Apr 15, 2014

New developments

Things are moving along here in Lala Land. I have been very busy with life stuff though and this morning woke up with an unhappy neck, so here we go in reverse again. But I did manage to make this little cloth. This is a nice way to stamp fabric. I used a bit of Fabulous Foam Sheet and drew a pattern into it with a pencil, pressing down hard.

One of the two big life things taking up my mental and physical time is the acoustic neuroma. It has grown slightly again so my days of watch and wait are over, I'm afraid. I am going to the Univ. of Miami to discuss radiosurgery options with Dr. Eshragi. Their radiosurgery team is one of the best in the country, so I am very grateful for that.

Remember this?

This is the other big life thing. And for a change, it is something fun and I'm so excited! We made an offer on this house in Crescent City, Florida and we are now waiting for the closing date. It is our retirement home and, though that is in the future still a bit, this house just couldn't be passed up.

This will be our future view from the front porch

We should be able to make it up there at least once a month and holidays / vacations. North FL is home for me. So I am really happy about this. The house was the Methodist minister's parsonage, so that's what I call it.

Can we say "studio"?

Apr 8, 2014

April stuff

In the studio...

My manatee pal is getting some lovely water plants added to his new habitat.

And Mr. Gator is "chomping" at the bit to come to life.

The studio rug is coming along slowly, but I do like the way the colors are behaving.

And did you know that Royal Poinciana seed pods make a nifty stamp?

On the bookshelf...
I just started reading The Blazing World. So far I am liking it.

In the garden...

Lovely little tomatoes...

and the loofah plant is taking over the patio railing. This plant is a survivor just like me and Reba!

Mar 30, 2014

Dyeing Day Off

Yesterday was a blissful day off so I was able to get some dyeing done.

First I scoured the cotton fabric. I put the fabric in the dyepot with enough warm water to cover the fabric. Added 2 tsp. of washing soda and 3 squirts of liquid soap. Then simmer for 1 hour. Think your fabric is clean when you buy it? Here's what came out

Yucky. Cotton has impurities and so scouring helps dyes to penetrate the fibers.

Then I pulled the turmeric off the spice shelf and made a turmeric soup with a cup of warm water and
4 tbsp. of turmeric. Has the consistency of soupy ice cream

After your fabric is scoured, rinse in warm water and set aside. Fill the dyepot with enough water to cover the fabric and pour in turmeric mixture. Add fabric and simmer for 30 min. It will look very red, but after rinsing and washing with pH neutral soap (i.e. Johnson's baby bath) it will be more like ... 

... a warm mustardy gold. I love the weird lighter and darker colors. If I had wanted even color, I would have just gone to Joann's Fabric and bought it... know what I mean?

I was also able to do some discharging with a remnant I bought at Joann's . This was a piece of dark blue cotton fabric that I cut into 3. I used Rit Color Removal powder, boiling water and cold water. This is so easy to do and looks like I used dyes, but I didn't. The Rit powder is supposed to be a low impact product, environmentally. I didn't worry about measuring powder or water. Boiling water is used to activate the Rit powder and cold water is used to stop the process.

Tie dye with rubber bands. You should always wear gloves, dust mask and goggles when working with dyes or discharge materials. 

With this technique, I just layed the fabric in a pan and crumpled it a bit. Poured boiling water over it, enough to cover fabric, and sprinkled Rit powder directly on fabric.

To get a sort of shibori effect I wrapped the fabric around a coffee can and rubber banded it, then scrunched it together.

I was really pleased with the results and found it very easy to do. Plus I didn't feel like I might be sprouting a 3rd eye from working with too many chemicals. 

Maybe this would be a spooky, swampy abode for Mr. Gator 

Mar 28, 2014

Sewing machine blues

One of the first tenets of slow cloth is the joy of the process. Pretty sure they were not talking about sewing machines here...

My arch nemesis... Singer. It doesn't have to be Singer though. It can be any sewing machine. They hate me.

I needed to sew some strips together for my little manatee pal project. Though I am not a fan of machine sewing, I knew it was the best tool for this job. Not having tiny child hands, it took what felt like an hour to get the bobbin case set up. Finally got it together and started strippin'

And I must strip quickly, as another denizen is waiting on the design table to be rendered forth in thread.

I have not gotten much done... slow going on the rug, gathering some dye material, sewing manatee to a new home background. Slow cloth and slow me... but in my defense I have been just a little busy and preoccupied lately because of this...

More on this later :-)

Mar 20, 2014

Black beans & tea

In the studio....
My manatee pal has taken me back to natural dyeing. I haven't worked with natural dyes in a while and forgot how interesting the colors and the process are. Not to mention much safer for the environment than commercial pigments.

I dyed manatee with tea. To do this, you basically batch your fabric in a cuppa. I added 8 teabags to 2 1/2 cups of boiling water and let it steep for 15 min. I poured some of the bath into a jar and added manatee, then poured the rest of the tea bath into another glass jar and added 1 yard of fabric. I let these 2 fabrics batch for 24 hours. The yard of muslin came out much lighter but with a pretty mottled look. I did not use mordant.

