Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Speck smashing seminar!

Many of my students seem to have difficulty when it comes to getting all the red Procion dye powder to dissolve. The picture above shows what happens when trace amounts of red that are not dissolved properly land on the fabric leaving spots or speckles of bright, bold color.

The solution to this common problem is very simple as you can see in the following video.

One of the key points is to use water that is warm to the touch. Be sure to make a paste first, and always filter any dye that contains even trace amounts of red in the mix.

Here are the results of the red that was filtered and "stuff and dumped" into a small container. No specks. Good mottling. Nice highs and lows of color.

Hope this helps in your quest for perfect results every time you dye using that pesky red powder!


Monday, November 26, 2007

So what do you want to see next?

I am thinking that I should try to put a video on here of how dyes should be made into a paste and then how I filter them to avoid red speckles. It is going to come up in the Quilt University class that opens January 12th so maybe that would be a good thing to show everyone how to do as there are bound to be questions. I'll start experimenting now so it can be ready.

Until then, here are a few pictures I like. This picture is of red and orange silk hand dyed for a wedding on the beach. The bride is wearing chiffon as an overlay over habotai silk. The groom is in crepe backed silk satin.

This picture is of me several years ago starting to dye a very large wedding chuppah. You can see the end results on my web site. It is orange and white. This thing was a real pain in the back to dye. It weighed a ton and getting it to the rinse stage was a sweat producer.

This is a picture of some shibori cotton. Nothing special except that it's beautiful and fun and now lives in a quilt somewhere in southern California.

I'll let you know when the video is ready to view. Until then-dye on and dye hard.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Day Seven: A Week at FabricDesigns.com

The REAL day seven turned out to be a non fabric day. I am skipping it because it probably wouldn't interest you. Things happen. Being self employed has its benefits IF a friend is in need and can't get to the store. I can take her. And then, it turns into more errands, and then this and that, and before you know it, the day is gone. So - skipping ahead to today - Tuesday - even though it is slow, you should know that not all days are glorious dyeing days with bolts of silk going to exotic places and people clamoring for more gradations of cotton than I can supply in one day's work.

Here is what I did today. This cotton shirt that I LOVE got a speck of red dye on the front. I was going to throw it away, or use it as a dyeing shirt, but then decided to over dye it because, after all... it fits well and makes me happy when I wear it. The speck is red. I need to figure out what color to use. I'll decide what color to make it as I pre-soak. This is actually a really cool picture if I do say so myself. I love gray and the gray shirt in the stainless steel sink is a beautiful study in tones, don't you think?

I'm going to use up some of a maroon dye that I bought a few years ago. It is getting kind of old so it's better to use it up soon.

Into the dye it goes. How long should I leave it in? Oh, whatever...

I ended up leaving it in the dye about 4 hours. The actual color is NOT this pink. It is a good maroon and of course the stitching is white as not many companies use all cotton thread these days. The thread is a poly mix so it remains white and that's okay with me. Got some nice mottling. Wish the color was better in the picture. I thought I had fixed it when I edited the pics but oh well.

After the shirt came out of the dye, I needed to order some more fabric. Here I am on hold. Gurrrr... nice music but this irks me. Irk you too??

Now I've got my sales rep on the line and we are talking bolts and how many are left in the storeroom. Some of my students from this last session at QuiltUniversity know that these guys had 7,000 yards left but the thread count was wrong so they had to "find" more, which they did but it left me without ANY Aurora muslin for about 4 weeks. Somehow they "lost" the order so there were a whole lotta bolts of cotton sitting somewhere else until they "found" them. How this happens I'll never know. Anyway...mission accomplished. I then needed to order some more dye. Talking to Dharma always is fun.

The next mundane project is to wash some of the towels I use to wipe up dye spills and excess dye that runs off the tables and onto my studio floor. I do laundry for Fabric Designs maybe three times a year so you can guess that I have a lot more towels than this and a lot more loads to do today... Boring!

The next bit of extreme excitement is to wash the buckets I've used in the last two days to dye the shirt and a few other odds and ends. The fun never ends.

