The Summer of Dying, Day 2

Well, I am learning as I go. I think I want to do some more controlled experiments, and take some notes as I go so I can remember what I was thinking at the time I did the dye. But I’m pretty pleased with these pieces.

My BF and I had been talking about how its hard to find good purples for your stash. So of course I had to experiment with dying purple. This was the scrunchy glad ware method. I must have started scrunching from the corner. I did try to let part of the fabric stay in the dye just a bit before I added the rest–to try to get a gradation of color.

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This piece is deeper colored and prettier in person. I think I used three colors of red. Again with the scrunchy method.

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These are all the pieces I consider a success.

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These are not so successful. I think they are pale because I tried using up the leftover dyes from the previous days’ batches. Even though the water looks deeply colored, and it looks dark on the fabric, most of the dye rinsed out. So I guess that dye was “exhausted” even if it didn’t look like it. These are also all from the flat fold method. I noticed that Robin used a very concentrated dye mixture. And now I realize that that is because applying it directly to the fabric, you can’t really get much solution on, so it needs to be concentrated. Anyway, I will try this method again, because it has a lot of possibilities. I will probably try overdying these pieces. On my next dye day. Next week…

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The Summer of Dying has Begun!

Well, I did it! Yesterday morning I took a deep breath, looked over all the different dying methods I had been studying, and went out and mixed up some dyes!

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I have a lot of experience dying protein fiber (wool, silk, angora, alpaca, etc.) But cotton fabric is a completely different animal. The dyes for the protein fibers requires a lot of heat, and you also have to be very careful with the fibers or they will turn to felt. The cotton requires a little heat, but basically that is taken care of by a day in the hot sun. And of course, there is no problem with felting cotton fabric, so you can manipulate it without fear.

I had watched a Jane Dunnewold class on Craftsy (super-informative,) and read over Melody Johnson’s notes on The Lazy Dyer. I also had a Quilting Arts article by Robin Ferrier that I had saved for several years. I ended up using a bit of advice from each of these dyers.

To start, I cut half-yard lengths off of the super-cheap bolt of muslin that I had bought from Joann’s. That took a little worry out of the equation. If I ruined it, or dyed horrid colors, I was not out that much money.

I pre-washed the muslin, and then soaked it in a bucket with some soda ash. Then I mixed up my dyes in some old mason jars I had. And I put some dyes on the fabric! I tried several techniques.

The hardest part was waiting a day to see if it worked. This morning I was out there in my nightgown rinsing the excess dye out. After rinsing each piece of fabric several times, I put it in the washing machine and then dryer. The most fun was ironing all these beautiful fabrics that I had DYED MYSELF!!!

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Close-ups of a couple of the multi-color fabrics:

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One interesting thing was that I actually preferred the texture of the cheap muslin to the more expensive PFD (prepared for dying) Kona cotton that I had bought.

And then I was ready to do it all over again! I pre-soaked some more cut yards of the Kona cotton in the soda ash while I went to church. And then I came home and tried some new colors and color combos, and a different technique.

The table I am using–kind of a funny story. I saved it for years for my studio. But it was pretty ruined, so it got rejected. It got moved off of the porch that became the studio onto the deck, got rained on some more, and finally got moved off of the deck to this location. The only reason it was still here is that I have not gotten someone to come and haul it away yet. It turned out to be the PERFECT table in the PERFECT location (right next to my outdoor sink,) for doing this kind of dying.

The big piece of fabric is the method described in the Quilting Arts article. You put down a layer of painter’s plastic and then dye a piece, and another piece of plastic on top, with another piece of fabric to dye a different color, etc. You can dye up to 12 layers of fabric this way! Very fun and easy to do.

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Then you have to weigh it down while you leave it overnight. Ha! All those trees I’ve had chopped down came in handy!

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And then I dyed some fabric using Jane D’s Gladware method.

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And now I have to wait another 24 hours to see how this batch has turned out!

The Stitch

I buy a lot of books. Too many books. Recently, in a cleaning frenzy, I packed up a bunch of books, including some that I had bought recently, and took them down to my mom. Either she would enjoy reading them, or she could sell them online. While I was waiting for her to get ready to go out, I glanced at the book on the top of the pile. “Celebrating the Stitch.” Had I even looked inside that book? I glanced at it, and was surprised at what I saw–that book was definitely coming home with me!

This is just the kind of book I really enjoy. It shows beautiful artwork, and has a write-up about each artist, their work process, and what inspires them. This is not just a book of embroidery. It is truly art that just happens to fit loosely into the category of embroidery–putting thread to fabric. I checked for you, and this book is available used for one cent! (of course, its really $4 because you have to pay shipping.)

