Wednesday, December 11, 2013

I've been exploring wool and dyeing along with needle felted appliques these past 8 months.   I started with white wool fabric and dyeing it with instructions in some dyeing books.  A little knowledge and a lot of experimental got me some dyed fabric that doesn't look like batik (which looks like everybody else's).  I was trying to find  the colors for a background that I could embellish with hand embroidery and felting as in these examples:

I was thinking these strips would become borders for the Newest Flock of that has more open space to quilt.  However I found that they are too busy in design for that felted applique quilt. 

The next quilt project is a reworking of the Alphabet quilt that I designed in 1996 in cotton.

This is the new wool version:
All the wool fabrics, rovings and pearl cotton threads have been hand dyed by me. The Quail and the Rat are still appliques, and will get needle felted tomorrow.  Currently they are just felted in place (using my new Embellisher, Babylock's felting machine).  I figured out this summer that fusible is not required to hold the appliques in place.  I still have to figure out how to incorporate the Z, which probably will go on the next line.
The P is a Praying Mantis that I promised someone I would include on the quilt and in the pattern.  Sounds simple enough, but there are so many legs.  It is a complicated critter.  I left a large space for him, but the background is green and so are the insects (although they get beige-y brown as they age).  That is going to be the most challenging critter so far.
This Praying Mantis was hanging around my back door for a couple of weeks.  He actually got inside and was on his way to the basement when I removed  him from the house.


I saw this plant, called Crocosmia, several years ago on a gardening show, Gardening by the Yard, and I had to have one.  So I bought one at the local nursery in August when it was in bloom,  I planted it and it died during the winter.  I found some corms at the grocery (Wegman's carries an interesting assortment of things in addition to foodstuff).  I bought the box of corms and planted them.  They apparently grew because now I have two plants with flower buds and I am so excited.  I have never seen a flowering plant that I was so drawn to.  It is as graceful as a dancer.  I love curved lines.  I have been drawing this plant on some of my felted blocks, without knowing that there are more groups of flowers on the same stem.  This makes the flower more complex.  Complex design is very enticing to me.
Here is what I drew in thread after observing the crocosmia.  The flowers on the right are new stitches and the ones on the left are what I thought crocosmia looked stalk of red flowers.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Making color work for me

I am fascinated with dying now.  One of the drawbacks to dying is walking around with colored hands, because I keep forgetting to keep my gloves on.  I am playing around with wool fabrics, embroidery threads and wool fibers.  The most fun is the stitching with hand dyed embroidery threads.  When I first embroidered the Crazy Sheep quilt, as I ran out of a colored thread, I would pick up another color or at least a different shade, and continue on with my stitching. Now I am able to use one thread and with many color changes in my embroidery without so many starts and stops.  The dyeing process is addictive.  I can't wait to see what colors emerge.  I have been using my acid dyes (which work well on wool) for my pearl cotton embroidery threads.  There are special dyes for cotton, that probably work better than the ones for wool.  I will experiment with them later, as it requires buying more stuff. 

Once I found that they didn't need to be heat set, I've been putting damp thread skeins (that I wound off the ball of white thread around my 24" ruler) one end in one jar of color and the other end in another jar of a different color, sometimes adding a third jar of a different color.  Then I rinsed the thread till no more color ran, then I set it aside to dry.  The "spools" that I wound the threads on, are hand cut from lids from yogurt containers, coffee cans and the like. They are much easier to work with than the balls of thread which have no way to keep the threads from tangling.
This is how I've stitched my sample blocks of felted appliques.  The backgrounds have been hand dyed the embroidered blocks machine stitched on, then I embroidered the edges in the hand dyed threads.

This cat is solid black felting over an wool applique.  The eyes were created by making a stencil with the pattern for the correct placement. The embroidery stitches around the edge do not need to be perfect.  The next row of stitching will make the work more complicated, and a third row finishes off the piece.    

It looks like these blocks will be sewn together to become a sampler quilt, so I don't loose my samples at shows to sticky fingers.