Monday, July 28, 2008

Rust dyeing experiment #2

Yep, vinegar works better. Tying the rusty objects into the fabric also helps. Here are the same rusty bottlecaps I used yesterday, only I used rubberbands to tightly tie them into the fabric. Then I put vinegar into a plastic bag with the fabric and let it steep for about 12 hours. Voila! The shot above shows most of the fat quarter.

And here's a detail shot:

The stains are darker and more well defined. And the rest of the fabric is a light reddish brown color, too. Next time, I'm using vinegar instead of salt.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Rust dyeing experiment #1

I've been eager to try rust dyeing for a while now, and yesterday I came across Bonnie McCaffery's interview with one of the rust dyeing gurus, Lois Jarvis. This made me even more interested in testing it out.

I had been collecting some metal objects for a while. Some I found around my neighborhood when I was walking the dog. The crushed old bottlecaps were retrieved from the gravel parking lot at Charlotte's Verizon Ampitheater.

I wet the fabric first, placed the metal objects on top, sprinkled them with table salt, folded the fabric over them, and spritzed it with more water. From what I've read, vinegar can make the oxidation process happen faster than salt. I'm going to try it next.

Rust is iron oxide. The iron reacts to the oxygen in the water and the air and creates rust. Rust is a mordant, and remains in the fiber permananently.

Here's what it looked like after about 12 hours:

One of the biggest surprises is that some of the metal objects that were rust-free when I started (like the bigger square with the circle in it) produced the strongest rusty marks. This made me want to run to the hardware store and buy some other metal pieces to try. Maybe tomorrow...

And here's what it looked like after about 24 hours, before rinsing and washing:

Notice the blue-grey marks in the photo above? I think they were made by twigs from my maple tree! (Keep reading and you'll find out why they made a different color.)

Here it is after washing in Synthrapol, drying and pressing. This shot shows the entire sheet of fabric, about a fat quarter, and how the objects left different marks on the fabric below them (right side) and above them (left side). It is interesting that the marks are more solid on the fabric above. This may be because the fabric was dyed on my sidewalk, and the gritty texture pushed the fabric close to the metal in some places and not in others.

A shot closer up:

And even closer:

I also put a small scrap of white cotton into an old rusty pail with some salt. This time I also added some strong tea. Tea is a tannin, and it combines with iron to make a more color-fast dye. It has the added effect of making the color shades of gray.

Here is the fabric I dyed in the bucket, after washing and drying:

Want to know more? Kimberly Baxter Packwood of The Prairie Fibers Co. has great information on her website. And Paula Burch does a good job of explaining the chemical process behind rust dyeing.

Saturday, July 26, 2008


I'm in the last few weeks of my online Studio Journals class, and I've been working on some ideas for some new art quilts. Our instructor has encouraged us to think about how we can translate our designs into fiber. This is a water color painting I did using the lines from a Painted Lady butterfly’s wings, but with different colors. This intrigues me because I have always found it easier to work in a realistic style. In doing this exercise, I am seeing how I can take something realistic and abstract it using color and scale.

Friday, July 25, 2008

RIP: Canon PowerShot SD400

Yesterday, I discovered that the LCD screen on my Canon PowerShot SD400 digital camera was damaged. I have no idea how it happened. Those photos I took on Wednesday at the N.C. Arboretum were its swan song. Snif, snif...

The repairs would have cost more than it was worth, so after a few sad hours, I started camera shopping. I got a new camera today, a Canon PowerShot A590IS. It is going to take a while to learn the features and get comfortable with it, but I think I will like it eventually. Here are a few photos I took this afternoon in my garden. I use the macro feature a lot; I love how you see things you never noticed before when you get that close.

Here is a photo I took with my old camera last week, and a colored pencil sketch I did based on the photo:

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Looking for lines

Yesterday I was at the North Carolina Arboretum in Asheville, and set myself the job of taking photos of lines. All but the bottom row of photos were taken there. It is a marvelous place that boasts not only gorgeous plants, but beautiful architecture, spectacular decks and fences, and great sculpture. I particularly like the shots where the lines frame negative space that changes (for example, the fence shots with blue sky in some spots, clouds in some spots, and grass or trees in some spots).

