Neighborhood Dyeing Projects

Last Summer I had so much fun doing tie dyeing with my niece and her family that I offered to teach the ladies some dyeing techniques. First up was tie dyeing and June was game to try. Here is the result of our morning’s work…

and here is her shirt washed and dried! Perfect for gardening or a Summer music festival or kayaking on the lake!

Then I offered a little class on the many sorts of shibori dyeing. I had three ladies who spent another morning working on samples. We wrapped and sewed and tied indoors and then dyed and unwrapped in the shade.

A few weeks later, Joan and June came over to do a project of their own. June came ready with 6 napkins wrapped and ready to dye.

She made them to go with her Fiestaware china. Didn’t they turn out well?

Joan decided to make a pool cover-up. Isn’t it great?


Though the best time for tie dyeing is over, I am anxious to get dyeing again. I want to make some shibori napkins and I also have an idea for an ikat warp. This Winter I am determined to try some ice dyeing as well. Stay tuned!












Midwest Road Trip

Last week, Peter and I were on a road trip. It was wonderful to be away – we have had one of those Summers when everything has been going wrong. Since his retirement, it seems like Peter has done nothing but repair things and read online guides and talk to repairmen, when he can’t fix something. Some months ago I signed up for the Midwestern Handi Quilter Event in Highland, Illinois, and when I asked if he would like to come along, I got a resounding “yes!”.

Our first stop was in Franklin Tennessee, which was #2 on my Where To Live Next List. It is a charming town set in lovely, rolling countryside, not far from Nashville. The horse farms and large estates (I looked at a house across the street from Reba McEntire’s farm!) are breath-taking. We had some yummy meals downtown and Peter toured the area on his bike while I window shopped. Next trip we will explore Nashville.

Handi Quilter makes my Sweet 16 quilting machine and I thought I’d like to go and see what I could learn about the machine and how to get better at free motion quilting.The Handi Quilter Event was sponsored by Mike’s Machine Shop and they did a nice job, and Mike is so knowledgeable about the machines. The classes were held in this Masonic Temple in Highland…’s quite a beauty!

The Event was 5 days long, but only the first two were relevant to me. I have a Sweet 16, which is called a “sit down, mid arm machine”. I do not use the HQ version of a stitch regulator, nor do I use a computer. She’s a plain vanilla machine and I’m delighted with her. Over the years I have taken machine quilting classes from “big deal quilters”. They show you how to do their quilting; the way they like to do it. Mary Beth Kraptil gave an overview, with many, many ideas for designs and how to accomplish them. After going over the basics of the machine and how to get the quilting started, she talked about a variety of quilt patterns, including “ruler work” and there was even a bit of time to try out her ideas and play with the rulers. And the mantra always is, no matter who teaches the classes, practise for 15 minutes every day!  She had samples galore, which are so helpful to see up close.

This idea for a practise piece was one of my favorites. She started with a printed fabric in the middle and then “finished” the motifs that were cut off. You can see that she added more floral and leaf shapes in the background and then fill, fill, filled!

Highland is about 45 minutes from St. Louis, so we decided to go to a Beer Week Event at the Anheuser Busch Biergarten. As you can see, it was a lovely evening… and check out the arch appearing in the distance!

It is so incredible!

The trip home was not as fun as the getting-there – isn’t that often the case? We were listening to a book on tape and I was secretly tracing quilting designs on my leg. I have so many ideas and some new tools and toys to play with!









Upcoming Fun at Island Quilters!

I have been asked by my friend Beth to lead hexie make and take sessions at her Hilton Head Island store, Island Quilters next weekend. We will be doing English Paper Piecing; a technique where fabric is basted around a paper template. It’s quick and accurate and addictive. Her description made me laugh – Debbie will tell you about her favorite subject – hexagons! It’s true, I do love them, and I am looking forward to sharing this passion with other quilters. Island Quilters is under new ownership and I wrote about it here.

I have been making a lot of hexie units in preparation for the make and take. We’re hoping for a big turnout and I need to keep ahead of the students, like cooking shows and their swap outs. Each participant will get a little sample pack with EPP pieces and bits of fabrics and learn how to sew them. (Big thanks to Paper Pieces for sending us these packs!) Instead of just making random hexies, I do want to make something, so I chose this medallion pattern, which will take shape as the weekend progresses.

