Wednesday, July 30, 2014

There's always something...

pH matters.  Really.  Ask me how I know.

On Sunday, I did another round of indigo dyeing--mainly, redyeing of some solids and itajime FQs in order to try and build up more color, but also a few new pieces.  The stock solution looked good, and I thought I had a strong vat, but late in the day, it seemed to me that I wasn't getting nearly as dark a blue as I expected after six rounds of dipping.

I wasn't very rigorous about checking the pH.  I was reusing the stored solution from my last vat, and usually the problem is the extremely high (alkaline) pH that comes from continually adding in new stock solution.  Although the vat does get more acidic over time, due to chemical interaction with the air (specifically, the carbon dioxide, according to J. N. Liles), I figured that wasn't happening quickly enough to counter the new stock solution, and I didn't want too alkaline and corrosive a dye vat.

I did check the pH of the vat before adding new stock solution, and it was at pH 9--on the weak side for dyeing cotton, but significantly alkaline.  I therefore made the stock solution with less lye than usual and assumed it was enough, but didn't recheck the pH.  After three dips, the level of the dye solution in the vat was too low, so I added about 1-1/2 gallons of hot water, in addition to more stock solution.  Three dips after that, I noticed that I wasn't building much more color.  I checked the pH, and it was only pH 8!

Not good at all!  I mixed three tsp. of lye in water and added it to the bath, which got the pH up to 10.  After that, the final two rounds of dyeing for the day yielded much better results.

Every time I start to think I know what I'm doing, something else pops up.  I will just have to keep playing indigo whack-a-mole, but one of these days I will manage two unproblematic vats in a row.

Even so, although the final colors won't be as dark as I had hoped, I had a good day at the dye vat.  I'll do a full show and tell after everything is washed and ironed, but for now, here are a few scenes from the morning after:

Linking up to WIP Wednesday on The Needle and Thread Network.  Happy sewing, everyone!

Saturday, July 26, 2014


"Hey!  You're supposed to sleep on the bed, not in the bed!"

Of course, as our cats know full well, we deny them virtually nothing.  *Sigh.*

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Finished! "Quilt with Attitude"

I finished my MQG challenge quilt and showed it off at last night's VMQG meeting!  Here it is, "Quilt with Attitude":

"Quilt with Attitude" was inspired by all of the lively, fun-loving, and ever-imaginative people at the Vancouver Modern Quilt Guild, especially the delightful, smart, and artistically adventurous Amy.  In addition to making quilts in the "modern quilt" mode, she produces thought-provoking fiber art that explores fundamental questions about gender, sexuality, body image, and identity.  She also has a wonderfully candid and vivacious in-your-face attitude that manages to be no-nonsense, opinionated, hilarious, warm-hearted, and generous all at the same time.  Amy's descriptions of her projects during show and tell frequently crack me up completely, and when she talks about her modern quilts, her discussion of the creative process almost inevitably includes her signature technique: "And then I quilted the crap out of it."  I've always thought that should be the motto for our guild, as I've indicated on the reverse side of my quilt:

The quilt doesn't really bow in the way it seems to in the photos--the telephoto lens that I use produces the distortions around the edges.  The corners are actually squared off pretty well, and the quilt hangs straight, thanks to the overnight blocking that I did before binding it yesterday.  I'm going to have to try and take better photos (i.e., not zoom in so closely to avoid the distortion, and then crop) before posting on the challenge thread in the MQG community forum.  Click the link if you want to check out all of the challenge quilts!

Technically, "Quilt with Attitude" isn't a work in progress anymore, so this week's WIP is my studio:

Now that the challenge quilt is finished, I can try cleaning up my wreck of a sewing room!  I never finished last summer's Studio Makeover series, because I got stuck waiting weeks and weeks for shelving to arrive.  By the time it finally came in, the day job had kicked into high gear, and I didn't install the shelving until November.  I will try to get this disaster zone clean and camera ready for next week!  In the meantime, check out the studio tours over on Sew Canadian.

Freshly Pieced is on vacation until August, so for now, I'm just linking to WIP Wednesday on The Needle and Thread Network.  I'll also post on some of the Friday finish sites in a couple of days, and do a retro post on Freshly Pieced once Lee is back in action.  Cheers!