It is interesting to note that none of the line photos I took at the Arboretum are plants or natural materials. I guess I was looking for primarily straight lines, and the structures of the man-made things are mostly straight.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Going round in circles

I created this collage of circles for an exercise in my online class. This week's lesson is called "Looking, Hunting and Gathering with a Camera." I already do this a lot, but searching for a single shape in one outing seemed intriguing. I took all but one of these photos today in about a 30 minutes walk with the dog down my street.

From upper left: Drainage pipe in an old stone wall; air conditioner vent, doorbell, planter, electric meter, daisy, old cauldron, cast iron sewer grate, railing joint, drainage pipe in concrete block wall, cast iron water grate (painted blue for construction), stop sign post, soft drink can, hubcap, water handle, basket handle, palm, electric meter gauge, iron pipe joint, watering can spout.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


Through the online class I'm taking with Sharon Boggon, I was introduced to an addictive piece of software on the internet where you can create your own kaleidoscopes! It is

Follow the directions at the bottom of this web page to paste a photo from the internet into the "Image" field that ends in .jpg, .gif or png. You can use the 5-way, 7-way or 11-way buttons to change how it looks. Move the portion of the image around to change the view further. Then you can click on the "JPEG" button and you'll get a screen where you can save the kaleidoscope you've created.

I created these kaleidoscopes using images on this blog. The blue one above is wet paint on a piece of Wonder Under. Below, the images are (in order): pincushions, "Harbinger's Hope", "Ferns", violets, and "A Dozen Hearts" (two different kaleidoscopes from the same image).

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Bohemian Bouquet Block #7

It’s the fifteenth of the month, and that means it is time to reveal the next Bohemian Bouquet block in my mystery block-of-the-month program! I think this one may be my favorite so far. I'll have the patterns available for sale on my website later tonight. Here is DeLane's version on a cream background:

Christmas in July project

My local guild, Lake Norman Quilters, is having a Christmas in July bazaar at our meeting next Tuesday, July 22. We are all bringing items to sell (and money to buy, of course!). I decided to make some fiber art postcards. Here are two I did today.


Have you heard about Spoonflower? It is a company just down the road from me in Chapel Hill, North Carolina that is building a company that will allow individuals to print their own designs on fabric. Imagine the possibilities!!! This is just another facet of the digital revolution that is really transforming the design world.

It's pretty expensive right now ($11 a fat quarter, $18 a yard, $90 for 5 yards, all printed 42" wide on Robert Kaufman's Kona cotton). And it takes a while to receive your fabric, about 3 weeks for the U.S.

The company is still beta-testing its process, and they are currently limiting who can participate. I applied about a week ago (the website says they are handing out a "handful" of invitations each week), and today got an invitation to participate! I am very excited. Now I have to decide what design to refine and print. The mind reels...

Here's what the Spoonflower website says:

“Spoonflower gives individuals the power to print their own designs on fabric that they can then use to make quilts, clothes, pillows, blankets, framed textile art and many, many other things that might surprise you. The craft world happens to be exploding right now. Tired of seeing the same products and the same designs everywhere, more and more people are drawn to the idea of doing it themselves, of creating things that are unique and carry within them a little bit of the passion of the individuals who made them. The folks who are waging the handmade revolution by and large do so quietly. On blogs, in sewing groups, on Etsy storefronts and in their homes, a growing number of people have decided to make and to share things they think are beautiful. Spoonflower exists to give crafters a powerful tool for expressing their creative visions using fabric.”

You can find out more on Spoonflower's website or blog. Another great blog with good information on Spoonflower is True Up. I'll post more about this after I’ve uploaded my designs and received my fabrics.

Monday, July 14, 2008


I created this snowflake for this week’s Studio Journal lesson. The little diagram at the top left shows me how I did it, so I can repeat it if I want to later. Here's another one, under the Seuss Sneetches and Sylvester McMonkey McBean stickers (Love, love, love that Seuss tale!):

I cut these from origami paper, which is so great for cutting intricate snowflake designs because it is very thin.

NOTE: See my December 2007 post if you want to see a tutorial on making paper snowflakes.

Pandoras’ Dye Day 2008

The Pandoras had our annual dye day today. The day was blessedly less humid, although still plenty hot, but we had shade in Grace's garage. We dyed tons of cotton fabric, plus some other things we had brought along, including yarn, socks and t-shirts. I got a few too many pastels... not what I usually work with... because I was going easy on the dye at the beginning for fear that I was hogging it all.

