Wednesday, November 25, 2015

In the works

It's been quiet in my sewing room recently, so I can do a little more catching up in this post.  Back in mid-October, I went on a retreat for a fabulous weekend of sewing with some fellow VMQG members.  It was so much fun!   In addition to just gabbing away with fellow quilting fiends, I finally managed to make a name tag for myself, only five years after joining the guild, and I also contributed a block to a group quilt that's in progress.  But I spent most of my time working on the following:

It's the second in my new series of boro quilts.  Alas, I haven't worked on it since the retreat, but it's a high priority, and I will finish it soon.

A couple of weekends ago, I made another two indigo scarves for my Etsy shop:

Although it's pretty late in the day, I'm linking up to WIP Wednesday on The Needle and Thread Network and Freshly Pieced.  Hope all of your fiber-related adventures are happy ones, and for those of you in the U.S., happy turkey day tomorrow!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

I'm still alive and sewing, really...

I've been lazy about taking photographs and blogging over the past several months, but that doesn't mean that I haven't been busy with textiles.  I did a lot more indigo dyeing beyond what I showed a few months back, and I've been working on various projects since September.

Over the past several months, I've admired the matchstick quilting that a lot of VMQG members have been doing lately, which beautifully transforms the texture of a quilt--it becomes almost like a woven wall hanging.  I had been waiting for the right project to try the technique myself, and when I happened upon some photos of Japanese boro patchworks online back in September, I knew I'd found the right inspiration.  Boro typically involves the use of old indigo-dyed cottons, which are given new life through patchwork and heavy quilting by hand to keep worn scraps together.  I decided to dig into my collection of Japanese cottons and use matchstick quilting to produce an updated, boro-inspired wall hanging:

I just love the results.  There was something wonderfully meditative about doing the matchstick quilting, which didn't bore me at all, and the visual effect from using two different variegated threads (40 wt YLI and 50 wt Mettler) is really eye-catching.  This quilt is the first of what will be a series of boro-inspired wall quilts.

VMQG was the "featured quilter" at the recent show of the Vancouver Quilt Guild, so our guild did a special "Modern Mini" challenge to showcase modern quilting: solids only, maximum 80" around, and an emphasis on modern techniques and designs.  The exhibit had about 26 quilts by guild members, including mine:

"Oakshott Lattice," another of my lattice quilts, features a repurposed classic block and an emphasis on graphic design that are both characteristic of "modern quilting."  The quilt ended up looking very Amish, thanks to the black and jewel-tone Oakshott shot cottons.  But that seems entirely appropriate, since the 1970s quilting revival grew in part from the modern art world's recognition of the powerful design qualities of Amish quilts.

More recently, I've started making scarves from my indigo-dyed gauze fabrics, so that I can add some much-needed inventory to my poor, neglected Etsy shop:

Finally, here's something on my design wall:

I'm not sure where it's going, but a dear friend gave me some gorgeous shibori dyed cottons from the grand old days of Kasuri Dyeworks in Berkeley, and I really, really want to work with them.

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

Saturday, August 22, 2015

From the vat: Arashi and cotton gauze

I've been slow to post, but here are the remaining highlights from my first major round of dyeing this summer.  I did a little bit of pole wrapping, with narrow strips of fabric about 6-1/2" wide:

The piece on the right is more or less the same technique, but there's a way of twisting the fabric as you push it up the pole that produces the broken lines.  I haven't quite figured out how to do it consistently, but it's a nice effect.

Here's a little experiment, in which I pleated the fabric before winding it around the pole and wrapping it with string:

I was hoping for less white and more blue, but the result is interesting.

Finally, I dyed some cotton gauze in scarf lengths:

I love working with gauze, because it takes up the indigo so beautifully.  The first piece is tesuji, while the second is a non-traditional technique in which you wrap the fabric around a piece of string, and then pull the string tight so that the fabric is in a kind of ring-shaped scrunchy before it's dipped into the vat.  It's an easy, easy technique, with oh-so-pleasing results.

There's not much time left for me to dye this summer, but I still have more results to post.  Stay tuned!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

From the vat: Nui shibori

As I mentioned in a previous post, when I saw that my vat had reached optimal conditions, with the dark amber color that indicates well-reduced indigo at a reasonably high concentration, I reached for the pieces of stitched shibori laboriously prepped earlier.  After six rounds of dipping and oxidizing, I took a seam ripper and opened up the first piece, which was a small test piece about 6-1/2" wide meant to try out a design that came into my head:

I had three more pieces of nui shibori which I put through an additional four rounds of dipping and oxidizing before carefully undoing the stitching.  The results were thrilling.  First of all, here's my pride and joy, a selvage-to-selvage quarter-yard piece using a technique that I learned from Jane Callender last fall:

mokume close-up
another mokume close-up

I also love how this tatewaku pattern turned out:

Sorry not to offer a close-up.  My photo-editing program managed to eat up the image as I was editing it--a really strange glitch that I hope won't become a regular thing.