7/25: Now linked up to Finish it up Friday on Crazy Mom Quilts, Link-A-Finish Friday on Richard and Tanya Quilts, and Off the Wall Friday at Creations...Quilts, Art....Whatever.  Happy sewing!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

I'm quilting! WIP Wednesday

I basted the MQG challenge quilt last night, and this morning I started quilting on my trusty Juki.  Here's a glimpse of the progress thus far:

I have family visiting this weekend, so it's going to be difficult to get this quilt done in time for Monday's VMQG meeting.  Fingers crossed that it will be ready, somehow!  I think it will help speed things up if I go buy some painter's tape to mark my quilting lines, as suggested by Tallgrass Prairie Studio.  The 3/4" masking tape I'm using isn't really the right width, and some 1/4" and 1/2" painter's tape would be extremely handy right now.

I also stitched up a couple more nui shibori FQs:

I'm hoping to be back at the dye vat no later than next weekend, once the challenge quilt is finished.  I need my indigo fix!

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

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Progress: WIP Wednesday

I don't have much in the way of pictures to show, but I made plenty of progress this week.  In order to prepare for the next round of indigo dyeing, I stitched up a few fat quarters:

I need to finish my MQG challenge quilt first, and then I can get back to indigo dyeing.  The quilt is starting to come together: all of the letters and words are pieced together, and the first side is close to ready.  With any luck, the quilt will be basted this weekend, and finished next weekend.  Thirteen more days until the reveal date at the July 21 VMQG meeting!

For now, I guess it won't give away too much if I show one generic word:

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

Friday, July 4, 2014


You might recall that back in May, I tied two fat quarters with ori nui stitches in a grid and then pulled the stitches up tight:

I decided I would dye one piece as is, while I would try shirokage (white shadow) shibori with the other.  With shirokage, the fabric is tied to a pipe or rope in order to provide a resist, so that the ridge created by the pulled stitches gets most of the dye, while the background remains lightly colored.  I tied one of the stitched and cinched up fabrics to a doubled-up rope, and then I put both fabrics through six rounds in the indigo vat.

The results make for a fascinating comparison:

The first fabric, which went straight into the vat, is perfectly nice and beautifully colored, but it's not nearly as dramatic or striking as the shirokage piece, at least to my eyes.  Isn't it fascinating how two identically prepared fabrics can turn out so differently?

More recently, I tied another ori nui piece with a pattern of interlaced lines.  Unfortunately, I don't have a good close-up from before the fabric went into the vat, but it's the one at the bottom of the pile in my June 24 blog entry.  I tried shirokage with that FQ as well, and it's my favorite from last week's dyeing session:

I used Kaufman Essex linen (55% linen, 45% cotton) PFD for this sample, and I love the extra visual texture that the linen provides.  It's almost like the canvas of a painting.  In fact, I hate to contemplate cutting this fabric up for a quilt--it's tempting to stretch it onto a frame and hang it without any further ado.  Or maybe it will become the center of a medallion quilt?

I've since read up on the details of the shirokage technique in Wada et al., Shibori: The Inventive Art of Japanese Shaped Resist Dyeing.  It's possible to produce a much whiter background, by lining the back of the tied fabric with cotton wadding (e.g., quilt batting!) before tying it to the resist, and also filling in the holes on the front side with wadding.  Now I know what to try next time!

Happy Fourth of July!  Hope there's plenty of sewing, quilting, and fabric dyeing out there south of the border, in between the barbecuing, World Cup matches, and fireworks!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Indigo highlights

The results are in!  I'll post more detailed accounts over the next few days about some of the fabrics I dyed in last week's indigo vat.  For now, I'll just do a little show and tell, with more show than tell.

Test swatches (sequence of 1-9 dips) and a couple of solids:

Itajime (clamp resist):

Nui (stitched) shibori:
mokume (wood grain) shibori
ori-nui shibori
maki-nui shibori
My pride and joy--two shirokage (white shadow) pieces:

As for quilting, work on the MQG challenge quilt continues.  I have twenty days to get it done in time for my next guild meeting.  Time to kick it into high gear!

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