Invigorating Color!

August 22nd, 2016
I probably should have warned you that you might need sunglasses to safely view the photos in this blog post!  The block above is a 35 inch square machine embroidery applique block created on my embroidery machine over many days last week.  It is appliqued/embroidered on a piece of hand-dyed cotton sateen that has been sitting in a drawer for a few years, just waiting for the right design.  I love, love, love the rich, saturated colors here and the way they bleed into one another.  This kind of fabric dyeing is actually very easy to do, and I’ll give you  a link at the end of this post to a short video tutorial we made a few years ago that shows you exactly how to do it.  In the meantime, though, here are some close up shots of this center block:
The “circle” that surrounds the center flower quartet is made of 5 inch swag pairs.  I was more understated than usual in my thread color choices for the swag pairs but I’m glad I was because the background fabric colors are so strong.  Here is a close up shot of the center floral design:
(I still need to trim some jump stitches in those center flowers: I just noticed those now!)  I really like the outermost flowers that encircle the block.  I was trying to make every other flower more of a “purple theme” and then every other flower a “blue theme.”  Here’s a “blue themed” one:
…and here’s a “purple themed” one:
I have been doing MEA for about 4 years now (maybe it’s been 5, I can’t remember), but it still never ceases to amaze me just how much intricate detail and texture the thread work can add to an applique design.  I am enthralled by the swirled thread work on these.  Here are a couple of them together in one shot:
Working with all this fabulous color last week was a treat for my soul.  It’s making me feel like I need to use up more of my yummy hand dyed fabrics because they make me feel so alive as I’m working with them.
If you’re interested in trying some hand dyeing yourself, this video shows you every single step I use to make fabrics like these:

Give it a try…your quilting will never be the same!


Dyeing Fabric..The Quick, Easy and Fun Way!

May 31st, 2014
Color is everything to me and to most quilters and there’s nothing more invigorating than seeing brilliant colors develop right if front of your eyes!  I am asked all the time how I dye the background fabrics that I use on many of my quilts:



It’s all much easier than you’d think!  We are now officially in the best season for fabric dyeing here in the old USA, so I thought it might be fun to make a video showing exactly how I dye background fabrics like these.  Thanks to my husband, Ernie, you can watch a video that lays it all out clearly right here.
(I’ve tested this link in firefox, internet explorer, chrome, and safari and it worked for me each time, but I’ve heard from a few folks who have not been able to use the link.  If this happens to you, try this url address as a cut/paste option instead:


Spinning My Wheels

September 27th, 2011

My hands have been in so many different projects over the last 5 days that even I am dizzy!  I am scrambling to get some large volume dyeing completed before the weather turns too cold.  I can dye all winter in the garage, but I need lots of larger yardage pieces (i.e. at least 2 yards each) and there isn’t space to dye large yardages unless I’m working outside.  These are Egyptian cottons that are great for piecing and every once in awhile I’m throwing in a  smaller piece of another fabric type to use up the end of a dye color:

I finished all the free motion embroidery and trapunto on the tulip quilt about 1 1/2 weeks ago and had to wait to bring it to NC so I could spray baste it.  Here’s a shot of the backside (the colors are very washed out looking as these are all printed commercial fabrics) and you can see that there’s a lot of trapunto.  Every applique shape except for the stems are trapuntoed, and those are free motion embroidered.  I used 5 different types of batting for the various trapunto shapes:

I’ve just begun the first phase of the quilting, and this involves zipping around all the applique pieces with invisible thread (Monopoly by Superior Threads).  I always find this phase very relaxing and it gets my head in a very good place.  One of the battings I used was a thin fleece batting and I am loving the texture it creates.  You can get a bit of a feel of the trapunto effect on this wreath, and remember, I have done no background quilting at all here, and that will make all trapunto more pronounced:

The other thing I have been doing is spending loads of time trying to teach myself how to digitize.  I am not a computer person at all, but I can’t believe how much I’ve learned!  I know that many quilters really have no interest in machine embroidery, but all I can say is you have no idea what you are missing out on!  For myself, I really think that a melding of my free motion work + machine embroidered applique=incredibly exciting horizons for my future!  Here’s  a peak into what machine embroidery can do for my feathers…wonder where these babies will end up?

Stay tuned!  I’m hoping to have my first machine embroidered applique quilt pieced in the next few days!

A Colorful Day and the Beam N Read Light Winner!

July 9th, 2011

I had the pleasure of spending many hours dyeing fabrics before I left North Carolina. Dyeing is always an exhilarating experience as colors come to life right in front of your eyes:

…and these are created by direct application of dye to damp fabrics, resulting in subtle blending and bleeding of colors into one another:

I just let these dye platters sit in the sun until they dry. Here are a couple of close ups of the wet fabrics as they bake in the sun. Notice the wonderful effects that occur from the air bubbles:

My favorite cotton sateen fabric for dyeing is now Ultra Sateen by Robert Kaufman. It takes the color so vividly (even the off white does) and it’s just a tad heavier so it has a wonderful drape to it. And here are some tubs of bamboo/rayon blended felts that are soaking up some great color as well:

I can’t wait until the next time I can get my hands into a dye bath!

In the meantime, I’ve heard back from the winner of the Beam N Read Light, so I can announce it here! Congratulations to Brita Pingry of Crossville, TN! Check out her blog to see all the fun quilting stuff she is up to!

Using up Old Mixtures of Procian Dyes

June 13th, 2011

The night before I left Asheville, I needed to clean out all the bottles of liquid dyes that were sitting in the fridge…these dyes had been mixed up 6-8 months earlier, so we’re talking really old dyes! I can’t bring myself to just throw out stuff like this, so I decided to use them up dyeing pieces of bamboo/rayon blended felt by National Nonwovens. Felts soak up a huge amount of dye, and bamboos and rayon fibers generally dye fairly vibrantly, so I figured this was my best chance to:
1. appease the guilt I had about throwing this stuff out and
2. give me the best chance of actually getting some real color, since these dyes were so old they probably had very little “dyeing power” left in them!

I started out by using my friend Judy Simmons‘ method for “dyeing by cooking:”

This involves placing the felt (or fabric) and dye into a tub and covering it with saran wrap, then cooking on “high” in the microwave for 3 minutes. Afterward, you let it steam for awhile like shown above, but you can’t let it steam more than about 3 minutes or all the condensation pools in the center and drips down, giving you a nice diluted dot in the center! This will give you an idea of how much dye this felt soaks up:

This dye was called “Avacado” and although the final color looks nothing like the original avacado, I really like how it came out:

Here’s how my lapis blue came out:

…and here’s the result of a mixture of turquoise and fuscia:

I love how the terra cotta came out…remember, this is really old dye:

and finally, yellow and marigold:

Ooh, la-la…I can’t wait to start dyeing again the next time I get to NC! The season of dyeing is finally here!