Friday, December 31, 2010

Dyeing Wool

I know many people spend days baking cookies to get ready for Christmas.  I don't really enjoy baking.  Instead of spending days baking, I spent days dyeing wool.  It's kind of like cooking.  You use a pot and a stove.  I had to wait to share my "cooking days"  because much of the wool was meant to be holiday presents for some of my quilting friends.

I do have designated pots and utensils set aside just for dyeing.  I also had a stash of an assortment of wool.  Dyeing wool requires acid dyeing which is different than the dyes used for cotton.  Dyeing wool requires heat, which dyeing cotton does not. 

Since I have quite an assortment of dyes for cotton, actually too many, I decided to order a sampler kit from ProChem.  The kit included 6 different dyes, Synthropol - a detergent and citric acid crystals for acidity.

To open up the fibers of the wool so that it accepts the dye easily,  the wool is soaked with some detergent.  Pro Chem's directions indicates 1 hour with Synthropol.  I have seen other directions where you use dish washing soap, like Dawn, and soaking time up to 24 hours.  Since I bought the ProChem kit, I decided to follow their directions.
After 1 hour of soaking, wring out the wool and place it in the dye bath that includes the dye, salt and citric acid dissolved in water.  Turn on the heat and then "cook" for 1 hour.  The more you stir, the more even will be the dye.
Doesn't that color look yummy?
The big difference between dyeing a protein fiber such as wool and a plant fiber such as cotton is what the dye bath looks like in the end.  When dyeing the plant fiber, the dye bath is colored when finished.  The longer you leave in the fabric, the darker it becomes.  With the protein fiber, dyeing is complete when the water is clear and colorless.  It is said to be exhausted.  The fabric at that point is as dark as it is ever going to be.

The excitement is seeing how the different patterned wools take the dye.  This is exciting.  When the dye bath is exhausted, I dump the whole pot, fabric and water, into the sink and let it cool until I can handle the wool.  Then I take it to the washing machine, wash it with cold water and then into the dryer.

and this is what 7 of the different wools look like all dyed together in the blue dye bath.
I love how the different patterns turn out so differently.

So instead of packaging up a bunch of cookies, I trimmed and cut and rolled and delivered some hand dyed wool as holiday presents to my quilting friends.  No calories!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Another Stashbuster

For those that are non-quilters, a stash is the piles of fabric that have "accumulated" in your sewing room.  A stashbuster is a quilt that lets you use up a chunk of your fabric so that you can replace it with new fabric.

The month of January, my quilt guild, Calico Cutters,  has a big sew-in to make quilts for the Chester County Domestic Abuse Shelter.  It takes the place of our monthly meeting.  There's a great committee that organizes it and provides the pre-cut fabric and batting.  Women bring sewing machines, scissors and lunch.  Lots of quilts get completed and those in progress go home with various members and come back in February finished.

I have to admit that I am not a great team player.  I end up spending the meeting going from group to group, socializing and kibbitzing with the many people that I normally don't get to speak with.  So this year I decided to make one of these quilts while I  have been hanging out at home due to the snow.

My goal was to make a kids quilt and use up a chunk of my fabric - a stashbuster.  The palette chosen was blue and green, since I have lots of these fabrics.

I decided to make a take off on a string quilt.  This method dates back to the 1930's and was done on newspaper.  Today we call it paper foundation piecing.I like to use newsprint since it's cleaner.  You can purchase it by the pad at your local art/craft store or if there is a newspaper printing place nearby, you can purchase the ends of the rolls.  Some places will even give them  to you.

This roll will last me for a few years.  I use it a lot for paper piecing.

The blocks for my quilt are 8" cut and I needed 48 blocks.  I cut 8" strips of the newsprint and since it is 36" wide, 12 strips were needed.  I first cut up my fabric into random width strips, ranging from 2" to 3 1/2".  The size of the fabric scrap determined the length.  the strips had to be at least 8" long, but a little longer was OK.  I wanted this to be quick and easy, so if the length was 9" from a quarter yard piece, I just left it.  Even it was 10", I left it.  No trimming yet.

To begin sewing, I placed one of the strips in the middle of one of the paper strips, right side up.
Then place another strip on top of the first, right side down.  Sew along the right edges with a little bit shorter stitch length, so the paper will come off a little easier.  Then lace another strips on top of the first, right side down and sew on the left side.  Press open.