Medallion hexie pattern

There are so many ways to be creative with hexagons! You can play with the patterns of the fabric, like the swirling flower on the right. You can make fun shapes, like the (purple) frog’s foot. You can layer the different sizes. You can cut the hexie in half and use two fabrics on each hexagon. And stars and diamonds, oh my! All of this is just Beginning Hexie. Check out Pinterest and Google for a zillion ideas.

Hexie ideas

But the best fun is getting out your colored pencils and drawing a design to make…

Star hexie pattern

In case you are in the area, or know someone who will be, here’s the information:

Island Quilters store, located on Hilton Head island, January 27 and 28

The sessions will start at 10 AM and will be about 45 minutes long.

If you would like to reserve a time, call the store at 843.842.4500.

Laundry Basket Quilt Class

I’m not sure when I started to notice quilts by Edyta Sitar of Laundry Basket Quilts. I really don’t look at quilt patterns – it is rare that I buy one (I like to draft my own) and am always confused when someone tells me “I just finished a “blah-blah-blah quilt”, the latest quilt design by so-and-so.

When looking at the AQS Phoenix class list, I was delighted to see that Edyta Sitar would be teaching a star class. In the morning, she explained the construction and design of many star shapes, and this was the class project, called Dresden Star. It’s quite an interesting variation and before I found this class, I spent a good amount of time, to no avail, trying to figure out how to piece it.

Laundry Basket Quilts Dresden Star

Edyta brought many quilts for us to look at and I discovered this pattern, called Dresden Bloom, a variation of the Dresden Star. O happy day! Everything about this quilt just sings to me – the pattern, the colors, the setting – and I couldn’t wait to get going!

Laundry Basket Quilts Dresden Bloom

First though, here are some other great star pattern ideas. Edyta called this one a Twirling Star. I envision it in much brighter colors…perhaps a Summer throw in red, white and blue… or red, blue and yellow…

Laundry Basket Quilts Twirling Star

And this one is quite the beauty, and it’s called American Beauty! I have to look over my notes as I can’t remember how it’s constructed. (It’s a more complex variation of a simpler star.) We were encouraged to take as many pictures as we wanted and attach them to the pattern sheets so we would remember each pattern and I need to do that.

Laundry Basket Quilts American Beauty

But back to the Dresden Star. It has 16 points, which means 16 different fabrics can be used ( or 8 or 4 or 2). Here is the fabric pack that I got. Edyta explained that in order to get a nice assortment of fabrics she chooses a small, medium and large print as well as a stripe and a dot. It works for me!

Dresden Star fabrics

The lighting in the room was very odd, and made everything look a bit freak-ish. This is the best shot I got of Edyta, holding up the string piecing of my table mate. This was a whole day class and it went by much too quickly. I have taken a lot of classes with many teachers over the years, and Edyta is truly superb. She’s patient and funny and knowledgeable. She managed a class of 25 with no trouble and believe me when an instructor can’t do that it’s a loooong day! Her instructions were very clear and she repeated them as many times as we needed to hear them. Unlike many teachers, she was on her feet and working with us during the whole class. If she is teaching anywhere near you, I would suggest you sign up ASAP.

Edyta Sitar

In case you too are obsessed with the Dresden Bloom quilt, here is a close-up so you can see the wonderful quilting and fabric choices. Feel free to drool…

Laundry Basket Quilt Dresden Bloom close-up



Shibori Surprises

It has been forever since I have dyed anything! I attended the very wonderful wool dyeing workshop at Pro Chem two Summers ago when we were moving and that’s been it. { FYI – Pro Chem has a lot of interesting workshops and you’d be learning from the best!} A year or so ago, I gave my friend Molly an IOU for a shibori class and finally decided that I needed to get to it. Most of the dyeing supplies are out in the garage and the first order of business was to get them out so that I could see what came with us. I did order dyes a few months ago, when I remembered that I threw all the MX dyes away when we moved.

So here are all the goodies I dug out of several storage bins for Molly to play with. On the computer I located my class notes from years ago when I was teaching shibori, reminding me of what I might show her.

Shibori goodies

I didn’t look at the clock much (too much talking!) but this is about 2 hours worth of stitching, clamping, knotting and folding ready to go in the dye baths.

