Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Finished! "Indigo Summer"

"Indigo Summer" is finished, binding and all:


I loved every moment of making "Indigo Summer," from the dyeing of the fabrics, to the improvised piecing, to the hand-quilting, and then, finally, the faced binding.  It's quite a stunning quilt, if I do say so myself.  I'm thinking of entering it in the National Juried Show of Quilt Canada 2015, although I haven't quite decided whether or not to face the nervousness of putting the quilt into the mail.

I took the photos with my snazzy new 50mm lens.  This lens avoids the curved distortion on the edges that comes with my telephoto, plus the large aperture (to f1.8) allows photos in lower light conditions.  Definitely a good addition to the camera bag, especially if I start to enter shows on a regular basis.

I also made progress on the log cabin quilt this week.  No photos, alas, but I'm just about finished with the fourth block, and I'll try to have pictures next week.

Linking up to WIP Wednesday on Freshly Pieced and The Needle and Thread Network.  Happy quilting!

1/30: Now linked up to Finish it Up Friday on Crazy Mom Quilts, Link-A-Finish Friday at Richard and Tanya Quilts, and Off the Wall Friday at Creations...Quilts, Art....Whatever.  Cheers!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

What comes next?

I've just about finished the indigo quilt (photos to come), so the question was, "What comes next?"  I have all sorts of plans for other quilts with indigo dyed fabrics, and also quilts without indigo dyed fabrics, not to mention plenty of UFOs.  Did I decide to work on any of them?

Why do that, when I can pursue yet another idea?  On Sunday, while I was poking around in the Maiwa Supply store on Granville Island, I started rummaging around in the scrap bin there.  Now, I'm supposed to be on a fabric embargo, since I already have more than enough fabric to quilt for the rest of my life.  But as with any embargo, a little smuggling gets through here and there. 

In the Maiwa scrap bin, I found long strips of beautifully dyed, mostly solid cotton fabric, and I immediately thought, "Log Cabin quilt!"  I figured I could fill a small paper bag ($3) with these scraps, take them home, and just see what I could make from them.  Of course, I kept pulling out fabrics and digging down to the bottom of the barrel, literally, and in the end had to get a medium bag ($6).

The bag wasn't actually that large, but it weighed close to five pounds, and after I ran the fabrics through the dryer to remove some lint, I had an enormous pile.  I folded and sorted everything to see what I had:

Although there are only about seven or eight main colors, there are lots of subtle differences.  For example, I think the dark browns amount to five or six different shades.  Since all of the cottons are dyed with natural dyes, they also go together beautifully.

But what kind of log cabin quilt to make?  I want to try for something understated and sophisticated, in which the quiet differences in tone will add up to a powerful visual effect.  I looked at a lot of photos of quilts by Emiko Toda Loeb and Shizuko Kuroha, two quilters whose work I've admired over the years, for inspiration.  Both of them incorporate a lot of traditional Japanese aizome (indigo dyed) cottons into their work, and Kuroha's indigo quilts have a particularly wonderful luminosity to them.

I had originally thought I would use only the Maiwa fabrics, but I settled on a log cabin block with a large center cut from my own shibori indigo dyes.  Here's the first block:

Will this work, or will it just be kind of boring and monotonous?  We shall see!

Linking up to WIP Wednesday on Freshly Pieced and The Needle and Thread Network.  Cheers!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

2014: The Year in Indigo

For me, 2014 was an incredibly exciting year of exploration into the possibilities of indigo dyeing.  Here's what I learned by experimenting in my outdoor "dye studio" during the late spring and summer: 

1)  how to set up and manage a thiox vat

2)  improved dipping technique: how to work the fabric to promote even dye penetration, a particularly important issue when trying to dye solids

3)  the properties of different fibers and how they take up indigo: Kona PFD, Essex linen, cotton gauze

4)  the possibilities of different shibori techniques: itajime (clamp resist), nui (stitched) shibori (especially shirokage, or white shadow shibori, which I think is a particularly exciting technique), kumo (spiderweb) shibori, and arashi and bomaki (two different pole-wrapping techniques) 

I was sad to put away the dyeing supplies in the fall, but two Maiwa workshops helped with my indigo withdrawal.  Jane Callender helped me to refine some of my stitching techniques, as well as to try Procion dyes for the first time.  Gasali Adeyemo provided an introduction to Yoruba techniques, along with major insights about the indigo vat.  I also started quilt-making with the fabrics that I dyed during the summer, which will give me the needed indigo fix throughout the winter.

What's up for 2015?  A big project at the day job will require much more of my focus, so this year's indigo dyeing probably won't be as intense as last year's.  I do have some goals, however.

