Tuesday, May 29, 2007


Thanks for all the congrats on my new granddaughter. I have all of the joy and none of the discomfort. And Nellie, you sure keep me on my toes! I've been busy dyeing fabric samples for my upcoming class at CraftSummer at Miami U in Ohio. I wanted to demonstrate to the class how doing the steps in different order can result in different markings on the final product.

So here was the plan: Use the exact same dye solution, same size pieces of fabric, same size container, same amount of liquid (except that some fabrics were pre-wetted), same overall batch time. What varied: Wet or dry, and timing.
Fabric A was presoaked in soda ash and used wet.
Fabric B was presoaked in soda ash and allowed to dry.
Fabric C was dampened, the dye solution added, and the soda ash added immediately.
Fabric D was the same as C but I waited 10 minutes after adding the dye solution before adding the soda ash.
Fabric E used dry fabric, added the dye solution, added soda ash immediately.
Fabric F same as E except I waited 10 minutes before adding the soda ash.

Here is the result:

I was somewhat dismayed to realize that there was not very much difference in the fabrics. I think there were two contributing factors. First, I manipulated the fabric when I added the dye solutions and I manipulated it again after adding the soda ash. This resulted in a more even distribution. Second problem, I used blue and yellow for the dye solution and they strike nearly at the same rate. Back to the drawing board.

For the second trial, I used fuchsia and yellow to make orange. Nothing strikes faster than fuchsia. And I resisted the temptation to manipulate the fabric. I poured on the color and I poured on the soda ash and I kept my hands to myself. So using the same procedure as in A through F above, this is the result:

A very noticeable difference. The fuchsia practically sits in place where it first hits the fabric which gives the yellow a change to migrate and be noticeable. I don't like those large areas on E and F where the color is sort of flat. Those were the dry fabrics to begin with. The pieces presoaked in soda ash resulted in the most distinct separation of color. Where the dye had time to migrate the markings are less distinct.

I've been tagged by Lisa for a 7 meme (I have to tell 7 things about myself and then tag 7 others). I have to think about this for a little bit before posting.

One more thing - since HGTV's Simply Quilts bit the dust it seems they've made the the videos available online from their website but also from the Yahoo.com website. I had 5 minutes and 37 seconds of fame several years ago and now that segment is available at Yahoo

I really hate watching myself because it sounds so stupid to me but there it is for all the world to see.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Happy Day!

I made a little change to my profile. As of yesterday I have 4 grandchildren. My daughter delivered her second child and second girl yesterday afternoon. Mom, Dad, Big Sister and New Baby are all doing well and Grandma and Grandpa are bursting their buttons with pride. Hooray!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Threads Anonymous?

After rearranging my thread drawers to accommodate my extravagant purchase of 30wt rayons in March, I realized that my cotton thread drawers were underfilled. I already have a bunch of the King Tut from Superior Threads and the heavyweight cotton from Valdani Threads, but I was lacking in light weight threads. I used to order the Tanne thread from Madiera but they don't make it anymore. I wanted 2 ply 50 wt thread. Both Valdani and Superior carry 50 wt thread, but I wasn't certain that Valdani's was thin enough. Since I already had some of the Superior MasterPiece and knew what it's like, I went with that.

And I also ordered a few more King Tut to round out my collection. I hope this fills my thread lust because even at wholesale prices I've spent an obscene amount of money on thread. It makes for a very strange line item on my tax return.

I've posted five new pieces that I've done so far this year on my website. They all use an abundance of thread. Even so, it will be quite a while before I run out.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Fun time

Yesterday Martha and I went to the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. Unfortunately I forgot my camera and so did Martha so the I don't have any fun pictures. It's always interesting to visit another subculture and realize that they are just as immersed in theirs as we are in ours. And it's also interesting to note where we intersect. Dyeing wool and dyeing cotton aren't very far apart, just variations on a process. Anyhow, everywhere we walked there was wool in all its stages: walking around on the sheep, being shorn, piled up all matted with stuff, cleaned, wool roving, spun wool, dyed wool, and sweaters, shawls, and scarves. I might have missed a few stages because I'm not familiar with all that goes into processing wool.

I liked watching the people spinning yarn. The spinning wheels varied from beautifully designed and crafted floor models to what looked like spinning tops. There were groups of women arranged in a circle with their spinning wheels whirring away while they chatted. Just like other groups of women sitting in a circle keeping their hands busy with some other craft.

One woman was spinning yarn from her angora rabbit. She had this pile of fur in her lap from which she would pluck a handful and add it to her spinning. Except that the pile of fur was actually the rabbit. He was perfectly happy to just sit in her lap and have her pull out his fur. She told us that angora rabbits molt four times a year and this plucking process must be done or else they will lick and swallow the fur and it will sit in their stomachs and they will die. Anyhow, she said that when she was finished with this rabbit, all its fur would be gone and ready for the next coat to grow in. Sounds a little bit like indentured servitude to me, being so attached to a non-postponeable process.

There were tons of fairgrounds-type food booths with all kinds of enticing smells, but since I'm just coming off of a very nasty GI virus, I had to avoid all that stuff and stick to my plain old PBJ sandwich. I bought a mouse pad with the Sheep and Wool logo, a set of directions for knitting a purse and then felting it, and a book on some simple shibori dyeing techniques. No yarn. It was beautiful, but I was able to resist.

Thursday, May 03, 2007


I went into my studio storage closet to pull out a batt for the piece I'm working on. Imagine my disgust when I saw mouse droppings in the bag. And chewed out areas. I guess the mouse mommies like their nests lined with nice, soft, white cotton. They very daintily pulled the cotton off and left the scrim. And left their very undainty calling cards all over the rest of the batt.

This is Warm and Natural (I'm sure they would be delighted to know that theirs is the preferred batt for mouse nests). Looking at the label, which says it doesn't need to be prewashed (but in this case it does), I found directions for washing the batt. Has to be done by hand; I imagine that the washing machine does an even better job of removing the cotton from the scrim. It has to be wrung out by hand but at least I could put it in the dryer. So the majority of the batt was saved and I have repositioned my other batts in what I hope is a more inaccessible space. And set a trap, baited with cat food kibble. Why use kibble? Because I've seen the little mice run out from under the cupboard, straight to the cat food bowl, steal a piece of kibble, then run back. Obviously, my cat is not viewed as much of a threat.