31 May 2010

Spring to Finish? How about...

spring cleaning? 

So, I only made it half-way through my "Spring to Finish" list.  4 of 8 were completed.

But I did make significant progress on a fifth thing:  The Code Quilt
I decided how all the blocks should be arranged (which took a long time because I had done a bad job writing down what each thing said, so first I had to decode the words/phrases!)  And I've got 3 of the 4 fields of text all ready to go.  I could have finished this.  However, on Wednesday, I was stuck with the urge to do some spring cleaning.  And when I am struck with the urge to clean, I do it.  Because urges make chores 10x less choresome. 

So instead of patchworking or quilting, I've used my spare time in the last five days going through my stuff. There's just too much stuff in this apartment!  So, I've donated clothing, and put into storage (under the stairs) some books and odds and ends that were making the place too cluttered.
But most important of all, I bought risers for my bed, which enables me to fit another layer of storage tubs under my bed, so all of my dye stuff and art supplies are in one place!
I totally think risers are the tackiest things ever, but ultimately, I decided disorganization and clutter were worse.  Besides, there's probably a way to camouflage them, right?  I actually like the bed sitting a little higher and it still feels really stable and lovely.

I numbered all of the storage tubs and wrote down what's in each tub.  Yep, I'm Captain of the S.S. Organization over here.

One thing I came across in cleaning is this broken batter bowl:
I broke this thing like 5 years ago and I keep thinking I'm going to find a project that will use it's lovely jadite carcass. Any ideas?

It's resting on my new dishmat, which has already come in quite handy.  I found those glasses at a neighbor's garage sale.  I'm not sure what they are intended for exactly, but I'm thinking martinis.
Yep, I could use one of those right now.  Let me go see if I have any olives...

27 May 2010

Have I introduced you to Buzz?

Here he is: my goofy boy.
He turned four years old this week.
I didn't throw him a party
Or buy him any presents.
Good thing he's a dog and doesn't know any better.
I'm sure if he was a person he'd be demanding some cake.
As it is, he's happy just to get his daily walks and snuggles.

But, in recognition of Buzz's big day, I've got something for the pet owners amongst you: a badge for your front door!

This badge tells firefighters that you have pets that should be saved if there's a fire.  You should be able to click on the above photo and then print it out.  Let me know if that's not the case and I'll fix it.  I'm not reserving any copyrights on this so repost, give away, do whatever you want with the image.

The one on my door has the following information on it:  "one dog (60 pounds) on first floor"   "please call 734-555-1234"
It gives me great peace of mind to know that it is taped to the glass of my front door.

I spent the evening of Buzz's birthday at my first-ever Modern Quilt Guild meeting.  It was a lot of fun.  It confirmed for me the importance of being inclusive--allowing everyone access to the label of "modern quilter."  It sounded like a lot of people had been given hairy eyeballs in other quilt guilds even though their quilts look (to me) quite traditional.  My internal monologue was all "that's such bullsh*t!  why would someone be snobby about a quilt?"  and then "gosh, I wonder if I'm kind of like that sometimes.  oh dear."  I still think it is important to start identifying the different quilting styles within the modern quilting world, but that sorting has to be explicitly about the QUILTS and not the QUILTERS.

Yesterday, after seeing this post on Noodleheads (a blog). I whipped up a dishmat of my own.  I don't have a dishwasher, and since I love to cook, I'm forever washing more dishes than fit in my rack, so this is perfect.  I put some blocks that I made when trying to puzzle out a technique on the front, a piece of toweling on the back, did some really light quilting, then bound it up.
It's in the laundry basket at the moment.  I'll get a better picture when it's clean and in use.
I do think it's the perfect use for extra blocks and little experiments!

24 May 2010

Fabric for Dyeing

I'm slowly making my way through dye 101...
Previously: a post about what dye to use and where to find it.
And a post about how to prepare a dye bath.
                  Now, how to choose and prepare fabric.
                  Next, how to clamp your fabric
                  Then, how to discharge (bleach) your fabric safely.

These tutorials are aimed at sharing how how to make quilts like this:

This fabric was overdyed and discharged with an itajime shibori process. 

In these examples, the fabric blocks have either had a plexiglass circle clamped in the middle to keep out dye (on the right) or a "reverse twinkle" clamped the block which allowed dye into the circular center, (on the left.)

How to select fabric for maximum effect and minimal frustration:

If you would like to work up from solid white fabric, I recommend buying Kaufman pimatex PFD fabric. It's fabric that is "prepared for dyeing" with no whiteners, sizing or softeners.  You can find it at Dharma Trading
and Hancock's of Paducah  and many other places.

