First Experiments with Dyeing

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.

hand-dyed value bundles at amyhoodarts.com

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).

gold hand-dyed fabric at amyhoodarts.com

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?

Sewn: Pioneer Girl Outfit

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.

Pioneer girl outfit at amyhoodarts.com

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.

Pioneer girl outfit at amyhoodarts.com

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.

Art Quiltlet: 42/52

surface pattern art quiltlet at amyhoodarts.com

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.

printing with found materials at amyhoodarts.com

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.

Sewn: After-School Pants

after-school pants at amyhoodarts.com

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.)

after-school pants at amyhoodarts.com

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.

after-school pants at amyhoodarts.com

The front pocket has a ruffle too. If you were using contrast fabric, it would peek out from the front pockets too.

after-school pants at amyhoodarts.com

I love the detail on the back. It looks like a pair of jeans.

after-school pants at amyhoodarts.com

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.

Art Quiltlet: 41/52

Pieces art quiltlet at amyhoodarts.com

“Pieces”

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.

Art Quiltlet: 40/52

standing-tall-art-quiltlet

“Standing Tall”

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.

art quiltlets at amyhoodarts.com

Weeks 31 through 40

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.

Art Quiltlet: 39/52

"Fraying," art quiltlet at amyhoodarts.com

“Fraying”

This is not at all subtle. I used part of an old pair of jeans with a hole in the knee, a scrap of Japanese cotton, and some running stitch. This one is inspired purely by how I feel.

I don’t like where I live. Not the house itself, which is old. I don’t care about cosmetics, although it should have gotten a deep cleaning before being rented out, and it didn’t. I do care about the ancient plumbing that hasn’t had to deal with more than two elderly people in decades. It’s one thing after another. I don’t like where I live geographically either. It’s been well over a year so I don’t think that’s going to change. It is what it is.

I’m tired all the time. That’s the schedule; it is what it is, too. I’m looking at October with a whole lot of hell no. My 12yo needs his wisdom teeth out under general anesthesia because one of them is tangled with a molar, which can’t erupt. He’s never had surgery before. He’s anxious. I’m anxious because I’m missing the pediatrician who actually knew us versus the factory version we’re stuck with down here. It’s a crapshoot whether I get the correct information when I call, and my kids have never seen the same doctor twice, and they don’t know us at all. A week after the surgery, my husband goes away for a week. He keeps texting me dates from work as he schedules more travel. I hate those texts. My daughter would like to have a birthday party with friends. I would like that too, especially since her father will be away for her birthday. But this house is way too small, with dodgy plumbing. She was in tears. It’s just one more thing.

I swear I can feel my molars, especially on the left side, getting shorter as I clench my jaw so hard it practically spasms. I could use a dentist, but very few take our insurance and I haven’t found one yet. Heck, I could use a therapist too I suppose, but who has the energy to try to find one? Every attempt has ended badly, and very few of them take insurance, too. It is what it is. I’d hoped things would be easier here after this long, and I guess in some ways they are. I don’t get lost going to the grocery store. I’m involved in some activities, some local, some father away. My kids are settled in. I have the best next door neighbor ever (until we find a house we can afford to buy that doesn’t have dodgy plumbing, and we move). But in other essential ways it’s still so hard, hard in ways that just exhaust me.

Fraying. Not torn, not irreparable, but definitely fraying.

A Bit About Running

700km-badge

I promise I’ll explain what this means

I began running again a little over three years ago. I’d run cross country in junior high and part of high school, and then stopped. I started again about twenty-five years later shortly after being diagnosed with PTSD. I’d been walking every morning I could, before anyone else woke up–I wasn’t sleeping anyway–and it helped. But at some point I felt like I wasn’t moving fast enough to shut up my brain, so I began to run. It was one of the smartest decisions I’ve made.