Continue adding strips until the entire length of the paper is filled.  The fabric strips do not have to be straight.  Angling them gives a whimsical touch.
You can see that my strips were all different lengths.  The next step is to turn it over and trim along the edges of the paper.  I bought this 3"x36" ruler at a quilt show and I love it, especially for this type of project.
Then trim this 8" strip into 8" blocks.  Since I used the 36" roll of newsprint, I got 4 blocks from each strip.  There is still paper on the back.

To prepare a horizontal row for the quilt, turn every other block 90 degrees. 

For my 48 block quilt, I made 8 rows of 6 blocks.  After sewing the rows together, it's time to remove the paper.  It's a mindless, messy job and is done best while watching a movie.

 I just want to take a minute to share with you the movie I watched.  The title is "Exit Through The Gift Shop" and it is about the evolution of street art.  Have you seen those black and white faces on phone polls and buildings with the word OBEY?  I always wondered what they meant.  Street art by Shepard Fairey, the same artist that did the Obama posters. Some of these people started out as graffiti painters and evolved over time and now make thousands of dollars.  I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and highly recommend it.

I digress.  Anyway, after all of the paper is removed, your top is ready for the next step.

This was a lot of fun, used up a lot of fabric, requires no precision and has a great graphic appeal.  I have to go and check my stash to see what colors I'll use next.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Autoimmune Hepatitis

I have autoimmune hepatitis.  What is it and how did I get it?  Nobody knows the cause.  It is usually familial, but I have no history of any autoimmune diseases in my family.  In layman's terms, and that's all I know, my immune system has gone haywire and decided to attack my body.  And the liver is a nice juicy spot for it to attack.  It is not contagious.

I had symptoms 1 year ago while we were in Key West for the winter.  I was tired, had achy joints, strange colored excretions (no further details here) and no appetite.  My son and his girlfriend (now fiancee) came to visit and they pressured me to go to the doctor. Could it be Lyme Disease -  a pretty common illness up North caused by the bite of a deer tick, but not heard of in Florida?  The Dr at the local clinic put me on doxycycline to treat it while my blood went out for tests.  It was negative for Lyme, but showed  some type of hepatitis.  I waited to go home for further tests.

By the time I got home and saw my family doctor and then was referred to a GI Dr, my liver enzymes, a measure of hepatitis, were off the charts.  One of the enzymes should have been in the range of 15-40.  Mine was over 1300.  The other enzyme level was equally as bad.  I was connected with one of the top Hepatologists (liver specialist) in Philadelphia.  It was the quickest that I ever had gotten an appointment.  Drs were calling me on the weekend. Something bad was going on.   I was  diagnosed with autoimmune hepatitis (hepatitis being an enlarged liver), confirmed by a liver biopsy, and was told that if I had waited much longer I would have needed a liver transplant.

Treatment was with drugs.  Prednisone to reduce the inflammation and Immuran, an immune suppressant.  Prognosis is great.  I just have to get my liver back to normal or as close to normal as it ever is going to be.  That Prednisone is a bad drug.  It is a steroid.  Ever hear of moon face?  Yup that's from Prednisone.  It also causes an insatiable appetite that leads to the dreaded weight gain.  I know people are talking about those 50 lbs that I have gained.  It depresses me.

I haven't shared my illness with many people.  So why have I decided to talk about it now? I met a woman this past weekend who also has autoimmune hepatitis.  The sky brightened.  I didn't know anyone else who had it and  it was so comforting to speak with someone else who has been through the same thing and is now stable, healthy, and has lost the gained weight.

So I'm sharing to open up a conversation with anyone else out there who has it.  Also, if I had continued to "tough out" my symptoms I could have been much sicker.  So I want to tell you something that you know.  Listen to your body and if it is trying to tell you something, go see the doctor.

So with all of this, I want to wish everyone a happy and healthy New Year, with an emphasis on healthy.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Top 10 Things

Chanukah has come and gone.  So while most of you are getting ready for Christmas, I have some extra time on my hands.  I thought I would put together a list of the top 10 things I use most often as a quilter and designer, and give you a peek at my workspace. 
(As much as I tried to prioritize my list, it's really not in order.)
  Are there any tools I missed?  
Is there something indispensable or a favorite of yours that is not included.  Please do share.

