January 27, 2010

ITMA day 2 - Pearson

Blogging is so much harder now that I'm teaching again. I just got around to getting the rest of the pictures off my camera from my North Carolina trip.
On the second day we went to Pearson Furniture Company in High Point, NC. It is an incredible place. We were able to take a tour of the whole plant and see how a piece of furniture is made from start to finish.
Some highlights are below:

Assembled frames waiting to move to the next station.

They do eight way hand-tied springs. Those are some nimble fingers.

Cushions waiting.


These are all the patterns for their upholstery.

A pattern being cut out of fabric. There was also a CAD machine that cuts out their solid color fabric, but real people hand cut all of the patterned fabric. Incredible. I can barely make a slipcover.

A row of industrial sewing machines. These ladies were just zipping through the fabric. It was amazing how fast and accurate they were.

All of the expensive fabric was placed behind barbed wire fences that get locked up at night. It was weird. Our tour guide said that they once had fabric with actual gold woven into it. They have also had fabric that costs $300 per yard! That's about $295 more than I'm willing to spend.

I wish I had taken some pictures of finished furniture. We didn't see an actual showroom, so all the furniture was in progress.

January 21, 2010

ITMA day 1

I am writing this from High Point, North Carolina. KCAI was invited to bring five students to tour textile mills as part of the International Textile Market Association's Educational Fund. The tour is an excellent opportunity for our students because we don't really teach about the textile industry at KCAI. Some of the other schools that are here, such as SCAD, Philadelphia University, and North Carolina State seem to really focus on industry and preparing their students for practical applications of textiles. We are more interested in the fine art side of Fiber. They are two different animals.

I'm a little bit behind putting pictures up, so I'll start with yesterday. There has been so much to see and absorb! Yesterday we went to Valdese Weavers which is a mill that makes jacquard woven cloth for the home. They have a few of their own lines of cloth and also do custom work for "jobbers". I'm still learning all the lingo.

One of the things I found most interesting at Valdese Weavers is that they dye their own yarn. The white yarn above has been wound from large cones to smaller cones with hollow cores. It is ready to be put in the dye vats. The racks of yarn above have been dyed and are drying. It's amazing that they can get such perfect, even color every time. I struggle to do that on a skein of sock yarn (like 1/100th of one of those cones).

Above is one row of their yarn storage. There were probably about 5 rows and they are stacked floor to ceiling with yarn. Amazing. The other picture above is the yarn being wound to get ready to weave.

Above are two pictures of Jacquard looms in action. The first is a view from the back. The red yarn below is the warp. The second picture is of a "blanket" being woven. A "blanket" is not a fuzzy thing to keep you warm. It is basically a sampler - one pattern woven with multiple warp and fill colors to get many variations. I love these. If I worked in Industry I would only make blankets and I would cover things in them.

This last picture is a design wall. They briefly talked to us about designing and what goes into it. I was amazed by how complex every step is and how intertwined everything is. This was my second year on the tour and even though I'm totally amazed by the things I saw, I don't think the textile industry is for me. Let's hope this academia thing works out!

We also went to a gorgeous design house in Charlotte owned and run by Wesley Mancini. I am uber tired so will post pictures of that tomorrow.

January 15, 2010

Day of Business

Today is a big day full of biz-ness. I really dislike business days and have to get through them by tricking myself. Today I'm doing task and reward. This is how it works: if I do 1 hour of task/business, I get to watch one episode of Heroes on Hulu. It works pretty well.

The business that I'm working on is updating my website, resume, spreadsheet, and all my digital files! Thanks to my friend Steve Curtis, who has a studio upstairs from me, I have new pictures to post on my website. He did a fantastic job. The colors came out perfect and they are such high quality images. I'm really pleased! I've also changed up the layout a little. So run over there and check it out!
Here is a teaser:

They Gnaw, 2009

I'm also getting ready for a trip to North Carolina next week. I'm taking five students from KCAI on a tour of textile mills. The tour is hosted by the International Textile Market Association. Each year they invite 30 students from Fiber/Textile programs to go to North Carolina and see first hand how the textile industry works. Primarily the tour in NC focuses on textiles for furniture. It's all very interesting and really made me realize I'm not cut out for "industry".

