Learning the Ropes

A few weeks ago I mentioned an upcoming punch needle rug hooking class with Fern’s School of Craft and I just had to share some pictures with you. I highly recommend checking out this technique if you get a chance!

I love the hands-on quality and portability for a project like this, and for someone like me who quilts by hand, it’s a pretty quick turn around (at least for something this size).

Fern showed us a bit about rug hooking the traditional way with a rug hook needle, but I really enjoyed using the punch needle. We used The Oxford Punch Needle #10 and I think it’s the perfect instrument for this.

Punch Needle Class

With our monk’s cloth stretched on a wood frame we got to it. Fern had a variety of designs to choose from or we could draw something ourselves and after much deliberation I drew out this quilt square. I don’t know it’s name but my guess is it may be a variation of a shoofly? I would love to know if anyone has seen this before!

Punch Needle Class

Table full of yarn, plus check out the cutest watermelon slice ever!

I’m definitely going to have to work on cleaning up my stitches and getting the density just right (they’re a bit close) but I look forward to getting more practice in on the next one. I finished up the background when I got home and voila!

Finished Punch Needle Rug Hooking Back & Front

The image on the left is traditionally the “back”, with the image on the right looking more rug-like. I like how clean the left version is though, so will probably make that my “front”. 🙂

I’m currently in the process of moving so have been busy packing up the apartment. The new house will have a dedicated office/studio space just for me, so I’m trying to decide if I want to turn this into a pillow or keep it as a piece to hang on the wall in my new studio. Either way I will probably turn the edges in and make a yarn stitched binding. Yay!

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Adventures on the Loom

This weekend I’m so excited to be taking a beginner rug hooking class through Fern’s School of Craft (check it out at www.fernsschoolofcraft.com). This will be my second class with Fern, the first being about a month ago when I learned how to weave on a floor loom. It was such a fun experience and I can’t wait to see what this weekend brings.

Fern’s weaving class included a mix of theory (project prep, loom set up, etc.) interspersed with actually sitting down at the loom to create. The goal for the class was to weave a length of cloth, which we then turned into a pillow. This is the reason why I wanted to take the class; I can’t imagine what to do with a piece of weaved cloth. What do I use it for? I don’t need another scarf and am not the table runner type…for now at least. Being able to make something I would use or make more of in the future is what in the end made me think that this was the class for me. This is going to sound crazy but I didn’t even know you could sew a woven cloth…don’t judge me!

Weaving

Getting comfortable on the loom.

Fern has been weaving for over 10 years and is finishing up her second year, of five, of the Master Weaver program at Old’s College – it sounds intense! She is an enthusiastic artist, both in textiles and photography, and is great at making everyone feel welcome and at ease, which made her class really fun and relaxed. The class size was small, with five students in total, and we each got our own loom for the day. There was no waiting and plenty of materials for everyone, allowing us to really get into a flow.

In the way that Fern teaches, we were able to have complete control over how we wanted our experience with weaving to be. I wanted to experiment and see what would happen by changing the treadle order multiple times throughout the project and got some pretty weird, but cool, designs, while others were more comfortable using the same motif and experimenting solely with colour. Either way the result was a really beautifully patterned finished product. It was so interesting to see everyone’s finished pillows, especially all of the different colour palettes!

On the loom

Playing around with different treadle combinations to see what would happen…

Apart from colour, Fern had many different types and weights of yarn to choose from and you can see in my orange stripe how a textured yarn looks when woven. It’s amazing to think about all of the many decisions that go into a final woven piece.

Finished Pillow Weaving

My pillow on the new living room chair.

I ended the class really excited about the process of weaving and am inspired to try more of it in the future. In the meantime, onward to rug hooking!

So Many Quilts, So Little Time

This weekend I had two quilts displayed in a quilt show, my first one! I was honoured to be asked to submit some of my quilts for the Vermilion Quilters Annual Quilt Show, put on by the Vermilion Quilters Guild this past weekend. It was an amazing event and there were so many beautiful and interesting quilts to check out!

Vermilion Quilters Guild Annual Quilt Show

My quilts! “Tofino” and “Snow in Grandmother’s Garden”. Vermilion Quilters Guild Annual Quilt Show.

When we first walked in, we were greeted by two quilters at the door and a corridor full of charity quilts made for organizations such as the Cross Cancer Institute and Quilts of Valour (www.quiltsofvalour.ca). There were also some very impressive door prizes to tempt me!

