Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Natural Dyeing

Time seems to zip past me in a blur these days, probably something to do with the fact that I have been frantically working on my quilt for the Festival of Quilts.  Happily I put the final stitches in last night and it is even now winging its way to the Shippers who will take it to the NEC.  I shall contain my excitement (not) and show it to you after the exhibition,mostly because I can't be bothered to go and fetch my camera and upload the photo I took this morning!  Lazy beggar!

When I wasn't working on my quilt I have been to another workshop.  This one was tutored by my friend Angela who blogs as Fenland Textiles.    We had a really lovely and leisurely day so that while I started out feeling a bit stressed by the end of the day I was tired but relaxed and had some lovely fabric samples to boot!

The day started with Angela introducing the natural products we would be dyeing with and these were madder, weld, cochineal, brazilwood, logwood, cutch, dandelion and birch bark.  

Each of the dyestuffs were boiled up and then simmered until the colour looked strong enough (technical term) and then we had to cleverly drain off the liquid, remembering not to let it go down the drain!  The dye was then returned to the pan and the fabric and yarn samples simmered further.  By the end of the day we each had a group of samples of each colour.  Angela was a star for preparing 8 packs of  9 samples of various fabric, lace, yarn etc.  That's a mountain of small squares and acres of yarn tied with little snippets of cotton. 

Angela had brought some samples of ready dyed fabrics and yarns to give us an idea of where we were heading

Our own samples were hung up to dry over lunch

and we dyed just as much in the afternoon session but I didn't get chance to photograph them before they were packed away to take home. 

The results above are, clockwise from top left, cutch, cochineal, brazilwood, weld (bottom right), birchbark, daffodil, logwood and madder (centre).  The daffodil came out a very delicate colour and the logwood is a gorgoeus colour.  I should point out that all the fabric and yarn had been mordanted by Angela before we started.  

I am used to dyeing with Procion dyes which give you a trong colour but I really like these gentle hues and may well investigate dyeing from natural sources further.  

Angela has prepared a proper dye book from her own samples and I still have to do that with mine.  I do hope to use the dyed fabrics in a project so I keep a permanent reminder of the workshop.  I should say that the workshop took place at Unique Cottage Studios near Spalding.  

I thought you might like a little news of my mum, not wishing to bore you but I do like to share good news.  Mum is doing really well and has had another visit from some very special friends from home.  

Doesn't she look happy!  Mum coped really well with the visit and enjoyed the conversation, just taking a little time out when she couldn't quite keep up with everything.

As you'd expect when friends get together food played a part.  We went out to a local pub for Sunday lunch and mum decided she would share a dessert with her fiend.  We tried to tell her that the pud would be too big but she assured us she could eat it ;-)

What do you think? ROFL  Mum's eyes nearly popped out of her head!  And the laughter went on and on :-)  Fortunately there were three willing volunteers (well, sort of willing) to help her work her way through this mountain (which of course is obscene bearing in mind what's happening in Africa).

All in all a wonderful day full of laughter and memories.  It is wonderful that people should take time to travel all the way to Lincolnshire to visit Mum.
What was that?  "Get off your lazy butt and phtograph your quilt!"  Oh, all right then.  I don't think there is anything to stop me showing you my entry to FOQ as it's not a juried show and I am definitely not in line for any of the prizes.

Not the best quality photo but you get the general idea.  The quilt is a turning nine patch which I then cross cut so it's a disappearing 9 patch, hence the title 'Turning, Disappearing'.  It incorporates altered digital images printed on organza and I quilted it with a wavy pattern.  I don't mean to gripe but I am disappointed in it because I wanted to be much more adventurous but circumstances prevented that.  I am at least relieved that I have met the target and it's now in the post so there won't be a gap on the wall with my name on it.  If you're going to Festival of Quilts it's number 330The fabrics are nearly all my own hand dyes.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011


Despite the fact that my entry for the Festival of Quilts still isn't made I have been indulging in some displacement activity.  My excuse is I've runout of Extravorganza and I'm waiting for a delivery.  So last Thursday I went to my monthly quilt group and joined in with a day of bag making.

The book was based on a pattern from this book and despite finding the cutting instructions a bit confusing the bag went together smoothly. (You can look inside the book here.)

