Monday, November 30, 2015

Eco-dyeing with the fall harvest

It started when we harvested our Concord grapes and I saw all that beautiful purple juice.  My husband was trying his hand at making grape jam, but all I could see was another way to dye fabric, so I confiscated some of the skins and juice and set about experimenting.  My results, on cotton (left) and silk (right:

Dyed with grape skins and juice

With this new passion ignited, I started looking for possibilities.  Aha!  Black walnuts from my son's backyard.  When the outer hull (yellowish-green) begins to turn black and peel away, what's left is an inky black, fibrous substance surrounding the nutshell.  It really stains!  I filled a bucket with them, added water, stirred, and made "walnut hull stew" for fabric dyeing!

Walnut-hull stew
I tightly bunched up a piece of cotton (pre-mordanted with alum), bundled it tightly, and tossed it into the "stew" for 24 hours.
Cotton, bundled for dyeing

Walnut-hull dyed cotton
Cotton sateen, walnut-hull dyed

Because our summer seemingly lasted forever, I still had flowers blooming into late October, just as our trees were turning color and beginning to fall. My next experiments took me back to my childhood and my favorite library book, Mud Pies and Other Recipes by Marjorie Winslow.*  I walked through my yard, choosing flowers:

Late-season flower harvest
 I carefully picked apart the flower petals and leaves, then arranged them on lengths of alum-mordanted cotton  and a piece of silk (no mordant) . . .
Flower petals and leaves  on cotton
 Then tightly rolled each piece around a stick, secured with twine (also called "eco-bundling"):
Final step:  placed them in a bamboo steam basket inside a very large pot, covered, and steamed for 1 hour.

Nothing happened.  I missed a step!  I forgot to mist them with vinegar water, so I did, and got them pretty wet, and steamed them for another hour.  Here's one of the pieces after it air-dried.
But after I rinsed it in lukewarm water, most of the color faded and not much was left, except for the lines made by the twine wrapping:

Finally, I moved on to ice-flower dyeing, a method developed by India Flint in her book Eco-Colour.  I used flower petals I'd collected during the summer, then placed in plastic bags and froze.  I choose some frozen fuschia-colored peony petals, placed them in a Mason jar, and added lukewarm water (and vinegar, to promote the red color).  According to India,
"the temperature shock of immersion assisted in the rapid release of colour.  
Freezing plant material has the added benefit of breaking up the 
structure of the plant, as the moisture contained within the 
cells expands while becoming solid." (p. 138)

Unfortunately, my results were less-than stellar:
Cotton, ice-flower dyed (with peony petals)

Cheesecloth, ice-flower dyed (with peony petals).  The pattern was created
by the way I folded the fabric before immersion.
Where did the pretty color go?   Looks like I'll need more practice!

Lessons learned:  Patience is a virtue.  There are no guarantees in life.  Keep playing and experimenting.  There's always more to learn.

* The magic of Mud Pies and Other Recipes
:  Though I didn't really play with dolls (except for Barbies), there was something about foraging in my own backyard that totally absorbed me.   At my pleading, my mom bought me a stack of 3x5" index cards, and I hand-copied every recipe in that book for my own collection.  (Oh, how I wish I still had that collection!)  I can still recall the magical feeling evoked by Erik Blegvad's illustrations; they take me back to the smell and feel of bright, hazy Mid-Atlantic mornings.

From the book's foreword:

This is a cookbook for dolls. It is written for kind climates and summertime.  

It is an outdoor cookbook, because dolls dote on mud, when properly prepared.  They love the crunch of pine needles and the sweet feel of seaweed on the tongue.  The market place, then, will be a forest or sand dune or your own backyard . . .

Friday, October 9, 2015

A new improv quilt takes form

Improv is . . . setting limits to expand horizons.  
-- Sherri Lynn Wood, The Improv Handbook
My Modern Improv class at Greenbaum's Quilted Forest has evolved from last spring and summer's class, Quilt Improv.  As much as I loved the sample from this past June's class, it didn't feel like true improvisational quiltmaking to me and probably should've been called Intro to Improv.  It was based on 12 block styles that could be mixed and matched to make an improv-style quilt.

"Improv 2-15," from my previous Quilt Improv class
Modern Improv, the newly revamped class, is based on The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters: A Guide to Creating, Quilting & Living Courageously by Sherri Lynn Wood.  The author doesn't use templates or rulers, and prefers cutting with scissors rather than rotary cutters! (I still use mine, as I'm faster and more accurate when using a rotary cutter.)
"Evaluate and identify a personal lexicon
of improv patchwork techniques and shapes,
then juxtapose two or more of them into a
single composition."
-- Sherri Lynn Wood
Sherri's statement above pretty much describes the way I work.  The shape I chose to focus on for my new sample is the curve, and I'm using wedge-shaped pieces and layered curves to create my design.  I've been more indecisive while making this project than I usually am.

