Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Finished! "Indigo Summer"

"Indigo Summer" is finished, binding and all:


I loved every moment of making "Indigo Summer," from the dyeing of the fabrics, to the improvised piecing, to the hand-quilting, and then, finally, the faced binding.  It's quite a stunning quilt, if I do say so myself.  I'm thinking of entering it in the National Juried Show of Quilt Canada 2015, although I haven't quite decided whether or not to face the nervousness of putting the quilt into the mail.

I took the photos with my snazzy new 50mm lens.  This lens avoids the curved distortion on the edges that comes with my telephoto, plus the large aperture (to f1.8) allows photos in lower light conditions.  Definitely a good addition to the camera bag, especially if I start to enter shows on a regular basis.

I also made progress on the log cabin quilt this week.  No photos, alas, but I'm just about finished with the fourth block, and I'll try to have pictures next week.

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

1/30: Now linked up to Finish it Up Friday on Crazy Mom Quilts, Link-A-Finish Friday at Richard and Tanya Quilts, and Off the Wall Friday at Creations...Quilts, Art....Whatever.  Cheers!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

What comes next?

I've just about finished the indigo quilt (photos to come), so the question was, "What comes next?"  I have all sorts of plans for other quilts with indigo dyed fabrics, and also quilts without indigo dyed fabrics, not to mention plenty of UFOs.  Did I decide to work on any of them?

Why do that, when I can pursue yet another idea?  On Sunday, while I was poking around in the Maiwa Supply store on Granville Island, I started rummaging around in the scrap bin there.  Now, I'm supposed to be on a fabric embargo, since I already have more than enough fabric to quilt for the rest of my life.  But as with any embargo, a little smuggling gets through here and there. 

In the Maiwa scrap bin, I found long strips of beautifully dyed, mostly solid cotton fabric, and I immediately thought, "Log Cabin quilt!"  I figured I could fill a small paper bag ($3) with these scraps, take them home, and just see what I could make from them.  Of course, I kept pulling out fabrics and digging down to the bottom of the barrel, literally, and in the end had to get a medium bag ($6).

The bag wasn't actually that large, but it weighed close to five pounds, and after I ran the fabrics through the dryer to remove some lint, I had an enormous pile.  I folded and sorted everything to see what I had:

Although there are only about seven or eight main colors, there are lots of subtle differences.  For example, I think the dark browns amount to five or six different shades.  Since all of the cottons are dyed with natural dyes, they also go together beautifully.

But what kind of log cabin quilt to make?  I want to try for something understated and sophisticated, in which the quiet differences in tone will add up to a powerful visual effect.  I looked at a lot of photos of quilts by Emiko Toda Loeb and Shizuko Kuroha, two quilters whose work I've admired over the years, for inspiration.  Both of them incorporate a lot of traditional Japanese aizome (indigo dyed) cottons into their work, and Kuroha's indigo quilts have a particularly wonderful luminosity to them.

I had originally thought I would use only the Maiwa fabrics, but I settled on a log cabin block with a large center cut from my own shibori indigo dyes.  Here's the first block:

Will this work, or will it just be kind of boring and monotonous?  We shall see!

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

Saturday, January 3, 2015

2014: The Year in Indigo

For me, 2014 was an incredibly exciting year of exploration into the possibilities of indigo dyeing.  Here's what I learned by experimenting in my outdoor "dye studio" during the late spring and summer: 

1)  how to set up and manage a thiox vat

2)  improved dipping technique: how to work the fabric to promote even dye penetration, a particularly important issue when trying to dye solids

3)  the properties of different fibers and how they take up indigo: Kona PFD, Essex linen, cotton gauze

4)  the possibilities of different shibori techniques: itajime (clamp resist), nui (stitched) shibori (especially shirokage, or white shadow shibori, which I think is a particularly exciting technique), kumo (spiderweb) shibori, and arashi and bomaki (two different pole-wrapping techniques) 

I was sad to put away the dyeing supplies in the fall, but two Maiwa workshops helped with my indigo withdrawal.  Jane Callender helped me to refine some of my stitching techniques, as well as to try Procion dyes for the first time.  Gasali Adeyemo provided an introduction to Yoruba techniques, along with major insights about the indigo vat.  I also started quilt-making with the fabrics that I dyed during the summer, which will give me the needed indigo fix throughout the winter.

What's up for 2015?  A big project at the day job will require much more of my focus, so this year's indigo dyeing probably won't be as intense as last year's.  I do have some goals, however.

1)  First and foremost, I want to try a zinc-lime vat.  The zinc-lime vat offers the advantage of working at low temperatures (down to 60 Fahrenheit) and relative ease of building to dark shades, with minimal waste of indigo.  It has fallen somewhat out of favor (at least in the U.S. and Canada--I still see quite a few British dyers using the zinc-lime vat) due to disposal issues.  A chemist friend tells me that the real problem is less the zinc itself, however, than cadmium, and as long as I use highly pure zinc, disposal won't be an issue.*

2)  More complex arashi techniques and patterns are on the agenda as well.   I love pole-wrapping, and I've only tried the most basic possibilities thus far.

3)  I splurged and purchased a special shibori tool so that I can try more intricate knotting techniques.  It's still slow going, but I'll see how much prep work I can manage of FQs this winter.

4)  I'm not sure I'll have time to explore capping (a method for resisting large areas of fabric), but I've seen so many beautiful samples that require this technique, and I'd like to try it someday.

5)  I really, really want to try katazome dyeing, although I don't know if 2015 will be the year.  I see that John Marshall will be holding a 3-day workshop in Eugene, Oregon in June, which is highly tempting, but the trip might put too big a dent in my budget.  If I'm lucky, perhaps Maiwa will have a katazome workshop that will fit my schedule. 

Happy New Year!

*update on 6/16/2015: I looked up the MSDS information on zinc, and the issue is not the cadmium, abut the zinc itself, which is dangerous for aquatic life.  I had hoped once the zinc oxidized it wouldn't be a problem, but zinc oxide is also rated as an environmental threat to aquatic life.  If you decide to try a zinc-lime vat, you must not pour it down the drain, but instead, let the water evaporate, and dispose of the solid residues properly through a hazardous waste facility.