Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Prepping muslin foundations . . .

Last evening, I began prepping muslin foundations . . .

Previously, I had bought several 1.5 yard lengths of 108" bleached muslin, which I pre-shrunk in hot water (and hot dryer). I folded the fabric widthwise and laid it on my cutting mat . . .

I trimmed off the end and cut the fabric in 8" strips along its length . . .

I ended up with a stack of sixteen 108" strips of muslin . . .

Next, I prepared a solution of liquid starch and water. The bottle gave a formula of one cup liquid starch to six cups of water for "light" starch, and one cup liquid starch to four cups of water for "medium" starch . . . I used one cup liquid starch to five cups of water (heavier than "light," and lighter than "medium"). When I first started using this method, I used a 50/50 starch/water solution: the muslin came out as stiff as cardboard, the sewing machine needle made a "pock, pock, pock" sound while sewing, and I noticed little puffs of "starch dust" (which can't be good for the machine). I quickly learned to dilute the starch even more.
I starch the muslin for two reasons: the starch adds stability to the muslin, making it less likely to stretch when sewing on the bias; and, the starch keeps the ink from spreading too far when I stamp the squares (I don't mind the ink bleeding through to the other side, but I don't want the lines too thick).
I poured the starch/water solution in an aluminum roasting pan (they're not just for turkeys, you know). While wearing latex gloves, I added strips of muslin until all the solution was soaked up, then I'd flip the entire pile over, kneading the solution through (and out of) the strips, then let it get soaked up again. I did this several times to make sure ALL the strips were soaked.
Next, I covered my worktable with a plastic tablecloth. I wrung out the excess starch/water solution, then spread the strips on the table to air a bit. I do not let the strips dry completely because it's difficult to iron out any wrinkles. Instead, I let the strips air until they're just slightly moist to the touch (this varies depending on temperature, whether there's a fan blowing on them, etc.).

Then, it's time to iron the strips. The heat from the iron removes the last of the moisture and gives a smooth, clean finish to the strips.

I layer the ironed strips on my cutting mat, trim off the selvedge, then cut the strips into 8" squares. There is usually a piece left over that's less than 8", but too big to throw away. That's ok: I have a 3" stamp I'll use on them.

Here you have one hundred ninety-six 8" squares and sixteen "remnants."

Today, I ordered some new fabric ink from Dharma Trading . . . the ink I had been using is toxic and gives off a strong chemical smell. I'm hoping the new ink will be friendlier. I bought a bottle of yellow and a bottle of blue. They should arrive Friday . . . now, back to the studio to make more starched muslin squares.
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  1. Thats a lot of work. Now I know some of the method behind your genius. Where'd you get your stamps?

  2. Yeah, it's probably more work than it needs to be, LOL!! But, it beats the hell outta tearing away a lot of paper otherwise.

    I had the stamps custom-made by a rubber stamp company here in St. Louis (Barnard Stamp) . . . you can see 'em on my July 9, 2009 post, and you can see two stamped muslin squares on my July 14, 2009 post. As I'm now committed to making quilts ONLY with this square, it was a good investment (I used to mark the squares with stencil and pencil).

  3. Raymond, By using this method, could you put the starched squares through your printer to print the design?
    Love your tile method for the designs and using the muslin. I have only done one PP pattern and I am soooo with you about tearing the paper off. Love the amazing designs for PP, but, hate the paper. Thought your method might work not only for your patterns, but, for other PP patterns as well. Great idea and can't wait to try it.

  4. I've often been asked about running fabric through my printer . . . I've not tried it.

    Running hundreds (if not thousands) of muslin squares through my printer would get to be a bit expensive ink-wise, not to mention the odd bit of stray thread left behind for the maintenance man to find (yes, I envision problems aplenty using my printer in this fashion).

    I used to stencil the design on the starched muslin squares, until I realized my stencil was slowly being worn away . . . now, I use a rubber stamp and fabric ink to transfer the design onto the muslin squares, which is more consistent (and a lot faster) . . . at some point, I may need to contract a company to print on muslin FOR me, but that's further down the road.

    Using muslin as a foundation was advocated years ago until the advent of copiers . . . then, everybody took to paper piecing because of the ease of getting multiple copies . . . of course, that led to the added step of tearing the paper out after sewing on it, so what was really gained??

    I wish you luck in your foundation piecing endeavors . . .