Saturday, December 11, 2010

How my Mylar blocks turned out after washing

(This article was first posted on Facebook as a 3 part series. However, not everyone wants to join Facebook and I understand that, so I have combined the 3 parts into just one blog post. Should you like to read the original comments, you'll find them in the Country Needle's Facebook Notes)

Okay! So I washed the blocks I made with Mylar with a full load of denim jeans because according to Stitches magazine, any Mylar design will only hold up for about 20 washings. And tell you the truth, I don't like doing laundry so didn't want wash those blocks 20 times to find out! A full load of denim jeans can be pretty rough on other fabrics, especially those with embellishments and thought it would perhaps help with the simulation of 20 washings.

Now before I tell you the results, please let me make it perfectly clear that I used ONE layer of that cheap Mylar gift wrap because the Mylar that I ordered and which is supposed to be better and hold for washings and embroidery didn't come in until today and I'll be using it for next week's designs which are FSL. My designs were also not specifically digitized for use with Mylar either, but they met all the requirements of having a light fill throughout the design & low density.

Here are the results....

Upon first inspection, the Mylar seemed to have stayed intact. However when I got upstairs to look at the design in better lighting, I noticed that the Mylar was coming off in tiny sections ONLY around the edges of both designs. Whether or not this was due to the fact that I used cheaper Mylar gift wrap or because I didn't not digitize these designs originally for Mylar or because I washed the blocks with jeans or some combination of all three of the above, I don't know.

Am I going to try this again with the "better" Mylar and see how they hold up? You betcha! And with the "better" Mylar, I'm going to wash one block with jeans and then another block with the delicates.
LOL, I feel like I'm back in Science class and having to construct my Scientific Method!

The Scientific Method

My next Hypothesis: The blocks used with the "better" Mylar will hold up much better if washed in a gentle cycle rather than washed in a heavy duty cycle with jeans!
I'll give you an update after I've tested the new hypothesis!

Happy Stitching!
Part 2: Posted on December 11, 2010

As you already know, I've been playing with Mylar for several days now and since it seems to be all the rage now, I wanted to see to see how this stuff really holds up in the "everyday" world. You know the world where we're busy and frazzled from all that we do and when we find the time to make that special something as a gift, we want it to stand the test of time... AND the laundry! I don't know about you, but if I'm going to embellish a shirt or a make a quilt, I most definitely want it to be washable! I don't like doing laundry, I don't like to like to iron and I really don't like to have to hand wash or have to send something out to be dry-cleaned!

Yeah, no matter what, I still have to do laundry, but I like to keep it simple and want to be able to get it done as quickly and as easy as possible so I can get back to digitizing! I don't want to have to worry about something falling apart if it gets washed! When I create a design, I have running in my head so many possibilities for what each could be used for. I may not get to implement all my ideas, but YOU might with yours, so I digitize with "long-term" in mind. Meaning if you or I stitch it out, it's going to last as long if not longer than the item is was stitched on!

So....What were my results and conclusions about using Mylar? 

Well I tested the new hypothesis on 4 different designs and washed each one a different way. One I washed with another load of jeans on a heavy duty cycle, the second with a load of delicates on gentle cycle in cold water and the third and fourth designs were washed with some permanent press clothes in cold water and a medium-duty cycle. All 4 designs used were ones I had previously digitized and please remember that they were NOT digitized with Mylar in mind. I also used the Mylar sheets that I ordered and were supposed to be better than the gift wrap tissue you buy from a big box store.

I stitched 2 hummingbirds from the Wings of Elegance Collections and another butterfly from the Heirloom Butterfly Blocks, the 4th design was the Curly Q 'D' 5x7 applique which would have been suitable for this test because being applique you had not only the tackdown but the satin stitching as well to hold everything in place.

Which one held up best? The butterfly that I washed with the delicates in cold water held up as predicted in my hypothesis (see part 1). The Mylar used in the Curly Q 'D' did not hold up at all when washed with the permanent press clothes in cold water and the hummingbird that I washed in the same load is coming apart around the edges.

Before Washing
After Washing

And the hummingbird washed with the jeans? Well, it too came apart around the edges. Since my 2nd hypothesis was true as far as washing in a gentle cycle, I decided that I would wash the butterfly block again, the exact same way. While it held up the first time, it began to come apart after the second washing. :(

I'm actually beginning to wonder if that lady in the Stitches video actually tested that sweatshirt by washing it 20 times or if 20 washings was just a guess. Did she hand wash the garment, send it out for dry-cleaning, what? I may have to email her to find out exactly how she got the Mylar to withstand about 20 washes and not fall apart! And if I remember correctly, she used the Mylar tissue found at regular craft stores!

