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Posts Tagged ‘iris’

Cathy and I met up this morning to work on our foreground. Things are a little simpler for me, as I am an edge piece, so I am mainly collaborating with Cathy on my piece.

IMG_7870We started by laying out what ideas and colors we had so far. My kitchen table was just wide and long enough for our two panels to lay out side by side. Cathy is going to have an iris field in the bottom of her panel. We talked about how it would look good if it extended into mine a bit.

IMG_7868I auditioned a few fabrics next to hers, to pick colors of similar values. Finally my ice dyed fabric has a place! The multi colored patterning on it matched with the effect well. I chose a green dominated color for the stem background, and a purple dominated color for the flowers.

IMG_7872I started cutting the fabrics into rough shapes to see how’d they look, and Cathy let me borrow one of her iris to get a feel. Aren’t her iris lovely?! I can’t wait to make a few of my own for the corner. I think I’ll make them slightly smaller, as my iris section is smaller. I turned on my iron, and we worked away cutting, fusing, and placing. Sometimes we’d chat, ask the other’s opinion, sometimes we’d work in silence, in our own little world. It felt companionable and pleasant. What a great new way to make a quilt!

IMG_7873Then we both started playing around with our background greens, auditioning different colors, talking about where the light to darker colors would look good, and how to not just have straight lines, but more natural looking lines. We looked at pictures of the valley, and it looks like different groupings of bushes and grasses make different colored sections across the valley. So I tried putting out a layered approach, of different greens, and then cut them to different shapes and sizes. I’m thinking my stitching on top can be where I put in detail of bushes and grass using different colored threads.

IMG_7879Here you can start to see my layers cut out and layed down. They are very plain, so I think that puts more emphasis on the stitching making the pattern and design. I am thinking I will practice some different designs that might work! Maybe sketch out a couple, think about how lines could make the impression of bushes.

IMG_7884Did you also notice the brown of my tree changed?! I kept looking at my first tree, and it just seemed too dark. I like the brown that Cathy chose for her tree branch, and decided I needed to lighten my tree color. I knew it was going to be one of those details, that if I left it in, it would continue to haunt me. So best to change it now. I didn’t have any brown colors on hand, but Cathy had a hand-dyed brown she generously gave me to use, so I cut out another tree! Don’t you think it looks better?

IMG_7878This time, I traced it onto the fusible webbing as one solid piece. The last tree I broke into smaller pieces, thinking I’d save on fabric, but I didn’t like how once laid down they weren’t one piece. This way today used up more fabric, but I think the tree being one piece looks better.

DSCN5151

Photo by Cathy

And our end layout for this session! Our tree branches are lined up, and our greens picked out and cut.

DSCN5152

Photo by Cathy

The last thing I did was take a piece of solvy (water soluble stabilizer), and very roughly trace the outline of our tree, both our branches together. My idea for the leaves is to cut fabric into a million little pieces, sandwich them between two pieces of solvy, and quilt the leaves roughly together. Then I will dissolve the solvy in water, and I’ll be left with a loose netting of leaves and string I can layer over our tree branches. I want to try this technique to mimic the way the background can be seen through the leaves. I don’t want to cut out solid chunks of fabric, I want the leaves to be varied in their thickness and have the background show through. We’ll see how it works! That will be next weekend’s project.

{This post is part of a series. To see other posts in this series, please click here}

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Here are the results from my natural dying with lupine and iris:

The lupine fabric is above, it dyed a slightly darker green, with the iris fabric below, dying a very pale pale pale green. You almost have to squint your eyes and imagine it to see it.

So what happened? Here are a few of my thoughts, and I can’t wait for another free day to get back to my dye pots and experiment some more.

1. Cotton is harder to dye than wool.

Cotton is a cellulose- or plant-based fiber, along with linen and hemp. The recipe I was following called for wool, which is a protein-based fiber, along with silk, alpaca, angora, cashmere, etc. Different fibers take on the dye molecules in different ways, wool, often resulting in brighter colors than cotton.

2. I skipped the tannin mordant step.

Almost every book I have recommends that when dyeing cotton, first mordant it in alum, and then mordant it in a tannin bath (think oak tree acorns!). I skipped this step, and is perhaps why I had less brilliant results. This is definitely something to try next time, as I am a quilter I will want to continue to dye with cotton!

3. Recipes vary.

I have been surprised at the great variation in recipes. One book will say simmer for 30 minutes, let sit overnight, another book will say simmer for an hour, sit overnight, simmer again for an hour the next day . . . Kind of like cooking, there can be many different ways to come out with the same result.

I followed the recipe in my Nature’s Colors, by Ida Grae book, which has you boiling the fabric with the plant matter for 30 minutes, let sit overnight, and rinse. Many of the recipes in the Harvesting Color book, have you boil the plant matter for an hour, let sit overnight, boil again for an hour, then put in the fabric and simmer. Then rinse. The book explains this is to fully extract all the color possible from the plants. Especially as I am working with cotton, this might be something to try, since the fabric won’t be taking up color as easily as wool.

4. Maybe cotton had nothing to do with it at all, and iris and lupine just don’t dye good colors.

Did I harvest the plants too late in the spring? Do wild iris produce lighter colors than cultivated iris? There are so many variables. My good friend Lesley who is also a phenomenal knitter is also interested in dyeing her yarn from natural fibers. Next time we are going to dye the cotton and wool at the same time, to get a sense of what color variation there is between the two.

I’ll leave you with this excerpt, which puts into perspective the challenges of dying cotton:

Secrets of the Masters

From about 1660 onward, when the cotton chintz craze began to sweep across central and northern Europe, textile printers felt pressured to duplicate the permanent, colorful designs of Indian imports, though they had neither the training nor the practical experience to do so. India’s master dyers had known for centuries – thousands of years, more accurately – that intense vegetable dyes will not penetrate into waxy cellulose cotton; they scatter on the surface and run. Not only did the masters have to find a way to treat raw cotton cloth to make it receptive to color, they also needed to make the dyes permeate the fibers to achieve colorfastness. Through trial and error, Indian artisans developed primitive but effective methods to do both, and they were not about to share their hard-won knowledge with foreigners. This secret wisdom, assiduously guarded, was passed from one generation to the next. It owed its science to bonding through molecular chemistry, but of course the ancient Indians knew only that they could trust the urine of goats and other barnyard animals to get the job done.”

from Big Cotton, how a humble fiber created fortunes, wrecked civilizations, and put America on the map, by Stephen Yafa

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