Margaret had attended this year’s Road to California and taken the shibori dyeing class. She brought back what she learned to our Out of the Box quilt group. We had a lovely Sunday afternoon in Nela and Jan’s garden. PicMonkey Collage4

Margaret showed us some of the fabrics she had dyed in the shibori class.


With the range of colors available to us with dyes, we took the traditional Japanese indigo dye art out of the box.

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Margaret showed us wrapping the fabric around a round tube, tying it with string, and painting the dye on. We experimented a bit with pre-wetting the fabric and painting the dye on dry fabric. On the right, the top half was fabric dry, and bottom half fabric wet. This method is called Arashi shibori.

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Other techniques we played with was folding the fabric in triangles, and pinning with clothespins and clamps, this method is called Kumo shibori. We also tried wrapped fabric around objects and dyeing. And also using rock salt to spread the color! It was a great afternoon of experimentation and fun. No measurements were made and no recipes followed. I can’t say if I used 1tsp or 1 TBS of dye powder, and sometimes I was mixing dyes together without knowing what I was using, but I can say I had fun!

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Here are my three fabrics I made. The top two were wrapped around a pole. The top pink was wrapped at a diagonal around a skinny broomstick handle. The middle blue was wrapped straight around a wide PVC pipe. The bottom was folded in triangles, pinned with clothespins, and dyed in a light brown. Once dry, I refolded into triangles again, pinned with clothespins, and dyed with pink.


This piece is my favorite from the day’s experiments. I like the layers of colors the double dyeing gives. And I like the random pattern within the repeats. Makes me want to use it in a quilt!


Looking at these fabrics, I remember the feel of the sun, the sparkle of the spring flowers, and the laughter of the ladies as we chatted and played. As we celebrate the first days of spring, I am grateful for friends and creativity and projects to come!

This weekend, I met up with my friend Tiffany to give her a brief introduction into natural dyeing. Since it was the following weekend after the mushroom dye workshop, I was excited to put some of the new things I learned into practice!


Here’s my impromptu dyeing setup in the backyard: table chairs and stove! I dream of the day when I can have my own dye workshop …


First new thing I tried different than in the past – little tests of yarn! Here Tiffany is tying small bundles. Since it is between seasons here, we didn’t really have any good plants to collect, so we used plants from our kitchen! We tried dyeing avocado skins and red cabbage leaves.


The other new technique I tried was the double boiler! I really like the way it allowed to do multiple colors at the same time. Controlling temperature was also easier, as the jars never went up to a rolling boil. However, I should have taken the time to see how hot they did get. Next time!


Avocado skins on the left, cabbage on the right.

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The avocado skins came out a simple tan color (alum mordant). Lovely!

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The red cabbage we did a neat experiment with! All three little skeins were mordanted with alum. After pulling all three out of the dye and rinsing them, we left one with only the alum mordant. The other two we played around with the pH. One was dipped in a vinegar bath and simmered for five minutes, and the other soda ash. The vinegar was supposed to turn it more red, and the soda ash green.


The word supposed to is never good to use! When we first dropped the yarn into the soda ash, it did turn a pretty green. But then after leaving it for five minutes, the color changed to the muted yellow. Above, you can see a little green on the yarn when rinsing one skein touched the soda ash skein. Next time we should try pulling it out sooner! Above is also the vinegar on the left and the no change on the right. I don’t see any difference in their color, do you?


A very fun experiment for a Sunday afternoon. Can’t wait for spring and summer to collect more dyestuff and to continue to play!

Two weeks ago I had the great pleasure of attending a Mushroom and Lichen Natural Dyeing workshop at the Berkeley Botanical Gardens, taught by Alisa Allen.

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This was my first formal natural dyeing class, all my previous experience has come from books and experimenting on my own. It was great to learn from someone with a lot of experience and passion. I picked up a few neat tricks that I look forward to incorporating into my home dye practice like pre-making test strips of yarn. Each string is a different mordant, tied together, ready to put in a small experiment batch of dye to see what range of colors can be achieved.


Another trick I think is just brilliant is using one big pot with smaller glass jars as a type of double boiler. This allowed her to have multiple small batches of color going. This is a great way to speed up the process, dye many colors at the same time, and control temperature easier.


Alisa discussed basic mushroom and lichen ecology, how to identify and where to collect. She brings a dehydrator in the field to dry the mushrooms after collecting to save for later! This also allows more predictability in repeating recipes, as the dry mushroom can be accurately weighed.

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Some of the lichens shared were crazy! When collecting lichens, she explained you only harvest off of falling branches, never live from a tree. Some lichens dye this crazy magenta purple. To test to see if the lichen has that ability, she shared a neat bleach testing method. Look at that color!

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The other very fascinating thing about mushrooms and lichen in dyeing, is that in addition to using mordants to bring out color, they are extremely susceptible to changes in pH. By making the dye bath more acidic or basic, the color can wildly change! Alisa would add vinegar or ammonia, checking pH as she went, to achieve optimal colors.