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It truly is what it says–celebrating the stitch. When I look through it, my hands just itch to make my own stitches. As an experiment, (and to have something to work on while I manned the SAQA booth at the Crocker Museum, I made a little quilt sandwich. I put a machine stitched grid on it. I went through my threads to pick out a bunch of colors that I liked. And I made a couple of rules. No drawing ahead of time. No blue pen to mark. Only one stitch–the running stitch. And every square inch must be covered.

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I am enjoying this challenge. I have to admit, many times I pick it up and stare at it, not knowing what color or shape to do next, and just put it back down and go back to my knitting. About every other day, I come up with some new color or shape to add to it. I think its a good challenge, and might lead to something more organized.

(P.S.–the exhibit at the Crocker Art Museum,“Workt by Hand,” is the finest exhibition of antique quilts that I have ever seen. They are displayed beautifully, and you can get quite close to look at the stitching. There is one quilt from, I believe, 1790. The stitching is so tiny and perfect, it looks like they had some kind of special machine to do it! The exhibit will be there until September 1.)

 

Another Finished Quilt

Its SOOO nice to finish something. The actual process of finishing is not fun, but seeing the completed project is super fun.

This is another quilt I did using my “zig zag technique.” Like the double wedding ring quilts, I simply zig zagged the  squares and rectangles on top of a background block. Instead of cutting out and sewing back together 29 pieces of fabric (like were in the original pattern that I saw,) there are only 10 pieces to cut out and zig zag stitch onto the background.

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I really really like this quilt. I like that it is quieter than a lot of my quilts. I LOVED picking out some of my favorite blue fabrics to include in it. In fact, the original quilt pattern had 9 blocks. I couldn’t narrow my choices down that much, so mine has 20 blocks, each a different fabric. I love that a few other colors are included in the prints, and I love that there is a very wide range of blues in this quilt, and yet, to me it still reads as a blue and white quilt.

Here are some of the individual blocks:

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From my ‘oriental fabrics’ period:

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From my ‘Reproduction fabrics’ period:

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And this one is from the first quilt I made years ago–the impressionist landscape quilts. This fabric was so “wonderful” that a friend and I just HAD to buy yards and yards of it. I still have quite a bit of it left.

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And now I get to play a bit again. I have a couple of half-baked ideas swirling around in my head, and a pile of pretty fabric just waiting for me in the studio. I’m off to cut out more fabric and sew it back together!

What’s Next?

In my last post I hinted at a special event coming up. I wrote about that on my other blog, Part 1 and Part 2. I was a guest on The Quilt Show! What I didn’t write about over there was some of the prep work I did for the show. I put quilt sleeves on twelve quilts!! I have never liked quilt sleeves. They don’t seem that helpful for the average non-quilty person. And I think I was a little afraid of them, because I had never done them. But I found Libby Lehman’s wonderful instructions, and now I am an expert on the sleeve of the quilt!

Getting ready for the show had me concentrating on finishing some long-overdue quilts, and putting the final touches and words on others.

I put a red border on this quilt:

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I had it on the design wall for quite a long time, trying to figure out what words and where to put them. And then I got an inspiration–just put the original words that you are putting on all the cross quilts (God so loved the world) but add them to the flower design. Hidden, and yet visible–just as God is so often! I love it!

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The Quilt Show requested three six-inch blocks. I made four–one for me to keep as a memento!

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The past two days I’ve been in my box of little two inch squares again! This is a version of a quilt I saw in a book. Only that book had 1/2″ finished squares in the four-patches. I knew that probably wasn’t going to happen, so I started thinking about this. And realized that pretty easily it could be made into a cross quilt. I like it. And I am auditioning border fabric there. I think this quilt might need a border.

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So what’s next? While I was trying to think about the words for that cross quilt, one of the phrases that I contemplated was “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”–the famous words uttered by John the Baptist when he saw Jesus. They didn’t seem quite right for this quilt. But it got me to thinking. What about a series of quilts called “What They Said,” with the words featured prominently–phrases that people uttered when they encountered Jesus. I am quite excited about the possibility. I went through the Gospels and wrote down a number of outstanding comments. This would give me a chance to do a little more work with the actual lettering–I’ve been collecting various fonts used in artistic ways. And although the wording would be the dominant feature, there is no end to what I can do with the background and/or borders in each of these. I’m also thinking about keeping them all the same size. That will be a challenge for me…

 

An Ambitious Schedule

I’ve set myself an ambitious schedule for the next couple of weeks. Later, I’ll tell you exactly why I am doing this. Today I was very pleased with myself–I put the finishing touches on THREE quilts, two of which had been “in the works” for months (if not years…) Oh, and the thing that I was most pleased about? I found a particular piece of fabric that’s been missing since I packed up all my stash before the studio was built!!

