Halloween Tee Jewelry Tutorial

One of the things I love about Halloween is that it gets so many people involved in making. With a little help, they can get totally hooked, sort of like a human drinking V on True Blood. So here’s a quick, easy project you can share with friends or family members who might be candidates for textile addiction.

The basic design can be used to make bracelets, chokers, and stocking or sleeve garters.This project uses recycled T-shirt fabric and inkjet heat transfer paper. For the transfer, I used a silent film still. You could use your own photos (fang close-ups, candy bait trail, ghosts of past pumpkin carvings…), text (blood type, zombie hunter ID…), or something from this free PDF.


  • Inkjet heat transfer paper (almost any brand* should do)
  • Inkjet printer
  • Optional: crayons or pastels
  • Scissors
  • Iron
  • Baking parchment paper
  • Optional: foil-covered hardcover book
  • Recycled T-shirt fabrics — light-colored for transfer layer, any color for other layers
  • Sewing machine or needle for hand-sewing
  • Thread

Print The Transfer. Follow the package instructions for printing your image onto inkjet heat transfer paper. Be sure to select the Mirror Image setting in your Print Properties, especially if your design uses text. (The image will reverse when you transfer it to fabric.) Let the printed transfer paper dry before you proceed.

Add Color. If you’ve printed text or a black-and-white image, add color if you like using crayons or pastels on the printed inkjet heat transfer paper.

Trim The Transfer. Cut away any borders around the image area.

Transfer To Fabric. Transfers need a hot, dry iron (no steam) and a hard surface (your ironing board is too soft). I use a recycled hardcover book covered with aluminum foil for transfers. Place the trimmed transfer face-down on white or light-colored T-shirt fabric on the foiled book. Cover the fabric and transfer paper with baking parchment. Apply the hot iron, repositioning it to make sure heat is applied to all parts of the transfer (even where the steam vents are in the iron’s sole plate). With a preheated iron and a foil book to reflect heat, two verses of the “Happy Birthday” song should be long enough for a transfer this size.

Cool. Yes, it it, but what I mean is “let it cool.” Move the fabric off the foil book to cool faster.

Peel & Polish. Peel off the release paper to reveal the image transferred to the fabric. To take down the shine, reposition the baking parchment over the transfer and apply heat for one verse of “Happy Birthday.” Let cool before peeling off the parchment.

Trim. Trim, leaving a margin of fabric around the transferred image.

Layer. Cut two more layers of T-shirt fabric, each slightly larger than the image piece. The total length should be slightly less than what you need to stretch around your wrist, arm, ankle or thigh.

Stitch. Use your machine’s zigzag setting or stitch by hand with a doubled thread to secure the three layers together.

Simple Cuff Finish. For a pull-on cuff, seam with wrong sides together, trim excess fabric, and you’re done.

Variations. To make the piece more adjustable, instead of seaming the cuff do this: Cut off two hem pieces from the T-shirts you got your fabric from. Stitch one on each end of the fabric sandwich, taking care to leave the hem “tube” open. Cut narrow strips of fabric from those recycled tees and stretch them to make a cord. Thread the cord through the hem tubes and tie in a knot (for a semi-stretchy pull-on fit) or a bow (for a choker).

Distress. Give the finished piece a bit of texture by stretching the fabric to distress the transfer. (*Note that you won’t get the distressed finish if you’re using Dharma’s SuperSoft Inkjet Transfer Paper, which is designed to stretch.)

I put up a free PDF with a few phrases you can use to make this project. Remember to use the Mirror Image print property when printing text to inkjet heat transfer paper. It will look backwards when you print it, but read correctly when transferred to fabric.

I’d love to see what you make for Halloween. Post pics at my Facebook page so we can all ooh and ah!

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Sunprint Transfers Unveiled

If you missed the first two installments, the materials list and printing post is here, followed by the technique post here. That just leaves the unveiling.

After sitting in the sun long enough for the fabric to dry, unpin the transparency, remove it and the resist elements, and take the fabric off the foam.

Let the fabric rest overnight, then heat set with a hot, dry iron (no steam). Give it a gentle wash with mild soap, iron again and you’re ready to use the fabric in a project.

Have a great Labor Day weekend!

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Sunprint Transfers, Part 2

Last time, I listed materials and talked about printing the inkjet transparencies for a project. I should mention that, like many transfer techniques, this one reverses as the ink is moved from one surface (the transparency) to another (the fabric). Look in your Print Properties options and select “Mirror Image” before you print.

Once you start this technique, you need to work quickly. Have all your materials gathered and with you outside before you begin. That includes your resist elements: I grabbed a fern for this example.

Pin your fabric to foamboard. Spritz lightly with plain water (very lightly if you’re using silk instead of cotton).

