This blog is a bit of a ramble through my life. There's a lot about quilting and textile arts, a sprinkle of my family life and some of my thoughts and ponderings. We currently live aboard an old wooden 1945 Navy boat, called MV Cerego, so you'll find me writing about that too. Welcome aboard!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

What do do with dyed silk organza?

Just a quick post to follow on from my last post about dyeing silk organza.

So what do you do with silk organza once it's dyed?  You can cut it up and collage it, you can stick a lightweight fusible on the back and cut intricate appliqué shapes from it, you can use it in layers like I did with my 'Early Morning Fishing' quilt.

Or you can use it as a whole piece for an overlay or underlay.  Here's what I'm doing with the piece I dyed for my how-to process photographs:

I've done some flora printing (printing with plant material) onto a white background fabric and then just laid the whole piece of organza over the top.  So far I'm liking where it's heading.

Friday, March 17, 2017

How to dye silk organza. Technique 1

I've been asked for some more information about how I dye my silk organza.  I'm planning to show you several different techniques that I use, one per blog post, so watch for more to come.

Note:  Safety first folks!  Wear your protective gear when you're dyeing and use a dust mask when working with the dye powders.  Use measuring, mixing and dyeing equipment that is reserved only for dyeing and keep food and drink out of the dyeing area.  Use your common sense and you'll be fine.

First, I purchase silk organza in bulk so I can cut off what I need when I want it.  It's not cheap, but it's worth it.

Next, I make up my dye solutions.  I use fibre reactive dyes from Dharma Trading Co and mix 1 tablespoon (that's a spoon that measures 15 liquid millilitres in NZ) per 2 cups of water (500 millilitres in NZ).  I know people weigh their dye powders to be more precise and get percentage solutions, but that's a bit too exacting for me).  I leave these dye solution concentrates in my studio fridge and then I can mix these together, dilute them or whatever I want to do, whenever I want.

Piggyback serendipity is what I sometimes call the technique that I'll show you today.  I often have some bits of organza already cut and just grab one when I'm dyeing my cotton fabric and do the same treatment on it.  So it's piggybacking off what I'm doing with the cotton fabric.

You'll always find a bucket of soda ash solution in a corner of my studio.  I like to leave my cotton fabrics soaking in there for at least 24 hours before I dye them.  I think it helps with 'opening' up the cotton fibres to accept the dye.  And of course, soda ash is needed as part of the chemical reaction with the fibre reactive dyes that I use.

But I don't leave my silk to soak.  Silk prefers acid rather than base solutions to preserve it's lustre, so I keep the exposure to soda ash to a minimum.  I just dunk it in the soda ash bucket and squeeze it through.

Today I was planning to do a tray dye on a metre piece of cotton.  So I accordion folded up my organza before I put it in the soda ash.  It's hard to handle and fold when it's wet, so unless you like wet silk organza sticking up all over your arms, try and fold it dry.

I fold and scrunch it into different shapes depending what I'm planning.  An accordion fold means that the colours will repeat across the length.  Then I scrunched it to fit into the tray.  If you wanted water ripples, you could pleat it up more regularly.  Or you could scrunch one area and have another area lying completely flat.  Experiment, it's part of the fun!

My cotton fabric goes on top folded into whatever shape I want and then I pour my dye solutions over.  Today I used some yellow and red to make orange, added some water to dilute then added a bit of navy for brown.  I'd pour on a bit and then add some more dye to alter the colour a bit but keep it related to the first colours.  I added turquoise, then some navy and then some more yellow and a bit of water here and there.  Now you can see where the serendipity bit of the name come from.

Press it all down so you know it's squeezed through then leave in a relatively warm place for at least four hours, and overnight if possible.

Rinse it all under cold running water until the water runs fairly clear.  I then soak the fabrics in warm water, changing the soaks every now and then, usually leaving it overnight at some point, until all the excess dye is gone.  Then separate the silk from the cotton, wash the cotton in your washing machine on hot and hand wash the silk with warm water.

Dry, press and use in whatever way you wish!  Above you can see the two finished pieces from this particular dyeing session.  Organza on the left and cotton on the right.  Silk picks up the dye very well so the colours look a little deeper on the organza, but remember you are seeing it double thickness and with a green backdrop (thanks to the recent rains for greening everything up!)

And look how that cross shape comes through the there's a little piece of inspiration....

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Podcast Interview with Helen Jones - NZ Modern Quilt Guild

Helen Jones is the founder of the new chapter of the Modern Quilt Guild (MQG) right here in New Zealand.  Back in November 2016, Helen asked for expressions of interest and was so pleased with the results that she went ahead with her plan and began taking official memberships in February.  (Follow the links listed at the end of this post if you'd like to sign up)

Because of NZ's small population and geographical spread, Helen intends to make the most of technology to grow the community.  They've started by holding virtual sew-ins to grow friendships and Helen has block of the month tutorials, membership swaps and lots of other great activities planned.