First, I put the binding on “Stars in the Garden.” I think I’ll call it that since it was a star workshop that I took with Alex Anderson in the beautiful gardens at Alden Lane Nursery. It finished at about 50″X65″.

Next up, I finished “Found,” from Psalm 139. It is part of the Psalms series. I really enjoy creating these quilts and choosing just the right Psalm for the particular quilt. Most of the time I use a modern version of the Bible for the words on my quilts. This particular verse is from a favorite Psalm of mine way back when I was in my 20’s and at that time I was reading the Revised Standard Version of the Bible. I don’t read that version much any more, but I do still like it. The language is very beautiful. This quilt is about 26″X40″.

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In case you can’t read it: “If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there thy hand shall lead me…”

Close-ups:

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And lastly I finished the latest cross quilt, from “The Signature of Jesus” series. Its a small quilt (about 10″X12″,) so I decided to embroider the whole thing. I haven’t added the words yet–I’ll decide where to put them and do that tonight. Each of these “Signature” quilts has the same words “GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD.”

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Close-up:

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Three quilts, three different sizes, all finished. Now that’s a good day!

Taking a Break and Returning to your Work

This is not the first time I have declared a moratorium on my quilting. In the past, it caused me some angst–would I ever return to my quilting? Would I lose my forward momentum? How would I ever get to all the ideas I had if I kept taking breaks? Now I think that it is an excellent idea. It really frees up a lot of time, and I usually get more done than I had even planned on. In this case, it was finishing my little oriental hooked rug, and I had the added bonus of having the time to clear out my bedroom and closet, as well as the unexpected (and time-consuming) project of choosing paint and carpet colors!

Here is a bit of the new bedroom colors, along with the quilt that is currently on my bed. Good grief, I did not even realize until I saw this picture that the color I was trying to get for the walls was the EXACT SAME COLOR as the inner border of this quilt!!

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I returned from my adventures at rug hooking camp refreshed and looking forward to resuming my quilting routine. I left a lot of quilt projects unfinished, and I had a lot of new ideas I wanted to try out. Being a little bit disciplined won out, and I started working one by one on the unfinished projects.

First up, I finished piecing together the dark blocks for the cross insert in this quilt.  I decided to cut the cross with a wavy edge, and then decided that it would be easiest to raw edge appliqué (zig zag) this on top of the background piece. I liked the way it looked with the cross way off center. I will add words, but I’m not sure how I want to do that yet. I’ve already made the quilt sandwich and have all of the cross quilted.

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Here’s a close-up of the cross “fabric.” It is fun to do this, but also slow going, so by the time I have enough for a project, all the fun has gone out of it and I am ready to move on to the next project : )

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Then I remembered that I had this quilt in the closet, almost completed. I got it out, marked the places where I had missed the quilting, and got that done. It just needs binding to be completely completed. This is a quilt that I started in an Alex Anderson workshop on stars. I had this background fabric (that obviously I love,) and wanted to use it as my focus fabric. Its big enough to use on my bed. Hmmm…seems I do have a coral and aqua obsession going on here.

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I quilted the stars “in the ditch” and then filled in the background with huge feathers surrounded by spirals and bubbles.

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And this next project I can hardly believe myself that I got this done. I do not like working on large quilts. I do not like making big quilt sandwiches. But once in a while I make a quilt that just insists on being big. That is the case with that double wedding ring that I was working on before the moratorium. I really do like this quilt, and so I decided that I must make the sandwich. And I have to tell you, I LOVE my big ironing surface!!! It was big enough that I could use my “steam iron method” to make this sandwich in four quarters.

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I took this picture to show the ruler that I slip between the ironing surface and the quilt sandwich so that I can put the pins in. When I steam the quilt top like this I do not need to put very many pins in place. I usually take the sandwich directly to the machine and either machine baste it together or stitch in the ditch between the blocks.

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Oh, and in the measure twice, cut once department…DON’T do the math in your head. Write all the numbers down, and probably don’t do it when you are already tired. I was VERY SURE that I had made everything plenty big. I started making the sandwich, and the backing was only an inch and a half larger than the top on two sides of the quilt. That is cutting it a little too close, even for me.

It feels good to be home, good to be back working in my studio on my quilts, and very good to be back blogging about my adventures!