By the end of the five hour class, we had twenty glorious colors all made from mushrooms and lichens the instructor had collected in California. DSC01664

Each skein was divided among the class participants, and we made a card showing the recipe to make each color. Along with a guide for what the mushrooms and lichens look like and where to collect them, we left the workshop well prepared to give it a try.


We also each got to make a shibori silk scarf. We wrapped the scarf around a tube, wrapped with twine, scrunched it all down, and submerged it in dye. After unwrapping the whole bundle, a pattern almost like that of tree bark emerged. I can’t wait to try more shibori in the future.

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While I’m not sure if we have any mushrooms or lichens that dye colors here in the desert, I look forward to using some of the techniques learned in my other dyeing, and to forage for mushrooms next time I find myself in a more wet environment. I highly recommend taking one of her workshops if you have the opportunity. Thanks Lesley for being my model!


I have completed my first two months of my daily journal practice! In my first post sharing my intention for 2015, I was unsure of how much I wanted to share here. I’ve decided I want to try sharing a few photos every couple months, showcasing themes or ideas that particularly shine for me. Let me disclose there were days with just words or scribbles, but these are just as important as the entries I want to show today. I found that with no judgement, as long as I came back each day, entries became easier and easier, ideas flowed from one day to the next. Sometimes, it was the days when I had no idea what I was going to journal that were the most creative of all.

IMG_9172I have recently been infatuated with the flying geese pattern, as some of my recent projects show. Flying geese became a major theme of my first two months. I enjoyed the zentangle like quality of drawing triangles and playing with color combinations. These are very peaceful and meditative to draw.


Occasionally, I’d also get an idea for more of an art quilt idea. On these days I’d use words and rough sketches to put down what I was imagining in my head. In the past, I’d have these ideas, and since I wasn’t journaling, they would just drift away into my subconscious. Now, that I’ve captured them down in a rough form, they feel more real and tangible. It is like my brain doesn’t need to work to keep the idea, I’ve released it into the world, and it is there waiting for me should I want to make it into a quilt. I can foresee that this journal will become a place of inspiration, to look back through past entries, and pull out an idea to make into a quilt. I get the sense I can hold a lot more quilt ideas in my head, now that I am letting them go instead of keeping them in.

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When Play Crafts announced their 2015 Pantone Quilt Challenge using Marsala, I enjoyed spending several days sketching possible quilts to make using marsala. This was also the first time a design I sketched got me excited enough to where I took time to calculate size and dimensions and how I would turn it into a quilt. The process resurrected a lot of high school geometry I haven’t used in years. Maybe you will see it as a quilt in the future!

IMG_9156Most recently, I wanted to make a baby quilt for a friend, and spent one of my daily entries sketching out what the quilt might look like, as I had fabrics already purchased.  I am fairly humming with excitement at making my first design into a quilt that is all my own!

IMG_9162Recently, one of the quilt blogs I follow, Quilting Jetgirl, posted her notes on lectures attended at QuiltCon. In one, she quotes the lecturer as saying, “Alissa’s advice to those of us considering how we can find our voice was not to analyze what else is out there or how we’re different, it’s simply to do what we do, again and again, and eventually our unique voice will emerge.” This spoke to me in reflection of my daily journal practice. My intent to start on this new experiment was that I’ve traditionally followed patterns and copied other ideas, and wanted to find my own voice. Her advice echos my experience in these first two months, that day by day, going to my journal and doing what I want again and again, eventually my voice will emerge. We’ll see!


This year I totally splurged and subscribed to the Alabama Channin Swatch of the Month club. From the moment I first found an Alabama Chanin book at the book store, I’ve been intrigued by their patterns and stitching, and am excited to stitch along this year. They focus on hand stitching, which I love to do!


When ordering, I could pick from five different colorways: Reds, Blues, Neutrals, White/Natural, and Navy/Black. My first inclination was to choose blue (of course!), but I’ve been sewing on my Ocean Waves quilt for the last few years, and I’m kind of over blue. So I thought red would be a fun way to mix things up. It is probably my least favorite color, and I thought it would be good to spend some time with it. Plus, they match the most gorgeous ruby and maroon colors with the more traditional red. After receiving my first swatch of the month, thread, and beads, I’m so glad I chose red!


As you might have picked up on following my posts, I love hand sewing. I think this monthly swatch club will be a great way to practice and expand my skills. I don’t typically use beads or do much embellishment besides the simple quilting stitches, so I hope to broaden my appreciation for and ability to use beads. I’m going to try to use beads in every swatch.


The typical Alabama Chanin style is to take cotton jersey, and stencil one layer with a pattern, and overlay it over another piece of cotton jersey. The two layers are then stitched together with a heavy duty thread called button thread. Then fabric is cut away to reveal the fabric beneath. This allows for complex patterns to emerge between the colors, the layers, the stitching, and the embellishment. The possibilities are endless!