Brush on Dye-na-Flow, a transparent fabric paint. You can use it straight up, or thin it with a small splash of plain water. The fabric needs to be wet with paint to transfer ink from the transparency, but not so soppy that the ink just dissolves into mud. Like many techniques, this one becomes more predictable with practice. Oh, and don’t worry about your brush strokes — just get the paint on the fabric.

Position your resist elements on the wet paint. Don’t fuss too long trying to achieve perfection in your placement: The paint has to be wet for your next step, and it can dry very quickly in the sun.

Place the printed inkjet transparency film ink side down (that side should feel rougher) on the wet paint. Burnish the image area with one or two swipes of an old credit card (hotel key cards are great). You just need to make sure the ink on the transparency makes contact with the wet paint, and let the paint do the rest of the job.

Pin the transparency in place so it doesn’t blow away. I usually use a couple of large rocks to keep the foam from sailing away if breeze kicks up. Just note that shadows created by rocks and pins can actually show up in your print. So will the edges of the transparency.

Let this dry in the sun, and we’ll unveil results next time.

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Sunprint Transfers, Part 1

With the Labor Day weekend coming up, you might have time to try a fun technique that combines heliographic printing on fabric with inket image transfers on fabric. While I work on handouts for a new class this week, I’ll post instructions for sunprint transfers in installments.

This particular transfer technique requires water-soluble inkjet ink, which gets transferred from the transparency film to the fabric with the aid of a wet fabric paint. Don’t try this with a laser printer. And if you just want to do sun printing, there’s a good tutorial at Dharma using Setacolor fabric paints. You can substitute the thinner Dye-na-Flow paints, but don’t add more than a splash of water.

For sunprint transfers you’ll need the following:

  • Inkjet transparency film (NOT the quick-dry type). Look for a 10-pack of Hammermill brand at the big box store. (As with any inkjet transfer “paper,” do not run it through a laser printer.)
  • Dye-na-Flow fabric paint. If you don’t already have this versatile product on hand, you can order it from Dharma. They call it “silk paint,” but it works on other fabrics as well. I used the color Brass in the sample above.
  • Fabric. My sample was done on cotton, but you could use silk.
  • Foam board. I use a piece of Dow foam board. You could use recycled foamcore board, an old seat cushion, or something else to pindown your fabric so it doesn’t blow away.
  • Pins. See above.
  • Brush. I use a cheap foam brush.
  • Spritzer of plain water. Doesn’t take much.
  • Sun. 

Printing The Film
Inkjet transparency transfers often work best when printed a couple of days before you’re ready to make the transfer. So if you get a chance, go ahead and print your image onto the film.

  • This technique works best with high-contrast images. 
  • Center the image element on the page, leaving plenty of space around it. 
  • Read the package instructions to learn how to load and print the inkjet transparency film (generally, the coated side you print on is slightly rougher). 
  •  8/31 Addition: Like many transfer techniques, this one reverses as the ink is moved from one surface (the transparency) to another (the fabric). Look in your Print Properties options and select “Mirror Image” before you print.

While you print and gather the rest of your materials, I’ll get back to work on class prep.

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Who Hearts Looping?

Here’s a basic technique description of how to use simple looping with a hint of freeform shaping to make a quick fiber Valentine. If I waited until I had time to make a perfect tutorial, this would never get posted. Since love is seldom perfect and Valentine’s Day is Monday, I decided to post it anyway for anyone who wants to play with it over the weekend.

New Age Looping heart pin

These instructions assume you have some basic skills and vocabulary. If you don’t, well, make something up and it will probably work. This is a very intuitive process. Trust me. Better yet, trust you. You might also want to review my basic looping video on You Tube, although it uses a wrapped base cord anchor instead of the needle chain.

Needle chain base cord

To begin, make a short needle chain. I made my hearts from the Ruby Slippers color of Jade Sapphire’s 100% silk, a bulky weight yarn. My hearts began with a 3-link chain. Your mileage may vary. Pull the last link into a knot to secure the chain.

Looping into the base chain

Flip the chain over (turn it like the page of a book) and begin looping into the links of the chain.

Needle chain increase

At the end of the first row (looped into the needle chain base), work another link or two of needle chain to make a linear increase. Those of you who’ve had me in classes might remember the concept of bachelor stitches — they’re unattached for a while, but we link up with them eventually.

After making the needle chain increase, flip the piece again. (Make a flip turn at the end of every row.)

Shape begins to develop

Work into the needle chain linear increase and continue across the row.

Shaping the first half of the heart.

To shape the heart, make needle chain increases or skip stitches as necessary at the end of the rows.

Reorient regularly to see how heart shape develops.

After every row, temporarily reorient the piece and look at the shape. Trust your eyes to tell you when to use the needle chain increase and how long it should be, or when to skip a stitch to produce the heart shape. If your heart is a bit wonky, it will have that much more charm.