Now it's time to cut some 5 and 10 yard runs of muslin because next month sign ups for Quilter's Palette class open and orders will start to come in for the fabric for this very popular class. Being ahead of the game will save me time and energy during the month of December when I have other things I would rather do than cut up fabric. Stockpiling is mindless work that I rather like. Here is the "before" shot of the supply shelf.

Steve carried the last box down to the studio which contained 6 bolts so I'm getting down to the end of the last order. Good thing I called this morning to get more. I usually order 24 bolts at a time.

Here is the "after" shot. Interesting to note by the clock on the wall that it took me 1 hour to cut all that.

Here is a picture of the small piece I did last year that I am now making about 10 times larger. It is always a challenge to enlarge pieces and keep the same energy alive and well. There is a certain "zen" about art that is contained in your first effort so to bring that around a second time is really hard to do. We'll see if I can do it. So far I do not think I'm capturing the essence of the smaller version. Need an attitude adjustment before working on it again.

Here is a detail of the small piece. Lots of spunk. Lots of fire. Lots of zeal. I'm not getting it this time around. What to do about it? There are a few ways of gaining back the zip - I can detail out just what colors are missing and how they were placed on this one and see what I am NOT doing on the larger one. I can also get excited about doing it the second time. That's the main ingredient missing. My art (and most artists will agree with me here) will always show my attitude while making it. The new piece says, "hooohum". Why am I doing another piece? Because I love this first one and am challenged by the thought of increasing the size so dramatically. The simple thought of "can I do it?" is the motivator.

So that's one week at Fabric Designs.com. I will keep blogging as I work on this larger piece, as I hear from the church in Alberta about the silk panels, and as I have other interesting work that comes in to show you. It may not be every day but I will let you know when there is something worth looking at or talking about. If there are things you want to see or hear about let me know.

Thanks for being interested in what I do. Thanks, Myrna for showing me how to do this and helping me get started. Blog on everyone. Dye hard and dye often.
- MM

Friday, November 9, 2007

Day Six: A Week at FabricDesigns.com

Well you knew it had to happen eventually since this is a slow time of the year for Fabric Designs...a day where it was actually kind of boring.

There are a few things I wanted to show you today but not a lot of stuff. First of all I forgot to include this detail shot of the silk velvet I dyed yesterday. The two colors are red and green - no surprise there - but there are portions where the dyes "wicked out" meaning they traveled in interesting ways leaving beautiful colors along the trail.

Green is a notorious wicking color and the places where the yellow and blue separated a bit and blended with the red made some purple streaks that cannot be seen from far back but up close...zowee! Love it! And the red separated in a few places to be more orangey since I used Scarlet Red which is gorgeous as well.

If I had wanted this piece to be ONLY a straight red and a pure green then I would have taken it out of the dye puddles in about an hour. Remember that I left it overnight on the plastic? That gave it all the time in the world to separate and roam around on the threads. I know my customer is going to love this so it isn't a problem as she is a free spirit and a color lover.

So today I did a few things that I usually do on Fridays such as clean up my messes and hang up the plastics used in the week that have dye still stuck on them that I haven't rinsed, dried, folded and put away for the next dyeing session.

Here I am multi-tasking. Not only am I rinsing off the dye but I'm watering the lawn at the same time. I DID pick up the dog poop before starting this project but didn't think you would want to see pictures of me doing that. I don't know though...maybe you DO want to see it all.

Okay this picture is a great one that even makes ME laugh. I'm doing the "cardboard recycling dance". Anyone watch Seinfeld?? You know the episode where Elaine dances? That's me when I have to squash up the boxes that contain my bolts of fabric. See the thumbs? That's SOoooo Elaine! Hahahhahaaa. Glad no one except you guys can see me doing this.

Steve is going to be happy with me because for once I squashed it tight enough to get it IN the toter and there is room for other stuff. Most of the time, he has to pull everything out again and do his OWN cardboard dance because I didn't break it down well enough for him... I have never seen him do this by the way.

