Saturday, February 5, 2011

Cone Nebula Quilt, Snow, and Dyeing

First, I want to start with some good news. A week ago on Friday, I got the official letter offering me a position in the new organization scheme at my workplace. My new supervisor's picture has actually appeared in this blog, but the only connection between that statement and the new position is that we trust and respect each other both personally and professionally. She's got her head screwed on straight, and we have worked well together on projects both in the workplace and in the quilt guild. I feel very hopeful about this.

Next, I did finish reading The Warmth of Other Suns this past week. In case it has not been clear from my earlier comments, I recommend this book to anyone interested in American history, in large-scale human stories, and in following people across their lifetimes. This is well written, well researched, and humanistic journalism at its best. It made me think, ponder, reflect, and, most importantly, see the world around me with fresh eyes.

Now, some art! Last Saturday a friend of mine and I joined another woman in the basement of the home of Happy Fuzzy Yarn. Riin led the three of us through the process of dyeing roving. We got to ask her all sorts of questions about anything at all fiber related. It was a very enjoyable four hours, and at the end, we got to take home some roving we had helped dye.

Isn't that pretty? It was utterly fascinating for my friend and me to see the differences in the process of dyeing animal fibers versus dyeing plant fibers. I'm sure we were annoying our teacher, but our comments about the differences helped each of us to imprint the new knowledge we were gaining.

Now, there did come a lull in the proceedings where each of us students couldn't stand to be surrounded by all of the yarny goodness in that basement (the storage place for the gorgeous materials she has in her Etsy and Artfire shops), and we started creating little piles of things that were going to go home with us. I fell for the sock blanks. Basically, these are a pair of socks' worth of yarn knitted on a knitting machine and then either painted by the seller or left blank to be painted by the buyer. I got one of each:
The way this works is that when you are ready to knit your socks, you remove the waste yarn and start unraveling the blank. You then get all sorts of colors that you know look good together showing up in the socks at random. Because she knits the blanks with two strands of yarn, you get identical yarns on the socks as you go along. Pretty nifty, huh?

You may have heard that some snow fell during the week (this picture is from 5:30a on Wednesday morning looking out my front door).
What you may not have thought as you looked at that snow was, "Cool! I get to try that snow dyeing technique I saw in Quilting Arts magazine last winter!" I did, but I didn't feel like digging out the magazine, so what follows is my version, made up of materials I had on hand this morning.

First, I got the two deepest tubs I had in the house (had to move the yarn and roving stash to a cardboard box for the day to free up the taller tub), then I covered them with some cat-claw-proof screening left over from last summer, then I attached the screen to the tubs with duct tape.
I didn't want to cut the screen, so I made do with what I had. Then, I put my fabrics to soaking in a soda ash and hot water bath (not shown) and mixed up my dyes. I wanted some more yellows and some super dark blues and purples for the Cone Nebula quilt. I decided the yellows would be snow-dyed, and the dark colors would not because I was willing to have less color intensity with the yellows. Then, while the fabrics were spin-drying in the washer, I filled up a bucket with snow (ended up having to lug in two buckets full - not bad!).
 Then, using a small dustpan, I dumped a bunch of snow on the screen.
Then, I added the fabric pieces and put snow on top (yes, I am still trying to salvage those pieces from my flour resist experiment from last summer!).
I completely covered the fabric with snow
and started applying the dyes. I had made up small containers full of three different yellow dyes.
Since I doubt any 9-year-old boys read this blog, we will all refrain from the obvious comment at this point.... I went off for a long walk (and got home about an hour after today's snow storm started). About two hours after the dyes were added, the tubs looked like this:
The snow is melting into the tubs, and the dyes have dispersed. I'll show the results in a couple of days. Meanwhile, the dark dyes are doing their thing in some old olive jars. I'll transfer those to an open tub when I finish writing this post. I want the fabric to dry out a bit and soak in more of the dyes.
When I finish fiddling around with the computer and with dyes, I'll head back upstairs to the Cone Nebula quilt. I got all of the fourth section laid out on Sunday afternoon (amazing how, even though I have what seems like a gazillion triangles cut, I never have enough of the right fabric!), and I got the bottom row sewn together. I'm hoping to get the rest of that section sewn together this weekend.
Take a look at the golden yellow fabric in the lower left corner of the second picture (and the lower right corner of the third picture). A few years ago, I took a quilting class through the guild, and at the end of the day as we were packing up, I noticed a hunk of fabric in the garbage can. Well, never one to pass up free fabric, I plucked it out and have used pieces of it in a couple of different projects. The last of that piece was perfect for that part of this project. I was thinking happy, grateful thoughts at whoever discarded that lovely piece of fabric.

Now, I do have to state that my "familiar" was hanging out in the sewing room with me, being sweet and cuddly (which is how she maintains control):
and offering her services as a quilting buddy a little later:
(See her artfully rearranging triangles for me?) This morning, though, when I was playing with chemicals (wearing my dust mask and long latex gloves, of course), she was smart enough to be in the next room, pretending to be an executive.
Okay! That's my catch-up post, and now I have to go attend to dyes and piecing and maybe even try to have dinner ready when Hubby gets home from church in about four hours.


Riin said...

Thanks for all the nice comments about my class, Liz! (I wasn't annoyed at all!) Can I quote you on my website?

The snow dyeing looks really cool. I'd heard of it, but didn't really have a good idea of how it worked before. It looks fun!

Delusional Knitter said...

The roving is beautiful. Snow dyeing, never heard of that before ... and I thought we all have to wait til Spring/Summer to dye again ... or go down in the basement - I haven't yet, but if the bug bites, I just might. Could do some kettle dyeing on the wood stove!

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