Monday, December 31, 2012

Summer holidays

It is that slow time between Christmas and New Year, that time when you have got over the Christmas rush and are finally relaxing into the summer holidays.
I have wanted to play around with a new template for a free motion machine thread bowl and today seemed the perfect time.  I have tried this idea before, with some success but not complete satisfaction. My previous attempts have just used a flat circle that was moulded over a bowl and the remnants of the soluble fabric provided stiffener.

This time I wanted it to hold its shape itself, not by depending on stiffener. So I had to find a template that would do that.  I knew that I should be able to do it because my cocoons have their own shapes but I hadn't been trying to make a regular, bowl shape.  I looked on the internet but didn't find what I was looking for. Some sites were too mathematical and most templates were for paper craft which was helpful but not exactly what I wanted.

I drew a few templates and cut them up to see how they would go.  I finally came up with one I thought might work.
I had to search to find my compass which I haven't used in YEARS.  I drew two circles, approximately 60cm diameter for the outside one and 25cm for the inside one.  I drew it on one of those brown paper bags that you buy things in but can't bear to throw out when you get everything home, the paper is too good, the bag looks useful. Now it turns out it was useful! It was a good size, my visual diaries were not large enough.
Ignore the inside circle, it was too far in and I drew a new, larger circle.

I folded the paper into four equal parts and cut straight up from the inside circle - this wasn't measured, I just cut and hoped.

The angle of the cut from the central circle (remember, I didn't use the smallest circle) will determine the angle of the side of the bowl.

As I was trying a new idea, I decided that I should stick to as easy a task as possible.  My recent work has been for the Suspension exhibition which was in black to white so I used the materials I had for that.  No colour decisions, no new threads and fabrics to find.  Much easier.
Fabric laid out to give some strength to the bowl.

All I had to do was come up with a template that works.

The sewn template - now to see if it really does work.


I am not totally happy with the shape but now I have a better idea of how to go about the task and may try for some more bowls.  I'd like to experiment with the angle of the side of the bowl.

But ... I have been reading some interesting quilting books lately and have other things I'd like to play with, so the bowls may get made, may not.
There is a design for a small tapestry on my mind too.
And I need to think about what I might do with all those little bits of silk I have been dyeing.
Ah, summer holidays.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Needlepoint tapestry

Debbie Herd has recently posted about a needlepoint tapestry artist. This inspired me to have a closer look at a needlepoint tapestry that I have hanging on my wall. It was a kit that I bought when travelling in England (it must have been the 1980s).
It took me 4 years of sitting in front of the television to get it done. (I really depend on that music that tells me something important is about to happen, look up now!)
I have recently moved it to a new position in and look at it much more often now.  One thing I have noticed is how much it looks like it is adapted from a tapestry weaving.  The shadows and folds of the dresses all appear to suit weaving.
I have searched on the internet to see if it is adapted from a famous artwork but am not having much luck.  I think it is called The Four Seasons, or Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter.  But nothing pops up.  I would love to know what the design is based on.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The hollyhock ice flower dyeing

The frozen, dead hollyhock flowers have produced a lovely pale purple colour.  I am actually rather pleased with it.  As there are more flowers currently falling off the plant I will go out in a minute and collect some more.

The colour of the silk is very different from the flowers and paler than the dead flowers but it is lovely.  The satin has come out a beautiful colour on both sides.
From this
to this 
to this
The photo isn't doing justice to the silk, the light is shining on it and making it look paler than it actually is.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Seeing how the dyeing is going,

I decided to check how the dyeing was going.  First I took out the silk that had the frozen mulberries wrapped in it.  This was the batch using previously dyed silk, also using mulberries but fresh ones.  There had been blue spots on a couple of them. They have disappeared.  I did soak the silk in an alum solution and have read that that makes the colour slightly bluer.
As you can see, one of the scarves has come out much bluer than the others.  It may have had more alum in the solution, who knows?
I left this for about 5 days and some of the fruit had started to go mouldy - only a tiny bit but enough to leave a brownish spot on the big scarf, right near the middle.  So more work will have to go into disguising that. There are also some small spots where the seeds have left prints. But the blue spots have vanished!

After that, I thought I might as well check on the bits of silk I had in the old eucalyptus bark dyebath.  The dyebath looked very dark but most of the colour washed out.
The silk had been soaked in alum, the dye and silk crammed into a jar and left 3 days.

This one is extremely 'subtle' and I will probably over-dye it.  I had just folded and pegged it and poured the dye over it and left it for a day.  I may not have left it long enough. 

