Thermometer Fun

I just got back from 2 weeks of dyeing class with Carol Soderlund. One of the objectives of the class is to figure out which variables in the dyeing process are important. One of those variables is temperature. In a separate discussion on an email list, we started to talk about thermometers for taking temperatures. Since I own 3 types of thermometers, I thought I would do some testing to see how accurate each was.

For this exercise I used three thermometers; Omega OS540 Infrared Thermometer, Taylor 9842 Instant Read Thermometer, and Redi Chek Remote Thermometer.

Temperature of Ice water using 3 thermometers

Temperature of Ice water using 3 thermometers

I started by taking the temperature of ice water. The ideal temperature of ice water is 32˚ F. The Instant Read  and the Redi Chek thermometers were a very consistent temperature of 33˚ F and 33.4˚ F. The Infrared thermometer was 29˚ F. I was using a semi-translucent container. The Infrared thermometer jumped around a little depending on where I pointed it. When I lined the container with a white cotton napkin, the infrared thermometer had a much easier time keeping a consistent temperature and by adding more ice I got the Instant Read and Redi Chek to read 32˚ F and the Infrared to 28˚F.

Temperature test of Boiling water.

I then boiled water in a metal container.  The ideal temperature of boiling water is 212˚ F.  Again, the Instant Read and Redi Chek thermometers were very accurate at 212˚ F. The Infrared temperature jumped all over. Unfortunately I believe the reflective surface of the electric kettle I used was causing the laser to pick up the temperatures of surrounding items.

I also tested the temperatures of my 3 irons with the Infrared and Instant Read thermometers. Two of the three irons had shiny bottoms and caused the Infrared thermometer temperature to jump all over depending on what additional surfaces it was picking up. The one that had a mat finish had more consistent readings, but when I placed the Instant read thermometer on the sole plate, I got very different readings than the Infrared.

The end results is that the Infrared Thermometer was fun, but I don’t think it is very accurate in many situations, and in all instances read low. I will have to do more testing to determine when it is accurate to use, since it is Really instant and fun. The Instant Read Thermometer was very quick at arriving at temperature. The Redi Chek was not as quick, but it could be left unattended. They both were accurate.


Late last year I noticed a new book on skinny quilts. I was immediately drawn to the quilt, but in looking at it, I determined it was something that I could do. Showing up at my weekly Friday sewing group 3 of the other 4 members saw the same book and were also drawn to the quilt. Fast forward to January when the designer of the quilt visits our quilt guild and has a workshop to create the quilt from the book.

I didn’t really feel I needed the class, but I knew that if I signed up, I would actually get the quilt made. That turned out to be true.

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Quick Cuddle Quilt

Hospital_quiltI needed a quick quilt for someone in the hospital. Hospitals are so drab and if you have to spend any time there you really need something brighten up the room.

I designed a quick layout of squares and rectangles. Two squares and one rectangle make up the quilt blocks. I played around with sizes and decided to make quick work of the project, bigger was better. A good size turned out to be based on 16 inch blocks.

To ensure that it was nice and cozy, I used flannel for both the front and the back. The colors didn’t come out exactly the way I wanted, but it worked for the purpose.

Creating Value

There is a book out on skinny quilts that all my friends seemed to have. It has a quilt on the cover we all liked and kept saying we were going to make, but none of us got around to it. Along comes the guild speaker for January, the designer of the quilt, Carol Taylor. I knew this was my opportunity to play with the technique and give me the motivator to dye all of the fabric needed for the project.

Dye Cups

Dye Cups

My hand dyed fabrics work great for gradations of value, so I was excited to get started. We needed 4 values; light, med light, med dark and dark. We needed 10-12 pieces of fabric for each value. I wanted to have 4 colors, so that worked out to a minimum of 3 different hues of each color. I decided to do 4 just to have some extra to choose from. I also decided to do 6 values of each color. Just in case I didn’t like the lights and trying to get as dark as I could.  So off to work I went. The first step was to cut up 96 pieces of fabric. We didn’t need much fabric so I died Fat 16ths of fabric. For the non-quilters a fat 16th is a piece of fabric approximately 11×9 inches. Then it was on to the dyes. Mixing fun colors and putting everything in tiny cups. I know it looks like they are all black, but really they are each a different color. Continue reading

Sunny Braid Finished

Sunny BraidI challenged myself to finish my braid quilt in time for the SCVQA quilt show. I knew that I would put off quilting this one if I didn’t have a deadline. The quilt show seemed like the perfect opportunity to give me that deadline. I thought the quilt lent itself to a fairly easy choice for a quilt pattern, even on my standard domestic machine.

I decided to follow the zig zag patter of the braid across the quilt. I started with the middle row and quilted from one side of the quilt to the other. I then worked my way to the top and bottom of the quilt by quilting every 4th row. By only quilting every forth row I got the layers sabilized more quickly and it enabled me to give up sooner, if I ran into a lot of problems. I can’t say that I was super speedy, but it really wasn’t difficult. I was able to use my walking foot, since it was straight lines, so it wasn’t stressful at all. I ended up quilting every other row. At the top and bottom border I just continued the same quilting pattern.

I’m happy to say it is complete and it looks great in the guest bedroom.

Dyeing fabric for Theo’s Quilt

Theo’s FabricNow that I have solved my water temperature issues, I have started dyeing fabric for my latest quilt. It is a rainbow colored baby quilt.

It would be better if it was a little warmer. Since the studio is separate from the house, I hate to spend money to heat an empty room with fabric sitting in it. I decided to use the heating pad and just let the fabric soak longer.

The result is slightly less color depth than I like, but I am pleased with the result and am happy that i didn’t have to spend extra electricity to get something I liked.

Hacking an on-demand water heater for proper Fabric Rinsing

!!CAUTION!!    !!CAUTION!!     !!CAUTION!!     !!CAUTION!!   !!CAUTION!!    !!CAUTION!!

Increasing your water heater temperature can be very dangerous. Please make sure that every person in your household is aware that you have increased your hot water temperature and does not use the water. Always return the water to a safe temperature as soon as you are finished. Always use appropriate gloves and tools.

When I rinse my hand-dyed fabric, I need to soak the fabric in hot water. The minimum temperature is 140˚, but I prefer something closer to 170˚. This helps to remove the excess dye faster and more completely. Recently I installed an “on-demand” (sometimes called an “instant hot”) water heater in my studio: a Tagaki T-K1S. I bought this specific model because it’s rated for a max output temperature of 182˚F. That’s HOT! It worked great.

But after I replaced my studio’s old, clogged iron pipes with new copper pipes, the water pressure was better but my hot water got cooler. What happened?

On-demand water heaters work very differently than traditional “tank storage” water heaters. If you are considering getting one of these, you need to understand how they work else you won’t be able to get the hottest water possible to rinse hand-dyed fabric properly.

After some experimentation, I figured out how to get super-hot water again. Here’s how to do it:

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