Not having to empty the dishwasher

turquoise and purple 1

That’s what having an assistant is like.

I hate emptying the dishwasher. I don’t know why. I don’t mind loading the dishwasher or running it. I don’t mind sweeping the floor or even cleaning the bathroom. But I loathe emptying the dishwasher.

I also don’t like to make dye baths. Don’t mind emptying them or processing the fabric after I’ve boiled it out, but am not a fan of making dye baths. Like emptying the dishwasher I don’t know where my distaste comes from, but I do know that, left to my own device, I won’t make extra dye baths or ones just to “try” something out.

My assistant/God-send doesn’t seem to mind, so we have been making a lot of dye baths and, not surprisingly a lot of fabric.

turquoise and purple 1 yellow amber 2 yellow and green 1 pink and brown folded min turquoise and indigo folded mini squares blue purple 2 yellow and green folded

Folks there’s so much more and I am adding every bit of it to my store because I don’t mind patterning fabric, sewing with that fabric, or listing items in my store.

I just don’t want to empty the dishwasher.

Austin Maker Space :: In Progress

space in progress 5

If I had to identify my biggest fault/shortcoming, it would be that I often make simple molehill-like tasks into mountains. I tend to assume a task will take longer, be more complicated, and, in general, be more work than it actually is.

I know this about myself, yet, oftentimes, when I’m taking on a new task or even making a to-do list I can feel overwhelmed, even though countless experience has taught me that what I’ve built up in my mind as an epic activity is really not that big a deal.

My method of handling this, learned over many years of interacting with myself, is to break down the task into small bits. I try not to think of say, creating an email newsletter, as the task, but rather ask myself, ” How do I start?” Maybe it’s selecting the online tools to facilitate my newsletter, or making a list of newsletter topics, or creating a spreadsheet for email addresses that will receive the newsletter. Whatever it is, I figure out what small (and I would emphasize the concept of small) act I can do now and just focus on that.

And so it is with my newest venture: Austin Maker Space.

space in progress 1

It all started when, after years of saying that I needed to move my studio out of my house, a friend and I decided to rent a space together. The timing was fortuitous as was the price and the space is big! 1,400 sq. feet big!

space in progress 3

My super-handy buddy had plans to put up some walls and divide the space into 3 parts: a sewing space for me, a workshop for him, and a common space. But, what to do with the common space?

space in progress 5

We knew that some of that common space would be devoted to dyeing, especially as one of my goals in moving to a bigger space was to have enough room to take my fabric and dyeing business to a new level. But, still…what to do with so much space?

Our conclusion: Austin Maker Space.

We envision this space as a place where art makers of all stripes can gather to learn from and be inspired by each other.

Do you have a workshop you’ve been wanting to teach, but don’t have a space to do so? Rent ours. Do you have a big project that needs a large working space in order to become a reality, but your own studio space is too small or maybe even non-existent? Rent ours. Do you want to put on a small indoor craft show to feature your work or that of your group but don’t want to be part of a huge fair. Rent ours.

I will definitely be teaching workshops there, especially dyeing, fabric stamping, indigo, wax resist, and shibori workshops, but also quilting and sewing classes. And you can too.

Just not yet. As you can see from the pictures, the space is still a work in progress…slow progress because with my broken ankle I can’t even get to it unless someone drives me. But, one small task at a time, it will get there.

Today, I hired movers to bring the bulk of my stuff from my sewing room to the new space. Tomorrow I’ll work on the logo and getting the website up and running. Soon I’ll paint the bathroom and cover the wood walls with fabric. One small step at a time, but, oh, it’s going to be so fabulous!

Some Things Stay the Same

little rectangles group 2

If you’ve read my blog recently then you know that I’m currently getting around via crutch power as I broke my ankle ( my distal fibula to be exact) about 4 weeks ago. While the healing seems to be progressing nicely and symptoms such as swelling and pain are a lot better, I’m still not allowed to bare any weight on my right ankle (NWB is the technical abbreviation. I’ve learned a lot about this in the past 4 weeks. ).

