Tuesday, August 31, 2010

August Begets Geckos

This month I decided to create a new pattern featuring a creature.  Most of my patterns are geometric or floral, so I figured it's time for a change.  I found a picture of this wonderful stylized lizard in a pattern book:

I have used this gecko motif before for a stencil design.  I copied the design onto freezer paper, cut out the lizard shape with an exacto knife and ironed it onto a black tee shirt. I had discharged the tee shirt with some bleach cleanser and it had some neat rusty brown streaks all over it.  I decided to stencil this lizard onto the bottom hem of the tee with Lumiere metallic copper paint. It got rave reviews! I decided to take a second look at this lizard and thought it might make a very nice batik pattern.

According to my pattern book, this motif is from the Ivory Coast.  My pattern book doesn't indicate how it was used -- whether on ceramics,  beaded, woven....but I thought it would work really well on fabric, repeated in a grid pattern.

For batik, keep in mind that the areas that are waxed will remain white or the color of your fabric before you dye it.  So, for this motif, I applied wax everywhere EXCEPT in the black area shown in the picture. The dye will  penetrate the unwaxed areas, leaving a pattern of dyed geckos on a white background. Of course, the beauty of batik is that in the waxed areas, dye will seep through cracks in the wax and create lovely fissures of color, so the background will not be pure white. In order to fit the fabric into my sink that is 18" square, I have to fold the fabric (gently). This also creates cracks in the wax and more opportunities for the dye to bond with the fabric.

 So far, I've created this pattern in  Lichen Green and Navy Blue.  In the picture of the navy blue colorway you can really get a good idea of the unique crackled look of batik.  I'll be experimenting with a dark red colorway next.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A New Pattern called Romulus

I didn't have time to post this before running out the door to Canada, so I'm updating my fabric friends now.  I introduced two new textile patterns in August. The first pattern I'm calling Romulus.  It's a pattern based on a Roman mosaic tile. You've probably already noticed I'm very fond of mosaic patterns. I enjoy their regular linear form and how they fit together to make interesting patterns, whether on a floor, wall, or a piece of fabric.

On the left you'll see the pattern on paper in black and white.

The black areas of the pattern will be waxed, the white areas will remain unwaxed. Then, when I dye the fabric, the waxed areas (black) will remain white (or the color of my original fabric), and the white areas will absorb and react with the dye.

I waxed the fabric in my new pattern and then dyed it in a bold lichen green. For this piece, I used a 4% depth of shade.  If I like the hue and value and want to be able to replicate it, keeping track of the depth of shade I used is critical.

Here's the finished piece --


I really like this pattern!  As with most mosaic patterns I find they work best with strong contrasts. Next, I'll try this pattern in deep navy or dark red.

This fabric is available in my Etsy store:

Romulus 20" wide by 38" long

Thanks for sharing my creative process.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Water's Running!

After many months of plumbing and electrical adventures, my new dyeing studio is up and running!  This room, formerly a kitchen in the original part of my house, is small. Eight by ten feet.  In this small space, I've packed a lot of functionality and storage.

While designing our new kitchen a few years ago, I learned some valuable lessons about space planning. I learned that setting up stations or work zones for different activities is crucial.  When planning my studio, I knew I needed to set up work zones for a number of important activities:

* Waxing zone: at least 4 feet of running surface at counter height for applying melted wax to fabric with outlets above the countertop surface for electric saucepan
* storage above the worksurface for waxes, paintbrushes and other tools for applying wax
* Dyeing zone: two sinks for dyeing and rinsing fabric, with washable, easy to clean space on either side of the sinks for placing supplies during dyeing process
*storage above the sinks for chemicals, dyes, paints, measuring cups, scales, plastic containers
* Ironing zone: 3 to 4 feet of running surface to be used as an ironing station
* Mailing zone:  countertop area for measuring and weighing fabric and preparing mail shipments

* Photo zone: blank wall area, preferably lit by indirect daylight, that could be used for photographing larger pieces of fabric

In addition to my lengthy requirements, my other family members also wanted to use my new studio for their crafting fun, like painting models for table top role playing games (Lord of the Rings, Warhammer). A lot of activity to pack into one small space!


My first and best decision was to buy a stainless steel sink from a restaurant supplier. I bought mine from
GalaSource and am thrilled with it. I initially was drawn to a self standing sink because I thought the installation would be easier than installing a countertop with a drop in sink.  When I started researching prices of double stainless steel drop in sinks versus self standing stainless sinks, I really got excited. The restaurant style sinks are a bargain.  Also, they come in many different configurations, with choices in sink size, drainboard size, and number of drainboards. I opted to go with two sinks and two drainboards, and am glad I did.  Always "size up" when you're planning a kitchen or work area -- don't cheat yourself and regret not spending an extra $50 here and there to get the extra functionality you will need.

