Thursday, June 14, 2018

Second Thursday Tutorial: Playing with napkins

Over the years, I have received some beautiful napkins as gifts or exchanges and have admired how friends like Yvonne use napkins in their art.

I've used them a few times, but seldom think to look for them when I am choosing a background.  Today, I hope to correct that problem.   One of the most time consuming events occurred before I could ever get started.   It took over three hours to remove the two back layers from the beautiful front layer of each of these 3-ply napkins.  There is supposed to be an easy way to remove the excess layers/plys, but it has somehow eluded me!

I decided to be lazy and not drag everything to the basement, where I have an actual ironing board and another iron. Instead, I've set everything up on my kitchen table.  From back left, counterclockwise:

Freezer paper (plastic coated)
Parchment paper
Cling wrap (clear, generic)
Napkins (top ply only)
Pellon iron on adhesive (paper backed)
Old towel

I will be creating three techniques, so you won't need all these supplies, but you will need napkins, an iron, and parchment paper in whatever technique you choose.  In lieu of an ironing board, you will also need a towel or some type of cloth for your table.

Take time to separate all the napkins you plan to use before beginning.   There are usually three layers, two of which are white.  Remove these and save them for other projects.  Occasionally, the color and design are so strong, the second layer can be used, too.

Next to the napkins is a roll of pellon, also known as "wonder under."  Seamstresses are well aware that it is a paperbacked product that fuses to fabric.  For our purposes, we will be fusing it to napkins.  You can find this product at your local sewing and fabric stores, and it is more than likely found on the internet, too.  It comes on a bolt and is sold as yardage.  Be sure to get the paperbacked fusible.  It costs a bit more than the type that has no backing which won't work for this project.

Be sure your freezer paper is plastic coated on one side.  Your napkins won't stick, otherwise.  You can find freezer paper at your local grocery store or supermarket.  It should be in the same area as the cling wrap, foil, wax paper, and parchment paper.

You will need TWO sheets of parchment paper cut to size (more on that later).  Wax paper cannot be substituted for parchment paper.  Parchment paper is used in baking to keep food from sticking to the bottom of baking sheets, pans, etc.  It accepts high heat, and keeps the bottom of your iron clean.

Clear cling wrap can be found in the same supermarket aisle as foil, wax paper, etc.

You will need an old, clean towel that can be laid on your table in lieu of an ironing board.  Be sure your towel can be doubled, so it can absorb the heat.  And it goes without saying, although I will anyway, that you need an iron.  You can use a regular iron or a craft iron, but a regular iron gives you more surface to cover and bond at one time.

I needed to check this, my largest napkin, to make sure 

it would fit under the parchment paper.  Sadly, it didn't.

This one did, though!

For this first technique you will need the top ply of the 3-ply napkin

and pellon (sometimes called "wonder under") paperbacked fusible.

Let's build a sandwich.  This is not an edible sandwich, but one that will be used throughout all these techniques.   We begin with our bottom layer which is bread in a sandwich and parchment paper in our napkin projects.

For this sandwich, we are adding a layer of pellon cut to size.  

It's hard to see, but you can feel the different sides of the pellon by running your hand over the two sides.  One side will feel like paper, which it is.   The other side is rough, and is the fusible side.  In case you have lost track, we have placed our towel on the table, added a sheet of parchment paper, and have now laid down a sheet of pellon.

For the next layer, you will place your napkin face up on top of the rough side of the pellon.  Remember, wrong side of napkin to rough side of pellon.

To complete your sandwich, add your final slice of bread or parchment paper.  You should cut your pellon a bit larger than you need, because these napkins have a tendency to shift around.  The smooth parchment paper doesn't help, either.  Be sure both sheets of parchment paper are larger than the sheet of pellon.

Check for final placement, then iron the napkin in place.  Once you place the iron on the parchment paper the pellon immediately bonds to the napkin and it's too late to make any adjustments.

You can check to make sure the napkin has been completely fused by lifting the parchment paper and running your fingers (or fingernails) over the napkin.

Remove the top parchment paper 

turn the fused napkin over, position the unit on the bottom parchment paper and iron the paper backing.  Allow to cool, admire your project and continue to the next technique.

For this sandwich, we once again begin with the towel, the same sheet of parchment paper, and cling wrap.

Position your napkins, or pieces of napkins, on the cling wrap printed side up as shown.  Note the flower in the center is not the original, but the second ply of a 3-ply napkin.

Place your second piece of parchment paper on top and make sure it completely covers the cling wrap.

This takes very high heat, and a long, long, long, long time to bond the napkins to the cling wrap.  Some of the pieces didn't want to bond at all.