Like most improv projects, I don't tend to sketch a design in advance or even think much about it.  I just cut fabric, sew pieces together, slash them apart, and add another piece.  I make lots of these units, put them on the design wall, and try to arrange them into something pleasing.
Too much yellow
Trojan warrior's helmet?
Audition # . . . 47??

Add more light blue (spaces for eye to rest)
The author writes,
Improv is experimenting and getting lost ... eventually you are sure to find your way back, having discovered something new.
I was still a bit off-track (not lost!).  I decided against that light blue and reduced the amount of it at the bottom right.  After all, the solid dark blue already provides a break for the eye:

Unsure about the blue batik at center
of curve, and the shape is still a Trojan warrior's helmet!

Chopped the "helmet" in half, rotated pieces, added light blue AGAIN!
Auditioning continues to continue and will continue to do so until it's done. Soon, I hope!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Workshop with Sidnee Snell

I first learned of Portland textile artist Sidnee Snell through an episode of OPB's Oregon Art Beat, and became a huge fan of her art.  When I read that Rogue Modern Quilt Guild in Ashland was offering a one-day class taught by Sidnee, I signed up right away.

Sidnee's technique, which she calls foundation applique, is based on a photograph, usually digitally manipulated, then broken down into a sort of paint-by-numbers pattern, but in this case, it's more like applique-by-numbers. She gave us each a still-life photo featuring a cup and saucer with a spoon, and the corresponding pattern enlarged to about 16" x 20". We each began constructing our own version of  the still life, using our own fabrics along with Sidnee's enormous pile of hand-dyed fabrics, which she brought specifically for us to use.  (I've never met a more generous instructor!)

Here's the photo we worked from:

Photo courtesy of Sidnee Snell
 And my version of her image:
Cup & saucer, not yet quilted

In my opinion, one of the most appealing characteristics of Sidnee's work is her quilting, and the magical way she adds texture and movement to her art.  (If you haven't clicked on the links above to see her work, please go back and do so.  It's a real treat!)  I can only hope to come close to emulating what she does.

But I have to put this project aside for now and finish up some other things.  I'll update this post with a photo of the quilted and finished cup & saucer when it's done.  I was really fortunate to get to take this class, as I later learned that Sidnee doesn't usually teach.  Lucky for me to catch her after this guild was able to convince her to come to Ashland and share her techniques.  And to make  the weekend even better, we stayed with long-time friends Louise (Louie) and Rob in Ashland, whom we don't see often enough.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Dye-painting, continued

I've continued dye-painting since the weekend retreat at Vera's. One of these pieces produced a surprise!  I didn't notice that it had previously been stamped and screenprinted with Jacquard's Color Magnet at Vera's.  (Light yellow markings on the back were evidence of the Color Magnet application, but I didn't see them when I started painting on the other side).  I'm not sure what I was attempting to do because the dye-painted side was just a mess of brush strokes in two colors (green/blues and amethyst/fuschia).
But once it was dried, the images stamped with Color Magnet were very apparent:
Color Magnet results

Here are a few other pieces I've dye-painted since the weekend retreat.  The first was a monoprint that turned out much too light.  I forgot that I'd washed it and it no longer contained any soda ash, so I mixed up some solution and sprayed it on, but it was too little, too late.  Much of the dye washed out.

Overdyed monoprint
The second was an experiment for an idea that's been percolating in my imagination for awhile and involves dye-painting a whole-cloth piece that's already been quilted.  I wanted to try out the same color palette  to see what it might look like:

Sample for a larger project
More on that project later!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Spiral Staircase/Oregon Lighthouse Challenge

We decided on our next challenge when we met in August.

After looking through some of our members' photos, we chose one as the inspiration for our next challenge. It involves designing and constructing an abstract quilt based on Erika's photo of a spiral staircase (inside an Oregon lighthouse).
Erika's spiral staircase photo
To achieve a cohesive look among all of our pieces (since we'd like to exhibit them as a group), we decided  to construct them primarily of neutrals (at least 75% black, white, grey, brown, and/or beige), plus 25% or less of another color(s).  Minimum size will be 84" (total of all outside edges) and isn't due til January 2016.

I can't wait to see what everyone comes up with!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

A Weekend of Dye-Painting

In addition to Fiberexplorations, Deb and I are also members of SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates) and attend the Valley-South group in Eugene.  Vera, a fellow SAQA member, hosted six of us last weekend for a chance to play and experiment with dye-painting. Vera lives near Canyonville, about 3-1/2 hrs south of Salem.  Near her ranch, the Stouts Fire was still growing.  Though the flames were moving south and southeast of the ranch, the smoke blanketed Vera's little valley in the mornings.

Smoke from nearby Stouts Fire
View from Vera's house, showing the dyers hiking
down Vera's driveway to her studio (bldg. near middle)
The dye-painting process involves painting with thickened Procion dyes on soda-soaked cotton fabric.  (The soda ash causes the dye colors to bond with the cotton fibers.  By thickening the normally-fluid dyes, you can better control where you want the color to stay.)
My upside-down color-mixing "chart."
(Black lines added when I got home.)