 

Where I Been, What I Been Doing

Wow, I knew it had been a while since I posted, but a whole month?? My lack of posting has not been an indicator of lack of work or creativity in my life!

I finished that “quilt kit” that I told you about. I’m not sure my zig zag technique saves any time over sewing all the pieces of a traditional double wedding ring together, but I still enjoy it very much. I followed my sketch exactly, so there was no time spent rearranging on the design wall.

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And then I finished the smaller quilt top that I had blogged about in my “Process” post.  This was fun to do. I spent a lot of time figuring out which fabrics to use for the background. And the motifs were shapes suggested by my sketch for the previous quilt. They were free-hand cut and then zig-zagged in place. Making them one piece (instead of 12 squares) made that go a lot faster. I am considering doing some perle cotton embroidery on them.

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And then, I liked some of the background fabrics I had auditioned for the previous quilt so much that I made them into a top of their own. I am going to cross-cut this quilt top and insert a cross for “The Signature of Jesus” series. I could not find a dark fabric that I liked for the cross, so I am in the process of “making” some fabric for the cross. Very fun to do, but time consuming.

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Oh, and somewhere in between all of that, I volunteered to work on a project for SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates.) This is for a “take and make” to encourage the public to make art of their own. I cut out LOTS of little pieces of fabric, and hemmed a bunch of blanks. And then I made some little samples. These are all made of bits and pieces of designer fabrics that we got at a place called FabMo in the bay area. The samples were very fun to make. No quilting involved.

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And THEN, I realized that it was only two weeks until my annual trek to rug hooking camp in Cambria! I enjoy this so very much (the trip AND rug hooking) but I do tend to put rug hooking on the back burner for months at a time. When I realized that it was so close, I put a moratorium on quilting and got to organizing my rug hooking materials. This is pretty much my entire rug hooking stash : ) (I have more, but it is all found material–suits and stuff from the thrift store. The rug I am planning on doing is going to be fairly colorful.)

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I realized that I didn’t have enough pale wool, so I had a little dying session. Very fun. But again, time consuming.

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And pretty much all the time that I would spend quilting or knitting I have spent working on this little “Persian” rug that I started in my workshop last fall. I don’t think I”ll finish it in time for camp, but I am very much enjoying working on it.

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And in between all of that, I have been gardening, and clearing out my bedroom in anticipation of J. the Contractor coming to work on my bedroom and closet while I am away.

Ahhh. So now we’re all caught up. I’ll be back in a week or so with a report on all the happenings at rug hooking camp!

 

Starting a New Project: Process

Someone asked me to explain my process for choosing fabrics for a new project, so I thought I’d document my process here. Maybe it will cement it in my own mind : )

This new project is an offshoot of the sketch that I drew for my quilt kit. I liked the way the drawing looked, and I started thinking about making the double wedding ring with a single pattern piece, instead of using the two inch blocks for the pattern. In talking it over with my friend, she suggested the idea of doing the kantha stitching in the pattern (I keep saying pattern because that piece is not an oval, and I don’t want to call it a football!)

Right now only about half of my stash is in the studio, and only about a tenth of it is readily visible. And yet, I found inspiration in those few pieces! I started out with these two pieces that I had bought recently. I do love the color and the patterns on these.

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And then I started trying to find fabrics that would go with them. I was looking for a “color wash” effect. Nope, one’s too bright, and one’s too dark. That pale one might work, and for sure I like the gray/blue paisley.

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My solid fabrics were in the house, so I tried those next. Nope, too solid. I wanted patterned fabric. But not TOO patterned : )

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Trying more solids. Nope. Give it up. You’re going to have to take a trip out to the storage shed.

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Oh, but before I go out there, I auditioned the contrast colors that I had spied in the studio–oh yeah, those are going to work great!

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Trying out more mostly solids in that red/magenta/coral/orange color way. These pieces could be solid colors, because they would have the kantha stitching on them, and I don’t want too much pattern to distract from the stitching.

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Alright, out to the storage shed, where I picked through my blue and red/orange/pink tubs to see what I could find.

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I found quite a bit!

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And then narrowed my choices down, and laid them out neatly so I could keep walking by and looking at them.

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Sometimes I am stubborn, and leave in a fabric that I love, even though it seems to stick out (like that dark bright blue in the middle front.) Sometimes those fabrics surprise you, and they do work. But lots of times I am finally forced to eliminate them.

And that’s how I choose the fabrics for a project. Most of the time I do not use all the fabrics that I have chosen, and most of the time I need to go to my stash for another color or pattern. Many times this is the fabric that I need to make the quilt “pop.”

Choosing the fabrics is probably my favorite part of the process.