You can also try PFD Quilter’s Cotton, which has a lower thread-count, but is still quite nice. 

I haven't tried over-dyeing Kona Cottons (the regular, colored solids, not the PFD) in a while, so I cannot comment on how well that might work.

Of course, you probably don’t want to start with a solid.  Part of what makes the above quilt so interesting is the fact that the fabrics are already patterned and I’ve added my own twist to these commercial fabrics by over-dyeing (something I learned from Malka Dubrawsky). 

A couple of tips when choosing patterned fabrics to over-dye. 

1.   Use good quality fabrics. 
Higher quality fabrics are less likely to unravel as you wash them.  
Higher quality cottons absorb dye more evenly.
The pigments used on lower quality fabrics are more likely to resist the dye.  
Higher quality cotton can weather discharging (bleaching) without weakening so long as you stop the bleach; lower quality cottons will be weakened by the bleaching process.

2.  Use 100% cotton fabric. 
Procion dyes are designed to work on plant fibers (cotton, hemp, linen) not animal fibers (silk, wool) or synthetic fibers (polyester).  Most quilting fabrics are 100% cotton, but if you are like me and sometimes use discarded clothing or garment fabrics, please know that the dye might not work as well as you'd like.  If a fabric is a blend (for example: cotton/poly) the dye will only work on the cotton fibers, so you'll get a heathered look.  If you aren't sure if a fabric is 100% cotton, just dye a sample and see what happens.

3. Think about value and contrast
Color value refers to the lightness or darkness of the hue.  I tend to think of value in terms of "If I photographed this with black and white film, would it be white, black or gray---and if gray, how dark?"

When I am over-dyeing, I want there to be contrast between the part of the fabric that I have over-dyed and the part that I have not.  This means that I need to start with either fabric that is either  (a) light/medium-light --or-- (b) contains a lot of contrast within it.

Here are nine pieces of fabric that were all dyed in the same pink/gray dye bath.  Some of these are destined for my Full Stops Quilt, others were just included for instructive purposes.
1, 2, and 6 began as medium valued fabrics.  I think they work pretty well and am likely to include them in my quilt.

I also really like 3, which was a light fabric.

I don't like 4 even though the X shape pops pretty well...I included this to show what usually happens to white-on-white prints when you dye them...only the background dyes, not the pigment on top.

5 and 9 are meant to show how well a fabric with a lot of contrast in it can show the shape.  I think these are rather ugly, but that's likely because the color of the dye doesn't really work with the red and white.

7 is a lower-quality fabric.  See how the dye is blotchier?  That's another thing that will happen with cheaper fabric.

8 is a darker fabric and it's hard to see the shape on it.  This needs more work.  With darker fabrics, discharging (bleaching) is the answer--I will cover that process in another post.

Here is another look at the above fabric.
taking a black and white photo can help you to see what's working.  Again, I like 1, 2, 3, and 6 the best.  They don't all show the same amount of contrast, but I like that.  I'm not going for a totally uniform look.

Here's the first image in black and white:

Remember, dyeing is inherently imprecise, when pulling out prints, you're just doing your best to guess at which fabrics will work.  I always dye more pieces that I need so that I can pick and choose when it comes time to patchwork.

4. Once you have selected your fabric, you need to prepare the fabric for dyeing by washing it.

Washing removes any sizing the manufacturer put on the fabric as well as any dirt that may have gotten on the fabric in transit or in the fabric shop. 

Here's how I would break the options for pre-washing:
platinum treatment: wash fabric in hot water with synthropol or warm water with Dharma's professional textile detergent.
gold treatment: wash fabric with dye-free, fragrance-free, clothing detergent
silver treatment: soak the fabric in plenty of hot water for over an hour, changing the water at least once
bronze treatment: don't wash, just dye

I've done all four of these, and it does make a difference to how your dyeing turns out.  But, less of a difference than, say, how often you stir your dye bath in the first 20 minutes.  Most of the time I do the gold treatment, or the silver if I'm working with charm packs or other pre-cuts. 

In summary:
1. Use high quality fabric
2. Use 100% cotton fabric
3. Select lighter prints for better contrast in the results (save dark prints for discharging)
4. Prewash your fabric

20 May 2010

Giveaway winner & fixed badges

And the winner is:
Jessica of Narnia Mum

Thank to everyone who entered! I read each and every comment and got some great gift ideas! Given what my grandma's already got, her physical limitations, and the fact that I live 400+ miles from her,  I think I'm going to do a photo project.