I’ve adapted a lot of things in my life to accommodate my new, yet thankfully short-lived status, as a hobbler. For instance, I just came back from my gym ( had to be driven there by my daughter as I can’t drive with a NWB right leg) where I rode the stationary bike using one leg, then did some push-ups with my right foot perched atop my left foot. I’ve figured out how to climb stairs, how to make my bed, how to take a shower, all with an eye to the fact that I can’t stand on two legs. For those of you of the Jewish persuasion and who get this reference, I’ve even had the opportunity to read Torah while, you guessed it, standing on one leg (not sure what I’m referring to? Look up the famous sayings of Rabbi Hillel)

Now, while it’s all well and good that I’m doing the things I need and want to do, it’s also a fact that everything takes longer.

Except this:

little rectangles in indigo and white 2

Patterning fabric. True that I have to sit while I stamp, draw, or paint the wax on. And also true that I don’t set up the dye baths, empty them, or process the fabric to its finish, (yay, my wonderful assistant, Kelly!), but I still apply the patterning as fast as I ever did. That hasn’t changed.

little rectangles in blue and indigo 2 little rectangles in red and yellow

And that fact has made it one of my favorite activities.

peg in blue and indigo 2

I definitely loved it before my accident, but, now, I seem to love it even more and I have so many plans in terms of new fabric offerings, both in terms of packaging and patterning.

The first I’m introducing is pattern specific fabric bundles.

little rectangles group 2

I’ve sold bundles or charm packs of fabrics for years but, though they’ve always been hand dyed and featured a variety of patterns and/or color ways, they haven’t ever been focused on one print in a variety of color combinations.

little rectangles bundle 2

Well, I’d like to introduce y’all to my first pattern specific bundles: Little Rectangles.

little rectangles bundle

These bundles contains 16, 5″ x 5″ squares all patterned with the same print but in 4 different color ways, yellow/red, white/deep orange, white/indigo, and turquoise/indigo.

If those color ways or prints are not your cup of tea, you’ve got a couple of choices: wait a few days as I’m always making and listing more  or email me at malka@stitchindye.com and we’ll craft something more to your liking.

Also, I’m planning the second segment my ongoing series, “What should I do with it?” to give you a project idea specifically geared to these bundles. Look for that later this week.

Thankfully, some things not only stay the same in the face of difficulty, they might actually get a little better.

Everything Goes with Orange

orange and gray 2

Right?

I’ve long loved the combination of yellow and gray, sometimes referred to as graylow, but what about orange and gray?

Before I made this pillow for a customer I might have responded with a quizzical look, but, check it out:

orange and gray 2

I’d like to boast that I picked these two fabrics, but actually she paired them and I think they look amazing together.

So much so, that when I was making the backing gray and white in the Little Rectangles print, I decided to craft the same print in orange and white and then shoot a pic of those fabrics together.

gray and orange together

I had so much fun creating the fabric that now both of these prints are available in my shop in multiple lengths: fat quarter, half yard, and full yard pieces.

orange and white 1 gray and white 2

Also, I can envision recreating the print used for the pillow top in a dark gray as well as a black and white. I just hadn’t really “seen” how gritty and block-print-like it was until I used it in this pillow.

That’s so strange and wonderful. How important context and juxtaposition is for seeing something new in something that you’ve seen a lot. It’s probably my favorite thing about teaching or seeing the finished items others make with the fabric they buy from me. I get to see new things, new possibilities.

So who knows what else will go with orange? Surprise me. I’ll probably love it.

What should I do with it?

Little squares project ideas title page

I get that question a fair amount in regards to my hand dyed and patterned fabric. Oftentimes someone will purchase a fat quarter or half yard length and though they love the intense color and simple patterning of the fabric, they’re a wee bit intimidated as to what to do with it. Folks tell me, “It’s so pretty, I just want to frame it. ”

Well, don’t. Fabric is meant to be used. It’s a raw material and should become something else.

So, in the interest of encouraging y’all to create with the fabric, I’m introducing a new(hopefully) regular segment here: “What should I do with it?”

My plan is to use these posts to plant ideas for simple, quick projects that both highlight these beautiful fabrics and are eminently useful or gift-able.

