The great Indigo fabric reveal…..

In 2010, Michael and I spent a time in Dali, China and while there had the opportunity to visit a fabric dyeing facility.   I wrote a short blog post and showed pictures here……

I actually purchased the piece that was being used as a demonstration and gave it to my friend Deb…..


She liked it just the way it was so had never taken it apart to see what design was lurking in there.   A few weeks ago she said that she was ready to start unveiling the piece and asked if I wanted to photograph it…..silly question!!


She started out using scissors or a seam ripper to take out the threads but then decided that some of them were easier to just break.

It was fun to see that each of the “tentacles” was mostly a blue and white stripe but with rings of intricate flowers…..




After completely opening one of the tentacles we decided to leave it there and save the rest for another day. 

Deb did have to do some hand cleaning afterwards…..


The most amazing thing to me was the intricacy of the flower border.  I cannot imagine how they are able to sew and tie the threads with such accuracy and keep everything so even!!

Now I cant wait to see the rest of the piece!!!

Fiber Frenzy – Part 2

At our last Fiber Frenzy group the program was about making Deconstructed Screen Printed fabrics and was presented by Anita and Mary Ann.

They started out by showing us how to make a screen.  First step is to place objects under the screen, only using things that are fairly flat…..


Next you use a squeegee to cover the screen with a thickened dye……


Lift the screen up, remove the objects and allow the screen to dry.

Next, place the dried screen on a piece of PFD fabric and squeegee it with print paste…..


Lift the screen and see what has happened…..DSC00436

Move the screen over, apply more print paste to release more dye…..DSC00438

As you keep going, more and more of the dye releases, causing the print to change……everyone is a bit different from the previous one!!!

Here are two more examples….this one was made with thin spaghetti underneath the screen……


…..and this one showed the progression as more and more of the dye began releasing from the screen……DSC00445

THANKS Ladies for showing us such a fun technique……DSC00458

Dye day with Deb

Back in January when there were inches of snow on the ground, my friend Deb H. and I got together to do some fabric dyeing.   We had a need for a certain type of background fabric and our goal for the day was to make this fabric.

We originally thought of snow dyeing, but decided that 1)….it would take too long, 2)…..we didn’t have the best paints for it, and 3)….there was such a heavy crust of ice on top of the snow that it would  take us forever to gather what we needed.

So….on to the next possibility…..

We taped the PFD fabric down to the plastic covered space and sprayed it with a good bit of water…..


We then went to the paints and started mixing colors, using mostly Setacolor and Dynaflow paints…..


Next step was to apply the paints to the fabrics…..

_1131335_1131329  We rolled the fabric…..


And then unrolled it to reveal the final surface…..


We put them outside to dry (or rather freeze), sprinkling some of them with salt to enhance the texture…..


I forgot to take a photo of the fabric after it had been washed and ironed, but suffice it to say that they will be perfect for our intended project……if we ever get around to it!!!!

Back Again

Hello….my name is Frances and I am a quilter!!    I almost feel that this is how I should start my blog since it has been so long since my last post!!!!

It has been a busy three weeks, with spending 10 days in China, spending a week getting over jet lag, and a week getting caught up on business duties!!  But, I am now starting to feel a bit more normal so thought I would catch up with you again.

I posted to a blog while traveling and want to share here a couple of posts from the trip.  The first is a trip to a fabric dyeing “factory” in Xizhou, a village in the southern province of Yunnan. 

They do traditional tie-dying (like we did in the 70’s), but make  ornate designs by taking the fabrics and sewing or wrapping them to make amazing patterns. It seemed like a mixture of Shibori and Tie-dyeing. They showed us the entire process, from soaking the fabrics in a solution that allows the fabric to accept the dye, to the process of tying the fabrics and then the final dipping in dyes. Most of the pieces are dipped several times to increase the intensity of the colors. All of the dyes are organic based with their specialty being in Indigos. Needless to say, I spent a good amount of time in the sales room!!!! When Michael “complained” that our bags were heavier, I pointed out that our wallets were lighter so it all worked out fine!!

Here are some photos of the outing……


Soaking the fabric in uric acid……


One of the Indigo dye baths  (apparently they required a bit of working in between dye baths……


The “dyeing” room….today they were doing traditional tie-dyeing……

_3084242 The pieces are tied and wrapped and then dipped in dyes.  The piece on the right has been wrapped but not yet dyed…….._3084228 This one has been dyed and the threads are now being cut to reveal the design……_3084231

After dyeing the pieces are rinsed many times…….


