April 8, 2016

More trials

I did more trials this past week, collected below:

Some are pretty awful (like the large piece done with deconstructed screen printing in top left); others are better.

stamps with Cleanline resist on gray cloth

Thiox discharge on gray cloth
Using stones themselves as a resist, suggested to me by Beth Berman.  I love the results, but not sure they're right for this particular piece.

Flour paste resist on white cloth with black thickened dye 
Stitching trials (done a while back in a workshop with Dorothy Caldwell
After all these trials, maybe I'll go back to stitching.  Still thinking. . .

March 31, 2016

Dyeing and discharge trials for images of stones

I'm back to working on the large quilt having to do with stones.  In my previous post on this quilt, I mentioned being unsatisfied with the composition of rectangles.  I have played some with that, but it's still unresolved.  I decided to work on another aspect, and come back to the composition later.  As indicated on the sketch of the quilt, I plan that some of the rectangles will contain some kind of images of stones.  This past week, I've done a number of trials, using all the surface design techniques I thought might yield the kind of gestural, abstracted image I'm thinking of.  Here are the results, with techniques listed below the image.  (The details about all this are as much for my own record as for other readers--feel free to skip over them!)

·       flour paste resist, drawn into and then discharged with Thiox
·       flour paste resist, drawn into and scraped with thickened dye
·       thickened dye, stamped on
·       clear print paste used as a resist, then scraped with thickened dye

·       monoprint with thickened dye
·       Color Magnet, painted and drawn
·       thickened dye, painted and drawn
·       Thiox paste used to paint and draw

·       Cleanline resist used to paint and draw

I started out with the intention of using line drawings, and thinking that the flour paste resist would give me the best results.  But I tested out painting and stamping more solid images as well, and am very glad I did, as I think those gave the best results.  Here are the ones that I will be following up with more trials:
Cleanline resist, painted onto light gray fabric, overdyed with medium gray, LWI [low water immersion]

Jacquard Color Magnet, painted onto white fabric, then overdyed with medium gray

Thiox discharge paste, painted on.  When I do further trials, I will cut off the discharge process sooner, for a less opaque result.

Thickened dye, painted onto grey fabric.  The monoprint images were very similar to this.

Thickened dye, stamped onto gray fabric.  I diluted the color too much, but definite possibilities using stamps.

Four years ago, in a workshop with Carol Soderlund, I made a number of stamps with shapes of stones.  Towards the end of my trial process this week, I remembered I had these somewhere, and dug them out.  Very glad I did.  In further trials, I will use these with discharge as well as with different concentrations of thickened dye.  Below are stampings I did at that 2012 workshop.

I am excited by these results and look forward to further trials using these selected techniques.  The discharge option is the trickiest, as the color the fabric discharges to varies according to the exact dye applied before the discharge.  I'll also have to keep better track of the concentration of thickened dye that I use for the painting/stamping processes.  Sometimes a quilter has to behave like a lab scientist!

March 20, 2016

Thinking about a red and gray log cabin quilt

I'm at the early stages of planning a quilt that will be a wedding gift for one of my son's best friends.  He and his fiancĂ©e really like scarlet and gray, so I'll work with those colors.  I'll have a good deal of hand-dyed gray fabric left over when I'm done with my current quilt in progress, so it will be nice to use that in another quilt.  I'm thinking of a log cabin quilt.  Here are some early trials for blocks.  The first group of three below is made of "logs" that finish at 1.5", with the block 3 logs deep on each side out from the center.  The grays are my hand-dyed fabrics; the reds are commercial prints.  Here I'm comparing three different fabrics for the center square.

light gray center
white center
black center

Then I did another block using all hand-dyes, a light gray center, logs increased in size to 2", and only two logs deep out from the center.  (These are reds I had on hand; if I go with solids, I will dye reds with less orange in them.)

I'm leaning towards a block that is just two logs deep, but I'm not sure on the width of the log or on solids versus prints in the red.  In the comparison below, I've folded under the last log in commercial print block, so both are just two logs out from the center.

Now I'll ask the couple what they prefer. . .  They decided on all hand-dyes (like the block at the left in the last photo).  How nice to have someone else make the decision!

March 9, 2016

Progress on "Holiness" and another quilt about stones

Holiness is now basted and the hand-quilting has begun.   Hand-basting on the floor took about a week.  Now that that's done, I can begin on the next quilt about stones.  I can only hand-quilt for about 30 minutes each day (to prevent injury to my hand,) so that gives me lots of time to work on another quilt.

