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!

Friday, February 24, 2017

Results of using old fibre reactive dyes with vinegar on silk fabric

I recently posted about testing some old fibre reactive dyes on cotton fabric.  The results were dismal, but instead of throwing the dye out, I decided to test something I had read somewhere about using old fibre reactive dyes with vinegar (turning them into acid dyes) and using them on silk.

Before and after rinsing photographs when the dye was used on cotton.
I have never used acid dyes on silk before so I had to look around for information on how to go about it.  The companies that sell dyes have pretty good information on their websites and if you google your question you'll come up with lots of opinions.

The general consensus seemed to be that acid dyes need heat to work.  So I soaked my silk scarf in vinegar (apple cider just because it was what I had around, but I'd probably recommend just using white vinegar!) I squeezed it out and poured on the dye solution, which I'd previously made up to my normal strength recipe with water.

Then I put the whole container in the microwave, loosely covered to avoid splashes and buzzed it on high for three minutes until it was boiling, let it rest for a few minutes and then buzzed it again for another two minutes.  I let it sit for a couple of hours and then began to rinse it.

And rinse it.

     and rinse it

        and rinse it.....

This photograph is after several days of rinsing, soaking overnight and rinsing again.  The water was still not clear after the last night of soaking but it was a lot better than it had been (and I'd lost patience by then).  The colour is deep and vibrant.

So, in conclusion:
  • old, exhausted, fibre reactive dyes that no longer work on cotton fabric will work as acid dyes on silk fabric, but,
  • the resulting colour does not appear to be as colourfast as fibre reactive dyes used with soda ash on silk (I use that combination on silk frequently with great results).
Now, I have only conducted one experiment on this so I'm no great expert.  I think I need to conduct some further trials with some of the other old dyes that I've been given, particularly trialling different colours as they can behave quite differently.

For further resources on dyeing fabrics, try:

Dharma Trading

Paula Burch

And, as Brenda suggested in the comments on my last dyeing post, Carol Soderlund is a bit of a dyeing legend and has great resources on her blog

Monday, February 13, 2017

Podcast - Interview with Sonya Prchal, Textile Artist

2017 sees the biennial New Zealand National Symposium happening October 5 - 10th in Christchurch.  I'm using that as a theme for my quilting podcast and inviting as many of the tutors onto my show as possible.

This week my guest in Sonya Prchal, a talented textile artist from Whangarei.  Sonya works with paint, photographs, thread painting and sometimes appliqué to achieve fantastic realism in her work.

Sonya's website:
Sonya's facebook:

Sonya is offering three classes at Symposium: Manuka Flowers, Thread Painted Moth and Thread Painted Wildlife.

In the interview you'll hear about how her father's love of nature inspires Sonya to find beauty in the details.  Get more information about how she works, her favourite, can't-live-without sewing tool and hear about her upcoming solo exhibition.

Above is Sonya's Green Gecko quilt, a stunning example of her attention to detail and beautiful quilting.

Thanks for chatting to me Sonya, it was lovely to get to know you better!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Why it pays to test your dyes.

I received some old procion fabric dyes from a textile artist who longer needed them.  Unsure of their age or how they've been stored, I'm using them hesitantly and if it's for something important, I'm testing them first.

Here is a really good example why.

I made this blue dye up as per my usual recipe and added it to soda ash soaked cotton fabric as per

The top photo is the dye solution squeezed through the fabric.  I left it to batch for over 24 hours and then took the bottom photo after it was rinsed.  You always get some washout and lightening but the amount that I got is nowhere near acceptable and shows me that this particular dye has well and truly lost its potency.

I searched for Multicraft Manufacturing Ltd online and I found that it was dissolved as a company in 2009, so that gives me a hint as to just how old that dye might be!

The reason I was testing this particular dye was because I had been mucking about doing random serendipitous work with the gifted dyes and noticed that none of my pieces had turned out as blue as I expected after the rinse.  However, I also had a few pieces of silk organza in the mix and they are quite blue.  I've read somewhere that you can use old procion dyes on silk with vinegar (protein fibres work best with acid as a fixative whereas cellulose fibres need a base) and get good results.  So before I biff this jar of dye powder I'm going to run one more test on silk with vinegar.

