Tuesday, 1 April 2014

And when I wasn't dyeing...

... I was making postcards.

I've made two postcards for swapping at Fibrecircle. I really enjoy making this postcard each month, because I usually begin with one of my paint rags. The paint rags are really one-of-a-kind pieces of cloth, mostly cotton, usually given multiple processes. That can mean dyeing, block printing, monotyping, screen printing, painting, resists, deconstructed screen printing, being used as a drop cloth or as a clean up rag. The result is usually very complex.

My first postcard this year was called Faerie: The Bonny Road, a reference to the ballad Thomas the Rhymer, about Thomas of Learmonth. Thomas met the Queen of Faerie and went with her to Faerie. She shows him the "broad road that lies across the lily land", the Path of Wickedness which leads to Hell; "the narrow road, thick beset with thorns and briars" called The Path  of Righteousness leading to heaven, "though after it but few enquire". The third road is "the bonny road that winds about the ferny brae", which they will take to Faerie.

I thought it might be interesting to share the process. I began with a not-quite-square piece of quilters' muslin. It was used as a paint rag back in 2010.

It looked a bit pale and the white was too stark, so I threw it into the wash water after a dyeing session in 2011, to add some colour.

That made it look a bit forest-like, so I filed it away with that in mind.  Then it got used as a paint rag again.

In April 2012, I grabbed it to add as a top layer on a stack of sun-painted fabrics, to hold the top layer of resists in place. I hadn't tried that sandwich method before, so it didn't occur to me that all the colour from the stack beneath would migrate into the top layer of cloth.


It was very dark and full of pigment.

I thought about screen printing over it with white Supercover, which has given me good results before. But somehow that didn't happen.

When I was looking for the basis of a postcard, it appealed to me because it had the suggestion of a forest, but the heavy pigment made it misty and vague. I imagined the road to Faerie would be not very clear to human eyes.

I cut a 7in x 5in section from the cloth, tacked it to a Timtex base and began to paint it.

I added the Timtex at this point, because I intended to add stitch, once I had shaped out the general form, but as I went along, I felt this would be too hard-edged. The painting was mostly adding dark shadows and highlights, to draw out what was already there.

This photo was partway along, when I was still shaping out what was there into a coherent landscape.

Once I had the image the way I liked it, I cut a backing fabric from another piece of cloth. I folded the edges of the front around the Timtex and folded the edges of the backing fabric in. I like to mitre the corners by folding the corners in first, ensuring the edges are at right angles, and then folding the edges into a neat mitre. I hand stitched the edges together with embroidery thread, making a delicate picot edge.
Faerie: the Bonny Road

It doesn't photograph terribly well, but it's just as I imagined it.

My second postcard was inspired by some journal work we did at Fibrecircle last year. We took turns to choose themes and one was Under the Sea. I wanted to look at unusual things under the sea, so I researched the strange creatures in the Marianas Trench and did some sketches in my journal.

On the basis of those, I wanted to create my own sea monster. I was interested in the Kraken. As a child, I was told that the sea monsters mentioned in the bible, that rise from the deep, included the Kraken. I was interested in the way ideas of the Kraken have changed. Nowadays, influenced by Hollywood, we think of the Kraken as a kind of giant squid, but originally it was a Norwegian monster that surfaced from the deep occasionally, fooling sailors into thinking it was an island. I see it as a mammoth creature with a confusing structure, so that when it comes to the surface, it's not immediately clear what it is.

I started out with a paint rag again. This piece of cloth was originally block printed with a stamp lent to me by Erica Spinks, about a decade ago. It was used as a paint rag in the intervening time. It looked a bit unfocused so, in early 2012, I started drawing black lines on it, to add pattern. It finished up looking like this:

I cut off the bottom left hand corner section, which seemed to offer possibilities for my sea monster. I painted a dark blue background because this is a creature of the depths, but you can still see traces of the original textured stamp.

I wanted my Kraken to look enough like an island to fool sailors but also to have some of the scary features of the Marianas Trench creatures; the spikes and teeth that make them look so fearsome. I'm not sure I achieved that, but I like what I did.

I cut a backing and some Timtex and trimmed the front to 6in x 4in. I layered the front, Timtex and backing and held the lot together with paperclips, which works much better than pins for these thick items.