Living in Rhode Island, my running ebbed and flowed with daylight. My kids were younger, I was homeschooling, and I didn’t feel comfortable, most of the time, leaving them home alone while I ran. So when we got to the point of the year when the sun set too early and rose too late for me to fit in daylight runs, they slowed. I’d try to get to the indoor track. But most of my miles were concentrated from April to October. Plus, my shins can get tricky. They need a break, especially my left one. There’s no sense in pushing it; I need to run regularly more than I need to run far.

I run for the love of it, mainly. I don’t like to race. I tried a couple, as an adult, but I really don’t like running with people. At all. I even get a little cranky when I come upon group runs (rather common in Annapolis) because they clump up and block the sidewalks and I can’t get by and it aggravates me. I don’t want to run with a friend, either, even though there are other runners in my neighborhood. I don’t want to talk. Running shuts up my brain like nothing else and what a relief that is, what a wonderful, wonderful thing. So it’s good I like to do it physically as well, because I need it.

And I do like it physically. Sometimes it feels awful, sure, especially, here in Maryland, in August. While I theoretically gain the ability to run outdoors most of the year, summer is pretty miserable. Not just the heat and humidity but the dew point, too. I’d try to run in the evening, when the temperature might be higher than first thing in the morning, but the humidity was a little lower. I’ve gradually adjusted. But running can be hard. It’s not all fun. But when it feels easy, it’s the most wonderful thing. It’s–it’s running flow, I guess. Everything works fluidly. I push my body, and it responds. My head clears, my body feels better, my emotions are more level.

I run with a Garmin watch and upload my runs into Map My Run. Because while I don’t like to race, I am competitive, I’m just competitive with myself. I like to keep track of how far I’m running too, as much as to make sure I don’t overdo it because of those shins. At the end of last year, I got one of Map My Run’s many emails, this one advertising a challenge, You vs The Year. The goal was 1000 km (about 600 miles) run in 2016. I’d never run that many miles in one year: between keeping my runs relatively short (shins again) and weather issues, it has just never added up to 600 miles. My neighbor across the street runs marathons and runs probably 80 miles per week. 1000 km in a year is probably an easy goal for her. But it was a stretch for me, so I decided to sign up to see what happened.

I got started later in the year than I meant to, because my shins were hurting so badly, not from running, but from wearing shoes with no support every day. (Chuck Taylors. I have flat feet. It’s a bad combination.) That badge up there means I hit 700 km last week. It means I’m on track, even accounting for the things that often crop up in fall–getting sick, too many days taken up with kid events, and so on. I usually run five miles at a time now, whereas I began in the spring running three to three and a half. Running just a little bit longer means those times of flow come more frequently. I don’t think my shins can handle long distances, but sometimes I feel like I just want to run forever.

Running is a constant backdrop in my life even though I don’t mention it here much. It’s part of what makes me feel like myself. It’s hugely important for my mental health. It gets priority; I plan it into my week to make sure I’m getting enough runs in. I figure if I’m lucky enough to have identified something that helps me so much, body and mind, it’s essential to make sure it’s part of my life. I am incredibly grateful for running.

Art Quiltlet: 38/52

batik-flowers

Ooh, I do like this one. (I like all of them. But still.) This began as a white piece of cotton, and, using a watercolor painting in my sketchbook as a guide, I outlined the flowers using gel glue. The lines that are still white were originally protected by the glue which, when dry, acts as a resist. This process is called glue batik and is a low-tech and inexpensive way to play with batik. Once the glue was dry, I added color using brushes and watered-down acrylic paint (rather than dyeing the fabric, as you would with yardage of batik). In-process photos were shared on Instagram.

I did have some areas where the glue barrier between the two colors wasn’t thick enough, and there was some bleeding. But the blending works. Once the fabric was dry, I washed out the glue, let it dry again, and then added stitching by both machine and by hand (some very subtle stem stitch on the petals using just one strand of embroidery floss). This is definitely a technique I could use again, and larger, or as part of a larger composition.