Dyeing Notions

My indigo dye pot has seen action this summer with fabric and notions.  I found a big bag of  wooden buttons in an antique store and wondered, “will these take dye well?”  For a $3 investment, I thought it was worth the risk.  The payoff was spectacular!  I suddenly had a tray filled with blue buttons drying on the back porch.

I love buttons almost as much as I do fabric and love to find old buttons of bone,  horn, or wood to add the perfect note to projects.  These that went in the dye pot were NOT antique treasured wooden buttons.  They were machine-made for craft projects, just hadn’t been used and were being sold for a song.

After that success, I decided to try dyeing some threads.  I have dipped some embroidery floss and some perle cotton.  It adds a little more personality to know that I’m stitching with something unique.

So my latest finished piece is called Blue With Blue on Blue.  I appliquéd the melons onto a vintage linen tea towel, then did minimal machine quilting around the appliqué, and attached the dyed buttons using dyed floss.

 This turned out to be a  fun project which will generate memories of hand stitching, dyeing, and playing every time I see it.  It is now keeping company with another couple of favorite pieces in an out-of-the-way corner that almost no one sees.  But I see it.  And I like it!

Treasures from Toshi

I saw Toshi a few days ago and she came bearing gifts – delightful sacks of fabric scraps.  One was silk, the other indigo cotton.

The Japanese silks were from Toshi’s sewing basket.  A friend had sent her some fabrics from Kyoto, others Toshi had kept from her sewing days.  There was a baker’s dozen silk remnants in all colors, sizes, and weights.  The light reflected off all those colors delights my soul!

And, then, there was the dress in another bag.  Indigo.  I don’t know how old.  Toshi wouldn’t guess, either.  She had begun deconstructing the dress because the indigo is so precious, so beautiful, it needed to be reused somehow.  For sure, it does.  I am thrilled beyond belief.  I was delighted to find woven cotton earlier this year (in black), with a variety of weaves across the yardage.  But to have this in indigo blue, in fabric with a history, oh, my, my.

Even the bags in which Toshi brought these delights were thrilling to me.  The silk remnants were in a small plastic bag with French writing, the outer bag was a Japanese store’s bag with, as you would expect, practical, simple, elegant handles.  And the moment of serendipity came when I realized the dress was in a bag imprinted with the name of a church where Jim’s great-grandfather was once the preacher.  And Toshi has no knowledge of that family history.

Isn’t it fascinating how time and people are woven together?

I’ve incorporated some of the indigo cotton into some blocks I’m hand stitching and I’ve cut squares from each of the silks to make a sampler piece.  The rest will be incorporated into my silk collection for a stunning project.  I think I have enough variety now to make something special.

An update on the baskets on my design wall – they are now assembled into one unit.  The moment when many blocks become one piece of fabric, a quilt top, is always satisfying to me.  In this case, there were 39 blocks and 22 setting triangles stitched together.  Now it’s pinned to my design wall while I contemplate whether to add borders or not, and, if so, what they will look like.

I’m including two photos in the progress of assembling the blocks.  The green bits of tape were used to number blocks as I moved them to the sewing machine, the safety pins reminded me which way to press the seams so they nested when the rows were sewn together.

On My Design Wall

I have a magic wall in my sewing room.  Two 4’ x 8’ sheets of foam insulation board are covered with fleece and nailed to the wall.  They hold projects for me to consider, analyze, rearrange, and organize for sewing.

My grandmother did not have a design wall.  Quilters these days are advised to use a vertical wall to consider color placement and other options in the quiltmaking process.  I am fortunate to have space to have a permanent design wall, but there are options to use one that can be put away when it’s not in use.

In the photo here, you see that my space is larger than most quilts I make.  The left side holds a wall quilt in progress.  Once I start sewing the blocks together, I’ll put them back on the wall in units so the layout doesn’t become confusing.  The magic of this wall is that fabric clings to the fleece (or flannel, or batting, whatever you use) without pins. This makes it easy to move blocks around until the arrangement is just right!  Once several blocks are sewn together, the weight sometimes makes it necessary to add pins to hold things in place.  And, yes, I do move to the floor when the whole thing is too cumbersome to hang – but by then the design decisions have been made.

