ink ball pen, but when heat is applied (like from the friction of the eraser or from an iron) the ink magically disappears.  Sounds too good to be true.

It might be.

When you read the fine print, the manufacturer states that the ink will go transparent when the pen gets too hot, but temperatures below 14° F will revive the ink.  Aha!  So sticking whatever you wrote on in the freezer will revive the ink.  Yes, it does.

BUT, if the ink is ultimately washable there’s hope.  Well, it is and it isn’t washable.  I conducted a series of tests with a test quilt sandwich.  Here are the results.

The sandwich had plain white fabric on one side, a god-awful print on the other and some scrap cotton batting in the middle.  I sewed around the edges and then across two times to form three equal sized rectangles.  All the rectangles were marked with several colors of Frixion pens.  The left most square had nothing more done to it.  The middle was starched prior to marking it and the right most square had starch applied after marking.  Each rectangle was labeled with a Frixion pen as such.  I did the same on the print side, but used a Frixion highlighter so it would stand out more.  (Photo 1)
Photo 1: Prepared sandwich

I then ironed both sides of the quilt and the ink disappeared.  I then placed the swatch in the refrigerator along with a thermometer.  After a few hours at 38°F, the ink returned on both sides (Photo 2).  Thus, the temperature does not really have to be very cold for the ink to show up again.
Photo 2: After being in the fridge at 38 degrees F

Sticking it in the freezer at 8°F (Photo 3) makes the ink come back faster and darker.
Photo 3: after being in the freezer at 8 degrees F

I put the swatch in the dryer on high by itself for a long time.  The ink was gone from untreated rectangle, but still very visible on the other rectangles.  Dryer heat is not enough. (Photo 4)
Photo 4: after being in the dryer.

I washed it along with a load of regular wash.  When I pulled out the swatch, the ink appeared gone from the untreated and prestarched rectangles but was still very visible in the rectangle that had starch applied afterwards on the white side.  On the print side, all the markings were gone. I sent the swatch through the dryer with the rest of the clothes.  When I pulled out the swatch, all the marking was gone.

Then I stuck it in the freezer again.  The markings that had showed when I first pulled it out of the wash were back. (Photo 5) 
Photo 5: After washing, drying and recooled.

Conclusions: it’s a great pen that makes a fine line and flows nicely onto all but the darkest of fabrics.  Unfortunately it becomes visible in what I would call normal winter weather and needs to be ironed to make it disappear again.  It does wash out if you don’t apply starch after marking, but if you are creating an art quilt not intended to be washed you need to be certain it will never get cold. I would be really hesitant to use it on a quilt I was considering for a show. I have no idea if different fabrics and dyes might also interfere with its ability to be washed out. I also noticed that the orange color was more persistent than the black.  The other colors may also have different characteristics, as do the highlighters.

It’s a good idea that needs more work.  I think I will stick to using chalk.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Foundation Piecing with Freezer Paper.

I sort of view foundation piecing as a necessary evil: it's the only way to piece certain types of patterns, like stars and compass roses.  I love both.  What I don't like is the fabric waste and with the traditional style, needing to make a separate template of each partial block and then tearing off the paper.  So I was delighted when I ran across using freezer paper in the November 2009 issue of American Quilter magazine.  It eliminates the need for multiple templates and for tearing off the paper.  Fabric waste can be minimized with some careful prep.

Preparing the template.
Be sure to use freezer paper with a Plastic and not true wax coating!

I cut pieces of freezer paper to the standard 8.5 by 11 inch paper size.  I flatten the pieces and then print the template using my computer printer onto the dull side of the paper.  I have had no issues with the ink coming off onto the iron.  Of course you can trace, although freezer paper is sometimes hard to see through. You will be able to use the template multiple times - I have used them through 8 iterations.  So, yes, you may have to make more than one set if creating a larger quilt of many blocks, but probably only 1/4 as many. This saves time and money in the long run.  I also think it makes the blocks more consistent, which is helpful when sewing them together.

If I trace, I tack down the edges of the paper over the template master so keep things from shifting.  DO NOT iron the freezer paper onto the template master: the paper will permanently stick to the freezer paper!

I now look at the template and decide if certain pieces should be oriented with fabric grain (recommended for anything with outer block edges), what colors go with which piece and a minimum size of fabric to cut.  The last is helpful with larger pieces that might have to be oriented with fabric grain.  I make sure that the measurements include at least 1/4 to 1/2 inch beyond the block element across the widest dimension each way.  I write this directly onto the template.  If in the course of piecing with the template the first time, I find my measurements off, I record those changes onto the template.

Photo 1: Determining Colors, fabric grain and measurements.
Once that is done, I am ready to start piecing.  In my example, I have two partial blocks, labeled A and B.  I cut them apart and piece each separately before sewing them together to form a quarter of the total compass rose.

By having the measurements determined ahead of time, I can cut strips of fabric and them subcut them into the needed pieces.  For really small pieces (like pieces 1, 2 and 5 in part B in Photo 1) I will use scraps.

