Ya Gotta Keep Trying

I keep saying this to myself, as well as to others. I tried ONE MORE TIME to dye some deep colors on cotton. By the way, I am using “premium bleached muslin,” most probably from Joann’s. I am using Procion MX dyes from ProChem. And this time I followed (mostly) the instruction sheet from ProChem on “low immersion” dyeing. I wrote down three dye formulas for deep blue, deep forest green, and dark barn red. The red is not barn red, but the other two were almost exactly what I was looking for.

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I am going to see how much I like using the fabrics I have dyed. Because the rinsing required is incredible. It is much more rinsing than anyone’s instructions I have heard or read. I think they know if they tell you how much you are going to have to rinse, it will scare you off.

Nevertheless, it makes me very happy that I was actually able to dye what I set out to dye.

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Dyeing. What I know for sure.

What I know for sure is that I don’t know very much about dyeing cotton. And I know that it is VERY different than dyeing wool and protein fibers, which I know a lot about. So I am reluctant to start, and then when I finally do, my results are not as expected. But like I said in my last post, you just have to try.

What happened is kind of funny. I had planned for a long time to get out there and dye some cotton. So then I decided to go through my hand-dyed fabrics and see what colors I needed. Well….I had a lot of hand-dyed fabrics. I did not feel any inspiration as I re-folded them and put them in color families. I guess I don’t need to dye any new fabrics right now. The very next day I went to the Cherrywood site and thought, I need to buy some of these fabrics! And that’s when I realized that I could probably try to dye some myself.

I looked at the colors I wanted, and wrote down some formulas to try. I was more careful about measuring than I have been in my past cotton dyeing experiments. Most of the colors I got were not nearly as intense as I hoped for. In thinking it over, I believe I did not use as much dye as is recommended. The problem I have is that there seems to be SO MUCH dye that is not retained in the fabric. But perhaps I need to think of that as “colored water” and not wasted dye.

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The solid colors I dyed.

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I had some printed fabric that I over dyed.

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The most intense colors I got! A complete surprise. I used three leftover dyes, and put part of the fabric in a jar, then added more fabric and the second dye, followed by the rest of the fabric and the last dye. So much better than I anticipated!

I formulated a plan. I would call Pro-Chem and ask them about the repeated rinsing and the wasted dye. And I would ask if they could tell me the Pro MX dye colors that would correspond to the Sabreset dye colors that I have used for so long on wool.

Let me just say this: PRO-CHEM ROCKS! Just as I remembered, a real person answered the phone. As I started to ask the question, she said, let me transfer you directly to the lab. ANOTHER real person answered the phone. Sometimes when I am asking for directions or advice, the person seems to be somewhat impatient, and so I get nervous and it takes me even longer to ask my questions (so I usually have my questions all written down ahead of time.) This woman did not sound impatient at all. She understood exactly what and why I was asking. She said that is a common problem when you go from dyeing wool to dyeing cotton–you are used to the dye exhausting and the water being clear. And she explained that this dye is so reactive that it actually bonds to the water! (so I wasn’t far off when I said I would try to think of it as colored water!) She couldn’t tell me the corresponding colors (Sabreset to Pro MX) but she said that would be a great idea if it could be done. And she said, “call back any time!” I felt so much better after talking to her.

I also re-watched portions of the Jane Dunnewald online Craftsy class on dyeing, and I studied the Pro MX color chart and compared it to the Sabreset chart. And I decided that there were just a few more colors that I need to order. And I printed out the Pro-Chem instruction sheet on low water immersion dyeing. Tonight I have three yards of muslin being pre-washed, and tomorrow I will try again to dye three deep colors.

Momentum

A few weeks ago, I made a little “in the meantime” piece because I had “nothing” to work on in the evenings–no handwork.

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Since then I have embraced the kantha blanket, and have begun the long journey of repetitive stitching that I had planned for it.

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And then, I finally bit the bullet and started a new project that I had been mulling over since last December.

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Can you guess what it is? I am doing a quilt of “The Hallelujah Chorus.” It has long been one of my favorite pieces of music. When I lived in Texas, our church choir sang it, and we were required to memorize it. The words are magnificent, and have so much meaning to me. I had the idea when I went last December to a beautiful cathedral in downtown Sacramento for a performance of The Messiah. My little idea was that the quilt had to be extremely beautiful, mostly white, with perfect extensive quilting, and of course, the words would be preeminent, and of course beautiful calligraphy. Hmmm. See why I was afraid to start it?

