Being The Boss Of Me

Swatch sampler — designs by Donna Kallner
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Technically, while I am self-employed I’m not really the boss of me: That would be a guy at the bank that holds the paper on our house, as Michael Perry says. On a day-to-day basis, though,  I’m the one making the do-do to-do list that keeps me on track. This week, all bets are off. It’s play time.

I’ve been a good girl this month, and got a bunch of non-studio stuff done. My web site needed work in a big way, and I would love to get your feedback on the makeover (hit the comment button below this post). It’s been workshop proposal time (I still have dates available, hint hint, but I’m caught up with those for now. My winter studio class series is scheduled. There are no yellow sticky notes on the bathroom mirror to herald impending deadlines.

So this week, I get to spend in the studio playing and possibly making some holiday gifts. I try to use gift projects to explore technique, sample products, and use up stuff I already have.

I’ll be using my Spoonflower swatch samplers to make some small projects. I need to get images posted on Spoonflower to show the fabric designs I have for sale “in action.” I don’t think it will spoil anyone’s Christmas surprise to get that done. Just in case, I invoke gift amnesia: My family knows what that means.

I already got started on a few things. For one project, I used Dharma pigment dye to alter a fat quarter of one of my black-and-white Spoonflower designs. I like to have neutral fabrics stashed so I can color them as needed for the project. Dharma’s pigment dye produces a mottled, stone-washed look I like and it couldn’t be easier to use.

Since the dye was already out, I mixed a bit more and used my gloved hand to brush it onto pre-quilted fabric left over from a play day with my sister-in-law last spring.

A while back I got a few gift bags made from the other stuff we painted that weekend.

And this week, I want to get some aprons made for the fire department auxiliary to wear at the community open house in a December. It’s a small department and an even smaller auxiliary. I got a design done this weekend for an image transfer, now just need to sew up three aprons to iron it onto.

While we’re being thankful for things this week, let’s give thanks for these people: 72 percent of firefighters in the U.S. are volunteers like my husband. He spent Sunday evening at a traffic accident and Saturday morning on a backcountry evacuation for a hunter who fell from his tree stand.

Hopefully, I won’t be seeing those guys this week when I get out my heat gun. I have an idea…

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Wonder Undies

No way will I caption my undies.

I’ve never had the nerve to tell students to bring extra underwear to a workshop. But I often tell people there’s no better test for a surface design product or technique than putting it on your unmentionables. That’s the load of laundry that really tells you how things stand up in the wash.

Last year on Compost and Creativity, I wrote about some sampling I did using disperse dye transfers on 100% cotton painted with fabric paint. You can read the original post here and the follow-up here.

As long as you’re looking at my granny panties, I might as well be completely honest. First, I never got any other sampling done on that batch of undies. Second, let’s just say it would be an honest mistake in the emergency room to assume that wasn’t surface design.

So yesterday while I was sampling a new image transfer product, I raided my underwear drawer. In addition to trying the product on Ultrasuede and woven cotton, I added another layer of “interest” to that batch of undies. And just in case they’re someday seen by medical personnel, I labeled them as Surface Design Samples. It might not alleviate all their concerns, but it should give us something to talk about.

What’s the craziest fabric you’ve experimented on?

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Image Transfer Jewelry: The E-books

For a while now, I’ve been wanting to find more ways to present some of the material I teach. I love teaching, and my students have a great time learning techniques and exploring ideas. But even my most devoted students (bless your hearts) can never take every class I offer. So now I’m offering some of my classes as e-books. The first three are online at

In Blooming Image Transfers, you’ll learn to create floral jewelry using iron-on image transfers on fabric. The e-book includes 4 full pages of images for you to print on inkjet heat transfer paper, and step-by-step instructions for making pins, necklaces and cuff-style bracelets.

Gifts In A Snap shows you how to make jewelry gifts from T-shirt transfers. This book contains 18 image elements sized for you to print on one sheet of 8-1/2″ x 11″ inkjet heat transfer paper, plus step-by-step instructions on how to turn a transfer into the gift of wearable art.

Moving Pictures also uses image transfers to create wearable art that celebrates the ladies of silent film. The e-book includes 10 printable image elements sized for you to print on two 8-1/2″ x 11″ sheets of inkjet heat transfer paper, plus complete step-by-step instructions for making a cuff-style bracelet. A bonus project shows how to turn your samples into brooches.

The e-books are $9.95 each. Free preview pages let you know exactly what materials are needed to complete the projects before you buy the e-book. You can sign into Scribd with just your Facebook account, or join Scribd (it’s free), and pay with a credit card. Once you purchase a title, you can view it online or download the document as a PDF. I’ve set things up so there’s a printer-friendly summary page, so you can print just that to keep with your WIP (along with the images you’ll print on inkjet heat transfer paper).

The best part of a class is always seeing how different students interpret the material. I hope you’ll send in pictures of pieces you make from these projects and allow me to post them here. You can email JPG images to me at donnastitches[at]gmail[dot]com.

Stay tuned as I add more e-books in the months ahead. And let me know if there’s a title you want moved to the top of my to-do list!