I think I can stop being frugal and throw out the remaining dyes. I can easily make more, the trees are throwing off scads of bark at the moment. But I may hold my horses as I still have a fair bit of silk from my last burst of interest. I need to think of how to use all this silk, not just have fun dyeing.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Ice-flower dyeing

I have had to rinse out some of the ice-flower dyeing that I had soaking. I had turned some jars upside down to make sure that the top piece of the fabric wasn't too much paler than the rest, seeing it tends to float and not be as immersed as I would like. But the lid of the container had a slow leak and it was only half full when I looked later.
As I am trying various ways of doing the dyeing, I decided to rinse out both jars of the one method, even though only one jar was leaking. This lot is from the flowers that had been frozen for a year or so and mulberries that had been frozen for a month or so. I had let them thaw out by accident as I had removed them from the freezer and left them too long in a cooler.

It has turned out quite well. The oxalis flowers have given a lovely yellow. I hadn't collected that many of them and was quite pleased with how they turned out. (I will have to help with the weeding again when they flower next year. They are a terrible pest in the garden.)

I had soaked the silk in an alum solution before immersing it in the dyebaths.

The frozen mulberries have come out a little more purple than my previous dyeing with mulberries but that is probably due to the alum in the silk. I had also decided to leave the muslin bag full of mulberries at the bottom of the jar, just to see if contact with the actual berries gave a different amount of dye. It has caused darker patches on the chiffon scarf.

The chiffon scarves took up colour much more strongly than the pongee silk pieces.

The instructions for the process (in Eco Colour) say to put the plant material in muslin and squeeze the liquid out after it has been immersed in warm water.  Now I have some lovely pieces of coloured muslin.  I am not sure if they will be colourfast as they were not mordanted.  But maybe some alum was in the solution after the silk was added.  The muslin turned out darker than the pongee silk also (and much more purple with the mulberries).

I will have to think about what I might do with the muslin.  Perhaps I could tear it into strips and weave with it or use if for felting or embroidery. It will go into my scraps box for now.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Day dyeing

Today is Christmas day.  Before we went out for lunch, I thought I would check on the hollyhocks, make sure they still have petals for me to pick.  They did but they were inhabited.

I couldn't bring myself to disturb the creatures and ended up picking up the dried up petals that have fallen to the ground.  I suspect they may not work as well but am not sure.  Ever the optimist, I have collected them and put them in the freezer for later experimentation.  I will try with some fresh petals too, once the wildlife has vacated the premises.

Off to lunch now.

Well, we've been out to lunch and it is such a beautiful day I decided that I still have the energy to fiddle around with the dyeing.  The frozen petals I had had to take out of the freezer had thawed and there was coloured liquid in their containers.  I don't know if they will work as well now that I have let them thaw but I will give it a go anyway.
Thawed oxalis flowers from 18 months ago.
My camellia petals aren't anywhere to be seen, one of life's little mysteries.  But I still have the oxalis and the mulberries.
By the way, the cheesecake was a great success!

I soaked the silk in an alum solution before we went out and now I have strained the plantstuff into little  muslin packets, squeezed out the liquid and put the silk in jars with the dyebath.  I have twisted some of the silk, folded and scrunched up other bits but I suspect that they may end up all one colour or only very subtly dyed.  Time will tell.

I won't do any heating of the water again, it is summer and the water will stay warm, just not hot.  It's that 'do it and see what happens' feeling again.

I had some silk left over. I also had some leftover eucalyptus bark dye.  The label on the jar has faded in the sun (it is in the glasshouse after all) but another similar jar has December 2011 on it, so I assume it is also a year old. Waste not, want not.  I had the silk, I had the dye.  So now there is another jar working its magic - hopefully.  I will leave them all for several days before I open them.  I don't think I will be able to wait till the new year but I will try.

Happy Christmas!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Interesting date

Today is 24/12/12.
I wasn't going to post today but someone reminded me of the interesting date.
So ...
I have been looking around the internet for more info about ice flower dyeing.  I still have some petals in the cool box and hope to use them in the very near future - if they haven't already thawed.  I came across a site that has a plan for running a session on ice dyeing.  That could be useful for a play day with friends.
There were others that discussed different effects they had obtained.  Many of them seem to be experimenting to see what will happen.  I find that I do that and can come up with some lovely pieces of fabric but then either don't have enough to use or can't duplicate the conditions to get the same result again.  Fortunately I don't usually worry about it. I also learnt from my quilting days that having an ugly piece of fabric is ok as it can be used in contrast to the more beautiful pieces.  They are often necessary to the design. So the 'failures' are something to hold on to also.
Some of the sites:

I came across this site where the person is using hollyhock flowers.  Ours are just finishing their blooming so I will have a look tomorrow and see if any have survived yesterday's heat (it is quite cool tonight thank goodness).  I will collect them and put them in the freezer, the cheesecake will be gone and there should be plenty of room.
The picture is actually rather lighter than the actual flowers so I am feeling rather hopeful of getting a good result.  Something to do after Christmas lunch.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The trials of Christmas

I read about freezing flowers, in India Flint's book, Eco Colour, and thought I would give it a go.  That was about 18 months ago.  I have frozen oxalis flowers and camellia petals.  I keep thinking I should re-read what to do with them and actually do it.
I also collected some mulberries a few weeks ago and froze those too.
Now it is the Christmas get-together-and-eat-badly time.  I decided to resurrect a frozen chocolate cheesecake recipe from years ago to take with me to Christmas lunch.  It will definitely contribute to the eat badly theme - cream cheese, chocolate, caster sugar, cream and eggs.
This has involved remembering where all the cooking implements are, how to organise the ingredients and implements properly and then making room in the freezer to get the cheesecake ready - oh no, the freezer is full.
Most of the stuff in the freezer was food but there were also those packets of petals and mulberries.  I desperately needed the room so out came the book to find out what I might try to do with the dyeing plantstuff.
Then down to the glasshouse, where I keep my dyeing supplies, to start using some of the bits that can no longer stay in the freezer.  It wasn't the perfect day for this, the forecast temperature was 39C (102F) and working in the glasshouse wasn't that appealing.  Fortunately it started off cool and has gradually got hotter.  
I took the scarves that I had dyed using mulberries, one that had a blue patch and two that had come out very pale pink.

I just spread the frozen mulberries in the scarves and put them in jars for some cold (not so cold in this weather) dyeing. I added a little bit of alum to the water as I read that it encourages a bluer colour and I thought that might hide the single blue spot on the darker scarf. The water certainly has a more purple colour than the mulberry dyeing I did recently.

I was also told by a woman I met recently, who is a member of the Royal Melbourne Botanic Gardens Plant Craft Cottage Group, that the salty water I soaked the silk in for the mulberry dyeing is not a mordant and that the colour may fade in a couple of years. Hopefully the alum will address this issue.

I feel as if I was just making it up as I went but that is the sort of vibe I get from India's book.  Here's hoping I haven't just wasted all that vegetation and the scarves.

So now they are sitting in their jars and I have to contain my desire to go and see how they are doing.  Maybe I will just forget about them, like I have been doing with the frozen petals. Hopefully I will be able to look at them in the next couple of weeks, not 18 months down the track.

The petals are now in a coolbox with ice packs while I decide what to do with them.  It is too hot, and I am too exhausted from remembering how to cook, to do any more today. Maybe on Boxing Day.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Too Late

My friend and I had planned to visit the Box Hill Town Hall Art Space to see the Victorian Quilters' exhibition, One Step Further.  As you may have gathered from the title of this post, it isn't on any longer.  I was minding The Alcove Art Shop today and one of the people who came in told me that it has finished.  Very disappointing!
All was not lost though - there was an exhibition in the foyer.  It was put on by Nadrasca and there was some lovely work.  Nadrasca is a disability service organisation and this exhibition was put on by mostly elderly people. Not all the artists are elderly though.  There was a range of techniques in the show, apparently facilitated by one teacher.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

What a difference good equipment makes.

They say a poor workman blames his tools.  I'm not sure that having good tools makes you a better worker (or designer) but it sure makes the work easier.
I decided to splurge and buy a couple of better quality lino cutting tools.  I got u-shaped tools as the person selling them said they were easier to use than the others I was looking at. As I am such a beginner at this technique, I decided to take his advice.
They are certainly much easier to use, and will do much finer work, than the cheaper tools I already had.  They were the sort used in schools, good enough to do the job but not high quality.  What public school can afford the best quality in class sets?  I only got two as I am not sure where I am going with this technique and how much fabric I want to produce.

I went back to the Uluru tile and cut away the sky part.  I still need to cut more away but thought I would do it in stages.  It is easy enough to cut away but impossible to put bits back.

Then I started working on an image I copied from a photo I took in France last year.  It is perfect for practising my texture mark making.  So far I haven't done all the mark making. I thought that, once again, I would print it in stages, just to see the differences. More work to be done on this.