The pattern confused me because it seemed to be referring to the front focus piece as the back.

The back was pieced to include some of my hand dyed fabric and I decided to use a pattern stitch from my machine for some of the top stitching.

These dangly details on the sides (otherwise known as ties) were probably the hardest part.  My DH had to help me turn them through!  (I've just realised the toggles belong to another pattern so I could have just left the ties plain, or maybe stitched a large bead or button on.  They were fun to make though despite the turning problems).

Several ladies finished their bags on the day but I had to spend the best part of a further day finishing mine.  You can see another version of this Momoyama bag on my friend's blog here. Wendy made her bag without the aid of a tutor or a safety net ;-) 

PS You may have noticed a photo of Belstead House where we had our Summer School at the top of my sidebar.  Plans are afoot to close this  excellent Learning Centre next year and a petition has been organised to try and change the Council's mind.  I think we are all aware of the sad lack of resources available to adults wanting to increase their learning so please consider clicking the link and signing the petition.  The deadline is next Tuesday 19 July. 

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Summer School

It hardly seems possible that a week ago I was enjoying a wonderful weekend in the company of some lovely ladies who share my passion for Contemporary Quilting or textile art.  Belstead House in Ipswich was the venue for a whole weekend of hard but stimulating work with Jo Budd.  Other classes being held were with Linda Maynard for Screen Printing and Helen Parrott for hand stitching.  My class with Jo Budd was titled 'From Microcosm to Macrocosm' and would involve painting and printing fabric with a view to producing abstract textile pieces.

I have to confess to being apprehensive about the whole experience but I needn't have worried.  Jo was a very sympathetic and supportive teacher and my fellow classmates were all very friendly.  

On Friday night, after a very enjoyable dinner and a welcome drink, we adjourned to the classroom for a very hectic time making marks with different types of binders, both opaque, white and clear, on different weights of fabric.  These were left to dry overnight and would form a starting point for applying dyes on Saturday morning.  Sadly I didn't photograph this stage of proceedings and anyway, it would have been a very boring photo as some of the marks were barely visible.   

On Saturday after a hearty breakfast, yes, even I ate a cooked breakfast, we got into the business of applying dye mixed with a binder to the prepared fabric and then moved on to making monoprints. 

You can see that our workspace was a hive of industry with none of us really knowing where we were headed. 

To help us view all of our pieces we each had a display board or sheet of insulation board.                         

This was my board. You can see the results of the 'resist' technique at the top of the baord.   I still have to wash those pieces out so Iexpect they will look much different when I've done that.

After dinner on Saturday we adjourned to the gardens for a review of existing work that we had all brought with us. 

The yew hedge provided an impromtu display wall.

Sunday morning saw us up bright and early and back in the studio ironing the fabrics we had printed the day before (before breakfaast, I might add!).  Then the real work began (not that we weren't exhausted already!).

Jo was keen that we should all work in natural daylight so work stations were moved to take advantage of any available daylight, including the garden.

I had really looked forward to this final part but I found it soooo difficult!  My planned method of constructing a layered seascape didn't seem to work and eventually I threw everything back down onto the work bench and started again. 

These were my second attempts:

While I felt that a lot of my fabrics had similar marks these three above, together with a sheer overlay on the lower right area, looked as though they would work.  With Jo's input they grew into this:

It made quite a difference widening the view and I don't know why I didn't try this myself.

The arrangement above became split to give this

and I have a couple more possible compositions to work with.  The idea now is to use stitch both to bond the pieces to their base fabrics and also to provide surface interest and texture.  You may have a while to wait as I have to finish my quilt for Festival of Quilts first.

A quick glimpse of the screen printing room.

and of the hand stitching room.  We were all so busy that there was very little time to look at everyone else's work although there was provision in the schedule for this.

Well, I have more to bring you up to date with but I'd better save it for another post or you will be nodding off!  I apologise for the randomness of image size when you click on in this post but I've got a new laptop and I am also working with Photoshop Elements 6 and I'm not familiar with all its eccentricities, most particularly how it stores it's photos.  I seem to be saving countless copies of things in various folders.  I've also taken so many photos lately that I just havn't had time to re-size them all.