I'll be posting pictures of the trip next week. Stay tuned.

January 13, 2010

Wonder Under is for friends

I just finished doing yoga* and realized I hadn't written a blog post yet today and there's much to report. Things are really coming along but I feel like this quilt is going a little too smoothly. It worries me a bit. It seems like whenever I have an easy quilt the next one is painfully slow and has to go through many transformations. Better gear up now.

I started the day by printing yellow eyes onto some yellow silk organza that I had great plans for months ago (they fell through). I used the same yellow aqua brite pigment that I used to print some of the rabbit heads and half of the spine. I always keep my leftover pigment colors just in case. They don't go bad if you store them in a closed container, like an empty yogurt bin. Silk organza is lovely and crisp and sheer. You can just barely see it in these pictures with my busy/dirty drop cloth showing through. One of the interesting things about organza is that when you print on it, the image soaks through so you're basically getting two for the price of one. You can see that on the second picture where I've scooted the organza up after printing and the eyes are on the drop cloth.

Then, I ironed wonder under to the back of the organza and cut out all the little eyes with my x-acto. I think I ended up with about 40 of them. What's better than a pile of eyes?

Here they are laid out on the quilt, pre-peeling and pre-ironing. I keep coming back to this halo idea in these quilts. I'm not even a little bit religious, but I keep getting the feeling that these rabbits need to be revered and I want to put them in halos like they're gods or saints.

So here is the quilt as I left it this afternoon. I painted on some reddish brown pigment to darken the background around the halo. The pigment needs to cure for about 24 hours and tomorrow I will need to heat set it. I'm planning quite a lot of hand embroidery on this one. So maybe tomorrow I can also start getting this bad boy ready for quilting. We'll see.

*by "yoga" I mean "yoga booty ballet" that I got from the library. It's bastardized yoga and I was embarrassed to check it out but I do like all the talk about being "supple" and my "muscular booty". I'm also pretty sure it's not OK for a grown woman to say "booty" unless she's talking about the delicious snack called "pirates booty".

January 12, 2010

Inching along

Not to complain or make excuses or anything but a lot has happened in the last 6 days. Mostly to appease my own guilt for not being in the studio (and not blogging about being in the studio) I'm going to list the events here:
1. There was another snowstorm.
2. Simon and I got in a car accident as result of said snowstorm (we were on our way to buy a new shovel and got rear-ended (everyone is fine)).
3. Our ceiling (our new ceiling in our new house) decided to leak because of all the snow buildup.
4. It has been colder than a you know what.
5. I'm still on winter break. Ok, so that's not a very good excuse. I'm starting to have that anxiety where you feel like you're running out of time and still have so much to do, but there's not enough time so you might as well not bother, so you don't do anything which makes you feel even more like you're running out of time. It's a vicious cycle and seems counter-intuitive to have winter break anxiety, but there you have it. It's even worse in the summer.

So finally today I was back in my studio. What did I work on? A big mathy measuring party called Depth of Shade Dyeing. It's my favorite. I dyed the cyclone-tastic spine fabric from last week and some leftover patchwork fabric from my last quilt.

Depth of shade is a way to dye fabric using specific ratios of weight of fabric to weight of dye. I only started using this method about a year ago and it is slowly but surely changing my life. It sounds complicated and sort of is at first, but once you get it everything goes so much smoother. The best part is that much less dye is wasted than using regular kitchen measurements for dyeing.

I primarily use procion MX dyes, which are a fiber reactive dye, and cellulose fibers (cotton).

Step 1. Weigh your dry fabric. You can use grams or ounces. It doesn't really matter what you use as long as you're consistent. My pieces of fabric are usually smallish (a yard or less) so I use grams for more accuracy.

