Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A Recommended Shibori Thread

I'm always looking around for great tools of the craft.  I discovered this thread is great for shibori. It is waxed, so it doesn't slide around on the fabric or your pole. It is super strong and can be pulled very hard without stretching. I usually wear a fleece glove when I am pulling very hard or I end up with rope burns/cuts! And it comes in different diameters. And, best of all, it is made in Maine!

I've used both the .035" diameter and the .050" diameter and they both work well, but the .050 will give you better markings on thicker fabric.

I've learned to stay away from colored cord -- sometimes the color can bleed on your project and ruin it.

Here's the link to this product on their website:

Maine Thread Waxed Cord

Monday, September 23, 2013

It's 20% off time!

The nights are getting cooler and soon it will be time to get out some crocheting and yarn to work on some scarves.

In both spring and fall, I think about making way for new things. I always like to clean out the garage in the fall and recycle items I don't use anymore to neighbors and friends.

In that spirit, I've put a number of items in my store on sale -- 20% off minimum.  I'm rethinking some of my product lines and some won't be coming back. 

Click Here to See Sale Items

So stock up now and get ready to make a cozy quilt, throw pillow, purse...whatever. If you start now, if you're like me, you'll actually have a nice gift to give over the holidays!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Fabrics to Stitch by Hand

A client asked me recently which fabrics do I like best for hand stitching?

I do have a lot of experience stitching shibori by hand. I can tell you my favorites for hand stitching. I'm always on the lookout for new fabrics and love it when I find something that works well for shibori AND is sustainable and organic.

Here are my choices for hand stitching:

Hemp Linen

super easy to hand needle. Threadcount is 54 by 54. Has the look and feel of flax linen, but feels sturdier to me.  Takes a beating. Compresses nicely for crisp shibori patterning. Available in my store, but look for it online too -- you may find a better deal elsewhere, depending on how much you buy. Sometimes called "summercloth". A really fine quality cloth.

Hemp Silk Blend

Easy to stitch but more delicate than the linen. Have to be careful when removing stitches -- the silk content means you can get small holes in it if you try to rush through and pull the stitches out aggressively.  Heavier weight than a crepe de chine with an interesting weave and a nice subtle sheen. Difficult to find.

Organic cotton gauze

Not sure what the threadcount is on this, but it is tighter than standard cheesecloth.  Works beautifully for stitched shibori, especially if you are looking for something sheer to layer over other fabrics in your fiber art. 

Whether you use these fabrics dyed or undyed, you'll enjoy the pleasure of using them with needle and thread.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Steamy Days Bring Cool Vegetables

Wow. I was stunned to realize I haven't touched this blog since March.  Where did the time go?  When we say that, do we regret that time went so fast? Not really. Time seemingly quickly spent is usually full of activity. That's not a bad thing.

The hands of time whirled around the face of the clock as I gardened, worked, dyed fabric, and saw my son graduate as class valedictorian. Yes, there was a lot more mundane stuff involved in the mix, but you have to slog through the sludge in order to enjoy the spice.  

It's stifling hot here and for a change of pace, I'm sharing a quick recipe for grilled zucchini as I drink some very cold iced tea. 

Slice zucchini thickly. Baste generously with canola oil, salt and pepper. Grill on medium high heat until you have nice scorch marks and zucchini is soft. You may need to baste with more oil to keep from sticking to grill. Layer warm zucchini with mixture of 1 part good quality olive oil, 1 part red wine vinegar and lots of shredded fresh basil. (I cut the leaves with kitchen scissors). Let sit at room temperature for flavors to develop -- around half hour. I made it the night before for a party recently and refrigerated it -- brought it to room temp before serving -- and it was perfect. A great do ahead dish.

Alternatives: mix 1 part fresh lemon juice, 1 part olive oil; shred fresh mint instead of basil. The zucchini mint version is a classic dish from Naples cuisine.

Monday, March 18, 2013

More Organics

Here's a new palette, Earth, in certified organic cotton:

Earth Organics

I'm also working on a post on mixing complementary colors as a way to expand your color options. My challenge right now is to expand my repertoire of reds. I have dozens of blues and greens and purples and plums. But very few reds. So, I am working on combining pure red dye with other pure dyes to get hues with a range of values and saturations. Fun stuff for the mad chemist!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Mixing Dye Stock Solutions and New Organic Fabric

I've published a short tutorial on how to mix up dye stock solutions:

Mixing Dye Stock Solutions

Also, a few new items in my store:

I've also purchased some new organic cotton fabric that has a lower threadcount than my broadcloth cotton.  It would be a nice fabric for hand stitching, piecing, and embroidery.  Here's my first offering of this new organic cloth:

I'll be listing some more palettes in this fabric soon.  This organic cloth is certified organic and meets the Global Organic Textile Standard. 

I've also ordered some organic broadcloth, that I think I will experiment with for batiks.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Adventures 'round the colorwheel

Combining secondary colors is a great way to expand your color horizons.

The main secondary colors are violet (mixed from blue + red); orange (mixed from yellow and red); and green (mixed from blue and yellow).

