Monday, February 25, 2013

Natural dyeing with hollyhocks that were not frozen

As I was getting ready to do more dyeing using the frozen flowers, I accidentally crumbled some of the dried flower that I had just picked up from the ground onto one of my pieces of silk.  The silk was damp as it had been soaking in an alum solution and the colour just rushed out from the crumbled bits. It was amazing to see.
Of course I couldn't resist that - I had to see if it would stay in the fabric.  So I laid out some of the silk and crumbled the dried flowers and some of the fresh petals that had fallen off (I'm still not picking them off the plant, there is no need, there are so many flowers) along the length of the silk and rolled it up.

Then I got all confused, as I have already said (I'm blaming the hot weather), and put the fabric in a jar with the leftover alum solution.  I think I had intended to just let it lie and dry out in a plastic bag, as I did with onion skins and vinegar recently.

However, I didn't.  So it has been in the jar, in the glasshouse, for three days.  The water changed colour over that time, giving me hope that something good would be happening.



Today I took it out and rinsed it.  I was very excited to see the different colours.  The dried petals have given quite a darker colour and there are parts that have taken on the redder fresh petals.  The dye has stayed, not much came out in the rinse at all.

I was interested to see that some of the petals had become quite transparent, the colour had leached out.

I did this at the same time as the frozen flowers that went mouldy. There was no mould with this lot, perhaps because it was in an airtight jar or perhaps it had something to do with the alum solution. I am not a scientist so don't know. I am just happy that there was no staining that I didn't want!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Just in time!

I decided that I should rinse out my silk today, the lot that is soaking with the fresh and the frozen hollyhock flowers.  I was just in time!!  The hollyhock petals that were in the bag, sitting on top of the folded silk pieces, were starting to go mouldy. There was also a little bit of mould floating around on top of the water. The colour of the muslin had changed too, it was blueish (where it wasn't mouldy brown).
You can see a picture of it before the mould set in here.

This is the lot that I had put into fresh water.  I had left the hollyhocks in the bag and let the whole lot soak for three days.  It was in the glasshouse, in days that are consistently in the high 20 and low 30 degrees (C).

I was quite surprised to see the different patterns on the silk, from the folding.  I had really expected that the dye would have soaked through in three days, especially with the chiffon.  I had only folded them and placed the frozen petal bag on top, so no clamping, etc. The mould doesn't seem to have stained the fabric either - as I said, Just In Time!
Not that much dye rinsed out, which was pleasing in these days of very little rain.


You can just see the hollyhock, still valiantly flowering,  in the background.
The silk is all out on the line drying at the moment.  That should take about 10 minutes.

Well the 10 minutes are up and I have brought them inside.
Here they are without the sun shining on them, the satin tends to be hard to photograph.
The front piece was a small piece of pongee that did get some mould on it.  It takes the colour up more strongly.

The front and back of the satin, the colour looks stronger on the back.
There may have been a little staining from the mould, it is hard to tell and, obviously, doesn't detract from the patterns.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Feeling Famous

I recently received an email updating us on how Beneath the Southern Sky exhibition is going.  It is about to go to Lancaster, USA, to the AQS Quiltweek.
Here is a link advertising it.
Then it is moving on to Paducah, in April.
I would had loved to have been able to go but the timing wasn't right.  Oh well, I'll just have to imagine it.

There was also an article about the exhibition in Downunder Textiles.  I hadn't realised that until I received an email from Brenda Gael Smith, the organiser and curator of the exhibition.  She has been great, keeping us up to date on what is happening.

It was about a year ago that this exhibition was put together, so it has been good value for the effort!
I couldn't do a post without a picture - then I realised that I had taken the photo of my work and it is beside Dijanne Cevaal's.  I still feel gobsmacked that my work was accepted into an exhibition with so many top quilters.  It is exciting to think about, even after a year.

Friday, February 22, 2013

More Frozen Hollyhock Dyeing

I think I got mixed up again!  I put some of the frozen hollyhock flowers into a very loosely woven muslin bag, using equal amounts of flowers and warm water.  You are supposed to soak it to get the dye solution.  Here is where I got mixed up again.
I put the muslin bag in the pot where I had placed the folded silk, which had been soaked in alum.  Then I put it aside to let the dye soak in, totally forgetting that I wasn't doing a contact dye experiment.

Well, I am now.  I am going to leave it for one or two days and see what happens.

It is summer here and I have left it in the glasshouse, so the heat may affect the colour too.  I remember reading that heating red plantstuff changes the colour, reduces the redness, I think.  So I will see what eventuates. Not that it will get as hot as simmering it.

