The “reveal” – is what they call it on those DIY TV shows. Here are the results of my snow dyeing experiment a few days ago.  Dyes, applied in powder form, liquify slowly as the ice melts creating unpredictable patterns with soft blends between the colors. The scrunched fabric below the dye powder and ice has hills and valleys. Colors concentrate as they pool in a valley or have a lesser effect where they roll off a raised portion of fabric. I waited (in suspense) for the requisite 24 hours, then rinsed out excess dye, machine washed, and ironed the fabric.

The powdered dyes in the first tub, with a piece of fabric about 45″ square, were Havana Brown, Orange and Yellow. You can see olive green in the fabric because the brown dye was a composite color that separated into the component colors, one of which was bluish. Blue + yellow = green. This fabric reminds me of geraniums.

snow dye in warm colors









Colors in the second tub, with two pieces of fabric, were Robin’s Egg Blue, Cyan Blue, and Black. Black was a composite color that had some reddish tones, so you see some purples in the resulting fabric. The larger piece of fabric is about 45″ square. The second photo shows the small piece of fabric laid atop the larger one and gives a hint about what it would look like if the fabric would be cut into segments and pieced back together.

snow dye cool colors

snow dye two pieces


Snow Dyeing

It is hovering just above freezing in Ohio today. As I watched the waning snow I knew there was still enough for a batch of snow-dyed fabric. I knew I had all the ingredients on hand, but I did do a quick check online to review instructions. Dharma had instructions and did too.

I had about a yard and a half of PFD (Prepared For Dyeing) white cotton fabric.
I tore it in half and set it to soak for 1/2 hour in soda ash solution. I have two white plastic dishpans and 2 grids made from salvaging the sides from a damaged laundry basket. I scrunched the soda-ash soaked fabric, arranging it on the plastic grids which I elevated within the dishpans. I brought snow in and put a 3″ layer of it over the fabric. Wearing mask and gloves, I scooped dry Procion dye powders out of their containers with a plastic spoon and sprinkled dye over the snow – three colors in each dishpan full of fabric. I wrapped black plastic garbage bags around each dishpan. Now I wait… 24 hours until I can peek. Then I’ll rinse, rinse, rinse, rinse, heat set and enjoy my “new” fabric. I did not take pictures, but here is an illustration from the instructables website.
I’ll post my dried and ironed fabric results in a few days.

Happy Mardi Gras!

Using Practice Pieces

I hate wastefulness. You, like me, may have accumulated a stack of small free-motion practice pieces, and have already made all the potholders and mug rugs that you can use and give away. Larger free-motion practice pieces are great for easy oval placemats. I take a double-page-width sheet of newspaper and fold it into quarters. I draw a gently-rounded corner by tracing a plate from the cupboard.  I cut out the traced corner and unfold for the pattern. I cut the oval from my pre-quilted fabric and bind the edge. Done!

I’ve made custom-sized cases for my too-large-to-fit-in-a-standard-case Fitover sunglasses, my digital camera, and my harmonica. I measure around the object, add a slight ease and use double fold seam binding or leftover quilt binding to finish the edges. If they get dirty, they are machine washable; when they wear out, I make another.

Today I finished a small diameter neck pillow that I wanted in order to be perfectly comfy watching T.V. in my favorite chair. I rolled up a 12″ x 12″ piece of memory foam, sewing it to retain a tube shape. I finished three edges of 18″  x ??” rectangle from my free-motion practice pieces stack. I wrapped the fabric around the foam and hand-stitched the edge. The ties are seam binding I’ve had so long the color is faded. Cute and comfy… it only took a couple hours from idea to finished… and was made entirely from supplies on hand.

Drawing with thread

Here are photos of two small fiber art pieces I did at different times in the past few years. They are drawn by free-motion quilting, drawing with thread. I would call them moderately successful, but I do not feel I’ve totally mastered the technique of drawing with my sewing machine. The secret to getting really comfortable with any technique is practice, practice, practice. I believe the maxim that it takes ten thousand hours of effort to become an expert at anything. I need more material on which to practice.

So, I’m reviewing and re-evaluate drawings, scribbles in sketchbooks, and unfinished paintings that have accumulated in my studio. I hope to find an image worthy of translating by free-motion quilting to become an art quilt.

Thanks, Dot detail

Cardiff Character


November 10, 1945

Today I’m putting the label and border on “November 10, 1945”, a 14” x 24” work. I want to have this work finished for a presentation about making art quilt portraits that I will present in mid-January.

It is the 6th portrait I’ve done, a continuing exploration of techniques. Four portraits are of me, not because of great vanity, but because I am the readily available, no-cost model. One is from a photo of my daughter and this current effort is from a photo of my parents on their wedding day.

I had seen the wedding photo my parents had displayed in our home. In it, they stand together in front of the altar of the chapel at the army base where they were married. They stand stiffly and seem a bit nervous, with mom tugging at her right sleeve with her fingers. As I went through family photos looking for some images to harvest as a basis for artwork, I came across a better photo, one taken after the ceremony with all the wedding party. Holding hands, with fingers interlaced, they look ahead with relaxed, joyful smiles as they begin life together. Mom’s other hand now holds the marriage certificate. There is much more “story” in this picture.