I chose to do reverse applique, sewing around the stencil with a simple running stitch, then cutting out the circle revealing the color beneath. I then chose to use beads to create another circle around the circle.


As a quilter I typically use quilting cotton, regular thread and a small needle. It was such a pleasure in sewing my first swatch to feel the different materials: the stretchy softness of the cotton jersey, the thick sturdiness of the button thread, and the shiny sparkle of the glass beads.


Last year, when I was on the fence about whether to purchase the 2014 swatch club, I chatted a bit with my crafter friend Vickie, who has sewn a few clothing items from Alabama Chanin. She brought up a great point that it is good to prioritize where you want to go, and to spend money on projects that help you go in that direction. Additionally, we have so few opportunities when we live so rural, that these types of online or mail learning options are good to take advantage of. These ideas have been mulling around in my head for the last year, so when the swatch club continued in 2015, I knew it was a direction I wanted to go!


I can’t wait to get started on February’s swatch! What to make with the blocks at the end of the year? Alabama Chanin suggests putting them in a binder to create a kind of reference library, or sew them together to make a small lap quilt. Already, I’d like to try my hand at making a shirt or skirt!


In the new year, I had a few days off and realized I was low on fabric color options, So I  decided to start the new year with a dye session. I pulled out my entire stash of dyed fabrics to see what I have, and what colors I wanted to dye.

IMG_9056I had plenty of red, purple, green and yellow. Low on blue and brown. I read once in a quilting book, that a quilter’s stash will often tell you what kind of colors they don’t like to use. In that case, I love to quilt with blue and brown!


So my first dye batch was a run of 7 colors, mixed in three values, to make neutrals. I was hoping for more browns, but the mix actually came out more diverse. As I was mixing and dyeing I was bummed because it wasn’t what I had hoped for, but after drying and ironing, I love the spread!

IMG_9099When I see them all jumbled together, I think of a cottage garden, with roses and hollyhocks and herbs. What do you see in these colors?

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As I’ve said before, I am strongly drawn to neutrals, and already this bunch has me imagining and thinking about many different projects to use them in!

IMG_9110I also dyed a nine-step colorway from blue to green.

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My first project with the new fabrics was to make a new set of coasters. I chose one of my ice-dyed fabrics as the backing, and picked six individual colors for the front of the coasters.

IMG_9132I wanted to try making a round coaster, so found a lid in the kitchen that was roughly the size I wanted. I cut a circle from the backing, from the front, and from batting.

IMG_9134I sewed all three layers together with a 1/4″ seam allowance, leaving a 2″ gap to turn inside out. I then ironed flat, and stitched around the edge to close all three layers together. And then this is where it got fun!

IMG_9143At our last meeting, we starting talking about zentangles and quilting, and I hadn’t used my darning foot on my new sewing machine much, so I decided I wanted to play around with free motion quilting! I sketched a few designs first, seeing how they would look in a circle, which also helps me practice the non-stop movement with the pen first before stitching.

IMG_9137Because the coasters are relatively small, the pattern caused the thread to be quite dense in some areas, which really created a new color and pattern of its own.

IMG_9140One of the best pieces of advise I read that helped me become more confident with free motion quilting, is from Leah Day, who teaches and uses travel stitching a lot. It opens up the doors to so many possibilities!

IMG_9141I think these little projects are a great way for me to find designs I love, to then use on bigger quilts. I could make coasters all the time!

IMG_9142Which stitching pattern is your favorite?


At our January Out of the Box meeting, we brought our blocks for the Mono Basin Historical Society quilt.

IMG_9074A few ladies (like myself!) weren’t finished or hadn’t started yet, but it was still fun to see the blocks that were done!

IMG_9075There are lots of wonderful details on each block. I can’t wait to see them all put together!

PicMonkey CollageAs my block was one of the ones that was not done yet, the meeting was great motivation to get my act together and finish it!

IMG_9084These past days I’ve been stitching and stitching, and last night the block was completed. Here are a few close-ups of my block.

PicMonkey Collage 2There are two details that really tickle my fancy. The museum sign, which my friend Heather helped me make, with her rad graphic design skills and fabric printing supplies. Of particular joy to me is the tree – that just sparkles with embroidery. I love the bright colors of the fall leaves, and the texture my stitching made. I feel really drawn to using hand stitching and incorporating embellishments right now, so I ran wild with the tree (and the little gold bell too).

PicMonkey Collage 3So now the block is off to Barbara, president of our guild. She is going to sew all the blocks together, using a black binding/strip between each. Since each block is already quilted, she is going to do a minimum of quilting, we talked about using black thread and stitching in the black outlines around major themes, just enough to stabilize and hold it all together.

IMG_9097But before I handed off my block … I took a drive north to visit the museum school house in person. It is closed right now so I wasn’t able to go in, but it was fun to see the building that I feel like I know so well now!


Once the quilt is complete, I’ll post more pictures!


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