27 August, 2008

Natural Dyeing - Black Currants

Inspired by the look of the jellybags when I made black currant juice I decided to try some natural dyeing the other day. I saw this post on Crafting a Green World ages ago, so I had some direction.

I chose two different fabrics to see how each would take the dye. The one on the left is a traditional white on white and the one on the right an unbleached thick muslin. I first simmered them in a mixture of 8 cups water with 1/2 cup salt for an hour. I only had kosher salt and fleur de sel in the house, so kosher salt it was. The salt is supposed to act as a mordant, encouraging the dye from the juice to stay on the fabric. While that was simmering I took the mash (the berries) from the blackcurrant juice making and simmered that in some more water. Sorry, but I wasn't wasting (as I saw it) the blackcurrant juice on this experiment.


Here is the fabric just as I immersed it in the dye. I simmered the fabric for another hour on the stove. Then I shut it off and let it sit overnight.

Don't you love the colour? Here is the fabric in the morning, just as I took it out of the dye.

And here it is after a couple of rinses. The running subsided, but it was still running so I added some white vinegar to help set the colour. Unfortunately, that seemed to encourage more running... So I gave it one more rinse and put it outside to dry.

This is the end result. More grey/mauve than purple. I would hesitate to put this in a quilt that is going to be washed, but it is still pretty enough to be used in a wall hanging
If I was willing to try some non-toxic methods for dying I've had great results with the Procion dyes, but this was an experiment with non-toxic, natural dyes. I've done a bit more research since then and it seems that cottons are the worst at taking on natural dyes without a good mordant. But most of the literature seems to recommend using alum or other heavy metals as a mordant. Alum arguably non-toxic, but it isn't a gaurantee.
I am going to try some more natural dyes - nanking cherries, turmeric, and maybe some beets and onion skins. I'll keep you posted.

19 August, 2008

Just Made It

Whew, it got done. Well, sort of. I still have to sew on the sleeve and finish the binding. I did get it entered in the contest, though. I really like the quilting on this one, it pops.

So now, I need your votes. Go to the Craftster site between now and August 31 to vote. You will have to scroll through the entries for the craft contest to find mine. I hope that mine is the one you like the best! There are some... interesting entries. Lots of creative ideas, that's for sure.

13 August, 2008

Down to the Wire

This picture is actually a few days old. I am well in to the quilting on the 350 challenge quilt. I better be, the deadline is Friday.

We've reduced the Monster's time in daycare, so I have less time to quilt. I've been using her naps for boring things like cleaning and paying the bills. Tomorrow is a kitchen and quilting day as she will be out all day, before the mayhem of the weekend.

I can't decide about this quilt. It is either beautifully simple or simply boring. It's all about the quilting, so you'll have to give me your opinion when you see it.

05 August, 2008

Like a Fabric Piecing Lottery

The top of the 350 quilt is nearly finished. It goes together quickly when it is simply charms and you piece it randomly.

One of my favourite quilting buddies teaches her beginners and expert students to let go of the control over fabric placement. She uses this for strip quilts, mostly, but it works well on any scrappy adventure. Just take all your cut pieces - 4.5 inch squares in my case - and throw them into a paper bag. In the absence of a paper bag use the nearest basket or bin. Sit down at your machine, grab two pieces without looking, and sew. Continue. She would sew pairs, then sew the pairs together. I sew pairs, then add on, but never do I take note of fabric choice. It is all random, like a fabric piecing lottery.

I always chain piece into rows, then sew those rows together. My 350 quilt is made up of 64 squares, 8 by 8. I started by piecing 8 pairs together. Once you sew one pair, sew a few stitches without any fabric, then add the next random pair. When you are finished, all 8 pairs are attached in a chain. I then pressed the seams, alternating directions from one pair to the next. Then I attached the third piece to the pair, pressing in the same direction. That way, when all the squares are attached the seams all go in one direction on one row and the opposite direction on the next row. This ensures flat seams when I go to sew the rows together.

My apologies for the bad lighting. I would like to say that I am living up to the message of the 350 challenge and sewing by candlelight, but really it is my dark basement at night. But they are compact flourescent lightbulbs. The problem is that there are only 3 of them in about 800 square feet of concrete room.

03 August, 2008

350 Quilt Started


On a flight home from Toronto a few years ago I was mesmerized by the Prairie landscape below me. The neat squares of tilled land with rivers and groves of trees intersecting the agricultural production begged to be captured in a quilt. This inspirational memory is what motivated me for the 350 challenge quilt. In my employed life I work on climate change issues, particularly as it relates to agriculture, so it seems fitting.

I set out to do this quilt without a buying a single thing. Sadly, that is easier than I thought with the amount of fabric and batting scraps I have. So I found a piece of batting in a decent size and pulled fabric. The 4.5 inch squares for the front of the quilt are pulled from greens, browns, oranges, creams, and golds. Some are geometric, some floral, some hand-dyed, some tonal, some shaded, and some even ugly. I think the mix of the fabrics are a good reflection of what a year on the Prairies might look like from the air.

The deadline for 350 quilts is August 15, so I best get going on this.