Archive for April, 2013

Being in between knitting projects, I started getting the hankering to dye more yarn. I combed my dye books for possibilities. Early spring and where I live gave me few options to choose from. One that caught my eye was willow. In the book Wild Color, by Jenny Dean, she shows willow as dyeing a light beige color with no mordant. I was instantly intrigued as willow grows abundantly along the Owens River which flows a few miles from my house.

IMG_5521Last Saturday, boyfriend, dog and I hopped in the truck and headed down to the Owens River with dinner to go to collect some willow.

IMG_5464The willow was just beginning to leaf out, and the collecting went easy. The recipe called for a one to one ratio, and I had 500 grams of yarn needing to be dyed. 500 grams of willow filled a small tote bag.

IMG_5525What struck me as interesting is that willows offer a good source of tannin, like oak trees. Tannins are used in many recipes to mordant cotton in addition to an alum mordant, before dyeing. This was a quick and easy dye project because I was able to skip the mordant step, and just boil the yarn in the dye bath.

IMG_5493To make the dye bath, I followed the instructions in the book: I poured boiling water over my leafy stems and let them steep overnight to begin the dye color extraction. The next day, I simmered the willow leafy stem dye bath for half an hour. I strained the plant fiber from the dye bath, and brought the yarn and dye to a boil and then simmered for an hour. I then let this sit overnight to allow even more dye to penetrate the yarn. Rinsing on the third day, the yarn emerged a soft beige color.

IMG_5551Still, my color came out lighter than the book’s example. One possibility is that I collected the willow in early spring, and the book recommends late spring to early fall. I look forward to trying again in the summer to see if I can get a darker brown.

IMG_5554The bark can also be used for a slightly different range of colors, but it seems like a more intensive process of stripping the bark and letting soak for a few days before starting the dye process.

IMG_5557The pattern I chose is one my friend Lesley knit, of a lacy long sleeve pullover, with a hood! It will be perfect for cool spring evenings or warm summer days at work.

IMG_5560With my first skein wound into a ball, I’m ready to swatch!


Thanks to Aaron for taking photos of my harvesting, and to Winston who is always up for an outing.

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Browsing Pinterest one evening, I came across this pin of a paper pieced flower block. I was struck by the simplicity of the design and smallness of the block. One Saturday morning I headed to my studio, pulled out some of my hand dyed fabric scraps and gave a try at my first paper pieced block.

20130421-090931.jpgI used all blue tones with a beige background and just love how it turned out! The process of piecing it was so meditative, snipping small scraps of fabric, stitching them to the paper, trimming and ironing, repeat, all using fabric the size of a quarter. I enjoyed it so much I wanted to do another, and then another.

20130421-093511.jpgKeeping to a color set, for the next block I pulled out various values of a deep red, keeping with a beige background.

20130421-093654.jpgI found that the blocks came together quickly if I cut the squares and pieced all four blocks at the same time.

20130421-093914.jpgPiecing this way sped up the cutting, and trips to use the iron.

20130421-094042.jpgI used tracing paper which worked well. After printing the pattern from the website, I made as many blocks as I needed by tracing the pattern onto the tracing paper. After each block was stitched and trimmed, the tracing paper was easy to rip off the back.

20130421-094240.jpgAnd, in about two hours, I had a finished flower that measured about three inches square. Time to start on another!

20130421-094346.jpgI decided to piece four, and then see them into a small square together.

20130421-094431.jpgI wanted to emphasize the fabric and design of the flowers, so decided to try an art quilt binding I had been wanting to try, where the binding is pulled to the back, leaving only the quilting in front. I like its effect, what do you think?

20130421-094628.jpgOf course, being hooked, I couldn’t stop there. I had the idea to use the blocks as tiles, and flip and rotate them to different positions, changing the look of the original block. And as I looked at the shape and design of the quarter sized block, I thought, California poppies! So I pulled out some oranges and greens I had dyed some while back just for an opportunity like this.

20130421-094906.jpgStill keeping with the no border idea, I nonetheless wanted a border to surround the middle square of poppies. Again, playing with color and orientation, using still the same original paper piecing design, I made 12 blocks to surround the original four. I put dark orange poppies in the corners, and light golden poppies on the edge. All floating in a sea of green grass.

20130421-095147.jpgI liked the no binding look of the first quilt, so used that same technique again. This small square now has a sleeve to hang it with, and will soon be for sale in my Etsy shop.

20130421-095350.jpgYes, I’m opening an Etsy shop! It has been a dream of mine for a while, I made it a New Year’s resolution in 2012 and 2013, and now it is really close to becoming a reality. I have a few more details to set up and will be ready to go live! More on that coming soon.

P.S. Sorry for the low photo quality. I took all these photos with my iPhone, because it was quick and handy and I wanted to see if the wordpress app would be an easy work flow. I think I’ll switch back to taking photos with my camera from now on, and am completely unimpressed with the wordpress app. Back to the desktop I go!

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