Once the sink decision was made, I had to figure out what to use for my worksurface for my waxing, ironing, photograpy and mailing stations. I opted to use a storage cabinet that I've had for about 10 years that I already was using to store craft supplies. This terrific cabinet, made by IKEA, (part of their VARDE line) is a pain in the royal arse to assemble, but is a tremendous value. It's sturdy, attractive, and most importantly, holds lots of stuff. At 47" wide, it just fit next to the stainless steel sink, with about an inch to spare. Phew!  The cabinet has a natural birch countertop that I varnished with spar varnish. It's very durable. Water spills wipe up easily and with adequate padding, it even works as an ironing board! And, because this cabinet is designed for a kitchen, its height matches the height of my restaurant sink, so the overall look is uniform and organized.

One of my pet peeves about most American kitchens is mounting height of the wall cabinets. Usually cabinets are mounted so that there's only about 17 to 18 inches between the counter and the bottom of the wall cabinets. For me, this feels very claustrophobic. When I'm waxing or ironing fabric, I don't like to feel as if I'm in a cave, with cabinets on top of my head. So I purposely chose wall cabinets that are 24" tall, mounted under an existing soffit. This left 25" of wall space between my countertop and the underside of my wall cabinets -- a much better proportion of space.  In an eight by ten room, those 6" of extra wall space really makes the room feel less cramped.  Even though I'm petite at 5'2", mounting the cabinets a little higher still allows me to reach everything on the first shelf of the cabinets, where I'll be storing everything I use on a regular basis. Items that I won't need every day go on higher shelves, where I'll need a stool to reach them.

My wall cabinets are also from IKEA, style STAT.  The cabinet fronts mimic the beadboard we installed throughout the room and add a cool white contrast to the warm orange walls. Amazingly enough, the white of the cabinets actually matches the white of the VARDE base cabinet, the white beadboard, and the white trim paint I have used throughout my home (Benjamin Moore's Cotton Balls)! How's that for lucky decorating?

Stay tuned to see what comes out of the sink!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Thanks for supporting Craft Hope for Haiti

This week, I donated these linen tea towels and this batik fat quarter to the Craft Hope for Haiti store. They appeared in the store's listings on Friday and sold in under 10 minutes! Way to go!

All sales, minus Etsy listing and transaction fees, go to Doctors without Borders.

The Craft Hope for Haiti store has sold 1411 items as I write this post. Incredible. Over $20,000 in sales and counting.

I lived in Haiti from 1977-1978. The dignified people of Haiti were in dire need long before the earth's plates started shifting. I pray that folks all around the world will care about the welfare of Haitians long after stories of the earthquake have vanished from the front page of the newspaper.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Just a quick post to remind everyone that I'm having a January Sale in my Etsy store. I'm trying to clear out some pieces that have been in stock for a long time. Many of them are patterns and colorways I won't be repeating.

Hopefully, these lower prices will inspire you to buy my fabric and get started on that project you've been putting off for a long time!  Once my new dyeing studio is up and running, I'll be introducing new patterns and colorways. Any thoughts you have about new colorways are always welcome!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Out with the Old, in with the New

The beginning of a new year brings an opportunity for reflection and renewal. I like the start out the new year with a project that I can realistically complete and will have tangible, visible results.

After much thought, I've decided to build out a functioning and attractive dyeing studio. When I started my dyeing experiments over a year ago, I started out on a 3' X 3' old table in my laundry room. As my stash of fabric, dyes, auxiliary chemicals, and tools multiplied, I carved out out small workplaces all over my house to accommodate my different processes. I converted my cutting table in my sewing room into a station for waxing my fabric. I set up more workspace in my basement near my laundry tub to store dyes, soda ash, plastic containers, tubs, and stock pots. Over the summer, I set up an outdoor dyeing station next to my garden hose.  All of these workplaces served their function, but having several work areas on different levels and in different rooms has been frustrating. I waste a lot of time locating supplies and walking up and down stairs.

As 2010 begins, I've decided to consolidate all my dyeing activities in one room. I'm going to convert my sewing room into a dye studio, complete with double sink, microwave, and small fridge.  For the time being, sewing will have to be relegated to another part of the house -- to be determined!

I've cleaned out my sewing room and am getting ready to spackle and paint. Next step will be to complete the layout of cabinets, using the IKEA planner software.  Several years ago, my husband and I remodeled our kitchen using IKEA cabinets and are very happy with them. They are inexpensive, easy to put together, and durable. It will be wonderful to have all my supplies behind cabinet doors.  The clutter factor will definitely improve.

I have my eyes on a double stainless restaurant sink with double drainboards.  When I first started looking for stainless double sinks, I was shocked at the prices -- $1000 and up for two stainless sinks! Yikes!  Then I got the idea to look for stainless work sinks that are freestanding.  Installing a freestanding sink with drainboards will mean we don't have to install a countertop and sink cutout. Also, the stainless drainboards are a much better choice than laminate countertop where caustic soda ash, dyes, and lots of water will be in constant use. And I've been able to find a double sink with drainboards for about $400. I think that's not only a bargain, but a terrific investment for a hardworking room.

I'll post pics of my progress. If you've built out a dye or art studio and have some ideas you'd like to share, please do!