1)  First and foremost, I want to try a zinc-lime vat.  The zinc-lime vat offers the advantage of working at low temperatures (down to 60 Fahrenheit) and relative ease of building to dark shades, with minimal waste of indigo.  It has fallen somewhat out of favor (at least in the U.S. and Canada--I still see quite a few British dyers using the zinc-lime vat) due to disposal issues.  A chemist friend tells me that the real problem is less the zinc itself, however, than cadmium, and as long as I use highly pure zinc, disposal won't be an issue.

2)  More complex arashi techniques and patterns are on the agenda as well.   I love pole-wrapping, and I've only tried the most basic possibilities thus far.

3)  I splurged and purchased a special shibori tool so that I can try more intricate knotting techniques.  It's still slow going, but I'll see how much prep work I can manage of FQs this winter.

4)  I'm not sure I'll have time to explore capping (a method for resisting large areas of fabric), but I've seen so many beautiful samples that require this technique, and I'd like to try it someday.

5)  I really, really want to try katazome dyeing, although I don't know if 2015 will be the year.  I see that John Marshall will be holding a 3-day workshop in Eugene, Oregon in June, which is highly tempting, but the trip might put too big a dent in my budget.  If I'm lucky, perhaps Maiwa will have a katazome workshop that will fit my schedule. 

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Adire eleko and batik with Gasali Adeyemo, Part II: The vat

My account of the Adire eleko and batik workshop with Gasali Adeyemo would be incomplete without a discussion of the dye vat.  In addition to his ability to render designs with enormous elegance and strength of line, Gasali is a master of the indigo vat.  Indigo in the Yoruba region of Nigeria (to the southwest) comes from the elu plant (Lonchocarpus cyanescens, according to my Google search), which dyers grind with a mortar and pestle, mix with wood ash, and then form into balls by hand before letting the indigo balls dry.

Indigo balls
Dried elu leaves
Gasali prepared a small vat for the class ahead of time--I think it was maybe five gallons or so--and told us that it required about 60-70 of these indigo balls for just the one dye bath.  He uses an organic fruit vat, so it had to be set up well in advance in order to allow sufficient time to reduce the indigo.  Alas, I don't have a photo of the actual vat, but the dye solution was gorgeous and strong, with a powerful, bubbly bronze sheen on the top of the dark blue surface and a beautiful dark amber color below.  (This level of reduction isn't possible with the thiox vat that I used this summer, because when the solution is reduced to that amber state, the thiox reacts too quickly and will strip off (re-reduce) the indigo from the fabric and prevent the build-up to dark shades.)  Although we only did one dip for each of our fabrics, they still came out a rich medium blue, and with great dye penetration to boot.  Even better, I experienced little dye loss when washing and rinsing the fabrics, and the run-off was virtually clear in the final acidic rinse.

Now I know what to look for in a truly great vat, and I am more eager than ever to try a zinc lime vat next summer!

Monday, November 24, 2014

And the winner is...!

Blogathon Canada 2014 has made for a busy week online--more than 3000 hits, and well over 300 comments (compared to a previous high of about a dozen).  That's a lot of action for this humble blog!

And--drum roll please--the winner of the 10 Chérie fat quarters is:

Lucky #164: Lolly, of Redwork Quilts!  Congratulations, enjoy the FQ bundle, and happy quilting!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Welcome to Blogathon Canada 2014: + Giveaway!

I'm happy to declare that Blogathon Canada 2014 is now off and running!  This week-long festival, organized by Sew Sisters, celebrates quilting in Canada and its on-line community.  We're starting off in BC, with me and Stacey in Stitches as today's hosts.  My job is to say a bit about myself, and to lead you to some other provincial talent.  Plus, I get to offer a great giveaway!

I'm Jessica, and I started quilting over twenty years ago.  I discovered Japanese quilts and fabrics early on, and they have been my special passion ever since.  The internet made it possible for me to acquire far too many kimono silks and other traditional Japanese fabrics, so in 2008, I opened an Etsy shop, Momiji Studio, to sell bags and other items made from my stash.  "Momiji" means maple in Japanese, so as an immigrant, I named my shop in honour of the land of the maple leaf.  Shibori indigo dyeing is my latest obsession, as anyone who has read my blog over the past year knows.  A few days ago, I finally finished my first quilt top made with the fabrics that I dyed in the summer:

There were some scraps and a couple of blocks that didn't make it into the quilt... I immediately decided to make them into a mini-quilt!