Thread added with trapped tail method

Working the heart sideways, so to speak, positions the piece for my normal stitching orientation. But reorient the piece on every row to check the shape.

Almost there.

When the basic shape is complete, reorient your hold to work an outline row in your normal stitching direction.

Reorient the hold to work an outline row.

You’ll notice in the photo above that there’s an extra tail next to the working thread. I left a long tail when I added thread, and worked over that thread core to beef up the outer edge.

Outline almost complete.

At this point you can finish off and be done.

Making the heart 3D.

I chose instead to make my hearts three-dimensional. Just continue stitching the outline, skipping stitches as needed to decrease.

Cheating Heart

Here’s one small cheat that might help you with shaping on a 3D piece: To keep the cleft from filling in, pick up a stitch on the back side of the front, deeper in the body of the piece.

Who hearts looping now?

To complete the piece, stuff it with a bit of wool fleece and sew on a pin back.

If you’d like to learn more, these techniques are covered in my book New Age Looping, which is available in my Etsy shop. This specific project is not covered in the book.

Three of the kids whose heights are recorded on my studio doorframe are coming for the weekend, so I’ll be playing with them and away from the internet. If you have a question over the weekend, you might try posting it on the Facebook New Age Looping Study Group page.  Or, as I said before, make something up. We’ve all done that at some point, and when it works we just call it a “variation.”

I bought the red silk yarn I’m using at The Knitting Tree in Madison last winter, and love it for this project. But this is a great way to use up odds and ends, too. I used some of the indigo-dyed cotton yarn from my freeform looping vest project to make a heart for myself using a couple of variations.

When you “like” the Facebook page you can post pictures there. If you heart looping, I’d love to see!

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Moonshine & Mother’s Day — Part 2

Last week I showed you an intoxicating creativity exercise I’m calling Bootleg Collage. And while playing with scissors and glue and the contents of your recycle bin is plenty rewarding all by itself, I promised you more. So just in time to make a special Mother’s Day gift, here’s how to transform a collage into a small piece of wearable art. (My mom is still on dial-up so I don’t think she’ll see this providing her friends don’t forward it to her — please!)

What You Need

  • Inkjet silk
  • Cotton batting
  • Stiffener (like quilter’s template plastic)
  • Ultrasuede for backing
  • Embroidery floss
  • Embroidery needle
  • Bar pin back
  • Size 11 seed beads
  • Nymo D beading thread
  • Size 10 sharps needle

Print & Prepare The Fabric

  1. Scan your collage.
  2. Open a blank document and insert the collage image and any other images you want to print on a sheet of inkjet fabric, leaving about a 1-inch border all the way around each image. 
  3. Print the document on inkjet silk according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Let dry overnight before peeling the fabric from the carrier paper. 
  4. Briefly soak the printed fabric in a basin of cool water with a drop of Palmolive or other mild soap to remove any unbonded ink, stubborn bits of the paper or starch used to adhere the carrier paper to the silk. Rinse, dry, and iron if necessary. OK, this sounds like a big deal but it only takes a few minutes, and if you’ve printed a bunch of images on the same sheet of inkjet fabric you get them all done at once.

Embellish The Image

  • Cut a piece of cotton quilt batting larger than the image area. If you’re not comfortable just holding it in place while you embroider, quickly baste it to the back of the printed silk.
  • Embellish and border the image with some simple embroidery stitches. I used embroidery floss I painted earlier with Dye-na-Flow fabric paint.

Assemble The Pin

  • Trim the excess batting.
  • Cut a piece of stiffener (quilting template or recycled plastic) slightly smaller than the image area. 
  • Place the inkjet fabric face-down, then top the batting with stiffener.
  • Imagine you’re about to wrap a gift with the fabric. Trim the fabric, if necessary, so you have a small overlap when you fold the fabric on two opposite sides around the stiffener. Press the folds with your fingers. Make a few stitches on the back to hold those opposite sides in place. On the other two ends, trim the excess fabric and fold it like wrapping paper. Press the folds with your fingers and fold the ends to the back. Stitch to secure. Stitch a bar pin back in place.
  • Cut a piece of Ultrasuede to cover the back. Cut two small slits in the Ultrasuede and position it over the catch and the arm of the pin back, covering the bar. You can stitch the Ultrasuede backing to the piece as you bead the edges.

Bead The Edges

  • Anchor a thread and pick up two beads. Take a small stitch one bead width away through the fabric and the Ultrasuede backing. Pass the needle back up through the last bead strung. Pick up one bead, make a stitch, and pass through that bead again. Repeat the pattern. 
  • When you get all the way around, pass through the first bead again, pass back through an adjacent bead and secure the tail with a couple of small stitches.

 There you have it:

  • a simple gift that will fit in the palm of your mother’s hand
  • a gift that will spark conversations when she wears it (My daughter made this for me..) 
  • an opportunity to use a creativity exercise in a project, and
  • an opportunity to learn some new techniques.