I didn't want the edges to be too neat on this one, because the creature itself is not neat or limited too much by boundaries.  I took two textured yarns and attached them to the edges with a row of satin stitch in machine embroidery thread, and then added another round of satin stitch inside the first.
So that's it. Just a bit of fun, really!

Latest experiments

It's been a bad year for creating things so far - I'm hoping it's going to improve! Just a combination of things that have made for fewer playdays.

I have done a few things - nothing like what I wanted.

One thing I've been doing is experimenting with using resists on my newly-acquired silk painting frame. I've never tried painting on silk this way, as I love the sometimes serendipitous effects you get from less controlled ways of dyeing. But there have been times when I needed some way to control the silk, while I did various things to it.

My first attempts were just to see for myself what dye did on stretched silk. I had some concept of the likely outcomes from our Shibori and other methods, but I needed to try it myself, as a kind of base position for trying out various resists.

Here's my first scarf, in the frame:
Apologies for the angle - it's hard to photograph!

I left lots of space for the dye to wick into and used what felt like a very scant amount of dye. Even so, the pattern largely disappeared (I'm sure sager heads than mine are nodding!).
 The colours all blended together, in the way I like to exploit when dyeing out of the frame, but had hoped to avoid this way, by more judicious use of dye. I can get this effect without the bother of a frame. I see that syringes, even used gently, won't get the effect I want and I need to move to brushes. I think I'll probably also get better effects using Drimafix, so that's on the list too.

I dyed this one in stripes, which I blended across in some places, and that's been fairly effective...

... but that's mostly because I was concerned about the amount of dye and rolled another scarf onto the surface.
 This looks like nothing much in the main picture but the detail is shows these beautiful delicate patterns that I couldn't have achieved easily with my other methods.

 Then I moved on to resists. The obvious resist for this kind of dyeing is Gutta.  I had some Supergutta, a water soluble form of Gutta, and I used it to draw on a silk scarf, but that scarf is still waiting for dye to be added next time.

A while ago, I also bought a resist called Inkodye Resist. It's made from cassava root and reminds me more than anything of honey. It has the same colour and has the same habit of gluing things together and being sticky, hours after you thought you'd washed the last bit off yourself! I'd tried it before and it really doesn't like being too wet (no surprises there, it washes off in warm water, after all!).  I wondered if it would work if I used it on a frame, with a lot less dye.

I decided to use cotton, which takes dye in a very different way from silk. I used a narrow-tip bottle to draw on ivory quilters' muslin on two quarter-metre pieces and a syringe to give a thicker line on a third fat quarter. The thickness of the line wasn't significant to the outcome.

These two were drawn with the bottle.

This one was drawn with the syringe. It was much harder to maintain control with the syringe!

When the resist was dry, I added dye in different sections of the three designs, using a brush. In all cases, the resist didn't prevent the dye wicking between sections of the design.  That was disappointing, but I'd had similar results with this resist on silk out of the frame, so it wasn't surprising. It clearly isn't good for this kind of application.

I deliberately used a light coloured dye, because I had a plan B. I switched to dye thickened with DR33 and painted it in swathes across the first design, paying no attention to the lines of resist.

The application was quite thick, because I wanted to ensure good coverage, and because the thickened dye had been standing for some months and I thought the colour might not be very strong.

I painted the dye onto the second one using the lines as a guide but without trying to stay within them, but allowing the overlapping areas to blend.
I painted largely within the lines on the third one, more as a control than with any expectation of creating a fabulous piece of cloth. (Just as well!)

Here are the results.
I like this one - it worked just the way I hoped it would. Obviously, one way to use this resist is to use it to create lines and pattern, with thickened media.

I like this one too. Some areas really pop using this method of applying the colour - kind of partial colouring-in.

This isn't exactly Great Art but it shows that the resist works well to divide areas, when the medium is thickened.

So that was quite illuminating!

I had some fat quarters lying about, so I used the last of the dyes I had out to space-dye them.  It's a mix of the thickened dyes I'd used and some un-thickened dye. They're not quite this pale but again, as the thickened dye was old, there was quite a loss of intensity.