But at the end, when we still had plenty of dye to use up, I started going heavier, and was more pleased with the results. Here is a linen shirt that started out as a stark white with a black design. I bought it recently with the idea of dyeing it, and it looks loads better now. Much more "me" and it will look great with black linen pants.

I really love the shibori dying we've done the past two years by wrapping the fabric around a section of UVC pipe, and then wrapping it tightly with string, scrunching the fabric down, and then dyeing:

Here are some fabrics done in jars, with a fat quarter or a half yard of fabric in the bottom of the jar, then dye, then more fabric and a different color dye, and so on. Then minimal scrunching to make sure the fabric all has dye on it, and a nice bake in the sun inside the jar.

Here is a white-on-white fabric I bought earlier this year specifically for dying. It has a nice bold design that shows up great once the fabric is dyed. Wish I had made these darker shades. I might overdye them next year!

What a fun day, with good friends, a fabulous pot luck lunch, and a great big mess!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

DeLane’s “Four Pieces Project”

WARNING: DeLane, if you are reading this, go away! Spoiler Alert!

Tomorrow is the July meeting of the Pandoras (a group of four fiber artists dedicated to thinking and working outside of the box), and our annual dye party. It is always a blast. It is also the unveiling of DeLane's Four Pieces Project. For this group project, we each selected a photo, enlarged it to 16x24", and cut it into four pieces. You could cut horizontally, vertically, or any which way, as long as all the pieces were about the same number of square inches.

Then each person in the group gets a section. We were to recreate it at the same size, using any technique we wanted. The only rules were:

1. You had to use colors fairly close to those in the photo (no purple grass, for instance).
2. You had to use techniques or materials that would challenge you, or that you had not used before. It's that thinking-outside-of-the-box thing.
3. You could threadpaint past the edges of the photo, but you couldn't quilt past them. This was so that the owner could stitch all the pieces back together to create a cohesive image at the end.
4. You had to come to the meeting prepared to share your work, and talk about what you enjoyed (and hated) about the process of making it.

My photo was one I took in New Hampshire, a closeup shot of ferns. I got three of my four pieces back a few months ago (one of our members has had family issues that have not permitted her to finish some of the group projects lately). When I have all four pieces, I'll post a photo of them. It was so interesting to see how each Pandora recreated her section in a completely unique way. And they still looked so great together.

DeLane's photo features a statue of a pig in her springtime garden. Here's the section of the photo I was assigned. The whitish bit on the left is the start of the pig's rump:

And here is my section, which I made by drawing with water soluable wax pastels (and then wetting them to get a water-color look), then defining details with black thread and permanent Sharpie markers:

It's funny how photographic it looks now that it is done. I didn't do the darks as dark as in the photo, but I rather liked how it came out. One of the challenges I set myself was doing the thread work only in black. It gives it a harsh, graphic quality I like.

New stuff I love

I am totally in love with this new mechanical pencil (above) by Bohin, a French notions company. I had been using the Clover mechanical pencil, which left a nice narrow line, but the leads broke constantly when I pressed hard enough to leave a dark mark. When tracing around designs for needleturn applique, it is best to have a thin, dark line, and I think I've tried just about every marker there is. This is the best yet. I think this is a fairly new product. I tried it out at the Quilt Market this May, and loved it. I ordered mine online, because I have not seen any at local quilt shops yet. (I always try to buy locally when I can; have to keep those quilt shops going to support my habit, right?)

Here are the lead replacement packs. Leads come in white, yellow, green and silver gray, so there's something to mark light and dark fabrics.

I also adore their applique needles, which are very sharp and thin. I got some number nine long ones, and number 11 regular ones.

With the paper cutting I've been doing for my studio journals class, I got out my X-Acto knives and discovered they were a bit grungy and not very sharp. I bought this beauty by Martha Stewart at Michaels. You turn the part at the bottom to loosen and replace the blade. The handle is a bit squishy, more ergonomic than the X-Acto, and so much lovlier!

And this is the front of the journal I'm using for my class. I bought it at Barnes & Noble. It has perforated pages, so you can remove pages if you really hate what you did, or if you need to reduce some bulk because of all the stuff you've pasted inside. It was designed by Lindsay Neilson, an M.F.A. in fashion design (2006) at the Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD).