Ready to dye!

Here’s Molly with some of her favorite samples. Aren’t the purples just fabulous? They came out well, but she was trying for an orange and got a coral instead. I have some new dye colors, as my usual go-tos seem to be gone and the yellow wasn’t doing much. Disappointing and it means I will need to do some dye experiments to find out the proper proportions for orange.

Molly's handwork

A day of handwork………there’s nothing like creating for the soul!

Molly's hands


Florida Harbor Hookin’

This is the reason I’ve been traveling to Florida – to attend this  hook in. It is sponsored by Searsport Rug Hooking, a store in Maine which relocates to Florida in the Winter. I get their newsletter and suddenly noticed their workshop listings and event details and it sounded like fun. My brother lives in Florida as well, so there were two good reasons to go.

This is what a room with about 300 (mostly) women looks like! It’s hard to see, but there are many vendors set up around the edge of the ballroom, who came from all over. Fun!


It was a two-day event, on Wednesday and Thursday, and I had a workshop on each morning. On Tuesday the class was about various ways to finish hooked rugs. Though not the best teacher, the woman did have some (new-to-me) ideas. She had pre-made samples so we could try some of her ideas. I must admit I did not envy her having to explain to 15 women with varying degrees of expertise how to do picot beading or crochet!

Hooked rug finishes

On Thursday morning I had a class on using dip dyed wool to hook scrolls. I know my rug hooking teacher taught me how to do this, but that was a very long time ago – plus I really like the pattern and colors! The teacher was Angela Foote, a former Home Ec teacher who provided a lovely kit and who gave clear and precise directions. Here is what I accomplished on Thursday.

Angela Foote heart scrolls

It’s Friday morning and  the weather is grey and cool and rainy. I had hoped to do some beach walking, but instead I will find something drier to do. Eventually, I’m heading north, to Bradenton Beach where my brother lives.

My Other Classes at IQA Houston

I have not written much about this, but my friends have gotten an earful about the tremendous problems I’ve had with my Bernina 820. I bought because I was so sure that the stitch regulator would help with my free motion quilting and planned to use the machine mostly for that purpose. It didn’t go well. The store where I bought it in Illinois was sort of helpful, though their machine mastery classes left a lot to be desired. However, whenever I had a problem they were glad to have me come and someone would help. Then we moved to South Carolina. In January, I decided to quilt a quilt for the guild show and I spent about 6 weeks fooling with the machine. I had endless tension problems, I changed thread brands many times. I threaded and re-threaded the bobbin and the machine. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Everything would be fine in the morning only to be bad in the afternoon. I would quilt during the day and rip out at night. I called the local Bernina store repeatedly. The sales ladies were very nice and would say I could come see “the Bernina saleslady” and then someone would call me back to say, no, I couldn’t. The owner wanted me to take their machine mastery class for about $350… I said that I had already taken it and of course they spend only a few minutes on quilting because there is so much information to cover. But she kept saying that because I had not bought the machine there, they wouldn’t help me! {If I bought a new sewing machine every time we moved, I’d be broke!}

I googled Bernina stores in NC, SC and GA and in desperation, I called the Asheville Cotton Company, and begged for their help – – – and they said yes! It’s about an hour drive there, but I was so relieved that someone would help. The saleslady took everything out of my machine and oiled it and wound a new bobbin and proceeded to take me through the process. Turns out there was a whole lot of operator error due to poor instruction during the original machine mastery classes. I was not inserting the bobbin case properly. I was not oiling the machine enough (more than once every bobbin!). I did not have the tension even close to the proper setting. I took the machine home and have barely touched it since. And I had to tell the quilt show organizers that my quilt would not be ready for the show. {End of rant.}

Before I bought the Bernina, my friend Beth told me she thought that I ought to buy a Sweet 16. It’s been in the back of my mind and lo and behold there were several classes offered at IQA Houston featuring Handi Quilter’s Sweet 16. For you non-quilters, this is what is called a “mid-arm machine”, meaning it has a larger throat space than a domestic machine but smaller than a long arm. It sits in the middle of an adjustable table and does nothing but free motion quilting, meaning that it has no feed dogs. I took two classes on how to use the machine. The first day was a basic class on how to get set up and going. The second day was all about threads and tension – a topic that makes me very nervous and was the problem I had with the Bernina. David Taylor taught them both, and he is one of the many “big deal” quilters who own and love Sweet 16’s. The best part about the class is that each person had their own machine and there were 26 of us. (In many classes of this sort, it’s two students per machine.) I call this picture “The Sweet 16 Sweat Shop”! You should have heard the din when we all were quilting!

