Sunday, April 24, 2016

Solar dyeing revisited

It's a month since I tried solar dyeing of wool using my black/purple pansies.  Here are the results!
 The jar with the frozen flowers is on the left.  You can see that the colour didn't penetrate all through the wool with the fresh flowers on the right.
 That jar also developed a bit of mould on top, though it didn't affect the results.
Here are the 2 skeins out drying.  I was expecting more of a purple shade, but it's come out a lovely blue.  Clearly, frozen flowers work better, so I'll use those in future.

If you want to try this, add your skein to a 1 litre glass jar.  Mix hot water with 2 heaped teaspoons of alum and 1 teaspoon cream of tartar. Leave in a sunny position.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Dyeing with flowers

I've been interested in dyeing with flowers ever since I got India Flint's book, Eco Colour, some years ago.  However, there's been a lot on my plate since then - overseas trip, earthquakes, moving south, doing an arts degree, moving north (a bit) again, getting established here and so on.  I've been busy over summer too, and so I've missed a lot of summer flowers.  No matter.  I planted some black and purple pansies over a year ago, especially for dyeing, and had some stored in the freezer. Although I've removed some of the larger plants (they are pretty vigorous), there's lots of small ones coming up so there'll be plenty of flowers for next year.

I decided that, while I have several days free over Easter and no commitments, I'd play with some of the things I'd put on the back burner, and this was one of them.  I had some spare wool, which I wound into skeins.  Then, following directions I found here, I made up 2 jars of pansies for solar dyeing.

 This is jar #1, with wool in the bottom, alum and cream of tartar added as the mordant, and the frozen flowers on top, all topped up with hot water.
 You can see the colour start to come out of the flowers almost straight away.
I moooshed the flowers around in the jar to get the colour down to the bottom.  It's looking good.  Then I prepared the second jar the same way.
 Jar #2, with fresh flowers.
No colour happening here, even when I push the flowers around.  I'll be interested to see if I get any colour from these fresh flowers.  The jars are now sitting on a windowsill wrapped in black plastic (it's not exactly the optimum time of year to be doing this, but I'm not in a rush).

I went out and picked some other flowers to put in the freezer - dahlias, penstemons, roses, nasturtiums, cinerarias and fuchsias.  I'll try these out another day.

When i think the pansy wool is done, I'll post photos of the results.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

On the design wall

It's 1st March - time again for my beginners' Electric Quilt class to start up for 2016.  EQ7 is a great piece of software, and I've had this version and earlier versions for quite a few years now.  But it's also very complex, and it can be daunting.  I know a few quilters who have EQ but who don't really use it, or just use some very basic bits of it because they don't fully understand it.  The reference manual that comes with it is comprehensive, but it's that - a reference manual.  It's not called "How To Make A Quilt with EQ" - so that's where this beginners' class comes in, because it IS about how to make a quilt.  We get familiar with what's in the software; the Libraries where the preset blocks and fabrics are; the different quilt and border layouts and options; how to use the colouring tools and much, much more.

So....what's on my design wall from EQ?
These fish are simplified versions of  the ones found in the Applique Library.  They are destined (along with 9 more) to become a child's quilt.  I can see how this whole quilt will look when put together by using EQ.

This is a portion of a quilt big enough for a bed. I bought the gorgeous batik fabrics for this lovely geometric design -  easy to draw when you have EQ.   There's lots of secondary patterns going on here!

With EQ7, you can make design and make quilts like these.  Join the Beginners' Class at and you get full instructions, screen shots and videos, plus access to the tutor (me).  Everything is downloadable, so you can save it all to your computer.  The class starts on Friday (Saturday in NZ time), and is open for enrolment now.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Day 22 - where I remember the one star hotel in Paris...

Ah, Paris.  I finally got there in 2010 when I did my Single, Solitary, Overseas Trip.  I went to the Louvre, where I was more interested in the marble floors (great patchwork designs!) than many of the artworks - though I DID see the Mona Lisa (a tiny little thing behind a perspex screen, roped off to keep people away) and the Venus de Milo (somewhat more accessible).

 I ate the best cheese of my life in Paris (Roquefort).  Here is the selection of goat cheeses that I found in a fromagerie in Montmartre, where I was staying.....
 ...which brings me to the one star hotel.  French hotels and motels are not like those in New Zealand.  A one star establishment is a room with perhaps a wash basin, or a shower if it's a double room.  There are no other facilities. The toilet is along the hall and shared with others on that floor.  I was on the 4th floor, accessible only by a spiral staircase.
After a night in a room with panoramic views of the back alley, I asked to be moved so I could see the street - this became my view for the next few nights.
I was able to open the big windows and pretend I was on a balcony.  It was summer, so I spent the evenings sitting there knitting and watching life in street below.  This is the Clapotis scarf/shawl that I was knitting out of merino/silk bought in Essex.  I remember Paris whenever I wear it.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Day 17 - where I take on Amy Butler and cure a bad case of Wavy Borders

For those who are not quilters, Amy Butler is a well-known American fabric designer.  Several years ago, I bought some Rowan fabrics from the local quilt shop, and as I normally do, I dyed some fabric to go with them.  Usually I dye in single colours, but these were multis.  Here they are together:

Now, what to do with them?  Looking for some fast inspiration, I decided to use someone else's ideas.  I've always loved circles inside squares, and I came across this free Amy Butler pattern called "Belle", designed around her fabric range of the same name.  
Oh dear, Amy, you may be famous but you're not Kaffe Fassett.  I really don't think these fabrics work well together. Aha, I hear you saying, do you think you can do better?  Well, yes, I do.  I won't even comment on the pattern's corner blocks which were simply rectangles that you "cut down to size".  They created the worst case of Wavy Borders that I've seen for a long time.  I had to unpick both my original borders, measure, nip and tuck and redo the whole outside.  The new border still looks somewhat wavy but will be ok when quilted.  

You'll see that I've added in some acid yellow fabric as well.  I think this is much better than the original, but feel free to disagree.  If you love Amy's version, leave me a comment with what you like about it. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Day 16 - in which I remember Provence

I didn't get to do my big OE (overseas experience) until 2010, when I was 55.   I love looking back at the photos I posted on my blog at the time because, sadly, I lost all the photos in a hard drive crash several years later so these are all that remains.

I stayed with a sculptor and her family in a little hilltop village in Provence, where I went to help put earth plaster on their straw bale studio in the neighbouring village.  I should explain that I was travelling with Help Exchange, which is like WWOOFing - working on mostly rural properties in exchange for board and lodgings.
The town, Regusse, had some 12th century stone windmills.

 All the houses had to be similar colours, including the new ones.  I loved these bright blue shutters.
 There were sausages of all kinds at the market in Aups.  I declined to buy donkey sausage.
I was allowed to photograph this wonderful display of spices if I gave the vendor a kiss - which, of course, I did.

I'm not sure that I'll ever get back to France, so I treasure the memories I have.  More of these in future posts.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Day 15 - when life throws you scraps, make a quilt

Yes, there have been times in my life when things have been tough.  I try to not dwell on the bad times, but I'm convinced that they make us stronger, though it's hard to see any positive at the time.

I've usually found that it helps to throw myself into something creative to take my mind off my problems.  At the end of 2010, I was in such a position.  Here's a couple of quilt tops I made then (and I'm embarrassed to admit that they have never been completed):

For some reason, I adore teapots.  As usual, these are my own design and not taken from a pattern.