Then we entered the main hall and I was awestruck by the number of quilts to look at. Of course I wanted to find mine first! 🙂 They were nestled in nicely in the middle beside some beautifully designed and coloured quilts and it was so exciting to see them displayed, having people walking by and stopping to take a look.

Vermilion Quilters Guild Annual Quilt Show

Vermilion Quilters Guild Annual Quilt Show

Quilt in the foreground: “Aviatrix Medallion” by Carol Wasylik, designed by Elizabeth Hartman and quilted by Extraordinary Extras.

Vermilion Quilters Guild Annual Quilt Show

There wasn’t a name attached to the label on this quilt but it is stunning!

For the viewer’s choice ballot, there were three categories: large quilts, small quilts, and the quilter’s challenge quilts. I ended up choosing a lovely large appliquéd quilt with yoyo flowers (who doesn’t love a yoyo flower?), a small quilt that had been batik dyed, and a challenge quilt where I thought the quilter did a good job of working through a colour palette that they initially were not very excited about.

Vermilion Quilters Guild Annual Quilt Show

“Circle of Flowers” by Barb Spurgeon, quilted by Melissa Martens.

Vermilion Quilters Guild Annual Quilt Show

“Cattitude” dyed and quilted by Cindi Plant, pattern image by Laurel Burch.

Vermilion Quilters Guild Annual Quilt Show

“Lone Star” by Lyn Yaremchuk, designed by Swirly Girls. Right: Detail of the challenge fabrics that had to be used in the quilt.

As with any art exhibit, I took my time, looking at a quilt close up and then moving back to see it as a whole, as well as making a couple of passes through the show, noticing something new with each pass.

I can really appreciate the massive amount of work it took to organize this event. There was live music and a lunch counter and I was pretty happy that there were tables and chairs set up so I could rest and agonize over who to vote for. It was really great to browse and chat with everyone and there was a palpable sense of community and support that I could see and feel. I am so excited to have had the chance to participate and found it super inspiring to see other quilters’ work, feeling challenged to up my game and try some new designs, especially to use more colour!

 

Out With The Old

After over 10 years I have finally welcomed home a brand new sewing machine! Believe me it was definitely way past due.

I bought my very first sewing machine at the same time that I decided to try making my very first quilt. I had no idea what I wanted (or needed) in a sewing machine but I was a poor starving student living by myself for the first time in a small bachelor apartment where the rent seemed to get raised every 3 months. Talking a friend into driving me down to the nearest big box store, I bought the cheapest model I could find that wasn’t pink and covered with large gaudy flowers and ended up getting a Singer, which I thought at the time must be a good one as I had at least heard of that brand, for $99.00. It was a good little machine, simple and did the job…for a while at least.

Somewhere along the way, and without much notice from me, it began to accrue more and more problems. And I had no idea that a sewing machine needed cleaning let alone yearly professional maintenance. Lesson learned.

I probably would have continued using this machine indefinitely except that now that I’m starting to sew projects for people other than myself, I began to distrust the quality of the stitching it was producing. Plus it sounded like a plane taking off. I haven’t started a new project in months, instead avoiding the machine to dye fat quarters for future projects that had no certain beginning in sight.

My new Husqvarna Viking is a good quality investment, sews like a dream, and has given me the confidence and drive to start up again. Also, buying a sewing machine at Central Sewing means I get a free class in a few weeks that will teach me how to use and take care of it.

I can’t wait! I have been reading a lot about Anni Albers lately and have a lot of ideas to get started on, hopefully documented for a post in the near future, *fingers crossed*.

Until then…happy sewing! 🙂

Husqvarna Viking

Doing a test and learning all of the new buttons!

Snow in Grandmother’s Garden

Well I have FINALLY finished my latest quilt. This one has been years in the making and it feels so good to have it off my plate. I started this project in the beginning of 2014 and after 3 years of putting it off for other projects, namely wedding and baby quilts (so many babies), and seeing pieces of it strewn around the apartment, I put my foot down and said no more.

Originally I planned for a simple red and white quilt, all in hexagons, using the English Paper Piecing technique. I really love EPP; the idea of slowly building up a quilt by hand and the convenience of having a project that you can take anywhere to work on is exactly what I wanted when I began this quilting venture (the slow-pitch tournament got a lot of questions from some very nice young men).