Sweet 16 class

The woman sitting beside me did not need to take the thread and tension class… Not only did she create beautiful patterns, she spent very little time adjusting either tension. She was quite nice though and had all sorts of tips for me. I aspire to quilt like this.

Quilting sample

And guess what? I liked the machine, I liked the salespeople I met in the classes and I really like the high level of support Handi Quilter offers. The website has videos and webinars and they have several national workshops. So here I am, buying the machine that I used in the classes. {Anyone want to buy a Bernina 820???}

New Sweet 16

Wish me luck!


What To Do…What To Do….

Some upcoming fiber shows:

I love taking workshops and going to galleries and talking fiber to anyone who has an interest. Last year was all about relocating and I didn’t have the time or energy to go to workshops or conferences. This year all bets are off, and I thought some of you might be interested in some events on my list.

I began my fiber journey by taking weaving lessons with my mother when I was in college. We both took to it immediately. I was a Second Grade teacher and did not have the money or the time to get as involved in the craft as my mother did, but we both joined The Handweaver’s Guild of America and attended many of the biennial Convergence conferences across the US and Canada. Weaving was hugely popular in the 1970’s and 1980’s but not so much these days, so the group now embraces all manner of fiber crafts. The 2014 version is in Providence, Rhode Island, the home of the amazing Rhode Island School of Design and an area rich in textile history. I just downloaded the class and workshop list. {..sigh…} There is a lot going on! This is on the maybe list.

Long on my bucket list has been to attend something at Asilomar. Many moons ago they had a rug hooking week, but popularity for that craft has waned. The winters are now filled with quilting workshops, called Empty Spools Seminars. The locale, on a peninsula near Monterey CA, is supposed to be amazingly beautiful and of course any time you can immerse yourself in a craft you adore with like-minded souls for 5 days is heaven indeed! I wanted to attend a workshop with Melinda Bula and do a flower of my own (remember the wonderful zinnia top that’s waiting to be completed???) but this isn’t the year. They always have the most amazing teachers….

The big rug hooking event this year will be rug hooking week in Ohio at Sauder Village, August 13 – 16. I very much enjoyed it when I attended a few years ago. It’s always a treat to see a lot of hooked rugs on display, but this year an exhibit of woven coverlets will be included! On my to-do list when I started weaving was to make a coverlet…… not so much now, but I still love to look at them. This is another maybe…

The American Quilt Society has added two shows to their list this year, and since they are nearby, I am sure I need to go to them! One is in Charlotte NC, on July 30 – August 2. The other is in Chattanooga TN from September 10 – 13. I am hoping to throw Peter and his bikes in the car and have a little vacation there; it looks like a lovely spot. And maybe I should enter the quilt I’m working on in one of the shows???

There are all sorts of small, local events that I will be attending and will share with you. One of the many reasons we chose this area (of SC, NC and TN) was because there are many craft related events that seem to be well supported and attended.

This is just a sprinkling of fiber shows you may not have heard about. Where are you headed this year to feed your creative spirit???

Pro Chem Wool Dyeing Workshop

I have been dyeing wool for years and years and years. My mother and I took weaving lessons when I was in college and I found that the fibers I wanted to use only came in their natural colors. Not being a beige or white person, I started to read and do research. Way back then most people were into natural dyeing, which I tried but quickly discarded. It’s anything but natural with the strong chemicals that can be needed to fix a natural substance. I discovered the go-to company for supplies and information at a Convergence – Don Weiner and his Pro Chemical & Dye Company was and is the place to find anything relating to dyes! I attended some of his lectures and bought one of the few books which he endorsed. Some years later, when getting my Professional Crafts Certificate at The Worcester Craft Center, I had a lesson on wool dyeing from my teacher, Fuyuko Matsubara. Other than that, I’m self-taught. And I often have questions and when something goes wrong, I can’t always figure out why.