The hardest thing to get used to in foundation piecing is placing the fabric right side DOWN!

1) Piece 1 is easy: make sure it extends at least 1/4 inch on all sides of the element outline numbered 1, place it right side down on your ironing surface and iron the template onto it.  (Photo 2)

Photo 2: Starting the first piece.
2) Now carefully fold the template along the line between elements 1 and 2.  Crease it hard with your fingernail the first time.  The next time you use this template, it should readily fold along this line, so be picky the first time you fold!  Trim the exposed fabric to 1/4 inch seam allowance.  (Photo 3)

Photo 3: Trimming the seam allowance.
3) Here is the part I have the most difficulty with and which I have yet see explained anywhere.  Often pieces are at an angle and if you don't position the piece correctly, it will not cover the template element the way you need it to.  The following seems to work well.
  • Place the next piece face down and put the template over it to ensure that the fabric extends at least 1/4 to 1/2 inches beyond all the edges of the template element.  If grain is important, that needs to be oriented, too.
  • Now fold back the template and mark where the seam allowance of the previous piece hits the next piece (Photo 4). Add a registration mark that goes across the exposed seam allowance and onto the new piece.
  • Trim the new fabric piece EXACTLY 1/2 inch beyond the marked allowance edge.  Extend the registration mark across this section to the cut edge.  (Photo 5)
Photo 4: marking the allowance edge of previous piece onto next piece.
Photo 5: 1/2 inch trim beyond allowance edge and registration mark.
  • Now put the right sides of the 2 fabric pieces together, matching the registration marks. Keep the foundation folded back and sew right along the fold edge, trying not to catch the paper.  Note in Photo 6 that I use my 1/4 inch foot to help with this.  You need to sew at least 1/4 inch before and after the actual line.
Photo 6: Sewing the pieces together.
4) Fold out the template to make sure the next piece is postioned correctly.  Fold it back again.  Set your seam and press the piece out on the right side to ensure there are no folds (avoid the wax) and that you have a flat seam.  Now flip the whole thing over and iron the template over the new piece.  Photos 7 and 8.

Photo 7: Pressing the right side.
Photo 8: Press template over new piece.

 5) Continue the same sequence of steps until the entire template is filled.  Now trim the outer edges.  I like to extend the pieces along the outer edges beyond the usual 1/4 inch mark until I have finished the block, in case something goes wonky.  Seams that will be sewn immediately are trimmed to 1/4 inch.

 6) After completing a whole unit, carefully peel off the freezer paper.  Remember there are a lot of biases and you don't want to stretch the unit out. Press and starch this unit thoroughly.

 7) Now sew the units together.  Matching diagonal seams is a bit tricky.  Mark where the 1/4 inch seam will cross the seam in each piece and insert a pin through those points to hold them together.  Place one or 2 pins on each side of this point.  Pull the holding pin.  If you spread the seam open, you should see a sharp point.  If not, adjust as needed.  Do this for each point along the seam.  Then pin the rest of the seam, easing as needed.  In Photo 10 below, you can see where this was done in 2 places.  I like to press seams open, but you may prefer otherwise.  Now you can trim the partial block to size.  Photo 11  I recommend a final pressing and starching.

Photo 10: Unit seam sewn, matching points.  Look for the sharp V for properly matched points.  Note all the matched  registration marks from the piecing phase
Photo 11: Final quarter unit for block.
Since you have not sewn through the freezer paper, the templates can get used over again.  No tearing out and picking at paper, etc.!  :-))  With subsequent uses, it does stick less tightly but folds readily along all the lines.  If you try to use one set for each full block, that block should be consistently pieced.  I would be hesitant to switch to fresh templates within the same block, in case there was a slight difference in printing or tracing.

Please let me know if this is helpful or if you have additional suggestions!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

I love freezer paper!

I am a new quilter - finally started quilting the end of November 2010.  I am still finding my voice - I like traditional piecing, art quilts, especially landscapes, and am exploring foundation piecing and applique and everything in between.  I have always sewn, knitted, crocheted, embroidered, crafted.  But quilting has really hooked me.

In the course teaching myself this art and exploring various techniques, I have decided that freezer paper is indispensable.  So in the course of coming blogs, I will show you all the ways I have come to use it.  Meanwhile, here's a great link about some of the ways to use freezer paper

I also use quite a bit of glue.  Right now I am working my way through a bottle of Glue-Baste-it, but think I'll refill the bottle with Elmer's and give that a try.

If you have anything to contribute to these mini-tutorials, please feel free to comment - I figure we are all in this together to learn a wonderful art!

Monday, July 4, 2011

It's a start

I never thought nor intended to blog, thinking it a bit narcissistic.  However, since I have started quilting,  I have found the blogs of others who show how they are doing projects, very useful.  So I'd like to return the favor, so to speak.  Maybe I'll discuss climbing and my other interests as the moment moves me.  Anyway,in the next few days, I intend to show something about paper piecing using freezer paper.  Stuff I couldn't find on line, but that I have figured out on my own and that seems to work well.  If that helps someone else, then this little experiment will have been worth it!