Thursday, July 30, 2009

MX Dyeing Day

Last Friday we had another dyeing day at Jennifer Gould's. This time it was with MX dye on cellulose fiber. It was a small group, just Jennifer, Margie and me. None of us had done much dyeing recently. My most recent dyeing experience was in a previous century. Think back (if you're old enough) to the period when Harvest Gold was in fashion. Think Rit. Think retro. Think not recent.

We worked from three books, Color By Accident and Color By Design by Ann Johnston and The Surface Designer's Handbook by Holly Brackmann. Each book, of course, had different directions. And as far as we could tell, the directions in each book were not always internally consistent.

In preparation for the event, I had checked out a couple of other books about dyeing from the library. Each of these had still different directions.

Soda ash, Synthrapol, urea, water softener, salt, dye powder. water. Other stuff with unpronounceable names. How much do you add and when? Or is it even needed? Soda ash, dye powder and water? Yes. Others? Maybe or maybe not.

I think that each dye artist (or ayrt alchemist) has come up with his or her favorite method, much as a baker comes up with a bread recipe. You can vary the ingredients and still have a pretty good bread. Even excellent bread, but it might not taste exactly the same.

Back to the process. We had to prepare for the event by scouring our fabric--washing it in Synthrapol and soda ash. This is my fabric the day before:

After we arrived at Jennifer's, we fortified ourselves for the event. Two coffeecakes and brownies are just what the dye artist needs. Then we read and discussed the directions. And read and discussed the directions again. And again. There was a certain amount of off-topic chatter. Then we looked at the directions and plunged ahead.

A dye artist must be careful not to inhale any of the MX dye powder. Apparently it is non-toxic, but one can become sensitized to it. So we had to call in special helpers to mix the dye powder with water. Darth Vadar and his other friend Darth Vader showed up, and we put them to work.

Here is Darth.

Here is his other friend Darth Vadar mixing the dye in the hermetically sealed dye mixing chamber.

And here is our dye all ready to go.

After a brief intermission to eat lunch--more coffeecake and brownies--we started dyeing. As far as I was concerned, it was all experimental. I just wanted to see what happened. And here is my result.

How did I end up with four orange pieces? I am not an orange kind of person.

Ahh, blue. That's more like it.

I'm going to dye some more fabric. I bought a rayon damask tablecloth at a garage sale, and I want to dye it so I can make a jacket. And I'm not sure how I'm going to do it. I got five additional books about dyeing from the library, and there are five new sets of instructions. Whoopee!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The All Together Week Box

Another Crackpot Project of the All Together Week was making fabric origami boxes. Nancy had a new book, Fun with Folded Fabric Boxes, and making some origami boxes seemed like a great project. The boxes are made with stiffened fabric, so our first stop was to Michael's to get some fabric stiffener with our 40% off coupons.

One by one, we painted the stiffener on the fabric and hung it outside to dry. We debated the chemical composition of the fabric stiffener. Watered-down Elmer's Glue was one thought. The two certainly look and smell the same. We considered whether to try some watered-down Elmer's on the fabric. Having none at any of the Cute Little Houses and with other items on the agenda (see below), that did not happen.

In the meantime, we practiced making the boxes with paper. Everyone else had done a fair amount of origami before. I am still at the mountain fold means up; valley fold means down stage. It's a little like having to mutter, "Hay foot, straw foot," as I march off to meet the Redcoats.

And this is my box. It's 6 inches by 6 inches by 3 inches. I chose this tie dye fabric for the top because I couldn't imagine what else I could do with it.

There were two agenda items that prevented us from conducting the Elmer's Glue experiment. First, magnificent structures needed to be constructed at the sandbox of the Cute Little Houses. Note that there are three people working on one tunnel through the sand mountain. It could get crowded in there.

And we had to visit the Captain. Yum! Yum! It's an annual event.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The All Together Week Quilt

Last week was the All Together Week. It was a blast! One of the traditional activities is for the five Crackpot Quilters to gather and make a quilt for charity. We did it again this year. Based on the fact that last year's quilt has remained a quilt top still waiting for finishing (and that one of our members would be accompanied by her adorable 22-month-old assistant), we decided to aim for just a quilt top. It will go to Quiltmaker magazine's Project Linus efforts.

