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...

...so 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!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Indigo Thanksgiving

Remember my bucket o' shibori from a while back?  On Thanksgiving weekend a few weeks ago, I set up an indoor vat so that I could do one final round of dyeing for the season.  I didn't love the experience of dyeing indoors in cramped quarters, but it was fun to get the end results.  Here I'll just show a few of the highlights.

Kumo knots, randomly tied:

Two pieces of shirokage (white shadow):

Tesuji (pleated shibori, tied and bound to a rope) willow variant:

Leaf clusters made with a combination of stitched shibori, orinui shibori, and kumo tying:

Towards the end of the summer, I wanted to do more pole-wrapping, so I dyed a number of arashi and bomaki pieces with different techniques.  Here I'll just show off three of them.  The first was done with bomaki, with the fabric sewn into a tube that fit the pipe pretty tightly before I cinched it up and twisted it a bit.  The result was a finer series of lines compared to other pieces I've done with this technique:


I did another piece of bomaki with the excess fabric along the edge facing the inside of the tube, and then, after I cinched up the fabric, I also wound string around the tube to try and create some breaks in the lines.  The resulting effect was subtle, but I like it:

Finally, I dyed a piece of arashi shibori with a criss-cross pattern:

Can you figure out the technique? I actually dyed the piece once before, so it already had a series of diagonal lines.  I wound it on the pipe again in the other direction, wrapped it with string, cinched it up, and dyed it again to form the criss-cross pattern.

In other news, Blogathon Canada is on the horizon, and I'll be hosting this year!  For more details, click here.  I'll be posting as part of the Blogathon on Nov. 17, with a great giveaway as well--stay tuned!

Finally, I've made some significant progress on the indigo quilt.  I don't have a good photograph, thanks to all the dark, gray weather that we're having, so I'll save that update for another time.  Let's just say that a couple of the Thanksgiving indigo fabrics have already made it up on the design wall.

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

Monday, November 3, 2014

Blogathon Canada 2014!

Blogathon Canada is coming up, and yours truly will be one of this year's hosts!  Sew Sisters, a wonderful Toronto-based quilt shop, is sponsoring this online festival for the third year running in order to celebrate quilting in Canada (hooray for the land of the maple leaf!).  For each day of the Blogathon, two quilters will post about their own work and also provide links to quilters in their home provinces.  Fun and exciting giveaways will abound as well!  Giveaways will take place in both the individual quilters' blog entries and on the Sew Sisters blog, thanks to the generosity of Aurifil, Northcott, and Robert Kaufman, along with Sew Sisters.  (Breaking news on 11/7--Camelot Fabrics and Timeless Treasures have joined in as well--I'm giddy at the thought of all of the forthcoming giveaways!)  If you're a Canadian blogger, you can link up as well: see the Blogathon announcement over at Sew Sisters for details.  I don't know exactly what's in store, so I'm waiting with just as much anticipation as everyone else!

Here's the full schedule:
Monday, November 17BCStaceyStacey in Stitches
Monday, November 17BCJessicaMomiji Studio
Tuesday, November 18MaritimesLindaScrapmaster
Tuesday, November 18MaritimesLindaStitch Lines
Wednesday, November 19ABKelseyEveryday Fray
Wednesday, November 19ABLeanneShe Can Quilt
Thursday, November 20SKHeatherPeace.Love.Quilt
Thursday, November 20MBLoriNight Owl Quilting
Friday, November 21QCJoséeThe Charming Needle
Friday, November 21TerritoriesJanetCaribou Crossing Chronicles
Saturday, November 22ONLorna Sew Fresh Quilts
Saturday, November 22ONSandyUpstairs Hobby Room

Check back in a couple of weeks to join in on all the fun, and maybe even win some awesome fabric or other stash.  Many thanks to Sew Sisters for organizing this fabulous event--I'm looking forward to playing my part!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Figged out!

Our summer plum harvest was small this year, but this fall, our brown turkey fig tree has been out of control!  DH and I have hardly eaten any fresh fruit other than figs since early September, and at the peak a little more than a week ago, we were picking a couple of dozen figs a day:

Fortunately, our neighbors like figs, but even so, we still had quite a surplus!  In desperation, I started exploring fig recipes: chicken with a fig balsamic sauce, fig ice cream, fig almond cake...

