Sunday, July 7, 2019

Tips for making quilt blocks with yarn-dyed textured wovens

The #100Days100Blocks2019 Kinship sew-along that I'm participating in began July 1. The fabrics I chose for this project are yarn-dyed textured cottons from Diamond Textiles. Momentum hit and with less than a week into the project, I've got 28 blocks pieced... and 4 more cut and ready to be sewn. In the process of making my blocks, I've learned some things about working with yarn-dyed wovens.
Block #15 from the Kinship sampler made with yarn-dyed cotton fabrics from Diamond Textiles. 

Characteristics of yarn-dyed cottons
Yarn-dyed wovens are cotton fabrics that can be used for patchwork, quiltmaking, accessories (bags, pouches, pillows, etc.) and garment sewing. Some unique characteristics of these fabrics are:

  • a yarn-dyed fabric has color on both sides of the fabric. So, when you purchase and use a yarn-dyed woven, you get the "right side" and the "other right side." Use whichever you prefer!
  • some yarn-dyed woven fabrics might have a softer drape and feel compared to printed quilting cottons—this makes them so lovely for sewing garments as well as in quilts.
  • the patterns, or textures, in the fabrics are created during the weaving process. You can see the "floats" in the photo below that create the pattern designs in the cloth. Some designs are created with a contrasting colored yarn or even a thicker/heavier weight yarn. 
  • some yarn-dyed cottons use one color of yarn for the warp and a contrasting color for the weft. These are often referred to as "shot cottons." The combination of two colored yarns woven together creates a new, rich and more complex color with more depth than a plain solid fabric.

Examples of various yarn-dyed cottons (by Diamond Textiles).
Textures and patterns are created in the weaving process.

The yarn-dyed fabrics I'm using for the Kinship sampler are Diamond Textiles' Tweed Thicket and Nikko IIITweed Thicket has a flatter surface while Nikko III has a raised diamond pattern and a slight more drape.
Tweed Thicket (top) and Nikko III yarn-dyed cottons.

After piecing several blocks, I've become more familiar with working with yarn-dyed wovens and learned some tips for easier and more accurate patchwork.
Blocks for the Kinship sampler quilt made with yarn-dyed wovens.

Tips and Tools for better patchwork
As with any patchwork—especially small blocks or those with many small pieces—good workmanship is paramount to accuracy and success. The blocks in the Kinship sampler quilt finish at 8" square and 4" x 8". Some of the units within the blocks are cut 1", 1.5" and 2.5". The tools and processes I've discovered to improve success when working with these fabrics are:
  • starch the fabric before cutting. I use spray sizing (it's what I keep on hand).
  • put a new cutting blade in the rotary cutter. (A good practice for any project!)
  • account for the "turn of cloth" [the amount of fabric taken up when fabric is folded]. The turn of cloth seems to be 1-2 mm larger for these yarn-dyed wovens.
  • spin the seam allowances when possible to minimize bulk. (A good practice for any patchwork.)
  • and, as with any patchwork and small pieces, a consistent and accurate 1/4" seam allowance is important.
Block #10 (front).

Block #10 (back) showing spinning the seam allowances at the intersections.

The Bloc_Loc ruler has expedited the trimming and improved accuracy of HST [half-square triangles]. Many of the Kinship blocks incorporate 1.5" and 2" triangle units. 
Bloc_Loc ruler is helpful for trimming half-square triangle units.

I'm also finding that I like the blocks that have a mixture of Tweed Thicket and Nikko III. The variations in texture make them more interesting to me.
Block #7 (left) and Block #5 of the Kinship sampler quilt.

Design principles: variety and texture.


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