Wednesday, May 28, 2014

P is for Progress

...or is it for Procrastination?

In either case, I've made some headway on my MQG challenge quilt and have completed 29 out of 54 letters.  As I mentioned before, I want to keep the full plan secret until I show the finished quilt to my guild.  It's probably asking too much, especially with indigo dyeing competing for attention, but I'd love to get it done in time for the June 16 guild meeting.  At the very least, I am determined to make the guild's July 21 deadline. 

Also, the weather forecast for the weekend is looking ideal, so fingers crossed that I will be shibori dyeing on Saturday and Sunday.  In the meantime, I just got a copy of Shibori: The Inventive Art of Japanese Shaped Resist Dyeing, by Yoshiko Iwamoto Wada, Mary Kellogg Rice, and Jane Barton.  It's indispensable!  I wish I had bought the book earlier, because it has all sorts of discussion and diagrams about different shibori techniques, including the white box shirokage pattern that I've spent so much time puzzling over.  Mystery solved!  I did get the stitching pattern more or less right on the two FQs that I tied recently, so we will see how they turn out after they go through the dye bath.

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

Sunday, May 25, 2014

A culinary adventure: Mock chicken

We're having a few friends over for dinner tomorrow (well, actually later today, now that it's past midnight), and I decided to get a head start by preparing mock chicken as an appetizer.  I actually think these Buddhist imitation meat dishes are kind of silly--if you're going to renounce worldly things and embrace vegetarianism, just do it.  But I happen to love the taste of this particular tofu dish.  I had made it once before years ago from Ellen Leong Blonder's recipe in Dim Sum: The Art of Chinese Tea Lunch, and enough time had passed that I forgot why I only eat it in restaurants and never make it at home.  The wet bean curd sheets tore and broke at every chance, and it looked like the dish was going to be a total disaster. 

Somehow, I managed to get a few pieces large enough to put together a decent roll and get it into the steamer.  With scraps, I made a second, smaller, more sushi-like roll.  To my surprise, the final result turned out beautifully and looks worthy of fine dining:

In addition, thanks to the dark soy sauce that I happened to use, I was amazed in the end to find that the pieces on the left really do look quite a lot like soy sauce roast chicken!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Two more pieces

I've prepped a couple more pieces of fabric for the next round of dyeing.  For the fat quarter below, I got the idea of doing a chevron variant from Karren K. Brito's Shibori: Creating Color & Texture on Silk:

I still have to pull the threads, and I haven't decided yet how I'm going to dye this one.  Brito suggests a rope resist for greater visual texture, which is a tempting idea.  But I might go for the contrast between dark and light zones by throwing it into the dye bath straight up.

I also prepped a piece for tesuji (pleated shibori).  The straps on my old tote bag are absolutely shredded, so it's time to make a new one, and I've decided the exterior should feature a tesuji dyed cotton, with a base in dark blue denim.  I took a 14" x 45" piece of fabric and pleated it lengthwise in folds of about 1 cm. in a fairly random and unmeasured manner.  Then I bound the whole thing tightly with cotton twine:

I had fun posing this sample: in the first photo, it looks like some kind of crazy fossilized nematode.  The binding process took me about 1-1/2 hours and was pretty hard on my hands, even though I wore a glove on my right hand to prevent rope burn.  I want to prep a second piece and wind it around a rope so that I can compare the results.  I will wait for a few days before doing that and also pulling the threads on the FQ, however, so that I can give my hands a rest.  Time to do some stretching exercises--and get back to my challenge quilt!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Stitching and pulling, pulling and stitching

The day job has been getting a bit busy again lately, plus I spend most of my spare time these days obsessing over indigo shibori dyeing.  But I will get back to my MQG challenge quilt in the coming week, I promise!

I haven't had time for another go at the indigo vat, and it will probably be at least another week before I can try again, assuming the weather cooperates.  Even so, there's plenty of preparation to do, especially since I want to do more nui shibori (stitched shibori).  When I haven't been blogging about indigo dyeing (see my last four entries), I've been stitching and tying up fat quarters.  I've managed five thus far, in patterns of varying complexity.

I stitched two up in the same grid pattern, so that I can compare a shirokage (white shadow) attempt with just regular dyeing.  Here's what one of the pieces looked like after stitching:

And here's what the other FQ looked like after I pulled up the stitches:

Somewhere I saw this pattern referred to as "white box." The name certainly fits, given the prominence of the little square boxes now that the threads are pulled.  I also think I've stitched correctly this time (see "The trials and tribulations of nui shibori" for my troubleshooting on the last effort)--the ridges of the fold lines should take up the dye nicely to form the grid pattern, in contrast to the resist that I should get from the pulled stitches.

