Thursday, February 25, 2010

Getting organized

About a week ago, after knocking my seam ripper off my sewing machine table for the third time and then taking ten minutes to find my chalk wheel that I had put down somewhere on my way to answer the phone, I decided I needed to get organized.  Not my whole life--or even, God forbid, my fabric, but just that small space to the right of my sewing machine, the only space where the long tail of a large wall hanging does not sweep errant scissors and spools of thread to the floor and the place where I pile my necessary gadgets and periodically knock them off with my elbow.  

I got the idea of hanging my tools from the edge of the table and went about quilting some fabric, folding it up to form custom-sized pockets for my seam ripper, scissors, ruler, and so on.  Now the only problem was attaching it to the table.  Since I liked none of the options I came up with, I put it aside--in one of my many disorganized piles.

Today, housebound by a beautiful snowfall, I picked it up again.  My ever ingenious husband, home on a Thursday since even the university was closed, suggested first Velcro, which I had already dismissed since I didn't want to put gummy glue on the my table, and then suggested I try to find something thin to slide between the front support and the table top and then find a way to attach it to the pockets.  I knew I had some very thin acrylic sheets I had used for templates at one time.  I cut two to the proper size since I wanted it to turn the corner, sewed them to the back of the quilted pockets, Tom removed a couple of screws, we slid the plastic in, screwed through the plastic to hold it in place and there it was:

Now I just have to remember to put things back in their pockets when I use them.  But I am savoring the feeling of having a small portion of my world under control, at least for a little while.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Shadows again

Surprise! This is a post that is not about snow dyeing, although I am beginning work on a piece using some fabric from my first batch of snow dyes and right now I am excited about it.  We'll see if I continue to like it.  But I need to get back to the real reason for this blog--tracking my trials-and-errors in my year of figuring out who I am as a quilter.

Remember my little leaf quilt that was one of a series of journal-sized quilts that used shadows in some way and tried out a new technique?  I did finally finish another in that series a few weeks ago:

This is a small piece  8 1/4 x 11" but I got to play with the curved background, with pearl cotton for the quilting stitching again, and with perspective.  All the fabric, except the black, is my own hand-dyed.  

This is also the first time I tried facing a quilt, a finishing I have used several times since.  I found a facing method I like better now, but this convinced me it was not a difficult process, and I really like the look.  

And now it is snowing again . . .

Monday, February 15, 2010

Snow Dyeing--New Technique

Some snow dyers had been mentioning online that they don't let the fabric sit in the dye as the snow melts but raise it up off the bottom of the dye bin.  And they seem to get different results from what I was getting so I couldn't wait until the next snow to give it a try.  I scraped up some snow from the piles that had slid off our barn roof and that snow did pack a bit better than the dry flaky snow I had used last time.  And wow! the results were different:
 This was mostly navy blue with a bit of some old mist gray.  Click on the image for a closer view.
This is probably my favorite piece so far and I thought it was going to look like something the dog threw up when I was adding the dye.  I began with some old brown but realized when I emptied the bottle that, even  though I had shaken it well, it had not thoroughly mixed.  So I thought I would possibly save it with the kilt green I had just mixed for the last batch, but I ran out of that before the snow had been sufficiently covered with dye.  This was supposed to be an experiment so I didn't want to spend any more time mixing a new batch of dye.  After rummaging about I found a very old lemon yellow and when I squirted that on, it did not look very appealing.
Here are details of each so you might be able to see the crystalline petal patterns better:

For those interested in the technique I used, here are some more pictures:

I used 1/2" hardware cloth cut so that it did not fit all the way to the bottom of the sloping sides of the bin and supported in the middle so that it didn't sag.  

The fabric in this one is in an old narrow dish drainer--never throw anything out!-- with the snow mounded on top and you can see the side view below.
Even though it looks like the dye may not reach those side pieces, there were not white spots in the final fabric.

These were results significantly different from what I can get with my regular low immersion dyeing in the summertime.  Now for a project worthy of their uniqueness. . . .

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Snow Dyeing II: The Results

So the fabric is washed and ironed, and here it is:
This is the purple/red mix, and as I was rinsing the fabric I kept saying to myself that it was really ugly.  But when it was ironed and up on my working wall, I discovered I liked it.  There is more white space on this and on others than on the first round of dyeing, but there are some very interesting parts here, particularly the watery purple areas.

This is bin B the stripes of blue and yellow.  Again there is too much white on this, but I like combination of the blue-green and yellow with shades of gold brown in places.

This is C, my experiment with tilting the bin.  I am assuming the darkest color was at the bottom of the tilt, but I am not sure why it faded to pastel.  There actually is no white space on this--the lighter areas are all tinted blue or pink.  This was done on Kona cotton from Joann's and it may not be mercerized.
This is Bin D and my concentric circles produced no discernible pattern that I can see.  No white space on this one, but I am not sure I like the color combination.

And here is my experiment with folding instead of scrunching, and this is a really interesting piece of fabric.   I like the suggestion of squares and the mirror patterns produced by the folds, as well as that watery, swirly feel to the coloring.  I think I will pursue some variations of folding in my next attempt at snow dyeing to see how the designs can change.

All in all, I think the denser snow of the last round produced better results, although I did learn some things this time.  

It Snowed!

