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!












A Dyed Garment – Ripped From the Catalogs!

I have been doing some dyeing, over the last few days and having lots of fun. Many of the projects I worked on did not come out as I had hoped, but this knit top “ripped from a catalog” is a winner. I had some ideas about what to do with a knit top I bought from Dharma Trading Company, but when I flipped through a catalog the other night, I found the perfect (and perfectly simple) design. I’ve been working on some examples of shibori and tie dye for the neighborhood ladies’ craft group. Tie dyeing is loads of fun, but perhaps not so wearable for us older ladies… Shibori techniques, on the other hand, can be quite elegant and examples of them are in all sorts of stores. This pattern is so easy; it’s the classic spiderweb (perhaps called kumo in Japanese?) and I always enjoy it. Here it is all tied up.

And here is the front….

And a side view…

And the back.

The color couldn’t have been simpler! It’s PRO Chem MX Fuchsia 308. I dribbled it into the pan until I liked the tint and submerged the t-shirt. The fact that it looks so nice on my mannequin means it won’t fit me now (she’s a size 10) but it’s a good Summer goal for me. ;-D



Fourth of July Tie Dye

I am not a big fan of what I call “Grateful Dead” tie dye and when I teach dyeing I specifically say that we will not be doing that. It’s been so many years since The Summer of Love and communes and all, it’s interesting that it’s still a very popular technique. My niece Kim calls me her “crafty aunt” and so when she said that she’d like to bring her family down here for a visit, I thought there was enough time to make something. And when buying supplies for something else, I noticed the tie dye kits in all the big box craft stores… So with the help of Dharma Trading Company and Pro Chemical, I got up to speed on what supplies I needed and how to do it.

Dharma has an enormous selection of clothing, ready to dye (PFD) and Kim’s family chose their clothing. It arrived just in time. I had most everything I needed, but sent off to Pro Chem for a few things. Tie dye is direct dyeing, meaning that the dye is painted or squirted onto the fabric, which then needs to sit (batch) for many hours for the dyes to set, or become permanent. First the clothing needs to soak in a solution of soda ash, which is the setting chemical, and then it can be wound or bound or otherwise manipulated with rubber bands.

Kim's hoodie

I had squeeze bottles of magenta, turquoise, blue and a yellow mixed with Urea (to keep the fabric wet) ready to go as well as a big box of plastic gloves. And then the fun really began as they squeezed and kneaded the fabric.

Griffin's t

Even the paper towels they used to mop up spills and puddles look like works of art. I gave them three design ideas because I knew they knew even less about the technique than I did. I was a bit disappointed than none of them chose to do the “classic rainbow spiral”, but they all turned out very well.

Pretty towel

A day later, they squirted the bundles with the hose and then cut off the rubber band bindings. (It’s better than Christmas!) My great-nephew, Mr. Tidy and Symmetrical, was a bit hesitant and fretted when the colors weren’t exactly what he wanted while he was designing, but I hope he likes the end result. (He’s 15 – it can be hard to read him!)

Griff's t

My niece Kim dyed a hoodie which was a lot of fabric to deal with. I love the hood being such different colors from the shirt.

The hoodie

I’m not sure that Kim’s husband understood exactly what he was doing and I know my color wheel explanation went right over his head, but he was squirting dye everywhere and rolling the bound shirt in the dye puddles. Didn’t he end up with a really great t-shirt? I love those exuberant colors!

Lester's t

The best part was that the boys wore them to Asheville the next day and looked just like locals!

I hope you all had a Happy 4th of July…

The First Runner/Mat Design

Did you notice that I am weaving again???

Peter took the loom apart more than usual for the move and so I needed his help to get her together again. While gathering her pieces, he decided that she needed to be oiled and cleaned. Wasn’t that nice of him? Doesn’t every girl like to be fussed over? While he was working on her over several days, I got cold feet about what I might weave on her first. What did I want to weave and would I remember how to do everything? I feel this way after every move. So of course I decided to start simply and making my usual rag runner/mats seemed safe. My first idea came from a quilt on a Modern Quilt website that I thought it was a bit dull for a quilt, but seemed like it might make an interesting rag runner/mat. I found some leftover muslin fabric from Santa making for the center section and I have lots of  bits of hand dyed cotton samples which I stripped into 2″ pieces to add at either end. It was a bit fussy to weave, but I am very pleased with the result.