Allowed to dry……    _3084248And displayed into a quilter’s paradise!!!……. 


I bought one of the hand-dyes in the middle of this stack………._3084259 

Do I look happy, or what!!!!!………_3084253

Where do you do your thinking??

Over the years I have realized that I often do my best thinking and planning when I am in the shower and sometimes it gets me into trouble….as it did yesterday.

You see, I am working on a pictorial quilt and have been experimenting with using RIT dyes on some of the fabrics…..more about this in another post.  Yesterday morning, just as I was heading to the shower, I realized that I wasn’t happy with the coloring of the bottom part of the quilt.  As I thought about it (while showering), I decided to take the bottom bit off and try over-dyeing it to see if I could fix the color.  I knew that I was going to change it anyway, so I figured I would try this first.

Naturally, I couldn’t wait until I was dressed and ready to sew, so I wrapped the towel around my mid section, closed the blinds and headed into my studio.  The first thought was that I would simply see how hard it was going to be to unpick the section.  Well, that was easy enough.  So, why not go ahead and do the dyeing……still wrapped in the towel and with my hair drying plastered to my head.

After dyeing, rinsing, hand-washing and rinsing again I took the piece to the ironing board and proceeded to dry it with the iron.  Not dark enough….so back to the dye bath….this time for a longer time period.  I went through the same procedure and discovered that this time it had just turned to a muddy grey and would not be usable…..Oh well, it was worth a try.

Back to the bathroom to put  my make-up on.   While standing there, thinking about whether or not I had an appropriate fabric  to use, I had the brilliant idea to use one of the fabrics from the top of the quilt, but to OVER-DYE it to make it a bit darker. (Do you see a theme here?)  Since I didn’t know how long the dye bath would be usable I ran to the kitchen to dye this piece…..ha….success.

Back to the bathroom to re-wet my now dry hair and try to style it into something not resembling a bad wig.  As I am getting dressed, I suddenly remember that the base fabric that I had originally used had been over-dyed as well and that I would need to do the same for this new section.  Off again, this time half dressed, to over dye this final piece.

At the end of my one hour delay, I was clean, coiffed and ready to sew.  AND, I had two new colors of fabric to work with.  It was worth it, but I am just glad that no one else was home!!!

A VERY different quilt

This week I finished up a small project that had been in my mind for a few weeks, and one which is a very different style for me.

Back in August, my friend Deb H. and I spent a day doing glue resist dyeing. Here is the original post. One of the pieces that I created was a simple vase of flowers and I knew almost immediately what I wanted to do with it.


The first step was to add some embroidery to the background. I used examples from a fairly recent article in Quilting Arts Magazine. The only difference was that the examples there used nice quality variegated threads and all I had were some cheap ones that I had bought some time back. But, I persevered and came up with a fairly nice background.

I felt that the vase and flowers needed to be highlighted too, so I trapuntoed them with 2 extra layers of batting.

I am NOT a paisley person, but this old fabric from my stash called to me and so I succumbed and used it as the final border.

The quilting was fairly straight forward, and I was happy to complete the quilt so quickly.

I took it to my local charity bee and, while showing them the finished product, realized that I didn’t like it because several of the threads were too light in color and the detracted from the background. So, while we were looking at another member’s quilt where she had painted many of the designs, I thought about using fabric pens and coloring over the “too bright” threads.

Voila …..I like it MUCH better now.

_9182547 (2)

Something New

After yesterday’s rant about creativity, I spent a lovely morning with my friend Anita H. and had a wonderful time talking about (and showing off) our various projects. I always come away from my visits with her with LOTS of new ideas to try.

I then toddled off to Barnes and Noble for lunch and to look at some books on drawing and painting. After spending a couple of hours getting inspired, I flew home and got out the Set-A-Color paints that I had bought on clearance a few weeks ago.

My first step was to take 2 fat quarters of PFD fabric and lay them out side by side. I then wet one of them and started adding colors of paint. I added streaks of color to the wet piece and blocks of color to the dry one.

The dry one ended up with a lot of white areas, so I took a blue paint and diluted it down a lot and then did a color wash over the colored splotches. I also added some extra water to the splotches to see if I could get them to run a bit….that part didn’t really work.

