Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Spreading the Gospel of Indigo

VMQG hosted this year's Pacific Northwest Modern Quilt Guild meet-up, and we had a fun-filled weekend of fabric, food, and general quilting camaraderie.  As part of the festivities, I offered two "quick dip" mini-workshops that gave people an opportunity to try a specific shibori technique and go a couple of rounds in the indigo vat.

In addition to VMQG members, quilters from Seattle, Portland, and Victoria came to my backyard dyeing sessions.  In the morning, participants had a choice of either pole-wrapping or tesuji, while the afternoon was devoted to stiched shibori.  I was too busy teaching and took no photos, but fortunately, I have some from the workshop participants:

prep work (photo by Terry)

The first dip!  (photo by Karen)
Varying degrees of oxidation (photo by Terry)

A successful morning! (photo by Terry)
I loved seeing everyone's excitement and wonder at watching the dipped fabrics turn from green to blue, and their delight at first viewing their final results.  Karen captured the latter moment particularly well in her photos:

Holly is so excited to see how her bomaki turned out!
Terry happily unwraps her arashi sample
Janet shows off her tesuji willow variant
I don't have photos from the late afternoon nui shibori workshop.  Everyone was pretty beat by then, after all of the day's fun and jaunting about Vancouver!  We also ran out of time, so people took their pieces away before undoing the stitches and will share photos later on.  (Note to self: in the future, don't expect to do a nui shibori workshop in 90 minutes.)  Karen attended both workshop sessions and kindly sent a photo of her two pieces drying at the end of the day:

Other meet-up activities included a Friday evening picnic and optional craft apron swap, a visit to the Common Threads Indigo Quilts at Christ Church Cathedral in downtown Vancouver, a Saturday night Lebanese feast at Nuba, and a Sunday of good eating and shopping.  I didn't do everything, because running the indigo workshops left me feeling completely wiped out.  I did go to the Friday night picnic and the Common Threads exhibit, plus a little bit of fabric shopping on Sunday.

I managed to participate in the random apron swap, and the wonderful apron I received, made by the fabulous D. from Seattle,  couldn't have been better if she had designed it specifically for me:

My happy apron, but not my photo: I found it posted online.
I am extremely partial to the Etsuko Furuya Echino prints, as well as the combination of green, blue, and purple.  The apron has loads of compartments, including slanted pockets designed specifically for a rotary cutter and scissors, and it came loaded with a generous selection of fabric (what could be better for a quilter?) and a big spool of Mettler thread.  Friday happened to be my birthday, so I felt extra happy about the unintended birthday present.  I have already used the apron: I'm stitching up nui shibori fabric for dyeing, and I'm trying to break myself of the bad habit of sticking needles in the comforter on the bed, so that purple pin cushion attached to the apron is just what I need.

The Common Threads Indigo Quilts are the truly fabulous and gorgeous result of a communal project and a must-see for anyone quilter who visits Vancouver.  Definitely recommended!  The Sunday shopping included Fabrics, Etc., a new place that just opened a little more than a week ago and that carries all sorts of tempting quilting cottons, textiles for garments, and home decorating fabrics in a roomy, warehouse-style space.  The person who manages the store (I don't know how to spell his name, but it sounds like "Tian" (rhymes with "Ian")) is extremely nice, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable.  He arranged a brief Sunday afternoon opening just for the meet-up and provided a warm welcome to the group.  I hardly needed more fabric, but of course I couldn't resist.  I also found nice, sharp John James needles, and they are already helping with the nui shibori.

Next year's meet-up will be in Seattle, and I hope to be there!