Here's a small sketch I did a while ago, a quilt that would include some drawings of stone shapes, probably done through scratching into flour-paste resist, but with other methods also possible (direct drawing with thickened dye, monoprint, discharge, etc.)  I was thinking of an arrangement of the stones that would recollect the way stones are lined up on a gravestone.  When I showed the sketch to a friend, she said it reminded her of the layout of a cemetery--all the better.  (Thanks Louise!)

I'm thinking of this as a large quilt, about 70x80.  I redid the sketch, re-drawing to eliminate overlap in the rectangles, and then tried folding up yardage to size and putting it up on the design wall.  Very difficult to work with.  Then I put the drawing into Photoshop, and filled in spaces with different values of gray.  That got me further, but I decided it would be better to do a small maquette with actual pieces of fabric rather than continuing on the computer.  You can see a couple of results below. These are about 15x18."  I cut 3" strips from the various grays I thought I'd like to use, and then cut them further to size.  In the first trial, I used a range of values from light to dark, but with a preponderance of medium values.

I did several more versions, concentrating more and more on the medium values.  Below is the 5th iteration; mostly medium, but keeping one light in the corner and a few somewhat darker.  This is getting closer, but I'll try another step towards a narrower range of value, all medium.

Then I'll work further on the composition--I'm not satisfied with the relationships between the shapes. I'll start by tweaking the design I have, but I think I'll likely end up starting over again.  Having the range of values set may help me rethink the composition.

And not everything I've been working with is gray!  I'm just finishing up a hamsa for a friend who is in the middle of chemotherapy.  A hamsa is an amulet commonly found in Jewish and Middle Eastern cultures.  This website has many nice images and some explanation.  This hamsa is a little smaller than my own hand.  I enjoy doing the embroidery, and keeping my friend in mind as I sew.

I'm thinking I will face it with another piece of cloth, cutting it into the hand shape--like this one I bought years ago and carry around in my purse:

And here's another one I made for a group quilt, put together for another friend undergoing treatment for cancer.  The Hebrew word in the center is "Chai"--life.

February 13, 2016

From "Stones" to "Holiness"

In the last two months, I've spent a lot of time in my basement wet studio, dyeing many gradations of different grays.  After the first set of gradations, which went from dark gray to very light, I found myself especially drawn to the very lightest of values.  (The photo above shows scraps from the fabrics that were eventually cut into blocks.)  So, already having narrowed from a palette of neutral stone colors to gray, I found myself narrowing it further to very pale grays.  This inclination of my eye and heart led me to an understanding/decision about the aspect of the subject--stones--that I was moving into:  the quality of holiness.  The original commitment to stones as a subject goes back to the experience of the Jewish practice of leaving small stones on a grave.  I've thought about why one would leave a token of a visit, and why stones serve so well as such a token.  I've been drawing stone shapes for many years now, thinking that the beauty of the shapes would be the focus of a quilt--and it may yet still be.  But I also wanted to work abstractly, extracting from the stone as an object something of the quality that so draws me to it.  As I puzzled over my attachment to the pale gray fabrics, the idea of holiness settled into my mind.  The holiness of the place where the stones are left--the cemetery itself, as well as the grave of a loved one--and the holiness of the relationship--of the love, of the attachment, of the grief--that is embodied in the gesture of leaving a stone.

I had been thinking for a while about a composition that would be very similar to an earlier landscape quilt, "Late March."  I had adjusted the proportion of the rectangles to be more suggestive of the actual proportions of random stones--they would be 9x11" rather than 9x12".  But once I found the new subject of "holiness," rather than "stones," that seemed too small, and I scaled up the blocks to 14x17.  The final composition is 85 x 70." As I chose the colors and decided on the layout, I had these qualities in mind:  quiet, secure, solid, protective, encompassing.
Most of the quilts I've made in the wake of my son Jeremy's death--quilts like Loss, Shelter, Regret, and Accident--have been exhibited and then rolled up and put away--they are not meant to be used or hung on display at home.  But this one I can imagine actually using as a quilt.  It won't be for a while, though, as I plan to hand-quilt it, which will take some months.

This last photo is for those who are interested in details about what dyes I used.  Unmarked squares are from dyes I mixed myself from primaries; one other one I mixed is identified as "Carol's black"--the formula known to anyone who has taken a dyeing class with Carol Soderlund.  The 600-numbers are pre-mixed blacks from Pro Chemical and Dye; the "Black CWNA, Dark Black, and Black Bang" are from Custom Set Procion Dyes.  The second number is the DOS (depth of shade), where .03 DOS means 0.03% (or 0.0003 of weight of goods).  The orange that I mixed with one bluish black is a primary from ProChem, "Strong Orange."  Not shown here are the samples that I didn't use because they leaned too much towards green, blue, or brown.