After they dried, I tool some stamps that I had on hand and used Elmer’s Gel glue to stamp a resist onto the fabric (I left the splotchy one for another day). I started out spreading the glue onto the stamp using a foam brush but quickly realized that my fingers worked better.

After I had tried a lot of different stamp designs, I added some glue lines and dots to finish off the piece. The biggest problem that I had was that, once the glue dried, I could not easily tell where I had already stamped.

After the glue had dried completely (hastened by the 90 degree afternoon heat and my hair dryer), I prepared to do a color wash over the top of the dyed piece.

I was planning to use Set-A-Color paints, but the dark purple that I wanted to use was fairly thick (remember I bought them on clearance) and would have to be diluted, so I decided instead to use a Dyna-Flow paint that was already very thin.

After the purple paint dried, I washed the piece in very warm water, soaking out all of the glue.

The resulting piece is a fun example and I am pleased with my first efforts. I have learned a few things…..

Firstly, I used too many different kinds of flower stamps. It would have looked more cohesive if I had stuck to only a few.

Secondly, the red paint was too different in color from the others as it tends to stick out more.

For my next try, I want to do basically the same thing, but use several different colors in the final wash and see if it will get a batik look.

Anyway…..lots of fun!!!

Here’s to a free Sunday Afternoon!!!

It was nice to realize that, after Church this morning, we didn’t have any plans for the day, so Michael hit the deck to catch a bit of sun and I ran to my studio and grabbed the paints that I had bought this past week.

The first project was to get the border fabric ready for the Sunflower Quilt. I had bought a really cool abstract sunflower stamp and was planning to use it to spruce up the border fabric for the quilt.

My first problem was getting the stamp mounted…..the first piece of wood that I cut was slightly bowed and wouldn’t print properly. So, instead of making a trip to the store, I found an old stamp that I never use and mounted the new one on the top side of the old stamp….two for one!!!

I then started playing with paints, starting out with a brown Setacolor. It seemed to disappear into the fabric too much, so I decided to play with mixing my own colors (thanks to Maggi for suggesting this in the previous comments). I had read that you could mix all of the Jacquard water based dyes, so I started with Brown Dynaflow, added Copper Lumiere and then a small amount of the original brown Setacolor. I was mixing these in an old butter container and was trying to figure out what to mix them with. The light bulb went off and I grabbed a straw to mix with.

Then I used the straw to drip spots of the paint onto the shiny side of Freezer Paper and used a sponge brush to pick up the paint and transfer it to the stamp.

Here is the fabric with just a portion of it printed.

There were a few spots that I felt needed to be filled in a bit, so I got out the sponges that I use when I am doing a faux surface on my walls, and used it to fill in some more.

Here is the finished product (click on it to see the stamping)…..I am really excited about using it in my quilt!!!!

Now, I had this small amount of mixed up paint and I really did not want to throw it away, so I decided to take Melody Johnson’s advice and quilt worrying about the rules of dyeing and to just play!!!!

I wet a fat quarter of PFD (Prepared For Dyeing) fabric and put it into a bowl. I then added a small amount of water to the dyes and poured them over the fabric.

After the fabric was well saturated, I took it outside, laid it out relatively flat and sprinkled Kosher Salt over the top. For the next 30 minutes I went out every 5 minutes and checked on the progress. It was fun to watch the color pool around the salt to achieve a mottled effect.

Here is the final result, after heat setting and washing again. It will be a great addition to my “Lights” section of the stash.

I still had some afternoon left, so I wanted to plan and play with the quilting that I was going to do on the sunflowers. I didn’t want to practice on the real piece, so I copied part of the image onto a piece of fabric, made my quilt sandwich and started quilting.

I learned a few things with this practice……. first of all, I dont have to be really concerned about the design of the sunflowers….they seem to take care of themselves.

Secondly, I realized that it is going to take more than one line of stitching to make the sunflowers stand out……it is actually going to take 3, 4 or 5 times around them…..and with more than one color of thread. SO, I have decided to do some thread work on the piece before I sandwich it to quilt.

Anyway, it promises to be a fun piece to work on and I can’t wait to get started!!!! But, it may have to wait a week or so because we have friends from Australia coming for a week-long visit starting Tuesday.