So now that you know my results, what are YOUR conclusions? Since embroidering with Mylar seems to be the latest embroidery fad, have any of you tested it in regards to how it holds up in the wash? Do you think it's something that you'd actually incorporate into a quilt or use on a garment? Inquiring embroidery minds really want to know!!

Since it's late, I'll let you sleep on it. In the meantime, I have one more test to do with the Mylar and then I'll draw my final conclusions and let you know! So stay tuned for Part 3 of "How my Mylar Blocks turned out after washing."

Happy Stitching!

Part 3: Posted on December 15, 2010
Polypropylene has many uses such as plastic chairs, the white lids on TicTac candy boxes and even plastic airplane models. Of course we all know that there's no way we could embroider on items such as these (LOL! though I do know some that might actually give it a try!) Polypropylene has also made it's way into the craft market and is known as Mylar. It's mostly used for gift wrap and comes in rolls like wrapping paper and is available in sheets like pre-cut tissue paper, and we all know of the silver Mylar balloons!

To use Mylar with embroidery or not? That seems to be the lingering question. I think we all agree that Mylar designs are beautiful. That it adds a stunning effect to embroidery has never been in question. But how it lives in the "real" world is a complete and totally different story- at least it was for me.

As my Mom always says..."It'll all come out in the wash!" LOL she meant it figuratively but here, I mean that literally!

Mylar does not hold up well in the wash- whether you use a light underlay or not. Every time the needle penetrates the film, it leaves tiny little holes which makes it weak and unstable. It may hold up for one or two washes and if you're lucky it may hold up for more. However if you look closely you may see that it's coming apart around the edges of the stitches. If you plan to hand wash, you'll have better luck.

In a previous note, I mentioned dry cleaning. Wondering how Mylar might hold up if dry-cleaned, I contacted two different people in the dry cleaning industry. Between them, they had approximately 80 years of dry cleaning experience. Each knew what Mylar was and both said they wouldn't touch it with a ten foot pole! When asked why, they each said that if the solvents (Petroleum or Perclorethelene are the industry standard solvents) didn't dissolve or melt it first, it would turn hard as a rock and leave you with a wadded up piece of plastic. Ewwww! Who wants that?!

In my final Mylar test, I created some FSL designs specifically for use with Mylar. The finished designs were sparkling under the lights and like stained glass, the color changed depending on the color of threads used and the type of lighting, even at the angle you were viewing. I also used the Mylar as part of a regular FSL design. Whereas the effects weren't as brilliant, the designs looked as though I had used a fine metallic thread, giving off a subtle shine.

Regular FSL Christmas Trees stitched without Mylar. Regular FSL Angels stitched with Mylar (see the shine?) Tree & Angel on far right have been digitized specifically for Mylar.

Since free-standing lace designs are for decoration and most likely will not be washed, Mylar would be most suited for this type of design. Homemade greeting cards, and lightly used decor items such as framed wall-art, a lace bowl and doily, an FSL angel or bookmark would also be suitable uses.

Now don't get me wrong. I loved working with the Mylar and seeing the results, both good and bad. It was a learning experience. Personally, I will continue to use it with FSL and homemade greeting cards. I may even create some framed art. However after all the experimenting I've done with it, I don't feel it is suitable for anything other than what I listed above. If I'm convinced otherwise through more experimenting, I'll let you know.

Here are a few tips when embroidering with Mylar:

*Mylar dulls needles! I found that if you sandwich the Mylar between 2 layers of WSS, your needle will go further if you plan on stitching a lot with Mylar elements.

*I use a woven water soluble stabilizer made by Cotswald that has needle lubricants in it and I found this to also be helpful .

*Just like with regular lace designs, you'll have better results if using a new needle.

*Use Scotch tape around the edges or lightly spray with a temporary adhesive to hold the Mylar in place. I don't want anyone getting their fingers needle punched trying to hold it in place! Believe me when I say that hurts!

*When your FSL/Mylar design is completed, rinse out the WSS and let the lace dry. Once dry, gently tear away the Mylar from the outside edges.
It is MUCH easier to handle Mylar when its dry.

*Speaking of dry! Here in the Land of Enchantment I've noticed that Mylar can pick up extra static. If you live in a dry climate like I do, a humidifier and/or anti-static gloves or wrist straps are a huge help in protecting you and your equipment!

*Don't have Mylar? Organza and Tulle also work well and come in many different colors and is sparkly too!

*Because Mylar has the potential of tearing apart into tiny pieces, it could also pose a choking hazaard to babies and young children. Therefore, I would highly discourage Mylar being used on anything that a baby or young child might use or come in contact with.

Please feel free to comment. All feedback is welcome. If you've tried Mylar, I'd also like to hear about your experiences.
Happy Stitching!