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Full Moon

This time of year, I love waking up at dawn with bird sounds and sunlight streaming in the window. I’m not quite so fond of waking up in the wee small hours to the light of the full moon. It isn’t as bright tonight as when snow covers the ground, but it is beautiful outside.

It was a night like this when I got to thinking about a variation on Moving Pictures, an image transfer jewelry class I’m teaching this year at Bead & Button. The Friday class is sold out, but there’s still room in the evening section that was added for Wednesday, June 9.

The class celebrates the ladies of silent film. For fun, I made a cuff bracelet that celebrates Twilight, a contemporary series of books and movies. The teenager who mucks horse stalls for my neighbor got her hooked on the books, she passed them along to me, and we all went to the last movie together. We plan to see the next installment when it comes out at the end of June. That is, if I live that long. Vampire gnats attacked again yesterday while I was weeding, and the blood loss was severe.

I’m thinking I need to make a Gone With The Wind cuff, too. When I was a kid, that classic made the rounds of movie theaters about every 10 years, and I got to see it on the big screen. We didn’t go to lots of movies, so it was a big deal — and a wonderful memory.

At 4 am, ideas like this are almost as dangerous as infomercials. I’m starting to think I need jewelry to celebrate both The Rocky Horror Picture Show and The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai.

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Behind The Scenes

March has been a month of catching up and looking ahead, planning, plotting and prioritizing things that can come off the back burner now. It scares Bill when he sees my to-do list. It’s not realistic, but that’s not because I’m too tight on time between events. It’s because I have so many ideas to explore, and I want to tackle them all right now. Picture me rubbing my hands together in glee.

Before I head out again on the teaching circuit, I do have prep work to complete so students can show up and have a great experience. And there’s a lot more that goes on behind the scenes that I can’t take credit for. The folks who manage the venues where I teach do a great job of organizing resources so people like me can just show up and teach, and students can just show up and learn.

Last week, Bead & Button added another section of the class Moving Pictures on Wednesday, June 9. The June 11 section of that class is full, so I’m glad to have another opportunity to present this fun bracelet project, which uses image transfers of ingenues from the era of silent films.

Bead & Button is a huge event. I picture their scheduling process as someting like Cirque du Soleil performers juggling beads instead of balls. They make scheduling look like performance art. Encore!

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What’s In Your Stocking?

Just in case Santa brought you an Amazon gift card that’s burning a hole in your stocking, I thought I’d post a couple of things you might consider spending it on besides books. Not that one can ever have too many books. You know me better than that. In the interest of full disclosure, you should know that these are links to my Amazon affiliate store. If you buy from one of these links, I make a little money on the sale.

Sony Cybershot DSC W150. This link is for the students who took my Local Color classes last year at Sievers and The Textile Center and for the Inkjet Fabric students at Bead & Button. This is the camera I’ve been using for the past year. The shooting modes let me point and shoot automaticallyor manually adjust the exposure (remember that P mode?). I can shoot close-ups with great detail, soften the focus for portraits of people and flowers, shoot in vivid color, black-and-white or sepia. This camera also lets me manipulate images I’ve shot in the camera without altering the original photo. For example, in the View mode I can crop an image, blur and dim the periphery, or change the area surrounding the focal point of a color image to black-and-white. And that’s just the stuff I’ve figure out so far. There’s no end to the ways you can use a digital camera to create inkjet fabric. Use it to shoot objects that are too large or awkward to fit on the copy bed of an all-in-one. Build a stock photo library — for example, by shooting, flowers, fallen petals, leaves, plant grouping, and other garden elements to use in floral fabrics. Set up still life arrangements to photograph, playing with different camera angles and reflectors that change the lighting. You’ll find many ways to use these photos as backgrounds for other images as well as on their own.

HP Photosmart C4580 All-in-One Printer. This is the printer used in the above classes. It doesn’t even have to be hooked up to a computer to print wonderful fabrics. You can simply lay elements on the copy bed and press a button. It has ports that accept  the media cards from some digital cameras.(To check out the media card specs, got to my Google Group page and click on Local Color Media Card Specs. And yes, you can always hook it up to the computer to print something scanned to and stored there.

OK, I can’t resist. One book. From Image To Stitch by Maggie Grey. If you love image transfer techniques, this one has some that will curl your toes.

More of my favorite fiber art books are featured in my Amazon affiliate store. I’m adding fiction favorites as fast as I can remember what I read (I really meant to keep a reading journal…). And for years, students have heard me talk about how much I love listening to audio books while I stitch, so you’ll find the complete selection from Amazon here. Search on Young Adult and Classics for some great selections.

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What’s In A Name Tote Bag Tutorial

Recently I promised a step-by-step tutorial on how to make a quick gift using a purchased tote bag and inkjet heat transfer paper. It’s personalized, but subtle. I made these bags for a couple of tween girls, and didn’t want their real names plastered on the side. Here’s how to make your own.

