Made in the Fade

Once upon a time, I dyed a bunch of fabrics using natural dye extracts I had bought at Maiwa on a trip to Vancouver with my mom. I think it must have been a little over a year ago, because I had recently bought Kristine Vejar’s The Modern Natural Dyer and was suddenly keen to DYE ALL THE THINGS naturally rather than with the acid dyes and fiber reactive dyes I’ve posted about here. My notes say these use madder, coreopsis, and quebracho; there are a variety of other mysterious scribblings that seem to indicate I subjected some of them to different pH levels and/or treated them with iron.

Naturally Dyed Fabrics

These fabrics have been sitting in my crafting nook, by a window. And clearly they are not lightfast, because when laid flat, nearly all of them now have noticeable fade marks along the creases. But I’ve found a pattern where I think I can turn this into a design feature. The Pleated Patchwork quilt from Amy Ellis’s Modern Neutrals is built from simple pleated blocks like this one.

Pleated Patchwork Block

I’ve been wanting to make this quilt since I first saw it; I just love the look of the little gill-like pleats, and I imagine they’ll make the quilt very cuddly and warm. (Here’s Amy’s version.) The blocks are very easy and satisfying to churn out.  What I realized also is that, even if these fabrics end up fading even more once the quilt is finished, I think they might fade in an interesting way due to the pleats. So maybe my newbie status as a natural dyer will end up giving this quilt even more character!

If anyone has tips for increasing the lightfastness of pieces when using natural dyes, though, please chime in!

Modern Spiderwebs

Recently I heard someone use the phrase “pod fading” to describe the process of starting a podcast (aside: podcasts! so trendy now!) and then slowly losing interest and abandoning it. I felt a little bit sad, realizing how badly I’ve “blog faded” over the past year or so. I’ve been thinking it over lately and wondering why, although I’m still making things, I’ve been so much more lax about sharing them here. I think it has something to do with my general ambivalence about social media and how it seems to subtly change what feels worth doing. I think I needed to step away for a while and reestablish my connection with my own likes and dislikes, apart from what the internet might have to say about the matter.

Anyway, I have a new quilt to share, and it’s a definite like!

Modern Spiderweb Quilt

This is pretty much the result of spying the Octagon Shimmer Quilt by Jennifer Sampou on Pinterest and deciding I had to make one like it, NOW. Unfortunately the pattern hasn’t yet been released, so I drafted my own giant foundation pieces using tissue paper. Jennifer’s idea to take the uber-traditional spiderweb quilt and reverse the usual light-dark color scheme is just genius, don’t you think? Hopefully my copy-catting will inspire some of you to buy the pattern when it’s released in September.

The fabrics are quite a bit of Carolyn Friedlander plus some solids and blenders from my stash. I made 16″ squares, so the whole quilt is about 64″ x 74″.

(Nearly) Wordless WIP Wednesday: Yarn Dyeing Edition

The story of my latest project, in photos:

There's A Thread: Yarn Dyeing Cards

There's A Thread: Dyeing Yarn

There's A Thread: Hand Dyed Yarn

There's A Thread: Hand Dyed Yarn

There's A Thread: Knitted Cowl

I know it looks like a sleeve, but it’s going to be a cowl. I was inspired to get back to dyeing by these cool mini-skein cowl kits that Pepperberry Knits had for sale at my local yarn store recently.  I couldn’t find them for sale on the Pepperberry site anymore, but you can see it in the background here.

Is This Quilt Done?

Ok, I need some outside perspective on this one. I’ve been kind of hating this quilt from the beginning, EXCEPT now that it’s quilted I think maybe I love it, EXCEPT… it’s not what I planned.  And so I’m not sure — should I stop, or should I add the hand-quilting that I thought was going to “rescue” it? Help!

Here is the finished top. As you can see, it is lacking a certain something. Contrast, maybe?

Modern Lemoyne Star Quilt

I thought quite a bit about how I could quilt this. I printed out about 10 copies of the photo and doodled over all of them. In all of my doodles, I incorporated big-stitch hand quilting around each of the stars, because that was what I thought would make those stars pop a bit more. (Actually that’s exactly why I did the hand-stitching on this pillow, which worked like a charm.)

Anyway, here is what it looks like now, after the machine quilting portion of my plan. There’s a stitching line 1/4 inch away from each star, which I used as a boundary for the swirls, and I also thought I would hand stitch over it. But now that I’m looking at it, I think maybe the quilting itself already solved the problem. I’m struck by how much more cohesive it looks already.

Modern Lemoyne Star Quilt

Here’s a closer look at what I’ve done so far. The overlapping swirls are a pain to quilt but they give such a nice texture. In the colored portions, I stitched in the ditch and then did some freehand arcs. I’ve become a big believer in stitching in the ditch after taking “Design It, Quilt It” with Cindy Needham on Craftsy. She has a sample of two free-motion quilted blocks, one with ditch stitching and one without, and the piecing looks SO much better on the one that has it. It’s like Spanx for your quilt, invisible but just works to tighten everything up!

Modern Lemoyne Star Quilt

What do you think? Should I still add the big-stitch quilting? I’m leaning towards yes, but I’m not sure I trust my reasons. (I already bought the special colors of perle cotton, for example. I’m pretty sure that’s the worst reason ever.) Also it doesn’t match the vision I had of what I thought this quilt was going to be. I think the hand stitching might take it there, but I also wonder if it might over-complicate what is now a pretty nice quilt. Any thoughts?

Irish Lass Baby Quilt

Ok, I told you this one was going to be epic, and I hope you agree. After poring over Judi Madsen’s wonderful book Quilting Wide Open Spaces and getting some encouragement from my longarm mentor Sue Fox, I recently decided to attempt something with much more detailed quilting than I have ever done, and the result is this baby quilt version of the “Irish Lass” quilt in Judi’s book.

There's A Thread: Irish Lass Baby Quilt

I simplified some of Judi’s suggested quilting designs to make them more manageable for myself, but the quilting is still pretty crazy!

There's A Thread: Irish Lass Baby Quilt

Here’s a close-up of what I’m calling the “Flying Spaghetti Monster” motif. I’m really proud of my micro-pebbling here. I followed Judi’s advice and slowed the machine way down, to the point where I could see each individual stitch as it was being made. I ached the day after, and I’m not sure this super-dense quilting is something I’ll want to do regularly, but I really love the way it looks and feels. Each of these took about 40 minutes of quilting. The whole quilt took me about eight hours total, as well as some initial practice time.

There's A Thread: Irish Lass Baby Quilt

The binding on this quilt is one of my favorite parts. Crisp but pretty, no? I’m hoarding this fabric now for binding future projects.

There's A Thread: Irish Lass Baby Quilt

Overall, this project is definitely a lot more “traditional” than my usual style. I don’t know that I’ll continue to move in this direction, but working on this project has given me a lot more confidence in my quilting, and I think that will influence how I think about projects in the future. I’m noticing other people’s quilting choices more now, and feeling drawn to projects that make the quilting a more prominent part of the design.

Oh, and a bonus random tip for you: Hobbs wool batting is fantastic. This was the first time I tried it, and it quilts SO smoothly. It’s lighter and airier than cotton (a surprise for me), and it doesn’t crease like cotton, although it does still give you a crinkly texture if you wash it. In short, it is dreamy and you should try it if you haven’t yet.

Linking up with Needle and Thread Thursday at My Quilt Infatuation and Finish It Up Friday at Crazy Mom Quilts.