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

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Studio Makeover, Part V: The Final Tour

I've been following the Sew Canadian series of studio tours on Mad About Patchwork and decided finally to finish (more or less) last August's studio makeover.  To recap, my studio is in a first floor room that's meant as part of a rental suite in our house.   It's about 10' x 11', with south-facing windows and two doors, since the room provides passage between the front entryway and the back of the house.  It's small, but based on the Sew Canadian tour, it seems generously sized compared to what many Canadian quilters have, even among those with dedicated sewing space.  Erica at Happy Fabric, for example, sews in a tiny 6'x9' room without any windows, while Krista at Poppyprint has an 8'x9' sewing room, all of which makes it a little hard to keeping calling my studio cramped.  On the other hand, I once read a blog in which someone complained about the limits of her lavish, 400-square-foot sewing palace, and I've seen the occasional quilt studio online that's almost as large as our whole house.  At any rate, I'm lucky to have my modest but comfortable fabric empire, and in my renovation, I've tried to take advantage of every bit of cubic footage. 

As you might recall, a year ago I installed a lot of new cabinetry, and I left off while waiting for the final set of shelves to arrive.  I put the shelves in last fall, and more recently, I spent the past few weeks cleaning up a lot of mess and putting in a few final touches.

Here's what you see from the entryway, with about two-thirds of the room visible in the photo:

The windows are on the right, and as you enter the room, there's floor-to-ceiling storage on the west wall off to the left:

Almost all of the furnishing is from Ikea: the Billy bookcase and wall cabinet, the wire mesh drawers, and the red cardboard storage boxes.  As I mentioned last week, I used washi paper (from Paper-Ya on Granville Island) and cardboard to make inserts and cover the glass doors.  For the shelf above the wall cabinet, I splurged and ordered shelving from Pottery Barn.  It took forever to arrive, but when it finally came, it fit in perfectly with the rest of the room.

On the righthand side of the above photo, you can see the doorway leading to the back of the house.  The open door hides a multitude of sins:

As I said before, my studio makeover prioritized storage maximization.  In addition to hiding some cardboard and other items on the floor, the door itself also holds a storage sling made from an old sheet that I use for extra cutting mats and cardboard boxes. 

The studio doesn't have a lot of space for a design wall, so I installed one with three panels, two of which hang from a folding closet door and can be removed easily when I need to get at the fabric inside:

No wasted space here--I even cut around the doorknob so that I could use the closet door for the design wall!

On the east wall, I installed more Pottery Barn shelving below the Ikea kitchen cabinets that I put in last August.  The cutting table, which is the perfect height for me, is also kitchen storage from Ikea.  The placement jutting out from the wall, rather than up against it, is important to me, since I like to be able to work from all three sides.  As you can see, I still have some detritus hiding on the floor.  I'm too embarrassed to show what's inside any of the storage, but I will confess that it's all pretty much full, mainly of fabric.  

My sewing machine tables also stand along the east wall, straight ahead as you enter the room:

I mainly use a Juki TL-2010Q, which I bought about a year-and-a-half ago and just love.  When I need a freearm, I haul out my old Janome MC5000, which also still holds my affections.  When not in use, the Janome sits on the windowsill under its cover.

In theory, I can remove the back table and put it away in our storage room when I don't have anything large to quilt.  In practice, I've had the two-table set-up in place for about two years now.

To the left of the sewing machine tables, there's plenty of room for storing notions and other supplies:

Yet again, the bookshelf is from Ikea, as is the red drawer unit, along with the sewing machine tables (but not the metal adjustable legs, which I purchased separately).  The various shoeboxes are decidedly not from Ikea, but they are great for organizing supplies.  I suppose they would look really nice if I covered them with washi or fabric, but functionality is good enough for me!  The drawer unit has wheels, so I can pull it out easily if I need to.  The pegboard, which was a scrap that just happened to fit the bookshelf perfectly, represents another example of storage maximization:

Small touches here and there brighten the room, such as my green pencil box from Room in Order:

The silver grey plastic trash bin, as well as the stylish set of black metal bookends on top of the Billy bookcase, are also from the same place, which is a wonderful Vancouver store that I learned about from the studio tour at Terry Aske Art Quilt Studio.  Terry is a fellow member of VMQG and a supremely talented quilter and artist.

