How to Make an EPP Colorwash Star Ornament

14 Nov 2014

EPP Colorwash Star Ornament Tutorial

Over the summer, the folks at Tsukineko sent me some of their All-Purpose Inks to play around with on fabric. And I immediately knew I wanted to combine them with EPP – adding washes of color to patches.

A great deal of Life happened in the interim, but I'm finally here to report: these inks add all kinds of fresh possibilities to EPP! The inks won't stiffen the fabric at all, so you can apply color and then easily hand or machine-sew.

Let's use that colorwash on a holiday ornament, shall we?

EPP Colorwash Star Ornament Tutorial

You'll Need

  • • 1 1/2" 60-degree diamond templates (which you can print here, or use what you have on hand)
  • • 3/4" hexie template (also printable at the link above)
  • • Large scraps of 2 quilting cottons (I'm using simple black/white and grey/white prints, but you can also use solids)
  • • Small scrap of a bright, colorful print (for the center hexie)
  • • White thread for basting and sewing
  • • Hand-sewing needle
  • • Small pins (like applique pins)
  • • Paper scissors
  • • Fabric scissors
  • Tsukineko All-Purpose Inks and Fantastix applicators
  • • Small spray bottle of water
  • • Paper towels
  • • Removable fabric marking pen (I prefer a heat-removable one here)
  • • Chipboard scrap (from a cereal box is fine)
  • • 9 x 12 sheet of stiffened felt
  • • Binder clips or Wonder Clips
  • • Scrap of embroidery floss for hanging

EPP Colorwash Star Ornament Tutorial

OK, so first, and this is super important, you'll need to prewash your fabrics. I'm normally an off-the-bolt girl when it comes to EPP, but trust me: the dyes work best on prewashed fabrics. You need to remove the sizing so the inks can flow smoothly. See the difference in the colorwashes above?

Press the fabrics after they come out of the dryer.

EPP Colorwash Star Ornament Tutorial

…Then baste up the patches for your star. You'll need 6 diamonds from your "star" fabric and 6 from your background fabric. (I also recommend basting a few extra test patches to use while you get the hang of the inks. This downloadable template contains those extras for you.)

For this project, there are a few special basting instructions:

• Baste through the fabric only, not the paper. (That's the first method I cover in this video.) You don't want any basting stitches showing on the front of the patches – those stitches will interrupt the flow of the ink.

• Use plain white cardstock for templates. We'll be moistening the fabric, and you don't want any printing inks from your templates to bleed onto the fabric.

• Pin the template to the fabric, don't use glue stick. Sorry, I'm usually a glue stick fan, too. But when you moisten a glued patch, the glue spreads to the surface of the fabric and really screws up the flow of the ink.

So far so good? When the patches are all basted, remove all those pins.

Now, we'll apply color to each patch, and it's easiest to show you that process in action. So check out this video.

A few tips that might be helpful:

  • • I recommend dampening only a few patches at a time - otherwise they dry out too much before you can get the ink on them
  • • Keep lots of paper towels handy for blotting.
  • • Remember, you're working with ink! Work on a protected surface that you don't mind staining. It's great to cover your table with paper, but also put something plastic underneath so the colors can't bleed through the paper onto your table.
  • • Keep in mind that we're working wet here, and won't have 100% control over what the ink does. Relax and let it do it's thing.

EPP Colorwash Star Ornament Tutorial

When you have the colors as you want them, leave the patches on a stack of paper towels to blot and dry. See how much ink can travel from those patches at this stage? Protect thy table!

Drying will take a few hours. Once the patches are damp, you can speed the drying process by ironing.

EPP Colorwash Star Ornament Tutorial

Here, you can see just how much the ink will migrate as the fabric dries. These two patches were inked exactly the same way. The one on the right is wet, the one on the left is dry.

This is also a good place to mention that, with inks and colorwashes on fabric, you are dealing with a lot of variables. Some ink colors will dry much lighter than they appear when wet. It's a bit harder to make a soft color gradation with darker color inks. Some inks look very different in the bottle than they do on the fabric. Different fabrics will allow different amounts of color bleed. And so on.