Here I am working on my art piece. I said somewhere along the way that I thought I was going to need to make 30 rows of strips. Nope. Not going to happen. What was I thinking? Maybe 100. We'll see.

Making art for art's sake is really important to me because most of what I do involves teaching, dyeing for someone else's projects, or sending out supplies. I can lose myself easily and that's not meant in a good sense if you know what I mean. I am an artist. I often forget that fact in the business of making art fabric for a profit. When I find depression setting in or boredom or anxiety, it is usually because I have forgotten who and what I am about which is color and design and creative expression and releasing that tension through a chosen medium. Thank you Myrna and my "Mighty Men" for reminding me OFTEN to go make some art.

Here is how it looks now that there are about 15 rows packed in tightly together. When this entire piece of raw silk backing is covered I will have a shag rug piece that will be attached to a set of wooden stretcher bars.

In the back of my mind, I am gathering pieces that will comprise a show of silk and cotton pieces that will go in the county administration building here in Woodland. The focal point will be long silk hangings that will be suspended in the open center of the building from the third floor down to the first floor. There will be quite a bit of movement from the air flow so they will flutter a bit and rotate. Each piece will be 120" wide by about 480" (40 feet) in length. The open area can contain at least eight in the center portion alone.

I have wanted to do this show since the building was constructed but have had things block my flow...until now. Next week I am going to go over and set a date for the event with the arts commission and get permission to hang the work from the wooden beams. The hardest thing is going to be getting the "cherry picker" in there to hang the pieces. You know what that is, right? You see linemen working in the trees and on power lines riding in those bucket things not necessarily picking fruit... Our neighbor Joe has access to one so that shouldn't really be an issue. The issue is going to be getting it in the front doors and getting Steve to agree to go up in it to hang the things. This idea keeps bumping around in my head and needs to get out soon. So in the meantime, I sew, and think, and plan, and plot, and squash up cardboard boxes and shovel dog poo...

Here are the colors used. The small one from the QU class needs to be photographed and put on this blog so you can see where I am going with this. I'll do it Monday.

Saturdays and Sundays I don't work at Fab Designs. I do check my classes and answer email but I try not to dye for customers or do transactions until Monday. I used to work whenever it came to me and a lot of you know where that got me...sicker than a dog...for a long time. Rest is important. I'm learning. Breaks are important. Not working until I drop down dead is important. I want to be in for the long haul and not be such a sprinter in the race of life. Live and learn!
See you Monday for Day 7.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Day Five: A Week at FabricDesigns.com

Today began with no surprises. Checked email, answered email - only one order - checked the discussion forum at Quilt University, arrived in the dye studio at about 9:30, and began rinsing out the silk velvet, Christmas banner.

Next order was a custom dyeing of some silk scarves and sarongs. Into the dye buckets they go!

11:30 a.m. they are ready to be rinsed.

I have two, long, retractable laundry lines that span the back portion of our yard. Living in Northern California, I can dry pieces outside 8 months out of the year and sometimes longer depending on the winter we have. Being able to use the fresh air and sunshine saves on energy use and also entertains the neighbors. You can just barely see Sally's upstairs bedroom window in this picture. She absolutely loves it when my hand dyed fabrics are out to dry. She is a painter and enjoys the color and ever changing display of fiber art.

After lunch I sewed the Christmas banner's hem. This piece is going to be beautiful. I may have to make myself one of these.

Here's a picture of the banner finished. It's really hard to see how luscious the silk velvet is in the picture

2:00 p.m.- time to iron the silk scarves and sarongs. These are heading out to Hawaii. They should be out on the beach in a few days. Wish I was going with them...

Silks done.

I can print out the postage on my computer and then put it out for Norma to come get when she brings the mail. This has been a real time saver for me, especially when I have lots of boxes and not a lot of time or energy.

So that's it for Fabric Designs today. How about a tour of the dye studio? Here is a picture of our house. It was built around 1879 or so. We aren't 1o0% sure when it was built as there was a huge fire that destroyed city records in the 1890s. We do have an old insurance map that shows a structure on the property in 1886. This house went through a major remodel in 1902. Then again in 1956. Other than that it still retains a lot of its charm.. and annoyances.