I'm trying some other patterns and types of stitching as well.  This one should result in a mokume (wood grain) pattern alternating with solid indigo rectangles:

This overcast stitch should produce little feathery patterns along the diagonal lines, I hope:

overcast stiching: close-up
Finally, these rows of stitches should produce a pattern sort of like teeth in dental X-rays:

before pulling
The before photo looks simple, but before dyeing, I will wrap a couple of the wide furrows with strips of fabric as a resist.  I'll unwrap those furrows after 2-3 dips before dipping for another 2-3 rounds, in the hopes of getting two lighter blue rows between the "teeth" patterns, while the other furrows will make dark indigo rows. 

Linking up to WIP Wednesday on Freshly Pieced and on the Needle and Thread Network.  Here's hoping for warm, sunny weather late next week, or next weekend.  In the meantime, back to piecing letters for my challenge quilt! 

Monday, May 19, 2014

The lab notebook

A few years ago, I started keeping a journal in which I would jot notes about quilting ideas and new techniques.  Lately, I've taken to calling it my lab notebook, because indigo dyeing makes me oddly nostalgic for the long ago days when I was a chemistry major.  After all, indigo dyeing is all about maintaining an alkaline solution and managing oxidation and reduction.  I even have pH paper, although the color of the dye bath makes the paper hard to read, so I find myself wishing that I had a real pH meter.  Finally, the notes I take on dyeing are pretty much exactly like a lab notebook, right down to the quadrille-ruled paper:

I record my procedures, thoughts on experimental error mistakes, as well as goals for future experiments dyeing sessions, including planned variations in the dye bath to try and correct past problems.  In my next session, I'll start by writing out my "experimental objectives" as well.

When I used to do gel electrophoresis, I would tape photos of my gels into my lab notebook as part of my record-keeping and data-crunching.  Now I tape samples of fabric:

A couple of weeks ago, when I embarked upon my second dye vat, I told DH that I was going outside to "do chemistry."  Being a chem major would have been a lot more fun if we had spent our time indigo dyeing!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The trials and tribulations of nui shibori

I've posted various photos along the way, but I haven't provided any explanatory notes about my nui shibori (stitched shibori) attempts.  A few weeks back, I posted these photos of two fat quarters stitched and pulled prior to dyeing:

Here's the first fabric (photos 1&2 above) after dyeing:

I was hoping for a very dark indigo background, but as mentioned earlier, I think I had too much thiox in my first dye bath.  The mottling is also pretty bad, thanks to my failure to clear all of the indigo flower.

In the second piece (photos 3&4 above), I was trying the shirokage (white shadow) technique, in which binding to a rope or other resist produces a mostly undyed background.  Cape Cod Shibori on Etsy does a particularly nice job with this approach, and I've been admiring her "white box" fat quarters.

As you can see below, on the righthand side of the photo, I carefully wrapped the pulled fabric around a paint roller brush to protect the parts of the fabric that I wanted largely undyed.  I also took a thin piece of fabric and wrapped it around the edges of the bound fabric, to protect the outer borders:

Shirokage is supposed to be a fairly advanced technique, so maybe it wasn't the best choice for a beginner like me.  But hey, nothing ventured, nothing gained!  Alas, I didn't get the crisp, straight lines I wanted.  Instead, for some reason, mine came out on the ragged side:

I think I was supposed to fold along the grid lines and stitch in rows parallel to them, rather than stitching along the grid lines themselves.  I'm going to try this one again, with the alternative stitching technique.  More experiments coming soon!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Arashi shibori

Today I'll provide the back story on the three pieces dyed by pole-wrapping--the tesuji, arashi, and bomaki fabrics--that appeared in this week's WIP Wednesday entry.

I didn't take step-by-step photos, so you'll have to go elsewhere for more extensive descriptions of the process.  Lucia Lapone has written a good how-to on tesuji, although it's in Italian: "Tecniche: Tesuji Shibori."  Dharma Trading Company has instructions for arashi dyeing a necktie and a T-shirtArtThreads also offers a good arashi tutorial, while Shibori Vortex will give you a sense of how bomaki dyeing works

With tesuji, the fabric is pleated and then bound to resist, as in the sample on the left-hand side of the photo:

Usually, a piece of rope is used for the resist, but I didn't have any that I thought was thick enough, so I used a piece of PVC pipe instead.  I've since seen photos that suggest the rope doesn't actually need to be all that thick, or even to be used at all.  I'll try both of those approaches next time, along with finer pleats.

I don't have final photos of this piece aerating and drying, so I'll cheat and show pictures of my other tesuji piece from my first vat:

I experimented with using a paint roller brush for the resist.  It's easy to wrap, and the roller brush doesn't take dye because it's synthetic.  It does, however, soak up a lot of the bath during the dyeing process, so it's messy to wring out at the end of the day.  For that reason, I'm not going to be using the roller brush in the future.

