A Colorful Diversion…

Our handweaving guild decided to sponsor a “Dye Day” for our members as a celebration into the start of the summer.  Typically dye days provide large pots of color for members to immerse their yarns, warps or yardage, but we did something a little different.  Lead by our fearless president Caroline, who is an avid dyer, we all met in the community room of the condo pool complex where Caroline lives.  We all brought our things to dye, and Caroline provided her vast collection of MX fiber reactive dyes, (I seriously think she has every color Pro-Chem and Dharma sell) and all the little yarn samples to help us in our selection.  Her idea was to allow each member to select the colors they wanted, and make up 8oz containers and paint the yarns/warps/fabric directly.  I was thrilled.

I took advantage of this event, even tough my calendar is full, because Caroline has practically EVERY color, and social events like this are really really fun.  AND, I had a ton of white warps and skeins already pre-wound from last November when I paid my kids to wind up everything in sight that was white.  So I loaded up a laundry basket with white warps, and all the white skeins, and some white rayon scarves for dye-mops, and some silk chiffon scarves I had bought from Kerr Grabowski last summer during a different guild’s workshop with her on Deconstructed Silk Screen Printing.  I had no idea how much I’d need, but it didn’t cost anything to bring everything.  And I threw in all my dye supplies, everything but the actual dyes.

There was a flurry of activity when I arrived, everyone set up quickly, and Caroline showed the beginning dyers how to put two glugs of white vinegar in a gallon of water as a mordant for protein fibers, and for the rest of us with cellulose fibers, we made up batches of soda activator.  I had done a quick check online before I left, doing a Google search for Color Forecasts for Spring/Summer 2011.  I got a couple of sites, with pretty palettes, and I did a quick print and brought them down along with some color chips, and my notebook.  I quickly selected a palette, with lavenders, melon, butterscotch, and mauve.  I was a little nervous with the melon color, it looked so Orange when I was applying it, but the color is lovely and pale and perfect now that I’ve rinsed it.

I ended up painting three ten yard warps, all with the same palette, so the idea is I’ll run them together and create a yardage next time I’m home long enough to warp the loom.  I had a great time sitting and painting, listening the sounds of chatter amongst the guild members.  I ran out of speed about half way through the third warp.  Most of the members had cleaned up and left, since it was nearing dinner time, but I slogged along, since this wasn’t something I could put away and come back to another time.  Once I finished,  I still had some excess dye left, and Caroline noted that there were about 20 bottles of other excess dye from the members who had left already.  She hates throwing away unused dyes, as do I, and I had a basket of white skeins, and some scarf blanks, and I asked her if she cared if I tried to use up some of the extra dye.

This was the most fun I’ve had in a studio setting in a long time.  Too exhausted to over think anything, faced with a bunch of unlabeled bottles of dye, I threw everything white that I had brought into the soda soak and dove in.  I squirted and painted, and threw scarves in  baggies with dye, and I stayed another two hours.  I’m very grateful to Caroline and Andi who agreed to stay and do all the clean up while I used up the extra dye.  What was so much fun is the total lack of control.  I had no idea what was in the bottles and cups, and I mixed small amounts of dye together and made pot luck.  I dyed everything I’d brought except for a couple of the 10 yards warps, and finally called it quits about 7pm.

All of the things I dyed sat overnight on the floor of my warm car, and I started pulling out the bins around lunch time today.  Rinsing warps and skeins is fun for about the first half hour, and then it gets to be a real chore.  I worked around the house for most of the morning, putting off the inevitable, and then I got a brainstorm.  I asked my lovely talented 17 year old, who was watching television if she would please go out and help mulch the yard in the 95 degree heat.  When I got the expected face, I offered as an alternative, that she could rinse out all my dyed yarn, sitting in the bathroom in air-conditioning.  I’m sure you can guess which option she chose and she was actually excited about it.  I know it is sort of cheating, but hey, why not?  We actually worked together, she washed skeins and scarves in the bathroom sink, and I used the tub to wash the warps.  We worked for a few hours, and she’d squeal every once in awhile over some wonderful combination of color, all of them total surprises.  The only thing I planned were the warps, and that’s always fun to see them rinsed out.  But the serendipitous skeins and scarves were so much fun to see once they were rinsed, and hanging to dry.  We lined them up on the back deck, the silk chiffon scarves dried quickly and they will be fun for nuno felting.  While we were rinsing in the bathroom, we both screamed in dismay when we heard a sudden sound of pouring rain, from a thunderstorm that sprung up while we were busy in the bathroom.  A mad dash to the balcony to grab the yarns and skeins, and we hung them instead, now dripping again, in my studio with buckets to catch the water.