Wishing you health and happiness in the New Year.

10.  Design Wall
Used for designing as well as my filing system.

9.  Hand Sewing Needles
Lots of assorted needles for lots of different  threads.
8.  Freezer Paper
Found in the grocery store with many quilty uses.

7.  Journal - I keep a journal that includes everything from ideas, thoughts, sketches and inspiration.  I look for the ones that are blank on one side for sketching and with lines on the other side writing.
Great personal reference.
6.  Printer/Scanner
An essential design aid for me.

5.  Threads
I use all types of threads as long as I can put it through a needle.
4.  Embellishments
This is my candy.
3.  Computer
How did we live without them?

2A.  Sewing Machine
I'm a Bernina girl.  I've tried others, but ....
2B.  Rotary Cutter/Mat/Ruler
Had to squeeze this in.  I remember making a quilt  composed of 4" squares in the early 1980's without one.  I have to choose this as a tool that revolutionized quilting.

1.  Fabric Stash
A quilter's palette. 

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Need an excuse to buy more fabric?

Do you need an excuse to buy more cotton fabric?  Word is out that the price of cotton will be increasing.  This affects apparel manufacturers and sellers as well as we quilters.  The price of raw cotton will hit a new 15 year high. 

The various reasons are severe weather conditions in China and the recession which has resulted in a decrease in demand.  This decrease in demand has led farmers to switch to alternate crops which will lead to a cotton shortage.

I have read that quilting cotton may hit upwards of $12/yd and one supplier of cotton yardage for dyeing is going to raise their prices by 40%.

What's a quilter to do?  The first option is to try and use up some of our bulging stashes.  Do you have projects on your to do list?  It is pretty hard to predict the fabric colors  that we will need for our quilts down the road.  But we will always need batting.

Let's go shopping!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Pincushion Present

Sharing handmade gifts is something that my art quilt group does every year.  Sometimes it's food.  Sometimes it's something sewn.  We usually exchange our gifts at lunch after our December quilt guild meeting.  It's a time to splurge on an especially nice restaurant and to let each other know their importance.  These women are some of my best friends and this has been an especially tough year for some of us.  It's so nice to have friends to count on.

But with all the craziness, we never made it to lunch.  Some of us have not even made our gifts yet.  (That would be me.)  I have already devoured my food gift, but want to share this week's gift.  We met for a quick breakfast and Kelly of Pinkadotquilts  presented us with these wonderful pincushions.  They are made from selvages and are filled with crushed walnuts.  Note the flower embellishment.  You can read about them on her blog.  (While you are there, read about her unusual birthday present.)

I am so thrilled to have a new pincushion to sit next to my sewing machine.  It's gorgeous, isn't it? The one that I am currently using, I received from an on-line birthday gift exchange.  I can't remember how old it is, but I do remember that Prodigy was our internet provider.   I think it was in the early 90's when I first started quilting.  Just look at those fabrics.  But it certainly was well used.



Friday, December 17, 2010

Foto Friday

Winter is such a dramatic backdrop .  I have been waiting to share Ann's winter photos.  
There are many and since we have about 1/4" of snow on the ground here in eastern Pennsylvania, I am declaring it winter and here are a few.  
I'll share some more to celebrate our first big snow.

My favorite of all.

Thank you Ann Davis, my photographer extraordinaire.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Have You Read The Wall Street Journal Lately?