Gather Your Materials
You’ll need:
Translucent Inkjet Heat Transfer Paper
— Large hardcover book
— Aluminum Foil
— Baking Parchment
— Iron
— Tote Bag in a light color (I used a ready-made one)

Prepare The Image
Use a search engine to find a site like this one that will help you find the meaning of the recipient’s name.

Open a blank 8-1/2” x 11” document. You can use photo imaging software, Microsoft Publisher, or even Word. Using a word-art tool, type the meaning of the recipient’s name, choosing a font that matches the recipient’s style. Make the text more subtle, if you like, by making a copy of the text block, changing the text color to white in the copy, then layering the white element over the original element just slightly off-register. Flatten, merge or link the two elements. Copy that and paste several versions on the page. Flop (mirror image) some of them. Fill the page with this background.

Use a search engine again to find a site like this one that will translate a name from English into Chinese characters. If you can’t find the name you need, translate the meaning of the name instead of the name itself. Right-click on the image to copy the Chinese characters.

Paste the characters on your document on top of the word art. Resize the element as necessary. I used characters in two different sizes – a large one centered on the page, with a much smaller one centered below it.

Frame the Chinese characters with ruled boxes and put a frame around the whole image. It’s almost ready to print on inkjet transfer paper.

Print The Transfer
This kind of transfer reverses the image when you iron it to the fabric. So before you print, find the mirror image feature in your print properties box.
Read the directions so you know which side of the paper to print on, and run a test print on regular paper to make sure it looks “backward.”

Put one sheet at a time in the paper tray, print, and remove the sheet from the outfeed tray before printing anything else. Let the ink dry completely before stacking printed sheets. Important: Never run an inkjet product like this through a toner or laser copier; the heat could melt the coating and damage the machine.

Make The Transfer
The manufacturer’s directions may tell you to work on a hard surface like a pillowcase spread on a counter. I prefer to work on a hardcover book covered with aluminum foil.

Place the foil book at on a firm surface at a height that lets you apply pressure with the iron – maybe a table, rather than a countertop, if you’re short like me. In any case, you probably won’t get the best results if you work on your ironing board.

Trim away the margins outside the ruled box that frames your image.

Place the foil-covered book inside the bag. Position the trimmed transfer element printed-side-down on the fabric. Apply pressure with a dry iron preheated to the hottest setting (for a cotton tote bag). Do not use steam!

Keep the iron moving but don’t apply pressure as it moves. Once the transfer is warm, the image can slide and smear if pressure is applied while the iron is moving. But if your iron has steam vent holes on the sole plate, you must reposition the iron. Otherwise, you may not be heating the parts of the transfer under those vents.

The manufacturer’s instructions may say to heat for 2-3 minutes. If you’re working on a foil-covered book, reduce the time. If you do transfers one after the other, the book will get hot and you may need to reduce the time for later transfers.

Let the transfer cool, then peel away the paper. It may look kind of plasticy. Not to worry. Cover the transfer with baking parchment and iron (still using a hot, dry iron). Let cool, then peel away the parchment. Repeating this step will make the transfer less glossy, more satin.

That’s it. If you like, you can add fabric paint or embroidery around the image. Or you can just wrap the tote in recycled fabric and ribbon, and it’s ready to go under the tree.

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What’s In A Name Tote Bag

This week I was scrambling to get stuff done before Thanksgiving and almost forgot: I needed two small gifts. It’ll take me longer to write a tutorial than it did to make them, so I’ll save that for another day. For now, here are the high points:

Look up the meaning of the recipient’s name, use a search engine to find that meaning translated into Chinese characters, combine the name elements into one graphic, print the graphic on translucent inkjet heat transfer paper, use an iron to transfer it to a pre-made tote bag, and wrap in recycled fabric and ribbon. Done.

I’ll just give you a heads up on a product you might want to have on hand for last-minute gifts like these. I’m devoted to Dharma Trading Company’s inkjet transfer papers. I use Dharma’s Professional paper #IJP8 on woven fabrics like the What’s In A Name tote.

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Two Red Threads – 194 Years In The Making

Haven’t we met before? I’m Donna Kallner. I teach fiber art workshops around the country (and take workshops, too, when I can).

At these events, wonderful, interesting people begin fascinating conversations. And I’m the one who cuts in and breaks the thread of thought. When I’d like to say, “Tell us more!” I have to say, “Excuse me,” so I can do another demo, answer a question, or check on progress around the room.

This blog is a place to continue the conversation, untangle ideas, share stories, and reflect on what we learn by making fiber art. Thanks for coming by and joining in.

I’ll be posting a couple times a week (more some weeks, less others) about topics like looping, stitching, surface design, image transfer, digital fabric, mixed media textiles and vessels, stuff I’m sampling, books and blogs. I’ll post occasional tutorials, creativity exercises, prompts and challenges. And I’ll be asking readers to share work made in response to classes and challenges.

You can make sure you know what’s happening at Two Red Threads by subscribing, using the button in the sidebar.

So why is it called Two Red Threads? Stay tuned, and next time I’ll tell you about an unfinished project that should make you feel better about your own UFOs.

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