Mokume stripes on the diagonal also turned out well, although closer rows of stitching might have avoided some of the uneven breaks in the dyeing:

More to come!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Yes, I still remember how to quilt...

Although I haven't been in the blogosphere much lately, that doesn't mean I haven't been getting my hands dirty.  In addition to indigo dyeing, I've also been working on a bed quilt, which I started basting last night:

I'm tired of our ratty old Ikea duvet and decided that we ought to have a real quilt on our bed.  A couple months ago or so, I bought on sale a kit of Birchtree Lane fabrics, with their fun bird, leaf, and feather designs, which I supplemented with various tone-on-tone fabrics in whites and light browns.  I didn't make the actual quilt design of the kit, but did simple diamond-in-a-square blocks.  My sewing machine is headed to the shop for a thorough cleaning, and when it comes back, I will be ready to quilt!

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

Monday, July 20, 2015

From the indigo vat: Solids

I'm always like to test the vat out by dyeing a range of solids:

From left to right, the six shades involved, respectively, 3, 4, 5, 8, 14, and 20(!) cycles of dipping and oxidizing. The 4- and 5-dip pieces were done separately from the rest of the lot, after I saw some final results and wanted to fill in a couple of gaps in the gradation.

The solids taught me a lot about the vat.  After the first half dozen dips or so, the fabrics didn't seem as if they were getting much darker, and at times I wondered if they were actually losing color.  Very frustrating!  But I kept going anyway, to see what would happen, especially after the vat reached a dark amber that made me think it just had to be working properly and adding more blue.  After I washed the final two pieces on the right, the true color underneath was significantly darker.  Somehow, the zinc-lime vat seems to leave a lot of unreduced indigo on the surface of the fabric, which later washes out and reveals some happy surprises.

At the same time, I was able to get to dark shades more quickly with last year's thiox vat.  The 20-dip piece on the far right isn't really any darker than a good dark blue that I got after about eight dips last summer.  In the workshop that I took last fall, Gasali Adeyemo says that he gets a dark blue in just 3-8 dips, which suggests that if I want really dark blues, I can be much braver about using a heck of a lot more indigo than most of the standard vat recipes suggest.  I tried to look up the maximum solubility of indigo in an alkaline environment, but no luck thus far in getting that particular chemical statistic.

I also can't honestly say that the blues from the zinc-lime vat are significantly different from the ones from last year's thiox vat.  Maybe the difference in tone from the Japanese fabrics in my collection comes from the indigo?  Or something else in the vat chemistry?  I wish I had some Japanese indigo that I could try, for purposes of comparison.  If anyone wants to bring me some natural indigo from Japan, derived from polygonum tinctorium, please feel free to do so!  Or if you want to grow it yourself and ferment it for me, I will happily try it out!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Indigo 2015: The vat

I've been lazy about blogging, but I've been busy with this summer's indigo dyeing.  This year I'm trying a zinc-lime vat, which takes time to set up, but is supposed to produce deeper, richer blues than the thiox vat.  In mid-June, I prepared my first stock solution:

The stock looked really good after five hours of reduction--the dark amber color was just what it's supposed to be, and there was a good, thick layer of  indigo "flower" with a nice bronze sheen on top.

This vat uses zinc as a reducing agent in combination with calcium hydroxide (lime).  Although the zinc-lime vat has a reputation for being a bit tricky to manage, it has a number of advantages in addition to the colors that it produces.  It reduces indigo efficiently, works at room temperature down to about 60 Fahrenheit, and can be revived even after months of non-use.  Unfortunately, as I noted in an addendum to a previous post, the zinc is rated as a hazard for aquatic life, so the vat has to be disposed of properly as hazardous waste and can't be poured down the drain.  In the longer term, if I want a room temperature vat, I'll have to switch to a ferrous sulfate vat.  It doesn't have the efficiency and longevity of the zinc-lime vat, but is better for the environment (at least as far as anyone knows at the moment).

I had difficulty with the vat for the first several days.  Various dyeing guides talk about looking for a "French mustard" color or a color ranging from yellow to dark amber, depending upon the amount of indigo in the vat.  I thought I had a vat on the yellow-ish side when I first started dipping, but after several rounds, I didn't seem to be building additional color, and my first fabrics weren't very well dyed.  In retrospect, I think the vat was too green and the indigo wasn't reduced enough.  The initial vat also didn't stay chemically balanced as long as I thought it would, and when I went away for a weekend after the first few days of dipping, the vat died completely.  I fiddled with sharpening the vat by adding various combinations of additional zinc, lime, and indigo, and eventually, after about ten days after the original stock solution, I got the following result:

At this point, the vat seemed very bubbly and lively, with lots of dark blue "flower," flecked with bronzy blue bits.  The vat liquid itself reached a perfect dark amber, and I felt certain it was just right.  I immediately started dyeing some elaborate nui shibori pieces that I had laboriously stitched and tied a while back, but didn't dare dye until I felt confident about the vat.

I'll discuss the results of my initial round of dyeing in the next few posts.  Indigo Summer 2015 is well underway!