I estimated the size art quilt I wanted, which gave me the percentage of enlargement to use when copying the image with my printer/scanner. I traced an outline of the two figures from this enlargement onto unbleached muslin. Referencing the photo, I drew details in graphite pencil. I colored the image with Prismacolor colored pencils. (I had first tried Derwent Inktense pencils, set by dampening the dry pencil drawing, then ironing. There was too much color bleed, because the small size of the faces required precision to render a likeness.) 

I auditioned possibilities for background fabric. I found a large scale print that reminded me of fabric in the curtains of my parents’ first home. The bold color would overwhelm the pastel drawing, but the wrong side of the fabric was perfect. I did not want the distraction of the print behind the faces, so came up with a heart shape to frame the faces. It may be a bit cheesy and obvious, but the shape fit the image well and gave it a pleasing symmetry.


I cut out the drawing, leaving less than 1/4 inch seam allowance to turn under. I glued the seam allowance under and appliquéd this cutout to the pieced background. (In retrospect, needle-turned appliqué would have been more precise.)

I had deliberately made the faces small so that quilting could outline the faces and not run across them. I hand-quilted within the figures and used machine free-motion quilting on the background. My sleeve for hanging the work is also the label. I use the computer to size and space text for the label, then trace the words with Sharpie permanent marker. I was tracing onto a print with dark and light areas, so I outlined the dark marker with white pigment ink (Uni-ball Signo broad) so that all letters are readable.


Now, I’ll post this and get back to sewing. Happy New year to all my followers.

Bullseye experiment continues

I do view each art project like a scientific experiment. Controlling some things, testing variables. Here is my thinking after about five more hours working on Bullseye experiment #1.

I enjoyed playing with the colors, finding myself adding more gold and orange, less white and yellow. This added middle values, altering my original idea, which was for sharply contrasting darks and lights with no middle values. I use a sequence for color decisions: 1. decide range of values of light to dark, 2. decide hues that best express idea, often a named color scheme like complementary or analogous. 3. decide color temperature, and intensity. All decisions are based on whether the work needs more harmony (repetition/sameness) or more variety (contrast).

One of the most important things to do when designing any art work is to periodically evaluate progress. The low tech way to do so is to step back and squint at the work, which reduces detail and color information. Another way to get a fresh view is to use a reducing glass or mirror. Modern technology offers another tool, the digital photo. My step back revealed light areas of my dark background fabric which confused the design. I darkened the areas with markers.

I had used up my fabrics that had fusible already ironed on them, so dived into my stash for any other whites, ivories, yellows, golds or light oranges. I used plates from my kitchen cupboard to make templates, drawing around them in pencil. I had been using scissors to cut the circles, but tried a small diameter rotary cutter and found that faster and more accurate. I pinned, then attached pieces with water soluble glue. Fabrics without fusible were translucent and tended to fray. I decided that intensive quilting would overcome those flaws. This is a quilt I am making as a learning experience, not a quilt destined for a highly competitive show.

I was slightly distressed that this quilt was not consistent with my other work, not expressing my personal “voice”. I want to add an element that is in most of my other works…words. I will write some thoughts about roundness with markers in the center area. I want to use some of the fancy decorative stitches on my sewing machine that I use very rarely. Here the current state of progress:


Bullseye experiment #1

I have presented a challenge for Ohio members of Studio Art Quilt Associates: Create a work that fits the SAQA definition of an art quilt. The work should contain at least one bullseye motif. Longest side should be no less than 24″ and no more than 48″.  A bullseye is a simple traditional quilt design, a circle or concentric circles centered within a square. Several bullseye blocks are cut into quadrants and their parts exchanged and rearranged. There are an infinite number of ways to expand and modify the design. 

For experiment #1, I set limits for myself. I began with nine bullseyes, arranged in three rows of three. I chose 10″ for the squares and grabbed a coaster and jar lid for circle templates. I wanted a stark contrast between one light value and one dark value. Because I had quite a few yellow pieces of fabric that already had fusible ironed onto them, yellows, light oranges, ivories and whites became my lights. I chose browns and burnt sienna as the darks.

After I had made the nine blocks, I tried various arrangements of them: rows, border, and circular. I photographed each in order to better compare them. Photos reduce the size of the compositions and allow for simultaneous viewing. The circular pattern pleased me the most.

I pieced the squares. I needed a wide dark brown border to make the outer bullseyes complete circles. Once the pieced squares were appliquéd to the dark brown, I cut fabric from behind them to reduce layers in quilt center. I began adding circles and elaborating the design intuitively. Pins hold the work together to keep options open as I rearrange and refine the design. I’ll glue and fuse when I am happy with it.

Here is the progress at the end of today, followed by three of the designs I considered at the beginning. In my next work session I’ll think out the logic of the outer circles of the bullseyes…should they appear to be overlapping? One more day of tinkering should finish the design, then I’ll move on to sewing.