This photo shows the bomaki technique on the left and arashi on the right, with both pieces straight from the dye bath:

For bomaki, you wrap the fabric around a pipe and cinch it up, so that the scrunched up fabric acts as its own resist.  In this case, I stitched the fabric lengthwise to form a tube.  I didn't want wide solid edges, so I put in a separate gather lengthwise up the middle of the fabric in order to get a good, tight fit around the pipe, and then I twisted the fabric after scrunching for an extra bit of patterning and visual texture.  Here's how the fabric looked after its final dip, but before taking out the stitches:

Finally, arashi involves wrapping fabric around a pole, binding it with twine, and then scrunching it up the pipe.  The twine acts as a resist and produces intricate patterns.  In my piece, I accordion-folded the fabric in thirds lengthwise and wrapped it on the diagonal.

When I finally removed the twine, the feeling was just magical:

The structure of the pleats combined with the pattern of the dye produces such a stunning effect!  Alas, the pleats don't last as the fabric dries out, although with silk, the texture can be steam set, which is what you see with all of those gorgeous arashi silk scarves that artists make these days.

Even so, the final result is still striking:

For extra arashi happiness, here's a link to artist Helen Bolland's gorgeous shibori silk scarves: Helen Bolland Shibori Pleated Silk Scarves.  Cheers!

Thursday, May 15, 2014


I've written quite a lot about the thiox dye vat and some of its challenges, so now it's time to say a bit more about some of the shibori techniques that I've been playing with.  Itajime, or clamp resist, involves accordion pleating combined with the use of various clamped objects to make patterns.  Traditionally, flat pieces of wood in different shapes provided the resist, but acrylic works even better, since it doesn't soak up any dye.  I mainly use acrylic quilt templates or rulers, since I managed to buy a cheap supply from Dressew, plus others at half price from Jo-Ann when I was in the States a while back.  That was before I discovered r0ssie, an Etsy seller who cuts acrylic specifically for itajime.

For a lengthier description of the folding and clamping process, see Kaizen Journey's instructions here and here

Here are some before and after shots of itajime pieces from my first dye vat.  The first photo shows the folded and clamped fabric after several dips in the dye bath:

I bought a couple of cheeses that each came wrapped on a piece of balsa wood, so I saved the wood for itajime.  I used rubber bands in order to get a bit of resist on the edges.  Here's how the fabric came out after unfolding:

Here's the same clamped piece, along with two others, during the oxidation process:

The middle piece is a half-yard pleated and clamped between two 3x9 inch rulers, while the one at the bottom is my beloved "windows" fabric, clamped with a square quilt template, two pairs of chopsticks, and a pair of popsicle sticks.

Here are the end results, set out to dry and aerate:

Note some of the greenish tints on the second piece, where the indigo hasn't yet oxidized completely.  The color transformation is so endlessly fascinating.  I love indigo dyeing! 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Indigo update

Today's post is brought to you by...

...the letter "U," for "update"!

I was out of town for family reasons for pretty much the entire past week, so I didn't have time for any sewing.  No new progress to report on my MQG Challenge Quilt, and no new dye vats either.  Instead, I'll mainly just share some show-and-tell from my second indigo dye vat on May 2.

As I mentioned before, I thought my first vat had too much reducing agent, which kept me from getting dark blues.  For this vat, I cut back on the thiox, and I achieved a nice gradation of solids:

From left to right, the above fabrics represent a sequence of 2, 3, 4, 6, and 8 dips in the indigo bath.  The actual dyeing sequence consisted of four fat eighths in which I withdrew one piece from dyeing after every two rounds of dipping and aerating (what I call a 2-4-6-8 dip).  I did the three-dip piece separately towards the end of the afternoon, when I was just trying to use up as much dye as possible.  Although the indigo isn't as colorfast as I'd like (I had a lot of dye runoff when rinsing), I'm really happy with these fabrics, especially the deep, dark blue of the final piece.

As with the first vat, I also dyed a number of pieces with various shibori techniques:

Itajime (clamp resist):

Arashi (pole-wrapping):

l. to r.: tesuji and arashi shibori
tesuji close-up
My attempt at shirokage ("white shadow" stitched shibori) didn't work out quite as I had hoped.  I was trying for the "white box" pattern that I've been admiring in Cape Cod Shibori's Etsy shop.   Instead, here's what I ended up with:

shirokage close-up
It's still an interesting piece, even though it's not what I wanted.  I think I stitched it incorrectly, and I probably also made mistakes in the way that I tied it to the paint roller brush that I used as a resist.  Now I'm in the process of stitching two new fat quarters in order to try again.  Here's how the first looked yesterday evening as I got started:

When I've prepped both of these fabrics, I intend to throw one in the dye bath straight up, while I'll try the shirokage technique again with the other, for a positive/negative comparison.  I've finished stitching the first piece, and it took almost an hour just to pull up the threads.  The knots pulled through the fabric on a few of them, so I have a little patching up to do--I'll see how that affects the finished product.

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