December 21, 2015

Dyeing more neutrals for "Stones"

My first blog post on stones was written in April 2009, so I've been thinking about this subject matter for a long time now, and have tried out a variety of approaches with small-scale tests.  But I haven't yet found the method/composition to settle on for a large-scale project.  Back in September, I thought through directions I could go, and came up with eight possibilities, and am especially eager to explore two or three of them.  Now that Accident II is finished, I'm able to give full attention to developing these projects.  For any of them I will need a large supply of fabric dyed in appropriate colors.  Here's my supply of neutral-colored hand-dyes, as of January 2014, when I did a systematic dyeing of gray, taupe, tan, and cream, described in this post.

I'm especially interested in using gray, and I don't have enough range of hue.  I did some dyeing last week to explore other grays.  In the photo below, the top row is a color recipe that came out gray when I dyed it two years ago; I repeated it to get a gradation of values.  But this time it came out tan rather than gray, either because of the age of the dyes (a few years old), or because I made a mistake in measuring.  Oh well, a nice tan to add to my drawer.  The second row is a value gradation done with a new gray dye powder that is a pure color, which is unusual.  Generally, both brown and black (and from them, tan and gray) are made from a mixture of three primaries: red, yellow, and blue.  But this new product is just one color by itself, which means it will never split into the component colors as some of the mixtures can tend to do.  It is also a nice neutral gray, which is not easy to achieve with mixtures.  The bottom row is an array of six premixed blacks (from Prochemical Dye), diluted into the gray range, compared to a 7th (on the right), which is a recipe from Carol Soderlund.  I'll do a value gradation of the most promising of them.  For the dyers amongst you, I've listed the numbers of the ProChem blacks in the caption.  Added to the grays I figured out from the dye run two years ago, this should give me enough of a range for the project.

Bottom row, from left, Prochem #628, 629, 604, 610, 610 plus 1/6 the amount of Strong Orange, 602A, Carol's black.

And here are the results of testing out a variety of fabrics for hand-dyed napkins.  These are all as they emerged from the dryer, as I want to use a fabric that does not necessarily need ironing.

From the left:

  1.  Kaufman Patina, 100% cotton, done as a control for color uptake, as I know it dyes very well.  It also came out of the dryer with few wrinkles.  If I end up using cotton, I will likely go with this, rather than the Roclon Nature's Way muslin I used in earlier trials.
  2. A linen/rayon "hopsack" blend from JoAnn Fabrics.  Good color uptake, and not badly wrinkled, but probably too heavy for a napkin, and the edges frayed badly.
  3. A linen/rayon blend from Dharma Trading Company.  Less color uptake, pretty wrinkled, and fabric is not as soft as I would like for a napkin.
  4. A linen/cotton blend from Dharma.  Poor color uptake, but everything else is good--not wrinkly, feels soft, heavier than cotton but still very nice for a napkin.  It will be difficult to get dark colors with this one.
  5. A linen/rayon blend from JoAnn Fabrics that has an embroidered pattern sewn into the cloth.  Good color uptake, but wrinkled the most of any of them.

So, I'll likely use Kaufman Patina or the linen/cotton blend.

December 20, 2015

Accident II, perhaps finished

I think Accident II is finished; recap of previous steps here.  Final size: 57x91. I overdyed the right edge so that there is color out to the edge all around.  I layered the top on a plain black backing, no batting, the two layers sewn right sides together and then turned for a plain edge.  I had planned to do simple stitching throughout, a running stitch following the diagonal line of the image, changing thread colors to blend with each area.  I was looking forward to having the piece on my lap for the months it would take to do the stitching.  But the more I look at the piece up on my design wall, the more I feel it's complete as it is.  I've long had it in mind that this piece is a kind of banner, and I think free-flowing cloth is more appropriate to that.  Stitching would interrupt the flow of the words and of the cloth.  I may do some stitching on a smaller trial piece I have from earlier stages, to see if the decision sticks.  Comments/suggestions welcome.

I will be having a show in Galesburg sometime in fall or summer of 2016.  My plan is to hang Accident I and II next to each other.  The first (below) is there for the viewer to stand before and read each word; many design choices were made with this purpose in mind, including its overall format as a page of text.  In front of the second, where the viewer will need to step back to take in the whole, my intent is that the viewer, knowing the content of the words, can focus on the emotive content.