24 March 2012

Market Bag Finished

How satisfying it is to get things finished! After I'd had my breakfast this morning, I had the option of cleaning the bathroom or finishing the Alabama Chanin market bag I've been working on. Naturally, I chose the bag. Every seam in this tote is hand stitched, and I've made it in a raw-edge patchwork technique. I've only used old cotton t-shirts (5 long-sleeved ones were required), so it was a great way to reuse fabric that otherwise would have ended up in the bin. After I discovered Natalie Chanin's books I can never throw away old t-shirts again. Every patch (8 in all) is slightly different from the other ones, so I'll show you both sides of the bag. The directions for the basic bag type can be found in Alabama Studio Style, on page 107.

Side 1

Side 2:

 And a detail shot:

And now there's no getting away from what's next. I've had my fun. Now it's time to roll up the sleeves and do some housework. After that, however, it's back to fun and games again!

Have a great weekend! - Annika

18 March 2012

Pouch, Poppy and Peonies

Last Sunday it suddenly hit me that it had been ages since I did any kind of sewing. I haven't done any hand sewing since early December or machine sewing since mid-November. If you've followed this blog you may remember that I was suffering from vertigo in December, and was advised to keep away from anything that might put a strain on my neck. At the same time my personal life was also in turmoil due to an upsetting separation, and everything that was happening just put me completely out of rhythm for months. My recent dyecation was pure therapy to me.

So last Sunday I got out my sewing machine and got started on a little project. I guess that after dyeing all that fabric I really should have used my own hand-dyes, but I decided to use commercial fabrics instead. I have some wonderful fabrics in my stash that I have been saving for a long time and now it was time to use them. I also got out one of my favourite patchwork books: Rashida Coleman-Hale's I [heart] Patchwork. The projects in it are so simple and elegant, and I love the combination of neutral linen and colourful cottons. I made the  cosmetics pouch on p. 34.

One side is purple

And the other side is red

However, I did used some of my hand-dyes for this thread-sketched card (the orange and green):

After I'd finished the pouch, card and a number of slightly tedious projects in the category 'Things-to-alter-or-mend', I got out my unfinished Alabama Chanin market bag project and did some hand sewing. 

And you know what? The ice is leaving! Spring is on its way even up here in The North. Yoohoo!

Thanks for visiting and see you again soon! - Annika

13 March 2012

Final Report From My Dyecation

I've been away from my blog for a while, as things got a little crazy here again. But now I'm back with a few final pictures from my dyecation. I still haven't shown you the third, dark gradation that I did after the medium and light gradations. I must admit that I didn't think I would like the dark colours, and thought they would be too murky and gloomy for my taste. But luckily I was wrong. This gradation produced some of the deep purples and plums that are my favourite colours to wear, and some beautiful petroleum blue.

 I was left with quite a lot of unused dye, which I used for overdyeing

black-on-white fabric...

and white-on-white fabric.

And here's a trick I learned from Melanie Testa (Inspired to Quilt):

- dyeing embroidery floss with the help of floss holders!

Doesn't that make you want to grab a needle?

And here's a week's worth of dyeing adventures:

These are among my favourite fabrics:

I'm having a short break from dyeing now, but I will soon continue with the warm gradation (golden yellow, scarlet and medium blue). Then I will soon need to come up with a way of using all my fabrics, because there isn't any more room in my tiny flat...

Thanks for dropping by and have a great week! - Annika

4 March 2012

Procion MX Dyes - a short explanation

I've just rinsed the last gradation, and next I intend to use up the last of the dye I mixed on Tuesday. First, however, I'll get back to what I promised yesterday: a simple explanation about Procion MX dyes to those of you who are unfamiliar with them:

Procion MX dyes are fibre reactive dyes, which means that they don't just sit on the fibres, but actually bond with the fibres through a chemical reaction. Procion MX dyes come in a powder form and you mix them with water in different concentrations depending on how bright or light you wish the colour to be. I started by mixing basic dye stock from the three primary colours yellow, red and blue (lemon yellow, fuchsia and turquoise):

This dye stock was used in different quantities to mix secondary colours such as orange, violet and green. I mixed 12 colours before I started dyeing and put each in its own little bottle:

In order for the dye to bond with the fabric you need to add a fixative. With Procion MX dye you use soda ash or washing soda. You can add it to the dye itself, or to the fabric. In the gradation process I've done you soak the fabric in a solution of soda ash before you start dyeing.

I did the gradations in the following manner. First I put the fabric in a large tub and then I poured the ready-mixed dye (from the 12 small bottles) over it. I turned the fabric around in the dye to cover it well.

When the fabric was evenly covered with dye I put it in one of the ice cream tubs.

The dye needs moisture, warmth and time in order to bond with the fabric. Therefore I put the lid on the container and put the container in the warmest place in my home: the cupboard on top of the refrigerator. This process is called batching. I let my fabrics batch for about 24 hours.

When the fabric has batched long enough you rinse it out and wash it to get rid of loose and unbonded dye particles.

I hope this has explained the basics of the dyeing process that I've explored this week.