My wall also serves as a holding station for projects on the way to becoming.  As I see pieces in progress (as on the right side of the photo here) I plan ways to bring them to completion, or combine them with another project.  Serendipity comes into play sometimes as stray blocks sit beside each other and become companions in a quilt.


The blocks on the wall are a reinterpretation of Miss Lily’s Red Baskets, which I shared here.  I stitched all these little baskets (they finish at 5 1/2” square) with Kaffe Fassett fabrics onto a Cherrywood background.  Once I put them on the wall, they needed something.  I decided to use the focus baskets like one in Miss Lily’s project, but, rather than one, I used three.  And, rather than a bow, I added these birds cut from a funky whimsical fabric I had on hand.  The leaves came from that fabric, too.  While the baskets are all needleturn applique, the birds and leaves are raw-edged.  They are held in place with Jude Hill’s invisible baste stitch.  As I do the free motion machine quilting, I’ll stitch these pieces down.

This photo shows my debate about using all basket blocks, or including some free-flying birds.

As usual, you can click on any image to enlarge it.  When done, just exit the photo and you’ll come back to this page.

Kim’s Art Journals

Kim came to visit and brought some of her art journals.  Kim is an artist with talents in many areas; most recently she’s been focusing on various styles of journaling.  I had seen a couple of her junk journals, but these with her story characters are really exciting!

Here are photos of her angel journal, a project in progress.  The shot of the cover reveals that this is an altered book from a stash of rescued and repurposed volumes.

Kim’s imagination seems to know no limits!  She works with a variety of materials and resources, finding treasure everywhere and incorporating it into her collages.

 

 

Kim has stories to go with all her journals.  And look at her characters.  Aren’t these amazing creatures?  I haven’t heard all their stories, but just seeing the various pieces bring delightful possibilities to mind.

Here are the Bodeenses; bunny sisters who live with a human family and try to hide their ears.  When in high society, they get nervous and their ears “flop out” at inopportune times.  Is this the most delightful children’s story you’ve ever heard, or what?  I can’t wait until Kim gets the book finished!

The photo of this fabulous creature doesn’t do it justice.  You need to know that this head and its crowning glory measure 24″ tall!  Wow, it is stunning!

Kim is a master of paper and metal and matting and framing.  She wants to add textiles to her art and I know that will just add another level of richness to her work.  I have some ideas for her, and she helps me with the non-fiber details of some of my pieces.  What fun it is to collaborate and get new ideas!

Summertime in South Georgia

Memories of a hot summer day in my childhood include sweet, juicy, sticky watermelon.  At our house, there was most always a melon or two cooling in the shade of a pecan tree in the backyard.  Mid-morning was the time we would gather round the picnic table with Aunt Nellie’s butcher knife, some forks, and a big appetite!  I had a salt shaker in my hand, too.

This quilt is made using a photo of childhood friends with slices of that summertime treat.  The photo is printed on vintage linen fabric, the watermelon slices are painted and seeds are hand stitched with black thread.  A seed stitch was used, of course.  Machine stitching and wool batting adds dimension to the piece.  It is layered on red fabric and a remnant of denim jeans, measuring 10” x 12”.

Thanks to Arlene for permission to use the photo.  She and her brothers Wayne and Jerry portray the perfect summer scene in south Georgia!

 

Witches on Parade

My friend Penny came to visit.  Penny is oh-so-talented.  With a sewing machine, and with a paintbrush.  Usually, she paints furniture and stitches with fabric – but this day she brought fabric she had painted.