I gave my grandma a quilt last December:
( Half-square triangles were not pieced, but made by dyeing and discharging charm squares with half-square triangle plexi resists over 1/2 of each charm.)

And she's got a few other handmade bits I've made over the years, too...
These are Spool Birds (I would link, but their blog looks broken?) with magnets in their bellies on a stick with magnets in the woodgrain straps.  My grandma keeps these on her TV cabinet with the quilt displayed behind; she sees them every day.  : ) 

Housekeeping (fixed badges)...

Ach! There was a glitch with the process pledge badges that caused some of them to generate a 404 error. I do believe I've fixed them now, so if you put a badge on your blog, please update the html using what is now in the post:

sorry peeps.

Thanks to KT for letting me know something was amiss.

17 May 2010

Giveaway Day

It's Giveaway Day over at Sew, Mama Sew! and I'm joining in on the fun!

Up for grabs is this assortment of plexiglass shapes from my etsy shop.
That's one pair each of...1x5" bars, 3" ovals, 2x2.75" rectangles, 3.5" reverse twinkles, 2" circles, 3" circles, 2" squares, 2" triangles, and 3" traingles.

Don't know what these are for?
The short answer is they are for patterning fabric with dye or bleach.  Like this:
before -------------->   after

A longer answer lies here.

To enter, comment on this post.
You can just say hi, but if you have any recommendations for birthday presents for 82-year-old women, I'll take them!

The winner will be drawn randomly on May 20.

 Good luck!

14 May 2010

The Process Pledge

Response to my post on mutant quilting has been really cool.  It seems I'm not alone in my interests and concerns.

I have made a process pledge.  The goal of the process pledge is to create a new sensibility in quilting blogs where we don’t just show finishes or occasionally confess about our moments of indecision, but chat openly and often about our works in progress, our inspirations, and our moments of decision. I know that many of us are already posting about our thinking on quilts and the processes involved from start to finish, let's do more!  And let's post about quilts as we work on them.  I want to see more half-done quilts, not just the finished thing with a journal entry about the process.

I think part of the reason I really like the blogs from quilting bees is because a lot of the process gets documented...from original concept, to raw materials, to each block in turn, and often a few drafts of the final layout.  It's awesome!

So, without further ado.  Here's the process pledge. Take it, shake it, make it yours.

I, ________________, pledge to talk more about my processes, even when I can’t quite put them in the in words or be sure I’m being totally clear.   I’m going to put my thinking and my gut feelings out there.  

Put a button on your blog if you want to!  (html at the bottom of this post)
Also, please add your blog to the link list so we all know who’s in.
If you are on Flickr but not blogging, enter the url for your photostream.

[Edited to add: if simply linked doesn't accept your information, please let me know in a comment and I will add you to the list. Include your blog's url or the url for your flickr account. I believe the error is generated by some people's firewalls or anti-virus software.]

I’ve made a list of prompts to get some process posts going.  I will continue to update these prompts as time goes on, based on what I see in blogs, ideas that are submitted to me by email, and also in the comments.

  • Do you have any new sketches to show?
  • Is this design inspired by a past quilt or someone else's quilt you saw (link, please)?
  • Does the color palette come from somewhere specific?
  • Are you trying to evoke a specific feeling?
  • Is this quilt intended for a specific person?  How did that inform your choices?
  • Are you following a pattern, emulating a block you saw somewhere, using a liberated process, or totally winging it?
  • What are you hating about this quilt at this stage?  What do you love?
  • Did you push yourself to try something new?
  • In working on the quilt, are you getting ideas about what you might want to try next?  What?  Did you sketch it?

Here are the badges:
The Process Pledge
html code for above

The Process Pledge
html code for above

The Process Pledge
html code for above
In Blogger, add these by going to the "layout" tab -> click "add gadget" -> choose "HTML/JavaScript" as the gadget type -> paste in code -> save your changes!

To make the button bigger or smaller, change the "200" to a bigger or smaller number.

Thank you!

10 May 2010

thank you notes

Have you seen this blog?
THX THX THX: a thank you note a day
I'm in love with it!

The most recent thank you to continuums seems particularly apt today as I'm still processing much of the feedback and comments I've received about my Mutant Quilting post. By the way, I responded to many of the comments in the comments section of that post. 

There seems to be a lot of interest in talking about processes more, finding ways to push ourselves further in quilting and also to try to sort out some more vocabulary for types of modern quilting.  For me, much of this connects to continuums because it's all about scooching and nudging, not switching out or ruling out.  Cheryl and I are talking about ways to keep the nudging up and the dialogue open, so I think you'll see more from us on this soon!

