Sunday, September 13, 2009

Not Quite What I Was Expecting

I decided to go ahead and tackle the basket block for the Block of the Month group this morning. Not being the kind to plan ahead, I had no idea for color scheme, and had not done any purchasing other than a few fat quarters of assorted browns for the basket portions. I wandered off to the stash closet to look for background fabric, and discovered that I have successfully managed to diminish my quilting stash at some point. There are a lot of small scraps, so I'm set for the applique, but background size bits? There were very few in a light or neutral color, and none that were really suitable - most were too busy. This left my old standby of muslin.

Now, muslin is what I consider a staple, so I have plenty of it. It's the kind of thing I wait for the 50% coupons, and buy a bolt. I had a couple of different weights, I had bleached and unbleached, but even the unbleached seemed cold and stark for baskets. What's a girl to do on a Sunday morning with no quilt shops open?

Fortunately, I hadn't done my weekly grocery shopping yet - so, remembering bits and pieces of tips and tricks from the many magazines, blogs, and random tutorials I wander through, I picked up a jar of instant coffee. The intent was to create a splotchy antiqued tan background. I've put the step out on it below - it didn't quite do what I envisioned, but I still have a very nice, warm background ready!

I started by cutting the muslin into suitable squares. The blocks are going to be 6 or 12 inches, so I went with 14 inch squares to allow for shrinkage during the applique process, as well as room to square up. I tossed these in a sink of plain, warm water to soak.

I then scattered instant coffee over the top of the damp fabric and misted it with more plain water. (I usually have plenty of spray bottles thanks to the ferrets. The enzyme cleaner for their cages comes in spray bottles, so I wash, save and reuse those for this type of thing.) I think I would have had a more splotchy end result with less water - either wring the fabric out more, or spray less. I then let this sit covered for about an hour.

Not being particularly patient, I then popped the fabric squares onto baking sheets (the cheap kind they sell as disposable oven liners are great for this type of thing!) I set the oven for 200 and let the fabric set for about 20 minutes. If I had let it go longer, until it was dry (or at least dryer) I may also have gotten more uneven results. (I'll keep everyone posted, as I'm sure there will be more experimentation!)

I rinsed the still damp fabric, at which point I discovered I had more of an overall tan, than completely splotchy.

I ironed it to set the color that was there, then gave it a final wash to make sure the coffee was out (since coffee is acidic). The strip across the middle is a trimming of the untreated muslin on top of the fabric before the final wash. You can definitely tell a difference!

This is the final washed and pressed version, again with a strip of the untreated muslin for comparison. I'm pretty sure that with more patience and time and less water, I would have completely different results. As it is, I'm still pretty happy with the end product. I think it's definitely warmer and more inviting than the original color - and there is still a little bit of subtle variation that doesn't quite show in the pictures.

P.S. The ongoing projects stand at: Pillar socks knit through today, Midwinter's Eve knit up to today, still needs today's two rows knit, and Per Terras has been a Very Naughty Shawl and is in time out until I am focused enough to rip back about a dozen rows.


  1. I would have never thought of doing that! You're SO creative!

    I haven't touched my Per Terras since Wednesday. Not much else has been done this weekend either!

  2. I, too, would never have thought of coffee!!!

    Tea dying, YES, but not coffee.

    And I NEVER remember to try and dye some muslin!!!

    Tks for sharing!