Fussy striped woven runner/mats

I meant to measure the runners before washing them, but I was too excited! Shrinkage after washing is a fact of weaving and it annoys me when weavers sell pieces (which will eventually need to be washed) and don’t wash them! When it looks entirely different after washing, the customer thinks something is wrong or that it was poorly constructed…

These mats are much “messier” than I usually weave with rags. Adding colored strips on either selvedge is a bit tricky and then the spliced overlap of the natural and colored fabrics really shows. After working on it for awhile, I decided not to fret. I like the nubbly texture and the selvedges are pretty darn even given what I was weaving. I don’t usually do anything special where the center of the runner/mat will be. That area usually has candles, or a bowl of fruit or things like salt and pepper or pickles or jam!

I was planning to use this runner on the kitchen table, but decided I would prefer it in the diningroom. I put the runners across the table, so we can use them as placemats, hence the term runner/mat. I bought these multi colored plates many years ago at Tang’s Department store in Singapore. I have always loved them and I think they look very special on this runner/mat.

It feels good to have finally woven something!

{Should you need tips on Macomber looms: }





Itajime Shibori

with Cindy Lohbeck. I’m in Phoenix for an AQS quilt show, enjoying the lovely weather and the company of quilters.

Of course I know a lot about shibori and I have done some Itajime, or folded dyeing, but I thought it would be fun to take a class and play with others. {I really wanted to take her ice dyeing workshop, but it was at the same time as another class I’m taking – of course!} Since I teach dyeing myself and it is tricky in many locations, I was curious to see how Cindy would handle the need for lots of water and mess! And here is the answer – the whole floor had plastic on it and water was brought into the room in garbage bins!
Itajime classroom

On the table are the amazing kits that she puts together. She had lots of samples to show us and if you check out her website, you will find lots of information and all the supplies you could want for creating shibori on your own.

Cindy Lohbeck


Itajime shibori

It was just a three hour class, so Cindy kept things moving! We learned the different ways to fold the fabric and clamped a variety of shapes on them. The dye was applied with squeeze bottles because we had soaked the fabric in soda ash beforehand.

Dyeing shibori

This was my hotel bath tub last night. I needed to rinse and dry my samples in order to get them home – without getting blue dye on the towels or anything else it could dye.  Happily this morning all the samples were dry and ready to pack up.

Bathtub of shibori

More about this when I get home…

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


Feathered Star With Fancy Middle & A Giveaway!

The last feathered star square I made went so well that I thought I would try another, so I printed out the pieces for a larger, 15″ square. I wanted another fun middle and when I was rummaging around in my Asian stash of fabrics and tidbits, I found some reverse appliqué pieces done by the Hmong ladies, which you have just read about. I printed out more foundations for the small 10″ size, which was a perfect fit for this tiny 3″ square.

Grey & Pink Hmong


And here she is – – –

Pink Hmong Star

What a disaster! I have no idea in what order I pieced the first one, which went quite smoothly and is very flat. I sewed several sections of this one together and kept boxing myself in! I would end up with several interior seams to piece and no way to get them to cooperate. (I was also piecing in little “pleats”) I really wish I had made a master piecing plan of the first star and numbered the large sections to remind me of what I did. I finally had to rip all the pieces apart and start over – – – it was very frustrating. It’s not very flat or even and I am hoping that lots of quilting in the background areas will hide my wonky seams. I am happy with the overall design and all my fun hand dyed fabrics though…

There was a good bit of interest in the Hmong reverse appliquéd squares. As usual, when I find something unusual, I buy multiples of them and so I have a little stash of these squares. If you would like one to frame or make something out of, I have picked three pretty examples to give away. Leave a message and I will choose three winners on  Saturday. First winner gets to choose the one she wants, and then number two gets her choice…

Tiny orange-y pink: design area about 3″

Tiny orange-y pink

Small red and black: design area about 3″

Small red and black

Red and green: design area about 6″

Red and green


Feathered Star Success!

Feathered star success!


The tiny feathered star top is done! The partial seam piecing wasn’t too bad and I only had trouble with one seam; the last one of course! I had to do what I always tell my students – only rip out three times. Because of the Fun-dation, it’s all quite square with no wonkiness. I could not have pieced such small half square triangles accurately without it.

It finished up at 10″ and then I added a bit of background around the star so that the points really show. I would have liked to have made the border of arashi shibori, but all the pieces I have are narrow, so I chose this bo maki fabric. There is a big hunk of it and there was plenty of room to fussy cut. I think it works well with the middle. Finished size, 17″.