I think they're really pretty. They make me think of the skies in old paintings, so they may be the start of a Celestial Skies collection of fat quarters.

So that was a fun day's dyeing! I hope to share more of my experiments, as they happen!

Friday, 13 December 2013

It's Christmas!

Well, it must be because I'm posting here!  It's been a few months. It's not as if I haven't been creating things during that time, but I got a bit tied up with the other things I contribute to - the Fibrecircle blog, the SCQuilters blog, the ATASDA NSW blog FibreTribe and the ATASDA web page. So my own blog has fallen behind. I think I need to manage my time a little better!

OK, so what have I been doing? I've dyed stuff - scarves, socks, aprons, quilters' muslin, kids' tees - with fibre reactive dyes. I've eco-dyed some stuff, with the usual surprising results. I've used discharge paste.

This scarf was painted and dyed over several sessions, to build up the colour.

This one was dyed dark and discharged. As usual, the results were unexpected.  It's very Goth - kind of Midnight Roses - with a lot of pattern and texture.

Brush Box bark, Ironbark leaves and Eucalyptus cinerea leaves went into the making of this one.
Here's a detail shot of it. Luscious colour that doesn't seem to be typical of my eco-dyeing.

And this one was also eco-dyed, in Ironbark bark. It's picked up this gorgeous subtle colouring, including the crackle pattern.
And here's the detail shot...

There have been others but I don't want to bore you. Some have sold and some, I suspect, only a mother could love, which is where over-dyeing and discharging can work their magic. Sometimes, the least promising ones at the beginning turn out astounding by the end.
I'm in the process of setting up an Etsy shop, so I hope to have some stuff listed for sale soon. I'll add the link here, when I do, just in case someone actually wants to buy something! But really, when it comes down to it, I guess I'm doing all this for the fun of it.

Happy Christmas and see you in the New Year!

Thursday, 22 August 2013

SCQuilters Virtual Quilt Show

In one of my many other lives, I'm a moderator for the big Southern Cross Quilters Yahoogroup. SCQuilters has a fairly basic blog, as well as the Yahoogroup, the smaller spin-off Yahoogroups and the real world activities like local meetings and Retreats.

On the blog, we've just begun holding a Virtual Quilt Show for our members. Members are seding in images of their quilt that they're most fond of, with some words about it. You can check the blog out here or just the Virtual Quilt Show here.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Winter blues

Just recently, I remembered why I'm not keen on winter. Can't be doing with cold weather - it seem to get right into my bones.

The one thing I really like about winter is that I get the urge to knit. When Jennie visited in June, she was knitting this scarf using short rows, which results in beautiful triangles. I got quite excited, because I haven't knitted anything with short rows for ages. So I tried out the technique on some variegated yarn I had left over from another project.

Of course, I didn't have enough of it for a scarf but it made a beautiful piece of cloth, which will get used for something, sometime.

Then I started thinking, "what if?" My first "what if?" was using short rows to make diamonds along the centre of the knitting. I knitted the initial triangle, but then, after the next triangle, I slipped stitches to the centre and knitted a double-sided version, for the centre diamond. Then I slip stitches to the end and knitted the second side triangle. It worked as I imagined but I wasn't thrilled with the results. The join between the changes in direction was much more pronounced, perhaps because there's a lot more distortion in the knitting and therefore tension on the stitches. If I used textures yarn, that probably wouldn't be as obvious, but I found the process quite tedious. It's not exciting enough to show in a picture.

My second "what if"? was to change the stitches. Obviously, a scarf needs to be double-sided, so the pattern uses garter stitch. The interest is in the changes in the direction of the rows and the variegated yarn. I tried a rib with a dropped stitch pattern in one triangle, doing it both sides of the knitting, and that worked very well.

I was using leftover plain knitting yarn as a test swatch, so I could see the effect, and I think it would even work like this as a scarf, without using a fancy yarn.  But it would be even more interesting in a variegated yarn, though the pattern would be lost (and difficult to achieve) with a textured or fluffy yarn.

All this is really procrastination. My next project is a vest for the man in my life, to be knitted in Bendigo Woollen Mills 5-ply Classic, but it requires some fiddling around to get the pattern right. I guess I'll bite the bullet this week and do the planning...