I am thinking that I might be able to use some of the pieces of fabric I have dyed in the Traveller's Blanket.  I certainly have plenty of pieces of silk lying around waiting to be useful.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Getting Mixed Up

The hollyhocks have been flowering for months now and we are getting quite a collection of flowers.  I have still only been picking them up from the ground, not pulling fresh flowers off.  It is almost the end of the flowers but I can't wait till the two or three plants we have stop flowering totally, I have no more room in the bag. Or the freezer.
I have this tendency to try things and not keep great notes, so I have tried to use a similar process to last time - using my blog (which I keep saying is my visual diary).
But ...  I found some dried up flowers on the ground and some really fresh and soft petals.  I had left some silk soaking in alum and forgotten all about it, so I had the fabric ready to go - no preparation needed.
Forgetting instantly that I had intended to use the frozen flowers, I got out a piece of the silk, laid the petals out on it and was going to leave it to see if I got a contact print.  But then I accidentally let some of the dried petals crumble onto the silk and the colour started moving immediately.   Of course, I couldn't let that go.  Now there are crumbled dried flowers all over the fabric, interspersed with the flowers.
I think I got a bit mixed up about what I was doing.  I had started preparing to put the frozen flowers in a muslin bag and soak them. Somehow I have now put the contact dyeing into a solution.  So who knows what will happen.  Hopefully something usable.

It now has petals in contact with the fabric but also soaking in a solution.  I am hoping that I am not left with any white bits, that the solution takes on some of the colour.  There are not that many flowers in it though, so the colour could be quite washed out. I suppose I can just overdye it.

Too much on my mind


Not only am I working on tapestry design and making, I have also enrolled for a Dijanne Cevaal online workshop, the Traveller's Blanket.  (It was on the front cover of Quilting Arts Magazine recently.)  This is not just a technique workshop, it is about having a story to tell and then using that story to influence how the blanket develops.  So there is a lot of thought involved - as well as the actual dyeing and sewing. My story hasn't started yet, there are just nebulous ideas floating around - in with all the other ideas, very confusing.
I have dyed the fabrics and sewn them together to make the quilt part, now I just have to start thinking about what fabrics I will use for the appliqué and what embroidery threads and stitches I will use.  Simple!
I am actually looking forward to the sewing, it will be hand sewing that I can do while watching tv (as long as it isn't sport).  It is not really the weather to be holding a blanket on your lap but autumn will be here soon and the weather will be more conducive to it - I hope.

And then there is the attempt to do some daily doodles and lino cutting.  And the fortnightly playday group.

I miss the textile design course I did, the discussions of how people are developing their ideas, how they are going about making the pieces, etc.  I think it focussed me as well as gave me other ideas and approaches to think about.  But our assignments usually worked in conjunction with each other and I didn't have too many ideas floating around (well, not all that often).  Although I enjoy the challenges of the different groups I am in, I need to compartmentalise them, or reduce the number I am trying to develop at one time.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Back at The Alcove Art Shop

It was my turn to sit at The Alcove Art Shop recently.  As I was walking through the exhibition space of the Box Hill Community Arts Centre, I noticed some tapestries on the wall.  There were other works there too but it was the tapestries that caught my attention as you don't often see them in exhibitions that are not specifically textile exhibitions.
It was a collection of acquired arts works belonging to the council.  The tapestries were by Kate Derum.




There was also some work by Cresside Collette, done when she was doing residential artist work at Bundanon.

Cresside is organising a tour to Sri Lanka soon and another tapestry tour to England and France later in the year.  Busy lady.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Practising my tapestry weaving

I have started tapestry weaving again lately, in response to the tapestryweaversoz Yahoo group's theme of Mountain to Sea. I have several designs competing for prominence and not much luck coming up with one that actually looks like it will work.
Our local tapestry group also has a theme - Building.  Although it is not due for months, ideas have been floating around in my head, and my visual diary/picture collection.

I met with Joy Smith (a member of our local group and one of my teachers when I was at RMIT) to have a discussion about my weaving (and its problems), how to develop some of my ideas and generally to have a lovely afternoon tea. She helped with ideas for better technical weaving but also for developing more doable designs. So much to think about.

I would like to just start weaving a piece to improve my technique but I find it hard to work that way. I think I may have to use my theme pieces as my practice and if they are not successful, I don't have to put them in. After all, I did two for last year's theme (Circles and Squares) and only put one in.
The one I didn't put in.  I've noticed that it has a similar problem to the one I am currently working on - bulges where I have straight edges.  But the problem with the current work is worse, maybe because it has single warp wraps also (images to come - perhaps). Joy gave me a good tip about the wrapping.  It seems obvious now but I didn't do it at the time - sew it up as you go, build up one side of the tapestry, then do the wrap and sew it every 3 passes.  I have done the wrap independently of the weaving and it has too many wraps, hence the bulging (well, that is part of the reason for the bulge).


This is the one I put in - it is based on an optical illusion.  You can see the circles if you squint.  Actually, now that I look at it, this one has a lot of straight lines too.  If I remember correctly, I used less wool for the orange bits, the vertical ones at least, and that helped with the bulging. I don't think that is the best way to solve the problem but it worked for me at the time.

The themes and group challenges are great for motivating me, giving me a focus and actually making me develop a design and work out how to weave it.  Thanks to all those who put in so much work with the online groups.  I belong to a few, and they often have very interesting discussions. 

Joy also gave me the courage to have a go at fixing the very untidy plaiting I did on my little piece that I did in France a couple of years ago.  So I will have to do that, after the warp has had a chance to uncrimp (if there is such a word).
Note that I don't have an image of the very wobbly top edge, I couldn't bear to photograph it.