My first installment of “What should I do with it” (sounds like a game show title or the precursor to a really good comeback) focuses on a project using fat quarters.

I sell fat quarters of many of my prints in my online store with plans to offer more color ways and patterns in the coming weeks. Today’s project focuses on one of my newest prints, Little Squares. These fat quarters feature two colors and a hand drawn pattern. The print even comes in indigo and white.

But, what to do with it?

How about this:

Little squares project ideas title page I guess I should have titled that project idea rather than ideas, but I figure I’ll come up with others.

Anyway, it’s very simple and yields a useful and lovely finished item.

little squares detail

To make each pillow top I trimmed the fat quarter down to 18 1/2″ x 18 1/2″. Then, working on a flat surface I layered a square of muslin a bit bigger than my pillow (probably 24″ x 24″), wrong side facing up, and a square of cotton batting about the same as my muslin as well as the trimmed fat quarter, right side facing up.

little squares project 2

As a side note I should point out that one of the great things about hand dyed fabrics is that there is no wrong side. The fabric is equally beautiful on both sides.

Anyway, I then basted the layers together and, using matching machine quilting thread,  machine quilted straight lines in between the drawn squares.

After trimming my quilted pillow top so that all the layers were even, I crafted a zippered backing out of a commercial fat quarter solid cotton fabric (you could also create simpler envelope backing as well) and then pinned the backing to the quilted pillow top, right sides facing.

little squares pillows

Next I trimmed the backing even with the quilt top and, using a 1/4″ seam allowance, machine stitched them together, remembering to leave the zipper slightly open so I could turn the pillow right sides out.

After a wee bit of ironing and the insertion of a purchased 18″ x 18″ pillow form I had colorful, modern, handmade pillow cover made all the more special because it was crafted out of hand dyed and hand drawn fabric.

So, that, I guess, is what I did with it.

Fresh from the Dye Pot!

new fabric group shot

I was going to preface the following pictures of the newest prints I’ve added to my shop with a story of some other time in my life that I finally took action on something and then kicked myself for not having done it sooner, but, though I know many such tales exist, I can’t recall them right this minute.

So, let’s just talk fabric…and how amazingly great it is to have an assistant…and how much more work is getting done here at the studios of a stitch in dye.

Like this:

new fabric group shot

I’m (we’re) getting so much done that I’m adding wax patterned indigo fabrics to my offerings at ye olde shoppe.

little squares indigo in the amber indigo

These two patterns are currently available, but, check back often as new prints will be added every week.

I’ve also started offering a new print I’m calling Bias Stripes.

bias stripes

These are simple and hand drawn on the diagonal for a different look but, like all my stripes, they’re very the perfect amount of patterning for modern patchwork designs.

bias stripes in yellow and white bias stripes in orange and brown bias stripes in yellow and red

Best of all, they are hand dyed on 100% high thread count pima cotton. This yields an intensity of color and a sheen that can’t be matched in commercial cottons.

I also made a few new versions of already existing prints.

gee fabric in orange and brown gee fabric in yellow and amber

Gee prints in shades of marigold and amber as well as deep orange and chocolate.

And:

in the amber in gray

A relatively new pattern, also shown in indigo above, called In the Amber. This version is dyed in shades of mist and charcoal gray.

All these new prints are available as either fat quarters or quarter yard pieces, so you can easily try a few without a huge financial commitment.

Like all my prints, if you decide you’d like a larger piece, just email me and I and my assistant( I just love that phrase) will get right on it.

Curious to see all my hand dyed fabric offerings? Check it out here.

 

 

The Other Side of the Mountain

little squares

Before I begin my little tale, I’m going to direct y’all’s attention to this fun chat the crafty planner and I had about improvisational quilting. Check that out here.

podcast

Remember that movie? It was sad.

I now have an other side of the mountain story, but it’s not that sad.

It all started a little over two weeks ago as I made my way up Pike’s Peak in Colorado. I’ve long wanted to climb a 14,000 foot mountain and Colorado has 53 of them and it’s summer, so making an attempt seemed like a good idea.

We set off, my sweetie and me on a beautiful, but warm Friday morning, our packs loaded down with a bit too much trial mix and a few butterflies in out stomachs.