Step 2. Write down how much the fabric weighs. All calculations are based on this weight.
This is how I write it:
WOF (weight of fabric): 87g
DOS (depth of shade): 8% (you choose this. normally 8% is pretty dark, 1% is pretty light, 3% or 5% are good medium values)
H20: 20 x WOF = 20 x 87g = 1740ml (approx. 1.75 liters)
Salt: .5 x WOF = .5 x 87 = 43.5 g
Soda Ash: .09 x WOF = .09 x 87 = 7.83 g
Dye: .08 (8%) x WOF = .08 x 87 = 6.96

That's it. Those are your measurements. From there I usually convert to cups or teaspoons for easier measuring. You can see my lovely notes:

Step 3: Soak your fabric in water. Starting with wet fabric allows the fabric to dye more evenly than if it were dry. Sometimes it's ok to start with dry fabric, but only if you want it to look blotchy. Below you can see my two buckets with water. The one on the left is the fabric soaking, the one on the right is plain water that will become the dyebath.

Step 4: The order of the next few steps is up for debate*. My way of doing things is not necessarily the "right" way to do things but it gets the job done and saves a bit of time.

So Step 4a: Add salt to dyebath and stir well.

4b. Dissolve powdered dye in a small amount of water from the dyebath (wear a dustmask and gloves!!! wipe up any spills immediately!!!) and stir until there are no dry clumps of dye floating on the surface of the water. Stir the dissolved dye into the dyebath.

4c. Sprinkle the soda ash on the surface of the dyebath and then stir well. *This is where the debate can occur. All the instructions I've ever read claim that you must add the fabric to the dyebath before adding soda ash. You then stir frequently for 15 minutes, take the fabric out of the dyebath and put into a "holding bucket" and then add the soda ash (which has been dissolved in water first) to the dyebath. Only then can you return the fabric to the dyebath. I understand the merits of this method, but really it all seems like a waste of time and buckets.

4d. Add wet fabric to dyebath and stir well.

Step 5. The fabric needs to stay in the dyebath for about 45 minutes. The more you stir, the more even the dye will be. So I try to stir my fabric every 5 to 10 minutes but usually forget until its been the full 45 minutes. If I'm in a big rush and don't want a dark color, I might take it out after 30 minutes. I've also left fabric in a dyebath over night. No big deal.

Step 6. Wash the fabric out with warm water and synthrapol until the water runs clear. This process takes sooooo long and takes a ton of water. If anyone out there in the interweb knows of a dye that gets good even results on cotton and uses less water please let me know. This is also a time to wear gloves because synthrapol is very concentrated and can be rough on your skin.

Before and after

Before and After again

This is jumping ahead a few steps. The spine fabric turned out a little too dark - the red half was hard to see. So I sprayed thiox around the spine to lighten the green dye. Next, the two pieces of recently dyed fabric were sewn together and the heads from last week were applied to the top.

I think it's moving along...we'll see where it ends up.

January 6, 2010

I will cut you

It's snowing. Again. So I was a bum and came home from my studio earlier than anticipated. Yes, I can walk home so snowy roads aren't really an issue. Yes, my studio has heat. No, I don't really have any excuses. I did bring work home to appease my guilty conscience.

This is my scissors family. The big ones on the left have 6" blades. Those are some pretty serious scissors. I've cut myself numerous times with the rotary cutter. As a side note, I find it fun to say things like "hand me a scissor" or "I'm always losing my scissor" instead of the more common "scissors". Scissor is one of those words that sounds messed up if you say it too many times. Try it. (okay, I'm done entertaining myself now). These were my friends today as I wrapped up some loose ends with my quilt in progress:

I forgot to take in progress photos, mostly because I was on auto pilot for most of this, but today I finished the machine quilting on the top half of the quilt. Then pulled all loose threads to the back, tied them off, and trimmed them. I also squared and trimmed up the edges with first the big daddy scissor then the rotary cutter.

Then I stood and stared at the quilt for a while trying to figure out what to do about the binding. I decided on a binding that is hidden in the back, leaving an edge that you could call "full bleed" if you wanted to.