I do hope you’ll give the collage exercise a try, and let me know how you like it. But if you’re running short on time (Mother’s Day is May 9), you have permission to use my red flower collage for your own personal use.  Just right-click on the image to save it to your computer. (My mom — the retired schoolteacher — won’t mind a bit.)

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Can’t Resist A Silly String Resist

Here’s another chapter in my quest to find ways to use party string in fiber art (hey, it’s my job). It’s a slapdash variation on snow dyeing, using Silly String as a resist element. Here’s how it goes:

  1. Prepare fabric. In true slapdash fashion, I grabbed an old but clean T-shirt (no softener or dryer sheets used when it was laundered).Since I only wanted to print a motif on the front, I put a plastic-covered hardback book inside and clipped the excess fabric out of the way on the back. You could mask areas you don’t want to print, if you want to spend more than a minute on preparation.
  2. Prepare dye. I mixed Dharma Pigment Dye with water in a small spray bottle.
  3. Prepare snow. I laid the shirt with the side to be printed down in the snow and pressed to make a small depression.
  4. Spritz. With the spray bottle, I spritzed pigment dye into the depression.
  5. Shoot. Shoot party string over the dye in the depression. Note to self: The string might work better if it weren’t so darn cold! I didn’t have time to check the thermometer and do the sample. Anyway, the party string froze pretty quickly, but I was able to pick some up and lay it where I wanted it. 
  6. Print. Lay the shirt down in the depression. A patient person would let it stay there for a while, but my hands were cold so I stood on it for a few seconds, picked it up, and took everything back inside. The party string stayed frozen in the snow.
  7. Oops. Had to go back outside right away to kick snow over the dye so the dog wouldn’t walk through it.
  8. Watch. With some snow sticking to the fabric, there was some migration of dye after I took it inside and the snow melted. Cool. Also, it appears that I bear more weight on my right foot than on my left foot while creating art when it’s cold. Also cool.
  9. Wait. Pigment dye needs to air cure 24 hours. After that, you can heat set if you want but it’s not necessary on cotton. After washing, you’ll get a nice, soft “stone-washed” effect.
  10. Wear.  Practice saying “Silly String Snow Painting” and “Thanks, I had a blast making it!”

I see Dharma has a special deal on some paint-splotched bottles of pigment dye. Here’s the link if you want to give this a try before winter ends.

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Fabric Ornaments In A Hurry Tutorial

Pages are flying off the calendar as if this were a Frank Capra movie. Just in case you’re desperately seeking ideas that can be made quickly but show the love in a big way, here’s a suggestion.

Use your inkjet printer and inkjet fabric to make ornaments. They’re flat, so they’re easy to mail and easy to store after the holidays. And for people like us who always get a Charlie Brown tree, they’re light enough to hang on even the skimpiest branches.

Gather Your Materials
You’ll need:
Inkjet fabric
— Photos or a digital camera and favorite holiday ornaments
— Fabric paint like Lumiere (a jar of Metallic Silver comes in handy for the holidays)
— A brush
— Fusible webbing
— Iron
— Felt
— Beads, beading thread and a needle

Print The Fabric
Take pictures with your digital camera of favorite holiday ornaments or anything else you like, or scan images into your computer. Open a document (Word, Publisher or whatever you have) and arrange images to fill an 8-1/2″ x 11″ page. Give yourself a half-inch or so between images and at the margins so you have some room to work.

Read the directions on your inkjet fabric. Put it in your printer, and print the document. Let the ink dry while you load your White Christmas DVD.

Paint The Fabric
Add some holiday sparkle with metallic fabric paint. The carrier paper that stiffened the fabric so it would go through your printer will help stabilize it while you paint.

It won’t take much paint. Just brush on a little Lumiere where you want to mask a distracting element (like the old boyfriend), make a boring background more interesting, or add the suggestion of glittering new-fallen snow. Pick up a small amount of fabric paint on your brush, brush most of it off on a paper towel, then brush it onto the fabric.

Let this dry while you make some hot chocolate and turn on the iron.

When the paint is dry, peel the carrier paper away from the printed and painted inkjet fabric.

Assemble The Ornaments
Use fusible webbing to bond the whole sheet of printed inkjet fabric to felt. You can use craft felt, but I use recycled wool fabric I shrunk in the washer. Just follow the directions of the fusible product and slap the two layers together. If there’s any chance that your fabric paint isn’t dry, protect your iron with baking parchment.

After bonding the two layers, cut the sheet into individual ornaments.

Stitch a simple bead picot edging and string beads to make a hanger.

If you need to make the final embellishment work more portable, instead of beading the edges use embroidery floss and work a blanket stitch edging. Stitch on a ribbon hanger, and you’re done.

Happy Holidays!

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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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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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