I’m white, heterosexual, in a straight marriage, and not Muslim, and so relatively safe, for the moment, from what seems to be descending upon us all right now. But I don’t feel safe. I’ve written before about PTSD and also about how one candidate, now, amazingly, our President-elect, triggered the hell out of me. I know I’m not the only one. For me, it’s how he so strongly reminds me of someone who was psychologically and, at times, physically abusive. Misogyny, racism, lying, gaslighting. Now, this person is in charge of the country. I do not feel safe. PTSD symptoms are getting harder to manage. I know I’m not the only one. But that doesn’t make me feel better; it makes me feel worse. It’s hard to write about and I’m done trying for now. That’s why visual art exists too.
I never got around to posting this here last week. I wrote about it on Instagram and find I don’t have it in me right now to write it all here as well. I’m weary.
I am behind on everything, y’all. To make things more difficult, I ended up in the ER early Thursday morning with a UTI, because those typically hit me hard and fast. So I lost a day there and now I’m on heavy-duty antibiotics that make me feel almost as awful as doxycycline did when I was being treated for Lyme. I’d set aside Thursday for dyeing but that obviously didn’t happen, so I pushed through on Friday because otherwise I’d have had to wait a week for another free chunk of time. Ta-da! Here are the results.
I decided my first experiments would be for a quilt for my daughter. She requested pink, green, and purple. I thought about how to vary the values (because we all know color gets the credit but value does the work, right?), and decided instead of varying it amongst the colors, I’d value it within each color. I used the recipe “value parfait” from Color by Accident, which I borrowed from my fiber arts guild library. Low-water immersion dyeing uses less water (at least for the dyeing part; rinsing and washing is still very water heavy), so the dye isn’t always taken up evenly. This allows for some texture and variation. The value parfait is kind of cool–you add fabric and soda ash at different intervals, so that there’s less dye available to be taken up by each successive piece of fabric. So you start with full-strength dye but naturally get a value gradation. Neat, isn’t it? I’m using just primaries, too, so the green and purple were mixed. My daughter is happy with these colors, and now I just need to decide upon a design. Also, I’m not sure I can bother making any quilts from now on unless I’ve dyed the fabric myself, help.
I began with ten yards of fabric, so for the final yard, I went for something specific for a project I have in mind. I actually could have split it up; I don’t need the full yard. But by that time I was tired and probably not thinking clearly (these meds, I’m telling you; awful).
This was dyed using mostly dark yellow dye, with a dash of red and blue and some light yellow drizzled on. This one was pretty cool to watch–the color changed dramatically once the soda ash hit it. I think there’s two ways to approach dyeing fabric. One is very perfectionist, using full-water immersion and testing mixtures, aiming for predictable results. The other is a little looser, with some “let’s see what happens” attitude. I think I may end up somewhere in the middle. I can’t wait to dye more, but I need more fabric and I need more time. As I said, I’m behind in so much right now!
I’m also wondering, because I can’t possibly use all the fabric I might want to dye, if there’s a market for selling my own hand-dyed fabric. Thoughts?
My daughter’s new school doesn’t exactly celebrate Halloween; instead, kids come dressed up as a historical figure of their choosing and share information about that person. It’s a little bit of dress up, a little bit of research, a little bit of sharing information with the younger kids. My daughter decided she wanted to be Laura Ingalls Wilder. We’ve read the series of books, as well as some biographies (and yes, we’ve discussed the problematic depictions of Native Americans in the books and how, exactly, did the white “settlers” end up there anyway). I’d originally offered to sew her an outfit, then school let us know we weren’t supposed to sew or buy, and the kids were to assemble their own costumes. I passed that on to G, who asked her teacher, who said if parents wanted to sew, it was fine, they just didn’t want anyone to feel pressured. Oh.
G, of course, was sure I absolutely wanted to sew her a pioneer outfit and wouldn’t feel pressured at all. And you know what? I kind of did want to sew her an outfit, despite the other projects and deadlines that got crunched as a result. I remember wanting to be like Laura when I was my daughter’s age. So I found a pattern at Joann’s (McCall’s 7231) and we went to our local quilt store, which has a selection of 19th century prints (apparently Civil War quilts are a thing, I’m not really sure), and she chose the fabric.
I’m a bit in love with this outfit. And despite the short time frame (I think it was 10 days from buying the pattern to having it complete), it all went well. My skills have grown tremendously as I’ve sewn for her, and so has my confidence. I looked over the pattern in the store and saw nothing I hadn’t encountered before–facings, gathering, ruffles, buttonholes, I’ve gained confidence in them all. I remember the first items I ever sewed from a pattern, pajama pants for my boys (right before G was born). I knew nothing. I didn’t even know about finishing seams, and the pattern didn’t tell me to! I have learned so, so much, by doing, and especially by taking on things that were a stretch.
