|Christina standing below hand-dyed
I’m back from five days in “stitch heaven” with Gail Harker. The class, “Experimental Hand Stitch” focuses on Procion MX dyeing of embroidery thread and a wool/acrylic felt to stitch on, and then learning some of the basic embroidery stitches and how to use them in a contemporary context.
|My friends”, Debbie and Rebecca, dyed felts and threads|
The felt and threads are vibrant and beautiful. Gail feels that having your materials inspire you is important, so she helps her students understand their color choices and combinations to be successful with the dyeing process.
|Some of my dyed felts and threads|
I basically stuck with an analogous color scheme from yellow-green through red-violet. If you’re unfamiliar with analogous color schemes, it means that you pick colors that are adjacent to each other on the color wheel. So the colors I worked with were greens, blues, and violets.
After our dyeing days, we started doing small stitch samplers. Each stitch will have its own page in a small stitch book (we even learned how to bind our books!) We also worked on documenting our samples within a sketchbook, including what threads we used, any observations we have, needles that were chosen, etc.
|Some of my incomplete pages with the sketchbook
documentation pages and sample threads
Some of our samples were also worked on sketchbook pages which we dyed and then fused together, so they are quite stiff. We then poked holes in the sketchbook pages along the line which we wanted to stitch, and then added the stitch afterwards. It was so fun… it reminded me of when I was a little girl and had cards with pictures on them and holes to “stitch” through (really it was more like lacing.)
|French Knots (in process) by Christina Fairley Erickson|
While none of these samples is complete yet, you can get an idea of what they’ll look like here. I have additional ones started, but these are the most complete. The other thing which was different and interesting was the freedom which we were encouraged to take with each piece. For instance, in years past, French knots were expected to have the thread wrapped neatly around the needle two times. With contemporary hand stitching, however, we can make a variety of sizes and different textures and effects by wrapping a thread more times around the needle, or by wrapping it loosely, rather than tight.
|Running Stitch (in process) by Christina Fairley Erickson|
|Seed Stitch (in process) by Christina Fairley Erickson|
|Blanket Stitch by Christina Fairley Erickson|
|Open Chain Stitch (in process) by Christina Fairley Erickson|
Each of the pages is about 5″x 7″, so they fit in well with my 5 x 7 Challenge! I’ll be getting my final Salsa piece finished up this week, then I’ll need to work on the sashing and binding of all the Salsa blocks into a finished quilt.
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Wow… another fantastic day of mostly working with Procion MX dyeing at the Gail Harker Center for Creative Studies. To be completely honest, I’m pretty tired… this can be hard work. So, I’m going to keep it short and sweet tonight, and just put up some images and descriptions of the processes and projects we worked on.
We then started dyeing wool-rayon felt, which we’d cut into pieces prior to class, and will be making into hand-stitched books.
|Felt with dye poured on (wet)|
The felt totally soaks up the dye… you have to pour it on and it looks horrible and dark for the most part.
|Rinsing out the felt|
After allowing it to sit for a few hours, we rinsed it out and also set the dye with Synthropol. Since the felt soaks up so much water, we had to carefully wrap it in towels to help dry it. You don’t want to press or agitate it very much, or it starts the felting process. We then left it to completely dry overnight.
|Rinsed felt for hand-made stitch books, laid out to dry|
We also worked with painting dyes on sketchbook pages. We do these in 2-page “spreads” so that they will go together when the book is opened. We then fuse pages together, to make the pages stiff and able to be stitched on. We started working on a few pages by drawing a design on them, then punching holes through the paper with a darning needle. We then can easily put our stitches through the holes.
|Some sketchbook pages painted with dye|
I believe we’re done with the dyeing now… on to more stitchwork tomorrow!
|A two-page spread for a sketchbook, painted with Procion MX dye|
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I spent the day literally dyeing to embroider… yes, I am anxiously awaiting getting down to stitching, but I mean “dyeing” with an “e” in it. Rather than using all commercially available embroidery floss, we spent the day making our own threads, for the first of 5 days in “Experimental Hand Stitch” at the Gail Harker Center for the Creative Arts in LaConner, WA. I’ve always salivated at the yummy colors of hand-dyed threads. Now I know how to make them!
First, we had to prepare the skeins of thread. There are two main types of embroidery thread, pearl (or perle in French) cotton which is a twisted cotton and cotton floss (also known as 6-stranded cotton.) Pearl cotton comes in many different thicknesses: 3, 5, 8, 12, and 16, with 3 being the thickest and 16 being quite delicate. Six-stranded cotton is literally that, 6 strands that you can separate, depending upon how thick a piece you want for your project. Of course there are many other types of threads or yarns you can use for embroidery and any natural fiber will work for dyeing (silk, rayon, bamboo, etc.) We have several unusual yarns and threads as well as the pearl cotton and cotton floss.
To prepare for dyeing, we had to get the thread into skeins (some of it came on balls or rolls that we had to wind into a skein) and then tie the skeins about every 12 inches (30 cm), to make sure it wouldn’t get tangled up. We used a figure 8 tie with a square knot, tight enough to hold the skein in place, but not so tight that it would cause a resist and have the thread not take up the dye underneath the tie.
As with any Procion MX dyeing, we then soaked our threads in a soda ash solution, so that the chemical bond would occur in the fiber when the dye is introduced.
The next step was to use a syringe to “paint” the colors on the thread. As you inject the dye onto the thread, you then need to smoosh it down to ensure that it is completely saturated, particularly wherever the ties are. I chose to mainly go with an analogous color scheme from yellow-green, to green, to blue-green, to blue, to blue-violet, to violet. With sticking to one color scheme, I can be assured that my projects using these dyed threads will go together.
When all the dye is on the threads, you carefully roll the threads up in plastic (see red arrow) and then leave it overnight to process. I can’t wait to see them in the morning!
|My Mom, Nan Lopis, working
on her dyed threads
The best thing of all… my Mom has joined me for the 5 day class at Gail Harker’s! I was concerned that the dyeing might not be something she’d enjoy (she’ll love the hand-stitching), but she came through like a champ, and made a lovely yellow-olive-greens colorway of threads.
Note: all the threads in the photos above have wet dye on them. The colors will change somewhat upon the dye setting and washing them afterwards. One of my favorite parts of dyeing is when you unwrap it the next day and wash it out… it’s like getting a present!
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