Although there was some discussion of using a puzzle piece pattern, we settled on Chinese Coins, a traditional quilt pattern. Our plan was to use scraps we already had for the coins. One member of the group had spent considerable time organizing her fabric scraps and cutting them into pieces 2 1/2 inches by 5 1/2 inches. We decided to use this size for our coins so we could incorporate some of her pieces. The quilt would have three strips of coins, separated and surrounded by black sashing.

Here is our collection of fabrics to choose from:

And here are our strips sewn together. There are six strips, enough for two quilt tops. The polka dot fabric on the right side and lower edge will be the border.

And here is the middle of one quilt top with the black sashing attached:

We were pleased with our progress on the quilt tops. It was a fun project.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Painted Undergarment: A PG-13 Post


I'm starting on a new project for a fundraiser. It's an auction sponsored by a nearby women's club. In October, they will auction off decorated bras to raise money for mammograms for women with no insurance. This is a cause close to my heart. Literally. About two inches away from my heart. My contribution will be beaded, of course.

I started with a bra purchased on sale at TJ Maxx. I only mention the low price of $3.00 because that means I can spend more money on the beads.

After I got the bra home and washed it, I realized how pink it was. Really, really pink. So pink that if I wanted to use any beads other than pink ones, the color would show through. Not being willing to spend my bead money on another undergarment, I decided I would paint it. This is the result.

I used a white craft acrylic paint on the cups. You can see how pink they used to be by looking at the unpainted sides and back. The straps are clear plastic-type stuff and they will be replaced. Even with the foam lining, the cups will have to be reinforced to hold the weight of the beads. Otherwise they will sag and look like....Oh, no, let's not go there...

I have just a few engineering details to work out--like exactly how to prevent the previously mentioned sagging and how to deal with the stretchy sides and back. I have some ideas, but as happens frequently with this sort of technical process, it will be trial and error.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Traveling Bead Studio

Inspired by That Celticat Chick, I decided to make a Traveling Bead Studio, and here it is. It's a plastic pencil case, eight inches by five inches. The usual $1.00 item at the back to school sale. Note the interesting reflection on the top of the box. That would be me. And, no, I am not an alien from outer space.

The bottom half is lined with a scrap of velux blanket, aka beading mat. The beading mat is held in place by the ever useful masking tape donuts.

So far, my Traveling Bead Studio has taken a train trip to Chicago, a ferry ride to Wisconsin, and a plane flight to St. Louis. All right, all right, so I didn't bead on the airplane, but I did bead on the train and on the ferry. And I did bead in the airport and in the hotel.

The Traveling Bead Studio works quite well. It holds enough little bags of beads for a small project, kindergarten scissors, thread, a pencil, and the always essential seam ripper. As an added bonus, you can stick the needle in the beading mat for safekeeping. For a larger project, a person could bring along an auxiliary container of additional beads. The high edges of the Traveling Bead Studio prevent embarrassing spillage that could call one to the attention of TSA employees.

The Traveling Bead Studio is an Open Source device. Anyone may copy it.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Reflections on BJP 08-09

I lurked around the edges of the BJP 07-08, admiring everyone's work and wishing I could participate.

When I read about BJP 08-09, I wanted to join. But I'm not a real artist; I'm just someone who plays with beads. Could I keep up? Would I be comfortable making my beading public? How much would I be willing to share in my blog? What kind of response would I get from the bead artists?

Somewhat aprehensively, I signed up. And then I started to get excited. I was so excited that I started my September piece in August and finished it the first week of September. It was fun!

My original idea was that my year-long journal would be trying new techniques. That focus didn't last too long. By October, I had begun using my beading to process, reflect on, explore things in my life. I became more and more willing to share myself with other BJP members.

I'm a pretty reserved person, and I did not expect to make BJP friends. But I have, and that has been the most rewarding part. It has been wonderful to share experiences--sometimes about beading, sometimes about other things--with these new friends. Everyone has been helpful, encouraging, and affirming.