I thought it might be because I used several napkin parts, so I tried again.  You can see all the parts of the sandwich in this photo.

I worked HARD trying to get this to bond

and was mortified when I checked to see if the napkin had bonded.  It quickly pulled away from the napkin and turned into a crumpled mess.  This technique was a failure.  I suspect it was the generic cling wrap I used.  Your mileage will more than likely be different from mine.

The final technique I knew would work, because I've used freezer paper as a mask on fabric before.   Adhering napkins was even easier. 

The main problem was keeping the freezer paper from rolling back onto itself, especially after I had the napkins positioned prior to adding heat.

This was perfection.   Be aware your napkin will no longer be "see through."

The freezer paper is like adding a white backing to the napkins.  Additionally, even after ironing, the freezer paper tends to want to return to its rolled up state.

The napkins and the freezer paper width are not compatible.  If you aren't careful and plan ahead, something I really didn't do, you will have a lot of waste.  Be sure you have a way to hold your errant freezer paper down.

Once the iron touches the parchment and freezer papers, you'll have to live with what you get!

I wanted to try a small experiment, so whipped up a tiny amount of 91% rubbing alcohol and Staz-on reinker.  Even better would be if you had some colorful alcohol inks (AIs). Apply the concoction directly to the coated side of the freezer paper and allow to dry.

I had a couple of white napkins left over from a wedding napkin, and once the freezer paper was dry, I adhered the napkin to the freezer paper.

Didn't these turn out lovely?

After two days, this is what I ended up with.

Now it's time to cut the napkins apart and look for inspiration.


The generic cling wrap I used didn't fuse, so that was disappointing.  If you try this technique, be sure to buy a high quality cling wrap, not one that is generic.  This will give you a see-through transparency if done correctly.  When applying the cling wrap fused napkin, be sure to place parchment paper or your heat mat over the napkin and cling wrap prior to ironing the assembly to your art journal, tag, or altered book background. 

The fusible web fused beautifully.  You should leave the backing paper in place until you are ready to adhere (fuse) your napkins to a journal page or art project.  You will fuse the napkin in place using your iron after removing the paper backing.  Your background will show through using this technique because the napkins have a see-through quality. 

The freezer paper also fused beautifully, although you lose your see-through ability.  The freezer paper also has a tendency to roll onto itself during assembly and after it is ironed.  The freezer paper must be adhered to your background using some method such as glue stick, PVA (white) glue, a Xyron, or sewing.

The same two sheets of parchment paper were used for all these projects and I'll still be able to use them for even more projects in the future.

Remember the order regardless of the technique you try.  From the bottom up:

Cloth to cover your work surface
Parchment paper
Fusing agent (I used pellon, cling wrap, and freezer paper, one product at a time)
Napkin, image side up
Parchment paper

Thank you for joining me today.  I hope this was helpful to some, because I actually learned a lot while preparing these napkins for future use.  Once this project goes live, you will be able to access it anytime on my tutorials page.

25 thoughtful remarks:

Valerie-Jael said...

Sounds like a fascinating experiment with napkins, glad you had fun! Valerie

Helen said...

I was going to use the same word as Valerie-Jael - fascinating! Seems a lot of work and I haven't seen rolls of the fusible pellon, here , but then I don't sew and we don't have any sewing places nearby! I look forward to seeing all this hard work put to gorgeous use in your future projects.

aussie aNNie said...

You sure know how to make an interesting post. Sounds like a lot of fun.xx

Tracey@Hotchpotchcreations said...

Another super read Elizabeth, your experiments have given you a large collection of toppers and elements to play with.
Maybe the cling wrap did not work in the way you had wished because it is food grade?? If so it is designed not to stick to foods that are covered and reheated either way I have never used it in such a way.
Pellon used to be my work horse for applique but I tend not to use it so much now, maybe because over the years I have became a little braver hee hee!
So looking forward to seeing how you use everything, thanks for sharing.
Creative wishes Tracey x

Gibby Frogett said...

The few times I have used serviettes have been a bit hit and miss so this was a fascinating read Elizabeth. I look forward to seeing what you will make with the wonderful results of your experiments.
Gill x

craftytrog said...

A really great tutorial Elizabeth, and I'm looking forward to seeing the pages you make with those lovely results!
I went napkin shopping in town yesterday, with a view to using for a transfer technique. I can't say too much as it's a DT project. I eventually found a half-decent design, and also some patterned Kleenex tissues to experiment with.
Alison xx

My name is Erika. said...

They did come out lovely. I have used napkins but tend to use them more like tissue paper. If you tear or cut off a corner you can easily pull the layers apart. But the effect is different. Can't wait to see your art with these. Hugs-Erika

CJ Kennedy said...

