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Thursday, April 9, 2015

Learning

I got to see how long it took to get to Manchester, NH, yesterday very early in the morning for an 8 AM class with Wen Redmond. I have admired her for a number of years since she is fearless in her experimentation that has produced some memorable work and has amassed a great of knowledge about a number of techniques. Yesterday was a class on using thermofax screens. I have used these in a couple of classes and felt that they would be a useful tool in my quest for more texture and depth in some of my pieces, but didn't know much about the process.
Wen at work
In 2 1/2 hours Wen answered my questions. I now know what kind of images work for this process and how to prepare a photo or make a drawing that I can use. I also know an inexpensive way to frame the screens using duct tape, and I know about various squeegees that work for small screens, the kinds of paint needed, various clever ways of printing images, and what is needed or not needed to set the images.

And I came away with four small screens that will be eminently useful and some sample fabrics printed from two of them:


The first is from a photograph of ice in a puddle.

It was the perfect class--gave me the information I needed and didn't leave me with a large unfinished project or oodles of samples that I will never use--well worth the fifty minute drive, particularly since the once forecast sleet and freezing rain did not happen. And I got to meet Wen, a person worth knowing!




Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Beginnings--and Endings

It's spring by the calendar but we are being reminded that just because we humans decide something should happen, nature may not always cooperate. Huge piles of snow from our record breaking storms are covering the beds where crocus and daffodils should be poking up. But I decided to manipulate nature a bit by bringing in some forsythia branches, and my attempts at human control did work this time:  the first blooms obediently appeared by March 20.

Our magnolias had been brutalized by ice falling off the roof, much to my dismay. I tried the same trick with them, and the broken branches gave us a brief glimpse of the beauty that might have been.







And I welcomed spring with a new project--making some tiny pieces, about 9" x 5" that, unlike the other projects I am working on,  I can finish quickly and perhaps sell. On the first day of spring I began happily to stitch down the shapes that I had played with the day before until I like the way they looked. Confidence goeth before a disaster. Here is what it looked like after two hours of sewing with a little over half the shapes sewn down:


The horizontal stitching was fighting with the vertical.  I thought for a while that more vertical stitching would help but this piece was just never going to create an integrated whole. And so it becomes another piece in the learning from experience pile. And I will begin again.

And, if you have found me, after my hiatus from blogging, thanks for the company.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Peace


May we all find many ways to be kind to each other in the coming year!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Many Thanks to the Squirrels

Years ago we decided it would be fun to use the black walnuts falling from a local tree. After hours of work and very few nutmeats to show for our labor, I understood why black walnuts aren't a staple of our diet. And I can still remember the stain on my hands that took over a week to wear off--nothing would wash it off.

So I knew black walnut would be a good candidate for natural dyeing even before I kept seeing it mentioned as I did my research. But for two reasons I kept putting off adding it to my list of items to experiment with:  I did not relish ripping that outer husk apart and I did not know of any nearby black walnut trees. And then one day as I passed by a back window, I saw a squirrel sitting on the corner of our neighbor's deck railing and what was he chewing on? His sharp little teeth were quickly turning that tough husk of a black walnut into a pile of pieces just right for throwing in a dye pot. Over the next couple of weeks I found a number of such piles on our own deck and patio and even got our neighbors to give me the piles from their deck.  They graciously told me I could gather nuts from the tree (which was in their yard) but I decided I would make do with the preprocessed  husk chips I was collecting.

Finally I had enough:

At first I was a bit disappointed in the cotton, which you can see below, but it has very interesting gray brown veins, which don't show up well in the photo, and it would make a great neutral background for something.

The silk, as usual, won the beauty prize with its rich brown mottling.


And just so you can see that I am not just creating more fabric, but actually stitching some together, I will add a snapshot of one of the new projects I am beginning


And if you are still with me, thanks for the company!