Serendipity again…she was using a pattern developed by Meg Hawley of Crabapple Hill.  That’s serendipity because I had recently watched Meg on an episode of The Quilt Show, so I had a better understanding of her technique.  Meg uses crayons on fabric, then embellishes with some embroidery.  Penny is using Derwent Inktense pencils which yield a very vibrant color.  I love it, don’t you?

The details in this group of witches is amazing.  Every time I looked at the piece, I saw more fun surprises hidden.  Penny has personalized hers, of course, making it even more special.  I can’t wait to see the final result

Here is a photo of another panel in progress.  Look how much control she has with the shading and contour.  Coloring books moved to fabric!

I know Penny is like me, she juggles several projects at once.  So whether these witches will be marching across a finished quilt by this Halloween or not, I’m not sure.  But she’s promised to share with me as it goes, and I’ll be sure to post final pictures, too.

In the meantime, she brought some of these pencils to share with me, so I’m off to play now.

Note:  These photos were taken with my phone, but you can click to enlarge an image and see more and more of Penny’s details.  Do that in the parade, and be enchanted (or maybe under a spell).

Steel Magnolia

I heard her voice before I saw her.

While I was checking in with the receptionist, I heard her explaining to her husband about his procedure.  She lovingly, kindly, patiently explained the test they would perform on his arteries.

With my clipboard in hand, I sat near the husband on a couch in the waiting room.  I realized a woman in a wheelchair was near him, but didn’t pay much attention.  As I answered the questions about my medical history and symptoms with almost all no’s, I realized how fortunate I am to have these interruptions to my schedule – these bothersome tests that are recommended when one reaches a certain age – be nothing more than that.  I became conscious of the frail woman sitting near me.  She couldn’t have weighed more than 80 pounds.  But her leg braces and shoes looked much heavier.  She sat erect in that chair, though, alert and composed.

After her husband was called for his procedure, she sat quietly waiting.  When I heard a mechanical sound, I realized she had tapped her watch and it was audibilizing the time for her.  I paused to think of the challenges she has every day and now her husband is in for some tests.  My interruption to my day for this pesky test was seeming less troublesome by the moment.

Before I could complete my pages of family medical history and engage her in conversation, her partner returned.  He said, “ I can go now.  Should we call transport?”  “Yes, push me over and we’ll ask them to call.”  She tapped her watch again and it gave the time as “8:05.”  Then again, and it spoke “8:06.”  But it was 11:06 a.m.  Oh, my.

The pair approached the desk where, in a confident voice, she asked, “Could you call our transport for us, please?  The number is ….”. She recited the ten digits confidently.  And, then, “Thank you,”  in as strong a voice as any southern lady possesses.  That voice alerted me that this woman did not want my sympathy.  She has my respect.

I’ve thought of this couple many times in the days since that encounter.  I wonder about his test results.  I wonder who cooks for them.  I wonder if they get out a lot and interact with other people.  But I do not wonder if she is handling everything like a steel magnolia.  I know she is.

Art quilt notes:  The finished size is 13” x 17”.  The line drawing is free-motion machine stitched on a remnant of an old linen pillowcase.  The remainder of the work is hand stitching – layers of vintage lace, buttons, and an old quilt fragment complete the assembly.  The lace tablecloth remnant and linen coaster used as a label were dyed in my indigo vat.

Basking in Blue

I spent a lot of time in June dipping in my indigo dye pot.  I dyed and overdyed treasured bits of fabric.: baby blankets, remnants of old quilts, bits of lace, repurposed shirts.  I experimented with heavy paper and wooden buttons.


Part of the fun is the surprise element.  As time goes by, the vat becomes weaker and the color less intense.  Of course, any blue is beautiful to me, dark, light, and all shades between the extremes.  Every fiber reacts to the dye differently, and the results change based on how many times a fabric is dipped.

In an earlier post, I’ve written more details about the dyeing process.  And, if you want to see more work with my results, type “indigo” in the search box and you’ll find finished art quilts which included some of the pieces I had dyed.

