The Summer of Dying, Day Three

Well, you knew I would have to do something with that pile of pretty fabrics that I DYED ALL BY MYSELF! I am surprised at how delighted I am with this new skill set. I am dreaming of turning my old laundry dungeon into a wet studio when all the other work on the house is done!

I looked through my journal and found a Sunday morning doodle that would be just right for semi-solid fabrics. Last night I auditioned the fabrics, and decided where they would go in the design. This design would require me to actually measure and accurately cut and sew fabric. Ahem…

So, I didn’t measure to make sure I would have enough fabric for each section. Partly because I didn’t know until I got to that part how much fabric I would need. When I got to the final round, not only did I NOT have enough of the green, I also cut the first two pieces incorrectly.

I took a lunch break and stewed over what I was going to do. In the end, I increased the size of the purple pieces by one inch, so the greens that I had cut too short would now be the right size. And I decided to use a different color on the bottom border. And then when I was auditioning it on my design wall, I decided that I’d just go for it and make that border even bigger.


I like this piece. I don’t like accurate cutting and piecing, especially when I am the one having to figure it out. I ripped out a lot of seams. And using the mottled hand-dyes? Sometimes a weird ghostly bunny face appears right where you don’t want it, and you have to cut another piece of fabric and undo another seam. Because when you might use the quilt in your series “The Signature of Jesus,” you don’t want a bunny face on it.

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.


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


These are all the pieces I consider a success.


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…



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!


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!!!


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



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.


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








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


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.)


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.


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.


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:


From my ‘oriental fabrics’ period:


From my ‘Reproduction fabrics’ period:


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.


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:


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!


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


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.


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…