Thursday, April 28, 2011

Garden Surprises

When I don't have my hands in a dyebath, I have them wrist deep in dirt in my garden.

This is a clump of Verbascum I started from seed last spring. They didn't do much last year, but this year is another story. They are stunning.

I bought the seed from Thompson & Morgan and started them in small pots in early spring. I had a few blooms last summer, but as with most perennials, they really came in their own this, their second year.

I've read that these are not true perennials, but biennials, so I'll start some more this year, just to be on the safe side.

The chartreuse leaves on the right are Agastache Golden Jubilee. They will flower in summer through fall, with purple spikes providing a complement to the yellowy green leaves. 

We can't grow delphiniums here in Virginia; it gets  hot too early. These verbascum are a pretty good substitute though for a tall spiky plant with airy, delicate blossoms.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Tax Man Cometh so enter my Gift Certificate Giveaway

Dear readers,

I hope you've finished your taxes. I haven't. Still plugging away. In honor of taxes being due April 18 this year, I'm having a giveaway.

The giveaway is really a moving present from me to you, in honor of moving my store to ArtFire from Etsy. ArtFire offers easy gift certificates that don't impose fees on the seller, so I'll be offering gift certificates in my store very soon.  But I wanted to try one first and make sure they work well. 

My giveaway is an $18 gift certificate to my ArtFire store. A pretty nice way to celebrate a move, and it will cushion your tax burden by a teeny tiny amount.

I'm only imposing one rule. To enter the giveaway, you have to post a comment to this blog post, telling me about a sewing project that is more taxing than you thought it would be when you first embarked on it. We've all had those experiences. You read the instructions for inserting the zipper, and it seems like a snap. You struggle for 2 hours to no avail. The project gets pushed under a bunch of other unfinished gems in a box at the back of the closet. Sound familiar?

Anyway, post your comments between now and April 18. I'll have the drawing on the 18th and hope to bring a smile to someone's face.

Monday, April 11, 2011

more fun with itajime shapes

My favorite thing to do is play. Play with techniques, dye, fabric. This weekend I played some more with itajime. I created fabric sandwiches with different shapes.  Here's a heart that turned out fairly well. I didn't get quite the definition I wanted on most of the pieces I worked on, including this heart. I suspect my problem is that I soaked the fabric beforehand in warm water. My hunch is that the water soaked fibers actually prevented the dye from penetrating thoroughly. The top layer (top half of the fabric to the left) has good definition, but the layers underneath are blotchy. Presoaking might be a good thing to do with silk, but I am having my doubts about using this method with cotton and hemp.

Today I'll be clamping and using my usual tub dye method without the water pre-soak, and we'll see what happens.

I love, love, love this flower motif. If I can improve the definition, I think this could be really gorgeous. So far this is my favorite.
Here's a small piece that I blocked out with two triangles, leaving just a small corridor for the dye to penetrate. This could be a great frame for some beautiful stitching.

Working on these pieces makes me want to create some really lovely pillows, with itajime patterns centered in a square or rectangle of hemp linen. Hmm... more to ponder. As usual, so many ideas, too little time.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Stitchin' Hearts

Stitched shibori is all about symmetry. Here's a heart I stitched recently. You can still see the crease where I folded the fabric before I stitched it.

I'm not sure how I got this color. A splash of lime green, a jigger of golden yellow....It looked nothing like this when it was in the dyebath. The final hue was only revealed after several washes in hot water.

I pulled out my Benjamin Moore fan deck and the closest match is Yolk #2023-10.

I decided to stitch the hearts close together so they are linked together, like parent to parent and parent to son and parent to daughter and son to daughter. Irrevocable bonds that can never be broken by adversity or ill-fortune. Links that bind and hold with love and patience. Life-long, love-long connections.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Experimenting with Hemp and Itajime

I'm kind of a perfectionist. I don't feel comfortable selling any fabrics until I've tested and re-tested techniques. I just don't think folks should be using their hard earned money to buy my mistakes or my "almost worked" projects.  Being an artist of any medium requires skillful techniques and methods, acquired through many hours of learning and experimenting. Working in fiber is no different.

Itajime is the only method I haven't really experimented with yet using the new hemp cottons I acquired recently.

I've been clamping and dyeing small pieces to see how well the color penetrates the fibers. It's always best to work with small samples first when you're working with a new fabric, then move up to larger, more complex pieces. 

These pieces are roughly 14" by 9". They are perfect for squeezing in during lulls between larger jobs and for using left over dyes. I've been clamping circles, squares and petal shapes.

I've found that 16 layers of fabric is pretty much the limit for this fabric. More than that and you start losing definition in pattern.

This hemp cotton has a translucent quality I am really growing fond of. It feels and looks organic and comfy. Not as smooth and polished as the cotton I normally use, but I like that. I can imagine it being used to wrap a loaf of freshly baked bread or as a bag for some just picked greens from the garden.

These samples will be gifts tucked in with other purchases of sustainable fabrics.