Then I tried a small tile.  I took a photo of gum blossom and traced that.  I need to cut more of the background out - again.  I suppose I will get a better feel for how much to cut off when I get more experienced.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


I have to post today, look at that date.  It's the last chance we'll get for a date like that, we don't have 13 months.
Yesterday I worked on some more lino cutting.  I am still having trouble with the positive and negative aspects of images.  I copied this from a photo taken on the Uluru trip but ended up making some of it up as I went along, I was losing track of what was what.

I was at a friend's house and she lent me some of her lino cutting tools. They were much better quality than the cheapish ones I have and the difference was very noticeable.  They cut much more efficiently.  I will have to be on the lookout for these higher quality ones.
Now all I have to do is the printing to see if I have cut it out properly, and if I have cut enough of the background away.

Well, I have printed it.  I must have been more tired than I thought, I forgot to reverse the image when tracing it onto the lino.  Luckily it doesn't matter for this image as there are no words, etc.
I will wait till it dries, which will take no time in this hot weather, and then cut back some more of the background. I really don't want it in the image.
I also thought I had put quite a lot of ink onto the lino but it is still coming out a bit thin.  I'll experiment with that after I cut back the background.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

the tapestry with the slits

I don't think I have put up a good picture of the tapestry with the slits and I have had a few questions about it.
So here is another image of it at the exhibition. It is actually hard to get a good image that conveys the 360 degrees.

This is the three of them together.

The middle tapestry from a slightly different angle. 

I also found that my camera has a panorama capability, so I played around with that too.  

The lights were on a movement sensor so this view is darker. I will have to play around with the settings a bit more to work out how to get proper images.

Monday, December 10, 2012


I thought I had posted about this tapestry earlier but found that it is still in draft form.   So ...
This is the post as written a couple of weeks ago (November 26th, to be exact), I hope it still makes sense.

I had plans to twist and turn the slits and make it all join up - in a very 3D way.  Those plans are on hold for the moment because of the exhibition.  The way I planned to sew it together would make it very different from the other two small tapestries I have done, so I have taken the curator's advice and will leave it in its current state - almost.

When I hold it up, the weaving develops a slight curve.
It is very messy at the moment and will stay pretty messy.  But it was suggested that I could dye the hanging strands of warp thread to make it more interesting.  I can see that it could look very much in tune with my other work.

I decided that I wasn't that happy with how I had finished off the weaving, as I had been going to braid it.  So now I am doing the (very!!) tedious job of double half hitching using cotton, with the work off the loom.

I have been a bit concerned about how to dye the threads without having the dye getting onto the actual weaving, or wicking up the threads.  I have had several helpful messages, suggesting water colour paint, food dye (not sure if you can get black, assume so) and procion dye.
Then I went with a friend to visit Kraft Kolour and Bonnie, lovely lady, got out some cotton yarn, some black sun dye and painted the yarn there and then.  It took the dye well and didn't rub off.

I decided to try some leftover warp threads before launching into working on the actual piece and painted them with the sun dye.  I left it in the sun for a while.  It says on the bottle to heat set the dye (when using it on fabric) but when I washed it, no colour came out.  So I will be big and brave tomorrow, if the sun comes out (it is forecast to be thundery), and paint the warps.

I am hoping to cut them off later, braid the ends, and sew it up as I had originally planned, so I don't want the dye to go all the way up to the weaving.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

My Tapestries in Suspension

It was my turn to sit at the Tinning St gallery today.  There were a few visitors but there was also some down time.  I have a new camera and I took the book along to read.  I took the camera too, of course.
So here are a few photos of my tapestries from varying angles.

My work was based on the idea that we have times in our lives when we are snuggled up cosily in our little cocoons but then things happen (whether caused by outside forces or from within) and we have to move on, change our directions, etc.  Then we start again in another cocoon and the journey goes on.

The thought behind these pieces is that the front of the tapestry is what you see from the outside and the back represents what is going on out of sight.  So there are bumps and rough patches visible from the outside but inside is more complicated and messy - there are soft spots as well as rough spots but it is not the same as the image we present to the world. It is not necessarily worse, it is just different.

You can see this one on the loom, and just off the loom, here.
It is the same one as the above image.  It moves gently in the moving air.

 Here is a link showing the back tapestry on the loom.
The front tapestry is here

 This is taken from below, experimenting with the camera settings. 

Another taken from below.

My pieces are the cocoons along the window wall and the three tapestries hanging in the distance. The afternoon light was lovely on the teardrop pieces.