Many of these recent bits of blue will become part of future pieces of art, but I made a journal keepsake preserving many swatches of treasured blues.  There are sixteen pages cut from old quilt remnants in shades of white.  Every added snippet of fabric, button, bead, and even thread, holds a memory of the search, the find, the experimentation with its color.  Preserving stories doesn’t always need words.

You Can Make Anything

I’ve long had a quilt in my mind called Family Lines in which I would record oft-repeated lines from family members.  It would bring warmth as a cover, but also warm memories for others to recall the voices from the past.  Some of those lines I’ve already written about, like Daddy singing “Pa, he bought him a great big billy goat…” or Wallace’s oft-quoted line “you shore can’t sop syrup with ‘em.”  Advice like Aunt Nellie’s, “Always plant geraniums in clay pots,” and Jim’s   query to the girls, “did you unplug the curling iron?” will add practical notes, too. (Details of those stories are here, here, and here.)

One line I would have to include from my mother is, “You can make anything.  But you can’t make everything.”  I quoted this to a young quilting friend of mine last year as we were discussing some of the tempting patterns for making tote bags.  Though they are lovely and give one a unique accessory that displays favorite fabrics and techniques, they are time consuming to make.  She repeated my mother’s line and said, “Wow.  That’s so true.  And a powerful line to remember.”

Yes, she was right – it is a powerful message.  I’ve had that line running through my head a lot lately.  I look around my sewing space and see fabric waiting to go in the dye pot, fabric that’s been dipped in the dye pot and ready to compose into Rescued Remnant pieces, photos to print on fabric, strips of fabric waiting to be woven backgrounds ala Jude Hill.  In my sketchbook is a series of churches I want to put on cloth. On my design wall are components for my Paducah journal quilt in progress. In another basket are luscious wools cut and ready to stitch.  Of course, the time for the guild challenge draws closer.  And there’s more, including a few UFOs that could command my attention.

Then there’s the avalanche of images and ideas that press into my mind wherever I look.  Especially if I look online.  Projects that are physically unbegun, but I have to resist the temptation to begin them.  My mother also said, “Finish what you’ve started before you start anything else.”  ( I know –  the mention of a few UFO’s tells that I don’t always follow that advice.)

I try to use the brainpower generated by my morning walk to plan my “work” for the day. (I put that word in quotes because I do think of the “do the work” advice given to artists fits my daily activities, but in no way is what I do in the sewing room anything but FUN.)  Lately my focus of that brainpower has been to narrow the field of possibilities and remember, to paraphrase my mother’s advice, “I can do any of these things, but I can’t do all of them today.“

The photos show snippets of today’s temptations.  At least one of those will get some focused attention.

Pink Ribbon

My sister was beautiful.  This photo was taken when she was about twelve years old – she was still an only child at that time.  It would be three more years before I came into her life.

When I was younger than twelve, I would look at this photo and dream of looking like Jane when I reached that magical age.  The years rolled by and my mother took me to a photographer to mark that special birthday, but I was disappointed in the result.  I did not have Jane’s thick, wavy hair, her tanned complexion, or her beautiful brown eyes.

The original photo of Jane was taken by my grandfather and there is a version hand tinted by my Aunt Corinne.


Recently I scanned the image, printed it in on fabric, and painted the bow.  Jane’s favorite color was pink,so a deep shade of that was the obvious choice for her ribbon.  In the photo, she was wearing a locket, and I had a mother-of-pearl bauble which seemed to be a good substitute.

A bit of batting, some free motion machine quilting, and I was ready to hand stitch the piece to a bit of vintage edging.  I used some metallic thread to stitch her necklace (hand embroidered backstitch) and some silken twist thread to attach the photo to the lacy border.  Both threads were gifts from a friend, items from his late mother’s stash. The in-progress photo is one I sent to the friend while I was working, letting him see his mother’s supplies at work.

 

All these layers were stitched to a red background, commercial cotton fabric.  This is custom framed in a 16” x 20” frame, with a double oval mat.