Tuesday, December 18, 2007

How to Make a Fiber Shawl- Part 2: Set Up

Have you decided which silk fibers and other beauties you are going to use for your fiber shawl? Or are you still drooling and slobbering over the color combinations of Tussah silk tops at A Quilter's Choice? Once you have selected your colors and beautiful fibers, you have to get your water-soluble stabilizer ready.

The shawl basically is a bunch of fibers, ribbons, yarns, and threads that are trapped between two layers of water-soluble stabilizer. Then they are stitched together in a grid format, and then free-motion quilted. Once the fibers are joined with this network of threads, the whole thing is soaked in hot water to dissolve the stabilizer.

I made my shawls on my Gammill long-arm quilting machine. This is a huge advantage when sewing long rows the length of the shawl. If you do not have one, I would recommend scaling down your project to the size of a scarf to see how you like the process.

I decided to make my shawls about 24 inches wide by 65 inches long. This is a nice size to wrap around for a little warmth. I looked in one of my favorite mail order catalogs to see the dimensions of theirs. Decide how large you want yours to be. The problem with my width is that I have to roll the project to get it that size. You might want your shawl to be the width of the throat of your machine.

1. If you are using a long-arm, mount your heavy weight water-soluble stabilizer like you would for the backing or lining of a quilt. In my case, my stabilizer was not wide enough, so I had to join two lengths together after pinning one to the top leader, and one to the other. This was way too hard. I recommend buying a big piece of WSS (water-soluble stabilizer) so you do not have to join them. Here is how mine looked after pinning together:

Then I added a second layer to make it heavy-weight, since the WSS I had on hand was lightweight. I had a whole bolt to use up! I think I would have been fine with just one layer.

2. Once your WSS is mounted, use a permanent marker like a Sharpie to draw the boundary lines for your project.

3. Load some Water-Soluble Thread, like Vanish Extra, in the top of your machine. You can use any old thread in the bobbin, because it will fall away when you soak your quilt. But, if you are smart, you can use Vanish in the bobbin, too, and not have to pull out any basting thread when you are done.

4. Now comes the fun part! Start to lay your fibers on top of the WSS. It is a good idea to have some Angelina and some silk tops on the bottom, then some yarns, then some more silk tops and Angelina. The silk tops need to be pulled apart and fluffed. You can cut the rope-like silk fibers if you don't want to use all the colors- just pick the parts that match your project.

5. Start to place lengths of yarn from one end of the project to the other. I like to make my fringe at the same time to avoid another step at the end. I leave about two feet of yarn on each side, walk the length of my table to the other side, cut off the fringe, walk back the other way, etc. Keep adding different textures and shades of yarn, and keep on adding your silks and Angelina fibers between and above them. You should use at least two packs of silk tops and one of Angelina fiber for the shawl, as well as one skein of yarn (or a variety.)

6. When you have lots of yarns and fibers covering your base layer of WSS, add a second layer of WSS to cover it. I pinned this on first, then machine-basted with the Vanish Extra thread. Go across the top, bottom, and side borders. Then, I also did a serpentine basting stitch through the whole bundle to try to keep the theads from shifting. If not using a longarm, it would be easier to pin-baste your layers together.

7. If you find that your fibers have shifted around and left some bare spots, you can add some more fibers to that area, then cover with another small square of WSS. Baste around the WSS to hold it on. You can do this at any stage of the project.

8. At this point, your project looks like a big hairy shower curtain! Your fibers are enclosed between two layers of WSS, which will keep your needle from snagging as your stitch a network of threads to hold them together.

9. Before you begin stitching, I recommend containing your fringe ends in some manner so they will not get caught up in your bobbin as you approach them while sewing. Ask me how I know! Oh yes, on my first shawl it took about four minutes to jam my machine, and about forty-five minutes practically standing on my head to pick the yarns out of the bobbin area! This time I made the WSS long enough to double over the fringe yarns and pin them out of the way. I think next time I might try putting them in a gallon-size zip lock bag.

10. One more thing before you start stitching: take the Vanish Extra thread and put it back in its bag, away from your machine! You don't want your network of stitches holding your shawl together to wash out!


clevelandgirlie said...

Jeanne - this is a wonderful tutorial you have put together. Thank you so much for all the time you are putting in on this. I really am going to try this after the first of the year!

clevelandgirlie said...

Oh -- and good tip (lol) about putting the Vanish thread "away" -- as that certainly sounds like something I would do -- stitch the whole darn thing for hours and hours and days and days -- get dressed up, put on my shawl, get caught in the rain and end up with a bunch of yarn and threads at my feet with a sad face :(

Lynn Majidimehr said...

I don't have a long arm, but you're inspiring me to make a shawl with the small frame I have.