So I now have lots of inspiring skeins of yarns to invent projects with, and enough dyed warp for another wonderful colorful piece of handwoven yardage.  Stay tuned…

Big Sister Revisited

What an odd day.  I had some very sad news this morning, after my celebration yesterday of my 7th anniversary of my cancer diagnosis, one of my very best friend’s was diagnosed with breast cancer.  I’m so sad for her, this is such an epidemic, that I almost feel like it isn’t a matter of if, but when…  The good news is that it is in a pretty early stage and with careful treatment it should all be fine.  But that doesn’t help right now, you still have to go through the misery and fear of a diagnosis, not everyone responds to your news in the best most supportive way, and the road will be a thorny and uncomfortable one.  But like I told her this morning, what ever side of the spiritual fence you sit on, I firmly believe that the universe sends angels, lots of them, to guide you through this maze, and they are always there in disguise, you just have to know they are there and look for them.  The fiber community really rallied around me when I was diagnosed, I got some lovely cards, handwoven scarves, cookies in the mail from Connecticut, love and support through phone calls and emails.  Oddly enough my favorite emails came from Duchess, a lovely black Labrador who had also just had a mastectomy and we corresponded through her owner for a couple of years.  Oh, and I loved the email from some wonderful angel who said to me, “You can’t die, because I haven’t taken a workshop with you yet.”  That might sound like an odd thing to say, but it gave me a good laugh and kept me going through another couple of chemo treatments, it lifted my spirits in a way that said, I was so much more than this disease and I wasn’t done here yet.

I also had a phone call which thrilled me, the rumor from a very reliable source, is that Pellon will eventually be printing the red dot plates onto a pattern medium they already had in the archives with seems to be identical to the base fabric of the original red dot tracer from HTCW, which has sadly been discontinued.  If you haven’t followed this thread of the blog, I’ve been in hot pursuit of a suitable pattern tracing medium to replace the discontinued Red Dot Tracer, and it seems I only have to wait a bit longer.  🙂

I had to switch gears today, I wanted to send a piece to the members exhibit at the Surface Design Conference in Kansas City.  The deadline is March 1st.  I was under the assumption that they wanted an image by March 1st, but when I reread the prospectus, it calls for the actual piece, 18″ square to be sent to them by that date.  I had been planning to use the photo of the 16″ version, and if accepted would weave the 18″ version.  But alas, they need an actual piece.

release_backingSo I brought my table loom over to the cutting table , which is really convenient because I can stand and cut the strips as I weave them in.  The second or third blog I wrote back in December described the process and gave the draft, using a Theo Moorman threading. I weave about a quarter inch of ground fabric, then lay in on top a thin strip of silk, and hold it down with poly sewing thread which is warped in with the cotton ground. The strip is part of a childhood photograph I printed on 10mm silk Habotai, which comes on an 8.5″ x 10′ roll, pretreated for ink jet ink, and mounted on paper for easy transport through the printer. I got this from Dharma Trading. By running two  lengths of this silk, 8.5″ x 16″ long, I could print a much larger image, since I’m stripping it anyway, it doesn’t matter if it is in two  pieces.

table_loomIn the first photo, I found if I score the paper backing with a sharp ruler edge, I can get it started easier than fumbling with the corner.  In the second photo, I am peeling the paper backing off the silk.  In the third photo, I am remove_backingcutting the strips of silk, I cut them about 3/16″.  You can see there are two big sections that make up the image.  The last photo is of the table loom, you can see I have two strips woven in already.  I’ll describe more about the weaving process later.  I figured out a way to do a pick up of the tie down threads so only the ones I need are actually held out, the rest on the side get woven into the ground.

This will be a slightly larger version of one I sold, called Big Sister. The photo is from around 1957, of my younger sister and me, caught in an intimate moment. The photo  is the smaller version.  In the December blog, I was weaving the same piece, but 24″ wide.  My sister saw it on my blog and tearfully requested one for her, she even offered to pay me, but since she is the other child in the slice_photophotograph, it is only fair she gets this one once I have exhibited it.