Posts Tagged ‘fabric’

My husband and I are getting excited and stoked for our upcoming honeymoon. We are going on a road trip through the Pacific Northwest. He’s bought a fly fishing rod, and I am envisioning long lazy summer days by a lake . . . where I will be . . . quilting! I started to look and think of a travel quilt project I could bring, which then led me to another quilting project to get ready for the quilting project!

IMG_6592English paper piecing is a great way to quilt while traveling. I came across this book and blog while browsing for paper piecing tutorials. The book is a great read and really inspiring. The author talks about her travel kit, using a pencil box to hold the supplies, and a smaller sewing pouch to hold the little pieces. Of course, I wanted to make my own!


This picture is for April – she said to me the other day, your blog pictures all look so neat and tidy! That’s because I often consciously straighten my table before I take a shot. Here’s a candid behind the scenes shot of my sewing area, filled with scraps, thread, tools, and piles of other projects currently in the works.

IMG_1251-2I wanted a small pouch that would fit inside the pencil box, with a zipper closing it on three sides. I settled on a four inch square size. I’ve been thinking and dreaming a lot of the wild geese quilting pattern, so I chose that for the outside. I sketched the pattern on tracing paper, and paper pieced by machine the blocks, to get that nice crisp look and because the pieces were so small.

IMG_1256-2For the lining, I took inspiration from the blog again. On one side, a small pocket to hold thimble, paper clips, and scissors. On the other side, a strap to hold a spool of thread, and pincushion to hold pins and needles.

IMG_6571The next step – the zipper – was a pain. I’ve never done a zipper like that. Something about zippers always confuse me anyway. I found a free tutorial for a pouch similar to mine online, and that helped a lot. Probably if I tried the same pouch again, it would come together easier.


I love the small size. Each piece is so tiny and simple.

IMG_6576This is one pouch that is ready to travel!

IMG_6580Now for the paper piecing. I learned a few nifty tricks from the book. For my project, I chose equilateral triangles. A simple repeating shape that is so lovely in its sameness.

IMG_6588I know I like paper piecing, because one winter I worked on this quilt each evening. But I wasn’t happy with how it turned out. I think I lost control of the color scheme, and the scrappy look just didn’t work out. With this new quilt, I decided I wanted to use my dyed fabric scraps. Browsing other equilateral triangle quilts, I found myself drawn to quilts that used multiple colors and were offset with white triangles.


I cut triangles of my dyed fabric and triangles of white muslin fabric (leftover from my wedding table cloths!). I cut triangles of cardboard to act as my templates instead of purchasing plastic ones. And I sewed a quick test run to try it all out. I’ll be making multiple units like this, piecing triangles into hexagons, and then sewing those together to make up the quilt.

IMG_6593All the pieces fit neatly into the pencil case.


Ready to throw in my back pack. Ready for vacation.

IMG_6599Have you ever taken a quilt on the go? What did you make?

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{My DIY Wedding Series – Post 1}

When I started looking at wedding invitation options online, I found a lot a beautiful designs that were very very expensive. After showing Aaron a couple of options, he said, can’t you use your crafty skills to make us our own? All of a sudden, the wheels in my brain started turning, and I was off and away on a fun adventure. Of course! Silly me. And instantly I had an idea. From there, it all fell into place.

I wanted to incorporate my love of sewing, locally source the print job, and reflect the natural history of the property I grew up on and where we were going to get married. I found a sketch of two oak leaves and acorns online, and traced them onto fusible webbing. For 65 invites, I needed to trace 130 oak leaves and 130 acorn seeds and caps.

IMG_4839I cut out these fusible webbing shapes and ironed them onto scraps of fabric that were from my hand dyed fabric stash. I chose various greens for the leaves (each card received a light and dark colored oak leaf), and various dark and light browns for the acorns.

IMG_4842At this point, my hand and arm were started to cramp and be sore from all the trimming, so I called in reinforcements. Kim and Lesley joined me for a Sunday morning of cutting.

IMG_4844I designed a card with what text we wanted, and took it to our local print shop to get printed. After all the fabric shapes were cut out, I peeled off the paper backing of the fusible webbing, arranged the leaves and acorns on the paper card, and ironed the shapes down. I was pleased to discover that the fusible webbing works as well on paper as it does on fabric.


As well, I am indebted to Margaret for sharing with me the tip of taking a pin, and drawing a small cut line on the fusible webbing paper, aiding in the process of peeling the paper off of the fabric shapes. Saved me hours of frustrating peeling!

IMG_4849Each leaf and flower was then quilted down. I took pleasure in the slowness of the process, imagining inviting my friends and family to the wedding, looking forward to the day of. I’d do a few minutes in the evening, an hour on the weekend, and slowly, slowly, my pile of finished invites grew, until they were all complete.


Hand crafted, made with love, invites were then sent out to our friends and family.