I removed the ironing board in order to take photographs, but here it is, back in its rightful place by the window:

My decor is on the spartan side, in part because I've commandeered almost all of the wall space for working or storage purposes.  Even the wall behind my sewing table gets used at times for photographing items for my Etsy shop.  I also like the minimalist, functionalist approach, which keeps my focus on whatever I'm creating at the moment.  But I have a couple of happy little items hanging here and there to keep the room from being sterile:

And that, as they say, is that!  Except that it's not--I still need to construct a new foam insulation extension table to fit the Juki (for an example, see here), find that stupid misplaced tool that will allow me to raise the adjustable legs on the front sewing table up by a notch, and make a dust cover for my wire mesh drawer unit.  I also need to do some major destashing, in the hopes of storing away that extra stuff that's currently on the floor behind the cutting table.  But my studio is functional, clean, and basically ready for a new round of creative activity this fall.

Linking up to WIP Wednesday on Freshly Pieced and The Needle and Thread Network.  I'm also posting a few photos on the Sew Canadian Flickr group.  Happy quilting, everyone!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The latest: WIP Wednesday

Today I woke up to dark gray skies and pouring rain, but at least I have photographic reminders of sunnier times.  Last week, a couple of quilting friends came over to try indigo dyeing, and K. sent me photos from the day.  Here are some samples of the fabric dyed by my "students":

P. likes to work big and bold:

The piece on the left is bomaki (a pole wrapping technique) on linen.  In the middle piece, P. ambitiously stitched up an entire half yard and tried shirokage, but with a resist on just the back side, and no cotton wadding on the other side.  As a result, quite a bit of dye reached the center squares, but even so, there's still some resist, and the results are striking.  On the right, P. tried itajime and achieved a simple, yet dramatic, set of large rectangles.

K. wanted to try more intricate techniques.  She carefully wrapped a pleated FQ for tesuji, and she also tried some nui (stitched) shibori, along with a simple arashi sample:

K.'s samples, happily drying at home
I showed K. how to tie leaf shapes, which you can see in the lower right-hand side of her nui shibori sample.  Elsewhere, she also tied some freehand kumo circles, and she tried both overcast and running stitches.

K. and P. both ended up with some magnificent fabrics, and we all enjoyed a happy summer day at the indigo vat.

As for my own WIPs, I got last week's fabrics washed, dried, and ironed.  I'll blog about some of them in other posts (including a couple on kumo shibori that are already up), so here I'll just show a few that won't receive further attention:

Tesuji in a willow variant--quarter yard with three large kumo knots (two visible in the photo) tied first before the fabric was pleated and bound:

The kumo "knotholes" aren't quite as prominent as I had hoped they would be, but I still love this piece and will try for the willow pattern again in the next round of dyeing.

Ori nui in the tatewaku pattern:

Mokume attempted on Kaufman Essex linen (55% linen, 45% cotton):

I wanted to see what would happen if I just stitched the straight lines by eye, rather than marking them first.  That, combined with the use of the linen-cotton mix, probably accounts for some of the unevenness in dyeing.  I will try again with a more carefully stitched pieced!

As indicated above, I've started stitching and tying fabrics for my last indigo dyeing session of the year, which will take place sometime in the next ten days or so.  I'm not very far along yet, so I will have to do a lot of stitching and binding in the coming days.

In the ongoing studio makeover/clean-up, I finally made washi paper inserts to cover the glass doors on my wall-mounted cabinets and protect my fabric from light:

I think I bought the paper six or eight months ago.  Nothing works like procrastination!  The inserts are not fancy: cardboard covered with white paper and then washi, all put together with tape.  Only one of the inserts was large enough to stay in the window without extra support, so I had to put masking tape in the corners of the other two:

Not the most professional finish ever, but at least it's functional.