The wool dyeing workshop at PRO Chem caught my eye a few years ago and when I thought I’d be hanging around waiting for the house to sell this summer (ha!), I signed up. There were 13 of us, with varied and amazing backgrounds in fiber. Introductions were the first day, when we were anxious and excited, so I don’t remember a lot, though amazingly enough there was another rug hooker in the group!!! Our instructor, Vicki Jensen, has been working at Pro Chem for 17 years, and was full of great information and inspiration.

I was quite curious about how we’d do so many dye samples in two days. We used 12 of PRO Chem’s pure colors; that is the dye powders they use to formulate their other colors. Dyeing them in their many possible combinations is a lot of samples……1000? 1200? more? Turns out we steamed the samples, which is something I’ve never done. We were assigned a color family and we had to mix the dye formulas and paint the tiny skeins. The process of steaming only takes 30 minutes, as opposed to more than an hour for an immersion bath, thus we were able to get many, many colors done each day.

Painting dye

After being painted, they were carefully wrapped in plastic wrap and labeled and then put in a bucket to await steaming. And then we started on another formula.

Ready to steam

When they came out of the steamer, the plastic was wrinkly and sticky, but not melted! Vicki would sort them into their color families to cool.

Ready to unwrap

Then they were rinsed and spread out to dry. Here are some wet value studies…..


We spent two days doing this. It was quite hard work as each sample had its own set of formulas. We had to concentrate to make sure that we would all get accurate samples. Aren’t these great?

More samples

All About Eliza

I finally have some free time to write about Eliza, the rug that I started in the class with Donna Hrkman in March!!! Although I wasn’t doing anything as complicated as a face, dear Eliza is giving me a challenge! The first question I had for Donna, was should the birds be hooked realistically or in a fanciful folk art style? Donna felt that they should be fanciful to go with the Fraktur nature of the design. My other big concern was I might use for the background of the center of the rug and happily we both liked the “parchment” colored plaid that was among some that I had chosen to audition. {whew} Finding a background can be A Big Deal. The wrong color can kill a design, for sure.

I love/hate the birds and as they are the central part of the rug design, I need to get them right first. The flowers will be fun and easy. Their necks and funny heads appeal to me, but the tails and wings seem so like peacocks, which is not the sort of bird I want to hook. Donna and I sat down on the floor with my big container of colored wool and picked through it. There really is a lot of area in each section of the birds and they are about equal; the neck/breast, the wings and the tail. Here’s the first color try during the first day.

Peacock colors˜

Foxy Ladies meets in Lisle, IL, which was at least a 45 minute drive for me. On the way home, zooming along in traffic, I thought about what I had hooked on Eliza….. By the time I got home and Peter asked if I was happy with what I had hooked that day I said “No!”. Here’s what I told him – The plaid/texture in the wings as well as the gold I’d chosen to highlight them was too “dull”; my colors are pretty bright and clear. And though I did not want to hook a peacock, somehow I had chosen what screamed to me as peacock  blue-green for the head/breast area. I needed a new plan. That night every time I woke up I puzzled over the color dilemma. And the next morning I had another 45 minute drive to think some more. When I arrived at the workshop venue, I spread the rug and wools all over the floor again. Below is the next experiment. I love purple and the breast/neck is now hooked in two over-dyed houndstooth fabrics that I bought from Donna. They are mellow but happy colors. You can see just how different the two color plans are! She suggested that the eyes pop out and I always like birds that have crazy and kooky waddles or eye colors, so that went easily.

Pretty purple

Then I started to play with the wing area. In Asia, I saw a lot of blue greens and yellow greens put together and I like the sweet/sour aspect of that, so I tried a section. Notice I did the feather area… I’m not sure whether I like the criss-cross area of the wing. Then it was time to decide on the tail colors. Donna pointed out that I had used all cool blues, greens and purples so far…..I hadn’t done much in the pink/orange families, so I chose another of Donna’s over dyed houndstooths in magenta. I like the idea of incorporating every color I want to use in the rug in the birds and then the flowers and leaves will relate well to the middle. Looking at the magenta, it just seemed so strong. I don’t want the bird to be all about the tail!

Too much magenta

I made some time, the week after the workshop, to dye some more of the colors I thought I would want. I also ordered some back up colors from Donna. What to do? What to do? The tail is giving me fits!