The Wall Street Journal isn't just about the stock market anymore.  My husband turned me onto The Journal a bunch of years ago.  There were some very interesting columns such as The Home Front where you can read about properties being sold by the rich and famous such as the California estate that sold for $34 million or the home owned by the Allman Brother's drummer that's selling for a mere $3million in Palm Beach.  A 5600 sq ft Mediterranean style home, less than a five minute walk from the beach.  6 Bedrooms, 6 1/2 baths that he has owned since 1990.  He says he is selling because his children are grown and he is retiring to the south of France.
The Cranky Consumer is a comparison shopping column.  Goods such as ordering a clam bake on-line, holiday photo cards, buying the right bicycle and even comparing mobile apps for a personal trainer have been interesting topics. 
Other interesting columns are Health and Wellness, and Leisure & Arts.  I even find myself sometimes reading the Sports columns.
But recently I have noticed lots of fashion and style articles.  I love reading about the fashion shows in Paris, Milan and New York.  Who doesn't want to know about the must have fashion piece that you need for the upcoming season, even though it costs $4000.And how about that Christian Dior designer,  John Galliano's favorite place to eat breakfast in NYC is room service.  I love to read these tidbits of info.
But I really was blown away the other day, when the headline contained Pantone colors - in the WSJ?  That's right, an article about the new hue for 2011.  The color of the year, predicted by color authority Pantone, will be Honeysuckle - an intense pink - hot pink.  The exact shade is Pantone 18-2120 TCX.  It will be featured in clothes, home dec, nail polish and even water bottles and appliances!  This is important stuff to a quilter.
And all this I learn from reading a business newspaper.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative Update

As many of you know, I have been a huge supporter of Ami Simms' Alzheimers Art Quilt Initiative (AAQI).  Ami, a world reknown quilter, started this organization about 5 years ago, after finding out that her mother had Alzheimers.  It started with a travelling quilt exhibit to raise awareness and money for research and now includes quilt auctions and other fundraising methods.  She has raised over $400,000 for research so far.  The wonderful news is that one of the researchers at the University of Michigan that received grant money from AAQI has made a breakthrough.  You can read about it on Ami's blog.  It is amazing that quilters and quilt lovers, with a needle, thread and a checkbook have contributed towards this discovery.

My quilt, "Leaving Us" made in memory of my Dad, has finished touring.  There were 51 quilts in the exhibit from 38 states and over 200,000 people viewed them.  Some of the quilters donated their quilts to AAQI for Ami to sell.  I did a lot of soul searching trying to figure out if I was willing to let my quilt go.  It has a photo of my Dad on the back and it is so personal.  For it to have travelled and touched so many people was a unique experience for me.  If I knew for sure that it would end up on a wall in a public place, I may have considered donating it.  So I have decided to keep it and think of my Dad whenever I see it.  I can still spread the word as I travel talking about my quilts.  This was a very tough decisions.

"Leaving Us"  depicts the progression of Alzheimers.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Free Silk Scraps

I have spent the past two days nursing a groin pull and organizing my silk dupioni stash.  I should have taken a photo of all the silk that I had stored in plastic bins dumped on my family room floor, but I was too driven to get it organized and put away.  Besides if you just look at that silk, it frays.  So I sat there with a pair of scissors to cut all those threads and determination to get rid of the scraps.  Reluctantly I put the scraps in a bag to throw out.  Then my husband said someone might want those scraps, don't throw them out!  (Boy does he get it!) 

The clear bag is full of scraps that are either backed with fusible web or a lightweight stabilizer.  Then there is the pile of scraps and all of the beautiful threads that frayed.  I'm sure someone must have a use for these threads.  So, anyone that wants an envelope full of scraps or the beautiful threads that I trimmed, e-mail me.  I will fill one of those USPS "If it Fits It Ships" boxes or envelopes and all you have to do is pay the postage.  You can have some or all, just don't ask me to sort. First come, fist served.

You'll save me from feeling guilty!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Congratulations Gretchen!

I met my friend Gretchen Gibbons the other day for lunch. I am so proud of her.  Her book, Pennies From Heaven just came out.  

She gave me an autographed copy.  Woohoo!  
If you love working with wool, you must get this book.  You can order the hand dyed wool for the projects and the book from her website.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Chappy Chanukah

I have a secret that very few people know about.  As my husband says , "I haven't met a menorah that I didn't like".  So, I have a small menorah collection and to celebrate Chanukah, I thought I would share it.

Our first

The go to menorah

Needs polishing




And this is one I think I would like.  It's made from circuit boards.

Just kidding - It's at the mall! 
But it might look nice on my front lawn.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

New Colors For Me

I am trying to expand my color palette.  I have several color comfort zones.  One is any grouping that includes blue and the other is a neutral palette with copper/black/tan/brown/gold.  Red and orange make me very uncomfortable.   So here are some fabrics for my next small project.  The top 2 are cotton and the bottom one is silk dupioni.