The Barr Trail, named after the burro-loving Fred Barr, starts off at 7,500 feet with a steady (read relentless) 3 mile climb then settles into steady climbing punctuated by brief, but much appreciated flats. At 10,000 feet you reach Barr Camp, an almost palatial cabin manned year round by two caretakers. There you can stop for a chat, buy a snickers (cash only), refill your water bottle (please provide your own filter), or, if you make arrangements ahead of time, you can spend the night with 20 of your now closest friends in the bunkhouse.

We spent the night. It was a lot of fun. The cabin is stocked with board games and books and the people who come by whether for an hour or longer are interesting. Also, they make you a spaghetti dinner complete with their famous Barr Camp Switchback Garlic Bread. This was definitely an experience not to be missed.

We figured spending the night at elevation was a good idea since we’d only arrived in Denver the day before and that would give us a bit more acclimation time.

Though we slept fitfully, we woke up the next morning ready for our summit attempt.

Again the climbing was hard, mostly because the higher you go, the thinner the air, the harder it is to breathe. But summit we did, by about 11:30 that morning. In the interest of honesty, though I thought Pike’s Peak and the Barr Trail were breathtakingly beautiful, I was not in love with the Cog railway station at the top and the gift shop. It just seemed wrong in relation to the natural beauty of the mountain.

By about 12:30, we had snacked and sipped our lattes( yes, lattes for sale at the top of the mountain) and were headed back down. We were making great time coming down the mountain and were about 3 miles from the trail head when I discovered that gravel is really, really slippery, especially as you walk downhill. Long story a bit short, I fell and broke my ankle.

I  did manage to hobble my way to where the Barr trail intersects with the one service road that goes up the mountain and there waited for El Paso County Search and Rescue to find me and take me off the mountain to a local emergency room.

I am now one week post surgery and am sporting a lovely plate and 6 screws which are helping my right distal fibula to mend back together. This week I’ll get my stitches out, swap out my splint for a boot and continue to hobble on crutches for the next 5 weeks until I’m given the green light to bare weight on my ankle and start physical therapy.

Though the tone of my post seems lighthearted, as many of you know I’m a runner and swimmer and yogi and just a very physical person and it’s been tough. I’ve complained and cried. But, I do think everything happens for a reason and you can choose to grow from your experiences or be limited by them.

I have been talking for ages and ages about hiring an assistant. I can’t do it all myself, but, it wasn’t until this happened that I realized how desperately I needed help with my work.

little squares

So, finally, a stitch in dye has it’s first studio assistant. I think that’s a milestone!

 

Indigo and Improv

indigo diamonds pillow 1

They go together at least as well as ebony and ivory and possibly as well as peanut butter and chocolate. The last part of that sentence may seem a bit audacious, but check out the pillows I made this past week at my teaching stint at the National Quilt Museum.

indigo twinkle 3 indigo diamonds pillow 1 indigo ring 3

In the interest of absolute accuracy, I only made the tops during my class and I had dyed much of the fabric as samples before I ever got to the workshop.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I had the students devote the last day of the workshop to sewing with the fabric they had created. Well, they were busy and the museum provided me with a machine, so, in order to set a good example, I got busy too.

Towards the end of the last day I asked each student to tack their work up and talk about the design decisions they made as they constructed their blocks and/or tops. I did the same, in fact I began the session, and I talked about focusing on one shape in each of the tops and combining pieced versions of that shape with ones that had been created via the dye process. What I didn’t talk about, because I didn’t realize it until someone else mentioned it, was how important play and experimentation had been to crafting these three pillow tops.

At home, I’m so married to my to-do lists and my awareness of deadlines that I almost never gather some fabrics and just move bits around until they make sense. I’m always busy sketching and planning. As is probably true every time I teach, I learned something new and really valuable. I’ve got to have time to experiment and potentially find new ways of working. I’m so excited about working this way: combining improvisational piecing with indigo and procion dyed patterning and not just shibori dyed patterning, but wax resist patterning as well. Maybe the next experimentation session should involve a newly learned dye process?