So, make test patches, let them dry thoroughly, and make adjustments before you dive into inking the patches for your project. You can always add another wash of ink to a too-light patch.

EPP Colorwash Star Ornament Tutorial

EPP Colorwash Star Ornament Tutorial

When the patches are dry, sew them together. Here's how I like to approach that.

If you find that, when making stars, you have trouble getting the center points to match up nicely, try that center seam in two sections, as shown in Step 3 above. Makes all the difference in the world.

(And if you need sewing basics, watch this video.)

EPP Colorwash Star Ornament Tutorial

EPP Colorwash Star Ornament Tutorial

Press the finished star to flatten out the patches and heat-set the inks. Fold any little bits of seam allowance that stick out to the back and press them.

EPP Colorwash Star Ornament Tutorial

While the templates are still in place and the star is nice and stiff, trace it onto the wrong side of the backing fabric. Cut 1/2" outside your traced line.

Trace the star onto some stiffened felt, and cut right on your traced line.

Trace the star onto batting, and cut that about 1/4" inside your traced line. So the backing should be larger than the star, the batting a little smaller, and the stiffened felt the same size.

Once those pieces are all cut, you can remove all the templates. Press the star again afterwards.

EPP Colorwash Star Ornament Tutorial

Baste up the little hexie now. I like to use a high-contrast print that picks up some colors from the inks. Baste the template, press the hexie, and remove the template. Now it's a precise little applique piece.

Pin the batting to the wrong side of the star. Then center the hexie on top of the star and pin that. Then machine stitch 1/8" from all six edges to applique it down.

EPP Colorwash Star Ornament Tutorial

Now you can quilt as you like. I played around with straight lines down the centers of the diamonds, but you can totally do something fancier.

EPP Colorwash Star Ornament Tutorial

Then, take the backing fabric and the stiffened felt, Baste the fabric around the felt just like you would with any hexie template. Baste through the fabric only. All we're doing here is creating a neat edge around the outside.

EPP Colorwash Star Ornament Tutorial

From here, the construction is exactly like we did for last year's Hexie Holiday Ornament tutorial - sandwich those two pieces with some chipboard in between and whipstitch around the outer edges. It's all well-documented in that tutorial, so link on over.

EPP Colorwash Star Ornament Tutorial

…Aaaand you're done! I'm so excited about this inking thing, you're going to see more of it in future.

EPP Colorwash Star Ornament Tutorial



these inks look so good, off to a big show thursday so will hope top find some there thanks for the great video and all the instructions

Thank you for the patterns. They are beautiful and you do a fantastic job of writing the tutorial. Hexies are addicting and I have a whole box of them, now I know what I can make with some of them.


What a great read!! I never thought too much about the money end of things, I think it's because I was a theatre major so I never expected to earn a lot of money in life. LOL!

If it wasn't for your advice years ago I wouldn't have hired a literary agent to guide me. I didn't have the first clue what to expect from the publisher. Because of my agent I didn't spent my energy worrying that wasn't getting as much as possible.

I'd like to mention that my agent earned her 15% during negotiations, so that made me feel so much better about that end of the deal. Not only did she get me enough money to cover her fee's, she got me other benefits that I didn't know about. She paid for her own services and I got to sleep at night.

I was really surprised to learn from a fellow craft/sewing book author that most authors don't ever pay off their advances. I had no idea. I was deep in the editing stage of my first book and it almost broke my heart to think I would never see more money. Again, the vow of poverty I took when I accepted my BFA seemed to be after me again.

My first book didn't earn out, but it helped me sell a heck of a lot of fabric. So, I consider us even. I am proud to say that my second book has already earned out, but I haven't had a big rise in my online sales because of that book. Again, I see a nice balance at this early stage.

The "street cred" that comes along with writing books is a bonus, that's for sure. It is a very nice calling card. I'm with you, I love the process too! If I could make a living wage doing it, it would be my ONLY job. Shoot, even Martha Stewart needs multiple steams of income, right?

Thanks for being so rad and honest!