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I’ve noticed with recent sewing projects that I’ve been drawn towards light value colors, or the neutral colors. I’ve also noticed my stash of neutral fabrics decreasing as each project is completed. Last weekend, when I got the urge to dye fabric and suddenly found myself with a free Saturday, my thoughts went immediately to dyeing more neutrals.

IMG_5761I think hand dyeing neutral fabrics is one of the unique reasons to dye fabric in the first place; the incredible range of colors and values you can get with mixing your own dye is limitless. What is the best way to dye a neutral color you say? Mixing three primaries, red, yellow and blue. Of course the amount you mix of each changes your neutral color, to range from a red brown to a golden brown to a blue gray to a green gray . . .

IMG_5084Some time ago, I think back in February, I spent another Saturday dyeing fabric. I was eager to try the Outdoor Flat Dyeing method, featured in the June/July 2012 issue of Quilting Arts, of Robin Ferrier. I had also recently purchased on a whim the Fall Pantone colors from Dharma.

photoI’ve never previously purchased mixed colors from Dharma. I’ve always mixed my own colors from the three primary colors. But the Falltones mix seemed fun and varied, so I thought I’d give it a go.

IMG_5092Unfortunately, as happens in the spring in the Eastern Sierra, the Saturday I set out to try this new outside dyeing method was extremely windy. It was the most stressful, frantic, and messy dyeing experience I’ve ever had. The wind blew the plastic and dye over everything.

IMG_5083Once started though, I couldn’t stop, as the fabric was pre-soaked in soda ash and the dye colors mixed. I forged ahead and persevered. The wind not withstanding, I was not very happy with my results. I was shocked by the deepness of color. Perhaps already then my penchant for bright colors was lessening as I continued to be drawn towards more muted colors. I now have over 10 yards of dyed Falltone colors. Perhaps the fabric will make good backs for quilts or linings for bags. (Note: lessons learned are to not choose a windy day, make sure you have a large table to work on, and personally, I’d reduce the amount of dye powder suggested per cup of water.)


Now back to this last weekend. As I pondered the neutral fabric I wanted to mix, I thought, why not use the powder from the Falltones! Learning from my past experience, I used a very diluted amount of dye powder to get the lighter colors I was hoping for. Completely at random, I chose three dye powders from the Falltone set and mixed them together. While not truly a neutral color, the result was a lovely range of muted tones. For each, I dyed three different values, decreasing in brightness, for more varied color. When I finished the rinsing and drying and ironed the swatches out flat, I was more than pleased with the result.

IMG_5753Exactly what I was hoping for when I started out in the morning. Unique. Solid. Mouth-watering. I was unstoppable. I wanted to do more! So I cut up another few yards, and kept going. With this next batch, I chose two colors I hadn’t used yet from the Falltones, Brushed Steel (silver) and Caffeine Buzz (brown), and reduced them to lighter shades. As well, I mixed another random neutral using equal amounts of Jungle Red, Brilliant Yellow, and Blueberry.

IMG_5756The result? A more somber set of neutrals, still equally mouth-watering and brilliant in their simplicity.

IMG_5758I keep track of all my dye experiments with notes like this, in case I ever want to go back and duplicate a color in larger quantities, or to use as inspiration for what worked or how to do something different. In these particular notes, I included the original Falltone colors that made each run of neutral color.

IMG_5759Here are all 27 colors mixed together. Don’t the duller neutrals just make the brighter neutrals pop?! Never underestimate the power of adding a neutral to your palette.

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On Sunday, Lesley, Brianna and I experimented for the first time with dyeing yarn and fabric with indigo. Lesley had ordered a kit from Dharma, and we started by dissolving and mixing the indigo powder and reducing agent in a big pot of warm water.

After stirring, we let the pot sit for an hour, while the chemical reaction worked its magic. When the water turned a yellowish-green, it was ready to dye. The instructions said to remove the “flower”, a bubble of blue stuff that formed on the top of the water. Lesley gamely jumped in to give it a try. It was very, very stinky.

Then it was time to dye the material! After soaking each hank or piece of fabric in water to wet thoroughly, we held in the pot for three minutes or so, gently agitating to make sure the dye penetrated the whole piece, without making bubbles or splashes.

When the fabric was removed, it was a bright yellow color, which rapidly started to turn blue as it was exposed to the oxygen in the air. Wild!

We lay out the pieces for twenty minutes, watching with excitement as the colors continued to deepen and darken as time passed.

I  then rinsed, washed, and dried the fabric. I made different colors by starting with white fabric or yellow fabric, and varying the amount of time the fabric was exposed to the dye, sometimes dunking the pieces for two times.

Such a different way to dye fabric, stretching my understanding of chemistry a bit, what with reacting agents and oxidation and the like. Crazy to take a moment and imagine that this is how our blue jeans are dyed!

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Saturday morning, Lesley, Becca and I hopped on our bikes and rode down to the Owens River to harvest rabbit brush.