The problem might be that I didn't hitch off tightly enough, as well as my loose plaiting.
Maybe I can use this in our Building exhibition - if we actually get around to putting it on - and if I can fix up the plaiting.

It was so good to talk to a mentor about the problems I am having (it would be better to call it 'the learning I am doing').  The online groups are good and the people on them are very generous with their advice but there is nothing to compare with sitting with a person, or group, and talking specifically about issues and having the tapestry there for reference.

Joy mentioned that she had entered some works into the British Tapestry Group's current exhibition - Tapestry Mischief.  She said that there were pictures on their Facebook page.
Go here to see them.  Beautiful.  And you don't have to be on Facebook to see them.


Saturday, February 16, 2013

Different doodling

I went to a sale at Zart Art late last year and there was a man demonstrating using watercolour paints and black pen for an art activity in  the classroom.
I remembered it recently and did  the preliminary work. I had got out my watercolour crayons and just put some lines on paper and then swished some water around.
I experimented by wetting some areas of the paper and not others.  The crayons just did fairly ordinary straight lines where the paper was wet.  When I put the crayon on the dry paper, and then swished water around with a brush, the colours mixed nicely and the obvious pencil marks disappeared.  But overall, the thing looked like a mess.
Unfortunately, I didn't take a photo.
Then, over the next few days, I did a little bit of doodling with a black pen.  I went around the areas of different colours and intensity.

I quite like the result.  I have no idea what to do with it now.  I suppose I should treat it like the zen doodles, just let myself enjoy the process, not worry about the end product.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

New Year Resolutions

After purposely not making any new year's resolutions, apart from the one not to make any resolutions, I have made a few tentative resolutions recently.  So there you go, I have broken my only resolution already.  ( I just reread this paragraph and I have used the word resolution 4!!!! times - not counting the heading either.)

Maybe it is because it is the new Year of the Snake that I am even thinking of starting something like this.
Anyway, I have all these ideas rushing around in my head - very exciting but also a bit daunting as I know I will not follow up on most of them.
Still ... I might follow up on some. Better too many ideas than none at all. I hope.

So ...
One of the ladies in my new playday group (if I can call it that) has a book that is also designed to be worked through to develop your creative and artistic skills (Finding Your Own Visual Language by Jane Dunnewold).  One of them appealed to me. It was to make a stamp every day for 30 days (maybe I could do the 40 days of Lent?? I did start on Ash Wednesday).  I probably liked this idea because I thought I could incorporate some of my recent interests all in one hit:
So far I have drawn some doodle/zentangle designs and cut out some small stamps (only 2, I have only done 2 days).

I thought I would try to two different mediums I have and see how they go - when I get around to printing them.

I will try to do one stamp a day and at least one doodle.
Yes, I know there are three, I got carried away the first day.

However, I am finding that the doodling is appealing to me and I have done several small ones as I was sitting and having a cup of tea. 
Doodling while having a cup of tea.

It will be interesting to see if I last more than a week - I never seem to get past exercise two in these books and, yes, it is exercise two.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

New Friends and encouraging each other

I have been fortunate to have met some lovely ladies recently and we are starting to meet regularly to show and tell our textile work and to encourage each other to keep working.
We formalised it a little bit this week and actually had an exercise to do.  There was no pressure to participate we had said that we might bring some textile work to do in case we didn't all feel like participating. In the end, we all did the activity.

It was taken from a Sandra Meech book.  Between the five of us, we actually had three of her books,
 Creative Quilts, Connecting Art to Stitch and Connecting Design to Stitch.  We used Connecting Art to Stitch.

The activity involved using a famous painting and then choosing a small part as the beginning of our own designs.  The two artists we chose were Klimt and Hundertwasser. Collage was the medium suggested.

Then out came the papers.  Collage is not something I would usually choose to do, so it was well outside my comfort zone.  I didn't come up with anything wonderful but there were small parts that might be good to develop further.

The colourful table.

It was good to have the set activity - I would never sit down and do a design exercise by myself, despite having several books of design exercises.  I keep hoping that having the books will make me either do it or be good at it.  (If this process worked, I would have been the best poetry teacher ever!)

Having said that I would never sit down and do such a design activity by myself, I am now occasionally thinking about the part of the design that I liked (like might be too strong a word but it will do for now) and how I might use it.  I don't even know what medium I would use, so it is at a very early stage at present. At least I am thinking.



Those L-shaped pieces of cardboard are very useful for isolating small parts of the image and seeing possibilities in the bigger mess.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Finding interesting designs around us

A friend has been visiting Australia accompanied by Marck Webster, an artist based in New York. He showed us some of his work.  It made me look around me with new eyes (if only I could actually have new eyes!).  One of his pieces had a manhole cover.
I then noticed these two interesting shapes in the footpath in the local shopping centre.



Someone also sent me a link to a tutorial on Redbubble, about using the macro setting on your camera to take images to be used as backgrounds in your art.

The above images seemed to link to this quite well - in my mind, at least.

I had also taken a photo of a gum leaf during the week.  It has an amazing shape. I must have been in a looking mood this week.