I’m almost always excited about the work that I do, but this newly discovered area has energized me in a new and different way and taught me something about the value of allowing myself time to play and possibly fail, but certainly try new techniques.

I’m definitely adding THAT to my to-do list.

BTW, quick, shameless self-promotion: these pillow covers are now available in my shop.

What Rhymes with Paducah?

pile of fabric

I don’t know. I wasn’t brought here to teach a poetry workshop. Rather, I came to Paducah, Kentucky and the National Quilt Museum to teach an Arashi/Itajime Shibori Dyeing workshop.

And, though I’ll walk away still not knowing what rhymes with Paducah, here’s what I have learned:

1. When they lose your luggage and therefore limit the supplies you have for your dyeing workshop, you can figure it out and the solution may be better than your initial plan.

2. When they lose your luggage and then find it, the best named business on the planet, whereismysuitcase.com, will deliver it right to your door.

3. When you’re nearly 86 years old and your house was flooded just the day before, you can still come to a dye workshop and proclaim, ” I’m so glad I came.”

4. When you have enthusiastic and focused students, great stuff gets made.

Our workshop extended over three days which turned out to be just enough time to make fabric for some serious patchwork play on the third day. Our focus was on making small pieces using either procion dyes and Itajime or clamped, shaped resist shibori or indigo dyeing with the option to explore pole wrapping or Arashi shibori.

They made a lot of fabric.

dyeing fabric indigo dyed fabrics 1 pile of fabric

Towards the end of the second day I encouraged the students to begin organizing their fabric and considering how to organize it into a block or quilt top.

student work 1

Then it was time to break out the sewing machines, cut and audition fabric placement, and make some design decisions.

beverly top laura 1 laura 2 laura 3 laura 4 gail charlene martha

When I planned this workshop I was unsure about my idea to have the students devote an entire day to sewing with their fabric, but, ultimately, I’m glad I did.

First off, it prevented many if not all, from making a bunch of fabric and then tucking it away in a drawer and never using it, either because, being their “hand dyed” fabric, it was too precious or they just didn’t have a sense of how to explore piecing with this particular material.

Also, it forced them to work outside their comfort zones and that’s often where real creativity lives.

The cherry on the top of all this for me was, because my students were happily working on their compositions, I got to work on a few myself.

More words and pictures about that in my next post.

Mock Blocks

twinkle pillow cover

Remember mock chopped liver? Yeah, neither do I, but I’ve been making something mock for years and though I’ve written articles about, taught workshops, and even filmed DVDs focused on it, I only realized this morning that Mock Blocks is what I should call this:

twinkle pillow cover

If you’ve been following my work for a while you’re probably familiar with this. I’ve made a bunch of versions and variations of this technique.

mock blocks windmills zig zag pillow mock block double wedding ring

Essentially I use a shibori dye technique, itajime, on commercial fabric, to imitate traditional blocks. The patterning, whether it’s nested squares, circles, triangles, or whatever is not pieced or appliqued, but dyed on to the patches.

And, as I mentioned earlier, this process is not new to me, but, as I’ve been gearing up to teach this technique later this week at the National Quilt Museum, it’s dawned on me that I finally have a “cute” name for it.

Lately, my mock blocks have focused on stars, many of which I’ve clamped, dyed, and possibly even discharged( bleached) in much the same way I’ve always worked.

itajime stars

For this particular workshop, though, I’ve tried to add indigo dyeing as well, so my star mock blocks have also looked like this:

indigo stars detail

One of the reasons I decided to add indigo to bag of dyeing tricks, particularly for workshops, is, other than I’ve been seeing indigo EVERYWHERE, it allows the students to get more “instantaneous” results. That might seem like a silly thing to say considering you have to dip into the indigo bath multiple times to achieve your finished color, but, when I work with this technique and procion, I allow the dye baths to sit for at least 4 hours before rinsing. Dipping on and off for an hour or so is therefore faster than vat dyeing with cold water dyes.

My workshop will feature both dye processes and we’ll play with discharging as well and layering colors and making something with some of our hand crafted fabrics. In other words, we will be really busy for 3 days, but we’ll have so much fun.