I continue to be in awe of the beautiful art made by the BJP members. I am already planning to participate in BJP '10.

Thanks to you, Robin, and your team for giving me this opportunity.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Confessions of an Iron Snob

My name is Marty, and I'm and Iron Snob.

I'll admit it. I'm picky about irons. I iron quite a bit, and I know what I like. Ordinary, run-of-the-mill irons are not for me. I want features, and I know what features I want. And I want them now!

Steam. Lots of it. Variable steam. Burst of steam. (Vertical steam not necessary.)

Spray. Reliable spray. A spray push button suitable for an arthritic thumb.

A control knob. An easy to use control knob. A control knob that doesn't fall off.

A skinny, pointed tip.

Automatic shut-off. Not that I would ever need it. What never? Well, hardly ever.

An extra long cord.

Light in weight. Even if I am Super Muscle Woman, I try to confine my weightlifting workouts to the fitness center.

A very stable heel rest. Very, very stable. Stable enough to be almost anti-gravity.

And this is what I've been using for the past few weeks. It's the garage sale iron.

It has no features except steam. None. But the price was right. $1.00. Take my word for it. You'll have to believe me because the price sticker on the handle is partly rubbed off.

This iron has been in the basement for more than ten years. I bought it for my daughter as she was getting ready for job interviews as a senior in college. For some reason I didn't remember I had given her a real iron earlier. It has had occasional use.

Below is the iron I wish I still had. The Steam & Reach. It burned out in a glorious blaze of... Well, not exactly. One afternoon I noticed that the handle had become quite hot. The next day, it made some clicking noises but wouldn't go on. Not to confuse anyone with references to multiple small appliances, but this iron was toast. The box is still here (available to store the garage sale iron) but the iron has moved on.

I bought this wonderful Steam & Reach one day in a snit. It was about 15 years ago. Imagine coming home from an exhausting (and not all that thrilling) work-related conference to have your associate homeowner confess right there in the airport terminal that your iron had been terminated. Violently thrown to the basement floor... Well, not exactly. Knocked off the ironing board onto the basement floor by an innocent (huh!) person looking for nails on the workbench. The old iron was toast. Little pieces of toast.

So I went iron shopping that week. The only other option was wrinkles, since the garage sale iron was still with its previous owner. I found the wonderful Proctor-Silex Steam & Reach. I didn't know how wonderful it was at first. And then I discovered the beauty of the Reach--the extra long cord. No longer was I forced to be adjacent to an electrical outlet. I could iron while I roamed! Of course, carrying the ironing board all over while ironing was a little awkward, but the possibility of roaming was so liberating!

The iron wasn't perfect. But that only made it more endearing. About halfway into its working life, the temperature control knob came off. That was a minor problem, only of importance if one wanted to control the temperature. I put it back on several times. Finally my associate homeowner glued it on with something powerful, no doubt to make up for the unfortunate incident with the previous iron. The Steam & Reach was just like new. And knowing that the knob might come off again just added some excitement to my ironing.

But I must come to terms with the fact that the Steam & Reach has moved on. So I say, "Good-by, sweet iron. I'll try to find a worthy successor."

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Indian Beaded Purse

The history of this apparently Native American Indian made beaded purse is unknown. It was in a box of other textiles that came from my mother. The outer fabric appears to be velvet or velveteen and the lining fabric cotton. The front and the back are exactly the same. The purse is about 7 inches tall and 5 inches wide. I'd measure it, but it's carefully wrapped in acid-free tissue in a textile storage box on the top shelf of the closet. The purse shows some wear. Some beads are loose or missing, and the fabric is nearly frayed in places.

Here is a detail of the beading. Perhaps you can see that there is a three-dimensional effect to the beading of the flowers. The outer edges of the flowers are farther away from fabric than the middles of the flowers. Look for the brownish sequins sewn on with beads. I wonder what color the sequins were originally.

The purse is like a pocket, open at the top with no closure. The flaps on the front and back do not cover the opening. They are just flaps. There is no string or handle to hold on to.

I know my mother purchased some things from the Indian tribes in Central Michigan during the 1930s as she traveled for her work. Perhaps this is one of those things.