Also, I started to try to make a map of what I would call contemporary, modern, geometric, etc... and I came to realize that much of it lies in the middle ground: continuums layered upon continuums.  But I'm starting to see the archetypes on the ends of the continuums more and more clearly.  I'll keep plugging away at this.  I think I need to spend some time at the library, quite honestly, and maybe go see if I can get some of the faculty in art, design, architecture, whatever to talk with me.  But I can't do that just yet because I've still got masses of paperwork from last semester to process (oh joy!)

Back to thank you notes:   I've sent a few thank you notes for graduation presents out last week.  I hadn't planned ahead, so I didn't have time to order some nice handmade ones off of etsy (I would have had these), but I did find some cute ones at Target.
You see how I've written names on the top?  Those are the people to whom I've sent the cards.  This box has dozens of cards still in it...this way, if I'm looking for a thank you card at some point in the future, I'll know if a person has already had a copy of this card.  If they have, I'll find another card or make something!  Because I tend to buy boxes of cards and use them slowly, I find this system really handy. 

I've been working on The Code Quilt top.  This is on my Spring to Finish to do list (I'm hanging tough with two down six to go). This is my Common Threads quilting bee quilt, you can see the plan here.

 After this rough throw down...
  I decided I needed one more line of text, so I've decided to spell "thank you notes"

 I'll be cranking that out tonight as I watch House and whatever else my TiVo has for me. 

Talk soon,

08 May 2010

Mutant Quilting

What follows is a crazy essay of sorts...I hope you are in the mood for reading!

First, if you've yet to take the opportunity, please go and read this blog post from Cheryl (Naptime Quilter).

I'll wait here.
Back?  Wasn't it great? Okay, here were my favorite bits:

"Yes, the importance of history and tradition is acknowledged, but people often come to modern quilting as either an evolution or rebellion from traditional quilting. Well, I would now argue that modern quilting is actually just really, really traditional quilting. Before people got caught up in intricate pieced patterns with a million different templates and detailed quilting."
"So, this whole modern quilting thing. I can say for sure that I have a new perspective on it. And I don't think it is as revolutionary as some think it is. It really is a throwback to the traditional, traditional quilting, as this post also mentions."

I really dig what Cheryl is saying here.   
Here's how I would boil it down:  Modern Quilting is in an odd space because it is really not some crazy new-fangled thing we just made up and yet it is not recognized as traditional either.  
Cheryl's post reminded me a talk I saw on TED a while back.  In this talk, Philippe Starck encourages designers to be aware of both how they *are* mutants (by which he means both an evolution of what came before and importantly dissimilar from what came before) and how they are *not* the final mutant (and therefore owe something to the future as well as the past).

(the section I'm talking about is from 5:00 -8:00)
Starck: "That is our beautiful story: mutation.  We are mutant. And if we do not deeply understand, if we don't integrate that we are mutant, we completely miss the story.  Because every generation thinks we are the final one....I am not sure of that.  Because that is our intelligence of mutation, there are so many things to do.  It is so fresh.  ... Nobody is obliged to be a genius, but everybody is obliged to participate."
I think that for quilters who want to participate in the quilting world more generally (and I should add, that you absolutely don't have to if you don't want to!) it is crucial that they begin to talk more about where their ideas come from, to the extent that they can figure that out.  Doing so will mean creating knowledge for the next mutant and it will also allow everyone to get a better grasp on where their visual discourse comes from (what it is that they are a mutation of).  

I feel like modern quilting has arrived.  2450 members in Fresh Modern Quilts, hundreds and hundreds in the Modern Quilt Guild, new books coming out all the time.

Speaking of, did you see this?

and this?

I'm dying with anticipation.

But anyway, I think arriving is only half of the battle.  Now we've got to explore this destination.
I think there are two important steps to take:  Cheryl mentions one of them.

More from Cheryl:

"What else is on the rise? Easy, fast quilts."
"I would add that blogging might make the churn worse. We all want content, right? I don't know many who quilt for the sake of blogging, but ask yourself if you pick simpler projects just to have something to post? At least every now and then? Or, ask yourself how some of your favourite bloggers manage to finish so many quilts? Lifestyle aside, look at the quilts and the detail of the quilting they post."

I have to say that I have noticed this, too.  While I've stitched together charm squares for patchwork gifts and don't see anything wrong with this practice, it isn't art, it isn't design, and I don't find it interesting.  I don't think it counts as participation in the greater flow of visual discourse.