I love the pinafore. I want one in my size! And the bonnet has a bow at the back, although it’s hard to see. The pattern is a size 7-8, but my 8yo is a peanut. It’s a little roomy on her, and I shortened both the dress and the pinafore, but it should still fit her for a good long time. If I were her, I’d be tempted to wear this every day, and string buttons, and make maple sugar candy, and practice my sewing while I dreamed about horses and let my bonnet slip down so the sun hit my face, even if Ma scolded me.
I’ve been trying to build a habit of sitting meditation. I haven’t succeeded yet. This little quiltlet is a symbol for myself. Stacking the stones.
This was completed almost at deadline on Saturday because I’ve been so focused on sewing my daughter a pioneer outfit. But I did begin working on it earlier in the week, when I inexplicably received a free pen in the mail from some company that thinks I’m a company that might want to order pens. It came overly packaged in a plastic thing with bumps on it. I save things like that because they’re useful for printmaking. I decided to discharge with it first, though. I squirted bleach gel on top of all the bumps, lay a piece of fabric on top, and weighted it with glass. I left it while I did other things (sew on a pioneer dress, most likely), then rinsed out the bleach and let it dry. It’s hard to see in a photo, but the bleach created the yellowish circles.
I thought about leaving it that way, but then I decided to flip the plastic thing over and brayer it with red printmaking ink.
That shows you what the mysterious plastic thing looks like! Plus you get a better look at the bleached areas. I liked all those triangles.
Once that dried, I decided to intersperse some solid areas and do some free-motion quilting, because I haven’t done any in a while and it seems like a skill that shouldn’t be allowed to get too rusty. It feels like I haven’t had time to get really in depth with these small pieces lately, but I try not to feel bad about that, as they’re first and foremost creativity boosters and play/experimentation time.
I usually sew my daughter leggings, but occasionally she wants to wear a shirt and pants without a skirt, so I picked up the Oliver + S After-School Pants pattern. I thought a lightweight corduroy would work nicely, and G picked out the fabric, which is very her. What I like most about this pattern is the details. (It’s designed to have some contrast fabric, but while G likes contrast within her fabric choices and her outfits, she doesn’t seem to like it within the items themselves, so we skipped that.)
This is a close-up of the back pocket and the back ruffle. Because of course you can add ruffles to this pattern. That back pocket–it’s just too cute.
The front pocket has a ruffle too. If you were using contrast fabric, it would peek out from the front pockets too.
I love the detail on the back. It looks like a pair of jeans.
I sewed a size 7 for my almost-eight-year-old daughter and still had lots of length in the legs. I didn’t want to cut any off, so I folded it this way and that and made a cuff on the outside of the leg. It adds some weight to the bottom and hopefully I can let it down later if necessary. Plus it just looks cute.
I don’t have a photo of her actually wearing them because it’s getting into the 70s today. She wept. I told her to wear them anyway, but my girl who wears shorts when it’s 60 knew in her bones she’d be hot if she did, so she had to buck up and wear something else I’ve sewn for her (a dress and shorts) rather than the latest thing I’ve sewn for her. Oh, the challenges.
When I trim my quiltlets I accumulate a pile of skinny sandwich pieces. I often use them to test my free-motion settings before starting to stitch. When they get too full of test stitches, I get rid of them. Last week was a bit full, so on Friday I looked around my art table and gathered up the scraps I had (not many, actually), and zig-zag stitched them together to make a quiltlet. As I worked I thought I might layer something on top when I was done, but I liked it just as it was, so I left it. Some weeks you need something low key.
The early part of this week was overloaded (October is beginning as it means to go on, apparently), so Thursday I stood at my art table wondering when and what to do for this week. I decided to use what was right in front of me–often an excellent way to get started–which happened to be some scraps of linen that were left over from trimming pocket panels. I started arranging them on the table in various ways, tried out a few different background colors, and settled on this arrangement against hand-dyed fabric that reminds me of a sky with clouds. I stitched in some grounding lines as well and decided this one is called “Standing Tall.”
I know. Last week’s was called “Fraying.” This is the sort of thing my subconscious does, okay?
Since we’ve hit another multiple of ten this week (only 12 more weeks to go in this year; hopefully it ends without ushering in the apocalypse and/or fall of democracy), it’s time to line up the last ten all together.
Do I have a style? I don’t even know. The only unifying characteristic I set myself for this project was size (and medium, of course). Other than that, I’ve been all over the place. Which was kind of the point. But I wonder if there is something in my artwork that fingerprints it as mine, or not. Just a thing I ponder as I continue exploring my own work, and other people’s.