Doesn't that look better?  Although we didn't get as much as predicted and nothing like DC is digging out of, we did get some snow to brighten up the landscape--and to use for snow dyeing.

A friend came over and together we prepared the fabric, packed snow in on top of it, and then squirted, dripped, and poured dye all over the snow.  While I am impatiently waiting for the fabric is warm up to room temperature, I thought I would record the first step of the process.

This snow was much different from my first experiment.  Last time the snow was old and had lain around for a while.  It was wet from melting a bit and so packed firmly over the fabric and the bins were heavy.  This snow was still falling as we used it.   Although it was quite sticky, it had a powdery, sparkly quality, like the Ivory Snow snow we used to make as children, as my friend said, and while we packed the bins full, they were still light and I could easily have carried four at once. It took the dye differently as well, as the dye immediately carved deep canyons in this snow, while it just sat on top of the other snow and then gradually soaked through.   This snow also melted much faster and was gone almost completely after six hours.

And here are the bins waiting to be rinsed:
This is bin A with deep purple and scarlet dyes.

On the left is bin D that was dyed with concentric circles of Brilliant Blue, Scarlet, Deep Purple, Brilliant Blue, Deep Purple.  I have a feeling that they all get mixed together in the final result, but this is an experiment.  On the right is bin B dyed in stripes of Lemon Yellow and Kilt Green.

This is bin C dyed with brilliant blue and mist gray with dots of amethyst.  My experiment with this bin was tilting it at an angle, which definitely resulted in some white at the top, but we will see if it produced any other anomalies.

And, last of all, is the orange tray that has more surface area than the other bins.  Instead of scrunching the fabric, I just folded it, not absolutely neatly, but with many less hills and valleys than the others.  If you have really good eyes, you might even be able to see the small maple leaf I managed to scoop up with the snow.  It's in the lower right corner.

So stay tuned for the results.  And I not only get to see my results, but my friend's as well--twice the surprise.

Monday, February 8, 2010


Pain--has an element of blank--
It cannot recollect
When it begun--or if there were
A time when it was not--

It has no future--but itself--
Its infinite contain
Its Past--enlightened to perceive
New Periods--of Pain.

Emily Dickinson was right on, as she usually is.  I have just completed several days of pain, thanks to an unenlightened orthodontist from my youth who left me with reasonably straight teeth and a jaw vulnerable to all sorts of problems as the years went by.  I am hoping it's under control at this point, but I now know why the dentist said,  "You don't want that muscle to start spasming."  Indeed I don't.

Needless to say, I have not spent much time at my sewing machine.  Tensing any muscles was not a good idea and so, I am now several more days behind schedule on my goal of completing fourteen small quilts by the end of February.  But I did do a little pearl-cotton quilting by hand and today I finished the machine quilting on a larger piece, decided it needed a binding, not facing, and finished the machine part of the binding.  So I am getting back up to speed, if things keep progressing in the right direction, and may soon have a picture of an actual quilt to add to my blog.   I am, however, officially postponing my quilting marathon until I have a possibility of success.

And I am turning my thoughts to other things:

Don't you think this picture would look better with some snow in it?  I am ready to play with snow dyeing again, but the snow keeps missing us.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

A February Challenge

Somewhere I read about a quilter who challenged herself to make a small quilt everyday during the month of February and ended up making a striking large quilt out of all those little ones.  Ah, I thought, February is approaching and maybe I could do a quilt with some sort of new technique every other day for a total of 14, a significant number for the Valentine month.  I decided to begin with an idea I had for the Fast Friday Fabric Challenge, my online source of inspiration and frustration.  So on Feb. 1 I began, and today I finished it--well, the facing has to be sewn down and some knots tied, but it's presentable enough to be photographed.  And today, you may notice, is Feb. 4.  Not an auspicious beginning for my fourteen quilts.  

But here is the quilt, measuring all of about thirteen inches square:

The challenge this month was to fracture the image in some way, to use three colors chosen from the three primary colors and three secondary colors, and to include something with wings.  I was going to skip the challenge and focus on other projects this month, but for a long time I had wanted to make a quilt that looked at the ground, field, whatever, through the wings of one of the many dragonflies that flit around my head as I walk with Terra around our pond.

When I read the challenge, the dragonfly image popped into my head but I was not sure how I would create the wings.  Then, as I was looking for some fabric one day, I noticed the pile of organzas from my most recent sortie to Joann's  and on top was the fanciest organza that was crying out to be made into dragonfly wings.  So I knew I had to give a try at this challenge.

I had chosen as my three colors red, green, and yellow, and fractured the background, the first time I had tried that technique.  But then I forgot about the color restriction as I was planning the background.   I felt I had to include some blue for the pond the dragonflies love so much and so a fourth color sneaked in.  I was debating how to attach the organza wings to the background when American Quilter arrived with Carol Taylor's articles about using transparencies.   She recommended satin stitching the edges and so I tried it, although I did not fuse them first, as she does.

I hand appliqued the body and stitched the tail with heavy thread on the machine.  I machine quilted most of it, but added some of the pearl cotton I have come to love.  I also faced it again, using the method I tried out on "Pause."

So I learned a lot on this little quilt that I named "Viewpoint."  And I think the organza worked well.  Now we'll see how many of the other thirteen quilts get done by the end of February.