According to the information on the back of the journal, it is a project of Working Class Studio, a "product development venture of SCAD. Each academic quarter, students are selected as interns to form an interdisciplinary design team led by studio directors. Based on the team's market research and designs, the studio manufacturers a line of products which are then sold nationwide. This innovative concept for an educational institution marries function and fine art to deliver a well-curated mix of cutting-edge design. The ever-expanding collection includes striking journals, stationery, pillows and housewares in a contemporary palette."

What a neat idea... a great way for students to get exposure and to learn about the process of taking a design through the production process.

What a birthday party!

I just had to share a few photos of an amazing birthday party my neighbors down the street had for their 8-year-old son yesterday. They built a giant robot pinata (about 10 feet tall!) out of cardboard, and filled it with paper mache bombs packed with candy. I did not witness the destruction of the robot with a wooden bat (that would have been too sad!), but I understand that the kids had a blast, and no one was seriously injured. Except the robot, of course.

The creative geniuses behind this extravaganza are Dave and Kelly Sopp, owners of Wry Baby, a company that sells some of the most creative and warped baby stuff you can imagine. If you are looking for a baby shower gift that will stand out from all the cute pastel onsies everyone else is giving, look no further!

On the porch of their historic home, which Dave and Kelly are in the process of restoring inside and out, Kelly set out a nostalgic-looking spread of healthy and not-so-healthy goodies, including lemonade in big glass dispensers and sandwiches wrapped up in butcher's paper like you get at a good deli.

After they knocked the stuffing out of the robot, the kids went out back to play baseball and swing on an old-fashioned wooden tree swing.

What a party!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

I'm an INFJ (again!)

I just took the Jung/Enneagram Personality Test on Similar, a website with enough personalilty tests to keep you busy for a long, long time. Much fun. The Jung/Enneagram Personality Test is supposed to give you Myers-Brigg results. I have taken the Myers-Brigg several times before, for several different employers, and was eager to see if I'd get the same results in a short test that only took me a few minutes to finish. I found out that I am – surprise, surprise — an INFJ! Yes, this is what I always come up with.

Here's how the Jung test scored me:

Introverted (I) 54.55% Extroverted (E) 45.45%
Intuitive (N) 69.44% Sensing (S) 30.56%
Feeling (F) 57.5% Thinking (T) 42.5%
Judging (J) 62.5% Perceiving (P) 37.5%

INFJ - "Author". Strong drive and enjoyment to help others. Complex personality. 1.5% of total population.
Take Free Jung Personality Test
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Interesting that my personality type is only 1.5% of the total population. It confirms what I have always known: I am different from most other people. Or "weird," as my children would say.

The Enneagram portion of the test said that I scored as a Type 1: "Ones are idealistic and strive for perfection. Morals and ethics drive them. They live with an overbearing internal critic that never rests." Yep, sounds about right. My highest scores were in Perfectionism, Aggressiveness, Detachment, Helpfulness, and Image Awareness. Hmm... I wonder if it is possible to change one's personality, to boost some of the low scores and push some of the undesireable ones down?

Friday, July 11, 2008

Paper cuts

This is the third week of my online class, and one of the exercises is paper cutting. I had a lot of fun cutting into colored paper to create designs with strong positive and negative space. One of the other exercises this week involves first folding and then cutting the paper, similar to making paper snowflakes, which I do every December (and detailed in a post last Christmastime). I hope to get to it over the weekend.

Our instructor, Sharon Boggon, also introduced us to someone you absolutely have to check out: Cynthia Ferguson, who does the most gorgeous scherenschnitte, the German form of intricate papercutting. I wandered onto her etsy site and ordered up one of the prints of her work this morning. Amazing stuff!

Here are some more paper cuts I glued into my studio journal:

I also created the "Rubin Face Vase" using profile silhouettes I made of myself and my children. The Rubin Face Vase is a famous image where you see both a vase (the white space in the middle) and the two faces that frame it in black. These are referred to as the "figure" and the "ground."

I'm going to take some of these designs and play with "repeats" (spacing repeating motifs out over the space to create an overall pattern) next. I also think it might be fun to cut these kinds of images from freezer paper, iron it to fabric, and then paint fabric paint on top, with the freezer paper acting as a resist. Some might make great stamps or potato prints.