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Craft & Quilt Fair, Darling Harbour

Darling Harbour was fascinating, as always. An amazing array of 400+quilts, at an incredible standard of work. The prizewinning quilts can be seen on the guild website, as always - they are very prompt at getting up a virtual quilt show of the winning quilts. The best of show, Rings and Roses, is a real show-stopper - a Double Wedding Ring quilt with a sort of colourwash effect in the rings, hand pieced and appliqued, hand quilted with trapunto. I have never seen so many ribbons on the show winner! The Narelle Grieve Award for Excellence in Amateur Hand Quilting, Best Traditional Hand Quilted, judge Kay Haerland's personal choice and the Hangers' Prize.

It was pushed to second in the Viewers' Choice by a very powerful quilt, Soldier On by Lucy Carroll, which also won first prize for a Pictorial Quilt. made in support of a military charity, it shows a wall of poppies leading to a doorway through which two soldiers are disappearing into the light. A remarkable piece of work.

The other prize winning quilts are also very special. One that spoke to me was Flower Songs II, by Eileen Campbell. There's so much to say about this quilt, as there usually is about really great quilts. I was struck by the way she didn't use a dark background on the upper right hand flowers, as a less experienced quilter (like me!) might have done. I liked the way she unified the three flower motifs with the delicate chain of flowers meandering across the face of the quilt, in a way that looked accidental, not overplanned. And I especially liked the quilting, which, in between the flowers, was detailed, exquisite renditions of flowers and butterflies, with very judicious use of coloured thread. It left me gobsmacked.

Among other quilts that appealed to me was In a Crazy Flap by Rae Cashman, machine quilted by Jo-Ann Phillips, which was a redwork quilt using images of flappers from the 1920s. Beautifully done and a lot of fun! Helen Godden's Zen Magpies also blew me away. I must admit to being a secret Helen groupie - I don't think I've ever seen a quilt by her that I didn't love. Two magpies, one in full song, gaze into the sky, which was rendered in a huge swirl of quilted patterns. My catalogue tells me she used more than a 100 different designs. It really has a sense of joy about it.

And I liked The Pleasure of Piecing, by Mercedes Forbes, machine quilted by Sue Rowles. It was inspired by a quilt in the Powerhouse Museum collection, I suspect possibly these blocks in an unfinished quilt. The Powerhouse also has these similar blocks. Mercedes' colour choices were a little softer and I think she used the same fabric, or similar fabrics, in the triangles where the block sashing meets. I liked her colour choices and I liked the block, which seems to be a colour variation of #264 in Brackman's Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns, with the sashing as an extra feature. The block was called, somewhat unimaginatively, The Pinwheel, in the Kansas City Star, where it appeared in 1934, a century after the Powerhouse blocks were made.

It was pretty obvious that the trend to reproduction quilts has not really waned yet, though it was interesting to see quite a few pieced quilts in what could be called "country colours", that wouldn't have been out of place in a quilt show fifteen years ago. There were also some quilts in the "modern quilt" aesthetic - very light or white backgrounds, with greyed colour tones in the distinctive colourways. It's always interesting to watch these changing ideas in the quilting world, as new concepts about quilting are added to the quilters' lexicon.

You may remember that I was also involved in the ATASDA exhibition and sale. The display looked great and generated a lot of positive comments from people, especially about the "industrial" theme, with gave a modern and little bit edgy feel to the textile works on display. I manned the stand on Thursday afternoon, chatting to people who came through. It was a lot of fun. Some of my dyed socks and scarves sold too, which was a bonus.

I felt that, overall, the show numbers were down during the week, compared to past years. It will be interesting to see how things go next year, in a different venue.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Darling Harbour Craft and Quilt Fair

Here are some of my pretty things that will be on display and for sale at the ATASDA stand at the Craft and Quilt Fair at Darling Harbour this week.

Silk scarves...

... bags from break down printed cloth...

...hand dyed adults' and kids' socks...

...and our special hand-dyed reusable gift bags, that let you save a tree and make the wrapping part of your present.

ATASDA will have a wonderful range of textile art works to see and buy, and artists will be demonstrating all kinds of amazing techniques morning and afternoon.

I'll be on the stand on Thursday afternoon, Why not come by and say hello?