To get to the dye studio, we have to go around the left side of the house and into the back yard. There isn't any access from inside of the house which bugs me sometimes but then again, having to go OUT somehow psychologically makes me feel like I am going to work. Here's my purple door again...

When you come in the front door, and look to the left, there is a small room where I mix up my dyes. I constructed this room myself about 10 years ago for our son who needed a music/study room where he could get away from the rest of us and just "be". Once he left for college, it got converted into my dye room and I never looked back.

Here we are in the dye room. Looking to the south, I have all my powdered dyes and chemicals stacked on an old metal desk. Key recipe books, rubber gloves, my own combinations of dyes, stirring sticks, it's all there.

Looking to the north is my "three holer" sink. I bought it at a restaurant supply house in Sacramento. I love, love, love this thing. My darling husband installed it with a sump pump that shoots the water uphill and outta there! That was a major project but sure beats hauling 5 gallon buckets of water. I DO miss the big old biceps I used to have but not that much.

Coming back out of the dye room and right by the door is my table with all my shipping stuff on it.

Also along that north wall, I have a folding screen that hides all my art supplies. I keep cleaning these shelves off but can't resist art supplies so it's just like a revolving door...paints out...paints in....brushes given away...brushes bought....colored pencils taken by my grown children...colored pencils donated by friends...

I like not having to look at all that stuff so here's what it looks like when the screen does its thing-

Still looking at the north wall, there are open shelves next to the screened ones that hold my bolts of silk, baskets of blank silk scarves, shawls and sarongs.

The next thing I want to show you is my telescoping tables. The long, red, oil cloth covered table is high enough off the ground that the white covered table can easily slide out when I need the space. Sometimes I have multiple runs of yardage to dye and this comes in really handy. I have a customer who wants 40 yards at a time (dyed in 2 yard runs each) which means I have 4 tables going at the same time. These two and then 2 others you can't see in this picture get a work out during that busy time.

Here's how it looks when the tables are shoved under each other.

Behind the red table is my design wall. On the left is a quilted piece Myrna gave me. Awesome! She's so good at those pointy things!! Points and curves! Points and curves!

Looking south now, is my work table you saw in an earlier posting. I only cut fabric on this table so that it stays clean and free from arty slops. The slops you see on the SIDE fabric of the table are from dyeing frenzies years ago when I was wild and care free. The fabric skirting is hiding amazing piles of crapola. I'm not going to show you what's under there....

Next to the work table is another screen that is hiding my light table. Want to see back there??

Okay then.....

That's my light table. It's really fantastic. My neighbor had THREE and gave this one to me! Yes...three....he has at least three of everything and I do mean everything. I can say, "Dell, do you have a hinge like this?" and he will say, "Just a minute!"...go down into HIS basement and come out with...you guessed it...three hinges. The light surface of this table is about 36"x36".

Here's a picture of my drafting table. This was also given to me by a friend who salvaged it from the city but I'm not supposed to tell you that. Maybe if I don't tell you WHICH city it will be okay. It's oak and humongous and can be tilted up at some impressive angles so all your stuff falls off all the time BUT is cool because when sewing it keeps your neck from cramping up and is easy on the back. Myrna taught me that trick. She wants this table. Wonder how much it would cost to ship it to Canada? Norma won't want to come get it that's for sure.

The next picture is to show you another way that I am saving space. I have a smaller drafting table that I put right in front of the larger drafting table. This is handy when I need to sketch AND have something else going on the big table. I often have multiple projects going at the same time so surface space is essential.

That's it. I DO have another table that is behind the black curtain at the right of this picture above but it is SO embarrassingly crammed with fabric and junk that I can't even go there with you. Just know that there is another table but it exists in "never-never land"...never, never let anyone see that land.

About Me

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Woodland, California, United States
I am a fiber artist. I am a teacher. I am a Reverend. I teach, I create, I counsel, I listen.

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