For example:

These are close ups of quilt corners. The one on top has the "full bleed" binding. Basically the binding is sewn on normally, then folded all the way to the back of the quilt and sewn down so it doesn't show on the front. On the bottom is a more traditional binding. Think of it as a border.

After the binding is sewn to the front of the quilt, I use safety pins to secure it to the back so I can hand sew it down without shifting anything. That way it looks nice and tidy and is perfectly secure.

If you can find a cat to help you, everything will go much smoother and more quickly. Especially if said cat has claws.

For the back of this quilt I used white muslin. In the past I've always dyed fabric to use on the back, but lately I've been really interested in how the machine sewn "drawing" looks by itself. I'm thinking about making a whole cloth quilt that is all drawn by sewing machine.

January 5, 2010

Starting a new quilt is scary/exciting

My work starts out really ugly. I've known this all along, but people never seem to believe me. A lot of my decisions are based on "what can I do to make this less ugly?" Now there is proof. Ugly, ugly proof. Even though I cringe inside when I think about putting the following pictures up, it is a really good example of how I work.

So. Here we go.
1. I started with a piece of red fabric, about 4' x 6' that had a large spine painted on it in light green. I made this fabric sometime in October or November and then it sat folded up on my shelves because it is hideous.

The fabric was pieced together from a few large scraps I had lying around. The spine is on the other side of the fabric. It was too much, so I decided to ignore it and work with the back side. Sometimes you just have to ignore something that isn't working and move on.

2. I cut a stencil to use on my last quilt that I'm still excited about. Here it is:

It's already taped onto my silkscreen. I'm not very good at planning, so the only way it would fit on the screen is to angle it and then fill in the open spaces with paper (so no ink leaks through the screen). It looks janky but it works.

Getting ready to print. I'm using Aqua Brite textile pigments for this. The fabric stays soft and you can play with how wash-fast they are. Sometimes I like to wash them out of the fabric without heat setting for a worn look.

A couple of heads printed in a loose repeat. I wasn't too concerned with the spacing on this.

Mirrored heads. If you look close, the eye on the yellow one looks wonky. I forgot to put the little eye stencil back on the screen after washing it so I had to improvise.

3. The fabric isn't doing much for me, but I do like the printed heads.

Here they are cut out. I ironed wonder under to the back of the fabric and then used my new x-acto knife to cut them out (thanks Messmers!) I like them overlapped better - like Siamese twins.

4. The Siamese twins need a body. I have a quilt that is nearly done with the same heads and each head has a different skeleton. One has a human skeleton and the other has a rabbit skeleton. These Siamese heads are going to share one human skeleton. It's time to cut another stencil.

This is the stencil drawn out in thick sharpie, then cut out with an x-acto. It's a good idea to tape delicate areas before cutting to add strength to the stencil. For this one, I used butcher paper. It's cheap and comes on a roll. The downside is that stencils cut from butcher paper don't last very long. So today I ordered some Tyvek from ebay. Most likely I will jump up and down when it arrives.

5. Ok. This next picture is so ugly. Maybe if I hadn't graduated from Iowa State (cardinal and gold) I wouldn't think so. But seriously. It looks like it was airbrushed in Gatlinburg. I'm not too worried, though. I have a plan.

Will it get resolved??!?!? It seems likely. Check back tomorrow for an update.

January 4, 2010

Key fiasco update

My key situation is fixed for now. I was able to borrow the spare key from my landlord and bought a new lock so we could each have a copy of the key. I'm going to worry about my work keys later...

My studio is now clean! I spent most yesterday afternoon cleaning and organizing. It's not pretty, but now it's functional.


Ooh, I'm not so sure it was a good idea to post these. Who knew I was so messy?


My padded print table, trusty Kenmore sewing machine, and a quilt in progress on the right.

I set up a new work station for my computer. Before it had to share a table with the sewing machine.

For now I'm ignoring all the stuff under the table. My fabric scraps are multiplying like rabbits.

It's amazing how good it feels to walk into a clean studio. I need to remember this feeling and routinely pick up after myself to prolong it.