When you are making a quilt for the sake of enjoying the process, why not push?  Given time and resources, I'm all about pushing.  That's why I'm into dyeing and discharging and using only one fabric from a given commercial line in a quilt.  I want to see where I'm going and when I let fabric designers and pre-made kits and patterns with strict little rules determine what I'm doing, it just doesn't seem like I made the end product.  It's not me, it's not mine.

I was reading about a quilt exhibit in Turkey and found this idea stated quite plainly,  “Learning new techniques and broadening the horizons of quilting are important aspects,” Kenter said.  “Our aim is to share our hobby with everyone. This is a form of art only if a person discovers new techniques,” the association’s founder added. “Without discovering a new technique or creating something entirely new and different, I cannot call patchwork a form of ‘art.’”

Pushing is going to mean different things for different people.  For some it will be a lot of effort to mix in even one fabric of their own choosing into a quilt kit.  That's fine.  Start where you are.  For others, who have already pushed themselves quite far, pushing might mean dyeing or folding or patchworking with one color.  It's all about creating, not re-creating.  Push and create.

I would love to see more bloggers showing their processes and talking about their processes.  This can take the space once filled by fast, easy quilts.  What does your design wall look like right now?  Can I see a page from your moleskine?  Do you have any cool fabric stacks laying around?

Does that make sense?  To those of you who want to do more with quilts than use them to stay warm, will you push?

I said there was a second step.  This is something that I've been thinking about for a while, but have been sitting on.  In part, this is due to my position as admin and photo-approver for Fresh Modern Quilts.  Let me just say, that what I'm about to say has nothing to do with which photos go into the Fresh Modern Quilts pool.

I don't think that everything ya'll call modern is modern.
I think a lot of it would be better labeled as contemporary.
I think a lot of it would be better labeled as geometric.
I think a lot of it would be better labeled as art deco.
I think a lot of it would be better labeled as millennial.

The reason I never say these things in public is because I think people would be offended if I said that I consider their quilts to be contemporary.  But somehow the fact that the Modern Quilt Guild uses the word modern and modern seems to be the word of choice in new books coming out solves this problem for me.  Fine, hey, the umbrella term for this wave of mutant quilts is going to be modern. Okay, so let's start naming the types of styles that fit under that umbrella.

Can we please?

Taxonomy is the practice and science of classification.  Can we start to pull out the strands of these modern quilts?  Put them in groups, make names for those that are similar?  And not just blocks, but the whole overall look?  Can we make or find a vocabulary for this? 

I think this is crucial in terms for future mutants to understand where they are and what they are.

Again, I think an increased transparency on the part of bloggers and flickr users about their processes will help.  For example, I'm trying to get a quilting bee that is inspired by mid-century modernism off the ground, if quilters in that bee can show where they get their ideas from, then that could increase everyone's understanding of one part of this visual universe.
I don't think we need an official taxonomist or rule book for this.  As Starck would say, we don't need a genius, we just need people to participate. Say where you got the idea for your color scheme.  Say where you found the inspiration for your design.  Explain whatever you can about your roots. In doing so, I think you'll let others find their own.  It couldn't hurt, right?

05 May 2010


It was great!

First of all, let me say that the reporter from the New York Times must be crazy (Helene Cooper, I'm talking to you!)  They said that Obama spoke to a "mostly friendly crowd at the stadium in Michigan."  Not accurate.  Obama spoke to an entirely rapt and respectful audience.

I'm sure that many of the students voted for the other guy, but since they managed to get enough of an education to graduate, they can appreciate the importance of listening carefully and respectfully to the President.  As I told my mom, "We were better behaved than the U.S. Congress!"

I had decided not to march in the ceremony, but to sit in the stands with my mom, since she came to town just for the occasion.  Our morning was very eventful because her flight was massively delayed. We weren't even sure if we'd be able to get in to the ceremony. Here's why:

The rest of the weekend was spent having all kinds of fun with my mom and my friends.  I'm still in recovery mode.  Which seems to resemble post-break-up behavior.  You know, where you are so emotionally exhausted that you are only capable of eating ice cream.  Delicious, delicious ice cream.

I'm going to try to eat some vegetables and get back to work today.  I've got plenty to do!
I've made a visual representation of my "Spring to Finish" to do list:
I've been peeling off the papers when I finish the item. The rewards are written on the back. I'm hoping to peel off another one in a couple of days!  I hope you all had a great start to May, too!