Helen's latest work in progress.
We discuss what modern quilting is, what makes a modern quilter and the exciting line-up of modern quilt teachers at this year's NZ Quilt Symposium.  I learn who Helen's partners in crime are (thanks Anna and Melissa!), what she thought of this year's QuiltCon show and what Helen's can't-live-without tools are.

Helen uses a Knight Agile electric desk, which she can lower to sew at and raise to cut on, all with the touch of a button:

And she loves her clever Zirkel magnetic pincushion (you should watch this video of it!).

Thanks for chatting to me Helen!

You can find more info through all the links listed, listen to the interview directly in the audio player below, or subscribe to the podcast through iTunes or any other podcast listening site.

PS If you enjoyed the show, tell a friend about it!

Instagram links:

The International Modern Quilt Guild


Download this episode (right click and save)

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Art Quilt: Early Morning Fishing - A Quilt Process Post

Recently I completed a quilt that was commissioned by a previous customer.  I took lots of photos during the making, and I haven’t done a quilt process post for a while, so here goes.

The client wanted a quilt the same size as the previous quilt she had purchased, portrait in orientation and featuring a white faced heron fishing amongst bulrushes (or raupo as we call it in New Zealand).

This is the first quilt "Morning Waters at Opua"
She had particularly liked the water, transparency and reflections that had been features of the first quilt so I had to take that into account.

I ran up a rough sketch for her and she was very pleased. 

I began by marking off the correct finished size on a piece of light cotton lawn.  I was going to use a lot of silk organza and the white would be my base fabric so I wanted it as light-weight as possible to avoid building stiffness with too many thick layers.

When I started auditioning organza I realised I didn’t have quite the right colour – I wanted to be close to the colour of the water used in the first quilt.  So my next step was to dye some silk.

I found a piece of cotton that I had dye painted that would make perfect sky.  I used the edge of a foam brush and some fabric paint to paint background raupo.  

Then I began layering my silk organza pieces to get the depth I wanted in the water.

On a separate piece of white cotton, I had begun ‘building’ my heron.  I took the sketch I had made, enlarged it and used it as a pattern to fuse pieces of silk organza onto the cotton.  If you look at the photo, you can see the photocopy underneath the white cotton to help with placement of my organza pieces.   You can see I decided to lengthen the legs.  

I cut him out very carefully and then I had him in one piece so I could more easily move him around the composition.  Once I had my heron correctly placed I cut into the top layer of silk organza and inserted his leg so it appeared 'under' the water.

The raupo is made of hand dyed cotton mostly.  There’s a couple of strips of organza and I think if I did it again, I’d use more organza as it frays less when it’s fused down.  But it is more transparent so it would change the look a bit – there’s a question/experimentation idea that I could try and answer in my next heron quilt if I was looking to do a series!

The fish took several tries to get their shapes for perspective right.  The bottom left corner could have ended up as a big ‘blank’ space that drew your eye, so I needed the fish to fill in the spot and then I arranged them in a bit of a circle to hopefully draw the viewers eye around and then back up into the quilt.

Then it was on to the quilting.  I quilted the raupo and the heron down rather than appliqueing it and then quilting it as well.  I call this quiltlique ;-)

There are many different colours of thread in the water quilting.  This helps to provide texture and interest and a slight reflection of the heron and the raupo.  And then to finish it off, a binding in the same colour as the first quilt to provide cohesion.  A binding also makes it easier to control size rather than a facing.

I named the finished quilt 'Early Morning Fishing'.  I was really pleased with the final result and thankfully, so was the client.  She took it home and intends to frame it the same way as she has the first, with an un-glassed natural wooden frame, and display them either side of a big window.  She has requested a sketch for a third commission….I must be doing something right!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Interview with Carole Brungar - Textile Artist

Carole Brungar is a quilter, textile artist and novelist who is tutoring at the Christchurch Quilt Symposium in October.  Lucky for me, Carole was travelling up my way when I contacted her for an interview so I got to examine (and stroke!) her class samples in person.

Carole uses papers, thread, fabric, beads, lace, free-motion stitching, hand embroidery, inks, dyes and just about anything she can lay her hands on to make soft, approachable, beautiful mixed media art.

Carole will be teaching three classes at Symposium - making a journal, a beautiful free-motion stitched and collaged wall-hanging, and an embellishment class called Romance Spoons.

We talk about how Carole's anxiety over perfect points led her to become a textile artist who occasionally bans scissors from her classroom.  I learn about how she came to be using spoons as an art medium and we also discuss her new novel that comes out May.

Carole's author webpage:

Carole's textile art blog:

Carole's Facebook page, where she is most active these days:

I had lots of fun talking to Carole, I hope you enjoy listening!  And, if you do, please share the podcast with a friend.


Download this episode (right click and save)