Finally, the sockeye salmon run has begun, and DH and I are making salmon caviar!  Here's the batch from yesterday evening:

Linking up to WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced and The Needle and Thread Network.  May you prosper in all of your creative endeavors!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Kumo shibori (II): Freehand rings

After dyeing the stitched kumo shibori circles, I thought they looked a bit too precise and regular, so I wanted to bind some freehand kumo shibori rings.  I prepped two pieces: the first with rows of three rough circles evenly spaced (along with a line of more randomly tied kumo circles) on a fat quarter, and the second with kumo binding close together all over a small piece of fabric.  Here's how the fabrics looked after tying:

Do they remind you of sea urchins, or some other watery ocean find?

Here are the final results, after multiple rounds of dipping:

Now that I've seen these raggedy circles, I think I prefer the carefully stitched ones!  But the dense clusters in the second piece are sort of fun and remind me of sand dollars.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Kumo shibori (I): Stitched circles

Today I'll continue my discussion of techniques from my most recent dyeing sessions.  In mid-July, after more than two months of experimentation, I realized that I hadn't done any kumo (spiderweb) shibori, and I didn't want to end the summer without any samples in my stash.

Kumo shibori is the method closest to 1960s hippie tie-dyeing: fabric is gathered, and then thread is wound around the gathers to create patterns.  For a step-by-step description of the process, with plenty of photos, try this link to Art Threads.  In my first experiment, I decided to compare circles in kumo shibori and in a stitched shibori similar to mokume (wood grain) shibori.  On one piece of fabric, I stitched the outline of the circles, gathered the stitching, and then tied the kumo shibori knots:

Kumo shibori, after multiple dips and aeration
For the other fabric, I made folds, stitched concentric rings of half circles, and then pulled up and gathered the stitches, in a variation of what is called the Japanese larch pattern (karamatsu shibori):

Karamatsu shibori variation, oxidizing after one of the early dips

 Here's the step-by-step revelation of what I saw as I untied the kumo shibori FQ:

Kumo threads removed, with the circles still gathered at the base
Excitement!  The first row of circles revealed!
The entire piece unbound

Compare and contrast with the same sized circles, but stitched in the karamatsu pattern:

Neat, huh?  More to come!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Shirokage II

About a month ago, I discussed the process for shirokage, but I didn't have much in the way of photos.  Today, I'll describe how it works in more detail, with the play-by-play back story of this piece:

I don't have photos of the stitching, but it's the same method as pictured in my July 4 blog entry.  In this case, I drew the triangular grid on the fabric with a chalk pencil.  Then I folded along the grid lines, and put in a running stitch parallel to the fold lines about a quarter of an inch below.  I like to use Cebelia DMC #20 thread, which is strong enough that it doesn't need to be doubled, but still thin enough to stitch with relative ease.

I pulled up the stitches, knotted the loose ends, and cut off the excess thread.  After that, I stuffed little bits of cotton wadding (from cotton balls) into the little depressions that resulted, like so:

The cotton fluff acted as a resist, so that the triangle pattern would stay relatively white.  In order to keep the dye off the back side, I put a couple of layers of quilt batting at the back, and tied everything to a piece of PVC pipe:

Prepped fabric immersed in water prior to dyeing
Next came the dipping!  Here's how it looked after one of the early dips:

Several dips later (after a total of eight), I took the fabric off the pipe:

Did the resist work?  I dug out the cotton balls and saw white below!

Then came the moment of truth:

The real moment of truth came after washing and rinsing, which showed the final color.  Happily, the dye set, and I had a nice, dark indigo against a mostly white background!

close-up: fini!
Shibori dyeing is an act of faith: you do an enormous amount of prep work and just have to trust that something wonderful will result in the end, even if it's not entirely what you intended.  In this case, you'll see in the first photo that I missed a row of stitching in the bottom left.  (I wondered why my count didn't add up after I pulled the stitches!)  Nonetheless, I'm thrilled with this piece, and the moment when I removed the last thread and opened up the fabric was just magical.