Thank you for the steps. I've bookmarked the techniques for another time. Maybe for the T For ATC. Enjoy your day.

Meggymay said...

I think you have had a fun day with the napkins.
I have to say I have never tried any of these techniques, they all sound good so I also have marked your post. Its a fantastic tutorial.
I always separate the layers of my napkins staring at a corner and gently rubbing it between my fingers , this usually shows some separation. But as I usually tear them to use on my work , it doesn't matter if there are a few dodgy edges. and I always use acrylic bindex to stick them on the pages.
Yvonne xx

froebelsternchen said...

A fantastic experimental tutorial dear Elizabeth!
I have fused a few napkins to fusible web as I started with it last years after your inspirations and advices about the bondaweb as you remember. I used some parts to sew already to different projects but not much yet. They wait for use in the!
With cling wrap I failed years ago as we all were in napkin decoupage feever and they showed and were all so clever to iron the colored napkin layer to canvas so easily on YT and in some of the internet platforms of those days, but I never had success with it - always used ModPodge and it also was so stinky when the cling wrap got hot - that can't be good for the lungs when not doing it outdoors I am sure-- you will be right that one maybe has to buy better cling wrap !But I tried many brands at those days and nothing worked for me.
We don't have freezer paper here or wax paper so I will not be able to try all this but it was super to see you using all this things!
So looking forward to seeing how you use everything in future projects!
Hugs, Susi

da tabbies o trout towne said...

Elizabeth; what a great project; I still like the butterflies and even if I tried this 100000 times I doubt I could get one to look as nice as yours.....very nice !!

kathyinozarks said...

this was very interesting and informative
I didn't know what staz on reinker was I looked it up and it is bottled inks-I do like staz on products.
I also did not know there are layers to napkins so that was interesting to me and did not know about using saran wrap to bond with-that's cool-I may want to try some of these techniques.
thanks so much for sharing all this with us Elizabeth-
hugs Kathy

kathyinozarks said...

Oh and I bookmarked this to my diy and crafts boards on pinterest so I could find it again easily if not ok let me know-thanks

pearshapedcrafting said...

Wow! I do love to see how your experiments work out - this was a fascinating post and somethings I wouldd never have thought of! Hugs, Chrisx

Jeanie said...

This is interesting. I love seeing you experiment -- sometimes it works, sometimes not but knowing that is helpful too. Your photos and explanations are excellent and I really appreciate the ruminations at the end. A very helpful post, Elizabeth.

Lowcarb team member said...

Very interesting and well detailed.

All the best Jan

Mia said...

Great experiments with paper napkins techniques, Elizabeth. Thank you so much for sharing, my friend. Kisses.

kathyinozarks said...

Hi Elizabeth, I have a question-hope you don't mind me asking you here as I know you don't use your email much-(smiles)
I am working with the paper project-I wanted to add in some of this cotton rag-it is cut very very fine but when it is in the blender it just clumps up really bad-I wanted that to get mixed in with the hemp for the eco dye project= my question is everything I have read online says just to add it in to your pulp no cooking--did you cook your cotton rag with the washing soda first? I was wondering if that would break it down more. but maybe that only breaks down grasses and such.
I did get my first sheet-I took out all the cotton that was in clumps so mostly hemp--this is going to take awhile though-slow going-worked better with a pour over instead of dip in

Nancy said...

You have a great assortment of napkins and images! Interesting methods- thanks for the tutorial. Look forward to seeing what you do with these.

kathyinozarks said...

thank you very much Elizabeth for answering my questions--I didn't think one was to cook the cotton rag down-I may need to go to the thrift store and see if I can find a more powerful motor on a different blender.
I did just post an update for my hemp paper=and I just did what I mentioned in that new blog-cut the wet fibers smaller-and my newest sheet is much better--these papers are very awesome-hemp only by the time I finish this batch I should have it figured out ha ha

kathyinozarks said...

thank you much-I am feeling better about these papers now

Felix the Crafty Cat said...

Great tutorial Elizabeth. I keep collecting the napkins but haven't done anything with them, maybe I should give this a try. Happy crafty weekend, Angela xXx

Let's Art Journal said...

Wow, what amazing techniques! I loved following along to see the magic happen - wonderful 😁. Thanks for the inspiration and wishing you a Happy Friday! J 😊 x
p.s. sorry my comments have been brief of late and that I'm late visiting, it seems my internet connection didn't want to work this week 😉. J x said...

Great tutorial ~ Look at all the ones you made! I'll keep playing around :)

Eileen Bergen said...

This is very comprehensive and crystal clear. Thank you Elizabeth! Hugs, Eileen