Monday, September 15, 2014

A Good Day to Dye

It was something I swore I would never do. I'd given it a shot years ago, and decided that dyeing fabric was something I didn't need to do. I mean, it's not like there aren't a million zillion fabrics already out there, just waiting to be discovered and then chopped into lovely little bits. But....

Finding yarns for tapestry in a range of gradations (especially in the US), is a real challenge. In fact, finding yarns for tapestry is rather complicated all the way around, there are so many variables. Just as with fabric, the medium values are easy to find. It's the lightest  lights and darkest darks that are the biggest challenge.

Just as always, I spent a great deal of time trying to figure out how this hand dyeing thing worked. Wanting just small amounts of each color for now, I knew that I wanted to use mason jars and a canner for steam setting the dyes. Figuring out how much dye to use to achieve the desired depth of shade was the stumbling block. Different sources varied widely as to how much to use, so my first batches were way, way more intense than I was looking for.

But the colors came out so clean and bright and pure, it was still super fun to just toss the skeins in the dye and just see what happened.

After a while I just started mixing colors, adding black to skeins that came out too close in color to be useful, or blue, or red.

After my first day of dyeing, I was pretty darned happy with my yarns. It's a pretty good selection, if I do say so myself, especially considering I had no idea what I was doing! Not quite the light lights and dark darks, but hey, that just means I'll have to dye another day.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Hat Dance Hanging

Here's my Pilgrim/Roy Invitational Challenge quilt, hanging in a special exhibit at the American Quilter's Society show in Grand Rapids, MI! On my list of things to see at the show, I had to get special dispensation from the show organizers (Bonnie Browning herself took the picture) because the exhibit was labeled as no photography allowed.

Honestly, this is pretty much the only way one of my quilts will hang in a national show. Competition is just not my cup of tea. But thank goodness that there are so many quilters willing to show their quilts, or we would have nothing but vendors to see at a show.

Not that that would be a bad thing. Of course I checked out the vendors! I saw a fabric that I adored, and then didn't buy it because it wouldn't be enough to be the background for a queen sized quilt. Stupid, stupid! It would have been perfect for a smaller project. I can have such tunnel vision when it comes to purchasing supplies. Sometimes my need for an orderly stash really hampers my shopping.

I didn't see much that was new, but I did enjoy reconnecting with some old pals. I was heartened to see so many traditional style quilts and vendors. I thought that the modern quilters had pretty much run us out on a rail. But, it seems that we're still going strong, and maybe I will go back to designing new quilts and writing patterns.

One thing that did catch my attention was the brand spanking new Bernina sit-down quilting machine.  How long have we been asking for this? Only one of two machines currently in the US, I was able to sit and stitch for a bit, and it's lovely. It's quiet, and it has the capacity to use regular sewing machine needles as small as 70/10! For most quilting machines, it's 90/14 or bigger, and I know that folks do wonderful things with those needles, they've always been the deal breaker for me. But now... well, I guess it's time to start stuffing that piggy bank. They won't be available until next spring, so I'll have plenty of time to skim some cash off the grocery budget. (Don't read that sentence, Kent. I'm just kidding, really. Sort of.)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Rest is Not Idleness

Taking some time off to heal and consider my options is not as easy as it sounds, especially not for someone who is used to a lifetime of going at full steam ahead. Taking a step (okay, a leap) back from the physical challenges of travel, and starting physical therapy, have proved to be just the thing for my dodgy old neck and my creative burnout.

This has been my summer of weaving. I've always turned to learning a new craft when my creative juices run dry. I think it's a "making" thing. It's a new label, being a maker, but it perfectly defines me. I have been a maker all of my life, and when taking a break from making quilts, it was only natural that I should need to make something else.

The tapestry bug has bitten me, hard. I'm talking the weaving kind of tapestry, not the embroidery kind. I've taken two tapestry classes this summer.

Starting last spring, Rebecca Mezoff offered a three part, comprehensive online tapestry class. She's just charming, and the class format included lots of personal interaction. I highly recommend the classes. The sample to the left is from one of the early parts of the process.

In August I attended the Michigan League of Handweavers' annual workshop retreat. What fun! Just as in quilting, weaving is bent and shaped into so many intriguing art forms, just waiting to be explored.

While there, I took a tapestry class from Nancy McRay. It was awesome! The sample above is from her class. Three days of the quiet strumming of tightly warped looms, extremely individualized lessons and wonderful encouragement, were a balm to a healing soul. (Not to mention the nightly hugs from grandbabies, the retreat being in their town.)

And here is my class final project for Rebecca's class. That's a pumpkin growing there, just in case you couldn't tell. The tapestry is only ten inches wide, so I'm having to edit, edit, edit to try to tell the story. I'm really pleased with some of it, other parts, not so much. I'm still thinking of spaces as in fabric for applique, and that's holding me back a bit. But I'll get there, probably in about a million years, but then, if it could be mastered in a day how inspiring would that be?