Bo Maki Shibori

Let’s get back to some fiber! The Liebster nomination mentioned my great fiber blog, but it’s been anything but recently….

Isn’t this an odd-looking thing? It sat in the basement for over a year…… It looks like a cocoon doesn’t it? And it will turn into something wonderful!

Bo maki

I sewed and bound it as a demonstration during a class I was teaching and just never got around to dyeing it. When we were cleaning out the basement area downstairs, I spied it and decided that I had put too much work into it to toss it…

Dyeing fabric on pipes is a messy business and I do like to do it warmer weather. I park the bucket by the sewage drains in the yard so I can easily dump the dye water. {Buckets of water are so heavy!} While I was waiting for the Salvation Army truck to come and pick up some big things, I started the brew.

Dyeing in the yard

I was in a hurry, so I dumped some blue and magenta into the bucket, stirred it around and put the pipe in. Every now and then I moved the pipe around to stir the dye, but of course I generally want a mottled look so I don’t do it often.

Here’s the finished piece. The long stripes are the Bo Maki part. Can you can see a dark line between the two scrunchy parts? The fabric was folded there. Above and below the scrunchy lines, you can see the holes where I hand sewed the pleats or ruffles to the pipe and then gathered it. In the top photo you can barely  see that strips of bike tires are tied around the top and bottom of the fabric to keep it tightly gathered and on the pipe. I learned this interesting technique from Akemi Nakano Cohn, who called it Bo Maki. She is a fabulously talented fiber artist who spent years in her homeland of Japan learning dyeing techniques from masters. When I google that term, nothing like this comes up but I certainly believe her.

Completed bo maki

The wonderful floral bursts are marbles with rubber bands wrapped around them. They are so fun and easy! This fabric is now stuffed inside some box or other, wondering what it will be used for…

Weaving a Looper Rug

I know it seems crazy for me to be starting a lot of projects, but there’s a method to my madness. First of all, the looms need to be warped so they look attractive. I find that people are always drawn to something being handwoven, and then the realtors don’t hound me to move them. Since I “work” at home, I need projects to keep me busy when waiting for the house to sell. And then when the looms are warped, I can pack up the weaving supplies. First warp is going on my big Macomber loom.

I can’t remember when I might have discovered loopers, but I have had a big box of them for years. Can you guess what they are?


Sock ends!!! Take off your tube socks, turn them inside out and look at the toes. Imagine that end being sewn together and then for a neat edge, a machine or a person cuts off the excess – and there’s the loop. When you were a child at camp, you used smaller, probably nylon ones to weave on the potholder looms. Mine are cotton so that I can dye them. Here is the looper rug which we use by the shower. I’m thinking I wove it before we moved to Asia, which would have been about 1992. You can see it’s quite faded, and flattened, but it still feels nice underfoot.

Old looper rug

I did a little research and it turns out that you can still buy loopers! I have no idea where mine might have come from, but here are two sources. Great Northern Weaving has loopers and is an actual B&M store in Kalamazoo MI, that looks quite interesting. Cotton Clouds carries loopers too. They have been in business for many years and I used to buy lots of fibers from them. They are a great resource for cotton and I was interested to see that they have loopers. Should you want a completed rug, there are also weavers on Etsy who sell woven rugs in very pretty designs.

I dug around in a box of carpet warp looking for colors for the rugs. Here are some choices certainly influenced by the dark and dreary weather we’ve been having.

Warp choices

Surprise – {not if you read my blog a lot} – I decided to use all of those colors. Does this warp look too bright? I’ll let you decide as I show you the progress. I wound a warp for two 24″x 36″ rugs, I hope. There is a lot of take up when you weave with loopers. What that means is that the loopers are fat and fuzzy and very irregular sizes, so they take up a lot of room as you weave them.

Looper warp

Another reason for the large amount of take up is the way that the loopers are joined. If you look at the wound ball as well as the woven section below, you can see that I join the loops by knotting them together. This creates a large bump, which takes up a lot of room going under the warp. {The bumps feel really nice on your bare feet!} The knots and irregular sizes of the loopers also make it difficult to get a nice selvedge, or edge. Looper rugs are always look handmade and a bit rough and shaggy, but that’s their charm. It will be great to have a new one in the bathroom.

New looper rug

When I get the other loom warped, fabrics dyed and quilting projects re-started, then I can seriously pack up and thin the overwhelming studio. Pictures of all this to follow…