Tomorrow it's back to the old grinding wheel again. A week passes by so quickly, and I haven't accomplished nearly as much as I thought I would. But I'm pretty content anyway. It has been a joy to work with so much colour, and it feels like spring has sprung a little in advance in my home.

Thanks for stopping by. I will publish the results from the dark gradation soon, so stay tuned. - Annika

3 March 2012

Let There Be Lights

Here's the second gradation that I've done from the same three primary colours that were used for the first gradation (lemon yellow, fuchsia and turquoise), only this time the dye is diluted with water to make lighter values.

These 'mystery fabrics' were made with leftover dye

The third and final gradation (dark value) is now batching in the same old icecream tubs as the other ones before it. I've certainly practised my rinsing skills this week.

As I know that some of you readers are unfamiliar with Procion MX dye, I've decided to write a blog post that I hope will explain things a little. But that will have to wait for tomorrow, because I feel I've had enough of dyeing for one day. I think I'll just sit down, put my feet up and do something completely different.

Have a great weekend! - Annika

2 March 2012


... but not what some may think. No, I'm not going to write about music and gloomy teenagers. I'm still preoccupied with dye. If you've been following my dyecation you might remember that I started on Monday (five days ago) with a Finnish brand of fibre reactive dyes by Emo-Tuotanto. I was suspecting that the dye was too old and that it wouldn't work, and decided to put it to the test. I'm glad to say that it yielded a very dark blue, so I won't have to throw it out yet.

Some of the fabric samples I did were very successful, others less so. But the less successful ones were like that due to bad technique rather than bad dye. The shibori samples were too loosely tied (I thought I didn't have to tighten them as much when they weren't going in a proper dye bath), the fabric I thought was going to be marbled was hardly marbled at all (so it just looked like a bad dye job) and the printing with liquid dye would have worked if I hadn't got a bit carried away and dribbled dye over it to make things merge a little (everything merged). But not to worry. I came up with a surface design solution, which I'll show you below.

Here are the ones that I felt were most successful:

The floral motif was made with wire that I bent into a flower shape and dipped into melted soy wax before stamping with it, and the stripey pattern was made with a silicone brush. These dark blue fabric would look great combined with sashiko embroidery...  :-9

As for the stamped sample, I rescued it by stamping over it again with the same stamp, but this time I used discharge paste instead of dye. I have a jar of Jacquard discharge paste in my stash of 'Things To Try Soon' (remember my stranded 'Try a New Thing Every Day'-challenge?), so that was two for the price of one: fabric improved and a new thing tried. In fact, I got so inspired by the discharge process that I picked out the bad marbling sample too and a stencil I've been wanting to try, and used the paste with that.

I cut this stencil in December, but was so exhausted by the way my life was going at that time that I never got round to trying it out. It's a bit tricky to use, because it's really too intricate to be a stencil. It would work better as a silk or thermofax screen. But I got a bit carried away... Again.

I cut it out very carefully, and can use the negative image as a mask. That's another two for the price of one!

1 March 2012

Greeted by a Rainbow

When I climbed out of bed this morning I was greeted by a rainbow.

A few more steps and I was met by this glorious sight.

I felt pure happiness. 

I believe that I’m severely colour-starved. For the last 4 months my world has just been brown, grey, black, white, muddy, slushy, dull, uninspired. Don’t get me wrong, I like winter. It can be absolutely beautiful. But you don’t get a lot of colour, do you? I’ve been reminiscing about last year’s trip to Thailand and all the gorgeous colours you see there. Playing with dye the past couple of days has made me realise how much I have missed colour. When I saw these tulips in the supermarket yesterday, I grabbed them. I love the combination of orange, purple and green. 

On Tuesday I started dyeing a 12-step gradation. I’m following Frieda Anderson’s instructions from her book ‘Fabric to Dye For’, and I started right from the beginning with a medium value gradation based on lemon yellow, fuchsia and turquoise. First of all, let me tell you that I grossly misjudged how long it takes to dye fabric. I’ve dabbled in dyeing before, in a happy-go-lucky style, but this time I decided to be a bit more scientific about it. (I even keep a dyeing notebook!) So, my first ambitious plan was to first do three gradations of a bright colour scheme, and after that three gradations in a warm colour scheme. Well, reality forced me to think again. I was knackered on Tuesday, and woke up with a splitting headache on Wednesday. I had crammed so much new knowledge in my head that it was practically bursting. So I gave myself a break and went out for a walk in the sunshine instead of carrying on with my over-ambitous plans. In the evening I rinsed out the fabrics and here’s the result of the first gradation (brights, medium value). 

These skinny quarters of fabric will be great as the base for further surface design techniques, such as printing, overdyeing, discharging and so on. Or I might make them into a little rainbow quilt for my wall. They make me happy. 

Look, even the trash looks great. 

However, my favourites are the mystery fabrics I created out of leftover dye.

Tonight I did the second gradation, with light values. The fabrics are happily batching in their little tubs right now, while I'm relaxing with my blog. I'll rinse out the fabrics tomorrow, and will probably do the third gradation (dark values) on Saturday.

In case you wonder what has happened to the Emo-experiment, I can reveal that it went well, and that I will report back within soon.

Thanks for visiting my blog, and see you again soon with more results from my dyecation. - Annika