Combining secondary hues will also give you colors that are more muted than the primary colors. This is because mixing fiber reactive dyes is a subtractive process. Every time you add a hue to your mix, more light is being absorbed or subtracted. So a mix of four pure colors (made from mixing two secondaries) will be significantly more muted than a pure primary or a secondary (two primaries). 

This is good to remember when you are looking for colors that are duller or have a lower chroma.

By dialing down the amount of dye you use at the same time, you can obtain colors that have both a lower chroma and a lower value.

Try combining your secondary colors in different ratios to see what you come up with. Major tertiaries are olive (green + orange), rust (orange + violet) and navy blue (green + violet), but you will find that by changing the ratios of your secondaries, you will get an interesting range within that color family. Easy ratios to mix are 90/10; 75/25; 50/50 and 25/75.

To make your dyeing life easier, mix up your solutions for each secondary in multiples of 10. That will make mixing your ratios simple. So, try mixing together 18 mL of violet with 2 mL of orange; 15 mL of violet with 5 mL of orange; 10 mL of violet with 10 mL of orange;  and so on.  Make sure to label your mixtures -- Rust A, Rust B, etc., so you can keep track of them.

Then weigh small swatches of fabric and dye your swatches in different depths of shade. Using a 5% solution, a 10 g swatch of fabric dyed at 4% depth of shade will require 8 mL of 5% solution; 2% depth of shade half that amount, 4 mL.  With 20 mL of 5% solution, you can dye four 10 g swatches in four depths of shade, a great way to see how each color might change as the value changes.  

Here are some hues I made recently using orange and green. I dyed these at a low depth of shade, because I wanted a really light, breezy effect that I think works especially well on linen. I'm calling this my air palette.  

Thanks for reading. As always, feel free to ask questions.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Color Swatches Design Wall

I like to have swatches using formulas I've worked on using different dyeing techniques. A combination of pure dyes will look very different on a piece of fabric dyed using low water immersion vs. on fabric dyed a solid color using a tub dyeing method. 

I like to have solid dyed swatches available so I can decide what color to use for my batiks. I dye all of my batiks using a tub dye method. 

I decided to try using some 100 percent cotton 1.5" wide tape to dye solid color swatches. They work pretty well. I don't fuss over them as much as I would if it were a solid yard of cotton, so they are a little more splotchy than I would dye my fabric, but that's okay. I'm just trying to get an idea of the hue.  To make these tapes, I cut a piece of cotton tape and weighed it. To make it easier, I cut a piece so it weighed 5 grams. This makes dye calculations easier. I dyed the tapes a 4% depth of shade using a 5 percent dye stock solution. I used the same fiber to water ratio that I would when tub dyeing, so I can replicate these hues pretty well on cotton or hemp.

Just a note: this cotton tape had some kind of residue on it. So, I had to prewash them before dyeing. The tape is a natural color, not bleached.

To display them, I took a piece of white bristol paper and glued on a strip of velcro. I then attached little pieces of velcro on the ends of the cotton tapes. That way, I can rearrange them into palettes or families. I can imagine I will end up with many of these swatch posters around the house!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

A small piece of linen

Here's a simple piece of 100% hemp linen I've finished sewing.

When sewing the petals, I started at the outside ring, sewed to the middle and came back to the outside. Each petal is sewn independently. You want to keep the areas you stitch fairly small. That will make pulling the threads easier.  I'll pull the stitching on the outer ring last. 

I might add some tied marbles outside the ring, to make a ground that the motif will rest on. Or, after pulling the threads and tying them tight, I could pole wrap this piece, for some extra texture in the background. Hmm I like that idea.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Taking Stock

An important first step in figuring out what to charge for your art is to figure out what it costs you to make it.

That seems pretty straightforward, but you'd be surprised how many people don't do it. They price their art arbitrarily, based on what they see selling elsewhere or they just pick a number.

So what goes into making your art?  The first step is to track the supplies you use.

For me, keeping track of my supplies is easy. I just keep a folder and shove receipts in it when I buy fabric, dye, wax, thickener, and so forth. But that doesn't tell you what your real cost per item is. That's what you need to get a handle on.

What I've done over time is create several master spreadsheets that help me keep track of costs and calculate what it costs to make everything I have for sale. If you are just using yarn and a crochet needle, that's pretty simple. My work uses far more supplies than that, but it's still not that complicated. 

This can be an eye-opening experience. You might get a shock when you realize what the real cost is. Think of everything you use. Don't say "oh that's not very expensive, I won't include that in my calculations". You will be surprised how it all adds up!  And of course, your supplies aren't your only business expense. So, tracking supplies is just the first step in the process.

Here's a screenshot of a simple spreadsheet I set up, populated with dummy numbers. 

Sample Costs Spreadsheet

You get the idea.  I know how many grams of dye I use for every yard I make, it's a pretty easy process to figure out its cost. Since dye or paint or yard prices may vary by color, just take an average price per ounce or gram or use a price that reflects the most expensive color you use. This way, you know you are covered. 