Watch this space.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Christmas Gift Bags

I recently spent 10 days in Australia visiting my family.  My parents live on the Sunshine coast, and my siblings - who have spread themselves inconveniently around the rest of the continent - were all converging for a visit.  I thought I better head over too if I wanted to catch all of them (six plus various spouses, nieces and nephews) at once.

The problem is that it's so darn hot over there at this time of year that you can't do much except splash in the pool or visit some place airconditioned!  We had days of 36 celsius (97 fahrenheit) and over 90% humidity.  Urgh.  But hey, I love my family!

While we were there I just happened to visit a fabric store.  Where I found a bundle of six Christmas fat quarters for $3.  I should have bought two because fat quarters make awesome gift bags and I need to replenish my stock.

Fabric gift bags are great because they:

  • save time on Christmas Eve when you realise you haven't wrapped half the pressies;
  • are reusable so your time investment in making them is repaid over and again;
  • save waste - I hate seeing that rubbish sack full of single use wrapping paper;
  • look pretty!
I make mine by sewing two fat quarters together WRONG sides together on three sides.  Then turn them inside out and sew RIGHT sides together to make an enclosed seam.  Fold over the top raw edge twice to make a neat hem and sew down.  Sew a length of ribbon to the side seam with a tight zig-zag stitch and you're done.  

You  can see the enclosed side seam and the top hem in the picture above.  I sometimes use ric-rac or twill tape instead of ribbon.  They are more durable but I don't hold as much in my stash.

I make gift tags from old Christmas cards and thread them onto the ribbon before tying it.  Simple!

What do you do to make your Christmases or holiday celebrations simpler?

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Wingbeats II - SAQA Trunk Show Quilt

SAQA (Studio Art Quilts Associates) have travelling trunk shows available for shipping and display around the world.  These are collections of many small (7" x 10" portrait) pieces of textile art from a wide variety of artists.  There is no theme and no jurying, so skill, technique, subject and interpretation is wide and varied.  They are also mounted on card and in protective cellophane sleeves so all in all, they make a great addition to any quilt show or exhibition (just in case anyone was looking for something of the like).

This year the call for entries closed November 30, 2016.  I squeaked in with my finish and was about to enter my piece online when SAQA announced an extension to the deadline of about two weeks.

I had sat down the day before and written a critique of my first piece.  It's something I've taken to doing after my starting it in my year of mentoring.  It's really useful to stand back, take a new look and say what worked, what didn't and what you would do differently next time.  All in a constructive, non-critical way of course - I have been known to be so 'out of love' with a piece that I've critiqued it as "horrible, grossly flat and uninspiring, with such a twee theme that it deserves it's own special spot in the rubbish bin"!  Not particularly helpful ;-)

The piece above is the first quilt I was going to enter.  

My critique of it was: "The transparency and colours of the herons work well, but three on such a small piece is a bit overwhelming and confuses them a bit too much.  I like the shapes of the water, they have a nice flow, but I want to get the edges of them neater.  The overall theme of the herons and moon sits well with me, but I need things neater, tidier and more symmetrical to be entirely happy.  I experimented with adding hand stitching to the moon, but I don't think it adds anything and I think the border treatment needs to be less bold - it is overwhelming.

So with that in mind, and very thankful for a deadline extension, I started a second quilt.

It's so gratifying when you plan and scheme and it all works out!  This quilt is exactly what I wanted.  Cleaner, clearer, more finished and more polished.  I used one of my favourite techniques, which comprises of a complete overlay of organza over the whole quilt and that meant I didn't have to stitch to attach, I could just stitch to enhance.

You'll see from the closeup that the herons were printed on, not added as pieces of fabric.  Some of the blue water pieces are printed, some are fabric pieces below the organza overlay.  The moon is a piece of silk underneath the organza and I finished the quilt with a facing.

So - does this mean I should remake every quilt I finish?  No.  But it does push me further along the path of working in a series.  And it does make me think about taking out some of my older quilts and doing a proper critique of them.  You never know where it might lead!