Everything was tasty, especially the fig ice cream.  I'm still perfecting the recipe, but the following, adapted from David Lebovitz, The Perfect Scoop, is worth a try:

2 lbs. figs (brown turkey figs, mission figs, or other varieties)
1 lemon
1/4 c. water
3/4 c. sugar
1 c. heavy cream
chopped candied ginger, about 1/4 to 1/2 c. (optional)

Cut off the stems from the figs, chop them into eighths, and put them in a pot with the water.  Zest the lemon peel directly into the pot, bring it to a boil, and simmer for about 8-10 minutes, until the figs are soft.  Add the sugar, and boil down until the mixture reaches a jam-like consistency.  Brown turkey figs have a lot of water in them, so you can boil quite vigorously until the mixture thickens and then simmer it more gently, with frequent stirring so that it doesn't stick and burn.  When the fig mixture is ready, turn off the heat and let it cool to room temperature.

When cool, stick in a blender with the cream and blend until smooth.  Add freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste (I used about 1-2 Tbs.).  Chill thoroughly, and then churn in your ice cream maker according to your machine's instructions.  As your ice cream churns, add the chopped candied ginger as a mix-in if you like.

I found this ice cream on the sweet side, and almost more of a sorbet than an ice cream, although with a very rich fig flavor.  I tried again with 1-1/2 pounds of figs, half a cup of sugar, and 1-1/2 cups of cream, but that batch of ice cream came out on the grainy side.  When I see my parents in a couple of weeks, I will try again with the smaller amount of figs and sugar (already cooked and in the freezer!), but just a cup of cream, and report back.

Cheers, and happy eating!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Around the World Blog Hop!

Pedal Sew Lightly invited me to participate in today's Around the World Blog Hop, and I'm delighted to join in on the fun!  A couple of weeks back, Gayle's newly-acquired sewing studio caught my eye (I love seeing quilters' work spaces!), and I've also enjoyed admiring her quilts, with their bright colors and strong geometries, all very much in modern quilt mode.

The blog hop provides a glimpse into quilters' creative lives by seeking answers to four questions.  Here goes:

1. What quilting/sewing thing am I working on?

I spent much of the summer exploring shibori indigo dyeing, and now I'm starting to sew with my fabrics!  I've been making gradual progress on the quilt pictured above over the past several weeks.  Work is proceeding slowly, but I'm now starting to see some structure developing in the center and am considering my next steps.

I also recently took a shibori indigo dyeing workshop with Jane Callender, a dyer from England well known for the precision and visual impact of her stitched shibori pieces.  For a glimpse of some of Calli's work, see her website, callishibori.  The workshop concentrated on producing fabrics with underdyeing and overdyeing on cottons and silks, with the goal of ultimately using layering and cutwork effects to explore texture and dimensionality in bag-making and other objects.  Calli also helped us to refine our nui shibori techniques, and I learned some nifty tricks for avoiding those dyed stitch marks at the beginning of my rows of stitching.

Calli asked us not to take photos during the workshop, because she's writing a book on the bag-making techniques, so I'll just share a few highlights from my final results:

Stitched shibori dyed dark indigo, with some touches of color from Procion dyes
Nui (stitched) shibori; base in yellow and green Procion dyes before overdyeing with indigo
Nui shibori: close-up
Itajime on habotai silk: Indigo overdyed with pomegranate
I love how the nui shibori pieces came out.  They are testimony to the power of improved stitching techniques, the right kind of thread (a very strong bonded nylon), and an extra strength dye vat made up with synthetic indigo, which got to a very dark blue-black after just four dips.

Finally, waiting in the wings, my stash contains a wonderful selection of Kaffe Fassett shot cottons, along with newly purchased Oakshott shot cottons.  I haven't quite decided where I'll be going after the indigo quilt, but these are the fabrics begging the loudest for attention:

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I'm not sure that I have a real signature style--it's not as if I'm a van Gogh or Picasso.  I do work in at least a couple of distinct ways, however.  One is an improvisational, collage-like mode, as in the current indigo quilt project, in which I take a few basic design elements and then start filling in.  For example, "Mood Indigo" (2012), with its carp fabrics and strips of flying geese, was also made in this way:

"Mood Indigo" (2012)
With these quilts, I usually try to balance a feeling of motion and energy with a sense of structure: the quilt should keep the eye moving, but without being chaotic.