What I didn’t account for was how long this was going to take me and the challenges that can arise when working on a project over a period of years. What began as a simple hexagonal grandmother’s garden pattern became a lesson in design and took constant consideration. Over time my idea of how the finished quilt was to look changed and eventually I decided that the quilt was a bit boring with just hexagons and wanted to add other elements (plus I wanted this done already). I sketched out many ideas but would quickly change my mind – the design was always in flux. I did eventually, out of necessity more or less due to my self-imposed exile from other projects, decide that I wanted to have strips up one side to make it asymmetrical, taking into account how it would lay on the day bed with only one side falling over the edge. I was also inspired, after doing research on vintage quilts and my great grandmother’s quilt (see History in a Quilt from July 2016), to add a completely different piece of fabric running along the top, chosen from what I had in the stash. As far as I can tell this piece was added to the top edge of the quilt that sees the most wear from hands and face contact while in use on a bed. This portion could be removed for washing or easily replaced once it became too worn. I’m not sure if this had a specific name but would love to know if anyone else has ever come across it!

Snow in Grandmother's Garden

Snow in Grandmother’s Garden

I am calling this quilt “Snow in Grandmother’s Garden”. It was hand stitched with a starburst pattern on each white hexagon, with stitching around the hexagon edges that make up the red flowers. A lovely tulip pattern is stitched along the top and yarn knots make up the quilting on the asymmetrical edge overhang. The stitching was the hardest part of the entire project for me to figure out and I thought about it constantly from day one. I ended up using these variations of stitching and quilting in order to add interest and align with the piecemeal aspect of the quilt top, but also because in the end this was a quilt for me and I could do whatever I wanted without worrying about it too much.

Snow in Grandmother's Garden

Detail of the English Paper Piecing and quilt stitching and ties on the front and back.

The back is of a fabric that I found in the quilt shop years ago when I first started this project. I fell in love with it right away and knew I had to have it. I’m pretty sure I bought the whole bolt so this is definitely going to be used in quilts in the future. Yay!

Snow in Grandmother's Garden

I love the backing fabric on this quilt!

Looking back on this quilt, I am quite proud of how it turned out and I learned a lot in the process, especially that I need to work on keeping my stitches even from front to back! Now that this project is done I can’t wait to try out different shapes and styles…diamonds, apple cores, and clamshells are all in my future.Snow in Grandmother's Garden

Nuts, Beetles, and Buds

As is evident on the blog lately, I have become increasingly interested in making my own one of a kind fabric to use in my quilts. Ergo, dyeing it myself! As a kid I always wanted to be the person who knew everything about plants for the inevitable moment when I would need to survive on my own in the wild (Note: I am definitely not that sort of person, I would die so quick). But through dyeing I have found a different way to interact with the natural world. This has opened up a new creative approach for me – as a dye scientist!

After the indigo shibori dyeing class in the spring I have taken out a few books on dyeing from the library, specifically natural dyeing. But none of it made any sense to me, it was so overwhelming to read about chemicals, and pH, and percentages, and scientific names. In university I had taken a textile class where we learned about different dyes and dye techniques around the world, which has been super helpful as I’ve explored more of the textile world, but I was a bit cloudy about how to go about doing it myself in my own back yard.

So I decided to take another class! This time I had to drive three hours south for a weekend workshop at ACAD (Alberta College of Art and Design), another dream in itself: to get to pretend to be an ACAD student for a weekend – Yay! Seathra Bell was our instructor and with just four of us as students it was a perfect class size to learn and experiment in. Check out Seathra’s work here: http://www.seathrabell.com or on instagram: http://www.instagram.com/seathrabell/. Her stuff is so beautiful, and she has such a passion for textiles and natural dyeing – simply amazing!

First we learned about scouring the fibres, yarns, and fabrics, which can be a different process depending on if what you are dyeing is protein (eg. wool, silk, etc.) or cellulose based (cotton, bamboo, etc.). The protein samples we treated with orvus and the cellulose with soda ash and synthrapol. This cleans and prepares the fabric for dyeing. Next up was the mordant. This allows the dye to adhere and fix to the fibres. There are many different mordants available and what you use will depend on the material you are dyeing with and the dye you are using. This is where experimentation or knowledge from other dyers comes in to play. For our class, we used alum (proteins) and an alum/tannic acid mix (cellulose).

Scouring the Proteins and Cellulose

Scouring the proteins and cellulose. Mordanting looks exactly the same. 🙂

Next we prepared the dye baths. Seathra brought in four different natural dye products for us to try: onion skins, marigold heads, cochineal insects, and walnut husks. I was a bit sad about the cochineals but when I saw how little we needed to use to make our dye bath I felt better about it.