A little thought came along–why don’t you do what you know you can do well? So I decided to use my own handwriting, and to make my circles with embroidery. I bought some silk-type fabric at Joann’s to practice on, and it turned out that I really liked this fabric, so I stuck with it.

I wanted the piece to be a bit larger than most of my embroidered works, so I came up with the idea of doing the circles and the words in separate panels, and then after all of them are embroidered, I will join them into one quilt top and add more quilting.

All I can say is, you just have to try. It very well could have been that these things would not have worked. Heck, they still might not work. But by trying, even if I fail, I have learned something new.

And now, I must leave you. I have a bit of stitching to do 🙂

The Journey

Recently I had lunch with an old friend (who creates AMAZING Pysanky eggs) and she told me about her recent trip to Spain, where she and her husband walked the 500 miles of the Camino de Santiago!! The Camino has been walked by thousands of Christian pilgrims for the past thousand years. Nowadays it is still walked by pilgrims from many faiths, and many times for reasons other than a faith journey. Whatever the reason, it is something that fascinates me. Committing to walking 500 miles, and then following through with that–well that is the kind of thing that inspires me.

My friend recommended two movies–Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago, a very well done documentary, and The Way, another excellent movie about the same thing. I watched both movies this past week, and was very moved by the stories of the people walking, and how they continued on in spite of pain and other difficulties. And how each person found special meaning through their walk and the camaraderie that they found along the way.

As I watched (and stitched) it reminded me of the quilting journey I am on. Many times it is a spiritual journey (nothing excites me more than stitching the beautiful words of scripture into a quilt.) Sometimes the journey I have chosen seems endless, and I wonder, “what was I thinking?” as I stitch. But like the pilgrims on their way to Santiago, I learn that the journey is what is important. I will learn many things as I stitch. Sometimes I learn that what I chose to do didn’t work so well. Sometimes there is a turn in the road, and I discover something completely new and unrelated to the current work. Always, there is value in putting hand to cloth and striving to create something beautiful.

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In the Meantime…

While I was working on making my kantha blanket top, I was without a hand stitching project. I found this little sketch in my notebook and thought it would be a fun embroidery project.

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I found an interesting dark fabric to use as the top, and made a sandwich. I decided to “draw” the outline with black perle cotton. In the past I have machine stitched outlines. Once I got into it, I enjoyed this process. If you’ll look close, you will see the outline I drew and the outline I embroidered are not exactly the same. I wasn’t embroidering to scale, and I ran out of room somewhere in the middle. No biggie.

My favorite part–choosing the embroidery threads! And, I found a little case I had gotten at the thrift store, and it is perfect for the threads and the entire project will fit in there.

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I chose a fairly limited palette of colors to work with, and am challenging myself to stick with just these colors.

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Stitching so far:

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Obsession

I don’t know where it came from, this obsession to make a “kantha blanket.” I have a little niggling thought that it might be because of answering the question so many times “what is kantha stitching?” and always being careful to explain that my stitching is “kantha inspired.”If I did a blanket, I would have something more “authentic” to show people.

So after my failure at the last scrappy quilt top, I set about making a more organized, partially planned, scrap quilt for the kantha blanket. Like I do for most projects, I chose a large variety of fabrics that I like, and then narrowed them down to fabrics that might work together. And set a few parameters for the piecing–Longish rectangles, 4 inches wide by about 7 or 10 inches long. I would insert a few squares with my “crosses” and my circles. And I went to town working on this quilt top.

In just a few days I finished it, and with the finish came a deep sense of despair. This “planned scrappy” quilt top was not much better than my really really scrappy top. What is wrong with me? I can’t even plan a simple scrappy quilt. Which then devolved into Nothing I’ve ever done is really any good at all. Oh, it was bad.

Fortunately for her, my best friend was not available for conversation that day. By the next day I had decided to follow my own advice, and “continue on.” She concurred. I’m not sure if covering this entire piece with stitching lines 1/4 inch apart will help. But it will be in the spirit of kantha–using what I have and making something useful of it.

In the meantime, I mentioned to my mom what I was doing, and she started asking a ton of questions about kantha. So I got out my big book of Kantha, and what do you know–what I am doing now is still not very kantha-like in the traditional sense. We’ll just call it a modern take on kantha 🙂

The sandwich is made, and I am happily stitching away on my kantha blanket.

I decided to not show you the entire piece. Any hint of sympathy or disapproval might send me into a downward spiral from which I might never recover :)

I decided to not show you the entire piece. Any hint of sympathy or disapproval might send me into a downward spiral from which I might never recover 🙂