We quickly noticed that there were a lot of bees, all going for the same flowers we were! This made for slow work, but luckily no one got stung.

Some bushes had larger flowers than others, and we gravitated towards those, which filled our buckets quicker. We harvested from one bush and then moved onto another, covering a pretty large area, but there was no end to the rabbit brush!

After almost an hour of collecting, we had ten pounds of rabbit brush, which would dye about three pounds of yarn and fabric. Yikes!

We loaded the flowers into my bike trailer, and pedaled home.

Then the boiling began. First, we mordanted the yarn and fabric in alum, and rinsed it prior to dyeing.

Next we boiled the rabbit brush for an hour. I started to get excited when the stirring spoon started to get yellow! After boiling for an hour, we removed the flowers to make room in the dye pots for the fiber.

The second the yarn was placed in the water, it started to turn yellow!

Then we simmered the fiber and dye together for another hour. With great anticipation, we removed the dyed fibers from the dye pot to much oohing and aahing, and rinsed before hanging to dry.

Some rabbit brush flowers still stuck to the yarn!

Just look at the color. So brilliant and happy.

The work went quickly with three of us working to rinse and hang the fibers to dry.

The finished product: nine hanks of yarn and two yards of fabric. Note the color difference, the cotton not taking up the color as brilliantly as the wool.

What would you do with yarn of this brilliant nature?

Learn to knit a sweater of course! More on that coming soon.

What’s next? Maybe dyeing with pear bark from Lesley’s tree?

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I woke up yesterday morning with a hankering to go outside, and to dye fabric. A quick look through my Nature’s Colors book, revealed that Wild Iris dyes fabric a deep purple and Bush Lupine a vibrant green. We took a look at the map, found a high elevation meadow down a four wheel drive dirt road, and took off for a morning adventure.

Sure enough, we found cattle grazing in the meadow, and lots of wild iris. I went to collecting them (they are poisonous to cows, so I didn’t think the rancher would mind), and soon had a bag full. Next was lupine, and we found just enough at about 8,000 feet that hadn’t gone to seed already, along the road side.

Beautiful shooting star in the meadows with the wild iris. What a magenta color!

Back home, I weighed my plant matter. 20 ounces of iris and 6 ounces of lupin. The recipe called for a ratio of 6:1, so I could dye 3 ounces of fabric with the iris and 1 ounce of fabric with the lupin. It takes a lot of plant matter to dye a little piece of fabric!

Weighing the plant matter.

The iris recipe called for the flower heads to soak in water several hours before boiling.

Meanwhile, I per-mordanted my fibers with alum, the most environmentally friendly of the mordants, and least toxic to humans and the world. After an hour of simmering, I rinsed out the fabric, and prepared the pot for lupines.

Into the pot went the pre-mordanted fabric, the lupin, and just enough water to cover it all. This simmered for an hour, and then was left to sit overnight in its juices.

By now, the iris had been soaking for several hours. I added the pre-mordanted fabric to the pot, and simmered them for one hour. This was also left to sit overnight. Now it is the next morning, and I am headed out to the back yard to take a look. Will be back with pictures once the fabric drys!

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Day 2 began with rinsing the fabric from the two pots of alum and tannin mordants that sat overnight. I lay a plastic drop cloth in the bathroom floor, opened the window, and proceeded to rinse and rinse and rinse. All waste water went down the drain (remember the mordant part is the messy chemical part).

Then it was time to dye! I did my calculations, for every 100 grams of fabric . . . Dissolved the dye powder in water, and brought the dye bath and fabric to boiling. I then reduced the heat and let simmer at 180 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 minutes.

Multiple trips to the pot to stir and check the temperature.

I chose to dye with two plants, that I purchased in powder form from the internet: madder and logwood.

Madder is a perennial plant that has been used as a dye for over 5,000 years. The dye doesn't come from the leaves but from the root of the plant.

Logwood is a tropical hardwood in the legume family.

Madder dyes a red color, and logwood a purple color.

Stirring the dye bath as fabric turns red from madder.

And, after much boiling, simmering, and rinsing, the final product! With one dye bath, you can produce many colors depending on the different mordants used. From left to right: 1 – Logwood dye with tannin mordant, 2- Logwood dye with alum mordant, 3 – Madder dye with tannin mordant, and 4 – Madder dye with alum mordant.

Four lovely colors.

What’s next? I am going to test their color fastness. I also am going to try a third mordant, which is more involved, alum-tannin-alum mordant. I am on the tannin step. We’ll have to compare how the color comes out different. I’d also like to try collecting some plant stuffs myself, and creating my own dye colors. Maybe collecting dye stuffs locally, creating a color pallette specific to our region.

For this first experiment, I followed the instructions in “The Craft of Natural Dyeing” by Jenny Dean. Anyone else have a favorite dye book? I’d be curious to try other methods or to read more.

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