Tuesday, December 18, 2007

How to Make a Fiber Shawl- Part 1:Gather Supplies

I made my first fiber shawl, named "Luscious," following the excellent tutorial on HGTV episode 1110 with Marilyn Badger. She actually gave instructions for a poncho made with Tussah silk tops and Angelina fiber. I loved the silky and shiny look, but did not want a poncho. Often, when I get excited about a project I see on a show, I purchase the supplies, then put them away without learning to use them. However, I finally had need of a shawl to wear to a wintery wedding last March, and made my first shawl. I am wearing it in the sidebar picture on this blog. This new shawl, Precious Gems, was just finished last week.

If you want to start making fiber garments, you need to start building a stash for different things besides fabric and thread. Usually, there is at least one fiber vendor at the quilt shows, selling ropes, skeins, and bags of yummy-looking yarns and ribbons that you have no idea what to do with. I have been buying those things for years, and using them in art quilts as trims or bindings. But, they are wonderful additions to a fiber shawl or scarf!

The supplies recommended by Marilyn Badger are water-soluble stabilizer, Tussah silk tops and Angelina fibers. I bought the first two originally from Myrna Ficken at A Quilter's Choice. Just check out the silk tops. When you click on the color selections, a new window opens with delectable shades in beautiful combinations. These arrive in baggies with rope-like bundles of fibers, dyed in variegated combinations. These are then to be fluffed out into lovely, Tribble-like puffs of silk. (Anyone else seen all the Star Treks ever made?)
Once you have decided on the lovely range of colors to use, you can add other ribbons, threads, yarns, and Angelina fibers to complement the silks. I ordered my Angelina from The Weaving Edge originally, but these are now widely available from many sources of embellishment and craft supplies. These also will be pulled apart into lovely puffs of fluff. Some types of Angelina fibers fuse to themselves when heated. When you finish your shawl, you will iron it and create lovely shimmery areas where the Angelina was used.

You will also need some lovely yarns. Marilyn used yarn for fringe, but I also used it in the construction of the shawl itself. For Luscious, I just used one skin of a mohair/acrylic blend in a cream color. For Precious Gems, I used brown fuzzy mohair, purple mohair, and several crinkly and variegated yarns. I've got to say I was a little concerned about the mohair after soaking the final project in the bathtub. This shawl smelled just like a wet dog! But it dried nicely without the offensive pet smell.
Finally, gather up any lovely embellishments you have been hoarding. I have added variegated rick-rack, hand-dyed silk ribbon, satin ribbon, metallic threads, and anything else I thought would be pretty. Just don't put anything in there that will break your sewing machine needle! You will be stitching through all this heavenly stuff. Can't add any beads or bits of metal, at least until the sewing is over!

A word about the water-soluble stabilizer: Marilyn recommended heavy weight for the base, and light-weight for the top. I purchased these from A Quilter's Choice, and they were the correct size without having to piece the stabilizer together. This was a great time-saver! For my second shawl, I decided to use a bolt of water-soluble stabilizer that I had purchased previously from JoAnn's or somewhere when it was on sale. Unfortunately, it was only 19" wide, and I wanted my shawl to be 24" wide. Also, it was light-weight. I used two layers to make the base. However, I think the purpose of the heavy-weight is to make it less likely to tear when pinned to the leaders. I think it would have been just fine to use one layer of the lightweight on the bottom layer, and maybe my thread would not have broken so much!

You will need is LOTS of polyester thread to sew the grid over your fibers. Cotton thread could shrink when soaking in the hot water. I chose to use two shades of The Bottom Line poly thread on each shawl. Using a different color on the top and the bobbin threads gives a slightly different appearance on each side. You can get The Bottom Line from Superior Threads. I used the pre-wound bobbins because they hold a LOT of thread. I was able to stitch about twelve inches along the length of the shawl before changing bobbins.

And don't forget your water-soluble thread for basting the fibers to the stabilizer. I used Vanish Extra, also available from Superior Threads.

All this makes for a rather pricey garment- another layer of meaning for the names Precious Gems and Luscious. When I wore Luscious to a cocktail party/dinner in New York recently, my husband's co-worker said I should sell the shawls. I replied that the price of materials made it not very cost-effective, and she wanted to know if I had as much as twenty dollars in it? Ha! Obviously not a crafter.

Okay, get your goodies together, and stay tuned for Part 2!

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