Dye Materials

The dye materials: onion skins, cochineals, marigolds, and walnut husks.

Basically we put these in separate pots with water and simmered for about an hour to an hour and a half. Then we let it sit overnight. Scouring, mordanting, and preparing the dye bath isn’t hard but is a long process and was what we did on the first day alone – no dyeing yet!

*I should also note here that everything used in this process—pots, spoons, etc. is designated for dyeing only, do not use to cook food as well!

Dye Bath

Getting the dye baths ready.

Now to the dyeing! At this point, regardless of protein or cellulose based origins, everything went into the pot and then it was just a matter of watching the pot at a simmer and stirring to ensure even contact with the dye. Some dye materials are more fragile than others (marigolds vs. walnut husks) but a good way to go about it, I think, is to treat everything like it’s fragile and keep it hot at a simmer, adjusting the temperature if you need to so that it doesn’t start to boil. We dyed everything for about an hour, hour and a half before removing the fibres, yarns, and fabrics from the bath and then rinsed with warm to progressively colder water until they ran clear and hung to dry. This timing is the usual saturation point for dyeing but if the dye bath was closer to being exhausted and you wanted to try to get as much out of it as possible, you could let the material sit in the bath overnight.

Dyeing

Putting the fabric into the dye baths: onion, cochineal, marigold, walnut.

Dyeing Bath

The colour saturates and the fibre gets darker: onion and cochineal.

Seathra made sure we had a good sample of fabrics and fibres, everything from mureno, wool, and silk to cotton and bamboo, so that we could experience how the dye affects each one. You can definitely see the huge range and variety of shades that can be achieved!

Hanging to dry

Hanging everything to dry: onion, cochineal, marigold, walnut.

One last thing, you can change colour by overdyeing, either with another colour or with a rust, copper, or vinegar solution. We had both rust and vinegar to try and from my and the other students’ experiments it seemed that the rust produced a change more often than the vinegar (and we all know how much I like rust!). We did try adding vinegar to the pot for the last dip in the cochineal dye bath and it was quite apparent how the tone of the colour changed from a more mauve-purple to a fresh, clean pink. What I learned most this weekend was that experimentation is key and I would definitely like to try a copper overdye in the future.

Finished dyed samples

Finished dye samples. Here you can see the variation in colour depending on what textile is being used: onion, cochineal, marigold, and walnut.

I came away from this class with a huge appreciation for natural colours and in amazement of what can be achieved from humble kitchen scraps and plants found in one’s own backyard. I already have plans for what to try next!

Let The Great Rust Experiment Begin!

I decided the other day that I wanted to try dyeing fabric with rust so I sent my partner in crime out to the family acreage, always a good place to find rusty bits, on a very important mission to collect various rusted objects from the workshop. What came back to me was a myriad of flotsam and jetsam made up of washers, springs, hooks, and rings.

I still have a few cotton pieces from my last go at indigo dyeing, so I donated a piece from the stash for science. Using some of my precious creamy earl grey tea that I steeped for about 20 minutes in a large metal bowl, and while still warm, I soaked the fabric in it. Laying the fabric out in an aluminum-roasting pan I then proceeded to place the rusted pieces in a way that I thought would make a nice pattern, sprayed the whole thing with the leftover tea, now in a spray bottle, and covered with a plastic bag.

I let this sit for a few days, occasionally spraying it to make sure that everything was still wet, and when I couldn’t stand to wait any longer, removed the cotton piece for a look-see. I loved it!

Before and After

Before and After: On the left is the pre-washed and pre-ironed piece, probably still a bit wet. On the right is after rinsing with a gentle soap, left out to dry, and then ironed.

Because I wasn’t sure, and am still not, what I was going to do with it in the end I decided to give it a rinse with some gentle non toxic soap and, after drying, ironed it with trepidation (I am hoping I didn’t wreck the iron). I can definitely see how I lost detail and colour after rinsing but if I am going to eventually use this in a quilt I need it to be clean.

Rust Details

Details of some of the rust dyed elements on the fabric.

I really like this effect but I have so many questions! How much will this process, and the fact that there is still rust sitting on and in the fibre, continue to degrade the cotton piece? How will this affect other fabrics placed next to it? And how colourfast will this be over time? Fortunately I have a weekend workshop on natural dyeing at ACAD (Alberta College of Art & Design) coming up in a few weeks so I am hoping to pick my instructor’s brain and get a better idea of this process and best use of it for future projects!