Thursday, December 23, 2010


The bathrooms are clean, the vacuuming is done, the guest room prepared, and now it's just cooking and lots of good conversation!  My daughter and her husband will be arriving soon.

The gift bags are all made again this year:
and that's about all the sewing that's been done around here for the past few days.  But I love those bags.  Not only do they save paper, but it's so easy to wrap those strangely shaped presents for grandchildren, and I don't need boxes for clothing.  Just stopped in to our local quilt shop, Needles, to stock up on their Christmas fabric sale for next year's bags, although some of them do come back.  

And this year we even have a low-carbon footprint Christmas tree since Tom and I cut one we planted over ten years ago.  Unfortunately, it was about as far away from the house as we could get so we had to drag it downhill, across the creek, and then drag it up hill again with the help of a sled and a little snow.
It couldn't have grown any bigger.

So Merry Christmas to you all!  It's time to celebrate!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Pushing the Limits

When I began dyeing, one of the few rules that I heard from many sources was that dyes needed warmth to work and therefore the room temperature should be at least 70 degrees.  My dyeing "studio" is in the unheated basement, where, even on the warmest day in summer, the temperature rarely reaches above 68, so I have already been fudging on that requirement a bit.  But normally as the weather turns toward winter I reluctantly curtail my dyeing activities and focus on turning that fabric into quilts.

Last winter, however, I discovered snow dyeing, which involves pouring dye solution over snow-covered fabric, which I am fairly sure is nowhere near 70 degrees.    And so late in November this year, with a few free hours, I decided to see how hard and fast that temperature rule for regular low-immersion dyeing was.  The temperature in the basement was below 60 while I was working and was around 50 by the time the fabric was finished batching.

To complicate matters further, I decided to play with some overdyeing and folding so here are some of the more interesting results:

These were two old dyes: first a dark brown poured over a diagonally folded piece of fabric and then with fabric folded on the other diagonal. a deep yellow.  The  dark brown turned a little purple but was still an interesting color and the yellow seemed strong even with the colder temperatures.
I loved this piece.  It was the last minute attempt to use up an end of fabric that I had cut off one of the larger pieces and to use up that dark brown dye, this time used with a greater concentration than the yellow piece.  I simple folded the piece quickly, dumped some dye on it and let it sit--and got lots of little texture bits along with the stripes.
Then I tried some shibori.  When I had done shibori before I had chosen a wide diameter piece of PVC pipe, carefully wrapped one layer of fabric around it and sewed it together so that it fit tightly around the pipe, and then scrunched it, but I had read about just folding the fabric, wrapping it around a pipe as many times as it would go and then scrunching.   My wide diameter PVC pipe had disappeared with some plumbers who were working in the basement a few months before and I only had a smaller pipe so I wrapped and scrunched, then poured dye around it.  And this was the magical result.  This was old dye, however, so I decided I had to try this with some newly mixed dye concentrate.  And here is the result of that:
The final analysis:  first of all, there were too many variables for this to be truly a scientific experiment, but nevertheless, working in cooler temperatures produces usable, interesting fabric so my dyeing season is definitely longer than it was.  I am hoping to have some time to dye this week after the nighttime temps have been in the teens and single digits for a number of days and the basement is even colder.  Then again the dyes may work when it is that chilly, but I and my fingers may not.  

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

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


My plan was to take a picture of the Doodle Square display from a better angle before the opening Friday evening to replace the picture in the last post, but five minutes after I got there to help set up the refreshment table, the first of the early birds asked if they could just look around, although they knew we weren't officially open yet, and that seemed to open the floodgates:  the gallery was busy all evening.   The same thing happened on Saturday morning so there was no time to take--or remember to take--pictures.  By the time things slowed down at the end of the afternoon this is what the Doodle display looked like:

I sold some other pieces, including my little Celtic butterfly, Féileacán, and the person who bought it liked the name so I guess it wasn't so pretentious after all.  It was quite a weekend, followed by two glorious days of quiet quilting on Sunday and Monday.

Monday, December 6, 2010


That Celtic knotwork butterfly that I took to Ireland with me is now bound and officially complete.
As I was preparing for the upcoming exhibit, I was scouring the house for any new work I could add to my share of the show and came upon this little quiltlet. Not too many people had seen it since it didn't make it into the September guild show so I decided to add it to VESTA, and then, instead of putting Not for Sale on it and sending it off in January,  I priced it and indicated the money I received for it would go to the Alzheimer's Quilt Initiative for Alzheimer's research, since its original destination was Ami Simms' online AQI auction.  

I had named it Féileacán, the Irish word for butterfly.  Too pretentious for a 9" x 12" wall hanging?  Perhaps.  But I have great fun naming quilts, sometimes in the middle of making them, but more often near or at the end of the process.  Although some quilters eschew (another pretentious word but I love saying it--sounds like a sneeze) naming their work--the traditionalists because they feel their work is too utilitarian to be named, the nontraditionalists because they feel their work transcends the need for any name other than "Study" or a number, I like names because they add yet another dimension to the work.  

There are pitfalls to naming, of course.  A name can actually limit an interpretation of a quilt, pointing in only one direction so it is tricky to find a name that says something significant about the piece without limiting the ways a viewer can connect with it.  And I have to admit that often when I go to shows I try to look at the work first before I look at the name so I can react to the piece before I get that little nudge from the artist.  Sometimes I nod agreement with the title--Oh, yes! Perfect choice--but other times I go back and look again at the work and see something more, something subtle that I missed before.  Then, of course, there are those names that elicit only puzzlement--Huh?  Where did that come from?

Anyway, this little quilt is stuck with the name Féileacán.  You may see it in another incarnation as I prepare for classes next summer since I may add this to the patterns for the Celtic knotwork class I teach.  And if you are still with me, thanks for the company.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


The VESTA show is officially up.  We got it done in what looked to me like record time, finishing up by 3 in the afternoon.   Since we are a disparate group of artists who, for a number of reasons, may have more or less work on any given year, we always worry that we won't have enough "stuff" to fill the space, but this year we had no problem.  The gallery is full of beautiful things--baskets, oil paintings, photographs, weavings, magnetic paper dolls, cards, scarves, hand-fired glass beads, jewelry, lace, pastels, silk flowers, and, of course, art quilts.

Displaying my Doodle Squares presented a challenge, since I wanted to indicate that many of them were double-sided.  I finally decided on hanging a few from a small, interestingly shaped cherry tree from our woods and putting the rest on the wall behind.

Friday night is the opening reception, which continues all day Saturday, so once again we will be watching the weather.  Right now we have picture postcard scenes out all the windows with a couple of inches of snow sitting on top of mud from the two inches of rain we had overnight.  It will be interesting if it freezes tonight.