"Brushstrokes" (2011)
"Serenity" (2010)
I also enjoy working with repeated blocks, some of my own design, in which the individual blocks interact to create additional layers of pattern and visual interest, sometimes with a planned layout, and sometimes with a high degree of improvisation.  These quilts can be as simple as a repeated rectangle or square (as in "Shibori Study #1 (2014)), or more complex, as in "Starry Night Jazz" (1994) or "Antique" (2004).

"Shibori Study #1" (2014)
"Starry Night Jazz" (1994)
Close-up: the single, asymmetrical block that I designed for "Starry Night Jazz"
"Antique" (2004): Made with a traditional Churn Dash block and a variant with a large center
I really must take proper photos of some of my older quilts one of these days!

As you can see from the above, I have a weakness for blue fabrics, Japanese textiles, and hand-dyed fabrics.  Although I have plenty of commercially printed cottons in my collection and enjoy working with them, I do love rare fabrics that are either made in small batches or are truly one-of-a-kind.  My stash includes antique Japanese cottons and silks, African fabrics, hand-dyed cottons, and various other unusual finds, plus the indigo fabrics that I've started dyeing myself.

3. Why do I write/create what I do?

My fondest childhood memories revolve around art and crafts, and I've always loved the time spent alone in a room creating.  I truly cannot be happy if I go too long without creative activity and working with my hands.  As a child, I sewed, played with paints, did a lot of origami, tried paper-cutting, and even experimented with a little patchwork in my early teens.  I am terrible at drawing and representational art, but good with straight lines, color, and pattern, which makes pieced quilts the perfect medium for me.  

4. How does my writing/creating process work?

It sounds banal, but I guess I start with an idea, usually based either on a particular block that I want to work with, or on a few choice fabrics and a rough sense of placement, or both, and I strive for an end result that has visual strength and that appeals to my aesthetic instincts.  For example, with "Dragonfly Blues" (1997), I knew I wanted to combine squares of the dragonfly fabrics with a range of half square triangles in order to produce an asymmetrical design with a forceful sense of line and movement:

"Dragonfly Blues" (1997)
Occasionally, I'll make a preliminary sketch, but usually I just start cutting fabric.  A lot of my quilts require sewing up a bunch of blocks, and then playing with them until I like the arrangement.  For example, when I made "Drama Adorno" (2013), I originally imagined placing the blocks very differently, but I had a much stronger visual effect with the end result:

"Drama Adorno" (2013)
Other ideas require careful planning from the start.  The layout of "Antique," for example, may look somewhat random, but it was actually meticulously planned, and if you stared at it long enough, you might see the patterns beneath patterns that I had in mind.  Or back in 1994, when I got the idea of using a traditional cross block to form the illusion of an interlaced lattice, I pieced the background and lattice strips according to a precise layout determined in advance:

"Autumn Lattice" (1994)
Although it took me many years to return to this design, I'm fascinated by the lattice effect.  I've made a couple of quilts with the same block since, and I will continue the series of lattice quilts in the future.

I could go on and on, but this post is already pretty long, and I need to finish it before Monday is truly over.  If you made it this far, thanks for your attention!

For the blog hop, I had planned on inviting some VMQG members to share their work, but a couple of the people I had planned on asking just got tagged last week!  Instead, I'll just direct you to three choice blogs that showcase talent from our guild: What Comes Next?, where you'll find examples of Janet's absolutely exquisite FMQ, which adorns her already gorgeous quilt designs; Stacey in Stitches, which will give you a sense of Stacey's rich color sense and her precise and stunningly elaborate piecing; and Terry Aske Art Quilts, where Terry showcases her wonderful pictorial quilts and other adventures in fiber art.  I particularly admire Terry's architectural quilts, as well as the series of pieced trees that she's worked on over the years.

Cheers, and happy sewing!

10/7: Linking up to WIP Wednesday on Freshly Pieced and The Needle and Thread Network.