I then moved onto black beans as I wanted to get a blue color. I soaked the black beans in a plastic tub over night, stirring whenever possible. Used a good amount of water as beans absorb quite a lot. Used alum mordant. Soaked the fabric for 4 hours in 3 tbsp. alum, 2 tbsp. cream of tartar and 1 gal. of water. I'm not sure of these measurements, and maybe that's why I didn't get the exact color I wanted... but that's part of the magic of natural dyes. Both fabrics are cotton, but the fabric on the left, which has a tighter weave, seemed to achieve more of a blueish purple while the other is more of a reddish purple. The picture doesn't show well the different veins and hints of light blue and grey running through it. I am happy with the results, even though I didn't get blue per se.

Did a little over dye on a swatch of commercial fabric also. For details on these two dyeing methods, shoot me an email.

On the bookshelf...
Read Carl Hiaasen's Flush. Being a children's librarian, I have to read kid's books in order to provide reader's advisory services. But I don't have to read them, I want to. Most children's authors are good writers. They have to be. Because kids can smell a stink bomb a mile away. Children's writers have to grab you in the first page or two or they are toast. I enjoyed Flush and I like Hiaasen's writing style for kids. His books take place in Florida, and have an environmental theme, and goodness knows if any state needs environmental awareness, it's Florida. This is the story of a couple of kids who go up against a nasty casino boat owner who is dumping his boat's waste into the sea. Likable characters and good story.

Mar 12, 2014

Redwork and whatnot

I know... I changed the background again. But I never saw the background with the little birds. I love little birds :-D

In the studio...
My manatee friend and I have already discovered something! He is what is known as redwork, which is simply red embroidery thread on white fabric. However, nothing really being simple, there is more to the story than that. On Sarah's Hand Embroidery blog, she gives a very interesting history of redwork.

In the garden...
Orchids are blooming

Love the abstract pattern in this flower!

My favorite...little wild orchids

Can you see the little bee flying away?

Beach sunflower

Mushrooms... the Grim Reaper of the plant world

On the bookshelf...
I finished listening to Doctor Sleep by Stephen King. Read by Will Patton. Stephen King had me at Salem's Lot. I have been a fan ever since. So I pretty much love everything he's ever written, but can't necessarily read everything he's ever written. Some of his books (i.e. It) I had to quietly close and carefully place on a dark shelf, because they scared the proverbial pants off of me. Doctor Sleep I will be able to finish. It is scary but not heart attack scary. That's never been my favorite thing about King anyway. My favorite thing about him as a writer is that he is a stone cold genius when it comes to character development. His people are so human and therefore so likable. So I definitely enjoyed this book. Doctor Sleep is part 2 of The Shining, so to speak. It's about what happens to Danny Torrance as a grown up. And if you haven't read the Shining but saw the movie... sorry, no comparison.

"A cat is a lion in a jungle of small bushes." --Indian Proverb 

Mar 5, 2014

Slow cloth... oh yeah, I got this...

I have been reading about the slow cloth movement, and always being a day late and a dollar short in most things, it looks like enthusiasm for slow cloth may be dying down, but I really hope not.

Being a weaver, I've never felt like Speedy Gonzales in the production area. I'm definitely more like his cousin, Slowpoke Rodriguez.

And being ignorant of the whole slow cloth mindset, I thought that's what it was all about, speed. No... not at all and the more I read, the more I really like this whole concept. 

How did I even get started looking into slow cloth? Hand sewing. My sewing machine is the Singer Basic 21 stitch machine. It's not a bad machine but I find that with every sewing machine I've ever used, I have to deal with bobbin problems which require you to bend down and crawl into the bobbin case for hours trying to get the thing to run right, thus wrenching your neck and back unnaturally. But I really missed sewing and I kept getting ideas for sewing, cloth and quilting projects. Then I would end up trying to put these ideas on paper or canvas and it just wasn't the same for me. Fiber is my true medium and the only one I'm interested in. So sitting in the loom room the other day I just picked up a needle and started hand sewing and just got lost in it. I realized it is something I can do that doesn't bother my back and it is very meditative; always a good thing.

I started searching the web for hand sewing info and started stumbling on slow cloth websites i.e. this one where Elaine Lipson defines slow cloth. She gives 10 qualities of slow cloth on her blog, Red Thread Studio:

·        Joy - Slow Cloth has the possibility of joy in the process. In other words, the journey matters as much as the destination.
·        Contemplation - Slow Cloth offers the quality of meditation or contemplation in the process.
·        Skill - Slow Cloth involves skill and has the possibility of mastery.
·        Diversity - Slow Cloth acknowledges the rich diversity and multicultural history of textile art.
·        Teaching - Slow Cloth honors its teachers and lineage even in its most contemporary expressions.
·        Materials - Slow Cloth is thoughtful in its use of materials and respects their source.
·        Quality - Slow Cloth artists, designers, crafters and artisans want to make things that last and are well-made.
·        Beauty - It's in the eye of the beholder, yes, but it's in our nature to reach for beauty and create it where we can.
·        Community - Slow Cloth supports community by sharing knowledge and respecting relationships.
·        Expression - Slow Cloth is expressive of individuals and/or cultures. The human creative force is reflected and evident in the work.

These are ideas and concepts that I can definitely wrap my head around. I like that slow cloth is sustainable and contemplative. I will need to read more about this movement. 

Here is a manatee friend I'm embroidering. Not sure where he and I are going yet, but I'm sure the journey will be worth it