When you plug in your numbers, don't forget to include shipping. So, if it cost you $200 plus $35.00 shipping to order 20 yards of fabric, your cost is 11.75 a yard, not $10 a yard. You paid for the item to be sent to you and that cost must be calculated into your analysis. Shipping costs are high these days, especially for heavier items like fabrics. It's best if you figure out what your costs are for a unit that you sell. For me, that's yards of fabric. That will make it easier to figure out what it costs you to make everything you sell, if the items are multiples (or divisibles) of a unit. Next time, I'll show you how I use this per unit price to create another spreadsheet that lists every item in inventory and all costs associated with it, including transaction fees and shipping.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


I love itajime for its bare geometric simplicity. I clamped simple shapes on a fold of cotton hemp. Some of the color penetrated the fold to make a line between the mirror images. I've signed up for Jude's What if Diaries and will hope to use these for stitching in her class. 

I think itajime is best suited for one dark color. I'm not a big fan of technicolor itajime. If you're looking for a monochromatic scheme, use a pure dye, not a mixture. That way, you won't get funky colors or halos. For this half yard, I used ProChem's Deep Navy 414 at about a 6% depth of shade. I used a tub dye method.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Are you Running a Business or Enjoying a Hobby?

When I first started designing fabric and selling it, I really didn't think about what I was doing in terms of a business. I think most creative people don't like to think in terms of balance sheets, profits and losses. Most of us want to practice our art without sullying our minds with thoughts of money.  We worry that our creative energy will be diminished by the exchange of dollars and cents. Some folks can practice their art and sell it for pleasure, selling at a loss, but not minding, because they can afford not to mind. Most of us aren't that fortunate.

I have been taking a hard look at what making money creating art entails. Yes, it involves a creative process that can be a wonderful stress reducer and outlet for nervous energy. It can be a means of self development and growth not attainable through other avenues. But, if you need or want to make money from your art, you have take a hard, unemotional look at what you do and how you do it. You have to be as hard as flint.  

The first step is to cast an unvarnished eye on what you do and determine if you are creating the best product you can that is worth people giving up their hard earned dollars to own.

You are probably thinking: "of course my art is quality! I make it, don't I?" Well, no, it might not be.

Evaluate your artistic product in terms of the competition. Ugh, that ugly word! You might be tempted to think you don't have to think about the stinkin' competition because you are making ART! My advice: don't be afraid to look. Check out what others are doing. You might learn a few things, and you might well come away feeling proud of the knowledge, skills and talent you do have. But it always bears asking yourself: Have you advanced your skills to a high level? Can you learn more? Would you be considered an expert in your area? If you aren't, you should strive to be. If that means attaining greater technical or artistic skill, make the investment of time and/or money to attain those advanced skills. Often this won't involve an outlay of funds, but many hours reading and practicing. Find a support or educational forum where you can ask questions and get advice. There are no shortcuts in getting better at what you do. Your investment of hours will pay you back many times over in satisfaction and productivity.

Ask your friends and relatives to look at your craft and tell you what they would pay for it. Ask them how it could be improved. Don't be afraid to listen to and follow their advice. 

Once you've taken this critical step, you can start the process of determining the monetary value of your highly qualified creative output. That sounds easy, but it is not. Most of us devalue ourselves and our output. You have to keep telling yourself that your creative time and grunt time is worth someone else's dollar. And there's always grunt time. Not everything I do when creating fabric is fun. Some of it is repetitive and boring. But you can and should place a price on it if you want to earn money practicing your art. Notice I haven't said "earning a living" here! I'm just talking about having someone pay you fairly for the art you create, even it it's just so you can pay for music lessons or tutoring or college for your kids.

So how do you go about figuring out how to price your work, i.e., your creative output?

In my next couple of posts, you can come along with me as I walk you through my own process, still in refinement.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Confluence of Hues

Over the last few months I've been working on creating palettes from primaries and complementary pairs. This is a great way to expand your "paintbox" exponentially. Why limit yourself to proprietary colors developed by ProChem and Dharma? Proprietary colors can vary from dyelot to dyelot. Also, if you get hooked on a proprietary hue and it is discontinued, what then? The major primaries are rarely discontinued and are much more consistent.

I glue my swatches onto card stock and record my "formula" on the back of the card, so I can replicate it over and over.  Here's a yard of cotton hemp fabric that I dyed using two hues from two different palettes. A deep bronze combined with dark teal.  Sometimes I add a color in the middle, but for this piece I decided to allow a little of the natural color of the hemp to remain to give my eye a little respite from the saturated color.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Experiments on a frigid day

The temperatures have dropped here. The first really cold weather we have had all year. Fortunately my studio is a warm spot for dribbling dye over cloth. In this case, a yard of silk hemp, folded and scrunched. 

My favorite part of dyeing is the rinsing. That's when you get a sense of how the dye has moved through the cloth and left its mark.

You really have to give up a sense of control when you are dyeing this way. It is what it is. And it is beautiful.