We worked through some of the exercises in Ann Johnston's book Color by Design.  Here are a few of my other results:
Thin colors painted on wet fabric.  Later: added thin lines and brush marks
Thin colors on wet fabric; grid added later via corn dextrin resist.
Low-water immersion dyed background.
When dry:  Green grid added via rubbings. Found object stamped in blue. Black lines painted with liner brush..
What a perfect weekend it was; Vera was the best kind of host, making us all feel welcome and at home.  We worked and played, ate lots of wonderful food, and made new friends.  As a retired veterinarian, Vera kindly provided two cats for us to pet, Clayton and Mousey.  Both slept with me the first night, but Mousey and I truly bonded.  Vera only recently adopted her, and offered to let me take Mousey home!  I would have, but  it would've made Baby jealous.
Vera's sweet girl, Mousey, who almost came home with me!

Baby, waiting for me at home.


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

UFO Challenge

Poor, neglected blog!   It hasn't been given the attention it deserves, and there's work by members of the Fiberexplorations group that needs to be celebrated here.

Through late spring and into summer, members shared their finished pieces for the UFO Challenge (Unfinished Objects, that is).  We each chose one piece from our piles of unfinished projects and vowed to finish it.  To be truthful, the excitement level for this challenge was relatively low, which is probably normal.  How many of us have projects that were set aside to finish later, but later never came?  In many cases, that was because the initial enthusiasm for that project waned, and it's hard to get that back once it's gone.

Here's a beautifully-embellished wallhanging that Nancy finished:

Nancy's wallhanging
detail of Nancy's UFO Challenge piece
detail, embellishments

Lisa's Plumeria (though still in progress) is an original design based on a photograph she took:
"Plumeria" by Lisa

"Plumeria," detail

Saturday, July 11, 2015

"A Color Runs Through It" Comes to Salem

"Lighter Than Air" (detail), by Georgia French

Fiberexplorations member Deb Sorem is one of five textile artists whose work is featured in the show A Color Runs Through It: Art Quilts at Salem's Bush Barn Art Center.

Each of the five artists designed and created a series of quilts featuring a specific color.  We were lucky enough to see Deb's pieces (showcasing the color green) at one of our meetings earlier this year.  Most of them featured an abstract study of a daffodil's growth cycle, from bulb to full flower.  Fascinating!
"Awakening" by Deb Sorem
The other four fiber artists (Diane K. English, Georgia French, Laura Jaszkowski, and Paulette Landers) chose red, yellow, purple, and blue, respectively.

Deb's study of green, showcased alongside the other artists' color studies, creates an exciting and vibrant visual treat, and you have until August 29th to see it!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

"Improv 2.15" -- Modern Improv Piecing

This spring and summer I'm teaching a new class at Greenbaum's Quilted Forest (Salem, OR) from Lucie Summer's book, Quilt Improv.  I first became aware of her about 5 years ago when I purchased a few of her charming silkscreened fabrics on etsy.

So of course I was intrigued when Lucie's first book was published.  I was also looking for something new to teach, so decided to use her book and step into the world of modern quilts.  Because the title implied that it was based on improv piecing (my favorite way to work), I jumped right in, piecing and slashing and reconstructing like usual.

 I love Lucie's method of making the reverse-applique circles; they all turned out beautifully, like magic!

After constructing several different units, I realized that some of the units I was making were elements not included in the book.   So I removed  the areas of intricate piecing and tiny inserts (the green & red section on the left) and made a dedicated effort to work within the confines of the book, since that's what I'd be teaching from.

Before removing green & red section on left and other red pieces.
I decided to use red only as an accent, so I removed the larger pieces of that color: 
   Now it was beginning to look more serene.  I added a few tiny accents of red throughout the design.

Still, that vertical row of white squares (left side) bothered me.  I wasn't sure it fit.  I removed it, switched the positions of the last two rows, and began to audition borders.

Auditioning borders.
 The seafoam-green border won out, giving it a completed, contained feeling:

It was finally ready to be layered and quilted. I finished it with a binding because in the end, this might become a crib quilt rather than one that hangs on the wall.  (No, this is not a notice of impending grandparenthood . . . yet!)  It measures 31" x 37".

"Improv 2.15"
 Here's the pieced back:

It makes me smile to find a bit of piecing on the back of a quilt!
The book's title, Quilt Improv, implied working in an improvisional style, but I feel that wasn't quite accurate.  The book actually prescribes 12 different quilt blocks that you can mix and match in putting your quilt together.  Just one of those 12 blocks is pieced improvisationally.  Because this quilt would be hung in the shop as a sample of what the book and/or class entails, I tried to stay true to the book and it's parameters.  However,  my heart was set on creating a modern improv look, so I also incorporated my own personal touches and asesthetic.

Either way, I truly enjoyed this project and hope that the finished quilt entices lots of students to sign up for the class this spring and summer!