It's not quite done yet--I still have to sew down the binding on the back and then make a label with the tiny bits of leftovers that still remain.  I confess to cheating just a little bit--the quilt top didn't seem quite finished when I ran out of scraps, so I went back to the stash for the dark strip running across the top.  That final bit really did turn out to be the pièce de résistance!

For more on my creative process and other quilts, there's a post from the "Around the World Blog Hop" back in October, and you're welcome to take a peek at my studio as well.  I'm also a founding member of the Vancouver Modern Quilt Guild, which provides a wonderful, fun, energetic, and creative home for the fabric-obsessed.  If you're ever in Vancouver on the third Monday of the month, please come and visit us! 

For more BC-based quilting talent, check out the blogs below, as well as the links on Stacey in Stitches, my fellow host today for Blogathon Canada:

Holly's Red Bike
Explore Fibre
Felicity Quilts
glitter, vinyl and thread
Leah @ L3 Designs
Nita Dances
Paul's Block Party
The Quilting Edge (Marianne has home bases in Edmonton and Victoria, so here in BC we share her
         talent with Alberta.)
Vancouver Modern Quilt Guild
Winding Bobbins

Last but not least, I have a great giveaway for you from Sew Sisters, the terrific quilt shop in Toronto that founded Blogathon Canada.  I chose a bundle of ten FQs from Chérie, Frances Newcombe's new line for Art Gallery Fabrics:

If you want a closer look at these fabrics, click here.  I love the fun, airy, light-hearted, yet elegant look of these designs.

The giveaway is open to anyone in the world with a mailing address.  To enter, please comment below before 11:59 p.m. PST, on Nov. 23.  If you are a no-reply blogger, make certain to leave your email address in your comment--if I pull your number but can't contact you, I'll have to draw another number.  I'll announce the lucky winner on Nov. 24!

You'll find opportunities to win more stash over at Stacey in Stitches, as well as an exciting giveaway from Aurifil over on the Sew Sisters blog, so hop on over and continue the fun!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Adire eleko and batik with Gasali Adeyemo, Part I

A couple of weekends ago, I had the opportunity to take a Maiwa workshop on adire eleko (cassava resist) and batik dyeing with Gasali Adeyemo.  Gasali is a wonderful dyer and part of a generation of Nigerian textile artists who are working to preserve and perpetuate traditional Yoruba indigo dyeing techniques, as well as explore new possibilities within Yoruba idioms.  His work is truly beautiful, and I couldn't resist splurging on one of his large pieces of adire eleko:

Adire eleko uses cassava paste, applied with a chicken feather or a straw from a broom stick, to lay down a resist.  The resist is somewhat permeable, which results in the blue-on-blue patterning, rather than the higher contrast of batik.

Gasali's sample: adire eleko, prior to dyeing
My own amateurish efforts, which betray a decidedly shaky hand, suffer even more by comparison (indeed, it's not worth comparing).  I don't actually draw all that well with a pencil, much less a chicken feather, but I had fun giving adire eleko a try.  The resist is hard to lay down--sort of like trying to draw a bead with caulk, which I'm also bad at.  Batik was a little easier for me, although I had a hard time knowing whether the wax on my foam "pen" was hot enough to apply, and I certainly couldn't produce consistently fine lines.  I'm embarrassed to show my adire eleko and batik samples, but here they are anyway:

adire eleko sample
adire eleko, sample 2
batik sample
At least my work conveys how difficult it is to apply these techniques in a refined manner, and how much practice it takes.  Gasali's artistry is truly impressive!

Gasali's batik demo: such skilled and confident lines!
In the classroom, Gasali deliberately adopts a slower pace, and he approaches both indigo dyeing and life with a warm and happy attitude.  He also makes sure that students learn about the place of indigo and textiles in Yoruba culture, rather than focusing purely on techniques.  We learned a few words of Yoruba, and we spent some time just sitting around and having a relaxed conversation about Gasali's home village and life in Nigeria.  Gasali also told us a lot about the work of the Nike Center for Art and Culture (Nike: first syllable--ee as in "leek"; second syllable like "kay"), founded by Nike Davies Okundaye to revive traditional Yoruba arts.  Gasali studied there, and he now works out of his own studio in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

The two-day workshop was a welcome break from my too-busy and frenetic way of things, and a reminder of the virtues of slowing down for a bit and taking the time to truly appreciate and enjoy life.  Instead of feeling tired from a hard day's work, I left each day of the class feeling re-energized and inspired.  Indeed, I made further progress on my indigo quilt top in the evenings after the workshop, as well as nearly every day for the past two weeks.  What a wonderful experience!

Linking up to WIP Wednesday at The Needle and Thread Network and Freshly Pieced.  There's more to say about Gasali's workshop--stay tuned!