Saturday, November 22, 2014

Spinning Gold

As I continued to experiment with my scrunchy, texturing technique, I had to try adding silk so I dyed several gradations of yellow and set to work. I love the shimmer it adds to the texture:

Spun Gold 14" x 16"

The silk shimmied around as much as it shimmered when I was trying to get a needle through it, but it felt so good in the hand and created such dynamic textures that I easily forgave it for having a mind of its own.





Friday, October 17, 2014

Using natural chemicals

Even though I believe that the most dangerous part of the chemical dyes is the possibility of inhaling them, I have still been intrigued by natural dyes as being bit more friendly to things that matter to us. I even went so far as to buy India Flint's book on the subject a couple of years ago. But I finally seized the opportunity to try it out about a month ago. Beginning with goldenrod seemed ironically appropriate particularly since we had just moved from a farm with a whole field of goldenrod to a city where goldenrod does grow here and there but is usually on someone else's property. I was whining to my friend Cecilia about this when an hour later she arrived on my doorstep with an armload of goldenrod fresh picked from a New Hampshire roadside and soon it was in a pot ready to be boiled.


I covered it with water, let it boil for a couple of hours, and then drained the liquid. I threw a small piece of silk into the dye since I had read that silk will take the dye even without a mordant. But, as usual, not everything you read is accurate; it did color up a bit, but was not anything I even commented to the dog about.
Then I stirred in 2 T alum as a mordant, threw in a piece of silk and a larger piece of cotton and boiled them for about 15 minutes. I let them soak overnight in the dye and then hung them to dry but waited for a week to rinse and iron them. But I got excited even before they were completely dry. Here's the cotton:

And here's the silk!!

I had also read that I could get gradations by boiling the original goldenrod again in fresh water and repeating the process--and this was true. The silk soaked up so much dye that you can't tell the difference in the photo but in the cotton there is a clear difference between the second boiling on the right and the first on the left. 

My next experiment involved avocado pits, thanks to the help of my daughter Clare, whose family has a fondness for guacamole. A couple of them were beginning to move into the pre-rot stage (I kept forgetting to pop them in the freezer) so I threw what I had into a pot:

Now I had also read that the longer you boil these guys the redder the dye gets and so they were on the stove for 3 or 4 hours. It was a busy day and I wasn't checking often enough, and much of the water had boiled away by the time there was a significant color in the pot. Not wanting to dilute anything any more, I stirred  in 2 T alum, brought it to a boil, and then threw in a piece of cotton and a piece of silk. I left the pits in with them and boiled it all gently for about 15 minutes and then left the pot tilted over night so that the fabric was mostly covered by the small amount of liquid left.

And here, after hanging them out to dry and then waiting a week to rinse them are the results:


You have probably guessed that the silk is the second photo--a very rich reddish tan. Perhaps more pits--or more liquid--would produce a stronger dye. A smaller pot would help as well, which I am working on, since I am reluctant to use the pots I cook dinner in. Even though all this stuff is growing somewhere, they are, as my chemist sister would remind me, still concentrated chemicals.

And, if you are still reading, thanks for the company!








Friday, September 19, 2014

Doodling

Wanting to extend my repertoire of hand stitching beyond the basic running stitch that I love so much and needing some small projects that I could use as a break from a larger  (I did not say interminable, but I thought it) project, I decided to challenge myself and commit to a stitching journal. I would choose a stitch, prepare a sandwiched "page," and then for two weeks I would play with that stitch working on structured and free form versions to see what kinds of patterns or texture I could produce with it. I thought two weeks would give me plenty of time, given the unpredictability of my schedule these days.

I chose the blanket stitch and dutifully produced a row of blanket stitches on the first day. That was a month and a half ago so I didn't exactly abide by the rules (I have plenty of good excuses I can roll out ranging from major house projects to some great adventures with grandchildren), but this week I declared myself done with this stitch, at least for now, and ready to move on. 


When I was learning machine quilting and made a commitment of fifteen minutes a day practicing, I ended up with a number of doodle squares that I could sell. I am not sure I will ever produce anything finished enough to put a price tag on with this project but you never know.

Next stitch will be the backstitch. I may have to work at coming up with creative forms for this one. Let's see what happens in two weeks!